Wednesday, December 29, 2010

R.C. Sproul's "What is the Gospel?"

While I'm still juiced on the R.C. Sproul mode, I want to offer something from Sr. that I whole heartedly agree with. He had a short article earlier this year on Ligonier called What is the Gospel. Being classically Arminian in soteriology I half expected to object upon reading it. However, I think he hit the nail on the head and kept the matter rather simple. It is about faith in the one sent to redeem. Here is a short excerpt.

The great misconception in our day is this: that God isn't concerned to protect His own integrity. He's a kind of wishy-washy deity, who just waves a wand of forgiveness over everybody. No. For God to forgive you is a very costly matter. It cost the sacrifice of His own Son. So valuable was that sacrifice that God pronounced it valuable by raising Him from the dead – so that Christ died for us, He was raised for our justification. So the Gospel is something objective. It is the message of who Jesus is and what He did. And it also has a subjective dimension. How are the benefits of Jesus subjectively appropriated to us? How do I get it? The Bible makes it clear that we are justified not by our works, not by our efforts, not by our deeds, but by faith – and by faith alone. The only way you can receive the benefit of Christ's life and death is by putting your trust in Him – and in Him alone. You do that, you're declared just by God, you're adopted into His family, you're forgiven of all of your sins, and you have begun your pilgrimage for eternity.

This is pretty much the Arminian and non-Calvinist view of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. From an evangelical perspective, I am pleased to see R.C. preach this word as an Arminian stating that the receipt of the benefits of Christ is made by placing our faith in Him. I emphasize our faith for a purpose here. Most of the body of Christ recognizes that even the ability to believe is by the grace of God. It is a core tenet of James Arminius and the other early Reformers that natural man has no innate functionality, no desire or quest for the things of God and can make no move of his own lacking the effectual grace of God (see here). We believe because we have been enabled to do so. We believe because the grace of God did precede our surrender and bring us to a point where faith brought about a repentance and new birth or regeneration, scripturally a new creation. This is not only the position of Arminius, Wesley and a great many other theologians and pastors before and after but it is also the classical position of John Calvin (see here) and reaching well before, Augustine of Hippo.

It is putting our trust in Him that reaps the benefits of salvation, of redemption from a spoiled life. It is not God's belief in us. He did not drag us kicking and screaming. We are not forced into the Kingdom of God. Instead, it is as R.C extolled in his best Arminian prose, our trust placed in Him. Now, rather than waxing golden over a supposed conversion of a noted Calvinist theologian embracing the Arminian and orthodox way, I'm not going to suppose that R.C. has now abandoned his creedal albeit misguided beliefs. Instead, R.C. merely confirms what many of us have suggested all along. The Calvinist preaches the good news of Jesus Christ, the Gospel, as an Arminian (or non-Calvinist for those that do not prefer the label). For that we are grateful.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Normative Sin?

The subtly of antinomianism is such that it is easy to mistake it for something good. Perhaps we should examine our hearts to see our condition even though the heart, lacking the grace of God, is desperately wicked and none of us can know it. It sounds good but can we really do it? Add to that the idea that we are, still, wicked and perverse, totally depraved even as born again children of God and that self examination seems a defeatist endeavor. It strikes me as an antinomian admission of failure. ... The latter point I don't believe.  I do not believe the redeemed soul, with the new heart promised by the LORD, is still the same wretched, perverse, totally depraved soul he once was. The scriptures teach us we are new creations with newness of life. We are regenerated or recreated into something new. That rebirth is essentially a restoration effective and kept through faith. Let faith slip and that old man with his perverse nature stirs to life again. Perhaps those who still consider themselves to be perverse whores of the world while claiming the mantle of Christianity have grown accustomed to sharing their bed with the world thinking that is the normal Christian expectation. The scriptures tell us to go and sin no more. Christ and the Apostles did not tell us we are to be sinners so why should we walk around with piety while throwing dust in the air and tearing our clothes at how wicked we are and how sin has a lifelong stranglehold on us? From my perspective, such a person gives justification to his sins as the norm in his life. As such he lives the model.

What stirred these thoughts was a short commentary by R.C. Sproul Jr. on the Ligonier website entitled Consorting with Whores. It is a pious report, no question, and I have no reason to doubt the man believes what he wrote. I merely marvel at such expectations from somebody who had victory over sin given to him by the grace of God. Even the analogy of prostitution seems unfitting. I am not being prudish and I can fully understand the analogy of spiritual whoredom but the analogy is dispensed abundantly with almost relish like embrace. Mr. Sproul truly considers himself a whore of sorts, swallowed up in spiritual whoredom that require God to come in and clean him up on occasion. He expects himself to be no less. While I have never embraced sinless perfection as a doctrine of the church I also have disregard for the teaching that we are essentially the same after the Christian rebirth as before. It strikes me as an excuse, in this case, an excuse for sin. Maybe he means something different but I keep running into this expected state of sinfulness on the part of some, as if flesh and blood, skin and bones, is the cause of sin. Mr. Sproul can continue to regard himself as a normative whore. I'll continue to view the child of God as a washed and redeemed child of God who is not to be regarded as a sinner the likes of the reprobate.

Would Calvin Have Burned Sproul Alive?

William Birch provided an interesting examination of the Neo-Reformed charges against Non-Calvinistic believers regarding the order of faith and regeneration on his website recently. He, with irenic grace seemed lacking in our opponents, points out the attitude and opinion of men such as R.C. Sproul who hold Arminians and others in low regard for adhering to the orthodox understanding of faith preceding the regeneration of believers unto salvation. From the beginnings of the Christian era to the present, faith has been the stated condition of salvation, the means through which the grace of God brings souls into a proper relationship with Him. It is taught in scripture. It has been believed by the church throughout the centuries and millennia. It defines the Christian evangelical call and commission of Christ. It is through faith that we have new life. There is no new life preceding faith or the belief in the person and work of Jesus Christ. For Sproul and others to state we are "barely saved" as Arminians because we adhere to orthodoxy is foolhardiness. It is also evidence of an inexcusable ignorance of the teachings of their own tradition's founders. I am astounded that Sproul and his likeminded fellows lack sufficient knowledge of John Calvin's teachings as to spend such energy chasing after imaginary enemies in the Body of Christ. In their denigration of non-Calvinists, they have failed to include their namesake who, in his Institutes of the Christian Religion, taught specifically that faith precedes regeneration and defined regeneration as synonymous with initial repentance (Institututes, Book III, ch 3, ix). Was John Calvin on a road to Rome when he wrote "… In one word, then, by repentance I understand regeneration (spiritual regeneration) , the only aim of which is to form in us anew the image of God, which was sullied, and all but effaced by the transgression of Adam"? Do Sproul and others consider Calvin and every preceding theologian of worthy note prior to have been "semi-Pelagian"? In the same passage of his Institutes, Calvin affirmed the orthodox teaching of faith preceding regeneration. The following passage is important to and in some measure directed at the musings of men such as Sproul who seem to not understand the tradition they claim as a mantle.

That repentance not only always follows faith, but is produced by it, ought to be without controversy. For since pardon and forgiveness are offered by the preaching of the Gospel, in order that the sinner, delivered from the tyranny of Satan, the yoke of sin, and the miserable bondage of iniquity, may pass into the kingdom of God, it is certain that no man can embrace the grace of the Gospel without retaking himself from the errors of his former life into the right path, and making it his whole study to practice repentance. Those who think that repentance precedes faith instead of flowing from, or being produced by it, as the fruit by the tree, have never understood its nature, and are moved to adopt that view on very insufficient grounds. (Institutes, Book III, ch 3, i)

From the previous quotation regarding regeneration from the same source, it is fairly clear that Calvin would have considered Sproul and other Neo-Reformed to be in error. Now, how he might have regarded their charges of semi-Pelagianism and being back on the road to Rome can only be speculative. However, I ask the pertinent question. Would Geneva have burned Sproul and his fellow accusers alive at the stake with the same green wood that ignited Servetus? Granted, Sproul might consider Calvin to have been "barely saved" and thus speculatively avoided the stern hand of Geneva justice, it is clear he would have made himself an enemy of the founder and namesake of his own religious persuasion.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

John Owen’s Polemical Lie

John Owen, a hyper-Calvinist of some repute, wrote a short book entitled A Display of Arminianism. It is in a word, a lie. I do not know if the popular Calvinist ever repented of his dastardly lies but if not, he died as a wretched liar. Some of our Neo-Reformed apologists are fond of pointing to Owen as an exemplar of Reformed thought. I believe they do so out of sheer ignorance. If not, they share in what Owen was.


The Realities of the Christ Child’s Day

I know the Christmas tree looks nice, all lit up and with ornaments hanging from its branches. Good will and peace on earth are sung and hoped for in many corners. We think of joy and blessings upon the birth of the Christ and well we should. Having said that, I don't really like this thing we call Christmas. I'm not speaking of the bah humbugs of Scrooge. I don't like the commercialization of Christmas but I suspect there are a lot of people with similar sentiments. There is something else that goes unstated around these events. Something remains hidden and kept out of most discussions. Not here. I want this to be my remembrance of the purpose of Christ. Man is totally depraved and but for the grace of God would be utterly depraved, base in all his being. Jesus came into this world to save it, to bring out of despair the foul workings of what follows from Eusebius' History of the Church. When the grace of God is removed from fallen man, the stench of what we are capable of becoming is beyond horrible. Jesus came into a world ruled by that stench of reprobation without even an appearance of a façade to give some false assurance of goodness. A man named Herod ruled Palestine with Roman governance and authority. The same man exhibited a degree of wickedness that each one of us should pray we never encounter although many in this world suffer under the same today. Herod's is a wickedness that the LORD ordained and allowed and one that brought terrible judgment upon the sinner. While we might not envision ourselves caught up in the slaughter of innocents, it is not far from our own fallen human condition to partake in worse. The cradle of western civilization gave birth to the most horrendous slaughtering of the 20th century, not once but three times (WWI, WWII, Stalin's purges). The façade of goodness in man is only skin deep, if that. This is reason for the season, the coming of the Messiah, so that men who will believe in Him might be saved.

Consider what world the Christ came into …

The Cruelty of Herod toward the Infants, and the Manner of his Death.

1. When Christ was born, according to the prophecies, in Bethlehem of Judea, at the time indicated, Herod was not a little disturbed by the enquiry of the magi who came from the east, asking where he who was born King of the Jews was to be found,—for they had seen his star, and this was their reason for taking so long a journey; for they earnestly desired to worship the infant as God.—for he imagined that his kingdom might be endangered; and he enquired therefore of the doctors of the law, who belonged to the Jewish nation, where they expected Christ to be born. When he learned that the prophecy of Micah announced that Bethlehem was to be his birthplace he commanded, in a single edict, all the male infants in Bethlehem, and all its borders, that were two years of age or less, according to the time which he had accurately ascertained from the magi, to be slain, supposing that Jesus, as was indeed likely, would share the same fate as the others of his own age.

2. But the child anticipated the snare, being carried into Egypt by his parents, who had learned from an angel that appeared unto them what was about to happen. These things are recorded by the Holy Scriptures in the Gospel.

3. It is worth while, in addition to this, to observe the reward which Herod received for his daring crime against Christ and those of the same age. For immediately, without the least delay, the divine vengeance overtook him while he was still alive, and gave him a foretaste of what he was to receive after death.

4. It is not possible to relate here how he tarnished the supposed felicity of his reign by successive calamities in his family, by the murder of wife and children, and others of his nearest relatives and dearest friends.  The account, which casts every other tragic drama into the shade, is detailed at length in the histories of Josephus.

5. How, immediately after his crime against our Saviour and the other infants, the punishment sent by God drove him on to his death, we can best learn from the words of that historian who, in the seventeenth book of his Antiquities of the Jews, writes as follows concerning his end:

6. "But the disease of Herod grew more severe, God inflicting punishment for his crimes. For a slow fire burned in him which was not so apparent to those who touched him, but augmented his internal distress; for he had a terrible desire for food which it was not possible to resist. He was affected also with ulceration of the intestines, and with especially severe pains in the colon, while a watery and transparent humor settled about his feet.

7. He suffered also from a similar trouble in his abdomen. Nay more, his privy member was putrefied and produced worms. He found also excessive difficulty in breathing, and it was particularly disagreeable because of the offensiveness of the odor and the rapidity of respiration.

8. He had convulsions also in every limb, which gave him uncontrollable strength. It was said, indeed, by those who possessed the power of divination and wisdom to explain such events, that God had inflicted this punishment upon the King on account of his great impiety."

9. The writer mentioned above recounts these things in the work referred to. And in the second book of his History he gives a similar account of the same Herod, which runs as follows: "The disease then seized upon his whole body and distracted it by various torments. For he had a slow fever, and the itching of the skin of his whole body was insupportable. He suffered also from continuous pains in his colon, and there were swellings on his feet like those of a person suffering from dropsy, while his abdomen was inflamed and his privy member so putrefied as to produce worms. Besides this he could breathe only in an upright posture, and then only with difficulty, and he had convulsions in all his limbs, so that the diviners said that his diseases were a punishment.

10. But he, although wrestling with such sufferings, nevertheless clung to life and hoped for safety, and devised methods of cure. For instance, crossing over Jordan he used the warm baths at Callirhoë, but are themselves sweet enough to drink.

11. His physicians here thought that they could warm his whole body again by means of heated oil. But when they had let him down into a tub filled with oil, his eyes became weak and turned up like the eyes of a dead person. But when his attendants raised an outcry, he recovered at the noise; but finally, despairing of a cure, he commanded about fifty drachms to be distributed among the soldiers, and great sums to be given to his generals and friends.

12. Then returning he came to Jericho, where, being seized with melancholy, he planned to commit an impious deed, as if challenging death itself. For, collecting from every town the most illustrious men of all Judea, he commanded that they be shut up in the so-called hippodrome.

13. And having summoned Salome, his sister, and her husband, Alexander, he said: 'I know that the Jews will rejoice at my death. But I may be lamented by others and have a splendid funeral if you are willing to perform my commands. When I shall expire surround these men, who are now under guard, as quickly as possible with soldiers, and slay them, in order that all Judea and every house may weep for me even against their will.'"

14. And after a little Josephus says, "And again he was so tortured by want of food and by a convulsive cough that, overcome by his pains, he planned to anticipate his fate. Taking an apple he asked also for a knife, for he was accustomed to cut apples and eat them. Then looking round to see that there was no one to hinder, he raised his right hand as if to stab himself."

15. In addition to these things the same writer records that he slew another of his own sons before his death, the third one slain by his command, and that immediately afterward he breathed his last, not without excessive pain.

16. Such was the end of Herod, who suffered a just punishment for his slaughter of the children of Bethlehem, which was the result of his plots against our Saviour.

17. After this an angel appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and commanded him to go to Judea with the child and its mother, revealing to him that those who had sought the life of the child were dead. To this the evangelist adds, "But when he heard that Archelaus did reign in the room of his father Herod he was afraid to go thither; notwithstanding being warned of God in a dream he turned aside into the parts of Galilee.

A Jazz Break - Bill Evans

Bill Evans - "My Foolish Heart"

Monday, December 20, 2010

Neo-Calvinist Apologetics ... I can hardly stand the suspense of the next thrilling moment.

One of the recent neo-Calvinst devotees on CARM had the following to state that I think deserves a special mention and recognition of achievement.

"Wasn't it a group of people that was opposing the Calvinist by writing the TULIP to present to the courts of the Dort or Worms. 
I think I'm right on that one or at least I'm close. Correct me if I'm wrong on this historical moment."

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Gregory Koukl on the Practical Aspects of Christian Liberty

A popular Christian radio personality and internet presence with Stand To Reason, Gregory Koukl discussed the practical application of Christian liberty on one of his radio shows several years ago. I am not well acquainted with Mr. Koukl's ministry other than knowing he is a strong pro-Life advocate and apologist. His approach on this liberty of ours focuses on what I call "fence laws", man-made rules and regulations that are not specifically scripturally evidenced.


Christian Liberty


Gregory Koukl

Is there a reliable way to know when someone is restricting your Christian liberty?


The very nature of Christian liberty is such that you can't really draw the line. Where the line is drawn is in the direct, specific, and explicit commands of God. The danger that we take things that are not actually commands, maybe general principles, and find an applicational rule, and we make that rule equal with God's law.

God tells us not to be worldly. Some people determine that dancing is worldly, so they make dancing a sin. They make that application incumbent upon everybody else. Fundamentalism is characteristic of those kinds of things, so we have the familiar saying "Don't drink or smoke or chew, or go with those that do." Obviously, you don't want to fall into that trap because that kind of genuine legalism does not build Christian maturity.

The way to build Christian maturity is not to pass a bunch of new rules that aren't God's rules but man's rules. Rather, Christian maturity is to teach Christians to exercise judicial judgment in the way they exercise their own liberty. Give them principles and then leave them to themselves to decide for themselves. Often these rules by men end up taking precedence even over God's rules. We make a rule: People in our church can't drink alcohol. If you drink, you are sinning. Then somebody drinks and everybody judges him when the Bible does not explicitly say that we should not drink. It says we should not get drunk, but not that we shouldn't drink. However, the Bible does explicitly say that we should not judge our Christian brother exercising his liberty, and no one should be our judge with regards to food or drink. That is explicit in the Scriptures.

People exalt man's rules to the level of God's law, and in so doing violate God's explicit law.

When I was in Eastern European 20 years ago preparing to travel in the Soviet Union, one of the Christian leaders told me, "Don't tell them that we are playing basketball today because the Russians believe that basketball is worldly. Sports are worldly and it is a sin. They don't allow it." That sounds bizarre to us because we love sports, but that is just their thing. It is an example of their particular rule at the time that they made equal with God's law. They are very sensitive about it.


If you are going to adopt a rule that applies to all Christians, you ought to be able to identify an explicit Biblical prohibition.


I'll tell you with regards to movies, I don't look at the ratings, per se . I don't automatically rule out R-rated movies. That's me. I tend to be judicious with the movies I see, but I don't simply ask the question of whether it is R-rated. Some people don't go to R-rated movies as a matter of principle, and God bless them.

I'm sure Paul would say that sorcery, hatred, fornication, lewdness and those sorts of things mentioned in Galatians 5 are sinful. They were then, they are now. How that informs our behaviors and our particulars in life, I'm not sure. Keep in mind that even if Paul himself said, "I, for one, am not going to ever watch a TV show," it wouldn't mean that because he has chosen not to do so, that we are obliged not to do so either. Paul can still operate within the context of his own conscience, but that doesn't mean that is a law for the rest of us. After all, Paul was the one who wrote about Christian liberty in Corinthians and Romans. Unless Paul himself said, "This is the direct teaching of the Lord. This isn't my personal opinion or advice. This is God speaking," I wouldn't take that as incumbent on me. That's a different story.

I'll pass on something that one of my first Christian teachers passed on to me some 20 plus years ago. His name is Bill Counts. He's a Pastor now in Dallas, Texas. Bill said this to avoid legalism: Find an explicit Biblical prohibition for every rule you adopt for the church. If you are going to adopt a rule that applies to all Christians, you ought to be able to identify an explicit Biblical prohibition. If you say, "The rule is Christians should not get drunk," then you could page through to Ephesians 5 and read where it says, "Do not get drunk on wine." There you have the rule. It is explicitly stated in the Bible so you are justified in applying that to all Christians because the Biblical writers have done that.

However, if you say, "The rule is that you should not ever smoke or take something that hurts your body," then you are going to have to find a Biblical verse that says that it is immoral to take anything into your body that causes damage to your body. I don't know of any moral verse like that. Some people might say that the Bible says your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit. You're right, but the body being a fit temple has nothing to do with the physical qualities of my body, because if that were the case then people who were exercising a lot would be more spiritual than those people who don't because they have a better looking temple. And people who are sick and diseased would be less fit temples because their bodies are less attractive or are compromised by the disease. If it doesn't seem to make any sense to say that sick people are less qualified because something is wrong with their physical body as a temple to the Holy Spirit, then it doesn't seem to make any sense to say that you can't smoke or drink because it might harm your body and invoke this verse about being a temple of the Holy Spirit either. It is interesting that people who want to do that about smoking or drinking don't do that about calories or sugar or over-eating.

Paul isn't talking about being physically fit in any way, shape or form. He is talking about moral behavior. He says, don't go to bed with a prostitute. Why? Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit. You are bringing God into participation since He dwells inside the temple of your body in the Person of the Holy Spirit. You are bringing Him into direct contact in an intimate way with immorality. You are joining Jesus to a harlot, Paul says. Paul's comment about having a fit temple has nothing to do with physical qualities. It has everything to do with moral qualities. That's the issue there.

To avoid legalism, make sure that you have an explicit Biblical prohibition for every rule you adopt for others.


This is a transcript of a commentary from the radio show "Stand to Reason," with Gregory Koukl. It is made available to you at no charge through the faithful giving of those who support Stand to Reason. Reproduction permitted for non-commercial use only. ©1996 Gregory Koukl

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Green Chri$tma$ by Stan Freberg (1958)

This old Chri$tma$ routine goes back to 1958 but it is as relevant today as then. I guess some of us have disliked the commercialization of Christmas for a long time now. (Thanks to Methodist Thinker for the reminder)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Wesleyan Church Statement on Christian Liberty

The Wesleyan Church, with offices in Fishers, Indiana, has previously articulated a position regarding Christian Liberty that is generally in agreement with most conservative Wesleyan church groups.  This statement comes close to my own perspective on this matter, in particular with the passage from Galatians and its applicability to all Christians, Jew and Gentile. Paul's epistle to Galatia expresses with great clarity much of the issue of law and commandment that was the focus of the council at Jerusalem as recorded in Acts 15. This liberty and lack of bondage is at the heart of life in Christ and is threaded throughout the New Testament.


ChristianLiberty. Christ, through His death on the cross, has freed His followers from sin and from bondage to the law. Christians are "called unto liberty" (Galatians 5:13 KJV), and are not under the law as a means of salvation. They are rather exhorted, "Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage" (Galatians 5:1 KJV).

This liberty, however, is not to be construed as license (Galatians 5:13). Rather, love for Christconstrains the Christian to live righteously and holily as God demands. By the Spirit of God, His laws are written on the heart (Hebrews 8:10). So Christians resist evil and cleave to the good, not in order to be saved, but because they have been saved. Within the bounds of Christian liberty, there will be differences of opinion. In such cases, the believer seeks to avoid offending other believers. The stronger one is mindful of the opinions of the one with the weaker conscience (1 Corinthians 8 and 10), and is careful not to put a stumbling block in another's way (1 Corinthians10:24; Galatians 5:13). On the other hand, the weak does not criticize the strong (1 Corinthians10:29-30), for the conscience of the weak may need instruction. The recognition and exercise of that liberty which Christ affords will glorify God and promote the unity of the Church.

Monday, December 13, 2010

A Jazz Break ... Melody Gardot

Melody Gardot is an amazing story. Severely injured in a hit and run accident at the age of 19, she is in constant pain, suffers from noise and light sensitivities and uses a cane requiring special seating and a TENS device to manage the pain. As a result of music therapy, she does this Jazz thing ... I consider it prevenient grace.

John Wesley on Christian Liberty, A Letter to Susanna Wesley

Continuing with an interest of exploring Christian liberty, specifically within the Arminian traditions, a particular letter written by John Wesley to his mother dated January 13th, 1735 provides a somewhat more pastoral perspective on the subject matter than the theological discourse James Arminius provided. Both bring well grounded opinions to the table and for my purposes, both need to be examined.  There are other works on this subject from other traditions perhaps most notably Martin Luther's Christian Liberty however for now the Arminian perspective has my attention.

John Wesley's Letter to his Mother, January 13th, 1735

DEAR MOTHER, -- Give my leave to say once more that our folks do, and will I supose to the end of the chapter, mistake the question.

Supposing him changed Say they. Right: but that supposition has not proof yet – whether it may have: when it has, then we may come to our other point, whether all this be not providence, i.e. blessing. And whether we are empowered so to judge, condemn, and execute an imprudent Christian, as God forbid I should ever use a Turk or Deist.

I have had a great deal of a conversation lately on the subject of Christian liberty, and should be glad of your thoughts as to the several notions of it which good men entertain. I perceive different persons take it in at least six different senses: (1) For liberty from willful sin, in opposition to the bondage of natural corruption. (2) For liberty as to rites and points of discipline. So Mr. Whiston says, though the stations were constituted by the Apostles, yet the liberty of the Christian law dispenses with them on extraordinary occasions. [William Whiston (1667-1752) succeeded Newton as Lucasian Professor in 1703. The reference is to his book, The Primitive Eucharist Revived; or, an account of the doctrine and practice of the two first centuries. The ' stations' were the fasts: see letter of June 13, 1753, n.] (3) For liberty from denying ourselves in little things; for trifles, 'tis commonly thought, we may indulge in safety, because Christ hath made us free. This notion, I a little doubt, is not sound. (4) For liberty from fear, or a filial freedom in our intercourse with God. A Christian, says Dr. Knight, [ James Knight, Vicar of St. Sepulchre's, London. See letter of May 8, 1739.] is free from fear on account of his past sins; for he believes in Christ, and hope frees him from fear of losing his present labor or of being a castaway hereafter. (5) Christian liberty is taken by some for a freedom from restraint as to sleep or food. So they would say, your drinking but one glass of wine, or my rising at a fixed hour, was contrary to Christian liberty. Lastly, it is taken for freedom from rules. If by this be meant making our rules yield to extraordinary occasions, well: if the having no prudential rules, this liberty is as yet too high for me; I cannot attain unto it.

We join in begging yours and my father's blessing, and wishing you an Happy Year. -- I am, dear mother,

Your dutiful and affectionate Son.

To Mrs. Wesley, At Epworth. To be left at the Post-house in Gainsborough. By London.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Arminius on Christian Liberty

An area of theological understanding that seems to bring a lot of dispute among fellows is Christian liberty. It seems odd that liberty in Christ could fuel passionate disagreements but if one begins asking another why he is sinning and why another isn't, a large can of worms appears to open up. It is a topic of great interest to me particularly how this Christian liberty interacts and sheds light on the whole matter of sin and law with its implications on sanctification and our Christian expectation. Arminius made the following comments in his Public  Disputations and I feel this is an appropriate starting point for a topic I feel inclined to explore further.



1. Liberty, generally, is a state according to which every one is at his own disposal, and not bound to another person. Bondage or slavery is opposed to it, according to which a man is not his own master, but is subject to another, either to do what he commands, to omit what he forbids, or to endure what he inflicts. Christian Liberty is so called chiefly from Christ the Author, who procured it; it has received this appellation also from its subjects, because it belongs to Christians, that is, to believers in Christ.

But it pre-supposes servitude; because Christ was not necessary for any, except for

"those who, through fear of death, were all their life-time subject to bondage." (Hebrews 2:15.)

2. Christian Liberty is that state of the fullness of grace and truth in which believers are placed by God through Christ, and are sealed by the Holy Spirit. It consists partly of a deliverance from both the real and the economic bondage of sin and the law, and partly of adoption into the right of the sons of God, and of the mission of the Spirit of the Son into their hearts. Its end is the praise of the glorious grace of God in Christ, and the eternal salvation of believers.

3. The efficient cause of Christian Liberty is God the Father, who offers it; (Colossians 1:12, 13;) the Son, who, as Mediator, confers it; (John 8:36; Galatians 5:1;) and the Holy Spirit, who inwardly seals it. (2 Corinthians 3:17, 18.) The internal cause is the grace of God, and his love for man in Christ Jesus. (Luke 1:78.) The external cause is the ransom, or the price of redemption, and the satisfaction, which Christ has paid. (Romans 5:6-21; 7:2, 3.) The sealing and preserving cause is the Holy Spirit, who is both the earnest and the witness in the hearts of believers. (Romans 8:15, 16, Ephesians 1:13, 14.) The instrument is two-fold. One on the part of God, who exhibits this liberty; the other on the part of man, who receives it.

(1.) On the part of God, the instrument is the saving doctrine concerning the mercy of God in Christ, which is therefore called "the ministry of reconciliation." (2 Corinthians 5:19.)

(2.) On the part of man, it is faith in Christ. (John 1:12; Romans 5:2; Galatians 3:26.) The matter about which it is exercised is not only sin, and the law "which is the strength of sin;" but also the power or privilege of the sons of God, and the Spirit of Christ.

4. The form consists in deliverance from the spiritual bondage of sin and the law, both real and economical, in the donation of the right to be the sons of God, (Colossians 1:13,) and in the sending forth of the Holy Spirit into the hearts of believers. (Galatians 4:6.) Its subjects are all believers, who are freed from the tyranny of sin and of the law, and received by God on account of Christ as sons, through the grace of adoption. (Galatians 3:26.) The chief end is the praise of the glorious grace of God; (Ephesians 1:14;) the subordinate end is the salvation of believers. (Romans 6:22.) The effects or fruits are two: The first serves for consolation. (Hebrews 6:18- 20.) The other, for admonition, that

"being made free from sin, we may become the servants of righteousness." (Romans 6:18-22; 1 Peter 2:16.)

5. But because this liberty is opposed to the bondage which preceded it, we must on this account treat in the first place about that bondage, that the design of this liberty may be the more easily rendered evident. We must know, that the first man was created free by God; but that, having abused his liberty, he lost it, and was made the slave of him to whom he yielded obedience, that is, to sin, both as it respects the guilt of condemnation and its dominion; which is real bondage and consummate misery. To this succeeded the economical bondage, [or that of the dispensation of Moses,] which God introduced by the repetition of the Moral Law, and by the imposition of the Ceremonial. The bondage under the Moral Law was its rigid demands, by which man, being reduced to despair of fulfilling it, might acknowledge the tyranny of sin which reigned or held dominion over him. The bondage under the Ceremonial Law was its testifying to condemnation; by which man might be convinced of guilt, and thus through both these kinds of bondage might flee to Christ, who could deliver him from the guilt of sin and from its dominion.

6. Let us now see how believers are delivered from this bondage by Christian liberty. We will restrict this consideration to the church of the New Testament, to which the whole of this liberty belongs, omitting the believers under the Old Testament. Though to these likewise belonged, through the promise of the blessed seed and through faith in Him, (Genesis 3:15; 15:6,) a deliverance from real bondage, the privilege of the sons of God, and the Spirit of adoption, which was intermixed with the spirit of economical bondage. (Galatians 4:1-3.)

7. We circumscribe Christian liberty within four ranks or degrees. The First degree consists in a freedom from the guilt and condemnation of sin, which has been expiated by the blood of Christ, by faith in which we obtain remission of sins, and justification from those things from which we could not be absolved by the law of Moses. The Second degree consists in the deliverance from the dominion and tyranny of indwelling sin; because its power is mortified and weakened by the Spirit of Christ dwelling in us, that it may no longer have dominion over those who are under grace.

(Romans 6:14.) But both these degrees of Christian Liberty have their origin in this — that sin was condemned in the flesh of Christ, and it therefore does not possess the power either to condemn or to command. (Romans 8:3.)

8. We place the Third degree in the attempering of that rigor by which God demanded the observance of the Moral Law in the primeval state, and could afterwards have demanded it, if it had been his pleasure still to act towards men in the same manner. Indeed, God did actually demand it, but in an economical way, from the people of the Old Testament; of which he gave manifest indications in that terrific legislation on Mount Sinai. (Exodus 20:18; Galatians 4:24, 25.) "But we are come unto Mount Sion, and to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant," whose "yoke is easy and his burden light;" (Isaiah 2:3; Micah 4:2; Hebrews 12:18-24; Matthew 11:30;) because Christ has broken the yoke of exaction, and it has been the good pleasure of God to treat with man according to clemency in the compact of the New Testament.

9. We place the Fourth degree in a freedom from the economical bondage of the ceremonial law, which had a fourfold respect under the Old Testament.

(1.) For it was the seal of condemnation, and the hand-writing, or bond of our debt. (Galatians 3:21; Hebrews 10:3, 4.)

(2.) It was a symbol and token, by which the Jews might be distinguished from all other nations till the advent of Christ. (Genesis 17:13. 14.)

(3.) It was a typical shadowing forth of Christ, and a prefiguration of his benefits. (Hebrews 9:9, 10; 10:1.)

(4.) Lastly, it resembled a sentinel or guard, a schoolmaster and tutor, by whom the church might be safely kept, in its state of infancy, under the elements of the world, in hopes of the promised and approaching Messiah, and might be led to faith in Him, and be conducted to Him, as St. Paul teaches at the conclusion of the third chapter of his Epistle to the Galatians, and at the commencement of the fourth.

10. The First of these respects of the Ceremonial Law must have been removed, after the condemnation of sin was taken away, of which it was the seal. But we have already shewn in the seventh Thesis, that this condemnation has been abolished by Christ. The consequence, therefore is, that it has also obtained its end or purpose; as St. Paul teaches us in Colossians 2:14, where he says, Christ has blotted out the hand-writing of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross." He sprinkled it over with his own blood and obliterated it. For the Second also of these respects, a place can no longer be found, since the Gentiles, "who were formerly far off, have been made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us.

Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself, of twain, One New Man, so making peace," etc. (Ephesians 2:13-15.) The Third respect consisted of types and shadows which prefigured Christ with his benefits. This can on no account continue after the body or substance itself has been already displayed. (Colossians 2:17.) And, lastly, the Fourth respect, since the advent of Christ, is useless. For when the heir has arrived at the age of maturity, he no longer requires a governor, tutor and schoolmaster, but is himself capable of managing his inheritance, of being his own adviser, and of consulting his own judgment in the things to be possessed. Thus, after the church has passed through the years of infancy, and has entered on the age of maturity in Christ, it is no longer held under the Mosaic worship, under the beggarly elements of this world," but is subject to the guidance of the Spirit of Christ. (Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:4-7.)

Grievous, therefore, is the error of the Pharisees and the Ebionites, in which they maintained, that the observance of the ceremonial law must be joined to the gospel, even by those Christians who had previously been Gentiles.

11. To this Fourth degree of Christian Liberty we add, the free use and exercise of things indifferent. Yet it has been the will of God, that this liberty should be circumscribed by two laws, that of charity and that of faith, (Romans 14:5, 14; 13,) thus consulting his own glory and the salvation of his church. The law of faith prescribes that you be rightly instructed concerning the legitimate use of things indifferent; and sufficiently confirmed [or "fully persuaded in your own mind."] The law of charity commands you to procure the edification of your neighbor, whether he be a weak brother or one who is confirmed. You have examples in Romans 14; 1 Corinthians 8; 9; 10:27-33; Acts 16:3. It is a part of the same law, that you should abide by the ceremonies which are received in the church, lest by an outrageous and unseasonable change you produce a schism in the church, or be the cause of much trouble.

1. Those persons, therefore, err greatly who, in abstaining from this liberty, prefer their own private advantage and happiness to the edification of their neighbor.

2. They err still more grievously who abuse this liberty to satiate the lusts of the flesh, (Galatians 5:13,) or by an unseasonable zeal to despise and offend their weak brethren. (Romans 14:3, 10.)

3. But those err the most grievously of all who either affix the observance of necessity to things indifferent, or suppose those things to be indifferent which are by no means such.

12. To these, perhaps not without profit, we shall add a Fifth degree of liberty, that is, an immunity from the judicial laws of the Jewish courts.

On this subject we must hold, that the political laws of Moses contain, (1.) The political common law of nature.

(2.) A particular law suited to the Jewish nation. The common law of nature embraces the universal notions of justice, equity and honesty. The particular law, as it was peculiar to the Jewish nation, was so far defined by certain determinations, according to the persons for whose benefit it was confirmed, according to the affairs and transactions concerning which it was confirmed, and the circumstances with which it was confirmed.

Hence a judgment ought to be formed of the immutability and mutability of these laws. Whatever has been appointed for the general good, according to the universal principles of nature and the common design of the moral law, either by commanding or forbidding, by rewarding or punishing, it is immutable. Therefore, to such a thing Christian Liberty does not extend itself. What portion soever of the particular law has a particular respect, it is changeable. Christians, therefore, are not bound by these laws, so far as they are determined by a particular law after the manner of the Jewish Commonwealth, that is, of particular persons, actions, and of a particular end or good. But with regard to those portions of these laws which are of a mixed kind, we must distinguish in them that which is moral from that which is political. Whatever is moral, is binding, and remains either by common reason or by analogy. Whatever is political, is not binding with regard to particular determinations.

Therefore, we disapprove of the ridiculous imitation adopted by Monetarius and Carolastadius, who obliged Christian magistrates to the necessity of observing the peculiar forensic laws of Moses in their administration of justice.

13. The privilege or right of the sons of God, and the sending of the spirit of adoption into the hearts of believers follow this liberty from the bondage of sin and the law, to which is annexed peace of conscience. (Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:5, 6.) That right consists in their being constituted heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ; and to this privilege belongs not only the blessed immortality of their souls, but likewise the deliverance of their bodies from vanity, and from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God; which also comes under the name of adoption, and is called "the redemption of our bodies." (Romans 8:15-23.) Hence, likewise those who shall be "the children of the resurrection," are called "the children of God." (Luke 20:36.) But the Spirit of adoption is sent into the hearts of the sons of God, as being the Spirit of the Son, that He may be the earnest, the seal, and the first-fruits of this inheritance; (Galatians 4:6; 2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:14;) by which we are assured, that, as

"our life is hidden with Christ in God, when Christ shall gloriously appear we shall also be manifested with him in glory." (Colossians 3:4.)

And thus the liberty of glory, that will endure forever, will succeed to this liberty of grace, which we obtain in this world by Christ Jesus our Lord, through faith in his blood: To whom be praise forever! In the place of a conclusion it is inquired,

1. Whether freedom from the bondage of sin, and from economical bondage, be effected by one and the same act, or by two acts We affirm the former.

2. Whether it is lawful to eat those things which are offered in sacrifice to idols We make a distinction.

To Politic or not to Politic

I've been playing around with political blogging for a while and gave it a half hearted try recently. However, I cannot seem to get myself into it with enough interest to sustain it. Aside from that, there are just too many political blogs out there and given the nature of the battle, it is very easy to get pulled and pushed into rather ugly frays. I despise the current administration in Washington and that really shades my perspective when I comment on such matters. So for now, at least in this mindset this evening, I'm going to leave off the political blogging and see if I can turn my introspective examinations upon things Arminian. The fire has gone out a bit and the lukewarm musings have tended upon the trivial rather than the things that really matter to me.
As Arminians we do not spend enough time examining what historical Arminians have believed and written. I have tried to keep a working list of theological positions that James Arminius articulated during his ministry and I'll continue with that. The same should be done with Wesley and others so that we can capture what has actually been taught rather than the allowing the lies and misrepresentations of neo-Calvinists to distort the true record of Christian evidence and testimony.
Now having said all that, I'm still cognizant enough of reality to know that I am a political junkie at heart and will still post and comment in a variety of places unrelated to this theological endeavor. As for trying to fuel the fire so to speak, I'll leave that to more competent and skilled sword swingers.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Remembering Pearl Harbor

Sixty nine years ago today ...

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Food Court Choir

This is great. ( you can get a better view of the video if you click on the link in the top of the video screen)