Questions:I hope you don’t mind but I have a couple questions that have served as mental stumbling blocks for me.
1. Are all Persons of the Triune God eternal? For instance, while Christ is the Alpha and the Omega and the Firstborn of all creation, does Scripture indicate what Christ’s existence (as the Second Person of the Triune God, and equally God and humanity in nature) was before the creation of time and space? Is there an existence in which the Second Person of the Trinity does not exist? Is there only One Person of God in His eternal Being?
2. I’ve read your previous answers to the problem of free will, but all that I have read misread the problem and therefore answer the wrong question. Is human will free in terms of salvation choices before the enabling and empowerment of the Holy Spirit? For instance, Scripture indicates that it is only through the Holy Spirit that faith is possible, that an individual can profess Christ as Lord, please God, and live a sanctified life, and that all of humanity is a slave to sin and entirely corrupted by this sin as to not be able to arrive at its own salvation or find God on its own. If humanity can only choose its actions according to its everyday life, but not its salvation and corresponding actions, does it have free will and consequently, is it morally responsible for its state before God has enabled and empowered it to saving faith?
Answer:The New Testament makes it clear that the Jesus, as the Son, of God is eternal. As he said in John 8:58, “Before Abraham was born, I AM.” Here Jesus takes for himself the name YHWH, sometimes translated as Jehovah, the name of God which means, literally, I AM. Jesus does not say I was, he says I AM. Jesus is claiming here to be eternal. He is claiming to exist outside of time. In Colossians 1:16 it says of Christ that “by him all things were created; things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible…. All things were created by him and for him.” So that means the he was an agent in creating literally everything that has contingent existence. He is the one who created everything and he is the one who sustains everything (Colossians 1:17). He is the “firstborn” over creation in the sense that he is the one who predominates over all creation. John says about Jesus that “Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made (John 1:2). I believe these passages make the answer to your question clear.
The Bible also makes it clear in so many passages that it would be hard to count them that there is ONE GOD (Deut 6:4 for example). Jesus is that God. Theologians and a lot of very smart people for many years have tried to explain how Jesus can be with God and at the same time be God (John 1:1). Some have described one God with three persons. Others talk about one God with three aspects. Probably three persons is a better description than three aspects, as the second possibility seems to be shown wrong when the Son talks to the Father. I am afraid that the exact nature of the relationship between Father, Son and Holy Spirit will have to remain somewhat of a mystery. I will probably not be able to improve on the Nicene definition or the Chalcedonian definition produced by the very early church (one substance, three essences, Jesus fully God and fully human).
On your second question, the unfortunate influence of Calvinism on mainstream Protestant Christianity has caused this to be more confusing than it needs to be. Calvinists takeas a presupposition the doctrines of total depravity and “faith-only” salvation. The assume, before even looking at the scripture, that no act of human beings could have any conceivable role in the process of salvation. This presupposition causes them, when reading passages where Jesus asks us to do something in order to be saved, to explain away these passages. They point out, of course, that we cannot be saved by works. This is good theology. However, nowhere in scripture does is rule out that God might ask us to do something in order to be saved. If a rich person were to offer one million dollars absolutely free to someone, this would not preclude them asking the person to apply for the gift or to come to some location to receive the gift. Coming to get the gift is not the same as earning the gift. The fact that we are not saved by works does not mean that God cannot ask us to decide to put our faith in him in order to be saved. Is salvation a free gift? Yes. Does God expect us to do something in order to be saved? Yes. He expects us to believe (belief is a work, by the way John 6:28-29). He expects us to love him. He expects us to put our faith in him. He expects us to decide to follow Jesus as disciples. He expects us to obey his commandment to be baptized in order to receive forgiveness of sins. As far as I know, there is no passage which says specifically that it is only through the Holy Spirit that faith is possible. This is a claim of Calvinists, but it is not a biblical claim. Can anyone suggest a passage that says this? Bottom line, we have free will. God loves us enough to give us a choice as to whether we will love him and accept a relationship with him on his terms. He call us to repent, to put our faith in him and to be baptized into Christ. If we do not choose to do these things, then we will not be saved. The Holy Spirit may help influence us, but there is no passage of scripture which says that “only through the Holy Spirit is faith possible.”
It is true that we cannot live a sanctified life without the Holy Spirit, but we only receive the Holy Spirit AFTER we have repented and been baptized into Christ (Acts 2:38). Only after we die with Christ can we life with Christ and no longer be a slave to sin (All of Romans 6). You say that we are “entirely corrupted.” But this language is borrowed from Calvinism, not from the Bible. It is true that we have a sinful nature and that we are incapable of living a perfect life. But, it does not mean that we cannot come to Christ of our own free will. Remember, “total depravity” is an invention of Augustine, Calvin and similar theologians who believe that the great majority of humans were created by God with absolutely no chance at salvation. They were predestined for hell. We are corrupted, but we are not “totally corrupted.” This is not a biblical teaching, and neither is total depravity. You ask “If humanity can only choose its actions… but not its salvation….? This is an incorrect assumption. In Deuteronomy 30:19-20 God asks his people to choose life. Jesus asks us to choose life. Peter asked people to choose life (Acts 3:19-20). Yes, we have free will, and it is for this reason that we are morally responsible before God for our choice to either serve him or to not serve him. Under Calvinism, in which we are totally depraved and incapable of deciding if we will choose God, it is questionable that man should be held morally responsible for his choice not to be saved. God makes the choice, so why are we to blame? But this is false theology. God holds us responsible for our decision because the decision is ours to make. Are we corrupt? Yes. Are we morally responsible nevertheless? Yes. God does not “enable or empower us to saving faith.” Again, this is Calvinistic language, but it is not found in scripture. If it were not for the love of God, none of us would have the opportunity for salvation. God empowers us in that he gives us the ability to choose. but he leaves the choice with us.
I hope this helps.