Archive for May, 2011

Chosen But Free Reviews – Part 4

May 21, 2011

I think this will be the last of the parts of my responses to reviews of “Chosen But Free.” Thus, I think I have now completed my series of responses (part 1, part 2, part 3) to reviews of Chosen But Free, with a particular emphasis on how I think the students who prepared these reviews might benefit from the rebuttal provided in Dr. James White’s book, “The Potter’s Freedom.” The numbering of the reviews picks up from the previous post.

31. THEO 202-003

This review seems to buy into the idea that Geisler has provided a “balanced” view of sovereignty and free will. As I have said many other times, I think the reviewer would be in a position to give a more balanced judgment, if he had also read Dr. White’s rebuttal in “The Potter’s Freedom.”

32. Onomonopia

This review expresses a similar sentiment to many of the other reviews. By way of providing an example, here’s how this review put it:

Ultimately, Geislers book is a great overview and relation of two opposing views that are normally seen to only be contradictory. He relates these views not just by his own knowledge but by pulling examples straight from the scripture itself.

As I have said many times, Geisler’s book isn’t balanced: it’s one sided. Those who read it should really take the next step and read the other side.

33. Love God With All of Your Heart

This review had one surprising comment that I thought was worth addressing separately. The reviewer wrote:

I do agree with that. God does have a plan and a purpose for our life. I do agree that nothing that we do can change God mind. We not get there the way that is way that God wants us to get there. But one day we will get to the place that God wants us to be. It just may take longer.

This sounds curiously fatalistic. We can’t change our destiny, but we can delay it. That’s neither the Calvinist nor the Arminian view, technically speaking. We Calvinists don’t hold that God simply has an end in mind for us that will somehow come to pass. We also believe that “all things work together for good” to those who are the called according to God’s purposes.

34. My testimony

This review seems to reflect that the reviewer caught on to the fact that Geisler is basically promoting a version of Arminianism (the version that teaches “eternal security”). The reviewer also sets forth an argument against limited atonement. I’ll respond to that argument:

1 peter 3:18 says For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, in order that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit”. In Titus 2:11 it says “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men”. Lastly, in 2 Corinthians 5:15 it states “For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, that they who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf”. All these verses have the word ALL in them so I don’t really know how people can argue that God died for only the chosen when the verses say otherwise.

That emphasis is in the original review. A few responses:

Regarding 1 Peter 3:18, the “once for all” is actually just an idiom that means “once for all time.” The KJV puts it this way:

1 Peter 3:18 For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:

You will notice that “all” doesn’t even appear in that translation. The point of the verse is just that Jesus suffered one time. This contrasts with often-repeated Old Testament sacrifices and the Roman Catholic mass that is repeated daily.

Regarding Titus 2:11, the “to all” there should be carefully considered. Recall that the verse as a whole is this (KJV):

Titus 2:11 For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,

Notice that “to all men” refers to the fact that saving grace of God has appeared to all men. It doesn’t mean literally ever last person, but to the fact that this is not limited to the Jews. The proclamation of the gospel is for everyone, even if it has not yet appeared to everyone. The “to all men” doesn’t refer to “brings salvation.” If it did, we would be universalists.

Regarding 2 Corinthians 5:15, the verse does say “all,” but all of whom? All of the people in the world? Look at the context to find out (KJV):

2 Corinthians 5:14-15
For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: and that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.

As you can see from the context, the “all” refers to “us.” One died for all of us.

35. honest to goodness thoughts

This review comments on the issue of free will and its relation to evil. The review argues thus:

Some, such as Jonathon Edwards might argue that sin comes from nature but Adam contradicts that because he fell in a perfect world and was created good in nature. (Geisler,39-40)

I found that interesting, because I heartily commend Jonathan Edwards’ “Freedom of the Will” to everyone’s reading. I am surprised to hear that the reviewer thinks that a world with a tempting serpent and a wife who has already given in to the temptation is a “perfect world,” but even beyond that: doesn’t the reviewer think that there will be free will and an absence of sin in heaven? The problem here is really that Edwards’ position hasn’t been accurately portrayed. While our fallen human nature is one reason we sin, Adam had an innocent but fallible nature. He was able to make an error and he did. He judged it better to follow his wife and the serpent than to follow God.

36. Lauren’s blog

This review reflected a belief that Geisler had found a middle path between two extreme views. That’s the impression that the book gives. But that impression is easily remedied by reading Dr. James White’s response in “The Potter’s Freedom.”

37. Spit it Out

This review expresses the seemingly common (in the class) perception that the Calvinism vs. Arminianism debate is a waste of time that would be better spent evangelizing. Evangelism is important. On the other hand, theology matters. If we are not really ready to understand free will, God’s sovereignty, and their interplay, we may face difficulty when we are asked those kinds of questions by the atheists and others we run into.

38. Nursing Student on a Mission

This review raises one of Geisler’s arguments against Calvinism based on the nature of Love. As expressed by the reviewer:

I agree with what Geisler says on page 140 of his book. He basically argues that love is not and cannot be irresistible. He states “God is love, and true love never forces itself on anyone, either externally or internally. Forced love is a contradiction in terms” (Geisler, 140).

Isn’t the answer a little obvious? Hell is coercion. There is a “turn or burn” aspect to the gospel call. If you don’t love God, you will burn in Hell forever. That should be enough to demonstrate that Geisler’s analogy is fundamentally flawed. What could be a worse threat than Hell? After all, we are not to fear those who can kill the body, but Him who can place both body and soul in Hell.

39. Joey Yapp

This review, one of the few that appears to be placed on a “real” blog (although some of the other folks have a “real” blog in addition to the class blog), seems to reflect an impression that the book was good and balanced. I hope that the reviewer will take the time to review Dr. White’s response in “The Potter’s Freedom.”

40. Theology 202: Dr. Caner

This review presented two points that I’d like to address briefly:

God came to this world to save the entire world, all sinners, not just a select few that he had chosen.

There are plenty of verses that indicate the latter. But consider the implications of the former position. If God came to save each and every person, has God mostly failed? Or is God free to save whom God wants to save? That’s one of the key points of “The Potter’s Freedom.” It explains God’s freedom to save.

One thing that I was a little disappointed with in this book was the lack of in depth scripture usage. Geisler uses tons of scripture references all throughout the entire book, but I feel like they barely scratch the surface of each topic. I mean, any person can flood a book with scripture references to make it sound like they apply to the topic at hand, but it doesn’t always mean that it proves the point that you are trying to argue. I loved the scripture he used, but I feel like he could have gone a little bit deeper with his usages.

Here’s where I think the reviewer might be especially thankful for “The Potter’s Freedom.” It goes in-depth in its exegesis of the Scripture text. In that regard, it stands in contrast to “Chosen But Free.”

41. Katie’s blog

This review is similar to many of the others in terms of buying into the idea that Geisler is presenting a balanced position. That idea is undermined if one reads the rebuttal to Geisler’s work, “The Potter’s Freedom.”

There is one comment from this review that I feel I should address:

I believe that Christ died for ALL, and ALL have the same opportunity to receive God’s gift. I believe that Christ desires for ALL to go to Heaven.

I realize that the belief that Christ died for everyone is quite popular, even though when Christ described his own sacrifice he did not say “which is shed for all” but “which is shed for many.” Nevertheless, even if you will not accept that Christ died for many (rather than all) at least you must acknowledge that not all have the same opportunity. Some are born into Christian families. They grow up in a church, being brought to Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, and so on. They have a lot of opportunity. Other children are born in communist China. Their opportunities are more limited. And the people of this century have more opportunities to hear the gospel than those of previous centuries. Think about the American Indians before the Europeans showed up, for example. Think about all the nations outside of Israel before Christ. These people do not all have the same opportunity, even though all have the same way of salvation: repentance and faith in Christ.

42. LU THEO 202-003 (subtitle for blog: My blog about what Dr. Caner tells me to blog about for THEO 202-003)

This review similarly accepted Geisler’s claim to be taking a middle position. The review contained an interesting argument from Jonah:

God is in control but I don’t think He forces people to do things. He tells us what He wants, but I’ve never thought He would force anyone to do it. Just look at the life of Jonah. God told Jonah that He wanted him to go to the Ninevites, but He did not force him to go. Jonah ran the other way and wound up in the belly of a big fish. Jonah had a choice to go or to run the opposite direction. Jonah then saw that God knew what He was talking about and ran to Nineveh after he was vomited out of the fish.

If I put a gun to your head, I’m “forcing” you to do what I say. God didn’t put a gun to Jonah’s head, but he did place Jonah in a position where Jonah had to be cast into the sea to avoid his death and the death of the men that were with him. Moreover, God threatened all of Nineveh with destruction. They repented and God spared them. But it is strange to say that God is not “forcing” them.

You can say that “they still have a choice,” but I’m not sure what that gets you. Even if someone has a gun to your head, you still have a choice, yet at the same time you are being forced.

Moreover, God is able to change a person’s heart. That’s not at all like pointing a gun at someone, yet I suppose it would be considered “forcing” the person, according to the reviewer. What’s wrong with that kind of “forcing” though?

43. mattlillis

This review was interesting for a variety of reasons. I will respond to it paragraph by paragraph:

Geisler’s discussion on whether faith is a gift only to the elect in his book, Chosen But Free, was a most intriguing section, which I found myself very much engaged. On page 237 Geisler states, “Nowhere does the Bible teach that saving faith is a special gift of God only to a select few,” and proceeds to give numerous versus such as John 11:40. Geisler makes another very pungent statement a littler further on page 240 where he is tackling the Arminian and Calvanist view of faith saying, “God is pleased with our faith, yet this is not because it adds to the work of Christ, which alone satisfies God’s justice. On the contrary, God is pleased with our faith because we know we cannot do anything to add to the work of Christ and must wholly and completely trust in Him and Him alone for our salvation.” These two extremely profound revisions of scripture seem to resonate between Calvin and Arminius’ arguments in a way that makes total sense and only validates what I have already come to know and experience about God. I totally agree with Geisler’s main argument here that we play no role in adding to the salvation that Christ offers, this being in regards to having a “faith.” His choice of words and just overall clarity of message simplified such a complex and ingenious conclusion, and created one of those take away messages that great minds seem to come up with.

Regarding the issue of saving faith being a gift of God for a select few:

Ephesians 2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:

Indeed, eternal life itself is the gift of God:

Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

As for it being “for a select few,” not everyone has saving faith. If they did, all would be saved. They would all have eternal life.

Geisler’s point about God being pleased with our faith is not necessarily wrong in itself (I’m sure the reviewer mean “poignant” not “pungent”), but it misses the point. It’s good that Geisler doesn’t try to argue that faith is meritorious. Nevertheless, Geisler’s argument about faith pleasing God seems almost to treat faith as though it were a work, rather than as it being the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast.

Next:

Another example that Geisler gives from scripture that seems to resonate on the same frequency with his other arguments is on page 237, “Finally, the Bible describes faith as ours. It speaks of ‘your faith’, ‘his faith’, and ‘their faith’, but never of ‘God’s faith’ as a condition for receiving the gift of salvation.” This argument, although good, is not as good as the other two I previous quoted, I disagree with what he is trying to do here because he is describing what the Bible doesn’t say, over what it does say, and this can be a slippery slope into false teaching.

The faith is ours – but isn’t that true of all gifts we are given? Is eternal life not ours, just because it is a gift of God? God is not the one who believes, we are. Nevertheless, faith – like life itself – is a gift of God. Surely Geisler would be willing to admit that life is a gift of God, yet God is not the one living our life.

Finally:

Norman Geisler’s overall methodology of attacking this monumental debate of free will that has been raging for centuries was overall very well communicated and easy to follow, which made the book enjoyable to read. I was not getting lost in cross references and incoherent rhetoric. One concern that turned out not to be a problem with Geisler that I had before starting the book, was I did not want to read just a conglomeration of Straw Man arguments and misguided scripture references. But Norman Geisler seems to take great caution throughout the entire book to avoid such arguments and quote scripture in a historical and contextual way that seem to validate most if not all of his conclusions. The appendices in this book though were not constructed well and I thought they should have been included in the main text, because that is where I found most of the “meat” of the text and his arguments.

I think the reviewer would really enjoy the meat contained throughout “The Potter’s Freedom.” The reviewer may also be surprised to discover that some of the positions that Geisler presented may be criticized as being straw men. That’s part of the value in reading a rebuttal: it casts further light on the quality of the original work.

44. Chosen But Free

This review is the only post on this particular blog. I have no idea of whether the author of the blog created a new blog for each of the blogging assignments, or only recently joined the class, or what. This review contained some similar comments to those already addressed above, as well as one comment that I’ll address now:

Norman Geisler states, free choice in this life means, “the ability to do otherwise” (21).

This is interesting. Does that mean that God does not have free choice, because God is unable to sin? Does that mean that in the next life, we will not have free choice – or that the very definition of free choice will change? These questions seem to undermine Geisler’s point.

On top of that, “the ability to do otherwise” is an ability that is never, ever used. It seemingly exists simply to make people feel better. It’s not just unused, it’s unprovable. One cannot prove that one had or has the ability to do otherwise than what one does.

45. Justine’s Blog

This review focuses on chapter 4 of Geisler’s book. The review makes one of the robot arguments that we are used to hearing:

I believe that we need to stop putting the blame on God and taking responsibility of own actions. I believe we have a free will to do what we want and I do not think that we are God’s robots just walking around on earth doing exactly what he tells us to do. If that were the case, we would live in a perfect world because God would not tell us to sin and do wrong. God loves us and wants us to always do right but He knows that we are not perfect and that we are going to fall short sometimes. We have a merciful, forgiving Savior who dies for our wicked sins and we need to be grateful that He has done for us. Also, if we did not have a free will then we would all be followers of Chirst and everyone would be on their way to heaven. But instead, we have people who love God with all their heart, people who are backslidden, people who don’t care about religion and even people who hate God. How can somebody say that they do not have a free will, after seeing the different levels of faith that there are? If we were all God’s ‘robots’ then we would all be on fire for God but that is unfortunately not the case.

The problem with the argument is the underlying the assumption that if God ran the show, there would be no sin. We are not robots, of course. No Calvinist says we are robots. Nevertheless, if one will concede that God is omniscient (he knows everything), omnipotent (he has all power), and interested (he cares what happens), then it follows that everything that happens is – in some sense – approved by God. God could (at least) prevent anything bad from occurring, and yet God does not.

God’s sovereignty, then, is higher than this reviewer gives God credit for. I would encourage this reviewer to consider reading James White’s “The Potter’s Freedom” to get a better picture of the sovereignty of God.

46. Theo 202

This review indicated that “one of my favorite parts” was the way that Geisler used Scripture. Considering the much greater Scriptural depth of “The Potter’s Freedom,” I believe that this reviewer might really benefit from Dr. James White’s rebuttal to Geisler’s book. “The Potter’s Freedom” also rebuts Geisler’s insinuation that Calvinists and Calvin had divergent viewpoints. Nevertheless, the five points (as such) are really more associated with the Synod of Dordt than they are with Calvin himself.

47. dagment

This review is another of the reviews that concludes that Geisler provides a balanced position between Calvinism and Arminianism. In “The Potter’s Freedom,” Dr. James White explains how Geisler has essentially just proposed an Arminian position (with respect to most points), while demonstrating from the Scripture why the Calvinist position should be accepted by those who accept the authority of Scripture.

48. alexanapier

This review can probably be well summarized by one of the lines from the review: “I enjoyed Geisler’s ability to use logic and scripture to defend the balance between free will and God’s sovereignty. ” While I can understand that one might get that impression from reading Geisler’s book alone, one really will get a more balanced perspective by reading the rebuttal to the book, namely Dr. James White’s “The Potter’s Freedom.”

49. Theology II

This review presented a few interesting points drawn from Geisler. I will respond to each:

Geisler makes a distinct difference though when he states “According to this view (Calvinism), God’s predetermination is done in spite of His foreknowledge of human free acts. God operates with such unapproachable sovereignty that His choices are made with total disregard for the choices of mortal men.” Here it is supposing that God knows what free choices we will make and plan accordingly.

This simply is not an accurate view of Calvinism. According to the Scriptures, God sovereignly ordains all things including men’s free choices. God’s decrees, therefore, are not “in spite of” man’s free choices. Instead, God’s decrees frame and give purpose to man’s free choices. Man’s free choices have a purpose in God’s plan.

The view that God knows what man will do and plans accordingly makes God reactive. It places man’s free will above that of God, since God is reduced to making the best of a mess.

For, as Geisler said, “If free choices were not considered at all when God made the list of the elect, then irresistible grace on the unwilling follows; that is, man would have no say in his own salvation. Accordingly, the fact that all men do not choose to love, worship, and serve God will make no difference whatsoever to God.” If it were not for this simple choice, then there would be no point in the creation of humans.

But Scripture says:

Romans 9:16 So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.

Isn’t that the point? Man does not have a say in his own salvation. It is all of God, it is all by grace.

Romans 9:18 Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.

The point of God’s creation of men was not to leave God eternally disappointed. The point of creation was for God to glorify himself.

Romans 9:21-24
Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: and that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory, even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?

50. Tim’s Blog

This review focused on the question of who is in charge. One interesting passage from the review is as follows:

It is an incredible, comforting, and yet scary thought to know that the God that we serve knows our every action and our every thought. Having this is mind should change our actions and our thoughts. Luke 1:37 says that “Nothing is impossible with God.” This however brings up the question: Can God make a mountain big enough for him to move? This can easily be solved by clarifying that God can do anything that doesn’t contradict itself. In other words, God cannot lie because it is against his nature. Also, God cannot make a triangle with two sides because, by definition, a triangle is a three sided figure.

Hopefully, this reviewer realizes that man’s free will is not a mountain too big for God to move. With such a realization, one must realize that all things, even the free actions of human beings, are within God’s sovereignty and are ordered as God wishes. Only when God is in control is God’s sovereignty a comforting thought.

51. My Mind as an Open Book

This review is another review that aims to adopt Geisler’s position. The review even identifies the reviewer as a “moderate Calvinist” using Geisler’s categories. The review states, among other things:

I want to focus on chapter four and briefly state my opinion. Geisler’s premise was this: if God knows everything we are going to do and our free will cannot change that, then the future cannot be changed. Therefore, the conclusion is, we are not responsible for any of our actions whether good or bad. This is an extreme view of God’s sovereignty and does not take into account man’s free will.

But we cannot change the future. If we could, then we could render God’s prescience of the future wrong. But God actually knows what we will do – he’s not just guessing. So, that will definitely happen. If God knows we will do X, there’s not the slightest chance we will not do X. We may bring about the future, but we don’t “change” it.

52. Kirstin!

This review indicated an appreciation for Geisler’s use of Scripture. While it is good that Geisler attempted to support his position with Scripture, Dr. James White’s book, “The Potter’s Freedom,” demonstrated that Geisler’s attempted reliance on Scripture was mistaken. This review also included an argument that I thought it made sense to address here:

Geiesler also discusses the big topic of free will. In the beginning, God gave Adam and Eve a choice, proving the fact that we are given a choice, and it is up to us to choose. We as humans have the free will to do what we want. Salvation is literally given to everyone and it is our human choice to decide whether we want to accept it or not. Here on earth, we are truly free. We are truly free because we are given a choice to do what we want, and are not bound to making a decision that we don’t want to make. I like the quote on page 21, “In heaven we will be free from evil; here we are free to do evil.” We are free to choose good or evil here on earth, but once we make our choice, we are bound to it when we die. God gave us the gift of salvation, not the gift of faith (pg. 229). Faith is what we have the freedom to choose. Basically, we all have salvation, it our choice whether we want it or not.

Has the reviewer really thought about the problem of heaven? Why is it ok for humans to be free from evil in heaven, but not ok for them to be free from evil (per Geisler)? Doesn’t that seem to be simply a double standard? Is there no free will in heaven? Surely no one would assert that. Therefore, free will isn’t really a sufficient answer to why we sin here.

Second, salvation is not given to everyone – it is offered to everyone. It’s important to distinguish between those two things. The gospel offer is universal – but the gift of salvation is given to those who believe.

Moreover, faith itself is a gift. After all the Scripture tell us:

1 Corinthians 4:7 For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?

A consistent Arminian would have to answer the question with “faith.” But Paul’s point is to make a rhetorical question: God is the one who makes one person to differ from another. We have nothing – not even faith – that we did not receive from God. Therefore, we cannot glory even in our faith.

Does the Bible Guarantee Camping’s Prediction?

May 18, 2011

Harold Camping has widely asserted that “the Bible guarantees” his prediction regarding the end times. This invites us to us examine his Biblical claims. One large chunk of the basis for Harold Camping’s claims with respect to May 21, 2011, is that 2011 is allegedly 7000 years from the flood. Camping’s date for the flood is unique and springs from work that he published as “Adam When?” in 1974 (I understand that the book may have undergone some revisions or editions since then, and in the following discussion I am referring to the current version available at his website.)

Adam When? purports to be a book that seeks to uphold the integrity of the Bible, and particularly the infallibility and inerrancy of the Bible. These are noble and right aims. The book quickly goes astray, however.

At page 36, Camping begins a section entitled “Inspired Verbs.” While the verbs of the Bible are inspired, Camping treats them as though they represent a code. In short, Camping says that in the genealogies of Genesis 5 and 11, whenever the text describes A begetting B and living a set number of years, this should be interpreted as A being just an ancestor of B, with B being born the year of A’s death.

There’s no Biblical proof for this approach. In other words, Camping cannot point to any passage where the Bible explains that this way of speaking is being used. This is a key point: nowhere in Scripture does it tell us that when it says “A lived so and so years and begat B and lived so and so more years after he begat B and he died,” that B was actually born not after the first so and so years, but rather at the very end of A’s life. This particular patriarchal generation idea is just something Camping dreamed up.

Moreover, Camping is forced to admit that in certain cases it is clear that this terminology is used of direct father-son relationships. Camping actually provides an exception for those cases in the genealogies where the text says that the father “called [his son’s] name [name of the son].”

But this exception is as arbitrary as the rule. Camping does not provide a Scriptural basis for why the expression “called his name” should be a sign of direct father-son relationship that holds water. After all, the term is frequently used to refer to a mother naming her son, or even to neighbors of the grandmother naming a child:

Ruth 4:17 And the women her neighbours gave it a name, saying, There is a son born to Naomi; and they called his name Obed: he is the father of Jesse, the father of David.

And, of course, a very old man could name his grandchild born in the year of his death just as easily as neighbors could name their friend’s grandchild. So, again, the idea that “called his name” is a special sign of direct father-son relationship is yet another thing that Camping just dreamed up.

What is truly bizarre is that begetting is something that only a father actually does, whereas calling a child’s name is something that the mother or even the neighbors of the grandmother can do.

Camping’s only answer to this objection is to point to Matthew 1:8 and to allege that Matthew declares that Joram begat Uzziah, although there is not an actual father-son relationship between the two. According to Camping: “Ahazial, Joash, and Amaziah should come between Joram and Uzziah.”

Various explanations have been given as to why there are those three apparently missing generations in the Matthew genealogy. What is key about the Matthew genealogy, however, is that it does not purport to provide us with a chronology (i.e. dates). There are no ages or years of life mentioned. Instead, it is providing a lineage, much the way the Ezra 7 lineage does (the Ezra 7 lineage apparently omits 6 generations).

We could speculate about the apparent missing generations (are there really missing generations? have they been omitted because of a curse placed against Ahab? or does Ozias not correspond to Uzziah, but rather to a brother of Ahazial?), but such speculation isn’t really necessary.

Why isn’t such speculation necessary? Matthew 1’s genealogy does not follow the patriarchal generation model that Camping has described. In Matthew 1’s genealogy the only “called his name” is – you guessed it – Joseph calling Jesus’ name in Matthew 1:25. It would be blasphemous to assert that Joseph was Jesus’ biological father.

Thus, we see the arbitrary nature of Camping’s pick-and-choose hermeneutic. Camping picks the apparently missing generations of Matthew 1:8 to establish a mere ancestry interpretation of the term “beget,” while ignoring the “called his name” in the same genealogy, where such usage undermines Camping’s theory.

In summary:

1) Camping simply dreamed up his unique patriarchal generations theory. The Bible does not tell us that, for example, the following passage should be understood as saying that Jared was born in the year that Mahalaleel died:

Genesis 5:15-17
And Mahalaleel lived sixty and five years, and begat Jared: and Mahalaleel lived after he begat Jared eight hundred and thirty years, and begat sons and daughters: and all the days of Mahalaleel were eight hundred ninety and five years: and he died.

2) Camping simply dreamed up the “called his name” exception. The Scriptures do not tell us that “called his name” is a special clue that there is direct father-son relationship between the person who called the name of the other person. Indeed, many times it is a woman who calls the name of the child (Genesis 4:25, Genesis 19:37, 1 Chronicles 4:9, 1 Chronicles 7:18) and sometimes it is even the neighbors of the grandmother, as we saw in the case of Obed.

3) Camping appeals selectively to irrelevant texts to make his case. As we noted above, Matthew’s genealogy does not provide years, only lineage. Thus, Matthew’s genealogy is not especially relevant to the Genesis 5 and 11 genealogies. Moreover, if Matthew’s genealogy is relevant, Camping ought also to take into account the fact that “called his name” in Matthew 1:25 refers to Joseph naming Jesus, though Joseph was only the adoptive father of Jesus, much like Pharaoh’s daughter was only the adoptive mother of Moses where she “called his name” in Exodus 2:10.

So, to answer the title question of this post, no – the Bible does not guarantee Camping’s prediction. Camping’s prediction is something that Camping dreamed up and attempted to impose on the Bible. Even if a very generous person would say that the Bible does not unequivocally deny Camping’s imposed reading, certainly Camping’s claim that “The Bible Guarantees It” falls short.

-TurretinFan

Camping Rained Out by Flood

May 16, 2011

One of the key items in Harold Camping’s interpretation that leads him to conclude that 2011 is the last year is that the flood was in 4990 B.C. and that A.D. 2011 is “exactly” 7000 years later. That 7000 years number is important to Camping, because at one point God said to Noah, “For yet seven days, … and every living substance that I have made will I destroy from off the face of the earth” (Genesis 7:4). Moreover, elsewhere Camping has noted that with the Lord one days is as one thousand years, and one thousand years as a day. Thus, Camping concludes that it is 7000 years from Noah’s Flood until Judgment Day.

First, this is completely arbitrary. There’s nothing about Genesis 7:4 that would lead someone to conclude that does not refer simply to the seven literal days that were fulfilled in the days of Noah. The reference to the earth being destroyed there is a reference to the world being destroyed by a flood, and we have been promised that a global flood will never again destroy the earth (see Genesis 9:13), of which the rainbow is a sign of the covenant.

The arbitrariness of the interpretation can be seen from the full context of the verse itself: “For yet seven days, and I will cause it to rain upon the earth forty days and forty nights; and every living substance that I have made will I destroy from off the face of the earth.” (Genesis 7:4)

There is no room for 40,000 years in Camping’s chronology, so this part of the verse is conveniently ignored. Perhaps a justification is given that when it says “days … and … nights” it is not referring to thousands of years – but such an explanation doesn’t come from the Bible.

There’s another problem, though. The Bible doesn’t date the flood to 4990 B.C. Of course, the Bible doesn’t give year numbers, the Bible gives genealogies. Those genealogies can be used, to some extent, to reconstruct the history of the Old Testament era.

If one uses those genealogies, however, one will not arrive at 4990 B.C., one will arrive with a number like 2349 B.C., the number that Archbishop Ussher calculated, or 2957 B.C. – the number similarly calculated from the Septuagint translation (incidentally, the former calculation places Creation at 4004 B.C., while the latter places it around 5200 B.C.).

The 4990 B.C. date for the flood is actually something that Camping came up with around 1970 or so, and published in “Adam When?” in 1974. There is an updated version available on Camping’s website now. Lord Willing, we will discuss “Adam When?” some more in a future post.

What suffices for this post is to point out that if Camping is right about the flood being 7000 years before the end of the world, then we have well over a 1000 years to go.

-TurretinFan

Counting Down with Camping …

May 14, 2011

In a previous blog post, I commented on the fact that Camping has demonstrably miscounted the number of days between April 1, 33, and May 21, 2011. The number of days 722,501, not 722,500. How did he make this mistake?

Here’s Camping’s calculation paragraphs from his “Another Infallible Proof“:

Because of the importance and wonder of this proof we will take time to develop it. First we must learn that we can develop with perfect precision the number of days from one date to another. To obtain the precise number of days from a moment in one year to the same moment in any other year we must realize that astronomers have long ago discovered that there are 365.2422 days in a complete year. That is why in our modern calendar there are 365 days in each of three consecutive years. However, every fourth year has 366 days. This is done by adding an extra day in February of that year. Thus the average year for the four years becomes 365.25 days. But .25 is greater than .2422, so every 128 years a day is dropped from the calendar to maintain accuracy.

Thus all we have to do is multiply the number of years separating two events by the number 365.2422 to know the exact number of days between them. So from April 1, 33 A.D. to April 1, 2011 there are exactly 2011 – 33 = 1,978 years, each having 365.2422 days. This equals 722,449.07 days. From April 1, 2011 to May 21, 2011 inclusively (including the first day and the last day) are 51 days. Adding these 51 days to the number 722,449.07 gives us exactly 722,500.07 days, from April 1, 33 A.D. to May 21, 2011 inclusively. This number is enormously significant. Presently we will see why this is so.

Camping has made a mistake. The number of days from April 1, 33, to April 1, 2011, is actually 722,451 days (not 722,449.07). What about his proof? His proof is based on an assumption that April 1, 33, to April 1, 2011, are exactly 1978 years apart, and that a year is 365.2422 days.

Camping’s calculation allegedly provides the number of days as 722,449.07, although more precisely the number is 722,449.072. But there’s a serious problem with the calculation. The number of days between April 1, 33, and April 1, 2011, is not a fractional number of days. It’s an exact integer number of days. That’s because the sun rises exactly once each day.

If you’re not convinced, try a simple example: April 1, 2010, to April 1, 2011. Using Camping’s method, that’s one year, and consequently it is 365.2422 days. But, in fact, you can go get a calendar and count and verify that, in fact, it is exactly 365 days.

Also, keep in mind that the 365 number is based on counting only one of the two end days. This is the normal way of counting days. For example, we say that April 2 is one day from April 1. That’s because we count only the last day (April 2) and not the first day (April 1). So, it is a little strange when Camping asks his readers to count 51 days based on counting both the first day and the last days (“From April 1, 2011 to May 21, 2011 inclusively (including the first day and the last day) are 51 days.”)

Using this method means counting from April 1, 2010, to April 1, 2011, to be 366 days. Moreover, as we noted before, if one counts both the first and last days, the number of days from April 1, 33, to May 21, 2011, is actually 722,502 days.

It is also strange to see how some of his other calculations work:

Interestingly this same message of salvation or judgment being the result of the Gospel is hidden in the total number of years the Gospel was to be sent by the churches into the world. We have learned that the church age began immediately after Christ demonstrated how He suffered and died to make payment for sin. That was in the year 33 A.D. We learned that the church age officially began on Pentecost, May 22, 33 A.D. It continued exactly 1,955 full years until May 21, 1988 when the church age came to an end.

A few points. 1) Why are days counted with the first and last day both counted, whereas years are counted normally? Those familiar with Camping’s work should recognize this kind of arbitrary hermeneutic – a hermeneutic of convenience, if you will.

2) 1955 “full years” according to his 365.2422 number would be 714,048.501 days.

2) But the actual number of days from May 22, 33 A.D. to May 21, 1988 is exactly 714,051 days (including the end date) – which is indeed 1955 full years (including the end date).

Why April 1? According to Camping, April 1, 33 A.D. is when Christ was hanging on the cross, reminding people of the sacrifice he had already made before the foundation of the world.

However, April 1, 33 A.D. was a Wednesday, as you can see in the calculation results already discussed and as you can calculate for yourself (just enter month “4”, day “1”, and year “0033”.

Incidentally, some programs may tell you that April 1, 33, was a Friday (input “4”, “1” and “0033” here, for example), but if you look more closely, you will see that these are programs that are using a Gregorian calendar (back before the Gregorian calendar was even invented).

Incidentally, I suspect that this two days (of the week) difference is connected with the two-day error in Camping’s calculations, but I am not sure.

– TurretinFan

Blogger Issues

May 13, 2011

Blogger had some significant service disruptions this past week, and it seems to have damaged a variety of blogs, including this one. From what I can see, the only casualties have been comments, but there may be posts missing as well (I’m told that such things happened to other bloggers).

-TurretinFan

"An Exceedingly Serious Matter" 722,500 or 722,501

May 11, 2011

One of Camping’s key arguments for May 21, 2011, is that May 21, 2011, is 722,500 days from April 1, 33. But if we calculate the number of days from April 1, 33, to May 21, 2011, the number is actually 722,501 or 722,502 (depending on whether we count the last day or not).

Harold Camping says this is an “extremely serious matter.” Perhaps he should recheck his calculations.

-TurretinFan

Fear God, not Calvin and Luther!

May 10, 2011

Mr. Matthew Bellisario has posted a short blog item titled: “Luther, Calvin, Hitler, Stalin and Mao.” He selects as his text Matthew 10:28 which states:

Matthew 10:28 And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

Mr. Bellisario has overlooked the fact that there is a shift from plural to singular. The command to “fear him” is a reference to fearing God. It is God who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Thus, when faced with persecution, we ought not to fear our persecutors, but rather we ought to fear God.

Perhaps Mr. Bellisario should read Thomas Aquinas’ Catena Aurea, where he would find the following attributed to Chrysostom (I haven’t confirmed that it is authentic, but let it suffice for Mr. Bellisario that his hero Thomas Aquinas approved of it): “Observe how He sets them above all others, encouraging them to set at nought cares, reproaches, perils, yea even the most terrible of all things, death itself, in comparison of the fear of God.”

– TurretinFan

Roman Catholics and Heaven

May 9, 2011

Today I was directed to the following video, in which Doug Wilson answers the question “Will Faithful Roman Catholics go to heaven?”

Will Faithful Roman Catholics go to heaven from Canon Wired on Vimeo.

First of all, for a more in-depth discussion on Roman Catholics and their status, I would suggest people consider the debate between James White and Doug Wilson on “Are Roman Catholics our Brothers in Christ.”

Second, I would agree that anyone who is truly repentant for their sins and trusting in Christ alone for salvation will be saved. Communion with Rome is not an unforgivable sin. Nevertheless, one of the fruits of the Spirit is sanctification. One would expect that as a believer undergoes sanctification, they will come to find the idolatry in Rome’s liturgy to be the abomination that it is. They will be able to stomach it no longer. That’s an expectation, but it is not a strict rule.

Third, the fact that one can be saved in an apostate church is not a good reason to stay in an apostate church, just as the fact that one can be saved even while fornicating is not a good reason to continue fornicating. I’m not saying the two sins are identical, though the Scriptures themselves draw a parallel between idolatry and fornication.

Finally, if you are a Roman Catholic reading this, please know that my primary concern is the state of your soul. I want you to be right with Christ. I’m not pushing some particular denomination or congregation. I’m pushing faith in Christ alone for salvation. Please consider it.

-TurretinFan

PeaceByJesus on the Lord’s Supper

May 9, 2011

PeaceByJesus has provided some exegetical notes on “take eat, this is my body” etc. I’m not aware of any Roman Catholic or Lutheran response to him. A response to his arguments would, however, be welcomed in the comment box here.

Enjoy!

-TurretinFan

The Potter’s Fredom vs. Chosen But Free – Part 3

May 7, 2011

I am continuing my series of responses (part 1, part 2) to reviews of Chosen But Free, with a particular emphasis on how I think the students who prepared these reviews might benefit from the rebuttal provided in Dr. James White’s book, “The Potter’s Freedom.” The numbering of the reviews picks up from the previous post.

20. ahrang

This review praises Geisler for holding a balanced view. With respect, I think the reviewer might gain a better perspective on Geisler’s position by reading the rebuttal provided by Dr. James White’s response, “The Potter’s Freedom.” Likewise, the reviewer indicated that he thought that the book gave him a better perspective on other people’s views. Again, I think that if he read “The Potter’s Freedom,” he would realize that Geisler has presented a number of caricatures which, like the “robot” comment provided in the review, misrepresent the Calvinist position.

21. Theo 202

This review focuses on the issue of what the cause of sin is. The reviewer ultimately takes the position that man is responsible for his own sins. This is, of course, correct. I think the reviewer may be surprised to learn that the Arminian/Calvinist controversy (what the reviewer calls “theological unrest”) is not about who has the moral responsibility for sin. Both agree that man is morally responsible for his own sins.

22. Dance My Dreams

This review starts off by suggesting that the whole Calvinism debate is a waste of time. Nevertheless, the reviewer raises a few objections:

God is omniscent, he knows everything and sees everything even when you get saved but you have to be willing to accept him on your own. He has foreknowledge, for example: he knows what our major is going to be before we do. He has a certain path that he wants us to take but it’s up to us to decide if we want to follow it. However our lives are not permanantly fixed. Things change according what road we take.

This objection is easily answered. Even if God only “fore-sees” the future, can God possibly be wrong? Couldn’t God write down all the future that will be in stone tablets right now? And if God did so, would anyone be able to make God a liar? Of course not. Even if God only sees the future, the future is fixed. We can’t change the future – we can live it out, and we can bring it into being by our actions, but we cannot change what God has already seen – what he might as well have written in stone.

The reviewer than argued:

I refer back to my point earlier on Christ gives us free will is given to all we choose to accept Christ, ourselves not God himself. Plus why do we witness to people then? Imean if Christians are elect then what’s the point of sharing Christ? I guess you would say it is poinless and a waste of time to try. We would eventually deny alot of scripture. Which is not biblical because God gave us scripture to share the gospel and learn from it ourselves. Do we have to belttle Christ’s words and gifts that much? T

But this too is readily answered. We don’t change the future, but we do bring about the future. Our actions are the means to an end. We evangelize others because we love them. God will have mercy on whom He will have mercy, as the Scripture says. Nevertheless, God uses us to bring that about, through evangelization.

But the question the reviewer might consider asking is “why do we pray for people to get saved?” Does God have any control over that? If God is powerless, why pray for the salvation of our friends? But I think the reviewer knows that God is not powerless to save people. Instead, God is able to change the very heart of man. God can transform someone from a god-hating atheist to a God-loving believer. All the glory and credit for that goes to the power of God, not to the free will of man.

23. Theo 202 blogs

This review particularly liked appendix five of Geisler’s book, in which Geisler attempts to address certain passages of Scripture. I think this reviewer would really love The Potter’s Freedom, because that book spends a very substantial amount of space in providing a detailed analysis of some of the central Biblical texts in the discussion.

24. In Christ Alone

This review focused on chapters three and four of Geisler’s book, “Who’s in Charge?” and “Why Blame Me?” I suspect that this reviewer would be happy to find that we agree with the points he took away, namely that God is in charge and that we are to blame when we sin.

25. DAVIDLITTLE20

This review was the first review to be sharply critical of Geisler’s book. It recommend J. I. Packer’s “Knowing God,” as a better alternative. I bet the reviewer would find “The Potter’s Freedom” to be a breath of fresh air in terms of tackling each of Geisler’s points and demonstrating the mistakes, while explaining what the Scriptures have to say about the topic.

26. kristin5129

This review remarkably took the position that Geisler didn’t take sides in the Calvinism/Arminianism debate. Still, the reviewer indicated an appreciation for the need to search the scriptures more diligently. Perhaps this reviewer would enjoy Dr. White’s still more diligent searching of the Scriptures in “The Potter’s Freedom.”

27. Jordan’s Blog

This review focused on chapter 4 (Why Blame Me?). The review boils down to an affirmation of the idea that men are to be blamed because they have “free will.” The review seems to miss – at least to some extent – the fact that the real issue is the fact that men have a will, as opposed to the fact that it is, in some sense, “free.” Jonathan Edwards’ “Freedom of the Will,” provides an excellent explanation of the difference.

28. Theology 202: The Debates

This review presented some agreement with Geisler’s position, and in particular argued against “extreme Calvinism” on the basis of omnibenevolence:

I disagree with the extreme Calvinist view that God is not really all loving since I do believe that God loves the world. I do not define the word love by any official dictionary but I define the word love according to 1 Corinthians 13. I believe that He demonstrate His love for us by being patient, kind, justice, and forgiving to all of mankind. He provides a way for us to escape the punishment of sin for everyone that believes in His son.

Let’s explore this argument. Is Hell real? Yes. Does God forgive those in hell? Clearly he does not, for they are in hell. Is he kind to them? Well, he’s torturing them for eternity. Is he patient with them? He may have been patient with them previously, but his patience for them has run out. Now, they are in hell. Does he provide them with a way of escape? Maybe he did before they were in hell, but he does not now that they are in hell. Using the very criteria that this reviewer has selected, therefore, we can see that God is not strictly speaking omnibenevolent. Perhaps the reviewer will insist that God is still very benevolent, and I would agree with that. But without omnibenevolence, the reviewer’s central objection to what Geisler has misleading labelled “extreme Calvinism” collapses.

29. Nora’s Blog

This review focuses on the issue of limited atonement. The reviewer adopts Geisler’s bad nomenclature of “Extreme Calvinist” to describe those who hold to this Calvinist position. The reviewer actually goes so far as to state that Calvinists reject substitionary atonement. The reviewer stated:

Calvinists go even further in their disagreement of limited atonement by rejecting substitutionary atonement. Substitutionary atonement teaches that Jesus died as a substitution for all humankind. Calvinists reject substitutionary atonement simply because it is in direct discord with their belief that Jesus did not die for all of human kind, but rather for His exclusive elect

This could hardly be farther from the truth. The substitutionary atonement is Jesus dying in the place of his people. Only those who hold to limited atonement can properly affirm this doctrine, since only those who hold to limited atonement can say that Christ actually substituted himself for his people. Those who hold to a universal atonement must make Christ’s work non-substitutionary, at least with respect to those in hell. If you are suffering for your sins in hell, Christ has not suffered instead of you – at best according to those who hold to a universal atonement, Christ has suffered in addition to you.

30. Meredith Ann’s Blog

This review was another favorable review of Geisler’s book. The reviewer focused on issues related to forgiveness and the atonement. But the reviewer’s comments seemed to be confused. For example, the reviewer wrote:

Finally, Geisler speaks about whether certain gifts, such as faith, is only given to elect people. (page 228-237) However, specifically speaking about forgiveness on page 232-233; Geisler notes that forgiveness is a gift. This is solely because Christ died on the cross. Because of His death and forgave us of all of our sins, which in my opinion is a pretty nice gift to receive. Geisler also mentions that the gift of forgiveness is not just for elect people. The gift of forgiveness is meant for all of believe; Acts 13:38-39. I completely agree with Geisler on this view point. Mainly because if forgiveness was only for elect people, then what would our faith really be based on? John 3:16 states that “For God so loved the WORLD…”, not “For God so loved the riches people in the nation.” It completely invalidates the claim that Christ came into this world to forgive us, but yet only a handful of people will actually be allowed to receive his forgiveness. This is why I approve of Geisler’s response to the concept of forgiveness.

Perhaps the reviewer should consider that if our sins our forgiven, there is no judgment. If God has forgiven us all of our sins, then we will not go to hell, because God cannot justly punish a sin that He has forgiven.

On the other hand, if God has not forgiven everyone their sins, then forgiveness is only for a subset of people. In fact, the very verse that the reviewer quoted proves this, for it does not stop at “For God so loved the world,” but continues “that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” “Whosoever believeth” is not “everyone in the world” it is “everyone who believes.” It is a subset. All are offered forgiveness, if they will repent of their sins and trust in Christ, but not everyone receives the forgiveness of sins.

(I will attempt to address some more reviews in a subsequent post.)

-TurretinFan


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