Sunday, December 04, 2005


Yet another side-track

my reply on the Challies Forum

[quote="voiceofthesheep"][quote]But the gift offered is not the gift received until the person to whom it is offered has chosen to accept it.[/quote]
Robert H,
Where is your Scriptural support for this?

Do you have Scriptural evidence that salvation is a gift that is "offered"?

I'm not looking for a John 3:16 reply, because that verse says nothing of how the person comes to believe, and in its context in John 3, there has to be a new birth before the person can see (understand/perceive) the kingdom.

What is the biblical basis for the theology that salvation is a standing offer just waiting to be activated by man?


I am not going to be drawn on this which is couched in calvinistic language because it gets back to the point of terminology being understood by pre-suppositions. But an illustration. Something which is given to you as a birthday present, may exist in thousands in the shops. Someone pays the price, and gift-wraps it, puts your name on the package, and then sees you face to face and offers it to you. Then you have the choice. You can have the rudeness to reject the gift - some people do. An offended girl-friend may throw the offered bunch of flowers stright into the rubbish bin, in front of her wooer's face. You can accept the gift, unwrap it, use / wear / eat it depending on what the gift is.

Now what I left out from the hymns I quoted at length, is 2 points.

They are from a section of the hymn book headed "[i]For Mourners Convinced of Sin[/i]". That is, people who have heard the preaching of the Word of God, and in whom God has awakened the conviction that they are hell-deserving sinners. Now this was one of the "Fundamentals" of Methodist theology, whatever you may have seen in the 21st century. The essential initiative of God. One reason why we have so few genuine conversions in the 21st century is because preaching from (out of) the Bible is so rare. When the Bible is preached in all its fullness, this includes the Law by which is knowledge of sin. Another essential factor in (original) Methodist preaching was to point people to the one and only Saviour from sin, our Lord Jesus Christ, to point to the Cross, His sufferings, death, resurrection, ascension, glorification, High Priesthood at the Father's right hand, and His coming again to set up His kingdom.

I left out of hymn No. 126 the first verse which reads,
"Too strong was I to conquer sin,
When 'gainst it first I turned my face;
Nor knew my want of power within,
Nor knew the omnipotence of grace.

the rest of the hymn reads
In nature's strength I sought in vain
For what my God refused to give:
I could not then the mastery gain,
Or lord of all my passions live.

But, for the glory of thy name,
Vouchsafe me now the victory:
Weakness itself thou knowest I am,
And cannot share the praise with thee.

Because I now can nothing do,
Jesus, do all the work alone;
And bring my soul triumphant through,
To wave its palm before thy throne.

Great God, unknown, invisible,
Appear, my confidence to abase;
To make me all my vileness feel,
And blush at my own righteousness.

Thy glorious face in Christ display,
That, silenced by thy mercy's power,
My mouth I in the dust may lay,
And never boast or murmur more.

I hesitated to place before people unfamiliar with Wesley's hymns the concept he portrays of our total inability to accomplish anything in our own strength, and our total dependence upon God to work in us.

This theme is more famously found in the hymn "Come, O thou traveller unknown" (commonly called "Wrestling Jacob"), with lines like
"The Son of righteousness on me
Has risen with healing in his wings,
Withered my nature's strength, from Thee
My soul its life and succour brings"
And, having had our natural strength destroyed by God's touch, and all our dependence being upon Him and Him alone, the lines
"Lame as I am, I take the prey,
Sin, hell and death with ease o'ercome."

Wesleyan theology (the source of Arminianism I am most familiar with) is crammed full of this concept that God has to destroy any and every hope of doing anything (in the spiritual realm) in our own strength, by human unaided effort. Only when our human ability has been utterly and completely put to death, then can God's strength be perfected in our weakness.

This is a foundational concept of Arminian theology - our total inability to save ourselves, our total dependence upon God. But it seems to be a concept which is so strange and unfamiliar to people discussing Arminianism that I hesitated to mention it.


"Proof texts" - The first way of handling Scripture is exegetical. That is, we read (study) the Bible to see what God has to say to us. Expository preaching takes a Bible passage and looks to see what God has to say to us, whether or not it is what we want to find.
In the reverse direction is the eisegetical - we have an idea, and look to see what Bible verse can be added to our idea to support it. And the dangerous third step is "suppository preaching" where we do not accept what the Bible says, but suppose it to mean something else.

Now I was for a time pastor at a General Baptist church which originated when the calvinism of Particular Baptist minister, Jabez Tunnicliffe, was challenged by a Scripture he read during a sermon in 1833. Acts 8:22 was such a shock to his calvinism, that the elders thought he had been taken ill during the sermon.

The Bible should be allowed to speak to us, not taken as a source of proofs to prop up our speaking to it. That said, (John) Wesley's Sermons are full of Scripture, applying the principle that everything must be proved by Scripture. (Charles) Wesley's hymns, likewise, are packed with Scripture.

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