Monday, March 13, 2006

Monday Mind Mess Up!

Which of these two scenarios is more like the gospel? Please give a reason from scripture.

Scenario #1

After visiting the poverty stricken area of western Africa, a rich businessman decided to get involved and help in some tangible, practical way. He purchased ten brand new tractors and sent individual letters to ten farmers he had met informing them of the gifts. He also gave them the details of where and when to pickup the new machines.

To his dismay, five of the farmers refused to come and pick up the new tractors citing doubt over the genuineness of the offer. However, the other five farmers gladly went to the dealership and claimed the gift the businessman had purchased for them.


Scenario #2

The same businessman after visiting the same area, decided to purchase tractors to help the poor farmers. However, after seeing the pride in these poor peasants, he realized only five of the ten men would actually take the gift. Therefore he only purchased five tractors.

The businessman then proceeded to mail individual letters to the ten farmers informing them of their gift. As expected only five farmers came forward to claim their free tractors.

Which of these two scenarios (very poor analogies) are more like the gospel?

36 comments:

Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

Scenario 1.

Daniel said...

I believe that both scenarios are wrong, but that the first is "most" wrong.

Perhaps this third scenario will help?

Scenario #3
The same businessman after visiting the same area, decides to purchase tractors to help the poor farmers. He mails a genuine offer to each of the ten farmers, and recieves ten replies - all of them tell him that he can go to hell with his american charity - they will get by fine by themselves. The business man is justified in letting all the farmers continue without tractors - yet because he is a generous man, he goes out and purchases five new tractors. He then goes to Africa and begins to make himself known to five of these farmers. They know he is the guy who offered them the tractors - and they reject him and refuse to have anything to do with him - just as they did to his letter. Yet for these five he persists, helping them, and showing grace to them - quickening their hearts towards him. Eventually - inevitably, these five farmers who would have continued to reject him had he not personally intervened - all of them eventually repent of their rejection of this businessman and all five accept the new tractor that was purchased before hand for them and them only.

In Scenario #3 we see that the offer is made to all and that none seek it - we see that five were elected inspite of themselves and their rejection of th businessman - and we see that it is entirely the business man's doing from the purchase of the tractor to the "wooing" of the farmers. We see that the farmers who reject the business man's offer do so to their own peril, and it is no fault of the business man - nor was his offer illegitimate at any time.

Jim said...

Daniel, you made one funny assumption; that the businessman was American. I naturally assumed he was Canadian. :)

I'm gonna let others respond to your scenario before I give a few thoughts.

God bless,
Jim

Daniel said...

Wait - it was the africans who assumed he was american... :-P

Jim said...

Speaking of Africans, we had a missionary share with our church last night on the work at an orphanage in Kenya. AIDS is just devastating the people of Africa, some of the churches are now preaching on the need for sexual purity. Talk about the reality of sins wages.

Jim said...

Daniel, I'm not trying to make you type all afternoon but you're scenario would not hold up in a Bible class without sufficient backup scriptures. If you have time perhaps you could show us some proof of this in a succinct brief outline.

God bless,
Jim

Daniel said...

Jim - I want to use the "give a man a fish/teach a man to fish" adage to brush away your request, and while it would be appropriate, it wouldn't be an honest reflection of my heart in the matter.

Jesus didn't quote scripture to Nicodemus in John 3 because Nicodemus (being "the teacher of Israel") had enough knowledge of the scripture that Christ's teaching could be compared against what Nicodemus knew. The Bereans were noble in this way - not to check and see if Paul's proof texts were "word for word" - rather to see if the texts could be applied as Paul applied them.

In this way I presume that both you and your readers are familiar enough with scripture that you can excuse me from having to "prove my theory" in a proof texting contest.

If you see something in my scenario that seems to contradict anything taught in scripture - say so - surely I will want to explain the discrepency or adjust my thinking. But when it comes to topics like this I have learned that proof texting does little to open blind eyes. I would gain nothing by your proof texts, and you would gain nothing by mine -- each of us charging the other with pulling the verse out of context to make it mean what we want it to mean.

So tear my scenario apart where you think it is weak and we will go from there.

Jim said...

Daniel, I am not intent on tearing away your argument as much as I am interested in understanding how you see this issue.

I think I finally understand where you are coming from. I do not disagree with the scriptural context of what you are saying, but I am concerned about the implications of this in our practical presentation of the gospel. I need time to sift through these ideas.

Maybe someone else will see something in this analogy that they would take issue with?

God bless,
Jim

Jayne said...

I immediately thought of Jesus feeding 4,000. They followed Him because they were hungry.

The five that took the tractors are hungry, but will they really be feed?

It's a matter of trusting the Lord, for only He can save.

Jim said...

Jayne, thanks for your comments. I was trying to give an analogy of saving faith vs. those who reject the gift of eternal life.

God bless,
Jim

Jonathan Moorhead said...

Jim, as you might imagine, I agree with Daniel (for the most part). The nature of the illustration makes it difficult to effectively demonstrate total depravity and regeneration apart from the “works” of the estranged.

jazzycat said...

Wow,
Daniel, your re-write of the analogy absolutely nailed it. Great application of an analogy to salvation. I am going to visit your site as quickly as a cat can.

JazzyCat

Daniel said...

Jonathan - like you I would have preferred an analogy that began with ten guilty sinners rather than ten innocent farmers. A gospel illustration loses a lot when we frame it in without that need. My preference would have been to have all the farmers convicted and on death row awaiting a well deserved execution, but we work with what we are given :-)

Jim - the "implication" of this illustration is that the gospel is offered to all - "we" are the mailmen who bring the first ten letters to the ten farmers. We are -not- the businessman who quickens the five farmers (It is the Holy Spirit who does that). Anyone who thinks that they are saving people when they offer them the gospel doesn't understand Who does the saving.

The gospel is not my offer, it is God's offer - I am His minister to that gospel, His servant delivering His sincere offer to the world. Every time I present the gospel I present it knowing full well that it is a true and honest offer, and that it is God's gift to me that I might deliver it on His behalf. But I don't for one second imagine that a person's eternal destiny depends on whether I sell them the gospel in such a way that they buy it. Good gravy what an error that would be!

If I don't understand God's sovereignty in the gospel, then I will imagine that I am to blame for everyone who goes to hell in my acquaintance - since they refused the gospel because I wasn't a good enough salesman - if only I could have been more convincing. What an inflated opinion I would have of myself, and what a deflated opinion I would have of God. Such a notion makes God utterly dependent upon us to be good salesmen.

If that is the way it works, I need not pray for anyone's salvation - lets face it, God would be absolutely impotent in the matter - being as it were up in heaven wringing His hands and hoping that His faithful followers might get out there and sell the gospel.

It is hard to keep myself from distain even thinking about the gospel in that sense. It is so insulting to the image of God

<shiver>

I am concerned with the implications of a gospel presentation that -isn't- like this, and have been for a while. I see "red hot" soul winners who are gifted evangelists out in the field working joyously in the strength of their very gifting - and I see along side them miserable, sad, Christians trying to do the same because they feel guilty if they don't. Can I shiver again?

<shiver take two>

The implications of your alternative (scenario 1) is people working in their own strength (that is in the flesh) trying to do what can only be done in the Spirit because if they don't "people will go to hell."

I firmly believe that if God isn't sending even one person out into the harvest from a church - that church isn't ready for the harvest and needs to pray that God would send workers into the harvest. Not that people would feel guilty and go into the harvest - that is not how God sends a person - God prepares every man he sends and when we pray "Here am I, send me!" we are praying that God would equip us for that harvest - that He would make us willing in the day of His power. Not that we would run amok in our own strength and blame our trickle of converts on "God" as though he had invented our guilt driven evangelism program.

<shiver the third>

Sorry, every time I think about it, it makes me almost ill.

My solemn advice, while you consider the practical implications of what I have presented, consider alongside it the implications of what you have presented as well. Compare them.

One last thing - one might imagine that if God does all the saving there is no point in witnessing at all, since "God will save whom he has determined to save."

We cannot answer this thought directly because the logic in it is entirely polluted.

The purpose of our witness is obedience to God for God's greater glory - and not (as it might seem) to personally save souls. If we are thinking in terms of "saving souls" then we might reason that we need not do anything and souls will still be saved. It is true, that even if I never lead a soul to Christ, the souls that God had set aside for me to lead to Christ will be lead to Christ by another more obedient Christian whom God will give the crown that was meant for me.

So we must be on guard against silliness - against saying as some do, that this model teaches that we need not witness - that is an abominable thought - it is saying "we can be disobedient" - and when it is laid bare like that I hope it is manifestly shown to be "not" a practical implication of this model - but rather one aberration that we must be on guard against.

Whew - just call me Mr. Verbose ;-)

Thanks Jim

Jim said...

Jonathan, I am only surprised it is not complete agreement.

God bless,
Jim

Jim said...

Daniel, thanks for the thoughts. However I get the sense that I have been put up here as a straw man for you to demonstrate the errors of those who refuse to accept the label of 'Calvinist'.

This is most dangerous as we too easily let down our guard for those who willingly accept the terminology yet deny the reality of truth in their hearts.

Should a man espouse the same acronyms and mantras as us, we too eagerly embrace him as a brother and close our eyes to possible weaknesses in his character.

Daniel, in no way am I implying that we can save anyone! I fully understand this is the work of the Holy Spirit. Believe it or not, that was not the emphasis of my post, perhaps I will try again to better pinpoint the issue I am trying to bring across.

Somehow I get the feeling that we tend to talk across each other many times?

God bless,
Jim

Kc said...

Being an “African farmer” myself, and not knowing what this “guy” had on His mind, I was quite skeptical of the offer but a representative of “the firm” verified to me that whoever believed the offer was valid wouldn’t be disappointed and when I finally decided to believe on Him I got “my tractor” and I trust Him when He says whoever decides to believe on Him will get “their tractor” too! ;-)

Jim said...

Kc, thanks for that brother. I needed a good chuckle...that is the simple gospel message isn't it. But as many as believed to them He gave authority to become children of God...

In Christ our Saviour,
Jim

Daniel said...

Jim - I apologize for setting you up as the straw man - it certainly wasn't my intention. I put you name at the head of my comment only because you asked the right question - "what are the practical implications of this model"

The problem for some believers is that they don't rightly understand election. They think that if election means that God chooses some and not others, that every time they offer the gospel they cannot really tell a person that Jesus died for the sins of the world - but must say something like "If you are one of the elect Jesus died for you, and if not you are going to hell and there is nothing you or I can do about it."

The devil dances a jig everytime someone believes that drivel. God doesn't elect from among the innocent, but from among the guilty. Jesus came to save -sinners- and when we understand this, we understand that the gospel is given to all, but rejected by all, and all are under condemnation having rejected the son of God. We see this in John Chapter three - they are condemned "already."

The right perspective when offering the gospel is to know that you are offering it to someone who is truly condemned, and not possibly condemned. I don't worry about whether God is going to save that person - the offer is valid whether God saves them or not - *that* is what some people miss. They rightly reckon that the offer is only valid if the person "has a chance to believe it" - but they wrongly reason that election means only the elect have a legitimate chance. All have the same legitimate chance, and -all- will squander it, being hopelessly dead in their tresspasses. We need not be concerned that all will squander it, since God has dealt with that by electing some inspite of themselves.

Anyway, I didn't mean to set you up as the straw man, I didn't even see that as a possibility - so I apologize Jim.

Lord willing I will see you on Sunday - we are coming out for the morning service!

I am dearly looking forward to it.

Grace brother.

Daniel said...

I am reminded of that scripture in Philippians (1:29) where Paul reminds us again (just as he did in Ephesians 2:8-9) that even the faith that we have - that is, the ability to believe - comes from God, and is no mere "decision we make" - but that our ability to believe is a gift from God, given to the elect.

Kc said...

I am persuaded that faith is the substance through which God quickens those that believe and the evidence of those things we can't see. Those who refuse to believe can have no faith but those who do have the evidence that God is true.

Jim said...

Daniel, no problem. Perhaps I just got in the way of your cross hairs? :) I know you are zealous for this point.

I would basically agree with what you are saying here, I just feel we need to be so careful as it can definitely get misconstrued. All believers are elect, no doubt. Faith is a gift from the Holy Spirit, most definitely! We cannot save ourselves, nor can we believe without faith, nor can we come to Christ unless the Father draws us, most assuredly I believe all that.

Unfortunately my finite mind cannot make distinctions between the objective theology and the practical preaching of the gospel, and I would be prone to look at people through the lens of elect or unelect. That is my concern.

God bless,
Jim

Jim said...

Kc, are you saying my belief initiates the faith? Or that faith initiates the belief? Or that they are the same expression of God's gift?

God bless,
Jim

Daniel said...

...I would be prone to look at people through the lens of elect or unelect....

Do you believe that the gospel invitation is disingenuous if a person isn't elect? I know you don't - so how do one get around that? One way is to redefine election so that man is sovereign and not God - and this is what I fear most people do.

Kc said...

Jim, like Daniel, I'm convinced that God initiates it all. Where it seems we differ is in our understanding of what it means to believe. Belief, like hearing, is a mental process and the required response to the evidence revealed to us by God's Spirit in order to recieve the gift of eternal life. It seems we also differ in our understanding of election, whether it is corporate in the body of Christ or the selection of individuals by God. I choose to believe that we who are in Christ are the elect because of the evidence I've found in the scripture but this debate has lasted for several centuries. ;-)

Jim said...

Daniel, does it matter to me who the elect are? No, it should not.
I need to be able to share the gospel equally with every individual.

Am I elect? You betcha! That just strips me of any chance to boast.

God bless,
Jim

Jim said...

Thanks Kc, the decision to believe in Christ comes by the faith planted in our hearts through the Holy Spirit.

As for the election issue, I am really curious as to your take on this? I didn't really think there was this much controversy?

bobby grow said...

Jim are you a Calvinist?

Jim said...

Bobby, ha ha, that is a good one! Why would you ask such a question?

bobby grow said...

Jim said:

"I would basically agree with what you are saying here, I just feel we need to be so careful as it can definitely get misconstrued. All believers are elect, no doubt. Faith is a gift from the Holy Spirit, most definitely! We cannot save ourselves, nor can we believe without faith, nor can we come to Christ unless the Father draws us, most assuredly I believe all that."

Seriously Jim, based upon comments like the one above, I don't know exactly where you're coming from--still trying to get to know you :). Was the comment above just a rhetorical device, or do you really believe all that you stated there (w/o qualification)--if so--this sounds rather "Calvin-esque".

In Christ,

Bobby

Jim said...

Hi Bobby, my last comment got deleted somehow. I think much of what I said there is directly from scripture. Perhaps you could tell me what exactly you see wrong here?

I doubt I would fall into the Calvinist camp, although I may agree with them on some points.

Let me know...

bobby grow said...

I don't necessarily see anything wrong, it's just that what you posted, in the quote in my last comment, "could" come directly from a Calvinist mouth :).

Let me get more specific then, what is your perspective on election, Jim? Did God, before the foundation of the world, elect some to be saved and some not (double predestination)? Any interaction on this would be helpful for me, I am still working through my view on this particular issue. Of course if I was going to be consistent with the Affective Theological tradition I introduced on my site--I would follow an infralapsarian view of election (Affective's perspective is also different than that offered in the TULIP). I'm going to be reading some more of Karl Barth on this issue as well--he had an interesting Christological view of election for which he was accused of being a universalist; which he definitely wasn't (at least in the sense he's accused of by some).

In Christ,

Bobby

Jim said...

Thanks Bobby, I myself did not see any glaring errors in those comments.

As for election, I am really struggling with that one. I cannot get myself to agree with the hyper view held by most Calvinists. However, there are many scriptures that deal with predestination and election.

In the practical sense it really doesn't matter at all as we are commanded to preach the gospel and who responds is God's concern, we are simply to take the good news to all the world.

The problem I see with over emphasizing the doctrine of election is that it leads to a careless and lazy attitude towards evangelism and missions. If the elect are going to be saved anyways why do we need to bother with evangelism? That is the unspoked attitude expressed by many who promote this view heavily.

On the flipside, I heard this explanation. Consider salvation as a door; on the front side it says, "Whosoever will may come", and on the back side once you enter it says "Chosen before the foundation of the world".

Perhaps this is like trying to understand the trinity?

But whatever lulls us to sleep with regard to the gospel and its promotion must be seriously questioned.

What are your thoughts?

bobby grow said...

I agree with you Jim! I realize that there are many passages in scripture that speak of election--and I too have heard the "whosoever will may come" analogy given by both Calvinists and Arminians :).

The Calvinist TULIP conception of this doctrine fundamentally places emphasis upon election--I cannot follow their articulation. I believe the Affective Tradition offers a better alternative because it doesn't place emphasis upon election--although election is still part of this system of thought. I'm troubled with the idea of election because it seems to have some harsh consequences, i.e. some children/babies who die (are aborted) go directly to heal as part of the reprobate--this is highly troubling to me, Jim! And is incompatible with my view of God.

I'm still suspended on this issue--I'll have to keep hashing it out with the LORD and see where He leads me--of course this process has been going on for about the last 11yrs (i.e. thinking through this issue of election :). My hope is is that the LORD will come back and provide all kinds of resolution ;).

In Christ,

Bobby

bobby grow said...

I said above:

" . . . .e. some children/babies who die (are aborted) go directly to heal as part of the reprobate . . . "

notice I said "heal", I meant HELL.

Jim said...

Bobby, I hear ya. I am not so much concerned about the abortions (as I should be probably) in regards to election but more the fact that a person who hears the gospel may not necessarily respond simply because he was not elect.

God is righteous so I know His ways are true, I just cannot fathom with my finite mind the depths of this. My concern is that we become lax in our efforts to share the gospel simply because of an understanding that only the elect will get saved anyways and they cannot be lost.

Could there perhaps be a third category of people? Who will be the nations the overcomers rule over on the earth if everybody is either in heaven or hell?

bobby grow said...

I believe there are only two categories, as I Cor 1:18 makes emphatically clear--"those being saved" and "those being destroyed".

Well according to the millenial interpretation there will be people who live through the tribulation, and enter the Messianic Age--these would be the ones whom Christ will rule, with His Church (I don't follow the Free-Grace/overcomer arguement here :) during this time in salvation history. The Final Great White Throne judgment, at this point, millenium, hasn't happened as of yet Rev 20.

In Christ,

Bobby