Archives For Theology

Problem of EvilSeveral weeks ago, I began a series of posts by outlining some foundational biblical teaching about God’s decree. We examined numerous passages of Scripture that speak of God’s decree as eternal, unconditional, unchangeable, and exhaustive. As a result, we concluded that God is properly said to be the ultimate cause of all things. As the Westminster Confession states, “God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass” (WCF, 3.1).

Whenever you say something like that in a theological discussion, immediately the question is raised: How can God be the ultimate cause of whatsoever comes to pass—even actions and events that are evil and sinful, things which God Himself prescribes against—and yet not be rightly charged with unrighteousness. Perhaps the most common answer to that question is an appeal to the notion of divine “permission.” In other words, though God is ultimately in control, He doesn’t ordain evil; He merely allows it. In a second post, I demonstrated why such a solution is unsatisfactory, both theologically and biblically. After considering a number of passages that don’t shy away from attributing to God a very active role in the bringing about of evil events, we concluded with John Frame: “God does bring about sinful human actions. To deny this, or to charge God with wickedness on account of it, is not open to a Bible-believing Christian. Somehow, we must confess both that God has a role in bringing evil about, and that in doing so he is holy and blameless” (Doctrine of God). That post demonstrated that Scripture plainly teaches both (a) that God is unquestionably righteous and (b) that He indeed ordains sinful events and actions. And if that’s what Scripture teaches (and it is), it is not our place to sit in judgment upon and question the consistency of those declarations. That only breeds the worst of biblical and theological mischief. To argue that God is unrighteous for ordaining evil is to sit in judgment upon both the Word of God and the Judge of all the world. Instead, it falls to us to receive both propositions as true on the authority of God’s infallible and inerrant Word.

But is there any way to understand how it can be that God is not the chargeable cause of sin, even though He ordains that it be? There is a way for the worshiper of God to ask that question submissively, not because we demand that God give an account of His understanding of justice that satisfies our sensibilities, but simply because we desire to know Him and worship Him for what He has revealed of Himself. And there is a way to answer that question that remains faithful to sound biblical interpretation and theological reflection.

The answer that Scripture seems to give can be boiled down to two propositions. First, though God is the ultimate cause of all things—even evil—He is never the proximate, or efficient, cause of evil. Second, Scripture regards only the efficient cause of evil as the chargeable or blameworthy party. Let’s look to a sample of texts that bears this out.

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September 30, 2015

Arminianism & Its Hazards

by Eric Davis

calvins flowerChances are you’ve discussed it lately. Who chose whom? God? Man? Both? Whose will and choice triggers salvation? Man’s? God’s? Both? It’s a common occurrence to spar over Calvinism (the doctrines of God’s sovereign grace) vs. Arminianism.

This post could not possibly address all the issues. Instead, it will take a brief look at some of Arminianism’s consequences. But first, a quick reminder of common Arminian teaching.

Arminianism typically holds that God elects individuals to salvation based on his foreknowledge of their personal worthiness. It’s claimed that God’s election means that he chose those whom he foresaw would trust in Christ for salvation prior to them doing so. God chose those whom he foreknew would choose him. Humanity, therefore, is fallen, but not incapable of seeking God. Though sinful, man is still able to arouse his will so as to choose God savingly. Some reject election, arguing that it is incompatible with human freedom and responsibility, thus rendering things like evangelism, prayer, and discipleship unnecessary. It follows, then, that many argue that one is able to lose their salvation.

arminian flower

Arminianism has had its propagators over the years. Jacob Arminius, of course. Later, John Wesley wrote, “I reject the blasphemy clearly contained in the horrible decree of predestination…I would sooner be a Turk, a Deist, yea an atheist, than I could believe this” (Cited in Demarest, The Cross and Salvation, 102). About 100 years later, Charles Finney held that there are essentially two types of people; the savable and the unsavable. God chose those who inherently possessed the ability by their freedom to choose God and be saved. Some contemporary proponents include F. Leroy Forlines and Roger Olson, to name a few.

Wherever we might find ourselves theologically, there are a number of hazards for consideration which are consequent of Arminian teaching:

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With all the talk of blood moons and the putative “probability” of the rapture being today (September 28, 2015), I decided to reprise this…

All Bible-believing Christians are expecting the rapture; we all just define that event differently. My earlier post, Secret Disservice: Problems with the term ‘Secret Rapture,’  generated some questions I’d like to address.

1) What is the rapture?

The word ‘rapture’ comes from the Latin rapturo, meaning, “I seize, I snatch, or I carry away” which is the Vulgate’s translation of the Greek word harpadzo, meaning “I catch up, I carry away.” As a half-Greek etymology geek I can’t resist mentioning that English sailors sourced their word “harpoon” from the Greek for the implement used to snatch a large  fish out the water.

Harpadzo” or “Rapturo” is  rendered  “caught up”  in   1 Thess 4:16-17  where Paul says,

16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord, (ESV).”

Also, 1 Cor 15:51-53 refers to the fact that believers will not all die, but will all be changed in the twinkling of an eye.

This is why I could provocatively claim that all Bible believing Christians are expecting a rapture. We all agree that at some point Christians will be snatched up into the clouds to meet Jesus. The vexing question is: “When?!”

Some say, “Any moment now, before God judges the earth for seven years, which precedes the final return of Christ to usher in his 1000 year earthly reign.” (The correct This writer’s view). Continue Reading…

No PermissionIn my last post, I outlined some foundational biblical/theological teaching on the decree of God. We looked at passages of Scripture that speak of God’s decree as eternal, unconditional, unchangeable, and exhaustive. As a result, we concluded that God is properly said to be the ultimate cause of all things.

Immediately, this raises the question: How can God be the cause of actions and events that are evil and sinful—things which God Himself prescribes against—and yet not be rightly charged with unrighteousness? Some people answer this question by appealing to the notion of divine “permission.” In other words, though God is ultimately in control, He doesn’t ordain evil; He merely allows it. I don’t find this kind of explanation convincing for two reasons.

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Divine DecreeIn numerous passages throughout the Bible, there are places where Scripture speaks of God’s “purpose” (Acts 4:28), His “plan” (Ps 33:11; Acts 2:23), His “counsel” (Eph 1:11), “good pleasure” (Isa 46:10), or “will” (Eph 1:5). In one way or another, each of these designations refer to what theologians call God’s decree. The Westminster Confession famously characterizes describes God’s decree as follows: “God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass.”

So in those instances where Scripture speaks of God’s purpose, plan, counsel, pleasure, or will, these passages are referring to the divine decree by which God, before the creation of time, determined to bring about all things that were to happen in time. John Piper, summarizing God’s decree, says, “He has designed from all eternity, and is infallibly forming, with every event, a magnificent mosaic of redemptive history” (Desiring God, 40). This helpful summary presents three characteristics of God’s decree that succinctly encapsulate the teaching of Scripture: God’s decree is eternal, immutable, and exhaustive.

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God wanted him to be a Lobo.

I’m sure you’ve heard of the NFL theological conundrum: if prayer works, and two opposing teams pray for victory, who will win?

Here is a variation of the question: In a game against the Steelers, Green Bay Packer’s receiver Jordy Nelson tore his ACL. After the game he made headlines when he told a reporter that in a regular season game he would have just rubbed dirt on it, but since it was pre-season he left the game, and now is likely out for much of the season.

Enter the theological dilemma: Green Bay’s division rivals, the Detroit Lions, have a safety who unsafely commented on Nelson’s injury. Glover Quin said that in any injury God is at work, and that all things that happen, happen for a reason.   Continue Reading…

“You are a letter of Christ, cared for by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.
– 2 Corinthians 3:3 –

2 Cor 3;3As false apostles in Corinth are challenging Paul’s credibility, they object to his authority and promote their own on the basis of letters of commendation. They’ve got doctored letters from some church in Jerusalem, and they’re calling Paul out because he has none. Paul responds by saying that Christ Himself has written him a letter of commendation. And it wasn’t written with mere ink or on stone, but by the Spirit on human hearts. The salvation of the Corinthians themselves was all the commendation Paul needed.

If we follow Paul’s imagery carefully, we wouldn’t have expected him to set up a contrast between human hearts and tablets of stone. He’s just spoken of natural letters written in ink, and you don’t use ink on stone. We would have expected Paul to say something like, “Not on papyrus, or parchments, which fade away along with the ink written on them.” But he doesn’t say that. He contrasts “tablets of human hearts”—literally, “tablets that are hearts of flesh”—with “tablets of stone.”

Why? Well, the false apostles (i.e., those whom Paul was defending himself against in 2 Corinthians) were Judaizers. They were teaching that circumcision and keeping the ceremonial law of Moses was necessary for salvation. And so by changing the contrast from “written on paper” to “written on tablets of stone,” Paul is contrasting the impotence of the law in under the Mosaic Covenant with the almighty sanctifying power of the Spirit under the New Covenant, which has now dawned with Christ.

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I’ve written on a lot of issues and biblical passages on here over the last few years, but the one thing I haven’t tackled was the issue of abortion.  The reason I haven’t tackled it was because I didn’t have the time to explore the topic in the comprehensive manner that I normally lean towards (i.e. like this or this or this).  I still haven’t found the time, and the kind of post I’d like to write requires a lot of research.  I have started my research and wanted to share something that I’ve already learned:

The Abortion Guarantee.

It doesn’t take much reading of Scripture to learn that God has a heart for the widows, orphans, poor and oppressed.  In Scripture, God is abundantly clear in revealing his concern for those groups (Ex. 22:22-27, 23:1-3, 23:6-8, 23:10-11; Lev. 19:15, 23:22, 25:35-43; Deut 14:28-29, 15:7-15, 24:14-22; Ps. 9:9, 10:16-18, 34:4-7; 35:10, 41:1-3, 68:5, 103:6, 146:5-9; Is. 1:16-17, 10:1-4, 58:1-12; Jer. 7:5-7; Ez. 22:23-29; Zech. 7:9-10; Mal. 3:5; Mark 12:38-40; Rom. 15:25-27; Gal. 2:7-10; 1 Tim 5:3-8; James 1:27, 2:15-17, etc.).  The Lord hears their cries, comes to their aid, and is angry at those who mistreat them.

The Lord indeed comes to the aid of the widows, orphans, poor and oppressed, but there is a specific group of people that has a special place on his list of priorities, even above them:


God gets angry at the oppression and abuse of children.  God gets furious when they are killed.


Consider the following: Continue Reading…

Not since Little Shop of Horrors have we seen a dentist portrayed as so thoroughly villainous as was done in last week’s wanton social media feeding frenzy. Mystifyingly, in the same news cycle that exposed the trafficking of infant body parts in the US, a story about one of many poached animals in Zimbabwe received the lion’s share of media steve martin

Don’t get me wrong, hunting without the proper permit is quite dastardly indeed. I’m a cat person (and a sub-Saharan resident) so I get that news of a dead lion with a name Americans can pronounce is more newsworthy than the countless anonymous extinction-bound rhinos that are poached every year for their horns. But more newsworthy than locals selling babies’ lungs without a permit? Really?

Incidentally, paying to shoot lions is not only legal in Zimbabwe, but actively encouraged by its tourism authorities. The Rhodesian Ridgeback dog was bred specifically to hunt lions (Rhodesia is Zimbabwe’s maiden name). And so, if the paperwork had been in order no one would have batted an eyelid or typed a tweet. Odd.

This is a good week for our theology and zoology to intersect. It behooves us to recap what we know about God’s view of animals.

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Though I’m currently on a reduced blogging schedule, I got tagged in for something special.

On July 19th, John MacArthur preached a sermon entitled We Will Not Bow.


It got no small notice online and has been posted all around the internet (and ‘the internet’ means ‘Facebook, Twitter, and WeChat’).  I listened to the sermon a few days ago and, like many, found it to be a biblical breath of fresh air in what is quickly becoming an unsettling age.

MacArthur placed the recent supreme court decision in the light of spiritual reality.  He commented on how Satan is behind the attack against the family in all its fronts (feminism, the sexual revolution, abortion, same-sex marriage, transgenderism, etc.).  He reminded Christians that what they’re seeing is neither new nor abnormal.  He went through several sections of the Old Testament and commented on how all the issues that we see today were all issues in Israel: homosexuality, transvestism, etc.  He talked at length about various sexual issues as they were addressed in both the Old and New Testaments, and then commented on how those same issues have arisen to the forefront of public affairs in the last few decades.  He quickly walked through Romans 1 and then, when he got to Romans 1:32, he stated that the reprobate mind is taking over our culture and will demand compliance.  Before moving on to preach from 2 Thessalonians 1, MacArthur gave examples of Romans 1:32 that are already occurring or coming soon: churches losing their tax exempt status, Christian colleges losing their accreditation for not accepting the new morality, etc.

His sermon shocked everyone who listened.  Continue Reading…