Posts Tagged ‘Lazarus’

By Dr. James Ach and J/A

Tony Miano is a Calvinist among the crowd of Calvinists that I usually pick on, but he is an inconsistent Calvinist that does not act like the majority of his cohorts, so I don’t pick on him very much. He is not a bully and tends to avoid much of the vitriolic confrontations initiated by the likes of Fred Butler, JD Hall and that crowd [UPDATE: this has recently began to change. Since Miano has become more cozy with the likes of JD Hall, his attitude has become increasingly vitriolic]. I appreciate that Tony is one of the few professing believers-Calvinist or not-that actually preaches in the streets (and was actually erroneously detained in England for taking a Biblical stand against homosexuality, or rather, for simply answering a question about it [Considering Cameron’s recent UN speech, don’t expect England to change on this anytime soon]) and even though I disagree with his doctrine,  he is one of the few that anyone could use to prove that there are at least SOME evangelistic Calvinists.

But, public preaching of heresy is still heresy, and I can’t compliment someone’s efforts if they are holding to a false gospel, and while Miano may not have intended for his article to be taken that way, that’s the only conclusion that one can leave with, and hence the necessity to refute it.

Miano wrote an article about Christians Hating Adoption by comparing the attitude that some earthly parents have toward adoption as an alternative to abortion, to Christians who also despise God’s work in Biblical adoption. It was this Twitter comment describing his article that caught my attention:

“Christians who despise God’s monergistic work in #adoption should examine themselves to see if they are in the faith.”

In other words, if a person does not believe the Calvinistic explanation of HOW God saves people, they are not really saved. It is not enough to simply repent and believe the gospel, but you must also understand the mechanics of how it works in order to be saved. Now despite the fact that even Calvinist theologians themselves have argued for centuries about predestination, preterition, election, whether or not God actively chooses some to heaven and simply “passes over” the non-elect, or whether he purposely selected those damned to hell (see differences between infralapsarianism and supralapsarianism), Miano would have to take sides against some of his favorite Reformed theologians and declare that one of them is not saved if having a thorough understanding of how God works is a prerequisite to receiving grace.

There are a number of problems with this. First of all, how does an unregenerate person who can not, as Calvinists admit, “receive the things of the Spirit of God” according to 1 Cor 2:14 and be expected to understand the dynamics of salvation BEFORE HE IS SAVED? Miano puts a condition on salvation that according to even his own theology is impossible for the sinner to achieve.

Secondly,  Tony uses the term “Christian” in the present tense. If the person is in fact a Christian, then it is not possible that he can lose his salvation at some later point because he has not come to a thorough understand of how salvation works. Of course, if Tony is an Arminian then we’d have to argue about his views of conditional security (which in reality, all Calvinism leads to conditional security anyway if you understand the Reformed view of perseverance, but we’ve addressed that problem elsewhere).

Now I would agree with Tony that a person could have believed in vain (1 Cor 15:2), but that’s not the impression that Tony gives. Although I do note that Tony added “professing” Christian at the end of his article, and there is no Scriptural evidence that believing in vain had anything to do with failure to understand the dynamics of the doctrines of soteriology, but about a person’s unwillingness to accept the narrative of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ as the sufficient payment of our sin that satisfied the wrath of God, and is obtained by repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Acts 26:20 (And the very fact that in Acts 26, Paul mentions doing “works meet FOR repentance” shows that repentance and works are not the same thing. Thus in God’s eyes, the command to repent is not viewed as a “work” that has salvific value. Romans 11:6, Titus 3:5, Romans 4:2-7).

LIFE PRESERVER ANALOGY

Tony takes exception to the “life preserver” analogy, which was made popular by Norman Geisler in describing the free will of the person to respond to the gospel. Miano, as most Calvinists, reject this analogy on the grounds that a dead person can’t reach out to grab a rope so the analogy is fundamentally flawed on its premise  according to their view of Ephesians 2. The problem with that critique is that it is equating spiritual death with the physical, a subject we have dealt with in refuting James White’s message about Lazarus (See, Could Lazarus Have Said No?)

If a dead man can’t reach out for the rope, than a dead man can’t call upon the name of the LORD either to satisfy Romans 10:9-13 either. Neither can dead men hear the gospel. If the Calvinist argues that God wakes him up to call upon him, then you have God waking up the person to reach for the rope, but then if the person in the pool is dead, and has been revived by God, why then would he even need to grab the rope at all? He’d be saved before he was saved…AH…but Calvinists actually believe this point-that a person can be regenerated prior to salvation. This is the Reformed way of getting around verses in Acts (e.g. Acts 10-11) where a person demonstrates seeking God (a premise that Calvinists reject is possible according to their view of Romans 3 and Ephesians 2 on Total Inability resulting from God-ordained depravity) prior to being saved.

THE FREE WILL OF THE PREACHER CONUNDRUM [J/A]

Tony’s theology (and really, most Calvinists) ignore the fact that there is still something required of the sinner to be saved, he preaches it all the time: repent and believe. Now here’s what Tony and all Calvinists miss;  Can God save the person without your command for them to repent? Not normally according to Romans 10:14-17  because that’s just not how God chose to do it . Calvinists readily admit this fact and confess that God uses human instruments as the means to gather his elect. But then that still brings you back to square one. If man is used as an instrument in gathering the elect which is necessary for the sinner to hear the words that save (John 6:63), then it’s STILL NOT MONERGISTIC. Although the Calvinists will argue that the sinner himself was made to repent and believe (a whole other heresy) they can not account for the synergistic acts of the preacher which is a requirement for that person to hear the gospel and be saved.

If you disagree, then read Ezekiel chapters 3 and 18 and see what happens to the sinner when the watchman DOES NOT give them God’s message, and then ask yourself this question: If the sinner’s destiny is determined, then why does God hold the watchman accountable at all?

 When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand.

19 Yet if thou warn the wicked, and he turn not from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul.

20 Again, When a righteous man doth turn from his righteousness, and commit iniquity, and I lay a stumbling-block before him [notice that the stumbling block comes AFTER the sinner’s refusal to turn, not based on some decree made in eternity before the world began], he shall die: BECAUSE thou hast not given him warning, he shall die in his sin, and his righteousness which he hath done shall not be remembered; but his blood will I require at thine hand.” Ezekiel 3:18-20

[*This is in reference to Israel, but the means of salvation should be consistent with eternity if Calvinist soteriology is to be taken seriously. Although you will quickly see the Calvinist who is normally Covenant Theology oriented become a Dispensationalist when trying to explain this passage as it relates to the free will of the watchman]

Furthermore, Calvinists often contend that God controls even the means of the salvation process (that’s the whole point of monergism), but they have overlooked something crucial: does God control the preacher? For a Calvinist to be consistent, they would HAVE to say yes, otherwise they breach the golden chain of redemption because if God uses the preacher as the means of bringing the gospel to the sinner, then for the entire process to be truly monergistic, God must also control the preacher as well as the sinner and the sinner’s reactions. But here’s the problem, PAUL SAID THE PREACHER HAS FREE WILL:

 For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!

 For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward: but if against my will, a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me. 1 Corinthians 9:16-17

Thus, Paul gives 2 different scenarios, each of which he can freely choose from. Yet this is contrary to what Calvinism teaches. Paul makes it clear that God does not control the means of salvation which means that even if the relationship between the sinner and God were solely monergistic, without any counterfactual conditionals, the relationship between God and the preacher IS NOT and since that is a necessary step in the sinner hearing the gospel (Romans  10:14-17) the entire Calvinist house of monergist cards falls apart at the free will of the preacher. Regardless of whether you believe the sinner’s fate is predetermined or he actually has the ability to reject the gospel of his own volition, any Calvinist explanation must answer this conundrum. (We will address the Reformed heresy of the secondary causation fallacy when someone brings it up, although this somewhat scratches the surface.) The autonomy of the preacher/watchmen is a death blow to monergism.

SORRY- INSUFFICIENT CREDIT

The statements made by Miano are actually a classic strawman that Reformers use against non Calvinists, i.e., that we think we are actually taking credit for our own salvation if we confess that we called upon the name of the Lord for salvation and willingly choose to repent and believe the gospel as an obedient libertarian free will act. In other words, Calvinists think that a person who is rescued from a heart attack goes around town bragging that he saved himself from his infarction instead of giving credit to the heart surgeon that saved his life.

Was Paul taking credit for his salvation when he said “I was NOT DISOBEDIENT unto the heavenly vision” (Acts 26:19), or when he said ” I know whom **I** have believed”? 2 Tim 1:12.  One can not be both determined to act and describe their actions as being freely committed and be true at the same time. To be obedient unto the gospel is both a command (2 Thess 1:8) and a decision one must make of his own volition (John 8:24-the Bible is FULL OF “if” statements regardless of how much Calvinists reject them, “if” you do not believe, you die in your sin, etc..).

Furthermore, if, as Miano says, that the person is not saved who believes this way, does he all of a sudden forget about his monergism when he admonishes that sinner to EXAMINE HIMSELF? If the person is merely a professing Christian, and not “a possessor” then isn’t that person in the same boat as the sinner Miano preaches to on the street? still in his sin and unregenerate? How then can that person “examine himself”? It seems that along the way, Miano has forgotten to be consistent with his monergism! (And yes, I am aware of 2 Cor 13:5 which has nothing to do with this context, and is an often misquoted verse. Focus!)

MIANO’S MISUSE OF ADOPTION

The problem with using adoption to support Tony’s story is that he is comparing physical adoption of INFANTS not yet born to spiritual adoption which can occur at any age of a person’s life. Does Paul use physical adoption as an analogy in Galatians 3 and Romans 8? Yes, of course, but not how Miano is using it to prove that since an infant has no say so in who his physical parents are that it automatically follows that the subject of adoption in Galatians has no choice in who is spiritual Father is, and if Tony (and any Calvinist) were aware of the requirements for adoption used in Paul’s analogy of the schoolmaster, they would see how erroneous this analogy is. The synergistic relationship between the pupil and the schoolmaster debunks any theory that the adoption process was one of a determined and irresistible status.

Adoption is a beautiful concept that guarantees the believer’s salvation and security, but it is no more ordained against the persons will than a Jew was saved because he was an Israelite (John 1:11-13, Matt 3:9, John 8:39). Like the prodigal, the son can waste away his inheritance willingly (1 Cor 3:11-15), but can not jeopardize his parent/child relationship, the father will always be his father. The New Testament does not use adoption to emphasize the “how” of the salvation process, but the why of salvation’s permanency. 

Although Tony seems to equate disagreeing with despise, I DO despise any ‘doctrine’ that adds to the not only Paul’s clear explanation of the gospel in 1 Cor 15, but also it’s simplicity  (2 Cor 11:3). I also despise strawmen that are erected to mischaracterize the beliefs of many born again soul winners. If this is what Miano preaches on the streets to lost sinners, then it is a false gospel, or at least displays a gross inconsistency on what is required to be saved, and what is expected to be secure.

Risen    I want to examine the often cited proof text that Calvinism and Reformed Theology use as evidence that the spiritually dead can not resist the call of God in the story of Lazarus on John chapter 11. I want to begin by examining the argument of popular apologist and Calvinist author, James White.

James White, in a short video here, makes an extravagant emotional appeal that if Lazarus is not raised from the dead, and Jesus fails, then “scratch Christianity”. He further states, “Jesus did not whisper, but yelled loudly so that there would be no question about who was calling Lazarus”. White claims that this event is a fulfillment of John chapter 5, where Jesus said that the day would come where the dead would hear the voice of God and be raised from the dead.  “Lazarus did not choose to become undead” says White. White contends that since Lazarus could not have said no to be resurrected from physical death, that this is a legitimate proof text to show that the Christian can not say no to God’s voice while spiritually dead.

Calvinist Charles Spurgeon writes about Lazarus,

The helpless paralytic cannot begin his own restoration. Enmity against God cannot choose love for him. The dead corpse of Lazarus could have no agency in recalling the vital spirit into itself. After Christ’s almighty power restored it, the living man could respond to the Savior’s command and rise and come forth.

Likewise, Arthur Pink says,

 “The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live.” Lazarus in the grave, raised to life by the word of Christ, gives us a perfect illustration of God’s mighty work of grace in the hearts of His elect.”

Calvinist apologist, Loraine Boettner opines that,

Fallen man is as dead spiritually as Lazarus was dead physically until Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth!” He is as dead spiritually as the Pharisee Nicodemus, to whom Jesus said, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (Jn. 3:3). Christ said to the Pharisees, “Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word” (Jn. 8:43). Apart from divine assistance, no one can hear the invitation or put forth the will to come to Christ.

A popular Southern Baptist website sums up the Calvinist interpretation of the story of Lazarus as follows,

The example of Jesus calling Lazarus from the grave is a common popular illustration that calvinists [sic] use to illustrate the phenomenon they call regeneration prior to repentance and saving faith. Calvinism teaches that God effectually calls the lost man with a dead heart and deaf ears to life so that he can THEN repent and believe and be saved. Calvinists use Jesus’ command outside Lazarus’ tomb to illustrate the power of the effectual call in regeneration; “Lazarus come forth” and he came to life. When God calls the elect to life, they like Lazarus have new life and are born again and begin to live as a child of God.

My point is that in this system the gospel is NOT THE POWER OF GOD UNTO CONVERSION because it has no power to save the unregenerate; only God can do that because the unregenerated person CANNOT or WILL NOT repent and believe to be saved. The unregenerate is like Lazarus in the tomb; he is dead and lifeless and has deaf ears that cannot hear the gospel.

THE PROBLEM

The entire problem with comparing Lazarus’ physical death and PHYSICAL resurrection to spiritual death and subsequently a spiritual resurrection is that the PHYSICAL resurrection was NOT MEANT to convey the raising of a SPIRITUALLY DEAD person to everlasting life, but:

1. To show Christ’s power over death and to symbolize His own physical resurrection from the dead (John 11:25, John 2:19, Acts 2:24).

2. To show to future resurrection of those who DIE IN CHRIST (John 6:40, Matt 22:30, Phil 3:11, 2 Tim 2:18, Rev 20:5-6).

3. That a believer does not have to wait until being physically resurrected for the assurance of salvation because Christ IS the resurrection.
To prove that Lazarus is a worthy example of Christ irresistibly saving a person spiritually dead in sin, it would obviously be necessary to prove that Lazarus was dead in sin otherwise the analogy is useless. However, Lazarus was ALREADY SAVED-of which Martha seems to agree (John 11:24)- when Christ raised him PHYSICALLY from the dead, so it is an erroneous analogy for the Calvinist to use the example of a SAVED DEAD PERSON as analogous to how Christ “quickens” a SPIRITUALLY DEAD person to life everlasting.

This then would force the Calvinist to conclude (as some have) that Lazarus was not saved until Christ raised him from the dead. This presents 2 problems with Calvinist theology. First of all, it conflicts with Hebrews 9:27, “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment”. It would have Christ saving someone after they have died in their sinful state. Secondly, the Calvinists always affirm that God only loves His elect, and no others, but if Lazarus was not saved until he was raised from the dead, then John 11:36 presents a problem for the Calvinist here: “Then said the Jews, Behold how he loved him!”. Christ loved Lazarus BEFORE He raised him from the dead. Thus this would refute the Calvinist belief that God does not love the sinner, and proves that God can love someone prior to their salvation if in fact Lazarus was spiritually dead in sin. If the Calvinist objects that Lazarus was indeed elect, of course God would have loved him, then this serves to prove a point in which some Calvinists often object to that a person is regenerated and guaranteed salvation before they are actually saved (which would seem to be implied by the Calvinist view of predestination). It nevertheless displays a blatant contradiction in Calvinist theology that God does not love the person who is dead in sin.

Thus either the Calvinist has to admit that Lazarus was saved, or they must admit to a flaw in their theology about who Christ actually loves in addition to attempting to reconcile Christ bringing a spiritually dead person to everlasting life after he died in his sin. If Lazarus was saved, however, the Calvinist must deal with the erroneous analogy of Christ quickening an ALREADY SAVED person to life physically, to justify their theology of God quickening a spiritually dead person in his LOST state PRIOR to him actually being saved.

Any attempt to use Lazarus as an example of God quickening a person who supposedly has the inability to respond to or hear the gospel fails in light of Lazarus’ condition, and to add such a bogus private interpretation is an insult to the purpose behind Christ raising Lazarus from the dead:

“Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die:” 1 Cor 15:36

Another problem that the Calvinist face with this view of Lazarus is Jesus’ answer to the Sadducees about who a wife will belong to among several husbands in the resurrection (Mark 12:18-23) to which Christ replied in verses 26-27,

And as touching the dead, that they rise: have ye not read in the book of Moses, how in the bush God spake unto him, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living: ye therefore do greatly err.

Now if the Calvinists contend that God reserves the elect unto salvation while they are spiritually dead in sin until the “effectual call” is given unto the spiritually dead person, and like Lazarus, he then comes to spiritual life, then this effectually makes God the God of the dead.

JOHN 5:21

The Calvinist often sites the story of Lazarus with John 5:21-25, where Jesus states,

 For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom he will. For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son:  That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him.  Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.  Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live.

The first thing to notice about this passage which is in direct conflict with Calvinist theology is that the raising of the dead comes before the quickening: “For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them”. In Calvinist theology, the quickening always comes before the actually life giving spiritual resurrection.

Secondly, the Calvinists take the phrase “quickeneth whom he will” as an indication of God’s selecting only some to salvation. The verse does not offer any exclusions to parse out this quickening to a particular set of elect. The “whom he will” is in verse 24, “He that heareth my word AND BELIEVETH ON HIM THAT SENT ME, hath everlasting life”.

Thirdly, Jesus is specifically referring to a final resurrection from PHYSICAL death.  John 5:28-29 clarifies this passage,

Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which ALL that are in the graves shall hear his voice,  And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.

For the Calvinist to argue that this verse applies to all who are spiritually dead being resurrected unto spiritual life, they would also have to argue that we are in spiritual instead of literal graves. Furthermore, if the Calvinists were consistent with their definition of ‘all’, then this verse would show that only ‘some’ hear the voice of God. But if only some hear the voice of God, then this verse would mean that there are those of the ‘some’ that hear the voice of God that end up awakening to the resurrection of damnation!

Fourthly, although the truth of salvation is certainly stated in John 5, that belief is necessary, and one can certainly make a useful analogy in a spiritually dead person hearing the voice of God and responding by faith unto salvation, there is nothing in this passage that indicates mans inability to do so that requires the quickening of God first by an irresistible effectual calling nor that the spiritually dead have the inability to hear the voice of God. In fact, John 5 expressly states that the dead as well as those saved in Christ hear the voice of God in John 5:29. Moreover, using the same logic used by the Calvinist in the definition of verses that use the type of “rise from the dead” language, we read in Ephesians 5:14 the command for a person to wake himself up and THEN Christ gives them light. Thus this explains why the Calvinist must force John 11 and John 5 together, when neither of the 2 passages have any allusion to the other, and are entirely different contexts.

And finally, to add the nail in the coffin of the Calvinist misinterpretation of John 5, we see the following verse that repudiate the doctrine of irresistible grace and determinism,

He was a burning and a shining light: and ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light. (v 35) Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.  And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life. (vss 39-40).

Notice that Jesus did NOT say “Ye CAN NOT come”, He said “Ye WILL NOT come”.

There is absolutely no justification for using the story of Lazarus as a proof text for the Calvinist doctrines of Total Inability, Irresistible Grace, and their man-made distinction of the “effectual call” (The distinction that God generally calls all to salvation, but only enables the elect to respond). The story of Lazarus is a beautiful picture of Christ’s power over and conquering of death (1 Cor 15:56-57). It is a shame that this passage has been given the emphasis that has been imposed upon the text by Reformed theologians. Adam not only heard God’s voice, but responded to God in the Garden of Eden while he was considered spiritually dead in sin (Gen 3:9).  Such a view diminishes mans clear responsibility to willingly turn to Christ in repentance by faith and presents a gospel that is not supported by Scripture.

J/A