Friday, September 19, 2014

This Week in Calvinism - September 19, 2014

  • Many people like to avoid the Calvinist or Arminian label by claiming to be Biblicist. However, according to Mark Snoeberger, "'None of the above' is not a valid answer." He believes the issue comes down to one question: "Do believers play any independent role in their own regeneration?"

  • Roger Olson poses a question to Calvinists.

  • Ken Chitwood writes that while religion once played a larger role in Scottish history, "it has faded into the background in an overtly secular Scotland and generally areligious United Kingdom."

  • Is the decline in membership among Baptists due to uncivil conduct over issues like Calvinism?

  • Michael Brown debates Brian Zahnd on the nature of the atonement.

  • Tim Challies on the app that revitalized his prayer life.

Monday, September 15, 2014

"Joel Osteen is a friend to sinners"

Phil Munsey, head of Joel Osteen's Champion's Network, has written a completely unbiased article on America's favorite preacher:
When Jesus was in the homes of the gluttonous and wine-bibbers, Jesus appeared comfortable, and so did the sinners. I'm sure the disciples felt betrayed, confused, angry and maybe a bit envious. Why was Jesus spending time with those people?

Like the disciples, we as Christians may feel betrayed—left out. And with a culture that has seemingly rejected our faith and oftentimes mocked and misrepresented it through the media, it's easy to be disillusioned. Why would Joel and that grin of his be with "those" people? Why? Because Joel is a friend to sinners too.

Joel is an invited guest to our neighbor's home, to the person we do business with, to our families and friends—all of whom watch and are positively influenced by his ministry. My goodness, even our president watches!

I believe history will record the past 14 years of Joel's ministry and influence as one of the most effective pastor/evangelist of our time. And his compassionate passion for people indicates to me that his best efforts are yet to come!

Can I encourage us to begin to believe the best in and for each other? To especially pray and protect the gifts of Joel and Victoria? God has given them to represent and reach an increasingly number of unchurched, de-churched and unbelieving in our world. To be a friend of sinners should be a claim no one should be ashamed of!
It seems we've had Brother Joel all wrong.

Friday, September 12, 2014

This Week in Calvinism - September 12, 2014

  • Now it makes sense. Faithful Word Baptist Church, starring the anti-Calvinist Steven Anderson, is nothing more than a low-budget reality TV series. I mean, why else would it have its very own page on IMDb?

  • Dr. Christopher Cone is neither a Calvinist nor an Arminian.

  • Joel McDurmon discusses "Calvin's great error on biblical law."

  • James White begins critiquing the recent Montgomery/Jones vs. Zahnd/Fischer debate on Calvinism.

  • Charismatics fire back at John MacArthur and other cessationaists.

  • A history of Hell in America. Man, those dour Calvinists sure loved preaching about damnation, didn't they?

Thursday, September 11, 2014

When speaking to Middle Eastern Christians, try not to force Israel down their throats

That's a lesson one politician learned the hard way:
Sen. Ted Cruz was booed offstage at a conference for Middle Eastern Christians Wednesday night after saying that "Christians have no greater ally than Israel."

Cruz, the keynote speaker at the sold-out D.C. dinner gala for the recently-founded non-profit In Defense of Christians, began by saying that "tonight, we are all united in defense of Christians. Tonight, we are all united in defense of Jews. Tonight, we are all united in defense of people of good faith, who are standing together against those who would persecute and murder those who dare disagree with their religious teachings."
He didn't stop there, of course:
"Those who hate Israel hate America," he continued, as the boos and calls for him to leave the stage got louder. "Those who hate Jews hate Christians. If those in this room will not recognize that, then my heart weeps. If you hate the Jewish people you are not reflecting the teachings of Christ. And the very same people who persecute and murder Christians right now, who crucify Christians, who behead children, are the very same people who target Jews for their faith, for the same reason."

The cries of "stop it, stop it, enough," and booing continued. "Out, out, leave the stage!" At this point IDC's president, Toufic Baaklini, came out to the stage to ask for the crowd to listen to Cruz, but Cruz had already had enough.

"If you will not stand with Israel and the Jews," he said. "Then I will not stand with you. Good night, and God bless." And with that, he walked off the stage.
So, disagreeing with Israeli military action and foreign policy amounts to hating the Jews? Way to stay classy, Ted.

Friday, September 05, 2014

This Week in Calvinism - September 5, 2014

  • T. C. Moore reacts to the recent Calvinism debate between Daniel Montgomery and Timothy Paul Jones, and Brian Zahnd and Austin Fischer:
    Montgomery and Jones should march back to their alma mater and demand every cent they spent on their M.Div. and Ph.D. respectively. There is no justification for how they can be trained in biblical interpretation and yet remain this misguided outside of gross educational negligence or intentional indoctrination.

  • Pastor Jeff Weddle's analysis of the debate was even more colorful:
    So based on breathing styles, the non-Calvinists won the debate hands down. I would love to sit down and chat with Austin Fischer.

    Calvinists–we already detest your theology and your notion of God, try not to further detest us by dropping into breathy speech patterns. Not winning ya any points.

  • Roger Olson thought the debate was "a model of how such disagreements among evangelicals should be handled–no ridicule or caricaturing or misrepresenting of others’ views but only serious, irenic engagement of ideas."

  • John Piper discusses how to find strength in the strength of God.

  • Deviant Calvinism.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

The cross displays God's hatred of sin

From The Course of Faith, or the Practical Believer Delineated, by John Angell James:
The death of Christ, apprehended by faith, presents the strongest motives to holiness—by setting forth in the most vivid and striking manner, the holiness and justice of God, and his determination to punish transgression; the immutable authority of the Divine law; the evil nature of sin; and the fearfulness of falling into the hands of the living God. Not all the judgments God ever inflicted—nor all the threatenings he ever denounced, give such an impressive warning against sin, and admonition to righteousness—as the death of Christ. The torments of the bottomless pit are not so dreadful a demonstration of God's hatred of sin as the agonies of the cross.
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Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Mohler: "America deserves the Osteens"

Albert Mohler on Joel and Victoria Osteen:
America deserves the Osteens. The consumer culture, the cult of the therapeutic, the marketing impulse, and the sheer superficiality of American cultural Christianity probably made the Osteens inevitable. The Osteens are phenomenally successful because they are the exaggerated fulfillment of the self-help movement and the cult of celebrity rolled into one massive mega-church media empire. And, to cap it all off, they give Americans what Americans crave — reassurance delivered with a smile.
However...
Mere happiness cannot bear the weight of the Gospel. The message of the real Gospel is found in John 3:16: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." That is a message that can be preached with a straight face, a courageous spirit, and an urgent heart in Munich, in Miami, or in Mosul.

If our message cannot be preached with credibility in Mosul, it should not be preached in Houston. That is the Osteen Predicament.

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?

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