Ugly Truth

Well, the last post created a lively meta, in which the delightful redaer named "Simon" was trying to make a point about 112 million murdered by communism in the period 1930-1945. However, his point was that all dead people go to heaven, and I told him he was wrong.

To that, he said:
okay then, put it this way -

- the good ones, in your (God's) eyes, will go to heaven. The bad ones will what... go to Hell?

What is your belief?
And if ever someone who loved the Gospel received a straight line, it was me upon reading Simon's simple question.

Simon, if you are reading, it is clear that you have never heard the Gospel, and for that I am truly ashamed and sorry. That anyone in the English-speaking world cannot have heard the Gospel at least once in his life is an absolute disgrace upon us who have a nearly incalculable ability to produce and disseminate information.

Thus, let me assure you that "the good ones" did not, do not go to heaven. There is only one who is good, and He never was absent from Heaven. The rest of us have never been good -- and certainly have never been good enough to deserve the reward of Heaven.

"How can this be," someone might ask, "if God made all creation 'good' and proclaimed that man is 'very good'?" The answer is that man -- the first man -- certainly chose to disobey God, and like him all of us also choose to disobey God. Be clear about this: we who are not the first man choose to disobey because we are sinners: our sins do not make us sinners but prove us to be such a thing.

And in that truth, all of us deserve death and condemnation. We are all sinners. I am a sinner. I unquestionably confess to you that I am at least as sinful as you are. And if God were to judge me right now based on who I am and what I have done in this life, I admit to you that I have sinned and I deserve the wages of sin.

In that 112 million who died under communism, Simon, all of those people were sinners -- even the ones who did not break any of Stalin's laws. All of them were sinners and all of them, when they died, deserved the punishment laid up for sin.

"Then in what way is your view better than the atheist's view, centuri0n," pipes up another who is reading, and is agape that this is what a Christian would say. "How does your view give comfort to, for example, this girl you have been on about?"

It is for this reason only: all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Yes: we may deserve death. We in fact do deserve death. But Christ died in order that the price of sin in us may be paid and therefore men will be saved.

There were no good men in the millions Stalin killed -- but some were saved in spite of their sinfulness, in spite of their hard hearts. And those who were saved did no save themselves but were saved by a Savior who did His work for them personally, specifically. This Savior worked, and is working today, to draw a people to Himself for the glory of God, and He will be glorified.

For example, this girl about whom I have written can find solice in the Savior who saves. In His resurrection, she has promise of a life where she does not have to suffer because she isn't the best one. An in the mercy of that promise, she can offer her best and her heart of hope to her daughter, rather than labor under the burden that both of them are condemned to this life of malfunctioning minds and bodies in which they are of marginal value at best.

That is what I believe, Simon: that there is a Savior who actually saves, and that He doesn't save because we are special or notable. Christ died for our sins, Simon, in accordance with Scripture; He was buried, and He was raised on the third day, in accordance with Scripture. This is the Gospel, Simon. Listen to it, if you have ears to listen. If today you hear His voice, do not harden your heart.

For example, that girl ...

Well, the DebateBlog has been interesting this time around at least as far as it has been engaging something which is overtly against Christianity. As I have mentioned in the meta, I have a particular soft spot for atheists as I have previously been one, and it’s comforting (I guess) to see that the old neighborhood doesn’t really change much.

I was thinking about this over the last few days, and while driving my car between the bookstore and my daytime employment, I saw one of our bookstore customers out for a walk. She is an interesting person, and I’m going to take a few hundred words to tell you about her, and then I’m going to tell you why any of this relates to my discussion with Brian Flemming.

This young woman is twenty-something, and there are three obvious characteristics of her life. The first is the fearlessness of innocence about her. She doesn’t have the face of a person burdened by the long-term, or of someone worried about all the stumbling around all of us do every day. She’s innocent in a way that I would never want to be, because she can not comprehend a great deal of life, and she will have the mind of a child all of her days. She isn’t bewildered, but she is also not very complicated and doesn’t see life as a complicated transaction.

The second matter is that she is obviously a stay-at-home mom. Her child is always with her, and this woman is more than dutiful in caring for that child. She doesn’t just bring the child in-tow everywhere. She escorts the child as if she were showing her the world for the first time, as if there is something wonderful in a walk around the block. That child has the same uncomplicated, innocent face her mother has, and the toddler is quick to recognize anything that can be interpreted as kindness with a smile.

The last detail almost goes without saying: this woman loves this child as the most precious gift she has ever received. Her attention and devotion is lavish – extravagant in a way a more complicated person could not possibly maintain. She always manages kindness even in saying no, which is itself an art all parents struggle with.

Now, let’s be honest: this is a very flowery picture of this woman and her child. She is a developmentally-disabled adult, and she has a developmentally-disabled child. Because all I know of them I know from my interaction with them at the bookstore and around town, I may only be getting a somewhat-superficial understanding of who they are and what goes on in their relationship.

But the question in my mind as I thought about them between jobs was this: what hope in the world is there for them? I blog a lot about the high-octane end of theological stuff, but you know what: I’ll bet she couldn’t understand any of that. If she read it, she’d probably not draw a lot of comfort out of the particular details of salvation Jesus outlines in John 3 because, well, it’s complicated. She’s not that complicated. How can it comfort her to try to lay out the nuance of grace and particular redemption – if it is true at all?

That, for me, is where Brian Flemming comes in – as a particular kind of atheist in the spectrum of atheism. In Brian’s world where God is a lie and a conspiracy, man is left to his own devices – and, I would bet, at the mercy of the rationality of his fellow men in the hope they would act in a cooperative way toward him. Certainly, superficially, the atheist does not think that all men ought to use others as a means to an end and abandon them when they are of no use. Someplace in the atheist, says the atheist, is the milk of human kindness.

Honestly: I can buy that. Even with my commitment to Christian anthropology, I am 100% confident that the atheist sees himself as a nice guy who would have compassion on and for this girl and her baby. The atheist might find himself – as I find myself – asking her if there’s anything that my wife and I can do for her, or if there’s anything she needs. Because I can’t imagine looking at her and not having compassion for her.

And the atheist may even come across and explain why, exactly, he has compassion for this woman “because she is another human being”. She deserves compassion, I imagine Brian would say, because she’s in the brotherhood of mankind.

But how does the atheist then assess what compassion looks like? For example, I am certain that if someone found Brian in the situation of a stay-at-home Dad without any advanced education, Brian would find it extremely compassionate for this nameless benefactor to send him to college to get as advanced a degree as Brian could earn. It would be somewhat of a waste for Brian to be left uneducated because he is plainly a bright guy, and it would be lavish to give him that education – beyond merely compassionate and into loving.

In this case, I think it is doubtful that this young woman could earn even an Associates degree. Paying for college courses for her would be lavish, but if she is bound to flunk all the courses, it seems it would also be misplaced.

We could go through several iterations of what might work for Brian but would not be very productive for this young woman, but here’s my point: in the atheist world view, where there is no purpose implied in human life (because human life is the result of the same process which produced ant life, and cat life, and cow life, etc.), there is a problem in answering questions like, “what is compassion?”

Now hear me clearly: the question is not, “does the atheist feel compassion?” I would bet you that the atheist undoubtedly would feel compassion, and does feel compassion. There is no doubt that the atheist is not a Vulcan ascetic with no feeling and only logic to guide him in his choices about what to do. I am sure the atheist, faced with this woman as she was walking down the street, would feel something called “compassion” and, if he was not in a hurry, he’d do something about that feeling. He’s not Stalin or Nietzsche because he’s late for a meeting any more than the Christian in the same situation with the same day behind him and ahead of him who did nothing would be Torquemada.

Indeed: the question happens to be: “How do you manifest compassion to those who are unlike you?” Because it is very easy to manifest compassion to other American white middle-class people with college educations most of the time – they are just like us, and we have a lot of the same points of reference. You need a penny? I got a penny. You need a job? I know a guy. You’re having a mid-life crisis and you’re wondering if you should have been a doctor or a painter or a writer or a bar keep? Dude: shut up and cut your grass and tell your wife you love her, and mean it – don’t be stupid and throw out what you have for what you think might have been better in some way.

But what happens when we run into, for example, this girl who is nothing like us except that she is another human being? She’s not smart – so she’s not going to get our jokes. She’s also not very equipped to handle commercial responsibility – so you can’t really get her a “better job”. She’s also not as ridiculously-complicated as we are – so she probably doesn’t even comprehend some of what motivates our compassion for her from an atheist perspective. How do we decide how to offer her compassion?

One atheist answer, of course, is the “prime directive” answer: if she isn’t complaining because she doesn’t recognize some of her misfortune, don’t do anything. Let sleeping dogs lie. Another answer would be, “ask her what she needs, just like cent did, and do what you can to fulfill those needs.”

It’s that second answer that intrigues me, because this woman regularly answers that question with this reply, “would you pray for me and my baby?”

Now, the wrong argument to make from here is “AHA! The atheist can’t pray, so I win!” See: I think the atheist, who thinks there is no one and nothing there to pray to, has nothing to lose by praying with this girl – if it makes her feel better, he might actually call it a good deed because he filled an emotional need for this person. The atheist can pray, in the same way that the atheist can play a video game and, with the rest of the crew of the human ship Pillar of Autumn, including the A.I. Cortana, fight against The Covenant.

But the atheist finds himself in an interesting predicament: has he discovered that (as he classes it) the lie of God has at least one beneficial use in this world? For example, that girl derives some kind of emotional comfort from this lie. Would it be better for her sake to help her know the truth rather than to pray for her and with her and make her belief more elaborate?

Further, can the atheist replace the hope of God with something else? If we assume that God is a lie, this girl’s hope is a false hope – there is no ultimate hope, no redeemer at the end of time, and this life she has is all the life she will ever have. Same thing for her baby. And let’s face it: whatever she doesn’t really understand about the world, I am sure she understands that she is not like folks like me and Brian.

I think atheism has its audience – the people for whom it plays very well. For example, I am sure it plays well for Brian Flemming, who has a little bit of money, a little bit of talent, a little bit of brains, and a little bit of youth. Brian, I am sure, likes atheism because in it lies the ability – in fact, the necessity -- to say, “I am who I say I am, and not what others may say about me. I have the authority and the ability to make me whatever I wish.”

The problem is that atheism doesn’t play as well on the street. The developmentally-handicapped girl with the equally-handicapped baby doesn’t find any solace in the “be all you can be” slogan which is necessarily the atheist recruitment copy. To be sure, that in itself doesn’t make atheism false, and it certainly doesn’t make Christianity true. What it does is express the limits of the atheistic worldview – because atheism as a system doesn’t have any room for people who aren’t as smart as Brian Flemming. If the key learning from atheism is that human beings are self-determining rather than subject to the purpose of God, the atheist has to answer the question posed by those who cannot determine their own purpose.

I’d be very interested in kicking this somewhat-extemporaneous monologue with actual atheists, and I’d ask the reg’lers of the blog to keep the cross-talk down to a minimum in order to facilitate that chat.

"Viewers like you"

Can I admit to you that I am most impressed with PBS when it is shilling for its very existence? What is so amazing about PBS, really, is that it constantly has its hand out, and never ever stops reminding you that it is "viewers like you" that make its programming possible.

And they're serious. The Federal Government funds about 15% of the PBS/NPR business -- and that is certainly your money. But the other 85% is from underwriting, and the majority of that giving is not from Corporate sponsors but from the pledge drives that interrupt about 15% of the air time every year (that's 2 weeks every quarter).

Now, here's what gets me about that: we Christian has a reputation of being pan-handlers. It's common for a lot of non-Christian types to point out that every church of every size inevitably asks for money under the cover of "tithe" or "the Lord's work". Yet I have never attended any church which presents the matter of giving as aggressively as PBS does -- and even CBN and TBN don't make as incredible a spectacle of passing the hat as PBS does.

I say all that to say this: is in need of a server upgrade (among other things), and needs about $5,000 to get the job done. They have opened up a secure method of payment, and they are (for the first time I can recall, but it may not be the first time) seeking donations. The need is clear, the scope is plainly expressed, and they are asking for you (and me), the users of their resources, to lend a hand.

Give 'em a hand. Don't make them make a show out of their need or out of your personal support of their work. $5K isn't a lot of money, and you don't have to give it all.

Thank you.

Not like those babdists

As a Baptist, I have to say that the only thing worse than a crackpot hyper-separatist fundamentalist Baptist is a person who used to be Baptist and then got over it. Take, for example, Donald Miller. In fact, take him far, far away.

The funny thing about Mr. Miller is that he bats about 17-for-20 when it comes to theological truth -- you know, when he has to actually express the fundamentals of the faith, he finds it difficult to write something which is outright quackery. For example, in his book Searching for God Knows What, he has a chapter in which he is essentially criticizing the Four Spiritual Laws® method of evangelism, and I think he's on to something when he says (in words to this effect) that while this tract may be all true, it is hardly all Truth, and it probably short-changes the Gospel over all.

I think even in his qualification of this criticism he overlooks the nature of tracts as a genre and as an evangelism tool, but that's not what I'm blogging about right now. What I sat down to blog about was Miller at his worst, which is in the intro to Chapter 13 of this same book:
When I was young I had a friend whose father was the pastor at a Methodist church. I grew up Baptist. I remember thinking my friend had it all wrong, and I wondered if he was even a Christian. His father was a terrific man, very intelligent and soft-spoken and tall as a building, with big hands and a deep voice that spoke the sort of encouragement you believed. And even though he spoke encouragement, I remember feeling very sorry for him because he had been misled, somewhere way back, perhaps in seminary, and that had made him grow up to become a Methodist instead of a Baptist. I thought it was a crying shame. And at the time I didn’t even know what it was a Baptist believed that a Methodist didn't; I only knew we were right and they were wrong.
Now, fair enough, right? As a Baptist myself, I am 100% confident that if there are any kinds of Christians out there who think less of others for differences in belief, Baptists are leaders in the field. And this behavior can veer into a kind of vice, but it is not inherently vice.

But before elaborating on that, let's let Miller finish up his intro:

I suppose believing we were right and they were wrong gave me a feeling of superiority over my Methodist friends. It all sounds so innocent until you realize that whatever evil thing it was that caused me to believe that Baptists are better than Methodists is the same evil thing that has Jews killing Palestinians rather than talking to them, Palestinians killing Jews rather than engaging in important conversation about land and history and peace. It makes you wonder how many of the ideas we believe are the result of our being taught them, and we now defend them as a position of our egos.

Of course, I think the thing about Methodists being wrong is silly now, now that I have met so many people from so many backgrounds who have a deep respect and love for Jesus, and so many people from so many theological backgrounds who don't.
Let's think about what Miller is saying here. On the one hand, he's saying that it's wrong for a Babdiss to think of a Methodiss as a lost person -- someone who is desperately and eternally wrong. No too much to complain about that in the broadest possible sense, I am sure.

But his conclusion, oddly, is only a different flavor of his original error. He started out as a Babdiss who thought that Methodists were "misled" and "wrong"; he has ended up thinking that Babdisses like he used to be are "silly", victims of an "evil thing", on the same menu as Palestinians who kill Israelis.

I wonder: is believing that Baptists who think they are the only true Christians are wrong the same evil thing as Palestinians who engage in terrorist attacks? Or is that the truth -- the position that Donald Miller will hold 5 years from now because he is actually better informed than the Babdist he used to be?

There are self-defeating criticisms, and then there are Donald Miller books, which are like more like busloads of Palestinian terrorists who get into an argument about history and land and peace on the way to the mall in Tel Aviv.

So what happened?

This may have been the most lame week of blogging since, well, since this blog first had a blue background and a bad line drawing of me in the background. What happened?

Honestly, I have no idea. I feel like I've been blogging all week, but the pile of stuff on my desk at work -- it's not very tall. And my Outlook reminders -- I don't have any! I've cleaned them all up!

My son tells me he had a good time this week, and I've played dollhouse twice with my daughter. My parents claim to have had a good time while visiting, and my wife -- she thinks I'm doing a fine job around the house.

Is this what normal people do? I mean, instead of turning out 100,000 words a week into the ethereal blogosphere, do normal people actually get things done?

I had no idea. I'm not sure I like it ...

Peanut gallery

This post is the Peanut gallery for the DebateBlog exchange between Brian Flemming and myself.



And she's not even a "God-blogger".

A Dangerous Man

The people and their leaders all took Jesus to Pilate and began to bring up charges against him. They said, "We found this man undermining our law and order, forbidding taxes to be paid to Caesar, setting himself up as Messiah-King."

Pilate asked him, "Is this true that you're 'King of the Jews'?"

"Those are your words, not mine," Jesus replied.

Pilate told the high priests and the accompanying crowd, "I find nothing wrong here. He seems harmless enough to me."

But they were vehement. "He's stirring up unrest among the people with his teaching, disturbing the peace everywhere, starting in Galilee and now all through Judea. He's a dangerous man, endangering the peace."

When Pilate heard that, he asked, "So, he's a Galilean?" Realizing that he properly came under Herod's jurisdiction, he passed the buck to Herod, who just happened to be in Jerusalem for a few days.

Herod was delighted when Jesus showed up. He had wanted for a long time to see him, he'd heard so much about him. He hoped to see him do something spectacular. He peppered him with questions. Jesus didn't answer--not one word. But the high priests and religion scholars were right there, saying their piece, strident and shrill in their accusations.

Mightily offended, Herod turned on Jesus. His soldiers joined in, taunting and jeering. Then they dressed him up in an elaborate king costume and sent him back to Pilate. That day Herod and Pilate became thick as thieves. Always before they had kept their distance.

Then Pilate called in the high priests, rulers, and the others and said, "You brought this man to me as a disturber of the peace. I examined him in front of all of you and found there was nothing to your charge. And neither did Herod, for he has sent him back here with a clean bill of health. It's clear that he's done nothing wrong, let alone anything deserving death. I'm going to warn him to watch his step and let him go."

At that, the crowd went wild: "Kill him! Give us Barabbas!" (Barabbas had been thrown in prison for starting a riot in the city and for murder.) Pilate still wanted to let Jesus go, and so spoke out again.

But they kept shouting back, "Crucify! Crucify him!"

He tried a third time. "But for what crime? I've found nothing in him deserving death. I'm going to warn him to watch his step and let him go."

But they kept at it, a shouting mob, demanding that he be crucified. And finally they shouted him down. Pilate caved in and gave them what they wanted. He released the man thrown in prison for rioting and murder, and gave them Jesus to do whatever they wanted.

As they led him off, they made Simon, a man from Cyrene who happened to be coming in from the countryside, carry the cross behind Jesus. A huge crowd of people followed, along with women weeping and carrying on. At one point Jesus turned to the women and said, "Daughters of Jerusalem, don't cry for me. Cry for yourselves and for your children. The time is coming when they'll say, "Lucky the women who never conceived! Lucky the wombs that never gave birth! Lucky the breasts that never gave milk!' Then they'll start calling to the mountains, "Fall down on us!' calling to the hills, "Cover us up!' If people do these things to a live, green tree, can you imagine what they'll do with deadwood?"

Two others, both criminals, were taken along with him for execution.

When they got to the place called Skull Hill, they crucified him, along with the criminals, one on his right, the other on his left.

Jesus prayed,

"Father, forgive them; they don't know what they're doing."

Dividing up his clothes, they threw dice for them. The people stood there staring at Jesus, and the ringleaders made faces, taunting, "He saved others. Let's see him save himself! The Messiah of God--ha! The Chosen--ha!"

The soldiers also came up and poked fun at him, making a game of it. They toasted him with sour wine: "So you're King of the Jews! Save yourself!"

Printed over him was a sign: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.

One of the criminals hanging alongside cursed him: "Some Messiah you are! Save yourself! Save us!"

But the other one made him shut up: "Have you no fear of God? You're getting the same as him. We deserve this, but not him--he did nothing to deserve this."

Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you enter your kingdom."

He said, "Don't worry, I will. Today you will join me in paradise."

By now it was noon. The whole earth became dark, the darkness lasting three hours-- a total blackout. The Temple curtain split right down the middle. Jesus called loudly,

"Father, I place my life in your hands!"

Then he breathed his last. When the centurion there saw what happened, he honored God: "This man was innocent! A good man, and innocent!"

All who had come around as spectators to watch the show, when they saw what actually happened, were overcome with grief and headed home. Those who knew Jesus well, along with the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a respectful distance and kept vigil.

There was a man by the name of Joseph, a member of the Jewish High Council, a man of good heart and good character. He had not gone along with the plans and actions of the council. His hometown was the Jewish village of Arimathea. He lived in alert expectation of the kingdom of God. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Taking him down, he wrapped him in a linen shroud and placed him in a tomb chiseled into the rock, a tomb never yet used. It was the day before Sabbath, the Sabbath just about to begin.

The women who had been companions of Jesus from Galilee followed along. They saw the tomb where Jesus' body was placed. Then they went back to prepare burial spices and perfumes.

They rested quietly on the Sabbath, as commanded.

[*] War?

So I was innocently managing my comments this morning before I take a weekend hiatus, and to my surprize, HaloScan has the graphic you see at the right on the control page.

Yes, lovely, isn't it? My first reaction was -- as you can imagine -- a good laugh. I can just imagine to people who came up with this idea sitting around a Starbucks or something and one of them standing up to do a Bugs Bunny impression and saying, "Easter? Of course you know, this means war."

Odds bodkin, man! Haven't you had enough of the sugar peeps and Reese's eggs? We must put a stop to Paas egg dying kits and, above all else, the frilly bonnets and white gloves prevelant in the most backward state of Arkansas!

Oh wait: they mean Jesus. They have declared a war on Jesus because, of course, Jesus is a lie. And they are presenting themselves as counter-evangelists for their own cause.

But don't believe me: read it for yourself. Please -- read it all. You needed something to fill up the end of this day-before-holiday, and this'll do.

I've actually asked one of the people involved in this experiment to join me on DebateBlog when Jodie and I have finished up, and I'll be interested in what his definition of evangelism is, among other things.

[*] Be angry and don't sin

Alert reader William Dicks has forwarded this post from his own blog about a problem with Google via Blogger.

You read his post on this subject, and after you're done vomitting, contact Google and tell them that there's a limit to what they ought to provide for free.

[?] Running Commentary

As a lark, I'm posting this here at the nexus of the blogosphere for the sake of giving the readers of the current exchange at DebateBlog a chance to register complaints, comments or jokes.


[#] DebateBlog

Some people reading the current exchange at DebateBlog may need some back-fill on what Free Grace is all about, so to help you out I have found a little 20-page paper (UPDATE: and this free grace self-assessment) you might want to read to come someplace up to speed on the general neighborhood Jodie comes from.

I would also like to warn you in advance that this exchange is likely to be exceedingly technical, and therefore boring to many people. Sorry 'bout that. It's not all comic books and ice cream in the world of internet apologetics.

I have put my son on comic book probation to improve his personal attitude and modify his personal time habits. Consider yourselves on the same diet for a couple of days just to do you some good.

[#] Ask the Calvinist

HK Flynn (aka Jodie) has been invited to discuss the matter of what is being said in James by James about faith and works at DebateBlog.

Bobby Grow thinks she can nail me. I'm interested in the exchange.

[*] Other Clowns in the News

I received an e-mail from alert reader "Bill Hubbs" (not his real name, but his inner circle of friends know who he is) who wrote:
So, I would like to see/hear your opinion on your blog on the new "Gospel of Judas".
You mean without swearing? Of yes -- of course.

Wait: James White beat me to it. Shoot. Hrmph.

And let me be the first to congratulate CBS for picking up such a dedicated and thorough journalist. Not since Peter Jennings have we seen such addiction to big floppy feet and intellectual mug-making when it comes to the historical matter of Christianity and Jesus Christ. The real irony is that ABC covered this story a month ago and got it about right.

[*] The Rubber Nose of Shame

We’ve been having quite a little imbroglio with the reader we are calling “blueDavid” (to distinguish him from David Gadbois) allegedly over the limits of the atonement. However, the discussion goes all over the place, and the last two entries from blueDavid warrant some front-page coverage. The block quotes are from blueDavid in the meta:
Frank Said:

When you can form an argument that Christ's atonement is only protential and not effectual, bring it.

First, that is not what I said. What I did say was:

"Atonement is sufficient for all. It is unlimited in scope. God died for all men. You have to ignore far too much scripture to take any other postion.
Let’s make sure, then, that we note that blueDavid is an advocate for the actual atonement of every person, and that then God will send some for whom Jesus Christ died to hell.

I’m sure that’s a much more comforting position for some people, but unfortunately I am not one of those people. And I am also pretty sure there is no passage in the Bible which can be construed to say this, but blueDavid may yet come up with one.

On the other hand, he may also not like this characterization of what he has said (because he doesn’t like any characterizations of what he has said), so be aware that he will have some more things to say about this.
....versus I cant use.....

Having said that, it is clear that it is not efficient for all - it is efficient for ony those who believe. A lack of belief does not change God nor does it limit the attonement in its sufficiency"

In summary, what I said is that the atonement is sufficient for all, but effective for only those who believe. Which is a version of limited atonement, just not Calvin's view point.
You can’t reconcile the two things you have just typed, blueDavid. If the atonement is “unlimited in scope”, then all people have been atoned for – but if some people are still sent to hell, this matter of efficiency is a kind of rhetorical sleight of hand. Either you do not understand what the word “atonement” means, or you do not understand what the term “unlimited in scope” means, or you are just knitting together theological buzzwords to get to a place where you think you have a nice-sounding idea of what the Bible teaches.

And let’s be clear before you say I am making fun of you: I think you were probably taught this nonsense, so you are not at fault for inventing it. But you have a responsibility to think about this view scripturally – and if you do, it falls apart pretty quickly.

Would you like to see how? I’d be glad to show you, using two examples of Scripture which you have already tossed into the meta.

For example, you have used these citations:

-the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world (1 john 2:2)
-Who gave himself a ransom for all(Itim2:5-6)

In 1Jn 2, the passage reads:
    My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says "I know him" but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may be sure that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.
Which is fair enough, I guess: the question is if “propitiation” and “atonement” mean the same thing. I suggest to you that they do not – and that Christ can be the “propitiation” for the sin of every man, woman and child on Earth who ever lived – thus enabling God’s mercy in not striking down the sinner at his first sin and still being just – without having to admit all men to Heaven under the loop hole that Christ has apparently paid all the sin debt.

Somehow the unlimited atonement people always seem to forget that God does actually show mercy to the wicked and is still a God who is holy and just – but don’t have the mojo which can explain why. John explains why right here, and it still doesn’t make the atonement unlimited: it abates the immediate wrath of God for all sinners.

In 1Tim 2, "all people" surely means "all people", right? So Paul was instructing Timothy to pray for every single person becuae Jesus Christ saves every single person because he has paid the ranson for every single person, right?

No? You mean 1Tim 2 doesn't advocate for universal salvation? here: let me help you with something. For the sake of this post only, I am willing to argue that it does mean that Jesus Christ wants every single person to be saved, and that we should therefor pray for every single person, and that the ranson for every single person has been paid by Christ. If that is the case, then I draw the conclusion that no man is going to hell.

You prove that position wrong. With an argument, and not a "nuh-uh".
But back to your challange - I believe it was "bring it", with the threat of being "clowned" if I can't.

Just as an aside, blueDavid, You’re about to get clowned for just saying “well, [assertion]” with no substantiation. You make a bundle of assertions in the meta and have provided scant few methods of supporting such things.

So please bring your argument or your substantiation or your evidence, and leave your thin skin at the door. At this point in the exchange, you’ve gotten a lot of attention from the readers and me, and the way you have used it is to simply say, “well, you’re wrong” as if that would persuade anyone.

On the other hand, a lot of Scripture and a lot of review has been offered you and you have only poo-poo’ed it. The clown is for those who meet courtesy with scorn, and you’re there, bub. That’s not a threat but a fact to which all the readers who have interacted with you so fact can attest.

If you don’t like the editorial policy here, you can find someone else to taunt with “nuh-uh”. And trying to batter me with my good conscience plays like cats on a fence as far as I’m concerned. It gets old quickly when someone who cannot implement his own conscience in a discussion wants to leverage the conscience of others.

lets go to John 12 - where John uses the same word for "world" that he does in 3:16.

12:44 But Jesus shouted out, “The one who believes in me does not believe in me, but in the one who sent me, 12:45 and the one who sees me sees the one who sent me. 12:46 I have come as a light into the world, so that everyone who believes in me should not remain in darkness. 12:47 If anyone hears my words and does not obey them, I do not judge him. For I have not come to judge the world, but to save the world. 12:48 The one who rejects me and does not accept my words has a judge; the word I have spoken will judge him at the last day. 12:49 For I have not spoken from my own authority, but the Father himself who sent me has commanded me what I should say and what I should speak. 12:50 And I know that his commandment is eternal life. Thus the things I say, I say just as the Father has told me.”

That seems to be a fairly clear, scriptural support for my position, from the bible.
Why, what a stunning exegesis! Who could possibly argue with ... oh wait – you don’t actually give us any exegesis of connect this passage to your point in any way at all, do you?

See: as I read this passage, there is no doubt that Christ has come into “the world” as light. That’s John 1, for sure. The question is whether the word “world” is a one-hit wonder, and any English dictionary will tell you that’s not ever close to true.

In English, the noun “world” has 14 distinct meanings. Not very surprisingly, that’s about the same count in Greek. So the word’s meaning is indicated by the context. The wooden use of a concordance doesn’t prove out anything, and pasting a verse in doesn’t prove anything. The passage is evidence of something, but what? Does it even speak to atonement for the whole world? Where?

When you can answer those questions, you will then have an argument, blueDavid. Until then, you’re jonesing for clown.

One last question Frank - exactly where in scripture is it appropriate to mock, misqoute and then threaten others?
Like I said, trying to appeal to my conscience when you cannot demonstrate your own leaves me a little flat. I would, however, note that I have not misquoted you, I have not threatened you, and as far as mocking goes, identifying what you are doing is hardly mocking. Why do you make a clown of yourself by trying to scare people with the accusation they are mean and then toss Scripture around as if some passage of historical narrative (however inerrant) is actually an expository essay? Why can’t you bridge the gap between genres with reasonable discourse?

Perhaps it is because I am a meanie and a jerk, but I doubt it. I didn’t write your responses: you did.

[*] so-called Baptists

I was reading banty Rooster's blog to see if he has failed out of college yet (that's a joke, Brian), and I came across this article regarding Francis J. Beckwith and Baylor University. As in, Baylor has denied Beckwith tenure.

Hey: I'm a baptist, and I don't cuss or drink of go with girls who do, but this story makes me want to cuss and drink (although I am sure my wife would never have it). Beckwith can't get tenure? Beckwith?

Beckwith can't get tenure?

I'm stumped. I had no idea Baylor was this kind of stupid. If you're a Baylor alum (which I admit I am not), and you care about the future of the university, and you ever donate any money, you should call the President and complain about this somewhat-arbitrary invalidation of a guy who is frankly top-shelf when it comes to encountering the culture with Christ. I don't think he's a 5-pointer, but he's a fine thinker and a very fine writer.

What Baylor has done is ugly. Somebody please complain.

[#] The Atonement in John 3 [2 of 2]

Another programming note this week is that my computer at my day job needs the tires rotated and the data fascists need to check my HD for incriminating evidence the oil changed, so you will have the opportunity to grandstand here at the blog until I can get my digital mojo back sometime tomorrow.

That said, what's up with "whosoever"? It's like a universal translation in John 3:16, so all appeals to the Greek have to account for a somewhat-broad section of translation committees agreeing that the right translation of "hina pas ho pisteuwn" is "that whoever believes".

Let's start with the dictionary meaning of "whoever": "whatever person : no matter who -- used in any grammatical relation except that of a possessive". And that's fair enough, right? There's no reason to debate the fact that anyone who believes shall not perish but have eternal life. I believe that; any arminian would believe that. No questions asked.

"Well, hang on there you crypto-presbyterian pseudobaptist," says the man with the radio program in the back row, "You're a 'calvinist', right? It's your view that none of the non-elect are able to believe. In that respect, you do not mean 'whoever' – or 'whatever person'. You mean only the ones God has already chosen. This verse doesn't say, 'only the ones God has already chosen': it says 'all that believe' – or as the translation committees have translated, 'whoever believes'. Those are not the same thing."

Well, you're right in that this verse does not say specifically, "in order that all the ones God has elected from the foundation of the world." It says that the believers shall not perish. In fact, it says all the believers shall not perish. That's mighty strong talk if you ask me.

But mighty strong in what way? For the Arminian, what this verse also does not say is, "in order that all the ones who consider the options and choose based on free will shall not perish". To get there, you have to adopt a reading of the participle "pisteuwn" which changes the word from descriptive – that is, indicating a class based on a characteristic – to a word which is prescriptive. It also places a larger connotation on this word than is warranted by this verse, this passage, and frankly the theology of the book of John.

The strength of this passage is the scope of assurance it is offering. Jesus is discoursing with Nicodemus, and in speaking to this Pharisee he first gives an example of God delivering the Jews (and only the Jews) from the curse of the snake bite in the desert. But then Jesus says, in the same way when the Son of man is lifted up anyone (not just Jews) who believes in Him shall have eternal life.

The scope of salvation here is radically different than what Nicodemus is expecting, but it is also not the salvation of every person or even the atonement-in-potential for every person: it is the assurance that those whom Christ will save are saved in fact and saved without any doubt.

And those who are saved are the ones who believe – both Jews and Gentiles alike. One doesn't have to do grammatical contortions over the word "world" here to get that: one has to simply read the passage as it comes, in the manner which Jesus delivered it, and see the method of reasoning He was using with the Pharisee Nicodemus.

And now, before the data Nazis shut me down, the meta is open and you may take your wacks.

[*] Not enough hours ...

It makes me angrier every time I read it.

You read it and tell me what you think.

If it doesn't make you angry, I want you to think about this: what is the point of the church? Now re-read that article.

I'll be back. I don't have enoughs hours in a year to cover all this stuff, I swear ...

[#] The Atonement in John 3 [1 of 2]

I need to clean this up before moving on or I'm going to become the world's longest unfinished blog.

The argument from someplace -- and I can't even remember where at this point, I think it was a poster at BHT -- was that John 3 cannot possibly be talking about Limited atonement when Jesus is talking to Nicodemus in the discourse which includes John 3:16.

And a lot of people would agree with this person -- Adrian Rogers, (not to pick on the heroes of the faith) for example. But whoever may agree with this idea, what does John 3 actually say?

Here's the verse they always start at:
    For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
John 3:16, right? And Dr. Rogers was always very keen on the. Whole. W_O_R_L_D. I am sure the person who brought this up recently is keen upon it, too.

But before we get to "world" here, let's look at the first word in this sentence: "for". It means "in this way" or "toward this purpose", right? this about "for":
1 a -- used as a function word to indicate purpose {a grant for studying medicine} b -- used as a function word to indicate an intended goal {left for home} {acted for the best} c -- used as a function word to indicate the object or recipient of a perception, desire, or activity {now for a good rest} {run for your life} {an eye for a bargain}
It also has 9 other possibilities, but all of them revolve around the idea that "for" denotes an object of purpose -- as in, "in honor of" or "with respect to".

So when John 3:16 says "For God so loved the world", it is saying "in this way God loved the world". The phrase is anticipating some action which demonstrates God's love; it is not a phrase which describes the scope of the action but the purpose or intent of the action.

Now, before we go on, think about this: "For I loved my family so much that I worked 7 days a week in a coal mine." The love of my family was my purpose; the scope of my action is inside a coal mine. The coal mine is where the work is done.

In exactly the same way, John 3:16 goes on "that he gave his only Son". God's love for the world was the purpose of giving the Son, right? Nobody questions or denies that, I think. But is that the end of the sentence?

Of course not: the sentence ends "that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." Think on it: the Son was for the purpose of God's love, and also for the purpose of giving eternal life to the ones who believe." There is no way to make the words here say "for the purpose of giving eternal life to the whole world".

In that, the advocate for something other than limited or particular atonement generally hangs the rest of his argument on one English word: "whosoever".

And whosoever reads this blog tomorrow will find out what I think about that.

[#] That Crazy Model

About a month ago, a comment appeared in Haloscan, and it looked like this:
I think your model has holes in it. I also agree with you and think the triangle needs a little tweaking. I'll try to be brief and keep everything lowercase.

First of all, putting "Jesus" in our model is superfluous. It's like circling every science model and writing "God" real big on it. "Jesus" is a given in Newbigin's triangle because...

Secondly, the gospel is the story of God interacting with mankind. It manifested perfectly and absolutely in the person of Jesus. Separating "gospel" and "Jesus" doesn't make any sense.

Third, the church doesn't move furher away from Jesus to bring the gospel to the culture, which is easily depicted in your model. The church is sent into the culture with the gospel. Your model only works if the "Jesus" sun actually moves toward the culture through the gospel and with the church, but I don't think you intended that with this model.

Fourth, "culture" in Newbigin's model is amoral. It doesn't carry any agenda, it's just the way things are expressed. You misrepresent the word [at least how Newbigin used it] when you use it to describe mankind's sinfulness. It's helpful to think of culture as the same as language. Language is the device used to express things - good and bad things. Language itself is not good or bad, just a tool for expression.

I think you're on to something with tweaking Newbigin's triangle, though. I would change the arrows.

I would keep one arrow the same, the gospel to the culture. The gospel influences culture, not the other way around.

I would flip the arrow between gospel and church because the gospel empowers the church. God interacting with us is our fuel, both in history and today.

Finally, I would draw a two-way arrow between church and culture. Church would influence culture by living out and preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ, the gospel of God. Culture would influence the church in how the gospel would be presented and lived out. On a simple level, our American culture demands that we preach and live out the gospel in the English language. We don't soil our souls with sin, but we do soil our hands and feet in service, justice, and love just like Jesus did.

I'll have something up soon on my blog so maybe we can keep this dialogue going.

Drew Caperton 03.14.06 - 1:21 am | #

Drew said he'd have something about the diagram on his blog, but checking today I didn't see anything. However, we will be covering this here.

But not today.

[#] Programming notes

I am still on about the limted atonement thing even if the guy I was using as a current event is off the map right now, and I am still on about marriage. I haven't forgotten -- I have been ambushed by life.

That's a ridiculous excuse, but that's all I've got right now. I have taken a great risk in distracting you from what a lousy blogger I am by saying "baptism" and letting the meta divert you readers away from what you thought were two great series, and I'll fix that up this week.

Oh yeah, and Stumbling Blog. It's's fault, too.

[%] the First Stone

Let me be the first one to point you at this interview by Adrian Warnock with Mark Driscoll, and also to be the first one to throw a stone at it.

Before I talk my short lick at this interview, it is worth reading -- if for no other reason than to see the kind of talker Mark Driscoll can be. You know: the wrong reason to be skeptical of Pastor Driscoll is that he has said excessively-mean things about McLaren and Pagett. What he said about them in fact was true and he was merely outlandish in his tone and his choice of words.

Anyway, here you see Pastor Driscoll chat with Adrian Warnock, and he is of course very cordial. It's hard to be otherwise with Adrian. My problem with this interview is that it's not even much of a primer on Driscoll. Anyone who has read Radical Reformission or any of his other books knew (or had the information to know) everything in this interview. It's not very revelatory in that respect.

And, of course, while Pastor Driscoll is actively separating himself from the Emergent crowd, personally I still have a ton of questions for him. He takes great pride in not being "in" with any other part of the church (which I think is a questionable position); he has a church is one of the least-culturally-Christian regions of the United States (which I think is a great idea if you are actually advancing the Gospel message).

So I remain ambivalent about Pastor Driscoll -- and this interview doesn't really do much for me in terms of resolving that ambivalence. But if you want to hear (or read) Driscoll speak for himself on the basics, that's the place to go.