Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life. (John 4:13-14)

Monday, August 28, 2006

Free Grace Theology and Repentance -- A Reply To Matthew Waymeyer Part 6

Matthew writes:
I would bring up the related problem of how exactly an unregenerate slave to sin is supposed to repent of his sin, but I shudder to think of how this might doom the comment thread to a fruitless discussion about Cornelius the God-fearer in Acts 10. So forget I even mentioned it!
We shouldn’t gloss over Cornelius in this conversation! His story is completely germane. It was with him in mind that Peter spoke his words in Acts 10:35. The discussion of Cornelius by Calvinists shows to what great lengths they will go to warp and twist the scriptures. I have yet to read a satisfactory consideration of Acts 10 and 11 from the Traditinalist crowd. They add so many secondary assumptions to the text in order to make it jive with their theology that you can no longer believe what you read!

The whole story of Cornelius falsifies many of the Traditionalist views, but we can’t have that! So on with the modification of textual facts by the incessent inclusion of secondary assumptions!

Matthew writes:
Second, the FG interpretation of Acts 17:30-31 makes repentance a necessary precursor to faith, and therefore necessary for salvation in a roundabout way. Ironically, Bob Wilkin explicitly denies that repentance is a necessary precursor to faith (Confident in Christ, 201), and yet the FG view of Acts 17 makes it just that. In other words, if Paul’s hearers were first required to repent before they could believe and be saved, then repentance itself was presented as prerequisite for salvation. In this way, the FG view of repentance in Acts 17 makes repentance a preparatory act of obedience needed to prepare one’s heart (i.e., create the right disposition?—not exactly sure how to say it) to believe in Christ.
We must be very careful about allegations. There is no doubt that the whole world is commanded and therefore required to repent. But Paul is not requiring that the Athenians repent as a theological requirement for eternal salvation or as a universal pre-requisite to faith. The former cannot be argued from the text and the latter is not a Free Grace theology position.

We have already disccused it in this response thus far, but I would like to remind you that the Athenian’s idolotry would significantly impair the consideration of Christ’s exclusive claims. Paul knew this and issues the command accordingly, using the universal command to repent with a secondary specific purpose for the Athenians to abandon their idolotry in consideration of Jesus Christ and His gospel promise.

If Bob Wilkin specifically denies that repentance is a necessary precursor to faith, you ought to at least try to come to a synthesis of his instruction that would facilitate the inclusion of all his data without contradition before you make such conclusions. I am not saying that people don’t contradict themselves. But at the least we ought to give Christian people the benefit of the doubt at first and study to see if seemingly inconsistent thoughts can be rectified. And as concerning Bob Wilkin’s treatment of repentance, there is no contradiction.

Different people come to the table with various mindsets, personalities, and subjective conditioning. There is but one necessity for eternal life: faith into Christ who guarantees eternal life and resurrection to the believer. But each individual person is unique. Therefore, in our evangelism, we must take into account the subjective factors resident in our hearer’s present life-stage and tailor our message accordingly. We want to bring them to a point where they can best consider the gospel message of the Lord Jesus Christ. This may consist of answering questions, presenting extra information about Jesus, discussing God’s temporal wrath against sin, etc.

Obviously we will do what time permits, and if we do not have much of it, we will want to head straightway for the gospel presentation followed by the absolutely free offer of eternal security.

As I have briefly taught earlier in this response, there are such things as logical necessities for belief. Yet apart from the issues of communication and understanding, there may be none. Especially take for instance children. They do not have a mind on the matter. The subjectivities of all the cause and conditioning of adulthood are not there. They are simple and trusting. They have no previous thoughts on the matters of God, eternity, and the gospel.

For me, on the day I was saved, there was no logical necessities needed for me to come to faith. I was already a theist, I already had a knowledge of Jesus Christ. I was ready!

The day my name was written in the Book of Life there was no promise to commit my life to Jesus as a requirement for justification, I didn’t turn my life and behavior around as a theologically necessary co-condition for eternal life, and I didn’t decide to forsake all that I have so that I could be counted with the eternally saved.

I came to Jesus as I was, with nothing to offer, poor and destitute! I simply relied upon his mercy and grace as expounded in the absolutely free offer contained in the gospel promise. I believed the message of God’s great love for me, Christ’s perfect act on my behalf, and trusted solely upon Jesus as the Guarantor of eternal life and resurrection.

I came empty-handed but left filled with the riches of His grace.
I offered nothing but received the greatest of gifts.
I presented myself as I was, dirty, poor, and helpless, but was introduced into a relationship with God the Father and His Son through the Holy Spirit.

There are no requirements to give up all, change your life, or change your behavior. If there was it would no longer be grace: “And if it is by grace, than it is no longer of works, or else grace is no longer grace” (Romans 11:6).

The Holy Spirit says it plainly, “And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely” (Rev 22:17).

To conclude, repentance is never a theologically necessary condition for eternal life. It may facilitate faith, prepare for faith, put the mind into a receptive, subjective state, and in some cases at certain points, may be a logical necessity within a person who has a particular subjective nature of mind.

Bottom line: repentance is never a co-condition for eternal life.

Matthew writes:
Think of it this way. You want to take your son to the Dodger game. You are told over the phone that if you come to Dodger Stadium, you can purchase two tickets at the ticket window for only $12 ($6 per seat in the upper deck). So you drive up to the gate of the official stadium parking lot (which is the only one available, by the way) 20 minutes before opening pitch, and you find that it costs $10 to park your car there. Yes, technically it only costs $12 to enter the stadium, but if an additional $10 is needed for you to park your car before you can purchase your tickets, then it really costs you a total of $22 to enter the stadium. In the same way that the $10 parking fee is a necessary precursor to getting your tickets at the ticket window for $12, repentance is seen by FG people as a necessary precursor to faith and therefore a necessary condition for salvation (at least for Paul’s hearers in Acts 17). FG people may claim that their Dodger game costs only $12, but it really costs $22.
But the illustration leaves open the idea that the parking is not a necessary requirement! It is conceivable that the couple could walk, ride a bike, carpool, hitchhike, or any other number of other free possibilities.

But you may also see from Matthew’s illustration that parking in the official lot may greatly facilitate going to the game!

The tickets (for the couple) from the vantage point of the stadium is all that is required for entrance into the baseball game. There is no other requirement! From the perspective of the customer, there may be logical necessities in addition to the one condition that the stadium requires. The couple may need to provide for themselves: sunscreen, food, transportation, babysitting, shoes, clothing, etc.

It is God’s one and only requirement that we place our faith in His Son as the one who guarantees our eternal well-being. In the gospel promise, we are commanded to look to Christ for eternal life. Many people who are presented for the first time with the gospel are immediately persuaded, therefore believe into Jesus for eternal life.

Yet for others, the subjective nature of their mind may preclude them from faith.

The Reformed writer B.B. Warfield, who greatly disputes with the common Calvinist idea that faith is an act of the will, says:

“If evidence which is objectively adequate [to persuade us so that we may thus believe] is not subjectively adequate, the fault is in us.” (“On Faith and its Psychological Effects,” in Biblical and Theological Studies p. 398)

Jesus, understanding that men may not be prepared for faith in His exclusive claim in the gospel promise, spoke thus:

Luke 13:23-24
And He said to them, "Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able.”

Bob Wilkin's treatment on this passage:
Clearly the struggle involved here concerns finding the right gate to enter. The Lord's point is that those who don't know the way to eternal life should exert every effort to find out. It's as simple as that.

This concept is taught in a number of other passages of Scripture.

Hebrews 11:6 says that God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

In John 6:27 the Lord told unbelieving Jews who were seeking more miraculous signs like the feeding of the 5,000 which had just occurred, "Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him." They then asked, "What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?" (v 28). Jesus' response has nothing do with change of lifestyle. It is a simple call to faith. He said, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent" (v29)!

In Acts 17:27 Paul told the Athenian philosophers that God has set up mankind "so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us."

Those who do not know the way to heaven are to strive to find out. They are to seek the truth.
(Newsletter of the Grace Evangelical Society, emphasis his)

We are commanded to look to Christ for our eternal well-being. If the subjective nature of our mind is in such an array as to preclude us from reliance, we should endeavor earnestly to examine the claims of Christ with an open mind, search the scriptures, pray to God, and thus “strive to enter the narrow gate”! (For those of you who can’t already tell, the narrow gate is Christ, and the way to enter is through faith alone into Him)

At the end of Matthew’s illustration that we just considered, he makes a sort of equivocation. He says “repentance is seen by FG people as a necessary precursor to faith and therefore a necessary condition for salvation (at least for Paul’s hearers in Acts 17)” (Emphasis mine). Well which is it, Matthew? Is it universal or just in Acts 17?

I have felt a significant tendency on Matthew’s part to put words into the mouths of Free Grace advocates.

I agree that repentance may be, in some cases, a logical necessity, as can be conceived in the situation at Athens with the base idolatry. Nevertheless I do not believe that it was a logical necessity for each and every one of the hearers that day. Furthermore, I do not believe that repentance is a necessary pre-requisite to faith, nor a universal logical necessity. It may merely be a facilitator, or completely uneccessary (as with those who are already prepared, or with children).

Repentance is in no way a theological necessity for eternal life.

God has conditioned the reception of the free gift of salvation on a simple act of faith in Christ for it.


Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

Excellent reasoning, Antonio.

August 29, 2006 9:00 AM  
Blogger Ryan S. said...

In light of Rose's post of the Gospel, I won't mince anymore words.

I just saw while participating in evangelical outreach, the consequences of not manifesting sin by affirming God's holy standards, and it wasn't the case here.

Though, I hope you all agree that feeding the flock in some manner, and making light of "repentance" in church is requisite that they might be equipped for progressive sanctification.

Jesus saves.

August 29, 2006 6:53 PM  
Blogger Rose~ said...

I am totally unclear as to what you mean in that comment - it is very confusing.

August 30, 2006 4:34 PM  
Blogger Ryan S. said...

I am totally unclear as to what you mean in that comment - it is very confusing.

My concern was that when Antonio and others were scoffing at the law, that they perhaps negate mention of God's holy standards altogether in an evangelism endeavor. It serves a purpose for manifestation of sin. Your Gospel presentation satisfies that at a basic level, so I won't object any further. Though, Antonio basically ignored my request for his Gospel presentation.

September 02, 2006 3:55 PM  

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