GILMORE -ROSENBERG DEBATE: Suffering, Morality and the Existence of God



GILMORE -ROSENBERG DEBATE: Suffering, Morality and the Existence of God

September 27, 2016, on The Ohio State University Campus. Book published by the Warren Christian Apologetics Center (Vienna, WV); 2017; Ralph Gilmore: Ph. D (University of Tennessee), Professor of Bible and Philosophy at Freed-Hardeman University (Henderson, TN); Alexander Rosenberg: Ph. D (John Hopkins University), Professor of Philosophy, Duke University (Durham, NC)


Rosenberg’s First Affirmative. Rosenberg argues that suffering prevents one from believing in God. He gave a definition to what he meant: the state of undergoing pain, hardship, distress (5). He spoke of examples of suffering in humanity by other humans and from natural calamities. If God exists, then he had a reason for suffering’s experience. On the other hand, “the existence of suffering is overwhelming evidence, I think, that God does not exist” (9). Since Rosenberg thinks there is no good answer to the question about why suffering exists and is experienced, then it must be the case God does not because is to have a reason, a purpose. The lack of a sufficient explanation from Christians is evidence God does not exist (10-11). He knows this is not an iron-clad position, so he calls it probabilistic or, it’s probably the case God does not exist.

Rosenberg does address what he thinks are “cop-out” answers to what Christians say are reasons for suffering. That which he offered in chart form were flippant replies (I suppose) he heard from others (such as: God works in mysterious ways; we’re too feeble minded to understand God; all dogs go to heaven; God’s a sadist; animal suffering was a mistake).

Rosenberg does not believe man has free-will, thus his argument strikes at the free-will defense that Christians make. In other words, God created humans with free-will, and since humans make bad choices that end up causing much harm, what evil there is in the world (a result of bad choices) is not the fault of God, but of humanity. He believes there is no reconciliation between free-will, suffering and God’s existence. He gave an example of a math-quiz problem. A math-quiz scenario allows one to freely choose the answers given. If a wrong answer given is “incentivized” to prevent a wrong answer (that is, given an incentive to not freely choose the wrong answer), then why could God not incentivize man with free-will wherein he will always choose to do right, rather than the wrong, thus not bring evil into the world?

SUMMARY An atheist says, “I know God does not exist.” Rosenberg does not say this; this leaves him open to criticism (Gilmore exploits this opening). There is no logical argument with premise 1, premise 2, and therefore a conclusion that says, “therefore God does not exist.” Rosenberg offered questions, a semblance of a philosophical argument, a discussion on free-will, but he never gave an argument wherein the premises demanded the conclusion “God does not exist.”

Gilmore’s First Negative. After some introductory words, Gilmore calls out the atheist position as one of arrogance (a word he did not use), arrogant because the atheist said, in effect, “I have surveyed all the evidence, and I know there is no God!” Gilmore also briefly explains what atheists think is their best argument (an argument that Rosenberg did not make, though he came close). 1) God is omnipotent, 2) God is omniscient, 3) God is omnibenevolent, 4) Evil exists (18). Gilmore claims that suffering, as it is interpreted as evil, is not incompatible with the existence of an all-loving God who is powerful enough the eradicate evil.

Gilmore takes up the claim that if God has the qualities Christians declare, then, as Rosenberg asserts, it is perfectly reasonable for man to have free-will and God, at the same time, to eradicate evil and suffering wherein man does not need to experience it. Gilmore calls this nonsense (19). Gilmore defines how omnipotence is to be understood from a biblical perspective, that is, whatever can be done by an all-powerful being, God can do it. God, however, cannot create free-will beings without the possibility of those free-will beings choosing to hurt themselves. “…God cannot make a free being, in a physical world, without the possibility of suffering…” (19) unless he were to eliminate of the special characteristics of man that currently experiences physical and emotional pain. In this connection, Gilmore identifies three “wills” of God: 1) ideal will, 2) circumstantial will and 3) ultimate will of God.

Gilmore brings to the discussion the purpose of animals. He anticipated the question that would be asked of him, “Why consider the purpose of animal existence?” but I had much difficulty in gaining clarity from him in his answer to this. In fact, I had to study his chart (evidently put together by John Clayton) to gain what he desired for me to gain, for I did not read/hear it in his oral presentation (20-23). It seems to go like this: animals are associated with human characteristics, but this is mere fantasy. Second, animals do not feel pain as humans do because animals “…have no susceptive stimuli that can cause immediate protective reaction” in relation to pain. The pain they feel, however, does not correspond with the pain/experience of humans. Third, without the natural “predation” in the animal kingdom (that is, the predatory initiative of animals), the animal population could grow to such a number the animals would starve to death. Purpose associated with the animal kingdom, then, are as in the words Gilmore includes, the words of Thomas Warren, the purpose of the animal kingdom is toward man’s environment, “the ideal environment for ‘soul-making’” and this contributes to man’s moral development. After much effort at trying to understand, I think I see his point, but I can only imagine my “lostness” if I heard it orally!

Gilmore brings to the fore the lack of objective morality Rosenberg subscribes to; it is called “nice nihilism.” Gilmore demands his terms be defined, then identify how it could have come into existence, and why this should be accepted. Gilmore also disputes Rosenberg’s rejection of free-will having any relevance to the discussion, Gilmore insisting that it has everything to do with the discussion because without it there is no intentionality with decisions, thus no moral compass.

Gilmore gives attention to Rosenberg’s theory of the mind. Rosenberg does not believe in free-will, thus he does not (cannot) believe in intentionality. If there is no intent, then what is thought, said and done is determinism, and determinism can have nothing to do with right/wrong, with morality. Gilmore calls out Rosenberg by asking about his brain. Is the “brain” (the material mass of flesh) the mind, or is there something else? The “I” in a sentence (such as “I feel pain”) represents the person; Hume and Russell tried to eliminate the person (the ego, the I, the impression of self-existence), but they had no success. If Rosenberg is correct, then in his determinism, it can’t be said that he intentionality wrote a book.

Rosenberg’s Reply to Gilmore. Rosenberg demands that theism must provide a rationale for how suffering is compatible with and all-powerful, all-knowing and benevolent God. “Unless I can understand how that happened, I cannot accept the idea that a loving God would create the kind of suffering which we see manifest around us…” (32). Rosenberg disputes Gilmore, but does so by assertion, not proving or supporting his assertion. In his mind, since God is so capable as theism argues, He could have employed a different set of Laws that govern humanity than the ones that currently do; if that is so, then He could have employed a set of Laws wherein free-will is compatible with a no-possibility-of-suffering world. Rosenberg also gave him explanation for “the origin of morality,” which he calls altruism. He admits difficulty in understanding why it exists, but ultimately says we could not exist if it did not. In other words, that has to be it: it was brought into existence for self-preservation purposes. “We never would have survived starting at the bottom of the food chain, let alone find our way within 100,000 years at the top of the food chain, without human cooperation, without being nice to one another.”

Gilmore’s Response to Rosenberg. Gilmore speaks about suffering in relation to pain-receptors, and that suffering benefits us because it molds/shapes us in learning to live in this current environment. Free-will is part of this learning process (pages 35-41 develop these thoughts). God had only two choices in the creation of man: 1 create with free-will, 2) create without free-will. When God created man with free-will, He created knowing it was a “two-edged” sword. The gift given can be utilized to bite the giver of the gift (if you will). With free-will, the possibility of evil exists. The evil that does exists is not in catastrophes of nature, but in sin; sin is the only intrinsic evil that exists. Sin is evil because it adversely affects relationship-building, especially with God. the world in which we live, a world that was created without anything evil within, but with the possibility of evil to exist (with free-will creatures) is “as good as any possible world” for man to live (p. 39).

Gilmore’s Negative Rejoinder. Gilmore summarizes his presentation and Rosenberg’s philosophical failings (in principle).

Rosenberg’s Affirmative Rejoinder. Rosenberg asked many questions, spoke about Gilmore’s failing to give an adequate answer to why man feels pain when, in his opinion, God could have created man without feeling pain. “… the job of the theist is to explain why God made evil actual” (p. 45). The remaining moment of Rosenberg’s rejoinder was in introducing normative ethics and meta-ethics in relation to theistic debates.

SUMMARY to this point: Rosenberg spoke of his desire to have explanation of compatibility for the existence of evil with a traditional concept of an all-powerful God. He never did set forth an argument that demanded the conclusion “thus, God does not exist.” Gilmore gave explanation, a thorough one, but it was not an explanation Rosenberg accepted, though he could not give a counter-reply to why Gilmore’s answer was not adequate (indicative of the point “evidence does not matter” when a position is desired).

Gilmore’s First Affirmative. He starts out describing his opponent as a methodological atheist instead of an epistemological atheist. The latter demands that he (Rosenberg) give explanation to all the 300 million species that exist, something Rosenberg can’t do. Since Holy Spirit is not eh latter, then he must be the former. Building on this, Gilmore puts forth an argument (a syllogism): 1) Either Theism or Physicalism (materialism), 2) Physicalism can’t be sustained, 3) thus, Theism. Gilmore gave four reasons why this argument can be sustained, building mostly on the point of objective morality. “Piggy-backing” this, he offers, in his second main argument, another argument built on morality, highlighting the fact that one such as Rosenberg is in no position to judge with a moral standard when he has no moral standard. The argument: 1) if there is a universal moral standard, then theism is true. 2) there is a universal moral law. 3) thus, theism is true. Gilmore gives two additional, complementary arguments along similar lines (p. 50). The remainder of his portion of this affirmative is building the case for an objective morality and how the atheist can’t do so, but he tries, just to same, to live as if there is one. Thus, God exist. Gilmore, in my mind did a very good job; yes, he got into the use of philosophical jargon, but I did not find this troubling like, perhaps, most did.

Rosenberg’s First Negative. Rosenberg tries to distance himself from the traditional suffering/morality arguments atheists put forth, but then proceeds to argue about arbitrariness of God making a command and its relation to morality. He poses an “argument’s sake” 11th command. Did God give this command because it was morally right, or did God give this command because He declared it right? If the latter, then the morally right is based on God’s fiat, God’s decree.  Rosenberg thinks this is an “ungetoverable” dilemma for the theist. He concludes from this that morality exists apart from anything associated with God (p. 64). Rosenberg anticipate the response to his remarks by addressing the “Divine Command” theory, which is the nature of God is such that nothing radiates from His being that is morally wrong, “God’s commands are the morally right ones because of his very essence or nature” (p. 64). On pages 66 through the end of his speech (p. 68), Rosenberg explains “nice nihilism,” (though he calls himself a utilitarian). It is nice because man is a cooperative, altruistic being, which accords well with survival in the desert of the African Savannah.

Gilmore’s Second Affirmative. Gilmore begins by asking questions with unstated answers about the nature of suffering and if there is any warrant to the infliction of it (on occasion). Then he begins to address the age-old Euthyphro problem Rosenberg brought up, asserting that Rosenberg believes Plato proved religion and scientism face the same problem. I don’t think he explicated very well here. Nevertheless, Gilmore then says, “God is who he is, because he is,” stated with much emphasis, meaning that God’s attributes and existence are co-eternally bound. Moreover, Euthyphro dealt with polytheism, not monotheism. Gilmore also declared he is not a “divine-command” theorist, which means if God declared something, that something is morally right; if this is so, then God, in an arbitrary way set forth that which is moral, even the point of commanding another to kill his son! The ring of arbitrariness is social-Darwinism, which can’t account for one single moral fact. Gilmore again emphasized the nature of morality is not in commands, but in the nature of God. He then explicates the nature of holiness in relation to God’s wrath which has a goal that one can see/experience in the ultimate respect. Not so with utilitarianism because it’s subjective in nature, nothing transcendent about it. He finishes his portion of this affirmative, which was nothing but a reply to Rosenberg’s first negative, with a discussion of RNA, DNA and how Rosenberg declared evolution a mess!

Rosenberg’s Second Negative. Rosenberg summarized Gilmore’s last speech, but said it amounted to little because the terms and expressions used have no meanings. For instance, what does this mean: God is who he is, because he is? Moreover, as far as Rosenberg is concerned, neither does the idea of God’s existence and essence being eternally bound have meaning. Rosenberg said he was not going to address what he called “cheap shots” at Christian theist and difficult passages of the Old Testament, that is, he was not going to address it as it pertained to this current debate. He then spent the remainder of his time giving attention to science, and evolution and the “god of the gaps.”  He addressed the phrase “survival of the fittest” having no existence in Darwin’s book, though in the very next paragraph, he spoke of the idea behind its coinage, without using the term. Rosenberg called out Gilmore’s use of a stat, saying that he was wrong, though to later follow that Gilmore was right in the use of something else he said. In all this that was said, there was no denial of Gilmore’s speech, but only explanation of methodology.

Rosenberg’s Negative Rejoinder. His last speech of the occasion was simply to remind people that Gilmore never gave an adequate response to the Euthyphro problem. If one is going to argue the existence of moral suffering implies the absolute nature of moral law, which implies God’s existence, then theists need to “…what it is about God and about the moral laws that so bind them together…” and Rosenberg said Gilmore failed in this.

Gilmore’s Affirmative Rejoinder. Gilmore presented his main argument in chart form again, maintaining that he did prove that God has existence because “physicalism” (materialism) can’t be sustained. Since Rosenberg’s perspective can’t be sustained, the only alternative is God (without regard to whether one can adequately explain this or that). Also, with physicalism, there is no moral source, thus no objective, absolute moral right/wrong.

LAST IMPRESSIONS: From a biased perspective, Ralph Gilmore was more than capable of handling the arguments set forth by the atheistic college professor. The upside of the debate, in my view, was Gilmore’s logical arguments that Rosenberg did not address directly because, I suppose, Rosenberg could (would) not. The thrust of the debate was on morality, a position the atheists have much trouble dealing with; try as they might to thrust the Euthyphro argument against theists, the trouble lands in the lap of the atheist to even determine what is moral or not. The downside of the debate was in the philosophical terms and ideas expressed; most people without some training in this area would be lost. As I listened to some who went to the debate, this is exactly what was expressed. I thought both participants carried themselves well (if one can interpret the words on a page accurately), neither descended into disparagement. I thought Rosenberg seemed to be a worthy opponent.


What Moral Principle was Violated?



Letter to editor

The article headline reads, “Religious leaders gather in moral opposition to Trump” (page A-5, 8/29/2017), but the article never identified exactly what moral principle or principles were compromised. There was mention of white supremacy, the president’s pardon of a sheriff, a point on transgenderism, but nothing about a moral foundation or principle violated. One Baptist preacher said, “When you identify it as a moral issue, then that’s what needs to be done” (that is, stand in opposition).

It would be much easier to stand in opposition to something on moral grounds if 1) the moral foundation transcends man, that is, is greater than man, 2) if it was known! As it is, there was nothing in the article to identify a principle or principles violated. To this point, therefore, that for which some stood opposed was nothing but a matter of opinion, and opinions are like noses…

Morality cannot originate in man and be transcendent of man at the same time. If there is a moral base, a foundation, it must be in God. So, let us now begin to discuss what is moral/not moral based on God’s revealed will.


As of 9.2.2017, the LETTER TO EDITOR has not been printed in the hard-copy of the Dispatch, though it was submitted on 8.29.2017

Did the Law of Moses Demand Perfection? (Galatians 3:10-14)


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Preacher’s Meeting (September 11, 2017, Wadsworth, Ohio)

Preliminary: this is not a position paper, but a study on what I think is a misguided notion concerning justification and perfect-keeping of the Law of Moses. Problem set Out: Can righteousness be attained through the Law if one perfectly obeyed it (2:21). Quite a number of Bible expositors so declare, but below are just a few referenced. “Since the Jews were unable to obey the Law perfectly, they could not make themselves right with God.”[1] “The law cannot justify us because it is impossible for carnal people to fulfill it, and God demands that it be kept perfectly.”[2] In a discussion on the nature of justification and innocence in the court of law, Barnes writes: “In either case, if the point is made out, he will be just or innocent in the sight of the Law. The Law will have nothing against him, and he will be regarded and treated in the premises as an innocent man; or he has justified himself in regard to the charge brought against him.”[3] (italics added, RT) “The only way in which the Law could justify was through a complete obedience to its provisions.”[4] In a discussion on the Law being added, Bales writes, “It could not within itself justify man, for man did not do all the law said all of the time; therefore man was under the curse (Gal. 3:10-11).[5]

SUMMARY OUTLINE of Galatians per chapter, and as will be seen, it’s an over-simplification. CHAPTER 1. Introductory greeting (1:1-5). That which is contrary to what Paul preached/taught is that which is contrary to God’s express will (1:6-11). That which Paul preached/taught has its origin in God (1:12-24). CHAPTER 2. Paul’s Gospel from God is greater than those who live in Jerusalem (2:1-10). The Gospel Paul preached is partial to no one, accepting of all (2:11-21). CHAPTER 3. The Gospel message (seed) antedates the Law of Moses (3:1-9). The law, by its very nature, is unbending and can only condemn or show that one is not condemned (3:10-14). The Law of Moses is not contrary to Paul’s Gospel message (in its blossomed form; Eph. 3:1-7), but is the completion of the very thing the Law of Moses was designed to accomplished (3:15-29). CHAPTER 4. Paul illustrates, twice, to make his point about immaturity/maturity (4:1-7) and a figurative/allegorical understanding of two physical locations (4:21-31). The connection between the two illustrations is made in 4:7 and 4:31. In between these two points is Paul’s concern about those who would try to enslave them (4:8-20). CHAPTER 5. Paul’s perplexity concerning the saints in Galatia is continued (5:1-7). Paul expresses sternness toward those who influenced them into this confused way of thinking, calling upon them to walk in love (5:8-15). Paul contrasts two kinds of walks: those who walk according to the flesh and those who walk according to the Spirit’s teachings (5:16-26). CHAPTER 6. Paul continues with his contrast (6:1-10), then giving some final exhortations to bring his epistle/letter to a close (6:11-18).

THRUST OF THIS STUDY.  Paul’s thought in summary through 3:9. Paul contrasts two systems; the reception of the Holy Spirit either by 1) works of the Law or, 2) the hearing of faith. This hearing of faith pertains to the message preached (1:8; 3:1). The “hearing of faith” is the “gospel” that goes as far back as Abraham (3:8).

Some Remarks on Galatians 2:16. The remarks made here are in relation to Law/faith. Is it one’s personal faith the Holy Spirit is speaking about, or does the word faith stand for something else. Translations (emphasis added, RT). “But knowing that man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, we also believe in Christ Jesus, that we may be justified by the faith of Christ and not by the works of the law: because by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified” (1899 Douay-Rheims Bible). “…knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, even we believed in Christ Jesus, so that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; because no flesh shall be justified by the works of the law” (English Majority Text Version). “Yet we know that a person is put right with God only through faith in Jesus Christ, never by doing what the Law requires. We, too, have believed in Christ Jesus in order to be put right with God through our faith in Christ, and not by doing what the Law requires. For no one is put right with God by doing what the Law requires” (Good News Bible). “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified” (KJV). “…yet we know that no one is justified by the works of the law but by the faithfulness of Jesus Christ. And we have come to believe in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by the faithfulness of Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified” (New English Translation).

I am in no position to speak on Greek grammar as it relates to this verse. By context, however, I have a few thoughts. Paul speak of the system of justification (2:7, 14). This system goes back to his earlier remarks in C-1, there Paul states some are trying to assert a different gospel when there is no other gospel (system of justification) than that which he taught and teaches (1:6-9, 24). Prior to 2:16, Paul speaks only of the system of justification, not one’s personal faith. It is in 2:16, that one reads of both the system of justification and one’s personal response/faith.[6] An AMPLIFIED rendering of my own: yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law [the system of the Law of Moses] but through [anarthrous] faith in Jesus Christ [the system of justification revealed in Jesus], so we also have believed in Christ Jesus [one’s personal response/faith], in order to be justified by faith in Christ [the system of justification revealed in Jesus] and not by works of the law [the system of the Law of Moses], because by works of the law no one will be justified.

Does the “but through faith in Jesus Christ” refer to a system (the New Covenant) or one’s personal faith?[7]

Brief Remarks on Galatians 3:10-12. Galatians 3:10. For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them” (ESV). The emphasis in this verse is on what a person relies (or relied) on. Does one rely on expending energy to obey commands? If so, because failure to comply is guaranteed, the one who so lives is cursed by God. Galatians 3:11. Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” One cannot be/will not be justified by the Law (Law of Moses).[8] Perhaps 3:11 can be interpreted to mean it is evident because no one could possibly have success at meeting the demands of the Law in complete perfection, thus one has to be justified in some other manner, in this case, by faith. Another possible interpretation (one that I accept): The Law, in and of itself, cannot/does not justify anyone, even one who lived it perfectly. Justification comes by faith. The Law of Moses was not designed by God to accomplish that end. What was designed by God to accomplish that end (justification) is one’s faith. Galatians 3:12. But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” The Holy Spirit makes clear as to why one could not/would not be justified by the Law. However, according to the Holy Spirit, one who lived under the authority of the Law, though the Law was not of faith, could/would live by the Law. This means the one who lived under the authority of the Law would be justified, saved, redeemed (in view of the Cross of Jesus) by God as those who live under the New Covenant today. Their reliance was not on the Law, but on God. Another option is that one is to live by all of it and without ail.[9] I do not think this is a natural or reasonable understanding of the passage. In my view, for one to read it this way is the result of the interpretive perspective that to be justified by the Law, one must live the Law perfectly.[10] In what way could one live, or be pleasing to God under a Law that was not of faith? Paul give the answer in Romans 2:28-29, which is another way of saying what Moses did in Deuteronomy 10:12-13.

With this before us: What does it mean to live the law (Law of Moses) perfectly? Does this mean that all things in the Law are obeyed, including the sin offering? If so, then the one who offers is guilty of sin, and the Law could not “justify” (or move one from) an imperfect status (guilty of sin) to perfection.  Does this mean all the exhortations in the Law are obeyed precisely (without any deviation), without regard to the proper motivation?[11] Does it mean one will do as #2 above, but in the spirit in which it was written? Does this mean something else?

Gal. 3:10, plainly states one is cursed when one does not abide by all things written in the Law of Moses to do them. Thus, if one does all the things written in the Law – what then? As set out at the beginning of this outline, some think it results in one’s justification because the Law was obeyed perfectly, that is, there was no violation of the written code. Since there is (was) no curse or condemnation, but the one who did all things in the Law is innocent, then it must be that justification results. I think this is misguided. If one fails in one point to meet the Law’s demands, that same person who failed is guilty of the entirety of the Law (James 2:8-11). It is my contention the one who received no curse because he/she met the Law’s obligations in all respects and perfectly (assuming it could have been done by ordinary man) is still not in a justified position before God because he/she did what was supposed to be done[12] (cf. Luke 17:7-10).[13] Justification is a matter of God’s declaration, not a matter of meeting the Law’s obligations in total, complete sinlessness. Under the authority of the Law of Moses, the Law could not justify anyone (3:11, 21; Acts 13:39). Justification is God’s declaration because “one is justified by faith” (Hab. 2:4). This is NOT the same thing as “justification by faith alone.”[14] The curse of the Law was to point out the guilty verdict of all who lived under its parameters (or authority) when one failed to meet the God-ordained obligations. It had direct application to those to whom it was given. The curse of the Law was not in failing to live it perfectly.[15] The curse of the Law was in showing those who lived under its authority were guilty of sin. This emphasis is important. This distinction places the emphasis in the right location (if you will). There is nothing in the Old Testament (if I recall correctly) that speaks of one obligated to live it perfectly to be justified. There was an obligation given to walk humbly with God (Micah 6:8; cf. Gen. 17:1; 18:19; Deut. 10:12-13). Connecting this with the teaching of Paul in Romans 7:22-8:1, the thought becomes clearer (in my mind anyway).

The application (or approach) of many Israelites was to make use of the Law as the standard of righteousness in and of itself. For instance, the Rabbis looked (and look) upon Torah study as the ultimate end of spiritual knowledge and attainment, rather than end of one thing and the beginning of something else (as in Jeremiah 31). There are 13 principles of faith that are incumbent on every Jew, and 2 of them (#’s 8, 9) refer to the Torah. “I believe with complete faith that the entire Torah now in our hands is the same one that was given to Moses…I believe with complete faith that this Torah will not be exchanged, nor with there be another Torah from the Creator…”[16] In a discussion of the greatness of Jacob, the Chumash (anthology of rabbinic commentators) speaks of Jacob spending fourteen years of his life in study of the Torah at the academy of Shem and Eber to become a scholar.[17] In introductory remarks, one reads these words: “…Man’s highest privilege and loftiest attainment is in the study of the Torah itself – the light – whereby mortal man unites with the thought and the wisdom of God Himself.”[18]

Paul wrote to the church in Rome, What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, as it is written, ‘Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.’ Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.” (Romans 9:30-10:3, ESV)

The purpose of the Law was more than just to identify sin for what it was, how those who lived under its authority were guilty if one failed to meet God’s obligations (2:15-17; Romans 3:20), it was also to point one to the coming Messiah (Galatians 3:24-27).

If one did not fail in one point of the law, all that could be said about the one who did not fail is that the Law of Moses did not condemn/curse. Does that mean the one not condemned is justified by God? At the very least (or, perhaps, at the very most), one can speak of innocence, but the Law (Law of Moses) which did not condemn/curse could only show/manifest innocence of any violation of the Law’s obligatory exhortations. That innocence did not result in declared justification. In this light, it is my contention there is a gap (if you will) between innocence and justification.

Justification comes from God’s declaration, not anything associated with innocence in relation to wrong-doing and the Law because the Law could not declare on righteous/justified; all it could do is “say” not guilty. I think Paul bears this out in 3:10-24. No one is justified before God by the Law (3:11), The Law is not of faith (3:12), God’s promise to Abraham does not come through the Law (3:14, 18), The Law cannot annul God’s method of justification to Abraham (3:17), The Law was a temporary arrangement (3:19, 23), The Law could not give life/righteousness (3:21), The Law could only imprison (3:22-23, 10), The Law’s temporary arrangement was to teach (3:24).

Objections considered. OBJECTION: What about a “pre-accountable” person (such as an 8-year old) who died under the authority of the Law, but was not guilty of violating the Law’s obligations? Considering Jonah 4:11, those of their “pre-accountable” years do not have a lost relationship with the Lord because knowledge of right/wrong is lacking, thus they are innocent. Innocent, but not declared justified, as in “just as if I had never sinned” type circumstance.[19] OBJECTION: Why talk about something that is only theoretical? This objection was offered, not because it may prove to be an unfruitful study, but because it is only theoretical, not practical or actual. Fair enough, but I suggest the reason for this study is because of the remarks made in the opening of the paper – that one would be or could be justified by the Law if one lived it perfectly. OBJECTION: Philippians 3:9. Paul wrote of righteousness that comes through the Law.[20] And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith” (KJV). Based on Paul’s own words in Galatians 3:11, Paul was not contradicting what he earlier wrote to those of Galatia. How should it be understood? In relation to Romans 10:3, it is my view that Paul spoke of attaining righteousness from the perspective of those who seek to establish their own. Some, however, have interpreted it to be in relation to Jesus. “Here we infer (from the general line of Pauline teaching) that the primary thought is that of an acceptance for Christ’s sake, as against acceptance for any personal merits of the man.”[21] Perhaps, one might understand the verse in relation to Galatians 3:12 and, if so, then Paul is speaking in connection to Galatians 3:24-27. OBJECTION: Jesus was not guilty of the Law, thus He lived the Law perfectly. He was not imprisoned by the Law because He was innocent of failing to meet its demands. In His innocence, was He justified by the Law? No, justification can’t come via the Law and, justification is a matter of God’s declaration. As Charles Hill expressed it (in comments I have not included in this document), Jesus was extraordinary; He was man, but also unlike ordinary man.[22]

In an Old Testament context living under the authority of the Law meant what? It meant that perfect-keeping-of-the-Law was not the standard of measurement, but faithful loyalty to God was. Much of the Old Law pertained to what could not be done, what was prohibited. If/when a violation occurred, then the Law set out prescriptive commands for reconciliation. That reconciliation prescription, however, was only temporary and seen via the cross of Jesus (cf. Hebrews 10:4). Compare this with the spirit of the New Covenant as in 1 John 2:1, My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.”

In a New Testament context this means what? James 1:25; Galatians 6:2. “But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing” (1:25). “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (6:2). With these passages, it is clear the New Testament is understood as God’s Law. Thus, the concept of Law is not, and never has been a problem. The problem is, and always has been man’s understanding and application of Law. Under the New Law, it pertains to what must be done. There are prohibitions, but the thrust of the New Covenant pertains to how one is to live (cf. Galatians 5:22-23; 1 Timothy 1:6-11). One’s personal salvation: it pertains to what one should, needs to do. The Lord’s Supper: a participation in what should be done. Assembly: it pertains to what one should do, needs to do. Godly living: it pertains to how one should live (1 Peter 1:13-16). Matters pertaining to such things as the “structure” of the New Testament church must do what needs to be done (cf. 1 Peter 5:1-6). These two passages speak of a Law, the Law of Liberty and the Law of Christ. Under the conditions of the Law as set forth by the Father/Son/Holy Spirit, those applying Hebrews 11:6, 1, with Romans 10:17, 2 Corinthians 5:7 and Acts 2:37-38 (for instance) are declared justified, righteous, saved.

Concluding thoughts of the “thrust of my study.” The Law of Moses was designed by God to identify sin for what it is, show man (the Israelite male/female) he is guilty of it and to instruct each toward the New Covenant prepared by God (Jeremiah 31:31-355, John 6:44-45). The Law of Moses never demanded of its subjects a perfect keeping of its precepts/commands or, to say it is another way, it never demanded a person (male/female) to a never-have-failed-to-live-up-to-its-demands way of life. If one was not guilty of failing to meet the Law’s demands, then that one was innocent of any wrong done, but not justified before God. Justification comes (came to Abraham) because God looks upon the heart of faith and “counted it to him [Abraham] as righteousness” (Genesis 15:6). Application in a New Testament context (like the point above). Because God set forth His stipulations, as in Acts 2:38; 16:31, etc., justification comes because of the Cross of Jesus.

LAW in Galatians. Paul does not make use of the word in Chapter 1, though he does give some introductory thoughts to his heritage, and the role the Law of Moses played in that. In Chapter 2, Paul begins to bring the concept of law (Law of Moses) into view. He introduced circumcision into the discussion (2:3), but circumcision predates the Law of Moses (Genesis 17). Through verse 14, “circumcision” is the primary word used to stand in the place of Paul’s discussion relative to the Law of Moses. Peter’s apostolic commission to the circumcised (2:7-9). Paul’s apostolic commission to the uncircumcised (2:7-9). The hypocrisy of Peter in application of fellowship/association with Gentiles (2:11-14). It is in 2:15-21, that Paul brings the Law of Moses into focus as it relates to and contrasts with the Gospel of Christ. One is not justified by the “works of the Law” (2:16). “Works of the law” (2:16) must be understood (contextually) to refer to the Law of Moses; “…it is plain that the Mosaic Law is in view.”[23] “Law is unbending, it yields nothing to weakness, its standard is never lowered, not even by a hairbreadth; law makes no compromise, and finds no room for mercy; ‘a man that hath set at nought Moses’ law dieth without compassion,’ Hebrews 10:28”.[24] Through the Law, Jews are made sinners (2:17).[25] Through the Law as a Jew, one dies spiritually (2:19). Through the Law one cannot attain righteousness (2:21).

In Chapter 3, Paul sternly (or plainly) speaks to those of Galatia concerning their waffling on the matter of justification by faith in contrast to justification by the works of the Law. The Spirit (Holy Spirit) did not come via the “works of the law,” but by the hearing of faith (3:2). Perfection (spiritual maturity) did not come via (or by) the flesh, or the works of the Law (3:3, 5). Abraham was justified by God based on his faith (trust), not the works of the Law (3:6-9). Those who rely (ESV) on the Law are under a curse (3:10). The Law (Law of Moses) brought death (cf. 3:10).[26] Righteousness was not attainable through the Law of Moses (cf. 3:11, 21). The Law will not make one justified before God (3:11). Though the Law is not of faith, those who lived under it could be pleasing to the Lord (3:12). Jesus redeemed those who have faith, those who trust in the Lord, from the curse of the Law (3:13). The life of Abraham is the illustration of salvation/righteousness/justification, not Moses and the Law (3:14-18).[27] The Law was added because of transgression (3:19). The Law is not contrary to the promises of God (3:21). Life/righteousness could not be attained by the Law (3:22). The Law imprisoned, held captive (3:23). The Law was a guardian, a teacher, instructor (3:24). The Law of Moses was a guardian, teacher, instructor to bring one to Christ. It was to point one who lived under its authority to Christ, instructing them in the true way of righteousness/justification (cf. John 6:44-45).[28] The guardian (the Law of Moses) is no longer in place (3:25).

In chapter 4, Paul points out the distinguishing difference between two approaches, relating to the role of the Law. When the guardian (Law of Moses) was in control, God’s promise to Abraham was still in the future. It was while the guardian was in place, teaching those who lived under its parameters, that God’s promise came into the world (4:4).[29] The “elementary principles of the word” (ESV) pertains to the material realm, exactly that which the Law of Moses addressed. Paul made use of a historical lesson and turned it into an allegory to make a greater point (4:21-31). Two women and two children. From one woman, a child was born after the manner of human wisdom (Genesis 16). Those born after the manner that pertains to the flesh are in bondage. From the other woman, a child was born after the manner of God’s promise (Genesis 17, 21:1-7). Those born after the manner that pertains to God’s promise are made free from bondage.

In chapter 5, the word “circumcision” (5:2-3) stands for the whole of the Law of Moses. One who receives circumcision, attempting to be justified by the Law is severed from Christ (5:4), that is fallen from grace. The whole Law is filled when one loves neighbor as self (5:14). The Law is implicitly related to the subjugation of the desires of the flesh (5:16-18). In chapter 6, Paul brings the Holy Spirit’s thoughts pertaining to the Law to a close by exhorting the brethren to fulfill the Law of Christ. Those who want the brethren in Galatia to be circumcised, i. e., to obey the whole law, they themselves are hypocrites (6:12).


  1. Bibles: New Living Translation (NLT), English Standard Version (ESV), New English Translation (NET), King James Version (KJV), Good News Bible (GNB), 1899 Douay-Rheims Bible, English Majority Text Version
  2. James Bales, The Scope of the Covenants, James D. Bales, Searcy Arkansas, 1982
  3. Albert Barnes: Barnes Notes on New Testament: Galatians; E-Sword.
  4. Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges: Philippians; E-Sword
  5. Chumash: Torah; Stone Edition: Haftaros and Five Megillos with a Commentary Anthologized from Rabbinic Writings; Artscroll Series, 2000
  6. James B. Coffman: Commentary on Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians; Firm Foundation, 1977
  7. Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers: Galatians; E-Sword
  8. William Hendriksen: New Testament Commentary: John; Baker Book House, 1979
  9. William Hendriksen: New Testament Commentary: Galatians; Baker Book House, 1979
  10. Keil and Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament: Jonah (vol. 10; Minor Prophets); Hendrickson, p. 280
  11. John MacArthur: The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Galatians; Moody Bible Institute, 1987
  12. Jack McKinney: Truth for Today Commentary: Galatians; Resource Publications, 2017
  13. Douglas Moo: Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament: Galatians; Baker Academic, 2013
  14. Leon Morris: Galatians: Paul’s Charter of Christian Freedom; Intervarsity Press, 1996
  15. NET study notes. NET Bible, Second Beta Edition., 1996-2003
  16. Pulpit Commentary; E-Sword
  17. The Latter Prophets: Isaiah; with a Commentary Anthologized from Rabbinic Writings, Milstein Edition; Artscroll Series, 2013
  18. Gareth Reese: New Testament Epistles: 2 Corinthians, Galatians; Scripture Exposition Books, 2011
  19. Reformation Commentary on Scripture: Galatians, Ephesians; IVP Academic, 2011
  20. Herman Ridderbos: New International Commentary New Testament: Galatians; Eerdmans, 1974
  21. Robert Stein: The New American Commentary: Luke; Broadman Press, 1992
  22. E. Vine (with C. F. Hogg): Vine’s Expository Commentary on Galatians; Thomas Nelson, 1997
  23. Mike Willis; Truth Commentaries: Galatians; Guardian of Truth Foundation, 1994


[1] Jack McKinney on Galatians 2:16. Commentary on Galatians, p. 103.

[2] Erasmus Sarcerius on Galatians 2:16. Reformation Commentary on Scripture: Galatians, p. 72

[3] Albert Barnes on Galatians 2:16 (E-Sword).

[4] Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers on Galatians 2:16 (E-Sword)

[5] James D. Bales, The Scope of the Covenants, p. 16

[6] A counter to this understanding of mine may be stated this way: Paul may be talking about the system of justification, but it’s not the system he emphasizes, but the personal response to each. In other words, the response some had to the Old Law was with an emphasis on deeds done, whereas Paul is emphasizing trust/faith in the One who brought the Gospel. As can be seen in the outline. I argue the emphasis is on the contrast to the systems of justification.

[7] In a translator note from the margin of the NET: “tn Or ‘faith in Jesus Christ.’ A decision is difficult here. Though traditionally translated ‘faith in Jesus Christ,’ an increasing number of NT scholars are arguing that πίστις Χριστοῦ (pisti Christou) and similar phrases in Paul (here and in 2:20; Rom. 3:22, 26; Gal. 3:22; Eph. 3:12; Phi. 3:9) involve a subjective genitive and mean ‘Christ’s faith’ or ‘Christ’s faithfulness’ (cf., e.g., G. Howard, “The ‘Faith of Christ’,” ExpTim 85 [1974]: 212-15; R. B. Hays, The Faith of Jesus Christ [SBLDS]; Morna D. Hooker, “Πίστις Χριστοῦ,” NTS 35 [1989]: 321-42). Noteworthy among the arguments for the subjective genitive view is that when πίστις takes a personal genitive it is almost never an objective genitive (cf. Matt. 9:2, 22, 29; Mark 2:5; 5:34; 10:52; Luke 5:20; 7:50; 8:25, 48; 17:19; 18:42; 22:32; Rom. 1:8, 12; 3:3; 4:5, 12, 16; 1Cor. 2:5; 15:14, 17; 2 Cor. 10:15; Phil. 2:17; Col. 1:4; 2:5; 1 Thess. 1:8; 3:2, 5, 10; 2 Thess. 1:3; Tit. 1:1; Phm. 1:6; 1 Pet. 1:9, 21; 2 Pet. 1:5). On the other hand, the objective genitive view has its adherents: A. Hultgren, “The Pistis Christou Formulations in Paul,” NovT 22 (1980): 248-63; J. D. G. Dunn, “Once More, ΠΙΣΤΙΣ ΧΡΙΣΤΟΥ,” SBL Seminar Papers, 1991, 730-44. Most commentaries on Romans and Galatians usually side with the objective view” (NET study notes, p. 2131).

[8] Gareth Reese offers a studied opinion the phrase “works of the law” does not pertain to the Law of Moses, as revealed by God, but to “man-made halakhic rulings or interpretations.” He writes, “When Paul writes in Romans and Galatians that “works of law” are not a condition of salvation, we can now understand that he is talking about ‘halakhic rulings’ like those typified by the 20 or so examples in MMT” [the first letters of the Hebrew word assigned to a manuscript in the DSS collection] (pp. 83-84). I find this to be interesting, but not convincing. Reese is convinced the term “works of law” is misunderstood and misapplied by the reformers through the centuries (in this, there is much agreement), but it seems to me that Paul makes himself clear in the context of both Romans and Galatians concerning what he means, that is, the Law of Moses.

[9] John MacArthur writes, “God’s written law itself marks the danger of trying to live up to its standard, which is perfection. If you are relying on the works of the law as your means of salvation, then you have to live by them perfectly” (p. 77). This is a misreading of Galatians 3:12, in my view.

[10] Coffman is mistaken when he writes, “The Law did not even require faith, as seen in the quotation Paul gave here from Lev. 18:5, the meaning of which may be paraphrased, ‘No matter about faith; do the Law and live.’” One could not be pleasing to God without it (faith), even in the context of Leviticus 18:5. Moreover, the Law (Torah) does not need to be understood relative to “do this” and “don’t do this” commands, at the expense of devotional commitment to God (cf. Genesis 18:19).

[11] Ridderbos comments on Galatians 3:10-12 that all who seek justification “out of the works of the law” lie under the curse. He supports this by saying, “…Paul cites Deut. 27:26. In that…all those who do not fulfill the demands of the law in all respects are placed under the curse” (Galatians, pp. 122-123). Looking at Deuteronomy 27:26, the word “all” is in the NKJV (in italics), but not in the JPS, ESV, ASV, Young’s Literal, NIV. Paul, however, does include the word “all” in Galatians 3:10, thus it must be implied (if not explicitly stated) in the context of Deuteronomy 27. The Holy Spirit’s point in Deuteronomy 27 is rebellion, not failure in one point (though failure in one point can be rebellion).

[12] In 3:21, there was not a law given that could give life, that is, give life in terms of justification.

[13] Robert Stein writes, “Believers are unworthy in the sense that at their very best all they have done is what they should have done, i. e., what the commandments teach. They have not done more than that. On the contrary, usually they have done much less. Compare Abot 2:8: ‘If you have learned much Torah, do not puff yourself up on that account, for it was for that purpose that you were created’’ (NAC: Luke, pp. 430-431).

[14] Compare the pitiful remark (in my view) by John MacArthur on 2:16. “All claims that salvation is through belief in Jesus Christ plus something else are blasphemous, satanic lies. The passage is as forceful and unequivocal a statement of the doctrine by faith alone as can be found in Scripture. First Paul establishes it on the basis of his apostolic authority. Second, he establishes it on the basis of his own experience. And third, he establishes it on the basis of God’s Word in the Old Testament” (p. 57). This is not only misguided, but plainly false. “Paul! You should have corrected Ananias when he said to you, ‘And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name’ (Acts 22:16) because he clearly taught belief in Jesus plus something else. Paul, you should be ashamed!”

[15] “Those who did not perfectly obey the Law…came under the curse of the Law” (Willis, p. 185). Obviously, something that could not be done by ordinary man. My perspective on this agrees in part with such sentiments as that which Willis wrote, but not because one did not obey it perfectly. Compare this with what the Holy Spirit wrote in Hebrews 7:19, “the law made nothing perfect” (ESV). The Law of Moses could not make perfect because it dealt with fleshly concerns (9:10; 10:1; 11:40), whereas “perfection” attained is more than just the deeds, works, or actions of man.

[16] Chumash: Introduction: Divine and Immutable, p. xix

[17] “Before going to Haran, Jacob spent fourteen years at the academy of Shem and Eber, a fact the Sages deduce from the chronology of the period. Surely, as great a man as Jacob did not need more years of study to become a scholar.” Later, in the same source, it speaks of him studying the Torah and “it was his own efforts that earned him the prophecy” (Chumash, p. 144).

[18] Chumash, “Torah Study: An Overview” p. xxiv.

[19] Some expositors speak of those 120,000 as infants (Barnes, Calvin, Ellicott), but in a translator’s note of the NET, the number refers to small children, but without regard to age. In the Pulpit Commentary, they are identified as children of “tender years.” Keil and Delitzsch writes, “This is not to be restricted, however, to the very earliest years, say the first three, but must be extended to the age of seven years, in which children first learn to distinguish with certainty between right and left, since, according to M. v. Niebuhr (p. 278), ‘the end of the seventh year is a very common division of age (it is met with, for example, even among the Persians), and we may regard it as certain that it would be adopted by the Hebrews, on account of the importance they attached to the number seven’” (E-Sword).

[20] “From the special Mosaic code he rises to the larger fact of the whole Divine preceptive code, taken as a covenant of ‘righteousness,’ of acceptance: ‘Do this, perfectly, and live; do this, and claim your acceptance’” (Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges: Philippians; E-Sword). I am of the strong persuasion Paul did not have this in mind, because if he did, I am equally persuaded Paul would have said something along this line in other writings of his – but he did not. This is a theology of man.

[21] Ibid.

[22] “Jesus never obeyed the Law vicariously; he obeyed the Law to qualify himself as a perfect sacrifice for the sins of man” (Mike Willis, Galatians, p. 184). I take this to mean that He did not obey simply as a substitute, but He obeyed to qualify as in Hebrews 5:8-9. Though He was tempted in all respects like a man (though without sin), as a man He was never “out-of-fellowship” with the Father, thus, not in need of justification.

[23] W. E. Vine: Galatians, p. 58.

[24] W. E. Vine. Pp. 83-84.

[25] Some difference of opinion as to how best to understand this verse. Douglas Moo has a good discussion on it. The NLT of the Bible gives the opposite view of the perspective Moo adopted, a view I think better reflects what Paul is talking about. Perhaps an accusation was being flung at the Jewish-Christians about how one becomes a sinner when the Law of Moses is abandoned. Paul rejects this and says one becomes a sinner, in truth, when what has been torn down (Ephesians 2:14-15; Colossians 2:15) is rebuilt all-over-again. The NLT gives an alternate view: “But suppose we seek to be made right with God through faith in Christ and then we are found guilty because we have abandoned the law. Would that mean Christ has led us into sin? Absolutely not!” The difference between the two positions is 1) an accusation laid at Paul’s feet, 2) an approach with a consequence.

[26] An important point is worthy of distinction. Though many speak of the concept of law in general, when such discussions are considered, it is my belief the point made like this are not comparable. In other words, some will speak of “law” as being applicable to “any law.” The concept of law as given by God to man is not comparable to any law of man given to others wherein sin can be identified.

[27] “Indeed, Rambam writes that the Messianic king, the scion of David, will possess more wisdom than Solomon and will be a prophet almost as great as our teacher Moses (Hilchos Teshuvah 9:2)” (The Later Prophets: The Milstein Edition, p. 97)

[28] Contrary to William Hendriksen, John 6:45 does indeed weaken the Calvinistic interpretation of John 6:44. “It is not true that 6:45 cancels or at least weakens 6:44. The expression It is written in the prophets, And they shall all be taught of God, does not in any sense whatever place in the hands of men the power to accept Jesus as Lord” (New Testament Commentary: John, p. 239, emphasis his).

[29] Strangely, the Chumash includes the words of Rabbi Zohar Chadash, who said “…that Abraham took him [Lot] because he foresaw that David and the Messiah would descend from Lot…” (p. 55; commenting on Genesis 12:4). Looking at Genesis 49:10, however, the Chumash clearly has the Messiah coming through the line of Judah (p. 279).

Structural Barriers Set By The Lord



Letter to Editor,

In a recent Faith & Values section of the Dispatch (8.18.2017), an article spoke of the contributions of two United Methodist “’clergywomen” made to Hillary Clinton’s recent book. They were excited to see their own thoughts published in a book that encouraged the former presidential candidate while on the strenuous 2016 campaign trail.

Their excitement is reasonable.

Though they were excited, the two clergywomen lament the “structural barriers and bias against women in ministry.” The term “structural barrier” is a very good term to express that which the Lord spoke on this matter. The structural barrier of the Lord is in the following words: “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet” (1 Timothy 2:12).

The clergywomen said they desire that people “live in the word of God.” Would it not be a good start if they, themselves, lived in the word of God by obeying His God-ordained structural barrier?


This LTE was submitted to Columbus Dispatch on 8/18/2017, but it was not printed in the hard-copy of the newspaper, I can’t say whether or not it was posted to their webpage at all. -9.2.2017

Letter to Editor (Chillicothe Gazette)


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Over 30 years ago my young family lived on Guam, an island in the South Pacific. We were there as I served my country in the USAF. Guam has a special place in our hearts; I am still in regular contact with a family on the island.

In the August 13th issue of the Gazette was an article on Archbishop Anthony Apuron, accused of heinous sins against the youth. I faintly remember this man, but that had more to do with our devotion to the Lord than anything associated with the Catholic Church.

For years, the Catholic Church has been burdened with such behavioral issues and, as an institution, the Catholic Church speaks loudly, and properly, against moral failings of their own, especially those in religious leadership. There are many reasons why these failings prevail in the Catholic Church. Ultimately, though, it comes down to one’s moral foundation and whether the foundation is a compass followed in life, or not. What prevails in the Catholic Church reflects society. Hollywood, politicians, educators, business leaders and even some in the religious community have the same failings.

The Catholic Church can tell you what is wrong. Often, they can’t tell you why it is wrong, but sometimes, with the moral confusion, some will tell you the exact opposite. Why the confusion? Long ago, God’s prophet gave the answer to this question. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.” (Jeremiah 17:9-10, ESV)

When man directs his own steps, destruction follows. It’s just a matter of time, even if it does not occur until time’s end. The solution? It is and always has been the Lord, even for such men like those institutionally identified as Archbishops.



I submitted this LTE to the local paper on 8/18/2017; printed in the Gazette on 9.10.2017, posted to blog 9/2/2017

My Story



I remember living in New Mexico, serving in the United States Air Force. I was somewhat moderately religious, but the moderation was because of heritage more than anything else. I did read the Bible and had some low-level knowledge, like knowing where the Ten-Commandments could be found when someone asked me. I was also a member of the Nazarene Church, the church of which my parents were associated, but one to which my grandmother was loyal. My experience in the Nazarene Church was good, but my commitment to them was not as good. As a member of the USAF, while in New Mexico, I was introduced to the “church of Christ” for the first time. To me, one church was a good as another and, by and large, they were all good. The churches I knew I had no real interest in would have been the Mormons and Catholics, but Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists – I had no real objections to these.

Due to poor decisions in my life, confusion and misdirection seemed to be the way I was going. I remember well the many evenings I lamented, was angered, and appealed to the Lord for direction out of my stupidity. I had a roommate (Dave Hunt) who had fallen away from the church of which he was a member, but had enough interest in me that he thought I might be interested in attending when he went. This was about the time of Easter in 1983. I went, but was not all that intrigued by anything. What intrigued me more was the conversations my roommate and I had, how he called upon me to “show him in the Bible” whatever answer I would give to his questions and comments. My failings in this area was an embarrassment and moved me toward looking to the Scriptures to gain answers. Mom and Dad purchased a book for my birthday to help me (Naves Topical Bible). After much effort on my part, after some Bible studies with the local preacher, on November 1st, 1983, I was baptized into the Lord Jesus for the forgiveness of my sins. That is my story.

From that time forward, I have made it my life to tell the Lord’s story. Not only do I want to tell of His death, burial, and resurrection, but I also want to tell others of His church. I don’t want to be a member of any church – no matter how genuine, serious and devoted the members are or might be – I don’t want to be a member of any church that has no New Testament sanction to exist. The Nazarene Church of which I was once a member does not have New Testament sanction to exist. It came into existence nearly two-thousand years after the Lord’s church was set up by the Lord through His apostles (Mt. 16:13-19; Acts 2:47). According to “Charts on Church History” (Robert C. Walton), the Nazarene Church came into existence, separating from the Methodist Episcopal Church in about 1908 (Chart 71; also see (

Whatever might be said about the particular doctrines of the church, the church came into existence much too long after the time of Christ and, moreover, it has the wrong name. Compare the name Nazarene Church with what Paul said to those in Rome, “The churches of Christ salute you” (Romans 16:16). Is there no significance in a name? To the Lord there is, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). This is the church of which I want to be a member.

My membership in the Lord’s church, the churches of Christ, is not simply a matter of being associated with it; I want to be a worker for the Lord. The Lord’s story, with all my personal failings, is now my story. RT

Children without God results in Narcissism (Why I Raise My Children Without God)

Here are a few of the reasons why I am raising my children without God.

God is a bad parent and role model. If God is our father, then he is not a good parent. Good parents don’t allow their children to inflict harm on others. Good people don’t stand by and watch horrible acts committed against innocent men, women and children. They don’t condone violence and abuse. “He has given us free will,” you say? Our children have free will, but we still step in and guide them. RT – this is in accordance with what atheist think is the best argument for why God does not exist. In fact, it is not that strong of an argument at all. If this is the best they can offer, there is not much offering at all, except upon the offering grill wherein the argument is burnt up! Let us begin by asking what is a good parent. If she offers her perspective, as she did, why is that good and not the perspective some other offers that is different. She has arbitrarily put forth a standard she can hardly defend without going into the realm of self-defeat. Her remark about the children, free-will and parental guidance falls flat when a real parent reflects on the actions of children. Does she stop her children in all respects from engaging is bad/evil deed? If she says she does her best, then about those times she fails, does that make her a bad parent, a bad role model? If for one, then the other.

God is not logical. How many times have you heard, “Why did God allow this to happen?” And this: “It’s not for us to understand.” Translate: We don’t understand, so we will not think about it or deal with the issue. Take for example the senseless tragedy in Newtown. Rather than address the problem of guns in America, we defer responsibility to God. He had a reason. He wanted more angels. Only he knows why. We write poems saying that we told God to leave our schools. Now he’s making us pay the price. If there is a good, all-knowing, all-powerful God who loves his children, does it make sense that he would allow murders, child abuse, wars, brutal beatings, torture and millions of heinous acts to be committed throughout the history of mankind? Doesn’t this go against everything Christ taught us in the New Testament? RT – this follows the same train of thought in the first paragraph. She offered nothing that was substantive, only a response to what she thinks she heard from others. Perhaps she did hear some of these things and, perhaps, there are some who are of shallow understanding that they could offer nothing themselves of substance. She said God is not logical, but not a single time in these two paragraphs of hers did she offer any substance (premises) that results in the conclusion God is not logical. She offered nothing but questions, perplexities and her own sentiment as to why this should or should not happen. The issue in Newtown, or any other town is not the material object that was used in the committing of a crime, any crime – this is exactly the thinking of shallow people – deal only with the surface!

As parents do, God does. He allows for man to live as he chooses. Parents do the same. They offer their displeasure or the support in the actions of their children. The actions and thinking of the children are, by-and-large, a reflection of the parental guidance given! The Almighty does similar. Those who accept His holy purpose for their individual lives will in no way render harm to another person. Those who are taught the Lord’s way, but refuse it – that is another matter.

What an irony! She asked, “Why did we allow this to happen?” meaning those who did are bad parents! She denies it can be fixed by God, but what a great job “she” did in her own philosophical training of children with the confusing moral compass of atheism. In fact, atheism has no moral compass; they have to steal or make use of that which originates in the mind of God, call it their own, and say the Creator of the moral code does not exist!

God is not fair. If God is fair, then why does he answer the silly prayers of some while allowing other, serious requests, to go unanswered? I have known people who pray that they can find money to buy new furniture. (Answered.) I have known people who pray to God to help them win a soccer match. (Answered.) Why are the prayers of parents with dying children not answered? RT – she attributes unfairness to God, a Being she denies exists. Since she, however, sees unfairness in both the trivial and the serious, then it must be the case God does not exist. This is nothing but the ploy of emotion. Questions asked and not answered prove nothing, except to raise one’s wonder. Nothing substantive here.

God does not protect the innocent. He does not keep our children safe. As a society, we stand up and speak for those who cannot. We protect our little ones as much as possible. When a child is kidnapped, we work together to find the child. We do not tolerate abuse and neglect. Why can’t God, with all his powers of omnipotence, protect the innocent? RT – A remarkable point of criticism when liberals, progressives, secularists, atheists and agnostics think it is okay to butcher them in the womb. I guess liberals, progressives, secularists, atheists and agnostics don’t exist! Why don’t those who have so much love for the defenseless protect the unborn innocent? This point of hers goes back to what the atheist thinks is the strongest argument they have. The difference between those of her persuasion and the Lord is this: those of her persuasion can’t really render justice, while the Lord will (Hebrews 9:27).

God is not present. He is not here. Telling our children to love a person they cannot see, smell, touch or hear does not make sense. It means that we teach children to love an image, an image that lives only in their imaginations. What we teach them, in effect, is to love an idea that we have created, one that is based in our fears and our hopes. RT – thus, one’s conscience does not exist! One can’t see, smell, touch or hear conscience, therefore it does not exist and lives only in a non-existent imagination.

God Does Not Teach Children to Be Good. A child should make moral choices for the right reasons. Telling him that he must behave because God is watching means that his morality will be externally focused rather than internally structured. It’s like telling a child to behave or Santa won’t bring presents. When we take God out of the picture, we place responsibility of doing the right thing onto the shoulders of our children. No, they won’t go to heaven or rule their own planets when they die, but they can sleep better at night. They will make their family proud. They will feel better about who they are. They will be decent people. RT – This is utter nonsense! An atheist has no moral foundation, except that which belongs to the Judeo-Christian religion. On what basis would an atheist say it is wrong to commit adultery? “It will hurt someone” the reply might be. So? If hedonism is the moral philosophy of a person, he/she can do what is desired. I gues, her family is proud of this hedonistic moral philosophy.

God Teaches Narcissism. “God has a plan for you.” Telling kids there is a big guy in the sky who has a special path for them makes children narcissistic; it makes them think the world is at their disposal and that, no matter what happens, it doesn’t really matter because God is in control. That gives kids a sense of false security and creates selfishness. “No matter what I do, God loves me and forgives me. He knows my purpose. I am special.” The irony is that, while we tell this story to our kids, other children are abused and murdered, starved and neglected. All part of God’s plan, right? RT – I wonder if she knows the dictionary definition of Narcissism. Here are three definitions from Google: 1) excessive or erotic interest in oneself and one’s physical appearance, 2) extreme selfishness, with a grandiose view of one’s own talents and a craving for admiration, as characterizing a personality type, 3) self-centeredness arising from failure to distinguish the self from external objects, either in very young babies or as a feature of mental disorder. What Christian teaching, name just one, comes anything close to this. On the other hand, this is part and parcel of atheism. As she closed her essay, she spoke of the value of religion, but since her materialistic viewpoint is only of this world, she has bought into the “god of this world” (2 Cor. 4:4), and he is happy she did.

The God she chooses to deny existence to is the very one she will stand before one day. “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” This is her choice, however.



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In our modern context, trying to understand the nature of the event in Numbers 31 is, for me, a difficult venture. I understand, well enough, what is being said and even why, but when conversing with some in today’s environment, difficulty exists when some inquire about how a New Testament Christian can justify the actions of the Lord. Of course, there is no created being that can justify the actions of the Lord in any decision He made relative to anything (though we do put forth the effort). He needs no justification. Not one of us in position to know what he (the Lord) knows and, consequently, not one of us is in good position to judge rightly.

Though not one of us is in position to rightly judge, every now and again, New Testament Christians are called upon to do exactly what we are not in position to do. This brief discussion below is my own effort at such. I post this for the benefit of others who might be interested and for some critical remarks that might help me be a better student.

My disputant is a man of reasonable ability, very thoughtful. He was once a preacher, graduating from the BTSOP. Some time back he left the Lord and for about 4 years now (2013 until now), he and I have had on/off conversations along this line.

The discussion was generated by a FB post/share I made:


DLH: Both are tricky topics, as Moses, who is of course a favorite Biblical character of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam; authorized and justified each practice.

Fortunately, among the people with whom I am acquainted who claim any of the aforementioned as their professed Faith, I know of not a single one who would justify either slavery or rape.

Thankfully most of the representatives of the respective Judeo-Christian-Islamic ideologies have moved on from the shortcomings of Moses.

Except regarding War Crimes, which is of course another of those tricky topics to itself.

RT: The shortcomings of Moses were what, and what measurement are you using to so judge?

DLH: Oh, just my general feelings on rape and slavery. As to the shortcomings of Moses, his tolerance for and authorization of each (rape and slavery)

RT: Your feelings, Dave, is not a good measuring stick. Give me express reference to that which Moses authorized.

DLH: I am not gonna bother looking up the laws in Leviticus which Moses cited to regulate Slavery. Surely you will not deny that such are there. By regulating Slavery Moses of course authorized such. (I never was great at memorizing citations from Leviticus “back in the day”, I sure would be at a loss to attempt to do so these days)

As to authorizing Rape, I know you are familiar with the fact that after the Israeli soldiers had killed the Midianite men, women, and sons; that Moses permitted the those same Israeli soldiers to keep the virgins (whose parents and brother they had just killed) “for themselves”. This actually is a “two fer” with reference to the unpleasant topics at hand, in that Moses allowed those Israeli soldiers to make those virgin Midianites their “sex slaves”

Sorry that my feelings on the topic of rape and slavery do not merit as a sufficient measuring stick as to such matters, perhaps you might comment as to by what measuring stick rape and slavery might be justified?

RT: Dave, you have to do better than this. Go back and read what the passages say, then we can talk about them. With regard to your feelings, if that is the only measuring stick, then someone else’s feeling, complimentary or contradictory, is just as authoritative.

DLH: 15 And Moses said unto them, Have ye saved all the women alive? 16 Behold, these caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to commit trespass against the Lord in the matter of Peor, and there was a plague among the congregation of the Lord. 17 Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him. 18 But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.

I even posted KJV. Do I have your permission to discuss this text with you now?  Numbers 31:15-18; biblegateway

RT: Yes, please begin.

DLH: 1. Did Moses do wrong by commanding the Israeli soldiers to kill the Midianite boys? If the answer is yes, then no need to answer Question 2

2. By what standard was Moses justified then to command the Israeli soldiers to kill the Midianite boys?

3. Did Moses do wrong by allowing the Israeli soldiers to keep the virgin Midianite girls “for themselves” (after having killed their brothers). If the answer is yes, then no need to answer Question 4

4. By what standard was Moses justifiied then to allow the Israeli soldiers to keep the virgin Midianite girls “for themselves” (after having killed their brothers)

As a reminder, per my feelings I regard both actions as wrong. As you reject my feelings as a sufficient standard as a measuring stick, then I am asking you for your measuring stick with reference to right and wrong. I had in mind to ask you your feelings regarding Slavery, but since feeling are not a measuring stick, then I ask my question thusly:

5. Do you believe that Slavery is wrong?

6. If the answer to 5 is yes, then please provide the measuring stick by which you arrived at that conclusion.

If you do not feel inclined to answer, then no worries.

RT:  I will cut and paste these in a word document on my laptop, then with a reply. At the moment, a phone is disagreeable. So, probably this evening (I hope)

DLH:  That works!

RT: The only way to judge something to be wrong (or right) is by a standard that adjudicates the actions of man. To answer the question, the answer is no. To people’s way of thinking today, Moses did wrong, but what standard will be used to so assert. Thus, I ask you: if Moses did wrong, what standard will you use to make the case he did wrong? Moses was justified in that which was done by a source greater than himself, that source is the Lord. With regard to your 3rd question, there is nothing in the text that speaks of “brothers” to the females. Just the same, the answer is no for the same reason as set forth in the 2nd answer to your previous question. Your 4th question is answered the same as the answer I gave to the 2nd question you asked.

It seems apparent to me, you judge Moses wrong; how do you know whether or not he was wrong?

Tell me, David, what is the context of this scenario in Numbers 31? Whatever difficulty you and I have about the situation (as recorded), this difficulty does not mitigate against anything relative to the Lord’s decision in this matter. As soon as you judge it otherwise, with your lack of understanding of the situation, I ask again: what standard are you using to apply any “wrongness” to the actions done?

What makes slavery wrong, David? Is there any “rightness” to being a bond-servant (a form of slavery)? If so, then what makes it right? Since slavery is not part of the reading you introduced, I will wait for you to answer my questions before I address yours.

DLH: Re: your first comment “The only way to judge… actions of man”

This of course asserts your opinion. This also explains why you can justify the execution of boys and the abduction of girls into sex slavery; whereas I cannot

My standard of right and wrong is based upon effect; hence I regard Moses as being dead wrong for executing boys and for allowing young virgins to be taken as sex slaves

We could discuss genocide; which in the context of Deut 2 and 3 I am certain you would justify; whereas I maintain Moses was dead wrong there as well

We could discuss the slaying of men, women, and children such as in the context of Joshua 6:21; which I am sure you would justify; whereas I maintain that the Israeli army that day was dead wrong for murdering women and children

We could discuss drowning babies; which in the context of Genesis 6-7 I am certain you would justify, but in my book Jehovah was dead wrong for drowning innocent babies

On and on we could go citing examples of atrocities that you can justify but which I seem as being wrong. That which distinguishes our assessments of certain deeds is of course our differing standards for right and wrong; that which you call the measuring stick; that which I like to term my moral compass

Your standard; which is based upon faith; permits you to justify infanticide, genicide, executions of children, and sex slavery: whereas my standard which is based on feelings, does not permit me to justify such atrocities regardless of who authorizes such

We merely judge right and wrong by different standards old friend

RT: That which you call an opinion has two things going for it. 1) It’s based on trying to understand an objective transcendent standard of morality that is higher than man (something you can’t do). 2) It attempts to understand difficult circumstances in life based on a Judge that will call all people to account (something you will regret).

You judge Moses to be wrong, but for no objective, transcendent reason you can offer. You just assert it, just as you assert genocide in Deuteronomy 2 and 3. Rather than assert, make the case for it being exactly that.

You assert that the Israeli army was wrong in Joshua 6, but you can’t say as to why – only that you don’t like it.

As far as you are concern, with Joshua 6, Genesis 6-7 (others), there is no accountability associated with the wrong-doing of man. If you give room for just a little bit of punitive accountability, you can’t say what is the proper measurement for proper application; you can only say what you would not do.

You speak about sex-slaves, but not an ounce of evidence from the text you inserted do you show. You offer the dishonorable shotgun blast, hoping something will stick – and it doesn’t.

All you are able to offer in this discussion is smoke; there is no substance. You offer no standard of measurement to adjudicate wrong action, only an opinion about what you don’t like. That which you deny exists (God) will be the one you stand before, then what will you offer to him? No doubt, you will say to him what he should not have done, thinking you have the higher moral compass. You go ahead and stick to your moral compass, but it is based on no law that is transcendent, only subjective (the “I thinks” of the world).

My standard is based on something greater than man; yours is not. My standard is based on evidence that God exists, while your standard is based on hope that he does not exist. My standard justifies nothing of which you falsely accuse, but your standard can’t say that it (or anything) is wrong, or even why – only that you feel that it is.

Yes, we judge by different standards; true enough, Dave. Your standard based on effect is the standard of “might makes right” (this was said on purpose to see your response to it).

Dave, you have the last word tonight, assuming you want to reply. If so, I will cut and paste, and try to get word to you tomorrow, that is, I will offer no reply additional reply tonight.

I hope you have a great evening, old (and still) friend (I like your term of affection).

DLH: I think every person lives by standards which are a synthesis of conditioned values and natural values.
My effort is to trust the latter.

Natural values are a moral compass developed from ones natural capacity for compassion; hence forging an ethical code based upon each of one’s daily experiences. I don’t expect you to understand or agree, as such would conflict with your ideology. Suffice it to say that your values which are grounded in faith, allow you to justify actions which are naturally wrong.

The very deeds that you can justify in one situation, I am sure you would be appalled by in a non biblical context.

I know you as a person all too well to actually believe that you can justify the atrocious deeds in the contexts aforementioned on their own merits, yet you find yourself in the awkward position of defending the actions of people who are said to have executed such atrocities merely based upon contexts which you have come to trust as being events in accord with what you perceive to be sacred doctrine.

Your conditioned values are subjective and situational; your natural values are at the core of the fact that you are a good and decent person who lives by a moral code which far exceeds that of Moses, Joshua, and others. Which leads me back to the OP.

I am relieved that the Christians, Jews, and the Muslims with whom I am acquainted have adopted values which exceed those of the shortcomings of Moses; whose values are more represented by extremist factions of each rather than by the average representative of each respective religious ideology so mentioned

RT: It is true that people live by values, and some of them are synthesized; no issue there. Those values, however, came from some source – what is that source? You speak of it as a natural source, which is materialistic and mechanical. The material-chemical components of this takes away free-will, but you earlier said to me (in a previous discussion) that man has free-will, thus is accountable. If no free-will, no accountability. This approach of yours, natural values, is arbitrary, situational (fluid) and unknown to man.

Where there is no law, there is no wrong.

I understand perfectly what it is that you subscribe to, but the inherent failing of that foundation means there is no real wrong in this world or, for that matter, no real right in this world. It is all a matter of what one thinks at the time it is thought. It can be nothing else.

You speak of the values I subscribe to, at least some of them, as being naturally wrong. Really? Tell me how natural law can say anything is wrong apart from “I feel.”

As soon as you begin to delineate between what should and should not be done, another may offer a contrary approach, even contradictory, then how will “nature” determine which is the correct approach? Of course, it can’t.  [A natural perplexity, one might say] This would be “naturally,” you know [lined out text was part of original, but it makes no good sense]. Since homosexuality is against nature and self-defeating, is it wrong?

My values are grounded in a transcendent Being that will call all to account one day.

You have spoken against the situations, but have not offered anything of substance as to why – except that you don’t like it; you can’t say why it is wrong, only that you think it is. You dismiss the context of the situation because you focused on one aspect of it; that is [thus], mishandling information. It’s a lot like those in the political environment who play “gotcha.” Context has everything to do with it, and so does the source/foundation of judgment. Admittedly, I find the situation perplexing – I don’t mind saying so – but I also understand the context of the immediate situation and the whole situation (something you don’t). The one in whom I trust is in far better position to adjudicate than you, me or any other.

You speak about my conditioned values, should you not speak about your own? You can’t show for even a moment that my values, that is, the foundation upon which they are built, is subjective and/or situational. I invite you to try. You also speak about the short-comings of Moses, et al, but offer nothing as to why or what is to replace it – except one’s personal feelings, which is exactly why our modern society is where it is regarding a moral compass. It has none.

Brother, this conversation we have had before, and we both know the direction it goes. I am willing to continue it, but what writing is done by you/me will be for the benefit of those who read it (I will post it on my blog, and I invite you to do the same on yours).

DLH: Ron, you are arguing on behalf of the execution of boys, the taking of virgin girls as sex slaves, infanticide, and genocide. Is it really that difficult to know that such things are wrong? I maintain that in any non-biblical context that you would have no problem judging such atrocities as being wrong.

RT: Dave, I am arguing that the standard you have is no standard at all. In fact, to utilize what you apply, there is no chance anyone can be wrong about anything — none. Whatever questions you have about a standard different and greater than your own does not mitigate against the just nature of it. You have offered nothing authoritative, obligatory, objective or better. In fact, you can’t. The best you can offer is “I feel (or think)”.


Addendum – I am disappointed I did not aggressively address the accusations leveled against the Lord better than I did. I guess it is a lesson learned.

1 Peter 3.21 and Conditional Time Salvation


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Some days previous to the discussion that follows, I had a thorough discussion on free-will in relation to salvation. I found this to be a profitable endeavor, so I decided to pursue the same on the words of Peter in 1 Peter 3:21. The discussion below took place just before the close of the calendar year 2016 on a FB Christian Discussion page. Following this discussion are the words of expositors I have included from E-Sword, my electronic Bible program. The mistakes in the posts are retained; I did a cut and paste maneuver. I would cut and paste their words into a word document, reply to them from the same document, then return a cut/paste into the FB page.

RT: Proposition for Discussion: The Bible expressly states baptism saves. This is either true or false. Since there is no middle ground on this, I think it is worthy of a thorough discussion. The statement is true; Peter expressly states it in 1 Peter 3:21. I am looking for one (ones) to deny it.

Carol Dixon: Jesus didn;t say that to Nicodemus-Just faith in Christ. Enough for me. Enough for the thief on the cross

James Henry:  According to the Bible and early church fathers, baptism = regeneration. It is part and required for salvation. The thief on the cross is an exception. Plus that happened before Christ’s resurrection, and therefore doesn’t count anyways.

Brent Becky Baxter:  It is God through Christ who saves. God saves through redemption. Every one who is baptized in water is saved is where in the Bible? 21 Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you—not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience. One has to be hard pressed to put water baptism into this context 1 Peter 3:18-21. 18 For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; 19 in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison, 20 who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water. 21 Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you—not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

BBB: Peters whole context is as the 8 souls were in the ark they were saved from the Judgement. As the Christian is saved from the judgement because he is in Christ, and that is what is symbolized by the baptism of the Christian. Death , burial, and resurrection by faith because the believer is in Christ and the judgement is yet coming

Esther Gilbert:  I would also look at Titus 3:4-7

BBB: Eph 5:26 …so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.BB: Eph 5:26 …so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.

RT: Taking the thoughts from the earlier posts, in this one I am making this early morning, I offer the following:  What did Jesus say when He spoke to Nicodemus? He said one must be born from above, and the two components of the new birth are water and spirit, presumably Holy Spirit (though Jesus did not make use of the term, translators capitalized the word). It is true that it is God through Christ who saves – no question. Yet, when Peter spoke by the authority of God/Christ, he said something about baptism. Is one really hard-pressed to get “water” in 1 Peter 3:21? The very verse brought into the discussion teaches it. Peter even spoke in the context of the passage about the significance of water, thus making his explicit reference to water baptism and its relation to salvation in 3:21. Brent quoted the verse for us (KJV), but the translation used makes no difference; it reads similar in the ASV, NKJV, NIV, ESV, Williams Translation, etc. To this point in the discussion, there has been no successful denial of what Peter said when he said baptism saves. The context of Peter is as follows: 1) Christ suffered to make man alive, 2) He went to preach to the spirits in prison, disobedient in the days of Noah, 3) During that time, Peter expressly said 8 souls were saved by water, 4) Baptism corresponds to that which occurred in Noah’s day. 5) This baptism is a matter of a good conscience before God in direct relation to the resurrection. Brent, your 2nd post is accurate. Your Ephesians 5:26 reference said one’s spiritual cleansing is via the Word, but is that a symbol of some sort, or something different? Peter did not use the same terminology Paul used. Paul speaks of the power of God’s Word, while Peter speaks of the physical element we know to be water. Since I know you know the two don’t contradict, what is it we are to understand in relation to the two references?

Dick Dixon: My question to you is why are you so adamant on trying to prove that baptism is the only way to heaven? You use the Apostles to try and prove “your” point but you totally avoid Jesus. He is the way! Get your head out of the water and into Christ.

RT: Did I really say baptism is the only way to heaven? You need to look again at what I said. Moreover, did the apostles speak without the authority of Christ? Should I understand you to mean this? It sounds that way.

[In reply to Esther Gilbert the remark on Titus 3:4-7, Dick Dixon wrote]: Just so you don’t have to search the passage Ron Thomas, this is scripture of salvation without water. Titus 3:4-7 4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

Dick Dixon [speaking against me, replying to a devo by Syd Swann (below), wrote]: Thanks Syd for this and maybe Ron Thomas could use #1 and contemplate trusting in Jesus and not so much in himself. Just saying!

In a devo for new believers but s good reminder for all. These five steps will get you off to the right S-T-A-R-T, as you follow Christ: 1. Stop trusting in yourself and your own good works, and start trusting in Christ alone for salvation. (Ephesians 2:8–9), 2. Turn away from everything the Bible calls sin. (2 Timothy 2:19), 3. Attend a small group for personal discipleship and weekly worship services. (Hebrews 10:25), 4. Read and obey your Bible every day. (Joshua 1:8), 5. Tell others about your new relationship with Christ. (Mark 5:19–20)

Byron Davis:  Now baptism and salvation are closely related but are separate. One is a gift and the other is an act of obedience. If salvation was hung on baptism and the apostle Paul was concerned about the salvation of people why didn’t he baptise many people? (1 Corinthians 1). I suppose it’s because God saves through preaching…not baptism.

RT: Bryon, is Peter wrong, then, in the OP? Based on what I have seen you post before, I don’t think you will say Peter is wrong. Does salvation hang on repentance? It is true that salvation is a gift, and it is also true that salvation does not hang on baptism, but it is also true that Peter said baptism saves. How do you reconcile this?

Byron: No Peter isn’t wrong. What baptism symbolizes is the thing that saves us…. The death burial and resurrection of Christ is the actual thing that saves. Baptism is closely associated with salvation because it is the new believers call to identify with Christ by baptism.  It’s not necessary for salvation… But should follow closely behind profession. This is the picture when i take the Scriptures as a whole.

RT: Byron, you expressly said that baptism is not necessary for salvation, but Peter said it saves. These two points of expression are opposed one to the other. At the same time, however, you said Peter is not wrong. If Peter is not wrong, then in what way does it save? If I understand you correctly, you maintain baptism is important for it is associated with the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, even if in picture (symbolic) form. Since it is associated with the death, burial, and resurrection, can one be saved without that association?

Byron: The reality of what baptism symbolizes saves. That is the picture when all the Scriptures are taken as a whole.

RT: Then, without that reality that you speak of, one can’t be saved, right? One needs to be associated with the death, burial, and resurrection, that is the reality of which you speak. Thus, baptism saves.

Byron: We are saved apart from any good works (baptism is a good work). Before our feet hits the water we are saved by the finished work of Christ… After that we are to bear fruit worthy of repentance…. One of those fruit is obedience in baptism. What baptism symbolize is what saves… Not our act of actually doing it

RT: Baptism is not identified in Scripture as a “good work.” Since you say that it is, please identify a New Testament passage that teaches it. But, let us say that it is (for discussion sake), is it the work of man or the work of God? To ask it differently, is it a work that originated in the mind of man, or is it a work that originated in the mind of God? Since man is saved by the finished work of Christ, then there is absolutely nothing required of him to do or obey! The finished work of Christ was on the cross (“It is finished”), or did you have something else in mind? The problem you have, Byron, is that the Holy Spirit said baptism saves, so your assertion that one is saved before and without baptism is false. You have incorporated theology, not biblical exegesis. Even if I were to grant your distinction, a distinction without merit, “What baptism symbolize is what saves… Not our act of actually doing it” – it still says it saves. There is no way for you to get around it.

BBB: The only water in the context of the 1 Peter passage is that of Noah’s flood. If we can make this baptism what ever we want to then we can also make it a baptism of fire or the Holy Spirit (Luke 3:16). The fact is “corresponding to that” (NASB) in verse 21 means that the pattern in verse 20 is Peter’s meaning and that is, the eight souls were brought safely through the water while in the ark. To get a good and thorough understanding of Peter’s meaning, it must be kept in the whole context beginning in chapter 1:3 the entire implication of being “in Christ”.

Words like “therefore” help keep the reader in the context of the writer and lead the reader to the concluding or summarizing issues the writer is intending to be communicated. Life in Christ is a saving baptism. Thats the context of 3:21 which begins at new birth 1:23 …

RT: From an earlier post, I wrote: “The context of Peter is as follows: 1) Christ suffered to make man alive, 2) He went to preach to the spirits in prison, disobedient in the days of Noah, 3) During that time, Peter expressly said 8 souls were saved by water, 4) Baptism corresponds to that which occurred in Noah’s day. 5) This baptism is a matter of a good conscience before God in direct relation to the resurrection.” To sustain numbers 4 & 5, the following is provided:

“The same earthly copy, namely, saving by means of water, which was presented in the Flood, is again presented in Baptism. Now, as then, it represents the same heavenly original, life issuing out of death. This rendering enables us to retain the usual meaning of ἀντίτυπον.” (Cambridge Greek Testament Commentary)

“The antecedent to the relative, whichever word is used, is clearly not the ark, but water; and the idea is, that as Noah was saved by water, so there is a sense in which water is made instrumental in our salvation. The mention of water in the case of Noah, in connection with his being saved, by an obvious association suggested to the mind of the apostle the use of water in our salvation, and hence led him to make the remark about the connection of baptism with our salvation.” (Barnes)

“The persons and the things compared must be carefully borne in mind. The ὀλίγοι in Noah’s day were saved by water; we also are saved by water. The ἀντίτυπον to that water on which the ark floated, saving its inmates, is the water of baptism;” (Alford’s Greek New Testament Commentary)

It is obvious, men of greater learning than yourself dispute your understanding of the passage. The context of 3:20 (water) applies precisely to Peter’s application in 3:21. One does not have to travel outside the immediate context to understand what is being said.  Your NASV rendering does not alter one bit what the KJV, ASV, or any other translation reads.

I find it interesting that you want to go back to C-1 for a context. I think that is a good thing, but that which you find in C-1 will not mitigate what Peter plainly and expressly said in C-3. “Life in Christ is a saving baptism. Thats the context of 3:21 which begins at new birth 1:23 …” Really? Nothing in the verse says that, nothing in the immediate context says that, and nothing going back to C-1 says that. Funny, how I have not seen others say anything like this!

BBB: So Peter just throws verse 21 into the context for no reason but to make an isolated statement that whatever baptism one wants to think he is stating can be used ? Then one needs to put his faith in water baptism and ignore the context of the epistle the chapter and verses immediately before and after v, 21.

RT: You have misread the context and chapter. There is nothing in isolation here. V. 21 is the context of Peter’s point. The expositors’ I referenced makes this clear, but one does not have to read them to see this. It is very clear without them. The “salvation by water” of v. 20 correspond to the “salvation by water” of v. 21. For the benefit of those following this discussion – there is NOTHING in the water that saves, it is all in the Lord. Still, Peter states that “baptism saves.” In what way, then? It saves because the Lord declares it so. No other reason. For one who “puts his faith in water baptism,” that one is attempting to be saved by a means other than what the Lord said, saved by works. Give me an expositor that you have on your shelf that speaks contrary to what I offered, and then we will go from there.

BBB: You have misread the context and chapter.

RT: Well, okay. I offered you an analysis, and I offered you the analysis of others, but it seems you are the only one who has it correct. I suppose, then, we will let others decide as they read this discussion and the context of 1 Peter.

BBB: And I offered you context without any pre- positional additions. I think this thread has run its course.



Wilbur Pickering’s New Testament Notes: Why ‘antitype’ rather than ‘type’? I suppose because the roles are reversed: the ark was to save Noah from the water, the water was the problem; in baptism the water is part of the solution, it saves us from something else. From what, from sin and death? Probably not. I have been given to understand that for the early Church water baptism was meant to do the following: by invoking the name of the Lord Jesus Christ the convert was placing himself under Christ’s protection and repudiating Satan and the world system (with its values) and the demons controlled by him. Recall that in the New Testament water baptism followed immediately upon conversion (no weeks or months of instruction). Peter discounts the physical effect of water—the point is to appeal to God in good conscience—and goes on to the victory of Christ over death and the whole angelic hierarchy. So obviously He is in a position to protect us from Satan and his angels. RT: Baptism “saves us from something else.” What is that something else? Some sort of demonic influence from a 2nd century (?) teaching? Is that what we are to accept? Paul was told by Ananias to arise and be baptized washing away his sins as he called on the Lord’s name. Conversion in the New Testament was accomplished when sins were forgiven, not before. Paul connected baptism with the blood (death) of Christ and forgiveness.

RWP (Robertson’s Word Picture): The world’s most renown Greek grammarian (or at least he was) commented on 1 Peter 3:21, but some of his remarks were quite disappointing. RWP gives the Greek of the passage along with syntax. His comments may or may not be complimentary to his exegesis. For instance, in the remark, “So here baptism is presented as corresponding to (prefigured by) the deliverance of Noah’s family by water. It is only a vague parallel, but not over-fanciful” means what? Is Peter really that vague in his remark? No, he is not vague; in fact, he is rather clear and plain spoken. Then there is this remark, “The saving by baptism which Peter here mentions is only symbolic (a metaphor or picture as in Rom. 6:2-6), not actual as Peter hastens to explain.” Is the word “symbolic” somehow to less the salvific force of the word? With Robertson’s proper tie-in with Romans 6, there is no small significance to what Paul said when coupling baptism with the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. Is this merely symbolic? If one so argues, then that symbol saves! Finally, there is this, “Baptism, Peter explains, does not wash away the filth of the flesh either in a literal sense, as a bath for the body, or in a metaphorical sense of the filth of the soul. No ceremonies really affect the conscience (Heb. 9:13.). Peter here expressly denies baptismal remission of sin. This is flat false! Peter does no such thing; this is theological commentary, and nothing more. Moreover, this makes Peter contradict himself in Acts 2:38 and in Paul’s application of 22:16.

PBC (Primitive Baptist Commentary): “Baptism doth also now save us” In order to lessen the force of Peter’s easily understood words, the PBC resorts to a hermeneutical maneuver that is not repeated by any expositor that I have seen. The maneuver is from the perspective of “under the sun” and “above the sun.” In other words, there is the point of understanding that is material and physical in this earthly realm, but this is to be contrasted with the “above the sun,” or spiritual realm. Peter’s remark in 3:21 applies to the “under the sun” realm, not “above the sun.”

Their support for this hermeneutical procedure is as follows: “In the appendix to the Fulton Convention will be found these words: ‘We believe the Scriptures teach that there is a time salvation received by the heirs of God distinct from eternal salvation, which does depend upon their obedience. The people of God receive their rewards for obedience in this life only.’ Please notice that these brethren at Fulton understood that the time salvation was “distinct from” the eternal salvation. It was different from and was separate from the eternal salvation (distinct) They also stated that the benefits were received “in this life only.” (timely not eternal) These brethren at Fulton also believed that this time salvation was dependent upon obedience. They stated that it “does depend upon their obedience.” This time salvation is achieved only when the obedience is performed. The performance of that obedience is the fulfilling of a condition. In order for time salvation to be achieved a condition will have to be performed. One must “do” something in order to experience “time salvation.” Whatever it is that one must do, it will become the performing of a condition. (doing something in this regard is performing a condition) This text in 1 Pet. 3:21 is a case example of “conditional time salvation”. RT: A remarkable sentiment here, but one the Holy Spirit speaks nothing about. There is no conditional time salvation distinct from eternal salvation. Notice the authority for the words and idea is the “Fulton Convention.” In other words, one must go to the mind of man to gain a doctrine of man, then justify it as an exegesis of the passage! Peter speaks nothing in 3:21 concerning “conditional time salvation.” This is a plain illustration of 2 John 9

Not only is the above remark not in accordance with New Testament teaching, but notice also the length they go in describing baptism as a work. “A person who is baptized must put forth some activity—he must make some signal that he desires to be baptized. If nothing else he must “submit” to be baptized. Submitting is “doing.” When one submits to be baptized he is fulfilling a condition necessary to the obtaining of this particular saving. The minister who performs the baptism is also “doing” something in procuring this salvation. This is a salvation that involves “works” of creatures and it requires obedient works. And these works do fulfill conditions.” It is tough to be charitable with comments like this, but charitable I will be. This is entirely misguided! There is nothing in the New Testament that even remotely suggests this. This is a doctrine of man to mitigate the Lord’s teaching on the necessity of baptism.

Ironside Notes: And just as those who entered the ark passed through the flood of judgment to a new earth so in baptism the obedient believer is saved in symbol. It is not the going into the water that saves but that of which baptism speaks and which a good conscience demands: the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. RT: The word “symbol” is from a Greek word that other translations render “antitype.” If a believer is saved in a symbol, then that symbol is necessary to salvation – how can it not be, especially when the Holy Spirit declared it so? Yes, it is true that it is not going into the water – in and of itself – that saves, but the salvation that comes from God is in relation to one obeying God in the way He said it was to be done.

John Gill: it saves not as a cause, for it has no causal influence on, nor is it essential to salvation. Christ only is the cause and author of eternal salvation; and as those only that were in the ark were saved by water, so those only that are in Christ, and that are baptized into Christ, and into his death, are saved by baptism; not everyone that is baptized, but he that believeth, and is baptized, shall be saved, Mk. 16:16, for baptism RT: Is it not interesting the Baptist preacher in one part of the sentence can recognize that baptism saves, but then in another part of the same sentence say it’s not essential to salvation? If it saves, then, by necessity, it is essential to salvation! Now, if he meant that baptism is not the cause of salvation, then there is no exception to be taken to his words. Yet, when he followed with “nor is it essential to salvation” he neutralized his words – especially when the Lord declared that it was essential to salvation. The Lord Christ is the cause of salvation, but one’s salvation will not result with one meeting the conditions the Lord set forth.  

John Calvin: As Noah, then, obtained life through death, when in the ark, he was enclosed not otherwise than as it were in the grave, and when the whole world perished, he was preserved together with his small family; so at this day, the death which is set forth in baptism, is to us an entrance into life, nor can salvation be hoped for, except we be separated from the world. RT: John Calvin certainly spoke true words here!




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This discussion took place between myself and Brent Baxter on a FB Christian Discussion page. Brent, after the discussion, expressed to another that I attacked him. As you read the discussion, you must decide whether I did or not. I can tell you that I made it a point not to do so. I was hard on his handling of Scripture, but I did not attack him. He also mentioned he is pleased to converse with me because he likes the fact that I will engage in conversation to a great depth. Though Brent denies he is a Calvinist, he argued in this discourse as one. In the course of the dialogue, one will see bracketed notes. These are transcribed from the hard copy I printed, with some additional elaborations. Typos and pitiful expressions are from the discourse, a “cut and paste” into this word document.

The original post from Brent Becky Baxter (BBB)

Humbling thought

It is true that God’s word, the Bible was written for His chosen in that it is spiritually appraised by those He has enabled to hear. This enabling comes by no intrinsic value of the hearer but solely by God’s sovereign grace alone. Jesus said. Through John that His sheep hear his voice and another they simply will not follow.
It’s a work He initiates in the believer and swears by His own character to bring it to completeness.
No one knows who is going to hear. Our responsibility as faithful stewards to whom He has entrusted it, is to proclaim the gospel. Reasoning in the scripture as necessary.
This really is a good discussion group for just such fellowship

RT: I will engage. Since God enables some, but not others, then God is responsible for those who are not enabled. If I understand you correctly, this is what you are saying. I am interested in your scriptural support.

BBB: You finally got it.. never quite understood What is so hard to understand about ” He loved us even when we were dead in our trespasses and sin, He made us alive”
Further, Eph 2:3 by nature, children of wrath, leaves no capacity to consent to ones own new birth. The natural man cannot appraise his spiritual condition of needing salvation. 1 Cor 2:14

RT: Thus God is responsible for the natural man’s damnation since the natural man has no capacity to consent. The natural man is not responsible.

BBB: Genesis 2 and 3 gives a crystal clear account of who is responsible for death and damnation and it wasn’t God.
When God set before the nation of Israel life or death, their response was. ” all that the Lord has said, we will do and will obey”. Ex 23:7. Now I don’t know about anyone else but it’s pretty clear that until God puts a new heart in them they can say and do whatever, but it’s only the remnant that God reserves unto himself that are redeemed. Now the whole OT ends in showing how well their self will according to the flesh worked out for them. The arrogance of self effort for them is clearly stated in Malachi. “How have we despised you ?” They said

RT: You go to the OT to develop at NT teaching? Your remark on Ephesians is wrong. I want you to develop this from what Paul taught to Ephesus. In Gen. 2 & 3, was Adam a natural man, that is, a fleshly man? If he was, did he have freedom of will? In Deut 30, was the nation of Israel natural, that is, fleshly? Did they have freedom of will to accept or reject?

BBB: Paul in Romans 5 makes the case for the development of a N T teaching beginning in the O T. The second Adam. Follow closely Romans 5, Romans 8, 1 Cor 15:45.
Adam, had freedom of will concerning the tree of knowledge of good and evil. He ate and died that very day. Than what free will did he have thereafter ? All the choices of a dead man.
How did Israels freedom of will turn out for them ? What was the sum total of their spiritual dead state ? They couldn’t even identify their Messiah . Romams 9. 10, and 11 is not describing a frustrated God who is waiting for Israel to exercise their free will or free choice but God who is in control of who and when He will give life to the spiritually dead. This is consistent with Ezekiel and Gods intentions.
Now as far as Ephesians the spiritual death is clear. That which, while it was dead, God made alive. Paul teaches the same truth in Ephesians that he teaches throughout Romans and he is consistent with the Genesis nerative of death, the need of a new heart in Ezek 11:19. The spiritual birth of John 3

[To this point, note the following remarks he made from the dialogue: (1) “This enabling comes by no intrinsic value of the hearer but solely by God’s sovereign grace alone.” (2) “It’s a work He initiates” (3) “Eph 2:3 by nature, children of wrath, leaves no capacity to consent to ones own new birth” (4) “it’s pretty clear that until God puts a new heart in them…” (5) “but God who is in control of who and when He will give life to the spiritually dead.” To this point this boils down to this: man has no free will in relation to salvation. In other words, there is nothing he can do to initiate or do to be saved, God must do the initiating, that is, enabling him to respond.]

RT: Your remark on Romans 5 needs to be more specific. There is nothing within C-5 that speaks against freewill. With regard to your remarks on Adam, making a choice does not speak against his freewill, only a prohibition set in place concerning a particular tree. There wss [was] nothing Adam could do to generate a plan to get back to God. This speaks nothing against freewill, however. On Romans 9-11, that is answered in 9:30 – 10:3. Israel tried to establish their own plan, complementary to my point on Adam. In Ephesians, spiritual death is clear, but where does Paul speak against freewill? Moreover, your remarks along this line are contrary to Acts 10:34-35. John 3 speaks nothing about freewill (for or against), only that one must be born again from above.

BBB: The contrast between the first man Adam and the second Adam and what comes by each is not unclear or nonspecific. That would be the passages in Romans and Corinthians for those Armenians in Broward co.
As for the passage in Ephesians, here is a list of the fruit of free will from a spiritually dead person not yet made alive:
1- walked according to the course of this world
2- walked according to the prince of the power of the air
That would be Adam and Eves free will.
For Armenians that would be their free will before death, to walk according to the deceiver not according to Gods command
3- walking according to the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience
4- living in the lust of the flesh
5- indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind
6- by nature children of wrath
Now Paul justifies his theology of dead in sin in Romans 3:11 when he quotes the Psalmist that there are none who seek God. Now only a Plegian and Arminian inserts a free will to choose God in this theology
It all goes back to the difference in how one interprets the passage in Genesis 2:17, ” in the day you eat from it you will surely die “.
And therein Ron, you and I evidentially will never interpret the same

[An analysis of the foregoing: Paul’s point in the Ephesian section alluded to by Brent is in the fact those dead in sin chose to walk as Paul described, they chose willfully to live in accordance with the ways of the world. those who chose to walk in a certain way, is it possible those same ones can choose to walk in a different way? In regards to the Romans 3:11 remark, if none seek God, and God controls the who and when of a person’s salvation, then life given to the spiritually dead is a directly a consequence of God’s action. Or, to state it differently, if God chooses not to give person X an enablement to be saved, then person X is not culpable, not accountable for why he is lost.]

RT: Of course, I said nothing in relation to a confusion of contrasts in Romans 5:12-21. It’s obvious the Holy Spirit is making a contrast, but not against free will. Paul speaks about that which passed (death/life) from one to all (be it Adam or Christ), not a contrast of enabling/non-enabling or free will/non-freewill.
There is nothing in Ephesians 2 that speaks against free will, and neither does Paul intimate such a thing. Paul begins his thought in C-2 by saying God made those in Ephesus alive, but did He say how? He made us alive together having raised us up in Christ when those saved were saved by faith, something Paul said they heard (they heard the gospel taught), then obeyed that which they heard, as stated in 1:13 (cf. Acts 16:31-33). There is nothing in chapters 1 and/or 2 that speaks against free will, but there is something in chapter 1 that speaks of hearing, trusting (believing), then being sealed.
Paul’s point in the litany of Scripture (Romans 3:11ff) is NOT against free will, but only that man does not seek the Lord. I will leave off saying anything more on this point until you have something further to say.
Yes, it may be the case that you and I will not interpret the same way, but there is no chance that you are correct in your reasoning against free will. 1) You have implicitly prescribed to God culpability in one’s damnation, making man excusable, something expressly denied by Scripture (Romans 1:2). 2) God commands all people everywhere to repent, but if a person can’t repent because God has not enabled that one to do so, then point #1 is additionally established. 3) You make God partial in salvation with your teaching of enabling / non-enabling, something the Scripture expressly denies (Acts 10:34-35).

BBB: What does mans free will produce ? What is it that free will that initiates the new birth when Christ makes it clear that those He saves are according to Gods eternal purposes..
Free will connotates a will independent from any other will. Man’s free will is not Gods will or it would not be free.
As to the being made alive, its called the new birth. John 1:12. Makes no allowance for the free will of man because the receiving is qualified as that exercise of God. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

RT: Man’s free will produces that which he desires to seek. In and of himself, there is no chance that man can generate his own road to salvation. That is Paul’s point with regard to the Romans in chapters 2 through 11. The eternal purposes of God do not, and never have, mitigated man’s free will. Man’s free will can’t initiate salvation’s path, but it can respond to the Lord’s invitation as it pertains to salvation. Paul had free will to produce the fruits of his service against God’s way of righteousness, but it was his free will that generated his response to the Lord when called (Acts 26:19). Man’s free will is not God’s will; in this you are correct (Proverbs 14:12; Jeremiah 10:23), but man’s free will can align itself with God’s will (Luke 6:46). Your following remark, however, does not follow. Man’s free will may or may not be in line with God’s will. It’s all about obedience (John 3:36; Hebrews 5:8-9). Yes, being made alive in in relation to the new birth, but Paul explained how that occurred in chapter 1.
Your remark on John 1:12 is perplexing. Those who received the Lord, as the verse states, did so because they were enabled by God to do so? It says no such thing! Those who received the Lord had the right, the power, the opportunity to become children of God. Those who respond to the Lord’s invitation (Matthew 11:28-30) have free will to do so; otherwise, the Lord’s invitation is a plain mockery to those who can’t (not won’t, for “won’t” implies free will). Those who reply and obey are born of God.

BBB: Zombie theology puts the free will of the spiritually dead working alongside Gods will and gives credit to the flesh for the internal workings of the Holy Spirit in the drawing process where Christ states plainly ” no man can come to the Son except the Father draw him.” Purely the Holy Spirit’s work on the rebellious free will of the flesh. As to the mockery of God toward those He has not chosen, What man or chunk of clay can accuse God of unrighteousness in His sovereign choices ? To base an entire theology of free will on that false assumption is not is not a sound Biblical theology of sin.

RT: This is all that you can do in the way of argumentation, to be disparageing? Be that as it may, you have not refuted one single point of anything I have offered. You have dismissed it, but not refuted it. You misuse John 6:44, for you did not cite the next verse that speak of how the drawing occurs. That which you call false theology has certainly stood the test of this discussion, for if you could refute it biblically, you would have. As it is, you have not and cannot. If you want to debate the workings of the Holy Spirit, then we can, or if you want to debate what Paul meant in Romans 9, we can. Hopefully, others will find this discussion beneficial to their own studies.

Robert Kramer: Nothing new here from the reformed theology side. It’s hard to believe they actually believe they’re representing accurately the arguments they oppose. I love my brothers who are “reformed” leaning, but the constant misrepresentation of those with whom they differ continues to leave me perplexed. Seems a lot like what we see in DC today on politics. I certainly hope it’s not an intentional misrepresentation.

BBB: The only intentional misrepresentation set forth as Biblical doctrine in this thread is that man has free will to accept or reject God’s offer of salvation. And the best that has been done in argumentation is to insert the concept of free will in every passage mentioned where it is not. Every person is responsible to accept Gods offer of salvation but until God changes that persons will, he continues in his rejection.
Where in scripture do we find. “The Lord’s invitation is a plain mockery to those who can’t “. Now there is some real sound doctrine to build an argument for free will upon. The fact is God is no respecter of persons. To inject free will or even the remote concept into the Ephesian’s 2 passage or the Roman passages mentioned is pure error.
It’s not hard to separate a works religion from a salvation by grace faith. The only acceptable obedience in relation to salvation is that which is led by the Holy Spirit when a believer is filled by the Holy Spirit. The filling and leading is not a result of an active self will, but a self will that is not in control.
The follower of Christ is to die to self daily, pick up his cross and follow. And the proponents of free will say that by exercising the very thing they are to lay aside is the very thing they are to exercise. To take up ones cross and follow is done by denying himself. Now inject self will into that one and it becomes a works religion.
To acknowledge Gods sovereignty into this passage and the predestination of God for the believer makes it a work of grace on the part of God. (Matt. 16:24- )
What the Armenian and Pelagian heresies do is interpret scripture through the ideology that God’s sovereign will is always subject to the free will of lost man. That there is enough good in every human being to exercise free will to choose or reject God’s offer of salvation and that is the definition of a works religion.
Paul states clearly, in the Ephesians 2 passage with no suggestion of free will in any remote sense that we are saved by grace and that not of our selves. The works religionist adds according to man’s free will to receive or reject.
In the John 1 passage those who are given the right to become children of God, were born not of the will of blood nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man but of God. The works religionist adds except for the exercise of the free will of man
Now there is the boast before God. That one has exercise of free will because there is enough good in his lost dead soul to accept or reject Gods grace.

[Bringing the earlier italicized remarks forward from the dialogue, note the following: (1) “This enabling comes by no intrinsic value of the hearer but solely by God’s sovereign grace alone.” (2) “It’s a work He initiates” (3) “Eph 2:3 by nature, children of wrath, leaves no capacity to consent to ones own new birth” (4) “it’s pretty clear that until God puts a new heart in them…” (5) “but God who is in control of who and when He will give life to the spiritually dead.” (6) “John 1:12. Makes no allowance for the free will of man.” (7) “the internal workings of the Holy Spirit in the drawing process…” (8) “Every person is responsible to accept Gods offer of salvation but until God changes that persons will, he continues in his rejection.” It has been argued that man has no free will in relation to salvation. If man has no free will in his salvation, and if he is saved it is only because God enabled him to be saved with some inner working of the Holy Spirit, then if there is no inner working of the Holy Spirit for a man to be saved, then it is not possible for man to be responsible for his “lostness” or damnation.]

RT: Intentional misrepresentations? You are good at assertions, but wanting in evidence. If I am guilty of intentional misrepresentations, then demonstrate wherein I have done so as you have accused; to this point you have not.
You insert “no free-will,” but I have shown via the context you have misused the passage, both in Ephesians 2 and John 6. What have you done in reply, only dismiss it. Moreover, I have conclusively demonstrated you have made God partial in His handling of man in conjunction with salvation. What have you said in reply. Nothing.
You assert every man is responsible to God, but you fail to make the case for this to be so when you assert that God enables one to be saved, but not the other. There is no chance you can reconcile the idea of man being responsible to God for his “lostness,” but at the same time affirm unless God nudges him he can’t be saved! “Every person is responsible to accept Gods offer of salvation but until God changes that persons will, he continues in his rejection.” Thus, you declare, man is responsible; but if man gets no nudge from God – how can he be responsible? YOU have made God responsible for man’s “lostness.”
I have not affirmed the Lord’s invitation is a mockery to those who can’t respond to God’s invitation; instead, I have shown where YOU make it a mockery. YOU make a mockery of God’s invitation extended to all people, but unless God gives some nudge or enablement, one can ‘t be saved. You say [God speaking], “You all need to be saved, but unless I give you a nudge to be saved, you can’t.” Yes, a mockery in full-force.
You have misused Ephesians 2 to make your case, but the context does not allow you to sustain your point.
You assert that I affirm “pure error.” Very well, demonstrate that I have, rather than just assert it.
Man is responsible for his damnation, but how can man be responsible to God for his own condemnation if God does not (or did not) give him an opportunity to reply in the affirmative with an enabling nudge from God? He can’t. There is no chance you can reconcile this. None!
You speak about “works religion,” in relationship to “saved by grace,” but with your reasoning here, I wonder if you even know what Paul means when he speaks of the word “works” in Romans (for instance).
You say “the only acceptable obedience in relation to salvation is that which is led by the Holy Spirit when a believer is filled by the Holy Spirit.” Where does the Scripture teach this?
You say “The filling and leading is not a result of an active self will, but a self will that is not in control.” Where does the Scripture teach this?
You don’t know what it means to die daily or to pick up one’s cross and follow. To do such a thing as this, does one do this of his own free-will, or is this action generated from an outside source, not of his own free-will at all? Identify what the Holy Spirit means when He speaks of a “works religion,” and as you do so, be sure to develop this from the context in which the term is used, that is, assuming you can find this term in Scripture.
I await your answer to these.
The so-called definition of “works religion” is your own, not anything from Scripture supports this definition from man. Am I wrong? I await your reasoning from Scripture to show that I am wrong.
You remark that “Paul states clearly…” in Ephesians 2 that man is saved by grace and that “not of ourselves.” Fine! Your point is? The Scripture also teaches us that God’s grace teaches man to deny ungodliness and to live soberly, righteously in this world (Titus 2:11-12). Does God’s grace teach the non-free-will person?
It appears you have arrived at a point where you are frustrated in this discussion with your insertion and accusation of those who think contrary to you, calling them “works religionists.”
In John 1:12, you have failed to understand the Holy Spirit’s point. When one submits to the authority of God, believing Jesus Christ is the Son of God, then that one who submitted has the right, the power, the privilege of becoming a child of God. Vincent Word Studies states, “Here, therefore, ἐξουσία [authority, power] is not merely possibility or ability, but legitimate right derived from a competent source – the Word.”

BBB: Free will or Gods will is the great theme of scripture from Genesis to Revelation. Failing to understand scripture accurately is not unique to any one person in this thread.
God reveals the truth about Himself in Biblical Scripture. The reader can accept it or reject it. That’s the sum total of free will according to Genesis 2-3. No one can change it. There is no higher standard of right and righteousness than God Himself. Many cannot accept that God is not subject their model of what is right and what is sin.
Romans 9:11 for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls, 12 it was said to her, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 Just as it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” 14 What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! 15 For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I raised you up, to demonstrate MY power in you, and that MY name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth.” 18 So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires. 19 You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?” 20 On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, “Why did you make me like this,” will it
That is a reality about God that the “fig leaf” of self will has no capacity to accept.
For certain, the history of Israel bears this out. This is the name that The LORD proclaims of Himself. No one can change, redefine, or reinterpret this self proclaimed excellency of His being. All would do well to believe all that He discloses.

RT: Not sure if this is something to which I should reply. I have much to say about this passage, but I wonder if there is fatigue in our conversation. To this point I have enjoyed the dialogue. I hope I have not failed you as a disputant. If you think it is warranted, I will continue. On the other hand, if you want to let it rest, then I will do so.

BBB: The text is self explanatory even a new born babe in Christ can understand it. Fatigue or not one cannot explain it away. There are many things in scripture that are hard to hear and as you and I prove once again there is much to consider. Best wishes my C D friend…

Robert Kramer: Once again, when one doesn’t agree with a Calvinist, they “don’t understand self explanatory texts even a new born Christian should understand” with the accusation of not hearing God’s Word. They believe in “heretical” theology. Brent, so if one does not believe in reformed theology/Calvinism, would you represent them as heretics ?

(This is the last bit of the discussion between Brent and me that is germane to this post.)