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December 23, 2013

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Let's see, Cain and Abel were both offering sacrifices to God. So they had already sinned. As such, at the outset of the story, it was already impossible for either of them to meet God's standard just because of the general inability of human beings to change the past.

Abel's offering is accepted, but Cain's is not. The Bible does not tell us why. In particular, it does not tell us that Abel did things that were pleasing to God, but Cain did not.

Then after the sacrifice, God says to Cain that if he does well, his face is not downcast, but if he doesn't do well, then sin is crouching at his door and desires him, but he (Cain) must master it.

I'm inclined to think that this is a warning to Cain not to murder his brother. I do not think it is a call to perfection.

Even if we grant that Cain might be able to so control his passions that he does not occasionally break out in murder, I don't think that's really germane to the question of whether we can act in such a way that we please God so much that we don't need a Savior.

Minimal-non-Fratricidality ≠ Sinless Perfection.

What's more, there's no indication that this claim is much different from God saying that if I had a bigger brain, I'd be smarter. On my own, I can no more do well than make my brain bigger. From what God said, we don't know whether Cain was even able to pull off minimal-non-fratricidality.

Then Cain kills Abel and God curses Him so that he can't farm. At the same time He has mercy on him and places him under Divine protection.

Not seeing a lot of God-pleasing Sinless Perfection there either.

I do agree that the pattern of Cain and Abel is repeated throughout the Bible though:

  • God warns people not to sin.
  • People fail miserably.
  • God punishes them, usually far less than they deserve.
  • God is gracious to them anyway.
I don't think any of that adds up to an argument that sinless perfection is possible. If anything, it's an inductive argument that it's not.

--------------------------------

On the whole insult thing, here is how it got started.

GH5 to WL:

Everyone has particular sins that they are more susceptible to. Pride sounds like yours.
This did not insult me, don't worry.

I don't want to put words in anyone's mouth, but I did not take your remark to mean that you thought I was behaving pridefully. I took you to simply be responding to the fact that I was emphasizing pride in my remarks as something to be wary of (as indeed it is).

That is, I took you to be sympathizing with me about the sin of pride rather than accusing me of pride. Am I right?

Now, at the same time, I suspect Brad did read the remark as a (mild) accusation. Again, I don't want to put words in anyone's mouth, but I really doubt Brad was too worked up about it. But he is a canny enough commentator here, to know where things can go. I think his (mild) rebuke was aimed only at nipping any harsh words in the bud, that's all.

One more remark, before we can move on to just being friends arguing about important stuff again. Brad said some very nice things about me. I thanked him for that. By doing so, I did not intend to pile on in any way against you. I simply wanted to acknowledge his kindness in saying what he said about me.

"If it is true that "men have the ability to please God through right actions", then the Cross is no longer necessary, and the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ was in vain."

I hear this often. One problem, though.

It just isn't true.

I gotta say, this is just a total disregard for what is pretty much said almost verbatim in the Scriptures. I can only guess that you aren't willing to submit yourself to the truth.

I mean it's a direct quote from Paul, as I showed earlier...

To the rest that are witnessing this exchange, note that this is a perfect example of why we depend upon on God to save people, and not through wisdom and eloquent speech...people will hold doggedly to false doctrine unless God gives grace...

Hi WL, GH-5 I think WL cleared up the "pride" comment situation and I agree that GH-5 was probably just noting WL's mention or self admission of that[pride] being something to watch out for yourself on-you are not alone on that one btw.

I took the comment out of context so my apologies to GH-5.

As far as my style of commentary, I admit much less tolerance than most, I often dont take time to consider how what I have to say will be taken, but I'd challenge any charge that I name call in some careless way as in--for the sake of demeaning in an ad-hominem way or pointing out a character flaw to tear someone down. I'm probably a little too interested in the argument, to be concerned with the person getting feeling hurt. I'm guilty of enjoying a little sarcasm in repartee to make a point even from others toward me, even so, the point must be consistent and have logical basis.

For GH-5, I wonder why you think that the majority of the American Christian is getting too much "message of the cross"? The average American Christian is getting very little true gospel, usually a little up front for fire insurance and then none later as they are taught to follow the 5 or 10 step plan to happy Christian living or some version of that.

When I see "e", "KWM", "WL" write things on this thread, and what they say to defend the gospel, I have very little doubt that they know grace [I mean to say know in the biblical sense...iow, intimately]. Of course I could be fooled. In the same way GH-5, I fear for your soul, seeminly missing a doctrine so central and plainly revealed in scripture but yet hidden from you. Honestly I shudder at the thought of scripture quoting passages with you though since you've previously defamed Gods word and His character in other threads. "e" said well above what I also believe:

"I gotta say, this is just a total disregard for what is pretty much said almost verbatim in the Scriptures. I can only guess that you aren't willing to submit yourself to the truth."

If you think this was not meant for your good, you would be wrong.

WL:

You got me right on the "pride" thing.

e:

Here is the comment the site somehow ate. I'll try again.

Consider the gospel story of the "rich young ruler". He asks, "what shall I do to inherit eternal life?".

Jesus replied, "You lying filthy bag of pride! Nobody can DO anything to be accepted by God! You heap of menstrual rags! Every good thing you have done is WORTHLESS! DOING things means NOOOTTTHHINGG!"

Well, you probably have figured out by now He didn't say that. But it is a lot like things I have heard Christians say. Well meaning, like you, e.

What did Jesus say? He gave the man something to do. He gave the man a choice.

The means to "satisfying God" is the same today.

Follow Christ. Doing your best.

But you have to DO something.

Goat Head 5

So, to sum up.

Will "doing your best" satisfy God?

Yes!

But the next question has to be asked, "what does doing my best" really entail?

I would echo the words of Jesus. Follow Jesus. Do your best. God will be pleased and satisfied.

Goat Head 5

Of course, my take on these things, like most Christians down through the years, totally repudiates TULIP. That, I suspect, is what prompted the vigorous response. (Don't really know how much of TULIP Lutherans accept)

The picture of God requiring actions of people that He has made impossible for them to accomplish is just incorrect. That nasty picture is what prompted my response to the OP. As usual, perhaps I could have made that more clear.

GH5-

Lutherans agree with Calvinists about T, but not ULIP. But that's enough to get this response off the ground...which I believe my Reformed friends will probably endorse.

Consider the gospel story of the "rich young ruler". He asks, "what shall I do to inherit eternal life?"....

What did Jesus say? He gave the man something to do. He gave the man a choice.

The means to "satisfying God" is the same today.

Oh Dear.

And now cue Paul Harvey (or Matthew, either way) for the rest of the story...

And He said to him, "Why are you asking Me about what is good? There is only One who is good; but if you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments."

Then he said to Him, "Which ones?"

Which Ones? Which Ones?! Did he really ask that? Oh boy, this lad is in trouble! And he is already in a position that it is impossible for him to do what is pleasing to God...does he actually think he can pick and choose which of the ten commandments to follow?
And Jesus said, "You shall not commit murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; Honor your father and mother; and You shall love your neighbor as yourself."
That sounds like a doable list from the man who said that if you lust after a woman, you've already committed adultery with her.
The young man said to Him, "All these things I have kept; what am I still lacking?"
Yes, he really said that. I think I detect the sin of (dare I say it) pride. Every word this boy says is confirming how damned to Hell he already is. How impossible it already is for him to do what is pleasing to God.
Jesus said to him, "If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me."
Pause for a moment and ask yourself: "Did Jesus actually believe that the young man had kept the law in all those areas? Was Jesus actually assigning the man an additional task that would complete his virtue?" No. Obviously not. Jesus entire point was to assign the young man a task that he would finally admit, at least to himself, he could not do.
But when the young man heard this statement, he went away grieving; for he was one who owned much property.
And it worked! (As, of course, Jesus knew it would.)
And Jesus said to His disciples, "Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.
Whew! What a relief! It's only hard!
Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."
Easier for...what? That's not just hard. That's impossible! But...maybe Jesus was referencing the needle gate where camels had to be unloaded and crawl through on their knees. Well...probably not. That analogy might have spoken to the inhabitants of Jerusalem where the supposed gate is (though I doubt it). But this event did not occur in Jerusalem, but probably somewhere east of Jericho. The reference, I think, would have been rather obscure. I think he actually meant a needle like tailors use.

And in case you're not sure, and you are still wondering whether he was really talking about something hard or something impossible, Jesus doesn't leave us hanging

When the disciples heard this, they were very astonished and said, "Then who can be saved?"
Foreshadowing...the disciples thought that the rich young ruler would be saved if anyone could be. They obviously understood Jesus' words as He intended them. To wit, that it is impossible to please God
And looking at them Jesus said to them, "With people this is impossible,
So what Jesus is saying is that it's really, really hard, but we're still free to do so. The only problem is that we don't because we'd rather sin.
And looking at them Jesus said to them, "With people this is impossible,
Uh oh!
but with God all things are possible."
Thanks be to God!

"The picture of God requiring actions of people that He has made impossible for them to accomplish is just incorrect"

Reformed [Protestants] would of course and by all means agree with this statement.

The thing is, GH-5 characterizes Protestant theology with the idea that God is standing in the way of peoples' obedience toward His commands and/or requirements. God has in no way made it impossible to obey His commands rightly, mankind has done this, and furthermore, mankind left unabated continually desires to remain alienated from God. When one doesn't get this, they dont understand the offense toward the Holy that sin is.

If you dont know God rightly, you certainly wont know man rightly.

Below is a message from my pastor to the congregation--a weekly occurance...I couldn't help but find it complimentary to the conversation in this thread. I hope it is edifying to any who read:

"The Dutch Reformed theologian Abraham Kuyper once said, “Therefore in your soul the question must be settled, whether your God exists for the sake of you, or whether you exist for the sake of your God alone?”

What an important question to have settled in our souls for the New Year. Actually, it should be of the utmost importance to us at any time in our lives.

The answer to this question is revealed in our actions. Kuyper’s first answer to this question is that God exists for us. If this is the case, then we will think serving him is dependent upon how we feel or whether or not it is convenient for us. God will be a kind of genie in the bottle. Whenever we need Him to do something for us we will rub the bottle and out he will come saying, “Your wish is my command.” Most of us would never think that this is our relationship to God, but we all have aspects of this kind of behavior in our lives. It is part of being a fallen creature. Kuyper is getting us to be aware of this so that we could change.

The second answer Kuyper gives is that we exist for the sake of God alone. This, of course, is the Biblical answer. Yet it goes against our fallen nature. As sinful creatures, we think the world revolves around us. Life is lived and organized around us and not around God. If service to God is too costly or inconvenient, we find ways to avoid it. If God’s Word says something we do not like, we find ways to rationalize it away. We typically do this because we think that we will be happier serving ourselves than serving God. Yet the irony is that the exact opposite is true. We were simply not created to be selfish and to focus exclusively on our own desires. Instead we were created to be selfless and focus on God and neighbor. Contentment in life will elude us until we adopt the mindset of which Kuyper is speaking. We exist for God, God does not exist for us. Adopting this mindset inevitably spills over into action."

--Michael Preciado

But you have to DO something.

YOU CAN'T. THAT'S ONE OF THE MAIN THEMES OF PAUL!

Do we get it yet?

e:

"YOU CAN'T. THAT'S ONE OF THE MAIN THEMES OF PAUL!"

But you can. What you can't do is earn it.

You are confusing effort, which is necessary, with earning.

Goat Head 5

WL,

Amazing, isn't it, how differently a passage looks through different "theology glasses"?

You did leave out one part, though, since we are being thorough.

Peter noticed something that the others didn't.

9 You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” 20 And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” 21 And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”

After He made what you would consider to be an outrageous statement, confirming he is "damned to hell", revealing the sin of pride, claiming to have done the impossible, Jesus looked at him and loved him.

This isn't how Jesus normally talks to people who have done what you said this person did. He is usually pretty harsh with hypocrites.

Sorry WL, your "rest of the story" doesn't track with a straightforward reading of the text.

Perhaps when Jesus said, "you lack one thing", He was telling the truth.

Something to consider.

Goat Head 5

Brad B:

I stand corrected. When I said, "The picture of God requiring actions of people that He has made impossible for them to accomplish is just incorrect"

I should have said, "The picture of God requiring actions of people that are impossible for them to accomplish is just incorrect"

I doubt that this is any more palatable to you, Brad, but it is more clearly my view.

When you said, "If you dont know God rightly, you certainly wont know man rightly.", I couldn't agree more.

Goat Head 5

GH5-

A. Jesus loves everyone. He wasn't particularly harsh with everyone's favorite hypocrite: Peter himself.

B. Then there is this:

Sorry WL, your "rest of the story" doesn't track with a straightforward reading of the text.

Perhaps when Jesus said, "you lack one thing", He was telling the truth.

You mean like that straightforward part where Jesus said that it would be impossible for the rich man to enter heaven. I think my reading tracks pretty well with that. I'm not sure what mileage you plan on getting from the idea that Jesus really meant that the rich young man only needed one thing to be perfect. For starters, there's not even the slightest possibility that that is so. But even if it were, it's pretty clear that that one more thing needed for perfection is impossible. Jesus even comes right out and says that it is.

WL:

"A. Jesus loves everyone"

True. What is also true is that Peter thought it was really important to relate how Jesus loved, at this particular moment, this particular man. The question is why? Why is that there?

"He wasn't particularly harsh with everyone's favorite hypocrite: Peter himself."

Actually...... no. It doesn't get much harsher than "get behind me Satan" from the person you most admire and love in the world.

Wow. You are really reading this through your theology glasses.

Mileage? The mileage that you can't divorce being a disciple of Christ from salvation. If your theology and practice doesn't produce disciples, there is something wrong with it.

Goat Head 5

GH5:

He is usually pretty harsh with hypocrites.
WL:
He wasn't particularly harsh with everyone's favorite hypocrite: Peter himself.
GH5
Actually...... no. It doesn't get much harsher than "get behind me Satan" from the person you most admire and love in the world.
So the problem with Peter, when Jesus said that to him was that Peter was exhibiting hypocrisy? It's not that he was tempting Christ with worldly interests over heavenly interests? Is that really your view GH5?

Here are the words of Christ to Peter after Peter was caught in his most infamous act of hypocrisy (denying Christ 3 times even though he had claimed that he would never forsake Christ):

Feed my sheep.
Harsh!!!
----------------------------

WL:

I'm not sure what mileage you plan on getting from the idea that Jesus really meant that the rich young man only needed one thing to be perfect.
GH5:
The mileage that you can't divorce being a disciple of Christ from salvation.
Who said anything about doing that? The problem is that you want to say that you can please God by do-gooding. And you just can't. Sorry.

And, again, there is simply no way that Jesus meant to be saying that the Rich Young Ruler only needed to give away his wealth, and he'd be perfect. That's an absurd reading of the text. Whether or not the Rich Young Ruler had complied with Jesus challenge, he'd still be a sinner in need of a Savior.

Also, even if that absurd reading were correct, since that one more thing he needed to be perfect turned out to be something it was impossible for him to do, the fact remains that he couldn't please God. Nor can anyone else.

Needless to say, none of this divorces being a disciple of Christ from salvation. The first thing a disciple of Jesus should recognize in gratitude is that Jesus did it all. And only He could have done it.
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Peter thought it was really important to relate how Jesus loved, at this particular moment, this particular man. The question is why? Why is that there?
Your suggestion seems to be that Jesus loved the Rich Young Ruler because of his admirable moral qualities that only required that he set up the RYR Charitable Trust and he'd by perfect.

I think I could almost just let that idea speak for itself, it's such nonsense.

The verb used here is agapao (the exact form is egapesen). Those familiar with C.S. Lewis' Four Loves know that this refers to a sacrificial love or charity. The King James translators actually translated the nominal form this word (agape) as "Charity" in the famous 'Love' chapter (I Cor 13).

Jesus had compassion on the Rich Young Ruler. He showed to him, not the love of a peer to a peer, not philia...which it would be if the Rich Young Ruler really only lacked one thing in order to be perfect. Jesus showed the love of a benefactor to a beggar: charity.

And how did Jesus' compassion manifest itself.

Well, what did the Rich Young Ruler need?

The Rich Young Ruler actually thought he was perfect. What did he need?

He needed to see that he could not be perfect. And that's what Jesus' love showed him. That is how Jesus' love manifested itself to this beggar.

And we are beggars before God, all of us.
----------------------------

If your theology and practice doesn't produce disciples, there is something wrong with it.
And is it your claim that Lutheran theology, for example, doesn't produce disciples of Christ? How do you know that?

WL,

We are talking past on another here....

What is this talk of being perfect? No where in the text.

Sell all you have and FOLLOW ME. You seem to have forgotten that part. It's the follow me that we are continually leaving out.

It IS my claim that our evangelical churches are not producing disciples. Are you really disputing that? You think that our churches are healthily churning out disciples? With zero societal impact. Really, WL?

Goat Head 5

This talk of being perfect is from the story of the Rich Young Ruler:

Matthew 19:21

New International Version
Jesus answered, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."

New Living Translation
Jesus told him, "If you want to be perfect, go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."

English Standard Version
Jesus said to him, "If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me."

New American Standard Bible
Jesus said to him, "If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me."

King James Bible
Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.
.
.
.
.
American Standard Version
Jesus said unto him, If thou wouldest be perfect, go, sell that which thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me.

Douay-Rheims Bible
Jesus saith to him: If thou wilt be perfect, go sell what thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come follow me.
.
.
.

Virtually every translation has Jesus speaking of perfection to the Rich Young Ruler.

I think the literal meaning of Jesus words here are that the RYR will be perfect if he sells and gives to the poor.

Mark makes the same point a little differently:

As He was setting out on a journey, a man ran up to Him and knelt before Him, and asked Him, "Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" And Jesus said to him, "Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments, 'Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.'" And he said to Him, "Teacher, I have kept all these things from my youth up." Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him and said to him, "One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me."

So taken literally, Jesus says that the RYR's actions merit eternal life...provided he does just that one thing that he lacks (selling and giving to the poor).

Luke's account is similar to Mark's on this point.

So anyway, all this talk of being perfect seems to have come from Jesus.

Come to think of it, He actually wasn't very good at making disciples either. His final disciple count seems to be 11. Probably had bad theology.

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