Monday, May 28, 2012

The Public Square (Part 2)

II. The advantages of engaging into dialogues or debates.

This is the part 2 of the paper that I presented before.  Before I cleared the misconceptions. Now we will be talking about the advantages of engaging into dialogues or debates (on the presumption that the basis is truth and not myth).   

Most of us are engaging into a debate everyday. In schools, at the office, into chit chat, etc. Not that formal though but most if not all is onto debating. 

I will summarize the advantages in engaging into a mature and based on truth debates. 

I will use 2D's:



I am currently reading this book now by Ron Martoia. His thesis is all about the languages that we are using that somehow misinterpret by the nonChristians. I may not agree to all of his positions but I agree that we have to define (or redefine) the terms that we are always using.

Sometimes, by just sharing our faith the non Christians misquote us and worse, reject the gospel. In a dialogue we will have a chance to define our faith on the level that our audience can understand. The one way communication can't relay properly the message but with dialogue or two way communication the non Christians may ask and require us to answer about our hope... Our faith.. Our God  (Please read 1 Peter 3:15). Since there is an interaction we can define what we mean by the terms that we are using. 

Let's have an experiment. What is the first picture that comes to your mind if I will say Church. Some may say a big building. Others may say a group of people. It is because we have different backgrounds, family traditions and upbringing. We are all different. Defining our terms into an interaction may open the gate for open discussion for the non Christians that continues to reject the gospel because of our mispresentation of it.


Remember this book ? This is the book of full of symbols that the characters of this novel need to decode for them to understand the whole message.

If other may not understand us, we too sometimes have misinterpretations and misquotations on the things that they believe. 

If we will understand what they think. If we will know how they play they game. On how they use the language. We may be able to understand their needs. 

If you can notice, Jesus and Paul have different teaching styles. Why? Because they have different audiences with different questions in life. If we know their questions we may know what they want to hear from us.


Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Public Square (Part 1)

When I first encountered a group of apologist on the internet I was really amazed and confused. They called themselves as The Bereans Apologetics Reasearch Ministry. These people has a forum on their website, where registered members may discuss matters of faith. Members of the forum consists of Evangelicals, Roman Catholic, SDA's, INC's, ADD's etc. I got really confused since I believe that debating is wrong and very unChristian. I believe that our focus should only read and preach the scripture and prayer.

With that frame of preference I still try to register into their forum site. I have also read the verses of this ministry.

Acts 17:11
11 Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.

1 Peter 3:15
15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,

After reading the verses I found myself discussing and sharing the good news to the unbelievers and critics of Christianity. In this paper I will discuss the following.

I. Misconceptions about apologetics, dialouges and debates.
II. The advantages of engaging into dialouges or debates.
III, Some tips for a friendly approach in apologetics.

I. Misconceptions about apologetics.

Like what I have said above, it was my belief that engaging into a religous dialogue is a BIG-NO-NO to serious Christians. We need only to pray and share the love of God to others (without arguing with them). Some, if not most of Christians, misused or misunderstood Paul's letter to Timothy and say that we are not allowed to debate since it will promote controversy or speculations instead of truth.

1 Timothy 1
As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain people not to teach false doctrines any longer or to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. Such things promote controversial speculations rather than advancing God’s work—which is by faith. The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.

But by looking at the passage Paul didn't prohibit Tim to engage to a dialouge but on the contrary he admonished Timothy to do so. The basis of their controversy is not truth, not the Bible but myths. Paul is not prohibiting discussion perse but discussion without the basis of truth.

If you will read the gospels, our Lord engaged into discussion into the religious genuises of His day. Disarming the lies with the truth. If you will read John3 you will read a good point from our Lord in His discussion with Nicodemus.

Apostle Paul as well engage into discussions into his missions. We can read at Acts 17 the following words:

As was his custom, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures,explaining and proving that the Messiah had to suffer and rise from the dead. “This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Messiah,” he said. Some of the Jews were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a large number of God-fearing Greeks and quite a few prominent women.


Thursday, May 24, 2012

How to read the Bible and remain Catholic

The Bible, God's written Word, teaches many many things that don't agree with the official teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. For example, Rome teaches that Mary is mediatrix of all grace from God, yet the Bible says, "For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time" (1 Tim. 2:5-6; cf. Jn. 14:6). Rome teaches Catholics to venerate carved images, yet the Bible says "You are not to make worthless idols, images, or pillars for yourselves, nor set up for yourselves carved images to bow down to them in the land, because I am the LORD your God" ( Lev. 26:1; cf. Exo 20:4-5; Isa. 42:8; Ac. 17:29). Rome teaches that one merits eternal life through faith and works, yet the Bible is clear that it is "by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast" (Eph. 2:8-9; cf. Jn. 3:16-18, 5:24, 6:47; Rom. 3:23-25). These are just few of the countless theological clashes between the Bible and Rome's teachings.

 So, how can a Catholic read the Bible and remain Catholic? Here's a simple advice from a Catholic blogger:
Or better off, don't even dare open your Bible, else you'd lose your mind (according to an old pinoy superstition). Either way, I think this Catholic blogger knows what he's saying, and I'm glad he's aware of the fact that Catholics may take risk of losing their faith to Rome's teachings by simply reading the Bible. So instead of examining the Scriptures daily to see if Rome's teachings were true (as was the practice of the Bereans in Ac. 17:11), you must completely and blindly submit to everything the priest is saying.

"And he said to them, 'Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men. You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.' And he said to them, 'You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition!'" (Mat. 7:6-9)


My Take on the Eternal Destiny of the Unborn & Babies who Die in Infancy (A Response to Ptr. Steve Griffin)

"Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have
prepared praise."
(Matthew 21:16, ESV)
Ptr. Steve Griffin, a reformed baptist pastor who runs the blog Just Thinking (and writing), recently wrote an article concerning the question whether hell is the eternal destination of the unborn and born babies dying in infancy. Though I agree with his answer, namely, that all such are going to heaven instead of hell, there are points in his treatment which I didn't find agreeable and biblically sound.

To summarize Ptr. Griffin's argument (the way I understand it), the unborn and born babies who die will not go to hell because they can't be liable for the sin of our first parents. While they are, as all humans, conceived with a sinful nature, they are still somewhat worthy to enter heaven in that they haven't done any actual sins, and for this reason the notion of baby-faith (i.e. that saving faith is mysteriously infused by God in the unborn and dying babies before their death) should be regarded as unnecessary.

His own words (original emphasis replaced with mine):
To be sure we are not born neutral or innocent or pure. We are born sinners by nature. But are we, as preborn/born babies, sinners by choice? That is, do babies enact their wills to transgress God’s law? “Sin is the transgression of the law” (1 John 3:4). Do preborn/born babies willfully transgress the Law of God? Are they immoral when they awaken their exhausted parents just because they’re hungry or startled? Are they being sinfully selfish? 
(Please note: I am not speaking of children who have the mental/moral capacity to lie, disrespect/disobey their mommy and daddy, or hurt others; I am referring to preborn/born babies.) 
Hence, I think it germane to our conversation to distinguish between sinful nature and sinful behavior. Because of Adam’s sin we are born with a sinful nature, a propensity for evil. We are born sinners. But is the sinner damned to hell because of Adam’s sin? It seems the sinner shall be judged, not for the sins of Adam, but for his own transgressions of the law. 
“And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books” (Revelation 20:12). What evil works have preborn/born babies committed? It would seem the answer to that question is “none.” (In so saying, we are not denying or even addressing our sin in Adam per Romans 5:12; again, c.f. Romans 9:11).
Ptr. Griffin denies that humans are damned merely on account of Adam's original sin, but what of Romans 5:18 which says that Adam's "trespass led to condemnation for all men"? (see also Romans 5:12). The traditional interpretation of this verse (see Council of Orange AD 529, Canon 2) is that all of mankind are actually one with Adam when he sinned, and so we are as much as liable (and worthy of condemnation) for his transgression. This is why Ephesians 2:3 says we are "by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind." If we cannot be condemned for Adam's sin, then what is the basis of this wrath which is upon us by nature/birth?

It is true and I agree that all men will be "judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books" (Revelations 20:21), but in so far as Adam was mankind's federal head and representative of the human race (just as Christ is the federal head and representative of the race of the elect - Romans 5:12-19), his sin was also OUR sin. It's as though we have actually committed the same sin ourselves. According to the London Baptist Confession of Faith (1689), under the 6th Chapter, acrticles two and three:
2. Our first parents, by this sin, fell from their original righteousness and communion with God, and we in them. For from this, death came upon all: all becoming dead in sin and wholly defiled in all the faculties and parts of soul and body. 
3. They being the root, and by God's appointment, standing in the room and stead of all mankind, the guilt of this sin was imputed, and their corrupted nature conveyed, to all their posterity descending from them by ordinary generation. Their descendants are therefore conceived in sin, and are by nature the children of wrath, the servants of sin, and the subjects of death and all other miseries, spiritual, temporal, and eternal, unless the Lord Jesus sets them free.
I'm not sure if Ptr. Griffin's a subscriber of LBCF. But I assume he is, since he claims himself to be a reformed baptist and that I saw some of his posts where he also quotes from the confession.

Anyway, the Bible is clear that in Adam we all sinned. Actual sins increase our guilt, but we are deserving of condemnation on account of original sin alone. This does not excempt unborn humans and those who die in infancy. Yet of course I believe none of those little ones really end up in hell by God's mercy. Though I admit I can't find any explicit statement from Scripture which says so, nonetheless I believe God is able to save them. While Ptr. Griffin believes dying infants can go to heaven without being born again and having faith, I would stick with what the Bible says in John 3:3 and Hebrews 11:6. Nothing is impossible with God, and this is clearly seen in Luke 1:41.

Praise God!



Batang Bata Ka Pa
Batang-bata ka pa at marami ka pang
Kailangang malaman at intindihin sa mundo
Yan ang totoo
Nagkakamali ka kung akala mo na
Ang buhay ay isang mumunting paraiso lamang

Batang-bata ka lang at akala mo na
Na alam mo na ang lahat na kailangan mong malaman buhay ay di ganyan
Tanggapin mo na lang ang katotohanan
Na ikaw ay isang musmos lang na wala pang alam
Makinig ka na lang, makinig ka na lang

Ganyan talaga ang buhay lagi kang nasasabihan
Pagkat ikaw ay bata at wala pang nalalaman
Makinig ka sa ‘king payo pagkat musmos pa lamang
At malaman nang maaga ang wasto sa kamalian

Batang-bata ako at nalalaman ko ‘to
Inaamin ko rin na kulang ang aking nalalaman at nauunawaan
Ngunit kahitganyan ang kinalalagyan
Alam mo na may karapatan angbawat nilalang kahit bata pa man, kahit bata pa man

Nais ko sanang malaman ang mali sa katotohanan
Sariling pagraranas ang aking pamamagitan
Imulat ang isipan sa mga kulay ng buhay
Maging tunay na malaya ‘sang katangi-tanging bata

 -Apo Hiking Society

Gustong gusto ko ang awiting ito. Kapag naririnig ko ito lumalakas ang  paniniwala ko na ang mga kabataan pa din ang pag asa ng ating bayan.

Ngunit bakit sinisikil ang boses ng mga kabataan ? Bakit laging sinasabi na "bata pa" ,"ito ay hindi pa ang tamang oras" , "makinig kana lang muna" , "kulang ka pa sa karanasan ".? Tulad ng klasik na awit ng Apo. Kung kabataan ang pag asa ng bayan bakit pinipigilan ang mga kabataan na maki alam sa problema ng lipunan ? Lagi kong na aalala ang laging sinasabi ng mga matatanda na " experience is the best teacher". Kung tama ang kanilang tinuran, bakit nating pinipigilan ang mga kabataan ? Oo alam ko na kulang pa ang aming karanasan at nalalaman. Kulang pa din ang aming mga pagpaplano. Minsan padalos dalos kame ng desisyon. Kadalasan ay nagkakamali sa mga desisyon. Pero ibig bang sabihin nun ay hinde na pwedeng mag desisyon ang mga kabataan. Kung "experience' ang best teacher bakit hinde hayaang maki alam ang mga kabataan sa problema ng lipunan.

Kung kasaysayan ang ating titingnan. Sino ba ang nagdala ng pagbabago sa lipunan ? Saan nagsimula ang mga malalaking mga pagbabago ng mundo ? Minsan nga mas mabilis pa ang solusyon ng mga kabataan kumpara sa solusyon ng mga matatanda.

Ultimo sa Biblia merong mga batang tinawag ang Dios para gamitin Niya at magdala ng pagbabago.

Jeremias 1

7Nguni't sinabi sa akin ng Panginoon, Huwag mong sabihin, Ako'y bata: sapagka't saan man kita susuguin ay paroroon ka, at anomang iutos ko sa iyo ay sasalitain mo.
8Huwag kang matakot dahil sa kanila; sapagka't ako'y sumasaiyo upang iligtas kita, sabi ng Panginoon.
9Nang magkagayo'y iniunat ng Panginoon ang kaniyang kamay, at hinipo ang aking bibig; at sinabi sa akin ng Panginoon, Narito, inilagay ko ang aking mga salita sa iyong bibig:
10Tingnan mo, aking pinapagpupuno ka sa araw na ito sa mga bansa at sa mga kaharian, upang magalis at magbagsak at upang magsira at magwasak, upang magtayo at magtatag. 

Nasaan ang mga matatanda nong panahon na iyan ? Sino ang nautusan para magdala ng pagbabago ?

Ang aking katanungan, gusto ba nating magkaroon ng mga responsableng mga lider sa mga susunod na henerasyon.? Yung matatag ang mga tuhod ? Yung mga "hardcore" kumbaga ? Kung ating sagot ay oo, huwag nating sikilin ang sigaw ng mga kabataan. Huwag nating ipagdamot sa knila ang kanilang kinabukasan.

Kung hinde ngayon... Kelan pa nila mararanasan para mag desisyon para bansa at kinabukasan ?

Kung hinde ngayon ? Kelan pa ?

Statement of Faith

Last night Jeph (the author of this blog) invited me to co-author him in this blog. One of our agreement was to create our statement of faith that we both agree.

Statement of Faith, we can see it on churches, church and para church websites. We can read blogs, forums and discussion groups debating over different statement of faith. 

While I am trying to read the existing statement of faith that is existing on this blog, I have asked myself. What is my statement of faith ? What are the things that I really believe ? Some, if not most of the Christians today don't have a clear knowledge on what we really believe. Because of the rise of post modernist philosophy the importance of "sound doctrine" was almost forgotten by some Christians. Some are "allergic" about doctrines and put correct living as the ONLY way of Christianity. I am not against on the importance of correct living (Matthew 7:21) but we should not forget that for us to live right then we need to believe right.

In this article I will discuss the important of knowing the doctrines of scripture and it's application to our lives. 

Difference of truth and lie

Jesus said at John 8:32
32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
For us to be free we need to have a clear distinction between truth and lie. Between good and evil. We can't evade issues about doctrine just because we can't understand those. If Christians will not hold on truth then what will you think will happen ?

There is an attack now to the body of Christ. There are "professing" Christians who are influenced by Post modern thought. One of the prominent of those claiming to be Christian is Brian Mclaren. McLaren said:

I don’t believe making disciples must equal making adherents to the Christian religion. It may be advisable in many (not all!) circumstances to help people become followers of Jesus and remain within their Buddhist, Hindu or Jewish contexts … rather than resolving the paradox via pronouncements on the eternal destiny of people more convinced by or loyal to other religions than ours, we simply move on … To help Buddhists, Muslims, Christians, and everyone else experience life to the full in the way of Jesus (while learning it better myself), I would gladly become one of them (whoever they are), to whatever degree I can, to embrace them, to join them, to enter into their world without judgment but with saving love as mine has been entered by the Lord (A Generous Orthodoxy, 260, 262, 264).

If we will not hold the truth we are compromising and denying the Lord Jesus Christ and His Words. He said:
I am THE way, THE truth and THE life.. (John 14:6)
There He indicates that in our faith there is a clear distinction between truth and lie. If our Lord claimed that He is THE truth (it’s an absolute statement) then why we are afraid to hold and to declare the truth of God ?

The Era of lie.

2 Timothy 4

2 Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage —with great patience and careful instruction. 3 For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.

Imagine your (Christian) friend believe in a myth (not true), what will happen ? Imagine that I believe unicorn what will happen ? 

That is what happening now. Because Christians don’t want to preach solid truths from the Word of God, people tend to listen to preachers that are not preaching the cross but preaches motivation and self esteem instead of faith. Because Christians don’t want to make a position about LGBT some tend to listen to Oprah. 

Do we want to live in a place that lie is the basis of life and not truth ?


Since this is my first post in this blog, I will make a lengthy article. I will by a quote.
A lie repeated often becomes truth
Now Christians, do we want the world to continue to hear lies ?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Dr. Millard J. Erickson on whether the gift of Speaking In Tongues is still being distributed by the Holy Spirit in the Church today

Dr. Millard J. Erickson wrote:

Dr. Millard J. Erickson
In my judgment it is not possible to determine with any certainty whether the contemporary charismatic phenomena are indeed gifts of the Holy Spirit. There simply is no biblical evidence indicating the time of fulfillment of the prediction that tongues will cease. It is questionable at best to conclude on the basis of the differences between the verbs in 1 Corinthians 13:8 that tongues will cease at one time, and prophecy and knowledge at another. Nor is that historical evidence clear and conclusive. The situation here is somewhat like the situation with respect to the doctrine of apostolic succession. There is a great deal of evidence on both sides. Each group is able to cite an impressive amount of data which are to its advantage, bypassing the data presented by the other group. This lack of historical conclusiveness is not a problem, however. For even history proved that the gift of tongues has ceased, there is nothing to prevent God from reestablishing it. On the other hand, historical proof that the gift has been present through the various eras of the church would not validate the present phenomena.

What must we do, then, is to evaluate each case on its own merits. This does not mean that we are to sit in judgment on the spiritual experience or the spiritual life of other professing Christians. What it does mean is that we cannot assume that everyone who claims to have had a special experience of the Holy Spirit's working has really had one. Scientific studies have discovered enough non-Spirit-caused parallels to warn us against being naively credulous about every claim. Certainly not every exceptional religious experience can be of divine origin, unless God is a very broadly ecumenical and tolerant being indeed, who even grants special manifestations of his Spirit to some who make no claim to Christian faith and may actually be opposed to it. Certainly if demonic forces could produce imitations of divine miracles in biblical times (i.e., the magicians in Egypt were able to imitate the plagues up to a certain point), the same way be true today as well. Conversely, however, no conclusive case can be made for the contention that such gifts are not for today and cannot occur at the present time. Consequently, one cannot rule in an priori and categorical fashion that a claim of glossolalia is spurious. In fact, it may be downright dangerous, in the light of Jesus' warnings regarding blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, to attribute specific phenomena to demonic activity.

In the final analysis, whether the Bible teaches that the Spirit dispenses special gifts today is not an issue of great practical consequence. For even if he does, we are not to set our lives to seeking them. He bestows them sovereignly: he alone determine the recipients (1 Cor. 12:11). If he chooses to give us a special gift, he will do so regardless of whether we expect it or seek it. What we are commanded to do (Eph. 5:18) is be filled with the Holy Spirit (a present imperative, suggesting ongoing action). This is not so much a matter of our getting more of the Holy Spirit; presumably all of us posses the Spirit in his entirety. It is, rather, a matter of his possessing more of our lives. Each of us is to aspire to giving the Holy Spirit full control of our lives. When that happens, our lives will manifest whatever gifts God intends for us to have, along with all the fruit and acts of his empowering that he wishes to display through us. It is to be remembered, as we noted earlier, that no one gift is for every Christian, nor is any gift more significant than the others.

Of more importance, in many ways, than the receiving certain gifts is the fruit of the Spirit. These virtues are, in Paul's estimation, the real evidence of the Spirit at work in Christians. Love, joy, and peace in an individual's life are the surest signs of a vital experience with the Spirit. In particular, Paul stresses love as more desirable than any gifts, no matter how spectacular (1 Cor. 13:1-3).

But what is proper procedure with regard to an actual case of modern-day public practice of what is claimed to be the biblical gift of glossolalia? First, no conclusions should be drawn in advance as to whether it is genuine or not. Then, the procedure laid down by Paul so long ago should be followed. Thus, if one speaks in tongues, there should be an interpreter, so that the group as a whole may be edified. Only one should speak at a time and no more than two or three at a session (1 Cor. 14:27). If no one is present to interpret, whether the speaker or some other person, then the would-be speaker should keep silence in the church and restrict the use of tongues to personal devotional practice (v. 28). We must not prohibit speaking in tongues (v. 39); on the other hand, we are nowhere commanded to seek this gift.

Finally, it is to be noted that the emphasis in Scripture is upon the one who bestows the gifts rather than upon those who receive them. God frequently performs miraculous works without involving human agents. We read, for example, in James 5:14-15 that the elders of the church are to pray for the sick. It is the prayer of faith, not a human miracle-worker, that is said to save them. Whatever be the gift, it is the edification of the church and the glorification of God that are of ultimate importance.

-Christian Theology, pp. 880-82 under chapter 41

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Divine Predestination: A Southern Baptist Teaching

The first SBTS classroom, formerly the Greenville First
Baptist Church. (Photo courtesy: SBTS official website)
It's really sad when self-professed "Bible-believing" Christians reject God's truth revealed in Scripture in exchange for man-made ideas that the world would deem more logical and palatable. About a week ago, I had a nice intellectual discussion with a good friend concerning the doctrine of predestination. This godly lady, a fellow Southern Baptist whom I have known for quite some time now, claimed that if my interpretation of Romans 9 is correct, then it is pointless to go and preach the gospel to all nation. If God "has mercy on whomever he wills" (Rom. 9:18) and in fact chooses to show mercy only to some with regard to salvation (Rom. 9:18-24; i.e. Matt. 13:11; Luk. 10:22; Jn. 6:63-65) and that none of those whom God has chosen will finally perish (Jn. 6:39-40, 44-45), whatever change would it make whether or not we fulfill Christ's Great Commission? I had anticipated this kind of objection from her, and I have responded by saying that as far as my personal experience is concerned, this glorious doctrine of election never killed my passion for reaching the lost, but instead rekindled it. The doctrine of predestination should not be regarded as a strange doctrine that Christians should fear or avoid. Aside from its being clearly taught in Scripture, it has been in fact a Southern Baptist teaching ever since (though neglected by many Southern Baptists today). Unfortunately very few Southern Baptists are aware of their theological heritage that used to be "reformed." Even for the most part of today's Christianity, the humanistic (and erroneous) notions of Pelagianism (i.e. that man should first turn to God before God can do any move) is widely embraced.

In this paper I will try by the help of God's grace to provide a brief presentation of the fact that the doctrine of Predestination is indeed a Southern Baptist teaching. May God use this simple work for His own purposes.

Predestination in the SBTS Abstract of Principles (1858)

I won't be citing very long references here, but would focus only on a single old document from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary archive. The name of the document is Abstract of Principles formulated in 1858 before the official founding of the SBTS a year later. The intent of the document was to maintain doctrinal purity among the teachers and leaders of the seminary, and to oppose all kinds of false teaching and doctrines. Affirming all the doctrines stated in the document was mandatory to all Southern Baptist scholars who would want to assume professorship in the seminary. In its introduction, we read (emphasis mine):
Every professor of the institution shall be a member of a regular Baptist church; and all persons accepting professorships in this seminary shall be considered, by such acceptance, as engaging to teach in accordance with, and not contrary to, the Abstract of Principles hereinafter laid down, a departure from which principles on his part shall be considered grounds for his resignation or removal by the Trustees, to wit:
So, what's so special about the Abstract of Principles? It is the fact that the document is essentially Calvinistic in its anthropology and soteriology. For example, concerning the fall of man it states (emphasis mine):
God originally created Man in His own image, and free from sin; but, through the temptation of Satan, he transgressed the command of God, and fell from his original holiness and righteousness; whereby his posterity inherit a nature corrupt and wholly opposed to God and His law, are under condemnation, and as soon as they are capable of moral action, become actual transgressors.
This is perfectly in agreement with what the Scripture says about the man's fallen nature being "hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God" (Rom. 8:7-8; see also Rom. 3:9-12, 1 Cor. 2:14, 2 Cor. 4:4, & Eph. 2:1-3). Being spiritually dead in Sin, the fallen man is not able to fulfill any spiritual duty accompanying salvation (i.e. faith & repentance) unless he is first quickened by God monergisitcally. This means we are spiritually regenerated by God, not in response to our faith, but in order that we may be drawn to saving faith in Christ. The Abstract of Principles agrees with this teaching, and I quote (emphasis mine):
Regeneration is a change of heart, wrought by the Holy Spirit, who quickeneth the dead in trespasses and sins enlightening their minds spiritually and savingly to understand the Word of God, and renewing their whole nature, so that they love and practice holiness. It is a work of God’s free and special grace alone.
Again, this is in total agreement with Scripture which says: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead" (1 Pe. 1:3). Note the verse didn't say, "we first had our living hope (saving faith) and then God made us born again," but rather, "he has caused us to be born again *TO* a living hope." Thus, our conversion (i.e. saving faith & repentance) is not our own doing. It is God's gift of grace, and this humbling truth is affirmed in the next two articles in the Abstract of Principles (emphasis mine):
Repentance is an evangelical grace, wherein a person being led by the Holy Spirit, made sensible of the manifold evil of his sin, humbleth himself for it, with godly sorrow, detestation of it, and self-abhorrence, with a purpose and endeavor to walk before God so as to please Him in all things. 
Saving faith is the belief, on God’s authority, of whatsoever is revealed in His Word concerning Christ; accepting and resting upon Him alone for justification and eternal life. It is wrought in the heart by the Holy Spirit, and is accompanied by all other saving graces, and leads to a life of holiness.
The Bible says, "This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent" (Jn. 6:29). Again, "For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake" (Php. 1:26). Again, "To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given" (Mat. 13:11). Again, "And they glorified God, saying, 'Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life'" (Ac. 11:18). And again, "...correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will" (2 Tim. 2:25-26). Clearly, we have nothing to boast of our own conversion because it was God who has granted us this gift according to His gracious predestination (1 Cor. 1:28-31; Eph. 1:3-5, 11). The Abstract of Principles states clearly (emphasis mine),
Election is God’s eternal choice of some persons unto everlasting life-not because of foreseen merit in them, but of His mere mercy in Christ-in consequence of which choice they are called, justified and glorified.
By "foreseen merits," the AoP refers to all kinds of human worth. Merits always means worth, and anything given according to worth cannot be properly called grace (Rom. 4:4, 11:5-6). Thus, when the Bible says God predestined us "for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace" (Eph. 1:5-6), it actually denies all kinds of human worth as basis for its attainment. In other words, it is unconditional. "For he says to Moses, 'I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.' So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy" (Rom. 9:15-16). Moreover, this choice is not merely a divine initiative in an attempt to save sinners, but it is the basis upon which the saving benefits of Christ's work is communicated effectually to those chosen of God:
[29]For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. [30]And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. [31]What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? [32]He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? (Rom. 8:29-32)
Hence, none of those whom God has chosen for Salvation will totally fall away and perish. All true Christians, being chosen of God from eternity past and preserved by God through His grace, will persevere in the faith unto the end and finally attain to final glorification (Jud. 1:24). The 13th article of the Abstract of Principles reads,
Those whom God hath accepted in the Beloved, and sanctified by His Spirit, will never totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace, but shall certainly persevere to the end; and though they may fall through neglect and temptation, into sin, whereby they grieve the Spirit, impair their graces and comforts, bring reproach on the Church, and temporal judgments on themselves, yet they shall be renewed again unto repentance, and be kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.
Paul expressed the same confidence in his words: "And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ" (Php. 1:6). And again, "For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom. 8:38-39).

Does this mean men have no freedom of choice? Nope. Back in the third (3rd) article of the Abstract of Principles, we read (emphasis mine):
God from eternity, decrees or permits all things that come to pass, and perpetually upholds, directs and governs all creatures and all events; yet so as not in any wise to be the author or approver of sin nor to destroy the free will and responsibility of intelligent creatures.
In other words, God's sovereign kingship over all His creation is perfectly compatible with man's free agency and responsibility (Prov. 19:21). When a sinner is drawn by God to saving faith in Christ (according to His eternal decree of predestination), the sinner freely chooses Christ and attains salvation (Psa. 65:4; Jn. 6:37, 44-45; Ac. 16:14). But when a sinner is passed over by God to be left on his own sinful nature (i.e. not by infusing evil in his heart, but by permitting him to do just whatever he pleases according to the inmost desires of his naturally sinful heart - Jer. 13:23, 17:9; Mat. 12:33), the sinner freely rebels against God and deservedly ends up in hell because of his own sins (Rom. 1:21-26, 3:9-12, 8:7-8). All of these come to pass "according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will" (Eph. 1:11; cf. Rom. 11:35).

Predestination and Evangelism

Now let's turn to the question whether the doctrine of predestination kills the Christian's passion for evangelism. Does it? Perhaps, if you malign or pervert the doctrine. Misinformed people often think of predestination as God's decreeing all the end (outcome) without also decreeing the means to accomplish those end. Thus, they conclude that predestination makes evangelism (and all Christian virtues) completely superfluous. Such is a perverted view of the biblical doctrine of predestination and must be clarified by those who know the truth. The Baptist Faith & Message, Southern Baptist Convention's official statement of beliefs, is clear enough concerning this matter:
Election is the gracious purpose of God, according to which He regenerates, justifies, sanctifies, and glorifies sinners. It is consistent with the free agency of man, and comprehends all the means in connection with the end. It is the glorious display of God's sovereign goodness, and is infinitely wise, holy, and unchangeable. It excludes boasting and promotes humility. 
God's decree of election (i.e. predestination unto Salvation), according to the BF&M, "comprehends all the means in connection with the end." Evangelism is one of the means through which God calls His elect unto salvation (Ac. 13:48l Jas. 1:18), hence the necessity for preaching the Gospel to all men since we don't know who the elect are (Mat. 28:19-20; Mark 16:15). In his book Christian Theology, the basic textbook we used back when I was still studying at the Southern Baptist School of Theology (Makati), Dr. Millard J. Erickson stated:
Predestination does not nullify incentive for evangelism and missions. We do not know who the elect and the nonelect are, so we must continue to spread the Word. Our evangelistic efforts are God's means to bring the elect to salvationGod's ordaining of the end includes the ordaining of the means to that end as well. The knowledge that missions are God's means is a strong motive for the endeavor and gives us confidence that it will prove successful. (Christian Theology, Unabridged one-volume edition, pp. 927-928 under Chapter 43)
The thought that God never fails to bring His elect unto Salvation (when He calls them inwardly by His Word) should be, to a Christian, a ground for motivation to go out into the world to preach the Gospel to the lost, not a license to be idle and unproductive. The doctrine of predestination comforts us whenever our message is rejected by sinners because we are reminded that it isn't our job to convert them; it is God's, and so when we have done our best, we can leave the matter to Him. Jesus Himself didn't win all His hearers (Jn. 6:64), but He found comfort in the fact that all those whom the Father gives Him will surely come to Him (Jn. 6:37, 44-45, 10:3-5, 26-29).


The biblical doctrine of predestination held by Calvinists, as shown in the SBTS Abstract of Principles (1858), is a Southern Baptist teaching. In fact, even before the founding of the SBC, it has already been a Baptist teaching tracing back to the London Baptist Confession of Faith (1689), and ultimately, to Scriptures. This doctrine does not kill evangelism but mobilizes it. Many godly men thorough the history of Christendom held to the glorious doctrine of predestination, and are proved to be ardent preachers of God's Word to the lost. I am talking about men like Martin Luther, C.H. Spurgeon, Adrew Fuller, William Carey, John Gill, John Piper, and John Calvin himself, just to name a few.

Again, the main purpose of this paper is not for any Calvinistic triumphalism, but to present a historical truth, namely, that the Southern Baptist Convention is Calvinistic in its theological roots. I'm not saying that one cannot be Southern Baptist if he/she refuses to subscribe to the tenets of Calvinism. The SBC allows for both Calvinists and non-Calvinists to remain in the convention, and neither any of them should pass condemnation to another. My point here is that Calvinism should not be considered heresy by Southern Baptist people. Otherwise, we should be willing to accept that the SBC was born of heretical roots (since it can be proven from history that most of its founding fathers are outspoken Calvinists).

To God alone be the glory!


Monday, May 21, 2012

Romans 9 and God's Sovereignty in Salvation (Part 2)

(Read Part 1 here)

The objection Paul was responding to in Romans 9 is two-fold:
  1. If none of God's elect will finally perish (as stated by Paul in Romans 8:29-39) and there are countless Israelites that deliberately reject the Savior and die in their unbelief, it seems God has already turned His back on His chosen nation, Israel. If that's the case, how can we have assurance that God will not also abandon us? 
  2. But if God never abandoned Israel, therefore God has failed in preserving the Israelites who die in their unbelief. If that's the case, how can we have assurance that God will not also fail in preserving us? 
Both objections have been answered by Paul in Romans 9:1-16 by proving that not all of Israel according to natural descent are actually among those whom God has chosen in eternity past to be saved (i.e. the spiritual Israel - v. 6). While Israel, as a nation, is truly chosen of God to be a channel of His revelations to mankind (v. 4-5), His eternal election for Salvation is not confined in this race alone (v. 7-8). God elects freely and gratuitously according to His sovereign pleasure and undeserved mercy (v. 9-16). Therefore, Israel's massive unbelief didn't and will never thwart what God has purposed to occur, namely, the salvation of all His elect (Php. 1:6). This conclusion is further defended by Paul in Romans 9:17-24, in which he emphasized God's sovereignty in reprobation.

IV. God's Sovereignty in Reprobation (v. 17-24)

What is reprobation? By reprobation, we mean "God's sovereign decree to leave a sinner in his natural sinful state of rebellion so that he may never attain to salvation." Essentially, reprobation is just a passive consequence of God's electing certain people to Salvation. By electing only some, He in effect has rejected or reprobated the rest. In Romans 9:17-18 we read (and keep in mind that divine predestination is still the main theme of this passage in connection to Romans 8:29-39 down to Romans 9:1-16):
[17]For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, "For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth." [18]So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. (Rom. 9:17-18)
As we read the book of Exodus, we know that Pharaoh was blessed by God (though undeserving) with immense wealth and power. He was set up as king by God, but it was for the purpose of making him all the more prideful (hardened) so that God may display His power by sending different plagues in Egypt every time he (Pharaoh) rejects Moses's plea to free the Hebrews (see Exo. 4:21, 7:3). The reason why Pharaoh's case is mentioned by Paul is to provide a clear evidence that receiving material blessings from God does not make one automatically elect. Thus, just because the Israelites were blessed with many different privileges (mentioned in verses 4-5), doesn't mean all of them are "elect" unto Salvation. God "has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills." 

By adding "he hardens whomever he wills", Paul seems to suggest that Israel's massive rejection to the Gospel didn't confront God by surprise or finally defeat His purposes, because it is He himself who brought them to rebellion against the Gospel. Sounds harsh, but this interpretation is supported in chapter 11 where Paul says concerning Israel's hardening,
[7]What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened, [8]as it is written, "God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that would not see and ears that would not hear, down to this very day." (Rom. 11:7-8)
It is God who hardened the Israelites, but not in order to destroy Israel completely, but in order that "through their trespass salvation [may] come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous" (Rom. 11:11). Israel's massive rebellion against Christ is God's own doing for the sake of making the Gospel available to the Gentiles (Rom. 11:25). This is proven in the first eleven chapters of the book of Acts where we see how the disciples began preaching the Gospel to the Gentiles due to the hostility of the Jews. In the final analysis, God is never defeated because everything falls perfectly as He planned. 

At this point, Paul's critics may say: "Why does [God] still find fault? For who can resist his will?" (Rom. 9:19). Or in other words, how can God justly blame us on account of our sins if we can't help but sin in accordance to His plan? To this, Paul responds:
[19]You will say to me then, "Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?" [20]But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, "Why have you made me like this?" (Rom. 9:19-20)
Notice that Paul didn't right away give any direct explanation as to how God can justly make us accountable for the things which He Himself has foreordained we would do. Instead, Paul's initial response was to rebuke the spirit of the question, saying: "But who are you, O man, to answer back to God?" We can't argue with our Maker just because we can't fully comprehend His ways. As mere creatures, our prime business should be to glorify God and submit ourselves to Him in everything. This includes believing in everything He says in His Word, even when it teaches things which doesn't seem to make sense to our limited minds. For example, the Bible says we make uncoerced choices and we are fully responsible for the things that we do (cf. Lev. 22:18-23; Ezr. 3:4-5; 2 Cor. 9:7; Rev. 20:12). But the same Bible also teaches that God is fully in control of everything - human choices included (Prov. 16:33, 21:11; Ac. 4:26-28; Rom. 11:35; Eph. 1:11; Php. 2:13). So, is it "either/or" or both? We must affirm both, because both are truths taught in the holy Scriptures.

In Romans 9:21, Paul somehow advanced his solution to the question on how God can justly mold us according to His good pelasure while making us responsible for our choices at the same time. The text reads:
Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? (Rom. 9:21)
The "lump" of clay, out of which God molds the elect and the reprobate, signifies the sinful mass of fallen mankind. This means that both the elect and the reprobate are by nature sinners and spiritually dead in their trespasses and sin (Rom. 3:9; Eph. 2:1). We are "by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind" (Eph. 2:3), having born with a depraved heart that would not seek after God (Jer. 17:9; Rom. 3:10-12). This being said, God has full right to execute judgment on all of us, which includes recompensing our sins with even more greater sins in order to increase our guilt. "But it sounds completely strange that a holy God would punish sin with sin," some will say. Yet the Bible says:
[21]For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. [22]Claiming to be wise, they became fools, [23]and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. [24]Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, [25]because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. [26]For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature... (Rom. 1:21-24)
In the above passage, we see how God recompenses rebellion with a more sinful rebellion. How is this done by God? First, by giving sinners temporal benefits (by His providence) out of His goodness, and then by leaving them in their depraved condition so that they would willfully abuse what God gave them. This is clearly seen in the life of Pharaoh whom God has raised to be king over Egypt, endowing him with great political power and wealth, which in turn made his heart all the more prideful. Note that it wasn't God who infused pride in Pharaoh's heart (otherwise, God would be the author of sin). Instead, pride was in Pharaoh's heart by birth (Psa. 58:3), but it was greatly aggravated when he was made king under God's providence. God could have taken away Pharaoh's pride from the beginning, but He didn't do anything in order that He may display His power through his (Pharaoh's) persistent hostility. Therefore, when we encounter biblical passages saying that God hardens people, we should understand them to mean as God doing nothing to convert their naturally prideful hearts. The Bible says it is in God's power to convert sinners according to His mercy (2 Tim. 2:25-26), but when He refuses to grant this great gift to certain people as a recompense for their sins/sinfulness, it is said that He hardens them. The clay hardens when left to its own devices.

Here we see God's justice in molding us the way He intends us to be. As sinful humans, illustrated as a "lump" of dirty clay in Romans 9:21, our destiny lies in God's hands alone. He is the Potter, we are the clay (Isa. 64:8). If, out of His great mercy and love, He has chosen some unworthy sinners to be converted and be saved, He is proven to be gracious (Eph. 1:4-5, 11). If, on the other hand, He hardens some as recompense for their sinfulness, He is proven to be just (Rom. 1:21-26). Thus, Paul wrote in Romans 9:21-24:
[21]Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? [22]What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, [23]in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—[24]even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? (Rom. 9:21-24)
Notice the apostle didn't say that the Potter asks the permission/consent of the clay before He can mold it by His hands. Such is the height of absurdity. What Paul taught concerning God's sovereignty in determining the destinies of His creatures agrees perfectly with Psalms 139:16 which says, "Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them." So, what was God's purpose in reprobating sinners? Paul says it is because God desires "to show his wrath and make known his power" (i.e., in order to display His justice towards Sin, as it is written in Proverbs 16:4: "The LORD has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble"). But why didn't He consume them right away? It is because God wants to "make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory" (just like Pharaoh who had been used by God as an instrument to display His glorious power before the eyes of the Hebrews). 


Predestination is a biblical doctrine. Biblical doctrines must not be feared or avoided by the Christian, but he should believe and cherish them with all his heart. The Bible says left to ourselves, we will never believe the Gospel of Christ for Salvation. Imagine if God didn't predestine anyone, all of us would have shared this common misery:
[9]What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, 
[10]as it is written: "None is righteous, no, not one; [11]
no one understands; no one seeks for God. [12]All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one." (Rom. 3:9-12) 
"For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot" (Rom. 8:7).  
"The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned" (1 Cor. 2:14).
Our rebellion against God is so deep that we all merit His wrath and condemnation (Eph. 2:1-3). But instead of throwing us all in hell (which is indeed most righteous), In love He has predestined certain people "for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will" (Eph. 1:5), not according to anything foreseen in them (Rom. 9:16), but according to His mere mercy in Christ.

Romans 9:1-24, I believe, is the clearest presentation in the Bible concerning God's gratuitous election and just reprobation. People may deny that this text refers to these glorious doctrines, but its clear connection with Romans 8:29-39 (which talks about God's sovereignty in preserving those whom He has predestined to Salvation) is simply irrefutable.

To God alone be the glory! Amen!


Friday, May 18, 2012

Romans 9 and God's Sovereignty In Salvation (Part 1)

"...what is man that you are mindful of him...?" (Psalms 8:4)

I had a discussion with a good friend just recently concerning the relation of Romans 9:10-21 with the doctrine of predestination. This friend denies that the text refers to God's choice of people unto salvation, and asserted that I am somewhat misusing the passage out of its context. I've already explained my case to her in person, but I thought it'd be a good a idea to put my thoughts on paper as well. So here it is.

I. The Contextual Necessity of Romans 9:6-16

Romans 9 is basically a response to an anticipated objection related to Paul's assertions in the previous chapter. Remember his last statements in Romans 8:
[29]For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. [30]And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. [31]What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? [32]He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? [33]Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. [34]  Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. [35]Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? [36]As it is written, "For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered." [37]No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. [38]For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, [39]nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom. 8:28-39)
In the above passage, Paul is presenting a case for our eternal security in Christ. In a nutshell, he is saying that since every detail of our Salvation finds its cause in God's eternal purpose in predestination (v. 29-30; cf. Eph. 1:4-5, 11; Php. 1:6), it follows that nothing will be able to snatch us from God's loving hand (v. 38-39; Jn. 10:28-29). In other words, all of God's elect will attain to faith and final glorification. Now this might have been a lovely music in the ears of the Gentile believer, but not so for a devout Jew.

A Jewish believer might wonder: If all of God's elect will be effectually called and be saved (v. 8:30), what about the countless Israelites that reject Christ and die in their unbelief every day? Certainly these people are also "elect"! Why then doesn't God convert all of them? Doesn't God have any business with Israel---his "elect" nation---anymore? Did His promises fail?

This objection raises a seeming dillema on the part of Paul that could strike at the very character of God and the integrity of the Christian gospel. It seems that it's either God's power to save Israel has failed, or God has simply chosen to abandon His elect nation and is therefore unfaithful to His words. In any case, how can we, Christians, make sure that God will certainly succeed in keeping us safe, or that God will not arbitrarily abandon us along the way?

Obviously, God is omnipotent and faithful to His words, and to say otherwise is not a valid option to resolve the issue. The problem, therefore, doesn't seem to lie on the character of God after all but on the truthfulness of Paul's teachings in Romans 8:29-39! Was Paul telling the truth when he claimed that nothing can separate the elect from Christ? If he was indeed telling the truth, what of Israel? Was Paul trying to blot Israel out of the picture?

II. Paul defends himself (v. 9:1-5)

Paul didn't just make up what he said in Romans 8:30-39. It is an inspired teaching from the Holy Spirit of God Himself. Paul's statement in v. 1 is emphatic: "I am speaking the truth in ChristI am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit" (Rom. 9:1). Paul knows what he's saying, and his words are trustworthy.

Paul had no intention to keep Israel from God's plan of redemption. In fact, he is so concerned about them that he is willing to be "accursed and cut of from Christ" for their sake (i.e. for them to be converted); "...that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh" (Rom. 9:2-3).

Israel is indeed a peculiar nation chosen by God for a particular purpose, and Paul acknowledged this very fact when he wrote: "They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen" (Rom. 9:4-5). God has chosen Israel to be a channel of his blessings and revelations, reaching its full climax in the coming of His Son in the flesh (i.e. Israelite flesh - Jn. 1:1, 14).

Now, does Israel's blessedness (in terms of being a channel of the divine revelations) necessitates individual election for each and every child of Abraham according to natural descent? Paul answers the question in the following verses.

III. God's Sovereignty in Election (v. 9:6-16)
[6]But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, [7]and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but "Through Isaac shall your offspring be named." [8]This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. [9]For this is what the promise said: "About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son. (Rom. 9:6-9)
The Jews assume that all Israelites, being Abraham's children (by natural descent), are chosen by God for Salvation in virtue of their ethnic affiliation. Paul disagrees. For Paul, "not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel." There is Israel within Israel! There is a chosen remnant (cf. Rom. 11:2-7) in the midst of a rebellious nation.

The point Paul has been trying to make is that being a child of Abraham according to the flesh (an Israelite, in other words) doesn't make you an object of God's eternal blessings. To prove this, Paul cited the Torah in v. 7 and 9 to show how God has chosen Isaac over Ishmael when technically speaking both of them are truly Abraham's sons (in the flesh).

At this point, some of Paul's critics might say:
"Well, perhaps the reason why Isaac was chosen and Ishmael was rejected is that God foresaw that the former will be righteous, and the latter unrighteous. Thus, God's choice may not be according to race, but it is according to his foreknowledge of how men will lead their lives." 
According to this objection, God chooses people according to foreseen merits. In the next couple of verses, Paul emphatically rejected this idea and provided another clear evidence from the OT Scripture that God's choice of people unto Salvation is not based on worth. In verses 10-12 we read:
[10]And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, [11]though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or badin order that God's purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls—[12]she was told, "The older will serve the younger." [13]As it is written, "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated." (Rom. 9:10-12)
Jacob and Esau are twin brothers born of Isaac's blood. They both came directly from Abraham's linage, yet before they were "born and had done nothing either good or bad" God has already chosen Jacob over Esau to show that His choice of people unto Salvation is eternal and completely undeserved (i.e. not according to race or foreseen worth)!

Again, you would imagine Paul's critics raging up against him saying: 
"Are you completely out of your mind, Paul? If God chooses people unto Salvation irrespective of their future choices, then God would be unfair/unjust! Who with a sane mind would ever believe such a devilish doctrine!?" 
To this Paul responds:
[14]What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God's part? By no means! [15]For he says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." [16]So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. (Rom. 9:14-16)
If Paul was an Arminian (i.e. one who holds that God's predestination is based on foreseen faith), he would have answered the objection above by simply saying that while God's choice is not according to works, it is nonetheless based on foreseen faith. But notice how Paul excludes all human worth (including faith) as basis of the divine election when he concluded: "So it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy" (v. 16)Paul knew that if God would base His election on foreseen human worth, none will be elected and be saved because "we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written: 'None is righteousno, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for GodAll have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one'" (Rom. 3:9-12). Saving faith, from which all good works flow, is itself a gift from God (Mat. 13:11; Jn. 6:29; Rom. 11:36; 1 Cor. 4:7; Php. 1:29), so both faith and good works cannot be the cause of God's eternal predestination. In Paul's own words: "it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy."

Paul's point is that God's justice in graciously choosing certain people unto Salvation is safeguarded by the mere fact that He is sovereign. The apostle proves this by quoting Exodus 33:19 which says: "And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy." It's like another way of saying, "[The Lord] does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, 'What have you done?'" (Dan. 4:35); and again, "Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?" (Mat. 20:15). In other words, God has unrestricted freedom to dispense special favor on whomever He wills and is perfectly just in doing so.

Think about it. If all there in God is mere justice, what good reward do you think we all deserve? If God's dealing is all about justice, minus the mercy and grace, all of us should be in one place by now, and that place is HELL (Psa. 130:3, 143:2; Rom. 6:23). The Bible says left on our own sinful nature, we will never EVER seek after God (Rom. 3:9-12; Jn. 6:44, 65; 1 Cor. 2:14). In and of ourselves, we hate him (Rom. 8:7-8). We are by nature children of wrath (Eph. 2:3; cf. Psa. 51:5). There's no one who deserves eternal life, no, not even one. Hence, even if ever God has refused to save anyone from this sinful mass of fallen mankind, He would remain perfectly holy and just! In the first place, God is absolutely not under any moral obligation to save us (Psa. 8:4). As far as justice is concerned, God doesn't owe us anything, except punishment for our sins (Rom. 11:35). Thus, it is a matter of God's great mercy and unconditional love in predestination that anyone is in Christ Jesus and enjoys eternal life in Him (1 Cor. 1:28-31; Eph. 1:4-5, 11). It is God who first chose us so that we should choose Him (Jn. 15:16; Ac. 13:48), not the other way around. So instead of ingratiatingly accusing God of injustice, shouldn't we praise and worship Him all the more for His great mercy and love which He lavished on unworthy sinners like us (1 Th. 1:2-5; 2 Th. 2:13)?

"Oh God, thank you for choosing me,
To be your child and bear You name,
O Jesus, I will never cease to sing Your praise!"
(from the song, "Thank you for loving me")

(To be continued in Part 2)


Wednesday, May 16, 2012

St. Augustine's On the Spirit and the Letter

St. Augustine of Hippo
If you're looking for a good book which deals about the role of the divine law in Christian sanctification, I would recommend St. Augustine's On the Spirit and the Letter. Personally, this book has helped me in lot of different ways - theologically, apologetically, and spiritually - because it teaches and emphasizes plenty of biblical principles (which I will summarize later) that I find to be greatly beneficial to our spiritual warfare with the world.

The book, written by St. Augustine in 412 AD, is in many ways similar to Luther's famous treatise On the Bondage of the Will. Firstly, they are similar in occasion and purpose. Luther's On the Bondage of the Will was a response to the semi-Pelagian sentiments of Erasmus who argued that since God does not command impossibilities, the commands of the law, then, indicates that we possesses the natural ability of will to apply ourselves to the things which lead to eternal salvation, or turn away from them. In On the Spirit and the Letter, on the other hand, St. Augustine responds to the Pelagian teaching that the only grace necessary for man to live rightly is the knowledge of the law, and that man doesn't need to be helped by God from within since he has the natural capacity and free determination of the will to do that which the law prescribes (cf. Ch. 4). This heresy is derived directly from Pelagius' repeated assertion: "If I ought, I can", which is the very same argument Erasmus used against Luther. Secondly, the two books are similar with respect to the counter-arguments used by the authors to refute their theological rivals. Both Luther and St. Augustine devastatingly refuted their opponents by (1) emphasizing the bondage of man's will in Sin, (2) the insufficiency of the law to redeem us from sin, (3) the proper use and purpose of the law being to reveal sin and condemn the sinner in order that he may take refuge in God's mercy by faith, (4) the absolute necessity of God's enabling and empowering grace for the execution of any godly virtue, (5) and the unrestricted sovereignty of God in dispensing His gifts on whomever He wills.

So why not read Luther's On the Bondage of the Will rather than St. Augustine's On the Spirit and the Letter? Both books are actually commendable, but I would still prefer St. Augustine because of his lucid and gracious style in dealing with the subject he is treating. I'm not saying Luther wasn't lucid or he isn't gracious (though there are instances in his writings where he is evidently sarcastic and somewhat full of himself). It's just that I find St. Augustine's approach more reader-friendly.  

As usual, St. Augustine's deep commitment to Sola Gratia and Solus Cristus shines noticeably thorough the entire book, which makes it overall a great read. Chapter after chapter, the sincere reader will find himself drawn into God's grace in Christ more and more as St. Augustine strips the human flesh of all its alleged natural sufficiency, in accordance to the testimony of God's Word.

Perhaps the only turn-off an evangelical Christian will have on this book is the apparent misunderstanding of the author on the nature of justification. As we all know, St. Augustine didn't see justification as a one-time event wherein God declares a sinner righteous in His sight, but instead a process by which sinners are morally transformed and made righteous as they cling to God's mercy in Christ by faith (cf. Ch. 18 [XI], 45, 58). According to scholars, this misunderstanding is due to St. Augustine's misinterpretation of the Greek word "dikaioo" [a courtroom term meaning "to declare righteous in the sight of the law"] by using the Latin word "justificare" [which meant "to make righteous"] to translate it. The difference is apparent and crucial because the former indicates an issued instant verdict, while the latter a gradual change from something bad to good. Nonetheless, I suggest the discerning reader to overlook this glitch as he read the whole book, since the reason I recommend the book in the first place is that it essentially deals with the role of God's law in the Christian sanctification (though wrongly equated by St. Augustine to justification)

Overall, I would rate On the Spirit and the Letter nine stars (over 10) because of its clarity, simplicity, lucidity, and consistent Christ-centeredness. After you read this book, you'll understand why St. Augustine was dubbed as "blessed doctor of Grace" and why both Catholics and Protestants hold him in very high esteem. May this book be as helpful to you as it has been to me.

God bless!