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Does God's word exist only in the written text of the Holy Scriptures? RE-OPENED

michael_legna's picture

This is a response to a post from Jeff which he made in the Reform Theology thread. I started this new thread so there was a place to respond without disrupting the other thread.

Jeff said -
ML, I agree with your conclusions that man has free will to decide to accept Christ or reject Him. But what troubles me is that you continually argue against Sola Scriptura and yet your arguments does not appear to be valid. Perhaps because I haven't addressed it previously you believe your reasoning is sound and so you keep reusing it with the various posters here. But there are many problems with your argument.

I disagree but I do not doubt many here think there must be, and in fact I am surprised no one before has taken the opportunity to address the weakness they must think exist in a denial of sola scriptura. You are the first I remember who attempted to present any type of organized consideration of these issues. But unfortunately many of your points are not founded on addressing my position but on what you figure my position must be since I deny sola scriptura. This may be because you have never seen a post of mine where I express the alternative in any detail. I have not done so in a long time since most of the regulars as seen it and so no point in repeating it until now.

Jeff said -
First, your statement referring to the Protestant use of scripture to understand scripture (Sola Scriptura) as "a common ploy used in Protestant circles" is actually an accusation against the Protestant faith suggesting that to your mind they are intentionally deceitful or at least disingenuous in their approach to understanding scripture. But hopefully what I present here will help clear that up.

I assure you I do not think most Protestants are intentionally deceitful or disingenuous in this approach to understanding scripture. In fact I don’t think most Protestants have given it any real thought at all. They simply use what has been taught. I did not intend to insult or even jibe the average Protestant with this word. I intended it to mean exactly what Webster intends it to mean.

Webster defines ploy as – A: a tactic intended to embarrass or frustrate an opponent or B: a devised or contrived move: a stratagem.

This is precisely what the intent of this approach was when it was developed by Luther during his examination. He needed to invent a new approach since he was denying the previously existing method of understanding scripture and so to provide some rationale and perhaps save his own skin, (since it was a serious accusation he face), he devised or contrived this stratagem or tactic and did so with the full intent and purpose of embarrassing or frustrating the Church. It is a natural approach since it is how we usually read scholarly texts, and is even part of the teaching/learning process. But as I will show as we go through your complaints it does not apply to situation where it is the only process at work, especially when that text is acknowledged as inerrant. Then it becomes illogical

Jeff said -
Second, if someone cites a passage or two, or three, you are quick to point out that verses cannot be understood in isolation but that "the only way to be certain (using sola scriptura) that we have a proper understanding is to reconcile all verses to each others at the same time." Yet, when you give your proof texts you fail to follow your own advice citing only one or at most a few scriptures. So there appears to be different standards for judging others.

I think you mistake defending a truth with investigating that truth. When I defend a point I put myself in the position of claiming to already understand the truth of the point, so I do not need to review all the verses in scripture, and this is especially true because I do not claim to use sola scriptura to do the research needed to find the truth (but more on that later). I do put myself in the position of teacher and in that sense I of course do not provide every last piece of evidence (at least initially) to those I am trying to teach since they need time to digest it. Then the learning process continues with them questioning some aspect they either do not understand or do not accept. Then I provide more evidence that they will accept and the process repeats. The point we cannot miss here is that it matters not where the knowledge of the information comes from – the teaching can use an entirely separate source for its evidence. Think of a school environment where the teacher may have learned what they are teaching from different books, or even through different means, such as hands on experience (like a career welder teaching welding in high school) but now teaching out of a book. Such an instructor may quote only small parts of the text at a time even though cautioning the student that to really understand the concept they need to understand the entire book (or put in years of experience and hard knock – though he doesn’t actually say that). I will get into this more but I hope for now you see that there is a difference between researching the truth to discover it and defending the truth once you know it. If I could, I would not defend Christian truths by way of just using scripture. I think I could do it more effective the same way the Church came to know it. But I have said I can defend the truth of Catholicism with scripture alone, at least to the point of showing those teachings are not contrary to scripture and so I do. But on top of that I don’t think most people who visit here would accept the other approach – but again that must wait to the proper question.

Jeff said -
Thirdly, the Bible is unique among books. God has written many books by inspiration but all of those books are combined into what we call The Bible. Because of this you seems to hold that one cannot use the various writers of scripture to confirm the words of other writers.

I am not sure where you are getting this from because I have never believed nor said anything remotely like that. I have said that it is not enough to verify one inerrant statement with just one or even just a dozen inerrant statements. What is logically required is to verify your personal interpretation by comparing it to every inerrant statement to make sure your interpretation is not contrary to any of them. We know the statements are inerrant and so cannot contradict one another but our interpretations are not inerrant and so even if we can reconcile a great number of the actual inerrant statements does not mean we can reconcile them all and if our theology is systematic (as all truth is) then we can never be sure of it until we have done so. But perhaps you have something else in mind as to some comment I made. I do not know.

Jeff said -
It is true that God is the Author and He is one but there are many writers and many books. Collectively there is no problem using the works of one writer to confirm the works (or truth) of another. This is a very common practice in use in all aspects or our lives. Scientist use the works of various authors to check the veracity of new works. But sometimes those new works are so radical that they must be judge based solely upon their own content. The Bible is such a work. It is so radically different from the works of other secular writers that it is not possible to use those works to criticize the Bible.

I agree that this is done with texts we know is not inerrant, but then we do not expect our understanding from any collection of those texts to be inerrant. In fact it is well known that secular knowledge is ever changing and being replaced with new and better theories, it is not even called knowledge anymore. But that is not the condition we can accept for the truth of religion or theology since our eternal security is dependent on it. We MUST know the truth if we are to worship in spirit and truth. But the manner of coming to that truth is not through sola scriptura. That is because in that approach there remains the chance that we will run into some inerrant statement of scripture which our previous (apparently successful) attempts to reconcile other verses does not work in this newly stumbled upon statement which we had not previously considered. That might mean and probably does mean that our entire systematic theology would have to be reconsidered. That means our approach to salvation had previously been wrong and so to our knowledge of Christ our worship of God and even our relationship with Him because we had formed one with a complete misunderstanding of who He is.

Jeff said -
Fourthly, to those who believe in the Bible as the Words of God there is no need of another resource to validate its truths. For example, we do not rely upon the laws of foreign countries to validate the laws of the United States. We have judges who interpret the application of the laws but even their judgment is judged by the very law they sit to judge. This gives us recourse should we feel our case has been unjustly judged. We can bring our case before another judge using the law as the standard to prove our case. Our course, today we have many precedents which do not always reflect the correct understanding of the law and in those cases we may still appeal to the law itself. Likewise, when attempting to understand the Word of God, the Bible, we do not turn to an external source but rather to the source which is the final authority. It matters not that some interpret it one way and others another because one can always appeal to the Bible itself.

You have the cart before the horse here. Scripture is not being validated, it was already validated by this other source long before it became scripture. The New Testament was determined by the Church based on its understandings of the true message of God and Christ as presented to them by the Apostles and their students. If their understanding was wrong then the wrong texts were admitted to the scriptures. If their understandings were correct then there is no need to rely on a man made approach like sola scriptura to understand scripture (since it was already understood) especially when there is such a huge logical hole in the approach of studying an inerrant body of text.

Jeff said -
Fifth, the notion that the Bible cannot be understood by common men but that he must appeal to the church magistrates to correctly interpret scripture is riddled with difficulties.

Let’s see if these are true difficulties or merely reflect your personal preferences.

a) it places all authority with the magistrates,

No it places all authority with the word of God, just in two sources. You apparently don’t think of the presenting of the one source of God’s revelation (the Scriptures) to the flock by the Church put all the authority with the magistrate, so how can the Church presenting two sources suddenly increase their authority to absolute. If anything this additional source reduces their hold on authority.

b) it forces the common man to be dependent upon the magistrate,

This isn’t a problem this is a personal preference of yours. The common man is dependent on the Church and should be, just as the common man is dependent on Physicist to explain science to them

Rom 10:13-15 13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. 14 How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? 15 And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!

We see here that scripture teaches we cannot be saved, unless we believe but we cannot do that unless we hear (not read – this is a big difference and not to be minimized) and we cannot hear unless we are preached to and those who preach cannot do so unless they are sent – and who sends them? The Church.

c) the magistrate then stands in the place of the Holy Spirit as the spiritual guide of the so-called ignorant,

No the magistrate never claims to stand in place of the Holy Spirit, that is just your personal fear you have picked up through some teaching you have been subjected to. The Holy Spirit works through the Church, supplying gifts to the members of the Church so they can do the preaching and teaching mentioned above.

For the common individual to claim access to the Holy Spirit for this guidance without receiving such gifts is both contrary to biblical teaching and in practice is shown to be unreliable since millions of people claim such access and the result is millions of different opinions, such that no one can be sure who truly received such guidance and who merely convinced themselves that they had.

d) it provides a focal point for the devil to concentrate his efforts for if he can deceive the shepherd of the flock the entire flock will be led astray,

True but then the Church does not fear Satan, as God has promised protection such that even the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it. Before we worry about your application of this verse to the Church today we need to ask ourselves was the Church more vulnerable when the original shepherd (Jesus who is referred to in the verse you allude to) was here on earth, because He was struck and the flock was scattered. But the Church survived even that. Would it be worse now when the shepherds are not near as important?

e) it discourages the laymen from even reading their Bibles because if they cannot understand it properly then what's the point,

This simply is not the case. They read it to reinforce the teachings they receive. A practice the Church encourages. It is no different than reading the text book after being lectured by the teacher in school. Reading the text book on its own with no assistance in understanding it and with no one to ask questions of when something is not clear (and you cannot question a static written text) is not an effective learning method. Good teachers do not stand in front of the class and read from the text book either. A good teacher passes on what they know already and then point out where it is supported in the text or are prepared to point it out and explain it when the student comes to a stumbling block. Only the poor students refuse to read the text book when the teacher send them home with homework. So it is only the poor disciple who is discouraged from reading scripture.

f) it prevents the common man from discovering truths from scripture by convincing them they must believe as they are told and thereby making it nearly impossible for them to escape the sphere of control those who teach such things retain over them.

It does not prevent them in discovering the truths it assists them in discovering the truths since we have already seen above there is no guarantee that truth, in any absolute sense (and that is the only one that matters in salvation) can be arrived at through sola scriptura.

But the most important of these difficulties is that it convinces ignorant men that they must submit themselves wholly to the watch-care of human beings and grant all power over their souls to these mortal men.

Funny you should chafe at this idea since it does not come from an the existence of an alternative source of God’s revelation – it comes straight out of Scripture. So rather than rebel against this idea you should embrace it.

Heb 13:17 Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.

Jeff said -
Sixth, your claim that "sola scriptura is unworkable" because "it is beyond mankinds ability to hold all of scripture and all of our interpretations of scripture in our head at one time and at that same time compare all of them to each other" forgets that Christ sent the Holy Spirit for this very reason--to bring all things to our remembrance.

But we have already covered this, and the reliability of this approach is clearly in question due to the many sincere Christians who claim this leading coming up with so many different interpretations. Beside that there are clear specific teachings in Scripture which express this leading, coming the form of gifts is given to specific individuals in the Church in very specific manners.

Jeff said –
I have found in my own personal experience that even before the difficulty arises the Lord presents to my mind a truth to shield me from the error. Now, granted, one cannot bring to remembrance that which he has not remembered. But if one learns of Christ, to know Him personally, through the pages of the Bible which testify of Him, then when a verse is presented to him he is able to reconcile it with his knowledge of Christ in the same manner a witness may testify in an earthly court regarding the character of an individual they have known intimately for years. The Spirit of God bears witness with our spirit.

An interesting claim but it has two problems. First it actually is contrary to sola scriptura because it makes the direct communication with the Holy Spirit a second source of God’s revelation (just as the prophet Elisha received above and beyond the scripture of his time).

Second this experience is of no use to others, since personal experience cannot be a shared experience so it cannot be allowed to be persuasive to others since many personal experiences are as much delusion as fact. As sincere as you may be, there are mad men in the world who just as sincerely claim they are unicorns and claim to have had personal experience which support that. I am not implying you are mad, just that personal experience is not persuasive and should not be to anyone but the person who experiences them. However doctrine based on personal experience instead of the word of God is not something I would lean towards, and I have had my own personal experiences.

Jeff said -
Seventh, you claim regarding Sola Scriptura that "this entire argument is illogical because it appeals the same authority it is attempting to prove as being the sole authority" and you conclude that "it is a convoluted form of circular reasoning." But there must be a singular authority else conflict would never be resolved.

Yes but that singular authority can be of a higher level and then come in multiple forms. In other words the single authority can be the word of God and that authority can come in three forms (all in agreement with each other) those being Holy Scripture (the written text which requires interpretation), the Sacred Tradition (which are the teachings of the Christ, through the Apostles and their successors on orally through the ages), and finally the Teaching Authority of the Magisterium (which as I showed earlier is miraculously protected from error by the Holy Spirit, a claim you practically make for yourself in an effort to support the idea of sola scriptura).

Jeff said -
In our court system in America we have the Supreme Court. If you disagree with the ruling of the Supreme Court, say Roe v. Wade, then to what authority would be appeal? To a lower appellate court? No, you must appeal to the highest authority in the land.

Your example is erroneous because you miss that there is a source which the Supreme Court is interpreting – the Constitution, a static written document which is misinterpreted by its readers all the time. And there is another source which is even higher than the Supreme Court, the Congress which can do more than just interpret laws but actual write them and with the impetus of the people can even over turn the Constitution itself. So your example fails to support the idea of sola scriptura or appealing to other sources over a written text in any form.

Jeff said -
In spiritual matters the Bible, as the inspired Word of God, holds that place alone.

That is your premise, it cannot be spoken as a supporting argument to that premise.

Jeff said -
There cannot be a dissenting view and those who disagree tend to have reason to desire to either raise themselves up to a level with scripture or place the authority of the Bible beneath their station. By this method they gain power of the souls of men. A cult does this very thing in practice. ----snip----

I won’t even repeat the rest of this paragraph because it is just embarrassing for you ruining what is basically a thoughtful argument against the rejection of sola scriptura with anti-Catholic rhetoric.

Jeff said -
Eighth, you contend that, "Interpreting difficult verses based on our understanding of the apparently more obvious ones is a completely backwards approach for interpreting an inerrant body of work," yet this is the very principle we employ in every other occupation of life.

That is because in ever other endeavor we know that the source is not inerrant and we have no expectation of ending up with an inerrant understanding, which is what we need to avoid coming to a wrong relationship with Christ by worshipping Him in the wrong way or conforming our lives in a wrong manner such that they conform not to His will but some other will.

Jeff said -
Even the Bible suggests learning occurs in this way and understanding comes gradually using "line upon line, precept upon precept." We start with what is clear to us, that which is plain, and build upon that foundation.

If you look at what you just wrote you will see that the Scriptures do not speak of plain verses complex it speaks about learning by studying line upon line, in other words comparing the teachings of scripture to each other to come to an understanding and that as I have shown is too large an endeavor for one man to do. Even comparing one single verse to every other in scripture would be years of work, and then it has to be done all over again. So much easier to simply (as the Apostles did) learn the truth from a teacher who knows it all and then can tell you (with no need of interpretation) the real message. Then even when you do not understand he is there to answer questions, something a written text cannot do and forcing you to search each and every verse until you are sure you have the answer. Because to stop with the first few verses you find which may answer your question could be a terrible mistake.

Jeff said -
For example, in my works as a computer professional I often encounter manuals describing functions or program I am unfamiliar with. Yet, to understanding them I must start by reading them and trying to comprehend.

This is the correct approach if you do not have an instructor who can tell you the proper understanding you are expected to come away from the text with, and if you are satisfied with only a partial understanding of the text because the results of such an incomplete understanding of the text has minimal consequences, and if the text is not inerrant and so there is no possibility of coming away with and inerrant understanding even if you did completely understand that text book. Other than that your example is completely applicable. J/K

Jeff said -
As I read I may understand very little of what I am reading because the acronyms and lingo may be quite foreign to me. But slowly as I grasp points which are somewhat obvious I am able to apply that knowledge to decipher the more cryptic passages.

But you also get much of what you read wrong and in relation to theology and salvation that can be exceedingly dangerous. And even if you were to not die before you got to the point you thought you understood the lingo and acronyms you might still be wrong. If the text is long enough you might never in your life time come to the one critical verse and also recognize it so as to clear up these mistakes and so your understanding of the topic might never be proper enough to perform the work correctly.

Jeff said -
In fact, this very method was employed to decode encoded messages sent during the war. They began looking at patterns and tried substituting letters until finally a few words appeared. Once they had those few words they could then apply context and voila! the code was broken.

I think you simplify the approach to code breaking and perhaps even have the story wrong depending on which code you are discussing because the German code was not broken until we captured one of their own devices used to decode the messages.

Jeff said -
Ninth, no man understands the Bible correctly or completely regardless of his calling or station in life and therefore he should not present himself as one who holds the keys of knowledge.

Christ did, and He taught the correct understanding of doctrine to His Apostles who taught it to men like Iraeneus and others of their disciples and the early Church relied entirely on this understanding in lieu of the written scriptures until that very same understanding was used by a Council of Bishops (descendent of the same Apostles) to decide which of the many possible texts were to be canonized into the New Testament Scriptures. That oral tradition is one of the other sources of God’s word for that very reason. Today the Church is under protection from God to bind and loose on earth as in heaven in matters of doctrine and so too the Church has that as a third source of the word of God since any protected decision on earth will be the same as that decision as it was made in heaven, which makes it God’s word.

Jeff said –
When a discussion is held each attendee should realize that perhaps God will reveal to the lowest of the low some things which have not been revealed to those in high position. Thus, everyone can learn from everyone else.

That is possible but not to be expected since Peter established the office of Deacon for the very reason that the Apostles should not leave the study of the word to wait tables and so each person in the Church has their gift and office and we should not expect to change things from the way God has established them.

Jeff said -
In Christ's day the Pharisees would have done well to learn of the widow, or the taxpayer, or the prostitute, but they esteemed themselves superior to such common peoples and they hardened their hearts to the very truths they needed to learn.

They would have done well to learn from those common folk with regards to how those same Pharisees led their personal lives, but not with regard to doctrine – otherwise Christ would not have told us to –

Mat 23:1-3 1 Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples, 2 Saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat: 3 All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.

Jeff said -
Let's not forget that God gives grace to the humble while He resists the proud.

Don’t mistake the fact that someone is a leader with them being proud and do not assume that because someone is lowly that they are humble.

Jeff said -
Tenth, you claim Sola Scriptura is unworkable because, "all it takes is one difficult or less obvious verse (that we cannot interpret in a way that is consistent with our doctrine no matter how intensely we apply our knowledge of the obvious ones) to throw our whole system into chaos." But I say that every seeker has been promised that he will find what he seeks. If he seeks truth with all his heart then we must not suppose that God will not give him he desires of his heart. Will God give us a serpent when we ask for an egg? Is it His character to disappoint and refuse to grant us our desire to know truth when He has expended such infinite work in our salvation? Does it please Him that we remain confused in darkness? So I say to all who seek truth, ask of God and be humble enough to hear His answer.

But this promise does not imply that He will give these answers directly to us. His answer might very well be that He has provided us the Church to do precisely this teaching. To demand that Lord answer us directly is like the man who is sitting on his capsized boat and a Coast Guard cutter comes along and offers to rescue him and he says no God will provide. Then a helicopter comes along and offers to rescue him and he sends them off too saying God will provide. Finally an entire aircraft carrier comes along and offers to rescue him and he sends them off too. But once they are gone he slips from the boat and drowns and dies. When he finds himself standing before God he says where were you I counted on you saving me and God looks at him and says – What do you want I sent you a boat a helicopter and a carrier.

Jeff said -
Eleventh, consider that no one is going to stand up and claim to know an incorrect interpretation of scripture. It would be rare if not unheard of. Everyone claims to know truth.

True but this speaks against the idea of individuals claiming to understand Scripture through their own study. However the Church is identified by Scripture itself as the ground and pillar of truth, so it can be trusted in matters of doctrine.

1Ti 3:15 But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.

Jeff said -
If we are convinced that they are wrong then we must also consider that they are just as convinced we are wrong. So to what authority will you appeal? Perhaps the only safe course is to consider that it could well be you that is wrong.

No once again Scripture tells us just how to proceed.

Mat 18:15-18 15 Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. 16 But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. 17 And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican. 18 Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

The final appeal on earth is to the Church.

Jeff said -
Although October 31st marks the anniversary of Martin Luther's 95 Theses I am not going to duplicate his efforts here. I am stopping at this point. However, I want to leave you with this scripture passage...

Isaiah 8:20, “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, [it is] because [there is] no light in them.” Thus, we are to test everything by the law and testimony of scripture—that is, the law and the prophets which affirms that "all scripture [is] given by inspiration of God, and [is] profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works." Applying the principles I have laid out above will make this seemingly insurmountable task highly successful. But don’t expect to know all things at once or to understand the deepest mysteries so you can amaze your colleagues. But trust that God will reveal that which is most needful to you if you seek and ask and believe.

Of course none of this is saying that Scripture is the only source of God’s revelation. It is saying that Scripture is dependable and that any other source should be in agreement with it, but then that only makes sense because God will never give conflicting revelation. These verses you quote and allude to do not say that we should base our understanding of God’s will or even our doctrine or our spiritual guidance on scripture alone.

JeffLogan's picture

[The discussion began with

[The discussion began with this post from the Reformed Theology thread. One is barely able to discern who is writing since the markup is removed in the copy process.]

A different look at the meaning of predestination EDITED
Submitted by michael_legna on Sat, 2011-11-12 18:01.

bwarddvm said –
If I may interject some thoughts and questions for you here regarding the ongoing debate in which you and Randy have been engaged. I must be quite frank and tell you that I find many of your conclusions troubling and, in brotherly love, to challenge to make certain that you are certain about what you profess to believe. You are obviously very passionate about your beliefs, as am I, and state that you hold the Holy Scriptures in high regard as being composed of only true truths.
In following the thread of your debate with Randy, I can only conclude in humble, yet admittedly possibly erroneous, discernment that you are relying on some serious Biblical misconceptions in your reasoning.

I of course disagree that I am relying on misconceptions of the Bible, but let us look at our two different positions and see which one is more likely correct based on its ability to reconcile all of the applicable verses of scripture we care to discuss in relation to it.

bwarddvm said –
These are answers given to questions Randy ask of you.
First: Randy: Do you believe God decreed to save all people without exception?
Your response:
No God does not decree our salvation,for such a decree would make salvation purely His decision and thus the same would be true of damnation, thus God could not be just by damning men for something they had no control over.
My position:
That God has knowingly left man after the fall in a state of inability not being able (because he is rendered into a state of never desiring) to forsake sinning does not make God unjust.

If God did this without offering any way to escape this state then it would be unjust to punish men for sins they were unable to avoid. Not only that but it also makes a mockery of the idea of a gift of free will, since in truth men would not even be able to try to avoid sin. Fortunately God did not leave man in a state of inability to forsake sin, and He did so by giving grace to all mankind, a grace which man must cooperate with so he can forsake sin. Not all men do cooperate with that grace and thus they remain reprobate, but others do choose freely to cooperate with that grace and do works which align their life with God’s will. Those who refuse this grace also refuse to return God’s love and so can justly be condemned. Those who cooperate with this grace are made able to forsake sin, and by resisting sin they conform their lives to the will of God and thus express their love for God. That love and the works of love which follow it are what perfect and enliven faith so it can be a satisfactory manner of accepting the free gift of salvation.

bwarddvm said –
God is the sovereign creator and ruler of the universe and mankind. He is the author and definer of justice. He has the power, authority and perfect right to pronounce whatever sentence he chooses on men who rebel against Him, which is all men.

He has the right to do anything He wants to do, but that is not the question. The question is how do we understand what He told us in the scriptures that He did, and that is that He gave man a way out of His fallen state. That in effect tells us that He sees justice as dependent on the accused having a choice. The grace He offers to mankind both initially to all men and then further to those who participate in the sacraments gives us the strength to choose to overcome our fallen nature, and that choice allows for an application of justice. We can assume that God is just no matter what He does, but that is not what scripture teaches us. Scripture teaches us that man has a free will and can choose to sin or not sin, to love God or not love God, and the presence of these choices proves God has decided to see justice differently than those who would seek to impose the idea of God acting anyway He wants on God and calling that justice.

bwarddvm said –
His sentence of giving us over completely to our sinful desires was His just punishment. That leaving fallen man unable (and unwilling) to turn to Him because of man's evil desires is our fault and our just sentence. We forfeited that ability in Adam, our perfect representative.

I agree that was just as a punishment for what Adam did, but that is not the end result when it comes to our eternal salvation because then no one would be saved. The punishment associated with Adam’s sin was a removal from paradise, a permanent (for us) change in our nature, but that was not an eternal punishment, as we see both by our access to grace which allows us to overcome that fallen nature and our chance to become sons of God , co-heirs with Christ (so it is not permanent for God). So that judgment was not eternal because it was not permanent, and thus it is not unjust because there remains a way out, man is left with a choice.

But that punishment was not the justice I was addressing when I said God would not be just punishing men for something they had no control over. That is because Adam did have a free will and if God judged his descendents on the same basis as He judged Adam it would have been unjust but we see He did not. Instead God sent His only son to pay the eternal punishment for sin and make possible a new economy of salvation where we can respond to God and His grace and conform our lives to His will. If God left us in that state of a fallen nature and then condemned us to hell for something He knew we had no control over He certainly could have been just (for He is the definer of justice), but again Scripture tells us that He did not do this, instead He gave us a way out. Does that mean that He is not just since He gave us this way out of our fallen nature? No, of course not, it means that those who understand God as just if He did not offer a way out do not understand God or scripture.

Second: Randy: Are you saying that it is the sinner’s decision that determines whether he is saved or do you believe it is God’s sovereign and electing decree that determines whom he will call and enable to believe?
Your response:
Yes, if man does not play a role in his own salvation then God is an unjust tyrant and the whole belief system based on such a description of God is one big contradiction......He gives all men the grace necessary to over come the tendencies of our fallen state
My position:
Please show me where in Scripture it is explicitly state that God gives all men the grace necessary to overcome the tendencies of our fallen state.
We would start with the verse I used in my response to Randy -

1Ti 2:4 Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.
1Ti 2:5 For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;
1Ti 2:6 Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.

Some try to fit this verse into their doctrines by redefining the term all but that is avoiding the issue. God wants all of His creation to be saved, not just part of it, ALL of it. That can only be done if ALL are given access to the resources necessary to be saved.

bwarddvm said –
Some Scriptures might imply such if one chooses to read them that way. However, I am convinced there are other Scriptures (which I shall state later) that explicitly tell us that is not the case.

The point is that ALL of scripture must be reconciled with a doctrine because if even one inerrant verse of scripture cannot be reconciled then we know the doctrine is wrong, regardless of how many explicit verses we think it can be made in agreement with.

bwarddvm said –
If natural men are all in a state of spiritual deadness, which Scriptures clearly state they are, that means they are incapable of receiving anything short of the type of grace to which they could possibly respond: God's special regenerating graces which raises them to new spiritual life. This He only reserves for His elect.

I think this is a doctrine you will need to provide development for, before I could ever accept such claims. God’s elect is the same as His chosen. To see more precisely what I mean consider the following verses:
Mat 20:16 So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.
Mat 22:14 For many are called, but few are chosen.

In these two verses the word translated as chosen is elsewhere translated as elect. It is Strong’s G1588 eklektos From G1586; select; by implication favorite: - chosen, elect. The point being that this usage refers to a calling (which includes many) and a choosing or election (which includes far fewer) and this calling of course has to occur before the choosing else it is not a real calling but only a tease or false come on; something God would never do. What we glean from this (if we remember that God is not bound by time) is that when He speaks of His elect, He is referring to those He chooses from the calling, and that calling (as we see above by His desire that all men come to the truth and be saved) is directed to all men. So your conclusion that this grace is only given to the elect is unfounded. I would say that it is only the elect who respond to this grace or put more accurately they are the only ones who freely decide to cooperate with that grace. But then the term chosen makes even more sense because we see that God chooses these men based on their love for Him as they conform their lives to His will.

bwarddvm said –
As you know, in interpreting Scriptures which seem to us to be contradictory, the explicit always is used to clarify the implicit or, at least, tell us what the implicit does not mean.

MICHAEL: I know you did not just hijack this thread by refuting sola scriptura when that is not the topic under discussion. This is what Randy meant by different a authority base as I have said before, and that statement of his is not what I objected to. Of course many of the people here embrace the 5 solas of the reformation since the topic IS reformed theology. The person to whom you are replying is trying to respond but your view of sola scriptura is not relevant since that is not the topic under discussion and your attack on Protestants who hold tht view will not stand any more than Randy's statement did. I am not requesting an apology or retraction any more than I did of Randy but you know better so stay on topic.

There will be no abusive or insulting language towards other people, denominations, or sects.
My job is to insure that the threads do not become hostile or the posts become personal attacks. Remember brother/sister this is a Christian library, a place for research, the gaining of understanding, increasing of wisdom, and yes, maybe an epiphany. People of other than Christian beliefs are welcome, but this is a Christian library. And as with any library that merges many cultures there must be understanding and respect. I reiterate that I will not allow attacks in the forums against other posters or denominations/sects.

Third: Randy: What do you mean by “free will?
Your response:
Now in relation to obviously moral decisions we know that our nature is fallen and we are not able to choose between good and evil since we are so corrupt, but God offers His grace to all men (and we know this because grace is undeserved favor and if it were only given to a select group then it would not be undeserved since a selection cannot be made without a criteria. So God’s grace would be unfair since it was deserved or undeserved based on this criteria. If selection could be done without a criteria it would be random and once again favor would be bestowed unfairly and the relationship between God and men would become a meaningless charade.
My position:
Your false premise here is that God must apply a criteria that is acceptable to man's sense of fairness in determining on whom He will choose to apply His saving grace. Where do you find that in Scripture?

By free will I mean the freedom to choose to act or not and how to act in the same manner as Adam and Eve had. Specifically, as it applies to the topic at hand, the freedom to sin or not to sin. Anything less than the freedom that Adam and Eve had is NOT free will and no matter how hard the reformed theology tries to make a case for being free “within our nature” that is not truly free will, and it make God out to be a false gift giver. God gave man free will so that when we love Him it means something. If we have no choice (because of our nature or anything else) to either love Him then that love becomes meaningless. Similarly, if we have no choice but to not love Him and not conform our lives to His will then that disobedience becomes meaningless as well. In fact the form of free will that accompanies Calvinism makes everything meaningless, even witnessing, preaching, along with faith, hope and love.

bwarddvm said –
Since all are deserving of eternal damnation, then all are receiving God's justice.

Only if we have read scripture properly to claim that God desires to leave us in that state, but He does not. In fact God wills that all men come to the knowledge of truth and be saved. That is why He gives His grace to all men. Now that still does not mean that all men are saved, scripture tells us they are not. But that is not because they did not receive the grace that restores our free will and allows us to over come our fallen nature (if only we will cooperate with that grace). In short, in our fallen nature none of us deserve to spend eternity with God, but in our fallen nature we have no free will and so it would not be just to condemn us for the sins of our fathers (meaning Adam and Eve - what Catholics call original sin) if He did not also offer us a way out. That is the point of the plan of redemption, to make possible a new economy of salvation, not based on us earning salvation but by Christ paying the eternal penalty for sin and making it possible for this offer of eternal life, an offer we are free to accept or reject through a living faith.

bwarddvm said –
If God, for reasons that might seem capricous to us, chooses to render mercy to some does not mean that He is then suddenly unjust to the others. Some receive mercy, the remainder receive justice. Nobody receives injustice! No one is treated unfairly! God is under no obligation whatsoever to explain to His creatures His "criteria" for choosing for mercy those whom He does. Such things are beyond our understanding. We must, and you know this, always keep in mind the incomprehensible wisdom of God which is far, far, far, beyond our reasoning and understanding.

Yes, we need to keep this in mind, especially as we interpret scripture and come up with such modern theologies as Calvin did by missing the proper interpretation of all the verses which speak to our actions bearing impact on salvation. That is the only way one can come up with a scenario in which you have to make excuses for God and His actions. The issue becomes so much clearer and more simple when one finally reconciles these verses with a doctrine such that we can see there is a way we can understand God’s justice, because it is not that different from our own.

Fourth: Randy: Do you believe it is better to try to deal with a hodgepodge of unrelated and unsupported ideas that are ill-defined or to deal carefully with well-defined issues, examined by biblical texts understood in their proper context until we can at least come to an understanding of what we mean by the terms we are using?
Your response:
I just don’t limit the word of God to just the written portion, that being the Holy Scriptures......
I too believe that the word of God (since it is inerrant and in no way contradicts itself) is essential in determining what is true (by being in agreement with it) and thus trustworthy in a system of belief. I just don’t limit the word of God to just the written portion, that being the Holy Scriptures.
My position:
The only revelation of God outside of the Holy Scriptures that the Scriptures teach as reliable is God's 'General Revelation' outlined primarily in Romans 1 where Paul talks about the wonders of God's creation testifying to who He is and that all men clearly know that God Is GOD in there hearts, but they deny it and exchange it for a lie about who He is or that He even exists at all and develop various types of creatures or creations to worship.

This argument is wrong for three reasons. First there is a verse in scripture which comes right out and identifies another source (and many other verses besides which support it), that verse being -

2Th 2:15 Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.

Here we clearly see Paul telling those he is writing to, to hold fast to the oral teachings (those by word) and not just to the ones received in the form of written texts (epistles). There would be no need of this if the two were formally equivalent. So in fact we do see that Scriptures do teach there is another reliable source of God’s revelation – the teaching given to us by the Apostles. They could very well be materially equivalent in that they both hold the same information, but they might not both be as clear or equally accessible to understanding.

Second this entire argument is illogical because it appeals the same authority it is attempting to prove as being the sole authority. It is a convoluted form of circular reasoning.

It also is faulty because it assumes that the Holy Scriptures would claim

bwarddvm said –
Of course, the believer can receive words of truth from the Holy Spirit. The problem is that because of our sinful fallenness and fallibility we cannot really ever trust that what we think we are hearing from Him is truly what He is saying. Many times another believer seeking God's will on the same particular issue will "hear" something totally different. This much we know though, the Holy Spirit will never speak to us any words that contradict what He has already authored in Scripture. If it appears to be 'new revelation' not in the Holy Scriptures, we simply cannot rely on it.

I agree that is true for most members of the Church but here too we know scripture has promised specific protections from error for some members of the Church when deciding doctrine for the Church. Of course I refer to the follow two verses -

Mat 16:19 And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

Mat 18:18 Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

The first was spoken to Peter and there is much to be studied here beyond our current issue, but I will restrict myself to it for now. In it we see that Peter is given the authority to bind issues of doctrine on earth, or loose them, just as they are all ready bound or loosed in heaven. In other words, when Peter as leader of the Church made a decision concerning doctrine he would have to receive protective guidance of the Holy Spirit to keep him from error such that those decision might end up contrary to what is held as correct in heaven. That kind of perfect is well beyond men, no matter how pious, so for this authority to be given it must inherently come with a protective aspect of guidance.

The second was said to the remainder of the Apostles, the other 11, and it offers them the same authority and protection when they act in unison. Of course this cannot be in a decision contrary to Peter’s position else that would mean the two divine protections would at odds with each other and of course that would be impossible.

bwarddvm said –
Below are several references from the Holy Scriptures. You will see clearly which ones refer to which of my statements.

I don’t think either of us can assume that of any scriptures and should provide interpretations for the scriptures we quote so we can see the others position. I have read these same scriptures many, many times and I can assure you I probably do not come away with the same interpretation you do since our doctrines are so different. I also expect that you do not know what my interpretations of those verses are since you point me to them as if they contain something I have not considered. Hopefully you do not think I simply have ignored them all my adult Christian life, or that the Catholic Church has simply been unable to reconcile them with their doctrines for over 2000 years.

bwarddvm said –
This, of course, is not an exhaustive list, thus if you so choose you can research even more that clearly refute your own positions. I certainly welcome explicit passages which you select to refute mine. If I am wrong, I truly want to know it and will readily admit it, but I will only stand convinced on the basis of solid, irrefutable Scriptural evidence.

I have provided above both logical arguments and scriptural support for my position and though one post can in no way be exhaustive enough to be irrefutable Scriptural evidence I hope you can see where these ideas come from.

bwarddvm said –
I know I have dumped a bunch of concepts and Scriptures on you here, so please to not feel rushed to reply. However, I sincerely do look forward to your response. God willing, I will teachable in truth as well.

I hope you can accept my statements of my position in the same light I have accepted yours.

Now I will offer interpretations of the references you gave to show that they are indeed reconciled by the doctrine I outlined above. I hope you attempt to do the same with the references I offered above to see if you can make them fit in the Calvinist doctrines of no free will, and arbitrary justice and punishment.
bwarddvm said –
Scriptural References:
Romans 9:14-21 14 What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not! 15 For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.” 16 So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to the Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth.” 18 Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens.19 You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?” 20 But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor?

This verse expresses nothing more than the fact I freely admit – that in our fallen state we do not deserve salvation, and in fact we both know that even after we cooperate with His grace (as I would say it) or are elect (as Calvin would put it) we still don’t deserve salvation. In either case it is a gift. But this verse does not say that He does not offer His grace to all men or that Christ did not die for all men, and that He only died for a few. Can you really find that concept palatable? That Christ’s sacrifice only had the power to extend to a few, that it did not extend to all of creation?

John 6: 44 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. (underscore mine)

But even this you have to read into the verse an idea that is not really there. You read into this verse the idea that God does not draw all men, and by that you decide He withholds His grace from some while giving it to another. Then to cover for this less than merciful act Calvin supposes for God, you have to give Him an out with verses like the one in Roman’s above – a verse which also does not say what you read into it.

John 6: 37 All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. 39 This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. 40 And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life (underscores mine)

Again you read into this verse that God gives Christ only a limited set of men which you equate to those whom He elects. And that leads you to see this as a sequential event in linear time and that causes the problems with the verse I mentioned above which shows those whom are first called and then chosen are really the same as those whom are elsewhere referred to as elect.

One way of viewing this is where the election occurs regardless and well before our decision of faith and its perfection through our life of love, which Calvin wants to suggest and the other way of seeing this is that to God all of time is laid out before Him and He can chose based on our response to which comes in response to His grace. The first forces all kind of strange interpretations and warps our understanding of fundamental characteristics as they apply to God and denies and form of real free will, or faith or even the exhortations to witness and other commissions given in Scripture. The second retains a true gift of free will from God and makes His justice and love as well as our own have real meaning. I guess my point here is there is not just one understanding of predestination, and in fact Calvin’s deterministic one is both relatively new and was not accepted by the early Church Fathers and those closest to the Apostles never were taught those interpretations of the Scriptures that are needed to arrive at it. In my opinion they were taught a more complete and inclusive view which was later used to chose which texts were admitted to the New Testament as Holy Scripture.

Ephesians 2: 1 And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins (underscore mine)
Colossians 2:13
And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses,

Both of these verses say the same thing and it is not that Grace only comes to some men and is not offered to others. Grace does make us alive (spiritually) but that grace must be applied to us. God offers us grace, just as He offers us salvation both as gifts, but He does not force them on us. God wants us to love Him and if that love is a forced result of a gift forced upon us then it means nothing. That type of love is not real. You really think God wants that kind of love?

Romans 1:20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.

I agree with this but as I pointed out above it is not the only place where Scripture speaks of other sources to be trusted AND the idea of Scripture being used as the only source to prove it is the only source that can be trusted is of course a fallacious form of argument.

Romans 5: 12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned— 13 (For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. 14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come.

I see no problem here either since it speaks once again of our fallen nature and how we are dead in it, but it does not say there is no escape (except election) in fact it indirectly says there will come a savior (whom Adam was a type of) whose sacrifice and the resulting offer of salvation will apply backward through time to even those of the Old Testament. Since I believe Calvinist accept the salvation of those in a fallen nature who lived and died before Christ died on the cross I assume they must accept the whole concept of God being outside of time and so the issue of the distinction between elect and chosen should be well known to them.

Titus 3:4 But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, 5 not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior

If taken in isolation this would sound like it applies to all works we do playing no role in our own salvation but of course there are many many verses which speak of our works of love fulfilling the law (as Christ taught us to do as obedience – which makes no sense if you deny free will) and that these works are necessary to enliven and perfect our faith which is of course necessary to properly accept the free gift of salvation. But this is a another topic and a large one so I will not offer all those verse for your consideration unless you want to start another thread.

Job 37: 5 God thunders marvelously with His voice;
He does great things which we cannot comprehend.

Job 40: 1 Moreover the LORD answered Job, and said:
2 “Shall the one who contends with the Almighty correct Him?
He who rebukes God, let him answer it.”

Isaiah 55: 8 “ For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” says the LORD.
9 “ For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways,
And My thoughts than your thoughts.

Daniel 4: 34b For His dominion is an everlasting dominion,
And His kingdom is from generation to generation.
35 All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing;
He does according to His will in the army of heaven
And among the inhabitants of the earth.
No one can restrain His hand
Or say to Him, “What have You done?”

Psalms 135: 5 For I know that the LORD is great,
And our Lord is above all gods.
6 Whatever the LORD pleases He does,
In heaven and in earth,
In the seas and in all deep places.

None of these verses say that we can never understand God, else there would be no point to any revelation by Him to us, not even scripture. What these verses do say is that it is possible that for us to not be able to comprehend God, and I agree. I just disagree that the issue of justice is one of those times, because if you read the Scripture in its unity you will see that we were given an out so as to over come our fallen nature, and restore our free will and truly freely love God so that this salvation plan has real meaning to men and God.

***** END *****

Fools find no pleasure in understanding but delight in airing their own opinions. -Proverbs 18:2 NIV