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2015 Bible Reading Plan – Read the Gospels Deeply

It is about that time of the year when we are introduced to creative ways to read our Bible for the next calender year (did you do it this year?).

This is my seventh year encouraging others to use my particular reading plan. I suggest you take each day of next year to read and reflect on a single unit in the Gospels. Did you know there are conveniently about 365 units in the Gospels?

In the past, I cited five good reasons to own a Gospel Synopsis. The fifth reason is:

Read a synopsis in one year by reading one pericope [a gospel unit] every day. By coincidence, the synopsis contains 367 pericopes (That is, all four Gospels combined contain 367 units.).

The edition I recommend for English is the Synopsis of the Four Gospels.

 

Jesus’ Deity – Difference in Function Does Not Indicate Inferiority of Nature

There is a frequent assumption that unbelievers have about the Trinity. But if you are aware of this deep assumption by those who deny the deity of Christ, you can disarm them. James White has said:

Difference in function does not indicate inferiority of nature.

There is a built-in assumption for many that if Jesus possesses a lesser role than the Father, he must therefore posses a lesser nature. This is not a valid inference. Those who oppose the deity of Christ point to Jesus’ submissive remarks about doing the will of his Father.

For example, Jesus says, “the Father is greater than I am.” They infer from this that Jesus does not share the same nature with the Father. This ignores that the context is talking about their relational roles, not their nature, John 14. Jesus also calls the Father, “My God.” Yet those who oppose the deity of Christ ignore that this is a humble acknowledgment of the incarnate Jesus, modeling for us humility and submissiveness (John 20:17). This exalting affirmation is what we would expect from the Son of God.

Similarly, it is argued, since Jesus is the agent of the Father in many respects such as creation, Jesus cannot be fully God. Regarding the Spirit, they will make the similar false assumption: Since the Spirit is sent by the Father, the Spirit cannot have the same divine nature as the Father. They will look at these statements and make the fallacious leap that difference in function indicates inferiority of nature.

By doing committing this fallacy, they also deny the freedom of the Divine persons to choose their roles. Or to put it another way: they assume that to be truly God, the Son and the Spirit must have the exact same roles as the Father. Do not allow them to accept this assumption.

A simple, but effective, illustration will show that difference in function does not indicate inferiority of nature: A husband and wife will have different roles in a marriage. Wives are to take on the submissive role, but this does not indicate that difference in function requires inferiority of nature. Does the wife have a lesser nature than that of the husband? Not according to Christian anthropology. They both are fully human.

Let’s praise God for the incarnation, which itself presupposes a submissive role that brought about our salvation. We do not worship a unipersonal-unitarian God, but instead a complementary-trinitarian God.

 

A Quick Tip on Doing Exegesis…

Exegesis (i.e. biblical interpretation) has never been about “possibility.” It has always been about “probability.”

I frequently come across interpretive conclusions where the language of “possibility” is invoked, by both those who read Greek and Hebrew, and those who don’t. I have noticed that some use this ploy when they approach a text with a preconceived conclusion in order to fit their pet theory.

Recently, I read a discussion among some individuals who do not know Hebrew from Adam about what “the Hebrew means” in a particular text. They were imposing their English categories upon the Semitic language and concluding that “it is possible that the Hebrew could mean X”; consequently, the probable meaning was deflated, minimized, and equalized. In other words, doubt was cast upon the probable meaning because another meaning was “possible.” Pragmatically, the authority of Scripture was neutralized with the tactic of citing “possibility,” because someone did not like the probable meaning—it undermined their theory.

“Possibility” is irrelevant in interpretative conclusions; what matters is what is probable. One can never come to a confident conclusion if we allow the “possibility.” The clarity of God’s Word ends up being hazy and out of reach.

It is possible a two-headed, pink elephant is outside my door, but why should I amuse this possibility?

[Original post here]

 

Synergism Belongs in a Car Dealership, Not in Divine Salvation . . .

The “Calvinism-Arminianism” debate is substantially a debate between what is called “synergism” and “monergism.” For those who are new to this debate, the following is an instructive primer on the two perennial branches of theological systems in Christianity. Or to put it another way, there are two very different ways for believers to understand their salvation.

In general, the first type, Arminian-Synergist, affirms what is called “synergism.” It teaches that two forces in the universe are necessary to bring about regeneration in the life of the sinner. In specifics, the two forces at work (cooperation) that are necessary to bring about regeneration, or spiritual life, is the human will and the Holy Spirit (grace).

To put it another way, the work of the Holy Spirit is dependent on the creature’s will, hence, “synergism” (working together). These individuals will sincerely say, “I believe in grace alone.” But in reality, they believe that grace is not alone (sufficient), but that the human will is necessary for regeneration to be effective.

It could be said that these individuals are “functional” Arminians because even though some will deny the label, their theology functions synergistically; thus, how they identify themselves is inconsistent with what they teach and believe.

The second group of believers, Calvinist-Monergist, affirm what is called “monergism.” They believe that there is only one force in the universe (grace alone) that brings about regeneration in the life of the sinner. In specifics, because of the deadness of the spiritual human will (i.e. moral inability), the Holy Spirit performs the miracle of spiritual resurrection (regeneration) in that person; hence, “monergism” (one work). Grace is sufficient to be effective, and does not depend on some action of the human will.
In other words, the Holy Spirit does not merely whisper in the hardened sinner’s ear and hopes that the rebel sinner will “cooperate”; rather, while the sinner is in a state of hardness and rebellion, the Holy Spirit penetrates into the human will and performs the miracle of spiritual life (regeneration). That is grace alone. Faith does not precede regeneration, regeneration precedes faith.

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions– it is by grace you have been saved. Ephesians 2:4-5

Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” John 1:12-13

He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.” John 8:47

Arminians cannot affirm monergism (grace alone); they must always have the creature’s will as the final determiner of their destiny, not God. Inconsistently, Arminians pray, without knowingly, as a Calvinistic: “God, change the unbeliever’s heart.” I have never heard an Arminian pray: “God, only whisper in the unbeliever’s ear, but don’t change their heart unless you’ve been given permission by the unbeliever.”

The Calvinist prays and affirms biblical truth consistently.