Friday, March 15, 2013

Regeneration Before Believing and Being Saved? Hmmm...What Does the Bible Say?


Neo-Calvinists and Neo-Reformed Bible Teachers are often cited teaching that in order for someone to believe the gospel they must first be regenerated. This is based on a faulty application of 1 Corinthians 2:14 (ESV):
The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.
What such Teachers and students of this kind of Calvinist/Reformed theology do not understand or possibly forget, is that the Spirit of God accompanies the gospel (and all of the Word of God also called the sword of the Spirit, Ephesians 6:17) to enlighten the natural man, who without the Spirit's aid would not comprehend both his lost condition and the truth of the gospel that he may be saved. Now they may not accept what they understand or they may shun the light but it is not that the light is not being given by the Word of God by means of the Spirit's enlightenment. And here, this context, is referring of course to doctrines beyond the gospel which the natural man is not given spiritual enlightenment but as to the gospel, the Scriptures are quite clear, that the Spirit of God has come into the world with regard to the unsaved to enlighten men about sin, righteousness and judgment (John 16:7-11).

But that is not may main point here, rather my objective is to compare some Scriptures and understand what they, in the least imply, but to me seem rather explicit regarding the order or the point at which regeneration occurs when we are saved. The first text is from Acts 16:31 (ESV):
And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”
And the second is Titus 3:5 (ESV):
He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,
Now, as we look in Acts 16:31 something has to occur before we are saved. What is that something? Belief is that something and specifically belief in the gospel which is what is being expressed when stating, "believe on the Lord Jesus Christ". The title and/or expression, "Lord Jesus Christ" is shorthand for the gospel, that God (Lord) came in human form (Jesus) and was the God man, the prophesied Messiah (Christ) who  lived sinless, who suffered for our sins and was put to death on the cross, and was resurrected that whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
So to be saved one must first believe. Belief first, then salvation.

What Happens at Salvation? 

Well, that brings us to Titus 3:5 where it says we are " the washing of regeneration and the renewal of the Holy Spirit". Remember again, salvation comes when? After belief. 

So here in Titus we have documented the spiritual realities of what transpires when salvation occurs after we have believed. Not only are we regenerated (paliggenesía-brought back to spiritual life, spiritually resurrected) which includes a washing or cleansing factor but we are renewed (anakaínōsis - to make anew or to make something new). The word renewed is referring to our being a new creature in Christ which is precisely what Paul is talking about in 2 Corinthians 5:17 (ESV):
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
So consider the absurdity being forwarded by those who insist regeneration occurs before one is saved, because understand, regeneration and renewal occur together and they aren't merely some pre-faith enlivenment of the dead human spirit but a washing away of sin and the creation of a new person. To assert this transpires before we ever believe, that is to possess the properties of salvation before ever believing the gospel which is our salvation, is to run contrary both to the order which is presented in Scripture and more importantly, the nature of the gospel which again, is what gives us these things.

Understand what is being charged by Neo-Calvinists and Neo-Reformed types (sadly by some classic Calvinists and Reformed as well), that products and properties of salvation are given to unbelieving men, that they are made new creatures (a new spiritual species) but as well washed clean through regeneration, before they ever believe! Absurd is a nice way of putting such theological atrocity.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Why You Should Never, Ever, Ever Invite Law Enforcement into Your Life Unless Absolutely Necessary

The intervention by "the police”, better stated law enforcement (law enforcement or LE encompasses more than the police or cops and includes officers such as jailers and the courts) is a popular remedy for many things in life and in many cases the right one. But in other cases it is disastrous. And more than ever we live in a world where the children of cosmos diabolicus (and sadly along with this many of God’s children) are convinced that when disputes, offenses, injury and conflicts arise between people the  involvement of LE should be a defacto response to most of these social ills. That is to say, instead of dealing with issues, conflicts, offenses and injuries by ourselves or with the offender, today’s citizen in the western world and most specifically in the United States, forgoes the enterprise of personal resolution and action and instead, amps up their feelings of offensiveness and contempt for even the most petty slights and impulsively appeals to a forceful power they assume will deal with things as they wish and that power, typically, is a Police Officer. 

A Police Officer is a representative of the law. He has the power to arrest an offender. He can take an offender into custody, thus giving the apparent victim the upper-hand. But before you decide to invoke your privileged right to call upon law enforcement to deal with what you perceive to be an offense against you, you should understand some things about law enforcement which will affect not only the situation in which you are and for which you seek resolution but may affect you in a rather life-altering manner which you did not anticipate. 

At the Request of Citizens, Law Enforcement Points in One Direction, Particularly the Police

The police and often the courts, point in one direction. That is their main duty. That direction is not with sympathy toward you, the victim, and certainly not toward the offender, but toward the law. The law is king with LE, again, not the apparent victim or the offender. Now if the victim is indeed viewed as a victim then LE treats that person or persons with some sympathy but again, not because of their victim-hood but because they determined that the law says this. And ultimately, this is the direction in which LE must point in their decisions and the outcome of their decisions. 

Now, at this point you might be thinking, “they aren’t sympathetic to the apparent victim”? Right, they are not. That is not to say that if, let’s say a horrendous beating has occurred and immediately LE finds the alleged and very likely perpetrator standing over their victim. It does not mean that that they (LE) don’t have some sympathy toward the victim of a beating but that sympathy, while present, still does not get to dictate their actions.

The perpetrator can be arrested on suspicion but even then, he gets a bond hearing. He can, if he is able to post a bond with a bondsman or from his own resources, release himself from a detention center while awaiting trial. And, though the victim may know many things the perpetrator knows things as well. Maybe the beating was warranted. Maybe the other person had, unbeknown the LE, been threatened with a lethal weapon and to defend himself the alleged perpetrator had to beat what appears to be a victim. 

The person receiving the beating might be where immediate sympathies lie but suppose, upon discovery, there is something far more sinister going on? Sometimes, no, in fact often, people solicit LE without thinking things through. They forget their contribution to a situation and if a personal conflict does not result in someone’s liking, they become emotional if not hysterical and call the police thinking, by way of their hysteria and emotionalism, LE will see things completely their way. But LE (abuse of  LE cases aside) by in large, is interested in the law and it being served. Their belief, as is the belief of most rational people, is that law is based on principles which are good for society and if the law (or the principle) is served, then we, the citizens are served. And this is a right approach. So regardless of the emotions and view of an alleged or real victim, still the law and its principle is the ultimate thing being served to insure people or citizens being served.

George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin: A Case in Point 

Most people are familiar with the case of George Zimmerman, a participant in a community neighborhood watch program and Trayvon Martin, a visiting relative of one of that neighborhood’s residents and the conflict which arose between the two men resulting in George Zimmerman being beaten to the point he believed his life was being threatened, thus shooting and killing Trayvon Martin. In its initial discover, the Stanford Police Department determined that there was no just cause for arresting and charging George Zimmerman with a crime. They accepted the self-defense claim of George Zimmerman based on the evidence of his smaller stature compared to the significantly larger Martrin along with the vertical lacerations to his head and bleeding nose. The evidence fit the claim of self-defense in their view.

But the family and sympathetic others of Trayvon Martin were not satisfied. They demanded more involvement of LE, at the level of a Special Prosecutor whom they and the sympathetic media, pressured greatly into charging George Zimmerman with the crime of second degree murder.

I am not here to deal with the case more than this but to make a very important point. Simply because the Martin family believes Trayvon was unjustly killed and has managed to gain the cooperation of an element of LE in charging George Zimmerman with second degree murder, does not guarantee, in any real way, that the charge is accurate or that he will be found guilty. In fact, it is highly like based on the opinion of many former prosecutors and current defense attorney’s that the state of Florida will fail in their case again Zimmerman regarding second degree murder because the evidence supporting Zimmerman’s narrative is stacked so high it is simply insurmountable. The charge against Zimmerman is based on emotion and the debased practice by many blacks in America and their sympathizers  in which they accuse the Stanford Police in not charging Zimmerman as based in racial sympathies toward Zimmerman and against Martin.

What Will Result in the Likely Not-Guilty Outcome? When someone summons LE to aid in a situation they the often mistakenly assume that LE will see things their way. Most people simply do not understand the facts of a matter outside of their own prejudices. Simply calling the police, as is commonly said, assumes you are not doing anything wrong when, in fact, you may be. In this case with Zimmerman and the Martin family, the Martin family and their sympathizers are making a very big mistake. They, long ago, invested in the idea that because Zimmerman has been charged he will be found guilty and that he is, in fact, guilty and that certainly, because a Special Prosecutor has charged him, it simply cannot go any other way. You see, to the Martins, Law Enforcement is on their side, thus they cannot be in error.

But LE is not on their side. Law Enforcement is on the side of the law. In the trial the facts will speak, not opinion, though often opinion is sought to be inserted and sometimes successfully, as a replacement for the facts. Evidence will be the greatest weight. And though it is not a certainty and George Zimmerman could, in reality, be found guilty, it is far less likely he will. What then? What will result?

The result will be more upheaval, more discontinuity and more racializing of a tragic circumstance because of the assumptions people have stemming from their having LE involved in their affairs. LE works very hard to maintain its point toward the law and a just use and application of the law. It understands what ensues if it does not, namely judicial anarchy. No, not the kind of anarchy that results in socially unpopular but legally just renderings in which segments of society protest by destroying property and injuring, if not murdering, people but institutional anarchy where no justice can be found which is a far more injurious and wicked a form of corruption than that of social groups who simply are out of control because they do not like legal renderings. Civilization, especially advanced civilization, depends on courts with integrity even if its society is losing its integrity, or at least parts of it.

Law Enforcement by Necessity Has Become and Will Continue to Become More and More Militarized

Another thing you must understand about LE is that it has become and will increasingly still developed into a militarized organization. This may not, on the surface, seem significant but practically speaking it affects our social experience and order in meaningful ways. Our world has become far more sophisticated than during the 1920’s and 30’s, even into the 50’s and 60’s where, expect for large cities, policemen where more part of a community than a fraternity. That is to say, while police officers are quite fraternal in their relationship with one another and understandably so (try being one for a while and you will understand or if you have ever served in the military or been on a sports team you will get this) their fraternity in the past was not utilized to the degree it is today in many places, where it isolates the LE person and functions as its main if not only social outlet, rather than incorporating him into society.

While LE officials, even in the most comfortable and idealistic setting do not have the social consciousness of their status removed entirely with friends and family, in the past and in many places, their distinction was understood as one with their job and not necessarily their person. However, because of the advancement of sophisticated forms of social sabotage by anarchists, the police have been forced to modify their function and increase their response capacity with regard to surveillance, apprehension and investigation. This requires high caliber weaponry, less discretion in decision making and far greater use of force in order to protect themselves from personal and legal harm in their policing of society. And this has had a changed in the cop, himself. He is far more pronounced in his behavior, even off the clock, as a representative of LE.

The culmination of this all of this is a great de-personalization of LE, particularly cops. And it is really, in a great way, not their fault but the fault of citizens who insist on this kind of police force but as well, somewhat of a necessity in a sophisticate and potentially dangerous society. So what I am saying is not a finger-pointing toward LE but toward you, the citizen, who must understand who and what LE is when you decide to invite them as the party to resolve your issues. They will respond but it may be with a force, reach and consequences you never wished for, even toward the person against whom you may have a complaint.

“The Police” Represents Power for the Weak, a Power Easily Abused

Weak people can also be tyrannical people. When a person is weak in some area or areas of their life there are two potential directions in which they can go in responding to these deficiencies. First, they can humbly acknowledge their area(s) of weakness and not allow it to rule their life, always seeking to strengthen these areas as much as possible. On the other hand, they can arrogantly refuse to either acknowledge or if they acknowledge, reign in and remedy as much as possible, their area(s) of weakness and instead, selfishly allow them to become a controlling mechanism in their personality and mentality with a myriad of excuses and apologies while never doing a thing to change, thus directing their response and reaction to things.

The second approach I just gave describes the kind of person who abuses the use of police power. They seek to summon the police over the slightest thing. They use the police as a relationship manager with others. They are tyrants. They are children in adult bodies who now have the social privilege of calling the police when they believe they need them and do so at the drop of a hat if they believe, in the least bit, LE will resolve things to their advantage.

Ask yourself, are you one of these? You might be and if so, you represent the worst of our society, you ought to be ashamed and repent of such abuse of LE.

Why People are Understandably Reluctant to Involve Law Enforcement

Customarily when you read about criminal cases which involve someone apparently delaying going to the police the question arises, “why didn’t they call the police in the first place”? You need to stop doing that so often, it is a foolish and short-sighted question in many instances. Do you call the police every single time it is permissible or have you, all of your life? No, you don’t and haven’t and nor does anyone else.

Who and what LE are ought to enlighten you as why people are reluctant to call them in the first place. They are a point of no return. They represent putting affairs into the hands of those whose interests may not be the best for you or your family even if you are a victim.

Domestic conflict is one of the best examples of why people are reluctant to call the police. Suppose a husband and wife are arguing and the wife gets so upset she slaps her husband. He has every right to show her a thing or two and call the police and have her arrested for assault, right? No, really he does not and nor does she if it is reversed.

This is not to say there is not a case, ever, for the police to be called but the fact is spouses who love each other are not interested in having strangers resolve their conflicts, even when they get physical, and certainly they are not interested in having a loved one arrested and charged with a crime resulting, in the least, with an arrest record and at worst a criminal record that will probably follow them the rest of their life.

There is a segment of our world I am about to get to that, unfortunately, has been embraced in a great way which is the hysterical segment, the emotionally based raging victim-hood segment who, at the slightest provocation and particularly in domestic contexts but usually in any relational context, believe it is essential to self-respect and personal dignity to invite LE into situations where they believe in the most mild manner they have been offended by someone where LE may intervene. It is called “empowerment” and they will be damned before they are denied this.

The fact is they have no skills either resolving disputes nor any integrity or character which forgives. They want their ounce, if not pound, of flesh. Many Christians are foolishly embracing this error.

Judges, Handicapped by the Bill O’Reilly's and Nancy Grace's of the World

Not long ago a family friend got a prescription from a doctor. The pharmacy informed him that it need what is called “prior approval”. He did not understand, wasn’t the doctor’s prescription obvious and prior approval? But according to the pharmacy, that was not sufficient. The doctor’s office, themselves, had to call on the phone and justify this to some pharmacy arbitrator. What he described seemed surreal. A doctor's decision for medication is going to be arbitrated by a non-doctor? Weird but Orwellian.

It reminds me of our court system which places trust in our judges. It is true that some judgments are not what we always want as a society but a judge is a man or woman who, normally, has had extensive legal experience. They are, indeed human, but it is just that, their humanity, which is so critical to their role. It is this integral property that is being removed, more and more, by the Bill O’Reilly’s and Nancy Grace’s of the world whose television platforms are being used as bullhorns to tell the American people that judges can’t be trusted to make decisions and use discretion, rather that they must have prescribed to them strict and inflexible guidelines which insure generic and indiscreet outcomes and sentencing.

They are wrong, dead wrong and so are you if you think such public crusaders are right. I don’t watch either, much, maybe O’Reilly sometimes but I do watch them enough to understand they haven’t changed in years. They represent the worst regarding a healthy and just approach toward crime and the courts. They do not care about details or mitigating factors, they prefer, instead, to teach their audience that it is okay to play judge and jury never minding that in cases where they are bloviating regarding their dissatisfaction, they either are ignorant of all of the facts or simply selective and extremely prejudicial regarding their use of them.

Judges, as part of LE, are the last respite for mercy, mitigation and justice rolled together. Remember, the judge in a case is not invested in the alleged victim, the alleged perpetrator, prosecutor or defense attorney. The judge, he or she, is different, though part of LE. He or she is the most human element of all of LE. And the judge must be freed, more than ever, to consider all mitigating factors so as to render both a just and where and when applicable, merciful and redemptive judgment.

But we are moving farther and farther from this, every day, in our world and particularly in our country.  We have to have things “our way” thus, we permit a police state to develop. We cannot stomach anything other than the crushing of someone who has offended us, even in the most minor way. But understand, friend and sad Christian who supports such a view, it has a price, one you might find you have to pay one day in inviting the police into your life thinking it was a day of victory for you and your loved ones when it may result in heartbreak from which you can never recover or in the least are socially and emotionally debilitated for a long time. Remember, never, ever, ever invite Law Enforcement into your life unless absolutely necessary.

*I have written this article in light of the George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin case which provoked in me a more thorough consideration of LE and its present condition as well as the mind-set of many Americans which, unfortunately, includes many Christians as well.