Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Question 5 from Affirmative

Question 5 – Canon Comparison

In your rebuttal, you take issue with canon of a Scripture, a bit of an aside, since this debate is actually over the issue of whether Scripture alone is the rule of faith, not the identification of Scripture. Furthermore, as already observed, given Scripture, the canon simply falls out as a table of contents.

On the other hand, the canon appears to pose some interesting problems for your counterplan of papist tradition. Although your rebuttal claims, “The universal Church guided by the Holy Spirit has determined the Canon as well as the full Revelation of God,” you must be aware of the fact that there are several glaring problems with you claim. After all, there is some kind of definition of the Canon provided by Trent, but Trent at the same time endorsed as “authentic” the “old Latin Vulgate” of the day – a version riddled with errors.

Furthermore, the “Canon” promulgated by Trent was fairly clearly aimed not at promulgating an authoritative canon of what was in Scripture, but at opposing the canon identified by the Reformers: specifically asserting that the so-called Deuterocanonicals and the various additions to several Old Testament books must be accepted. I think you would be hard-pressed to find any notable papist theologian that would assert that Trent locks you into an Old Latin Vulgate equivalent of the King James Version Only movement. The promulgation of the Nova Vulgata by John Paul II seems to confirm the fact that the Old Latin Vulgate, endorsed by Trent as authentic, was not actually as good as the Latin could get. Even the Nova Vulgata has problems that should be addressed, and the sorry tale of the Clementine Vulgate just demonstrates the great futility of Rome attempting to define the content of Scripture at any detailed level.

Of course, the Reformed answer is consistent: the Holy Spirit persuades believers as to the authenticity of the Word, and he uses means to that end including (contrary to your straw men) the churches as well as the study of history and archaeology, reason, and the like.

But even setting aside the issue of the detailed level of the canon (and – after all – the difference between the Tridentine canon and the Reformed canon is not very large), and further setting aside the issue of how on earth the New Testament church would have any kind of authority over the already-existing canon of the Old Testament, there is the problem of the canon of oral tradition (the previously discussed category of HMDT) and living authoritative interpretation (the previously discussed category of IAT).

If difficulty in identifying the canon is supposed to be a problem for those who follow Sola Scriptura as defined by the WCF, it would seem that if no canon of HMDT and IAT can be found then a doubly-large problem exists for your counterplan.

Indeed, that is the question I hereby pose to you: where is the counterplan’s canon, not simply the canon of Scripture, but the canons of the HMDT (which one would presume is a fixed quantity) and the IAT (to date, since, apparently in your view IAT can produce new content that is also the “Word of God”)?

Question 4 from Affirmative

Question 4 – 1 John 4:1

In your rebuttal essay you used some strong language to describe my appeal to the command in 1 John 4:1 to “Try the spirits whether they be of God….” In fact, you made lots of negative assertions about the text.

1 John 4:1-3
1Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. 2Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: 3 And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.

But what is inescapable is that the verse is commanding believers to pass judgments on teachers. And, in fact, this particular epistle is commanding them (implicitly) to use Scripture (since this epistle is Scripture) in the process.

This principle of testing teachers and churches against Scripture is reflected in the writings of the early Christians:

Ambrose wrote, for example, “Therefore, to begin, the faith which is to be sought is entrusted to the Church. If Christ lives in it, then no doubt it is choiceworthy. But if, on the other hand, the populace is false, or a heretical teacher mars the house, the fellowship of heretics must be avoided, and the synagogue judged as something to be avoided. The dust on the feet must be shaken off, lest the footprint of your mind be polluted by the splitting dryness of barren lies, just as a footprint may be polluted by the dry and parched earth. For just as a preacher of the Gospel ought to take onto himself the bodily infirmities of the faithful people, and just as our own empty deeds must be compared to dust, traces that should be lifted up and destroyed, just so was it written: Who is weakened and I am not weakened? Thus, if it is the Church that lacks faith, it will not possess the teachings of the aforementioned apostle. It must be destroyed, so that it is not able to spread the stain of falsehood. The apostle evidently asserted this very thing, saying: Avoid the corruption of heretics after [you have seen?] one man. And he said to them: You give them something to eat. And they replied: We have no more than five loaves.”

Augustine wrote, likewise: “Whoever dissents from the sacred Scriptures, even if they are found in all places in which the church is designated, are not the church.” De Unitate Ecclesiae, Caput IV, §7.

And again Augustine wrote: “Let no one say to me, What hath Donatus said, what hath Parmenian said, or Pontius, or any of them. For we must not allow even Catholic bishops, if at any time, perchance, they are in error, to hold any opinion contrary to the Canonical Scriptures of God.” De Unitate Ecclesiae, Caput XI, §28.

And yet again, Augustine wrote: “We ought to find the Church, as the Head of the Church, in the Holy Canonical Scriptures, not to inquire for it in the various reports, and opinions, and deeds, and words, and visions of men.” De Unitate Ecclesiae, Caput XIX, §49.

And still further Augustine testifies: “Whether they [i.e. the Donatists] hold the Church, they must show by the Canonical books of the Divine Scriptures alone; for we do not say, that we must be believed because we are in the Church of Christ, because Optatus of Milevi, or Ambrose of Milan, or innumerable other bishops of our communion, commended that Church to which we belong, or because it is extolled by the Councils of our colleagues, or because through the whole world in the holy places which those of our communion frequent such wonderful answers to prayers or cures happen.” De Unitate Ecclesiae, Caput XIX, §50.

Furthermore, in Scripture the Bereans are commended for testing the apostolic teachings themselves against what they already knew to be the Word of God in Scripture (Acts 17:11).

So, if Scripture clearly indicates that believers have a duty to judge whether their teachers are false prophets, how can they do this aside from comparing their teachings to Scripture – emulating the Scriptural example of the Bereans, the Scriptural command of 1 John 4:1, the implicit testimony of Ambrose, the explicit example of Augustine, and the teaching of the Westminster Confession of Faith?

Question 3 from Affirmative

Question 3 – The Hand-Me-Down Tradition Fallacy

As we saw in Question 2, the position of pope Pius XII is that (as I had observed regarding Catholicism) there are three tradition categories, i.e.together with the sources [Scripture and Hand-Me-Down Tradition (HMDT)] … a living Teaching Authority [Interpretative Authority Tradition (IAT)].” In the section of your rebuttal entitled “The Fallacy of ‘Hand Me Down Tradition’ Argument” it is unclear whether you simply disagree with P12, are unaware of the differences between those two sources and the teaching authority, or possibly just were misunderstood by myself. I had previously pointed out that, at best, all of the quotations you had provided related to asserted HMDT-category traditions, none related to IAT-category traditions – and even now it does not appear that your newest quotation from Origen falls in a different category.

Furthermore, when we turn to noted early Christian writers we tend to see a theme among them of not attributing infallibility to ought but Scripture:

Augustine wrote: “God alone swears securely, because He alone is infallible.” Psalm 89, See In Psalmum LXXXVIII Enarratio, Sermo I, PL 37:1122.

Theophilus of Alexandria wrote: “It would be the instigation of a demonical spirit to follow the conceits of the human mind, and to think anything divine, beyond what has the authority of the Scriptures.” (Epistle 96)

Jerome wrote: “Some may say: ‘You are forcing the Scripture, that is not what it means.’ Let Holy Writ be its own interpreter …” On the Psalms, Homily 6.

Ambrose wrote: “Follow the Scriptures, so that ye cannot err.” Commentary on Luke, Book II, §12.

Augustine wrote: "Neither weigh we the writings of all men, be they never so worthy and catholic, as we weigh the canonical Scriptures; but that saving the reverence that is due unto them, we may mislike and refuse somewhat in their writings, if we find that they have thought otherwise, than the truth may bear. Such am I in the writings of others, and such would I wish others to be in mine." Epistle to Fortunatus, No. 111

And again Augustine wrote: “Take away from amongst us any of our own books; let the book of God come amongst us: hear what Christ saith: hearken what the truth speaketh.” Sermon on Psalm 57.

And finally Augustine wrote: “Especially as in writings of such authors I feel myself free to use my own judgment (owing unhesitating assent to nothing but the canonical Scriptures), whilst in fact there is not a passage which he has quoted from the works of this anonymous author that disturbs me.” On Nature and Grace, Chapter 71.
In view of such evidence, and leaving aside the undocumentable (no serious papist apologists claim to be able to identify specific sayings of Jesus or the Apostles that were passed down) category of HMDT, what is the earliest you can document the church fathers teaching that there exists an infallible teaching authority, to somehow document this category of IAT? The qualification that it be an infallible teaching authority is an important part of this question, because there is no doubt that the eldership serves as a living teaching authority (as WCF XXV:III states: “Unto this catholic and visible Church, Christ hath given the ministry, oracles, and ordinances of God, for the gathering and perfecting of the saints, in this life, to the end of the world; and doth by his own presence and Spirit, according to his promise, make them effectual thereunto.”). So, to be clear, what is being requested is the earliest clear testimony you can produce for infallible IAT (not infallible Scriptures, or even infallible HMDT) – clear testimony that is at least as clear as that of Augustine, Theophilus, Ambrose, and Jerome.

Question 2 from Affirmative

Question 2 – Catholicism = Scriptures Plus

I had argued that “the papists do not derive their certainty about all revealed truths from the Scriptures alone but from Scriptures Plus.” You responded by stating, “Turretin has not given any reason for us to believe his statement. I have proven from the Pope himself that Tradition is not something plus Scripture, but it is one in the same gospel in two different forms which is what the passages of the Catechism he quotes says.” In fact, however, Vatican II says:

“Consequently it is not from Sacred Scripture alone that the Church draws her certainty about everything which has been revealed.” And “It is clear, therefore, that sacred tradition, Sacred Scripture and the teaching authority of the Church, in accord with God's most wise design, are so linked and joined together that one cannot stand without the others, and that all together and each in its own way under the action of the one Holy Spirit contribute effectively to the salvation of souls.” (both from Dei Verbum)

Indeed, the two prevailing theories of revelation in Catholicism today are the dual-source theory (which views “Scripture” as one source and “Tradition” as the second source) and the “partim … partim …” theory which views part of revelation as committed to writing (Scripture) and part of revelation as not committed to writing (Tradition). Under either framework, however, it is apparent that papists do not derive their certainty about all revealed truths from the Scriptures alone but from Scriptures Plus, as previously noted.

Indeed, Pope Pious XII essentially adopts the “two source” theory in Humani Generis:

“21. It is also true that theologians must always return to the sources of divine revelation: for it belongs to them to point out how the doctrine of the living Teaching Authority is to be found either explicitly or implicitly in the Scriptures and in Tradition.[4] Besides, each source of divinely revealed doctrine contains so many rich treasures of truth, that they can really never be exhausted. Hence it is that theology through the study of its sacred sources remains ever fresh; on the other hand, speculation which neglects a deeper search into the deposit of faith, proves sterile, as we know from experience. But for this reason even positive theology cannot be on a par with merely historical science. For, together with the sources of positive theology God has given to His Church a living Teaching Authority to elucidate and explain what is contained in the deposit of faith only obscurely and implicitly.” Humani Generis, Pope Pius XII, August 12, 1950 (translation from Vatican web site) (emphases added)

Likewise, Leo XIII speaks of sources (plural) of revelation in Providentissimus Deus:
“Nor will any one wonder at this who considers that the Sacred Books hold such an eminent position among the sources of revelation that without their assiduous study and use, Theology cannot be placed on its true footing, or treated as its dignity demands. … It is this view of doctrinal teaching which is laid down and recommended by the prince of theologians, St. Thomas of Aquin;(43) who, moreover, shows - such being the essential character of Christian Theology - how she can defend her own principles against attack: "If the adversary," he says, "do but grant any portion of the divine revelation, we have an argument against him; thus, against a heretic we can employ Scripture authority, and against those who deny one article, we can use another. But if our opponent reject divine revelation entirely, there is then no way left to prove the Article of Faith by reasoning; we can only solve the difficulties which are raised against them."(44)'” Providentissimus Deus, Pope Leo XIII, November 18, 1893 (emphases added)
There is no need here to limit myself to popes, for similar commentary may be found from lesser members of Catholicism’s magisterium:
“39. A basic understanding of the Church’s faith, presented in a sufficiently organic way together with the reasons for believing. It should be drawn directly from the sources of Revelation; that is, the Bible, the Liturgy, the Fathers, the Magisterium of the Church, other great documents of the Tradition, and the experience of Christian living in the ecclesial communities.” Fr. Cesare Bissoli, Secretary General of International Council for Catechesis, apparent date April 14, 1990.
Thus, when Cardinal Ratzinger (now pope) discussed the issue of Tradition’s contribution, he wrote:
The Limits of the additional contribution of Tradition. To what extent can there be in the Christian Church a tradition that is a material addition to the word of Scripture? This question has long been debated in the history of theology. The Second Vatican Council appears to have left the matter open, but at least declined to speak of “two sources of revelation”, which would be Scripture and Tradition; it affirmed instead that “Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture constitute a unique sacred deposit of the Word of God which is entrusted to the Church” (Dei Verbum 10). It likewise rejected the idea of a tradition completely independent of Scripture. On one point at least, the Council mentions an additional contribution made by Tradition, one of great importance: Tradition “enabled the Church to recognise the full canon of the Sacred Books” (DV 8). Here, the extent to which Scripture and Tradition are inseparable can be seen.” Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, apparent date February 12, 2002.
In short, Ratzinger argues that Tradition provides at least one “additional contribution,” which fully justifies my “Scripture Plus” comment. In view of these facts, and the testimony of the magisterium of your church, are you willing to acknowledge the fact that my characterization “the papists do not derive their certainty about all revealed truths from the Scriptures alone but from Scriptures Plus,” is true, and further to acknowledge that the “Plus” involves both the impossible-to-document alleged unwritten tradition (which would be classed under my “hand-me-down tradition” category) and the ipsedixital alleged “Teaching Authority” (which would be classed under my “Interpretative Authority Tradition” category)?

Question 1 from Affirmative

Question 1 – Church = Believers

In the section of your rebuttal titled, “A False Conclusion, an Attack on the Church,” you cite various Scriptures and the writings of Irenaeus. You apply those passages as if they were directed to your church (i.e. the church of Rome), and not as though they were directed to the church, defined as all believers (see WCF XXV:I “I. The catholic or universal Church, which is invisible, consists of the whole number of the elect, that have been, are, or shall be gathered into one, under Christ the head thereof; and is the spouse, the body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all”).

Philip Schaff, in History of the Apostolic Church, states: “The wide view of the church as the total of believers, the whole kingdom of Christ on earth, is the original one; the narrower sense of the term, in which it denotes a particular local congregation, as the church of Corinth or of Rome, is the derived.” (Schaff, 1859 ed. p. 500)

Furthermore, we see that this is the same definition Irenaeus (who you quoted) used: “For where the Church is, there is the Spirit of God; and where the Spirit of God is, there is the Church, and every kind of grace; but the Spirit is truth.” Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book III, Chapter XXIV, 1.

Likewise, Clement of Alexandria states: “Thus believing alone, and regeneration, is perfection in life; for God is never weak. For as His will is work, and this is named the world; so also His counsel is the salvation of men, and this has been called the church. He knows, therefore, whom He has called, and whom He has saved; and at one and the same time He called and saved them. “For ye are,” says the apostle, “taught of God.”” Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book I, Chapter VI

Tertullian likewise, in De Pœnit. 10 states, “Where one or two are, is the church, and the church is Christ,” and in another place states “For though you think heaven still shut, remember that the Lord left here to Peter and through him to the Church, the keys of it, which every one who has been here put to the question, and also made confession, will carry with him.” Tertullian, Scorpiace, Chapter X.

So also confesses Origen: “But that we may win over to the reception of our views those who are willing to accept the inferences which flow from our doctrines, and to be benefited thereby, we say that the holy Scriptures declare the body of Christ, animated by the Son of God, to be the whole Church of God, and the members of this body—considered as a whole—to consist of those who are believers; since, as a soul vivifies and moves the body, which of itself has not the natural power of motion like a living being, so the Word, arousing and moving the whole body, the Church, to befitting action, awakens, moreover, each individual member belonging to the Church, so that they do nothing apart from the Word.” Origen, Against Celsus, Book VI, Chapter xlviii.

And Lactantius says the same thing: “But the prophets spoke of Him who was then born after that David had slept with his fathers. Besides, the reign of Solomon was not everlasting; for he reigned forty years. In the next place, Solomon was never called the son of God, but the son of David; and the house which he built was not firmly established, as the Church, which is the true temple of God, which does not consist of walls, but of the heart and faith of the men who believe on Him, and are called faithful.” Lactantius, Divine Institutes, Book IV, Chapter xiii.

Jerome similar writes: “The Church does not depend upon walls, but upon the truth of its doctrines. The Church is there, where the true faith is. But about fifteen or twenty years ago, heretics possessed all the walls of the Churches here. For, twenty years ago, heretics possessed all these Churches. But the true Church was there, where the true faith was,” Breviarium in Psalmos, Psalmus CXXXIII, PL 26:1223, and again writes that “The true Church, the true temple of Christ, is no other than the human soul. The Church of Christ is nothing other than the souls of those who believe in Christ.” FC, Vol. 48, The Homilies of St. Jerome: Vol. 1, On the Psalms, Homily 18.

Cyprian also writes: “Whence, moreover, nothing can separate the Church—that is, the people established in the Church, faithfully and firmly persevering in that which they have believed—from Christ, in such a way as to prevent their undivided love from always abiding and adhering.” Cyprian, Epistle LXII, to Cæcilius

Victorinus likewise testifies: “6. “And He made us a kingdom and priests unto God and His Father.” That is to say, a Church of all believers; as also the Apostle Peter says: “A holy nation, a royal priesthood.”” Commentary on Revelation, Chapter 1, vs. 6 Victorinus.

Finally, Ambrose cautions: “So the faith of the Church must be sought first and foremost; if Christ is to dwell therein, it is undoubtedly to be chosen. But lest an unbelieving people or heretical teacher disfigure its habitation, it is enjoined that the fellowship of heretics be avoided and the synagogue shunned. … Thus, any Church which rejects faith and does not possess the foundations of Apostolic preaching is to be abandoned, lest it be able to bespatter some stain of unbelief.” Exposition of the Holy Gospel according to Saint Luke, Book VI, §68.

If space would permit we would add to these 2 Clement 14.

These definitions are not consistent with your claims that the church is essentially defined by communion with the pope. Why now do you feel justified in defining “the Church” in the self-serving way you define it, contrary (at least) to the WCF and the early churchmen quoted and cited above?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Fifth Answer from Affirmative

TurretinFan asks,

"Given your assertion that, "We have to a degree attained salvation through faith, but it's ours probationally, its condition being continuance in Christ; final salvation is not attained until one has endured to the end," what shall we make of verses that suggest salvation is unconditional on works?"


Neither remaining in union with Christ nor continuing in the faith are 'works,' otherwise 'justification by faith' would be 'justification by works.' It would be absurd to call continuance in Christ 'works' for being a necessary condition for salvation, as it was even stated from the negative: "[if one] were to lose union with Christ and apostatize, there would be no hope for that person." (Turretinfan's fifth answer). The relationship between abiding in Christ and good works was touched upon in my first answer: good works are an outworking of a relationship with Christ, for one bears good fruit by remaining in the vine. Inversely, because sin proceeds from the heart, unrepentant iniquity denotes that wickedness is overcoming one's heart, which is immiscible with abiding in Christ.

For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins...Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace? (Hebrews 10:26, 29)

Through His word, God is mighty to save and uphold His own, but this doesn't constitute unconditional security, since He only grants such preservation based upon one's relationship with His Son. By faith we stand (2 Corinthians 1:24), but He has no pleasure in anyone who withdraws from it (Hebrews 10:38). A believer who falls into unrepentant sin isn't in danger because Christ "can't forgive sin," but because of the condition of his heart before God and his love towards Christ growing cold. If the sinner turns back to God and acknowledges his wrongdoing, God will gladly forgive him (1 John 1:9); but He rejects one who remains obstinate and proud.

"God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble." (James 4:6b)

The real peril of a Christian growing proud is underscored in the warning against making elders out of new believers,

...not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil. (1 Timothy 3:6)

The fact that salvation isn't by works then doesn't imply that one can remain saved when in willful rebellion against God, as scripture repeatedly states (1 Corinthians 6:9-10, Ephesians 5:5, Revelation 21:8) -the doom of one who turns from Christ unto wickedness being worse for him than if he'd never known Him:

For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. (2 Peter 2:20)

Therefore taking the warnings against being surmounted by sin seriously, and regarding their disastrous consequences as real-world possibilities for believers is not 'works righteousness' as has been erroneously claimed by some.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Fifth Question from Negative

I (TurretinFan) ask:

Given your assertion that, "We have to a degree attained salvation through faith, but it's ours probationally, its condition being continuance in Christ; final salvation is not attained until one has endured to the end," what shall we make of verses that suggest salvation is unconditional on works?

Fourth Answer from Affirmative

TurretinFan asks,

It appears that your position is that genuine believers can violate certain warnings, with the consequence of such violations being hellfire. Is that correct, or is the consequence merely a return to an unsaved (but re-savable) state from a saved state?


Varies. Denying Christ for instance will bring denial by Him, yet Peter repented of his denial and was restored. Speaking against the Spirit (Matthew 12:32) on the other hand, will never be forgiven. For some who have fallen into grievous sin, they can be 'in danger of hell fire,' but scripture indicates there's hope of God restoring backsliders who have not sinned 'unto death.'

If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin which does not lead to death, he will ask, and He will give him life for those who commit sin not leading to death. There is sin leading to death. I do not say that he should pray about that. (1 John 5:16)

One can believe, yet be imperiled: the key is that salvation isn't granted in its entirety when one believes, Paul writes,

...for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. (Romans 13:11b)

While the scriptures do tell us that we who believe are saved, it also indicates that final salvation isn't obtained during earthly life:

...if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. ...Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule.... (Philippians 3:11-12, 16a)

We have to a degree attained salvation through faith, but it's ours probationally, its condition being continuance in Christ; final salvation is not attained until one has endured to the end. Romans 2 expresses that it is granted at the judgment,

"But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who "will render to each one according to his deeds": eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness--indignation and wrath...." (Romans 2:5-8)

Hence while we already possess eternal life in a sense (1 John 5:13), it is not contradictory to call it the 'hope of eternal life' (Titus 1:2) or to exhort a fellow believer to 'lay hold' on it (1 Timothy 6:12). Additionally, if eternal life were fully and finally ours now, then neglect thereof would be a non-issue,

Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away. For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation...? (Hebrews 2:1-3)

From the scriptural record then, some fall into sin, but are brought back; while the completely apostatized are "twice dead, plucked up by the roots" (Jude 12).

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Fourth Question from Negative

I (TurretinFan) ask:

It appears that your position is that genuine believers can violate certain warnings, with the consequence of such violations being hellfire. Is that correct, or is the consequence merely a return to an unsaved (but re-savable) state from a saved state?

Third Answer from Affirmative

TurretinFan asks,
Given your comment, "God can do whatever He pleases within the range of His holy nature, nobody prevents Him," is it pleasing and within the range of Christ's holy nature to save to the uttermost those whom he wishes to save by making intercession for them?


Most definitely. Just as the priests in the Old Testament made intercession for the people, so Christ eternally makes intercession for His, and is our Advocate with the Father if we sin, and the Mediator of the better covenant God has made with us. Unlike the Levitical priests which were imperfect and subject to death, Christ lives forever and is perfect, and so can save to the utmost, in contrast with the animal sacrifices by the Levite priests that could not. He being the sole way to God, our salvation wholly relies upon His mediation between ourselves and the Father. The question as far as the conditionality of salvation is concerned is not whether Christ makes intercession for us, but whether He'll do so for one who departs from Him. He indicates that He won't, as He states,

"But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 10:33, similar statement made in 2 Timothy 2:12)

Some may argue that Christ's intercession will imperatively keep all genuine believers from apostatizing, but such an idea is not found in scripture. Indeed the fact that His confession of us before the Father is conditioned upon our confession of Him indicates conditionality. Others point to Christ's prayer in John 17,

...keep through Your name those whom You have given Me... (John 17:11b)

The conditional nature of salvation comes to light when one considers that God keeps us through faith (1 Peter 1:5), which we are exhorted to hold fast to, and told that not all have done so,

Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck... (1 Timothy 1:19)

It must be noted that Paul does not distinguish the latter as some superficial, ineffectual form of faith; nor would the exhortation to hold to faith be coherent if no one with true faith could ever forfeit it. The theme of continuance in the faith of Christ as being necessary to our being forgiven runs throughout the New Testament, many wicked acts such as unforgiveness being incompatible with saving faith:

"For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." (Matthew 6:14-15)

This sentiment is also reflected in the parable of the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18. When scriptural warnings (including the three in question) indicate consequences of damnation for believers who unrepentantly commit certain sins, taking them as serious and violable is not salvation "by works" as was erroneously insinuated in the opening statements --such actions necessarily reflect a heart no longer in union with Christ.

So Christ saving those He wishes to the uttermost by making intercession for them is perfectly in line with conditional security, since the only ones He will confess before the Father are those who hold fast to their confession of Him.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Third Question from Negative

I (TurretinFan) ask:

Given your comment, "God can do whatever He pleases within the range of His holy nature, nobody prevents Him," is it pleasing and within the range of Christ's holy nature to save to the uttermost those whom he wishes to save by making intercession for them?

Second Answer from Affirmative

TurretinFan asks,

Given your comment, "God desires that none of His apostatize," (yet seemingly God might not prevent apostasy) is God able to keep people from falling away into apostasy or does something (man's free will?) stop God from keeping them from falling?


God can do whatever He pleases within the range of His holy nature, nobody prevents Him. If God didn't care if we apostatized, He wouldn't give us sustaining grace enough to endure. The fact that men can still fall away despite His provision is easily reconciled by the fact that He doesn't choose to apply His grace irresistibly. I'd pointed out this concept in 1 Corinthians 10:13, which states that God won't allow us to be tempted beyond what we can endure. 'Can' does not amount to 'will;' believers sometimes do fall, but due to our own failures, not want of God's help.

His provision is evidenced in several passages often mistaken for support of eternal security. John 10:27-29 and Romans 8:35-39 for instance express that no one will ever tear us away from God (as countless martyrs for Christ have by their deaths triumphantly testified), but nowhere does scripture indicate that it's impossible to willfully walk away from Him, since apostates themselves don't separate/pluck themselves from God -scripture clarifies that God the Father Himself severs those who don't remain in Christ (John 15:1-6). Hence, arguments such as the sealing with the Holy Spirit guaranteeing eternal security miss the mark as to how one can be lost: Since the sovereign God has both power and prerogative to cast out those who don't abide, His own seal is no bar to Him doing so. Having the Spirit is both a gift and responsibility, for those in which the Spirit dwells are the temple of God,

...If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. (1 Corinthians 3:17b)

According to the riches of His grace, God preserves us, sustains us, and works in us to will and do His good pleasure, yet the apostles still plead with us, "not to receive the grace of God in vain" (2 Corinthians 6:1b). God is able to keep us from stumbling and to make the weak in faith to stand (Romans 14:4), yet we are still told,

Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. (1 Corinthians 10:12)

It's only by God's grace that the heart can be established in persevering, but the scriptures never portray the operation of grace as something unconditional or irresistible. Grace to endure is never merited, nor is it inescapably instilled, but when enduring temptation it's written,

Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)

So God is able to keep us from falling, but doesn't choose to do so apart from our willing cooperation (we being freed by His grace to serve Him -Hebrews 12:28), and thus He warns us against the real dangers of apostasy and exhorts us to seek Him, all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall. (2 Peter 1:10b)

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Second Question from Negative

I (TurretinFan) ask:

Given your comment, "God desires that none of His apostatize," (yet seemingly God might not prevent apostasy) is God able to keep people from falling away into apostasy or does something (man's free will?) stop God from keeping them from falling?

First Answer from Affirmative

TurretinFan asks,

"Is God's love for those humans whom he loves conditional on their behavior, or is God's love for them unconditional on their behavior?"


'Love' as it pertains to salvific effectuation is not conditioned upon behavior (in terms of good works) itself, but upon a relationship with Christ (good works being an outworking). God loves all sinners in that He has no pleasure in their deaths and desires their repentance (Ezekiel 33:11), but savingly loves those who receive and abide in Christ.

Continued faith and perseverance are not only qualities of Christian life, but conditions to eternal life. All the promises of God for salvation, preservation, spiritual life, and forgiveness of sin hinge upon remaining in His Son: we remain saved because we persevere in Christ, not vice-versa, for the promises are only for those who by faith and patience inherit them (Hebrews 6:12). Not surprising, since God's promises of blessing carry conditions of faithfulness throughout scripture. To the profane Eli He says,

"'I promised that your house and your father's house would minister before Me forever.' But now the Lord declares: 'Far be it from Me! Those who honor Me I will honor, but those who despise Me will be disdained." (1 Samuel 2:30b)

Even for one who has been known by God (and is thus born of Him), if he turns away, Christ will profit him nothing (Galatians 4:7-9, 5:2), for those who deny Christ will be disowned (2 Timothy 2:12). Such does not constitute God contradicting or denying Himself, since He Himself is the one who has justly declared the condition of perseverance, and remains steadfast to that declaration whether we remain faithful or not.

God desires that none of His apostatize, He also desires that we abstain from fornication (1 Thessalonians 4:3), but does not choose to imperatively halt either from occurring, but strictly warns us against them. Such warnings are of great import, since nowhere does God promise to unalterably cause us to persevere, but rather gives us all that's requisite to endure (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Unlike the old covenant that the nation of Israel forfeited, the new covenant of God's law being written on our hearts will not be broken with His chosen people -He will bring the body to completion until the day of Christ. But God's faithfulness to His covenant does not preclude individuals that have obtained its blessings and later despise Him from being cut off: even when the old covenant was in force, those who forsook it were severed from the covenant body, those unfaithful to it forfeited its promises (Exodus 6:4, Numbers 14:30). This is not unfaithfulness on God's part, but man's. Likewise, we under the new covenant are warned not to be highminded about our position, but reverently fear and endure lest we incur like punishment (Romans 11:20-22).

So the love of God is in Christ, the Mediator of the new covenant and Seed to whom the promises were made, in which we share if we abide in Him, and in doing so, keep ourselves in the love of God.

Friday, August 1, 2008

First Question from Negative

I (TurretinFan) ask JCT:

Is God's love for those humans whom he loves conditional on their behavior, or is God's love for them unconditional on their behavior?