What is your take on the subject of predestination? I believe Calvin's view is heretical.
I prefer not pass judgment on Calvin inasmuch as I have noted in the past a certain amount of distance between what he can definitively be said to have taught and what following generations have taught under his name. I will begin by acknowledging that I believe that hyper-Calvinistic positions are often over-simplified or even wrong. For example, perseverance of the saints when taken to mean "once saved, always saved" is a grievous error (whether or not Calvin himself ever even thought of things in those precise terms).
In regard to predestination, since that is what you ask about particularly, I certainly do not believe that true, biblical predestination is in conflict with genuine free-will as some who hold to exaggerated notions of Calvinistic doctrine sometimes seem to suggest (again, regardless of what Calvin actually thought). As I have often observed, locked in a life an death struggle with a religion which taught salvation by works, it was only natural that Calvin and the Reformers would wish to stress in response the grace of God and the will of God as supreme and in no way beholden to human actions whatsoever, and that is certainly fine as far as it goes. Where one runs into trouble, in my view, is when a conflict between human will and divine will is assumed (or an attempt is made to compensate for a perceived conflict by incorrect theological explication).
Let me put it as simply as I can: God has a plan for human history, and always has had. That plan was and is absolutely thorough and complete and was ordained before the creation of the universe. The plan took into account everything in history, from the creation of the universe and the angels, to the creation and fall of mankind, to the end of the Millennium and with it the end of history, and with all of it centered and built and established on the cross of Jesus Christ. God foreknew everything that would transpire should He initiate creation, and in spite of the fact that by going ahead it would require the sacrifice of His Son, blessedly did so. For, indeed, nothing can come into being and nothing can take place without His WILL. That is true of things that seem to happen by chance, things that seem to have little significance, and, apropos of your question, all actions of all moral agents in particular.
It is upon the last element, namely, what you and I and all who have the ability to discern between right and wrong choose to do here in time, that the question of predestination hangs, and in terms of human reasoning there are two aspects of it against which theologians have sometimes tried to hedge because of their seeming illogicality: if God knows and has planned what we are going to do, do we really have free will? And if we choose to do evil, is God responsible for it since it is in His plan? The answers to these questions respectively are emphatically "yes!" (we have true free will) and "no!" (God is not the author of or in any way responsible for evil). The fact that God has foreordained all that will happen does not mean that we did not have the free-will opportunity to believe in and follow Him, and the fact that we may have failed to do so or may have committed any number of sins or any manner of evil does not make Him complicit in our actions. God ordained reality. God ordained history. And in doing so He took into account everything every moral agent would and did ever think, say, or do. Moreover, and most especially, He provided an opportunity in His matchless grace for all human beings to exercise their free-will in faith towards Him by accepting His Son (or, before the first advent, the promise of forgiveness in the One to come). Thus, free-will can perhaps better be termed "free-will faith", because it essentially consists of the opportunities we have to respond to Him and His truth.
I really think that this is one of those issues that gets over-theologized based upon false assumptions about vocabulary items. The actual term predestination comes from a small number of passages in the New Testament where the Greek verb prohorizo is used (most notably, Romans 8:29-30, but also 2Cor.2:7 and Eph.1:5 and 1:11). In Greek, a horos is a boundary and the basic verb horizo means to bound or delimit (hence the word "horizon", literally, "that which serves as a boundary"). The word "predestination" and its cognates are of course Latinate in origin, all of which are built on the basic verb destino, -are, which means to "fix, determine, settle, appoint", and of course the prefix "pre" would mean to do so ahead of time. This word in English is a straight borrowing from the Latin Vulgate translation of Jerome (where the Latin verb in question in Rom.8:29-30, for example, is predestinavit [conjugated 3/s perfect form or predestino, -are]). The Latin word is clearly somewhat different in meaning than the Greek word, even though they are synonyms.
Both the original Greek verb and the Latin/English rendering of it convey the same notion of God's decreeing of all that would happen, but the problem with the English/Latin wording is that it is inextricably tied into pagan mythology and the idea of "fate" (that which is spoken: Latin fatum <for, fare) and "destiny" (that which is divinely determined: Latin destinatio <destino, destinare). We are talking nuance here, but while both word groups in both languages convey the idea of divine action, "predestination" carries with it the connotation that said action is completely divorced from human behavior, action or will. And while it is certainly true that God is in no way beholden to us, to suggest that He did not take into account what we would think or say or do is to completely misread scripture in general and also those passages where these words actually appear. Pagan mythology is very comfortable with the idea of God doing what God will do and taking no account of whether a person is good or bad, responsive or non-responsive. But we Christians know that what we think, say and do is of the utmost importance. The Bible tells us this very clearly and without demur on every single page. It cannot be that God through His Word would be so intensely concerned with our behavior if it didn't really make any difference. Even hyper-Calvinists have to admit this. A careful examination of the critical passage in Romans 8 reveals what is really meant by "foreordained/predestined/marked-out ahead of time":
(29) For those whom He foreknew, He also
foreordained to share the likeness of His Son (i.e., to
be likewise resurrected), so that He might be the Firstborn over
many brothers [and sisters]. (30) And those whom He
foreordained, these He also called [to salvation], and those
whom He called, He also made righteous [through faith in
Christ], and those whom He made righteous, these He also
glorified (i.e., our resurrection and eternal life has been set
fast in the plan of God since before the world was made).
As the passage above makes very clear, the critical thing for understanding "predestination/foreordination" is to first understand what "foreknowledge is". For in verse 29 above, foreordination/predestination follows foreknowledge (i.e., predestination is a consequence of foreknowledge). Since only believers are going to share in the resurrection, it is proper to conclude therefore that it is in fact our exercise of faith in genuine free-will which is the object of foreknowledge – that is the critical thing that God foreknew when He foreknew us (i.e., we are the "those" in this passage) . How we would decide in time, given the genuine free-will-faith choice is what God "knew about ahead of time", inasmuch as verse 29 makes very clear that predestination is a direct result of foreknowledge in the case of believers, whose lives God is demonstrated there to have planned out in every significant detail.
Also, it is altogether incorrect to suggest that because God knows something is going to happen that He is responsible for it in a particular way. God's recognition before time began that when He gave you and I the opportunity we would accept Jesus as our Savior does not mean that we had no choice in the matter anymore than His prior realization of all of the sin and evil that people would do in this world after the fall makes Him responsible for that sin and evil. For beyond all argument, the world is filled with sin and evil, and God is most certainly not responsible for it in any way. We have to understand, therefore, that God's allowing (and decreeing) of a historical process wherein some would choose for Him but many would choose against Him in all things great and small does not mean that God determined how we would choose, merely that He ratified our choices (whether or not their were His "first best WILL" for us). For Romans gives us the correct sequence: He knew, then He decreed, meaning that He first took into consideration what He knew ahead of time all of us would do, then decreed history in its entirety. And we should never lose sight of the fact that foreknowing, He did not have to decree, but that in decreeing, He obligated Himself to give up His One and only Son to die for our sins, sins that would never have occurred without the decree, but which were inevitable given a process of history wherein genuinely free moral agents were involved.
Therefore in all of the passages listed above (to which we may add the occurrences of the simplex verb horizo found in Lk.22:22; Acts 2:3; 10:42; 17:26; 17:31; Rom.1;4; Heb.4:7), what we have is not an overriding of human choice by God, but rather a divine ratification of it. Thus, foreordination/predestination does not obliterate free-will faith, rather it enables it. This is blessed in the case of believers, because, as Paul demonstrates in all of the places where he uses the verb prohorizo, this means that our eternal status of everlasting life, resurrection and reward has already been decreed by God Himself and is therefore not in the slightest doubt, nor subject to alteration (as long as we continue in faith). Indeed this is the very reason why Paul has introduced the concept of predestination/foreordination at all, not to suggest in any way that we are automatons, but far the opposite to show that our decision to believe and our decisions to persevere have the most monumentally positive consequences. This passage and line of argument is in fact given here as the very explanation of just how "God is working all things together for God for those who love Him" (the previous verse, Rom.8:28), namely, by having already written into history's unalterable plan the salvation He provided and we accepted, and the glorification to which aspire and for which we persevere.
You might also have a look at the following link:
Against Universalism I: Free Will and the Image of God.
Does God's choice eliminate our free will?
In the matchless grace and unfathomable wisdom of Him who loved us so much He gave His dear Son Jesus to die in our place.
Dear Dr. Luginbill,
Thank you for the your clarification of "near" and "imminent". I never thought of it that way. I can see why some parts of Scripture should not always be taken literally or out of context as the pre-trib view of the rapture has apparently tried to convey by piecing verses together to drive home a concept. I am always open to various interpretations opinions and explanations concerning the written Word. However, this does not mean that I will adhere to the best sounding or convincing interpretation. All views must be backed up by Scripture or better yet, Scripture must interpret itself as you diligently point out.
The following verse--found with the Blue Letter Bible--proves the last day first resurrection for all believers: Jhn 6:44 "No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day".
In the verse above, what is meant by "draw him"? Does this have anything to do with predestination regarding the elect, which I personally do not subscribe to because Christ declared that He came to save the world, and not just a select few? (This brings to mind what I read in "The Satanic Rebellion" under "The Purpose of Man": "...to actually replace all that was lost through the devil's defection." Not implying to replace all defectors, no more, no less.)
Unconditional election teaches that Christ did not die for all, for He would have died in vain for those that are cast into the lake of fire. This makes sense, but is it Biblical? Another question would be: Would God cast the rest of humanity--good and bad--into the lake of fire? I would think not! But, on the other hand, we are all sinners and deserve no mercy. The righteous thing for God to do would be to condemn us all. Your comments are inspiring and always appreciated.
As to the issue of "drawing", Jesus also says:
(31) Now is the judgment of this world. Now will the prince of this world be driven out. (32) And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to Myself.
John 12:31-32 (cf. Jn.16:11)
I believe the coexistence of these two verses with this comparable yet significantly different meaning, both words of Jesus, both in the gospel of John, both using the same Greek verb (helko, cf. Jn.6:44), a word which in this meaning is unusual enough not to be an accident, is deliberate. I believe we are being given here the two sides of the coin. On the one hand, believers are elect, that is, they have been predetermined by the plan of God and the will of God for eternal life: only these does the Father "draw". On the other hand, no one is exempt from actually exercising their free will in faith for salvation in order to be saved, and while only those who do so are saved, Jesus died for all mankind, saved and unsaved, in order that the offer of salvation might indeed be genuine, in order that all might have the opportunity for eternal life through faith in Him (even though God, being God, could not have failed to know ahead of time who would take advantage of the offer and who would not): all are "drawn" by Jesus, but not all respond.
In any correct understanding of the scriptures, "election" and "free will" are not mutually exclusive: indeed, they are in terms of true theology impossible without each other. For without free will, there is no point to human history and God's elective process whatsoever, given who and what we are (sinners in need of salvation who must choose for it); and without election, there would be no plan of God or superintendent will of God whereby mankind may choose for God, given who and what God is (possessed of perfect knowledge before the fact and desirous that all be saved).
Clearly, this is a very involved topic (in Bible Basics 4B: Soteriology), and one upon which I have previously spilled much ink. I invite you to have a look at the following links (and, as always, I remain happy to answer questions):
Unlimited Atonement (in BB 4A: Christology)
Does God's choice of us eliminate our free will?
Against Universalism I: Free Will and the Image of God.
Against Universalism II: Only Believers are Saved.
Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
Thank you so much for your service to the Lord. I wish to be placed on your email updates list; I used to be on it but have not received anything in quite a while. Also, I have a question for you - I am starting part 4 of the study ' the satanic rebellion' and wanted to ask if you would consider yourself a Calvinist or a 'reformed' Christian? I have been studying this a great deal (Spurgeon, Calvin, Edwards, Sproul, Pink, and others) and noticed some mention of election, chosen, etc., in there. God bless you and your work! All praise to God!
Yours in Christ
Good to hear from you. I have placed you "back" on the list - not sure if you were ever really "off". I had an equipment and software upgrade earlier this year and had to reconstruct a number of things from scratch. It's also been some time since I sent out any notices (posting of Coming Tribulation part 6: Last Things: the Millennium and New Jerusalem being the last one).
On the Calvinist/reformed question, to be honest I strive to avoid labels. I decided a long time ago to follow the Word of God wherever it led, and I have never regretted the decision. This policy has, however, caused disaffection between myself and most if not all established denominations. While it ought to be the case that all dedicated Christians who are truly seeking God and His truth through His Word should be working together to help each other as fellow members of the Body to understand better each day what it is that God has given us in His treasure of treasures, the holy scriptures, sadly most groups are very closed to any interpretation that does not agree with a codification of principles done long ago. Indeed, it is approaching Roman Catholic "canon law" in many instances. The reason why is in my view even more disturbing. Rather than attempting to circle in on the whole truth and trying to draw closer with every pass, most groups have chosen instead to "circle the wagons" around a few codified doctrinal statements because it is easier than actually studying the Bible. So while many of these codifications are not terrible, as far as they go, they have the effect of producing (or maybe more accurately defending) a "well, that's done" mentality. This is how we get fifteen minute inspirational talks on Sunday morning with more amusing stories and illustrations than references to scripture (and certainly no detailed exegesis, interpretation, or discussion of doctrine).
Believe it or not, this does get to your question, at least in terms of giving an answer from my point of view. In my observation and experience, I see very few people out there who are "Calvinists" in the sense that they have searched the scriptures and come up with these principles. On the contrary, it is generally instead a matter of defending this specific system for tradition's sake. I have no problem with tradition - where it is correct. To make a pass at the details, I don't find either hyper-Calvinism or hyper-Arminianism written in scripture, nor do I find that the Bible teaches either - nor, as a matter of fact, do I find either of these two systems as they are generally now taught and fought for as actually being taught in the way they were by Calvin or Arminius. As is often the case in the Bible, two things that by worldly logic may seem inconsistent and "either-or" can be and often are in the omnipotence and omniscience of God not so in fact. To put not too fine a point on it, I think it is very clear that scripture teaches both that God has elected believers before time began to be part of the Body of Christ, and that we are only so elected because of a completely free will decision we make in this life to believe in Jesus Christ, held firmly and faithfully to the end of life. Many theologians find this approach simplistic and would rather immerse themselves in thousands and thousands of pages of the most obscure extra-biblical argumentation. But why not stick with the Bible? After all, John 3:16 is pretty clear, and so is Romans 8:28-39. Why not rather learn how it is that they do not in fact contradict one another? But modern theology (where it still has anything to do with God) has become very political, and where the motivation is political, by definition the search for truth must yield to rhetoric. I'm not interested in politics. I want to know what the scriptures say. For more, you can also see the following links:
The meaning of the word "chosen" in the Bible
Predestination and the Plan of God
Election (in Pet.#9)
Thanks so much for your good words and encouragement. I really appreciate it. Please feel free to write me back about any of this.
In our dear Lord Jesus who gave up His life that we might live eternally.
As I wrote my comments/questions to you originally, I struggled with what I was saying - because I feel the same way as you have responded to me; but i could not think of a better way to get my question right to the point. May i please forward this email to some Christian brothers who are also being awakened to this teaching and others by the Holy Spirit? There are several of us at work who are studying this just as you have stated it, using the Bible as our text and final authority -- it simply IS NOT taught in 99% of 'Christian' churches today. Pray for us - there is real spiritual warfare going on in our local churches over the Biblical teaching of election...... and of course, the down right ugliness that comes from following God's Truth, no matter what.
Yours in Christ!!!
and Glory to God !
You are most welcome, and I will certainly say a prayer for you and fellow students of the Word. You are most definitely free to forward this along. I also stand ready to respond to any other questions or on the same issue with more specifics. I want to encourage you to persevere in your pursuit of the truth. Nothing is more important than God's truth, for it is only by means of the truth of the Word of God that we come to know Him better, grow closer to our Lord Jesus, and put into practice what He wants us to do, in our personal lives and personal ministries.
The Ultimate Cause And Effect. It occurred to me that the tree of knowledge of good and evil might have been a lure to--by his doing--snag the devil. I concur that sin originated with the fallen cherub, and that his sin-virus would enter Adam's world by means of the Old Serpent's machinations. The devil had interfered in the newly re-created world, and set himself up for God to rightly deal with him. The fact that Adam was made lower than angels placed him at a huge disadvantage in dodging the Old Serpent's snaring skills. This leads me to conclude that Adam was foreordained to indulge the Old Serpent, and thereby become the catalyst for the Last Adam? It also occurred to me that the tree of Life was the tangible token that man would be expiated for his crucial part in God's plan for dealing with the devil. From the get go, Adam was never in control; his efforts would have been fruitless. God's primary concern was the devil's cause that produced the Divine effect. After the final judgment, creation can now revert to where it left off before its disruption by Lucifer's ambitious venture.
Your insight will be appreciated,
Good to make your acquaintance. I have never heard this one before. I know that some of the Greek fathers described Christ Himself as "bait" for the devil, and thus engineering the crucifixion as sort of an ultimate "trap" for Satan (views to which I do not at all adhere).
Personally, I am always reluctant to do or say anything which in any way takes away from what I see to be the ultimate issue which scripture puts before us as individuals made in the image of God: choice. This is what makes us "like God" -- we have choices. The first and most fundamental one of course is choosing to follow Jesus. But our lives boil down in their essence to thousands of daily choices, the sum of which defines what we did in this world, and what our reward will be; or, alternatively acts as chief prosecutor against us for failing to give God any response whatsoever.
I see this to be so in Adam's case as well. I suppose one could argue that the hypothetical is immaterial, because, God being God, He knew that Adam would give up heaven in the garden for hell with Eve and would not require more than a moment to think about it either. However, my speculation is that the alternative was just as workable as what happened. Given enough generations of those born righteous who chose not to commit original sin, the full and prophesied complement of humanity destined to replace the angels who fell would have been completed anyway, and much sooner than has been the case. Glory be to God that He was able to deliver us in spite of our failings! And thanks be to Christ who bore the penalty for all our sins!
One point I would like to make here is that, while it boggles our lowly human minds, God's omniscience of all things possible without being restricted by time and space, and His foreknowing and foreordaining of what actually did take place in human history do not "cause" these things to happen -- at least not in the sense of removing true free will from the equation. For the entire schema of creature history is built around creature free will and how it responds to God's will, most notably and fundamentally in the willingness of the Son of God Himself to die that we might have eternal life by choosing for Him.
I hope this helps with your question. Please do feel free to write back about any of this.
In our dear Lord Jesus Christ,
Thank you very much for your quick response. I know that answering questions that seem to be off-the-cuff can be somewhat frustrating. I really appreciate your taking the time to answer mine. I agree with all that you said about free will and choice, where humanity stands in the aftermath. The question that I wanted to emphasize was: How would God deal with Lucifer's rebellion before restoring His original creation? The tree of knowledge of good and evil has always puzzled me. On the one hand, why did God need to place this tree in the Garden of Eden? On the other hand, why did He also include the tree of LIFE? If the tree of knowledge was for allowing Adam the freedom of choice, why would it be necessary to continually remind him? Hypothetically, if Adam and Eve had ignored the tree, and the Old Serpent had given up on his attempts to beguile either of them, where would things be in terms of punishing the devil's for his rebellion against God? For Adam, the tree of knowledge of good and evil would always be in his face, testing his obedience indefinitely. This implies that the finite Adam, somewhere down the road, would have eventually made the wrong choice. BUT, he also could have already eaten from the tree of Life; this would really have complicated things! God would somehow have to make sure that this would not happen. The fact that the devil's punishment for his sin--his rebellion against God was pending, why would God start on a "new project" --Genesis-- before dealing with the devil? On the surface it would appear that the Satan-factor would invariably have a roll to play in the "new project"; the two would somehow be linked. The way that God would go about punishing Satan for perverting His original creation got my attention. God could not let His creation remain the way it was; it had to be rectified! The cursed remains of the heavens, which are NOW, and the refurbished Earth, have not yet been cleansed by fire. How does God now collectively deal with both the instigator of sin and Adam in this juncture of the incipient, interim generation?
The following verses led me to suspect that Adam had something to do with Satan's fate:
"1Jhn 3:5 KJV And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin.
1Jhn 3:8 KJV He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil."
Evidently the purpose for the manifestation of the Son of God was twofold: To take away our sins, and to destroy the works of the devil--to fix creation! If Lucifer had never fallen from heaven, would Adam have been created? Satan's sin and Adam's sin were interrelated and therefore linked, God could remedy them as one, without going against His nature.
Your comments are welcome, thank you for your time.
As to your specific question, "How would God deal with Lucifer's rebellion before restoring His original creation?", let me say one quick thing by way of preface: the Satanic Rebellion series was written with a view towards answering the first part of that question, and the creation of Man is a large part of the answer (see the links). In regard to the second part, the title of that series' part 5 "Judgment, Restoration and Replacement", evinces what has been a major theme of the series throughout, namely, to demonstrate just how it is that Man replaces Satan and his angels, with Jesus Christ of course being the central part of that equation. Satan is already judged. What has happened since the re-construction of the world has been for purpose of demonstrating the complete righteousness of God, and for restoration of the world in the New Heavens and New Earth with not only no loss, but with a double portion of blessing replacing what was lost as saved human beings replace the devil and his angels two for one, and with Jesus Christ, the God-Man, ruling forever with the Father, as the One who unites the creation to Himself by becoming one with it and with us.
On the tree of life vs. the tree of knowing good and evil (see the link: "The Temptation"), I have explained this in a slightly different way. It is true that anytime we are told to do something or not to do something I suppose that could be looked upon as a "test" since being giving a directive implies that we have enough control over our own volition to violate that directive. However, as parents with our children, we often give directives that are in no way "devised as tests" but are instead in every way formulated for the good of our children. If we tell our children "don't do drugs", we do not do so in order to test them, and we certainly don't do so in order to tempt them. We do so to guide and direct them, in the hopes that they will have enough respect for us, for our authority and wisdom and love that has their best interests in mind, not to do things we expressly charge them not to do. And the fact that we tell them "don't do drugs", most certainly does not foreordain them to do drugs -- some kids do listen to this advice, after all, even if many do not. In the case of this tree, I see the argument that says "God didn't really have to put it there", but I'm not so sure. First, for us really to have free will, then there had to be some sort of way for us to use it not in response to God. Today, human beings certainly manage to reject God in all sorts of ways without the TKGE, and Satan managed to rebel easily enough without any such specific prohibition. I am not at all sure that we can say that the many generations that might have followed Adam and Eve in the garden would for all their initial purity have been content to serve God and not rebel, or that they could or would not have found a way to do so, even had there been no TKGE and even had there been no temptation from the devil -- free will of itself and of necessity implies this kind of choice.
However, it seems to me that there is evidence that "testing" was not the primary purpose. For the TKGE in my reading of scripture was designed to provide those who ate of it with a heightened perceptive ability in regard to conscience, something unnecessary in the garden, but vitally necessary in the cursed world that followed (in the Hebrew, it is really the tree from which one receives the ability of "knowing good and evil" after eating; see the link: "The Conscience"). In other words, the TKGE was a sort of a moral "parachute" that was only needed once a person jumped out of the plane of Eden. Grabbing the parachute did result in ejection from the plane; that may seem "unfair" or a "tricky test" to some, but remember that God was incredibly emphatic about the fact that this was not only to be avoided, but that failing to abstain would result in death: "dying thou shalt die", and it is difficult to imagine how much more clear God could have been about it. Rather than create a situation where there were rebels who did not really understand the "new math" after falling, by making the TKGE the clear "choice point", God guaranteed that those who made the wrong choice and their descendants would at least have the means whereby to correctly evaluate the critical moral issue thereafter: what is sin and how can it be atoned for: only by God and by accepting the sacrifice He provides for it (our Lord Jesus Christ and His blood).
Furthermore, and please remember that we are dealing with hypotheticals here, had Adam and Eve both refrained from violating God's express command, it was still possible that one of their many progeny would not -- whoever ate of that tree, whenever they ate of it, was going to need that "parachute" for the world outside of Eden to be morally survivable in any sense, for there to be any understanding of what was truly good and what was truly evil, and for there to be any possibility of coming back to God in the heart when He made such a "so great salvation" available. Finally, it is at least possible that the human race might have hit the number of fallen angels without anyone of us falling. Given the rapid rate of procreation outside of the garden before the flood, inside the garden this would doubtless have taken very little time at all (certainly nothing close to the intervening six millennia). Had that happened, then man's obedience before the fact would have proved God's point just as clearly as it doing after the fact of the fall, and Satan and his angels -- already judged and merely on temporary furlough during this (to our sense of time) somewhat lengthy appeals process -- would have been thrown into the lake of fire, exactly as they will be at the end of time.
If things has happened in that way, would we still consider the TKGE a test? Rather might we not then style it a demonstration of man's choice to stay with God rather than go with Satan? In terms of choice in Eden, turning away from the tree of life was, both geographically and metaphorically, necessary to do first before facing and partaking of the TKGE (since they grew next to each other in the garden). As things actually stand today, there is now no TKGE per se, since, being now stuck in "the world", we all have through our birth in Adam a natural understanding of the evil that surrounds us; now the issue is not "don't turn way" from the tree of life, but "turn away" from the world, and "turn back" to God instead. And the new tree of decision, the new tree of life, is the cross. Our response in coming back to the new tree of life is a demonstration of man's desire to live with God rather than to perish with Satan now that God has made that possibility of reconciliation possible through the death of Jesus "dying thou shalt die" in our place. Not all of mankind avails themselves of this gracious offer, or course, but only those for whom Jesus means more than this life. And just as the cross means not only our coming physical deliverance but spiritual joys in the Lord that no unbeliever can ever understand, so in Eden, the tree of life, apparently not only served to provide strictly physical sustenance but also spiritual sustenance, delighting our first parents when they partook of it -- hence it's presence in the New Jerusalem where from a purely physical-survival standpoint none of us will have any need of it, but all of us will have access to it for our enjoyment of eternity rather than for the sustenance of physical life.
As to your second question, and I paraphrase, "what if Satan had never fallen?". I don't know that scripture gives me any leeway to say anything at all dispositive about that. What I will say is that God was certainly free to create a second "species" of free-willed creatures -- or not; and that He could have done so regardless of any failure or lack thereof on the part of either set. What we do know is that it is apparently inherent in the natures of creatures with genuine free will, of angels (who possess boundless knowledge) as a class, and of human beings (who possess extremely limited knowledge) as a group, that some of the former will opt for rebellion in spite of cognizance, while a much larger percentage of the latter will opt for rebellion by embracing their ignorance. In either case and in all cases, hypothetical and actual, God has allowed those He has created to "self-select" for eternal life or eternal condemnation. In either case and in all cases, God has chosen those who freely choose for Him, and has made the sacrifice of all sacrifices, beyond the ken of complete understanding, by giving up His One and only Son so that we might do so.
Feel free to write back about any of this.
In our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
I've always wondered about the "elect" and who are they really. You state that during the Great Apostasy of the Tribulation 1/3 of the truly elect, true Christians, will be deceived according to these passages and that makes sense to me.
The apostates in question here are, on the contrary, genuine believers in our Lord who will exchange their precious faith for worthless and temporary worldly concerns under the pressures of that terrible time to come (cf. Dan.11:30-35).
And [the dragon's] (i.e., the devil's) tail swept
away a third of the stars of heaven (i.e., both fallen
angels and fallen believers) and threw them to the earth
(i.e., their rebellion or apostasy and consequent association with them in their fall).
And [the little horn] (i.e., antichrist as a type and
representative of the devil) magnified himself against
the host of heaven (i.e., the family of God, men and
angels both), and he cast down to the earth some of the
host (i.e., antichrist seducing believers into apostasy)
and some of the stars (i.e., Satan having seduced angels
into rebellion) and he trampled them underfoot (i.e.,
their rebellion or apostasy in association with him
leading to their subsequent destruction; cf. Dan.7:7;
I've even put it to someone on the forum, but they have pointed out the scripture in Matthew 24:24 and the more I ponder it, the more it states that it isn't possible for the truly elect to be deceived, and then as I go on reading, even you state that the truly elect won't fall for these false signs and miracles. So, I am quite confused and my witness is hitting the ground, for I have used these same verses as proof that the elect can be deceived. I fear I have stomped on someone and need to come clean if I am wrong.
So, who are the elect? To, me and some others, they are people chosen by God, Himself, before even the creations of the world. If they are truly elect I would think they will indeed continue on in faith and could never be swayed, for it has already been destined by God who they are. But, if the above scripture is true...then who are these "true" Christians who constitute the one third to be trampled on and who will apostatize?
It states in Matthew 24:24, "if [that were] possible". Doesn't that mean it isn't possible?
For [during the Tribulation] false Christs and false prophets
will arise and will perform great miracles (lit., "signs") and
wonders [sufficient] to deceive even the elect, if [that were]
This translation comes from your "Apostasy" section in part 3A. For me you are saying the elect cannot be deceived here:
4) The persuasiveness of coopted organizations: This point also deserves separate coverage under the rubric of the contribution to the process of apostasy made by the false teaching of the Tribulation. We have already seen in regard to the persuasiveness of the satanically inspired "miracles" which will characterize the Tribulation that they will be amazingly powerful to the point of putting serious pressure even on the faith of the elect (Matt.24:24; Mk.13:22). In spite of these pressures, dedicated believers in Jesus Christ will continue to follow what the Bible says rather than what their eyes see, no matter how miraculous these things may seem. They will apply all the appropriate scriptures instead of leaning on experience:
4. The Refining of the Remnant: One of the reasons for the astonishing abandonment of the Lord during the Great Apostasy will be the unprecedented degree of deception unleashed by the devil and his two earthly minions, the antichrist and his false prophet (Dan.11:32-35; Matt.24:11; 24:24; Mk.13:22; 2Thes.2:9-12; 1Tim.4:1-5; 2Tim.3:8-9 with Ex.7:11 & 7:22; Rev.13:13-14; 19:20). This assault will pour forth a veritable ocean of falsehood which will overwhelm all but the truly elect (Matt.24:24; Mk.13:22). If there is a silver lining in this terrible cloud of apostasy, it is to be found in the refining of the faith produced by the pressures of the Tribulation of all those who are truly God's people. It is true that the refining of the hearts of His people, the strengthening of faith and the testing of our commitment to Jesus Christ are givens in every era:
In this last snippet you state those "who are not dedicated to Jesus". Would they then, not be considered truly "elect" in the first place? So, am I to surmise that the "elect" spoken of in the Daniel and Revelation verses, according to your interpretation, are really not "elect" or truly God's chosen? So, seriously confused. More or less, I guess the man is saying that any who fall away during the Tribulation were never really true or "elect" Christians to start with...they were never on God's "chosen list". He knew they would fall and so they would fall into the category of those whose seed wasn't dug deep into the dirt. So, I need your help.
If past biblical parallels of such periods of refinement can provide any guide whatsoever, we may expect the remnant refined in this way to be small indeed (at least relative to the billions worldwide who currently identify themselves as Christians). Only three escaped from Sodom (Gen.18:16 - 19:29), only eight escaped the great flood (Gen.7:7; 1Pet.3:20), only 600 dared to throw in their lot with David during his trials in the Judean desert (1Sam.22:1-2; 23:13; 27:2; 30:9; 1Chron.12:1-22), only 7,000 refused to "bow the knee to Baal" during Jezebel's apostasy (1Ki.19:18; Rom.11:1-6). Throughout human history, the number of the elect have always been but a tiny fraction of the total human population, and even within the apparent community of believers there have inevitably been many who were lukewarm and many who were not believers at all. Just as "not all Israel is Israel" (Rom.9:6-33; cf. Ezek.5:2-4; 5:12; 20:35-38; Zech.13:8-9), so it should not be surprising that not all who claim to be part of Christ's Church truly are. However, the significant difference between the present time and the Tribulation is that, in the midst of that crucible to come, all those who are not dedicated to Jesus above everything else in their lives will be winnowed out, and poured out like dross into apostasy.
Good to hear from you. I believe that this is easy to clarify, but not necessarily easy for everyone to accept. To the greatly influential Calvinist position -- and the word "elect" is critical in their theology -- the effect of being "elect" means once saved then saved once and for all; if a person really does believe in Jesus, but then stops believing, to their way of thinking they must never have really believed in the first place. However, as we see very clearly from the parable of the Sower, for example, there is one category of person who genuinely does "embrace the Word" with joy, yet later falls away (the seed sown on the rocky ground). My apologies in advance if my terminology has not always been technically precise, but here is what I believe scripture teaches:
1) A person who believes in Jesus is a believer.
2) That person remains a believer as long as he/she continues to have faith in Jesus.
3) When a person ceases to have faith in Jesus -- and it is possible to have it and then lose it -- that person is no longer a believer.
In the case of #3 above, we can say for certain that in their reverted state of unbelief they are not "elect". It is an interesting question whether or not those who "believe for a time" as Jesus describes the second category of seed, "but then in times of trouble fall away" were ever "elect". Personally, I don't see how they could fail to be as believers; once they fall away, however, they are most certainly no longer "elect". There is nothing inherent in the Greek word eklectos to make us understand a state which may never be altered. The verse you ask about, Matthew 24:24 does not say that the elect cannot be deceived; in my reading of it (clear enough I think from English as well as from Greek), "so as to deceive the elect if possible" (there is no "were" here), means that in some cases it will be possible to deceive the elect. That certainly makes sense in the context since Jesus is attempting to inoculate us against being deceived, something not necessary if being deceived were truly impossible. The implication certainly is that truly dedicated believers who are following Him closely and listening to His words should be safe (although even for them it will be difficult), but the flip-side of that implication surely also is that a lack of dedication and close following of Jesus could be very dangerous: to wit, the loss of faith through deception and following of antichrist et al., accompanied by the loss of election.
Bottom line: I don't find any passages that teach that "elect" is a status equivalent to the false doctrine of "eternal security" (a.k.a., "once saved, always saved"), and since we have abundant evidence that such is not the case, it is certainly reasonable to argue that "elect" is another one of those words that describes our blessed status in Christ, even though that status is subject to our continued loyalty to Christ throughout our lives. My comments about "dedicated believers" are not designed to set up an opposition between "elect" and "non-elect" -- far from it. By this I mean that there will be many genuine (and so "elect") believers in those times whose faith will be weak because of their lackadaisical attitude and who will be in danger as a result. They will be, technically speaking, "elect", but certainly not "dedicated"; election is a gift from God at salvation. Dedication is something we have to provide through daily effort of applying faith from our own free will as we follow the Lamb wherever He leads. Only in this way will be safe in this life and bring glory to our Lord for all eternity.
In the One in whom we have been chosen before the world began, recognized for our faith response to His glorious grace, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Thank-you for your timely reply regarding my situation. As always, you have given me a course of action to follow. The wisdom of a Godly man is worth more than gold. May I again ask a question that is on my mind? I have been watching a man on the Christian tv channel and he is giving a series on "salvation". Yesterday he was speaking about the effectual calling of God. More specifically on God drawing men to Himself. This sparked my interest and I listened intently. My question concerning the effectual calling of God is this, is there a time limit that God will call men? When does the calling start? Can it start in childhood and come to fruition in adulthood? Once gain, thank you for your reply ahead of time. In Him,
Thank you for your encouraging words. I do hope that things work out for you and yours. As to your new question, I can't speak for this pastor, and his vocabulary on some of these points is not precisely the way I would put things (and this may reflect some disparate understanding of some of these issues). However, if the question is about God's working with each of us to bring us to Himself through Jesus Christ and to bring us closer once we believe, I would have to say that this ministry of His, conducted through the Spirit, is a constant one for all who dwell "in the flesh". It can indeed start at a very early age and never ends until salvation or death -- where there is life, there is hope (sometimes "fruition", as you put it, does come very late). Further, the Spirit's ministry is only hampered or curtailed by the individual in question when he/she hardens his/her heart against the truth and thus "grieves the Spirit".
God wants everyone to be saved and to come to a complete understanding and acceptance of the truth in Jesus Christ (1Tim.2:4; cf. Ezek.18:23; Matt.18:14; Jn.12:47; 2Tim.2:24-26; 2Pet.3:9). After all, Jesus died for everyone so that everyone might have eternal life (Jn.3:16). Human beings "self-select" to go to hell. I am quite certain that at the last judgment God will demonstrated to every unbeliever how that He did everything He could (short of violating the person's free will) to convince each individual to abandon self and come to Christ (see the link: "The Last Judgment"). After all, we all see that we are mortal and we all know that we are sinful (the informing of the conscience as a result of Adam and Eve's eating of the forbidden fruit; see the link: "Conscience"). Not only that, but we all know that there is a God and that He is good and all-powerful, because God has made that fact plain to all who have ever drawn breath (see the link: "Natural Revelation"):
God's wrath is about to be revealed from heaven upon all
ungodliness and unrighteousness -- on men who suppress the truth
[about God] in their unrighteousness. For that which can be
known about God [from everyday experience] is obvious to them,
because God has made it obvious. His nature, though invisible,
is nevertheless plainly apparent, and has been since His
foundation of the world, for it may be clearly inferred from
this creation of His –
[this is true of] both His eternal power
and His divinity -- so that they are without any excuse: they
knew about God, but they neither honored Him as God nor thanked
Him. Instead, they gave themselves over to [the] vanity [of this
world] in their speculations, and their senseless hearts were
filled with darkness. Claiming to be wise, they became foolish,
for they exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for images
and likenesses of corruptible men, of birds and beasts and
reptiles (i.e., idolatry).
God has also "placed eternity in the hearts" of us all (Eccl.3:11), yet another part of our God-given make-up which prods us, moving us to "grope" towards God, if only we would be willing to do so (Acts 17:27). And not only is our inner-person constructed to realize that something is missing (God), and not only is our conscience keyed to recognize we are morally lacking (sin), and not only is our intellect capable of projecting the certain future that beckons apart from a Savior (physical death and final judgment), and not only is the entire world which God has set up screaming at us that He does exist and that He is merciful as well as powerful (there is a solution), but also the Spirit is constantly ministering to every positive impulse we put out, coaxing us toward the good, toward the solution of salvation in Jesus Christ. The fact that most people reject all of this God-given truth and harden their hearts against it does not make it any the less true and does not make God responsible for their self-willed decisions to disrespect His glorious gift of eternal life through the sacrifice of His one and only beloved Son (i.e., by ignoring Him, or altering Him in their thinking, or even putting Him to death in their thoughts -- atheism).
God is everywhere, and salvation is the first reason why every human being has ever been put here (then spiritual growth and production is the next set of missions for those who do come to Christ). God has never been asleep on the job and has never missed an opportunity to bring any unbeliever to Himself (Ps.121:3-4). The fact that the vast majority of the human race have never wanted to have anything to do with the Father or the Son and have as a result grieved the Spirit is as astounding as it is lamentable. But that is the result of our God-given ability to exercise our faith freely. Where there is genuine free will, most human beings (as also a third of angelic creation did) choose to remain "gods unto themselves", even at the steepest of all prices: the forfeiture of eternal life in Jesus Christ.
I hope this is helpful. Please do feel free to write me back about any of this.
In the One who became one of us and died for all our sins that we might have life eternal with Him for evermore, dear Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.
Thank-you for your explanation. It expanded on the teaching I have been listening to. On your site I went to the topics of "election" and "salvation". The pastor on the Christian tv program has been speaking about how unregenerate man cannot respond to the effectual call of God d/t being dead in tresspasses and sins. Therefore, God has to draw them to Christ. He was speaking on the easy beliefism in the liberal churches today. People thinking they have been saved but in reality. they have not. That is what caught my attention. I have seen the type of "conversion" he was speaking about in the charismatic church. The offer of salvation being made and responded to w/o the people knowing that they are sinners in need of a savior. Most churches do not want to use the "s" word for fear of offending the majority of the congregation. This matter of salvation is very serious. Our eternal soul depends on the correct response to the effectual calling of God. Then again, I have heard a preacher state that you only have to believe that Jesus is the Christ and died for your sins and you are saved. Is the effectual calling of God in that? One of my family members considers Christians as "them against us". He kind of reminds me of Paul before his conversion. He will not allow any conversation containing God or Jesus. I guess you now know the background the Lord called me from :-). Thank-you once again. In Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.
I am of two minds about all this. On the one hand, I certainly agree that the job of an evangelist or of any Christian (lay or pastor) when giving the gospel (privately or publicly) is to make the issue as crystal clear as possible; he/she should include as much scripture and information as possible, but at the same time keep things to their most clear and essential pith (if that sounds contradictory, I suppose it is except in a perfectly thought-out delivery). On the other hand, we have to remember that we are dealing with God here. The Holy Spirit is the true evangelist. Everything we say that is true is usable; nothing we say that is incorrect is usable. But God knows all and can do all.
If the ax is dull and its edge unsharpened, more strength is
needed but skill will bring success.
Ecclesiastes 10:10 NIV
God can get use out of the dullest ax. When a person who wants to hear the gospel and be saved (even if they are not even capable of expressing things in these terms) does hear the truth, no matter how problematic the delivery, it is the Spirit who culls the truth out from the chaff and then makes that truth real. Then, if faith follows, He is the One who effects the spiritual rebirth.
(5) Jesus answered [Nicodemus], "Truly, truly I say to you.
Unless a person is born from water (i.e., of the Word = the
gospel) and from [the Holy] Spirit, he is not able to enter the
kingdom of God. (6) That which is born from the flesh is flesh,
and that which is born from the Spirit is spirit. (7) Do not be
amazed that I said to you all, 'You must be born again'".
When Peter was giving the gospel to Cornelius and his company, the Spirit paid witness to the fact that the most elemental statement of the gospel will suffice if the heart is willing (and the corollary is that even the most detailed and careful account will be insufficient if the person in question is not interested):
(34) Then Peter began to speak: "I now realize how true it is
that God does not show favoritism (35) but accepts men from
every nation who fear him and do what is right. (36) You know
the message God sent to the people of Israel, telling the good
news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. (37) You
know what has happened throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee
after the baptism that John preachedó (38) how God anointed
Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he
went around doing good and healing all who were under the power
of the devil, because God was with him. (39) We are witnesses of
everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem.
They killed him by hanging him on a tree, (40) but God raised
him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen.
(41) He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom
God had already chosenóby us who ate and drank with him after he
rose from the dead. (42) He commanded us to preach to the people
and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of
the living and the dead. (43) All the prophets testify about him
that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins
through his name." (44) While Peter was still speaking these
words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. (45)
The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were
astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out
even on the Gentiles.
Acts 10:34-45 NIV
The gift of the Spirit above proves beyond argument that those who heard also believed, and were saved as soon as they believed. We read nothing about their prior preparation for these words of life. They merely realized, as all human beings do at some point (unless and until they harden themselves), that they needed help: without the intervention of God, sin leads to death and judgment. They like most of us probably would not have been able to express these truths verbally, but that didn't make the least bit of difference. They wanted to be saved (even if they wouldn't have used that word), and when they heard that salvation was available through faith in Christ they put their faith in Him immediately (even though Peter never uses the word "salvation"). Nothing is impossible for God. He has never let a single person who truly desired an eternal relationship with Him go without the essential knowledge of the gospel required for salvation. So while I might agree with aspects of this teaching you ask about (and, again, not necessarily being convinced to put things in these specific, traditional theological terms), in practical terms it is not the persuasiveness of the evangelist nor the formula the person uses. No "fine print" can keep us out of heaven. If we truly do want God through Jesus Christ, we will have Him and immediately so, just as soon as we hear the truth, having been brought by God to the point of wanting the truth, then being birthed anew by the Spirit the instant we embrace that truth.
Don't be discouraged by the hardness you are encountering. Human hardness of heart can be appallingly daunting, but God knows how to break through and crack even the toughest nut. And He honors our prayers and our efforts, especially when we persevere in what seems to the world to be hopeless situations.
In my prayers.
Good to talk to you again! I've found a another teacher online, and so far I like him. But, as I respect you very much, I would like your thoughts on an interpretation of his. It differs from you, as to "likeness" and "image" and it interested me. Here is what he states, or you may visit his site: http://www.voiceofonecrying.com/The_Shape_of_God.htm
Thinking about God, really thinking, sort of frightens me. I guess, as it should. I liken Him and how we will be too, and forgive me using such a "sci-fi" thought as the example, but almost like a point of light...a higher consciousness, so brilliant and genius; capable of shape-shifting and outside our plain of time or existence. He is just hugely magnificent and so intensely bright, that we humans would indeed die, if we looked upon Him.
When any man in earth's history have seen Him, I've always just assumed it was because He came in bodily form and at other times in other disguised ways, as like I said, we couldn't actually look upon Him, as we are. I guess I would like to think of Him in a more "human" shape or form, like this author is interpreting, but either way...I'm good. I'll take Him just as He is...but it is a curious thing. What do you think?
Thank you for your thoughts,
The "Shape" of God
In John 5 we find the account of Jesus healing the invalid man (verses 1-9) and the religious Jews becoming indignant at the fact that He had the poor judgment of doing it on the Sabbath (verses10-15). As we follow the story, this same crowd began to persecute Jesus and sought to kill Him (verse 16). Jesus then turned up the heat, so to speak, by telling them that His Father had always been doing such things (for example, go back and read verse 4again) and it was time for Him to do them too (verse 17). This incensed the Jews even more, because in Jesus' statement He was making Himself equal with the Father (verse 18). This, then, leads into one of those great passages where Jesus the Son talks about His relationship with the Father (verses 19-47).
And in the midst of this, Jesus says in verse 37: "And the Father Who sent Me has Himself given this evidence concerning Me. And not one of you has ever heard His voice or seen His shape." Of course the evidence Jesus was talking about was His ability to perform the miraculous and heal the invalid. But it is the last part of the verse that I want to talk about. Jesus tells the crowd that none of them had ever seen the Father's shape, or depending on the translation, His form. The word is eidos, from the verb eido, meaning, to perceive with the outward senses, particularly with physical sight. Therefore, eidos found here refers to the Father's outward, physical appearance.
The implication is clear enough. Jesus' argument was that He was presenting first-hand evidence of His close relationship to the Father; what He was telling them was not second-hand information, it wasn't hearsay. Not one of them had ever heard the voice of the Father, but He had. None of them knew what the Father looked like, but He did. And for those of us reading this account, it tells us something, if not terribly important, then at least, interesting. God is not an immaterial essence, a purely spiritual presence, as many suppose.
Jesus is telling us that the Father has an outward, physical shape or form that can be seen. If you've read the articles on this website, you might remember there's one titled "Grace, Faith and the Invisible God". And I want you to know right now, there's no contradiction in what I'm about to lay out for you here. If you go back and read the article, you'll see that I emphasize that "invisible" means "unseen". The fact is that for most of us the Father chooses to remain beyond our ability to see, though, as I will point out from Scripture, there are plenty of exceptions and descriptions that tell us He can be seen and does not always choose to remain "unseen".
To further advance the idea that the Father, in fact, has physical form, let's look at Genesis 1:26. "And God said, Let Us make man in Our image and in Our likeness." The words translated "image" and "likeness" is tselem anddemuth, respectively. Both are words that describe outward, visible form and are generally considered to mean the same thing, with the exception thatdemuth commonly emphasizes structural similarities. Note, again, what God says in this verse, "Our image and Our likeness"? Just as Jesus says in John 5:37, that the Father has shape; here, the Father says of Himself that He has a visible form with structural characteristics. And, I want to move on, not belaboring the point, but James 3:9b says that men "were made after the similitude of God". Here, the word "similitude" is homoiosis, another word that is used to describe outward appearance. Its general meaning is resemblance. The verse could easily read something like, "men were made to look like God".
Another aspect that should be considered in regards to the similarities that exist between God and man is this: man has a body, a soul and a spirit; God has a body, a soul and a spirit (the exception being that there is no evidence the Holy Spirit has a body). God has a personal soul and the expressions of it are seen in His: anger (I Kings 11:9), regret (Genesis 6:6), jealousy (Exodus 20:5), disapproval (Proverbs 6:16), sorrow (Psalm 103:13), enjoyment of fellowship (I John 1:1-7), delight (Psalm 147:10), mind (Romans 11:34), intelligence (Romans 11:33) and will (Romans 8:27). There are many more examples, but you get the idea. He also has a personal spirit that can be seen in His expressions of: truth (Psalm 91:4), faith, hope and love (I Corinthians 13:13), righteousness (Psalm 45:4), faithfulness (I Corinthians 10:13), wisdom (Isaiah 11:2), and an unchanging character and nature that remains good and right (Hebrews 6:17).
Now, before we go any further, if you're somewhat a student of Scripture, somewhere in the back recesses of your mind, just waiting to jump out and yell, "HOLD ON JUST A DARN MINUTE!!!" you may recall a verse somewhere in the Gospels where Jesus says, no man has seen the Father"(John 6:46). So, to put your mind at ease, let me explain the verb here translated "seen". The word is horao and just like the English word "seen", it can mean, depending on the context, to see with the eyes or to see with the mind (or understand). In context here, it means, to fully understand truth. You can compare Jesus' use of this word in John 8:38, 14:9 and 15:24, where it means the same thing. In all these references Jesus is not talking about seeing a physical form, but about comprehending truth. As usual, the Scriptures do not contradict themselves.
Another seemingly problematic passage is found in Exodus 33, where Moses asks God in verse 18, "Show me Your glory". The word translated "glory" iskavod and means, splendor or brilliance. And to this God replies in verses 19-23, "And God said, I will cause all My beauty to pass before you, and I will proclaim My name, THE LORD, before you; for I will be gracious to whomever I choose, and I will show my loving-kindness to whomever I choose. But, you cannot behold My face, for no man can see Me (in this way) and live. And the Lord said, Look, there is a place here by Me, and you can stand by this rock, and while all My brilliance passes by, I will put you in a cleft of the rock and cover you with My hand until I have passed by. Then I will take away My hand and you can see (the brilliance that comes off of) My back, but you shall not see My face." (continues on his page)
What do you think?
Good to hear from you. Jesus answers this question directly:
For God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.
Being "spirit", God is by definition not a physical being. Furthermore, Jesus only "partook of flesh and blood" when He was born a human being -- before that He could not have had a body since we know that His body dates only back to the virgin conception and birth. The Holy Spirit is clearly "spirit" without body. Also, God existed before the physical universe existed. Genesis 1:1 states that the first thing God did (from our physical perspective) was to create the universe, and John 1:1-3 describes God existing before Christ created it at the Father's behest. Before there was a physical universe, obviously there could be no physical bodies. God is certainly free to take on an appearance with which we may identify and which we may view (when we are capable of doing so, at least). We know that Jesus often appeared in a human/angelic form as "the Angel of the Lord" (see the link: Theophany and Christophany); of course He is certainly not an angel (the word malaach, "angel" in Hebrew, is sometimes used for "manifestation", and that is certainly its use where Christ is concerned). The very fact that Jesus did appear in the past (as in the garden of Eden), before He had a body, is proof positive that the Father's appearances (as in Daniel 7 or Revelation 4) do not necessitate Him being in any way physical.
The attempt to work back from several very general Greek words does not prove anything. If something can be seen, you use the Greek words "see"; if something is visible, you can use the Greek word "form". Neither word comes close to necessitating that we should understand absolute physical corporeality behind the "form" that is "seen".
I stand by everything I have written on this subject (see in particular the links: BB1: Theology, the Study of God and in BB 3A "The Image of God". And I must add that I find this particular point of view extremely dangerous. The image of God we have as human beings is all about our free-will which makes us like God in having the freedom to choose and decide; it has nothing to do with physical shapes. Moreover, once we reduce God to a physical being, then the next step is to see Him as derivative of the universe rather than the other way around. This is essentially the Mormon point of view, and they are happy to take the next step. Since in their view God is just a "super man", we too can become "gods" ourselves, as long as we play by the rules they have set down. All this is very similar to the devil's approach in his initiation of rebellion against God (see the link: "Satan's platform"). First, reduce God in your thinking; second, attempt to reduce God in fact; third, attempt to replace God.
Blessedly, such things are impossible. God is who He is and can never be less. It is only in this brief interlude called human history that we are capable of blasphemously and erroneously assuming otherwise.
In the One before whom every knee shall bow, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
So glad I came to you! I don't agree with either of his interpretations. I just wondered if there was something I had missed or didn't understand. I agree with your interpretation of "image" and "likeness". It makes much more sense to me...it feels true. I thought that maybe I didn't take from your teaching all I should have. Besides God stating that we would "die" if we looked upon Him, makes it pretty clear to me that He is so much more than we could EVER imagine. I also agree that we won't have any need for any of the physical "things" we have on earth, in our new eternal home with our King.
I guess this man's website isn't one I should be reading. I had been reading debates on the forum and was out looking around for reasons why others felt these things were true and why. I was trying to investigate myself, instead of always scoping your site for your teachings (although I still do). I guess I felt it was wrong. I love your site and wish everyone I knew would come read it. I do pass your link to everyone I get the chance to, but I just feel I'm so "spoon-fed". Well, maybe I still need to be. lol.
I just get so riled reading some of the stuff I do, and seeing people interpret things differently than what I believe. Why I think I'm so right, I just don't know. It's like believing in God. I have always remembered believing in Him. There is nothing that could take it away. Nothing anyone could say or anything I could read would change it. It's like it's just part of me, always has been, and always will be. I feel the same about how I believe, and for the longest time felt all Christians believed and felt the same. It wasn't until the internet that I came to realize how different belief systems can be, (except for the bomb my family member laid on me about "soul sleep". I would just nod and later think, "oh, my goodness...what was that all about." I really believe hearing that is what sent me on my search for the Truth.) Of course, the details were missing for me and I realized after reading the Bible for myself how much more I could have. It's as if God has always been with me, and I knew it, but I just didn't know how or why. I also learned about Jesus from an adult point of view, instead of my Bible school teachings of "Jesus loves me this I know." Like He says, I had to put away my childish ways, but I still believe like I always have. God has been my friend for a long time. It's just Him and I. I remember telling you how I thought I needed a church, and even prayed for one, but have never found one. I think what I have is much better. Plus I have you. Thank you.
Like you say, all our questions will be answered and we will "know" everything. What is in store for us from His perspective is going to be much more exciting and wonderful!
In His wonderful name,
Thank you so much for your e-mail and for your kind words. I can relate to everything you say here, especially about always knowing God, always believing in Jesus from a young age -- though I certainly had my ups and downs before I decided to "get with the program". I also think your comments about knowing instinctively what is right and what is wrong about the truths of the Bible is right on the money too, and something that should be stressed more (by me included). That is just what John means when he says:
As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in
you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his
anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is
real, not counterfeitójust as it has taught you, remain in him.
1st John 2:27 NIV
That is, we are taught "by the Spirit", not in the sense of receiving verbal, audible communications, not in the sense of automatically "knowing" without reading the Bible or studying or hearing orthodox teaching, but in the sense of having the perfect place for every peg, round or square or varied in shape, pre-prepared in our hearts by Him. If we are really seeking Jesus and His truth, then we will automatically (through the Spirit's prompting) want to know "what is the peg that goes in that hole?" And through the Spirit's ministry, we will "know it when we see it", and, conversely, we will know by the Spirit when something "doesn't fit". When I was very young, I had a conception of God which is still with me today and which has informed much of my approach and guided much of my research. Simply put, "God is perfect". As simple a statement as this is, it has incredible ramifications when thought through. Whatever you are thinking about, whatever you can imagine, whatever is the epitome of goodness or greatness or power or love or anything else, God not only meets that perfect standard but exceeds it to infinity. Even though most choose to reject the knowledge, every human being recognizes God's existence and essential character along these lines at some point (Ps.19:1-6; Eccl.3:11; Acts 17:27; Rom.1:18-23). My experience is far from unique and I certainly don't intend to suggest it is: understanding God's perfection instinctively is part of our God-given nature, who we are in our inner-most being, to have one BIG hole that can ONLY be filled by God. If we are at all interested, we are called to the gospel. If we are interested in knowing Him thereafter, He always leads us forward, and He always provides us with as much "manna" as we are interested in receiving. I think the fact there are so many clearly wrong points of view out there in the aether can be attributed not just to the evil one attempting to distract us from the truth (although that is certainly a major part of the explanation) but also to the fact that many people, even true Christians, are more interested in their own opinions and in getting a positive response to them than they are in really getting to know Jesus Christ and His truth. Ego has a way of replacing truth. Again, I am far from perfect, but I am more interested in Jesus and His truth than I am in myself -- God helping me! And it has been my thirst for the truth that has led me to seek out the right peg for the right hole . . . and in the process discovering many more of both that I never had a clue existed when the process began.
There is something wonderfully, exquisitely and ineffably beautiful about the perfection and the symmetry of the truth of the Word of God. It is geometric, in a way. It is like the most gorgeous and perfectly cut prismatic diamond you can imagine. Which ever way you turn it, if you care to look at it intently, you will see beauties that defy description, all bathed in the most exquisite, refulgent light. And yet the diamond itself is perfectly proportioned. Truly and evenly illuminated, the light also shoots forth from it in an equally perfect and symmetric way, so that if we ever could view the whole brilliant display at once, it would literally take our breath away. It has been my goal since I began this journey to see and understand all I can and help others do the same, and I have to say that I am pleased beyond expression with the results so far. That may sound arrogant, but please understand that I am fully aware that 1) this is God's truth, not mine -- to the extent that anything from me has intruded into the process, to that extent I have "gotten it wrong", and it is my constant prayer that the Lord lead me to erase these blemishes day by day even as I continue to advance with new things; and 2) I really do have a sense of the Spirit causing these things to fall into place: I know myself, and I know that the materials at Ichthys are far beyond my capabilities. And while I do not want to claim that God has personally stamped his approval on these things, it is without any question the case that He is the One who has caused whatever is good there to be there. Also, along with Paul I would say what we all should say, "not that I have already attained to the goal, but I keep on striving", for there will always be new flashes of kaleidoscopically radiant light to view and appreciate. We will never be done "rotating the diamond" as long as we live in these bodies, and we should never want to be.
Finally, I also can identify with your experience with others, family in particular. You're "you and me, Lord" is exactly my perspective as well. I think in the times in which we find ourselves it genuinely has to be for spiritual growth and spiritual safety, such is the danger abroad, such the dearth of real attention to the truth for the truth's sake. How rare to find others who want to drink deeply of the pure water of the Word for its own sake without the false motivation of ego or earthly fame or reward! But this is the only way to draw closer to Jesus Christ, through loving attention to His truth. The number of people out there who share this perspective is abysmally small, at least to judge by my collective experiences of the last three or four decades, and that is true even among the ostensibly most dedicated Christians (lip-service notwithstanding). Naively, I originally had an "if you build it, they will come" attitude long before it ever occurred to me to enter ministry myself. I remember thinking when first exposed to some excellent Bible teaching, "a person would only need to hear this stuff to be captivated by it", but of course that has proved false. We are here on this earth to make choices, and it is a sad fact, yet one very important to recognize, that the vast majority of people in the history of the world have wanted absolutely nothing to do with God whatsoever, and that even among the very small number of the elect who have desired eternal life, the number of those actually living their lives for Him, actually dedicating themselves to be near Him through His Word, has been infinitesimally smaller. It is with this same sort of good-natured, good-willed, hoping for the best and assuming the best sort of attitude that I have often been very disappointed, and when that happens with family members, it is all the more distressing. I have often had a chance to reflect that it is a true blessing from God that we cannot really see what is in another person's heart. What they choose to show us is often hard enough to handle.
Thanks again. Feel free to write any time. And hold on to your thirst for the water of the Word. In the difficult times to come, the spiritual growth that results from hearing, believing, and applying the truth now will be an asset like no other, invaluable and very difficult to obtain once the Tribulation begins.
In the One who is our life, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Okay. I think I know where I am getting confused. I am presently reading Daniel in it's entirety. Chapter 11 keeps speaking about rulers of the North and South. Verse 16 made it seem it was Antichrist, stating: 16 The invader will do as he pleases; no one will be able to stand against him. He will establish himself in the Beautiful Land and will have the power to destroy it.
But then goes on to state,
18 Then he will turn his attention to the coastlands and will take many of them, but a commander will put an end to his insolence and will turn his insolence back upon him. 19 After this, he will turn back toward the fortresses of his own country but will stumble and fall, to be seen no more.
So then it wasn't the Antichrist? Is this just a ruler of Israel? So, who are these rulers and why is so much detail being given to them in this vision? It seems the vision is giving a much more detailed view of things abroad, before Antichrist's rise. Am I right in this understanding? Are these rulers part of the different aspects of the statue of metals? No names are given. Are they not that important? If not, why are they mentioned at all?
Then we have verse Daniel 11:21 21 "He will be succeeded by a contemptible person who has not been given the honor of royalty. He will invade the kingdom when its people feel secure, and he will seize it through intrigue. 22 Then an overwhelming army will be swept away before him; both it and a prince of the covenant will be destroyed. 23 After coming to an agreement with him, he will act deceitfully, and with only a few people he will rise to power. 24 When the richest provinces feel secure, he will invade them and will achieve what neither his fathers nor his forefathers did. He will distribute plunder, loot and wealth among his followers. He will plot the overthrow of fortressesóbut only for a time.
It states here that, again, sounding like Antichrist, that an "overwhelming army will be swept away before him. Meaning he does the sweeping away?, and if so...who is "a prince of the covenant to be destroyed"? Is he not the prince of the covenant? I'm so confused. Reading it again in this email, it again sounds like another ruler of Israel, "coming to an agreement", but the "prince of the covenant" is confusing me.
I am also confused as to why two different time allotments are used in verses Daniel 12:11-12. What is the meaning of this?
11 "From the time that the daily sacrifice is abolished and the abomination that causes desolation is set up, there will be 1,290 days.12 Blessed is the one who waits for and reaches the end of the 1,335 days.
And so back to my previous email, why is it that people think these 1,290 days have already occurred? And is there a reason some things in Daniel aren't mentioned in Revelation? like the covenant being broken in the "middle of the week"?
Please understand that I do not question what it is I get from my studies. I thoroughly believe that what I understand, when reading, is exactly as God wishes me to, for I pray for Him to help me understand and know the truth.
By the way, is this thinking being Calvinistic? What are your views on Calvinism? Am I this way? When I read the definition, I understood what it is they believe, but when reading on, it seemed that to them, we don't really have a free-will, seeing God already knows our choice. Actually, it was a bit confusing, in that philosophical way. Do they really believe we don't have a free-will? It seems to contradict everything God wants for us. Even weirder is that they seem to have a sound Christian view up to the point of the whole "free-will" thing.) I just feel that when I come across others who believe something different from myself, that I should try to understand why? Is this a waste of my time? Should we be ready to be an "apologetic" at some points in our lives? I've point blank been asked, "Do you believe in God?" among other things, and feel I should answer truthfully and with understanding, if the conversation should go any further. i.e.) Speaking with another friend of mine from work, we were talking about end times and a lot of what he said, didn't ring true with anything I had read. But, because I am no expert, I want to say something, but don't wish to give my opinion when I don't fully understand everything. I was actually kind of bummed about it, because I hated that he was steering way off the path of truth. I wanted so much to just sit and go on and on with him. I get so excited to find someone actually interested in learning. What I ended up doing, instead was linking him here to your site, so that he could study himself. I would hate to be one who steers someone wrong, but again, sometimes I think maybe God sent someone to me, (although that seems funny, considering I don't know half of what I should), but that maybe even just steering them to your site was the purpose. That is good enough for me, if that's all I can do! But, I always keep in mind that the devil is always roaming and that he will use others to try and make me stumble...so that in itself gets me running for my bible when others, again are stating things that don't ring true to me. I just feel I have to really ground myself in the Word so I am not led astray in any way possible. Although I feel strong, staying strong is still a very good thing to do.
Well, Bob, I've again gone on and on, and have jumped from topic to topic. Things that I don't understand just come to me, when writing you and if I don't write it down, I'll forget until another day. So, yes, I would love to know your opinion on Calvinism, as well as the chapters from Daniel and the reasoning of others as to how his visions have already come to pass.
Thanking you in advance and in Christ,
Good to hear from you! Daniel chapter eleven is one of the most difficult chapters to interpret in scripture, and before I launched the Coming Tribulation series, I had to spend quite a bit of time on it making sure I had all the bits and pieces figured out correctly. Let me say at the outset that all of these issues are addressed in part 3B of Coming Tribulation: Antichrist and his Kingdom (see the link). One of the problems is the Hebrew which, in addition to not naming names for the kings in question, is extremely condensed to such a degree that correct translation in many cases requires near perfect understanding of the events in question ahead of time (to narrow down the possibilities of rendering the Hebrew into English). The kings mentioned in chapter eleven are Greek, not Jewish, sovereigns of the Syrian kingdom (one of the power centers of Alexander the Great's empire when it fractured at his death and ruled at first by his general Seleucus). The Seleucid involvement in Jewish affairs and their sometime occupation of the country is one focus of this prophetic chapter, but it is very clear that another purpose, and really the main purpose, is to segue into the reign of antichrist, using the most abominable of the Seleucid kings, Antiochus Ephiphanes, not only as a departure point but also as a type of or parallel to antichrist (i.e., in the same way that Pharaoh is also a type of the beast; see the link: in CT 1: "Typology and Sequence in Old Testament Prophecy").
Another one of the problems of interpretation which is directly related to the above is something you have hit on here, namely, where does one begin in Daniel's rather extensive discussion of the Seleucid kings to apply the interpretation to antichrist? Many if not most expositors are reluctant to do so before verse thirty-six, but that position is clearly in error. That is because Antiochus Epiphanes, the most famous of these kings and the one who stopped the temple rites (as antichrist will also do), is in fact a biblical type of antichrist. Therefore the correct place to begin the application to antichrist is verse twenty-one (St. Jerome is the first person of whom I am aware who figured this out correctly). This parallel application to the beast and Antiochus is treated in detail at the following link: in CT 3B: "Antiochus Ephiphanes".
Antichrist is indeed the "prince of the covenant" (Dan.9:27; 11:22b) who was prophesied to come in the last days (Num.24:24). This title is discussed throughout CT 3B in the context of antichrist's treaty with Israel, a treaty he abrogates in the middle of the Tribulation at the start of the Great Tribulation. As to the issue of 1290 versus the 1335 days, both of which numbers exceed the time limit set for the Great Tribulation, so that both must speak to events after Christ's return. Here is what I have written about that elsewhere:
Thank you for your question about the 1290 versus the 1335 days in Daniel chapter twelve. It says in context here that from the abolition of the daily sacrifice and the erection of the "abomination of desolation" (i.e., the cult idol statue of antichrist which the false prophet will animate: Rev.13), "there will be 1290 days". Now we know from elsewhere in Daniel, as well as from information in Revelation, that the start point of this time period is the middle of the Tribulation (i.e., at the outset of the "Great Tribulation": Dan.9:27; Rev.13:11-15; cf. 2Thes.2:1-12) Further, it is clear that this period lasts for three and one half years only, generally described in terms of lunar years as either 42 months, or 1260 days, or "a time, times and half a time" (Dan.7:25; 12:7; Rev.11:2; 12:6; 12:14; 13:5). Since the time will be further shortened "for the sake of the elect" (Mk.13:20), neither the 1290 nor the 1335 can fit entirely in this window of the Tribulation's second half (for even on a 365 day year, we can only get 1278 max with a leap year). My understanding is that the 1290 refers to the beginning of Christ's temporal judgment of regathered Israel, allowing 30 some days for regathering to occur, with the 1335 representing the end of the period of judgment (a period of 45 days). In this we also have a parallel to the number of years Israel was in the wilderness following the Exodus plus the number of years necessary to enter and subdue the promised land (cf. Josh.14:10: the Exodus is a repeating parallel analogy in scripture to the tribulational events).
This is why the one who "attains" this second number/time is "blessed", since that person will actually enter into the millennial kingdom. For, initially, those who are gathered are brought "into the wilderness" for the Lord to separate - like sheep from goats (although the primary application of the Matthew 25 passage is at the end of the Millennium; cf. Ezek.34:1-24) - with only those who are truly repentant at seeing our risen, glorified Lord actually coming into the land of promise:
I will bring you from the nations and gather you from the countries where you have been scattered - with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm and with outpoured wrath. I will bring you into the desert of the nations and there, face to face, I will execute judgment upon you. As I judged your fathers in the desert of the land of Egypt, so I will judge you, declares the Sovereign Lord. I will take note of you as you pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant. I will purge you of those who revolt and rebel against me. Although I will bring them out of the land where they are living, yet they will not enter the land of Israel. Then you will know that I am the Lord. Ezekiel 20:34-38 NIV
As to what people believe about all this, all I can say is that I have devoted most of my life to trying to get these things right and teach them in a way that makes clear what the biblical underpinnings are for all to see. There are plenty of wrong ideas out there. As I always say, the best thing a Christian who wants to grow spiritually can do is to find a reliable source for Bible teaching and stick with it. I truly appreciate you feeling confident enough about this ministry to "steer" others to it. Running for you Bible is a great thing, and a necessary thing. Like that wonderful sign behind the counter of many a small business: "In God we Trust; all others pay cash". So I always tell my brothers and sisters to have faith in God but to verify everything else. If a ministry is worthy of their attention and trust, God will confirm it with scripture -- if they are really interested in learning the truth. That requires some acquiescence to authority; but one first has to make sure of the authority in question. On the other hand, there are plenty of Christians out there who are "ever learning and never able to come to an understanding of the truth" because they are more interested in their own theories than what the Bible has to say. I think you have got the mix exactly right. The more you learn, the more able you will be to help others learn, and the more solid your faith will be as well through faith in the truth.
As to Calvin, I get this question a lot. Bottom line: God knows what we are going to do and decrees it; and we choose what to do and do it. These things are only contradictory in the limited imagination of mankind. For God, it is not a problem. In truth, predestination is a blessing to know about, because it gives us confidence that God is way out in front of us, having already made every provision for all we will need in this life, even well before the need came up. You can find more about my thoughts on this at the following links:
True Orthodoxy and False Creeds.
Divine Sovereignty and Divine Judgment.
Calvinism et al.
Some brief questions and answers
Our Will and God's WILL
Please do feel free to write me back about any of these issues or topics -- I'd be delighted to discuss them further.
In our dear Lord Jesus,
I have recently stumbled upon your blog and as personal note, which you may choose not to include should you ever post this, I would just like to thank you and encourage you for your what you've done here at your site. Also, on a personal note, I have no idea how busy you are, how many emails you get, or anything of the like. Nevertheless, you seem like an ideal person with whom I may sharpen my arguing skills with (not for solely for contention, nor for conflict of any sort, but in unity). Thus, I have a few basic questions that I would like to ask you in hopes of a short correspondence. It is my hope that we can email each other back and forth, prior to your posting our conversation, if you ever ended up desiring to do so. However, if it does indeed turn out that you have not the time to, can not, or do not respond to this, I would still like to re-emphasize my encouragement to you.
I find myself wondering whether or not you are a Calvinist or an Arminian. I believe I might have gathered that you are perhaps neither, with more Arminian leanings. Are you a dispensationalist or a or do you subscribe to covenant theology?
I myself am a five point Calvinist, and neither a dispensationalist, nor one who subscribes to covenant theology. I, in fact, believe there is something more precisely correct than either of the two, now being deemed, New Covenant Theology.
In case you are not familiar with the later question, here is a very brief and rather vague summary of each theological stance.
Dispensationalism is a method of interpreting the Bible that divides history into distinct eras or "dispensations" in which God deals with man in a distinctive way and, in some cases, in which God's ethical standards change. A leading distinctive of dispensationalism is the sharp division between ethnic Israel and the church of Jesus Christ. Orthodox Christianity has traditionally held that the church of Jesus Christ is the New Israel; dispensationalists hold that ethnic Israel and the church of Jesus Christ are two separate, distinct entities in God's program. All dispensationalists are premillennial, but not all premillennialists are dispensationalists.
Covenant theology, naturally, takes the covenants as its overarching theme. Distinctives of covenant theology include: Christ's judicial (substitutionary) atonement, the imputation of Adam's sin to all of his posterity, salvation exclusively by grace through faith, the abiding authority of the law, and infant baptism. It is general considered to be the opposite of dispensationalism. Primarily, this is because it regards scripture through a lens that focuses on division by covenant, rather than by dispensations of time. Yet, generally the points that follow thereafter for both tend to be in opposition as well.
I speculate that you may in fact be a New Covanent "Theologian." You seem to recognize an importance in not creating extremes where extremes don't exist biblically, and I believe that is precisely what New Covenant Theology does with the matter.
Check out these sites:
soli Deo gloria
Good to make your acquaintance. Let me thank you in advance for your encouraging words, and just say that I am always happy to respond to questions about scripture.
Much of what you surmise is true. For example, I think it is fairly clear to anyone looking only to the Bible that the Church is composed of all believers from Adam to the end of the Church Age (for example, we are all resurrected as one: 1Cor.15:22-24). As to categorizations, while labeling can be useful, in terms of the Church of Jesus Christ it has often done more harm than good, and from a very early stage. I am not "of Peter" nor "of Paul", and the only label I would claim with pride is that of "Christian", a person who in his own little way is trying to follow Jesus through understanding as much of what the Bible has to say as I can and helping others to do likewise as best I can. In my view, starting with adherence to most modern theological constructs is counterproductive because inevitably scripture gets interpreted through these lenses rather than on its own merits in far too many cases.
I honestly have not a clue whether I am "a Calvinist or an Arminian", for example. I know that I was elected in eternity past by God in His grace. I know that I used the faith-free-will God gave me to embrace Jesus Christ in this life. I understand that the friction between the two has caused many relying on human logic to baulk, but as I often have observed, what seems illogical to man presents no difficulty to God. Rather therefore than choosing to lean to one side of this equation or the other, or to get hung up in extra-biblical, philosophical disputes about the "ethical problems" of one position or the other, my view is that since scripture clearly teaches election (Rom.8:28-30), and since it clearly teaches salvation by grace through faith (Eph.2:8-9), that we who believe the Bible and who follow Jesus Christ ought to accept all that scripture says without kicking against the goads, even if this 1) conflicts with theological positions or constructs of the past, or 2) causes philosopher-theologians with gigantic crania and even larger egos to blanch. If we put scripture first, my experience has always been that while we are likely to find absolutely nothing of value in debating the finer points of Augustine's or Calvin's or Hodges' arguments (for example) we are almost surely going to find, in a patient and thorough exegesis of the scriptures, that there is really more to all of these things that meets the eye. If we are not so quick to resort to apologetics and theological disputation, we will always find that the Bible offers answers -- often providing insights of which we never dreamed -- for those who take the time to knock and have the patience to wait until the door is opened.
For example, in regard to three subjects you mention, my take on covenants (see e.g., in SR #5 "The Old and New Covenants": they are essentially the same, the shadow and the fulfillment of the promise of God of salvation in Jesus Christ), on dispensations (see e.g., in SR #5: "The Five Dispensational Divisions of Human History": the issue is one of the provision of God's truth which varies from time period to time period, not of the groups who populate them), and on the so-called imputation of Adam's sin (see e.g., in BB 3B: "The So-Called Imputation of Adam's Sin"; essentially a misunderstanding based upon the failure to understand the gnomic aorist in Romans 3:23 and 5:12 which actually state "everyone sins" [not "sinned"]) is quite different from that of any of the schools of thought you list -- not because of any particular logical or theological argument I have with any of them, but because in each case my study of the scriptures themselves has led me to see that what the Bible is saying about each of these three topics is something significantly different from what has been near universally assumed in the past, and different enough to make arguments of the sort usually engaged in seem rather silly. That is to say, I see not much point in arguing whether something is better described as a lemon or a lime if on closer inspection we find it is breathing. It is not that I consider myself to be in some sort of special category or possessed of any sort of unique ability -- far from it. Rather, it seems to me that by drawing up battle-lines early on, the result has been that most gifted men who have approached the scriptures on these subjects have done so already confirmed in their positions and have been receptive only to evidence useful to supporting their point of view or for refuting that of their adversaries. The Bible always must be approached with humility and an open mind. Oft times, it is precisely those passages which cause us unease and/or which we don't quite "get" in the Greek or Hebrew, the ones which don't quite "fit" with what we have always thought or assumed or been taught, that are in reality our best friends: these are often the very passages that are leading us to a better understanding of the truth, if only we are willing to be teachable instead of ever adversarial.
I hope that this provides at least a preliminary answer to your questions. Do feel free to e-mail me back at any time.
In our dear Lord Jesus Christ,