13 February 2008

The Talking Stain

by Frank Turk

Here's what I think a lot of people are thinking about Phil's latest series on theology – and by "a lot of people", I don’t mean "our faithful and brilliant normal readers". I mean the passers-by and the people who, frankly, don’t think about theology all the time.

I think they see the topic "total depravity" and they think, "yeah, but what's that got to do with me?" And before we get all "thank God I'm not like that American evangelical" on those people, I think it is actually a very good question.

Here's one person I know who asks that question a lot, for example. There's a family who I know who, frankly, doesn’t want to hear about grace – and their oldest son is a really bright kid who wants to be informed about his faith. And in his Sunday school class, his teacher started a semester on the history of the Christian faith (!) in which they, obviously, encountered the Reformation.

Anyway, without making a massive parenthetical sidetrack here (HT: DJP), this young man was of a mind that lost people do good works, too – that the doctrine of total depravity falls right apart when we look at the fact that even Christopher Hitchens does charity work; even Hitler loved his mother. And in one sense, he's right: anyone can (and almost anyone does) give $5 to a hobo or donate books to the library or pretend to end poverty in Africa or whatever. Anyone can do those things; most people, if you watch them long enough, will do something like that once in a while.

But here's the question: in what sense is any of that "good"? I know Phil covered this on Monday, but he gave the high-brow Westminsterian sketch. What's that mean to this kid who thinks, or at least thinks he thinks, that everyone has some basic, native goodness?

My response is this: "good enough to prove you're a lot worse off than you thought".

Think about this --
whenever the Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature the things required by the law, these who do not have the law are a law to themselves. They show that the work of the law is written in their hearts, as their conscience bears witness and their conflicting thoughts accuse or else defend them, on the day when God will judge the secrets of human hearts, according to my gospel through Christ Jesus. [NET Bible]
Here Paul is saying that people have the problem of not merely being occasional breakers of the decrees of God: he's saying that people show that they know better and therefore really don’t have any excuses when it comes time to judge whether they were willing law-breakers or merely ignorant foils trapped by a system they never understood.

See: any native goodness we demonstrate only highlights how broken our nature really is.

I was watching my son's basketball game a couple of weeks ago, and it's the "recreational" league where the kids really haven’t ever played on a court before with rules or a ref. And on the other team was this really aggressive kid who simply wanted to put the ball in the net. It was clear to me he had played football before because every time he got the ball, he tucked the ball under, ducked his head, and rolled into the crowd of boys in the key like a fullback.

And in this kid's case, it was actually kinda funny – he obviously didn’t know any better. He was playing by the wrong rules, and he had no clue what the right rules where. But if that same thing happened in a High School game, or even in the next age bracket up, it wouldn’t hardly be that funny – because those kids know better, and they prove it in all kinds of ways.

And this is the case with us: we show that we know enough about God's law to obey it when we want to, so when we are unwilling to obey God's law it's that much worse for us.

Here's what that has to do with you: you should be more worried about whether you have a savior than whether you are doing any good. See: you can admit that you really just aren't any good. Even the good you seem to do is really just the white space around the big black blobs of sin nature that come out of you, guiding the eye to the violations rather than somehow making you seem mostly clean – like that crazy talking stain commercial from the Superbowl.

And what that stain says is, "I need a savior, not a self-help book."

Jesus is a savior, not a life coach. The high-brow doctrine of "total depravity" is really another way of saying, "you need a savior." You do. The kid who thinks that everybody does something good once in a while, and only wants Jesus to be a good example rather than a bloody sacrifice which God accepts for the sake of those who believe.







83 comments:

SolaMeanie said...

Game, set and match. Good post, Frank!

maritus imperfectus said...

Cent wrote, "Here's what that has to do with you: you should be more worried about whether you have a savior than whether you are doing any good."

Thanks for the focus.

Jason Vaughn said...

Amen, I ministered at a rehab center for 2 years. It was amazing the amount of men who thought if they would just quit drinking they would quit being a sinner.

Libbie said...

So Phil does the highbrow, Frank does the lowbrow, and Dan does the parentheses. Right-o.

Bill said...

Excellent post Frank.

It really is great to make the Gospel personal to someone. It's easy for the lost to lump themselves in a crowd and then grade themselves on their behavior in comparison to others - which would be relatively good.
The reality is that when the unregenerate person dies he stand alone before God in Judgement.
Praise God that those who have been saved have an Advocate who took their place.

Again, great post.

God bless.
Bill

centuri0n said...

Wouldn't it be really horrible to stand at the judgment seat like that guy in the talking stain commercial?

ME: "Jesus, I cured cancer and paid off the national debt of Africa with the profits."

STAIN: "HE LIED TO HIS WIFE ABOUT THE PORN HE VIEWED 'BY ACCIDENT' WHILE READING CELEBRITY GOSSIP WEB PAGES."

ME: "Of course, there was all the great posts I made at TeamPyro."

STAIN: "AND ALL THE TIMES HE USED YOUR NAME IN VAIN FOR POSTING TYPOS. VERY CLEVER THAT."

It'd be funny until the fire started.

centuri0n said...

I have deleted "#1Fan"'s post because I don't abide spoof bloggers.

Sorry dude. Go troll some place else.

centuri0n said...

Dan does Unibrow, libby.

High brow, low brow, unibrow.

S.J. Walker said...

Thanks for this one Frank,

Know that I am most usually edified by the reading put forth here. The occasions when I am not are more to do with me that anyone else. Thanks.

You guys are a real encouragement.

Even though my blog is, of course, WAY better. I come here often.

you said:

"The kid who thinks that everybody does something good once in a while, and only wants Jesus to be a good example rather than a bloody sacrifice which God accepts for the sake of those who believe."

That about does it. Dan usually has the floor on tent spikes through temples, but you whacked this one clear through the floor.

Thanks.

odmorale said...

Thanks for the words Cent. I been asked to preach a sermon on whatever topic I want next month and my heart keeps coming back to Total Depravity.

You've made really simple for the layman.

C.T. Lillies said...

unibrow

*chuckle

It's good to be reminded that we're all dirt bags...from time to time.

Thanks Frank

jeff said...

Well put Frank.

VcdeChagn said...

Here's a follow up question.

Why does God allow good deeds to be done by bad (aka unsaved) people?

My version of the answer: Because there has to be a contrast with the stain.

Also, you could invert your analogy. Our time on earth is spent listening to the spot of "good works" (aka filthy rags) while wearing a body of dead flesh (evil works) and ignoring all that it is saying to us through our conscience.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Excellent post!

For young Christians of all ages, an explication of the nuance between common grace and special grace would be helpful.

I know I benefitted upon learning what common grace is.

centuri0n said...

VcdeChagn said...
Here's a follow up question.

Why does God allow good deeds to be done by bad (aka unsaved) people?


Let me answer in a provocative and succinct way:

I think we can demonstrate from Scripture that God does not allow anyone not saved to act in a "good" way: only in a less harmful way.

You people think about that, and I'll be back later to untangle the muddle.

Bill said...

cent said:
"I think we can demonstrate from Scripture that God does not allow anyone not saved to act in a "good" way: only in a less harmful way."

I completely agree. It is impossible for an unregenerate person to do anything good - as the Bible defines 'good' - because they do not have the Spirit of God within them.

That's my off-the-top-of-my-head response. I'll need to go do some digging and produce the Scripture to back that claim up.

Bill

SolaMeanie said...

Frank,

Since "stain" is the theme word for this post, you'll have to use this as inspiration for a followup post. Hey, if you guys can do it with song titles, why not movies. And no, I haven't seen the film. I don't watch anything made after 1955.

donsands said...

Excellent post. Thanks for the encouraging Gospel-centered words.

"It is impossible for an unregenerate person to do anything good"

What about those firemen who went into the twin towers and saved people from certain death, and they were willing to give up their lives? Seems like a good work to me.

The good deeds that are filthy rags are religious deeds, that we think will mean something to God for our entrance into His presence. Simple good deeds, are simply that, good deeds. That's how I see it.

Mike Riccardi said...

That would mean, Don, that the good deed that qualifies as "filthy rags" is so only because of what we think about it. So if I change my mind 1,000 times in one day about what I thought the nature of my helping an old lady across the street, it was filthy rags and just general goodness 500 times each.

No, the FDNY did "good" as the world defines good. But the only real good is done by God Himself. Indeed, all our righteous deeds are as filthy rags, not just the ones we hope will get us in good with the man upstairs.

Mike Riccardi said...

Oh, and Frank, I was really helped and encouraged by your insight on Romans 2:14-15. That's a keen observation. God really delivered through you here.

SolaMeanie said...

It seems to me that if we begin going down the road of counting up our good deeds, we're dangerously close to the "balance scales" idea of divine justice, which is, of course, unbiblical. God alone knows the motivations of the heart, and we know that the human heart is desperately wicked.

There is a difference between good works motivated out of saving faith and love for God and those motivated by something else.

Hadassah said...

Our cultural morality is a direct result of our Judaeo-Christian heritage. We respect and admire everything from donating to animal shelters to "African aid" because we are culturally conditioned to approve of helping others out. It has nothing to do with any inherent goodness, in fact, it can serve to obscure our total depravity, and in that sense all of the "good" things that our culture does apart from Christ can ironically discredit Christians in the eyes of the non-believer.

I grew up in a non-Western, non Christian-rooted culture, and they don't view helping others out the same way we do. Much of the world considers it foolish to go out of your way to help a non family member. I don't think many Americans understand that. So while Americans can point to all kinds of "good" that people do, they usually make the mistake of applying this propensity to humanity in general, instead of our particular culture.

Daryl said...

VcdeChagn said...
Here's a follow up question.

Why does God allow good deeds to be done by bad (aka unsaved) people?

1. He loves the world, not in the same way in which he loves the elect, but he loves them still.

2. In order to have his will done.

3. To demonstrate how insufficient our "good deeds" really are.

4. To bring glory to himself. After all, is it not doubly glorifying when someone who hates God, does something helpful or "good", thereby accomplishing His will?

stratagem said...

Why do bad things happen to bad people who think they're good?

I bet the simple answer of why unsaved people do good works is that deep-down, they do those things out of depraved motives. Such as, to help them feel good about themselves. So yes, they have God's law written on their hearts, but they only appear to be obeying it.

A lot of times that's also true of me, by the way.

Preson said...

And just like that, with a wave of our theology, we've waved off any responsibility to help other people...to do any good deed...to give a care about those darn africans.
I'd love to free myself from my responsibilities too, and just close my eyes and dream about heaven, but...

"Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.'

"They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?'

"He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'

Hadassah said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Daryl said...

Preson,

You might at least defend what you said. Maybe provide a little substance to your accusations.

Where has anyone avoided responsibility? In case you missed it (you evidently did) the case being presented was whether, outside of Christ and his work on our behalf, "good deeds" have any eternal value?
The answer, of course, is, no they don't. Salvation is of the Lord, and unless I have a Saviour, any works I do count for nothing.
In fact, even with a Saviour, while a I, as a Christian, will in fact do good works, they count for nothing still. The merely demonstrate that the I have been regenerated by God.

The discussion here was never about whether or not "good works" are good things to do, or even whether or not bad people can do good things (in fact that thery can do good thingshas been clearly upheld here).

Where exactly has anyone washed their hands of any responsibility to care for the less fortunate?

Bill said...

philturkdans #1 fan said:
"I love guys!"

This is a whole 'nother thread in itself friend..
..perhaps you meant 'you guys'?

preson said:
"And just like that, with a wave of our theology, we've waved off any responsibility to help other people...to do any good deed...to give a care about those darn africans."
Where did this come from? I don't believe anyone here is proposing we NOT DO good deeds. I, and some others, are simply pointing out that our so-called 'good' deeds, if done in the flesh, are but filthy rags to God.
As a Christian, my good deeds are a by-product of my love and devotion to Jesus Christ. I love and help people because He loves them and commands me to as well.
I think maybe you misunderstood someones post?
God bless.
Bill

S.J. Walker said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
S.J. Walker said...

#1 fan,

"I love guys!"

I'm hoping that is a typo.

preson,

I don't want to get too far off the subject here, but the only person that mentioned a negated responsibility is you.

No one said, "this means we are off the hook, because all our righteousness is as filthy rags". You have demonstrated a common affliction of man--including myself--you did not pay attention to anything but what you determined was being said. You did not listen.

Plain and simple. Try again man

Preson said...

Darryl, I've read the comments, and while you are correct in saying that the post itself didn't talk about washing our hands of good works, many of the comments do.
I see it very often with the MacArthur crowd, I know because I was one of his students. Here are some of his quotes, word for word (I can point you to audio files if you don't trust my transcribing):

“[Jesus] didn’t come to fix life here, He didn’t come to eliminate poverty, He didn’t come to eliminate slavery… He only came to save people from eternal Hell"

“when you realize that life is no longer lasting than steam coming off a cup of coffee, then you understand how silly it is to think that Jesus came to fix something, in somebody’s life, for the little moment that they are here on this earth”

“if you look at the life of Christ… he never, EVER assaulted one social institution that was out of whack, NOT ONE! So he never had a social agenda! He care for people, he fed them, but he only fed them ONCE, he didn’t feed them every day, he refused to create that kind of a welfare state…”

This kind of stuff is not only unhealthy for the Christian community, its a terrible interpretation. Escapist theology leads to this kind of stuff. It's just not right.

Stefan said...

Cent: Good job. For all the high-minded theology on this wonderful blog, a little direct evangelism once in a while is a good counterpoint.

VcdeChagn said...

And just like that, with a wave of our theology, we've waved off any responsibility to help other people...to do any good deed...to give a care about those darn africans.
I'd love to free myself from my responsibilities too, and just close my eyes and dream about heaven, but...


You need to go back two days and read the discussion between Phil and I on this subject in the meta. Mostly read Phil and ignore me. The only point I make is that there is a scriptural balance between being held accountable for our choices (what you call responsibility)and God's sovereignty (expressed as election in that meta). Because the discussion has tended the other way here does not mean that those who have been justified are ignorant of their responsibility.

Don't confuse sanctification (good works) with justification (God's finished work on the cross). The discussion here is more about justification than sanctification.

Four sets of ()..not bad...not good either.

I think we can demonstrate from Scripture that God does not allow anyone not saved to act in a "good" way: only in a less harmful way.

I agree with you..I was using your language ("any native goodness" from your post.) to express my question.

VcdeChagn said...

This is a whole 'nother thread in itself friend..
..perhaps you meant 'you guys'?


I think this is the same guy that Frank deleted earlier. Ignoring him/her is probably in order.

SolaMeanie said...

Preson,

I think you missed the point of both John's comments and this post. I don't know of any sound evangelical who says helping the poor or the needy isn't important or good to do. I was just reading an article today on just how much evangelicals have done in these areas for decades.

This canard thrown up by the Emergent-friendlies begins to get very, very tiresome. It's a nonsensical accusation, and that's being generous.

Daryl said...

Preson,

2 things:

1.The original discussion didn't involve anything Dr. MacArthur may have said.

2. In order to seriously think that Dr. MacArthur was off-base with those comments, you'd have to conclude that hunger or Aids are somehow more significant than eternity in hell. They're not.

3. What exactly is unbiblical about what you've quoted Dr. MacArthur as saying? They may not be the end of the story, as regards helping our fellow-man, but they certainly provide a much needed gyroscope as we head out into the world.
The world is a big bad place, unless we remember what the gospel is really all about it's pretty easy to get overwhelmed and sidertracked.

pastorbrianculver said...

I was talking to a girl at college today who said she was a Christian. She also said she hadn't been to church in about three years. I asked her why and she said she just didn't feel right going any more. She still believed in Jesus and figured she had learned all she needed to learn. I asked her if she though she was a good person. You know the answer. She said YES! I took her through the Commandments and by the time we had finished talking she said she was going to go to church with her parents when she goes home this weekend! Praise God! She went from saying she was a good person doing good things, to admitting that she needed a Savior! Her name is Melissa.

Daryl said...

Brian,

How true it is that even Christians need the gospel!!

Daryl said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
pastorbrianculver said...

we had a christian in our church who would basically praise God because he "allows" her to flip people off!! And that is a Christian woman who teaches her kids what it means to be a Christian!

VcdeChagn said...

Darryl, I've read the comments, and while you are correct in saying that the post itself didn't talk about washing our hands of good works, many of the comments do.

Can you point one (or more) out please?

If a "Christian's" heart is not moved by need (not by wants...or by bad choices landing someone in a position where they need, but genuine need), I would have to doubt whether that person was a Christian at all.

However, ministering to the poor without giving them the true Gospel is like giving a kid a new toy to play with while he's trapped in a burning house. Pointless, and in the end...evil.

See: Mother Theresa for a good example of this. Here's a little something she said...

We never try to convert those who receive [aid from us] to Christianity but in our work we bear witness to the love of God’s presence …… If an individual believes that [his religion] is the only way to God for her or him, this is the way God comes into his life and this is his way to salvation.

Preson said...

Daryl said "unless we remember what the gospel is really all about"

I guess your answer to that question right there is more of what this (and every) conversation (or "conversation") is really about. And that, I believe, is where the disconnect lies.


This is why we have over 8000 denominations in christianity. And why the "canard" (as solameanie puts it) is thrown up today.
I don't think that most of historic Christianity would agree that the gospel is simply about escaping hell, and getting through pearly gates. I'm pretty sure that the gospel is useful now.

Daryl said "2. In order to seriously think that Dr. MacArthur was off-base with those comments, you'd have to conclude that hunger or Aids are somehow more significant than eternity in hell. They're not."

This is what I meant. If you see things this way, you will never get around to the first, because you are only concerned with the second. Suffering while alive, and suffering after death, Jesus cares about both of them. They are his children.

Bill said...

@preson
I'm with daryl on your quotes from John Macarthur. There is nothing unbiblical about the quotes you provided. I have studied Macarthur for quite some time and have yet to find any examples of where he has not rightly divided the Word of God.
As I said earlier, nobody here is excusing Christians from doing good works but putting the emphasis on good works instead of having a relationship with Jesus Christ is truly putting the cart before the horse.

@vcdechagn
Great point about Mother Theresa. I have read in her personal letters that she did not know God and felt very absent from Him. She described her heart as being dark and lonely if I remember correctly. Doesn't sound like someone who knew the Lord to me.

Bill

Bill said...

preson said:
"This is what I meant. If you see things this way, you will never get around to the first, because you are only concerned with the second. Suffering while alive, and suffering after death, Jesus cares about both of them. They are his children."

I think the Apostle Pauls life is a perfect example of which life Jesus cares more about - this one or the next. Paul sufferred tremendously but he also realized the bigger picture and he said that he reckoned all of his sufferings in this life just don't compare to the riches that awaits him in the next.

Bill

donsands said...

"No, the FDNY did "good" as the world defines good. But the only real good is done by God Himself."

I would define a person saving another person from burning to death, by forfeiting his life as a person who did something good.
Does it give him merit to enter God's presence? No.

I think, if you look at Isaiah and see what filthy rags is all about it's religious duties.
"These people worship me with their lips but their hearts are far from me."

I see your point Mike. I just don't accept that it's that simple.

I believe that Christ is the standard of goodness and righteousness, and all our goodness is tainted, and yet tainted evil humans know how to do good things for their children and others.

Thanks for the response. I'm chewing on this.

Judah said...

Bill, are you saying that God doesn't care about people's sufferings in this life?

S.J. Walker said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
S.J. Walker said...

preson,

The meeting of "felt needs" must be in most respects, subsequent to salvation by the teaching of the Truth of the Gospel. We have merely pointed out that feeding the hungry is pointless IF IF IF IF we do not ALSO ALSO ALSO (I sound Monte Python) meet the most important need--CHRIST.

I'm not yelling at you, I'm screaming in the wilderness.

By the lack of thoughtful argument you have been using here, I would say that you care less for salvation of souls than curing a disease. I would hope I would be as grossly wrong about you as you are about "us".

I can ensure what your response is to that statement:
"S.J., you don't think curing a disease is good, you really don't think it's important".

I know this because it is what you have done here and now. Take the blinders of only half the equation off and see that "good" is only Good, if it is God.

Honestly, you owe some of these guys an apology preson.

Grace and Peace

Mike Riccardi said...

I think Bill's on the money to look at Paul. ... And the rest of the apostles too. I think the way their lives went show how God thinks about the importance of this life vs. the next.

I think God demonstrated His love for the apostles so much more by making them suffer in this life. Because it was that way that they could see their own weakness and be dependent upon such a sufficient Master. God manifests His glory to those who suffer most. I pity those who don't suffer, and so are too confident in their own self-sustaining powers to understand a need for the Savior.

See how God deals with His choicest servants:

But the Lord said to him, "Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name's sake." -- Acts 9:15-16

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death works in us, but life in you. ... Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal. -- 2 Cor 4:8-18

More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. -- Phil 3:8-11

So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name. -- Acts 5:41

Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. -- 2 Cor 11:24-27

For, I think, God has exhibited us apostles last of all, as men condemned to death; because we have become a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men. We are fools for Christ's sake, but you are prudent in Christ; we are weak, but you are strong; you are distinguished, but we are without honor. To this present hour we are both hungry and thirsty, and are poorly clothed, and are roughly treated, and are homeless; and we toil, working with our own hands; when we are reviled, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure; when we are slandered, we try to conciliate; we have become as the scum of the world, the dregs of all things, even until now. -- 1 Cor 4:9-13

Now, I may be alone in this, but to suggest that Jesus cares as much about suffering in this life as the next puts the consequences of eternal torment, misery, abject horror, and no hope of seeing God's face right in the same category as even as many as 60 years of suffering and persecution borders on blasphemy at worst, and a gross misunderstanding of this life and eternal life at best.

Scripture does not read:

"The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to end all suffering for His people, and even those who aren't His people." Neither did John cry:

"Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the suffering of the world!"

He appeared to destroy the works of the devil (1Jn 3:8), to take away our sin (Jn 1:29), and to bring us to God (1Pet 3:18).

centuri0n said...

Preson:

If this were my blog, I'd clown you.

If you need more information than that, e-mail me. If you want to complain here in public that I have somehow written off good works, you will be banned.

centuri0n said...

Judah:

You must e-mail me if you are going to continue posting at TeamPyro. I suspect you are the troll known as "c.t." or "caroline trace".

e-mail me before you post again.

Hilarie said...

Lets talk about something important.

Like Frank used the NET bible!

What's up with that?

dac said...

Ok, that was me, not my daughter Hilarie

On a side note, Frank, do you think that enviroments like the one the NEXT Bible uses are ever going to pose a serious threat to the paper pushers that are bible publishers?

DJP said...

Rhymes with "flabostasy."

lawrence said...

good stuff

centuri0n said...

I like the ESV best. I like the MESSAGE when it actually approaches the text and represents it because it scares people into getting serious about what the text actually says.

I like the NET Bible because I like the translators' notes, and it's a reasonable dynamic equivalent. It has its quirks, but when you pair the quirks with the notes it actually is pretty useful. My biggest beef with the NET Bible is that it's not a committee translation.

Since you asked.

centuri0n said...

dac:

Nope. People love paper bibles. They love new and different bindings.

And long phylacteries.

centuri0n said...

To be fair to preson, since I now have more than 3 minutes to reply to him, here's the detail behind my warning:

[QUOTE]
And just like that, with a wave of our theology, we've waved off any responsibility to help other people...to do any good deed...to give a care about those darn africans.
[/QUOTE]

My response to this is that you can't represent what I said, or what I linked, as saying this in the least. This is not a post about whether faith does good works: this is a post which answers the question, "what does total depravity have to do with how I live right now?"

Which I spelled out in the first two paragraphs. You should read them for your own edification.

[QUOTE]

I'd love to free myself from my responsibilities too, and just close my eyes and dream about heaven, but...
[/QUOTE]

Well, you've done a lovely job of it in replying to me, so why stop there?

[QUOTE]


"Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.'

"They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?'

"He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'
[/QUOTE]

Which, of course is the basis for all NT theology, right? This is the cornerstone of the Gospel: doing good works. That's why, when Peter expressed that Jesus was the Christ, Jesus then immediately taught the disciples how to run a soup kitchen and start a temperance movement.

Oh wait -- when Peter expressed that Jesus was the Christ, that's when Jesus told them he had to suffer many things and be crucified by the Chief priest and the rulers in Jerusalem. Somehow the "Christ" has to die on a cross for the sins of the people.

I'm sure there's a way to denigrate that as well, but I'll leave that up to preson. I'm sure he's up to it.

Preson said...

Clown me? I'm not even sure what that means. Sounds fun though!

Preson said...

Cent:
"which of course is the basis for all NT Theology right?"
I don't know, you're the one who said "you should be more worried about whether you have a savior than whether you are doing any good"... which sound like just the opposite of the scripture I referenced.

" Jesus then immediately taught the disciples how to run a soup kitchen and start a temperance movement."
Not exactly, after he offered forgiveness of our sins, he sent his Spirit, THEN they started the soup kitchens (it's in acts).

S.J. Walker said...

cent,

Please forgive me, but I'm hearing the sound of a Biblical point coming..coming...coming AAAAnd flying right over the head of those who only hear one thing from you. That is that you don't think any one should do good. It's pointless. Let's crawl back in our sanctified little holes and wait for the judgement of hungry people.

neeeeeeyyyyyyaoooowww!

I guess the thing to remember is that men like preson here, much like me when I'm sinning, or even more when I was unregenerated (shudder, seriously), simply can't hear what is being said. No matter how plain we say "preach the Word, and feed the homeless. Don't expect that simply feeding them will have eternal merit on its own--for you or them"; they/I simply cannot hear it as anything but "don't waste your time with the homeless, we just need to show them how smart we are so that they feel guilty and wish they were like us".

This, while can be said of some of whom I was one--before I was a true Christian--is not true of TRUE Christians. And nobody hear is saying anything different.

For preson, we are, right now, speaking a different language .

Rick Potter said...

"....everybody does something good once in a while, and only wants Jesus to be a good example rather than a bloody sacrifice which God accepts for the sake of those who believe."

I liked these words from Ravi Zacharias:

"People often say “What about all the good things I’ve done? What about all the good people in this world?” So, first of all let me say this. Jesus did not come into this world to make bad people good. He came into this world to make dead people live….those who are dead to God to make them alive to God. So let me just clear that. But secondly, let me say this. Being like God in image of goodness is not the same thing as being near God in approach of relationship. Being like God in reflecting God’s image with a lot of good deeds…C. S. Lewis gives an illustration of being at the top of a mountain and looking at your home village down there, He says there may be sometimes when you are actually closer to home geographically, but you have to move farther away in your approach to the home before you get down there. Some people in their image may think they are closer, but in their approach they are farther, and some people in their approach may seem geographically farther away but they’re actually closer to getting home. And what I’m saying to you is, that Christ in telling us that the fundamental problem is not material but spiritual. There are many good people in this world, but it not our goodness that brings us to God. It is the fact that we are dead…far away from him, and in all of that goodness we may be reflecting his image, but in our approach we may be still far from Him…not coming the way in which He has invited us."

Source: Just Thinking: Absolute Truth in Relative Terms

Libbie said...

I would have thought the very fact that the unregenerate do perform good works is the reason why the gospel has a very different focus.

Because otherwise we're just playing a game of 'my good works are bigger than your good works'.

(and it's Libbie, Frank. Right there next to the little orange B :-D )

centuri0n said...

preson:

It's your last post that really bothers me, dude -- because you have, somehow, again, completely ignored the cross.

Listen: there are no more active defenders of sanctification on the internet than TeamPyro. We spent almost a whole year dealing with the false teachings of "free grace" types who, frankly, can't decide what the book of James actually sayd, and my own blog is frankly filled with pleas for my readers to do good works as an outworking of their faith.

But that's sanctification, not the question of total depravity.

The question of total depravity is answered only by the work of the cross -- not the work of our little schemes to end world hunger. And the posts I made at my blog (which I linked in this post) criticizing the G8 rock stars were not about "we should do nothing": it was about "what we are doing is frankly, woefully misguided".

Eventually, you have to come to what I wrote and deal with that. If you do, let me know.

Jugulum said...

To be fair to Preson, "you should be more worried about whether you have a savior than whether you are doing any good" does have the potential to leave someone with the wrong impression. For instance, you probably wouldn't want to say it to a children's Sunday school class. They're less likely to have the discernment or attention span to read it in its context--as relating to the fact that "unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins" (John 8:24) regardless of how much you work to strive to "balance the scales"--and they're more likely to read it as depreciating the importance of faith working out in love. It's an understandable mistake.

Of course, we should be able to expect a bit more interpretational care from an adult.

Preson, perhaps next time, you could say something like, "It really looks like you're saying ___. Please, tell me I'm wrong. Because if that's what you meant, ..." and then proceed to justly excoriate the free grace/laziness/lack of love mentality that you perceived--without so uncharitably[1] and unlovingly assuming the worst.

Even so, in view of mankind's depravity and proclivity to misread things to find license to sin & to be lazy in good works, it would probably be wise for us to put a hedge of clarification around anything that would easily lend itself to that kind of twisting. (Though there's a limit to how much responsibility you can take for other people's misunderstandings.)



[1] Disclaimer: No emergence was intended by the use of the word "charity".

SolaMeanie said...

Preson,

1 Corinthians 15 is the only place in the New Testament where the Gospel is defined. Why do you try to add things into the Gospel? The Good News is entirely about salvation -- God's sovereign dealing with human sin. Good works by believers -- including feeding the poor and clothing the naked -- are the outflow or fruit of saving faith in a believer's life. You need to get your categories straight.

As for the number of denominations, quite a few of them are united on core truth and disagree on secondary matters. They can -- and do -- fellowship with believers of other fellowships. More is made of that issue than should be. In fact, the Apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 11 that factions are necessary from time to time so that those who are approved will stand out. Is Christian unity a laudable, necessary goal? Yes. Absolutely. However, biblical unity has to be around truth, something that Emergent-types would do well to remember.

SolaMeanie said...

BTW, in context that is dealing with factions within a congregation. However, other denominations have formed when error gets odious enough. And yes, some splits have happened for stupid reasons. But sometimes splits are for good reasons.

Jugulum said...

Sola,

Hmm... Are you saying that the Gospel is only about escaping hell? Do you think 1 Cor. 15 says that?

While I agree that the Gospel is all about salvation, our salvation is not all about our past justification. There's also the present-tense and future-tense aspects of salvation. Can we exclude from the Gospel any part of the Golden Chain of Redemption (Romans 8:28-30)? And look at the close linking in Eph. 2:8-10--we were saved by grace through faith, and we were "created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." So I'm reeeeeally hesitant to say that the Gospel is only about justification, without a very strong exegetical basis.

And I don't see how 1 Cor. 15 provides that basis. For one thing, Paul is not simply "defining the gospel", he's doing so in the context of responding to some people who are claiming that there is no resurrection from the dead. He emphasizes that there is no gospel without the resurrection from the dead. He does not, in 1 Cor. 15:3-8, bring out all the important implications of all the components of the Gospel.

But more importantly, Paul does discuss here our resurrection with Christ. Doesn't that include walking in newness of life? And he discusses the defeat of Christ's enemies and the subjection of all things under his reign. Doesn't that include the reconciliation of all things to God? When His will is done more on earth as it is in heaven, through the saving, sanctifying, renewing graces of the Spirit in the Body--graces to work out our salvation and to be more like Jesus and to do what Jesus created us to do and to live out His love that is in us and to use our spiritual gifts for the building up of the body--then aren't we being ministers of that reconciliation?

Hmm, we should look at that passage (2 Cor. 5:14-21):
"14 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.

16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."

Hmm, you might think that v. 18-19 discuss the ministry of reconciliation just in terms of our past salvation from sin. And yet, this comes after v. 14 and 17, which seem to include our new creation and our living for him as part of that reconciliation.


We absolutely must guard against any hint of crossless "Christianity", against Social Gospel, against hoping that God will accept us because of our efforts to be good. We absolutely must keep our categories straight.

I just don't see that the Gospel=justification only. We also must guard against "ticket-to-heaven" Christianity. (Granted, saying that the gospel doesn't include our sanctification doesn't have to lead to a ticket-to-heaven mentality--but I sure want to emphasize that we are not just saved from sin, we are saved for living for Jesus. As Paul did. And John. And James...)

SolaMeanie said...

Jugulum,

The Gospel is precisely what Paul says it is. "Now I make known to you the Gospel I preach." Follow that up with what he says elsewhere about those who preach "another Gospel."

The Gospel (good news) is that Jesus died on the cross for our sins and rose again from the dead for our justification. The good works that believers do are evidence of our salvation.

Read what I said again. I thought I was clear enough. In no way was I negating the need for believers to do good works. Good works are evidence of the faith we proclaim. But good works are not the Gospel. That is where we get into trouble and why so many people tend to get works muddled in with salvation. We are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, by Christ alone. Our works are not involved in any way, and our works are not part of the Gospel.

KM said...

Solameanie

“We are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, by Christ alone. Our works are not involved in any way, and our works are not part of the Gospel.”
In response to the above statement I just wanted to say...huh?

What about this:
James 2:14-20 “(14) What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but has no works? Can that faith save him? (15) If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, (16) and one of you says to them, “go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use it that? (17) Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.

(18) But someone may well say, “You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” (19) You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believer, and shudder. (20) But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless? (21) Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? (22) You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected;”

I realize that you stated in your previous paragraph that good works are evidence of the faith we proclaim. So you seem to see it as a byproduct of it. That seems sensible and in my walk with Christ as I have grown more in him my eyes have been opened to opportunities for good works that I’d missed before (I guess because I was all wrapped up in me). So I can agree to a point that good works are a byproduct.

But, obviously James disagrees with the noted claim you have made above. He writes that works are necessary for “faith to be perfected,” and he writes that faith without works is “useless” and “dead.” So, obviously works are involved.

Jugulum said...

Read what I said again. I thought I was clear enough. In no way was I negating the need for believers to do good works.

I know you weren't. I said that you weren't. I said, "saying that the gospel doesn't include our sanctification doesn't have to lead to a ticket-to-heaven mentality"--I did not accuse you of having or teaching that mentality, I was careful to distinguish.

Yes, the Gospel is what Paul said it was--and part of what he said is that it's about dead people being made alive. And that is more than justification.

I spent a good amount of time and words talking about what Paul said--both in the first piece of 1 Cor. 15, in the entire chapter, and elsewhere--explaining why I found your conclusion sketchy. You decided to pass over it without interaction.

No, Paul did not say in 1 Cor. 15:3-8 that the Gospel is only escape from hell. Nor, if we want to get pedantic, did he say anything about justification, as you said here: "The Gospel (good news) is that Jesus died on the cross for our sins and rose again from the dead for our justification."

He said that Christ died "for our sins", but he didn't say anything in those verses about justification. He just said, "for our sins". Adding, "for our justification" is your fleshing it out. You're doing it correctly, of course--the point is that it's absurd for you to dismiss out-of-hand all other fleshing out of what he said in vs. 3-8. I assume you would allow "I am crucified with Christ" to be part of Paul's gospel definition (though 3-8 don't say we are united with him in his death). It just says that Christ died. And it also says he was raised. How about us being raised with him? How about the life we now possess in him? Is the fact that we're now alive part of the gospel? How about the future resurrection of our bodies that is so central to Paul's discussion in 1 Cor. 15? Does all that get thrown out somehow? Do you strip that from the context? How about Paul's pesky statement about how we are "being saved" by the gospel? Do you think that we are "being justified"?

1 Cor. 15 says nothing explicit to limit the Gospel to our past justification, it does say at least one explicit thing to extend it beyond our past justification to our present "being saved", and Paul's discussions in Romans 8:28-30, Eph. 2:8-10, and 2 Cor. 5:14-21 seem to pose significant problems for the idea that the gospel is not about the entirety of our salvation, nor about our future full adoption as sons (Rom. 8:24).

Paul never hinted at your insinuation that "another Gospel" would be regarding as part of the Gospel what the Spirit does in us and through us as he conforms us to the image of Christ. He taught in Galatians that standing in Christ--attempting to--on any basis other than faith would be another Gospel. The Judaizers failed to see that "a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ" (Gal. 2:16); they sought to stand on the law, to be justified by works of the law. Did you intend to insinuate that I was preaching such a gospel?


Now, look. If you want to say that the Gospel is what Christ did for us, and that by trusting in that work we are saved--both justified, sanctified, and glorified--then I can agree. If you want to link justification to the Gospel in a way that sanctification and glorification are not, then I must object--because I don't see how Paul's words in 1 Cor. 15 and elsewhere allow it.

Everyday Mommy said...

"Jesus is a savior, not a life coach."

Best blog line I've read all week. Thanks, for a great post Frank.

Everyday Mommy said...

p.s. Hadassah's comment is sharp & compelling. The charitable tendencies of our Western culture are not inherent, but are the residue of our Judaeo-Christian heritage.

Ben said...

Another reason totally depraved sinners do good things is they still bear the image of God - ruined, irreparably damaged (apart from the redemption of Christ), horribly shattered. Yet the ruined vestige of the image is still there.

A burned out house can still offer shelter to a wanderer, and you can still tell it is a house, because it still bears the "image" of a house - but it will never again function as the home it was intended to be (apart from outside intervention to repair and restore it).

The point is - good works done by depraved sinners are no reason to glorify them, their religion, their god, their "morality" - it is a reason to glorify the Sovereign God who implanted divine image in them - an image that still flickers through on occasion, in the smoldering ruins of their lives.

Ben

donsands said...

" it is a reason to glorify the Sovereign God who implanted divine image in them"

I agree. Someone like Mozart who was such a great composer, and musical genuis, surely glorified the Lord, though not a believer, but a freemason. And so his destiny is God's judgement, and yet this man, who was created in the image of God left quite a legacy on this earth, though in all eternity he will not be remembered.
Only what is done for the Lord shall be remembered.

Daryl said...

Km,

What you gave with the left hand you took away with the right...

Yes, works are involved in salvation. No they do not affect or improve it one whit. They are involved in the same way that falling apples are involved in gravity.
Where there is gravity, apples will fall. However, apples do not create or improve on gravity, they simply demonstrate that it is there.
Please don't confuse salvation with the effects of salvation.
James' point is not that by doing works you validate your faith. His point is that by the works you are demonstrating that faith is there at all. No works = no faith, but it begins with saving faith. At the point that faith exists, salvation is secure although works may not yet be evident. Over time, if it is faith, there will be works.

Where works are absent, we don't strive for works in order to strengthen our faith, we repent, and works will follow.

S.J. Walker said...

Well put Ben.

SolaMeanie said...

Jugulum,

I didn't intend to pass over or dismiss anything at all. My time is limited for an exhaustive back and forth. I meant no offense, or to give the subject short shrift. I just don't see it as that complex. I think you are packing too much into the Gospel at the risk of confusion. Let me try again.

I believe that the Gospel - as defined - is that Jesus died for our sins and rose again from the dead for our justification. The points you raise, good works -- Golden Chain of Redemption -- and all, are the outworkings of salvation, but all those things are not the Gospel. Yes, our salvation has present and future aspects, but that is not the Gospel. The Gospel is the Good News. Jesus Christ came to save sinners.

Perhaps it's because I deal with cults and false religions quite a bit. Cults try to mix the Gospel and works together. The Church of Christ is a good example with baptismal regeneration, a work of righteousness that they make part of the Gospel. That is why I define the Gospel so narrowly, and I think Paul's statements in Corinthians and Galatians bear that out. Make sense?

KM,

James caused Martin Luther fits for a while also. I don't think James is saying anything to counter what I said. James is talking about justification before men, not justification before God. Our good works prove to others the faith that we say we have. Our good works do not justify us before God.

Tim said...

Sola,

I do think I understand your concern about what cults do with works and the gospel. If I'm understanding you correctly, then I agree with your concern.

Namely, we must be very, very clear that the Gospel is this: If we trust in Christ--in his work on the cross, his death and resurrection--God will save us. Nothing we do can add to that, no act of obedience will give us any standing before God.

Is that a fair summary?

I simply do not agree that Paul's comments in Galatians and 1 Cor. bear out the way you are dealing with the concern--by grouping the gospel and justification in on place, and the other aspects of salvation elsewhere. I think that the way I said it above--if we trust, God will save us--captures the concern. My point is that God saving us is broader than past justification--and Paul talked about salvation in the present tense in relation to the Gospel in 1 Cor. 15:2. (I explained that and more in my other comments.) We are saved by the gospel; we are justified by the gospel; we are redeemed by the gospel; we are sanctified by the gospel; we are glorified by the gospel; we are adopted by the gospel; we are restored by the gospel.



P.S. Sorry if I got tetchy about it. I understand that we all have limited time--and I understand that you didn't intend to, but it did seem that you were passing over what I was saying.

Tim said...

Sola,

Whoops, sorry, this is still Jugulum. I had logged into my other gmail account, and didn't realize the Blogger display settings were different. :)

SolaMeanie said...

Hi, Tim..

I didn't mean to seem testy either. Earlier when I was trying to answer you, I had about six interruptions and four phone calls one right after the other. Now that I am home and away from commotion, I can focus on this a bit more, although I can't assure you I'll be any more coherent. It's been a long day.

I do see your point, and can agree to a point. In fact, after I got home, I did some quick reading on the various uses of the term "gospel" between the four gospels themselves and the Pauline epistles. I think the problem I am having -- if I could even call it a problem -- is where you say I am "grouping" the Gospel and justification in one place, and other aspects of salvation in another." That's not really what I am intending, at least I don't think I am. I am trying for simplicity in a church culture that likes to make everything complex. Simplicity and precision.

I fully realize there is so much to our salvation and daily walk with Christ. For those of us who have been believers for a while, we can dig in deeply and use terms in a more broad sense as we seek to understand Scripture, and how God is working His purposes out in us. We can study into the phrase "gospel of the kingdom" in one area, and how Paul used the term in another. We can look at the original uses of terms such as "euangelion, kerygma, etc., and enjoy the discussion. But for my purposes -- especially given the battles over theology I've been having to fight of late -- I prefer to focus on the Pauline definition because it really zeros in like a laser beam on the essential core -- the good news that the Lord Jesus Christ paid the price for our sins with His own shed blood, and that those who trust in Him have forgiveness of their sins. That glorious truth gets lived out by His people day by day, and that too can be "gospel," but not THE Gospel.

The other uses of the term "gospel" are legitimate and have their place, but I strongly feel that the core, central, key "Gospel" that Paul preached, and warned that anyone bringing another one was to be accursed, is the heart of it -- the main gemstone. The Lord's finished, redemptive work . . .right there! Paul was very precise in the face of people peddling a false Gospel.

I am afraid I am probably not making much sense. I know what I mean, but I am communicating it badly. C.S. Lewis once said if you couldn't explain something in layman's terms, you probably don't understand the subject well enough yourself.

Joel

Brother Slawson said...

From your post:
"...you should be more worried about whether you have a savior than whether you are doing any good..."

That part really resonated with me, given the words of the Lord Jesus in Luke 10 to those who were doing good...

17The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, "Lord,even the demons are subject to us in your name!" 18And he said to them, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. 20Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven."

Robert said...

Frank or anyone else who cares to help out with this question,

This is my first comment on any blog, anywhere . . . anytime, so here it goes.

Regarding your point that the "good things" that a sinner does sometimes ("do by nature the things contained in the law")highlights how broken our nature really is (total depravity - which is clearly Biblical)because it proves that when we do sin we know better. How does this fit with Paul's statement in 1 Tim 1:13 that he received mercy "because I did it ignorantly." Paul seems to be saying that in his case (blasphemer and persecutor) he did not know better. Then he concludes that God had mercy BECAUSE of his ignorance. Romans 10:1-3 speaks of those who have great zeal for God but are ignorant of their false worship (they don't know better.) Is Martin Luther - before his conversion - an example of this? He was sincere in his "works religion" (this was an offense to the cross of Christ), but "he didn't know better." Or did he . . . or should he have? Does God have greater mercy on those who are truly ignorant as opposed to those who have heard but reject? Biblically, God justly condemns all because of our nature as sinners (children of wrath by nature) so ignorance is not an escape . . . but how does this all fit together?