Burden-Bearing=The Law of Christ

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Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.” – Galatians 6:1-3

The Apostle Paul is here speaking of the Gospel lived out in the Christian life. He is calling every Christian to emulate the sin-bearing work of Christ and become burden-bearers of one another. He appeals to those “who are spiritual” to restore the trespasser. The Holy Spirit is the consummate restorer of trespassers. We are called to “live by the Spirit” (Gal. 5:25), and that the fact that the Holy Spirit has been given to us is “proof that we live in him and him in us” (1 Jn. 4:13). The Triune God did not just justify us, but lives in us in the person of the Holy Spirit, and thus puts believers in the category of the “spiritual,” that is, those who live according to “the law of the spirit of life” (Rom. 8:2). God has given us a life-giving, rejuvenating, empowering, renewing, restoring spirit that continually intercedes for us (Rom. 8:26-27). Needless to say, we do not deserve to be graced by the indwelling of God Himself in our spirit. It is a work of grace (Phil. 2:8-10).

The Holy Spirit applies the work of Christ to our lives. The work of Christ was to bear the sins of His people on their behalf (Is. 53). Today’s passage reminds us of that sin-bearing work of Christ granted to us by no inherent merit, but rather in spite of our sin and by sheer divine grace. God orchestrated His Gospel in this manner so that there would be no room for boasting or looking down on other fellow believers. Since all human beings are sons of Adam (1 Cor. 15:22), and God graciously chooses to redeem some of them through Christ (1 Cor. 15:22), we are all at His mercy. Even after receiving His mercy in the gospel, we are continually reminded of our desperate need of grace when we sin, and when we look around at the fallen world we live in. When we look at our sinfulness, we do not have a ground to look down on others, because we need forgiveness as much as our brother or sister next to us. That is one of the points of today’s passage. When we look down on another fellow sinner, we are implicitly stating that we are something, when in reality we are nothing. Christ is all and in all (Col. 1:17, 3:11). We are nothing but unworthy servants, who have only done our duty (Luke 17:10). We are to emulate the sin-bearing work of Christ and bear each other’s burdens, as Christ did and continually does in our behalf. This is called the fulfillment of the law of Christ, the Gospel itself lived out in our lives.

Let us bear each other’s burdens and restore fellow trespassers, knowing that we trespass God’s law every day, yet are covered by God’s grace. Let us fulfill the law of Christ, a Gospel-filled life, by forgiving and bearing the burdens of fellow believers, just as Christ did and continually does for every believer. Let us remember that though we are nothing, we possess everything in Christ as royal sons of God (Eph. 1:3; 1 Cor. 3:22; Jn. 1:12).

“The Law of Christ is the Law of love. Christ gave us no other law than this law of mutual love: ‘A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another.’ To love means to bear another’s burdens. Christians must have strong shoulders to bear the burdens of their fellow Christians. Faithful pastors recognize many errors and offenses in the church, which they oversee. In civil affairs an official has to overlook much if he is fit to rule. If we can overlook our own shortcomings and wrong-doings, we ought to overlook the shortcomings of others in accordance with the words, ‘Bear ye one another’s burdens.’

Those who fail to do so expose their lack of understanding of the law of Christ. Love, according to Paul, ‘believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.’ This commandment is not meant for those who deny Christ; neither is it meant for those who continue to live in sin. Only those who are willing to hear the Word of God and then inadvertently fall into sin to their own great sorrow and regret, carry the burdens which the Apostle encourages us to bear. Let us not be hard on them. If Christ did not punish them, what right have we to do it?” – Martin Luther

  1. Martin Luther’s Commentary on Galatians: http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mlg/galatians-6.html

 

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Essentialism

bookRecently, my wife and I watched a documentary on Netflix called “Minimalism: A Documentary About The Important Things” by Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus. It has revolutionized our lives, to say the least. I also came across a related book on the topic called Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown. The following quote added much value to our lives, especially as we seek to worship Christ unencumbered by nonessentials. We hope it does the same for you:

“As a quote attributed to Victor Hugo, the French dramatist and novelist, puts it, ‘Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come.’ ‘Less but better’ is a principle whose time has come.

Everything changes when we give ourselves permission to be more selective in what we choose to do. At once, we hold the key to unlock the next level of achievement in our lives. There is tremendous freedom in learning that we can eliminate the nonessentials, that we are no longer controlled by other people’s agendas, and that we get to choose. With that invincible power we can discover our highest point of contribution, not just to our lives or careers, but to the world.

What if schools eliminated busywork and replaced it with important projects that made a difference to the whole community? What if all students had time to think about their highest contribution to their future so that when they left high school they were not just starting on the race to nowhere?

What if businesses eliminated meaningless meetings and replaced them with space for people to think and work on their most important projects? What if employees pushed back against time-wasting e-mail chains, purposeless projects, and unproductive meetings so they could be utilized at their highest level of contribution to their companies and in their careers?

What if society stopped telling us to buy more stuff and instead allowed us to create more space to breathe and think? What if society encouraged us to reject what has been accurately described as doing things we detest, to buy things we don’t need, with money we don’t have, to impress people we don’t like?

What if we stopped being oversold the value of having more and being undersold the value of having less?

What if we stopped celebrating being busy as a measurement of importance? What if instead we celebrated how much time we had spent listening, pondering, meditating, and enjoying time with the most important people in our lives?

What if the whole world shifted from the undisciplined pursuit of more to the disciplined pursuit of less … only better?

I have a vision of people everywhere having the courage to live a life true to themselves instead of the life others expect of them.

I have a vision of everyone—children, students, mothers, fathers, employees, managers, executives, world leaders—learning to better tap into more of their intelligence, capability, resourcefulness, and initiative to live more meaningful lives. I have a vision of all these people courageously doing what they came here on this earth to do. I have a vision of starting a conversation that becomes a movement.

To harness the courage we need to get on the right path, it pays to reflect on how short life really is and what we want to accomplish in the little time we have left. As poet Mary Oliver wrote: ‘Tell me, what is it you plan to do / with your one wild and precious life?’

I challenge you to pause more to ask yourself that question.

I challenge you here and now to make a commitment to make room to enjoy the essential. Do you think for one second you will regret such a decision? Is it at all likely you will wake up one day and say, ‘I wish I had been less true to myself and had done all the nonessential things others expected of me’?

I challenge you to let me help you to create a system that “unfairly” tips the scales in favor of the essential few over the trivial many.

I challenge you to invest in becoming more of an Essentialist. This book is not about going back to some simpler time. It’s not about eschewing e-mail or disconnecting from the Web or living like a hermit. That would be backwards movement. It is about applying the principles of “less but better” to how we live our lives now and in the future. That is innovation….Just imagine what would happen to our world if every person on the planet eliminated one good but nonessential activity and replaced it with something truly essential.

Years from now (hopefully many), when you are at the end of your life, you may still have regrets. But seeking the way of the Essentialist is unlikely to be one of them. What would you trade then to be back here now for one chance—this chance—to be true to yourself? On that day, what will you hope you decided to do on this one?”

  1. McKeown, Greg. Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less (pp. 25-28). The Crown Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

A Personal Reflection and History of Libertarianism by Amaris Salazar

Excellent short essay written by my wife for one of her Political Science class.  Note that her teacher is a staunch socialist.

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“And what is liberty, whose very name makes the heart beat faster and shakes the world? Is it not the union of all liberties – liberty of conscience, of education, of association, of the press, of travel, or labor, or trade?”1

These are the words of Frederic Bastiat, French classical liberal theorist and political economist, penned in 1850 that correctly reflect my love for liberty and political foundation. Growing up with my Mexican-born father  who viewed books like gold in a poor land, and my mother who escaped with her family from Cuba to flee Communism when she was a child, they had both seen the corruption of the state and big government. This inadvertently caused what I have come to known as the Libertarian view. A view that treasured individual liberty and the value of freedom, which exactly describes the core values which I was taught. I was also taught to question everything, and to never stop learning. Some might call that cynical and impractical, but I call that being smart, and partly the reason why I’ve never been happy with the usually mistaken status quo.

Before I give a deeper background of how I have formed my political ideology over the years, I would like to first explain what Libertarianism is so that the history may shed more light to present and hopefully explain why I believe Libertarianism is useful, necessary and relevant. Now, if were to describe Libertarianism, it would have to be by our first president under the Constitution, George Washington,

“A free people ought not only be armed and disciplined, but they should have sufficient arms and ammunition to maintain a status of independence from any who might attempt to abuse them, which would include their own government.”2

Basically, leave me alone and I’ll leave you alone, and this includes the government. I hold this principle for everything, from decriminalization of drugs to foreign policy.

Although Libertarianism has deep roots in Western civilization, its beginnings can be traced all the way back to ancient Greece and ancient Israel, with people like Tertullian and Saint Thomas Aquinas whose views on individual liberty have been expressed throughout history.  According to the Encyclopedia Britannica,

“Christian theologians, including Tertullian in the 2nd and 3rd centuries and St. Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century, stressed the moral worth of the individual and the division of the world into two realms, one of which was the province of God and thus beyond the power of the state to control.”3

America has quite a long history and reputation for loving freedom.

“Give me liberty, or give me death!”4

It is in fact true that Libertarianism has been around since the young years of this nation. Classic liberalism (an older name for Libertarianism) can be seen in the works of John Locke, which “had a significant impact on the theoretical foundations of American government, according to the textbook, American Government : Roots and Reform.
In his Second Treatise, Locke emphasized limited government, liberty and property, and is still read and regarded by neo-classic liberals (or, Libertarians) today.

As aforementioned in the beginning of my paper, my parents have been valuable teachers in my life who shared not only knowledge, but  taught me how to assess it. This in turn has lead me to look at life in deep thought.
When I hear of how the President has been given unwarranted, unjustified, and unconstitutional quasi-authority to kill Americans, and this same President wants to keep a total big brother eye on us… Or perhaps when Bush sent us to fight a rich man’s war, thereby killing  thousands of Americans, and then justifying wire-tapping on the American people for the cause of “security,” that does not sit well with me. It makes me absolutely furious. And some people wonder why I do not trust our National government and the current two parties. I am not the only one. According to American Government : Roots and Reform,

“One explanation is that voters split their tickets, consciously or not, because they trust neither party to govern.”5

The constant discovery over my life-time of these debaucheries has given me a greater pursuit and love for liberty.

I believe that also being the child of one naturalized citizen and one green-card holder, and currently going through the lengthy process of making my husband a U.S. Citizen has caused me to hold to the Libertarian view even closer to my heart, because of its stance on immigration. This is not to say all Libertarians hold to this view, but it is part of the true Libertarian ideology.  In the words of Judge Andrew Napolitano,

“This is the natural law, a natural right. Rights come from your humanity. It doesn’t matter where your mother was when you were born.”6

The government cannot simply exempt you from the natural rights defended by in the Constitution because you do not hold a some type of extra “status.” Being a human is enough “status” for you to pursuit life, liberty, and property, and have due process.

My last reason out of many for being Libertarian would have to be my religion. I am a Christian, saved and forgiven of my sin debt not by my own doing, but by the Sovereign Lord and Creator,  Jesus Christ.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast,” Ephesians 2:8-9, ESV. 7

I value and cherish my freedom of religion, espoused in the first amendment. Religion is universal (whether the individual knows it or not) and intrinsic and very inseparable to every human being. Everybody has a worldview, and when you make thoughts illegal… Well, you know what happened in George Orwell’s 1984. I affirm the prudent words of Jefferson, in replying to the Baptist Address of 1807,

Among the most inestimable of our blessings is that … of liberty to worship our Creator in the way we think most agreeable to His will; a liberty deemed in other countries incompatible with good government and yet proved by our experience to be its best support.”8

My history along with pursuit of truth and all that is good has made me who I am today. I believe it to be the most consistent and beneficial system for not just me, not just for my party or political faction, but for everyone. Just as this viral meme has expressed and what I have labeled the  Libertarian Manifesto:

Libertarians: Diligently plotting to take over the World and leave you alone.”

~~

Works Cited

  1. Bastiat, Frederic. “What Is Liberty?” The Law. 3rd ed. Hudson, NY: Foundation for Economic Education, 2007. 39. Print.
  2.  First Annual Address, to both House of Congress (8 January 1790).
  3. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/339321/libertarianism/234229/Historical-origins
  4. http://www.history.org/almanack/life/politics/giveme.cfm
  5. https://www.quia.com/files/quia/users/clamanna13/13.pdf
  6.  http://foxnewsinsider.com/2013/01/28/judge-napolitano-says-gop-must-welcome-illegal-immigrants-its-their-natural-right-to-be-able-to-come-to-u-s
  7.  EphesiansThe Holy Bible: English Standard Version Containing the Old and New Testaments: ESV. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2007. Print.
  8. Thomas Jefferson: Reply to John Thomas et al., 1807. ME 16:291

It’s Time I Told You the Truth: A Response to Gay Christianity

I recently wrote a response (<– read here) to an article that my friend Christian brown wrote about coming out as gay, which took everyone by surprise. Not just gay, but a professing gay Christian.

It was heartbreaking, especially living in a nation that hates God and His word. However, I knew this was one of many such articles coming out in support of the oxymoron of gay Christianity that demanded an answer. And so I decided to write a thorough rebuttal to his article in a frank, Biblical, loving and imploring manner.

It is my hope that it can be an instrument to reach others who are close to us that are yielding to these lies; and that it will drive people to see the beauty and all-sufficiency of Christ as well as the abhorrent nature of not only this sin, but any sin.

The 1787 hymn “How Firm a Foundation” by John Rippon beautifully summarizes the hope that those who struggle with sin have in Jesus, the one who came to redeem those who with contrite hearts surrender to Jesus in faith. It is the hope that drives us as the church to proclaim the King’s message of redemption and cleansing in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God (1 Cor. 6:9-11).

Fear not, I am with thee, O be not dismayed,
For I am thy God and will still give thee aid;
I’ll strengthen and help thee, and cause thee to stand
Upheld by My righteous, omnipotent hand.

When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of woe shall not thee overflow;
For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.

When through fiery trials thy pathways shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply;
The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.

Even down to old age all My people shall prove
My sovereign, eternal, unchangeable love;
And when hoary hairs shall their temples adorn,
Like lambs they shall still in My bosom be borne.

The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to its foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.

The Number One Secret Problem In Your Church – by Ed Bryant

t1larg.christianporn.cnnThe following essay was written by Ed Bryant for his Personal Foundations for Spiritual Formation class on December 18, 2014.

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Introduction

With the invention of the internet and the subsequent digital technology to instantly transfer an image and distribute it to millions came a blessing and a curse.  The internet opened a new venue for the porn industry to sell sex on a world wide scale to men and women.

Statistics show that countless numbers of people are daily consumers of internet pornography, and the trend continues to grow as more and more people get hooked.  Porn addiction is a wild fire burning out of control.

The sad reality is that this hidden addiction is an epidemic in the Christian community as well.  A recent survey, conducted by the Barna Group, has revealed shocking information about how prevalent porn addiction is in the church.[1]  Way back in 2003, Chuck Swindoll wrote an open letter to the church concerning “the #1 secret problem in your church” and warned that “without knowing it, it could be eating your church alive.”[2]  The attraction is not confined to the pew either.  A staggering percentage of clergy (pastors and priests) and lay leaders have admitted to a pornography problem.

This paper will discuss porn addiction under the following heads: The anatomy of addiction; addiction and gender; facilitation of addiction; the fall out of addiction; and help for the addict.

The Anatomy of Addiction

Simply stated, addiction is the end result of repetitive behavior involving the gratification of disordered desires or lusts.  It follows the path and progress of sin delineated in Scripture:

“Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away.  These desires give birth to sinful actions.  And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death” (James 1:14-15).

What begins as a curious attraction snowballs out of control and takes over a person’s life.  An addict has surrendered his will to lust and become obsessed with something that preoccupies his thoughts and time.  The Bible accurately depicts the nature of this addiction:

“They live for lustful pleasure and eagerly practice every kind of impurity” (Eph.4:19).

“They commit adultery with their eyes, and their desire for sin is never satisfied” (II Pet.2:14).

The path to porn addiction begins with making a wrong choice based on a distorted desire fueled by temptation.  Entertainment of the temptation to view sexually stimulating images quickly becomes an irresistible desire that “boils over into action.”[3]  With the appeal come promises of pleasure that seduce the will until it caves in and yields.  Once the temptation process has taken hold a person’s judgment is temporarily clouded and impaired.  He cannot think straight while his thoughts are dominated by the powerful desire for sexual gratification.  The only thing which the addict cares about at that moment is satisfying his lust.  If he is a Christian, he forgets God his Savior (Psa.106:21) and that sin grieves the Holy Spirit (Eph.4:30).   He cannot think clearly enough to resist the temptation (James 4:7) nor has the will to flee (II Tim.2:22; Gen.39:12).  His desires overpower his devotion to Christ (I Tim.5:11).  Afterwards, the realization of what he has done sets in.  A sense of shame, guilt, and self-loathing follows in the aftermath of yielding to temptation.[4]  The promise of pleasure was momentary (Heb.11:25) compared to the painful aftermath.   The self-defeating cycle of lust, temptation, yielding, and remorse is repeated over and over as the addiction develops.

Why does one become a porn addict or any other sort of addict for that matter?  It has been said that some individuals just have an addictive personality or predisposed bent toward addiction.  Their genes and family history has prewired them for becoming an addict.  While this maybe true, addiction tendencies have also been linked to how a person was nurtured and cared for very early in life.  Unmet needs from insensitive parenting, neglect and abuse, the lack of unconditional love, warmth, and touch play out later in negative behavior.  Addiction is one way people cope with the painful wounds from their childhood.   They turn to their desires to try and fill what was lacking in their early lives.  In their quest for comfort and fulfillment they turn from God to look for “intimacy substitutes.”[5]   Addiction is actually “anything that repeatedly replaces our need for an intimate relationship to God.”[6]   Whatever a person becomes addicted to (gambling, food, alcohol, drugs or sex) takes the place of God in their life.  It is no coincidence that Sunday is the most popular day of the week for watching pornography.[7]  Millions have decided to sacrifice a relationship with God for the pursuit of pleasure (II Tim.3:4).

Porn Addiction and Gender

Traditionally, women have not shown as much interest in pornography as men.  Women felt exploited, objectified, and degraded by porn images.  There has been a change, however, in the consumers of pornography since the internet came along.  Porn addiction is no longer a problem only for men, but statistics show that women are also being sucked into this swirling vortex of sensuality.  The 2014 Barna survey revealed that 42% of women between the ages of 18-30 view pornography are least monthly.[8]  Statistics in 2012 showed almost one-third of all internet porn users were female.[9]  To meet the challenge of reaching even a greater segment of the female population, purveyors of pornography are creating a new genre of “female friendly” porn that appeals more to a woman’s tastes with more emphasis on relationships and emotional intimacy.[10]  Interestingly, the findings of modern science are validated by the porn industry which recognizes the “gender gap.”  No matter what the culture says, women are different from men in other ways than just physically.  A woman is psychologically different from a man because her brain is wired differently.[11]  Female British author, E. L. James, understood this when she wrote the best and fastest selling erotic romance novel, Fifty Shades of Grey that has sold over 100 million copies worldwide.

Facilitation of Porn Addiction

Children who grew up in the 1960’s during the sexual revolution were generally protected from exposure to pornography.  If a kid wanted to sneak a peek of a naked lady he would have to shame and embarrass himself before the store personnel and customers to pick up a Playboy from the magazine rack of the local drug store.  The fact is that most kids during that generation were outside playing and having fun all day with virtually no opportunity to get sexualized at an early age with pornographic material.  The last thing they wanted to do was stay inside their home.   Being sent to one’s bedroom was considered a punishment.  Today, however, the opposite is true.  Young people spend much of their time indoors looking at screens- TV, phone, or computer and frequently alone in their rooms unsupervised.  The average age for a first time exposure to porn on the internet is 11 years old.[12]  The danger of pornography lies in its ease of accessibility which can be done quickly and in secret.  The same applies to cable TV which offers porn under the guise of “adult” programming.  Anyone can access pornography nowadays in the privacy of their own home that can operate a remote or keyboard.  Add to this that internet pornography is affordable and anonymous, and that the trend of the culture is to condone rather than condemn porn,[13] and society has a recipe for disaster.

The Fall Out of Porn Addiction

The destructive consequences of porn addiction are well known and documented.  Space does not permit a comprehensive treatment of this aspect of pornography, but rather a brief overview of a few facts will be presented.

  1. Devastation for the individual- Everyone knows that a pornography addiction escalates from bad to worse with time. A person addicted to porn eventually becomes desensitized and bored with “normal” pornographic images and must have more and more “hard core” or deviant forms to maintain the level of excitement.  Therefore, as the addiction escalates to this depth of corruption so does the hidden thought life of the individual.  For example, a man who has been making a steady diet of pornography cannot look at a woman without mentally undressing her and making her feel that she is a “sexual consumable.”[14]

The compulsive use of pornography produces biological changes in the brain.  “Repetitive, high-emotion, high-frequency experience” changes the neural circuitry in the brain to “perpetuate the behavior.”[15]  The brain adapts neurologically which further fosters the addiction.   Neuroscience reveals that “all addictions create, in addition to chemical changes in the brain, anatomical and pathological changes which result in various manifestations of cerebral dysfunction . . . reduced to its simplest description, is damage to the ‘braking system’ of the brain.”[16]  Brain loss occurs in the frontal lobes responsible for judgment and control.  A porn addict exhibits impaired judgment and lack of inhibition due to the changes in his brain.  Here is why an addict will risk losing his job to view porn at work.

  1. Devastation for marriage and the family- Porn addiction corrupts the ability for true intimacy and leaves a husband less emotionally attached to his wife and less sexually responsive.[17] The more men use pornography the more discontent they become in their marriage, leading to real-life adultery, separation, and divorce.  Pornography has destroyed an untold number of marriages.  Wives who have been married to a porn addict report the feelings of betrayal, mistrust, and anger toward their unfaithful spouses.  They require counseling and therapy just to handle their overwhelming emotional devastation and deep psychological wounds as victims of their spouse’s cybersex addiction.

The damage done to the family by porn addiction is tragic.   When this behavior takes over in a home environment 40% of marriages end in divorce and 58% suffer financially because of job loss or other sin related set backs.[18]  The fall out for children is especially sad.  They silently suffer, looking on while the relationship of their parents disintegrates, and their home life turns into a living hell, all because of porn addiction.

  1. Societal devastation- The impact of pornography on society is alarming with rampant sexual permissiveness, sexually transmitted diseases, and sexually violent crimes.  Children are not safe anymore even in their own neighborhoods because of a rise in the number of pedophiles prowling the streets, looking for their next victim to molest.  Whenever a child has disappeared and is later found murdered, it is certain to have been committed by a person addicted to internet child pornography.  The police always seize the computer when the perpetrator is arrested and without fail child porn images are discovered.  Porn ignites lust which explodes into despicable actions difficult to conceive.  The unprecedented rise in crimes against kids is one of the horrific outcomes of porn addiction.

Pornography is linked to increased crimes against women as well.  A perverse form of internet porn involves sexual violence.  A video game popular with teenagers depicts a man beating a prostitute with a golf club.[19]  Women have been sexually assaulted and raped in broad daylight by men who just got off the internet.  Many men have been conditioned by pornography to imagine that a woman wants to be raped.   Their aggressive sexual behavior and perverse thinking can only be attributed to the corrupting effect of porn.

  1. Spiritual devastation- Porn addiction is a hidden moral cancer that is slowly metastasizing within the body of Christ with serious long term consequences on the spiritual health of its members, to say nothing of the impact on ministry. Porn addiction is the new leaven secretly permeating the church (I Cor.5:6).

Christians who are habitual consumers of porn have a weak impoverished spiritual life at best.  They cannot be in fellowship with God at the same time they are viewing pornography.  Their disconnect from God leaves them empty and depressed if they belong to Christ.   The sin cycle before discussed plays out each time they succumb to the temptation.  No one is more miserable than a Christian who is addicted to pornography.  Languishing under a guilty conscience and sense of shame in the wake of falling again into this cycle of sin leaves the Christian feeling worthless and unlovable before God.  He has been robbed of his peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Psalm 51:8-12).   He cannot accept that God accepts him when he has an appetite for porn.  These are the issues a porn addict struggles with who also professes to be a follower of Jesus Christ.  The spiritual turmoil, unrest, and pain that possess the Christian who is in bondage to porn are generally different from the experience of a non-Christian porn addict.  Although he may experience some smiting of conscience, the unbeliever does not experience the intense internal civil war that marks the Christian who has the Holy Spirit within (Gal.5:17).  The sinning Christian descends into the depths of spiritual darkness because he does belong to Christ.  This is the Holy Spirit’s way of bringing a Christian to his spiritual senses and producing repentance.  No Christian who uses porn will ever be coddled by the Holy Spirit while indulging in sin.  Can a porn addict hope for change or is the condition impossible?

Help for the Porn Addict

The final discussion of this paper is the most important section, because here is where hope is extended to brothers and sisters in Christ who have been caught in the web of internet porn and have not been able to extricate themselves.   Their addiction calls for outside intervention and help from above.

There is hope of breaking the sin cycle for a porn addict because nothing is impossible with God.  The same grace that has transformed sinners into saints throughout history is still operative today.  Although the Christian porn addict does not need to be born again, he does need the work of the Holy Spirit to move in his life to enable him to become what Christ designed him for.  Change is not only possible but probable if the addict is willing to take certain steps toward recovery.

First and foremost, he must cut off the temptation to view pornography by eliminating the source of temptation.  Paul speaks about putting to death the deeds of the flesh by the Holy Spirit (Rom.8:13).  Killing sin will be painful.  A cherished lust does not easily die and appears at times to be galvanized with immortality.  Jesus put it best when He talked about gouging out an eyeball in order to avoid lust (Matt.5:29).  He is to be understood as saying that a person should go to any extremes necessary to shun sin no matter how painful or costly.  Applying this principle to the porn addict, one may have to get rid of the computer altogether or turn off the Wi-Fi.  Whatever it takes to defeat this temptation must be done without hesitation.  How serious is the defeated Christian in getting control of his feelings and desires?  Is he willing to go to any lengths to break free?

The next thing he must do is align himself with a community of believers and get involved in being a part of “God’s family” (Eph.2:19).  Church involvement “means the development of intimate, healthy, long-lasting relationships with one’s brothers and sisters in Christ.”[20]  The church as a family implies a close knit community of people who take care of one another and experience the love of God in tangible ways.  Within the church family there is a mutual sharing of burdens and needs.  The family of God is a refuge for God’s children, a place of safety and healing.  Christ has equipped members to minister to those who are weak and broken by sin.  The best place to be as a porn addict is in the church.  Rather than leaving the church out of shame and retiring into isolation, he needs to put himself where there is an outpouring of God’s grace. In the church family he can find both the unconditional love of God and encouragement to deal ruthlessly with his sin.   There is help in the friendship of a few close brothers that he can confide in and regularly meet with for accountability purposes, but he must be willing to humble himself and become vulnerable.  The brethren will stand with him and travel with him down this road with love and support.

To renew his mind and rewire his brain, the Christian must spend time in the Word of God and allow the Holy Spirit to cleanse away the accumulation of filth and set him on a new course of obedience to Christ.  The hope for change is to be found in the work of the Holy Spirit.  The Christian must take steps to do his part but the victory over this sin will come through the work of the Spirit, renewing the mind, inclining the will toward obedience, and changing the desires of the heart.

Satan will suggest to the defeated Christian that he cannot be forgiven nor could God love a wretch like him.  This is the typical modus operandi of the enemy.  He delights in bringing on doubts that cast God the Father in a negative light.  Unfortunately, the Evil One more often than not succeeds in convincing God’s children that they are no longer loved, accepted or forgiven.  The answer to all of the Devil’s wicked insinuations is to go back to Scripture and remind oneself of what God has said.  Porn addiction is not the unpardonable sin.  Jesus said that “every sin and blasphemy can be forgiven” (Matt.12:31).  Nothing in all creation, including the sin of addiction to pornography, can separate a believer from God’s love in Christ (Rom.8:39).  God’s love is the most unconditional reality in the universe.  Man can neither attract nor repel God’s love by anything he does (Hosea 14:4).  The despairing Christian must remind himself and the Devil the truth of Romans chapter eight and verse one: “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.”  Sin was paid in full when Christ died.  The debt has been cancelled forever.  Jesus endured the condemnation of sin in His own Person when He gave Himself to suffer and die for sinners.  God cannot punish sin twice.  If Christ has already endured the penalty of sin then there remains nothing more to fear for those who are His.  Christians must never allow Satan to get into their thoughts with falsehoods that dishonor the Savior.  Any suggestion that detracts from the perfection of Christ’s work is devilish and should be met with the Word of God.

The Christian struggling with porn or any other besetting sin that trips him up in his journey toward the heavenly city should recall that his temptation is no different from what others experience (I Cor.10:13); that he is more than a conqueror in Christ (Rom.8:37); that God is for him, so who can be against him (Rom.8:31); that he can do all things through Christ who strengthens him (Phil.4:13); that this battle belongs to the Lord, and He will fight for you (I Sam.17:47; Exo.14:14); that the godly may trip seven times, but he will get up again (Prov.24:16).

A Christian porn addict can quit sinning because the Word of God says that he no longer has to obey the dictates of sin but can choose to obey righteousness instead (Rom.6:6,12-14).  He can say no to sin and yes to righteousness.  Believing this to be true is absolutely crucial to victory.  There is hope for change because of the finished work of Christ and the present work of the Holy Spirit.  Satan, on the other hand, wants the addict to think that his condition is hopeless so he will remain a slave.  The mental health community offers little help or hope to a porn addict, but Jesus Christ sets people free from sin (John 8:31-36), including the sin of pornography addiction.  His mission to save His people from their sins (Matt.1:21) includes breaking sin’s power and setting the prisoners free.  Jesus gives hope to anyone and everyone bound by a sinful practice that has become an addiction nightmare.  “In my desperation I prayed, and the Lord listened; he saved me from all my troubles” (Psalm 34:6).

~~

Works Cited

  1. 2014 ProvenMen.org Pornography Addiction Survey (conducted by Barna Group).
  2. Charles Swindoll, “An Open Letter to the Church,” 2003.
    www.blazinggrace.org/open-letter-from-chuck-swindoll (accessed December 12, 2014).
  3. Class lecture, October 23, 2014.
  4. Class lecture, November 6, 2014.
  5. Tim Clinton and Gary Sibcy, Attachments (Brentwood, TN: Integrity, 2002), 72.
  6. Clinton and Sibcy, 163.
  7. Robert Weiss, “The Prevalence of Porn,” 2013.
    http://blogs.psychcentral.com/sex/2013/05/the-prevalence-of-porn (accessed December 10, 2014).
  8. http://www.provenmen.org/2014pornsurvey/pornography-use-and-addiction (accessed December 8, 2014).
  9. Weiss.
  10. Weiss.
  11. Robert L. Saucy and Judith K.TenElshof, eds., Women and Men in Ministry (Chicago: Moody Press, 2001), 234-36.
  12. Weiss.
  13. Class lecture, November 6, 2014.
  14. Class lecture, November 6, 2014.
  15. Donald L. Hilton, Jr. and Clark Watts, “Pornography addiction: A neuroscience perspective,” 2011.
    http://www.surgicalneurologyint.com/text.asp?2011/2/1/19/76977 (accessed December 10, 1014).
  16. Hilton and Watts.
  17. Class lecture, November 6, 2014.
  18. Pat Fagan, “The Effects of Pornography on Individuals, Marriage, Family and Community.”
    http://www.frc.org/onepagers/the-effects-of-pornography-on-individuals-marriage-family-and-community
    (accessed December 10, 2014).
  19. Grand Theft Auto
  20. Joseph H. Hellerman, When the Church Was a Family (Nashville: B&H Publishing, 2009), 223.

Trent on Justification

Konzil_von_TrientThe following are two short papers by Ed Bryant summarizing his study of primary sources.

~~

Trent on Justification (Canons)

          In this official document of the Synod of Trent, the Roman Catholic Church (from here on RCC) sets forth 33 authoritative decrees regarding what the church considered heretical justification doctrine.  They pronounce a curse on those who teach any of these points.  Here are some examples of what the RCC condemned:

  1. That man may be justified before God by his own works without the grace of God.
  2. That man lost his free will in the fall.
  3. That God is the author of evil.
  4. That all works done before justification are sinful.
  5. That the ungodly are justified by faith alone and that nothing else is required.
  6. That men are justified solely by the imputation of Christ’s righteousness apart from the work of the Holy Spirit renewing the inward man.
  7. That to obtain the forgiveness of sins one must believe with an unwavering faith and know for certain that he does believe. That no one is truly justified who does not believe himself to be justified.
  8. That the grace of justification is only attained by the elect.
  9. That the commandments of God are impossible to keep even for the justified.
  10. That the justified are not required to obey the commands of God and the Church.
  11. That good works are merely the fruits and signs of justification and not the cause of the increase of righteousness.
  12. That one does not expect God to reward his good works with eternal life.
  13. That the fallen can be restored by faith alone with the sacrament of penance.
  14. That the justified have been discharged from both the eternal and temporal punishment of sin.
  15. That the Catholic doctrine of justification set forth in the decrees of the Synod fails to express the Catholic faith.

The Church of Rome responded to the Protestant’s doctrine of justification by faith alone at the Synod of Trent, 1547 and reaffirmed its opposing view as an answer to the Protestants in order to silence them.  The official Roman Catholic doctrine of justification is clearly defined the following summary statements:

  1. Through the merit of Christ’s death, grace is bestowed on those who have been born again in Christ (baptized Roman Catholic Church members) whereby they are made righteous.
  2. Justification consists in both the remission of sins and the sanctification and renewal of the inward man.
  3. Justification is said to be by faith because faith is “the beginning of salvation, the foundation and root of all justification.”
  4. It is vain confidence for one to believe for a certainty that he is absolved from sin and justified.
  5. The justified increase in righteousness through good works and obedience and are still further justified (made more righteous).
  6. One may fall from the grace of justification but may be justified again through the sacrament of penance. Justification is lost with any mortal sin as well as with the loss of faith.
  7. Those who persevere in good works and merits to the end can hope to receive eternal life as a reward in due time.
  8. One cannot be justified unless he firmly believes the Roman Catholic way of justification.

Acts 2:39 and Infant Baptism – by Chris Gautreau

photo 5The following is an exposition written by Chris Gautreau.

CLICK HERE to download article in PDF format.

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“Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brethren, what shall we do?’ Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.’ And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, ‘Be saved from this perverse generation!’ So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls. They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:37-42).

~~

Verse 39, oddly, is a favorite among Paedobaptists. I say oddly, because this passage actually presents an incredibly strong case against infant baptism. Even a cursory reading of Acts 2 would demonstrate this.

The reason Paedobaptists cling to this passage is because of the single phrase, “and your children.” This is the only portion of the entirety of Acts 2 that supposedly teaches infant baptism, while the rest of the chapter is completely ignored.

Paedobaptists claim this phrase, “and your children” echoes back to Genesis 17:7,

“I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you…”

As J. R. Beeke and R. B. Lanning state in The Case for Covenantal Baptism,

“Peter’s words in Acts 2:39 are therefore a covenantal formula. ‘unto you, and to your children’ simply restates ‘between me and thee and thy seed after thee’ (Gen. 17:7).”

Before we look at this passage in greater detail to see whether or not such an interpretation is valid, I would like to address a consistent problem I find within the Paedobaptist hermeneutic.

It is my belief that Paedobaptists are guilty of reading the Old Testament into the New Testament. Or, to put it another way, they are interpreting the New Testament in light of the Old Testament. The Old Testament context is what drives the New Testament understanding. I believe this approach to be in violation of basic hermeneutical principles.

We have all heard the catchy little saying,

“The new is in the old concealed, and the old is in the new revealed.”

Or,

“The old is but the bud, while the new is the blossom.”

What this means is simply this. The New Testament is the fuller and final revelation of God. What was hidden or concealed in the Old Testament has now been revealed in the New Testament. This would indicate that the New Testament should interpret the Old Testament, and not the other way around. This seems to be precisely the point of Hebrews 1:1,

“God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things…”

Allow me to quote John Reisinger from his book Abraham’s Four Seeds to better explain the point I made above.

“It seems quite clear to me that both Covenant Theology and Dispensationalism approach the NT Scriptures with a system already fixed in their minds that they derived entirely from the Old Testament Scriptures. Both of those systems of theology insist on interpreting the new in light of the old instead of the other way around. Unfortunately, both systems are fully developed before they even get out of the book of Genesis. Instead of allowing the Apostles to tell us what the Old Testament prophets meant, both Covenant Theology and Dispensationalism make the Old Testament prophets establish what the Apostles have to say. They merely do it in different areas in order to prove different doctrines.”

Anyone who has ever read the New Testament could easily spot the error of attempting to read the Old Testament into the New Testament. Why do I say this? How often do we read a New Testament author quoting from, or alluding to, an Old Testament passage, yet the New Testament author gives an inspired interpretation of the Old Testament passage, one that was concealed in the Old Testament?

Take for instance Romans 9. The Arminian loves to point out how Paul quotes from the Old Testament. In these Old Testament passages, from which Paul quotes, the context is clearly speaking about nations. The Arminian then ignores the context of Romans 9 and imports the context of Genesis and Malachi, all to suit his theological presuppositions. The Paedobaptist does the same thing in Acts 2.

It is extremely common for a New Testament author to quote from, or allude to, the Old Testament but give an inspired interpretation from that text. This means, the Old Testament quotation now has a New Testament context. It is this New Testament context which is to drive the interpretation or usage of the Old Testament citation.

Allow me to provide another example, as this point cannot be missed, so I must drive it home. Let’s look at Romans 10:18,

“But I say, surely they have never heard, have they? Indeed they have; ‘Their voice has gone out into all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world.’”

Here, Paul is quoting from Psalm 19:4. In the context of Psalm 19 it is the “voice” of creation that has gone out into the world. However, this is not what Paul is arguing in Romans 10. In Romans 10 Paul is speaking about the “voice” of the preacher going out into the entire world to spread the gospel. Paul borrows the Old Testament language but gives it a New Testament context to suit his purposes. Let’s check a few commentaries to substantiate my point (and more could be provided).

“A better solution is to say that Paul uses Ps. 19:4, which in its original context refers to natural revelation, to portray the dissemination of the gospel message to the ends of the earth (so Murray 1965: 61; Aageson 1987: 60; cf. Fitzmyer 1993c: 599). He does not restrict himself to the historical meaning of the text. One should observe, however, that Ps. 19 refers to both general revelation (vv. 1–6) and special revelation (vv. 7–14). Paul perceives that the progress and the course of the gospel is such that it now extends over the whole earth, so that the proclamation of the gospel is now comparable to the all-encompassing reach of general revelation.” – Thomas Schreiner

“Paul says, they have heard, for Psalm 19:4 asserts that ‘their voice has gone out into all the earth, their words unto the ends of the inhabited world.’ Paul’s use of this text raises two questions. First, what is Paul’s purpose in using a passage that extols God’s revelation in nature in this context? The implied object of the verb ‘heard’ in Paul’s question must be ‘the word of Christ’; ‘their voice’ and ‘their words’ in the Psalm verse must then refer to the voices and words of the Christian preachers (see verses 14-16). Paul is not, then, simply using the text according to its original meaning. His application probably rest on a general analogy: as God’s word of special revelation, in the gospel, has been spread all over the earth. His intention is not to interpret the verse of the Psalm, but to use its language, with the echoes of God’s revelation that it awakes, to assert the universal preaching of the gospel.” – Douglas Moo

“This passage found in Ps. 19:4 is here quoted literally according to the LXX text (there Ps. 18:5). We should not misinterpret what Paul is saying. He is not trying to tell us that the Old Testament Psalm was describing the universal spread of the gospel. What he means is that what in Ps. 19 applies to the language of the heavenly bodies is also applicable to the spread of the gospel.” – William Hendriksen

The context of Acts 2, as well as the rest of the New Testament, is what supplies us with the interpretation of “your children.” Paedobaptists should know this as they apply such hermeneutical principles frequently, but fail to remain consistent because they’re short on passages supporting their doctrine. This is why James White, when debating Paedobaptists, always presents the audience with the question, “who is consistent in their hermeneutic?”

~~~

Four questions need to be asked regarding this passage.

  • What is the promise?
  • How is this promise received?
  • Who is this promise made to?
  • Who was baptized?

~

  • What is the “promise?”

Luke 24:29,

“And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

Acts 1:4, 5,

“Gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, ‘Which,’ He said, ‘you heard of from Me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.’”

Acts 2:33,

“Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear.”

Acts 2:38, 39

“Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise…’”

Galatians 3:14,

“…in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.”

The “promise” is not that Abraham’s descendants would have covenantal status through physical descent and receive covenantal blessing, but rather, the “promise” is the Holy Spirit. This is what Pentecost was all about; the giving of the promised Spirit!

  • How is this promise received?

Acts 2:38,

“Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’”

Galatians 3:14,

“…in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.”

Ephesians 1:13,

“In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise…”

This promised Holy Spirit is received through faith and repentance. There’s nothing here about receiving the promised Spirit because one is a physical descendant of Abraham or because your parents are Christian.

  • Who is this promise made to?

Acts 2:39,

“For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.”

The “you” are the Jews; they were the ones Peter was addressing throughout the chapter. “Your children” are the offspring of the Jews. “All who are far off” is speaking about the Gentiles.

Paedobaptists have a nasty habit of giving only a partial quote of this verse. They almost always leave off the last phrase. This isn’t an accident. The last phrase is what qualifies the “you and your children and for all who are far off.” This qualification isn’t friendly to the Paedobaptist interpretation, which is why, in my estimation, they never quote it.

“…as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself” is the qualification to “you and your children and for all who are far off.” This qualification limits the recipients of the promise to only those whom the Lord calls.

In other words, the promise is not made to every Jew, every child, or every person who is far off; but rather, to the elect of the Jew, the elect of the children (offspring), and the elect of those who are far off; “…as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.” This is the effectual call of God in drawing His elect to Himself.

Funny how the phrase “you and your children and for all who are far off” sounds very much like “world,” and “all men” found elsewhere in the NT.

Moreover, it would seem obvious that the “you and your children and for all who are far off” are the elect, given the nature of the promise. I find it hard to swallow that God would promise the Holy Spirit to the reprobate.

On a side note, the Greek word for “children” here in this verse simply means “offspring” or “descendant.” Paedobaptists tend to get a bit too excited when they see the word “children,” as they always seem to interpret it as “infant,” probably due to Gods command to circumcise the male infants on the eighth day.

The word “children” (offspring; descendant) in this verse simply means that the promise is given to succeeding generations and has nothing to do with the age of the children. It is the children, or offspring, of any age, throughout history, that this promise is given to, through faith.

  • Who was baptized?

Acts 2:41,

“So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls.”

Not too much to say here as the text is quite specific and clear. Only those who received Peter’s words were baptized. I would like to ask another question, though. 3,000 souls were “added.” Added to what?

I would suggest they were added to the fold; that is, they were added to the church, the covenant community. Why is this important? The text tells us that 3,000 people were baptized after receiving Peter’s words. It also tells us these 3,000 people “were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” Clearly, these aren’t infants.

Next question: Who was added to the church? The covenant community? Certainly these 3,000 who received Peter’s word were added, but what about their children? I would image that many of them were there as their parents were baptized. If the Paedobaptist is correct in his understanding of covenantal baptism, then it would seem to follow that these children would have been baptized along with their parents, wouldn’t it? If this be the case, wouldn’t these children be included in the “numbers added?” That is Paedobaptist theology, is it not? Why aren’t all these baptized “covenant children” included in those added to the church? Do they not count? Maybe these Jews just left their kids in the car, out in the parking lot while they attended Pentecost.

The last verse says this,

“And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.”

According to Acts 2:47, only those who are saved are added to the covenant community. This does not bode well for the Paedobaptist. Nothing here about “believers and their children” being added. No, only those who are saved are “added.”

Another interesting point needs to be made regarding the baptism of these Jews. Paedobaptists love to tell us that circumcision and baptism are virtually the same. That is, the spiritual meaning between these two signs remains the same while only the external sign changes. Robert Booth in his book Children of the Promise gives a lovely chart on page 181 where he compares these two signs and “demonstrates” how they are the same in meaning. Calvin himself stated in his Institutes that the “difference is in externals only.”

If this be true, why on earth would a Jew who already had the sign of circumcision need to be baptized if the signs mean the same thing? It would appear there was a bit of Anabaptism going on in Acts 2.

Conclusion:

In conclusion, Acts 2 in no way supports infant baptism. As a matter of fact, it’s almost ironic that Paedobaptists employ this passage considering it actually teaches the opposite of what they claim. The Paedobaptist hangup on the word “children” reminds me of the Arminian hangup on the words “choose” or “willing.” Reading an Old Testament idea into the New Testament disregarding the New Testament context is exegetical neglect at best and deception or willful ignorance at worse.

On James Arminius’ “Declaration of Sentiments”

The following is a short paper by Ed Bryant summarizing his study of primary sources.

~~

In this document Professor James Arminius critiques the major tenets of the common Calvinistic theology that held sway in the Dutch church of his day.  He defines the reformed doctrine he disagrees with, presents arguments against it, and then declares his own view.

He believed that the most important teaching he had to take to task was predestination, particularly the supralapsarian view which says that God decreed people to heaven or hell apart from the consideration of their works.  The Divine decree included the means as well as the end which secures the salvation of the elect, making it impossible for any of them to be lost and secures the damnation of the reprobate, making it impossible for any of them to be saved.

Arminius takes issue with several points of predestination and tries to show that even the Dutch church standards, the Belgic Confession and Heidelberg Catechism, did not support the teaching as it was espoused by most churches.

He argues against predestination on the grounds that it is a teaching contrary to the nature of God, man, sin, eternal life, death, and grace.  The doctrine makes God the author of sin because man is compelled by an irresistible force to commit sin, destroying his free choice.  Actually, if predestination is true, argues Arminius, then it is God who sins.  In addition, Arminius said that predestination dishonors Christ, inverts the Gospel, and undermines the Christian faith.

The Professor defined his own view of predestination as God knowing beforehand (from eternity) who, through prevenient grace, would believe in Jesus.  He did, however, agree with the reformed doctrine of providence.  He believed that God exercises a general care and control over the whole world and that nothing happens by chance.  Even man’s free will is subject to the Divine will and that nothing can be done contrary to the will of God, including evil.  God does not cause evil but permits it.

Concerning free will, Arminius believed that before the fall man had the ability to obey God with the assistance of Divine grace.  After the fall man lost the ability to do good until he is regenerated by the Holy Spirit.  Arminius ascribes all good in man and done by him to the grace of God, but God’s grace can be turned down and the work of the Holy Spirit resisted.

He confessed his agreement with the perseverance of the saints but admitted that certain passages of Scripture seemed to teach the opposite.  He proposed that the Synod study this more thoroughly to see if it is possible for some through neglect to fall away from Christ and return to the world, nullifying the grace of God in their lives.

With respect to assurance of salvation, Arminius held that believers could know they were saved by the testimony of one’s conscience and witness of the Holy Spirit.  Yet their assurance is not equal to the certainty they have of God’s existence.

Arminius also addressed the subject of perfection of believers in this life.  He was charged with being a Pelagian, because he thought it was possible for a person to live in this world without sin by the grace of Christ.  Augustine also believed this.  Arminius was not a Pelagian, because he denied that man could fulfill the law of God in his own strength.

The Professor had to clear himself of suspicion with respect to the deity of Christ.  He affirmed what the ancient church always taught that the Son had his deity from the Father by eternal generation.  He held the unity of the Divine essence while affirming the trinity of Persons.  He did not agree with the new mode of speaking of the Son as autotheos, meaning that Christ had his Divine essence from himself and not from the Father.

In conclusion, Arminius proposes an examination and revision of the church standards for the National Synod to ensure that it is in full agreement with the Word of God.  These are human compositions and likely to contain some error.  He advocated making the Confession shorter and to contain few articles that pertained to the necessity of salvation.

Calvin on Predestination (Institutes)

The following is a short paper by Ed Bryant summarizing his study of primary sources.

~~

In his discussion of predestination, Calvin says that there are three benefits to knowing this truth: Predestination gives all the glory to God for salvation; predestination humbles man; and predestination imparts confidence and comfort in times of trial.

Since the subject of predestination is a very deep and difficult subject to understand, man’s curiosity tempts him to pry into things God has not been pleased to reveal.  Calvin issues a word of caution here that man must refrain from this presumptuous tendency to know God’s secrets and instead just worship him.  Do not go beyond the teaching of the Bible in one’s quest for knowledge of predestination.  On the other hand, Calvin says that to avoid the subject altogether and suppress what the Holy Spirit has revealed in Scripture is as great an error.  To be silent about predestination is to deprive God’s people of blessing.  In summary, the secret things of the Lord are not to be scrutinized nor are the revealed things of the Lord to be overlooked (Deut.29:29).

Calvin defines predestination as God’s eternal decree “by which he determined with himself whatever he wished to happen with regard to every man.”  He goes on to say that some are foreordained to eternal life and others to eternal death.  Calvin cites the nation of Israel as an example of national election.  God loved and chose Israel over other nations and favored them with his covenant, not because of their merit and worth but on the grounds of his own sovereign choice.  Further, God demonstrated his sovereign choice in the family of Abraham when he chose Isaac instead of Ishmael and Jacob over Esau.

A common interpretation that many have put forward to explain the origin and cause of election and reprobation is to say that God chooses or passes by according to the merits he foresees in each individual.  Election is based on the foreknowledge of man’s works rather then on the sovereign choice of God to bestow his grace on whoever he chooses.  This is contrary to what Paul teaches in Eph.1:4-5; Rom.9:11-13; II Tim.1:9.

Calvin names some of the church fathers that believed that God dispenses his grace “according to the use which he foresees that each will make of it.”  Even Augustine held to this opinion for a time but later retracted it, excluding all merit as a cause of election.  God shows mercy for no other reason than He wants to (Exo.33:19).

Calvin also takes issues with Aquinas’ view that the “elect are in a manner predestinated to glory on account of their merits, because God predestines to give them the grace by which they merit glory.”

The common objection that is raised regarding the universal free offer of the Gospel and the doctrine of election is dealt with by Calvin.  How are these truths to be reconciled that appear to contradict each other?  Calvin answers by saying that everyone who hears the Gospel are called to faith and repentance, but only the elect are given the Holy Spirit to respond.  God is free to dispense His gifts to whoever he wants and is under no obligation to give the Holy Spirit to anyone.

Calvin’s view of reprobation is parallel to election, in that, as there is no other reason assigned for why God shows mercy to the elect but His sovereign will, so there is no other reason given for why God rejects others but His will (Rom.9:18).  Paul does not say that God rejected Esau because of his sin nor did He choose Jacob because of his obedience.

Calvin answers those who question God concerning the justice of His decree of reprobation by reminding them that everything God wills must be righteous by the mere fact of His willing it.  Man needs to desist and be quiet before the God who does not need to give an account of what he does (Rom.9:20-21).  God’s ways and thoughts are infinitely above man’s and man’s capacity to grasp.  It is not right for man to ask God why he does thus and so, because man cannot understand nor does God have to tell.  Furthermore, those who God reprobates are worthy of destruction.  God inflicts the punishment they deserve.

God was free to save some, none or all.  Since He is not obligated to save any, then it is due solely to God’s goodness that he chose to save some in order to demonstrate that his grace is free and sovereign to the praise of his glory.

Calvin deals with the Scriptures commonly raised against the doctrine of reprobation (Eze.18:23; Matt.23:37; I Tim.2:4; II Pet.3:9).  Both truths are Biblical and must be held together, namely, God’s eternal decree of reprobation and the free offer of salvation indiscriminately to all.  There is no real discrepancy between these truths.  The ultimate solution is found in the incomprehensibility of God.