Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ category

An Open Letter to Ray Comfort

July 7, 2008

Introduction: What follows is an e-mail that I recently sent to evangelist Ray Comfort of The Way of the Master Ministries. For many years, I have appreciated Ray’s ministry and evangelistic efforts, but because Ray is planning to unequally yoke himself with Word of Faith heretics in order to create a platform for preaching the gospel (an “ends justifies the means” mentality) at the 2008 Inspiring Excellence Conference, I decided to respond with a loving but earnest e-mail. Please pray that this brother will either take a stand and expose these heretics for what they are and warn the conference attendees of the false gospel of “health and wealth” or that he will decline his invitation to speak at this conference. I would also encourage you to express your concern by sending a loving, thoughtful, yet earnest e-mail to Ray Comfort at: general@wayofthemaster.com

***********************************************************

Dear Brother Comfort,

I must first say that I and the people of our church have greatly benefited from your ministry through the years. Thus, the intention of my writing to your ministry is for no other purpose but to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). It has come to my attention through the Slice of Laodicea blog that on July 13-20th, you will be preaching at the 2008 Inspiring Excellence Conference alongside the known Word of Faith teachers John Avanzini, Jesse Duplantis, Mike Murdock, and Rod Parsley.

It is well known that all of the above men are associated with the Word of Faith heresy and have actively taught it in the past. As you already know, most Word of Faith teachers teach that we can become incarnated gods just like Jesus. Kenneth Copeland said, “don’t be disturbed when people accuse you of thinking you are God…the more you get to be like Me, the more they are going to think that way of you. They crucified Me for claiming that I was God. But I didn’t claim I was God. I just claimed I walked with Him and that He was with Me” Kenneth Copeland, “Take Time to Pray,” Believer’s Voice of Victory, #15, 2 February 1987, p. 9.

All of this of course is an explicit denial of the biblical doctrine of the Trinity. Word of Faith heretics mix their heretical doctrine of God with ideas from the mind sciences, occult metaphysics, and also have a convenient “give to get scheme” known as the “health and wealth gospel”; all of which is combined in such a way that undermines the true, biblical gospel of Jesus Christ.

Please remember that the attendees at this conference will be swallowing this poison, and if you do not either separate yourself from these men or use this as a platform to explicitly expose them as heretics, these people will stay right where they are, drinking this spiritual poison. That’s why the Apostle Paul said that a heretic should be rejected by the church after one or two warnings (Titus 3:10-11). This warning has already been given by R.C. Sproul and Michael Horton, but instead of repenting because of their loving admonition, they were cursed to hell by these men. The poisonous false gospel of Word of Faith heresy spreads like cancer and as such, you know full well that those who preach a false gospel will be accursed (Galatians 1:6-9). Unless you are planning on clearly and lovingly confronting these men for their heresy, I can find no biblical warrant for attending this conference, even for evangelistic purposes. Your failure to do so will only add to the confusion already prevalent in the church and will cause a dangerous mixture of truth and error. The Protestant Reformer Martin Luther said,

Though we be active in the battle, if we are not fighting where the battle is the hottest, we are traitors to the cause.

Brother Comfort, I pray that you’ll use this opportunity to expose these false teachers for what they are in accordance with Scripture (Jude 3), or avoid partnering with them “in ministry” so as to be obedient to 2 Corinthians 6:14-18,

Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? 15 Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? 16 Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, “I WILL DWELL IN THEM AND WALK AMONG THEM; AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE. 17 “Therefore, COME OUT FROM THEIR MIDST AND BE SEPARATE,” says the Lord. “AND DO NOT TOUCH WHAT IS UNCLEAN; And I will welcome you. 18 “And I will be a father to you, And you shall be sons and daughters to Me,” Says the Lord Almighty.


I will be praying for you my dear brother.

No Sin Nature? – Conclusion and Summary

July 5, 2008

Introduction: This is the final part in a series interacting with a gentleman that holds to libertarian freedom, denies the imputation of Adam’s sin and guilt to all humanity, and holds to sinless perfectionism.

******************************************************

Hi Jack,

Sorry I haven’t responded before now; but I have been busy caring for pressing family matters. You said,

“’Nature’ as taught in the bible means “manner of life”, not some coercive force that governs man; like Adam, man is a free moral agent as well.”

Given your suggested definition, that would mean that when the Bible refers to God’s nature (Rom. 1:20) it refers to God’s “manner of life”? The BDAG Greek lexicon never defines Ephesians 2:3c’s “nature” (phusis) as “manner of life”. Entry no. 1 defines phusis as “condition or circumstance as determined by birth, natural endowment/condition, nature” and goes on to elaborate “we were, in our natural condition (as descendants of Adam), subject to (God’s) wrath Eph 2:3 . . .”. Ephesians 2:3c is actually a demonstration of what all men are apart from Christ; namely, children of wrath, hopeless, and without God in the world (Ephesians 2:12). I commend this very well-written technical and exegetical paper that wonderfully discusses what I have argued for regarding the spiritual condition of all people from conception: EPHESIANS 2:3c AND PECCATUM ORIGINALE. As to the issue of coercion and “free moral agency”, please see my comments below.

You go on to say,

“. . . Paul tells us to “put on Christ”… this does not imply some coercive force that conforming us to holiness. “By nature children of wrath…” doesn’t in any way imply being born with a coercive sin nature and how you can get that implication is only by theological bias. People are children of wrath by their willful continuance in a sinful lifestyle.”

These statements contradict Scripture and erect somewhat of a straw man. We do not believe that people have the ability to do things that are spiritually pleasing to God, for such goes against their natural, spiritual proclivities (Romans 8:7-8). Nor do we believe that they are forced to act contrary to their constituent wills, but instead they are first “born from above”; and once their constituent natures are thusly changed in regeneration, they freely come to Christ because doing so is now part of their new nature (John 3:3, 5; Philippians 1:29). According to Scripture, those who are born from above “are born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12) In other words, John explicitly states that their regeneration occurs apart from their ancestry (“are born not of blood”), apart from their natural, fleshly wills (“nor of the will of the flesh”), apart from any portion of any man’s will (“nor of the will of man”) “but of God” and God alone. People always act in accordance with their desires, and since they are imputed with Adam’s sin and are accountable for their own actual sin, they do the desires of their father, the devil (John 8:44). Those without Christ are children of wrath not simply because they sin but because they are constituted as sinners from conception (Psalm 51:5). However, God’s born-again, blood-washed children willingly obey God’ word because God is working within them for their good and His glory. For example, Philippians 2:13 states, “for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” If you want to call Paul’s statement in Philippians 2:13 “coercion” then I leave you to your choice of words, but please remember that Paul himself never said that the Philippian Christians were acting contrary to their redeemed natures; nor do orthodox, confessional Calvinists. As to the imputation of Adam’s sin to the entire human race, John Piper states quite eloquently regarding Romans 5:12 ff:

At the end of verse 12 the words, “death spread to all men, because all sinned” mean that “death spread to all because all sinned in Adam.” Death is not first and most deeply because of our own individual sinning, but because of what happened in Adam. (Ibid)

Paul’s Emphasis Upon the One Transgression
Fourth, at least five times in the following verses Paul says that death comes upon all humans because of the one sin of Adam:

Verse 15: by the transgression of the one the many died

Verse 16: the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation

Verse 17: by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one

Verse 18: through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men

We are all condemned not ultimately because of our individual sins, but because of one sin (verse 18). We die not ultimately because of personal sins, but because of Adam’s one transgression (verse 17). It is not ultimately from our personal sins that we die, but rather “by the transgression of the one the many died.” Paul states over and over again that it is because of one sin that death and condemnation belong to us all. In other words, we are connected to Adam such that his one sin is regarded as our sin and we are worthy of condemnation for it.

The Direct Statement of Verse 19
Fifth, verse 19 provides us with a direct statement of imputation:

For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous.

Paul here says that we are made sinners by the sin of Adam. Due to his disobedience, we are regarded as sinners. We cannot take “made sinners” here to be referring to original sin in which we become inherently sinful because it is paralleled with “made righteous.” The phrase “made righteous” in this context is referring to the great truth of justification. Justification does not concern a change in our characters, the infusion of something inherent in us. Rather, it involves a change in our standing before God. In justification, God declares us righteous because He imputes to us the righteousness of Christ–not because He makes us internally righteous (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:21). Thus, when Paul says “made righteous” here, he means “imputed with righteousness” not “infused with righteousness.” Since “made sinners” is paralleled with “made righteous,” it must also be referring to imputation. Thus, Paul is saying that we are all made sinners in the sense that we are imputed with Adam’s sin.

You state,

“Often unbelievers will try to ascribe creation to the law of probability as if this law is coercive when in fact it is merely descriptive. Why do men universally sin? I believe once Adam was expelled from the Garden, He lost his fellowship with God, he also lost his hedge and men are now subjected to a world full of myriads of demons and sinners all enticing him to sin. This is why all men will sin, because they choose to selfishly satisfy their pleasures and follow the enticements of the evil-doers.”

I agree that the laws of science tell us what is the case versus what ought to be the case. However, you confuse categories when you compare that which is descriptive in the world via natural law with that which is declarative in Scripture in regards to the nature of the natural man. The issue is not descriptive versus prescriptive aspects of nature as compared to God’s word, the issue is that you disagree with the conclusions of the traditional Reformed exegesis and interpretation; thus leading you to Pelagianism and sinless perfectionism. Again, Scripture knows nothing of man’s freedom as being that of “the power of contrary choice.” Biblical freedom is not autonomous, but is defined as a deliverance from the slavery to sin in which all humans are born (cf. Psalm 51:5; Romans 5:18), into the glorious freedom of the children of God: “But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness” (Romans 6:17-18, emphases added). He can try to as hard as he wants, but a man can never escape being someone’s spiritual slave. The Devil’s motive was to get Adam and Eve to think that if they disobeyed God they could begin to rule their own lives — they could be the autonomous, masters of their own universe. Instead, by rejecting God’s rule, they took upon themselves Satan’s yoke (Ephesians 2:2). However, for those who have been set free from this bondage to corruption, Paul says in Romans 6:22-23, “But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Far from human freedom being the “power of contrary choice,” the very exercise of that power exercised by the first man and woman robbed their descendants of the only freedom for which we were made: the freedom of obedience to the Most High. Contrary to Pelagius, because our first parents exercised “the power of contrary choice” the resulting and resident corruption within man can never endue him with the natural ability to free himself from sin’s clutches since those who are descended from Adam physically and are in him spiritually are now “dead in trespasses and sins” and “by nature children of wrath” (Ephesians 2:1, 3). They are thusly afflicted, as Luther put it in the title of one of his most famous books by The Bondage of the Will; the will of the lost man is bound to the corrupt, rebellious, and sinful nature that he inherited from Adam and as a result, this fallen disposition and natural proclivity towards sin causes the lost to further corrupt themselves by their own wicked desires through the free and willful committing of actual sins.

We do not need a libertarian free will, we need a new and righteous nature that hungers for holiness, righteousness, and truth (2 Corinthians 5:17). We cannot produce that new nature for ourselves and by our own power, and least of all can we do so by an act of our own will, which is bound by the contrary nature. Dead, rebellious humans do not, cannot, repent, believe, and embrace the gospel (1 Corinthians 2:14). Man is indeed a free moral agent, but Calvinists have always defined free moral agency as man doing what man desires to do because what he does is ultimately a reflection of who he is spiritually enslaved to; hence, natural man has free moral agency, but no power of contrary choice insofar as that choice pertains to being able to do spiritual good and to spiritually please the Creator. Paul says further,

But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus, in order that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one 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. 2:4-10, emphasis added)

Regarding 1 John 1:8 in light of the rest of the epistle, you stated, “I believe that 1 John 1:8 was dealing with the Gnostics who denied the concept of sin. John was speaking to those Gnostics and refuting their teachings, they claimed to be enlightened and denied any sort of sin. They claimed to have the truth within them, yet denied the need of redemption from sin. This is evident because if you go on to read the epistle you will see that John expects believers to live in holiness and without sin especially chapters 2 and 3.”

It is true that these early antinomian Gnostics denied the need for forgiveness of sins and that this is what John was directly addressing, but it is not true that John expects believers to live completely without sin but instead he is teaching that the lifestyle of a born-again person is not characterized by habitual patterns of sin. When 1st John 3:6 says “No one who abides in Him sins . . .”, he is not teaching sinless perfectionism. Quite the contrary, the present-tense Greek verbs are correctly translated so as to indicate continual and habitual activity. For instance, this is why the NIV rightly translates 1 John 3:6, “No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.” The same idea is found in John’s later statement in 3:9, “No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God.” (NIV) If these verses are going to be used to prove sinless perfectionism, they would have to apply to all Christians since these verses describe what is true for everyone who is born of God. However, there are verses in both the Old and New Testaments that clearly teach that no one can be sinless in this life, excepting the Lord Jesus. For example, Solomon said in his prayer at the dedication of the temple, “When they sin against You (for there is no man who does not sin) . . .” (1 Kings 8:46) Another example can be seen in the rhetorical questions in Proverbs 20:9, “Who can say, ‘I have cleansed my heart, I am pure from my sin?’” and finally Solomon says, “Indeed, there is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins.” (Ecclesiastes 7:20) In the New Testament, Christ commands His disciples to pray for the forgiveness of their sins (Matthew 6:11-12). When Paul talks about the new power over sin that is given to a Christian, he does not say that there will be no sin in the Christian’s life, but simply tells the believers not to let sin reign in their bodies nor yield their members to sin (Romans 6:12-13). Note that Paul does not say that believers will not sin, but says that sin will not dominate or “have . . . dominion” over them (v. 14). The fact that Jesus and Paul would give such commands shows that they realized that sin will continue to be a present reality in the earthly life of a believer. Even James, the brother of Jesus said in a very matter of fact way, “For we all stumble in many ways . . .” (James 3:2)

Paul the apostle dealt with many born again believers that committed sins yet he never told them they had to be immediately sin-free practically from the moment of regeneration lest they be in danger of losing their salvation. So, if John is teaching sinless perfectionism, then we have a huge threefold problem (1) all those who commit sins after regeneration are really just self-deceived as to their conversion experience and are on their way to hell, (2) they really are regenerated but “undo” their regeneration and so lose their salvation the moment they commit their first sin (even if its worry or anxiety – the gravity or degree of sin doesn’t matter, the issue is that it is sin, period), something that I believe is contradicted by other Scripture, and (3) we have a blatant contradiction in Scripture, and so the Bible is now rendered unreliable and unable to guide us into all matters of faith and practice (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:10; Galatians 5:16). But if this view is not true, then all those who hold to and propagate it are lost and on their way to hell since John says “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” (1:8) So, if you hold to sinless perfectionism, you are going to get cut by its double-edged sword because (1) if it is true that John was teaching this, you undermine any epistemological warrant to know it is true since the apostles would be blatantly contradicting themselves since Paul and Peter had to give Christians commands to adhere to in their letters because they were practicing the exact opposite (i.e., Galatians 5:15-17), hence sinning; and so by your interpretation of John’s epistolary statements all those whom Paul and Peter were correcting via their letters would be lost and Paul himself would be deceived in considering them Christians and you now cannot trust Scripture. (2) You are lost if you have misinterpreted 1 John 1:8 since that passage says that those who say they presently have no sin are self-deceived and the truth is not in them. In light of this, it would be wise for you to rethink the dangerous, eternal ramifications of this heretical teaching.

When those who hold to sinless perfectionism interpret 1 John 1:8 to say that this verse does not apply to Christians but only these early Gnostics, he contradicts the grammatical and syntactical evidence provided by the verse. John writes verse 8 using the present tense of echo, planao, and eimi (translated “we have”, “we deceive,” and “is”), and in doing so, he is thereby showing that this is something that is true of all people at all times and not just Christians. The verse is literally translated with the present tense verbs bolded, if we may say – ‘sins no we have,’ ourselves we deceive, and the truth no is in us”. As said earlier, this has dangerous implications for the sinless perfectionist if they are wrong not only because they lose any warrant to trust the rest of Scripture but also because John explicitly states that those who are presently saying that they have no sin (that includes all people, including Christians) are deceiving themselves (heautous planomen) and the truth is not in them. This indicates that those who teach the false doctrine of sinless perfectionism are not making some mild, relatively harmless doctrinal error. No, John says this view is a damnable heresy.

In regards to Psalm 58:3 it was said, “Hyperbole, poetic, do you know of anyone who was speaking lie as an infant?

NAU Psalm 58:3 The wicked are estranged from the womb; These who speak lies go astray from birth.

First, Psalm 58:3 doesn’t say that infants tell lies. The NASB 95 translation says “Those who speak lies go astray from birth” not “those who speak lies do so from birth”. The literal Hebrew reads, speakers of a lie go astray from the womb.” This is exactly what Calvinists believe; namely, that infants are constituted sinners from conception onward (Psalm 51:5). Second, David is speaking specifically in the context of wicked lairs that have come against him and notes that their present behavior is rooted in something much deeper than their own actual sins; i.e., they have gone astray from birth.

The assertion “Original Sin was not taught by the Ante-Nicene Church; it is an Augustinian invention . . .” is not true. There are many direct and indirect references from the writings of the Ante-Nicene fathers regarding the imputation of Adam’s sin to the entire human race. Obviously, there is much more commentary from the Ante-Nicene Fathers than what is listed below, but for the sake of time and brevity, here are three quotes that disprove this assertion:

IRENAEUS (c. 180 AD)

“. . . having become disobedient, [Eve] was made the cause of death, both to herself and to the entire human race; so also did Mary, having a man betrothed [to her], and being nevertheless a virgin by yielding obedience, become the cause of salvation, both to herself and the whole human race. . . . And thus also it was that the knot of Eve’s disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary. For what the virgin Even had bound fast through unbelief, this did the virgin Mary set free through faith.” Against Heresies, 3:22; 4.

“But this is Adam, if the truth should be told, the first formed man, of whom the Scripture says that the Lord spake, ‘Let Us make man after Our own image and likeness;’ and we are all from him: and as we are from him, therefore have we all inherited his title. But inasmuch as man is saved, it is fitting that he who was created the original man should be saved. For it is too absurd to maintain, that he who was so deeply injured by the enemy, and was the first to suffer captivity, was not rescued by Him who conquered the enemy, but that his children were, – those whom he had begotten in the same captivity.” Ibid, 3:23:2.

And not by the aforesaid things alone has the Lord manifested Himself, but [He has done this] also by means of His passion. For doing away with [the effects of] that disobedience of man which had taken place at the beginning by the occasion of a tree, ‘He became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross;” rectifying that disobedience which had occurred by reason of a tree, through that obedience which was [wrought out] upon the tree [of the cross]. Now He would not have come to do away, by means of that same [image], the disobedience which had been incurred towards our Maker if He proclaimed another Father. But inasmuch as it was by these things that we disobeyed God, and did not give credit to His word, so was it also by these same that He brought in obedience and consent as respects His word; by which things He clearly shows forth God Himself, whom indeed we had offended in the first Adam, when he did not perform His commandment. In the second Adam, however, we are reconciled, being made obedient even unto death. For we were debtors to none other but to Him whose commandment we had transgressed at the beginning.” Ibid., 5:16:3.

TERTULLIAN (c. 200 AD)

“In expressing vexation, contempt, or abhorrence, thou hast Satan constantly upon thy lips; the very same we hold to be the angel of evil, the source of error, the corrupter of the whole world, by whom in the beginning man was entrapped into breaking the commandment of God. And (the man) being given over to death on account of his sin, the entire human race, tainted in their descent from him, were made a channel for transmitting condemnation.” The Testimony of the Soul, 3:2, c. 200 AD)

METHODIUS (c. 300 AD)

For he [man] also was created without corruption, that he might honour the kind and maker of all things, responding to the shouts of the melodius angels which came from heaven. But when it came to pass that, by transgressing the commandment (of God), he suffered a terrible and destructive fall, being thus reduced to a state of death, for this reason the Lord says that He came down from heaven into (a human) life, leaving the ranks and the armies of angels. . . . For it remained that man should be included in this catalogue and number, the Lord lifting him up and wrapping him round, that he might not again, as I said, be overflowed and swallowed up by the waves of deceit. For with this purpose the Word assumed the nature of man, that, having overcome the serpent, He might by Himself destroy the condemnation which had come into being along with man’s ruin. For it was fitting that the Evil One should be overcome by no other, but by him whom he had deceived, and whom he was boasting that he held in subjection, because no otherwise was it possible that sin and condemnation should be destroyed, unless that same man on whose account it had been said, ‘Dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return,’ should be created anew, and undo the sentence which for his sake had gone forth on all, that ‘as in Adam’ at first ‘all die, even so’ again ‘in Christ,’ who assumed the nature and position of Adam, should “all be made alive.” The Banquet of the Ten Virgins or Concerning Chastity, 3:6.

In conclusion, regardless of how difficult and unfair all of this may seem, people are conceived and born in sin because of their first father Adam. In other words, all people are blamed for something they did not do. However, God is not subject to our fallen notions of fairness and no one can restrain His hand or say to him “what have you done?” The Most High does whatever pleases Him and it is sinful for people to complain and shake their fists because they do not agree with the ethics of the Almighty (Dan. 4:34-35). Christians worship a God who is merciful and loving but they also worship a God who commanded the genocide of the Canaanites. As unfair as all of that may seem, Christians benefit from something they did not do because they have been set free from the bondage of original and actual sin because. If the unfairness of the imputation of Adam’s sin to his posterity concerns people, then it is inconsistent to not cry foul when sinners receive pardon and forgiveness on the basis of Christ’s blood and righteousness apart from anything they have personally done (Romans 3:21-26). In light of what has been said already, I believe that the proper response in all of these cases can be summed up in one word: Worship.

No Sin Nature? – Part II

June 30, 2008

Introduction: What follows is a continuation of my discussion with our friend “Jack”, a man who holds to libertarian freedom and denies that people possess a sin nature from conception.

*******************************************************

Jack,

You said,

Psalm 51:5 doesn’t state that David was born with a sin nature within him but rather that he was conceived in sin.”

And so (1) you blatantly contradict all major orthodox Protestant commentators on this verse. You may not care about contradicting the Regula Fide of the Church of Jesus Christ, but doing so should give any man cause for pause. Were not talking about mere details of eschatology, but core doctrines of the faith once for all handed down to the saints, some of which you seem to reject. Also, (2) your statement above doesn’t help anyway since you only state what the verse itself states and what you *don’t* believe about the verse. We want to know what you think it means. State positively what it means not just what it says. If you continue to remain aloof as to your interpretation of it then you are being disingenuous and refuse to meaningfully deal with it. You also have yet to deal with Psalm 58:3.

I am familiar with the different understandings of Original Sin, but since you deny them all, why make an appeal to them?

You went on to say,

“You need to focus on the scriptures that teach how God is honored when men live holy, how He boasted over Job who didn’t sin through his trials and get away from the horrible teaching of “total depravity” which teaches that you are a slave to sin until the day you go to the grave.”

This is a straw man misrepresentation of what Calvinists believe. We believe that the *unregenerate* sinner is totally unable to come to Christ *before* conversion lest Christ set him free from the bondage of his own cherished sin. Once regenerated and set free by God’s regenerating grace, the redeemed saint willingly comes to Christ, adores Him forever, and desires to deny himself, take up his cross, and follow after Jesus. The redeemed saint is *not* a slave to sin, but a slave of Christ. Is he completely sin-free? NO! That will not happen till he is in glory; but as a redeemed saint, he now has the ability, the desire, and the freedom to please God and the freedom to sin. If you say a redeemed saint cannot sin, then you contradict Scripture again:

NAU 1 John 1:8 If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.

If you believe that the redeemed sinner is able in this earthly life to become completely sin free then according to the apostle John you are self-deceived and the truth is not in you.

You said further,

“Read Romans 6 “…you are no longer under law but grace, therefore sin shall not have dominion over you”. If anyone sins daily, he is under the dominion of sin and is not walking in grace.”

If a person is habitually practicing sin and no chastisement or repentance is present, that person is self-deceived, lost, and does not know God.

NAU 1 John 1:6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth;

NAU 1 John 2:4 The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him;

NAU 1 John 3:7-10 Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; 8 the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. 9 No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. 10 By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother.

No Sin Nature? – Part I

June 29, 2008

Introduction: What follows is an interaction that I had with an SBF combox commenter named “Jack” under Part I of my series titled “The Logical Implications of the Synergistic View of God’s Knowledge.” Jack denies compatibalistic freedom in favor of libertarian version and also denies that people are conceived in the womb and born with a sin nature.

******************************************************

Hi Jack,

You said, “Dustin, the concept of a sin nature is not taught in the bible.”

This is patently false. The Bible explicitly states in Psalm 51:5 and 58:3 that we were conceived in the womb as sinners, came forth from the womb behaving like wicked sinners, and later in Ephesians 2:3 Paul explicitly says that as a result of being constituted as sinners, we are *by nature* children of wrath before conversion. We’ll look at Psalm 51:5 first.

NAU Psalm 51:5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me.

In the above verse, David declares that he, as a conceptus in his mother’s womb, was reckoned a sinner. If you want to deny that this verse means such, you’re left with the absurd notion that (1) this verse is teaching that the sexual intimacy between David’s father and mother which brought about his conception was a sinful act, an interpretation that would contradict the clear Scriptural teaching that says that making love to your wife is a good and godly thing, especially when it results in children [Psalm 127:3; Song of Songs; Hebrews 13:4], and (2) all major commentators I’ve ever read agree with my basic interpretation of Psalm 51:5. So, in order to say that David wasn’t reckoned a sinner, you’re left with an interpretation of this passage that would force you to contradict the rest of Scripture and also you are opposing all orthodox, historic Protestant interpretations of said passage. Of course, such doesn’t necessarily make my interpretation right, but it surely should give you cause for pause. If you want to hold your position in order to avoid what the majority of commentators have held, then fine. I’ll stick with the traditional interpretation as it gels better with the totality of Scripture and maintains internal consistency with the rest of God’s word.

NAU Psalm 58:3 The wicked are estranged from the womb; These who speak lies go astray from birth.

Little infants are not sin-free and innocent blank slates, but Scripture clearly teaches that when you compare their moral constitution to God, they are at enmity with Him from their mothers’ wombs. This is what theologians have called the “sinful nature”. This affects them physically and spiritually. If such wasn’t the case, then there would be no infant mortality. But babies die; either by the hands of abortionists, some through miscarriages, and others through infanticide or devastating diseases. But regardless, infants die. So, whether they die from homicide, disease, or unexplainable causes, they die because of sin (“for the wages of sin is death” Romans 6:23). No sin = no death. But Adam sinned, and consequently, the death of infants proves that they have sin because sin = death. Such things teach us that the effects of Adam’s sin are pervasive; even to such an extent that a baby in the womb dies because of the sin that they inherited from Adam. Thus, they are conceived and born as sinners, with a disposition and innate desire to sin. As Scripture says, “foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child”, “the wages of sin is death . . .” and “in Adam all die” (Romans 6:23; 1 Corinthians 15:22). If they were innocent, they wouldn’t die (even through the sin of another), but because they are sinners by nature, and such as they are in Adam, they die.

However, God does not punish the innocent because ultimately, when it comes to being compared to His righteous standard, there are *no* innocent people, including infants (Romans 3:10-11). You may appeal to passages like Ezekiel 18:20, “The person who sins will die. The son will not bear the punishment for the father’s iniquity, nor will the father bear the punishment for the son’s iniquity; the righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked will be upon himself.”

As a non-Calvinist, it appears that you are doing the same thing that the Jews did in Ezekiel’s day. The Jews wrongly re-interpreted both the actions of their ancestors and their own actions in an attempt to vindicate themselves. In Ezekiel’s day they were being punished with captivity, so they argued, “We are not the guilty ones. Our fathers were. This captivity is not fair to us.” But the truth is, the Jews in captivity had not learned the lesson any more than their fathers had. They inherited their father’s guilt, sin and disposition. They were no different and were being rightly punished accordingly. They were being punished for both their fathers’ sin and their own. Again, God does not punish innocent people because there are no innocent people (except Christ of course).

Passages like those of Ezekiel 18:4, 20 do nothing to disprove that people are conceived as sinful in Adam. This is because the same Bible teaches elsewhere that God visits the iniquity of the parents onto their children, which for the sake of argument, even if Original Sin wasn’t true, on such a standard God still wouldn’t be considered fair and just. This is because since God did in fact visit the iniquity of the fathers onto their offspring via actual sins committed by their ancestors through external influences such as idolatry and rebelliousness leading Israel into captivity, then the whole basis for the “God isn’t fair to hold me responsible for what Adam did and have me be born with a sinful nature” argument melts away and the very foundation used to raise any objection against the Biblical doctrine of Original Sin is demolished.

Ephesians 2:3, “Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.”

Jack, this verse refers to what the Ephesians were *by nature* before their conversions not that they did this to themselves by their willful actions. You asserted that we are “cursed because of Adam & Eve” yet you deny that men are sinners by nature. You can’t have your cake and eat it too. You seem to want to make a dichotomy between man being cursed in Adam (i.e., being given a blank slate at birth but put into a situation where at some point [i.e., an “age of accountability”] he, as a morally neutral being operating in a cursed creation, will exercise his libertarian freedom to choose evil and only then at that time become a bona-fide sinner). If you believe such, then you (1) contradict Scripture as shown above and (2) you are saying that the Creation is subjected to the bondage of the curse brought about by Adam and Eve per Romans 8:20-23 yet man, as a part of that Created order is actually exempt from said bondage. If such is your view, then I leave the reader to decide who has made a Scriptural case in light of my previous presentation.

In summary, the first man Adam rebelled against God (Genesis 2:16-17; 3:1-19) and his offspring continues to rebel against God to this day by refusing to honor Him and be thankful (Ecclesiastes 7:29; Romans 1:18-32; Psalm 14). As a result of the first sin of Adam, all men are consequently evil and sinful from the womb (Psalm 51:5; 58:3). God made all people sinners in Adam (Romans 5:19), and not one is good, not even one (Psalm 143:2; Ecclesiastes 7:20; Romans 3:10-18, 23). The hearts of lost men are sick with sin (Jeremiah 17:9) and God will hold every single person accountable for their actions (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14).

Thanks for the response Jack. Although I strongly disagree, I appreciate your interaction.

A resolution I wish the Convention had seen

June 12, 2008

The following resolution was written by John Mann and submitted to the Resolutions Committee, but only the title was given in Wednesday’s bulletin, followed by the word “declined,” so messengers never got to see or vote upon this resolution. [This is the text from SBC Today]:

WHEREAS the Great Commission instructs Christians to make disciples by teaching the commands of Christ; and

WHEREAS Scripture teaches that as the saints are equipped, they will, “no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine,” (Ephesians 4:12, 14); and

WHEREAS Scripture commands us to, “instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines,” (1st Timothy 1:3); and

WHEREAS Baptist are historically a people that have been unified around common doctrinal distinctives and convictions; and

WHEREAS the Introduction of the Baptist Faith and Message states, “Baptist are a people of deep beliefs and cherished doctrines,” and

WHEREAS being a witness demands a clear understanding of Whom we witness about, and who we witness to; and

WHEREAS we have observed a compromise of doctrinal distinctives in recent days in various other denominations by sacrificing clear, scriptural principles upon the altar of cultural acceptance for the purpose of a unified ecumenism, which has neither been unifying nor healthy; now, therefore be it

RESOLVED, that we, the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Indianapolis, Indiana on June 10-11, 2008 affirm that our mission of reaching the world for Christ must be defined and determined by our doctrine of Christ; and be it further

RESOLVED, that our understanding of Christ must inform our witness to Christ; and be it further

RESOLVED, that we repudiate any attempt to teach about God that which is contradictory to clear Scriptural revelation; and be it further

RESOLVED, that, although there are various doctrines open to differing interpretations, there are certain doctrines that cannot be compromised for the purpose of establishing a New Testament church and a unified Convention; and be it finally

RESOLVED, that we encourage all pastors, church members, and churches, to pursue proper doctrinal understanding through teaching and preaching for the purpose of continuing to educate believers in an attempt to edify and equip Southern Baptists to engage the world in conversation about Christ in an evangelistic effort. (more…)

SBC Presidential Nominations

June 10, 2008

[Apologies to readers for not finding the time last week to post thoughts on SBC Today‘s interview with Wiley Drake. Though it’s too late now for this to inform your vote, the interview may be heard HERE.]

Junior Hill, nominating Frank Cox, said he was nominating him for the following reasons:
1. Conviction: (Theological and practical)
2. Giving: (To CP)
3. Leadership: (VP of SBC and President of Georgia Baptist Convention two times)
4. Personality: (Gracious, humble, and able to work with all churches– large and small– in the SBC)

John Marshall, nominating Avery Willis, said that Willis will lead in:
1. Revival
2. Discipleship (as evidenced by his work with MasterLife)
3. Cooperative Program (increased CP giving in every church he has served as to as much as 20%)
4. Growth

Wade Burleson, nominating Bill Wagner, cited Dr. Wagner’s resume and emphasized that he is a small church pastor and career missionary.

Alan Stoddard, nominating Les Puryear, presented Puryear as a continuation of what he considered to be the best aspects of Page’s presidency, saying that Puryear would:
1. Continue the practice of Dr. Page of including those previously overlooked
2. Continue Page’s practice of reaching out to ethnic minorities
3. Continue Page’s practice of reaching out to small churches
4. Dr. Puryear will promote greater unity within the SBC

Don Roberts, nominating Wiley Drake, made the following assertions:
1. Drake is a great personal example in personal growth and family life
2. Drake has experience in leadership as a pastor and as organizer of the Presidential Prayer Team
3. Drake is a man of conviction in not giving in to city ordinances to kick homeless people out of sleeping in his church building

Ted Traylor, nominating Johnny Hunt, gave an impassioned speech, which included the following characteristics he felt would make Hunt the best SBC president this next year:
1. His heart for missions: CP giving– 3.3 million dollars last year and church planting efforts
2. His heart for the next generation: Timothy/Barnabas Conference
3. He will unite the SBC
(more…)

Emergent Church Job Description

January 31, 2008

I was recently sent the following job description from a “faith community” that describes itself as “emergent.” I am interested in how SBF readers would respond to this job description. [Note: The following description is rather long.] (more…)

SBF’s Timmy Brister on Calling for Truth

January 30, 2008

Today during the 1PM-2PM [EST] time-slot, SBF blogger Timmy Brister will be on the Calling for Truth radio program in connection with his 2008 Puritan Reading Challenge. You can listen to the program by going HERE and then clicking the “Listen Online!” icon in the upper right-hand corner during the time of the show. SBF readers are encouraged to call in with questions or comments during the program, which will focus on The Bruised Reed by Richard Sibbes. The toll-free number is 1-888-660-9535.

Timmy Brister’s interview of Mark Dever on Richard Sibbes for the 2008 Puritan Reading Challenge

January 23, 2008

Yesterday the Said at Southern Seminary blog posted the audio file for an interview of Mark Dever by SBF blogger Timmy Brister. (You can hear the interview HERE.) This interview focused on Dever’s doctoral dissertation, Richard Sibbes: Puritanism and Calvinism in Late Elizabethan and early Stuart England. This interview was conducted in conjunction with Timmy’s 2008 Puritan Reading Challenge.

Celebrate the New Year by Cultivating the Discipline of Spiritual Discernment

January 2, 2008

“Discipline” and “discernment.” These two concepts, so characteristic of historic Christianity, have become neglected and even despised within many sectors of modern evangelicalism. As soon as someone begins to speak on “discipline” the charge of “legalism” immediately follows. Mentioning “discernment” (with concrete examples) will often get one labeled as “divisive.” Yet by God’s grace many have realized that if we are to love our Savior as we ought- if we are to consistently obey His commandments- we must cultivate the practice of engaging in the spiritual disciplines: disciplines such as reading and hearing the Scripture, private and corporate prayer, worshiping God in song, the giving of our resources to help others, etc. When thinking about how we should engage in these spiritual disciplines and how these disciplines shape our daily lives another discipline comes into play- the discipline of spiritual discernment.

Spiritual discernment is a consistent underlying theme of this blog and it is a topic about which many of our readers care deeply. What this blog (and many other resources) have not done is to carefully instruct readers in how to cultivate the discipline of spiritual discernment for themselves. As many readers may also know, a book has just become available by Tim Challies titled The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment. This book looks to be an excellent resource to help readers develop “the skill of understanding and applying God’s Word with the purpose of separating truth from error and right from wrong.”

The official description of this book is as follows:

Spiritual discernment is good for more than just making monumental decisions according to God’s will. It is an essential, day-to-day activity that allows thoughtful Christians to separate the truth of God from error and to distinguish right from wrong in all kinds of settings and situations. It is also a skill—something that any person can develop and improve, especially with the guidance in this book.

Written by a leading evangelical blogger, The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment is an uplifting, scripturally grounded work that explains the need for discernment, its challenges, and the steps that will cultivate it. Author Tim Challies does not do the discerning for readers; he simply shows them how to practically apply scriptural tools, principles, and wisdom so that their conclusions about everything—people, teachings, decisions, media, and organizations—will be consistent with God’s Word.

I am planning to make time to read this book in this new year, and I encourage you to consider doing so as well.

The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment is available from Monergism Books HERE.

Update: Interesting conversations concerning this book have recently taken place on both Justin Taylor’s blog and Tim Challies’ blog. My comment: To suggest that there’s anything Dr. Albert Mohler hasn’t read is to walk on very thin ice.