The costly grace of following Jesus in Luke 14

In the gospel reading for Trinity 12 in Year C, Luke 14.25–33, we complete our navigation through this section of Jesus’ intermingled teaching and action until we hit the landfall of the ‘parables of the lost’ next week in Luke 15. The double focus on the crowds and discipleship, the drawing together of teaching found in different places in the other gospels, and the lack of specific location all continue as hallmarks of Luke’s record of Jesus in this section.

The first saying here, about ‘hating’ one’s kinship group, is found in Matt 10.37–39, following on in that gospel from the saying about bringing division and a sword that we heard earlier in this one in Luke 12.51–53. In both Luke and Matthew, it is immediately followed by the saying about taking up one’s cross, which echoes the pivotal saying in Mark 8.34 = Matt 16.24 = Luke 9.23. The middle pair of sayings, about the person building a tower and the king going to war and first assessing the cost of the respective projects, is found in Luke alone—which is interesting, since when I first read it, it seemed so familiar I was sure it was in the other Synoptics as well. It isn’t. The final saying in this section, which belongs to it but is cut off by the arbitrary snip of the lectionary scissors, is found in Matt 5.13 connected to the sayings about the disciples being the ‘light of the world’ and ‘salt of the earth’. Since the lectionary is ‘advisory’, then when reading this together you should really continue to the end of the chapter, and consider all these sayings together.

As is common in this section of Luke, the scene shifts abruptly without any explanation or any attempt to locate accurately the place where this teaching happens. Jesus has been at dinner in the preceding verses, and teaching about the kingdom of God in relation to the table; now it appears he is on the road again. Crowds follow him on the road, as they have done previously—but once more there is a distinction to be made between the crowds and the disciples of Jesus. The crowds form the potential pool of those who might ‘follow’ him in the stricter sense, but for many that decision of discipleship has not yet been realised.

Jesus then repeats one of many ‘anti-family’ sayings sprinkled through Luke’s gospel (Luke 8.19–21, 9.52–69, 12.51–53, 18.29, 21.16), but it is also worth noting the implicit connection with the politics of the table in the previous episode. If the kingdom of God and loyalty to Jesus are going to redraw the boundaries of honour, social stratification and kinship allegiance, then traditional ties of family are going to be strained by the demands of discipleship. We need to remember that Jesus said this in a culture where family and tribal identity and loyalty were much stronger than they are in modern Western culture—and it is quite hard to think ourselves into such a context.

The language of ‘hate’ sounds very disturbing to the ordinary reader’s ear—but in fact Jesus is here deploying common Jewish hyperbole to contrast two different attitudes. The roots of this language are found in the OT: in Gen 29.31, Laban’s greater love for Rachel is described (in Hebrew and Greek) as ‘hatred’ of Leah. (See also the similar comparison in Deut 21.15–17). Jesus is insisting that his disciples ‘must put Jesus so strongly at the centre of their thinking that they will appear to others as despisers or haters of their closest relatives’ (Danker, 1988, p 272 cited in Parsons, Paideia, p 229).

Jeff Robinson over at The Gospel Coalition explores this:

Matthew 10:37 may provide the interpretational key to unlock what Jesus means by “hate” here: “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” Yes, we are to exhibit deep affections for our closest earthly kin, but Jesus is saying we must love even them less than we do him if we would prove to be genuine disciples. Of course, it’s also true that I will love my family and friends well in direct to proportion to the depth of my love for Jesus.

Jesus is not demanding that you literally hate your family. He is using hyperbole to illustrate the steep cost of following him. Any prospective follower must be glad to give up everything, to love him unreservedly—to sell all in order to have him as your highest treasure (Matt. 13:44–46). Our affections for Christ must be of such an intensity and quality that, by comparison, all other loves seem like hate.

This is the first of three sobering warnings in Luke 14:26-33 against making a hasty decision to follow Jesus. A genuine disciple must:

  1. Love Jesus even more than your earthly family (v. 26).
  2. Take up your cross and follow him (v. 27).
  3. Be willing to lay down everything—even your life—and go hard after him (v. 33).

The image of bearing one’s cross is not at all connected with putting up with natural burdens, as is suggested by the common use of the saying now; crucifixion was an everyday reality, and if you saw someone carrying their cross you knew that their life had come to an end. (‘Every criminal condemned to death bears his cross on his back’, Plutarch Sera 554A–B.) Note the personal emphasis in Jesus’ saying: each must carry his or her own cross.

The twin illustrations of building a tower and going to war would have been easily understood by Jesus’ listeners, and need not imply anything about the context or the audience. Towers were not only built to protect city walls, but were a common site in fields for use as a look-out to guard crops from those who might steal them. Some commentators focus on the question of humiliation; after all, the person with an incomplete tower would look a fool, and a king who sued for peace without the strength to fight a war might find him and his people enslaved. To follow Jesus might also involved humiliation, as Jesus himself was humiliated on the cross, so the stories could be read as an invitation to ‘choose your humiliation’. But surely the more important point is this: that neither the builder nor the king actually achieved their goal. If we do not count the cost of discipleship at the point of commitment, then we are in danger of missing out on the goal of following Jesus at all—which is eternal life in the kingdom.

The final saying about saltiness makes less sense to us than to Jesus and his audience, since we cannot quite imagine salt becoming unsalty. But salt from the Dead Sea was in fact a mixture of all sorts of things, salt itself only being one ingredient. If the salt crystals themselves were dissolved away, then the remaining residue would be useless, fit for nothing. ‘The Lukan Jesus is here concerned with commitment, not with chemistry’ (Parsons, p 231). (Note that the final summary to pay attention, ‘Those with ears to hear, let them here’, parallels the saying at the end of each of the messages to the seven assemblies in Revelation, yet another connection between the two works.)

There are a number of very practical implications of Jesus’ teaching here, both for the wider church and for each of us as disciples.

First is the question of crowds. Numbers matter, because numbers represent people. Crowds are good, if that means that many will hear the challenging invitation to hear the good news of Jesus and to follow him. You might not yet be planning to install a helter-skelter or a mini golf course in your church building, but if you do then the crowds will come. The question, though, is what you do with those crowds. Will some of them make the transition to become disciples? If not, want was the point in creating a crowd in the first place?

Second is the question of grace. There has been some controversy about the message of Nadia Bolz Weber, and her call that we should cast off the moralistic burden of purity culture and feel no shame about sex and sexuality, even if that means have multiple sexual partners. There are some serious questions to be asked of her approach, but I was struck by a comment online by a good friend whom I respect:

I think it’s wise to take time to reflect on the discomfort she creates and to appreciate the good. She is certainly right about being more honest – the lack of honesty for generations is a key issue in all C of E arguments about sexuality. I liked this quote: “I believe in grace so much that I have no shame in admitting why I need it, so there are very few things that I really carry shame about in my life. Not that I haven’t: I have, but I just believe in grace.” She talks very openly about the grace that she has discovered in God, and that is appealing to many people.

Radical forgiveness undoubtedly is an essential part of grace—but on its own it is not grace. If it were, then the Jesus of Luke 14 is not gracious, and that is a problem, since consistently in the NT Jesus is the measure and the embodiment of grace. This grace, if it really is the grace of God, moves beyond forgiveness and calls us into the life of Jesus. ‘The student is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher’ (Luke 6.40). If the life of grace was costly for him, then it will costly for us too if it really is the grace of God.

The third point follows on from this, and relates to the way we understand Jesus’ costly call to us. Jesus does not demand our totally loyalty because he is some tinpot despot, who will remove the party whip from us if we do not vote for him in every motion. He demands our totally loyalty because he loves us, and knows that this alone is the path of fulness of life that he longs for us to walk. If Jesus really is ‘the way, the truth and the life’ (John 14.6) then if we refuse to follow in costly obedience, then we are actually refusing his gift of grace.

When I came to faith in an evangelical church, I was taught the mantra ‘If Jesus is not Lord of all, he is not Lord at all’. The aim of this saying was to challenge us to total commitment to Jesus in every area of our life. But I wonder now if it has a different significance: if we don’t follow Jesus in every area of our life, we are in danger of missing out on the life that his Lordship brings. There are two kingdoms: the kingdom of this world, which is passing away, and the kingdom of God, the world to come that is breaking in in the ministry of Jesus and is made real by the Spirit at work in our lives. Jesus here teaches us: you cannot have joint citizenship. You belong in the one kingdom or the other—and only one leads to life eternal.

‘The cross is laid on every Christian. It begins with the call to abandon the attachments of this world… When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die’ (Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, p 73). Thus German theologian and martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer captures the stark demands made by the gospel. This radical obedience and absolute allegiance may sound harsh and impossible to most contemporary Christians in the West. And yet the history of the church is filled with those who have heard this call and responded with utter abandonment. (Parsons, Paideia, p 231).

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173 thoughts on “The costly grace of following Jesus in Luke 14”

  1. Hi Ian,

    In reference to the mantra you learned as a new convert “If Jesus is not lord of all he is not lord at all” – you say “But I wonder now if it has a different significance: if we don’t follow Jesus in every area of our life, we are in danger of missing out on the life that his Lordship brings”.

    But in the verse before the passage which is the subject of today’s article we are told something much more severe that that (your mantra is perfectly consistent with it) (v24):
    “For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.’”

    The message of verse 24 is if your faith doesn’t lead you to offer up everything you don’t have saving faith.

    And who gets told this. Is it murderers? Is it people who live their life to exercise their greed? No – it’s people who say that work or marriage is a reason why one’s faith might need to be made a lesser priority. And yet on the matter of work – isn’t this standard behaviour in the first world among those who claim a faith? Isn’t the normal practise for people say to God “Where do you want me to earn?” instead of “What do you want me to do?”

    I am currently homeless – I have been for months – but God has made it clear to me that in such circumstances I am not entitled to make my first priority the acquisition of money. If I did it would be no different than if a billionaire gets out of bed and lives for the acquisition of money.

    The bible refuses to diminish its definition of Christian from one who loves God more than his own life – more than anything he is – or has – or has access to – or may want.

    This means that church is only for those who have made this choice – or those seeking who are honest in recognising they have yet to do so – not for those who are dishonest in their identifying as a person of faith while not being fully submitted to God.

    On the subject of the renewal of churches my suggestion is that those whose within a church whose behaviour (as distinct from their personal profession) is consistent with their being “full on” – absolutely committed to worshipping God alone – should be gathering with those who are the same – and all events in the church’s life that aren’t cancelled – which continue to happen – should involve those people leading.

    There are two major forces which are – whether or not they directly seek to – undermining the idea that one cannot be a Christian without having offered everything to God. The first is Calvinism and the second is liberalism. Calvinism CANNOT find a place for Christianity being about us dying with Jesus and rising with him due to its insistence that repentance is the RESULT of conversion instead of something that must pre-exist for us to become right with God. Calvinism amounts to saying that we must rise with Jesus in order to be able to die with him. For the reasons I have explained above about our needing to pay the price of faith BEFORE turning to God is a principle that reaches to the very heart of what a Christian is.

    Liberalism takes Calvinist logic a step further – if (a holy) God is able to accept an unrepentant person – causing them to repent – at conversion – then why not all the time?

    It’s time for those here who argue for Calvinism to be silenced – I have successfully disproved their Calvinism this very day. In an exchange below Ian’s other article “Does God have something against us?” I challenged John Thompson to explain how Ephesians 4:22-24 – which talks about US being separate from either our OLD NATURE or NEW NATURE – and refers to us being able to put off and put on the natures (proving that ultimate control of our natures lies with us – they only control us to the extent to which we set our minds on them – Romans 8) – could be read in any way compatible with Calvinism. Here was the key part of John’s reply (you can go to the article to read the rest):

    “I agree there is an ‘us’ or a responsible ‘I’. The ‘I’ makes the decisions however these decisions are governed by a nature”.

    I replied to explain that this is EXACTLY the opposite conclusion to the plain reading of the passage. Which is that we can put our natures off and on.

    I hope that Ian will see that my raising Calvinism in relationship to an article about having to turn way from all other things in order to be right with God is absolutely relevant and necessary.

    The issue which then arises is – how should Calvinism be seen – as a secondary or a primary error of doctrine? It is treated currently in the worldwide church as a secondary issue – an issue over which one can agree to disagree – can anyone who takes that view explain their reasoning for their view? Calvinism suggests that God comes to us while we are unrepentant (contravening passages like Psalm 66:18-19 which says that God doesn’t even listen to the prayers of the unrepentant) – it suggests that it is possible for someone to be saved BEFORE they turn from sin. How can these be secondary matters – when these beliefs amount to making half of the cross invisible (it preserves Jesus dying and rising for our sin – but erases the fact that saving faith is dying with Jesus and so – somehow – to rise with him).

    • Belong the same article I also asked John to explain Acts 3:19 in the light of Calvinism (search the other article for Acts 3:19) – and he responded:
      “We must remember that theological sequences and experiential sequences are not necessarily the same”. Again the rest of John’s reply can be read under the article.
      I responded by pointing out that if that was the case the verse would have no possible reason to exist. It exists only to explain the order of two things. If there was any possible doubt that Ephesians 4:22-24 defeated Calvinism (there is absolutely none!) I showed John and any Calvinist a second reason why Calvinism CANNOT be a correct theological system (unless on the second issue the Calvinist wishes to suggest that God raising the non-believer to life is not their conversion – I haven’t met a Calvinist yet who has attempted to argue that. Even if the Calvinist did argue that it wouldn’t erase Ephesians 4:22-24).

        • Hello Philip,
          I found Ian’s work on the pairs of evangelists quite revealing. I noticed that the parable of the good Samaritan followed closely. Almost as if it was a real event of an unnamed disciple who went off alone ignoring the injunction to travel with a companion. He took with him money and presumably all the other things forbidden for this mission. In the end Jesus rescued him. Was it after or before his invite to Zachaeus house? Who knows. The problem I see with many gifted people, like you, is that they cannot work in a team. Take Jock for example. How long before is increadible stock og glowing coals grows slowly cold? Or me. I like to work alone most of the time but I do force myself to volunteer at a charity. You give me the unsettling feeling that you are close to the edge. Ian needs to make some sort of pastoral attempt to reach out to you. My take on your erudition is this: get teamed up . Find idiots beneath your intellect and learn how to live in relationship. John has been very gracious. I disagree with a lot of his comments but then I disagree with myself half of the time too. Both of you spend too much time trying to work out everything. Always learning but … Festus had a point.

          • Hi Steve,

            I didn’t come up with the principle that a Christian is someone who before being forgiven has turned from all they find identity in – and all higher priorities – to worship God alone. The passage that is the subject of today’s article presents that principle. You make no mention of either the principle or your personal relationship with it. Do you acknowledge its existence? If so do you bow before it as true? As part of bowing before it do you treat it is primary? Do you believe that the church should treat those who profess a faith but who believe either that repentance is the RESULT of saving faith – or who treat faith as something which only leads to our bowing entirely before God over time – as family – or not? (These things deny that Christianity is not just Jesus dying and rising for us – but also us dying with Christ in order to rise with him). Jesus says (v24 – the verse before today’s passage) that those who maintain ANY competing priorities aren’t welcome at the banquet table. What do you say? Are they welcome?

            Ephesians 4 says that unity only grows as holiness grows. Unity isn’t our showing tolerance for the primary wrongdoing of others. It is the result of two or more people submitting to the lordship of Jesus. What this proves then is that I don’t have the ability to CREATE unity only in my decisions. I can damage unity – by my behaviour towards those who also submit wholly to the lord Jesus – and if so I must repair the damage. But I cannot create unity alone.

            You mention living on the edge. this may or may not be relevant to growth in holiness and therefore to unity. If I was in a church but trusting God for provision while having no income would I be on the edge? Is Paul’s experience in 2 Corinthians 11 in which he talks about going without food and also at times shelter proof of his being in spiritual danger? Clearly not. This seems to leave only whether one’s limited relationship with the wider church is proof of one’s being in spiritual danger. The answer has to be possibly yes – and possibly no. The reason it isn’t proof is the majority can be disobedient as we see all through scripture. Exhibit A – Elijah and the prophets of Baal. It’s clear from the Elijah example that being aligned with the majority isn’t proof of anything. The things I would be looking for in the loner – as a test of the direction of their spirituality – is “Do they believe that God raises up imperfect people to be perfectly useful mentors?” And if you asked me that question my answer would be absolutely yes. I’m 57 and have never been an elder in a church – my default attitude has been to seek to find a church in which I fit – to learn from those leading and from the body. I’m only sensing now – after more than forty-five years of knowing God that God may now use me in some way to lead. I should be clear – I believe he already is. I hope that the forty-five years I’ve been a Christian proves to be adequate preparation in God’s eyes – since at my age some people are booking into retirement villages.

            I remain absolutely committed to learning from those with whom I disagree. I am in primary disagreement with Ian about sex differences – I cannot see in the light of Romans 1 and 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 – each listing homosexuality as directly related to turning from God and turning to God – how sex differences – which have to be the foundation for marriage (since neither parenting nor reproduction can be – I won’t divert to explain why) and for homosexuality being forbidden – can be anything other than primary teaching in scripture. This would mean that I wouldn’t attend Ian’s church – or allow Ian to be in leadership if I was a leader in my church. However I’m here aren’t I? I’m still seeking to connect – I am still learning from Ian. If for example you look at the comments below Ian’s inerrancy article you will see that I made extremely positive comment about it.

            On your observation about clever people – I believe that the more clever people on this forum are clever enough to realise that I am not intellectually clever – it would be my judgement that I am in the lower half of people on this forum intellectually. For what it’s worth my explanation for any superior understanding I have comes from my choosing to relate to God differently to some others. I believe for example that it isn’t enough to welcome God’s word without welcoming his presence (John 5:39) – if we do not do the latter we are a Pharisee. I test what I believe against my experience of God’s presence (Romans 8:16 – since this is the way in which the Bible says that we come to learn the truth). Any person who believes that God’s testifies the Truth (Jesus) to us Spirit to spirit will immediately realise that for example it’s impossible to confirm the truth of the idea that God loves me but has chosen to eternally punish others – and therefore since all faith must be Spirit to spirit Calvinism cannot be true. This for example means that I can actively seek out every principle that is only correct if some part of Calvinism is true to find out what is actually true. This simply principle has extremely far reaching implications. Another time I have applied it (come to think of it!) is realising for the same reason that original sin cannot be correct doctrine – because if it were then I cannot apply Adam and Eve’s free, knowing, and wilful sin to my life (since according to original sin that isn’t me – I am born inclined towards sin).

          • While it’s true that most Calvinists act as if conversion would not be complete without repentance – it is also true that Calvinism – in suggesting that we are regenerated before then repenting – contributes to the undermining of the gospel in suggesting we can be made right with God while unrepentant.

            If there is any doubt about whether that alone makes Calvinism primary doctrinal failure then the fact that Calvinism casts God as the mysterious excluder instead of a knowable includer absolutely HAS to remove doubt. This makes God – in his behaviour towards the majority non-elect (Matt 7:13-14) – the very opposite of what the bible reveals him in heart to be. This is something which CANNOT be overlooked.

  2. Hi Philip Benjamin … I hope you can reach out to Rev Ian pastorally.

    You said ” I am currently homeless – I have been for months “. If you are in the UK I really hope that you reach out for help. I know Rev Ian is a compassionate Minister Perhaps you could reach out to him.

    Please know that many people care about you and want you to have a secure place to be .

    • Thanks for your expression of concern Richie,
      But can I suggest that the issues raised by Ian’s article are far more important. Correct me if I am wrong they suggest that the UK church is in serious trouble – in operating across the board (with extremely rare exceptions) without any church discipline – as if any expression of faith should allow people to be treated as family. Said in other words this amounts to there having been a total collapse in the UK church in respect to holiness. This also leading to a failure of the church to be salt and light to the wider society – with predictable results.
      I therefore ask that all other comments be focused on issues raised by the article.

  3. I’m not able to juggle 5 balls at once. I don’t think about them either–much. I remember being confronted by a calvinist as a student; and a marxist; and someone who had to have sex with anyone but still maintained his Christian faith… The world was full of weird and wonderful people—forty + years ago.
    Let me go with my first thought on reading your reply. Weltering in blood. Jesus picks us up and washes us. Or, the victim on the road to Jericho. Unconscious or unable to move, Jesus picks him up and applies oil and wine. That all I have to say. I hardly ever go near St.Paul’s Romans. It was written to people he didn’t know. I’s very good. A polished; an exquisite culmination of everything he knew. His masterpiece to the Gentiles. I prefer John’s masterpiece: Revelation, to Jews and Gentiles. And Peter’s Hebrews (must be Peter’s ‘cos its to Jews). After a lifetime being hammered in church by Pastors who only use Romans for every sermon I’m tired of condensed milk (Romans) I want to explore allusion. I want to read Revelation, see what the allusion is then go there and read whatever it points to. I have always found intricate doctrine more of a poison than a food. It’s too concentrated. I am aware that by being too well read we run ahead of our guide. We are like 4 year olds who know too much from over diligent parents and then find real school frustrating. What’s the point of being an expert in Predestination? Why spend your best years fighting Calvinists? I’m not the interlocutor you desire or deserve. Anyway I’m going to stop. I’m having a problem typing. my fingertips hurt.

    • Steve – `the Calvinist, the Marxist and the sex maniac’ sounds like the same sort of starting point for a story as `the Scotsman, the Englishman and the Irishman’.

      I kind of feel your pain. I’m sure there is a verse in Scripture somewhere about encouraging each other and building each other up – which is usually missing from the discussion below the line.

      I found today’s piece by Ian Paul very good and very helpful.

      • You always make me laugh. Taking a leaf from The last blog.. I think you meant “ the Englishman , the Irishman and the Scotsman. “

  4. I have often struggled with these more challenging and demanding words of Jesus on a practical and pastoral level. The Jeff Robinson quote said:

    “Our affections for Christ must be of such an intensity and quality that, by comparison, all other loves seem like hate.”

    The question is, what are we to do if we find that our affections are NOT at such an intense quality?

    This is compounded by the fact that there is often a notion of threat in Jesus words (if you are not a disciple then you are headed for hell, after all). The result then seems to be a command along the lines of “Love me OR ELSE!!!”.

    I don’t know about anyone else, but I find it very hard (if not impossible) to genuinely love God in the light of such a threat. Indeed, reading sections of scripture such as these do not encourage intense love and affection, but rather anxiety and dread.

    Ian’s point on the application (about the way of discipleship being part of grace) goes some way to address this tension. I’d be interested to hear this fleshed out more fully.

    • Hi Jon B,
      I plan to comment on your concern about the nature of the statements of Jesus in the passage but first I need to provide a little background.
      God doesn’t just love. God’s love is also holy – this means that he has a particular attitude toward love. His holiness is his passionately desiring – wanting – all that conforms with his nature – and his abhorrence for all that opposes it (evil). Since God is love it means that God passionately loves love – and abhors all that is opposed to love. Love is not merely a series of right actions – it is an attitude leading to action which is without any limit. All the nine fruit of the Spirit is an attitude that is supposed to be reflected in all actions and love – desiring the best welfare of another – is the first in the list.
      It’s impossible then to love like God without loving love and without hating what is opposed to it.
      In recent days on this forum a discussion came up about whether the bible reveals hell to be eternal punishment – or a single one moment in time punishment. I began to think more about the issue and realised something which has affected how I see hell. Hell is God’s unlimited love for love being reflected in his unlimited hatred for what is not love. If hell was not eternal punishment then God’s hatred for what is opposed to love would be limited – that proving that his love for love was limited.

      With these things in mind I put it to you that the passage which is the subject of Ian’s article isn’t a threat – however it is God warning that his love for love is his hatred for all that is opposed to love. It therefore isn’t righteous of us if we object to this – our love should include our sharing his hatred for all that freely, knowingly, and wilfully opposes love.

      If our love for love does not include hatred for what is opposed to love – that is evidence of our love being wrongly motivated. Similarly if our hatred for evil – if our hatred for all that is freely, knowingly, and wilfully opposed to love – is not also expressed in love and love for love – that too is evidence that our love is wrongly motivated.

      • The sentence below could have been better expressed:
        “Love is not merely a series of right actions – it is an attitude leading to action which is without any limit”.
        This sentence makes it hard to know what is without limit. I mean that our love for love should be without limit (not the actions we do to express love).

        • I’ve seen that expressed a number of times by Keller, along the lines; if it depended on us there would be limits on what God could ask us to do, but if it were all of grace there could be nothing that God couldn’t ask us to do. ( That is a poor recapitulation, but I couldn’t directly quote without a good rummage around in his books.)
          Perhaps it is a fresh expression of Augustine : “Command what you will and grant what you command.”

          • Absolutely! If you want to know just how much I agree with that Geoff read the reply I had already typed and was about to post in reply to your other comment!

    • Jon B – it’s important to understand what ‘loving God’ or ‘loving Christ’ means.

      I think it is almost equivalent to the commandment to love one’s neighbour.

      For example, if someone claims to love God – and then he divorces his wife, not because of any wrong-doing on her part, but just because he doesn’t find her attractive any more, then in so doing, he shows that he doesn’t really love God at all.

      If he sticks with his wife, not because he wants to, but because he’s saying to himself ‘this life is insufferable and driving me up the wall, but I have to keep God’s commandments’ – then he doesn’t really love God – although he trying to be good – and therefore is much better than the first guy who went ahead with the divorce.

      Love of God seems to me almost equivalent to keeping the commandments, but not only that, at the same time delighting in the commandments, finding them `second nature’ so that they don’t feel like `commandments’ at all.

      I don’t think this is rocket science. Take, for example, Vladimir Putin, whose idea of a good time seems to be violent and bloody war games and subjugating countries that don’t want to be subjugated by the Russian empire. There is no love of God there. He seems to abhor the commandment `do not kill’. I don’t think there are many Christians who would say, ‘Oh – if it hadn’t been for the book of Exodus, I wouldn’t have known that I shouldn’t kill and that killing other people is something that God doesn’t like’.

      On the one hand, it is completely clear that absolutely nobody lives up to the commandment to love God in the way that Jesus is exhorting us to do in the Luke passage, but on the other hand, I think that properly understood – if we understand what `loving God’ really means – I don’t think it is unreasonable – and the threat is simply that if we treat our neighbour in a gratuitous manner, we shouldn’t be too surprised if God takes our neighbour’s side and responds accordingly.

      Well, that’s my take on it.

  5. Ian,
    Maybe there is a need to re-read, Discipleship, by David Watson, a book I read no long after becoming a Christian. While I can’t recall the detail, I do recall it being strong meat, to use a biblical term.
    But what may be missing in many of our lives is reality of the enornormity of who Jesus is and his Presence. Do we make much of him.
    Do we glorify God and enjoy him – or to use Piper’s re -phrasing, Glorify God *by* enjoying him.
    And one of the tensions is that when we invert justification and sanctification, that is when we base our justification on our sanctification, not on Christ. I thank Tim Keller for this recognition, which he gained from Richard Lovelace’s research into Revivals which drew to a close when converts started to base their justification on their sanctification.
    A phrase Keller used, Jesus lived the life we should live and died the death we should die. It it both/ and, active and passive obedience in our place.
    Additionally, I’d suggest that much is to be made of a believers union with Christ, a seeming much neglected doctrine, yet not only doctrine, but experiential reality.

    • Hi Geoff,

      I heartily agree that union with Christ – Christ’s in dwelling – is absolutely fundamental to our right understanding. The reason our understanding of union with Christ is currently undermined is because we have chosen to treat various forms of profession of faith as authentic discipleship which are not.

      God is holy – he cannot occupy the believer who is ‘still alive’.

      Union with Christ is perhaps the Christian doctrine which excites me the most. It shows just how saved the saved person is (if they continue to the end).

      When we are truly repentant we begin to understand that God is commanding us to offer HIS love to people – not our love – as those in dwelled by him and made to be in constant fellowship with him. This will lead us to realise when either our ideas about God or our ideas about how we should love are wrong. They should always be one.

      Even when our ideas about God and how we should live are one that doesn’t mean they are always godly. For example imagine a wife who believes that God’s grace covers all types of sin – including her free, knowing, and wilful sin*. This amounts to believing that as long as she professes a faith there is nothing she can do to be wrongly positioned in relation to God’s love. If she follows this through in the way in which she behaves towards others it will lead her for example to feel obligated to show grace to her faith professing husband when he belts her over the head with a beer bottle each night.

      Whenever our beliefs about God and our beliefs about how we should live as Christians don’t match one or both of our understandings must be wrong (whenever there is a difference between the two).

      If we don’t recognise this link it is a sign that we are either choosing to not serve God alone – or are currently ‘serving God’ our way – not in his power.

      *Grace doesn’t cover this sin but we can still repent for as long as we still recognise it as sin – however sinning in this way hardens us to a point where we cannot be restored – see Hebrews 6:4-6.

  6. Hello Philip,
    I can recall a talk at which I was present, when it was said that a former sexually notorious former USA President’s answer to his sexual sin was that he knew that God would forgive him. In effect that was God’s job! ( His wife did too, though it may not have mattered too much to her and her own political ambitions. I think I correct in say they both claimed to be Methodists, but the denomination is really irrelevant to the the point.)
    As for Union with Christ one of the best and edifying exponents I’ve come across in the last half of dozen or so years is Sinclair Ferguson, much is available online, both in preaching/teaching.
    But could I exhort you to park your opposition to what you see as Calvinism. As a Presbyterian, he subscribes to the Westminster Confession of Faith. From what I recall none of that comes through in his preach/ teaching on Union. I recall a series of MP3 lectures roaming through all the scriptures.
    If I can say, I sympathise with your theological wrestling. Would that more would do so. I spent a number of years in that struggle, trampling through the Tulips, self researched, taught, as no one I knew wanted to touch the topic with a barge pole. There was no advice, no signposting to reliable resource, with some rigour exploring for for and against argumentation. It was wide ranging looking at Sovereignty, Grace, Providence, free/ bondage of will, predestination and opened up onto hot topics of the time ; Open/Process theology; Emerging Church; 5 Sola’s
    I have come to a conclusion, and have have found that some of the most edifying preaching and teaching has come from those of deep reformed persuasion.
    Many of them subscribed to Biblical Theology, which was something I first came across in some books by Graeme Goldsworthy, and a now moribund site, *Beginning with Moses* while studying to be a Local Preacher, in the Methodist Church, but then more fully 22 years ago recovering after a stroke, when I had more time on my hands. It was on a DMin course freely available online, taken by Edmund Clowney and Tim Keller.
    It was teaching that is still quite rare, but which, too me, draws out and upon a fuller richness and interconnectedness of the whole canon of scripture and awe of our God’s self revelation.
    There are others who major on union with Christ, such as Mike Reeves and Dane Ortlund.
    One last suggestion is Ferguson’s, “The Whole Christ” based on a historic controversy in the church of Scotland, but relevant today. I’ve had to reread, ruminate, and rethink parts of it. It has been available in a series of short talks on the internet, but for a more considered look at the topic, my preference is for the book.
    In my Christian walk, starting from a position of total dependence in God following the death of my mother and father, from conversion in a a CoE church, preachers training in the Methodist church two substantial medical emergencies, necessitating changes churches, although I have been substantially misled by a minister, I’ve not encountered the circumstances Joe S, and Jock have nor bullying even when I ‘ve not been aligned to the theology of the minister/leadership/ eldership/ church council. And when we’ve changed churches we’ve remained friends and pray-ers, with some church members.
    We have being doing a short series of encounters with Jesus, on Sunday mornings. A church warden who preached, yesterday acknowledged the awesome privilege yet huge responsibility.
    Leaders, teachers/ preachers have a dual accountability, to us but primarily to God.
    I do hope you can find a church where you can belong.

    Anyway, enough. Sorry for going on.

    Yours in Christ,

    • I will continue Geoff to learn from people who I believe are in primary error (although not by being in active relationship with them). That includes Calvinists.
      There are only two kinds of doctrinal error:
      – Primary error – God considers ALL people capable of not being in primary error or if not no-one would rightly be held accountable by him in respect of that error. (The truth isn’t a set of ideas – it’s a person – the only way to continue to maintain that it’s a set of ideas instead of a person is to refuse to welcome that person. Primary error isn’t intellectual error – it’s a refusal to identify with God’s character – which is both unified and completely knowable).
      – Secondary matters – these are errors which have no capacity to undermine either conversion or sanctification – such as would be the case if for example I thought that Christians shouldn’t dance (but I wasn’t seeking to exclude others from the church if they danced).
      I encourage you Geoff not to speak as if primary truth is something which requires people to struggle for years to grasp – if this was your experience I encourage you to recognise that your being slow to grasp primary truth is a statement about other things happening in your life separate from your struggle. Take for example Calvinism – should we consider it a complicated question whether God makes most people so they are unable to turn to him and then punishes them eternally for not doing so? I certainly don’t believe so. It’s only complicated if we imagine ourselves to be welcoming God only by welcoming ideas about him – without welcoming the presence of the Jesus who is unfailingly merciful to us – and therefore must be to all people.
      Following this idea through fully let me make a summary statement – in the church of God there are no primary divisions. None. Zero. Amongst people wholly committed to serving God there is COMPLETE primary unity. God doesn’t let primary error stand – where it exists it is never an isolated area of disagreement with the truth. If we imagine someone’s primary error is narrowly defined then it either isn’t primary error – or we imagine wrongly.
      In the light of these things I encourage you not to let issues linger as unclassified in respect of whether they are primary and secondary error – and in the case of primary error – leave questions of what is or is not true about God unresolved.

    • Thank you to everyone who has commented in a way that reveals the vulnerabilities of their own journey. Sometimes I forget that we are all human beings struggling with life’s difficulties. Had I realised Philip that you are having some challenges in life presently I may have been less adversarial. I apologise for any lack of patience’

      I wonder if it would help you if you could get beyond seeing calvinism as the enemy. I confess I’m not sure how you would manage this. I remember reading Pink’s The Sovereignty of God. It was the first book to open my eyes to the complete sovereignty of God by citing verse after verse in the Bible. It may be useful. Though it may also deepen your visceral opposition to calvinism.

      However, even if you don’t go down that route, if you would see that calvinists (I hate labels) are not the serious heretics you believe them to be. In fact the majority of evangelicals are to some degree calvinists; all believe in some sense in the sovereignty of God.

      Anyway, my apologies for being insistent.

      • Yours sounds like a very humble reply John – “I had no idea you were under stress” etc. But any humility of yours doesn’t extend to an admission that you have no adequate answers. You said “I wonder if it would help you if you could get beyond seeing Calvinism as the enemy”. Would you mind if we stick with playing the ball instead of the man? My words to you have focused on your reasoning – I haven’t engaged in character analysis – could you please offer me the same respect?

        Do you concede that Calvinism is incorrect doctrine John? (This being unrelated to the fact that Calvinists have things to teach the church). You neither defended Calvinism nor conceded to it not being correct in your reply to my post.

        I won’t repeat the three points I have made above and John’s responses to them – I will only add a fourth point I have already made to John showing that original sin cannot be correct doctrine – and the key part of John’s response (again our full exchange is available below Ian’s article “Does Jesus Have Something Against Us?).

        – 4. When I pointed out that original sin cannot be right doctrine because it suggests that a perfect creator fell along with the fall – in making human beings who are inclined towards sin – this violating an absolutely fundamental principle of evangelical faith – that God is never changed or influenced by creation – your response John was “The lump of clay that is humanity that God as the potter has to work with before anything is made is already marred”. I don’t follow John – what even is this ‘lump’? Why is there “a lump” if he makes human beings out of nothing? And what do you believe has happened to God’s lump that has caused it to be marred?

        Should you choose to defend Calvinism any further (I hope you will recognise that you cannot) in response to the points I have made you could also explain – if there is an undeclared part of God’s character which has seen him damn most people before they are born (since all God’s decisions flow from his character) – why this unrevealed element doesn’t have the effect of placing a question mark over everything that God is revealed to be in scripture. (Responding to this issue by saying “God says that we must trust him on this question” isn’t an answer when the bible says in Acts 10:34-35 that we are allowed to examine God on such matters – it says that God would be partial if he prevents people from coming to him).

        If I sound feisty it isn’t because I delight in your defeat – it’s because I am not confident that there will be any moment where no matter how soundly you are shown to be incorrect that you will ever acknowledge it – and so I persist – in the hope that your honesty will lead to that moment coming.

        • I don’t wish to give the impression that I am inviting you John to continue to defend Calvinism – I am not. It CANNOT provide answers to the points I have made – you have already attempted to respond to the four points (the first three in the highest comment below this article) unsuccessfully – making now a time for honesty – not further engagement.

        • Apologies – the first two posts on the page refer only to two arguments – not three – the first based on Ephesians 4:22-24 and the second – in my reply to my first post on the page – relates to Acts 3:19.

          The third argument which I thought had already made on this page relates to Romans 5:18. Concerning Romans 5:18 John believes (as I do) that the ‘all men’ who are in Adam – is every person who has ever lived (except Adam and Eve and Jesus). Yet even though the verse directly compares those in Adam with those in Christ – John believes that the ‘all men’ on the right side of the verse – those for whom an act of righteousness leads to justification and life – are only those who are “in Christ”. But that’s the point of the verse – to explain who is and how! Yet that’s the very thing John imports to explain the verse! And import from absolutely nowhere – there is absolutely no reason to import unconditional election into this verse. Secondly I point out that if those in Adam were in Adam automatically – from birth – without choosing to be (due to original sin being true) the verse would be saying that all men were also in Christ without choosing to be. It would mean that universalism – the idea that God will eventually save all people – is true. But since we know from the rest of scripture that it is not – this verse shows that original sin cannot be correct doctrine. But I also gave in my previous post above another reason (there are many I haven’t given) for why original sin cannot be correct doctrine).

          • Hello Philip.
            You are completely wrong to say that I did not grasp or do not grasp what in your theological understanding is * primary truth*, On conversion to Christ, truth, Christ took hold of me in an encounter with him, and experiential relationship with him, And as a former lawyer truth mattered as did the meaning of life.
            1 I do wonder what your sources are for your understanding of Calvinism? Who are your main influencers?
            2 Have your read any of Calvin’s writings. or is it second-hand commentators Do they bring together his changes to Institutes, with his Commentaries on scripture?
            3 Have you studied in some depth the pro and cons comparing and contrasting the so called 5 points with what is known as the Arminian position – the points taken both isolation and as a composite whole, holding together like the digits of one hand? Do they take a balanced position setting out all scripture, for and against their own position? And what is the starting point. Is it scripture? Is it free will philosophy? Do they acknowledge both God’s Sovereignty and human responsibility?
            4 There are some who would accept 3 or 4 points. A Christian I knew was extremely hostile to Calvinism but chatting with him about scripture it was clear that he accepted 4 points!
            5 There is also a need to go beyond Calvin, to trace the source of the divergence, to consider Augustine and Pelagius’s contention with him.
            6 I do not recognise some of the points that you claim to be Calvinism,( they seem to be somthing to a derived caricature) but I don’t claim to be the expert you seem to be. Are you looking at hyper- Calvinism? Are you looking at Calvinism through the eye of R T Kendal as he sought to compare the writings of Calvin with what he saw as it’s later development in the Westminster Confession of Faith?
            7 No doubt much to your chagrin God has used the reformed teaching in the spread of the Gospel and his Kingdom, through the likes of Edwards, Whitfield, the Prince of Preachers – Spurgeon, Lloyd-Jones, Stott, Packer and today, Piper, Keller, Carson and many others, contributors to the Gospel Coalition and other reformed circles. (Just as God has worked through Wesley’s and Salvationist, Finney, Charismatics, cessationists and none cessationists.
            8 You seem to be somewhat obsessed, which strikes as a little unhealthy. You certainly have not defeated the reformed scriptural position in your seeming visceral hatred of Calvinism. And it may surprise you to know that Christ is central in reformed theology in the Triune God of faith. He is the Gospel hermeneutic, It is with something of a heavy heart that I read that you think you have triumphed: prideful triumph in your combativity, bringing up fist -pumping imaginings. Perhaps you really couldn’t worship together, have fellowship, have communion together under a common profession of the faith as condensed into the creeds.
            9 Finally, I’m really not sure who is your target on this site, as it strikes me that there would be extremely few visitors who would fit into your pejorative categorisation of Calvinism,-discipleship, even those who continue to subscribe to the Anglican 39 Articles of faith (who also may be rare visitors).

            Yours in Christ

          • And Philip,
            On study, I moved from what could be very loosely be called Arminianism (ie the Fall never happened according to my Methodist tutor) to later down the line to be persuaded by the tenets of the Reformation. You make some huge assumptions that John has not studied this.
            It seems that you may not have the free will to follow reformed teaching!
            I’ll not respond further as there is already far too much time taken up with this and it has continued down the centuries with much reading and scholarship even as you bat away suggestions for reading, listening, study which will provide answers and counter-points to your *gotchyas.*

          • Thanks Geoff

            I’m afraid Philip and I have reached a bit of an impasse. You have said well what I should have said some time ago,

          • I hope it is not too inappropriate to add a note of levity by saying “I was born an Arminian but I chose to be a Calvinist!”

            But there is also the old saying about “Preach like an Arminian [appealing for a response to the truth of the Gospel] and pray like a Clavinist [that the sovereign will of God will be brought about]”

          • This thread with John is about the rightness or not of Calvinism. Geoff has replied to it by mistake – instead of to my thread with him.

            John has treated Geoff’s mistake as an opportunity to change the subject to my character failures. Sorry John – I have character failures (I hope not as many as Geoff speculated were mine) – but they aren’t a reason for you not to be required to answer if you concede that the arguments I have made show that your Calvinism to be incorrect doctrine – or not. And if not why not.

          • Hello Philip,
            To be clear. I was not mistaken: the comments were meant as a composite response to your points to your antagonism to what you term Calvinism. John in his comment has adopted those comments, as it were, in response to you, though he may or may not choose of his own volition to add more, directly to you.
            And we humans love to chose alternative expressions in place of owning our sin – the opposite to being holy.
            I think it was Spurgeon who said something like this: if you find a perfect church, don’t join it, otherwise you’ll spoil it. Whereas we tend to veer towards the view that by joining we will complete or perfect Christ’s church. I do hope you can find a church where you can belong.
            Yours in Christ,

          • Again John I ask you to indicate whether you recognise that Calvinism (TULIP combined with original sin) has or has not been entirely defeated by my arguments – and if not why not – as a matter of basic honesty – and as an issue entirely unrelated to anything about my character or circumstances.

          • Philip

            You have not even made a dent on what you call calvinism. You simply don’t engage with the texts that make up a calvinistic perspective, In fact, its more than a few proof texts its the whole bible story – as Geoff has pointed out you need to read a good biblical theology.

            You need to allow for the possibility that the vast majority of the Christian church may be right and you may be wrong.

  7. Presumably in heaven the former will be engaged in the appealing of bells and the latter in the vibrating of clavichords?

  8. Philip

    I have tried to answer your points though clearly not to your.satisfaction. You tend to put in my mouth words I did not say and as a result discussion is impossible. Above, for example, you claim I import unconditional election into Roms 5:18. Where did I do that?

    Another hindrance to meaningful communication is that you make bizarre deductions like ‘original sin cannot be right because it suggests that a perfect creator fell with the fall’. Human sin is because we are all born as part of Adam. Adam not God is responsible for sin in the race. With this all evangelicals agree Calvinistic or otherwise.

    Then you begin to argue dishonestly. ‘ I don’t follow John – what even is this ‘lump’? Why is there “a lump” if he makes human beings out of nothing? And what do you believe has happened to God’s lump that has caused it to be marred?’ However, Philip, you do know what ‘lump’ is being referred to. We had already engaged on Roms 9. You know the ‘lump’ is humanity and you know ‘marred’ means it is a fallen humanity. Obfuscation doesn’t help reach agreement.

    Philip, if your arguments are unanswerable its because they are unclear – illogical and unreasonable. You often often build an edifice on what is to me, and i believe would be to most, a very unsafe exegesis . You go on from there to make sweeping implications that in your mind are firm consequences of the text you have interpreted. It is hard to counter these because both interpretation of the texts and the inferences you draw are unlikely to be drawn by others.

    This is why I think Geoff has given you very sound advice. Do you notice even there you put words into my mouth. I did not mention any character failures you may or may not have. However, that you accuse me of doing so, is an example of a persistent flaw in your debating skills – putting words in another’s mouth they did not say.

    I’d urge you to give two things your priority; firstly, finding a place to live. Perhaps there are some organisations that can help with that. Secondly, finding a local church. We need the checks and balances of others.

    Reread Geoff’s comment. He makes some very helpful points.

  9. There are a few issues raised here. But, once again, a small number of people are making massively long comments.

    Would it be possible to
    a. be succinct
    b. engage with the article and others
    c. give other people room to comment?

    • Thanks for that Chris. Original sin is a doctrine that did not exist before Augustine and he only introduced it due to a translation problem. But if that’s not proved we know it’s not correct doctrine because there is no part of scripture which ESTABLISHES it. To establish a doctrine from scripture we must show how particular parts of scripture have only one possible interpretation. That is simply not the case with Psalm 51:5 – which is the only verse used to argue for original sin. (Romans 5:12 doesn’t help – it says that the reason people come to sin is because people sin (sin spreads) – not because people are born.

      What I just explained is my first reason among many listed below the video at the link below for why original sin cannot be correct doctrine.

      I want to clarify the logic of one of the reasons I list there because it’s become necessary – that if original sin was correct doctrine it would mean that as the result of the fall God – a perfect creator – must create faulty human beings – people inclined towards sin – this violating a sacrosanct principle – that God is NEVER influenced or changed by his own creation. I want to prove that by breaking things down in more detail.

      The bible explains in Colossians 1:17 that God is sustaining creation – creation doesn’t function like a wound up clock – God is constantly sustaining creation in ways that make the laws we have discovered about creation true (most of the time – until God intervenes!). So then – if original sin was true – how must things happen when parents conceive a child and it grows in the womb – if the child is to be from birth inclined towards sin? Let’s go step by step. While it appears as if the parents conceive the child – and the mother then ‘grows’ the child – this is not a biblical understanding. God is the one who causes conception – and then he causes the child to grow (even if we have ways in which we describe that growth biologically). How does God being both the sustainer and also ongoing creator in creation relate to original sin? When does the child become inclined towards sin? It cannot be while God causes the child to be conceived because God is a perfect creator. He is no more able to make laws which make him have to become an imperfect creator than he can lie or be tempted. It would have to happen after God has conceived the child but before the child exists (as if that was even possible) – the child would having been created then have to become subject to the law that God has set up which causes us to inherit Adam’s inclination towards sin at birth. But here’s the key point – and proves why original sin HAS TO BE about a God who becomes subject to his own fallen creation – and therefore cannot be correct doctrine. As we just explained it isn’t THE LAW that the child is a descendent of Adam which CAUSES the child to be inclined toward sin – any principles in creation only happen because God is actively fulfilling them. Which means that even if a child only becomes fallen after God has created them perfectly – God must be the one to make the child fallen. As Chris’s article explains – being born from a sinful womb isn’t what makes a child sinful. God is so active in creation in all things that when a murderer kills it is only because God enables them to pull the trigger (unless he chooses not to – something which he has been known to do sometimes!). So original sin is only possible if we imagine the principle that as a result of being a descendent of Adam is something self-operating – not sustained by God. But it’s not self operating – God has to make it true constantly – which proves that original sin cannot be correct doctrine because of its implications for God’s perfection.

      • PS Consistent with what I explain here creation doesn’t fall because we violated laws that are in built in creation (laws that function without God’s participation). It falls because God subjects it to futility (Romans 8:20).

      • Why. Do babies die Philip? Did God’s perfect ‘creating’ fail? Or why are babies born with all kinds of terrible deformities? This is impossible by your reasoning; God makes everything perfect. For whose sin does a baby die since it death is the wage of sin?

        Verse wise – how about Ps 58

        s 58.. The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray from birth, speaking lies.

        Job 15. What is man, that he can be pure? Or he who is born of a woman, that he can be righteous?

        1 Cor 2. The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.
        Prov 22 Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him.

        Eph 2. We are by nature children of wrath

        Gen 8 . the intent of man’s heart is evil from his youth.”. (Youth includes childhood)

        Ecc 9. the hearts of the sons of men are full of evil, and insanity is in their hearts through their lives.”

        These are but a few examples. We may ask if man is born sinless with no propensity to sin then wouldn’t we expect a few people at the very least to have remained free from sin? Where does the Bible chiefly locate sin – is it in the environment in which we live or is it in our own hearts?

        • Hi John,
          Good question re deformed babies – I must be able to show how that fits into what I explained.
          I believe that we should see God being a constant participant in what orders creation – but not as a constant participant in what causes creation to be destroyed by sin. (Although I recognise that he has allowed a particular world to be created over all other possible worlds). The Calvinist has the bigger problem – God becomes the creator of the deformed baby.
          Which leads to the question (if the principle I add is correct) – is God – according to the proponent of original sin – active in maintaining our relationship with Adam? And since the proponent of original sin believes this principle is part of God’s ensuring that all come to know and need God in Christ the answer has to be yes. (And therefore God must become responsible for sustaining that principle – which leads people to be born inclined towards sin – causing original sin to fail (although not for the Calvinist who believes God is also the author of evil).
          I don’t see John why you quote so many verses when none of them prove your point (you are trying to find passages which PROVE that human beings are sinful from the day they are born). None of the verses have the power to defeat Deuteronomy 1:39 – which says that it takes time to reach a point where we know right from wrong.

          On the question of how all come to sin if it’s a free choice I have two answers – that’s it’s one thing not to sin when there is no sin in the world – and quite another when someone sins against us. And we have been made so as to be influenceable for good – about which I am glad – even if that means we are also influenceable for ill.

          • Philip the sheer number of verses compared to your one text need to be allowed to speak. I had hoped their words would penetrate. They are not hard to understand. Deut 29 is not in conflict with them. The answer is quite simple that Deut 29 young children are not deemed responsible. They have an ignorance about right and wrong until they are of a certain age. That does not mean they have no sin. Anyone who has had children sees the determination of self-will in very young children.

            Instead you focus on an interpretation which you believe is irrefutable and will not weigh the texts I cite – that is imbalanced.

            Also, I can see no difference between God allowing the results of sin (dead babies) and God allowing sin.

          • The onus isn’t on me – I am not trying to prove that people sin before they know what right and wrong is (which incidentally makes sin about the act not the attitude – which has all kinds of implications – it means that if a mentally disabled person sins they may be going to hell).

            Job 15 says nothing about the age at which people come to sin.
            1 Cor 2 also says nothing about age – but it isn’t even about sin – it’s about mind versus spirit.
            Eph 2 says nothing about age.
            Gen 8:21 is consistent with Deuteronomy 1:39 – reaching an age of responsibility.
            And Ecc 9 says nothing about age.

            So you say “These are but a few examples” but there isn’t a single verse/passage you present which speaks about sin from birth. John – can you please stop quoting enormous number of passages from scripture which don’t further your case? By all means do so when they ALL confirm your point – but not otherwise.

            You say Deuteronomy (for the sake of clarity you said chapter 29 but its Deuteronomy 1:39) isn’t in conflict with them – I agree – because they don’t talk about the age people come to sin except Genesis 8:21 – which doesn’t say from birth.

            Finally, you said “Also, I can see no difference between God allowing the results of sin (dead babies) and God allowing sin”. I agree John. They are – only for the non-Calvinist – examples of people having the freedom to do wrong and cause resulting changes in creation. For the Calvinist even sin is predestined by God – the Calvinist says that Hitler was predestined by God to massacre Jews.

            I should add one more thing about how to rightly understand the behaviour of children before they reach a point where they know right from wrong. A child is not responsible for behaviour which is the result of not having reached an age where they can control themselves – and a child is also not responsible for the effects of bad parenting before reaching the age at which they are judged by God to reach right and wrong. And since we are filling holes let me point out something which is beautiful about the age of responsibility – once a child is old enough to sin they are old enough to repent – to live in fellowship with God ALL of their life. No preacher has to find complicated ways of telling the parents of a dead child why their child MIGHT be saved. Praise him!

          • I need to correct the mentally disabled person comment – I don’t believe that any person who rebels against God’s love revealed in creation is going to hell – the result of that rebellion is physical death (and not because of a per individual judgement of God. As I explained elsewhere – there is an Old Testament verse about a child who dies in the womb – revealing there isn’t a one to one relationship between rebellion against God’s love in creation – and physical death).
            However the mentally disabled person will – according to those who believe that sin is about the act – not the attitude – which is all Calvinists and all proponents of original sin (except those who believe that sin doesn’t have to make us culpable to alienate us from God) – be judged for their act.

          • Philip

            I’m surprised you don’t feel discomfort by the verses I cited.

            Ps 58 is particularly clear. Job 15/1 Cor 2/Eph 2/Eccl 9 all show that the human condition – man as he naturally is, is alienation from God. Others Ps 58/Prov 22/Gen 8 demonstrate that this sinfulness stretches back to childhood and in some cases, the womb. Cf Ps 51:5

            Let me try another line of probing. Do not children inherit various characteristics from their parents. Unless there was compelling proof that God screened out the characteristic of sinning would we not expect a sinful nature to be inherited?

            However, the discussion has probably gone as far as it can go. I hope you are able to find accommodation in the near future Philip.

          • Hi John,

            I am responding only to the four verses you have mentioned which relate to the age people come to sin (although as I explain below the first of the four may not be about when people come to sin at all) – the other verses relate only to what we already agree on – that people sin.

            Psalm 51:5
            I have already commented on this verse – search the page for 51:5 and you will see that I have already said it has a series of possible interpretations. Are you aware of the others? If it has more than one credible interpretation this verse does not establish original sin by itself.

            Psalm 58:3
            Since babies don’t lie John – and yet Psalm 58:3 says they do – what does that tell you about how to interpret Psalm 58? (If you don’t’ accept my explanation – that the verse is about people choosing to sin from the moment they reach an age of responsibility – what do you believe the verse says?).

            Genesis 8:21
            This verse does mention age – but do you agree that youth isn’t birth – or do you wish to argue that youth means birth?

            Proverbs 22:15
            This verse says:
            Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him.
            Why if children have an inclination towards sin which either dominates them (according to proponents of original sin) – or controls them (according to Calvinists) does discipline resolve this?

            Finally you said “Do not children inherit various characteristics from their parents? Unless there was compelling proof that God screened out the characteristic of sinning would we not expect a sinful nature to be inherited?” That is of course the issue we are discussing – whether original sin is correct or incorrect doctrine. Unless you are asking if I believe that children come to sin not because they are born a descendant of Adam but because their parents sin against them – in which case I agree – because Romans 5:12 says exactly that. Although I don’t believe that any actions of a child which are the result of poor parenting are sin only because of the ACT alone – the act must be accompanied by the ATTITUDE. To have the attitude children must reach the point where they know right from wrong – an age of responsibility (Deuteronomy 1:39). Imagine if that’s wrong – that sin is sin only because of the act. That means that a person kidnapped by a gang – addicted to drugs against their will – who then steals to get a fix – is guilty of sin. I don’t believe that the teaching of the bible about sin makes this a sensible conclusion (sin is always being related to a person’s attitude – even if when sin is the result of ignorance or due to weakness the attitude is not in the acts but in the free, knowing, and wilful sin which caused those kinds of sin to come to exist – see Romans 1:21-26) – but this is the logical consequence of believing in original sin. (As a Calvinist you don’t face the issue – you consider the drug addicted person to be a sinner in every thought, word, and deed – aside from their being addicted against their will. You believe they ALWAYS have a sinful attitude).

          • When I said at the start – “the other verses relate only to what we already agree on – that people sin” – I don’t mean the second, third and fourth verses I have chosen to comment on – I mean the verses you quoted in your post which don’t relate to age.

      • It’s a mistake to make Augustine the originator of original sin.

        Original sin is pretty clear in Gen 1-4.; Adam sinned and from then everyone died. It’s clear in Paul too who simply echoes the biblical story.

        Through one man sin entered the world, and through sin, death.
        Death came to all, inasmuch as all sinned. (Romans 5:12)

        A century before Augustine St. Cyprian clearly believed in original sin.

        St. Cyprian approaches the heart of the matter when he notes that baptism is administered even to those who have committed heinous sins, so it would be inconsistent to deny God’s grace to infants who have committed no personal sin:

        …how much rather ought we to shrink from hindering an infant, who, being lately born, has not sinned, except in that, being born after the flesh according to Adam, he has contracted the contagion of the ancient death at its earliest birth, who approaches the more easily on this very account to the reception of the forgiveness of sins—that to him are remitted, not his own sins, but the sins of another.

        The only sin that a newborn infant has to be remitted is not his own, but that of Adam. Here we have an unequivocal declaration of a supposedly Augustinian doctrine more than a century before St. Augustine, uttered by a saint revered as a pillar of orthodoxy among the Greeks.

        Ir, again before Augustine, St Hilary writes of Christ

        Having been sent in a flesh in the likeness of that of sin, He did not have sin in the same way that He had flesh. But as all flesh comes from sin, that is, it derives from the sin of Adam the progenitor, He has been sent in a flesh similar to that of sin, because in Him sin does not subsist, but the image of sinful flesh.

        Note the middle sentence.

        St Ambrose, again before Augustine, writes,

        Peter was clean, but he must wash his feet, for he had sin by succession from the first man, when the serpent overthrew him and persuaded him to sin. His feet were therefore washed, that hereditary sins might be done away, for our own sins are remitted through baptism.

        The point is not whether these church figures got it right in the incidentals but simply to note they held to a form of original sin. Original sin is not a foible of Augustine but a belief that existed before Augustine was born.

    • Chris – I think the distinction between ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ Calvinist is connected with matters of church discipline. The ‘soft’ Calvinist takes the view that Calvin was perhaps a little excessive when he had Servetus burned at the stake and wouldn’t advocate such procedures in the 21st century.

      The ‘hard Calvinist’, on the other hand, takes the view that Calvin was right on this matter and they’d like to see the church implementing this approach to church discipline today.

      Hope this helps explain things.

      Excuse me while I get my box of matches ……

      • Jock,
        It is not helpful to speculate on what John making the points you wish to bring up which are irrelevant to the discussion. What is more, it is an ad hom fallacy in relation to Calvin’s theology.

        • Hello Geoff.

          Well, I find much of what you post unhelpful too, but I’m usually too polite to point this out. If one is thinking of `general theory’ and of a person’s theology, it is important to consider how the faith of the person and the person’s general theological theories work themselves out in practice. In the last post, David Runcorn was telling us that role models (those whom we imitate) are important. Anyone for John Calvin as a role model?

          (I did get an awful lot of good stuff from John Calvin’s ‘Institutes’ – but I’m very sceptical about anyone who would describe themselves as a ‘Calvinist’ – whether soft or hard boiled, poached or fried or anything in between).

          As far as the piece by David Instone-Brewer, which Chris Bishop linked to goes: on `original sin’ David Instone-Brewer didn’t have anything to state except for the obvious; no decent Christian actually believes that a new-born is damned by default. By nature it is true that we all grow into people who naturally rebel against God; Scripture gives no information about new-borns who haven’t got round to doing this (except that damnation is for those who have sinned – willful rebellion against God).

          I think DIB `got it wrong’ on two points, though. Firstly, he writes, talking of the working of the Holy Spirit, `In the New Testament, David’s special privilege became normal for all Christians ….’

          No – there is absolutely no difference between Old Testament times and New Testament times; God reaches into the fundamental ontological depths of our beings in the same way, although the understanding may have been different.

          The other point where I have a problem – I feel that the style of David Instone-Brewer is the nice cosy chat that one associates with the `synthetic gospel’. He seems to be a Christian, so why does he adopt the ‘synthetic gospel’ style of nice fire-side chat? Take his sentence ‘David knew that without the Holy Spirit he would follow the evil inclinations he had felt from birth, which he had inherited from his mother. So he asked God to cleanse him again and to create a new heart in him.’ (Should be a single sentence, with a comma before the so) This sentence is, of course, true, but it in no way does any justice at all to the enormity of the sin that David had committed and to David’s keen understanding of the depth of the sin that he had committed – and is very reminiscent of the ‘synthetic gospel’ style.

          Other than that, I hadn’t really been aware that Christians still held to the concept of ‘original sin’ that he is arguing against (until I read some of the comments here); I had assumed that it was basically a Catholic thing. Even they don’t take it seriously; they think it is dealt with by sprinkling with magic water.

          • Hello Jock,
            You’re too polite; really?
            That’s a good one-up to your usual level of humour, of the long-lost art of self-ridicule, I surmise!
            Anyway, thanks for the extended comment.
            What I find unhelpful, mostly, is the whole comments section as we all indulge in our favourite hobby horses, frequently latching onto a single point and galloping into the undergrowth. We had dogs that would grab a chew, wouldn’t let go and run off with it.
            Clearly, Ian thinks it’s worth continuing with, though frustrated at times and I’m not really sure how the comments section further his role as a scholar and in the CoE in particular. Maybe there is a silent majority.
            There are Christian sites I visit where there are only articles, with no comments section and obviously they are quieter.

            In this comments section, for example, I only recognise two Anglican church member commentators, but there may be more.
            I’m part of an Anglican church, but wouldn’t consider myself to be a thoroughgoing Anglican.
            There is an expression: a pool without an outlet becomes stagnant. Maybe Ian’s blog is such an outlet for some of us.
            If Ian were still in an institutional teaching role, I don’t know how many of us would come out well in his assessment of our comprehension. I include myself.

    • Hello Chris,
      I think that the specific point about Cain/Abel can be answered by lengthy citation from Dr RT Kendall, who you know followed Dr Martyn Llord Jones. Kendall changed his scriptural view from an Arminian position to reformed. It however would fall foul of Ian’s request and would require his permission and my scratchy and tediously slow and error strewn keyboard skills moved to the computer, time I don’t have at the present. It is based on a chapter, Faith and Righteousness – a series of lectures on Hebrews 11, opening with a quotation of Hebrews 11:4
      He touches on Augustine but reserves a fuller consideration of the Fall to a different chapter – where for reasons already stated I’d not look to go.
      It is teaching that is rare and from within both Systematic and Biblical theology fields.

    • Chris, like most positions there is a spectrum of believe within the position. Hard calvinists are supralapsarian (God in eternity without reference to. The fall ordained some to be saved and others to be damned). I find this quite chilling and more importantly, unbiblical. Infralapsarianism believes the divine choice assumes the fall. In Roms 9 it is a married clay that the potter shapes into a vessel of mercy or a vessel to harden. Both mercy and hardening imply marred humanity.

      Hard calvinists are likely to think that there is little point of preaching the gospel for God will save whoever he intends to save. Few, I think would support this nowadays but at one time they did.

      Hard calvinists would see the extent of the atonement as limited to the elect. Soft calvinists would be more likely to see that there are different dimensions to the atonement. They would see the atonement as sufficient for all but designed to be effective only for the elect.; Christ was a substitute specifically for his people.

      There is also a matter of focus. Hard calvinists are more likely to see calvinism and particularly TULIP as first order truths. They are likely to be very vocal in championing the cause of TULIP. Soft calvinists will be less vociferous about TULIP.

      This is a very crude estimate of what hard/soft may convey.

      For myself, I think it is very important to grasp that God is sovereign – absolutely sovereign. He micro-manages the universe according to his will which is ultimately the blessing of his people and the glory of his name. He works all things according to the counsel of his will. It seem to me that if you miss this you are missing something very significant. John Piper, when asked about the difference between Arminianism and Calvinism said that Calvinism has a bigger God. I think he’s right. Arminianism’s God is more man centred. Calvinism’s God lets God be God.

    • I’m not a great lover of Instone-Brewer. Apart from his desire to do away with origin sin for which he says there is no evidence yet cites, admittedly in a watered down way, Ps 51 where David expressly says he was born in sin and shapen in iniquity or Ps 58.. The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray from birth, speaking lies.

      He also posits a whole lot of other people in the world with Adam and Eve being isolated in the garden. This doesn’t fit the Genesis narrative very well.

      He also advocates divorce and remarriage on wider grounds than the Bible. I think he may have been responsible for opening the doors on this matter.

      • Re Psalm 58:3 I’ve mentioned previously that we know that babies don’t lie from birth. Both because they don’t speak but also because Deuteronomy 1:39 says they don’t yet know right from wrong. Therefore Psalm 58:3 must be considered a manner of speaking – it’s saying that people come to do wrong as soon as they know what it is – and have the capacity to do it (as per Genesis 8:21).

        • I have no problem with that Philip. The writers point is that even before they are born their direction is going the wrong way (they have a sinful nature that in time will manifest itself).

  10. ‘for until law sin was in [the[ world, but sin is not reckoned not being law; but death reigned from Adam until Moses even over the{ones] not sinning on the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a type of the[one] coming’ (Romans 5:13,14). God did not reckon sin before the law. So why did death reign ‘from Adam until Moses even over the{ones] not sinning on the likeness of the transgression of Adam’? It must be because ‘all sinned’ in verse 12 means all sinned in Adam. Because of that we all face God’s condemnation from birth onwards – 5:16 & 5:18

    Phil Almond

    • Hi Phil,

      Romans 5 presents real challenges to both the person who says that original sin is not correct doctrine and to those who think it is correct doctrine.

      For example as I explained elsewhere here if original sin is correct doctrine then Romans 5:18 becomes about the whole world automatically being in Adam (except Jesus) which would if the passage is interpreted by making an exact comparison means that everyone is automatically in Christ also without choosing – implying that universalism is true. But then the person who rejects original sin must explain verse 14 – why is our sin different to Adam’s sin if we like Adam make a free choice? (I presume – correct me if I am wrong – that the person who believes in original sin sees our sin different to Adam because we are inclined toward sin and Adam is not).

      The issues for either group – correct me if I am wrong – are centred on verses 12 to 14. Here is what I conclude (at this stage!) about each verse if original sin is not true (and I have many reasons why I cannot conclude it is – see my reply to Chris Bishop):
      v12 – Sin comes into the world through Adam’s choosing to sin – there is death in the world from the moment he sins – it isn’t only that people die when they sin – from the moment Adam sins fallen creation can cause people to die – even before they have the chance to sin (there is a verse somewhere which shows this – someone’s unborn baby dies before having the chance to sin – this proving that the statement “the wages of sin is death” isn’t supposed to be a per individual justice statement). But then Adam’s sin – which inevitably is towards others – leads others to sin – and it builds and builds (although everyone sins as a free choice – having reached an age of responsibility (Deuteronomy 1:39) – like Adam).
      v13 – Sin is real without there being the law – however only when the law exists is sin fully grievous – full blown. Verse 20 confirms this meaning.
      v14 – Death reigns from Adam to Moses because there is still sin and death due to people choosing to sin freely (even if without knowledge of the law) – and as I explained people also die due to creation being fallen from the time of Adam’s sin. The reason people’s sin is not the same as Adam’s sin is EITHER because Adam is given a specific command not to eat from the tree (in which case he is under a law of a type) – or because Adam sins freely without being surrounded by sin (whereas we do when surrounded by sin) – Adam is therefore the true opposite of Jesus – the one who sins freely bringing death into the world – with Jesus being the one who freely dies for our sin bringing justification and life into the world.
      Or something like that!
      vv15 to 18 get interpreted to mean either that Adam’s sin leads to others choosing to sin – or others being inclined towards sin – depending on whether or not one supports original sin or not (however I raised the problem with verse 18 if we are in Adam and Christ automatically – without choosing).

      • Philip

        He does not say ‘our’ sin is not like Adam’s sin. He says those who sinned between Adam and the law did not sin as Adam sinned. His point is that Adam and Israel after Sinai had a law/laws from God. For them, to sin was to break a specific command. This was not true of those born in the interim. Yet they died? Why did they die? They died either for their own sin or because of Adam’s sin. Certainly babies do not die because of their own sin.

        There are parallels between Adam and Christ in 5:11-21 but there are also explicit contrasts (vv15-17). Not as the offence…

        • Thank you John for the correction about whose sin is being contrasted with Adam’s sin in v14 – my bad.

          My current opinion aligns with yours – that the difference being explained in verse 14 between those between Adam and Moses – and Adam himself – is that Adam has been made accountable to an expressed command in the Garden and they have not.

      • Philip

        Roms 5 is best understood in the following way in my view.

        Two men: Adam and Christ

        Two acts : Disobedience and obedience

        Two consequences : sin and death/obedience and life

        Structurally vv 13-17 are a parenthesis.

        The parenthesis deals with two issue a) proving sin was in the world even when there is no law (vv13,14) b) having mentioned that Adam is a type or pattern of Christ he is then anxious to prove there are as many differences as there are similarities (15-17).

        As usual you read into texts what they don’t say. This text is not concerned particularly with how one becomes in Christ. It’s greater concern is showing that there are two men whose actions have affected the race. There two are ultimately the source of two humanities; either you are in Adam or in Christ. If we are in Adam by birth then we are in Christ by grace.

        In fact, although his concern is not the ‘how’ we are ‘in Christ’ he does say ‘much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.’ Notice those who are the ‘all’ in Christ are those who have received the abundance of grace.

        We should notice further that sin and death are not simply acts that happen but tyrants that rule (v14, 18, 21). This is not the first time that the reign of sin has been stressed (3:9). We are slaves of sin. Sin is not simply a choice we make we have a nature that makes it impossible not to sin (Roms 7:14-19; 8:8). The whole world lies in the wicked one (1 Jn 5:19). There is no exception here. David when he sinned traced the root of his evil right back to his conception – in sin did my mother conceive me. He wasn’t excusing himself. Far less was he trying to say that he was conceived in fornication. He was saying that sin had been his companion for as long as he existed. He would have agreed with Paul that he lived under the tyranny of sin. The evil he would not do, he does. M Bird tells this story.

        Maybe you’ve heard the story about the scorpion and the frog. There was once a frog who was sitting on his lily pad when he noticed on the riverbank a scorpion standing around with some frustration. The scorpion called out to the frog, “Mr. Frog, will you take me to the other side of the river by letting me ride on your back.” The frog was hesitant as frogs did not trust scorpions and were naturally frightened of them. So the frog replied, “Sorry Mr. Scorpion, but I cannot carry you across, for you might sting me.” The scorpion retorted, “Don’t be silly. If I stung you while I was on your back, you would die, but so would I, as you’d sink, and I’d drowned in the river.” The frog paused and thought about it for a moment, and decided that it made sense. “Okay, then,” said the Frog. “Climb on my back, Mr. Scorpion, but if you sting me we shall both surely die.” So the scorpion jumped on the frog’s back, and all was going well as he began to carry him across the river. Just maybe, the frog thought, his fear of scorpions was unfounded. But when they were about halfway across the river the scorpion stung the frog in the back. The frog felt a surge of pain and cried out, “Why, why did you do that, Mr. Scorpion? Now we’re both gonna die.” The scorpion replied, “I don’t know, Mr. Frog, I don’t know what came over me. I guess it’s just in my nature.”

        Tragically, sin is in our nature, a nature that results in the destruction and death of all that we care about. You need to hear that by the act of one man many were constituted sinners and stop kicking against the goads. All are under the reign of sin. The only escape from the reign of sin is the reign of grace. We need to be taken out of Adam and into Christ.

        Philip – creation cant cause people to die. It is in God’s hand ours breath is, not inanimate creation.

        • John – as enjoyable as your scorpion and frog story was it won’t make Ephesians 4:22-24 say something different to its plain meaning. You dare to say that it shows our natures controlling us instead of us putting off and on our natures. That is open denial – what I say about the verse showing that we can put off and put on our natures isn’t my interpretation of the passage – it is THE VERY WORDS of the passage. It says the very opposite of your conclusion – that we can put off natures and put them on. Do you deny that the passage says that we can put off our old nature and put on our new nature? There is no possible interpretation of the passage which involves God having to first put the new nature on us so that we will be able to put on the new nature! That’s circular – impossible. Our natures cannot be controlling us at the same time as the verse says we are controlling them.

          Instead of admit what cannot be denied you go back to Romans 8:8 – because if you read just verse 8 it can be made to sound like Calvinism is true. But we’ve been through this (and alarmingly instead of address my arguments concerning verse 8 – which relate to how it is framed by verses 5 to 7 – you respond as if neither the verses nor my arguments concerning them exist! Sorry John – they exist – and they show what verse 8 means. Verses 5 to 7 show that we are only slaves to sin BECAUSE WE FIRST SET OUR MINDS ON THE FLESH. It doesn’t say that our flesh sets its mind on us!

          So, yes, there is a way in which our flesh dominates us – BUT IT MUST BE A WAY THAT RECOGNISES THAT WE REMAIN ABLE TO PUT OFF AND PUT ON OUR NATURES.

          You say to me – about Romans 5 – “As usual you read into texts what they don’t say. This text is not concerned particularly with how one becomes in Christ”. Let’s just assume then that we should not ask questions from the passage about how we come to be in Adam and how we come to be in Christ. We still get to verse 18. It says:
          Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.

          If we don’t ask any questions about HOW Jesus’ death brings people to himself we have no choice but to recognise that verse 18 is saying EITHER that Jesus has saved all men – which the rest of scripture says is not true – or he died for all men – which Calvinism denies. But you say no – you say “It means that only those in Christ have been made righteous”. Can you please explain what you mean when you say that Jesus has only died for those in Christ? Doesn’t he have to first die for people for them to be in Christ? How can they already be in Christ before he dies for them? They could be predestined before he died for them – but it doesn’t refer to those predestined – it refers to those for whom he has died. We must let the passage allow Jesus to first die – and for whom it says he dies. There is no way for one side of verse 18 (those in Adam) to be about all those who ever lived (except Jesus) while the right side of the verse isn’t about all men who ever lived (except Jesus) – you want one ‘all’ to mean all and the other ‘all’ to mean some – with the some being a group that doesn’t yet exist! Sorry – that’s not just not a viable interpretation.

          You mention Romans 7:14-19 which is about the flesh and its power. But it must be interpreted in a way that is consistent with our being able to put off natures and put them on (Ephesians) – and with the flesh only dominating us because we CHOOSE to set our minds on the things of the flesh (Romans) – or otherwise the bible is self-contradictory.

          You say that creation cannot cause people to die. We went through these issues – I said that God’s sustaining of creation is in respect of order not the effects of sin. So the effects of sin in creation – illness – accident – lead people to die. God ALLOWS those things to happen in the particular world he has chosen to create under non-Calvinism – under Calvinism he becomes the cause of even the effects of sin on the world.

          • Philip

            Our putting of the old nature and putting on the new took place at conversion (ultimately a work of new birth brought about by the Spirit). From that point we had two natures (the old and the new) in one person. Our conversion was a statement of our desire to follow the new nature. Thus we are often exhorted to live by the Spirit and make no provision for the flesh. As people living in two ages we have the lives of the two ages within. We have the flesh which can only sin and we have the new life of the Spirit which can only act in a holy way. These two natures/lives are in conflict. We must fight to live by one and not the other.

            The unconverted person has no such conflict. He is in the flesh and is controlled entirely by the flesh. What is a ‘nature’? A nature is what a person is. Take a fish – its nature is to live in the water. It has no desire to do other. It cannot fly or go for a ramble on dry land. It has the nature of a fish.

            It is thus with an unconverted person. He has no love for God. He has no desire to know God. In fact he turns away from what he knows about God (Roms 1). He hates God. He will not come to the light because his deeds are evil. I’ve already quoted verses that make this point repeatedly. The natural man murdered Christ and would do so over and over again. Israel was deliberately cared for by God and given every advantage partly to prove one great truth – that the human heart is incorrigibly wicked and opposed to God. (I Cor 3:19). If you take children and put them on a desert island they won’t produce a narrative like Coral island or Peter Pan – they will produce a hell like Lord of the Flies. If you have any experience of life at all, and I’m sure you have, you will acknowledge this is true.

            Regarding Rom 5 I’m not going over old ground. I’ve already explained this. V17 provides the range of the ‘all’ in v 18. I know of no Christian commentator who does not hold to categories of ‘in Adam’ and ‘in Christ’. It is quite in order for their to be an asymmetry in the ‘all’. Look at 1 Cor 15:22 – as in Adam all die so in Christ shall all be made alive. All be made alive is not a reference to the general resurrection of the just and the unjust. Only believers are in view. Resurrection in 1 Cor 15 is only of believers. The ‘all’ die and ‘all’ made alive are different.

            There is a sense in which we are ‘in Christ’ from before the foundation of the world.

            Roms 7. Once again your allowing a mistaken and bizarre implication of Eph 4 to blind you to plain statements from other texts. You should allow these many texts to adjust your interpretation of Eph 4.

            Philip, your saying so doesn’t;’the make it sio. You invented an artificial distinction when I pointed out the incongruity of us inheriting the effects of sin but not sin itself. If God ‘allows’ these things to happen he can also ‘allow’ sin to be inherited. However, inherited sin is not simply an ‘allow’ it is the moral entail of being descendents of Adam.

            Regarding God’s involvement in sinful things. We have to grapple with texts like the following

            (ESV) And the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “Did I not tell you that he would not prophesy good concerning me, but evil?” 19 And Micaiah said, “Therefore hear the word of the LORD: I saw the LORD sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing beside him on his right hand and on his left; 20 and the LORD said, ‘Who will entice Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?’ And one said one thing, and another said another. 21 Then a spirit came forward and stood before the LORD, saying, ‘I will entice him.’ 22 And the LORD said to him, ‘By what means?’ And he said, ‘I will go out, and will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’ And he said, ‘You are to entice him, and you shall succeed; go out and do so.’ 23 Now therefore behold, the LORD has put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these your prophets; the LORD has declared disaster for you.” 1 Kings 22

            Shall a trumpet be blown in the city, and the people not be afraid? shall there be evil in a city, and the Lord hath not done it? Amos 3

            Or read of the Lord inciting David to number the people then punishing him for doing so. in 2 Sam 24

            We need to avoid over simplistic answers in these areas. While God is never the source of sin he directs it. He turns the heart of the king in whatever way he chooses. He raises the Assyrians and the Babylonians to ravish Israel. He raises Cyrus the Great as his anointed to subjugate the nations of the Near East including Babylon. Do you imagine this happened in a benign way without murder, pillage and rape?

            The bottom line Philip is your God is too small and he doesn’t operate in the real world apart from occasional evangelistic flurries. Yes, I’m creating a bit of a caricature but only a bit. The God of the bible is involved in every beat of the heart and every thought that passes through the mind. He raises up and casts down. He is God and beside him is none other.

          • Hi John,

            I have realised that the reason why you believe (regarding Ephesians 4:22-24) that we are able to put on the new nature – is because you believe that at the moment where we decide to put it on there is complete synergy with God deciding to put the new nature in us – in other words your views about Ephesians 4 are based on compatibilism being true (since God implanting the new nature in us before we chose to put it on doesn’t make logical sense). Can you then explain how compatibilism can be true – how God’s predestining all events can leave any room for human beings to freely choose?

            Your view about Romans 5:18 is that Jesus is dying only for those God chose to save before creation. Ignoring (but not forgetting) the fact that there is no reason to conclude in the context of the passage that God is saving only those predestined – when the left side of the verse is about every human being who ever lived except Jesus being in Adam – I explain in a more coherent way the problem with your saying that Jesus is dying for those who are in Christ (when people aren’t in Christ until he has died for them) in my reply to Chris Bishop’s extremely helpful post about issues with Calvinist predestination and time – in which he mentions you and your response to the issues. Please reply to that issue there so others who are interested in the issue can participate.

            You mention 1 Corinthians 15:22 but this has the same issues as Romans 5:18 in respect of Calvinist salvation being both outside and inside time (see Chris Bishop’s thread to which Ian replies). And your interpretation involves you make the two ‘alls’ in it have different meaning again – which matters.

            In the post I am replying to you brought up three passages (1 Kings 22, Amos 3, and 2 Samuel 24) which require me to clarify God’s relationship with these events in order to have a coherent theology which involves God not being the author of evil. To this point I have only explained that non-Calvinists believe that God actively sustains what ORDERS creation according to his will – not what disorders creation against his will but in accordance with his plan. Imagine for a moment that God is the author of evil – it has to mean that he cannot be praised for delivering us from it – and yet the bible says that he is to be praised for having done so. The only reason to praise God – if he both creates and then delivers us from evil – is for his power. That’s what Calvinism is really about logically – honouring God’s authority not character (however not every Calvinist is logical – I know that some Calvinists are motivated more by what they experience Spirit to spirit about God than what their own doctrine should logically impose upon them). I therefore approach these three passages consistent with that understanding – that God is not the author of evil.

            The key point I should add to what I have said about God’s participation in creation in order to explain these passages is that God – when for example he hardens Pharoah – acts in a way that causes Pharoah to continue to act consistent with his prior freely chosen attitude – this being appropriate when there HAS been freedom to choose – as part of judgement.

            So then in 1 Kings 22 God is either permitting evil to occur as he is in Job 1 because he has a purpose in it – or the spirit in the passage is acting as God intends as part of his wish to cause people to behave consistent with their prior free choice.

            In Amos 3 God’s actions are described as evil only in the translation you choose to quote – not in any other. And there is no Greek word which should be translated evil.

            And 2 Samuel 24 God is acting as I explained above – acting in the same way as hardening due to David’s prior free choice to be disobedient.

            The issue with Cyrus the Great goes far past his actions – the issue is how we should view events that occur in a world which was one of any number of possible worlds that God could create in which free will exists and in which his purposes are achieved. If we are to ask any question about the behaviour of Cyrus the Great the question should be “Did God need to make this particular world – in which he knew that Cyrus the Great would act in the way he did – without him predestining him to so act – and in proximity to the Israelites – in order to bring about his best purpose?” Cyrus certainly also has a direct role in positive events occurring in respect of the Israelites.

            I appreciate your raising these passages as they cause me to think things through fully.

            You quoted 1 Cor 3:19 – but it doesn’t appear to saying anything in line with the idea that “the human heart is incorrigibly wicked and opposed to God”. It’s about spiritual wisdom versus

            You mention my needing to adjust my understanding of Ephesians 4 because of Romans 7 – but the way you do that is by requiring Ephesians 4 to only make sense if compatibilism is true – and since I don’t believe it is – I adjust my understanding of Romans 7 in the light of the only way I can make sense of the Ephesians passage – and also Romans 8 – which reveals that instead of the flesh controlling the decisions of our mind in respect of whether or not to live by the flesh – our minds choose whether or not to live by the flesh – we choose whether or not “to set our minds on the flesh”.

          • ‘ Can you then explain how compatibilism can be true – how God’s predestining all events can leave any room for human beings to freely choose?’

            No, I can’t, not completely. Some can do a better job of explaining it than
            I. The beauty of the Bible is that both sit side by side without embarrassment or any real attempt at explanation, this is what I previously called man’s responsibility and God’s sovereignty.

            But you see, that is just it, we don’t need to fully understand before believing. In fact, for most truths we only really have a glimmer of understanding.

            I’d urge you again Philip, read some who write on these topics well before criticising them then you are criticising what you understand.

            Pink. The Sovereignty of God. (Available online)
            Packer Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God.
            Piper. Five points of Calvinism (available on line… Lots of piper available for free and well worth reading).
            Carson God’s sovereignty and human responsibility.

            Roms 8 is addressing professing Christians who have two natures – one the nature of the flesh and the other the life of God in the soul empowered by the Spirit.. As I explained both natures vie for power. The warning is given not to feed the ‘flesh’ nature. Instead be controlled by the Spirit. The ‘flesh’ nature is the nature that controls the pre-conversion self. That person is ‘in the flesh’ (v8). ‘In’ means he is controlled by the flesh. Flesh is who he is. He has no other influences to which he will/can head. If he is to be helped he needs to be freed from bondage to the flesh by the new life in Christ. That which is flesh, is flesh, it can be nothing else. That’s the point of Roms 7. Romans 7 makes good sense if interpreted in the way I suggest and many others would concur,

            I pointed out that even God must act according to his nature. God cannot lie because that would be a contradiction of who he is, An unbeliever cannot love God because that would be a contradiction of who he is. In heaven none of us will have the ability to sin for that would be a contradiction of who we are. We will be animated only by the life of Christ in our souls through the Spirit and flesh will be no more.

            I cannot see how this is not plain to you.

            You write, ‘ Can you please explain what you mean when you say that Jesus has only died for those in Christ’, I have not said that anywhere,

          • ‘– is because you believe that at the moment where we decide to put it on there is complete synergy with God deciding to put the new nature in us – in other words your views about Ephesians 4 are based on compatibilism being true’


          • Why do you treat compatibilism as something which while being on the face of it illogical (God’s predestining actions must remove our free will) – unlike other things which are illogical that lead us to conclude there must be errors in our theology – should be accepted by faith? Is it because before even deciding it is true you require yourself to be subject to what is only a Calvinist understanding of Romans 9 – “who are you oh man to answer back to God?” – that it is sin to ever ask questions that relate to asking how much freedom after God has finished controlling everything we do?

            And you mentioned people being CONTROLLED by the Spirit – is that your experience of the way the Spirit relates to you? Does he control you so you have no choice but to do right? If he didn’t wouldn’t that mean that your old nature would control you in every area that the Spirit did not? If you still sin – what does that say about the control of the new nature – and therefore the nature of the dominance of the old nature? Neither can be control which overrides what you give yourself to. I believe it shows that our natures only dominate our behaviour in as much as we give ourselves to them – and the reason why we still sin as believers is we give control to the old nature. What other possible explanation is there? Your theology – if our new nature controls us – instead of us choosing to put it on – doesn’t provide you with an explanation for sin – can I therefore ask what your explanation is for why you sin as a believer? Is it because God forces you to temporarily put on the old nature as part of his predestining work?

        • Philip

          It occurred to me to ask if God is able to act contrary to his nature? The answer is of course he isn’t. He is the God who cannot lie.

      • Hi Philip
        My understanding of 5:13-14 is that God does not reckon personal sin before the law was given. So that means that the reason death reigned cannot be because of personal sin. The reason must be because we all sinned in Adam. That is also why babies die before they commit personal sin. Also, your ‘means that everyone is automatically in Christ also without choosing’ is not right because as the passage says only those who receive abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness are in Christ.

        Phil Almond

        • Hi Phil,
          Thanks for your reply – for clarifying your view (which I hadn’t completely understood because I had not realised that you believed that sin did not exist at all separate from the law – resulting in your needing to find another reason for why there is death in the world).
          I don’t concur with your view because of verse 20 – which reveals that sin is not non-existent before the law – just not as fully revealed as sin.
          “Now the law came in to INCREASE the trespass…”
          So I see no support for original sin in this passage – and see reasons why it cannot be correct in verse 18 – which if original sin was correct doctrine – and unless the two ‘alls’ in the verse were to refer to all men on the left – but not all men on the right (see why this leads to problems by reading Chris Bishop’s predestination and time opening post – and my reply to it) – would result in universalism being true.

          • Hello Philip
            I did not say I “believed that sin did not exist at all separate from the law”. I said “God does not reckon personal sin before the law was given”. Of course, as Paul says, “until law sin was in the world but sin is not reckoned not being law”. It may be strange to say that “sin is not reckoned” but Paul says the same in Romans 4:15 “and where there is not law neither [is there] transgression”. Exegetes struggle with this. My view is that we just have to believe that God chose not to reckon sin before the law was given, but he chose rather to reckon Adam’s sin (imputed to sinners) which is why they died. As 5:20 says “But law entered in order that might abound the offence” – so God began to reckon personal sins at that point.

            Phil Almond

          • Hi Phil,

            Thank you for your reply.

            I have a few thoughts which you might find helpful.

            I explained elsewhere that death should not be viewed as the JUDGEMENT for sin – but rather as a consequence of sin being in the world. My proof of this is an Old Testament verse – which I cannot find (although strictly speaking there is no need to find it) – in which a baby in the womb dies. (We only need to imagine a child in the womb dying as a result of sin or illness). The child is subject to death but never has the chance to sin.

            This shows that “the wages of sin is death” is not a “you did this and therefore the punishment is this” statement.
If I am correct it means that the introduction of death because of sin doesn’t require the full gravity of sin to be revealed to human beings by the introduction of the law. It also means that we don’t need to find some other means by which it can be reckoned to people – such as original sin.

            But even if you disagree with this reasoning (I supposed that you will as long as you are a Calvinist treat an unborn child as still being a descendent of Adam) – there isn’t enough in Romans 5:12 or any other part of Romans 5 to ESTABLISH original sin as a doctrine (to establish that something is correct doctrine than merely showing that a doctrine is compatible with a verse or passage – to be established all other possible interpretations of a verse or passage must be ruled out) – and it’s my opinion that original sin is not ESTABLISHED by any passage of scripture.

            In case you did not read a post of mine where I linked to it please find below the video at the link below a comment from me (including a reply of mine to my own comment due to length!) which lists reasons for why original sin cannot be correct doctrine.


            I welcome your observations and criticisms.

            But of course my concerns with original sin aren’t my only concerns with Calvinism – they exist alongside issues I simply cannot resolve with Calvinism imposed by verses like:

            T – Mark 12:34, Ephesians 4:22-24, Romans 8:5-8 (the latter two passages showing that any dominance of our natures over us doesn’t prevent us from being able to put on a different nature – which is only to receive another identity – not to defeat the flesh in our own power.

            U – Romans 11:22, Hebrews 10:29-31, 2 Peter 2:20, Hebrews 6:4-6 (these verses MUST under Calvinism be about a God who delivers people from sin only for a time – only to then eternally punish them)

            L – Romans 5:18, 1 John 2:2

            I – Romans 2:4 – if the Calvinist is right that there are only two graces – common grace – which mitigates the influence of total depravity – and sovereign grace – then what is the kindness referred to in this passage which is MEANT to lead people to repentance (implying that it doesn’t always).

            P – Matt 24:13 – why would Jesus tell people that they must endure to the end to be saved if saved people always endure to the end? It could only be about us acting as if we need to do something so that at the moment we so act God can also sovereignly act in us – this requiring compatibilism to be true. But I cannot see how compatibilism can be true – nor why it is an idea which must be accepted by faith any more than any other idea in scripture which doesn’t make logical sense. But Phil I dont’ tend not to think much about P – instead I wonder how the Calvinist can view the verses I listed under U above – which seem to me to show that people who were living in a state which if it continued would see them saved – for example are we to imagine that Paul in Romans 11:22 as saying that people only need to continue as they are – while they actually needed to do something different – to truly repent?

            There’s no need to reply quickly.

            Have a good weekend.


          • I said “I suppose that you will as long as you are a Calvinist treat an unborn child as still being a descendent of Adam” but that will only help you if you believe we inherit Adam’s guilt (because in the case of the unborn child – the child never gets to sin). But if we inherit Adam’s guilt that would mean that Romans 5:12 – which says that death spreads because all sinned – would have no possible meaning.
            I am left to conclude that an unborn child dying – combined with Romans 5:12’s saying that death spread because all sinned – shows that death in creation is the result of both Adam’s sin – and also other people’s sinning – proving that death cannot be reliably thought of as judgement. But having said that it is clear that people can sin against God outside of knowledge of the gospel in a way that shows that they would never have responded to it if offered it (this being why there are two groups – not one – who will be in hell according to 2 Thess 1:8-9).

          • Hi Philip Benjamin
            You posted:
            “I explained elsewhere that death should not be viewed as the JUDGEMENT for sin “.

            When God said to Adam, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die”

            was not God saying that death was the judgement for the sin of eating the forbidden fruit?

            Phil Almond

          • Hi Phil,

            That’s a very helpful clarification – thank you.

            Your addition goes back to why Adam’s sin is different – because it is in contravention of a clear command.

            That of course leaves the sin of those after Adam and before Moses who are not subject to any clear commands. Some die in a fallen world due to Adam’s sin – before being born – whether due to illness or accident or crime. Others die – according to Romans 5:12 – because of their own sin.

          • Hi Philip
            You posted
            “Others die – according to Romans 5:12 – because of their own sin.”
            No. They die because of Adam’s sin. Because “sin is not reckoned not being law” (5:13).

            Phil Almond

          • Before we go any further Phil – can you please indicate what verse or verses you believe ESTABLISH original sin? Establish as in leave no doubt that it can be the only possible meaning of the passage or passages?
            In the case of Romans 5:12 it is clear (if original sin isn’t proven elsewhere) that the verse could mean that the reason all men die is because all people come to sin freely, knowingly, and wilfully (even if not with full culpability due to the absence of the law). So then Romans 5:12 can be read compatibly with original sin – but it doesn’t establish original sin – it has other possible meanings.
            So then what verse does establish original sin, Phil? What verse has only one viable interpretation which is the teaching of original sin? In case you say Psalm 51:5 let me respond in advance to give two other possible meanings for the verse other than that it teaches that David is inclined to sin from birth:
            1. That from the moment David was born he was surrounded by sin (this meaning matching the most obvious interpretation of Romans 5:12 if original sin isn’t established somewhere else) – that from the moment he is born there is sin around him which eventually leads him and everyone else to sin. That’s a perfectly sensible alternative interpretation of Psalm 51:5.
            2. But so is the idea that David is using a style of speaking common in the Psalms – exaggeration – to make the point that sin has always been there from as early as it was relevant (we don’t sin before we know right from wrong – Deuteronomy 1:39). Like happens in Psalm 58:3 – which John Thomson quoted to me – which clearly doesn’t mean that babies lie – since babies don’t talk – which proves that the verse is a manner of speaking – exaggeration – in order to make a point.

          • Philip
            The scriptures that prove original sin are:
            5:12 ‘so also to all men death passed, inasmuch as all sinned’ means that death passed to all men because all sinned.
            5:13 ‘for until law sin was in the world, but sin is not reckoned not being law’
            5:14 ‘but death reigned from Adam until Moses even over the ones not sinning on the likeness of the transgression of Adam…’
            ‘all sinned’ in 5:12b cannot mean that personal sin was the cause of death reigning from Adam to Moses because ‘sin is not reckoned not being law’.
            So the reason death reigned from Adam to Moses must be that ‘all sinned’ in 5:12b must mean ‘all sinned in Adam’.
            this is supported by ‘For as in Adam all die……’
            Also 5:16 and 5:18 make it clear that it is by the sin of Adam that condemnation has come upon all men.

            Phil Almond

          • Hi Phil Almond,

            I cannot engage with you if you won’t engage with my reasoning – if you aren’t willing to show where I am in error. I welcome your criticism and feedback.

            Your job is to ESTABLISH original sin. You must find a place or places in scripture which show that alternative understandings of how human beings come to sin are shown to be in error – where only original sin makes sense. That for example there is no possibility that our all coming to sin is due to other people sinning leading us to sin.

            Your reasoning – for example in support of verses 16 and 18 – shows that you do not understand that this is your task. Your comments show that you believe you have done the job only by showing that our sin starts and extends from Adam. But everyone thinks that Phil. You must show that it arises from our BEING BORN INCLINED TOWARDS SIN DUE TO OUR BEING ADAM’S DESCENDANTS – instead of by some other means.

            I don’t need you to reply again but if you do I ask that you limit your comments to the task. And also to the logic I have expressed concerning verse 12 – that logic being that if we came to the passage with no view as to how people end up sinning as a result of Adam’s sin we wouldn’t from verse 12 conclude that the ONLY possible meaning is that people come to sin as a result of being inclined towards sin as a result of being descendants of Adam.

            And since you mention verse 18 I also ask you to explain as a Calvinist why a view of how we come to sin which sees us in Adam automatically (without choosing) shouldn’t lead to the conclusion that we are also in Christ automatically. Or even if you decide that a verse which makes a direct comparison with being in Adam and being in Christ doesn’t need to match in respect of the need to choose or not – that still leaves you as a Calvinist with the task of explaining why Jesus would die for all people – and people being able to find life and justification because of Christ’s death and resurrection – if God has chosen before creation to save only some people.

          • Ian, Chris Bishop raised original sin many many many posts ago – not me. He did because I raised Calvinism’s hiding the central message of the passage of this article – that being that IN ORDER to be saved – in order to be what Jesus calls a disciple – one must have ALREADY turned from all idols. (Calvinism saying something contrary to that – that repentance is the result of being saved).

            I interacted with your article in two ways:
            – I corrected your inference that our less than full submission to Christ is our choosing to live a life that is less than what it could be – when the passage said it amounted to having a faith which wasn’t saving faith.
            – I followed up your discussion about grace not being all that faith is and your pointing out that some people think of Jesus as stern – or unloving – in making the statements he does in the passage – by raising which elements of God’s character should or should not be considered part of his love. I think that to raise that topic in the context of your article and the passage was appropriate – helpful. Since whether Jesus’ words are less than loving comes down to what is and isn’t love.

            If you didn’t want Chris to raise issues which were only the result of my raising Calvinism in respect of the article you should have told Chris and removed his post. Or left his post but commented below it that you did not wish for it to become a topic of conversation. Obviously if it stands people will consider you to have judged it to be not sufficiently far from the passage to have removed it (due to my explaining the relationship of Calvinism to the passage).

            I was unhelpful in the incompleteness of my previous reply to you Ian in which I said that it was everyone’s job to counter primary doctrinal and behavioural failure. Let me say that while I don’t back down from those comments that I also believe that you are entitled to run a blog in which the subjects raised by the passage and your article sets the range of the comments. But if you want that to happen you are going to have to insist on it. Instead of blaming me when I engage with subjects raised by others. I wouldn’t say that same about the somewhat esoteric comments of others (to which you have never expressed objection). The issue that must matter most is surely whether someone’s comment is entirely dedicated to fleshing out the issues – or distracting from doing so – not who is the one doing the fleshing out. On that note there is nothing the slightest bit unconvincing about my arguments against original sin – it isn’t ESTABLISHED by any passage of scripture. And if YOU choose to engage on the subject of original sin while claiming to be shutting down the conversation – as you did by saying the argument was unconvincing – you must explain your reasons for your opinions in the same way everybody else must.

          • Philip, I have repeatedly told you I do not want the comments dominated by these long, exhausting conversations between one or two people. This is not ‘closing down conversation.’

            Please take it elsewhere, or I will delete all the comments.

          • Forgive me if in the circumstances we find ourselves Ian if I act as one not feeling chastened by your criticisms. How am I to view a person who writes an article about a passage which says that a Christian is someone who as part of being saved has turned from all idols – focusing not on the implications of that for himself, his church, and his denomination – but only on the possible sternness of Jesus’ words?

            You watch silently while for example people respond as if I am mentally unstable (in need of a church with whom I must try harder to align – and of accommodation) for thinking that God is only love – without saying a single word in defence of my position – when they treat it as a bizarre and radical departure from orthodoxy – leading to long drawn out conversations. When – unless I am deeply deceived – that is your view. The thing that is bizarre is that I haven’t argued a view on this page which you don’t support (except original sin?) and yet instead of provide support you allow me to be the object of derision. Instead of acting as if there is primary truth (you know that the views of those who say that God is not love alone are motivated by their wish to continue to believe that God creates most people only to pour out his contempt for them on them) you act as if everything is a matter for discussion – you prefer to remain best mates with those who while fundamentally wayward offer you unconditional loyalty. You don’t want the arguments to finish (as long as they result in me being disrespected) – it is your way to see me suffer for holding you to account for your primary doctrinal error on sex differences (which leaves you without any explanation for why marriage must be between opposite sexes – and without any explanation for why homosexuality is sin). You hold me at a distance because you have concluded that my passionate defending of the truth – my conclusion that all churches in the first world church who refuse to apply church discipline to other churches in primary error (this being whole swathes of the UK church) are fatally sick – that the only future for the first world church involves people separating them AND those in error – are faults in my character. That you should conclude this is of course inevitable – you must reject me as part of your identifying with the carcass that is your denomination – and the disobedient wider first world church who treat you as a learned somebody. The value of that affirmation is a whole lot more important to you than the embarrassment (only to God – not to people on this forum) of having someone argue for days that Romans 5:18 and its justification and life for all men doesn’t mean what it says. Whatever Ian – whatever. Make the choices you were always committed to making – let’s just get this over with.

            I am – I am fairly sure – the only friend you have – and I’ve never even met you.

          • ‘I am – I am fairly sure – the only friend you have – and I’ve never even met you.’

            If you cannot see how utterly bizarre this comment is, I can’t help you. But please attend to my request, or I will need to block and delete you.

          • Ian
            As you wish. But (if you will allow this parting shot on this thread), the Church of England will eventually have to face whether the Doctrine of Original Sin is true or not.
            Philip Almond

  11. When God said somewhere in the O.T., “ It never entered my mind” I think he was expressing exactly that. This leaves me with the understanding that God knows exactly what He wants to happen and then makes it happen. The future is still unmade. We have faith in God who has faith in Himself. I don’t know what Calvinism is exactly but it does seem to me to reduce God to something predetermined and fixed ,as homogeneous as an infinite idol made of gold.

  12. “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die…” (Bonhoeffer)

    That assertion is entirely consistent with Jesus’s statement that “you must be baptised” with the baptism He is baptised with, by which (it is written) He means His death.

    And also consistent with Paul’s statement: “I have been crucified with Christ.”

    The Way of Jesus Christ does not bypass death to self. And death to self can be costly, day by day. For many of us it does not involved being killed for our faith (at least in this country) but it does mean – every day – opening to the love and grace of God, and extending that love to others, beyond our own self-interest and selfishness.

    In opening to love and grace, we discover “life in all its fullness”. But that fullness of life is not mere hedonism. The Way of Christ is a way of Grace, in the way we serve other people, the way we open to God, the quality of the lives we live. It is not all misery. It is enrichment too.

    We have a baptism to undergo. And it’s day by day. We keep on being baptised.

    • Where do you get that idea from, Susannah?
      Who Baptises in the Spirit-Jesus.? Maybe you are a secret follower of John Piper and his *Christian hedonism* – making much of God by enjoying Him forever. ( If I recall correctly from his *Desiring God* book.

    • Hello Susannah,
      I am aware of where you got it from- a present continuous tense. – command. Who was it from? Is it to be confined to time, place, culture?
      It was, I think, what the Toronto Blessing was predicated on, along with the Sunderland Revival. Toronto was not favoured by John Wimber.
      But my underling question, which you’ve probably spotted, is where and who does it come from?
      And, consequently, what do you do with the rest of the Pastorals and the whole of scripture. How do you decide?
      Yours in Christ,

      • Geoff, surely each day we have a continuing baptism to undergo… by which I mean death to self, and opening instead to the unselfish love of God in our lives towards others?

        Isn’t that the Way of the Cross? And the cost of following Jesus?

        ‘Where does it come from?’

        The Bible, I would say, and the Holy Spirit who draws us into burial to self, devotion to God, and the rising/opening up to the power of love and grace… day by day.

  13. Believing in God – or- Believing God?
    Faith- Righteous- Righteous by Faith.

    Is this the sin beneath all Sin?
    Did Adam believe *in* God? Certainly.
    Did Adam, believe God? Certainly not.
    Why is Jesus the necessary second Adam, indeed Adam’s God *Promise seed*and a new humanity ” in him”?
    What happened to the curse? What does the whole of creation long for?

    • Please pray for a homeless beggar man my wife and I briefly met this morning. His name is Daniel. He gave permission to pray for him.
      We are all beggars before God.

      • Amen. We are all dressed in rags as we come before God.

        Thanks for the invitation to pray. I just have. I pray Daniel may meet with grace in some people he encounters, and kindness on the street, and some practical help. Also, that he is touched by his meeting with you and your wife, and recalls it.

        Lord have mercy, it could be any of us.

      • Peter, followed through, this may also shed some light on the understanding of”pistis” – faith in Christ or faith of Christ. (Either/or; both/and?)
        Yes, much has been written, but Dr Michael Eaton delved into the meaning with longitudinal biblical theology as part of his PhD dissertation, published in a tidied-up form (none scholars- but with pages of scholars references) in his book, “The Theology of Encouragement” probably now out of print. You may be aware that he is the fruit of the ministry, as was, at Westminster Chapel, London.

        And this is not really an aside to this whole article, but somewhat central, it is suggested – the pull and push, drawing and sending of costly grace in Jesus the Christ, Our Lord, our God.

  14. An issue Ian raised in his article is the relationship of God’s holiness and justice with his mercy and grace.

    Another way to consider the issue is to ask – is God’s holiness and justice part of his love – or separate to it?

    Here are some thoughts.

    What if we first ask – is there anything unloving about God’s justice? If God’s justice is his being fair – if it is his rewarding righteousness and his punishing sin – the answer has to be no. There is no way that one can argue that fairness works against love.

    What then about God’s holiness – is there anything unloving about God’s justice? No – being tolerant of wrongdoing doesn’t serve love – only intolerance of it. And God’s passion for all that is righteous is also not inconsistent with love.

    If God’s holiness and justice are each not inconsistent with love the next question to ask is – is there any evidence that – more than that they are not inconsistent – that God’s holiness and justice are themselves love?

    And the answer is yes to both – both God’s holiness and his justice are each love because in showing us that our actions matter they reveal that we matter. If they did not exist we would not be loved as we would with them present – not to the same extent or in the same manner.

    I therefore conclude that God’s holiness and justice and mercy and grace are the big four pillars of his love. Holiness is a bit different to the other three in that it is about the manner in which God outworks the other three – passionately and intolerant of anything that freely, knowingly, and wilfully opposes them.

    If we made a diagram of God’s character love then it would be a big rectangle – with holiness, justice, mercy, and grace being smaller rectangles or squares on top of that rectangle. Other attributes of God – such as for example his patience – are sub-manifestations of one or more of those four primary attributes. For example in the case of patience it relates to revealing God’s desire to show mercy and grace.

    The only ways I have been able to prove from scripture that holiness and justice are included in God’s love – not distinct from it – have been the following:
    – we as those in dwelled by God are called to only two great commandments (Matt 22:37-39) – love of God and love of neighbour – there is no third or fourth command grouped with them. We are told that all of the law and the prophets rest on these (Matt 22:40). It is clear that commands to be holy and just in the law are part of love.
    – there is nowhere in scripture which presents God’s holiness or justice as something additional to his love – proving they aren’t part of his love

    If anyone has any other ways to prove from scripture that either God’s holiness and justice either are or are not included in his love I would be very interested to read them. (I hope that I have expressed myself clearly enough – I know that God is love – I know that God is holy – I know that God is just – the only issue being examined here is the relationship or not of holiness and justice to love).

    • Philip, hmmmmmm.

      Not squares within squares. Your diagram is too flat.
      Think cube.
      Holiness is a face of the cube.
      20 by 20 by 20 royal cubits.
      = 8000
      8 stands for Jesus
      1000 for divine perfection.
      Just stand where you have been invited in by the Holy Spirit and admire the golden symmetry.

      • LOL.

        Joking or not Steve you got me thinking!

        I realised that I would like holiness to be connected to the other four pillars directly – since God is holy about justice, holy about mercy, and holy about grace. Holiness being God’s passion for each of these and his abhorrence for what freely, knowingly, and wilfully opposes them. But how do I visualise that – I want all four pillars to rest on love but I also want holiness – while touching love to be what the other three sit on.

        • I was not joking. Standing in the holy of Holies is where Christ is, or, He is the H xH. I’m offering an alternative way of exploration. Perhaps each of the 6 gold faces could stand for each of the elements you want. Floor= Holiness, ‘praps?
          I’m just thinking you need do the exploring by giving yourself a blank space… instead of buying another set of books. Festus had a point. To quote me fave Bonzo Dog, ‘It’s life, not books that’s taught me all I’ve learned; wahay up Mum! me rice pudding’s getting burned.”

          • oh and BTW, There are 7 pillars in the Bible. You cant have a new scheme that only has 4. That irritates me..a bit.

          • Amen brother. If we look at the bible with the filter between us and it dictating what God is and is not allowed to teach us – the filter being the teaching of those who came before us (when their going to the bible may have been them doing the same – relying on the conclusions of those who came before them) we are refusing to allow God the opportunity to teach us one to one – we have chosen to be followers (of leaders in many cases now dead) – unable to lead others anywhere.

    • Philip,
      That is a whole new topic.
      For an Anglican of old see Bishop RC Rules book, *Holiness* as a starting point.
      For more recent books see RC Sproul’s, Holy of God, and there is much on the internet from Ligonier ministries.
      Also, Devoted to God, is a scriptural study of holiness by Sinclair Ferguson.
      I really don’t think that Ian”s blog is a one for Systematic theology, though I can understand your hunger and thirst for truth and the *whole counsel of God* – God’s Big Picture.
      A book recently bought at the Keswick Convention, yet unread, but highly commended ( with a foreward by Ian’s favoured
      scholar of the Trinity Fred Sander? is *None Greater* ( the undomesticate attributes of God). It contains a chapter, ” Can God be both Holy and Loving? – Righteousness, Goodness and Love”
      And last, for a small book, previously promoted by Phil Almond: The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God by D A Carson.

      • You have me pegged Geoff – I am a systematic theology person. I am delighted by the way in which reconciling multiple passages from the Bible causes the extraordinary beautiful truth of God/Jesus and his character to come into focus – to be revealed in both its relational simplicity but also as one hungers to understand – in extraordinarily detailed insight.

        • Philip,
          Could you be encouraged to step into the world of Biblical Theology.
          Some reasonable starters are:
          – Jesus on Every Page by David Murray
          – Overview of the Gospels – Reading Backwards by Richard B Hays
          (He has a well regarded but far more expensive on Paul)
          – On a whole canon rolling theme: Echoes of Exodus by Roberts and Wilson
          – Nancy Guthrie has some study books including a series. I have two, “The Promised One” and “The Son of David” both recommended.
          Freely downloadable is “Through New Eyes” by James B Jordan

          There is a whole series: New Studies in Biblical Theology. Beale’s, The Temple and the Mission of the Church, to me, is worth a look.

          There are more technical tomes such as Commentary on the New Testament use of the Old Testament; Eds Beale and Carson

          There is much to chew over, agree, delight, disagree with, but most of all to see the astonishing interconnectedness of the whole Bible and our Glorious God.
          Needless to say, there is some disagreement between Systematicians and Biblical theologians, but I don’t see it myself and neither does the likes of Carson who is both.

          Yours, Geoff

    • there is nowhere in scripture which presents God’s holiness or justice as something additional to his love – proving they aren’t part of his love

      Philip, the first part is a sweeping statement. The second part doesn’t seem to make sense – I think you may have meant ‘proving they are part of his love.

      It is here reading a decent systematic theology like Grudem’s may help. I think he’d suggest that each attribute is in a sense discrete. It must be if we are to identify it. Of course, as with us there is a interaction of attributes. He never acts in contradiction to his attributes or who he is. However, sometimes his decisions reflect more on one attribute than another according to his wisdom and will. Again not so unlike those he has made in his own image.

      God’s holiness and justice are not his love and often they are devoid of love. Read some of the OT descriptions of wrath if you need convincing.

      I say all this because while love is at the heart of who God is he isn’t only love and love is not God. To love is a choice he makes. His love is sovereign. He chose to create and love. In a world of sin He chose to love Jacob but not Esau (twins from the same womb). To Israel he says ‘you only have I chosen of all the nations of the earth’. He has a love that reaches out to the world but a special love that chooses and keeps his own. There will be a time when love will be forever withdrawn from an unbelieving and divine justice alone will hold sway. Justice is not love, it is justice.

      But we’ve been though this before.

    • Philip

      You cannot really prove a contention to be true by appealing to the Bible’s silence about it. I would want to see the tram lines of a truth in Scripture. It is true that God loves holiness and justice and when God consigns someone to hell his love of justice is involved. But it is not love for the individual that consigns him to hell. Hell is not a place where God’s love is felt the exact opposite seems to be the case.

      • I supplied a biblical proof John. I explained that the two great commandments – each only about love – love of God – and love of neighbour – are said to be what all the law and the prophets rest on (that law including commands – and those prophets saying -that we must be both holy and just).

        Matthew 22:37-40
        Here’s verse 40.
        On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.

        I’m sad that you believe in a God who is only love some of the time. That must be very scary for you – not knowing when he will turn from being one to the other.

        • Philip

          Of course God is love but he does not always act in love. You may be kind but that does not mean every act is an act of kindness. If you were a judge (as God is) your duty in the courtroom is to act justly. You are not called upon to act in love and indeed doing so may be an attack on justice.

          Suppose you say I sentence you to life in prison for those dreadful murders but your prison will be a first class hotel on the French Riviera with full board and full access to facilities in and around the hotel. Here love has undermined justice.

          Incidentally God always loves his people and always acts in love towards them but this is not the case with those who are not his people.

          And I need to add, I don’t see the relevance of the love God in the commandments argument. These are commandments to men not to God. God commands us to forgive our enemies but he doesn’t always forgive his enemies. Indeed one of the reasons we forgive our enemies is because vengeance belongs to the Lord and he will repay. Your logic is flawed.

          • The relevance of the two great commandments and the fact that all the law and the prophets rest on them (Matthew 22:40) is that Christianity is about people who know God living in dwelled by him. They therefore shouldn’t have any attitudes or priorities which aren’t the same as his. We therefore learn what God is like by what we are commanded to do.

            Can I ask John that you use your theology and your terminology of love and justice to describe what happens in the following situation? Imagine a church follows the Matthew 18 procedure – they discipline someone in either primary error or primary sin – and the person doesn’t repent – and the church then adopts the final position of treating the person not as family (which isn’t about being behaving without care – it’s just about not treating someone like a brother or sister) – in the hope that this will lead the person to repent. Is this love? Are the actions of the church love if they are motivated by the best welfare of the person? Or are all negative actions – like correcting, rebuking, disciplining and separating from people – holiness and/or justice – and not love? And if you could then continue on and imagine the same person and the same events from God’s perspective – that God is using the church to discipline the person – hoping that they will repent – and describe it from his perspective.

            Let me also clarify that while this is happening – the church and God are hating both the person for their free, knowing, and wilful sin – and their acts. This isn’t preventing either from acting for the best welfare of the person – it’s an expression of the church’s and God’s love for what will be best for the person – and what the person would ideally do for the best welfare of others.

            So then I want to finally ask you to explain what God’s attitude to the person is or becomes if they then end up in hell. Is God’s hatred for evil (that he shared with the church towards the person on earth) – and his justice – which is revealed in full in hell (previously revealed only in part) – is this inconsistent with love (can you explain how it can be if it wasn’t inconsistent with acting to seek to restore the person when they were on earth)? Or does God at this point become someone whose hatred of evil is inconsistent with who he has been to that point? Of course there is no way to restore the person – so obviously that cannot come into play – but I’m asking if there is a part of God which at this point delights in not being able to restore the person – is there anything about God’s hatred of evil which is differently motivated in hell?

            If you believe that in the example above God changes at some point from love to a justice which is inconsistent with love can I ask if you believe Old Testament God makes this change to an unloving justice more quickly than New Testament God – or at the same point? (I’m asking because you have mentioned God’s Old Testament anger in our exchange on these issues).

          • Philip

            Your illustration is of a believer. I have already said God always acts in love towards those who are family (as we do). The question before us was the unbeliever where different rules apply. The unbeliever when finally banished to outer darkness and eternal burnings (images of love????) is not loved but hated. Only wrath is expressed and we are not intended to see this as loving wrath – that is a monstrous parody of God’s justice. Read Rev 14:9-13; Rev 19:11-21

            The wrath is not remedial it is retributive. It never ends. It is the portion of thee damned. I defy you to find God’s love in these pictures. These are the wretched; the forsaken; the cursed.

            When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” . . . Then he will say to those on his left, “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. . . . And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

            Saying my logic is flawed doesn’t make it flawed. Saying and proving are two different things. However, i can be guilty in this front too.

          • Philip

            Ignore my paragraph… your logic is flawed. I think this was something I said and not you. Apologies.

  15. Much of the contention about the doctrine of predestination has always seemed to me to be with the nature of time and how it is perceived by humans and by God. Although it can be measured, there is no real understanding of what time actually is and in a recent article in Nature, it may actually be illusory see

    However, for practical purposes we perceive time as a sequence of linear events measured by clocks except when we travel at very high speed or in the presence of large gravitational masses. The rate at which we perceive time to flow, may also be affected by the workings of the human brain see

    The point of all this is that time is very human phenomenon as we live our lives from the past, the present and into the future. My sense from reading Scripture is that God does not perceive time in the same way as we do and when we encounter passages with notions of fore-ordainment, predestination and so on, we are encroaching onto the way that God perceives time.

    In practical gospel terms I am not sure if all this really matters very much. We can do nothing to change the past, we do not know the future and the only we can do temporally with is the now. I take John Thomson’s point about the sovereignty of God being overarching and it may be that God has a whole range of future realities which unfold to us which we can never know in advance. What I do see very clearly from Scripture is the grace of God freely available in time and space to all through Jesus Christ and that is the message that we preach. Whether people take advantage or not and speculation about an individual’s future reality and their capacity or not for free –will however fascinating it may be intellectually- it isn’t really our problem. It’s the now that counts (2 Cor 6:2).

      • Ian
        What about the ‘sweet, pleasant and unspeakable comfort’ of absolute assurance of salvation of which, as you well know, (because you have made the Declaration of Assent) Article 17 of the 39 Articles speaks. Do you still stand by that Declaration you have made?

        Phil Almond

        • Hi Phil,
          Assurance of salvation is indeed important.
          Can you explain how the Calvinist can have assurance that he is one of the chosen in the light of verses like Romans 11:22 which show that someone can be under God’s kindness (something which the Calvinist says can only happen if God overrides our wills) but then be cut off?
          Non-Calvinist assurance of salvation is this – that God is unchanging in character – this proven in his being merciful and gracious towards all people and in all events – and therefore allowing all people to come to him – or otherwise be partial (see Acts 10:34-35 which says that if God did not allow all to come to him that this would indeed make him partial) and therefore the way in which we begin relationship with God will always be a way in which we can continue in relationship with God – the way in is the way on. That’s what being sealed is (Ephesians 1:13) – a seal on a letter doesn’t mean the letter cannot be opened – it means that we can be assured that the letter is from the person it says it is from.

        • There can be no assurance of salvation whilst that salvation depends on our behaviour, as Ian and others seem to believe. Hence the ‘costly grace’ position.

          But it seems to me there is a contradiction at the heart of such understanding.

          • I think the best balance between faith and works is still that works are the evidence of faith.

            The law techniques said that if someone broke one commandment he was guilty of all – in the sense that he proved he had the heart of a rebel and a law breaker.

            The law demanded perfect obedience. It came as a ‘law’. It made no attempt to explain or treat its hearers as adults, rather it treated them like children. The God of the law was the threatening God of Sinai that held people at a distance trembling with fear. It made demands but had no supply. Forgiveness under law was an expensive and demanding process of sacrifice.

            Gospel obedience is the obedience of faith. It is at every point an obedience that looks to God for grace. We come for grace to a Heavenly Father. Whatever God demands in grace he supplies. There is not an endless flow of sacrifices that impoverish and crush for Christ has offered one sacrifice for sins forever.

            The gospel is grace and its result is gratitude. It tells people as Philip B said who we are in Christ and calls upon us to live up to our calling. It is the obedience of sons not slaves or children.

            None of that stops it being a costly obedience. There is no such thing as being a christian and being indistinguishable from the world. God’s NT people need to tremble and never presume upon grace.

    • Hello Chris,
      I wasn’t aware that predestination had been discussed as a discrete topic, studiously and wisely avoided, by Ian.
      The Gospels and Pastorals are all about living in the present, but often with a look over the shoulder to where we’ve come from, been.
      The present is eternal, but doesn’t exclude yesterday or tomorrow.
      This is something of the eternal in this whole discussion.
      Getting longer in the tooth carrying something of the weight of nostalgia, I’m off to live in the present with the Gospel indicatives and imperatives, ever present even in the magnificent taken for granted of each day lived and lost – joy and pain two sides of the same coin – and yet to be, and God given breath of life.
      Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, forever. Zoe – breath of life eternal with Him.
      The Lord bless you and keep you, make his face shine upon you and give you his peace.
      Bye, Geoff

    • This is brilliant Chris.

      You mention John’s response to your thoughts about predestination and time – that God can make a decision which is outside time but which within creation unfolds over time – revealing its full dimensions and implications. But for God’s decision to save people through Jesus not to be subject to time – making God’s will subject to creation instead of sovereign over it – God must wind up creation like a clock – and then not participate – instead of actively participating in it.

      This is where Calvinism logically always ends up – with us being required to believe things Mind to mind which cannot be experienced Spirit to spirit (when faith cannot be Mind to mind since the mind can only think thoughts – not experience relationship with God – nor renew itself when it is fallen – since this would have to involve possibly fallen thoughts replacing other fallen thoughts). How for example am I supposed to experience Spirit to spirit the truth that God loves me but has chosen to damn most other people? And that’s presuming I have some reason for knowing that he wishes to be merciful and gracious to me – how can I know he does if even when I experience his character Spirit to spirit I don’t now if he will enable me to submit to him for a time – but then dump me – as must be implied in Romans 11:22 according to Calvinism.

      Calvinism divides the decisions of God – the word of God – from his presence. It allows Jesus to be the truth but not the way or the life (the truth being that God loves us unless he has created us not for mercy and grace but for holiness and justice – as if the latter were not part of his love – see other discussions here – they are!).

      • I’m not quite sure what you are saying here Philip. I think you’re saying that ‘calvinism’ is about believing truths and not embracing them at a deeper emotional/spiritual level. If so I think you present a false dichotomy. All truth is to be embraced by the mind, emotions and will. All truth is spiritually discerned (and the natural mind cannot perceive the spiritual).

        You write, ‘How for example am I supposed to experience Spirit to spirit the truth that God loves me but has chosen to damn most other people? And that’s presuming I have some reason for knowing that he wishes to be merciful and gracious to me – how can I know he does if even when I experience his character Spirit to spirit I don’t now if he will enable me to submit to him for a time – but then dump me – as must be implied in Romans 11:22 according to Calvinism. ‘

        This is just the old classic argument that asks how can I know if I’m among the elect. The answer is ‘by faith’. Faith in the God who has promised to save all who come to him is the premise by which we live our life. By faith we live with unanswered questions. By faith we believe he will enable us to persevere. By faith we believe that the judge of all the earth will do right etc.

        I simply don’t know what you mean by Calvinism divides the decisions of God from his presence. Nor do I know what you mean by Calvinism. You are dealing in caricatures not Calvinism, in travesty not truth, in spin not spirituality.

        You must rise above false accusations about ‘Calvinism’ and deal with the substantive points raised – you are singularly failing to do this. I have presented a raft of verses none of which you have engaged with save to say that they cannot trump your singular interpretation of some verses in Eph 4. There is no possibility in your mind that these verses should modify your understanding of Eph 4 nor raise a doubt that you may be wrong.

        Philip, part of my conviction that I am right is the belief that a wide swathe of conservative evangelicalism would be on largely the same wave length as me. I am convinced that most, Arminian or Calvinist, would not agree with your exegesis of many texts.

        I think you have started from a premise in your mind – something like, man must be totally free to make his own choices and be captain of his own destiny – and from then on you have been determined to find it and prove it in the Bible. This has blinded you to the God who ‘works all things according to the counsel of his own will’. The God who must be sovereign in history and salvation or he is not God at all is not a God you allow to exist. Your issue is not with Calvinism, that is a side show, your issue is with the sovereignty of God.

        I form light and create darkness; I make well-being and create calamity; I am the LORD, who does all these things. “Shower, O heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain down righteousness; let the earth open, that salvation and righteousness may bear fruit; let the earth cause them both to sprout; I the LORD have created it. Woe to him who strives with him who formed him, a pot among earthen pots! Does the clay say to him who forms it, ‘What are you making?’ or ‘Your work has no handles’ Isa 45

        Job 42:2

        “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.”

        Lamentations 3:37–39

        Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come? Why should a living man complain, a man, about the punishment of his sins?

        Proverbs 16:33

        The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD

        Romans 8:28

        And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

        (ESV) For you formed my inward parts;
        you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
        14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
        Wonderful are your works;
        my soul knows it very well.
        15 My frame was not hidden from you,
        when I was being made in secret,
        intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
        16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
        in your book were written, every one of them,
        the days that were formed for me,
        when as yet there was none of them.

        These are but a few of the many many verses and narratives in Scripture that reveal God rules absolutely. Notice how the final quotation shows God is intimately involved in the creation of each new life; he does not leave it to the mechanics of creation. In fact he leaves nothing to the mechanics of creation. He made and sustains all things. In him we live and move and have our being, Philip! Philip! Philip!

      • But for God’s decision to save people through Jesus not to be subject to time – making God’s will subject to creation instead of sovereign over it – God must wind up creation like a clock – and then not participate – instead of actively participating in it.

        Philip… I can’t follow this at all. Can you explain further.

        • Hopefully this is clearer.

          It is only possible for God to decide to do save some people and then LATER take the actions necessary to achieve it – in Jesus dying – if he is both outside time and also inside it. Unless creation involves God predestining all events in creation without actively sustaining them (in order to remain outside time). It was Chris who pointed out the problem with Calvinist predestination and time – not me – I merely pointed out the only way in which the Calvinist could seek to get around God being inside time – and what would be the consequences of it (that God would not be actively accompanying anything in creation – which makes the Bible a Mind to mind thing – there is no power to be converted or sanctified – the word is no longer accompanied by God’s active presence – unless his power is something other than his being present (which it never is). What ever faith then is is received Mind to mind (that being a problem because our minds are fallen – and therefore cannot renew themselves – since new ideas entering our minds may themselves be fallen).

          • It is therefore impossible to speak about Jesus dying for those who are predestined to believe (which is what I was trying to say wasn’t viable in your interpretation of Romans 5:18 John). Because that involves the predestining happening as a separate and prior event to Jesus dying (implying that God is inside time). Non-Calvinist predestination does not face this problem because it involves God choosing Jesus death and resurrection as the means by which people will be saved. I will not forget the time I first read Ephesians 1 having been prompted to realise that it’s about God choosing Christ instead of God choosing people to be in Christ.

          • Philip, you are posting a very large number of long comments here. I think it crowds the space and prevents others from commenting. I have mentioned this before.

          • Sorry Philip, I’m lost. Maybe the time of night. It’s been good to chat. Take care of yourself. The Lord would want you to do so if possible.

          • Well, Philip, I have to say that you don’t need to do that here. I really don’t need any self-appointed guardians, and it is frustrating when the comments here are dominated by a very small group just talking to each other. If you want to do that, why not form an email chat group?

            Comment here should be engage with the article, not going off on your own tangents.

          • It doesn’t work that way Ian.

            If there was a church in the UK that believed that believers should kill all female babies it wouldn’t fall only to the leaders of that church to be guardians of the truth in that church – it would be everyone’s responsibility. Those who took responsibility would not be “self-appointed guardians”.

            But there are people on this forum who believe something worse than that – that most people (more in number than all the female babies in the world – see Matt 7:13-14) exist only so that God can ETERNALLY punish them – not just kill their bodies. It falls on all those not holding these beliefs to counter them.

            If our own faith is grounded intellectually we may have sympathy for those whose beliefs can be made compatible with many but not all passages of scripture (a different thing to their beliefs being ESTABLISHED by scripture). But we fail to recognise that there are multiple ways in which God expects us to learn and understand – not just intellectual. He expects us to submit to his Spirit – to not do so involves us being in constant war against God. If faith is supposed to be Spirit to spirit informing our minds it follows that we are obligated to submit to the Spirit – not make him subject to the judgements of our mind. If we welcomed the Spirit we would realise that we have no way in which to assess Spirit to spirit the rightness of particular beliefs – for example that God has created most people only to pour out his hatred on them. And finally we have creation – in which we observe that God clearly acts with mercy – with generosity – towards all people – not just to those who believe. Plain contradiction that God creates most people only to hate them from the moment they are born.

            So people like John Thomson on this forum have no excuse for continuing in their horrific beliefs. They appear to have some kind of reason to continue if we make faith only intellectual – but if our faith lives only in our minds we need to repent – faith is not Mind to mind

            I therefore believe that you should not allow those who hold these beliefs to be able to spread them on the forum after a period in which you engage with them – explaining these things – and it leads to no change.

          • The reason that almost everyone in the church people don’t reach the perfectly orthodox conclusions I reach here is not any reason to reject my conclusions – it’s an indication that those who don’t share my conclusions have a faith which is Mind to mind (leading them to have sympathy for Calvinist conclusions based only on intellectual input) – or they are not living repentantly – and therefore don’t obey God’s commands that express his holiness – or both.

          • Orthodox, Philip, means in keeping with the teaching of the church over the centuries particularly the main confessions and creeds. I don’t think yours are in line with these confessions etc, at lesser in the areas we have been discussing. I could take you to many people who would broadly share my perspective. Can you take me to any who share yours? Have you had any over the years who agree with your way of thinking? I think you need to reflect on that.

            I doubt if you are willing to pursue any of the literature I have suggested. I doubt if any of the verses I have cited have made any dents in your armour. You are not open to the possibility that you are wrong even if in a category of one; that is a weakness Philip and not a strength.

          • John, after thinking about it I realised why I don’t know what to say in response to your questioning whether my views are orthodox. There are three reasons:
            – it’s hard to prove how many people in world evangelical Christianity hold particular views (it’s easy enough to know on major issues like Calvinism whether more believe the doctrine(s) than less – Calvinism is the minority view – but I mean on less recognised issues).
            – I don’t believe that you would respect my judgement if I attempted to claim that something I was presenting was or was not the most accepted view either now or historically
            – the areas in which you are objecting are for many preachers and teachers areas of silence – I can show that what I am saying is derived from orthodox principles – but my proposition is that others who are orthodox either haven’t seen the implications arising from their beliefs – or haven’t acted as if the implications of particular beliefs are critical for rightly understanding the truth.

            I will therefore have to leave it to others you trust to tell you whether the principles below are orthodox or not orthodox. If they are Calvinists (the minority world view) they will tell you that my views are not orthodox.

            The only two ideas which I have been expressing here which you seem to be pushing back on – ignoring all the verses related to Calvinism which we have disagreed on (if you believe I have left any out you can reply to add them and I will reply to indicate if I agree – but I won’t be replying in order to continue our disagreement) – are:

            – A Christian is someone whose faith in God’s holiness and justice ALWAYS sees them turn from ALL idols IN ORDER to be saved – not as a result of being saved. This being the only way in which to find a place for repentance in Christianity’s having to include us dying and rising with Christ. (Luke 14:15-33).

            – God is only love (of course he is holy and just – but these are included in his love – God’s holiness and justice are not unloving) – not love until he gets angry (Matthew 22:37-40).

            So I have supplied bible passages for both propositions – if I rely on them and you can to your satisfaction conclude they don’t mean what I believe they mean (and you can’t think of anything else in scripture that you believe supports my views) then does it really matter if I am orthodox or I am not? Just use scripture and decide if I am RIGHT – not whether I am orthodox.

            But you won’t be able to know if I am right unless you welcome the presence of God – recognise the need for EXPERIENCE of God. Or otherwise be a Pharisee – a person who welcomes God’s word without welcoming his presence (John 5:39).

          • Philip

            I raised the matter of orthodoxy because you did. I don’t think Calvinism is really a minority view historically – certainly not since the reformation. They are embedded in every major Protestant Confession; it is Catholicism that holds to your views – though of course Methodism is Arminian. Calvinism of course can be traced to Augustine. Though Calvinistic views have a pedigree older than Augustine. Actually, I’d rather not say ‘Calvinistic’ for that is a red flag to many. It is also a title weaponised by both those who support its truths and those who don’t. I am much more concerned with the doctrines it proclaims

            Ultimately, like you, my only real concern is whether these are true. They are embedded in every major Protestant Confession; it is Catholicism that principally holds to your views. But Protestantism and Catholicism do not decide though they are both pointers to weigh, The sole authority is Scripture. Are these truths taught in Scripture. Orthodoxy and Protestantism aside are these truths plain in the Bible. I believe they are. I see these as thoroughly biblical with Romans 9 being perhaps the clearest extended discussion of issues which are found everywhere in the Bible.

            You constantly profess horror at the idea repentance and faith may be works of God in the soul. Yet the Bible makes it clear that unless God does such a work men will not repent and believe. Moses, speaking to Israel before she enters the promised land places before them the way of life and death (blessing and cursing). He knows she will choose the way of death for she always has and he doesn’t expect any change. Her ears are deaf and her eyes are blind. Her only hope is for a time to come when God will open her eyes and give her ears to hear.

            Moses, says that up until he spoke this has not happened Deut 29

            But to this day the LORD has not given you a heart to understand or eyes to see or ears to hear.

            However, he anticipates a day of salvation, a day when God will take the initiative in opening ears and eyes and renewing hearts. Deut 30

            (ESV) 1 “And when all these things come upon you, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before you, and you call them to mind among all the nations where the LORD your God has driven you, 2 and return to the LORD your God, you and your children, and obey his voice in all that I command you today, with all your heart and with all your soul, 3 then the LORD your God will restore your fortunes and have mercy on you, and he will gather you again from all the peoples where the LORD your God has scattered you. 4 If your outcasts are in the uttermost parts of heaven, from there the LORD your God will gather you, and from there he will take you. 5 And the LORD your God will bring you into the land that your fathers possessed, that you may possess it. And he will make you more prosperous and numerous than your fathers. 6 And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live. 7 And the LORD your God will put all these curses on your foes and enemies who persecuted you. 8 And you shall again obey the voice of the LORD and keep all his commandments that I command you today. 9 The LORD your God will make you abundantly prosperous in all the work of your hand, in the fruit of your womb and in the fruit of your cattle and in the fruit of your ground. For the LORD will again take delight in prospering you, as he took delight in your fathers, 10 when you obey the voice of the LORD your God, to keep his commandments and his statutes that are written in this Book of the Law, when you turn to the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.

            There is a synergy as there often is between the response of the people and the calling of the Lord and his gift of a circumcised heart. However, its impossible to read this and miss the prior agency of the lord.

            Just another Scripture to pursue.

    • Chris,
      As God exists outside of time, as Ian has said previously, you now seem to be riding your to into realm of “God’s Lesser glory” – Open/Process theology.
      I preferred to seek to take a deeper dive into ” *God’s Greater Glory*.
      And this add’s even more to the frustration of the use of this format. Books have been written, as you know.

      • Geoff, l am not quite sure what you mean. I did not say that God is outside of time only that he perceives time differently to us.

        I suspect although l cannot prove, that in some sense, God as part of his omniciencent nature, perceives events that are past present and future simultaneously and that there are a range of future realities known to him but are inaccessible to us until they enter our human temporal domain at some point in our individual histories.

        • Hello Chris,
          I said God is outside time, and so has Ian somewhere recently in a comment. It is well established Christian theology
          I then went onto the question of Open/ Process theology – which you posed to Steve, as was vigorously promoted by Gregg Boyd and others. It was considered to be *God’s lesser glory* in a book of that name and countered by his book ” God’s Greater Glory”. Much was written at the time the idea became prominent in the 90’s.
          This is really no place, in a comments section to do full justice to it all, unless some respected theologians were able to come along, with concise clear abstracts for all of our edification, to be weighed.
          Apologies if this seems patronising to your learning and Chur Ch position in the Baptists. But it sets out in a slightly fuller way so we can have a have a smidgen of understanding of respective starting points.
          BTW what is your denomination’s official position, regarding the Fall?
          It is really more of a rhetorical question as I’m seeking to wean myself off this format of scriptural sword fencing and shouting, talking past each one another and to which I contribute.
          Yours Geoff

          • Hi Geoff, no need to apologise. I am aware of what process theology and open theism are and wanted to know whether Steve thought in those terms. I don’t necessarily subscribe to them myself. As for my denomination, then Baptists do not have a set of creeds like Anglicans do. Baptist churches that are in the Baptist Union have what they call a Declaration of Principle (DoP) which is almost devoid of hard doctrinal content. See


            This does not mean that individual Baptist churches cannot hold their own doctrinal positions on things, but there are no *detailed* doctrinal statements on Christian doctrine that is common to all Baptist churches. Historically this was done to preserve unity among Baptists but personally, l am having increasing
            misgivings about the DoP and its effectiveness as an instrument of unity but l am going off topic.

  16. I think it’s time I tested myself for addiction to this blog. I’m going to take September off. Thank you Ian. It’s been an interesting read.

  17. Ian – I couldnt reply directly above. My point is if you are saved by God’s grace, why is it costly to those saved by that grace? Does that not contradict the whole concept of grace?

    What is the difference between that and law-keeping?

    • Peter – I found something very wiggy about Ian’s post – the sentence ‘This is the first of three sobering warnings in Luke 14:26-33 against making a hasty decision to follow Jesus.’ I don’t see Luke talking about decisions – I don’t see that word appearing in the context of following Jesus.

      If we look at Mark’s gospel, I was under the impression that Jesus said, ‘Follow me’ and I was also under the impression (Mark 1:18) that Peter and Andrew immediately dropped their nets and followed him.

      I wasn’t aware that Jesus posed a question `excuse me, would you like to follow me?’ And I wasn’t aware that Peter and Andrew replied, `oh, it’s an awfully hard decision; we don’t want to make a hasty decision; please give us until next Thursday to think about it and we’ll give you our answer.’

      The Divine Imperative came, they were instantly quickened and they then followed.

      Of course, one can try to harmonise Mark with other gospels – thus losing the force of the passage.

      In my own life, I think the Divine Imperative came in such a way that refusing, while perhaps not logically impossible, made absolutely no sense whatsoever and wasn’t a serious option – there wasn’t really a decision to be made.

      But if you look at the lives of those who are turned right around and follow Him – the apostle Paul is a very good example here – in the apostle Paul’s case, it really was costly. Imprisoned, shipwrecked, the 40 lashes minus one …..

      We may not understand why, but we see it as an empirical fact; there are some striking examples in Scripture where getting saved by grace really is costly – at least in terms of this life.

  18. PC1

    A couple of responses that come to mind Peter are

    Christian living is a response of gratitude to grace.
    In grace the believer starts from a position of being saved in law one works in order to be saved.
    Law is unaided efforts to gain life; grace is life given lived out by the Spirit.

    There is no escaping the absolute demands of discipleship but equally we must see they flow from a favoured (graced) position. Paisley says we ‘stand in grace’ (Roms 5). Here Newton’s hymn comes into its own; grace is not simply the starting point but it is every point from then to glory. Grace is the source of everything necessary until we reach heaven and still grace will be celebrated.

    • “Christian living is a response of gratitude to grace”.

      That’s a theology which is built on half of the cross.

      It imagines that the Christian life is about a Jesus over there who died for us. When the cross is also us dying with Jesus. The Christian life then – instead of being gratitude for the cross – IS the cross. It’s dying daily to sin – ongoing repentance. It’s freedom in slavery – not freedom from slavery.

      If “Christian living is a response of gratitude to grace why does Matthew 25 say that not giving to the poor is a sign that we are going to hell? Does that sound like giving to the poor is generosity – grace in response to gratitude? No – its justice – and the absence of it injustice.

      Those who refuse to embrace a life of ongoing repentance on the basis that it would be “a work” are unacquainted with what repentance is. Repentance is RECEIVING – it’s choosing to receive our true identity in God – this receiving also by our receiving our also turning from other identities – this identification allowing God to give us power to re-arrange our lives to align with our new identity – this worship being acceptable to God (Romans 12:1) – this leading to our seeing and experiencing mercy and grace. This being conversion.

      And those who refuse to embrace a life of ongoing repentance due to their wish to find a way to have God while living in a state of ongoing unrepentance – are in a state of eternal peril.

  19. Roms 12:1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.

    I, therefore, the prisoner for the Lord, urge you to live worthily of the calling with which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, putting up with one another in love. (now there’s a challenge!)

    For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ,

    • Hi John,

      I am going to respond to the two posts of yours on this page to which I have yet to respond and then I am going to stop responding to your posts which reach to the specific beliefs I have presented – about Calvinism – about God being love and only love – about a Christian being some who has ALREADY turned from all idols IN ORDER to be saved (or said another way that Christianity is also dying with Christ in order to rise with him). If I respond under future articles of Ian’s site and I refer to these concepts it won’t be with the aim of convincing you – only with the aim of making my views clear.

      If I continue to seek to convince you (something which I am sure won’t help you because your problem isn’t intellectual) it is inconsistent with my acting as if the issues about which I have been seeking to convince you are not primary – when they are – or giving the impression that the issues are not clear enough without me or someone else explaining them – when they are.

      Having said that the three passages which you have presented me are very important (I am not saying this to your credit in the circumstances in which we find ourselves) – they are the kinds of passages which someone with my beliefs must explain – and they are the kind of verses which seem to be consistent with your picture of the cross only being about Jesus dying and rising for us. And I’m going to explain them. But John – that’s more than I can say for you – I bring up the Christian life involving dying with Christ – and you reply without so much as attempting to explain the place of that half of the gospel in your theology. If you can’t explain its place – if it doesn’t fit – you could at least admit that you haven’t to this point recognised any relevance in the cross being about us dying and rising with Jesus.

      Before I get to your verses let me give you some background information (the next three paragraphs). The person who understands that faith is about living out the character of the in dwelling God will immediately make a connection between what God is like and what we should be like as we allow him to work through us. They expect:
      – that God’s being holy is a reason for us to be holy
      – that God’s being just is a reason for us to be just
      – that God’s being merciful is a reason for us to be merciful
      – that God’s being gracious is a reason for us to be gracious.

      However that’s not the complete summary of how things work – and here’s why. The order in which God’s holiness, justice, mercy, and grace are applied to our lives at conversion and during sanctification is the order I just typed. And as God’s character is piece by piece revealed to us things cumulative. So:
      – God’s being holy is the reason why we must be holy – and the means by which we are able to be
      – God’s being holy and just is the reason why we must be just – and the means by which we are able to be
      – God’s being holy, just, and merciful is the reason why we must be merciful – and the means by which we are able to be
      – – God’s being holy, just, merciful, and gracious is the reason why we must be gracious – and the means by which we are able to be

      Each new attribute of God’s character is only rightly understood in the environment created by the previous attributes – for example God is holy about justice – which means he does more than act justly – he passionately desires justice – and abhors all that is unjust.

      And God’s mercy has no meaning without our first being made aware of what we deserve.

      And God’s grace – his undeserved reaching out and generosity to us – obviously requires God – before that – to have forgiven what needs forgiving.

      With that in mind let me respond to each of three passages you posted.

      Romans 12:1 is saying that God’s mercy is ONE MORE REASON on top of his holiness and justice for why we should live holy and just lives. But didn’t I just say that only his holiness and justice were reasons to be just? Yes I did – but mercy is founded on justice – God wasn’t just fair with us – he was even more than fair.

      The third verse you posted – Titus 2:11-13 – is about grace. Does that mean that grace is the foundation of faith? No it doesn’t. Grace isn’t THE REASON for saying no to ungodliness here – it’s the final piece of the RESOURCES (see above) by which we are able to say no to ungodliness.

      And then your second passage – Ephesians 4:1-3 – is also worth considering even if it doesn’t specifically mention one of the big four character attributes of God. What does “live a life worthy of your calling” mean? Our calling is God’s requirement that we repent of our sin. (Of course as a Calvinist you will conclude – if you. believe that your Calvinism is completely watertight as you look at ALL of the rest of scripture – that our calling is God’s sovereign choosing of us. But I don’t believe Calvinism is watertight for the reasons I have been explaining over the last few days – I believe our calling is the obligation to respond to God’s holiness and justice in the light of our sin).

      John – I am expecting that if things continue as they have that you will look at these passages – and simply say what Calvinism would have them mean. You won’t recognise that you must understand what dying and rising WITH Christ means in terms of holiness and justice and mercy and grace. If you did that first (I gave you that chance) you would realise that you must hold the interpretations of the verses that I have offered.

      Anyway, that’s it – I won’t be replying (unless something important to end this chapter arises in your reply) – I hope that you will no longer resist the Spirit’s ministry to you – that you will recognise the fallenness of your mind by requiring that anything you believe be confirmed by God’s Spirit testifying to your spirit (ruling out Calvinist doctrines which make that impossible – such as God’s choosing others for eternal punishment) – and that as you do that all the riches of living the cross (instead of merely living grateful FOR the cross) – will be yours.

      • This sentence:
        “And as God’s character is piece by piece revealed to us things cumulative”.
        should have read:
        “And as God’s character is piece by piece revealed to us things ARE cumulative”.

      • Philip

        You’re right Benjamin we must bring our dialogue to an end. It’s a pity yousee these issues as primary or gospel issues. I see your own position as misguided but not a primary issue of faith.

        I did not answer your comments Philip (which for me is unusual) because I was simply establishing that grace/gratitude is a biblical dynamic. I also think recognising we have died with Christ etc is a dynamic for godliness. They are not mutually exclusive and that is part of your difficulty you have a bit of a one-dimensional outlook when truth may within Scripture be multi-faceted.

        Philip, as I have previously explained, I agree God’s attributes often interact and act in tandem. This is our own experience in life. However, I do not accept that all God’s moral characteristics are engaged in every action he does. Again, we who are made in his image, do not act according to all our moral principles; sometimes one and sometimes another is important and wisdom (an attribute) guides us. I think your order of attributes is largely right at a logical and historical order in a fallen world. However, it is not a necessary order within the eternal trinity. In a fallen world holiness becomes foundational. Justice or righteousness is largely a function of his holiness but presumably it is also a function of his wisdom. I’d rather describe God’s righteousness as a function of who he is; it is his consistency with who he is.

        Also I’d say God’s holiness can only be understood in the context of his love for love is God’s foundational attribute (Grace is love towards a sinner). So I think you need to be a bit less prescriptive here. In areas where I want to say something is properly basic and fundamental I’d want some verses to back up my contention.

        Rims 12:1 God’s mercies (plural) I think is a reference to the various aspects of the gospel he has been expounding in Ch 1-11.. However, Philip, my reason for citing it was not to do with posited layers of attributes (which I don’t accept is necessary here) but as a response to your relative dismissal of grace leads to gratitude dynamic.

        Tit 3. Grace is simply another word for the gospel. Grace is the reason for saying no to ungodliness that is explicitly what the text says. If your interpretation leads you to deny the text then there is something wrong with your method of interpretation – surely you can see this Philip.

        Eph 4 was again cited to illustrate that grace leads to gratitude. .. live a life worthy of your calling. Calling is not here the holiness and justice of God as such though no doubt these are involved – the calling is all he has been describing of the blessings we have in Christ from Ch 1-3.

        So Philip you think the Spirit normally bypasses our minds despite having given us our minds. Why do you think we have a verbal and rational communication in Scripture. Scripture is addressed to the mind. Roms 12 the text we were considering says we have to be transformed by the renewing of our mind.

        Eph 4:22 – one of your favourite texts says ‘ (ESV) to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.’

        Once again the mind plays an important part in holiness,. We are to love God with our minds (Matt 22). We are to be mature in our thinking (1 Cor 14). It is a mistake to play off mind against Spirit. The Spirit is opposed to the flesh not to the mind which has been renewed and is able to discern spiritual things.

        1 Co r 2

        For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. 13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.
        14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?”

        We should be clear there is no suggestion the mind is disengaged as the Spirit teaches. Every letter Paul writes is the teaching of the Spirit. As he writes to the Corinthians he is teaching then gospel truths – the thoughts of God.

        Thanks for engaging. I hope you soon have living arrangements sorted out and find a church. God expects us to function among his people and to be a positive influence.

  20. Thanks for this Ian. Found one typo as I was reading closely.

    The roots of this language are found in the OT: in Gen 29.31, Laban’s greater love for Rachel is described (in Hebrew and Greek) as ‘hatred’ of Leah.

    Laben should be Jacob


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