Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Root of Man-Made Religion

Why the issue of the Bondage of the Will in sin is so important.

John 8:34
Ephesians 2:1-3
Romans 6:22
Mark 7:20-23
Matthew 5:22-26
Matthew 5:28
Genesis 6:5
Jeremiah 13:23
Jeremiah 17:9
Romans 3:9-23
Romans 8:7
John 6:44
John 6:65
John 8:43
John 8:47

James Swan wrote an excellent post on Luther's Bondage of the Will back in 2006, and shows how Arminians (like Dave Hunt) have effectively, and at the root, denied the Reformation, even though they don't know it.

James Swan cites my favorite Luther quote (along with his Diet of Worms "I will not recant" speech) :

In Luther’s closing remarks to Erasmus in his monumental work, The Bondage of the Will, Luther states:

I praise and commend you highly for this also, that unlike all the rest you alone have attacked the real issue, the essence of the matter in dispute, and have not wearied me with irrelevancies about the papacy, purgatory, indulgences, and such like trifles (for trifles they are rather than basic issues), with which almost everyone hitherto has gone hunting for me without success. You and you alone have seen the question on which everything hinges, and have aimed at the vital spot; for which I sincerely thank you, since I am only too glad to give as much attention to this subject as time and leisure permit.”

Source: LW 33:294.
Luther was very insightful. He wrote that the issue of the bondage of the will in sin, man's inability to choose good over evil, without the grace of God, was the main root issue of the Reformation and he thanked Erasmus for focusing in on that.

We do not have free will ability to choose or do good without the grace of God. We do have natural human freedom of choice in that we are free to choose as we want to choose; but the question that gets to the root of that issue even deeper is "what does man naturally want, without the grace of God in regeneration (being born-again - John 3:1-8; Titus 3:3-5; Ezekiel 36:26-27; Acts 16:14) ?

R. C. Sproul's Willing to Believe explores the free will issue in history, from Pelagius and Augustine to Luther, Calvin, Arminius, Charles Finney, Jonathan Edwards, and Lewis Speery Chafer. This book is very helpful to explore the depths of an issue that many people in modern evangelicalism never wrestle with.
What do Muslims, Arminians, and Roman Catholics have in common?

Here is part of a Debate between Thabiti Anyabwile (Reformed Christian) and Bassam Zawadi (Muslim)

"How can we find forgiveness from a Holy God?"

This is part 4 of the debate where they ask each other questions. It gets to the roots of the differences between Christianity and Islam.

I recommend the whole debate to watch and take notes on and to think about deeply. - you can find the rest of the debate once you go to part 4 that I link and embed here. Bassam's opening statement in part 2 is very good for Christians to get a more accurate understanding of what Islam actually is. It is important for Christians to accurately understand and present Islam as it understands itself, in order to communicate the gospel to Muslims. (In future posts, I may comment on more of those details later, but for now, I want to focus on the issues of free will here, and what man-made religion has in common.)

2011 Dubai Muslim-Christian Dialogue - Part 4 of 6 - Q & A Between Speakers from gdskc on Vimeo.

In the first 8 minutes of this section, Bassam seeks to establish that the atonement of Christ and God the Father pouring out His wrath upon Christ on the cross is somehow an ontological change in the Trinity. Bassam calls it an "intrinsic /internal change" as opposed to an extrinsic/ external change. This is not the focus of this blog article, but I hope to explore this more in the future. A temporary action in a relationship within the 3 persons of the Trinity (God the Father pouring out His wrath upon the Son, who voluntarily and out of love willingly died - John 10:18) does not seem to logically follow that it is an internal change within the nature of God.
The focus of this blog article is on the 17 minute mark and beyond.

Thabiti seeks to get to the roots of the differences between the Islamic concept of the holiness of God and the justice of God vs. what the Bible says. Bassam seems to have a very common and human understanding of God's justice as "what is fair", which, to me, is so typical of the average human being and their answers in witnessing situations, and also seems typical of left wing secularists and liberals. But there was not enough time to explore to exactly what Bassam was trying to communicate about justice, God's holiness, and the will of God and the arbitrary and capricious nature of Allah's will, that seems to be there in Islam, and has greatly affected Islamic societies with fatalism.

At around the 17:37 mark - Thabiti says to Bassam: "your question assumes that man is neutral"

Later, around the 36 minute mark, Bassam says, "humans are created good". Indeed Islam teaches that human beings are created good (Qur'an Surah 30:30), and that they are able to present Allah with a "whole" or "sound" or "sincere" or "clean heart". (see Surah 26:88-89) Bassam refers to this passage at the beginning of the debate.

يَوْمَ لَا يَنفَعُ مَالٌ وَلَا بَنُونَ

"The Day whereon neither wealth nor sons will avail"

إِلَّا مَنْ أَتَى اللَّهَ بِقَلْبٍ سَلِيمٍ

"But only he who brings to Allah a sound heart." (Surah 26:88-89)

Thabiti refers to Mark 7:20-23, [I wish he had read it slowly in his presentation, as I think beginning in verse 14 of Mark 7, this passage may be the most powerful passage to use in evangelism with Muslims, along with Matthew 5:22-30, in the hope and prayer that God would use His word to convict their hearts of their sin and draw them to Himself.] - Bassam seems to struggle here and will not admit that all humans have a corrupt nature that is sinful and prideful, and that we need freedom and forgiveness from our corrupt natures.

Around the 38 minute point - Thabiti says, "So you are Arminian." and Bassam agrees, and admits, basically saying, "Yes, I think we are closer to the Arminians on the free will issue and we are closer to the Catholics on the faith plus works issue."

Throughout the debate, Bassam admits that Muslims have some kind of a "purgatory".
I have heard this many times in evangelism with Muslims. They admit that they are not perfect and have not kept the will of Allah perfectly and sin, and so, many times Muslims have said to me, "I will probably spend maybe 200 years in the hell-fire."

What do Muslims, Arminians, and Roman Catholics have in common?
Answer: The Free will of man (innate ability to choose good over evil) is common to all three; a faith plus works salvation is common to Muslims and Roman Catholics, and to those Arminians who do not believe in the perseverance of the saints, and some kind of purgatory is common to Roman Catholicism and Islam.


Ken said...

As I grow older, I am amazed at how many times I read and look at something and don't see my typos and mistakes.

I just noticed a big mistake in the title; but now have corrected it.

Ken said...

published at 12:24 pm originally and the title said "man-man" religion. Didn't see it yet I was looking at it for a several hours and proof reading and correcting lots of things.

At 4:51pm I noticed the mistake!

Wow; the flesh is weak.

Lvka said...

We lack the power to do the good that we do want to do. (Romans 7:15-25; John 15:5).

Saint Paul says speciffically in verse 18 that "to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not".

The will is bound inasmuch it is unable to do what it wants. But bondage is not the same as absence.

Ken said...

Romans 7 is a redeemed, regenerated will - Paul is a Christian, so he really wants to obey God, but lacks the power all the time.

John 15 is about a believer/disciple/Christian also; we cannot accomplish anything that glorifies God (John 15:8) or fruit that lasts (15:16) without abiding in Him and His power working in us.

Both of these texts are not relevant to the unregenerate will of unbelievers.

Lvka said...

I'd say you're wrong, given Saint Paul's own words in Romans 2:14-15.

Ken said...

No, you would be wrong, because you failed to follow Paul's argument from Romans 2 verse by verse to Romans 3:31 and even 4:1-16.

In Romans 2:14-15, he is just saying that Gentiles (non-Jews, the nations, the pagans) who do not have the law of Moses (revelation), know instinctively that some things are right or wrong - like murder, stealing, adultery, cheating, lying, etc. When they know and obey these laws, they show that the moral law of God is "written in their hearts", and that they will be held accountable on the day of judgement for all their secrets. The rest of the argument in Romans shows that no one is able to keep the law perfectly and even obedience is tainted by internal sinful motives, and that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:9-28)

Galatians 2:16 also - no one can be justified by seeking to obey the law of God.

I Cor. 4:5 also shows this - that God will judge the motives.

Lvka said...

no one is able to keep the law perfectly

I didn't say anybody normally is. All I said was that the will is there.

Ken said...

the unregenerate will is there; it is just bound in sin and chooses according to its desires/wants/motives, which are tainted by sin.

No Reformed person has ever taught that the will does not exist.

De Maria said...

Catholic doctrine says:
...we are therefore said to be justified gratuitously, because none of those things that precede justification, whether faith or works, merit the grace of justification. (Trent VI, Chapter VIII)

Therefore, it is true, that we are saved by faith and works, but only in a manner of speaking.

Our faith does not save, we don't save ourselves.
Our works do not save, we don't save ourselves.

God saves those who demonstrate their faith in works of love. God grants eternal life to those who keep His Commandments.

Romans 2:13
(For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.

Revelation 22:14
Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.


De Maria

Ken said...

De Maria,
Thanks for admitting up front that Roman Catholicism is a "faith plus works" salvation system.

The Romans 2:13 quote is not meant to stand alone but is in the middle of Paul's argument, which I already noted before - follow it through all the way to Romans 3:28 and even Romans 4:1-16 and 5:1-11.

The Revelation 22:14 passage is a textual variant.
The best manuscripts read,
"Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they might have the right to eat of the tree of life . . . "

see Rev. 7:14 - only by the washing/cleansing of the blood of the lamb - faith in His atonement - Romans 3:25-26 - only by His work on the cross is someone saved.

Roman Catholicism is a “faith plus works” salvation system, because you must do good works all through your life to gain back your justification, started with baptism (either infant or conversion baptism); but which you lost by the commission of mortal sin.

The Roman Church claims “by faith through grace alone”, but upon deeper investigation, it means that there are works one must do in order keep getting grace until final perseverance and getting scrubbed clean in purgatory and passing through it, and in order to stay in a state of grace. (baptism, partaking of the Lord’s supper, obeying the Ten Commandments, confession to the priest, prayers to Mary for dispensing of grace from the treasury of merit; or some other saint; visiting saints graves, etc. fasting, extended times of more prayer, meditation, giving to the poor; doing what the priest says as the satisfaction aspect of penance, etc.) These things are contradictions to “by grace alone” (hence they contradict faith alone – Romans 4:16) and they contradict “not by our own works”. You don’t get grace dispensed to you from the treasury of merit, unless you do the works; and that only comes to you after you do those things; those good works, ceremonies, communion (partaking of the Lord’s Supper), hail Marys, prayers, fastings, almsgiving, and obeying the Ten Commandments, etc.

No. 2068 in the RCC Catechism says, “The Council of Trent teaches that the Ten Commandments are obligatory for Christians . . . so that all men may obtain salvation through faith, Baptism, and the observance of the Commandments.” ( p. 502, Catechism of the Catholic Church, Liberia Editrice Vatinaa, Imprimi Potest, Cardinal Ratzinger, 1994.

This is contradictory to RC claims that it is “not by our own works” and contradictory to “by grace alone”.

Also, the Catechism says:

No. 2010 “Moved by the Holy Spirit and by charity, we can then merit for ourselves and for others the graces needed for our sanctification, for the increase of grace and charity, and for the attainment of eternal life.” ( Ibid, p. 487)

De Maria said...

you seem anxious to debate every Catholic doctrine. I'm game, but one at a time.

Meantime, let us please focus on Romans 2 and what it says. You said:
>The Romans 2:13 quote is not meant to stand alone<

I never said it did.

>but is in the middle of Paul's argument, which I already noted before - follow it through all the way to Romans 3:28 and even Romans 4:1-16 and 5:1-11.<

Certainly it is, let us follow it together:
Romans 2:13
For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.

In other words, doing the law doesn't justify anyone. But not doing the law condemns. Because those who are justified will only come from the set of people who do the works of the law. Follow?

A man is an unrepentant murderer and sinner. He will never be justified by God because he rejects the law. He will be condemned.
1 John 3:4
Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.

Let us continue in Romans 2
8But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath,
9Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile;

If you don't mind, we can discuss the Catholic doctrine of Baptism and all the other things you brought up later and in more detail.
(This was an abbreviated response because of the word count. If anyone is interested in my full response, please go to my blog

De Maria

Anonymous said...


a couple two maybe three things. Depends on how I go typing these comments.

First thing is I find it ironic the mistake "man-man" religion and correcting it to what you wanted it to read, "man-made" religion.

I would say, in this instance and with the video, either title makes perfectly good sense to me.

Of especial note you already noted with your remarks above about the 17 minute mark beyond. It is clear Bassam is making the point that God is fair and He bases His Justice the way human beings tend to do and that all men begin in a "neutral" position so it is based on man's actions and not on God's decrees.

Besides the obvious "demonic" component to Islam working in the background there is that man-man component as well. It is men making decisions about humanity for God and from what I have personally experienced with Muslims, there is more justice and forgiveness given to the very rich Muslim when adversely there isn't nearly the tolerance levels for the poor who do the same crimes.

I could go into personal experiences I have experienced with some Muslims but "cannot" but to just say generally, I have been with some of the "wealthiest" Muslims of the world and seen first hand just how they treated their servant Muslims for things innocently done that reflected poorly on their own esteem or the esteem of their "position" in this life.

Finally, that thing Bassam said that it is his belief that sometimes Justice means God puts a person in "hell" for a time to bring about expiation of things they did contrary to God's unchanging nature and purity really struck a cord with me and then the follow on remarks he makes about Islam being more closely like the Arminian and Catholic faiths than Reformed, is telling.

Lvka said...

I'm talking about the will to do good being present in all people (in all sinners).

(The will to do good, but not the ability to actually accomplish it).

Ken said...

Lvka - what about all those verses I gave at the beginning of the article?

I forgot, the Eastern Orthodox Church rejects the doctrine of original, inherited sin, that that sinful nature is passed down from Adam to all human children.

Lvka said...

Those verses speak against those (of the Jews) who actually thought they could keep/do God's will (as if it were in their power to do so). Saint Paul explains that it is not. We ALL have a conscience: NOT just Jews, he says. We ALL have the moral law/image of God in our hearts: NOT just the Jews, he argues. We ALL strive to keep it: NOT just the Jews, he explains. But we can't: we fall short: EVEN the Jews, he demonstrates. The will is there, but the power to fulfill it is lacking, he shows.

So why then do the Jews think they are entitled to inheriting the Kingdom of Heaven more than the Gentiles? They are just as the Nations, and the Nations are just like them. All humans are alike, children of men, sons of Adam, sinning in his image, though also bearers God's image.

It is ultimately God's grace, mercy, love, and kindness that saves us -Jews AND pagans-, NOT our non-existent, non-impressive holiness (or lack thereof) as if held to an objective standard, and actually honoring or observing it.

Pagans themselves are forgiven and have their sins covered by the same grace, understanding, and long-suffering of God: Acts 17:30; 1 Timothy 1:13; Hebrews 5:2.

So why complain that the Gentiles were "unjustly" received into the Church, when it wasn't "just" to receive the Jews themselves in the first place?

God is our Father, and it is nothing else but His unconditioned love for us that enables salvation and forgiveness. In other words: grace. And he expects nothing else of us than to also love & forgive others even as He Himself has loved and forgiven us. It is his mercy and compassion that covers our sins, and not our merit and potential (or faith, or whatever).

We deny the concept of inherited guilt, not that of inherited natural corruption.

Sheryl (papernapkin) said...

"We do have natural human freedom of choice in that we are free to choose as we want to choose"

I do not understand this, though I have been trying to since I joined the PCA in the 90s. This, and other reformed doctrines have made me fatalistic about serving God. If you say we have a choice but do not give us more than one alternative, that seems to contradict the idea of choice. Reformed doctrine says that the unregenerated man can never choose to seek God. If I tell my son, for dinner you can have pizza or pizza, that's not a real choice.

Ken said...

I am truly sorry that I did not see or respond to your comment sooner.

First, I would say that you should go to your PCA pastor and elders and ask them to explain it.

Also, I can recommend the 2 books I linked to in the post, Sam Storms - Chosen for Life, and James White's The Potter's Freedom. Also R. C. Sproul's Willing to Believe. (if you want to go deeper)

Anything written by John Piper in this area is also helpful - - all his sermons are free to listen, or newer ones to watch, and read.

If you are born again, your will is freed to serve God - Romans 6:6-7; Romans 6:22

What don't you understand about the fact that when we are not born again, our wills are free in that we choose what we want, but our wants/desires/motives are bound by sinfulness? we choose according to our desires and wants. And until we are born again, we only want things that are selfish, prideful, foolish.

But once we are born again, our wills are freed to choose to serve God.

In fact -
1. God, in His Word, through the apostle Paul, motivates believers to choose rightly based on election and being chosen, holy, and loved - Colossians 3:12

2. God, in His Word, through the apostle Paul motivates evangelism based on the truth that God has his elect people out there, but they need to hear the gospel in order to be saved. 2 Timothy 2:10

3. Jesus, taught us to respond to difficulties and the fact that people are lost and hurting by praying to the Sovereign God, the Lord of the harvest, to send forth more workers (servants, ministers) into His harvest in order to minister to them. Matthew 9:36-38

So, choices, evangelism, and prayer are all grounded in the sovereignty of God.

I hope you came back to read that and that you will continue to talk to your pastor and elders about these issues.