LOOKING TO PRAISE AND WORSHIP JESUS THE CHRIST, THE SON OF THE LIVING GOD. 18 No man has ever seen God at any time; the only unique Son, or the only begotten God, Who is in the bosom [in the intimate presence] of the Father, He has declared Him [He has revealed Him and brought Him out where He can be seen; He has interpreted Him and He has made Him known].

Friday, June 15, 2007

The Potter's Freedom



Actually, the title of my post is the title of a book I’m “reading.” I put that in quotes because I tend to read a few books at the same time, so they all suffer together from lack of attention. Misery loves company, and my books are no exception.

At any rate, this book qualifies itself as “a defense of the Reformation and a rebuttal of Norman Geisler’s Chosen But Free." Written by James R. White, The Potter’s Freedom was given to me as a gift, and I respect the person who gave it to me, so I wanted to give it a fair read.

Although the majority of the book strikes me as a good defense for Reformed theology alongside frustrating passages of Geisler’s work, there are some real gems that have resided in my grey matter over the past few weeks ever since I cracked open the first page.

Early on, White builds a case for the vital issue of God’s complete and absolute sovereignty. To do so, he cites three Scriptural examples back-to-back to structure his argument, and there’s much to this approach. See if you agree.

He writes:
“While many are content to allow God to control the ‘big things’ like hurricanes and the natural realm, it is the assertion that God’s freedom extends to the actions of men, even to their choices, that meets with immediate rejection.”

Did you catch that? He’s saying that God controls the choices of men, and therewith he begins with three Scriptural witnesses to testify to same.

He begins with Isaiah 10:5-7:

“Ah, Assyria, the rod of my anger; the staff in their hands is my fury! Against a godless nation I send him, and against the people of my wrath I command him, to take spoil and seize plunder, and to tread them down like the mire of the streets. But he does not so intend, and his heart does not so think; but it is in his heart to destroy, and to cut off nations not a few;”

White notes the revelation that God Himself is sending Assyria (“the rod of my anger”) against His people Israel (a “godless nation”), adding that Assyria is not a willing party to the punishment of Israel. Assyria does not intend to be involved in the doing of God’s work, but instead “it is in his heart to destroy, and to cut off nations not a few.”

God says He is using Assyria, but will likewise will punish them for their intentions. As written in Isaiah 10:12: “When the Lord has finished all his work on Mount Zion and on Jerusalem, he will punish the speech of the arrogant heart of the king of Assyria and the boastful look in his eyes.”

White’s point is that God is perfectly just to judge on the basis of Assyria’s sinful intentions, as it acts in accordance with its own desires, while fulfilling God’s own decree.

Here’s where it gets good:

White likens the example of such providential acts to Joseph, who was sold into slavery at the hands of his own brothers and who recognized the providence of God in it all.

“But Joseph said to them, ‘Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones. Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.”
(Genesis 50:19-21)

While clearly recognizing the ill intent of his brothers, Joseph saw the over-riding hand of God in the same event for the purpose of bringing good.

White writes:

“One might ask, ‘But, if God decreed that this event would take place, how can He still hold Joseph’s brothers personally accountable for their actions?’ Even if we did not have an answer to this question, it would not matter: God makes it clear that He does hold men accountable. But it is clear that they are judged on the basis of the intention of their hearts. We dare not think that Joseph’s brothers were forced against the desires of their hearts to commit the evil of selling their brother into slavery. They desired to do this: indeed, if God had not intervened it is sure they would have killed him outright, so great was their hatred toward their brother. But God preserved Joseph’s life, and sent him to Egypt to preserve life and accomplish His will.”

And here’s the crescendo:

“But by far the greatest example of this is found in the pinnacle of God’s work of redemption, the cross of Jesus Christ. Surely no one can suggest that the cross was an after-thought, a desperate attempt to ‘fix’ things after all had gone awry. Jesus taught His disciples that it was necessary that He go to Jerusalem and die. (Mark 8:31, Luke 9:22).”

White cites Acts 4:27-30 to demonstrate how the early church had the proper understanding of God’s absolute sovereignty by decree alongside the evil of men as they nailed Jesus to the cross.

“The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed'-- for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place."
(Acts 4:26-28)

I have heard it said that it was a good thing that the Jews killed Jesus because had they accepted Him at that time, the kingdom would have come then and none of us living today would have seen the light of day or had a chance at salvation, but that thinking puts God’s sovereign decree subject to man’s will.

Contrary to this fleshly thinking is Scriptural witness that Jesus had to come to earth to die – by God’s decree. God’s hand had predestined Christ’s murder.

Wow.

I know. Not really a profound exclamation – but it leaves me in awe. Speechless. It’s so far beyond my comprehension. I mean, that’s amazing grace, to say the very least.

“No human being had the power to raise a hand against the Savior unless God so determined,” writes White. “But again, is it not true that what Herod and Pilate and the Jews and the Romans did was evil? Most assuredly. … Yet, what they did was predestined by God, and that to His glory.”

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11 Comments:

Blogger mark pierson said...

Yes! This is great! I love it!

June 15, 2007 10:30 AM

 
Blogger Susan said...

I was talking with my pastor's wife yesterday about this Free Grace discussion on the blog. She noted that it's not such "amazing" grace if anyone can just "accept" Jesus as readily as a toy in a happy meal. Those weren't her exact words, but the idea was the same.
How arrogant of man to say that he "accepts" Jesus.
Puh!

June 15, 2007 11:47 AM

 
Blogger Craver Vii said...

Right-on, Sister. The Creator’s predestination and His creation’s culpability… Not either/or, but both/and.

Also, "How arrogant of man to say that he "accepts" Jesus."

And the hits just keep on coming! :-)

June 15, 2007 2:26 PM

 
Blogger Rose~ said...

Susan,
I prefer the word "receive" when talking about a sinner's response to Jesus. "Accept" isn't the best word, you're right.

11He came to His own, and those who were His own did not *receive* Him. 12But as many as *received* Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name,
13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1)

June 15, 2007 2:57 PM

 
Blogger Craver Vii said...

Rose, I also prefer the word "receive." This word carries with it the special welcome given and honor bestowed when "receiving" someone into your home.

June 15, 2007 3:44 PM

 
Blogger jazzycat said...

Susan,
Everything man has comes from God. One way or another salvation is from the Lord. You can believe the Biblical teaching of divine intervention by the Holy Spirit or you can believe you used your free will. Oh, BTW, your free will came from God. You must at the end of the day point to the potter and Him alone for your salvation.

June 15, 2007 10:37 PM

 
Blogger Scribe said...

I like the term "freed-will" as we (believers) were once slaves to sin...

June 16, 2007 12:16 AM

 
Anonymous bobby grow said...

What are decrees, and where are they defined in the Bible?

I don't understand why it cheapens God's grace if every man could potentially "respond" to His offer of salvation. It, in my view, doesn't cheapen it anymore than eating the forbidden fruit from the tree in Genesis. Unless you want to say that God decreed (however decrees are defined) the Fall/sin, but then how do you distance God from that causally?

June 16, 2007 4:10 PM

 
Blogger mark pierson said...

Bobby,what is your view on man's ability to respond, he being a sin loving, God hating brute, led about by the spirit that now works in the children of disobedience?

June 16, 2007 10:57 PM

 
Anonymous bobby grow said...

Mark,

that because man love's self he will only choose self until God's superabundant love is shed abroad in his heart; rather Augustinian, but only in a partial way.

Actually I am going to be on the road back to Washington from parents in California . . . so I won't be able to interact for the next couple of days; see you then.

June 17, 2007 12:10 AM

 
Blogger mark pierson said...

May the Lord's traveling mercies be with you, my friend and brother.

June 17, 2007 10:16 PM

 

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