The False Branch Theory and John 15

Okay,

So I’m in the shower (weird how we think there) and I’m going over John MacArthur’s view of John 15 about abiding (in my mind).  I listened to MacArthur at a pace of 6 tapes a week for two years in my early days after coming to faith.

He described the branches that were ‘thrown in the fire’ as false branches (Judas Branches).  Lest you think I’m making this up, I tracked it down:

There were the true branches and there were the false branches in the analogy. The true branches are represented by the eleven and the false branches are represented by Judas Iscariot. That whole thing flows out of the context of Judas’ betrayal. And at that point, the “In Me” simply means “identification.” I don’t think you can push too much theology into that “in Me” and say that it means absolute conversion. It’s attachment at that point, that’s all. And I think you have a Judas branch, and I think what it’s saying is that there will be people who will attach themselves superficially to Christ but in evidence bearing no fruit at all, will ultimately be cut off and cast into the fire because they show they have no life, because if they are had any life at all, they would have fruit. So I think it’s a graphic illustration of the whole context of what the disciples have just been through with them as compared to Judas.

(from: http://www.biblebb.com/files/macqa/1301-N-8.htm )

So, I did a little more digging and found that my old pastor and teacher Ken Gangel said something similar in the Holman NT Commentary on John 15:

15:6. Verse 6 narrows other possible interpretations of verse 2. We struggle a bit with the words, “he cuts off.” But thrown away and withers takes it further than we want to go in any reference to people who may have been true believers at one time. Certainly the words thrown into the fire and burned could never refer to those who were at one time true believers.
Blum treats this carefully and wisely:

These words have been interpreted in at least three ways: (1) the “burned” branches are Christians who have lost their salvation. (But this contradicts many passages, e.g., 3:16, 36; 5:24; 10:28–29; Rom. 8:1.) (2) the ‘burned’ branches represent Christians who will lose rewards but not salvation at the judgment seat of Christ (1 Cor. 3:15). (But Jesus spoke here of dead branches; such a branch “is thrown away and withers.”) (3) the “burned” branches refer to professing Christians who, like Judas, are not genuinely saved and therefore are judged. Like a dead branch, a person without Christ is spiritually dead and therefore will be punished in eternal fire (cf. Matt. 25:46) (Blum, p. 325).
Kenneth O. Gangel, vol. 4, John, Holman New Testament Commentary; Holman Reference, 283-84 (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000).

Yes, of course it is strange that fire means literal hell in an analogy…and…yes, of course, it is strange that ‘in Me’ doesn’t mean ‘in Me’ (within their own view) consistently throughout the passage.

But what really struck me under the 98 degree stream of water was the whole idea of a FALSE BRANCH.

The reason this struck me (all these years later) is that there is NO SUCH THING in reality as a FALSE BRANCH.  There are parasites (mistletoe) that look like they belong to the tree, yet Christ clearly (and easily could have said that) said the were vine branches.  Back then there were no such things as ARTIFICIAL BRANCHES either.  Artificial came along with wax and plastics and science (‘contrived by art’ around 1300AD).  Christ is using a real, live thing as an illustration.

When the Lord uses sheep, He says some of the sheep are “not His.”  He does not say that they are false sheep (you know…look like the real thing…but really aren’t sheep).  False prophets are still real people and false teeth are still used for teeth….and, we know where these things come from.

But, where would a false branch come from?  In nature (certainly in the NT era) no one had a notion or word for ‘false’ branch (any more than they would have for a false rock, stream, or fish).  The branches are real, and they are In Christ.  Obviously you must understand Him to be speaking of losing salvation or losing reward (see 1 Cor 3).

From Whence Cometh this Interpretation?

Necessity…and…it turns out to be a wonderful example of eisegesis, or imposing meaning on a text.  Since Blum/Gangel exclude any alternate meanings of the word ‘dead’ in the context, they miss the obvious nature of the warning for believers.  Therefore, with that as impossible and losing one’s justification as impossible (I agree)—all that is left for MacArthur, et al, is to make up the notion that there could exist in Christ’s mind (and on the earth) the idea that some branches (in Him) are actually fake or artificial branches.

I love these guys and I have no bones to pick, but all of us must learn to be very, very careful when we handle the Word of God.  Saying, “It must mean A because B is false elsewhere, can easily tempt us not to read the actual words of the text.”

My practice is to try to settle on a meaning from the immediate passage BEFORE I compare it to other places in the Word.  The comparison is valuable, but it is a dangerous way to interpret a passage by imposing meaning from elsewhere right off the bat!  The Analogy of Scripture is great, but you must inductively begin with the parts rather than than the whole.

So, what do you think?

Fred Lybrand

www.backtofaith.com

Tuscon Shooting Rhetoric Debate

I don’t normally weigh in on such things…but, wouldn’t the arguments about ‘political rhetoric’ causing a shooter in Tuscon to commit mass murder…be THE EXACT SAME argument against the Muslim Faith for causing the massacre at Ft. Hood?  The nature of free speech comes with a price…but human beings clearly are not robotic automatons…they still choose.  If rhetoric alone causes anything then 100s of 1,000s would be taking up arms (or helping the poor).  While ideas certainly have consequences, we don’t seem to notice that rhetoric is most often invented by a human heart to justify its view.  If education would return to teaching people HOW to think instead of WHAT to think; how to pursue virtue, rather than how to feel good about oneself— a profound and noble shift could occur.  God help us. 

– Fred Lybrand

www.fredlybrand.org

Aside: Free eBook on a Christian View On Dating and Relationships

Many of you know my book Glaen: A Novel Message on Romance, Love, and Relating came out this year.  As a special promotion, the EBOOK is available for FREE until January 9, 2011.  This special promotion gets you in line for the free Small Group Study that accompanies the book.  Of course, the hope is to get the ‘buzz’ to pick up even more for the book…and to get small groups using the material.  Glaen is a novel that takes on a Christian re-thinking of dating, courting, relating, and marriage…in the format of a novel.

Here is a note I received this week:

Hi, Mr. Lybrand!I actually finished Glaen the first day I started it! I believe I finished it in about 2 hours or so. I took notes, re-read it again a day or so later, and will re-read it yet again soon. I loved it.I loved the method for finding deep truths, even if they aren’t that incredibly hard to think of or understand. I gave a mini teaching of it/ discussion with my girls (youth group girls that I’m partly in charge of mentoring and leading) at 3:00am on New Year’s morning. (We were having a sleepover.)The next day when we were having lunch at Culver’s, I noticed that some of the girls at a table near me were having an argument on a tough subject that was bringing frustration and not really cutting to some of the core of the issue. I put to use many of the truths from your book, and the argument was resolved. Mostly what was needed were “just definitions” and a bit of love. I had been learning just before reading this book that I needed to know the exact truth opposite of the lies. Knowing the lies themselves isn’t good enough. This was a huge help! When I thought about it, it was as if I had known these truths in part, but since I couldn’t define them for myself, I couldn’t particularly focus on living them out better, or pray for help on living it.I have seriously seen a change in myself since reading this book, and I can’t wait to see the change in others. I am so excited about learning more and more truths, now and all throughout the rest of my life! 

Thank you!

Blessings,

~ Rachel E. Payauys

Honestly, there are just a few days left…so please go to the site www.glaen.com and sign up.

Also, feel free to pass this along.

God bless,

Fred Lybrand

www.glaen.com

P.S.  Most of all…I’d like your feedback after you’ve read it!

The Zero Point Calvinst

Sorry…the holidays and some travel have slowed me a bit!

Dr. Zuck just wrote a review in the next Bib Sac on Back to Faith…very encouraging!

Now, to the question.  I have had a number of friends tell me that they are O Point Calvinists.  I never quizzed them because I sort of thought I knew what they meant.  Yet, now as I think about it, I know all of them believe in Eternal Security.  How can one believe in “God’s preservation of the elect unto eternity…and still deny all the points of Calvinism?

The answer may be obvious, but I’d rather know for sure than guess!

Any of you brave enough to tell us your reasoning (or that of your friend-who-will-remain-unnamed)?

Thanks much,

Fred Lybrand

THE FLAW in DORT (5 Point Calvinism)

I’m so grateful that many of you have pitched in (but haven’t posted yet), and that a number of other have dropped my private notes of apology (too busy)!

I am finding that part of the problem with most Free Grace folks who are against Calvinism is that they simply have not read the original documents.  There is much in Calvinism that I love, and many things that I find to be pretty useless.  We all know that Calvinism is a theoLOGICAL system which largely makes sense if Scripture is not used as the standard of evaluation.  Do not miss the point– Calvinism is HIGHLY scriptural; yet, it is also, highly theological.  In other words, this is how Calvinists put it together.

Yet, one point is often denied in certain Free Grace circles; there is no such thing as Consistent Calvinism.  There is simply a broad spectrum of viewpoints within the largely circle.  We see this same reality with Arminians, Dispensationalists, Amillenialists, Preterests, denominations, and Free Grace advocates.  Sorry, that’s just the truth.  When we preach against “Calvinism” without defining terms, we are in the worst of straw-man worlds.  Sadly, we are attacking friends and patrons.  I personally have felt the same sense of being ostracized for not taking a stance against Calvinsim.

All Free Grace Advocates (faith alone in Christ alone) OWE a debt of gratitude to the Reformation for the recover of Grace being returned to the forefront of conversation and focus.  However, it doesn’t mean that forms and aspects of Calvinism aren’t mistaken (they are)!

Here is THE FLAW in DORT, as I study through it:

Dort assumes that humans are still depraved after regeneration.  In other words, they apply the same standards to a ‘saved’ person as they do a ‘lost’ person.  Practically, this means that they not only have the individual needing to be elected unto salvation, but elected unto sanctification (spiritual growth).

There is nothing inherently required in the ‘5 points’ or in Scripture concerning growth.  The very reason a believer can be accountable is that he is indeed a ‘new creation’ in Christ.  There is a new game in play where God can reward or chasten based on our works (and attitude, faith, doubt, etc.).  Saying that on is chosen to belong to Christ is one thing, saying one is chosen to produce good works (increasing) is quite another.

We are certainly called to good works as believers (read Titus), and God has set the kind of good works in place by His own will (see Ephesians 2:10); but to say God is imposing His will on us to make us obey is actually irrational and indefensible.

Said differently:

Before Christ = Depraved

After Christ = NOT Depraved

I’m catching a flight…so I’ll prove this later!

What do you think?  Where does this go?

Grace and peace,

Fred Lybrand

The Faith that Saves is not Alone?