Nov 20, 2010

Debate Review 2

2nd Night's Questions to Bruce Reeves

1. Why did God choose Naaman, the Syrian leper, for healing, while not choosing other lepers in Israel or Syria?

2. If one does not become elect till obeying the gospel (thus indicating that all are not chosen at the same time), how do you reconcile this with scripture that indicates all were chosen together? (Eph. 1: 3,4; I Thess. 2: 13; etc.)

3. If a bible writer wanted to express, in writing, individual election, how would he write it?

4. Since Abraham was chosen by God before the corporate entity of Israel was in existence, what corporate group did he become part of that made him an elect one?

5. Was Paul chosen by God for salvation before his conversion?

Why did God choose Naaman?

I had introduced the case of Naaman early in the debate and cited the words of Christ from Luke 4: 25-29.

"But I tell you of a truth, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elias, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when great famine was throughout all the land; But unto none of them was Elias sent, save unto Sarepta, a city of Sidon, unto a woman that was a widow. And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Eliseus the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, saving Naaman the Syrian. And all they in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, And rose up, and thrust him out of the city, and led him unto the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might cast him down headlong."

So, why did God choose Naaman, the Syrian leper, for healing, while not choosing other lepers in Israel or Syria?

My opponent would not tell us. I showed how God made a sovereign choice, among all the lepers and starving widows, to save one leper and one widow. I showed how this choice was sovereign and purely gracious. I affirmed that it was a type or illustration of salvation from the leprosy of sin. My opponent's first response was to say that it was an invalid type of salvation and that I had no authority for making it a type of salvation. This opposition and reluctance to admit its typical significance was telling. It showed how he believed that the story of Naaman and the widow, if applied to salvation, would contradict his doctrine, and admit the truthfulness of my position, the Calvinistic one.

When I returned comment to him on this matter I observed an inconsistency and a bit of irony in his affirming that the case of Naaman could be no type of how God operates in the sphere of grace and salvation. This was because nearly every Campbellite Restorationist debater I ever heard was very fond of using the case of Naaman as an illustration of salvation! They talk of Naaman as being "saved" because he obeyed by dipping seven times in the river Jordan and this was the way it is in Christian regeneration. But now, ironically, Bruce Reeves is saying I can't use it as an illustration of God's operations of grace! Consistency thou art a jewel.

In Bruce's follow up to the above rebuttal comments of mine, Bruce reluctantly admitted that it could be a type of salvation and even later began to use it like his Restorationists forefathers!

But, regardless of what Naaman may later do to obtain his cleansing/healing/salvation, God's choice of him alone for healing demonstrated that God's favor towards him was unconditional. Others were passed by, not chosen for healing and deliverance from physical death (famine).

Chosen At The Same Time?

The second question concerned my assertion that all the elect, as individuals, were chosen at the same time, "before the foundation of the world." All their names were written in the Lamb's book of life "from the foundation of the world." Yet, the corporate election view of my opponent would have people being chosen at different times, their names being written in the book of life at different times, and would be against the scriptures I cited. Bruce denied that all the elect ones were chosen before the world began, that their names were all written down at once, in past eternity.

If a bible writer wanted to express, in writing, individual election, how would he write it?

My opponent was like a weasel in response to this simple third question. He at first insinuated that my question was equivalent to asking him if one could add words to the scriptures. Whether this was intentional, or done in ignorance, is up to the audience to determine. But, my question was simple. If one wanted to teach an individual election, how would he write that in a sentence? Bruce said he did not know how! I contend that any English sentence that he wrote in order to affirm individual election would not be all that different from how it is written in scripture.

Since Abraham was chosen by God before the corporate entity of Israel was in existence, what corporate group did he become part of that made him an elect one?

Bruce responded to this question by stating that, according to Matt. 8: 11, the corporate entity was the "kingdom of God." I contended that Abraham's enjoyment of the kingdom of God was yet future in Abraham's day and could not have been the corporate entity. My point was to show that Abraham was individually and personally chosen by God and yet this was not because Abraham had joined some corporate group. His election and calling did put him into a class, of course, but his individual election came before his being made part of a class. Israel, as a corporate group, did not yet exist, so Abraham could not have been incorporated into that entity. I believe the case of Abraham demonstrated individual election to salvation and against the rigid corporate view of my opponent.

Was Paul chosen by God for salvation before his conversion?

Bruce said no. Paul was chosen to be an apostle, according to Bruce, before he was saved, but he was not chosen to salvation before he was saved. The two passages dealing with this directly are Acts 9: 15 and Acts 22: 14.

"But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel." (Acts 9: 15)

"And he said, The God of our fathers hath chosen thee, that thou shouldest know his will, and see that Just One, and shouldest hear the voice of his mouth." (22: 14)

It is possible to limit the Lord's choice of Saul (Paul) to his choice of Paul to be an apostle and preacher of the gospel, for the text says " bear my name..." But, it is not possible to limit the object of the choice to that of being an evangelist, based upon the latter verse in Acts. There are three things that the latter verse indicates that Paul was chosen to. In fact, in both verses Paul is said to be "chosen to." In the first verse he is "chosen to bear my name." In the latter verse he is "chosen to" 1) "know his will," 2) "see that Just One," and 3) "hear the voice of his mouth."

I argued that such descriptions of the thing being chosen "to" shows that it is not limited to being chosen to the apostleship. To know God's will is to know God, and Paul was chosen to know God and his will, and this is salvation. To "see that Just One" was also a description of the salvation experience. Jesus said:

"And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day." (John 6: 40)

Also, "to hear his voice" is also connected with salvation. Jesus said:

"My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me." (John 10: 27)

So, even though my opponent said that Paul was not chosen to salvation before he experienced salvation, he was shown to be against scripture. Also, it is interesting how Jesus called Paul a chosen "vessel." Is this not the term Paul uses in Romans? He there speaks of "vessels," some destined to receive grace and glory, and some destined to receice wrath. In Romans 9 Paul uses "chosen vessels" in the context of personal salvation, not in the context of apostleship.


The Seeking Disciple said...

How do you know you are chosen Stephen? Is it possible that you are not really part of the elect?

Stephen Garrett said...

Dear Seeking:

This same question was asked by Bruce Reeves to me. I stated to him what I state to you now. I know it for the same reason Paul knew it of the Thessalonians. See I Thess. 1: 4, 5. I know I am elect because the word of God has come to me as it did to them.

Interesting also is the fact that our discussion on Peter's statement to "make your election sure," in II Peter 1: 10, went against the corporate view of election espoused by Reeves. According to Reeves, becoming elect occurred when one entered the body of Christ, so, to make one's election sure would be equivalent to Peter saying "make sure you are in the body of Christ" to people who are already in the body!

It is not possible that I am not of the elect, for God's word is true, which says that all who receive God's word are the elect.

Thanks for your comment,



The Seeking Disciple said...

But what of those who receive God's Word then reject it (John 5:40; Hebrews 2:1-4; 6:4-20; 10:19-39; 2 Peter 2:1-22)? I know that the Calvinist answer is that they were never saved to begin with but this is possible of you too since its possible that you are not truly saved apart from perseverance in faith.

I think its reasonable for Peter's statement in 2 Peter 1:10 to be to individuals and that we can tie this with passages such as Acts 14:22-23 or Romans 11:20-22 or 1 Corinthians 15:1-2 or 2 Corinthians 1:24 or John 8:51. If we persevere in faith, we are part of God's elect and need not fear (Romans 8:38-39) but we must hold firmly to Christ to be saved and to remain saved (Jude 21, 24-25).

I am enjoying your posts thought reviewing the debate. I would love to see Reeve's replies to these posts if he is reading them.

Stephen Garrett said...

Dear Seeking:

Those who initially accept the word of the gospel and then later deny it, and die in that condition, show that they are "shallow ground" hearers of the word and were never truly saved. The scriptures abound in clear-cut statements that affirm this. "Whosoever is born of God overcomes..." (I John 5: 4) If one does not overcome, he shows that he was never born of God.

I have never said that God's people are saved apart from perseverance, but have shown, in previous debates, that perseverance is a guaranteed result of election, a gift of God. "Whoever is born of God overcomes (perseveres)."

Thanks for your comments. I don't know if Bruce has read any of my reviews yet. But, I just got an email from him about our scheduled debate for next year regarding eternal security, so I will tell him about my review. I do know that he has been reading my blog in the past. Hopefully the debate will be on line soon and you can listen to it if you are interested.

Blessings, as always,


FolloweroftheLamb said...

Have you read all of the points? Can one who has union with Christ not know it? John 15. Farmer,---> vine--->branches--->fruit. Fruit is the visible proof. It is NOT man-made.

FolloweroftheLamb said...

"And this is life eternal that they might know thee the only true God and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent. John 17:3. This sounds like the same thing as Acts 22:14 to me.