Saturday, January 25, 2014

God Predestinates All Things, Part 2

Isa 45:6 That people may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is none besides me; I am the LORD, and there is no other. Isa 45:7 I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the LORD, who does all these things.

Isa 46:10  Declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, 'My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,' Isa 46:11  calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of my counsel from a far country. I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it.

In my last post I dealt with the subject of whether God predestines everything that happens or just some things.  I did this by examining Dr. Gaines’ message in which he denies that God predestines all things including sin.  We saw that denying the sovereignty of God in anything clearly contradicts biblical passages.  I also addressed the idea that for God to ordain sin means he must cause people to sin.  This reveals a fundamental lack of understanding of sin.  In this post I would like to deal with two more problems with denying the total sovereignty of God in all things.  I would begin by noticing the above passages, which are just a couple of many that are very clear about the fact that nothing is done apart from God’s eternal decrees.

The third problem I have with Dr. Gaines’ position is that it leaves him in the same position of the one he denies.  His trouble with the biblical position of God’s sovereignty is that he assumes it makes God morally responsible for sin.  It would appear that evil had to enter the universe completely apart from God’s will or in some way it is God’s fault that bad things happen.  But let’s think about this position for a moment.  Dr. Gaines also believes that God knows ahead of time everything that will happen.  Thus God knew when he created the world that Adam would sin and all the misery that the fall would bring upon mankind. 

At the same time we are to believe that God didn’t want any of this to happen but was unable to stop it.  My question is then, why didn’t God stop it from happening altogether?  If it was never God’s intention for man to sin then why did he create a world knowing that sin would enter it?  Either way God becomes responsible for sin being in the world and Dr. Gaines position doesn’t solve his dilemma because God could have stopped it but didn’t.  My contention is that there is no way around the fact that everything that happens in God’s created order happens because he has ordained it to come to pass and the above verses confirm this.

My last problem with a God who only has control of some things is related to the same subject.  If evil is something that God didn’t plan on and at least didn’t want to happen then we have what is properly termed “purposeless evil”.  The Bible clearly teaches that God has allowed evil into the created order so that he could glorify himself in ways that he could not in a sinless world.  The verses quoted in these two posts bear this out and I will add perhaps the most obvious one after Gen. 50:20 and Acts 4:25-28.  It is Rom 9:20  But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, "Why have you made me like this?" Rom 9:21  Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? Rom 9:22  What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, Rom 9:23  in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—

In order for God to demonstrate mercy and grace there had to be creatures who were undeserving of such love.  You can’t show mercy and grace to people who aren’t guilty of something.  Beyond this we are also told in Rom. 8:28 that even the greatest calamities have good purposes for those in Christ.  Without this I don’t know how anyone can face difficulty unless they know that there is a good and perfect purpose for it being worked out by the Lord.

What we are left with if Dr. Gaines’ position is true is that God doesn’t want anything bad to happen and it was never his purpose for it to happen and so there is no good purpose behind it other than Satan and other sinners just trying to make us miserable.  The God of the Bible that I worship won’t allow purposeless evil and I for one am willing to admit that his ways are above my ways and I am okay if I don’t understand everything he is and does.  But where the Bible gives us light we must bow to those truths and not deny them if they don’t fit into our worldview.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

God Predestintates All Things, Including Evil

Act 4:25  who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit, "'Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples plot in vain? Act 4:26  The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed'-- Act 4:27  for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, Act 4:28  to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.

I would recommend listening to the Dec. 9th edition of “The Dividing Line” found on the link to the right entitled “Alpha and Omega Ministries”.  On it we get to listen to Dr. Steve Gaines, pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church, explain why he doesn’t believe God predestined all things.  His basic position is that if God ordains all things then he ordains sin and is therefore responsible for sin.  His conclusion is that when a rapists rapes, since God predestined that to happen, God is a rapist!  It is disturbing that one can go to seminary and receive a doctorate and yet have no real idea what the Bible says about this subject. 

In part I can understand why this is the best he can come up with since he went to an Arminian Southern Baptist Seminary.  If you go to his church’s website you will find a list of his “accomplishments” which include leading the state of Alabama in baptisms for several years and responsible for a large increase in the attendance of his church.  I find it interesting that in the book of Acts these things are attributed to the work of the Holy Spirit not Peter and the Apostles, “And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved”.  This does give us an idea of where he is coming from, but I digress.

There are a couple of problems I wanted to address with his position and there are many more that could be pointed out.  First of all just because we can’t fully understand how God can predestinate all things including sin and yet not be responsible for the sin that we commit is not proof it can’t happen.  This is especially true since the Bible very clearly says that God does predestinate all things including sin.  The above passage in Acts couldn’t be clearer.  Those that crucified Jesus Christ did what God’s plan had predestined to happen.  To say that God only predestines good things and not the evil things is not only unbiblical but couldn’t happen.  God couldn’t have ordained the cross unless he ordained someone to actually crucify Jesus.  The Lord of Glory wouldn’t have been crucified unless someone sinned!   God can’t ordain only some things unless he ordains everything.  He can’t assume or hope that sinners are going to cooperate with his plans. 

Not only did Dr. Gaines ignore this passage which says the opposite of his position, he also ignored all passages that one would immediately think of when considering this subject and that is just dishonest.  What about Gen 50:20  As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today?  The “it” of this verse is the sin of Joseph’s brothers in selling him into slavery (read vs. 17).  Joseph says that God meant or ordained their sin to accomplish good things even while it also accomplished evil things and the brothers did this of their own free will with evil intentions.  What is equally clear is that God didn’t force them to do this even while it was all part of God’s predetermined plan.

This brings me to one last point.  It is a copout to say that just because God ordains that sin will happen that he must force us to sin.  Dr. Gaines over and over again kept saying things like, “if God predestinates sin then he forced that man to walk into the movie theater and kill all those people”.  Now on one level since the Bible teaches that God does ordain all things and not some things and yet is not responsible for their sin then the statement alone is unbiblical and na├»ve. 

But this also shows a fundamental misunderstanding of total depravity.  What he misses entirely is that we do not have to be forced to sin because we are sinners by nature and so can only sin unless God intervenes.  Sin never has to be forced and can’t be forced because the very nature of sin is rebellion; it is to disobey God.  If God forces you to do something then that is called doing his will and is no longer sin.  The only thing God does with sin is restrain it.  Because God graciously restrains us from our love to disobey him we aren’t as evil as we would be.  When we see particularly horrible actions by sinners it is merely because God didn’t hold them back from their sin to accomplish his will.  Dr. Gaines' position assumes that someone like Hitler didn’t want to do what he did and wouldn’t have done what he did if left alone but God forced him to be that way and this just shows a dysfunctional understanding of the nature of sin and the nature of fallen man.

In my next article I will deal with a couple of other problems that come with denying the total sovereignty of God in all things.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Rethinking What it is to Love the Lord, Part 2

Mat 22:36  "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?" Mat 22:37  And he said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. Mat 22:38  This is the great and first commandment.
1Co 6:12  "All things are lawful for me," but not all things are helpful. "All things are lawful for me," but I will not be enslaved by anything….1Co 10:26  For "the earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof." …1Co 10:31  So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

In my last article we looked at the fact that we can’t help but look at, study, listen to and just be consumed with to one degree or another those things that we love.  Disinterest proves a lack of love not love.  So one way we show our love for the Lord is to be careful students of his Word to us.  In this article I would like to carry this principle over into how we are to live under the New Covenant.  Few doctrines have been debated more than how we serve the Lord in the New Testament era compared to how God’s people served him in the Old Testament while under the Law. 

For many, the Christian life is mostly just trying to obey the commands of God whatever they may be.  So one of their great concerns is what are the things God wants us to do and what are the things we are not supposed to do.  Of course there is an element of this in Christianity, even Jesus said, “If you love me keep my commandments”.  The question though is what are his commandments. 

I believe the NT teaches that merely trying to obey a law as a Christian undermines true godliness.  Even a lost person can outwardly keep law.  Every time Paul speaks of keeping the law and starts to list some of them, he always stops short and finishes by saying that no matter what commandment you can think of,“Love fulfills the Law”. 

I understand why Christians have always struggled with the concept of turning converts loose by telling them that the way to serve the Lord and be holy is not by keep rules but by just loving the Lord with all your heart and your neighbor as yourself.  Certainly many have lived ungodly lives in the name of love.  Living by love instead of rules is difficult because we can’t just mindlessly follow rules but we have to think about why we do what we are doing as the above verses suggest.  But just because it is difficult and some abuse it doesn’t mean that we can rewrite godliness to suit us.

And this goes back to my previous article and what it is to love God.  The reason we can turn each other loose and simply say live by love is because true Christians love God.  And as we said, if you love God you will seek to “do all things for the glory of God”; for the good of the one you love.  This is obviously more difficult than just being told how to live and what to do but it is the only way that demonstrates true love.  If the law of the land required that I get up every morning and go to work to provide for my wife I couldn’t prove my love for my wife by getting up every morning and going to work.  She wouldn’t know if I did so out of fear or out of love.  It is only in freedom that we can prove that we love the Lord because we do what we do because we want to not merely because we have to.  Thus I prove my love to my wife by doing what I do even when I don’t have to because I care for her good not because I am afraid of what the Law might do to me.

One last way to illustrate this is the difference between the lost and the redeemed.  We might say the lost are those who are living in the freedom of doing whatever they want and what they want to do is their own will and to live for their pleasure and their glory and their interests.  But a Christian is not someone who has just decided to obey the Lord and do his will instead of what he would rather do.  A Christian is one who continues to live life free to do what he wants to do but his “wanter” or his heart has been changed.  A Christian is one whose whole nature has been changed so that he loves God more than himself and so freely gets up every morning seeking to please the Lord and not himself. 

So the New Covenant has turned us loose; we have been told that the whole earth is ours to be used in whatever way we can glorify the Lord.  Yes, we are given some overarching principles to help us define that but we are not told every move to make, neither are we told that we will be punished if we don’t do what we should.  We don’t have to be kept in line with threats because we love the Lord.  I don’t have to be threatened to love my wife because I do love her. 

Yes, our lives don’t often live up to our professed love and this is because our love is so weak and imperfect but legalism isn’t the answer because only in freedom can we demonstrate true love.