Saturday, May 29, 2010

A.W. Tozer on the Christian Doctrine of Prevenient Grace

I have long enjoyed and admired A.W. Tozer, in particular his book The Pursuit of God. We have taught it in our churches and introduced its insights to those who appreciate the simple and wise introspective of one of the LORD's elders. It is a wonderful read available in several places on the internet and readily available in book form from several retailers. The following is the introduction of chapter one.

Christian theology teaches the doctrine of prevenient grace, which briefly stated means this, that before a man can seek God, God must first have sought the man.

Before a sinful man can think a right thought of God, there must have been a work of enlightenment done within him; imperfect it may be, but a true work nonetheless, and the secret cause of all desiring and seeking and praying which may follow.

We pursue God because, and only because, He has first put an urge within us that spurs us to the pursuit. "No man can come to me," said our Lord, "except the Father which hath sent me draw him," and it is by this very prevenient drawing that God takes from us every vestige of credit for the act of coming. The impulse to pursue God originates with God, but the out working of that impulse is our following hard after Him; and all the time we are pursuing Him we are already in His hand: "Thy right hand upholdeth me."

A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God

A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God (Google Books)

A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God (Amazon retail)

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

John Fletcher’s Methodology in the Antinomian Controversy of 1770-76

The Society of Evangelical Arminians some time ago placed Robert Mattke's article published in the Wesleyan Theological Journal on the site for members and visitors to enjoy. Fletcher is an often overlooked Wesleyan theologian who offers systematic insight into our theology as it was being expressed during the 18th century. The following links provide a resource to explore Mr. Fletcher and his gracious perspective.

John Fletcher's Methodology in the Antinomian Controversy of 1770-76

John Fletcher's Works at the Wesley Center Online

Monday, May 24, 2010

Arminius on the Grace of God

I have had a few discussions recently regarding the grace of God and again the ignorance of what so many of us in the body of Christ hold to regarding grace swallowed up any edification that might have come from the discussions. By the end of the discussion I was accused of denying the sovereignty of God and exalting men high above the LORD. Here is my apology from the writings of Arminius regarding grace. He stated it as clear as any man and I cannot improve upon his words.


In reference to Divine Grace, I believe,

1. It is a gratuitous affection by which God is kindly affected towards a miserable sinner, and according to which he, in the first place, gives his Son, "that whosoever believes in him might have eternal life," and, afterwards, he justifies him in Christ Jesus and for his sake, and adopts him into the right of sons, unto salvation.

2. It is an infusion (both into the human understanding and into the will and affections,) of all those gifts of the Holy Spirit which appertain to the regeneration and renewing of man — such as faith, hope, charity, etc.; for, without these gracious gifts, man is not sufficient to think, will, or do anything that is good.

3. It is that perpetual assistance and continued aid of the Holy Spirit, according to which He acts upon and excites to good the man who has been already renewed, by infusing into him salutary cogitations, and by inspiring him with good desires, that he may thus actually will whatever is good; and according to which God may then will and work together with man, that man may perform whatever he wills.

In this manner, I ascribe to grace the commencement, the continuance and the consummation of all good, and to such an extent do I carry its influence, that a man, though already regenerate, can neither conceive, will, nor do any good at all, nor resist any evil temptation, without this preventing and exciting, this following and co-operating grace. From this statement it will clearly appear, that I by no means do injustice to grace, by attributing, as it is reported of me, too much to man's free-will. For the whole controversy reduces itself to the solution of this question, "is the grace of God a certain irresistible force?" That is, the controversy does not relate to those actions or operations which may be ascribed to grace, (for I acknowledge and inculcate as many of these actions or operations as any man ever did,) but it relates solely to the mode of operation, whether it be irresistible or not. With respect to which, I believe, according to the scriptures, that many persons resist the Holy Spirit and reject the grace that is offered.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Psalm 150

"Praise ye the LORD. Praise God in his sanctuary: praise him in the firmament of his power. Praise him for his mighty acts: praise him according to his excellent greatness. Praise him with the sound of the trumpet: praise him with the psaltery and harp. Praise him with the timbrel and dance: praise him with stringed instruments and organs. Praise him upon the loud cymbals: praise him upon the high sounding cymbals. Let every thing that hath breath praise the LORD. Praise ye the LORD." (Ps 150:1-6 AV)

Friday, May 21, 2010

Cain’s Conundrum

"And the LORD said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee [shall be] his desire, and thou shalt rule over him." (Ge 4:6-7 AV)

This passage has always interested me especially in its preceding Abel's murder of his brother. This was a man who talked with God, not in prayer as we commune with the LORD but in discussion with the Living LORD. This was also a man who clearly was given a choice by God, a sincere choice to turn to Him and do what was right by God. Yet, he slew his brother nonetheless. Given the hand of opportunity by God, can we state that Cain was determined by God to kill Abel? If so, what does that speak to God's words and extension to Cain? Can we suggest the LORD was sincere if He had determined Cain's murderous actions? Certainly the LORD decreed the actions of Cain but in viewing His extended hand to Cain we should not consider that such decrees were necessary. Cain had a choice to make and he made the choice that suited him. The LORD decreed that choice and as such it was certain to occur yet because the LORD sincerely offered Cain an alternative that choice could not have been necessary but was omnisciently foreknown instead. Those comments made to Cain are certainly a conundrum of sorts but perhaps more so to those who advance determinist notions rather than those of us who understand the effect of God's grace upon the freed will of man.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Here is a great reason to thank God for the mundane things in life ... yoohoo ..

Do You Believe God created Everybody and Everything?

Jay Van Till responded to a post providing Arminius' comments on the authorship of sin and asked this opening question. For myself, it is very straightforward. It is an unequivocal yes. My reply goes further. I not only believe that, I will take it further and state there is not anything, any action, any occurrence now, before or to come that has not been ordained of the LORD. Now, that does not lend my sympathies to the necessity of determinism. Instead, as with Picirilli, I make the distinction between certainty and necessity. I have come to believe that is one of the chief stumbling stones between Calvinists and Arminians… a little removed from the original question but as Jay stated originally, I'm not being sneaky, I am leading somewhere.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Wesley’s “A Dialogue Between a Predestinarian and His Friend

The Society of Evangelical Arminians has an interesting post of one of John Wesley's articles that is a great timely read for myself. I think it goes to the very heart of the paradox and antinomy that exists between the Calvinist doctrines of predestination and the revealed character and goodness of God. Arminius addressed this as well regarding making God the author of sin.

A Dialogue Between a Predestinarian and His Friend

Arminius on the Authorship of Sin

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Proper Ergun Caner Inquiry

With all the trash talking Calvinist bloggers crucifying Dr. Ergun Caner following the discovery of some inconsistencies with his personal bio, it is refreshing to see his employer and spiritual home look into the matter themselves absent the biased innuendo and personal animosity and grievances of certain Calvinists, some of who relish in this controversy. If Caner is indeed guilty of various embellishments, he will need to repent of this and assess his current standing. It would be unfortunate because Dr. Caner is a talented and blessed evangelist for Christ from all reasonable accounts. I do not know the man and I have no connections with Liberty University except having lived off Candlers Mountain Road in Lynchburg when the University was still a fledgling school with a growing student body many years ago. Caner was still a young fellow then and the Moral Majority was still in its infancy. I was also not a Christian at the time so I viewed the school as an oddity and, well, just plain weird. I have since come to Christ and view schools such as Liberty to be beacons for Christ in the midst of squalor. It is a sad reflection on the church as a whole to have sectarian zealots airing their dirty laundry, especially so when one of the principle parties has been fostering a bickering animosity toward Caner, the late Jerry Falwell and Liberty University in general. While I am expressing an opinion, I'll just state it openly. The Calvinist community should be ashamed of this smearing campaign regardless of whether or not the allegations are true. James White has made a career of swinging his callous sword throughout the house of God for his own personal promotion and advancement. I believe the best thing Liberty University could do is proceed with their investigation and dismiss the self serving smear campaigns of the anti-evangelicals whose purpose strikes me as an intention to do harm to the body of Christ.

Here is a link to a local AP story on this matter.

I will make this last observation for my own purpose. Before I came to Christ, I would have relished what these Calvinists were doing to the Liberty University community. The reason for that is I was an enemy of Christ and anything that opposed the work of God would be stirred in my soul by the father of lies. Today, the Muslim anti-evangelicals, whom these zealots have utilized in their private battle, can only be pleased with what White and his sect are doing. The atheists, the God haters and the carnal, dead world in general are arm and arm with White and his mission. That should cast a pall over the whole stinking mess. When it is over, who is going to haul the schismatics before the elders of the church and hold them accountable for the entertainment they proffered to the world?

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Jimmy White of Reformed Apologetics

updated: One of the respondents in this post brought to my attention that there may have been a third elder at the time of the quoted comments regarding submission. If that is the case, Mr. White would have had another elder along with the Pastor to whom he considered himself accountable to. While I would still consider the ad hominem attack by White to have been unnecessary and disreputable, I cannot hold the eldership matter against him as an example of hypocrisy if the information is correct.

Peter Lumpkins has an interesting short piece concerning Mr. James White, one of the more active polemical Calvinists with a rather boisterous young Turk following on the internet. This is the same James White who has been fueling the attack against Liberty University and their Seminary President, Dr. Ergun Caner, regarding some alleged embellishments over the years concerning Caner's Muslim background. Well, the fruit does not fall far from the tree and Mr. White has a history of his own embellishments. In any event, Mr. Lumpkins has offered an interesting picture of a further hypocrisy regarding Mr. White. He has taken opponents and others in disagreement with his various stances to task for an alleged lack of biblical submission and oversight. Lumpkins linked to one of White's articles providing the following quote from White's website.

The reader is warned to beware of Marrs and his type. He is feeding off the body of Christ, drawing disciples away unto himself, spreading half-truths and pure lies at the expense of the sheep of Christ. He is a loner, not under the authority of a local church or elders, unaccountable to God-ordained authority. As for me (and the question is honestly asked, in light of what I just said), I am a member of the Phoenix Reformed Baptist Church, under the authority of the eldership of that local assembly.

Now that would seem to be a rather innocuous statement except for the fact that if one looks at White's church website, it is discovered that he is the elder that runs the church along with the pastor (White teaches most of the classes at the church according to the website). That does not strike me as an accurate statement of being under anybody's authority. It actually places White in the position of being his own authority and answerable to nobody. Now, all this doesn't really amount to a hill of beans but with all the trash talk coming out of the White camp and its followers regarding Dr. Caner, I would think White would not want to stand too close to all those glass walls.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Biblical Doctrine of Grace for Everybody Else

I have for years found the Calvinist use of the phrase "Doctrines of Grace" to be offensive to the Christian body. Perhaps it is because of the lack of any real set of doctrines derived out of scripture regarding grace that align with the caustic acronym TULIP. It could be that I just find Calvinist sectarians offensive when they start a sentence with the phrase and immediately launch into a diatribe against the greater body of Christ, especially when most Calvinist polemics reveal an astonishing lack of theological knowledge of nearly everything they oppose. William Birch recently noted in one of his articles
"Grace is by definition a special favor actively bestowed upon an undeserving individual. Thus when a Christian minister quotes Paul as saying, "For it is by grace you have been saved" Eph 2:5,8, he or she means that the one saved was saved not by merit but by grace, undeserved favor. This is how to use the word grace biblically. In this we do not go beyond its clear meaning, nor do we fall short of what the Bible teaches." Yet, if the Calvinist is to be believed (and I stridently argue he is terribly wrong) many unredeemed men have been granted an undeserved favor in being cast into hell, all for the imagined glory of God. If TULIP constitutes the doctrines of Grace, a limited atonement without provision for the whole world as argued for in 1 John 2:1-2 must be presented as an unmerited favor upon the lost and damned as well as the redeemed. What is graceful with this scenario and how does that square with the revealed character and goodness of God? Can we excuse such a callous disregard for true grace by dismissing our sensible objections as merely misguided excursions into the "mystery" of God?

As Arminians, Baptists, Methodists, Anglicans and many other orthodox church groups present the scriptural teachings regarding God's grace, we marvel at how distant the determinists have removed themselves from simple truths. The following presents one of the scriptural teachings we preach and exposit, never coming close to the near blasphemous regard for God's character represented by elements of TULIP. It is the simplicity of grace through faith without dismissing faith as an irrelevant condiment to the central message. It is the biblical doctrine of grace for everybody else.

"But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised [us] up together, and made [us] sit together in heavenly [places] in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in [his] kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: [it is] the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them." (Eph 2:4-10 AV)

An Atonement for All the World

"My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world." (1John 2:1-2 AV)

That seems to be a strong statement in support of the universal extent of the work of the atonement at Calvary however our Calvinist friends are quick to dismiss the scope of the atonement by insisting the phrase whole world is exclusive to the elect of the whole world. I have never understood how they think themselves capable of projecting such a philosophy upon the passage. Is it reasonable to suggest the Apostle John had such a scheme in mind when he wrote this epistle? I believe it is a very hard stretch to make this passage fit the Calvinist paradigm especially when we consider how John used "world" elsewhere in his epistle.

"I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name's sake. I write unto you, fathers, because ye have known him [that is] from the beginning. I write unto you, young men, because ye have overcome the wicked one. I write unto you, little children, because ye have known the Father. I have written unto you, fathers, because ye have known him [that is] from the beginning. I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one. Love not the world, neither the things [that are] in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that [is] in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever." (1John 2:12-17 AV)

The above passage, taken from the same letter makes a sharp contrast between the saints and the entirety of the world from which we came. It strikes me as incredulous that the Apostle could be referring to the unrevealed elect through the use of "whole world" when he made such a strong contrast shortly following that statement. We find this again latter in the same letter.

"We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not. [And] we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness. And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, [even] in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life. Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen." (1John 5:18-21 AV)

How could it be that the whole world could ever mean the unrevealed elect in our midst when the world, the whole world, that same whole world mentioned in 2:1-2 lies completely in wickedness. The contrast between those that lie in wickedness and the saints that have received an understanding through the coming of the LORD is stark and undeniable. The whole world spoken of by the Apostle can only represent that whole world each of the saints once was a part of and have now come out of. It commands an understanding of the universal provision of the atonement rather than the philosophical reaching of a limitation in order to buttress an aberrant view.

While I do not hold that a limited atonement as devised by Calvinists (married and one with the unconditional election of Dort) constitute an anathematized doctrine as the elders of Orange determined, it certainly sits as a rebutted, aberrant doctrine by the words of the Apostle and one teaching in particular that is justified in being completely rejected by the saints of God. ( Similar arguments have been made by others concerning these particular passages. I recently encountered Robert Picirilli making very much the same argument)

Friday, May 14, 2010

I sure would like to see more of these guys running the show (the liberal media that caught this on tape keeps trying to take it down but it is widespread and keeps popping up. I will continue to keep it as long as it sits out there publicly)

What is Orthodox in One Mind is Heterodox to Most

My recent discussions of heterodoxy vs. orthodoxy and the schisms inherent in any such discussion surfaced a common pattern I have observed among our Calvinist brethren. They seem to exhibit a narrow, almost myopic, opinion regarding orthodoxy, defining it most often as entirely within the realm of Calvinist thought and creed. Arminians, Baptists, Anglicans and others who refuse the dogma of John Calvin and Theodore Beza's religious philosophy are deemed heterodox among the moderate sectarians, outright heretics in the minds of its polemical advocates. This is not a new phenomenon in the church. Franciscus Gomarus metaphorically burned down the church in his day and several of Calvinism's leading lights have followed suit. Modern medievials have chased us with absurd slogans of "barely saved" not realizing that such is the proclamation of the Apostle with regard to each and every one of us. It is the price of ecclesiastics gone wild and I suppose at the end of the day, the joke is on the purveyor rather than the victim. While not one of the great ecumenical councils, the 2nd Council of Orange is often cited by Calvinists as some sort of evidence against non-Calvinists with its semi-Pelagian pronouncements. What I find most interesting about that is the likelyhood few of the young Turk Calvinists have so much as read the canons of Orange on their own. Consider what the Council had to say about Calvin's cherished doctrine of predestined reprobation …

We not only do not believe that any are foreordained to evil by the power of God, but even state with utter abhorrence that if there are those who want to believe so evil a thing, they are anathema …

Perhaps an examination of what the term anathema infers is in order …

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Some Thoughts on Heterodoxy

While browsing through the theological blog world recently, I stumbled into a discussion that was sidetracked onto other issues as is often the case. After several exchanges, I replied with the following comments.

The gentleman wrote:
You have me a bit confused here. Are you claiming that, contrary to the vast majority of both Classical and Evangelical Arminians I've met, that Calvinism is not heterodoxy? Unorthodox theology is heterodoxical theology, is it not? Isn't that what the term means?

I replied:
Before bowing out of this off track thread, allow me these observations. Evangelical Arminians generally do not consider Calvinists to be heterodox with regard to the essential doctrines of the faith. Of course there are some who take a strong polemical stance and refuse fellowship with Calvinists. Consider what heterodox infers. It is by definition schismatic. Now, there are individuals among Calvinists who I consider schismatic (heretics by definition) but neither I nor those I fellowship with hold Calvinism to be heretical. Unorthodoxy is not heterodoxy. There is much liturgical practice and tradition that has no witness in scripture and as such is unorthodox. That does not imply that such practices and traditions are by definition heterodox. I consider much of the unique doctrines of Calvinism to be unorthodox as do many other Christians. That does not imply that we hold Calvinists to be outside the pale of orthodoxy. The contrary opinions seem formed by those who spend too much time dueling on the internet and not enough time fellowshipping with Christ. That observation holds true regardless of what side of the fence you stand on.
Have a blessed day. This thread has digressed and the tin horns are being pulled out of the britches.

I need to expand on my qualifications concerning the use of the term heterodox. When discussing various doctrines and its relationship to orthodoxy, the term heterodox carries with it the context of creating schisms, of generating a departure from the orthodox truths of scripture. Just as often as not, heterodoxy fuels the actions of heretics and as such introduces schisms into the body from both within and without. Unorthodox teachings are not necessarily heterodox although heterodoxy is in all cases unorthodox. The example I gave in my comments above is one example. The liturgy of Methodist or Presbyterian services is not an orthodox practice i.e. it is not a practice and tradition always accepted as such by the Christian church. Another example would be the historical distinctions between observing the LORD's supper with a wafer and cup vs. participating in a full agape meal. Neither is heterodox except among schismatics demanding adherence to one or the other. A further example is the distinction between substitution and satisfaction atonement theories. Various groups have subscribed to both and each has its own distinctions as well as similarities. However, neither is heterodox in that as theories, neither have laid claim to being the historic doctrine that the church has always professed. This is a touchy subject, of course. Ecclesiastical bodies are far too quick to pull the trigger on the divisive label while the ecumenical church tends to focus on those diversions that are removed from essential doctrines as identified throughout the church age. Pelagianism is certainly heterodox and heresy. Semi-Pelagianism is heterodoxy when examined in accordance with historical Christian teachings. (Interestingly, the same councils addressing the semi-Pelagian matters, 2nd Orange and Arles, deemed the foundations of Calvinist determinism to be anathema.) In summary, my point is that a simple dictionary definition of hetero-doxy as "other teaching" is insufficient to grasp the importance of the term and the dire implications of the leaven of heterodoxy. Heterodoxy is more than just something other. It is something opposed.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

I've been playing this number by the Dave Brubeck Quartet from an old concert at Carnegie Hall many years ago on my mp3 player. For myself this is a great up tempo jazz tune to kick the day off well. Of course it doesn't have anything to do with libertarian free will except that I present it here of my own volition. A few facts regarding this ... It was recorded in Feb 1963 and the line up at that time was (I think I am getting this right) Dave Brubeck on piano, Paul Desmond on sax, Gene Wright on bass and Joe Morello on drums. This was the essential lineup for Brubeck's classic jazz period although he has been kicking good stuff out all these years.

N.T. Wright on his book, Justification: God's Plan and Paul's Vision

This reading was passed onto me recently and having had some interest in Wright's view in the midst of all the hullabaloo coming out of the neo-Calvinist camp, I think it is fair to read the source material rather than rely on the snippets and innuendo passed on second hand, sometimes third and fourth hand if not worse. Here are some of Wright's brief comments on this book.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

This has nothing to do with Arminianism, Calvinism, Theology or anything for that matter, except of course showing us how to get mad as all get out at our new Government Motors.