In addressing the questions raised by Aaron, we can examine them in whatever order we desire. However, since there is an order to things, a failure to examine them in proper order will yield some very interesting results for our doctrine. In the Scripture, there is an order to building doctrine, which is expressed in the following passage:
Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts. For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little: For with stammering lips and another tongue will he speak to this people. To whom he said, This is the rest wherewith ye may cause the weary to rest; and this is the refreshing: yet they would not hear. But the word of the LORD was unto them precept upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little; that they might go, and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken. (Isaiah 28:9-13)
Hence, to begin to understand what the Scripture states as far as doctrine is concerned, one must be a born-again child of God, and have some amount of maturity. Moreover, there must be a willingness to learn in the manner the LORD has prescribed, which is “precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little” and that process cannot be hurried, rushed, or shortcut, as the LORD God will not bless such “workarounds” as he made quite clear to the apostles:
I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. (John 16:12)
And again, that any learning is totally dependent upon what the LORD allows:
Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. And this will we do, if God permit. (Hebrews 6:1-3)
Thus, we have to do everything, including the way we approach and address doctrine, the way the LORD God is pleased with, else we aren’t going to get very far and be right in our determination of what proper and correct doctrine is. In seeking to accomplish this, one of the first things we must understand is that Scripture is to be trusted implicitly. This is not to say we blindly trust Scripture, but that we trust it implicitly, the LORD God having proven its accuracy.
Therefore, when we come to understand that Scripture is silent on a matter, we implicitly understand that we also should be silent on the matter and not “pry” into what we can infer about the matter. Additionally, when Scripture demonstrates that we “started in the middle” of a subject, we should accept that correction and seek the actual beginning of how the subject is addressed. A prime example of this concerns what the whole focus of the Scripture is, or “What the Bible is All About.” Interestingly enough, finding out what the Scripture is all about doesn’t require an entire book, but only a few of passages from the Scripture itself:
And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Ghost, and prophesied, saying, Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people, And hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David; As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began: That we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us; To perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant; The oath which he sware to our father Abraham, That he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear, In holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life. (Luke 1:67-75)
Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself. (Luke 24:25-27)
And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. (Luke 24:44-47)
And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God. And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said unto me, See thou do it not: I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. (Revelation 19:9-10)
Hence, by the above passages, the whole focus of the Scripture is the Lord Jesus Christ and His work to effect the redemption of man.1 Thus, by beginning where the LORD wants us to begin in Scripture, the answer to this question, which often yields books, is given by just a few passages of Scripture that are easily understood. So it is with the following questions:
1. Why is it that one unregenerate person believes the gospel and not another?
5. What principle in him made him choose what he did?
Now, when I was originally given these questions I was told that I could not say “I don’t know.” and leave it at that. I supposed the assumption was that because the Scripture does not tell us why one person chooses to believe and another doesn’t, it means that unregenerate individuals cannot of themselves choose to believe the truth, and thus be saved. In fact, this is the Calvinist/Reformed Theology position. However, it carries the implicit assumption that in gaining the knowledge of good and evil, we somehow are not ever able to recognize or elect anything right, good and true. This implicit assertion of Calvinism is directly contradicted by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself:
Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him? (Matthew 7:9-11)
Clearly, the Lord Jesus Christ who is God Himself, plainly acknowledges and points out, using it to teach the goodness and mercy of God, that we do know, and are able to recognize what is good and right and true, even though we are evil. Our problem is not that we cannot see and acknowledge the truth. Rather, it is a quite severe unwillingness to submit to that truth we recognize and acknowledge. There is a fundamental difference and distinction between acknowledgment of a particular truth, and submission to that truth.
Since the Scripture does plainly teach that all individuals can and are able to recognize the truth, and are able to choose between the truth and a lie, and yet does not explain why one chooses and another does not, I replied back to the challenge with the following:
Well, first off, your “”I don’t know” is not an answer.” is rank hypocrisy due to the fact that you Calvinists cannot explain what the criteria is that your “god” uses to determine who he will save and who he will send to hell. If you can show me that criteria in the Scripture, then I will accept this condition of not using “I don’t know” for an answer. Otherwise, I am going to invalidate at least two (2) of your questions, possibly others.2
Of course, what I received back was some very circular logic about God performing His pleasure, in choosing to save some whensoever, and howsoever He wills. What I was never sent was an actual set of criterion for how God decided who would be saved and who would be condemned. So it was that I choose to proceed to answer the two specific questions that have no answer with an explanation from Scripture as to why there is no answer. The long and short of it can be given quickly:
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? (Jeremiah 17:9)
Then hear thou from heaven thy dwelling place, and forgive, and render unto every man according unto all his ways, whose heart thou knowest; (for thou only knowest the hearts of the children of men:) (II Chronicles 6:30) see also I Kings 8:39
Here we plainly see two things:
First, it is clearly understood that the question posed by the LORD in Jeremiah, is a rhetorical question in which the obvious answer is “No one.” Which is to say that each and every individual’s heart lies to them and deceives them about their true intentions. We do know from the rest of Scripture that this applies to those who are not born-again in Christ, and thus are unregenerate.3 Since every person was at one time (and most still are) unregenerate, Jeremiah, Chapter 17, verse 9 applies equally across the board to everyone, so long as they remain dead in trespasses and sins. If at some point they come to Christ for salvation and are born-again in Christ Jesus, that changes. In our unregenerate state this is how we are — every single one of us.
Second, as Solomon made very plain (and the LORD caused it to be recorded twice in Scripture), it is only the LORD God who knows the heart of an individual as it really is. No one else is either capable of, or privy to the inner workings of the heart of man. This stands to reason as we are expressly told we cannot know our own hearts. How then could we actually evaluate the heart of someone else? After all, if our own vision and understanding are impaired, how could we knowingly, honestly pass judgement as to what is in the heart of another? The best we are given to judge by is what the Lord Jesus instructed during the sermon on the mount:
Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. (Matthew 7:15-20)
As one brother in Christ put it some years back, we are at best “fruit inspectors.” The long and short of it is our hearts lie to us, and we cannot discern what is actually in the heart of another. Moreover, to repeat, only the LORD God knows what is in each and every individual’s heart. Hence, why one particular person chooses to believe and another doesn’t, is a complete mystery to us, but not to the LORD God. However, He has plainly chosen to not waste time explaining the intricate “whys” and “wherefores” of one person versus another. After all, what real purpose would it serve anyway? First off, most folks would deny that is what is happening in their hearts, and second, they would view it a mere entertainment. Thus, no real good would come of it. Nonetheless, there is a day coming in which all those inner workings and thoughts will be revealed.
To be continued . . .
- Yes, the statement is true. Everything the Scripture gives us significant detail about does fit within the framework of bringing about the salvation of man and how the LORD God accomplished that work. It is at once and the same time, both utterly simple and terribly complex and complicated. [↩]
- private e-mail to Aaron [↩]
- Here I can just see the Calvinist trying to claim victory by saying this proves their contention that one must be regenerated to believe. However, it does not as their strange contention that one must be regenerated to believe, directly contradicts a number of passages in Scripture. [↩]