Monthly Archives: July 2019

Israel Folau teaches false doctrine

Wrong labelling of Folau’s orthodoxy

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(image courtesy Wikipedia)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

In an article in news.com.au (20 July 2019), it was stated:

‘ACL[1] managing director Martyn Iles told the newspaper: “I have never heard from him (Folau) anything which contradicts mainstream Christian belief’” (NZ Herald).

The information in The Sydney Morning Herald was:

In written comments provided to the Herald, Martyn Iles, the managing director of the Australian Christian Lobby Group confirmed that he had “never heard” Folau say anything that contradicts mainstream Christian belief.

“That is not to say there is no disagreement – I am sure there is – but some disagreement is normal between Christian denominations,” he said (McClymont & Power 2019).

1. Alarmed by lack of biblical knowledge

I am shocked by the deficiency in understanding of Folau’s theology to place him inside ‘mainstream Christian belief’ when he and his church promote false doctrine that goes back to the third century.

I especially am distressed over a Christian leader’s …

  • Lack of knowledge of Folau’s theology, and this relates to
  • A gap in Martyn Isles’ understanding of historical theology.
  • Overlooking Folau’s false teaching by stating he has ‘never heard’ Folau state anything contradicting mainstream Christian beliefs.

Could it be that Isles is caught up in the freedom of speech / freedom of religion issues and sees this as a test case for Christianity? If so, it pays to gain knowledge before speaking.

I’m reminded of the wisdom in the Book of Proverbs concerning this topic:

Intelligent people are always ready to learn.
Their ears are open for knowledge.

The first to speak in court sounds right—
until the cross-examination begins (
Prov 18:15, 17 NLT).

2. Christian woman disagrees

A Christian woman who visited the Truth of Jesus Christ Church[2] established by Israel Folau’s father, Eni, begs to differ. According to a report in The Sydney Morning Herald (Ahillon 2019), she had this experience and made the following assessments:

  • When Folau began inviting young rugby players to his church, this Christian woman became concerned about what was taught.
  • The 30-strong congregation at Kenthurst, Sydney, she said, believes most Christians are going to hell and that includes the ACL donors as well as Prime Minister, Scott Morrison.
  • She went along to hear what they were preaching and teaching in Bible studies.
  • She was so disturbed she said, “I honestly do not want my son involved in what I have come to understand is false teachings and counterfeit Christianity. I’ve gone, I’ve checked it out and I would call them an isolated hate group,” the woman told Nine newspapers of her experience attending bible studies at Pastor Eni Folau’s home.
  • Pastor Eni Folau and his 20-year-old nephew, Josiah Folau, told her, “Only we have the truth”.
  • Those not baptised in the Folaus’ way were heading for hell, she said.
  • She continued: Pastor Eni Folau states that people must renounce the evils of their ways, get baptised in the name of Jesus Christ and become “reborn” in water in order to become a “born again believer”.
  • Israel Folau said on Twitter (discussed below) that “if you’ve done it a different way from this then you aren’t born again”.
  • The woman said the Truth of Jesus Christ Church, according to cousin Josiah, regarded the [Roman] Catholic Church as “false and filled with lies” and “Any devout Catholic person IS NOT A SAVED CHRISTIAN WHATSOEVER. Look at Catholic doctrine, almost 100% of it is false and is filled with lies,” Josiah wrote to the concerned parent. “The blasphemous Catholic mass is a paganistic ritual rooted in heresy, evil and devil worship” he answered.
  • What about the baptisms of mainstream Christian churches? The baptisms of those who believe in the Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) are false according to the Folaus and reported by the parent who attended the church.
  • The church opposed women deaconesses and preachers. Josiah Folau said, “If you believe in women preachers, Satan’s got you”.
  • Homosexuality is a sin “worthy of death”.

3. Israel Folau affirmed some of the views stated by the woman.

Take a read of this Twitter post and the replies to see that Israel Folau is not an orthodox, evangelical Christian. I refer to this Twitter feed: Take a read of this thread on Twitter started by Israel Folau @IzzyFolau:[3]

Izzy began:

To be born again you MUST, repent of your sins, be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ and then prayed upon asking God to receive the holy spirit. If you’ve done it a different way from this then you aren’t born again. John 3:3, 5 Acts 2:38 Acts 19:1-6

2:06 AM – 18 Jan 2018

Indications are that he is a ‘Jesus only’, Oneness Pentecostal, non-trinitarian promoter. This appears to be evident in his statement that people need to repent of their sins, ‘be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ’ and ‘if you’ve done it a different way from this then you aren’t born again’.

What is the Jesus Only false teaching?

Jesus Only, movement of believers within Pentecostalism who hold that true baptism can only be “in the name of Jesus” rather than in the name of the Trinity. It began at a Pentecostal camp meeting in California in 1913 when one of the participants, John G. Scheppe, experienced the power of the name of Jesus. Many accepted his revelation, and they found support for their belief in “Jesus Only” baptism in John 3:5 and Acts 2:38. This led to the denial of the traditional doctrine of the Trinity…. (Encyclopaedia Britannica 2019. s.v. Jesus Only).

As we’ll see, this rejection of the Trinity was found way before 1913. In the early church under the names of Modalism,[4] Monarchianism,[5] and Sabellianism. It was declared a heresy in the early third century when Sabellius, one of its promoters, was excommunicated from the church because of his modalistic theology (see Encyclopaedia Britannica 2019. s.v. Sabellianism).

3.1 Israel Folau’s unorthodox theology

I’ll pick up his theology as Folau responded to tweets in this Twitter thread:

  • “And the holy spirit is the characteristics or functions of God. But it’s not 3 or the trinity but just him alone”.

This is non-Trinitarian modalism. It was declared a heresy with Sabellius who promoted this view in the third century. It’s like Oneness Pentecostalism today (see Slick n.d.).

Modalism and Monarchianism are two false views of the nature of God and of Jesus Christ that appeared in the second and third centuries AD. A modalist views God as one Person instead of three Persons and believes that the Father, Son, and Spirit are simply different modes or forms of the same divine Person. According to modalism, God can switch among three different manifestations. A Monarchian believes in the unity of God (the Latin word monarchia meant “single rule”) to the point that he denies God’s triune nature. Both modalism and Monarchianism inevitably hold to the doctrine of Patripassianism, the teaching that God the Father suffered on the cross with (or as) the Son, and are closely related to Sabellianism.[6]

  •  Folau: ‘When someone hears the good news of Jesus Christ this is what happens. They believe in him and want to turn away (which is repentance) then comes baptism then laying of hands for the holy spirit. That’s born again!’

What happens with the laying on of hands? Does this bring the Pentecostal baptism of the Spirit accompanied by speaking in tongues? If this is what Folau refers to, his church’s belief is that a person hears the Gospel, repents, is baptised [in Jesus’ name?], receives the baptism of the Spirit with tongues, and that is the only way a person can be born again.

If this is Folau’s position (and it appears to be), it promotes baptismal regeneration[7] and glossolalist regeneration,[8] both of which are unbiblical and are part of the doctrines of Pentecostal Oneness.

This does not promote orthodox theology but Jesus Only theology.

3.2 False teaching affirmed

As I wrote this article, I became aware of the excellent expose of Folau’s teaching by Tom Richards, ‘Israel Folau’s problem with the Trinity’ (Richards 2019). Richards is a missionary with the Australian Presbyterian World Mission in Vanuatu. Of Folau’s theology, he referred to the tweet that I’ve examined above and assessed Folau’s doctrine of the Trinity which is stated as follows:

Jesus Christ was the vessel of God, God is a spirit. He formed the body of Jesus Christ and was in him. And the holy spirit is the characteristics or functions of God. But it’s not 3 or the Trinity but just him alone. Isaiah 43:10

This is an expression of what is called modalism; a teaching that is nearly as old as the church itself and rejects the Trinity as expressed in the Athanasian and Nicene Creeds. The Truth of Jesus Christ Church in Sydney (TOJC) where Folau attends and teaches, has confirmed that they teach that “God is ONE” – meaning that he cannot be understood in any sense as three.

Modalism has taken on different shapes over the course of church history, but collectively these various forms seek to preserve monotheism or the “oneness” of God by expressing the Father, Son and Spirit as “modes” of God. Roughly speaking, this means that in order to achieve certain things, God sometimes works as the Father, sometimes works as the Son, and sometimes as the Holy Spirit. God the Father is incarnated as God the Son, the Holy Spirit is an active expression of the one God who is spirit (Richards 2019).

In this article, Richards examines five main problems he sees with Oneness theology. I highly recommend the artile.

4. Become a co-belligerent with Izzy

Where does that leave orthodox, evangelical Christian believers and their support or rejection of Izzy’s sacking by Rugby Australia?

If it is an issue of freedom of religion or freedom of speech, I will stand with him as a co-belligerant.

Read what Francis Schaeffer meant by becoming co-belligerents with people who have similar values in certain organisations. I do this when I support Cherish Life, an anti-abortion group that used to be called Right to Life. Although many Roman Catholics are associated with this group, we give common support in opposing the abortion holocaust in Australia / Queensland.

See Daniel Strange’s article, ‘Co-belligerence and common grace: Can the enemy of my enemy be my friend?’ (September 2005).

The Australian Macquarie Dictionary defines the noun, cobelligerent, as ‘a nation, state, or individual that cooperates with, but is not bound by a formal alliance to, another in carrying on war’. As an adjective, it is ‘relating to such a cooperation’ (The Macquarie Dictionary 1997:422-423).

clip_image003Francis Schaeffer (courtesy Wikipedia)

The late Francis Schaeffer defined a co-belligerent this way: ‘A co-belligerent is a person with whom I do not agree on all sorts of vital issues, but who, for whatever reasons of their own, is on the same side in a fight for some specific issue of public justice’ (Schaeffer 1980:68).

Politipower provided this explanation:

Co-belligerence, strictly speaking, is waging a war in cooperation with another against a common enemy without a formal alliance. The term co-belligerence indicates remoteness and differences between the co-belligerent parties although jointly pursuing a common objective. In Christianity, it refers to an alliance between denominations, which are normally opposed on doctrinal grounds, for a common social goal.

According to one author, it can be defined as a cultural philosophy that warrants questionable alliances in order to make social impact and change against the moral slippage that plagues our nation — these alliances created and fostered “on the basis of one thing and one thing only – the cause at hand.”[9] A case in point would be conservative evangelicals allying with the Roman Catholic Church in joint efforts to oppose abortion.

Some Christians take issue with a co-belligerence perspective. See Steven J Camp’s article, THE NEW DOWNGRADE…12 dangers of Evangelical Co-Belligerence related to the Manhattan Declaration (Camp 2009). There are dangers in being a co-belligerent, but these are reduced when one focusses on why one is joining with another group with which there may be major differences on other occasions.

This is not a proclamation of salvation through Christ alone and a promotion of Trinitarian Christianity. It is generally associated with cooperating with others on moral and national issues for which they have a common opponent.

Steven J Camp, based on this article, lists 12 dangers of co-belligerence.

These dangers are minimised, in my understanding, when one acknowledges the real purpose of co-belligerence as defined by Francis Schaeffer: ‘A co-belligerent is a person with whom I do not agree on all sorts of vital issues, but who, for whatever reasons of their own, is on the same side in a fight for some specific issue of public justice’ (Schaeffer 1980:68).

As a co-belligerent, a person is not joining with people to evangelise them with the Gospel of eternal salvation through Jesus Christ alone. We are joining others for a common cause in dealing with vital cultural issues of public justice in our society.

I join with Izzy Folau for the battle of free speech and freedom of religion in Australia. However, I do NOT support his view of salvation by baptism, laying on of hands to receive the Holy Spirit, and the teachings of the Truth of Jesus Christ Church, Kenthurst, Sydney, Australia that ‘only we have the truth’ (Josiah Folau). Such a view is cultic, in my understanding.

5. Conclusion

I urge Christian leaders not to present Israel Folau’s theology as evangelical and orthodox. There is information available from Izzy’s writings on Twitter and speaking to the mass media that indicates he’s promoting theology “which contradicts mainstream Christian belief”.

He belongs to a cult that promotes anti-trinitarian, Oneness Pentecostal theology that was deemed a heresy in the church of the third century as Modalism, Monarchianism and Sabellianism.

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(image courtesy christart.com)

6. Works consulted

Ahillon, P 2019. Israel Folau’s tiny congregation could soon be forced to find a new church space to rent after footy star blasted transgender kids in his latest sermon. Daily Mail (online), 17 June. Available at: https://www.msn.com/en-au/news/australia/israel-folaus-tiny-congregation-could-soon-be-forced-to-find-a-new-church-space-to-rent-after-footy-star-blasted-transgender-kids-in-his-latest-sermon/ar-AAD0R5z (Accessed 20 July 2019).

The Macquarie dictionary 3rd ed 1997. Delbridge, A; Bernard, J R L; Blair, D; Butler, S; Peters, P & Yallop, C (eds). Sydney, NSW: The Macquarie Library, Macquarie University, Australia.

McClymont, K & Power, J 2019. Folau’s group’s far from mainstream Christianity, leaders say (online), The Sydney Morning Herald, 20 July. Available at: https://www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/folau-s-group-s-far-from-mainstream-christianity-leaders-say-20190720-p5292n.html (Accessed 23 July 2019).

news.com.au (from NZ Herald) 2019. Former Wallabies star Israel Folau’s church believes most Christians are going to hell (online), 20 July. Available at https://www.news.com.au/sport/sports-life/former-wallabies-star-israel-folaus-church-believes-most-christians-are-going-to-hell/news-story/7354195b88416ac9e574df9059a605dc (Accessed 20 July 2019).

Richards, T 2019. Israel Folau’s problem with the Trinity. Eternity (online), 20 July. Available at: https://www.eternitynews.com.au/opinion/israel-folaus-problem-with-the-trinity/ (Accessed 23 July 2019).

Schaeffer F 1980. Plan for Action: An Action Alternative Handbook for ‘Whatever Happened to the Human Race?’ Old Tappan, New Jersey: Fleming H Revell.

Slick, M n.d. What is Oneness Pentecostal theology? CARM (online). Available at: https://christianreformedink.wordpress.com/bad-theology/cults-heresy/what-is-oneness-pentecostal-theology/ (Accessed 20 July 2019).

Strange, D 2005. Co-belligerence and common grace: Can the enemy of my enemy be my friend? Jubilee Centre (online), September. Available at: http://www.jubilee-centre.org/co-belligerence-and-common-grace-can-the-enemy-of-my-enemy-be-my-friend-by-daniel-strange/ (Accessed 23 July 2019).

7.  Notes

[1] ACL, the Australian Christian Lobby, ‘is a grassroots movement made up of over 150,000 individuals who [are] seeking to bring a Christian influence to politics. ACL is non-party partisan, non-denominational’. See: https://www.acl.org.au/about (Accessed 20 July 2019).

[2] Folau’s church is based in Kenthurst, Sydney, Australia (Ahillon 2019).

[3] Available at: https://twitter.com/izzyfolau/status/953931675011919872?lang=en (Accessed 23 July 2019).

[4] See: Michael 2013. Is modalism biblical? Youth Apologetics Training (online), 12 June. Available at: http://youthapologeticstraining.com/modalism/ (Accessed 20 July 2019).

[5] See ‘What is Monarchianism’. Available at: https://thirdmill.org/answers/answer.asp/file/46673 (Accessed 20 July 2019).

[6] Got Questions 2019. What is modalism / Modalistic Monarchianism? (online) Available at: https://www.gotquestions.org/Modalistic-Monarchianism.html (Accessed 20 July 2019).

[7] To refute baptismal regeneration, see my article: Baptism & Salvation: I Peter 3:21. Available at: https://truthchallenge.one/blog/2009/12/29/baptism-salvation-i-peter-321/ (Accessed 20 July 2019).

[8] See the article, Tongues and baptism for salvation. Let Us Reason Ministries. Available at: http://www.letusreason.org/Onenes15.htm (Accessed 20 July 2019).

[9] The footnote at this point stated: ‘By Steve Camp in the article, The Great Divide’. However, I was unable to locate the primary source for this article.

Copyright © 2019 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 23 July 2019.

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Journalist is out of biblical depth

 

By Spencer D Gear PhD

 

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(photo Israel Folau courtesy The South African)

 

I came across this excellent secular article by Harry Richardson in The Pickering Post, ‘Israel Sparks a Holy War’, 21 April 2019

I consider it to be an excellent well constructed defence of Folau from a secular source. In the article, he makes it obvious he is not supportive of supernatural Christianity.
I’d like to pick up on one of Richardson’s comments: Nowhere in the Bible does it say that equality is a virtue. Tolerance, inclusiveness and diversity don’t get a mention either‘.

How does this statement line up with biblical content?

  • If equality is not a virtue, how do we interpret Adam & Eve being made in the image of God (Gen 1:26-27) and after the Fall, human beings were still said to be in God’s image (Genesis 9:6; 1 Corinthians 11:7) and likeness of God (James 3:9). Does that mean the Bible teaches equality by all of us being made in God’s image?

For an explanation of the meaning of human beings being made in God’s image, see: ‘What does it mean that humanity is made in the image of God (imago dei)?’ (Got Questions 2019)

  • What about the warning against prejudice/favouritism in James 2 (NLT)?
  • Equality as a virtue is taught in Rom 2:11, ‘For God does not show favoritism’. Human beings demonstrate inequality but God doesn’t.
  • As for tolerance, it is a Christian virtue. As a foundation for life and the nations, it is the belief that the truth will come out eventually. This is a Christian understanding of tolerance: ‘Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love’ (Eph 4:2). In fact, the Christian advocates much more than tolerance. We are told to love our neighbours and our enemies (Mark 12:31; Luke 6:27-36);
  • Is inclusiveness a biblical virtue? Yes it is (see Gal 3:28 for believers). What about for unbelievers? See Mark 2:15-17 (NLT).
  • Diversity is promoted in the multiplicity of gifts of the Spirit (1 Cor 12; Eph 4:11-12; Rom 12:6-8).

I think Richardson should take a couple Bible courses such as ‘Introduction to the New Testament’ and ‘Survey of the Bible’. He doesn’t know his Bible well enough to make an informed comment like he has made.

 

Copyright © 2019 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 14 July 2019.

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Cricket ball-tampering disease in all of us

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By Spencer D Gear PhD

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(photo of Cameron Bancroft’s cricket ball-tampering, courtesy thesportsrush.com)

This article first appeared in Australia’s e-journal, On Line Opinion, on 13 April 2018, Cricket ball-tampering disease in all of us.

Steve Smith, Dave Warner and Cameron Bancroft have been banned from first-class cricket for ball-tampering in the fourth test in South Africa, 22-26 March 2018. Smith and Warner were banned from all forms of professional cricket for a year while the penalty was a ban of 9 months for Bancroft.

They could play local grade cricket and engage in coaching around the world but could not engage in professional cricket at any level.

Why did they do it? Smith admitted, “We spoke about it and thought it was a possible way to get an advantage … poor choice and, yeah, we’re deeply regrettable”. Bancroft admitted, ‘I saw an opportunity to potentially use some tape and get some granules from the rough patches of the wicket and try to change the ball condition’.

It is easy to pass this off as a violation of cricket’s rules and not being in ‘the spirit of the game’. Also, there have been other ball-tampering incidents with less punishment than for Smith, Warner and Bancroft.

1.  The bigger problem

I have not read the mainstream media’s diagnosis of what I consider is the greater infection. It runs through many sports. Rugby league uses the sin bin, as do rugby union, basketball, ice hockey, soccer and other sports. A player is sent off the playing field for a time, after breaking rules of the game that are not serious enough to deserve expulsion.

There’s a bigger problem that many journalists will avoid describing because it comes from a Christian worldview. Could you imagine this headline?

2.  ‘We are all infected with the ball-tampering virus.’

This would not be a theme in the mass media’s diagnosis of the cricket crisis as it is an analysis from a Judeo-Christian worldview – and that’s too religious for worldly-wise readers.

Related image(image courtesy Pinterest)

The prophet Jeremiah blamed the inside of all individuals for the problems we see in society: ‘The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?’ (Jeremiah 17:9 NIV) So, the headline should be: ‘A deceitful heart is real problem for Australian cricketers’. Proverbs 4:23 (NIV) nails the reason for the crisis not only for cricket, ‘Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it’.

It is a major problem for the whole human race. Not one person is exempt from the ball-tampering ‘virus’.

We saw it openly in the Nazi Holocaust, Stalin and Mao’s genocides, terrorism and mass shootings around the world, lies, bullying, theft and adultery. It runs through every human being from infancy to old age.

3.  The cricketers need consequences BUT….

I urge you not to single out the banned Australian cricketers for their deceitful actions. The core problem is devastating for all human beings. The Aussie cricketers provide one more visible example of this evil heart.

This predicament of what is behind ball-tampering runs through us and it springs from the heart. The prophet Jeremiah and the wise man of Proverbs dealt with.…

4.  The heart of the matter

The source of all human difficulties is the total inner being of a person, including reasoning and the will. It’s a comprehensive internal wickedness (depravity) that is the root problem. The heart is more corrupt and incurable – from a human perspective.

You’ll see it with classroom cheats, lies to cover up, bullying, speeding on streets, drugs, crime, violence, terrorism, adultery and sexual abuse. The list goes on and on. Some sports get close to the cause when a severe infraction of rules causes a player to be sin-binned.

(photo of rugby league player sent to the sin bin, courtesy Wikipedia)

Cameron Smith, captain of the Melbourne Storm, experienced it in a Good Friday 2018 match against the Sharks. It was his first sin-binning in a 362 game NRL career for some backchat towards referee Matt Cecchi.

This is a problem that a secular society doesn’t want to diagnose in this way. There are examples on the sporting field and in the law courts. It is a sin problem.

What is sin? According to the Judeo-Christian worldview, it is breaking God’s standards (1 John 3:4-5; Isaiah 64:6).

It runs through all of us – not only criminals, murderers and terrorists.

I, the writer, am infected with the same ‘disease’. I’ve lied to get my own way, had outbursts of anger, and times of withholding certain information. Even though my heart has been changed through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, to my dying day I have to battle this sinful nature within that wants to follow the theme of Frank Sinatra’s song, ‘I did it my way’. But I do have added strength to deal with my sin through God’s power.

5.  Cricketers sought forgiveness

Why would banned cricketers seek forgiveness – a very Christian action – from the cricketing public? There is a solution for those who want to experience radical inner change. It has brought change to Queens and no-hopers, sports people, music superstars, and ordinary folks on the streets or in the country.
Who wants to quit cheating (ball tampering, on exams, work pilfering), lying, deceit and adultery through this radical commitment to Jesus Christ?

It’s for all who seek God’s forgiveness.

When former captain, Steve Smith, arrived back in Australia on 29 March 2018, he said: ‘I am sorry…. I hope in time I can earn back respect and forgiveness. I’ve been so privileged and honoured to represent my country and captain the Australian cricket team. Cricket is the greatest game in the world. It’s been my life and I hope it can be again.’

Bancroft explained: ‘It is something I will regret for the rest of my life. All I can do in the short term is ask for forgiveness‘.

Warner: ‘I’m here to take full responsibility for the part I played in this. It’s extremely regrettable. I’m very sorry‘ (31 March 2018).

When Darren Lehmann quit as coach of the Australian cricket team, on 29 March 2018 at Johannesburg, a day prior to the start of the fourth and last test against South Africa, he echoed similar repentant sentiments: ‘I hope the team rebuilds from this and the Australian public finds it in their hearts to forgive these young men and get behind the XI who are going to take the field tomorrow’.

6.  What is forgiveness?

It was a coincidence that these announcements came the day before Good Friday which celebrates the greatest act of sacrifice for sins committed – Jesus’ crucifixion – to provide forgiveness for sin.

To forgive, is to surrender my right to get even with or hurt someone who has hurt me. It means to wipe the slate clean after some sin against me. I am pardoned and the debt is cancelled when I am forgiven. We don’t forgive because the other person deserves forgiveness. We do it out of grace love and mercy.

The Christian worldview maintains we forgive others because God has forgiven us (Ephesians 4:32).

The love chapter of 1 Corinthians 13:5 confirms that if God’s unconditional love has changed a person, ‘it keeps no record of being wronged’.

Wouldn’t it be a game changer if Australians so understood the need for loving forgiveness towards the three Australian cricketers that they will return to first-class cricket and no record of their wrong-doing will be kept, to be repeated.

The issue is the sin nature running through all of us and the cricket ball-tampering is one public example that has exploded in coverage through the mass and social media.

7.  Hang on! There are serious objections to your indoctrination.

I anticipate some harsh opposition:

  • That’s only your opinion;
  • You’re forcing your religious view on people;
  • It’s propaganda and you are using the Aussie cricket cheating fiasco to promote your religious fairy tale;
  • How dare you push religion like this!

This originally was an On Line Opinion piece. Such writings uphold the writer’s views. I could address these protests, but that is for another time. For objections to the content of my article seee the ‘Comments’ section. Note some of the logical fallacies used by commentors rather than dealing with the issues I raised.

8.  Telling the truth

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(image courtesy YouTube)

One of the New Testament Greek words for truth or truthfulness is aletheia, which sometimes means true to reality as opposed to mere appearance. As this article has attempted to show, not only the ball-tampering scandal, but all of humanity is contaminated by the sinful nature. That’s the truth, the reality.

A secular society needs to face the music of consequences of a non-religious worldview.

The cricket scandal was played out for most of us to see via the media. What about that stolen exercise book from school, slipping a Mars Bar into your pocket as you pass through the check-out, self-service check-out fraud at supermarkets, lies of convenience, and sexual immorality? Turn on the TV or read newspapers to see examples of crime and violence, killing by speedsters on the roads, mass killings of students in schools or on the streets.

These examples are not exceptions. They are the norm and should be expected because all people have problems with deceitful hearts.

9. The solution

There is a permanent fix for the problem but the solution is very Christian. We need to follow the advice of the newly released persecuted prisoners, Paul and Silas, to the Philippian jailer: ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus. Then you and everyone living in your house will be saved’.

Some NRL players are unashamed to display and promote the solution through Jesus Christ’s salvation. Kevin Naiqama of NRL team, Wests Tigers, has tattoos of the Last Supper across his lower back and Jesus Christ’s crucifixion on his upper back. The Bible verses John 3:16 and Romans 10:9 are on his chest.

What is his purpose in doing this? His words were, ‘I want them to identify me with my faith and know that I am a follower of Jesus and not ashamed. It’s my identity‘.

There is a permanent solution to the ‘cricket cheating’ disease infecting all of us. It offers a worldview of a difference.

Copyright © 2019 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 13 April 2018.

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How to understand three persons in the Trinity

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(image courtesy slideplayer.com)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

I refer you to my previous articles that document the biblical teaching on the Father, Son and Holy Spirit each being regarded as God. The second link below raises some objections to the Trinity.

clip_image004 Is the Trinity taught in the Bible?

clip_image004[1] Problems with the Trinity

This study begins with an assessment of some indications of Father, Son and the Holy Spirit of the Trinity in the Old Testament. It also deals with actions of the separate Persons in the Trinity throughout the Bible.

1. Hints of the Trinity in the Old Testament [1]

This is not a comprehensive list but give a few indications of the Trinity in the Old Testament.

1.1 Plural nouns and pronouns are applied to God

See: Gen. 1:26; 3:22; 11:6, 7; 20:13; 48:15; Isa. 6:8. The plurality of the Godhead also is indicated in Gen 1:1, 26 and 48:15-16.

For example, Gen 1:1 (NIV) states, ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth’. The word translated ‘God’ is Elohim. It is an abstract plural.

The term includes, as a plural, all persons in the Trinity but itself does not declare the fact. There is a plurality of persons. It is a title, not a name, denoting either intensification of the original meaning, or is a plural of that majesty which is deity (Stigers 1976:50).

Francis Schaeffer explained this with precision for our contemporary culture:

When we read, “in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,” we are not left with something hung in a vacuum: Something existed before creation and that something was personal and not static; the Father loved the Son; there was a plan; there was communication; and promises were made prior to the creation of the heavens and the earth. This whole conception is rooted in the reality of the Trinity. Without the Trinity, Christianity would not have the answers that modern man needs (Schaeffer 1976:18).

1.2  God’s name is plural (Elohim) and the verb is singular.

The verb, “Come,” in Gen. 11:7 is really in the plural and must be addressed to at least two others. This seems not to be the angels as God SENDS them. The NLT translates as, “Come, let’s go down and confuse the people with different languages. Then they won’t be able to understand each other”.

Neither is Gen. 1:26 addressed to angels because in the next verse we are told, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (ESV), or as in the NLT, ‘So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them”.

2. More OT indicators of plurality in unity

This sounds like strange language but there is biblical evidence that indicates …

2.1  Jehovah is distinguished from Jehovah

See Gen. 19:24 and Hosea 1:7. Genesis 19:24 (NIV) states: ‘Then the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the Lord out of heaven’. There are intricacies in this text in understanding how the ‘LORD rained’ and ‘from the LORD out of heaven’.

One of the finest commentaries with a high view of Scripture is by H C Leupold, Exposition of Genesis. Of Gen 19:24 he wrote:

The view which the church held on this problem from days of old is still the simplest and the best…. “God the Son brought down the rain from God the Father,” as the Council of Sirmium[2] worded the statement. To devaluate the statement of the text to mean less necessitates a similar process of devaluation of a number of other texts like Ge 1:26, and only by such a process can the claim be supported that there are no indications of the doctrine of the Trinity in Genesis. We believe the combined weight of these passages, including Ge 1:1, 2, makes the conclusion inevitable that the doctrine of the Holy Trinity is in a measure revealed in the Old Testament, and especially in Genesis (Leupold 1942:570).[3]

2.2  Jehovah has a son

See Ps. 2:7; cf. John 3:16, 18; 9:36; Rom. 1:7; Heb. 1:6). He was a son before he was “given” (Isa. 9:6); Micah 5:2 (ESV) “whose origin is from of old, from ancient days”; he is called “the mighty God” (Isa. 9:6).

2.3 The Spirit is distinguished from God (the Father)

See Gen. 1:1-2; 6:3; Num. 27:18; Ps. 51:11; Isa. 40:13; 48:16; Hag. 2:4-5.

This is evident from Gen 1:1-2 (NET): ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was without shape and empty, and darkness was over the surface of the watery deep, but the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the water’.

Here, Elohim (God) created while Ruach (the Spirit of God) moved over the waters. We have plurality in the one God in action, thus providing early indications of the Trinity.

2.4 “The angel of Jehovah” is regarded as a pre-incarnate manifestation of the Logos, the Son

An exception is Hag. 1:13 where Haggai himself is the “messenger” which is the same word as “angel”.

Examples of the angel of the Lord manifestations include to Hagar (Gen. 16:7-14); to Abraham (Gen. 22:11-18); to Moses (Ex. 3:2-5); to Elijah (1 Kings 19:5-7), etc. In Gen. 18, one of the “men” who appeared to Abraham is repeatedly represented as Jehovah (vv. 13, 17, 20, 22-23).

2.5  The three-some of Isa. 6:3 (“Holy, holy, holy is Jehovah of hosts”)

See also the Aaronic benediction (Num. 6:24-26) that could point to the Trinity. Although this is a three-fold benediction, there is only one God who blesses. cf. Rev. 4:8.

The Scriptures declare Father, Son and Holy Spirit each is God, as I’ve explained in the article, Is the Trinity taught in the Bible? How do we know these three are Persons in the Godhead?

3. How do Father, Son and Holy Spirit relate in the Godhead?

These diagrams by Wayne Grudem are the most helpful I’ve seen for explaining the Trinity, comparing false views with his orthodox understanding. Originally they were from Grudem (1994:253-258).[4]

clip_image006This (to the left) is an heretical view of the Trinity where God’s being is divided into three equal parts, Father, Son and Holy Spirit – thus making three Gods. The Athanasian Creed was written to address this error.

clip_image008Since I’m examining the personhood of each member of the Trinity, how can we speak of Father, Son and Holy Spirit in unity and yet they are separate persons. ‘If each person is fully God and has all of God’s being, then we also should not think that the personal distinctions are any kind of additional attributes added on to the being of Go, like this pattern (to the left).

Human beings (and I’m one of them) find it difficult to comprehend the nature of the Trinitarian God. However, this teaching is straight from Scripture. Analogies fail and diagrams have disadvantages. It is essential doctrine that we understand ‘each person of the Trinity has all of the attributes of God, and no one person has any attributes that are not possessed by the others’ (Grudem 1994:253).

‘The three persons of the Trinity are not just three different ways of looking at the one being of God’.

clip_image010‘What are the differences between Father, Son and Holy Spirit? There is no difference in attributes at all. The only difference between them is the way they relate to each other and to the creation (Grudem 1994:254).

clip_image012While Grudem regarded the above three diagrams as flawed representations of the Trinity, he considered this diagram (to the left), although imperfect, was a representation of the orthodox understanding of the Trinity.

Grudem explained:

In this diagram (to the left), the Father is represented as the section of the circle designated by F, and also the rest of the circle, moving around clockwise from the letter F; the Son is represented as the section of the circle designated by S, and also the rest of the circle, moving around clockwise from the letter S; and the Holy Spirit is represented as the section of the circle marked HS and also the rest of the circle, moving around clockwise from the HS. Thus, there are three distinct persons, but each person is fully and wholly God. Of course the representation is imperfect, for it cannot represent God’s infinity, or personality, or indeed any of his attributes. It also requires looking at the circle in more than one way in order to understand it: the dotted lines must be understood to indicate personal relationship, not any division in the one being of God. Thus, the circle itself represents God’s being while the dotted lines represent a form of personal existence other than a difference in being. But the diagram may nonetheless help guard against some misunderstanding….

Because the existence of three persons in one God is something beyond our understanding, Christian theology has come to use the word person to speak of these differences in relationship, not because we fully understand what is meant by the word person when referring to the Trinity, but rather so that we might say something instead of saying nothing at all.

Can We Understand the Doctrine of the Trinity? We should be warned by the errors that have been made in the past. They have all come about through attempts to simplify the doctrine of the Trinity and make it completely understandable, removing all mystery from it. This we can never do. However, it is not correct to say that we cannot understand the doctrine of the Trinity at all. Certainly we can understand and know that God is three persons, and that each person is fully God, and that there is one God. We can know these things because the Bible teaches them. Moreover, we can know some things about the way in which the persons relate to each other…. But what we cannot understand fully is how to fit together those distinct biblical teachings. We wonder how there can be three distinct persons, and each person have the whole being of God in himself, and yet God is only one undivided being. This we are unable to understand. In fact, it is spiritually healthy for us to acknowledge openly that God’s very being is far greater than we can ever comprehend. This humbles us before God and draws us to worship him without reservation (Grudem 1994:255-256).

I found Grudem’s diagrams of the errors and a suggested solution to be first-rate when confirming the deity of each person of the Trinity and noting expressing the differentiation of persons in the Godhead.

Louis Berkhof’s assessment is profound: ‘It is especially when we reflect on the relation of the three persons to the divine essence that all analogies fail us and we become deeply conscious of the fact that the Trinity is a mystery far beyond our comprehension. It is the incomprehensible glory of the Godhead’ (Berkhof 1939/1941:88)?

4. Duties of each person[5]

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(image courtesy slide 6, slideshare.net)

For practical purposes, what does each member of the Godhead do differently from the others? How do the ‘job descriptions’ differ?

Personhood normally has the attributes of

intellect, feeling, and will. All three of these characteristics are attributed to all three members of the Trinity in Scripture [which I’ll discuss below]. Essentially, personhood refers to an “I,” a “who,” or a subject. Each “I” in the Trinity possesses (by virtue of its common nature) the power to think, feel, and choose. Personhood itself is its I-ness or who-ness (Geisler 2003:379).

4.1  God the Father is a person

Which biblical evidence verifies the Father’s activities as that of a person (acting as ‘You’ or ‘He’):

The Father is a person who has attributes of personhood:

clip_image016Intellect: According to Matt 6:32, ‘For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them’ (NIV);

clip_image018Emotional attribute to feel: Gen 6:6 (NIV), ‘The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled‘.

clip_image020The will. The Father has power to choose. See Matt 6:9-10 (NIV), ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven’.

clip_image022The ability to communicate: Matt 11:25, ‘At that time Jesus said, ‘I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children‘.

clip_image024Teach: “Jesus answered, ‘My teaching is not my own. It comes from the one who sent me. Anyone who chooses to do the will of God will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own'” (John 7:16).[6]

4.2   Jesus the God-man is a person

He demonstrates the attributes of personhood as demonstrated in Scripture:

clip_image016[1]He has the power of intellect according to John 2:25 (NLT), ‘No one needed to tell him about human nature, for he knew what was in each person’s heart’.

clip_image018[1]He had feelings for people: ‘Jesus wept’ (John 11:35). ‘But as he came closer to Jerusalem and saw the city ahead, he began to weep’ (Luke 19:41). Luke 10:21 exposes another side of Jesus’ emotions:

‘At that same time Jesus was filled with the joy of the Holy Spirit, and he said, “O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, thank you for hiding these things from those who think themselves wise and clever, and for revealing them to the childlike. Yes, Father, it pleased you to do it this way”’ (Luke 10:21).

You may disagree that joy is a feeling or an emotion. What then is it?  This article from God Questions supports what I understand is the biblical view that joy is an emotion: Is there a difference between joy and happiness?

clip_image020[1]The will of Jesus: In John 6:38 Jesus declared, ‘For I have come down from heaven to do the will of God who sent me, not to do my own will’. These three verses indicate Jesus had the power of the will:

Just as my Father knows me and I know the Father. So I sacrifice my life for the sheep….

“The Father loves me because I sacrifice my life so I may take it back again. No one can take my life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily. For I have the authority to lay it down when I want to and also to take it up again. For this is what my Father has commanded” (John 10:15, 17-18).

clip_image025Jesus taught (attribute of a person): ‘Anyone who wants to do the will of God will know whether my teaching is from God or is merely my own.

As the God-man, Jesus had the characteristics of a physical being – a person: He became tired (John 4:6), got thirsty (John 19:28) and hungry (Matthew 4:2). He developed physical weakness (Matthew 4:11; Luke 23:26). He died (Luke 23:46). He had a real human body after his resurrection (Luke 24:39; John 20:20, 27).[7]

4.3  God the Holy Spirit is a person

Like the Father and the Son, the Holy Spirit had attributes of personhood. ‘He’ was not an impersonal ‘it’.

clip_image016[2]John 14:26 demonstrates the Holy Spirit ‘reminds’ and teaches: ‘But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you’.

clip_image026Ephesians 4:30 expresses the feelings of the Holy Spirit: ‘And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption’. Also, ‘and so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven’ (Matt 12:31). The Spirit can be insulted: ‘So think how much more punishment people deserve who show their hate for the Son of God—people who show they have no respect for the blood sacrifice that began the new agreement and once made them holy or who insult the Spirit of God’s grace’ (Heb 11:29 ERV).

clip_image020[2]This is another dimension of the Holy Spirit’s feelings: ‘Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace and was strengthened. Living in the fear of the Lord and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers’ (Acts 9:31).

1 Corinthians 12:11 demonstrates that the Holy Spirit has a will to dispense the gifts: ‘It is the one and only Spirit who distributes all these gifts. He alone decides which gift each person should have’ (NLT).

clip_image025[1]John 16:13 refers to the ‘Spirit of truth’ with the Greek masculine, ekeinos, i.e. ‘He’ and not ‘it’, although pneuma (Spirit) is neuter gender: ‘But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come’ (NIV)

The Person of the Holy Spirit has the attributes of being a ‘he’ who guides, speaks and hears.

clip_image027There is more NT evidence that the Spirit ‘searches, knows, speaks, testifies, reveals, convinces, commands, strives, moves, helps, guides, creates, recreates, sanctifies, inspires, intercedes, orders the affairs of the church, and performs miracles (see Gen 6:3; Luke 12:12; John 3:8; 16:7-8; Acts 8:29; Rom 8:26; 1 Cor 2:11; Eph 4:30; 2 Peter 1:21, etc’.[8]

4.4  Communication within the Godhead[9]

Another dimension to better understand the persons in the Trinity is to be aware of the ‘many times in Scripture one member of the Trinity is speaking to another. This indicates that they are not one and the same person’ (Geisler 2003:288).

4 .4.1  The Father speaks to the Son

Hebrews 1:5 (quoting Psalm 2:7) states: ‘For to which of the angels did God ever say, “You are my Son; today I have become your Father”? Or again, “I will be his Father, and he will be my Son”’.

Psalm 110:1 states, ‘The Lord (Father) says to my Lord (Son): “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool’ (ESV). Jesus used this Scripture to demonstrate his deity in Matt 22:41-46.

See also Psalm 45:6-7; Heb 1:8-9 and three examples where God, the Father, spoke from heaven approving Jesus Christ, the Son (Matt 3:17; 17:5; John 12:28).

4.4.2  The Son speaks to the Father

In Zechariah 1:12 we read: ‘Upon hearing this, the angel of the Lord [regarded as the Son] prayed this prayer: “O Lord [Yahweh] of Heaven’s Armies, for seventy years now you have been angry with Jerusalem and the towns of Judah. How long until you again show mercy to them?”’ (NLT) Yahweh, the ‘I AM’ of Exodus 3:14 is the name reserved for God alone.

Both Father and Son are referred to in Prov 30:4 (NLT),

Who but God goes up to heaven and comes back down? Who holds the wind in his fists? Who wraps up the oceans in his cloak? Who has created the whole wide world? What is his name—and his son’s name? Tell me if you know!

In the NT there is a similar emphasis of the Son communicating with the Father:

clip_image029John 17:1, ‘After saying all these things, Jesus looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son so he can give glory back to you”’.

clip_image030Luke 23:46, ‘Then Jesus shouted, “Father, I entrust my spirit into your hands!” And with those words he breathed his last’.

4.4.3  The Spirit acting separately from the Father and the Son, but connected  with personal acts performed by them

Strong (1907:325) explained:[10]

Matt. 3:16 – 17, “ And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased”; Luke 3:21- 22, ‘Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased”’.

4.4.4  The three persons speaking together

These are but three examples:

clip_image032Isaiah 63:7-10 (ESV):

I will recount the steadfast love of the Lord,
the praises of the Lord,
according to all that the Lord [Father] has granted us,
and the great goodness to the house of Israel
that he has granted them according to his compassion,
according to the abundance of his steadfast love.
8 For he said, “Surely they are my people,
children who will not deal falsely.”
And he became their Saviour.
9 In all their affliction he was afflicted,
and the angel of his presence [Son] saved them;
in his love and in his pity he redeemed them;
he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old.
10 But they rebelled
and grieved his Holy Spirit;
therefore he turned to be their enemy,
and himself fought against them.

Here Father, Son and Holy Spirit act together.

clip_image032[1]We also see this co-operative action at Jesus’ baptism:

And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matt 3:16-17).

clip_image033In the baptism formula given in Matt 28:19 it is stated: ‘Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit’. ‘Name’ is singular.

There are a number of other examples that there are three different and distinct persons existing concurrently and eternally and share the same essence or nature of the one God (e.g. 2 Cor 13:14).

‘This is in stark contrast to modalism (sabellianism), which claims there is only one person in God who appears at different times in the form of different persons’ (Geisler 2003:289).

4.4.5 The three persons acting together

In Jesus’ resurrection, we see the three persons of the Godhead acting together:

(1) The Spirit raised Jesus from the dead (Rom 8:11 NLT);
(2) The Father raised Jesus from the dead (
Acts 2:32-33 NLT);
(3) Jesus raised Jesus from the dead (
John 10:18 NLT).

Dr Walter Martin, founder of the Christian Research Institute, rejected the Trinity description as a triplex. A triplex is ‘a building divided into three self-contained residences’ or ‘a flat on three floors’ (Lexico 2019. s.v. triplex). A triplex consists of 3 separate substances and is complex.

Martin’s statement was: ‘God is not triplex (1+1+1)—He is triune (1X1X1), and he has revealed Himself fully in the Person of our Lord, Jesus Christ (Col. 2:9, John 14:9).” — Christian Research Institute tract, Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Trinity’ (cited in, Is the Trinity a Biblical Concept? Ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses for Jehovah).

St Augustine rejected this view. He explained it in On the Trinity:

Chapter 7.–God is a Trinity, But Not Triple (Triplex).

But God is truly called in manifold ways, great, good, wise, blessed, true, and whatsoever other thing seems to be said of Him not unworthily: but His greatness is the same as His wisdom; for He is not great by bulk, but by power; and His goodness is the same as His wisdom and greatness, and His truth the same as all those things; and in Him it is not one thing to be blessed, and another to be great, or wise, or true, or good, or in a word to be Himself.

9. Neither, since He is a Trinity, is He therefore to be thought triple (triplex) [615] otherwise the Father alone, or the Son alone, will be less than the Father and Son together. Although, indeed, it is hard to see how we can say, either the Father alone, or the Son alone; since both the Father is with the Son, and the Son with the Father, always and inseparably: not that both are the Father, or both are the Son; but because they are always one in relation to the other, and neither the one nor the other alone. But because we call even the Trinity itself God alone, although He is always with holy spirits and souls, but say that He only is God, because they are not also God with Him; so we call the Father the Father alone, not because He is separate from the Son, but because they are not both together the Father.

Footnotes

[615] [The Divine Unity is trinal, not triple. The triple is composed of three different substances. It has parts, and is complex. The trinal is without parts, and is incomplex. It denotes one simple substance in three modes or forms. “We may speak of the trinal, but not of the triple deity.” Hollaz, in Hase’s Hutterus, 172.–W.G.T.S.]

‘Trinal’ means ‘having three parts; threefold; triple’ (yourdictionary.com 2019. s.v. trinal).

Scriptural reasons for my conclusion re the persons of the Trinity are spread through this article. Each person of the Trinity being regarded as God, and the biblical basis for such, is in my earlier article, Is the Trinity taught in the Bible? A couple other verses are included in a polemical article, Problems with the Trinity.

4.5  Don’t forget the implications of John 14:28

This verse states: ‘You heard me say to you, “I am going away, and I will come to you.” If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I’ (John 14:28 ESV).

This verse leads us to a very important dimension of the Trinity:

clip_image035Father, Son and Holy Spirit are co-equal and co-eternal in the Trinitarian godhead. Each member of the Trinity has an identical essence. By essence I mean nature. Therefore, God has one nature but Scripture confirms there are three distinct persons who are God. All are called God so are co-equal and are eternal, i.e. co-eternal.

BUT

clip_image036This does not exclude a purposeful (functional) order in the Trinity. This perfect design or focus can be explained as a ‘functional subordination’ among the persons and not a subordination of being (i.e. ontological subordination). If the being of the Father were superior to the being of the Son who is superior to the Holy Spirit, the three persons in the Godhead could not each be God in nature – which is not the case. For an examination of these details, see my article, Is the Trinity taught in the Bible?

R C Sproul explained this functional subordination (technically labelled in theology by a misleading title, ‘the economic Trinity’):

What are the individual, personal qualities that belong to the three persons of the Godhead? From all eternity, the Father begets[11] the Son [Heb 1:5-6, 8]; the Son is begotten by the Father [Jn 1:14, 18], and the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son [Jn 15:26, Gal 4:6]” (WLC 10).[12] With regard to the economic Trinity, we distinguish among the three persons of the Godhead in terms of their roles in creation and redemption. It is the Father who sends the Son into the world for our redemption. It is the Son who acquires our redemption for us. It is the Spirit who applies that redemption to us. We do not have three gods. We have one God in three persons, and the three persons are distinguished in the economy of redemption in terms of what they do (Sproul 2014).

This functional subordination can be summarised:

‘The Father is the Planner, the Son is the Accomplisher, and the Holy Spirit is the Applier of salvation to believers. The Father is the Source, the Son is the Means, and the Holy Spirit is the Effector of salvation—it is He who convicts, convinces, and converts…. [The nature and duration of this subordination] is not just temporal and economical: it is essential and eternal…. Paul wrote:

After that the end will come, when he will turn the Kingdom over to God the Father, having destroyed every ruler and authority and power…. Then, when all things are under his authority, the Son will put himself under God’s authority, so that God, who gave his Son authority over all things, will be utterly supreme over everything everywhere (1 Cor 15:24, 28 NLT)’ (Geisler 2003:291).

5. Conclusion

Norman Geisler, eminent apologist and theologian, who left this earth to be present with the Lord on 1 July 2019[13] when I was preparing this article, provided this precise conclusion to how three persons can be one God:

By saying God has one essence and three persons it is meant that he has one ‘What’ and three ‘Whos.’ The three Whos (persons) each share the same What (essence). God is a unity of essence with a plurality of persons. Each person is different, yet they (sic)[14] share a common nature (Geisler 1999:732).[15]

6. Notes

[1] Based on Thiessen (1949:136-145).

[2] The Council of Sirmum was held between AD 357 and 359. See: http://www.self.gutenberg.org/articles/eng/Council_of_Sirmium (Accessed 12 July 2019).

[3] The commentary is online at Bible Hub: Exposition of Genesis: Vol 1. Available at: https://biblehub.com/library/leupold/exposition_of_genesis_volume_1/index.html (Accessed 12 July 2019).

[4] I copied them from Calvary Baptist Church, Available at: http://www.calvarydothan.com/public/system/PodcastOutlines/2017_03_15_1.pdf (Accessed 5 July 2019).

[5] This section is based on formation from Geisler (2003:287-288).

[6] Much of this summary of the Persons in the Godhead is based on Geisler (2003:287).

[7] These personal characteristics were given by Mathis (2016).

[8] Geisler (2003:288). This list of personal actions by the Holy Spirit in Geisler mainly comes from Augustus Strong’s Systematic Theology (1907:324).

[9] Much of this section is from Geisler (2003:288-289).

[10] In the Bible quotes I have replaced the KJV with the ESV here.

[11] Modern translations replace the older word, ‘begets’, with something more comprehensible to modern readers: ‘For God never said to any angel what he said to Jesus: “You are my Son. Today I have become your Father [or today I reveal you as my Son’ (quoting Ps 2:7) NLT.

[12] WLC refers to the Westminster Larger Catechism. I have quoted from a modernised English version of the WLC. Available at: https://dansonnenberg.com/2015/12/21/the-westminster-larger-catechism-modern-english-version/ (Accessed 11 July 2019).

[13] As I wrote this portion of the article on 5 July 2019 I learned of Dr Geisler’s death. See Toalston (2019).

[14] Grammatically, ‘each person’ is singular and ‘their’ is a plural possessive pronoun. The correction of this sentence should be: ‘Each person is different, yet he shares a common nature’. Or, better: ‘Every person (plural) is different, yet they (plural) share a common nature’. You can tell I’m a grammar policeman.

[15] However, I’m aware of the challenges made to Geisler’s view of ‘persons’ in the Godhead in ‘The Error of Insisting on Three “Persons” as a Litmus Test of Orthodoxy’ (Contending for the Faith).

7. Works consulted

Berkhof, L 1939/1941. Systematic theology (online). London: The Banner of Truth Trust. Available at: http://archive.org/stream/SystematicTheology/93884037-Louis-Berkhof–Systematic-Theology_djvu.txt (Accessed 5 July 2019).

Geisler, N L 1999. Trinity. Baker encyclopedia of Christian apologetics. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books.

Geisler, N 2003. Systematic theology, vol 2: God, creation. Minneapolis, Minnesota: BethanyHouse.

Grudem, W 1994. Systematic theology. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

Mathis, D 2016. Jesus is fully human. Desiring God (online), 15 December. Available at: https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/jesus-is-fully-human (Accessed 10 July 2019).

Schaeffer, F A 1976. Genesis in space and time. London: Hodder and Stoughton (1972. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press).

Sproul, R C 2014. What’s the Difference between the Ontological and the Economic Trinity? Ligonier Ministries (online), 15 August. Available at: https://www.ligonier.org/blog/whats-difference-between-ontological-and-economic-trinity/ (Accessed 11 July 2019).

Stigers, H G 1976. A Commentary on Genesis. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

Strong, A 1907. Systematic theology, 3 vols in 1. Philadelphia: The Judson Press. Project Gutenberg EBook. Available at: https://www.gutenberg.org/files/44035/44035-h/44035-h.html (Accessed 10 July 2019).

Thiessen, H C Lectures in systematic theology. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Toalston, A 2019. Norman Geisler, defender of Christian faith, dies, Baptist Press (online), 2 July. Available at: http://www.bpnews.net/53217/norman-geisler-defender-of-christian-faith-dies (Accessed 5 July 2019).

Copyright © 2019 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 12 July 2019.

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Was John Calvin a TULIP Calvinist?

By Spencer D Gear PhD

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(Tulip image courtesy photos public domain)

Does it matter what your church teaches and practices concerning Christian salvation?

What is the future for churches that proclaim the following?

clip_image004All people are saved (universalism)?

clip_image005People have no say in whether they accept or reject the Gospel of salvation?

clip_image004[1]The whole of humanity is so corrupted inwardly that there is no hope of salvation without God’s supernatural intervention – without that person’s agreement.

clip_image006People have a free will that enables them to accept or reject God’s offer of salvation.

clip_image005[1]The offer of salvation is open to everyone in the world?

Two of these positions come under what is known as the salvation theology of Calvinism.They are:

clip_image005People have no say in whether they accept or reject the Gospel of salvation?

clip_image004[1]The whole of humanity is so corrupted inwardly that there is no hope of salvation without God’s supernatural intervention – without that person’s agreement.

In this article, I will examine whether the teaching of TULIP was included in the doctrines of Calvin.

I’m particularly concerned with whether John Calvin, who preceded the formulation of TULIP, believed the doctrines of TULIP.

1. What is TULIP Calvinism?

TULIP is an acronym for the theology expounded at the Synod of Dort (1618-19), held in the city of Dordrecht, the Netherlands, that responded to the five points of the Arminian Remonstrance. These doctrines have been summarised as TULIP. Here is a brief explanation of these five doctrines at: ‘The Calvinistic “TULIP”’:[1]

In brief, TULIP means:

clip_image008 – ‘total depravity. This doesn’t mean people are as bad as they can be. It means that sin is in every part of one’s being, including the mind and will, so that a man cannot save himself’.

clip_image010– ‘unconditional election. God chooses to save people unconditionally; that is, they are not chosen on the basis of their own merit’.

clip_image012 – ‘limited atonement. The sacrifice of Christ on the cross was for the purpose of saving the elect’.

clip_image014 – ‘irresistible grace. When God has chosen to save someone, He will.

clip_image016 – perseverance of the saints. Those people God chooses cannot lose their salvation; they will continue to believe. If they fall away, it will be only for a time.

Since Calvin did not originate TULIP, the purpose of this article is to discover from Calvin’s writings if he taught the theology expressed in TULIP.

Of necessity, this article will require many quotes from Calvin, especially to demonstrate favour or disfavour towards each point of TULIP.

clip_image0181.1 Total Depravity:

Calvin wrote in Institutes of the Christian Religion, 2.2.26: ‘The will is so utterly vitiated[2] and corrupted in every part as to produce nothing but evil’.

Elsewhere in Institutes he states:

‘Every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually,’ (Gen. 6:5; 8:21). If every thing which our mind conceives, meditates plans, and resolves, is always evil, how can it ever think of doing what is pleasing to God, to whom righteousness and holiness alone are acceptable? (John Calvin, Institutes, Book 2:2.25)

… Man, since he was corrupted by the fall, sins not forced or unwilling, but voluntarily, by a most forward bias of the mind; not by violent compulsion, or external force, but by the movement of his own passion; and yet such is the depravity of his nature, that he cannot move and act except in the direction of evil. If this is true, the thing not obscurely expressed is, that he is under a necessity of sinning (Institutes Book 2:3:5).

clip_image020See my articles in support of total depravity:

clip_image0221.2 Unconditional Election:

Calvin wrote in Institutes of the Christian Religion:

Book Three, Chapter 21.1: OF THE ETERNAL ELECTION, BY WHICH GOD HAS PREDESTINATED SOME TO SALVATION, AND OTHERS TO DESTRUCTION.

The covenant of life is not preached equally to all, and among those to whom it is preached, does not always meet with the same reception. This diversity displays the unsearchable depth of the divine judgment, and is without doubt subordinate to God’s purpose of eternal election.

But if it is plainly owing to the mere pleasure of God that salvation is spontaneously offered to some, while others have no access to it, great and difficult questions immediately arise, questions which are inexplicable, when just views are not entertained concerning election and predestination. To many this seems a perplexing subject, because they deem it most incongruous that of the great body of mankind some should be predestinated to salvation, and others to destruction.

How ceaselessly they entangle themselves will appear as we proceed. We may add, that in the very obscurity which deters them, we may see not only the utility of this doctrine, but also its most pleasant fruits. We shall never feel persuaded as we ought that our salvation flows from the free mercy of God as its fountain, until we are made acquainted with his eternal election, the grace of God being illustrated by the contrast–viz. that he does not adopt all promiscuously to the hope of salvation, but gives to some what he denies to others.

See also Institutes 3.22.7,10. In point 10 of this quote, Calvin wrote:

Some object that God would be inconsistent with himself, in inviting all without distinction while he elects only a few. Thus, according to them, the universality of the promise destroys the distinction of special grace. . . . But it is by Isaiah he more clearly demonstrates how he destines the promises of salvation specially to the elect (Isa. 8:16); for he declares that his disciples would consist of them only, and not indiscriminately of the whole human race. Whence it is evident that the doctrine of salvation, which is said to be set apart for the sons of the Church only, is abused when it is represented as effectually available to all. For the present let it suffice to observe, that though the word of the gospel is addressed generally to all, yet the gift of faith is rare (emphasis added).

This point also infers the doctrine of Limited Atonement as well.

In his commentary on Romans 9:3 he wrote:

It was then a proof of the most ardent love, that Paul hesitated not to wish for himself that condemnation which he was impending over the Jews, in order that he might deliver them. It is no objection that he knew that his salvation was based on the election of God, which could by no means fail; for as those ardent feelings hurry us on impetuously, so they see and regard nothing but the object in view. So Paul did not connect God’s election with his wish, but the remembrance of that being passed by, he was wholly intent on the salvation of the Jews (Calvin’s Commentary, Romans 9:3).

Second Timothy 2:19 (ESV) states, ‘But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity”’.

Calvin responded:

Having this seal ([It] denotes either “a seal” or “the print of a seal”) having led into a mistake some people who thought that it was intended to denote a mark or impress, I have translated it sigillum (a seal,) which is less ambiguous. And, indeed, Paul means, that under the secret guardianship of God, as a signet, is contained the salvation of the elect, as Scripture testifies that they are “written in the book of life.” (Psalm 69:28; Philippians 4:3.)

The Lord knoweth who are his This clause, together with the word seal, reminds us, that we must not judge, by our own opinion, whether the number of the elect is great or small; for what God hath sealed he wishes to be, in some respect, shut up from us. Besides, if it is the prerogative of God to know who are his, we need not wonder if a great number of them are often unknown to us, or even if we fall into mistakes in making the selection.

Yet we ought always to observe why and for what purpose he makes mention of a seal; that is, when we see such occurrences, let us instantly call to remembrance what we are taught by the Apostle John, that “they who went out from us were not of us” (1 John 2:19) (Commentary on 2 Timothy 2:19-21).

While Calvin’s language is not that of unconditional election but elect who are known only to God who has sealed them, shut them in. That sounds awfully like unconditional election language.

Elsewhere he stated it more clearly: ‘It is no small matter to have the souls perishes who are bought by the blood of Christ’. (A Selection of the Most Celebrated Sermons by John Calvin: Titus 1:15-16, p. 84).

This reads like universal atonement but the same sermon he wrote of God’s eternal predestination and election before the world began:

Whereupon hangeth our salvation? Is it not upon the election and choice that hath been from everlasting? God chose us before we were. What could we do then? We were made fit, We were well disposed to come to God. Nay, we see that our salvation doth not begin after we have knowledge, discretion, and good desires; but it is grounded in God’s everlasting decree, which was before any part of the world was made: (A Selection of the Most Celebrated Sermons by John Calvin: Sermon II, 2 Tim 1:8-9. p. 42).

There you have the contradictory nature of Calvin’s views: (1) Souls perish who have been bought by Jesus’ blood sacrifice, BUT (2) God’s salvation is grounded in His decree before believers were created and before the world came into existence.

I’m befuddled how Calvin could say that he bought the souls of unbelievers with his blood but they didn’t make it into the elect. This is a glaring example of Calvin’s violation of the law of Noncontradiction.

clip_image020[1]See my articles opposing unconditional election:

clip_image0241.3 Limited Atonement

Calvin wrote (quoted above) that salvation is solely for the ‘sons’ (believers) of the church and is not effectual for all. So, Jesus’ salvation through substitutionary sacrifice could not have been for everyone.

By application, it means Jesus’ atonement was for a limited number of people, ‘the sons of the church’. Did he believe in limited atonement? Was it only for the elect of God? Let’s check him out!

He continued:

Though the word of the gospel is addressed generally to all, yet the gift of faith is rare. Isaiah assigns the cause when he says that the arm of the Lord is not revealed to all (Isa. 53:1). Had he said, that the gospel is malignantly and perversely condemned, because many obstinately refuse to hear, there might perhaps be some color for this universal call (Institutes 3.22.10).

Paul Helm’s research on Calvin and the atonement led to this conclusion:

While Calvin did not commit himself to any version of the doctrine of definite atonement, his thought is consistent with that doctrine; that is, he did not deny it in express terms, but by other things that he most definitely did hold to, he may be said to be committed to that doctrine. The distinction is an important one in order to avoid the charge of anachronism (Helm 2013:98).

Not all Calvinistic scholars are in agreement with Helm’s conclusions as he acknowledged:

Those who claim that Calvin held to indefinite atonement are by no means agreed about its consequences. G. Michael Thomas refers to a “dilemma” in Calvin’s theology, the existence of “stress points,” rendering Calvin’s overall position “inherently unstable.” R. T. Kendall holds that while Calvin had an unlimited view of the atonement, Christ’s intercessions were definite, on behalf of the elect alone. Kevin D. Kennedy claims that, according to Calvin, while atonement is universal, union with Christ is particular. The difficulty with the last two views, which tend in the direction of post-redemptionism, or Amyraldianism,[3] is that they imperil the unity of the divine decree, and the divine operations ad extra that Calvin emphasized (Helm 2013:100).

He included this example from Calvin to support his conclusion:

That which Augustine adds in continuation must by no means be omitted. “Since we know not (says he) who belongeth to the number of the predestinated, and who doth not, we ought so to feel as to wish all to be saved. From this it will come to pass that whosoever shall come in our way, we shall desire to make him a partaker of the peace which we ourselves enjoy. ‘Our peace,’ however, will nevertheless ‘rest upon the sons of peace’ (John Calvin, A Treatise of the Eternal Predestination of God).

Calvin wrote this treatise to challenge the teachings of ‘Albertus Pighius, the Campanian, a man of evidently phrensied audacity, [who] attempted, at the same time, and in the same book, to establish the free-will of man. and to subvert the secret counsel of God, by which He chooses some to salvation and appoints others to eternal destruction’ (ibid.).

Other Calvinistic scholars are not as sure as Helm – neither am I – about Calvin’s support for limited atonement. The following evidence should demonstrate that Calvin’s teaching on the scope of the atonement extended to the whole world. But there are passages where he is double minded.

1.3.1   I John 2:2 (ESV) states:

‘He [Jesus Christ] is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world’.

Calvin’s interpretation endorses his view of limited atonement.

And not for ours only He added this for the sake of amplifying, in order that the faithful might be assured that the expiation made by Christ, extends to all who by faith embrace the gospel.

Here a question may be raised, how have the sins of the whole world been expiated?…

They who seek to avoid this absurdity [universalism – all saved, including Satan], have said that Christ suffered sufficiently for the whole world, but efficiently only for the elect. This solution has commonly prevailed in the schools. Though then I allow that what has been said is true, yet I deny that it is suitable to this passage; for the design of John was no other than to make this benefit common to the whole Church. Then under the word all or whole, he does not include the reprobate, but designates those who should believe as well as those who were then scattered through various parts of the world. For then is really made evident, as it is meet, the grace of Christ, when it is declared to be the only true salvation of the world. (Commentaries on the Catholic Epistles: John 2:1-2).

Honestly, is that what 1 John 2:2 teaches? Sounds more like Calvin pushing his own Reformed barrow to me.

Here Calvin confirmed again that Christ’s propitiation/expiation was not for the sins of the whole world of unbelievers but for the ‘whole Church’ and that ‘all … does not include the reprobate’. It only designates those who ‘should believe’.

Simply put, that is not what 1 John 2:2 teaches. Jesus died for ‘our sins’ (believers’ sins) and ‘the sins of the whole world’ of unbelievers. Any other interpretation manufactures conclusions to agree with one’s presuppositions.

1.3.2 Conversely, Calvin also supported universal atonement

However, in other passages Calvin supported unlimited atonement. This is only a sample from some of his commentaries, Institutes, and other writings:[4]

He wrote:

We must now see in what way we become possessed of the blessings which God has bestowed on his only-begotten Son, not for private use, but to enrich the poor and needy. And the first thing to be attended to is, that so long as we are without Christ and separated from him, nothing which he suffered and did for the salvation of the human race is of the least benefit to us (Institutes 3.1.1).

Calvin used the language of the offer of universal salvation, hence unlimited atonement, to have limited effects on people:

If it is so (you will say), little faith can be put in the Gospel promises, which, in testifying concerning the will of God, declare that he wills what is contrary to his inviolable decree. Not at all; for however universal the promises of salvation may be, there is no discrepancy between them and the predestination of the reprobate, provided we attend to their effect. We know that the promises are effectual only when we receive them in faith, but, on the contrary, when faith is made void, the promise is of no effect (Institutes 3.24.17).

I find this commentary by Calvin to be conflicting, even contradictory:

This is my blood. I have already remarked that, when we are told that the blood is to be shed according to the narrative of Matthew — for the remission of sins, these words direct us to the sacrifice of the death of Christ, without the remembrance of which the Lord’s Supper is never observed in a proper manner. And, indeed, it is impossible for believing souls to be satisfied in any other way than by being assured that God is pacified towards them.

Which is shed for many. By the word many he means not a part of the world only, but the whole human race; for he contrasts many with one; as if he had said, that he will not be the Redeemer of one man only, but will die in order to deliver many from the condemnation of the curse. It must at the same time be observed, however, that by the words for you, as related by Luke — Christ directly addresses the disciples, and exhorts every believer to apply to his own advantage the shedding of blood Therefore, when we approach to the holy table, let us not only remember in general that the world has been redeemed by the blood of Christ, but let every one consider for himself that his own sins have been expiated (Commentary on Matthew, Mark, Luke, vol 3, Mark 14:24).

On the one hand, the Lord’s Supper reminds believers that ‘God is pacified towards them’, i.e. His wrath towards sinners has been appeased (expiation). However, according to Calvin, ‘shed for many’ means for ‘the whole human race’. Wait a minute! Is it for the whole world? Not according to Luke where this message is directed to the disciples/believers and this shedding of blood is applied only to them and their own sin being expiated.

Here, I see that Calvin has violated the law of non-contradiction.

The law of non-contradiction states that A and not-A (where A is a proposition) cannot both be true at the same time and in the same sense. For example, my car cannot be parked in my driveway and not parked in my driveway at the same time and in the same sense.[5]

Calvin’s contradictory remarks were: (1) The Lord’s Supper reminds believers God is pacified towards them, and (2) When the ‘holy table’ is approached, ‘let us not only remember in general that the world has been redeemed by the blood of Christ’. Has the whole world been ‘redeemed’ by Christ’s death or only that of believers? He did not state it plainly as it is.

However, everyone does not embrace the Gospel that is proclaimed:

Accordingly, he is called our Head, and the first-born among many brethren, while, on the other hand, we are said to be ingrafted into him and clothed with him,[6] all which he possesses being, as I have said, nothing to us until we become one with him. And although it is true that we obtain this by faith, yet since we see that all do not indiscriminately embrace the offer of Christ which is made by the gospel, the very nature of the case teaches us to ascend higher, and inquire into the secret efficacy of the Spirit, to which it is owing that we enjoy Christ and all his blessings (Institutes 3.1.1).

1.3.3 Calvin, Scripture and universal atonement[7]

clip_image026 Matt 22:14: ‘For many are called, but few are chosen’ (ESV).

Calvin’s interpretation was:

The expression of our Saviour, “Many are called, but few are chosen” (Matt. 22:14), is also very improperly interpreted (see Book 3, chap. 2, sec. 11, 12). There will be no ambiguity in it, if we attend to what our former remarks ought to have made clear, viz., that there are two species of calling: for there is an universal call, by which God, through the external preaching of the word, invites all men alike, even those for whom he designs the call to be a savor of death, and the ground of a severer condemnation. Besides this there is a special call which, for the most part, God bestows on believers only, when by the internal illumination of the Spirit he causes the word preached to take deep root in their hearts (Institutes 3.24.8).

clip_image027 The parallel in the Synoptics is Mark 14:24 (ESV): ‘And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many”.

Concerning this verse, Calvin’s comment is significant:

Mark 14:24. This is my blood. I have already remarked that, when we are told that the blood is to be shed according to the narrative of Matthew — for the remission of sins, these words direct us to the sacrifice of the death of Christ, without the remembrance of which the Lord’s Supper is never observed in a proper manner. And, indeed, it is impossible for believing souls to be satisfied in any other way than by being assured that God is pacified towards them.

Which is shed for many. By the word many he means not a part of the world only, but the whole human race; for he contrasts many with one; as if he had said, that he will not be the Redeemer of one man only, but will die in order to deliver many from the condemnation of the curse. It must at the same time be observed, however, that by the words for you, as related by Luke — Christ directly addresses the disciples, and exhorts every believer to apply to his own advantage the shedding of blood Therefore, when we approach to the holy table, let us not only remember in general that the world has been redeemed by the blood of Christ, but let every one consider for himself that his own sins have been expiated (Commentary on Matthew 26:26-30; Mark 14:22-26; Luke 22:17-20).

Here would have been an ideal opportunity for Calvin to expound on ‘many’ meaning that Jesus did not die for the whole world but only for the elect. He didn’t. Instead he stated that ‘many’ does not leave out a chunk of the world’s population that are excluded from Jesus’ atonement.

This was in opposition to contemporary Calvinistic commentator, the late William Hendriksen, who stated that ‘Jesus’ says that his blood is poured out “for many,” not for all’ (Hendriksen 1975:575).

This is in contrast with the biblical teaching in 1 Timothy 2:9 (ESV), ‘For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time’.

Jesus’ atonement cannot be ‘for many’ and that does not mean ‘for all’. Why is ‘for many’ used in this way? Lenski, a Lutheran commentator, explained the meaning of huper mallwn (‘in behalf of many’) in the synoptic parallel of Matt 26:28 as:

These polloi [many] are all men [people], for all of whom the blood was shed “for remission of sins,” and not merely the believers in whom this remission was realized. They are “many,” and thus extend far, far beyond the eleven. Mark combines this by using huper mallwn, “in behalf of many” in the sense of “in place of many, huper having the idea of substitution (Lenski 1943:1031).

clip_image026[1] John 1:29 (ESV): ‘The next day he [John the Baptist] saw Jesus coming towards him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’

How would Calvin interpret ‘the sin of the world’? He leaves no doubt that it applies to all people, Jews and Gentiles – everyone:

Who taketh away the sin of the world. He uses the word sin in the singular number, for any kind of iniquity; as if he had said, that every kind of unrighteousness which alienates men from God is taken away by Christ. And when he says, the sin Of The World, he extends this favor indiscriminately to the whole human race; that the Jews might not think that he had been sent to them alone. But hence we infer that the whole world is involved in the same condemnation; and that as all men without exception are guilty of unrighteousness before God, they need to be reconciled to him (Commentary on John 1:29-34).

Calvin did not understand Jesus’ taking away the ‘sin of the world’ in any limited way. All were guilty of unrighteousness and needed to be reconciled to God through Christ’s death for all. Calvin is sounding more like Amyraldians who support a universal atonement.

clip_image026[2] John 3:14-16 (ESV):

Calvin’s commentary on John 3:16 was:

And he has employed the universal term whosoever, both to invite all indiscriminately to partake of life, and to cut off every excuse from unbelievers. Such is also the import of the term World, which he formerly used; for though nothing will be found in the world that is worthy of the favor of God, yet he shows himself to be reconciled to the whole world, when he invites all men without exception to the faith of Christ, which is nothing else than an entrance into life.

Let us remember, on the other hand, that while life is promised universally to all who believe in Christ, still faith is not common to all. For Christ is made known and held out to the view of all, but the elect alone are they whose eyes God opens, that they may seek him by faith. Here, too, is displayed a wonderful effect of faith; for by it we receive Christ such as he is given to us by the Father — that is, as having freed us from the condemnation of eternal death, and made us heirs of eternal life, because, by the sacrifice of his death, he has atoned for our sins, that nothing may prevent God from acknowledging us as his sons. Since, therefore, faith embraces Christ, with the efficacy of his death and the fruit of his resurrection, we need not wonder if by it we obtain likewise the life of Christ (Commentary on John 3:16).

So, all are invited to Christ to partake of the Christian life and unbelievers are without excuse. However, while all people ‘without exception’ are invited to faith in Christ, but there is one brick wall for them: Only the elect have eyes opened by God.

There we have a violation of the Law of Noncontradiction again: All are invited to come but all do not have a chance of responding positively to the invitation. I could paraphrase Calvin’s position: ‘Yes, all of you can come to Christ but all of you can’t come because you are not elected to salvation’.

clip_image026[3] John 12:48 (ESV): ‘The one who rejects me [Jesus] and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day’.

How is it possible for anyone to reject Christ if he or she is included in TULIP theology? What did Calvin have to say about this verse? ‘And receiveth not my words…. We must therefore attend to this definition, that Christ is rejected when we do not embrace the pure doctrine of the Gospel’ (Commentary on John 12:47-50).

So, individual people can reject or embrace the Gospel. This excluded unconditional election, limited atonement and irresistible grace. Since Calvin believes there is this choice for people, he is affirming some dimension of free-will, the power of alternate choice for or against Jesus.

clip_image026[4] John 16:8-11 (ESV): ‘And when he [the Helper] comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgement: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgement, because the ruler of this world is judged’.

Will the Helper, the Holy Spirit, convict the whole world of sin and righteousness or only part of the world because the other part is not included in Jesus’ salvation?

Calvin’s interpretation was:

He will convince the world; that is, he will not remain shut up in you, but; his power will go forth from you to be displayed to the whole world. He therefore promises to them a Spirit, who will be the Judge of the world….

Under the term world are, I think, included not only those who would be truly converted to Christ, but hypocrites and reprobates. For there are two ways in which the Spirit convinces men by the preaching of the Gospel. Some are moved in good earnest, so as to bow down willingly, and to assent willingly to the judgment by which they are condemned. Others, though they are convinced of guilt and cannot escape, yet do not sincerely yield, or submit themselves to the authority and jurisdiction of the Holy Spirit, but, on the contrary, being subdued they groan inwardly, and, being overwhelmed with confusion, still do not cease to cherish obstinacy within their hearts (Commentary on John 16:8-15).

Holy Spirit convincing will happen to the entire world with two kinds of responses, according to Calvin, they willingly agree with the Holy Spirit’s conviction while the rest do not yield. There is no U or I here.

clip_image026[5] Isaiah 53:12 (ESV): ‘Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors

Calvin’s comment was: ‘I approve of the ordinary reading, that he alone bore the punishment of many, because on him was laid the guilt of the whole world. It is evident from other passages, and especially from the fifth chapter of the Epistle to the Romans, that “many” sometimes denotes “all”’ (Commentary on Isaiah 53:1-12).

Therefore, he adopts the view that the Messiah’s bearing the punishment ‘of many’ means He had ‘the guilt of the whole world’ laid on him. If ‘many’ sometimes indicates ‘all’, as in Romans 5, the Messiah took on himself the punishment for the whole world (of sinners).

Thus, Calvin supported universal atonement.

clip_image027[1] Galatians 5:12 (ESV): ‘I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves!’

This is an unusual verse to attract this kind of comment by Calvin:

Would that they were even cut off. His [Paul’s] indignation proceeds still farther, and he prays for destruction on those impostors by whom the Galatians had been deceived. The word, “cut off,” appears to be employed in allusion to the circumcision which they pressed. “They tear the church for the sake of circumcision: I wish they were entirely cut off.” Chrysostom favors this opinion. But how can such an imprecation be reconciled with the mildness of an apostle, who ought to wish that all should be saved, and that not a single person should perish? So far as men are concerned, I admit the force of this argument; for it is the will of God that we should seek the salvation of all men without exception, as Christ suffered for the sins of the whole world (Commentary on Galatians 5:7-12).

Here he supports the view it is God’s will for all people to seek salvation and that refers to every single person in the world, without exception. How is this possible? ‘Christ suffered (atonement?) for the sins of the whole world’.

Nothing could be clearer. He supports unlimited atonement. However, in Institutes 3.24.16 he makes ‘all men’ mean all ‘order of men’. I find this to be manipulation. He seems confused, indicating salvation is for all people but then he tempers it to the limit of ‘order of’ people – groups, ethnicity, etc. This is nonsensical eisegesis of the biblical texts.

clip_image026[6] Colossians 1:14 (ESV): ‘in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins’.

Calvin’s commentary on 1:14 could not be clearer on the extent of expiation of sins:

Unquestionably, when God remits our transgressions, he exempts us from condemnation to eternal death. This is our liberty, this our glorying in the face of death — that our sins are not imputed to us. He says that this redemption was procured through the blood of Christ, for by the sacrifice of his death all the sins of the world have been expiated (Commentary on Colossians 1:12-17).

So Calvin supported expiation for the sins of the world, thus confirming his rejection of limited atonement.

clip_image026[7]1 Timothy 2:3-4 (ESV): ‘This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Saviour, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth’.

This passage should challenge the extent of Calvin’s understanding of the atonement. He wrote:

How comes it that many nations are deprived of that light of the Gospel which others enjoy? How comes it that the pure knowledge of the doctrine of godliness has never reached some, and others have scarcely tasted some obscure rudiments of it? It will now be easy to extract the purport of Paul’s statement. He had commanded Timothy that prayers should be regularly offered up in the church for kings and princes; but as it seemed somewhat absurd that prayer should be offered up for a class of men who were almost hopeless (all of them being not only aliens from the body of Christ, but doing their utmost to overthrow his kingdom), he adds, that it was acceptable to God, who will have all men to be saved. By this he assuredly means nothing more than that the way of salvation was not shut against any order of men; that, on the contrary, he had manifested his mercy in such a way, that he would have none debarred from it (Institutes 3.24.16).

Note the difference between what Scripture states that God our Saviour ‘desires all people to be saved’ but Calvin interprets it as salvation ‘not shut against any order of men’. The difference is crucial – and cunning manipulation, in my view.

All people include every single person in the world while ‘any order of men’ can refer to different classes and races of people instead of individual people. In his commentary on 1 Tim 2:4 Calvin stated that ‘all’ does not mean ‘all’:

Hence we see the childish folly of those who represent this passage to be opposed to predestination. “If God” say they, “wishes all men indiscriminately to be saved, it is false that some are predestined by his eternal purpose to salvation, and others to perdition.” They might have had some ground for saying this, if Paul were speaking here about individual men….

There is no people and no rank in the world that is excluded from salvation; because God wishes that the gospel should be proclaimed to all without exception. Now the preaching of the gospel gives life; and hence he justly concludes that God invites all equally to partake [of] salvation. But the present discourse relates to classes of men, and not to individual persons; for his sole object is, to include in this number princes and foreign nations (Commentary on 1 Timothy 2:1-4).

‘God our Saviour, who desires all people to be saved’ does not refer to every single person in the world but only to groups of people such as classes of people, princes of foreign nations, but definitely not ‘individual persons’.

That’s Calvin’s view and I’d put it in the class of Calvinistic spin where these interpreters make it comply with their presuppositions against universal atonement, conditional election and the free grace of Titus 2:11 (ESV), ‘For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people’.

clip_image026[8] Hebrews 5:9 (ESV): ‘And being made perfect, he [Jesus] became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him’.

For Calvin, his interpretation was that benefits of salvation came to those who chose to obey him:

To all them that obey him. If then we desire that Christ’s obedience should be profitable to us, we must imitate him; for the Apostle means that its benefit shall come to none but to those who obey. But by saying this he recommends faith to us; for he becomes not ours, nor his blessings, except as far as we receive them and him by faith. He seems at the same time to have adopted a universal term, all, for this end, that he might show that no one is precluded from salvation who is but teachable and becomes obedient to the Gospel of Christ (Commentary on Hebrews 5:7-11).

There is no unconditional election, limited atonement or irresistible grace here. Nobody is disqualified from salvation except those who do not want to obey the Gospel of salvation through Christ alone.

Overall, Calvin is straddling the fence between limited atonement and unlimited atonement. He can’t make up his mind.

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(image courtesy The Remarkable Blog)

clip_image030See my articles opposing limited atonement:

clip_image0321.4 Irresistible Grace

John 6:44 (ESV) states: ‘No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day’.

This verse is used by Calvin to expound his gospel of irresistible grace:

Christ declares that the doctrine of the Gospel, though it is preached to all without exception, cannot be embraced by all, but that a new understanding and a new perception are requisite; and, therefore, that faith does not depend on the will of men, but that it is God who gives it.

Unless the Father draw him. To come to Christ being here used metaphorically for believing, the Evangelist, in order to carry out the metaphor in the apposite clause, says that those persons are drawn whose understandings God enlightens, and whose hearts he bends and forms to the obedience of Christ. The statement amounts to this, that we ought not to wonder if many refuse to embrace the Gospel; because no man will ever of himself be able to come to Christ, but God must first approach him by his Spirit; and hence it follows that all are not drawn, but that God bestows this grace on those whom he has elected. True, indeed, as to the kind of drawing, it is not violent, so as to compel men by external force; but still it is a powerful impulse of the Holy Spirit, which makes men willing who formerly were unwilling and reluctant. It is a false and profane assertion, therefore, that none are drawn but those who are willing to be drawn, as if man made himself obedient to God by his own efforts; for the willingness with which men follow God is what they already have from himself, who has formed their hearts to obey him (Commentary on John 6:41-45).

In light of that interpretation, how does Calvin interpret the prevenient grace of John 12:32 (ESV), ‘And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself’.

Following Calvin’s decision on the meaning of John 6:44, he is required to provide an interpretation at 12:32 that is in harmony with 6:44. I wasn’t disappointed:

I will draw all men to myself. The word all, which he employs, must be understood to refer to the children of God, who belong to his flock. Yet I agree with Chrysostom, who says that Christ used the universal term, all, because the Church was to be gathered equally from among Gentiles and Jews, according to that saying,

There shall be one shepherd, and one sheepfold, (John 10:16) [Commentary on John 12:27-33].

I find this to be fiddling with the data of exegesis to fit into Calvin’s theological framework of only the elect (the children of God) being drawn. Calvin could reach a harmonious conclusion if he accepted:

clip_image034 Only God provides salvation (Eph 2:8-9; 2 Tim 1:9);

clip_image035 Since Jesus’ death and resurrection, God has extended his grace (his drawing power) to all people (John 6:44; 12:32; Titus 2:11). It is not irresistible grace. It can be rejected or accepted.

clip_image034[1] Since the time of Adam and Eve, God has given all human beings the power of alternate choice (free-will). They can choose for or against God’s salvation (John 1:11; 12:48; Acts 16:31).

Calvin further supports irresistible. Is God’s grace extended to all sinners to enable them to repent? Not according to Calvin:

Hence it is that the whole world no longer belongs to its Creator, except in so far as grace rescues from malediction, divine wrath, and eternal death, some, not many, who would otherwise perish, while he leaves the world to the destruction to which it is doomed (Institutes 3:22.7).

It is agreed that all human beings suffer from the curse (malediction) of sin. Why, then, would the Creator choose only a portion of these cursed sinners while allowing the rest to be damned forever? It sounds awfully unjust to me?

The fundamental problem with this comment from Calvin is that he ignores the extent of God’s grace to all people: ‘For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people’ (Titus 2:11 ESV). See my exposition of this verse: How to interpret ‘appeared’ in Titus 2:11.

Calvin wrote that there was zero chance of anyone anywhere resisting God. This citation could just as easily be placed under unconditional election and the sovereignty of God:

Scripture proclaims that all were, in the person of one, made liable to eternal death. As this cannot be ascribed to nature, it is plain that it is owing to the wonderful counsel of God. It is very absurd in these worthy defenders of the justice of God to strain at a gnat and swallow a camel. I again ask how it is that the fall of Adam involves so many nations with their infant children in eternal death without remedy unless that it so seemed meet to God? Here the most loquacious tongues must be dumb. The decree, I admit, is, dreadful; and yet it is impossible to deny that God foreknew what the end of man was to be before he made him, and foreknew, because he had so ordained by his decree. Should any one here inveigh against the prescience of God, he does it rashly and unadvisedly. For why, pray, should it be made a charge against the heavenly Judge, that he was not ignorant of what was to happen? Thus, if there is any just or plausible complaint, it must be directed against predestination (Institutes, 3.23.7).

I react negatively to this view when examining the logical consequences of the Lord God Almighty and his ‘wonderful counsel’ being ‘dreadful’ and ‘impossible to deny’. It makes God the author of horrible evil. Calvin’s teaching is that salvation is irresistible through grace extended to the elect but that God decreed all that happens in our world.

That makes God responsible for child sexual abuse, rape, murder, genocide, the Holocaust, terrorism, etc. He would be a monster God. See my articles:

(1) God sovereign but not author of evil,

(2) Is a Calvinistic God a contradiction when compared with the God revealed in Scripture?

(3) Salvation by grace but not by force: A person chooses to believe

(4) Prevenient grace – kinda clumsy!

(5) Does God create all of the evil in the world?

clip_image030[1]See my articles opposing irresistible grace:

Now to the last point of TULIP. Did Calvin teach and promote it?

clip_image0371.5 Perseverance of the Saints

For although adoption was deposited in the hand of Abraham, yet as many of his posterity were cut off as rotten members, in order that election may stand and be effectual, it is necessary to ascend to the head in whom the heavenly Father has connected his elect with each other, and bound them to himself by an indissoluble tie (Institutes 3.21.7).

In Institutes 3:22.10 Calvin wrote:

Why does the Lord declare that our salvation will always be sure and certain, but just because it is guarded by the invincible power of God? (John 10:29). Accordingly, he concludes that unbelievers are not of his sheep (John 10:16). The reason is, because they are not of the number of those who, as the Lord promised by Isaiah, were to be his disciples. Moreover, as the passages which I have quoted imply perseverance, they are also attestations to the inflexible constancy of election.

Rieske (2016) in

citing data from Calvin supporting penal substitution, from such places as Institutes, 2.16.2.3.5 and 3.22.7.10, on the definite scope of the atonement, the distinction was made between Calvin’s being committed to definite atonement and committing himself to that view.

Calvinism has been called “the archenemy of soul-winning” and rightly so…. Failure to present the gospel of Christ is the real problem. One can easily notice that Calvinists discuss and present Calvinism with the notion that they are presenting the gospel.

How can they do that when their theology states that not all people are thoroughly depraved, offered the Gospel without reservation when they don’t accept conditional election? How can a TULIP people be true to their calling when their theology states that Jesus died only for the elect and not for all. Imagine an evangelist on the street preaching, ‘Seek forgiveness from God for your sins, repent – but you may not be able to do this as you are not in God’s elect. Unless the Calvinists are honest with their theology, they should keep quiet on evangelism, not preach for all within listening distance. They could do letter box drops and engage in Internet evangelism where they don’t have to be honest about their TULIP beliefs.

I find that to be a dishonest approach to evangelism in my community. I attended 2 different Presbyterian churches for 6 years and preached semi-regularly in another. None of these TULIP Calvinist churches conducted evangelistic outreach. I asked one pastor why there was no evangelism in his church and his response was, ‘God will bring them in.’ He sometimes does in dribs and drabs but they are most often from other churches and not new converts.

I recommend this printed interview with Austin Fischer by Jonathan Merritt on Religion News Service, Author says Calvinism can’t make sense of the cross (3 April 2014). Fisher tells of his journey into the young, restless and reformed Calvinists and his journey out of them.

clip_image030[2]See my articles in support of perseverance of the saints:

I am convinced the Bible does not teach OSAS where a person makes a decision for Christ, does not persevere in the faith, and is considered saved forever. See: Once Saved, Always Saved or Once Saved, Lost Again?

I also am convinced by the biblical teaching on total depravity.

2. Conclusion

Calvin taught total depravity, unconditional election, irresistible grace, and perseverance of the saints. He presented contradictory messages on the atonement. At times he stated that Jesus’ death was for the whole world. In other instances, Jesus’ atonement was for the elect of God.

Therefore, Calvin was a ‘leaky’ TULIP theologian because of his double-mindedness on the atonement.

I am a TP Calvinist, which makes me a Reformed Arminian in my doctrine of salvation.

I highly recommend Roger E Olson’s article, ‘What’s wrong with Calvinism?‘ (Patheos, March 22, 2013).

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3. Works consulted

Barnett, T 2015. Can We Escape the Law of Non-Contradiction? Stand to Reason (online), 31 October. Available at: https://www.str.org/blog/can-we-escape-the-law-of-non-contradiction (Accessed 30 June 2019).

Geisler, N 2004. Systematic theology: Sin, salvation, vol 3. Minneapolis, Minnesota: BethanyHouse.

Helm, P 2013. Calvin, Indefinite Language, and Definite Atonement. In D Gibson & J Gibson (eds), From Heaven He Came and Sought Her: Definite Atonement in Historical, Biblical, Theological, and Pastoral Perspective (online), 97-120. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway. Available at: http://s3.amazonaws.com/churchplantmedia-cms/new_covenant_presbyterian_church_ga/from_heaven_he_came_and_sought_her_1.pdf (Accessed 21 June 2019).

Hendriksen, W 1975. New Testament Commentary: Exposition of the Gospel according to Mark. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic.

Lenski, R C H 1943/1961.Commentary on the New Testament: The interpretation of St. Matthew’s Gospel. The Wartburg Press. This limited edition licensed by special permission of Augsburg Fortress to Hendrickson Publishers, Inc. Edition.

Lumkins, P 2011. John Calvin on Limited Atonement. SBC Tomorrow (online), 15 April. Available at: https://peterlumpkins.typepad.com/peter_lumpkins/2011/04/john-calvin-on-limited-atonement-by-peter-lumpkins.html (Accessed 15 June 2019).

Rieske, K R 2016. Calvinism: False doctrines from the ‘Pope’ of Geneva. Bible Life Ministries (online). Available at: https://biblelife.org/calvinism.htm (Accessed 15 June 2019).

4.  Notes

[1] Available at: http://www.thecaveonline.com/APEH/calvinTULIP.html (Accessed 29 June 2019).

[2] Vitiate means to ‘spoil or impair the quality or efficiency of’ (Lexico/Oxford Dictionary 2019. s.v. vitiate).

[3] Post-redemptionism and Amyraldianism are synonymous terms for belief in Jesus’ universal atonement and are opposed to limited atonement (particular redemption).

[4] These Scriptures were raised and expounded by Peter Lumkins (2011).

[5] Barnett (2015).

[6] See Eph. 4:15; Rom. 6:5; 11:17; 8:29; Gal. 3:27.

[7] I am indebted to Geisler (2004:182-185) for some of the research in this section.

Copyright © 2019 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 02 July 2019.

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