Sunday, November 29, 2015

The Sine Qua Non of Conservative Evangelicalism

In layman terms, what do we consider the essential hallmark doctrines of an evangelical Christian? If liberalism, emergence or radicalism in its various forms e.g. liberation theology were to determine this, perhaps there would be no set definition of what constitutes the biblical Christian. If broad, overly inclusive ecumenism is the deciding worldview, there does not seem to be a need to define the sine qua non of evangelical Christianity. In the latter view, there is no ecclesiastical authority, no boundary that can be established, no deciding factor that determines whether one is evangelically true to the doctrines of God and the Good News of Jesus Christ. It is a welcoming body regardless of grace or leaven. But is it true?

Even those who advocate a boundary-less evangelical Christianity with all the trappings of an almost limitless ecumenism establish boundaries of their own with regard to the criteria of legitimate evangelicalism. Whether it is a list of other "isms" or spelled out simply as the necessity of being born again, trusting the Bible to be the revealed word of God, engaged in Christ's commission and having a faith focused on the person and finished work of Jesus Christ at Calvary, every one of us regardless of where we sit on the evangelical spectrum establish boundaries. Confusion sets in when any of us proclaim one thing in the support of one "ism" and intellectually assent to the very opposite position when pressed to identify the essentials. An essential position defies the logic of advocating the lack of essentials. To analogously borrow from the Apostle Paul, we cannot be all things for all people if we are not true to who we are and what we believe.

Looking around at the church world, we can see the wreckage of liberal, emergent and radical elements affecting much of what once were sound and orthodox pillars of evangelical Christianity.  If we pay attention, we can fish the lukewarm waters of overly broad ecumenism and find complicity through advocacy to embrace the very "movements" that are at the root of this wreckage. The United Methodist Church as an example has suffered terribly through the misguided efforts to embrace radical liberalism, feminism and open acceptance of homosexuality not only in the pews but most damningly in the messages emanating from the pulpits. They pursued wide open ecumenism and kissed the world as a result.  Certainly this does not argue against the ecumenical embrace of all the body of Christ. We are instructed to have unity in the essentials, speaking the same things (1 Co 1:10). Yet to have such unity and remain in agreement, the essentials have to be defined. That requires identifying boundaries for determining what constitutes evangelical Christianity.

The conservative evangelical recognizes the need for boundaries, for identified essentials regarding who and what we are. The Bible IS the word of God. Calvary IS important. Being born of the Spirit and rising in a newness of life is an essential. We agree with the ecumenical creeds and councils of the church truly in spirit and mostly in word even if we might craft another prose. The conservative evangelical rejects the notion that ecumenism is good in its own right if the essentials of our faith are left void by a whim. Perhaps most importantly, we agree that the following words of the Apostle Paul as relevant today as when first scribed.

"And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love." (Eph 4:11-16 AV)

While the conservative evangelical might struggle with some non-essential doctrines and allow ecclesiastical dogma to shade his judgment, the liberal or emergent ecumenicist  turns a blind eye outwardly to the essentials of the faith while personally harboring agreement with the very elements he opposes in conservatism…  In a couple of words, doctrine matters.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Arminius on Grace and Free Will


Every time I turn to the writings of Arminius I am ever more thankful for God's grace worked in the life of this man. Besides, the words of Arminius send the false accusations of the ignorant zealot scrambling every time. Here are his comments on God's grace and the free will of man.
GRACE AND FREE WILL
Concerning grace and free will, this is what I teach according to the Scriptures and orthodox consent: Free will is unable to begin or to perfect any true and spiritual good, without grace. That I may not be said, like Pelagius, to practice delusion with regard to the word "grace," I mean by it that which is the grace of Christ and which belongs to regeneration. I affirm, therefore, that this grace is simply and absolutely necessary for the illumination of the mind, the due ordering of the affections, and the inclination of the will to that which is good. It is this grace which operates on the mind, the affections, and the will; which infuses good thoughts into the mind, inspires good desires into the actions, and bends the will to carry into execution good thoughts and good desires. This grace goes before, accompanies, and follows; it excites, assists, operates that we will, and co-operates lest we will in vain. It averts temptations, assists and grants succor in the midst of temptations, sustains man against the flesh, the world and Satan, and in this great contest grants to man the enjoyment of the victory. It raises up again those who are conquered and have fallen, establishes and supplies them with new strength, and renders them more cautious. This grace commences salvation, promotes it, and perfects and consummates it.
I confess that the mind of a natural and carnal man is obscure and dark, that his affections are corrupt and inordinate, that his will is stubborn and disobedient, and that the man himself is dead in sins. And I add to this — that teacher obtains my highest approbation who ascribes as much as possible to divine grace, provided he so pleads the cause of grace, as not to inflict an injury on the justice of God, and not to take away the free will to that which is evil.
I do not perceive what can be further required from me. Let it only be pointed out, and I will consent to give it, or I will shew that I ought not to give such an ascent. Therefore, neither do I perceive with what justice I can be calumniated on this point, since I have explained these my sentiments, with sufficient plainness, in the theses on free will which were publicly disputed in the university.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Lincoln's Thanksgiving Proclamation (repost)



By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consiousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

William H. Seward,
Secretary of State

Thanksgiving Day Proclamation in 1789 and President George Washington's Address (repost)

Thanksgiving Day Proclamation in 1789 and President George Washington's Address

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor - and Whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me "to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness."
Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be – That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks – for his kind care and protection of the People of this country previous to their becoming a Nation – for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his providence, which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war –for the great degree of tranquillity, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed – for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted, for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.
And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions – to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually – to render our national government a blessing to all the People, by constantly being a government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed – to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord – To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and Us – and generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.
Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.
- George Washington

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

The Best Calvinist Primer You Can Read

Having read the Institutes a few times and making myself familiar with several of the leading lights of the Calvinist faith, I think I have found the holy grail of understanding Calvinist doctrine. It is written in a subtle fashion, hopefully for throwing the two dimensional riffraff off balance. Give it a try and see if it doesn't bring some clarity to the matter of understanding the myriad of Calvinist teachings bumping into each other.


Read the article here.

Bitter Orange

Re-post from Dec 30, 2010 ...


We not only do not believe that any are foreordained to evil by the power of God, but even state with utter abhorrence that if there are those who want to believe so evil a thing, they are anathema.

The 2nd Council of Orange met to stir the pot of contention. Well, perhaps they didn't think of it like that but looking back at the canon pronouncements that came out of that council in 529 AD, they covered considerable controversial ground. Prevenient grace, total depravity, semi-Augustinianism, semi-Pelagianism, strict determinism, baptism, free will and all the questions swirling around these topics continue to generate a lot of controversy today. Perhaps the most notable contribution of 2nd Orange was its affirmation of the total depravity of man in his natural state and the necessity of prevenient grace to give any impetus to natural man to accomplish or perform any good. The council determined that faith itself and every aspect of salvation is by grace and not through any innate capability of men. These decisions form the basis for western orthodox understandings of total depravity as it regards fallen man and present the case against the predilections of the Pelagians or semi-Pelagians. As orthodox Arminians, we can be grateful for the distinctions made by this council and turn to the document to refute misplaced allegations made against us by the Neo-Reformed in accusing us of the errors of Pelagius and his close follower, Caelestius.

It is the allegations made by Neo-Reformed polemicists that raise the hackles of non-Calvinists and give cause to question their knowledge of the document they brandish. Along with the challenges to the doctrines of man's fallen condition via the semi-Pelagians, 2nd Orange also addressed the aberrant teachings of some who took Augustine's predestination teachings to infer that the LORD predestined all men, some to salvation and others to eternal reprobation. Such teachings were regarded by the elders of the church to have God foreordaining or predestining men to sin and were abhorred as such. Essentially, double predestination was deemed to be anathema and equivalent of making God to be the effecter or author of sin. Today's moderate Calvinists strenuously object to the implication made by this examination while some of their harsher advocates make little effort to distance themselves from the hard determinism that brought about this anathematizing. None of this would really matter were it not for the abuse of 2nd Orange against non-Calvinists through the accusation of Pelagianism. These accusations have always rung hollow but they continue even to this day, among those that intellectually know better than to repeat the charges. Oddly, every time the Calvinist swings his accusing club relying on Orange, he receives a doubly disabling return blow by his own hand. Every instance of shouting "free will Pelagian" gives the retort of "damnable heretic" if the canons of 2nd Orange are his weapon of choice. Eventually, the Calvinist clubs himself senseless, rhetorically speaking. The following provide further links and information on this matter.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Arminius on Faith in God and Christ


I have reposted this entry in coordination of exploring the relationship between faith and regeneration as it pertains to Arminius' soteriology. This was originally posted on Sept 04, 2010.

The following comments reflect Arminius' thoughts regarding faith in God and the person and work of Jesus Christ.
DISPUTATION 44 ON FAITH IN GOD AND CHRIST
1. In the preceding disputation, we have treated on the first part of that obedience which is yielded to the vocation of God. The second part now follows, which is called "the obedience of faith."
2. Faith, generally, is the assent given to truth; and divine faith is that which is given to truth divinely revealed. The foundation on which divine faith rests is two-fold — the one external and out of or beyond the mind — the other internal and in the mind.
(1.) The external foundation of faith is the very veracity of God who makes the declaration, and who can declare nothing that is false.
(2.) The internal foundation of faith is two-fold — both the general idea by which we know that God is true — and the knowledge by which we know that it is the word of God. Faith is also two-fold, according to the mode of revelation, being both legal and evangelical, of which the latter comes under our present consideration, and tends to God and Christ.
3. Evangelical faith is an assent of the mind, produced by the Holy Spirit, through the gospel, in sinners, who, through the law, know and acknowledge their sins, and are penitent on account of them, by which they are not only fully persuaded within themselves that Jesus Christ has been constituted by God the author of salvation to those who obey him, and that he is their own Savior if they have believed in him, and by which they also believe in him as such, and through him on God as the benevolent Father in him, to the salvation of believers and to the glory of Christ and God.
4. The object of faith is not only the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, but likewise Christ himself who is here constituted by God the author of salvation to those that obey him.
5. The form is the assent that is given to an object of this description; which assent is not acquired by a course of reasoning from principles known by nature; but it is an assent infused above the order of nature, which, yet, is confirmed and increased by the daily exercises of prayers and mortification of the flesh, and by the practice of good works. Knowledge is antecedent to faith; for the Son of God is beheld before a sinner believes on him. But trust or confidence is consequent to it; for, through faith, confidence is placed in Christ, and through him in God.
6. The author of faith is the Holy Spirit, whom the Son sends from the Father, as his advocate and substitute, who may manage his cause in the world and against it. The instrument is the gospel, or the word of faith, containing the meaning concerning God and Christ which the Spirit proposes to the understanding, and of which he there works a persuasion.
7. The subject in which it resides, is the mind, not only as it acknowledges this object to be true, but likewise to be good, which the word of the gospel declares. Wherefore, it belongs not only to the theoretical understanding, but likewise to that of the affections, which is practical.
8. The subject to which [it is directed], or the object about which [it is occupied], is sinful man, acknowledging his sins, and penitent on account of them. For this faith is necessary for salvation to him who believes; but it is unnecessary to one who is not a sinner; and, therefore, no one except a sinner, can know or acknowledge Christ for his Savior, for he is the Savior of sinners. The end, which we intend for our own benefit, is salvation in its nature. But the chief end is the glory of God through Jesus Christ.
COROLLARY
"Was the faith of the patriarchs under the covenants of promise, the same as ours under the New Testament, with regard to its substance?" We answer in the affirmative.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Misrepresentation - Soteriology 101

An interesting read ...

5 REASONS FOR THE ACCUSATION OF MISREPRESENTATION WHEN DEBATING CALVINISM

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Why Hyper-Calvinism Is Consistent Calvinism - Roger E.Olson


Why Hyper-Calvinism Is Consistent Calvinism

I know, I know. I will be accused of being “uncharitable” simply for deconstructing Calvinism. Apparently what’s good for the goose is not good for the gander. I have at least twenty-five volumes about Calvinism by leading Calvinist theologians on my bookshelf (and these are only examples of contemporary Calvinism!). All contain attempted deconstructions of Arminianism—attempts to demonstrate its inner contradictions and its ultimate illegitimacy as biblical theology. I don’t consider that “uncharitable” so long as the authors do not misrepresent Arminian theology—which they often do. Even then I don’t consider it uncharitable unless I suspect they knew better or should have known better. I do consider it uncharitable when they say things like “Arminians are Christians—just barely” and “Arminianism is on the brink of heresy” and the best explanation for Arminianism is “demonic deception” and “one can no more be an ‘Arminian evangelical’ than a ‘Catholic evangelical’.” I don’t take offense or consider it uncharitable when a Calvinist says Arminianism is “profoundly mistaken” or that Arminians are guilty of a “felicitous inconsistency.” I disagree but do not take offense or consider such claims “uncharitable.”


Read more: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/rogereolson/2015/04/why-hyper-calvinism-is-consistent-calvinism/#ixzz3XQ8NWr88