Monday, February 27, 2006

I Shall Loose None and Yet Some Will Be Cut Off

What follows is a slightly edited version of something I posted at Semper Reformanda, as further clarification of the post below this one.

It is clear that in Matthew 7 (which is a Gospel written primarily for the Jews) Christ is talking to God's Covenant people. Covenant people are God's people; these people were the wife of God, Covenantally speaking. These same people could, and many would, be cut off from the covenant people of God for rejecting Jesus Christ (see Rom. 11). Even today the Lord's covenant people (the Church) can be cut off as we see in Romans 11 and many other portions of the New Covenant Scriptures.

All God's covenant people, who are not predestined, before the foundation of the world, to persevere in the faith will hear these terrible words from the mouth of Christ: "I never knew you: depart from me..."

In one since all Covenant people are attached to Christ, this is by circumcision in the Old Covenant and by baptism in the New Covenant. And yet we see these same covenant peoples, in both Old and New Covenants, threatened with being cut off and we see that some are cut off from the People of God.

This is why "All" Israel was not Israel, and also why God's covenant people (branches connected to the vine -John 15:3-8) can be "cut off" and cast into the fire. Some of God's covenant people are wheat, whom God knows salvifically, and some of God's covenant people are tares. In the parable of the wheat and tare, some folks miss the fact that the parable is about the kingdom of heaven. The field is God's kingdom, and it contains both wheat and tares (Matt 13:24). It is to these people, the tares, that Christ will say "I never knew you: depart from me..."

We can be part of the people of God (saints/holy/set apart from the world), be part of the bride of Christ (the church), be in Christ (as branches, connected to a vine or olive branches connected to a tree) and at the same time be tares instead of wheat in the kingdom of God. In both Old and New Covenants we find that the people of GOd are a mixed multitude. All of them bare the outward sign of the covenant, circumcision in the Old and Baptism in the New, but not all of them have circumcised hearts and have made their calling and election sure (II Peter 1:10) by trusting in Christ as Lord and Saviour.

I think the big problem with the debate over whether or not one can loose his/her salvation has to do with the fact that we don't read these things in the biblical context of "Covenant." It is only in light of covenant that we can make perfect sense of the promises that none that the Father gives to Christ will be loss, and at the same time acknowledge the fact that some in Christ can be "cut off."

If we ignore covenant and play proof text table tennis, than we are implicitly saying that the Bible says contradictory things on this issue, and (as we all know) that is not the case.

In Christ,

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Can't Stop Discussing Perseverance
I am once again in a discussion of "perseverance" on the Semper Reformanda section of Christian Forums. Earlier I was discussing it with Calvinists who had mixed up the idea of perseverance with "once saved, always saved" (OSAS). Now I'm discussing it with a couple of Roman Catholics (one who is Augustinian) who assume that Reformed perseverance is no more than OSAS.

Here is my latest post:
Ok; so far we have several verses presented that clearly teach that one can not be lost if they are called by the Father. All those who are called in this way are not lost and will not be lost. They will persevere in the faith until the end. Calvin certainly believed this, as did St. Augustine.
WR presented 12 verses that he says contradict the perseverance teaching of Calvinists because, according to WR, “All of them clearly affirm the reality of “apostasy.’”

Here again we find that WR does not understand Reformed thought. Reformed Christians clearly believe in apostasy. The Scriptures themselves give us examples of apostasy, and we find countless about apostasy in both the Old and New Covenants.

What often happens when these verses are set up next to one another is we get into a game of proof text tennis. Each side bounces its verses across the net, but they are often ignored by the other side, and the other side quickly lobs it’s on “proof text back the other way.

We know that both set of texts are true. They are both yea and amen. Throwing them back and forth is useless, and does a disservice to the Word of God, because it seems to imply that one set or the other is false, but this can not be and is not so.

The Scriptures are ALL God’s Word and our theology must be able to make sense of both sets of texts in context. I think the Reformed Faith does this better than anyone else, and it does so by using and teaching the biblical concept of covenant.

Q: Who were the Scriptures written to?
A: The Scriptures were written to God’s Covenant people.

Q: Are all God’s covenant people “His people?”
A: Yes

Q: Are they all saints (set apart-holy)?
A: Yes.

Q: Can a saint apostatise?
A: Yes.

Q: Are all saints elect unto eternal salvation?
A: No.

Q: Are they all wheat?
A: No, many of God’s covenant people are tares and will, on the final day, be judged.

Q: Were those who will be damned ever “in Christ?”
A: Yes, they were grafted into Christ (covenantally) in their baptism. They were part of Christ Church, His bride, which is where there is Salvation, and it is a grave and terrible sin for one who has been baptised and grafted into Christ to not make his election and salvation sure. This is one who proves that he was a tare and not wheat.

Q: Can you and I tell the wheat from the tares?
A: No, but all the wheat will persever as wheat.

Q: What will Christ say, on the last day, to everyone who forsook his/her membership in Christ and His Church, by not making his election and salvation sure?
A: “But He will say, 'I tell you I do not know you, where you are from. Depart from Me, all you workers of iniquity.'”

Either the Bible is contradictory, or these different proof texts (used by both sides) must be understood in light of covenant. In order to teach and understand covenant, we must be willing to think and not insist on a simple either/or situation. There is a bit more nuance involved in the Scriptures than most people and theologies are willing to deal with. Our theology MUST allow us to accept both sets of proof texts as true or we must dump our theology. We have to be able to explain them without contradiction. I believe The Reformed faith does this better than anyone else that I have studied, including some modern "Reformed" statements on the subject that seem to miss some important nuances and defend more of an OSAS position, instead of a covenantal understanding of covenant and perseverance.

The RCC position does deal with some of these things, but those Catholics who do believe in predestination fail (IMHO) to fully address the Scriptures that mention God loosing none who come to Christ and are given him by the Father.

I don't think they can explain the fact that Christ, on the day of judgement, can say to those who fell away “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!” They fell away, covenantally, and yet He never knew them, because they never made their calling and election sure. Had they done so they would have persevered. As John says of those who apostatise, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.

Apostasy is very real ,as is perseverance of the saints. The historic Reformed position, which is Covenantal, takes all Scripture seriously.

Coram Deo,

Sunday, February 19, 2006

The Old Covenant and Cajun Cooking
I am so thankful that we are not bound to keep the Old Covenant dietary laws. If we were than we Cajuns would have to give up almost all our favourite foods.

We would no longer be able to eat our sausages, boudin, andouille, taso and (of course) hoghead cheese, all of which contain pork. We would also have to do without most of our sauce piquants, etouffees, and court bouillons, because they contain shrimp, crawfish or catfish all of which are not allowed by the “shadows” which are the Old Covenant dietary laws.

Our gumbos too would suffer. Seafood gumbos would not be possible because they contain shrimp, crabs and lots of times oysters as well. Regular chicken and sausage gumbo would have to be made without the sausage.

Worst of all we would have to give up our crawfish, shrimp and crab boils.

These laws would also do away with many of our favourite American foods as well. No Cheeseburgers (can’t mix dairy and meat) and Pepperoni and other pizzas that contain meat would also have to go.

I am so thankful for the Jerusalem Council in the Book of Acts and James’ decision where we learn that we are no longer to be bound by the shadows of the Old Covenant law.

The staple of the Cajun meal is rice; keep that in mind as you read below. Cajuns take God’s command to Peter seriously “rise, kill and eat.” There is an old Cajun joke about to Cajuns out in the rice field working when they see a Flying saucer land and an alien get out. One Cajun turns to the other
“Wat do you tink dat is?” the other replies as he picks up his shotgun, “ I don’t know. Go cook some rice!”

Coram Deo,

Friday, February 17, 2006

St. Augustine: On the Gift of Perseverance

This morning I finished reading St. Augustine’s Treatise on the Gift of Perseverance. What a great read. I love reading the fathers of the Church and Augustine soars above most of them. I wish every Roman Catholic would read this treatise by Augustine. If they did they would see how closely (mirror image) we Calvinists are doctrinally aligned with the great St. Augustine on the subjects of predestination and perseverance.

I highly recommend this work to all my Reformed brethren. It is not that long, and is a gold mind. Augustine deals with so many of the objections to predestination and perseverance that still comes up today. After more than 1,500 years, so many of the objections remain the same.

Read this treatise; you will not regret it.

Coram Deo,