God, Time & Eternity: Part 2

This is a continuation of my efforts to better understand how God, time and eternity relate. Part 1 was the article, ‘God, Time & Eternity,’ and the comments that followed that earlier article were particularly enlightening.

 

The “B -series” and “A-series” are presented as static and dynamic, respectively. The former sees God as timeless, atemporal, and outside of time; while the latter sees God as temporal and within a timeline that is infinite in both directions. It is explained that in the “b-series,” all events are “static” and are unchangeably real to God in a sort of timeless “simultaneity;” while in the “a-series,” the concept of “now” or presentness is an ontological reality only at one moment on the timeline, and is continually moving forward. In the a-series, only that single moment of the present is real to God (or to anyone else).

Something is missing here. Why do we think that if God is outside of time, the events of the timeline can only be “static” to Him? It is because of the limitations of our sequential minds that can only comprehend the “dynamic” through sequential perception. Continue reading

When did the Wise Men Appear? A Christmas Chronology

Ken Hamrick:

It seems a good time to “reblog” this old article. Merry Christmas!

Originally posted on Biblical Realist:

The Wise Men are part of most nativity scenes, and many people assume that they arrived while Jesus was still in the manger, soon after his birth.  Many others, seeking a more accurate chronology, note that Herod killed baby boys who were two years old and under (according to the time that the wise men had told him), and conclude that they arrived two years after the birth of Jesus.  I suggest a different approach.  If we let the two gospel accounts, in Matthew and Luke, speak for themselves without any assumed contradictions, we can arrive at a precise, Biblical timeline of events.  This will require that we assume that the accounts in Matthew and Luke fit together, each supplying information that the other leaves out.  Let’s look at the Scripture.

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Originally posted on SBC Open Forum:

The meaning of the word, justification, is clearly forensic (legal). But the deeper question remains: is that forensic verdict an accurate and true assessment of the believer when united to Christ, or is it a nominal and putative designation of a recategorization within God’s mind alone? The answer is found in our union with Christ.

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Grace, Faith and Regeneration

[Adapted from Beyond Traditionalism: Reclaiming Southern Baptist Soteriology, posted at SBC Open Forum]

There are two profound changes that happen to a man as he is saved. First: the man is changed from a man who hates God to a man who is ready to repent and turn to God. This is what the Calvinists focus on. How profound it is that a man who shakes his fist at God becomes a man on his knees at the altar! Second: God responds to the man who turns from his sin and comes to Him by justifying him, indwelling him with the Holy Spirit and bringing life back to his spirit. This is what non-Calvinists tend to focus on — the “new creation,” being “born again” and restored to communion with God.

Non-Calvinists often fail to recognize the first change for what it is — a profound change — and emphasize only the second change. In this second change, God does respond to the man’s decision to come to Him in faith. However, the second change cannot happen without the first change; and the first change only happens if God has in His grace intervened in such a way as to bring about that change. Men must freely respond to the gospel, but that response does not come out of nowhere. In every man who responds, God has done a work of preparation in his life that resulted in the first profound change.

Calvinists mostly fail to recognize that the two changes are distinct, and reserve only justification for God’s response to the sinner’s faith. But justification is grounded on the reality of spiritual union with the indwelling Christ. Justification provides the initial legal judgment of our salvation, but the union with Christ provides the substance and reality of our salvation — the ground and basis for our justification. While it is plausible that God would have reason to justify prior to union, there is no plausible reason to withhold justification once the believer is united with Christ. Continue reading

The Fall and Depravity of Man

[Adapted from Beyond Traditionalism: Reclaiming Southern Baptist Soteriology, posted at SBC Open Forum]

The covenant model is merely a template by which to describe the reality, and may be discarded without loss to the traditional Baptist position. Even without any covenant, Adam’s sin would have been just as wrong and just as worthy of death (physical and spiritual). Since sin naturally enslaves and corrupts, then Adam’s sin would have corrupted his nature and enslaved him whether or not there was a covenant. And since the nature of all men was embodied in the single man, Adam, when he sinned, then that nature would be propagated to all men in its morally corrupted, spiritually dead condition — even without any covenant. So you see, while the covenant model serves as a good way to explain the reality, the reality itself does not depend on the covenant.

Baptist centrists have traditionally affirmed that the nature of all men sinned in Adam, and because of this, all men justly “inherit a nature and an environment inclined toward sin.” This middle position acknowledges the inherited depravity as an inclination toward sin and an aversion toward God. But rather than going to the extreme of the Calvinist and Arminian insistence on a total inability, the middle position aligns with Andrew Fuller’s teaching that the sinner’s inability is a moral inability and not a natural inability. A natural inability is like a man born blind, who cannot see no matter how much he might want to. Natural inability provides an excuse. A moral inability is like a rebellious child who holds his hands over his eyes and refuses to see. The inability in both cases is just as debilitating — both will fall into the ditch if they try to walk — but the latter inability provides no excuse. Continue reading

Divine Determinism

[Adapted from Beyond Traditionalism: Reclaiming Southern Baptist Soteriology, posted at SBC Open Forum]

God is an active Agent in His created world, unfailingly carrying out every detail of His perfect plan for human history. We find this truth in Scripture. Millard Erickson expounds on the Old Testament view of God’s plan:

For the Old Testament writers, it was virtually inconceivable that anything could happen independently of the will and working of God. As evidence of this, consider that common impersonal expressions like “It rained” are not found in the Old Testament. For the Hebrews, rain did not simply happen; God sent the rain. They saw him as the all-powerful determiner of everything that occurs. Not only is he active in everything that occurs, but he has planned it. What is happening now was planned long ago. God himself comments, for example, concerning the destruction wreaked by the king of Assyria: “Have you not heard that I determined it long ago? I planned from days of old what now I bring to pass, that you should make fortified cities crash into heaps of ruins” (Isa. 37:26) Even something as seemingly trivial as the building of reservoirs is described as having been planned long before (Isa. 22:11). There is a sense that every day has been designed and ordered by the Lord…

The Old Testament also enunciates belief in the efficaciousness of God’s plan. What is now coming to pass is doing so because it is (and has always been) part of God’s plan. He will most assuredly bring to actual occurrence everything in his plan. What he has promised, he will do. Isaiah 46:10-11 puts it this way: “I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’ calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of my counsel from a far country. I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it”…

It is particularly in the wisdom literature and the prophets that the idea of an all-inclusive divine purpose is most prominent. God has from the beginning, from all eternity, had an inclusive plan encompassing the whole of reality and extending even to the minor details of life. “The LORD has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble” (Prov. 16:4; cf. 3:19-20; Job 38, especially v. 4; Isa. 40:12; Jer. 10:12-13). Even what is ordinarily thought of as an occurrence of chance, such as the casting of lots, is represented as the Lord’s doing (Prov. 16:33). Nothing can deter or frustrate the accomplishment of his purpose. Proverbs 19:21 says, “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will be established” (cf. 21:30-31; Jer. 10:23-24)…[1]

For those of us who recognize this Biblical truth, there is no question: God does have an eternal plan that He is perfectly carrying out. Continue reading