Saturday, February 28, 2009

Roger Olson Hits A Triple Out Of The Park

I have come to appreciate Dr. Olson's perspectives on Arminian apologetics over the past few years. The Society of Evangelical Arminians recently posted a well written commentary by Olson considering Scot McKnight's recent blog posts taking the "Neo-Reformed" theological sects to task. There is a growing albeit relatively small sect prospering in some internet circles and among a handful of well known Calvinist ministries that has become somewhat militant in their sectarian zeal. Castigating non-Calvinists as being on the very edge of orthodoxy if not implying having been cast over the precipice, these zealous defenders of their mostly rejected dogma appear to have staked a claim of exclusiveness with regard to scriptural and Christian truth. These souls are encountered regularly on the various discussion boards and Calvinist blogs promoting an almost vitriolic assault on a broad expanse of Christian evangelicalism. Painted with mantras of Calvinist dogma, they present themselves as defenders of Sovereignty almost as if Sovereignty is God itself rather than a defining characteristic of who the LORD is. Of course, non-Calvinists are represented as those seeking to tear down the sovereign rights of God, upend the doctrines of grace and spew the poison of willingly loving the LORD. The campaign of these zealots is in a word, disturbing. Dr. Olson's commentary should be required reading for every adult Sunday class.

Now, as for the triple home run analogy, it is a paradox of sorts of course, impossible. I applaud his comments and conclusions and at the same time I find myself questioning a key focus of what we are all doing at times. We address ourselves to the zealot. We engage the zealots discourse. We implore, discuss, convince, argue and apologize ourselves until we are left with no further words to type, write, speak or read. The zealots mind remains closed to his own truth. Olson affirms this very conclusion with regard to the leadership of these "Neo-Reformed". They are not at all interested in evangelical and ecumenical discourse. So why are we so engaged and focused on this small minority in the Body of Christ? Here is a radical suggestion. Turn most of our efforts back to the 80% of the Body of Christ that is not mired in what we oppose. If our men and women of the church are well equipped to present the evangelical course of our faith, their children will follow, the evangelical commission will continue unimpeded and the Calvinist error is stopped in its place. By this, I do not mean ignore Calvinism. Instead I suggest that Calvinism and its errors be taught and understood as such in our churches so that when the dogma rears its head, it will be identifiable and soundly rejected. I am not as kind as the good Dr. Olson in my regard for the leadership of these sects. When somebody, well educated and supposedly versed in doctrine and apologetics, states I am a free will Pelagian, that is a somebody rightly identified as grossly ignorant and should be removed from a leadership position or they are a blatant liar. To be clear, I am referring to the "well educated" leadership and not the foolish minded follower caught up in their polemics and dogma. I have come to the conclusion that our fellow saints and children need to be educated about Calvinism just as they should be made aware of the dangers of a "money gospel" or the legalism of some of our Restorationist friends knowing there are many Christian brethren in their midst. This is not to state that Calvinism ever be presented as a heretical sect but that it be regarded and taught as having a collection of unique dogma at its core that we reject on scriptural grounds. Let's ensure we are well educated on the matter and our churches understand the issues involved and then turn our attentions to the followers of the Neo-Reformed leader.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Foxes Tending The Coup

Exploring a couple of links in a separate discussion, I came across a comment in a short article by a Calvinist on one of the more aggressive promotion sites. The author was attempting to chastise what he refers to as a "neo-gnostic Calvinism" in which Calvinism is expressed as the only true faith and gospel that the body of Christ can hold to. While agreeing with his concern over such schismatic fellows, the author tars himself with his own brush making grandiose claims that are actually nothing more than sectarian polemics. The following was the opening to one of his articles that I shall link to for reference.

Who among us who have been illuminated by the Spirit of God to heartily embrace that exalted system of Pauline Theology commonly called "Calvinism" can forget the sublime joy experienced when these verities became manifest in our believing heart? For many of us grasping these truths or better, being gripped by these truths, was the real "second blessing" in our Christian pilgrimage. For me personally, sovereign grace teaching revivified my entire demeanor as a saint and delivered me from the morbid introspection engendered by Arminian, fundamentalist pietism. I have a passionate commitment to Calvinistic soteriology and am quite emphatic in my apologia for these truths that so exalt and glorify the grandeur of the Sovereign Triune Lord. Thus, it is with both sadness and reticence that I issue this urgent caveat regarding an extreme chimerical form of Calvinism that is spreading great mischief among the elect of God and dear souls seeking spiritual solace. (1)

As a lover of Christ and Arminian, this stance is reprehensible to me. It is perhaps, no, it is, more dangerous than the bile presented by those neo-gnostic Calvinists he opposes. The Body of Christ does not take serious any threat from such foolish minded men as these "Gnostics" but the subtle heresy of the author in question is a dangerous seduction. There are people who might read such falsehoods thinking this is a moderate road when in fact it is a radical departure from orthodoxy. It is the sentiments expressed by the author that give birth to the very heresy he opposes. Calvinism is a systematic study and approach to the scriptures that is heavily opposed by most of the Body of Christ. To refer to Calvinism as being illuminated by the Spirit of God or representing the "second blessing" of the Christian experience is nothing but the chimera he opposes in others. The doctrines of Calvinism have fueled oppression and a murderous spirit since it's "illuminated" birth in the 16th century. Rather than being the "exalted system of Pauline Theology commonly called Calvinism", it is instead the long musings of a handful of men based almost entirely on an extrapolation of Augustinian teaching rejected by the church of his day. How is it that men can posit a caste system within Christianity while chastising those of their own ilk who reject any tiered level of sanctification or salvation? The neo-gnostics are at least consistent in their rejection of non-Calvinists as brethren. Men such as the author of the article instead fabricate a special illumination and a special blessing that must be either hid from most of the Body or it must be stated that most of the Body is in rebellion against "God's Calvinism". Either position is untenable and inexcusable.

I can be thankful most of the great Body of Christ rejects such spurious thought, either that of the "neo-Gnostic Calvinists" or their ideological helpmates, "mainstream Calvinism", as the author seems to represent.

  1. Greg Fields –The Bane of Neo-Gnostic Calvinism

Saturday, February 07, 2009

My Steadfast Psalm

I have not engaged my thoughts as much as I might have preferred recently and in returning to this place of refuge, I feel led to focus only on the words of my favorite passage of the Psalms letting those words speak for my thoughts this afternoon.

"He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust. Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence. He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler. Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day; Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday. A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee. Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked. Because thou hast made the LORD, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation; There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling. For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone. Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet. Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known my name. He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honour him. With long life will I satisfy him, and shew him my salvation." (Ps 91:1-16 AV)