Tuesday, December 06, 2011


I believe the whole debate about antinomianism is confused, and has been for a long time. The trouble is that there is a fundamental problem in the way we understand the word itself. The typical way of thinking about antinomianism is that it is the opposite of legalism. Antinomianism is commonly called "license". The problem is stated thus by theologians: on the one hand you have legalism, which says you have to obey the law in order to be saved, and on the other hand you have antinomianism (or license), which says you don't have to obey the law and are free to do whatever you want. Both of these are seen as bad, and so theologians try and come up with a middle ground -  a middle ground that does not exist in Scripture. Either we do have to keep the law or we don't. Such is the very nature of things and I do not see how we can escape it. As Christians, our gospel message is precisely that we do not have to keep the law in order to be saved. If that is true (and it is), then we must fall into the so-called "antinomian" camp. In that case, being accused of antinomianism is rather a great honor, since it places us with men such as Stephen, Paul, and even Jesus Himself, who were all accused of being antinomians. Of course, being accused of antinomianism is not the same as actually being an antinomian. Nothing could be further from the truth, than that these men were antinomians.

There's a problem in the way we are understanding antinomianism, and as long as this persists, people will not see clearly and therefore will not be transformed. We have set antinomianism as the opposite of legalism, when in reality legalism is antinomianism. Antinomianism means "against the law" (anti = against, nomos = law). The question of who is an antinomian is the question of who is against the law. Stephen was accused of being against the law:

"And they set up false witnesses, which said, This man ceases not to speak blasphemous words against this holy place, and the law." (Acts 6:13)

Paul was accused of being against the law:

"Men of Israel, help! This is the man that teaches all men everywhere against the people, and against the law, and this place..." (Acts 21:28)

This is the Biblical perspective on antinomianism. The Christians were accused of antinomianism by the religious people of their day, and Christianity must suffer the same charge against it by religious people throughout all ages. The day Christianity stops hearing the charge of antinomianism, that is the day Christianity ceases to be. It is not that Christians are in fact against the law, but that this is the perception. It is precisely because we teach that a person is justified freely by grace through faith in the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, and that this way of righteousness is "without law" (Rom. 3:21) that we are accused of it. Thus, it is the gospel that makes us antinomians in the eyes of the world, a world that doesn't understand what it is saying. They do not understand Christ. The preaching of the cross is foolisness to them. They cannot see how an ungodly sinner can be be accepted on the basis of grace, while those who are trying to obey are rejected - it seems so wrong and against the law! But the Christian sees otherwise.

Paul anticipates the charge of antinomianism in Romans 3:31: "Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid! Yea, we establish the law." How we understand this verse is of paramount importance. Paul is not saying that through faith we are led to obey the law and that therefore through that faith-driven obedience we are justified. In the following verses he goes on to say how "the one who does not work, but believes on God who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted unto righteousness" (Rom. 4:5) and that righteousness is "without works" (Rom. 4:6). So we are not saved from the accusation of antinomianism by the above explanation. Justification is in fact without any obedience to the law, received by faith alone. Sadly, many theologians are so desperate to be freed from the charge of antinomianism that they bend and twist the gospel of grace through faith in such a way that on the other side it no longer really looks or feels like justification through faith without works anymore, though it technically is in their minds. But our gospel shouldn't be such that it can no longer be accused of antinomianism. The true gospel will always be accused of it. By the sound of many gospel presentations these days, most would never be accused of the things Paul and Stephen were accused of, because it no longer sounds like Paul and Stephen anymore.

The amazing truth is this: only by believing in the gospel of justification through faith alone without works is the law actually honored and upheld. Only a Christian is not an antinomian. It is the purpose of the law to bring us to this faith, in that it shows us the unattainable standard of righteousness that is required and drives us to despair of our attaining it by our works, making us look outside of ourselves to Christ for salvation (Gal. 3:21-25). As long as a person is attempting to obey the law for justification, they are acting against the law, not listening to it, not seeing its righteous requirements, lowering the standard, and trusting in themselves. To such people, the law is really not all that glorious. The purpose and honor and righteousness of the law are not established until a person believes in Christ crucified for their salvation. Christ crucified, and justification by faith alone in Him, fulfills the law's purpose and prophecies, does honor to the law's righteous standard, and acknowledges the law for what it is: beautiful, holy and beyond our ability to attain by our works. Thus Paul could say, "I am not against the law by preaching Christ alone for salvation, I am for it!" In fact... it is the very ones who accuse the Christians of being antinomians, the legalists, that are themselves the true antinomians! They are against the very law that they are supposedly championing. This is seen so clearly in the conflict between Jesus and the Pharisees.

At one time Paul was persecuting the Christian Church for this very issue. He thought they were antinomians, but he was later changed and began "preaching the faith which he once destroyed." (Gal. 1:23) He learned that what he thought was valuable in achieving righteousness before God (his works) was actually useless for this purpose (dung, to be exact), and that a man under law was only under a curse. He learned through Christ crucified that righteousness could never come by the law, for otherwise Christ would never have died, (Gal. 2:21), and he learned the sublime mystery, that only a man who is dead to the law can be alive to God. In fact, the very purpose of the law is just that - to make you die to it: "For I, through the law, am dead to the law, that I might live unto God." (Gal. 2:19). Notice that through the law you die to the law. That is, it is the law's purpose and goal to make you die to it as your means of righteousness, and therefore, whoever is not dead to the law - still seeking to be righteous before God by the law - is in fact acting against the law (the true antinomian). Simply amazing.

So I reject the false notion that antinomianism is the opposite of legalism. Legalism, the belief that keeping the law is the way to be right with God, is itself the true antinomianism, and though Christians will always be accused of it because of our belief that righteousness before God is apart from the law through faith alone in Jesus Christ, we are the only ones who actually establish the law and acknowledge the law for what it is.

But what about the question of those who profess faith in Christ but have seemingly no desire for holiness (such as the many professing Christians in the Bible belt)? I truly believe the answer is, that though one may have the right doctrinal formula, that is not the same as really grasping the reality of what you profess. Certainly saying you believe something doesn't mean you believe it. But my sincere guess is that most traditional Christians who grow up in the Bible belt don't really grasp what Christianity is all about. I certainly did not, even though I grew up hearing the right things my whole life. Christianity is about realizing your sin and the holiness of God and the amazing love of God revealed in the righteous grace of Christ crucified for our sins. It is something personal, moral and relational, not merely academic. A person must see through the facts to the meaningful reality behind them. This is part of the problem.

But another major part of the problem is that in the Bible belt the gospel is hardly ever preached. Yes, what passes for gospel presentations are weak, adulterated, twisted, shallow, amoral, self-help, sentimental, lenient preaching of Jesus that fails to communicate the truth as it is in the New Testament. Also, much preaching in the Bible belt amounts to an erroneous attack against what they think is antinomianism. They pit legalism against license, attacking them both, leaving people with a non-existent middle ground, and thus the honor and majesty of the law is obscured and the beauty and power of the gospel is taken away. So much preaching has to do with doing, rather than believing in God and what He has done. If true good works come from a heart full of thanksgiving, and true zeal for God has its basis in the love of God in Christ, then where there is a lack of good works and zeal, there also is a lack of the truth of the gospel. We look at the problem and try to fix it, without considering the root. The root of our Christian lives must not be a desire to be right with God. It must be our rightness with God - the fact that we are right with God - which is God's amazing gift. Or to put it the way I like best: Assurance of salvation does not come from our works, but our works come from our assurance of salvation. Otherwise, what is the source of our works? It is nothing but an ugly source if it is not out of love for God because of the love of God. Thus the answer is not to move from the gospel, as if it were deficient and we needed to preach something additional, as many have done; the answer is to preach the gospel more clearly and strongly.

We must clear away traditional confusions and see that the good news is not deficient. The good news - the awesome revelation of God the Father through God the Son - does not merely save our souls, but it itself is the power for us to live our lives here and now; lives that are zealous for good works (Titus 2:12-15). This was Paul's secret (Rom. 8:28-39, Gal. 2:19-20). It is not the gospel, but our view of the gospel, that is deficient, and needs a makeover.

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Trouble with "Lordship Salvation"

I am convinced that the whole point of Christianity is knowing God the Father through Jesus Christ, and in that knowledge we find salvation, rest, peace and eternal life, because through Christ crucified we learn that God is a God of grace. This grace is righteous, and is seen in the cross where both God's wrath against us and His amazing love for us came to a head. The cross is the place of the revelation of the Father through Christ, and if we have we have seen Christ crucified we have seen the Father, and that is enough.

I am grieved over the so-called Lordship preaching that is so common throughout the Christian church. Many preachers fail to communicate what Christianity is to their hearers. These men have made faith and obedience to the moral law practically indistinguishable, and in so doing they are making Christianity indistinguishable from every other religion. Many would contest my point, but I am convinced that even though our religion may have its own distinctive facts like the virgin birth of Christ, Jesus walking on water, the resurrection, and the second coming of Christ the King, if we lose the message of the gospel of grace we are essentially no different than the other religions of this world, which are all based upon works-based righteousness. What makes the gospel the gospel is that it is the good news of what God has done for us sinners, and we are called to believe that news and experience rest and peace in believing. The gospel is the revelation of righteousness through faith alone (Rom. 1:16-17) which alone reveals to us the love of God for us (Rom. 5:8), in which alone we find salvation.

Before I was born again I believed in the fact that Jesus had died on the cross for my sins, but I didn't understand the meaning of that fact, and I thought that Christ did what He did so that if I obeyed His moral commandments and lived rightly, then I would partake in His merciful salvation. I believed like these many preachers, but I was lost and was full of guilt. I wasn't believing the truth, for the truth sets you free. It was not until I understood the meaning of the death of Christ that I finally experienced peace with God and received the assurance that I had eternal life. It wasn't until I understood that God sent Christ to die for me while I was a disobedient sinner, and that the work of redemption was finished on my behalf, and that God's heart was full of forgiveness for me as a sinner, that my guilt instantly left me. It was not until I understood that God's heart was full of grace for me as a sinner in my sin, that I believed in His goodness and found rest for my soul.

"For by grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast." (Eph. 2:8-9) Notice this verse doesn't explicitly mention either Jesus Christ or the cross. That is because the cross of Christ is found inside the word grace. We are saved by grace (that is, by the undeserved favor of God for sinners demonstrated in the redeeming death of Jesus Christ for our sins), through faith. Faith is not what saves us, but it is the means through which the grace of God saves me. Spurgeon likened faith to swallowing: my hunger is not alleviated by swallowing, but through swallowing. It is by food that I am filled, through swallowing. If I don't swallow the food I will never be filled, but I can swallow all day long without food and nothing will happen. Thus it is the object of our faith that makes all the difference, and when I have faith in the right object (the grace of God), then it is that the true object of faith delivers me. The object of our faith - what we are believing as Christians - is that Christ died for our sins and rose again, and that what this reveals is the forgiving heart that God has for sinners. It tells us that God is love, what kind of love He is, and by knowing this we believe and rest in God. Paul explicitly denies that work has anything to do with the means of salvation; and of course it doesn't if what I am saying is true. The moment you require any work to be done in order to receive salvation, you have unwittingly changed everything. It is no longer about us looking to see who God is, but it becomes about God looking to see who we are. But the lesson of the law is that when God looks to see who we are, He sees that no one is good. It is we, the unrighteous ones, that must look to God.

Christ calls us to come unto Him and rest. He calls us to believe in Him, and by so doing to believe in the Father (John 12:44). The trouble with the Lordship salvation doctrine is that it sets people upon looking to themselves and what they need to do in order to be saved, rather than upon believing in the Father and what He has done for them through Jesus Christ. As right as it is to serve God (for this is what the moral law requires), Christ showed us that the gospel is ultimately about God serving us, and not us serving God. It sounds blasphemous, but Christ said it, and He said it to a man who felt that it was blasphemous. "Lord, do you wash my feet? You shall never wash my feet!" Jesus replied, "If I do not wash your feet, you have no part with me." This man then said, "In that case, give me the full treatment!" While the gospel does inspire us to serve God, it itself is about God serving us. God came into the world, not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many. For those who see God, they cannot help but worship and adore Him. But that worship is only inspired when we see how God loved us and gave Himself for us as unworthy sinners, and not when we think otherwise. "Unto Him that loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood... to Him be glory and honor and dominion and power forever and ever!" It is the sight of the slain Lamb that prompts this praise. Why did the woman serve Christ by washing His feet with her tears? It was because "he that is forgiven much loves much." She was not serving Him in order to be forgiven. She was serving Him, spontaneously and deeply, because she could not stop thinking about how beautiful Christ was for loving and forgiving an unworthy sinner like her.

But what about those verses that speak about taking up your cross in order to be a disciple? This, I am convinced, has absolutely nothing to do with the unbiblical "die to self" language that is so often repeated in Christian circles. The commonly held notion is that Jesus is speaking spiritually, meaning that we need to say "no" to our sinful desires and "yes" to obedience to His moral standards. I believe, however, that this interpretation of Christ's words is false, and is a product of our Western culture where for the most part Christians don't experience much persecution from their families and communities. But Jesus was actually crucified, and He promised that the world would likewise hate His disciples on account of Him: "They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time will come when whoever kills you will think they are doing God a service: and this they will do, because they do not know the Father, nor me." (John 16:2-3) It is real persecution that Christ has in view when He tells us that we must take up our cross if we are going to follow Him. By believing in the grace of God - the message of truth about God - the world will despise you, ridicule you, and even kill you. To believe the gospel means we must be willing to face the animosity of an unbelieving world. How interesting that it was the religious world Christ had in view: those who will hate you are those who do not know the Father, but think that salvation is all ultimately about serving God and obeying the moral law. Challenge that idea, and watch the story of Cain and Abel unfold again. Therefore Christ forewarns: if you believe in me, be prepared to lose family members, friends, and maybe even your own life; but it is worth it. Take up your cross and follow me.

It is the gospel itself, the good news of the grace of God, the knowledge of the forgiveness of sins through faith alone, that gives us peace and provokes the hatred of the world. We must not allow ourselves to miss the point, failing to see what Christianity is all about. If we add anything to being saved besides simple faith in Jesus Christ, we not only will find ourselves with a religion no different than all the other religions in this world, but we will have lost the true knowledge of God. So everything is at stake.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Letter to the Editor (Blood Atonement)

Last week I featured a quote from LDS prophet Brigham Young on our whiteboard, the doing of which drew forth criticism from a student in the Statesman. I’d like to take the opportunity and respond to his criticism.

For those who have observed us preaching on the patio the last nine semesters, we hope that you will have noticed that we have sought to only discuss Biblical and LDS theology and challenge students to think about their sin, the atonement of Christ, and the grace of God more deeply. We believe it is the gospel, not Mormon history, that is of utmost importance. I have never once written on the whiteboard anything of a non-theological nature, and last weeks quotation was no exception. In Brigham Young’s quote, I wanted to highlight the fact that he taught the doctrine of “Blood Atonement”: that is, there are certain sins which the blood of Christ cannot atone for, and that one’s own blood must be shed in order for forgiveness to take place. Young states this clearly three paragraphs down from the featured quote (JOD 3:247). This is appalling to Christian theology.

Nor can it be argued, as my critic has tried, that this teaching of Blood Atonement is “the exact same principle” as found in the episode with Phineas in the Old Testament. Nothing could be further from the truth. In the case of Phineas, Phineas was executing capital punishment, not redemption, by cutting the sinners off from the kingdom of God as prescribed by the Mosaic Law. In the case of Brigham Young, Young is advocating the slaying of sinners as a means of redemption, that they might be “received into the kingdom of God.” There is not the slightest notion in the Bible that men can atone for their own sins by death. Death is always the great punishment of God against sin, and it is Jesus Christ alone who atones for our sins by dying in our place and bearing our punishment. Under the New Covenant, Jesus teaches us, not to kill sinners, but to forgive them, just as He loved us and freely forgave us through His redemption.

I agree that we must have honesty and integrity, but this goes for the LDS Church too. To say you are Christian but then to deny the central teaching of Christianity is in truth the real offense.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Thoughts on 1 John: Doing Righteousness

The following letter was written in reply to a brother concerning the interpretation of "doing righteousness" in 1 John 2:29. The brother had suggested that "doing righteousness" is the works that Christians do as evidence/fruit of their salvation.

Dear D---

I really do empathize with your attempt to interpret the passage with an appeal to fruit. This is certainly the classic Protestant response to the subject, because no one would dare say that we are justified by works - rather, it is said, that works come as a result of our faith/justification. Works are fruit, it is said. But this still doesn't answer the real question at all; it just bumps it to the other side of the salvation equation. In this view, the fruit remains works nonetheless, and with works (wherever they may be posited) comes the inevitable question: how much works do you have to do? Instead of asking how many works does one have to do in order to be saved, the question is bumped to: how many works does one have to do in order to know that one is saved? Certainly, it is said, that to be saved we need not do any works. But how many works are necessary in order to prove that you are saved, or what quality of works must there be? This question (which is the real question) remains, and remains unanswered - at least in any satisfying way. I do not believe your appeal to fruit has answered it, nor has even attempted to do so.

So concerning your interpretation that "doing righteousness" is fruit: What does it look like to do righteousness? How do you know when the fruit is "an apple instead of a mango", as you put it? What does it mean to "do righteousness" exactly?

None of us can say that our behavior is perfect, or that our practical love is what it should be, and yet John equates the righteousness that we do with the righteousness of Jesus. That is, righteousness is defined by Christ the righteous one. "If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone that does righteousness is born of Him." (2:29) "Little children, let no man deceive you: he that does righteousness is righteous even as He is righteous." (3:7) If we say that "doing righteousness" is behaving in some fashion at a sub-par level, and then equate that with the righteousness of Jesus, we are greatly misrepresenting the righteousness of Christ. Christ is not righteous in any way less than perfection, and John is saying that those who are born of God do righteousness also: the same righteousness that Christ Himself exemplifies and defines. (Note also that in every instance that the apostle John uses the words dikaios and dikaiosune in his Gospel, letters and Revelation, it is always referring to that perfect righteousness which is typical in the rest of the New Testament. [ex. John 17:25, Rev. 19:11]. Any meaning less than this is foreign to John's usage.) Therefore, in addition to explaining what "doing righteousness" actually is, you would have to explain how it is equivalent with Jesus' righteousness.

We believe that the obvious answer to what John means by "doing righteousness" is believing the gospel, since the gospel is all about the revelation of righteousness through faith (Rom. 1:17, 3:21-22). The gospel reveals a radical new way of thinking about righteousness which ought to influence our thinking on the subject of righteousness wherever we find it in Scripture (though sadly many Christians fail to do so). It is not uncommon for the Scriptures to express simply believing in Christ for righteousness as "doing" something, even though it is not a work (compare Gen. 4:7, John 6:27-29, 8:39-40, 56, Acts 10:35, 16:30-31, Rom. 1:5, 2 Thess. 1:8, etc). After Cain's offering was rejected, God spoke to him saying, "If you do what is right, will you not be accepted?" (Gen. 4:7) What was it he should have done? He should have done righteousness, like Abel (see 1 John 3:12), who did not work but believed in God who justifies the ungodly through Christ. When we believe on Christ for our righteousness, we have done righteousness, for the righteousness of the law is fulfilled in us (Rom. 8:3-4) and established (Rom. 3:31) by faith in Him. If we don't believe in Him, no matter how hard we try to accomplish it, we fail to do righteousness and remain unrighteous (Rom. 9:30-31, 10:3). Thus the gospel reveals the only way of righteousness. This is what John means by "doing righteousness", and how "everyone who does righteousness is as righteous as He is righteous." We believe that John is aggressively evangelical. Why should we think about righteousness any other way than how the gospel has revealed it?

Regarding evidence of salvation, you are absolutely right that there "has to be a way of seeing Spirit-wrought fruit in your life without getting sucked into the works maelstrom". Amen. There is indeed real fruit that is borne by Christians which reveals whether or not they believe: this is, of course, whether or not they love the brethren. But in keeping with John, such fruit is an all-or-nothing affair. Either you love the brethren or you don't. There doesn't seem to be any shades of grey with John; the apples are perfect apples. It is not about whether you have a little murderousness or a lot of murderousness in you: there must not be any murderousness in you at all (3:15)! If even on one occasion you send a brother away hungry, how does the love of God dwell in you (3:17)? These certainly are extreme statements. John is in keeping with the standard test that Jesus laid down, and is in all likelihood echoing Him: "A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit." (Matt. 7:18) Notice the impossibility of bearing any bad fruit if you're a good tree, and vice versa.

The answer is wonderfully seen the moment we realize that John is talking about something very specific rather than something general. He narrows the test of love to concern only "the brethren" - that is, those who are righteous through faith - and points to the root of our actions. If I am like Cain, who despised his brother for being righteous through faith, then I am certainly not born of God. If I shut up my bowels of compassion toward a brother because he is a brother who is righteous through faith, the love of God is clearly not in me. John is not talking about what you do merely, but why you do what you do. 3:12-13 is the key: The test is explicit: we must not be "as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And why did he slay him? Because his own works were evil and his brother's righteous. Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hates you." A true Christian will never hate someone for being righteous through faith. A Christian might sin against a brother for many other reasons, but never for this reason. The world, on the other hand, may be very compassionate for many reasons, but they will never love a brother for the reason that he is righteous through faith. The world doesn't just "hate" me; it hates me for one reason. They will "persecute you for righteousness sake" (Matt. 5:10). John is again echoing Jesus who said: "If you were of the world, the world would love his own." (John 15:19) Now we know that the world is not a utopia of love! Obviously Jesus is not talking about love in a general way but in a very specific way related to righteousness, and it is in this way that John also is talking about love for the brethren.

So there is a real evidence. The next time that you get angry at another Christian, ask yourself: am I angry at him because he is righteous through faith? If so, you cannot possibly be a believer. No, it was rather because he spilled the milk all over my new suit. Or the next time a non-Christian helps you fix your car, ask yourself: is he doing this for me because I am righteous through faith? No, that would make him upset. He's helping me out because I'm a fellow human being.

In this way, a true Christian loves the brethren. There is not an ounce of murderousness in a Christian toward those who are righteous through faith, and though a Christian might shut up his bowels of compassion toward a brother because he stole his iPhone, he will never do so because he is a brother who is righteous through faith. Rather, when he brings to remembrance that it is a brother whom Christ has received, it will fill the Christian with compassion. In this way you don't need to question whether you are a Christian or not every time you are impatient with your wife! When that happens, notice you are not seeing her through the eyes of Christ. We have found many passages in the New Testament open up since seeing this simple truth.

Seeing these things makes the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ to shine a hundred times more brightly! It is not that we are seeing something new that no one else has seen before, for it is the simple gospel of grace that the Church knows very well. But it is that we are seeing the gospel in new places - in places that for many people are stumbling blocks to joy - in places like 1 John which have unfortunately been misunderstood and obscured.

As usual, we would love to hear back from you, dear brother.
Much love in Christ, D---!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Does God Exist? Who Is God?

This sermon was preached on March 27, 2011, at All Saints Church in Logan, Utah. How are we to answer these two infinitely important questions about God in a way that is both satisfying and convincing to the skeptical mind? Most people will be surprised to hear what the Bible has to say about the existence of God, as well as Jehovah's way of proving that He alone is God. And once these two questions are answered, we are then faced with two more questions of infinite importance. Listen below:

The God of the Feast

This sermons was preached on March 13, 2011, at All Saints Church in Logan, Utah. "Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price!" (Isaiah 55:1) What would happen if the God of the universe put on a feast and you were invited? When we understand the gospel, we come to know God as the God who puts on a feast for our eternal good and at His incalcuable expense. How can we possibilty refuse? Listen below:

Eli Brayley - The God of the Feast

Monday, March 21, 2011

Heaven, Hell, Resurrection and Judgment

The following is a reply to someone who asked me some questions regarding the afterlife.

I believe the Scriptures are clear that when a person dies they either go directly to heaven or directly to hell, and there they await resurrection and judgment (2 Kings 2:11, Luke 16:19-31, 2 Corinthians 5:6-8, Philippians 1:23, Revelation 6:9-11, etc). I reject the idea of "soul sleep", the notion that when men die they are like those who are asleep and thus remain unconcious until the resurrection. This is based on an erroneous understanding of the usage of the word "asleep" in the Bible, which describes the dead in Christ (for example, John 11:11, 1 Thess. 4:13). All the Scripture means by the word "asleep" is that for the saints, death has lost its sting and that death is not permanent. The word isn't talking about the consciousness of the dead, but the non-threatening nature of death for those who are in Christ, as well as its impermanence.

Someone might ask why people go to heaven or hell before the judgment day has even judged them, but we must remember that people are already under the wrath of God if they don't believe in Jesus, and if they do believe they have already been delivered from it (John 3:36). God's judgment has already been decided, and this is not the issue of judgment day. Judgment day has to do with the public manifestation of judgment, when everyone shall see the truth about the state of men. Thus we shall all be resurrected to be judged publicly.

But we must also remember that the Bible speaks about two resurrections: the resurrection of the righteous and the resurrection of the unrighteous (Acts 24:15, especially Revelation 20). The first resurrection, which is for the righteous, takes place the day Jesus Christ returns (see also 1 Thess. 4:16), and we shall be resurrected to join the Lord in His glory. It will be a public glorification of the saints with Christ (Colossians 3:4). There is no fear in this judgment, for it is without any condemnation whatsoever. But the opposite is the case with the second resurrection of the unrighteous, which takes place after the millennium (the thousand year reign of Christ). All the remaining dead will be raised and judged according to their works, and they will therefore be sent to the lake of fire forever. There is nothing but condemnation. We definitely don't want to have a part in that - to avoid it is to believe in Jesus Christ now so to be justified through faith in Him apart from our works altogether, and to receive the free gift of eternal life!

I believe your baby is in heaven and you'll see her either the day you die or before that if Jesus Christ returns. That was David's beautiful hope when he lost his son.

Hope this answers some of your questions.
Sincerely, your brother in Christ,

Monday, March 14, 2011

A Letter to a Limited Atonement Brother

My dear brother M---,

Thank you so much for your email. I've been wanting to write back to you since I read it, but I thought I would take the time to ponder what you have said and mull over it before replying. I want you to know that I didn't take any of your words as an attack... actually the opposite! I told your dad how much I truly appreciate you, what you wrote, and your gracious brotherly spirit. That kind of attitude is exactly the kind of attitude brothers who disagree ought to have. I also love your heart for the gospel and for souls. Keep preaching the word of life, my brother!

First off, I want you to know (as I think you already do) that I am decidedly persuaded of "Calvinism" and that I believe in the election/predestination of individuals unto salvation. I also agree with you that God does not make people sin but allows them to do that themselves. So I appreciate your comments against humanism and freewill, etc. Amen and amen: no one can come to Christ unless the Father Himself draws him.

However, we must be aware that not all Calvinists are 5-point Calvinists, and to think in such categories is simplistic and theologically unhelpful. There has always been disagreement about limited atonement, and it is a far cry to say that 5-point Calvinism has gone unmolested since the days of the Reformation. The great reformer himself, Martin Luther, did not believe in limited atonement, though he believed in election, and it may be shocking for many 5-pointers to know, but John Calvin himself did not hold to limited atonement. Of course, that is contested because who wants to surrender Calvin? After examining the evidence for myself, I am convinced that there is no difficulty: classic Calvinism is 4-point, not 5-point, and to believe in unlimited atonement is to be more truly Calvinistic. I consider myself to be a classic Calvinist as opposed to the brand of Calvinism that evolved after John Calvin died. I strongly recommend you read this short online book by Paul Hartog on John Calvin's view of the extent of the atonement: A Word for the World: John Calvin on the Extent of the Atonement. Is written in a fully irenic and objective spirit and quotes Calvin extensively, as well as considers the arguments which limited atonement adherents put forth. Since the Reformation to the present day there is an impressive catalogue of men who have been classic Calvinists and who have stood against the doctrinal addition of limited atonement (just to give you an idea, John Newton and J.C Ryle are two of them). An outstanding website on this whole issue is http://www.calvinandcalvinism.com/ which is run by an extremely well-read librarian at Reformed Theological Seminary. It deserves serious attention.

I'd like to share with you some exegetical thoughts of mine on this subject. I still stand firmly on my philosophical convictions expressed in the article regarding the love of God. What we say about the extent of the atonement is a direct statment about the character of God, and that's serious business. I believe that limited atonement casts a shadow on God's loving character and lowers Him into being a pragmatist. Sure He loves, but it is pragmatic love. His plan dictates His love rather than His love dictating His plan. I am convinced that limited atonement is a false doctrine and that 5-point Calvinism is not strong enough to stand against the kind of hard questions that are coming down the line in our 21st century about the character of God.

I also stand by my conviction that the exegetical case for unlimited atonement is leaps and bounds greater than the case that can be made for limited atonement. I am well aware of the Scriptural case for limited atonement, but I believe the way Scripture is handled by limited atonement adherents is unwarranted, answerable, and in many places just downright eisegetical. There are no such gymnastics with unlimited atonement. Take, for example, the eisegetical explanations of 2 Peter 2:1, Hebrews 10:29 by limited atonement adherents. Further, the reinterpreting of the words "all" and "world" to mean "the elect" is a reinterpretation driven by systematic arguments, which arguments are easily refuted; and if those arguments are refuted, then there isn't any warrant for reinterpretation. This is one reason why a discussion of the extent of the atonement must primarily be engaged in the philosophical realm, because an appeal to such Scriptures are not easily going to persuade anyone until those philosophical arguments have been dealt with. Nonetheless, there are exegetical points that need to be made.

Let me just point out a few:

Titus 3:4 - "But after the kindness and love of God our Savior toward man appeared..." M---, you replied that this "is describing believers not all mankind", but while I agree that only believers are the ones who are "saved" and "justified by His grace", you cannot limit this word to believers only. It is the Greek word philanthropia which means "love for mankind", and the force of it we dare not dismiss. Paul is talking about God's love for mankind. See how other translations render it:

"But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared..." (NASB)
"But when the kindness and love for humanity of God our Savior appeared..." (Analytical Literal Translation)
"But when the goodness and loving-kindness of God our Savior to man [as man] appeared..." (Amplified)

Greek scholar Marvin Vincent wrote:

"Love is too vague. It is love toward men; comp. Titus 3:2. Only here and Acts 28:2 : φιλανθρώπως kindly, Acts 27:3 (note). While it cannot be asserted that the heretical characteristics noted in the Pastoral Epistles point collectively to any specific form of error, it is true, nevertheless, that certain characteristics of the economy of grace are emphasized, which are directly opposed to Gnostic ideas. Thus the exhortation that supplications be made for all men, supported by the statement that God wills that all men should be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:1, 1 Timothy 2:4), is in the teeth of the Gnostic distinction between men of spirit and men of matter, and of the Gnostic principle that the knowledge (επίγνωσις) of truth was only for a limited, intellectual class. To the same effect is the frequent recurrence of all, for all, in connection with the saving and enlightening gifts of God (1 Timothy 2:6; 1 Timothy 4:10; 1 Timothy 6:13; Titus 2:11). So here: not only has the saving grace of God appeared unto all (Titus 2:11), but it has revealed itself as kindness and love to man as man."

It is God's love for mankind (God's philanthropy!) that has appeared by the gospel. It is His grace that brings salvation that has appeared to "all men" (2:11), which "all men" is the same as in 3:2: "To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, showing all meekness unto all men." Are we to think that Paul means only the elect here? How confusing would be his use of words!

God loves mankind because God made mankind and they are special to Him. That love for mankind is expressed through the gospel.

1 Timothy 2:1-6 - "I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time."

Again, context determines that "all men" really means all men and not merely the elect (compare v. 1 and v. 5). Plus, Jesus is the mediator between God and man (as man) and not the elect.

1 Timothy 4:10 - "For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe." Think about it, M---. If Paul was a believer in limited atonement, why would he phrase it this way and cause such needless confusion? Why would he not just say: "Who is the Savior of all who believe"? Such a statement would be perfectly true and consistent. But the point is, Paul wanted to emphasize that Christ isn't just the Savior of those who believe, but He is the Savior of all men, even those who don't believe. If we rob this verse of this point then it really makes no point at all.

John 3:16 - "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." Here is a well-known verse, but let me break it down for a moment. Let me rewrite the verse adding some appropriate helps:

"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son for the world, that whosoever of the world that believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life."

Because God loves the world, He gives His Son for the world. He does this so that (to enable) "whosoever" believes in Him should not perish. Obviously, in order to believe on Christ so as not to perish, Christ must have died for you (there is no salvation apart from Christ). So the "whosoever" must belong to the "world" that God gave His Son for. Thus I rendered the verse as it is above. But if we interpret "the world" to be "the elect" the verse would make no sense, for then it would read:

"For God so loved the elect, that He gave His only begotten Son for the elect, that whosoever of the elect that believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life."

Whosoever of the elect? That doesn't make sense. The verse loses its sense and its precious force if we interpret it this way, and robs God of the glory of His love for mankind which is being spoken of in this beautiful verse. If limited atonement adherents had their way, this would only prove that God doesn't love all men, but is a God of pragmatic love - His love being dictated by His plan.

I'll give just one more exegetical point, and one that I consider to be exceptionally formidable.

Romans 3:25 - "Whom God set forth to be a propitiation, through faith, by his blood, to show his righteousness, because of the passing over of the sins done aforetime, in the forbearance of God."

This verse contains an extremely important truth about the cross. Paul is telling us that one of the main things the cross did was that it vindicated God for certain confusing behavior that He had done in the past. The cross declared that God was righteous in doing that behavior. What did He do? He pretermitted sins. Pretermission means "omission", to "leave undone", as if an order were put onto your desk and you don't throw it away, you just don't do anything about it. The idea is that God pretermitted sins by not punishing them, even though His justice demanded they be punished, and this caused a lot of confusion in the Old Testament: "Why do the wicked go unpunished?" Even more, "Why do they prosper? Where's the justice of God?" These questions are answered by the cross. God was righteous in pretermitting sins, forbearing punishment, because He was operating with the knowledge of the death of Christ, which was the sacrifice for those sins. He delayed punishment in order for sinners to be saved. Romans 2:4 tells us why God forbears punishment (pretermits): "Or despisest thou the riches of His goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth you to repentance?" So the point of God delaying punishment is that He wants the sinner to be saved, and this is possible because Christ died for the sinner, and therefore the sinner can be saved by Christ if he believes. The moment he believes, his sins, past, present and future are justly forgiven. This appeared confusing before the cross, but after Christ died it made sense why God could and would do that.

Now here is the crucial question: Whose sins did God pretermit, the elect only or the non-elect too? In the past, and even today, God forbears to punish the sins of the elect and the non-elect, otherwise we would see that only the elect's sins are pretermitted and the non-elect are punished instantaneously, because only the elect would have the possibility for salvation since Christ only died for their sins. But this is clearly not the case. The non-elect as well as the elect have their sins pretermitted because Christ died for the sins of the non-elect as well as the elect, providing for the salvation of all men, thus enabling God to pretermit all, otherwise God would be unjust. God is patient with all men because salvation has been provided for all men, therefore God can withhold punishment with the intent of leading all men to repentance.

Salvation would not be possible without the death of Christ ("without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness"), and if salvation is impossible, then pretermission is impossible. The only reason God delays punishment is so that men can be saved, which necessitates the death of Christ for them. This is evidently true for the non-elect, otherwise, God is unjust to pretermit their sins, and is furthermore a cruel mocker toward them, giving them time to repent for a salvation that is not real.

You see, when a person sins, they right then and there deserve damnation (see Jonathan Edward's excellent sermon, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God). God delays punishment so that they may be saved by believing on Christ, because there is a possiblity for them to saved. Once a sinner believes on Christ, all their sins are justly forgiven, and God's pretermitting mercy toward them is shown to be just. Christ enables pretermission. This is one of the main things the cross declares, and vindicates the righteousness of God. If limited atonement were true (that Christ did not die for all men) then the cross does not vindicate God's behavior in His dealings with the majority of men, for He forbears to punish the non-elect. Therefore the doctrine of limited atonement makes God unjust. Since we know that God is just, limited atonement must be false. Christ did in fact die for the sins of all men, just as the Scriptures plainly teach, vindicating God's forbearance of all. I consider this a central argument that is irrefutable.

M---, I know that there are many precious brothers who believe in limited atonement, many of whom I appreciate and respect. I agree with you that limited atonement adherents have often made powerful evangelists, but I believe this is not due to the doctrine of limited atonement but despite it, and is due, rather, to happy inconsistencies within these men's theologies. I stand by my conviction that the free offer of the gospel as portrayed in Scripture is entirely different than the so-called offer of salvation made by limited atonement adherents ("If you believe you will be saved..." rather than "God wants to save you! Believe!"; compare 2 Cor. 5:20). Such a gospel I want nothing to do with. If limited atonement were true, the gospel would only be good news after you believe it, but not before. Yet in the Bible it is the very good news of God's love for you in Christ that itself impels you to believe! Under the limited atonement system, men are left wondering whether they are elect, for election determines whether God loved them and gave Himself for them. Under true gospel preaching, men are pointed to God's love in Christ for them, and to believing in Christ for salvation. As it is in Scripture, it is only after a person has believed that they are made aware of their election from before the foundation of the world. And notice in Romans 8:29-30 that predestination doesn't have to do with whether Christ died for you or not, but it has to do with effectual calling. This is the single greatest error of Calvinists - they misunderstand the issue of election. God does not elect to determine whom Christ dies for, but to determine who will believe in Christ (read carefully John 1:11-13, 6:44-45, 65, Acts 13:48, Romans 9:11, 23-24, 11:4-5, Galatians 1:15, Ephesians 1:5, Philippians 1:5-6, 2 Thessalonians 2:13, 2 Timothy 1:9, James 1:18, 1 Peter 1:2). This is the true doctrine of election that Calvin understood.

Let me recommend to you a book entitled The Death of Christ by Norman F. Douty, which is considered a classic critique of limited atonement. While I didn't agree with everything he wrote, and felt like the book could have been better and stronger, I believe it is an excellent place to start. Douty interacts with all the philosophical and exegetical arguments for limited atonement, and presents a large body of proof for unlimited atonement. He also provides an extensive list of theologians since the beginning of the Church who held to unlimited atonement. Let me share a quote with you from the book, where he touches an issue that exposes the all-too often empty rhetoric of limited atonement:

"Here it is appropriate to reply to the repeated assertion that Christ's propitiation actually, and not just potentially, propitiates, and that so His reconciliation reconciles, His redemption redeems, and His atonement atones. John Murray says the death of Christ is to be considered as "effective" propitiation, reconciliation and redemption, and that "the atonement is efficacious substitution." It is pertinent to inquire why the author entitles his book "Redemption Accomplished and Applied" if redemption accomplished is redemption applied? We maintain as strongly as he that Christ's propitiation propitiates, His reconciliation reconciles, His redemption redeems, and His atonement atones so far as its own intrinsic efficacy is concerned, but not with reference to any sinner, unless he repents and believes. Without these acts, even the elect are only potentially the recipients of these benefts.

"Do not Limited Atonement men themselves summon sinners to enter into the good of Christ's propitiation through faith (Rom. 3:25), beseech them to be reconciled to God (2 Cor. 5:20), call upon them to come under the atoning blood? Now what does all this amount to but seeking to bring men into the place where Christ's propitiation, reconciliation, redemption and atonement, completely efficacious in themselves, become completely effective for them?

"No, even the elect are not actually possessed of these values until the Spirit has induced them to repent and believe. Until then, all of Christ's saving work is theirs only potentially. In other words, His death has only provided these benefits for them; the application of them is contigent on their repentance and faith. We hold that these same benefits are equally provided for the non-elect, who never enjoy them in their experience, because of their impenitence and unbelief. I, too, am a Limited Atonement man, if I am permitted to apply the adjective to atonement's possession, rather than to its provision." (p. 51)

So you see, M---, how the limited atonement argument, that "the cross actually saves", is really just mere rhetoric. Who believes that a man is saved by the death of Christ apart from faith? Only those on the fringe who hold to the erroneous view of eternal justification.

Lots to think about, right? Having said all this, I believe the real issue that is at stake is not the mere exegetical case for the extent of the atonement, but the issue of the character of God, for what we say about this doctrine is a direct statement about who God is. Before sovereignty, before election, before the eternal decrees, God is love. It is this true knowledge of God that Jesus Christ came to reveal, and by seeing Jesus we see the Father. But Christ did not come to show us that God was sovereign, or holy, or one - these are true, and certainly Christ doesn't alter them, but these we knew or could learn elsewhere. No, the thing that Christ tells us about God is that God is love: God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten Son which is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him. And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

I hope this gives you some food for thought and that we can keep up the dialogue, since there's so much more to discuss. Feel free to write back. Again, I really appreciate your email and your kindness in this matter.

Soli Deo Gloria!
Your brother,

Saturday, February 05, 2011

A Critique of Limited Atonement and the Problem of Double Jeopardy

The atonement of Jesus Christ is the centerpiece of Christianity. Everything about Christianity either moves toward it or comes from it. It is the atonement which binds the entire body of Scripture together and explains every part. Truly, he who understands the cross understands God, for at the cross we come face to face with God in all His awesome attributes. We also come face to face with ourselves - our sin - and it is there at the place of the revelation of our sin and of God's justice and love that we find the salvation of our souls.

But though the atonement of Jesus Christ holds the primary place in all of Christianity, and though all true Christians believe the same basic truths about the atonement, not all Christians are in full agreement regarding the atonement's finer details. In particular, one important disagreement among Christians regards whether the atonement is "limited" or "unlimited". While providing an explanation as to what these terms mean, my aim, in this article, is to address a serious flaw in the doctrine of limited atonement and thereby shed much needed light upon this often bewildering debate. I want to make it clear at the onset, however, that though this issue of limited and unlimited atonement is of supreme importance, I do not press that it is salvational, or a basis for separation. There are precious brothers and sisters on either side of the spectrum, and what one believes in respect to this question does not exclude them from being Christians, nor from the blessed unity that we share in Christ.

When we talk about limited atonement things are often confused. Strictly speaking, limited atonement is the belief that Jesus did not die on the cross for the sins of every person in the world but that He died for the sins of the elect only. Sometimes the doctrine is said to mean that Christ's atonement is only effective for the elect, but this is superfluous, for every Biblical Christian already believes this whether they hold to limited or unlimited atonement. Only by believing on Christ is the atonement made effective in a person's life, and since the elect are the only ones who believe, the atonement is effective only for the elect. Unlimited atonement also holds that the atonement is effective only in the elect, but it maintains that Christ died for the sins of all the world. Unlimited atonement is totally distinct from universal salvation, which holds that every person in the world will be saved. No, unlimited atonement holds that although Christ died for the whole world, the atonement is not effective until a person believes in Christ. In this sense, all Christians believe the atonement is limited. Therefore, limited atonement is not to be defined as the belief that the atonement is effective only in the elect (for unlimited atonement also holds this), but rather that Christ actually died for the sins of the elect only and not for the sins of the whole world. As has already been stated, unlimited atonement is the belief that Jesus died for the sins of every person in the whole world, though it is effective only in the elect.

But why do people believe in limited atonement? While it may not be admitted by adherents of limited atonement, in actual fact the doctrine of limited atonement is not primarily based upon Scripture. The exegetical case for limited atonement is far weaker than that which can be made for unlimited atonement, and this is quickly discerned by any impartial observer. However, it is not my intent to discuss the exegetical case for and against limited atonement, for that has been done many times over, and there are plenty of resources a person can refer to for a full examination of all the relevant verses in question. Rather, my intent is to highlight the major theological idea which surrounds the doctrine of limited atonement and address the matter at this root.

Limited atonement is in reality driven by an important theological rationale which governs the adherent's interpretation of Scripture. What exactly is this rationale? It is the firm belief that only the doctrine of limited atonement upholds the penal substitutionary nature of the atonement without running into the serious problem of double jeopardy. For this I commend the effort, though it is erroneous. I love the man's heart who is jealous for the truth of penal substitution, for this is indeed the glory of the cross and all of our salvation. But the doctrine of limited atonement is not the true nor Biblical way of maintaining this glorious truth of the cross, and it in fact robs the cross of another glory it is trying to preserve: namely, the love of God.

Limited atonement adherents rightly see that salvation is found only in the truth that Christ suffered the punishment for our sins on the cross and that this salvation reveals the amazing love of God for sinners. But in saying that Christ died for the elect only it in fact robs the glory of God's love for sinners. No longer is God's love inevitably emanating out from His loving character to the world, but His love is being extended in only an utilitarian sort of way to the elect exclusively because of the plan and not because of His character of love. You see, when you love because you are loving, then there is no longer any significance to quantities, categories or plans. If a compassionate person sees someone injured in a car accident, no matter who the injured person is, he will feel compassion because he himself is compassionate and his compassion is not determined by the injured person but by his own character. The injured person gives him the opportunity for compassion but not the impulse for compassion. But if a person is not compassionate he will not feel compassion unless the person who is injured is someone significant to him, like a family member. In that case he is compassionate, not because of his own character, but because of who the injured one is to him. If God is love, then He loves because of who He is and not because of who or what men are, no matter whether they end up in hell or not. His love is not dependent on the plan, or the outcome, or the significance of someone being elect or not - His love is from Himself as a God of love and therefore it inevitably emanates unto all. As long as we are talking about quantities we are not talking about love. In this way the doctrine of limited atonement destroys the glory of the love of God. For if God did not die for all men then that means that God does not love all men (for "God demonstrates His love for us in this, that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us", Romans 5:8). And if God does not love all men, then God is really not a God of love but of utility. Oh, banish the thought forever!

But what about the issue of double jeopardy? The argument goes as follows: If Christ died for our sins on the cross and paid the penalty that we deserve, then it would be totally unjust for God to punish us again for the sins that Christ already paid for. If the whole world's punishment was borne by Christ, then it would be unjust for God to send anyone in the world to hell for their sins, since that would mean their sins are being punished twice-over. Therefore, if the penal substitutionary nature of the atonement is to be maintained, we must believe that Christ died for the sins of only those who will be saved: the elect. In this way their sins are truly paid for once for all, and the non-elect will be punished in hell for their own sins without it being double jeopardy (a punishment twice inflicted). Makes sense, right?

Actually there is a critical flaw that many believers in limited atonement fail to see. Though they think that they are avoiding double jeopardy, the truth is that no one ever avoids having to deal with double jeopardy. For even if we were to accept the view that Christ died for the sins of the elect only, according to this reasoning it would then follow that the elect would be forgiven even before they exercised any faith at all, since Christ already dealt with their sins on the cross! Faith in Christ would be totally unnecessary and nothing more than a pleasant recognition of one's status, not an effector of one's status. Thus, the elect would be justified even before they had faith, simply because Christ died for their sins 2000 years ago and paid the penalty that can never be inflicted upon them again! This unBiblical idea is called "eternal justification" and runs entirely contrary to the doctrine of justification by faith in the Scriptures. Nowhere does the Bible ever teach that a person is justified before they believe in Christ, and it everywhere teaches that it is only through faith in Christ that the atonement is made effective in a person's life. This is indisputable. "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him." (John 3:36) It is absolutely plain that before a person believes on Christ they are under the wrath and condemnation of God, and this is true for even the elect. "We all were by nature children of wrath, even as others." (Ephesians 2:3) Paul acknowledged his lost condition which he had before he came to be justified through faith. This then makes us ask: If Christ died for the sins of the elect, then why are the elect still lost, guilty and condemned before they believe in Jesus? Aren't their sins gone? Evidently they are not. Thus, even with the doctrine of limited atonement there is the issue of double jeopardy: although Christ died for the elect's sins, they are still under the impending wrath of God until they come to faith. The judgment of God is still threatening to punish them until they believe. Therefore double jeopardy is not an argument in favor of limited atonement, nor is it an argument against unlimited atonement, for it poses no unique challenge to the doctrine of unlimited atonement. Both limited and unlimited atonement adherents have to deal with it.

How then are we to explain double jeopardy? Is it true? Is it just? The answer is very simple. Nowhere do the Scriptures say that sins are forgiven by the death of Christ apart from the instrumentality of faith. Justification is by of the death of Christ, but it comes to the sinner only through the instrument of faith. The Scriptures do indeed set forth Christ's death as a penal substitution (Isaiah 53:6, 2 Corinthians 5:21, Galatians 3:13, etc.). Christ actually suffered for our sins. The punishment that we deserve was borne by Him, but still the effect of this sacrifice - the removal of our sins - hangs upon our acceptance of that substitution by faith. God, the creator and sustainer of the universe, the One who is the Good Shepherd, is also the One who will judge the world in righteousness - and He has set the terms. Christ died, but the judge must await our acceptance of His substitution. Justice is perfectly satisfied and God, who is well-pleased with the sacrifice, wants to set us free, but we must be satisfied with the provision that God has supplied for us in Christ Jesus. If we accept the substitution that has already taken place on our behalf, then we go free. But if we refuse the provision of the substitute we must therefore suffer for our sins, and Christ indeed suffered for us in vain. What a horrible thought! See how it is put in Scripture: "Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?" (Hebrews 10:29) "But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction." (2 Peter 2:1) To reject the sacrifice of God's love that He has provided in order that you might escape His own righteous judgment is incomprehensibly tragic.

Perhaps the greatest difficulty to understanding this is due to the element of chronological order. Consider, by way of analogy, a boy that is brought to the principal's office for misbehaving. He knows the punishment for what he has done is a whipping. When he gets to the office he discovers that his father is there. His father takes him aside and says to him, "Son, I know that you have been misbehaving and that a whipping is being called for, but I have spoken with the principal and he has agreed that I may take your whipping if you so choose." Of course the boy would cry out, "No, daddy!", and refuse the offer, but nonetheless would feel the love that his father has for him. But if we can understand this scenario, what is so difficult about understanding the very same scenario if only we re-order it? Consider what would happen if the boy gets to the office and discovers that his father is there, only this time his father takes him aside and says to him, "Son, I know that you have been misbehaving and that a whipping has been called for. But I have spoken with the principal and he agreed that I could take your whipping for you if you so choose. Son," he says with tears in his eyes, "I have already been whipped for you. This doesn't mean that you are automatically free from a whipping, but if you tell the principal that you accept what I have done for you, then he will let you go free." The boy cries out, "Oh, daddy!" and throws his arms around his father. In tears he turns to the principal. "How can I refuse what my father has already done for me? I accept it! I accept it!"

Though the whipping of the father pales in comparison to the magnitude of the death of Christ, the analogy illustrates the point perfectly. Because Christ has already died on the cross for our sins, we can do nothing to change or reverse the amazing sacrifice of love that has been done for us - we can only accept it or reject it. To refuse Christ's sacrifice is not a noble act of piety but a terrible disregard for God's selfless act of love. Sadly, many people will reject it. Yes it is heart-wrenching, but Christ desired to suffer for all, even though many would reject Him. This reveals how much God loves mankind (Titus 3:4). It is not a disgrace to Christ but a glorious crown upon His head, and a fearful shame and judgment upon all who reject His gracious sacrifice. Justice is upheld and double jeopardy is avoided because the sentence ultimately falls upon only one. If we accept Christ then it is accounted that the sentence fell upon Him. If we do not accept Christ then the sentence will fall upon us. The judge's gavel is only brought down either once we believe or once we die in unbelief. Thus the message of the gospel is this: Jesus Christ has died upon the cross for our sins, and justice is satisfied by this sacrifice yet awaits our acceptance of it. God wants to set us free, but He awaits our acceptance of the substitution that was made on our behalf - though He doesn't wait passively. He so wants to release you on the basis of the substitution of Christ that He beseeches you to accept such now. What an amazing God we have! Unlike the analogy above, God Himself is both the principal and the father - He is both the righteous Judge and the loving Savior. Will you accept what He has provided for you, or reject it? This is the essence of gospel preaching: "We beseech you in Christ's stead: be ye reconciled to God: for He has made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him." (2 Corinthians 5:20-21)

Which brings us to a final point in this discussion of the atonement. One of the strongest arguments in favor of unlimited atonement is the free offer of the gospel found all throughout the Scriptures: for the Scriptures are filled with statements that the good news of Jesus Christ is to be preached to every creature under heaven; but there would be no good news to tell every person unless Jesus Christ had actually died for the sins of each and every person. You cannot promise hope to people for whom there is no hope. You cannot tell people God loves them if in fact He does not. But since God commands us to call each and every person to repent and believe the gospel (Mark 16:15, Acts 13:38, 17:30, Romans 10:12-18, Colossians 1:23, 28, 1 Timothy 2:4, Titus 2:11, Hebrews 2:1-4, 4:2, Revelation 22:17, etc.) there must be a real hope corresponding to the call, and there must be a real love for all mankind inevitably emanating from the heart of God. "Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else." (Isaiah 45:22) How could God call all the ends of the earth to be saved if in fact it was impossible since Christ died for none but the elect? No, we do not believe in a God who pulls our leg and makes promises that are meaningless and empty. The very fact that salvation is offered freely to all men necessarily requires that Christ died for the sins of all men, just as the Scriptures plainly show us. Let all the world know that God is not a God of utility but a God of love! One of the most unbecoming things I have ever seen is when adherents of limited atonement evangelize the lost, for they do not sound like the Bible. They do not freely offer hope and eternal life through Jesus Christ to the lost. They can never tell the lost that God loves them and that Christ died for them because He may not have. They say: "Christ died for sins" instead of "Christ died for our sins". They say: "If you are elect you are reconciled to God" instead of "we beseech you in Christ's stead: be ye reconciled to God." Thus the sinner is not directed to look unto God's loving all-sufficient sacrifice in Christ Jesus and to God's desire to save them but unto wondering whether they are elect or not. God forbid that this be our evangelism! May our message rather be the blessed good tidings of Christ for every creature!

Thus we see that double jeopardy is not an argument in favor of limited atonement, nor an argument against unlimited atonement. Far from precluding unlimited atonement, the penal substitutionary nature of the atonement, which is so clearly revealed to us in the Scriptures, is entirely consistent with the beautiful truth that "God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son" to die for the sins of the whole world. Thus two clear Scriptural truths concerning the atonement are upheld: Christ bore our sins in His body on the tree as our substitute, and He did this for the whole world. The atonement of Jesus Christ is the key of Christianity because it gloriously reveals to us the truth about who God is: a loving God who is perfect in righteousness and a righteous God who is perfect in love. It is in this revelation that we find the salvation of our souls.

"Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins." (1 John 4:10)

"And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world." (1 John 2:2)

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Mediator: Part 1 and Part 2

By Boyd K. Packer
With Commentary
By Eli Brayley


"There once was a man who wanted something very much. It seemed more important than anything else in his life. In order for him to have his desire, he incurred a great debt.

He had been warned about going into that much debt, and particularly about his creditor. But it seemed so important for him to do what he wanted to and to have what he wanted right now. He was sure he could pay for it later.

So he signed a contract. He would pay it off some time along the way. He didn't worry too much about it, for the due date seemed such a long time away. He had what he wanted now, and that was what seemed important.

The creditor was always somewhere in the back of his mind, and he made token payments now and again, thinking somehow that the day of reckoning really would never come.

But as it always does, the day came, and the contract fell due. The debt had not been fully paid. His creditor appeared and demanded payment in full.

Only then did he realize that his creditor not only had the power to repossess all that he owned, but the power to cast him into prison as well.

'I cannot pay you, for I have not the power to do so,' he confessed.

'Then,' said the creditor, 'we will exercise the contract, take your possessions and you shall go to prison. You agreed to that. It was your choice. You signed the contract, and now it must be enforced.'

'Can you not extend the time or forgive the debt?' the debtor begged. 'Arrange some way for me to keep what I have and not go to prison. Surely you believe in mercy? Will you not show mercy?'

The creditor replied, 'Mercy is always so one-sided. It would serve only you. If I show mercy to you, it will leave me unpaid. It is justice I demand. Do you believe in justice?'

'I believed in justice when I signed the contract,' the debtor said. 'It was on my side then, for I thought it would protect me. I did not need mercy then, nor think I should need it ever. Justice, I thought, would serve both of us equally as well.'

'It is justice that demands that you pay the contract or suffer the penalty,' the creditor replied. 'That is the law. You have agreed to it and that is the way it must be. Mercy cannot rob justice.'

There they were: One meting out justice, the other pleading for mercy. Neither could prevail except at the expense of the other.

'If you do not forgive the debt there will be no mercy,' the debtor pleaded.

'If I do, there will be no justice,' was the reply.

Both laws, it seemed, could not be served. They are two eternal ideals that appear to contradict one another. Is there no way for justice to be fully served, and mercy also?

There is a way! The law of justice can be fully satisfied and mercy can be fully extended--but it takes someone else. And so it happened this time.

The debtor had a friend. He came to help. He knew the debtor well. He knew him to be shortsighted. He thought him foolish to have gotten himself into such a predicament. Nevertheless, he wanted to help because he loved him. He stepped between them, faced the creditor, and made this offer.

'I will pay the debt if you will free the debtor from his contract so that he may keep his possessions and not go to prison.'

As the creditor was pondering the offer, the mediator added, 'You demanded justice. Though he cannot pay you, I will do so. You will have been justly dealt with and can ask no more. It would not be just.'

And so the creditor agreed.

The mediator turned then to the debtor. 'If I pay your debt, will you accept me as your creditor?'

'Oh yes, yes,' cried the debtor. 'You saved me from prison and show mercy to me.'

'Then,' said the benefactor, 'you will pay the debt to me and I will set the terms. It will not be easy, but it will be possible. I will provide a way. You need not go to prison.'

And so it was that the creditor was paid in full. He had been justly dealt with. No contract had been broken.

The debtor, in turn, had been extended mercy. Both laws stood fulfilled. Because there was a mediator, justice had claimed its full share, and mercy was satisfied" (taken from lds.org in Conference Report, Apr. 1977, pp. 79-80; or Ensign, May 1977, pp. 54-55).


So the man turned and returned home, eager to start afresh with his friend as his new creditor. He was full of hope and full of desire to keep the new contract that had so mercifully redeemed him.

At first the arrangement worked quite well. He was consistent in making his payments, and always on time. He enjoyed working hard with his hands.

But it came to pass in the process of time that his heart was again drawn away by his old desires. Because he could not tell himself “no”, he began spending the money that he owed to his friend on the things that he desired. He would think to himself, ‘My friend was merciful to me once, and I know that he is a kind man. He will have mercy on me again.’ And so it was that he justified his behavior.

The man became comfortable in his practice. He thought of new excuses that he could say to his friend the next time he saw him. “Business was slow.” “I’ve been trying my best.” “I really needed these other things.” He continued to make token payments now and again, and as time went on, the day of reckoning seemed to him like it would really never come.

But as it always does, the day came, and the contract fell due. The debt had not been fully paid. His creditor appeared and demanded payment in full.

‘Spare me, my friend’, he pleaded, ‘for times have been tough, and I can’t make the payment.’

But the friend replied, ‘Other debtors of mine have been able to make their payments. And my own business, which is the same as yours, has done just fine. I see no reason why you cannot pay.’

Then the man said, ‘But I tried my best. Will you not have mercy on me again?’

‘I do not believe you tried your very best, for could you not have done better? Did you not spend your money and time in recreation, as your own acquaintances have told me?’

The man gulped, for he knew that his creditor had found him out. Then, realizing the seriousness of the situation, and that his friend was able to cast him into prison, he began to cry and beg, ‘Please, my friend! Have mercy on me! For I know that you are a kind man and ready to forgive. Will you please forgive my debt?’

His friend crossed his arms. ‘You are asking me for mercy, but justice demands that you pay for your debts. I gave you plenty of time to work off the contract. Do you not remember that I told you that it wouldn’t be easy but that it would be possible? Since it was possible for you, and since you chose not to take advantage of my mercy, I have no other choice but to enforce the contract.’

The man fell down on his face. ‘No please! Have mercy.’ But it was hopeless. He thought perhaps another mediator might step in between him and his friend, but there was no one else.

And so it was that all the man’s possessions were taken from him and given to the friend, who then saw to it that the man was clasped in irons and thrown into prison. The man became a proverb and a byword among his neighbors, and could be heard weeping and wailing and gnashing his teeth as he remained in the horrible prison, paying for his folly. And the debt was very great.


Dear friend, does this story trouble you? The story of the Mediator was created by Boyd K. Packer, one of the apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Days Saints, and can be found within the L.D.S. church manual entitled ‘Gospel Principles’ in the chapter on the Atonement. In the story, Packer describes by analogy the atonement of Jesus Christ as it is understood in Mormonism. The man in the story represents you and me, sinners who incur a debt to God and his law by our negligence. The creditor and his contract represent God and his law. The friend who pays the man’s debt and then becomes his new creditor represents Jesus Christ. According to Mormonism, Jesus Christ made the atonement for all mankind on the cross and in the garden of Gethsemane, paying our debts to God and his law so that we could have the opportunity to be forgiven. However, the atonement is not a free ride, nor is forgiveness guaranteed. Each and every person now has become a debtor to Jesus, and we must pay him back if we are to receive the forgiveness of our sins. Like the first contract, failure to fulfill our duty to Jesus will result in being cast into prison (hell), only this time it will be worse because we have sinned against greater light and mercy. Does this picture trouble you? What if you do not pay Jesus back?

The Book of Mormon states that God never commands us to do something that we are unable to do (1 Nephi 3:7, 17:3, 50). This is what is meant by “It won’t be easy, but it will be possible.” Since the contract is possible to keep, failure to keep it is inexcusable. But what exactly is the contract?

The Book of Mormon states: “For we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.” (2 Nephi 25:23) Since grace is conditional upon “all we can do”, the question necessarily is, what is “all we can do?” The answer would be all that God requires us to do, for he does not require us to do anything which we cannot do.

The last exhortation in the Book of Mormon sums up the contract that Jesus expects Mormons to fulfill if they are to receive his grace and the forgiveness of their sins. “Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ.” (Moroni 10:32) As in 2 Nephi 25:23, notice how grace is conditioned upon meeting a certain requirement, and whereas in 2 Nephi 25:23 the condition is “all we can do”, in Moroni 10:32 “all we can do” is explained to be “deny yourself of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength.”

Thus the message of the Book of Mormon is as follows: you are a sinner who has broken God’s law, but Jesus has paid your fine to God so that you don’t have to go to hell; but though he paid your fine, you are now a debtor to Jesus, who has given you a second chance to make up for your sins. In order for you to be forgiven you must deny yourself of all your sins and love God with all your might, mind and strength. If, and only if you do this, you will be forgiven; but if you do not stop your sins and love God with everything within you, then Jesus will personally send you away to the place where you would have gone in the first place.


I ask again, does this picture trouble you? My dear friend, it should, for this message is not the true good news of Jesus Christ as it is in the Bible. According to this message of the Book of Mormon, Jesus really doesn’t do any saving at all, but simply gives you a second chance to redeem yourself. In essence, Jesus refinances your loan. Consider this example: if the government pays for your schooling by student loans, and later you pay them back, you are the one who ultimately paid for your schooling. It would be wrong to say that the government paid for it. They just gave you the opportunity to pay for it. So it is with the Jesus of Mormonism: forgiveness is by no means a free gift that he pays for, but something that you must work for and earn yourself. Granted, he provides the opportunity; but providing the opportunity for us to be saved is not the same as saving us himself. If we are to be saved, we must do that. This really is no message of salvation at all, and is certainly not the message of salvation by the grace of Jesus Christ as it is in the Bible. It is not a message of salvation at all because it points to us instead of to Christ as the savior, and to what we must do rather than to what He has already done. And, as we shall see, saving ourselves is actually impossible.

The reason why salvation through our own works is impossible is because the Bible tells us that we are all sinners who are hostile to the law of God. Being a sinner does not just mean that you sin, but it explains why you sin. It has to do with who you are, not just what you do. Being a sinner means that you are sinful. “Wickedness proceedeth from the wicked.” (1 Samuel 24:13) “There is none good but one, that is, God.” (Mark 10:18) “There is none righteous, no, not one: there is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.” (Romans 3:10-12) “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me, but how to perform that which is good I find not.” (Romans 7:18) “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9) Therefore, because we are sinners, the commandments of God are never going to help us, but are only going to condemn us.

The Bible makes this point very clear: there was never any law given that could have given us life because we are sinners, and the purpose that God gave the law is to show us our sin. Read the following Scriptures carefully: “For if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law. But the Scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.” (Galatians 3:21-22) “Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in His sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” (Romans 3:20) “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.” (Galatians 2:16)

The story of the Mediator offers no good news for sinners because the contract, which represents God’s law, can never help us but can only condemn us. In the story, Jesus doesn’t deliver you from the law, but gives you a second chance... to fail worse than before. You are, so to speak, lifted out of one pot of boiling water and are subsequently put into another and bigger one that is again in the process of boiling over.

The good news of the gospel is that God so loves the world, that is, that God loves sinners so much, that He sent His only begotten Son into the world to die on the cross for our sins – to pay the full penalty that we deserve – not so that He might become our new creditor thereby giving us a second chance to save ourselves, but so that we could be forgiven of our sins and delivered from the law as a totally free gift of His grace. He Himself is the Savior, and there is no paying Him back! This is the extraordinary message of the gospel in the Bible. It is not about us trying to keep a contract. It is not about us proving to God that we are good. It is not about us trying to coax God to forgive us of our sins. God already knows that we are sinners and that no one is good. God knows that we have broken the contract and that we would break it again if given the chance. So what is it all about? It is about believing the good news that even though we are sinners God loves us and He is forgiving toward us and that Christ has paid for our debt in full so that we can go free! We do not earn God’s forgiveness by our worthiness, but by faith we simply receive the gift of forgiveness that is already being extended to us through Jesus Christ! You don’t deserve it, but someone wants to pay your debts for free. Why? God wants you to know how much He loves you, and His amazing grace is the only way for you to see. Can you not see what this all means? Do you not see how much He loves you?

“But God demonstrates His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:23-24)

“But God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ (by grace ye are saved;) and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:4-7)

Dear reader, God loves you so much that He is willing to pay your entire fine that you have incurred through sin, that you may go completely free. Will you believe the love that God has for you and accept the gift that He offers, or will you disbelieve the goodness of God, and continue to try and pay off your contract? According to the Bible you will never succeed. There is only one way to be saved. Believe the true gospel of Jesus Christ today. Why wait any longer?

“For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)

Sunday, January 16, 2011

A Guide to Buying Books (for Eli!)

If you are reading this, it’s probably because you know that I love books, and you are interested in purchasing me a book as a gift for some reason. I hearilty thank you, and commend you for knowing that there are few gifts I like better than books (of course, I do like other things too!). Yet I know for many people, buying a book can be difficult, because there are so many to choose from and you want to get a book that the person will like. So I write this in the hopes of helping some poor friend or family member of mine find a book that I will love! Always remember that even if you fail this difficult task, I still love you and will absolutely appreciate whatever I receive, knowing from whom I receive it. So without further ado, let’s begin!

When buying a book, there are two main things you need to consider:

1. The topic of the book.
2. The author of the book.

First, you must know what topics interest the person you are seeking to buy for. In this case, it is me. For those of you know me, you probably know that my interests include:

•Law and Grace
- Justification, sanctification, assurance of salvation
- The atonement
•Systematic theology (how it all fits together), Old and New Testament surveys
•Israel, prophecy, eschatology (end times)
•The apostle Paul
•Ancient history
•History of theology
•Church history
•Holocaust, Jewish history
•NT: any, but especially Romans, Galatians, John, 1 John
•OT: any

I do not like fiction, so you probably have made a mistake if you buy me fiction, though there may be some exceptions, such as certain classics (ex. The Chosen by Chaim Potok, The Brothers of Karamazov, Fyodor Dostoyevsky). But even so, I prefer non-fiction books far more than fiction, even if it is good fiction.

The best way to know which type of theology, history or commentary book you should get is to find out what things are currently occupying my attention at the time, that is, if there is anything in particular that is currently relevant to my work. Though this shouldn’t absolutely restrict you. As a general rule, if you spend a little time talking to me about books, you should get a good feel of what things I am interested in and what things I am not. Also, be sure you make sure that I don’t own the book already!

Secondly, the author of the book is very important. There are certain authors that I am eager to read and others I am not so eager to read, regardless of the topic. Knowing what authors a person likes is probably one of the greatest ways of finding a book, because once you know an author they like you can then search through his or her books, and if the author has written a book on a topic that you know they are interested in, you have found a perfect gift!

Here is a list of a few authors that I am interested in. This list is by no means exhaustive, since there are so many good authors to choose from, but it should help you get an idea. Never be afraid to ask me what I think of a certain author.

• Walter C. Kaiser
• Douglas Moo
• Charles Spurgeon
• James Denney
• Martin Luther
• John Calvin
• Thomas R. Schreiner
• Martyn Lloyd-Jones
• John Bunyan
• Jonathan Edwards
• Leon Morris
• John Piper
• Horatius Bonar

Of course, buying a book by an author that is unknown to me doesn’t mean it won’t turn out to be a great book, it just enhances your risk (and there’s nothing wrong with taking risks, just be warned!). You can get a feel for authors by finding out their friends and associations, their publishers, and their lives. For example, you might discover that such and such an author was a close aquaintance of, say, James Denney. In my mind, that would greatly enhance the value of the author! The same is true for authors in the modern day.

I am typically more interested in Calvinistic authors, though there may be exceptions. I enjoy the writings of the Brethren Assemblies because they are so evangelical as well as premillennially oriented. Though I am not a Dispensationalist, I do greatly appreciate Dispensational authors. I’m not afraid of advanced academic books, but I’m interested in authors who not only write, but also have lives to show for it. Books and authors which have been greatly influential in the Church also interest me, as I am always wanting to know how people think and why. Puritans are great, but they aren’t my favorite. As much as I love old authors, I’m not in any way opposed to new. I love authors who love the Bible, love truth, love the gospel.

Now that we have the internet, searching for a good book has become a much easier task, though there is still lots of thought that must go into it. To find a good book requires a labor of love, and for that reason I can assure you that a good book in my hands will always mean a lot to me. It will be special, for it shows me that you care.