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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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His posts are either funny or challenging. He is very friendly and nice.
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[He has] good posts, both the serious like this one, and the humorous like yesterday. [He is] the reason that I have restrained myself from making Canadian jokes in my posts.
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Daniel, nicely done and much more original than Frank the Turk.
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There are some people who are smart, deep, or funny. There are not very many people that are all 3. Daniel is one of those people. His opinion, insight and humor have kept me coming back to his blog since I first visited earlier this year.
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Friday, September 09, 2011
Obligatory Grace? Part III
As I closed the last installment of this series, I mentioned that in order for God to extend grace to a person that person has to exist.

Here is where we come up against a temporal difficulty in that God dwells eternally in eternity, and we dwell temporally in creation. To speak of something happening "before" creation is to use language that has no application. There is no such thing as before or after in eternity.

Whatever eternity is, one thing is certain, it exists apart from, and is not bound by (or to) creation in any way, and since time is part of God's creation, eternity and time are necessarily and consequently incompatible. Time (like space) is a function of, and only has meaning with regards to, God's creation. Since we (as creatures) know no other frame of reference to describe events that happen in eternity, we borrow temporal language ("before the world was created") to describe events that actually took place outside of this creation, and not before it or following it.

In other words, when we speak of God making a decision "before" He created time, we are using temporal language to describe something that invalidates (in practice) the very temporal distinctions we are using. There is no such thing as "before" creation, because outside of this creation time and space do not exist and therefore have meaning. Thus when Christ says, that God loved Him "before the foundation of the world", we leave room in our understanding for this allowance: that our Lord is not so much expressing the event in chronological language, as He is describing the event as being outside of our chronological fishbowl. He is saying that God loved Him in eternity, that is that God's love for Him stands apart from such things as time and space.

We allow therefore (given that God inhabits eternity and is [thus] not bound to [or by] time) that such distinctions are not being made to paint God into time, so much as to paint an event as having its being outside of, or apart from, time.

It has been my experience that people who focus on the "when" of predestination/election often miss the emphasis on the "who" of predestination/election. I could be biased of course, but that is what I have seen.

What the scriptures stress is that our faith is a gift from God, a response to something God has initiated - faith is the inevitable child of grace. Where God extends grace, faith flows in. That is the point that scripture is making, that God has authored our faith as a result of, and therefore "through" a consummating grace. in this way God is the Author of our salvation. The point is that God chooses who is going to be saved, and affects this salvation as an act of grace that produces faith in the (former,) chosen unbeliever.

That brings up that original thought on grace which was expanded in Part I of the series: grace is not grace if God is obliged to provide it to anyone (or everyone).

We all know, or should know by now, that we are saved by grace. This Paul states plainly in the second chapter of his letter to the believers at Ephesus, and it is probably a verse that most Christians have memorized simply because they have heard it stated again and again, we are saved by grace through faith, and that not of ourselves it is the gift of God, lest anyone should boast [about their own salvation]. If we are saved by grace, then this grace which God extended to us in eternity, has waiting for its fruition since creation began. Creation has been pregnant since the beginning, waiting, as it were, for the birth of God's children, or said another way, Creation has intentionally progressed moment by moment from the beginning until this very moment, in order to bring into being those whom God has "already" bestowed grace on in eternity.

Of course even in stating this much you will notice that I was forced to use temporal language. As though God were bestowing grace "before" rather than "outside" of creation.

Imagine that a farmer rented out individual rows in a crop field, and that you bought every other row, such that you own rows 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, etc. and other people whom you don't even know owned rows 2, 4, 6, 8, etc. Each row is irrigated from the same well, but the machinery from the well has broken down so that the whole field is in jeopardy. Now let us say that all the other "row renters" have treated the farmer poorly so that he owes them nothing, and would otherwise be satisfied to let the well remain broken and see their crops perish in the field. But because you have been a faithful customer, for your sake the farmer fixes the well. In a very practical sense, these other row renters benefit directly from the kindness the farmer is showing to you. His kindness is not directed at those who have mistreated him, but is directed at you, even though every one's crop drinks in the same water.

The fact that the world exists today testifies to the grace that is held waiting for those whom God has chosen to save who have not yet been born. The rest of the world benefits from the grace that is directed at those whom God has chosen, in that the world itself is allowed to continue until these are born and come to faith by that grace that has been pregnantly awaiting their arrival.

Surely by now you have heard, or even asked the question yourself, "If God is love, why does He allow pain, suffering, and death to take place in the world?"

The answer is that pain, suffering, and death are the consequences of God's temporal judgment against mankind concerning the rebellion of our race in Adam in the Garden of Eden. That none of us deserves life itself, let alone a life free from pain, suffering, and death - that all God owes any one of us is condemnation and eternal torment, that anything less than this is grace.

Those whom God has not chosen to save, nevertheless receive life and sustenance in this world as a consequence of the grace that God is directing elsewhere. Like those rows that received the irrigation on account of the other rows for which the irrigation has been provided, so also those whom God has not determined to save, nevertheless receive benefit from the grace that God is directing towards His chosen ones.

Each new day exists, not for the benefit of those who will eternally reject God, but for the benefit of those who will, by God's grace, repent and be reconciled to God. It is for these (the elect) that the world continues to exist. For these elect the sun shines in the sky, and the rains come in their season - that each generation may continue until all the elect are born and (through grace by faith) come to Christ.

So one can say that all the pain and suffering in the world, as well as any joy and pleasure, in fact all things exist in this world for the sake of God's elect, and those who are not elect are partakers of these benefits, even as they reject their maker, and blaspheme His name. Suffering continues, because God withholds the judgment against mankind, and this judgment is being withheld until every last elect sinner is born again.

If God were to end pain and suffering today, He would have to judge mankind, and no one would be found righteous, nor would anyone stand uncondemned (except those who have by grace through faith, trusted in Christ, and thereby have passed through the judgment in Christ already).

To that end (and in that way) I don't think that God has two kinds of grace. I don't believe He has a "special" grace for the elect, and "normal" grace for the unelect. Rather God, for the sake of that (one) grace which is reserved for the elect, endures the sins of men, in order that He may pour out that (one) grace, in due time, on those for whom it pregantly waits. Until then, the world, and all that is in it is allowed to continue, and so those who are in it, who reject God, are allowed to continue - not that God is directing His grace at them, but because in directing saving grace at the elect, these who are not elect are endured as condemned partakers of this world.

Grace (then) is reserved for, and directed at, those whom God is presently redeeming; but this same grace that is reserved for the elect is more than just a universal kindness, it is the very reason that the earth continues, for the earth has waited since "before" its foundation for the birth of God's redeemed. It has tolerated all the sin of mankind for the sake of giving birth to God's elect. This same grace that waits for those predestined to receive it is what supplies breath and life to all who are born into this world. This same grace waits to eventually quicken those whom God has chosen to redeem, but in the meantime it is the reason why the rest are tolerated - the reason why, as I said, creation is allowed to continue: the reason why judgment tarries.

That was Peter's point - God isn't slack concerning the promised judgment, it is rather that God is not willing for any of the elect to perish; so in order to ensure they are born, the world continues day by day (C.f. 2 Peter 3:9).

If God has determined to save every elect sinner (and He has), then we do not marvel that the world continues, because it must continue until every last elect sinner that is ever going to be born has been redeemed by grace through faith.

What should we call this divine plan?

This plan to allow creation to continue until all of the elect receive God's grace?

Covenant Theology calls this a covenant, the "Covenant of Grace" to be exact. But as I have intoned already, I find that particular label misleading (at best). Misleading because it paints grace as though God has obligated Himself in the past to show grace in the future rather than painting God has having done something in eternity that will not be experienced in creation until it's proper time. Perhaps the distinction can be seen in an example: it is one thing to wait until you are allowed to view a picture that has already been painted, and another thing to have a painter who is obligated to paint you a picture.

What God has done, God has done. From our perspective we are "waiting" to see the manifestation of it, but from God's perspective, it is already complete. God has not promised to do something, rather God has done something already, we just haven't experienced it yet because we are not in eternity where God has done this thing, but in creation where what God has already done in eternity has yet to manifest itself.

Said another way, it wasn't that God made a "promise" in the past that He is now obligated to fulfill in the future, rather it is that God is doing (has done?) something in eternity, that is will not be manifested in creation until its proper time.

What I find disturbing about pressing an eternal reality into the mold of a temporal contract is that if we entertain this notion here, we are more likely to introduce similar notions and clever innovations elsewhere - notions that may well chafe against, rather than harmonize with, what really happened.

I hold that a God who has obligated Himself in the past to do something in the future is not the same as a God who has already finished a work in eternity that simply hasn't been played out yet in creation.

You might ask at this point, what's the big deal?

So what if one person believes God has made a promise, and another believes that God has done something in eternity that is playing out temporally? What does that change?

Well to start with, if I believe that God's dealings with the elect are founded upon, and brokered through, an implicit "covenant of grace", it follows that the other explicit covenants in scripture must be interpreted through the lens of this implicit covenant. Certainly that is going to have some effect on my theology.

If there is no covenant of grace through which all other covenants are filtered/understood, then it is an entirely arbitrary and (strikingly) artificial thing to presume a continuation between the old and new covenant. If there is not under girding "covenant of grace" how could anyone say, for example, that baptism replaces circumcision? Since both are pictures of facts of the same under girding covenant?

My point is simply that the distinction is more significant than you might imagine.

If you ask me why I reject infant baptism, I will tell you it is because I don't believe that there is such a thing as a covenant of grace uniting the old and new covenants. I therefore find no reason to equate baptism with circumcision, as though one replaced the other. Thus I do not believe one can bring a babe into the covenant community through infant baptism in the same way one could identify their children with Israel under the Mosaic Covenant. Apples and oranges.

Not that the point of this discussion on grace is intended to end in an explanation of why I reject infant baptism. Rather I demonstrate that simply understanding what took place in eternity concerning the elect, can, when described imprecisely, or understood loosely, can have a theological butterfly effect that ends with people doing things, not because the scriptures tell them to do so, but because their theology demands it.

That is significant stuff. My hope in writing this series was that I would provoke serious consideration of these things, perhaps even persuading some of what I presently hold to be true. I hope in examining these things you have been stretched a bit in a Godward direction.

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posted by Daniel @ 9:21 AM   2 comment(s)
Thursday, September 08, 2011
Presumptuous sin
Psalm 19:13a reads, "Also keep back Your servant from presumptuous sins; Let them not rule over me;"

A presumptuous sin is a sin that you willfully and knowingly commit on the presumption (however far at the back of your mind it might be) that you will be forgiven for it.

A presumptuous sin has the same flavor as when some scoundrel determines to borrow money from someone while intending from the very beginning to default on the loan.

It is to stare into God's face, and say, I will disobey, because I know you will forgive me.

David prayed that the Lord would keep him back from sins of presumption.

Do you?
posted by Daniel @ 7:34 AM   2 comment(s)
Tuesday, September 06, 2011
Ode To A Spider
Spider, spider, as brown as bark,
With pointed legs and bristles dark,
I shivered in my very core,
When glanced I you upon my floor.

How dare you sir, invade my home;
And make my house your place to roam!
At once I knew what I must do,
And quick as rain I fetched my shoe.

The sneaker strikes, your body warps,
No coffin for your curled up corpse,
No velvet cask, no pomp, no plush,
Just water swirling as I flush.

When done you were, I stopped and mused,
What makes me long to see you bruised?
What drives me on to loathe you so?
Why could I not just let you go?

The truth be told, it was because,
I have no say in what it does.
Were it able to heed my voice,
And do my will by its own choice,

I suppose it wouldn't creep me out,
For I would say, "Don't stir about!"
And if it heeded my command,
I'm sure it's presence I could stand.

Sure it's icky when it's dangly,
Or darting 'bout on legs so gangly,
But if it stayed in my back yard
I'd have no cause to see it marred.

Spider spider, so brown as bark,
The time has come to disembark,
Your willfulness I won't abide,
That's why you've sailed the porcelain tide.

-Daniel van de Laar

I embellished the poem a little, to make it rhyme, but by and large that is the tale of my morning.

As I was coming down the stairs into the foyer this morning, this rather large brown and hairy spider darted across the stairs just as I was walking past. I started at the icky movement, and that loathing of all things icky took control of me, and I quickly killed the thing. It didn't die the first strike or the second, but finally expired on the third strike. I chalk that up to having found a somewhat defensible corner rather than to any personal robustness on the spider's part.

As I was lacing up my shoes however, I pondered why it was that I killed the thing. What was it about the spider and about me that were incompatible? As I considered it, I realized that the main thing that offended me was that it was a "wild" arachnid living in my home. I had no control over it. Perhaps it would crawl on me in my sleep? Maybe it would find it's way into some food? If the thing lived in my back yard, I would suffer it to live, but having found it in my house, I was disposed to dispose of it.

Of course, that got me to thinking about God and sinners, and how a sinner is not unlike a rebellious spider in the eyes of God. The sinner will not obey, and God is within His right to punish that sinner as He sees fit.

Now, the analogy isn't perfect, as it is universally accepted that big, gnarly, hairy, spiders are "yucky" and people are created in God's image, and therefore have more dignity than the spider, etc. But the analogy isn't so far off that it is unintelligible. We are, compared to God, less than spiders, and our sin makes us far more "icky" than our appearance.

When the scriptures say that creation declares the glory of the Lord, it isn't meant to be poetry, it is the literal truth. Creation declares the glory of God, to all, and it is evident to those who have eyes to see it.
posted by Daniel @ 8:27 AM   4 comment(s)
 
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