Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Universalists everywhere, or, Paul vs James

It looks like not only is AB Dada a universalist, but it's looking like Dave Parker is too!
This conversation just amazes me more and more w/ virtually every statement from either Adam or Dave.

I was asked about the doctrine of Paul vs James 2, so I answered:

FF Bruce's commentary on Galatians 5 can prove handy:

"To seek it [justification] through faith in Christ was to seek it on the ground of God’s grace; to seek it through legal works was to seek it on the ground of their own merit…Paul has already made it clear (3:10) that those who seek justification through legal works do not attain it (cf. Rom 11:7), but rather incur the curse of the law; what he emphasizes here is the incompatibility of faith and works, of divine grace and human merit, where justification of the sinner before God is in question.

Here [5:5] is such a reference, however; by contrast with the vain hope of righteousness by legal works, he says, we who believe in Christ are enabled by the Spirit, through faith, to wait confidently for the hope of righteousness. The law holds out no such sure hope as this. The ‘hope of righteousness’ is the hope of a favourable verdict in the last judgment (Rom 2:5-16). For those who believe in Christ such a verdict is assured in advance by the present experience of justification by faith…In their case the eschatological verdict of ‘not guilty’ is already realized."


--F. F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Galatians (Erdmans 1988), 231-232.


And here is a quick cut and paste of some quotes in an article dealing w/ this topic from here...

"There is no reason to assume that James was commenting on Paul. Notice that there is no reference in his epistle to Jewish/Gentile relations in the church, which is the point of departure for the Pauline doctrine.

And there is no reason to assume that James is using the word in the same specialized sense as it acquires in Pauline thought. A word is not a doctrine. The reason we have a Pauline doctrine of justification is not because Paul uses the word, but because he has laid out a detailed theological model of justification—such as you don’t find in James.

From what I can tell, James is making a much simpler point, where faith and works are equivalent to hearing and doing (1:22-25). Don’t be hearers of the word only, but doers as well. This is a common admonition in Scripture...faith is not the ground of our justification. The ground of our justification is penal substitution. Faith is merely a condition of its individual application to the sinner...sanctification is a necessary condition of salvation, but not a condition of justification.
...we’re not talking in generic terms about man’s relation to God, but in specific terms about the sinner’s relation to his Judge."



For the purposes of this discussion, you can consider me in agreement w/ the author of that article.
My own brief commentary is this:
Paul discusses forensic justification of the dead, dirty sinner before a loving, yes, but also holy and just God in various psgs thru the NT, including Romans 2-10, most of Galatians, heavy references in Colossians, and Ephesians 1-2 (among other places). It is out of these places that the Reformation doctrine of salvation by grace through faith alone has been derived. I say "Reformation doctrine" simply to give it a name and set it apart, but I will be happy to defend it from biblical exegesis.

James, by contrast, as noted above, is not discussing justification of the sinner before God.
A final note - what does James' "justification" mean, then? It is the validation before witnesses of the faith that exists. In the case of Abraham, for example, he lifts the knife to kill Isaac and thus validates the fact that he has faith in the eyes of:
-Isaac
-Sarah his wife
-the billions who have read Genesis over the centuries

The problems of the conundrum you think I have are manifold.
1) Eph 2:8-9 says we are saved by grace, NOT by works.
Romans 3:28 says we are justified by grace apart from the works of the Law.
Romans 11:6 says that grace mixed with works is no longer grace.
Scripture thus contradicts Scripture if what you have said is true.
2) The context of the psgs out of which we derive the Pauline doctrine of justification are clearly related to justification.
The context of James 2 is not.
3) We don't know how to be saved.


Problem is, Dave, you are really giving me the impression that you believe all people will be saved (when you said "our belief or faith that Christ did these things for us is evidence of our realization that we’re no longer condemned").
2 questions:
1) Do you believe that all people are saved? If not, is the vast majority of humanity (who have ever lived) saved, ie, will they be in Heaven?
2) What is your scriptural argument for the position expressed in your answer to my 1st question?

Peace,
ALAN

10 comments:

A.B. Dada said...

First, I would be shocked if Dave Parker was either a Universalist or a Preterist. Just because he "allows" Preterist conversation in the fellowship he hosts does not mean he agrees with or even believes in what I speak. I am fairly certain that he is an Evangelical Futurist, just one with a more open mind as I know that he himself has likely found some prior pastoral teachings to be full of errors. The fact that I am meeting more hosts ("pastors") like Dave attests to the fact that more Christians are starting to question the very doctrine that the Church has taken on -- possibly a faulty doctrine.

FF Bruce's commentary proves nothing to me, other than to show that he definitely walked in an error-prone direction. For those who don't know FF Bruce is one of the primary designers of the modern Evangelical atmosphere, one that I disagree with vehemently in some cases.


From my vantage point, both of you are wrong (Alan and Dave) in regards to James 2 and the justification of faith/righteousness. It is obvious that your teachings center on the ideology of organized religion rather than what the Book actually says. Let us look at James entirely to see why... I will use the NLT just because the site is easy to access from my wireless PDA.

James 1:1: This letter is from James, a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ. I am writing to the "twelve tribes"—Jewish believers scattered abroad. Greetings!

Here we see who James is specifying the letter to -- notably the twelve tribes of Jewish believers in Christ that were loosely organized in the 1st century. James was not writing to Gentiles, unbelievers, Pharisees or others -- he was specifically writing to Hebrews who had faith in Christ as Lord, who also had faith in His Returning Presence in their very generation. We know that James knew that Christ's Presence was coming in that specific generation (40 years or so after the Cross) because James said so:

James 5:7 Dear brothers and sisters, be patient as you wait for the Lord's return.

Why would they have to be patient and wait if the Lord wasn't returning while they were alive? He specifically sent the letters to the Jewish believers, so we have to realize it waas them, and only them, that knew that Christ's Presence as coming, while they walked the earth mortally.

James was (likely) the mortal leader of the assembly of believers in Jerusalem, arguably the "head" assembly of all those who followed and believed in Jesus. If you don't agree here, that is not an issue, but this is where my vantage point comes from. As we see in the very first paragraph, this letter had a VERY specific audience, and that audience is NOT us, unless you are a 2000 year old Jew from the 1st century who lived in the "nations" of the Roman Empire.


As James was (probably) the mortal leader, it was endowed into him to confirm that he lead his flock in the correct direction, preparing for the imminent presence of Christ ("The Second Coming.") Christ warned His Apostles of what would happen before His presence came in Judgment (Matthew 24/Revelation/et al) -- there would be great apostasy, people would fall away from faith in Christ, people would be lured by false teachers, and there would be great corruption into Sin before His presence finished what He promised. James was aware of this, and James set forth to make sure that the Jewish believers stayed on the path of righteousness -- not just for themselves, but for those around them who had not yet accepted Christ and who did not know that He was returning in presence for Judgment.

It is obvious that James was centering his letter on all the believing Jews of the time. He 'scolded' those who were partaking of all the various sins, and it was up to James to remind them what was at stake.

James 1:26: If you claim to be religious but don't control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless.

Worthless to whom? God? No, worthless to the believer themselves, and to the non-believers they testify to. If you simply proclaim religion (as Evangelicals tend to do today) without living it, those around you will disrespect your religion because of your actions. It was very important that the Jews of the 1st century live by the Law as well as by faith in grace -- Jesus said it would be necessary, and the Apostles reiterated it time and again the Epistles/letters to the flock.


Continuing on to the "big verse" that causes problems in all of Evangelical Churchianity:

James 2:14What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don't show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone?

What does James mean by "save anyone?" Does he mean can faith withour works save yourself? I doubt it. The focus is how can faith save someone -- others who don't have that faith. If the early believing Jews walked around Jerusalem and only dealt with the wealthy or the able/healthy or the powerful, or if those same believing Jews walked around and were drunk or adulterous, how would their faith be cast as a light to those who were unaware of the impending doom that would come forth to Israel in that very generation, quickly, soon? It wouldn't. We know even today that many Churchians walk-the-walk and talk-the-talk while in the temple of organized religion, but when they leave, they become their "normal" wicked selves. Not a good example of why one should go to that temple of organized religion, right? That's the basic truth that James is offerign here: don't SAY you are a Christian, ACT like it so you produce good fruit and attract others to the faith they will need to be saved from Judgment.


As we move on through the Epistle of James, we see the ideas of justification over and over, but one thing we don't see is who that justification is for or by! Churchians such as Alan will say that good works justifies your faith in God's eyes, but this is NOT substantiated in James at all. I am so far unable to find substantiation of that idea at all in the Bible -- faith alone is what saved 1st century believers from the Judgment at hand (in their generation), not good works. Good works had two purposes: (1) to bring forth the Kingdom perspective in the here-and-now (as it still does), and (2) propel the Gospel to those who did not believe it or give it strength. Justification by works in faith was for unbelievers, not for God. God already knows the hearts of all men, and God knows what you believe, regardless of what your mouth says or your hands do. God knows (and knew) everything about everyone, so justification in front of God or by God had zero to do with works. Justification through works was solely to show others that you did believe, and you were serious about it. Remember, the writing of James was very close to Christ's Presence returning (40AD?), less than 30 years away. To me this shows how worried James was about the Jewish part of the flock -- many were already starting to fall away from faith, and taking down others with them (who did not yet believe or herald the Good News).


James 2:18: Now someone may argue, "Some people have faith; others have good deeds." But I say, "How can you show me your faith if you don't have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds."

Who is James saying he will show his faith to? God? I don't think so -- he would have categorically brought up "show to God my faith" if he meant God. Instead, he said "you" or "ye" meaning those around you who you promote your faith to. If you talk the talk but don't walk the walk, people will not just measure your faith as weak, but they will measure the faith in general as weak! How many non-Christians have measured Christianity as a loser purpose because so many Churchians produce poor fruit that doesn't couple with their words? The Churchians answer is "We're all sinners!" even though at the same time they'll spew "Christ's blood washed us of our sins." Which is it? Are you sinners, or did Christ wash your sins with His blood? James' letter was predictory to this day of how organized religion is easily corrupted when those who attest to the religion fail to live up to what they preach for others.


James 2:22: You see, his faith and his actions worked together. His actions made his faith complete.23 And so it happened just as the Scriptures say: "Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith." He was even called the friend of God. 24 So you see, we are shown to be right with God by what we do, not by faith alone.

Here we see that Abraham was considered righteous by God because his actions followed his faith, but in this example it ends with something different than just God: "we are shown to be right with God..." shown to WHO? In Abraham's case, he was just doing what God said to do. In the Jews case, who would they show their faith to (proven by good works)? Other Jews who didn't yet believe or hold to the same faith! It wasn't about justification from God, it was about justification of your faith for others who did not hold that faith, or even others who wavered in faith, or others who were faithful but fell away. James was endowed with holding the Jewish assembly together, and he did so by producing this Epistle/letter.


James even finishes his letter with a confirmation of the imminent coming Presence of Christ in the 1st century:

James 5:19 My dear brothers and sisters, if someone among you wanders away from the truth and is brought back,20 you can be sure that whoever brings the sinner back will save that person from death and bring about the forgiveness of many sins.

"...will save that person from death..." moves to ask the question: how are they saved from death? In Matthew 24, believers are warned (through signs) to run to the mountains to escape death and plague and pain. James is telling the Hebrew believers that they can save other Hebrews from that pending Judgment by bringing them back to faith.


As I said in the beginning, from my perspective, both you and Dave are in error as to what matters to God today. We don't need faith any longer (faith in what?), we need knowledge of God, in whose Kingdom we live in today. We don't need salvation from Judgment, we need guidance from the Spirit to push back our evil manners. We don't need justification from God for our faith, since God knows our hearts and doesn't need outward signs of our faith -- He expects us to do good deeds, but He requires nothing of no one. Those who believe in Christ and live as Christ did will be blessed in Heaven. Those who won't will be outside the gates of servitude for eternity, not condemned to punishment, just not given as much eternal fulfillment as those who prove their knowledge in God and Jesus today, on this mortal Kingdom.

Dave said...

Wow! Now I'm being labeled a Universalist :-) Hmmm...maybe I am...or maybe that's where I'm headed...or maybe I'm not? My struggle is the same as that of multitudes that call themselves Christian...the only difference is that I'm willing to openly discuss it ;-)

Great comments, Adam. You bring up some very interesting points. Problem is, there are lots of filters that your words and the words of Scriptures are running through before they ever make it into the consciousness of most that will read your words. I can feel people formulating their arguments with you before they've made it beyond your first paragraph ;-)

As for the James justification explanation, Alan explained James the same way you did over on my blog... Again...interesting points and well worth considering.

Minoru TODA said...

Sorry for commeting on something totally unrelated to your post.

Regarding our conversation in Kikaijima, looks like Japanese Bible is not the only one where God intentionally manipulates people to work against him.

http://literalbible.blogspot.com/2007/03/god-hardens-king-of-heshbons-heart-then.html

Rhology said...

For those of you keeping score at home, I am linking to the article Minoru cited since it was cut off.

I love that about blogger. Actually, I don't love it.

Anyway, I am only too happy to stand by/defend what God has done.
Given that God elsewhere refers to the land land vomiting out its inhabitants, it is understandable. God is doing nothing more or less than bringing a just judgment on an entire people group who have become criminals, disgusting examples of humanity.

You may object to that, too, and that would not surprise me. Getting to the heart of the matter, let me ask you a question that I believe I did ask you on Kikaijima:
On what basis do you judge this action of God's to be wrong?

And, it's great to talk to you again. I hope you are doing well. Enjoy Japan - I miss it! :-) Feel free to stop by anytime.

Peace,
ALAN

Minoru TODA said...

Hi, Alan.

I judge God wrong based on my personal experience, which is the only one I got. I do not know whether God IS wrong, however if what God is doing is right, world is a messed up place and I'd rather not be friend with him.

What confuses me is that if God is so great, why can't he keep everyone (and I mean people with injuries, illness, etc.) happy? If generating general unhappiness is intentional, would you consider "creating intentional unhappiness in people" as part of God's greatness?

I know God must have his reasons for taking the long way instead of making shortcuts; however I do not think it is a intelligent behavior for us humans to go brain-dead and give up trying to understand God's reasons just because he is too great and too beyond us.

As for kikaijima I plan to go there again in August (for the third time :) ), and looks like I am inheriting small plot of land there too :)

Minoru

Rhology said...

Hi Minoru,

Thanks for writing!

--I judge God wrong based on my personal experience, which is the only one I got.
>>This is a very judgmental statement. In your personal morality, is it OK to judge people like you are doing to God?

--I do not know whether God IS wrong
>>If you do not know whether God is wrong, then
1) why should I listen to you when you object to God's actions?
2) why are you complaining?
3) How do you think you could come to know for sure whether God did something that is morally wrong or not?

--however if what God is doing is right, world is a messed up place and I'd rather not be friend with him.
>>But since you're not sure whether God is right or wrong, how do you know you're not confused? How do you know the world is indeed messed up? What if the world is exactly like God wants it to be right now and you are just the one who is out of touch with reality?

--if God is so great, why can't he keep everyone (and I mean people with injuries, illness, etc.) happy?
>>Do you have a good reason why I should believe that everyone being happy is the way the world SHOULD be?

--If generating general unhappiness is intentional, would you consider "creating intentional unhappiness in people" as part of God's greatness?
>>I'll actually answer your question here. ;-)
Yes, since God has told us that His driving motivation is to bring people to repent of their sin and stop doing the wrong things and believing the wrong things, it makes sense that people would be unhappy so maybe they won't be so complacent and not think about ultimate reality.

--I do not think it is a intelligent behavior for us humans to go brain-dead and give up trying to understand God's reasons just because he is too great and too beyond us.
>>Neither do I. He told us what He's doing in the Bible.
The thing is, you read the Bible and then you wrote that you think God should not have hardened the heart of the king of Heshbon.



--As for kikaijima I plan to go there again in August (for the third time :) ), and looks like I am inheriting small plot of land there too :)
>>That's great! I wish I could take a trip there soon.

Peace,
ALAN

Minoru TODA said...

Whoa, it's 4am and I have work tomorrow :)

----I judge God wrong based on my personal experience, which is the only one I got.
-->>This is a very judgmental statement. In your personal morality, is it OK to judge people like you are doing to God?
>>In my personal morality, I have only my own experience as the basis of making any judgments. If you are asking whether I should or should not judge people based on my personal experiences, I would say I should. Are you using somebody else's standards to make decisions in your daily life ? Are you sure those standards are really from somebody else's; not just something you understood and made part of your own experience ?

----I do not know whether God IS wrong
-->>If you do not know whether God is wrong, then
--1) why should I listen to you when you object to God's actions?
>>You don't have to. Please just move along. I'm not forcing you anything. If you ignore this comment, I'll promise I won't post again on same topic. After all it's your own decision.
--2) why are you complaining?
>>It's a trait that runs in my family that makes me complain if I see an oppressor. I am complaining because I can, and because obviously the God does not smite me immediately for making these comments.
--3) How do you think you could come to know for sure whether God did something that is morally wrong or not?
>>In a perfect world built by perfect God, wouldn't I naturally know that what he did is morally right ? Philosophically speaking, it is impossible to know for sure about anything about anyone, even it the person is not God. Do you think that God has intentionally made the world so that people like me would question him ?
If so, isn't it God's will to have his morality questioned ? Why would he have his morality questioned if he is morally right, and there's nothing to question ? If it is not his intent to make me question him, what restricted him to make the omission ?

----however if what God is doing is right, world is a messed up place and I'd rather not be friend with him.
-->>But since you're not sure whether God is right or wrong, how do you know you're not confused? How do you know the world is indeed messed up? What if the world is exactly like God wants it to be right now and you are just the one who is out of touch with reality?
>> If the world is exactly like God wants it, and if I am the one who is out of touch with reality, would you think it is okay for God to want me to be out of touch with reality ? Why doesn't the God show me the evidence to get in touch with reality ? It raises suspicion that he is either unable to do so, or do not want to do it. Is that okay with you ? It's not okay by me.

----if God is so great, why can't he keep everyone (and I mean people with injuries, illness, etc.) happy?
-->>Do you have a good reason why I should believe that everyone being happy is the way the world SHOULD be?
>>Unless I am mistaken, I think of you as well educated person wishing good for the world. Or do you live your life wishing your neighbors to be miserable every day ? What's your opinion on terrorism ?

----If generating general unhappiness is intentional, would you consider "creating intentional unhappiness in people" as part of God's greatness?
-->>I'll actually answer your question here. ;-)
--Yes, since God has told us that His driving motivation is to bring people to repent of their sin and stop doing the wrong things and believing the wrong things, it makes sense that people would be unhappy so maybe they won't be so complacent and not think about ultimate reality.
>>You have your point there. My objection about God is that he is too personal with his driving motivations to be taken in full context of "all-mighty, all-knowing, all-perfect". Perhaps God is not all-perfect on the personal level. If he is the only one God, is it unfair for me to expect him to be all-perfect ?

----I do not think it is a intelligent behavior for us humans to go brain-dead and give up trying to understand God's reasons just because he is too great and too beyond us.
-->>Neither do I. He told us what He's doing in the Bible.
The thing is, you read the Bible and then you wrote that you think God should not have hardened the heart of the king of Heshbon.
>>If God is "all-whatever-they-say-of-him", by definition there was no need to do it in the first place.


My job is a Programmer, and it's my job understand the reality and take it apart into logical chunks for reconstructing it. If I see oddities in where there shouldn't be any oddities, I disturbs me.

Minoru

Minoru TODA said...

Oops. Bad typo. last sentence is:

If I see oddities in where there shouldn't be any oddities, it disturbs me.

Minoru TODA said...

Alan,

my religious status as a Catholic is as follows:
I believe in God, but I have no faith in him.

In my young days I was brought up as Catholic. I went to church every Sunday, and I also attended lessons at the church. I read the entire bible (Old and New Testaments) in Japanese several times, and along that reading process I found something totally illogical and out of place.


Deuteronomy 2:30 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

30 But Sihon king of Heshbon refused to let us pass through. For the LORD your God had made his spirit stubborn and his heart obstinate in order to give him into your hands, as he has now done.

申命記 / 2章 30節
しかし、ヘシュボンの王シホンは我々が通過することを許さなかった。あなたの神、主が彼の心をかたくなにし、強情にしたからである。それは今日、彼をあなたの手に渡すためであった。


What disturbed me was that this particular phrase about making "his spirit stubborn" appears several times in the Old Testament. To my young mind, it appeared as if the God has intervened with Sihon king of Heshbon and made significant change to his mind to cause (read: set up) certain events to happen.

Why did God make this change ? Could not he foresee the events and prepared it so that he did not need to make adjustments afterwards ? If God is almighty (read: capable of setting things up the right way from the very beginning), why did he leave out the final touch ? If this action was intentional, does it not suggest that God has a personality (e.g. leaving things for later instead of doing NOW) ? If God has a personality, what are his traits ?
(A person who loves to trample on others are rarely peaceful with his own family. What are we to expect in heaven ?)

If the change was not significant (i.e. the king was already irreparably rotten, and the change would not have made any significant change), why the redundancy ?

IMHO, that phrase about making his spirit stubborn is totally unnecessary. The entire passage would have made sense without it, as it only raises the suspicion of God being sneaky and bending people against their free wills, or that he is not all-knowing and all-powerful and needs making adjustments along the way.


This is the only part of the bible that I seriously want to question. Is it a cumulative translation error, or incorrectly added text ?
I just wish that people would write bible in plain text, not requiring expert re-interpretation.

Minoru

Anonymous said...

Minoru,

Are you from LFA, Illinois? If so, this is Steve R. from computer science class.