Power to Cleanse: Understanding the Fully-Orbed Gospel

The Evangelical church has always stood firmly on the rock that we are justified by the grace of God through faith, and not our righteous deeds. Good works are never the basis on which God declares us “not guilty” in His court. Martin Luther called this idea of justification by faith alone, “The doctrine by which the church stands or falls.” Because of my union with Christ by faith, there is no one who can condemn me! God has declared me righteous in His sight, and I will never taste death. There is incredible beauty in this free gift of God in Christ that transcends what we mortals can understand.

But this is only half of the story, and my fear is that it is often the only part of the story we tell in the modern church. Paul gives us a solemn warning in 1 Corinthians 6, and we would do well to remember it. He says, “Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”

This is not talking about how we are declared righteous in the sight of God. Abstaining from sexual immorality, thievery, and drunkenness has never saved anyone and never will. Our good works can never stand up to scrutiny when elucidated by the flame of God’s holiness. But Paul’s warning is something we should take very seriously. He even prefaces it by telling us not to be deceived, signaling that many will try to explain away the truths in this passage.

The reality Paul is pointing us towards is very simple. God’s grace is beautiful not only because it makes Christians clean in His sight, but truly clean as well. In contrast to the Pharisees who seemed externally righteous but were filthy inside, our Father makes us righteous. God’s Spirit gives His people new hearts that hunger and thirst after true righteousness. Our minds are renewed and our thinking becomes more and more like His. Every Christian is being progressively made new – conformed more and more to who Jesus is.

The Apostle’s warning should be taken at face value. If a person lives a life characterized by persistent unrepentant sin, he should fear for his salvation. The faith that God gives makes a person fundamentally a new creation. If someone is not bearing fruit, then He should fear that his faith is not real. These are hard truths, but they need to be said. There is no cheap grace in the Christian life. The grace that God gives transforms.

The Lord Jesus Christ commands us to deny ourselves and take up our cross daily in following Him, and he meant it. Robert Murray M’Cheyne wisely counseled that “If you bear the cross, it will bear you.” There is no such thing as a carnal Christian. If we do not deny ourselves, we will find on the last day that we have never been borne by the Cross of Christ.

While there is fear and terror here, we also find solace and beauty. The true disciple of Jesus Christ is broken by the reality of his remaining sin. More than anything else we long to be freed from the sin which so easily entangles. I am tempted at times to despair over the darkness in the world, but even more by the darkness in myself. To a person like me, this is a precious and comforting truth. Not only am I right in God’s eyes, but He is at work in me even now to make me more and more like Jesus.

How glorious is it that God Himself is faithfully working by His Spirit to defeat my sin? The rotting flesh that drives me to despair is being scraped away. God has found me in a ditch, but He did not leave me there. I am loved apart from my works, and God is now at work to make me lovely. All praise and glory be to Him.

We need to return to the fully orbed gospel. It is an essential truth that we are made right in the sight of God solely by faith – and we should never compromise that message. It is a horrible thing to imagine we could stand justified in our merits before the righteousness of the living God. But let us never forget that the faith God gives is powerful, vibrant, and living.

It is more than enough to clean us.


Ordo Salutis: Regeneration, Part 1

Regeneration. The very word speaks hope to my soul. I have long been fascinated by this topic, and it would be suffice to say that this is the topic I cut my theological teeth on. This was the first, and most life changing truth I have yet to so graciously be allowed to learn, and I hope that I will be able to bless you with the same truth.


Dead To God

 Dead. The very word gives an idea of hopelessness beyond repair. We often see that culture believes the worst thing that could happen to a person is death. We fear death. We spend our entire lives either ignoring or running from death. We know that there is a certain hopelessness to being dead. And before we get to the life changing ability of Regeneration, we need to first affirm that Man is dead.

 Let’s start in Genesis, the book of beginnings. Remember God’s first no-no in the Bible? He said:

 “You shall surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

Genesis 2:16-17

 Notice what God says. You shall surely die. God basically is promising death if Adam and Eve eat of the tree that He has forbidden. They will die. What happens next? First sin, they eat of the tree. But wait, did they die? Well, obviously, no. Since we are alive, then the only humans alive couldn’t have died before they had kids. So what then? Is God a liar? Not so fast. Adam and Eve did die. They died to God. Or rather, if you want to sound mystic, they died spiritually. But what does this even mean? What would being dead spiritually even look like?

 I put forth to you that the idea of spiritual death is so foreign to us and sounds so weird is because all we know is spiritual deadness. We live in a fallen world so what is dead seems alive, what is broken seems fixed, and what is sinful is actually admired. To be dead to God is the norm for human beings, in fact the vast majority of humans will live and die physically without ever being alive spiritually. So what does being dead spiritually do to us? Well, (as has already been put forth by another writer on this blog) it means that every choice we make is marred, ruined, and only ever for, sin.

 Our heart is the source of our will. And sin has corrupted our heart through Adam’s first trespass (see Romans 5 for more on that). So, logic would follow that our wills are corrupted by sin. What does this mean practically? Romans says it best:

 “None is righteous, no, not one;

no one understands;

no one seeks God.”

Romans 3:10

 No one can even begin to look for God. How depressing is that? It’d be one thing to say that we can’t find God. But the Bible goes so far as to say that whole notion that someone is ‘seeking’ God is completely erroneous and, frankly, stupid. Sin has so corrupted us that we are so utterly wretched and vile sinners that we cannot even begin to look for light.

 But before this post becomes even more depressing, and turns into a passage straight out of Ecclesiastes and Lamentations, we need to see this. That it is in this darkness, this complete and utter shadow of sin, that the light of Christ breaks, smashes, and thunders into. The beauty of the gospel is that it invades dark spaces, and here we are, in the most dark space of them all, and Jesus comes to us.


Nick At Night

 So Jesus did some cool party tricks. Turned some water into wine, and all of sudden he was a pretty big deal. All of a sudden Rabbis are saying he’s from God. We pick up in chapter 3 of the Gospel of John, where Jesus has a little late nate chat with a guy named Nicodemus.

“This man [Nicodemus] came to Jesus by night and said to him, ‘Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.”

John 3:2

 So Nicodemus gives Jesus a kudos of sorts and says good job to Jesus. But Jesus’ response is awesome, check it:

 “Truly, truly I say to you unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

John 3:3

 Remember a few lines ago when I said that it’s stupid to say that someone is seeking God? Well now Jesus echos it in a way by saying no one can even see the Kingdom of God. Forget even becoming a Christian, before you can barely even see the goal you have to be born again. That’s how depraved man is. We can go nowhere without being born again.

 Now I remember reading this passage for the first time and thinking what Nicodemus says next:

 “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb?”

John 3:4

 Naturally, that’s the obvious conclusion of what Jesus just said. This shows that what Jesus is putting forth is so radcially new, so insanely different to what Nicodemus was used to. Nicodemus, a teacher of the Jews, was totally lost. This idea that we could be “reborn” that God could change who we are, it’s the kind of thing you only hear about in prophecy! (Ezekiel 36: 26)

 Now Jesus sees Nicodemus’ confusion and gives a response that gives us clarification to what Jesus said before.

 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

 John 3: 4-8

 Remember where we started. We started with the notion that no person can begin to even seek God because we are so radically and utterly depraved that that us un-holy creatures could never approach a holy and perfect God. But wait, Jesus gives us an alternative. We are not left in the muck and mire of our sin. Now Jesus is giving us an escape, an escape from being apart from God. We can now enter the kingdom of God. I think we’ve grown descentived to the idea of God’s kingdom because we forget the urgency. Listen up. Stop thinking about all other things and focus on what I’m about to say: You are going to hell without Jesus. You are dead spiritually, and cannot come near to God unless Jesus saves you. You cannot and will not be a “good person” and God won’t “just let you in”. You will go to hell. But wait! That is not the end. There is hope for you. The Bible doesn’t simply say you’re going to hell, then it ends. NO! We rejoice as Christians because we know that our God is so amazing, so loving, so gracious, that we don’t get what we deserve!

 So often we think that all we need is to get what we deserve. We have this disgusting pride that tells us that we’re so great, so wonderful, so incredibly amazing that we deserve great things! Yet this flies directly in the face of scripture. We are told in scripture that we “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” and that “wages of sin is death” (Romans 3:23, 6:23). We deserve, not only physical death, but eternal conscious torment for the sins we have committed. But what’s beautiful about the Gospel, and glorious about our God, is that he won’t just leave us in the muck and mire that we deserve. He is willing to rescue and save us.

 I want to make a point on regeneration here now and how sin is involved in it. See when Jesus says “what is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit”. Here’s why we need regeneration: because we born of the flesh. Being born of the flesh leads to us never becoming Christians, we won’t ever choose God in our sinful flesh. So what does God do? To save us from our inevitable death, God regenerates his elect to choose him.

I want to take time and explain this thought very carefully because I often find it a point of misunderstanding in the predestination debate. What we as people of the Reformed camp say is not that God just forces man to choose him. We believe people have free will. God doesn’t override free will, he doesn’t force compliance. Instead what he does is not leave us dead in our sin, but rather make us alive so we can see his glorious light. Let me put it just plain and directly: 1. We cannot choose God spiritually dead 2. God doesn’t force compliance 3. If we were spiritually alive, we would choose God 4. God makes us spiritually alive 5. We follow our newly regenerated heart (remember, the will of man flows out of the heart), and choose God.

 That is what Jesus is getting at here in John 3. He is saying that only those born of the spirit can enter the kingdom of heaven. Next post we will look into what Jesus calls hearing the sound of the wind, and by that I mean the effects of Regeneration  that can be found in Romans 6.



A Living Sacrifice

The great Greek philosopher Aristotle taught that everything – object, animal, person, or plant – has telos. Telos is the ultimate purpose or end of an object’s existence. For example, a knife’s telos is to cut. The purpose and telos of an acorn is to someday grow into a tree. Aristotle believed that the key to understanding ethics was discovering the telos of humanity. While the famous Greek ultimately concluded that contemplation was the true end of man, Christianity has a different story to tell. How does the Pagan idea of telos help us understand the truths in the Word of God?

God’s purpose in creating was to display His glorious, powerful, loving, and holy character. All throughout the Scriptures we are told of God’s passion for His glory, but Paul’s letter to the Romans most clearly lays out the purpose of God in Creating the world.

“For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.”  

(Romans 11:36)

Not only are all things made and sustained by God, but the world is to Him as well. The testimony of Scripture is that the telos of the whole universe, including humanity, is to worship and glorify God. Knives are made to cut, acorns to grow into trees, and people to bring glory to God.

This all sounds very well, but what does it mean practically for us to glorify God? What does it mean to worship Him? It is common-place in churches to have a “worship team” help lead singing during the service. This is often a really helpful thing – I have no problem with people using their gifts to lead music in church! But I do worry that we in the church often think this is the full extent of worship. The Biblical record is very different. Immediately after Paul finishes his passionate praise of God as the Creator, Sustainer, and Object of the universe, he tells us,

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

   (Romans 12:1)

The Holy Spirit is continually conforming the Christian’s heart to the heart of God, as we die to sin and grow in union with our Lord. The cry of our soul must always be, “To him be glory forever!”. Worship isn’t something we do on Sunday when the music starts – worship is done with our whole life.

Jesus did not suffer rejection and pain solely to save us from hell. The redemption accomplished by the cross and the resurrection is so much bigger than that. Not only are we legally declared righteous in the sight of a spotless and holy God, but we are by His Spirit being restored to a place where we can once again fulfill our telos. The reality that our whole life is to be lived as worship is why the Spirit elsewhere inspired Paul to write,

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

 (1 Corinthians 10:31)

There is no part of our self that can be isolated from the call of Christ. We cannot compartmentalize our life into religious and secular segments. Everything is His! We have no rights. We have nothing of our own, because we serve a Master who is the supreme Lord over every aspect of life. Think of the price of our ransom! Think of the price He paid! How can we withhold service from the King who bought us with His blood?

Adam and Eve were told that the price of sin was death. Not at the end of a long and fulfilling life, but immediate death. Sin is an act of treason against the only true Good in the universe. It is jettisoning the telos of our existence, and working against our very purpose. The fact that our all holy God didn’t wipe out humanity immediately is an amazing act of grace! We are desperately fallen. And our God is full of grace beyond our understanding.

It may seem challenging to focus every aspect of our being on the person of Christ, but ultimately He is the only one who satisfies. We were created to serve Him, and as Christians we are being molded back into that purpose. The more we fulfill our telos, the greater the joy we find. Not because we will achieve “success” as the world defines it, but because we were created for Him, and can only find fulfillment in Him. Therefore brothers and sisters, let us joyfully acknowledge the Lordship of Jesus over every crevice, nook, and cranny of our lives. Let us pray that God would give us the strength to honor Him in all that we do. We were ransomed from death, let us live as we were made to live.  How can you be more intentional about glorifying God in all of life?

Sola Deo Gloria.

Ordo Salutis: God’s Call

When I say Gospel Call, what do you think of? You may think of a great Evangelist or maybe an old school altar call. But really the Gospel call goes much, much deeper than just one man preaching truth. The Gospel Call is something that shakes us to the core of our being, and is a call not of man, but of the King of the Universe.

Can I Get An Amen?

I grew up in a Reformed church. Now, while I love my local church and love my Reformed theology, I am fascinated more by Pentecostal services. While I would never fit in at a Pentecostal church, the preaching at these kind of services amaze me. I can almost guarantee that there will be somebody on a piano ready to play when the preacher starts yelling, and the people will rise up and they will all be clapping and shouting “Amen!”. I love these churches because they are so vibrant and alive that you can feel the energy.

A lot of the preachers at these kind of churches are known for something called ‘call and response preaching’. In this they will say things like “Can I get an Amen?” or “Lift your hands to God’s glory!”, and the audience will reply, naturally, with an Amen and lifting their hands. Now, as I was recently watching one of these kind of services online, I began thinking of the Gospel Call. I began thinking of this ‘call and response’ that God gives to us. As I began to workout this analogy I began seeing where it broke down, namely, in the response.

The Missing Link

The main scripture I want to look at today is Romans 8:28-30.

“28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

This passage is very important not only to this one topic, but to this series as a whole. Here we see a Biblical order for how Salvation works out. So when we talk about our Ordo Salutis, I believe all conversations should begin here. Now, also in this passage we see something very important, the call in verse 30. Here Paul says that all who are Predestined, are called. Now we need to remember that we have been Predestined to be objects of God’s saving grace. But how does this work out? How does this theoretical Predestination translate to something that is practical and tangible? The answer, is the call.

Paul says all those who are called, are justified. Eventually we will get to the topic of Justification, where I can give a full explanation of and implication of the topic, but for now I believe a simple definition will suffice. Justification is an act of God where God the Father pardons, accepts, and declares righteous a sinner on behalf of Christ’s righteousness.  So, what Paul says is the link between the Predestining of sinners to be Justified and the actual Justification of the sinners, is the calling of said sinners.

The Tale of Two Calls

Let us pause for a moment and just define what in the world we are talking about. Ok, before I can define what a call is, you need to grab hold of a theological concept, that is the idea of the difference between The Gospel Call and God’s Effective Call.

The Gospel Call is pretty self explanatory. When someone is sharing the Gospel, it should always end in a call. Imagine if an evangelist got up at a revival conference, and he shared the Gospel. He explains God and His holiness, then he shows how man was created in the image of God and how we as a race had committed acts of Cosmic Treason called sin. He preaches the need of humanity for a Savior from our sin, and how God sent his Son to die and rise again for our sin, then the evangelist walked off the stage. The entire message would be almost pointless. Unless the Gospel is accompanied by a call for response then really, what was the point? The Gospel Call is when someone is called by a Preacher to be saved, but God’s Effective Call is above and beyond that.

God’s Effective Call is the call used upon the Elect at the point of salvation, this call that is not only a proposition, but a command. We see this here in Romans 8:30. You will recall that the call is the link between predestination and justification. Here’s what I need you to see: all those who are called are justified. We clearly are talking about God’s effective call here. God is not playing around with this call, this one is used on the elect, those whom God chose. Those who experience God’s Effective Call are those who will be saved. This call is not going to come back void, because it comes from the very throne of the universe.

What’s The Point?

Why should we study this idea of a effectual call? What’s even the point of this post? Let me give you two reasons.

1. It’s in the Bible.

Use this as a general rule: If it’s in the Bible, it’s important. You don’t get to decide what to study and what not to study in the Bible. It’s in there for a reason. I’ve heard some say that on subjects like this that are particularly divisive, we shouldn’t focus too much on them because people can get offended. That is a horrific thing to say! Look, if we took all the offensive stuff out of the Bible there wouldn’t be anything left to read. Also, if it’s a point of confusion among Christians, than all the more reason to study it! So we can help out our brothers and sisters in Christ.

2. Encouragement To Evangelize

There’s a saying I hear all the time, “Work like an Arminian, sleep like a Calvinist”. I think that might be one of the most misinformed things I have ever heard. I hate it because it connotates that Calvinist take it easy on evangelism, which is a particularly heinous thing to say when the truth is the exact opposite. I want to work and sleep like a Calvinist. I want to work so that I know that my work won’t be in vain, and that all those who can be saved will be. It also humbles us in evangelism because we know that it’s not our preaching that convinces people, but God’s call. As Mark Driscoll puts it, “You only have access to people’s ears, but the Holy Spirit has access to people’s hearts.”


The obvious question with the idea of God’s Effective Call is this: Does man have a choice? Is there even an option on refusing God’s call? Refusing God’s grace? And if they can’t, wouldn’t that make people just puppets, with no real love at all?

An answer is needed and will be given. That is what I endeavor to answer with my post on Regeneration next week.

-The Ransomed Sinner

Why We Hold To Calvinism: Understanding Total Depravity (Part 1)

This first point of the acronym is really essential to understanding the entire system. It has been said that Calvinism really stands upon each prior point as they build a systematic approach of looking at the Bible soteriologically. That is to say that the logic of the system stands or falls as a whole. If Total Depravity is not how the Bible describes the condition of man then there is no reason for Unconditional Election or any other part of the TULIP  to follow. What is necessary to begin our discussion with then is a biblical survey of the will of man.

A Definition of Freedom: 

What needs to be stated right from the start is that at no point historically has Calvinism (or Reformed Theology) ever claimed that man does not have a will.  This is an unfortunate misrepresentation of the view by Dave Hunt, Norman Geisler, Chuck Smith, and many others who claim otherwise.  From Augustine,  to Luther, Calvin, and Edwards there has always been a vital discussion of how the will of man relates to the will of our sovereign God. Explanations and defenses of their views may be offered elsewhere but for now allow a straightforward examination of some biblical passages to form our view.

Proverbs 4:23 says “Above all else guard your heart for from it flow the well springs of life”. Luke 6:45 says “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.”

Furthermore, Ezekiel states that the reason Israel is going to turn back to God from their rebellion is because He will give them a new heart. Ezekiel 36:26 says “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” This theme can be found in numerous places through the book of Ezekiel alone (11:19, 18:31,). Take even a cursory reading of Ezekiel 28 and you will find that the very reason Satan (described as the King of Tyre) is shown to be in rebellion against God is because of his heart. Ten times this is is repeated in the chapter alone! Strongs concordance here says that the hebrew word for “heart” which is “leb” (and comes from the word lebab) can also be described as ones ” inner man, mind, will”. What we find then is that the Bible says that it is the heart that ultimately decides which decision a person will be inclined to follow. Even the word “inclined” however implies nothing more then a mere preference. Perhaps a stronger word is in order. The desires of the heart are what a person will end up acting out. More could be said on this, but for now allow this to be our definition of freedom as described by the Bible.

Freewill: “A free act is one in which a person acts in accordance with the desires of his heart”.

With this groundwork laid on what true free will is the next logical step to take is to ask the question “How does the Bible describe the heart of man?”

The Condition of Man’s Heart:

Lets start at the beginning in Genesis. Genesis 6:5 “The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” Every intention of the thoughts of man’s heart was only evil continually. Now I grew up with the view somehow formed that this was only a pre flood condition and after Noah survived the flood somehow all of mankind was more like him. Genesis 8:21 laid this view to rest though when it stated after the flood that “when the Lord smelled the pleasing aroma, the Lord said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done.”  Consider the consequence of this. The reason God gives for not wiping out the world again is because even though He had done so once mankind could not change.  Of course this wasn’t new to God, but it does provide us with a powerful example of how mankind is described in its natural state. Notice this condition is both universal as it is internal.

The next text to examine is Ephesians chapter 4. Here you will find Paul exhorting the Christians at the church in Ephesus to walk together in unity as members of the Body of Christ. His argument for this is that we have found a new life in Christ that leads us to act and live differently then the way we were before. In verse 17 he compares this against the way the Gentiles act which is in “the futility of their minds” against the Lord. Why is this the case? Because of their hearts. Verse 18 says “They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.” Once again we find the the Greek word for “heart” used here, which is kardia, is identified by Strongs concordance to be “2588 kardía – heart; “the affective center of our being” and the capacity of moral preference”.

Allow one more example before we conclude this brief study. Take a look at Matthew 12:34-35. It says “How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil.” Once again, we see Jesus himself clearly state that the sin of a man arises straight out of the heart itself. What can be concluded from this is that the natural man will act in accordance with “the abundance of the heart”. See Mark 7:21 and Matthew 5:19 for the same argument.

In summary:

First of all realize that this is nothing near the scope of verses or depth that could have been used. Rather this post was used for a rather particular purpose of making two points. Defining the biblical view of mans free will and explaining how the Bible shows this view to be one in which mankind always chooses sin. In summary then we can see two points.

1. The Bible says that it is the heart of man that make his decisions.
2. It also says that every thought and intention in the natural mans heart is evil.

Conclusion? Man will always “freely” choose sin.

Alternately, it could be stated as follows:

P1. If the heart of man is the source of man’s choices then man’s free choice will be one in which they act in accordance with their hearts desires
P2. Man’s heart desires sin alone and continually.
C. Man’s heart will never choose God.

Why spend so much time on this? The deeper understanding we have of the depths of our own depravity the greater we can see the beauty of God’s power in saving us from our state.  God’s glory is magnified by the miraculous saving of sinners that never would have come to him on their own. His power is the reason we believe and His power is the only reason we have been changed. This will be explored more in the next post.


Pascals Wager in Apologetics

I’ve been pretty troubled lately. Here’s a thought I’ve been playing around with in regards to some of the existential questions that many unbelievers can ask about Christianity.

A groundbreaking development in the philosophy of religion was an existential “argument” for belief in God formed by Blaise Pascal in the 17th century. It’s called Pascal’s Wager. If your already familiar with the argument then feel free to jump down to my own notes on it below. If you’re not then hopefully the following will help. download

The full explanation and defense of it can get quite complicated as it introduced probability theory and requires some background knowledge in decision theory, but nonetheless I believe it is important for the apologists to be familiar with this important possible justification for why one should believe in God.

Here is one formulation of the argument simplified (in a way my non mathematical brain can understand it):

1. If it is impossible for a person to believe with certainty that God exists, then that person should believe in God anyway—“just in case” He does exist.

2. If it turns out that God does exist, the believer “wins” the wager by receiving an eternal reward.

3. If it turns out that God does not exist, the person who believes has lost nothing (except perhaps some temporal pleasures, the loss of which would be outweighed by the emotional difficulties of unbelief).

4. If God does not exist, and a person does not believe, then he may gain some temporal pleasures.

5. If God exists, and a person does not believe, then that person is punished eternally for his unbelief. pascalandhobbes

The conclusion that should be reached then is that the “believer” is the only one that truly wins the wager. There is really no way for him to lose which would affect his life with that much significance. Pretty interesting huh? If you’d like to take a look at some more technical explanations and formulations of it then I’d encourage you to look at it here: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/pascal-wager/ I’ve even formulated my own variation of the argument which I find, personally, to be quite satisfying. Perhaps I will find a way to write it out later…but for now it shall remain in my head 😛

Nonetheless, I am not convinced that Pascal’s Wager is an argument that the Christian apologist should be using and want to give a word of caution to those that are. My main problem with using the Wager as an answer to any question on why should one live as a Christian for existential reasons is because the Wager leaves us with a possible chance that the Christian could be wrong. The reasoning goes even if there is no God in reality one should still live their life as if there is, just in case there turns out to be one. This appears to me to run contrary to the way the New Testament authors describe the Christian life.

In regards to Jesus dying on the cross for our sins Acts 2:36 says we can “know assuredly”. Luke 1:4 says that the reason he wrote the account for Theophilus was so that he could have “certainty” of what happened in the life of Jesus.  1 Thessalonians 1:5 says that the Gospel came to the church not only by word but “in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction”. In Colossians 2:2 Paul says that the struggle Christians are having can be dealt with by encouraging them to realize that “all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ”. For time’s sake I will not continue but the verses could be multiplied exponentially. Consider the following verses as well: Hebrews 6:11, Romans 4:19-21, Hebrews 10:22, Ephesians 3, Proverbs 14:26, Proverbs 1:7, Proverbs 22:17-21 and Romans 8:16.

Therefore, it seems to me, for a Christian to tell others that they should live their life as a Christian and hold to belief in “God’ anyway because it would make a better “wager” would be to ignore what the Bible explicitly commands us to rest out assurance in! We are not to hold to faith in God by mere “probability” that the benefit of believing in him outweighs the consequences if we are wrong. The Bible not only tells us to live with “certainty” and “full assurance” but it even goes a step farther to say that if we are wrong then we are the most to be pitied!

1 Corinthians 15 is an incredible chapter that every Stoa apologist should be well familiar with in regards to its usefulness for Category 5, but I think it really takes a powerful perspective when it is set against the background of Pascal’s Wager.

Consider Paul’s argument in verses 14-19. He says “And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.”

I see two arguments against almost any version of Pascal’s Wager here. The first is that if Christ has not been raised then the Christian is actually deceiving other people and therefore misrepresenting whatever “true” God may exist. That is, if we are arguing for the God of the Bible….if your when you present the Wager then I don’t know why you’d use it in the first place. Secondly, and most persuasively, is Paul’s statement that if we are wrong it is not that we have somehow “lived a fulfilling life that was worth pursuing”. Au contraire! We are to be pitied, for our entire faith is in vain and we are still in our sins! There is NO reason to present an apologetic argument where on one hand you try to present the unbeliever with the guilt of their sin and then on the other argue that they should still believe in a “god” even if there is no way to really be sure because it leads to a better probability. If the Christian is wrong in their claim that Christ rose from the dead because of the power of God then we, of all people, should experience the most sorrow and guilt in this life. Praise God that is not the case.

Hopefully that helps give a little perspective on my thoughts about using Pascal’s Wager in an apologetic speech. It’s important to understand the argument and I fully recognize I didn’t take the time to flesh it out so please look into it more elsewhere. Nevertheless, I am persuaded that one should not utilize it in their speech because of the biblical requirements demanded of the apologist. We are to “rightly divide the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:5) and in doing so we shall “take every thought captive to Christ” (2 Cor 10:5). May these words be the foremost of our thoughts when we defend His word in the public arena.


Ordo Salutis: Election


Election is easily one of the hottest debate topics in all of Christianity. I’m going to put my opinion out there now, just to get it out of the way. I’m a full-on Five Point Calvinist. I am very much Reformed in my soteriology, really past the point of no return. Now, I don’t want to spend this post defending nor arguing for Calvinism. The whole point of this series isn’t to prove my Order of Salvation is better than yours, but rather to remember how salvation is God’s act of glorifying himself. Predestination is not special in this regard. I want to stand aside, set my opinions aside, and let God’s glory shine through what I write.

What Election Really Is

Many people (Arminians in particular, but not just them) often have a misconception of how I view election. People throw all kinds of accusations at Calvinist that aren’t even true. So I would like to take a brief moment and talk about what Election really is not.

Let’s blast before we build. Election is not an abolition of free will. Election is not a free license to sin without ever truly repentance. Election is not God choosing people to go to hell.  Many will often say that holding to predestination makes Calvinist’s cold-hearted and that we play, what my favorite preacher calls, “Duck-Duck-Damnation”, where we don’t evangelize to lost people. Sadly, this is slandering our point of view by saying that we are dangerous, and that our doctrine is hateful and cruel. That isn’t even close to what the truth is.

Now that we’ve blasted, we can build! Election is God’s sovereign choosing of people to be objects of his saving grace. It’s important to remember our situation when God saves us. We are not naturally good. Rather we are the exact opposite. We are horrifically sinful, evil, and utterly horrendous people! As I said, election is not an abolition of free will, but rather our will leads us not towards God but in opposite direction towards hell. God then sees us running towards hell and instead of letting us perish and die forever like we deserve, He instead is so amazing, so insanely loving, so filled with grace, that He is willing to choose and save those who despise him and spit in his face. And that is the heart and motive in Election. Not some cold-hearted, cruel, loveless salvation, but the exact opposite! The fact that God is  willing to look at us and say “Mine” when all we do is rebel against him, I can do nothing but worship him; this is what election is all about.

What Election Is All About

Now that we know what we’re even talking about, let’s look at God’s amazing work of election that shows his Glory ever so brightly and lovely. Let’s examine the beginning of Ephesians 1:

4 even as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love 5 He predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will, 6 to the praise of His glorious grace, with which He has blessed us in the Beloved.

Let’s take this nice and slow. God (He in verse 4) chose us before the world began. Typically what happens is the Calvinist will stop after the foundations of the world part and just keep on debating. I say that because I have done it. It is so easy to get caught up in the argument, to forget what God’s reason behind predestination is. And here in Ephesians we see three of his reasons.


1. Love: God’s love is one of the most cliched attributes of God. We have said ‘Jesus loves you’ so many times that it has become waves against a rock; there’s no effect. We need to stop for a second and consider this. Jesus loves you. The almighty, self-sufficient, holy, all-knowing God of the universe loves you. It becomes extremely personal with predestination, because God chooses you, specifically you. Not because of anything you’ve done, but completely out of grace. Grace is key here, because then and only then can we understand the glory of God. Whenever I read verses on predestination it strikes me how often the love and grace of God are so closely tied to election. I’ll give you an example. In Malachi 1:2-3 when God says that he loves Israel, and they question His love, He goes to His sovereign choice over who His people would be. It says ““I have loved you,” says the Lord. But you say, “How have you loved us?” “Is not Esau Jacob’s brother?” declares the Lord. “Yet I have loved Jacob but Esau I have hated.” The incredible emphasis of the text is that it is entirely in God’s hands who he chooses to love. Of course this opens up questions over how God can be said to be selective in his love with one verse and seemingly universal in others (such as John 3:16) and that is an important topic that will be addressed elsewhere. For here though we must rest, as Christians, in the incredible truth that God has decided to love us and that choice was entirely his. Both Ephesians 1 and Malachi 1 show this breathtaking truth clearly.  This isn’t a point to defend predestination, rather God uses it to defend His love! Jesus loves you! Praise Him for his love!

2. Adoption: Now I don’t want to spend too much on this point, as I am hoping not to spoil the forthcoming post on adoption, but a word on it is needed here. God doesn’t just elect us to be some faceless number in his Kingdom, but rather to be a beloved member of His family (Galatians 3:26). God is so amazing, that He goes beyond dying for us (which is far beyond what we even deserve) , but now he makes us part of His own family! We are now heirs of the kingdom, to one day be allowed to glorify Him in His presence (Galatians 4:7)! I want to plant a thought in your head to ponder until I write on adoption again, and that is this: why are there genealogies in the Bible? Why did God think it needed to list names in the Bible that no one can pronounce, and these people are never mentioned again? Think about it.

3. His Glorious Grace: Oh the glories of God’s grace! That we mere mortals that rebel day and night against the almighty, holy God, could taste the sweetness of grace. The Gospel is the full expression of all of God’s attributes. There we see God’s sovereignty, God’s glory, God’s mercy, God’s justice, and the most amazing of them all, His Glorious Grace. Why do we deserve this? We don’t! Plain and simple! We deserve death and punishment for what we have done. That’s the glory in God’s Glorious Grace. That He loves us just the way we are and is willing to die for us while we are still sinners. Thanks and praise be to him! Never cease to think of God’s Glorious Grace! Go forth and praise his name, making his name great in all nations. Thank God for His Glorious Grace.

-The Ransomed Sinner