« Crown Him Lord of All | Main | Priceless Ransom »

March 29, 2010



"True goodness, the only kind that really counts, is a gift from God; you can't fake it, you can't earn it, and you can't profit from it, at least not on purpose."

OK. That's pretty close.

The way I'd put it is that

1) A person who is trying to do what is right so that s/he will avoid hell and secure heaven is not doing what is right.

2) A person who is trying to do what is right so that s/he will bring about good consequences in this life is not doing what is right.

3) In this life, there is no regular and predictable connection between good consequences and right action. Right action is often just as likely to have bad consequences.

So right action is to be divorced from any good consequences we can foresee in this life or the next. It is about following the moral law, because it is the moral law.

We should keep our promises, tell the truth, protect life, help the poor, minister to the sick, etc. principally because the law commands us to do so. Insofar as we have any other hopes or desires about the outcome, they should be epiphenomenal.

In other words, right actions can only ever be performed by those who have a characteristically Christian outlook. Where:

A) Salvation is apart from works (justification),


B) Temporal benefits are viewed with a sublime indifference (sanctification).

Those who don't have this outlook seem to doomed never to perform a right act.

Because of this, again, the idea of salvation by works is self-defeating.

On the other hand, those without the outlook mentioned in A and B are free to perform as many wrong acts as they would like. And those who go to hell are sent there because of their wrong actions in this life. (Of course, they continue to commit wrong actions there, thus extending their sentence indefinitely.)

In short, everyone seems to have all the freedom in the world to do evil and go to hell as a result. But only those who trust in Christ for a salvation apart from works have the freedom to do anything else.

>>Therefore, I maintain, if you are a Calvinist and you behave morally in this life, you are either doing it because you're a secular humanist on the inside, or you're doing it just in case you're wrong about God (or, I suppose, you could be doing it because you haven't given the matter any thought, and you're on behavioral autopilot).

Or we could be doing it because God has enabled us to love the good, the true, and the beautiful, and because we love to reflect the God whom we love to the world through our actions, or because we know the joy of both those things, even when they involve suffering or denying ourselves something.

It’s very odd to me that you think that everything we do must be determined by fear of hell or a desire to save ourselves in order to make sense or be meaningful. It’s a self-focus that doesn’t really make sense in light of the Christian’s relationship with a real Person around whom our lives revolve. We don’t look at the Christian life as a way to push buttons on a salvation machine.


That’s sweet.


You define “right action,” not only as a kind of action, but in terms of “a person trying to do” some other kind of action. And you go on to say:

…those who go to hell are sent there because of their wrong actions in this life.

(And you go on to imply that one’s stay in hell might not be forever but, instead, that one’s actions might continually cause one to stay.)

In other words, it sounds as though there are actions we’re capable of performing in this life which can influence our fates in the next life. (Or even actions we’re capable of performing in the next life which continue to have influence.)

But, to the contrary, you—and Vic, and Mr. Koukl—have assured me that any such action as could be performed in this life is irrelevant to one’s fate in the next life. If there were such an action one could take in this life, then God’s freedom would effectively be constrained by people who take that action.

If this is your position, it would be great leap in clarity if you would stop talking as though there were courses of action available to people which could influence their fates in the next life. If this is not your position, then what the hell are we arguing about?

>>Amy, That’s sweet.

Sweet or not, it's the answer.

Regardless, I've warned you about condescension before, and I'm serious about it, as you know.

The tone of the blog comments here is important to whether or not free discussion takes place. I've been letting some of it go in your comments, but if it becomes clear to me that this is the way you still plan to regularly interact with the other guests here, then that will be the end of it.


"But, to the contrary, you—and Vic, and Mr. Koukl—have assured me that any such action as could be performed in this life is irrelevant to one’s fate in the next life."

Sorry, but I never said that. What you'll find me saying repeatedly is that we are powerless to do anything to get into heaven, but we have all the power in the world to go to hell.


What you'll find me saying repeatedly is that we are powerless to do anything to get into heaven, but we have all the power in the world to go to hell.

Does this mean that you could force God to send you to hell? That He is free to damn your soul to hell no matter what, but He's not necessarily free to save you?


Sweet or not, it's the answer.

It's the beginning, all over again, of my conversation with Vic: “...anyone who is truly a Christian will do as he does out of grattitude to His Creator..for what he knows Christ has already done for him. He does not concern himself with what 'reward' He may recieve. (He already HAS eternal life..what more can he desire????) He knows that 'The Lord of all the earth will do right'...and lives his life accordingly.”

(Not that that conversation ever really advanced beyond its beginning.)

Which is to say, it doesn't contribute anything, beyond some additional denigration of people who aren't indifferent to the prospect of eternal torment.

...I've warned you about condescension before, and I'm serious about it, as you know.

I do remember you taking offense at something I said in a comment, and taking the opportunity to ignore everything else in the comment (although you did correctly point out that, anyway, there was nothing to be gained from continuing).

But I find it hard to believe that you've read through the few threads I've been a part of, including this one, and decided that I'm lowering the tone. Do you think I'm not sincere? That there are smirks between every line, or something?

If you want me to stop commenting on this blog, then say so. If you simply object to the use of “hell” as an expletive, then say so. (I thought it was funny at the time, but it was kind of early in the morning.) If you want to address my actual questions, then please do! I'll give you the Cliffs Notes:

According to Mr. Koukl et al, the eternal consequences of doing the right thing are identical to the eternal consequences of doing anything else. Nothing done in this life can change your fate in the next. Can I not conclude, then, that God does not “hold us responsible for the wrong we do”? That no good deed can get you off the hook, and no bad deed can make your punishment any worse? That, if Hitler is in hell, he's not there because of what he did on earth, but because that's just where (most) people go? That salvation, from our perspective, is a lottery? a coin flip minus the good odds? an inevitable, unalterable fact of existence, with no more power to persuade than grass growing? If not, why not?

I have a query in regard to the vessels unto honor and dishonor in Romans 9:22-23. Is Paul speaking of the pots themselves or what is being carried in the pots? Does "vessels of wrath fitted to destruction" mean that the vessel itself is to be destroyed, or that the contents of the vessel (such as filth) is to be cast out?

"Does this mean that you could force God to send you to hell?"

If I am free to go to hell, it does not follow that my choice to go to hell forces God to send me there. He is freely leaving me free to go there.


Do you believe that deliberate action is possible in this life which can influence one’s fate in the next life? Whether you do or not, why not simply say so?

Once again, we are powerless to do anything to get into heaven...so we can't influence our fate in that direction. But we have all the power in the world to go to hell...so we can influence our fate in the other direction.


Once again: do you really mean to say that you could prevent God from saving you, against His wishes? That seems like an unlikely abridgment of His power. But if that's not what you mean, then what do you mean?

Every one of us deserves to go to hell, right? And every one of us will go to hell, unless God chooses to save us, right? But, if so, why talk as though “we have the power to go to hell”? It's just something that happens to us, if the other thing doesn't happen to us. We have no power in either case. Why talk as though we do?

Why not simply say, “No deliberate action in this life can influence your fate in the next life”?

Oh! I see! You think I'm a four-, five- or six-point Calvinist and that I believe in irresistible grace! Perhaps we have been talking past one another on that point.

I'm a Lutheran. I don't believe in irresistible grace (to cite one example).

God desires, all things equal, that I should go to heaven. God desires this for all sinners. But I can go to hell in spite of that.

Hi Janney, since you were originally talking about the Calvinistic view of freedom, sovereignty, and human responsibility, and it appears that there's a difference between the Lutheran view and the Reformed view, I thought I would give you what the Westminster Confession of Faith says about it. If you will take the time to read it carefully, you might see that there's no capriciousness regarding God's eternal decrees. You might see a big cosmic bully in the doctrine of predestination, but like Amy described earlier [to your teasing], we see a merciful, longsuffering, holy and awesome Being Who has paid dearly for us.

I hope you'll try to understand what's below, even though many Christians dont--if nothing else, it'll give you the real McCoy to know instead of a caracature.

Here is chapter 3,

I. God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass;[1] yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin,[2] nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.[3]

II. Although God knows whatsoever may or can come to pass upon all supposed conditions;[4] yet has He not decreed anything because He foresaw it as future, or as that which would come to pass upon such conditions.[5]

III. By the decree of God, for the manifestation of His glory, some men and angels[6] are predestinated unto everlasting life; and others foreordained to everlasting death.[7]

IV. These angels and men, thus predestinated, and foreordained, are particularly and unchangeably designed, and their number so certain and definite, that it cannot be either increased or diminished.[8]

V. Those of mankind that are predestinated unto life, God, before the foundation of the world was laid, according to His eternal and immutable purpose, and the secret counsel and good pleasure of His will, has chosen, in Christ, unto everlasting glory,[9] out of His mere free grace and love, without any foresight of faith, or good works, or perseverance in either of them, or any other thing in the creature, as conditions, or causes moving Him thereunto;[10] and all to the praise of His glorious grace.[11]

VI. As God has appointed the elect unto glory, so has He, by the eternal and most free purpose of His will, foreordained all the means thereunto.[12] Wherefore, they who are elected, being fallen in Adam, are redeemed by Christ,[13] are effectually called unto faith in Christ by His Spirit working in due season, are justified, adopted, sanctified,[14] and kept by His power, through faith, unto salvation.[15] Neither are any other redeemed by Christ, effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified, and saved, but the elect only.[16]

VII. The rest of mankind God was pleased, according to the unsearchable counsel of His own will, whereby He extends or withholds mercy, as He pleases, for the glory of His sovereign power over His creatures, to pass by; and to ordain them to dishonor and wrath for their sin, to the praise of His glorious justice.[17]

VIII. The doctrine of this high mystery of predestination is to be handled with special prudence and care,[18] that men, attending the will of God revealed in His Word, and yielding obedience thereunto, may, from the certainty of their effectual vocation, be assured of their eternal election.[19] So shall this doctrine afford matter of praise, reverence, and admiration of God;[20] and of humility, diligence, and abundant consolation to all that sincerely obey the Gospel.[21]

If you want to discuss any of these paragraphs, I'm game.

"I'm game."

Shhhhh. It looks like we are stalking a six-point Calvinist. I presume that the numbers refer to verses of Scripture. I will have to check them out to make the necessary adjustments to my scope.


Thank you for your time.

Brad B,

I do appreciate the work you’ve done to provide this material. But after a few days of WisdomLover games, I think I’m ready to take Amy’s import to heart, and just stop asking people questions.

Just to be crystal clear Janney, My position is:

1) Salvation by grace apart from works.

2) Damnation on account of works.

I don't think we have been talking past each other on item #1, because that is a point of agreement between Calvinists and Lutherans. And it is a point of disagreement between you and me. I have been attacking the alternative to item #1 (salvation by works) as incoherent.

I think we may have been talking past each other on item #2. That is a point of disagreement between Calvinists and Lutherans. If you were assuming that I was a Calvinist, that point might have been confusing.

I have sighted my quarry!

I searched on "author of sin,[2]" and found the following site with live links of the numbers to Scripture:


Now to check the Confession against the Scripture....

Scope adjustment: two clicks up for range, one click to right for wind...


References [5] and [10], Romans 9:11:

"For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth."

Gen: 25:22 tells us that the two babes struggled in Rebecca's womb. Struggle is strife, a symptom of evil. So babes can be sentient of good and evil (maybe not all, these two could be a special case because they are of the royal line; also, John the Baptist could be a special case). So the election referred to in Rom 9:11 had to occur in an earlier stage of the pregnancy and does not preclude choices made later in the pregnancy by Jacob and Esau.



Hi Johnnie, you make little sense to me--sorry. For your information, the Westminster Confession of Faith is the codification/sytemetizing of historic Protestant Christianity. Maybe you are Roman Catholic, I dont know but your words seem to indicate that you are denying historic Protestantism.

You might want to pick a scripture reference here or there and do some kind of special Johnnie exegesis like you did above to make a point and call out blam like some kind of tv entertainer putting emphasis on your meritless point, but you've done little to really understand the whole revelation on this topic. Slaying strawmen will get you nowhere and wastes time.

The powerful bullet rips through the heart of the papier-mache deer...made of chewed up wood.

I did pick a scripture reference: Gen 25:22. You have not addressed it.

And I picked a scripture reference about the parable of the dragnet and you have made no answer.

The straw man(deer)is you!

Johnnie, you are kidding right? Your commentary on Gen 25 is baseless and had little to say about the doctrine of election. Why do you make up the concept that these two were some sort of exception to the rule because they are in the "royal line". Did being the the royal line serve Esau at all?

Quite contrary to your make it up as you go--on the fly exegesis of Gen. 25:22, the Rom. 9:11 scripture refutes your supposed magic powerful bullet. Here it is for your edification.

"Rom. 9:11 for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God's purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls"

You said:"Struggle is strife, a symptom of evil. So babes can be sentient of good and evil"--your opinion is trumped by scripture when it says: "HAD NOT DONE ANY GOOD OR BAD". I suggest you get some commentaries to hlep you in your quest to deny the Reformed doctrine of predestination.

The dragnet noise you make is no better at addressing the issue regarding the force of the Greek word helko. Why dont you do this, find a commentary that deals with the parable of the dragnet that does makes your point and I'll deal with it, until then it isn't even a realistic challenge worthy of a response--if it was, I would've dealt with it.


I don't need to find a commentary. I found Scripture. The instances of dragnet use in Scripture are all nondiscriminatory. Like Peter and the 153 kinds of fishes.

He who takes up the helko will die on the helko.

The babes had not done any good or bad at some time BEFORE the struggle began. God's prophecy to Rebecca was given after the struggle began, and after the twins had begun their doing of good and evil.

Being of the royal line doesn't always help. Consider Absalom.

Hi Johnnie, so you are an island to yourself in interpretation? It wouldn't bother you that you are the only one who holds this strange view? Very dangerous, I think you better find some support, no, really.


Confessions and concordats were great when there was not as much access to the Bible for common people. But now everyone has online access to all Bible translations and some concordances. I expect we will see much more new research where people go to the original Source than seeing it through the tired eyes of others.

Time to go back to The Book, kid.

So, the historic Church documents are old and tired--those poor saps believed wrongly all that time. I guess the Holy Spirit was sleeping on the job, I guess Jesus cares little for His bride. Too bad you weren't around to set them straight. :-(

I wish you no ill will, Johnnie but I hope you live to regret your last statement. Endorsing the personal interpretation view of the scriptures is foolish and naive. I'll be ending my conversation with you on this topic.


You are the one who said: "I'm game". Then you scuttle for cover at the first challenge.

There are those who will be able to defend the old documents of the Church. But you will not be one of them.

A tail shows briefly as the fleeing beast disappears into the underbrush, never to be seen again.



"A tail shows briefly as the fleeing beast disappears into the underbrush, never to be seen again."

I would just ask you to please not speak to people this way on the blog. We encourage people to disagree, but please do so respectfully. Thanks.


It's a male thing. Our egos are delicate. We need our posturings and struttings. To you women, warfare is not a game. As Father Christmas said to Lucy: "Battles get ugly when women fight."

But I will cool it.

Thanks, Johnnie.


Even though it takes about ten clicks to get here now I wanted you to know that your thanks has been received.

The comments to this entry are closed.