Among some Christians, the idea of repentance is not accepted as part of the gospel. As American Protestant evangelicals, it has been drilled into our heads that salvation is by faith alone. And that is certainly true. But those words, "faith alone," can be taken too far in a way that changes the meaning of "faith." Real Christian faith is repentant faith. The meaning and frequent use of the idea of repentance in the New Testament should be enough to convince us of that. For instance, you can study Matthew 3:2, 3:8, 4:17, 9:13, 11:20-21, 12:41; Mark 6:12; Luke 13:3-5, 15:7, 15:10, 16:30, 24:47; Acts 2:38, 3:19, 5:31, 11:18, 17:30, 20:21, 26:20; Romans 2:4; 2 Timothy 2:25; Hebrews 6:1; 2 Peter 3:9.
I dealt with this issue in a different way in a previous post.
There are some professing Christians who claim that there is a distinction between a Christian believer and a disciple. For instance, consider the four differences between 'believer' and 'disciple' proposed here. Or, the seven differences listed in Dr. Rick Flanders' articles here and here. Or Bob Wilkin's primary distinction of being under Biblical instruction, here. According to this form of doctrine, there can be disciples who are not believers, believers who are not disciples, and disciples who are believers. You can find many other web sources that teach this doctrine.
Other online sources oppose this teaching. For instance, here.
As I read through John 18 this morning, I wondered if Peter would have consoled himself with that kind of doctrine after he denied Christ. Remember that in John 18:17, a servant girl asked him if he was a disciple of Jesus, and he denied it. He denied being Jesus' disciple again in John 18:25-27. Do you expect that Peter said to himself, "Self, I just denied being a disciple of Jesus, but at least I did not deny being a believer in Jesus"? Such a thought seems impossible. Peter denied being a disciple and a believer in his "I am not" statement. For those who hold to the "believer distinct from disciple" theology, and who consider themselves believers but not disciples, I would simply ask, do you think it is realistic to try to affirm that you are a believer but not a disciple? How do you differentiate your denial of being a disciple from Peter's denial of being a disciple?
One of the commentaries to which I referred in my studies for my recent series in 1 Timothy was George W. Knight III, The Pastoral Epistles in the NIGTC Series (Eerdmans). When I read the following statement from p. 275, that old idea of "unguarded statements" came to mind:
What Paul says to the rich through Timothy is what he says to Timothy himself (vv. 11ff.), what he has said of himself (Phil. 3:8ff.; 1 Cor. 9:24-27), and what he has said to others (Gal. 6:7, 8): Good works demonstrate the reality of faith and salvation and are needed to receive eternal life (cf. Mt. 7:21; 25:34-40, 46b)...What both Paul and Jesus are saying is that one who has accepted God's grace and salvation must evidence it in one's life. Thus they are quite willing to say, as both an encouragement and a warning, that this evidence of salvation is a necessity for the reception of eternal life."
I can interpret what Knight is saying in a favorable way, but the more I look at it, the more I think I would be too generous if I did so. When he writes that "good works demonstrate the reality of faith and salvation" I can say amen to that. Ditto for "one who has accepted God's grace and salvation must evidence it." But then to say that these good works are necessary to receive eternal life and are needed for the reception of eternal life, I have to balk at that.
The problem with his statement is that only one who has already become a partaker in eternal life can do good works and is qualified to do them in the first place (Ephesians 2:10, Titus 1:16). I believe Knight wishes to maintain a robust doctrine of perseverance, and I charitably suppose that he believes in at least two kinds of "eternal life": the kind you receive when you are saved, and then the kind you receive when you are glorified. But these statements leave a lot of reading between the lines and can certainly misguide someone into thinking they receive eternal life by a combination of genuine faith and works. It is this latter conclusion that has to be guarded against. Eternal life is received by faith alone in Jesus Christ. Yes, genuine faith, but still only faith. Works are the outworking of true faith.
Doctrine is like a fungus. Matthew 16:5-12. Good doctrine can be like yeast, spreading through the church or an individual for a beneficial result. Bad doctrine can be like mold, spreading through the church or an individual for a devastating result. Beware of bad doctrine.
There is a common proverb that goes like this:
Whoever is ignorant of history is doomed to repeat it.
Many people have affirmed this idea. I myself have done so. The problem is that it is false. Well...it has a bit of truth to it. Namely, the idea is that if you are ignorant of the mistakes made in the past, you may well repeat those mistakes.
But just as true as the common proverb are the following statements:
Some who are ignorant of history are doomed to repeat it.
Some who are ignorant of history are blessed to repeat it.
Some who are knowledgeable of history are doomed to repeat it.
Some who are knowledgeable of history are blessed to repeat it.
So my first point is to lay out these three other possibilities. My second point is to bring to your remembrance that knowledge alone of history is no guarantee of victory over mistakes or sins. If we really believe that, we deny the doctrine of total depravity and embrace a kind of gnosis which is obviously false. People sin in egregious ways even when they have historical examples of the same kind of sin leading to terrible consequences. Part of knowing history is knowing that other people who have known history have not succeeded in avoiding the repetition of its sins. Anyone who has understood their reading of the Old Testament can see this.
My third argument has to do with the fact that the proverb exposes an underlying philosophy that is contrary to the orthodox Christian belief that the Bible, God's Word, is our sole rule of faith and practice. A person who heartily accepts the proverb looks to history as a rule of faith and practice. History becomes another Bible, or at least close to it.
To the contrary, we don't have to know historical theology to live a successful Christian life. Now, don't get me wrong—knowing the history of interpretation may indeed help us interpret the Bible better; and knowing church history may help us to live better. But knowing historical theology may also induce us to interpret the Bible wrongly and to live incorrectly.
This brings me to my fourth point. Why can knowing history have such a deleterious effect? To adapt another proverb about the church fathers:
You can find anything in history.
Practically any good deed, good belief, right choice, wrong choice, bad belief, or bad deed can be found in history. (There's nothing new under the sun?!) By immersing yourself in a study of history, you may end up embracing the wrong things you find there.
There are a substantial number of Christians who believe that it is incorrect to say that Christ died for all mankind. To them, it is only correct to say that He died for the elect. There are others, such as myself, who are Calvinistic, who do not believe in universalism, and who do believe that the design of the atonement extends to more than just elect human beings. It also encompasses in some way the non-elect, so that I can say that Christ died for all human beings.
So how do I defend this broad referent as opposed to a narrower "all kinds of men" or "all the elect"? This is a question that I answered in my sermon yesterday on 1 Timothy 2:1-7. Here are the reasons I gave for taking the broader referent:
1. The plain normal reading throughout the seven verses is "all men" not "all kinds of men" or "some men," or "the elect."
2. There are words in Greek that could clearly convey the limited concepts, but those words are not used here.
3. The text does not indicate that God does not desire the salvation of some men; it rather says God desires that ALL men be saved.
4. The text ties together prayer for all men with the provision of the atonement for all men. Notice that contextually the "all men" in verse 1 is the same as the "all men" in verse 4, which is again the same as the "men" in verse 5, and which again is the same as "all" in verse 6. The paragraph goes together as a unit. It seems unreasonable to believe "all men" to be universal in the opening sentence and then limited to some other kind of "all" (all kinds?) in the later references of the same paragraph.
5. The clarification in verse 2 regarding governmental authorities and a peaceable life indicates that the "all men" the Ephesian church is to be praying for includes unbelieving leaders—those who could potentially make their lives difficult by persecution. A good way to have a tranquil existence as a Christian is to have formerly non-Christian leaders turned into Christian leaders. We are to be praying for unbelieving people as part of our fulfillment of the Biblical exhortation in verse 1.
6. God desires all to be saved, including leaders. We expect that some will be saved and some will not be saved. But we do not know who the elect are in advance of their salvation, so we cannot pray for them only. We are to be praying for unbelieving people, some of whom may not be elect.
Taking these together, I cannot get around the fact that Jesus gave Himself a ransom for all. Of course He did not give Himself with the end result that all will be saved. There is a sense in which Jesus gave Himself a ransom for (only) the many. But we have to grapple with the fact that somehow the design of the atonement extends beyond the elect so that there is another sense in which Jesus gave Himself a ransom for all. Explaining that sense has proved very difficult over the centuries, but I hope to add a few more words of explanation in future posts.
Last month, Lou Martuneac re-posted an article by Charlie Bing entitled The Christian and Apostasy (original available here). He then briefly pulled the post, wrote a clarifying post, and put the original back into place.
The clarification that he wrote was helpful, but it leaves something to be desired. Primarily, the lay reader has to wonder how Bing's view is any different than the crossless gospel that Martuneac has inveighed against for years (and rightly so). If there is substantially no difference, then why doesn't Martuneac call the spade a spade?
The paragraph that caused Martuneac the most consternation was Bing's conclusion:
As Christians we can depart from the faith, deny the faith, or stop believing in Christ as our Savior. But since the security of our salvation depends on God's faithfulness, not our own, we can never lose eternal life. A Christian may leave the faith, but God never leaves the Christian. Apostasy from the faith does not forfeit salvation, though it will forfeit future rewards.
Let me ask a question of Bing: Is that really what you mean? Is there really such a thing as a Christian person who denies the faith, who ceases believing, or, as you suggest of the widows in 1 Timothy 5:14-15, who follows Satan? How can a believer not believe? How can a person who follows Christ stop following and instead follow Satan? Are these short, temporary lapses, like Peter's denial, or are you suggesting that a believer can permanently cease believing?
In the absence of any other qualifying statements, it seems as if Bing really does believe what he wrote in that conclusion. Given that assumption, I have to conclude that Bing is in serious conflict with God's Word. Nowhere in Scripture are such boldface statements supporting apostasy ever made. Bing's theological system may indeed demand such conclusions, but the Scripture never clearly teaches that "true Christians can leave the faith." If anything, it rather clearly teaches that "true Christians never leave the faith" (Hebrews 3:14).
Bing's article goes wrong in its interpretation of the texts listed in the first section:
- Peter denied the Lord. Luke 22:34, 54-62
- God’s chosen nation, Israel, stopped believing. Rom. 3:1-3; 10:16-21.
- The apostle Paul predicts apostasy in later times. 1 Tim. 4:1-3
- The warning of First Timothy 4:16 implies a Christian can depart from the faith.
- There were widows in the church who “turned aside to follow Satan.” 1 Tim. 5:14-15
- The apostle Paul describes false teachers who strayed from the faith. 1 Tim. 6:20-21
- Those who deserted the apostle Paul and opposed him (2 Tim. 1:15; 4:9-10, 14-16) are to be gently instructed so that they can escape the snares of Satan. 2 Tim. 2:24-26.
- Hymenaeus and Philetus strayed from the truth. 2 Tim. 2:17-18 -Those in error can overthrow the faith of others. 2 Tim. 2:18
- The book of Hebrews addresses those who were in danger of leaving the faith. Heb. 2:1-3; 3:12; 6:4-6; 10:26-39; 12:25
His interpretation of these texts is in the following sentence: "It is clear from the passages listed above that those who apostasize are true Christians..." He has missed the mark quite badly in so saying. Of all the examples he cites, Peter and Timothy are the only "clear" cases of Christians.
Unbelieving Israel to whom he refers did not consist of saved people. The end-times apostates are non-Christians. Widow-followers of Satan are not clearly "true Christians." False teachers are not clearly Christians. Those who turned away from apostolic teaching are not clearly Christians. Those with shipwrecked faith and those with heretical teaching such as Hymenaeus and Philetus are not "clearly" Christians. Those addressed in Hebrews were not all clearly Christians, particularly because there were those who departed in contrast to those of whom the author was convinced of better things, and things that accompany salvation (6:9).
After making this mistake, Bing's article goes off in an entirely wrong direction. Little further analysis is needed. But what should we do who wish to adhere closely to God's revealed doctrine of salvation in the Bible? We ought to remind ourselves that apostasy is not okay. It is deadly, and we must heed the warnings of Scripture very carefully. Straying from something does not necessarily mean one really embraced it; rather, it can very well mean that the embrace was not a genuine one at all.
Just over a year ago, there was a lot of news on Rob Bell's book Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived. In an opinion piece out at the time last April, Time Editor Bill Saporito suggested that the evangelical's business plan was threatened by Bell's thesis that denied the reality of Hell as it has been traditionally taught by evangelicals.
Saporito's article is a very crude, money-centered, and uninformed way of looking at the whole question. For instance, he writes, "Part of the deal, at least in practical application, is that you can't get spiritually right without monetarily supporting the church. Pay to play, in other words."
So which evangelical out there preaches that you have to pay in order to get to Heaven? Were someone to preach that way, they could not legitimately use the evangelical label. What of the relational aspect of Christianity? Where does Saporito consider God—doesn't He have something to say about all this?
To his credit, Saporito writes, "The adverse reaction to Bell's hell among some Evangelical leaders is based first on deeply held belief, not economic consequences." That's right. We don't care about the economic consequences. What is true is true, whether or not it is popular or economically viable.
I can say that our church, for one, is still in business. Bell has not prevailed against the true church. By God's grace, we shall continue to stand for the truth, Hell included.
Some thoughts on the the gospel:
The Trinity Review had a good article by Timothy F. Kauffman critiquing what I would call a cheap grace or easy believism version of Reformed theology being promoted by some well-known PCA pastors. The article is entitled "Sanctification, Half Full: The Myopic Hermeneutic of the 'Grace' Movement, Part 1" (Trinity Review, no. 304). It reviews the positions of Steve Brown at RTS, Tullian Tchividjian at Coral Ridge Presbyterian in Florida, and Tim Keller at Redeemer Presbyterian in New York.
Kauffman claims that these men are promoting a passive approach to sanctification that in fact merges sanctification into past justification, eliminating the active participation of the believer in his sanctification. This was interesting to me because it seems I have heard of a debate like this in another circle some time ago...Also, based on Kauffman's review and quotes, their teaching seems to me to have some ideas in common with so-called exchanged life teaching.
An esteemed theology professor contacted me with some concerns about my previous post. In particular, he questioned what I was saying about the beliefs of the believers at the Institute for Creation Research. It seemed that I should make a couple of clarifications.
What the ICR video was doing was rehearsing Henry Morris's special creation view of the virgin birth:
The Necessity of Special Creation
Therefore, even though He was nurtured in Mary's womb for nine months and born without her ever knowing a man, it was also necessary for all this to have been preceded by supernatural intervention, to prevent His receiving any actual genetic inheritance through her. The body growing in Mary's womb must have been specially created in full perfection, and placed there by the Holy Spirit, in order for it to be free of inherent sin damage. Christ would still be "made of the seed of David according to the flesh" (Romans 1:3), because His body was nurtured and born of Mary, who was herself of the seed of David. He would still be the Son of Man, sharing all universal human experience from conception to death, except sin. He is truly "the seed of the woman" (Genesis 3:15), His body formed neither of the seed of the man nor the egg of the woman, but grown from a unique Seed planted in the woman's body by God Himself.
That is, God directly formed a body for the second Adam just as He had for the first Adam (Genesis 2:7). This was nothing less than a miracle of creation, capable of accomplishment only by the Creator Himself. "That holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God" (Luke 1:35).
The special creation view says that there is no "actual genetic inheritance" from Mary to Jesus. This is the main point to which I objected in my previous post. I believe that there is a real, organic connection between Jesus and Mary so that Jesus is a son of Adam, a son of Abraham, a son of David, a human being in the line of Davidic kings.
But I also listed three other objections. The first one was as follows:
First, it [the video] does not make clear that Joseph had absolutely no role in the parentage of Jesus. He was a bystander in that sense. Jesus was conceived and born of a virgin.
In this first objection, I did not intend to suggest that ICR denies the virgin birth by including the involvement of Joseph. I understand that the believers at ICR do indeed champion the virgin birth and it seems obvious that they do deny any procreative involvement of Joseph. That said, my intention was to critique the special creation view by referring to the words used in the video. The video said:
While Joseph and Mary were his earthly parents, the Bible says that Jesus was God's only begotten Son.
To the theologically uninformed viewer of the video, to say that Jesus' earthly parents were Mary and Joseph leaves just a little bit to be desired. They were his earthly parents, but did not come to be so through the normal earthly means. The video, unfortunately, does not make explicit that Mary was a virgin, and I believe that it would have been better if it had.
I could eliminate this objection, but maybe I should rather reword it: "The video should make clear that Jesus was born of a virgin and that Joseph was his adoptive father." There is no question that the late Henry Morris and the ICR folks believe this proposition. But it gets lost in the video's scientific discussion of zygotes and all the rest.
My third objection included this sentence:
They have no Biblical warrant to talk about a fully formed zygote with no connection to Mary or Joseph.
Now, it is true that ICR has Biblical warrant to talk about the lack of connection to Joseph, but my point was not to suggest that they were implying a connection there. Rather, the point was again to use their own words and say that, on the whole, they have no warrant to talk about the virgin birth like that. The mention of zygotes, and the idea that there is absolutely no connection to Mary, seems to go beyond what the Bible teaches.
So, I still would like to see ICR revise the video. They could say something like this:
"But what about Jesus? The Bible says that Jesus was born of the virgin Mary. Joseph was the adoptive father of Jesus, but God was His real Father. Since Jesus had to be sinless in order to die for our sins, the only thing He inherited from Mary was His human-ness. The Spirit of God ensured that, concerning His connection with Mary and the human nature and body that He received, that none of these contaminated Him with sin. This humanity added alongside His deity rendered Him the perfect God-man. Because of His connection to Mary, He could be a real human with a real connection to Adam, Abraham, David, and the Jewish nation from which He came. Jesus thus "inherits" characteristics from both God and Mary and has a resemblance to both God and humanity. His birth was a miraculous and unique event in history. And so we can celebrate Christmas knowing that our creator and savior arrived by miraculous means to live a miraculous life and accomplish a miraculous purpose."
Hopefully all this wordiness does not make things worse! --MAP
The Institute for Creation Research has produced a series of neat little videos called That's a Fact! But the latest one, episode 7 (Baby Zygote), needs to be taken down and redone because it has a very serious theological error.
Here is what the last half of the video says:
"But what about Jesus? While Joseph and Mary were his earthly parents, the Bible says that Jesus was God's only begotten Son. He came completely from God. Some scientists think that the holy thing that was placed in Mary's womb was a fully formed zygote cell. Normally a zygote is made from two reproductive cells: one from the father, and one from the mother. But since Jesus had to be sinless, in order to die for our sins, He didn't inherit anything from either Mary or Joseph. Instead, Jesus inherited everything from His heavenly Father. His birth was a miraculous and unique event in history. And so we can celebrate Christmas knowing that our creator and savior arrived by miraculous means to live a miraculous life and accomplish a miraculous purpose."
Do you notice anything theologically suspect here?
Is it true that Jesus did not "inherit anything from either Mary or Joseph"? From whence came Jesus humanity then? Why didn't God just form Jesus like He formed Adam and put Him onto the earth for His public ministry?
ICR's video promotes an unorthodox view of the virgin birth that calls into question Jesus' full humanity. They should take it down and redo it to make clear that Jesus has a true, organic connection to the human race through Mary, and that He is not a tertium quid.
Besides, the video has other problems. First, it does not make clear that Joseph had absolutely no role in the parentage of Jesus. He was a bystander in that sense. Jesus was conceived and born of a virgin.
Second, the video puts too heavy an emphasis on "scientists." Notice how many times the video refers to scientists. Where does it refer to the Bible? What is our authority here? How about referring to some theologians? Or how about mentioning what Christians have understood for centuries about the full humanity and deity of Jesus—part of what we call orthodoxy?
Third, the video offers mere speculation. "Some scientists think that..." And this speculation is where they go wrong. They have no Biblical warrant to talk about a fully formed zygote with no connection to Mary or Joseph. Whenever we speculate, we can get into big trouble. Sure, our speculations may be right. But just as likely, perhaps more than likely given our sinful minds, our speculations can be wrong. Such is the case here.
ICR has done some helpful things, but they should stick to science. Theology is not their forte. They have been historically KJV-only, they have often referred to the odd hermeneutical principle of first reference, they have taught that the gospel is found in general revelation, and with this video they are continuing to promote an unorthodox view of the humanity of Jesus Christ. (See an article by Henry Morris that promotes this special creation view of the virgin birth.)
Be cautious when using their materials. --MAP
Another question posed to me: "How was the Holy Spirit that was with early believers like Abraham, Moses or David different than the Holy Spirit living in me?"
There is not a clear consensus on the answer to the question.
1. Some theologians say the Holy Spirit's ministry to believers is essentially the same in both testaments.
2. Others say there is a distinction between the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the OT and His ministry in the NT after Pentecost.
2a. Some make a hard distinction, so that the Spirit did not indwell OT believers at all; He came upon them and left them sometimes, but He permanently indwells NT believers.
2b. Some make a softer distinction, so that the Spirit did do something in OT believers but He does more in the NT believer.
I believe (2b). Here's my explanation.
a. The same Spirit is active in the lives of OT believers and NT believers.
b. The Spirit of God did have a ministry to OT believers. Proverbs 1:23 suggests this. He worked in them to help them believe and guide them. This ministry falls somewhat short of what the Spirit does in our lives today.
c. The Spirit of God has an extensive ministry in NT believers and in the church. He baptizes believers into the body of Christ and into Christ (1 Cor. 12:13 and Gal. 3:27). That Spirit-baptism ministry was promised by John the Baptist (Matt. 3:11) and by Jesus (Acts 1:5). Peter recalled it in Acts 11:16-17 as happening in the past, so we know it first happened after John the Baptist but before Acts 11. I pinpoint it as actually happening in Acts 2 at Pentecost. It was not something the Spirit did for OT believers, because there was no body church for them to be baptized into.
d. The Spirit also indwells every NT believer from the time of salvation. If someone does not have the Spirit, that person is not a believer (Rom. 8:9). He also teaches us (1 John 2:20, 27), guides us (Rom. 8:14, Gal. 5:18), prays for us (Rom. 8:26), seals us (Eph. 4:30), and other things.
e. To summarize, I believe that the Spirit baptizes and indwells every believer in this age. Those specific ministries were NOT done by the Spirit in the OT era even though He was active in the lives of believers in "lesser" ways.
f. Take caution when studying the book of Acts. It explains things that happened, but what happened was not necessarily the "normal" for the entire church age. Acts is a book of transition from the OT to the NT era. We express this by saying that "not everything in Acts is 'normative,' that is, not everything teaches the normal pattern of how things are." For instance, sometimes you see someone saved in Acts, but the Spirit does not come into them until sometime after their salvation. What happens today is that the Spirit indwells every believer from the moment they are saved.
g. In terms of application, many of us do not really understand what we have as Christians in terms of God's Spirit. The spiritual resources available to us are amazing, yet we grieve the Spirit and often don't walk in the Spirit. What are we doing!!!???
Some people harbor notions that certain teachings of Christianity are somehow sub-Christian. Such Biblical teachings are considered "too harsh" or "too unloving" or even "too lax" to be possible of the Christian God as He is understood by (say) the common man. For instance:
Despite such protests, each of the items listed left of the em-dash are indeed Christian truths. Forgive the lack of full explanation of each point, but the idea of Christ's blood sacrifice, forgiveness offered apart from works, eternal punishment for unbelievers, God's command to live righteously, and His promise to save to the uttermost, are all taught in the Bible.
Beware lest we become "more Christian" than Christianity by denying these and other such truths.
When the angel spoke to Mary and to Joseph, he gave two explanations for the incarnation.
1. In Luke 1:31-33, the Bible records this: "...and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to Him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end" (ESV).
2. In Matthew 1:21, the Bible says, "She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins." (ESV).
It was interesting to me that on both occasions that the angel assigned the name of the holy child, he gave an explanation of what the child would do. The two reasons he gave for the incarnation are the ruling reason and the saving reason.
This corresponds nicely with the related twin themes of suffering and glory in such texts as 1 Peter 1:11.
It is profitable to think about how the incarnation is necessary for both of these activities, and about the miraculous conception and birth and how they correlate to the two activities emphasized by the angel. Without the virgin birth, the Lord would not have been qualified for either ruling or saving.
Christmas is not only a holiday that looks back on the incarnation of our Savior. It is also a holiday that looks forward to the coming of the one who will rule the world in righteousness and justice.
William Lane Craig is a staunch defender of the doctrine of middle knowledge. At reasonablefaith.org, Craig extols the virtues of middle knowledge and critiques the Calvinistic belief in causal determinism and compatibilist freedom. The body of his critique is composed of five severe charges against causal determinism. They are:
Given such charges, it would be easy to see how anyone would be reticent to affirm a belief in causal determinism or compatibilist freedom. However, Craig's starting point is flawed, thus undercutting the potency of his five charges.
He writes, "According to this view [causal determinism and compatibilist freedom], the way in which God sovereignly controls everything that happens is by causing it to happen, and freedom is re-interpreted to be consistent with being causally determined by factors outside oneself."
The first problem with his definition is that it implies God directly causes everything to happen. No soft-determinist compatibilist that I have read affirms that. We must factor in the ideas of primary causation, secondary causation, and ultimate causation. Even Craig would have to affirm that nothing exists except apart from the ultimate cause of God, because before the beginning of creation, there was nothing but God and He brought everything into existence. So, yes, we all agree that God did cause everything to happen, but there are different levels of causal "involvement."
The second problem with Craig's definition is that causal determination does not only take into account "factors outside oneself." Compatibilist freedom includes â€œfactors inside oneself" as well. Primarily here I am thinking of natural desires and inclinations. The makeup or character of the person whose freedom is under examination does come into the equation in terms of how they choose in the various circumstances they face. Craig's definition reduces soft-determinist compatibilism to fatalism. But that is not the kind of freedom envisioned by any compatibilist I know.
I plan to work on a lengthy paper critiquing the doctrine of middle knowledge. A question that arose in my studies relates to the relationship of open theism to middle knowledge. One reason that this question arose is when people ask me what middle knowledge means, they often assume it is related to open theism. It also interested me that two authors (David Basinger and William Hasker) wrote in both Clark Pinnock et al., The Openness of God as well as Hasker, Basinger, and Eef Dekker (eds.), Middle Knowledge: Theory and Applications. Why would they write in both books if there was not some kind of relationship between the doctrines?
My conclusion: Open Theism has nothing to do with Middle Knowledge (hereafter referred to as OT and MK), except that OT proponents must discuss MK because it is a competing theory as to how God knows things and yet maintains human libertarian freedom. The relationship between the two doctrines is actually an adversarial one, for two reasons.
First, OT proponents cannot accept that God knows everything in advance-and that is a basic proposition in the MK system. Basinger writes, "However, proponents of the open view do not believe that God possesses middle knowledge--that God always knows beforehand what would happen, given each option open to us. In fact, we do not even believe that God always knows beforehand exactly how things will turn out in the future--that God possesses simple foreknowledge. " (The Openness of God, p. 163). He continues on the same page, "But since we believe that God can know only what can be known and that what humans will freely do in the future cannot be known beforehand, we believe that God can never know with certainty what will happen in any context involving freedom of choice." Obviously, OT cannot accept MK because of this belief. MK implies that God takes no risks, but OT proponents such as Sanders believes God does take risks because He does not know the future exhaustively.
Second, OT proponents believe there are logical and philosophical problems with the idea of MK. Sanders writes, "Open theists find middle knowledge unattractive due to the philosophical problems and questions surrounding its practical usefulness. " (John Sanders, The God Who Risks, p. 220). Among these are the too-strong view of providence and its handling of the problem of evil (see Hasker, Openness, pp. 145-47). We could add other objections to MK: the grounding objection, the question of the truth of counterfactuals of creaturely freedom, the very question of whether such knowledge actually exists, and if God could possess it if it did exist.
In my December 7 post, I said, "I cannot grasp something that is â€˜already' true and â€˜not yet' true at the same time and in the same sense." It seems to me that this is just another way of expressing the logical principle we call the "law of non-contradiction."
My attentive blog reader asked if this statement is contradicted by the Christian doctrine of adoption. After all, Romans 8:15-17 teaches that we have received the Spirit of adoption as sons (see also Gal. 4:5-7). But then Romans 8:23 says that we wait eagerly for adoption as sons. So are we adopted or are we not? Or are we "already adopted but not yet adopted?" I suspect many Christians would by default lean simply to the first "leg" of the already-not yet statement, namely that we are already adopted. I would agree. The resolution of the supposed "already-not yet" conundrum comes when we see that Paul clarifies what he means by adoption in both cases. In Romans 8:15, he speaks of our receiving the Spirit of adoption. In Romans 8:23, he seems to refer back to that adoption as the "first fruits of the Spirit." In the latter half of v. 23, he speaks of adoption, "that is, the redemption of our body."
Thus, we see that the doctrine of adoption is not an exception to what I said above. It is not true that we are adopted at a singular time and in a singular sense in two different ways. Rather, we are adopted in one sense of the term presently, and we will be adopted in another sense of the term in the future. I believe a case can be made that "adoption" encompasses these two related truths which are distinct and can be carefully distinguished so as not to violate our sense of the law of non-contradiction.
Paul uses the term "adoption" to encompass both the realities of present receipt of the Spirit of adoption and the future reality of the resurrection and glorification of our bodies. There is some tension here. I will quote from Moo, Romans, NICNT, p. 521, who expresses this tension: "Christians, at the moment of justification, are adopted into God's family; but this adoption is incomplete and partial until we are finally made like the Son of God himself (v. 29). This final element in our adoption is the â€˜redemption of our bodies.' â€˜Redemption' shares with â€˜adoption' and many other terms in Paul the â€˜already-not yet' tension that pervades his theology, for the redemption can be pictured both as past and as future." So can we unravel the tension? I believe we can. The resolution is simply that there are certain elements of the adoption "umbrella term" that are complete for the believer, and there are certain other elements that are not. To me, this does not contribute to a kind of vacillation: "Am I adopted or am I not?" It simply points out that I am adopted and awaiting all the benefits that come with the package. I'm a son and an heir, I just have not received the inheritance as of yet.
Just thinking out loud here...I thought about entitling this entry "Enough Already Not Yet Enough" but I wondered if that would confuse the issue! I don't know about you, but the "Already/Not Yet" view of the fulfillment of prophecy has been grinding on my theological nerves for some time. Frankly, it seems to be theological double-talk. I cannot grasp something that is "already" true and "not yet" true at the same time and in the same sense. Is the kingdom of God already inaugurated, or is it not yet? Progressive dispensationalists will answer "yes," just like I answer "yes" to the question "Do you want pie or ice cream?" I want both pie and ice cream! Progressives want both "inaugurated" and "not" at the same time. Granted, the meaning of this phrase seems to be "already in the spiritual sense" and "not yet in the final sense" but the finer points don't always come across clearly.
Let me give an example. Sometimes folks say "we are already righteous but we are not yet righteous." This has the same already/not yet flavor to it. (The terminology has crept out of its original "prophetic" domain into other areas.) But if we specify our words more carefully, we note that believers already have been given a righteous standing before God, which is a positional righteousness. But believers have not yet been transformed to be fully without sin, which is a practicing righteousness. The two "legs" of the already/not yet statement are not the same type of legs. One is positional, and one is practical. The already/not yet statement becomes really no more than a play on words where one word is used in two senses. It seems that the already/not yet terminology embraces theological ambiguity. We ought to urgently dismiss such ambiguity as we press for more theological clarity, not relying on a word-play type of statement in our theological expression.