Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Gowens's Question

Let's ask a question.

"Does the objective fact of redemption by Christ depend on man's perception or understanding of that fact?" (Michael Gowens, Temporal Salvation: A Bogus or Biblical Concept?)

This is the question posed by Elder Gowens at the beginning of his work.  An answer in the negative is the starting point for his treatise, and the ultimate starting point for extreme conditional time salvation.  Based on such an answer, salvation can be considered solely an objective thing outside of us which may not affect a real subjective change within us.  If correct, then salvation may exist without perception, knowledge, understanding, faith, repentance and experimental holiness.  Talk about regenerated souls being spiritual vegetables!  What a proposal!

First, it must be stated that the answer to such a question will not be settled by human logic. No amount of reasoning that perception doesn’t make something a fact will suffice. The Word of God alone must provide the answer.  Gowens provides no scripture(s) which prove that salvation can exist without cognitive perception, but merely assumes that it is the case, and proceeds to build his argument upon it.  The question is posed to the reader to see if they will reason to the same conclusion.

Second, there is need of some clarification in understanding "the objective fact of redemption".  There’s a reason why this is so.  During the years I was among this people I noticed the tendency of many to go to the extreme on the finished work of Christ by thinking that nothing else had to happen in the future for the elect to be saved.  “It is finished”, they say, which is certainly true, but not to be construed as they do. “How terribly have these blessed words of Christ been misunderstood, misappropriated and misapplied (Arthur W. Pink)”!  In light of this problem, I can't help but think of John Murray's Redemption Accomplished and Applied and the important biblical lesson conveyed by the title. There is the securing of our redemption accomplished by the Lord at Calvary, and then there is the application of it in regeneration, both essential for salvation.  Now the redeeming work of Christ certainly did not depend upon my subjective awareness any more than my election by the Father did, for these are objective elements of salvation accomplished before I came to be.  However, when we come to consider the application of redemption (and we must) the answer is an absolute yes.  Faith is the instrument through which sinners are saved.

“For by grace are ye saved thru faith…”  (Eph. 2:8)

I find it absolutely amazing how one can especially read the Gospel of John, the books of Romans and Galatians, and deny such.

"But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:" (John 1:12)

"But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead;" (Rom. 4:24)

"That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith" (Gal. 3:14)

Since salvation does not involve solely the death of Christ without the effectual communication of its benefits, the question which ought to be asked is...

“Does the application of redemption by Christ depend on man’s subjective perception or understanding of that fact?”

Unless one understands that salvation involves both the death of Christ, already accomplished, and the on-going application of it to sinners in the new birth, he may be deceived into thinking that since my faith came after the finished work of Christ, therefore it is not necessary for my salvation.  What a lie to tell sinners! The "objective fact of redemption" therefore is most misleading.  Salvation can never be completely viewed as an objective thing.  It may be viewed as such only if we view our election by God and the death of Christ as stand-alone acts without taking into consideration the work of the Holy Spirit in communicating the benefits of these saving works of God.  However, God’s elect were chosen to attain to the subjective experience.  That’s what it means to be saved!  The merits of Christ's work must be applied to our bodies for this end result to be realized, at which time salvation becomes a most "subjective" thing!

Any attempt to strip the subjective experience away from salvation exposes an ignorance as to what salvation is. It's as if, as Elder Thomas Mann correctly noted, that God is only concerned with populating heaven. This is a woeful error for those in the time salvation camp.

Let us suppose for a moment, though, that nothing of a subjective nature is necessary for the objective fact of salvation.  Would this be enough to deny the claim that the two are nevertheless joined together?

Let us suppose that God decreed that eternal salvation was not dependent upon man’s faith, but for whatever reason He was pleased that it would nevertheless accompany those whom He would save.  Consider the sun which shines in the sky.  I am no scientist, but I do not think that the light which comes forth causes the sun to exist, nor does the sun depend upon it to continue.  Now what man would be so foolish to reason that since the sun doesn’t rely upon the sunlight, that must mean we may have one without the other?  Simply turn our eyes to the heaven and what do we see?  Where there is the sun, there is sunlight, for God has joined them together!  In like manner, speaking hypothetically it could have been the case that while God decreed that faith was not to be an instrument in the salvation of sinners, He nevertheless ordained that it would be a definite fruit in those whom He would save.  Gowen’s question does not address this as a possibility, yet rather makes an appeal to logic which says that since an objective fact does not depend upon the subjective perception of such, salvation may thus bypass the mind and the fruits of conversion do not necessarily follow.  Totally unscriptural.

The question which Gowens needs to confront in order to substantiate the doctrine of conditional time salvation is not simply if eternal salvation depends upon the subjective experience but whether or not the latter accompanies eternal salvation (Heb. 6:9).

It would have to be proven that it doesn’t. 

Such a hopeless task, for the subjective experience is what salvation is meant to effect. 


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Stephen Garrett said...

Dear Kevin:

Every Hardshell I know says that the Apostle Paul's experience on the Damascus Road was a pattern for how all God's elect experience regeneration/new birth. But, in Paul's case, he had a subjective experience, came to know the Lord and to believe in him. Thus, by the Hardshells own admission, the experience of being born again produces a subjective and cognitive experience in the one being born of God.