Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Young, Restless and Reformed and Your Emergent Cousins: Put This in Your Pipe and Smoke It.

Please, spare me your Bohemian Culture. It's getting really, really old, really, really fast. Now, go learn the difference between The Ray Charles Singers and Ray Charles.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

N.T. Prophets and Prophecies: Wayne Grudem's Exegetical and Theological Collapse Courtesy of Dr. Bruce Compton

Doctrine of the Divine Decree
I am always fascinated by those who believe that the apostolic sign gifts are still operational today in spite of their alleged practice being absent of even the most basic similarities of biblical accounts during the apostolic era of the church (pre-canon some might say). And the arguments for this view flow like sour milk from an abandoned dairy.

But never minding the whole of the matter of apostolic sign gifts (or however you wish to categorize the issue) and considering a singular and prominent part of it, namely prophecy and the assertion its is still operating today along with one of its current celebrated advocates and his arguments, I want to introduce you to Bruce Compton, Professor of Biblical Languages and Exposition at Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary. This introduction to Bruce Compton, if you have not read his material before, I believe will prove to be a substantial introduction for your personal studies in the future.

Some of you may have a hint of what I am addressing but let me be precise. Wayne Grudem is the author of Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine as well as, The Gift of Prophecy in 1 Corinthians and The Gift of Prophecy in the New Testament and Today. Initially fully defined in his Systematic Theology work and later, in doubling down on this specific topic with publications devoted especially to considerations of New Testament prophecy, Wayne Grudem (asserted by many to be a conservative Evangelical) introduced to many cessationist conservative Evangelicals, (as well as already convinced non-cessationist of many kinds) a new kind of argument for a new kind of view regarding the exercise of the gift of prophecy in the New Testament.

New arguments have a way of catching some people off guard, particularly those who are lazy exegetes and theologians. And Grudem caught many off guard. By the way, some people are lazy or negligent exegetes and theologians on purpose and their being caught off guard isn’t, to them, treated as a bad thing, rather as a humbling enlightenment. Now their "on purpose" has many reasons, some not so good and some purely from deficient training; still, though, it is lazy and negligent.

And it might be true, that sometimes new enlightenment is humbling, but only if it stems from rigorous exegesis and consistent theology. And this is where the rubber meets the road. Bruce Compton, of DBTS, provides and wonderfully binding rebuttal to Grudem’s  current theological esotericism involving a proprietary understanding of the New Testament parameters and operation of prophecy.

I do not consider Wayne Grudem to be a particularly thorough or exacting Christian thinker. He is bright in some spots but that is far removed from the demands of the disciplined vetting which must go on in one’s thinking and with their conclusions before publishing formulations which challenge orthodox views, or in the least, seeks to modify orthodoxy in some way. And the best example I can think of is his Granville Sharp rule mistake.

I will not go into detail (because Compton presents it in his paper) as to the mistake Grudem somewhat now acknowledges he made with the Greek Granville Sharp rule,  but I will say that it was a mistake that a second year Greek student could have easily identify once he has learned the Granville Sharp rule. Does this mean all of Grudem’s work should be suspect? Not necessarily, but it points to claims (not just by me but by many others) of one of many examples of Grudem’s sloppiness and inconsistency, sincere though he may be. But this is not the sum of Grudem's arguements on the matter, it is one point, and he makes other arguments which, of course, Comptom treats super efficiently.

So if you have not read it and are interested in introducing yourself to the arguments of this issue or simply need a refresher, allow me to recommend, (PDF)  The Continuation of New Testament Prophecy and a Closed Canon: A Critique of Wayne Grudem’s Two Levels of New Testament Prophecy, By Dr. R. Bruce Compton, Professor of Biblical Languages and Exposition, Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary (2011). You will be more than satisfied.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Never Bring Your Ego to a Theological Gun Fight or How to Learn the Word of God (Part 1)

Doctrine of the Divine Decree

The internet has given opportunity for Christians to interact with each other and theological beliefs on a wider scale than in any time in history. To me this is an absolutely wonderful occasion for the body of Christ to test the prescriptive nature of their theological beliefs and make whatever adjustments necessary upon further enlightenment. Unfortunately, much of what occurs are theological gun fights where people bring their egos which, of course, results in them directing their efforts toward protecting their narcissistic investment and ultimately the truth is not what is at stake for them though they imagine it to be so. This is not a new phenomenon itself and before the internet such egotistically based theological debating (obviously along with non-theological topics but this is not the subject of the essay) was present, even with men of substantial notoriety.  

Now such people who bring their egos to the party often are completely unaware of what is going on in their defensive posture. They genuinely believe they are defending the truth and usually make arguments about their views of Scripture or some issue but in reality their arguments serve as a façade for what is really occurring, namely the protection of their ego. This is brings us to the most basic rule of learning the Word of God: divest yourself of your ego or else you will end up latching on to bad ideas and refusing to let go all because of your egotistical investment.

The Mistake of Egotistical Investment in Your Theology

Theology is not personal but it is applied personally. That is, knowledge of God stems from God, not you. If it stemmed from you it would be personal but it is not, it stems from God, hence it is a property of God, not you. Now, God does mean for you to personally apply it and gain all of its benefits, personally, but it, itself, is not personal, it does not belong to you as personal property, it is a property of God which he gives to you from which you may benefit. And it does become part of your person, as well, but still, it is God’s property which he has given to you and your ego is never part of the formula. Get it? And that is the fundamental problem with many students of theology; they make it personal property. That is to say, their theological positions are part of their ego identification. The ego, your ego, is personal property and it belongs to each person but the moment one’s theology is attached to this personal property it, too, is treated as de facto personal property. This is a great mistake. How does this happen?

It happens, basically, because we are sinful which can often result in selfishness and immaturity in our learning process of God’s Word (especially at the initial stages but certainly, if not corrected, such misdirection becomes exacerbated over time and great arrogance takes over). As a result we tend not to audit our ego; rather we leave it alone thinking that its investment is part of the process. Wrong. Ultimately what occurs is that we will latch on to a system which appears righteous or pious as well as one that, at the time, seems rationally superior since we are still using, to a great degree, human instruments for our gauges and as a result, spiritually (often emotionally) immature saints find themselves making unwarranted theological allegiances far too early. This tragic decision is common in the life of believers but sometimes such a tragedy is a road from which many never fully recover and some go on to permanent error on many points of Scripture.

Learning From the Mistakes of R.C. Sproul  and John Piper 

R.C Sproul and John Piper are are two prominent Calvinists with Piper being far less classical and more Neo-Calvinist or New Calvinist. Over the last 25 years both men have had high profile ministries which have reached outside of Calvinist circles. Both men also share an interesting and very similar entrance in Calvinism as as Justin Taylor relates, The Legacy of R.C. Sproul and John Piper:
Both men became Calvinists during seminary, as their resistance was overcome by God using a professor who insisted on taking God at his word.

Both men discovered and were deeply impacted by Jonathan Edwards during their seminary days.
Why is this so significant? What is the take away? It is this. When both of these men entered seminary they did so at the beginning of their serious studies, not at the height. They were there to gain tools in order to spend a number of years making determinations via exegesis and so on so that at some point they could form their theological conclusions. But what happened to them both? It was not after gaining the essential tools and subsequent years of study that led them to becoming convinced Calvinists, rather it was while theological babes they came to the kind of conclusions which only seasoned and well vetted study can produce.

Both men found a system which required significant theological verification or validation through their own personal studies before they could be convinced of it yet, somehow, they were this soon. How is this possible? It is only possible if they made the very mistake being discussed which is to make an ego investment in order to allow themselves to be convinced of such significant and broad determinations because, as we can observe, they simply had not gained the necessary tools to come to these certainties. What impressed them, obviously, were the constructed arguments of other men which they never before imagined themselves and upon being exposed to these they concluded, prematurely, that this system of theology and its accompanied arguments were the embodiment of the highest theology. Such neglect of possessing all of the necessary skills, tools and time utilizing them in order to claim acceptance of a rather sophisticated and comprehensive theological system can point to only one primary cause, ego investment.

And if you wish to make a comparison to other subjects of learning, remember we are not talking about basics or fundamentals of which any subject has broad consensus, rather of a super-proprietary school of theology which requires rigorousness, exactness and time invested in order to produce claims of certain agreement, none of which Sproul or Piper could have accomplished at that time, though they concluded so very early in their studies. And the point is not whether such instructors were right or wrong but the problem of immediate and comprehensive theological persuasions which are exampled by Sproul and Piper.

This phenomenon is not uncommon for those involved in higher education. Students are exposed to ideas and sophisticated articulations of those ideas which they have not encountered or at least, to any significant degree. And the arguments come from masters of schools of thought and certainly such masters and their subordinate instructors happily accommodate the eager minds of their students by filling them with knowledge and information they never encountered before and giving them a certain false confidence about a topic because they (the students) now know something that, apparently, many others do not know, therefore it must be right.

Many kids go off to college and return convinced of evolution. They haven’t studied it themselves, so much (other than assigned reading which minimizes objections and elevates evolutionary positions), but have been indoctrinated or taught it by those who believe in it. It is a prejudicial education, which is not necessarily a fault, per se, but it still must be viewed as it is, prejudicial. And many students who became evolutionists in college, not really as a result of personal research but from an orchestrated indoctrination, become ardent evolutionists in their gathering of information in the remainder of their lives, either anecdotally or professionally and the analysis of any new or relevant information is simply submitted to a mental mechanization designed to validate what they already are convinced of instead of allowing the evidence to be interpreted minus their agenda. This is much like, in my view, Piper and Sproul in their early theological formation and subsequent theological articulations which are not to stray from Calvinism.

The Results of Ego Investment in Theology

The young mind is caught up in the aura of the event, the learning, the expertise and so on of things he rarely considered. Even worse, imagine if the young man who, without the proper tools to make such a significant determinations, does so anyway and then spends the rest of his life defending this one system as superior and all of his research, discoveries and arguments are invested in a way which seeks to validate what he has already determined to be supreme before he could even make such a determination? Theologically speaking, the answer is at best, a man who has a crippled theology in which he spends the rest of his life using the Word of God to defend a system instead of developing a system to defend the Word of God.  And that is precisely what both men (Sproul and Piper) have done in a large way and that system, is of course, Calvinism. They are devotees to Calvinism. But this can be true of any system.

Does this mean anyone going down such a road will not come to any right conclusions? Of course not. It is clear no one is perfect in all their theological views as we stand on earth, now. But this fact does not negate the essential processes of right theological development. So we do not excuse this.

I have read (as many have) plenty of theological works of men who are wrong on some things, some more than others. I can and do throw out the chaff. But for many there is a substantial chaff. Sadly, today, in the Protestant/Evangelical body there is a great deal of book publishing and sectarianism supported by men devoted to a "program and system" and who use the Word of God to protect and/or promote associations, systems and their personal positions. This is the route of ego investment

Yes, God’s Holy Spirit does not leave any believer and continues illuminating us all and may you benefit from what is true if you entertain the teaching of those who deliver volumes of chaff. And if you want to squelch God’s illumination then enlist early on in some theological system before you are able to validate it and you, too, will have an opportunity to blur your spiritual vision and produce self-invested and novel theologies and expressions which point to you, your group or your treasured system.

Vetting Your Theology and With Gregory Peck and 12 O’clock High

12 O’clock High, starring Gregory Peck, is a great film story. It is about a bomb squad’s deficient morale and failing leadership due to a lack of proper vetting of their skills, experiences and themselves. Gregory Peck is a General who steps in to command the squad and immediately demands deference to protocol and precision in all that is being done. He identifies slackers and lackeys as well as those fit for some leadership and so on. He becomes the ultimate vetting mechanism by being a source of rigorous and exacting evaluation of each man, his personal constitution and his skills and performance. 

What results is that egos are removed and objectivity takes its place. While morale changes it does not change because egos are catered to, rather the objective is catered to which forces the men to adjust themselves and their efforts toward it and not it toward themselves and their efforts. In the movie many wanted to quit, get rid of the hard Commander and a few did leave. But once they were forced to endure the maturation process and come to proper views based on proper vetting, they were not met with irreconcilable issues (in the realm of theology it is called theological tension which is a myth but a solution for those without answers because their theology is, frankly, inadequate) rather, they were properly prepared for what lay ahead and were able to correctly view their challenges, their strengths and weaknesses and succeed. They did not wish to have their bubble of illusion protected anymore because of sensitive and invested egos instead, they sought to be the protectors because they now knew why and how to meet the objective and it wasn’t through serving their egos.

This is what removing your ego and vetting your theological or biblical beliefs in a proper manner is like. You don’t take it personally; you take it and treat it objectively. You don’t matter in terms of truth. You must adjust yourself to the truth and not the truth being adjusted to serve your petty and narcissistic ego which steers your theological endeavors and expressions. But to do this means you have to be willing to writer “Leper Colony” (you will have to watch the movie to understand) on the nose of your bomber and admit from the start that you aren’t in the ranks of those who have endured the necessary rigors and you must accept the truth, instead, that you are at the beginning and need to be taught everything or that you skipped the beginning and pretended to be at the end, early on, and need to go back. That isn’t easy for the egotistical saint. He or she wants to quickly be the smartest one in the room.

Today’s Popular Protestant/Evangelical Vetting

Today, if many popular Protestant/Evangelicals had to vet their theology through the kinds of vetting mechanisms used in the military during war, but even today (especially in special ops training), they would be laughed off the process. They would be File 13’ed in during the initial stages.

In the military there are objectives. And any ideas and endeavors suggested to meet those objectives are vetted as to how they may serve reaching these objectives. There is a rigorous process in which the hands of many professionals handle and evaluate these things. They are sometimes trashed right away and sometimes come out much different but still retaining some essentials of an original effort. In other words, it gets properly vetted.

On the other hand many Protestant/Evangelicals are like a “Theological Mutual Admiration Society” who vet one another with self-interests in mind. They make sure feelings are treasured, personalities are groomed and the preposterous is justified in order to make some money selling a book, protecting investments whether real or psychological and preserving their ministry cause (not necessarily God’s mind you).

You don’t want to belong to any such club, whether you are just beginning or at the end of your walk with the Lord and theological discoveries. The question for you today is just how did you come to your convictions and conclusions? Did you latch on to something and insure it simply got validated, over and over again, by reading only those things which would do this? And then did you invest your ego as you went about arguing your allegedly new found knowledge or illumination before you took the time to genuinely vet all of this? I am sure for some the answer is not a positive one.

You cannot afford to be weak in your theology because it weakens you spiritually. You cannot afford to enlist in theological crusades and become a sycophant seeking pats on the backs by your Gurus or their junior representatives. As well, you cannot afford to succumb to group think or treasure the value of a theological system to the injury of sound exegesis and spiritual enlightenment. That is not what God calls you to. 

The Other Mistake Not to Make

Let's say you recognize this and wish to make a change. There is a warning I want to give you, a second mistake you can make which is possibly worse than the first and that is to exchange one system for another and not perform your due diligence.

For some years Independent Fundamentalist Baptists have reacted to some of the quasi-sect's past failures in leadership, practice and exegesis. And while some have taken the proper steps to evaluate their associations and make whatever remedies necessary for their personal spiritual health, I have also watched, over and over again, many believers jump from the frying pan into the fire. 

Now let me be clear, this is not about Independent Fundamentalist Baptists, they have a history like any other sect with the great, good, bad and ugly. And there remains within this diverse group many very good exegetes, leaders and practitioners of sound biblical Christianity. 

So here is what I mean about the frying pan into the fire. Many of these IFB believers latched on to certain elements within the IFB group, particularly extreme elements such as King James Bible Onlyism or some sort of crusading form of Christianity which de-emphasized good exegesis or principled leadership and practice and but excelled at  righteous appearances, deeds and attitudes.

Such people started out wrongly, though their being victims of poor leadership and teaching do play into this. But in reaction to learning that this is not the way, many have failed to correct the very thing which made them vulnerable in the first place and when encountering what they determined to be more considerate theological articulations, they simply repeated the same mistake as before and fully enlisted in a system, movement, practice and structure which they, again, fail to vet because they simply did not gain the tools in order to properly make the assessments and validations necessary.  They are still involving themselves spiritually/theologically at an ego investment level.

You cannot afford to trade one cruel master for another. Theological development and spiritual health is not about that.  So be careful that you do not bring your ego to your new gun fight or you will simply be shot down again, spiritually speaking, and suffer unneeded injuries again. Your eventual injuries may be different, they make take longer in coming, but they will come because a right thing (theological development) done in a wrong way (immature allegiance resulting in double-downed sycophantism through an arrogance complex) is wrong.

Called to Divest Yourself of Ego 

But what is wonderful is, when you let go of your ego and begin accepting instruction instead of seeking ideas to make you become “right”, you will slowly develop theological certainties and convictions which can take any hammering the world, Satan and humanity has to offer. You will be a stalwart for you brothers and sisters. You will stand firm and find others standing as well. You will recognize those who have genuinely vetted their views because you will understand who they are due to being this kind of believer, yourself,  and the fellowship you have with them will be based on truth, not dependent on allegiance to some theological system, theological Guru or “Theological Mutual Admiration Society”. 

So accept the truth about yourself and how you got to where you are. Look back and make an honest audit. Did you, indeed, latch on early? Have you been protecting your ego because of its investment somewhere along the way? The issue, by the way, is not to point anyone away from any one system if they have concluded through the proper mechanisms that it is, as a body of theology, true in essence. This isn’t an argument about schools of theology. Rather it is to keep you from holding to views you have not appropriately examined and tested which will only result in your spiritual injury as, at some point, you will find yourself in a desert of irreconcilable views or even worse, possessed by a heightened arrogance complex in your theology and practice (which is what long term ego investment looks like) that produces crusadership mentality where you are no longer preoccupied with God’s Word but with events, social causes and your own legacy and when you do make forays into Scripture, they are to serve your ego and its crusades or its novel theological inventions.

Sit, listen, weigh and measure. Search and be patient. Don’t feel the need to have an answer all the time; the Scriptures do not require this. But of all things, don’t bring your ego to a theological gunfight so that you may, indeed, learn the Word of God.

 *It should be noted that John Piper and R.C. Sproul are not viewed as either insincere or without merit in some measure so using them as examples are not with personal antagonism in mind or without a recognition that they have expressed faith in Christ as Savior or have engaged in spiritually beneficial works (though I believe they have also produced spiritually damaging works, as well). These are not what are being addressed and their examples are to illustrate prematurely being convinced of a system of theology and its subsequent negatives effects, hence they are used in this manner.

**Part 2 (What Weak/Invested Egos Look Like at a Theological Gunfight and What and Why Weak/Invested Egos Say about Others and Their Mistaken Views about Arrogance and Inability to Properly Define and Recognize It)

Friday, January 13, 2012

Regeneration is a Product of Salvation and Salvation is not a Product of Regeneration No Matter What Those Who are Striving to be The Smartest One in the Room Say

What has been asserted by Neo-Calvinists and/or Neo-Reformed Teachers and students is the rationalistic idea that the divine regeneration of a person occurs before they place their faith in the gospel. Of course this is patently false but what is so startling are the mental gymnastics which must be exercised in order to oppose a rather prima facie teaching in the Bible. Look what the Scriptures plainly teach in Acts 16:31:

Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved...

When does salvation occur? After one believes.  The text is clear and emphatic. Thus, all of its products cannot arrive until it, salvation, arrives otherwise we make salvation the property of regeneration and make void the power of the gospel and its promise. None of that really matters, though, because what such people are striving for is the "Smartest One in the Room" award. It is repugnant and heretical and understand what it is when you encounter it. 

Now their excuse will be a rationalistic one, mind you. They will insist because of total depravity (human depravity is the more appropriate expression) man cannot possibly understand the gospel and believe therefore, it stands to reason they must be regenerated first, before believing the gospel. The problem? The problem is their system of theology, not the Word of God. You see, to people like this the Word of God exists to serve their system of theology instead of their system of theology existing to serve the Word of God. Therefore, they become slaves to their system.

This is to say little of their ignorance about the work of the Holy Spirit who does the enlightening for the man or woman who is not alive spiritually. They completely ignore that this is one of God the Holy Spirit's primary functions for the unsaved, to enlighten them as to the meaning of the gospel when they hear it. Yes, the spiritually dead cannot understand spiritual things but this does not mean we race to the conclusion that one must, then, be regenerated before believing in order to understand the gospel and ignore the Biblical teaching on the illuminating or enlightening work of God the Holy Spirit. This is precisely why he accompanies the Word of God for the unsaved, to enlighten them! 

This is an elementary doctrine, one that is for those in spiritual diapers yet, here we have allegedly mature adults who are still doctrinally soiling their diapers and claiming the stench is coming from some other source and not their cleverly devised waste. 

No, dear Christain, regeneration is a product of salvation and salvation is not a product of regeneration.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

A Consideration of Infants, Salvation, Divine Sovereignty and the Advocacy of Christ (Part 2)

The Divine Judiciary

The Divine Judiciary, with respect to mankind and his relationship to God, refers to the Court of Heaven. That court has specific properties and/or elements which may be observed in Scripture. Additionally, there are repeated references to this heavenly judicial system in its current form during the history of mankind. We see references to God as the Judge, Christ as the Advocate, Satan as the Prosecutor and us, humans, as the defendants.

And because the Divine Judiciary is real and not figurative or merely anecdotal and its function a primary one with respect to mankind’s salvation, we must discover its properties; that is we must examine and register what belongs to these various positions, roles or offices in order to theologically grasp their explicit and implicit impact and we must do so with theological propriety and harmony.

What Roles/Offices are There?

The Divine Judiciary has always existed, it is eternal. However, its construct and participants have not always been the same though its integrity and divine essence immutably present.

Previous to the age of humanity was the age of angels. We know little about it in comparison to all of its facts but we do know enough to make some determinations. And one certainty is that during this period the angels who rebelled were the defendants in their own trial. God judged Satan and his angelic followers, guilty. There were no humans involved in this construct.

Today, during human history, we again have a Divine Judiciary which, like the history of angels, rules this period of history but some with differing roles (these are the relevant offices/roles to the subject at hand but not all the elements of the Divine Judiciary since this is not an exhaustive treaty treatise [editing elf asleep again] on the subject):

  • God the Father is the Judge (Rom 14:10-12)

  • The second person of the Godhead, God the Son, while we do not know his role in the first construct, we know he serves as the Divine Advocate (1 John 2:1-2) for all humans who receive him as Savior.

  • Satan, while still a defendant in his own case, is now the Prosecutor in the case against humans (Rev 12:10).

  • Humans, themselves, are the defendant (Rom 14:10-12) and can either choose to represent themselves or believe on Christ and he becomes their Divine Advocate representing them.

Judge-God the Father
Divine Advocate-God the Son

Properties of Roles/Offices

And each of these roles has specific properties which distinguish them or make them what they are and cause them to function as they do. The word properties refer to those things which belong to something which make that something what it is. Water possesses the properties of (H2O) and add or take away any of its properties and it becomes something else.

Once we establish its properties we may, then, identify its application or its reach and in what forms it may exist all the while maintaining its properties, that is not compromising its integrity. Water may come to us as an ice cube, steam or bathwater but it is still (H2O). And this is true of the offices and participants in the Divine Judiciary.

The office of Divine Judge has with it essential properties or it cannot exist. It requires many things. First it requires one who God, secondly it requires an adherence to whatever protocol or regulations God himself has established which bind the court and the perfect integrity to execute his role and so on. Much of it is what is called self-evident though other parts are deciphered through rigorous and disciplined study of Scripture . We also must know its limits. For example, the Divine Judge will not control the volition of another and then make them answer for something God did by taking over that person's volition and doing. That would be a violation of the integrity of God who requires us to answer for our own actions which are based in our volition. Humans might attempt to do this to each other because we are sinful but God may not and cannot because that would be lying and deceitful and God cannot do that

The office of Prosecutor is Satan’s and is well documented in Scripture. The book of Job reveals this function in some detail. Additionally, St. Peter categorically tells us he is the accuser or legal adversary (1 Pt 5:8). This is the function of Satan with respect to humanity and the Divine Judiciary. He is the accuser (ἀντίδικος) the Prosecutor.

The Defendant is you, the human being. You have to answer to God the Father who is the Divine Judge (Rom 14:10-12). He issues his decisions based on the principles of His Word which he has given us. The Bible is explicit on this matter and makes it clear that if you choose to stand before God and reject Christ as your Divine Advocate, Christ will not advocate for you and use his perfect divinity to secure a favorable judgment on your behalf (eternal life) rather you will be judge according to your works and be found unrighteous.

But God does give you the option of having Christ the Divine Advocate who is qualified to stand in your place. And the nature of this office, the Divine Advocate, is real and has real properties.

The Divine Advocate, as we have mentioned, is Jesus Christ (1 John 2:1-2), the Son of God the second person of the Trinity. And to qualify as the Divine Advocate required just what we see in Scripture which only Jesus could and did accomplish, namely Divinity living and dying and resurrecting on our behalf. John makes it clear that Christ is not only the Advocate for those who are saved or have believed on him as Savior but is available to the entirety of humanity if they will not decide to represent themselves and argue their own righteousness before God but instead, believe on Christ as Savior.

The Dilemma for Infants or Volitionally Incapable

The dilemma which faces those who do not have capacity to exercise their volition and respond to the gospel is, how then, may they be saved? As stated earlier I believe the answer lies within the construct of the Divine Judiciary and its properties.

And as noted earlier, for some who cannot answer this they make appeals to “divine sovereignty”. It is their get of jail free card when their theology fails them. And understand, it fails them and it will fail you, too, if you make the mistake of giving allegiance to a theological system and not the Word of God no matter what your preferred theological system may be.

So the argument normally goes that because the volitionally incapable cannot exercise faith-since it requires volitional capacity to exercise faith-God, in his divine sovereignty, intervenes and makes new rules for an infant and miraculously enables the infant (even in the womb but let’s deal with ones outside the womb) to now process the necessary information they never learned, utilize the Spirit’s enlightenment of words and concepts which, again, they have not learned but suddenly know sufficiently, and exercise their volition in believing the Gospel. The appropriate response? Theologically ludicrous.

The Call to Believe on Christ is to the Volitionally Capable

When God communicates to us he does so with the obvious in hand. That is to say, God does not say to people who are incapable of grasping what he is saying things that he expects them to understand. Take humans. God, who is eternal and beyond the exponential or anything we can measure has, still, spoken to us with words which we may understand. If God were to speak to us in his omniscient and most glorious fashion and without reservation or modification of his glory, we could not bear, even for a moment, the demands it would place upon our minds and bodies in order to comprehend such magnificence. We have no frame of reference and certainly no capacity for such. So God has formed his communication in a way in which we are able to understand it.

But notice what he does not do. God does not miraculously place in our minds vocabulary words or the concepts behind these in order to enlighten us (in other words God didn't say, "They will never understand me so I will just stick it in their minds for them along with all the necessary vocabulary"). Rather, his Spirit uses words of which the meaning we have learned, ourselves,  in order to enlighten us with his Spirit. The precedence is that God expects the normal learning process of vocabulary and the accompanying concepts to be part of the process of our enlightenment and ultimately the understanding of things, both humanly and spiritually. God does not intervene and do our vocabulary/concept learning for us so that he may save us. So the suggestion that this exception, in the name of divine sovereignty, is done is to assert God takes over our own volition and does our learning for us. That would be a violation of God’s role as Divine Judge since he would, then, be judging us based on something he did by his volition and not ours. It is not possible for us to stand before God and account for our lives if God, even for a moment, took over our volition, either to learn or to believe.

But Christ Representing Someone by Faith Is Not the Only Permissible Means that the Divine Advocate May Represent Someone

So you are still left with a dilemma, it seems. God is not going to violate his own integrity and take control of our volition and do the things our volition accounts to God for which is both learn vocabulary and its concepts and eventually believe (to say the least). So now what?

The Augustinain/Reformed/Calvinist (ARC) student mistakenly believes God elects those who will be saved. He or she starts out with a faulty foundation. Rationalistically then, he or she is forced to figure out a system where those who are volitionally incapable (which are often infants but they are not alone in this category since there are those born mentally incapable of developing volitionally to the point of understanding and believing the Gospel) are elected to salvation and believe the gospel. And what I have previously described is their attempt (and it is, at best, a terribly crooked house, poorly engineered with cracks always in need of patching and a leaky roof that can never be repaired) to answer this question with the sovereignty of God. But I suspect the ARC’ers love their house too much to accept the facts of its wretchedness on this occasion.  But for those of you tired of living with drafty windows, rain on your head and walking at an angle on what should be a horizontally even floor, let me help.

Remember, when God offers the Gospel it is to the volitionally capable and God does not violate his integrity and intervene for those who are volitionally incapable and miraculously give them vocabulary, concepts and the volitional ability to believe, then to see it all miraculously disappear until they get old enough to actually start learning vocabulary/concepts and truly exercise their volition based on the essential frames of reference. This convoluted scenario is the answer for those without an answer.

Christ, the Divine Advocate, is fulfilling an office of the Divine Judiciary, as is God, the Divine Judge. The Divine Advocate, as stated, has many properties but there is one that cannot be emphasized enough which is that, unlike human courts where there are many recognize “court advocates”, in the Divine Judiciary there is only one recognized Advocate, the Lord Jesus the Christ.

And when one cannot decide for themselves it is a matter judicial responsibility and integrity to appoint someone who may speak on their behalf. That is, they are incapable or do not have the capacity to make a decision therefore, it is incumbent upon the Judge of the judicial jurisdiction to which they are subject (in this case a human life answering to God which makes this the jurisdiction of the heaven) to appoint them a representative. This is an inherent obligation of the court stemming from a property of the Divine Judiciary as a whole and that of the office of Divine Judge. God cannot call into account someone who cannot decide for themselves, hence an advocate, The Advocate, must be appointed to such persons and only the presiding Judge in the case may do this. This leaves only one source, the Divine Advocate, Christ.

And this is the legitimate reach of the offices and functions of the Divine Judiciary and specifically the Divine Judge and the Divine Advocate. It reaches to represent those who have died before they were capable of exercising their volition and because they were incapable, the Court of Heaven, acting under authority of its Judge who, himself, is responding to the duties of his office, assigns to those who were volitionally incapable, the only Advocate in existence which is recognized by the court, the Divine Advocate, Christ Jesus. The result is not some but all those who are volitionally incapable have appointed to them, automatically upon their death by God the Father- the Divine Judge, Christ Jesus as their court appointed Divine Advocate and are saved to the uttermost.

Remember the earlier illustration about (H2O)? It may come to us in various forms but always and only with its properties if it is to be (H2O). Christ, who is the Divine Advocate, comes to the volitionally capable in the form of a promise to be believed. However, to those who are volitionally incapable he comes to them in the form of a court appointed Advocate as a property of his office and that of God the Father as Judge. In both cases the Godhead never compromises its integrity by losing or compromising any of its properties in order to save.

Friday, January 6, 2012

A Consideration of Infants, Salvation, Divine Sovereignty and the Advocacy of Christ (Part 1)

Over at Theological I was interacting with a topic on infant salvation (the thread is worth reading even if only for the sake of observing how spiritual children react to information they have never encountered as well as those who rarely can endure anything but echoes of their cloistered theological exposure). A proposal was made that infants can be saved in the womb via some kind of imposed faith by a preemptive act of divine sovereignty. Resisting the temptation to address the issue of John the Baptist and why his being filled by the Holy Spirit "out of the womb" of his mother is not the same as our being regenerated, allow me to present the follow-up response and my rebuttal to it to my original bringing to attention the issue of using divine sovereignty as the "get out of jail free" card in trying to explain how God might save infants and how, biblically, all infants and those incapable of exercising their volition, are saved by Christ automatically. I have refined my comments from the orignal post.

(Other person) I understand that God, in his sovereignty, does not act contrary to himself. But I do think there are times we can think or assume that we know how God will act in every single situation, and make the mistake that tries to "put God in a box". I acknowledge it is a worn-out cliché, but cannot think of a better way to put it just now.

(Me) While I certainly appreciate the reaility that we cannot "know how God will act in every single situation" I do believe we can know how he will not act in many, many situations based on his protocol which he, himself, does not and will not violate. It is not a worn out cliche but I believe one that is improperly unqualified.

And so when an appeal is made to divine sovereignty as an argument for God doing as he pleases in order to explain how things happen which we cannot explain otherwise or at least reconcile with our theology, I believe the problem is with our theology and its weaknesses and divine sovereignty is used as the get out of jail free card. And as I said earlier, I believe divine sovereignty is fundamentally misunderstood by Calvinism/Reformed theology with respect to its primary function and its secondary or even anecdotal functions and objectives.

And in this case of regeneration we know God does not take over the volition of another which is why volitionally capable beings are answerable to the offer and command, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ" - and this not taking over one's volition by God includes infants who are incapable of exercising their volition since it requires recognizing certain realities and willfully acting upon them (in other words how can infants believe on Christ in order to be saved if they have no volitional capacity to respond to the gospel? So to solve this the Augustinian/Reformed/Calvinist (ARC) student calls on an exemption in the name of divine sovereignty where God controls the volition of the incapable one so they may believe, of course this is a grave theological error).

So how do infants get saved, then? And of course you have already read my appeal (though I will reiterate it) but the first thing we can know it is not going to be by God violating his own protocol which is to control the volition of another. He never, never and again, never does that, ever. And since God does not do that and since to exercise one's volition one must be at a point of capacity to do so we know infants and the volitionally incapable must be saved by Christ by another means and that means is provided in, by and through the function and extent of the office of Divine Advocate (1 John 2:1-2) which is assigned by God to the incapable and fulfilled in and by Christ who is that Advocate.

So we have preservation of Christ as the means of salvation for even infants and we have the preservation of God's integrity with out attempting to force God to act contra through appeals that his "divine sovereignty" gives him license to do so.

Clearly this is based on a view of the properties of the divine judiciary and one may argue otherwise, feel free to do so.