Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Parable of the Good Shepherd

Luk 15:4  "What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? Luk 15:5  And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. Luk 15:6  And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.' Luk 15:7  Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

The other day someone asked me about this parable and in particular who the Pharisees were in the parable.  As always we have to make sure we know why Jesus gives the parable before we try to worry about the details.  Jesus gives all three of these parables in response to the Pharisee’s offense that he was spending time with “sinners”.  Actually I don’t think the Pharisees are mentioned at all in the first two parables, at least not directly.  The second one is very similar to the first with the woman looking for her lost coin and the third is often termed the “Prodigal Son” but actually it is more about the older son.  This is where the Pharisees are clearly mentioned.

Often the third parable is used mostly to teach of the conversion of the prodigal and there is something to be said for that.  Clearly the first two show things from God’s point of view by showing the love of God in seeking out the lost while the third is more from our point of view as we see the thought process of the prodigal.  But these parables aren’t concerned so much with the conversion experience as with what our attitude should be towards the lost.

Jesus’s point in the parables is to expose the unloving spirit of the Pharisees who were to some degree the shepherds of Israel.  He contrasts himself with them as the Good Shepherd who will spare no expense to find those who are truly lost.  The Pharisees are unworthy shepherds because they don’t care for lost souls only that everyone gives them the glory they believe they deserved.  They want to be served and not to serve. 

In all three parables the main point is the rejoicing over a sinner who is found or returns to God.  To God and all of heaven there is great joy when sinners repent but to these Pharisees that is of little consequence.  They don’t care for the souls of men but for their own interests.

We can find application in that we must be careful that our Christianity doesn’t become so centered around everyone getting their theology right and everyone looking just like us that we forget what is of paramount importance.  We are to minister to people; to call them back to God and to encourage each other to follow the Good Shepherd.  Biblical, God-centered theology is extremely necessary but it is to get us to be like Christ and to be able to glorify the Father as he did.  It isn’t to make us good little theologians so that we can correct everyone else. 

In all three parables there is great joy over people who get right with God and by the third parable Jesus makes it clear that these Pharisees are like the older son who has made religion about himself and getting the recognition he deserves.  Isn’t that amazing; can we not identify with this?  God has saved us by his grace and brought unworthy sinners into fellowship with himself that we might know him and enjoy him forever and we turn around and try to impress him and others with how good we are so we can receive the praise of others.  Or we lay out our list of what Christianity should look like and frown on those who don’t look like us.  

But it is all about returning to God and serving him and a good shepherd and a loving saint is the one who encourages this in others with no thought of self.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Who Is In Charge Anyway?

Dan 4:34  At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; Dan 4:35  all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, "What have you done?"

I have been doing some studying on Molinism.  It is a theological system that was developed by a Jesuit priest Luis de Molina in the 1500s to combat the doctrine of the Reformers concerning the sovereignty of God in salvation.  That right there should be enough for us to dismiss it out of hand but it is in vogue among some Arminian evangelicals and evidently some so called Calvinist are said to embrace it so it would be good for us to understand it and why it is an unbiblical attack on the very person of God.  It takes some time to really get one’s mind around what it teaches and I am no expert by any means but let me try to sum it up briefly and give just a few reasons why it fails.

It states that not only does God know all that happens and all that will happen but that he knows all that could happen by men who are considered to be free moral agents.  In other words God knows all the choices free men will make and so he created a world that would lead to the best possible outcome based on the choices we make.  Molina developed this to try to keep man’s free will intact even while God is sovereign.  The problems are legion if one takes the Bible as God’s Word and the final truth. 

The first obvious problem is that it assumes that God’s foreknowledge of all things that will happen is outside of his eternal decrees.  That he is like some seer staring into a crystal ball and sees what we will do.  But the Bible teaches that God knows the future because he has declared the beginning from the end.  The future is not independent from him; it isn’t something that he knows about, it is what he has planned and only what he has planned. 

Secondly this robs God of his sovereignty and makes man’s free will ultimately what determines the course of history and human existence.  Based on what we would do God’s options are limited in what he can do with us; he only has so many options.

But there are two other things to consider that make the whole system collapse  under its own weight; instead of defending and support man’s free will, this system actually ends up denying the very thing it is trying to keep intact.  The idea is that God knows what free men will do under any and all circumstances.  So he manipulates us and our environment and circumstances to get everything to his desired end.  But if we will always choose to act a certain way under the same circumstances then we really have no option to change our minds.  We are like Pavlov’s dogs that will always salivate when they think food is coming.  In other words, our will is not free to choose if it must always act in a definite fashion under the same circumstances.  If God knows what we will do before we do it then we really aren’t free to choose one thing or another; something else has already determined it.

But even worse than this is what seems to me to be something completely missed by those who believe this.  If each one of us is completely free to do whatever we want but God knows what we will do in any situation; what makes us the people we are?  If God knows that Nathan Ruble will always lose his temper when faced with certain things then not only am I not truly free in will but my next question is who make me to be like I am; to think like I do?  Why are we like we are so that we do what we do?  Who gave us our personalities and our likes and dislikes, etc.  We can say it is in our genes but who gave us our genes?

What I am saying is that at the end of the day the Molinist must admit that God has determined all things from the beginning because he made us what we are.  We can talk all we want to about man’s free will but who gave us a will and who gave us our personalities.  There is only one answer to that and it is that Person who has necessarily determined all that will be and exactly how it will all turn out.  And yet he did so keeping our responsibility intact for any decisions we make. 

Can anyone explain how the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man work?  I don’t think so but I do know what the Bible teaches about it and our responsibility is to believe it and not try to philosophize our way out of it.  “Let God be true though every one were a liar”, Rom. 3:4