Monday, September 06, 2010

Reconciliation part 3, The Language Barrier

1) Now his second chapter, Reconciliation, starts with mentioning conflict resolution in the context of the now defunct system of Apartheid. He discusses the "academic circles attempts" to use reconciliation without the "religious" aspects of forgiveness. He also offers a personal anecdote from his experience "in the Philippines at the end of the Marcos Presidency"

So nearly half of the chapter was a discussion of the political aspects of secular life. Since he chose to start his discussion in this fashion, perhaps showing how America's issues of racism and slavery and native Americans would have been related to apartheid. This would have given his reader, at least this one, a more experiential context to understand his overall point. Overall, if you are familiar with certain political events, this portion may offer some insight into the term reconciliation. If not, then perhaps not.

2) He then rightly points out that man is an enemy of God. That God's justice could easily have "left all mankind to suffer eternal destruction". He then cites Col 1:19-23 and Romans 5:10 to demonstrate that man is the problem. He very clearly takes a strong stand that God does not need reconciliation, only man does. He states on page 30,

This is where some confusion tends to creep in and we need to remember it is not that God is reconciled to man it is that man may be reconciled to God for that is the language of the New Testament...[sic]
This seems one-sided at best. Simply citing verses that man is reconciled to God as if God's wrath left God neutral on the subject or on the sidelines in the war between God and man is to miss God's hostility toward man. God needed to reconcile man to Himself precisely because of the many truths Pastor Clinton already laid down.

The truth of the bible is that not only is man a law-breaker and alienated from God, but that God is offended at man. God's holiness is at enmity and is hostile with man's sin. As a passage cited by Pastor Clinton states,

You are not a God who take pleasures in evil; with you the wicked cannot dwell. The arrogant cannot stand in your presence; you hate all who do wrong. (Psalm 5:4-5)
Some commentators have argued that God is reconciling man to Himself precisely because man doesn't want to be reconciled. It is God that must have His wrath appeased. This topic is dealt with in the next chapter, Propitiation.

3) The last observation I'd like to interact with is difficult. Being that Pastor Clinton is a Nazarene pastor, it is difficult to believe that he would write from a Reformed perspective on soteriology. On the one hand, since he is a Nazarene pastor it would seem Pastor that Clinton would be of the Wesleyan tradition on the will of man. Yet, he makes an argument about the nature of man that almost had me convinced he was taking the Reformed position on soteriology. For instance, on page 31 Clinton states,

Ever since Adam's failure it is an established fact that before conversion every one of us is in a state of alienation from God. Apart from the grace of God, men are sinful: sinful by nature because we have inherited the depravity of Adam's fall; sinful by choice because our willful disobedience to the law of God.
He also states on the next page,

The children of disobedience, also known as unregenerate or preconverted, are incapable of doing a single thing which is pleasing in God's sight...
Yet here is part of the problem. He offers a reason why they are children of disobedience. He states that because of "what they are doing..." is their cause for disobedience, not their nature in Adam. He concludes that since God has offered the means of reconciliation and men reject that reconciliation, "therefore the atonement cannot be affected [sic]".

This seems to make his argument not as precise as it could be. He also offers an analogy on the top of page 33 as to man's response to the free offer of salvation in Christ,

It is not unlike the man who has been convicted of a crime and standing before the judge is offered a pardon yet refuses the pardon; the punishment will take place.
I have heard this illustration a thousand times. I'd like to ask something simple. Where are pardons merely offered? Have you ever heard of a judge merely offereing a pardon freely?Perhaps you have heard of President Jackson' pardon of George Wilson? Wilson was in fact pardoned, yet refused it. Yet this kind of miscarriage of justice seems to be the philosophical basis for human autonomy. the irony in Wilson's pardon is that evil men would have taken it. It was the penitent man that rejected it. So again, such a view is backwards.

He then cites three men from the Reformed tradition in support of his view, T. Manton, Thomas Goodwin and John Owen. I must confess that this caught me off guard. It is true that God's provision in Christ is not effectual in our personal lives until we come to Christ through faith and repentance. If he is suggesting that these authors would have thought that Christ's work of reconciling men to God could only be effectual if men chose from their free-will is to turn their writings upside down.

There is simple method as to why the above men may be quoted in support for Pastor Clinton's position. They are merely describing what salvation looks like. The quote from T. Manton does exactly that.

We are actually justified, pardoned, and reconciled when we repent and believe. Whatever thoughts and purposes of grace God may have towards us from eternity. We are under the fruits of sin till we become penitent believers.
Now don't misunderstand my point. I agree that the Gospel is to be offered to all without exception or distinction. Therefore there are men who will hear and reject the Gospel. But again, there seems to be a language barrier in what exactly is meant by his illustration. Is he arguing that God's grace is ineffectual until the man does something? Or is he simply offering a description by offering the poor "reject the pardon" analogy?

If he is arguing the reformed perspective, perhaps he is arguing for some form of Eternal justification when he wrote on page 33,

Therefore, though we do not believe that the atonement produced a change in the mind of God, so as to turn Him from hatred to love, for He loves His people with an everlasting love, (Jer 31:3), or that it was a price paid to procure His favor, still, there was a sacrifice offered, a propitiation made, whereby sin was pardoned, blotted out, and forever put away.
If he is really suggesting some form of Eternal Justification, then again, he is in error. All of the Reformers down through the centuries have rejected Eternal Justification. Due to the length of such a discussion, I will defer the reader to this article.

In conclusion, there is much to be commended in this chapter despite the political first half of the chapter which I am not certain was all that helpful.

Knowing he is not a Calvinist, I find the language barrier needing to be scaled. We are using the same terminology, but I am not convinced we are meaning the same things.

If one truly holds to the Federal Headship of Adam and the imputation of sin to the sons and daughters by nature, then one must be consistent in seeing that Christ by His mediatorial work has procured all that is needed to redeem His people, including faith and repentance. Thereby all who are in union with the Son of God by faith may never claim the slightest boast for even their own will.

On the other hand, Eternal Justification denies that men ever really needed to be saved in any real sense. Salvation seems to be a mere formality. But even Pastor Clinton recognizes that Ephesians 5 states that we were all children of wrath. Therefore, we all are in need of a true rescue from sin and condemnation.

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