Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Episcopius on the Knowledge of the Will of God

The Arminian Confession of 1621
Chapter 9
On the Knowledge of God's Will, revealed in the new covenant

  1. Further, the will of God, comprehended in the gracious covenant which our greatest prophet, the only begotten Son of God, clearly and fully revealed to us in his Gospel, is embraced in two principle heads. First, those things which God for his part decreed to do in us or about us through his Son Jesus Christ, that we may be made partakers of that eternal salvation offered by him. Second, those things which he wholly wills to be done by us through his own grace, if we really want to obtain eternal salvation.
  2. Those things which God decreed to do for his part in order to provide our salvation, are principally two. 1. He decreed for the honor of his beloved Son to choose for himself sons through him to salvation and life eternal, to adopt, justify, seal with his Holy Spirit and finally to glorify all those and only those truly believing in his name, or obeying his gospel, and persevering in faith and obedience until death, and to the contrary, to reprobate unbelievers and the impenitent from life and salvation and to damn them perpetually. 2. He has decreed through his same Son, to confer to all that are called, although miserable sinners, such efficacious grace through which they may really believe in their Christ the Savior, obey his gospel and be freed from the dominion and guilt of sin, indeed also through which they may really believe, obey and be freed, unless by a new defiance and rebellion they reject the grace offered by God.
  3. The first decree is the decree to predestination to salvation or election to glory, by which is established the true necessity and at the same time the usefulness of our faith and obedience for obtaining salvation and glory. But to dogmatically establish some other anterior, prior decree by which certain individual people were peremptorily elected by name to glory and all others were reprobated to eternal torture, is indeed to deny the true nature of this decree, to invert right order, to take away the merit of Jesus Christ, to obscure the glory of divine goodness, righteousness and wisdom, and indeed utterly to subvert the true power and efficacy of the whole sacred ministry, and thus of all religion.
  4. The second decree is the decree of calling to faith or election to grace, by which is established the necessity and at the same time the usefulness of divine grace, or the means necessary for us to yield faith and obedience to Jesus Christ according to the will of God, revealed in his Gospel. Because truly we ought first to be sure about that will of God which he wants us to yield to him, than of the grace necessary for fulfilling that will, of the glory promised to be conferred to those performing the divine will. It is for this that we shall treat them all henceforth in the same order in which they have been proposed.

The Arminian Confession of 1621, trans & ed. Mark A. Ellis, Pickwick, Wipf & Stock, Eugene, Oregon, 2005, pp74-75

Arminius on the Will of God

The Works of James Arminius - Vol. 2 (Private Disputations)

Disputation 18: On The Will Of God

1. The will of God is spoken of in three ways: First, the faculty itself of willing. Secondly, the act of willing. Thirdly, the object willed. The first signification is the principal and proper one, the two others are secondary and figurative.

2. It may be thus described: It is the second faculty of the life of God, flowing through the understanding from the life that has an ulterior tendency; by which faculty God is borne towards a known good — towards a good, because this is an adequate object of every will — towards a known good, not only with regard to it as a being, but likewise as a good, whether in reality or only in the act of the divine understanding. Both, however, are shown by the understanding. But the evil which is called that of culpability, God does not simply and absolutely will.

3. The good is two-fold. The chief good, and that which is from the chief. The first of these is the primary, immediate, principal, direct, peculiar and adequate object of the divine will; the latter is secondary and indirect, towards which the divine will does not tend, except by means of the chief good.

4. The will of God is borne towards its objects in the following order:

(1.) He wills himself.

(2.) He wills all those things which, out of infinite things possible to himself he has, by the last judgment of his wisdom, determined to be made. And first, he wills to make them to be; then he is affected towards them by his will, according as they possess some likeness with his nature, or some vestige of it.

(3.) The third object of the will of God is those things which he judges fit and equitable to be done by creatures who are endowed with understanding and with free will, in which is included a prohibition of that which he wills not to be done.

(4.) The fourth object of the divine will is his permission, that chiefly by which he permits a rational creature to do what he has prohibited, and to omit what he has commanded.

(5.) He wills those things which, according to his own wisdom, he judges to be done concerning the acts of his rational creatures.

5. There is out of God no inwardly moving cause of his will; nor out of him is there any end. But the creature, and its action or passion, may be the outwardly moving cause, without which God would supersede or omit that volition or act of willing.

6. But the cause of all other things is God, by His understanding and will, by means of His power or capability; yet so, that when he acts either through his creatures, with them or in them, he does not take away the peculiar mode of acting, or of suffering, which he has divinely placed within them; and that he suffers them, according to their peculiar mode, to produce their own effects, and to receive in themselves the acts of God, either necessarily, contingently, or freely. As this contingency and liberty do not make the prescience of God to be uncertain, so they are destroyed by the volition of God, and by the certain futurition of events with regard to the understanding of God.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Philosophical Determinism vs. Valley of Slaughter

An extreme Calvinist writes ... “In biblical Calvinism, God predestines every event. That includes mental events.”

The Bible offers ... “Because they have forsaken me, and have estranged this place, and have burned incense in it unto other gods, whom neither they nor their fathers have known, nor the kings of Judah, and have filled this place with the blood of innocents; They have built also the high places of Baal, to burn their sons with fire for burnt offerings unto Baal, which I commanded not, nor spake it, neither came it into my mind: Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that this place shall no more be called Tophet, nor The valley of the son of Hinnom, but The valley of slaughter.” (Jer 19:4-6 AV)

I am curious how God predestines a mental event that was never formed in His mind. This is not a challenge to His omniscience or even his decreed permissive will. Instead I call into question the conflict between hard determinst philosophy that has the LORD determining the very thoughts of men and the scriptural evidence that opposes such musings. In order to predestine, the thought has to be formed by the one decreeing such thoughts. This is a separate and more involved accountability than permissive will that is decreed via omniscience through the workings of a freely willed soul. Either the thought came into the mind of God (speaking anthropomorphically) satisfying a criteria for predestining anything or it did not. The Bible states it did not. The extreme Calvinist claims it does. Which shall we believe?

Friday, November 18, 2011

What Did Christ’s Death Accomplish?

As never ending as this battle is between Calvinists and most of the body of Christ, the answers provided never seem to satisfy the rhetorical inquiries of our Calvinist friends. One of the reasons for this, I believe, is due to the Calvinist tendency to view the extent of the atonement with the purpose of confirming their particular soteriological perspective.  “For God so loved the world” is forced to mean “God so loved His Elect or classes of men in the world”. It amounts to a read of theology into the text of scripture. By doing so, they reject responses that are logical and reasoned from the text of scripture itself. Forlines offers the following perspective and solution to the Calvinist insistence.

“Calvinists argue that, if Jesus paid the full penalty for the sins of the whole race, all for whom Christ died must of necessity be saved. This is true since His death settles their account and therefore forms the necessary basis for their forgiveness. Either Christ died for everybody and everybody would be saved, or He died only for the elect and only the elect will be saved, or so the argument goes. It is thought that for one who believes in the satisfaction view of the atonement that the only way to escape universal salvation is to believe in limited atonement. 
The answer is found in the kind of substitution involved. Christ died for the whole world in a provisionary sense. He suffered the penal wrath of God for sin, but that fact alone does not place His death on everybody’s account. It is effectual for the individual only as it is placed on a person’s account. It can be placed on a person’s account only as a result of union with Christ. Union with Christ is conditioned on faith. 
The Calvinists may want to insist that the objection is valid and that Christ died only for the elect. The only way this argument could have any validity would be to deny the possibility of provisionary atonement. If there can be no provisionary atonement, it does follow that if Christ died for a person his justification is never provisionary but always real. 
In explaining the view of the atonement, Louis Berkhof comments: “The Calvinist teach that the atonement meritoriously secured the application of the work of redemption to those for whom it was intended and their complete salvation is certain”. 
A close look at what Berkhof said will show that it does not rule out the provisionary principle in atonement. He says that the atonement “makes certain” the salvation of those for whom it was intended. He did not say that the atonement automatically saved everybody for whom it was intended. Calvinists do not teach that the elect are justified before they experience faith.  They teach that the person for whom Christ died will of a certainty be justified, but they do not consider a person justified until he experiences faith as the condition of justification. Thus, atonement is provisionary until the time it is applied. The only way to deny the provisionary nature of the atonement is to consider all people for whom Christ died to be justified before they experience faith. 
Once we accept that atonement is provisionary, we invalidate the objection that penal satisfaction either leads to universalism or limited atonement. Provisionary atonement applied on the condition of faith and on the grounds of a union with Christ answers this objection and sustains the penal satisfaction view.” 1

Therefore with that last portion of Forlines statement we can turn to John 3:16 and accept it as given rather than reinterpret the passage through any manner of sectarian lens. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16 AV)
To ask the question what did Christ’s death accomplish is little different from asking for whom did Christ die for. Jesus accomplished a propitiatory sacrifice reconciling God with man and made individually efficacious through faith and union with Christ. He accomplished a great and glorious provision through which all men might be saved even though I believe most are not and that due to their love of their sins and rejection of the things of God. Much more could be stated however I would recommend a particular resource in addition to Forlines. The Arminian Confession of 1621 would be an excellent source to gain a much greater perspective of Arminian theology on a number of topics. 2

1.       Classical Arminianism, F. Leroy Forlines, ed. J. Matthew Pinson, Randall House, Nashville, 2011 pp 192-193  
2.       The Arminian Confession of 1621, trans & ed. Mark A. Ellis, Pickwick, Wipf and Stock, Eugene, 2005

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Common Sense Christian Understanding of the Gift of Faith - Forlines

F. Leroy Forlines offers what I have found to be one of the best concise explanations of the gift of faith in the brief statement below. It effectively silences the Calvinist harp of monergism with regard to faith and presents the common sense Christian understanding of the synergistic nature of faith.

I believe that saving faith is a gift of God in the sense that the Holy Spirit gives divine enablement without which faith in Christ would be impossible (John 6:44). The difference between the Calvinistic concept of faith and my concept of faith cannot be that theirs is monergistic and mine is synergistic. In both cases it is synergistic. Active participation in faith by the believer means that it must be synergistic. Human response cannot be ruled out of faith. Justification and regeneration are monergistic. Each is an act of God, not man. Faith is a human act by divine enablement and therefore cannot be monergistic. - Classical Arminianism: A Theology of Salvation, Forlines, ed. Pinson, Randall House Nashville, 2011, p.24

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Lydia, A Woman of Faith and a Recipient of Prevenient Grace

And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul. (Ac 16:14 AV)

A proof text for those who advocate a pre-faith regeneration, the above passage is sometimes abused by those who tend to read their theology into the text, a careless exercise by any measure.  Lydia has been presented as an unbeliever whose worship was tainted by insincerity. Is there any truth to that? There is nothing in the text to indicate any sense of vain worship. There is no revelation of her being far from the heart of God. It merely tells us that she worshiped God. Being from Thyatira or the modern city of Ahkisar in central Turkey (to the north-northeast of Ephesus), Lydia was a Gentile proselyte to the Hebrew faith. This tells us she came out of her heathen life and embraced the God of the Hebrews. The passage tells us at least that much, she worshiped God. This indicates that rather than being regenerated when God “opened” her heart in this instance, she came out of whatever depravity she was born into prior to the visit by Paul and the others of his entourage. By worshiping God, she was already a woman of faith. Granted, her faith had not been converted to Christ at that point but then, neither had King David’s faith been such in his day. Should we suggest that David’s faith and worship was done in vain? God forbid for the scriptures tell us he had a heart after the LORD.

It is important to recognize that not all of Judea was swallowed up in vain worship tainted by the religious rulers of the day. The bible tells us God has always had a remnant of believers among His people. Given the text, it seems entirely reasonable that God saw Lydia as one of that faithful remnant and when the time came for that Gospel to be preached, He provided the grace necessary to fully comprehend and embrace that Gospel. If Lydia is said to have worshiped God, it seems short sighted and rather hasty to delegate her to the spirit of this world rather than being of God the Father. To do so in order to further a philosophical, dogmatic teaching is, in my opinion, damaging to one’s faith in the veracity and infallibility of scripture. A surprising defense of this reading into scripture has been the suggestion that Luke was merely passing on his opinion of Lydia’s outward appearance of religion rather than the indicated truth of Lydia being a worshiper of God. That is quite convenient but at what point do we accept what the Bible instructs as truth rather than question that given truth? If the Bible tells us that someone worships God and gives absolutely no indication of a vain faith, we should accept what scripture tells us rather than try to force it into a poorly fitted argument.

The doctrine of pre-faith regeneration is forced upon this passage because it has God’s work of grace preceding the delivery of the Gospel through which faith comes to those who hear. However, God’s prevenient grace better matches the narrative especially when regeneration is regarded as that born again experience proceeding from the burying of the old self through conviction and repentance. As  a proselyte, Lydia was converted from her heathenism and entered the fellowship of those who worshiped the one true God, the God of the Hebrews. God tells us so in His very word. Lydia worshiped God. Whether one wishes to argue that regeneration precedes faith or not, it would have to go to the place where Lydia ceased being an unbeliever in the God of the Hebrews under the old covenant. It has to go to the same place that such occurred to David and every other saint who worshiped God, assumingly in truth and spirit.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Enmity of the World Toward Christ - A.W. Tozer

A.W. Tozer wrote a wonderful book entitled Man, The Dwelling Place of God. The following extract is of chapter 4 of this public domain publication and addresses the significance of two classes of human beings, the "born again" and the natural men of this world. The enmity of the latter toward the former and the characteristics of each identify the unique distinction of one from the other. It is as a result a contrast between an evangelical necessity and a contrary ecumenism.


The Once-born and the Twice-born

CLASSIFICATION IS ONE OF THE MOST DIFFICULT of all tasks. Even in the realm of religion there are enough lights and shades to make it injudicious to draw too fine a line between men and men. If the religious world were composed of squares of solid black and solid white classification would be easy; but unfortunately it is not.

It is a grave error for us evangelicals to assume that the children of God are all in our communion and that all who are not associated with us are ipso facto enemies of the Lord. The Pharisees made that mistake and crucified Christ as a consequence.

With all this in mind, and leaning over backwards to be fair and charitable, there is yet one distinction which we dare make, which indeed we must make if we are to think the thoughts of God after Him and bring our beliefs into harmony with the Holy Scriptures. That distinction is the one which exists between two classes of human beings, the once-born and the twice-born.

That such a distinction does in fact exist was taught by our Lord with great plainness of speech, in contexts which preclude the possibility that He was merely speaking figuratively. "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God," He said, and the whole chapter where these words are found confirms that He was speaking precisely, setting forth meanings as blunt and downright as it is possible for language to convey.

"Ye must be born again," said Christ. "That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." This clear line of demarcation runs through the entire New Testament, quite literally dividing one human being from another and making a distinction as sharp as that which exists between different genera of the animal kingdom.

Just who belongs to one class and who to the other it is not always possible to judge, though the two kinds of life ordinarily separate from each other. Those who are twice-born crystallize around the Person of Christ and cluster together in companies, while the once-born are held together only by the ties of nature, aided by the ties of race or by common political and social interests.

Our Lord warned His disciples that they would be persecuted. "In the world ye shall have tribulation," He said, and "Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake."

These are only two of many passages of the New Testament warning of persecution or recording the fact of harassment and attack suffered by the followers of the Lord. This same idea runs through the entire Bible from the once-born Cain who slew the twice-born Abel to the Book of the Revelation where the end of human history comes in a burst of blood and fire.

That hostility exists between the once-born and the twice-born is known to every student of the Bible; the reason for it was stated by Christ when He said, "If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you." The rule was laid down by the apostle Paul when he wrote, "But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now."

Difference of moral standards between the onceborn and the twice-born, and their opposite ways of life, may be contributing causes of this hostility; but the real cause lies deeper. There are two spirits abroad in the earth: the spirit that works in the children of disobedience and the Spirit of God. These two can never be reconciled in time or in eternity. The spirit that dwells in the once-born is forever opposed to the Spirit that inhabits the heart of the twice-born. This hostility began somewhere in the remote past before the creation of man and continues to this day. The modern effort to bring peace between these two spirits is not only futile but contrary to the moral laws of the universe.

To teach that the spirit of the once-born is at enmity with the Spirit of the twice-born is to bring down upon one's head every kind of violent abuse. No language is too bitter to hurl against the conceited bigot who would dare to draw such a line of distinction between men. Such malignant ideas are at odds with the brotherhood of man, says the once-born, and are held only by the apostles of disunity and hate. This mighty rage against the twice-born only serves to confirm the truth they teach. But this no one seems to notice.

What we need to restore power to the Christian testimony is not soft talk about brotherhood but an honest recognition that two human races occupy the earth simultaneously: a fallen race that sprang from the loins of Adam and a regenerate race that is born of the Spirit through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus.

To accept this truth requires a tough-mindedness and a spiritual maturity that modern Christians simply do not possess. To face up to it hardly contributes to that "peace of mind" after which our religious weaklings bleat so plaintively.

For myself, I long ago decided that I would rather know the truth than be happy in ignorance. If I cannot have both truth and happiness, give me truth. We'll have a long time to be happy in heaven.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

The Importance of the Atonement - Forlines

... Of all the events in the experience of Christ, His birth, His life, His death, His resurrection, and His return, His death stands central. As important as the other events are, both in themselves and in relation to His death, the death of Christ remains central, because apart from atonement there would be no forgiveness of sins. Christianity would be nonexistent. It is the birth that makes the death of Christ possible, but it is the death that makes the birth important. It is the resurrection that makes possible the application of the benefits of His death. It is the death that makes His resurrection important and makes the one who has been restored to life the Redeemer.

It is of the utmost importance that we maintain a sound doctrine of atonement. The study of the atonement must be done with the whole personality, not just the rational mind. While a study of atonement is fascinating in its logical consistency, it must go deeper than that to be comprehended. It must grip the heart also. There is nothing that sheds light on the serious of holiness and sin like the atonement that God provided to bring forgiveness of sin. A proper view of atonement puts seriousness into the whole study of theology. Any system of ethics that does not read from atonement the seriousness of sin and understanding of God's holiness and God's love that is seen in atonement will be grossly inadequate. Any view of grace that is not grounded in the understanding of sin, holiness, and the high regard for law that is manifested in atonement will be empty, shallow, and shot through with the tendencies of antinomianism…(1)

1. Classical Arminianism: A Theology of Salvation, F. Leroy Forlines, ed. Pinson, pp 199-200, (Nashville, Randall House, 2011)

Friday, October 07, 2011


The Society of Evangelical Arminians published an excellent reference chart to help explain the differences between the Arminian acronym FACTS and the common Calvinist doctrine expressed by TULIP.


Monday, October 03, 2011

Old Earth Creationism: Orthodox, Heterodox or Neither?

"You do not believe the Bible"! "You are calling Jesus a liar"! "You could not have much faith in the Word of God if you believe that"! "That is nothing but the presumptions of secularists"! Just about every empty argument that can be made has been leveled at one or other persons who have examined the physical evidence around us and concluded that the earth must be considerably greater than a mere six thousand years. While young in the faith I took my young earth creationist teachers at their word and agreed with them about such things however as I have aged and explored the faith and scriptures, that is no longer a proposition I can hold to. Perhaps "pragmatic creationist" is a preferred nomenclature for that seems to address the incorporation of physical evidence with the faith one has in the creation account of Genesis. This of course demands a reconciliation of what we deem physical evidence with that of faith being the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen. The former we can measure and observe. The latter we accept as truth from the LORD who has changed us from those who cannot fathom what is beyond the physical sense to those who trust their entire being in hope and what is not seen. Can this evidence be reconciled with the substance of faith? Unless the evidence is wrong or merely a great deception through God's handiwork, it must be and if creation is to be believed and hence the Bible itself, one must fit rationally and neatly with the other.

Could or would God work His hand in the construction of an elaborate deception intended to cause men to handle evidence that clearly indicates an age of the earth that rather than being a mere six thousand years old is instead, millions or billions of years in age? If this would somehow fit into an end picture of God's plan for creation, the thought can be entertained but for the intentional deception. The coal miner in West Virginia whose mechanical shovel just unturned a seam of coal littered with fossils of plants long known to be extinct has uncovered physical evidence of a very old earth. It is not evidence that stands on its own but when included among the varying layers of stratified coal, shale and sandstone formations above this particular seam, it conclusively eliminates a certain cause e.g. a global flood. The extensive reach of fossil fuel and petrochemical deposits testifies to the sheer volume of organic material needed to produce such large quantities of fossilized carbon. Something other than a singular global event must have occurred to produce stratified layers of rock formations and fossil fuels. The math does not work and the physical evidence is there for us to see. Did the hand of God place the fossil fern in the seam and was that meant to deceive? I have a difficult time believing that would be the case and I have yet to read a convincing argument to explain the physical evidence fitting a day one creation account.

Old earth creationism (OEC) has been an acceptable theological premise at least since being included in the notes to the Scofield Reference Bible in the 1940s. Not limited to dispensationist minded believers, the Gap theory associated with OEC gained acceptance among fundamentalists, Baptists and non-denominational believers of varying persuasions. In that sense, the viewpoint should be considered within the pale of orthodoxy and certainly not heterodoxy given that there is no damage to the orthodoxy of the person and work of Jesus Christ e.g soteriology, birth, death, burial and resurrection of Christ. While Young Earth Creationists (YEC) might disagree with that assessment and they are entitled to their opinion, problems do not seem to arise until creationism is challenged and the core truths of scripture cross a threshold of unbelief.  While there are other streams of thought concerning OEC, the Gap theory sometimes referred to as "Ruin-Restoration" maintains belief in the creation account while making a purposeful distinction between Gen 1:2-3. Those of us accepting of this theory find no conflict with an old age of a previously ruined world and the restoration through the creation account provided at the beginning of the Bible. God did everything he stated in chapter one and restored this world in the six literal days mentioned. That is the Gap theory and it is reconciled with the abundant physical evidence all around us. There is no need to assume the impossible volume of organic fossil fuel through the global flood (something most GAP theorists also believe to be literally true). There is no need to imagine how Noah had a pair of T-Rex dinosaurs loaded onto the Ark. One fellow recently suggested that eggs were rolled onto the Ark rather than violently carnivorous adults. I am not sure how that works nor do I have any idea if T-Rex actually existed in the manner it is depicted in scientific "folklore". There is so much we truly do not know. However, we can be comfortable theorizing that there is a gap between a ruined world and a newly restored world that does not conflict with the creation account of Genesis and at the same time is wholly consistent with hard, physical evidence that cannot be reconciled with a 6,000 year age.

The argument of whether these matters are orthodox or heterodox really comes down to a question of essential doctrine. Is the rejection of Ruin-Restoration theory an essential position in the church? I do not believe so. Does orthodoxy hinge on the singular creation of all that has ever existed in eternity? I think it is silly to make such broad and sweeping generalizations .  Instead, pragmatic creationism allows believers to incorporate the witness of the creation around us without conflict into the text of scripture itself. I do not have to consider the evidence to have been a heavenly trick played on "science" nor do I have any need or desire to reject creationism as some of our "theistic evolutionists" are forced to do. Both reconcile neatly into my understanding and acceptance of scripture.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Alzheimer’s Disease and Our Christian Commitments

Listening to AM talk radio late one evening earlier this week, I tried dozing off to sleep as one of the shows had noted CBS correspondent Barry Petersen as a guest to discuss his recent book, Jan's Story. It is a hard to digest telling of his wife's ongoing struggle and fading of life with Alzheimer's disease. I suppose most of us are familiar with at least one person who has succumbed to this insidious disease. I lost my grandmother to it a few years ago after several years of diagnosis and my mother gave a considerable portion of her life to caring for her in those elder years. She lived into her early nineties before passing away with it but as with all cases of Alzheimer's, what is left at the end stages of such lives is really little more than an animated corpse of one's previous self.  Having conversations with the reflection of yourself in a mirror and having no idea that the person looking back at yourself is you is a frightening reality for many in such conditions. Add to that the lost communication or even the ability to acknowledge who and what you are and our comprehension of the devastation of Alzheimer's becomes a bit clearer albeit still beyond our own personal experience to grasp. Even the primary caretaker faces phenomenal life changes that are difficult to express appropriately. Mr. Petersen discussed several of these life changes and rather than drift off to sleep, I lay there thinking of this matter later into the evening.

It might have been the next day or two when I encountered a short article by Dr. Russell Moore of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary discussing recent controversial comments by Pat Robertson of the Christian Coalition and "700 Club" television program. Dr. Moore was presenting a Christian challenge to Robertson's comment approving of the divorce of spouses who suffer from advanced stages of Alzheimer's. Moore's rebuttal of Robertson's position reminded me of Barry Petersen's comments concerning his current personal relationships. With his wife institutionalized at this point, Petersen met another woman with whom he established a personal and intimate relationship with and in his words, are now a family of three. I don't know what to think of that other than to suggest it strikes me wrong on every front. Robertson viewed the patient as essentially dead and with regard to what and who that person was cognitively, I suppose he is right in a sense. As I note, I use the phrase animated corpse as well. However, there is something more at stake than just an intimate and acknowledged relationship. Marriage is, as Dr. Moore notes, a type of the relationship Jesus Christ has with His church and that relationship is not destroyed or cast aside when one member of the church becomes "less useful". In that sense I can only second Moore's rebuttal and certainly in my own case, were such to occur, I could not turn my back on "for better and for worse, in sickness and in health". It is not in my "Christian constitution" to do so.

The difficulty I have with this is that I can understand the frustration of spouses faced with these ordeals. My grandfather had passed away many years prior to my grandmother's diagnosis and death so that circumstance was not an issue. Mr. Petersen's wife, Jan, was diagnosed when she was fifty five years old. I can understand why Mr. Petersen chose his current path knowing as well that he has not forsaken the care of his wife in doing so. I might not agree with it but I understand it. What I cannot understand is how a Christian evangelist can offer such unbiblical advice and opinion. A lot has been written on this immediate controversy and it is an issue of great interest to me but I believe that  the commitment of one to the other regardless of health and illness means considerably more than the category of disease that some might use to qualify such commitments.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011



noun, plural -tus·es, -tus.
a break or interruption in the continuity of a work, series,action, etc.
a missing part; gap or lacuna: Scholars attempted to account for the hiatus in the medieval manuscript.
any gap or opening.
Grammar, Prosody the coming together, with or withoutbreak or slight pause, and without contraction, of two vowels in successive words or syllables, as in see easily.
Anatomy a natural fissure, cleft, or foramen in a bone orother structure.

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Liberalism Straw Man of Young, Restless Reformers

As Arminians, we often have to deal with a number of scurrilous charges and various innuendoes inflicted upon our faith by an assortment of polemicists, predominantly at the hand of the young, restless Reformed variety and their elder teachers. Whether it is a straw man of “free willism”, salvation by works  or open theism and a host of other unsupportable accusations, each is brought to nothing by the revelation of plain, simple truth. Truth will always bring to naught any straw man fabricated for divisive purposes. I came across another bale of straw dressed up as knowledge today. The following quote was offered to buttress another’s doctrine of mush and as always, truth will grind it to chaff.

"We are living in a day in which practically all of the historic
churches are being attacked from within by unbelief. Many
of them have already succumbed. And most invariably the
line of descent has been from Calvinism to Arminianism,
from Arminianism to Liberalism, and then to Unitarianism.
And the history of Liberalism and Unitarianism shows that
they deteriorate into a social gospel that is too weak to
sustain itself. We are convinced that the future of Christianity
is bound up with that system of theology historically called
"Calvinism." Where the God-centered principles of
Calvinism have been abandoned, there has been a strong
tendency downward into the depths of man-centered
naturalism or secularism. Some have declared -- rightly,
we believe -- that there is no consistent stopping place
between Calvinism and Atheism."

[Calvinism, hyper-Calvinism and Armimianism, pages 3-4,
by Kenneth G. Talbot & W. Gary Crampton; Still Waters
Revival books]

This is sheer ignorance. The "granddaddy of theological liberalism" was Friedrich Daniel Ernst Schleiermacher who came out of the German Reformed theological stream and not Arminianism. The "daddy" of American Unitarianism is nothing but Calvinistic Puritanism. The United Church of Christ, the result of a merging of various Congregational Churches (previously Puritan), is one of the most liberal churches in the country. The Presbyterian Church - USA, straight out of the Calvinist Reformed tradition, rivals the UCC for promoting homosexuality in the pulpit and rejecting the infallibility of scripture among other liberal disasters.

Calvinists are quick to repeat the lie contained in this quote but as the above comments note, the greatest growth of theological liberalism in the church has come directly from Calvinistic Reformed sources without ever touching Arminianism. If we add other aberrant teachings to the mix we would also have to include the origins of the various Church of Christ sects that arose out of Calvinistic Presbyterians and Baptists (the Restoration movements of Campbell and Stone). If you are going to try to beat somebody with a propaganda lie, you better be prepared for the truth to knock some sense into you.