Category Archives: Heresies

Is Free-will the Image of God? (Part 2)

The blue M&M or the red M&M?

The introduction gave us the biblical foundation for the discussion of the image of God. Before going into the view that sees free-will as the image of God, I would like to stress one thing. When we speak on the “image of God”, we are not going to be emphasizing the creature-Creator distinction. This is not to say that this is disregarded, for it is, in truth, an essential doctrine. But the very nature of the discussion is drawing our attention to the creature-Creator connection. We are wanting to know in what sense man is created in the “likeness of God”.

Can free-will be the image of God? It is a common conception, especially of those in

Pelagians are adherrents to the basic view of Pelagius, a British monk who lived in the 4th century. He is infamously known for his denial of the doctrine of original sin and his assertions of the basic goodness of man.

the semi-Palagian and Palagian (1) camps, that the creature-Creator connection is the free-will of man. As God has free-will, so God has given to man this characteristic. It it free-will that makes man superior to the beast. It is free-will that is the key to man’s destiny; whether he will choose good and blessedness, or choose evil and the consequent judgments. This notion of free-will being the image of God in man, however, has a few internal difficulties as well as a lack of Biblical support. Those who are of a Pelagian bent tend to see the image of God as constituting free-will to support their already assumed theodicy. The argument seems to be more an assumption than something arrived at through investigation of Biblical texts. It is posed in this manner, “God has free-will and man has free-will. Therefore, free-will is the image of God”. But this simply begs the question.

Besides begging the question, this view has some internal inconsistencies. The most obvious internal inconsistency is if God has free-will, man cannot also have free-will given the meaning of “freedom” to begin with. Those who hold that God, in His freedom, made a being who in turn thwarts the free-will of God, is, to say the least, problematic. Does God give up His freedom to give man free-will? To suppose He does, for the sake of argument, only demonstrates this cannot possibly be the image of God since God Himself ends up losing the attribute of free-will. And how, then, could man be said to be created in the likeness of God? As theologian and philosopher Gordon Clark says in relation to this, “[I]f man were free, God could not confront him imperiously, from which Feuerbach had already deduced atheism, and modernism had deified man.” (2)

The point is simple: If man has free-will to frustrate God in His purposes, man’s will- not God’s will –  is established. Man’s will, then, is ultimate, not God’s. And from this proposition atheism has flourished, and from it likewise man has been seen as his own god determining for himself good and evil.

The second problem is the ambiguity of the word “free-will”. If it means the ability to choose between two incompatible courses of action then the above refutation stands. If it means freedom to act outside of one’s nature then not even God has that freedom. God cannot lie, cannot become weak, and cannot speak in contradictory propositions. Man, by his constitution after the fall cannot will to do something that is outside if his natural bent. Man before and after the fall was determined by his nature. The difference now is that since the fall, man has become corrupted in all his faculties so he is free only to do that which is evil. Man is said to be “born in sin” (Ps. 51:5) and speaking lies as soon as he is born (Ps. 58:3)

The above establishes this conclusion: Free-will is not the image of God in man. It must be sought elsewhere. The next one that shall be examined is “Language and Creativity”: Is it the image of God?

(1) The works of Gordon Clark, vol. IV, page 309

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Are You A Pragmatist?

Let’s set the record straight and think through some areas of life in a methodological fashion.  Many Christians believe that God works all things after the counsel of His own will. Indeed, that God raises kings and casts down kings; this is the area I seek to address, namely, politics.

A lot of us are good Calvinists. Some of us are Calvinists and wish to be men and women of God’s law. But for some strange reason, we completely neglect applying God’s law to politicians or think that it has little to do with whom we cast our vote for. Even if we are not Calvinists, most are not naïve enough to think rulers are appointed by accident or that God had nothing to do with it. So, let’s set the record straight.

We’re pragmatists, let’s face it. We justify our choice of actions often on the basis that they are the “lesser of two evils”. While we are vigilant not to allow this to happen in our individual lives, it is most evident in our politics. Sure, we may try to live an individually pious life, go to church, and even seek to live according to God’s law in our business, our family, but we have our idol. We need to have that one area of life where we feign lordship and original authority over and this we are most comfortable with when we cast our vote or examine a candidate for some civil position. So let’s look at the excuses we use:

 “We need to vote for the lesser of two evils, otherwise we are responsible for what the greater of the two evils does”

You’ve heard this before. Heck, you may have even said it to one of your neighbors before (Although, probably not as awkward sounding as the way I phrased it!). But let’s ask this question to stimulate the synapses: who makes us responsible for our actions? Of course, God does. But how do we get the knowledge that we are responsible for a given course of action? By God revelation through His law. So, the fundamental question to ask is where does God command that we vote for the lesser of two evils? At this point your mind is racing. Perhaps you thought it was common sense that we are to vote for the lesser of two evils and just assumed it was something God commands of us. Common sense, however, is rarely common and even less sensical.

 “I want to stop the spread of evil, so I will make sure Evil-man-X is not elected and lesser-Evil-man(or woman)-Y is!”

This was an unfair way to phrase the reason for voting for the lesser of two evils. But let’s be real: we are calling it the lesser of two evils! We are freely granting that our course of action is a vote for evil. But we justify it by bringing to mind all the evil that won’t happen if the eviler (It’s not a word, I know) guy doesn’t get elected. Pragmatism 101. Definition of pragmatism: a reasonable and logical way of doing things or of thinking about problems that is based on dealing with specific situations instead of on ideas and theories. Now, I would even dispute that such reasoning is indeed logical or reasonable, but the point is that it is not based on principles; it is based on what one believes the outcome will be.

The Scriptures do indeed tell us to prevent evil, but it is always with the prior understanding that we are making positive actions of righteousness, not actions that are the lesser evil (which is still evil). God judged the people of Israel for wanting a king that was like the pagan kings, and God gave them what they wanted (See 1Samuel 8). I fear we are getting what we are asking for by casting our vote for a man we know to be a reprobate. We are asking water out of a rock if we expect righteousness to rule the land with such ideas.

Often we think of politics as a grey area where things are dealt with pragmatically

There is a disturbing trend in the thinking of those who want the lesser of two evils in a civil position, and it is that of atheism. At this point you think I am off my rocker. You’re a Christian, after all! You read your Bible perhaps hours in the day. You pray. You go to church and are an active member. You disdain evil in yourself, your family and the culture. But still, I say, you have succumbed to atheism in your thought For, although you are keen on God’s commands and God’s providence in your life in all things, you have thought like a person who sees the world run by chance in your politics. You have seen pragmatism as carrying more weight than faithfulness to your God. Suppose, indeed, the lesser of two evils gets elected. You think you will be the better off for your action. But is there not a God in heaven? When you cast your vote for a candidate and know of his godless ethics, his godless morals and his godless starting point in his thinking, namely, humanism, you are responsible for what he does. You put him there in that position of power. You said, “let this man reign over us!” But is there not a God in Heaven who will judge your course of action? Here’s a brief sampling from proverbs about a ruler:

Proverbs 29:2  When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn.

Proverbs 30:4  The king by judgment establisheth the land: but he that receiveth gifts overthroweth it.

Proverbs 20:26  A wise king scattereth the wicked, and bringeth the wheel over them.

Proverbs 25:5  Take away the wicked from before the king, and his throne shall be established in righteousness.

Proverbs 29:12  If a ruler hearken to lies, all his servants are wicked.

Proverbs 28:15  As a roaring lion, and a ranging bear; so is a wicked ruler over the poor people.

What’s the point? If you vote for the lesser of two evils, you put that wicked ruler into power. You think like an atheist if you think all is going proceed in joy and bliss because the guy who was more wicked than the one you voted for is not in office. Here’s the catch: whereas you might have a reason to expect God’s blessing if you voted for a righteous man (Based on God’s covenant promises, especially found in Deuteronomy 28), the only thing you should expect for voting for an ungodly man is chastisement (See again Deuteronomy 28).

You see, the lesser of two evils argument is predicated upon a system where God is not the judge of Heaven and earth. Where things happen by chance; where one guy has “more of a chance” than the other guy. Where voting for evil actually stems the tide of wickedness instead of increasing it! This only can be if God is not Sovereign and where He does not the Judge of the universe.

So, are you a pragmatist?

– Jesse Murch


The Modern View of Satan: the Cosmic Conflict Between the Devil and God

Today in modern evangelicalism, we are in conflict; conflict from those on the outside in the world following the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, conflict from those in the church who profess they know God, but in works deny Him, and conflict, so it is thought, from the Devil and his angels.

Now, this modern evangelical view is to be distinguished from both the Charismatic and Roman Catholic obsession with preternatural things. Evangelicals are not prone to believe that demons are behind every rock and tree. Even more, Evangelicals tend to view Satan as seeking whom he may devour (1Peter 5:8) rather than openly dominating through malice and deceit on a mass scale.

Nevertheless, the Roman Catholic, the Charismatic and modern Evangelical all agree that Satan is the god of this world. Frequently we are told tales about the Devil and his demons with fervor, and though not with the fantastical view of the Roman Catholics and the Charismatics, still we hear of their influence in our lives and the lives of others. Indeed, the Devil is seen as the cause of most calamity, as the secret enticing agent of most of the sins in the world, and last and not least, the evil rival to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. It is thought that God is the cause of all the good things in this world, and that Satan is the cause of all the bad things. I will be a bit informal in my presentation of this view of Satan. I will not be quoting from theologians and scholars on the subject to show that this is a commonly held belief about Satan. It is because I know it to be widespread enough that I think it superfluous to prove. Undoubtedly many readers will fall under the criticism I will offer.

So what is this view of Satan? I think there are at least four (three of which we’ll cover) that make it distinctive:

  1. Satan is the god of this world
  2. Satan is a chief instigator to sin
  3. Satan is the cause of most ailments and maladies
  4. Satan is the grand deceiver of the nations

This battle between God and Satan, which I mentioned a bit ago, is of an ancient origin, its ferocity of intense proportions and the struggle almost too much bear. On the one hand we have Satan who is the Destroyer, and then on the other we have God who is seeking to save what Satan seeks to destroy. On and on they fight, not knowing where the battle lies. While the vast majority of individuals God seeks to save are lost to eternal perdition through the efforts of Satan, God is still able to woo a few souls into His glorious Kingdom.

What is wrong with this picture we have painted? Perhaps you see nothing amiss with it and your consolation is that you have “read the end of the book and know that God wins in the end!” I do not wish to hide my intentions here, so let me state my purpose in writing: it will be my goal to utterly eradicate this view under consideration, yes, of Satan, but more importantly the sort of view of God that under girds this view of the Devil which ultimately diminishes the glory of God.

First, let us ask the question: Is the popular view of Satan one that has been the historical view of Satan in the church? If the 3rd and the 5th chapters Westminster confession of Faith are any indication, it is not. These chapters can be read here: http://www.reformed.org/documents/wcf_with_proofs/

Of course, one will be quick to add that a confessional statement should not have the final say on this matter, and to this I would agree. The following, then, will be a Scriptural refutation of the error that Satan is the god of this world and that he has any other role other than the minister of God. I will then go to some implications the Scriptural and confessional statements have.

  1. Satan is not the god of this world. Not only are the Scriptures full of statements to the contrary such as Psalm 24:1 : “The earth is the LORD’S, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.” (and quoted again in 1Cor. 10:26) and Psalm 97:1:  “The LORD reigneth; let the earth rejoice; let the multitude of isles be glad thereof.” But the only passage that is attempted to use to substantiate Satan’s deity is 2Corinthians 4:3-4:  But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost:
    (4)  In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. “Now, it cannot be the scope of this paper to give an exhaustive explanation why 1Corinthians 4:4 does not have Satan in view, but suffice it to say that the Greek word for “god” can and should be taken as the God of Abraham Isaac and Jacob. Perhaps if you ask yourself this question it would be more clear: Who blinds the eyes of the blind and causes the deaf not to hear lest they should believe the Gospel? (Romans 11:7-10, John 12:37-41, Matthew 13:13-15)
  2. Satan is not the chief instigator to sin. Men are. You will not find in Scripture that states anything other than that men sin and that men sin because they are drawn away by their own lusts. (See 2Timothy 4:3; 2Peter 3:3; Jude 1:16). There is enough filth in man to engulf the world in utter wickedness and ruin without the help of Satan. It is an escape from responsibility to say otherwise; “The devil made me do it!”
  3. Satan is not the cause of most ailments and sicknesses. The often used text in the book of Job only proves the opposite. Instead of seeing Satan as afflicting whoever he wills, we see him needing to ask God for permission to take any sort of action against Job. (Job 1:7-12) Satan isn’t an independent god doing according to his will; he is rather much like a dog on a tight leash who can only harm whoever God permits him to harm. This is not the actions of a power or dark ruler; it is the working of a slave or a beggar!

Implications:

If Satan is not the god of this world, who is? Well, to answer shortly, God is! If one is to ask who the cause of all good is and who the cause of all evil is, it will be stated simply that God is the cause of all things and that there is nothing outside of the sovereignty of God. This means that instead of viewing everything from a myopic point of view, we must be conscious of the fact that God has total Lordship over our lives and that there is nothing that is outside of His control and authority.

If Satan is not the one who causes illness and calamity, how does it come about? The Scriptures speaks on this matter in Deuteronomy 32:39 ” See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god with me: I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal: neither is there any that can deliver out of my hand.” Calamity is the result of the judgment of God. Deuteronomy 28 is normative in this matter. Calamity and illness is either the result of sin, or, as in the case of Job, a test to strengthen ones faith. When we see catastrophe in a nation, we must not say, “Wow, Satan sure is powerful!”, but rather, “What have we done to incur the wrath of Almighty God?” It is extremely important to know the difference.

Conclusion:

Let it be said in no uncertain terms that one’s view of Satan must be viewed with a prior Scriptural understanding of God’s absolute sovereignty. There is none who can hold back the hand of God or say unto Him, “What are you doing?”(Daniel 4:35). The Church of Jesus Christ needs to get back the view of God that sees Christ highly exalted and sitting on the Throne of His Glory. No more Satan worship. Get over him; he’s not that great! If the Christian church would embrace again the teaching that God is King and that he does according to His will in the armies of Heaven and on earth, what need would we have of consternation or worry? Could we not say with David, “The LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods”?

– Jesse Murch


Arminianism: Illogical or Blasphemous?

The Arminian view of the universal atonement of Jesus Christ, if logically deduced, either results in universalism, or it denies Christ’s atonement as being the substitute for sin.

The Arminian says that Christ died for every man. But every man will not be saved. But how does this work light of the substitutionary power of the atonement (which most Arminians would affirm)? Is Christ’s blood powerful (by cleansing those for whom He sheds it) or powerless (by only cleansing some of the sins for those who will receive it)?

Some Arminians see the logical discrepancy in the popular view of the atonement, and, as a result, affirm the idea that Christ didn’t die for anyone, but died just as an example: to “show how serious God is about sin”. As J. Kenneth Grider, a proponent of this idea, wrote,

“A spillover from Calvinism into Arminianism has occurred in recent decades. Thus many Arminians whose theology is not very precise say that Christ paid the penalty for our sins. Yet such a view is foreign to Arminianism, which teaches instead that Christ suffered for us. Arminians teach that what Christ did he did for every person; therefore what he did could not have been to pay the penalty, since no one would then ever go into eternal perdition. Arminianism teaches that Christ suffered for everyone so that the Father could forgive the ones who repent and believe; his death is such that all will see that forgiveness is costly and will strive to cease from anarchy in the world God governs. This view is called the governmental theory of the atonement.” [1]

The problems with this are obvious and myriad. If Christ died simply to make it “possible” for people to be saved, without being the absolute substitute for anybody’s sin, every man would go to hell. “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”, “there is none that doeth good, no not one” and “God is of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot not look on iniquity”, and thus, every sin that we committed we would have to give an account for, without any substitution, before a holy God.

But, on the other hand, if Christ died to cleanse the sins of all men, than everybody would go to heaven. As Paul writes,

“Much more then, being now justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.” (Romans 5:9)

“Moreover whom He did predestinate, them He also called: and whom He called, them He also justified: and whom He justified, them He also glorified.” (Romans 8:30)

So we see that if Christ’s blood is shed for a man, that man will be justified and ultimately glorified. Thus, to say Christ died for every man is to say every man will be glorified.

Having established that Christ’s blood is efficacious we see that if He did die for everybody, than everybody would be counted sinless before God (which is unitarian heresy). Therefore we see it must be a particular atonement which is efficacious, which will, in fact, cleanse all of the sins of the people for whom Christ shed it. As theologian John Owen put it,

God imposed His wrath due unto, and the Son underwent the pains of hell for, either: all the sins of all men, all the sins of some men, or some sins of all men. In which case it may be said: If the last, some sins of all men, then have all men some sins to answer for, and so shall no man be saved. If the second, that is it which we affirm, that Christ in their stead and room suffered for all the sins of all the elect in the world. But if the first be true, why are not all men free from the punishment due unto their sins? You answer, “Because of their unbelief.” I ask, “Is this unbelief a sin, or is it not? If it is, then Christ suffered the punishment due unto it, or He did not. If He did, why must that hinder them more than their other sins for which He died? If He did not, He did not die for all their sins!”[2]

Consider the words of Christ,

“I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep…. Ye [Pharisees] believe not because ye are not of my sheep.” (John 10)

Notice, Christ didn’t say, “Ye are not of my sheep because ye believe not” but He says, “Ye believe not because ye are not of my sheep.” This implies that the Pharisees did not believe, (and thus, were going to go to hell) because they weren’t His sheep, i.e., because Christ’s blood was not shed for them.

Thankfully, most Arminians are illogical in their thinking about the subject of the atonement and haven’t fallen into either of the two gross heresies that result from deducing this doctrine of universal atonement to its logical conclusions (universalism and the denial of penal substitution).

– Evan Murch

Footnotes:

[1] J. Kenneth Grider, “Arminianism” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, Walter Elwell, ed., (Baker, 2001), p. 97.

[2] John Owen, The Death of Death in the Death of Christ, Book 1, Ch. 3