Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Power of Prayer

"Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." (Jas 5:16 AV)

I was thinking earlier this morning on the responsibilities of the saint and came upon this passage. In this age when carnal religion and charismatic excess present themselves as mediocre counterfeits in the church, it becomes far too easy to miss the importance of charisma and responsibility in our relationship with Jesus Christ and the Father. As I type this I cannot help but experience another déjà vu as I know this matter has pressed me repeatedly in past discussions and experiences. It is always troubling when the solid ground is missed because of one's excess and another's dismissal. One cavorts in the midst of a money scheme while the latter wallows in his cessasionism. I think it is the latter that troubles me more. The hyper-Charismatic with his prayer cloths and anointing oils sold by the gallon is easily identifiable. The dogmatic cessasionist, on the other hand, hides his rejection of the work of God behind a cloak of presumed orthodoxy only to feign an allegiance of charisma with the presumption that the gifts of God must certainly exist but not in any way imaginable today. The church world is full of both kinds today but I have to wonder how many of those James refers to as righteous men are offering fervent prayers for the glorious healing powers of God? Ezekiel pushed the thought further in another context when the prophet offers … "And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it: but I found none." (Eze 22:30 AV). The LORD desires those righteous men who know His power and His promises.

I was going to take this thought to a polemic against Calvinist determinism but will save it for another day. There is no shortage of opportunities to expose the poverty of such thoughts but too many times I fail to dial into these more important issues in our sanctifying walk in Christ. I am a fervent believer in the power of prayer. I know that I know that I know, endlessly repeated, that the LORD works through our prayers and grants the wishes of a faithful servant. Sometimes those fulfillments are not exactly what we expected but we find our position granted as we desired. I needed to find another job a couple of years ago, one located back where we had previously lived and where our grandchildren now live. It took several tries, several prayers and at the end of the day, we are where we desired. Now I had prayed to the LORD for a particular opportunity but he gave me something better. Had he granted my particular wish, we would be in a lesser position, in a place that might have proved difficult to us knowing what we now know. Instead, He placed us where we can accomplish our immediate goals with little impediment. I want to bring this back to the passage from James.

When I was a young boy, I was enamored of an elderly man who operated a small dry cleaner shop in the neighborhood I grew up in. He was in his late seventies at this time and he took ill one summer with his very life threatened. Suffering from pneumonia, his lungs were filling with fluid and I remember my mother discussing the dire condition with several of the neighborhood women. None gave him any hope and as I sat on the upper steps of our stairwell I wept. I wept for an old friend and cried out to the LORD asking Him to save his life and bring him back home. I was not ready to see my friend go. Now, I was raised as one who sought out his own faith while a child excepting my forced attendance at the local Congregational Church Sunday School classes. I knew much of the scripture and as a child I knew Jesus was LORD. I can be ashamed of my later life but at that time I believed and trusted that the LORD was true to His Word. So weeping on that step and praying to the LORD, I knew He listened. I knew that my prayers mattered. I knew there was an effect. The LORD brought that old man home, restoring his health when all others prepared for his death. He became a testimony to me of the power of prayer that I cannot shake today. I have come to believe and know today that as James stated, the prayers of the LORD's children have an effect on our walk, the people around us and in fulfillment of the desires we have as children of God.


Monday, August 11, 2008

Google Sites For Theological Documents

For the past couple of years I have found to offer a wealth of free or low cost utilities that really provide a great help to those who spend a lot of time with the web. One tool I have recently started using is Google Sites. Like most web pages, it allows the user to store files that might be too large to post on a blog and to provide a quick resource for pertinent materials used for research and sourcing. Since I use this blog predominantly to work out my thoughts and ideas for my own benefit and not particularly for an audience, it is a great tool to have something like Sites to keep those documents and resources handy and accessible from one location. It is pretty sparse at the moment but perhaps over time I will be able to collect several more articles of particular interest to me.

This blogs Google Site is located at Arminian Resources

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Christ’s Atonement Never Saved a Single Calvinist

You know, I was thinking a bit this morning and I have to state that the atonement of Christ at Calvary failed to save John Calvin. Yes, that's right. It didn't do the trick. I was trying to think of some other Calvinists that were saved by Christ's atonement and as hard as I tried, I couldn't think of any. James White? Pffft … Not a chance. My good loving Calvinist buddies over on CARM? Man, I'd love to say yes but the truth is not a single one of them can entice me to say they were saved by Christ's atonement. Arthur Pink? Now I wanted to say yes but alas the answer can only be no, Pink was never saved by Christ's atonement. Then I struck upon Charles H. Spurgeon and I thought surely he had to be saved by Christ's atonement. But the more I thought about it (especially when his disparaging remarks concerning Arminianism came to mind) I had to admit that even Spurgeon fell short. The more I thought about this, the clearer it became. Now, Calvinists are fond of claiming to be saved by Christ's atonement but can the Christian really believe them? Those who love Christ had better not believe them because I am convinced that not a single Calvinist was saved by Christ's atonement. What a horrible predicament that would place a Calvinist in to come to the realization that he was never saved by Christ's atonement. It might even force him to relinquish himself to the FACTS and doctrines of Christ and become an Arminian. It sure might help him especially when he realizes that, come to think of it, not a single Arminian was saved by the atonement of Christ either. It takes faith to be a child of God.

"Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth [to be] a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;" (Ro 3:24-25 AV)

Thanks to William Birch at Classical Arminianism for a wonderful article this morning.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Arminius on Predestination

Arminius wrote a considerable article dealing with the aspects and implications of various Calvinist doctrines of Predestination in his Sentiments. Recently, I have found myself engaged in several contentious discussions regarding the orthodoxy of Calvinist predestination. In turning to Arminius' Sentiments I came to the unsettled conclusion that the predestination teaching of the various Calvinist churches cannot be deemed as an orthodox instruction in the body of Christ if Arminius argues on a solid ground (which I do indeed argue). While I would not deem such teachings to be heretical and I am certainly not in a position to do such, the degree of unorthodoxy is such that if Calvinistic Predestination were removed from the syllabus of Reformed thought, the entire catalogue of that systematic theology would crumble. Its foundation is premised on that arbitrary determinism called by another name, Predestination. The following is an extract from Arminius' comments on this matter and provides the Reformation Arminian view of predestination that readily agrees with the historic orthodoxy of the Christian Church without causing any manner of doctrinal conflict with that orthodoxy. Arminius' comments in whole are lengthy and those sections that address the objectionable tenets of Calvinist Predestination are not presented here although a link to those comments is provided. – A.M. Mallett

From Arminius' Declaration of Sentiments:


I have hitherto been stating those opinions concerning the article of Predestination which are inculcated in our Churches and in the University of Leyden, and of which I disapprove. I have at the same time produced my own reasons, why I form such an unfavorable judgment concerning them; and I will now declare my own opinions on this subject, which are of such a description as, according to my views, appear most conformable to the word of God.

1. The first absolute decree of God concerning the salvation of sinful man, is that by which he decreed to appoint his Son, Jesus Christ, for a Mediator, Redeemer, Savior, Priest and King, who might destroy sin by his own death, might by his obedience obtain the salvation which had been lost, and might communicate it by his own virtue.

2. The second precise and absolute decree of God, is that in which he decreed to receive into favor those who repent and believe, and, in Christ, for his sake and through Him, to effect the salvation of such penitents and believers as persevered to the end; but to leave in sin, and under wrath, all impenitent persons and unbelievers, and to damn them as aliens from Christ.

3. The third Divine decree is that by which God decreed to administer in a sufficient and efficacious manner the means which were necessary for repentance and faith; and to have such administration instituted

(1.) according to the Divine Wisdom, by which God knows what is proper and becoming both to his mercy and his severity, and

(2.) according to Divine Justice, by which He is prepared to adopt whatever his wisdom may prescribe and put it in execution.

4. To these succeeds the fourth decree, by which God decreed to save and damn certain particular persons. This decree has its foundation in the foreknowledge of God, by which he knew from all eternity those individuals who would, through his preventing grace, believe, and, through his subsequent grace would persevere, according to the before described administration of those means which are suitable and proper for conversion and faith; and, by which foreknowledge, he likewise knew those who would not believe and persevere.

Predestination, when thus explained, is

1. The foundation of Christianity, and of salvation and its certainty.

2. It is the sum and the matter of the gospel; nay, it is the gospel itself, and on that account necessary to be believed in order to salvation, as far as the two first articles are concerned.

3. It has had no need of being examined or determined by any council, either general or particular, since it is contained in the scriptures clearly and expressly in so many words; and no contradiction has ever yet been offered to it by any orthodox Divine.

4. It has constantly been acknowledged and taught by all Christian teachers who held correct and orthodox sentiments.

5. It agrees with that harmony of all confessions, which has been published by the protestant Churches.

6. It likewise agrees most excellently with the Dutch Confession and Catechism. This concord is such, that if in the Sixteenth article these two expressions "those persons whom" and "others," be explained by the words "believers" and "unbelievers" these opinions of mine on Predestination will be comprehended in that article with the greatest clearness. This is the reason why I directed the thesis to be composed in the very words of the Confession, when, on one occasion, I had to hold a public disputation before my private class in the University. This kind of Predestination also agrees with the reasoning contained in the twentieth and the fifty-fourth question of the Catechism.

7. It is also in excellent accordance with the nature of God — with his wisdom, goodness, and righteousness; because it contains the principal matter of all of them, and is the clearest demonstration of the Divine wisdom, goodness, and righteousness [or justice]

8. It is agreeable in every point with the nature of man — in what form soever that nature may be contemplated, whether in the primitive state of creation, in that of the fall, or in that of restoration.

9. It is in complete concert with the act of creation, by affirming that the creation itself is a real communication of good, both from the intention of God, and with regard to the very end or event; that it had its origin in the goodness of God; that whatever has a reference to its continuance and preservation, proceeds from Divine love; and that this act of creation is a perfect and appropriate work of God, in which he is at complaisance with himself, and by which he obtained all things necessary for an unsinning state.

10. It agrees with the nature of life eternal, and with the honorable titles by which that life is designated in the scriptures.

11. It also agrees with the nature of death eternal, and with the names by which that death is distinguished in scripture.

12. It states sin to be a real disobedience, and the meritorious cause of condemnation; and on this account, it is in the most perfect agreement with the fall and with sin.

13. In every particular, it harmonizes with the nature of grace, by ascribing to it all those things which agree with it, [or adapted to it,] and by reconciling it most completely to the righteousness of God and to the nature and liberty of the human will.

14. It conduces most conspicuously to declare the glory of God, his justice and his mercy. It also represents God as the cause of all good and of our salvation, and man as the cause of sin and of his own damnation.

15. It contributes to the honor of Jesus Christ, by placing him for the foundation of Predestination and the meritorious as well as communicative cause of salvation.

16. It greatly promotes the salvation of men: It is also the power, and the very means which lead to salvation — by exciting and creating within the mind of man sorrow on account of sin, a solicitude about his conversion, faith in Jesus Christ, a studious desire to perform good works, and zeal in prayer — and by causing men to work out their salvation with fear and trembling. It likewise prevents despair, as far as such prevention is necessary.

17. It confirms and establishes that order according to which the gospel ought to be preached,

(1.) By requiring repentance and faith —

(2.) And then by promising remission of sins, the grace of the spirit, and life eternal.

18. It strengthens the ministry of the gospel, and renders it profitable with respect to preaching, the administration of the sacraments and public prayers.

19. It is the foundation of the Christian religion; because in it, the two-fold love of God may be united together — God's love of righteousness [or justice], and his love of men, may, with the greatest consistency, be reconciled to each other.

20. Lastly. This doctrine of Predestination, has always been approved by the great majority of professing Christians, and even now, in these days, it enjoys the same extensive patronage. It cannot afford any person just cause for expressing his aversion to it; nor can it give any pretext for contention in the Christian Church.

It is therefore much to be desired, that men would proceed no further in this matter, and would not attempt to investigate the unsearchable judgments of God — at least that they would not proceed beyond the point at which those judgments have been clearly revealed in the scriptures.

This, my most potent Lords, is all that I intend now to declare to your mightinesses, respecting the doctrine of Predestination, about which there exists such a great controversy in the Church of Christ. If it would not prove too tedious to your Lordships, I have some other propositions which I could wish to state, because they contribute to a full declaration of my sentiments, and tend to the same purpose as that for which I have been ordered to attend in this place by your mightinesses.

There are certain other articles of the Christian religion, which possess a close affinity to the doctrine of Predestination, and which are in a great measure dependent on it: Of this description are the providence of God, the free-will of man, the perseverance of saints, and the certainty of salvation. On these topics, if not disagreeable to your mightinesses, I will in a brief manner relate my opinion.