Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Finney Files - The Gospel According to the Heretic Pelagius

This begins a series of posts examining Charles Grandison Finney and his influence on modern American Evangelicalism. We start with the theology of the fifth century monk Pelagius because Finney is a vivid (relatively) modern example of a Pelagian. In this video, the gentlemen on the talk show White Horse Inn discuss Pelagius and his theology.

Thanks to WHI, and to Lane Chaplin for his work in making the video for the mp3.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Scripture Cookie O' the Week - Joshua 24:15

Joshua 24:15 (ESV)
15 And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”

We often hear people in the quest for Biblical evidence of autonomous human free will quote Joshua 24:15, although they usually just quote a single clause of it:  “Choose this day whom you will serve…” However, when this passage is quoted in this way, the entire context is missed. Even a cursory glance at the whole verse (above) points this out. The choice given is between two evils: the gods that Terah (and presumably Abram, before he was called) worshiped in Ur and the gods of the Amorites. Let’s look at the whole of Chapter 24.

Joshua 24 is a typical covenant renewal passage. Yahweh, through Joshua, recounts to the judges, elders, and other leaders what He has done for the people of Israel, His deliverance of them from bondage and what He is providing for them in the Promised Land. He begins noting that Abraham worshipped other gods prior to his call. Note the language used here “Then I took your father Abraham from beyond the River…” Interestingly God didn’t say “I offered to Abraham”, or “I negotiated with Abraham”, no, “I took Abraham…”

Joshua then, in Verse 14, issues a command “Now therefore fear the LORD and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD.” This is a command; not the first volley in a debate or an offer of negotiation, but a command. In Verse 15, Joshua provides a choice, but it is a choice between two evils: “And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD ,choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell.”

It’s worth noting here that those who follow Reformed Theology (or Calvinism) don’t deny that men have wills; the issue is how free the will is. Since the Fall, Biblical history and our own experience confirm that fallen (that is, unbelieving or natural) men have always had a choice of the evil they prefer. Here, Joshua is giving them a choice between two evils, if they don’t follow the command to serve the LORD.

The leaders of Israel respond by affirming that they will serve the LORD. Joshua then says something curious in Verse 19: “You are not able to serve the LORD, for he is a holy God. He is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions or your sins. If you forsake the LORD and serve foreign gods, then he will turn and do you harm and consume you, after having done you good.” Commentators have various explanations for this statement. Some take it as a warning; others say Joshua is pointing out that Israel is not able to faithfully follow Yahweh under their own power; others assume it is a prophecy from Joshua of the ultimate outcome of all but a remnant of Israel. I tend to think it is a combination of the latter two ideas:  Israel is unable to be faithful without faith granted by God and most of them will not be granted this faith.

In any case, this passage does not confer an autonomous free will to anyone.