Presuppositions Unto Darkness

by Mike Ratliff

18 Ἀποκαλύπτεται γὰρ ὀργὴ θεοῦ ἀπ᾽ οὐρανοῦ ἐπὶ πᾶσαν ἀσέβειαν καὶ ἀδικίαν ἀνθρώπων τῶν τὴν ἀλήθειαν ἐν ἀδικίᾳ κατεχόντων, 19 διότι τὸ γνωστὸν τοῦ θεοῦ φανερόν ἐστιν ἐν αὐτοῖς· ὁ θεὸς γὰρ αὐτοῖς ἐφανέρωσεν. (Romans 1:18,19 NA27)

18 For God’s wrath is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness repress the truth. 19 For that which may be known of God is manifest among them because God has manifested it to them. (Romans 1:18,19 Possessing the Treasure New Testament V1)

The circus that visible church has become wears me out. I know that we must continue to oppose the wolves in sheep’s clothing. I know that we must continue to expose the false prophets and false doctrines while, at the same time, continue to teach the truth and point God’s people to the light and away from the darkness. I know this, but it can be tiring at times. However, I have also learned that when that weariness comes, it is also a time of reflection, and most of the time, God uses it to show me a root cause of much of the weeds we are pulling up. Isn’t it better to find the root and kill it then to simply pull up what comes from it? 

Let’s start with a reflective question. Is how we interpret the Bible a surface level issue or a root level issue in our theology and, therefore, the foundation of our understanding of who God is, his character, his sovereignty, et cetera? Of course, it is at the very heart or root of everything. This applies to our understanding man, his fallenness, and total inability because of being dead in trespasses and sins as taught in Sacred Scripture. If our method of Biblical interpretation is not literal, but more relativistic in nature colored heavily by presuppositions that are man-centered, for instance, then those passages in God’s Word that speak of His Sovereignty and freedom as the Potter to do with the clay as he sees fit, are repugnant and come across meaning anything but what they say literally.

Let’s look at an example. My son is a physician. He went to Medical School at the University of Kansas and did his Residency at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. but he got his undergraduate, pre-med, degree at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. I remember in his Junior year, he lived in a house with three other young men one of whom was a student in the George W. Truett Theological Seminary at Baylor, which is on the West side of I-35 while the main campus of the University is on the East side. In any case, we were down there for Parents Weekend that year in September and as I was sitting in that smallish living room, I witnessed that seminary student being berated and chastised by the rest of his roommates continually about something. When we left to go to lunch, I asked what the deal was, my son said, “Oh, he’s a Calvinist and we’re just bugging him about it.” This was in the Fall of 2001 so it was prior to my own personal spiritual awakening, but it caused such a “start” in me. I asked him why they were giving him such a hard time about it and why that was such a big deal. He told me that he was probably the only Calvinist at the seminary so he was probably used to it. I thought it was very cruel.

One of the Professors of Theology at Truett is Roger E. Oslon. Here is part of his biography from his own blog:

I am a Christian theologian of the evangelical Baptist persuasion.  I am also a proud Arminian!  And I’m influenced by Pietism.  Minnesota is my home state and I have lived in Iowa, South Dakota, Oklahoma, Germany and now Texas.  My current professional status since 1999 is Professor of Theology at George W. Truett Theological Seminary of Baylor University.  Before joining the Baylor community I taught at Bethel College (now Bethel University) in St. Paul, Minnesota.  My alma mater is Rice University (Ph.D. in Religious Studies).  I graduated from North American Baptist Seminary (now Sioux Falls Seminary).  During the mid-1990s I served as editor of Christian Scholar’s Review and have been a contributing editor of Christianity Today for several years.  My articles have appeared in those publications as well as in Christian Century, Theology Today, Dialog, Scottish Journal of Theology and many other religious and theological periodicals.  Among my published works are: 20th Century Theology (co-authored with the late Stanley J. Grenz), The Story of Christian Theology (winner of the Gold Medallion Award from the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association), The Westminster Handbook to Evangelical Theology, Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities and Reformed and Always Reforming: The Postconservative Approach to Evangelical Theology.  My book Against Calvinism: Rescuing God’s Reputation from Radical Reformed Theology will be published by Zondervan in 2011.

The following is from one of his posts titled: Some thoughts about conversations /debates between Calvinists and Arminians. I have highlighted in bold some comments he made that really struck me about the topic we are discussing here. The words in ALL CAPS were done by him.

The other day I was the guest on a 30 minute Christian radio program hosted by a 5 points Calvinist.  He treated me very cordially, but tried vigorously to prove Calvinism true and Arminianism false–in 30 minutes!  It seemed to me that he assumed that somehow I simply was ignoring certain Bible passages and just needed to hear them read to me “one more time,” as it were.  I wasn’t offended, but I was bemused.  Does he think I haven’t studied the Bible?  Does he think there are no other interpretations of, say Romans 9, than his?  I always come away from encounters like that (and I have more of them scheduled) just somewhat bewildered.

The feeling I have during and after them is like a ship passing another one in the night.  We are on such different wave lengths with regard to presuppositions (we both have them even if they don’t think they do), visions of the character of God, hermeneutics.  And maybe underlying all of it is a different approach to Scripture.  I’ve blogged about this before.  Reading Smith’s book brought it back to mind forcefully.

I’m beginning to think even more than before that most 5 points Calvinists I know approach the Bible very differently from most non-Calvinists I know.  (I’m talking only about evangelicals here; I’m not including in “non-Calvinists” liberals or unbelievers.)  For example (I’m musing here because I’m not sure about this): It seems to me that most 5 point Calvinists I know seem bound and determined to believe anything they think the Bible says regardless of how horrific that may be.  In other words, IF they became convinced that somehow they had been overlooking something in Scripture (as they think I do) and, in fact, God and the devil are actually the same being such that God is evil, they would believe it because the Bible says it.  I, on the other hand, presuppose that God cannot be evil; that goodness and being belong inextricably together or else there is no ground for basic trust.  This is why Wesley said of Romans 9 (paraphrasing here)–whatever it means it cannot mean that!  He means, no matter how much Romans 9 (and other Scripture passages) SEEM to say that God selects some people to save UNCONDITIONALLY, leaving others WHO HE COULD SAVE (because election to salvation is unconditional and saving grace is irresistible) to eternal torment in hell, it cannot mean that.  Why?  Because God is good.  

I am sure if you have been reading my posts and studied your Bible along with me for any time at all then you know for certain that Dr. Olson and I are on opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to Biblical interpretation. I am a Monergist, God is Sovereign. What Paul wrote in Romans 9 does not just seem to say that God unconditionally saves some while not saving others, it DOES SAY IT and that settles it. Dr. Olson and those like him are synergists and, therefore, they approach the Bible with a totally different set of presuppositions than those of us who are Monergists. As you can see in his statements here, he is ready to not literally believe what the Bible clearly says because that would mean his presuppositions would be wrong, so, regardless, it can’t mean that.

At the root of all our Biblical interpretation are our presuppositions. That is why all of our theology must be rooted in Christ and established in faith. That is why we approach God’s Word here at Possessing the Treasure the way we do. It is not open to multiple interpretations, that is, neutrality or relativism, both of which are veiled in agnosticism or unbelief, which is a failure to walk in Christ, an obscuring of Christian commitment and distinctive, and a suppression of the truth (Romans 1:21, 25).

The God who has no choice but to save everyone or he is not good is not the God of the Bible. Instead, he is the made-up god of those with the synergistic presuppositional view of the Bible. The God I worship is Sovereign, Holy, Righteous, and Just. He does as he pleases and no one stays his hand. Jesus Christ revealed him to us (John 1: 18).

Soli Deo Gloria!

17 thoughts on “Presuppositions Unto Darkness

  1. Open rebuke is better than hidden love! If we say we love and don’t admonish or rebuke, we are no better than worldly people who think that they are christians. And this is also meant to sharply rebuke them, and they will take it as anger. I have been told many times that I am like a drill sargeant, and a person that is in the military. They ask me what branch? I state the branch of the Lord Jesus Christ. Been told that if Jesus turns to the right or the left, I’m on His shirt tails, and this has been from so called pastors, I have told them aren’t they to be that way. All in All, it is just another day, In Christ Jesus. I only seek the Kingdom of God and all His righteousness and not a work of my own, and that is not in this world and everyday I fall short and am in need to repent for my heart is deciteful above all things, who can know it. Well, I know who knows it and He is in control of “All” things, not only somethings. And then the next person state we are robots and we are free willers. lol
    Mike, with Love In Christ,
    David
    Brother if I never physical see you upon this earth, I will see you in His time.

  2. I’m glad you covered Olsen Mike because he’s been attacking Christians like Al Mohler for a while now while defending apostates like Rob Bell.

  3. Thanks Ken! When I read that piece by Olson and his attempt to justify WHY he is attacking Al Mohler or anyone who believes the Bible is literally the Word of God, well, I just applied some of Greg Bahnsen’s presuppositional apologetics to him. When you put that wishy, washy, synergism into its glaring light it is obvious it is rooted in apostasy.

  4. Mike – be encouraged – we need to know what is going on. The piece you just posted helps to understand some things. I have been blessed to teach in a prison, the first day there I mentioned that I was a Calvinist there were approx. 50 men there next time 12 – 15. I was told maybe I should not have mentioned that I was a Calvinist by my pastor. From time to time the Armenians came in and tried to disrupt the class to no avail. The men that do attend now truly want to hear what God says and most are Calvinists. Anyone is welcome but the men who are Calvinist will now defend their beliefs with “Scripture” praise God.

  5. Amazing how most ‘christians’ have no problem with God selecting the Jews as His chosen people of the old testament….( not the egyptians, philistines….and on and on )…
    Deuteronomy 7:6
    For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God: the LORD thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth.

    Did everyone hear that… ‘a special people… above all people’.
    They just can’t imagine God ( the same God that doesn’t change ) could have the right to select and graft in more ‘chosen’ ( more people, above all people ) and NOT others. Why? Because they don’t beleive in God the Sovereign who doesn’t answer to man on His creation… that is the heart of the matter… man desires to be a god and captain over his own salvation.
    Do I think I’m above? NO…( the greatest ( by His chosen will not mine ) will serve the least ) I was chosen to be His witness by His grace…(undeserved love and favor), just as the Jews were chosen to be holy ( separate ) and His witness by undeserved love and favor of an Almighty Creator that isn’t like man and under the rules of creation.
    Bow now..wanna-be ‘captains’ of your own future to His Sovereign will…you will bow on The Day and it will be too late.

  6. Says it all:
    Deuteronomy 14:2
    For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God, and the LORD hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth.

  7. The belief that I am for the most part a good person, and God is a Good person, and I would never send everyone to hell, therefor God would never send everyone to hell, comes through loud and clear from most ‘christian bonzai parrots’ who never understood the Word so they need an ‘annointed one’ who thinks like them, to teach them. Problem is nobody in that circle ever bothers to read the Word with (Holy Spirit) understanding…They all go to higher ‘annointed ones’ thus they become echos of echos of echos of error. What does the bible tell me about all men, their deceitful heart and that Jesus trusted no man because He knew their heart. When we come from this premise, we can also see why folks believe that, if everyone had enough facts about this jesus, they could make a moral decision for him, and since I am a good person, and they are good people deep down, they too would make this same good decision for jesus, since god is all love and wants none of us to perish…
    On the other side, we have Calvinist/reformed bonzai parrots who have no more relationship with the Lord then the Arminians above, they go to their (annointed) special elders and learn what proper buxzzwords to parrot, and thus they fit in with the crowd they choose to run with, and blind legalism abounds. This is why so many can chase a man, such as Warren or for that matter Piper, and be loyal to them even as they stray from scripture into heresy and apostasy.
    The ones who can see are the ones He chose from the foundation who have a relationship with Him, in which He is Lord and we are not. Until we grasp the scriptural fact that we are seated with Him in the heavenlys we will always focus on the earthly.

  8. Mike, you have managed to illustrate the thinking behind Arminianism, which has always escaped me. Arminians make up most of the American Christian church and have done so even before the rise of most of the current heretical trends popular today. There are many verses in the Bible that clearly teach that God chooses whom he saves, both in the old and new testament. I always thought that they had a different method of interpretation but as you have showed they simply choose not to believe the word of God.

  9. This might sound kind of silly but I dont understand why they even bother with the Word of God if they are not going to believe the Word of God. Gods word is clear, why do they muddy it up? God is sovereign, completely, period. The imperfect does not choose the perfect. They are not able. We didnt have a say in how and when we entered this world so why do many think that they choose God in ref to salvation? He is God, I am not and I am so thankful He chose me. There was nothing good in me and the only good in me now, is HIM. I totally do not deserve heaven and an eternity with Him, but by His grace and mercy He chooses me to get to be with Him forever. Wow, I am truly humbled and thankful and in love with our awesome Creator. We are in the minority at our church and some are very angry with us over this, but I dont care. The fear of man bringeth a snare but whoso putteth his trust in the Lord shall be safe.

    You are a blessing.
    Leigh

  10. It became clear to me a few years ago, while studying the doctrines of grace with an Episcopalian brother in Christ – we are all saved as Arminians, because we only know what our flesh detects. But anyone who humbly wants to know what happened to him – and everyone else whom God has saved – will find in the Bible the Truth that God saves whom He wishes and refuses to save everyone else – who get what they want. Man is at war with God and unable to do anything good – unless God intervenes. We who are the objects of His divine and saving love are not better than anyone else, we are better off than those who are left to their sin. But for the grace of God, so would we be on our way to Hell with no hope.

    The stiff-necked man pleaser who refuses to accept the clear teaching of Scripture is at war with God. He is making a god in his own image, because his human mind cannot comprehend a God who is different from himself.

  11. Thank you Larry. I’ve had that very battle you described. It is truly astounding to be treated that way by professing Christians… Continue to stand for God’s truth and be used by him for his glory alone my brother.

  12. The formula you gave in your last statement Manfred speaks volumes and expresses exactly why those people who are leading their people into darkness are doing what they are doing.

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