Thursday, May 08, 2008

I Don't Make the Rules, I Just Apply Them.

Back in my youth it was always said, "Just because you were born in a garage, it don't make you a Volkswagen." The truth bearing nature of aphorisms notwithstanding I always took that to mean (in the creedal sophistication of the Jesus Freaks) that being born in a Christian home did not make you a Christian. In fact the term "Christian home" itself is slightly silly, like those that think they feel a spirit of oppression when they drive into Utah. An institution has actual regeneracy? The mind fogs. Back to the point.
As the Baby Boom reaches past its midlife crisis and into a heightened religious sense and they pull up heaving at the near side of the Tiber or the Golden Horn, more credit is given by them to the contrary of this "saying". The adjustment of the residual evangelical faith they once held has them amend the saying thus, "Unless of course you always believed that you were a Volkswagen and committed yourself to the Chilton's manual of Volkswagen repair and subscribed rather strictly to all things relevant in the storied history of VW" Of course we cannot allow the illustration to get away from us by suggesting that this claimant to VW-ness had a Beetle and Jetta for parents at which the "please-save-my-kid-by-church-magic" set says validly, "Aha!" I pause before I say "Aha!" back at them. Don't want this to turn into a shoving match.
"Aha! Not only did I refrain from pushing the metaphor further then it could communicate but never, I repeat, never has a single Volkswagen in the history of the Cosmos been brought into being by a Beetle sharing a night of passion with a Jetta (I don't care how smokin' hot she was). So it is with Christians. The genetics and the period of incarceration make nothing of a man except perhaps peer status with the demons. But you have always believed and ..and...sola fide, faith alone.
You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe -- and shudder.
James 2:19
The catechism of the First Church of Pandemonium is solid on the doctrine of God. Not only does the creed of that institution affirm it, they individually claim the belief. How long have they believed? They can't remember a time when they did not know that this was true.
Do you want to be shown, you shallow man, that faith apart from works is barren?
James 2:20
James has been on this topic a bit by the time he gets to verses 19 & 20. He seems to think that belief that matters to God (not a dead faith) is that which has promoted an action. And what form would the action take in those that believe the claims the Jesus died for sinners?
Romans 10:8-14 has an idea.
The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart (that is, the word of faith which we preach); because, if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For man believes with his heart and so is justified, and he confesses with his lips and so is saved. The scripture says, "No one who believes in him will be put to shame." For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and bestows his riches upon all who call upon him. For, "every one who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved." But how are men to call upon him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without a preacher?

The verbal confession includes more than saying the great creedal truths. It involves calling on the Name of the Lord. How can they call without belief? The demons believe and don't call. Is their faith not true? The Bible says that their faith is true about these things but it is silent about another belief which genetic "Christians" with them might not affirm at a level which would bring about a saving faith. They don't believe that they need to. Not sinners or not sinful enough. Regenerate from the womb, always a Christian, never unconverted. Only the sinner cries out to God, "O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?"

I John 1:8-10 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

This is the upshot. St. Paul lets us know in Romans 7 that, yes he was born alive spiritually but as the law entered his life, sin came to life and he died. This is the death from which the work of Christ on the cross came to redeem us. The child of Christian parents is certainly benefited by the presence of the truth surrounding them but the truth is this: by the time a mind is capable of even understanding the articles of the Faith (which they will naturally believe as some naturally believe in Santa Claus) they will have fallen to the sins that come to life as they encounter the moral law. They must believe that Christ died to save sinners but they must come to also believe that they are precisely that, sinners. Those two beliefs, the need and the answer, bring about the the work of a real faith, calling on the name of the Lord to be saved. God's grace is to sinners and those who think they can just grow up knowing the truth and learning to be obedient are denying that grace.
I do not nullify the grace of God; for if justification were through the law,
then Christ died to no purpose.
Galatians 2:21

Have I then become your enemy by telling you the truth?
Galatians 4:16

This persuasion is not from him who calls you.
Galatians 5:8


Matthew N. Petersen said...

I'm not quite sure I follow your point:

Is it that Orthodox and Catholics do not call on the name of the Lord? Maybe this or that individual does, but that it is possible to be a good Catholic or good Orthodox without calling on the name of the Lord?

Then my question is, what about the repeated prayers: "Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us!" And also, the Lord's Prayer?

Why then do these not count? Catholics and Orthodox call on the name of the Lord, and parents teach their children to call on the name of the Lord. But that isn't good enough? How good do our prayers have to be before Christ saves us?

Is the word really on our mouths and in our hearts, or do we have to come up with the right sort of prayer?

Or do you mean that Orthodox and Catholics don't think it's important for people to call on the name of the Lord?

But then, a simpe "not so...stop lying" is sufficient to answer you. So I imagine that isn't your point.

Or do you mean that we cannot learn from our parents to call on the name of the Lord, and have to come to it ourselves? Aside from the silliness of that position--children learn to love and do nearly everything from their parents, why not this?--your position then, like before, becomes "Christ is not in our midst. Christ is not in your heart and on your lips." What must you do to be saved? The sort of call someone learns from his parents is not good enough. Our prayers have to measure up to a certian standard. Christ is not in our midst, in my parents devotion, I must pull Christ down on my own. If my call is the one I learn from my parents, it's not good enough for Christ. I don't measure up.

In short, why is the sort of call the children are taught not good enough for Christ? How good do I have to be to be saved? How fully must I pull Christ down into me before I can be saved?

The Oracle said...

You are correct in your eventual realization that I wasn't talking about whether those that apostatize toward Rome or Byzantium may or may not have had real saving faith or whether those "communions" "Call on the Name of the Lord".
The trek toward that nonsense is sociological rather than the pursuit of truth (in my opinion) and what I was commenting on was how these ex-evangelicals tried to move their sorry souls into familial, promised salvific election expressed not by Faith and repentance but by rite acted out by any number of someone elses..

Matthew N. Petersen said...

familial, promised salvific election expressed not by Faith and repentance but by rite acted out by any number of someone elses.

Like as if Orthodox or Catholics are willing to sit at home and let someone else pray? As if confession wasn't a sacrament? As if the prayers they repeatedly pray aren't prayers of repentance? If that really is your point, stop bearing false witnes.

Why is the sort of prayer Orthodox and Catholics do not good enough for God? How good must we be? How good do I have to be before God accepts me?

The Oracle said...

The original post was on a grant of salvific grace to infants without their faith or their repentance.
I hold that Catholics and Orthodox that call on God offering their faith alone and receive grace from God alone through the work of Christ alone (each alone in the realm they reference) is sufficient for their salvation. They may be confused in confessing in a body that rejects the simplicity of the Gospel. If they add to man's act a ritual as a necessary expression of faith, if they depend on a secondary intermediary to funnel them the grace, or if they include the graces provided by sources other than Christ, then they have apostatized. They may be saved but they will answer for it when God judges the world.

Matthew N. Petersen said...

"The original post was on a grant of salvific grace to infants without their faith or their repentance."

Yes, but your first comment was not. And as I said, it was absolute nonsense.

Regarding your original post:

The fact is, parents can and do teach their children to pray. But that sort of prayer isn't good enough. So my question is, how good does a prayer have to be before God accepts it? What's His minimum level? Some prayers don't cut it. How good must I be to be saved?

The Oracle said...

A couple of questions.
1] Do you know of a definition of "lying" which will make sense of your repeated suggestions.
2] Do you have a definition of the Gospel? You know, less than which will not save and more than which is just decoration. Also, at what point do the decorative aspects destroy the meaning and efficacy of the saving Gospel?
Those two things will help me in deciphering your critiques of my inspired work.

Matthew N. Petersen said...

1) Saying something that is false, either willfully, or without doing the requesit investigation. Thus you say "familial, promised salvific election expressed not by Faith and repentance but by rite acted out by any number of someone elses." Confession is a sacrament. Orthodox regularly pray "Lord Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner." Orthodox services are jam packed with confession--each Sunday, every Orthodox Christian prays "This is a most trustworthy saying, that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners of whom I am the foremost." Orthodox services are literally filled with this sort of thing. Similarly, Catholic services are filled with repentance. If a Catholic prays the rosary, he prays the Lord's Prayer (including the part about forgive us our trasspasses) ten times. As I said at the beginning, confession is a sacrament. And it's not like they don't go and actually pray (as you insinuate in your last section). So what gives? Why do you continue to represent them as if they didn't confesss? As if they didn't pray themselves? This is a simple, you say they don't confess. They manifestly do, as thrity seconds of research would show.

2) Christ is the gospel. In Christ everything is Christ--He fills all things, whatever treasure you may find, it is hidden in Christ, and the Spirit has been poured out on all flesh. Outside Christ, everything is dying.

But that's aside my point. An Anglican mother takes her child to Matins every day. The child therefore learns to pray "Almighty and most merciful God, we have sinned against thee in thought word and deed, not only in outward transgressions but also in secret thoughts and desires that we are not able to understand but which are all known to you. For this reason we flee for refuge to your infinite mercy seeking and imploring your grace through the might of Jesus Christ our Lord who now lives and reigns with thee and with the Holy Ghost ever one God unto ages of ages."

But, on your reading, this child's prayer is insufficient. It doesn't measure up. God doesn't accept that sort of repentance, but demands something better. So my question is simple, how good does his prayer have to be before God accepts it?

The Oracle said...

"requesit investigation" would have brought you to realize that my first comment was about what I was saying in the post. That someone has come to a different opinion (which I note in the comment) after looking at the evidence is no lie. Unless you are willing to assent to being a liar yourself for failing to come to my conclusion about what I was talking about.

"we have sinned against thee in thought word and deed," and "we flee for refuge to your infinite mercy seeking and imploring your grace" are wonderful parts of that prayer. If you refer back to my post you will find that I am arguing for exactly those two propositions, the need because of sin and the grace because of Christ. OF course the infant has prayed none of these things, and the older matinized child, God bless him, more often then not, says them by rote, personally free of grasping the the greatness of their sin (regardless of the high tone of the words) and the greatness of grace. Find me the child, and I am sure they exist, who at the age of four, was no longer reciting but calling out because it was not "we" but "I have sinned" and you will see the salvation of his soul.
Hebrews 11:6 "And without faith it is impossible to please him. For whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him."

And since you seem not want to or be able to clarify the message which we preach which has the power to save, let me prime the pump with this portion of its definition.
Hebrews 11:1 "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen."

We will agree when you say the child prays this prayer with assurance and conviction that it is true about him and his God, that child will be saved.

Matthew N. Petersen said...

1) It seems when confronted with the data, that infact confession and individual prayer (as if vicarious prayer is even a sensible concept!) are important to Catholics you should man up and retract your statement. Both Catholics and Orthodox value prayer (and I have given numerous examples of this). And neither takes the nonsensical position that I should sit at home and let someone else pray. You are just flat wrong, and contradicted by the evidence.

2) "If you refer back to my post you will find that I am arguing for exactly those two propositions."

Yes I know, that's why I chose that prayer. You argue that a child cannot be taught to pray those propositions. But children can be taught to pray that. So something is lacking in their prayer. It isn't sufficient to call on the Lord, you must call on the Lord plus. It seems from your last comment that the thing that makes the child's prayer insufficient is that it is merely rote. Could you elaborate on that a little? Are there any other ways my prayers can be insufficient?

First, you say "I must merely call on the Lord." But now it's "I must merely call on the long as my call isn't by rote." What other ellipses must be added? Or can you find a general principal that accounts for all such ellipses?

The Oracle said...

The line between us, as just announced, is between you believing the prayer (containing the elements of the Christian faith) crossing the lips by whatever force is the essential and I only embrace those wonderful words if spoken in faith, sincerity.

Can you understand how my head swims when someone suggests that "faith" is an addition to the gospel message.

Matthew N. Petersen said...

I'm not suggesting anything at all. I'm asking you: how good must my faith be for it to count. It is not sufficient to pray to God, it has to be good enough. How good?

Can that faith be alloyed by anything?

I'm just looking for a straight answer. And you have not given one. You have dodged around, but you have never even made motions to answer my question. "How good must my call on the Lord be for it to count as calling on the name of the Lord? How sincere must I be? How fully must I understand the depth of my sin? How fully must I understand Christ alone is my salvation? How good must my faith be for me to be saved??"

I'm not asserting anything. I'm asking a question. Stop dodging around, accusing me of saying something I'm not. You claimed that faith learned by imitating parents isn't sufficient--isn't good enough. My simple question, which you have not even begun to answer is "How good must your calling on the nae of the Lord be before it becomes faith?"

"The verbal confession includes more than saying the great creedal truths. It involves calling on the Name of the Lord." But now it isn't sufficient to simply call. How good must the call be?

Answer the question and stop playing games!

NeonKnight said...

Please correct me if I am wrong - I think perhaps what Evan is saying is that imitating someone else's faith is not one's own faith. It is imitating someone else's faith. I like the hymn, but the faith of our fathers is only that - the faith of our fathers. It had effect in their lives. Our faith has effect in our lives.

My greek teacher thought he was a Christian for 34 years. I thought I was a Christian because I was raised in a believing home. However, I did not give up and confess my sin and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ until I was around 23. The kindness of God led us to repentance.

The Oracle said...


Matthew N. Petersen said...

"To imitate someone else's faith is not to have ones own faith."

Well, if it is imitated poorly, that is, not really, you're correct. But Christ, for instance, does nothing except by imitation of His Father. Is it not really His?

The faith of my fathers in the United States has effect in my life. The faith of my fathers in money has effect in my life. The faith of my fathers in military strength has effect on me. Why doesn't the faith of my fathers in Christ? Faith must be mine? What must I do to have it?

But my question still stands. It isn't enough simply to call on the Lord. You must really call on the Lord. I'll grant you all the exceptions to "whosoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved" you want. You jump up and down on that verse. But you modify it to "whoever really calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." My question is, how good does your call have to be before you really called. How good must my call be for it to be faith?

Answering "it must be real" or "it must be faith" or "it must be good" (or any variation thereof) are no answer, but simply a restatement of the question I'm asking. I understand he thinks whosoever really calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. That's my point. My question is how real must it be to be real.

NeonKnight said...

Dear Matthew,

In the third paragraph, you asked "Faith must be mine?"

The answer, gloriously, is yes.

In the Lord Jesus Christ,


Matthew N. Petersen said...


That question was rhetorical. The real one was the one after it. My faith in the United States comes to me by imitation of my parents. But somehow this sort of faith in Christ isn't good enough. How good must my faith be for it to be mine? You insist on saying "everyone who really calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." My question is, when have you really called on the name of the Lord? I know you think it must be really yours, that's why I'm asking the question. Answer the question, don't just restate the occasion for the question.

Matthew N. Petersen said...

And just let me be clear. I'm not, I repeat, I'm not, asserting what Evan claimed I was--that we are saved whenever the correct formula passes our lips. I'm not asserting nothing at all. Nothing at all. I'm asking a simple question. No one has even tried to answer it. How real must my faith be to be faith? " must be real...very real." "You say my faith must be mine for me to be saved, how do I go about making it mine?" "Yes, you are quite right, gloriously, it must be yours." Granted.

Answer the question.

NeonKnight said...


Greetings. Trust you had an enjoyable Memorial Day Weekend.

If I understand your posts correctly, there are two elements seeking clarification: 1) How real must your faith be to be faith, and 2) When have you really called upon the name of the Lord?

Hebrews 11 begins "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen."

Have you assurance of things hoped for and conviction of things not seen? If you do, then you have faith as the Scriptures define it, certainly as real as real can be.

About your other question, "when have you really called upon the name of the Lord?"

From my vantage point, those who have called upon the name of the Lord have had their sins forgiven. The wonderful evidence in their own lives overwhelms them and those who know them. Their hearts are now clean and not dirty, and their burdens are carried by Another, our Lord Jesus Christ.

Galatians 5:19-21 lists a character set of ongoing life patterns or deeds natural to a man who does not love God.

Galatians 5:22-24 lists a set of fruit that are given to a man who is born of the Spirit.

I believe any man can compare his life with these two sets and note which set he is in.

Warmly in the Lord Jesus,


Matthew N. Petersen said...


I can respect the answer "I don't know what a call on the Lord has to be to be good enough, but when it is good enough it has the following effects."

But it seems to me that it is precisely that answer that makes the problem actually problematic.

(I should say that the following account is in first person for vividness not because it's describing me.)

So I've called on the Lord, and I don't see any of those things I should have. I guess my call wasn't good enough. I didn't really mean it. I must do better...I must make this belief mine in a way my country isn't mine. (Otherwise I could learn it by imitation for I learn to love country by imitation.) So what must I do to be saved? "Call on the name of the Lord." Well, yes. Granted. But that's the problem. I did. It didn't cut it.

Similarly the other question. So I call on the name of the Lord. Night and day I make my supplication known to Him. But like Christ, I mingle "my God my God why have you forsaken me" into my call. To all my senses God has, entirely forsaken me. Well, I guess I don't have faith. But I'm calling on the name of the Lord. So my call must be better...I must...I must...I must.

This is not gospel. This is works-righteousness.

In Christ


halfgut said...

How did I get here? I Googled Volkswagen and this Blog came up!

Well, now that I'm here, let me say that I've seen pictures of the Vicar in his youth and I think he would have blended rather nicely into the vinyl seats of 1963 21 window micro bus as he attended angels unaware. ...and then he was gone and his seatbelt was still buckled.

Always willing to throw in my .02