Saturday, June 28, 2008

...sometimes you just need another swing at the ball

Welcome to a "beloved" feature on this blog that I haven't used in some time, but am revitalizing today. I used to call it "Mulligan Monday's", but am now going to be calling it "Mulligan Weekends."

If you have been in ministry for any length of time, you would have most likely been invited by someone to "minister to the greens." Golf is not only the greatest game ever invented (anyone see Tiger and Rocco in the playoffs at the US Open a few weeks ago? Butter.) but is also the official game of pastors worldwide :-).

In amateur golf, when you hit a poor shot and are not playing strictly according to USGA Rules, your foursome for reasons of profound charity, may grant one of these each nine holes, what is called a mulligan (a "do over"). IOW, you get to hit another shot from the exact same spot you muffed the first shot from without being penalized a stroke or two. Again, it's the dilettante's way of improving your score and hiding the shame of a less than stellar round without the guilt. (If I ever start a band again I think the new name would be: "Steve and The Mulligans" - featuring Phil Johnson, Lance Quinn, James White, Greg Withrow, John MacArthur and R.C. Sproul.)

Well each Weekend I will feature an illustration of someone who mis-spoke biblically or doctrinally (and yes, I will include myself). Anyone who desperately needs a "theological mulligan" given to them - IOW, a chance to hit the "biblical ball" again.

A repeat, but yet favorite here, was our very first mulligan posted on July 11, 2005. It was awarded to Rev. Billy Graham from his interview with Larry King aired on June 16, 2005. The subject in question; DOES GOD LOVE SATAN? Here are Billy's thoughts:
KING: Does God love him?

GRAHAM: Does God what?

KING: Satan. Does he love Satan?

GRAHAM: Well, He created him as Lucifer. In the 22nd of Ezekiel, it tells us about it, and He must love him...
Christian charity believes all things; snd with that in mind, let's extend some charity to Mr. Graham. If Billy were given "a mulligan," I would hope he wouldn't make such a ridiculous statement as this again.

I know we live in an age of tolerance and that people are supposed to be nice and accepting of each others views and beliefs, but can't evangelicals at least agree on this: God doesn't love Satan? In fact, God hates him and has a terrible plan for his life. God, in His unrelenting eternal wrath, will punish him forever in an everlasting hell made for him and his demon cohorts. Even our Lord Jesus, when commenting of Satan, never uses such charitable language as Billy did, but gave a stinging rebuke to the Pharisees and describes Satan in these terms, "You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies."

Whom does God love? Not Satan... Paul tells us in these hopeful and comforting words in Romans 5:8 "but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." God loves those whom He gave to Christ to die for on the cross as a propitiatory sacrifice for our sins.

So if you, your pastor, friend, family member, or well known evangelical leader theologically misspoke this past week, show some grace; give 'em another swing; and encourage them to hit the ball from the fairway of God's Word next time - avoiding the rough, bunkers and out of bounds.

From the tips,

-an encore, updated, and yet new presentation-


Efrayim said...

Well, those kind of questions usually come from an uninformed individual, in this case Larry King, and are meant to evoke an emotional response from the audience. Which keeps them coming back.
A better question might be, did Elohim ever love HaSatan? Of course He did. But those relationships take place on a plane (or in a reality, if you prefer) which we cannot understand with our finite minds. Who started the war in heaven? How was, or is it, fought? How do eternal beings defeat eternal beings, you know, those kind of things.
What might be an interesting exercise would be to overlay your doctrine of election and grace onto the relationship of HaSatan to Elohim. Does it work? Would it make any difference if it did?



Jeremy Weaver said...

I feel kind of woozy.
Great post, Steve.

Jeremy Weaver said...

By the way, where'd you go Russ? I thought we were having fun.

Nathan White said...

Ok, so that question blown, what about the rest of the interview? Is it safe to say that Graham pulled an 'Osteen'?

Also, the end of the sentence on Satan reads: "Hell was created for the devil and his angels, or his demons, not for men".

I have heard Graham before proclaim his disbelief in a literal hell. And it seems that he is hinting at it again here.

On one hand: "whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice.” And on the other hand it is certainly debatable whether Graham is actually preaching the Christ of scripture or the Christ of his imagination.

Let us remember Matt 7:21-23

Douglas said...

"How do eternal beings defeat eternal beings, you know, those kind of things."

The Uncreated Eternal Being, Yahweh, defeated and defeats the eternal created unrepentant beings by His Word.

The created beings that belong to God defeat those fallen created beings that are damned, by the power of His Word, in the authority of His name. The sword of the Spirit is the weapon of our warefare.

Ephesians chapter six.

Jeremy Weaver said...

Give him his mulligan.

SJ Camp said...

Dear Bloggers:

Thanks for all your interesting thoughts here. Maybe this was an easy target but still worth while pointing out.

Biblical Christianity seems in such chaos these days doesn't it? And some coming from our most tried and true leadership.

We must all keep on faithfully in the Word...amen? I appreciate you all.


Paula said...

My first thought at reading your post was fear. My fear of speaking false doctrine. I just pray that God will keep me from making gross mistakes when it comes to sharing the gospel. Mulligan Mondays will be good in showing that even those trained in doctrine can make mistakes too. Hey, where's your wife's blog???

Efrayim said...

Hi Jeremy. Yes, I was enjoying our exchange. Had to move on, but I'm still in the neighborhood.

Douglas, my questions were somewhat rhetorical, meant to stimulate at a detail level and not at the macro. Of course they are defeated by His Word. Everthing is by His Word. Right?



SJ Camp said...

Dear Paula:

Thank you for your kind words.

Per your question, I am a single parent. Without going into details, my wife left five and a half years ago. Held out hope for reconciliation, but to no avail. My five kids and I are doing well and the Lord daily brings tremendous healing to us all.

Grace and peace,
Eph. 4:32

Paula said...

Brother Steve,

So sorry for the slip on my part. I know too well the pain of divorce! My husband and I are a blended family and I hope, an example of how you can learn and grow from past relationship mistakes. I can't believe you've been single for five years!!! I remember thinking "why can't I have a husband like him" the first time I met my husband and realized what a Godly man he was. We met and married in 8 weeks and that was over 10 years ago. I've never been happier in my life!! I'll pray the same for you too!

Your Sister In Christ,

Jus Divinum said...

As a Reformed Christian, I'm having a hard time taking this criticism of Billy Graham seriously. Larry King's question to Billy Graham was not, "Does God hate him?" but "Does God *love* him"? And Graham answered the question perfectly: given that God created Satan, *of course* God loves him.

While Graham is no Calvinist, the Reformed have traditionally made a distinction between God's love of benevolence (which extends to all of his creatures) and his love of complacency (which extends to the elect alone).

This is why the Psalmist can not only say that "God hates all who do wrong" (Ps 5:5), but also that "God is loving toward all that he has made" (Ps 145:17). It's precisely because the Bible affirms divine love in two different senses (one universal, the other restricted to the elect) that divine hatred does not rule out divine love.

So, as it stands, Graham's answer was impeccable. No mulligans needed ;-) Indeed, he gets a bonus point for connecting love with creaturehood, since this is what the Scriptures affirm.

I'd highly recommend ch. 6 of John MacArthur's _The Love of God_, where he sets forth the relevant biblical texts and answers such questions as "Does God Love the Whole World?", "Can God Really Love Those Whom He Does Not Save?" and "In What Sense is God's Love Universal?" in the affirmative.

-- Jus Divinum

Jus Divinum said...

Nathan White said:

"Also, the end of the sentence on Satan reads: 'Hell was created for the devil and his angels, or his demons, not for men'.

I have heard Graham before proclaim his disbelief in a literal hell. And it seems that he is hinting at it again here."


Graham isn't denying a literal hell, as an actual place into which persons are cast, since in the quote above he *affirms* that *hell was created* for the devil and his angels. Why would Graham affirm the creation of a place if he didn't believe in the existence of the place?

Graham is echoing Jesus' words in Mt 26:41, which says that the very place into which sinners are to be cast is "the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels".

Now, it's true that Graham adds to this and says "not for men," but you have to take the entire sentence as a whole. Graham is drawing a contrast between angels and men in terms of whom hell was originally prepared for. As the Puritan Thomas Boston brings out in ch. 6 of his _Human Nature in its Fourfold State_ (Banner of Truth), in commenting on Mt 26:41:

"The preparation of this fire proves the inexpressible vehemency and dreadfulness of it. The text calls it, 'prepared fire,' yea, '*the* prepared fire,' by way of eminence. As the three children were not cast into ordinary fire, but a fire prepared for a particular purpose which therefore was exceeding hot, the furnace being heated seven times more than ordinary (Dan 3.19-22), so the damned shall find in hell a prepared fire, the like to which was never prepared by human art. It is a fire of God's own preparing, the product of infinite wisdom, with a particular purpose, to demonstrate the most strict and severe divine justice against sin; which may sufficiently evidence to us the inconceivably exquisiteness thereof" (p. 486).

In other words, one of the things that makes hell so horrible is that it was prepared for the devil and his angels, and not merely for men. Sinners will receive judgment fit for supernatural beings, the fallen angels. It's a staggering thought.

In addition, as Calvin puts it, "Christ says gehenna is already prepared for the devil, to prevent the godless trusting they will escape it." It was prepared *for the devil*, and that preparation was presumably completed before man even arrived on the scene. There is, therefore, no escape for man (apart from salvation) precisely because hell's preparation is already complete. It's ready and waiting *even now*, and has been since the fall of Satan.

-- Jus Divinum

Breuss Wane said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Breuss Wane said...

jus divinum wrote:
>I'd highly recommend ch. 6 of John >MacArthur's _The Love of God_, where >he sets forth the relevant biblical >texts and answers such questions >as "Does God Love the Whole >World?", "Can God Really Love Those >Whom He Does Not Save?" and "In What >Sense is God's Love Universal?" in the >affirmative.

Funny, since you mention it, some of us who are Reformed were highly disappointed in "The Love of God" because the answers to the above questions undermine Adam's imputed guilt to the rest of the human race as well as God's unconditional election of the elect, both of which are fundamental to Reformed theology (not to mention good biblicity).

Unfortunately, MacArthur doesn't see Romans 9:13, 14 in terms of soteriology/eschatology. In "The
Love of God", he says: "Did God really hate Esau? Yes. He hated the evil Esau represented. He hated Esau's unbelief and sin and worldli­ness. And in a very real sense, God hated Esau himself. It was not a petty spiteful, childish kind of hatred, but something far more dreadful. It was divine antipathy-a holy loathing directed at Esau personally. God abominated him as well as what he stood
for. Esau, for his part, hated the things of God. He despised His birthright and sold it for one bowl of lentil stew (Gen. 25:34). He brought nothing but grief to his parents (26:35). He plotted to kill his own brother (27:41). He married pagan women because he knew it displeased his father (28:8-9). He
lived a careless, worldly life of utter disregard and disrespect for the God of his ancestors. Certainly God hated all that, as well as Esau himself. It is worth pointing out that the passage Paul quotes in Romans 9 is Malachi 1:2-3. God was speaking of two nations, Israel and Edom, merely calling them
by the names of their respective ancestors. The words "I have hated Esau" (Mal. 1:3) have a meaning that goes beyond Esau himself and encompasses the whole evil nation of Edom. The hatred this describes is not a petty spiteful loathing, but a holy abhorrence of people who were thoroughly and absolutely debauched." – MacArthur (Love of God).

MacArthur does not allow what is decreed in eternity (does he believe in double predestination??? it would seem not, unfortunately) or the biblical theology/eschatology of "Esau" and "Edom" to affect his exegesis of either Romans or Malachi (and it should). MacArthur exegetes these passages as if Esau and Edom are hated, not because of who they are, but because of what they have done. (It would not be all that much of a hop, skip, and jump to assert from the theology Mac gives here that God elects based on what people have done, because certainly MacArthur exegetes his treatment of the unelected based on what they have done. Granted, MacArthur does not believe in that kind of election, but he has created an inconsistency in the reformed doctrine of election by placing the Esau/Jacob matter outside of the soteriological. And this inconsistency places MacArthur at odds with Paul the Apostle’s own eschatological antithesis/parallelism, i.e. the unelected cannot be damned based on “what they’ve done” if the elected are not themselves blessed based on “what they’ve done”. What is true of one *must* be true of the other in Paul’s interpretation of the canon. Further proof of this inconsistency in MacArthur is that later in “The Love of God” he uses Romans 9:13,14 as a proof text of God’s love for the elect. If Romans 9:13, 14 is a prooftext of God’s love for the elect, then – via Paul’s antithesis/parallelism – it *must* also be a prooftext of God’s hatred for the unelected. One cannot have it both ways, i.e. love for the elect, but not hatred for the unelect). Yet MacArthur insists that God hates Esau because of his unbelief, his worldliness, and his sin. He posits God’s hatred toward Edom because they were "thoroughly and absolutely debauched". What we have then in MacArthur’s theology is a God whose soteriological "emotions" are "reactive" rather than "proactive"...
IOW... MacArthur opts for "God hates Esau because of his unbelief" rather than "Esau is in unbelief because God hates him" (the historical Reformed as well as more biblical position).

To wit: The hatred of Esau and the love for Jacob in Romans 9:13,14 is an eschatological/soteriological (not national) paradigm. If there is *any* love for Esau in common grace, it pales in comparison (and is thus inconsequential or irrelevant) to God's soteriological and eschatological hatred for Esau (or Satan). The practical implications of MacArthur’s position are huge… not the least of which is MacArthur’s equally problematic denial of Adam’s imputed guilt (delineated in “Safe in the Arms of God”). Without imputed guilt, there can be no imputed righteousness. The results of denying God’s hatred toward Esau based on “who he is” are fundamentally disastrous to rightly dividing.

Nathan White said...

Jus Divinum:

I completely agree with all of your statements, and I apologize for not being completely clear. I only wished to point out how Graham left the door open for disbelief in a conscience torment to the unbeliever. Consider this quote by Graham:

"I think that hell essentially is separation from God forever. And that is the worst hell that I can think of. But I think people have a hard time believing God is going to allow people to burn in literal fire forever. I think the fire that is mentioned in the Bible is a burning thirst for God that can never be quenched."
"Hell is not the most popular of preaching topics. I don't like to preach on it. But I must if I am to proclaim the whole counsel of God. We must not avoid warning of it. The most outspoken messages on hell, and the most graphic references to it, came from Jesus Himself. ... Jesus used three words to describe hell. ... The third word that He used is 'fire.' Jesus used this symbol over and over. This could be literal fire, as many believe, or it could be symbolic. ... I've often thought that this fire could possibly be a burning thirst for God that is never quenched. What a terrible fire that would be--never to find satisfaction, joy, or fulfillment!" (A Biblical Standard for Evangelists, Billy Graham, A commentary on the 15 Affirmations made by participants at the International Conference for Itinerant Evangelists in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, July, 1983, Worldwide Publications, Minneapolis, Minnesota, pages 45-47).

So yes, Graham does believe in a literal Hell, but no, Graham is too ‘post-modern’ to nail down any absolute truth for fear it will divide. My only point was to show that Graham will neither affirm nor deny a conscience torment of those who do not believe, thus casting doubt on the truth and clarity of scripture. He chooses instead to appeal to man’s sin by emphasizing “satisfaction, joy, or fulfillment” instead of righteous fear of a holy God who seriously punishes sin. This has characterized his ministry for decades.

Unfortunately, most evangelicals see Graham as some sort of saint. And true, he has proclaimed the name of Jesus to a vast multitude of people –and for that we should be thankful. But when Graham’s seriously flawed theology, tolerance of cults and false religions, and huge over-emphasis on God’s love are examined, I fear that Graham preaches a Jesus that is a figment of his imagination (an Idol), and a Jesus who when followed, will lead to eternal torment. In other words, I personally believe that Graham’s teaching does considerably more harm than good, and his easy-believism only further hardens the hearts of the unbelieving. (Keep in mind that the Jews Paul spoke of in Galatians only added one small little part to the gospel -circumcision, and Paul called them 'accursed'. Anything but the pure gospel is evil).

Read that entire interview (and others) and you will see that Graham believes in a God who loves everybody unconditionally, and that it doesn’t matter what kind of doctrine you hold to. This includes Catholics, Mormons, Muslims, Jews etc. (I discuss this kind of ‘lets agree to love Jesus’ attitude here)

Any man that can claim that the late Pope was the ‘Greatest spiritual leader of the 20th century” (as Graham did on Larry King earlier this year) has serious, serious errors in his faith…if there is any true faith at all.

Again…On one hand: "whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice.” And on the other hand it is certainly debatable whether Graham is actually preaching the Christ of scripture or the Christ of his imagination.

Let us remember Matt 7:21-23

Nathan White said...

P.S Jus divinum:

What is the definition of love if God loves Satan? In fact, what is the definition of love if God loves the unredeemed?

It seems that from a human perspective of love, God loves all - for He is the "savior of all men, especially those who believe". And from a human perspective, God loves Satan because He hasnt utterly destroyed him but has allowed him to continue on! But from a divine and spiritual aspect, God hates the unbelieving, God hates satan, and God will never run out of hate for them but will send them to torment forever.

Jus Divinum said...

Hi Breuss,

What you write is all very interesting, but I'm not sure it's to the point. You've focused on a few comments by JMAC on Ro 9:13-14 but are you saying in addition that JMAC provides *no* exegetical foundation in that chapter for the notion that God loves all of his creatures in some significant sense? Beyond this, are you saying that the traditional Reformed distinction between the love of benevolence and the love of complacency has no Scriptural foundation? For if it does, then I think my basic point stands.

I personally don't want to nit-pick about whether JMAC has 'arrived' at the fullness of the Reformed tradition. Reformed believers should be thankful for everything which JMAC *does* affirm so faithfully which is in accord with the Reformed (read: biblical :-) tradition.

And, of course, you've quoted JMAC saying essentially what you believe: "And in a very real sense, God hated Esau himself... It was divine antipathy-a holy loathing directed at Esau personally. God abominated him as well as what he stood for." You can't get any clearer than that! Your attempt to reduce this clear statement of *personal* hatred to just "national" hatred is a misreading of JMAC, I think. It's true that JMAC says that "The words 'I have hated Esau' (Mal. 1:3) have a meaning that goes beyond Esau himself and encompasses the whole evil nation of Edom." But clearly that isn't a denial of the personal hatred, just an addition to it.

With regard to the *basis* for the personal hatred, you say: "MacArthur opts for 'God hates Esau because of his unbelief' rather than 'Esau is in unbelief because God hates him' (the historical Reformed as well as more biblical position)." I challenge you to find *one* representative of the 'historical Reformed' tradition who insists on the logical priority of divine hatred to human unbelief. Sure, you might find a few supralapsarians who say this, but they do not get to define the Reformed tradition (as evidenced by the fact that infralapsarians can easily subscribe to the Westminster Standards, or the Three Forms of Unity).

-- Jus Divinum

Jus Divinum said...

Hi Nathan,

No need for an apology!

Sure, I believe that Graham 'opened the door' to that, but I'd like to give a little charity to a man who answered the question pretty much on the spot in a real-time TV interview. It's no time to be exhaustive, I think. If someone says that "you're justified by faith alone," he has of course 'opened the door' to a Socinian interpretation of that phrase (by not explicitly excluding it), but that doesn't mean the statement is blameworthy or something.

As you point out, there's plenty of questionable stuff in Graham without hunting for ambiguous statements that could be interpreted in a more charitable way. Don't worry; I agree with you that Graham has made some major doctrinal compromises over the years. The fact that he said the late pope is now "with the Lord, because he believed" is truly disappointing. Now there's a mulligan :-(

As for your new quote from Graham on hell, I wonder what you would think of Calvin's comments on Mt 26:41:

"We have said elsewhere that the word *fire* metaphorically foreshadows the harshness of punishment which passes beyond our understanding. It is totally superfluous ingenuity to inquire, with the sophists, into the matter and form of this fire. By the same reckoning we would ask about the worm which Isaiah associated with the fire (Isa. 66.24 and 30.33). This author shows plainly in another passage that the expression is metaphorical. He compares the Spirit of God to a fan by which the fire is blown up, and sulphur too is added. These terms make us understand the future vengeance of God upon the wicked, more awful than all the torments of earth, which should strike us more with terror than any desire for research."

So having a symbolic understanding of the fire is not a mark of being a liberal about hell, is it? You'll find this same thing in the Puritans, BTW, which makes sense, as many of them studied at Calvin's Academy in Geneva :-)

You say that, "Graham will neither affirm nor deny a conscience[sp] torment of those who do not believe," but in the quote you provided, he speaks of "a burning thirst for God that can never be quenched." Surely this is a *conscious* state, and the fact that it is unquenchable means that it's not a very happy one!

BTW, you cited a statement that is now 22 years old. Has Graham been asked about this statement since that time? Has he said anything else on the topic?

Also, *every* reference to this quote on the Internet, including yours, has an ellipsis: "Jesus used three words to describe hell. ... The third word that He used is 'fire.'" What did he say the other two words were, and what how did he expound *them*? Anyone know? :-)

-- Jus Divinum

Jus Divinum said...

Hi Nathan,

You ask, "What is the definition of love if God loves Satan? In fact, what is the definition of love if God loves the unredeemed?"

Good question. But that is precisely what the benevolence/complacency distinction is designed to capture, that there are differing kinds of love in the Scriptures, even divine love. God is loving to all his creatures *in the sense that* he continually provides for them and gives them good things. We ordinarily take this as evidence of love. *Right now* the unredeemed deserving nothing less than hell; the fact that they are not in hell right now is kindness from God.

You say:

> It seems that from a human perspective of love, God loves all
> - for He is the "savior of all men, especially those who
> believe". And from a human perspective, God loves Satan because
> He hasnt utterly destroyed him but has allowed him to continue
> on! But from a divine and spiritual aspect, God hates the
> unbelieving, God hates satan, and God will never run out of hate
> for them but will send them to torment forever.

I agree with all of this. I don't see how it is inconsistent with what I'm saying. It's precisely because the presence of one form of love (benevolence) is compatible with the absence of *another* form of love (complacency), that God can both love and hate the same person.

It's not that I'm denying anything you're saying; it's just that I'm saying *more* than what you're saying, and that I think there's a Scriptural foundation for it :-)

B. B. Warfield's exposition of Jn 3:16 is good here, as is some of John Murray's stuff on the free offer of the gospel.

-- Jus Divinum

Nathan White said...

Jus Divinum
Thanks for your kindness. Just a few quick thoughts:
1) I also agree that we should give a little charity to those who preach salvation by faith alone. In fact, I will rejoice anytime Faith alone is preached! However, when pressed I must voice displeasure in Graham’s blatant ecumenism and refusal to stand for absolute truth in anything.

2) Although I myself also hold the highest regard for John Calvin and his writings, he obviously doesn’t have the final say on whether ‘fire’ really means ‘fire’. Instead, scripture says very clearly in Luke 16 that the rich man in hell was “tormented in this flame” wishing that Abraham would only dip his finger in water to cool his tongue. Sounds like literal flames as we know it to me. But beside the point, clearly we are not talking about Graham being symbolic here, for he is not. His intention in this quote isn’t to convey the same opinion that Calvin holds; he is crumbling under the pressure of offending others (fear of man). He is replacing biblical truth with a man-centered view on hell. Graham’s ‘hell’ is a place where the sinner’s needs aren’t met instead of where the furious wrath of God pours out on the reprobate. Again, Graham portrays the object to fear not God in his wrath, but man in his desires! “Burning thirst for God” as Graham says, is just more man-centeredness that appeals to the needs, wants, and sinful desires of man, and is the furthest thing from Biblical Christianity.

3) Finally, I’m not saying what Graham believes for sure, because I don’t know (and neither does anybody else it seems). Obviously we cannot base his whole theology of hell on the one quote that was provided (however I have heard him dodge the ‘hell’ issue several times in interviews). In fact, maybe it was wrong for me to affirm his belief on hell; the last thing I want to do is gossip or slander someone’s words. Obviously he has not spoken clear enough for us to judge where he stands…and that is what bothers me! What I object is his consistent ‘flip-flopping’ on many key doctrines of the faith! He never seems to give a straight answer, he never affirms or denies –completely- false religions, and he in essence is ashamed of the gospel. That is what bothers me so much.

Jus Divinum said...

Hi Nathan,

I can't disagree with much of what you say. If the reports I've read are true, the stuff about the pope being in heaven or other religions finding their way to heaven is truly deplorable. But in a sense, you may be supporting one of my initial points, which was that there more than enough stuff to *already* take Graham to task for, without focusing on a fairly ambiguous statement about God's love for Satan or how hell was prepared for Satan.

One tendency I've seen in contemporary Christian internet postings is that once a man has been compromised theologically on a genuinely significant issue, it's extremely easy henceforward to portray just about *any* statement he makes as questionable. I mean, he's already a 'loser,' so he doesn't deserve a fair shake; why bother to actually give a sound argument anymore? The problem with this is that it tends to discredit your initial arguments against the *real* theological compromise. People are given evidence that you're just a quibbler who will knock a man down any chance you get, and so your polemical currency gets devalued and debased. I am *not* saying this has happened in this case. I'm just trying to guard against the phenomenon.

Re: Calvin, I wasn't citing him because I agree with him, but because it's strange to take Graham to task for 'compromising the faith' here when virtually no one does this in the case of Calvin or the Puritans. It seems very arbitrary to me. Again, once a man's been knocked down, it's as if people can dogpile him on *other* issues that people wouldn't think twice about raising for anyone else. So the picture that's given to the rest of the Christian world is that we needn't bother to be fair in our distribution of criticism. That's all I'm saying. Maybe I'm wrong :-)

As for whether Graham's view of hell is 'man-centered,' that's what I wanted the fuller picture for. So far, we've only been given a third of his view at best :-) So actually, I'm not sure I agree that "Obviously he has not spoken clear enough for us to judge where he stands." Why do people never quote the other two words Graham said described hell? We can't blame him for not speaking when we won't quote what he spoke :-)

Nathan White said...

Jus Divinum,

Amen! I couldn’t agree more; and thank you for pointing out the ‘dogpile’ appearance and tendency in some discussions. When I started my own blog last month, I wrote an article about the dangers of what you labeled ‘contemporary Christian internet postings’ [Titled: Why risk a blog?]. Blogging is dangerous because we can so easily have an appearance of evil in our writings. Others can’t see if we’re writing with an attitude of love and compassion, or with hate and self-righteousness. Therefore we must be extra careful in our words.

Jus Divinum said: “ Again, once a man's been knocked down, it's as if people can dogpile him on *other* issues that people wouldn't think twice about raising for anyone else.”

Yes indeed. And that’s why I mentioned good old Joel Osteen. It greatly disturbs me that Olsteen can blow the gospel on Larry King and the world is ready to crucify him. But Graham? NO! He’s apparently achieved ‘sainthood’ status among even the most sound of evangelicals. Nobody cares or wants to discuss the fact that Graham blew it in almost the exact same way. Olsteen – Heretic! Graham – Can do no wrong. That kind of partiality bothers me, and was one motive behind my original comments.
I believe there IS a bigger issue there with Graham. And since the topic wasn’t the ‘bigger issues’, then I used the comments on hell and Satan to voice my opinion of the man to get the ball rolling. Again, next time I will strive for better precision so that I may avoid the appearance of evil. Thanks for pointing this out and giving me the chance to clear it up.

Bhedr said...

In order to find out who God really is you have to look beyond the doctrine. Doctrine is a must and it should be sound but you have to looke beyond it because you will not find Him there.

It is true that God hated Esau; but he does so hate all of the fallen nature. With a passion. Carnal man cannot please God. It is impossible. Stop thinking in terms of the flesh. Many Christians have done what Esau has done in many ways. The dross is being burned away as we grow. This is why Christians were told not to be like him. Unfortunately the carefree spirit that evangelicals are possesing truth with today is in the very same vein.

When David numbered the people it was in the same vein. Which brings me to the point: You find God in how David treated other people. The humility with both Saul as well as patience and mercy towards Shimei. This is who God is! This is His true nature.

This is why He still loves Billy even in his carelessness. Billy has need of quite a few mulligans from the past and he may need Steve to backorder a few more.

He weeps over Jerusalem and Jealously desires to draw his purchased ones against his cheek.

I have spent a lifetime disecting Jacob and Esau, but I cannot speak for the mind of God. I can discover Him in men he said he was like and in seeking Him. Remember he had mercy on Hagar and even Cain.

I cannot find him in doctrine; but I can find Him in a man after God's own heart; but most of all the Lord that came from his seed.

I do believe we should be called to truth and adherance to doctrine; but I cannot use it to find out Who He is. He exists.

Bhedr said...

Also when a man diminishes a literal Hell and says he doesn't deserve it; he is saying that Jesus
deserves the eternal torture He received.

Jesus had to tremble before an angry God and stand in the place of us and hear the words depart from me in spirit while facing the dread of being alone in it.

My God! Why have you forsaken me! If you are saved, you will never have to say this.

What Graham is doing in diminishing the Glory of Christ and elevating the prsence of Satan is serious. What seems so small is huge to God. like David numbering the people. It was the exact opposite of what He did when facing Goliath. It's like he abandoned God.

Yet God cannot imagine another day without David or Billy Graham. His heart cannot bear it.

Breuss Wane said...

Jus Divinum wrote:
>but are you saying in addition that JMAC provides *no* exegetical foundation in that
>chapter for the notion that God loves all of his creatures in some significant sense?


>Beyond this, are you saying that the >traditional Reformed distinction >between the love of >benevolence and >the love of complacency has no >Scriptural foundation?

It does, but not in the sense or extent that MacArthur says it does.

>And, of course, you've quoted JMAC >saying essentially what you >believe: "And in a very real >sense, >God hated Esau himself... It was >divine antipathy-a holy loathing >directed at Esau >personally. God >abominated him as well as what he >stood for." You can't get any clearer
>than that!

MacArthur should have been much clearer than that. His emphasis on the national reading of Romans 9 (which is *not* what Paul had in mind and therefore should *not* be read into the text) undermines what he says about God’s hatred of Esau, especially his view that God hated Esau *because* of his unbelief. God hated Esau, soteriologically & eschatologically, *before* Esau was born. MacArthur denies that’s the case in Romans 9 when the grounds for Esau’s damnation are limited to his activities after he is born. It’s a classic denial of double predestination and paves the way for a denial of Adam’s imputed guilt (Contra “Safe in the Arms”, the scriptures are clear that we’re guilty because we are in Adam, not because we sin).

>I challenge you to find *one* representative of the 'historical Reformed' tradition who
>insists on the logical priority of divine hatred to human unbelief.

I think it’s a mistake to confuse the “supralapsarian” with double predestination. One does not necessarily presuppose the other. Reformed Infras that affirm elective or double predestination are plentiful. Calvin, Beza, Luther, Zwingli, Witsius and most Puritans all affirmed elective reprobation… as did Geerhardus Vos, Herman Ridderbos, Louis Berkhof, Michael Horton, R.C. Sproul (equal ultimacy), etc.

I’ll admit that Mac’s “national” understanding of Romans 9 would be less troubling were it not for his denial of Adam’s imputed guilt. Imputed guilt in original sin is a linchpin of Reformed theology and the causational grounds for Christ’s imputed righteousness. Deny the first and you’ve undermined the second.

Too much is made of God's love in common grace, as if our compassion in evangelism is *less* if God's hatred toward those who are "condemned already" is the paradigm for understanding God's disposition toward the nonelect. That God loves the sinner *must* be understood in the light of God hating the sinner, not the other way around... because it is the latter that is the ultimate reality (the eschatology). Eschatology/soteriology *always* trumps phenomenology in the text.

Breuss Wane said...

I should also add that by no means do I wish to single out MacArthur unnecessarily. Any number of evangelicals (Billy Graham was the subject of the original blog) have been found lacking in this area. My only concern is use of Mac's book as a "reformed" example of *why* Graham's statements are O-K, when in fact, that particular book from Mac does not belong in the Reformed tradition (and I would not be alone in that assessment of "Love of God"), esp. in the area of this specific discussion.

Bhedr said...

Breuss man.

I have a Geneva Study Bible. Love it but don't buy everything in it. I gotta stop at the mind of God. At some point we gotta say we don't understand this. MaCarthur in my view does just that. I think his position is balanced.

It was hard for me to accept the fact that God loves all people. I love the concept now. I know you feel that you are concerned with the glory of God. I was too.

Our hearts can be deceptive. The men concerned with the boy blind from birth were concerned about the glory of God as well. John 9:24

Jesus wept over Jerusalem and said, "I would but you would not!"

He loved the rich young ruler; a man that rejected him for money.

What is the nomenclature of God's mind? Does any man know.

Part of the nomenclature of God's mind in Romans 9 can be found in chapter 11. Stirred to jealousy out of compassion. I believe in election. I just don't believe it can be explained by anyone.

You heard about the man who showed up at a Bible study full of Calvanist? They asked why he came; he told them he came of his own freewill. They told him he was at the wrong Bible study and the Armenians were located down the hall. He left and went to that one. they asked him why he came and he told them he was sent there. They told him he was in the wrong place and that he needed to go be with the Calvanists.

I feel like that guy sometimes.

Having said all of that I realize my faith did not come from my mental ascension and that it was birthed in me by God.

I don't understand it. just like I don't understand God cursing a fig tree when he was hungry even though it wasn't the season for figs.

I have often thought that the reason we gain an understanding of election here on earth is to be prepared to accept the fact that God loves some of those Armenians more than us and wants to draw them closer to his bosom than we, since we are better prepared for it and know to anticipate the fact that God does play favorites in his family.

Lets say for instance someone like Keith Green who desperately loved the Lord and was grossly Armenian as he loved reading Finney.

Breuss Wane said...

>I gotta stop at the mind of God. At >some point we gotta say we don't >understand this.

The reason we have the canon is because God wants us to know His mind and he expects us to understand what is in it. Election and reprobation are not "unknowable" categories in the canon. We may not understand *why*, but we can understand *what*.

Bhedr said...

I know not how the Spirit moves convicting men of sin.

What is the reason Jesus weeped over Israel?

For what reason did Jesus send the rich young ruler away? A man he loved. Why didn't he draw him with irresistable grace?

AuthenticTruth said...

The problem is how many mulligans do we want to give Billy Graham? It is unfortunate that he has made many errors continually over the years. I take no pleasure in saying that because I sincerely wish that it weren't true. But he has shown a lack of doctrinal integrity on many occasions. His ecumenical co-belligerence is an ongoing thing, especially with Catholics. The fact that his organization allows Catholic counselors in his crusades to refer people back into the Catholic Church is a very grave error. I have written about this information on my own blog. His errors are not just minor trivial mistakes.

Nathan White said...

Good point Authentictruth. To add to that thought I must ask: How much of Graham's lifelong ministry can we truly be thankful for? I'm not going to attempt to answer this myself, I only wish for the readers to contemplate.

Can we be truly thankful for Graham:

-Bringing Jesus into the pop-cultural?
-Continual over-emphasis on God's love during the gospel call?
-His taking '3 sermons and 3 suites' so to speak across the nation? [never preaching expository through the scriptures, but preaching basically the same message for decades.]
-Bringing the altar call to prominence and making it a staple in the modern-day evangelical movement? (Apologies to C. Finney)

I honestly don’t mean to be too critical (and I am certainly leaving out his post-modernism and blatant ecumenism). I only wish to stir up the minds of those who have granted Graham ‘sainthood’. But Graham’s methods of altar calls and easy believism have influenced the evangelical community probably more than anyone in the last 200 years. In turn, not only do Graham’s methods help the lost to fool themselves into thinking otherwise, in addition to the staggering apostasy rate of those who ‘walk the aisle’ at his crusades, but his influence has trickled down to the deepest levels of popular philosophy of ministry. So, mulligan’s and questionable doctrine aside, has his ministry edified the Body of Christ as much as is credited to him?

I personally fear that his methods have directly led to crumbling of the mainstream church more than we will ever see. Just something to chew on….


Jus Divinum said...

Hi Nathan,

Good thoughts. I agree with you about the double-standard going in the other direction as well: Osteen gets hammered, but there is relative silence on Graham.

I liked your blog post; it had some good thoughts. Even though it was one huge paragraph :-)

Jus Divinum said...

Hi Breuss,

I guess I screwed up in citing JMAC's book :-) I won't make that mistake again :-)

However, you affirmed by your "Bingo" that "JMAC provides *no* exegetical foundation in that chapter for the notion that God loves all of his creatures in some significant sense." So texts like Ps 145:9 do not teach a non-salvific form of love that God has for his creatures?

In addition, if you agree that "the traditional Reformed distinction between the love of benevolence and the love of complacency" has "Scriptural foundation," then I guess I made my point, JMAC or not. And that was the real aim in analyzing Graham's statement about Satan. There are better sources than JMAC I could have used to make my point, I suppose.

I'm well aware that supralapsarianism is not equivalent to double-predestination, but in fact goes beyond it. But double-predestination does *not* include your idea that "'God hates Esau because of his unbelief' rather than 'Esau is in unbelief because God hates him'". Again, please cite *any* infralapsarian double-predestinationist who believes this.

It's ironic that you mention Sproul and then put "(equal ultimacy)" next to his name, because Sproul *expressly denies* that position. In _Chosen By God_ he is clear that there is *no* 'equal ultimacy' in double-predestination. Sproul doesn't teach that Esau is in unbelief because God hates him. Rather, Sproul says that "The Reformed view teaches that God positively or actively intervenes in the lives of the elect to insure their salvation. The rest of man kind God leaves to themselves. He does not create unbelief in their hearts. That unbelief is already there" (p. 142). Sproul goes on to defend a 'passive' understanding of God's hardening of Pharaoh's heart.

But maybe Sproul isn't Reformed ;-)

Breuss Wane said...

>So texts like Ps 145:9 do not teach a >non-salvific form of love that God has >for his creatures?

Not in any "significant sense", as Mac would have us believe. The context of that verse is "your saints" (vs. 10). Psalm 145:9 does not negate the personal hatred God has for Esau, which is precisely the point Mac is trying to prove.

"Esau is in unbelief because God first hated him" *is* the denotation of double-predestination. Anyone who affirms double-predestination affirms that statement... because one man's "active hatred" is another man's "passive" predestination, IMHO. Thus, Sproul's equal ultimacy still affirms "Esau is in unbelief because God first hated him". God does not have to "create" the unbelief in the heart in order for the statement to stand.

There is no distinction between double predestination and "Esau is in unbelief because God first hated him". In fact, to deny it is to affirm conditional election.

Breuss Wane said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Breuss Wane said...

"God gives mercy to the elect by working faith in their hearts. He gives justice to the reprobate by leaving them in their own sins." - Sproul (Chosen By God).

Further, Sproul states "We grant that in this passage Paul does not come right out and say that God’s decision (salvation or judgment) was not based on their future good (belief) or evil (unbelief). But he did not need to say that. The implication is clear in light of what he does say. He places the accent where it belongs, on the purpose of God and not on the work of man." Esau was in unbelief (the work of man) because God first hated him (the purpose of God).

Sproul: "The burden here is on those who want to add the crucial qualifying notion of foreseen choices (Esau's unbelief - my note). The Bible doesn’t add it here or anywhere."

Sproul: "We must confess with the apostle that our election is not based on our wills but on the purposes of the will of God."

IOW, if Esau's non-election is not based on his unbelief, neither is his judgment. The non-election and judgment are one and the same (contra MacArthur or anyone else who would posit that Esau isn't judged on who he *is* but on what he *does*).

I would differ with Sproul merely on his equivalence of equal ultimacy or God's active work in making vessels of dishonor and attributing sin to God. He is making a presumption, IMHO, that isn't necessarily sustained in the text. We needn't presume we are attributing to God evil in also saying he is actively damning sinners when he leaves them to his own desires. There is no such thing as an active/passive decision. We (some of us in the Reformed camp) attribute "passive" to an "active" decision in order to placate our sense of attributing evil to God. God's "passive" witholding of favor is active damnation regardless of how it is phrased (all choices involve two choices of equal force... the active decision to/for something is equally an active rejection of what was not decided or chosen). The equal reprobation of Romans 9:22 is both active and non-creation of evil by God.

Breuss Wane said...

Or to put double-predestination another way: non-election = hatred.

Jus Divinum said...


"Sproul's equal ultimacy..."

I don't understand what you're talking about. Sproul *expressly denies* equal ultimacy as it applies to election and reprobation. "Equal ultimacy is *not* the Reformed or Calvinist view of predestination" (p. 142). Why do you keep on attributing to Sproul a view he opposes? It doesn't make sense to me.

As for the rest, you're simply attributing to Sproul things he doesn't say. You still haven't come up with a passage that says what you claim it says ("unbelief *because of* hatred). What's disappointing is that you keep citing passages about election unto salvation and then immediately apply them to reprobation. But, of course, *that is the very symmetry which Sproul denies*.

But there's little point in arguing this further. I'm going to move on. Nice chatting, though!

Jus Divinum said...


Here's the issue in a nutshell. Consider the two contrary ways of logically ordering divine actions:

(1) God decrees that a person will be an unbeliever
(2) Because the person is an unbeliever, God hates the person (i.e., divine hatred because of their unbelief)


(1) God hates a person
(2) Because God hates the person, God decrees that the person will be an unbeliever (i.e., unbelief because of divine hatred)

What you're trying to say is that the "Reformed faith" must embrace the second ordering, rather than the first. It must say that Esau's unbelief is there because of divine hatred. Again, I challenge you to document this as characteristic of the Reformed tradition. *Who* says this?

Notice that *everything you cite from Sproul* is compatible with the first ordering above. So it's no argument for your (preferred) second ordering above.

So, you still haven't made your case.

Breuss Wane said...

1. Sproul does deny equal ultimacy, and he does deny symmetry, but *only* as it relates to attributing to God evil. And that denial must be taken in light of the other comments I posted in which he affirms that Esau is non-elected and therefore condemned before he is born.

2. Romans 9 is specifically a passage which not only speaks of election unto salvation, but also election unto damnation (Esau have I hated). This Sproul affirms (as does historical Reformed theology in its affirmation of double-predestination) in the very same chapter you quote.

3. I do not believe Sproul would affirm order #1, nor is it an accurate rendering of Reformed double-predestination. You present a false dichotomy between "decree" and "hate" when there is none (the "have I hated" in Romans 9 is a preborn/preexistent condition). The two are one and the same. The divine hatred exists *de facto* in the decree. That the person is an unbeliever due to the decree is in itself the result of God's hatred (which is *why* imputed guilt is wrapped up in what we affirm on this point... the unelect infant is born already guilty and already judged... which is the gist of the preborn/preCreation "have I hated"). God's hatred cannot be wrapped up in man's decision any more than his love is wrapped up in man's decision. The love and hatred are two sides of the same coin (the cup of wrath is equally a cup of blessing).

SJ Camp said...

Dear COT Blogionados:

This discussion is good so far. JMAC's book on the Love of God is weak--no question. And the issue of double predestination is settled in Romans 9:22-23, is it not? Some appointed to mercy; others to wrath. Some to eternal life; others to destruction.

However, the central issue at hand is not the extent of God's love or man's disbelief of the gospel unto perdition. It is one of nature (see Romans 5:12-18.) Man is not a sinner because he commits acts of sin; man is a sinner before one act of sin is ever committed by him because by nature he is thoroughly sinful (Eph. 2:1-30. And the wages of sin is death (Rom. 3:23). That is why even babies die (Rom. 5:12-14); for even though they are in what some consider to be "a state of innocence;" they are still fully, completely and utterly sinful and guilty before a holy God. No ficticious "age of accountability" can save a totally depraved infant. If any infant is to be saved, it is by God's grace alone that He in mystery extends to them (for Scripture is silent on this point.)

God's love is not separated biblically in a salfivic way apart from the once for all sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross (Rom. 5:8). He may give a "common benevolence" or "common grace" to all His creatures ("the rain falls on the just and the unjust"); but let's not confuse this with His divine love for lost people. His love cannot be bantered about in such a casual way as we would use the term. Though God's love is not unconditional, it is undeserved; unmerited; unfailing; self-sacrificial and unreciprocated to His own.

Q: On a sidebar, but related issue: where are all the reformed evangelists of today preaching the real gospel of sola fide, repentance, imputation, etc. and not giving altar calls through manipulative Finney-esque techniques? Where are the Whitefields, Edwards, Baxters and Meeds of today? We have let the Arminians hijack evangelistic meetings and the precious gospel for too long. However, the good news of being Calvinistic, is that not even a poor altar call by even a ____ (fill in the blank as you please) grad can keep the elect from coming to Christ for salvation!

I appreciate all your thoughts expressed on this: great discussion so far. Hope these thoughts help as well.

In His elective love,
John 3:16

Bhedr said...

You are absolutely right! It is one of nature. God hates the carnal man. That is why it must die on the cross or it will abide alone forever in the state it is in now. If it does not die it will live forever in hellfire.

One note: Sproul does not believe in a literal hell either. If you need me to pull my books out and document it I will, but I just don't feel like it now.

Remember that the False prophet does not want to believe in a literal hell either. He would rather inoculate his mind with the lie that it does not exist. He will be cast in it one day.

Is Sproul or Graham a false prophet? No, but remember that Peter was infected with this lie when tempting Christ not to go to the Cross. The body of sin has to die or it will abide alone forever in torment.

My sin....Oh the blissssss of this glorious thought! My sin, not in part, but the whole, is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more. Praise the Lord praise the Lord oh my soul.

Also, Graham has indeed crippled things for the rest of us, but he has given us a good face to the world so that they have no excuse for accusation in regards to sexual promiscuity, drunkeness and many other things that go on in the Church today.

One could argue that Bob Jones University has done more to further the cause of ecumenicalism than anything else.

God will judge. He knows. I am thankful for both. I want to see a dying world reached.

Every sermon I heard growing up was on Billy Graham. Sometimes I wonder if he ever had a chance.

Do you know how hard it is to hold evangelistic crusades together without constant strife; but then again some don't believe in mass evangelism.

I come from a long line of Bo Jo's so its hard to be objective as I've seen whats happened over the years.

Also don't rule out our lives making an impact on reaching the lost. The apostle Paul said in Corinthians that men would see that God is with us and want to get saved.

My uncle is with the brethren and he feels there is nothing you nor I can do that can lead a man to salvation.

Also in trying to reconcile the Love/ Hate relation of God to man.
Consider Balaam and how God told him to go with the men one minute and a while later he was resisting. He has jealous feelings just like we do with our spouses.

Jus Divinum said...

Mr Camp wrote:

"However, the central issue at hand is not the extent of God's love or man's disbelief of the gospel unto perdition."

I guess I'm confused. I thought the central issue *was* the extent of God's love, because allegedly Graham gave an incorrect answer to Larry King's question about the extent of God's love. Wasn't that what the original blog post was about?

Bhedr said...

I pray this is helpful and if anyone has any input I greatly desire to pray on it.

The Fig Tree

Mark 11:12-26 is somewhat of a puzzling passage for many believers. Is it puzzling for you? It is for some of us. Being drawn to this passage much meditation was given this morning and all through out the day. Having read this passage and spent much time meditating on it in the past; un-noticed was a phrase which the eyes had passed over without much thought. This morning the words lept off the page and pierced the heart. Has that ever happened to you?

It was the phrase: for it was not the season for figs.

A prayer was made, "Oh Lord please give understanding! Who are you and what you are trying to say? Truly you are a God to tremble at! Why have you cursed a tree when it did not have power to bear fruit?"

The answer would soon come although much time would be spent wondering. In fact the answer was found in the very thing that was un-natural to understand. The Spirit would reveal it in the prayer itself.

How many of us imagine what it would be like to grow up in a third world country and never hear the gospel of Christ the risen Lord and yet be cursed forever for not responding in faith in even creations witness? Faith only comes by hearing of the Word of God. It is the Spirit that gives life; the flesh profits nothing! The Words that I speak to you: they are Sprit and they are life. (John 6:63) Truly one must tremble at the scope of this. What a gift this faith is! Fall on your knees and glorify God if you have it.

God would seem to be unjust to the eye of man if he closely and carefully reads Romans 9; yet if he were to see more of the picture found in His love and compassion in Romans 11 his heart could then be content; however, we need not always need to know why. Inevitably only the Potter knows and we may never find out. I sometimes wonder if these questions led Lucifer to his fall. It is a hard thing to fully believe and accept the Person and work of Yeshua the risen Lord. Remember also that a true picture of God the father is found in the parable of the two prodigal sons.

Jesus was hungry! What was He hungry for? Was it more than just food? Who knows! He did walk back into Jerusalem and into the temple to clean it out and drive out the money lenders. A nation that lost its way and was too blind to see it. Like that fig tree it could not bear the fruit it was called to bear; yet it was still accountable. A nation becoming user-friendly in its approach to worshiping and sacrificing to God. It was finding also a lucrative business making it easier for the "seeker" of God to offer up sacrifices to God. Prayer and true sacrifice were becoming a thing of the past. Instead of getting out of their comfort zone to worship God; the money lenders were bringing the work to them in order to please God in a more efficient way. A more "seeker sensitive" way.

In His parables Jesus did use ways to communicate to babes instead of the wise. Priest and scribes were hidden from the simple truths made known by His parables as they were locked in the world of their academia and intelligentsia.Jesus used incredible word pictures to reach His lost sheep.

This shouldn't be confused for what occurred in the temple. What occurred in the temple is what occurred to the fig tree. God is hungry for fruit born out of a forgiving heart. A broken heart that seeks from Him what is impossible for us.

A leper named Naaman was once called out of his comfort zone and all the pride of his office and his nation to bathe in a river that belonged to the Jew. The Jordan. John the Baptist would baptize there centuries later. What does it take to break a man and make him turn?

The younger prodigal son came to himself in his hunger and need. He turned to his father. The older son could not see his need and felt that he earned good that he wasn't receiving from his father. He couldn't see that he already had received much good as a general consequence of his obedience. He looked down on his brother and resented him. What happens when a nation becomes dull to the good things they receive and begins to demand them instead? It becomes worse than the fig tree or the third world nation that has never heard and does not know any better.

As they walked out of the city and by the withering fig tree, Peter called out to Jesus and took note of the tree that He cursed.

"Have faith in God " was Jesus' reply.

He told them that faith moves mountains. He would also call them to prayer and something that is inseparable from faith: Forgiveness!

There is a profound scene in the movie Shindler's List. The officer (played by Ralph Fienes. Pease consider watching an edited version. Places like sell them.) who is in charge of this group of Jews is exceedingly ruthless and unmerciful. At one point a boy in a bathroom is pleading for mercy.

"Go! I pardon you!" he tells him.

The boy hurrys out of the room and down the stairs to get out. The officer looks in the mirror and holds his finger out to the reflection as he did the boy and repeats, "I pardon you!"

Unwilling to accept forgiveness for the horrible acts he already commited, he lifts his rifle and points it at the fleeing boy who is now outside and running across the yard. The boy could not run fast enough as he shot him.

Years ago upon attendance of a well known University founded on biblical principles, sound doctrines and creeds; a class was taught by a pastor and professor on the principles of Christian growth. He made this statement on forgiveness:

"If a person has done something heinous to you then you are to forgive only on one condition. That person must seek you out in order for you to forgive. Some have told me of heinous things done to them. You are under no obligation to forgive if they do not come to you and seek it!"

Was this right? Jesus hung on a cross in front of a mocking crowd and prayed, "Father forgive them..."
Steven prayed much the same prayer while being stoned.

Always knowing something was wrong but never being able to put a finger on it; It would take years to accept the fact that this religion taught much the same way. Doctrine and creed is the mainstay and fighting for rights with dying breath in order to vindicate wrongs done and to arbitrate being right while preaching a merciful Jesus. This spirit is very contagious, in fact it is the natural man. Religion and an intelligent ascendance to proper doctrine cannot change a heart. The nation of Israel had become much the same way. What is the lesson of the fig tree? What is the seed of truth that sleeps there?

Many times growing up, men and women often questioned their salvation and went forward to get saved many times. This was a habit formed by this writer as well. It would soon become apparent that we in the same way lacked assurance as the Roman Catholics did. When you pray a prayer asking Jesus to forgive all of your sins; how is it that doubts are still had? Are they doubts much like that officer in Shindler's List?

Often we view the wrath of God as being a good thing for those around us; but have we ever yielded all of this vindication to God and let go trusting in His love and mercy? Have we ever come to the point of the publican who saw himself as being at the bottom rung of the ladder or do we pray and give glory to God for not being as bad as he is. You know, "But for the grace of God there go I." The publican didn't lift his head.

If you pray the sinners prayer in sincerity then God will hear and save; but if you are not sincere then He will not save. No amount of Bible doctrine and knowledge can change any of that. Satan has more than any of us put together!

How does one know he or she is sincere? The answer is very simple. It is impossible with man; much like that fig tree to bear fruit out of season; yet God demands that it be there as he demanded it from the fig tree.Are you being drawn by the Spirit of the living God? Jesus gives us the answer; it is what He leaves us with in this passage.

Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them. And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in Heaven forgive your trespasses.

May the Lord God open our eyes to His grace and mercy and the fruit of His Spirit who does impossible things,

Brian Hedrick

Terry Rayburn said...

Though God does not love all men with the same saving love He has for the elect, yet I believe the Bible teaches His love for all men.

I've engaged in long exegetical debates over this, but the strongest argument comes from a close reading of Matthew 5:44,45.

To paraphrase the passage, God says basically, "Love even your enemies...why? that you will be like Me! [Who makes the sun to rise on the evil and on the good]."

God doesn't expect us to love our enemies the same way we do our families, any more than he loves His enemies (unelect) like he does the Family of God, but we are "sons of [our] Father in heaven" when we love our enemies, just as He loves His.

Bhedr said...

Dead on Terry! Dead on! This is the foundational theme of the movie...To End All Wars. It is all about what Jesus did on the cross. It is all about Him although they do not give Jesus the glory. Instead as hollywood always does they give buddhism the last word. Unfortunately we as Christians have given them credibility in this as it was Ghandi who wondered why Christians weren't doing what Jesus did and decided to do what He did. I wish we would. This is the only way and indeed thee way Jesus told us to lead others to Him. Have you ever listened to The Pineapple Story? You can find it on Bill Gothard's website.

Jus Divinum said...

Excellent, Terry. So, this proves that Graham gave the right answer after all :-)

BTW, Mt 5:44-45 was one of the key texts that John Murray brought up in the OPC controversy about common grace and the free offer of the gospel. It's also a key text in supporting the love of benevolence / love of complacency distinction.

Breuss Wane said...

Matthew 5:44 & 45 only proves that God has a benevolence toward even those whom he has had a damning hatred from before the beginning of the world.

Further, the onus is on Mr. Graham to show, exegetically & biblically theologically, just *how* Matthew 5:44 & 45 applies to Satan, as if somehow, Christ's statement in the passage is a universal. Satan is not in the realm of common grace, nor can he be offered the gospel (which is the context of Matthew 5:44, 45). Conclusion: Mr. Graham was flat wrong, and blew an opportunity to speak the truth: Any love, real or imagined, that God has for Satan is irrelevant given Satan's assured end in the lake of fire.

It is a flawed hermeneutic that always looks for universals in the text because most often the context, esp. over the whole of the canon, will not allow it. To wit, "enemies" does not mean ALL enemies "everywhere" "every time".

And... contra some pop theology (including some creative thinking in the reformed camp) that stems from an over-realization of God's love for the wicked and an over-extended common grace, the lake of fire does not represent God's love. Lose the love/justice antithesis of the gospel (1 John 1:5/1 John 4:8) and you've lost the gospel.

Breuss Wane said...

For those who reject Christ, there will come a day when that condescending benevolence reaches its conclusion and "love your enemies" will be no more. This benevolence has its limits in God's justice. And because that benevolence has always been contextualized by God's justice, the enemies to be loved are also those who are hated already (John 3:17).

"Enemies" is further limited by Christ's posture toward the Pharisees. The "woes" do not stem from "love of enemies" but from an Authoritative Prophet exercising judgment before its consummation. Thus, the Sermon on the Mount ethic and its teaching on "enemies" has more to do with our attitude and demeanor toward unbelieving pagans than it does toward apostasizers (of whom Satan is chief).

Bhedr said...

Hey Batman,

You have indeed made good points. Satan does not get any second chances so to begin with the question King posed and Graham answered was totaly pointless. In fact it just occurred to me! What are we all doing down here with Satan. I'm getting out of this room and going back topside. Mondays over brother and resurrection day's a comin bro. Lets get out of this room. Nuff said'

Terry Rayburn said...

To jus divinum:

I don't know if you were being facetious, but I definitely don't think Mt.5:44-45 proves that Graham "gave the right answer after all".

To breuss "Chad" wane:

1. Mt. 5:44,45 proves more than just a general "benevolence", which is why I specified that a "careful reading" of the passage is called for. The context of the passage is in God's calling us to love our enemies, and is not a treatise on His "benevolence", but says quite simply that when we do love our enemies, we are being like Him.

2. This extends only to men, however, and is certainly not an argument for God [or us] loving Satan. The passage is universal (after all, which enemies should we not love?), but only extends to men. Never does the concept of "relationship" or "love" have to do with angels, good or bad.

3. One of the most important principles of understanding "tricky" Scriptures is the principle of "antinomy". An antinomy occurs when two truths or statements appear to contradict each other, yet both are true because the Scripture says so. E.g., when Jesus tells his disciples to "hate" our mother, father, child, spouse, etc. "for His sake", he is not nullifying the fact that we should also love them. Likewise, God "hating" Esau, for example, doesn't nullify His [non-saving] love for Esau. Likewise Jesus' love for the rich young ruler, and even Judas.

4. It's not that God is a super-schizoid, it's just that His ways are higher than ours, and His thoughts are greater than ours. He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, because He is Love. The fact that we can't fully comprehend that may be written off to Deut. 29:29, "The secret things belong to the Lord..." Sometimes we try to reconcile everything, instead of taking the Scripture at it's plain value. I've long been at peace with the Lord's love and "lake of fire" justice, side by side, wrought on the same individual.

5. Chad, my brother, you suffer from a malady that I share (I blush to say this publicly), that is, a skillful debating mentality that sometimes extends beyond the actual evidence. You, like me, probably ran argument circles around your mom when you were a kid, spinning her poor head around, even when she [and you] instinctively knew she was right. And just for the sport of a well-contructed argument. We have to be extra careful to walk in surrender both to the texts, and the One who breathed them.

With love and respect,
Terry Rayburn

Bhedr said...


Back down here again as I strangely feel drawn. you nail it bro. I'm so glad you see this as well. I imagine that you like I catch heat from both groups in this election debate and rarely find a place to call home. It is amazing that you can put scripture dead in front of them and they don't wish to acknowledge it. I think sometimes they get wedged into a group and unwittingly seek to please man instead of acknowledging what scripture so clearly teaches. We see what we want too. Unfortunately.

SJ Camp said...

The love of God in Matthew 5:40-44 is not salfivic nor universal. It is the godly response against ones enemies from a regenerated life. It is, in fact, a not returning evil for evil free from revenge kindness. It is synonymous with gentleness (epeikas) in Eph. 4:1-3; 2 Cor. 10:1.

This is the example of Christ in 1 Peter 2:21ff when confronted with His accusers. He entrusted Himself to the One Who judges justly--as we are to do. The context of the Sermon on the Mount is what constitutes a righteousness better than the Pharisees (5:20). The daily outworking of the rightousness of Christ imputed to us in justification is in these daily life areas the Lord speaks of in this sermon. One of those areas is dealing with our enemies (and by the way, He is not speaking of political foes in war, etc.); is when we are being persecuted for Christ's sake and how to respond to them--for these are not people we can't get along with, these are "enemies of the cross." The context is clear in verse 44: "pray for those who persecute you, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you."

The gospel is not advanced by our personal retaliation with the "sword", but we are "to love them." Bless, do not curse; pray not fight; do good and not hate. That takes grace; but is evident of the work of the gospel in our lives. It is being "salt and light."

From the crucible of grace,
Romans 12:12-18

Breuss Wane said...

Terry wrote:
>a skillful debating mentality that >sometimes extends beyond the actual >evidence.

FWIW, I don't believe any argument I present here or anywhere else is beyond the actual evidence, but is in fact warranted and even demanded by the text.

The fact that God loves Jacob but hates Esau also means God does not love Esau salvifically, which is the *only* love that is ultimately relevant. We speak of benevolance because it is *not* love. Esau will not be able to say in hell that God loves him for in fact, at that time it will be quite evident that God is not.

Matt. 5:44, 45 is not universal nor does the text warrant such a reading (as I explain in a previous post). Matt.5:44 is limited to its own context: those who persecute you. That is not *everyone, everywhere, always*.

The "plain meaning of scripture" is useful as a beginning for hermeneutics, but is certainly not the end of hermeneutics. Otherwise, any obedient child who dies makes Eph. 6:3 a farce. And the list could go on and on.

There are many things that belong only to the mind of God. There's enough in the canon He has given us about God's hatred for the non-elect, this is not one of them. If God's hatred/judgment/nonelection is not exclusive of love/blessing/election the gospel is compromised because the gospel stands or falls on divine antithesis. This is not an argument, but an exegetical assertion based on the biblical theology of divine blessing/cursing not the least of which is an accurate understanding of Romans 9. IOW, Matt. 5:44,45 cannot be rightly exegeted without Romans 9 (regardless of whether or not the original readers had access to Romans 9... we do have access to it and therefore it is mandatory we use it. That's the only legitimate way of handling so-called "antimony".

Breuss Wane said...

Terry wrote:
>God "hating" Esau, for example, >doesn't nullify His [non-saving] love >for Esau. Likewise Jesus' love for the >rich young ruler, and even Judas.

FWIW, I agree with this statement (contra Pink, I do not believe the RYR was elect). I do not agree with the "degrees of love" analogy precisely because I believe we are attempting to interpret God's love with human categories that smack of the Enlightenment. A better term is probably "distinction". Even then, it does not do justice to the limitations placed of the "love" directed at the nonelect.

We must be clear that just as God's displeasure for our sin does not ultimately temper his salvific love for those who are elect (and thus, the elect belong in the blessed/loved *category*), God's benevolence and compassion on the wicked does not ultimately temper his eternal and decreed hatred for those who are not elect (the hatred is inherent to the decree and thus, the nonelect belong in the cursed/hated *category*).

Psalm 5:5/Psalm 7:11 is not only just as true as Mark 10:21, but Mark 10:21 must be interpreted in light of Psalm 5:5, not the other way around. And it should not be overlooked that the foreshadowing of Psalm 5:5/Psalm 7:11 is present in Mark 10:21. Christ "loved him"... then impressed on him the full weight of the law in order to expose his hypocritical idolatry, culminating in an impossible command for this nonelect individual: take up your cross. "Take up your cross", in effect, is the RYR's damnation. Ultimately, the RYR, like Esau, will know no love (whatever the distinction) but only justice via the hatred that was decreed before time began.

Don't misunderstand. The imperative of Matt. 5:44,45 is radical... we are to be doormats of compassion toward those who persecute us just as Christ did. But there will come a day when that compassion is withdrawn, and those who are the enemies of God know nothing but his wrath. And it is that kind of ultimacy that *must* characterize our biblical theological exegesis of the nonelect in the text. What is in the future *is* the reality... we live in the mere shadows, which like the compassion for the nonelect, will ultimately fade away.

Jus Divinum said...

Hi Breuss,

You say:

"Matthew 5:44 & 45 only proves that God has a benevolence toward even those whom he has had a damning hatred from before the beginning of the world."

Right. And according to the passage, this is a form of _love_. That's the point, isn't it? What a nonsensical argument Jesus would be giving if he _really_ meant: "Love your enemies so that you can be like God, who of course _doesn't_ love his enemies!" Of course benevolence is being defined as love in this passage, but that is the point: benevolence is a genuine form of love, or else Jesus' argument doesn't make any sense. On your view, Jesus should have said: "Be benevolent toward your enemies, so that you can be like God, who is benevolent to his enemies but doesn't love them." No, Jesus said _love_ your enemies so you can be like God. And why would we be like God in that activity? Because _God_ loves his enemies.

You say:

"Further, the onus is on Mr. Graham to show, exegetically & biblically theologically, just *how* Matthew 5:44 & 45 applies to Satan, as if somehow, Christ's statement in the passage is a universal."

Yes, my comment to Terry was a bit tongue in cheek there :-) I was only establishing the doctrine that we are to love our enemies because God loves his enemies. If you remember, Graham didn't refer to Mt 5:44-45, but to the fact that God _created_ Satan. The premise there is that God loves his entire creation. I think that's correct, while keeping in mind that in most cases this is a non-salvific love.

That said, I think there's a principle in Mt 5:44-45 that is relevant to the Satan question. Jesus not only gives a command, but he gives an empirical basis for that command. We are to infer that God is the kind of God who loves his enemies, because he is benevolent to them in various temporary, earthly, non-redeeming ways. But, of course, God is benevolent to Satan because he has kept him out of hell so far (even though he deserves to be in hell right now), he has conversations with Satan in which he proves to Satan various truths (cf. Job), he allows Satan to temporarily accomplish his purposes on earth in a limited sense (even as he allows pagan farmers to get crops by sun and rain), etc. So it stands to reason (indeed, the very kind of reasoning Jesus commends to us in this passage) that God is benevolent even to Satan. And the text itself tells us that that kind of benevolence qualifies as love. It's non-saving love, of course, but I've never denied this. Neither did Graham.

You say:

"Satan is not in the realm of common grace, nor can he be offered the gospel (which is the context of Matthew 5:44, 45). Conclusion: Mr. Graham was flat wrong, and blew an opportunity to speak the truth: Any love, real or imagined, that God has for Satan is irrelevant given Satan's assured end in the lake of fire."

Sorry, but Satan _is_ in the realm of common grace. That's exactly what temporary goods from God is all about, if you don't deserve them. Your idea that the love God has for a person is "irrelevant" given that they will end up in hell just empties the text of all meaning. According to the text, God loves many people who will end up in hell (unless you subscribe to the implausible thesis that God only shines the sun on and gives rain to elect pagans :-). Given that this is _God's_ love, are you really going to say that divine love is "irrelevant"? Isn't that an insult to God?

You say:

"It is a flawed hermeneutic that always looks for universals in the text because most often the context, esp. over the whole of the canon, will not allow it."

It's not a matter of looking for "universals" in the text, but looking for _principles_ that guide the reasoning of the biblical author (in this case, Jesus' appeal to the principle that God's benevolence to someone is evidence of God's love for that person). Any Reformed (especially Puritan) text on casuistry (applied biblical ethics) makes major use of principles that get extracted from a text. Applied ethics would be impossible without this, and we wouldn't be permitted to, say, buy house insurance, because it's not "in the text" of Scripture!

Breuss Wane said...

jus divinum wrote:
>in this case, Jesus' appeal to the >principle that God's benevolence to >someone is evidence of God's love for >that person

This is precisely what Jesus is *not* doing in the text. "evidence of God's love for that person" is nowhere on the radar in this passage.

The upside-down kingdom that Christ brings with him and its "love for enemies" is not "evidence of God's love for that person". The focal point of emphasis is not on the receiver but the doer. This is *how* a peacemaker will live. The benevolence is love, but it is a lesser love.

And... you're going to have to make a better exegetical argument than 1. Satan is a creature. 2. God loves his creatures. 1 + 2 = God loves Satan. You have not established that Satan belongs to the realm of "creation" of which the Psalms speak (as if there is an equivalence, inherently or otherwise between a tree and Lucifer). Only when you've done so, is the logic not fallacious.

Breuss Wane said...

>Given that this is _God's_ love, are >you really going to say that divine >love is "irrelevant"?


>Isn't that an insult to God?

No. It's exegesis.

Jus Divinum said...


Then what is the significance of the 'hoti' ("for") in v. 45? It's an evidentiary relation: God's character is evidenced by his actions. Why else would Jesus refer to the actions of the Father, if he didn't think it supported his point as to what we should be like? We're to be loving as the Father is loving, and we see that in the Father doing x, y, and z. What's so difficult about that?

I'm sorry you don't believe that Satan is a creature, and that you do believe that any form of divine love could be irrelevant. I guess we'll have to agree to disagree :-)

Breuss Wane said...

1. "For" means "for". I do not deny Christ is grounding "love your enemies" in the Father's benevolence on the unjust. That's not my point, or Steve's point. Eternal ultimacy is the point... since the hatred is inherent to the eternal decree before time began and to the damnation at the end of time, *any* consideration of benevolence is limited in scope/extent and has no bearing on the *state* or *condition* of the recipient. Thus, pragmatically speaking, divine love is irrelevant to discussions of eternal destiny (again, this discussion is inseparable from Adam's imputed guilt to the human race).

2. Satan is a creature, but is not equivalent to unjust humans. As an angelic being he has no claim to the common grace given to the unjust.

Breuss Wane said...

What I find bothersome in the typical discussions on this issue is the unwillingness of the "Smile, God loves you" camp to affirm that Psalm 5:5, Psalm 7:11, Proverbs 16:4, Matthew 7:23, John 3:18, and Romans 9:11-13 equally apply to the unjust to whom God shows benevolence. Given these passages and the eternal ultimacy they represent, it is equally legitimate to tell those who are not in Christ that God hates them. The "both/and" argument, even when affirmed, is relegated to the ivory tower and almost never applied in real time and space.