Thursday, December 09, 2004

Whine and Song

I find the "Brain" at the Morg (my abbreviation for is out trying to defend the indefensible, and is getting scathing reviews because of it. Rob Sivulka, the primary mover and shaker in the Morg, has written an article at . The article is ultimately a justification of his just plain ineffective missionary work. It was suppose to explain why people who put together a missionary outreach and training directed at Mormons were not really correct. He cites himself as an authority on the correct methods of reaching out to the Mormons, based on 20 years of mostly part-time missionary work. He derides the approaches of many lifetime residents and/or full-time pastors in Utah who put their experience into the prepared materials. And he proves how truly out of touch with Mormonism he is by once again asserting the Adam-God teachings of Brigham Young are binding on the modern LDS Church, even though they were never fully explained, taught or ratified as LDS doctrine. In his mind, if someone wants to engage in those ineffective friendshipping techniques, go ahead and waste your own time.

Reviewers in the Theologyweb's forum are seemingly unpersuaded. With remarks ranging from there is a place for both types of missionary work to it is totally wrong, most recognize that yelling and attacking the faith of others is not how Paul, John or Peter would have done it, and there is no New Testament model for picketing and yelling. While the remarks are civil, they are not ginger. One writer observes the Morg brain's argument is a mass of contradiction, and really self-justification for being so ineffective.

Notably, the people who actually talk to Morg because of Confrontational Evangelism (or CE) are not usually the ones Morg will speak with. I can name several people who try to engage Mr. Sivulka when he is out there with his signs, slogans and false representations-filled handbills, and he refuses to speak with them. However, he turns to Friendship Evangelism (FE) if people will engage him when he thinks they don't know about Mormonism. But since he offends so many more knowledgeable Mormons than he ever speaks with, heaven forbid he might compare his method to the Bible. The scriptures order missionaries and members alike to not offend or be arrogant in presenting their faith (1Cor 8:13; 1Pet 3:15) and he frankly violates the explicit direction given by Christ and the Apostles: Teach the kingdom of God and Christ.

We literally have no examples anywhere of any teaching to non-Hebrews attacking their beliefs. None. But Mr. Sivulka rationalizes both his ineffectiveness and his non-Christian approach by saying simply "because I like to, and I fail to see what is wrong with it." So now that is mature and well reasoned from the scriptures. He speaks of Paul's habit of going to a new town and visiting with the local synagogue. But he leaves out that Paul left when they asked or forced him to go. He didn't stand outside and carry a sign or shout pithy couplets. He did not hand out brochures, or even attack them to the general public. He moved on.

Of course, Mr. Sivulka is happy to liken himself to the Apostles when it comes to getting paid or being a suffering servant, but he hates to think anyone might have their authority, or that he should act like they did.

So many contradictions, so little time.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Who is the Clay?

Paul taught the Roman Jews about the predestination of the descendants of Abraham to be the vehicle for the salvation of mankind. He used a visual device, the Potter and the clay, to recall to scattered Israel who had called their nation. For any Jew reading Paul's letter, there is no question the clay is the nation or vehicle chosen by God to bring salvation to the world.

Sadly this understanding is lost on much of modern Christianity. Specifically it is lost on those professors of Calvinism. Because study of the Old Testament is usually quite abbreviated for most Christians, they cannot see the direct parallels in Paul's teaching, and even his citations from the Old Testament are forgotten. For example, Romans 9:20

Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed [it], Why hast thou made me thus?

This is a citation from Isaiah 45:9

Shall the clay say to him that fashioneth it, What makest thou? or thy work, He hath no hands?

Moreover, the passage is a very specific reference to God's use of Israel to save and bless all humankind: Is 45:15-17

15 Verily thou [art] a God that hidest thyself, O God of Israel, the Saviour. 16 They shall be ashamed, and also confounded, all of them: they shall go to confusion together [that are] makers of idols. 17 [But] Israel shall be saved in the LORD with an everlasting salvation: ye shall not be ashamed nor confounded world without end.

What's more, Paul's citation of this Passage in Isaiah parallels Isaiah referencing the downtrodden condition of the nation of Egypt:

14 Thus saith the LORD, The labour of Egypt, and merchandise of Ethiopia and of the Sabeans, men of stature, shall come over unto thee, and they shall be thine: they shall come after thee; in chains they shall come over, and they shall fall down unto thee, they shall make supplication unto thee, [saying], Surely God [is] in thee; and [there is] none else, [there is] no God. Isaiah 45:14

Since few people reading the Bible these days do the kind of scripture study to find out the context of these verses, many are confused, thinking God has chosen specific people for salvation, condemning others out of his unknowable wisdom. The context of these passages is clearly not about individual salvation.

In verse 21 he makes clear allusion to Jeremiah 18:6. Here are the two passages for comparison:

Romans 9:21 Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?

Jeremiah 18:6 O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the LORD. Behold, as the clay [is] in the potter's hand, so [are] ye in mine hand, O house of Israel.

The Greek New Testament by Nestle Aland cites this passage as the source of Paul's words/thoughts here. Adam Clarke in his commentary makes the same point, that Paul's discussion is about the Nation of Israel, not individuals. Reading the commentaries by the Calvinists, however, we find they very often do not offer any analysis of the underlying passages to which Paul is referring (see JFB and Matthew Henry and Calvin, for example).

While Paul refers to God hardening the heart of Pharoah, he also notes that Pharoah hardened his heart. In much the same way rain can make a field grow, corrupt seed can grow weeds of the same act. Thus God's demonstration of signs hardened Pharoah's heart, but could have converted another person. Personal Choice came into effect. While the clay is addressed as "O man" in questioning God, it is clear that Paul is talking about the nation of Israel and its long term salvation and blessing in this passage from his comments in Romans 9:23- 10:1, which 10:1 summarizes:

1 ¶ BRETHREN, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.

The vessels are nations. The Gentiles and the Jews. Verse 25 talks about the passage in Hosea 2:23: "I will call them my people who were not my people." Individuals are saved, but the vehicle for that salvation is Israel, and the adoption into that Vessel by all peoples who act by faith.

We are the clay by adoption and birth.

I hope citing the scriptures and reasoning from them is helpful to understanding the Biblical doctrine of Predestination. Peace.