Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Doctrines of Grace: Particular Redemption and Irresistible Grace (part 4 podcast on Dort)

Doctrines of Grace: Particular Redemption and Irresistible Grace
Ephesians 3:14-21
From my visit to Amsterdam, 2007 

World means world?
“Absolute sovereignty,” wrote Jonathan Edwards, “is what I love to ascribe to God. But my first conviction was not so.”
Let’s be honest. Our first conviction is more accurately to hate absolute sovereignty. And if we hate and cavil at absolute sovereignty in predestination, we really get our back up and gnash our teeth at Jesus dying only for the elect. 
A young man, however, who cares more about what the Bible means than how it at first makes him feel will search and know what it teaches about particular redemption. Called “The Calvin of England,” John Owen offered three options for the Bible’s teaching on the atonement: Christ died for all the sins of all men, or for some of the sins of all men, or for all of the sins of some men. There are no other rational options. So which is it?
Many insist that it is the first: Christ died for all the sins of all men. For them, when the Bible uses the word “all” and “world” it means every man, woman, and child that has existed or that ever will exist. The locus classicus of this position is I John 2:2 where it says that Jesus is “the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.”   
Honest Arminians recognize the problems with this conclusion. For example, an Arminian does not think that “propitiate” in I John 2:2 means that Jesus actually satisfied the wrath of God for every man, woman, and child. Scrupulous as they are about “world” meaning “world,” here they insist that “propitiation” doesn’t mean “propitiation”; here it means “potential propitiation.” Obviously, if Jesus’ atonement satisfied the wrath of God for all without exception, there’s no more wrath; he sends no one to hell. Since propitiation is a legal term meaning complete satisfaction, the reader who wants to know precisely what the Bible means, closely examines the various ways the Bible uses the word “world.”  
A. W. Pink points out that in the New Testament “world” or kosmos, “has at least seven clearly defined different meanings.” So when Jesus prays in John 17:9, “I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me,” clearly by “world” he means unbelievers, and by “them” and “those you have given me,” he means believers, his sheep, the elect. Here, even Arminians must agree that “world” does not mean all men throughout all time.
Similarly, when Moses records that “all mankind” perished in the flood (Genesis 7:21), no Arminian insists that “all” means “all” and “mankind” means “mankind.” Clearly not every man, woman, and child that ever lived or would live died in the flood. “All mankind” didn’t include any of us, nor did it include the eight humans who survived the flood--including Noah.
But what about “For God so loved the world” in John 3:16? Did Jesus mean that his Father sent him to actually ransom, redeem, pardon, atone for, and propitiate—to actually pay the sin debt of every man, woman, and child in the universe? Return to the context. Jesus was speaking to a Jewish scholar who believed the Messiah was coming just for Jews. Here Jesus was declaring to Jewish Nicodemus that the Messiah has come not just to save ethnic Jews, but the elect from all nations—the world.
Given the varying use of “world” in Scripture, careful readers will interpret passages that, on the surface, sound universal in light of passages that speak more specifically. Comparing John 3:16 and related passages with Revelation 5:9 helps bring clarity: “You are worthy… because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nations.” Notice how particular and specific the language is. Jesus actually “purchased men for God,” and he did so without ethnic or racial distinction, pitching his love on men from the whole world.

Sheep means sheep                                                          
John Owen’s second option, that Christ died for all the sins of all men, except the sin of unbelief, is favored by other non-Calvinists. This interpretation relieves God of being charged with unfairness, and the only condition of salvation that man contributes is belief. Believe and you have set yourself apart from the rest. But there are serious problems with this view. For starters, the Bible in many places says plainly that the wrath of God is coming for a laundry list of sins, not just for unbelief.
Calvinists believe that Christ actually atoned for all the sins of some men—the elect--that he actually did as he claimed in John 10:11, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” The language Jesus uses has no hint that he meant he was only potentiality or conditionally laying down his life. The words indicate an actual, definite act, accomplished for and applied to specific individuals—the sheep. Sparkling clarity follows when Jesus says to unbelievers a few verses later, “you do not believe because you are not my sheep” (10:26). The sheep believe because they were ordained to eternal life (Acts 13:48), and because Jesus actually—not just potentially--laid down his life for their sins.
In a variety of ways, the Bible answers the question, “What must I do to be saved?” It clearly states: “Believe, seek, come, call.” But it answers a second critical question about salvation, “Why did I believe?” It answers with equal clarity--we just don’t like the answer.
Jealous to protect God’s fairness, many nonsensically answer the second question with a variant of the answer to the first. “Why did I believe? Because I just believed.” And then they plug their ears. Real men don’t read their Bibles this way. The Bible relentlessly answers the question why a sinner believes, so we must hear it: Sinners believe because God chose them, Christ redeemed them, and the Spirit called them.
There’s not a lack of clarity here. We proud sinners simply don’t like the debasement required by the answer. We don’t like hearing that we’re dead in trespasses and sins, that God predestined some to life and others to damnation; that the elect are redeemed by Christ, their debt paid in full, their guilt and punishment borne on the cross by their good shepherd. Nor do we much like hearing that what makes us differ from a lost sinner is the Holy Spirit effectually calling us out of darkness into the splendid light of the new birth. Believing all that is high-demand. It costs us our pride.
Dead made alive
“Born, as all of us are, an Arminian,” wrote C. H. Spurgeon, “when I was coming to Christ, I thought I was doing it all myself, and though I sought the Lord earnestly, I had no idea the Lord was seeking me. I do not think the young convert is at first aware of this.”               
Arminianism, like the flat-earth theory, draws ultimate conclusions based on immediately observable evidence only. Thus, someone who believes in a flat earth does so because what he sees from his observable vantage point looks flat. As Spurgeon suggests, many mistakenly conclude that when a sinner hears the gospel and chooses to believe, his choice is the cause of forgiveness and salvation.
But what makes one man hear, repent and believe in Christ, while another hears the same sermon but snorts in derision and persists in unbelief? After one such sermon, Luke records that, “All who were appointed to eternal life believed” (Acts 13:48). All heard the same sermon, but not everyone believed. This text and many others explain why: God mercifully predestined some to eternal life. That alone is why they believed.
Jesus used the metaphor of the wind blowing where it wishes to explain the mystery of the Holy Spirit’s work in salvation, and he used the metaphor of new birth. Just as no one has anything to do with his first birth, so the sinner is born again by the mysterious working of the Spirit, not by anything the dead sinner can will or do. Correspondingly, Paul tells us that we are “dead in trespasses and sins,” but that it is God who makes us alive in Christ by his Spirit.
“Dead men tell no tales,” so say pirates, nor can dead men will or do anything pertaining to their salvation. We must be born again, made alive, given the gift of faith by “the Spirit penetrate[ing] into our hearts,” as Calvin termed it. Anything short of this gives man credit for the divine work of regeneration in our hearts.

We call or he calls?
Though C. S. Lewis was an extraordinary Christian apologist, there were some holes, shall we say, in his theology. One of these reoccurs in the form of philosophical arguments favoring freedom of the will over against divine sovereignty. Put simply, Lewis was probably more of an Arminian than he was a Calvinist.
Nevertheless, writers are sometimes at their best when writing poetry or imaginative fiction, so in the Narnia books Lewis wonderfully illustrates the sovereignty of grace and the effectual calling of God’s Spirit. In The Silver Chair when Aslan tells Jill that he called her out of her world, Jill disagrees. “Nobody called me and Scrubb, you know. It was we who asked to come here. Scrubb said we were to call… And we did, and then we found the door open.” Jill, like most, mistakenly thought her calling was what opened the door. Lewis’s Lion wisely replied, “You would not have called to me unless I had been calling to you.”
Similarly, in The Magician’s Nephew, Lewis has Aslan utter “a long single note; not very loud, but full of power. Polly’s heart jumped in her body when she heard it. She felt sure that it was a call, and that anyone who heard that call would want to obey it and (what’s more) would be able to obey it, however many worlds and ages lay between.”
As it did Jill, the power of this call ought to fill us with the deepest wonder at the grace of our God, who alone elects, redeems, calls, and keeps all his sheep so that not one of them is lost.

Flat earth
Arians in the early church had trouble figuring out how God could be three and one at the same time, so they rejected the biblical doctrine of the Trinity, and, thus, the deity of Jesus Christ. When we frail mortals have trouble grasping high and grand doctrines concerning God, our inclination is to reduce things down to the puny level of human understanding. Error always follows. 
From our flat-earth vantage point, predestination makes God not behave as nicely toward all sinners as we think fairness requires of him. Call these systems what you will, adherents insist that it wouldn’t be fair of God to do anything more for those who will believe than he has done for those who won’t. Thus, they insist that Calvinism can’t be right because it violates God’s fairness by making him act with favoritism toward some. Consequently, modern evangelism has created several extra-biblical jingles that have become inviolable.

Love and voting
The first well-intentioned jingle goes like this: “God loves the sinner, but hates the sin.” I wonder. After all, it’s not the sin that gets thrown in hell. It’s the sinner. Nobody wants to be “loved” like that. If God loves in the same way and to the same degree both the man who is saved and the man who will be damned, then “love” and “hate” have no meaning, and we’ve made a mingle-mangle again.
The Bible, however, uses these terms in precise ways. “Jacob have I loved. Esau have I hated.” So in Psalm 5:6, God declares that he “hates all those who do wrong.” Though “all” means “all” to Arminians, “hate” here just can’t mean “hate.” They insist that God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit are obligated to love all sinners exactly alike and leave the rest up to the sinner. Though heaps of biblical evidence suggest otherwise, the measure of God’s love, for them, is its extent not its effect; it must extend to everyone who ever lives or it’s not real love because love is fair.
But is this an accurate understanding of love? No wife would measure the worth of her husband’s love by how widely it extends to all women; does her confidence in his love for her come from her knowledge that he loves all women without exception? Of course not! On the contrary, she measures his love by how exclusive, individual, and particular it is, by how he lavishes it on her alone. So Christ’s love for his bride is particular, individual, and definite, and is savingly lavished on his bride, the church. Nevertheless, Arminians insist that Christ’s love isn’t real unless it is the same for all—even the already damned.
The other jingle often used in modern evangelism goes like this, “God cast a vote; Satan cast a vote, and the sinner casts the final vote.” Anyone with his Bible open ought to see through this like a ladder. Aside from the obvious problem of placing God and Satan on equal terms in their hand-wringing passivity, nowhere does the Bible give man such ultimate self-determination. In all the evangelism recorded in the New Testament, I recall no such nonsense. Though zealous, well-meaning Christians say things like this, we do well to stick with the evangelism of Jesus and the apostles.

Cavils at Calvin
A frequent cavil at Calvinism insists that men who believe it will not care about evangelism and missions. But what of Paul, the quintessential world missionary, who taught these doctrines systematically throughout his epistles? Oft-maligned Calvin had a ministry marked by deep concern for the lost, wherein he established an academy precisely for training preachers and missionaries. Harvard, Yale, and Princeton were all established by Calvinists as theological training grounds for Christian preachers and missionaries. What’s more, nineteenth-century missions were largely pioneered by a long list of Calvinists. 
Another favorite cavil goes like this. If predestination is true, then why pray for the lost? Perhaps no one has more succinctly turned this cavil back on the detractors who raise it than J. I. Packer when he asks how you pray for the lost:

Do you limit yourself to asking that God will bring them to a point where they can save themselves? I think that what you do is to pray in categorical terms that God will, quite simply and decisively, save them. You would not dream of making it a point in your prayer that you are not asking God actually to bring them to faith. You entreat him to do that very thing. Thus, you acknowledge and confess the sovereignty of God’s grace. And so do all Christian people everywhere.

            Something about the kneeling posture helps us proud sinners get things right.  Perhaps there’d be less mingle-mangle about predestination and sovereign grace if we spent more time on those knees, humbly appealing to God on behalf of dead sinners whom he alone can save.

Does it matter?
Then comes the final cavil at Calvinism: Calvinism is merely theological wrangling that has no relevance to a Christian’s life and calling. But if we truly believe that all Scripture is God-breathed and so profitable for doctrinal belief and for training in righteousness, then the Bible’s teaching on the sovereignty of God must be important for us to understand.
So how ought believing the doctrines of grace, in the sovereignty of God, in total depravity, predestination, definite and particular atonement, and the effectual calling of the Spirit, how ought all this to affect a young man’s faith, devotion, and worship of Christ?
John Bunyan, perhaps said it best when he at last saw his sin as a “most barbarous and a filthy crime,” and that in his depravity he “had horribly abused the holy Son of God.” Seeing the depth of your sin and the corresponding depth of electing love and of Christ’s substitutionary atonement applied to your miserable life by God’s Spirit, ought to prompt in you a burning love for the Lord Jesus. Bunyan put it this way, “Had I a thousand gallons of blood within my veins, I could freely have spilled it all at the command and feet of this my Lord and Savior.”
Stand fast on these high truths, and feel the force of them. Hold fast to truth, and walk humbly with your God, working out your salvation with fear and trembling. And so make your calling and election sure by gratefully pursuing holiness, without which no young man will see the Lord.   

Douglas Bond, author, speaker, tour leader, hymn writer, publicist. Listen to Bond's podcast at

Doctrines of Grace: Total Depravity and Unconditional Election (part 3 from The Scriptorium podcast on Dort)

Doctrines of Grace: Total Depravity and Unconditional Election

Ephesians 1:1-14

From my visit to Amsterdam, 2007
            It has been said of the Reformers in England, “Cambridge grew them; Oxford slew them.” Hugh Latimer, Bishop of Worchester, Cambridge scholar and preacher, royal chaplain to Henry VIII and Edward VI, was one of those who died at the hands of haters of the Word of God and the Gospel. Latimer was a preacher of Sola Scriptura, the Bible alone, but concerned that some in England misread their Bibles, he urged preachers and laymen alike not to “make a mingle-mangle” of the sacred text.
            The Reformation was essentially a return to the sole authority of the Bible and an embrace of what it teaches about how a man is saved and becomes a part of the church. Rome had her teachings on these things, but Latimer and the Reformers found in the actual words of the Bible that salvation was by grace alone. Sinners contribute nothing--but their sins.
            A young man who is serious about being a Christian will diligently search and know what the Bible teaches about salvation and the grace of God. He must be absolutely clear about the extent of his sins, about the roles of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in salvation, and about sanctification and the life of holiness God has called him to. In short, a real man must not make a mingle-mangle of the Bible’s doctrine of salvation.

            In Luther’s great debate over free will with humanist scholar Erasmus, Luther thanked his opponent for going down to the root of the debate: the nature of man. In Bondage of the Will, Luther argues that the fundamental difference between the Roman Catholic view of sin and the Bible’s view is that man is in bondage to his sinful nature; this bondage includes his will. His depravity is so total it makes him not only unwilling but unable to come to God.
Most post-conservative American Christians agree that man is depraved, but not so totally that he is unable to come to God, to respond to the universal call of the gospel as an act of his free will. Wittingly or unwittingly, they agree with Jacobus Arminius, sixteenth-century divinity professor at the University of Leyden.
Well-meaning Christians who insist man is free and able to choose salvation, base it on passages like Revelation 22:17, “Whoever is thirsty let him come, and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.” Or on Paul’s call to the Philippian jailer to “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.” The argument proceeds as follows: If the Bible invites whoever wishes to come, and if Paul tells the jailer to believe and be saved, then men must be able to come and believe as acts of their free will.
Notice carefully, however, that these conclusions are deduced by implication but not from an explicit statement in the text. In neither text, for example, does the author explicitly tell us that men have the ability to come, to thirst, or to believe. It is implicit, Arminians insist, but clearly it is not explicitly taught in these texts. If you genuinely want to know what the Bible is saying, take the explicit over the implicit; otherwise you will make a mingle-mangle of its teaching on total depravity.

Compare Scripture with itself on man’s depravity and you will find many explicit texts that clear up any confusion. There is nothing left to inference, for example, when Jesus tells his hearers why they refuse to understand him: “Because you are unable to hear… the reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God” (John 8:43-47). Clearly, Jesus was teaching that these men’s unbelief was based not on a lack of will but on a lack of ability. Turn back a page and Jesus’ consistent message is clearer still: “No one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him” (6:65).
Paul repeatedly makes the same point about the bondage of man’s will and his inability to believe as an act of his will: He says sinners “cannot know” (I Corinthians 2:14), that “none seeks” (Romans 3:10-12), they “cannot see” (II Corinthians 4:4), that “the sinful mind does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so,” and that man “cannot please God” (Romans 8:7-8).
The words “can” and “cannot” are words that indicate ability or inability; they have nothing to do with wanting or wishing. So when Jesus explicitly declares, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” (John 6:44), he is plainly telling his hearers that no one can come as an act of will; they’re unable to do so. Men come when God draws them.
If you genuinely want to know what the Bible teaches about total depravity, find it in the explicit passages. Don’t build a theology of free will and ability on implicit texts, especially when the deduced conclusions require you to defy explicit biblical statements.

Cavil at Calvin
            We sinners, not surprisingly, chafe when the Bible exposes the depth of our total depravity. Still more, we particularly get our back up when it says that God unconditionally predestined some men to salvation and some to damnation. This goes too far.
When Paul lists predestination, “according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will,” as chief among the blessings we have in Christ in the heavenly realms, we modern American Christians are sure that the text just can’t mean what it says.
Thus, we raise two standard objections to predestination: “It makes God unfair,” and, “How could God blame me for my sins?” After all, if predestination is true, then everything happens “according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will,” just as Paul wrote. Paul’s statement sounds too undemocratic, and it, frankly, offends us.
It offends us because, deep down, we agree with poet William Ernest Henley who declared, “I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul.” More than two thousand years before Henley, Greek dramatist Sophocles observed that, “Man desires to be more than man, to rule his world for himself.” It’s in our fallen nature to entertain exaggerated notions about having god-like power over our own lives. Predestination requires a “steepling plunge,” and we desperately squirm and writhe when confronted with it.
John Calvin wrote, “The predestination by which God adopts some to the hope of life, and adjudges others to eternal death, no man who would be thought pious ventures simply to deny, but it is greatly caviled at.” To cavil is to make frivolous objections to something, objections without foundation.
The most common cavil goes like this. “If predestination is true then why witness or send missionaries to heathen lands?” Notice, again, how this objection sets aside the clear words of Scripture in favor of a line of human reason.
So long as men cavil, the debate rages on, but it’s not because the Bible is unclear about predestination. Read Paul in Ephesians and wherever the Bible speaks about God’s sovereignty and grace you will find explicit teaching consistent with what has come to be called Calvinism. The debate rages precisely because the Bible is so clear, and because what it says is so contrary to what we naturally think about ourselves.
Calvin is correct: biblically informed Arminians cannot deny predestination by name; the word and its parallels appear throughout the Bible. They do, however, redefine the clear meaning of the word and shift the bases of election to God’s foreknowledge. They insist that God merely foresaw that some would choose him, so on the basis of men’s choice, he chose them. Believe this and you’re forced to redefine the clear meaning of words, and you’re left scratching your head at why, if predestination wasn’t true, the Bible would bother giving specific answers to man’s cavils at it.

Love and hate 
Perhaps there is no more unadorned statement of predestination than Paul quoting Malachi in Romans 9:13, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” The careful reader is forced to reject the theory that by predestination Paul meant that God passively foresaw that men would choose him and then he chose them. He is forced to reject this theory because of Paul’s own words in the Bible. Paul knew his teaching on predestination would raise this question: “What then shall we say? Is God unjust” (9:14)? Paul anticipates the standard human objection: Predestination makes God unjust; things just wouldn’t be fair if election were true.
If Arminianism were true, however, Paul would immediately say something like this: “Hold everything! You’ve misunderstood my entire meaning. When I speak of predestination, I don’t really mean predestination. I mean God just sees that you will have faith and “chooses” you based on you having already chosen him.” Paul says nothing of the kind. In fact he raises the bar: “It does not depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy… Therefore, God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden” (9:18).
Read your Bible with integrity and there’s no mingle-mangle here. It’s abundantly plain. Nevertheless, men continue to cavil at predestination, and Paul anticipates their next objection: “One of you will say to me: ‘Then why does God still blame us? For who resists his will’” (9:19)? Paul is saying in effect, “I know what you’re thinking: You think that if what I’m teaching about predestination is true then God can’t blame you, or hold you responsible for your sins. You’re thinking that if he sovereignly hardens one and chooses another, then it’s not fair for him to judge you for your sins.”
Again, if Arminianism were correct, Paul would immediately protest, “Hold the phone! That’s not what I mean at all!” But he doesn’t say this. He is working through a carefully crafted inspired argument based on his certain knowledge that predestination is vein-bulgingly objectionable to proud human beings like you and me.
Here is the ultimate test of whether you’ve got the Bible’s understanding about predestination: Paul’s teaching provokes men to object and say that it makes God unjust. Therefore, any theology of salvation that does not prompt that objection is not Paul’s teaching and is, therefore, a mingle-mangle of the Bible’s teaching about predestination.
Why do men have so much trouble here? It goes back to total depravity. We don’t like predestination because we don’t think we need it. We’re not such terrible sinners that we can’t make our own choices about our life. Besides, we’re Americans and we believe in self government, you know, in ruling our world for ourselves. No, this predestination stuff might work in ancient Israel, or in Geneva, or in Scotland, but it’s not for us modern Americans.
It’s not just Henley or Arminius. Nobody likes predestination. No fallen sinner likes facing the harsh reality of how utterly lost he is and how impossible it is for any of us to be saved by anything we can will, or believe, or do. Jonah got it right: “Salvation is of the Lord,” but we, like Jonah, resent the fact.

Other troubles with election
            Though it is less likely today, some may have another kind of difficulty with predestination. The devil may raise doubts in a sinner’s mind by suggesting to you that there’s no use in seeking the Lord, no use in calling out to the Lord to have mercy, because you’re probably not elect anyway. So what’s the use of attempting to come to God if he has, from all eternity, barred you from his salvation and forgiveness?
            The tempter tried this one on John Bunyan, and for a time it worked. But only for a time. Bunyan longed to bask in the sunny side of the mountain that seemed to bar his way from peace with God. Others in Bedford seemed to have found the warm, refreshing pastures of grace and salvation, while he sank in the miry bog of his unworthiness. And when hints of light shone through the narrow passageway to the warm side of the mountain, he was “assaulted with fresh doubts.” These doubts came in the form of a question: “Was I elect?” The Scripture seemed clear about these things, but it trampled on all his desire when he read, “It is not of him that wills, nor of him that runs, but of God that shows mercy” (Romans 9:16).
            Satan fanned the flames of his doubt with relish. “How can you tell if you are elected?” the tempter whispered in Bunyan’s ear. “And what if you are not?” Bunyan had no answer but his groans of despair. “Why then,” Satan persisted, “you might as well stop now and strive no further.”
            Holy Mr. Gifford, pastor of St. John’s parish church in Bedford, had taught the poor tinker the whole counsel of God. Bunyan knew his biblical theology. “That the elect only obtained eternal life, I without scruple did heartily agree; but that I myself was one of them, there lay my question.”
            Then Bunyan heard, as it were, the Lord speak, “Begin at the beginning of Genesis, and read to the end of Revelation, and see if you can find that there was ever any that trusted in the Lord and was confounded.” With those words his confusion and perplexity began to vanish:
Take heart in divine sovereignty and predestination. If you are to be saved it will be God’s doing, first to last. But no man who has ever seen his sins and felt his need, who has longed to have peace with God, has ever been turned away. After all, the knowledge of your sins and the desire to be rid of them is also a gift from God. Bunyan took encouragement from this knowledge, and so ought you.

Delightful doctrine
            We might be tempted to think that a man like Jonathan Edwards—the last New England Puritan--was a copper-bottomed Calvinist from birth. But not so. He confesses early doubts and objections to God’s sovereignty and predestination in his Personal Narrative

My mind had been full of objections against the doctrine of God’s sovereignty, in choosing whom he would to eternal life, and rejecting whom he pleased; leaving them eternally to perish and be everlastingly tormented in hell. It used to appear like a horrible doctrine to me.

Eventually, Edwards became “convinced, and fully satisfied, as to this sovereignty of God, and his justice in thus eternally disposing of men, according to his sovereign pleasure.” He credits the “extraordinary influence of God’s Spirit,” for the change. “My mind rested in it; and it put an end to all those cavils and objections.”
The next stage of Edwards’ understanding he described as “a wonderful alteration in my mind, with respect to the doctrine of God’s absolute sovereignty and justice, with respect to salvation and damnation; [sovereignty] is what my mind seems to rest assured of.”  His early conviction deepened into “quite another kind of sense of God’s sovereignty. I have often since had not only a conviction, but a delightful conviction. The doctrine has appeared exceeding pleasant, bright, and sweet. Absolute sovereignty is what I love to ascribe to God. But my first conviction was not so.”
A man who claims to love God and his word, is not at liberty to begrudgingly concede to any biblical doctrine. The young man who wants to be set free by truth, will strive for that maturity that lays aside flawed notions about God and his ways and seeks to find all of God’s self-disclosure “pleasant, bright, and sweet,” though truth may not look so at first blush. 
If you find yourself still kicking and squalling at the sovereignty of God, do as young Edwards did: seek and know the Lord as he is revealed in the Bible. “The first instance that I remember of that sort of inward, sweet delight in God and divine things that I have lived much in since, was on reading those words, I Timothy 1:17 ‘Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honor and glory forever and ever, Amen.’”

Finally, if what you conclude about predestination gives glory to God alone, then you have embraced what the Bible teaches on this grand subject. Soli Deo Gloria!

Douglas Bond, author, speaker, tour leader, hymn writer, publicist. Listen to Bond's podcast at

What We Write Matters Because Life Matters--Inkblots

Though we are few, a handful of 'Blots have gathered in Brookside cottage (one of our tiny house retreats) as Gillian has become our family librarian and is entirely reorganizing the Scriptorium, dusting all the shelves, establishing categories, bustling about making it bookish and charming.

Rachel will lead us off with her 1950s yarn. I love your intricate details of picking the lock. It can be challenging to figure out the best way to convey non-verbal sounds, hiccups and the like. How did you spell it? You do a good job of filling in details of posture and what the person is doing in the midst of dialogue. I wonder if this scene needs to be more tense, or are you aiming at humor rather than the shock of discovery as she rummages through his papers? She does show emotion afterward, but I felt like it was missing earlier when she was being discovered. Margaret and Daisy are the same person which is a bit confusing. How is Daisy going to be pressured to change? Rachel's protagonist is trying to figure our her place, find her wings, discover who she is. I suggested creating longing for everything to be right, for the problem to be solved (without solving it entirety). Give the reader hope that things do not have to be this way, broken, dysfunctional, without resolution.

Alisa reads the opening pages of The Emblem (again, which Alisa pushed back on reading to us). Alisa wrote the first draft in 2010. This is a book set in the 1930s exploring the tensions between white minors in Washington State and black minority laborers. You write narrative so well, but I would like to hear more dialogue in the opening chapter. I love the scene with his little girl. Ordering up a whiskey. I wonder if there is a more colloquial way of saying this in the 1930s. I wonder if you could start with this dialogue and weave in the back story narrative in between the talk. Readers love listening in to others talking, like eavesdropping. There's a sort of conspiratorial emotion for the reader when we do this, in my opinion. Connections of the soul. Compelling love story. She wants her main character(s) to be more intriguing. I'm reading the entire manuscript in the next days.

John doesn't want to read. He is smarting after another critique. We understand at 'Blots. You're in good company. Read! He gave us permission to interrupt him when we don't like something. I think you need to abbreviate the dialogue. "I can't!" rather than, "I just don't think I can do this." Suddenly she threw up. Is there another way to convey this? Alisa has given birth, and interjects. They would clean her up right away, not leaving her in her vomit. Rachel asked what John is trying to say with the birthing scene? He wants it to be realistic. The story is all about a baby that was almost aborted. He is trying to show the difficulty. Rachel feels like there needs to be a reprieve after the anguish. Alisa feels like it needs to be tightened, condensed, and that's what Mother Bond wanted too, tighten the scene, make it move more quickly. What I am hearing is, less is more. Don't overwrite the birthing scene. We all seemed to agree that the baby's name Grace should not be named after the mom's name. We want to hear Grace for the first time in the final line of the book. We talked about abortion, about the NY Governor Cuomo Herod law, about the rhetoric of toxic-masculinity, identity politics and whether it will produce men who will give their lives for others, or will it backfire and produce more selfishness and boorish pride as men simmer under the dictates of the left to act more like women.