Category Archives: God’s Wisdom

One Small Argument Against The Doctrine Of Free Will

IMG_5209Let me begin this blog post with the obvious: a single essay can’t possibly address all the variables in arguing against the popular notion of free will. As surely as I write this piece, some Catholic or Armimian will raise objections that I would need to respond to by writing a entirely separate post.

The tension between human responsibility and God’s sovereignty is huge, and writers far more capable than I have spent centuries trying to explain why the fact of human responsibility doesn’t translate into an argument that God created human beings with free will. Martin Luther wrote an entire book, The Bondage of the Will (which I quit reading halfway through because my puny mind couldn’t wrap around all Luther’s points), in an attempt to disprove the whole idea. Arminians certainly have pet verses that they use to substantiate their view, and dealing with each verse would take quite a chunk of time.

That said, the question of free will mustn’t be ignored. Arminians are not heretics for holding to this doctrine, but I believe they hold it at great risk of minimizing God’s sovereignty.

The topic of free will predictably comes up in conversations about situations like the massacre in Las Vegas. Attempts to assure people that this horrific tragedy didn’t occur apart from the Lord’s control are invariably met with protestations that the gunman exercised free will when he pulled that trigger. Apparently, the doctrine that God is sovereign even in situations like this one must be mitigated.

I guess we need to protect God’s reputation.

And yes, the Lord will hold this gunman responsible for his sin, dear readers. God’s sovereignty in no  way excuses sin…on any level!

I think of how God used Judas Iscariot to accomplish Christ’s crucifixion on the Passover. It seems a small detail, until you remember that the Passover feast symbolized the Lamb of God Who would bring His chosen people out from the bondage of sin. According to God’s plan, Christ would have to be crucified on Passover.

Of course, the Pharisees feared that, because the people loved Jesus to the extent that they greeted Him with shouts of Hosanna when He entered Jerusalem, crucifying Him at Passover would be political suicide. The Lord used Judas Iscariot to force their hand, thus ensuing that His supreme Passover Lamb would die at precisely the right moment.

Judas Iscariot, however, bore complete responsibility for betraying the Lord. He wasn’t elected to salvation, yet he knew the Truth. God holds that man responsible for his act of betrayal, most assuredly. Yet Jesus chose Judas as a disciple in order to bring about God’s perfect plan of redemption. In that very important respect, I join Martin Luther in arguing that Judas Iscariot did not have free will.

As I said earlier, there’s no way I can offer a complete refutation of the doctrine of free will in one solitary blog post. But I invite you to seriously think about God’s sovereignty in using Judas to accomplish Christ’s crucifixion. Because of Judas Iscariot’s evil behavior, salvation is now available to all who believe in Jesus Christ. Praise God that, in His sovereignty, the perceived free will of one greedy little man brought about history’s most monumental event!

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The Negation Of Reason By Sensuous Minds

49575-before2bthe2bcrossThrough a variety of circumstances, I’ve recently been exposed to young women in the Millennial generation. With one notable exception, I don’t really like what I see. The irresponsibility and self-centeredness appalls and saddens me. This generation, from what I see, exchanges reason for experience and pragmatism, paying little attention to long-term ramifications of their decisions. They pay even less attention to how their behaviors affect others.

In short, they possess poor reasoning skills. As a result, they exercise poor judgment, and then cast themselves as innocent victims when they face the consequences of that poor judgment. Between the immediacy of social media and the indoctrination of liberal colleges and Hollywood, Millennials have never learned to think for themselves.

To be fair, those attitudes have definite roots in my generation: the Baby Boomers. We set the example of selfishness and exaltation of feelings over facts. We implicitly taught them to use their emotions and desires as standards, insisting that moral absolutes depend on what their personal experience tells them.

Interestingly, after dealing with some of these women over the past couple weeks, my personal study of Colossians today brought me to a passage that, in part, applies to the deterioration of reasoning skills that I see in these women.

18 Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, 19 and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God. ~~Colossians 2:18-19 (ESV)

In context, these two verses warn against false teachers who claim special revelation from spiritual experiences they supposedly have. In future posts, maybe we can discuss these verses in that light. But today it occurred to me that a sensuous mind (whether or not it leads to a person becoming a false teacher) invariably leads someone away from clear reason.

A sensuous mind celebrates feelings over truth. It depends on personal experience and desires to direct its course, making truth dependent on the person’s subjective impressions rather than on God’s Word. It certainly rejects Christ as the Source of wisdom.

As I said earlier, Millennials don’t have a corner on living in response to sensuous minds; Boomers and Gen Xers taught them that life revolves around what they feel and want. They simply believe what we’ve modeled for them.

Naturally, those who don’t know Christ first need to hear the Gospel. They need to understand that truth exists apart from them instead of being determined by their feelings and desires. And even those who profess to know Him require guidance back to Scripture, learning to reason from its truths. We owe these young ladies nothing less.

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Bluebirds Don’t Speak As Clearly As The Bible Does

Thy Word is a LampI’ve written about the assaults on the sufficiency of Scripture more times than I can count. I’ve majored on this theme because most of the assaults come, not just from mainline liberal churches that reject the Bible’s authority anyway, but also from evangelical churches that claim to believe the Bible as the Word of God.

Increasingly, churches that would theoretically reject Charismatic teaching are embracing the idea of God speaking personally to individuals apart from the Bible. They argue that we need supplementation, especially in making decisions such as whom to marry or what job to take. One friend once reminded me that I never found a Bible verse saying “thou shalt marry John.”

Actually, the expectation that God should speak to me personally about marrying John very much complicated my decision. At one point, I asked for a sign of three bluebirds in one day. At sunset, having only seen two bluebirds outside my window, I felt very despondent. Then I noticed a painting of a third bluebird on my computer’s screensaver! Did that count? Most days, I assured myself it did; often, I struggled with nagging doubts.

Had I superimposed my great desire to marry John on the third bluebird? Should I ask for another sign? If another sign showed that God didn’t want me to marry John, which sign should I follow?

And why didn’t God simply speak to my heart, as I believed He had on other, less consequential, occasions?

Sure, I knew what the Bible said about the type of man I should seek to marry. And obviously, John met those qualifications! He exhibited Biblical attitudes in keeping with God’s commands to husbands, and I could see that he would lead me to obey the Lord in our marriage. Really, it was a no-brainer, with plenty of Scripture confirming that such a marriage would honor and glorify the Lord.

If I had trusted Scripture’s sufficiency as much as I claimed to trust it, I would have saved myself a lot less angst. I might have enjoyed the courtship even more than I did, and I certainly would have displayed a more godly character worthy of a man like John.

It troubles me to see people straining to hear God’s Voice or frantically searching for signs when a simple study of Scripture in context would enable them to make godly decisions without unnecessary struggle. No, you won’t find a verse telling you to take a certain job, marry a certain man or move to a certain town. But you most assuredly will find principles, based on Scripture as a whole, through which the Holy Spirit will guide you toward God’s will.

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. ~~2 Timothy 3:16-17 (ESV)

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The Trouble With Emphasizing Our Woundedness

Michele SmithThere’s something comforting in hearing someone confess their flaws and vulnerabilities, isn’t there? If she’s as imperfect and broken as we are, she makes us feel better about ourselves. Therefore, we gravitate to her blogs, books and/or conferences, knowing that she’ll make us feel good. She’ll assure us that God thinks we’re awesome, that He wants to date us and that He validates all our feelings. As He met her in her woundedness, so He will meet us in ours.

Lately, I’ve confessed, not cute little flaws in my character, but outright sin. Maybe you feel that I’m more approachable because of my transparency. That’s flattering to me, I’ll admit, but it’s also a little troubling.

If I use self-disclosure as a means of attracting followers, the focus goes to me. That’s not going to benefit either me or my readers. It may make me feel important and influential, but it probably does little to build the kingdom of God. And the possibility that I’m building my personal empire rather than investing the abilities He gives me in advancing His kingdom terrifies me.

The apostle Paul gives a glimpse into how the Lord will judge believers. Please read the following passage with the understanding that it refers to God judging how to reward Christians, not about salvation. Jesus Christ has already determined salvation by His death on the cross. The judgment in this passage focuses on whether believers have used our natural and spiritual gifts for Christ’s honor and glory.

11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— 13 each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 14 If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire. ~~1 Corinthians 3:11-15 (ESV)

(No, that’s not about Purgatory.)

When a Christian uses ministry to draw attention to herself, she’s failing to build on the foundation of the Lord Christ Jesus. Her fan base may believe she’s a personal friend to each one of them because she’s been so authentic about her brokenness. They wouldn’t mind having a cuppa with her while she empathized with their brokenness.

I have no problem with a Christian blogger, writer and/or speaker extending empathy to hurting women. Please don’t misunderstand me on that point. God’s Word specifically commands us to weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15). But at some point, the empathy must lead to Christ. Sin must be confronted and the Gospel must be presented in its entirety. Above all, Jesus must be exalted.

So much so-called ministry these days revolves around making people feel good about themselves, prompting bloggers, writers and  speakers to parade their flaws and vulnerabilities without discretion. But many times their veneer of authenticity covers us a thirst for applause instead of a desire to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ. And they forfeit eternal rewards.

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Saturday Sampler: June 11 — June 17

Bezier Flower SamplerLike Michelle Lesley, I’d never heard of Karen Ehman, but based on The Mailbag: Did Jesus Really Teach Karen Ehman’s 3 Step Life Plan? I don’t think I’ll bother. In addition to examining questionable aspects of Ehman’s teaching, Michelle shows us the importance of keeping everything we read in context.

Praise the Lord that Jennifer at One Hired Late In The Day pays attention to her Bible! She supplies Some Encouragement for Marrieds & Parents in response to the Social Gospel and its call to radical living.

Is The Bible A Love Letter From God? Stephen Altroggie of The Blazing Center says no. Find out why he disagrees with this popular view of God’s Word.

Lysa TerKeurst is, from what I’ve read, a false teacher. I’m still researching her, but I know enough about her to be very wary of her. Sadly, she’s announced this week that she’s decided to divorce her husband, alleging he’s been unfaithful. In response, Leslie A. of Growing 4 Life has written Some thoughts on ending a marriage. I appreciate Leslie’s balanced, compassionate approach to this matter. This is not a time for self-righteousness or glee, but a time to pray for Lysa’s repentance.

Highlighting two very different incidents from Martin Luther’s life, Allen Cagle writes If he is inviting me to my death, then I will come for Parking Space 23. Even if you don’t normally like history, this article is an inspiring portrayal of courage. Don’t cheat yourself out of it!

As a woman with a disability, I resonate with Elizabeth Prata’s Two or more good things about having a disability in The End Time. It’s not a typical Elizabeth Prata essay, but I love the way she points to the Lord’s goodness and sovereignty in giving us various trials.

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The Brutal Truth

Horrible Beautiful CrossWhen John had cancer five years ago, I tearfully begged  his surgeon to find a way to treat it other than surgery. His tone of voice showed more impatience than compassion as he gruffly answered, “I’m trying to save your husband’s life!” His apparent arrogance offended me. And more significantly, I whole-heartedly believed that, due to his breathing limitations from having Polio, surgery would certainly kill John faster than the cancer would.

In my opinion, surgery represented a ruthless, almost savage, approach to John’s cancer, and I desperately wanted a gentler way of dealing with it. Again, I tried to reason with him. By that time, John had been severely weakened from a heart attack, so the doctor informed me (again with an apparent  lack of compassion in his tone), “Without the surgery, he only has weeks to live.”

Surgeons have to steel their emotions, or else they probably couldn’t face the  life-and-death nature of their profession. If both his tone and his decision smacked of brutality, he wanted me to understand the even greater brutality of colon cancer. He would take great risks, even those that deeply upset me, in order to save my husband.

I’ve been accused, many times in my life, of being  harsh in my presentation of doctrine. Instead of approaching false doctrine with negativity and anger, why don’t I try a gentler, more positive approach? Why not have the compassion that Jesus had?  The gentleness that Paul instructed Timothy to have?

Gentleness indeed has its place, especially with people who recognize their sin and know how  desperately they need a Savior. Once the Holy Spirit used Scripture to expose the the utter depravity of my heart, convincing  me that I deserved nothing but eternal separation from God in hell, the mercy and kindness of Jesus dying on the cross in my place filled me with joy! But that joy  could never  have come until I  came face-to-face with my spiritual  cancer.

I’d been active in my church, quite convinced that my religious activity guaranteed my acceptability to  God. My gentle pastor never confronted sin in my life. In fact, he assured me of my salvation, not because Jesus died for me, but because he saw me as a “good girl.” His gentleness ignored the cancer of sin that would have damned me to hell if Jesus hadn’t  led me to some harsh, uncomfortable passages in the Sermon on the Mount.

Like the brutal truth that saved John’s physical life five years ago, brutal truth brought me into eternal life. So if my posts seem brutal and unfeeling, think back to John’s surgeon….and realize that he showed great compassion after all.

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Psychology And The Source Of Knowledge About The Human Soul

Lady Reading BiblePsychology makes my blood boil, especially when people try to integrate it with Christianity! Although commonly considered a science, the discipline actually is comprised of theories that haven’t been proven (and really don’t lend themselves to scientific verification). The vast majority of the theories incorporate acceptance of evolution, humanism and occult ideas.

Over the past 40 years, evangelicals have embraced psychology as an augmentation to pastoral ministry, assuming that the Bible falls short of addressing the mental and emotional needs of humans. That assumption should make the hair on the back of your neck bristle! Essentially, “Christian” psychology boldly declares God’s Word to be impotent, while at the same time more than implying that psychologists and licensed counselors possess a special knowledge inaccessible to those of us who “merely” read the Bible.

The attitude that psychologists have a deeper understanding of human nature than the Holy Spirit (Who, after all, authored the Bible) smacks of modern-day Gnosticism.

To grasp the significance of equating psychology with Gnosticism, let me briefly review the basic premise of Gnosticism, and the apostle Paul’s response to it. In the late First Century and early Second Century, Gnostics taught that they held special knowledge over and above what most Christians had. Access to that knowledge required initiation into their group, but promised deeper wisdom into life’s mysteries.

In his letter to the Colossians, Paul argued that Christ alone is the Source of wisdom. Notice how directly he made his claim in the following paragraph.

For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments. For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the firmness of your faith in Christ. ~~Colossians 2:1-5 (ESV)

Look carefully at verse 3. Wisdom and knowledge, in their entirety, are hidden in Christ, not in philosophical systems developed by people like Freud (an atheist influenced by Charles Darwin) and Jung (who depended on a demonic spirit called Philemon). And Christ gladly reveals Himself through Scripture.

The Apostle Peter insists further that knowing the Lord Jesus Christ gives us everything we  need to navigate through life.

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. ~~2 Peter 1:3-4 (ESV)

Remembering that the Lord gives us knowledge of Himself through His Word, this passage in 2 Peter clearly teaches that we simply don’t need the special knowledge that psychology pretends to offer us. Not only can we pass up this modem-day Gnosticism by standing on the sufficiency of Scripture, we have an obligation to do just that!

Psychology may appear erudite and sophisticated because of it’s claims to understand the inner workings of the human soul, but Christians have access to the One Who created that soul. Why should we waste our time on foolish human philosophy when the Bible is right there, ready to provide all the answers we need?

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