In the November 24, 2022 issue of MCOI’s E-Letter The Crux, under the heading of “The Deity of Christ Throughout Scripture,” Don points us to Kaspars Ozolins’ article in the Proclamation! Online Magazine, “How the Little Book of Jude Refutes Adventism.” In that article, Ozolins writes:
For in the incarnation, the Lord Jesus Christ took on a human nature, in addition to his eternal divine nature….
When we say that Christ has two natures (human and divine), we must also say that all of the divine attributes of God are present in the man Jesus Christ….
So far, I find myself in full agreement with Ozolins’ clear statement of orthodox Christian theology. But then his analysis takes a turn which is built upon a somewhat shakier foundation:
This is an idea that is a necessary consequence of reading Scripture faithfully and, in particular, the book of Jude, especially the fifth verse, as I will now argue.
A glance at a number of English Bible translations reveals a significant discrepancy in this verse. For example, the old 1611 KJV reads as follows: “I will therefore put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this, how that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not.” The King James, following the more limited selection of Greek manuscripts available to scholars at the time, reads “Lord” here. But the much more recent ESV has a very different reading: “Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe.” This is almost certainly the better reading, as it is based on the earliest and best witnesses to which we have access now. The difference between the two readings is a single letter (Greek KC ‘Lord’ vs. IC ‘Jesus’) since Christian manuscripts always abbreviated these two words.
By “witnesses,” Ozolins means “manuscripts,” i.e., scraps, sheets, or whole books of ancient text written on papyrus (layered strips of vegetable fiber) or vellum (cured animal skins). Each manuscript is a separate witness.
For example, if I stand up in court and testify, “Jesus is God,” I am one witness. If you then stand up and testify, “The Lord is God,” you are a second witness. Whether or not our two testimonies mean the same thing theologically is an important question. But, in either case, it’s clear that we didn’t use exactly the same words.
Of the 562 total manuscripts we have that include Jude, 22 of them show “Jesus” in verse 5, two of them are missing this part of verse 5, and the rest of them show “Lord.”1See Wasserman, Tommy. The Epistle of Jude: It’s Text and Transmission. 2006. Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell International, page 148.
Whether or not a few early witnesses outweigh the testimony of a myriad of more recent witnesses is a question that textual critics have been discussing for hundreds of years.
The witnesses can also reveal and give insights into what was going on in the church at the time they were copied. “Manuscript Witnesses Are Not a Special Species of Historical Witness” points out:
Finally, it is widely held that each manuscript in addition to being a record of this or that NT text it is also a witness to the time in which it was written and specifically a witness to the beliefs of the Church at that time. In this sense the manuscript is the same kind of witness as a theological treatise. They are both written and tell the story of the beliefs of the Chruch [sic] at that epoch in time. So just as age of a theological witness is not a prime factor in its truth so too the age of a manuscript is not a prime factor in determining its reliability.
The decision by translators to change the word from “Lord” to “Jesus” was not based upon newer and better witnesses at all. Instead, it was based on a new way of looking at the exact same witnesses.
The same “earliest and best” witnesses led the textual critics to select “Lord” for Jude 5 in the 1993 NA27 edition of Novum Testamentum Graece,2The “Overview” description notes, “Sometimes referred to as the “critical text” or the “eastern manuscript tradition” this is the Greek text most widely used today. It is the basis for nearly every modern Bible translation in the past one hundred years.” also led the textual critics to select “Jesus” in the 2012 NA28 edition. It is important to note no newer manuscripts of Jude were discovered between 1993 and 2012. The textual critics just looked at exactly the same data in a different way and came to a different conclusion.
What I want to stress here is that the Bible provides many rock-solid proofs that Jesus is God. We shouldn’t try to build a major argument on a very weak and vacillating foundation like a text-critical choice between two words in Jude 5.
Instead, we should look at the powerful testimony of passages “such as Matthew 19:16-30; Mark 2:5-9; John 1:1, 14; John 10:30; John 14:9; etc.3“Who Do You Say Jesus Is?” can be a helpful overview.
Don’t feel bad, though. It seems to have resulted in a similar misimpression on the parts of such august theologians as Bill Mounce and Wayne Grudem as well.4“Jesus is Back in Jude,” Bill Mounce; Saturday, November 17, 2012, accessed 12-8-2022
The new way of looking at the data is called the “Coherence-Based Genealogical Method” (CBGM), described by Peter Gurry, one of the method’s architects:
So here is my one-sentence description: the CBGM is a new set of computer-based tools for studying a new set of text-critical evidence based on a new principle for relating texts.5“The CBGM in One (!) Sentence,” Peter Gurry; January 11, 2017, accessed 12-8-2022
Loosely speaking, it’s a method to help you decide which manuscript was copied from which other manuscript.
In any event, as I understand it, the text of Jude 5 used “Lord” (just like the 1611 KJV) right up until the 1993 NA27. (I have the 1936 N16, the 1952 N21, the 1963 NA25, the 1979 NA26, and the 1993 NA27; all of which use κύριος “Lord”; and the 2012 NA28 which uses Ἰησοῦς “Jesus”).
NA28, in turn, was based upon the 2014 Second Edition of the Editio Critica Maior of the Catholic Epistles (ECM2). No, that’s not a mistake – the ECM2 and NA28 were being developed at the same time. The NA28 was published first in 2012, but the ECM2 was not actually in print until 2014. The textual critics at the Institute for New Testament Textual Research (INTF) used the CBGM in the ECM2 development. It resulted in a total of 34 changes from NA27 to NA28. One of those changes was in Jude 5 from “Lord” in NA27 to “Jesus” in NA28.
In all this, it’s important to remember that the CBGM is just a guide and a tool. Ultimately, it is the textual critics who decide the final wording based on external and internal manuscript characteristics. They were ultimately responsible before the CBGM, and they’re still responsible even while using the CBGM. The CBGM is thus just another guideline.
Now for those interested in statistics:
The New International Version (NIV) was originally published in 1973 and uses “the Lord” in Jude 5 and this continued in the 1984 and 2011 editions.
- The New Living Translation was originally published in 1996 and revised in 2004 and 2015. It uses “Jesus” in Jude 5.
- The English Standard Version (ESV) was published in 2001 and uses “Jesus” in Jude 5.
- The Christian Standard Bible (CSB) was published in 2017 and uses “Jesus” in Jude 5.
- The 27th edition of Novum Testamentum Graece (NA27) was published in 1979. Jude 5 therein uses κύριος (Lord). Using the Gregory-Aland numbering system, the twelve consistently cited first-order witnesses for Jude in NA27 are:
72, 74, 78;
א (01), A (02), B (03), C (04), P (025), Ψ (044), 0251;
- NA28 was published in 2012. Jude 5 therein uses Ἰησοῦς (Jesus) instead of κύριος (Lord). The twenty-six consistently cited first-order witnesses for Jude in NA28 are:
72, 74, 78;
א (01), A (02), B (03), C (04), P (025), Ψ (044);
5, 33, 81, 88, 307, 436, 442, 642, 1175, 1243, 1448, 1611, 1735, 1739, 1852, 2344, 2492.
From The Center for New Testament Textual Studies (CNTTS), the witnesses cited in NA28 but not in NA27 are the minuscules6“A New Testament minuscule is a copy of a portion of the New Testament written in a small, cursive Greek script,” List of New Testament minuscules:
5 13th century A.D.
81 ca. 1044 A.D. (i.e., 11th century)
88 12th century A.D.
307 10th century A.D.
436 11th/12th century A.D.
442 12th/13th century A.D.
642 14th century A.D.
1175 10th century A.D.
1243 11th century A.D.
1448 12th century A.D.
1611 12th century A.D.
1735 11th/12th century A.D.
1852 13th century A.D.
2344 11th century A.D.
2492 14th century A.D.
Uncial7“Uncial is a majuscule script (written entirely in capital letters) commonly used from the 4th to 8th centuries AD by Latin and Greek scribes. Uncial letters were used to write Greek and Latin, as well as Gothic and Coptic.” Quoted from Wikipedia “Uncial script” 0251, cited in the NA27 list but not in the NA28 list, is from the 6th century A.D.
Conversely, these nine oldest manuscripts (mss) are cited in both lists:
72 Third/Fourth century A.D.
74 Seventh century A.D.
78 Third/Fourth century A.D.
(01)א Fourth century A.D.
A(02) Fifth century A.D.
B(03) Fourth century A.D.
C(04) Fifth century A.D.
P(025) Ninth century A.D.
Ψ(044) Ninth/Tenth century A.D. (Identified as mss Y044 in CNTTS)
Of particular interest to our discussion here, in the two oldest witnesses (from the 3rd/4th century), we find;
72 presents “God Christ” instead of either “Lord” or “Jesus,” and
in 78, the last part of Jude 5 is missing.
Also of interest is that while NA27 consistently cited twelve witnesses in Jude and NA28 cited twenty-six, the developers of ECM2 considered 112 manuscript witnesses.
Of even greater interest is the fact that Tommy Wasserman, quite possibly the world’s foremost authority on the Book of Jude today, collated the 562 extant manuscript witnesses to Jude, applied the CBGM, and thereupon decided to break from ECM2’s choice and go back to using “Lord” in Jude 5.8See Wasserman, op. cit.
In no case does any of this diminish the defense or understanding of the deity of Christ but does provide a better understanding of the work of translators.Ω
M. David (Dave) Johnson retired in 2007 after 30 years as an electrical engineer, followed by ten years as a computer consultant. He holds a Certificate of Graduation from Moody Bible Institute and is currently studying (slowly) towards a Master of Divinity degree from the Log College and Seminary. His areas of special interest include prayer; missions; the Books of John, Romans, Philemon, and Jude; and New Testament Textual Criticism. He and his wife Heather are the parents of two adult children; Stephen Johnson and Stephanie Potts; and they are also the grandparents of five grandchildren, ranging in age from 8 to 16. Dave also publishes free resources for pastors and missionaries who may not have access to libraries elsewhere. See his website Theology From Below.
© 2022, Midwest Christian Outreach, Inc All rights reserved. Excerpts and links may be used if full and clear credit is given with specific direction to the original content.
|↑1||See Wasserman, Tommy. The Epistle of Jude: It’s Text and Transmission. 2006. Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell International, page 148.|
|↑2||The “Overview” description notes, “Sometimes referred to as the “critical text” or the “eastern manuscript tradition” this is the Greek text most widely used today. It is the basis for nearly every modern Bible translation in the past one hundred years.”|
|↑3||“Who Do You Say Jesus Is?” can be a helpful overview.|
|↑4||“Jesus is Back in Jude,” Bill Mounce; Saturday, November 17, 2012, accessed 12-8-2022|
|↑5||“The CBGM in One (!) Sentence,” Peter Gurry; January 11, 2017, accessed 12-8-2022|
|↑6||“A New Testament minuscule is a copy of a portion of the New Testament written in a small, cursive Greek script,” List of New Testament minuscules|
|↑7||“Uncial is a majuscule script (written entirely in capital letters) commonly used from the 4th to 8th centuries AD by Latin and Greek scribes. Uncial letters were used to write Greek and Latin, as well as Gothic and Coptic.” Quoted from Wikipedia “Uncial script”|
|↑8||See Wasserman, op. cit.|
My comment in plain English and simplicity. I am a former Seventh Day Adventist who by force was put into this cult by my mother. Proclamation magazine was a good place for me after I was born again to go to learn more about the cult in order to witness to SDA’s. Now that I have grown in Christ Jesus, I am very disturbed by “former” cult members who leave their cult and join another, i.e. Calvinism! Ozolins is trained in John Mcauthur’s school. In Proclamation they quote many Calvinists. Also, using Wescott and Horts manuscripts are satanic attempts to deceive Christians into confusion. There are many Bible translations. I bought an old KJ Bible at a secondhand store. I looked closer into it and guess what? In the back are commentaries by HNS Richards a Seventh Day Adventist! I am not a KJV only, but it is the only one I read (without commentaries) with the Concordance which I happily check the Greek and Hebrew for help. I don’t need Calvinists to teach me, they have taken over everything!
I appreciate your comment on M. David Johnson’s article. It was limited in scope to the issue of translation and, in particular, Jude 5. It doesn’t touch on Calvinism, Arminianism, Provisionism, or class election. Each of these and others are attempts to explain how God does stuff, and those in each camp are persuaded theirs is the correct explanation. The problem is God doesn’t explicitly give any of these explanations in the text of His word. They have been informed largely by taking passages out of context of thinking their view is at least implied by various texts. None of these systems are cults, although some who hold the views may behave in cultic ways. It seems to me, in these areas, we are to be gracious to those with whom we disagree on what are important but, in reality, secondary issues. The essential issues are clear. We are sinners in need of salvation. Jesus is fully God and fully man, lived a perfect life, died a horrible death, resurrected Himself, and conquered death. He freely offers salvation to those who believe and call on His name as YHWH. Those who hold the above views hold to these essentials. Can they be wrong about how God does these things? Absolutely. Can some of them be very irritating? Unquestionably. But that does not qualify them as false teachers or that one of more of these systems is a cult.
Thanks for your comment, nng; it led me into a quite intriguing investigation.
I think we may have differences in the way we respectively define the term, “Calvinist”. To me, a Calvinist is a Christian who holds to the Reformed Position regarding the Sovereignty of God and the Free Will of Man. I also know that there are many splinter groups (e.g., Hyper-Calvinists, New Calvinists, etc.) who could be described as cultish in nature. I had never noticed before, but I’m now aware, that there are some online who are labeling the entirety of Calvinism as a cult. I don’t think that’s justified. Just as I don’t think it’s justified to label all Evangelicals or all Methodists as cultists simply because some splinter groups from those churches are cultish in nature.
Ultimately, I hold to the truth, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” (Romans 10:9-10, KJV).
I was saved at Moody Church in Chicago on December 25, 1967. At that time, many of the older members of the church still referred to themselves as “Fundamentalists”, based upon their belief in the Five Fundamentals of Christianity: 1. The Inerrancy of Scripture, 2. The Virgin Birth of Christ, 3. The Substitutionary Atonement of Christ, 4. The Bodily Resurrection of Christ, and 5. The Reality of the Miracles of Christ. But many other members were beginning to call themselves “Evangelicals” instead, at least partially because the term “Fundamentalism” was unjustifiably becoming associated with the ideas of rigidity, over-strictness, and intolerance. These days, of course, in common parlance, “Fundamentalist” is practically a synonym for “Terrorist”.
Satan is a liar, and the Father of Lies (cf. John 8:44). He takes the words we use to describe good things and, over time, twists them into abominable misrepresentations; thus, ever striving to demean and thwart our Lord’s work in the world. Satan also seeks to twist our theology, our doctrines, and our church organizations; he actively plots to sow division and confusion in our midst.
In 1054, the Patriarch of Constantinople was excommunicated and the Eastern Orthodox Church split from the Roman Catholic Church (RCC). In 1517, Martin Luther’s belief in Justification by Faith began the Protestant Reformation and the Lutheran Church split from the RCC. In the 1520’s, Huldrych Zwingli, and around 1530, John Calvin, also split with the RCC. In 1566, after Zwingli’s death, Heinrich Bullinger merged Zwinglism and Calvinism into the Reformed Church via the Second Helvetic Confession. In 1619, the Dutch Reformed Church’s Synod of Dort condemned Arminianism (i.e., declared the theology of Jacob Arminius to be heretical) and upheld the Five Points of Calvinism (cf. “TULIP”).
In simple terms, I would understand that Calvinism stresses the Sovereignty of God as absolute truth, while Arminianism stresses the Free Will of Man as absolute truth.
Today, Denominations in the Methodist-Wesleyan tradition (e.g., the United Methodist Church, Pentecostals like the Assemblies of God, some Baptist churches, some Evangelical Churches, and various others) are Arminianist. Denominations which are Calvinist (Reformed) include Presbyterians, Congregational Churches, some Baptist churches, some Evangelical churches, and various others.
Many Evangelical Churches, including Moody Church and the Evangelical Free Church of America (where my wife and I are currently members) are willing to accept both Calvinists and Arminianists into membership. Dwight L. Moody, himself, held to the same view I hold: 1. God is absolutely Sovereign, 2. Man is absolutely free. 3. By human logic, these two absolutes cannot both be true, and 4. GOD IS NOT BOUND BY HUMAN LOGIC. Thus, Moody did not find it inconsistent to hold that all were free to choose or reject Christ, and to simultaneously hold to “once saved; always saved”.
BTW, the KJV is my favorite version too, although I do frequently examine and compare other versions as well. I also believe that most of those who are on the forefront of textual criticism today are committed Christians who want to follow Jesus and who are thus trying to determine which words are truly the words which the writers of the 27 books of the New Testament originally penned. I obviously don’t agree with all their conclusions. I also refer to many other expert theologians’ work (i.e., commentaries and other helps). “Iron sharpeneth iron” (Proverbs 27:17).
In my article, I was specifically considering whether or not the wording of Jude 5 directly supports the contention that Jesus is God. Exodus clearly teaches that it was God who led the Israelites out of Egypt. If Jude 5 says that it was Jesus who led them out, this supports the doctrine that Jesus is God, i.e., a member of the Trinity. But the evidence for “Jesus” (instead of “Lord”) in Jude 5 is shaky at best. And, we don’t need to build the Doctrine of Jesus’ Godhood on such a shaky foundation.
“Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος, καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν, καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος.” (“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” – John 1:1 KJV) is as explicit, as blunt, and as solid as can be!
I pray that our Lord will give you a truly joyous New Year in the presence of His Grace.
Please have patience with me while I tell true story. Some rich people decided they wanted to build expensive houses on a dump in the sand overlooking the ocean. They had to get soil engineers to approve their projects. One by one they were rejected. They kept searching and finally found ‘soil experts’ that would get their homes approved and so they built the homes. It did not take long for the multi-million properties to fall over the cliff. Yet, the houses are continually being approved and being rebuilt. The whole town in built on sand and on moving cliffs. I liken it to ‘Bible Scholars’ whom people choose for themselves and build their doctrines from and teach others to do so. ‘And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it. And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine: For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.’ Matthew 7:23-29.
Thank you again, nng –
I fully agree that there are some “‘Bible Scholars’ whom people choose for themselves and build their doctrines from and teach others to do so” who are iniquitous, non-Christian, enemies of God. But I don’t agree that all biblical scholars fall into that mold (if that’s what you’re asserting – I’m not completely sure. Please correct my impression if it’s wrong).
I think of Augustine of Hippo, Martin Luther, John Calvin, G. C. Berkouwer, Louis Berkhof, Charles Hodge, B. B. Warfield, Herman Bavinck, J. I. Packer, Karl Barth, Charles Ryrie, Norman Geisler, R. C. Sproul, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Wayne Grudem, and, yes, John MacArthur, among many, many others. I certainly don’t agree with everything any one of them writes or says. I also know that Luther and Calvin (and they’re not alone) had some personal foibles which were not attractive at all. But I consider their works valuable helps because I could never gain even a tiny part of what they’ve collectively learned all on my own.
I try to follow the Berean path, “These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” (Acts 17:11 KJV).
BTW, I don’t deny that MacArthur is a Calvinist. He certainly is. But that doesn’t make him a non-Christian. For example, this is what he writes on page 478 of his New Testament commentary John 1-11 (Moody, 2006):
“What must I do to be saved?” the Philippian Jailer trembled. Paul and Silas replied, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.” (Acts 16:31 KJV).
M. David, my point was on the ‘cults’, that they in no way will change their minds, nor will they change their teachers. Dave Hunt once said, “Don’t confuse me with the facts, my mind is already made up.” To me this is a cult member. When I go to a church and they say, “elect” all the time, and completely eliminate free will then they are members of a cult. They never quote non-Calvinists, never. But they quote only Calvinist commentaries, and Calvinist Greek so called experts. The SDA’s quote only Ellen G. White. Can you see it? A new believer is not lead to anyone else. That is what happened to me. God makes you born again first-then you believe the gospel-this is their doctrine, and it is built on sand. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that WHOSOEVER BELIEVETH IN HIM should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16. Another popular preacher who is with the Lord now added to the gospel this way. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him (AND KEEPS On BELIVEING) should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16. Now this fellow chose for himself a Bible scholar who is a Calvinist an ‘expert’ to give him this doctrine. He admitted he did not know Greek or Hebrew. I would say both of them are teaching another gospel (Galatians 1:6-9). All of us can easily look up the Greek words and Hebrew for ourselves, like you said to see if what they are saying is true. May we all be Bereans. There is also a popular pastor invited to evangelical conferences who sounds exactly like a non-Calvinist. To me he is very frightening because unless you go to his website and see a paper he wrote: ‘Why evangelize if God has already chosen who will be saved.’ See what he said, “Although divine election is clearly presented throughout Scripture, it remains one of the most hotly debated doctrines in church history. Christians who reject the biblical doctrine of election do so for one of the following reasons: 1) pride – they believe man has the free will to release himself from the bondage and power of sin, and then come to Jesus; 2) man-centered evangelism – they enjoy taking credit for persuading people to “accept” Jesus; 3) fear – they refuse to accept that their loved ones may not belong to the elect; and 4) a distorted view of God – they say God is unjust by choosing to save some while passing over others. Paul anticipated these objections when he wrote, “Who are you, O man, who answers back to God…Does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use, and another for common use?” (Rom. 9:19-23). Is man so prideful that, as a depraved sinner, he has a better plan than an infinitely holy and eternally righteous God? Scripture soundly rebukes this foolish idea! “‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts'” (Isa. 55:8-9). Those who deny election are usurping God of His absolute control over His creation and the right to choose His own family. They wittingly or unwittingly rob God of His glory, which is a dangerous position to take.” Blessings
Thank you for clarifying that point, nng –
I agree that refusing to even listen to other opinions is one identifying characteristic of a cult. Michael D. Langone, of the International Cultic Studies Association (ICSA), presents “Questioning, doubt, and dissent are discouraged or even punished” as the second in his list of Characteristics Associated with Cultic Groups.
You indicated that Dave Hunt once said, “Don’t confuse me with the facts; my mind is already made up.” I’ve been unable to locate that particular quote. I did find those words in the panel discussion transcript from the September 27, 2013, John Ankerberg Show in which Dave Hunt participated. But the remark was made by one of the other panelists (Dr. Robert Morey), and he was actually just relating the comments of certain liberal scholars who were discussing the Cave 7 Dead Sea Scrolls. Dr. Morey said, ‘As this evidence rolls in – and I read in the New York Times an entire page, they quoted liberal theologians who said, “I don’t care if it shows, in the end, these were portions of the New Testament. I will refuse to accept it because it will destroy all of the liberal scholarship,” – it is a case of, “Don’t confuse me with the facts. My mind is already made up.”’
I do appreciate the way you confront both sides of the hotly debated issue here: In your two earlier posts, and in the first part of this most recent one, you seem to be labeling Calvinism as a cult. But, in the second part of this current post, you’re defending the Calvinist doctrine of election.
I often like to use word pictures when trying to sort out such enigmas.
Word pictures are extended metaphors (and/or similes) that illustrate a given situation. They are generally imperfect and incomplete, stressing just one or two features of a multi-faceted scenario. But they can still be valuable in helping me to better grasp and understand an otherwise complex and convoluted problem.
Let me suggest three different word pictures in this case.
1. The Arminianist Word-Picture: A sinner is thrashing about in the sea of sin, about to drown. Jesus is in a boat and throws a life ring to the sinner, shouting, “Grab the ring, and I’ll save you!” If the sinner grabs the life ring, Jesus pulls the sinner into the boat, and the sinner is saved. If the sinner refuses to grab the life ring, the sinner drowns in the sea of sin and is lost.
This picture supports the truth, “whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” of John 3:16, and also the truth, “whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved” of Acts 2:21. But, a difficulty arises with the truth, “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him” of John 6:44. Our sinful natures have us trapped in the grasp of Satan. We can freely come to Jesus if we want to, but we never want to because Satan’s grip is both too tight and too enticing. Only after our Father draws us out of Satan’s grasp do we have either the power or desire to come to Jesus.
2. The Calvinist Word Picture: A sinner is a dead corpse at the bottom of the sea of sin. Jesus is in a boat and throws a life ring in the sinner’s direction, but the sinner does nothing because the sinner is a dead corpse at the bottom of the sea. So, Jesus dives into the sea and swims down to the sinner. Jesus then hauls the sinner up to the surface, breathes life into the sinner, ties the sinner to the life ring, and pulls the revived sinner into the boat. The sinner is saved.
This picture supports the truth, “There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God” of Romans 3:10-11; and also the truth, “no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father” of John 6:65. These passages clearly reinforce the Calvinistic concept that we are incapable of turning to Jesus on our own. This picture does, however, seem to suffer a bit in the face of Paul and Silas’ command to the Philippian jailer in Acts 16:31, i.e., to the truth, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.” This goes to your account of the popular pastor who wrote, ‘Why to evangelize if God has already chosen who will be saved.’
3. The Hybrid Word-Picture: A sinner is a dead corpse at the bottom of the sea of sin. Jesus is in a boat and throws a life ring in the sinner’s direction, but the sinner does nothing because the sinner is a dead corpse at the bottom of the sea. So, Jesus dives into the sea and swims down to the sinner. Jesus then hauls the sinner up to the surface, breathes life into the sinner, and says to the sinner, “Grab the ring, and I’ll save you!” If the sinner grabs the life ring, Jesus pulls the revived sinner into the boat, and the sinner is saved. If the sinner refuses to grab the life ring, the sinner drowns in the sea of sin and is lost
At first, this hybrid picture would appear to satisfy both criteria. Our Father God first chooses us, and then we have the opportunity to either accept or reject His Love, Grace, and Salvation. God’s Sovereignty and Man’s Free Will would both seem to be maintained. But, as attractive as this hybrid picture seems, it founders upon the truth, “he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love” of Ephesians 1:4. If God chose us before the universe and time even began to exist, how can free will be considered to come into the equation at all.
So I continue to maintain that the tension between God’s Sovereignty and Man’s Free Will cannot be twisted around in any way to make them both fit into any form of human logic.
I would therefore counsel that we continue to affirm that God is Absolutely Sovereign; Man is Absolutely Free; These two are mutually exclusive; thus, this is impossible according to any form of human logic; but God is not bound by human logic.
But, never missing the truth, “God is love” of 1 John 4:8; and in verse 16, “And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love, and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.”
“Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift.” (2 Corinthians 9:15).
I will keep this short. I heard Dave Hunt quote that phrase with my own ears. Second, I do not support Calvinism in any way. Third, Calvinism is a cult. I have witnessed to MANY Calvinists, and they are ‘firm’ in their beliefs that they are born again first BEFORE they can believe the gospel. They are the ‘elect’. The non-elect is damned to hell without any choice. All scripture is taken out of context, just like Ellen G. White did, they do. I believed the gospel, I read how Jesus said you must be born again, and I asked Jesus to save me, then I received the Holy Spirit. John 3:16, 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, John 3:3.
M. David Johnson states:
// So I continue to maintain that the tension between God’s Sovereignty and Man’s Free Will cannot be twisted around in any way to make them both fit into any form of human logic. //
I like your word-pictures for the Arminian and Reformed views of election, and agree that the hybrid version fails in addition to conflating two views of spiritual death (man separation from God but capable of responding to God’s grace in the gospel vs. man as a dead corpse that is incapable.
I used to think the tension between divine sovereignty and human responsibility was beyond human logic, too, but, as I learn more about Molinism, I find it provides a coherent understanding of their reconciliation. William Lane Craig once called Molinism “one of the most fruitful theological doctrines ever conceived.” Since it is not a soteriological system, it is held by various Catholics, Reformed, Arminians, and Provisionists. The two pillars of Molinism are the meticulous sovereignty of God and the libertarian free will of man. In his paper (https://philarchive.org/archive/FREITL) explaining how Molinism provides a solution to having a consistent infralapsarian Calvinist view, Kirk MacGregor writes “The distinctive difference between Calvinism and Molinism is that Calvinism sees God accomplishing his will through his omnipotent power while Molinism understands God utilizing his omniscient knowledge.” Thus, though it is not without its objectors, Molinism offers a coherent alternative solution that is not deterministic or require preferring sovereignty over free will or vice-versa.
In fact, I did not apply the CBGM on Jude the way you say. I did take into account results of the CBGM as applied by the editors if the ECM of Jude when evaluating the external evidence but that is another matter.
As I mentioned in my original article, I consider Dr. Wasserman to be the foremost authority on the Book of Jude today.
Thanks for that clarification, Tommy. I now see that I was misreading your statement, “I have taken into account the recent results of the CBGM as applied to Jude.” (The Epistle of Jude: Its Text and Transmission, 2006, Almqvist, p. 124).
Did you thus accept the ECM’s genealogical reconstruction of the textual tradition, or did you use some other method to arrive at your own reconstruction?
David Homiak’s comment is pleasantly startling.
Thank you, David, for your quite intriguing comment presenting Molinism. I was not previously familiar with that approach to addressing the theological tension between Calvinism and Arminianism. But, since William Lane Craig is one of my favorite authors, my interest was immediately piqued.
I read the article you cited (BTW, instead of Kirk MacGregor, it appears to have been written by Ken Keathley, another proponent of Molinism). I was especially intrigued by Keathley’s concept of God accomplishing His will through His omniscience, rather than through His omnipotence.
Decker clarifies this Middle Knowledge concept in his article on Molinism in The Dictionary of Historical Theology (2000, Paternoster, p.374):
Geisler further clarifies it in his article in the Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics (1999, Baker, p.493):
After some additional research, however, it seems to me that Molinism may be simply substituting one incomprehensibility for another.
Wayne Grudem (another one of my favorites), in the Second Edition of his Systematic Theology (2020, Zondervan, pp.457-459) indicates:
As time permits, I hope to explore this in more detail, perhaps starting with Laing, et. al. , Calvinism and Middle Knowledge: A Conversation (2019, Pickwick). Thanks again for getting me to stop and think a bit. It was fun!
Thanks for your response! Yes, I was mistakenly ascribing Keathley’s article to Macgregor, who wrote an excellent book on Molinism, that also notes its similarity to infralapsarian Calvinism, called “Salvation and Sovereignty.” Grudem is a Calvinist, and is somewhat unfair in his analysis of Molinism, so I do encourage you to read WLC’s many articles answering critics and questions concerning Molinism at reasonablefaith.org, and read his book on God’s omniscience, “The Only Wise God: The Compatibility of Divine Foreknowledge and Human Freedom.” I have not read Laing’s book on MK, but understand it is excellent.
This is not the forum to debate Molinism, but I will address Grudem’s assertions you raised for the sake of other readers. That Molinism provides a theory for reconciling divine sovereignty and human responsibility far different than Grudem’s presupposed Calvinistic view is true, but that does not make it unbiblical. Middle knowledge is demonstrated in verses such as 1 Samuel 23:11-12, where God knew what would happen should David decide to stay in Keilah, even though David chose to flee instead, and is no more speculative than the three decrees of Calvinism. The third statement about God determining choices is a complete misread of Molinism, which affirms libertarian free will. Note that the circumstances we are in do not cause us to choose a particular way, as we are free to choose A or ~A at any point; the choice is not contingent on the circumstances, and we don’t necessarily have to choose a particular way. In fact, Molina explicitly insists that within these same circumstances, the agents have the ability to do contrary to what God knows they will do — it is just that God knows that they will not choose otherwise. In other words, as Craig observes about God’s foreknowledge, God knows what *will* happen, not what *must* happen. The fourth statement is a non sequitur, since Molinism does not take a soteriological stance, and therefore can be incorporated in all the belief systems I mentioned. Alvin Plantinga is a Molinist and Reformed! I am quite amused that Grudem casts such aspersions on Molinism, while trying to defend that the Bible teaches divine determinism, that God does not love all sinners, and that God must regenerate believers before they can have faith, all of which non-Calvinists find contradicted by Scripture when taken in context. Thanks for listening!
Yes, as you say, Wayne Grudem is indeed a Calvinist. And, I’ve made no secret of the fact that, at base, I’m (at least a hybrid) Calvinist myself. But, in considering what Molinism portends, Grudem’s third objection seems to strongly support my contention that Molinism just substitutes one incomprehensibility for another. Formally, I would say that Molinism substitutes a numerical incomprehensibility for a logical one. Expanding my quote of Grudem’s third objection a bit:
Now, I’m not suggesting for a moment that God is incapable of performing such a task. Of course, He is able. I’m simply saying that we are inherently incapable of comprehending the enormity of such a task.
We can certainly “run the numbers”. Our calculating power today is immense. But we are incapable of ensuring that we have considered (and properly quantified) every possible factor that needs to be added into the equation. And we are not capable of truly comprehending the number that comes out of the computer when we’re done.
Restricting ourselves, for the moment, to human decisions; given n persons, if every person is connected to every other person (except themself) the number of connections will be n*(n-1)/2.
If n = 2, n*(n-1)/2 = 2*(2-1)/2 = 2*(1)/2 = 2/2 = 1.
If n = 5, n*(n-1)/2 = 5*(5-1)/2 = 5*(4)/2 = 20/2 = 10.
If n = 100, n*(n-1)/2 = 100*(100-1)/2 = 100*(99)/2 = 9900/2 = 4950.
If n = 1,000,000 then n*(n-1)/2 = 1,000,000*(1,000,000-1)/2 = 1,000,000*(999,999)/2 = 999,999,000,000/2 = 499,999,500,000; almost 500 billion.
The current world population is 7.888 billion. For simplicity, let’s just round that up to an even 8 billion = 8,000,000,000.
If n = 8,000,000,000 then n*(n-1)/2
somewhat over 4 quintillion.
And that’s just the possible human interactions… in one instant.
The current average world-wide life expectancy is 72.27 years = 2,280,667,752 seconds.
This, times 4.329… connections per second = 9,875,026,547,417,600,914,513,969,152 or about 10 octillion.
And, if we were to limit ourselves to using Bishop Usher’s date of creation of 4,004 BC, the world has existed for 6,027 years = 190,197,655,200 seconds… Well, you get the idea.
But, of course, there are many more things to be considered in the required state of affairs than just the human-to-human interactions. There are currently about 2 trillion galaxies in the known universe and about 100 million stars in the average galaxy. If each star, on average, has 1 planet, that means there are about 400 quintillion celestial orbs in total…
And, what about which particular hair a given flea chooses to cling to on a particular dog’s back?
And so, I continue to simply hold to the truth that God is not bound by human logic. To me, this is just a simple exposition of Deuteronomy 29:29, “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.” (ESV)
Grudem’s argument seems to be that, since future contingencies chain together, God would have a difficult time sorting out how to make various events He desires to happen to occur, and therefore He must determine them. His reliance on divine determinism as the solution is a necessary conclusion of the way Calvinists understand sovereignty and free will, unfortunately.
Your comments also seem to place a limit or constraints on whether God could hypothetically simulate a world that involves a huge number of chains of free will choices, even though most of them would be independent with only tangential interaction, or the entire physical interactions of the full universe. While these would be impossible for our finite intelligence and knowledge, I reject such limits on God’s omniscience as speculative, rather than biblical. As you say, God is not bound by human logic, such as your numerical example.
I don’t understand why you think it is better to hold to inconsistent Calvinistic compatibility while Molinism provides a better potential solution, unless the desire that Calvinism be upheld as a philosophical and theological system is primary. Molinism may or may not be true, since God has not revealed the answer to us, but it provides an intellectually fruitful way to avoid the dilemmas of divine determinism while reconciling divine sovereignty and human responsibility. You can have the last word. Thanks for the discussion.
Thank you, David –
I’ve enjoyed our discussion as well.
But I think one of my assertions may have fallen through the cracks, as they can often do when running a series of huge numbers. The eyes just kind-of glaze over.
You wrote about my last post, “Your comments also seem to place a limit or constraints on whether God could hypothetically simulate a world…”
I believe I actually stated exactly the opposite, “Now, I’m not suggesting for a moment that God is incapable of performing such a task. Of course, He is able. I’m simply saying that we are inherently incapable of comprehending the enormity of such a task.”
I believe you and I are in full agreement on this point: God is not limited or constrained at all.
I suspect that Wayne Grudem agrees with us as well. I can indeed see how his specific wording here might be construed to indicate that God would have difficulty sorting out all the possibilities. But given Grudem’s general theological stance, I don’t really think that’s what he meant.
And, please note that I have not rejected Molinism outright. I can see it as a possibly workable system of theology. I just don’t know enough about it to say more than that.
I simply observed that it is not without its own difficulties, in that it seems to substitute numerical incomprehensibility for Calvinism’s logical incomprehensibility. In either case, we are faced with the reality that there are some things about God which we will never understand this side of Glory.
” For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9, ESV).