Romans 9 Part 1: Paul’s Battering Ram Against Limiting Salvation

Romans 9 Part 1: Paul’s Battering Ram Against Limiting Salvation

By StriderMTB

battering ram 2

Introduction

Lets begin with a multiple choice question. Is Romans 9 a theological explanation about:

  • (A) God’s sovereign choice to limit salvation by unconditionally choosing to love some people enough for heaven, like Jacob, and damn other people out of hatred, like Esau.
  • (B) God’s sovereign choice to limit salvation by unconditionally hardening Jews to the gospel because God doesn’t want them to believe in Jesus and go to heaven.
  • (C) God’s sovereign choice to limit salvation by unconditionally creating some people for hell’s destruction as objects of wrath.
  • (D) God’s continued trustworthiness to fulfill his promises to Israel—His chosen elect— in the Messiah despite national Israel’s failure to receive her Messiah; the same Messiah given to the world according to God’s sovereign choice to universally broaden salvation by extending covenant mercy, union and elect status to both Gentiles and Jews on the condition they trust in God’s righteousness by faith in God’s Messiah.

Ask the average Calvinist and they will assume the answer is A, B, or C and maybe all three. I know because this view of Romans 9 was “beaten” into my head until I felt forced to acquiesce to the unassailable logic of Calvinism. My short foray into Calvinism was filled with misery as God’s nature took on a tortured face of malevolency. It was my joyous discovery that Calvinists are wrong about Romans 9 that reignited my faith and passion for missions and evangelism.

To begin Paul isn’t even thinking along the lines of A, B, or C. Calvinist err in approaching the text through 16th century, theological lenses, assuming the pressing question of Paul’s day was, “What role does free will play if God unconditionally predestined some to be saved and others to be damned?” That question isn’t even on Paul’s “radar.” The critical question of Paul’s day was, “How is it fair for God to invite pig-eating, unclean Gentiles into covenant election, while simultaneously cutting off Abraham’s own children—national Israel—from inheriting the long-awaited promises of God that have finally arrived in the coming of her very own Messiah?”

Answer D is entirely upon Paul’s mind.

There are two primary places where Paul expounds on election and predestination. One is in Romans 8-11 and the other is in Ephesians 1. In both portions of scripture Paul speaks of the “mystery” that has been hidden for ages but which has now been revealed (Rom. 11:25, Eph. 1:8-10). Moreover in both contextual sections of scripture Paul unveils what that mystery is—it is nothing less than God’s astonishing plan to include Gentiles into the covenantal household of God (Rom. 9:30, Eph. 2:19).

Predestination: Paul’s “battering ram” doctrine against constricting salvation

In Paul’s ministry-long battle with Judaizers he was constantly dispelling the notion that Gentile converts had only come half-way and needed to be circumcised and observe Torah in order to be in covenant with God. Paul’s answer was to always proclaim that salvation had come to the Gentiles and God’s acceptance of them into covenant election through faith was an evidence of this mystery now revealed. To be sure the saving purpose of covenantal election and predestination concerns the ultimate salvation of the soul, but the saving purpose is not the principal reason Paul brings up the issue of election in Romans 9. This is where Calvinists err. Paul has in mind an evangelistic purpose! He sees election and predestination as justifying the fact that God’s mercy had been showered upon Gentiles. Through faith they too could now be part of the chosen household of God! To the common Jew this was absurd. But to Paul it was the “God’s multifaceted wisdom…according to the purpose of the ages” (Eph. 3:10-11), and the “sacred secret kept silent for long ages…to advance the obedience of faith among all nations” (Rom. 16:25-26). In bringing up election and predestination Paul is not seeking to narrow the scope of salvation but enlarge it! As one writer aptly puts it:

Predestination was one of Paul’s key arguments for the inclusion of Gentiles into God’s family. Put in the vernacular, predestination was Paul’s “battering ram” doctrine against Jewish-Christians who wanted to restrict the salvation message to God’s Old Testament chosen people. In simple terms, Paul was saying that God will have compassion on whom He will have compassion and nobody can argue with God… The problem arises with predestination when people turn its purpose on its head. To Paul predestination meant that God has sovereignly thrown open the gates of heaven to all of humanity and wants His (as Jesus said in Luke 14:23) “house full.” Paul gloried in predestination because it validated extreme evangelism. A proper understanding of predestination puts it in its biblical context as connected to the mystery of Jew and Gentile being saved. It is a generous and wonderfully outrageous doctrine of God’s love for all of humanity. All humans are now invited to come to God’s salvation banquet through faith–the blind, the lame, the rich and poor, all are welcome.[1]

Far from being a chapter oriented towards justifying why God would choose to limit the orbit of his redemptive salvation in Christ, Romans 9 is Paul’s “battering ram” against any attempt to sequester God’s salvation from pig-eating, pagan Gentiles and “wall” them off from God’s covenant mercy. Romans 9 is largely misinterpreted by Calvinists because they insist upon seeing within it a doctrine of salvation limited. As we will soon see this conclusion is not only misguided, it is flat out wrong. Paul’s underlying endeavor throughout Romans is to set out on a course which broadens the scope and availability of God’s mercy and salvation through faith— not constrain and constrict it. Jesus fired the first shot when he chose to make available the good news of the Kingdom to prostitutes and tax-collectors at the expense of offending the pious sensibilities of the priestly elite who felt Jesus should limit his “evangelism” to the spiritual norms and theological restrictions of His day. Taking his cue from Jesus, Paul continued God’s expansion work by refusing to be strong-armed by the theological constraints of the Judaizers who felt God’s redemptive love needed to be straight-jacketed with the Law before enveloping the entire world. “God has imprisoned all in disobedience so that he might have mercy on all” Paul would answer back (Rom. 11:32).

That God even chooses to extend mercy and save sinners through faith is a signature of His sovereign grace. Salvation belongs to God. Election belongs to God. Salvation so totally belongs to God, its very offer is a gift of God. But like all gifts they must be received. For Paul faith was more than an intellectual agreement that God existed. Faith was an act of surrendered worship to God’s outstretched hand of grace and the means by which one received God’s gracious gift of salvation. Such an understanding put the Law in its proper context. The Law was meant to reveal one’s need of God (“poor in spirit”) and never meant to become the object of one’s devotion, dependence or confidence. That salvation was by grace through faith, and not by works of the Law, was a central message of the gospel Paul never wavered from telling. The fact that religious elites during Christ’s day were more than willing to “wall off” divine grace from Romans, prostitutes, tax-collectors and the disabled (thinking the latter were being punished by God), is clear evidence the religious establishment had hardened their hearts against divine grace and were ensnared in a boastful assumption that salvation was in some sense owed to them through ancestral birth and works of the Law.

Does faith “rubber stamp” an elect union with Christ already possessed at birth?

Oddly enough Calvinists have embraced a “Christianized” reworking of a similar deception Jews were ensnared by in Paul’s day. Jews assumed they were guaranteed covenant election on the basis of being born a child of Abraham and keeping the Law. Calvinists assume they are guaranteed covenant election on the basis of being born elect. In both cases faith is not a necessary prerequisite or condition for covenant election.[2] It makes no difference for the Calvinist to argue faith is the means by which their election is manifested or evidenced. The point is faith is simply an empty formality that only reveals or “rubber stamps” the covenant election they already possess at birth. It does not actually unite them to election. Yet Paul says prior to our coming into Christ through faith we were “ children under wrath” and “excluded from the citizenship of Israel” (Eph. 2:3,12). That is to say, prior to being placed in Christ through faith, we were un-elect, “with no hope and without God in the world” (Eph. 2:12). That is why Paul could also say, “if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him” (Rom. 8:9). Calvinists wrongly assume individuals are born either unconditionally elect or un-elect, and if one is born elect they are therefore predestined to believe in Christ. But that inverts the theology of Paul. We are predestined in Christ through belief in the truth. We are not predestined to believe. Election then is best understood as God’s choice of those who do believe rather than God’s choice of who will believe.

Covenant Election: Unconditional in God’s giving, conditional in our receiving

True enough God has unconditionally chosen to save sinners. In that sense He is the undisputed, unconditional source of all salvation. No one needed to convince God of humanity’s sinfulness and need of redemption. And given humanity’s universal sinfulness, no one can obligate God to save them based on their ancestry or human attempts to justify themselves. No one approaches God on their own terms. But that is not to say God has not sovereignly laid down His own terms for people to be united to His acts of redemption and reconciliation. That God has decreed faith to be His condition for joining the elect community is undeniable and unites both testaments.

This entire discussion goes to core of one of Calvinism’s key tenants of belief called Unconditional Election. It forms the spearhead for its interpretive approach in understanding the nature of election and predestination, and it is the initial point where Calvinism errs in letting its theological system inform Scripture rather than the other way around. In affirming a biblically centered approach to the nature of God’s election and predestination, it must be understood that the unconditional nature of election from God’s vantage point is not being challenged. There is an agreement with the Calvinist that God is under no compulsion and under no demands to save anyone. But the question is not whether election is unconditional from the vantage point of the Giver, but whether there are any conditions for the receiver. Concerning this, Norman Geisler explains,

The question is not whether there are any conditions for God giving salvation; the question is whether there are any conditions for man receiving salvation. And here the Bible seems to be very emphatic that faith is the condition for receiving God’s gift of salvation. We are “justified by faith” (Rom. 5:1). We must “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ” in order to be saved (Acts 16:31). “Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him (Heb. 11:6).[3]

Similarly man’s free agency to reject the truth of God made known to him is the basis of his condemnation.[4] Paul writes, “They perish because they did not accept the love of the truth in order to be saved.” (2 Thess. 2:10). Peter likewise had sober words for those that rejected God, saying, “You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit!”(Acts 7:51) John similarly declares, “But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the will of God for themselves…”(Lk. 7:30).

Paul will argue the same. He knows Israel’s national judgment is not occurring in a vacuum. Nor is it because God unconditionally chose for Israel to reject Him. In Romans 10:21 he quotes God’s plea to Israel, “But to Israel he says, ‘All day long I have spread out My hands to a disobedient and defiant people.” Given that national Israel, and her religious class, resisted the Holy Spirt and rejected God’s will for themselves, she will not be found among the righteous remnant of believers who pursued and found the righteousness of God through faith. As a result of rejecting the outstretched hand of God’s grace and rejecting God’s way of faith she will come under judicial hardening and be cut off from the elect community of faith. This should be no surprise. It is the way it has always been. For when disobedience and faithlessness abounded in the O.T., the elect community of faith often shrank to a remnant.

Covenantal Election: Primarily Corporate, Secondarily Individual

Paul rightly understood biblical election is first and foremost a corporate community and God alone sets the terms to be united to His elect community. It is our modern, enlightenment thinking that tends to see ourselves in an “individualistic” manner but much of biblical identity was rooted in your corporate identification.[5] Israel was called God’s elect nation, but that election was primarily corporate and secondarily individualistic. That is why God often “broke off” many individual Israelites for rejecting the terms of covenant election and identification, such as at Korah’s rebellion.

In the N.T. election is Christocentric, but continues to be primarily a corporate entity. God has elected a body, a church, bride—a corporate people for Himself—and individuals become part of that elect people destined for glory/salvation insofar as they choose to respond in faith to God’s drawing grace (not invincible or irresistible grace) and become united with Christ. All those who become one with the elect Son become elect in virtue of their identification with the elect Son. That is why Paul emphasizes in Ephesians 1:4,7 that people are chosen/elect/redeemed “in Christ.” And for Paul being “in Christ” only happens in response to faith—not prior to it.

Keeping this in mind aids us when we read particular passages much touted by Calvinists such as 2 Thessalonians 2:13 which states, “From the beginning God has chosen you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and through belief in the truth.” We err if we seek to divorce the “you” from the common, 1st century custom of assigning identity through being a member of a corporate group. Hence it is better understand as saying, “From the beginning God has chosen you—the church of Thessalonica— for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and through belief in the truth.” This is further enhanced when we take note of Paul’s plural usage of “you” in his opening remarks in the epistle. He states, “To the church of the Thessalonians…in Christ. Grace to you.”

Keep in mind Thessalonica was predominantly a Gentile church! Paul is saying it has always been God’s plan—from the beginning— to incorporate Gentiles into His covenant community through faith.[6] That is to say Gentile inclusion was never on the margins of God’s agenda or an afterthought. Indeed it was the mystery long hidden, but now revealed through faith in God’s Messiah. Thus the “chosen-ness” or election of the corporate body in Thessalonica was predicated on her having a right response of faith. Paul specifically identifies “belief” as the key condition for God’s choosing, not the other way around. “God has chosen you for salvation…through belief in the truth.”

Moreover God’s salvation comes “through the sanctification by the Spirit.” Yet sanctification by the Holy Spirit is itself a post-conversion, faith induced experience. For the scriptures know nothing of a sanctified—unbeliever. Try as they may, Calvinists cannot import their theology onto 2 Thess. 2:13 and insist God’s election refers to God’s choice of who will believe. No—the passage reveals God’s choice occurs in conjunction with belief (i.e. “though belief in the truth”), not in isolation from it. Once again we see that God’s election to salvation is conditional rather than unconditional.

The Church should always be viewed first and foremost as a corporate entity (body and bride of Christ) belonging to God’s elect Son and secondarily as a collection of individuals who, through faith, identify and associate themselves with that covenantal, corporate body and bride destined for glory. In short the corporate view of election differs from the Calvinist, individualistic view of election in the following way. God’s primary intention through election was not to unconditionally choose individuals for salvation, but rather to choose to elect the believing Church to salvation by virtue of its identification with Christ as its elect, corporate head. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of hearing Arminian theologian Brian Abasciano on this matter. He explains,

Most simply, corporate election refers to the choice of a group, which entails the choice of its individual members by virtue of their membership in the group. Thus, individuals are not elected as individuals directly, but secondarily as members of the elect group. Nevertheless, corporate election necessarily entails a type of individual election because of the inextricable connection between any group and the individuals who belong to it. Individuals are elect as a consequence of their membership in the group… But the Bible’s doctrine of corporate election unto salvation is even more nuanced than simply saying that the group is elected primarily and the individual secondarily. More precisely, it refers to the election of a group as a consequence of the choice of an individual who represents the group, the corporate head and representative. That is, the group is elected as a consequence of its identification with this corporate representative.

The same may be said of individuals. They are chosen as a consequence of their identification with the people, and more fundamentally, with the individual corporate head [i.e Christ]… In the New Covenant, God’s people are chosen corporately as a consequence of their union with Christ, which is effected by faith… Most directly, such election is conditioned on being in Christ. But then being in Christ is itself conditioned on faith, meaning that the divine election of God’s people and the election of individuals for salvation is ultimately conditional on faith in Christ.[7]

 

Numerous scriptures can be offered to demonstrate the corporate emphasis of election in regards to the Church being incorporated into the prior election of God’s elect Son.[8] For example in 1 Thess. 5:9 Paul declares, “For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Paul is not saying God preselected some for wrath and some to save, because Paul is writing to believers who already trusted in Christ and thus had already escaped God’s wrath. Instead Paul wants to emphasize the future destiny that awaits the corporate Church at large. Collectively all who are in Christ are destined to obtain the full measure of their salvation— which can best be defined as all that God has predestined to do in, through and by Christ.

Similarly we read, “The Father… has blessed us in Christ… For He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless…” (Eph. 1:3-4). Paul is careful to place God’s choice “in Christ.” In other words God ordained that all who are “in Christ” through faith would be His chosen people and share in Christlikeness (holy and blameless). We are thus chosen in virtue of being in Christ through faith. Calvinists think individuals believe in Christ only because they are already elect in Christ. But to be elect in Christ is to be saved!

The Calvinist view presents insurmountable problems. It would mean an individual is already “in Christ” before they respond in faith to God’s grace. Yet if someone is already “in Christ” prior to believing in Christ, it would mean they are already saved before they believe, rendering faith inconsequential and irrelevant to the salvation they already have. This we cannot say. As noted above, if the N.T. is clear about anything, it is that persons are saved by faith (Eph. 2:8; Gal. 3:24-26). Moreover individuals are not placed in Christ in order to have faith, rather they are placed in Christ through faith. Calvinist logic inverts this biblical order. Part 3 will deal with this fact in greater detail.

It should be no surprise that the New Testament writers intended us to see corporate election through an elect head (Christ) as being the principal lens through which to view election. Indeed it is the only form of election the people of God have ever experienced! In other words election as witnessed in the New Testament is rooted in the Old Testament’s portrayal of election as being chiefly a corporate election of a group that is further identified with a representative head.

Abasciano again explains:

God chose the people of Israel in Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob/Israel (Deut 4:37; 7:6-8). That is, by choosing Jacob, the corporate/covenant representative, God also chose his descendants as his covenant people. It is a matter of Old Testament covenant theology. The covenant representative on the one hand and the people/nation of Israel on the other hand are the focus of the divine covenantal election, and individuals are elect only as members of the elect people. Moreover, in principle, foreign individuals who were not originally members of the elect people could join the chosen people and become part of the elect, demonstrating again that the locus of election was the covenant community and that individuals found their election through membership in the elect people.

This notion of election is rooted in the Old Testament concept of corporate solidarity or representation… We have already noted that God’s Old Covenant people were chosen in Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. More specifically, God chose Abraham and his descendants, but limited his election of Abraham’s descendants to only some of them by his choice of Isaac as the head of the covenant through whom Abraham’s covenant descendants were to be reckoned. He then limited his election of the covenant descendants even further by his choice of Jacob as the head of the covenant.

At the same time, and as already pointed out above, people not naturally related to Jacob and so not part of the elect people could join the chosen people, becoming part of the elect. On the other hand, individual members of the elect people could be cut off from the covenant people due to violation of the covenant, rendering them non-elect.[9]

By the time we arrive at the New Covenant, as a fulfillment of the Old Covenant, God limits his election even further to Christ as its covenantal, representative head. And in so doing God ironically widens the scope of election by declaring its universal availability to all Gentiles who identify themselves with Christ by faith. Once more, Abasciano elaborates,

Paradoxically, this [Christ’s election as corporate head] also widened the election of God’s people because all who are in Christ by faith are chosen by virtue of their identification with Christ the corporate covenantal head, opening covenant membership to Gentiles as Gentiles. Just as God’s Old Covenant people were chosen in Jacob/Israel, the Church was chosen in Christ (as Eph. 1:4 puts it). And as Ephesians 2 makes clear, Gentiles who believe in Christ are in him made to be part of the commonwealth of Israel, fellow citizens with the saints, members of God’s household, and possessors of the covenants of promise (2:11-22; note especially vv. 12, 19). Indeed, any Jews who did not believe in Jesus were cut off from the elect people, and any believing Gentiles who stop believing will likewise be cut off, while anyone who comes to faith, whether Jew or Gentile, will be incorporated into God’s people (Rom. 11:17-24).[10]

The “elect” passenger train: A helpful analogy

The central point not to be missed is biblical election is primarily corporate and secondarily individualistic. An individual is elect, not in virtue of direct selection, but group identification. Individuals are elect in so far at they belong to and become identified with the elect community of faith, which is itself elect in virtue of belonging to the elect Son. Though illustrative analogies can never fully grasp the nature of biblical reality, they can be helpful in framing theological concepts more clearly and making certain theological points more accessible to the heart’s understanding. With that in mind I offer the following analogy to help the reader grasp how an individual can be predestined to a particular outcome, yet not be individually selected or directly elected in advance for that predestined outcome. Rather their individual election is secondarily conferred upon them in virtue of submitting to and abiding by certain conditions set forth to become members of the primary, elect whole predestined to enjoy some benefit. In particular the analogy will attempt to highlight the stumbling arrogance of Israel’s attempts to run after and lay claim to their election through trusting in their own efforts instead of trusting in the righteousness of God through faith.

Think of the corporate nature of the elect community as a passenger train on the way to a preordained destination called “Salvation City.” The train whistle signaling departure is heard by all on the platform. As an added assurance the call to departure is run through a loud speaker that magnifies the call, such that it wakes the slumbering, cuts right through the noise of headphones and pierces even earplugs. The tickets are handed out freely. In fact the conductor announces through the same magnifying, loud speaker he has purchased all the tickets ahead of time—for the cost is beyond the ability of anyone to pay. To board the train and arrive at the final destination one only needs to agree to certain conditions the conductor has decreed, such as: 1) Freely receiving the conductor’s ticket as an act of his generosity; 2) not attempting to dig into one’s dirty pockets for their own soiled money; 3) submitting one’s baggage for inspection; 4) being willing to surrender over any banned possessions; and 5) remaining seated inside the train for the duration of the trip.

The last condition is critically important. For trains have engines and they move under their own power. Therefore if it is by the engine that one is propelled along the tracks, then it cannot be by one’s own strength. No matter how confident one is in their own ability to run alongside the train and keep up, they will be greatly disappointed. For whoever thinks they can keep up with the train “under their own steam” is going to be left behind; not because of any personal animus the conductor has towards them, but because by nature train travel is a collective of passengers who have submitted to the conditions of the conductor and trust in the ability of his train to get them to their final destination. Therefore it is foolishness for passengers to think they can assist in pushing the train, or worse, pridefully think they know better than the conductor and don’t need his train at all to arrive at Salvation City.

The train will journey through various landscapes—both dry, barren deserts and fruitful, fertile valleys. Sometimes the train ride will be winding and bumpy and sometimes it will be smooth and peaceful. Sometimes it may seem as if it is hurtling at great speed and sometimes it may seem to be barely crawling along the tracks, truly testing the obedience of the passengers to remain submitted to the conductor’s wisdom in staying seated on the train, despite the seeming appearance that their own feet can propel them further and faster along the track. Though no one is under compulsion to remain on the train, and passengers are free to depart the train whenever they choose, there is no promise the train will wait indefinitely for them. However all the passengers that remain loyal to the conductor’s wishes are guaranteed to arrive at the predestined destination— Salvation City.

It is not as though the conductor specifically selected or individually predestined which passengers will arrive at Salvation City and which passengers will not. Rather all those who chose to become passengers and abide by the conditions the conductor set forth are by consequence “chosen” by the conductor to arrive at the preordained destination— Salvation City. For what has been predestined for the passenger collective becomes predestined for each individual in virtue of each person’s decision to remain with the passenger collective in the train predestined for Salvation City. It matters not at what stage you got on the train, or whether one sits in the caboose or up front in the viewing area. The important thing is to obey the conductor, trust in his ability to get you safely to your destination and have faith in his train’s engine, which requires no self-propulsion from you. Trust and faith is therefore identified with what it means to “obey and remain in the train” predestined for Salvation City.

Does God not have the right to institute sovereign conditions for “elect” status?

In light of this analogy, Paul would no doubt say national Israel chose not to obey the conductor and chose not to have faith in his train’s engine. Instead she chose to depart the train’s passenger collective and foolishly and pridefully trust in her own resources and strength to arrive at Salvation City. Biblically speaking to trust in one’s own “resources and strength” means one is trusting in their own self-achieved righteousness. For in Romans 10 Paul gives added context to his material in Romans 9 by putting it within the larger frame of Israel’s stubborn disregard of God’s conditions for election, saying “they disregarded the righteousness from God and attempted to establish their own righteousness” (Rom. 10:3).

In Romans 9 Paul is under no illusions as to why Israel’s disregard of God’s righteousness through faith, coupled with her self-inflated righteousness, brought about judicial severing from the metaphorical “olive tree” of election. In Romans 9 Paul skillfully links into God’s varied O.T. purposes in regards to election and uses that established link as a springboard to explain why God is not at all unfair or unjust to disqualify unbelieving Jews and qualify believing Gentiles into His elect, covenant “olive tree.” Paul rightly recognizes all God’s acts of election in the O.T., regardless of purpose, have one thing in common—they are all according to God’s sovereign will and therefore no one can obligate or compel God one way or another in regards to any of God’s sovereign decisions.

Does this mean God has not, or worse—cannot— institute His own sovereign conditions by which individuals can enter into “elect” status? That would be equally absurd. Obligating God’s sovereign election is one thing. Responding to God’s sovereign terms for election is another thing entirely.[11]

Indeed sometimes God’s election of people is unconditional, such as God’s choice of Jacob over Esau as a corporate figurehead for Israel’s nationalized identity. And sometimes God’s election is a conditional, corporate status of belonging conferred on individuals who meets God’s prescribed, sovereign condition of faith and belief.

Given that national Israel and her leaders rejected God’s sovereign terms of belief by resisting the Holy Spirit and rejecting God’s will for themselves (Acts 7:51, Lk 7:30), she consequently forfeited God’s will. God’s will was that she be part of His chosen remnant, His own special people set aside for Him to love and protect as a hen cares for her chicks. But she resisted. As Christ lamented, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem! She who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her. How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, yet you were not willing” (Mt. 23:37).

Since God sovereignly wills to not force His will (to love and care) on the unwilling, Israel will not experience covenantal protection but rather national judgment. That God often chose to judge unfaithful Israelites in the O.T. time shows us that God would rather have a remnant of faithful believers than an entire nation of disbelieving rebels. Paul is no stranger to this story. Later we will specifically look at Paul’s O.T. examples in Romans 11 and note how views the “chosenness” or election of the “remnant” in relation to prior faithfulness to God, and the hardening of “the rest” in relation to prior unfaithfulness.

Paul’s summary analysis and theological tsunami: Romans 9:30-32

Suffice it to say Paul believes he is living in another age where God is again judging the house of Israel for their disbelief and disregard of God’s righteousness. But all is not lost because what God intended for the world, when he first called Abraham’s descendants to be a light and blessing to all nations, has been fulfilled through the faithfulness of Israel’s Messiah—the true Israelite of all Israelites. As a result Paul has personally witnessed countless Gentiles place their faith in Israel’s Messiah—God’s elect Son. Just as Abraham long ago was approved righteous through faith, prior to the Law, Gentiles are now also being approved righteous through faith—apart from the Law. Paul pulls all the threads together in his summary analysis at the end of Romans 9, declaring,

What should we say then? Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained righteousness—namely the righteousness that comes from faith. But Israel, pursuing the law for righteousness, has not achieved the righteousness of the law. Why is that? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were by works (Rom. 9:30–32).

We will look at this profound verse more thoroughly in Part 2. But we ought to pause here and absorb the enormity of what Paul just said. For in the day of Paul the proclamation that any uncircumcised Gentile could become one of God’s chosen people, simply on the basis of faith in Christ, was a mind-blowing paradigm change that was synonymous with a theological tsunami! Are not Jews alone the chosen of God? And are not Jews the elect of God simply by virtue of their heritage and works as Torah-observing, children of Abraham? And if Gentiles are to have a “saving chance” should it not be according to terms set forth by God’s religious gate-keepers—the Jews? And should not the terms be circumcision and observance of all the laws in the Torah?

These questions were the flash points of debate in the early church and were issues that Paul was unceasingly addressing in his epistles—most notably in Romans and Galatians. Jews of Paul’s day had grown up under the legendary traditions of Jewish lore that they alone were God’s covenant people by birth—and it would always be that way. Paul’s first assault on the evolution of this legendary tradition is found early in Romans:

“He is not a real Jew who is one outwardly, nor is true circumcision something external and physical. He is a Jew who is one inwardly, and real circumcision is of the heart, spiritual and not literal…No human being will be justified in God’s sight by works of the law…we hold that a man is justified by faith apart from works of law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is He not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since God is one” (Romans 2:29-30, 3:29-30).

That many religious Jews were surprised to hear that God—through Israel’s own Messiah— was throwing open wide the door of covenant union to Gentiles would be an understatement. Not only this, but Paul is saying Gentiles need not conform themselves to rigorous law-keeping to join God’s elect community. Rather faith in Jesus alone was God’s sovereignly declared means to become a true son of Abraham, and hence a child of God. It cannot be stressed enough that for early Jewish Christians this was a major upheaval of all they had assumed. Calvinists are often remiss and inattentive to the historical, cultural and emotional context that surrounds passages like Romans 9.

Calvinism’s dark secret: God’s moral nature willed all evil against His moral nature

Why this critique? For one simple reason. Nothing less than the moral goodness of God is at stake. Calvinists have long considered Romans 9 to be the bastion of support for their views concerning double predestination and God’s determination of all moral evil. Many are unaware Calvinism’s extreme view of divine sovereignty also teaches that every human thought, choice and event throughout human history–including one’s personal sins—have been causally determined by God. A few quotes by John Calvin will bear this out:

Hence we maintain that, by his providence, not heaven and earth and inanimate creatures only, but also the counsels and wills of men are so governed as to move exactly in the course which he has destined.[12]

Men do nothing save at the secret instigation of God, and do not discuss and deliberate on anything but what he has previously decreed with himself, and brings to pass by his secret direction.[13]

The hand of God rules the interior affections no less than it superintends external actions; nor would God have effected by the hand of man what he decreed, unless he worked in their hearts to make them will before they acted.[14]

The will of God is the chief and principal cause of all things.[15]

But where it is a matter of men’s counsels, wills, endeavors, and exertions, there is greater difficulty in seeing how the providence of God rules here too, so that nothing happens but by His assent and that men can deliberately do nothing unless He inspire it.[16]

That last quote is especially chilling. If “nothing happens” that God has not sovereignly “inspired” it means God inspires every act of child pedophilia, every lie, every religious cult, every false doctrine, every abortion, every act of adultery and every suicide. The list is as endless as the world is evil.

It is one thing to suggest God allows evil and another thing entirely to suggest God decrees and inspires evil. They are not morally equivalent. God allows evil insofar as He created us as His divine imagers with the capacity of genuine choice. For in creating us in His image God was in pursuit of a morally meaningful world. And in His sovereign wisdom God knew the most meaningful acts of love, worship and obedience could not occur unless the free choice to not love, to not worship and to not obey was genuinely available to His divine imagers. Indeed if true love, worship and obedience was to mean anything it meant such choices could not be extracted from us coercively or irresistibly. In that sense God chooses to allow evil rather than abort evil by aborting us! For the only way God could abort all evil would be to abort His sovereign plan that we be created in His image.

That moral evil exists is evidence God chose not to abort His sovereign will to create us as free, moral agents. It is not at all an evidence God sovereignly willed all moral evil. Calvinism takes God’s moral nature and will to such an unbiblical extreme it becomes grotesque. In Calvinism God does not simply allow men to abuse their freedom to do evil, He in fact inspires them to commit evil acts. In Calvin’s estimation this is the only way God can guarantee they commit the evils He unconditionally decreed they must commit. Unconditional because Calvinists deny God conditioned any of His acts on foreknowledge of human free will. Free will is an illusion in Calvinism since God’s foreknowledge of what people do is informed solely by His knowledge of what He already foreordained they must do. That is to say in Calvinism people only desire to do what God ultimately decreed they will desire to do. And they are not free to choose contrary to God’s decree. Thus we are like a glove that fits over God’s hand. The glove moves but ultimately only in response to the movement of the hand. Our wills are thus God’s instruments to affect His decrees—and nothing more.[17]

The moral “fall out” of such theology contaminates everything—including God’s nature. Truth be told in Calvinism God’s holy mind becomes the logical origin of conception for every un-holy, wicked event in human history. Stated more specifically, God’s moral nature becomes the ultimate author, conceiver and determiner of everything that allegedly opposes God’s moral nature.[18] Is that a contradiction the Scriptures embrace? I don’t think so. Yet how else to explain Calvin’s teaching that all sinful decisions and deliberations are “decreed” and initiated by the “secret instigation of God” that he infallibly “brings to pass by his secret direction.” How else to explain Calvin’s insistence that “the hand of God rules the interior affections” of all people, having “worked in their hearts to make them will before they acted” because “men can deliberately do nothing unless He inspire it.”

Calvin is savvy enough to recognize God’s moral nature must be given an escape hatch if God is to elude the entrapment of being held morally responsible for the very immoral acts He decreed men must commit according to “the course which He has destined.” For Calvin, and all Calvinists since then, that escape hatch is to appeal to inconceivable mystery. We again take Calvin in his own words,

I have already shown clearly enough that God is the author of all those things which, according to these objectors [non-Calvinists] happen only by his inactive permission… No, when we cannot comprehend how God can will that to be done which he forbids us to do, let us call to mind our imbecility…”[19]

If God controls the purposes of men, and turns their thoughts and exertions to whatever purpose he pleases, men do not therefore cease to form plans and to engage in this or the other undertaking. We must not suppose that there is a violent compulsion, as if God dragged them against their will; but in a wonderful and inconceivable manner he regulates all the movements of men, so that they still have the exercise of their will.[20]

On the one hand Calvin wants to say that God’s will of decree regulates, turns and infallibly controls the thoughts and actions of every person. But on the other hand Calvin wants to preserve human accountability in making choices, so he asserts that God does not violently force his will of decree on anyone. How does God accomplish this? Calvin never tells us. Instead he appeals to unexplainable mystery seen in his cloaked phrase “wonderful and inconceivable manner he regulates all the movements of men…” This is theological gobbledegook in its highest form and it ought to be cast out of our minds as a nefarious deception.

There is nothing particularly wrong in appealing to mystery to understand the delicate question as to why a good God would allow the evils we see in the world. But Calvinism puts the “mystery” in the wrong place. Rather than evil’s occurrence itself being a “mystery” in light of God’s goodness and power, Calvinist theology makes the goodness of God’s nature the mystery. For how can God’s moral nature be truly good if that same morally good nature decreed every act of sin and evil allegedly opposed to God’s good nature?

Calvinism: A bankrupt theology with no moral currency

The result of Calvinism’s extreme view of sovereignty is frankly appalling. The logical implications of Calvinism are simply too enormous to justify.[21] In Calvinism God tells us to put to death the deeds of our flesh and to walk in holiness, yet every time we give in to the flesh God’s meticulous pre-determinism ultimately lies behind it all—such that we could not have chosen against God’s decree. On the one hand Christ told us to pray that God delivers us from temptation and evil, yet on the other hand God has determined all the tempting evil that ensnares us. Trying to rescue God’s marred, moral nature from under the rubble of Calvinism is simply too high a price to pay. We can embrace a biblically endorsed portrait of God’s sovereignty without the heavy weight of Calvinist theology weighing down our hearts.

Arminian theology has long opposed Calvinist views, not only on the grounds of biblical interpretation, but on the grounds that Calvinism surrenders up God’s moral character on the alter of a misconceived understanding of God’s sovereignty. Arminians consider their beliefs to be the true doctrines of grace and hold God is sovereign only to the extent God is good. This returns us to Romans 9. Since Calvinists consider some of Paul’s statements in Romans 9 to be the citadel of defense against all of their theological opponents, it is necessary we thoroughly deal with it. Moreover if Arminian theology accurately reflects biblical theology, then a non-Calvinist interpretation should not only be able to survive Romans 9, it should thrive in it. And this it does exceedingly well! With that said, let us thoroughly unpack Romans 9, keeping in mind Paul did not write in chapter divisions.

 

 

 

[1] Jonathan Deundian (Thomistguy) in the comment section at https://www.reasonablefaith.org/forums/index.php?topic=1905726.45

[2] Thanks to a fellow member of the Society of Evangelical Arminians for this insight.

[3] Geisler, Norman. Chosen but Free: A Balanced View of God’s Sovereignty and Free Will. Bethany House, 2010, p. 66

[4] Arminians hold no one comes to God’s truth apart from God’s God’s calling grace, otherwise known as drawing grace or preceding grace. Natural man is hostile to God in his will, but God’s grace enables a response of confession and faith by rendering man’s will sufficiently “freed” and therefore capable of a free response. Yet God’s grace is ultimately resistible and people resist God’s grace to their peril. God’s grace is not irresistible pre-conversion anymore than it is irresistible post-conversion, which is why the Scriptures warn us not to “fall from grace” (Gal. 5:4).

[5] See Brian Abasciano’s article “Corporate Election in Romans 9: A Reply to Thomas Schreiner” p. 353 http://evangelicalarminians.org/files/Article.%20CORPORATE%20ELECTION%20IN%20ROMANS%209.%20Final%20JETS%20Version.pdf

[6] It now widely recognized that the phrase “from the beginning” may not be the best translation. For the earliest Greek manuscripts know nothing of this phrase and instead read “God chose you as a first fruit.” This translation is borne out in more recent translations such as the ESV and TNIV Bibles. Though both textual translations are possible, neither one requires us to think that God chose certain individuals unconditionally for salvation and denied others before the foundation of the world. In taking the second translation it is quite reasonable to suggest Paul is asserting that the corporate body in Thessalonica, in virtue of their response of faith, were a chosen, first fruit harvest of believers in that area.

[7] Brian Abasciano, “Clearing Up Misconceptions about Corporate Election”, PDF version, p. 7-8,10. See the Ashland Theological Journal 41 (2009) 67-102 for the original published version. The page citations in this paper follow the PDF article available at http://evangelicalarminians.org/Abasciano-Clearing-Up-Misconceptions-about-Corporate-Election.

[8] See http://evangelicalarminians.org/a-concise-summary-of-the-corporate-view-of-election-and-predestination/

[9] Abasciano, Brian. “Clearing Up Misconceptions about Corporate Election”, PDF version, p. 8-9. See the Ashland Theological Journal 41 (2009) 67-102 for the original published version. The page citations in this paper follow the PDF article available at http://evangelicalarminians.org/Abasciano-Clearing-Up-Misconceptions-about-Corporate-Election.

[10] Abasciano, Brian. “Clearing Up Misconceptions about Corporate Election”, PDF version, p. 9. See the Ashland Theological Journal 41 (2009) 67-102 for the original published version. The page citations in this paper follow the PDF article available at http://evangelicalarminians.org/Abasciano-Clearing-Up-Misconceptions-about-Corporate-Election.

[11] This critical distinction is lost on the Calvinist since everything—including our responses—have already been sovereignly predetermined by God. In Calvinism we merely have the illusion we are freely responding, choosing and deliberating, because from our point of view what has been determined is not yet known—until it occurs. From God’s vantage point the choice is both known and determined. That is to say it is known to God only because God determined it. In light of this arrangement, any sense of free will we possess is only because we are ignorant of what God determined until we choose A over B and bring to light what God determined. For example I may have the feeling that I am exercising a free will when I deliberate over a menu, but that is only because I do not yet know the choice God determined for me to make—until I make it. Since Calvinism insists our choices are not free from God’s causal constraints, the entire biblical portrait of human accountability is rendered meaningless. Consider Paul’s counsel in Galatians 5:13, “For you were called to be free brothers, only don’t use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh…” If Calvinism were true it would mean both the opportunity for fleshly indulgence and the choice to indulge the flesh are equally determined by God.

[12] John Calvin, Inst. I.xvi.8. 1539 edition. Quoted in A.N.S. Lane, “Did Calvin Believe in Freewill?” Vox Evangelica 12 (1981): 73

[13] John Calvin, Inst. I.xviii.l. 1559 edition. See A.N.S. Lane, “Did Calvin Believe in Freewill?” Vox Evangelica 12 (1981): 73

[14] John Calvin, Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God (tr. J. K. S. Reid) (London, 1961)175f. (OC 8.358) See A.N.S. Lane, “Did Calvin Believe in Freewill?” Vox Evangelica 12 (1981): 73

[15] John Calvin, Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God 177 (OC 8.360). Cf. Inst. I.xviii.2 (1559). See A.N.S. Lane, “Did Calvin Believe in Freewill?” Vox Evangelica 12 (1981): 73

[16] John Calvin, Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, pp.171-172

[17] Calvinist theologian John Frame agrees, saying, “The Reformed [Calvinists] agree that God knows what would happen under all conditions, but they reject the notion that this knowledge is ever ultimately based on man’s autonomous decisions. Human decisions, they argue, are themselves the effects of God’s eternal decrees.” John Frame, “Scientia Media,” Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 2nd ed., Walter A. Elwell. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2001), 1075.

[18] There exists an unresolved conundrum within Calvinism. For if evil is best defined as “that which is contrary to God’s moral nature”, yet all evil is decreed by God’s moral nature, how then can we say anything is contrary to God’s moral nature and thus truly evil?

[19] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 2008), 1.18.1 and 3:136, 138-39

[20] John Calvin, Commentary on Is. 10:15. See A.N.S. Lane, “Did Calvin Believe in Freewill?” Vox Evangelica 12 (1981): 73

[21] For a more comprehensive list of Calvinist theologians attributing evil’s occurrence to God’s will of decree, see https://atheologyintension.wordpress.com/2013/03/21/2376/#_ftnref2

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An Arminian Analysis of Acts 13:48 as Covenant Transfer

acts 2Acts 13:48 is considered by many to be one of the strongest verses in defense of Calvinism’s view of individual election. We read, “And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.

At first glance it does appear to present quite the challenge to the widely held and thoroughly biblical corporate view of divine election. However a few considerations pulled from both context and grammar will demonstrate how this passage poses no serious threat to the corporate view of election, and in fact dovetails nicely with classical Arminian teaching that no sinner comes to faith independent of the gracious work of God. For Arminian theology is founded on the unalterable conviction that the Spirit of God continuously seeks to break down walls of resistance, open hearts and draw sinners unto divine love.

To commence lets first take note of the fact that the Greek word translated “appointed” comes from the Greek root of the verb tasso. Some Arminian scholars point out that tasso can be interpreted both in the passive voice or the middle voice. If interpreted in the passive voice the subject would be seen as entering a state in response to being acted upon. Yet this alone does not warrant the Calvinist insistance that God must be the actor. New Testament scholar Brian Abasceno rightly notes “the passive alone does not indicate who the agent of the action is, and does allow for the subject himself/herself to be the agent.” If interpreted in the middle voice the subject would most defintely be entering a state or condition in response to one’s own disposition, inclination or preparedness.

Concerning Acts 13:48 both interpretations of tasso are grammatically possible. To be fair Luke uses tasso in a few other instances in his epistle and in each case the middle voice is not the best interpretation (e.g. Acts 15:2, 22:10, 28:23). However this fact alone does not rule out the possibility of the middle voice in Acts 13:48. Moreover it must be understood that Luke’s usage of tasso elsewhere in his epistle has absolutely no connotation whatsoever of being a timeless decree or an act of eternal foreordination on the part of God before the creation of the world (as John Wesley rightly pointed out years ago). We will explore this key point more below since it is the unfounded presupposition Calvinists force upon the text.

In addition not a single usage of tasso in Acts identifies God as being the agent performing the action. In fact of all the instances where tasso is seen throughout the entire N.T. only one explicitly identifies God as being the actor of tasso (e.g. Rom. 13:1), and even in that case the verse is completely unrelated to salvation and simply deals with God setting or establishing authorities in place.

The verb tasso can have various nuances depending on the context surrounding its use. A perusal through numerous Greek lexicons will generally show it means, “to arrange or set in an orderly manner,” “to assign, to ordain, to appoint or dispose to a certain place or position.” Tasso is used 8 times in the New Testament and is translated with the basic meaning of “to appoint,” “to designate a place,” “to appoint or designate that something be done,” “to appoint a day for something to be done,” or “to appoint or set in order the powers that rule the world.” By far the majority of tasso passages are in the passive voice, but not all. In 1 Corinthians 16:15 we find the household of Stephanus “appointing their services” or “setting themselves” in service to saints in the church and the verb tasso is translated in the middle voice as meaning “devoted themselves.” In that sense upon seeing the needs of the saints the household of Stephanus positioned or arranged themselves accordingly to serve the interests of the saints rather than themselves.

Calvinists opt to argue that Luke’s usage of tasso should be interpreted in the passive voice thereby retaining the idea of an external cause acting on the subject to bring about a result—in this case belief. Therefore the passage should be read as “all those who were appointed to eternal life believed.” To be sure most translations bear out the passive voice and render tasso as “appointed” or “ordained.” However, not satisfied with this, Calvinists then go outside the text to gather up assumptions not explicit in the passage and then return to the text “arms laden” with presuppositions that lead them to argue that the passive voice of tasso must mean that God eternally elected or predestined before the creation of the world certain individuals to eternal life and the result of that predestination or foreordination is that those individuals believed.

We will address this shortly but suffice it to say at this juncture that some Arminians object to this interpretation and suggest that another possible interpretation can be drawn out by translating tasso in the middle voice. In this sense the passage would imply “all those who set their lives in accordance to the gospel of eternal life believed” or “all those who were devoted to eternal life believed.”

The difference in meaning is quite obvious. If interpreted in the middle voice the implication is that the hearers of Paul’s message set in order their own hearts in response to the message preached. Yet even in this sense no faithful Arminian worth his salt would ever suggest the heart of sinner can be set in order or be internally disposed and devoted to eternal life independent of the gracious Spirit of God convicting and drawing that heart out of darkness and to the light of life.

While the argument of some Arminians scholars for the middle voice is worthy of great consideration, it is difficult—if not impossible— to make a case that can completely silence the considerations of those who view the passive voice to be the most reasonable and plausible interpretation. Therefore it should be asked, is there a third alternative solution that retains the traditional translation of tasso in the passive voice and yet avoids the interpretive conclusion that Calvinists seek to argue for—that being that the passage teaches an eternal, timeless decree of election that is the direct cause for the belief of individuals?

I believe there is such an alternative—in fact there are two!

The rationale for interpreting tasso in the passive voice is to retain the idea that Paul’s hearers are entering a state in response to some external initiative or cause. Calvinists seek to qualify that external cause to be a divine appointment on the part of God. The text does not explicitly state this and so it is pure speculation on the Calvinist to insist upon it. However we will soon see that even a divine appointment to eternal life can be affirmed without consenting to the further conjecture that such a divine setting or appointment is rooted in a timeless, hidden decree of God before the foundation of the world.

But first let’s deal with how tasso can be interpreted in the passive voice without having to speculate on whether or not God is the external cause of tasso. It is perfectly reasonable to conclude that the external cause of tasso upon the hearers is the message of the gospel itself! Jesus often prefaced his deeper messages with the remark, “He who has ears let him hear” (Mt. 11:15). We are told in Romans 10:17 that “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God” so it should be no surprise to discover that the gospel message preached can be said to set lives in order (tasso) which were previously in disorder and in disarray. Understood in this light, the passage can be interpreted as follows: “And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many of those who heard and were set in order by the things they heard concerning eternal life believed.”

Yet perhaps the Calvinist is not content with only interpreting tasso in the passive voice, but also sees an inference to a divine appointing or divine setting to eternal life concerning Paul’s hearers. This leads us to our second, possible interpretation.

Much of the heat of argument generated over Acts 13:48 dissipates when we realize that tasso can: (1) be interpreted in the passive voice as being a divine setting or appointment to eternal life, (2) while at the same time compliment the Arminian views on God’s grace in salvation and retaining corporate election!

For starters it is imperative to point out that Calvinists substantially err in seeking to argue that tasso’s passive voice translation of “appointed, ordained or destined” must refer to God’s eternal decree of individual election before time began. By itself tasso has nothing whatsoever to do with a timeless foreordination or pre-temporal determinism. Not a single scriptural usage of tasso can be explicitly called in support of viewing tasso in this way—not one! The reason is simple. If the N.T. authors and particularly Luke in Acts 13:48 had meant to denote an eternal decree of foreordination, election or of a choice before time they could have easily said so with a number of words at their disposal to mean exactly that. In fact Luke previously enlisted two words, orizo and proorizo, in Acts to clearly speak of something that is predestined or foreordained in its appointment—namely the redemptive work of the Son (Acts 2:22-23, 4:27-28).

If orizo and proorizo are Luke’s common and preferred words to denote eternal predestination or foreordination, why would he then turn around and use tasso in Acts 13:48—a word which is never used in scripture to denote a timeless decree of foreordination? Apparently Luke does not want us to infer a divine, eternal decree of election—yet this is exactly what Calvinists unfortunately do!

Therefore, to be sure, even by retaining the passive voice of tasso as referring to those appointed to eternal life by God, there is no reason we should then infer that such an appointment is a pre-temporal, predestinating or foreordained decree of election on the part of God. Rather the sense of tasso is always suggestive of a temporal arrangement, or a time-bound, worldly ordering or appointment of events and actions which were, at that particular time, under consideration.

Most translations opt for translating tasso simply as “appointed” but some opt for “ordain.” Yet it bears repeating even in this sense translating tasso as “ordained” need not mean “fore-ordained in eternity past” any more than “appointed” means “pre-appointed before the world began.” Once again if Luke had wanted to signify a pre-deterministic foreordination as his intended meaning he easily could have done so by choosing a verb form that meant exactly that.

What we can infer from the passage is that their setting or appointment to eternal life, which did in fact lead to their subsequent belief, was itself a work of divine grace leading and establishing their hearts in faith. Truth be told such an understanding of the role of grace in salvation is a core feature of the Arminian perspective! This may come as a surprise to some given that there are so many misinformed assessments and misrepresentations of Arminianism that run amuck in Calvinist circles. This ignorance is a direct result of both popular and scholarly level Calvinists refusing to engage genuine, Arminian scholars on their own turf and in their words. Arminians have no bones to pick with Calvinists over the need for divine grace to initiate saving faith and ultimately open a sinner’s heart to the gospel. Where we disagree is the Calvinist insistence that divine grace cannot be resisted or rejected. Arminians believe such a grace would be coercive in nature and thus no grace at all.

Greg Boyd, though he ascribes to an open view of the future, is thoroughly Arminian in his soteriology and offers a helpful summary on the role of grace in Acts 13:48 and rightly notes the Calvinist error in imposing on the text an outside, preconceived assumption of election:

Note that the text simply says that “as many as were destined [Boyd undoubtedly opts to say “destined” to give the Calvinist the full weight of the argument before demonstrating how the Arminian view remains sound] for eternal life became believers.” Other than suggesting it was prior to their believing, the verse does not tell us when these people were destined. Nor does it suggest that they were destined simply because God unconditionally chose them. Calvinists assume that this destiny was given to the elect before the world began by sheer divine fiat, but the text simply does not say this. To be sure, there are several other texts which do say that we were predestined before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4–5; 2 Tim. 1:9) but the “we” of these verses is a corporate “we.” These verses do not support individual election to salvation.

The text only requires us to believe that the Spirit of God had been at work preparing the hearts of all who did not resist him to accept the Gospel when they heard it. God knows our heart before we express it through our words or through our decisions (Ps. 139:2–4). On this basis the Lord could assure Paul before his missionary endeavor at Corinth that “there are many in this city who are my people” (viz. whose hearts have been opened and who will therefore believe your message) (Acts 18:10).

So too, Lydia listened intently to Paul’s Gospel because the Lord had already “opened her heart” (Acts 16:14). Those Gentiles who did not resist the Spirit’s work in their life were “ripe” for the message of Paul and Barnabas.”[1]

It should be no wonder to discover that our heavenly Father “looks to and fro throughout the whole earth to give strong support to those whose hearts are blameless toward Him” (2 Chron. 16:9) so that he might appoint them to eternal life by opening their heart, as with Lydia, to receive the Good News. Apparently some of the “God fearing Gentiles” (Acts 17:17) in Corinth had not resisted the Spirit’s prior visitations upon their lives and thus were already appointed to eternal life by the time Paul and Barnabas preached to them the Good News which they no doubt received with joyful hearts.

Again Boyd astutely writes,

Scripture teaches us that prior to a person’s conscious decision to put their faith in Jesus Christ, the Father is “drawing” them and the Holy Spirit is working on them to break down walls of resistance and make the soil of their soul fertile (John 6:44, 65; 1 Cor. 12:3). This is why the Lord could tell Paul, “there are many in this city (Corinth) who are my people” (Acts 18:10), though Paul had not yet preached there and there were as yet no believers… Now, scripture makes it clear that this sovereign work of God can be resisted, for we are free agents even when the God of the universe is knocking on our hearts (Isa. 63:10; Acts 7:51; Heb. 3:8, 15; 4:7, cf. Eph. 4:30). When we persist in our rebellion, our eyes remain blind and our hearts remain dark (2 Cor. 4:4–6). We will not accept the truth of the Gospel. But when our resistance is broken down, our destiny to become believers is settled…

In my opinion, this is also how we ought to interpret Jesus’ words when he tells certain Jews, “you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. My sheep hear my voice…and they follow me” (John 10:26–27). Jesus isn’t implying that God unilaterally decides who will and will not be sheep, as Calvinists teach. And he certainly isn’t suggesting that this matter was decided before any of these people were born. Jesus’ words only imply that at the time of his speaking some people were sheep and therefore believed while others were not and therefore did not believe. We create impossible problems for ourselves—such as how God can love all and want all to be saved while predestining many to hell—when we go beyond what Scripture teaches…

In sum, we see that this verse teaches that God’s move toward us always precedes our move toward him, as in Corinth, and as with Lydia. God had ahead of time prepared the hearts of a number of Gentiles in Antioch to receive the Gospel when Paul and Barnabas preached it. But this verse does not suggest that God eternally predestines… who will and will not believe in him.”[2]

There is an additional contextual feature to be found in the text that compliments Boyd’s highlighting of the fact that before Paul and Barnabas even preached the gospel, the Lord had individuals in view whose hearts were open and ready to receive the gospel in faith. We find this contextual clue a few verses earlier in vs. 43. We read, “When the congregation was dismissed, many of the Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who talked with them and urged them to continue in the grace of God.”

These “devout converts to Judaism” were of course Gentiles and the fact that they are spoken of as being “devout” signifies that a genuine conversion to the Abrahamic faith had taken place prior to Paul and Barnabas’s arrival! For this reason Paul encourages them to “continue in the grace of God” (vs. 43).

In other words these devout, Gentile converts to the faith of Abraham were already in a sense “on their way” or appointed and/or ordained to the eternal truth of God by virtue of their prior orientation to the grace of God under an O.T. covenantal relationship with God. They started with grace in the old covenant and Paul wants to see them continue in grace in the new covenant! The passage says that immediately the next day the whole city turned out to hear the preaching of Paul and Barnabas. The Gentile “devout converts” of vs. 43 are undoubtedly the same Gentiles in vs. 48 who are said to be those who were appointed to eternal life and thus believed.

That changes everything!

It is no stretch to say that the Spirit of the Lord’s grace had been preparing the soil of their heart through their devout hunger to know God in an O.T. covenantal paradigm. In this sense their being “appointed to eternal life” should not be viewed as some theological aside related to a timeless, unconditional, selective decree of election. Rather, it is only through engaging the passage in the context of the overall narrative that Luke is telling that we come to understand something of great import. That is, their appointment to eternal life is the natural extension of a spiritual awakening that grace had already performed for them through their covenantal status as a spiritual descendent of Abraham in view of their commitment to the true faith of Abraham!

Understanding Acts 13:48 in this way allows us to retain the passive translation of tasso without going further than what the text says by assuming some sort of timeless foreordination of election. It also avoids the misgivings some have in opting for the middle voice and assuming that the hearers of Paul’s message set themselves or were devoted and disposed to eternal life within themselves. Most importantly it retains the idea that their appointment to eternal life was due to an external cause—namely the grace of God that established them formerly in the Old Covenant and was now carrying them through to its fulfillment in Christ in the New Covenant.

It is no overreaching assertion to state that at the time of Christ’s advent all those who were in true, faith-binding covenant with the God of Abraham were set, appointed, destined for eternal life. The Gentiles “who rejoiced” (vs. 48) that the door of salvation was open to them were already in a Judaic covenant of faith with the God of Abraham, and that served as the basis for their subsequent appointment leading to a full faith in the God of Abraham. They were converts to the God of Abraham before they even heard Paul preach, and yet Paul sought to urge them to lay hold of grace and go one step further into full conversion. This is beyond doubt what Paul hoped for when he “urged them to continue in the grace of God” the very day prior to their final conversion to Christ.

Lastly, there is no sound reason to assume that Paul thinks that grace is compulsory, irresistible and “always gets its man.” Otherwise he would not have urged them to do their part in partnering with God by “continuing in the grace of God (vs. 43).” Likewise we should not read into the text some preconceived notion that God did not genuinely desire others to come to life. Rather than describing a God who unconditionally predestines individuals to be excluded from eternal life, Luke says quite the opposite. He places the responsibility square at the feet of those who rejected the word of God for themselves. Couched between Acts 13:43 and 47 we find these telling passages:

“On the next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. When the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and talked abusively against what Paul was saying. Then Paul and Barnabas answered them boldly: “We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles.”

Far from teaching an individual, eternal decree of election, that arbitrarily selects some for eternal life while banishing others, Acts 13:43-48 is revealing the beauty and faithfulness of God’s covenant transfer. Those who had rightly responded in faith and trust to God’s grace in the old covenant, and were thereby appointed to eternal life on that basis, would not be forgotten or left behind. Just as they heard and recognized the voice of their Good Shepherd in the old covenant they would recognize that same voice coming through the message of the new coveant and thus be graciously shephered into God’s new covenant through their continued belief. Moreover Acts 13:43-48 teaches that grace always reaches out through the word of God to order our lives and establish us on a path leading to eternal life. But when the word of God is rejected and his grace spurned such individuals consequently judge themselves as “unworthy of eternal life” (Acts 13:46).

 

[1] http://www.gregboyd.org/?s=Acts+13%3A48

[2] http://www.gregboyd.org/?s=Acts+13%3A48

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The March for Women: When Diversity Demands Conformity

I was really impressed by the large turnout of women around the world marching to be heard yesterday. Truly amazing. Yet at the same time I was dismayed at the volume level given to abortion and some of those chosen in D.C. to give voice to the general cry of women everywhere that they are worthy of every honor and dignity and refuse to be subject to the demeaning, callous objectification of their gender by men of power. I have no sympathy for any man reaping some bad press over what he has long sown. Yet with humility and the grace of God leopards can change their spots–so we can hope men of all color and creed will be humbled by this march, take a serious look at their soul and repent.

But Madonna… Seriously? God help her… I don’t think there is a woman on planet earth that has done more harm to the dignity of women or worked harder to objectify women and reduce them down to their sexual parts in the eyes of impressionable, young boys–who unfortunately later grow up to become men well trained in verse and vision through our degrading, “bottom-feeding” entertainment industry. Because it enriches their personal, financial coffers many “role-model” entertainers, like Beyonce who participate in shoveling smutty garbage before the eyes of children, refuse to acknowledge the corrosive, psychological effect thousands of hours of sexually objectifying women has on the soul of a young boy. There couldn’t possibly be a connection between how women are sexually portrayed in music and T.V. and how women are viewed and valued in the real world…could there? Of course not… How silly of me to think the human soul is a sponge. I’m sure all that smut that gets splashed all over middle schoolers in our day is like water off a duck’s back.

Personally I think it is the height of hypocrisy to quibble about the very thing you are bankrolling. Lastly I read numerous reports about pro-life women being turned away in droves and being refused entrance in different marches–their banners about being both pro-life and pro-women were castigated, ridiculed and rejected. Now just think about that. A movement that largely wants to pride itself on diversity is demanding conformity on its first day!

So when a famous woman gets up on stage and says it is time for ALL women to stand up and be counted, it should be understood that conservative, pro-life women simply don’t count. Of course they do! And any pro-female movement that truly wants to effect real change in this world and be more than a passing protest with pink hats better make room for them. Unjustifiable violence against women is a huge problem and it is happening on a routine basis around the globe. Here in Cambodia roughly 1 out of 5 men admit to having raped a woman and Khmer husbands cheating on their wives is the accepted, social norm. Mothers and daughters are abused and abandoned daily. I hope one day to see such crowds march in support of repressed, suffering women in places like Cambodia, India and Saudi Arabia. But to reach that goal, “stronger together” is going to have to mean something more than a political slogan from an embittered campaign that now wants to act as an official gatekeeper to determine whose quality of “together-ness” and “femininity” is sufficient to qualify as worth being strong for…

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1 John 5:10-11 The Death Knell of Calvinism

some-lives-matter1 John 5:10-11 states: “Whoever believes in the Son of God accepts this testimony. Whoever does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because they have not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.” [NIV] 

THE ARGUMENT PRESENTED: When looked at objectively it is clear John’s statements are strongly implying God’s testimony is a witness of divine truth meant for every person, but the person who refuses to believe in God’s testimony is essentially calling God a liar because “they have not believed the testimony” of what God has done for him and given to them (i.e. His Son and eternal found in His Son) (vs.10). What is the testimony of what God has given to men— even the person who refuses to believe? John says, “And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son” (vs.11). John then implies that the one who does not believe in the Son, is calling God a liar and therefore forfeits the eternal life God has given to him. This is crucial to see. Why?

Because as mentioned in verse 10, the unbeliever is calling God a liar, in that he or she refuses to believe in God’s testimony, namely, that which “God has given about His Son” (vs.10). If this were not so, we are left with the absurd notion that John is condemning unbelievers for calling God a liar because they refuse to believe God gave His Son and the gift of eternal life to elect Christians only!

It is clear John is not condemning unbelievers for calling God a liar because they refuse to believe God has given His Son and the gift of eternal life to some select elect, but rather because they refuse to believe God gave His Son and the gift of eternal life to them.

Believing is certainly at issue but people are never condemned for not believing Christ died for others, but for them! Repeatedly the scriptures teach that people are condemned on the basis of rejecting the Son of God given to them— not for rejecting that the Son of God has been given exclusively to elect Christians. Never once does do the scriptures even suggest such a bizarre, outlandish concept.

100We can illustrate it this way: Let’s say I was to hand a $100 dollar bill to both Person A and Person B, and then I were to declare to them both that I had given them each a $100 dollar bill. If Person B says, “No- I don’t believe it” then he would, in essence, be calling me a liar. But if it were true that I had given Person B nothing and had only give Person A a $100 dollar bill I would not be able to rightfully condemn Person B for calling me a liar. For it would be true— I gave him nothing.

John’s point is that God has not given the unbeliever nothing, but something— the very testimony of His Son (birth, death and resurrection) and eternal life. To refuse to believe this is to call God a liar, and to call God a liar is to forfeit the Son, and to forfeit the Son is to forfeit the eternal found in the Son. For in the following verse John declares in unequivocal terms, “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 John 5:12). Who is the person who does not have the Son? Obviously it is the person who has “made God a liar because he has not believed in the testimony that God has given of His Son”(vs. 10) [HSBC].

To summarize then, these verses put into serious jeopardy any Calvinist notion that suggests God limited and restricted the scope of His redemptive intention and redemptive love to only an unconditionally elect few. The unbeliever could never call God a liar if it were true that the testimony (Christ and eternal life found in Christ) was not given or intended for him. But, as John says, the testimony of the giving of the Son and eternal life is true and when the unbeliever refuses to believe this, it is on that basis the unbeliever is calling God a liar and stands condemned— “because they have not believed the testimony that God has given about His Son”(vs.10). It bears repeating: John is condemning unbelievers for calling God a liar in that they refuse to believe God gave His Son and eternal life for them.


god-liarSERIOUS IMPLICATIONS:
 The implications of this stretch far and wide. John is saying unbelievers can slander God as a liar by refusing to believe God has sincerely and genuinely given His Son and eternal life to them. However it would also imply that any man or woman who tells other men and women that Christ’s redemptive death and work of salvation has been intentionally restricted to a pre-selected few, rather than to all mankind without exception, would also be calling God a liar. Calvinists can split all the hairs they want, but there is no getting around this serious charge.


god-how-dare-you-doTHE CALVINIST REBUTTAL:
The sole response a Calvinist can muster would be to say: “Well…yes in some sense Christ and eternal life may be offered to all through a general proclamation of the gospel. That would be his revealed, moral will. But in God’s secret will of decree only those whom God unconditionally pre-selected were specifically intended by God to be beneficiaries of the Son given because it was only for the sin of the elect that Christ shed his blood. Everyone else is left in their God-ordained sin to call God a liar and be condemned for it.”

RESPONDING TO THE CALVINIST REBUTTAL: The above explanation by a Calvinist is the typical escape hatch by which all Calvinists seek to evade and circumvent any scripture passage that makes God appear to be too charitable and intentional in His redemptive love for all people. For a Calvinist any suggestion of God being omni-benevolent in redemption is almost treated as a theological cardinal “sin” that must be denounced in the strongest terms possible.

Be that as it may 1 John 5:10-11 simply won’t bend to their wishes. If nothing else the text is a clear refutation of the Calvinist theology of limited, particular atonement and the constrictive manacles they impose upon God’s saving intention. For centuries Calvinist theology has insisted that the un-elect are outside the redemptive orbit of “the world that God so loved that He gave His only begotten Son,” and therefore the Son’s work on the cross was never truly given to them in any tangible, divinely intended manner. But if John is saying anything worth noting, he is saying that the Son (and eternal life found in the Son) has been given— tangibly given to all persons— and a denial of this is to call God a liar.

Shocking as it may be Calvinists are at the forefront of slandering the witness of God since they insist that multitudes of people are outside the orbit of God’s redemptive love and saving intentions through the giving of His Son.

calvinism-question

SERIOUS QUESTIONS: Two reflective questions bear out why the standard Calvinist response simply does not work:

Question 1: How can it sincerely be said the Son of God, and the eternal life He brings, has been given to those whom He didn’t die for and thus never intended to save through the redemptive giving of His life—which is the testimonial basis upon which John says eternal life has been given? (i.e. “he has not believed in the testimony that God has given of His Son. And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son (vs. 10).”

Questions 2: Moreover since John says the testimony of God’s witness to the world is established on the basis that He has given eternal life though the giving of His Son, how can unbelievers slander God as a liar if it’s true (as Calvinists insist) that the Son was in fact not given to them as a redemptive offering for their sins? What exactly are they not believing that is condemning them?

Once again we are left with the absurd notion that God condemns unbelievers for refusing to believe His Son was given solely to the select elect—but not to them. In other words it would mean people do indeed stand condemned for their unbelief, but not for disbelieving the gospel is good news for them—but for disbelieving Calvinism’s special doctrine of unconditional election on behalf of the elect! And that is ridiculous!

damned-from-eternityIt is this issue that will forever divide Calvinists from Arminians and all non-Calvinists. Calvinism creates a cosmic charade out of grace in which God is seen to feign loving concern towards unbelievers by calling out to them to repent, to believe in the Son given—but its all a guise, a parody of grace with no substance. The truth is there is no tangible Christ for them; there is no forgiveness for sins; there is no genuine opportunity for repentance. In sum there is no Son—only the pretense of a Son given. To this all faithful Christians must say to our misguided Calvinist brothers and sisters, “Cow cookies!” We are called to hold unbelievers to account. The Son has been given and you knowingly reject Him to your peril.

-StriderMTB

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Hypocrisy leads to cataracts in the soul

right-hypocrisyTruth be told Donald Trump is a mentally unstable, morally unprincipled man who can’t be trusted with the highest seat of power. Voting for someone I wouldn’t trust around my own mother seems absurd. The hypocrisy of many in the “moral majority” who have always told us “character matters most” (but this time is doesn’t) is stunning.

On the other hand Hillary is a dishonest, unprincipled woman who for years has been the chief concealer and enabler of her husband’s predatory advances towards women in order to insulate her own political ambitions. She considers herself the uncompromising protector of women’s rights, but has bear-hugged millions of dollars given to her from the most brutal and repressive regimes on earth that systematically run roughshod over the rights of their female citizenry. Her hypocrisy and that of the media knows no bounds. If you don’t think so you need to get your head out of the sand. Neither one should have gotten this far. But the following isn’t about their unfitness to serve because neither one gets my vote.

skeletonRather I want to comment on the hypocrisy that has gotten us this far. The hypocrisy on the right is self-evident and obvious. Trump’s emotional maturity and integrity doesn’t pass the smell test and we all know it. The skeletons in his closet could probably fill a graveyard and evangelical Christians should not be caught trying to “bleach” all those bones (i.e. “he just says stupid things… I’m sure he never means anything by it”). If Trump wins, he wins. But let him do it without our white-washing enablement. There is more at stake than Supreme Court justices. America is not the Kingdom of God. Never was. Never will be. Get that straight and loving your enemy and a host of other counter-intuitive statements of Christ will begin to make more sense.

Now what about the left? I think the hypocrisy on the left is much more nuanced and subtle. But it is also what makes it more dangerous, for what is more subtle is by nature less detectable until it manifests itself as irreversible and terminal—like advanced cancer. For years the left, liberal progressive element of our society has been slipping further and further into subtle hypocrisy. But given their recent reaction of shock and horror over Trump’s lewd remarks towards women, it appears their hypocrisy is now in total free-fall. For in fact Trump is the left—at least on this issue. His objectification of women as titillating sources of personal amusement and entertainment mirrors the commercial degradation of women that has been going on for years. cataractsThat the left is blind to this truth only goes to show how hypocrisy eventually leads to cataracts in the soul.

For decades Hollywood has churned out hundreds if not thousands of films that objectify women and reduce them down to their sexual parts. Yet Hollywood is 90% left wing—not even close to the center. Similarly the liberal, progressive music industry has made billions on lyrics and videos that not only sexualize women, but assault their feminine dignity in a manner that would have made the blood of our parent’s generation run cold. It’s art they say. No it’s sex. And sex sells. We are whoring ourselves in pursuit of the almighty dollar—and losing our kids in the process. Videos that were considered risqué and racy in the 80’s would now be considered prudish and boring—almost wholesome—compared to the pornographic seduction and obscenity laced smut that masquerades as musical entertainment today.

miley-cyrusBut whenever the charge is made on the right that the movie and music industry has gone too far and they need to reign in the smutty garbage they daily pump into our societal consciousness, it is often the left-wing feminists who run to their defense and say showing prolific, uninhibited fornication, grinding multiple men and fingering oneself before a T.V. audience isn’t degrading at all. It isn’t? Nope. We are told it is a healthy means for feminist expression that empowers younger women to be proud of their bodies and take back control of their sexuality from men. Sounds great. Doesn’t work. It’s a pile of steamy you-know-what. In fact it plays right into the playbook of the Donald Trumps and Bill Clinton’s of this world who drool all over that sort of feminine “empowerment.”

Let’s not be so naïve. They and their kind bankroll it! Moreover it makes it even more difficult for our sisters, mothers and daughters to empower themselves in ways outside of sex appeal.

More astonishing is that Barack Obama has praised the some of the worst misogynist rappers like Jay-Z and Ludacris, going so far as to say hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons and the rappers Jay-Z and Ludacris were “great talents and great businessmen”. Never mind that their lyrics often boast about sexual violence and assault against women. Though Obama has voiced he is sometimes “troubled” by their lyrics he nonetheless feels this does not change the fact that they are great talents whose business acumen should be praised. How naive can one be? In the industry of rap, lyrics and business are joined at the hip! No one is rapping about “Mary had a little lamb.” Furthermore Obama apparently has zero qualms boasting about listening to Eminem whose routine  lyrical violence against women knows no bounds. Here is just a taste of the lyrical “artists” who have found a place on our President’s i-pod or whom he has personally invited to the White House, like Snoop Dog and Jaz-Z who routinely rap explicitly about sexual assualt.

  • Eminem “The Real Slim Shady” – Jaws all on the floor, like Pam, like Tommy just burst in the door and started whoopin her ass worse then before.
  • Eminem “Superman” – Don’t put out, I’ll put you out, won’t get out, I’ll push you out. There goes another lawsuit, leave handprints all across you. Put anthrax on a tampax, and slap you till you can’t stand.
  • Eminem “Love the Way You Lie” – You push, pull each other’s hair, scratch, claw, hit ‘em. Throw ‘em down, pin ‘em. Im’a tie her to the bed and set this house on fire.”
  • Ludacris “Southern Hospitality” – Lie through your teeth you could find your mouth, cold and rip out ya tongue cause of what ya mouth, told.
  • Lucacris and Mystikal “Move Bitch” – “I’ma ‘bout to punch yo…lights out”
  • Ludacris, Usher, Lil Jon Lovers and Friends” “Be a good girl now, turn around, and get these whippings. You know you like it like that, you don’t have to fight back, Here’s a pillow bite . . . that. 
  • Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre “The Next Episode” – And if yo’ ass get cracked, bitch shut yo’ trap.”
  • Jay-Z and UGK’s “Big Pimpin” – You know I thug em, fuck em, love em, leave em. Cause I don’t fuckin need em. In the cut where I keep em til I need a nut, til I need to beat the guts.

The manner in which misogyny and sexual assault can masquerade as art, and the perpetrators of such “art” be praised by our President as men with gifted talent and business acumen is utterly deplorable and indefensible.

beyonce-blowAnd how both Barack and Michelle Obama can say “Beyoncé could not be a better role model for my girls because she carries herself with such class and poise” is beyond me! It is perhaps the greatest evidence that the collective cataracts of our nation’s soul have brought about an irreversible blindness of desensitization.

After all we all talking about the same Beyoncé who wears the raciest of outfits and routinely laces hers lyrics with the raunchiest of sexual prose–all in the name of female empowerment of course. Note the following empowering speech for Obama’s young girls to follow:

“Who the fuck do you think I is? You ain’t married to no average bitch boy. You can watch my fat ass twist boy. As I bounce to the next dick boy.” (-Beyonce Lemonade)

Or how about this one:

“Oh he so horny, yea he want to fuck. He popped all my buttons, he ripped my blouse, he Monica Lewinski all on my gown.” -(Beyonce Partition)

feminist-hypocrisyLastly the hypocrisy of the left is most profound in how left-wing feminists systematically attack and vilify women on the right who don’t act like them, talk like them or believe like them. Stay home and raise your kids? You’re a sellout. Advocate the wisdom and value of abstinence before marriage? You’re a puritan shrew. Suggest more modest clothing? You’re a prude. Say you are pro-life? You must be against women despite being one. You’re a female Republican? You deserve to be made fun, called a cunt and vilified on SNL. sarah-palin-hypocrisy

For left-wing feminists, it isn’t enough to just be a woman. No—one must be a left-leaning feminist if their femininity is to count.

The left-wing feminist movement use to be just that—a movement—and a much needed one in our society. But today—at least in the US—it is largely a specialized club membership with an entrenched, narrow-minded ideology that stifles and controls the independent thinking of women. I once read somewhere that the feminism of today acts like a credit card. It doesn’t exist to really help women anymore than a credit card exists to help you save and preserve your hard earned income. Sure it may come to your aid from time to time and help you get out of a bind, but their real interest is their shareholders.

Feminism today exists to serve their left-wing shareholders not the general female consumer. And Hillary Clinton is the highest paid shareholder there is.

Just so we know.

-StriderMTB

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I’ve got a bad case of the political “shits”

toiletHillary makes me nauseous. Trump makes me constipated or worse. Either way our country is going to take a trip to the toilet. Count me out.

We are bottom feeding as a country. But our candidates are only a larger reflection of the state of our national soul. After all it was “we the people” that narrowed the field down to such deplorable choices.

But… wow… this latest video about Bill Clinton copied below is probably the lowest level of moral slime we can reach as a political society that insulates the powerful from consequences. I dare anyone to watch it and seriously think she is making it all up. Personally I felt my blood boil. Whether it is pedophile priests, political superstars or Hollywood elites, their day of the millstone will come. (Luke 17:2)

CLICK: Clinton rape victim speaks out.

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A Dream: A Sniper Rifle vs. Christ’s Binoculars

sniper-rifleI just woke up from a powerful dream…in a coffee shop… in Cambodia. The dream was not about being in a coffee shop in Cambodia; I am literally in Cambodia in a coffee shop, having just woken up from a long nap. The dream was quite vivid and my heart is still very heavy with emotions. I am typing this out before it slips away.

In my dream I was on a balcony overlooking a city. Jesus suddenly walked up next to me and calmly pointed down to an apartment block across the block. He then stated that in each apartment complex were guilty men that deserved to die. At my feet there was a sniper rifle. I picked it up, looked through the scope, and began to survey each apartment complex. Rather than be in their rooms each man was outside on their balcony.

Through the scope I saw nothing but anger and cruel evil etched into the faces of each man. Some of the men were yelling and beating their wives. Others were cruelly slapping their kids repeatedly in the face. A few were yelling curses into their phones  while others were yelling up at the sky and shaking their fist at God. Immediately I felt what I perceived to be a righteous indignation well up within me! These people were bad! They needed to be stopped! Jesus said they deserved to die. Therefore I could stop them.

I did not hesitate at all. Immediately and calmly I started at the top balcony and fired off my first shot. Through the scope I saw the head of the man explode, just as he was about to hit his wife again. His death did not bother me a second. I felt emboldened. I felt nothing but justification. Slowly but methodically I worked my way down the side of the building—killing each man on his balcony and watching them drop dead before me.

Once I got to the bottom of the building, and all the men that needed killing were dead, I calmly placed the rifle back down. I looked over at Jesus who was just staring at me.

“What do you feel?” Jesus asked me.

“I feel good. I feel justice has been done. I feel the world is a much better place without those men,” I replied.

binocularsThis is where my memory is a bit fuzzy. But I think Jesus gave me a pair of binoculars. He told me to look through them at the same apartment complex again. I did. What I saw immediately took my breadth away. Instead of seeing angry men shouting at their wives and beating their children, I saw men hugging their wives, kissing their wives and gently tossing their children up into the air and lovingly catching them. Each balcony was a picture of love and happiness.

Suddenly I saw the head of one of the men explode as he was kissing his wife. He had been shot! Then another father dropped dead and another and another. I started screaming! “Stop, stop! Look out!”

But my words changed nothing. With horror I saw each father and husband killed before my eyes. Then it was over. I looked over at the apartment balcony next to me and was horrified to see… myself. I was dressed all in black, looking through a scope. I could hardly see my face, but somehow I knew it was me.

With tears in my eyes I turned to Jesus and said, “Jesus, they didn’t deserve to die! You said they deserved to die! But they were loving their families!”

Jesus calmly replied, “I didn’t kill them, you did.”

“No, I didn’t Jesus,” I pleaded. “I only killed the bad men that deserved to die.”

“They are the same men,” Jesus replied calmly.

I began to cry heavily. My heart was in deep agony over what I had done. I fell to my feet. “I don’t understand…” grief

Jesus then began to explain. “What you saw through the scope of the sniper rifle was only judgment that was void of hope. The sniper rifle is an instrument of death as is judgment without hope. When you are too quick to judge others, your judgment is “hope-less”, and you can only see what people deserve in the emotion of your own anger and sense of justice. When you only seek to judge people you kill them by prematurely cutting them off from the hope that life could be different for them. What you saw through my binoculars is hope and the power of hope to change lives.”

I sat on the balcony floor. I could say nothing. But Jesus had more to say. “There were times in your life when you were in the cross hairs of other people that thought you deserved to die. They judged you, but I had hope for you. You are still alive because the cross hairs of others did not overlap my cross hairs. Don’t be quick to judge others. Don’t be quick to put people in your cross hairs. Look through my binoculars and see people with hope.”

Still unsure, I asked, “How could those angry, cruel men I killed become the joyful, gentle fathers and husbands I saw through your binoculars?”

“Only one way,” Jesus replied. “You would have to forgo being content to only judge them. You would need to go to them and speak my words and truth to them. Never be content to just stand far away and tell yourself what you think people deserve. You may be right—but it kills hope.”

The utter horror of what I had done began to effect me even more. I could hear the cries and wailing of wives and children grieving in the distance. The intensity of my own grief and crying woke me up. I now find myself alone in this café, sitting on a too-comfortable beanbag, typing out my thoughts. I feel there may have been something in my dream previous to my looking through the sniper rifle… but I can’t remember what it was or if it was important. Dreams can be so elusive, like smoke slipping through our fingers the minute we wake up. But the part I wrote above is strongly pressed into my consciousness because of the emotions that I still feel.

Whether this dream truly came from God, I don’t know. I only share it because I do believe there is a message in it that needs to be taken to heart. One of the struggles I have had in Cambodia is the pervasive evil I see men in this country inflict on their own wives, children and society. A healthy standard of masculinity, fatherhood and faithfulness is sorely lacking. Domestic violence, human trafficking, rape, marital unfaithfulness, abject laziness, corruption, theft, apathy and senseless cruelty is currently decimating the soul of Cambodia.

It is hard for me to see hope that things can be different. I find myself often becoming angry with the men of this country and secretly wishing death and destruction upon many of them. May God help me to see them with eyes of hope and the capacity of his truth to radically alter their lives and that of this country.

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