POTW :: bumbo!

View in Flickr (see it LARGE)

View in Flickr (see it LARGE)

View in Flickr (see it LARGE)

View in Flickr (see it LARGE)

So I haven’t been able to do an update on the fam lately, so I thought I’d post a few more pics of Nolan in is bumbo seat.  Nolan recently had his four month appointment with the doc, and he is growing leaps and bounds (he is currently wearing 12 month clothing!).  Lots of laughs and funny faces, there is not a moment that passes where abundant joy is found in my heart because of my wife and son.

A major moment happened in my life this week (no, it was not the beat-down from my fellow Southern Baptists).   Monday night I went in to UPS for the last time, turned in my badge, and hung up my boots.  That night I walked in a little slower, breathed a little deeper, and reflected back on the past four years of my life as a third-shift employee at UPS.  This season of my life has been incredibly trying: physically, I usually was forced to go on one meal a day with about 4-5 hours of sleep; spiritually, I did not spend as much time as I would have liked in private prayer, silence and solitude, and other inner disciplines to cultivate communion with God; and personally, it was difficult spending so much time away from my wife and son.  Just going to bed together at night I no longer take for granted.

Nevertheless, God has done some wonderful things in my life.  Providentially, we have been provided tuition assistance and excellent health care through UPS–so good that we hardly ever spent a time.  Ministerially, God allowed me to invest in many of my co-workers, seeing several of them come to Christ.  I don’t think I will miss the strenuous lifestyle of a third-shifter, but I will certainly miss the relationships with so many people there.  I pray that God will raise up many more of His children to go into the night to reach the people who live in darkness (literally and spiritually).  They are, in my mind, the most unreached people of Louisville, and most churches don’t even know it because they live ghost-like lives (awake when they are asleep and vice-versa).

Another recent happening was my trip to Cape Coral to do a little house hunting.  The thing I heard over and over again was, “And your wife let you go and pick out a house without her being here?!”  Technically yes, but I did post over 600 photos online for her to view, so basically she got the virtual tour with my personal commentary.  We placed an offer on a home this past Tuesday, and we are praying that things will work out.  Obviously, this is a big matter, so if you think about it, we would also appreciate your prayers as well.

On another, totally unrelated note, I want to apologize to those of you who are regular readers and are not Southern Baptist for the events of this past week on my blog.  I normally do not delve into political issues related to the SBC for reasons seen in the article I wrote and the responses it received.  The SBC, while it is something I deeply care about, is but one portion of what makes up this blog, and I do hope that you find the programming and content of P&P worth your time and interest.

Next week, we go down to Alabama to visit the family, and we are excited about that opportunity of extended time together.  My older brother and his wife are expecting their first son, Beau, which I am sure Nolan is really pumped about (he told me this in our secret language).

Have a wonderfully blessed weekend and Lord’s Day!

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25 Comments on “POTW :: bumbo!”

  1. Art Rogers Says:

    Great pictures, as always. I wish you would post less on the SBC and more on photography. That’s just me. 🙂

    Also, I remember working 1st shift (appx. 3:30 am to 7:30 am) at UPS in Ft. Worth with a wife of two years and a newborn son. It was a huge experience for me. I think every Christian student should work there for two reasons:

    1) The phenominal pay and insurance for a part time employee; and

    2) The opportunity for actual contact with real live lost people.

    We get so insulated and we like it. UPS will force you to be open.

    Of course, if you are a Fundy and expect lost people to act like they are saved for your own comfort, UPS will be very hard on you, and the people there will eventually really dislike you – and that means dislike you and mistake it for the Gospel, rather than dislike the Gospel and mistake it for you, like you will probably take it.

    Ok, that got a little too crusader-ish. Sorry.

    Great pics of the young man. More, please and some more photography tips.

    Thanks.

  2. D.L. Kane Says:

    Timmy – Phew–glad that is over (for now). It actually broke my heart and I was praying that no unsaved person might happen along and start reading the comments. That’s the disadvantage/advantage of the interent. We simply cannot have private debate any longer. Probably not a good thing, in that respect–but almost impossible to avoid now-a-days. It’s also so easy to start defending the honor of someone you respect and lose sight of the actual topic at hand (guilty as charged).

    Anyway – Great photo’s o f the little man. What a thrill for you and your wife! Loved your closing line. It made me smile!

    Keeping you and your family in my prayers,
    D.L. Kane


  3. Art,

    Thanks for the kind comments on the photography. Yeah, I really want to write more on it and post more too. In fact, when we move down to Cape Coral, I am sure that my photography interest will be revived. 🙂

    I remember when I first started UPS and thinking, “This is the most godless environment I think I have ever been in.” But it was what I was praying for, so why complain? I am grateful that, when ministry positions were offered to me, that the Lord directed me to stay. I love working in the church, but I also wanted to be daily rubbing shoulders with unbelievers who need Jesus. These four years have taught me a lot about unbelievers, especially about the younger generation who have grown up never having read a Bible, never having gone to church, and knowing nothing about Christianity apart from pop culture. You can read a lot about how to reach people in books and all, but I don’t think it is until you get in the trenches with the gospel around these people that you begin to get a sense of how to engage them with the love of Christ.

    Anyway, more photography stuff to come. I promise. 😉


  4. D.L.,

    Yeah, I’m glad it’s over too. While I know it is possible that an unbeliever might stumble upon my blog, I do know for a fact that many of readers are not Southern Baptist. And it is they who were on my mind when all that was going down. Some bloggers in the SBC are exclusively tied to it, so their audience is used to stuff like that. Mine are not, and honestly I don’t want them to get used to it either.

    Brother, you are a constant encouragement to me, and I am grateful for your interest and participation here. Thank you for praying for me and my family, and know that I am sincerely grateful for it!

  5. Terry Tiessen Says:

    Timmy,

    One of the reasons I like to read your blog is that it gives me a look at what is going on in the Southern Baptist convention. I am not part of it but I consider it to be a very important entity so I follow its life with interest. That being said, I wasn’t reading you recently because of busyness elsewhere so I missed the material to which you are referring. I’ve just learned how to subscribe to feeds and I’ve put you on my list so I hope you’ll feel free to speak about the life of the convention occasionally. As a Baptist and a Calvinist, its issues interest me.

  6. Mark Prince Says:

    Timmy,
    I’m sure as net savy as you are you’ve already seen them but if not check out the bumbo videos–very cute stuff.
    http://ready-set-bumbo.com/

    Glad you’ve survived this week.

    -Mark


  7. Congratulations.

    And I sure hope that you got the new warning label from the <a href=”Bumbo recall.

    (Not an SB but still edified…)


  8. Dr. Tiessen,

    It’s great to hear from you. I have been meaning to email you since our last correspondence when we were talking about your book on accessibilism. Just be curious, but do you have any books (or other works) on the docket in the near future?

    Thanks for commenting, and I am glad to see you have the feed thing down. After lunch appointments with several of my prof friends, I have set them up on Google Reader so that they can stay up on things as well. I think they are really liking it. 🙂

    As far as what I have written on the SBC in the past, the easiest way is to go the SBC category, and it will pull up everything I have written in recent months. Here it is:

    http://timmybrister.com/category/sbc/

    Again, it’s great to hear from you. BTW, I would be interested in hearing your thoughts sometime of the new book by IVP entitled Faith by Hearing.

    TNB


  9. Mark,

    Actually, I haven’t had time to check them out. But now that you have mentioned it . . .

    Oh, and yeah, I don’t think I will play, “Let’s take on the establishment and get spanked” game again anytime soon. Totally not fun.

    James,

    Thanks for bringing that to our attention. We did not know about that either. Actually, Nolan rarely sits in the bumbo seat right now because he leans forward a lot and causes him to spit up. He sits up much better on my lap; plus, he tells me that I am much more fun anyways. 😉

    Thanks for the encouragement guys. I’m grateful for the way the Lord uses His people to speak a needed word, no matter how small it may seem.

  10. Terry Tiessen Says:

    Timmy, I have no book project under way at the time though I chew away at the nature of divine and human freedom as time permits. Ill be doing a couple of workshops for a Wycliffe conference in Hungary in July (theology of religions and contextual theology) and have work I want to do for those. I’ve agreed to write the article on providence for the New Westminster Dictionary of Theology and also look forward to pulling that together. I was happy that Westminster published my article “Why Calvinists Should Believe in Divine Middle Knowledge, Although They Reject Molinism.”

    As I mentioned to you a while ago, I read the pre-pub manuscript of How Shall They Hear. Many of the essays are very fine, particularly the ones that work constructively rather than focusing on objections to inclusivism. At the end of the work, I concluded that the difference between gospel exclusivists and accessibilists lies primarily in our starting points. Gospel exclusivists begin with the assumption that only the gospel saves and they will hold that position until they are convinced that Scripture specifically speaks of some unevangelized person having been saved or explicitly asserts that less complete revelation in saving. Accessibilists, on the other hand, begin from the great mercy of God and are listening for texts that explicitly state that no person can be saved with anything less than knowledge of the gospel. We don’t hear any such texts. In reading the manuscript, I was looking carefully for explicitly exclusivist texts. I heard none. What I did hear, however, was regular reference to texts regarding the saving power of the gospel (in which I happily rejoice) and complaints that no biblical text explicitly says that God is saving some people by means other than the gospel. The title of the book is telling, because Romans 10 is a text that gospel exclusivism so seriously misreads, in my current understanding. As I have said to you before, Paul’s clear conclusion is that the unbelief of fellow Jews in Jesus as Messiah is not because they have not heard. Their unbelief is not because they are unevangelized. To use the text as the centerpiece of an argument for the impossibility of the salvation of the unevangelized is therefore a gross reading out of context. I know how right that can seem, however, because I did it myself for years.

    I was fascinated recently, while reading Francis Turretin’s Elenctic Theology. In the First topic, Fourth question, I was delighted when I reached section XIX, concerning Cornelius. Turretin writes: “Although he could not believe that the Messiah had come and was that Jesus whom Peter preached, yet he could believe with the Jews from the oracles of the prophets that he would come. Thus he is not to be reckoned among the Gentiles, but among the patriarchs who looked for salvation from a Redeemer not yet manifested. Hence by the advent of Peter, he did not receive a beginning, but an increase of faith.”

    “Bravo,” I thought. Here we have an instance in which someone living after Pentecost (which seems to be the last moment at which gospel exclusivism could be deemed to have begun) is deemed to have been saved by old covenant faith. I can see no reason, given Turretin’s reading of this instance, why he should not grant that someone today who had the faith of Abraham, and who could have no greater faith given his knowledge, would be saved. Once that principle is accepted, the dike has been breached and no exclusivist fingers stuck in the dike will be able to stem the flood.

    Turretin doesn’t breach the dam in regard to general revelation, with the same clarity, but he is on his way. In section X he writes: “It is one thing for a man to be excusable or excused; another to be savable or saved, if he is excusable only from a part and not from the whole (which would be the case with the heathen if they would use aright the light of nature, which is impossible).” Bingo again! Turretin hereby grants that general revelation is not deficient for salvation as far as its content is concerned. The problem, T. suggests, is not that the light of nature would not be saving if one responded to it aright, the problem is that sinners are unable to respond in faith. Well, sure, just as no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Spirit, so no one can acknowledge God as Creator and give him thanks except by the Spirit. But people do say that Jesus is Lord because the Spirit enables them to do so, and people (like the Irian Jayan idol maker) do acknowledge that God is Creator and worship him for it, which gives evidence that there too the Spirit has been at work. The clear gospel exclusivists in Faith Comes would be unhappy with Turretin here. They want to deny that using the light of nature aright would be saving but Turretin doesn’t do that. For exclusivism, this strikes me as a fatal concession. By now Turretin has probably met a few of these blessed folks who used “the light of nature aright” and he agrees with us but, alas, it is too late for him to revise his book. 🙂

  11. Shannon McKenzie Says:

    Tim,

    I’m excited for you, Dusti, and Nolan as you move on to the next phase of your life. I’m kinda sad we couldn’t get together again before you left town. If you email me your address, I can send you those CDs I was telling you about.


  12. Shannon,

    Great to hear from you brother. We still in town for a couple more days. Let’s try to get up tomorrow (Monday) if you have time. Holla. 😉


  13. Dr. Tiessen,

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on recent studies. I am always intrigued by the things that strike the interest of learned scholars. Regarding Turretin, I have been meaning to purchase the three volume set of his institutes but simply have not been able to save up the money. His systematic is an important, I look forward to reading more about how he addresses the issues of the unevangelized.

    However, I still find the position of “chronologically displaced persons” or informationally b.c. believers as an untenable position primarily because of the fact of how redemptive history unfolds and climaxes in the full and complete revelation of God in the person and work of Jesus Christ. I just don’t think that the argument that Cornelius was a pre-messianic believer does just to the term “god-fearing Jew” nor does it render into account the full weight of the Incarnation of Christ.

    In any case, I have written a paper that I think out might be interested in, focusing on the mission of the Holy Spirit regarding the fate of the unevangelized and the other religions of the world. As you know, I write affirming the exclusivist position, but perhaps there might be some aspects you would agree or like to discuss. In fact, I have debated breaking the paper down into parts and turning it into a series of blogposts. Perhaps you might be willing to dialogue a bit. 🙂

    Just tonight in church, the message preached was on one of the “I Am’s of Jesus, that is, the “I am the door” passage in John 10. I am curious about what you do with that passage. If Christ is the door, and entering the door comes by hearing his voice and coming to him, what does an accessibilist do with that passage? The passage hints to no back door or side door but explicitly hearing the voice of the good shepherd and the sheep in turn following him. Just curious, but I would love to hear your thoughts on that particular passage.

    From our previous discussions, I remember your irenic and respectful approach to dealing with some very difficult and albeit emotionally charged issues, and I just want to say thanks for that. As you can probably tell from some the SBC controversies, seldom does such an irenic conversation ever occur. So again, it’s good to hear from you, and I look forward to talking with you in the future.

  14. Shannon Says:

    Timmy,

    I’m off tomorrow, so that would be great. I have to move a piano, but as long as I can still walk after I’ll be good to go.


  15. Sounds good. Call me after lunch or whenever you recover from moving that piano.


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  17. Terry Tiessen Says:

    Thanks, Timmy,

    I’d be interested to see your paper, whether in pieces of your blog or emailed to me in toto.

    Listening to John 10, I hear Jesus strongly affirming the uniqueness of the Son’s mediatorial role in revelation and salvation. At that constitutive level, accessiblists are exclusivists, unlike the pluralists.

    Where we differ from the gospel exclusivists, however, is in our understanding of the ways in which the Son’s voice works savingly in the world. In John 10, Jesus is clearly distinguishing his voice from the false voices. He is the only way to the Father and any one who attempts to get into God’s household/kingdom by another way, through following another voice, will not succeed. But this has always been true. It was true before the incarnation when God spoke through prophets, as the apostles affirm when they refer to old covenant revelation as Christ’s speaking. But it was no less true in general revelation, for nothing came into being except through the Word and thus God’s self-revelation in creation is mediated through the Son. Despite that revelation, however, sinners always suppress the truth of God that the Son brings to us. Only those whom the Spirit enlightens and enables understand and respond to the voice of God the Son whether he speaks generally or very specifically.

    Fundamentally, Jesus’ concern in John 10 is not the teaching of gospel exclusivism. He is not teaching his hearers that only those who heard the physical voice of the incarnate Word, Jesus himself, could be saved. That would have been extremely few people relative to the population even of the world about which Jesus’ hearers were aware but many in the world at that time were saved, though they never met Jesus. That is completely outside of his purpose here. He is warning the hearers that there are many other voices in the world presenting as truth ideas whose source is not the triune God and those who follow the way of those voices will never enter the fold of God. There is indeed no other door into the fold than the Son of God. The critical question between us, which Jesus does not address in this passage, is how complete a revelation by the Son one must have in order to brought into saving relationship to God. How complete and how correct must one’s theology be in order to be saved? To that question, gospel exclusivists and accessibilists give different answers but they are completely agreed that there is no other way, truth or life than that which is in the Son.

    Shalom,
    Terry


  18. Dr. Tiessen,

    I find your answer consistent with what I have read in your book. But since I don’t recall you referring to it, would it be fair to say that, when you say that people are “hearing the voice of Christ” in general revelation, you are speaking to either cosmic Christology or logos spermatikos?

    Furthermore, at what point does a person become “his sheep?” I think the answer to that question would address how complete a revelation is necessary to be brought into a saving relationship with God. According to Jesus, it is clear that we must put our faith in Him, a point he makes over and over again in the gospel of John (and affirmed elsewhere throughout the NT).

    I have written a brief article regarding this matter, specifically addressing the trinitarian foundation to saving faith as seen in John 10:14-15 which says:

    I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.

    I would like to know what you do with this verse. If you are to say that sheep do not have to know Jesus explicitly, then according to this text, the Son cannot know the Father explicitly, for in the same manner the Son knows the Father and Father knows the Son, the sheep also know their shepherd. Much more could be said about this text, but, at this point I would be interested in hearing your response.

    Grace and peace,

    Timmy

  19. Terry Tiessen Says:

    You raise a very good question, Timmy. I have often pondered it and I’m not certain of the answer but here is where I am right now. First, let me say that no one comes to the Father except through the Son and that I believe that everyone will meet Christ at the moment of death and respond to him consistently with the way they have been responding to God up to that time. You may recall that A. H. Strong appealed to this in his discussion of infants who die. His contention was that they believe in Jesus at the time of their meeting him. One might follow his suggestion, of course, but posit that not all who die in infancy are elect, so then only elect infants will be saved by their meeting with Christ.

    As my accessibilism developed, I wondered if this line of thought should take me to the point of insisting that unevangelized adults who are responding properly to God’s revelation are not actually saved until they meet Christ. (Did I send you a copy of my revised typology, that I worked on after reading the manuscript of “Faith Comes by Hearing”?) In my new scheme, I distinguish between special revelation accessibilism and general revelation accessibilism. At this point, I am still a general revelation accessibilist but I was struck by the extent to which critique of accessibilism was aimed at the inadequacy of general revelation to save. It occurred to me then that there may be people who find biblical reason to affirm the possibility of the ultimate salvation of the unevangelized while balking at accessibilism because of the usual insistence of Reformed theology that general revelation is inadequate for salvation. Along with special revelation accessibilists who believe that God saves some who do not hear the gospel from a human witness because God gets it to them supernaturally, these people may be prepared to suggest that God’s work in the unevangelized is only pre-saving and that their actual salvation does not occur until they meet Christ at death.

    As I say, I thought about taking this route but concluded that it was not correct. Gospel exclusivists would obviously be happier with it because it keeps the bar high on salvific revelation. But I am inclined now to think that it is better to affirm the saving efficacy of Spirit given faith in God that is elicited by less complete forms of revelation. Irenaeus saw the millennium as an essential time for Old Testament believers because it would give them the opportunity to get to know the Son on their way to knowing the Father. But Irenaeus (rightly) did not conclude that Old Testament believers were not saved until that time.

    The key thing to note here, I think, is that faith is a journey – indeed, an endless one, I think. We will never completely comprehend God and one of the joys of heaven will be growing in knowledge of him. This is where my discussion of the disciples of Jesus comes into view. I am convinced that most, if not all, of the 11 whom the Father had given to the Son were saved before they ever met Jesus. But notice how John keeps saying of them “and they believed.” Consistent gospel exclusivism would have to question that the disciples were saved if they did not immediately believe that Jesus was the Son of God upon first meeting him. But they didn’t. They grew in faith within their life as saved people. Likewise the disciples of John the Baptist in Acts 19. So, I presently believe that it is not right to insist that only knowledge of the gospel saves and to say, therefore, that salvation for the elect among the unevangelized only takes place at the time of their meeting with Christ, namely, at the moment of death.

    This gets us to the heart of your question about the flock of God. I am inclined to think that Jesus is talking about the new covenant people, the church which he had promised he would build, not about the saved. In old covenant times, there were people who were saved though not members of the old covenant people (and some who were members of the covenant people but not saved). This continues to be true as the new covenant people is established in the blood of Christ but perhaps definitely at Pentecost when the new covenant Spirit is poured out upon the group in Jerusalem. The body of the saved is not coextensive with the church but Jesus was in the process of building the church, of drawing into the new covenant people members of the old covenant people, some of whom were doubtless saved before that but others whose salvation took place only at the moment of their faith in Jesus.

    That much is clear to me, that the church and the saved are not exactly the same group of people. Hence the classic distinction between the visible and the invisible church except that gospel exclusivists see it only as asserting that some in the visible church are not in the invisible church, they do not affirm that some in the invisible church are not in the visible church. This is where it gets a bit murky for me. Should I think of the unevangelized elect whom God has given saving faith as members of the invisible church? Have they been given the Spirit whom God sent at Pentecost? I’m thinking probably not. Like the disciples of John in Ephesus, might there be people who are in saving relationship with God but to whom he has not yet given the new covenant Spirit, which gift incorporates them into the church which is the body of Christ, signified in baptism? If so, should we think of them as saved or should we assert that they are certain to be saved but not until they meet Christ? Presently, I lean to the former view but I’m still seeking the Lord for a clearer view of the matter.

    Specifically, your question re: John 10 is about when people become God’s sheep. I find John 10 unclear about this. Jesus says that “the sheep” did not listen to the thieves and bandits (vs 8). They don’t follow other ways, they follow the voice of Jesus. Is he talking about people who were sheep before they met Jesus and who, therefore, believed in him or were they not sheep until they believed in him? I don’t think this is clearly answered for us. The matter is complicated by the fact that “salvation” is a past, present and future reality. We can speak of a time in the past when we were saved, we can speak of ourselves as now being the saved, but we are also keenly awaiting our salvation, the redemption of our bodies and our final glorification. It is not always clear in Scripture which of these temporal moments is being spoken of when salvation is mentioned. So, in vs 9, is Jesus saying that people don’t become sheep until they believe in him and go into the fold through him (present tense salvation) or is he speaking of future salvation, that no one will finally be saved who rejects his voice? In vs. 16, Jesus says that he has “other sheep that do not belong to this fold.” He must “bring them also,” and they will listen to his voice “so that there will be one flock, one shepherd.” Is he saying that there are others who are his sheep who are yet to be gathered into the fold (the church, the new covenant community), or is he saying that there are others who are only going to become his sheep at the moment that they become part of the fold? I’m not sure, but I think it possible (likely?) that the former is true, that he is identifying as his sheep some who are not yet incorporated into the visible community that he is gathering.

    I see the same ambiguity in 1 Cor. 18:9. Luke tells us (vs 8) about how Crispus the official of the synagogue “became a believer in the Lord, and many of the Corinthians who heard Paul became believers and were baptized.” Clearly, these people became members of the church at the point of their explicit faith in Jesus, signified in their baptism. But was that the moment of their salvation? Luke doesn’t tell us one way or the other. Was Crispus an old covenant believer, a child of Abraham by faith as well as blood, who became a Christian through Paul’s ministry or was he an unsaved Israelite who became saved only when he became a Christian? I don’t believe we know. Nor is it ultimately critical for us to know. Our task is to preach Jesus and to be his instruments as he draws people to himself. Whether they are in or out of the people of God is not something we can discern with certainty, but we can sense the direction in which they are moving and so we try to keep people moving forward and we look forward to a time when we will be able to incorporate them into the church because we have clear evidence of saving faith in Jesus. So, when the Lord tells Paul in a vision that he need not be afraid in Corinty because God is with him and no one will harm and “there are many in this city who are my people,” what is he saying? Is he saying that there are many who are going to be his people or is he saying that there are many who are already saved but not yet Christian? I don’t think we can say for certain which the Lord intended. It didn’t matter. Paul was assured that his church planting efforts would be fruitful, that many people would come to faith in Jesus, they would become Christians. Whether or not they were saved before that happened was not something he needed to know.

    This has been lengthy, Timmy, but you raise a question I’m still working on. If we are in a time where the saved are all also Christians or “the church,” then it seems likely that gospel exclusivism is right about the necessity of explicit knowledge of the gospel of Christ for salvation. In that case, I’ll assert that many of the unevangelized will be saved but not without meeting Christ. I have mentioned some reasons why I don’t think this is the route to go and I could expand on them, but I can see how some Christians may feel that they should stop at special revelation accessibilism.

    Shalom,
    Terry


  20. Dr. Tiessen,

    No, I have not seen your paper on your revised typology. When you make a distinction between general revelation accessibilism and special revelation accessibilism, is such a distinction warranted by Scripture? In other words, how much here is theological inquiry and curiosity? What I find often among inclusivists or accessibilists are exposition on speculation or a commitment to possibilities. The starting point seems to be more of what we want to believe is true more than what we know to be actually true (as it corresponds to reality).

    So when I deal with specific texts, I am interested more in what it does say than what it does not say. I say that, because I do not know how much freedom we are given to conjecture when we have a God who has so clearly and fully (and sufficiently) revealed Himself in Scripture. I say all that to simply state that one of the major issues I have is with the precommitments of inclusivists in their theological method, especially when it comes to possibility, ambiguity, via negativa, and speculation. I don’t find John 10:14-15 a confusing or ambiguous text. The logic is clear and context fully supports the idea that a qualifying mark of those who are sheep is that they believe in Christ (as the object of their faith) and follow His voice.

    Regarding Spirit-given faith elicited by lesser forms of revelation, would it be consistent to say that the Spirit would reveal anything less than that would glorify Christ? In other words, does not these “lesser forms of revelation” not detract from the excellency, supremacy, and preeminence of Christ as the author and perfector of our faith?

    When you state that people were saved prior to the moment they believed, then what is the significance of the act of faith? Inclusivists begin with the position that no one is going to hell because they are sinners; rather, people go to hell because they willingly and knowingly reject a full revelation of Jesus Christ. That means that it is much safer to remain in ignorance as to who Jesus Christ is and believe in lesser revelations. On the other hand, you go the other route and say that people are already saved before they hear and believe, which begs the question of why the Scripture speaks about the need to hear and believe in order to be saved, and furthermore, why the church went to such great lengths in sacrifice and suffering to bring the gospel to all the peoples.

    On another note, do you embrace the hermeneutical principle of “analogy of faith”? If you do, then I think that it would require a redemptive-historical approach as seen in the school of biblical theology where clarity and a consistent interpretation is provided with an understanding and metanarrative where God is the ultimate author.


  21. Dr. Tiessen,

    While meditating on a passage, another verse came to my attention that I wanted to bring to your attention. Paul says in Ephesians 1,

    “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit . . .”

    So it is:

    1. you heard the word of truth
    2. you believed in him (Jesus Christ)
    3. you were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit

    So then my question would be:

    Can one be a Christian and not be sealed with the Holy Spirit?

    This text states that a person hears the word of truth (the gospel of salvation), they believe in Jesus, and they were sealed. But do we have any instance in Scripture were someone was sealed with the Spirit apart from hearing the word of truth and believing in Christ? If not, do we have the freedom to make an inference from silence?

    Thanks for considering my question, and I look forward to reading your response.

    Grace always,

    Timmy Brister

  22. Terry Tiessen Says:

    Timmy,

    Thanks for the ongoing conversation.

    I’ll email you a copy of the chart of my expanded typology and I welcome your comments.

    Your assessment of accessibilist/inclusivist methodology strikes me as rather harsh but I understand where you are coming from. By contrast with your assessment, I am convinced that I reached my accessibilist conclusions through listening to Scripture, both in its metanarrative and in its particulars. If I simply believed what I want to be true, as you charge, I’d be a universalist. A couple of summers ago I wrote articles on “universalism” and on “hell” for a forthcoming theological dictionary. I did plenty of reading and my druthers would have been to come out of it all as a biblically convinced universalist or at least as an annihilationist. But my reading of Scripture would not let me go there. I admit that I am happy not to be a gospel exclusivist as I once was and it does not surprise me at all that so many sober evangelical theologians (people like Millard Erickson or J. I. Packer) stop at agnosticism on the issue. Personally, I think that to be the most negative position that a reading of Scripture will allow. I have become convinced, however, through my reading of Scripture, not through following my desires, that the Bible takes us beyond even an optimistic agnosticism to accessibilism.

    You wrote:

    “So when I deal with specific texts, I am interested more in what it does say than what it does not say.” Very good, and so am I! Repeatedly, I find that gospel exclusivists over-read texts by inserting an “only” where Scripture does not do so. Or they read texts out of context, like John 3 which is clearly speaking of those who know and reject the Son, or Romans 10 which specifically reaches conclusions about evangelized Jews and is, at best, silent about the unevangelized ones.

    Personally, I think that the charge of prejudicial reading cuts both ways. I don’t think that accessibilists have a corner on it but we certainly have to be self-critical about it. Exclusivists no less than accessiblists come to specific texts of Scripture with a theological conclusion in mind. They are convinced from Scripture as they now read it, that only the evangelized can be saved. God gets the gospel to all of his elect. Naturally, they are likely to hear that in each text they read. Accessibilists start with a different exegetical presupposition but they too are most likely to hear that presupposition affirmed. All of us have to pursue the hermeneutical circle continuously and be willing to revise our presuppositions if necessary. This is not easy for any of us and the longer we hold a theological position, the less likely we are to be able to see texts differently than we have seen them for many years.

    On precisely this point, I observed to Peterson and Morgan, how often I have felt the frustration that they express about accessibilists, when in conversation with Arminians. The metanarrative of Scripture seems to me so clearly to describe a world in which the will of God’s eternal purpose is always done in every detail. Yet my Arminian students and friends and colleagues have heard the metanarrative differently. To my mind, this has caused them to misread many individual texts, to ignore plain meanings etc. They think the same of me! I see precisely that going on when I listen to the exasperation of gospel exclusivists like you, Timmy, about accessibilists like me. So, I understand well where you are coming from but I caution you not to be too triumphalistic about your own exegesis without presupposition. A bit of critical realism is good for us all when it comes to our theological formulations.

    You asked:

    “Regarding Spirit-given faith elicited by lesser forms of revelation, would it be consistent to say that the Spirit would reveal anything less than that would glorify Christ? In other words, does not these “lesser forms of revelation” not detract from the excellency, supremacy, and preeminence of Christ as the author and perfector of our faith?”

    The Spirit would never reveal anything that would not glorify Christ, but would you not agree that for centuries he revealed the glory of Christ much less fully than he did when the Word became flesh and when he inspired the new covenant Scriptures? Even in Old Testament times, the Spirit did not reveal God in an equally full way to everyone who lived at exactly the same time. I’m simply acknowledging that these differences continue to exist. You and I are remarkably privileged in terms of the divine revelation that God has given us – not just the full canon of Scripture but the wealth of writing and preaching that is available to us.

    I have been reading an inspiring biography by Geraldine Taylor of one of the early Chinese converts (Pastor Hsi) through the ministry of missionaries with the China Inland Mission in the 19th C. Just today, I read about a Buddhist monk (Chu) in a remote area of China who discovered a copy of the book of Mark, in the home of another Buddhist monk (Chang). It is exciting to watch the Spirit at work in the monk’s heart. I quote: “Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews, Son of God, Friend of publicans and sinners – whl could this wonderful Teacher be? What power, wisdom, love! No wonder the people cried ‘He hath done all things well.’ But how strangely the thing ended. He died, in darkness: and at the rising of the sun, lo – He was risen. Could that be true? And if true, when did it all happen? Where is He now? What is the Gospel? How can one ‘believe’? And those preachers, where can they be found?” (224)

    Reading this, I am made profoundly grateful for the wealth of revelation both objectively and subjectively with which the Spirit of God has blessed me and you. It is exciting to watch God at work in Chu’s life. Chang owned the book but the Spirit had not, at that time, used it to draw Chang toward Christ. It was more than three years before Chu met an OMF missionary and then Pastor Hsi and he learned what he needed for a fully informed faith in Christ. As a gospel exclusivist, of course, you will probably assert that had Chu died during those three years, he would have been eternally lost. My reading of Scripture does not take me there. When Chu had a faith that was saving, I don’t know, but I am certain that it could have been before his meeting with Christians.

    You asked:

    “When you state that people were saved prior to the moment they believed, then what is the significance of the act of faith?”

    I must correct the way you state my position. I never say that anyone was saved prior to the moment they believed. Salvation has always been by grace through faith. It is clear to me, however, that revelation less complete than the gospel concerning Jesus has resulted in saving faith. That was my point about John’s language. Of the disciples, he repeatedly says, “and they believed,” but these were not movements from unbelief to belief, they were movements from less complete to more completely informed faith. As I said yesterday, I think it almost certain that the eleven whom Jesus chose to follow him were all saved at the time of his call. They had saving faith long before they believed in Jesus as Messiah and Saviour, but they continued to grow in faith.

    The following paragraph really puzzled me:

    “Inclusivists begin with the position that no one is going to hell because they are sinners; rather, people go to hell because they willingly and knowingly reject a full revelation of Jesus Christ. That means that it is much safer to remain in ignorance as to who Jesus Christ is and believe in lesser revelations. On the other hand, you go the other route and say that people are already saved before they hear and believe, which begs the question of why the Scripture speaks about the need to hear and believe in order to be saved, and furthermore, why the church went to such great lengths in sacrifice and suffering to bring the gospel to all the peoples.”

    Hearing and believing have always been essential to salvation. That is the point of Romans 10. Without revelation there can be no saving faith. But, I contend, God has given and continues to give saving faith to people whom he has not yet blessed with the fulness of revelation that you and I have received. To suggest that this removes incentive for costly sacrifice to get the gospel to all the peoples is to grossly underestimate two things: (1) the power of the gospel as God’s normal means of bringing people into saving relationship with himself and (2) the blessings attendant upon knowledge of the gospel, even for those whom God has saved through lesser means. Who of us would question the tremendous blessing attendant upon the reception of new covenant salvation, the knowledge of sins forgiven through the blood of Christ, and the blessing of life in a community whose life together is governed by the Scripture. At the very least, we must evangelize the nations because our Lord has commanded us to, but beyond that we do that with excitement about the good things that God will do in individual lives and entire communities through our gospel ministry. (The story of Pastor Hsi reminds me of this in awe-inspiring detail.)

    Well, this is pretty long for a blog comment, Timmy, but by now you and I are the only ones reading it so we don’t have to worry about that. J

    Shalom,
    Terry

  23. Terry Tiessen Says:

    Timmy,

    Re: Ephesians 1, you raise a great question. I agree that one cannot be a Christian (assuming that we are talking about a genuine Christian) without being sealed with the promised Holy Spirit. That is how one becomes a genuine Christian. Of course, this does not address the matter of whether only Christians are saved. I suspect that you are equating “Christian” with “saved.” I do not.

    I expect that most of the members of congregations in Ephesus were Gentiles who were saved simultaneously with their becoming Christians through faith in Jesus. But such was not the case with all of them, for you will recall that when Paul first visited Ephesus (Acts 10), he was puzzled to find “about twelve” (19:7) “disciples” (19:1) (i.e. participants in a Christian congregation and hence people whom one would expect were “Christians”), who seemed rather odd. Something was missing; somehow, Paul sensed that these disciples had not received the Holy Spirit when they “became believers” (19:2). (It would be nice if Luke had told us just what it was about them that led Paul to his question.) It turns out that they had not been well taught and, though attached to a Christian congregation, they were still had living the faith of old covenant believers. As recipients of the baptism of John, they were led to expect that one would come after John who would be greater than he, but they had not yet discovered that Jesus was that one. Though saved with Old Testament faith, they were not yet believers in Jesus as Messiah, the one for whom they were waiting. Though “Christians” in the sense of being church members or “disciples,” they had not yet received the new covenant Spirit through faith in Jesus. Paul instructed them further, they believed in Jesus, were baptized in the name of Jesus and the Holy Spirit came upon them with tongues and prophecy.

    Should we not include these people in the recipients of Paul’s later letter? If so, we get an important answer to your question. One can be a Christian, in the sense of congregational membership, without having been sealed with the Holy Spirit, but all who believe in Jesus (i.e. genuine Christians), have been sealed. We also see very clearly (unless our exclusivist presuppositions blind us???) that, even after Pentecost, people can be saved without being genuine Christians.

    What do you think?


  24. […] to spread the gospel.  Furthermore, an old theological sparring partner, Dr. Terry Tiessen, and I have picked up where we left off on addressing the fate of the unevangelized.  Dr. Tiessen is a Calvinist who […]


  25. Timmy,

    I just rejoice so much for you and Dusti. No one could have ever convinced me that God would work such amazing wonders in the lives of you two — I’m blessed just to be acquainted with you and hope to one day have our families sit down and break bread together.

    Blessings and Grace, brother.


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