Saturday, July 7, 2012

Infant Baptism

I can't say that I have ever truly understood the reasoning behind infant baptism within the Protestant tradition. Infant baptism in Catholicism makes sense, since that's just one of many good things that you can do to get grace and work your way toward heaven. But from the Christian standpoint that we are not saved by being born into a Christian household, that we do not “get more grace” because of baptism or any other sacrament, and that baptism is symbolic of salvation (being buried with Christ and rising again), infant baptism does not follow.

Three Symbols: Dedication, Infant Baptism, Believers-Baptism

Now, I believe in infant dedication. Often, parents will, in front of their local congregation, dedicate their child to the Lord. This seems awesome. But this is also a different symbolism than the symbolism of baptism and salvation. You see, all unbelieving children of Christians can be dedicated to God, and only the ones who eventually (by their admission anyway) come to faith in Christ and are born again will be baptized. The two symbols are complementary, not competitive.

Christians who follow the tradition of infant baptism will sometimes say that baptism is not symbolic of salvation, but symbolic of being in a covenant relationship with God (which unbelieving children are also in). Well, then, we have two baptisms – each is representative of a different thing. That leaves two possibilities: Either the two baptisms can be complimentary (one symbolizing the covenant relationship, and one symbolizing salvation/rebirth) OR Only of the ideas of what baptism represents is correct.

I reject the first hypothesis, that the two baptisms can be complimentary, because we read in the Scriptures:

“There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” Eph 4:4-6

So then, either believers-baptism is correct, or else infant baptism is correct.

The Mystery of Reformed Infant Baptism

With the Reformed point of view, infant baptism makes even less sense. You see, in a non-Calvinist sense of Covenental Theology, it may be believed that the children of believers are loved by God (who desires their salvation), and given extra grace, which makes their salvation more likely. But in Calvinism, you are either elect or you're not. You either are given so much grace that you cannot resist salvation, or so little grace that you cannot possibly repent. Therefore, the children of believers are in the same boat, the same situation, as any other non-believer: no one knows whether they are “elect” or “non-elect” until they come to faith (elect) or die unrepentant (non-elect). No one knows if God loves them, or will give them enough grace, until one of those two things happens.

The only favor God could show to the children of believers, in this worldview, is that He could save a higher percentage of the children of believers than of the world at large. Maybe in the world at large, He saves 1 out of every 25 people, but He also saves 1 out of every 5 children of believers. But this is just speculation, not a promise or covenant. So the baptism could not possibly symbolize this
extra favor” of higher percentage salvation which is not promised in the Bible. Therefore, in reformed tradition, this infant baptism can only symbolize a “Covenental relationship” in which God promises to save all of those He unconditionally elects, regenerates, and causes to have faith. But that covenant applies to the whole world. Why not baptize the world??

Which Baptism is Correct?

Well, who am I to say? I believe that Believer's baptism, which is symbolic of repentance, indwelling of the Holy Spirit, faith, salvation, having sins washed away, and dying with Christ and being raised again(death of the “old man” and regeneration), is correct. But this belief is only justified if that's what the Bible teaches is the true symbolism of Baptism:

Symbolisms mentioned: Repentance, indwelling of the Holy Spirit
“I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” Mt 3:11

[ONE EXCEPTION: Jesus needed no repentance, but was baptized anyway by John]

Symbolisms mentioned: Indwelling of the Holy Spirit
“I indeed baptized you with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” Mk 1:8

Symbolisms mentioned: Faith, Salvation
“He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.” Mk 16:16

Symbolisms mentioned: Faith, Salvation
“Then those who gladly received his word were baptized...” Acts 2:41

Symbolisms mentioned: Dying with Christ and being raised again(death of the “old man” and regeneration)
“Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? 3 Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” Rom 6:2-4

Symbolism mentioned: Sins being Washed Away
“And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” Acts 22:16

So, with the exception of Christ's Baptism, all of the symbolism associated with Baptism is associated with realities accompanying salvation: repentance, faith, sins washed away, salvation, being indwelt with the Holy Spirit, and dying to sin/being raised to newness of life. Not one of these is associated with the state of non-belief. Therefore, I would conclude that if there is truly only “one baptism” in Christianity, then believer's baptism must be that one, because it affirms the symbolism mentioned above in those eight verses quoted from the Scriptures.

What about households? These are also verses that refer to a whole household being Baptized:

“And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized.” Acts 16:33

Well, the verse does not say whether everyone in his family believed or not. Based on the symbolism listed previously, I would say that baptism is reserved for believers, and would conclude that all of his family believed. Another verse about a (separate) entire household is consistent with my conclusion, because it spells out that the entire household believed:

“Then Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his household. And many of the Corinthians, hearing, believed and were baptized.” Acts 18:8

Therefore, it seems clear that Biblical Baptism is symbolic of repentance, faith, sins washed away, salvation, being indwelt with the Holy Spirit, and dying to sin/being raised to newness of life, not of some other coventantal relationship that does not include these elements.  Given that understanding, only those who profess repentance and faith should be allowed to be baptized, just like only professing believers should be allowed to participate in the Lord's Supper/Breaking of Bread.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Unlimited Atonement

The Calvinist says that Jesus died only for some, the Arminian says that Jesus died for all. It's a very short summary of both positions, and such a short summary often leads to misunderstandings about the full meaning. Spelled out a little more clearly, the Arminian position can be summed up this way:

Every drop of Jesus' blood fully fulfilled both of Christ's atonement goals: to provide salvation for all, and to procure salvation for the elect.

This is very important, because it dispels many of myths believed about the doctrine of Unlimited Atonement. The statement above refers to a combination of three specific beliefs:

    (1) Every drop of Jesus' blood fully fulfilled both of Christ's atonement goals:
    (2) to provide salvation for all, and
    (3) to procure salvation for the elect.

Whose sin was covered by Christ? Only the elect. Those to whom the blood of Christ is applied are those who are saved. Only the elect receive the salvific benefits of the atonement. In this manner, it can be said that Arminians also limit the extent of the atonement:

A - Christ limits the provision of salvation to only provide for those in the human race,
B - and He limits the application of salvation to only cover those who are the elect, those who believe.

In that sense, then, to sum up the doctrine as “unlimited atonement” is also a language shortcut that leads to misunderstandings.

Permit me to offer an analogy to make the Arminian concept of the atonement clear:

“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life." John 3:14

The serpent, being lifted up, provided a way of healing for all who were bitten. It was sufficient for the healing of all of them. However, not all of them received the benefit of that offer. Only those who looked upon the serpent were healed. The serpent was sufficient for the healing of all, but only efficacious for the healing of those who looking upon it. The serpent was lifted up for all those who were suffering from snake bites, but only those who looked on it were granted the healing offered by the Lord.

To summarize, this is the difference between the Calvinist and Arminian understanding of the intent and scope of the atonement:

Calvinist: The atonement procures salvation only for the elect.
Arminian: The atonement procures salvation only for the elect, and also provides salvation for everyone.

So now that I've laid out a clear statement of the Arminian position, let's look at some of the misunderstandings that I have heard about this view:

The Claim: #1 Arminians limit the power of the atonement

Now, obviously, a mere moral cannot limit God's power. What the Calvinist means by this statement is that the Arminian view paints the atonement as less powerful than it actually is.

I will give two reasons why this idea is false. The first reason is that the Arminian claims not that the atonement did less, but that the atonement did more. As you may recall, the Arminian believes that Jesus' death accomplished both (A) the provision of salvation to all and (B) the application of salvation to the elect (believers). The Calvinist only belives that Christ's death accomplished (A) and not (B).

The second reason is that only God can limit Himself; there are no external limitations. Any limitations on salvation are placed by God Himself. The Arminian claims that the atonement accomplished the intent of the atonement. Christ wanted to provide salvation for all, and He achieved that. Christ wanted to procure salvation for the elect, and He accomplished that. Where is the limit of power? God demonstrated the power to achieve all of His objectives here.

The Claim: #2 In Arminianism, in fact, the atonement is potential, but made actual when one believes.

If you remember point (1) from the beginning of this blog, you will recall that the Arminian belief is that “Every drop of Jesus' blood fully fulfilled both of Christ's atonement goals.” There is nothing potential about “fully fulfilled.” When Christ died on the cross, His blood actually covered the sins of past, present, and future believers. His covering of our (us Christians) sins was actual before we believed.

Looking at point (2) next: Christ intended to provide salvation for all, and He DID actually provide salvation for all. Intent accomplished.

Look at (3) now: He intended to save the elect (those who believe) and He DID actually save the elect. Intent accomplished.

You might begin to see a pattern. The pattern is that every intent of Christ was accomplished. This is why Jesus cried out “It is finished!” Which means, it was accomplished.

There is nothing potential here. Both intents were ACTUALLY (and not potentially) fulfilled.

The Claim: #3 In Arminanism, the blood of Christ doesn't actually cover the sins of anyone.

This is an obviously false claim. All Arminians believe that they are going to heaven, they believe on Christ as Savior, and they believe that His blood actually covers their sin; that's how they believe they will avoid hell. See point (3), “to procure salvation for the elect.” The shed blood of Christ fully fulfilled this intention, and when Jesus died, His blood covered the sins of the elect.

So, given that we claim that Christ's blood actually covered the sins of the elect, it would be impossible for us to also believe that Christ's blood didn't actually cover the sin of anyone. This is the point of agreement between the Arminian and the Calvinist: That when Christ died, His atonement covered the sins of, and procured salvation for, the elect (believers).

The Claim: #4 If Jesus died for all, and it's not just potential, then you are left with universalism.

To say that “Jesus died for all,” in this case is confusing, because it does not specific whether the writer is speaking of Christ's providing salvation or procuring salvation. We will look at the statement using both possible meanings:

“If Jesus died to provide (but not procure) salvation for all, and it's not just potential, then you are left with universalism.”

You can see why this is false. If Jesus died to provide salvation for all, and it's not potential, then it means that all were actually provided for, not that all were saved. Salvation, in this case, was not procured for all.

“If Jesus died to procure salvation for all, and it's not just potential, then you are left with universalism.”

That would be true. But we don't believe that Jesus died to procure salvation for all. He wanted to procure salvation only for the elect. His atonement only covers the sins of the elect. Therefore, it's not universalism.

The Claim: #5 In Arminanism, some of Jesus' blood was wasted

A calvinist told me that according to my beliefs, " some blood is wasted because the blood that is provided for all, does not actually save all."

However, it's not like some blood was put toward providing salvation for all, and a different portion of blood was put toward procuring salvation for the elect. Each drop of blood (see point 1) was accomplishing both purposes. Every drop of blood actually covers the sin of the elect. How is that a waste? It's not. Every drop of blood, in addition to covering the sins of the elect, gives the provision of salvation to everyone in the world. Does accomplishing more make it a waste somehow? Certainly not.

Again, I would remind the reader, the Arminians believe that the atonement accomplished the same thing that the Calvinist believes: Namely, it accomplishes the salvation of the elect.

This is not a waste. The Arminian also believes that, in addition to that intent, the atonement provided salvation for all men:

“This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe.” (John 1:7)

“For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves...” (2 Corinthians 5:14-15)

“For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time,” (1 Timothy 2:5-6)

“For to this end we both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe.” (1 Timothy 4:10)

“But we see Jesus, who... by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone.” (Hebrews 2:9)

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Occupy: Biblical Property Rights

In the last exciting blog post, I outlined the similarities between the Occupy Movement and the Communist agenda, which (in the words of Karl Marx) boil down to this: “The abolition of private property.” At the end of that post, I posed the following questions for further investigation:

Is private property really a right?

Why would we think that the abolition of private property is a bad thing?

What does the Bible say about the Christian view of property rights and charity?

Is private property really a right?

“No one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions(property).” - John Locke

“The right to private property meant at the same time the right and duty to be personally concerned about your own well-being, to be personally concerned about your family's income, to be personally concerned about your future. This is hard work.” ~Mikhail Khodorkovsky

From this and other writings, Thomas Jefferson wrote:

We hold these truths to be self–evident,

That all men are created equal,

That they are endowed by their Creator

with certain unalienable Rights,

That among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men,

Deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

“Property must be secured or liberty cannot exist.” ~John Adams

“The dichotomy between personal liberties and property rights is a false one. Property does not have rights. People have rights.” ~Potter Stewart

All rights come from God. They do not come from the government (though if they did, then all government-sanctioned slavery or genocide is morally acceptable), and rights do not come from the majority (though if they did, then any minorities which the majority see as having less rights really DO have less rights). America is founded upon the idea that all unalienable rights come from God – and only God can revoke those rights. Any government which tries to tread on those rights is acting wrongfully.

Locke spoke of the rights of life, liberty, and property. To gain property is seen as being personally concerned about one's future, and so Jefferson penned the famous line about our rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Property rights are a subset of personal rights, since the right to private property means to be personally concerned with your future and your families well being through hard work.

Yet, those are all just ideas and claims. To verify the claim that property rights come from God, we will later in this look at what the Bible says specifically about private property rights.

Why would we think that the abolition of private property

is a bad thing?

There would be several reasons.

#1 - There would be disincentive to work. “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.” (Galatians 6:7)

#2 - A socialist economic system has been shown again and again to result in increasing poverty for the whole country.

“'Who were the first Communists?' asked a farmer named Aristar.

'You tell us,' said the rest of the ward.

'Adam and Eve,' came the reply. 'And why? Because they had no clothes, no house, they had to share the same apple — and still thought they were in paradise!'” - Richard Wurmbrand (a pastor who was imprisoned in Communist Romania for 14 years)

#3 - Personal inability to provide for self, family, or tithe. “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” (1 Timothy 5:8)

#4 – Such a system would attempt to justify forcible taking of property from those who had done nothing wrong to deserve it.

#5 – Such a system would also give more power to government than is rightfully within the role of the government, and would take away the liberty of everyone in the country under that government.

The Christian view of property rights and charity (according to Karl Marx)

It's interested to note that Karl Marx addressed the same question of whether the abolition of private property was just or in line with Scriptural/Religious principles:

“The charges against Communism made from a religious, a philosophical and, generally, from an ideological standpoint, are not deserving of serious examination.”

“(The opponents will say:) 'There are, besides, eternal truths, such as Freedom, Justice, etc., that are common to all states of society. But Communism abolishes eternal truths, it abolishes all religion, and all morality, instead of constituting them on a new basis; it therefore acts in contradiction to all past historical experience.'

...Whatever form they may have taken, one fact is common to all past ages, viz., the exploitation of one part of society by the other. No wonder, then, that the social consciousness of past ages, despite all the multiplicity and variety it displays, moves within certain common forms, or general ideas [the aforementioned religion, freedom, justice,etc], which cannot completely vanish except with the total disappearance of class antagonisms.”

Karl Marx, then, did believe that the abolition of private property went against religious principles, and put forward the idea that religious principles (along with freedom and justice) were relics of unfair civilizations and needed to be thrown out along with those structures of civilization. But let's look at what the word of God says, because God's law has the highest authority, and God's law judges human law - not the other way around.

What does the Bible say about the Christian view of property rights and charity?

What is a right? Basically, a human right is some part of a person's existence that God forbids other people to threaten without just cause.

For instance, humans have the right to life: “You shall not murder.” (Exodus 20:13) Therefore, no one is allowed to take away the life of another human, except with just cause: “Whoever sheds man’s blood, By man his blood shall be shed.”(Genesis 9:6)

Additionally, humans have the right to personal property: God also forbids people from taking another person's property without just cause.

“The right to personal property is embraced within the command -"Thou shall not steal." Certainly nothing could be stolen if it did not belong to someone. In other words, if a right to something did not exist there could be no theft. God thus recognized the right of property by preserving and protecting that right with a law, a law that forbids any one else from taking possession of what another owns. Thus, the right to property has always been regarded as a natural and inalienable right, for it comes from God.” - Charles A. Weisman

Biblical laws and principles regarding taking property from another without just cause:

#1 – Stealing is forbidden (Exod. 20:15; Lev. 19:11, 13; Psa. 62:10; Prov. 21:7; Amos 3:10; Deut 5:19; Matt. 19:18; Mark 10: 19; Luke 18:20; Rom. 13:9; 1 Cor. 6:10; 1 Pet 4:15.)

#2 - Theft from the poor is especially wrong. (Proverbs 22:22)

#3 - If one strikes a thief, who is breaking into a building, and that thief dies, it does not qualify as murder. (Exodus 22:2)

#4 - We are exhorted to stop theft in the land by having a thief labor with his hands. (Ephesians 4:28)

Not even kings are above this law – King Ahab killed Nabaoth in order to take forcible possession of his vineyard, and the prophet of God reproaches him two-fold: “Thus saith the LORD, Hast thou killed, and also taken possession?” The wrongs listed include murder and violating the right of private property.

What would be just cause for taking someone's property?

#1 – Under the Old Testament judges, one who has stolen property is to repay double to the owner. (Exodus 22:7-9)

#2 – Under Old Testament Kings, one who steals due to hunger should not be despised, but must later pay back sevenfold when he can afford it. (Proverbs 6:30)

In the Old Testament, there were many passages dedicated to specific property rights and designated territories for each of the tribes of Israel (see

In the New Testament, we read about private property rights very specifically – for both land and money:

Acts 5:4 “While [your land] remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control?”

And Christ said specifically, in His parable: “Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things?” (Mt. 20:15)

Finally, there are many commands that cannot be obeyed without having private property:

  • Give Tithe to the House of the Lord (from your own resources): “Bring your sacrifices every morning, Your tithes every three days.” (Amos 4:4)
  • Work to provide goods for your own household: “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” (1 Timothy 5:8)
  • Give from your own property to benefit the poor:"A generous man will himself be blessed, for he shares his food with the poor." (Proverbs 22:9) "Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys." (Luke 12:33)
  • Reward men individually according to their labor: “For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.”(2 Thessalonians 3:10) “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.” (Galatians 6:7)

What about Biblical Communism?

Acts 2:45-47
“Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.

So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.”

This form of “communism” involved the voluntary giving of private property – the principle of sowing and reaping was still the form of income, each man was providing for his family, and also voluntarily giving to provide for the poor. This upheld the rights of private property because all giving was voluntary and charitable, not forced, which is what charity is:

“But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver'” (2 Corinthians 9:6-7)


Charles A. Weisman,

New King James Version (for all Scripture quoted)

Occupy: Communism

The occupy movement has been a major social event recently, and it is mainly comprised of Americans who have come face-to-face with hardship as a result of the current economic and political problems in America. The recession began at the end 2007, precipitated by the housing crisis in which many Americans lost their homes, yet after it ended in May of 2009, unemployment continued to rise. At the end of the recession, the percentage of working-age Americans without employment was at about 34% and by mid-2011 it was up to 36%. That means that after Obama had been in office for almost three years, there were 1,900,000 fewer jobs. And the states hit hardest by the recession received the least amount of stimulus money. Obviously, this leaves many Americans in hardship and frustration, and we have heard the voice of some of these people through the Occupy movement.

The Occupy moment, though, does not just outline the problem, it also seeks to outline a solution. While I agree with the Occupy folks that there is a *serious* problem that we as a country face, I'd say that their proposed solutions are built on shaky ground. The Occupy movement is scattered enough that it can be hard to say what their proposed solutions are, but here are some of the more prominent ones:

#1: ALL PRIVATE MONEY OUT OF POLITICS: a full overhaul of the electoral system/ a reduction in the influence of corporations on politics1


#3: REDISTRIBUTION OF WEALTH (more equal distribution of income): “take 95% of the private and corporate wealth over, say, 1 million dollars net worth and/or income, and use it to fund fair-waged jobs”3

#4: BANKING AND SECURITY REFORM (and forgiveness of student loan debt)4

Communism and Private Property Rights

Now before we look at these in more detail, lets take a step back and look at the bigger picture. In the title of this blog post, I brought up the topic of communism; from my point of view, the Occupy movement definitely resembles some Communist-style proposed solutions to the economic problems facing us. Karl Marx wrote about the 10 pillars of Communism in his book The Communist-Manifesto, and here I will list some of the ones that are already in effect (bold) or being requested by the Occupy movement (italicized):

1. Abolition of private property and the application of all rents of land to public purposes.

2. A heavy progressive or graduated income tax.

3. Abolition of all rights of inheritance (Partly in effect: The death tax)

5. Centralization of credit in the hands of the state, by means of a national bank with State capital and an exclusive monopoly. (i.e. The Federal Reserve)

6. Centralization of the means of communications and transportation in the hands of the State. (State-controlled driver licensing, registration, highway speed control, etc)

8. Equal liability of all to labor.

10. Free education for all children in public schools. Abolition of children's factory labor in its present form. 5

“Of course, in the beginning this cannot be effected except by means of despotic inroads on the rights of property and on the conditions of [production.]” -Karl Marx

“...the theory of the Communist may be summed up in the single sentence: Abolition of private property.” -Karl Marx5

So what's the big deal about private property? The main difference between a free country (capitalist) and a communist country is that in a free country, you reap what you sow. You keep what you built and what you earn: it's yours, and it's your own private property. In a Communist community, nothing is yours, and everything is everyone's. Economically, this model has been shown to fail again and again in both large scale and small scale practice.

Now, surely people would object to all of their property being taken away, one might think. How did Marx talk them into it? Well, he spoke mainly of taking away the property of the “bourgeois” (i.e. the middle class. Those who own property. Rich people. Owners of companies even.) The first chapter of his book speaks of all the evil of these people,

“In one word, for exploitation, veiled by religious and political illusions, it has substituted naked, shameless, brutal exploitation... The [middle class] has torn away from the family its sentimental veil, and has reduced the family relation to a mere money relation.” - Karl Marx

This reminds me of the Declaration of the Occupation of New York City:

“We come to you at a time when corporations, which place profit over people, self-interest over justice, and oppression over equality, run our governments.”6

Marx's solution was to make “despotic inroads on the rights of property,” and what do the Occupy people have to say about private property? Well let's look at their name first. Occupy. Where did they come from? Well, the people in this movement stay and camp out on property which is not for camping or residential (living) use, and disobey trespassing laws. They Occupy property. That's interesting. What's also interesting is how many of their goals have to do with private property. Look at them one at a time.

Occupy and Private Property Rights


“Therefore, the 99% of the American People demand an immediate ban on all direct and indirect private contributions of anything of value, to all politicians serving in or running for federal office in the United States.

...Therefore, all private funding of political campaigns shall be replaced by the fair, equal and TOTAL public financing of all federal political campaigns.”1

What does this have to do with property rights? First of all, you are disallowed to give your money to support the causes you want to. It's not yours to give away. But even if we accept the idea that it's wrong to give money to the political system, then how will information about candidates spread? Through public financing! Right now, I am not donating money to any political cause. If this were in effect, the government would take more of my money by force (taxation) to finance political candidates. Money is not yours to keep. Private property including everything that is yours, including your money. This Occupy request asks that the government should prohibit you from using money the way you like, and should take money that you would like to keep. In other words: The government, and not you, has ultimate rights over the usage of your property.

On a practical level: Politicians are supported by the people of the US, not only through votes in the election but only through monetary donation. Is it corruption to let the people have a say in who they want in office? And if the government were financing political campaigns, who would they choose to publicize, and who wouldn't they support? There would have to be some limit to the number of people whose campaigns they publicize, but it would be determined not by the monetary support of the people, but support from the government. No way letting government official pick new government officials could possibly go wrong...


I fully support this goal. And I think that the best way for there to be more and better jobs is for the economy to improve, and taxation to decrease, which would allow corporations to flourish and high more people and be able to pay people more.

In a free market, if two people make a trade (stuff for stuff, stuff for money, money for work), it is only because both people want to make the trade, and both profit. If the trade must be forced, it's because it's not in the best interests of one or both people.

The Occupy movements asks for higher paying jobs for lower-skill tasks, and for the government to intervene and regulate to make these jobs available. They are not requesting that the things holding back the economy be taken out of the way. They are asking for forced work-money trades. If you can be forced to trade away someone of yours, then again, you don't have authority over your private property.


“We are the 99%” One of the main mantras of the movement is that the richest 1% in America has too much money, while the rest of us has not enough. Therefore, we should take away their money and give it to everyone who needs it. When a young man in the hood doesn't have as much money as the top 1% in his city, and takes a gun and uses it to persuade a rich person to give up some of that “excess wealth” and redistribute it to a less wealthy person (himself), we call that theft. Why is it theft? Because one person used force to take property from another person who owned it.

But what if all the people from all the hoods vote, and use the sheriffs gun to forcibly take money from all the rich people in the country?

Call it theft or call it redistribution, but either way: The rich people no longer have rights over their private property. The government has rights to take their private property to give to other people. What's yours is the governments.

#4: BANKING AND SECURITY REFORM (and forgiveness of student loan debt)

“The People further demand an immediate investigation by the Justice Department into the potential criminal practices of the Securities and Banking industry that directly led to the collapse of markets, mortgage-backed securities fraud, foreclosure crisis, trillion dollar bank bail-out and firm failures in 2007-2008.

New uniform federal regulations enacted to specifically limit what banks may charge consumers for ATM fees and/or the use of debit cards and other so-called miscellaneous fees.”4

The first part I agree with. There was a lot of government corruption (mainly involving the Federal Reserve, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac) that led to a lot of risky loans being given out to people who could not afford them – with any gains going to the company, and any losses being transferred to the taxpayers through bailouts and whatnot. This system is still in operation today.

The second part tries to get government to force banks to use their personal property in specific ways (and not use their property in other ways). Again the government has rights over the people's so called “private” property.

The forgiveness of student loans? Well, if the banks want to forgive those loans out of the goodness of their heart (and to their financial detriment), then that's up to them. But for the government to force banks to forget about all that money they gave out under contract that it would be repaid - then it's the government taking control of that money, taking it from the bank, and giving it to individuals. Once again, the government ends up with usage rights of the institution's private property.


Therefore, all four of these Occupy requests end up with the government having the right to control the way you spend your money, and the right to control which money you keep, and which of your money it wants to take and give to someone else. That's kinda like when you put your money in the bank, and then you control how the bank spends that money (by writing checks and telling the bank to pay your credit cards), choose how much of your money the bank keeps there, and decide which of your money your want to take and give to someone else. In the Occupy system, then, individuals would just be like banks for the government's money and property, to be taken and used (or prohibited from use) at the government's desire.

There goes private property.

Now all I've done so far is to say that the Occupy movement is very similar to the Communist party, and both focus on government control of resources and abolition of private property. But I have not yet said that this is a bad thing. That will require another blog post!

But what if private property isn't really a right?

Why would we think that the abolition of private property is a bad thing?

What does the Bible say about the Christian view of property rights and charity?


Good Communist Occupiers:

“In short, the Communists everywhere support every revolutionary movement against the existing social and political order of things.

In all of these moments they bring, to the front, as the leading question in each, the property question, no matter what its degree of development at the time.

Finally, they labor everywhere for the union and agreement of the democratic parties of all countries.

...The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. Workingmen of all countries unite!” - Karl Marx





5: The Communist Manifesto


Thursday, April 12, 2012

John 17: Why did Jesus pray for the Elect only?

Easter was celebrated this most recent Sunday, and I love having Holidays set aside specifically to celebrate Christ's birth and Christ's resurrection: Celebrating Christ's purpose on this earth, and celebrating the completion of that purpose. Of course, we celebrate Christ's resurrection every week implicitly, but setting aside one day to focus on that one event is more than appropriate. In the Old Testament, God had His people setting aside many days a year for sacred feasting and celebration.

Leading up to Easter, I heard the reading of the full chapter of John 17, which is a record of Jesus' prayer the night before He was crucified. In this prayer, Jesus prays for His own glorification, for His disciples which the Father had given Him, and for all who would believe in Him in the future. I feel that there is no way to summarize the chapter and do it justice, so I recommend that you read the chapter itself in addition to simply reading this blog about it.

Noteworthy quotes (in order):

For Himself:

“Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You, as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him.

For His earthly disciples:

“I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours. And all Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine, and I am glorified in them.”

“But now I come to You, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves.”

“As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth.”

For all future believers:

“I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; hat they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us,”

“...that the world may believe that You sent Me.”

“Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me”

Before I move one, I just want to highlight a few notes here. Jesus prays for the Father to glorify Him, states that He is glorified through His disciples, prays for the whole world to see that God sent Him, and states that He wants those who are His specifically to behold His glory. The glorification of Christ is a main theme here, and a main request from Christ to His Father right before His own death.

Also, we see repeatedly that believers are also those whom God the Father has given to Christ – this is speaking of the past, present, and future elect – the ones who will believe in Christ, and are predestined from the foundation of the earth to be conformed into the image of Christ. I believe that God elects individuals, and elects them conditionally (upon belief). For those who would like to debate whether election is conditional or unconditional, I will save that topic for another time because it is not actually addressed in this specific passage.

Thirdly, Christ prays for His disciples in this world that they would have His joy, that they would be sanctified, and that all future believers would experience unity with the Trinity, even as He experiences it. In His prayer for the blessings of joy and sanctification to be given, Jesus explicitly excludes "the world" of nonbelievers. Later in his prayer, He specifically for the whole world in the capacity of them ultimately believing that He is from God. There is some debate as to whether He is praying for them to believe in Him as Lord (and thus repent and be saved) or referring to the end times when every knee will bow and every tongue confess - yet because they have to, and do not repent.

Now here's the question:

Why did Jesus only pray for the elect, and not for the whole world?

I've had many Calvinists argue that Jesus only died for the elect, and only loves (in the sense of desiring the well-being of) the elect. To prove it, they point to this passage and say something to the effect of:

“If Jesus died for all, He would have prayed for all. If He had desired for the world to be saved, He would have prayed for the world here. But He doesn't. He specifically excludes the world. The *only possible reason* for this is that He does not want all to be saved, and did not die for all.”

In this blog, I will address that argument. I will not be addressing other arguments, such as “If God picks people, it must be unconditional, so this passage clearly teaches unconditional election,” or “there are other passages which prove that Christ did not die for all,” or “if Jesus died for all, then He secured the salvation of no one.” I will not be addressing any of those argument in this blog. Some of these topics I have already written about in other blogs, and some I have not yet written about. But you can't tackle everything all at once – you have to address one point at a time. So the point I am addressing is the claim that the only possible reason for Jesus to pray only for the elect before He died is that He only died for the elect and did not want everyone in the world to come to repentance and be saved.

Right off the bat, let's list a few possible reasons for Jesus to only pray for the elect in that situation:

Possible reason #1 – He was not able to die for the whole world, and therefore did not pray for them, and specifically excluded them. He was able to die for the elect only, and therefore prayed for them only. Not praying for the world means that Jesus did not desire the salvation of the world.

Possible reason #2 - Christ was praying for specific blessings upon those who were His; obviously He wouldn't do X-and-such spiritually blessing to those who don't believe.

Possible reason #3 - The Lamb of God has an extra special love for those who are His, and still cares about those who He was not praying for at the time.

Possible reason #4 - Jesus was about to die, and was looking forward to the joy set before Him: His own glorification and the salvation, oneness with, and blessing upon those who would benefit from the cross: the elect, the bride of Christ.

Which of these possibilities are plausible, implausible, or supported by other Scriptures?

The first possibility seems rather doubtful in the light of some other Scriptures. I'll try not to bore you, so I'll just list a few that seem to contradict the first theory:

Does God love the world?

“For God so loved the world... For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” (John 3:16-17)

“And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world.” (1 John 4:14)

Does God want all to be saved?

“Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish” (Matthew 18:14)

“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men...” (Titus 2:11)

“For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:3-4)

Did Christ really die for all, or just the elect?

“This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe.” (John 1:7)

“For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves...” (2 Corinthians 5:14-15)

“For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time,” (1 Timothy 2:5-6)

“For to this end we both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe.” (1 Timothy 4:10)

“But we see Jesus, who... by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone.” (Hebrews 2:9)

And finally, this reason is founded upon the idea that Jesus did not pray for the world. It is certainly true that in part of the prayer He did not pray for the world. It is also true that in part of the prayer, He did pray for the world, that they would at least believe that He is from God (though repentance is not specifically mentioned):

“...that they [future believers] all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.” (John 17:21)

Now, based on those passages and many others, possible reason #1 seems rather implausible, simply because it would contradict so many other passages. And we know that God does not contradict Himself. What about the other possibilities?


John 17: Why did Jesus pray for the Elect only? Part II

Possible reason #2 - Christ was praying for specific blessings upon those who were His; obviously He wouldn't do X-and-such spiritually blessing to those who don't believe.

This actually seems pretty plausible. There any many blessings (and salvation!) that are offered only to believers. Paul, in fact, here in Ephesians, prays specifically for blessings upon believers only:

“For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Eph. 3:14-19)

Yet, this does not mean or imply that Paul did not also care about and pray for non-believers at other times:

“Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior...” (1 Tim. 2:1-3)

In His prayer for the blessings of joy and sanctification, Jesus specifically says that He is praying for His disciples and not for the world. Later, though, He prays that the world might believe that He is from the Father; He did pray for the whole world, then, just not in the context of those specific blessings. How could a non-believer be sanctified, or experience unity with God? Those blessings are reserved for believers.

Possible reason #3 - The Lamb of God has an extra special love for those who are His, and still cares about those who He was not praying for at the time.

Given that the church is the bride of Christ, it is certain that He has a special love for them. All others will be cast into hell, but those who believe in Christ are one with Him, and He blesses them richly in this life and the next, working together all things for good for them. Special love:

“I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.” (John 17:23)

But one can have a specific love for one, while still caring for others. I have a special love for my husband, but I still agape-love all other men, and would rescue one if I saw him dying and was able to save Him. As my little brother said, on this topic, “Just because I send a letter to my family (special love) does not mean I don't care about everyone else.”

Paul pronounced and prayed for many special blessings solely on believers, and yet also cared and prayed for everyone. Does God also care for everyone? According to the Bible, yes.

“For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:3-4)

So reason number #3 is also Scripturally plausible. Christ not only reserves specific blessings for those who believe, but also has a special love for His own.

Possible reason #4 - Jesus was about to die, and was looking forward to the joy set before Him: His own glorification and the salvation, oneness with, and blessing upon those who would benefit from the cross: the elect, the bride of Christ.

Now, most of the other possible reasons don't look specifically at the timing of this prayer. Jesus was sweating drops of blood that night. The next day, He would experience an excruciating death, the weight of the sin of the world, and separation from His beloved Father. How did He get through this time? This mystery is revealed for us in Hebrews:

“...looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2)

Now, if Jesus died to provide salvation for all, and only to procure salvation for the elect (just like the serpent in the wilderness which provided healing for all who were bitten, but only enacted healing toward those who looked at all, see John 3), in which part is the joy found?

Is the joy the glorification and the unity, joy, and sanctification of those who would benefit from the cross? Or is the joy found in those who would reject the provision and wind up justly in hell?

I would say, without a doubt, that the joy would be found (in addition to His glorification) in His bride, in the ones who would benefit and be saved. The joy would not be found in those who reject the work and die eternally – there is justice there, but not joy. Jesus prayed for the world to believe, but that was one statement. The majority of the chapter was focused on Christ's glorification in general, and on blessings for and unity with His elect. That was His focus.

Therefore, it makes perfect sense that as Jesus approached His death, He focused on and looked forward to the JOY set before Him, which was not found in those who would never believe, but would be found in His multi-fold glorification, in the joy and sanctification of His disciples, and of the love and unity between Him and the Father and all future believers – the bride of Christ.

There is the joy that He looked forward to, as He approached the cross. This reason is more than plausible, it is confirmed by Hebrews, which explains Christ's focus on that difficult night.

And if two reasons are found to be plausible, and one is found to be confirmed, then the claim that the first reason is the “only possible” reason must be entirely false.


Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Devil Went To Georgia (What Really Happened)

The time when the Devil went down to Georgia - it's a famous story in the form of a song. I think that most of you have probably heard of it, I've even seen it played by the Hill Billies at Disneyland, and played it on Guitar Hero. Of course, if you don't know the tune, you'll have a chance to familiar yourself with it, since I've included a link to another rendition of the song below.

It's a beautiful piece, but there's just one thing wrong with it: that's not how it really ended. So, I've taken it upon myself to set the record straight, so that y'all will know what actually happened that day in Georgia. And it started like this:

The devil went down to Georgia,
he was looking for a soul to steal.
He was in a bind 'cos he was way behind
and he was willin' to make a deal.

When he came across this young man
sawin' on a fiddle and playin' it hot.
And the devil jumped upon a hickory stump
and said: "Boy let me tell you what:

"I guess you didn't know it,
but I'm a fiddle player too.
"And if you'd care to take a dare,
I'll make a bet with you.

"Now you play a pretty good fiddle,
boy, but give the devil his due:
"I bet a fiddle of gold against your soul,
'cos I think I'm better than you."

The boy said: "My name's Johnny and it might be a sin,
"But I'll take your bet, your gonna regret, 'cos I'm the best that's ever been."

Johnny you rosin up your bow and play your fiddle hard.
'Cos hells broke loose in Georgia and the devil deals the cards.
And if you win you get this shiny fiddle made of gold.
But if you lose, the devil gets your soul.

The devil opened up his case and he said: "I'll start this show."
And fire flew from his fingertips as he rosined up his bow.
And he pulled the bow across his strings and it made an evil hiss.
Then a band of demons joined in and it sounded something like this:

[Click Here to Hear The Original Song] (1:23)

When the devil finished, Johnny said: "Well you're pretty good ol' son.

"But sit down in that chair, right there, and let me show you how its done."

Fire on the mountain, run boys, run.
The devil avoids the risin' sun.
Chicken in the bread pan, now there's less
"Granny, does your dog bite?" "Yes, child, yes."

The devil smiled and chuckled though he knew that he'd been beat.
And then he said: “I'm Satan, and I'm known for my deceit-
"See, win or lose, you'll pay your dues, while I achieve my goal.
"Cause it's a sin to deal with me, so I still get your soul.
"You take that golden fiddle, boy, and you come on down with me,
"But you will only play it here, for all eternity.”

And there's fire on the mountain, run boys, run.
The devil avoids the risin' sun.
Chicken in the bread pan, now there's less
"Granny, does your dog bite?" "Yes, child, yes."

P.S. If the devil asks you to dance, you'd better say "Never"
for a dance with the devil might just last forever.


Monday, January 30, 2012

A Triangle of Opposites

I've thought to myself, at times, that opposites aren't fully understood. They seem pretty straightforward, but they can be more complex than they are given credit for. Many of you readers, I'm sure, are familiar with the “Either/or” logical fallacy (also known as a False Dilemma). In this fallacy, there are more than three options, but person A presents the dilemma to person B as if there were two, and only two, choices.


Child: “Mamma, can I have a cookie now or later?”

The child presents only two options as an either/or choice, and tries to get the mother to not notice any additional option. You see, the child paints the question as if it's just a one dimensional choice - and that dimension is the dimension of time:

Cookies soon -------------------------------- Cookies later

Near time frame and far time frame. Two opposites, yes, but it ignores a third dimension: The dimension of how many cookies are given.

In the diagram above (I'm sure you will all be impressed at the creative artwork that went into that one), you can see both dimensions: Time, and amount of cookies. With this more comprehensive view of the situation, the mother also can see the option of not giving the child a cookie at all.

That specific example is easy and childish, but I think that we usually think of opposites as always coming in a pair, and many of them come in groups of three. For instance, what's the opposite of taking action to something good? Taking action to do something evil!

Doing evil ---------------------------------- Doing good

Perfect: We have our opposites. But could there be a third option which is the opposite of both? I say yes. This shows opposite sides of the dimension of morality here, but both involve action. The opposite of action is inaction, and therefore there is another dimension:

It may seem inconceivable that anything could have two opposites, because we are so used to used to thinking of opposites on opposite sides of a one-dimensional line. However, the pattern shows up again and again throughout life. For instance, the speaker in my class about christian principles in government tonight pointed out another triangle of opposites:

Often, we hear about being politically “to the left” or “to the right.” The far left might be communism or socialism; interested in large centralized government being used to create change and to redistribute wealth and take care of the society. One the far right is said to be fascism; the right perhaps encourages centralized government to keep things at the status quo, or to enforce moral boundaries (like no abortion). Many people can't explain exactly explain what dimension this measures – the best explanation I've heard looks like this:

More gov in economics --------------------- More gov in moral issues

So, if you buy into that scheme, whether you think of yourself being more “to the left” or more “to the right,” you are always in favor of more government. More, and more, and more government. But of course there is the other dimension as well:

Then I thought to myself about other opposites. There's hot and cold. Surely, there couldn't be an opposite to both of those! But then I thought to myself, spiritual beings may not have a physical temperature, and may not be either physically hot nor physically cold.

Finally, there's love. I've been a firm believer in the triangle opposites of love for a long time. If I ask people “what is the opposite of love?” most would say “hatred.” Love is passion for someone's betterment, and hatred is passion for someone's pain or destruction. We see hatred painted very clearly in stories where a person hates someone else, and then dedicates a lot of time and effort to damaging that person, even to their own detriment sometimes.

Desire for their betterment ------------------------ Desire for their harm

But both of these options involve passion. In both cases, the person is very emotionally involved. In either case, it can be self-sacrificing: Whether self-sacrificing love, or seeking vengeance even to the point of destroying one's own life. What is the opposite of both? Apathy. No passion for or against the other person; an apathetic person couldn't be bothered to take revenge, since they have their own life to lead.

Pathos versus non-pathos. (Passion versus apathy) On one dimension, we have desire for the other person's betterment or desire for their harm. On the other dimension, are you even having desire about their life at all?