Saturday, February 23, 2008

Kangaroo Attacked By Angry Observer

Ben (kangaroodort) over at Arminian Perspectives linked into a Calvinist "critique" ( Triablogue: Captain Kangaroo ) of one of his posts I thought was interesting. It is unfortunate that our Calvinist brother chose such a sanctimonious manner in addressing Ben's well thought out address. I am not sure I can take the time to respond in this spat but it is a sad reflection on the state of Calvinist apologetics to witness such a callous disregard for scriptural humility. It is my hope that we Arminians can reflect on this example and take the high road in our methods and seasoning lest we find ourselves measured by the same response given to brother Ben.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

… A follow-up on An Opinion.

A participant on a discussion board asked the following inquiry regarding something I had posted here several days ago.

I was reading a bit of your blog and stumbled across this in the first few entries...

Over these same several years I have also noted an entitlement attitude among Calvinists meaning they have staked out the position that they are the bastion of truth and take an offensive posture with regard to non-Calvinists. Many souls who disagree with Calvinist doctrine are "forced" to defend their non-Calvinist beliefs to a minority sect in Christendom of whom most Christians reject with regard to their unique doctrine. This situation should be reversed and it should be the Calvinist who must convince and defend his doctrines to the overwhelming body of Christ who see no comfort or truth in much of these doctrines. In other words, Calvinists do not get and do not deserve a free ride in Christendom with regard to what they insist is the truth. They are to be put under the spotlight, on the defensive and insisted upon to make a convincing case for their doctrines rather than continuously attack the doctrines of much of the body of Christ.

Can you explain what you mean further? Are you saying they have an "elitist" attitude?....Because I beg to differ. I can give you an example of what happened to me on an Arminian board. It wasn't pretty...and this was from people who claimed to be Christians.

And was much of the body of Christ Arminian in the 1500's?

Also, can you show that with people who UNDERSTAND both of these theologies THOROUGHLY, they believe "the Arminian way?" I find it telling that in my thread "Used to be" that it overwhelmingly went from Arminian to Calvinist, and not the other way around.

My reply on that board was as follows.

Thank you for your inquiry. The thought I am conveying through the use of "entitlement" is one of historical preeminence within the Protestant tradition. Calvinist apologetics begin from a perspective that assumes not an elitist view (although that could be shown to be a significant problem among several internet based Calvinist ministries) but from an historical Protestant or Evangelical outlook. The term "Reformed" for example has been co opted by Calvinists to represent Calvinistic dogmas. The phrase "doctrines of Grace" has been high jacked from the ecumenical body of Christ which itself embraces scriptural doctrines of grace and instead is used to represent unique and particular doctrines not adhered to by the significant majority of Christians. The Calvinist faith has a long and storied history and has played a fundamental role in taking evangelical Christianity away from and freeing from the influence and stifling practices of it's Roman predecessors. Early Calvinists and other Reformers deserve much credit for this and it should not be overlooked. However, this is not a license to project absolutism in the body yet Calvinism claims this for itself and views those who differ within the Protestant tradition to have strayed from the foundation of truth as defined by it's particular doctrines. Instead, I maintain Calvinism must defend itself and be denied preeminence if only because most Christians do not identify nor accept it's doctrines.

As to how much of the body of Christ was Arminian in the 16th century, I would answer that much of the body of Christ was not Calvinist in that age. Arminian pertains to a particular view established in response to what we regard as improper doctrine in the Calvinist camp. I would further address that inquiry by asking how much of the body of Christ was Calvinist in the 15th century and how much is Calvinist today?

With regard to your thread, I may have misread it as I thought you were asking Calvinists in particular and as such I refrained from addressing your central inquiry. I hold strongly to the opinion that Calvinism has to be taught from a systematic viewpoint rather than gained from reading the scriptures. Now I realize that many Calvinists will disagree with that opinion but I think it is sustainable by examining the arguments and language employed by Calvinists (particularly here in this internet media).

I hope that helped address your inquiry.

Blessings in Christ


What is This New Perspective Thing?

I noticed a comment on one of the discussion boards concerning the "New Perspectives of Paul", in particular the writings of N.T. Wright. I have not studied a great deal on this matter however I have dabble enough into it to have serious questions. In any event, I thought it might be profitable to gain some direct insight from the writings of N.T. Wright himself in order to approach the matter with an open ear to the issue. There tends to be an amazing degree of internal bias in the church regarding this issue and I have determined myself to not take another man's word on these matters, instead examining the issue and a myriad of writings. The following is the opening of an address Mr. Wright made in a 2003 conference.

New Perspectives on Paul

N. T. Wright, Bishop of Durham


I am grateful for the invitation to this conference, and for the sensitive way in which the organizers responded to my comments on the initial outline of the programme. I am aware that fresh interpretations of Paul, including my own, have caused controversy in evangelical circles, and particularly reformed circles. My own name has been linked with proposals which have been variously dismissed, scorned, vilified and anathematized. Having heard the papers yesterday morning and afternoon I suggested to David Searle that I should take two hours not one to say what needs to be said just now; but when I heard Tony Lane last night I realized I would need, like Cardinal Seripando at Trent, two days to establish my own orthodoxy. We shall see.

There are several different agendas coming together at this point. The issue is sometimes treated as a variation on old modernist controversies, at other times as a clash between a Christian absolutism and a religious relativism, and at other times as a variation on a perceived protestant/catholic divide (or even a high-church/low-church divide), with the so-called new perspective focusing on ecclesiology rather than soteriology and being condemned for so doing. And that's just the beginning. From time to time correspondents draw my attention to various websites on which you can find scathing denunciations of me for abandoning traditional protestant orthodoxy and puzzled rejoinders from people who have studied my work and know that I'm not saying what many of my critics say I'm saying. Go to and look at the comments which anonymous correspondents have appended to some of my books.

Faced with that kind of problem, it would take a whole book to unpick the strands, to disentangle them from other issues, to explain what the so-called New Perspective is and isn't, and to argue exegetically step by step for a particular reading of Paul. Clearly I can't do that here. What I shall do instead is to make two opening remarks about my aim and method on the one hand and the problem of the New Perspective on the other, and then to attempt once more to say briefly what I think needs to be said about Paul and justification, sharpening up the issues here and there.

First, as to aim and method. When I began research on Paul, thirty years ago this autumn, my aim was to understand Paul in general and Romans in particular better than I had done before, as part of my heartfelt and lifelong commitment to scripture, and to the sola scriptura principle, believing that the better the church understands and lives by scripture the better its worship, preaching and common life will be. I was conscious of thereby standing methodologically in the tradition of the reformers, for whom exegesis was the lifeblood of the church, and who believed that scripture should stand over against all human traditions. I have not changed this aim and this method, nor do I intend to. Indeed, the present controversy, from my own point of view, often appears to me in terms of a battle for the Reformers' aims and methods – going back to scripture over against all human tradition – against some of their theological positions (and, equally, those of their opponents, since I believe that often both sides were operating with mistaken understandings of Paul). I believe that Luther, Calvin, and many of the others would tell us to read scripture afresh, with all the tools available to us – which is after all what they did – and to treat their own doctrinal conclusions as important but not as important as scripture itself. That is what I have tried to do, and I believe I am honoring them thereby.

The full text of this address can be found here.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Our Words or Lack of Words Do Haunt Us

Have you wondered what significance a man's last words have? I cannot say that I have an answer to that question and here in this frenzied internet environment, our words can sometimes haunt us for their lack of reflection amidst this two dimensional simplistic realm. We cannot read the nuances private to a man's thoughts and we certainly cannot know a man's heart. In this scarred world of internet apologetics, we commit ourselves to what we fancy without knowing what the day will bring. One certainty pervades our very existence; The LORD knows the very number of our hairs and the days and minutes of our lives. For that reason alone our words should be carefully measured and our opinions kept as opinions and not dogmatic declarations. I have battled with a number of souls over these years in this world we log onto. For most of those battles, we picked up our marbles and returned to our "other" reality nonetheless for wear knowing each openly embraces Jesus Christ. Then there are those few souls who part with enmity of sorts against the other or a whole class of others having made judgments that were questionable. Of course we return to the fray and we make our points and our counterpoints until … there is no point or counterpoint or even a hand to guide one's thoughts to the page however ill advised those thoughts might be.

A man died on Wednesday and I cannot say that I knew him other than to state I did not like him. I cared nothing for his rhetoric, his ill advised opinions cast as certainties and his embrace of a sectarian schism in place of the truth. Even still he declared Jesus Christ as his savior and in spite of his rejection of the faith I and millions of others share, an Arminian faith, I kept him in mind as a brother in Christ. His last post on CARM was the following:

Arminianism is the antithesis of the gospel … Yeah...I believe that unregenerate man's religion is arminian or some form of arminianism. It is a self righteous religion just as all other religions of the world. Arminianism is the antithesis of the gospel. I know most would disagree with me, however most unbelievers would. – "Nicholas Heath"

My last post to him was a blank sheet. I did not bless him and that is to my discredit.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

A Great Big Tree!

This is a great site for those looking to explore the denominational tree of their particular church background. It is amazing how many branches we have in this relationship called Christianity. Click on the expanded tree of our Methodist faith to enlarge the chart.

An Opinion
After several years of challenging Calvinists on various internet forums, I have come to a conclusion that I think is irrefutable. Calvinism suffers from a plethora of neophytes who having garnered a year or two of Calvinist “experience” present themselves ready to slay the Arminian dragon. Unfortunately, they seem to lack the ability to step beyond rhetoric and empty polemics all the while constructing and re-constructing the same tired straw men that have been refuted time and time again. Now this dilemma is not entirely the fault of these neophytes. They have been schooled in this purpose and encouraged by the rhetoric of their mentors, most of whom are internet based or associated with internet-active ministries. I think it is becoming clear after 450 years of practice that one of the essential doctrines of Calvinism is opposition to anything not Calvinistic. Of course, polemics are engaged on all sides of these issues and certainly by myself however I think it would be accurate to state that the Arminian camp (with some exceptions) has not built it’s opposition to TULIP on rhetoric and polemical arguments. We see clear contradictions in the scriptures if the Calvinist paradigm is to be accepted.

Over these same several years I have also noted an entitlement attitude among Calvinists meaning they have staked out the position that they are the bastion of truth and take an offensive posture with regard to non-Calvinists. Many souls who disagree with Calvinist doctrine are “forced” to defend their non-Calvinist beliefs to a minority sect in Christendom of whom most Christians reject with regard to their unique doctrine. This situation should be reversed and it should be the Calvinist who must convince and defend his doctrines to the overwhelming body of Christ who see no comfort or truth in much of these doctrines. In other words, Calvinists do not get and do not deserve a free ride in Christendom with regard to what they insist is the truth. They are to be put under the spotlight, on the defensive and insisted upon to make a convincing case for their doctrines rather than continuously attack the doctrines of much of the body of Christ.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Taking Up My Cross

"Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me." (Mt 16:24 AV)

On one of the discussion boards I browse through, I noticed a comment by a hard determinist (extremist in my view) who made a bold statement regarding this passage. He indicated that Arminians use this verse to somehow justify a free will mindset focused on doing good works. The comment struck me as uniquely ignorant of how Arminians and most of the body of Christ view this passage. Of course there are variations upon this theme and differences in how the verse should be applied to us however I have never conversed with a fellow Arminian who viewed the passage as focused on works born out of our "free will".

I have been churched with the understanding that to deny oneself is to deny the flesh or the ways of the world or perhaps our own notions of what is good and pleasing to the LORD. Upon denying self, we embrace Christ and Him crucified, hence the cross reference made by Christ. We essentially become sacrificed to what is good and Holy, that being Jesus.

John Wesley offered the following comment on this verse in his Explanatory Notes.

If any man be willing to come after me - None is forced; but if any will be a Christian, it must be on these terms, Let him deny himself, and take up his cross - A rule that can never be too much observed: let him in all things deny his own will, however pleasing, and do the will of God, however painful. Should we not consider all crosses, all things grievous to flesh and blood, as what they really are, as opportunities of embracing God's will at the expense of our own? And consequently as so many steps by which we may advance toward perfection? We should make a swift progress in the spiritual life, if we were faithful in this practice. Crosses are so frequent, that whoever makes advantage of them, will soon be a great gainer. Great crosses are occasions of great improvement: and the little ones, which come daily, and even hourly, make up in number what they want in weight. We may in these daily and hourly crosses make effectual oblations of our will to God; which oblations, so frequently repeated, will soon amount to a great sum. Let us remember then (what can never be sufficiently inculcated) that God is the author of all events: that none is so small or inconsiderable, as to escape his notice and direction. Every event therefore declares to us the will of God, to which thus declared we should heartily submit. We should renounce our own to embrace it; we should approve and choose what his choice warrants as best for us. Herein should we exercise ourselves continually; this should be our practice all the day long. We should in humility accept the little crosses that are dispensed to us, as those that best suit our weakness. Let us bear these little things, at least for God's sake, and prefer his will to our own in matters of so small importance. And his goodness will accept these mean oblations; for he despiseth not the day of small things.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Christian Fatalism - Part I

“Jesus said unto him, Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God.” (Lu 9:60 AV)

For the past 2,000 years Christians have stepped into this world having been liberated from the shackles of sinful desires and preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Souls have heard the message and many have turned from the pleasures of a season to an eternal life in Christ Jesus. Many more have refused and stayed upon their path of sin and death oblivious to the consequences of their choices. Regardless of those outcomes, the faithful servant of Jesus, obedient to the commission of Christ, has engaged the Gospel, presented it, preached it, declared it, promoted it and laid it out so that the power of God through His Word will bring salvation to men.

"For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God." (1Co 1:18 AV)

How could any of us have found the peace and joy of abiding in Christ if the preacher had not preached? Is this not a matter of life and death so that if one soul called to spread His Word should sit on his hands, men would perish? In the Old Testament Prophets, The LORD charged Ezekiel with the responsibilities of His watchman, one who declares and warns His people. Should the watchman sit still and not voice his responsibilities, the scriptures tell us that the blood of the people shall be upon his hands (Ezekiel 33). That is a sobering thought with regard to our responsibilities in this world. It also clearly establishes the means by which the LORD works with men in a manner our Calvinist brethren derisively refer to as synergism. The Apostle Paul exhorts the brethren along similar lines in the following passage.

"For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? So then faith [cometh] by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." (Ro 10:12-17 AV)

I have been pursuing this line of thought on the CARM discussion boards recently with the premise being the preaching of the Gospel is essential to salvation. At the same time if this Gospel is not preached, men will perish. I do not think most rational Calvinists would oppose these notions but there is more to this inquiry. What happens if one is disobedient to the commission to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ? From the Calvinist perspective of determinism, all those whom the LORD has elected from before the foundations of the world will be saved otherwise the LORD's decree will fail, an impossibility. Assuming this Calvinist position is reasonably stated, it demands an examination. If one disobeys the commission to preach His Word yet elect souls are saved nonetheless, can this determinism be defined as anything other than theistic fatalism? Many Calvinists (hyper-Calvinist souls excluded) reject the idea that their beliefs are fatalist claiming instead that the LORD's predestination of all things does not nullify man's responsibility for what the LORD has predestined. Aside from the conflict such a statement presents with regard to predestination vs. willful choice, it does not address how souls are saved aside from the preaching of the Gospel unless theistic fatalism is embraced rather than held at distance.

Now, from the Arminian perspective, there is no conflict because it is readily accepted that souls are saved through the preaching of the Gospel and souls perish when the Gospel is silenced. This is why the commission to preach the Word of God is so solemn and essential. In the words of Jesus …

"Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly [is] plenteous, but the labourers [are] few;" (Mt 9:37 AV)

Friday, February 01, 2008

I came across another interesting quiz this evening that "tests" theological worldviews. I tried taking the 63 question test without reading my biases into the questions. It came out much as expected being a Wesleyan Arminian although Reformed Evangelical came in second. The results and link to the site are below.

Quiz results:

What's your theological worldview?

You scored as a Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan

You are an evangelical in the Wesleyan tradition. You believe that God's grace enables you to choose to believe in him, even though you yourself are totally depraved. The gift of the Holy Spirit gives you assurance of your salvation, and he also enables you to live the life of obedience to which God has called us. You are influenced heavily by John Wesley and the Methodists.

Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan


Reformed Evangelical




Neo orthodox






Classical Liberal


Roman Catholic


Modern Liberal


Take this quiz here