Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Covvenant Theology and Matthew 23:37

Dr. James White debated Dr. Michael Brown on the issue of Monergism verses Synergism. The second of two debates may be downloaded here.

In this debate Dr. Brown had the opportunity of picking three texts by which he would attempt to demonstrate his position. The first part of the debate focused on Matthew 23:37. An interesting exchange took place during Brown's initial cross-examination in which he accused White of putting words into his mouth. He states,
I am kind of stunned by the comments you made both for putting words in my mouth that I never spoke. I hope to clarify...I never said gathered meant saved. What do you believe gathered means...?
Now Brown sounded a little upset at this point. For his point may have been obvious, but it nonetheless was not taken out of context. What becomes really odd is that for all of the "debate hype" he makes his accusation empty in his closing remarks. He states,
In verse 37 I would have gathered but you would not. The Savior sincerely desired their conversion. He wanted to gather Jerusalem into His saving and protecting grace, but they spurned His sincere invitation and refused to turn. Finally, writing in the Banner of Truth Gerald [Hamstra] pressed how fervently longs for the salvation of the lost. If only the unconverted sinner could know how rich a love dwells in the heart of our precious Redeemer. He understands the plight of the sinner as no one else. His gracious warnings are a proof of this...
I think it is quite clear from the entire closing remarks that Brown meant exactly what White thought. That Jesus truly longed to gathered the children in for salvation. What else could these words mean?

Again, Brown's argument is difficult to address I think for reasons that this debate simply could not get into. In the cross examination, White did respond by offering some good thoughts and questions. White does state in one of his answers,
You just assume that there can be no prescriptive will and His law and the decree of God as to what is going to take place...
He also states in his first response,
In eight minutes of discussion, we never had any demonstration that the term gathered means, "I want to save." It was just assumed, but it was never proven. It was never even attempted to be proven that "gathered" means the same thing as "bring in to eternal life".
Then White goes on to say something which is stated in passing, I wonder if this needs to be fleshed out.
There are all sorts of covenant language here. And it was also confusing to me that it sounded like Dr. Brown was somehow distinguishing between Matthew's use of [Greek word] and Luke's. Both are judgment passages...
It is true that Jesus was speaking in a covenantal context. It is also true that Jesus' language makes sense within a Covenantal theological framework. Dr. Brown keeps insisting that Calvinists are forcing their system onto the text, but he does not demonstrate that. He also does this while asserting his presuppositions while assuming his presuppositions are biblical without ever demonstrating them to be.

Perhaps a future discussion of Covenant Theology and its role in the Reformed hermeneutic would be proper. Both sides are speaking the idea that Jesus longed to gather the children of Jerusalem. One side is assuming a free-will and a love "that can not be coerced" while the Reformed side is assuming covenantal language in which God has an elect nation according to the flesh and physical circumcision, which is a type of the church in which God establishes a nation which has no borders. It is an election according to the promises of God in Christ.

To put it another way, Jesus is speaking to the old covenant people who are still bound under the law and the Mosaic covenant. He longs to preach to them. Eventually, does not Jesus accomplish this by establishing a new covenant by which He perfects forever those who draw near unto God through Him?

In conclusion, perhaps Dr. Brown is misunderstanding the Reformed position due to his hearing and use of the same terminology while assuming his own presuppositions. Perhaps if he stopped assuming his idea of love and referring to Calvinism as a system by which God forces unbelievers to be unbelievers against their will, and starts understanding the nature of the Abrahamic covenants, both of the promise and of circumcision, then maybe Dr. Brown will grasp the understanding of the Reformed position. Then perhaps he will see that the term "gathering" has a very different meaning within the covenant language of our Lord.

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