Friday, September 28, 2007

This Week in Calvinism - September 28, 2007

  • Phil Johnson talks about the different gospels of John MacArthur and Doug Pagitt. The post sparked a lengthy discussion in the comments section.

  • Grant Swank thinks Britney Spears disproves the biblical teaching of eternal security. Naturally, he's assuming she was once a true follower of Christ. He might want to try actually reading the verses he offers as support of his position (in context, of course) and then take a look at John 5:24, John 10:28-29, Romans 6:8, 1Corinthians 1:8, Ephesians 1:13-14, Philippians 1:6, 1John 2:19, 1 John 3:9-10, 1John 5:4, and any number of other passages that explicitly deal with the security of the believer. Call me crazy, but I happen to believe that God's will is more powerful than man's.

  • Postmodernism and Calvinism clash like plaid shorts and argyle socks.

  • If your ignorance of history leads you to say that John Calvin "murdered a man simply because this man disagreed with his religious beliefs," then you might share Isaac Hulke's conclusion that Calvin is no different from a suicide bomber who kills "in the name of God and religion" and that Calvinists are "psychotic" and "deceived." I guess this means we should throw out everything Paul wrote in the New Testament since he admitted to killing an untold number of people for disagreeing with his religious beliefs (Galatians 1:13).

  • The Expositor presents a small list of those who have championed Calvinism throughout the years. It starts, of course, with J.C. (No, not that J.C. -- although he was, is, and will continue to be the reigning champion of Calvinism!)

  • What Christian apologists do agree on: that believers should always be "prepared to make a defense" (1 Peter 3:15). What Christian apologists don't agree on: the apologetic method one should use to make that defense. We know from scripture that the case for God can be made from what is seen and known (Romans 1:20), and that is the approach of the classical or evidential apologist. But we also know that some people are so blind to the truth that even the most profound evidence won't convince them (Luke 16:31), and that is why some prefer presuppositional apologetics. Nathaniel Darnell outlines a debate between two respected apologists: R.C. Sproul (classical) and Greg Bahnsen (presuppositional).
  • Sunday, September 23, 2007

    Tiptoeing through the TULIPs - Part 1: Total Depravity

    Just mentioning the term "Calvinism" is enough to stir up controversy. It is seen by many as a cruel and unforgiving philosophy, and trying to have a reasoned discussion about it usually means having to navigate a theological minefield. It is, however, an important discussion, and we should not shy away from it.

    What makes it so important? Charles Spurgeon once said, "I have my own opinion that there is no such thing as preaching Christ and him crucified, unless we preach what nowadays is called Calvinism. It is a nickname to call it Calvinism; Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else."

    This is not to say that one must be converted to Calvinism and have an in-depth understanding of the doctrines of grace in order to be saved. No true Calvinist would ever say that. But I do believe that studying these doctrines as they are taught in scripture is an important part of spiritual growth.

    These doctrines are so interconnected that I think it's impossible to deny one without undermining all the rest. I believe these doctrines are biblically sound and can greatly affect all aspects of our lives: how we view God, how we see ourselves, how we treat others, how we worship, how we evangelize, and so on. What's more, they serve to glorify God -- and that is our ultimate goal.

    Countless theologians over the years have explained, illustrated, discussed, and debated the five main pillars of Calvinism: total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace, and perseverance of the saints, otherwise known as "TULIP." Needless to say, what I am about to present here is nothing new. What I do hope to accomplish in this series of posts is to present you with my own personal understanding of these concepts as well as how they affect our lives as believers.

    Total Depravity
    Human beings were created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). But what had been declared good became marred by sin with the fall of Adam and Eve. Because Adam was the representative of all mankind, every person since then has been born into sin (Romans 5:12, 1st Corinthians 15:22).

    While this does not mean that all people are as evil as they could possibly be, it does mean that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). The Apostle Paul reminds us that we, in our rebellious state, are completely incapable of pleasing God: "As it is written: 'None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.'" (Romans 3:10-12). He expands on that in Ephesians 2:1-4, saying that even we believers were once "dead" in trespasses and sin, and that we "were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind."

    I believe the concept of total depravity correctly and biblically conveys the state in which we all find ourselves. No matter what we do, we cannot help but sin, "For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin" (Romans 14:23). We are fallen creatures in rebellion against our Creator, and our depravity is the constant reminder that we are in need of a savior. In fact, that was the purpose of the law.

    Paul writes in Romans 5:20 that "the law came in to increase the trespass." In other words, God's law exposes our sinfulness. Matthew Henry, in his commentary on Romans, says, "The moral law showed that many thoughts, tempers, words, and actions, were sinful, thus transgressions were multiplied. Not making sin to abound the more, but discovering the sinfulness of it, even as the letting in a clearer light into a room, discovers the dust and filth which were there before, but were not seen."

    We cannot understand the need for salvation until we first understand that we are lost. Once God bestows upon us salvation by his grace through faith in his son, we can reflect on our depraved human nature as we strive to grow in that faith.

    One effect of this can be seen in our relationships with other people. If we recognize our own depravity, it is easier to show grace to those who hurt us. Likewise, when we hurt others, we will see the need to repent and ask for forgiveness. Speaking from experience, I can say that this is extremely helpful in marriage.

    Most importantly, our walk with Christ will be more meaningful and intimate because we will know that we are nothing without him. Total depravity lays everything on the line and puts us in our proper place before a holy and just God. It also magnifies the incredible significance of his mercy "in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). What better reason could we have for rejoicing in worship and telling others about the gospel?

    Part 1: Total Depravity
    Part 2: Unconditional Election
    Part 3: Limited Atonement
    Part 4: Irresistable Grace
    Part 5: Perseverance of the Saints

    Friday, September 21, 2007

    This Week in Calvinism - September 21, 2007

  • Cathy tries desperately to refute Calvinism's "false doctrine" point by point, but ends up refuting her own arguments by saying that our assurance of salvation is "firmly based upon Christ's finished work of atonement." Yeah, that's kind of what we've been saying all along.

  • Perhaps she should take Calvinism 101.

  • It's true: Calvinists quite often make the worst Calvinists.

  • Philip Ryken reminds us of the importance of mercy ministry.

  • I suspect that the Seeking Disciple (one of my favorite Arminian bloggers) believes in eternal security, but just doesn't know it. I think part of the problem is the common confusion of "perseverance of the saints" with "once saved, always saved." Scripture is quite clear that grace is no license to sin (Romans 6:1-2), so the only logical conclusion we can reach concerning those who profess faith, but produce no spiritual fruit, is that they were never saved in the first place.

  • Are the New Testament accounts of Christ just a myth? Pyromaniac Dan Phillips addresses this important question.

  • What's this? An Arminian writing about limited atonement? Well, just when he starts to sound like a Calvinist, he reverts back to the old "everything God did he did because he could look down the corridors of time and see who would choose him and who would not" position. Remember: in Arminian theology, everything hinges on man's sovereign choice -- despite what Romans 9:11 teaches.

  • Christopher Neiswonger on the five points of Calvinism (Part 1, Part 2).

  • Do you think Calvinism is good doctrine? Chuck Adkins wants you to think again. He challenges four of Calvinism's five points. Why only four? "We have decided not to deal with the last point of TULIP theology because it is defined in several different ways and because if it means simply that the saved cannot be lost, then we agree with it." Can someone please explain why so many Arminians are willing to accept the P of TULIP when, according to their own theology, everything else is based on man's free will? I mean, if man is able to choose to be saved, then why isn't he able to choose to no longer be saved? I'm still trying to figure that out.

  • I will be starting a series of posts dealing with my own understanding of the five points of Calvinism and how I think they can affect the lives of believers. Look for it soon!
  • Friday, September 14, 2007

    This Week in Calvinism - September 14, 2007

  • David Heleniak doesn't understand Calvinism, let alone Christianity, but that doesn't matter. He's on a mission to help people overcome their "pyrophobia."

  • Ronnie W. Rogers thinks God's love poses a problem for the Calvinist. He writes, "While it is true that I love my children differently than I love another man's children, I would not sit idly by and let his child be run over by a car, when I could have delivered him, and then try to convince the father of the child how much I loved his son even if in a different way." His analogy is self-defeating because God most certainly is able to save all people, yet does not. Has Mr. Rogers allowed for the possibility that God is more concerned with his own glory than our fallen human concepts of love and fairness? Perhaps he would care to answer the burning question I posed a few days ago.

  • Ever since lashing out at Calvinists for embracing God's sovereignty, Roger Olson has been getting pummeled.Triablogger Steve Hays delivers the one-two knock-out punch.

  • Without using scriptural arguments, can you prove Calvinism is a false teaching? Isaac Hulke can. He claims that Calvinism is false because "it is stated that Jesus is the Savior of the entire human race." I suppose in a future post he will explain why it is that the entire human race is not saved.

  • Mark Snow doesn't like Calvinists and their adherence to sola fide because they reject the idea of baptismal regeneration. So, if you repent of your sins and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, you aren't quite saved yet; you've got to take the plunge. Mr. Snow would probably advise that if you do make a profession of faith, you should take care not to get into a car accident while driving to church to get baptized. You wouldn't want to risk dying before the process of salvation is complete.

  • Laying claim to a theology that "lies somewhere between Reformation Arminianism and five-point Calvinism, with a decided aversion toward the latter," T.J. Pennock declares war on all Calvinists: "To be sure, we see Calvinism as a serious threat to the stability of Christ's churches (fundamentalist churches, in particular) and earnestly desire its elimination from our ranks. However, we fear it will take a long and nasty battle before we can finally rid Geneva from our assemblies. A rocky road lies ahead." Good luck, T.J.! May you have as much success as everyone else who has ever tried to rid the world of sound, biblical teaching.

  • Calvin vs. Luther. I'll admit that when it comes to extending the influence of the church into civil government, I'm more Lutheran than Calvinistic. Real change comes through the power of the Holy Spirit and the preaching of the gospel.

  • Adam Omelianchuk explains at length why he is no longer a Calvinist.

  • Stan is not a Calvinist, either -- but in a different way.

  • C. Michael Patton remembers the day he became a Calvinist. For many, that day won't come until they get to heaven.

  • The Seeking Disciple thinks the Synod of Dort was a "kangaroo court": "From the beginning the Arminian view was not held as equal to the Calvinist view nor was the true purpose of the synod to help bring about clarity to the issues in the Reformed churches in Europe. The true nature of the Synod of Dort was simply to put Calvinist in complete power of the churches in Europe." Now, if that isn't a biased view of history, I don't know what is. He goes on to talk about how persecuted the Arminians were and uses that as evidence of just how bad Calvinism is. Has he forgotten the Reformation? Some saw that as an excuse to lash out violently against the Catholic church, and war eventually exploded all across Europe. Does that mean there never should have been a Reformation? Besides, the Arminians got their revenge when they took over the political systems of England and Europe and forced Calvinism out of the churches.

  • The Highland Host begins a series of posts entitled "Lies Arminians Tell," the aim being "to deal with a few Arminian misrepresentations of Calvinism."
  • Thursday, September 13, 2007

    Smoking and Legalism

    Steve Camp's excellent post on smoking and legalism sparked some interesting discussion on his blog. You can read it here.

    Wednesday, September 12, 2007

    Nietzsche Finds His Niche... the Keane household, of all places.

    This humorous little web site "pairs a randomized Family Circus cartoon with a randomized Friedrich Nietzsche quote."

    Come on. A cheery, family-friendly cartoon merged with the dark, disturbing musings of a German philosopher? How could that not be funny?

    Tuesday, September 11, 2007

    A Burning Question for Arminians

    One of the blessings of the Internet is having a vast collection of Reformed and Calvinist resources at my fingertips. I have made many online friends over the years who have inspired me in my walk with Christ and whose words of encouragement have helped me in all areas of my life. It's also a comfort to know that so many other people out there, both Calvinist and Arminian, wrestle with difficult issues as they travel on their own spiritual journeys, actively seeking the precious truths found in God's word.

    Alas, there is a downside to this virtually unregulated medium. Anyone can get a web site or a blog and say just about anything with an air of authority they wouldn't otherwise have in the "real" world. (Hey, I'm living proof of that.) And that usually means one must sift through tons of dirt and mud (and venom and bile) to find a single nugget of wisdom.

    Don't get me wrong. I love controversy as much as the next guy. In fact, I had an hour-long discussion with two Mormon "elders" just the other night who stopped their bikes to try and convert me as I was taking out the trash. (They eventually gave up in frustration and rode off, saying that it was clear I didn't even believe the Bible, and that I was wasting their time!) But much of the controversy found on the World Wide Web comes from Christian bloggers in what can only be described as a misguided (and in many cases, I'm willing to grant, unintentional) attack on some of the fundamentals of the Christian faith.

    Like the Remonstrants of old, these bloggers are lashing out in ignorance against certain teachings in scripture because they can't make sense of them from a human perspective. "A God who chooses some people for salvation and not others? That isn't fair! My God is a God of love! And what do you mean that God ordained sin to enter into the world and that he causes bad things to happen? My God is not the author of sin! My God is not evil!" On and on they ramble, never seeming to tire of setting up Calvinist straw men and knocking them down in righteous indignation.

    It is the issue of God's sovereignty with which they seem to have the biggest problem. Oh, they will readily agree that God is sovereign over all creation, but they will be just as quick to criticize a brother or sister who talks of a God who turns hearts toward hatred (Psalm 105:25), who means evil for good (Genesis 50:20), or who molds all people for his own purposes (Romans 9:21-23).

    Unfortunately, they don't stop at mere criticism. Many go on to make the outrageous claim that we Calvinists believe in an evil God. They would agree with Dr. Roger Olson, professor of theology at George W. Truett Theological Seminary, who said, "The God of Calvinism scares me; I'm not sure how to distinguish him from the devil."

    Which brings us to the issue at hand.

    Imagine the following situation: I'm out for an evening stroll when I smell something burning. I look around and notice flames in one of the second floor windows of a neighbor's house. In the other window, I can see a little girl pounding on the glass and can hear her cries for help. I do nothing. I don't even use my cell phone to call 911. I just stand there watching until the entire house is engulfed in flames and the little girls dies. Now, since I was perfectly capable of saving her, but chose not to, how could anyone with a conscience say that I was not responsible for her death?

    From a basic human perspective, there wouldn't be any doubt. By standing there and doing nothing as that little girl burned to death, I would be just as culpable as if I had started the fire in the first place. And that's really what we humans care about, isn't it, deciding who's to blame in tragic situations?

    So, here's the question I have for you Arminians: If a sovereign, loving, all-powerful God neither ordains nor causes bad things to happen, but simply stands by and allows them to happen, then how does he escape responsibility for the pain and suffering of those involved? (Keep in mind that the "bad things" being talked about here can refer to everything from the stubbing of one's toe to the eternal damnation of one's soul.)

    I submit that you cannot answer that question without betraying your own Arminian worldview. You cannot answer it without resorting to the same theological gymnastics you accuse Calvinists of performing. And you certainly cannot answer it if you have a problem conceiving of a truly sovereign God who works all things for his ultimate glory.

    Monday, September 10, 2007

    Calvinism and God's Omniscience

    I recently ran across a post by an Arminian who believes that God's omniscience is a reason to reject Calvinism. He writes, "If the only way for God to know the future is to foreordain the choices and actions of his creatures, then God is not omniscient nor has the ability to be." There appears to be a hint of logic in that statement, but it falls apart under close examination.

    As Creator of all things, God is, by definition, the Creator of everything that has been known, is known, and will be known. And as Creator, he is either sovereign over all creation or he isn't. I believe he is, and herein lies the nature of God's omniscience.

    If something is foreknown to take place, then it must be foreordained. Otherwise there is the possibility that it might not happen. Put simply, God sees not just a particular future event, but everything leading up to that event. We can logically conclude that if the path is not already determined for a particular event to take place, then it cannot be foreseen, and there would exist the possibility that God could be wrong -- and that is an impossibility.

    The only way around this dilemma is to admit that God does "foreordain the choices and actions of his creatures" in such a way that he is able to bring about all that he foresees. But that cannot be reconciled with Arminian free will.

    If anything, God's omniscience is yet another reason to embrace Calvinism!

    Friday, September 07, 2007

    This Week in Calvinism - September 7, 2007

  • Al Mohler remembers Dr. D. James Kennedy.

  • The Pyromaniacs set fire to emergent theology and raise an important issue regarding this movement that seeks to "redefine Scripture itself": If everyone has been wrong about the Bible for the last 2,000 years, "it makes you wonder not only why God wrote the Book, but why He made such a poor job of it."

  • This Arminian once embraced a form of hyper-Calvinism, but ended up rejecting Calvinism altogether once he began "taking the simple statements found in Scripture at face value." This seems typical of those who reject Calvinism. When they are confronted with apparently conflicting passages (e.g., the Gospels vs. Romans), there is no attempt to reconcile them; they just pick the interpretation that makes them feel better.

  • The Desiring God Blog has completed a four-part series on God's sovereignty over sin. The posts were comprised of excerpts from John Frame's book The Doctrine of God. Check them out: Part 1: Does God Author Sin?, Part 2: Does God Cause Sin?, Part 3: Does God Permit Sin?, Part 4: The Author-Story Model.

  • In addition to rejecting the "bogus doctrine" of predestination, this disgruntled blogger would like you to also reject the "personhood and diety (sic) of the Holy Spirit." Naturally, there isn't any appeal to scripture. That would undermine his personal vendetta against Matt Slick and the Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry.

  • Michael Lewis addresses the question of "human responsibility in light of the sovereignty of God and his electing purpose."

  • Tominthebox News Network reports that Pope Benedict XVI has declared that "Protestant blogs are not 'real' blogs" -- a direct attack on the Reformed doctrine of sola blogda.

  • Remember Roger Olson's rant against the Calvinist response (John Piper's in particular) to the I-35W bridge collapse in Minneapolis? Here is one blogger's observation regarding Olson's denial of God's sovereignty: "It is only when God does something that goes against our own expectations that we start to hear suggestions that God couldn't possibly be responsible for those things."

  • To this blogger, "the idea of monergism vs. synergism isn't whether or not God is sovereign, but whether or not God is, at all times, exercising complete control over every minute detail of human existence." He says he is "leaning toward monergism," but admits that he loves Roger Olson and is "intrigued by" and "sympathetic to" universalism.

  • A former Arminian talks about his "conversion to the doctrines of grace."
  • Wednesday, September 05, 2007

    Dr. D. James Kennedy Passes Away

    From Christian News Wire:
      Dr. D. James Kennedy, founder and senior pastor for 48 years of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church (CRPC) in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., passed away peacefully in his sleep at approximately 2:15 a.m. at his home with his wife and daughter by his bedside, following complications from a cardiac event last December. He was 76. Dates and times for a public viewing and funeral and private interment will be released when available.

      "There are all kinds of wonderful things I could say about my dad," said daughter Jennifer Kennedy Cassidy. "But one that stands out is his fine example. He 'walked the walk' and 'practiced what he preached.' His work for Christ is lasting -- it will go on and on and make a difference for eternity."

      Dr. Kennedy, who is survived by Anne, his wife of 51 years, and his daughter Jennifer, preached his last sermon from the pulpit of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church on Christmas Eve Sunday 2006. He suffered a cardiac arrest four days later on Dec. 28, and has since been unable to return to the pulpit. The church announced his retirement on Aug. 26, beginning a process to choose his successor, and had planned a tribute worship service honoring the extensive ministry of Dr. Kennedy on Sept. 23.

    God Hates False Gospels

    Broadcaster Louis Theroux gives us a behind-the-scenes glimpse at the blasphemous Fred Phelps and his brainwashed congregation. In Part 6, Theroux sums it up perfectly when he notes that "this ministry is human-focused rather than God-focused."

    Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6

    "I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel -- not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed" (Galatians 1:6-9).
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