Tuesday, September 11, 2012

It's About Time

Some time ago I was asked by an Open Theist if it was possible for a Calvinist to believe in a person dying “before their time.” I do not believe the query was a genuine search for truth, but rather was posed as a defeater question.

Recognizing the interrogative for what it was, and resolving to follow the wisdom of Proverbs 26:4; I did not respond according to the Open Theist’s terms and presuppositions, but rather answered biblically.

May God add His blessing to your reading as you contemplate the subject of death and dying.

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Rather than address your questions and terms as you define them, I am going to address your concerns as they are spoken of in scripture.

I do this for two basic reasons: 1) Your questions and proposed definitions are loaded with your own assumptions and 2) Calvinism is, above all things, a thoroughly biblical system of theology.

Thus, I am going to explain my position to you with biblical terms and meanings and concepts. (I do not think you'll object.)

It is true that, biblically, no one dies apart from the will/ordination/decree of God. Jesus teaches this as He argues from the lesser to the greater in Matthew’s Gospel.

Matthew 10:29, "Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will."

Jesus teaches here that sparrows do not die apart from God's will. In the previous verse (28) He speaks of death. In the following verse He speaks of value (30-31).

Thus, Christ is arguing from the lesser to the greater. Sparrows do not die apart from God's will/ordination; therefore, humans do not die apart from God's will/ordination.

We also read, “Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them” (Ps. 139:16).

And Daniel exclaims “the God who holds your breath in His hand and owns all your ways, you have not glorified” (Daniel 5:23).

Furthermore, the Apostle Paul preaches: “He [God] gives to all life, breath, and all things . . . in Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:25,28). 

James instructs us, “What is your life? It is even a vapor . . . you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that’” (James 4:14,15).

Upon the tragic and seemingly untimely death of his own children, Job says: “The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD” (Job 1:21).

Thus, the Bible is abundantly clear that we live and die according to God’s will/ordination/decree. (Obviously, God’s decretive will is unknown to us Deut. 29:29.)

Now, without contradicting any of the above scriptures and their clear meaning, we also see some general biblical principles concerning the timing of man’s death and dying. I am thinking specifically of Psalm 90:10 and Ecclesiastes 7:17.

The days of our lives are seventy years; and if by reason of strength they are eighty years, yet their boast is only labor and sorrow . . .” (Ps. 90:10).

Thus, without regard to the decretive will of God, we see in scripture that man may have a reasonable expectation to live somewhere around 70 years. As a general rule, it is a biblical, reasonable expectation.

Today, at least in the West, we anticipate living 70 years or more. This is not an unbiblical expectation. If one dies at the age of 55, we consider the life lived to be short. If one dies at 95 we consider the life lived to be long. (We could very easily use the terms “untimely” and “timely” in lieu of “short” and “long.”)

In other words, “before their time” and “after their time” has reference to the biblical expectation or anticipation of around 70 years of life. Thus, if I were to say that one died “before their time” I would be speaking of their age in relation to 70 years—not of their dying apart from God’s will/ordination/decree.

And this is exactly what Ecclesiastes speaks of: “Do not be overly wicked, nor be foolish: Why should you die before your time?” (Eccl. 7:17).

Dying “before your time” in the Bible has reference to dying before the biblically-reasonable expected time of death at around 70 years. It is not speaking of dying apart from the will of God.

Thus we can affirm, with biblical precision, that one may die “timely” or “untimely” (in regards to the biblically-reasonable expected time of around 70 years) without denying the will/ordination of God. Biblically speaking, it’s not either/or, it’s both/and.

4 comments:

  1. A text out of context is a pretext.

    Steve, care to share with your readers the context and my responses?

    It is interesting in your desire to believe something is true - in this case determinism - and not holding it with the Scripture as of greater value than that wisdom chosen, you have taken passages to explain things in how you wish to see it. If I recall I mentioned to you the case of Hezekiah and how he was told he was going to die and then after Hezekiah prayed the Lord granted him a further 15 years and how your current view super-imposed would argue THAT final 15 years was God's intent and design all along, whilst in reality the first time Hezekiah was spoken to was "his time". Which is the natural reading of the text without your eisegesis [my view, but not able to be demonstrated by that story: which was my point].

    And so, having given that example as not helpful to assist in the discussion - knowing you would see it as I just mentioned - I then challenged you with a passage that you have yet to respond to, and again I have repeated again more recently in another thread. So, how about it here on your blog?

    Does God regret anything he has ever decided?

    Which of course you know is a reference to King Saul whom God chose:
    "the Lord regretted that He had made Saul king over Israel." 1 Samuel 15:34

    This of course means Saul died before "his time" since it was never God's design for him to die when he did as we know from the fact that God in regards to Saul said to him He "would have established your kingdom over Israel forever" (1 Samuel 13:13).

    I wonder what the deceiving spirit linked to determinism will teach you on that?
    (1 Timothy 4:1)

    Please know it is not education and intelligence that sets a man free from deception but a true desire of heart cf. http://www.jarom.net/idol.php

    And don't forget if you hold something against a brother you also hinder the light and have cause to stumble within you (1 John 2:9-10)

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    1. We should interpret narrative through the lens of didactic.

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  2. If, as Paul said all Scripture is profitable for doctrine, then no didactic is of higher value than narrative: both can equally speak into a subject contained in either form with equal weight, but all in context.

    We should interpret any text in context or else what is said is a pretext.

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    Replies
    1. We've already had this discussion and I have conclusively demonstrated that narrative should be understood in light of didactic.

      I have also shown how your insistence on "value statements" is simplistic to the point of being childish (like wanting to know which is "better": a poem or a proverb).

      You either lack the intellect or the honesty (perhaps both) to admit that the difference of which I speak belongs to the categories of "formulating doctrine" and "communicating doctrine." Though formulating doctrine is not the same thing as communicating doctrine, both are profitable and essential to understanding truth. (Truth cannot be properly understood or conveyed without both of these things.)

      Unless you come up with some "new material," your future posts will be deleted.

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