Robert Sungenis responds
John: Well, at the moment I am pretty much in favour of Christian Zionism.
Robert: I see. Based on what?
John: But, I am prepared to be challenged and would love to see the issue debated
John: God's promises to Israel.
Robert: Which ones?
John: He made a covenant with Abraham
Robert: I know. Which one are you referring to? He made several covenants.
John: Gen. 15:18, 17:8
Robert: Genesis 15:18 was already fulfilled. See Nehemiah 9:7-8; Joshua 21:45f. Genesis 17:8 was fulfilled in the New Covenant (See Hebrews 8-10). There is nothing left for national Israel.
John: There's also the fact that God always restored Israel when they were captured.
John: I would also suggest that the issue is God's faithfulness rather than whether the Jews deserve their homeland.
Robert: Sure, but when the NT period came, God stopped "restoring" Israel. That is why the Church took over, and Israel hasn't been "restored" since. And there are no more "promises" that they will be restored. God already has been faithful.
John: Hmmm, well I think I definately need to study this issue more deeply. Ed already pointed me to your article on it. I will give it some more thought. But, it would be great to see the issue debated between you and Jacob Prasch, or someone like him.
Robert: Send him an email and ask him if he is willing. I'm not going to pursue it myself.
John: If I can get hold of him I will
John: It seems that Dr White no longer wants to debate you.
Robert: I've asked him to debate me on his concept of Predestination, but he is trepid about making such a committment.
John: Yeah, which is a shame
John: Because he is more than capable I'm sure
Robert: Sure is a shame.
John: By the way, I would be pretty much in agreement with Dr White on such issues
Robert: Of course.
John: I actually wasn't a Calvinist a year ago. I was looking for some information on Dave Hunt's new book "What Love Is This"?, and I ended up sumbling across straitgate.com and listening to a dialogue between Hunt and White. It took a while, but I slowly came to see the truth of the doctrines of grace.
Robert: No one is arguing against the doctrines of grace. We're arguing that Predstination does not negate man's free will.
John: I mean the doctrines of grace as defined by Reformed Theology.
Robert: "Reformed Theology" had many different ideas of "grace" and predestination. It is not monolithic.
John: What really convinced me of predestination as defined by Calvinism, was a Dividing Line Programme on Open Theism.
John: White pointed out all of the supposedly free will decisions that went into Christ being crusified. If one of those key people had chosen differently, there would be no cross and no salvation for anyone. And it dawned on me that historic Arminianism, which I held to had the same problem.
John: Unless God ordains all things, there is no way, logically that God can ensure that His plans are accomplished.
Robert: I don't agree. The Reformed God is so weak that he has to take away man's free will so that He can make sure all gets done as planned. The Catholic God is so powerful that He can accomplish the same plan, even though He gives man a free will.
John: But that is rather like saying that God is not powerful because He can't make a square circle.
Robert: No. We know God can't make a square circle because God cannot lie (Titus 1:2). A square circle is a lie. But Predestination and Free Will are not lies, since Scripture teaches both.
John: But isn't it also that God can't make a square circle because it is a logical impossibility?
Robert: Sure, but that is the same thing as a lie.
John: As to whether free will is a lie, I don't believe it is. Just the Arminian/Roman Catholic definition of it is.
Robert: What do you think that definition is from the RCC?
John: Free will would be defined as the ability to make choices that God has not decreed.
John: Is that right?
John: Pretty idential to evangelical Arminianism?
Robert: No. God's decree and man's free will are not mutually exclusive. They work together.
John: In what way?
Robert: The same way that God Himself is not a determined being, but has a free will also.
John: God has free will and man has free will. So, does God take the free will actions of men and make them part of His plan?
John: And that's how they work together?
John: Well, that's pretty much what I used to believe
Robert: Well, then, what you believe now will inevitably lead you to making God the author of sin.
John: But the problem arises when, as I explained, God is not actually able to control the outcome of History.
Robert: I never said He was. Augustine said God can no more control the future than we can control the past.
John: That's quite a chilling thought
Robert: I think that God being the author of sin is an even more chilling thought.
John: You are aware of course that no Reformed Christian believes that God is the author of sin.
Robert: Yes, most will deny it, but it still is a contradiction in their theology, nonetheless. Incidentally, Beza said that God was the "sinless author of sin."
John: Really, I wasn't aware of that.
Robert: You see, somewhere along the line you're going to run into an anomaly. Either it is the anomaly of Predestination and Free Will working together, or the anomaly of God ordaining all things and yet sin being one of the things He must have ordained.
John: Well, I believe that God ordains all things, but that does not make Him the author of evil.
Robert: But doesn't "all things" include sin? If you have an exception to what God ordains, then you have God not being in control of something. If he is not in control of something, then this can lead to total chaos.
John: The reason being that His will and purpose in bringing about sin is Holy and just. The person committing the sin does it out of an unrighteous, evil desire and purpose. So, the evil originates with them.
Robert: But if you say "The person committing the sin does it out of an unrighteous, evil desire and purpose," that is Free Will. He decides to do evil.
John: Yes, he does, but that choice is decreed by God for the furtherment of His own righteous plan.
Robert: Yes, God decrees that man has a free will to choose good or evil for His righteous plan. That is essentially what you are saying.
John: Not only that, He also decrees what that choice will be.
Robert: If so, then God decreed the sin. Thus, he is the author of sin.
John: No, because God's decree was for a just and righteous purpose, even if we can't understand what that is. The sinners motives in doing what God has ordained are not just and righteous and therefore the evil originates with them, not God.
Robert: You said "God decrees all things" but now you say "the evil originates with them." If evil originates with "them," and not with God, then God is not decreeing all things. Trying to escape this by claiming that "it was for a righteous purpose" does not solve the problem. Everything God does is righteous, so it is superfluous to add it to the discussion.
John: Well, not really because that's how one shows that God is not the author of sin, even though God ordained it. There is no evil intent in God, the evil intent orginates with the sinner. Therefore the sinner is the author of that sin.
John: A good Biblical example of course is Genesis 50:20
John: 20 But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.
Robert: Yes, I know how you are doing it, but it is contradictory. If God ordains "all things" then he ordains sin. Where do you find that ordaining sin is a righteous act?
Robert:Yes, but Genesis 50:20 shows how Free Will works with God's ordination. It supports me, not you.
John: I think it shows that in one action, we see two intentions. God's righteous intention and the brother's evil intention.
Robert: Sure, but that doesn't disprove that the brothers acted from their free will. They had two choices, good or evil. Answer this: Where do you find that ordaining sin is a righteous act?
John: I don't think there is a scripture that says specifically "God ordains sin and its a righteous act". But the scripture seem to teach that God does ordain all things, including sin and also that God is always Holy and just in what He does.
Robert: So you have two "scriptural" truths that seem to be at odds with one another, no?
John: So, I am happy to conclude that although its a mystery, God has a just and righteous purpose for ordaining sin.
John: They can not be understood fully with our finite human minds. His ways are higher than my ways, and His thoughts higher than my thoughts.
Robert: Well, each system has a "mystery" it can revert to.
Robert: The question remains: What does Scripture say? My answer is that Scripture says that God predestines and also gives man a free will, and that, too, is a "mystery."
John: My name may be declared in all the earth." 18Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens. 19 You will say to me then, "Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?" 20 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?" 21 Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor?
John: That's someone complaining about predestination.
Robert: Yes, but read the answer in Exodus 33:19 in its context. God had mercy on Moses because Moses used his free will to appease God's wrath against the Jews for worshiping the golden calf. If Moses hadn't done so, God would have destroyed the Jews. That is what Paul is talking about in Romans 9.
John: 19You will say to me then, "Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?" 20But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? <----What does that mean then?
Robert: His will is to have mercy upon whom he will have mercy, and harden whom he hardens, but that is based on the response man gives him, as is the case of Moses in Exodus 33:19, the very passage from which Paul is quoting.
Robert: All Paul is saying is that once God makes the decision to have mercy or harden, man can do nothing about it. But Paul is not saying that God makes these decisions arbitrarily.
John: I am sorry, but that has still not answered my question. The objection is "Why does He still find fault for who has resisted His will"? That does not seem like the objection you would expect in response to what you just said.
John: What does "Why does He still find fault for who has resisted His will?" mean if its not a complaint against God's predestination?
John: His ordaining of all things
Robert: Sure it does. If God punishes the sinner by hardening him in his sin, the sinner might think that it is God's fault that he is in a hardened state. But it was the sinner, by his own free will, that caused the original problem. God only hardened him in it as a punishment, as he did to Pharaoh.
Robert: Note these verses: Pharaoh hardens his heart, and then God hardens Pharaoh's heart. 34 And when Pharaoh saw that the rain and the hail and the thunders were ceased, he sinned yet more, and hardened his heart, he and his servants.
Robert: 35 And the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, neither would he let the children of Israel go; as the LORD had spoken by Moses. KJV Exodus 10:1 And the LORD said unto Moses, Go in unto Pharaoh: for I have hardened his heart, and the heart of his servants, that I might shew these my signs before him: John: Yeah, its true on one level that the King of Eygpt hardened his own heart
John: But on another level it is true that God did so
Robert: Of course, but whatever the "level" both are true, which means that God didn't do so arbitrarily, but had man's free will choice in view when he hardened Pharaoh.
Robert: A good passage to see how these things may be connected together is 1 Samuel 23:1-14. Read that, and let's talk again. It's getting late. Gotta go. Thanks for the discussion.