This afternoon I stumbled onto a video from a podcast called Authentic Christian that was responding to the responses given by James White over Authentic Christian’s original videos describing (in their view) Calvinism. As I went back and started down the rabbit hole with their original videos I thought it would be a productive use of my time to interact actively with the content instead of just passively watching it.
So, I’m creating this blog post as a run down of all my comments, thoughts, opinions, etc on all the videos in question, starting from their first two videos on Calvinism, to James White’s rebuttal, to their 4 hour long rebuttal of his rebuttal. I’m not kidding when I say there is a lot to talk about here. It’s going to get very theologically weedy very quickly so might be a good idea to put on some knee high rubber boots. Or, maybe it would just be better to jump in head first.
Trust me, though the water is theologically dark and murky, it’s still quite warm….
Their First Two Videos on Calvinism
Five Points of Calvinism:
1. Total Depravity
Adam passed his sin on to everyone else who would later be born. From the womb we are without means of righting ourselves with god.
2. Unconditional Election
God chooses people to be saved and other people to be condemned. It has nothing to do with our own freewill. People do not choose to be saved, they are chosen to be saved.
3. Limited Atonement
States that Jesus did not die for everyone, but only for the elect (those chosen to be saved).
4. Irresistible Grace
If you are chosen by God to be saved you will be saved. You will not be able to reject salvation (even if you wanted to).
5. Perseverance of the Saints
All who are chosen to be saved will be saved and redeemed at the resurrection. This is akin to “once saved always saved.” Some would argue that those who fall away were never actually saved or called to begin with, they were just going through the motions.
They then went through the different kinds of Calvinists they’ve run into out in the practical world. Some are 4 point calvinists. Some 3 or 2 point. He stated that some don’t even consider themselves to be Calvinist but would hold to many if not all the 5 points (I am personally one of those people. I have never claimed nor would I ever claim to be a Calvinist. But I will go through my personal beliefs both before and after watching these videos and I hold to many but not all of the five points above).
He states that if we are predestined in Christ, how did we “get into Christ in the first place.” He throws out Galatians 3, that it states we made a decision to believe in Jesus. I went and read through Galatians 3. No where in that chapter does it mention a decision being made by anyone. It talks about people being saved by faith, by believing. It talks about grace coming to save. But the actual mechanism by which that faith or that belief originates or arises in the heart of an individual is not mentioned in Galatians 3 at all. This is so often the case where people are indoctrinated into a theology or a denominational system and then insert that system over the text or read the text with denominationally colored glasses. We aren’t told in Galatians 3 if people made a freewill choice to believe or if they believed because they were predestined to do so. Other passages do lean to one side or the other. But, this chapter he’s referencing does not. He’s reading into the text.
He states that if total depravity is not true then Calvinism falls apart and is unnecessary. I would agree with him but for different reasons. I would argue that Calvinism was an invention. It is simply a denomination created by man that focuses on specific doctrines of a specific time in history. Luther was a part of this as well. But, there have been scores of movements throughout church history that have grabbed onto a handful of doctrines and become excessive with them. We’re all guilty of it. There was a time early in my faith that I would have considered myself a Baptist, but that’s because it was really all I knew. I was comfortable with it. But as I kept returning to the foundation that was laid when I first believed (the Bible) I found that I really did not believe all the doctrines of the Baptists. I would doubly say that today as the Baptist denominations have steadily moved away from the Bible and toward the lunacy of the world.
Ephesians 2:3 – he makes a big point about the word φύσει stating it is not by “nature” according to genetics or even a “spiritual” nature that we inherited at birth, but a “lifestyle” in which one is choosing to live this way or that way. He cites Ro 2:14 in support, that the gentiles by nature obeyed the law. He argues that they were not born keeping the law but were choosing by lifestyle to keep the law.
Again. I really think this guy is reading into the text his predetermined doctrine. There is nothing in Ro 2:14 that would limit the gentiles from fulfilling the law from birth (if they were predestined to do so). The text does not state how they are fulfilling the law, only that “by nature” they are becoming a law unto themselves. Same with Eph 2:3. Paul states everyone lived by the flesh, fulfilled the flesh – by nature they were children of wrath. We know this to be true from a genetic or spiritually genetic standpoint from Ro 5:12-15 “just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned…by the one man’s offense many died.”
They also make a comment about Adam choosing to sin, that according to Ecclesiastes, God made man upright but they have sought out many schemes. So, in their view, God made man upright, moral, or basically neutral and he could choose right or wrong. But we see from God himself, “the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Ge 6:5). Maybe God did make us neutral, but for some reason, every single human on this earth who has ever been born since Adam seems to choose the flesh and sin over righteousness. So really, we end up in the same place of Total Depravity.
But, we cannot compare Adam with other men. Adam was more like the angels than he was like modern, fallen men. Adam is the first Adam. Christ is the last Adam. There is a reason why this comparison is made and why Jesus had to die.
There is an interesting point they bring up, though, concerning Total Depravity. One of the hosts states that if this is true and everyone is born into sin, then his little boy, who is still an infant, is at this very moment, destined for hell. They then, of course, bring up David’s comment about his son that died, that he will see him again in heaven (2 Sam 12:22). But, in actuality, yet again, they are reading into this passage. Nowhere does it say that David presumed his son would immediately go to heaven. In fact, it doesn’t use the word heaven anywhere in that passage. All it says is that David believed he would go to his son, rather than his son returning to him. What was the belief of the afterlife in David’s time? Peter quotes him in Acts 2:25-28, quoting David’s writing in Psalm 16:8-11 where Peter quotes at vs 27, “For you will not leave my soul in Hades.” Now, Luke uses the word here “hades.” It’s unclear what word Peter used. We can assume it was Hades as well. But this was actually used for the Hebrew word “Sheol.” Interestingly enough, the word used in the LXX was, “hades.” The use of this passage to support “age of accountability” or that “all children go to heaven” is ridiculous.
So, I have to ask myself: which is it? If we have inherited sin, then truly children who die without Christ will be destined for the Lake of Fire. To say they go to hell is a misnomer, since there is actually no hell in the Bible. There is Hades, or the abode of the dead, the supernatural prison that was created (presumably) when the curse took effect. It was by Satan’s design (somehow, maybe inadvertently) to sideline human beings entirely, trap them maybe in what he knew would be God’s response. Before Jesus died for us, there was no hope for humanity. Everyone who was born or would be born would be destined to exist throughout eternity in Hades. Trapped. Imprisoned as disembodied spirits. Under the sway and power of death. So, if there had been no Christ then there also would have been no Lake of Fire either. In this sense, everyone – Christian and non-Christian alike – is currently destined to “hell” in Hades. Even those who are fortunate enough to be saved will exist in “paradise,” but this is hardly a good place or good thing. Even those who exist do so as disembodied souls and this much cause such a trauma on our psyche that we who are saved must still be “comforted” anyway. All children will be there because right now no one escapes the power of death. So far in the history of the human race, only Jesus has overthrown the power of death and was resurrected by God the Father. We, as believers, in faith, by grace, have hope in our future resurrection. But it is currently still only a hope. Our redemption has not yet been realized.
But, to answer the question, are all children destined for hell when they are born, I would argue yes. But I would argue regardless of the reality of free will vs. predestination. It doesn’t matter. No one knows if a child is going to accept Jesus as his Lord. No one knows if he will one day truly believe that God raised Jesus from the dead (only God knows). Whether he is 12 or 20, he is condemned in his sin. Believe me, 5 year olds sin. They begin sinning much, much younger than 12. To gloss away this troubling reality with man-made doctrines (that are not found anywhere in the Bible) about ages of accountability and such nonsense is insulting to both God and everyone else around you. This is just overly sensitive people rationalizing away biblical reality. It’s the same when we rationalize away eternal punishment completely and become universalists because we just can’t accept that our God would condemn anyone to the Lake of Fire. I would argue if you demand such false doctrines, you don’t actually know the God of the Bible.
Whether it is original sin or sin they personally committed, they are in need of a savior too early in life. Everyone needs Christ. But to assume that because all believers go to Paradise that Paradise is somehow a good thing is an error. Likewise just as foolish is to assume from logic or emotion that children couldn’t possibly end up in “hell” and, thus, we have to invent a doctrine that is found nowhere in the Bible.
They go on to argue that most churches would not come out and boldly state that we don’t know the status of children who die early (which is really not true if you follow Scripture closely we do know). But to condemn biblical doctrine on the basis that they used, “they don’t come out and say what they really believe because most people would leave their churches” is hazardous. It would be accurate to state we don’t know. I would also be accurate to say it at least looks as if children who die early and who do not have an opportunity to accept Jesus will perish in the Lake of Fire (and are currently in Hades under torment) because, as Peter puts it, “there is no salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). It doesn’t say “only Jesus,” oh, and the caveat for the children who died early. It never says this anywhere in the Bible. We, as humans, with are futile minds, simply can’t handle the reality that God is God and says “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion” (Ro 9:15). After all, we are fine with adults being created from the beginning as “vessels of wrath prepared for destruction” (Ro 9:22), but our human sensitivity can’t imagine that children are included in this group.
They state that the doctrine of Total Depravity brings no hope unless you are the elect. Well, isn’t that actually correct? Do people who are not saved have any hope? Are they already dead in their sin? If someone was born, lived, and died without having accepted Jesus as Lord and believed that God raised him from the dead, then wouldn’t their entire life be without hope? All total depravity is saying is that salvation is nothing we do ourselves. Paul said the very same thing, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Eph 2:8-9).
Our faith does not hinge or rely our anything from us. It is entirely a gift from God.
Now, they do bring up an interesting point with Psalm 51:5. If this states that “I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me.” When Jesus was born, did he have inherited sin? That would be an anathema, right? So how did he escape sin? Or did he have the inherited sin from Adam, but he did not have the personal sin by commission throughout his life? He would certainly need to have the fallen nature, the flesh, with all its inherent temptations, or his living of a sinless life would not have equated to our inability to live a sinless life because the equation would not be equal. He had to have the ability to sin. Can God the Father sin? Could Jesus sin preincarnate? What about after his resurrection? Angels certainly could sin if Genesis 6:2 was about angels leaving heaven and procreating with human women. Likewise, pre-fall Adam and Eve certainly had the capacity to sin. That was before the curse. Personally, I think there are pieces missing from the account that would explain all of this. We are not being given the whole story here. But as they point out in Hebrews 4:15, Jesus “was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.” Maybe the fallen nature we receive from Adam is not inherited sin but instead is a sin nature – a nature that is prone to sin, a nature that is incapable of not sinning. Maybe that which we inherited from Adam is not sin at all but the engine by which sin “enters the world” and “spreads through all men.” This would allow Jesus to likewise have this mortal, fallen nature, and yet defy it’s universality in creating sin in its host because he was God and he was able to remain sinless despite all the same temptations that we have every day.
I personally think these hosts have a hyper obsession with individual autonomy. They can’t conceive of a God that has predestined everything, even though Scripture clearly states this to be the case. “We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Eph 2:10). It does not say that we should choose by our own will and autonomy the works we choose to do. It does not say that we are responsible for what we do in life, that we choose this way or that way. It says that God created us, that we were created for good works, that God prepared those good works beforehand, and that our responsibility is limited to “walking in them.”
There is a glaring problem that they bring up, though. The issue of Adam and Eve’s sin that occurred before a sin nature was found in Adam (unless he had it all the time since he certainly has the potentiality to sin at any time). But, this does not explain angels sinning in Genesis 6:2 unless they likewise have the capacity to sin as well. Even if you discount the angel view of this section (and Jude and Peter), you cannot deny that Satan was a perfect angel with great responsibility and was in charge of all the host, yet, iniquity was found in him, too. Then there is even more troubling ramifications. If the angels can sin, and Adam and Eve can sin, and nothing changes for the angels in heaven from Gen 1 to Rev 22, if saved people become “like the angels in heaven” when we are revealed as Sons of God, won’t we enter into eternity with at least the capacity to commit sin? Not that sin will be allowed to enter heaven at the Great White Throne. That’s clear it won’t. But what if we get into heaven, settle in, then realize that the capacity to lust or to covet or to murder our brother with our thoughts still exists within us? Didn’t Jesus take away that fallen nature, or did he just take away the power of death and take away the curse? I don’t think he did. Think of the scenario being set up here. We have lived our entire lives in fleshly bodies with appetites and drives and predilections. We step into heaven with a new body that has all the same appetites, but we are mature creatures, angel-like, and we are to act accordingly. We are to possess our bodies as God intended. But, most people have spent their adult lives married, being able to sate these appetites. If the angels had these capacities to lust in Genesis, then what would make us think we don’t have them post-Revelation? Now everlasting life becomes a nightmare of trying to remain pure and righteous moment by moment, but now there is no grace to cover our sin if we fall. How long will it take before someone in heaven has a bad day, sees someone that catches his eye?
Will there be a new Tartarus for us to be thrown into? I wonder.
They go on to Ro 5:19, “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one man’s obedience many will be made righteous.” They claim this discredits Calvinism because if one man’s sin made everyone sinners then one man’s righteousness should have made everyone righteous. But, that is incorrect. Remember, Jesus said that these two are not the same. They are unique, though similar. Through the disobedience of one man, many (really everyone) was made a sinner because they cannot help but sin. I can attest, children are not born good. They do not need to be taught how to lie. They do not need to be taught how to deceive. Or to try to avoid correction. It is inherent in them because they have a fallen nature and they live in a fallen and poisoned body, in the flesh. But, Jesus’s obedience did make righteous many. This is where the difference is. As Adam’s sin made everyone sinful, Jesus’ obedience made only a remnant righteous. Why that is, we don’t know. All we know is God decides who will be saved. Remember what Jesus said, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” (John 6:44).
It is interesting, as they point out, Paul states in Ro 7:9, “I was alive once without the law.” First off, when was Paul ever without the law? He trained in the law from an early age (assumably) and he because one of their theologians. Was there a time before his conversion that he was not a Jewish person? The only time would have been when he was a child.
In Ezekiel 18:20, it states that the son is not to be held accountable for the sins of the Father. They apply this to Adam’s sin being held against all of us. But is that really what’s happening? Personally, I would argue that it is not Adam’s sin that we inherited, but his capacity to sin (which he had before the fall), and the consequence of him actually sinning, the curse and death.
But, I do take issue with one of their points. This idea that if Total Depravity is correct then we as humans are right in holding God accountable for the sins we commit. First off, if you are bringing an accusation of any kind against God, you need to reconsider your place and your standing before the Creator of the Universe. As Paul stated, “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?” Does not the potter have power over the clay, form the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor?” (Ro 9:20-21). If you are finding a reason to blame God for something, you are in the wrong. If God is actually real, objectively real, then it means he not only created the world in which we exist, the entirety of the physical universe, the fundamental laws that hold the planet together, but he intricately and intimately wove you together in your mother’s womb. He has counted every hair on your head. He knows every thought you have ever had and every thought you will ever think in the future. You have nothing, nothing to say against God. Period. God does what he will do and you’re opinion of his action is simply irrelevant. It does not matter how noble you think you are. It does not matter how righteous you think you are. It doesn’t even matter how unrighteous you think Gods actions might be. The very sheer reality that God is the one doing those actions inherently renders those actions righteous. God doing anything automatically qualifies the act as righteous. You might be uncomfortable with it. Who cares. You are not the center of the world.
The example that they use about predestination vs freewill and the use of eternal punishment by God was: a parent has four children and he chains them all up in the basement against the wall. He then tells them, “come give me a hug or I will punish you forever.” They reply, “we can’t hug you because we are chained up.” Then the parent cuts the chains of two of his children, they are then free to come hug him, but the other two still are not able to, yet the parent still punishes them for not hugging him.
They say Calvinists won’t like this example. I don’t know why exactly because it is, in reality, quite accurate. This is the God of the Bible. This is technically what he has done. Of course, these hosts are leaving out the part that the four children were each created for a specific purpose. They were not all created the same. The two he cut free were predestined to be vessels of mercy while the two chained were predestined to be vessels of wrath. No one ever wants to talk about this reality. These hosts are just as guilty as the Calvinists of glossing over the Bible passages that they don’t like. I’ve never seen a comprehensive examination of ALL the scriptures that pertain to this topic. People tend to just cherry pick those passages that make their case and ignore the rest. I’ve seen in debates (which is why I don’t like debates) the two speakers talk right past each other every single time, never addressing each other’s points or evidence. It’s just too talking heads and they are talking at each other rather than to each other or more importantly listening to one another.
There is a lot in the Bible that humans can get upset about. There is a lot about the God of the Bible that we can disagree with, conclude to be unjust or immoral, unfair, etc. When we do this, though, we are operating with rebellion against God and/or we don’t really understand the fundamental nature of God himself. God is the very definition of righteousness. He does do righteous things. The things he does are righteous by the innate fact that God does them. If God changed his mind tomorrow and decided that creating humans, that redeeming humans through Christ was all a big mistake, and he orchestrated the destruction of the whole world and annihilated all life completely (including those who were promised to be saved), he would not be wrong in his decision. We talk a lot about human individual autonomy, but the reality is, only God appears to be truly autonomous. He does not answer to anyone. He is not held accountable by anyone. Not only can he do whatever he wishes, but whatever he does instantly is deemed right and good and just simply because God did it. Human opinion and judgement simply doesn’t factor in. If you take issue with what God has done or is doing or will do in the future, you need to repent. You need to find some humility because you are simply in no position to criticize him.
One point was brought up that the Calvinist God states that he only wants to love a few people out of all the people he created. He only wants to save those few people who he has chosen and it doesn’t matter about the rest. They may even want to love him but, too bad. This is actually not biblical at all. It says that “the Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some count slackness, but is long-suffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pe 3:9). Additionally, I would argue that those who were created to be vessels of wrath would never actually “want” to love God. I would argue that they can’t love God. It would be paradoxical to them. These hosts see potential in individuals that have no hope, who were created for fire. They only see hope because of their overriding belief that humans are universally good, which is not what the Bible clearly teaches, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Ro 3:23).
I found it fascinating that one of the hosts started quoting Scripture, but keeps talking as if he is still quoting the Bible, but begins a diatribe of human doctrine and presupposition. Stop inserting your man made religion into the Bible. Stop reading into the text and just read it – all of it – for what it says. If we agree that the whole cousel of God is inspired and God breathed, then we know the only way to find biblical doctrine is for the whole of Scripture to be synchronized together. If you have a handful of verses that support free-will, but then there are other verses that support predestination, there is a problem here with our hermeneutics. Or there is a problem with our overall understanding of the meaning of the text. Or, we are not supposed to know the actual answer and are to simply submit to God in faith.
Again, they keep going back to putting the blame on God, that somehow, if we do not approve of what God is doing then that means God is to blame. No. It means you, human, in your faulty and sinful thinking and rationalizing, you are to blame for bringing an accusation against God. You’re trying to use human logic to bring God down to your level. The reality is, God is not at your level. He is not a created being. He is the creator. For the last time, he does not answer to the likes of you.
They then go on to state that God being a good God excluded and limits God from doing what Calvinists state he does. This is a fundamental problem. God cannot be limited. He is not limited. You have a maligned view of the sovereignty of God. And that’s fine. You will believe whatever it is you want to believe. As for myself, I’m not going to question my maker or my King.
He goes on to state that Acts 2:38 shows that we have to we need to believe in Jesus, repent of your sins, and confess Christ and be baptized for the forgiveness of your sins. Unfortunately, again, they are viewing Scripture with a denominational lens. I would be interested to know if these hosts argue for baptism as a requirement for salvation. Secondly, repenting is not present in Paul’s description of the salvation experience (Ro 10:9-10). Additionally, they conveniently left off the rest of this passage, as in vs 39 it states, “for the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” Again, read the text for what it says, not for what you want it to say. Stop filtering the Bible by your man-made doctrines. Stop insisting that you are judge and jury of God. Hear and obey. Submit to the King of glory. Anything else is just rebellion.
Lastly, why would a person who believes in Total Depravity think they could not come to God? If they believe in Total Depravity, they most likely are a believer beforehand. If they believe then they can come to God because God has drawn them. I will talk more in depth about why I’m so insistent on this process being out of our hands (or at least out of my hands) later in this post.
In this second part of their first installment they talk about Limited Atonement. I think this might be the only place that I would agree with the hosts of this podcast. It is clear from Scripture that Jesus died for all men. We see this in Ro 6:10, “he died to sin once for all” and 2 Co 5:15, “and he died for all” and the verses they use such as 2 Pe 2:1 where Jesus bought the false teachers with his blood and 1 John 2:2 where Jesus “is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.”
Note: he mades an offhanded comment here about 2 Peter 2:4, that the angels were in a “saved” condition. Where does it say that in the Bible? Anywhere? In fact, we know next to nothing about the angels – where they came from, how they ascended to their position as the host of heaven, what they actually are, etc. There is a lot of presupposition being fused with all these verses presented here. The AC tend to use a poor hermeneutic.
1 Co 15:22 makes an interesting statement that I really don’t hear much about. It states, “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.” It is actually the case that every person who has ever lived or will ever live will one day experience resurrection from the dead. Jesus has victory over death and he will extricate every single soul from Hades (and apparently the oceans, too, which in itself is odd), some to everlasting life (those who were part of the first resurrection) and the rest to everlasting condemnation (those who are of the second resurrection and who will be judged by their works at the Great White Throne judgment). So, when Paul states that through Adam everyone dies, but through Christ, everyone lives. This is a literal statement.
Now they switch to Irresistible Grace. To claim such as in Titus 2:11-12 that because grace, according to the Calvinist, is irresistible that this contradicts this passage because, if grace “has appeared to all men” then all men should be saved since they could not resist that grace. But, they are being overly pedantic. Grace is the unmerited favor God gifts to men who are saved. Just because it says here that grace has “appeared” to all men, does not mean that he has necessarily given the gift of grace to all men. My parents saw the gift of grace in my life when I because a believer and they immediately regretted encouraging me to become a Christian. I had become one of those devout, unrealistic fundamentalists, rather than the carnal Christian they were hoping for (because really all they wanted was for me to stop worshipping the devil). They saw that grace evident in my transformation. Likewise, an old flame from junior high has spent much of our adult lives approaching me, trying to rekindle our relationship. I can recall at least four times in which she has reached out and has gotten upset when I immediately rebuffed her. I explained to her that we could only be friends, that she was a temptation for me, that I could not have a relationship with her. Fast forward to this new conviction God has put on my heart in March, that I am to be preparing for a future wife, I thought, well, if I’m to be married, certainly this woman, who is obviously very interested in me, she should receive the first right of refusal, right? I reach out to her (first time I initiated). I did not tell her what had been going on in my life, but that I know I had been harsh in the past and that I was going through some changes and was open to rekindle at least the friendship. She immediately responded (keep in mind, I have not spoken to her in at least 2 years) and seemed overjoyed at the prospect of us reconnecting after all this time. It took a week of emailing before she disappeared completely. All these years, she was infatuated with some other version of me. She only knew me before I was saved. I never gave her a chance to get to know me as a believer because I was single and celibate then and I viewed any kind of communication or possible relationship was opening a door to temptation that I did not have the self-control to defend against. But now, she was getting a glimpse into who I actually was – a devout, fundamentalist Christian (not KJV1611 kind of fundamentalist, but the Bible is literal and Jesus should be the center of your life kind). All of our emails back and forth centered around God, around discussions of theology, etc. After all, it is just about all I think about. My hobby is studying the Bible. When I’m out kayaking, I’m listening to Bible lectures or sermons. When I’m out walking I’m thinking about God and how he is working in my life to change me, what he desires from me, how I might find favor in his sight. I quickly found out from our correspondence that this woman was no Christian at all (though she has always claimed to be) but is really an amalgamation of New Age and Buddhist beliefs. Needless to say, she stopped responding after just a week or so. I can only guess she grew quickly tired of the grace that she saw in me. It appeared to her, but it certainly had no effectual impact. So grace does appear to all men, but that does not mean that all men are changed by that grace. That grace when it finds someone who has been drawn by the Father to the Son, it can then work its will, and it is irresistible. I will talk about it later, but this has been my testimony of how I was saved.
They go on to say that these false teachers were once saved but now they are not. This is incorrect. John specifically tells us in 1 John 2:19, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.” The folkish doctrine that if they fall away they were really never saved to begin with is here supported.
They add to this verse stating how grace appears to all men, by teaching us. So, they conclude, “God shows his grace to us by instructing us.” I would wholeheartedly disagree. Salvation is not an intellectual exercise. I would argue it is not something we can learn. Paul stated in Ro 10:9 that salvation requires submission (to Christ), confession (of Christ before men), and belief in the resurrection (of Christ by God). They go on to say that Baptism is a “wedding certificate” and if you do not have a certificate you are not married. Again, I disagree. By common law in some places in the world, if you live with someone long enough you are considered married in the eyes of the law. In the OT times, there were no marriage certificates or ceremonies. The marriage was arranged by the parents and the groom took the bride into his mother’s tent (Ge 24:67) and if he fulfilled her week then they were considered married (Ge 29:27-28). To claim that baptism is anything other than the outward sign that it is is just as bad as making up an analogy on the fly (as they reported others doing when they don’t have Scripture to support their claims). Additionally, if I look back at my own journey from non-believer to believer, to servant of Christ, where I was willingly submitted to my King and claimed him as Lord to anyone who would ask, I find something off with their analogy as well. If baptism is the “wedding certificate” and you are required to have a certificate or else you are not considered married, then you are stating that I was not saved until I was baptized, which was at least 2 years after my experience when I was 17. It was at least a year after I knowingly and willingly, after having read all of the NT multiple times and much of the OT at least once, that I was even asked if I wanted to be baptized and subsequently took the plunge. Would you say, then, that I was not saved before I was baptized? That is ludicrous. I came away from my first encounter with God supernaturally transformed. It was not ten hours later that I walked into the theater department and took a seat behind my friends, one of who turned and looked at me and said, “So, I hear you’re now a Christian.” My answer, albeit confused and a bit bewildered was, uncategorically, “Yes. I am.” My friends rejected me that day because of Christ. And, to be honest, I didn’t really care. More so because I was still reeling from what had happened to me not 24 hours before, I was going on very little sleep, my girlfriend was still in the hospital (who had also told me that morning when I described what happened to me that she really didn’t care if I was a Christian or a Buddhist. Her Christianity wasn’t really all that important to her anyway – needless to say, we didn’t make it). Baptism is not required for salvation, otherwise it bases salvation on something we do, and we all know from Paul, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Eph 2:8-9). Baptism is, as Peter describes it, “there is also an antitype which now saves us – baptism…the answer of a good conscience toward God….through the resurrection of Jesus” (1 Pe 3:2). Key points: antitype = that which corresponds in form and structure to something else. Baptism is not what actually saves us, but it is a form of what saves us, it is an answer of a good conscience, it is alignment with God, but it is through the resurrection of Jesus that we are actually saved.
Now, don’t get me wrong here. I would advise anyone who has a believing faith in Jesus as the Messiah, as the Christ, that they should immediately be baptized. But if someone has a believing faith in Jesus, confesses him as Lord before men, and believes that God raised him from the dead, yet he has never been baptized (no matter the reason), he will be saved.
They go on to talk about 2 Timothy 3:15 and how it states that the Scriptures make us wise to salvation. This was not the case for me. I had no idea what was happening to me when I was saved. I had no control over the situation. I had no say in what was happening. I could not protest. It was something that happened to me, supernaturally. I didn’t even know who Jesus was until I read through the New Testament the few months after that experience, though I still knew that God was real and that the Bible was true and that what I had previously believed was false. It was not a logical or intellectual change in me. I wasn’t presented facts are cleverly crafted arguments for God. One moment I did not believe. The next moment I couldn’t help but believe. And that belief has been unwavering for 30+ years. Not once have I ever had doubt as to the existence of God or the reality and credibility of Jesus’ testimony, or that God raised him from the dead. I’ve had many, many doubts about my own position in Christ. I’ve had countless doubts about how we are truly saved and what will actually happen to us after we die, because the Bible is not as clear on these topics as they are on who Jesus is or that God exists or that he is the creator of the universe and everything and everyone in it. So, at least in my case, salvation was not brought about by learning. That was done later. A saving faith, God’s grace, was delivered to me fully formed, and was implanted into my soul against my will by God. To this day I still do not know why he did it.
They then talk about Paul Washer’s experience that someone read the Scriptures and he was saved. They claim that it was the content of the Scriptures being read not the reading itself. Which, I guess this could be correct. But, this was not my case, either. I read 2 Peter 2 one night. It was a fluke occurrence. the Bible just happened to be sitting there. And I don’t remember the content of what I read. I also have gone back and read 2 Peter 2 through several times, countless times, and I have no idea what in that text would have jarred me so greatly that I would have made the choice to abandon my religious beliefs in Buddhism (which I was very happy believing at the time) and accept as fact a religion I knew very little about. I received knowledge supernaturally that I did not know previous to that reading of 2 Peter 2. But that knowledge was not found in the contents of the chapter. How it happened or why it happened has already remained a mystery. I would not know who Jesus was or that he had died for my sins or that I needed to claim him as my Lord and believe that God raised him from the dead until several months later. At that time, after spending the bulk of my basic training and schooling in the military doing nothing but my assigned tasks and then reading the Bible, that I then had learned (from Scripture) what I needed to know to submit to Christ. Maybe I had not been technically “saved” until I submitted to Jesus, but I certainly came away from that one night after reading 2 Peter 2 with the understanding that I was no longer a Buddhist, that I could no longer meditate or practice the martial arts (no matter how much I tried to return to those activities). I knew somehow and confessed to anyone who asked that I was now a Christian. So salvation does not always occur as a decision. It is not something we learn. It is something given.
They then turn their attention to Perseverance of the Saints, or “once saved, always saved.” Personally, I’ve always had an issue with this doctrine, if for no other reason than I had thoroughly read through the New Testament before I ever stepped foot in a church or spoke with any pastor or preacher or Bible teacher and I quickly read through the Old Testament shortly after being baptized as a Missionary Baptist Church in Germany. Time and again, there are references to someone losing their salvation, to losing the faith, to shipwrecking their faith, to being disqualified. Jesus talks about it clearly in the Parable of the Sower (Matt 13:18-23). In this parable we see four different groups, all of them having received the seed which is the word or the gospel. There is the one who doesn’t understand the word and subsequently has the seed snatched away by Satan. Then the one who receives the word with joy, but there is no root for that word to grow and after a little persecution, he forfeits what he had initially gained. Then there is the one who likewise receives the seed but his life is thorny, and the cares of the world choke off the growth, he becomes unfruitful. Lastly, we see one who accepts the seed, it’s planted on good ground, he receives understands it and he ultimately bears fruit and produces 100%, 60%, and 30%.
Certainly we can say that the first individual was never really saved, but can we? The planting was received by heartfelt intention was it not? He didn’t understand it, I can relate to this. For the first 3 months after my experience with God, I didn’t understand anything about what I believed. But I clearly believed it. I didn’t know how I believed or why. I actually didn’t want to believe and I tried desperately to go back to Buddhism, to be able to meditate again, to train in the martial arts again. All my attempts failed. It was now shallow, purposelessness. Just going through the motions. Whatever I had received before from these things had been erased. I could not go back there. I even went to a Chaplain in the military while in schooling and told him my situation and asked him what I could do. He laughed and said “You can be a Buddhist if you want.” He basically discredited my supernatural experience entirely. In fact, he printed off some Buddhist chants for me to use. They didn’t help. I remember while in school in my off time going to the local library on base and checked out a book on Zen Buddhism and Christianity. The basic premise was I could be both. I could pick and choose from each religion and that was perfectly legitimate. But it wasn’t. Because I couldn’t. That night that God took Buddhism from me, he replaced it with a fully formed theistic worldview. More so, it was a worldview that had the God of the Bible at the center of it, that insisted, no matter how much I might kick and scream, God was real, he had created everything, and he had a purpose for my life. But I didn’t understand. Why didn’t Satan still that seed from my heart during those three months while I was reading the New Testament? He certainly had plenty of opportunity. I definitely “wanted” to have it stolen. I did not want to be a Christian. How deep does belief have to go before you’re saved? How long do you need to have faith before you are saved? Surely the first guy here who had the seed stolen from him, he was initially saved.
Then there is the rocky soil guy. He received the word and with joy. His problem was his faith was not resolved. What difference was there between the faith given to me and the faith given to the rocky soil guy? Why did he stumble and fall quickly when I was able to persevere, and do so even despite my own desires against being a Christian in the first place?
Then there was the thorny guy. His problem was he was more concerned about the world, living like the world, being preoccupied by the world, than by God. I really don’t know how to relate to this guy, if I’m being honest. From the moment God reached out to me I was changed. Supernaturally. Internally. I felt different. There was at the core of the swirly doubt and chaos that had so quickly become my life, a central certainty about God. It endured attempts by other religious people to sway me back. It survived temptations of the flesh and advances by women (but not always). It was able to struggle against the temptation of wealth and it taught me as I struggled for four years as an indentured servant to a government and a military that was nothing as I had been led to believe. Despite all the madness, inside I honestly had peace. True peace. Certainty even. Why could I survive the tumult of life and the onslaught of the world but others can’t? Lastly, there’s the guy who gets it. The guy who receives the word, understands it, and even bears fruit. Is that me? What’s fruit? Is it the ridiculously narrow view of modern American evangelicalism that the only fruit is bringing people to church? Evangelizing your neighbor or your coworker? If so, I have little of that. Probably much less than 30%. Or is Jesus referring to the fruit of the Spirit, the transformed life? Maybe it’s not perfect. Maybe it’s quite messy even. But I can definitely attest I’m not the same person I was when I was in high school. It turns out that I was actually a terrible preacher, not a good teacher, a failure as a husband, worthless as a father figure, but pretty good as a hermit and solitary. But, even if you balk at that, it is clear: God has truly changed my life and the life I have now, though underwhelming by the world’s standards, it is rich and full by biblical standards. I volunteer and mentor at an online ministry and share in fellowship with likeminded students. Every day is an opportunity for me to explore more of God, to contemplate his purposes and his character and explore and discover what it is he wants for me.
Clearly, there are people who were once saved (as best as we can determine) who have fallen away from the faith. In fact, Paul suggests that there will be a great “falling away” that comes at the end of days (2 Th 2:3). Yes, there are many who never really believed in the first place. Yes, there are some who are actually quite wicked, who see Christianity as a means to an end, a way to enrich themselves, a way to sexually abuse people, a way to have power or influence. But there are also many who truly believed but who believe no longer. Of course, this contradicts directly what I previously mentioned in 1 John 2:19. But, whether existentially or practically, at some point we have to draw a line between the saved and the unsaved, being what is possible and what is not possible. John does say that they departed from us because they were never one of us. Maybe that’s true. Maybe this is how they will be viewed from God’s perspective. Then again, Re 3:5 states that the overcomer will not have his name blotted out of the Book of Life. Does that mean everyone’s name is initially in the Book of Life and at their death, if they die without Christ, their name is blotted out? Is it only those who initially became believers then departed the faith, shipwrecked their faith, had their names written into the book when they were initially saved but subsequently when they abandoned the faith their names were blotted out? So much is unclear and left ambiguous.
They talk about the claim that God will persevere for the saints. That, “if you try to walk away, God will pull you back.” I know these guys are arguing against this, but I would state it is true. It is at least true in my own life. After my four years in the military, after four years of being celibate and suffering under the boot of Uncle Sam, I returned home and started building my life. All I could think about, though, was sex. Keep in mind, this was before porn was ubiquitous and before it was available at the click of a mouse button like it is today. I knew that I was not supposed to sleep with a woman who was not my wife, and I was not married. Up to that point, no one was willing to marry me. I had come close – been engaged – but a year at a distance and under the weight of military service and I’m assuming pressure she was getting from her family to not marry me was too much and our relationship imploded. But, there as an old girlfriend from high school and to make a long story short, I reconnected with her and we ended up sleeping together. It was a purposed act. We had several conversations about it leading up to the night and I knew full well what I was doing. But I did it anyway. And it was awful. It was nothing like I had thought or hoped it would be. We did not fit well together as two individuals for some reason. It was awkward. It was disheartening. Immediately after I was full of regret and shame and sadness. She asked me what was wrong and I told her that I had disobeyed God and that it had been a mistake and that was the end of that relationship before it ever even got started.
For two or three years after that moment I walked away from God. Not because I stopped believing. No. That has never gone away, not once. I walked away because I did not feel worthy of God’s grace and did not feel I deserved his mercy. I struggled for a long time. I retreated into the woods. Lived in a cabin. I had a job but I did not really socialize, did not really date anyone. But, eventually, God did come after me. He did pursue me. One night someone from work sent me an instant message and asked me a question about God and his problems with his wife. I don’t even know what I said, but it just kind of came out of me – Scripture, advice. Again, in a single moment, God took away my guilt and my shame from that illicit encounter and he forgave me. I could feel his forgiveness.
God does or at least can or maybe better put sometimes does, or at least in my instance did pull you (me) back. Certainly not, since there are countless people who were believers and now are something else. So some people God does persevere on behalf of. For what reason, I do not know. But he certainly doesn’t do it for everyone who claims to believe.
They also talk about how if there is a believer you thought was a Christian and then they suddenly fall away into a life of sin (let’s be honest here, most Christians likewise struggle in a life of sin, they just hide it from everyone). The typical response is, “they were never saved to begin with.” But, I’ve also heard that just because they have backslided doesn’t mean God is necessarily done with them yet. They might be in rebellion, but God is somehow, someday going to get them out of it. They might be struggling on the weight of a sin or under shame, but God heals form the inside out, and he certainly doesn’t need a willing participant to accomplish his purposes. I’m a perfect example of this on both fronts.
The host goes on to say that the perseverance of the saints does not provide actual comfort to the believer. But, this can be said of both predestination and free will theology. At the end of the day there is really no way to be certain that each of us, any of us, will be going to “heaven” or “hell.” We don’t really know that God exists, at least not empirically. It is, as Paul describes of faith, “it is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen” (He 11:1). We might have hope in Christ that we will be resurrected on the day of judgement. We might surrender our life to Jesus and place him as Lord of our life, but that doesn’t make it so. I could have stated (and actually did believe) that I would be living with my wife for the rest of my life. I believed this, hoped for this, was certain of this right up until the day that she sat down across from me in the living room and said we should split up. I was so surprised by what she said I couldn’t really understand what she meant. It was illogical. It was not reasonable. But my belief in the opposite did not stop her from doing what she did, from making the decisions that she made, and it didn’t stop me from sleeping in my van a month later, homeless, alone, and my whole life ripped out from under me.
But, I can attests, this host is actually wrong about the comfort such a doctrine provides. It’s not the doctrine itself, but it is the evidence that I can see in my own life. Faith, salvation, hope, none of these things were my doing. When I was 17, the last thing I would have thought to do was throw out all my Buddhist beliefs and become a Christian. I didn’t even understand what being a Christian meant, I didn’t know what they believed. All I knew at the time was they dressed up on Sundays (strike one), they played terrible music (strike two), and they did not like people having sex (strike three – you’re out)!
God did this. He snatched me out of my life, out of false religion, out of the worship of demons, and he straightened me out, put me on a different path. He didn’t do it because I intellectually understood the Bible. That came much later. He didn’t do it because I was a good person. In fact, I was a pretty selfish and self-absorbed person. To be completely honest, I was a monster hiding in Buddhist clothing. What I really wanted more than anything was to hunt and prey on young women and kidnap them and do whatever I wanted to them, then strangle them and then bury their bodies in the woods so I could keep them and collect them. I was everything that Christianity was against. Yet, God still rescued me from all that hate and all that rage and all that lust and malevolence. I wager God saved a lot of people an enormous weight of pain and loss and suffering when he saved me that night. My war against the world would not have been quick like it often is today. I would have taken my time, I would have been patient, I would have been methodical, and I would have gotten what was mine. I guarantee it.
But, today, I can look back at my life and I am amazed at how God has moved and worked in me over the years. Even when I walked away, he did not in turn forsake me, but he went after me, he forgave me my sins, and he accepted me for who I was. It is a great, great comfort to me to be able to see that God has taken an interest in me, despite the monster I know that I truly am, or, at least, would have become.
The free grace community goes even further. One pastor in Texas that I was talking with online asserted that once you are saved you will always be saved. If you are saved in your teens, and then in your 20s you “fall away” and live the rest of your life in sin and debauchery even until the day you die, you are still saved. Even if you go on to forsake and deny the existence of Christ, deny the resurrection, become a staunch atheist and actively persecute the church, you will still be saved because of the single decision you made in your 20’s. To be honest, I found this view quite hard to believe.
As already stated, there is truly no way to know if anyone is saved, regardless of your personal view of “once saved always saved.”
Now, I have to admit, I was a little taken aback by their interpretation of Hebrews 10:25-26. It is the very first time I’ve heard vs25 as referring to Christians who leave the faith and return to Judaism. I’ve heard since I started going to church 30 years ago, that vs25 (usually removed from its context entirely) states unequivocally that you are obligated to attend Sunday service every week. I’ve had pastors tell me that I cannot miss a single Sunday or I’m not right with God. I had a pastor at a church where I started attending their Wednesday night Bible study tell me that I needed to start attending Sunday service. I protested and said I would prefer not to. He stated Sunday was “where it’s at.” He stated I could not be part of his church if I did not attend Sunday services. I had one fellow Christian come into my work one day (actually a CofC member) and ask me how things were going and said she missed me at Sunday services (this was at a different church). I said I had stopped attending for theological reasons. She said, “so did you start going somewhere else.” I told her no, I was not attending anywhere. She was offended at my response and said if I did not want to be a backslider I needed to return to the church immediately and ask God to forgive me for my sin, and then she quoted me Hebrews 10:25.
Today I serve the church everyday. But I do not follow the traditions of men. I do not allow others to judge me based on a Sabbath or a New Moon or a particular festival (Col 2:16), but I trust God. In fact, I study the Word every day. I pray every day. I have Jesus at the very core of my life and submit to him in everything I do from work to hobbies to how I treat other people. I keep fellowship with a diverse group of believers (many of them are not alive today, but the fellowship is no less beneficial to me through their books or recordings) and I serve the church online as a mentor and supporter.
Oddly, though, I’ve never seen Hebrews 10:25 explained as Jewish believers who had returned to Judaism. I’m certain James White would not agree with this interpretation.
James White’s Rebuttal Video
So, James White responded to this two video podcast and I listened into his reply.
Total Depravity: He states there is a difference between TD and original sin. I’m not sure I would agree. I would argue that original sin creates total depravity in that whatever it was we inherited from Adam, which he received at the curse, this creates in all of humans from Adam to the last person who will ever exist as a living being the inability to please God and inability to remove the enmity between them and God. Additionally, total depravity would be the complete inability to do right things before God, the inability to even seek God in their current condition, the condition we are all born into. I would say this is the sin nature, the fallen nature, the fleshly nature. When we are born, this is all we have and there is no way in this state to please God, seek God, or right ourselves by our own merit. The Authentic Christian guys are incapable of recognizing their own universal depravity because they hold to personal human self-worth. I can only assume they would argue that humans when born are neutral beings concerning sin. They are not fallen, they are not marred by sin, they are free-will agents who can choose to do right and choose to do wrong. This is all fine, but it argues against all the verses that state the opposite in the Bible and also claim that God predestined them, not just to have the capacity to do good, and not a group of people to be saved, but he predestined everything they ever do. All their decisions, all their works, have all be predestined before they were even born, before they existed. We simply walk in those works with the perspective that we have free will. It is the Bible that informs us that we, in fact, do not. As Dr. White points out from Paul, “There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; they have together become unprofitable; there is none who does good, no, not one.” (Ro 3:10-12).
Dr. White makes a statement that the Authentic Christian hosts have a tendency to just string together verses regardless of their being in the same chapter, same book, same testament. This is something I frequently do, and I think most people do who study the Bible. I would wager it is something Dr. White does also. Now I’ve seen it done horribly wrong and would be or should be considered twisting Scripture (that is attempting to get the text to say something that it never actually said). But stringing together references that have been vetted by context is perfectly fine, and I would assume Dr. White would say that’s what he does but that’s not what Authentic Christian is doing. Look, there are going to be disagreements between us. Paul tells us this is the case, “for there must also be factions among you, that those who are approved may be recognized among you” (1 Co 11:19). We’re not all going to agree on everything. And it is a difficult age in which we live because there has been so much time pass between us and Christ that heresies abound. There is also a deep-seated wickedness in modern churches, especially with its Nicolaitan clergy and leadership. Pervasively so in fact. It is likewise quite possible that both the free will camp and the Calvinist camp are both doing exactly what God has predestined for them to do, they each being able to help save a particular segment of the population. Not everyone is going to magically receive direct intervention from God. Often, more often than not, he uses intermediaries to do his work. It doesn’t have to be either or, it can be both.
Dr. White goes on to say that it’s an error to think (he’s claiming Authentic Christian is thinking this way) that Total Depravity means that unsaved people cannot do anything. I don’t think AC is actually saying this at all. They are specifically rebelling against the notion that they have no free-will. They are, at the end of the day, not in control. I would agree with Dr. White in that humans can do all sorts of things. They can even do all sorts of good in the world. But, even if a man were to give up his entire fortune, take up residence on the street for the benefit of others, it still would not and could not save his soul. Only God can do this and it is a complete work by God, not by men.
I do disagree with Dr. White’s statement that the only way to come to an agreement is to approach the question with a foundation starting with God rather than with man. I see his point, but the foundation should be with the Bible. Then the foundation needs to be established as to the rules of Bible interpretation. These are measurable. If you start either with God or with Man, you will be starting from a subjective view of both. It really seems as if Dr. White and maybe Calvinism is starting off the discussion from an already formed theological view that could not be corrected by Scripture if it wanted to. Likewise, AC is also starting from a full developed theology of free-will and personal, individual autonomy. Where they should be starting and remaining is in the Bible, and just let of Church of Christ denominationalism go already. There should never have been formed a Calvinist or Reformed denomination in the first place. It should have just remained “Christian.” This is something CofC attempted to do at the turn of the century, but they ultimately failed and just created a denomination anyway.
I think it’s also important to point out, it is unclear to me if God predestined the works I am to walk in to mean that he made the decision on which choices I would make throughout my life. Or, did he just see those choices I would make in advance and pre-selected accordingly those who by their free-will made the right choices. I think until this is settled, these two groups will just be talking past each other.
Dr. White takes up the issue of 2 Samuel and the baby son that David lost. I agree completely with Dr. White. This passage in no way teaches that children automatically go to heaven. David’s son went to Hades and is theoretically still in Hades today (unless Jesus rescued the captives when he died and they left Hades with him when he ascended. But, he didn’t actually ascend, did he. No. After Jesus’ death, he went to Paradise (the portion of Hades where all saved people go to be comforted – death is not nice even to the saved) and he preached the gospel or declared to the wicked in torment that he has now overthrown death, then he was resurrected back to earth. There were not throngs of people from all walks of life with him. Were they waiting for him at the bus stop, and Jesus picked them up at his ascension? I would argue against setting the captives free entirely and that everyone who has ever died is currently residing in Paradise (Hades) or in Torment (Hades) while the fallen angels of Ge 6:2 (and maybe other creatures as well like some demons) reside in another part of Hades called Tartarus, which his the bottomless pit (presumed to be the center of the earth as this is the only place that has no bottom (because every direction from this place is up). The Bible simply does not teach age of accountability. That is a man-made doctrine that is hoisted back onto Scriptures to prove their theology. I do agree also with Dr. White that this argument for the age of accountability is based entirely upon emotion. People cannot stand the idea that God would allow children to die, because they view children as completely innocent of any sin. But this is not the biblical view of children. They are born with a sin nature and almost immediately they begin to sin for themselves, the flesh driving them to lie, cheat, and steal. None of these things have to be taught to a child, they know it instinctively because the flesh of the fallen nature leads them into sin. But, keeping that in mind, Dr. White is just as guilty about arguing a theological point from emotion in his post-tribulational, post-rapture, post-millennial arguments. These are almost entirely based on his feelings and hopes for his grandchildren that they might grow up in a world and in a religion that provides a positive outlook for their future instead of the doom and gloom and immanency of pre-trip rapture and pre-millennial views.
Their 4 Hour Rebuttal Rebuttal
The hosts over at Authentic Christian chose do do a rebuttal of James White’s rebuttal of their videos and it ended up being 4 hours of discussion. I have to say, I really love that I can find content like this online in this day and age. I like the asynchronicity of it all, though it is similar to a debate in which the two opposing groups talk past each other and never really address the issues head on until a resolution is made.
As a new believer in Germany, I was able to experience this kind of authentic dialogue with a group of men in the barracks. We were a motley crew of single and married soldiers, some living in the barracks (a kind of quasi-monastic or seminary lifestyle) and some living with their spouses either in base housing or out in the community. But we were all drawn together at that particular time and in that particular place because we were all believers in Christ. Not only were our days filled with interactions and discussions about the Bible and about Christ, but we made a point to get together at least once a week (we chose the library since it gave us access to theological books – this was before the internet) and we would sit at one of the tables and just ask each other questions the we had, or share discoveries we’d made during the week. There was no denominational arguments (and we spanned the spectrum from fundamental Baptist to Charismatic). No judgment. No criticism. Just open dialogue and inquiry and we would work a question or a problem together until we found an adequate solution. I’ve never really found that level of fellowship since. It has been rather disheartening.
But, this is better than nothing, certainly. So, let’s jump into the rebuttal of the rebuttal.
First off, I apparently missed the beginning of Dr. White’s video where he provides a little background for the Authentic Christian, that they are actually Church of Christ affiliated. This makes a whole lot of sense, especially with their emphasis on baptism being required for salvation. I do want to so how frustrating it is for me as I continually look for biblical or Christian content online or when reviewing a website of a particular church, how identification with your particular denominational affiliation or theological position has become rather passe. I rarely if ever see a clear declaration on a church website anymore that identifies their denominational bias. Everyone seems to want to gloss over their actual theological positions and “just preach Jesus” so they can get as many people in the door as possible and then smuggle in their denominational teaching on the backside. Personally, I think it would be more helpful to have that right up front, out in the open. For someone like me who truly does not adhere to or affiliate or align with any particular denomination (but instead try to determine my beliefs from a simple and straightforward interpretation of the Bible itself – not from history or tradition), really my best affiliation would be heretic, since I would imagine most if not all denominational and professional clergy would unite across denominational boundaries in agreement to declare me as such. I’m okay with that, if for no other reason than everything I believe, everything I do in the name of Christ, I do purely and completely from a position of genuine and personal faith. I am certainly wrong on some points. Surely I’ve gotten this or that right (hopefully what I’ve gotten right includes the gospel and how I’m saved by Jesus my King). But I think it is disingenuous for groups like Authentic Christian to have bland or generic sounding names and descriptions of themselves, making it difficult to parse their theology. Just tell me what camps you adhere to already (I’ll include my declarations in the next section below).
Again, I would argue that Total Depravity originates from Original sin. Though, I don’t think I would define original sin as a “sin” that is inherited by us from Adam, as in, I am being punished because of Adam’s personal sins. Rather I view “original sin” as our “sinful nature,” the “fallen nature” or the flesh. What Paul calls, “the old man” (Eph 4:2; Col 3:9). It is because every human being is born with this fallen nature that humans are incapable of making themselves right with God. They are marred at a genetic level (but beyond, a spiritual or supernatural level, in the genetics of the soul). It is as if a human is born with a disease and this infection has spread throughout the entire populous of people. More so, this disease (or better, the consequence of the disease which is entropy and death) has spread to everything else in the physical universe. Humans have no capacity, no ability, no means of rectifying this condition. They have in their possession no cure. There his no antidote. It is hopeless and everyone who is ever born or will ever be born has been condemned to grow old (entropy) and die (the curse). This is Satan’s plan (reason unknown) to incarcerate all of humanity in the prison of Hades for eternity. What the significance of this is, why it is his plan, what he accomplishes by doing this, is unknown. We don’t even know why Satan is so angry with God in the first place. But, the inability to rectify this present situation is what I consider Total Depravity. AC is operating from a completely different worldview. They believe that the individual is born with a neutral nature. Their “old man” is actually neither good nor bad, but he has a choice after he’s born. I wonder if they think it’s possible for a human to live their life without sinning once? Jesus did it, but he was God. The gospel required God to become a human and to do the work necessary to free us from our prison because man did not have the capacity to do it himself. It really is, as Dr. White states, a difference between a God centered theology and a man-centered theology.
I think it’s important to note as AC goes on in the discussion of Total Depravity, that I agree with Dr. White or AC’s description that the human who is born with a “fallen nature” is incapable of making himself righteous before God, and everything he does will be from his sin nature. Now, it is fair to say that people do really good things. There are some people who selflessly give of themselves throughout their lives, yet they are not Christians. They might believe in some other religion or they could even be an atheist and just have a moral ethic about them that drives them to help others and serve humanity. So, Total Depravity is not saying that humans are wicked and can do nothing that is good. The evidence against this is overwhelming. But we also need to recognize that God’s view of humans is crucial, “every intent of the thoughts of their heart was only evil continually” (Ge 6:5). This was God’s assessment just before the flood. Personally, I don’t think it has gotten any better. Others might say that of course it’s gotten better. People are not dragging men into the streets to have sex with them. But, the reality is, in some places that is happening. In some cultures, a woman cannot be out on the street during festivals because the men of the community get so worked up in their activities that often women are grabbed, groped, and even raped. All of western society seems hellbent on a culture of death, on corruption, on declare what is good to be bad and bad to be good. The church itself is plagued by sexual scandal after another, as if the professional clergy is cursed with hypocrisy and perversion. The governments of the world and the elites that control them seem insistent on gathering all the nations into one global world system so they can control everyones’ lives (I would argue so they can turn this system over to the anti-Christ when he is revealed). It is, actually, getting worse. Abortion was actually against the law in Roman society. Today it is common place and liberals want the legal sanction to kill babies that have already been born.
Evil is present in the world. In fact, it is pervasive. I personally agree with the assessment that people are prone to evil, to wickedness, to selfishness, to the point that without the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and without the spirits work in holding back the sin of man, there would be no hope for anyone. There is nothing good in man because of the fallen nature within him. He is totally depraved.
Fascinating. As they were reading Romans 8, it shows that their Bible translations actually remove the last part of vs 1, “who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” Interesting, it is found again at the end of vs 4.
In this passage, though, AC states this is talking about Christians, too. I would agree. But, I think they are missing the overall point. Anyone can be carnally minded because everyone has the fallen nature inherited from Adam. The Christian chooses which he will follow, to be led by the flesh or to be led by the Spirit. Both dwell within him. The lost person does not have a choice. He will be led by the flesh 100% of the time because the Holy Spirit does not indwell him. This is why he cannot please God, no matter what he does.
I do agree with AC’s view that just because a particular sect or cult teaches something that is actually found in the Bible doesn’t mean that you should reject that teaching. The issue here is not in what the Bible says. It is in how it is interpreted. They are talking about the same verses. Yet AC says it means X and Reformed say it means Y. The disparity is in the meaning we assign it. Paul clearly states that there was a practice of baptizing people for the dead and he in no way condemns the practice, but seems to at least indirectly support it. Mormons embrace this, while Baptists ignore it and living in denial that it’s even in the Bible in the first place. A charismatic will view “speaking in tongues” as a personal prayer language while I would view it as the supernatural gift to speak in French when you’ve never learned it and there are French only speakers who need the gospel. The issue is interpretation.
There’s an interesting subject they focus on for a moment here in this video concerning salvation. What are the requirements of salvation? What must you do to be saved? Can a person think they are saved when, in reality, they are not? Can a person think they are not saved when, in reality, they actually are? AC’s view seems to be we should collect up all the statements in the Bible that are used as a qualifier to salvation and then this list serves as all the requirements to be saved. Or, is each statement given by each individual conclusive and complete? Meaning, can I go to Romans 10:9 and say since Paul states, “if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you will be saved” this is all that is required to be saved? Or are we missing extra elements of salvation? Should we add baptism as well from Peter’s statement, “There is also an antitype which now saves us—baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Pe 3:2).
There is actually quite a list of references to the requirements of salvation and they don’t alway seem to coincide with one another. Mark 16:16 states that we need to believe and be baptized to be saved. Luke 8:12 states that the word being in the heart of an individual is what causes belief, which in turn saves them. John 10:9 seems pretty clear: Jesus is the “door” and if you enter through that particular do (and no other) you will be saved. This is reiterated in Acts 2:21 by just calling on the Lord; Acts 4:12 being the only option under heaven. Acts 16:31 and 1 Co 7 seem to think that you can be saved by proxy, though a family member or a spouse. 1 Co 15:2 has Paul arguing for not just belief but the correct belief – in the doctrine that he preached, and apparently someone can believe in vain. But in another place, Paul states that salvation is by grace through faith and has really nothing to do with us, it is a free gift from God (Eph 2:5-8).
Are all of these different ways to salvation? Meaning, if I confess Jesus as Lord and believe in the resurrection I will be saved, but, if I simply call on him I will also be saved? Will the person who believes and is baptized be saved but the one who believes and isn’t baptized not be saved? Is it all the above? I have to call on him. I have to believe not only in him but I have to also confess him before other people and I also have to believe in the resurrection, and I need to enter through him and even after all that, I still need God to do the heavy lifting since salvation is by grace through faith, not by works?
I will agree with the AC view (and Church of Christ in general’s view) of going back to just the Bible. If you stick to the Bible that’s all you need. If your tools mirror what the Bible says you don’t need the tools. We don’t need creeds, official statements of faith, or commentaries to mirror the Bible for us. In reality, much of this is the amassing of products to be sold for capitalists who masquerade as Christians. Some tools are profitable for learning, or might expedite learning (software cuts down on page turning time, makes reading easer on the eyes, and make searching the text lightning fast, and provides immediate access to the original languages), but the majority of tools are overpriced, of poor quality, are often theologically bankrupt, and tend to chase after the fad of the day rather than prayerfully weighing the arguments of the text.
I like the comment from one of the AC’s host, that it is wrong to say that an individual cannot just read the New Testament for himself. I find this ironic because this has always been my position. I was born without the influence of any church or pastor or evangelist. I read through the NT on my own several times without any doctoral or denominational training (or indoctrination). I had read through a lot of the OT before I started attending weekly services at a church and was baptized. But, despite the lack of any of these influences, I learned from the Bible on my own, and this led me to surrender to God, to accept the gift of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross as payment for my sin, I surrendered to his will and proclaimed before others that Jesus was my Lord. Not long after I sought fellowship with a local group of believers and when the pastor turned to me and nonchalantly asked me if I wanted to be baptized along with my friend (my friend was actually a stranger I had met the week before at in processing – he and I were both in Amway and just happened to cross paths and he invited me to Church with him and his wife. It was their second time at that church) I simply but confidently said yes. I didn’t need the pastor to explain the importance of baptism to me. I didn’t need him to tell me why I should do it. I had read the Scripture and I was being taught by the Holy Spirit. I already knew these things.
Of course, the church (especially the professional clergy) tend to change their tune on this quite quickly when what you conclude from reading Scripture threatens their livelihood (such as the word or the position of “pastor” is not found in the Bible anyway). That’s when they start resisting the ability for every man to read and understand the Bible for themselves.
They throw out the caveat that they are not insinuating that there is no place for the scholar or academic scholarship. But I would say it does mean there is no place for the professional clergy pastorate position. It’s even quite clear with the current scandals that are rocking evangelicalism today, much of what is being passed off as “modern Christianity” is a scam. It’s not real any any biblical sense. It would be healthier (and more difficult for each individual member) if they fired their pastor and divided up his duties and responsibilities and then used the money the pastor made to feed the poor and house widows and orphans. But, not only do pastors fight against such ideas, but so do congregants who are relieved that they can with their wealth buy a person (or a few people) who they can own to do ministry works so they have an excuse to not do it themselves.
A biblical church is one that meets where it can. It does not amass ridiculous amounts of wealth to buy old strip malls or Walmart buildings. It does not professionalize itself into an entertainment studio or focus on creating “experiences” for people. A biblical church is a local gathering of believers, with elder leadership who are not paid, who labor in the word and by faith serve the congregation out of obligation and love. They have nothing invested in it but the debt of love. They do not use God as a means to fleece the flock. They are not in the business of selling books to a captive audience. And elderships are always a plurality and the work of the gospel and the word of edifying the church in love is the responsibility of all its members as those gifts are distributed among them.
Another interesting question arises at this point. They are talking about Paul and when his sins were forgiven, when he was regenerated. Basically what they’re asking is, when was Paul saved? Was it at the supernatural experience on the road to Damascus? It doesn’t actually mention anything about him being saved or about him believing. Clearly Paul did not know Jesus when he saw him, since he says, “Who are you, Lord?” It’s pretty clear God chose Paul at this point, and Paul basically had no idea what was happening to him. He was in Damascus, praying. Trying to make sense out of all this. He was blind. He had just been visited by the god of those pesky Christians he was persecuting. And God had no bed of roses laid out for him. “I will show him how many things he must suffer for my name’s sake” (Acts 9:16). After his sight was healed, he rose and was baptized. After spending “some days” with believers in Damascus, Paul went on to preach Christ in the synagogues. So, was Paul saved at the moment of his supernatural experience, where he lost his sight? Was it some time during those three days that he waited for rescue? Was it at the point that he was healed? Was it at his baptism? Or sometime after the “some days” in Damascus? It does at least appear that we are not really told when it occurred. We’re not really told when Paul actually came to a faith in Jesus, believed Jesus, or (more importantly) surrendered to God and confessed Jesus as Lord. But by the time he was preaching Christ in the synagogues, it’s pretty clear that he believed Jesus to be the Son of God. Likewise, he taught that Jesus was the Christ.
I often wonder the same questions about myself and my own experience. Was I technically saved at the moment I was given faith to believe that God existed, that he was real, that he was the creator of everything? I didn’t really know or understand who Jesus was or what he did. But, I certainly and unequivocally believed in God. I couldn’t help but believe that whatever was found in the Bible was the truth. Yet, at the same time, I would answer the question not more than 24 hours later, “So you’re a Christian now?” with an emphatic “yes.” Actually it was more of an “I guess so.” Was it at some point during the three months after while in Basic reading through the NT that I came to faith in Jesus an and believed? Or was it at some point while living in Texas, where I clearly remember one evening while sitting alone in my barracks room, getting down on my knees and praying to God, telling him that I knew who Jesus was, that I accept what he did for me, that I wanted to submit my life to him and for Jesus to be the Lord of my life? Or was I still lost up and to the point that I was baptized, maybe six months later in Germany? If I had died in a plane crash while flying from the US to Germany, not yet having been baptized, but certainly believing with all my heart that Jesus was the Christ, that he died for my sins on the cross, that I had surrendered to him and claimed him as Lord to others, and believed that God had raised him from the dead, but because I had not been dunked by a pastor in a tank, I would have died still in my sins and would not be saved. At the end of days, when it was my turn to stand before my professed king, he would turn to me and say, I’ve never known you because you did not get baptized before you died. Really? So my profession means nothing. My belief means nothing. My surrender means nothing. Without a ritual? It’s not that I don’t think people who come to believe shouldn’t be baptized. I just think the AC’s have misinterpreted the Bible concerning the function, purpose, and necessity of Baptism.
Unfortunately, there really are no biblical answers to these questions. It is true that I was saved at the moment I believed. It was also true that I was being saved at all points along the way that led to my surrendering to Jesus as Lord, that led me to be baptized. It’s true that I’m being saved right now as I write this, as I struggle to understand and to accept and to surrender to God’s working in my life. It is also true that I will be saved in the future, at the point in which Christ returns and the dead are raised and we are all caught up to meet our King in the air and we are all transformed. It is true that I will be saved when I stand before the judgment seat of Christ and answer for everything I’ve ever done or ever will do, and when I’m found guilty, that guilty verdict will be nullified because of the work on the cross. I will be saved when I step into eternity and experience the first time of knowing just as I am known and will experience eternity for the very first time. Anyone who says different about any of these points is simply repeating dogma from the past.
For another topic shift, I love how everyone tries to tie themselves or their denomination to the historicity of the Church. Baptist do this with anabaptists without even known what an anabaptist actually was. They tie themselves to John the Baptist but reject his wild solitary lifestyle (for anyone in the modern era). Catholics do it with the popes and Peter. JWs. Mormons. Everyone tries to link their group to the “right” groups of the past. AC is doing this as well for the Churches of Christ, claiming that just because they came out of the reformation and broke away that they founded the “churches of Christ.” They would claim that they have a heritage with the previous versions of Christianity in the past before it was corrupted. I suppose if it makes you feel better about your modern version of Christianity, that’s fine. But it is not accurate any more than it is accurate to say there were anything closely resembling modern day baptists in 400 A.D.
One of the guys says he wants to be a member of the church that Peter was a member of. This is both impossible and possible at the same time. To claim that we have any way of being a member of the “local assembly” that existed in Peter’s day is impossible. We can’t short of developing a time machine and going back to that time ourselves, and then we’ll be lucky if we’re not taken out by diseases immediately when stepping foot outside of our machine. But, to say that we are a member of the one true church that Jesus is building is not only possible but it is actually true if we are a biblical Christian, we have accepted (or confessed) Jesus as our Lord and believe that God raised him from the dead. You might also be a member of the local Baptist church. Or you might be a member of even the Catholic Church. Or, you might not be a member of any modern day church at all (wait just a minute, everyone has to go to a local church, serve in a local church, and pay tithes in a local church).
Now they have me ROTFL. Where does it say that if you stop believing in the doctrine of the trinity that you are lost? Where in the Bible does it say that you have to believe in the doctrine of the trinity in order to be saved? Where does it explicitly teach the doctrine of the trinity at all? There is more clear cut evidence for baptizing for the dead than there is for the modern view of the trinity. Now, it doesn’t mean that the God of the Bible is not a triune God. It might be a close approximation. It might also be a terrible one. After all, Paul tells us that we see as if in a mirror dimly (1 Co 13:12). It’s not until after our transformation that we will see “face to face.” We “know in part” now because we haven’t been given the whole story.
The shift back to inherited sin or what I would argue is an inherited “sin nature” or the “fallen nature” of mortal humans. I recognize that reformed theology would dictate that it is actually Adam’s sin that is inherited (I’m assuming, I don’t know for certain) so I’m arguing against them from the cheap seats. But, it is true that, regardless on whether or not you want to take responsibility for your own sin (good for you), the fact is, you would not have been born a mortal person subject to death and the curse if Adam and Eve had not sinned. We inherited the curse if nothing else from them. We received from them a nature that is predisposed to sin, that literally draws us, tempts us to sin. If not for Adam and Eve, we each would have been born to immortal parents in a much different physical world and physical universe than we did. We would have been born (assumably since no one had been born until after the curse) without sin (but maybe still with some capacity to sin since Adam and Eve sinned before the curse and as immortal beings ourselves. We would have had access to the Garden of Eden, to the Tree of Life, access presumably to God directly. We would have apparently been able to interact directly with angels, seen angels, etc. So, maybe we did not inherent Adam’s actual, individual sins, but we certainly inherited the consequences for his sins. The game was rigged at that point and we each are born with a sever physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual handicap against our favor. Try as we might to be good, and some non-believing people are really, really good, moral people, nothing that we do can redeem us, or solve the problem, we have with God. We can’t get back to that state of existence we were destined to exist in, no matter how hard we try. This, in my mind, is total depravity. Stop thinking about sin and start thinking about the nature we are born with. It is corrupted. It is damaged from the manufacturer (not from the designer). Our only recourse is for the designer to create a mechanism by which that which is broken in us can be replaced. Hence, regeneration.
I do agree with AC’s point on presuppositions. But I would extend it to both them and James White. I would extend it to everyone, including myself. We often tend to lean on that which is familiar, assume many things to be correct, assume that we know what we know and what is knowable without recognizing that what we know could, in fact, be in complete error. I had an acquaintance many years ago who was a Messianic Jew. Let me rephrase. He was a part of the Messianic Christian movement. He wasn’t a Jew. He was a gentile, something he was oddly dismayed about. He followed the tenants that in order to be saved, one had to not only accept Jesus, but they had to follow the Mosaic law, too. I had discussions repeatedly about different aspects of this, trying to ascertain how he could come to this conclusion given the weight of testimony by Paul in the NT against the salvation by the Law. Then one night he finally tells me, “I don’t really read Paul all that much. I disagree with him. It really has to be this way, otherwise I couldn’t believe what I believe.”
And that’s the crux of so much of this argument. Presupposition. Smuggling in your predefined believes into whatever text you are reading. Same with the old girlfriend that I struck up a conversation with not long ago. She turned out to not be a Christian at all, but was a mixture of Deism, Buddhist, and whackadoodleism. After she explained to me what she believed about the afterlife, I explained to her my view. She replied back, “Wow, your afterlife is much scarier than mine. I prefer mine.” So, to be less scared, to not have to deal with the uncomfortable truth, she would rather willingly ignore what the Bible says and accept something else because it makes her feel better. Of course, she was able to do this because, in her own words, she’s never really investigated much in the Bible or in Christianity. She thinks everyone has their own opinion and everyone is right. I suppose that’s fine if you’re on a slow boat to China, but if you are on a rocket ship that is plummeting into the sun, that could end badly for you if you don’t wake up and at least determine what your options are. Grabbing a snake when you thought it was a tree branch does you no good to keep telling yourself, “It’s a snake, just a snake, it’s only a snake.” If you don’t give up your false assumptions and let the snake go, it’s most certainly going to bite you.
On to John 10:29, “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and my father are one.”
The AC comment was, “if you ask God to let you walk away, he will open his hand and let you walk away.” The problem here is nowhere in Scripture does it say this. Nowhere. It is their believe in the ability for Christians to lose their salvation that is driving this to interpret John 10:29. Rather, they should be looking at this passage and saying, well, if no one can snatch them out of God’s hand or Jesus’s hand, how do these people get free from God? How do they fall away? There is the first, obvious answer, “I don’t know.” Then there is a good guess from 1 John 2:19, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.” It is the only explanation Scripture gives us that reconciles both together. We might not like it. It might be uncomfortable. But it is what we have.
They now open up an interesting question. They state sin is what causes a person to be lost. I would agree with this statement. My sin, collected, packaged throughout a lifetime, condemns me. But, if a baby is born, he lives for 2 days and then dies, he has not sinned. Yet, he still dies in sin and is still lost (aside from the age of accountability which is described nowhere in the Bible). Why? Because he was created as a vessel of wrath. I do not know why this is the case. But it is. There is no explanation as to how this is just or what purpose it serves. Now, there may be a caveat at the judgment, where his deeds have not be written in the books since he has literally no deeds but for breathing, having been born. Yet, he is cursed by Adam, under the consequence of Adam’s sin, suffers death. He is now imprisoned as a disembodied soul awaiting the great white throne. Or, because he has no personal sins that he committed in his life, he might take part in the first resurrection. Yet, how could that be if he never heard the gospel and had an opportunity to accept or deny Christ. Does he then default to a law unto himself? Certainly if he had lived long enough to have committed just one sin (what, age 5, 6, 10?), he would have been justifiably condemned not only to torment in Hades but to being cast into the Lake of Fire at the Great White Throne judgment. Is that really fair? Is it justice? If it happens and it is God doing it, then it will be. We have to accept that if we accept that God is a righteous God. His righteousness is not defined by how he acts, it is defined by who he is. Whatever he does is determined to be righteous because it is God doing it. If he chose to destroy every living human that has ever lived one day, that would be a righteous genocide. There would be no judgment passed against him. Conceivably it’s possible that he might regret what he did. It goes back to the question of when we are saved. What condemns us is the curse. Sin is the consequence of that curse. It empowers the flesh. But there is something that is not at all talked about in Christian circles, the fact that Adam sinned before he fell. So potential to sin is inherent even in immortal, non-cursed beings. It was present in the angels of Gen 6:2. It was present in Satan. Is it sin that condemns us? Is it the sin-nature? Or is it something else? Adam and Eve were changed before the curse was ever introduced, which is why they tried to cover themselves with leaves. It’s a puzzle with no solution.
There’s also an important issue here that the AC hosts bring up when they address John 5. In vs 39-40 it says, “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of me. But you are not willing to come to me that you may have life.” They use this passage to illustrate the free-will nature of salvation, that Jesus wouldn’t have said any of this if they had been totally depraved and couldn’t respond. I often struggle with depravity vs. free will. They are certainly both at play. The best I’ve come up with is a sliding scale. The more predestination, the less free will. The more free will the less predestination. Yet, some passages illustrate near complete predestination right down to the hairs on our head and everything we will ever do (Matt 10:30; Eph 2:10).
The Gnostic and Romans 9 angle was surprising. I’ve never heard this before, but, apparently, gnostic groups were predestinationists. Yet, they could not be confused with Reformed believers I would wager. They argued for a two form natural nature. One that was spirit and one that was not spirit. Salvation was based on which nature you were born with. This is not what Reformed theology teaches, for it is not the nature that determines the individual’s destiny, since everyone is born with a non-spiritual nature or a fleshly nature or a “fallen nature” or a “sin nature” (way too many terms for the same thing). It is only through faith in Jesus Christ that the individual receives a new nature of the spirit, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and subsequently has two natures at work within the human body – the flesh and the spirit and these wage war against one another. It’s hilarious to see that free-will people are claiming Reformed are following Gnostic teaching and Reformed are claiming that the free-will people are following Gnostic teaching. How about I say all of them are following Gnostic teaching and we just leave it at that!
They then turn to John 6:44 and ask the question, “Does God draw you with the love of the cross, or does he drag you?” This is a tremendous question! Really there are four possible answers here. 1. Neither, there is no drawing, there is no love of God, and there is no God. It is all a mass delusion. 2. God only draws you with his love, never forces you. 3. God always forces you against your “sin nature” to the cross. 4. God does draw you with his love but he also forces some people kicking and screaming to the cross.
I always get a similar response from Christians concerning the first option. How dare you suggest that God doesn’t exist. Why? Why is that such a difficult concept to consider? Have you seen God face to face? Do you know with as much certainty that God exists as you know that gravity is a force exerted onto all objects on earth that have mass? You can say you know that your spouse loves you, but do you really? Maybe you can see it in their actions that they love you today? Or is that toleration you’re misconstruing as love? Trust me as one who knows first hand, you don’t know what is in the heart of your wife or your husband. I went to bed one night knowing that my wife loved me and that we had dedicated our lives to each other and that we had agreed together with justifiable reasons from both of us that divorce would never be on the table – we would work through any problem that ever arose between us. When I woke up the next morning, before the day was over I discovered that my wife had never meant those promises. She had lied from the beginning. Divorce was always on the table for her. Plus, there apparently was a point at which she would not be willing to work on issues that arose between us, and that divorce was the only option presented to me. I was not given any reason for it. I still, to this day, all these years later, do not know with certainty what the issue was for her that drove her to leave me. I have my hunches. And the more distance I get from that time in my life, the clearer her actions become. But I really will never know the truth. I may not want to know.
But God is the same. We have two things that convince us that God is real. 1. the Bible. 2. Personal experience. This is it. We have not seen God. We have not touched God. The message we have in the Bible is not nearly complete, so it is truly something we see “in part.” Likewise, our experience with God is subjective, often erratic, and rarely reliable. We are blind men groping in the dark for a light switch that we have yet to find. We have hope. We have a promise. We have faith and we trust. But there is no guarantee. There is no guarantee that we will even ever know if we were right or wrong since, if we die and there is no resurrection, then we remain dead and we will cease to exist, so that there then will be nothing to experience or apprehend that we are not there to apprehend it.
The second option is that God only draws you with his love and he never forces you. I’ve seen an increasing focus on the love of God over the years since I’ve become a Christian. It is a mechanism by which pastors think they can pacify and placate people so they don’t ruffle any feathers, which is directly reflected in the bottom line on church budgets. One story that I heard illustrates this perfectly: A church board sits with the pastor of the church and says “here is the doctrine you’re going to preach on this Sunday. If you do, it will alienate family X. If you don’t then you will alienate family Y. What are you going to do?” An elder pipes up and says, “That’s an easy questions. How much do family X and family Y tithe each month? We side with the family that tithes the most.” God is not just a God of love. He is also a jealous God. A vengeful God. An angry God. He is also a God of justice and a God of righteousness. Trust me, none of these are good omens for us. The Bible doesn’t actually say how God draws people, it just says that he does draw people to Christ and that no one can come to Christ unless the father draws him. If God uses only love, then why is this not reflected in how we are to encourage people to the faith, such as in Jude 1:22 “and on some have compassion, making a distinction, but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh.” If God were only a God of love, then he would have instructed us to draw only with love, never with fear.
Third, the idea that God always forces you against your “sin nature” is not supported by either the Bible or by our experiences. There are countless people who have an idealic childhood and go on to have the same kind of life as adults. They were raised in loving and nurturing Christian homes. They were saved at 5 or 6 years old so they’ve always known the love of God. When their father or mother died, the whole family was there and they drifted off peacefully and all the children were able to gather around and pray for them as their parent departed. It’s a perfect picture. Others, though, do not have such a perfect picture to call home. Some people have the absolute worst kind of life from beginning to end. They are abused as children. They are damaged beyond repair psychologically and maybe even physically. In their adulthood they might suffer from pain, psychological issues, relationship issues, might be addicted to substances or vices or unhealthy behaviors. In their old age they might grow bitter the world or even at God for their plight.
There are just as many ways that God deals with people as there are people he deals with.
Fourth, God uses both love and force to bring people to salvation. This is what I’ve experienced for myself and for others. As stated above, some have great experiences coming to Christ. Other do not. I did not. In fact, I am the perfect example of someone God forced into a saving grace. As a 17 year old Buddhist, I had no room or inclination for the Bible or its message. I didn’t know anything about Jesus (literally nothing) and what I had seen of Christians in school and around the neighborhood and on tv, I wanted nothing to do with that group of hypocrites. I was the school’s philosopher in high school. Not academically, but practically. I would always gather a group of kids at the local diner and we would discuss the ramifications of death or what it would mean if a particular religion were correct or incorrect. I was well on my way toward nirvana, hoping to escape the godawful world that I lived in by detaching myself from wants and desires and material things. But that fateful night, God took my belief and conviction in Buddhism away and replaced it with a faith and conviction in the God of the Bible, and in the truth of the message of the Bible. He didn’t just draw me, he chased me, he tackled me, he even tricked me to be at a certain place and a certain time. How he did these changes in me that night I still don’t know. I don’t know how reading a single chapter in 2 Peter would alter my beliefs, alter my thinking. But the next morning I was a professing Christian, though I really didn’t have a clue what that meant.
And it’s not by teaching. At least, mine wasn’t. I’m sure some people were led by an intellectual stimulus. Maybe the read the Bible when they were homeschooled. Maybe they read Left Behind and were convinced. Maybe they were raised in the church and learned at Sunday school. I had no learning. I barely knew that God was known as the Father, let alone that Jesus was the Son, the Messiah, and a King. First came the stripping away of false religion. Then came the instillment of a fully formed belief. It did not grow over time. I did not reason with Scripture or with an evangelist or the pastor who lives next door. One moment I did not believe, the next I did. Lastly, he instilled an insatiable thirst for God’s Word. Before I was interested with Buddhist doctrine, the Martial Arts, etc. I was obsessed with Japan and Japanese culture. But after that night, all of this was stripped clean. I could no longer meditate. Learning for me did not take place until after I left for the military. All I could take with me was the clothes on my back and a Bible. I grabbed the only Bible we had in the house, a tiny, orange NT that they had handed to me when I was in 7th grade that I had accepted with the intention of burning (at the time I was a Satanist). Over those following months I kept the NT on me all the time, and read it any time we had a break, or at lunch, or at night before bed. That was when I first learned about Jesus and what he did for me. By that point, though, I was already a professing Christian and already believed God had worked a true miracle in my life. It’s not all about learning. Sometimes it is a supernatural intervention.
I’ve talked about this before. They switched over to talk about the “sin nature” and how Adam and Eve did not have this, yet they sinned anyway. An extension of this is that the angels also had “something” that allowed them to sin as well, such as Satan and the angels of Gen 6:2. My fear is we, who will be like the angels in heaven when we are glorified, will likewise either have the same potential for sin that the angels did, or that Adam did. This means temptation will never be over, and will be a constant concern, yet there will no longer be grace to cover over our sins in heaven.
Dr. White brings up an interesting point concerning Total Depravity and the “big mean God of Calvinism.” Let’s say, for argument sake, that Calvin is correct and everyone is born in total depravity. An individual is not capable of doing anything that pleases God. I would clarify this that humans are born with a “fallen nature” and it is because of this state of existence (that has occurred because of the fall of Adam and Eve) that we are not found favored in God’s sight. So, does that mean if Adam and Eve had not sinned, and sin had not thusly spread to all of humanity through the fallen nature that we would all be born into immortality, the state we were originally designed to be born into and to exist in, and we would all be able to do the things naturally that would please God? So it’s the sin nature that keeps us hostage to the enmity. If not for this sin nature, if not for Adam and Eve having sinned, we would all please God. So, in this sense we were all originally created to be sinless, immortal beings who pleased God, but because of Adam’s sin we were born with a sin nature and not only does that sin nature alienate us from God but it likewise causes us to sin even more, to the point that all we think about is sin.
Some people, as already discussed, do good works in their lives. Some devote their entire lives to really good works. But even the best works from a deformed creation finds no favor in God’s sight. So, obviously, it’s not the actual deed that is favorable, but the motives underneath it? The difference, of course, between this idea and what the AC are pushing is that they would claim that humans, even fallen humans, are born with a neutral spirit. They have no “sin nature” as it were, they did not inherit anything from Adam. They can choose to do good or they can choose to do evil. It is their choice. I wonder if they would be willing to acknowledge that all people do wickedly or from a deceitful place or an evil heart? Or if they would argue that it’s at least theoretically possible for an individual to actually not sin ever and to fulfill the law of God without Christ’s help? After all, one man was able to do this. If we are not limited by a sin nature, then it should be feasible for another to do it as well, right?
So, who is then responsible ultimately for this travesty? Is it God, for cursing Adam and Eve and condemning them to death? Is it Satan for deceiving Eve in eating the fruit in the first place? Is it Adam and Eve themselves for allowing themselves to be tricked (can you allow yourself to be tricked if you’re being tricked)? James 1:13 tells us that “Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone.” God did not tempt them to eat the forbidden fruit. In fact, he warned them not to (Ge 2:17). Satan is certainly accountable for the part he played. After all, God cursed him severely for his actions. “Because you have done this, you are cursed…” (Ge 3:14). To the woman he provided consequences, but it’s interesting that there is no accountability leveled against her. To Adam, though, he gets an earful, “because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten (that which) I commanded you (not to eat)…” (Ge 3:17). Why wouldn’t the woman be held accountable (even though she still suffered consequences for her actions)? Because Adam is the head of the wife. Wives are to be subject to their husbands. The unfolding in Genesis appears to throw everything out of wack. Eve listens to someone else besides her husband. Her husband seems to be willingly disobey God’s command and follow his wife into sin. Satan seems to have a plan that remains undisclosed. We don’t know what he ultimate motivations were in doing what he did. We don’t know if he was surprised by the outcome or if it served his purpose. All we do know is by tempting and deceiving Eve, he was able to get them to transgress the law of God, which caused them to fall from immortality, as well as receive further penalty and caused them to not only be subject to death but to be in death separated their soul from their body and the spirit so that they were no longer “living beings” but disembodied souls in Hades. They would be trapped there, imprisoned for eternity and all of humanity would eventually be wiped out (once they destroyed themselves or God finished them off), and then would have to stand at the Great White Throne with no names in the Book of Life. Everyone would be cast into the Lake of Fire.
Interestingly enough, Satan is likewise cast into the lake of fire. His fate is firmly set. There is seemingly no mechanism by which he can lever to spring himself form the 2nd death. What is the issue between him and God? What are they fighting about and why does it have to do with us?
I will give AC credit. They came out correct in the debate over the word for Man in Ecclesiastes 7:29. The Hebrew word is singular, but the singular is used repeatedly in the OT for multiple men or humanity as a whole. Plus, the immediate context would lend toward it being humanity God made upright, but they sought out many schemes. But this is interesting. When did God make man, especially when did he make him upright? Is this referring to when humans were originally formed in the mind of God before they even existed. We see this clearly in Psalm 139:16, “Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them.” God is quite clear. He knew us before he made us (he had a detailed plan and blueprint). Not only this, but he defined all the days we would live before those days even existed. Is God referring to this pre-existing creative process of making us upright? Or is he referring to when we were physically born and we entered into the world innocent of any sin (despite having a sin nature)? Or were we instead, as the AC would contend, born without a sin nature, a clean slate, and it is up to us to do what is right in God’s sight?
I also think AC is correct as to the issues of temptation. To say that Jesus was not tempted by online porn is making it more than it really is. Modern porn is nothing but a delivery system of lust of the flesh. Lust of the eyes. It is “looking at a woman to lust for her” (Matt 5:28). Even worse, if that woman is married, it is adultery. Ever more so still, Jesus said that if you look at a woman with the intention of lusting for her, you have already committed adultery with her in your heart. It being in digital format. It being available online. It being seemingly and deceptively free and ubiquitous in modern society is just a means of temptation by the devil to corrupt people and disincentivize healthy, lasting, godly relationships in marriage. It is a wonder why the church’s divorce rate is no different than the divorce rate for the rest of the world? There was pornography in the first century. There were women who worked in brothels and there were even temple prostitutes in the Roman culture. There were orgies, there was homosexuality, there were all kind of pedophilia (and it was legal, too). Road rage is nothing but frustration and anger at the loss of control squeezed into a steel box going 60 miles an hour. the Bible is clear, Jesus experience all manner of sin.
But, despite this, I do have one question that begs to be answered. How does it work for Jesus to be God and then become fully a man and yet at the same time be equal to a fallen human? If we have a “sin nature” then he would have to likewise have a sin nature. But if he also had a god-like nature wouldn’t he automatically be disqualified? Did he give up his god-like nature in exchange for a sinful one? Surely he retained something of his previous nature since he was able to read minds, do miracles, etc.
As to Romans 2:11, “For God is no respecter of persons.” In the NKJV it reads, “For there is no partiality with God.” I would agree with James White on this…sort of. Certainly there is partiality from God’s perspective in creating vessels of wrath and vessels of mercy. There is a distinction here between the two. But what is this verse really talking about “in its context?” A little bit before, it’s talking about how judgment will come to “every soul of man who does evil” both Jew and Greek. Glory, honor and peace comes to everyone who works what is good, both Jew and Greek. This is when he says, “and there is no partiality with God.” It’s not actually talking about salvation in who he chooses. It appears to be talking about how God distributes justice equally among all people and also between Jews and Greeks. He goes on, “for as many as have sinned without law will also perish without law, and as many as have sinned in the law will be judged by the law.” It’s not talking about some he saves and some he destroys, but that equally everyone will receive what he has earned through their works when being judged by Jesus Christ. The only ones who receive what is not just would be Christians, who are covered by the blood of the lamb. So they themselves receive mercy while the blood of Christ receives the judgment of their sins.
They AC, though, are saying that God is a respecter of persons because he picks and chooses those who come to him on their own merit. They choose to be saved, while in predestination, God is the one who chose to be saved. In the end, though, he is showing partiality. So I don’t think that verse in Ro 2:11 means what either side is thinking.
Now, AC goes on to state that God, in his selection process chose arbitrarily those who he would save. I’m not certain we can come to that conclusion. First off, Romans 9:20-21 tells us that God did not make everyone the same in the beginning and then randomly chose those for wrath and those for mercy. No. He, being the Potter, made from the same lump one vessel for honor and another vessel for dishonor. Romans 9:22 tells us that God did this so as to illustrate his wrath, to make known his power. He apparently did not want to make the vessels of wrath, but suffered to do so and suffers with their very existence so that “he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy.” We’re told again here that these vessels of mercy were “prepared beforehand for glory.”
He didn’t select form a uniform group. Each was made specifically for a purpose and the vessels of wrath are apparently a necessary discomfort and suffering for God to endure them so as to make his point.
Now, about this analogy about the four kids chained to the pole. Dr. White has a point. The AC are looking at the four kids and seeing four innocent kids who did nothing wrong, who have the same natures, and were all created equally for the same purpose. God arbitrarily picks two of them, cuts their chains, but leaves the other two and say give me a hug or I will punish you. This is not the reality before us. The reality is: God clips the chains of all four of the kids and then says, come give me a hug, and only the first two come to him, while the other 2 want nothing to do with him, spit on him, curse him to his face, and walk away to do what they want. The issue is the first two kids were actually created by God to receive his mercy. The other two kids were actually created for wrath. They don’t need those chains. It is inherent within them. Of course, human parents do not have such control over their earthly children. They have little say in how those kids will grow up. They can control their environment to some extent. They can determine experiences to some extent. But not nearly entirely. And, as those kids get older, they draw further and further away from their parents. I had a coworker who was a mom and a Christian. She had two children, a boy and a girl. Her and her husband did what everyone said they should do. They raised their kids in a loving home. They were active in their church. They taught them the Scriptures. When they graduated high school they sent them off to college. The son came back from school and got married and settled not far from his parents, got back involved in the church of his youth, and was an honorable son. The daughter, on the other hand, she got a boyfriend, moved to the city, shacked up (instead of getting married), and declared that God was dead, her parents were hypocrites (which they might well have been, I don’t know) and now lives a sinful, lost life. My coworker is now beside herself, not sure what she did wrong, blaming herself for the mistakes her child is making. Distraughtly praying that she might return to God one day.
God situation is much different. Not only did he make each one of us according to a plan, but each one is designed inherently and distinctly for that particular plan. The chains simply aren’t necessary in the analogy. And AC needs to stop treating people like they are born with clean slates in their natures or in their brains because Scripture is quite clear that the game is rigged against….well….everyone because God has a point to make. Further on, AC tries to claim that the father could have changed all four of the hearts of the children. But the problem with this is that AC is still looking at all four children as being fundamentally created equal. It’s the egalitarian myth. They are not equal, but different. Two children were created as vessels of mercy, and two children were created as vessels of wrath. God didn’t even want to created the second two, but to accomplish his purpose, he is not suffering with the existence of the second two to make his point to the first two (and probably to the rest of creation, including the angels – how they actually fit into all this I don’t know, but they certainly seem quite interested in what’s going on with us).
Just for the record, I’ve seen it firsthand. You can deny it all you want, but children, even from a very young age, instinctively know how to lie, how to deceive, how to torment, and how to betray. It is hardwired in their DNA. To think otherwise is simply foolishness.
AC goes on in their discussion and make mention of how Calvinists claim “God gives you faith.” I can attest to this. I had absolutely no faith in Christ (didn’t even know who he was), not in the Bible, and certainly not in God. I remember clearly when my mother bought me a Bible and I read parts in it where it talked about my Father in heaven, my exact thought was, “I already have a father and he’s a jerk. I don’t need another one of those.” Not only did I not have faith in God or Christianity or its message, but I was quite happy as a Buddhist. I had been a Buddhist for 4 years by the time God interceded in my life. There was a really good chance that I would have skipped the military and gone on to become a Buddhist monk, or I would have stayed with my prom date instead of jumping ship and started dating her best friend (yeah, I was kind of a jerk). But, if I had done all this, I most likely would have either remained lost (my prom date was adamantly a nonbeliever until years later) or, since we were both predestined to believe, we might have come to a saving grace together at some point while we were in the military. Or it might have taken our future marriage to burn down around us before God intervened. The counterfactuals are endless (and quite fascinating). But, if we had stayed together, there is a very, very good chance, years later, she would never have met her husband and they would not have had their 5 children that they do today. Because of marrying me, she might have turned out divorced, bitter, childless, either a drunk or might have killed herself (I tend to have a negative effect on people – just living my truth here).
But, when I was 17, God orchestrated events precisely to get me off the mountain (where I meditated under a tree at the top overlooking the city) and head into the hospital where my future girlfriend was checked in as a patient, having just been in a car wreck. That night, as I sat at her bedside watching her sleep, God made me thirsty (or used my thirst) to get me up and out in the hall. When I came back I spotted that blue Gideon Bible on the window seal. There was no reason for me to pick it up. I had plenty to do. I could have sat there and meditated in the chair all night. I could have picked up something else to read. But instead, I picked up that Bible, took it back to my seat, opened to 2 Peter 2 and read the chapter that changed my life. At that point, somewhere in that short chapter, God literally ripped out my faith, my belief in Buddhism, replaced it with a fully formed faith in God and the Bible. He likewise gave me then a thirst for the Word that has never been sated in all these years. God does, indeed, give us our faith. It is not something we learn. Well, it wasn’t something I learned. I learned about it later from reading the Bible, but that was after the fact, after it was already in me doing its work in my soul. Much of Christianity has been a forced labor for me. I am what Paul called God’s slave, because before I was saved I was literally a free man. But when I was saved, I became a slave to the cross. The things I used to be able to do I could not do any longer. And it was not because I didn’t want to do them. I tried hard to get back to Buddhism and meditate again. Countless times I would try to sit and meditate in the barracks. I would spend years and countless attempts trying to practice the marital arts. I would try with a guy who trained in White Crane Kung Fu while we were in school together for our military training. I studied Kenpo when I was in Germany. I studied Shaolin Kung Fu (or the American bastardization that passes for it) while in Texas. But each and every time, I would get really excited, but then would not last but a few weeks, having to give it up because the conviction within me was simply too great. I was too conflicted with each and every attempt. Finally, probably 10 maybe 15 years after the fact, I ultimately gave up trying. I surrendered that part of my old life, my old man to the cross of Christ. Even now as I write this, after having spent 13 years as a single and celibate, truly experiencing long-lasting contentment and peace in my station and vocation in life and my ministry in Christ, God has turned everything in my life upside-down and has given me one directive, one conviction,”You need to prepare for a future wife.” I spent the first month in denial. The second month I spent arguing with him in prayer every day. Each time I would present an argument, he would simply take the argument away from me. One day I was explaining to God that there was no possible way I could marry someone because I was adamantly against having children. And, it wasn’t for selfish reasons, either. I don’t think the day and age in which we live is a good environment for children to be brought into. Also, given my childhood and the way I was raised, plus adding in my poor genetics, I would consider it a curse to bring a child into the world. Yet, as I was literally speaking to God, giving him all my arguments, nothing earth-shattering took place. I never saw a brilliant white light, nor did I experience a vision nor was I caught up into the 3rd heaven. But as I was explaining to God why this wasn’t a good idea, God simply reached out and snatched the power out of my arguments. As I stopped talking and thought about how I felt, trying to form my next rebuttal to the conviction he’d given me, I simply couldn’t. Just like that, without warning, without asking my opinion (I imagine he pretty much knew where I stood on the matter), he took away the power from my arguments against children. So, now I can sit here writing this, and I can give you all the arguments, and make an embattled case. But at the the same time, I now have a desire within me to have children and I don’t even know why nor can I explain why, since all of my arguments against it still make perfect sense.
Maybe most Christians learn their faith. But most Christians are saved by the intellectual exercise, are convinced in some way by cleverly worded sermons from a pulpit. But, this has not at all been my experience as a Christian. It was not my experience when I was saved. Rather, the bulk of my experience has been wandering through a life that really doesn’t feel like my own, often confused, as if I’m walking through a cloud, unable to really see anything in front of me or behind. Yet, at certain moments in my journey, God lifts me up for the breifest of moments above the clouds and I can see clearly ahead. I can see what it is he wants me to do. I don’t see the future. I don’t receive “a word from the Lord.” I’m certainly not a preacher or a teacher and I’m no longer qualified to be an elder or a deacon. Like I said, most of the time I just feel altogether lost here in my own skin, with these convictions and these beliefs that really don’t make a whole lot of sense, yet I somehow can’t help but believe they are genuine and true. I just have to chalk it up to salvation and God’s work in man is not as cut and dried as we often want to think it is.
To the question that AC asks, “Can God offer blessings to people who obey him and he still be sovereign?” The answer is, of course, yes. But the question is loaded. When AC uses the word “blessing” he is smuggling in salvation. Can God offer salvation to people who obey him and he still be sovereign is really the question being asked. The answer is again, yes, but the point that AC keeps missing and has missed throughout this entire discussion is that AC is stuck on the idea that humans are the mechanism for God’s grace. Calvinism insists that the mechanism for God’s grace is God. The dispute is on what merits salvation. AC states this is decided by humans who have free will. Calvinism would argue that humans are incapable of making such a decision in their futile minds and that everyone is corrupt when they are born. It is only by God’s direct working in their inner parts that man can reach out for God. So really the question boils down to: does God initiate the choice made by humans? Or did he leave humans a blank slate, neutral according to sin, and he lets each one determine for themselves? The problem with the neutral view is that it violates the predestination messages in the Bible. If God made (from a single substance) a group of vessels specifically for wrath and another group of vessels specifically for mercy, then he has not left them neutral toward sin at birth. Maybe I missed it, but I have not seen AC address this verse in Romans 9 directly, other than to glibly say, “It doesn’t mean that.”
The next question: is foreknowledge the same as foreordained? So, foreknowledge is knowing what will happen before it happens. Foreordained is authoring what will happen before it happens. If AC thinks these are the same thing, they would be incorrect. I might have insider trading information that Elon Musk is not going to buy Twitter after all. Just because I know this to be true in no way means I was the one who convinced Elon not to buy the company, nor does it mean I had anything really to do with the fact that Elon is not going to buy the company. I just somehow know he won’t, either because I overheard something or saw a document I wasn’t supposed to see, etc. If I foreordained that Elon would not buy twitter then I was actually the original source of that action. Under my autonomous volition I brought about Elon to not buy it. I was ultimately responsible for it. With foreknowledge, I’m simply an observer in Elon not buying that terrible, terrible company. So I would argue, no this this question. They are no the same thing.
Okay, now on to Matthew 2:37-38. Dr. White points out that AC misquoted the verse and rightly so. They exchanged “children” for “you.” But, for all this might be true, it still does not change the fundamental point that AC was making, in that “you were not willing!” It doesn’t matter if Christ was wanting to gather the leaders, all of Israel, or their children (the next generation). The fact that AC is pointing out is that their unwillingness was the reason that he did not gather them. Not because they were destined to not choose, they were unwilling, sensing they had personal volition here. This is why I do not like the limitations of video to video correspondence. There is no means of immediate correction and redirection to drill down to the major point. Dr. White glosses right over the actual issues altogether.
Where do I Come Out and Why?
For me, I’m non-charismatic, but continuationist concerning gifts, though I am convinced much of the word-faith, charismatic movement’s definitions and practices of gifts are demonic (speaking in tongues is the supernatural ability to speak in a foreign language you never learned so you can spread the gospel to a people group – if it is also a personal prayer language it has no place in the fellowship and should be reserved for your private prayer life). I have grown more reformed over the years, though I would never claim to be reformed or a Calvinist (nor, I’m certain, would they claim me), I affirm Total Depravity in that every human has been infected with a “sin nature” and at birth we are incapable of reaching out to God on our own merit or by our own capacity. It is only through God’s supernatural working (and not by intellectual learning) that we turn to God, it is only through the drawing of the Father that we can come to Christ. I reject the idea that we are born good or that we are born neutral and have the capacity to be good or righteous on our own effort.
I also affirm Unconditional Election, in that, as Roman 9 states, we are God’s workmanship, predestined to walk in the works he has created for us to walk in. Just as we cannot come to God in our natural state (but unnatural concerning how we were destined to be initially) we also are destined to be saved or to be tossed. The potter has complete power over the clay. From the same substance he made vessels of wrath and vessels of mercy. He did not want to make the vessels of wrath, but in order to accomplish his purpose he suffers with their existence. They were made for destruction just as those who are saved were made for salvation. Someone cannot choose to fall away. They likewise cannot choose to be saved. But, I am biased by my own experiences in life concerning this subject. I was saved against my will, God taking everything of my old life from me, placing in me a living faith, so that I might grow in grace and knowledge of Christ. God orchestrated a particular set of circumstances which put me in contact with 2 Peter 2 (why I do not know).
I do want to say that I reject Limited Atonement. I do not see in Scripture that Jesus died only for those predestined to be saved. In fact, he died for the whole world. He died for every person that has ever lived and will ever live. Yes, this means he died not just for those who were destined to be saved, but also for those he knew would reject him. In my mind, it does not make God less in any way. Likewise, it does not negate predestination, since it is possible that God both made the vessels of wrath to be that by nature, but also that they would have the free will to act within their nature. Yes, it does put them in a box, confining them to only certain choices. But it likewise does not negate God’s sovereignty or righteousness. God’s righteousness is not derived from his acts or his behavior. It is also not measured against any standard of man. The acts of God are declared righteous (by God) based on the fundamental fact that it was carried out by God. What God does defines righteousness. So, if God did make 4 children and only released two of them and then killed the other two, this is a righteous act automatically.
Concerning Irresistible Grace, I affirm the idea that God is in complete control of my salvation, my resurrection, and my glorification. He is the power that fuels my sanctification and he is the reason I seek after him in this life I have been given. If left to my own devices, with a deformed spirit from birth, I would never have been able to seek God. I was presented with the opportunity many, many times before that night when I was 17. My mother gave me a bible when I was in 7th grade and I read large portions of it to no avail. It had no effect on me. It was not until that fateful evening at the hospital that God chose to intercede on my behalf, when he chose to stop me in my tracks concerning the false religion that I had been pursuing. He took my ability to meditate. He took my ability to study the martial arts. He took my worldview about reincarnation and the hope I had of achieving nirvana and escaping this godawful experience on earth, and he replaced it completely with a fully formed belief in the God of the universe, in him being the source of all creation, and in the fundamental truthfulness of the Bible itself. That fully formed faith would later grow, indeed, into a knowledge and faith in Jesus as the Christ, and would lead me, by the help of the Spirit to accept his work on the cross as payment for my sin, and would move me to surrender my life to Jesus as my Lord. It would incite my belief that God actually raised Jesus from the dead and gave me confidence and hope in the resurrection from the dead.
Now, there was a time that I did walk away. I walked away form what God had told me about myself. I no longer believed that he was correct about me or that I deserved to be his son. I had fallen to lust, I had sex with a woman after I was saved, and outside of marriage. It was a miserable experience for me, plagued by intense recrimination and shame. But, despite that wandering, God stood right there by my side the entire way. He waited patiently as I licked my own wounds, as I wallowed in the self-loathing. But when it was time, when God had had enough, he orchestrated my return to him, and all it took was a text message from a co-worker one evening, and restoration came like a tidal wave. This has always been how God has worked in my life, with me constantly in a cloud of confusion, of shame, of a self-induced prison, and then he lifts me above those clouds and gives me moments of clarity, certainty, and assurance. I don’t know why he deals with me this way. Maybe it’s my stubbornness. Maybe I’m not that bright. I’m certain it has to do with my rebellious nature. But, it is how he chooses to work with me in this life. I try not to question it.
And just as I believe it was impossible for me to resist his draw to become a believer and be saved, it likewise would have been impossible for me not to become a believer, regardless of the decisions I made. Now, I’m not certain it was ever possible to make different decisions I did. But, if it were – say I chose to start a relationship with my prom date instead of her best friend – I’m certain God would have orchestrated my salvation as well as hers. It is quite possible that we could have had a really great life together. But, it is just as likely (and more probable) that the scenario that actually worked out is the very best option that could have worked. It’s possible that dating and marrying my prom date would have resulted in a tragic divorce, it might have shipwrecked her or my faith entirely, just as I’m sure my engagement to her best friend, if we had gone forward, I’m certain it would have resulted in the birth of a child and a subsequent divorce.
There are a multitude of counterfactuals and, as AC stated, it doesn’t matter what we do in our life, God can work all things together for good for those who love God. His will is irresistible. Trust me. I know from personal experience by trying desperately to resist it.
I do affirm the Perseverance of the Saints only because of 1 John 2:19 telling us that if they departed from the faith it means that they were never part of the faith, and if God’s grace is irresistible, then it would stand to reason that he would not allow true believers, those destined for glory to be snatched away. Yet, at the same time, I do agree that many self-professing Christians have left the faith. Many have been caught committing adultery or mired in some other kind of sin. All I can say is, either there is future correction and redemption for them, or they were actually destined to be lost and to shipwreck their faith. Paul does counsel that it is possible that we can believe in vain, which is a terrifying prospect (1 Co 15:2).
Before I started watching these videos I was middle of the road. What I mean by this is, I’m neither a Calvinist nor a Free Will adherent. I definitely agree with predestination if for no other reason than because of my personal salvation experience. I was literally saved by Jesus Christ against my will. I was purchased at a price. And I’m not talking about being raised in a Christian home, either. I was raised in a non-religious home. My father was a staunch rejector of all things religion. He simply had no time for it, and would rather spend his Sundays watching Nascar than stepping foot in a church. My mother claimed to be a Christian, but as I became a Christian later on I discovered most of her motivations were quite superficial for going to church (occasionally). She liked the music. She liked dressing up and putting on perfume. She liked wearing flashy jewelry because other women at the meeting would compliment her. She admitted to me shortly after my experience with Jesus, that not only had she never actually prayed all the times she had told me she would pray for me over the years, but she admitted that she neither knew how to pray nor really believed prayer worked anyway.
I’m talking about an experience that defies all logic and all reason. It was a supernatural experience (not a woo woo vision or dream or anything like that – though I would not necessarily discredit such experiences, I simply have not had one and generally this is the kind of over-the-top “experiences” people have). I’m also not talking about being “slain” in the spirit or “laughing in the spirit” or barking like a dog or any of the cult-like stuff (in fact, I am convinced about 95% of Christianity in the modern era is a cult or is at least cult-like and has nothing to do with biblical Christianity).
In my experience I was lured to a particular location at a particular time under false pretenses (lured by God not by other people). While there, I inadvertently came into contact with a Bible, and I haphazardly and very peculiarly picked up that Bible and took it back to my seat where I was waiting through the night. Reading 2 Peter 2 that night changed me from the inside out, supernaturally. It was not reading the text and believing it. I know it was not an intellectual exercise because I had had discussions with all sorts of people about God in the past, and never had the “arguments” swayed me. I had read large swaths of the Bible as a Satanist and never once had the spirit moved me to believe what I was reading nor did the message convince me.
It wasn’t my choice to become a Christian that night. It was not even on my horizon or in my purview. I was a Zen Buddhist who was seriously contemplating entering the monastery after I graduated high school. I had acolytes who were shaving their heads and following me in meditation. I had just received my Black Belt in the Martial Arts and my instructor was courting me to open a another school with him. More than anything, I was really and truly happy with who I was and where I was heading.
God took all that from me.
So, while I do make room for other means by which God calls people to Christ, this has been my experience for much of my adult life. God leaves me to my own choices, and I stumble and strive and fall and curse the sky. But when he chooses, God picks me up and clears the path before me. Whether it is to believe for the first time, to be saved, or it’s to move to a different town, or he answers my prayers that I can’t handle the enormity of the rest of my life with a love inside me for a woman I’ve never met and have no idea when I will meet in the future. God is good to me. He gives me only certain things and only at certain times. But when he does, they are indeed certain and precise and to the point and they are utterly night and day compared to the rest of my life.
I attest, from not only the Scriptures, but from my own personal experiences, the we have been predestined by God, and not of ourselves, to be drawn to Christ and to be saved. God made me from before the foundation of the world, he made all the days in which I currently live and the days I’ve already lived and all the days I still will live before I die – he fashioned all of them before I even existed. I simply walk in them.
And his grace has been irresistible for me. Despite my fighting, despite my running away. Despite my continual desire and desperation to return to Buddhism or meditation or the martial arts in those beginning years, his grace sustained me, drove me to learn and to grow in faith. It was at first against my will, but now I willingly follows and serve my God and my King.
It’s been an interesting conversation to say the least. I’m actually glad I did not discover the AC were Church of Christ until I was halfway through the videos or I might have been tempted to never take it up. I’ve served in the Churches of Christ in my 20’s and, while I have fond memories of that time, they do seem obsessed with baptism, and their allegorical interpretations leave me wanting. I do think their concept of “return” to primitive Christianity is a good idea in theory, but my experience shows they just create their own denomination anyway. They claim they are not a denomination, but lets face it, they are. They have all the modern trappings of evangelical Christianity, just no instruments and they do have a plurality of elders. In the end I found I could not handle their a-millennial views, and the minister at that particular fellowship really struggled time and again to include me. I know I threatened him and his professional system. Once he came up to me at a retreat and struggled to find the words that he wanted me to be more involved in the workings of the church, to speak form the pulpit more. I can tell just by his physical discomfort that he was screaming inside against every word he spoke.
I have trouble with both of these programs, since they are built around the controversy in the modern churches rather than in finding actual solutions to move the body of Christ forward. If Dr. White and the AC really wanted to “solve” the dispute between Calvinism and Free-Will, they could sit down together (they could film this too) and actually hash out their disagreements and their theological differences instead of so often talking past each other like they so often do. In these videos they don’t really come to any kind of consensus. No one was moved or convinced of anything. They remain divided still.
Until my next post…..
Excerpt from The Light Aurora:
The door’s lock released and Dr. Lewis looked around at each of them.
“Stay close, and be ready for anything. I’m not sure if they’re all in the Command Center or if they are trying to secure Level 4. Hell, they could all be evacuating.”
He stared at Scott as he came up onto the landing.
“Let’s go,” Scott said.
Dr. Lewis pushed the door open and walked out into the hall, followed by the others – in ones and twos. Level 2 was similar to the other level, with a long corridor, doors on either side, all with security displays recessed into the wall next to them.
But, as they entered the corridor, Scott’s breath caught in his throat. As he stood there with the others, he couldn’t believe what he was seeing. In front of them, probably no more than a few yards away, were three bodies lying on the floor. One was sitting up against the wall, the side of his face melted, exposing his right eyeball and a good portion of his right skull. Another one was laying face down, his entire back opened up at the spine, as if his spinal cord had been ripped out of him from behind. The last one was a few more feet away from the others, on his back, his eyes seared from his head, black, burnt flesh where his eyes used to be.
The intercom came back to crackling life.
“Professor?” Derrick said over the intercom.
“Don’t worry. You can answer,” he said. “I can hear you.”
Scott looked up, then fixed his gaze on the security camera at the end of the corridor.
“Yes?” Scott finally asked.
There was a pause, static.
“What are you doing, Derrick?” he asked. “Did you do this?”
“Indeed,” Derrick said, coming back on.
“They refused to help me.”
“What are you trying to do, Derrick?” Scott asked.
There was another pause.
“I want to go home, Professor,” the boy said.
“Yes,” Derrick said, his tone soaked with some other-worldly confidence that did not belong in an innocent, ten year old boy.
“I want to go home, Professor,” he said again. “Would you be interested in coming home with me?”
Buy the entire story The Light Aurora today and get ready for the thrill ride of a lifetime! What is this foreign and hostile place these strangers find themselves in? What does it all mean? Will all of them survive?
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