Luther agreed that Melancthon seemed to be asking very little when he proposed that we grant only man’s non-resistance as his contribution. But Luther warned that this “very little” was more dangerous than the “very much” that the Pelagians demanded when they argued that man was wholly capable of meriting the grace of God, for it had the appearance of a relatively harmless concession whereas in fact it was a fatal one. For those who support it are teaching that “we are able to obtain righteousness and grace by that ‘very little.'” The Pelagians struck Luther as being more forthright. He saw Melancthon’s apparently mad concession as the more dangerous because it was less patent. The very violence of his diatribe against Erasmus in his famous work on The Bondage of the Will stemmed from the subtlety of this synergistic position. And in this connection Luther wrote:
These [Pelagians] assert that it is not a certain little something in us by which we obtain grace, but we obtain it by whole, full, perfect, great and many efforts and works. Our adversaries [the followers of Melancthon], however, declare that it is a mere trifle and practically nothing at all by which we merit grace. (3)
And here, as Luther saw it, was the danger. It is no longer the Gospel of the sovereign grace of God that we are proclaiming, but the delusion of the sovereignty of man who in the final analysis holds the trump card. It is not a Gospel of revelation but a Gospel of common sense, for why would God command men to repent or yield to the overtures of the Holy Spirit if man did not of his own have freedom of will to do so…
Karl Barth in a small volume entitled God in Action, sometimes referred to as his “Little Dogmatics,” elaborates on this issue. To him Monergism is the keystone to any stand by the Church against the secular authority because it places the outcome of events squarely in the hands of God. As soon as we begin to say “God and,” man becomes increasingly important as the decision maker and God decreasingly so. In due time God is reduced almost to the position of assistant or even bystander. The battle becomes not the Lord’s but man’s. When the world comes in like a flood to overwhelm the Church as Hitler’s world did, man finds himself alone in his weakness and no longer able to meet the challenge. In 1934 Barth said to an English audience:
I’m sure that everyone of you is horrified [i.e.. by what was happening to the Christian Church in Germany, and says in his heart I thank God that I am not a German Christian]. I assure you that it will be the end of your road, too. It has its beginning with “Christian life”and ends in paganism.
For, if you once admit not only God but I also, and if your heart is with the latter–and friends, that’s where you have it–there’s no stopping it…
Let me warn you now. If you start with God and…you are opening the doors to every demon. And the charge which I raise against you, I lay before you in the words of Anselm: Tu non eons; considerastzi quandi ponderis sit peccatum! You have failed to consider the weight of sin. And that is the sin that man takes himself so very seriously…
…This seemingly small concession to which Luther refers always has had the effect of opening the way to a flood of error that effectively neutralizes Paul’s Gospel of salvation by faith without works.
As W. G. T. Shedd observed:
The position of partial ability or synergism comes to the same result with that of full ability [i.e., Pelagianism] so far as divine independence and sovereignty are concerned. For it is this decision of the sinner to contribute his quota, to do his part in the transaction, which conditions the result. It is indeed true, upon this theory, that if God does not assent, the act of faith is impossible. But it is equally true that if the sinner does not assist, the act of faith is impossible. Neither party alone and by himself can originate faith in Christ’s atonement. God is as dependent in this respect as man.
G. C. Berkouwer wrote in a similar vein: “This theme of synthesis [between God’s grace and man’s power of decision] runs like a red thread through the history of the doctrine of election. It is the theme of harmony, of cooperation.” (10) And it is a poison, fatal to the Gospel. It is a heresy that slowly undermines all the implications of the truth of the sovereign grace of God.
Art Azurdia examines just who it is who builds the house. This is an essential. It explains why our sanctification is not a matter of volunteerism (Turk’s subjunctive volition), but of a will in concert with the mind of Christ which is being renewed by the Word of God via our union with Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. As Azudia directs us, our attention is not primarily to be focused upon our doings, but Christ purchase. All that we can do can not ever accomplish what Christ has done. The soteriological reality of Christ’s propitiation cannot be divide into separate aspects, justification and sanctification. They are, rather, one work of Christ, who was raised for our justification that we would live in newness of life, and come to us a one gift. While we must maintain the distinction that our justification is not dependent upon our sanctification we must also never confuse our part in sanctification with the finished work of Christ. We will walk in newness of life, if we have been raised with Christ, period. The end of our salvation is the very purpose for which we were first apprehended for salvation, namely, that Christ will, not might, present to himself a bride without spot or blemish. Azurdia’s appeal to Hosea should not be taken lightly. For we are the wandering whore, and must comprehend that without neglecting who we have been made to be in Christ. And that not of ourselves, but a free gift. That will not tend to negligence, rather, it will result in the reasonable service of worship. Not as a subjunctive possibility, but of a subjunctive inevitability. Azudia notes, our focus should not be on what we are doing, that will be the natural fruit of our union with Christ, if indeed, that is a reality. And that will not be without the call to repentance, nor will it be without a striving toward making it so. To divide the house, as Turk’s volitional model does, disassembles, it does not build.
Any answer to the critics of the Reformation that attempts to satisfy them on their own grounds is doomed to failure because it has conceded the major premise of the critique. However diligently this lot may formally affirm justification sola fide seek and to preserve some version of justification sola fide alongside a system of acceptance with God partly on the basis of Spirit-wrought sanctity/righteousness, it is only an act of the will. It is theologically incoherent. it is unstable. It has two competing principles at work with its soteriology. Soteriology cannot serve two masters: acceptance on the basis of intrinsic sanctity/righteousness (however construed and for whatever reason) and acceptance with God on the basis of extrinsic righteousness imputed. It must love the one and hate the other.
Yes, we believe in Spirit-wrought sanctity, or Spirit-wrought righteousness. Anyone who denies that doesn’t know Reformed theology, but we don’t believe, confess, or teach that Spirit-wrought sanctity or righteousness has anything to do with our standing with God. There are two benefits of Christ: justification and sanctification. The latter follows from the former. It is the fruit and evidence of justification. It contributes nothing to our acceptance with God.
One commenter in response to Michael Horton’s response to Frank Turk, pointed out the salient difference. Just as our regeneration is first monergistic which produces our active participation, our sanctification is first monergistic and produces our effort. If, as the apostle Paul is saying, there is any truth in reference to the Philippians salvation, any participation in the Spirit, then we ought to have the same mind as Christ: Therefore workout… because it is God who works in you the willing and the doing of his good pleasure.
The chapter in Philippians is filled with the “subjuntive.” And yet, it isn’t Turk’s my will be done, but God’s will be done.
So what is his actual complaint? “Your emphasis is not my emphasis.” To which Horton replied, “My emphasis includes your emphasis.” To which Turk rattles his crib again, “Well, your emphasis is not mine.”
Turk’s mistake is his idea of the subjunctive as volition as some third category in sanctification. But it really results in a volunteerism which is rightly rejected by Scott, and Horton, as outside the Reformed view of progressive sanctification. Turk get’s there, apparently, by collapsing what might be called a purposive thematic subjuntive of Scripture with grammatic constructs. This is a great mistake. Beside, even in the grammatic subjunctive there is a form which doesn’t mean might, or maybe, or an unsure possible future dependent upon whether or not there is sufficient condition, i.e., volition, but an absolute form of the subjunctive that is premised upon there being an established sufficiency, a worked in will (per Philippians 2:12-13 above) along with its assured outcome (Philippians 1:6). To put it in perspective, our sanctification is a guarantee because of what Christ has done. We look to his benefits, and because of what he has done, we begin our sanctification in faith through conviction and repentance. But, as all things which have been freely given, they are not our working, but the Spirit’s working in so that we therefore work. We find an assurance in that God who has raised Christ from the dead will surely give us all things, even life to our mortal bodies. Then, the purposive subjunctive theme of Scripture, the, “For God so loved that,” will secure a bride without spot or blemish, and that he will do without our help.
(I use purposive thematic subjunctive and avoid the use of metanarrative for the simple reason of its negative connotation.)
The purposive thematic subjunctive can be found in the structure of the WCF, were we find not one, but seven, chapters in regard to progressive sanctification, where the assurance is not found in man’s efforts, but God’s causing man’s effort, with the final product assured. Beyond that, the whole of the WCF infers the reasoning that all it contains is so because another thing is, namely, God’s revelation to man about God’s salvific purpose, “God so love the world that…” That we are made be instruments to that end, or to say that we cooperate, should not be confused with meaning that we cooperate the Spirit. As all things pertaining to life, sanctification requires an actual first work of the Spirit, and he works where he wills, with or without our volunteerism. In other words, he operates us. And yet Scripture and the WCF warn that we are not to grow negligent, rather we are to work it out tremulously. And so we make it our aim to be found without blame, for without holiness no one will see God, and yet it is he who determines our steps no matter our plans, (Romans 7); and has promised never to leave us, nor forsake us, (Romans 8).
Apparently, Turk doesn’t get this. As Scott has rightly pointed out, the Spirit-wrought work is not set aside in Horton’s efforts to reestablish the Law/Gospel distinction as the means which God uses in our sanctification. To the contrary, it is Turk’s confusion which Horton is addressing, namely that the subjunctive is not subjective, but objective. The subjunctive theme flows from the Law/Gospel theme, and is not a third category operating beside them, or the Spirit. Nor is it simply a grammatical construct. To make the outcome dependent upon the man’s effort is fruitlessness, precisely because of what the confession says about our best efforts. That is, they fall woefully short, being in some way unclean, not even coming close to the reality of the righteousness which is in Christ that is required of us.
Turk’s fear is understandable, but mistaken. He simply has put a pietistic cart before the horse, intended or not. His “subjunctive (volition)” results in a volunteerism, an “If I do this, God will do that,” rather than the voluntary submission which is and can be only by the Spirit’s taking the initiative to make willing and empowering the believer, so that it results in God giving what God commands, without failure. Turk’s fear is an excusism, I suppose. But that is his short-sightedness of what the Law/Gospel distinction is all about. And, what seems to be, his misunderstanding of what is meant by grace alone.
Is there an excuse when Christ said he did not come to do away with the Law but to be fulfilling it? The command to righteousness is as much a part of the result of the Gospel as is liberty from the condemning wrath of the law against unrighteousness. We would not know the need for the Gospel except the law said “do, and do not,” nor would we know what the Gospel’s satisfaction and relief is all about. Scripture is clear that to follow Christ requires an absolute obedience, and one for which his work is the only remedy. The law still forces us to our knees and the Gospel still places us as seated in the throne of righteousness with Christ. And by the grace of God, he does fulfill his promise in us:
I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.
What Turk doesn’t seem to grasp is the reason we can with surety be seated with him is not dependent upon what we do, in the least, but what he has done. And that should be our message to the world.
What we do, is because we are already seated with Christ and have already been blessed with the highest blessing, accepted in the Beloved. And that is what the Gospel announces. Some how he has missed, “what I would do I am unable,” or, “so that you are not able,” or even who it is that works the gifts in us the first place. And, he seems to miss that our appearance is not the basis of the declared Gospel. Though it may hinder its proclamation, or adorn it, what Christ has done, he did, irrespective of what his disciples do. If we reference ourselves, at what point of purity would our witness be acceptable?
Remember, the disciples all ran, and hid, and he did for them what they said they were willing to do but could not. And as he told Peter after all that Peter did and the restoration that Jesus gave him: “What is it to you? …You follow me.” And that even after previously telling him: “Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” We do not ever perfectly fulfill the commandments, nor in our flesh are we willing, which is why Paul taught we are not of those who judge by the outward. Judging by externals is the way of the world. The duty of the Gospel is not to draw attention to “Our Best Life Now,” as if our lives in any way validated the Gospel. It is our duty to redirect the gaze of the world from us miserably failing sinners, to Christ and what he has done. Our obedience is as filthy rags, and if that is the measure of our message, our message fails. There is no thing hidden which the world will not find out. The world will judge Christians by their faults, not in percentages of purity, but by the dross which remains. Look at what Jesus’ detractors did. They didn’t commend Christ for his miracles. They condemned him because of his disciple’s unclean hands. That tiny chink in the armor of self-adornment is all the world needs to dismiss the Gospel of Grace if what you are attracting them by is how you tinker and polish the armor.
Yet, our failures are no excuse, and Horton has not ever, implicitly or explicitly, allowed that there can be. It is Turk’s need for his emphasis to be outstanding, and that alone, which forms the basis for his complaint.
Turk is posting commentary on the WCF at his personal blog, and eventually he will arrive at the place that John Newton did when he wrote about what he would do if he could and what he wouldn’t do if he could. Hopefully, at that point, the insistence in putting personal holiness before the holiness which is in Christ will have struck him as quite backwards.
Therefore, it’s the gospel (what Jesus has done) that alone can give God-honoring animation to our obedience. The power to obey comes from being moved and motivated by the completed work of Jesus for us. The fuel to do good flows from what’s already been done. So, while the law directs us, only the gospel can drive us.
A friend of mine recently put it to me this way: the law is like a set of railroad tracks. The tracks provide no power for the train but the train must stay on the tracks in order to function. The law never gives any power to do what it commands. Only the gospel has power, as it were, to move the train.
Recognizing the continual need of the gospel for Christian people as much as the initial need of the gospel for non-Christian people, J. Gresham Machen wrote, “What I need first of all is not exhortation, but a gospel; not directions for saving myself but knowledge of how God has saved me.” The Gospel of amazing grace gets us in, keeps us in, and will eventually get us to the finish line. It’s all of grace!
Now, go and spread this defiant, scandalously liberating, counter-intuitive Word around the world…it’s waiting!
This is perhaps what Turk doesn’t get the most. It is not by our putting into practice good works that we prove the Gospel’s efficacy and liberating influence. It is the Gospel that puts into practice the benefits of Christ’s finished work. Some how he is not satisfied with the order, and wants to continue with plenty of milk along with his meal. As any parent knows, as the writer of Hebrews knew, keeping your kids on too rich a milk diet is not the way to them to move on to maturity. They’ll drink the milk and neglect the weightier matters and rot their teeth along the way. In any case, we will only move on if God permits. And there is the real disjoint in Turk’s complaint. He seemingly thinks that we will only move on if we permit it with our subjunctive volition. Throughout the epistles doctrine alway precedes practice and practice always follows. The Spirit always precedes and the fruit always follows. Do the last first and you’ll produce only the rot of self-satisfaction. Do the former first, and you can only be humbled by the new life granted in Jesus Christ.
Much is made about rewards/punishments. This “Methodistic” doctrine has crept its way in to most Evangelical churches. But, it denies the very essence of the Gospel. Brian Borgman explains how this teaching wrests out of the control of Scripture verses that were meant to apply to the ministers, that is the teachers in the church, and not members primarily. The result of the errors is a guilt ladden works pragmatic that is in all actuality a destroyer of the temple, the body of Christ, his church:
Exegetical and Pastoral Observations
My personal evaluation of these two teachings, derived from 1 Corinthians 3:1-15, is that they are not only exegetically indefensible, but also pernicious doctrines. The exegetical observation will be dealt with in the next section, where we will closely examine the text in its context. The other observation, that these are both pernicious doctrines, comes from a theological and pastoral perspective. These doctrines have been used to instill in people the notion that they can have true faith and yet be carnal and fruitless. The worst thing that can happen to such people is that they lose out on millennial rewards. This is not a hypothetical observation, it is one that I have heard many times over the years. A presumptuous laziness can creep in, making people comfortable with their carnality and fruitlessness. What makes this so dangerous is that it gives ground for people to think they are converted, when in fact they may well be unregenerate and hellbound.
My contention is that 1 Corinthians 3:1-15 has been abused by Chafer and others. The abuse of this passage has been tragic and remains with us to this day. It is my purpose in the next section to layout a clear exegetical exposition of the text, and then conclude with some doctrinal and practical implications.
AN EXEGESIS OF 1 CORINTHIANS 3:1-15
Paul’s initial concern regarding the Corinthian church
was an arrogant party spirit (1: 10-17). Fee is certainly right
when he observes,
The great issue for Paul is not the division itself; that is merely a symptom. The greater issue is the threat posed to the gospel;
and along with that to the nature of the church and its apostolic ministry. Thus, in a more profound way than is usually recognized, this opening issue is the most crucial factor in the letter, not because their’ quarrels’ were the most significant error in the church,· but because the nature of this particular strife had as its root cause their false theology, which had exchanged the theology of the cross for a false triumphalism that went beyond, or excluded the cross. 16
This divisiveness, based on their “infantile status seeking” and “preacher worship, II is attacked head on by Paul with the gospel itself (1:18-2:5). Paul extols the glory of the cross as the wisdom and power of God (1:18-25). It was the power of the gospel which came to them through the foolish medium of preaching and it has made them what they are (1:26-31). If there is to be any boast, it should not be in themselves or their favorite preacher, it should be in the Lord, by whose sovereign grace they were in Christ (1 :30-31). Paul then gives a wonderous is that it gives ground for people to think they are converted, when in fact they may well be unregenerate and hellbound. My contention is that 1 Corinthians 3:1-15 has been abused by Chafer and others. The abuse of this passage has been tragic and remains with us to this day. It is my purpose in the next section to layout a clear exegetical exposition of the text, and then conclude with some doctrinal and practical implications.
1. Doctrinal Implications
On the doctrinal level I would like to interact with the carnal Christian teaching and the Bema Seat and rewards teaching. It seems to me that a contextual and exegetical study of the passage thoroughly discredits the popular carnal Christian teaching. Fee claims, “This paragraph (3:1-4) has had its own history of unfortunate application … The implication is often that because these people are believers, yet ‘carnal; it is therefore permissible to be ‘carnal Christians: That, of course, is precisely the wrong application. “49
Let us remember Chafer’s definition of a carnal Christian: First, he is a different kind or class of Christian because he is carnal, acting just like the natural man; second, he is dominated by the flesh and unaffected by the Spirit, in his affections or life objectives; third, there is no observable difference between the carnal Christian and the unregenerate; fourth, the carnal Christian is indifferent to the work of the Spirit.
Let me state it clearly, what Chafer and others have described is not a carnal Christian but one who is not a Christian at all. There is no feasible way to take 1 Corinthians 3:1-4 and construct such a person! Bishop J. C. Ryle said it well, “A regeneration, which- a man can have and yet live carelessly in sin or worldliness is a regeneration invented by uninspired theologians, but never mentioned in Scripture ….A ‘saint’, in whom nothing can be seen but worldliness or sin, is a kind of monster not recognized in the Bible. ” 50
We must note that Paul is not speaking in terms that even come close to those of Chafer. The fact is that Paul has a specific area of carnality in view, namely jealousy and rivalry. Certainly these are bad sins, and impeded the Corinthians from being able to receive truth as they should, but we must honest and say that an area of carnality is not the same thing as being a “carnal Christian.” Even Paul’s “as carnal” (3:1) and flare fleshly” (3:3) reveal that in this area they were acting like unsaved people, but Paul was not creating a class, he was observing characteristics. They did not need a change from carnal to spiritual, they needed some basic Christian maturity in how they related to God’s servants and each other. Paul is calling on them to desist in their worldly party-spirit.
Furthermore, in the carnal Christian teaching, it is possible to be in this class and stay that way for the rest of one’s miserable Christian existence. This. However, is not an option Paul gives to the Corinthians. Paul says “for you are not yet (op-ou) able” (3:2). “The addressees are simply not yet ready for Paul to address them as ‘spiritual’ people in the full sense of the term. They will grow.” 51
Carnality is not an absolute and universal category. No Christian is absolutely carnal or absolutely spiritual. Every Christian is on a sliding scale, possessing both to greater and lesser degrees. No Christian is universally carnal, with every area of their life under the dominion of sin. Every Christian struggles with areas of carnality, in greater and lesser degrees. Warfield is worth quoting again:
You may find Christians at every stage of this process (from justification to glorification), for it is a process through which all
must pass. but you will find none who will not in God’s own good time and way pass through every stage of it. There are not two kinds of Christians, although there are Christians at every conceivable stage of advancement towards the one goal to which all are bound and at which all shall arrive. 52
What about the notion of 3: 10-15 being a special judgment for believers, in which their works are examined and rewarded? It ought to be clear from the context that there is no hint of any such thing. “Here is another paragraph that has suffered much in the church: from those who would decontextualize it in terms of individualistic popular piety (Le., how I build my own Christian life on Christ) …. Paul addresses none of these issues, not even indirectly … The church in Corinth, not the individual Christian, is the building. “53
It needs to be noted that Paul is not teaching about the final judgment directly. He does that in other places with clarity. He uses the final judgment byway of instruction, enforcing the fact that the Corinthians had better be cautious about who builds and what they build with. If they are not vigilant, they might be somebody’s wood, hay and stubble. All builders will have their work examined. Those who built with combustibles will suffer loss. Those who actually corrupted and destroyed the temple will suffer eternal loss in hell.
What is in view is the final judgment where works are judged. Paul’s use of “the day” (3:13) is unmistakable (Acts 17:31; Romans 2:5; 14:10-11; 1 Corinthians 1:8; 5:5; 2 Corinthians 1:14; 5:10;1 Thessalonians 5:2-5; 2 Thessalonians 2:2, etc). This brings up the difficult truth that there is one last and final judgment, where mens’ works will be judged. Dispensational theology has departed from historic orthodox Christianity by asserting that there are a number of judgments, and the Great White Throne Judgment is only for unbelievers. Believers have their own judgment time when they get rewards, but salvation is totally out of the picture. It is interesting to note that in the use of 1 Corinthians 3: 10-15 for a Bema Seat and reward passage, verses 16-17 are rarely, if ever, included. It can hardly be doubted that 3: 16-17 is an integral part of the section, and since it upsets the proverbial apple cart (bringing eternal destruction into the picture), it is disassociated with the previous section.
The universal testimony of Scripture and the echo ofchurch history is that there is-a great and final day coming where all will be judged (Psalm 9:7-8; Matthew 12:36;John 5:22; Acts 17:31; Romans 2:5-11; et al.).54 This judgment will be according to works. Yes, we are saved by faith, but the testimony of Scripture is that our faith will be examined by our works.
The judgment of God would not be according to truth if the good works of believers were ignored. Good works as the evidences
of faith and salvation by grace are therefore the criteria of judgment and to suppose that the principle, “who will render to every man according to his works” (Romans 2:6), has no relevance to the believer would be to exclude good works from the indispensable place which they occupy in the biblical doctrineof salvation. 55
Let us keep in mind however, that Paul in 1 Corinthians 3:10-17 is focusing not on the world-wide judgment, but only as it pertains to laborers and ministers in the church. The context makes this unmistakable. In light of this focus, Thiselton’s comments are helpful:
This (Le., judgment) may, indeed will, include whether the person concerned shares the justified status of those who are in Christ; but it will also disclose the extent to which their work has produced some lasting effect in God’s sight. For if justification by grace means the dissolution of all that is self-centered, sinful and unworthy, such things by definition will not “survive.” On the other hand, what was offered in the strength ofthe Holy Spirit and in the name of Christ will have effects that eternally abide within the very existence and praise of the redeemed community and the life of God at the last day. 56
To Morgan, making any moral judgment amounts to judgmentalism. Of course, this leads logically to total moral insanity, since the only way to avoid being identified with judgmentalism is to make no moral judgments whatsoever — which no sane person can do…
…Joel Osteen found himself forced to answer a question that every Christian — and certainly every Christian leader — will be forced to answer. When that moment comes, and come it will, those who express confidence in the Bible’s teaching that homosexuality is a sin will find themselves facing the same shock and censure from the very same quarters.
What happened last night on Piers Morgan Tonight is a sign of things to come. After this interview, Joel Osteen will never be seen in the same way by the secular media and a good segment of the public. His efforts to avoid talking about sin failed him, and he ran out of options. Thankfully, he did not deny that homosexuality is a sin. We can only have hoped that he would have given a more bold answer, followed by an equal boldness in the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
In any event, Joel Osteen had his moment last night. Most Christians will not face that question on national television, but on a college campus, in a family discussion, in the workplace, or in the heat of debate. But, whatever the circumstances, that moment will soon come.
Bravo John Piper!
Want to know where Obama will take the Supreme Court
And how he plans on dealing with the black community
Or how he plans on balancing the budget and saving the “human” race?
And if you’re African-American, just why did you vote for Obama?
And If you are Catholic, what in the Pope were you thinking?
The trouble I find with this suggestion is that it is perfectly possible to construct a narrative of an extraordinary kind, one in which timelessly eternal objects become temporal. But the fact it is possible to tell such a story does not mean that it represents a logical possibility, nor even the presumption of one, any more than the story of the Owl and the Pussycat does. Besides the narrative there has to be some reason given to think that this is how it could be. The state of divine timelessness can only be explanatorily prior to the state of divine temporality if there is such a state, and telling a story which says that it is is simply a petitio…
…But such a categorizing of divine powers may be too simplistic. For those in the timelessness column will be affected by those in the temporalist column. God’s truthfulness entails his being truthful, and his being truthful in a situation in which his knowledge is temporal would seem to require the adaptation of his truthfulness to temporality, its infection by temporality. And similarly with any power which involves intentional beliefs or propositional attitudes. Perhaps we could sort out this complexity carefully, but it looks as if the introduction of such complexity will create more problems, rather than provide us with help in coming to terms with the existing ones. In any event, as Craig says in becoming temporal God’s knowledge will switch from knowing truths tenselessly to knowing tensed truths: God in time literally foreknows whereas a timeless God does not…
…I hope you agree that our attempt to provide some positive content to the two-phase view has not enjoyed much success. It seems to yield a sense of God’s eternality that is purely counterfactual. For it does not look as though any essential aspect or power of God can be timeless avec creation. How the metaphysical unity of God survives the transition from one mode to the other is not apparent. And what story we should tell on the supposition of annihilatio is not clear.
Camping’s believers will have none of it.
Rick LaCasse, who attended the September 1994 service in Alameda, said that 15 years later, his faith in Camping has only strengthened.
“Evidently, he was wrong,” LaCasse allowed, “but this time it is going to happen. There was some doubt last time, but we didn’t have any proofs. This time we do.”
Would his opinion of Camping change if May 21, 2011, ended without incident?
“I can’t even think like that,” LaCasse said. “Everything is too positive right now. There’s too little time to think like that.”
“It’s hard for Molinism to avoid making God the author of evil. But the reason, I think, is that ‘God’s decree to actualize a world plus his knowledge of what would ensue if he were to do so’ is both necessary and sufficient for evil to come to pass. It’s necessary, because the evil can’t come to pass unless God decrees to actualize the feasible world in which it would come to pass. It’s sufficient, because the decree embraces all the means to the chosen end. (In addition, deciding to actualize a feasible world, while knowing infallibly what would happen if that world gets actualized, *is* sufficient for the evil to come to pass. After all, it’s sufficient for the free choice to be actually made, and that’s sufficient for the evil itself.)”
“On the Molinism bit, I would have to say that I disagree with that particular read of Molinism. God knows that given counter factuals of creaturely freedom, a person placed in a particular set of circumstances will do X. However, such counter factuals must unfold over the course of history. In other words, God does not by an act of will set in motion a predetermined order of events that unfold in a particular way. God sets in motion a series of events that can unfold in a variety of ways given counter factuals of creaturely freedom.”
i) If God knows what a person will do in a given situation, and God creates that situation, then it will unfold accordingly.
ii) In Molinism, God is not instantiating a wide-open scenario. Rather, he’s instantiating one possible world to the exclusion of another (or other) possible alternative(s). It’s not two or more possible worlds bundled into one actual world–as if contraries are simultaneously instantiable…
“I really don’t know what you mean by concretized possibilities when God instantiates a possible world.”
Mere possibilities don’t exist in time and space. To concretize possibilities is to exemplify them in time and space (or at least in time).
“My point was that the possible world God chooses to actualize or instantiate, contains within it a set of possibilities, which are only actualized as history unfolds.”
Which doesn’t mean a set of contrary possibilities.
The abstract ensemble of possible worlds is like a garden of forking paths. An actual world instantiates one of those paths.
“So within world A, there are a number of scenarios that could unfold given creaturely decisions. This is not to confuse the possible with the actual.”
Except that it does. To say that within world A are contrary possibilities is to embed two or more possible worlds (or world-segments) within the same actualized possible world–which is incoherent.
“A number of scenarios that could unfold” represents different possible worlds for different branching possibilities–not different forking paths which occupy the same concrete reality. Different timelines are represented by different possible worlds, and vice versa.
To select one possible world from many, then realize that possible world, is to realize that possible world rather than some contrary set of possibilities.
“You seem to keep assuming that once God instantiates a possible world, then all events in that world are already determined in some Reformed way.”
No, they are determined by God’s selection of one to the exclusion of another (or others).
“That is, God’s making an actual world necessitates God’s making all possible events within that world actual.”
I didn’t discuss how God brings about all events, whether directly or indirectly. That’s not the issue.
In the comments of this post it became painfully evident that R.E. had no real interest in answering the questions raised concerning God’s exhaustive knowledge of the world he instantiated. After giving some Scriptural references R.E. didn’t respond to, “So which is it?” Does God know what his free creature will do given the circumstances of the instantiated world or not? Instead of answering, R.E. was simply dismissive, engaging in ad hominem while exempting himself from any like response. R.E. somehow believes that his calling Calvinism evil is not in any way connected to those who hold to it. And while condemning Calvinism he does not answer how his Molinism is any different when it comes to the issue at hand- does God know the future acts of his free creatures?
R.E.’s elitism is loud and clear. It is in fact the same response of Lemke. Unless I make myself aware of the literature I should remain silent. What they assume is that I have no familiarity with it at all. The fact is I dismissed the nuances of terminology within Molinist schemes because they are philosophical constructs that really have no bearing on the answer. I never admitted that LFW was isolated to Molinism, either. Would, mights, possibilities, counterfactuals do not obtain in the actual instantiated world, even though they may be admitted for sake of discussion, and therefore, I set them aside. But not because I am without any familiarity. I own enough. I merely wanted to know, does God know what he knows about this actual world he instantiates or not? It is that, the nature of God, and that as defined in Scripture that is at issue.
LFW is not possible given that God knows the end from the beginning. Every LFW scheme requires a modification of the nature of God so that God cannot always know. Such is the case in W. L. Craig, who must redefine God’s nature according to his presuppositions in order that his Molinism works. This is the fault of all such schemes. What R.E. doesn’t like is to be called to account for doing likewise. God knows all things not as contingencies outside himself that necessitate his knowing. His nature meaningfully exists so that his knowledge is contingent to himself. In other words, God’s necessary knowledge is necessitated by his nature. His nature is eternal and therefore so also his knowledge. In short, God does not come to knowledge in any temporal sense, logical or otherwise, such that he must see what he might create before he knows. Nor does he come to that knowledge by selection from possibilities (Craig assumes possible worlds or his scheme falls apart). The knowledge of all future events, even future contingencies, are native to God. Those future contingencies in the instantiated world are not counterfactuals, for counterfactuals do not exist except in the imaginary, theoretical, possible worlds framework. It is man who needs the categories of a-temporal logical sequence to explain the decree. God doesn’t need either a-temporal logical sequencing or a view of temporal sequencing to know what he is going to do. What he will do has always been what he would do. The will and would do not necessitate God as Craig would have it in his derogation of the concept of simplicity. To the contrary, knowledge of creative acts are necessary because they are necessitated by the nature of God because he is who he is and not because it fits our logical constructs in which we cannot see the separation. It is because God says so. Craig cannot comprehend this because his definition of simplicity disallows for complexity in relationships of various attributes of God, ipso facto, without regard to the Scriptures’ declaration that both are revealed. Ipso facto says Craig, ipsi dixit saith the Lord. The creation is what it is because God made it to be what it is, not because it is because it is. And logically, it cannot be that God sees any future event as contingent upon any thing in creation as that which he will instantiate, and by that causes creation to become, for that would, to Craig’s and R.E.’s chagrin, make God subservient to the creature.
In any LFW scheme the will cannot be influenced by anything outside the will, not man’s constitution, nor the conditions that constitution is placed in. What I asked of R.E. is where the choice then arises. Is it at first in man? Which is another way of saying does God know it or not. If he knows it and decrees that it will be then it will be undoubtedly. But in that case it cannot be because the choice arose from with the man’s will without any preconditions. To the contrary, all conditions the creature finds himself in, his constitution and the situations he is placed in determine his will. Otherwise he becomes a god calling into being what is not brought into being by God. Even more, man can deny all the prevailing conditions of creation set in place by God by necessity of man’s own being. (And, in some weird sense, must precede God in an imaginary eternity past.) But I digress. The only thing that is necessary in this conversation is to know whether or not God knows the future acts of his free creatures in the world he wills to be. Even if man is free in some little-god sort of sovereign way to bring into being what God has not determined, if God knows it, then by definition he has always known what he will decree, and by that knowledge decreed all that would be, would be. In actual time, that means that man cannot change his mind and choose contrary to God’s instantiation. There are no counterfactuals in time, no alternate possibilities that can be actualized. Finally, in actual time, there can be no such thing as LFW if God knows what the outcome, that is, the choice will be. And we have it from Scripture that he always does. If he instantiates this world he knows all things that will eventuate. Then the main complaint that anti-Calvinists have against Calvinism, that God is the author of evil, evaporates, for all LFW’ers, Arminians and Molinists alike, believe that God has instantiated just this one world where evil exists. And if he doesn’t know all things that will come to be, then the bigger problem looms, and that is “open theism.”
The question is not about the logical possibility of various constructs of what might or would be “if”, rather, it is, “what is what is.” Prior to the decree we are dealing with metaphysical constructs that are extra-biblical theory, used only for the exercise of academic debate and not for determining theology proper. Scripture gives us all we need to know for a proper understanding of God and his nature. It simply says God knows what he has decreed. Contrary to R.E., we do not need the wisdom of men to come to an understanding of it even though God has given us rational minds which comprehend it. The Scripture declares it, ipsi dixit, because God said it, it is so.
The above discussions, part of a long running discussion of this issue, is from Triablogue where the authors make clear the point that even though we can go back and forth on this, the anti-Calvinist cannot establish, logically, any true separation between his position and Calvinism when it comes to the actualization of the real instantiated world. And that is really the question. Their God is just as much the author of evil as any for in the final evaluation the world that God instantiates cannot be altered. And if evil is allowed, the only cause of what ever eventuates for the Arminian/Molinist God is God, for he is the source of all that has come into existence.
R.E. would like to say that he is amicable but it is evident he is hostile. As has been noted so many times before, here and elsewhere, it does no good to claim peace and then fire invective (even if only by inference). For to define something is to label it. It did no good for John Wesley to claim he was a peace-seeker and then to hurl invective at Calvinism, and it proponents constantly, as if it made him any less a hater of its proponents. George Whitefield, likewise, was clear that those who taught such blasphemy as Arminianism were blasphemers. That did not stop him from loving Wesley as a brother while at the same time refusing any communion with John. The graciousness of Whitefield is noted in having Wesley preach his funeral. What we should not do, however, as Ian Murray noted, is to assume that “fellowship” resumed on account of the charity of affording ones confession of Christ as true. It did not. They remained enemies in life only to be reunited, hopefully, in death.
I still wonder at people like R.E.. If it doesn’t matter, if this is merely an academic exercise, with no eternal significance, then why even show up to the dance? Why don the collar of an apologist? The fact is, R.E. calls Calvinism evil, and if evil then something worthy to be defeated. He is committed, and one with his cause as a holy crusade. At least one would hope that he hopes to lead others into the clear and not just murky waters of opinion. Then, how is it that those who hold to the Calvinistic view are not identified with what they believe? Do we fight against the weapons formed against us, or those who wield the weapons? Do we honestly hope to restore our brothers, even snatching them from the fire? Paul deemed the weapon and the man as one. Those who taught contrary to sound doctrine he didn’t merely call mistaken, he called them false teachers, turned them over to Satan for the destruction of their flesh as heretics, gangrene spreaders. No, you cannot say a person’s doctrine is evil and exculpate the person. It is the person, and not the doctrine who stands to account for every word which does not work. It is his words which will condemn him. Paul is likewise generous in granting that even though they are to be judged worthy of condemnation for their teaching, it is to God that they are held accountable. He thus calls for their repentance and does not necessarily exclude them as brothers because of their error even though he does call for separation from them.
So ipsi dixit. Just because I have said what I have said means nothing. What does is: What does the word of God say? If even the very hairs of our head are numbered by God, and therefore we are not to worry, he has accounted for everything including every choice we will make so that we might be confident in Him. What we must decide is if we believe that or not. Even that decision will be made because he has instantiated this world and no other so that our salvation is secured. Thus we pray, “Our Father who is in heaven, holy is your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth… as it is in heaven.” And why? “For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory, eternally.” The simplicity of this should not be missed. We pray, not our will, but his be done, and not as it is founded on earth, but as it is in heaven. This is the submission to the will of God which triumphs over His enemies, and overrules any speculation that man is in control. Those who love him keep his commands, those who don’t, even they will bow the knee; for he does whatever he wills among man and no one stays his hand; for it is his kingdom and his power that works all things according to his will throughout eternity.
This gem is found at James Galyon’s blog: But the very fact that Job must relate to God everything he experiences and suffers only makes his suffering greater and more ghastly. For the worst thing for Job was not at all his itching sores, his business losses, and his family tragedy. After all, these might have been met with some kind of stoic indifference. What really shook and tormented him was that he could not understand God, that this put him on the outs with Him, and thereby pitched him into nothingness and meaninglessness…
…In such life situations, which we all know, we are basically having it out with God. Anybody who once meets God can never again do anything else but constantly come to grips with God in every situation of his life: on the one hand thanking him for the many fulfillments in his life, but on the other hand also protesting when God appears to be refusing him, praying to him when we have wishes, but also warning him in case he should not grant them.
Let’s let David sum it up: O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it. Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,” even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you. For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I would count them, they are more than the sand. I awake, and I am still with you. Oh that you would slay the wicked, O God! O men of blood, depart from me! They speak against you with malicious intent; your enemies take your name in vain! Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord? And do I not loathe those who rise up against you? I hate them with complete hatred; I count them my enemies. Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!
It is wonderful how David juxtaposes the forming of his body in the womb and the forming of his life in the womb of the mind of God. It is simply breathtakingly beautiful poetry. It is an awesome thought, that God was there in what was such a mystery to man at the time and still, today, amazes us in its intricacies of processes and the mysteries of differentiation. David knows that just as that forming of life in the womb, was God’s meticulous crafting of each day of his life experience, every word, every thought. As David canvases the kosmos of experiences, what he knows is that God is there because God made it all to be exactly what it is.
Yes, even the very choices David would make- God has formed them too. So pray that God has mercy, for it is he who works in you the will to do and the power to do it according to his good pleasure. That is the grace which Christ spoke of- that unless a man is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God, nor that it is ruled unlike any kingdom of man. The rebellious hate the very thought that God is so meticulous in his creation and argue like Job that if it were up to them it would be different, it would be just, God would see. How foolish. It is God who has given sight to the blind so that he might see. Job didn’t understand the fundamental truth about God: that each movement of the stars, each movement of the mind, every thought thought, every word spoken, is under God’s sovereign meticulous design and control. He is the God who is there, working all things for the good of those who love Him who has made all things according to his will.