Thursday, October 19, 2017

Prevenient Grace For All People

When I tell a Calvinist that I believe in a prevenient grace (the grace of God that comes before regeneration or conversion) they are usually shocked simply because most of them are grossly unaware of what classical Arminians believe. The assumption is usually made that all Arminians are outright Pelagians or at the very least, semi-Pelagians. But Jacob Arminius (b:1560, d:1609) refuted that assertion clearly in his writing called Works, showing the freewill of fallen man is completely broken:
"In this [fallen] state, the Free Will of man towards the True Good is not only wounded, maimed, infirm, bent and weakened; but it is also imprisoned, destroyed, and lost: And its powers are not only debilitated and useless unless they be assisted by grace, but it has no power whatever except such as are excited by Divine grace." 
So once the shock has worn off that Arminians believe in prevenient grace, Calvinists usually try to argue against it by oversimplifying the issue and saying something like, "Prevenient grace is not taught anywhere in the Bible." Ironically, Calvinists themselves believe in prevenient grace with the difference being they believe God's grace is irresistible whereas Arminians do not. But, of course, other vital and orthodox doctrines are not explicitly represented in Scripture, e.g. the word, "trinity" is not in the Bible, but it can be logically, reasonably and rationally derived from many passages and no Calvinist (or Arminian) would deny its veracity or orthodoxy.

So saying prevenient grace is not "in the Bible" is really not a good argument against it. Neither are other ad hoc doctrines Calvinists teach "in the Bible" (e.g. limited atonement, evanescent grace, reprobation, etc.). But when any of us attempt to systematize our theology and give Scripture its proper and highest place of authority in our doctrine, we are inevitably going to have to extrapolate to ideas like these that are not expressly in the Scriptures in order to even have a hope of explaining what we believe to others. 

So, I'm OK with a doctrine not being explicitly "in the Bible" as long as it can be logically, reasonably and rationally derived from the Bible and not hold it in contradiction.

I offer the following as a short list showing how God is always at work drawing all men to repentance and faith in Christ. It is by no means a complete list; merely exemplary of the Arminian doctrine of prevenient grace. Notice that the things stated in these passages of Scripture are applied universally to mankind and not just to believers (the elect).


    "Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in His own image" (Genesis 9:6)


    For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus. (Romans 2:14-16)


    For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For His invisible attributes, namely, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. (Romans 1:18-20)


    "And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself." (John 12:32)


    "Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send Him to you. And when He comes, He will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged." (John 16:7-11)


    Or do you presume on the riches of His kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? (Romans 2:4)

    How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, 'How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!' But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, 'Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?' So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. (Romans 10:14-17)

Thursday, September 28, 2017

The Two Bodies of Philippians 3:20-21

An Easy & Clear Refutation of Full Preterism

Full preterists teach that Jesus Christ returned in His Second Coming in AD 70 when the Romans surrounded Jerusalem and then destroyed both the city and the Temple. Their emphasis is to take the "time statements" of the New Testament literally and then interpret every single other New Testament passage through that lens. This inevitably results in the twisting of other plain scriptures and ends up undermining (often unknowingly to them) the very foundational doctrines of Christian orthodoxy. In fact, it changes every single one of them. I was caught in this horrible doctrine for more than 15 years. But there was one question that kept bothering me. And when this question was finally emphasized and asked to me out loud, it saved me out of this mindset and literally saved my mind from its pollution. That question is now the first and only one that I ask every full preterist or those considering its doctrines:

Is Jesus Christ still a man?

The answer to this one question will destroy the very foundation of full preterism. If you answer "no" then you have not only contradicted scripture but also 2000 years of Christian orthodoxy and it proves you are not aware of the rich history of this question. If you answer "yes" then you cannot be a full preterist any longer.

The following is an actual dialog I had with a full preterist trying to deal with the Philippians 3:20-21 passage that absolutely demolishes the foundation of full preterism. Full preterism cannot handle Jesus Christ maintaining His eternal glorified immortal physical body He received at His resurrection. In attempts to maintain their doctrine they must have Jesus somehow sloughing off His physical body (thus making Him no longer a man) at His ascension. Why? Because their doctrine demands they must maintain Jesus' Second Coming occurred in AD 70 which, consequently, would require that Jesus return invisibly (i.e. not in a physical body), since, obviously, no one saw Him in bodily form at that time. Actually, no one saw Him at all, but that's another discussion.

The problem Philippians 3:20-21 presents to the full preterist is exemplified in the following dialog. The passage has two simultaneously existing bodies not lending itself for full preterist interpretation. The passage says:
"But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself."

This transformation occurs at the Second Coming of Jesus Christ which the full preterist tries to maintain as having already occurred in AD 70. But there are two bodies simultaneously existing before the transformation, and two bodies simultaneously existing after the transformation. One body is not being transformed into the other as the full preterist tries to say, but rather the one is being transformed to be like the other.

Watch how the full preterist tries to progressively answer the issue. Here is the sequence of answers he gives after he notices the failure of his previous answer:
  1. It is not a physical body; dismissal.
  2. "His glorious body" is the redeemed church; New Jerusalem.
  3. "Our lowly body" is the old body of Israel & it is being transformed into "His glorious body" (the Body of Christ)
  4. The passage represents the alread-but-not-yet idea in the New Testament.
  5. No response...
Again, each of his answers fail for the simple reason he does not see paul is not describing the transformation of one body into the other body but the transforming of the one body to be like the other body; two simultaneously existing bodies are maintained in the passage.

The real answer is very simple and falls out of the orthodox doctrine of Jesus Christ being eternally incarnate; a doctrine that has been affirmed by mainline Christianity (Catholic, Protestant, Eastern Orthodox) for 2000 years. This doctrine maintains that Jesus Christ is still a man of flesh, albeit that flesh is immortal & glorified. At the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, "our lowly body" (our physical mortal flesh) will be transformed to be like "His glorious body" (His physical glorified immortal flesh). That clearly did not happen in AD 70. Paul is speaking of the physical resurrection in our future. Our lives of death and resurrection are to follow the pattern set by our Savior. He lived for God; so should we. He physically died; so will we. He was physically resurrected; so will we be. He is a man forever; so will we be.

ME: Jesus Christ is still a man; eternally incarnate. This one fact drew me out of 15+ years of full preterism and the dozens of books and hundreds of articles I'd read and studied during that time. This one fact destroys the entire foundation of full preterism. This one passage will defy every full preterist exegete: "But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself." (Philippians 3:20-21). Let the ad hominem and tap dance begin...
ME: There are two bodies in the above passage:
1. His glorious body
2. Our lowly body 
Which one is the "wrong body"?
FULL PRETERIST: Your understanding of the nature. His glorious body is the redeemed church; the New Jerusalem.
ME: With that in mind, now read Philippians 3:20-21 again. Here, I'll help you...
"But our citizenship is in heaven and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ who will transform our lowly body to be like his [redeemed church; the New Jerusalem], by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself."
How is "our lowly body" (which is the church) to be transformed into the redeemed church? In other words, how is it that Paul is saying that the church is being transformed into the church? 
FULL PRETERIST: My fault. I was not clear enough. The old body the body of Israel is transformed into the new body which is the body of Christ. Both are corporate. If it is to be understood individually then it is not for anyone today. And it only applied to first-century Saints. 
ME: So Paul and his fellow believers were not yet the body of Christ when he wrote this? Please show me in scripture where Paul tells his fellow believers that they are not yet part of the body of Christ. 
FULL PRETERIST: They were in the already not yet. 
ME: Since when is the body of Christ called a "lowly body"? And regarding the "already not yet", make that fit in the passage please. Here, I'll help you again... 
"But our citizenship is in heaven and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ who will transform our [currently existing] lowly [not yet] body to be like his [currently existing] glorious [already] body by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself." 
Do you still not see it? There are two simultaneously existing bodies when Paul wrote this before AD 70. One already exists on earth (the lowly body) and one simultaneously exists in heaven (Jesus' glorious body). The two bodies coexist when Paul wrote. But the lowly will be transformed into a body just like the glorious body (Jesus') that already exists as Paul wrote. One is not being transformed to actually become the other one which didn't exist yet; instead it is going to be transformed to be like the other one. Two coexisting bodies when Paul wrote and two coexisting bodies when the transformation is done at Christ's return from heaven. 
Try again. 
I realize nothing that I say will change your mind because... well... 'THE TIME STATEMENTS!!!!" Trust me, I understand; I was a full preterist for more than 15 years. This passage will set you free if you let it.