Rethinking Conditionalism (Part 8c) – Josephus’ Writings

Josephus

In previous articles, more specifically 8a & 8b, I highlighted how Chris Date uses a passage of Josephus’ works to wrongly assert how the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah are not currently undergoing eternal conscious torment in eternal fire. Even though the Greek grammar and discourse of Jude certainly affirms that the inhabitants are presently undergoing a punishment of eternal fire, Chris takes a passage from Josephus, where similar words are used, to help him exegete the text. But even though the words are the same, the context and semantics are starkly different. If you have not read article 8b, please do so to get context. But here is a brief understanding of what we are looking at.

Jude 7 says:

just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.

ὡς Σόδομα καὶ Γόμορρα καὶ αἱ περὶ αὐτὰς πόλεις τὸν ὅμοιον τρόπον τούτοις ἐκπορνεύσασαι καὶ ἀπελθοῦσαι ὀπίσω σαρκὸς ἑτέρας πρόκεινται (serve – present tense, main verb) δεῖγμα (example) πυρὸς (fire) αἰωνίου (eternal) δίκην (punishment) ὑπέχουσαι (undergoing – present tense, participle of means)

The color coding will make sense in a bit. Chris Date (and other conditionalists) believe that Jude is not affirming present suffering when dealing with how Sodom is “serving” as an example, but that he is referring to the historical record found in Genesis. In other words, when you go back to read Genesis, the presentness of serving as an example to us is found “via the historical record of their past destruction” as Chris puts it (see article 8b for reference). He then uses Josephus Wars of the Jews passage (6.103) to try and validate his claim on how a present tense verb can be used in the context of talking about a past event. Which I can agree, depending on the context. But of course, syntax and grammar aren’t always thoughtfully considered. Here is the Josephus passage that Chris is referring to.

“But still, John, it is never dishonorable to repent, and amend what hath been done amiss, even at the last extremity. Thou hast an instance before thee in Jechoniah, the king of the Jews, if thou hast a mind to save the city, who, when the king of Babylon made war against him, did of his own accord go out of this city before it was taken, and did undergo a voluntary captivity with his family, that the sanctuary might not be delivered up to the enemy, and that he might not see the house of God set on fire; on which account he is celebrated among all the Jews, in their sacred memorials, and his memory is become immortal, and will be conveyed fresh down to our posterity through all ages. This, John, is an excellent example in such a time of danger, and I dare venture to promise that the Romans shall still forgive thee.”

Here is it again in Greek:

[103] ἀλλά τοι, Ἰωάννη, καὶ μετανοῆσαι μὲν ἐκ κακῶν οὐκ αἰσχρὸν ἐν ἐσχάτοις καὶ καλὸν ὑπόδειγμα βουλομένῳ σώζειν τὴν πατρίδα σοι πρόκειται (present tense) βασιλεὺς Ἰουδαίων Ἰεχονίας, [104] ὅς ποτε στρατεύσαντι τῷ Βαβυλωνίῳ δι᾽ αὐτὸν ἑκὼν ἐξέστη πρὶν ἁλῶναι τῆς πόλεως καὶ μετὰ γενεᾶς αἰχμαλωσίαν ὑπέμεινεν ἐθελούσιον ὑπὲρ τοῦ μὴ παραδοῦναι ταῦτα πολεμίοις τὰ ἅγια καὶ τὸν οἶκον τοῦ θεοῦ περιιδεῖν φλεγόμενον. [105] διὰ τοῦτο λόγος τε αὐτὸν πρὸς ἁπάντων Ἰουδαίων ἱερὸς ὑμνεῖ καὶ μνήμη ῥέουσα δι᾽ αἰῶνος ἀεὶ νέα τοῖς ἐπιγινομένοις παραδίδωσιν ἀθάνατον. [106] καλόν, ὦ Ἰωάννη, ὑπόδειγμα, κἂν προσῇ κίνδυνος: ἐγὼ δέ σοι καὶ τὴν ἀπὸ Ῥωμαίων συγγνώμην ἐγγυῶμαι.

Let’s make this as simple as possible for every reader. If you notice, the words from Jude 7 and Josephus have been color coded to show word relationship. The one, blaring thing that you must pay attention to is what is missing from Josephus’ passage that Jude has. That is, a present participle of means!

When you read Josephus, you can clearly see that the word Chris Date uses to make his point (πρόκειται) is the same word found in Jude, just singular form instead of plural, and it is indeed present tense. So far so good. Furthermore, Josephus talks about how King Jechoniah’s actions in the Old Testament are laid out before (πρόκειται) him (present tense) as an example for John (the recipient) via the historical record. No worries here either. This is perfectly normal usage in language. However, the mistake is to make a faulty comparison that just because πρόκειται is used in both passages, the semantics are the same. Not only that, as I already mentioned, what is missing from Josephus’ passage that is found in Jude?  Our participle of means (ὑπέχουσαι) which expounds upon and extrapolates how Sodom and Gomorrah are serving as an example – by presently undergoing a punishment of eternal fire! If you look at Josephus’ passage, you see no such participle modifying or clarifying πρόκειται like it does in Jude. As I already mentioned in article 8b, if you are going to make a comparison, especially if you are going to go outside of Scripture to do so, at the very least, you should find another context that uses identical linguistics to make your point. This is a fatal mistake, but not literally fatal of course.

***Note: I wrote this article months ago, but withheld it to see what conditionalists would say about my previous article on this topic. Now that Chris Date and I have debated, my suspicions have been verified. You can see the debate here.

And you can see my clarifications on this point here. 

-Until we go home

Advertisements

Rethinking Conditionalism (Part 10) – Did Augustine believe Annihilation was worse than Conscious Torment?

St-Augustine-of-Hippo

Why I keep stumbling upon quotes taken out of context by Rethinking Hell and some of their social media warriors is beyond me. At this point, it is predictable to see conditionalists take such easy reads out of context just so they can support their position. I am really trying hard to just stay away from these kinds of low hanging fruit, but like whack-a-moles, they just keep popping up at every turn. In our present case, there is a particular point made about Augustine that really needs to be erased from Rethinking Hell’s playlist.

In Augustine’s City of God, Book 11, Ch 27 Augustine gives an analogy about those that would rather exist and live in misery, than to be “annihilated” (A more modern translation can be found here). It is because of this kind of language that Peter Grice, Christopher Ray, Chris Date, other conditionalists jump on their opportunity. In typical, out-of-context fashion, Peter Grice quotes Augustine saying:

“When Augustine—whose view of eternal torment is far from gentle—weighs in on the question of which would be worse, he strongly opposes the scales used by Piper and others today:

If those wretches were offered immortality, on the condition that their misery would be undying, with the alternative that if they refused to live for ever in the same misery they would cease to have any existence at all, and would perish utterly, then they would certainly be overjoyed to choose perpetual misery in preference to complete annihilation.” (emphasis mine)

This is in response most of the time to those that wish to make the claim that eternal conscious torment (ECT) is worse than annihilation. Though this isn’t their primary argument, it is sprinkled in the mix. And just recently, Peter Grice commented on someone’s Facebook meme by stating:
Peter Grice, Augustine reference, Annihilation Harsher than ECT

Did Augustine really argue that annihilation was harsher than ECT? Christopher Ray, another Rethinking Hell contributor, seems to think so. He says in one of his points to J. Warner Wallace:

 “What Wallace does not seem to understand is that, in the mind of many, the complete cessation of life, the blotting out of existence, is the ultimate punishment. According to some people like Augustine, annihilation is a more severe, more undesirable penalty than eternal torment, and therefore one could argue that annihilationists take sin even more seriously than their traditionalist counterparts. It is no coincidence that governments around the world and across millennia have reserved capital punishment for the most heinous of crimes. So, if one is simply looking to find the worst possible punishment to hang their theological hat on, there is certainly a compelling case that annihilation fits the bill.

As you can read above, both authors feel as though Augustine makes a contrastive argument against ECT by stating that annihilation is worse, harsher, more severe, and undesirable. And both quote Augustine’s City of God to do it. Let’s see what Augustine says. Please pay attention to the emphases, as they are key to understanding the true meaning and sense behind what Augustine is saying.

 “Mere existence is desirable in virtue of a kind of natural property. So much so that even those that are wretched are for this very reason unwilling to die; and even when they are aware of their misery they do not wish to be removed from this world. Instead of this, they want their wretchedness taken away. This is true even of those who appear utterly wretched to themselves and who clearly are so, and of those whom the wise account wretched because of their folly, and also of those whose poverty and beggary makes them wretched in judgment of men who regard themselves as happy. If those wretched are offered immortality, on the on the condition that their misery would be undying, with the alternative that if they refused to live forever in the same misery they would cease to have any existence at all, and would perish utterly, then they would certainly be overjoyed to choose perpetual misery in preference to annihilation.”

“This reaction is the most [unchallengeable] evidence of the fact that we are examining. For why should men fear to die, and prefer to live in such distress than to end it by dying? The only reason is the natural revulsion from annihilation. And that is the reason why men, although they know that they are destined to die, long for mercy to be granted to them, as a great boon, the mercy, that is, of an extension of life in this pitiable state, and the deferment of their death. This shows without any shadow of doubt that they would grasp at the offer of immortality, with the greatest delight, even an immortality which would offer no end to their beggarly condition.” – (City of God, Book 11, Ch 27)

Augustine goes on with an illustration that even animals and plants are endowed with natural instinct to survive and take “every possible action to escape destruction.” In other words, nature has an inherent inclination that says, “We don’t want to die.”

Even though there is more argumentation that Augustine is building upon prior to making his point above, ask yourself one question: Where on earth is Augustine comparing annihilationism (according to Rethinking Hell’s definition) with eternal conscious torment in mind? Nowhere! Just analyzing this discourse alone, it is clear that Augustine’s main point is that mankind has a natural instinct to live! And that they hate death or dying. No surprise there. And that if they were given the choice to live in this world with the fallen consequences of their sinful choices (folly), and/or in beggary and poverty, or die, they would rather choose to live in that same misery, perpetually. They would choose the pitiable state and the distress they are in, over against being wiped out from the earth (aka annihilated, which is another term often used in various contexts, including this one, to describe the first death without any reference or entailment concerning the second). If Augustine was trying to say that annihilation in contrast to ETC is more severe, more harsh, more undesirable as Rethinking Hell would like you to believe, he certainly didn’t get the memo.

It is disheartening to me that conditionalists continue to perpetuate these kinds of arguments. You can’t make that kind of semantic leap that these men make when Augustine’s analogy was clearly moving in a different direction. But, even if that is the direction Augustine wanted to go, we are still only given two choices in this analogy. Annihilation (aka dying the first death) or this present life. I would say yes to living too if those were my options. But that isn’t our options. Augustine knew that. Athanasius knew that. And Irenaeus knew that. Conscious Torment is the biblical reality. And given a choice between living in this world or ECT, I still would choose this life! But Augustine’s point was not even close to what these men above are saying. The simple thesis is that man naturally wants to live and exist in this world. It was a sub-point to the greater argument he was developing. And in their current existence, they would do anything they could to extend and maintain that existence, even if life was extremely miserable in most cases (although many do commit suicide, seeking escape. But that is another discussion). There is no contrast here between final annihilation and eternal conscious torment. Because that kind of misery doesn’t compare to the type of misery Augustine had in mind here. You can’t make that kind of application even principally.

-Until we go home

Rethinking Conditionalism (Part 9a) – Athanasius

athanasius the great

I wanted to deal with this low hanging fruit long ago, but to me it should seem obvious to a normal reader that Athanasius was not a annihilationist/conditionalist. As always, you have to examine the context of any writing. Not only the surrounding text, but other variables like, historical timeframe, audience, speaker, culture, location, semantics, or in this case, other literary works that place the gems of history in their proper setting upon the crown of context. All that to say that if one were to just take the time to pick up two of Athanasius’ most popular and interrelated works, they would quickly pull the rug under those that believe he was a conditionalist. The evidence will be easy to reference.

Who said it?

Glenn Peoples made a video about which early church fathers believed in conditonalism. You can see the part where he mentions Athanasius here.  Aside from the clipped and edited quotes that clearly do not represent Athanasius’ position in context, Glenn is using his own interpretation of Athanasius’ words and reading them into words like “non-existence” and “destruction.” As you will see in part 9b in this series, these words were used with nuance by Athanasius. You will also notice that the majority of the time, conditionalists tend to quote from Anthanasius’ work entitled On The Incarnation. But they neglect to mention that this work was part II of his previous work Against the HeathenUnfortunately, because of videos like this, men like Preston Sprinkle, Chris Date, and others, are stuck in the proverbial echo chamber of conditonalist propaganda. And time and time again, they continue to purposefully or neglectfully spread false information like this out of context whenever the subject of church fathers are brought up. Let’s put this particular father to rest.

Note: As I mentioned before in my previous articles, the views of the church fathers pale in comparison to God’s word which testifies to the veracity of eternal conscious torment. I seek to address this only as a matter of exposing the varying avenues conditonalist leaders will take to push this view. So believe me when I say, God’s word is clear that the wicked will be tormented forever. And Athanasius believed that.

A Tale of Two Books

As I alluded to already, Athanasius had two books which were were essentially his thesis on the human condition and the necessity of Christ’s incarnation to save us from that condition. But conditionalists love to quote from the second book On The Incarnation, while neglecting to read it through the foundation laid down in the first book Against the Heathen. To be brief, The main purpose of Against the Heathen in Athanasius’ own words is to “[vindicate] Christian doctrine, and especially the cross, against the scoffing objection of Gentiles” (Introduction). It is divided into three main parts through which he argues:

  1. Against the (non)existence of evil as a substance and its relationship to the worship of idols and how this affects our degeneration into immorality.
  2. The immortality of the soul and its relationship to God by worshiping Him who is eternal rather than idols.
  3. The divine, monotheistic, and sovereign presence of Christ the Word in creation and the necessity of our corrupt nature to be restored to Him.

These, of course, are my summaries. You can read all the contemporary issues that he goes into yourself, but our goal here is to make a quick work by focusing on Part I where Athanasius explicitly affirms his belief of the immortality of the soul. And if you know anything about conditonalism, this doctrine is one of the first things they challenge.

The Immortality of the Soul

In case you didn’t watch the video, here is the popular quote from Incarnation that Glenn Peoples used in the video above, and that many annihilationists use:

For transgression of the commandment was turning them back to their natural state, so that just as they have had their being out of nothing, so also, as might be expected, they might look for corruption into nothing in the course of time. 5. For if, out of a former normal state of non-existence, they were called into being by the Presence and loving-kindness of the Word, it followed naturally that when men were bereft of the knowledge of God and were turned back yto what was not (for what is evil is not, but what is good is), they should, since they derive their being from God who IS, be everlastingly bereft even of being; in other words, that they should be disintegrated and abide in death and corruption (Section 4, para. 4b thru 5, emphasis mine).

There are different translations to this work of course. And I fully intend to deal with Athanasius’ philosophical and natural nuance of “non-existence” and going back into “nothing” in the future. However, we must first deal with this fundamental question. Did Athanasius really believe that those outside of Christ are eventually annihilated? Since this can be a bit loaded, let’s shave that question down a bit. Because annihilation can refer to just the first death only. A linguistic nuance that conditionalists often manipulate to their advantage. So let’s make it more specific. Does Athanasius believe that the soul will also eventually be annihilated after the first death? This question is answered in his own words. 

In Against the Heathen, Athanasius first discusses how the soul is rational and distinct from the body (Part II, Sections 30 thru 31). Then, in Sect. 32, he expounds a little more on the rationality and eternality of the soul because it thinks of and imagines things that are immaterial and eternal. He further remarks that the mortal body of itself does not have this capability to ponder such things, and that this is one proof of a rational and immortal soul ruling the body. But it is in Sect. 33 where Athanasius drops the bomb on conditionalist conspirators by saying, “But that the soul is made immortal is a further point in the Church’s teaching which you must know, to show how idols are to be overthrown.” He also states, “For if our argument has proved it (the soul) to be distinct from the body, while the body is by nature mortal, it follows that the soul is immortal, because it is not like the body.” But if we really want to receive a full blown, in context, demonstration of what Athanasius’ believed about the immortality of the soul, read this excerpt from sect. 33, and pay attention to the emphasis:

“2. And again, if as we have shown, the soul moves the body and is not moved by other things, it follows that the movement of the soul is spontaneous, and that this spontaneous movement goes on after the body is laid aside in the earth. If then the soul were moved by the body, it would follow that the severance of its motor would involve its death. But if the soul moves the body also, it follows all the more that it moves itself. But if moved by itself , it follows that it outlives the body. 3. For the movement of the soul is the same thing as its life, just as, of course, we call the body alive when it moves, and say that its death takes place when it ceases moving. But this can be made clearer once for all from the action of the soul in the body. For if even when united and coupled with the body it is not shut in or commensurate with the small dimensions of the body, but often , when the body lies in bed, not moving, but in death-like sleep, the soul keeps awake by virtue of its own power, and transcends the natural power of the body, and as though travelling away from the body while remaining in it, imagines and beholds things above the earth, and often even holds converse with the saints and angels who are above earthly and bodily existence, and approaches them in the confidence of the purity of its intelligence; shall it not all the more, when separated from the body at the time appointed by God Who coupled them together, have its knowledge of immortality more clear? For if even when coupled with the body it lived a life outside the body, much more shall its life continue after the death of the body, and live without ceasing by reason of God Who made it thus by His own Word, our Lord Jesus Christ. 4. For this is the reason why the soul thinks of and bears in mind things immortal and eternal, namely, because it is itself immortal. And just as, the body being mortal, its senses also have mortal things as their objects, so, since the soul contemplates and beholds immortal things, it follows that it is immortal and lives forever. For ideas and thoughts about immortality never desert the soul, but abide in it, and are as it were the fuel in it which ensures its immortality. This then is why the soul has the capacity for beholding God, and is its own way thereto, receiving not from without but from herself the knowledge and apprehension of the Word of God.”

Now, let it be known that I don’t agree with the logic in his argumentation. But let it also be known that if we are going to read Athanasius through an historically honest filter, we must take all of his work into consideration. Unless there is a flat out denial, or a confessional change of belief that can be argued, we have no choice but to assume that Athanasius believed in the immortality of the soul, and not in annihilationism as Glenn Peoples and those who parrot would have it. And anything written afterwards should be understood in relation to what was written here. Because to understand his Part II (Incarnation), you must keep in mind Part I, which Athanasius also reminds us to do. Which leads me to my final point.

Change of Mind?

Just in case this is brought up, is it possible that Athanasius could have had a change of mind? Could he have changed his understanding of eternal torment and the immortality of the soul when writing Part II of his work, On The Incarnation? Sure. Anything is possible. But this is really hard to believe when at least three times he purposefully references back to what was formerly written in order to make some of his points in the Incarnation (see 1. Introduction, & Sect. 4 and 11). In light of this, we must interpret any passage quoted by conditionalists through the lens of what we know of Athanasius’ position on the immorality of the soul. They should now read very differently. And in case you are a bit skeptical still, consider what he wrote toward the conclusion of Incarnation:

“He (Jesus) is to come, no more to suffer, but thenceforth to render to all the fruit of His own Cross, that is, the resurrection and incorruption; and no longer to be judged, but to judge all, by what each has done in the body, whether good or evil; where there is laid up for the good the kingdom of heaven, but for them that have done evil everlasting fire and outer darkness.

And also in Against the Heathen:

“For just as for them who walk after His example, the prize is life everlasting, so for those who walk the opposite way, and not that of virtue, there is great shame, and peril without pardon in the day of judgment, because although they knew the way of truth their acts were contrary to their knowledge.”

Couple these quotes together with his affirmation of the immortality of the soul, we can draw some good educated conclusions about what he believed. And no, he wasn’t just using biblical language, giving us no indication whether he really believed in conscious torment like some conditionalist would have us believe.

But I still sense a bit of skepticism, even in the face of these above. So in a second, I will show one more of Athanasius’ writings that will hopefully push you further away from believing this annihilationistic conspiracy. But before I do, I really have to ask, what is it about the above writings that conditionalists leaders fail to understand? Why do we always have to play these linguistic games where conditionalists say, “Well, he was just using biblical language.” Or that “He mentions everlasting fire and peril without pardon, but that still doesn’t mean that he meant unending torment.” Two can play that game though. Because it doesn’t imply that the torment will cease either! And it certainly doesn’t imply annihilation! I might grant “peril without pardon” if one feels like it isn’t explicit enough. But in light of what Athanasius believes about the immortality of the soul, if he truly believed that the lost will ultimately be annihilated (as is proposed by Rethinking hell and their followers) why not mention that ultimate end in these two passages? Was he really just using biblical language, or just affirming an already established truth concerning the eternal torment of the wicked?

Now let’s look at a portion of Festal Letter #7 written circa 335 AD, approximately 10-20 years after Incarnation and Against the Heathen, and see if perhaps Athanasius changed his mind over time. And in light of what we have read concerning his position on the immortality of the soul, which was never contradicted or recanted as far as I have researched, ask yourself what do you think he means in light of what he said he believes.

“But it is the soul which they bury in sins and follies, drawing near to the dead, and satisfying it with dead nourishment; like young eagles which, from high places, fly upon the carcasses of the dead, and which the law prohibited, commanding figuratively, ‘You shall not eat the eagle, nor any other bird that feeds on a dead carcass Leviticus 11:13;’ and it pronounced unclean whatsoever eats the dead. But these kill the soul with lusts, and say nothing but, ‘let us eat and drink, for to morrow we die Isaiah 22:13.’ And the kind of fruit those have who thus love pleasures, he immediately describes, adding, ‘And these things are revealed in the ears of the Lord of Hosts, that this sin shall not be forgiven you until you die.’ Yea, even while they live they shall be ashamed, because they consider their belly their lord; and when dead, they shall be tormented, because they have made a boast of such a death. To this effect also Paul bears witness, saying, ‘Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats; but God shall destroy both it and them 1 Corinthians 6:13.’ And the divine word declared before concerning them; ‘The death of sinners is evil, and those who hate the righteous commit sin.’ For bitter is the worm, and grievous the darkness, which wicked men inherit” (Section. 2)

In this Letter, Athanasius is encouraging the saints to live a life of virtue in Christ, and in some sense, exposing those who come to eat but are not saved. In this portion, as you can see, he makes mention of how the wicked kill the soul with sins, and are drawing nearer to death (the first one). And then, when they have had their fill of sin and death, when they die the first, natural death, their spiritual end is to be tormented. Not only that, he mentions the “grievous” darkness they will experience along with the “bitter” worm that they will inherit. Now, if he had annihilation in mind, surely…SURELY he would have mentioned it. But he didn’t. I mean, he already used “non-existence” before, and going back into “nothing,” right? Why not just say it more plainly, or at least reaffirm it? Yet, what we do read is a contrast between the death you die the first time, and the torment you experience afterwards. If there was to be a cessation of such a torment, and the ultimate punishment is “destruction,” even of the soul (how conditionalists believe), it doesn’t seem like Athanasius got that memo.

Conclusion

This article was not written to be the sole unraveling concerning the whole of the conditonalist/annihilationist position. But only to expose, once again, the deceit, half-truths, and linguistics nuances that are constantly propagated to gain a theological influence in the minds of the unsuspecting. And because my overall goal was to be as brief as I possibly could be, I ask that you, reader, to pick up and read any work that a preacher uses (Athanasius included), and seek to understand that person, their timeframe, their whole theology, etc. Especially when heretical, or even heretically leaning positions like conditionalism are being proposed. Because all too often, we take for granted that everyone is on the same page of meaning. And when it comes to Rethinking Hell and other conditionalists leaders, we ought to be extra suspicious. So let’s be faithful to the language of the Scriptures, and history.

-Until we go home

In Grievance Against Unlimited Atonement

maxresdefault

One of the main grievances that professing Christians have against the doctrine of Limited Atonement is that it is “unfair.” In their mind, it stifles evangelism and makes God’s atonement unjust. One preacher even likened it to inviting someone to a feast with nothing at the table. To others, it is pointless to preach the gospel because not everyone has the real possibility to be saved. And their main point of contention is not just the idea that it flies in the face of man’s free will,  but that it will be impossible for some in the world to believe because Christ’s atonement was intentionally made for the elect alone. Of course, this doesn’t seem very loving. But aside from the fact that without the gracious drawing and regenerating work of the Holy Spirit no man will come to Christ of their own volition, we are left to think that if the atonement of Christ doesn’t give an opportunity for every person on earth to be saved, then it is unjust, unfair, and unloving. This general idea that Christ’s atonement pays the penalty for sin on behalf of every human being is typically labeled Unlimited Atonement (UA). But can this doctrine realistically teach that every single person has an opportunity to be saved? In other words, can someone consistently believe that every human being has a possibility of being born again? Yes, but only if you make a few tweeks in your theology.

The Omniscience of God

The first that that has to be tweaked or denied is God’s omniscience. As I already alluded to, those who are proponents of UA understand that if Limited Atonement (LA) is true, then logically there are some in this world who will never receive eternal life. Despite all our preaching efforts and prayer to reach them, if they are non-elect, they will not be saved. And because the opportunity to be saved doesn’t seem real and genuine, then the gospel isn’t really good news for all. But whether you believe in UA or not, unless you are a universalist, isn’t it true that not everyone will be saved anyway? “Ah! But at least they had a chance, and they could have been saved if they just believed. The only reason why they are in hell is because they chose to continue in unbelief.” True. But I don’t know any who truly understand LA who doesn’t affirm sinners going to hell for their own sin and unbelief. And all these reasons concerning choice and possibility seem reasonable at first. But if God is truly omniscient (that is, He knows the beginning and the end of who will be saved), even if He did predestine some in accordance with their faith as some teach, that still means everyone is not really saveable. Because even if God, who knows who will be saved from the foundation of the world, never willed or intended to save only a particular people, it still doesn’t change the fact that only a particular number of people will believe. And it’s only those to whom the atonement is applied. And God knew that before we were born! Before we would or even could have the possibility to choose! So even if Christ’s atonement truly paid for the sins of every human being, it doesn’t really make every person saveable, nor does it present the “fair” and equitable opportunity for all to believe as advertised. Because unless God doesn’t know all that will come to pass, we are forced to fall square on the shoulders of LA whether we like it or not. Or at least some form of it. Unless you are an open theist, the whole idea behind everyone having a so-called genuine opportunity to be saved, or that Christ’s atonement made salvation possible for every single person that has ever lived is an illusion.

Universalism and Open Theism

Allow me to reemphasize the two sub-points above in case you just happen to be glancing through this article. They are the doctrines of universalism and open theism. If you’re a universalist, then you believe everyone will be saved after judgment no matter what. And if you believe that Christ’s penal sacrifice paid for the sins of every, single human being, then this would be the most consistent conclusion of your belief. However, if you are not a universalist, but still believe that Christ paid the penalty for sin on behalf of every human being, and that God intended to save everyone, and provided opportunity and possibility if only they would believe, then you are not just inconsistent, but untruthful. Because even if salvation were absolutely and utterly dependent on our will to choose Christ in order to have Christ’s atonement applied to us so that we might be born again, once again, the fact that God omnisciently knows who will come to Him by faith aeons prior to our choosing, seals the number of who and how many will be saved. Whether you call them elect or not, or whether or not you refrain from saying “limited” atonement doesn’t make a difference. In others words, although proponents of UA proclaim that salvation was purchased for every single person, and that faith is a condition to receive salvation (which LA’ers believe too), it is still a biblical reality that only some will choose to be saved. And the fact that Scripture even mentions only few will be saved, despite what some may say concerning opportunity and possibility, really reveals that God has made up His mind and the work of who will be redeemed is treated as if it is already complete. We are simply commanded to be faithful to preach and call those whom God foreknew to Christ. Which leads me to reiterate my second sub-point

If you’re an open theist who believes God chooses not to know the future, or that He only has some middle-knowledge by which He can calculate all the possible worlds which any given event can occur (like Molinism believes), only then is UA consistent. To put it another way, in order for this kind of real opportunity to be present for every single human, God cannot know what will happen from beginning to end. God cannot be truly omniscient! Because, as I said, if He knows who will be saved and who will not, regardless if He predestined us based upon our faith, that fact that He knows who these particular people are already leaves us to conclude that Christ’s atonement remains only possible for the elect. But if that word offends, then we can say it is only for those who would believe. Makes no difference really. And despite some open theist’s who say that God doesn’t have to know all things to be omniscient, or that His infinite wisdom and other faculties make Him omniscient, the point remains that UA is only consistent if you are an open theist or a universalist (Both being damnably heretical). And there are plenty of preachers who have understood this, and have abandoned orthodoxy and sought refuge in these heretical twins.

Ethnocentric “All”

I am compelled to give a quick admonition before moving forward to the second point. Ascribing to UA simply because the alternative is a misrepresented view of Limited Atonement (LA) is not wise. Not only that, to believe in UA because some can present it compellingly is just a smoke screen. Even though the Scriptures mention Christ dying for “all” in various contexts, linguistic consideration to the kind of “all” that is meant needs to be taken into account. The one thing that I think that proponents of UA miss is that Limited Atonement does make all men saveable. That’s right, all men. But what I mean by that is that there are no ethic barriers as to who can be saved. Because of the atonement of Christ, there is a definite purpose and intention in Christ’s penal substitutionary atonement. And that it will save a particular people from every tribe, nation, and tongue. Ethnically and biblically speaking, that truly is anyone! But it cannot be everyone. To put it differently. It is anyone qualitatively. And everyone quantitatively. And in that sense, Christ died for all! And if it wasn’t for Christ dying and the Holy Spirit effectually working on the heart of sinful men, no one would believe! No one! And this is the next crucial point too important to pass up.

Original Sin 

The second thing that would need to be tweaked or denied is original sin. Even if human beings had every opportunity and chance to come to Christ, and they had a thousand years to consider it, because of their love for sin and enslavement to it, they would not come. Because, as the Scripture says, they love darkness more than light (John 3:19). And they are slaves to sin (John 8:34-36). Unless Jesus makes us free, we will remain slaves. But, unless you are a Pelagian (another damnable heresy) and don’t believe the human will and their nature is totally ensalved to sin from birth, denying original sin, then you cannot truthfully and consistently say that every human being has real opportunity and possibility to be saved. Because it still requires a purposeful and intentional work of the Holy Spirit upon the heart of the sinner to set them free. And how can slaves under their masters more powerful than themselves be truly free without someone stronger overcoming them? In this case, by the penal and limited substitutionary atonement of Christ of course! And if you are semi-pelgian, and believe that we are indeed enslaved to sin, but not so enslaved that we can still choose to be saved without some regenerative work on the heart first, you still have the same, nagging problem(s). That God still omnisciently knows who will believe. And that Christ’s atonement is still only going to be applied to them. And that God knew from the beginning, before anyone was born, who would be those people. And if God knew this, how can it be believed that the atonement was intended to be truly universal? Or how can God know this settled future, yet decide to fight against it by intending to save all, and yet failing to do so, miserably. This makes the Trinity into some greek demigod, internally conflicted, self-contradicting, and intending to save every single person, but powerless to carry out His intended purpose! So it comes back full circle to Jesus’ atonement being for the elect whether we would like to admit it or not.

Nevertheless, despite all the above, there is still a more precious doctrine that must be tweaked…no!…emphatically denied and manipulated in order for UA to be consistent. It is the necessary and essential doctrine of penal substitution atonement.

Penal Substitutionary Atonement

In this last point, I hope you understand how important penal substitutionary atonement (PSA) is. There are some that believe that Christ’s atonement was substitutionary, but not penal. Penal meaning Christ paid the penalty for our sins, in our place, instead of us. Satisfying the demands of God’s justice and wrath on our behalf. Making full payment for the debt of sin to God so that we might be justified and reconciled to Him! What a Savior! But there are some shady types that try to subtly deny the payment aspect of the atonement, and would deny this only because they logically understand this one aching problem. That if Christ did truly pay the penalty for our sins in full on the Cross (John 19:30), and that He did so for every human being, to punish them in Hell is truly a judicial problem. Knowing this, and being unwilling to let go of UA, some have cast off this important aspect of PSA. And I have seen and read more and more of these kinds of preachers advocating for this kind of atonement. An atonement that must change the nature of penal substitution made on our behalf just to make their view of Unlimited Atonement (UA) consistent. Not everyone who believes in UA does this, nor picks up on the logical demand. But those pseudo-apologists and preachers that do, slip this compromise in their sermons like a date rape drug, and the congregants are completely unaware of the heretical poison in their drink. But regardless if they realize it, the main point here is that UA cannot consistently teach penal substitutionary atonement without making some unbiblical modification to it to suit their position.

Conclusion

My only motivation in this article is to help us see that Limited Atonement isn’t just some doctrine contrived by only a few men in a dark room from the secret corners of a watchtower in Belize somewhere in the middle of nowhere. In the most crude sense, Limited Atonement can be understood as every Christian would understand it. That is, it will only be applied to those who repent and believe (but even for some, repentance is a problem too). But if you believe that, then you must believe only some will be saved, unless you’re a universalist. And if you believe not everyone will be saved, unless you’re an open theist, you cannot consistently conclude that every single person can possibly be saved. And if you can stomach that, then it will be much easier for you to see how our enslavement to sin is one of the central issues here. And that even though our wills are free to do as it pleases, because it is totally enslaved to sin, we will always choose sin over submission to Christ. Unless, of course, you’re a Pelagian. And if you can see our sin and enslavement to sin as not just debt, but an injustice against God, making us an enemy of His, unwilling to repent and believe, then the glorious gospel declared in the Penal Substitutionary model of atonement will be amazing grace to your ears! Where the debt has been paid! And justice has been satisfied! And if you are willing to believe in penal substitution, then you have no choice but to affirm Limited Atonement. Because, whether you realize it or not, they are both one and the same doctrine. And although this doctrine has been refined over the centuries, it is indeed a doctrine that our Reformed forefathers believed, our biblical church fathers, the apostles, the prophets of old, our father Adam, and of course, our blessed Trinity who planned it from eternity.

-Until we go home

Why Getting Caught Watching Porn Is The Best Thing That Can Happen.

Secret document

Let’s face it, pornography is a shameful thing. Most men know it (and women too). But no matter how many times you ask God for forgiveness, and vow never to do it again, you fail again. And one of the reasons why it perpetuates itself in your life is because it is a secret struggle. That’s right. Secret. Most people in your church, at your job, and even in your home don’t know this is sinful problem in your life. And, it is hard for you to talk about it because, well, it’s shameful. You know its wrong. You hate it when you watch it. You feel guilty often for watching it. But guess what? Since no one knows about it, you continue the battle on your own, thinking you can defeat this monumental beast by yourself! And when you do talk about it with others, it is usually spoken about in cryptic form where you kind of mention lust at a glance, without specifics, and without any real plan to confess the poisonous fruit that it is producing in your life. It is because of this, I highly recommend one of two things that should happen if you want to begin the path to liberty. These two are not the end-all-be-all to end pornographic desire, but I guarantee you’ll be moving in the right direction. 1) Get Caught 2) Confess (to your spouse, or a godly and mature saint).

Get Caught

When David desired Bathsheba, he did so in secret. No doubt, David probably thought he was never going to get caught. Sin is just deceitful like that (Ephesians 4:22). And after he had her husband Uriah killed in battle, he probably thought the trouble he got himself into by impregnating Bathsheba was officially buried (pun intended). The Scripture says that God was displeased, and he sent Nathan the prophet to expose his sin (2 Samuel 12:1). It was necessary after exposing David’s sin that the consequences would be listed against him. Then, Nathan says “For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel and before the sun” (2 Sam. 12:12). David was busted! And it was a good thing too. Get was being merciful to him by doing so. And David’s reaction to this was perfect. He says, “I have sinned against the LORD.” He later pens Psalm 51 in what is probably the best, written example of genuine confession and godly sorrow that leads to repentance in all of the Psalms.

All that to say this. I pray that God will have mercy on you, and you get caught! Not trying to sound mean or harsh, but it’s the best thing for you. Really! If you think for one second that keeping this porn addiction a secret and taking it on by yourself is something you can handle, you’re deceived. And sin, no matter what it is, loves to hide. It likes to keep things secret. That’s where it draws its strength. In the nuturing environment of darkness. John 3:20 states that those that do evil don’t come to light so that their deeds aren’t exposed. Proverbs 9:17 has the adulterous women telling us that bread eaten in secret is pleasurable. Paul cries out to us in Ephesians 5:11-14 to take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them with light because shameful to even mention some of those things done in darkness. The point being, while God can and does use shame to cause you repent, shame is often a dungeon that sin uses to keep people from confession and true repentance. Someone walking in on you while watching porn, discovering your internet history, asking you directly if you watch pornography, or whatever the circumstances that causes you to be exposed is the BEST thing that can happen to you! And I say this with as much love and earnestness I can muster. If you don’t get busted now, your cries for freedom when you’re lying in the pool of your own tears, after once again failing to avoid the one thing that has this immense grip on your life, will grow weaker. In other words, while your desire to turn away from this sin may be genuine, the fact that you are attempting conquer this sin in the very same, secretive environment where it thrives spells certain shipwreck of your faith. You will eventually give in. You will lose.

But if getting caught is not something you want God to do to you, you don’t have to wait to expose this sin. There is another option. But before I dive into that, I want to quickly say something that is of the utmost importance.

The Gospel

The bible says that when we are born again, we will hate our sin (Romans 7:15). Do you hate this sin? I mean, truly? 1 John 2:29 states that one of the ways we know if we are truly born again is that we love to practice righteousness in our life because we are born again. Do you desire to love God and live holy before Him? One of the promises that we are given as Christians is that Jesus’ victory in taking the punishment for our sin is that He destroyed the power that sin has over our lives, and that He that started a good work in you will finish it (Philippians 1:6). Do you believe that? Do you truly believe that Jesus took God’s wrath and satisfied the demands of justice that are against us by enduring a painful and agonizing death so that we can be free from sin? And be given a new nature that loves Him and hates pornography? And that only through the life-giving power of the Holy Spirit who causes you to repent and trust Jesus for salvation that you are granted the gift of everlasting life? The gospel is the power of God unto salvation for all who believe (Romans 1:16)! For our sake, Christ became sin, who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21)!  If you don’t truly believe this, this battle is lost even before it has begun. Getting caught and confessing your sins to someone else in the hopes of modifying your behavior is a dead gospel. It is in the life-changing work of the gospel of Jesus Christ where true freedom is found. I pray that if you have never experienced the reality of knowing Christ, and the power of His resurrection to justify you and change your sinful nature, that you would go before Him today broken and contrite, so that you might confess and repent of your sins to Him alone who has the power to forgive sins and reconcile you to Himself.

Confess

If you’re married, I wouldn’t wait another second to tell your spouse about this sin in your life. Be open and honest with her/him. Don’t criticize them if they get angry, frustrated, or disappointed. Accept the failure. Admit the defeat. That’s what David did when he was confronted about his sin. And if this isn’t the first time you’ve told them, tell them again. Ask them to periodically check in on you. Give them every password. Don’t be alone with any electronic device. Maybe take a long break away from the internet, television, and radio. Pray together. Read together. Seek godly counsel together. And most importantly, communicate! There are a multitude of gates and parameters you both can place in your lives to fortify yourselves against this horrendous sin. But the central and most important key is to not keep this a secret! Even when it is a known issue. Keep bringing it up! Not naggingly, but out of genuine desire to extinguish this idolatrous fire. And if you’re honest with yourself, God sees you every time you watch it. The eyes of the Lord are everywhere, watching the evil and the good (Proverbs 15:3). And “no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4:13). So while I am exhorting you to abstain from secrecy, remember that if you’re not worried about God and how he feels about pornography, you’re probably not going to give much care to being ashamed and open about it to your spouse.

And if you’re not married, then you must find a godly saint(s) that you trust will pray for you, check in on you, and will provoke you to holiness. Tell them about your failure to be holy. Let them know your desire to no longer fight this alone. Hopefully one of the person(s) you trust is an elder or mature counselor in the church that can provide godly wisdom and a course of action. But whoever you choose, also remember that they are not a suitable substitute for genuine conviction from the Holy Spirit. The idea of an “accountability partner” is not what I’m proposing here. This sin is a heart issue. Period! If someone wants to watch porn bad enough, they will find a way. This is only a means for you to expose this sin in the hopes that you can deprive it of the strength that it so powerfully gains in secret. Just like the most disgusting of creatures and fungus tend to thrive in the darkest and dampest areas, so does this sin fester and thrive. And it isn’t until the area is uncovered, exposed, and aired out do the creatures scatter and the fungus dies.

Conclusion

If you are a man, you know the internal battle we must fight daily against lust. But now this isn’t just a man thing. Women are not facing this issue to. And as I already stated, this is a heart issue. So if you want to gain an upper hand, don’t allow this secret sin to flourish any longer in the dark recesses of your heart and on your hard drive. And since we are dealing with the internet here (for the most part), the data is already collected somewhere when you are searching these sites. So nothing is exactly private no matter what the “private search” option says on your phone or desktop. But what we need to remember is that if it God is who we aim to please, then we must go before Him in confession, faith, and repentance in order to overcome this, with a strong follow up by making no provision for the flesh (Romans 13:14). And that we must expose this sin through communion with Christ, gospel-centered fellowship, communicating with our spouses, and availing ourselves of the means of grace God has provided in the Scriptures. My wife and I resolved to take these steps to protect ourselves long ago. By the grace of God, I pray that you will do it in yours.

 

– Until we go home

Michael Brown’s Dangerous Orthodoxy

Image result for line of fire michael brown

If you haven’t heard about the controversy surrounding Dr. Michael Brown and his association with heretical teachers, you may feel a bit out of the loop reading this. But, if you’ve ever encountered any preacher/Christian who seemed to lack the necessary discernment when considering who they approve of in ministry, then the conclusion I draw here will easily resonate with you. Since the dust has settled (somewhat), I would like to cast my widow’s mites into what I believe has been a long standing problem within Western Christendom. This issue with Dr. Brown is merely a symptom of the deeper problem that has been growing like a silent cancer right under our noses. It is concerning a brood of preachers that will indeed seem orthodox in creed, but nevertheless still dilute the pure wine of the gospel with the profane waters by who they approve of in ministry. I call them, “Troublers of Orthodoxy.”

I have met many of these troublers on the streets, in churches, and watched them grow on TV and podcasts. I call them troublers because, contrary to the many who might call them false teachers, they are not really false teachers by the historical, and even biblical, definition of the word. But they indeed can be just as dangerous! Not because of any heretical creed they profess or preach, but because of lack of discernment and unwillingness to examine those whom they labor with. Continue reading

Rethinking Conditionalism (Part 7a) – Rethinking Hell’s Proponents

2011-03-22_151653_oxen_yoke_1

I keep saying over and over again that the annihilationism/conditionalism discussion would take on a different form if it wasn’t for all the heretics Rethinking Hell and others like them affirm, associate, and keep company with. As I pointed out in article 5a concerning the atonement, there are some very serious concerns that should be addressed, not just about the unsound biblical hermeneutics coming out of this camp, but also the corruptions these associations bring to the table. Saying this, have you ever taken a gander at Rethinking Hell’s list for “proponents” of conditionalism?* I have. Seems overwhelming at first. It’s almost like so many orthodox scholars and preachers would adhere to this position. Well, I have watched videos and listened to podcasts where Chris Date touts some of these names when asked for scholars that believe in conditionalism. But are you aware of what some of these people believe about some of the essentials of the faith? Are you even aware of the names of the people that are being used in the Rethinking Hell articles, podcasts, books, and conferences? You should. Because some of these people stand out if you diligently seek to know those that labor among you (1 Thess 5:12). For some of these names, it didn’t take long before something damnably heretical turned up. For others, (some of which I was already aware of), I was surprised (but not really) that Rethinking Hell, which considers themselves within the bounds of orthodoxy, would list such heretics and not call them out as they are. But if you’ve read article 5a on the atonement and how Unitarians, Universalists, and those that deny penal substitution are on the approval list for even supposed gospel-centered Calvinist like Chris Date, then this article may not come as a shock to you. Let’s deal with a few of these men now.

Homosexuality

1) Jeff Cook is listed as a modern  and Professor at University of Northern Colorado. In an online debate with Preston Sprinkle (who also is a conditionalist), he writes some pretty disturbing things. To cut to the chase, he affirms monogamous same sex marriage as not  immoral. He says: Continue reading

Every Christian Believes Election

Not everyone consciously affirms the doctrine of election. The reasons for this vary and are definitely outside the scope of this particular article. But whether you don’t like it, don’t agree with it, or are simply neutral about it for the time being, predestination and election are concepts in Scripture that every believer will be confronted with. Even if you choose not to deal with it, the unbelieving world still has heard about it, learned it when they were in church as a kid, and/or logically deduces it through the knowledge that God knew before hand that man would fall, and yet still created us. So even if we bury our head in the sand and ignore this, the world will not let us. And, if we have faithful pastors and brethren in Christ who challenge, edify, and provoke us in godliness through the word of God, they won’t let us ignore this topic either.

Although you may hold to a more unique position concerning predestination and election, you will probably sympathize with one of these two views:

Continue reading

Atonement Theories on Echo Zoe Radio

G.Alvarado Profile pic

I had the pleasure of being a guest on Echo Zoe Radio with Andy Olson to speak about the differing views of the atonement. This is a very important topic that I am seeing wedged into my conversations more and more. Whether I am counseling, evangelizing, or defending the faith among heretical teachings, the varying views of the atonement keep coming into play.

Can you tell the differance between substitutionary atonement theories and penal substitutionary atonement? As you listen to this podcast, take notes concerning the language used by those that ascribe to the more damnably heretical forms of atonement. The reason being is that they use words like substitution, sacrifice, atonement, punishment, and the like, but they mean them in entirely different ways. And they apply them differently depending on what other theologies they hold accomodate thier position.  Grab a drink, a snack, sit back, and may God bless the edify the understanding of His atonement in your soul.

http://www.echozoe.com/archives/4156

-Until we go home

Black Lives Matter, Darwinian Evolution, and Black Liberation Theology

conewasright-690x460

I urge you to take the time to watch this video. It explains the roots of the Black Lives Matter Movement (BLM) which follows a doctrine called Black Liberation Theology. In the beginning of the video, I briefly touch on the hypocrisy of those that support BLM and yet believe in Darwinian Evolution, but then afterward thoroughly expose the history of this movement by dissecting an interview of what is deemed the founder of Black Liberation Theology – James Cone.

Take a seat, turn on your brain, because this one is going to require a lot of your attention. Please share this with other Christians and non-Christians alike.

-Until we go home

Click link to watch:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oP4dhE08KK0