Sunday, November 30, 2008

Speaking the Same Thing

When I am asked of my theological leanings, the answer is almost always Arminian, sometimes Wesleyan or even evangelical Protestant. When asked who or what I am, my reply is Christian yet the title of this blog refers to the thoughts of an Arminian Christian. We get caught up in labels, some we approve of and others swiped against us without warning or desire. Certainly we apply labels to others and the truth of the matter is that labels help identify a set of beliefs one holds. Yet can we be said to speak the same thing if some of us are known as Arminians and others Calvinistic? The Apostle admonishes us in the following.

"Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and [that] there be no divisions among you; but [that] ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them [which are of the house] of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?" (1Co 1:10-13 AV)

Paul looks at the divisions and contentions and recognizes that we too easily lose sight of who and what we are, followers of Jesus Christ. There are ecumenical things we are to speak whether Arminian, Calvinist, Baptist, Charismatic or even Catholic. These same things we are to speak are not the unique distinctives that identify us as denominations. We do not preach TULIP thinking we are preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Nor do the FACTs of Arminian thinking become what constitutes our ecumenical message. The Pentecostal preacher does no service to the LORD in preaching the doctrine of the essential evidence of tongues thinking this is the Good News. There is something else we need to speak to be united as one in Christ.

"But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, [even] in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed." (Ro 10:8-11 AV)

Saturday, November 29, 2008

A Christian Reformation

In 1517, an Augustinian monk named Martin Luther presented a list of 95 Theses entitled Disputation of Doctor Martin Luther on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences. This was a shot ultimately heard around the world but certainly echoing in Wittenberg, Germany and the European principalities as a cataclysmic rebuke of Papal authority and scriptural confinement. This act ushered in the age of the Reformation even though it is rightfully begun earlier and among Luther's contemporaries as well. It opened the European continent and Isles to the most stalwart of Christian declarations, justification by faith. The Reformation provided the impetus for the spread of evangelical missions so much so that rather than be known as Protestants, we are better served with the distinction as Evangelicals. The Gospel of Christ no longer constrained by often times illiterate priests serving an even more so peasantry, found its way to every corner of the globe over the next four centuries. Christians preached Christ and continue to do so, Christians reformed from the ways of a self serving papal organization that sought to strangle the light of Christ. We are indeed a Reformed faith.

Baptists, Anabaptists, Lutherans, Arminians, Calvinists and others encouraged by the valor of men such as Luther and Huss comprise the fruit of the Reformation. Our Calvinist brethren are sensitive about sharing the distinction of Reformed for they seem to have claimed the phrase as their own and limited it to their own unique doctrines. Yet, they seem unaware or unconcerned about the source of their label, the reformation itself. Lacking that great Lutheran, one certainly not Calvinist, or his fellow Melanchthon, there could have been no sustained Reformation. Lacking the intellectual strength of men such as James Arminius, Episcopius and others, the evangelical fervor of Christianity might well have extinguished under the burden of a harsh determinism. To that end we give thanks to the LORD for His grace in such matters. Nonetheless, there are cur dogs in our midst who exalt the letter R at the cost of denigrating those who serve the purpose of the cross. Denying any place at the Christian table, these souls have staked a claim upon one label after another not realizing that at the end day such zealotry will choke the life out of them. To their label of Reformed I reply Christian, to the Doctrines of Grace I answer the teachings of Christ. Pray for the zealot who does not know what he speaks of.

There are Christians and I number myself among them that have grown weary of sects whose tongues are unbridled and whose desires are to grow a further schism. I yearn for a Christian ecumenicalism where we speak the same things, the things of our Christian faith. A wise pastor once preached to me an immeasurably valuable lesson. Before there can be revival in the Kingdom of God there must first be a reformation in the house and before there can be a reformation there must be repentance in the body.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Who Are We To Be?

As saints in Christ we have a standard and expectation in our behavior and manner. With the sectarian battles around us it is far too easy to lose sight of this truth. I truly find the Calvinist distinctives to be disturbing and grossly misrepresentative of our LORD yet even in this, I am admonished by the Apostles to walk in a certain way, communicate with the brethren in a particular manner and not besmirch our LORD's name in any discussion. This is not in word only but in deed as well. It is time to put a better foot forward thinking of the blessed hope rather than the battle. As Christians, the battle is already won and the curses of a zealots mind have no bearing nor impact on one's victory in Christ.

"This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. But ye have not so learned Christ; If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another. Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: Neither give place to the devil. Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with [his] hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth. Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you." (Eph 4:17-32 AV)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

By What Measure Do We Dispense Charity?

The following inquiry came up in a discussion earlier this weekend and I wanted to remember this exchange because I think it is critically important in our outlook and participation on this internet media. We hammer and are hammered until our crowns are bruised and keep coming back for more. Sometimes it is good to step back and recognize that something is wrong. The LORD knows I need several steps to be in league with many of my considerably more meek brethren. A Calvinist fellow asked the following and I replied as noted below.

It saddens me
that the division between Arminianism and Calvinism can cause some to actually believe that one or the other is not a Christian. Am I missing something or do we not agree on the essentials of the faith to remain in the same body of Christ? 

Are there any here (besides you know who you are...) that really do believe that one or the other cannot be a Christian and maintain either the Arminian view or Calvinistic view?

God bless.

This has been a long standing problem with sectarian zealots regardless of what side of the fence they stand. Admittedly I have a bias here. I see FAR more of such among your Reformed fellows here and elsewhere. I think that is an honest observation although I am sure several would disagree. There are souls on this board who claim an affinity for Arminianism but they neither know it's doctrines or the love of the brethren that it's leading lights expressed. They are in a word or two, internet jockeys. The same is true of your Reformed fellows. One in this thread has posted a link to a schismatic article openly challenging the Christianity of much of the body of Christ. This is evidence not of faith in Christ but trusting in a learned theology. As soon as a zealot moves to the place where he or she denounces the work of Christ in another fellow's life because of sharp differences from their particular ecclesiastical view, I believe they have lost their first love and that has nothing to do with Calvinism or Arminianism.

Somebody who professes the love of Christ, adhering to the established orthodox tenets of the early Christian community i.e. Nicene creed should not have to endure the scurrilous attacks launched by sectarian zealots against their trust in the person and work of Jesus Christ. That doesn't matter whether it is directly on this board, preached in your churches or published on your internet sites and in your tomes.


Blessings In Christ




Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Apologist's Evening Prayer

From all my lame defeats and oh! much more

From all the victories that I seemed to score;

From cleverness shot forth on Thy behalf

At which, while angels weep, the audience laugh;

From all my proofs of Thy divinity,

Thou, who wouldst give no sign, deliver me.

Thoughts are but coins. Let me not trust, instead

Of Thee, their thin-wore image of Thy head.

From all my thoughts, even from my thoughts of Thee,

O thou fair Silence, fall, and set me free.

Lord of the narrow gate and the needle's eye,

Take from me all my trumpery lest I die.


- C.S. Lewis

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Articles of Our Arminian Faith

The articles of our faith have been posted countless times on many blogs and references. I don't think another time will hurt.

The Five Articles of the Remonstrants, 1610

Article 1.

That God, by an eternal and unchangeable purpose in Jesus Christ his Son before the foundation of the world, has determined that out of the fallen, sinful race of men, to save in Christ, for Christ's sake, and through Christ, those who through the grace of the Holy Spirit shall believe on this his son Jesus, and shall persevere in this faith and obedience of faith, through this grace, even to the end; and, on the other hand, to leave the incorrigible and unbelieving in sin and under wrath and to condemn them as alienated from Christ, according to the word of the Gospel in John 3:36: "He that believes on the Son has everlasting life: and he that does not believe the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abides on him," and according to other passages of Scripture also.

Article 2.

That, accordingly, Jesus Christ the Savior of the world, died for all men and for every man, so that he has obtained for them all, by his death on the cross, redemption and the forgiveness of sins; yet that no one actually enjoys this forgiveness of sins except the believer, according to the word of the Gospel of John 3:16, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."  And in the First Epistle of John 2:2: "And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world."

Article 3.

That man does not posses saving grace of himself, nor of the energy of his free will, inasmuch as in his state of apostasy and sin he can of and by himself neither think, will, nor do anything that is truly good (such as saving Faith eminently is); but that it is necessary that he be born again of God in Christ, through his Holy Spirit, and renewed in understanding, inclination, and will, and all his faculties, in order that he may rightly understand, think, will, and effect what is truly good, according to the Word of Christ, John 15:5, "Without me you can do nothing."

Article 4.

That this grace of God is the beginning, continuance, and accomplishment of all good, even to the extent that the regenerate man himself, without prevenient or assisting, awakening, following and cooperative grace, can neither think, will, nor do good, nor withstand any temptations to evil; so that all good deeds or movements that can be conceived must be ascribed to the grace of God in Christ. But with respect to the mode of the operation of this grace, it is not irresistible, since it is written concerning many, that they have resisted the Holy Spirit (Acts 7, and elsewhere in many places).

Article 5.

That those who are incorporated into Christ by true faith, and have thereby become partakers of his life-giving Spirit, as a result have full power to strive against Satan, sin, the world, and their own flesh, and to win the victory; it being well understood that it is ever through the assisting grace of the Holy Spirit; and that Jesus Christ assists them through his Spirit in all temptations, extends to them his hand, and if only they are ready for the conflict, desire his help, and are not inactive, keeps them from falling, so that they, by no deceit or power of Satan, can be misled nor plucked out of Christ's hands, according to the Word of Christ, John 10:28: "Neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand." But whether they are capable, through negligence, of forsaking again the first beginning of their life in Christ, of again returning to this present evil world, of turning away from the holy doctrine which was delivered them, of losing a good conscience, of neglecting grace, that must be more particularly determined out of the Holy Scripture, before we ourselves can teach it with the full confidence of our mind.

These Articles, thus set forth and taught, the Remonstrants deem agreeable to the Word of God, tending to edification, and, as regards this argument, sufficient for salvation, so that it is not necessary or edifying to rise higher or to descend deeper.

The Articles of the Remonstrants are adapted from Phillip Schaff, The Creeds of Christendom, Volume 3Baker Books, Grand Rapids, 1996, pp 545ff.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Dr. Ben Witherington has done it again with an outstanding article on his blog dealing with the archaeological evidence of synagogues or as he phrased it "purpose built religious buildings". Skeptics have attempted to discredit the NT scriptures by casting doubts regarding authenticy of the existence of synagogues during Jesus' ministry and accounts in the Book of Acts. This is certainly worth reading and bookmarking for future reference.