Oct 24, 2008

Chpt. 84 - Hardshell Proof Texts VI

John 8: 47 is another passage of scripture that Hardshells genereally use in an attempt to prove that one is born again before and apart from faith. A modern "Reformed" writer, Vincent Cheung, upholds the same interpretation of the passage as do the Hardshells. Therefore, I thought best to cite his words on the passage and rebut them. Certainly his arguments for the born again before faith error are exactly what the Hardshells themselves put forth, and Cheung's writing would receive a hearty "amen" from them. Cheung wrote (emphasis mine):

"Now here comes something very interesting, something very straightforward, and ties back to our exposition on John 3:4 about spiritual dullness. Jesus says in verse 43, "Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say." Why are they unable to hear? He says, "You belong to your father, the devil." Then, he continues, "If I am telling the truth, why don't you believe me? He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God."

"Can anything be plainer? Jesus tells them the truth, the truth about spiritual things, using simple and direct language. Why do they not understand? Why do they not believe? " The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God." Here is the answer. The devil is their father, but the devil is a liar, and this is why they cannot understand or believe the truth. They cannot process something that is not in their spiritual nature to grasp."

"For a person to understand and believe the truth, he must first "belong to God," that is, to be the child of God rather than the child of the devil. Just because they are the natural descendents of Abraham does not make them the spiritual descendents of Abraham, nor does it make them the spiritual children of God. So to believe the gospel of Jesus Christ, God must give birth to them – they must be "born again.""

"One must first "belong to God" in order to believe the truth, so that regeneration, the new birth, must come before faith. This demolishes the teaching, so common nowadays, that we are born again by faith, that we are born again because we believe. If the condition of your soul is such that you can have faith, why would you need to be born again? Jesus says that these people have the devil as their father, and they do not "belong" to God, so that they cannot have faith. We are born again by a sovereign act of God, completely apart from human decision or human effort, and it is after we are born again that we are able to believe the gospel. This means that we are entirely at God's mercy when it comes to salvation."

"The biblical teaching is, "You must be born again, so that you may both believe and understand." Faith and understanding promote and depend on one another, and both are impossible unless one is first born again. This in turn makes faith and understanding dependent on divine sovereignty and not human decision, as Jesus, John, and Paul repeatedly declare to us."


No Hardshell could have argued the "case" better than has Vincent Cheung, in his attempt to prove the "born again before faith" error from John 8: 43-47. I perhaps could not have written it better, were I still a Hardshell apologist. In fact, when I was a Hardshell, this was one of my favorite passages to cite in order to prove the "born again before faith" error. I would argue just as "eloquently" and "logically" as did Cheung.

It is the view of Cheung and the Hardshells that it was the intention of Jesus to instruct these Christ rejecting Jews in the divine "ordo salutis." This is not the case however. Why would Jesus be instructing, according to Hyperism, unregenerate children of the devil in the "ordo salutis" in the first place? According to Hyperism, what could have been Jesus' purpose in teaching them about such a matter?

Is it the Hyperist idea that Christ spoke to them with no intent to incite them to repentance? To want to truly "belong to" God? If the Hyperist admits that Christ spoke to these children of the devil, what was his intent? Was there no intent at all for them to disinherit their (evil) spiritual parentage and be adopted into God's family?

Cheung and the Hardshells admit that Christ is speaking to children of the devil, to those who are "dead" and "unregenerate." They admit that he tells them that they do not "belong to" God. But, will they admit that he was telling them they were responsible for their "belonging to" either God or the devil? How could Christ condemn them for "belonging to" the devil? And, for not "belonging to" God?

The "reasoning" of the Hyperist here is circular and leaves a person going round and round with no end.

A man cannot "hear" nor "understand" unless he is first born of God (belong to him, become his child, etc.), but, according to scripture, he must "understand" and "hear" in order to belong to God!

If it is argued that Christ puts the "hearing" and "understanding" after the birth, then he must, to be consistent, aver that "hearing" and "understanding" never "precede" the birth. So, what does the Hyperist do with those passages that put "hearing" as a means to birth and life? If he avows that "hearing" does precede the birth and life, and yet avows that it follows, then he has put the sinner in an inescapable strait. He must hear to live, but he must also live to hear!

At this point, the typical Hardshell, will use his infamous "hermeneutical principle" of the "double sense" or "double meaning" of words and ideas, and say - "well, there are really two kinds of 'hearing,' one kind going before the life (birth) and one going after."

Jesus said in John 5: 25-28 that the "dead will hear his voice and live." The hearing of his voice, even though effectual and irresistable, in the case of the elect, precedes the coming to life, whether it be the resurrection experience of conversion, the coming to life of the inner soul, heart, and mind, or the future resurrection of the physical bodies.

Does not Jesus affirm both these ways of stating the matter?

1. You do not belong to God (not regenerated, born, alive spiritually, etc.) because you do not hear, understand, and believe.

2. You do not hear, understand, and believe because you do not belong to God?

Yes! He states it both ways! So then, does this mean Jesus put the matter in a circular manner, making salvation impossible by making one thing to depend upon another? How are we to solve this seeming difficulty? After the manner of Cheung and the Hardshells? No. Here's how.

Jesus is not saying that one thing causes another! If he did affirm that A caused B, and then turned around and also said, B causes A, we would call him illogical and a stater of an impossibility, of a falsehood.

Rather than giving an order salutis and giving a oracle on what causes what, he is rather showing how one thing is vitally connected with another, yet not in the way of cause and effect. He is affirming that two things are the effects of the same cause, and that where one effect is present, so is the other. Thus, he is giving us a description of the essential characteristics of the new birth, of what it means to "belong to God," and what it means to "hear" and "understand" God and truth.

Classes of people

1. Those who belong to God but who do not hear
2. Those who hear but do not belong to God
3. Those who hear and belong to God
4. Those who neither hear nor belong to God

Jesus, by his words, is denying that there is any such character as #1 and #2. The only sinners that exist anywhere are those described under #3, and #4.

Now, suppose a person wanted to counter the person who says that there are people as #1 and #2, would he not speak as did Jesus?

The use of the word "because" in the words of Jesus are not to be taken in a metaphysical sense, of what produces something else, but for a legal, forensic, or logical use of "because." We make use of this kind of "because" (or 'cause') all the time in regular speech. For instance, one says - "his heart is dead because his brain is dead," but then says, "his brain is dead because his heart is dead."

When two things are vitally connected, and only exist together, and never apart, then one would also speak as did Christ. In such language Christ is not saying that one thing absolutely "precedes" another thing, but that one thing cannot exist alone, without another thing.

Thus, I see absolutely no evidence that this passage teaches that one can belong to God without hearing and understanding. The born again before faith view creates a non-scriptural creature, a born again unbeliever. Likewise, using the terms in our text, the Hyperist creates a born again child of God, one who belongs to God, but who has not heard, believed, nor understood. Such a view dilutes what it means to "belong to God." To exclude "hearing," and "believing," and "understanding," from what it means to "belong to" God (or the devil, for that matter) is to make it mean nothing concrete or substantial.

Ironically, I think the words of Christ actually destroy Hyperism and what Cheung affirms. His analysis makes it possible to have a person who belongs to God (a completed fact or action) and who has not yet heard, learned, believed, nor understood! Christ affirmed, in this passage, that such a case is an impossibility.

On this verse John Gill wrote:

"ye therefore hear [them] not, because ye are not of God; because God was not their Father, or they were not born of him, as they boasted; therefore they had not eyes to see, nor ears to hear, nor hearts to understand: and it may as fairly be inferred, that because they did not hear the words of God, therefore they were not of God; for these two necessarily imply each other." (Commentary)

But, the view of the Hypers, like Cheung, affirms that they do not imply each other, affirming that one can "belong to" God and not have "heard" and "believed," or that one can "hear" and "believe" and yet not belong to God.

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