14 March 2009

Question and Answer session, Saturday (PCRT 2009 Sacramento)

by Dan Phillips

The panel included Derek Thomas, Steve Lawson, Jerry Bridges.

The first two talks were back to back, followed by a very brief break. I'll do my best to keep up with the questions; I missed the beginning.

1. Did Jesus die for the elect or for all sinners?

Rick Phillips said that there are aspects of Christ's death that benefit the world, in making the free offer of the Gospel possible, and the fruits in the lives of the redeemed. But the atonement is for the elect only. Otherwise, for what sins does God condemn people? Either Jesus atoned equally for all persons, but not effectually for all (Arminian); or He atoned fully for the sins of the elect (Reformed). It is a broad bridge that goes halfway across the river, or a narrower bridge that goes all the way across.

2. Where would you begin with a non-Reformed person in pointing him to the doctrines of grace?

Jerry Bridges says you can't argue someone in against his will. We're dead in trespasses and sins; it is an absolute term. There are not degrees of deadness. [Update: Bridges did say this, and I was getting this down as quickly as I could. As I recall, he did say that one should be as winsome as one can and explain the best he can. He may have been taking question as relating to the unsaved, not to saved Arminians.]

3. How does the remnant play out in the doctrine of justification?

Derek Thomas answered that it is a precious truth. It means there will always be those who God will justify; there will always be a Church.

4. Are any Roman Catholics going to Heaven?

Lawson replied "Yes, but only if they do not believe what the Roman Catholic Church teaches." What Rome teaches is a false Gospel that will damn, not save. (Lawson added that he doesn't think all Baptists are going to heaven, either.) Phillips said that we should not use terms like "evangelical Catholic," which is a contradiction in terms.

5. Did Jesus die on the Cross as Son of God or Son of Man?

Phillips replied that "Son of Man" is a title of deity, not humanity, harkening back to the vision in Daniel 7. Jesus is one person with two natures. His divine nature could not die; He took on human nature so that He could die for sinners.

6. How do we understand the warnings against apostasy?

Bridges replied that the readers of Hebrews were being pressed to turn back to Judaism. The writer is warning them. Phillips added by reminding that the epistles' audiences were spiritually mixed.

7. Why did God choose faith as the instrument of receiving salvation?

Lawson said it reserves all glory to God. The only other alternative would be works, in which case the work of salvation is shared.

8. Has Piper's book on Wright started a dialogue?

Phillips said not to his knowledge. While Piper gave his manuscript to Wright a year in advance to review, Wright did not return the favor to Piper. Phillips says Wright's book is brilliant and helpful, but condescending and "very heretical." Thomas said that Wright's weakness has been in failing to answer the question of why Jesus had to die, and why the death of the Cross. If the essential meaning is to assure that Jews and Gentiles belong to the Kingdom of God, then it is not necessary that Jesus die that death to bring it about. It has been the gaping hole in Wright's theology. This book, sadly, "will answer that question in the wrong direction."

9. How does Christ's intercession mesh with justification?

Lawson: Satan brings charges against us before God day and night; and we have an Advocate before the Father, pleading His own merits on our behalf.

10. Were Ananias and Sapphira saved? Can we ever know whether a professing believer is saved?

Bridges says we don't know if they were saved. It could have been a case of disciplining of God's children. But yes, we can have assurance of salvation through faith in Christ.



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11 comments:

Susan said...

Either Jesus atoned equally for all persons, but not effectually for all (Arminian); or He atoned fully for the sins of the elect (Reformed). It is a broad bridge that goes halfway across the river, or a narrower bridge that goes all the way across.

That's why conferences like these are so cool--one gets to hear doctrine being explained in terms that one would otherwise have never thought of. Thanks for taking notes, Dan.

theologyofbobby said...

#1. The bible says for all sinners. If we speak of the "elect" or "reprobate" apart from Christ (as the actulisation of both) then we become the center instead of Christ. This isn't a very Christ-centered way to frame things.

#2. By pointing them to Christ.

#3. The same way the elect play out.

#4. What's the difference between infusio gratiae (infused grace) and perseverance. Both are "created graces" and both insure that the elect will "live out" the righteousness of Christ and ultimately result in consummating beatific vision.

#5. It depends on how one defines death. What if death is in fact the pouring out(climaxed in the cross) of a received life (Christ from the Father by the Holy Spirit)? And not annihilation.

#7. Because faith corresponds to the kind of relationship the Son has with the Father . . . one of trusting submission to His will. Thus by our participation through union with the Son (by the Spirit) we share in His 'kind' of relationship with the Father. God's glory in this frame is shaped by manifesting His life in Christ at the cross (death). It is 'foolishness' to the world, because glory is construed by the exact opposite --- by aggressively asserting ourselves (and taking the 'glory').

#9. His ongoing mediation is the living and perfect tensing of all of salvation (justification, sanctification, and glorification).

#10. If profession isn't enough to assume that someone is saved, then nobody is.

Mark H said...

I'm a little shocked by the answer to question two. First, it seems to assume that all non-Reformed are dead in their trespasses and sins (i.e. unsaved). And second, it seems to take an astonishingly fatalistic view that there is no point trying to help those who are wrong about doctrine.

Please tell me his answer was a little more nuanced than that. (unless you consider me non-Reformed, in which case don't waste your time arguing with a dead man!)

Stefan said...

There does seem to be a mismatch between the question and answer for #2, and I say that as a thorough-going small-r reformed type.

The answer seems more to be to a question, "How would you point a non-believer [not a non-Reformed believer] to the doctrines of grace?"

Could something have got lost in the transcription?

DJP said...

It is, nonetheless, what Bridges said, though I don't claim to have made a complete transcription. I think Bridges went on to say that it doesn't mean you don't lay out evidence; his emphasis was — and I took his point to be — that it never ceases to be the case that we are dependent on God to open our eyes to spiritual truth, and we never can achieve that end by argument alone.

DJP said...

BTW, it's possible that Bridges took the question to refer to a non-Christian. He has a point, either way. It would be a bit silly for a Reformed Christian to try to bludgeon a non-Reformed person into believing that we're dependent on the sovereign grace of God, no?

DJP said...

Forgive me one more BTW: blame me, not Bridges. I did do my best to keep up, but I'm not a total machine. In retrospect, I wish I'd expanded that after posting. But with all but two of the posts, I did them and the graphics so that I was able to hit PUBLISH the second the speaker closed in prayer. Thus I was ready to go on to the next session, which sometimes followed immediately after.

So I'm sure Bridges wasn't saying that non-Reformed are unsaved. What I said above is what I think his point was. But he also said what I reported.

Mark H said...

thanks for the clarifications DJP

Stefan said...

Thanks from me, too.

The prolific amount of work you did this weekend more than makes up for the occasional possibly confusing point.

CR said...

Interesting questions. Thanks for the live-blogging for us poor folks that couldn't go.

teckmonktexas said...

I am a neophyte, but in regards to question 5. "Did Jesus die on the Cross as Son of God or Son of Man?" and the answer, that God could not die, I do wonder if a more ontological death, the death of separation, Son from Father, at least in some real sense is not possible here. It would have preceded physical death, and its resurrection preceded physical resurrection. I have always thought that without this, we may be making a mockery of Christ's suffering.