23 September, 2006

Regeneration: God Moves First

I'm being unusually quiet these days. No big deal, really. Just a whole lot going on. Nonetheless, my silence gives me a good excuse to post this. I wrote it nearly 2 months ago, and decided it was not important enough to interrupt the Presbuteras stuff I was putting out there. In some ways, this is vastly more important to me, but in terms of it's being the oldest, tiredest internet argument going, I figured it should wait.

Some of you may remember that I watched with great care Weekend Fisher's exploration of Systematic Theology hoping to learn something about predestination (speaking of whom, check out her latest!) More of you will probably remember that I met Charles on an airplane, and that he through some serious scripture my way in favor of whatever you call non-predestination. I was really looking, because I wanted to give regeneration a fresh look. Even a vagabond like me gets tired of being the only one of his species.

After all that, I am only more convinced that God has to make our hearts alive before we can believe Him and be saved. He makes us alive apart from any believing that we do, and every one of us that He makes alive, He makes alive indeed.

To those who took the time to offer me differing perspectives, I thank you. I admit openly that some of you are vastly superior to me in these things. I hope you will understand when I continue to maintain the position I held when I started bugging you. I will probably quit bugging you now, but feel free to keep offering any thoughts you have. :-)

For the approximately zero of you who are still here to find out why I did not change my mind, this is a really long post. Really long.

I figure I'm pretty much writing the rest of this for myself.

Of the things that influenced me, the biggest may be my personal experience of meeting the Lord.

Isaiah says there was no beauty in Him to make us desire Him. That was true in my life. And then, suddenly, He was gorgeous. First I could not look at Him, and then I could not look away. The transformation of Christ before my very eyes was total. The preaching of the word and the work of the Spirit in my heart were overpowering. I was entranced. One moment He was a fairy tale, and the next I knew that He had worked miracles for me that I could never repay. I confessed Him with my mouth and believed Him in my heart the same way I would gravity.

Maybe I was intellectually or emotionally persuaded to see Christ in truth, but I don't think so. Maybe the Spirit inspired my human faculties so that my free will could bow itself to Him, but it sure didn't feel like that. My heart, which had felt neither fear nor love toward this invisible One, suddenly broke. Bowing my free will to God in that moment would have required a strong delusion of granduer in me. I was crushed, and so prostrated that I would have had to rise to bow. Only a miraculous condescension by God could save me. I awakened to life damned. My eyes opened to learn that I had offended the one Person in the universe I desparately wanted to love. In one moment I felt everything - need, fear, love, despair, hope - where before I had not even known I was numb. My heart burned, and then I confessed and believed.

I did not freely "will" that terror on myself. Had there been a back door, I would have fled it, but He was everywhere. Once the Truth had come, I could not sidestep it. Jesus was everything He said He was, and I could no more freely "disbelieve" than I had freely believed it. I could no more doubt Jesus' sacrifice for my sins than I could doubt my guilt before Him. I might have believed my mother and father might were space aliens fattening me for slaughter, but Jesus had died because I sinned against His holy law. This thing was beyond question.

The Spirit made known to me the perfection of Christ's sacrifice, and that it extended even to me. It was like hearing that the cavalry was coming. It was great news, but I was too busy panicking to really figure out what that meant. But, the Spirit opened the gates to the city of refuge so that I could safely stop, and hear out His case. Slowly, against all reason, I learned that Jesus was of a mind to take me in. My struggle to believe was not that I needed to be saved, but that God might be so irrationally merciful as to pass over me. When the Spirit made me see the inconceivable, I fell at His feet.

"Deciding" for Christ was never more than a formality for me. One must stand at the altar and say, "I do," before one is married, but the answer is not in question.

My evaluation of the scriptures may be affected by my experience. :-)

Still, the second major thing that affected my decision was the scripture. Scripture always trumps experience, but the day I really researched the scriptures I learned that they affirmed my experience.

The experience of being surrounded by people who know I'm wrong is a heavy one, though. Of the dozens of people I might call close acquaintances, only two agree with me about predestination. That's a burdensome ratio! Of people I blog with and attend church with, I believe the number is zero. Of course, I could switch churches, but that's cheating in my code of conduct. I'm even surrounded by people who hold the other view when I get on an airplane. :-)

I felt the need to revisit the scripture, and hence I started asking questions a few months ago. Charles really unsettled my confidence in my convictions, so I hit them pretty hard. I decided that I needed a way to be sure I was looking at the scriptures from both sides as best I could.

Nave's Topical Bible has a Regeneration topic containing 100 passages. It seemed like an objective way to pick scriptures on the subject, so I decided to look at those 100 passages and see what they said from both points of view. I looked at each passage from the "other side," that man's belief of God's testimony enabled God to make him alive, and I also looked at them from my initial perspective. I asked, from each point of view, whether this passage supported or weakened that thought.

I won't pretend that my survey was truly subjective, but it was the best I could do. I think if you know me, you know that I am subjective at my core. I also realize that most of the world has looked at these same 100 verses and reached "the other" conclusion. I don't know, though, what more I can do.

Anyway, I rated each verse for each perspective. My scoring was 1 (weakens the position badly) to 3 (doesn't really give any answer) to 5 (utterly convincing when seen from its own perspective.) 9 of the 100 passages rated a "5" for "We believe because God makes us alive." 7 passages rated a "5" for "We are made alive because we believe." Amusingly, I scored two of the passages as a 5 for both sides. For all of the passages, but especially those two, it depended entirely on perspective. "John 1:4, 13" and "1 John 5:1, 4-5, 11-12, 18" were those 2 passages. (Remember that Nave did the cherry picking, not me - I read the whole chapter in context on each of them.) Of 100 passages seen from 2 points of view, I only found one verse that I thought was a "1" for either side. Ezekiel's valley of dry bones described my salvation experience perfectly. It was probably the passage that moved me the most.

The final score was 9 to 7 on strong passages, and 3.5 to 3 was the difference in average score. In other words, I don't think the argument is a slam dunk for either side.

The difference in the argument is whether you believe that free will is inviolable. I do not, and so I read a bunch of these scriptures differently.

No one, and none of these 100 scriptures, has ever convinced me that free will is a biblical doctrine. I hear it invoked over and over again, that God would not want to be loved by creatures who were forced to love Him, but I don't see it anywhere in scripture. It is invoked as a self-evident fact, but I don't even see it as self-evident in the world around me. Does a baby "decide" to love his mother? No. Every baby loves his mother every time. Even so, I love my Father simply because I was born of Him.

Many, many of these verses refer to the will, and to deciding. I believe that man must will and must decide, but that God moves first or man cannot move. So, if you do want to try to understand where I'm coming from, start by understanding that willing is the act of a person made alive by God.

Anyway, here are the verses I explored, as selected by Nave's Topical Bible, with all my scores. You well know that I am willing to talk about them at length.

Love and peace to you all.

(Here's the new format)
Reference:
Quick summary of the verse's contents
Score for "Regeneration happens first"
Score for "Regeneration happens because we believe first"


Deut
30:6
God circumcises that you might
live
4
3



Deut
29:4
The Lord had NOT given them
heart, eyes, or ears
5
2



1 King
8:58
God might incline our hearts
3
3



Ps 36:9
God is source of life and light
3
3



Ps 51:2,
7, 10
Wash me, create in me a clean
heart
2
4



Ps 65:3
He will purge away our
transgressions
-
-



Ps 68:18
He led captivity captive that
the Lord might dwell
-
-



Ps 87:4
God counts where a man is born
3
3



Ps 110:3
People are willing in the day of
His power
4
4



Prov
4:23
Keep your heart, for the issues
of life are in it
3
4



Prov
12:28
Righteousness leads to life
-
-



Prov
14:27
Fear of the Lord is a fountain
of life
3
4



Prov
16:1
Motions of the heart and tongue
from the Lord
4
3



Is
1:16-17, 25
Purge yourself; I will purge you
4
4



Is 4:4
Lord will have purged
3
3



Is 12:3
With joy you will draw from well
of salvation
3
4



Is 26:12
Lord worked all our works in us
4
3



Is 29:23
See Abraham's children and
praise God for His work
4
3



Is
32:3-4, 15, 17
The Spirit will change hearts
and actions
4
3



Is
35:5-6
The blind will see, and many
other like things
4
3



Is 42:16
God will guide the blind in a
new way
4
3



Is 43:7
God will call out His own from
every compass point
4
3



Is
44:3-5
God will pour out His Spirit on
the dry ground
4
4



Is 49:9
God gives a Messiah that He may
call prisoners
3
3



Is
55:1-3
Come, everyone one who thirsts,
to the Waters
2
5



Jer
13:23
The leopard cannot change its
spots, nor you good
4
2



Jer
17:13-14
Those who forsake the Lord will
be ashamed
3
4



Jer 24:7
God will give them a heart to
know me
5
2



Jer
31:3, 33-34
I loved you, so I drew you. They
will all know me.
4
3



Jer
32:38-40
I will give them one heart, and
put fear in their hearts
4
3



Jer 33:6
I will cure them
3
3



Ez
11:19-20
I will give them one heart, that
they may walk rightly
4
3



Ez 16:9
I washed you, and girded you
4
3



Ez 18:31
Make for yourself a new heart,
for why will you die?
2
5



Ez
36:26-27, 29
I will give you a new heart to
obey
4
3



Ez
37:1-14
Valley of dry bones come to life
by God's command
5
1



Ez 44:7,
9
The uncircumcised in heart
cannot worship
-
-



Zech
12:10
They will look upon Christ
crucified
-
-



Matt
12:33-35, 43-44
Make the tree good, and the
fruit will be good
4
3



Matt
13:23, 33
Seed on good ground brings forth
fruit, leaven grows
4
4



Matt
18:3
Must converted and like little
children to enter in
-
-



Mark
4:26-29
Seed cast in ground grows by a
mystery
4
3



Luke
1:16-17
John Baptist will prepare hearts
by Spirit
3
4



Luke
8:35, 38-39
Legion cast out - victim should
tell his city about it
4
3



John
1:4, 13
To as many as received, born not
of the will of man
5
5



John
3:3-8
Every one born of Spirit, but
don't know how
4
3



John
5:24
Whoever hears and believes,
lives
4
5



John
6:44-45, 47, 50-51, 57
Cannot come to Christ unless
drawn by Father
5
2



John
8:12, 32, 36
Light and Truth make free indeed
3
3



John
10:9-10
Any man who comes through the
Door is saved
3
4



John
13:8
Jesus must wash us before we can
come to Him
-
-



John
15:1, 3
We are clean through Christ's
word spoken
4
4



John
17:2
Christ gives eternal life to
those give Him
5
3



Acts
2:38, 47
Baptize for remission and
receive Spirit
3
5



Acts
3:26
The Son turns us away from
iniquities
4
3



Acts
11:17, 21
God gave gift to gentiles and
many believed
4
4



Acts
15:9
Purified the gentile hearts by
faith
3
4



Acts
16:14
The Lord opened Lydia's heart
4
4



Acts
21:19
God had wrought salvation for
the gentiles
3
3



Acts
26:18
Jesus will open men's eyes that
they might receive
4
3



Rom
2:28-29
Circumcision must be of the
heart
-
-



Rom
6:3-23
Know,
reckon and yield
3
4



Rom 7:6,
24-25
Delivered from Law and from
death to delight in Law
4
4



Rom
8:2-6, 9, 13-16
The spiritual mind lives to God
3
3



Rom 12:2
Be transformed by the renewing
of your mind
-
-



Rom
15:16
Gentiles sanctified by the Holy
Spirit
-
-



1 Cor
1:9, 24, 30
Preaching saves them who
believe, Greek + Jew
3
4



1 Cor
2:12-16
Natural man receives not things
of God
5
2



1 Cor
3:6-7, 9
Preachers labor with God who
gives increase
4
3



1 Cor
6:11
You were sinners, but you are
washed by Spirit
3
3



1 Cor
12:6, 13
All received one Spirit
-
-



1 Cor
15:10
Grace saved Paul
-
-



2 Cor
1:21-22
The Spirit sealed us
-
-



2 Cor
3:3, 18
Epistle written on the heart and
being transformed
-
-



2 Cor
4:6
God commanded light to shine -
creation and hearts
4
3



2 Cor
5:5, 17
In Christ a new creature
4
3



Gal 2:20
I'm crucified, Christ lives in
me by belief
3
4



Gal 4:29
Born after the Spirit
-
-



Gal 6:15
A new creature avails
4
3



Eph 2:1,
5-6, 8-10
Were dead, but saved by
God-given faith
5
2



Eph
4:7-8, 16, 21-24
Given gifts, so put on the new
man
3
4



Eph 5:14
Awake dead sleepers and Christ
will give you light
2
5



Phil 1:6
God will finish the work He
began
3
3



Col
2:11-13
Quickened with Christ through
faith of God's work
4
3



Col
3:9-10
You have put on the new man
-
-



2 Th
2:13
Chosen through Spirit and belief
4
4



Tit
3:5-6
Saved by washing of regeneration
and renewing
4
3



Heb
4:1-12
Preaching needs faith, harden
not your heart
2
4



Heb
10:16-17, 22-23
New heart, so hold faith without
wavering
4
4



Jas 1:18
Of His own will He begat us by
the word of Truth
4
2



Jas
5:19-20
Convert a sinner, and hide a
multitude of sins
-
-



1 Pe
1:2-3, 22-23
Elect through Spirit to
obedience, born by word
4
3



1 Pe
2:3, 9
Chosen priesthood tasted the
Lord's grace
3
3



2 Pe
1:3-4
He has given all things and
promises
3
3



1 Jn
2:27, 29
We abide in Him and do right
because born of Him
3
3



1 Jn
3:9, 14
We don't sin/do love neighbor
because born of Him
3
3



1 Jn 4:7
Every one that loves is born of
God
-
-



1 Jn 5:1,
4-5, 11-12, 18
Everyone born of God believes
5
5



Gen 3:29
Jacob
-
-



1 Sam
10:9
Saul
4
3



Acts
9:3-18
Paul
3
3



Average

3.5
3

21 comments:

codepoke said...

Sorry about the ridiculously long white space between the text and the table. It has something to do with the stylesheet blogger uses. The HTML is properly formatted as near as I can tell, and should fit in the space just fine.

Oh well.

Milly said...

So here is my way of thinking.
Stand back ;-}

Adam and Eve were given some degree of free will, hence the whole fruit thing. Yet I also think that God had it planned why else have the tree? It’s God he could have kept it from happening. Without a doubt we have predestination look at the Bible we see it in the story of Judas and in other places. Sure you run into oncoming traffic and you get splattered. Was it predestined for you to be so dumb as to test that theory? I don’t know. God does. I won’t be testing if it was free will or predestination. As for regeneration I’m not sure I understand it completely I think that we are born with the love of God in us but we have to feed that love just as we do in any relationship. Sure my children love me. I spend a few nights in a hospital and Miss Littles falls apart. When I got home she is glued to me. It’s like that for me (For me) with God I was away from Him then when I turned around and went to Him my love is regenerated. I have to keep working on my part His is done. He has done more for me then anyone who has loved me and taken a beating from me, His child, more then anyone. I have to keep His love in me going. It’s there, it always has been. He only does what He has planed for me. I have to keep my date with Him.

Kansas Bob said...

I wonder, it seems that if ...

"God has to make our hearts alive before we can believe Him and be saved."

... then it is His fault that we are not.

Could it be that:

1) God created all of humanity with the ability to believe ... hence He is the creator/author of faith and

2) Saving faith is only active/excercised faith?

It is the idea that faith is like a muscle (created by God) that needs to be excercised (by us) to be any good (I know - it is a lame example but all I've got right now).

Anyway, this seems to satisfy the idea that God moves first and also explains why all are not saved.

Peace, KB

Milly said...

So ya know,
I love when you post from your heart.

codepoke said...

Thanks, Milly and KB,

I cannot tell you how pleasantly surprised I am to see comments on this post so soon - well, honestly, at all. :-)

Your thoughts stirred more thoughts in me, and I am going to probably post again tonight. In the meantime,

codepoke said...

I spend a few nights in a hospital and Miss Littles falls apart. When I got home she is glued to me.

Hehehe. That's great, Milly.

As an analogy, I think it sets the stage well. I see the issue as the billions of Miss Littles running around planet earth, not caring that their Savior died. What will change them? I believe that it takes more than we know.

codepoke said...

... then it is His fault that we are not.

It's the presuppositions that are getting us here. You see me making God randomly choose to save some and damn others. That's not how I see it at all.

In the parable of the wheat and the tares, the Farmer only plants wheat. He never does plant tares. God is going to harvest all of His wheat, and the tares were never His concern. If I presuppose that this parable is dependable for a picture of God's method, then the ugliness of a random predestination dissolves.

Take Paul's first couple days in Corinth. Paul is thrown in jail, and while he's there Jesus promises him that there are many of His people in Corinth. Only a relative handful of wheat had yet been saved in Corinth, but Jesus was clear. Paul had preached truth to only one corner of Corinth, but Jesus knew exactly how many wheat were in that whole field. He knows His wheat, and He tells Paul that his time in Corinth will be well spent.

So, under my presuppositions it is not God's fault that the tares are tares.

[For completeness, let's presuppose that this parable is about the end-times only, and doesn't describe the beginning of time accurately, then we have a totally different story. Jesus could hardly have told about the Farmer planting all wheat, and then the fall happens, and the wheats all turn into tares. Now the Farmer is busy trying to convince as many of the tares as possible to decide to become wheat. So, we have to assume that Jesus was glossing over the beginning of the story to get to the part that mattered, the judgement day. I don't agree with that, but I can live with it.]

It's when we try to mix the two presuppositions that we get into trouble. If we assume that God started by predestining every human to be born, then randomly predestined some of them to be saved and others to be damned, then God is random, frightening and capricious. I believe that He predestined His own, and that the others are weeds planted by the enemy to thwart His plan.

1) God created all of humanity with the ability to believe

Somehow or other, we know that a number of people have ears that don't hear and eyes that don't see. I prefer to believe that we are all born deaf and blind, rather than that God blinds and deafens some of us. I also believe that if God unstops our ears and opens our eyes, we will always see Him and love Him. I don't believe anyone who truly hears and sees Jesus rejects Him - ever.

So, yes, we could believe, but we won't until we see Him.

Tom's dad said...

Found your blog while browsing...glad that you are struggling with this issue because it is an important issue to resolve. Many denominational doctrines confuse the true Word that was written for us. Tradition, pride, fear, and the desire of "paid clergy" to keep their jobs and stay within the boundries of their "church" will not allow many to even desire to seek the truth of some matters.

Here's a link to an article that might help you:
http://gods-kingdom.org/free_will.htm

hope it helps in your journey.

codepoke said...

Hello Pater Tom,

So, I am not alone in holding to predestination. :-)

You are late to the story, so I bring you up to speed a little. I left the Arminian horse midstream a little over twenty years ago. For the last year, I was reopening my examination into the subject, because so many people I respect are still over there. This post is basically my announcement that I am no longer actively questioning predestination, but that I still understand those who do.

You may find my next post a little troubling, but I think it's really accurate. To locate regeneration wholly in God's hands is appropriate, but too often Calvinists dislocate the believer from the process entirely. It seems entirely appropriate that the gospel should be appealing to all believers. If our gospel is horrifying to a majority of those who love His Name, then maybe our gospel is missing something very important.

I'm still looking for what that might be.

Weekend Fisher said...

"Presdestination" has different models to explain it in different places. One set would say that God predestined Satan to plant tares (didn't God control everything?) and that if you're a tare, God must have wanted it. (How else could it have happened?)

And then the "tares" are being taken in your post almost as if a tare is a person, which is to say as if there are people where it can be said that the devil makes their souls ... and in that picture there's no such thing as "conversion" (turning from one thing to another) between wheat and tares.

The Bible does not picture fallen people as having "free" will. The Bible does not picture God as picking and choosing those whom he's willing to give Christ. The Bible does picture God willing to save all, and choosing that salvation is through Christ. This is the fundamental act of "election": salvation is not on a scoreboard (you over here, you over there) but in Christ.

codepoke said...

WF,

And then the "tares" are being taken in your post almost as if a tare is a person,

Do you not read it that way?

13:36 - 43
Then Jesus sent the multitude away, and went into the house: and his disciples came unto him, saying, Declare unto us the parable of the tares of the field. He answered and said unto them, He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man; The field is the world *; the good seed are * the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one; The enemy that sowed them is the devil *; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels. As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world. The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.


The enemy that sowed "them" is the devil. I cannot read it any other way.

To your individual points.

The Bible does not picture fallen people as having "free" will.
Thank you.

The Bible does not picture God as picking and choosing those whom he's willing to give Christ.
There are gobs of examples to the contrary, and you are familiar with them. I don't understand why you say this. I will settle for,
"Ac 13:48
And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed."

To say they were ordained to eternal life because they believed is nonsensical.

The Bible does picture God willing to save all,
And it equally pictures Him as unwilling to save all.
"Mark 4:11 & 12
And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables: That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them."

"Romans 9:13-15
As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated. What shall we say then * Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid *. For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. "

"Joh 10:26
But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you. "

And it is not inconsistent for God to mean only His children when He says, "the world." If the Farmer (Jesus) has planted only wheat, and He says "the whole harvest," it is clearly understood that He never meant the tares. Harvesting tares puts nothing in his granary. The world God created had no tares in it. The world God saves is the one He created. The world we know is one that has been corrupted by the enemy, and one that's end is declared.

The Bible does picture God ... choosing that salvation is through Christ.
Amen.

But, since we are talking about tares and wheat, show me where, "in Christ," changes anything in that parable. The Farmer is Christ. Christ plants the wheat. The enemy plants the tares. Show me in concrete terms why you believe that being chosen in Christ means that predestination is a faulty interpretation of God's works.

"In Christ," means that God the Son plants His elect into His kingdom, and saves us.

This is the fundamental act of "election": salvation is not on a scoreboard (you over here, you over there) but in Christ.
As to the scoreboard, I would love to hear whether you think I've portrayed predestination accurately in my post regarding the inhuman way in which it is often presented. Either way, I agree. The matter of eternal life and death is not a game, and not a scorekeeping enterprise. If anything I said gave that impression, please call it out specifically.

You repeat that the fundamental act of election is in Christ, and you say it as if I should disagree with you. But I don't see where I whisper a word that says I don't believe election is in Christ.

Do you not believe that election can both be "in Christ" and "before time?"

Weekend Fisher said...

On "who/what are tares" ... the first point of whether they are a person is this: there's no such thing as a person God didn't make, so the "tares" thing ... I've heard people press it to mean that there's such a thing as a soul that wasn't created by God. Which is not the case, God made all people. So I probably could have said "tares aren't people the devil has made and rightfully owns and for whom there never is or will be hope" and made my point more clearly. The next point is that there's no room (in the parable) for a conversion from wheat to tares or vice versa, while in the real world there are conversions and apostasies. Tares become wheat and wheat become tares in the real world, but not in this one parable, because that's not what the parable's about. They illustrate a point or two, but don't illustrate every point, and were never meant to illustrate every point.

On your reading of Acts 13:48, that's kind of bringing presuppositions to the text. You have access to a Strong's-enabled text, right? Don't take my word for it but check for yourself: the word used in Acts 13:48 is not the same word used for predestination in the "let's talk about predestination" passages like Romans 8 and Ephesians 1. Being favorably disposed towards the message of Christ in Acts 13:48 is probably more along the lines of providence acting in time, how God works in peoples' lives that at one time a person is much more receptive / favorably disposed than another. For Acts also the context (in addition to the wording) should make us consider: not everybody who finally comes to believe will necessarily come to believe the first time they hear the word.

So I'll one more time say something that you reacted pretty strongly against: God doesn't pick and choose those he's willing to give to Christ. And most of the passages people cite as evidence for the "picking and choosing" bit are Jesus and his hand-picked disciples, which, true enough there was hand-picking those he was willing to give as Jesus' immediate disciples, but the context there isn't salvation, it's a special assignment.

I could start wading through the other points, but I'm not sure that'll be productive unless we wade through this first.

Let's hit the ones you've put on the table.

Mark 4:13: Jesus, talking to the disciples in closed session, says that he has given secrets to them but not others. Big picture: almost immediately afterwards he mentions that lamps are not meant to be put under a bowl, and the secrets are not meant to be hidden forever but revealed. As a consequence, the "secrets" being discussed for them but not others have been recorded in our Scriptures for an awfully long time now for anybody in the world to know. What was, at that time, an exclusive thing -- the explanations of the parables -- stopped being exclusive nearly 2000 years ago.

Roman 9:13-15: Ah, torn from its context. In the original context he's giving a brief run-down of the history of Israel. Look at it: Abraham, Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau, Moses and Pharaoh and the Exodus. It's the usual Sunday-school syllabus, Israeli History 101. And for Paul in Romans, it's part of the larger conversation about whether there's any advantage in being Jewish. In the context of which, yes, Jacob has he loved and Esau he has hated, and not on account of what either of them had done, but solely on account of his own plans. And in a twist that the contemporary Jews would have noticed, when Paul gets to the Exodus part, his contemporary Jews are painted in Pharaoh's role, hardened against God's word and even being hardened. The point Paul is making is that God has shaped history, up to and including a temporary hardening of the Jews so that greater glory would come, in this case while the news of Christ spreads to the whole world, all the Gentile nations. I've seen some people read into that, "God hates people and damns them before they're born, that's just the way God is." But that's not even close to the point Paul was making if you review his whole argument, chapters 9-11, on the nation of Israel and the nature of the "chosen people".

John 10:26: right, Jesus' sheep hear his voice and the "not-my-sheep" folk don't hear his voice. But again, being a small slice in time, that has left conversion out of the picture. A lot of the "not-my-sheep" people that day (such as Paul) became sheep at a later time.

It's tempting to move on to the later points but we're not going to get anywhere on those if we don't get through these first. If you're still thinking, in the back (or front) of your mind, that God picks who he is willing to give to Christ, the rest of what I say won't make much sense. So let's have that out all the way.

So let's go for it on this one. I'll hold to this: God doesn't pick and choose those he's willing to give to Christ. You're probably familiar with the places where the Bible teaches that God is not willing for any to be lost but wants all to come to repentance, and that Christ was not only for us but also for the world, or for the whole world and especially believers, etc.

I can see that you're tempted to redefine "world". But if you really want to go there, tell me, when does the Bible use "world" in any senses but the following:

1) A place: broadly inclusive; everywhere, or all of creation. You can identify this use grammatically by uses of a preposition of place or other physical place wording, e.g. "into all the world".
2) The inhabitants of the world: broadly inclusive; everyone; identified by using the word "world" as a place but implying by usage that people are involved, e.g. "tell the world".
3) The world as opposed to heaven: more specifically, the fallen world in oppposition to God; identified by the text explicitly mentioning an opposition between the world and God/heaven/good, e.g. "friendship with the world is enmity with God".

I think that's about it for NT uses of "world". Are there other definitions of "world" that don't fit these categories and cannot be identified by the rules listed? If so, what are they, and how do you identify them from the text on the page? I think redefining "world" to mean "only believers" is not going to be viable. It's reading presuppositions onto the text that cannot be supported from the text.

You've probably got other passages in mind. Bring 'em on. :)

Weekend Fisher said...

I should mention one thing as a kind of P.S. here. When you bring passages that you suspect of being "God doesn't really want to save everybody", I'm fairly sure that the interpretation showing differently will be found more faithful to the context, more faithful to the author's words, than the "God doesn't reall love everybody" meaning.

japhy said...

From the NAB footnotes on Mark 4:11-12...
These verses are to be viewed against their background in Mark 3:6,22 concerning the unbelief and opposition Jesus encountered in his ministry. It is against this background that the distinction in Jesus' method becomes clear of presenting the kingdom to the disbelieving crowd in one manner and to the disciples in another. To the former it is presented in parables and the truth remains hidden; for the latter the parable is interpreted and the mystery is partially revealed because of their faith; see the notes on Matthew 13:11 and Matthew 13:13.

As reference, here is the footnote on Matthew 13:11:
Since a parable is figurative speech that demands reflection for understanding, only those who are prepared to explore its meaning can come to know it. To understand is a gift of God, granted to the disciples but not to the crowds. In Semitic fashion, both the disciples' understanding and the crowd's obtuseness are attributed to God. The question of human responsibility for the obtuseness is not dealt with, although it is asserted in Matthew 13:13. The mysteries: as in Luke 8:10; Mark 4:11 has "the mystery." The word is used in Daniel 2:18,19,27 and in the Qumran literature (1QpHab 7:8; 1QS 3:23; 1QM 3:9) to designate a divine plan or decree affecting the course of history that can be known only when revealed. Knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven means recognition that the kingdom has become present in the ministry of Jesus.

And here is the footnote on Matthew 13:13:
Because "they look . . . or understand': Matthew softens his Marcan source, which states that Jesus speaks in parables so that the crowds may not understand (Mark 4:12), and makes such speaking a punishment given because they have not accepted his previous clear teaching. However, his citation of Isaiah 6:9-10 in Matthew 13:14 supports the harsher Marcan view.

japhy said...

I believe the context of Mark 4:12 (given the greater context of Isaiah 6) is that the apostles clung to Jesus by faith, whereas the crowds were looking for signs that he was the Messiah, and most did not believe the signs when they received them (which is why the NAB points to Mark 3:6 and 3:22).

codepoke said...

WF,

Forgive me for cherry picking your comment. I promise I read the whole thing.

On your reading of Acts 13:48, that's kind of bringing presuppositions to the text. You have access to a Strong's-enabled text, right? Don't take my word for it but check for yourself: the word used in Acts 13:48 is not the same word used for predestination in the "let's talk about predestination" passages

OK.

There are 8 occurrences of this word in the New Testament. In the 8 cases it is translated:
appoint 3, ordain 2, set 1, determine 1, addict 1

It typically means something along the lines of "set in a position of responsibility."

Jesus appointed his disciples, the centurion was appointed under authority, people were appointed and determined to tasks, authorities are appointed by God, and one group of people addicted themselves to the helping the saints.

You go on:
Being favorably disposed towards the message of Christ in Acts 13:48 is probably more along the lines of providence acting in time, how God works in peoples' lives that at one time a person is much more receptive / favorably disposed than another.

So you conclude, after doing this analysis, that "appoint" refers to something "acting in time."

Do you see anything anywhere in the passage that gives you any concrete reason to believe that appointed means something in time? I do not. I therefore conclude that you must also be bringing some presuppositions to the passage.

Now, that's cool with me. If you read my post, it is ALL about presuppositions. The thing is that I believe that your presuppositions are hard earned, and so are mine. I even believe that I understand your presuppositions, and I respect the work that went into forging them. I don't know your doctrinal history, but I know that you don't take a position until you have seen it very deeply.

We can go about this verse by verse. (Not in this comments thread though! Getting to the comments link on this post is murder. :-( ) I would rather go about it differently, though. Rather than measuring whose kung-fu is stronger, I'd like to approach it laterally.

I'm convinced of predestination, but not yet of what it means. As I wrote the post that follows this one, I was taken again with the feeling that made me start questioning in the first place last year.

I want what you claim to have, a solution that both answers to God's sovereignty and man's will. So far though, even given all that I've read on your site (and I've read each of your posts on the subject more than once,) your solution still fails your Kaiser's Wife Test on the predestination verses, and I cannot be content with that. My solution fails the palatability test, so I'm still not happy with mine either.

If you still want to proceed, let me know how you want to go.

codepoke said...

Good commentary, Japhy.

I cannot say that I disagree with any of it. It's the conclusion that is so hard to reconcile.

You conclude,
I believe the context of Mark 4:12 (given the greater context of Isaiah 6) is that the apostles clung to Jesus by faith, whereas the crowds were looking for signs that he was the Messiah, and most did not believe the signs when they received them

And I agree with your conclusion, but I look behind it one step further. Why did the disciples cling to Jesus by faith? Why did the crowds not believe the signs that they received?

The disciples had better/ stronger/ truer/ simpler faith. But did they get it genetically, through an act of the will, an act of a will supplemented by God, or solely through the gift of God?

And then why did the crowds not hear? Did God mean not to give them enough grace? Or did God give them plenty of grace, and they resisted it? Why did they resist, when the disciples couldn't or didn't?

My conclusion after looking at Nave's is that God moved first for the disciples, or they would never have moved back toward Him. We'll see where we go from here. :-)

Weekend Fisher said...

Hi Poke

On Acts 13:48 and "appoint", that one seems to me pretty straightforward. Here are the points I'd make. First, look at the other references you've got for when "appoint" is used; common usage is it's something that happens as you go through time; read the examples you brought to the table. So the common plain-old meaning is something that happens in time. Second, unless the author specifies something is happening in another context, then we go with the context the author brings to the table. Notice that when the Biblical text discusses predestination, the words on the page tend to make a point that the time being referenced isn't part of the normal flow of what's happening around us, references to the foundation of the world and such.

So the typical language discussing predestination isn't there, the typical "point out the beginning of the world" that tends to happens when discussing predestination isn't there, and nothing about the text suggests that we're looking at another timeline. Current context is default context, anything else had to be carted in by presupposition if it's not pointed out by the words.

My rule of thumb is always "Kaiser's wife." You sound as if you had something in mind, where you can't see that what I'm saying and what it's saying match. If that's the case, bring it up. Kick the tires, man, it holds together.

But really now, there's not one passage that says God isn't willing to bring people to Christ. (I love it when Calvinists bring up Romans 9 and Ephesians 1 and John 17. When you go through the context, it gets pretty plain that the favorite verses are being taken badly out of context to the point that their meanings are being misconstrued in a way that can be demonstrated from the text.)

Given that God moves first. He sends Christ to the world, and the message of Christ, which bears his Spirit.

codepoke said...

WF,

Given that God moves first. He sends Christ to the world, and the message of Christ, which bears his Spirit.

OK.

I'm pretty overwhelmed right now, but some time in the next few days I will summarize everyone's arguments against predestination, and see where they point. Following that, maybe we'll unpack Eph 1.

I like Eph 1 a lot. John 17 is beautiful, but it never seemed particularly predestinationist to me anyway. As for Romans 9, my introduction to this whole discussion was in 1978 when an Arminian gave me all the context arguments, so let's don't start there.

As to Acts 13:48.

I am disarmed.

I was defending the concept that they were ordained to salvation by Christ, and not by their own decision. Along the way I assumed that the ordaining happened before time, but this passage will not support that assumption. (It will still allow it, though. :-)

All 7 of the other references to ordaining/appointing refer to events that happened within the lifetime of the person ordained, so I happily concede that I cannot use this passage to prove the ordaining happened before time.

Are you suggesting that Christ ordained them to salvation within their lifetimes? Or is there more to unpack?

Weekend Fisher said...

Oh, for now let's just say that I don't think peoples' lives and reactions are irrelevant. God made a very important decision before time began ...

I'm a predestinationist, you know. But TULIP isn't the only brand on the shelf, just the one with the catchy acronym.

Ellen said...

salvation is not on a scoreboard (you over here, you over there) but in Christ.

Matthew 25:33
And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left.