Charles Spurgeon on Free Will and Predestination

There has been some discussion of late here at The Preacher regarding free will and predestination, so I thought I would post a rather lengthy quote by Spurgeon on the subject. In this instance Spurgeon does not speculate on the method of reconciling these two seemingly contradictory concepts, but instead, merely states that regardless of our understanding of the workings of God, they both exist and are reconciled to one another regardless of whether we accept or embrace it.

The system of truth is not one straight line, but two. No man will ever get a right view of the gospel until he knows how to look at the two lines at once.

I am taught in one book to believe that what I sow I shall reap: I am taught in another place, that “it is not of him that willeth nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy.”

I see in one place, God presiding over all in providence; and yet I see, and I cannot help seeing, that man acts as he pleases, and that God has left his actions to his own will, in a great measure.

Now, if I were to declare that man was so free to act, that there was no presidence of God over his actions, I should be driven very near to Atheism; and if, on the other hand, I declare that God so overrules all things, as that man is not free enough to be responsible, I am driven at once into Antinomianism or fatalism.

That God predestines, and that man is responsible, are two things that few can see. They are believed to be inconsistent and contradictory; but they are not. It is just the fault of our weak judgment. Two truths cannot be contradictory to each other.

If, then, I find taught in one place that everything is fore-ordained, that is true; and if I find in another place that man is responsible for all his actions, that is true; and it is my folly that leads me to imagine that two truths can ever contradict each other.

These two truths, I do not believe, can ever be welded into one upon any human anvil, but one they shall be in eternity: they are two lines that are so nearly parallel, that the mind that shall pursue them farthest, will never discover that they converge; but they do converge, and they will meet somewhere in eternity, close to the throne of God, whence all truth doth spring.

This quote is from a sermon delivered on Sabbath Morning, August 1, 1858, by the REV. C. H. Spurgeon at the Music Hall, Royal Surrey Gardens.

You can read it in full at the following link: http://www.spurgeon.org/sermons/0207.htm

A Poem for Sunday: A fragment of Easter

I wrote this about fifteen years ago, shortly after reading that Edgar Allen Poe occasionally wrote the middle of his poems first and then worked backwards and forwards from that central thought. Sadly, his technique did not work for me. Meant to be the centerpiece of an Easter epic, these two stanzas are instead, the complete unfinished work.

“Speak Eminence, your power is diminished,
Your time has come and Creation seals your fate,
You’ll take a place in a Hell of your devising,
And I will sow, this world with my hate.”
Christ breathed once more, his bloodied body rising,
And spoke the words of beginning, It is finished.

Satan roared and laughter rang loud from his throat:
“No, not yet finished, until I hold the throne,
They’ll come the third day to the grave with spices,
And when they do, they must not find him gone.
The die is cast, there can be no more devices.”
His laughter ceased, he would wait till then to gloat.

As always, comments are appreciated.

Making Jehovah into a Lovesick Girl

It’s Friday and the Almighty is spending the evening at home. He’s met someone you see, someone named Chad, and, well, He likes him oh so much. So, sprawled across his infinite pink bedspread, He is waiting by the phone, His elbows resting on His enormous fuchsia pillow, His cell phone in front of him: He is praying that Chad will call. Next to Him on the bed is a pad of paper where He has written, “Jehovah and Chad 4eternity (4real)” and “Jehovah loves Chad! AWESOME!!”. Suddenly the phone rings and the sound of Nichole Nordeman’s Legacy fills the air. In His excitement, the Alpha and Omega fumbles with the phone before answering. Breathless, He lifts it to His ear, only to be disappointed.”Hey J, has he called yet?” asks the Holy Spirit.”No, but I’m sure he will,” says the Self Existent One, I’ve made it so clear how I feel about him.”

“I don’t know,” says HS, “earlier today I was talking to an angel and he said he was talking to another angel and that angel told him that he saw Chad in the library and Chad was totally talking to Buddha.”

“Are you serious? This totally can’t be happening to me. I’m like God Almighty and stuff, y’know, and he’s my Chad. It would just be so dreamy if we were together!”

“I know,”  says HS, “I know. Sooner or later, he’ll come around.”

“I just hope you’re right.”

Jehovah ends the call and then buries His face in His pillow.”Oh Chad,” He sobs, “how I love you so.”

I hope the above scenario seems ridiculous to you. I hope that if you thought I was being serious, you would think me guilty of blasphemy. Let me assure you, I am not being serious. But can I submit to you, that this is exactly what we do when we preach an Arminian gospel?

If God is who He says He is, then it is He who does the choosing. If He is who He claims to be it is He who has ordained all things. I have written previously about the co-existence of free-will and predestination and won’t go back into it in any depth here, but I do want to declare to you that Jehovah is the Sovereign God, the I AM. Though He loves us, it is not with a fretful, trembling love. He is no tender-hearted girl hoping and praying that some will come to repentance, that some will come to know Him.

What do you say?

Is There Truth Outside of Christianity?

Jamie Kiley is wrestling with a worthwhile question, namely, “What does Paul mean when he says that ‘everything belongs to you, and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God’?” Her question was prompted by the book Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell (someone who I do not respect at all as an expositor of the Word of God.)

Bell uses this verse as part of his justification for the following statement:

As a Christian, I am free to claim the good, the true, the holy, wherever and whenever I find it. I live with the understanding that truth is bigger than any religion and the world is God’s and everything in it.

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Soulwinning, Methodology, and Going in unto Hagar

Abraham had a problem. God had made a promise to him, and to the best of Abraham’s understanding, God had not delivered. Plus, the way things looked, God was not planning on delivering any time soon. And it was starting to bother Abraham. It was also worrying his wife. It worried her enough that she finally approached Abraham and said to him:

Behold now, the LORD hath restrained me from bearing: I pray thee, go in unto my maid; it may be that I may obtain children by her.

Sarai makes it clear to Abraham that she knows it is God who has kept her from having children. She recognizes that God is the one who opens and closes the womb, but at the same time, she also doesn’t believe it or at least is not satisfied with it, because she tells Abraham to go into Hagar and see if God will bless that union and give him the promised heir by her (as if God does not control the womb of Hagar as well).

What happens next? We all know the story. Hagar brings forth Ishmael, and fourteen years later, Sarah née Sarai, brings forth Isaac, a son of her own. A few years later, Ishmael is sent away, and he grows up away from his father and his step-mother and brother. The next time we see Ishmael in Scripture, he is meeting Isaac to bury their father Abrhaham. Go a few verses further and we are reading Ishmael’s obituary as it were.

And these are the names of the sons of Ishmael, by their names, according to their generations: the firstborn of Ishmael, Nebajoth; and Kedar, and Adbeel, and Mibsam, And Mishma, and Dumah, and Massa, Hadar, and Tema, Jetur, Naphish, and Kedemah: These are the sons of Ishmael, and these are their names, by their towns, and by their castles; twelve princes according to their nations. And these are the years of the life of Ishmael, an hundred and thirty and seven years: and he gave up the ghost and died; and was gathered unto his people.
(Genesis 25:13-17)

We know a little more about Isaac. We know that he married Rebekah and that he had two sons, Jacob and Esau. We know that he became wealthy. We know his story in greater detail without having to look it up. But, here is my question:

If we accept the premise that the spiritual counterpart to bringing forth children is seeing souls born into the family of God, then what is the spiritual counterpart to going in unto Hagar?

I believe that as Christians (both individually and collectively as the Church), we often find ourselves in situations that bring us to say, the LORD has restrained us from bearing. The LORD has not given us souls. We know and testify that salvation is of God, that it is by the working of His spirit and by His hand alone that sinners come to repentance, but at the same time we do not believe it, because we go in unto Hagar. We go in to the world and we say, perhaps by these methods that we once thought were wrong, we might raise up souls unto God. What it terrifying is this. More often than not, by these methods, we see fruit.

What we have forgotten is this, Ishmael had twelve sons, each of them a prince with castles and land, and Issac had only two, one of them a shepherd living in semi-exile. If someone looked at the fruit of Abraham’s life, at his child with Hagar and his child with Sarah, which one would they conclude was more “successful”. Would they conclude that going into Hagar was such a bad thing after all? Could they even conclude that it was a good thing? Based on Ishmael’s life, would the modern church have told Abraham: Go down into Egypt and purchase from the slave blocks one hundred Hagars and get them all with child and raise up an army of Ishmaels? Sometimes, I wonder.

What I am saying is this: the ultimate fruit of Ishmael was not determined in his or in Abraham’s lifetime. In many ways it has still not been completely determined and will only be known in full, in eternity. But It is no different with our methods of winning souls today. It is not immediate results that tell us whether we are doing the work of God or not. There was no lack of people to dance around the golden calf that Aaron made, yet Noah preached 100 years and only reached his household.

What do you think? Does this hold up to the light of God’s Word? Have we gone in unto Hagar? If so, how do we make things right?

The Mundane Deception

If you listen to commercials or read print ads, you’ve probably run into the word “mundane” a few hundred times or more. You may have even used it from time to time in everyday conversations. And why shouldn’t you? It’s a perfectly good word for describing the ho-hum, humdrum, habitual lives that we hate to live. Or is it? I think that somewhere in the modern consumption of the word, we have also managed to swallow a lie. And not just any run of the mill, garden variety lie, but a lie big enough to turn the tables and swallow us as well. A lie that, were things seen as they truly are, would be properly described as mundane.

The word mundane comes from the Latin word mundis, and means of the world or earthly and by implication, it has come to mean boring, banal, and unexciting. And that’s significant, because mundane has another meaning as well, one that backtracks a bit and unwinds itself, a meaning that in some ways, diminishes the borders of the word, and in other ways, sets it up as a ruler over an incredibly populous kingdom. Intrigued? The word mundane means of the world, and before you say, “you just said that”, let me explain that it means of the world in the sense that it does not mean, of heaven.

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Protecting your family

There are certain Bible verses that stay in the forefront of my thoughts. They are typically verses with strong imagery, with straightforward application, the sort of verse that you can see in action around you practically anywhere you look. I Peter 5:8 is such a verse:

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour

I think about this a great deal lately, about the last five words in particular. I know people who have been devoured by the adversary, people who have been eaten and metabolized by the awful work of sin. We think of being devoured as being destroyed, but nothing eternal can be destroyed, it can only be changed, and we all know people who bear the marks of such a transformation. To some degree, we all bear such scars ourselves.

I think about these things when I look at my children, when my daughter is squeezing my hand and looking up at me with large and innocent eyes, when my son is standing in the center of our living room staring up at the television and drinking in whatever we have chosen for him to see, when my wife is at home and I am at work and she is facing the dark thoughts of a dreary afternoon. I think about these things, and I wonder what, if anything, I have done to keep this beast at bay. Some days, I know and fear the answer to that question.

But I should be clear here, we are not to fear Satan. There is only one thing that we are to fear, and that is not fear itself, but God Almighty. For Satan, we reserve our vigilance. For Satan, we reserve our seriousness and our sobriety of mind. And we know what this means. It means no more laughing at little sins, at cute wickednesses and clever blasphemies. It means being wise and alert and sleeping with one spiritual eye open. It means going through our homes and looking at everything with an air of suspicion, with an air of caution, with the thought in the back our minds that our families and our own lives may depend upon it. Because whether we like to think about it or not, there is a beast out there, and he is hunting for more than just you.

A World Without Hypothetical Situations

I don’t have time to give this the treatment it deserves, but for those of us who hold to the Reformed position, this deserves some serious thought.

Perhaps you’ve heard the old bon mot, imagine a world without hypothetical situations. But let me suggest something: if you believe that the world from beginning to end has been ordained by the Words of God, and that nothing happens or exists outside of this ordination, then that is exactly the type of world that you live in.

When I talk to and debate theological issues with Arminians, and we discuss the nuts and bolts of salvation and God’s goodness and the history of the world, invariably someone will propose that we examine the world through the simplified lens of a hypothetical situation. And this is where things start to break down.
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Al Mohler, Ann Coulter, John Edwards, and the word “faggot”

Apparently Ann Coulter recently called John Edwards a faggot and Al Mohler has written a piece distancing himself from her actions. And while I agree with Mohler in general, here’s where I start to lose the thread of his argument:

Conservative institutions cannot afford any association with this kind of language or attack. The issues are far too serious to be treated in this manner, and the very convictions Ann Coulter often defends are now sullied by association with her. Referring to John Edwards by using a word meant to demean homosexuals? What was she thinking?

How about saying that Christians cannot afford any association with this kind of language or atttack. How about saying that because sodomy is a serious sin in the eyes of God, it should not be mocked (something I am guilty of) by making a joke out of it. In other words, the problem with the word “faggot” is not that it is offensive to “homosexuals”, but because it is offensive to God in that it makes light of sin. As I think about this, I am convinced that by distancing himself from Ann Coulter’s comments for the reasons he states, Dr. Mohler is demonstrating how easily we fear men more than we fear God. I should also say that I’m not accusing Dr. Mohler of something that I haven’t done myself many, many times. In fact, I probably do it every day without thinking about it. And that’s the problem I’m addressing. Ann Coulter may very well be a jerk. She might be rude and crude and downright mean. But the problem is not with Ann Coulter. The problem is with Christians who are not holy. The problem, is that we don’t fear God.