Archive for July 17, 2013

Pacifists Don’t Permit Murder

July 17, 2013

When somebody murders another person, it’s not the pacifist’s fault but the one who murdered. We should not assume that the pacifist was so sovereign that the pacifist “could have” prevented it.  Nor should we assume that the only thing we can do to prevent murder is to have a gun.

God is not a pacifist. God has not been a pacifist, and God will not be a pacifist. God is sovereign. God can and does prevent anything God wants to prevent. God now prevents what God has always planned to prevent. But God does not “allow” things. God does not “permit” things.
God did not “permit” all of us to murder His Son. God did not even “allow” 
those specific Jews and Romans who did murder Jesus Christ to do so. God ordained it. God planned it.
Acts 2:21 Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— 23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.
Romans 12: 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 
I Thessalonians 1: 3 And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers. 14 For you, brothers, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea. For you suffered the same things from your own countrymen as they did from the Jews, 15 who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out, and displease God and oppose all mankind 16 by hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles that they might be saved—so as always to fill up the measure of their sins. But wrath HAS come upon them at last!
Some Christians “act as if some vast conspiracy is brewing in America over the Christian faith, with naysayers organized against Christians. They feel like they live life on the cultural margins, so they take that as their identity–they count their marginalization as their righteousness. They are not looking to Jesus as their only righteousness, and so they act from prejudice, assuming that everyone hates them, and they act in a way that comfirms this.”  (Crucifying Morality, p105, R. W. Glenn)

Some of these folks  read 2 Chronicles 7:14 (if my people) as if it were talking about a covenant of works with the American Empire. And then some of my pacifist friends (I claim to be a pacifist myself) agree with me that Muslims don’t care if they are being killed for Christian reasons or secular ones, well, these folks have no clue about  who God is in His sovereign justice.  They don’t know the gospel, but they do know that Christians should love their enemies and should not kill. They do know that it’s not our job to make justice happen if that means seeing to it that somebody gets what’s coming to them.

That is not only a disappointment to me, but a puzzle. People who have the same gospel have different politics, and people who have the same politics have different gospels. And I ask myself, how can they know so much about the grace of God and think the way they do about their enemies? And they ask themselves about me, how can he be so “conservative and orthodox” when it comes to gospel doctrine, and still not see the right of America to do whatever it takes to protect Israel from the Muslims?

I could say there are different kinds of “conservative”. Neo-cons who want their version of ” economic liberalism” are not the same as Luther and Calvin when it comes to politics. But what I usually say is this–you can believe the gospel without wanting to “conserve” that which has come about with the passing of time..


When Christians attempt to act as God’s agents in holy war, they have confused  the American nation  (or Israel, or “western civilization”) with a church. And it doesn’t make things better when Christians say that they only kill for “secular” reasons. It is inconsistent with the new covenant law of Christ for citizens of the kingdom of heaven to kill for the sake of another kingdom.You can only have one master, and you can only be a citizen of one nation. 

Of course the magisterial Reformers (Zwingli, Calvin, Luther) said to the anabaptists—we don’t drown you for your views on water baptism but rather for your political sedition in sharing those views publicly and acting on them. And now American Christians say—we don’t kill your for being Muslim. We kill you before you can kill us, because you would kill us simply because we are Christians. 


We Do Not Make One Side of the Exchange

July 17, 2013

Neo-Calvinists often tell us that “God wants us to exchange our self-righteousness for Christ’s righteousness.”  As the old slogan has it–all you contribute is your sins. But it is not so. God has already (or not) made the exchange. For some, that is for all elect sinners, God has already imputed their sins to Christ. In time, it is God (not these sinners) who will impute Christ’s death (His righteousness) to the sinners.

But why be picky about this?  Because the gospel of Jesus Christ is about God’s sovereign JUSTICE.  The gospel is about the salvation of the elect which God owes the elect, not because of any exchange the elect make, but because God has already atttributed all the sins of all the elect to Christ. Since Christ has already died for all those sins, it would be unjust for God not to save those sinners.

Now, some liberals (Socinians) don’t like that idea of retributive justice. If it’s strict justice, they complain, then it can’t be forgiveness. And if it’s forgiveness, then no justice was absolutely or strictly necessary. (Some of them think a governmental display of “absorbing sins” would be good for apologetic order.)

And the neo-Calvinists who still want to be “evangelicals” (Arminians also) also have a problem with the idea that what Christ did entitles Christ to the salvation of His specific individuals. So they don’t talk about election, or about the elect having already been given to Christ, but instead they talk about “the covenant” or “those who believe” (what?).

RC Sproul in his book on the Holiness of God (p 111)  explains it this way: “Mercy is not justice, but also is not injustice. We may see non-justice in God, which is mercy, but we never see injustice in God.”  But this is not the way the Bible explains the righteousness of Christ.

Romans 5: 17 For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.18 Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. 19 For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. 20 Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also would reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Grace reigns through justice, and all for whom Christ did His obedience unto death will one day be constituted righteous. Christ did not die for Judas. Judas never sinned against God’s grace or Christ’s love, because Christ never loved Judas. But it would be injustice for a person for whom Christ died to not be forgiven because they had failed “to make the exchange” or “to accept the exchange” .

Those who know the gospel know the good news of election and justice, and so they know that it was not their contribution of sins which makes them to differ from those who “didn’t contribute their sins” or “give up their self-righteousness”. The problem with talking about God’s “non-justice” is that it effectively turns the gospel into a “possibility”. And if salvation is possible if you “make the exchange”, then Christ’s death is possibly ineffective if you don’t make the exchange.  “Non-justice” only makes mercy possible. The righteousness of Christ makes divine mercy to the elect (all for whom Christ died) a matter of justice to Christ.

This wonderful truth is perhaps seen at its clearest in Isaiah 53:

10 Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him;
he has put him to grief;
when his blood makes an offering for guilt,
he SHALL see his offspring; he SHALL prolong his days;
the will of the Lord SHALL prosper in his hand.
11 Out of the anguish of his soul’s death he SHALL see and be satisfied;
by his knowledge SHALL the righteous one, my servant,
make many to be counted righteous,
and he SHALL bear their iniquities.
12 THREFORE I WILL divide him a portion with the many,
and he SHALL divide the spoil with the strong,
because he poured out his soul to death
and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
and makes intercession for the transgressors.

If we sing about having ourselves put Christ on the cross, we do not yet understand what the gospel teaches about the transfer of guilt. We are not the imputers. We do not get to decide when and if we put our sins on Christ. We do not get the opportunity to contribute our sins so that then Christ contributes His righteousness. Neither election nor non-election is conditioned on our sins. Although those who believe the gospel are commanded to reckon what God has already reckoned, we can never be the original reckoners.

Yes, those specific lawless men who put Christ on the cross were guilty of what they did. But the cross is not what condemns.  The non-elect do not sin against God’s grace. The gospel is good news for the elect, and the gospel is not what condemns the non-elect. Rejecting the cross is not what condemns the non-elect, because we are all already condemned in Adam . The false gospel which says that Jesus Christ died for every sinner is not gospel. The false gospel turns a supposedly universal death into guilt for those who don’t meet the conditions which supposedly make that death effective.