Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Brown on James 1: 18 & New Covenant

In this rebuttal posting I will be replying to Jason Brown's posting titled "Garrett's Response 3.1" (See here.) in which James 1: 18 and the new covenant promised blessings are discussed. Jason begins by citing these remarks that I made:

"Jason is very contradictory on James 1: 18. In his initial postings he seemed to say that"the word of truth" was the gospel, but later argued that it was a reference to Jesus. But, if the "word of truth" is Jesus, then why does he feel a need to apply it "conversion" (as he understands conversion)?

Here is what brother Fralick wrote to me about Jason's argumentation on this verse.
"I believe Jason is now contradicting himself. He wants to argue that James 1:18 is referring to gospel conversion in his post 'Gospel Conversion':

"Therefore, the context of verse 18 must also entail a volitional context of gospel conversion. The effectual call of the will of God of verse 18 must be divisible from the word of truth, which was also present (but not instrumental) in the regeneration of the early Jewish disciples. They were then converted by the word after they were called from spiritual death.""

Jason then made this response:

"The quotation above was in a context of evaluating the logical implications of Garrett's view of James 1:18. The point was, even if it was granted that the 'word of truth' referred to the gospel, the text would still be understood teaching a distinction between regeneration and gospel conversion because of the implications of the volitional nature of man's will accepting the Logos in verse 21. The only way to preserve the natural impression of verse 21 and not conclude an Arminian view of free will is to embrace the Primitive Baptist paradigm of distinguishing sonship from discipleship."

First, Jason speaks of the "logical implications" of my view on James 1: 18.  But, my view is the same as Dr. Gill and closer to the views of the founding fathers of hardshellism, to the views of Beebe and Trott, than are Jason's views!  So, whatever "logical implications" are involved in my view would also apply to Gill, Beebe, and Trott.  As far as the text "teaching a distinction between regeneration and gospel conversion," remember that Jason says that the above named men taught two kinds of regeneration, both of which were necessary for being eternally saved.  Of course, Gill did not believe in two kinds of "regeneration," as I have shown.  Beebe and Trott believed in two kinds, just as did Andrew Fuller.  But, how can Jason say that the above named men did not believe that "regeneration" was conversion, or what was the "begetting" of James 1: 18?  Beebe, Trott, and Fuller, may not have believed that the "begetting" of James 1: 18 was the narrowly defined kind of "regeneration," but they certainly did not believe that it was distinct from the broadly defined "regeneration."  Jason can say that these men did not believe that the "begetting" was initial "regeneration" but he cannot say that they did not believe that the passage dealt with regeneration in the broadly defined sense.

Jason speaks of "the implications of the volitional nature of man's will accepting the Logos in verse 21" as though it somehow overthrows the truth of regeneration by the gospel.  All the above named men believed that the passage that says "thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power" (Psalm 110: 3)  dealt with regeneration/new birth, which shows that they believed that the "volitional nature of man's will" was involved in being regenerated!  They believed in "passive obedience," an idea that Jason rejects as illogical!

Jason said - "The only way to preserve the natural impression of verse 21 and not conclude an Arminian view of free will is to embrace the Primitive Baptist paradigm of distinguishing sonship from discipleship."  "The only way"?  Maybe it is the only way in Jason's mind, but it was not the only way in the mind of Dr. Gill and the original founding fathers of hardshellism.  The "way" that Jason does not see is the fact that the will of man is changed and redirected in regeneration, that God's elect are brought to willingly choose Christ in regeneration.  The Hardshell "paradigm" that divorces discipleship from sonship (regeneration or new birth), and that creates the artificial categories of eternal versus time salvation, solves no problems, but creates a host of them.

Jason then said:

"Garrett's eventual answer to this line of reasoning seemed to be to claim the contradiction that an Arminian view of man's will coincides with the "effectual" call of God in gospel regeneration. Either the gospel is God's effectual means of regeneration (in which case man's will is moot, or, at least, after the fact), or man's will can reject the gospel and it is not God's effectual means of regeneration. There is no tertium quid. Either James 1:21 supposes that the gospel can be rejected and God's purposes in regeneration can be overthrown, or the text is duplicitous to suggest that man's will has anything at all to do with a regeneration effected by grace that is irresistible."

The error in Jason's thinking here is that he equates the action of the will in regeneration with Arminianism.  But, this is to redefine Arminianism.  Calvinism or sovereign grace doctrine has never divorced the change and action of the will from the experience of regeneration.  Only the Hardshell version of Hyper Calvinism does this.  Jason errs when he argues that the gospel means position of effectual calling by the Spirit and word of God makes the will of man moot.  No, it does not.  Actually it is the Hardshell view of regeneration that makes the will of man moot!  He believes that the will is not operated upon in regeneration, that it experiences no change or redirection, that it is not made to choose or accept Christ and the gospel.  Gill, Beebe, Trott, and Fuller all said that the will of man was not moot in regeneration/new birth.  They defined complete regeneration as involving a redirecting of the will, of causing it to receive the truth of the gospel.  Jason and the Hardshells are not primitive therefore. 

All of these men believed that Philippians 2: 13 taught that God made his people willing in their regeneration.

Jason said:

"Who will win out between his warring spirits of soul winner and hyper-calvinist? Inquiring minds want to know."

I am not sure that I know what Jason is arguing here.  His verbage is not clear.  First of all, I am a soul winner and a Calvinist, as was John Gill, but I am not a Hyper Calvinist.  There is no war or conflict between being a soul winner and being a Calvinist, but there is a war between being a soul winner and being a Hardshell Hyper Calvinist.  The war is with Jason's spirit and not with mine.

Jason then quotes these words of mine:

"Jason divides, seemingly, these new covenant promises into two categories. First, there is the regeneration category, whereby some of these new covenant blessings are experienced. Second, there is the conversion category, whereby the other blessings, not experienced in the regeneration category, are experienced. He then argues that the promise of God to "write" upon the heart is a post regeneration experience, not the regeneration experience itself. Jason said - "this writing is addressed to...the regenerate."Notice his division of parts of the promised blessings into distinct categories when he said - "once they have the stony heart replaced with a heart of flesh," then they can experience the other promises of the covenant."

Jason responds by saying:

"It seems to me the texts under consideration are addressed solely to regeneration. All of the law and the prophets, according to Christ, can be reduced to love of God and of neighbor. It is the love of God that is shed abroad in the regenerate's heart by the Holy Spirit. And, it appears, it is this love of God and of neighbor that is the defining characteristic of the sheep of Matt. 25 at the great day of judgment."

Jason has here put himself into a real "tight spot."  He is now admitting, contrary to what he first affirmed, that these new covenant blessings deal only with regeneration, and not with conversion.  Yet, these regeneration blessings are defined in conversion terminology.  Jason admits that regeneration, in the new covenant passages of the old testament prophecies, involved coming to "love God," but yet how can one love a God he has not been taught about through the gospel?  Does he mean by "God" the God of Abraham?  Does he mean by "God" our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ?  How can he say that heathens who do not know or believe in the one true God love that God? 

Jason also said:

"It becomes problematic to suppose these Old Testament references to the new birth entail an intellectual, propositional knowledge of the doctrine of the law, especially when Christ summarizes the moral obligation of man under the law to be love. Is it the concept of love or love itself that is taught? When Paul states that, "As touching brotherly love, ye have no need that I should teach you, for ye yourselves are taught of God how that ye should love one another." Would that be the intellectual concept of love, or the actual emotion? Seems obvious, as the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life. The way Garrett interprets these texts is in the spirit of the letter of the O.T. law, it appears he hasn't observed the irony of this."

How can Jason divorce "propositional knowledge" from loving someone?  How can you love someone you do not know?  How can you love someone non-cognitively and unconsciously?  That is just plain stupid.  Further, how can you have God's word written on the heart apart from knowledge of that word?  How can one love ignorantly, apart from knowledge?  How can one obey apart from knowledge?  "Irony"?  Jason's analysis of the verses is full of irony and contradiction.

Notice what Dr. Gill wrote on Jer. 31: 33:

"I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; not the ceremonial law, which was abolished when this covenant was made; but rather the moral law still in force, which is a transcript of the nature and will of God; was inscribed on Adam's heart in innocence; is greatly obliterated by sin; a contrary disposition to it is in man; this is reinscribed in regeneration; and hence a regard is had to it by regenerate persons, in which lies part of their conformity to Christ: or else, since the word here used signifies doctrine or instruction, the Gospel and the truths of it may be meant; see Isa 2:2 Ro 3:27; which have a place and dwell in the hearts of renewed ones. The Septuagint version reads it in the plural number, "laws"; and so does the apostle, and may design the ordinances of the Gospel, and the commandments of Christ; which such, who are called by grace, have at heart to keep, and are made willing to be subject to...the "putting" of those things there denotes knowledge of them."

Besides, in the Hebrew as well as the Greek, the word for "heart" cannot be divorced from the "thoughts" of a person. "Heart" and "mind" are both the place of the divine writing.

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