Saturday, July 17, 2010

Preserved Through Death, Part II

“...God, foreseeing the sins into which the just would fall if they remained in this life for a long time, in His mercy often takes them from this world---this according to Wisdom 4:11, ‘He was snatched away, lest wickedness pervert his mind or deceit beguile his soul,’ and a bit later at 4:14, ‘His soul was pleasing to God; because of this He hastened to lead him out of the midst of iniquities.’ Since, therefore, those sins were numbered among the future contingents and were foreseen by God and yet were never going to have existence in reality, it follows that it is not simply because things exist in eternity that God knows future contingents with certainty” [Luis de Molina, “On Divine Foreknowledge” (“Concordia,” Pt. IV). Translated by Alfred J. Freddoso. Ithaca: Cornell Paperbacks, 2004, page 118].

I ended my last post with the above quote, which uses references to passages of renown to prove that God “eternally secures” His own; that is, at least “often.” My last post also dealt with quotes from John MacArthur and Loraine Boettner regarding preservation of the saints. The idea, common to most believers, that God will “kill” His own to preserve them eternally is not a novel idea that originated within the last twenty-five years; rather, the idea itself was held even by theologians such as Molina (and some of the church fathers perhaps). Ideas don’t just spread over night...they evolve as well.

Now, let’s take a look at the Apocryphal work, the Wisdom of Solomon. Wisdom of Solomon chapter 4, verses 10-11 (Seputuagint), reads:

“One who became well-pleasing to God was beloved, and, while living amongst sinners, was taken; he was seized in order that wickedness should not affect his understanding or guile deceive his soul” [Wisdom of Salomon 4:10-11, New English Translation of the Septuagint (NETS)].

Notice that the godly person (the “beloved”) was snatched out of life “in order that wickedness should not affect his understanding or guile deceive his soul.” The explicit purpose as to why the “beloved” was taken was so that he would not fall away and be condemned with the world. The word “herpage,” from the verb “harpadzo” (meaning “to snatch,” “to seize”) demonstrates the action. He was “taken out” of the world.

Let’s look at verses 13-14 of the same chapter:

“But being perfect in a short time, he [the beloved] fulfilled long years; for his soul was pleasing to the Lord, THEREFORE HE HASTENED HIM FROM THE MIDST OF EVIL” (Wisdom of Salomon 4:13-14, NETS).

The Lord took the “beloved” “from the midst of evil”; according to the Wisdom of Salomon then, the purpose for God’s action was to prevent the believer from falling away.

Molina notes in his “Concordia” that there seemed to have been a dispute as to who is being referred to in the Wisdom of Salomon:

“I realize that Cornelius Jansen, along with Ambrose, reads this last text as having to do with the translation of Enoch. BUT THE COMMON INTERPRETATION---following Cyprian in ‘De Immortalite’ (near the end) as well as in Book IV of ‘Ad Quirinum’ and Augustine in Letters 105 and 107 and in ‘De Praedestinatione Sanctorum,’ chap. 14---is that IT HAS TO DO WITH THE TRANSLATION OF THE JUST BY DEATH. See Lyranus and Dionysius Carthusianus on the same text. Moreover, this interpretation comports with what precedes and what follows in that chapter, and indeed with the preceding chapter and the following chapter” [“On Divine Foreknowledge” (Concordia, Pt. IV), page 118].

Most agreed that the passage in the Wisdom of Salomon (Solomon) was about more than just the person “Enoch,” but about all the saints. Luis de Molina argues why he thinks the words refer to the righteous saints (according to context). For those who wanna match up Enoch with the words of Wisdom of Salomon 4, we have the words of Genesis 5:21-24 for reference:

“When Enoch had lived 65 years, he fathered Methuselah. Enoch walked with God after he fathered Methuselah 300 years and had other sons and daughters. Thus all the days of Enoch were 365 years. Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for GOD TOOK HIM” (Gen. 5:21-24, English Standard Version).

Enoch was “snatched” or “seized” out of life. Notice that it says he “walked with God,” which means that he did what was right in the sight of the Lord. He then, would surely have been “beloved” by God, and “well-pleasing” to the Lord. God did take Enoch...but for most of those who lived at that time (and all who live today), the normal way to die is to physically deteriorate, not be snatched out of the world.

I wanted this post to reveal a little about the “textual” reasons behind why even Molina (and modern-day Calvinists) use the expression about the Lord “killing” someone to preserve them from falling away. Notice, however, that even Molina says, “He often takes them from this world,” not that “He always” does this. The fact that we do not have a standard rule for this leaves this idea as a fanciful one that Scripture gives no support to. We don’t know why God takes some early and others so late in life. While God “often picks the best roses in the garden,” as my mother used to say, we don’t know if those roses were the best...or whether or not they were called for other reasons known only by the Divine Himself. If this be true, then Calvinists will have to stop using this expression of God killing someone for preservation purposes and focus on what the Scriptures reveal: that true believers can fall away (Matthew 13, Luke 8:13, Mark 4:17).

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