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Tuesday, March 01, 2011

What's That Mean?

Okay, so here I am, reading through the Gospel of Luke. I get to Luke 6 which contains Luke's version of the Sermon on the Mount. And I find I'm asking questions.
20 "Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. 21 "Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied. "Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh. 22 "Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! 23 Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets. 24 "But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. 25 "Woe to you who are full now, for you shall be hungry. "Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep. 26 "Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.

30 Give to everyone who begs from you.

45 The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks (Luke 6:20-26, 30, 45).
I have a few things I'm considering, so feel free to pick one and explain it to me. First, there are the "beatitudes", the "blessed" folk. Now, if I really want to be blessed by God, what would I conclude from these statements from Christ? Well, I would need to be poor, hungry, sad. Heaven help me if people speak well of me; I'd need to be sure I'm not well liked. And if I have any money, any food, any humor, well, I'm just out of luck. It's going to cost me. Of course, I can't really imagine that's what Jesus actually meant. And, while I know people that claim it is, I don't really know anyone who actually believes that He did. Why do I say that? Well, I don't know anyone who acts on that belief. I don't know anyone who sells all their goods, intentionally goes hungry, intentionally seeks to be sad. I don't know anyone who preaches that we all should. I know lots of people who preach against wealth, but that's primarily the wealth of "other people" -- "the rich". Since all the people I know who preach against wealth are much wealthier than the vast majority of the world, that's problematic. And since the people I know who are preaching against wealth are not trying to make everyone poor (they are, after all, trying to eliminate poverty which, if they took this preaching of Christ at face value, would be removing blessing, not bestowing it), I don't actually know anyone who actually believes this from the lips of Christ. So, if that's not what He meant, what did He mean?

Verse 30 is its own unique statement. "Give to everyone who asks." So, does that mean that every man on the street, every guy with a sign by the freeway, every con man, every single person who asks anything at all from you should receive it? Or is there another way to understand what Jesus means?

Okay, the third thing is somewhat unrelated. I just wanted to point out that verse 45 is what I've been talking about in recent posts about the idea of "inability". Jesus says that we produce the fruit of our hearts. If we are going to produce good things like repentance and faith, doesn't that require a good heart? And doesn't that contradict what Scripture says about us and our hearts without Christ?

Okay, back to the questions. What did Jesus mean when He said "Blessed are the poor" if He didn't mean "You should all be poor and stop trying to help poor people because you're stealing their blessing"? Are we supposed to aim to be poor, hungry, hated? And are we actually mandated by our Lord to give to everyone who asks of you without considering anything at all (like "Is this a con?" or "Would that be in their best interest?" or "Is there something better that I could do for them?")? Or are we just supposed to take these things at cold, hard, face value, give up all our possessions, and aim for starvation -- you know, in order to be blessed?

21 comments:

tomatocrazyLovi said...

The verse about "blessed are the poor" and "woe to the rich" has been debated between myself (with some help) and a certain blogger for some time. It comes up in discussions about taxation as well as wealth creation. Another version in another gospel says, "blessed is the poor in spirit" and I believe, those who hunger for justice.

There's no doubt that we are called to be charitable, to help those in need. But to hear some people talk, it is as if we are never to enjoy life for purely selfish reasons. I don't know that this can be supported. Sure, it might be more noble to use that $700 earmarked for a new HD flat screen and give it to charity, but what of those employed by the TV manufacturer?

This blogger avoids "storing up treasures on earth", but I haven't gotten a sense of his retirement plan. Even if we concede that all the wealthy are scum, the means by which they've procured that wealth has usually resulted in a wealthier society for others, as well. Jobs are produced, for example.

No. I think most of the biblical admonitions regarding wealth and poverty are speaking of spiritual things, like most of Christ's teachings.

Stan said...

I don't think that those who try to make these statements some sort of absolutes can make it stick. Their first problem is likely to be their own failure to meet their own standards.

I'm quite sure that we (I) are not charitable enough, but I'm equally sure that Christ was not commanding poverty for all His followers.

Marshall Art said...

Sorry about that first comment. I was using my daughter's laptop and forgot to sign into blogger under my own name.

BTW, apparently I hear that you have not opened up this thread to discussion, or words to that effect.

Stan said...

I'm confused. I haven't "opened up this thread to discussion"? I wasn't aware of that. (It would seem kind of silly to have a question post like this without opening it up to discussion.)

I'm further confused because I didn't get a previous comment for which you would apologize, so I'm not sure what that was either.

And, you "heard" it wasn't open? Where?

Stan said...

Oh, you are "tomatocrazyLovi". Got it.

Oh, and over at the other spot what he said was that there hasn't been much conversation -- not that it wasn't open to it.

Marshall Art said...

That may very well be. I am low on time and probably need to spend some of it checking such things to be more accurate. Like now. I'm out of time again.

Yeah, that "tomatocrazyLovi" was me. If you prefer that name, let me know. I won't change, but at least I'll know. :)

Stan said...

Yeah, Sherry seemed to like that name. I'm thinking that your daughter might not be pleased if you steal it. Just stick with Marshall Art for now. :)

traineralakemp said...

I just went through this in my Bible study and I lean in the direction that Jesus was gearing this toward his audience. His disciples were the poor, downtrodden ones. I think this paraphrase is accurate, "Blessed are YOU because you are hungry, blessed are YOU because you are poor". That is, "Being poor and hated isn't all bad, isn't that what brought you to me in the first place?"

And then he goes on to talk about the dangers of being rich, fat and happy, "Woe to you!" he says.

In the NASB, v. 30 reads, "give to everyone who asks of you". Look, you obviously can't give someone everything. Plus, a man who is asking something from you NEEDS it. It's a basic need, not a greedy want. I don't think Jesus has robbery or extortion in mind.

As to "inability", in another thread, you expressed the unquestionably Biblical nature of the doctrine of moral inability. I kinda wanted tackle that right there and then, but thought better of it. I'm glad you are questioning what this has to do with it. I too am questioning the Biblical nature of the Reformed idea of "moral inability" or "Total Depravity".

It seems that Jesus is exactly saying that men can produce good treasure out of their heart, and be a "good person". So, the question must be asked, where do you get the doctrine of "moral inability/Total Depravity"? If it's from "No one is good, no not one", I would ask you why he is quoting Psalms. And if it's from Eph 2, "dead in your trespasses and sins", death does not automatically = moral inability. Death can mean separation, you were "separated from God in your trespasses and sins".

Also, check out Rom 1. It seems that Paul is quite clearly saying that the unbeliever can hear and understand God! Isn't hearing and understanding God a moral good?

Anyway, would love to discuss this with you further.

Stan said...

"It seems that Jesus is exactly saying that men can produce good treasure out of their heart, and be a 'good person'."

Well, this would present a big problem. It contradicts so much of other Scriptures. Of course, the response might be, "No, those other Scriptures contradict this, so you need to reexamine them." But I would want to point out that the doctrine of "Total Depravity" is not a Reformed doctrine. It has been shared across the lines (including Roman Catholicism -- that is, it's not even a merely "Protestant" doctrine). So now you'll also be up against historical Christian orthodoxy.

On the other hand, you said, "It seems that Jesus is exactly saying...", and I'd like to point out that it seems. In other words, He does not say it. And I think you're running up against the problem of the indicative versus the imperative. For instance, to say, "You must be born again" does not require "You can." Or, setting aside the gut response, saying, "In order to fly to the Moon you must have a rocket" would never be interpreted "Anyone can have a rocket." The first (in either example) is an imperative, not an indicative. And Jesus does not say that anyone who wants to can be good. Nor does Paul quoting Psalms bring into question the content of the quote, does it?

traineralakemp said...

"Well, this would present a big problem. It contradicts so much of other Scriptures."

Since Jesus says, "The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good" and you understand Rom 3 as saying that that man cannot do ANYTHING good, you've got a problem. I think you rightly recognize this problem but your response to this problem leads to even deeper problems. I hope to explain this well:

1) You are postulating a situation where Jesus says, "The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good" but he doesn't really mean that this is possible. That Jesus creates an entire metaphor around men producing what is in their heart, either good or evil, but Jesus doesn't really mean that men can produce good. Not really. I think that's an exegetical problem

2) On the other side of the problem, to defend your understanding of Total Depravity, you say in essence, "A lot of people agree with me therefore it's true". I don't mean to trivialize Catholic and Reformed doctrine but I think you're using the word "orthodoxy" very lightly. Are you suggesting that anyone who doesn't believe in the doctrine of Total Depravity isn't an orthodox Christian?

In essence, what you're saying is, "Since Total Depravity is absolutely true, absolutely, therefore Luke 6 can't mean ____". You've created a doctrinal fixed point through which you interpret Luke 6. This is a problem.

3) Another interpretive problem that you have is this: Your are equating the word "good" in Rom 3 and Luke 6 as meaning the same thing without considering if they actually do. That is what I was attempting to get at with mentioning the Psalms in Rom 3, I was trying to get us to consider the context of Rom 3.

So, to answer your question, "Nor does Paul quoting Psalms bring into question the content of the quote, does it?" Simply, yes it does! The quote, "No one does good, no not one" doesn't exist in a vacuum does it? I submit that Paul, in using the word "good" in Rom 3, as evidenced by the flow of his ideas in Rom 3, is talking about justification by works, that no one does good that counts as fulfilling the Law, that we are all guilty under the Law and do not do "good" in that sense.

This leaves me open to read Luke 6 in context and conclude that Jesus does say that I can do good out of the treasure of my heart, and understand Rom 3 in context and understand that this good doesn't justify me before the Law. What do you think?

Stan said...

Nice out of context usage. I like it. Jesus said, "Each tree is known by its own fruit. ... The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good." Jesus was clearly saying that we produce externally what is internal. If this, to you, means that there are, among unregenerate people, genuinely good people, then you qualify as a Pelagian. But, that's fine. No problem for you, only for me. Still, you have created, out of a simple statement of fact (people produce what is within them), a "truth claim" from Christ that there are indeed genuinely good people. In other words, you've taken an indicative and turned it into an imperative. You have, in fact, interpreted the explicit ("There is no one who does good, no, not one") by the implicit.

"Orthodoxy", to me, means "right thinking". (That is, after all, the origin of the word.) This idea that "Jesus may have implied that it is possible for someone to be good by nature, so Paul must not have meant what he said explicitly" is not ... "right thinking".

traineralakemp said...

Ah, now I see that we're talking past each other a bit here, like two ships passing the night. Please allow me to clarify and ask a few questions to attempt to remedy this.

You said: "Jesus was clearly saying that we produce externally what is internal."

I completely agree!

"If this, to you, means that there are, among unregenerate people, genuinely good people, then you qualify as a Pelagian."

Whoa whoa! Let's back this train up a few steps. I never said that Jesus is saying that there are "genuinely good people" out there. My position here is just as you said, that when a man produces good externally, this means that they possess good internally.

But this begs the question: What do you mean by "good people"? I never used that term, or the opposite term, "bad people". So I'm confused as to why it was used and what you mean by it.

I'm also confused because the title of the post is "What does that mean?" I'm attempting to answer that question but it seems (and please, correct me if I'm wrong) that you might have not been genuinely asking it in the first place. It seems that you are already quite sure about what it does NOT mean. If, going into the post, you were already sure what Luke 6 didn't mean, then why ask the question?

As I understand it, Total Depravity means that unregenerate man can do NO good. Please correct me if I'm in error here.

Also, even if I was saying that Luke 6 claimed that "good people" (whatever that means) are out there, this is not Pelagianism or even Semi-Pelagianism. Semi-Pelagianism is the doctrine that man initiates the work of salvation and God completes it. That has no bearing on what we're discussing here.

"Still, you have created, out of a simple statement of fact (people produce what is within them), a "truth claim" from Christ that there are indeed genuinely good people."

Even if I was doing this, I find this answer disingenuous. I pointed out that you have created a doctrinal fixed point out of Rom 3, and are using that fixed point to interpret Luke 6. If you consider this to be a good thing, or a solid hermeneutic, then we shouldn't be discussing theology. If however, you see how this could be an exegetical problem (shoving an assumed understanding of Rom 3 on a completely unrelated context in Luke 6), then pointing the finger at what I'm doing isn't answering my charge, it's deflecting it.

You claimed that I am taking Luke 6 out of context. I don't want to do this. If you could please show me where I've gone wrong I would love to consider it.

""Orthodoxy", to me, means "right thinking". (That is, after all, the origin of the word.) This idea that "Jesus may have implied that it is possible for someone to be good by nature, so Paul must not have meant what he said explicitly" is not ... "right thinking". "

I never said this, that Jesus is implying that someone could be "good by nature". I never used that phrase so why is it being put on me? Perhaps this could be what you mean by "good people"?

Ecumenically, this is not what the word "orthodox" means. But OK, let's take your definition of the word. What this allows you, and everyone you agree with, to do, is decide what is "right thinking" and if someone is outside of this "right thinking" you can shout "heresy" at them. I'm not saying you're doing that, I'm just pointing out the slippery slope you are on by defining "orthodox" in this way.

I hope I asked accurate questions to allow us to talk with the same definitions. Thanks for letting me play on your blog.

Stan said...

When I asked, "What's that mean?", I specified Luke 6:20-26 and Luke 6:30. These are the two questions. The third entry, Luke 6:45, was not among the "What's that mean?" questions. While you see it as confirmation that Paul didn't actually mean "No one does good, no, not one" and "Natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised." (Please allow this shorthand. I know you would say, "He means what he said ... just not what he appeared to say."), I see it as confirmation. This is what I said in the post (the paragraph that begins, "Okay, the third thing is somewhat unrelated." I see Jesus as saying that we produce what is in our hearts, so if we actually produce good, then we must actually be good in our hearts. You even agree with the idea that this is what Jesus was saying, but follow it with "they possess good internally."

"Total Depravity means that unregenerate man can do NO good."

I've addressed this quite a bit of late. I talked about it in December with a follow up in January. You are cautious about the term "good people" and I am cautious about the concept of "no good", but, yes, that is the idea. A couple of caveats, of course. First, "good" is defined as God's standard, and, second, "no one" means "natural man". It is a given that when a person is born again, they have a new nature, are free from sin, and have the capacity to be good from within.

(Pelagius, by the way, along with Charles Finney, didn't argue that Man starts salvation and God completes it. Pelagius argued that Man had the inherent capability to be good enough to get to heaven. Your definition of semi-Pelagianism is likely correct.)

You like the concept of "a doctrinal fixed point", as if it's a bad thing. I am of the belief that the correct way to interpret Scripture is to interpret the implicit by the explicit. If Scripture implies that all are saved, for instance, but explicitly denies this, I would assume that a Universalist interpretation would be faulty. (I used that as an example -- not attributing it to you in any sense.) So when Paul says, "There is none who does good; no, not one", that's pretty explicit. Jesus didn't explicitly deny it.

Now, when I used "orthodoxy" in that sense, I specified that it was faulty thinking to interpret the explicit by means of the implicit. So it would appear that you disagree, and that it is much more reasonable ("right thinking") to, at least in this case, decide that the explicit statement from Paul doesn't mean what it seems to say because the implicit statement from Christ contradicts it. You think I'm being narrow-minded, obdurate, unfair. Fine. So be it. I'm just not sure that I'm the one on the slippery slope.

traineralakemp said...

"When I asked, "What's that mean?", I specified Luke 6:20-26 and Luke 6:30. These are the two questions. The third entry, Luke 6:45, was not among the "What's that mean?" questions."

My confusion came from this; in the original post regarding v. 45 you asked, "If we are going to produce good things like repentance and faith, doesn't that require a good heart? And doesn't that contradict what Scripture says about us and our hearts without Christ?" I guess I am now to understand that these questions were rhetorical as it seems you have a pretty firm answer to these questions already.

"While you see it as confirmation that Paul didn't actually mean "No one does good, no, not one" "

You ignored my understanding of this passage and my claim that my understanding fits the context. If you'd like to see it, you can scroll up a bit. In short, yes, Paul means that "No one does good, no, not one" but, in the context of his discussion in Rom 3, he is talking about being justified by ones good works, not a moral inability for the unregenerate to do anything good.

" "Natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.""

Yes, natural man "does not accept them". You are using a verse about what a man in his flesh does not do, to support a doctrine what states what man in his flesh cannot do.

"I see Jesus as saying that we produce what is in our hearts, so if we actually produce good, then we must actually be good in our hearts. You even agree with the idea that this is what Jesus was saying, but follow it with "they possess good internally." "

So wait, I'm confused. Let's say an unregenerate man stops a rape in progress or gives to a charity for autistic kids. These aren't moral goods? And if they are, then this man hasn't actually performed them out of the treasure of his heart?

I'm confused on another point. Is your position on this passage that the only way that someone produces good is to be good in their hearts and the only way that someone can be good in their hearts is that they must have the Holy Spirit indwelling in them?

"You are cautious about the term "good people" and I am cautious about the concept of "no good", but, yes, that is the idea. A couple of caveats, of course. First, "good" is defined as God's standard, and, second, "no one" means "natural man"."

What is "God's standard" of good?

OK, so this seems to answer my above question; the only way that someone can do good by "God's standard" is to have a new nature, the Holy Spirit inside of them. Please correct me if I understand incorrectly. If this is the case, then you are postulating a situation in which Jesus is teaching a group of his disciples and onlookers about good that they cannot do yet. The Holy Spirit does not come into the world for another two years or so, so in your view, Jesus is essentially saying, "When you do good, it comes out of your heart, but you can't really do any of that yet". Of course, Jesus doesn't actually say this, you're assuming this is what he means.

traineralakemp said...

"(Pelagius, by the way, along with Charles Finney, didn't argue that Man starts salvation and God completes it. Pelagius argued that Man had the inherent capability to be good enough to get to heaven. Your definition of semi-Pelagianism is likely correct."

I'm not sure where else to go here. Perhaps we're meaning to say the same thing but Pelagius argued that original sin didn't taint man and that man could choose between good and evil without God's help. When it came to salvation, he was able to choose to believe in Christ without any assistance from God. It wasn't that man's works were good enough to get him into heaven, his works didn't fulfill the Law, it was that he was ABLE to believe in Jesus without any help. I get this idea from the words of Pelagius himself and if you would like me to quote I can. This is why Semi-Pelagianism comes with the term "Semi". Pelagianism says we can do all of it on our own (believing in Jesus and being saved) while Semi says we initiate the process and God finishes it.

"You like the concept of "a doctrinal fixed point", as if it's a bad thing. I am of the belief that the correct way to interpret Scripture is to interpret the implicit by the explicit."

Right, then this is where you and I differ completely and this difference is more basic than any theological disagreement because it's based on how we read the Bible. There is certainly no point in continuing a theological discussion because we differ in how we even read a section of Scripture. We would have to switch to a hermeneutical discussion. Here is my problem with this hermeneutic:

What this hermeneutic allows you to do is to decide what is "explicit" and what is "implicit" based upon what fits into your theological system. That is, when you sit down to read a section of Scripture you've already got several things that it cannot mean. So, when you come to a difficult passage for your system (and we all have them), we can just label it "implicit" or "unclear", move on with our day, without actually considering what the meaning truly is.

In contrast, I submit that every passage of Scripture has a certain author/speaker, that author/speaker has a purpose/point to get across to his audience and/or reader and that this purpose should be understand absent of any other context but it's own. After all, the speaker, author, context, audience and purpose of Luke 6 is completely different from that of Rom 3. Do the two passages match up, have similarities, differences? Perhaps. But first we need to analyze each passage in it's own context without referring to the other for what one of them cannot say before we compare them.

You may say, and I think have already implied, that I'm doing the same thing just in the opposite direction; calling Luke 6 explicit and Rom 3 implicit. I assure you, I'm doing no such thing. I believe I am understanding both in context but I've already made this point so I won't take up more space here than needed.

"Now, when I used "orthodoxy" in that sense, I specified that it was faulty thinking to interpret the explicit by means of the implicit. So it would appear that you disagree, and that it is much more reasonable ("right thinking") to, at least in this case, decide that the explicit statement from Paul doesn't mean what it seems to say because the implicit statement from Christ contradicts it. You think I'm being narrow-minded, obdurate, unfair. Fine. So be it. I'm just not sure that I'm the one on the slippery slope."

I'm not saying that Rom 3 is implicit. I'm saying both are explicit. I don't think any of those things of you. I think that you believe you have the meaning of Rom 3 nailed down and so both of my calls to consider the context of Rom 3 has gone unanswered and I think you believe it is good hermeneutics to read Luke 6 in the context of Rom 3.

Stan said...

Wow, lots here. As well as I can respond, then ...

Yes, the section of questions regarding Luke 6:45 was rhetorical. (The others weren't.)

On Paul in Romans 3, you see the context as "justified by works" and I see the context as "Man's Sin problem". In fact, I see Romans 1:18-3:20 as Paul's explanation of "the Bad News" to which "justified by faith" is the "Good News" (Gospel). So, in my understanding, Romans 3:10-18 is a summation of this "Bad News". I see it this way because up until this point there has been no discussion of "salvation" by any means (let alone "by faith"). That follows (the rest of chapter 3 and through to 4).

"You are using a verse about what a man in his flesh does not do, to support a doctrine what states what man in his flesh cannot do."

Actually, I'm simply quoting the text itself. Paul says "he cannot understand them" so I understand that to be a statement about what Natural Man cannot do.

"OK, so this seems to answer my above question; the only way that someone can do good by 'God's standard' is to have a new nature, the Holy Spirit inside of them. Please correct me if I understand incorrectly. If this is the case, then you are postulating a situation in which Jesus is teaching a group of his disciples and onlookers about good that they cannot do yet."

God's standard is that which is done for His glory. The guy that prevents a rape did a good (morally good) thing, but it doesn't measure up to the standard of "done for God's glory".

However, the rest of your statement holds an underlying presupposition. The assumption is that Jesus's disciples were not yet born again. I would guess, I suppose, that this position would also assume that no one prior to ... what? Jesus's resurrection? ... had ever been "born again". Now that would indeed be a problem for my understanding of the plain texts of Scripture, wouldn't it? That would require that no one prior to that moment was capable of doing any good or understanding spiritual things. This puts a big crimp in things since it would damn everyone prior to Christ's resurrection to include Moses, the prophets, David (you know, the man after God's own heart), Enoch (the one that walked with God), and so on. Since I assume from Jesus's words to Nicodemus on the subject ("Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things?") that it had ever been thus and "born again" had been occurring since the beginning of Man's Fall, I don't see the point of your objection. His disciples, in my view, had been born again and were, therefore, capable of doing good. Beyond that, even if you preclude "born again" prior to whatever point in time you want to put it, Jesus would still be telling them of things to come. (Note that the statement in Luke 6:45 is an indicative, not an imperative. He isn't telling them "You must do good works.")

Stan said...

On Pelagius we are agreed. The question is, do you believe that Man is tainted with a sin nature?

On the explicit versus the implicit, I have to say that I don't think you're being fair. I'm not making up implicit or explicit, nor am I making up the hermeneutic. Here, let's examine an example.

Jesus said, "God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life." Good. We're all clear on the text. What do we conclude? "Well, since Jesus said 'whoever believes', it must mean 'everyone can'." Actually, no. That is not in the text. That is implied, perhaps, but not explicit. And I'd have no problem hanging with the implication if I didn't come across explicit texts that contradict it like Jesus's statements in John 6 regarding "no one can". The explicit "no one can" contradicts the implicit "anyone can". It is implicit because it's not there.

Back to Luke 6:45. I'm not suggesting some sort of preferential implicit understanding. Jesus said, "The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks." Jesus did not make any statements about the ability (or inability) of all men everywhere to do either good or bad. Any such statement is implied, not explicit. (Simple definition of terms.)

You said, "There is certainly no point in continuing a theological discussion." Now, I have no problem with friendly dialogs and I have no problem with differences of opinion. The biggest impediment that has arisen to our continuation of a friendly discussion about a difference of views is that you appear to believe I'm an idiot. I have arrived at my theology by some "theological system". I cannot plainly read the texts. I could not possibly come to the conclusions I've come to based on my own reading of Scripture. No, I'm just some follower of some "man system" (my term, not yours) that I'm just following blindly, ignoring plain texts and running roughshod over the evident reason, biblical hermeneutics, and the clear truth of the Word. Now, I don't think I've tried to portray you in such negative light. If I have, I apologize. But it certainly puts a serious kink in the flow of discussion when I have to battle ad hominem ideas on top of theological ideas. So perhaps you're right. Continuing a theological discussion might just be pointless.

traineralakemp said...

I apologize for the delay in response, I was sick with nice case of the flu yesterday.

I also apologize, without sarcasm, for not catching the rhetorical nature of those questions.

Sure, Rom 3 is about the bad news. What I take out of the word "good" in Rom 3 is defined by the surrounding phrases that Paul uses to explain the bad news; phrases like "under sin", "under the Law", "no flesh will be justified in His sight" and "none righteous". So Paul means to say that there are none who are justified in their flesh. He means "good" in the righteousness sense not in the "there is nothing good in an unbeliever" sense.

"Actually, I'm simply quoting the text itself. Paul says "he cannot understand them" so I understand that to be a statement about what Natural Man cannot do."

Sure, I can see that.

"God's standard is that which is done for His glory. The guy that prevents a rape did a good (morally good) thing, but it doesn't measure up to the standard of "done for God's glory"."

But where does Jesus define "good" in this way in Luke 6? Where is "good" defined in this way anywhere? That isn't a sarcastic question, I'm truly wondering where "moral good" and "good done for God's glory" is parsed out in Scripture.

"However, the rest of your statement holds an underlying presupposition. The assumption is that Jesus's disciples were not yet born again. I would guess, I suppose, that this position would also assume that no one prior to ... what? Jesus's resurrection? ... had ever been "born again"."

OK, I guess I'm misunderstanding what you mean by "new nature" and/or "able to do good by God's standard". I was under the assumption that these things required the work of the Holy Spirit. That a new nature means that the Holy Spirit has made that person new.

"On Pelagius we are agreed. The question is, do you believe that Man is tainted with a sin nature?"

Absolutely.

traineralakemp said...

"Jesus said, "God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life." Good. We're all clear on the text. What do we conclude? "Well, since Jesus said 'whoever believes', it must mean 'everyone can'." Actually, no. That is not in the text. That is implied, perhaps, but not explicit. And I'd have no problem hanging with the implication if I didn't come across explicit texts that contradict it like Jesus's statements in John 6 regarding "no one can". The explicit "no one can" contradicts the implicit "anyone can". It is implicit because it's not there.'

But, how do you decide that "whosoever" is implicit? I mean, he just says "whoever". John 6 is a whole new can of worms so I won't go there. But what you're doing seems completely arbitrary to me. "Whoever" and "no one" seem like both explicit statements to me. How do you decide which one is which? You are just deciding that "whosoever" doesn't mean "everyone can"...why? Whoever = whoever. Whoever finds me I will give them 10 bucks. Whoever does _____, _____ will happen. Why do I have to add, "but that doesn't mean everyone can!"?

I mean, how much more explicit do you want? 1 John 2:2, "...and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world." And later on he defines what he means by the whole world and it's certainly not the elect.

Perhaps I'm doing the same thing, perhaps I'm arbitrarily deciding which explicit verses to take at face value and which ones to rework to fit my system. So how do we decide which one is "correct thinking"?

"Back to Luke 6:45."

OK, I guess my next question is this. And I'm honestly struggling with this question, it's not rhetorical. What makes an implicit understanding hold less weight than an explicit one? If Jesus is saying that anyone who does anything good, it comes out of their heart, why is my understanding that an unbeliever can have some good in their heart incorrect? This "good" doesn't justify them or make them "good in God's sight" and it's certainly isn't born of spiritual understanding, or of the Holy Spirit, and they are certainly still slaves of sin. But why is this understanding incorrect?

For instance, in Luke 7, a Centurion who is not a proselyte or a God-fearer was the benefactor of the local synagogue. If this good didn't come out of his heart, where did it come from?

"Now, I have no problem with friendly dialogs and I have no problem with differences of opinion. The biggest impediment that has arisen to our continuation of a friendly discussion about a difference of views is that you appear to believe I'm an idiot. I have arrived at my theology by some "theological system". I cannot plainly read the texts. I could not possibly come to the conclusions I've come to based on my own reading of Scripture."

I apologize for coming off like this. It was not my intention but my intentions don't matter, how I behave is what matters. I'm trying to learn how to discuss while being loving to my brother whom I disagree with. Apparently, I still have a long way to go and I'm sorry for that.

When I said there may be no point in continuing a theological discussion it wasn't because I think you're an idiot or anything like that. It was genuinely because our differences lie in our hermeneutic, how we decide what is explicit and implicit and how much weight we give those distinctions. I consider a hermeneutic to be more basic than theology, since it effects our theology so greatly, and so talking about theology would be putting the cart before the horse. That's all I meant by that.

Stan said...

Yeah, it's going around ... everywhere as far as I can tell. Hope you're feeling better.

Where is "good" defined? You're right. It's not explicitly defined. But you certainly understand that "good" is a relative term, right? I mean, it's abundantly clear that a "good dog" is not the equivalent of a "good man". "Good" depends on 1) its context and 2) its standard. We do have Jesus saying, "You are to be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect", so by that measure "good" is "perfection". But clearly (and without sarcasm) this is simply my understanding. I base it on 1) God's overall purpose for Creation (to glorify Him) and the fact that I assume Paul to mean what he says in Romans 3.

Paul's context is important. He says that "circumcision is a matter of the heart" (Rom 2:29) (which sounds a lot like what I've been saying that "good" comes from a heart that is good). The question, then, is "what advantage has the Jew?" (Rom 3:1). Yes, there are advantages, but the unfaithful Jew faces God's wrath. Is God unrighteous for that? Not at all; He is the judge of the world. But if evil demonstrates God's glory, why not do evil? Don't be stupid (literally, "Their condemnation is just"). So we get down to this. "Are we Jews any better off?" That's the question Paul is answering in his summation of the problem of sin. "No," he says, "not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written ..." (Rom 3:9-10). The text that follows (Rom 3:10-18) is not about justification, saved by works, saved by law, saved by anything. The text that follows is intended to show the extent of the "under sin" problem. Moving it from there to "no one is good enough" is all well and good, but it's not part of the context and it runs afoul of the text that appears to be emphatic, repeating "no, not one" on more than one occasion. The text, instead of looking at the solution, is looking at the problem -- "so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God" (Rom 3:19). Having stated the problem, Paul then begins "looking for" the solution. "So law won't save you and works won't save you. All are under sin." (Note: Even in this, there isn't the slightest hint of "you're not good enough". The text appears to be saying, "There is nothing good in you, which is why the Law doesn't do the job.")

On the new nature, since I believe that Natural Man is "dead in sin" and since I believe that "dead in sin" means something quite a bit more than "in a bad way" or even "separated from God" (because that really is a strange way of saying it if that was the intent), and since there is so much Scripture that speaks of "cannot", "inclined only to evil", "hostile to God", "by nature children of wrath", "slaves to sin" and on and on, I can only assume that Natural Man from the Fall has required a new nature ("born again") if he is to be "blameless" ("good"). Thus, I conclude from Jesus's words to Nicodemus, and from the claim that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and that He claimed that "no man comes to the Father but by Me", and from the condition of Natural Man, that if anyone in history prior to Christ was ever "good" in God's eyes to any degree, then they, too, must have been born again. Since it is imperative to be born again to see the kingdom of God, I can't avoid this conclusion unless I decide that no one, prior to Christ, ever went to heaven. So that's why I see the "new nature" the way I do.

Stan said...

My mother always told me that communication is difficult at best. My mother was right.

"How do you decide that 'whosoever' is implicit?"

I don't. "Whosoever" is explicit. What is implicit is "anybody can". A statement that "whoever goes to the moon has to have a rocket" doesn't require 1) that anybody can go to the moon or 2) that anybody does go to the moon. It's a statement of fact. Now, of course, anyone who believes in Christ certainly does receive eternal life, and, of course, some do. But some will use an implicit reading to have it mean "anybody can" when it doesn't say that.

1 John 2:2 is off topic here (my question that follows, not your use), but I have to ask -- are you sure that's explicit? I mean, if all sin for all time for all mankind is propitiated ("propitiation" = God's wrath is removed), then there is no room for the wrath in Revelation or for anyone to go to Hell at all. If 1 John 2:2 is explicitly saying that all sin is paid for, then God would be unjust in damning anyone. Are you sure that's what you see there? (I don't.)

"What makes an implicit understanding hold less weight than an explicit one?"

Well, an implicit understanding by itself is perfectly okay as long as there is no explicit contradiction. Now, to be clear, my starting place is that the Bible is God's Word, God-breathed. From that point, then, I have to assume "no contradictions". So if a text explicitly says "A" and another text implies "not A", I have to reject the implied understanding in favor of the explicit. You might, for instance, see 1 John 2:2 as an implication that all are saved. (Note that regardless of how anyone reads it, that is an implication, not an explicit statement in the text.) "There, see?" someone might say, "It says that He is the propitiation of the sins of the world, which means" (lapsing into implication, not explicit statements) "that everyone is saved!" That would be fine and logical if it didn't contradict explicit statements throughout Scripture to the contrary.

Now, I can see that there might be a problem when someone takes an implicit statement and uses it to contradict another implicit statement. I can even see that something might appear explicit, but isn't. So my other primary hermeneutic is to let Scripture interpret Scripture. In the previous example, for instance, it isn't a single statement of Scripture that contradicts universalism. It is a host of passages that deny it. Being somewhat trite, I'd say, "Look, I have a huge pile of verses that say 'no' and one that says 'yes', so the many outweigh the one." But you get the idea. And since I see a bulk of Scripture that says that Natural Man is not good, that his heart is desperately wicked, that he is inclined only to evil, and on and on, then I have a hard time concluding that he has a good heart, out of which comes good deeds. (And, again, this is where I have to answer my own question, "What, then, is good?" and I conclude, "That which is done for the glory of God".)

Funny thing, then. It does end up as a "system", doesn't it? I see it all fitting together. I see a host of Scriptures that warn about the condition of Man. "Good from the heart" is not one of them. That system forces me to conclude that, while Jesus indeed said that good actions come from the heart, that doesn't mean that all men everywhere have good hearts capable of producing good. If it does, then we have to revisit that whole host of other passages. (I objected to your use of the term "theological system". Here, I hope, you see that my "theological system" is at least an attempt at the unity of Scripture, not some man-made thing.)