Tuesday, October 30, 2007

How the doctrine of Biblical Inspiration refutes the Arminian/Pelagian view of free-will

Do you believe in the inspiration, infallibility of Scripture; that the Bible you hold in your hands represents God's spoken revelation and hence it is without error or contradiction?

Where did the Bible come from?

Whose thinking does it reflect? God's or Man's?

Does it live up to its own claims?

Has Scripture been protected through the centuries from human tampering?

If the Bible in it's original manuscripts were written over an estimated period between 1500 years (1400BC? to 100AD?), what has prevented the text from being changed or altered in any way by man's carelessness or ill motives?

Let's look at how the bible explains itself:

7 The law of the Lord is perfect,
reviving the soul;
the testimony of the Lord is sure,
making wise the simple;
8 the precepts of the Lord are right,
rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is pure,
enlightening the eyes;
9 the fear of the Lord is clean,
enduring forever;
the rules of the Lord are true,
and righteous altogether.
10 More to be desired are they than gold,
even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey
and drippings of the honeycomb.
11 Moreover, by them is your servant warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.
12 Who can discern his errors?
Declare me innocent from hidden faults.
13 Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins;
let them not have dominion over me!
Then I shall be blameless,
and innocent of great transgression.
14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable in your sight,
O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

Psalm 19:7-14

16All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.
2 Timothy 3:16-17

16For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, his is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,?18we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. 19And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, 20knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone own interpretation. 21For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
2 Peter 1:16-21

So what is the Bible? Does it represent a hallmark of mere human literary achievement? Or is it indeed the inspired word of God, that is without error or contradiction, having been inspired and preserved by God himself? 

If you adhere to the former, then there is a logical fallacy within your theology. If man's relationship with God is indeed fully conditional on the part of free will, and hence man at any time could fall into sin and thus lose his salvation altogether, why should we trust the inspiration of the Bible when in fact it's authors could have at any time simply lost their standing before God? Would not such a possibility open the door for the probability of the Bible not being fully inspired and innerant?

If the Arminian view of free will is correct, how can we say that the inspiration of scripture was genuinely safeguarded from human error unless God himself intervened in the thought processes of free men?

On the otherhand, if the above were not the case and scripture was written by people who had attained sinless perfection without God needing to directly intervene in their thinking, 2 Peter 1:20-21 would have to be wrong, thus making the Bible contradictory and containing error.

In conclusion, the best scriptural proof against pelagian theology and it's offshoots is simply the revelation, inspiration, infallibility and innerancy of scripture in of itself as it is a perfect representation between the relationship between God and Man.

It is also interesting to note how Peter regarded scripture; he saw the manifest glory of the Son of God with his own eyes, yet even so, he held God's inspired word as being more trustworthy than his own subjective experience.
By saying that "no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone own interpretation", he immediately shoots down any idea of bias within the scriptures on the part of the author. I've been to a lot of Bible studies where instead of examining the texts via historical and grammatical contexts, the focus is "What does it say to you", as though when you examine the scriptures according to personal opinion there may be the possibility of a subjective insight, and when these insights are mutually shared in a group setting the whole group supposedly becomes edified. Simple fact of the matter is that the Bible isn't written that way in the first place! 

Sunday, August 12, 2007

"For I Know the Plan I have for you..." Jeremiah 29:11 and the Prosperity Gospel

I've recently been blessed by the Todd Friel DVD video Herman Who? A Hermeneutics Primer. While only 1hr15min long, it essentially covers the necessary aspects a seminary student would cover in their hermeneutics and exegesis classes (if at all in today's Christian learning environments).

Anywhoo, I thought I'd do a post on perhaps one of the most common prooftexts used to justify the modern prosperity gospel:

For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Jeremiah 29:11 (New International Version)

Now, at first glance, someone may think when reading that "Okay, that seems pretty easy. It affirms what I was told earlier that God Loves Me and Has a Wonderful Plan For My Life. God's going to grant me prosperity, a life full of hope and a great future. There's no way that harm will come in my way because God's got control over everything."

Now is that what the verse actually says? Let's take a look at verses 9-14 in a more literal translation:
10"For thus says the LORD: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. 13 You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. 14I will be found by you, declares the LORD, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the LORD, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.
Jeremiah 29:10-14 (English Standard Version)

First of all, who was it written to? It was a prophetic word from God to the Israelites living under captivity in Babylon. Secondly, it is talking about their deliverence, that god will in effect come to their rescue, releasing them so that they can go back to their homland where all that was pillaged, all that was lost during the conquest will be restored. The nation would be restored as would it's relationship with the almighty. Ergo, Jeremiah was speaking to a specific group of people within his own time period about a specific thing that was going to happen there and then. Hence, v11 in it's proper context cannot apply to anyone who stumbles upon that verse; it is exclusive in meaning to chapter 29 and doesn't apply to anyone else today.

Secondly, v11 used on its own as a prooftext for the prosperity gospel just doesn't make sense with the rest of scripture which promises the opposite of a harmless, hopeful, hopeful life here on Earth:

35Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. 36Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated?38 wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.of whom the world was not worthyandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.
Hebrews 11:35-38 (English Standard Version)

19When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. 20 For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. 21 Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, 22 and you will be hated by all for my name sake.(I) But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 
Matthew 10:19-22 (English Standard Version)

 10Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, "Ananias." And he said, "Here I am, Lord."11And the Lord said to him, "Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, 12and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight." 13But Ananias answered, "Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem.14And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name." 15But the Lord said to him, "Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. 16For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name."Acts 9:10-16 (English Standard Version)3We put no obstacle in anyone way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, 4but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, 5 beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; 6 the Holy Spirit, by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, genuine love; 7by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; 8through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; 9as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; 10 as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything.
2 Corinthians 6:3-10 (English Standard Version)

Saturday, July 7, 2007

A Reformed-Charismatic response to so-called "Prophetic" and "Power Evangelism" techniques

This is of course something we all pray for before we go out to evangelise: that God will direct us to the right people, the he will give us wisdom regarding what to say and do and that that person will be open to the gospel message. Sometimes, God answers our prayers by giving us promptings towards certain individuals along with prophetic words regarding that person life in addition to them being humble and willing to listen.

   What could possibly be wrong with this?

   Of course, there is the obvious need for discernment: do the 
prophetic words intended for a non-believer line up with Scripture, uphold the holiness of God and the deity of Christ? Is the appointment truly random by human standards, or is it reflective of the evangelist own racial, social and cultural biases?
   Now, I'm certain that of these appointments and manifestations of prophetic evangelism there are legitimate cases. However, the idea of God revealing in advance who can be saved at that point in time poses some very challenging questions for those that would like to use this gifting, yet still follow the Arminian view of universal atonement.

   For example: You're walking through the Queen St mall during lunchtime. At any given moment, you could be in a crowd of fifty people trying to get from A to B. Suddenly you feel a prompting from the Holy Spirit to speak to someone in the crowd. You corner this person, find theye open to spiritual things, you give a full gospel presentation - law, sin, judgment, grace, repentance, lordship - after which they make a decision for Christ with full honesty and conviction. You exchange contact details; theye coming to Care Group and Church. Voila! You went fishing for men and you caught a true convert hook, line and sinker. Hallelujah!

   For a Reformed Evangelist who believes in the continuation of the spiritual gifts, praise God! Unlike your cessationist buddies who seriously love the word but are otherwise not as open when it comes to asking God for spiritual anointing in the spiritual gifts, you don't have to wait until the wheat and the tares mature as God can just give you the anointing to zone in on a member of the elect who are at the point of regeneration where it is the perfect time to give a Gospel Call.

   For the Arminian who chooses to believe in Universal Atonement however, it begs the moral question of what exactly made that person more special than the other forty-nine in a crowd of fifty. Don't the other people need to hear the gospel just as much because God wishes that all of them be saved which Christ died for? They could die and end up in hell because you thought the person you supposedly had a divine appointment with was special from everyone else and more deserving of the words that would spare them from the wrath to come. With this in mind, it would probably be better to stand on a soap-box and do an open-air presentation in public.

   Both situations may seem extreme, but it raises the question as to what exactly qualifies someone to be the recipient of a divine appointment if it is indeed genuine. For such a thing to happen and in turn for prophetic evangelism to be a legitimate gifting, we would, like or not, have to suppose that at any point in time, God chooses some people to be more receptive than others. In the broader scheme of things, this can be nothing short of election on the part of a Sovereign God.

20Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature. 
21In the Law it is written, y people of strange tongues and by the lips of foreigners will I speak to this people, and even then they will not listen to me, says the Lord.?span style="font-style: italic;"> 22Thus tongues are a sign not for believers but for unbelievers, while prophecy is a sign not for unbelievers but for believers. 
23If, therefore, the whole church comes together and all speak in tongues, and outsiders or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are out of your minds? 
24But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, 
25the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you.
1 Corinthians 14:20-25