[We are] not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. (Romans 1:16)

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Time-Share Industry and 'Free' Grace

by Antonio da Rosa

The following is a small sample of my new article at Free Grace Theology Blog. It comes from the article, How to Lead People to Christ, Installment #2: The 'Deserted Island' Scenario.

If you would like to comment on this, please direct them to Free Grace Theology Blog under that thread heading.

As a proponent of Free Grace Theology, I believe that eternal life is the Gift of God. It is not a barter between man and God, nor is it a two way transaction, nor are there required preconditions attached. A gift, legitimately spoken of, does not require anything of the recipient but its reception.

The Time-Share Industry and ‘Free’ Gifts
My sister used to work in Cabo San Lucas, Baja California, Mexico, selling time-share. She still has friends in this industry. When she was up a few months ago, she gave me a brochure that offered me a 'free' gift: an all included 4-night stay in a hotel in Cabo San Lucas. But there were catches. I had to be of a certain annual income, and I had to submit to a multi-hour meeting pitching the sales of time-share in Cabo San Lucas.

Was the vacation offered a genuine free gift? I do not believe so. There is a type of barter and two-way transaction going on here, as well as a required pre-condition. In exchange for a person’s time and attention at a multi-hour sales pitch meeting, he is given a 4-night vacation. Furthermore, in order to even be eligible for this exchange, one has to meet the condition of being at a certain level of affluence; his annual income must be at the predetermined amount.

It is my contention that well meaning traditional Free Grace theology people would be inconsistent if they did not consider this vacation a genuine free gift. Why? This scenario illustrates their doctrine of soteriology, in which they claim to be adherents of a free grace. But is their doctrine truly free grace?

One is not able to simply receive the free gift of eternal life in traditional Free Grace theology. There are preconditions to be met, which sets up a two-way transaction and barter for eternal life. In the following table we see the barter between God and man

Man’s ExchangeGod’s Exchange
1. Strict Adherence to a Number of Orthodox Doctrines
  a) The Deity of Christ (along with subpoints)
  b) The Substitutionary Death of Christ for Sins (along with subpoints)
  c) The Bodily Resurrection of Christ (along with subpoints)
  d) The Humanity of Christ (along with subpoints)
  e) [Apparent Contradiction] Salvation is by Grace Alone in Jesus Christ Alone

2. Must Not Hold to Any Fatal Unorthodox Doctrines
  a) A Subjective Range
  b) Will result in one believing in a “different Jesus”

3. Must Not Deny the Essential Orthodox Doctrines
  a) A Subjective Range
  b) Will result in one believing in a “different Jesus”
If man’s conditions and items necessary for exchange are submitted and in order God will perform His end of the transaction:
Give Eternal Life

Just like the time-share companies, traditional Free Grace people require more to appropriating eternal life than simply receiving a free gift. This is not Free Grace Theology! Like the precondition of the time-share industry (being at a certain income level) which qualifies one for a vacation, the traditional Free Grace people have their preconditions, requiring one to be a type of orthodox fundamentalist before they are qualified for eternal life. Unless one be at some subjective level of orthodoxy (to be determined by the traditional evangelist, as you ask 10 of them what are the specific requirements and you get 11 different answers), he is no candidate for salvation.

It is as if the Scriptures do not say anymore, "And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely" (Rev 22:17), but, "And let him who is orthodox come. Whoever meets these preconditions of orthodoxy, let him trade this allegiance for the water of life."

Let us make this point clearly:

The legitimate offer of a free gift comes with no other requirement but to simply receive it. This is essentially what free grace is! The conditions placed upon the lost by well-meaning, but erroneous, traditional Free Grace people are unnecessary caveats, provisos, and codicils in the saving transaction. The requirement of these things may indeed frustrate God's grace, and preclude people from eternal salvation (not to mention assurance!).

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Right Thing -- The Right Person

by Antonio da Rosa

There are many ways that organizations, such as law enforcement or businesses who deal with sensitive information, can positively identify a person: DNA, dental records, fingerprints, or retinal scan, to name a few. Determining these factors can net positive identification, or exclude one from consideration. A person can change his physical features (hair style and color, plastic surgery, makeup, etc) in a number of fashions in order that he might elude detection and identification, but these few techniques would make it hard, even impossible, to pass oneself off as someone else. Positive identification is indeed possible.

In the realm of everyday communication we are accustomed to those we are in contact with referring to other people in the course of their dialogues. We, too, speak with reference to others as we go about the business of interacting with those we relate to in the outworking of our daily lives and activities. Often, the accurate communication of the identity of a reference is made by use of a name alone. A person talking to another may invoke a name which identifies a person who is familiar to both parties. The context of the dialogue that surrounds the usage of the name may net positive results in two or more parties who share an acquaintance with the one being referred to. In some circumstances, the parties may know multiple people with that same name so other indicators of identity will have to be given, such as the reference's last name, spouse's name, place of employment, or any other distinguishing characteristic. In this way, precise reference to the individual under consideration may be realized for the purposes of the communication.

Misconceptions are not necessary killers to identity or reference
We must note that whether it be the FBI or your best friend, positive identification and reference to individuals is possible, even in the presence of misconceptions about an individual. In the case of a federal investigation, descriptions of a suspect may be faulty due to an individual purposely changing various aspects of his appearance in order to circumvent exposure. Any number of drastic courses of action may be taken by the criminal to hide his identity, but the verification of any unique distinguishing characteristic, such as a DNA test, will provide positive identification, even in the face of wild misconceptions. So, too, in the course of everyday communication, positive reference to an individual can be realized through the testimony of a single, unique, distinguishing characteristic despite abounding misconceptions.

One may be under the impression that Barak Hussein Obama is a native of Indonesia, a Muslim, and Reaganesque in his policies, while another believes him to be the American Messiah, a humanist, and a communist. But when these two come together for communication and invoke the present President of the United States, the 44th President, in their communication they have made positive reference to Barak Hussein Obama, despite their misconceptions.

Positive identification and precise reference of individuals can be accomplished through one unique distinguishing characteristic.

The Red Herring of a Desperate Separationist
If you are familiar at all with the blogosphere debate over the last 2-3 years, you no doubt have seen a statement of mine quoted out of context literally dozens and dozens of times. The quote is:

"The Mormon Jesus and the Evangelical Jesus are one and the same"

The Mormons not only refer to Jesus with one unique reference, but with many unique historical references. See my post here: Offenders for a Word

What I argue is that since Mormons refer to the Jesus of Nazareth from the New Testament of the King James Version of the Bible that they are referring to the same historical Jesus as the Evangelicals do. By virtue of established unique distinguishing references and characteristics of this Jesus, the Personage whom they refer to is adequately delimited to the bona-fide historical Jesus of Nazareth. Of course they have a multitude of various misconceptions about Him, many being outright blasphemous. But when it comes to making reference to the historical Jesus of Nazareth of the New Testament, the case has been made that the Mormons actually do so.

In light of the above line of undeniable argumentation, an opponent of consistent Free Grace Theology has conceded these things:

Yes, in a historical sense the Mormons are referring to the same Jesus that orthodox Christians are.

We know they [the Mormons] are referring to the same historical person we [orthodox Christians] are

The interesting thing about this is that the one who has plastered my above statement all over the Internet has stated that he agrees with the writer of the preceding two statements!

Let us put them both together for comparison:

My statement: The Mormon Jesus and the Evangelical Jesus are one and the same [historical person].

Opponent of consistent Free Grace Theology's statement: We know they [the Mormons] are referring to the same historical person we [orthodox Christians] are.

It is manifestly unethical for someone to bring my character into disrepute for a statement that they, for all intents and purposes, said they agree with (albeit in a slightly different form).

The Right Person
Jesus of Nazareth can be positively identified and referenced with only one unique distinguishing characteristic. [Parenthesis: Yet in all reality, no one who is met with the claim of Jesus of Nazareth that guarantees the present possession of irrevocable eternal life to whoever believes in Him will only be aware of a single characteristic of Him. Wherever He is preached, He is presented in the context of the New Testament narrative.] Such an argument becomes stronger when more than one unique historical characteristic is appealed to.

Delimitation of identity and reference to the bona-fide Jesus of Nazareth can be accomplished in a limitless number of ways.

Example #1
The Jesus that I am referring to:
A) Born in Bethlehem
B) Lived in Egypt for several years
C) Grew up in Nazareth
D) Mother's name is Mary, Legal father's name is Joseph
E) Baptized in the Jordan by John the Baptist, His Cousin
F) Capernaum became His later home
G) Brothers names were James, Joses, Simon, and Judas

Example #2
The Jesus that I am referring to:
A) Preached repentance to Israel
B) A teacher who had many disciples
C) Walked on water, raised the dead, gave sight to the blind, even a man born blind
D) Healed the sick, gave wholeness to the lame, and cleansed lepers
E) Cast out demons
F) Fed 4,000 men and 5,000 men by multiplying a small amount of bread and fish.
G) Preached the ethical standards of the Kingdom of God

Example #3
The Jesus that I am referring to:
A) God in the Flesh
B) Sinless
C) Perfect humanity
D) Executed on a cross by Roman soldiers
E) Buried in a new tomb, hewn out of solid rock
F) Rose bodily from the dead
G) Ascended into heaven and was seated at the right hand of God

In each of the three examples above the Jesus of Nazareth from the New Testament was certainly referenced. Any number of combinations of characteristics could be used to identify and reference Jesus. By so doing, we have invoked the Right Person, Jesus the Christ, who is the Guarantor of eternal life to the believer in Him.

As a statement of fact, identity and reference can be made certain by:
1) Any unique characteristic or
2) A combination of characteristics that creates a unique distinguishing picture

The Right Thing
In the Bible, and in some sectors of Evangelical Christianity, the sole condition for appropriating the present possession of irrevocable eternal life is faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. In the last section, we have discussed ways how one may acknowledge and identify the Jesus of Nazareth of the New Testament, the One who is the Christ, guaranteeing everlasting life to the believer in Him for it.

The Right Thing in the Right Person
However one may come to identify Jesus of Nazareth and become persuaded that this Jesus guarantees his eternal destiny by faith alone, it is manifestly shown that he has exercised the Right Thing (faith) in the Right Person (Jesus of Nazareth).

Jesus stated, "The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life" (John 6:63). What are Jesus' words? "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life" (John 6:47). Who did these words have the authority of?

John 12:49-50
"For I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak. And I know that His command is everlasting life. Therefore, whatever I speak, just as the Father has told Me, so I speak."

On the authority of God the Father, whoever believes in Jesus has everlasting life!

When someone has identified Jesus, by whatever means, and placed his/her faith in Him for everlasting life, however he was persuaded, that person has

the right thing


the right Person