Monday, November 23, 2009

From the Pastor's Desk: Part 8: Dah, It's Right There

The next two absolute and irrefutable verses are Acts 2:21 & Revelation 22:17. Here are the notes.
Acts 2:21, "And it shall be that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."

This was a prophetic promise made by Peter on the day of Pentecost as he was quoting the Prophet Joel.

Rev. 22:17, "The Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let the him that hears say, Come. And let him that is thirsty come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely."

This verse is the 5th verse from the end of the entire Bible. A final emphatic message so to speak.

In fact, the two verses after it states, that if anyone adds or takes away words from this book, that God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city.
What is interesting is that non-Calvinists really think there is something here that proves free will. The assumption is "whosoever will" can only be used in the context of autonomous libertarian free will creatures. Why is this so? The assumption is never proved, at least not in the notes.

First, an interpretive principle must be exposed at this point. Allow me to use an analogy. If I have a flat tire on my Chevy pickup, I would then go to my vehicle's owner's manual and learn how to change the tire. However, if I wanted to learn about fixing my fuel injection carburetor, even though my owner's manual may mention some things about my fuel injection, I would get a Chilton manual or a specialized book dealing with the subject.

In the same way, why do many Christians run off to texts that are not primarily dealing with a particular subject in order to prove a point that is more explicitly taught in other texts? If one wants to understand a teaching about the extent of man's sinfulness and free will, then perhaps a text such as Romans 1-3 would be more helpful. If I wanted to know about the Second Coming, although there are some texts that mention certain ideas in passing, I would probably go to texts such as 1 Thessalonians 4-5 among others that offer clear teaching about the subject at hand.

So as a rule, explicit/clear texts should govern our understanding of implicit/not as clear texts. Romans 3 easily trumps any inference reasoning from Revelation 22:17.

Also, another problem about such proof texting at this point is the implied accusation against Calvinists. In the notes for Acts 2:21, it seems to be said that there are those who desire to come to Christ, but are unable to do so because God has not chosen them. Now I know of no Calvinist modern or past that would teach such a wicked doctrine. We have already established the Calvinist understanding of John 6:37-39, so I will not go through the argument again. Suffice it to say, this mis-characterization by non-Calvinists is often done in ignorance.

As for Revelation 22:17, my former pastor would often use this verse because in his mind it is impossible for God to offer the gift of eternal life to men if men did not have a free will to choose to come. When asked to offer an exegetically based argument to support such a conclusion, I would simply get the "dah" look. The same problem seems to be here as well.

The Traditions of the non-Calvinists are so strong that they do not even see the need to defend their position. It is the same in this situation. This is just "irrefutable" and "absolute". How do we know this? Well, I guess I need to wait for the sermon to be published on the website to find out for certain.

But dealing with the "whosoever will" phrase a little further shows that even this is simply wrong. Notice some other translations of Rev 22:17 the last phrase.
ESV: let the one who desires take the water of life without price.

NASB: let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost.

LITV: and the one desiring, let him take of the water of life freely.

ISV: Let anyone who wants the water of life take it as a gift!

ALT: The one desiring, let him take [the] water of life without cost.
Notice that each of these translations refer to the one desiring. So why do we translate the phrase with "whosoever will" in the KJV? The answer is not that man has a free will. The issue is consistency in John's theology. The Gospel is not limited to Jews or any group of men. The Gospel is for all kinds of men, whether rich or poor, slave or free, male or female, black or white or other, ect ect.

John states it this way in Revelation 5:9.
for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.
Therefore anyone who desires to come to the water of life may do so. There is nothing here that any Calvinist would disagree. We, Calvinists, just like to read verses in context and not by our hidden philosophically driven traditions.

In conclusion, the charge that seems to be implied that Calvinists are adding to or taking away from the Word of God by their system of theology needs to be demonstrated by Pastor Butler. Simply accusing Christian brothers of such a heinous act without any interaction is a gross Biblical violation. I expect more from men who say they love Christ, His church and the truth.

The fact is, we all have traditions. If we do not acknowledge them, then the very thing Pastor Butler implies Calvinists to be doing is actually being done by the very people pointing the finger. Therefore, I once again call on Pastor Butler to publicly clarify this implication of the notes or be willing to gather together in front of the people of God so that all may benefit from mutual Christian love and understanding.

I'll close with Sam Waldron's comments on the 1689 London Baptist Confession about the spiritual benefits of communion between churches.
3) Its spiritual benefits (paragraph 14c)

The Confession says that these benefits are "their peace, increase of love and mutual edification". Why is communion necessary for these things? Because knowledge and communication are prerequisites to love and edification, while lack of knowledge breeds suspicion and division. 1 John 4:1-3 compared with 2 and 3 John shows that communication and knowledge are prerequisites for love and edification. Testing must precede receiving (Rom 16:1-3; 2 Cor 9:12-15). The events of Joshua 22 teach that lack of knowledge can breed suspicion, division and strife. Communion which has for its by-products communication and mutual understanding is necessary in order to avoid such contradictions of Christian love. It is therefore, a solemn duty.

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