Opinions on faith and life

An Exercise In Futility

2008-11-20

Time for some venting, sorry if you were expecting something deep today. :-)

I truly believe that communication is a lost art. Either that, or I’ve been transported to a parallel universe where up is down and left is right.

I refer to several recent experiences in message boards or blog comment threads. In one, on the topic of the pre-trib Rapture, I expressed my strong objection to people spreading a lie about the pre-trib view: that it began with Darby or someone named Macdonald in the middle ages. Yet the next person told me how egotistical it was of me to claim the pre-trib view was the only right view (!?!?). So I posted in reply that no, that wasn’t what I said at all, I only objected to the false charge that we don’t get our view from the Bible but from visions and allegedly misguided teachers. Yet even more people jumped on my back, flaming me for saying what I never said, insisting that I was claiming the pre-trib view was the only view!

I cannot fathom what causes people to continually ignore the plain meaning of words.

In another venue, I kept seeing false statements made on another topic of controversy. I started a thread on why people who hold this particular view were not the kind of people everyone said they were. But in page after page of responses, every one of them ignored the topic and instead posted diatribes against the view itself. It was supposed to be about the people who hold it, and since I started the thread I certainly knew what my own topic was. But they are still going on and on raging against the view and not addressing the issue of the people who hold the view.

What’s the use of telling people anything? Why do they go on burning straw men, even after you tell them point blank that they’re doing it? How can there be civilized discussions that benefit anyone when people can’t follow a line of thought, or that seem to have no other goal but to bash whoever doesn’t agree with them?

Thanks for listening.

26 Comments

Thy Peace

I think this is due to lack of attention. This is a common problem in this day and age. Why is that? We are conditioned by TV and supposedly fast paced life. We expect to make sense of everything in 15 seconds.

Lot of people do not know how to read. They skim a sentence, latching on to words that hook their brain and then they are off.

Reading, Contemplation and Reflection are skills in short supply. Check out Debbie Kaufman’s recent youtube post. There they mention that young people are coming to the bible colleges with 1/3rd more people who are sorely lacking in bible study or knowledge of the bible compared to 20 years ago.

Here are Debbie’s comments: "What got me was twenty years ago 1/3 did not pass the Bible test, 2/3 did. Now it’s the opposite. 2/3 do not pass the Bible test. That is a large number when the math is done."

I find what you mention above is common on Pastor Wade’s blog site too. I have to read his posts 3 to 4 times, before the meaning and intentions begin to sink in. And his posts are fairly clear.

When I try to process Peter’s comments, it’s hard. He is using more than two thoughts or concepts in one sentence and it’s very hard to parse his writings. Though he seems to be getting better now a days. Just my thoughts.

Thy Peace

I also think, for most "modern" readers, you have to write in simple sentences. At least that is my experience.

Calvin

I can tell that you and your readers would enjoy going to Google and typing in "Pretrib Rapture Diehards," "Pretrib Rapture Desperados," and "Letter from Mrs. Billy Graham." Calvin

Paula Fether

Thy Peace,

You’re right about the disturbing trend in reading comprehension. Maybe I just don’t speak "simple". ;-)

Calvin,

I can tell that you enjoy going to Google and typing in "How to rub salt into other believers’ wounds" and "sympathy and understanding are dirty words". And thank you for proving once again that most Calvinists act like the heathen toward the very people they should care the most about.

Lin

Why? Because the point is not seeking truth. (Which none of us have a complete grasp of anyway when it comes to every single doctrine). The point is to set up strawmen to argue against. But if object to the strawmen, you are mean and divisive. Better to pour on syrup and be liked. Christ gets second billing in these set ups. I say that because truth is what we should be aiming for..not being popular.

I have seen situations where people explain their view nicely over and over and go back and forth only to have the person come back and make the original strawman point as if their explanations had no merit! This is because that person never really wanted an explanation. They wanted some more ammunition. Over time, this becomes obvious. And the discussion is fruitless.

What bothers me is the notion out there that one can be as snarky as they want if they cover it in syrup but I cannot do that because it is deceptive. We do not have to agree, we just have to be civil and loving. But disagreement brings accusations of heretic, sliding toward homosexuality, androgyny, etc. It is ridiculous. But it is being TAUGHT to these people out there. I know, I used to be in that ’club’ and I have sat through too many of the teachings not to know where it comes from.

YOu and I are a good example of disagreeing with some civility. You know that I believe in the DoG. (Ironically, though, I detest Calvin) but I have taken your advice to read Vance and others who have a different view. What can it hurt me to learn? If these authors drive me to scripture, we are both better off. We can debate, study, pray and still disagree while being sisters in Christ. But that is because I know YOU are not going to pull out strawmen to beat me with.

Paula Fether

Hi Lin,

As usual I agree with your observations. Please excuse me if I ever step too hard on your DoG toes; you know I wouldn’t do that on purpose. :-) I truly value those like yourself who actually understand what "agree to disagree" means.

(But out of curiosity, I may someday ask why the term "doctrines of grace" is thought to describe one set of Christian beliefs and not another. Far as I know, we all believe salvation is by grace alone.)

Lin

"As usual I agree with your observations. Please excuse me if I ever step too hard on your DoG toes; you know I wouldn’t do that on purpose. I truly value those like yourself who actually understand what “agree to disagree” means."

I consider a discussion with you as iron sharpening iron. I thought you were treated horrible on Wade’s blog and defended you. I noticed that no one wanted to discuss content with you!

One reason this cannot divide us is that I do not think this is a salvation issue. My mom did not ascribe to DoG yet Spurgeon was her favorite preacher! And I know my godly mom is in heaven. She was SOLD OUT to Christ in every area of her life and she lived her faith..it was in the very marrow of her bones.

I agree that DoG is not a good way to describe it because you also believe in Grace alone. I cannot bring myself to say the ’C’ word because that would mean I agree with C about everything which I do not....as a matter of fact, his ’practice’ was more Catholic than Christian. How silly for Christians to use his name when he was really reforming the RCC and loved his magisterial powers in the state church way too much. To me, the whole notion of ’C’ reeks of those who follow Paul or Apollos.

I believe in election. I am NOT a full tulip gal. I am still studying that and have concerns. I am shying away from systematic theology as a whole but understand those who don’t. It kind of scares me as tulip scares me in that we focus on the system or ’law’ of something than the Spirit. I would rather have the Holy Spirit illuminate truth to me in His own time and way because only HE knows what I need to understand when and why. Everything else...hearing preachers, teachers, etc., is added to that and must be discerned. I do not believe a Christian can grow in Holiness without prayerfully studying scripture alone...eventually.

I am not creedal in terms of what man deems creedal. I believe we have free will to sin but I also believe that ’He who began a good work will finish it’. IF I am truly saved then the Holy Spirit is convicting me of my sin every day and every day I am in repentance.

I also believe that many who subscribe to ’pre destination’ and use it as a dividing line may not be ’pre-destined’, if you get my drift. It has become a club to use on others.

I align with NO movement or group except those who are in the true Body.. That includes those who believe the basic FULL Gospel truth. Does not matter to me if they believe in predestination or not. I worship with a mix every week.

Bottomline for me is this: Salvation is a supernatual act. It does not happen unless the Holy Spirit does a work in me. Since I cannot do it myself, only God can show me my sin and my need for a Savior.

Paula Fether

Yes, you did defend me (although I stopped reading the threads there and may have missed some of your posts)... Thank you!

I agree that the Reformation didn’t go far enough, and that they really still have a lot in common with RCC teachings (and share a common "father", Augustine).

And absolutely, the question of predestination is a side issue and not something people should divide over. The gender issue can be, because it has a direct effect upon half the Body. But predestination is all theory; it has no bearing on what the gospel is, how we live, or anything else that would be considered central or imperative. All we know for sure is that salvation is by faith, and God is more just and loving than we are. (But of course, when some of those people get in my face over a side issue, I don’t take it kindly!)

And as you pointed out, the bottom line is whether a person is saved, and whether they even act like it. So many, who claim Christ, on many topics are bitter, hateful, mocking, and legalistic toward those they should be defending against the world.

I really think the question of predestination boils down to timing. I can’t accept that God picks this person to be saved and that one to be lost, but once the choice is made He can do whatever He wants with us. Scripture says "you are not your own, you were bought with a price"-- to believers. So I believe we have free choice to accept or reject the gospel, but after that our choices are more limited. That’s why I believe in eternal security and see no conflict between that and a person’s free will regarding salvation. In fact, I see the Christian walk as a process of letting go of more and more of ourselves and our wills, slowing acquiring "the mind of Christ".

Lin

"I agree that the Reformation didn’t go far enough, and that they really still have a lot in common with RCC teachings (and share a common “father”, Augustine)."

Conrad Graebel and others who became Anabaptists agree! They were students of Zwingili who saw the light studying scripture and eventually broke with him over infant baptism, sacraments and state church. They gave their very lives for that truth...when the ’reformed’ Zwingili chose power and comfort of the state church yet...he agreed that infant baptism was found no where in scripture.

I find it interesting that one reason we see very little ’doctrinal’ systematic books, papers from the Anabaptists ( though they were NOT monolithic in their beliefs at all and there were many groups) is because most of them believed we have that document as the Holy Scriptures! They did write about baptism, sacraments, etc, though when they could and it was not burned by the reformers or the catholics. :o)

Menno Sims once wrote that if one can show that everything Augustine wrote is clearly in scripture then he would believe Augustine.

In any event, where we bascially disagree is that I do not believe that I can ’choose’ to be saved. I believe it is a supernatual act. the Holy Spirit used the Word...the hearing/reading of the Word to convict me that I was not really saved..that I did not really ’know’ Christ. I say this because I thought I was saved for many years because I made a ’decision’ and was baptized.... and you would have thought I was saved, too. I looked, acted and smelled like a bonifide Christian. But I was so lost in sin it is unbelievable. Butfew would ever know that by being around me...I now know that my mom knew and prayed for me constantly. I had the outward appearance of being saved. But, I had NO relationship with my Savior. I thought I was a good, decent person. I was in the ’club’.

My salvation was a supernatual act... that continues supernatually in sanctification. I had no choice in the matter...I was not even looking! I thought I was saved! I could not run away. I can slip into sin and do all the time but I cannot stay there. He won’t let me. He pursues me and disciplines me. And It is painful but there is always hope in eternity with that discipline. Sanctification is sometimes 2 steps forward and 3 steps back. A slow process of giving up self and fighting with these sinful bodies we inhabit. Everyday I see how wretched I really am in my natural state. That makes His Grace even more incredible to me. The only way I know how to explain this is election.

Paula Fether

I agree that without God drawing us to him, we would not seek him. The difference is that I believe he draws all, because Jesus said "when I am lifted up I will draw all people to myself." That, along with "not willing that any perish but all come to repentance", "whosoever will", etc. (I know the standard reply to "whosoever will" is "nobody wills", but that has to be read into the text; the context [John 3:16] doesn’t have any such fine print.)

I also believe that God guards our faith once we have it (1 Peter 1:5), but that we can still stray very far away. He will let us make our mistakes and all, but he will not allow us to stay away permanently.

I think what you said about your ’decision’, especially the Spirit and Word convicting you, is very important. I don’t believe people are given the full gospel. It isn’t enough to say "follow Jesus", "give him your heart", etc.; they should say "Do you believe that Jesus died for your sins and rose again, and do you want to restore your broken relationship with God?" or something to that effect. It’s all about reconciliation, and I think many people only accept the facts they learned about Jesus without also accepting reconciliation. That "tapping on your shoulder" from the Spirit was, I believe, the relationship part.

But again, this has no effect at all on how people live or what salvation is. And if the Bible tells me anything about God, it says he is both just and merciful, more than we know.

Lin

"That “tapping on your shoulder” from the Spirit was, I believe, the relationship part."

That is where we disagree. I was not saved before, even though I thought I was. Intellectually, I believed in Jesus Christ as Savior. I had no relationship. Without that relationship, I do not believe we are saved. I believe that Justicifaction and Sanctification are two different things but NEVER is one without the other.

Here are a few passages that are not easily explained away in regards to election:

Eph 1:

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, 5 having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.

(He chose us ’in Him’ before the foundation of the world?)

Romans 9

10 And not only this, but when Rebecca also had conceived by one man, even by our father Isaac 11 (for the children not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him who calls), 12 it was said to her, “The older shall serve the younger.”[d] 13 As it is written, “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.”[e]

Note verse 11.

And...

14 What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not! 15 For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.”[f] 16 So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to the Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth.”[g] 18 Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens. 19 You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?” 20 But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor? 22 What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory, 24 even us whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?

Vessels of wrath and vessels of mercy that He prepared for destruction or Glory?

There are many more but here is even an obscure reference...

Jude 1

4 For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.

(How could they have been long ago marked out for this condemnation if not for election?)

Acts 16

Now a certain woman named Lydia heard us. She was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God. The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul.

(The Lord opened her heart to believe...)

There are a ton more but just a few that cannot easily be explained away when looking at God’s Sovereignty over everything. Even evil.

I would be interested in your take on some of these passages. I am always learning..always reforming. :o)

Paula Fether

That is where we disagree. I was not saved before, even though I thought I was. Intellectually, I believed in Jesus Christ as Savior. I had no relationship. Without that relationship, I do not believe we are saved.

I must not have been clear, sorry. I agree with this; it’s the relationship that seals the deal. The devil understands who Jesus is and knows it for a fact, but he is absolutely opposed to Him. But at the same time, I believe a person can have that relationship yet have no visible works: "However, to anyone who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness." (Rom. 4:5). Otherwise, we wind up with Lordship Salvation which demands works to satisfy human eyes, and we run the risk of falsely accusing a fellow believer.

In Eph. 1:3-5, note the object of what he chose us for: to be holy and blameless. This was his plan for all who would believe. He also predestined us-- to be adopted as children, not simply taken as slaves. The "in him" I understand to mean "we who are in him" are those whose destiny is to be adopted.

In Rom. 9:10-12, salvation is never mentioned at all; I think context indicates choosing service, not salvation. The same with the rest of the chapter, as well as others. You could also read that part of my commentary for more. Yeah, I’ve seen these verses before. ;-)

The ones mentioned in Jude had to comprehend the grace of God in order to turn it into a license to sin, and just as in Romans 1, God will eventually "give them over" to what they have chosen. And of course God saw this from eternity past; nothing can surprise him.

But I would turn the question around then: how can God be just and loving, yet choose someone for destruction without ever giving them a chance to choose instead to serve Him? Would a loving couple, planning to start a family, decide beforehand that one child would be loved and the others hated? And if we can see through the obvious evil of such a thing, then surely God would have to be evil to do the same thing, and on a much greater scale.

If we are not chosen based upon merit, as we would both agree, then neither are the wicked condemned based upon merit if both were by divine decree alone. People who earn the wages of sin, death, earn them; people who accept the gift of life earned nothing, because a gift is not a wage. Yet C teaches that earning and divine force can both be true at the same time, which I consider nonsensical.

As for Lydia, the Greek reads "the Master opens up the heart to be heeding the things being spoken by the Paul". Very similar to the two on the road to Emmaus whose "eyes" Jesus opened up (Luke 24:31) to recognize him. But notice that it was only after the apostles “spoke to the women” that she responded. Is it “quickening”or faith that comes from hearing the word (Romans 10:17)? The phrase “opened her heart” in context most likely means that she understood the message. God can limit or increase a person’s perception, but this does not violate free will because a person is still responsible for what they understand.

Now for some free will stuff!

Of course you know I’m going to start with John 3:16. There is no fine print, nothing in the context to restrict the meaning of Jesus’ words. He is talking to a knowledgeable Jew, yet the concept of spiritual birth was foreign to him. When Jesus said God loved the world, he used the word kosmos-- not ethnos (nations). He prefaced this with a reference to the time Moses put up the serpent in the wilderness and whoever looked at it in faith was healed-- emphasis on whoever. The word "all" (pas) means entirety, the whole thing, all of them. It does not, as C teaches, mean "all sorts of people", in order to restrict it to meaning "the elect of every nation". Verse 15 is what is repeated in 16, so Jesus said it twice. And again, in the following verse, we see the word kosmos twice.

In vs. 18 we see that to believe is to be declared "cleared of all charges", the opposite of not believing and thus being condemned or judged; these are legal terms, not terms of literal spiritual death. Vs. 20 says that whoever commits sin runs from the light, but that (lit. Greek) "the one that does the truth" comes toward it, and the good they do was "worked in God". I see nothing there about people having no choice in salvation or being dead so that they couldn’t choose.

Then of course there’s 1 Tim. 2:4, where Paul says God wants all (pantas, from pas) people to be saved. The standard C comeback is that this would make God look weak, wringing his hands and hoping. First of all, the text says what it says; they’ll have to plead their case with Paul about what he wrote here. Second, what do they do with 2 Cor. 5:20, where God "makes an appeal" through us? No, free will does not make God weak. It just means he loves us and in his sovereignty decided to give us the freedom to choose. Love cannot come from robots or puppets. We couldn’t possibly love by force, and if we reject any such coerced love, surely God does as well.

There are many others, such as Joshua 24:15, Jeremiah 31, Ezekiel 38, and too many to count that talk about our responsibility to choose. If God does all the choosing, then this life is a cosmic play, an illusion, divine entertainment. How much sovereignty does it take to predict the winner of a game God rigged? How can the elect rejoice in their sheer luck while many more are in eternal agony because God created them for that? Where is the love of God if it is so limited, and how can Jesus’ sacrifice be so demoted of its power by limiting its worth to so few?

Both sides have proof texts, and both sides use human experience to extrapolate that which is not explicit in scripture. It reminds me of the three blind men describing an elephant. One is at the trunk, another at the belly, and the third at the tail. Each one insists that what they can feel is the entirety of the animal. In the same way, both sides of this debate insist that what they see in scripture is all there is, and they dismiss the reports of others who see something different. All we can do is report, and I think it’s the better part of wisdom to concede that neither of us has the whole picture.

Howz dat?

Cheryl

I am kind of feeling down today. A pastor close to me has bought into the 5 points of C. and wants to push all of us into accepting that Jesus’ death was never intended to pay for the sin of any that God didn’t choose to save, including all the unborn babies who he says will go to hell because they weren’t picked to be saved. So here goes my next DVD project - a respectful way to show that the extremes on both ends are wrong and that there can be free will while still affirming God’s sovereignty. And the foundation of my argument will be in the Old Testament.

But it is a hard battle, fighting for freedom to speak the truth in love while the opposition fights to stop Christians from hearing the other side. It is very hard on those of us who believe that the truth is provable in the scriptures even with the verses that seem on the surface to disprove our view. All scripture is indeed inspired and useful for doctrine, reproof, correction and training and righteous.

Paula Fether

You know, Cheryl, I just don’t understand why so many people make such division in the church, and for nothing. Their teaching only drives people apart needlessly, and has turned many away from salvation because of its cold, hard view of God. It serves no purpose whatsoever in spreading the gospel, in discipleship, or in any good thing I can think of. It only ruins the relationship of love and turns it into puppets acting out a sadistic play.

I’ll never understand what prompted such ideas in the first place, or what good they’ll ever do. We have to expend so much energy defending ourselves from other believers that we have to strain very much to keep focus on the gospel.

But the battle is not ours. We only need to stand.

Cheryl

"I just don’t understand why so many people make such division in the church, and for nothing."

That is exactly what I have been saying to this pastor. If what he believes is true, it doesn’t change anything whether it is taught or not. However the teaching, when done in this way is hurting the church. This issue weighs very heavy upon me. I really am sick of having to fight the battles. But I can’t stand back and do nothing. May the Lord fight the battle for us.

Greg Anderson

Excellent stuff both Paula and Cheryl! Paula for opposing the absolute dogmatism of "reformed" theology, and Cheryl for asserting (with a new DVD in the works?) that free will and God’s sovereign majesty are NOT mutually exclusive.

Paula Fether

Glad to be of service, Greg. Thanks!

Shank

I would like to get your reaction to "America’s Pretrib Rapture Traffickers" on the "Powered by Christ Ministries" website. Many thanks. Shank

Paula Fether

Welcom, Shank!

I haven’t heard of that, is it (or part of it) available for online review? I did a quick search and saw lots of outrageous comments in favor of it, but no actual quotes.

Paula Fether

Thanks for the website link. What I saw there was a review of the book, so I can only comment on that.

The review is filled from top to bottom with personal attack, guilt by association, libel, false accusations, and all-around bashing and flaming. There were no scriptures cited. Even the list of books at the end had titles bashing people who hold the pre-trib view, instead of something like "Bible Proof Against the Pre-Trib Rapture". And when someone makes trashing other believers over a side issue the centerpiece of their "ministry", I think that someone has forgotten the most basic and vital Christian principle: love.

Of course I don’t mean never criticize, or never name names, but that it is wrong to make anything but scripture the focus.

I only ever debate pre-trib (or any other Biblical topic) from scripture, not citing some "infallible interpreter" who equates his interpretation with scripture itself. The charges of cover-ups and such are red herrings, since no pre-tribber I ever met relies on anything but scripture for their view. And this topic like many other controversies relies in part on less than accurate English translations. One must consider language and culture as parts of the context.

Greg Anderson

Paula,

In your comments above you make many of the same arguments Erasmus made in his famous diatribe against Luther’s work entitled "Bondage of the Will", and I’ll wager that you arrived at them independently too.

Both Luther and Calvin make the claim that humankind can do nothing to save itself and that even the free will to accept or reject Jesus’ atonement does not exist because it is at odds with their concept of sovereign grace.

Funny you’d write about Romans 9. Romans 9 is one of chief proof text mines for reformed theology and the doctrine of limited atonement.

Personally, I see Romans 9 as an historical narrative of God’s dealings with the Jews and his plan of bringing Messiah into the world. I see nothing except by specious extrapolation that negates free will in choosing to accept or reject Jesus as Messiah.

Paula Fether

You’re right, Greg. I really haven’t studied Erasmus in detail.

I think part of the issue with interpreting Romans 9 is that few realize the entire book of Romans is a chiasm with many sub-chiasms, and chapter 9 is one of those (see my commentary download). In fact, ch. 9 is the crux or pivot point of the entire book. This chapter begins and ends (actually at 10:1-4) with Paul’s expression of anguish over his people, Israel. I agree, the context is about nations and fulfilling promises.

Verse 6 is especially interesting. C’s argue that Jesus’ atonement had to be limited or most of it would have been wasted on those God did not choose to save. Yet the same would have to be said of God’s choosing of Israel. His promise was to all the descendants of Abraham through Isaac and Jacob, yet many of them strayed.

Was God’s promise to Abraham false or limited then? Why not, if Jesus’ atonement had to be limited? And if they say "Yes, it was limited to those with faith", they fail to acknowledge the unconditional nature of the Promise. God did not stipulate the faith issue when the promise was made, but only that the line of physical descent would be through Isaac and not Ishmael.

And blessings came to the people as a nation, regardless of individuals therein who were clearly not living by faith. Paul himself lamented that the Jews as a people had been given so many blessings (vs. 4-5) yet rejected their Messiah.

Rom. 11:8 is another oft-cited prooftext, but it must be balanced with vs. 11 and 2 Cor. 3:16 which states, "But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away." If election were true, then it should be written as "But whenever the veil is taken away, someone turns to the Lord." (And we can’t ignore the very next verse which talks about freedom.)

Paula Fether

And another thing...

Paul had anguish for the lost. This is not what I see among typical Calvinists. I’ve seen many instances where an unbeliever questions them on God choosing a few for heaven and the majority for hell, but instead of admitting that this would be evil, they heap insults on the unbeliever, which only hardens their heart!

Greg Anderson

I concur. It really is an exercise in futility. And it diverts attention away from the real issues of life as Jesus laid them out for us.

Thanking God for the very breath we draw, the days he gives us to live, and dealing mercy and compassion out to the very least of them.

Lin

"I must not have been clear, sorry. I agree with this; it’s the relationship that seals the deal. The devil understands who Jesus is and knows it for a fact, but he is absolutely opposed to Him. But at the same time, I believe a person can have that relationship yet have no visible works: “However, to anyone who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness.” (Rom. 4:5). Otherwise, we wind up with Lordship Salvation which demands works to satisfy human eyes, and we run the risk of falsely accusing a fellow believer."

Paula, I e-mailed you about taking the DoG discussion offline. It is so divisive and the last thing I want to do is divide people. I don’t think it matters in the end.

But, I am confused about what you wrote above. YOu wrote: I believe a person can have that relationship yet have no visible works.

Unless I misunderstood you, I do not believe that sanctification is a ’work’. Justification and Sanctification are two different things but we never have one without the other.

If we are saved, we are changed. We are not the same at all. That fruit may take some time to show up but it does. We are Born Again. What concerns me about what you said is that I heard it quite a bit to excuse obvious sin by many leaders. It was as if they were saying that we should not expect to see good fruit from one who is saved. I realize the danger of taking this too far but 1 John talks in depth about this and a saved person will be walking in the light. Yes, we sin but we have dumbed down sin to the point, we hardly recognize it anymore. Our very thoughts can be sinful. So, yes we sin. But a saved person is in continual repentance and growing in Holiness through sanctification.

Hebrews 10: 26-31 talks about this, too. If we willfully sin knowing the truth then it is as though there was no sacrfice.

If being saved does not change our hearts which always comes out in our lives and is obvious, then what is being saved? We can be saved but not changed?

I worry about this type of thinking because too many think they are saved and are forgiven for continual sin when they may not be saved at all. When we are saved, we have a new relationship with sin, too. We hate what we once loved. We have godly sorrow for sin when before saved, we may have had only worldly sorrow for being caught or embarassed.

Do you understand what I am getting at here?

Paula Fether

Hi Lin,

What I’m trying to say is that since salvation is by faith alone, works cannot be required (Rom. 4:2-5 and forward, Eph. 2:8-9) for salvation. They certainly are required for rewards (1 Cor. 3:10-15), and Paul made it abundantly clear that grace is not a license to sin (Rom. 6:2). Salvation is a change of relationship; we once were "dead" to God but now are "dead" to sin (of course this does not mean we are unable to sin after salvation, or that we are unable to do good while unsaved).

How can we say we have that relationship of being alive to God if we do evil? This was Paul’s rhetorical question. But note that he never called anyone lost over their behavior. He called them carnal, infantile, even bewitched, but never lost. He had one man thrown out of the fellowship but later restored when the sin was given up. Was he therefore lost and re-saved? I believe he was out of fellowship and then restored to fellowship, but there is nothing indicating he had either lost his salvation or never had it. After all, the others there were condoning it, so wouldn’t that make them lost too? Yet they were the very ones who were charged with throwing him out and then reinstating him.

I would go so far as to say that the Bible is largely unnecessary IF works are a guaranteed result of salvation. Why all the cajoling, the exhorting, the pleading to turn from sinful acts? Why all the encouragement to strain for the goal? If God necessarily forces good works out of those who are saved, then what’s the point of all that? What are rewards for, and how is 1 Cor. 3:15 even possible if that judgment is of those already labeled as saved? Who is Paul talking about if someone cannot be saved and have no works?

This need for us to see visible works creates some problems of its own as well. How many works? What kind? Where is the line drawn? Is it good enough to be less evil, or must they be completely without sin? Of course no one would say the latter, but what justification is there for drawing the line anyplace in-between, and where are the scriptures that define it?

This is why it is so vital to disciple new believers. They must understand that the gift of salvation they received should result in a lifetime of gratitude to God, and that it is their responsibility to find out what God wants from them, beginning with seeking out teachers and reading the Bible. We should emphasize that the grateful life is a life that always looks to improve, to please the Savior.

But what of the new believer who gets no nourishing from others? Is dereliction of duty on the part of other believers allowed by God to result in this person being lost? Or, again, does the Spirit force the person to change, and since nothing changed, we have to conclude that the Spirit either left them or was never there?

All I know is that scripture says there will be people in heaven who "escaped through the flames" with nothing but their skin, so to speak. They were carnal, but not lost. Their faith was useless, but not non-existent. They remained newborns, but born nonetheless. And again, this is no license to sin but simply an acknowledgement that salvation cannot be part gift and part wage, and that we must not judge only by appearances. We should of course show great concern for the carnal, and exhort them as Paul did in his day to strive for the prize (not the gift).

I’ve never heard anyone preach a license to sin, who had any grasp of the gospel.

Hope that helps! And I’m glad you asked this publicly, because I’m sure you’re not the only reader with that question. Thanks!