Monday, November 29, 2010

Arminianism is God-Centered Theology

The Society of Evangelical Arminians has posted an article by Prof. Roger Olson of Baylor University entitled Arminianism is God-Centered Theology. Of course Arminians such as myself will heartedly agree with it's premise and I am convinced this article will receive widespread attention, at least among the apologists.

Sunday, November 28, 2010


William Birch provided a post from Clement concerning confessing Christ, especially a confession from the heart and not merely from the lips. It was this latter thought that provided the impetus to turn to Isaiah and ponder what being stated. Our LORD brought this prophesy closer to home in Matthews Gospel (Matt 15:8 ).

" Stay yourselves, and wonder; cry ye out, and cry: they are drunken, but not with wine; they stagger, but not with strong drink. For the LORD hath poured out upon you the spirit of deep sleep, and hath closed your eyes: the prophets and your rulers, the seers hath he covered. And the vision of all is become unto you as the words of a book that is sealed, which men deliver to one that is learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I cannot; for it is sealed:  And the book is delivered to him that is not learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I am not learned. Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men: Therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvellous work among this people, even a marvellous work and a wonder: for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid. Woe unto them that seek deep to hide their counsel from the LORD, and their works are in the dark, and they say, Who seeth us? and who knoweth us? Surely your turning of things upside down shall be esteemed as the potter's clay: for shall the work say of him that made it, He made me not? or shall the thing framed say of him that framed it, He had no understanding?" (Isa 29:9-16 AV)


" Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, saying, Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread. But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death. But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; And honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition. Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men." (Mt 15:1-9 AV)

A Rabbi's Appreciation for Evangelical Charity

Author and Rabbi Shmuley Boteach penned an op-ed  article for the Jerusalem Post recently that was appreciative for the extensive Christian charity many evangelicals express for Israel and its beleaguered people.

" ¶ Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee. Peace be within thy walls, [and] prosperity within thy palaces. For my brethren and companions' sakes, I will now say, Peace [be] within thee. Because of the house of the LORD our God I will seek thy good." (Ps 122:6-9 AV)

 

No Holds Barred: Jewish ingratitude to Christians

By SHMULEY BOTEACH  
11/23/2010 00:47 


Rather than attacking Christians for having nefarious motives for their charity, we should offer thanks.

Talkbacks (70)

Every year, the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews raises about $100 million from mostly evangelical Christians in the US for distribution to social-welfare projects in Israel and the former Soviet Union. This is a staggering sum, making the IFCJ arguably the largest foundation for needy Jews in the world. One would think that the Jewish community would show immense gratitude to our Christian brothers and sisters for such love. I therefore found it extraordinary to hear that there is a campaign in the Israeli rabbinate to discredit the organization and forbid Jewish groups from benefiting from its funds.

In our religion, the worst of all character traits is to be an ingrate. Denying the goodness that others perform on your behalf leads to a closing of the human heart. No one wants to be taken for granted. So great is the Jewish emphasis on appreciation that our greatest prophet, Moses, was commanded by God not to strike the Nile River and turn it into blood (in the first plague against the Egyptians) because that same river had saved his life when he was a baby. Later, in plague number three, God warned Moses against smiting the dust of Egypt (and turning it into lice) because that dust had saved his life when he had to bury the body of a murderous Egyptian taskmaster.

Imagine that. A man who spoke to God "face to face" was told he must show thanks to water and dust. Such is the extent to which Judaism demands gratitude.

Over the past two decades, evangelical Christians have emerged as Israel's most reliable friends. Pastors like John Hagee, my friend
 Pat Robertson and countless others have galvanized colossal Christian support for Israel. Even in the worst bombings of the second intifada, when tourism to Israel fell off a cliff, Christians still came in their millions. The same is true of stalwart Christian political support. 

While President Barack Obama continues to bully Israel over apartments in Israel's undivided and eternal capital, many American Christians have a litmus test for their elected leaders: You don't support Israel? You're out.

As I write these lines, former president George W. Bush is enjoying a public renaissance in America with the publication of his book, Decision Points. The best friend Israel ever had in the White House makes clear, at the beginning of his book, how he turned his life over to Jesus, and there can be no question that there is a direct link between his deep Christian faith and his unyielding support for Israel against those who, like
 Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, seek its annihilation. …

The rest of this article can be read on The Jerusalem Post website.

Arminius on Religion

There is a little buzz on a couple of blogs regarding emergence, evangelicalism and the lack of a sense of necessity with regard to proper doctrine. Without creating a set of dogma I try to hold to two essential  beliefs, each anchored around Paul's reference to our word of faith found in Rom 10:8-9. Yet, before we can even get to that point, we need to understand what it is we express at a more fundamental level. Arminius addressed this in defining religion, specifically our Christian religion, and it serves as a starting point for coming to terms with what we are supposed to believe as children of God.

DISPUTATION 4 ON RELIGION

1. Omitting all dispute about the question, "whether it be possible for God to render man happy by a union with himself without the intervening act of man," we affirm that it has pleased God not to bless man except by some duty performed according to the will of God, which God has determined to reward with eternal blessedness.

2. And this most equitable will of God rests on the foundation of the justice and equity according to which it seems lawful and proper, that the Creator should require from his creature, endowed with reason, an act tending to God, by which, in return, a rational creature is bound to tend towards God, its author and beneficent lord and master.

3. This act must be one of the entire man, according to each of his parts — according to his soul, and that entirely, and each of his faculties, and according to his body, so far as it is the mute instrument of the soul, yet itself possessing a capacity for happiness by means of the soul. This act must likewise be the most excellent of all those things which can proceed from man, and like a continuous act; so that whatever other acts those may he which are performed by man through some intervention of the will, they ought to be performed according to this act and its rule.

4. Though this duty, according to its entire essence and all its parts, can scarcely be designated by one name, yet we do not improperly denominate it when we give it the name of Religion This word, in its most enlarged acceptation, embraces three things — the act itself, the obligation of the act, and the obligation with regard to God, on account of whom that act must be performed. Thus, we are bound to honor our parents on account of God.

5. Religion, then, is that act which our theology places in order; and it is for this reason justly called "the object of theological doctrine."

6. Its method is defined by the command of God, and not by human choice; for the word of God is its rule and measure. And as in these day we have this word in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament alone, we say that these Scriptures are the canon according to which religion is to be conformed. We shall soon treat more fully about the Scriptures how far it is required that we should consider them as the canon of religion.

7. The opposites to religion are, impiety, that is, the neglect and contempt of God, and eqeloqrhskeia will-worship, or superstition, that is, a mode of religion invented by man. Hypocrisy is not opposed to the whole of religion, but to its integrity or purity; because that in which the entire man ought to be engaged, is performed only by his body.






Thursday, November 25, 2010

A Jazz Break ... Laurindo Almeida and the Modern Jazz Quartet play "One Note Samba"

Friday, November 19, 2010

William Birch presents Jesus as ... the moderator

William Birch has provided a brilliant satire on The Arminian site that is well worth bookmarking. It is not only outstanding satire, it is plain truth nailed to the wall.

Harry Potter and Mars Hill? Garbage!

I contemplated titling this post "A Bucketful of Liberal, Emergent, Postmodern Drool" but "Garbage" seems to work well. Browsing through a stack of reader links this afternoon, I came across a commentary posting on Christianity Today that takes theological stupidity to new heights. Harry Potter has never been a craze in my household nor that of my grandchildren so we have escaped most of it. I did watch two of the movies a few years ago so that I might have some idea what some of my fellow evangelicals were bothered by. I found it to be rather boring and second rate mythology and to be fair, non-threatening. It is secular entertainment, of little interest as noted earlier and it too will pass. However, Linda Peacore, an adjunct at Fuller Theological Seminary seems to have waxed gold in trying to craft some sort of edifying and Godly purpose to the whole series of Harry and his miscreant warlocks and witches (good witches mind you trying to manage and defeat the really bad ones). An excerpt of her commentary includes ...

... J.K. Rowling's books—and the subsequent films—put important elements of the Christian story into a moral language that both communities speak and that our contemporary culture can understand and engage. Whether Rowling intended it or not, the Harry Potter phenomenon is an example of how the Holy Spirit uses cultural means to tell God's story...

This is stated by somebody who teaches in a Christian seminary! The poor students might as well have one of my neighbors teach them, a neighbor who thinks the closest thing to God is a freshly opened keg, a pizza and a football game on a big screen TV. That's not all. Ms Peacore takes it further leaving no doubt as to how deep the theological pit must be at Fuller this afternoon.

...We see it in Paul's speech to the Athenians in Acts 17 where he recognized and even affirmed elements of wider culture, identifying shared values between Christianity and a Greek worldview. Paul reminds us to listen to culture for those stories that resonate with God's story of love and redemption. This doesn't entail that Christians embrace all of popular culture (or even all of Harry Potter), but it does mean that we are attentive to the world around us, aware of the ways the Spirit is moving...

That is what Paul preached at Mars Hill? In a pigs eye. I recommend the esteemed adjunct assistant professor pull the plastic wrapper off her bible and actually study the passage she is attempting to read into Harry Potter novels. This brings to mind a suggestion by a Word-Faith acquaintance some time ago who recommended that we should take in the whole of one's ministry, eat the meat and spit out the bones. The poor fellow failed to realize that it is the partaking of the bones in the first place that does the killing. Paul did not incorporate the paganism of the Athenians into his Gospel message. He preached Christ to a group of souls who knew something was out there but didn't know what it was. Most of them rejected Christ and continued on their quest for the "unknown God" having no idea He had just been presented to them. Liberalism embraces the world and incorporates it into their religious fusion. In that sense, it differs little from the paganism of old. Ms. Peacore sees Mars Hill in Harry Potter because she sees Harry Potter in Christ. Oh, not in a salvific manner of course but in worthiness. Of course, none of her amusements are scriptural but if Mars Hill can be brought into such nonsense, then we can easily dismiss God's command to the people of Israel to tear down the idols in the high places. "Don't come out and be separate from the world. Look to the world as your source of inspiration".

I have a better idea for the poor souls at Fuller ... change classes.

Ms. Peacore's full posting can be found here.





Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Buzz of the Young, Restless Reformed

The buzz in the bushes is ratcheting up the volume a bit regarding the Barna study on the so-called "new Calvinist" resurgence or lack thereof. A good number of the internet Calvinists are expressing reservations on several sites calling into question the validity of the study conclusions. One anonymous fellow has suggested that Calvinistic Baptists i.e. the Sovereign Grace churches are somehow excluded from consideration because they fail to self identify as Calvinist or Reformed. I don't know if that is true or not. I do know what I don't know, that I don't know many "Sovereign Grace" Calvinists for what that is worth. As I noted in the earlier post there seems to be a lot of activity on the internet among the Neo-Reformed as Scot McKnight refers to them. However, in the several years I have been interacting with Calvinists and their rather unique dogma, there has not been a great deal of evidence that they exist in substantially growing numbers in the towns and churches where the "real church" is understood by "real people".  I don't believe a growing resurgence can be defined by fishing in your own backyard for fish you have stocked yourself regardless of how big you make your backyard pond to be. At some point the resurgent pastor has to step out the front door and into the bustle of the real world else his resurgence becomes likened to a bubble. Flat numbers, as represented by the Barna study, are the pin prick that burst bubbles. That is not to state that nothing good is coming out of the various Reformed churches that are in existence. I am sure their memberships are edified and hopefully Christ continues to be exalted.  On the other hand, the Young, Restless Reformed phenomenon   might just be another buzz in the bushes.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Barna Group Study on Reformed Movement in American Churches

The Society of Evangelical Arminians posted an interesting commentary on the results of the Barna Group study examining how various pastors and churches identify themselves e.g. Reformed (Calvinistic) or Arminian. The results are somewhat surprising although not necessarily unexpected. We have heard a lot of noise in recent years about a growing resurgence of Calvinistic minded churches and evangelicals. As SEA notes, it is good news since the results if accurate represent a plateau of sorts for the young, restless Reformed. I have considered this resurgence to be mostly an academic and internet phenomenon rather than a true representation of church direction. This study lends some credibility to that view. The Barna Group study article can be found here.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Arminius on Sufficient Grace given via the Gospel for All Men to Believe

Arminius addressed the sufficiency of grace given to each man to whom the Gospel is preached, it being the power of God unto salvation. His remarks provide an entry into understanding the premise of prevenient grace as taught from the scriptures.


Can God now, in his own right, require faith from fallen man in Christ, which he cannot have of himself But does God bestow on all and every one, to whom the Gospel is preached, sufficient grace by which they may believe, if they will?

Can God require that man to believe in Jesus Christ, for whom He has determined by an absolute decree that Christ should not die, and to whom by the same decree He has determined to refuse the grace necessary for believing?

ANSWER TO THIS QUESTION

The parts of this question are not opposed to each other; on the contrary, they are at the most perfect agreement. So that the latter clause may be considered the rendering of a reason, why God may require from fallen man faith in Christ, which he cannot have of himself. For God may require this, since he has determined to bestow on man sufficient grace by which he may believe. Perhaps, therefore, the question may be thus corrected: "Can God, now, in his own right, demand from fallen man faith in Christ, which he cannot have of himself, though God neither bestows on him, nor is ready to bestow, sufficient grace by which he may believe" This question will be answered by a direct negative. God cannot by any right demand from fallen man faith in Christ, which he cannot have of himself, except God has either bestowed, or is ready to bestow, sufficient grace by which he may believe if he will. Nor do I perceive what is false in that reply, or to what heresy it has affinity. It has no alliance with the Pelagian heresy: for Pelagius maintained, that with the exception of the preaching of the Gospel, no internal grace is required to produce faith in the minds of men. But what is of more consequence, this reply is not opposed to St. Augustine's doctrine of Predestination; "yet this doctrine of his, we do not account it necessary to establish," as Innocent, the Roman Pontiff, has observed.

The Modern Jazz Quartet playing Bags Groove
Freiburg, Germany, 1987

Consistent, Conservative, Orthodox, Evangelical, Protestant, Christocentric


Under the heading of this personal space I have six adjectives identifying the characteristics of what I deem to be a properly centered evangelical Arminian. Certainly other Arminians of differing stripes and convictions will differ but from the seat I occupy, these six qualities represent what is best strived for in meeting the expectations of a biblical and evangelical Arminian Christian.

First is consistency, a rather bland expectation since everybody views themselves as consistent. However when pressed to examine oneself, it is near certain inconsistencies are revealed sometimes by our own introspection and often by the pointed observations of others.  Perhaps the inverse of this is hypocrisy. None of us wish to be hypocrites yet every one of us falls into the category at some time or another. So to strive toward consistency from the perspective of Christian edification is very much an effort through faith and submission to Christ for the purpose of weeding hypocrisy out of our lives. If I decry and look with disdain the haughty declarations of God's judgment by liberal and emergent sympathizers against those who disagree, I had better not be shouting the same judgments against them for holding positions opposed to my own. I had better not be the hypocrite and instead be consistent with my embraced Christianity.

Next is for the evangelical Arminian to be conservative. This is not the mistaken conservatism opposed by the reactionaries in the liberal seminaries who brand everything conservative as fundamentalist and bibliolatry.  It is instead a conservatism that stands fast against swaying winds and suspect doctrines and understanding that God is not doing a "new thing" every time a theologian publishes a new book and a new fad sweeps the church. Conservative evangelicalism recognizes an unwavering commitment to biblical truth rather than relevant truth that, just as Paul described" another Gospel", is really no truth at all. Jesus was born of a virgin girl and for purpose. Jesus did live a perfect life in the eyes of God. Jesus was put to death at Calvary and on the morning of the third day, did rise in resurrection. He is God in the flesh, LORD of Lords. The Bible is not a mythology to be taken in its "good" parts and dismissed as irrelevant for its "hard" teachings. Conservative evangelicals accept the Bible as true and infallible in all its parts and not subject to the whims of modern social mores.

Third is orthodoxy. By this I mean to point to the maxim presented by Vincent of Lerins, Quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus credituni est.  This is an orthodoxy that has been believed everywhere, always, and by all. That is not stated in a hyper literal sense for we each differ on the fringes in how core doctrines should be presented and emphasized. Instead it is to state that orthodoxy, for example, defines for us how it is that man is depraved and how he came to be such. It declares the deity of Jesus Christ through the machinations of the scriptures, the apostles, the pillars of the church and the ecumenical consensus of truth.  We cannot look at the doctrines of Calvinist predestination or the Methodist position of second blessings as truly orthodox in the sense presented here. Such teachings may or may not be heterodox but we cannot hold they have been the instruction throughout the church witnessed by scripture and the Holy Spirit. The consistent and conservative evangelical should embrace orthodoxy rather than follow the paths that crumble both consistency and conservatism.

Fourthly, one is to be evangelical. This seems obvious at first glance but there is more to this than just a word. I have come to view this term in the sense that to be evangelical is to embrace piety over ecclesiastics with regard to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. My purpose and others as well, is not to bring souls into the Methodist or Presbyterian or Baptist church. It is to understand and express the simple truths that souls enter into Christ by the grace of God through faith and that the church has many members and parts that encompass its whole, singular body. The body politic of the outward church is not the satisfaction sought by the evangelical Christian. It is souls won to Christ on the mission field.

The next attribute of the evangelical Arminian is a natural progression from the fourth. We are Protestant; not in the Lutheran sense but in our embrace of the early 15th and 16th century fight against the suffocations of anti-evangelicals. In a very real sense we should state that Evangelicals were birthed out of the German Protestant movement and in union with them advanced what we refer to as the Reformation. It has a declaration commonly shouted in the past as  Ecclesia reformata, semper reformanda. This is the church reformed and always reforming. Moving away from that declaration is to remove oneself from Protestantism and sound doctrine.

Lastly and most importantly we are Christocentric. That is our faith, our Christianity is not centered upon dogma, ecclesiastics, social comfort or denomination. It is grounded in a faith, a particular faith, trust in the person and finished work of Jesus Christ. All else could wax cold and distant but if one's faith remains grounded in our Holy LORD, we know we stand on a firm, unshakable ground. As such we are Christian.

Putting these together we become a consistent, conservative, orthodox, evangelical, Protestant and Christ centered Christian, oriented within the Arminian perspective.


Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Do Calvinists Pray Out of Obligation or Desire?

One of the Triablokes wrote ...

... But from a Calvinistic standpoint, it's merciful when God disrespects our foolish, self-destructive choices. Hitchens' basic problem is his failure to act in his best interests. As such, a Calvinistic prayer for his salvation would be coherent with Reformed theism, although it might well be incoherent with freewill theism...

There are several glaring issues with that thought, first of which comes to mind is the idea that a Calvinist would state a lost man is not acting in his best interests. In Calvinist thought,unredeemed man is unable to act in his best interests because God has decreed that he cannot. Linking that inconsistency with another noted above, why would a Calvinist think that his personal prayer would ever have any influence upon the decisions of God regarding a lost soul? The Calvinist can pray for a man's salvation and the LORD leaves him to depravity making the prayer ineffectual and of no purpose given the decision to leave the man to eternal damnation was made before the foundations of the world according to Calvinist theology. Several noted Calvinists have claimed that prayer is an ordained method of evangelicalism along with the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ yet if the doctrine of reprobation advanced in Reformed circles is true, then most prayer is of no consequence. God would be putting people through the paces, so to speak. It is illogical and leads me to believe that many Calvinist pray only because they are instructed to, out of obligation rather than desire for souls to be saved.

Calvinism For Dummies

Total Depravity

You are really messed up bad and there is no difference between you a dead corpse four feet in the ground or at least in a concrete vault above ground if you are dead in New Orleans. But ... you aren't so dead that you are as dead as you could really be. Now if you were that dead, you would be deader than dead

 

Unconditional Election

You could wake up saved and never know it. Well, never know it in that you went to sleep knowing you'd wake up saved, I mean.

 

Limited Atonement

Jesus only died for you and your buds. Everybody else? Well, tough luck. They just didn't make the list God made up, like, 450 years ago.

 

Irresistible Grace

God doesn't let you say no and if you say no, He doesn't pay any attention to you anyway.

 

Perseverance

Well, this is easy. Like waking up saved, you can do anything and all is really good. Actually, God expects you to keep on sinning so don't sweat the little stuff. Now, if you go off and kill somebody, you can always say David did too and everybody knows about how good his heart was.

Monday, November 01, 2010

95 Theses Against Calvinism

The Society of Evangelical Arminians posted a new list of objections in honor of Luthers's original list. 

In light of the anniversary of Luther's posting of his 95 theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany (October 31, 1517), Rebekah Reinagel, one of our members, offers 95 theses regarding Calvinism.