Google+ Followers

Google Search


Monday, November 2, 2015

The Forgiveness of Sins Part 4: A Working Thesis

  by Antonio da Rosa
In the last few installments I made the claim that there is no sense in the Bible, anywhere, in which someone is forgiven of their FUTURE sins. Forgiveness is always a temporal, personal matter, where sin is “let go” and is granted with reference to sin ALREADY COMMITTED. When a believer in this dispensation receives the absolutely free gift of eternal life, a number of other blessings follow, an example being the “forgiveness of sins”. At this moment of initial salvation, every transgression and sin carried out, up to that point, is forgiven. Furthermore, the newly regenerate one, in light of the redemption provided through Christ’s death, is given the privilege, right, and opportunity to have any and all future sins forgiven simply through confession to the Father.
In the dispensations past, men and women did not share in all of the superlative blessings that have been afforded to those living in the economy of Grace through the cross of Jesus Christ. The indwelling ministry and gifts of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament period provide a stark contrast to anything available to the saints of all prior dispensations. Forgiveness of sins, on the other hand, is not something new to God’s people; in fact it is a blessing that runs throughout the entire Bible. Yet we must be made perfectly clear on this: the process through which individuals are forgiven has greatly changed between the Old and New Testaments due to Christ’s once and for all death for sin.
The Mosaic Law, for instance, had laws and ordinances regulating every aspect of life in Israel. A large portion of revelation within it concerned Israel’s relationship to God. Available within the Law was the provision for forgiveness, which was contained in many and varied offerings of sacrifice, the procedures for which being prescribed by God. The shedding of blood through animal sacrifice provided an atonement through which basis forgiveness could be given. The forgiveness granted was for sins already committed and for the purpose of temporal harmony and fellowship with God.
The New Testament heralds the shed blood of the cross of Christ and attempts to plumb the deep implications of it. Whereas in the Old Testament, the sacrifices were temporary, the death of Christ (the God-Man) was of infinite value. One of the many benefits of Christ’s death is that Jesus, Himself, stands in the presence of the Father as the ever present Propitiation for our sins (1 John 2:2). Whenever a saint in this dispensation is in need of forgiveness in order to repair or continue temporal fellowship with God, he does not have to shed the blood of an animal. Jesus Christ has made the once-for-all sacrifice (Hebrews 7:27). The believer’s only need is to confess His sins to God because through the advocacy of the Son, whose presence forever reminds the Father of His perfect satisfaction in regards to sin, God is faithful to forgive and still remains righteous while doing so.
So in summary, the Old Testament saints had to continually offer their imperfect sacrifices so that sin may be covered. The Father looked upon those present offerings and could bestow forgiveness. Different is what the case is in the New Testament. Christ offered the perfect sacrifice, never to have to die again. The Father looks presently upon Jesus Christ, who offered Himself in the past, and grants forgiveness on that basis. The forgiveness sought in both of these situations is for sins already committed.
I am not relating to you things that you probably do not already know; I want to inform you that I am well aware at this point. But have you REALLY thought through this material enough? It is quite apparent to me, that even though there are major distinctions between the Old and New Testaments with regard to how forgiveness of sins was obtained, there remains a consistent thread throughout the whole Bible: the forgiveness of sins is for saints WITHIN THE SPHERE OF TIME for the purpose of temporal harmony with God. No matter where it is found within the Bible, forgiveness is an “in time” (temporal) benefit that does not extend beyond the present. It is the method through which the believer REMAINS or RETURNS to fellowship with his Creator (or with regard to initial salvation, forgiveness INITIATES fellowship), and it is a personal issue with God, not judicial.
One of the problems (among many) that Free Grace advocates have with Lordship Salvation proponents is the way they import the idea of eternal salvation indiscriminately into a wide variety of passages. Whether it is in the areas of discipleship or temporal deliverances and consequences, they seem to read the Bible disposed to understand almost everything with regards to the eternal. They have eternity on the brain!
But do we? Have we, in our passionate emphasis on soteriology, mistakenly supposed the forgiveness of sins to refer to and guarantee our ETERNAL standing with God? Where did we get this from? (I do have some ideas I will share later). Is this a tradition that has been handed down to us and not arrived at through precise, hermeneutical care? In this series I will attempt to show that THIS IS NOT A DOCTRINE TAUGHT ANYWHERE IN THE BIBLE.
*Our Temporal Lives in Relation to God are of Great Importance to Him*
The way we PRESENTLY live in this world, in our relationship with God, is of great interest to Him. An impartial reading of the Old and New Testaments for the purpose of discerning the degree to which God is concerned with how one lives in the here-and-now in relation to Himself may surprise some of you. Certainly God has made provision for our eternal well-being, but it may not follow in your minds that He has precisely and especially done the same for our temporal life as well.
Maybe you think that I am going too far with my conclusions concerning your possible estimate of God’s consideration of our “in time” relationship to Him. Fair enough. Allow me the opportunity to access it through a series of questions. Have you ever considered that there are DIVISABLE blessings found within the salvation package we received upon believing in Christ for eternal life? Are these blessings clearly differentiated in your understanding, or do they overlap so much as to tend to blur the lines between them? Is “forgiveness of sins” just ANOTHER WAY of describing “justification”? DO YOU REALIZE THAT THERE ARE BENEFITS PROVIDED FOR THE BELIEVER THAT SOLELY RELATE TO OUR RELATIONSHIP TO GOD NOW, ABLE TO BE DISTINGUISHED FROM THOSE WHICH ARE ETERNAL? Wouldn’t it make sense that there would be? Let these questions sink in for a moment.
As a side, we have all heard Covenant Theologians blast Dispensationalists for advocating two methods of salvation and I have read the same charge in reverse (See Ryrie’s Dispensationalism, pgs 192-93 for both cases). Could these misunderstandings stem from confusing “forgiveness” with “regeneration”? People have often looked at the sacrificial system which was a basis for forgiveness in the Old Testament and erroneously supposed that in some way it was a means through which God eternally saved individuals of Israel. People have always possessed eternal life through faith alone (John 3:3-8; c.f. 3:16), but it is evident from the study of the Bible that forgiveness is conditioned on works (see Leviticus 4ff for OT saints, and c.f. Matthew 6:14-15 w/ 1 John 1:9 for NT saints), both being certainly based upon sacrifice.
As we have already noted in this article, Christ’s death has many benefits that the New Testament explores. I believe that we will spend eternity learning (and experiencing!) of all the blessings that have and will ever yet be showered upon us through the merits of the cross and sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Eternal participation in the Kingdom of God, regeneration and eternal life, justification, resurrection, “the forgiveness of sins”, the ministries of the Holy Spirit, the prospect of riches in the ages to come, redemption, opportunity for co-heirship with Christ, the cleansing blood of Jesus as we walk in the light and other provisions for temporal fellowship with God... these are but a PARTIAL list of blessings established upon the foundation of the cross of Christ.
AN ACT OF CHARITY MAY HAVE MANY DISTINGUISHABLE BENEFITS WHICH CAN INCLUDE A DIVERSITY OF PROVISIONS EACH WITH THEIR UNIQUE INTENTS, SENSES, AND PURPOSES. One may think immediately of a last will produced to administer the property and resources of the recently deceased. Today’s legal environment can be utilized to manage one’s “estate” in a very DETAILED way. Trusts can be set up in a variety of manners, items and funds bequeathed with stipulations and conditions, and property divided with specific intents, all with varying objectives. Such is precisely the case concerning the magnanimous deed performed by Jesus Christ on the cross. Resulting from it comes the manifold blessings contained only fractionally in the catalogue of the preceding paragraph.
Herein lies the relationship between these blessings: they all flow from the infinite value and merits of the cross of Christ. Since we should regard this statement as true, we shouldn’t be surprised to see distinguishable benefits, stemming from the death of the Son of God, being presented TOGETHER in the text of Scripture, where authors like to heap blessing upon blessing! Yet it should not be automatically assumed by the wise interpreter that since the Biblical writers integrate these doctrines in their writings and sermons that they affirm equations between them, or consider them anything but able to be differentiated.
One of my professor’s, Dr. Garland Shinn, taught me a principle of interpretation based upon the doctrine of inscripturation. God gave man a wide range of vocabulary through which to articulate the glories and wonders of God. The writers of Scripture wrote “not in words which man’s wisdom teaches, but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual [words]” (1 Cor 2:13; c.f 2 Tim 3:16 & 2 Pet 1:20-21). Dr. Shinn used to drive home the point that the Holy Spirit used precision in guiding the writers of Scripture in their word choices. Why did they use one word over another? Here he sums up my point, “Similarity is not identity. Distinguish between two things that are similar. Words and concepts are only identical if they are affirmed to be” (Dr. Garland H. Shinn, Practical Biblical Hermeneutics, Class Notes, 1997, emphasis his). Unless Scripture affirms two things to be identical, we may not.
Nowhere in the text of Scripture is “the forgiveness of sins” affirmed to be equated with justification. Since this is true, we must distinguish between them. The first distinguishing characteristic between these two doctrines is that forgiveness is a PERSONAL issue between God and man (or man and man) and justification is a JUDICIAL issue. This point is famously illustrated by the late Zane Hodges:
Suppose I go to court on charges of stealing someone’s car. The judge before whom I stand does not concern himself with the issue of forgiveness. As a judge, his only concern is with the question of guilt or innocence. He will either clear me or condemn me.
But suppose it was the judge’s car that I stole? As an individual he can choose to forgive me, or not to forgive me. But whether he does or not, the decision has nothing to do with his role as a judge. It is purely a personal matter between myself and him. [Zane C. Hodges, Harmony with God: A Fresh Look at Repentance, pg 72]
What Zane called this was a “category error” (ibid., pg 70), lumping two disparate doctrines into the same category. He continued, saying, “this is a serious mistake.”
“The Forgiveness of Sins” is stated traditionally to have two senses. One is the familiar sense illustrated throughout this article, being that of a personal issue between God and man. The second sense that this doctrine is stated to have has been termed, “judicial,” “forensic,” or “legal” forgiveness. This sense states that God has decreed the believer in His Son forgiven eternally of all sins, “past, present, and future” as a punctilliar act. Traditionally, this is described as a legal declaration, so similar, in fact, to justification, that the line is blurred between the two, and people actually identify one with the other.
Let it here be noted that there is no need for ANOTHER legal declaration beside justification! Justification is complete and sufficient on its own to completely clear the believer of every charge of evil, giving him the very righteousness of God. Any sense of forgiveness that claims to be “judicial” is completely superfluous. When the one declared righteous by faith in Christ appears before God, he stands whole, completely cleared before His bar of justice, having God’s very life through regeneration. Furthermore, he is sinless, so forgiveness ceases to be necessary.
These two doctrines were never meant to be confused or blurred! Forgiveness does not have any legal aspect to it, nor is it ever given as an indulgence, granting forgiveness of future sins. FORGIVENESS OF SINS IS NOT EQUATABLE WITH JUSTIFICATION.
To be continued...

Monday, September 28, 2015

The Forgiveness of Sins Part 3, By Antonio da Rosa

The following is a brief treatise concerning the logical consistency of the Forgiveness of Sins as held by a major consensus of Evangelical Christianity. It has been crafted to get your mind thinking about this subject. As you read, allow these questions to settle in your consideration: how could one be eternally forgiven of future sins yet have to seek forgiveness for all future sins, lest he remain unforgiven? Why would future sins need to be eternally forgiven if a provision guaranteeing all forgiveness of future sins upon confession was given to each believer in Christ?

Many people in my family have expressed frustration when purchasing a birthday or Christmas gift for me. Beside the consistent suggestion of books, I have had a hard time determining material things or services that I want. One October I got on a scale and found that I was the heaviest that I had ever been in my life. This had quite an impact on me. I needed to get focused on the temporal body that God was using in His service! At Costco, I saw that they had a 2 year membership to 24 Hour Fitness for only $12.50 a month. It was rather expensive, I think like $299, but it was something I could actually find useful besides books, so I suggested it. I knew that there was no budget for such a high priced gift, so I did not even consider it a possibility – I just threw it into the mix. To my surprise, I did receive this gift that very Christmas. I would like to note for my readers that through this membership coupled with Slim Fast shakes for lunch I lost more than 25 pounds (and have kept it off!).
Imagine for a moment that I went in with my gift certificate, was signed up, and given a membership good for 2 complete years from that point on, giving me unlimited access and use of their entire facility (not so hard to imagine since this is the case). Yet what if I was to return for my second visit to find that I must actually pay a fee every time I entered the gym? I think that you would agree that I ought to be rightly perplexed! Rationally, logically, and reasonably, how could I be financially responsible to the gym for each visit if my 2 year membership accorded me unlimited entry and use of the facility by virtue of its contract? Of course this is an absurdity; it is utterly and obviously senseless and illogical, contrary to reason and all common sense. But this is the type of situation that I am asked to believe is the case with God and His forgiveness of sins!
We are told by most evangelicals, often in the context of evangelism, that when one believes in Christ that he is forgiven for all his sins – past, present, and future. Yet, in the context of Christian living, he is told that he must be forgiven by God for all of his future sins, lest he remain unforgiven and out of fellowship with God. May I propose that this, too, is absurd (illogical, and contrary to reason)? How is it that we are responsible to God to be forgiven for every future sin if we have already been forgiven of every future sin? This is like being asked to pay a fee upon each future visit to a gym when in fact each future visit has been paid for by purchasing and successfully applying for a membership. This is literally against all reason.
I recollect the first time that my mind was presented with this apparent affront to logic. It immediately was recognized as such. In light of the dissonance that such tension created, I asked a more mature Christian about how these considerations could be compatible. The answer was such, that in my immature Christian experience, I was able to compartmentalize this information, regarding both to be true, even in the light of a weakly attested harmonization. (The answer was a “positional” vs “experiential” nuance, which we will discuss later). Yet now, in light of my growth in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, such attempts at harmony do not satisfy my critical thinking processes. I thus am comfortable saying that we are presented with two contradictory notions. Both cannot be true at the same time. Logically speaking, there are only 3 choices: (1) the regenerate are eternally forgiven of their sins, including future sins, and have no need for temporal forgiveness, (2) believers are forgiven of their past sins (at the point of conversion) and have the privilege to have all future sins forgiven through confession (and being forgiving), or (3) neither of these are correct and we must seek some other formulation. Why is this logic air-tight? For the simple reason that it is impossible to be God-forgiven of one sin and God-unforgiven of the exact same sin at the exact same time. What is forgiven is forgiven, and what is not has yet to be forgiven.

In the 1940s a theological controversy came to being within the Reformed tradition. Essentially, one side (Van Til) believed that there were true propositions in the Bible that are contradictory to human logic which can never be harmonized, because God is incomprehensible and man can never know all the same truth as God can for God does not operate in the sphere of logic. The other side (Clark), stated that the truth may only appear that way, and either we must search the Bible for more information that will facilitate harmony, or realize that we will not be able to know the information this side of eternity – but they should both be considered as true, and able to be harmonized, logically understood, when more information is introduced. Examples of such Reformed “truths” that were at the heart of the controversy where “sovereignty and responsibility,” and “the sincere offer of the gospel”.
In such a controversy, I would side with Gordon Clark. But I don’t leave it where he might. If there are two doctrinal pronouncements that contradict each other, my first reaction would be to test each one individually, to see if its articulation, based upon a methodical study of Scripture, must be modified or changed. I would posit that either one or both were in error before deciding that there is not enough information. In the process of systematizing my doctrinal thoughts, I have not found two sets of doctrinal pronouncements that are actually to be held in tension and/or paradox (contradiction), but have found enough information, or have been persuaded to modify or change a position, in order for all held Christian beliefs to be in harmony with one another.
In the issue at hand, God’s forgiveness of sins, I have used these principles in coming to new held beliefs. During the course of my Christian journey, I have heard a large range of teachings and positions. One, in particular, is interesting to note here. Some Mid-Acts Dispensationalists are struck by the apparent contradiction of the necessity to be forgiven of what has already been forgiven, and have come to the opposite conclusion that I have. They teach that since one is forgiven of all their sins, past and future, there is no need to confess one’s sins for forgiveness, and so they consider 1 John 1:9 as an eternal salvation text, conditioning eternal forgiveness of sins on confession. I believe that they have discarded the wrong doctrine, but I note them because they are impressed as I am over the contradictory nature of the current articulations concerning God’s forgiveness of sins.

In the following articles I will be reviewing the pertinent texts concerning God’s forgiveness of sins in the New Testament. I invite you to join with me in this study, to test and challenge your convictions in this area. Even if you do not come to the same conclusions as I do, you can guard against “implicit faith,” having confirmed your beliefs with a precise and methodical study of the Scriptures.

Friday, September 25, 2015

The Forgiveness of Sins Part 2, by Antonio da Rosa

Zane Hodges once wrote:
“It may seem strange to say it, but the grace movement must face the danger of not being open to God’s Word.
Most grace people probably feel that openness to God’s Word is a hallmark of the grace movement. After all, we are prepared to let the Scriptures speak even if they clearly contradict long-held traditional interpretations. The doctrine of rewards is one such area where the grace movement seems prepared to let the Scriptures speak.
I agree that this has been a strong point of the grace movement up until now. I hope it will continue to be. But there are some warning flags.”
And continued:
“…the grace movement must bring all of its convictions to the bar of Scripture. And we must be prepared to revise these convictions however God’s Word requires. No movement can remain vital which no longer examines itself in the light of Scripture.
When such examination of our convictions ceases, tradition and dead orthodoxy are not far down the road.”
An Indispensable Method Used to Systematize the Doctrine of the Forgiveness of Sins:
Throughout my years of Bible College and Seminary, I was introduced to many helpful, methodical approaches to studying the Bible. One approach that I have found useful in my own study is the observation, extrapolation, and application method. You start out with a text of Scripture and write down as many observations concerning it as you can, without making any inferences or interpretations of the text. One is to simply make declarative statements concerning the data in the text itself. Next, based on the wealth of information contained in those observations, one would make inferences and extrapolations, but only as far as the text could legitimately allow. This second step is basic interpretation. In class, we were not allowed to make any inference that couldn’t be supported from the text at hand. We did this in order to stay “in bounds” with the text. If there was not enough information within the text itself for a particular pronouncement, we were not allowed to make it.
This type of precaution will be very important in our study of the Forgiveness of Sins, because for years we have been handed down interpretations of these passages and have rarely questioned them. And when they are questioned, we usually run to our traditional understandings rather than making careful observations about them.
Certainly, as all students of the Bible know, all the information concerning a doctrine present in a particular text may not be present in the text being considered. So in order to grow in understanding of the issues, the other texts would need to be studied in the same way, with the observations and extrapolations. The information gleaned from all the relevant texts could be used to make greater extrapolations and interpretations, and thus the issue could be considered using all the relevant biblical data and legitimate conclusions could be made – and at the same time the rules of the study prevent improper use of the text, the inclusion of secondary assumptions not found in the text, and erroneous interpretation (and by extension improper application). This method is a beneficial tool when doing systematic theology.
The Dangers of Imprecise Observation and Interpretation:
This type of exercise is very helpful when studying any biblical doctrine. I used this very same process to come to the conclusions that I did concerning God’s forgiveness of sins in the New Testament. I have found, as in my study of forgiveness of sins, that I and others have been guilty of making inferences that can't legitimately be supported by reasoned observation and extrapolation and then asserting them as biblical fact. Furthermore, I note that I and others have fallen into the error of "implicit faith," by which we have, without the application of focused study or critical thinking, regarded and taught as truth a wide range of tenets springing from various theological traditions, and not from our own personal study.
We must be on guard about this! Too often I find that we go too far in our theological pronouncements, going beyond what may be legitimately extrapolated from the scriptural data. WE MUST COMMIT OURSELVES ANEW TO STAY “IN BOUNDS” WITH CARE AND PRECISION, GOING BACK TO THE RELEVANT TEXTS, DETERMINING TO RECEIVE NOTHING MORE FROM THE TEXT THAN WHAT CAN LEGITIMATELY BE ASCERTAINED FROM IT. This point, in my estimation, cannot be overemphasized! The imprecise handling of the biblical texts can have a snowballing effect, as illegitimate inferences can be used to make more, which then in turn can be used to make greater ones and so on.
Reader, is it possible that you have not been careful enough with the handling of Scripture? To admit so, as I do, can be humbling, indeed. Some authors, I have read, have been very obstinate to confess their shortcomings, because they have been “published” and their pride and reputation are on the line. One of the many things that I have admired about Zane Hodges is that he continued to test his beliefs against a proper consideration of the Scriptures. Zane’s prayerful and methodical approach to the study of Scripture produced clarity, modifications, and even changes in his beliefs, and he was not afraid to announce them. Fidelity to the Scriptures is far more important than any other consideration. I hope that you will judge this true as well, no matter where you eventually will be in relation to this current study of God’s forgiveness of sins in the New Testament.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Forgiveness of Sins Part 1 by Antonio Da Rosa

What is to follow is a treatise concerning the Forgiveness of Sins, which will be posted a little at a time. With this first post I wish to make some general remarks about forgiveness that I intend to fully develop and substantiate in the coming days. Your comments, questions, and objections are welcomed, for I submit this series for your approval.
Opening Statements on the Forgiveness of Sins:
"Forgiveness of Sins" is not an eternal consideration of God; only a temporal one. When one believes in Jesus for eternal life he does not receive an eternal forgiveness of sins. Furthermore, it is incorrect to state that there is a "forensic" or “legal” forgiveness, which is an illegitimate confusing of categories, as we shall see.
The forgiveness of sins is precisely this: The one made alive by Christ is forgiven of all the sins that he has ever committed in the past (2 Peter 1:9) and has the privilege, right, and opportunity to come to the Father, through the name of Jesus Christ, to have any and all future sins forgiven (1 John 1:9).
Forgiveness of sins is a temporal issue. It deals with our harmony and fellowship with God in the here and now. Many distinct and varied blessings to the regenerate flow from the magnanimous death of Christ. Some are eternal in nature, and some are benefits that are specifically designed for us in our pilgrimage here on earth.
People are not careful enough, in my estimation, when reading and studying the word of God, to make critical distinctions in the Bible. Justification does not equal forgiveness of sins does not equal eternal life, etc. They are all distinct, even if they all come in the salvific package. Eternal life is God’s divine life, in which all things necessary to prepare one to live with God forever resides. Justification is a legal declaration from God and the imputation of perfect righteousness, which springs from eternal life. And forgiveness of sins remits all past sins at the time of regeneration, and provides the basis upon which all future sins may be let go.
Forgiveness of Sins is Not Legal in its Purview. It is Personal:
Forgiveness is not a legal issue! Think about it for a second. A judge is not in the business of dispensing forgiveness! He hands down judgments of guilty or not guilty; he acquits or condemns; he makes pronouncements based on the law. A judge does not concern himself with matters of forgiveness. Forgiveness is a PERSONAL issue between two or more parties.
Of course a judge can forgive; he just does not do so in a context of jurisprudence. Let’s say that you stole the judge's car and were in front of him for that charge. He could find you guilty and then come down off the bench, take off his robe, and upon your contrition offer you forgiveness. Forgiveness is a personal issue.
In all the occurrences of the 2 Greek words aphiemi (to forgive) and aphesis (forgiveness) resides not a single passage necessitating the doctrine of eternal forgiveness of sins; but many clearly denoting temporal forgiveness for the benefit of restoring or continuing fellowship with God.
Get your thinking started here. Realize that forgiveness is not judicial, but relational. I mean, comon, shouldn’t this go without saying? This is a reasonable distinction.
Then ask yourself, "Why would God have to forgive a man temporally for what has already been forgiven eternally, if what was given to him at the moment of salvation is eternal forgiveness?" This consideration alone ought to jar you a little!
A Few Reasons Why this Study is Important:
Jesus, when evangelizing, almost used exclusively the term "eternal life". For sure, forgiveness of sins is given when one believes in Jesus for eternal life (see Peter's preaching to Cornelius in Acts 10:43), but it is past sins that are in view (see 2 Peter 1:9); and also in view is the ability to be forgiven of future sins by confessing them to the Father (1 John 1:9).
Irrevocable eternal life is the main concern and priority in the saving message of both Jesus and His apostles. Through the message of life, unending life, resurrection and physical immortality, and eternal participation in the world to come is offered (and by corollary, experience of the eternal life in abundance and ever increasing measure in the life now). In evangelism, we are to prefer the use of eternal life, rather than eternal forgiveness of sins, because there is no clear passage offering an eternal forgiveness of sins by grace through faith. As a matter of fact, our eternal standing with God and our eternal destiny DOES NOT DEPEND A WIT UPON FORGIVENESS, as we shall see in the posts to come.
Like Jesus, presenting eternal life should be the primary focus of our evangelism.
Some Parting Words to this Installment:
Future forgiveness of sins is not granted like an indulgence giving assurance that all future, temporal, personal fellowship with God will be maintained despite what one's future actions and attitudes may be. And an all-encompassing eternal decree of forgiveness is both confusing to thought (eg. a man being God-forgiven and God-unforgiven of the same sin at the same time) and completely unnecessary to eternal felicity (see below).
An objection may be stated that apart from some sense of eternal forgiveness of sins that one could not be assured of heaven upon death. We must realize that forgiveness of sins was designed to be a benefit solely in time. When eternity comes for the believer, eternal life (God's kind of life, necessary if one is to live with God) and justification (God’s imputed righteousness) are operative. These considerations, as we shall see, alone assure heaven. The forgiveness of sins (which is always temporal) does not.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Works Needed For eternal life?

Ok I am going to post the 3 views I am aware of and would love feedback.

1) Works are needed for eternal life.   John 3:16 was not everything you need to receive it.. or a slight variation is that you gain it with belief but lose it with out works.  Since the end result is identical I see no difference. Either way, if you are not good enough you don't make it, which puts you in the chair of saving yourself.

2) Works AUTOMATICALLY follow if you are a "real" believer.  No works (or not enough works), no eternal life.  Very similar to # 1 but a variation of it.

3) Works enhance your life and earn rewards AFTER you have become a believer and received eternal life.  Failure to do so may lead to harsh consequences but not a loss of the gift of eternal life.

If you can think of something that does not fall into these, please share!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Repentance needed for eternal life

There are 3 main views.

1)  Repentance is a turning from Sin and is a requirement for eternal life

2) Repentance is a changing of your mind about Jesus Christ and is a requirement for Eternal Life

3) Repentance is turning from sin but is not a requirement for eternal life.

I hold to 3, but would love to discuss it further.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

From Monastery to Free Grace. The Journey and Testimony of a Friend.

From Monastery To Free Grace , by Tim Grady .
{1. Beginnings .}

My name is Tim Grady . Born Aug. 21 , 1958 in Kankakee , Illinois to Dr. and Mrs. Grady , and had ten brothers and sisters : seven sisters , and three brothers .

I was raised in an Irish Roman Catholic home , and was an altar boy for nearly 10 years , with a tremendous respect for the clergy ; all things traditional , religious , and Roman Catholic . I  remember having a serious interest in one day donning the holy vestments .

After eight years of Catholic grade school (St. Theresa's) , I followed my three older siblings to Bishop McNamara high school , where I spent two years , until transferring to a public high school (Eastridge)  for the remaining two years .

Life was changing , and my interests and values were in flux .

After enrolling at Loyola University in Chicago during the fall of 1976 , I was convinced by the Dean Of Studies , that taking off from school and moving to California , would be a better option . I put my thumb out on Interstate #80 , and headed West !

{2. "Head west , young man"... the land of the mystics .} 

Arriving in Pacific Grove , California , was a welcomed shock . Life was noticeably different - right away .

Surrounded by the majestic mountains which meet the Pacific Ocean , was far more compelling than the sight of endless corn and bean fields on the flat Midwestern plains .

 The cultural differences provided an even greater contrast . The '60's culture of the 'Summer Of Love' ; Berkeley's  Haight Ashbury and the "Grateful Dead/surfer dude vibe", was instantly recognizable . The openness to all-things-spiritual was in the air .  

 As time went by  , on the Monterey Peninsula , I became closely associated with a mystical community of Catholics at the Carmelite Monastery off of Highway 1 , just south of Carmel . Nestled amidst the florid Juniper trees , the pounding waves of the Pacific Ocean provided the pulse for this surreal and poetic enclave . 

 Often , I would hitchhike in the morning from Pacific Grove to the Monastery - perhaps 10 miles -  followed by breakfast in Carmel with Catholic friends . a good way to kick off the otherwise mundane events of work and study (Monterey Peninsula College) .

 This period saw my interest in reading Catholic mystics accelerate (St. Theresa of Avila ; St. John Of The Cross ; Thomas A Kempis ; The Desert Fathers - Philokalia ; and everything written by Trappist monk Thomas Merton ) . 

 Through these friends , I was directed to a bookstore in Carmel , owned by the sister of a monk from the Immaculate Heart Hermitage in Big Sur , California ; some 56 miles south of Carmel on the majestic Coastal route (Highway 1) . 

 My fascination was instantly piqued , and I arranged to go down for a "retreat" for three days , while contemplating the meaning of life , and my place in  it .

 {3. The climb to the Cloister ... to be a Benedictine .}

 Once again , I stuck my thumb out , and hitched a ride down the winding and spectacular Highway 1 to the 

 (Benedictine) Monastery known as 'New Camaldoli' ; the American branch of the Italian motherhouse .

 See the Monastery here :

Getting out of the vehicle , I started climbing the access road 3.5 miles to the top , where it levels out , and the grounds of the Monastery are evident . Overlooking Santa Lucia Bay of the Pacific Ocean , one becomes instantly transfixed with the textures , sights , smells , and sounds  of one of the best meetings of land and sea in the world .  The peace I felt was other worldly .

It seemed , after several retreats in Big Sur , that this indeed was my calling. I phoned Father Louis at New Camaldoli , and arranged for a meeting with the Abbot Father Bruno ,  and Father Adam - who was the Novice Master in 1977 . It was as though the portals to heaven had swung wide open , and life would no longer be a question mark , but an answered prayer . I would be entering the Novitiate for the summer of 1977 .

It seemed as if the  collective thoughts of the Catholic saints and mystics I had  treasured , was now being realized for me . This was profoundly moving , and a cause for great joy and expectation .

As it turned out , the rhythm of monastic life was quite agreeable . Rising at 3:30 a.m. for morning prayer . Back at 6:00 a.m. for Mass , followed by breakfast and free time until 12:00 lunch . Then , four hours of work - whether in the garden ; cleaning rooms , in the kitchen , or cutting firewood (etc.) . The days had a definite pattern that provided stability .

What was intriguing was the manner of the older brethren and the conversations that took place , when time allowed . I was in awe of the rectitude they showed in their fastings and devotions , whether praying the rosary daily , or  incessantly (under the breath) repeating the 'Hesychyst prayer' from the Early Desert Fathers : "Lord Jesus , have mercy upon me a sinner" .

I wanted dearly to emulate their example . Some of them , like Father Bede , would go weeks without any human contact , because there is a housing area of "cells"  specifically for that on the eastern flanks of the grounds .

The isolation ; focus on prayer ; contemplation ; self denial by fasting or wearing uncomfortable items (hairshirts etc.) ; praying to the saints and the Virgin Mary for intercession ; the holy sacrifice of the Mass - were the heartbeat of this "spiritual factory" . 

As it turned out , Father Adam was headed to Italy for a meeting of all the Novice Masters and Abbots of the Camaldolese Order , at the end of the summer of 1977 . As such , he spoke with me about my future and recommended that I go back out in the "world" , and commit to vows later in life . Most of the monks  , over the years , made this decision in their late 20's , whereas , I had just turned 19 . I agreed that this made sense , and at the end of that summer , I headed back to Monterey , along with a short visit back to Illinois .

 {4. Re-entry to the "world" ... sort of .}

 Upon returning to the Monterey Peninsula , I joined the Oratorian community Of St. Philip Neri , where I stayed for nearly three years in a semi-monastic setting . Father Emeric Doman was its Rector , and I drove him each day to say Mass at the Navy Postgraduate School , among other parishes. Brother(s) Peter , Matthew, and Richard were all studying theology in Berkeley for the priesthood , and lived in quarters next  to mine .

This is when , for two years , I taught the high school Confirmation/Catechism class at St. Angela's Parish in Pacific Grove . The interaction was very invigorating , being around so many hopeful young people on their way to promising careers , soon to be in  the collegiate ranks .

See here : St. Angela Merici parish ; Pacific Grove , California : ...

 These were some of the best times of my life . I had great chats with these folks about so many burning issues , while majoring in philosophy at the  college . Frequently encounters in all manner of spiritual dialogue , was a daily expectation . The challenges were many , and the responses varied while applying the maxim :  "why do you believe that to be true ?". Truth continued to sort out the winds of doctrine , circulating at a fever pitch .

Around this time (1980)  , I had developed a friendship with several "evangelical bible believers", who introduced me to some rather startling information - speaking of challenges . They were quite friendly and engaging . I was invited to their homes for dinner and bible study where the conversations became more specific . What they pointed out , was that salvation had nothing to do with belonging to an organization , but a personal relationship with Jesus , as found in the bible . I did not fully grasp what this meant , but it opened another door of curiosity .

Later , other areas of doctrine were being questioned by my "Jesus freak" friends . This was a time of great unrest and discomfort for me . All that I thought I believed , was now under close scrutiny . I felt like I was on the defensive , and my answers were getting harder to summon .

{5.  Grace breaks through .}

 Soon thereafter , it became evident that the bible was clear about this "personal relationship thing" , and that it truly is a matter of believing , as opposed to belonging to an Institution or outward Organization . I did not really grasp all the implications of this world changing realization , but a step toward what I perceived of as freedom , was clearly taken .

Shortly thereafter , in 1980 , I left the Oratorian Community and moved outside where I lived in makeshift tents on the beach (Spanish Bay in Pacific Grove/Pebble Beach) , and forested areas near Carmel , for nearly  11 years . It seemed as though I was living in a John Steinback novel . In fact , this was where Steinbeck used to hang out with friends while writing books like 'Cannery Row' . The pounding tones of the surf , and the invigorating odors of the sea breeze , lent an air of  tranquility that helped in working through the issues I was confronting .

Through the '80's , I became involved in Classical music as a vocal performer in ensembles , and as a soloist   in the Carmel Bach Festival ; the Monterey Symphony ; Pro Musica of Utah (Salt Lake City) ; Camerata Singers of Salinas ; and as  a founding member of I Cantori Di Carmel . These were days filled with the glories of sharing in some of the greatest artistic expressions ever authored , and the camaraderie among fellow participants .

As well , I became heavily involved in the political arena . I ran against Clint Eastwood for mayor of Carmel in '86 ; again in '88 ; and several other offices on the Monterey Peninsula  (along with a couple in Siskiyou County (Mount Shasta)  , California ('92-'98) .

 Along with those engagements , there came a developing sense of spiritual/worldview refinement . I was attending Calvary Chapel in Pacific Grove , and had several friends there who proved helpful in answering crucial questions . 

{6. Clarifying Grace .}

 A lingering question was : how does anyone know that they are saved ? I was finding the answer to this question quite elusive . My question became : how do you KNOW that you know ? 

 I was persuaded that John 3:16 was plain enough to answer that , though there were friends who believed that one could "lose salvation" through bad behavior , or  by way of "apostasy/falling away" . Or , there were those who held that lots of sin/"bad fruit" would surely indicate that someone was unsaved , and that they were not somehow one of God's "elect" . These were the conflicting opinions I was finding within "evangelicalism" .

 During the late '80's I would listen to Christian radio throughout the day , and would practically set my clock by Dr. Walter Martin's apologetic show 'The Bible Answer Man' . Reading apologetic texts from he (and others from the Christian Research Institute)  , along with all things written by  Dr. Norman Geisler and Dr. Francis Schaeffer - became the daily rhythm that explained so much of the enduring "why's" of this life . This , coupled with majoring in Philosophy in college , underscored a continuing thirst to give reasons for "why I believe WHAT I believe" . In short , it provided the mechanics to wade through all the competing winds of doctrinal truth claims . 

 Going back to college in '90 at Eastern Mennonite U. (Harrisonburg , VA.) , was an experiment on several levels . I had become influenced heavily by the pacifist writings of Leo Tolstoy , that led to an interest in the Amish/Mennonite worldview . In taking an old Testament course from a Princeton Phd. professor , who held to the view that the bible was NOT - in fact -   historical , my views sharpened with respect to Mennonite theology , and led to an in depth appraisal of their doctrine concerning pacifism . And , most importantly - justification/salvation .

 On both counts , I became persuaded that neither view held up to biblical scrutiny . After one semester in the books  , it was "back to California", once again .

 {6. Northbound - freedom bound in Mt. Shasta/Weed .}

 Shortly thereafter , it became clear that it was time to head for other environs . I had developed a keen interest in wilderness trekking while frequently exploring the Los Padres National Forest near Big Sur , California . Looking at the maps of the Mount Shasta/Weed area , and being interested in attending Weed's College of the Siskiyous , it seemed agreeable to my growing disenchantment with the $ high rollin'/overly  commercialized/overdeveloped California "dream" .

  Having been through the Weed area before , I recalled how easy it was to feel anonymous there , being surrounded by boundless acres of timber , trails and peaks . This seemed the perfect remedy for disillusion .

1992 would be another turning point . My sense of freedom was growing . Behind me lay a series of events that led to an ever increasing desire to clarify that liberty . 

 Going to the Weed Berean church , along with small group  bible studies , widened the circle of friends while living there from '92 until '99 . This was an era marked by clarification of life's most important question : what must I do to be saved?

 Just prior to this span , Dr. John MacArthur's book 'The Gospel According To Jesus', hit the shelves . I was familiar with his radio broadcast 'Grace To You' , which aired daily on the Redding , Ca. Christian radio station . A friend from the church had a copy , and another book with a competing viewpoint titled 'Absolutely Free' , by Dr. Zane Hodges .

 {7. Center of the dartboard .}

 It was instantly evident that this issue - justification by faith - was indeed the center of the dartboard . In reading through both views , I was struck with how Hodge's view seems so easy to parallel with scripture , which so clearly affirms assurance of eternal life as a present possession . MacArthur's view seemed to suspend any such certainty , and made living the Christian life a constant guessing game . His popularization of "Lordship Salvation" blurred the distinction between justification and sanctification , and turned a once-in-a-moment event of believing , into a process known as 'discipleship' . Some of the finer points of this issue awaited further refinement , but the door to the heart of truth was opened .

 After commercial fishing out of Seward Alaska in '94 , I returned to the Weed/Mt. Shasta area and finished off studies at College Of The Siskiyous in late May of '95 . Then it was time to hike the Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada - a 2,750 mile trek through the mountains and wilderness stretches in California , Oregon , and Washington . This would take 134 days to complete , and was  a profound life - changer  .

 Nearing the conclusion , between Stehekin Wash. and Rainy Pass (Wash Hwy. 20) , a 25 mile stretch , I encountered eight bears in one day ; seven blacks , and one Grizzly . One was a momma black and her cub , and I was in between them ... not exactly a desirable scenario ! But , she let me go , which explains why I'm still writing this !

There were so many invaluable encounters with people on the trail , often discussing worldview issues and what was most meaningful in their lives . Well over 90% of them came from a humanist and/or New Age perspective , with an implicit faith in some form of macro-Evolutionary Cosmology . Coming from a Creationist biblical worldview will often make one feel like a stranger in a strange land !

 This trek provided ample proof of the Lord's faithfulness in supplying comfort and wisdom in very challenging circumstances . It was so clear how there really is nothing to worry about , as I frequently read from Luke chapter 12 :

 "22Then, turning to his disciples, Jesus said, “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food to eat or enough clothes to wear. 23For life is more than food, and your body more than clothing. 24Look at the ravens. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for God feeds them. And you are far more valuable to him than any birds! 25Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? 26And if worry can’t accomplish a little thing like that, what’s the use of worrying over bigger things?

27“Look at the lilies and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. 28And if God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?

29“And don’t be concerned about what to eat and what to drink. Don’t worry about such things. 30These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers all over the world, but your Father already knows your needs. 31Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need.

32“So don’t be afraid, little flock. For it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom" .

 Re-entry back into the work-a-day world after the trail was a difficult transition . Settling back in , and working as a tree faller while operating a firewood business , was truly satisfying in many ways . Being out there in the altitude of the mountains amongst the trees , vistas ,  and open spaces ; without time constraint or a boss for several years , rated at the top for the jobs I've had .

This time also saw tremendous growth in clarifying biblical truth , and honing in on the "center of the dartboard" .

{8. Back to the Bay ... Area.}  

 It was not long after returning to Weed , that a friend and his family whom I'd lived with were going to move to the bay area and he'd work with a Grading & Paving Co. out of Pleasanton , California . They would live in Tracy , just east over the Livermore grade . I was invited to join them , and decided that $27.00/hr. might not be a bad idea after all !

As it turned out , I stayed until mid '2000 . During this time , I had met a former Jesuit priest (18 years head of St. Joseph's parish , San Jose ,  Cal.) named Bob Bush , and his wife . After hearing them on a 50,000 watt Christian radio station in Oakdale , California (KCBC) , I phoned them to talk about Jesus , the bible , salvation , and having been a Benedictine monk . They lived near Oakdale , and invited me for a visit .

 They then invited me to participate with them on-air during their broadcasts . This would last for nearly two years . It was truly amazing to have so many callers understand that they too could have certainty of eternal life simply by believing Jesus' promise (John 6:47) . Much of the time , we would read straight out of the Catholic Catechism ; The Canons And decrees Of The Council Of Trent ; or Vatican Council 2  , to prove - from Official Catholic sources - what they taught about authority  , tradition , sin , salvation/justification, purgatory , indulgences (etc.) . In comparing tradition with the bible , some were persuaded that the two were irreconcilable .

 Once again , the operative principle is that the bible alone is the authority , and if anything contradicts what it says , "anything" must go - not the reverse .

 The message that grace is unmerited favor and cannot be earned , was received by some . I found tremendous hunger in more than a few of the callers .  I look back fondly on those days , as a profitable venue for bringing people out of bondage to works righteousness , and their uncertainty of salvation . 

 My love for Roman Catholics continues to be deep . Echoing the Apostle Paul : "I tell the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit,   that I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart.   For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren...' (Romans 9:1-3) ; and : "What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness of faith;   but Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness. Why? Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumbling stone.  As it is written: “Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offense,
And whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame . Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved.   For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.   For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God.  For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes" (Romans 9:30-10:4)" .

 {9. Clarifying Calvinism.}

 After  Y2K passed , life in the Bay Area for me was coming to a close . It was also becoming evident that people within the 'Ex-Catholics For Christ Conferences' community - including Bob Bush , Dr. John MacArthur , Dave Hunt & the Berean Call , and many other ex-priests and nuns - had sharp disagreements about what the "center of the dartboard"  was .

 In studying the history  of  Calvinism at that time , particularly  Dr. Laurence Vance's 'The Other Side Of Calvinism' , it was clear that those who promoted a ..."you can't be saved if you have bad fruit (works) in your life" view , were tied to this 5 point Calvinist system . Dr. R.C. Sproul , Dr. James White , Dr. John Gerstner et al ,were some of the most eloquent apologists for that position , and had a tremendous sway over many friends .

Their position reduced to : you CANNOT be certain that you are one of God's secret and unknowable "elect" , because you must persevere till the end of your life in faith and good works to "prove" it .

 As well , there were several - including Bob Bush & his wife - who believed you could "lose your salvation" .  This has been termed the "Arminian" position , though it is found in belief systems unattached to that tradition .

It seemed to me that either way , Calvinist or Arminian , one could not be sure  of what Jesus had so clearly guaranteed . In the end , either way , one would be in doubt of salvation until death . Both were looking at  performance(works) instead of looking to Jesus for what He certifies . Again , Jesus' words in the bible could not be reconciled with either view ( John 3:16,5:24,6:47,11:17-27,20:31 etc.) . 

Yet again , the bible alone is the authority . Not any institution , tradition , or person .

 A book I read , at that time , sharpened the focus on this all important issue . Dr. Bob Wilkin's "Confident in Christ" was a further elaboration on Dr. Zane Hodges "Absolutely Free", written more than 10 years earlier . Written in an easy-to-understand fashion , this book crystallized and articulated all that seemed to be on my plate , at precisely the right time . Wilkin's website at became my daily "pilgrimage" , as I would copy all the journal articles before leaving the library . His subsequent books 'Secure And Sure', and 'Road To Reward' (and 'The Ten Most Misunderstood words In The Bible', which I have not yet read), remain invaluable resources in understanding the freedom and liberty that  salvation by grace through faith connotes . 

Over these books , and what they articulate - that certainty of eternal life IS the good news - a parting of the ways happened with many friends and associates , some of whom I'd known for many years . Jesus made it clear that He and His word are to be valued above all allegiances in this world , and that division based on truth is imperative (Matthew 10) . 

 To this day , I am not at all surprised that the majority have never been right about what matters most : truth . And in this case , the truth of everlasting life .

 {10. North to Wahington ; Peru ; Marriage/Family Life}

 As it turned out , I moved to Anacortes , Washington in 2001 and have done road construction ; worked as a scaffold erector in the refineries ; worked at Boeing in Everett ;  and  a flagger on the highways .

 In 2003 & in 2005, I was able to hike the Continental Divide Trail (3,100 miles) from above Glacier Natl. Park , Montana/Canada , to the Mexican border at Columbus , New Mexico . In '05 , it was a benefit for the Crisis Pregnancy Center in Salida , Colorado . Both treks took 102 days to complete , again providing incalculable moments to treasure . God's handiwork (creation) is the greatest art form and never fails to challenge point to the One who  !

Since then , I was tremendously privileged to mountaineer and trek in Peru , Chile , Bolivia , and Argentina in 2007. Twice more to Peru involved meeting my wife (Vanessa) , and returning with her in 2008 . We now have two sons : Solomon Jehoshua (age 5) ; and Josiah Hezekiah (age 3) . Her family continues to reside in an eastern district of Lima  (La Molina)  , Peru's capital . In a better world , we would live six months there ... during their summer , of course !

We continue to live twenty miles from Anacortes , in Sedro Woolley , Washington - five miles east of I-5 on the way to the glorious North Cascades .

 {11. In Conclusion}

Above all , the journey called "life"  takes all sorts of twists and turns , where each of us walks a slightly different trail . What remains true for all is that everything in this world changes and cannot afford certainty . Interestingly , we measure ourselves , and others , against the backdrop of "achievement", thereby hoping to find and project some form of "identity".

Yet , these phenomena are subject to the modulations of circumstance .

  In sum , things that change cannot give certainty .  Only the Promise of the One who cannot lie , nor change , gives such assurance . 

While at the tomb of Lazarus (John 11:17-27)  , His beloved friend , Jesus clearly affirmed the certainty of eternal life to all who are persuaded that He will give it to them , by believing in Him for it :
 " So when Jesus came, He found that he had already been in the tomb four days.   Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles away.  And many of the Jews had joined the women around Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother.

 Now Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met Him, but Mary was sitting in the house.   Now Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.   But even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.”
 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”
 Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.  And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?”
 She said to Him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”

He did not lie to Martha and Mary . He did not lie to me .

 He took me from climbing the mountains of changing works (the monastery/religiosity)  , to the solid rock of unmerited favor . There is no rest while climbing .

 His guarantee is the only thing that is certain , and gives eternal rest ... without cost .