Home > Calvinism, Calvinist, God's will, Will of God > Believing God’s Sovereignty in Sickness – and in Health, too?

Believing God’s Sovereignty in Sickness – and in Health, too?

I am saddened to hear of Joni Eareckson Tada’s breast cancer and only wish her the very best with her surgery and following treatments.  In the video, Joni said:

Our afflictions come from the hand of our all wise and sovereign God.

We believe that God can and does heal.

Given her own words, I sense that doubt is revealed and a lack of confidence in God’s ability to heal is displayed because Joni has sought out medical assistance through surgery and (presumably) subsequent chemotherapy and/or radiation.  According to Joni, it was God who determined that she was to contract cancer.  The question I seem to ask of Christians who make the assertions that God inflicts some with life-threatening disease (or any other kind of malady or calamity) is; do Joni’s actions in seeking medical treatment indicate that she really does rest in her stated view of God’s sovereignty and God’s will in the matter of her healing?

Update: From the latest video and posting on her site above, it’s good to hear that Joni appears to be doing well after surgery.

Update (7/6): Joni continues to recover after her surgery.  I’ve enjoyed reading the comments that people have posted.  Although I have my doubts that it was God who brought about cancer within Joni, it is apparent Joni that has peace about the whole situation and her faith is a testament to God working out all things for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose (Rom 8:28)

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  1. June 29, 2010 at 8:38 pm

    Holy smokes…the Tigers take first place for one day and you wrote this? Perhaps the sound of Zumaya’s elbow snapping shook you up too much?

    How does her statement deny either the sovereignty of God in her affliction or her faith in His healing ability?

    My daughter says she was dodging tornadoes out there a couple weeks ago – you, too?

  2. Bob
    June 29, 2010 at 8:55 pm

    Hi Jeff. Gracious goodness, you must have a ‘direct link’ as I had just tossed up this post only a few minutes ago. As it was, we were ‘down south’ and missed all the tornadoes. At least the house was still standing when we returned.

    Tigers in first place? Sheesh, maybe miracles do occur! Just wait until game 163 (again!).

    To your question, Joni said that afflictions come from the hand of our all wise and sovereign God. Why the need for surgery et al? Why not let healing come from the hand of our all wise and sovereign God who, after all, gave [Joni] the cancer and apparently wants [her] to have it? And if God changes His mind, I’m sure He’ll let [Joni] know.

  3. christianclarityreview
    June 29, 2010 at 9:22 pm

    ever the deceiver eh, Bob?

    In fact it is not Calvinists who deny their children medical attention and the like. It’s always free willers. You have simply twisted what you hope Calvinists think into what you hope is a shocking widget.

    I know. You couldn’t help it.

    I really do know. Satan really did make you do it. At God’s command.

    Job 12:9-11 Who knoweth not in all these, that the hand of Jehovah hath wrought this? In whose hand is the soul of every living thing, and the spirit of all flesh of man. Doth not the ear try words, as the palate tasteth food?

    In the Name of Jesus Christ, Amen

    • Bob
      July 3, 2010 at 11:39 pm

      Dear Timothy,

      Ever the deceiver? I don’t think so. Twisting what I “hope Calvinists think” into a “shocking widget”? I hope not. Yes, I’m still confused, and bothered, as to Calvinist theology and for various reasons I’ve chosen not to post anything for a while. I saw Joni’s video and these thoughts and questions came to mind.

      I’m surprised you chose to post a comment here given our previous exchanges. It’s apparent that you seem to think I’m a stooge for Satan – at God’s command, no less. Do I have that right?

      If anyone is so interested, Timothy, can be linked to his blog at Christian Clarity Review through this post I wrote last January regarding comments he made about the earthquake in Haiti:

      https://martinsmercurialmusings.wordpress.com/2010/01/20/calvinist-thought-seasoned-with-christian-clarity/

  4. June 29, 2010 at 10:06 pm

    RE: Miracles. The Tigers in first place isn’t one. The Lions winning the Super Bowl is.

    Our sovereign God has decreed means as one way of His plan being carried out. Prayer, preaching, good works and the like. None of these deny His sovereignty but, are in fact, established by it.

    For a Calvinistic view on sickness/healing/God’s sovereignty from a different person, see John Robbins’ statement not too long after he was diagnosed with prostate cancer, from which he died a few years later (and Robbins was VERY Calvinistic, being a disciple of Gordon Clark. No mushy, politically correct Calvinism came from Robbins or Clark):
    ————-
    God’s Will and Healing

    John W. Robbins

    Since I was diagnosed with Stage IV metastatic colon cancer in September 2005, some strangers, friends, and acquaintances have given me different opinions on the topic of God’s will and healing. All of the opinions are offered by sincere people, but most sincere people are sincerely wrong. Only one opinion is Biblical. This should not be surprising, for there is an indefinite number of ways to go wrong, but only one way to go right. There is only one right answer to the question, “How much is 2 plus 2?” and an infinite number of wrong answers. That is why the Bible in general and Jesus in particular stress the importance of finding the narrow way and repeatedly warn against the broad way.

    The many opinions on healing I have received distill to three. The first is that it is not God’s will that anyone – or at least any Christian – be sick. Being sick is being “outside God’s will.” By not getting well, a Christian is showing his rebellion against God’s will that everyone be well. In this opinion, every Christian who is sick for any length of time (I suppose they make exceptions for colds), is not “submitting to God’s will that he be well.”

    The second opinion seems to be the opposite. It is that a Christian must “submit himself to God’s will,” and if he is not getting better, God’s will is that he remain sick, and perhaps die from the affliction. He also is told to “submit himself to the will of God,” but to an opposite end, not to get well, but perhaps to die.

    The third opinion does not speak of “submitting to the will of God,” but tells us to seek and pray for the desires of our hearts. It certainly sounds like the least pious of the three opinions, doesn’t it? But it is the Biblical position. The Bible is not a very religious book, as men count religion.

    Let us examine each of these three opinions.

    Take the first opinion first: Is it God’s will that no Christian be sick or afflicted? Of course not. If it were not God’s will that some people are sometimes sick, no one would ever be sick, since nothing, not even the death of a sparrow or the fall of a hair from our heads, happens apart from God’s will. God causes both sickness and health in his and in all people. This is taught so clearly in the Bible that one must deliberately ignore and disbelieve scores of passages that teach it. Here are a few:

    “And I [God] will afflict the descendants of David because of this, but not forever” (1 Kings 11:39).

    “For you, O God, have tested us; you have refined us as silver is refined. You brought us into the net; you laid affliction on our backs. You have caused men to ride over our heads” (Psalm 66:1-12).

    “…when they pray toward this place and confess your name, and turn from their sin because you [God] afflict them….” (2 Chronicles 6:26).

    “And it shall come to pass, that as I have watched over them to pluck up, to break down, to throw down, to destroy, and to afflict, so I will watch over them to build and to plant, says the Lord” (Jeremiah 31:28).

    In the New Testament, Paul tells us that “For this reason, many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep, for if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged, but when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world” (1 Corinthians 11:30-32).

    These verses clearly show that it is God’s will to afflict even his own people at times, even to the point of killing them. From many more verses, too numerous to list here, it is clearly God’s will that whatever happens happen, for there is nothing outside God’s will. He is sovereign and omnipotent, and nothing can happen apart from his plan and will. It is logically and theologically impossible to be “outside God’s will.”

    The second opinion is that sickness or affliction that does not go away in a relatively short period of time (I suppose these people also make exceptions for colds) indicates that it is God’s will that the afflicted person remain sick, and perhaps even die from his affliction. This is made especially convincing if a medical professional pronounces the condition “incurable.”

    But there are many examples of suffering people in Scripture – commendable examples – that refute this notion as well. Take, for example, the woman who hemorrhaged for twelve years, spending all her money on physicians, none of whom could cure her. Did she submit to “God’s will” and resign herself to being sick and perhaps dying of her disease? Of course not. She did not confuse the inability of physicians to help her with the will of God. She kept seeking the desire of her heart, and this desire led her to Jesus, who cured her and who did not upbraid her for refusing for twelve years to “submit to God’s will for her life.” Nor does he scold her for being “outside the will of God” for twelve years.

    There are many similar examples – even cases where parents of dying and dead children sought help rather than submitting to the “will of God.” They sought the desire of their hearts, not even accepting imminent and present death as “God’s will” for their child. Were they wrong to do so? Were they also – like the sick allegedly outside the will of God – in rebellion to the will of God? Of course not. Christ never scolds any of these people for refusing to “submit to the will of God.”

    In both these erroneous opinions – (1) God’s will is that no Christian should be sick, and one is not submitting to God’s will if one is sick; and (2) in cases of extended illness, one should submit to the will of God by recognizing it is his will that you remain sick and perhaps die of this sickness – the same serious theological mistake is being made: The mistake is an error – a presumption – of knowledge: It presumes that we can know what the will of God for the future is by reading present circumstances, and therefore know how to “submit ourselves to the will of God.”

    The second opinion assumes that one’s present affliction indicates the ultimate outcome (which is false) – and that the Christian should submit to that anticipated outcome as if it were the “will of God.” The first opinion assumes, contrary to Scripture, that the will of God is that every Christian be well, and that those who are not well are “outside God’s will” and need to submit to it. In both cases – though they reach opposite conclusions, death and health – they share the presumption that one can know from present circumstances what the will of God is for the future. That simply is not true. Apart from divine propositional revelation, we cannot know what God’s will and plan for the future is.

    The third opinion is that one should pray for the desires of one’s heart, not guessing or presuming what the will of God for the future is. That is the rule followed by the “incurable” woman, by the parents of dying and dead children in Scripture, and by many others, including Jesus himself, who prayed that this cup would pass from him, if possible. What makes Christ’s case different, of course, is that, unlike us, who do not and cannot know the future, he could and did know the future – and still he prayed for the desires of his heart.

    The notion that we should “submit to the will of God” when we do not and cannot know the will of God is not a Christian idea at all, but a Muslim idea. Islam means “submission,” and it teaches the same error of presuming that the will of God can be known before God reveals it. In Christian theology, the proper verb is “obedience,” not submission, and it is obedience to his revealed commands, not submission to an unknown (and apart from revelation, unknowable – see Deuteronomy 29:29) will of God. Psalm 37:3-6 read: “Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and feed on his faithfulness. Delight yourself also in the Lord, and he shall give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust also in him, and he shall bring it to pass. He shall bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday.”

    The Bible nowhere commands Christians to “submit to the will of God,” precisely because we do not know that will. The Bible commands us hundreds of times to obey God’s commands. We must never confuse our guesses about the future with “God’s will” and piously submit to those guesses – or more likely the guesses of clerics who think they know the future. God’s commands we know, because they are revealed to us in Scripture, but apart from revelation, we cannot know his will, and therefore we cannot “submit” to it, nor need we try to do so.

  5. Mike Berhow
    June 30, 2010 at 10:23 am

    “The mistake is an error – a presumption – of knowledge: It presumes that we can know what the will of God for the future is by reading present circumstances, and therefore know how to “submit ourselves to the will of God.”

    This is a terrific quote! Thanks for the article Jeff! I think it is one of the better articulations of the calvinist position on this topic. We know that our current condition is God’s will because here we are in that condition. Like the article said, it is logically and theologically impossible for anything to happen outside the will of God. However, we do not know what God’s will is for the future because we do not know the future. Therefore, all we can do is pray for what we desire to see in the future (provided those desires are not sinful). This is a better approach than assuming that we can know God’s future will based upon present day circumstances. Again, great stuff!

    • Bob
      July 4, 2010 at 12:17 am

      Hi Mike – nice to see your comment here.

      If I may, paraphrasing your statement; any situation that anyone finds themselves in is God’s will because it happened? The thought immediately comes to mind – is there no responsibility for a believer to, say, “flee immorality” (1 Cor 6:18)? In fact, prior to that verse, Paul asks, “Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never!” I sense that Paul would have a different perspective than to say that it was God’s will that one should find himself with a prostitute just because “it happened”.

      Thoughts?

      • Mike Berhow
        July 10, 2010 at 9:51 pm

        Hey Bob,

        I certainly think believers have the responsibility to flee immorality, because we will be accountable for everything we do. At the same time, I believe that God ordains all things that come to pass. This may seem like a tension, but perhaps if we had God’s perspective, the puzzle would fit together nicely. Since we don’t have God’s perspective, however, I can only offer some logical reasons (given that others have provided scriptural reasons) for why I believe in God’s sovereign will.

        My thought process is that if God is all-knowing, then it is impossible for a situation to occur which is not within the sovereign will of God. Some say that God “allows” things to happen but does not “will” things to happen. For me, there is little difference in saying that God sovereignly wills all events that comes to pass, verses God sovereignly allows all events that comes to pass. If he knows all that is happening right now, then he is active in not changing everything that is happening right now. If this is true, then all the suffering, sin, and evil that is happening right now, is happening only because God is allowing it to happen.

        The question we need to ask is why? If there is no purpose for the evil, and God has simply chosen to sit back and let the world run on its own, regardless of the consequences, then it becomes difficult to explain how God is good. It also becomes difficult to explain how God is responsible and loving while watching all the suffering taking place right now. Once we remove God’s control and purpose, God either becomes weak or irresponsible.

        But let’s forget the issue of suffering and evil for a moment. The only way we can say that God is not willing everything that is happening right now, is to say that God does not know everything that is happening right now. If this is the case, then how will he hold me responsible for my actions? The issue of human responsibility presupposes God’s sovereign knowledge over all my actions. But if God has sovereign knowledge over all my actions, then he is sovereignly willing/allowing my actions to take place. If those actions are evil, then he must have a good reason for allowing those actions. If he does not have a good reason, then why wouldn’t he stop all evil actions?

        I have chosen to focus on God’s knowledge of the present because people like Boyd deny some of God’s future knowledge in order to preserve human freewill and to solve the problem of evil. They see the logical connection between God sovereignly knowing all future events and willing all future events. If you affirm one, then you must also affirm both.

        I cannot see how this is any different concerning God’s sovereign knowledge of the present. If he has sovereign knowledge over all present actions , then he is sovereignly willing all present actions. If you affirm one, then you must also affirm both.

  6. Scott Ferguson
    July 2, 2010 at 8:15 am

    Jeff, thanks for the piece from Robbins. He says it well. I also recommend Peter Kreeft’s book “Making Sense Out of Suffering”. Granted he’s a former Protestant turned Catholic but his treatment of the subject is excellent in my opinion.

    Robbins’ article (& Mike’s comment) highlight the excellent point of not falling into the all too common mistake of fatalism. I know I’ve been there at times and it is no fun. That sort of understanding of God’s sovereignty and our responsibility (dare I say “free will”?) is catastrophic to Faith.

    A great (and probably obvious) example of this is the connection between staying alive and eating. Now, I firmly believe God keeps me alive. But I also believe that 1 of the ways He keeps me alive is by eating. Therefore, I don’t lay back on the couch and say, “OK God, if you want me alive today give me my next breath and make food appear in my mouth.” So does God keep me alive or do I keep myself alive by eating? “Yes.” It’s not an either/or situation (as I’ve stated in previous posts) but a both/and. God keeps me alive AND I keep myself alive. He does His part and I do mine. If I stop eating God’s not obligated to keep me alive through miraculous means. I eat, I live. I stop eating, I die. But I also know that when my time comes no amount of eating will shoo it away. This is what those old, dead guys used to refer to God’s “mediate” and “immediate” means of accomplishing His plans/will on earth.

    Hope I’ve helped.

    • Bob
      July 3, 2010 at 11:56 pm

      Thanks for the comment, Scott. I’m working through the article Jeff posted and Mike’s comment, too. You, however, make an interesting point as to God not being obligated to keep me alive through miraculous means should I choose to stop eating. And I would agree. But I think we’ll all agree that if people don’t eat, they’ll (eventually) die. God has designed us in such a way that we must eat to live. I’m not sure if this directly ties in, but the thought comes to mind that if I choose to eat only fatty foods, I’m more likely to suffer from heart disease. Don’t we have “free will” to eat what we wish? And, don’t we then have to contend with the consequences of poor eating? But if I’m following your train of thought, then it is God who sovereignly determines what it is that I’ll “desire” to eat. And therefore, I have no “free will” as to what I consume. Is that correct?

  7. charles
    July 7, 2010 at 2:48 pm

    “To your question, Joni said that afflictions come from the hand of our all wise and sovereign God. Why the need for surgery et al? Why not let healing come from the hand of our all wise and sovereign God who, after all, gave [Joni] the cancer and apparently wants [her] to have it?”

    who are you to presume that God intends that she continue to have it?

    the calvinist confessions have always affirmed that “God, in His ordinary providence, makes use of means, yet is free to work without, above, and against them, at His pleasure.”

    when Satan killed Job’s family and diseased Job’s body, Job held God responsible: “God has given, God has taken away.” And Job did not sin in saying that God was the one who was responsible for taking away from him.

    You should see yourself in the role of Job’s wife: if it was God’s will to cause Job to suffer – as Job correctly said – then why not follow through and kill himself…why on earth have more children after God took the first group away? you and Job’s wife seem to agree that if God is responsible in some sense for your current situation, then you should read the tea leaves and trend lines to figure out what is coming next…

    calvinists don’t think this way. as i’ve posted before: God is God and we are not. we are responsible for obeying what we have been told in scripture…the unrevealed future of what God intends to accomplish is His alone. (deut29:29)

  8. charles
    July 7, 2010 at 3:16 pm

    “If I may, paraphrasing your statement; any situation that anyone finds themselves in is God’s will because it happened? The thought immediately comes to mind – is there no responsibility for a believer to, say, “flee immorality” (1 Cor 6:18)?”

    it’s God’s will in one sense, yes. Friesen calls it the “sovereign will” – but it’s not in God’s “moral” will. (i know you’ve read this – go back and reread that section in “Decision Making and the Will of God.”)

    did God intend for the 1st century jews to bear false witness and condemn an innocent man?

    Acts2:23This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.

    Isa53:10 Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand.

    did God raise up pharaoh and harden him such that God would be able to display His glory in judgment against him?

    Rom9:17For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth. 18Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.

    19One of you will say to me: “Then why does God still blame us? For who resists his will?” ”

    this is you in verse 19. if God intended for pharaoh to disobey then pharaoh can’t be responsible. if God intended the jews to murder His innocent Son, then you can’t really blame them.

    as i’m sure i’ve said before, you subscribe to the tenet of human philosophy that teaches that ability and responsibility must go together. if pharaoh didn’t have the ability to do otherwise, then he can’t be held responsible for opposing God. if you can find somewhere in the bible where God submits Himself to this teaching of men, i’ll go along with it. until then, you have a fundamental problem with the bible.

    all men have the responsibility to flee immorality. all men have the responsibility to “be perfect, as God is perfect” and to “love God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength.” whether we have the natural ability to obey or not.

    but the notion that “if God intended our sin to happen in some sense, then we are not responsible for our sin” is a purely human argument and not a biblical one.

    “I sense that Paul would have a different perspective than to say that it was God’s will that one should find himself with a prostitute just because “it happened”.”

    i would also be curious how one would just “happen” to find himself with a prostitute? ;)

  9. charles
    July 11, 2010 at 4:46 pm

    re: God healing Joni with doctors or without, with respect to the notion that “God, in His ordinary providence, makes use of means, yet is free to work without, above, and against them, at His pleasure.”

    1) in acts 9, saul is “breathing out murderous threats against the church” when God knocks him to the ground, blinds him and gives him new marching orders.

    2) acts16:14One of those listening was a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message.

    both are conversion stories about God changing hearts – one where God acts pretty directly and one where God uses the “means” of preaching. is it less “valid” for you in some sense that God used means to bring lydia to Himself – was God reaching to try to take credit at the last minute? or did paul have the right to complain that he shouldn’t have had to bother preaching to reach people since God was able to just zap them? (or should it be enough for paul – and us – that Jesus has told us to “go and make disciples”, so we should respond with loving obedience?)

    if God can “save” people either through means or directly, how is that different than healing people either through means (doctors/medicine) or directly?

    i’m really trying to figure out where you are coming from in the way you are thinking these matters through. it just seems like you are starting with humanist logical foundations and then trying to evaluate “calvinist” teaching from that foundational framework with a mess being the predictable result. if i’m wrong, hopefully you can help me understand better what is actually going on…

  10. August 17, 2010 at 8:25 am

    Here is a very good anti-predestination argument formulated by a Catholic priest who is a former Calvinist himself, Fr. Paul Rothermel…

    PROPOSITION:
    A true Calvinist teaches that everything that happens has been predestined before the foundation of the world. Thus, according to Calvinism, because I have free agency and no true power to choose contraries (i.e., free will), I do voluntarily what I could never do otherwise.

    Thus, “My sins last week happened; they were certain to happen; and they were predestined before the foundation of the world. I freely did evil, but I could not have done otherwise.”

    A true Calvinist admits this. Yet St. Paul teaches that, with every temptation, God has made a way to escape from committing the sinful deed (1 Cor 10:13). Therefore, the question for the true Calvinist is:

    “Which way did God, in fact, provide for you to escape the temptations to do the sins you committed last week, if indeed you are so inclined? That is, if you have been predestined before the foundation of the world to do it?”

    This is a clear hole in the Calvinist position, forcing one to conclude that Calvinism cannot be reconciled with St. Paul.

    Clearly, if Calvin is right and one is predestined to commit a particular sin before the foundation of the world, God could not have truly provided a way out of that sin for you to take.

    How could He if you were predestined not to take it? So, either Calvin is wrong or we are dealing with a God Who feigns offers of deliverance from temptation.

    So, which is it? Is God a fraud or is Calvin?

    Many thanks to Mark Bobocore.

    • Bob
      August 19, 2010 at 6:17 pm

      Thank-you, Michael, for the comment. The apparent contradiction here is (at least to me) well set up and I welcome the thoughts and inputs of Calvinists who could provide an answer.

  11. August 19, 2010 at 7:56 pm

    Hello, Bob. I have yet to be invited to the funeral for the Tigers’ season – have you?

    This argument not only attempts to throw the Calvinist under the bus but the orthodox Arminian as well and anyone who believes in the eternal omniscience of God. One must also throw Rome under the bus, unless the Catholic Encyclopedia is wrong (http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/06612a.htm – scroll down and read what it says).

    The Catholic Encyclopedia entry actually answers the question for us, with its description of God’s knowledge of all things both actual and possible.

    This is along the same objection of “If man can’t say “Yes” (the Reformed doctrine of Total Depravity) then it is unjust to hold him accountable for his lack of ability.” Or that the command to repent and believe cannot be “well-meant” if the man can’t repent and believe.

    Next?

    Best wishes with the continuing Favre saga as well. I hope he has replaced all those Minnesotan hearts he ripped out with that dumb pass…..

  12. charles
    August 20, 2010 at 9:46 am

    yep – molinists would also be thrown under the bus because God knew which variables to alter such that a person would freely choose to escape from temptation, but God actualizes a world in which the person chooses to give in. open theism remains the only safe haven – as safe as an unbiblical philosophy can be, at least. but at least it’s a safe haven from calvinism…

    but it’s still amazing to me that someone could divorce that verse so far from its context that they would conclude that God doesn’t really know the future.

    1Cor10 teaches that the faithless jews were covenant breakers who were punished as an example to the Church. The corinthians could take the same position as the faithless jews – we are saved by “grace” and part of the covenant people of God, so we’ll live however we want and turn grace into a license to sin – OR they could take responsibility for persevering in godliness.

    even paul – set apart by God from birth (gal1:15) – didn’t take a careless, reckless, presumtive view of salvation (such as is typically taught in the “once saved, always saved” view). He says that he puts himself in strict training so that he “will not be disqualified for the prize.” (1cor9:27)

    we are responsible. 1cor10:13 teaches that. calvinists teach that.

  13. Bob
    August 20, 2010 at 8:31 pm

    A response, Michael?

    Also, I looked up your reference to Mark Bobocore. I found this site, and in it was the proposition that you had posted:

    http://home.inreach.com/bstanley/free.htm

  14. September 10, 2010 at 7:38 am

    Dear Bob,

    WHAT YOU MUST DO TO BE SAVED

    Best of all, the promise of eternal life is a gift, freely offered to us by God (CCC 1727).

    The Catholic Church teaches what the apostles taught and what the Bible teaches: We are saved by grace alone, but not by faith alone (which is what “Bible Christians” teach; see James. 2:24).

    When we come to God and are justified (that is, enter a right relationship with God), nothing preceding justification, whether faith or good works, earns grace.

    But then God plants his love in our hearts, and we should live out our faith by doing acts of love (Galatians 6:2).

    Even though only God’s grace enables us to love others, these acts of love please him, and he promises to reward them with eternal life (Romans 2:6–7, Galatians 6:6–10).

    Thus good works are meritorious. When we first come to God in faith, we have nothing in our hands to offer him.

    Then he gives us grace to obey his commandments in love, and he rewards us with salvation when we offer these acts of love back to him (Romans 2:6–11, Galatians 6:6–10, Matthew 25:34–40).

    15 Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house.

    16 Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father. (Matthew 5: 15-16)

    Jesus said it is not enough to have faith in him; we also must obey his commandments. “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ but do not do the things I command?” (Luke 6:46, Matthew 7:21–23, 19:16–21).

    We do not “earn” our salvation through good works (Ephesians 2:8–9, Romans 9:16), but our faith in Christ puts us in a special grace-filled relationship with God so that our obedience and love, combined with our faith, will be rewarded with eternal life (Romans 2:7, Galatians 6:8–9).

    Paul said, “God is the one who, for his good purpose, works in you both to desire and to work” (Philippians 2:13).

    John explained that “the way we may be sure that we know him is to keep his commandments. Whoever says, ‘I know him,’ but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (1 John 2:3–4, 3:19–24, 5:3–4).

    Since no gift can be forced on the recipient—gifts always can be rejected—even after we become justified, we can throw away the gift of salvation.

    We throw it away through grave (mortal) sin (John 15:5–6, Romans 11:22–23, 1 Corinthians 15:1–2; CCC 1854–1863). Paul tells us, “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).

    Read his letters and see how often Paul warned Christians against sin! He would not have felt compelled to do so if their sins could not exclude them from heaven (see, for example, 1 Corinthians 6:9–10, Galatians 5:19–21).

    Paul reminded the Christians in Rome that God “will repay everyone according to his works: eternal life for those who seek glory, honour, and immortality through perseverance in good works, but wrath and fury to those who selfishly disobey the truth and obey wickedness” (Romans 2:6–8).

    Sins are nothing but evil works (CCC 1849–1850). We can avoid sins by habitually performing good works.

    Every saint has known that the best way to keep free from sins is to embrace regular prayer, the sacraments (the Eucharist first of all), and charitable acts.

  15. charles
    September 29, 2010 at 11:08 am

    and here i thought MG was just a hit-and-run cut-and-paster with no capacity for critical thinking outside some preset talking points. maybe it’s my limitations, but i’m not clear how that comment addresses the issue of 1Cor10:13 and God’s omniscience…

    MG said: “Since no gift can be forced on the recipient—gifts always can be rejected—even after we become justified, we can throw away the gift of salvation.”

    one comment on this, though, since this is a popular notion and makes sense within a “free will” framework:

    “God is the one who, for his good purpose, works in you both to desire and to work” (Philippians 2:13).

    MG quoted this but look again at what it says:

    1) God works in us to prompt both our desires and our obedience
    2) God works in us according to His good purpose

    If God is free to work in us to change our desires and conform us to be like His Son, foundationally based on His purpose and not with respect to our desires (which He is changing), that seems to pull the rug out from under the notion that we might ultimately desire to reject or throw away salvation.

    unsurprisingly, i still don’t like the catholic teachings about faith and works – as much as i also don’t like the “free grace” teachings about faith and works as taught by those like zane hodges who teach that so-called “carnal christians” can have a “faith” that produces no works at all. the only merit needed for eternal life is the merit of Christ. not merit that my works earn, and not merit that i borrow from dead saints. i am redeemed by Christ alone, not Christ plus the work that i do and not Christ plus the efforts of the “co-redeemer” mary. (but if i claim to be adopted by God and have the Spirit, that ought to result in repentance and obedience – imperfect obedience, certainly, but visible change. the grace of God is powerful – it can soften the hardest heart. ezek36:26-31)

  16. Jay L. Mandeville
    January 19, 2011 at 3:56 pm

    Bob,

    I agree with you that Mrs. Joni Erickson Tada’s evaluation of the origenation of suffering is mistaken.

    I was born with a connective tissue disorder, which causes my bones to break more easily than they would if I had no affliction. I have fractured 160 times, which can be quite uncomfortable until the break is immobilized!

    After you’ve lived for 36 years with this “inconvenience,” you learn that the physical pain is manageable. Psychological pain, however, would invade me, if I were to believe exactly what Joni stated.

    I have always believed that Satan, the Great Spiritual Deceiver, afflict(s) me with all physical suffering!!!!

    It seems much more in The Devil’s character to afflict a strong voice for Christ like Joni with breast cancer, than in the character of an “all wise and sovereign God.”

    If I believed that God caused my affliction(s), He would no longer seem benevolent or worth approaching.

    After all, not to offend Joni in any way, but why would God take away an affliction that He put there in the first place?

    Since I believe that God is benevolent, while Satan is the continually-malevolent culprit, my reaction has always been to fight on the side of the benevolent.

    By “creating,” this spiritual warfare, I feel much love and respect for my ally, put all my faith in Him, and know that my victory does not depend solely on me.

    I wish the same peace for Joni and all who suffer.

    • Bob
      January 19, 2011 at 9:00 pm

      Thanks so much for your comments, Jay. Wow – 160 broken bones in 36 years? Oh my – that’s >4/yr on average. I’ve always sensed it’s easy to talk the walk, but you, my friend, would appear to be in the position of having to walk the talk. Continually. I welcome anything you have to say on this blog so please don’t be shy.

      You make the distinction between physical and psychological pain – could you elaborate, please.

      I just checked Joni’s website where she writes, “Ken and I just received word that the results of the PET scan I underwent last week are clear! Actually, what my doctor said was “No evidence of metastasized cancer… that’s great news!”

      I concur!

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