Thursday, June 03, 2010

Luke 8:11-15

I have some concerns involved with the use of this passage among others to establish the following set of ideas. I do not think this passage establishes them.

1. If we become tired of doing good works, we will be eternally condemned.
2. If we are eternally condemned, we did not endure until the end.
3. What we sow, that we will reap at the proper time.

the good soil

In the course of this parable, the sown seed, which is "the word of God" (8:11) corresponds exactly to one of four cases. In one case, it is that of "the good soil" (8:15). This case corresponds to

a. "the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart ..." (8:15);
b. "and hold it fast..." (8:15);
c. "and bear fruit with perseverance" (or, "steadfastness").

Looking at these statements, we immediately rule out 3, as out of the scope of this case within the parable. This case, indeed, the whole parable, is not speaking at all of what a person sows, but of the word of God sown in a person.

We immediately rule out 2 as out of scope. This case within the parable is entirely descriptive of the good soil, and does not speak about eternal condemnation, either to assert it in some sense or deny it.

This is often overlooked. The outcome discussed of this case is the bearing of fruit. To say anything from this case within the parable about eternal condemnation is unwarranted jumping to conclusions.

This same logic applies to the attempt to use this case in support of 1. This case does not address eternal condemnation at all.

In all candor, there is no a priori reason it could not have. The text of 8:15 may easily have added some comment about failing to hold fast, or failing to bear fruit with perseverance, but this portion of the parable doesn't.

among the thorns

In the case of the seed which "fell among the thorns", who does this case correspond to? "These are the ones who have heard, and

a. as they go on their way they are choked with worries";
b. "...and riches";
c. "...and pleasures of [this] life";
d. "...and bring no fruit to maturity".

It is important to understand that the outcome described is no less than the fact that they bring no fruit to maturity. However, the process is described not only by this negative outcome, but by the fact that "they are choked with worries and riches and pleasures of this life."

The plant itself is choked, resulting in no fruit. Therefore, again, as in the previous case, it is not describing what the plant sows, but what the effect of the word of God sown on such as soil is. Therefore 3 is not a consideration, any more in this case than in the one previously discussed.

Any argument about the plant dying, or not being alive at all, is unfounded. 8:7 shows that "the thorns grew up with it." Growth implies that the plant is alive. It is the mature fruit that does not exist. An existing plant is choked by thorns.

We will be playing a repeating theme in pointing out again, with this case, that nothing is said about eternal condemnation. Such things are often called "ad hoc"s, the bringing up of a consideration not spoken of or implied by the text.

However, someone may well ask the question if this case describes something that "endured to the end." To ask this question about this case, is to ask whether the plant being choked, dies. The parable does not say that. The interest of this case is the thorns growing up with the plant, and the negative consequences of it being choked by them. By implication, the consequences of those whose case corresponds to this one is that they are choked and bring no fruit to maturity.

Of course, this picture is not a commended or commendable case. It is meant to draw us to the sad conclusion of no fruit of life brought to maturity, due to what the thorns signify, the choking of the plant.

Lots more can be said about the moral dangers of the things signified by the thorns: worries, riches, and pleasures of this life. This case is assumed to apply to some, as all the cases do. We must take this sad outcome to heart.

on rocky soil

What does this case respond to? Do we see a pattern or sequence in the presentation of these case in our parable? The last case is one of perseverance or steadfastness; the previous one is a case of growth but no fruit brought to maturity; this case is of growth "for awhile" (8:13). In the description of it in 8:6, this plant actually grew up, but "as soon as it grew up it withered away." (To anticipate, the time aspect of the first case of the four is of even shorter duration. So we see the pattern of the parable from the first to the fourth case.) Here (8:13), "those on the rocky soil are those who

a. "when they hear, receive the word with joy";
b. "...have no [firm] root";
c. "who believe for awhile";
d. "...and in time of temptation fall away".

What is the difference in the description of this case, compared to that of the seed choked by thorns? Both plants grow up. The third case has no fruit, and our case here has no root, or no firm root. However, this case receives the word with joy and grows up. It is after growing up that it withers away. Therefore this is a more severe condition than that of the seed choked by thorns: whereas the plant choked brings no fruit to maturity, this says nothing per se about the its internal condition, the causes being outside the plant. However, in this case, the plant itself withers away.

This plant falls away in time of temptation. It withers away. The two descriptions are mutually supportive: to fall away, having no [firm] root, is a withering away. The problem is the not having a firm root. There the moral point of the case lies. Withering and falling away due to having no firm root is what is to be taken to heart, and this case avoided. Does 1, 2, or 3 apply here? No. For the same reasons. The parable does not make a point about the final state of this case. Indeed, the words chosen are different than those describing a death of the plant. In the case of bringing no fruit to maturity, and in this case here, that of withering, the words are deliberately evocative of something that happens during the lifetime of a plant which requires taking to heart. Eternal condemnation is not the subject of this parable.

However, the relationship between having a root or firm root and not withering away and falling away is implied. Not only so, but there is a cessation of belief implied in this case. To believe "for awhile" is to have a time come in which they do not believe. This, in turn, is connected with falling away and withering. Opposed to this is the single positive fact that the word is received at once with joy. Therefore this case answers to the premise of 1, and the conclusion of 2, but not either syllogism as stated. The conclusion is that the plant withers and falls away.

beside the road

Finally, we deal with the opening case of the parable. Here, unlike with the other three cases, where we must point out that salvation or eternal condemnation is not mentioned, in this case it is. If this is indicative of a deliberate contrast, then, since this case mentions lack of salvation and the other ones don't, the other three cases are not trying to describe eternal condemnation, by that very contrast. In this case, however, the parable helps us by explicitly talking about lack of salvation. In 8:12, "Those beside the road are

a. ...those who have heard";
b. then "the devil comes and takes away the word from their heart";
c. ..."so that they will not believe and be saved."

To believe the word they have heard would be to be saved. This is prevented by the taking away the word from their heart.

We have been talking all along about plants that sprang from the word of God sown. Not in this case. Yet, even here, those beside the road are viewed as those upon whom this event has occurred, or rather these two, the planting of the word in the heart, and the taking away by the devil of the word from it. What is prevented by the devil (and the trampling of the ground under foot, 8:5)? Time to grow. To land beside the road, those conditions must change in order for a seed to grow.

The moral implications of this for the hearer are securely in the area of seeing the necessity of time for the sprouting of the Word of God to life, and that time must be free of the activity of the devil taking the seed away, and free from being trampled under foot. The word of God cannot be trampled under foot or taken away by evil, or else there will be no opp to believe it and be saved.

Examining our assertions 1-3, we see that this parable gives no support for them. The first case is the only one demonstrable as to lack of salvation, and it is because of the conditions obtaining at the beginning of the event, not whatsoever at the end.

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