What’s at stake in our interpretation of Genesis?

Article “Taking Genesis at Face Value” by Dr. John MacArthur – original source: https://thinking-biblically.masters.edu/posts/taking-genesis-at-face-value/

I realize, of course, that some old-earth creationists do hold to the literal creation of Adam and affirm that Adam was a historical figure. But their decision to accept the creation of Adam as literal involves an arbitrary hermeneutical shift at Genesis 1:26-27 and then again at Genesis 2:7.

If everything around those verses is handled allegorically or symbolically, it is unjustifiable to take the description of Adam’s creation and fall in a literal and historical sense. Therefore, the old-earth creationists’ method of interpreting the Genesis text actually undermines the historicity of Adam. Having already decided to treat the creation account itself as myth or allegory, they have no grounds to insist (suddenly and arbitrarily, it seems) that the creation of Adam is literal history. Their belief in a historical Adam is simply inconsistent with their own exegesis of the rest of the text.

But it is a necessary inconsistency if one is to affirm an old earth and remain evangelical. Because if Adam was not the literal ancestor of the entire human race, then the Bible’s explanation of how sin entered the world is impossible to make sense of.

Moreover, if we didn’t fall in Adam, we cannot be redeemed in Christ, because Christ’s position as the Head of the redeemed race exactly parallels Adam’s position as the head of the fallen race: “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22). “Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous” (Romans 5:18-19). “And so it is written, ‘The first man Adam became a living being.’ The last Adam became a life-giving spirit” (1 Corinthians 15:45; cf. 1 Timothy 2:13-14Jude 14).

So in an important sense, everything Scripture says about our salvation through Jesus Christ hinges on the literal truth of what Genesis 1-3 teaches about Adam’s creation and fall. There is no more pivotal passage of Scripture.

What “old-earth creationists” (including, to a large degree, even the evangelical ones) are doing with Genesis 1-3 is precisely what religious liberals have always done with all of Scripture — spiritualizing and reinterpreting the text allegorically to make it mean what they want it to mean. It is a dangerous way to handle Scripture. And it involves a perilous and unnecessary capitulation to the religious presuppositions of naturalism — not to mention a serious dishonor to God.

Evangelicals who accept an old-earth interpretation of Genesis have embraced a hermeneutic that is hostile to a high view of Scripture. They are bringing to the opening chapters of Scripture a method of biblical interpretation that has built-in anti-evangelical presuppositions. Those who adopt this approach have already embarked on a process that invariably overthrows faith. Churches and colleges that embrace this view will not remain evangelical long.

The Five Solas Book

I am very much encouraged (and thankful to God) due to the feedback I am continuing to receive regarding the Five Solas book. It is now available in a number of formats (including a newly translated Spanish version):

The books starts with these words:

“Light dispels darkness. When the light of God’s Word shines into places of spiritual and cultural darkness, it transforms people, families and nations. It does not matter how long the darkness has persisted; when light appears, darkness, like a hostile, renegade, usurper to the throne, must submit, bow its head, and walk away in shame. Again, light dispels darkness. The entrance of God’s word brings light!

Darkness is the shared experience of a people without light. Such was the case before the Protestant Reformation. The Bible was not known. In its place, religious superstition, tradition and falsehood reigned. The Reformation brought God’s word and the Gospel back into the hands of the masses.

Man-made traditions that had kept the people in bondage for centuries were now exposed for what they really were. Entire nations, held captive by the powers of darkness, were now exposed to the truth. Dramatic change occurred. Outside the book of Acts in the New Testament, there has not been a greater move of the Holy Spirit in the history of the church. Our world would never be the same. A Latin phrase, ‘Post tenebras lux’ captured the enfolding, historical drama, meaning, ‘After darkness, light!’

As the Bible came to be read in the common language of the people, the great central truths the Bible proclaimed were recovered, often at great cost to those who came to embrace them.

The Reformation recovered and highlighted glorious Scriptural truths which have been expressed in five memorable phrases, now known as the Five Solas. Properly understood, these Five Solas bring us back to the very heart of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Paperback Version

Ebook and Audiobook version

Spanish translation

Endorsements:

“You have succinctly and clearly distilled the essence of the ‘solas.’ May God mightily use your book for His glory. Thank you for the encouragement in the gospel you have brought to me.” R. C. Sproul

“This is such a crucial topic; and having read many pieces written on the five solas, this one stands out for not only being theologically sound, but also clear and concise. It is written in a way that just about anyone could pick up and understand. I am thankful that God has raised up his servant John Samson for this deeply needed work; a work we ought to get into the hands of as many people as possible.” – John Hendryx, monergism.com

“Get this book! Then get several more to share with your friends and family. John Samson has the remarkable ability to communicate essential truths with an undeniable passion and faithfulness that is winsome, clear, and devastating to the opposition. The people of God in this generation are in need of these old truths: the same truths that transformed the early church and led our heroes (throughout history) into living lives that changed the world. Go sell 100 of your vapid, modern Evangellyfish books and turn that money into getting this book into the hearts and minds of Christians everywhere.” – Jeff Durbin, Pastor, Apologia Church, Tempe, Arizona

“Recent years have seen a number of key anniversaries connected with events and people who were vital catalysts in the Protestant Reformation. Thankfully this has resulted in a renewed focus on the ‘five solas’–a convenient shorthand list of the Reformers’ key convictions. Throughout church history, wherever these principles have been stressed and adhered to, the church has always flourished. So it is a highly encouraging trend. I’m thankful for this excellent book by John Samson; a cogent, focused, and accessible study of the solas that not only reminds us what these principles mean, but also shows us why they are important–and why they must stand together.” – Phil Johnson, Executive Director, Grace to You

“Some authors make you read three chapters before getting to the first point in their outline. If you wish to understand the foundation of the solas of the Reformation but would like to do so in under an hour, John Samson provides you with the basics right here.” – Dr. James White, Alpha & Omega Ministries, Phoenix, Arizona

“Part celebration and part exposition, Pastor John Samson has provided a brief and readable introduction to the grand framing truths of the Reformation. In this timely little work, Samson particularly emphasizes how the five “Onlies” magnify God’s complete and gracious work of salvation in Jesus Christ — of which we learn in Scripture alone, which we find in Christ alone and enjoy by grace alone, through faith alone, to the glory of God alone! As a bonus, Samson not only concisely shows the radiance of each, but also the interrelationship of the whole. Pastors will find this a very useful introductory work for use in ministry.” – Dan Phillips, Pastor, Copperfield Bible Church, Houston, Texas


The Deity of Christ and the Early Church

Article: Did the Early Church Believe in the Deity of Christ? by Nathan Busenitz (source – https://www.tms.edu/blog/did-the-early-church-believe-in-the-deity-of-christ/)

Ask your average Muslim, Unitarian, Jehovah’s Witness, or just about any non-Christian skeptic who has read (or watched) The Da Vinci Code, and they’ll try to convince you the answer is no. From such sources we are told that the deity of Christ was a doctrine invented centuries after Jesus’ death — a result of pagan influences on the church in the fourth century when the Roman Empire adopted Christianity as its official religion.

Emperor Constantine, in particular, is blamed for being the guy who promoted Jesus to the level of deity, a feat of cosmic proportions that he managed to pull off at the Council of Nicaea in 325. As Dan Brown put it (through the lips of one of his literary characters): “Jesus’ establishment as ‘the Son of God’ was officially proposed and voted on by the Council of Nicaea. . . . By officially endorsing Jesus as the Son of God, Constantine turned Jesus into a deity who existed beyond the scope of the human world, an entity whose power was unchallengeable” (The Da Vinci Code, 253).

So how can believers answer such allegations?

The best response, obviously, is to demonstrate from Scripture that Jesus is God. We can be confident that the early church affirmed Christ’s deity (and that we should do the same) because the New Testament clearly teaches that truth. The biblical case can be made from many places. Without going into detail in this post, here is a small sampling of texts that teach the deity of Christ: Isaiah 9:6Matt. 1:23John 1:1141820:28Acts 20:28Rom. 9:51 Cor. 1:242 Cor. 4:4Php. 2:6Col. 1:15–162:9Titus 2:13Heb. 1:382 Pet. 1:11 John 5:20.

But what about church history outside of the New Testament? Did the early church fathers affirm the deity of Jesus Christ? Or was it only after the fourth century (and the Council of Nicaea) that Christian leaders began to articulate their belief in God the Son?

Though it’s not an exhaustive list, here are 25 quotations from a number of ante-Nicene church fathers demonstrating their belief in the deity of Jesus Christ (with portions underlined for emphasis). These early Christian theologians all lived before the time of Constantine and the Council of Nicaea. As such, they provide incontrovertible proof (from post-New Testament history) that Constantine was not the first person in church history to affirm this doctrine. Rather, the early church embraced the truth that Jesus is God from the time of the apostles on.

1. IGNATIUS OF ANTIOCH (C. 50–117)

For our God, Jesus the Christ, was conceived by Mary according to God’s plan, both from the seed of David and of the Holy Spirit. (Ignatius, Letter to the Ephesians, 18.2. Translation from Michael Holmes, Apostolic Fathers, 197)

2. IGNATIUS (AGAIN)

Consequently, all magic and every kind of spell were dissolved, the ignorance so characteristic of wickedness vanished, and the ancient kingdom was abolished when God appeared in human form to bring the newness of eternal life. (Ibid., 19.3. Holmes, AF, 199)

3. IGNATIUS (AGAIN)

For our God Jesus Christ is more visible now that he is in the Father. (Ignatius, Letter to the Romans, 3.3. Holmes, AF, 229)

4. IGNATIUS (AGAIN)

I glorify Jesus Christ, the God who made you so wise, for I observed that you are established in an unshakable faith, having been nailed, as it were, to the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ. (Ignatius, Letter to the Smyrnaeans, 1.1. Holmes, AF, 249)

5. IGNATIUS (AGAIN):

Wait expectantly for the one who is above time: the Eternal, the Invisible, who for our sake became visible; the Intangible, the Unsuffering, who for our sake suffered, who for our sake endured in every way. (Ignatius, Letter to Polycarp, 3.2. Holmes, AF, 265)

6. POLYCARP OF SMYRNA (69–155)

Now may the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the eternal high priest himself, the Son of God Jesus Christ, build you up in faith and truth . . ., and to us with you, and to all those under heaven who will yet believe in our Lord and God Jesus Christ and in his Father who raised him from the dead. (Polycarp, Philippians, 12:2. Holmes, AF, 295)

7. EPISTLE OF BARNABAS (WRITTEN C. 70–130)

If the Lord submitted to suffer for our souls, even though he is Lord of the whole world, to whom God said at the foundation of the world, “Let us make humankind according to our image and likeness,” how is it, then, that he submitted to suffer at the hands of humans? (Epistle of Barnabas, 5.5. Holmes, AF, 393)

8. JUSTIN MARTYR (100–165)

And that Christ being Lord, and God the Son of God, and appearing formerly in power as Man, and Angel, and in the glory of fire as at the bush, so also was manifested at the judgment executed on Sodom, has been demonstrated fully by what has been said. (Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, 128. Translation from Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, Ante-Nicene Fathers, I:264)

9. JUSTIN (AGAIN)

Permit me first to recount the prophecies, which I wish to do in order to prove that Christ is called both God and Lord of hosts. (Ibid., 36. ANF, I:212)

10. JUSTIN (AGAIN)

Therefore these words testify explicitly that He [Jesus] is witnessed to by Him [the Father] who established these things, as deserving to be worshipped, as God and as Christ. (Ibid., 63. ANF, I:229)

11. JUSTIN (AGAIN)

The Father of the universe has a Son; who also, being the first-begotten Word of God, is even God. And of old He appeared in the shape of fire and in the likeness of an angel to Moses and to the other prophets; but now in the times of your reign, having, as we before said, become Man by a virgin. (Justin Martyr, First Apology, 63. ANF, I:184)

12. JUSTIN (AGAIN)

For if you had understood what has been written by the prophets, you would not have denied that He was God, Son of the only, unbegotten, unutterable God. (Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, 126. ANF, I:263)

13. TATIAN (110–172)

We do not act as fools, O Greeks, nor utter idle tales when we announce that God was born in the form of man. (Tatian, Address to the Greeks, 21. ANF, II:74)

14. MELITO OF SARDIS (D. C. 180)

He that hung up the earth in space was Himself hanged up; He that fixed the heavens was fixed with nails; He that bore up the earth was born up on a tree; the Lord of all was subjected to ignominy in a naked body – God put to death! . . . [I]n order that He might not be seen, the luminaries turned away, and the day became darkened—because they slew God, who hung naked on the tree. . . . This is He who made the heaven and the earth, and in the beginning, together with the Father, fashioned man; who was announced by means of the law and the prophets; who put on a bodily form in the Virgin; who was hanged upon the tree; who was buried in the earth; who rose from the place of the dead, and ascended to the height of heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father. (Melito, 5. ANF, VIII:757)

15. IRENAEUS OF LYONS (120–202)

For I have shown from the Scriptures, that no one of the sons of Adam is as to everything, and absolutely, called God, or named Lord. But that He is Himself in His own right, beyond all men who ever lived, God, and Lord, and King Eternal, and the Incarnate Word, proclaimed by all the prophets, the apostles, and by the Spirit Himself, may be seen by all who have attained to even a small portion of the truth. Now, the Scriptures would not have testified these things of Him, if, like others, He had been a mere man. . . . He is the holy Lord, the Wonderful, the Counselor, the Beautiful in appearance, and the Mighty God, coming on the clouds as the Judge of all men; — all these things did the Scriptures prophesy of Him. (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 3.19.2. ANF, I:449)

16. IRENAEUS (AGAIN)

He received testimony from all that He was very man, and that He was very God, from the Father, from the Spirit, from angels, from the creation itself, from men, from apostate spirits and demons. (Ibid., 4.6.7. ANF, I:469)

17. IRENAEUS (AGAIN)

Christ Jesus [is] our Lord, and God, and Savior, and King, according to the will of the invisible Father. (Ibid., 1.10.1.ANF, I:330)

18. IRENAEUS (AGAIN)

Christ Himself, therefore, together with the Father, is the God of the living, who spoke to Moses, and who was also manifested to the fathers. (Ibid., 4.5.2. ANF, I:467)

19. CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA (C. 150–215)

This Word, then, the Christ, the cause of both our being at first (for He was in God) and of our well-being, this very Word has now appeared as man, He alone being both, both God and man—the Author of all blessings to us; by whom we, being taught to live well, are sent on our way to life eternal. . . . . . . The Word, who in the beginning bestowed on us life as Creator when He formed us, taught us to live well when He appeared as our Teacher; that as God He might afterwards conduct us to the life which never ends. (Clement of Alexandria, Exhortation to the Heathen, 1. ANF, II:173)

20. TERTULLIAN (C. 160–225)

For God alone is without sin; and the only man without sin is Christ, since Christ is also God. (Tertullian, Treatise on the Soul, 41. ANF, III:221)

21. TERTULLIAN (AGAIN)

Thus Christ is Spirit of Spirit, and God of God, as light of light is kindled.  . . . That which has come forth out of God is at once God and the Son of God, and the two are one. In this way also, as He is Spirit of Spirit and God of God, He is made a second in manner of existence—in position, not in nature; and He did not withdraw from the original source, but went forth. This ray of God, then, as it was always foretold in ancient times, descending into a certain virgin, and made flesh in her womb, is in His birth God and man united. (Tertullian, Apology, 21. ANF, III:34–35)

22. HIPPOLYTUS (170–235)

The Logos alone of this God is from God himself; wherefore also the Logos is God, being the substance of God. (Hippolytus, Refutation of All Heresies, 10.29. ANF, V:151)

23. CAIUS (180–217) [IN RESPONSE TO THOSE WHO WOULD QUESTION THE DEITY OF CHRIST]

Perhaps what they allege might be credible, did not the Holy Scriptures, in the first place, contradict them. And then, besides, there are writings of certain brethren older than the times of Victor, which they wrote against the heathen in defense of the truth, and against the heresies of their time: I mean Justin and Miltiades, and Tatian and Clement, and many others, in all which divinity is ascribed to Christ. For who is ignorant of the books of Irenaeus and Melito, and the rest, which declare Christ to be God and man? All the psalms, too, and hymns of brethren, which have been written from the beginning by the faithful, celebrate Christ the Word of God, ascribing divinity to Him. (Caius, Fragments, 2.1. ANF, V:601)

24. ORIGEN (C. 185–254)

Jesus Christ . . . in the last times, divesting Himself (of His glory), became a man, and was incarnate although God, and while made a man remained the God which He was. (Origen, De Principiis, Preface, 4. ANF, IV:240)

25. NOVATIAN OF ROME (210–280)

For Scripture as much announces Christ as also God, as it announces God Himself as man. It has as much described Jesus Christ to be man, as moreover it has also described Christ the Lord to be God. Because it does not set forth Him to be the Son of God only, but also the Son of man; nor does it only say, the Son of man, but it has also been accustomed to speak of Him as the Son of God. So that being of both, He is both, lest if He should be one only, He could not be the other. For as nature itself has prescribed that he must be believed to be a man who is of man, so the same nature prescribes also that He must be believed to be God who is of God. . . . Let them, therefore, who read that Jesus Christ the Son of man is man, read also that this same Jesus is called also God and the Son of God. (Novatian, On the Trinity, 11. ANF, V:620)

Did the Church Create the Bible?

Michael J. Kruger (original source here: https://www.michaeljkruger.com/did-the-church-create-the-bible/ ):

The perennial question in the debate over sola Scriptura is whether the church is over the Bible or the Bible is over the church.

The latter position is (generally speaking) a Protestant one—the Scriptures, and the Scriptures alone, are the only infallible rule and therefore the supreme authority over the church.

The former position (generally speaking) is a Roman Catholic one—the church decided the canon and also, through the pope, decides how these books are to be interpreted.  In this way, the authority of the Bible rests on the (prior and more foundational) authority of the church.

Of course, Catholics would not word it quite this way.  The Roman church insists that the Scripture is always superior to the Magisterium.  Dei Verbum declares, “This teaching office is not above the Word of God, but serves it” (2.10). However, despite these qualifications, one still wonders how Scripture can be deemed the ultimate authority if the Magisterium is able to define, determine, and interpret the Scripture in the first place.

Regardless, this question of whether the church is over the Bible also comes up in the world of critical scholarship.  Critical scholars will often make the point that, historically speaking, the church essentially created the canon sometime in the fourth or fifth century.  The canon is merely a human product.

So, there is unexpected common ground here between the Roman Catholic view and the historical-critical view.  While the former believes these books are divinely inspired, and while the latter believes they are not, they both agree that the church is the cause of the Bible.

Now, it should be acknowledged that there is a sense in which this is true.  The Bible was written by divinely-inspired individuals who were part of God’s covenant community (i.e., the “church”).  And later Christians (also part of the “church”) recognized these books as from God.

But, we have to be careful not to confuse the proximate “cause” of Scripture (human beings) with the ultimate “cause” (God himself).  From a divine perspective, the church could not in any way be regarded as the cause of God’s divinely-inspired speech.  On the contrary, God’s divinely-inspired speech always stands over the church and governs her.

For more discussion of this important topic, and a very (!) brief defense of the Protestant position, here is a video Michael Kruger filmed with Don Carson

Why you can rely on the canon?

What makes you to differ?

Article by Dr. Sam Storms (original source here: https://www.samstorms.com/enjoying-god-blog/post/what-makes-you-to-differ-some-thoughts-on-divine-election)

Last night I had the privilege of speaking to the students in our counseling school here at Bridgeway. The topic assigned to me was that of soteriology, or salvation. More specifically, we looked at the subject of God’s sovereignty in salvation and the subject of divine election.

As I prepared for our time together, I decided that the best way to dive headlong into the topic was by way of an illustration I used in my book, Chosen for Life: The Case for Divine Election (Crossway, 2007). If you’ve read the book, you know what I’m talking about. Here is the story that comes from the Introduction to Chosen for Life. I hope you find it thought-provoking, even if you are left with even more questions than you had before. Perhaps you might even be tempted to obtain Chosen for Life and dig more deeply into this subject. So here goes.

Deep and complex theological issues are often made more intelligible by a simple, down-to-earth illustration. So let me begin our study of divine election by putting real life flesh and bones to what strikes many as an abstract and divisive idea.

Jerry and Ed are identical twins, raised by loving, Christian parents. As much as was humanly possible, their mother and father refused to play favorites. Both boys were shown the same affection, granted the same privileges, and bore the same responsibilities in the home. They attended the same schools and were virtually equal in athletic ability, popularity among their peers, and grade point average. They were truly twins in temperament, personality, and achievement.

The boys attended church regularly with their parents but showed no interest in religious matters. They would often sit at the back of the church and laugh at the preacher, disdainful of his persistent appeal for repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. As they were alike in so many other respects, they appeared to share an equal contempt for the gospel.

Jerry and Ed had just celebrated their nineteenth birthday and were looking forward to graduating from high school. It was Easter Sunday. They were sitting in the same pew where they had for years, listening to the same pastor. But something was different. Nothing unusual, at least in terms of the mundane, natural affairs of life, had occurred to account for what happened on that morning. Neither brother had endured a humiliating experience at school nor had they been the recipients of excessive praise and honor. By all appearances, it was just another Sunday morning.

But this day, much to his own surprise, Jerry suddenly found himself listening intently to the sermon, while Ed was doodling on the church bulletin, obviously without interest in anything being said. Both brothers had heard countless sermons depicting their sinful and desperate spiritual condition, together with the promise of forgiveness and eternal life through faith in Christ. But not until that Easter Sunday did either of them pay the slightest degree of attention.

Ideas and doctrines that had, until then, sounded silly and archaic, mysteriously began to make sense to Jerry. The existence of an infinitely holy God against whom he had rebelled, together with the prospect of eternal death, shattered all remaining tranquility of soul. He glanced briefly at Ed to see if he were paying attention. Not a chance.

“He’s right,” Jerry silently concluded. “I am a sinner. Jesus isGod in human flesh and without him I have no hope. Oh, God! Help! Save me! Forgive me! Jesus, you are my only hope. If you had not died in my place and endured the Father’s wrath, I most certainly would. Forgive me for being so utterly blind to your beauty until now. Oh, sweet Son of God! I embrace you alone. I want to live wholly and utterly for you.”

Jerry struggled to explain to himself what was happening. All he knew was that while listening to what he had heard so many times before, he “hears” it for the very first time. What he had read in the Bible so many times before, he “sees” as if it had only then appeared. Jesus of Nazareth, who until now held no attraction for him, suddenly seems altogether lovely and winsome. The conviction that this Jesus alone can deliver him from the spiritual turmoil, grief and guilt in which he is mired grips his heart. His soul is, as it were, flooded with wave upon wave of peace and joy as he feels the burden of his sin lifted from his shoulders and placed upon Christ, in whom it vanished from sight. Then the words to that hymn he had so mindlessly sung countless times before ring true to his heart:

“Long my imprisoned spirit lay
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quick’ning ray 
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off my heart was free;
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.
Amazing love! how can it be,
That Thou, my God shouldst die for me?”

Ed couldn’t help but notice that his brother was weeping. With a quick jab of his elbow in Jerry’s side, he whispered: “Cut that out! You’re embarrassing me.” But Jerry was unfazed.

What Jerry now finds altogether lovely, Ed continues to loathe. Jerry’s unbelief disappears under a flood of repentance and whole-souled love for Christ. By an act of his will, Jerry embraces the redemptive sufferings of Jesus as his only hope and haven. He willingly repudiates sin and reliance on self, and with joy reposes in Christ. But Ed remains obstinate, and now even more indignant, in his unbelief.

Needless to say, Jerry’s experience that morning made for a volatile conversation in the car on the way home. He tried to explain to his brother what had happened, but Ed was incredulous and filled with rage. They were so engrossed in conversation that neither of them saw the pickup truck jump the median into their lane. The crash was head on and fatal for both.

Instantly, Jerry left this life and entered the bliss of eternal joy in the presence of the Savior whom he had embraced only minutes before in saving faith. Tragically, Ed faced the eternal opposite, separation from the glorious presence of the Lord Jesus Christ and an object, not of love and favor, but of righteous wrath and indignation.

What accounts for the irrevocable and eternal division between these earthly brothers? What made Jerry to differ from Ed? Why did one come to heartfelt and happy faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior while the other persisted in heartfelt hatred and disdain?

That is the question the doctrine of divine election is designed to answer. In the final analysis, when all is said and done, one must attribute Jerry’s faith either to Jerry or to God or to some form of cooperative effort on the part of both in which neither takes precedence (or praise) over the other.

[Later on in the book, I pick up the story of these two brothers in an effort to account for what made Jerry to differ from Ed.]

Let’s return for a moment to the hypothetical case of the twin brothers, Jerry and Ed. If the biblical witness to the condition of fallen humanity is to be believed . . ., neither of these young men, if left to himself, has any desire for Christ or the blessings offered in the gospel. If neither comes to Christ it is not because they want to but are not numbered among the elect or are told that, notwithstanding their desire, God will not let them. If neither comes to Christ it is because they want nothing at all to do with Jesus or anything of a spiritual character. They revel in their unbelief, even if they conduct themselves in what we might call a civil and humane manner. There is nothing in Christ that appeals to them; nothing in his person that might lure their hearts from sin to salvation.

So I’ll ask yet again: “What made Jerry and Ed to differ?” The Arminian insists that what made Jerry and Ed to differ was Jerry. The ultimate and only sufficient reason Jerry believed and Ed did not is that Jerry exercised his own free will. Because God foreknew from eternity past that Jerry would believe and Ed would not, he elected Jerry to be an heir of eternal life, leaving Ed to his rightful recompense.

The Calvinist, on the other hand, knowing that, because of the total moral depravity of both Jerry and Ed, neither brother could or would believe, finds the reason for the difference between them in God and his unconditional, sovereign grace. Both Jerry and Ed desired and therefore deserved to be left to their sin and its inevitable outcome, eternal death. But for a reason hidden deep within his heart, God loved Jerry with an everlasting love and made a gift to him of both faith and repentance.

In saying that faith and repentance are God’s gifts to Jerry but not to Ed, we are not to think of them as some sort of material, tangible stuff that comes gift-wrapped with a red ribbon! The Bible portrays faith and repentance as God’s gifts to his elect in order to emphasize that although Jerry is the author of these actions, God is the ultimate cause. Jerry willed to believe, but only after and because God provided him with the power. Thus, Jerry’s repentance from sin and his faith in Christ are portrayed as gifts because they flow from God’s sovereign grace. Jerry did not earn them or obtain them by fulfilling some condition.

It was not because God saw in Jerry certain qualities of character or potential for good that were absent from Ed. It was not because Jerry’s hair was slightly darker than Ed’s, and that God prefers black hair to blonde. Rather, to use the language of Scripture, “though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad – in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of his call . . .” (Romans 9:11).

Both Jerry and Ed were spiritually dead in their trespasses and sin. Neither man had a claim on divine favor, nor did he want it. But Jerry came to life, whereas Ed did not. Why? Just as Lazarus rose up and went forth from his grave because God infused him with physical life and breath, so Jerry was infused with a new principle of spiritual life by which he rose up and came to Christ in faith and repentance.

[Once again, later in the book I return to wrap up the story of these two brothers.]

Arminians who believe in the doctrine of total moral depravity insist that although both Jerry and Ed are by nature unable to come to Christ, the Holy Spirit graciously restores in them the power they need to act in faith by their own free will [this is what the Arminian refers to as prevenient grace]. I will forego making much of the fact that there is no clear and unequivocal text of Scripture which affirms the idea . . ., and simply assume for the sake of argument (but against Scripture, in my opinion), that it is true.

Our situation, then, is this. Both Jerry and Ed (like every other human being, says the Arminian), have been endowed from on high with equal ability to believe the gospel. Neither has an advantage over the other. If Jerry acts and improves upon this power of will so as to repent and believe the gospel, but Ed does not, to whom or to what do we attribute the difference between them? It seems clear enough to me that if Jerry avails himself of the opportunity, but Ed does not, the reason or cause must be something in Jerry that is not in Ed. It cannot be because of something the Holy Spirit graciously did in and for Jerry that he refused to do in and for Ed. The Arminian insists that if God, according to his sovereign good pleasure, does for one (Jerry) what he declines to do for another (Ed), he is guilty of partiality and injustice. To restore a greater and more effective power of will in Jerry than in Ed is unfair, says the Arminian. Justice demands that God must do the same for both.

Therefore, the fact that Jerry believes and Ed does not can be explained only by what Jerry is and does in himself, as over against his twin brother. That Jerry should suddenly be sorrowful for his sin and repent can be due only to Jerry. That Jerry should suddenly understand the gospel, humbly repudiate all reliance upon self, and embrace by faith the redemptive merits of Jesus Christ can be due only to Jerry. It cannot ultimately be because of God the Holy Spirit; otherwise Ed and every other human being would repent and believe in like manner, since they have received from God as much help as Jerry has.

It would appear that, if the Arminian scenario is correct, in answer to the apostle’s question, “Who maketh thee to differ?” (1 Cor. 4:7a, KJV), Jerry can justifiably (and with pride of heart?) say, “I did!” It will not do to say that were it not for the Holy Spirit no one at all, neither Jerry nor Ed, would have been able to believe in Christ. For if it is not the Holy Spirit who guarantees and secures Jerry’s belief in Christ, he has eternal life because of what he, not God, has done.

At best, the Arminian may say that the opportunity to be saved is of grace. At best, he may insist that the possibility for Jerry and Ed to get to heaven is of grace. But he simply cannot say that salvation itself is wholly of grace. In the Arminian scheme, God has said all that he can say and has done all that he can do once he has restored in all people an equal ability to believe. From that point on, the reason one person believes and another does not is a human reason. To that degree, salvation is not of the Lord, but of man, and we could with sincerity no longer sing:

“Pause, my soul! adore, and wonder!
Ask, ‘Oh, why such love to me?’
Grace hath put me in the number
Of the Saviour’s family:
Hallelujah!
Thanks, eternal thanks, to Thee!”