Friday, August 31, 2007

This Week in Calvinism - August 31, 2007

  • Exactly how does the doctrine of total depravity help your marriage? David Wayne, who has been married for 20 years, explains.

  • Steven Melvin McCalip has written an essay that draws a parallel between Calvinists who believe God elects certain people unto salvation and Jews who believed that no Gentile could be saved. Believe me, it makes even less sense after reading it. But, really, what would make sense coming from a King James Only Trinity-denier?

  • The Calvinism debate that never was.

  • Sean Babu warns his readers: "Beware of any theology that has difficulty with John 3:16 and any book that requires many pages to explain what it 'really means.'" First of all, no Calvinist I know has difficulty with John 3:16. Secondly, its meaning can be summed up in a single sentence (courtesy of Phil Johnson): "By redeeming a remnant, Christ saves humanity from utter destruction." Get it? Got it? Good!

  • Matt Paulson and Kelly Powers discuss the question "Does regeneration precede belief in Jesus?" I was surprised to see that Matt (the Calvinist) doesn't think so. After all, we read in scripture that God's people must receive a divine heart transplant in order to be able to obey God (Ezekiel 11:19-20). The Bible also teaches that man is dead in trespasses and sin (Ephesians 2:1). How can a dead man believe? In the Calvinist view of ordo salutis, regeneration most certainly precedes belief.

  • Here's irony for you. Last week, Michael McDowell shared a sermon he preached on eternal security, in which he declared, "Salvation is a gift, by grace, and through faith. It is not of works, so in this case it is impossible to earn it yourself, and also to lose it yourself." But next month he intends to "take on the heresy of Calvinism." Calvinism, as you all know, is a doctrine which teaches that salvation is a gift, by grace, and through faith. It is not of works, so in this case it is impossible to earn it yourself, and also to lose it yourself.

  • "CanJAmerican" J. Brian McKillop reflects on the historical importance of Calvinism in his own life as well as in the life of the church.

  • Spurgeon on Calvinism and brainwashing.
  • Thursday, August 30, 2007

    Denying God's Sovereignty

    You may have already seen John Piper's biblical and well-reasoned thoughts on the collapse of the I-35W bridge in Minneapolis:
      We prayed during our family devotions. Talitha (11 years old) and Noel and I prayed earnestly for the families affected by the calamity and for the others in our city. Talitha prayed "Please don't let anyone blame God for this but give thanks that they were saved." When I sat on her bed and tucked her in and blessed her and sang over her a few minutes ago, I said, "You know, Talitha, that was a good prayer, because when people 'blame' God for something, they are angry with him, and they are saying that he has done something wrong. That's what 'blame' means: accuse somebody of wrongdoing. But you and I know that God did not do anything wrong. God always does what is wise. And you and I know that God could have held up that bridge with one hand." Talitha said, "With his pinky." "Yes," I said, "with his pinky. Which means that God had a purpose for not holding up that bridge, knowing all that would happen, and he is infinitely wise in all that he wills." ... ... The word "bridge" does not occur in the Bible. There may be two reasons. One is that God doesn't build bridges, he divides seas. The other is that usually his people must pass through the deadly currents of suffering and death, not simply ride over them. "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you" (Isaiah 43:2). They may drown you. But I will be with you in life and death.
    Unfortunately, that kind of confidence in the sovereignty of God doesn't sit well with some. Dr. Roger Olson, professor of theology at George W. Truett Theological Seminary, had a rather terse response:
      A well-known Christian author and speaker pastors a church within a mile of the collapsed bridge. To him and his followers, God foreordained, planned and indirectly (if not directly) caused the event. A popular Christian band sings "There is a reason" for everything. They mean God renders everything certain and has a good purpose for whatever happens. The pastor and the band are Christian determinists. Both happen to adhere to a form of Protestant theology called Calvinism. This theology is sweeping up thousands of impressionable young Christians. It provides a seemingly simple answer to the problem of evil. Even what we call evil is planned and rendered certain by God because it is necessary for a greater good.
    At least I can give him credit for seeing the truth, even though he denies it. He continued:
      What if God is in charge but not in control? What if God wishes that things could be otherwise and someday will make all things perfect? That seems more like the God of the Bible than the all-determining deity of Calvinism. In this world, because of our ignorance and sinfulness, really bad things sometimes happen and people do really evil and wicked things. Not because God secretly plans and prods them, but because God has said to fallen, sinful people, "OK, not my will then, but thine be done -- for now."
    It was interesting to note that he failed to come up with a single scripture verse to back up his outrageous claims. Dr. Olson concluded:
      The God of Calvinism scares me; I'm not sure how to distinguish him from the devil. If you've come under the influence of Calvinism, think about its ramifications for the character of God. God is great but also good. In light of all the evil and innocent suffering in the world, he must have limited himself.
    To say that God "limited himself" is to say that he isn't concerned with his own glory. Couldn't that be considered heresy?

    Pardon me for asking, Dr. Olson, but when was the last time you actually read the Bible? In case it's been awhile, allow me to suggest a few passages that deal with God's sovereign control over his creation: Genesis 1:1, Genesis 50:20, Exodus 4:11, 1 Samuel 2:6-7, 2 Samuel 12:15, Job 2:10, Job 5:10, Psalm 37:23, Psalm 115:3, Proverbs 16:4, Proverbs 16:33, Proverbs 20:24, Isaiah 13:11, Isaiah 46:10, Jeremiah 14:22, Daniel 2:21, Amos 3:6, Matthew 10:29, John 3:27, Acts 4:27-28, Romans 8:28, Romans 9:14-16, Ephesians 1:11, Philippians 1:29, Colossians 1:16-17, James 4:14-15, and 1 Peter 4:19.

    Anyone choosing to believe that we live in a sinful, fallen, depraved world over which God has no control is the ultimate determinist. Think about it. If God is not in control now, and if everything that happens is not part of his ultimate plan, then what possible hope can there be for the future?

    Yet they will continue to say that we Calvinists are the ones out of line with scripture. Go figure.

    Friday, August 24, 2007

    This Week in Calvinism - August 24, 2007

  • "What Calvinism accomplished was to fulfill the psychic needs of both upwardly mobile middle class entrepreneurs and alienated workers. Middle class businessmen (and they were men) could ascribe their economic success to their spiritual superiority." This is one of the points Jason Miller makes in his perplexing treatise entitled "Calvinism, Capitalism, Conversion, and Incarceration."

  • Ellis Murphree compares what he calls "Convinced Calvisnism" and "Reactionary Calvinism," and is "somewhat suspicious of the Calvinism that has become so 'faddish' amongst the younger ranks in Fundamentalism today." I think he's right. Many Calvinists seem to treat this precious doctrine merely as an intellectual exercise, using it to belittle others in an attempt to stroke their own fragile egos. May we heed the words of the Apostle Paul: "But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world" (Galatians 6:14).

  • One Arminian admits, "The doctrine of prevenient grace is now a bit confusing to me. Am I understanding correctly that the grace which precedes faith and regeneration is an 'awakening' grace? If so, then I cannot remain an Arminian. To 'awaken' a dead spirit is to regenerate a dead spirit; and if a spirit needs regenerating before he can believe on Christ, then the Calvinists are correct."

  • What can the church learn from Calvin and Hobbes? Plenty.

  • If there's anything more annoying than an ungracious Calvinist, it's a disgruntled ex-Calvinist who spews lies like this: "Predestination theory was around before John Calvin because some people wanted to attribute an interpreted sense to Paul's letters. Being barbarians of the day, they decided that God was really evil instead of good, and that God must condemn some people for no reason at all."

  • Oh, in case you haven't figured it out yet, Calvinism is a "blasphemous heresy." Just thought you'd like to know.

  • The Seeking Disciple says, "Arminians should be willing to come to the Bible and be willing to examine all of it, from Genesis to Revelation, even where it seems to contradict what we believe." There's just one problem: the more one studies the bible, the more one is at risk of becoming a Calvinist!

  • This video provides a brief summation of Calvinist beliefs.
  • Monday, August 20, 2007

    Scientists Close to "Creating" Life

    I'm not exactly sure what they hope to prove, but a small group of scientists appear to be very close to creating life "from scratch." According to a recent AP article, we can "expect an announcement within three to 10 years from someone in the now little-known field of 'wet artificial life.'"

    Mark Bedau, chief operating officer of ProtoLife of Venice, Italy, said, "Creating protocells has the potential to shed new light on our place in the universe. This will remove one of the few fundamental mysteries about creation in the universe and our role." Uh, yeah. Sure it will.

    Exactly how will this "artificial" life be created? With the basic chemicals in DNA, of course.

    Wait. You didn't think they were actually going to "create" life, did you? That's absurd! All true "scientists" will tell you that life can't be created; it can only evolve from what already existed.

    Now, don't start asking where the stuff that already existed came from. Science means only dealing with what you can actually observe -- you know, like billions of years of evolution turning a primordial gumbo into the complex, blog-reading blob of organic tissue that is you. Speculating or theorizing based on actual evidence is something only religious crackpots do.

    At any rate, here's what we can look forward to in the near future:
      One of the leaders in the field, Jack Szostak at Harvard Medical School, predicts that within the next six months, scientists will report evidence that the first step -- creating a cell membrane -- is "not a big problem." Scientists are using fatty acids in that effort.

      Szostak is also optimistic about the next step—getting nucleotides, the building blocks of DNA, to form a working genetic system.

      His idea is that once the container is made, if scientists add nucleotides in the right proportions, then Darwinian evolution could simply take over.

      "We aren't smart enough to design things, we just let evolution do the hard work and then we figure out what happened," Szostak said.
    "Hard work"? Seems to me that these scientists are doing the hardest part: putting the building blocks of life together in the first place, something Darwinian evolution could never do.

    Now, when scientists are able to simply speak something into existence -- that is, without cheating by using something that has already been created -- then that might be newsworthy. In the meantime, I'm a little more concerned about the "artificial" life in my refrigerator.

    Friday, August 17, 2007

    "Choose This Day Whom You Will Serve..."

    If the government were to declare martial law, they may try to seek a little help from above. From KSLA TV:
      Could martial law ever become a reality in America? Some fear any nuclear, biological or chemical attack on U.S. soil might trigger just that. KSLA News 12 has discovered that the clergy would help the government with potentially their biggest problem: Us. ...

      ... If martial law were enacted here at home, like depicted in the movie The Siege, easing public fears and quelling dissent would be critical. And that's exactly what the "Clergy Response Team" helped accomplish in the wake of Katrina.

      Dr. Durell Tuberville serves as chaplain for the Shreveport Fire Department and the Caddo Sheriff's Office. Tuberville said of the clergy team's mission, "the primary thing that we say to anybody is, 'let's cooperate and get this thing over with and then we'll settle the differences once the crisis is over.'"

      Such clergy response teams would walk a tight-rope during martial law between the demands of the government on the one side, versus the wishes of the public on the other. "In a lot of cases, these clergy would already be known in the neighborhoods in which they're helping to diffuse that situation," assured Sandy Davis. He serves as the director of the Caddo-Bossier Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.
    There's a fine line between trying to keep people calm and actually aiding and abetting enemies of the Constitution (which, by the way, is the proper Romans 13 "governing authority" in this country). My concern is that most clergy in America today wouldn't be able to tell the difference.

    This Week in Calvinism - August 17, 2007

  • Why is Calvinism resurging in the U.S.? Jack Brooks believes it has a lot to do with Americans losing their faith in free will.

  • A side-by-side comparison of Arminianism and Calvinism.

  • Mark Dever has completed his 10-part series answering the question "Where'd all these Calvinists come from?"

  • Cathi-Lyn notes that those who seek to exercise dominion over every sphere of life "seem to have forgotten that human nature -- and, arguably, the devil himself, if you take a Christian worldview -- have not left the building." There are other problems associated with this theocratic/theonomic mindset, and I hope to expand on those in a future post. Rest assured, Cathi-Lyn, not all Calvinists think that way!

  • This blog presents a rock-solid argument against the doctrine of particular atonement by quoting a writer who thinks it was more than just an "arbitrary act" and justifies his reasoning with phrases like "what I feel is..." Remember: straw man arguments and feelings always trump scripture.

  • Heidi rejects "the hybrid 'Armin-alvin' who claims that they chose Jesus under their own power, but have the nerve to say they are eternally secure in that."

  • Dear Don: "Calvinism Is the Gospel."

  • And don't forget the big Paedo vs. Credo baptism debate this Sunday night between Paul Manata and Gene Cook Jr. You can listen to the official debate promo here.
  • Wednesday, August 15, 2007

    Following up on Jabez's Prayer

    This just in from Tominthebox News Network:
      Millions of Christians across America are eagerly awaiting the next expected best-seller by Christian Author Bruce Wilkinson. Wilkinson, most well known for his Prayer of Jabez that hit the Christian book world by storm, has undertaken to write yet another "small" book that seeks to draw meaning and purpose out of what many consider to be an "obscure" portion of Scripture.

      "I was meditating by my window one morning" stated Wilkinson during and interview, "and I was looking out of my kitchen window at two birds playing in a birdbath. I looked down at my Bible and this verse just jumped out at me, 1 Chronicles 26:18. In the King James it reads, 'At Parbar westward, four at the causeway, and two at Parbar.' I stopped and just closed my eyes for a moment. I felt like I was being told something here, something profound. I was having an epiphany of sorts. It was as if someone said to me 'Bruce, think on this verse.' And so I did, and I've put those thoughts on paper."

      After Wilkinson's "epiphany" he immediately began to devote his time to discovering the "secrets of this obscure verse."
    Perhaps this book will instruct us how to properly use the obscure, confusing verses in scripture to interpret the clear, concise ones. You know, the kind of hermeneutic approach that gave us Arminianism and Dispensationalism.

    Friday, August 10, 2007

    This Week in Calvinism - August 10, 2007

  • John Moneypenny writes that Christians fall into one of three camps: Calvinism, Arminianism, or Universalism. Where does John stand? Hint: his God is the one who "has the power, the ability, and the desire to save all mankind and will do so." And his web site, "Gospel" for Today Ministries, will try to convince you that even though God was powerless to prevent sin from entering into the world, he has the power to save you from it. Sorry, but I'll stick with true, biblical Christianity. I figure if I'm wrong, then there's no harm done because God is going to save me anyway.

  • Here is an interesting, albeit short, debate on Calvinism between SBC theologians Dr. Danny Akin and Dr. Mark Coppenger.

  • Does Romans 5 destroy Calvinism? No, but that doesn't stop this Berean from using it to attack the doctrines of unconditional election and limited atonement. Perhaps a better question would be "Does Romans 9 destroy Romans 5?"

  • Timmy Brister alerts us to several articles written by James Leo Garrett for The Alabama Baptist designed to give people a better "understanding" of Calvinism. He responds to these articles here, here, here, and here.

  • This Arminian demonstrates clearly the problem with Arminianism: man is ultimately in control of his own salvation. The implication is that God isn't strong enough to draw people unto himself (i.e., the creature can resist the Creator), and he can't keep them once they decide to let God save them (i.e., they can later choose to be unsaved). And yet people continue to think that Calvinists are the ones guilty of mischaracterizing God.

  • John MacArthur answers the question "Is the doctrine of election unfair?"

  • David Lemmons has posted an article by Adam B. Cozort that lists three reasons why so many people believe in Calvinism: 1) It denies personal responsibility, 2) It leaves God holding the bag, and 3) It gives a false sense of security. And here I always thought that 1) It highlights the sovereignty of God, 2) It gives God all the glory, and 3) It teaches that God is true to his word. Boy, do I feel like a sucker.

  • Phil Johnson of Pyromaniacs fame sums up exactly what it means when Christ is said to be "Savior of the world": "By redeeming a remnant, Christ saves humanity from utter destruction." Simple. So you see, John 3:16 poses no problem for the Calvinist.

  • Mark Dever wraps up his 10-part series, "Where'd All These Calvinists Come From?"

  • Although this is a Calvinist site, I like to throw in something every now and then for our Arminian readers. For example, the hauntingly disturbing rendition of "I Give You Freedom." Now, for your synergistic listening pleasure, here's a barbershop quartet singing a song that also fits quite well into the Arminian theological framework: the Ewok celebration song from Return of the Jedi...
  • Tuesday, August 07, 2007

    Worldview Wrestling Entertainment

    This past Sunday evening, about 200 people gathered in Murrieta California to witness the debate between Pastor Gene Cook Jr. and evangelical-turned-atheist Steve Scianni. At issue: "Is the Atheistic Worldview Superior to Christianity?"

    You can listen to it on Gene's blog here.

    Friday, August 03, 2007

    This Week in Calvinism - August 3, 2007

  • John Calvin was a lost man. Amen? There's no way he could possibly have been a believer. Amen? The teaching of Calvinism is straight out of the pit of hell. Amen? So says Scott, a YouTuber who has posted this "simple refutation of some false doctrines espoused by those infected with this dread theological and spiritual disease" (Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3). Normally, you would expect a clear, concise refutation of such a devastating false teaching with scripture. But it's much easier to just rattle off a couple of verses and ignore entire chapters like, say, Romans 9.

  • Rose's reasonings about Calvinism have sparked a lively debate on her blog.

  • Mike "The Expositor" Corley shares some comments he received following his decision to leave the Southern Baptist Convention.

  • His swatter remains unblemished, but the nice thing about the "Calvinist Fly Swatter" is that his aimless flailing provides a nice, cool breeze on a hot day.

  • Tom Ascol, an "un-swatted" Calvinist, gives an update on the Amazing Grace over Florida project.

  • Gordan of "The Reformed Mafia" takes aim at David Cloud's latest article, "Calvin's Camels."

  • Hank Imler wraps up his five-part series on answering objections to Calvinism.

  • You don't need scripture to convince people that Calvinism is a sin. You just need to employ the standard argument that Calvinism reduces men to robots (as opposed to lumps of clay molded by a potter, which is the illustration Paul uses in Romans 9). But equating Calvinism with Pelagianism? That's a new one.

  • John Calvin believed in free will. Actually, all Calvinists do.

  • Contrary to popular belief, Calvinism has nothing to do with fatalism.

  • Nathan White reflects on his recent discussion with a non-Calvinist.

  • Just announced: "Calvinism, a frequent topic within the Southern Baptist Convention and beyond, will be the theme of a Nov. 26-28 conference sponsored by Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and Founders Ministries."
  • Thursday, August 02, 2007

    God's Sovereignty over Collapsing Bridges

    John Piper shares his thoughts on the collapse of the I-35W bridge in Minneapolis:
      All of us have sinned against God, not just against man. This is an outrage ten thousand times worse than the collapse of the 35W bridge. That any human is breathing at this minute on this planet is sheer mercy from God. God makes the sun rise and the rain fall on those who do not treasure him above all else. He causes the heart to beat and the lungs to work for millions of people who deserve his wrath. This is a view of reality that desperately needs to be taught in our churches, so that we are prepared for the calamities of the world.

      The meaning of the collapse of this bridge is that John Piper is a sinner and should repent or forfeit his life forever. That means I should turn from the silly preoccupations of my life and focus my mind's attention and my heart's affection on God and embrace Jesus Christ as my only hope for the forgiveness of my sins and for the hope of eternal life. That is God's message in the collapse of this bridge. That is his most merciful message: there is still time to turn from sin and unbelief and destruction for those of us who live. If we could see the eternal calamity from which he is offering escape we would hear this as the most precious message in the world.
    You can read the full article here.
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