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Daniel of Doulogos Name:Daniel
Home: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
About Me: I used to believe that evolution was reasonable, that homosexuality was genetic, and that people became Christians because they couldn't deal with the 'reality' that this life was all there was. I used to believe, that if there was a heaven - I could get there by being good - and I used to think I was more or less a good person. I was wrong on all counts. One day I finally had my eyes opened and I saw that I was not going to go to heaven, but that I was certainly going to suffer the wrath of God for all my sin. I saw myself as a treasonous rebel at heart - I hated God for creating me just to send me to Hell - and I was wretched beyond my own comprehension. Into this spiritual vacuum Jesus Christ came and he opened my understanding - delivering me from God's wrath into God's grace. I was "saved" as an adult, and now my life is hid in Christ. I am by no means sinless, but by God's grace I am a repenting believer - a born again Christian.
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Daniel's posts are almost always pastoral and God centered. I appreciate and am challenged by them frequently. He has a great sense of humor as well.
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Saturday, March 03, 2007
Unconditional Election in John 10 - part 4
If you want some context for this post, you should read the meta over at Rose's blog, or alternately, you can follow along through the series here:
Part I
Part II
Part III

In conversations of this sort, inevitably someone asks the hard questions. In this case, the question is why would Christ bother giving the Pharisees a chance to repent and be saved if He knew beforehand that they weren't going to be saved. Wouldn't it be sort of disingenuous of Christ to make them an offer when He knew they would not accept it.

I probably haven't answered it as good as I could have, but here is my reply:
The Pharisees were culpable for their own sin and God had declared their end from the very beginning - reserving the blackness of darkness forever for them, giving them ears that could not hear, and eyes that could not see.

To be sure, we read about where we get ears to hear and eyes to see beginning in Deuteronomy (29:4), where Moses is explaining to the Israelites that even though they all saw what happened in Egypt with their own eyes, yet in spite of that God did not give the Israelites a heart to perceive, eyes to see, or ears to hear to that very day.

That reminds us that God is the one who opens hearts and eyes, and not our own cleverness or personality - and that God doesn't do it in response to our faith, but rather our faith is in response to God's enabling. Surely there ought to have been at least a few hundred thousand amongst the roughly 2 million Jewish exiles after seeing the ten plagues, after being under the cloud day and night for forty years - that would have had enough information to have their eyes opened, if it were something that we do - so that God could "respond" - but we see that the reason their eyes and ears were not opened was because God hadn't opened them.

We see the same again in Isaiah 6:9-10 - God explains that He is going to make their heart dull, their eyes shut and their ears heavy in order to make it impossible for them to return to Him and be healed until God's appointed time. (c.f. Isaiah 32)

Jeremiah prophesies to a people whom God has made blind and deaf (Jeremiah 5:21) - recall that God told Jeremiah specifically that they would not listen to him, but he was required to call them to repentance.

Paul explains this very idea in Romans 11:7-9 - that the reason Israel failed to embrace Christ was because God had made them blind - and he quotes from similar texts to the ones I have quoted to make his point.

God made them culpable and they remained culpable even when God made them blind and deaf.

It is entirely consistent for Christ to give the Pharisees every opportunity to repent, and even as Jeremiah was instructed to preach to a people whom God had ordained before hand would not listen to his preaching - so too Christ, even though these men were not of His flock, Christ gave them every opportunity, in good faith, to repent.

Recall Christ washing the feet of Judas at a time when He already knew Judas was about to go and betray Him? That is the character of our God - a humble servant, willing to treat all men, even His own betrayer, with the same grace.

Had Christ treated those who were not of His flock differently than those who were of His flock, He would not have been God. God is not partial (c.f. Romans 2:11)

So my answer is that Christ gave them the opportunity to repent because He is God, and God is merciful. Christ knew these men were not of His flock - that is plain enough from the immediate dialog, and we could examine John 2:24-25 if we were still hazy on the idea. Christ knew these were not of His flock, but He gave them the opportunity to repent.

Now if it is a question of motive, why did He do it, I can say this much, my first inclination is to look for some motive common to man - but that has a man centered myopia to it. I like to speculate as much as the next guy, but honestly, sometimes we allow our speculations to drive our interpretation, and when we do that our speculations can cause us to re-interpret what is going on because we are unable to speculate an answer that satisfies our understanding of the character of God.

That is, I might be inclined to say - God is so loving and so merciful, that the only reason God could ever give the Pharisees an opportunity to repent was because he was wringing His hands in hope that just maybe "this time" they would believe. Such a notion is premised upon the idea that God really has no control over salvation - and that is premised upon the errant idea that God would be wicked for saving one man while allowing another to perish.

But that line of reasoning is grounded in our own sense of fairness - If I work all day and another works only one hour, and our boss pays us the same wage - I am offended because I feel that if the boss gives the other fellow the same as he give me - I should get more because I worked more. The true wicked nature of my heart is revealed in that I am offended by the kindness of my boss. I want the other fellow to get less, or alternately I want the boss to pay me more - because I don't understand justice. Maybe when I was a kid my mom used to give us all the same equally, and call that "fairness" - and maybe this is why I have this idea in my head that if the boss shows this guy who worked only an hour and gives him a merciful wage - one he did not earn, that the boss must therefore over compensate me in order to remain "fair" - and that unless this boss hands out mercy according to my understanding of "fairness" he is unjust.

But the reality is, the boss can give the days wage to whomever he wills, and it is not unjust to allow me to receive what I have earned.

Soteriologically speaking, we earn condemnation by our sin, and God is justified in paying every last one of us that wage - and God is not unjust if He, because of His great mercy, gives to some eternal life which they have not earned. It doesn't make him evil if He gives life to some and not all - it makes Him merciful. It is the mind set on a wrong kind of fairness - that cannot see this.

They were given the opportunity to repent, even though Christ knew they weren't going to. They certainly had the ability to repent - it isn't like God was forcing them to =not= repent; that image is grossly cartoonish - rather it is that repentance is a gift given by God (c.f. Acts 11:18, 2 Tim 2:25), and that God was not compelled to give them that gift. These were not innocent men - they were wretched sinners, treasonous rebels who had earned a place in hell a thousand times over through their consistent God slandering rebellion. God's only obligation to them was to give them their wage - hell. God is not wicked for "withholding" the gift of repentance - if repentance were something we had a right to, scripture wouldn't describe it as something God grants.

I may be starting to ramble - there is only so many ways to say the same thing. Let me know if my point is coherent enough to be understood.


I think that is going to be the final post in the series, but perhaps it will come up again. We shall see.

My hope is that God is glorified in this way - that someone reading this exchange will find something in it that draws them closer to the Lord. I have corrected some of my spelling mistakes, but other than that it is verbatim, though I am not always pleased to "publish" anything with rough edges, I prefer to leave it that way just to be true to that discussion.

Labels: , ,

posted by Daniel @ 1:10 PM  
4 Comments:
  • At 7:55 PM, March 03, 2007, Blogger Gayla said…

    Daniel, you continue to edify (and amaze) me with your understanding and grasp of the Word of God and how you communicate it so clearly and concisely.

    I just want to thank you for the time and effort you put into such thoughtful exegesis of the Scriptures. I cannot tell you how much I appreciate that, and the fact that I can come in here and LEARN! It is evident that you seek to glorify God in all you say, and that along with your humble spirit comes shining through! Your blog is truly a blessing to me.

     
  • At 9:13 PM, March 03, 2007, Blogger Daniel said…

    Gayla, just now my wife put our little one to bed, we have a king size bed, but two youngest of our four children sleep in it with us. The youngest because he is still nursing, and his older sister because we have been ignoring her with the new baby and felt that one way we could make her feel more loved and appreciated was to bring her back into our bed ~ which has been working well.

    Yet only just tonight, as I said, my wife put the little one down, then she decided to go down with the other one too - and wanted me to bring her. Wouldn't you know it - when I brought in my youngest girl my wife was on "my side" ready to snuggle with my little girl - but all my selfish heart could think was, "Why are you on my side?" Can you picture that kind of selfishness - I mean, out of nowhere, all I can think about for the first five seconds is how this is an inconvenience to me. Immediately I get indignant inside, and no doubt my suddenly soured expression would have given it away if it hadn't been so dark. But I did catch myself, praise the Lord, and I said - this is not Christ in me - this is me, me, me - the thing Christ died to free me from, and I agree with Him about where it belongs - on the cross; and so I surrendered it to him and came back in here (I have some preparation to do for tomorrow yet) and before I had even sat down everything changed. Where before I building upt to a grudge, suddenly I was thanking God for Christ who had saved me from that thing that I am.

    So when I read something kind and encouraging, am I am always careful to thank God that if there is anything good in a thing I have said, I know it didn't come from me, because I know that in my flesh, there dwells no good thing. Which is another way of saying, I thank God if something I said helped you to love God more.

    Thank you for the encouragement.

     
  • At 9:59 PM, March 04, 2007, Blogger Deviant Monk said…

    They were given the opportunity to repent, even though Christ knew they weren't going to. They certainly had the ability to repent - it isn't like God was forcing them to =not= repent; that image is grossly cartoonish - rather it is that repentance is a gift given by God (c.f. Acts 11:18, 2 Tim 2:25), and that God was not compelled to give them that gift. These were not innocent men - they were wretched sinners, treasonous rebels who had earned a place in hell a thousand times over through their consistent God slandering rebellion. God's only obligation to them was to give them their wage - hell. God is not wicked for "withholding" the gift of repentance - if repentance were something we had a right to, scripture wouldn't describe it as something God grants.

    I am curious- in your last response to me on a previous post you said that God's control over everything was absolute and included everything in between the beginning and the end. Within this absolute sovereignty, wouldn't you have to truly include everything; including the sins committed by these 'wretched sinners?" Also, wouldn't that absolute control have to both make some blind and not make some blind to see God's grace? Of course, if God truly is as absolutely sovereign as you have admitted, then it would logically follow that sin itself finds its being, so to speak, in the will and foreordination of God, which means that the phenomenological actions of sin are clearly actualized by and the sole responsibility of God. Of course, at that point sin loses any sort of moral nature, and thus cannot be something that, within the reformed framework, could merit any repugnance or offense to God, since God Godself willed and actualized it.

    I am curious as to your thoughts concerning this.

     
  • At 8:25 PM, March 06, 2007, Blogger Daniel said…

    DM - I am going to let you guess what I think, then if you don't like what you guess, you can debate it. ;-)

     
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