Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Sorry, Arminians, but free will may just be the brain's 'background noise'

OK, so the title is tongue-in-cheek. Mostly. But consider this report from Live Science:
It's a question that has plagued philosophers and scientists for thousands of years: Is free will an illusion?

Now, a new study suggests that free will may arise from a hidden signal buried in the "background noise" of chaotic electrical activity in the brain, and that this activity occurs almost a second before people consciously decide to do something.

Though "purposeful intentions, desires and goals drive our decisions in a linear cause-and-effect kind of way, our finding shows that our decisions are also influenced by neural noise within any given moment," study co-author Jesse Bengson, a neuroscientist at the University of California, Davis, wrote in an email to Live Science. "This random firing, or noise, may even be the carrier upon which our consciousness rides, in the same way that radio static is used to carry a radio station."
So it would seem Calvinism is backed up by scripture and science! :)

Monday, September 01, 2014

Combating anti-creationism with better screening and cheaper seminary training

I have long believed that those holding to old-Earth creationism or theistic evolution do so out of intellectual laziness. It's much easier to interpret scripture in light of the conclusions drawn by atheist scientists. We Christians are simple folk. We can't possibly be considered competent when it comes to complicated issues like figuring out the age of the earth. I mean, taking the Bible at face value? Who does that anymore?

Unfortunately, many of us have abandoned sound, critical, biblical reasoning when it comes to science. We have bought into the lie that science and religion don't mix. The Word of God, which should be the lens through which we see all of creation, is now the object of study through a naturalistic lens. As a result, the literal six days of creation in the book of Genesis are reduced to mere literary devices used to describe what couldn't possibly have been understood by primitive minds. This is know as the "framework hypothesis."

Gary North describes how the framework hypothesis has infected Presbyterianism. The solution? Better screening and more accessible seminary training:
The framework hypothesis offers seminary graduates a way to wiggle out of the textual trap of Genesis 1. But there is no wiggle room in the chronology of Genesis 11. If Presbyterian ruling elders wanted to screen out the frameworkers, they could use the chronology of the flood to serve as a substitute for Genesis 1. They could grill them in their presbytery examinations. Those candidates who see what Genesis 11 will do to their academic self-image could then become Methodists or Episcopalians.

It is time for presbyteries to set up their own online seminaries, give the training away for free on YouTube and WordPress.com, and bring candidates under real care of regional presbyteries. Young men would not have to go into debt. Older men could do this on a part-time basis after work. There would be far more candidates for the ministry. The range of talents would be wider.

In 1811, American presbyteries began to surrender to the newly invented theological seminary (Princeton) the spiritual authority to monitor the progress of candidates for the ministry. The Calvinist Congregationalists had invented the first seminary in 1808 — Andover — because Harvard had publicly gone Unitarian in 1805. But they still required their young men to graduate from Harvard or Yale, and then study three more years. This dramatically reduced the supply of Calvinists for Congregational pulpits, and by 1860, the Unitarians had taken over Congregationalism. They had the votes.

This was replicated by Presbyterianism. The liberals took over all but Princeton Seminary by 1900, and by 1926 were in control of the Presbyterian Church, USA. In 1936, they de-frocked nine Calvinist pastors for resisting — out of 10,000 ministers.

Lesson: the faction that sets policy for the seminaries will take over the denomination within 50 years. It has to do with screening.

It is time for presbyteries to reassert their authority to train pastors — where Presbyterian law has always officially lodged this authority. Internet technology makes this possible. Cheap.

If Salman Khan can teach 10,000,000 students every month for free, then a presbytery can do the same for maybe 10 to 15 students. Trust me. It really can. The presbyteries can farm out some courses across presbyterial boundaries. The Internet is in the cloud. It's great for heavenly material.
Creationism should not be dismissed as a peripheral issue. While a thorough scientific understanding of Genesis 1 isn't on par with faith and repentance, it remains a vital part of our theology.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Calvinism debate: Montgomery and Jones vs. Fischer and Zahnd

The following debate, moderated by Christianity Today editor Mark Galli, took place at Missio Dei Church in Chicago on August 27.

Proposition 1: Calvinism necessitates unconditional predestination, and unconditional predestination is incongruent with the God revealed in Jesus Christ.

Proposition 2: The cause of repentance and saving faith is not synergistic but monergistic.

Thanks to THEOparadox for the link.

Friday, August 29, 2014

This Week in Calvinism - August 29, 2014

  • Dr. Ralph "Yankee" Arnold begins his "sermon" by asking, "Can a man be forced by God to accept Christ as savior against his will and call that grace?" I personally don't know anyone who has complained about being raised from death to eternal life against his will, so I wouldn't know.

  • Though not a Calvinist, Kevin Daugherty appreciates what Calvinism has to offer.

  • How single-handed is God's grace? For Matt Smethurst, it's a debate worth having.

  • Austin Fischer and Brian Zahnd debated Daniel Montgomery and Timothy P. Jones on Calvinism Wednesday night. I didn't see it, but I would appreciate it if anyone has a link to the audio or video.

  • Mark Driscoll steps down as pastor of Mars Hill Church.

  • David Platt takes office as president of the SBC International Mission Board.

  • Are you worthy of Jesus?

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Outsourcing the church's job to the state

Gary North reminds the church that we cannot beat something with nothing:
What has been Christianity's solution to the need for education? It has been to promote tax-funded education. In other words, Christianity has simply deferred to the state, and the result has been anti-Christian education. Today, pastors do not preach from the pulpit against the public schools. They know better. They would lose too many of their congregations members. There are more Baptists teaching in public schools than there are Baptists teaching in Christian schools. In the 1960s, a series of Supreme Court rulings separated Christianity from state education. This did not lead to an exodus from the public schools by Christians.

Christians do not want to write the checks. It's as simple as that.

The solution offered by modern churches to members who are in financial difficulty is to send them to some government welfare agency.

The churches have defaulted, and they have not given guidance to members who might otherwise start charitable organizations. Then the leadership of the churches wail on the sidelines of life, complaining that the world doesn't pay any attention to the church. This has been going on in Protestant circles for about 300 years. Pastors complained about the Washingtonians in the 1840's. They also complained about the Second Great Awakening in the 1840's, just as their predecessors complained about the First Great Awakening in the 1740's. They don't want competition, but they don't want to write the checks. And so it goes.

You can't beat something with nothing. If someone else is doing something positive, and the church has nothing to match it, the church's task is not to criticize whatever is being done. Its task is to get busy. This takes vision. It takes a strategy. It takes money. It takes dedication and leadership.

It is easier to point the finger and complain.
Isn't it about time we put our money where our mouth is?

Friday, August 22, 2014

This Week in Calvinism - August 22, 2014

  • Jeremy Myers has kindly provided a list of links to his blog posts against Calvinism. They will eventually be compiled into a new book titled The Words of Calvinism and the Word of God.

  • SBC Today has posted the sixth and final part of a sermon from Adrian Rogers on Calvinism. (Follow the link to read parts one through five.)

  • Doug Wilson responds to Thomas Umstattd's article "Why Courtship is Fundamentally Flawed."

  • Apparently, Arminians don't really pray like Calvinists. For example, when they pray for God to save someone, they "mean something like, 'Take action to lead them resistibly and willingly to believe in Jesus,' which would include any number of actions God might take." Sorry, but I cannot imagine praying with the intention that God be careful not to violate someone's free will.

  • What gospel tracts do you use?

Friday, August 15, 2014

This Week in Calvinism - August 15, 2014

  • Bobby Grow sums up how he, as an evangelical Calvinist, can attend a Calvary Chapel church: a belief in universal atonement.

  • Roger Olson admits that God is in control of man's sinful actions: "How are sins 'accomplished by God' according to his consequent will? No creature is totally autonomous of God; no creature can act without God's permission and even aid." And yet only Calvinism makes God into a "moral monster."

  • Olson does assert God's sovereignty, "However, once God decided to created the world (I realize that language is philosophically problematic but it is biblically faithful nonetheless) he voluntarily became dependent on the world for some parts of his life experience."

  • Peter Lumpkins is back to slamming James White.

  • Tim Challies invites you to join him in reading Overcoming Sin and Temptation, a slightly modernized version of John Owen's The Mortification of Sin.

  • Those Dutch Calvinists were responsible for apartheid. And apparently even Jesus himself was racist.

  • Trevin Wax reflects on the the Gospel Project Panel: Soteriology and the Mission of God.

  • Evangelistic Calvinism: the doctrines of grace in the sermons of George Whitefield.

Friday, August 08, 2014

This Week in Calvinism - August 8, 2014

  • Calvinism dishonors Christ's Sacrifice?

  • Peter Lumpkins recalls a parable he read concerning the insincerity of the gospel call in Calvinism. Like all such parables, it fails to grasp an understanding of what Calvinism actually teaches.

  • 21st Century Reformation has posted a lecture by J. Dan Gill that seeks to answer the question, "Why Doesn't Calvinism Sound Like Jesus?"

  • A little too expensive and dry for my taste, but Bloomsbury Publishing has a new book coming out titled Neo-Calvinism and the French Revolution. You can plan on paying just under $100. The ebook version is about $10 more.

  • Tim Challies provides a list of ebooks ranging from free to $7.99. Now that's more like it!

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Ann Coulter is annoyed by the "narcissism" of "idiotic" Christian missionaries

The funny thing about the internet is that it doesn't forget. Once you say something, it's out there. Forever. Someone should have reminded Ann Coulter of that fact before she attacked Dr. Kent Brantly of Samaritan's Purse.

In her latest column, Coulter criticized Dr. Brantly for traveling all the way to Africa to serve while ignoring all the problems here at home:
Can't anyone serve Christ in America anymore?

No—because we're doing just fine. America, the most powerful, influential nation on Earth, is merely in a pitched battle for its soul.

About 15,000 people are murdered in the U.S. every year. More than 38,000 die of drug overdoses, half of them from prescription drugs. More than 40 percent of babies are born out of wedlock. Despite the runaway success of "midnight basketball," a healthy chunk of those children go on to murder other children, rape grandmothers, bury little girls alive—and then eat a sandwich. A power-mad president has thrown approximately 10 percent of all Americans off their health insurance—the rest of you to come! All our elite cultural institutions laugh at virginity and celebrate promiscuity.

So no, there's nothing for a Christian to do here.

If Dr. Brantly had practiced at Cedars-Sinai hospital in Los Angeles and turned one single Hollywood power-broker to Christ, he would have done more good for the entire world than anything he could accomplish in a century spent in Liberia. Ebola kills only the body; the virus of spiritual bankruptcy and moral decadence spread by so many Hollywood movies infects the world.

If he had provided health care for the uninsured editors, writers, videographers and pundits in Gotham and managed to open one set of eyes, he would have done more good than marinating himself in medieval diseases of the Third World.
Classy as always, Ms. Coulter.

She goes on to grumble about Dr. Brantly's apparent lack of patriotism:
America is the most consequential nation on Earth, and in desperate need of God at the moment. If America falls, it will be a thousand years of darkness for the entire planet.

Not only that, but it's our country. Your country is like your family. We're supposed to take care of our own first. The same Bible that commands us to "go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel" also says: "For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, 'You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.'"
Coulter concludes her tirade by accusing Dr. Brantly and others like him of "Christian narcissism." It seems she thinks about as highly of Christians missionaries as she does liberals and immigrants.

Three thoughts immediately spring to mind upon reading her article. First, it seems to me that a doctor who believes he is called to help people afflicted with diseases like Ebola might actually desire to travel to places that have people afflicted with diseases like Ebola. Call it an educated guess.

Secondly, Ann Coulter is not writing from a Christian perspective. She may claim to be a Christian, but she certainly isn't drawing from scripture. For her, America is God's chosen nation, and nationalism is her religion. That's probably why she thinks it's a good idea for America to invade other countries, "kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity"—or at least her version of it.

Thirdly, everything Coulter said about this doctor could be said of every soldier sent overseas to kill and die in the name of freedom. Really, is there a more worshiped image in this country than a man or woman in uniform? But you won't hear that kind of talk from her. It's much easier to hang on to one's conservative credentials by attacking Christian missionaries.

Sadly, Ann Coulter's writings are now a permanent fixture of the internet. However, it is encouraging to remember that her views will one day be scraped into the dustbin of historical irrelevancy along with those of other nationalist jingoists like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Bill O'Reilly.

Friday, August 01, 2014

This Week in Calvinism - August 1, 2014

  • Kind of a "one stop shop" for anti-Calvinists. Be sure to check back often for updated information!

  • WORLD Magazine reviews the book To the Ends of the Earth by Michael A.G. Haykin and C. Jeffrey Robinson Sr.

  • Roger Olson once again sounds the alarm on stealth Calvinism.

  • In a follow-up comment, Olson says he disagrees "that being an open theist is any indicator of a low view of Scripture."

  • Joshua Porter shares ten things he wishes every Calvinist understood.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

20 free ebooks from R. C. Sproul

Last year, Ligonier Ministries made the ebook editions of R. C. Sproul's Crucial Questions series free. There are currently 20 titles available for download. Check them out here.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Mission accomplished: Ridding Iraq of Christianity

I was always baffled by the overwhelming support evangelical Christians gave to our government's invasion of Iraq in 2003. Just over a decade later, Christianity appears to be dying out in that country:
The vicar of the only Anglican church in Iraq has warned the end for Christians in the country appears "very near" as he appealed for help after a deadline set by Islamic militants to convert or be killed expired.

Canon Andrew White, dubbed "the bishop of Baghdad" for his work at St George's church in the capital, spoke after the ultimatum handed to Christians in the northern city of Mosul by the Islamic State of Iraq Levant (Isis) to convert, pay a tax or be put to death passed last week.

For those Christians who did not comply with the decree by 19 July, Isis warned that "there is nothing to give them but the sword.” Many have since fled their homes and Rev. Andrew-White told BBC Radio 4 Today desperate Christians were trapped in the desert or on the streets with nowhere to go.

"Things are so desperate, our people are disappearing," he said. "We have had people massacred, their heads chopped off.

"Are we seeing the end of Christianity? We are committed come what may, we will keep going to the end, but it looks as though the end could be very near."

The "war on terror" has been a dismal failure. In the name of "fighting for our freedom," our nation's armed forces have seen to it that the Middle East is a safe haven for radical Islam. Given that history, why do Christians continue to sign up for military service?

Friday, July 25, 2014

This Week in Calvinism - July 25, 2014

  • In a series of blog posts, Jeremy Myers hopes "to show that while I am not a Calvinist, I stand fully within the Reformation emphases of grace, faith, Jesus Christ, Scripture, and the glory of God."

  • Is Arminianism the dominant theology in the Western church?

  • One Arminian's story of leaving Calvinism and pursuing truth.

  • Dominic Bnonn addresses the "unfairness" of election.

  • He then moves on to discuss double predestination.

  • This brief chart compares Calvinism (or many Southern Baptists' perception of Calvinism) with SBC traditionalism.

  • James White dissects the chart in the latest edition of his podcast.


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