Friday, July 2, 2010

Hard Words, Necessary Words

Recently, I read the book Easy Chairs, Hard Words by Doug Wilson. This blog-post is mostly my notes which I took while reading, organized in an orderly fashion. If the content of this post interest you, I would highly suggest the book. It was very easy to read and understand.

God knows all and has predestined all. (Isaiah 46: 9-10) He has even decided who is elect for salvation and who are not. (Ephesians 1: 5) But the accusation here is, "If I am elect, then my sins won't damn me, and if I am not, then all the good works in the world won't save me." (From Easy Chairs, Hard Words) How is this fair? And how can we still be held responsible for our actions? Or as Romans 9: 12-14a says, "It was said to her, 'The older shall serve the younger.' As it is written, 'Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.' What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God?"

But Romans 9:14b- goes on to say, "Certainly not! For He says to Moses, 'I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.' So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy."

So obviously, it is not up to us who God elects and who God damns. It is "according to his good pleasure" (Eph. 1:5 again) that he has decided. So, how can sinners be held responsible and punished for their sins when it is God who foreordained it all? (1 Peter 2: 8) As Romans 9: 19 says, "You will say to me then, 'Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?'"

Paul answers in the next few verses, "But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, 'Why have you made me like this? Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor? What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory..."

As another example; Acts 4: 27-28, "For truly against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done." And Luke 22: 21-23, "But behold, the hand of My betrayer is with Me on the table. And truly the Son of Man goes as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom He is betrayed!"

Christ's betrayal and death were predetermined by God, for God's glory and our justification. But killing an innocent man was still sin. The people of Israel were still guilty for Christ's death. Just as we are still guilty for sin we commit, even when God has foreordained it.

Now it might seem here that we have no choice (free will) at all. Here I would like to quote Easy Chairs, Hard Words again. "We have come to that subset of God's eternal decree which we call election. It is here that we most desperately want to reconcile God's choices with man's freedom. But it is also here that the task becomes impossible, for the simple reason that at this point man has no freedom....How can we reconcile a non-existent attribute of man (the freedom to make a moral choice) with the sovereignty of God? There is nothing to reconcile. When God calls a man, He creates freedom. When we become Christians, God is not violating our moral freedom--He is creating it. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty."

We are the characters in God's story, and He is the author. Another quote from Easy Chairs, Hard Words; "'If the finite Shakespeare can produce, by his will, fictional characters who have all the freedom necessary for their 'level of existence,' then why cannot the infinite God create real individuals, with real free agency, without surrendering His control? Because God's resources are infinitely greater than Shakespeare's, He has the power to write history and create characters who have true freedom.....without having His characters write the play."

I would like to close with Deuteronomy 32: 4. “He is the Rock, His work is perfect; for all His ways are justice, a God of truth and without injustice; righteous and upright is He.” Whatever charges we might have against Him, we must remember that He is the ultimate Good.

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