The Sovereignty of God and Prayer

By John Piper, from the Desiring God Website: www.desiringGod.org

I am often asked, “If you believe God works all things according to the counsel of his will (Ephesians 1:11) and that his knowledge of all things past, present, and future is infallible, then what is the point of praying that anything happen?” Usually this question is asked in relation to human decision: “If God has predestined some to be his sons and chosen them before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4,5), then what’s the point in praying for anyone’s conversion?”

The implicit argument here is that if prayer is to be possible at all man must have the power of self-determination. That is, all man’s decisions must ultimately belong to himself, not God. For otherwise he is determined by God and all his decisions are really fixed in God’s eternal counsel. Let’s examine the reasonableness of this argument by reflecting on the example cited above.

1. “Why pray for anyone’s conversion if God has chosen before the foundation of the world who will be his sons?” A person in need of conversion is “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1); he is “enslaved to sin” (Romans 6:17; John 8:34); “the god of this world has blinded his mind that he might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ” (II Corinthians. 4:4); his heart is hardened against God (Ephesians 4:18) so that he is hostile to God and in rebellion against God’s will (Romans 8:7).

Now I would like to turn the question back to my questioner: If you insist that this man must have the power of ultimate self-determination, what is the point of praying for him? What do you want God to do for Him? You can’t ask that God overcome the man’s rebellion, for rebellion is precisely what the man is now choosing, so that would mean God overcame his choice and took away his power of self-determination. But how can God save this man unless he act so as to change the man’s heart from hard hostility to tender trust?

Will you pray that God enlighten his mind so that he truly see the beauty of Christ and believe? If you pray this, you are in effect asking God no longer to leave the determination of the man’s will in his own power. You are asking God to do something within the man’s mind (or heart) so that he will surely see and believe. That is, you are conceding that the ultimate determination of the man’s decision to trust Christ is God’s, not merely his.

What I am saying is that it is not the doctrine of God’s sovereignty which thwarts prayer for the conversion of sinners. On the contrary, it is the unbiblical notion of self-determination which would consistently put an end to all prayers for the lost. Prayer is a request that God do something. But the only thing God can do to save a lost sinner is to overcome his resistance to God. If you insist that he retain his self-determination, then you are insisting that he remain without Christ. For “no one can come to Christ unless it is given him from the Father” (John 6:65,44).

Only the person who rejects human self-determination can consistently pray for God to save the lost. My prayer for unbelievers is that God will do for them what He did for Lydia: He opened her heart so that she gave heed to what Paul said (Acts 16:14). I will pray that God, who once said, “Let there be light!”, will by that same creative power “shine in their hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (II Corinthians 4:6). I will pray that He will “take out their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26). I will pray that they be born not of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man but of God (John 1:13). And with all my praying I will try to “be kind and to teach and correct with gentleness and patience, if perhaps God may grant them repentance and freedom from Satan’s snare” (II Timothy 2:24-26).

In short, I do not ask God to sit back and wait for my neighbor to decide to change. I do not suggest to God that He keep his distance lest his beauty become irresistible and violate my neighbor’s power of self-determination. No! I pray that he ravish my unbelieving neighbor with his beauty, that he unshackle the enslaved will, that he make the dead alive and that he suffer no resistance to stop him lest my neighbor perish.

2. If someone now says, “O.K., granted that a person’s conversion is ultimately determined by God’ I still don’t see the point of your prayer. If God chose before the foundation of the world who would be converted, what function does your prayer have?” My answer is that it has a function like that of preaching: How shall the lost believe in whom they have not heard, and how shall they hear without a preacher, and how shall they preach unless they are sent (Romans 10:14f.)? Belief in Christ is a gift of God (John 6:65; II Timothy 2:25; Ephesians 2:8), but God has ordained that the means by which men believe on Jesus is through the preaching of men. It is simply naive to say that if no one spread the gospel all those predestined to be sons of God (Ephesians 1:5) would be converted anyway. The reason this is naive is because it overlooks the fact that the preaching of the gospel is just as predestined as is the believing of the gospel: Paul was set apart for his preaching ministry before he was born (Galatians 1:15), as was Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1:5). Therefore, to ask, “If we don’t evangelize, will the elect be saved?” is like asking, “If there is no predestination, will the predestined be saved?” God knows those who are his and he will raise up messengers to win them. If someone refuses to be a part of that plan, because he dislikes the idea of being tampered with before he was born, then he will be the loser, not God and not the elect. “You will certainly carry out God’s purpose however you act but it makes a difference to you whether you serve like Judas or like John.” (Problem of Pain chapter 7, Anthology, p 910, cf. p 80)

Prayer is like preaching in that it is a human act also. It is a human act that God has ordained and which he delights in because it reflects the dependence of his creatures upon Him. He has promised to respond to prayer, and his response is just as contingent upon our prayer as our prayer is in accordance with his will. “And this is the confidence which we have before Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us” (I John 5:14). When we don’t know how to pray according to God’s will but desire it earnestly, “the Spirit of God intercedes for us according to the will of God” (Romans 8:27).

In other words, just as God will see to it that His Word is proclaimed as a means to saving the elect, so He will see to it that all those prayers are prayed which He has promised to respond to. I think Paul’s words in Romans 15:18 would apply equally well to his preaching and his praying ministry: “I will not presume to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me, resulting in the obedience of the Gentiles.” Even our prayers are a gift from the one who “works in us that which is pleasing in his sight” (Hebrews 13:21). Oh, how grateful we should be that He has chosen us to be employed in this high service! How eager we should be to spend much time in prayer!

Romans 9 (Transcript) Part 2

Transcript from an audio teaching by Dr. James White, continued from Part 1 here.

“For the Scripture says to Pharaoh,” (and then we have another citation of another Old Testament text) “‘For this very purpose,'” (God had a purpose, it wasn’t Pharaoh’s purpose) “‘For this very purpose I raised you up,'” – I did this.

“oh but Pharaoh had all these choices.”

Yes. And “For this very purpose I raised you up.'”

Now, folks if you’re zoning out, tune in here a second because I have got to challenge any of you who are listening today.

If you want to understand what the Scriptures teach about this, you need to have the same priorities that God has. And you have to ask yourself the question, “What is most important to me?” Because God said the reason He raised Pharaoh up was “to demonstrate My power in you, and that My name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth.”

So I want to ask everyone that calls himself a believing Christian in the audience today, where in your priority list is the demonstration of God’s power and the proclamation of His name throughout the whole earth? Nothing in there about the free will of man, is there? Nothing in there about making men feel good about themselves, nothing in there about meeting their felt needs. The demonstration of God’s power and the proclamation of His name, those are not big priorities for the vast majority of people who call themselves Christians today. So it shouldn’t surprise us in the least that the vast majority of those folks do not like what Romans 9 has to say.

God had a purpose. He raised Pharaoh up. He used Pharaoh. Now if you say “Oh how can He do that? I just wont worship a God like that.”

Really? Was Pharaoh in Adam a rebel sinner?

“Well, yeah”.

And so God could have brought His wrath to bear against Pharaoh at any point and brought him to judgment for his sins?

“Well, yeah.”

And so because God does not choose to bring Pharaoh to judgment immediately, but instead uses him to demonstrate His power and to make His name known throughout all the earth that somehow makes God unjust? Surely not!

“How does Paul interpret this text? Well what’s the apostolic interpretation? Well this is just talking about how God used Egypt.”

Well, you tell me. What does verse 18 say?

You can’t cut it out of your Bible, you’ve got to deal with what it says.

“So then, those whom He wishes, He mercies and those whom He wishes He hardens.” Yeah, it says hardens right there.

You go, “I don’t want that in my Bible!”

But it is right there. Because we know that Pharaoh, his heart was hardened. And people go “well yeah but he first hardened his own heart” except before, look back at Exodus 4: 11 & 12 before Moses ever stood in front of Pharaoh, God said “I am going to harden his heart.”

“Yeah, but he wanted to harden his own heart.”

Yes he did because he was a sinner and all sinners want to do that. And God was actually restraining Pharaoh from being worse than he was. But the point is God had a purpose. And if your theology is such that God could not have a purpose and Pharaoh could have gone, “You know what? I repent.” So that God’s entire purpose for the Exodus, the Passover, the picturing of Christ, the demonstration of His name and His power throughout the whole earth, and the spoiling of the Egyptian gods; if your theology is “Well you know God may have wanted to do all that but all Pharaoh had to do is repent and it would have been just fine.”

Then I say to you, you are not talking about the God of the Bible. You have made up a god in your own image; don’t call it the God of the bible. Because the God of the bible needs to be defined on the basis of the bible, not what you like about Him, okay? Continue reading

God, as seen in Romans 9

I am preaching through the book of Romans. We’re at Romans 9 this morning which is without doubt, the most politically incorrect passage in the Bible. It is like Mount Everest in elevation; lofty, exalted, stark, rugged, and totally just, there! … proclaiming with a loud voice, “God does what He wants, when He wants, the way He wants, without asking for anyone’s opinion.”

None can thwart Him, none can hinder Him…. as Martin Luther said, “even the devil is God’s devil!”

God says, “My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure” (Isa. 46:10); “He does according to His will in the army of heaven, and the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay His hand” (Dan. 4:35).

Divine sovereignty means that God is God in fact, as well as in name, that He is on the Throne of the universe, working all things “after the counsel of His own will” (Eph. 1:11).

Moral Inability

Jesus said, “No man can come to Me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:44)

In speaking of a universal inability concerning unregenerate man, He speaks of a MORAL rather than physical inability, which is why he is still responsible. John Piper explains:

Friday Round Up

(1) Pastor Leo Godzich, Associate Pastor at Phoenix First Assembly was killed in an auto accident in Uganda yesterday, along with others. I had met him numerous times and he will be greatly missed by all who knew him. Please pray for his family. Details are sketchy just now but a report can be found here.

(2) I mentioned this before, but a few weeks ago, Dr. James White conducted a 2.5 hour online course in Christology for Christians: A Study of the History and Theology of the Person of Christ. It was outstanding. If you have not already listened in I would encourage you to bookmark the page and hear it at your leisure.

(3) Paul Manata has provided a very good review of Roger Olson’s new book “Against Calvinism” found here.

(4) Led by the Spirit – Someone sent me the following and I thought it was well worth passing on:

Have you ever heard somebody say that the Spirit “led” them to do something? Or something like, “I felt led to” do such and such? I’ve heard those kinds of statements. I’ve said those kinds of things, too. But what do people mean when they say that? And, more importantly, is that a Biblical way of understanding and speaking about the Spirit’s ministry among believers?

It might surprise you, as it did me, to learn that the phrase “led by the Spirit” occurs only twice in the New Testament:

Romans 8:13-14 – For if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.

Galatians 5:16-18 – But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law.

You’ll notice that both occurrences of “led by the Spirit” come in the context of the mortification of sin. The Holy Spirit’s testimony about His own role in “leading” believers is specifically set alongside the putting away of the desires and deeds of the flesh. To do that is to walk by the Spirit; that is, to walk by means of Him: to be led by Him. And so if we are going to be relentlessly Biblical, this has to be the way we primarily understand and use that phrase: being led by the Spirit. “The Spirit led me to put off my anger and bitterness.” “The Spirit led me to mortify my lust for attention and recognition.” And so on.

(5) Once again, Ligonier has some SUPER deals today in this week’s $5 Friday sale. Once in a while there is something truly of note to mention and that is the case today. The CD set “Justification by Faith Alone” is especially recommended, a 15 part series that is normally $38, but for today only $5.

I would urge all Pastors to consider ordering multiple sets to put in the hands of your people. Its a truly outstanding series.
The online sale starts at 8 a.m. EST and goes on for 24 hours or until items are sold out. Check out the $5 Ligonier sale here.

By the way, remember that for any purchase at Ligonier, click on the green Ligonier Ministries image to the right and when placing an order, use the code “EGRACE10” and it will give you a 10% discount as a reader of this blog.

(6) From the Truth for Life website:

“I chose you out of the world.” – John 15:19

Here is distinguishing grace and discriminating regard, for some are made the special objects of divine affection. Do not be afraid to dwell upon this lofty doctrine of election. When your mind is heavy and depressed, you will find it to be a spiritual tonic. Those who doubt the doctrines of grace or who throw them into the shadows miss the richest clusters of grapes; they lose the best wines, the choice food.

There is no balm in Gilead comparable to it. If the honey in Jonathan’s wood when simply touched illumined the eyes, this is honey that will illumine your heart as you love and learn the mysteries of the kingdom of God. You must feed on this; live upon this choice provision, and do not be afraid that it will prove too delicate a diet. Meat from the King’s table will hurt none of His servants. Desire to have your mind enlarged, that you may comprehend more and more of the eternal, everlasting, discriminating love of God.

When you have soared as high as election, linger on its twin peak, the covenant of grace. Covenant engagements are the mighty fortresses behind which we lie entrenched; covenant engagements with our Savior, Christ Jesus, are the quiet resting-places of trembling spirits.

His oath, His covenant, His blood,
Support me in the raging flood;
When every earthly prop gives way,
This still is all my strength and stay.

(7) I encourage you to check out the Reformation apparel by clicking on the Missionalwear logo to the right. There are some very cool items that have now become available for both men and women.

No Joel, No!

NO JOEL.. No! Mormonism is not Christian at all – it is not Christian doctrine to deny the Trinity, to proclaim that the god who rules this earth (and who we are to worship) was once a man and who lives now on a planet encircling a star called Kolob; that Jesus was conceived by a sexual union between God and Mary… that the Bible has been superseded by the book of Mormon; that Jesus’ death and resurrection merely secured an opportunity to be saved if people will work for it.

Every Mormon needs to hear and embrace the true Gospel, not be affirmed as already being a Christian, especially by someone as prominent as yourself Joel. If you don’t know what you are talking about say nothing – admit that you have not studied what Mormonism teaches – but PLEASE don’t affirm the Mormon faith as Christian. Mormonism is the most polytheistic faith on the planet.

It is not at all loving to let the wolves roam free amongst the flock Joel and you just did that through your words. You have also undermind all the many ministries out there (many of them former Mormons) who seek to reach LDS people for the Lord.

More explanation here:

The Active Obedience of Christ – No Hope Without It!

Shortly before he died (January 1, 1937), Dr. J. Gresham Machen sent a final telegram to his friend Professor John Murray. The words of the telegram were these:

“I’m so thankful for the active obedience of Christ. No hope without it.”

I’m convinced that in these short words, Dr. Machen was able to express the essence of the biblical Gospel. Let me explain:

Theologians talk of a double function of Christ as our Savior in saving us – His passive and active obedience. The passive obedience refers to His laying His life down for us His sheep. He died an atoning death paying the full penalty for sins. Yet, what is often missed is the function of His 33 years of life on earth perfectly fulfilling all the demands of the law. This righteousness, one that has fulfilled the entire law of God is what is credited to our account as believers in Christ. Christ is our righteousness!

CHRIST DIED FOR OUR SINS, AND LIVED FOR OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS

The Lord Jesus Christ not only died an atoning death for our sins, but before He ever went to the cross, He lived a sinless life that perfectly fulfilled the righteous standards of the law. If all that was necessary for our justification was the death of Jesus on the cross, He could have come down to earth on a parachute on Good Friday, died on the cross for us, and three days later, risen again. But we all know that this is not what happened. Why? Because that would never have been enough.

The good news of the Gospel is certainly that Christ died for our sins.. but it also includes the fact that He lived for our righteousness. For more than 33 years, Christ was tempted in every way like us, yet He was without sin (Heb. 4:15). Christ is the only One who can say that He loved His Father perfectly in life, with all His heart, soul, mind and strength.”

At the cross then, all our sins were laid on Him (though of course, He remained the holy and spotless Lamb of God, in and of Himself) and as our sin bearer, He was punished in our place. As the angel declared to Joseph in Matthew 1:21, “you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”

“He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree” (1 Pet. 2:24).

Isa 53:5, 6 says, “But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.”

DOUBLE IMPUTATION – If Christ had merely paid the penalty for our sins, our debt to God would have been cancelled, and no punishment would be due to us, thank God! But that is not nearly enough to gain an entry into heaven. That would simply remove the outstanding debt we owed to God and bring us to zero… and zero is simply not enough. Jesus said, “Unless your righteousness (positive) exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees you shall in no way enter the kingdom of God.” (Matt. 5:20)

We as sinners not only need the removal of the negative (our sin) but the presence of the positive… full and complete righteousness to be able to stand before a holy God just in His sight. So not only were our sins imputed to Christ and He bore their full punishment for us on the cross, but positively, the righteousness of Christ was imputed to us. The punishment due to us because of our sin came upon Him, and the pleasure of God due to Jesus’ complete obedience to every jot and tittle of the law, came upon us. The very righteousness of Jesus Christ is the righteousness imputed to us by grace alone, through faith in Christ alone. This righteousness is one that has perfectly fulfilled the entire demands of the law of God.

I recently read here of someone who had probed further into Machen’s statement in his telegram I mentioned earlier. He was able to find a radio program Machen did just two weeks before his death where he spoke on the active obedience of Christ. The author summed up what was said in this way, “When Dr. Machen talked about the active obedience of Christ, he was speaking of the entire and thoroughgoing obedience of Christ to the commands, laws, decrees, and ordinances of his heavenly Father. In short, Jesus obeyed the entire law of God in every respect, doing all that God required. As Scripture reminds us, Jesus Christ fulfilled all righteousness, and did everything that his Father had given him to do. Dr. Machen was also quick to point out that Christ’s active obedience to the will of God is inseparable from his passive obedience. Christ’s passive obedience consists of his suffering all the just penalties due to the elect for their sins. He endured all the punishment that we deserved, drinking the cup of God’s judgment down to the dregs – draining it to the last bitter drop. Dr. Machen likewise emphasized that although the active obedience and the passive sufferings can be distinguished from one another, they must never be separated. They are inextricably interwoven. The cross of Christ, for instance, is simultaneously the ultimate suffering that Christ endured and the greatest act of obedience that he performed. You can’t have one without the other, and should never attempt to separate the two. ”

Here’s an actual quote from Machen’s radio program, “If Christ had merely paid the penalty of sin for us and had done nothing more we should be at best back in the situation in which Adam found himself where God placed him under the covenant of works. In other words, if Christ only paid the penalty for our sins through his passive sufferings, then we are merely transported back to the Garden of Eden.”

Dr. Machen went on to develop his point:

“That covenant of works was a probation. If Adam kept the law of God for a certain period, he was to have eternal life. If he disobeyed he was to have death. Well, he disobeyed and the penalty of death was inflicted on him and his posterity. Then Christ by His death on the cross paid that penalty for those whom God had chosen.

Well and good. But if that were all that Christ did for us, do you not see that we should be back in just the situation in which Adam was before he sinned? The penalty of his sinning would have been removed from us because it had all been paid by Christ. But for the future the attainment of eternal life would have been dependent upon our perfect obedience to the law of God. We should simply have been back in the probation again.

Here we begin to understand why Jesus’ passive obedience is not enough – if divorced from his active obedience. The passive sufferings of Christ discharged the enormous debt we owe, due to our sins and the sin of Adam. In effect, Jesus’ passive obedience alone would bring our account from hopelessly overdrawn back to a zero balance – our debt would be retired. But having our debt retired and our sins forgiven does not get us into heaven; it simply returns us to the starting point. More must be done if we are to gain heaven. Righteousness must be completely fulfilled, either by us or by a representative acting on our behalf.”

“Moreover, we should have been back in that probation in a very much less hopeful way than that in which Adam was originally placed in it. Everything was in Adam’s favour when he was placed in the probation. He had been created in knowledge, righteousness and holiness. He had been created positively good. Yet despite all that, he fell. How much more likely would we be to fall – nay, how certain to fall – if all that Christ had done for us were merely to remove from us the guilt of past sin, leaving it then to our own efforts to win the reward which God has pronounced upon perfect obedience.”

So although we would have been transported back to Eden again, the effects of the Fall would not have been entirely reversed. We would have been put into a probationary situation with far worse prospects than Adam faced. And if Adam, endowed with original righteousness, holiness, and knowledge, was liable to fall, how much more certainly would we fail the test. Therefore, to possess only Jesus’ passive sufferings leads to a rather hopeless scenario: we’re reassigned to take a test that we are guaranteed to fail. We will never get to heaven if we are forced to rely on our own active obedience to God’s righteous demands.

On the other hand, if Jesus passively suffered for our sins and actively obeyed all of God’s righteous requirements on our behalf, then heaven is absolutely guaranteed to us. And this is why Dr. Machen’s understanding of the complete obedience of Christ – especially his active obedience – filled him with such joyful confidence.

He continued:

“That is the reason why those who have been saved by the Lord Jesus Christ are in a far more blessed condition than was Adam before he fell. Adam before he fell was righteous in the sight of God, but he was still under the possibility of becoming unrighteous. Those who have been saved by the Lord Jesus Christ not only are righteous in the sight of God but they are beyond the possibility of becoming unrighteous. In their case, the probation is over. It is not over because they have stood it successfully. It is not over because they have themselves earned the reward of assured blessedness which God promised on condition of perfect obedience. But it is over because Christ has stood it for them; it is over because Christ has merited for them the reward by His perfect obedience to God’s law.”

The commentator went on to say, “Do you see? Christ has passed the test. He has earned the reward. Heaven has been secured by his perfect obedience to God’s law. And he did not do all this for himself as if he needed to earn heaven for himself. He did all this for his people – even for you, O believer! On your behalf, he actively obeyed, thereby saving you and placing you beyond the possibility of ever becoming unrighteous again. Your status is secured eternally – what a great hope!” So when you comprehend the full obedience of Jesus Christ – both active and passive – you understand why Dr. Machen had such great hope as he lay upon his deathbed. In his own words, “How gloriously complete is the salvation wrought for us by Christ! Christ paid the penalty, and He merited the reward. Those are the two great things that He has done for us.” No hope without it! Complete hope with it!”

Amen! The work of Christ is perfect in every respect, and perfect in every aspect. The righteousness now enjoyed by the believer is an alien one (one that comes from outside of himself) for it is the righteousness of Christ Himself. It comes to us as a gift, not something earned (Rom. 5:17), and is the cause of our rejoicing in the direct presence of the Lord. “For He (God) made Him (Jesus) who knew no sin, to become sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” 2 Cor. 5:21. As believers in Christ, we’ve been made righteous with a righteousness that has never known sin, and has fully complied with all the righteous demands of the law. Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Keep the Faith Tony (3)

Continued from as a Christian, want the claims I have embraced about Christ to be true, and I accept the fact that I want that desperately. I would be absolutely devastated if the claims of Christ were proven to be untrue. I would have no reason for living. But Tony, Russell is not being honest with us is he? Why? Because there is an equally obvious emotional factor behind atheism!

Why do I say this? Because as an atheist, speaking out publicly and in writing of the non-existence of God, isn’t the very last thing that Russell wants – the existence of a righteous and holy God – the existence of the God of the Bible? Isn’t this the least desired, the most terrible thing conceivable for Bertrand Russell? Yes, the worst news Russell could imagine would be the confirmation that God does exist, and by the way, he is summoned to give an account of his life before Him on the Day of Judgment. Here is the motivation behind atheism – the desire to live independent of a Holy and Righteous God.

Here, as I said, the double standard Russell uses is obvious. He appealed to feelings of pride, courage, freedom and self-worth as a basis for those listening to him to say no to Christianity, yet attacked the Christian for having feelings which drove them to accept the Lordship of Christ.

Tony, isn’t it obvious that all of us need to admit that as to the existence of God, none of us is without bias. A Christian desperately wants Christ’s claims to be valid and true, and an Atheist desperately wants them to be invalid and untrue. Scripture leaves no room for neutrality in this regard. No one is neutral. Either we are God lovers or God haters. So to attack the Christian for his feelings in this shows double standard par excellence!

If Russell was honest, he would have to admit that both the atheist and the Christian possess a great deal of bias when it comes to this issue of God’s existence, but that doesn’t mean that both propositions are wrong. The issue of course is not our feelings about God’s existence, but whether or not God actually exists in reality. If God does not exist, then all my feelings of love and empathy towards Him won’t conjure Him up! If He exists, then all of Russell’s feelings against His existence won’t kill Him!

Russell has to stoop to obvious prejudice, to use logical fallacies in his argumentation, and shows no basis for his philosophical arguments. I am left with the Apostle Paul to conclude that Russell simply suppressed the truth he knew about God because he was desperate to avoid the God who really is. Even Russell’s most ardent followers would have to admit that this essay is open to much criticism, and Tony, I have to conclude that his rejection of God in his thinking was not based upon any sound or intellectual basis at all but only on a prejudicial bias in the extreme.

I hope that these comments help you to see through the issues clearly. As I conclude, I would ask you to read a couple of passages of scripture to meditate upon. The first I have already mentioned in Romans 1:16-23; and the second is found in 1 Corinthians 1:18 – 2:16. As you read these through, I believe that you can be very thankful to God for the wondrous and amazing grace He has given you in revealing His truth to you. It wasn’t your wits or intelligence that caused you to see His truth, but the Sovereign gracious gift of God (Ephesians 2:8, 9). Though the message of the cross is foolishness to others, to the called, to those being saved, it is the power of God (1 Corinthians 1:18). In verse 19 Paul goes on to say that God will “destroy the wisdom of the wise, and bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.” I can’t help but think of men like Bertrand Russell at this point.

As we read further in 1 Corinthians 1, we find a series of four questions posed to us.

1) Where is the wise?

2) Where is the scribe?

3) Where is the disputer of this age?

4) Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?

The obvious point of these questions is to provoke us to answer that the world’s wisdom is not real wisdom at all, for it starts in the wrong place, without God.

For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.” (v. 20, 21)

Because you are part of the company called “the called” you know that Christ is the power and wisdom of God. (v. 24)

God leaves the debaters to themselves, knowing that without acknowledging Him, they are sure to end up only in intellectual cul de sacs, never getting anywhere. However this same God is pleased to reveal the truth to those He calls. What grace!

As you reflect on these things Tony, I pray that your faith will be strengthened even after you have considered some of the main arguments of atheism and that you will be stronger in your faith because of it.

I will get this off in the mail to you and will wait a couple of days before calling you again. I am confident that after reading this, “your faith might not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.” (1 Cor. 2:5).

If there is anything else I can help you with, or if I can clarify any of these things further, just let me know and I’ll be happy to try to answer any questions you have or else I can point you to resources that I think would be of help to you. I look forward to hearing good news about you when I call. Keep the faith Tony!

In the Perfect Savior,

Rev. John Samson

Quotes on Election

“Can controversial teachings nurture our Christlikeness? Before you answer this question, adiposity ask another one: Are there any significant biblical teachings that have not been controversial? I cannot think of even one, let alone the number we all need for the daily nurture of faith. If this is true, then we have no choice but to seek our food in the markets of controversy. We need not stay there. We can go home and feast if the day has been well spent. But we must buy there. As much as we would like it, we do not have the luxury of living in a world where the most nourishing truths are unopposed. If we think we can suspend judgment on all that is controversial and feed our souls only on what is left, we are living in a dreamworld. There is nothing left. The reason any of us thinks that we can stand alone on truths that are non-controversial is because we do not know our history or the diversity of the professing church. Besides that, would we really want to give to the devil the right to determine our spiritual menu by refusing to eat any teaching over which he can cause controversy?

The teaching of Scripture on election has been controversial. But I believe with all my heart that it is precious beyond words and a great nourishment for the Christlikeness of faith. If I understand the teaching of the Bible, God has pleasure in election. To know that this is true, and to know why it is, is to see another facet of the glory of God. And that sight is the power to make us holy and happy people.” – John Piper, Chosen: God’s Grace in Election

“He chooses us, not because we believe, but that we may believe; lest we should say that we first chose him.” – Augustine

John MacArthur, Answering the Key Questions About the Doctrine of Election (Interview): “It probably ought to be the first thing you teach a young believer. Now that you’ve come to Christ, this is what I want you to know, you were saved by the sovereign grace of God who stepped into your life in the midst of your death and blindness and gave you life and sight and picked you up and brought you into His Kingdom. Sheer grace has done this for you. That, I think, is the first thing you should say to a new convert. This is, if in fact, you are faithful to the confession you have made, if in fact your love for Christ and desire to honor, to worship and to obey Him continues to grow, this will be an ongoing evidence that God has wrought a miracle in your life. And because of that, you need to know, this is really important, that you should live a life of gratitude for a work has been done in you which you did not deserve and did not earn.”

“At the very announcement of the text some will be ready to say, “Why preach upon so profound a doctrine as election?” I answer, because it is in God’s word, and whatever is in the Word of God is to be preached. “But some truths ought to be kept back from the people,” you will say, “lest they should make an ill use thereof.” That is Popish doctrine, it was upon that very theory that the priests kept back the Bible from the people, they did not give it to them lest they should misuse it. “But are not some doctrines dangerous?” Not if they are true and rightly handled. Truth is never dangerous, it is error and reticence that are fraught with peril. “But do not men abuse the doctrine of grace?” I grant you that they do; but if we destroyed everything that men misuse, we should have nothing left. Are there to be no ropes because some fools will hang themselves? And, must cutlery be discarded and denounced, because there are some who will use dangerous weapons for the destruction of their adversaries? Decidedly not. Besides all this, remember that men do read the Scriptures and think about these doctrines, and therefore often make mistakes about them; who then shall set them right if we, who preach the Word, hold our tongues about the matter?” – C. H. Spurgeon, from sermon entitled, Election: Its Defenses and Evidences

“I know, dear friends, there are some who are so afraid of this doctrine, that the mention of it produces alarm. If they were to meet a lion in their way, they would not be more terrified than they are when they see this doctrine in Scripture or hear it from the pulpit (the doctrine of Election).” – C. H. Spurgeon, from sermon entitled, Election: Its Defenses and Evidences

“God didn’t draw straws; He didn’t look down the corridor of time to see who would choose Him before He decided. Rather, by His sovereign will He chose who would be in the Body of Christ. The construction of the Greek verb for “chose” indicates God chose us for Himself. That means God acted totally independent of any outside influence. He made His choice totally apart from human will and purely on the basis of His sovereignty.” – John MacArthur Jr.

“It is no novelty, then, that I am-preaching; no new doctrine. I love to proclaim these strong old doctrines, which are called by nickname Calvinism, but which are surely and verily the revealed truth of God as it is in Christ Jesus. By this truth I make a pilgrimage into the past, and as I go, I see father after father, confessor after confessor, martyr after martyr, standing up to shake hands with me. Were I a Pelagian, or a believer in the doctrine of free-will, I should have to walk for centuries all alone. Here and there a heretic of no very honorable character might rise up and call me brother. But taking these things to be the standard of my faith, I see the land of the ancients peopled with my brethren – I behold multitudes who confess the same as I do, and acknowledge that this is the religion of God’s own church.” – C. H. Spurgeon, from sermon entitled, Election

“The Sovereignty of God is the stumbling block on which thousands fall and perish; and if we go contending with God about His sovereignty it will be our eternal ruin. It is absolutely necessary that we should submit to God as an absolute sovereign, and the sovereign of our souls; as one who may have mercy on whom He will have mercy and harden whom He will.” – Jonathan Edwards

“All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” John 6:37

“Thank God for such an assurance as that! God will not be defeated. His purpose will never fail of accomplishment. All that the Father giveth to Jesus shall come to Him. You do not like that, perhaps. You say you do not believe in election and predestination. Then you will have to tear a number of pages out of your Bible, for there are many of them which magnify God’s sovereign electing grace.” – H. A. Ironside, The Gospel of John

“You know, brethren, that there is no soul living who holds more firmly to the doctrines of grace than I do, and if any man asks me whether I am ashamed to be called a Calvinist, I answer, I wish to be called nothing but a Christian; but if you ask me, do I hold the doctrinal views which were held by John Calvin, I reply, I do in the main hold them, and rejoice to avow it. But, my dear friends, far be it from me even to imagine that Zion contains none within her walls but Calvinistic Christians, or that there are none saved who do not hold our views. Most atrocious things have been spoken about the character and spiritual condition of John Wesley, the modern prince of Arminians. I can only say concerning him, that while I detest many of the doctrines which he preached, yet for the man himself, I have a reverence second to no Wesleyan; and if there were wanted two apostles to be added to the number of the twelve, I do not believe that there could be found two men more fit to be so added than George Whitefield and John Wesley. The character of John Wesley stands beyond all imputation for self-sacrifice, zeal, holiness, and communion with God; he lived far above the ordinary level of common Christians, and was one of whom the world was not worthy. I believe there are multitudes of men who cannot see these truths, or, at least, cannot see them in the way in which we put them, who nevertheless have received Christ into their hearts, and are as dear to the heart of the God of grace as the soundest Calvinist out of heaven.” – C. H. Spurgeon, The Man With the Measuring Line