When Does Rejection of the Truth Become Unbelief?

Discussion in '2005 Archive' started by Monergist, Aug 2, 2005.

  1. Monergist

    Monergist
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    When a person continues to refuse to accept that we were "dead in trespasses and sins..."

    When a person continues to refuse to accept that the elect were "chosen before the foundation of the world..."

    When a person continues to refuse to accept that God "has mercy on whomever He wills, and whomever He wills He hardens..."

    When a person continues to refuse to accept that
    God loved Jacob and hated Esau before they were ever born or had done anything good or evil...

    When a person continues to refuse to accept that Jesus' atoning work by itself was sufficient to save anyone..


    ...Even though they have been shown numerous times from numerous passages of scripture that these things are so...

    At what point does this person reveal a heart of unbelief that refuses to accept what scripture says?
     
  2. Andy T.

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    I don't think believing the Doctrines of Grace is a requirement for salvation. In fact, it's because of the Doctrines of Grace that I believe this. The Arminian Christian (the truly saved) is essentially inconsistent and muddled in his theology. All Christians (the truly saved - Arminian, Calvinist or otherwise) are inconsistent and muddled in our obedience. So just as our salvation isn't dependent on our obedience, neither is it dependent on fully correct theology. I believe Calvinism/Arminianism is an in-house debate.
     
  3. Andre

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    Hello Monergist:

    I am relatively new to the formal distinctions between Calvinism and Arminianism. However, I am not new to consideration of some of the essential issues (pre-destination, free will, just punishment, etc. etc.) I will unapologetically state that I do not believe that all of the following are true:

    1. Man is born with a sinful nature that he simply cannot resist - sin is guaranteed and cannot be avoided despite "best efforts".

    2. The penalty for unforgiven sin is an eternity in torment of some kind.

    3. God chooses a subset of all men for salvation from the fate described in (2) - however some men are not in that subset.

    I think you'll know why I have difficulty accepting the above - it is unintelligible to me that punishment can be justly doled out in the absence of at least the possibility of choosing of choosing to not sin - culpability only makes sense if there is a possibility to do otherwise.

    I assume that you believe in all of the three points I have listed. If not, please set me straight.

    In any event, I find it rather hard to believe that our status before God is determined by our ability (or lack thereof) to properly understand these matters of doctrine. I suspect that you will counter that the matter is not one of "intellectual understanding" but rather one of willingness to submit to God's revealed word.

    Let me ask you this - I believe that the Scriptures clearly teach that one should take what is essentially a "vow of poverty". I will not, for the present, make this case in this thread (it requires more than a few sentences). However, I do believe that, given the present conditions in our world today, and based on the Scriptures, that God is calling all of us Christians to divest ourselves of all our luxuries - SUVs, big houses, entertainment technology, diamond rings, etc.

    I would claim that failure to live up to this calling is at least as indicative of a "heart of unbelief" as the kind of person you describe in your post. Do you agree?

    Perhaps this line of reasoning essentially derails the thread and that is certainly not my intent. I am simply wondering about other reasons to come to believe that someone has a "heart of unbelief".
     
  4. webdog

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    ...when a person thinks "the world" in John 3:16 is Rome, and "all" means only some.
     
  5. Andy T.

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    Andre,

    Is an internet connection a luxury we should divest of too?

    (Really more of a rhetorical question - don't mean to get the thread off topic. I just found the thought amusing.)
     
  6. Andy T.

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    Webdog,

    Do you believe Calvinists are not saved?
     
  7. webdog

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    No...just blinded by a false doctrine. I took it from Monergist's post that anyone who DOESN'T believe what he believes is not saved (which would include me).
     
  8. Monergist

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    Thanks for your reply. I certainly agree that believing the doctrines of Grace should not be a test of salvation. None of us ever attain a pefect understanding of truth and doctrine and those who do attain a greater (though imperfect) understanding are to bear patiently with those who are weaker.

    But there is a difference between a weak understanding of scripture or an honest uncertainty about some teaching and an adamant refusal to accept what scripture teaches. One who persists in teaching "another gospel" after being reproved and rebuked for his heresy is to be shunned as a false teacher. Does not one who continues to persist in his false teaching need to be recognized as one who has rejected the truth?

    The very heart of the Gospel is at stake here. God's glory is at stake. These are not minor issues. Though our understanding of these may at all times be imperfect, we can never assume that we know better than God and take it upon ourselves to reject what He clearly states.
     
  9. Andy T.

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    I don't think Arminians necessarily preach "another Gospel". Some do. Those who don't are just inconsistent in some of their theology.

    I agree that these are not minor issues.
     
  10. Monergist

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    Thanks for your reply. I hope that you continue to grow in your understanding of scripture.

    I want to focus on just one phrase here--
    and express my general agreement with the three points that you listed above. I agree with the WCF in that "scripture is our only rule of faith and practice." It instructs us in how we are to think and act.

    Simply stated, the idea that "culpability only makes sense if there is a possibility to do otherwise" is not taught in scripture. If we measure the truths of scripture by this standard, then we have a higher standard (or authority) than scripture. Hence our ideas of fairness, justice, equity, etc. can not be used to superimpose upon scripture and force it teachings to fit into our preconceived mold.

    It would be helpful to identify which of those three statements that you do not agree with so that we can measure it according to the rule of scripture.

    Regarding your other question, that is an issue worth discussing, and if you'll start a topic somewhere and PM me, I'll be glad to respond.

    (I'm no longer a Baptist, so I cannot post in the Baptist-only sections) ;)
     
  11. Monergist

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    Luke 2:1 And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.

    Were natives living in the remotest parts of the Amazon taxed? Identify 'all' and 'world' in this passage.

    Or just take your pick.
     
  12. Andre

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    I have some rather "technical" issues associated with the intelligibility of the idea that scripture can "stand alone" - that any reading of scripture can be disentangled from an "interpretive framework" that I believe we have no choice but to bring to our reading.

    In short, I do not believe in the notion of scripture as some kind of independent standard. I think that the world is structured in such a way that any meaning imparted by the text is necessarily mediated by an act of interpretation - an act that cannot help but bring "external" concepts to bear. I will not go into more detail because this thread is not about how to interpret the Bible (although one can easily see how this is a foundational issue relevant to any doctrinal topic). I suspect my view is probably not held by many who frequent "BaptistBoard".

    I would assert that one manifestation of the inherent "non-objectivity" of Scripture is the issue of whether to apply a highly "literal / technical" interpretation to a certain text. Consider this statement from Ephesians: "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from ourselves, it is the gift of God".

    Is this text only interpretable in a manner that is consistent with a Calvinist viewpoint? Could people possibly bring an "incorrectly technical" interpretation to the text? My argument here is, very briefly, that this text can be legitimately interpreted to the effect that salvation is substantively a matter of grace - not 100 % a matter of grace. What a priori justification is there for asserting that this text is to be read like a kind of "technical manual" where the words need to be interpreted in a very "strict" sense?

    You may think I am playing games. Let me illustate by analogy. Suppose I am saved from drowning by "Fred" throwing me a rope as I am about to slip beneath the waves. No one would object to a claim on my part that "Fred saved my life - it was his act that saved my life - my second chance at life is a gift of Fred's and not my own doing". This is not bad speech - it is a substantively true claim about the event even though I participated in a small way by grabbing onto the rope.

    Language is, of course, the vehicle that imparts Biblical content to us. It seems highly likely to me that certain very sublte, sub-conscious decisions are made re how to interpret the text.

    Another example: the creation account in Genesis. It is my understanding that "young earth creationism" is a distinctly recent and distinctly American phenomena - that historically, and outside America, the Chrstian church has intepreted these verses as a kind of allegory. The YEC would certainly claim that we have to "read the words as they are". However, I am not sure that there is any such "priveleged" interpretive position.
     
  13. billwald

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    It should be sufficient to love God and work at being a good neighbor else salvation by works is exchenged for salvation by PC data analysis.
     
  14. Johnv

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    None of those things are core doctrinal issues. They're interpretive issues. At best, they might be fringe doctrinal issues. But to say that a person who disagrees with another's interpretation of them is in "unbelief"? That's a bit over the top. One's interpretive views on those issues are not pertinent to a person's salvation. Not remotely.
     
  15. Monergist

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    I probably don't have a satisfactory answer for all of that. I've taken an interest in studying hermeneutics but the books I have read so far are pretty basic (a pair of more technical volumes await right now on my shelf).

    So for now, I will keep it basic and affirm my agreement with the statements of the Westminster Confession of Faith:

    From Book 1

     
  16. rc

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    Andre,
    Want to listen to a preacher who knows his stuff on this?

    Listen to CKJJ 105.3 at 8:30 am (Ontario)

    ....

    How much "glory" does Fred get for "throwing a rope out" and you grabbing it and surviving? Quite a bit. yes, but ALL?

    The problem is, you start off with an umbilical foundation for your analogy. The person is not "drowning" but DEAD already.
     
  17. Andre

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    I am certainly open to the possibility that the "plain words" of a number of Biblical texts state that we are "dead in our sins" - that the wages of our sin includes complete inability to "reach for the rope". I have no problem with this concept except when it is combined with the doctrine that "we are born with a sinful nature that we simply cannot (as importantly distinguished from "will not") resist".

    These 2 concepts, taken together, effectively work out to a scenario where people end up in hell without having even the remotest possibility of avoiding that fate, either through resisting their sinful nature, or "reaching for the rope".

    As I have stated before, I simply cannot make sense of the notion that people are punished for behaviours over which they have no control. I am going to go out on a limb and speculate that all of you "Calvinists" feel the same way "according to your human wisdom". However, for good or for bad, you choose to take the Bible at "face value" vis a vis these issues. And I freely admit (at least for now) that the scriptural case for such doctrines as being "born sinful without the possibility to resist" is pretty strong, on a specifically "take the words at their most obvious meaning" construal.

    However, I am presently going to appeal to the following from the Westminster Confession of Faith (as posted by Monergist):

    "Nevertheless, we acknowledge the inward illumination of the Spirit of God to be necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the Word: and that there are some circumstances concerning the worship of God, and government of the Church, common to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature, and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the Word, which are always to be observed."

    In particular, I think that to be honest to my conscience (in respect to not accepting things that seem nonsensical to me), I will assert that allowing my understanding to be "ordered by light of nature" gives me legitimate ground for holding to a position that, while not consistent with a "direct reading" of some texts, is at least consistent with a less "technical", less "literal" style of reading - I think that it is probably a mistake to parse the Biblical texts as though there were a technical manual or some kind of legal document where the only workable interpretive scheme is a highly literal one.
     
  18. rc

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    Which verses in the Word guide you to believe this opinion?
     
  19. Andre

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    Which verses in the Word guide you to believe this opinion? </font>[/QUOTE]None. In the same way that no verse guides me to understand the difference between metaphor and direct factual narrative in literature in general. It is in the very nature of allegory, just to pick an example of a literary style, to not declare itself as such.

    I might turn the question around and ask which verses clearly mandate that the scriptures are to always be interpreted in a strictly literal fashion - taking the words at their most "literal" dictionary-type meaning? How do we make sense of so much that seems so obviously symbollic (e.g. the part about the mountains clapping their hands)?

    One can draw a concceptual distinction between accepting the Scripures are inspired and even inerrant and the further conclusion that a literal interpretation is the only interpretative framework that works with such a belief (about inspiration and inerrancy).
     
  20. rc

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    Scripture is to be taken literally in the sense of "Authors Intent" not "readers response". Proper hermeneutics deciphers between metaphor and narrative, this is the description of "literal interpretation". Proper hermeneutics keeps in mind what "kind" of language is being used in the text and is understood considering the context. "Literal Interpretation" is taken to literally! ha ha...
    It does not mean EVERYTHING is taken literally, but as I stated above, the text is considered according to the authors intent. Narrative should be judged according to imperatives and indicatives. Scripture tells us that we are to rightly divide the Word, and to be hold fast to the WORDS of the faith. Jesus founded a whole teaching on ONE WORD and the TENSE of the word. (God said I AM the God of Abraham etc... not I WAS..teaching that Abraham was still alive). If Jesus thought that He can hang a teaching on one word, I would say that it is important to weigh and consider each word with reverence.

    We are to understand literary style but to hold to the intent of the author in what is said, specifically in doctrinal writings like Romans and Ephesians.
     

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