Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Monday, January 30, 2006

Lesson 5: Free Will

(This is based, in part, on John Gerstner’s Primer on the Free Will from a compilation of his primers in the book Primitive Theology. I am using Primitive Theology for my Sunday School class. There is a growing list of links on the left for the posts for this class.

You are not sitting in this class (or reading these notes) of your own free will. You, in fact, must be here in this class (or sitting in front of a computer, reading these notes.)

You are no doubt saying to yourself that such an assertion is nonsense. You are, no doubt, absolutely certain that you chose to come and could just as easily have decided to stay in bed. But actually, that was quite impossible.

Perhaps it was something like this. The alarm clock went of, and you said to your spouse, “I don’t want to go listen to that blowhard Heddle talk about nonsense.” But your spouse said, “We have to go, because it’s our church and are called to unity.” You still considered going back to sleep but at that moment avoiding an argument was preferred to getting more sleep. So you go up, but you still didn’t want to come. You thought about saying you felt that you had a cold coming on, but the desire to sin (by lying) to reap the temporary benefit (avoiding this boring class) was not as strong as the desire not to sin—but not by much. You then said to your spouse, we could go to the Maple Barn for pancakes and still make the regular service, but once again your spouse prepared ready to defend the faith and so your unwillingness to spend valuable marital capital overcame your reluctance to come. And so you are here.

Or, perhaps you got up and said, I really like the topic of predestination and free will so I am going to go listen to the class.

In either case, you were not really free, but a slave to your desires.

What do we mean by free will?

Normally we define free will as something like this:

Free will: The ability to choose whatever we want, at any particular time, for any particular reason, or for no reason at all.

Critics claim that the Calvinist’s blend of predestination and sovereignty makes robots of us all. If you make it past the first two responses to predestination, viz.,

(1) I might as well do whatever I want.

(2) Hey, that’s not fair!

you then run headfirst into

(3) It makes us into unwitting actors that are following a predetermined script.

Interestingly, this third complaint is exactly the opposite from the first.

Predestination, it is often said, negates the human free will. As I hope to show, it only negates the version of free will wherein a person can make a choice for no reason at all.

Neutral Choices

R. C. Sproul calls this type of choice, made for no reason at all, a neutral choice because it implies “no prior prejudice, inclination, or disposition.” Furthermore, Sproul goes on to make a case that such neutral choices are a logical impossibility.

Sproul gives this example from Alice in Wonderland:

It [a neutral choice] is something like Alice in Wonderland when she came to a fork in the road. She did not know which way to turn. She saw the grinning Cheshire Cat in the tree. She asked the cat “Which way should I turn?” The cat replied, “Where are you going?” Alice answered, “I don’t know.” “Then,” replied the Cheshire cat, “it doesn’t matter.”

Sproul tells us to consider Alice’s dilemma. If Alice truly has no prior inclination to turn right or left, or to turn back—if she truly has no reason, however subtle, to use as a basis for her decision, she would be frozen in place by her indecision.

A neutral decision, if it existed, would have to be truly spontaneous. Like Alice, there would be nothing making us lean this way or that. The choice just pops out of thin air. There is no way that a just God could hold man responsible for such choices, if they did exist. They would be no different from accidents. If a quantum fluctuation inside my brain made me sin, then God Himself would sin by punishing me for it. No, the Bible is clear that we are punished for what is in our heart, which speaks of our motivations, inclinations, and desires. We are held accountable because we desire to sin, not because some uncontrollable process made us sin. We are not punished for spontaneous reasonless choices but for willful decisions based on our desires.

We must modify our definition of free will. One cannot actually make a choice for “no reason at all”. And if you could, such choices would be morally inconsequential background noise.

Free but Determined

So we have a slightly reduced definition of free will. Excising the logically impossible “no reason at all” leaves us with

Free will: The ability to choose whatever we want at any particular time, for any particular reason.

This also turns out to be too flexible. Applying this to Alice, she could turn left because there are trees on the left and she likes trees for the shade they provide. Or she could turn right because beautiful flowers line that path. How will she choose? If she liked shade trees exactly as much as she liked flowers she would still be frozen in her indecision. She would now have a reason to go left and a reason to go right but in this case, since the choices are judged to be of exactly the same value, she could not make a choice “for any particular reason”.

If Alice does make a choice, she will in fact choose the path for which she is more inclined at that moment, however subtle the difference. All other things being equal, if she chooses the left it is because she prefers shade trees. If she chooses the right, it is because she prefers flowers.

Her choice was determined not by God steering her left or right, but by her own desires and inclinations.

Jonathan Edwards postulated that the only way to make a choice, to avoid the fate of frozen indecision, it to choose according to one’s strongest inclination at the moment. It may be in the form of self-denial, but even in such a case one chooses self-denial because the inclination to obey God’s law is stronger than the inclination to sin at that particular instant. When Joseph ran from the seduction of the wife of his master, his inclination to avoid sin, or maybe to avoid death at the hands of his master, was stronger than his inclination to commit adultery.

So what is left of the vaunted free will? It is free but determined. It is free because it depends on you and you alone; God is not forcing you to do anything. God is not pulling your strings or whispering in your ear. However, it is determined none-the-less, not by God the puppet master but by your own desires and inclinations. It is actually self-determined.

Your choices are free because no one makes them for you; nobody steers you left when you really want to go right. You are free to choose according to your heart's desire. There is no external coercion. Yet they are self-determined because you will choose on the basis of your desires. You are not only free to choose according to your hearts desire, you must choose according to your heart's desire. You are a slave to your own heart.

It goes without saying that just because we choose according to our desires doesn’t mean we like our choices. We may know instinctively that “we will pay for this choice”, and “we don’t really want to do this”, yet we make the choice just the same, even though we don’t “want to”, because the inclination to do it (whatever “it” is) wins out over the inclination to avoid the consequences. This is what Paul was talking about in Romans when he wrote:
For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. (Rom. 7:19)
Paul is saying that his sinful desires overcome the part of him that holds righteous desire, the very part he, as a Christian, is trying to nurture and grow.

The Tacoma Narrows Bridge Collapse

If you have ever taken a physics class you have probably seen a video of the Tacoma Narrows (suspension) Bridge collapse of 1940.

The bridge, innovative in its design, was a short-lived source of civic pride. After the collapse, the Governor of Washington told the citizens in a radio address not to despair— he said: the state would build the exact same bridge in the exact same way in the exact same place. An engineering professor from the Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon, my alma mater) sent him a telegram that read: If you build the exact same bridge in the exact same way in the exact same place it will fall down exactly like the other one.

Likewise the aphorism “If I had a chance to do it all over again, I would choose differently.” We all think that about some awful choice we made in the past and how we would be wiser if only we had another chance. If you really mean, given the person you are now, if placed in the same situation you would choose differently, then that is plausible. But if you simply roll tape back to the point of decision with everything unchanged, you’ll make the same choice each and every time. Your choices are self-determined by the state of your desires and inclinations at that particular moment, i.e., what is on your heart.

Your heart’s desire

Before you are regenerated, you have no desire to choose righteousness. Rom. 3:10-12 makes that painfully clear. After you are regenerated the Holy Spirit goes to work on you. He doesn’t make you choose one thing over another, but over time through the process of sanctification your desires and inclinations change; your heart changes. More and more you make the right choice—you make the right choice. God is helping you by working on your heart—this then manifests itself in your choices, better choices, but still the choices of your free will.

Our desires “determine” whether we are able to sin or able to choose not to sin. Sproul, following Augustine, lays this out in table form according to a person’s current standing with God.
  1. Pre-fall man (Adam and Eve before the fall)
    • Able to sin
    • Able to not sin

  2. Post Fall Man (Any person before being saved)
    • Able to sin
    • Unable not to sin

  3. Reborn Man (Any person who is saved)
    • Able to sin
    • Able to not sin

  4. Glorified Man (Any person in heaven)
    • Able to not sin
    • Unable to sin
Before being saved, we are unable to not sin. (But apparently able to boldly split infinitives) This is just another way of stating Romans 3:10-12. We cannot choose righteousness—that desire has not yet been written on our hearts. After we are saved, we are in a moral state similar to Adam and Eve before the fall. God has changed our desires—not completely—but He has started an inexorable process. Our free will gets an overhaul. It begins to make better choices. This process will be complete in glory where, finally and wonderfully, we will be unable to sin.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

And the losing number is...

Mike Birch at Boar’s Head Tavern links to a story that “proves” that the lottery is run by minions of the anti-Christ. He forgot the truly irrefutable proof, from the only instance of verified cheating in a state run lottery. (Read down to see the number drawn.) This Pennsylvania rigging episode also shows up in this bestselling novel .

On a related note, while I think it is extremely stupid to play the lottery, I disagree with some of my fellow Christians that it is, it and of itself, sinful. Obviously it has great potential to become sinful and playing to win, whether routinely or when the jackpot gets humongous, bespeaks of covetousness. However, when I worked in an office I participated in “office pool” type activities, which occasionally including group purchases of lottery tickets. To me, the correct response in such instances (not that there cannot be exceptions) is to be a friend, have a little fun, and avoid looking like a legalistic stick-in-the-mud.

On the “novels published by David Heddle" bestseller list.

Lesson 4: Predestination (Part 6)

(This is based, in part, on John Gerstner’s Primer on the Predestination from a compilation of his primers in the book Primitive Theology. I am using Primitive Theology for my Sunday School class. There is a growing list of links on the left for the posts for this class.

2 Peter 3:9

Probably the most used verse in scripture to argue against election is 2 Peter 3:9. Like with all the problem verses, the onus on the Reformed perspective is not to demonstrate that these passages teach election, but to show that they are consistent with that view. Let us examine that verse, but in context:
1 This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, 3 that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, 3 knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. 4 They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” 5 For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, 6 and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. 7 But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. 8 But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. (2 Pet. 3:1-9)
Verse nine, The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance, is offered, stand alone, to demonstrate that far from God wishing to save a select and privileged group of sinners, God wishes to save all.

Note that we could argue on the same basis as we did for 1 Tim. 2:4, namely that what God “wishes” is not what he wills. God does not decree that “nobody should perish”, otherwise nobody would perish. However, we can argue against the Arminian view of this passage on other solid ground as well.

When compared to the “pro” predestination verses of, for example, John 6 or Ephesians 1 or Romans 8 and 9, one thing is immediately apparent. Unlike the writers of those passages, The Apostle Peter is not discussing salvation but the second coming of Christ.

It is perhaps good to recall to whom Peter is writing this letter. He refers to his first letter, which we assume is 1 Peter. In 1 Peter 1:1 we read: To those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. And, at the start of Second Peter: To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ. Peter’s audience consist of Christians, particularly those suffering from false teaching, probably (based on 2 Peter 2:13-19) a form of antinomianism –or the gross abuse of Christian liberty when it is taken as a license to sin. In the critical chapter three passage provided above, we find that another charge against the false teachers is that they scoff at the Second Coming.

It is this false teaching on the Second Coming that is particularly germane. The false teachers are criticizing the delay, as they perceived it, in Christ’s return. Peter tells the faithful that they should not allow this false teaching to weaken their faith. In verse eight he famously states: But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.

Before looking at verse nine, let us enumerate different ways in which Peter refers to the “you,” that is the audience, of his two letters:
  • Elect (1 Peter 1:1)
  • Born Again (1 Peter 1:3)
  • Guarded through faith to salvation (1 Peter 1:5)
  • Lovers and believers of Jesus (1 Peter 1:8)
  • Recipients of Grace (1 Peter 1:10)
  • Chosen (1 Peter 5:13)
  • Faithful (2 Peter 1:1)
  • Called (2 Peter 1:3)
  • Partakers of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4)
  • Beloved (2 Peter 3:1)
Furthermore, Peter also distinguishes, from the “you”, a “we” in 2 Pet 1:16-21, meaning not the audience but the apostles who were eyewitnesses to many miraculous events including the Transfiguration. Finally, he distinguishes a “they” in 2 Peter 3:3-4, and “they” are unbelievers—the mockers of Christ’s return.

In summary, Peter is using:
  1. You to mean the elect
  2. We to mean the apostles
  3. They to mean everyone else
We are ready to examine verse nine:
The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. (2 Pet. 3:9)
Notice to whom the Lord’s patience is directed: toward you. The Lord, in “delaying” his return, is displaying patience to the elect. I suppose, in fairness, it comes down to which interpretation seems more reasonable, in light of the ways we enumerated in which Peter referred to his audience:

The Lord is patient toward you, (the elect), not wishing that any of you (the elect) should perish, but that all (of the elect) should reach repentance.


The Lord is patient toward you, (the elect), not wishing that any (person in the world) should perish, but that all (people in the world) should reach repentance.

Since the “you” is clearly established as the elect, it would seem odd that patience toward the elect (or the saved) had anything to do with the salvation of the lost—instead you would expect the passage to read: The Lord is patient toward them.

In effect, Peter is saying, to the elect of his own generation, you must be patient so that God's elect of all generations can be brought to repentance and to salvation. We are saved, at this moment, thanks in no small part to the fact that, in spite of it appearing as a discouraging delay to these early Christians, Christ has not yet returned.

Let's look at one more "problem" passage.

Matthew 23:37

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! (Matt. 23:37)
This passage is not so much brought up against election, but against the related doctrine of irresistible grace. It is used to argue that God’s grace can be refused. This is an attack, as it were, on God’s sovereignty.

The questions for this passage are: (1) Who is Jerusalem? (2) Who kills the prophets (3) who are the children (4) who was unwilling (would not) and (5) of what were they unwilling?

Note it’s not the children would not, but the “you.” The usual Calvinistic answers are:
  1. Jerusalem refers to the leaders of Israel, the scribes and Pharisees.
  2. The leaders are the one’s who kill the prophets sent to them, including in just a short while, Jesus.
  3. The children are the Jews
  4. The leaders are unwilling
  5. They were unwilling to permit their children to gather and worship Christ
There is a earlier verse in the same chapter that says essentially the same thing:
“But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people's faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in. (Matt. 23:13)
Why is Jesus lamenting in Matt. 23:37? We need to back up a few verses:
34 Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, 35 so that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of innocent Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. 36 Truly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation. (Matt 23:34-36)
And in the next chapter:
1Jesus left the temple and was going away, when his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple. 2 But he answered them, “You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” (Matt 24:1-2)

Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. (Matt 24:34)
Bracketing the passage in question (Matthew 23:37) are two statements about prophesies concerning the then current generation. That the blood of the prophets shall be on the hands of the leaders, and the Temple and Jerusalem would be destroyed. A severe punishment was about to be meted out, and the people of Jerusalem would be caught up in it, and it is clear that Jesus places a huge burden of the blame on the false teachers of the elite classes.

Next: Lesson 5: Free Will

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Lesson 4: Predestination (Part 5)

(This is based, in part, on John Gerstner’s Primer on the Predestination from a compilation of his primers in the book Primitive Theology. I am using Primitive Theology for my Sunday School class. There is a growing list of links on the left for the posts for this class.

Some Common Objections

There are a handful of passages that seem to refute the doctrine of predestination and election. Let us examine these “problem verses.”

But first, let’s summarize where we stand. There are four broad categories representing views on salvation:
  1. The predestination, or Calvinistic, or Augustinian view. This is what we have been discussing. It is the view that, in his natural state, man will never seek God. Therefore, divine initiative is required. In this view, regeneration precedes faith. Also in this view, God has ensured the salvation of some, and for those the Atonement was already efficacious—that is the Atonement saved, it didn’t merely make salvation possible.

  2. The Arminian or Semi-Pelagian view. This is currently the majority view. It holds that the Atonement made salvation possible for all. It also teaches that God’s grace is absolutely required for salvation and that no man can save himself. It does require that man, at some level, and in his natural, fallen state, assent to the gospel. Thus, in this view, faith precedes regeneration. God has made salvation possible for all but guaranteed for none, so heaven, in theory, could be anything from empty to bursting at the seams.

  3. The Pelagian view. This is the view that man can, at least in principle, lead a sinless life and claim heaven on the basis of his own merit. It therefore denies original sin.

  4. Univeralism. This is the view that everyone will be saved.
In historic Christianity, Pelagianism and Universalism are considered heretical. Augustinianism and Semi-Pelagianism are mutually considered (by most) to be within the pale of orthodoxy—something that we can agree to disagree about and still have fellowship. Of course there are exceptions to this, and you can find the occasional charge of apostasy lobbed from one camp to the other.

So as we look at the passages that are “troubling” for the Augustinian view, I’ll remind you that many of the passages that we used to support this view can rightly be viewed as “troubling” for the majority, semi-Pelagian view.

While I fully recognize that I might be wrong in affirming the Augustinian view, I am confident of this assertion: in a pure numbers game, where you count the verses that, at face value, strongly support one view or the other, the Augustinian view wins hands down. There are, in my opinion, many more problem verses for the Arminian view.

Today, however, we’ll air our dirty laundry!

John 3:16

In the comments for this series, the question of John 3:16 arose:
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)
This verse is not often brought up as a problem, but I thought I’d discuss it. First of all, the Augustinian (predestination) view absolutely affirms that, without exception, whoever believes in Christ shall not perish. That part is not even potentially a problem.

What about “For God so loved the world,” doesn’t Augustianism call that into question? Well no, for a number of reasons. I’ll give two. (A third reason would launch us into the debate of whether God does in fact love everyone—I don’t want to go there at the moment.)

Even in modern English, a statement like this often doesn’t refer to all people. If I say: “Andrew Carnegie so loved Pittsburgh that he established and funded twenty public libraries,” it does not mean that Carnegie loved every Pittsburgher. In fact, even if I word it as “Andrew Carnegie so loved the people of Pittsburgh” it doesn’t imply universal love.

The “world” in many cases where it is used in the New Testament, clearly does not mean “all the people in the world”—unless we want to proclaim universalism. A good example is:
He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:2)
Here we even have “the whole world,” but if Jesus in fact paid for the sins of everyone in the world, then everyone in the world is saved—unless God is guilty of double-charging on the payment for those sins—exacting a price from both Jesus and the sinner.

In Colossians, we even “all over the whole world” and “every creature” clearly not meaning, literally, every person in the world:
5the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel 6that has come to you. All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God's grace in all its truth.

23if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant. (Col. 1:5-6, 1:23)
Clearly there were vast parts of the actual world that the gospel had not reached at the time Paul wrote this letter.

1. 1 Tim 2:1-4

1I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— 2for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. (1 Tim 2:1-4)
Here, in verse 4, we have the plain teaching that God desires (wants) all people to be saved. Now, I want to first give an explanation for this passage that I do not find very satisfying. Some of said, in light of the first three verses, what is actually meant in verse 4 is that God requires “representatives of all manner of men, including kings (and including those who were persecuting Christians at that time) to be saved.” But I have come to believe the argument that if the passage intended to say “all manner of men” then the Holy Spirit would have inspired Paul to write “all manner of men.” This view is not without merit—for in verse one prayers are asked for everyone—yet it is doubtful that Paul is urging prayers for everyone in the human race. So, in verse 1, everyone doesn’t seem to mean literally everyone. And in fact, Paul uses the phrase “all men” elsewhere. Here are just a couple of examples:
to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men (Titus 3:2)

You will be his witness to all men of what you have seen and heard. (Acts 22:15)
It is clear that “all men” is not to be taken literally in either passage. Still, to me, the “all manner of men” explanation doesn’t smell right. I think God does desire the salvation of all men. We see elsewhere as well, in what might be listed as another problem verse:
For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord GOD; so turn, and live.” (Ezek 18:32)
So, in light of these texts, how is this problem resolved?
The answer is found in the difference between a will and a command. 1 Tim 2:4 does not tell us that God sovereignly decrees that all men be saved (otherwise all men would, in fact, be saved.) It tells of his hope for man, and, in the case of the Ezekiel passage, explicitly ties it to a command: turn from evil so that you may have life.

All men are commanded to assent to the Gospel. God desires that all men be saved. However, no man, in his flesh, can assent to the Gospel. And so God decrees that some will assent and empowers them to do so.

It is perhaps helpful if we make an analogy.

God, I think we would agree, desires that no man commit adultery. And yet some do commit adultery. If God willed that no man commit adultery, then no man would. Here however, we see a disconnect between what God desires (no man to commit adultery) and what actually happens (some men commit adultery.) In a strange way, God does not get all that he desires. This is most likely because what we mean by “desire” is not accurate but the best we can do in describing the emotions of an infinite God. A desire of God is much closer, if not synonymous, with a command. For us, however, it is emotional need. However, for God to have a deep emotional desire for what he does not have (the salvation of all men) is close to the unthinkable blasphemy of making God covetous.

It is even more apparent if you make it generic: God desires that no man sin. Yet all men sin! Here is total disconnect between what God “desires” or commands, and what actually happens.

In the same way, God desires that all men come to salvation. I think this passage can be paraphrased this way: God commands all men, even those persecuting you, to repent and be saved. So pray for them.

It should be pointed out that Calvin took the opposite view. He considered the “two-wills” explanation weaker than the “all manner of men” explanation. He wrote, in his commentary on 1 Timothy 2:4:
Hence we see the childish folly of those who represent this passage to be opposed to predestination. "If God" say they, "wishes all men indiscriminately to be saved, it is false that some are predestined by his eternal purpose to salvation, and others to perdition." They might have had some ground for saying this, if Paul were speaking here about individual men; although even then we should not have wanted the means of replying to their argument; for, although the: will of God ought not to be judged from his secret decrees, when he reveals them to us by outward signs, yet it does not therefore follow that he has not determined with himself what he intends to do as to every individual man.

But I say nothing on that subject, because it has nothing to do with this passage; for the Apostle simply means, that there is no people and no rank in the world that is excluded from salvation; because God wishes that the gospel should be proclaimed to all without exception. Now the preaching of the gospel gives life; and hence he justly concludes that God invites all equally to partake salvation. But the present discourse relates to classes of men, and not to individual persons; for his sole object is, to include in this number princes and foreign nations.

Next: 2 Pet. 3:9 and Matt. 23:37

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Lesson 4: Predestination (Part 4)

(This is based, in part, on John Gerstner’s Primer on the Predestination from a compilation of his primers in the book Primitive Theology. I am using Primitive Theology for my Sunday School class. There is a growing list of links on the left for the posts for this class.

We are on the last step of a four step "proof" of predestination:
  1. Proof of the Doctrine of Total Depravity
  2. Establishment of Man’s Moral Inability
  3. The Divine Initiative (Rebirth)
  4. Predestination

Step 4. Predestination

So far we have proposed: man is totally depraved, born in iniquity; with no ability to move himself to where he seeks God; and before he can choose God, God must first choose him. The only remaining question is: When does God make this choice?

We should stop here and, once again, consider the interconnectedness of these four steps. If man is totally depraved, unable to save himself, and reliant on God to resurrect him from death, on what basis does God choose one person to benefit from this gift while another does not?

It cannot be on the basis of their deeds, because that would belie our doctrine, so far developed, that man’s deeds are but filthy rags. My filthy rags are no less filthy than anyone else’s. Can it be that God rolls the dice for every person—a cosmic lottery? No, that would impugn what the bible teaches us elsewhere about God’s character. Besides, it tells us that we choose and love him because he first chose and loved us. Loving someone is not consistent with random drawing.

This is indeed a puzzle. I don’t know if there is more than one possible solution, but there is an obvious one: that God chose us ahead of time; that God loved us ahead of time—ignoring our filthy deeds, and for those he loved he provided a redeemer. In other words, a temporal solution seems utterly at odds with God’s ability to choose one person over another. But an eternal decree would fit. Once again, if we find that the bible does teach of a choice made before time began, we are more confident of our previous three steps. If it doesn’t, then something is wrong with our exegesis.

At close examination, we see that, at the heart of the matter, we are actually poking about in the area of God’s sovereignty. Is God sovereign over all of creation? Can God ever be surprised about how things turn out? Did God send His son to die and now sits waiting and hoping that we will do our part? Or did God ensure from all eternity that there would be a people to give to His son, the same people that the Son would redeem, and the very same people that the Spirit would enlighten?

It makes sense, then, to start with a passage that reminds us of God’s sovereignty.
all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?” (Dan 4:35)
There are many other verses we could examine, but to me no verse is quite as clear in showing that neither man, nor angels, nor devils can thwart the hand of God. This would logically include, it would seem to me, adding to or subtracting from the number of the elect. If not, then we have to admit that while God may be “mostly” sovereign, He is not totally in control of the names written in the book of life.

Let’s now look for passages that support predestination—the idea that God’s choice for us was made long before we were born.
Since his days are determined, and the number of his months is with you, and you have appointed his limits that he cannot pass, (Job 14:5)

Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there were none of them. (Ps 139:16)

And when they ask you, ‘Where shall we go?’ you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the LORD: “‘Those who are for pestilence, to pestilence, and those who are for the sword, to the sword; those who are for famine, to famine, and those who are for captivity, to captivity.’ (Jer 15:2)

“I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. (John 17:6)

And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed. (Acts 13:48)

4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, (Eph 1:4-5)

29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30/ And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified (Rom 8:29-30)

But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. (2 Th. 2:23)

in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began (Titus 1:2)
We are reminded of the words of Spurgeon, “It is a good thing that God chose me before the foundation of the world rather than waiting to see how I turned out.”

We come now to the coup de grace (with the emphasis on grace). While permeating throughout, nowhere in scripture is the doctrine more clearly taught that in the ninth chapter of Romans. This amazing chapter is often given the heading “God’s Sovereign Choice.” It begins by discussing the twins born to Isaac and Rebecca:
11 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— 12 she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” (Rom. 9:11-13)
Here is where a railroad spike could be driven into the coffin of predestination. For Paul might be about to tell us that Jacob was favored because, rascal that he was, God foresaw that he (Jacob) would seek Him out, or that at least Jacob would assent to God's offer. That would place rebirth squarely back in the camp that requires man’s cooperation, and predestination in the camp that believes it merely refers to foreknowledge.

Now, as an aside, even if we arrived here without thinking about predestination, we would very surprised if Paul was about to tell us that God loved Jacob because he foresaw Jacob’s willing response. Jacob’s conversion, described in Genesis 32, is the very picture of divine initiative (step 3 in our proof) and man’s inability (step 2): God literally wrestles Jacob to the ground and makes him say uncle. Possibly the only conversion in scripture that displays the divine initiative more vividly is that of Paul himself, where God knocks him from his horse. Here again, we see not man’s cooperation but God’s selection.

At any rate, how does Paul proceed from setting the stage for a possible repudiation of predestination? He proceeds not by repudiating it but by affirming it.
14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God's part? By no means! 15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. (Rom 9:14-18)
So, Paul tells us, it has nothing to do with what man wills, or on his works (exertion), but it is entirely a sovereign choice of God who, even if it seems unfair to us, will have mercy upon those it pleases Him to have mercy.

Next Paul anticipates that precise complaint: but that’s not fair. He then answers it straightforwardly, in one of the hardest, most brutal, yet unambiguous passages in all of scripture:
19 You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honored use and another for dishonorable use? 22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? (Rom 9:19-24)
Here we have a difficult lesson indeed. Vessels of destruction and vessels of mercy, prepared in advance. Why? Because that is how they would turn out? No, it appears that it is because it makes the riches of his glory known.

A final point. We must understand that we all are born in rebellion. Justice for all would mean damnation for all. Instead, some receive mercy, some who were chosen in advance not because of merit but because it pleased God to do so in a way that we cannot really comprehend. Why did he do so? For His glory—which again we cannot fully comprehend. In all of this, does anyone receive injustice? No—mercy is a gift shown to some. Others receive a terrible but ethical justice.

On the fairness question, we should consider whether the alternative view is fair.

The non-predestination, or Arminian view is that life is fair, because we all have the chance to hear and respond to the Gospel.

Do we?

The Arminian view of Jacob and Esau must be something like this: Born twins, they were equal in many ways. Esau, however, was a man’s man and spent his days working the land. Jacob was more of a mother’s boy who stayed inside. There she instructed him in the ways of God, so that ultimately He came to believe upon the Lord.

In this possible counter explanation, was life any more “fair” to Esau?

How about two identical twins--Bill and Ted. Both as equal as possible in terms of IQ, parental rearing, education, finances, etc. Bill accepts the gospel, but Ted doesn't. What was different about the two? One happened to be in the right place at the right time? Was that fair? Was God's grace just sufficient enough for Bill but not quite for Ted? Was that fair?

In the non-predestination view, is life fair to the many millions who have died without hearing the gospel?

In the non-predestination view, is life fair to the children murdered in the womb before they can hear the gospel?

If your response is: Even though millions have died without hearing the gospel, including the 40 million murdered in the womb in the U.S. since Roe, God could save them if He wanted to, then I say to you: Precisely. Welcome to Calvinism.

Next: “problem” verses.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Lesson 4: Predestination (Part 3)

(This is based, in part, on John Gerstner’s Primer on the Predestination from a compilation of his primers in the book Primitive Theology. I am using Primitive Theology for my Sunday School class. There is a growing list of links on the left for the posts for this class.

We are on step three of a four step "proof" of predestination:
  1. Proof of the Doctrine of Total Depravity
  2. Establishment of Man’s Moral Inability
  3. The Divine Initiative (Rebirth)
  4. Predestination

Step 3. The Divine Initiative

Here we find ourselves, if the arguments for total depravity and moral inability have convinced, at a rather interesting place. Scripture is telling us that we cannot save ourselves—in fact we cannot even participate in our own salvation. So we had better find passages that teach of a divine initiative. By divine initiative, we mean that God takes the first step—we don’t even cooperate. We call this step regeneration, or rebirth, or being given a new heart, or being born again, or receiving new life, or receiving a new nature.

In a nutshell, divine initiative means that God changes us--not in response to anything we do, but because it pleases him to do so.

What if we don’t find such teaching? We would have to conclude that our interpretation of total depravity and moral inability was wrong. Because we do know there is a gospel; some will be saved. If we interpret that man cannot save himself, and yet there is no indication of a divine initiative, then total depravity and moral inability must be false doctrines.

On the other hand, if we find clear teaching on divine initiative, then that strengthens our confidence in those same doctrines. In other words, there is a synergism among these doctrines: they stand or fall together.

This nature of this divine initiative must be that God copes with man’s desperate situation. It is the fulfillment of the Psalmist’s words “Your people will volunteer freely in the day of Your power;” When God reveals his mighty strength in changing a man’s heart and giving him a new nature, that man becomes a man of violence who takes the kingdom of heaven by force. Because of God’s initiative, he is now so determined to know this Christ, whom he sees clearly for the first time, that he will permit nothing to stand in his way.

That is how the divine initiative works out. We are morphed to a point where we seek God. But how do we know that we didn’t arrive here on our own—by the power of our intellects or by observing other Christians? We know because we are told by Jesus, in John 15:16, You did not choose me, but I chose you.

We come to love Jesus, but why do we love him? John tells us, in 1 John 4:19, it is because Jesus first loved us.

The Psalmist also tells us when we will seek Gods face: when he tells us to:
You have said, “Seek my face.” My heart says to you, “Your face, LORD, do I seek.” (Ps. 27:8)
Jesus tells the Pharisees that they do not hear his voice, because they are not his sheep. And his followers do hear his voice, because they are his sheep (John 10.17) But what makes a person hear, what makes a person a sheep of the Great Shepherd, and the person next to him, listening to the same words, deaf to His voice? It is that one has been changed while the other remains in the flesh.

Here are a few passages that make this rather explicit:
And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live. (Deu 30:6)

26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. (Ezek 36:26-27)

No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. (John 6:44)

to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’ (Acts 26:18)

that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, (Eph 1:17)

even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— (Eph 2:5)

The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Cor 2:14)
The teaching that we see here is simple: it is both necessary and sufficient that God changes you before you seek him. Something has to happen to a person before they will accept the things of the Spirit of God. We contribute only our sins—everything else—not ninety-nine but one hundred percent—is a gift from God. He doesn’t heal us, he resurrects us from our death to trespasses.

Friday, January 20, 2006

NYT Review of The Cosmic Landscape

Corey S. Powell has reviewed Leonard Susskind’s book, ‘The Cosmic Landscape’, for the New York Times.

Some excerpts from the review:
What troubles Susskind is an intelligent design argument considerably more vexing than the anti-evolution grumblings recently on trial in Dover, Pa. Biologists can point to unambiguous evidence that evolution truly does happen and that it can account for many otherwise inexplicable aspects of how organisms function. For those who take a more cosmic perspective, however, the appearance of design is not so simply refuted. If gravity were slightly stronger than it is, for instance, stars would burn out quickly and collapse into black holes; if gravity were a touch weaker, stars would never have formed in the first place. The same holds true for pretty much every fundamental property of the forces and particles that make up the universe. Change any one of them and life would not be possible. To the creationist, this cosmic comity is evidence of the glory of God. To the scientist, it is an embarrassing reminder of our ignorance about the origin of physical law.
A fair assessment, but, like most, Powell misses the boat in an important way. As mentioned in the Derbyshire post below, ignorance has nothing to do with the ID claim. If we have a fundamental theory from which we can derive the constants we are still left with the puzzling fact that their derived values, just like their currently empirical values, are fine-tuned for producing a life supporting (and that means any kind of life) universe.
Susskind eagerly embraces the megaverse interpretation because it offers a way to blow right through the intelligent design challenge. If every type of universe exists, there is no need to invoke God (or an unknown master theory of physics) to explain why one of them ended up like ours. Furthermore, it is inevitable that we would find ourselves in a universe well suited to life, since life can arise only in those types of universes. This circular-sounding argument - that the universe we inhabit is fine-tuned for human biology because otherwise we would not be here to see it - is known as the Anthropic Principle and is reviled by many cosmologists as a piece of vacuous sophistry. But if ours is just one of a near-infinite variety of universes, the Anthropic Principle starts to sound more reasonable, akin to saying that we find ourselves on Earth rather than on Jupiter because Earth has the mild temperatures and liquid water needed for our kind of life.
This is an accurate assessment. And the analogy is valid: we live on Earth instead of Jupiter because Earth is habitable—likewise if there are 10500 types of universes we live in this one for the same simple reason. Ockham’s razor applied to 10500 universes picks the obvious winning explanation: the Anthropic Principle. But if our universe is the only universe, then Ockham tells us that ID is the preferred answer.

Susskind understands this. Most physicists, I think, understand this.

In biology the origins problem (abiogenesis) has the potential, in my non-expert opinion, to be just as vexing as the cosmic fine tuning problem—and consequently much more fertile ground for ID than the evolution question.

In a way, this is obvious, isn’t it? God’s modus operandi seems to be special creation—which then is governed under the administration of God-created physical laws, with divine intervention (after all, we’re not deists) when it pleases Him to intervene. That means the only point at which we can be certain we are studying a primary cause is at the point of creation—be it the creation of the universe or the creation of life. Subsequent to that, we can never be absolutely certain when we are studying a primary cause vs. a secondary cause—i.e., the natural expression of physical law.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Derbyshire: Arhh-WREH?

NRO’s John Derbyshire has a knack for posting annoying blurbs. On NRO’s blog, the Corner, he wrote:
My private opinion, Jonah, is that the "many worlds interpretations" (MWIs) of quantum physics--there are at least three--are total crocks.

Martin Gardner is of the same mind. He skewered the MWIs in an essay in Skeptical Inquirer magazine four or five years ago. The article (and a response to critics of it) is printed in Martin's 2003 book Are Universes Thicker than Blackberries? (NB: The book title refers to the fruit, not the gadget.) Martin's conclusion:
The stark truth is that there is not the slightest shred of reliable evidence that there is any universe other than the one we are in. No multiverse theory has so far provided a prediction that can be tested. ... Surely the conjecture that there is just one universe and its Creator is infinitely simpler and easier to believe than that there are countless billions upon billions of worlds, constantly increasing in number and created by nobody. I can only marvel at the low state to which today's philosophy of science has fallen.
Now, the quote from Gardner, at face value, is first-class—I’m not familiar with the article so I don’t want to say much about it—lest I be guilty of quote-mining. But I like it—oh yes, I like it very much.

In fact, this entire post from Derbyshire, taken stand-alone, is just fine. But a problem rears its ugly head when we recall that Derbyshire has a history of anti-ID posts.

The question to Mr. Derbyshire is: if you discount intelligent design and multiverses, how do you account for the fine tuning of our universe? Because it is the opinion of many (including Susskind’s) that you must choose: it is either ID or it is multiverses. (Susskind says ID or the Super String landscape—but we’ll generalize.) There are no other possible explanations save unimaginable luck. And nobody that I know of actually believes that. That is, I don’t know a single scientist who still argues that the fine-tuning requires no explanation—it just is.

Step up to the plate, Mr. Derbyshire, and pick your pseudo-science. But you do have to pick one.

There are some, and maybe this is where Derbyshire resides, who mistakenly believe that a fundamental theory will save the day. I, for one, certainly hope that physics makes some progress (something that has been in short supply recently) in this area. But as longtime readers are no doubt sick of hearing me say, a fundamentally theory explaining the constants does not undo ID—it strengthens it. Explain all the constants and the universe is still just as fine-tuned as before—but know we know a whole lot more about how the designer (that would be God) did it.

That will be a good day for physics, a good day for ID, and a good day for all believers who recognize that science is the theology of God's general revelation.

Lesson 4: Predestination (Part 2)

(This is based, in part, on John Gerstner’s Primer on the Predestination from a compilation of his primers in the book Primitive Theology. I am using Primitive Theology for my Sunday School class. There is a growing list of links on the left for the posts for this class.

Proof of the Doctrine of Predestination

Up to now we have more or less just provided definitions. Now we launch into a four-step attempt to prove the doctrine from scripture. The four steps are:
  1. Proof of the Doctrine of Total Depravity
  2. Establishment of Man’s Moral Inability
  3. The Divine Initiative (Rebirth)
  4. Predestination

Step 1. Proof of the Doctrine of Total Depravity

The idea than man is totally depraved, unable to save himself, and exposed to God’s wrath is taught from the beginning to the end of scripture. Let’s take a quick survey.

From Genesis the story is clear: Man was made in the image of God, placed on probation in the Garden, failed in that probationary period, and subsequently died. The death of man in the Garden, on the day of disobedience, was not physical. For in Genesis 2, we read:
“but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Gen. 2:17)
God leaves no wiggle room: on the day he sinned, Adam would die. Nowhere does God retract his threat or change his mind regarding the punishment. But Adam “lived” for centuries after his disobedience—so the only conclusion is that God kept His word, and Adam did die when he ate. Adam died a far worse death than a physical death—he died a spiritual death. He was no longer in communion with God, but rather in enmity with Him. Adam and Eve and all their descendants were instantly in need of a life-saving savior. Death came with the first bite, and we too are dead until we are born, not of woman, but of God. This is what Paul meant when he wrote: And you were dead in the trespasses and sins (Eph 2:1).

The change in Adam and Eve is immediate and comprehensive. As walking dead, suddenly aware of their nakedness before a Holy God, they are banished from the Garden. A short while later man’s sin escalates to include the crime of murder.

In Genesis 6 we read:
The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. (Gen. 6:5)
This leads to the annihilation of man via the flood. However, we must recognize that the annihilation of man (apart from Noah and his family) does not result in a new and better man: after the flood it is still true that, for fallen man every intention of the thoughts of his heart is only evil continually. Our hearts are only evil—they are unmixed with anything good. We are totally depraved.

The flood was not redemptive—man was not a better man after the flood. It served to demonstrate what we all are in God’s eyes, loathsome—described anthropomorphically as a “mistake.” Do not take false comfort that God somehow cleansed the gene pool via the flood, instead take comfort that while we are as despicable as Noah’s neighbors, God has provided for us a savior. Noah’s neighbors are not meant to show how much worse mankind once was, but as horrible examples showing us our utter need for that savior.

Moving on, in Job 14, starting at verse one, we read: Man who is born of a woman is few of days and full of trouble… Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? There is not one.

Here we read that no man can make clean what is unclean, and all that are born of women are unclean. There is provided no possibility whatsoever that a clean man can be born of natural procreation.

The Psalms have a great deal to say about total depravity, but we will just look at one familiar passage from Psalm 51. After acknowledging his dreadful sinfulness, David’s confession goes beyond the overt act and to the heart of the matter: his sinful nature:
Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. (Ps. 51:5)
David’s sin was not a aberration, but a reflection of his (and our) inner being. We are sinful at birth, we are even sinful in the womb. David traces the root of his adultery, but not back to a moment of lustful weakness—nor does he blame Bathsheba—nor does he rationalize it as a once in a lifetime experience—but he traces it back to his very conception. When thought of this way, David’s remorse is one the strongest pieces of evidence of our inescapable total depravity.

We should also point out that David sees no way, beyond a divine initiative, that he can be cleansed of his corruption. He pleads with God to take action: Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

In Jeremiah, we read more of man’s state:
Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? Then also you can do good who are accustomed to do evil. (Jer. 13:23)
Jeremiah is telling us that it is no more plausible for a man to free himself of his evil nature than it is for a person to alter the color of his skin or an leopard to shed his spots.

The New Testament does not spare us from the doctrine of man’s total depravity. Instead it makes it even more explicit. The recorded words of our Lord are even more straightforward than the inspired writes of the Old Testament. In Matthew we read:
You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell? (Matt. 23:33)
Here Jesus not only comments on our sinful nature, likening some to the very symbol of evil: serpents; (take no comfort that they are Pharisees—it is clear that no unsaved man is any better) he also tells them the consequence of their sinfulness.

Likewise Jesus teaches that man is beyond picking himself up by his bootstraps. Man must be reborn:
3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:3-8)
This passage explicitly teaches of the necessity to be born again, and that this rebirth is of God. Without it, we cannot see the kingdom of God. The rebirth is the primary cause that enables us to see the kingdom; it is not a consequence of anything. It also, in the metaphor about the wind, tells us that those who are reborn are chosen at the pleasure of God, and His selection process is as unpredictable and invisible as it is sovereign.

The Apostle Paul is also explicit in his teaching than man is in bondage to his corruption. In fact, Paul may have penned the most explicit teaching on total depravity in all of scripture. After surveying the entire human race, Jews and Gentiles, Paul presents his grim conclusion about mankind:
10 as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; 11 no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” 13 “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.” 14 “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.” 15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood; 16 in their paths are ruin and misery, 17 and the way of peace they have not known.”, 18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” (Rom. 3:10-18)
It doesn't get much clearer than that.

Step 2. Establishment of Man’s Moral Inability

Now the doctrine of total depravity, which we hope has been demonstrated, makes explicit what we all would have agreed with: man has no ability whatsoever to save himself. The question that remains is this: If God provides to man a way out, an offer of salvation, can man avail himself of it? In other words, does the depravity of man, grave as it, nevertheless accommodate an ability in man to say yes to the gospel offer? While total depravity has left man with a terminal illness, is man still healthy enough to swallow the miracle cure that God, the great physician, places into his mouth?

There are two reason to believe that the answer to this question is no. Man cannot do even the minimal good deed of swallowing the medicine.

The first reason is that man is not sick, but dead. Ephesians 2:1 tells us that explicitly, and God’s punishment of death to Adam, as we have seen, results in a condition inherited by us all: this death means we cannot make any choice that is not sinful. This kind of dead man cannot cooperate with his own cure—for the very act of accepting God’s offer is one that must be done sincerely, and sincerity is impossible in our fallen state. We need to be cured (made alive) before we will accept the gospel, not the other way around.

As we have seen, Paul tells us in the third chapter of Romans that nobody is righteous (v10), nobody understands and nobody seeks God (v11), all have turned aside and are useless; nobody does good (v12), and nobody fears God (v18). If this weren’t enough, the Apostle goes on in chapter eight to teach:
7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. (Rom. 8:7-8)
Here, "in the flesh" refers not to especially degenerate sinners, but to anyone who has not been reborn--they still exist in the first birth, the birth of woman, they are in the flesh. Paul makes that clear in the next verse: You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. In the flesh means you are not indwelt by the Spirit--it simply means you are unregenerate.

At the end of verse 7 we see the words: it [the mind] cannot. It goes well beyond stating that most men do not want to submit to God—no that little phrase clearly speaks of a more congenital defect: we cannot (in the flesh—i.e., in our natural, fallen state) submit to God. This is total inability; this is being beyond sick; this is being dead.

In verse 8 we see that we are unable to please God. However, the non-predestination view of a man in his fallen state (i.e., unregenerate) responding to God’s gospel offer, even with a generous helping of grace, would (most would agree) please God. This speaks of the impossibility of such an act.

The second reason that speaks of man’s inability are the verses, some of which we have already examined, that teach when man does come to Christ, God has inclined him to do so. In addition to those passages from John that we have already mentioned, especially John 6:44: No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day, we continue on and in the next verse, John 6:45 we read:
It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me—(John 6:45)
Here we see a plain teaching that everyone who has learned from the Father comes to Christ. There is sense of both necessity and sufficiency: you must be taught (or drawn) by God, and if you are taught you will come to Christ.

This, of course, goes against the grain. All religions of the world are autosoteric—you must save yourself. Only Christianity differs, only in Christianity are you unable to save yourself (Jesus paid it all.) Still, as it has been pointed out, man, it seems, is simply determined to merit salvation rather than receive it for free.


Let us recap the first two steps of our predestination “proof”: man’s fall (total depravity) and his moral inability, by a quick recap of some relevant passages:
  • The intent of our heart is "only evil continuously". (Gen. 6:5)
  • Our "righteous" deeds like filthy garments to God. (Isa. 64.6)
  • We are like a leopard who cannot change his spots. (Jer. 13:23).
  • Nothing clean can come from an unclean birth. (Job 14)
  • We are born in sin. (Ps. 51:5)
  • Nobody is good. (Luke 18:19)
  • We cannot see the Kingdom of God. (John 3:3)
  • We cannot enter the Kingdom of God. (John 3:5)
  • We must be compelled to come to Christ. (John 6:44)
  • We are not righteous. (Rom. 3:10)
  • We do not understand; we do not seek God. (Rom. 3:11)
  • We have turned aside; we are useless. (Rom. 3:12)
  • None of us does good. (Rom. 3:12)
  • We do not fear God. (Rom. 3:18)
  • We are hostile to God. (Rom 8:7)
  • We are unable (not just unwilling) to submit to the law of God. (Rom 8:7)
  • We cannot please God. (Rom 8:8)
  • We were dead (not just gravely ill) in our sins. (Eph 2:1)
  • We walked according to Satan. (Eph 2:2)
  • We lived in the lusts of our flesh. (Eph 2:3)
  • We were children of wrath. (Eph 2:3)
So here is our dilemma: man is undone, so completely hostile to God that even when salvation is offered, he rejects it unhesitatingly. As Jesus said, men love the darkness and hate the light. The eighteenth century British preacher George Whitfield likened man’s spiritual condition to that of Lazarus:
“Come, ye dead, Christless, unconverted sinner, come and see the place where they laid the body of the deceased Lazarus; behold him laid out, bound hand and foot with graveclothes, locked up and stinking in a dark cave, with a great stone placed on top of it. View him again and again; go nearer to him; be not afraid; smell him, Ah! how he stinketh. Stop there now, pause a while; and whilst thou art gazing upon the corpse of Lazarus, give me leave to tell thee with great plainness, but greater love, that this dead, bound, entombed, stinking carcase, is but a faint representation of thy poor soul in its natural state;...thy spirit which thou bearest about with thee, sepulchered in flesh and blood, is literally dead to God, and as truly dead in trespasses and sins, as the body of Lazarus was in the cave. Was he bound hand and foot with graveclothes? So art thou bound hand and foot with thy corruptions; and as a stone was laid on the sepulchre, so there is a stone of unbelief upon thy stupid heart. Perhaps thou has lain in this estate, not only four days, but many years, stinking in God’s nostrils. And, what is still more effecting, thou art as unable to raise thyself out of this loathsome, dead state, to a life of righteousness and true holiness, as ever Lazarus was to raise himself from the cave in which he lay so long. Thou mayest try the power of thy boasted free will, and the force and energy of moral persuasion and rational arguments (which, without doubt, have their proper place in religion); but all thy efforts, exerted with never so much vigor, will prove quite fruitless and abortive, till that same Jesus, who said ‘take away the stone” and cried “Lazarus, come forth,” also quicken you. This is grace, graciously offered, and grace graciously applied.
To state the obvious, you either accept these first two points, total depravity and moral incapability, as being found in scripture—or you don’t. If you do, you had better hope that scripture also teaches predestination, because that is the only hope that anyone will be saved. If you reject total depravity and moral incapability—then salvation rests on the hope that some vestigial “goodness” remains in man after the fall—at least enough that man is capable, of his own and before he is reborn, to accept the gospel offer.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Lesson 4: Predestination (Part 1)

(This is based, in part, on John Gerstner’s Primer on the Predestination from a compilation of his primers in the book Primitive Theology. I am using Primitive Theology for my Sunday School class. There is a growing list of links on the left for the posts for this class.

Today we look at the always electric topic of predestination. After the gospel itself, and your view on justification, (a topic we’ll take up later) there is probably no doctrine that has a greater effect on how you interpret scripture and how you evangelize, than where you stand on predestination.

We’ll begin with some technical definitions. Keep in mind that these are, at the moment, only definitions. They are provided so that we all are on the same page. The definitions do not constitute a proof of the doctrine of predestination—that will come later.

Foreordination: This means that God ordains, or decrees, or determines, or appoints, or at the very least permits all that comes to pass, from and until all eternity. Nothing surprises God. A denial of absolute foreordination leads one to the realm of open theism—the idea, expressed simplistically, that God does not know the future, at least not in perfect detail.

Predestination: This is a subset of foreordination; it involves those aspects that specifically concern free moral agents—that is men, angels, and demons. In particular, of course, we are concerned with predestination as it applies to man as a free-willed moral agent.

We further subdivide predestination into election and reprobation.

Election: The part of predestination that refers to saving acts. In particular, election teaches that from before the foundations of the earth, God did predestine the acts of certain men (the elect) that would lead them to salvation, but without violating their free wills. Furthermore this was done without any regard to the future actions of the elect—in particular the predestining is not done in advance and applied to those whom God foresees will accept the gospel. Instead, those whom God elects and only those will be changed so as to accept the gospel.

Reprobation: This refers to the acts of men that lead to their damnation. It means that such evil acts of men are part of predestination. It does not, however, mean that God causes men to behave in a wicked manner leading to their damnation. As with election, we acknowledge that men are free moral agents. In reprobation, God chooses not to restrain men from committing evil.

Positive Decree: Election is a positive decree meaning that God not only foreordains who should be saved unto eternal life; He also actively works on the elect to empower the sinner to accept the Gospel. God does something to the elect; He is active in their lives in such a way to ensure that they will come to call on Jesus at their Savior. He gives them a heart of flesh to replace their heart of stone.

Permissive Decree: Reprobation is a permissive decree meaning God foreordains those who will be lost but does nothing active to ensure or energize their sinfulness. God does not dispose or incline men to wickedness, rather God refrains from taking action, thereby freeing man through his own nature and inclination to choose evil and suffer eternal damnation.

Example of positive (election) vs. permissive (reprobation) Decrees

Consider John 14:6:
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)
Here Jesus teaches both reprobation and election. He begins with a universal negative: No one comes to the Father. That is, all men, left to themselves, are incapable and/or unwilling (actually both, but from this verse alone we cannot say) to seek out the Father. Notice that the reprobation is permissive. God does not actively cause man to shun Him; men, in fact all men, do it quite naturally. This is also evident in an earlier teaching from Jesus:
And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil. (John 3:19)
Man, left to his own devices, loves the darkness over the light—precisely because he is evil. God does not have to dispose man to prefer the darkness—it is as natural to man as breathing.

Notice the rest of John 14:6: except through me. Here Jesus demonstrates a positive decree and election. He teaches that Man cannot on his own gain access to the Father—Jesus must be involved.

This is probably more evident in the role-reversed version earlier in John’s gospel:
No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. (John 6:44)
Again we see a universal negative, and here it is clear that man, on his own, is actually incapable of coming to Jesus: No one can come to me. Once again, this is permissive in nature: the verse does not teach that God prevents man from coming to Him, nor does it teach that God inclines man to stay away.

On the flip side, we see a positive decree pertaining to election: unless the Father who sent me draws him. This drawing is referred to in John 3 as being “born again”, and the same verb is translated as drag in Acts 16:9 and James 2:6. It carries the force of the phrase “compels by irresistible force”. God does something active in the elect, compelling and empowering them so that they can come to Jesus by their own free will. With the elect, God takes divine initiative, bringing life to those who are dead. Not only that: we see that this coming to Jesus does in fact equate to salvation, for this same group that is drawn, and this same group than comes to Jesus—this group Jesus promises to raise on the last day.

Again, even at the beginning of John’s gospel we see this teaching:
11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:11-13)
It is perhaps useful to paraphrase verses 12 and 13:

Those who believed in Jesus were saved—those who were born again through God.

Notice in particular what may not be apparent at first glance: the “born of God” describes the condition of those who received Jesus; it does not describe a consequence of receiving Him.

The rejection from those who “did not receive him” is done with no help from God. Those who did receive were reborn not of flesh nor blood but rather of (by) God. This rebirth is the act of receiving from God a new heart with new inclinations toward righteousness—it is the “drawing” from John 6:44.

We must understand what theses passages teach. It is not: If you choose Jesus you will be born again. It is: If you are born again you will choose Jesus.

Next we examine the final definition we will need:

Total depravity: this is the doctrine that man, as a result of the Fall, is totally depraved in the sense that his entire being has been corrupted. It is not that man is as bad as he can be—that would be utter depravity—it is the idea that man cannot do anything that is good and righteous. Every single action is tainted by sin, and hence every action of fallen man—regardless of any superficial goodness—is revolting in the eyes of God. Man is completely inclined toward wickedness, even when he presents a good fa├žade.

C. S. Lewis, in the poem As the Ruin Falls, captures the essence of total depravity:

All this is flashy rhetoric about loving you.
I never had a selfless thought since I was born.
I am mercenary and self-seeking through and through:
I want God, you, all friends, merely to serve my turn.

St. Augustine describes the effect of the fall this way:
  • Before the fall, man (Adam and Eve) could choose to sin, or choose not to sin.

  • After the fall, natural (unsaved man) cannot choose not to sin.

  • Regenerated man can choose to sin, or choose not to sin.

  • Glorified man cannot choose to sin
It is worth noting that what is meant by “original sin” is not that we are charged with Adam’s sin as if we committed it—that would be an injustice and an unthinkable impugning of God’s character. No, original sin is far worse—it is the fact that we inherited from our father and our representative, Adam, the same radical corruption he suffered subsequent to his sin. We don’t have Adam’s sin in our debit column—we have Adam’s sinful nature in our bones. Seen this way, it is clear that “total depravity” and “original sin” are different names for the same doctrine.

It is also worth noting that those who oppose the doctrine of predestination are more properly said to oppose the doctrine of total depravity. For once you accept the doctrine of total depravity, you are then left with only two choices:
  1. Nobody will ever be saved

  2. God will intervene to ensure at least some people are saved
This is a necessary consequence of total depravity. Whether (1) or (2) is true depends on which one scripture teaches: we have already seen in verses from John’s gospel that God does intervene, He does draw some near, so we can breath a sigh of relief that option (2) is plainly found in sacred scripture.

Those who reject predestination must first reject total depravity. They absolutely must reject the idea that man is incapable of any good whatsoever in the eyes of God. There must be a vestigial goodness in man that, with the help of God’s grace, permits him to choose God before, rather than after, he is reborn. Those who reject predestination must also reject Augustine; they must believe that unregenerated man enjoys the same moral options as Adam and Eve before the fall: the ability to choose sin and also the ability to choose not to sin.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Hugh Ross names the designer

Hugh Ross of Reasons.org is a personal hero of mine.

If you don’t know Ross, he is a Christian, an Astronomer, and an Old Earth Creationist (OEC) who has been a champion of fine-tuning-as-evidence-for-design for twenty years—and that makes him a pioneer in the field.

Ross has done so much leg work that the debt the OEC community owes him could never be repaid. There is hardly a criticism, biblical or scientific, that can be brought to bear on OEC that Ross has not anticipated, addressed, and documented in one of his books or on his web site. He has rescued me on many occasions. If you ever ask me a tough fine-tuning or OEC question and I respond “Um, I’ll get back to you on that,” I am probably turning to Ross for the answer.

When I started blogging and speaking on fine-tuning and OEC, I was mentally prepared to be called a heretic. Why? Because I already knew that Ross had been called a heretic by people like Ken Hovind. Without Ross blazing the trail—well I might have fallen over the first time someone called me a heretic for denying six day creation, ~104 years ago.

Interestingly though, there are strained relations between Ross and the high profile ID community. There have been complaints about Ross distancing himself from the famous IDers—and refusing to call himself and IDer or to identify his work as ID.

Although I am a much, much smaller player than Ross, I too am not completely at-ease with mainstream ID. It is not that I disagree with the work being done. And thankfully I have made some very good friends in the community. No, my slight self-distancing from mainstream ID stems from two philosophical deviations. The first, which will seem like the more important, really isn’t: I don’t think ID is science. I have said so since I have been writing on this subject. Some IDers actually agree, but most, I would say, firmly believe that ID, as it stands now, is science. As ID develops, I hope there will come a time when I can join them.

The second and by far the more important reason is this: I have never been comfortable with mainstream ID’s refusal to identify the designer. I understand why there is a reluctance to name names, but I never agreed with the position. To me, ID goes hand in hand with the creation account of the bible. To me the appeal of ID is the application of science to general revelation. For me, ID without God as the designer makes no sense and has no draw. I not only want to show evidence for design, I want to tie that evidence to scripture and demonstrate how science is biblically consistent and even explain that scientific research is ordained by God.

ID is the best way I know of to show my brothers and sisters in Christ that they can embrace science rather than fear it. Evolution has made many Christians hate science—and hating the study of God's creation is very bad theology. I don’t want to stay quiet about who the designer is, I want to shout it from the mountaintops.

Which brings me back to Ross. I get quasi-daily “reasons to believe” updates from his site—usually reports on current academic research. They are marvelous, understandable synopses of peer-reviewed papers showing how the result supports fine-tuning and/or design (usually without the researcher knowing it!)

The only flaw is that since I started getting these reports I rarely visit Ross’s site.

Fortunately I decided to hit it today.

On the front page, Ross holds out something of an olive branch to the mainstream ID community in the form of this essay.

Ross details his friendly disagreement with the ID community. To my delight and amazement, it’s the same as mine. He objects to their reluctance to name the designer as the God of the bible.

In his conclusion, Ross, like a laser beam, zeroes in on the truth:
Herein lies an opportunity to exemplify the freedom that exists in Christ. Truth holds no threat for the Christian. Truth in the scientific arena, which can be directly or indirectly tested, will always be consistent with truth in the spiritual arena. And, despite protestations from all sides, truth in nature must be connected with something, or Someone, beyond the natural realm—the something or Someone responsible for nature’s existence and characteristics.

The most important feature of the creation model approach is that it challenges spiritual vagueness and subjectivism head on. It demonstrates, as well as defends, the legitimacy of biblical authority and the truth-claims of Jesus Christ. The bottom line for me and for my colleagues at RTB is this: truth always points the truth-seeker to its Source, the one person in history who could make and back up the claim, “I am the truth.” That’s what makes science so fun and fascinating.
Thank you, once again, Dr. Ross.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

The Third Yom

There is no question that the Hebrew word yom, translated as day in Genesis 1 and many other places in the Old Testament, can mean either a literal 24 hour day or an indeterminate period—such as an “age.”

Young Earth Creationists (YECs) do not dispute this—but they argue that every time yom is used in an ordinal sense: first day, second day, etc., it refers to a literal day. There are, YECs claim, no exceptions.

For example, in this AiG post, point 3.a.i, uber-YEC Ken Ham, writes, "Yom + ordinal number (used 410 times) always indicates an ordinary day [i.e. a 24-hour period]."

Even if Ham and other YECs are correct, that all instances of yom with an ordinal number outside of Genesis 1 refer to 24-hour days, it does not prove that the use of yom with ordinal numbers in Genesis 1 must refer to 24-hour days. Perhaps it is just more likely to have occasion to use first day, second day, etc. than first age, second age. The use in Genesis is then a rarely needed construction rather than a violation of ancient Hebrew grammar. It is simply more likely that we should discuss a sequence of days rather than ages—indeed Genesis 1 may be the only place where, even potentially, an ordinal sequence of ages appears. I can’t think of another in the Old Testament.

In places where it is conceded that yom is indeterminate—such as in the "day of the Lord"—the passages are speaking only of one yom of the Lord. We wouldn’t expect them to read “The first day of the Lord” or “The first and only day of the Lord.”

Nevertheless, if I were a YEC, I’d probably bring up the “ordinal” usage argument, not as proof but as evidence.

Which brings me to to my point.

In Hosea, we read:
1“Come, let us return to the LORD;
for he has torn us, that he may heal us;
he has struck us down, and he will bind us up.
2 After two days he will revive us;
on the third day he will raise us up,
that we may live before him. (Hosea 6:1-2)
In verse 2, the word yom (day) is used with an ordinal number—the third day. Yet the common interpretation of this passage is both as a Messianic prophesy and the expectation of a long, indeterminate period of affliction and suffering for Israel (e.g., see the commentaries by John Calvin and Matthew Henry).

So how do YECs reconcile this? I am sure they do, but I cannot find it. I hope someone can provide some additional information.

In addition to information on how YECs explain Hosea 6:2, I have another question for YECs and Hebrew scholars: if the Old Testament did have need to describe an ordinal sequence of ages, what word would it use in place of yom? I'm not asking because I don't think there is an answer. I'm asking because I don't know the answer.

Lesson 3: Deity of Christ (Part 3/3)

(This is based on John Gerstner’s Primer on the Deity of Christ from a compilation of his primers in the book Primitive Theology. I am using Primitive Theology for my Sunday School class. There is a growing list of links on the left for the posts for this class.

Unique Mutual Knowledge Attests to Jesus’ Divinity

In chapter 11 of Matthew we read in verse 27:
No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son (Matt 11:27)
Since saved people, at least in some sense, know God—and since Jesus’ disciples, at the very least, likewise knew Jesus, it is clear that this statement refers to unique knowledge. Jesus has a unique knowledge of the Father, and the Father has a unique knowledge of the Son. How is that possible? The simplest explanation is, once again, that Jesus is God. Even if Jesus were “just” an angel, then he would presumably not have a unique knowledge of God—for there are, as we know, many angels.

Once again we have the allusion to two parts of the Godhead—once again we have support for the trinity without even mentioning the Holy Spirit.

Jesus Claims His deity in the Great Commission

At the very end of Matthew, Christ proclaims the great commission:
18Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (Matt 28:18-20)
Note that it is not the case that Christ is, at this point, risen that speaks of His deity, for God can (and will) raise men as well. Nor is it that He has been given authority, for God could bestow authority on whomever He chooses. What speaks of Christ’s divinity is the Trinitarian reference. His disciples would know from his earlier teaching that he meant himself when he refers to “the Son”, and here he brackets himself between the Father and the Holy Spirit. If He were not God, then He just spoke blasphemy.

Now at the end of the great commission we see another testimony to Christ’s divinity. If Christ were but an exalted creature He could say nothing stronger than: and I expect to be with you always, to the very end of the age. Instead he speaks with a certainty and authority that comes from a deific omnipotence.

Jesus Asserts His Divinity When He denies it

Many have used Jesus’ dialogue with the rich young ruler as evidence of His denial of His own deity:
18A certain ruler asked him, "Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" 19"Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good—except God alone. 20You know the commandments: 'Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.'" (Luke 8:18-20)
When Jesus says “Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good—except God alone,” it would appear that Jesus is denying that He is God. However, when the totality of Jesus’ teaching on His own deity is considered, another interpretation becomes probable. What is likely happening is that Jesus is probing the ruler as to his view of him (Jesus). The clue is that Jesus phrases it in the form of a question. He did not say: don’t call me good, only God is good. Instead Jesus, in effect says: Since you call me good, do you not realize that I am God, since only God is good? Further indication comes from the fact that, if Jesus is not God, we would not expect him to deny His deity here, in as much as the ruler simply calls him a good teacher—which is certainly a common enough compliment that it would not set the stage for Christ to deny. If the ruler called Him God, then (if He weren’t God) the stage would be dramatically set for Him to “set the record straight.”

We see more. Notice what the ruler asked: What must I do to inherit eternal life? And notice Jesus’ answer:
When Jesus heard this, he said to him, "You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." (Luke 8:22)
Christ tells the ruler that for eternal life, the ruler must follow Him. This statement is rational only for God. Again, imagine a pastor stating that if you want eternal life, you need to “follow me”.


From Lesson 2, we now assume the inerrancy and inspiration of scripture. So we have confidence that scriptural statements about Jesus and by Jesus are reliable. Although Jesus never made the definitive statement: I am God, many of His statements individually and without question the weight of them collectively make it clear that He attested to His own divinity. To assess a statement of Jesus, as to whether it attests to His deity, we often used the test: would what Jesus said be blasphemy if it were the words of a mere creature?

Why didn’t Jesus make a simple declarative statement? We can only speculate that it was for the same reason He spoke in parables (Matt. 13:10). It is also comforting to note that were Jesus a fraud, and/or if his history is a fable, we would have expected him to openly declare his deity—or for a fictional declaration to be added to the myth.