Sunday, November 29, 2015
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
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 WILLConcerning 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
By the President of the United States of America.
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