Friday, November 30, 2007

I Don't Heart Huckabee

Of the candidates seeking the GOP presidential nomination, Mike Huckabee seems to be a favorite among evangelical Christians. But how many of you remember his "invocation" at a 2004 Republican Governors Association fundraiser?:
The implication is clear: a vote for the GOP is a vote for God's side. Do we really want another professing Christian in office with that kind of distorted view of government?

I think we can do a lot better.

This Week in Calvinism - November 30, 2007

  • Ian Incubator-Jones figures that if God exercises election, it must be based either on arbitrary factors or a cosmic dice-roll. Scripture, however, teaches that both views are wrong. I tend to believe the Apostle Paul, who wrote that it "depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy" (Romans 9:16), and that God "has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills" (Romans 9:18). We don't know why God chooses certain people for salvation; we only know that God knows why he chooses certain people for salvation.

  • Abraham Piper on a kinder, gentler Calvinism:
      It won't be easy to change the pejorative stereotype that clings to Calvinism, but we can start by admitting that it is accurate far too often. Then we can make sure we are manifestly not self-righteous, condescending, arrogant, unfriendly, or argumentative. Also, you can count on us to buy dinner or coffee sometimes.

      Paying attention to those who disagree with us and taking them seriously, even if we're pretty sure we'll still disagree, is part of what it means to be in the body of Christ. It's humbling; it sanctifies. It will make us better husbands and wives. It will make us better Christians, and maybe even better Calvinists.
  • Ed Stetzer is making audio files from the Building Bridges conference on Southern Baptists and Calvinism available here.

  • If you can't decide between Calvinism or Arminianism, then Molinism might be the theology for you. It embraces the positive aspects of the other two philosophies while ignoring the negatives -- so you will never again have to worry about defending your beliefs!

  • Study: Recent SBC seminary graduates are three times more likely to be Calvinists.

  • As a Christian, I find it comforting to know that the God I serve is immutable -- that is, he never changes.
  • Thursday, November 29, 2007

    Blessed Is the Internet

    Dave Black has this reminder for Christian bloggers:
      Beware, then, the Internet and cyberspace, webmasters and blogosphers. God calls us to relationships in real time, in which we are to find our ministries. I live a fairly mundane life surrounded by different groups of people to whom I desire to minister: my family, my rural farming community, the people of Averett Baptist Church, my seminary students, the believers in Ethiopia, my doctoral candidates. The question I constantly ask myself is, What are their needs, and how can I best serve them? When I have time left over, I blog.

      Perhaps because I edit a website myself I am always a little wary of what people say or write. The Bible teaches that all of us, by nature, are basically egotistical, centered in ourselves and sinful. This means that a disciple of the Lord Jesus must be very honest about admitting his own inadequacy, insisting always that Jesus increase while he decreases. True, there needs to be a healthy interdependence among Christians, but never a co-dependence. God alone is the real Teacher, and the Bible alone His textbook.

    Friday, November 23, 2007

    This Week in Calvinism - November 23, 2007

  • A lesson in Calvinism from a three-year-old.

  • According to EgoMakarios, "Calvinism is a strange combination of various Christological heresies." Naturally, this "orthodox" blogger has no problem knocking down that straw man.

  • Is Calvinism the gospel? Take a look at this and judge for yourself.

  • This Southern Baptist is right about one thing: Once you start down the path of Calvinism, "there is no turning back, until you reach all of its logical conclusions." As to the question of "Which came first: regeneration or faith?" I would start here.

  • A 36-year-old man with HIV finds comfort in the teachings of Calvinism.
  • Friday, November 16, 2007

    This Week in Calvinism - November 16, 2007

  • Universalism vs. Calvinism.

  • The popular DVD, Amazing Grace: The History & Theology of Calvinism, is available from the The Apologetics Group for a new low price.

  • Nathan Finn is asking you to submit what you think are common myths about Calvinism. He "would love for you to share some of your 'favorite' mischaracterizations. ... The more outlandish, the better." He hopes to use this information for the upcoming Building Bridges conference on Southern Baptists and Calvinism that will be held November 26-28. You can comment here.

  • Rev. Charles Lehmann, a Lutheran, thinks Calvinism distorts the gospel: "Saying that the work of the cross was 'sufficient for all but effective for some' really doesn't get you very far. Where it does get you is fear and uncertainty. But the Word of God is clear. He has died for you. He has forgiven all of your sin." Wait...everyone's sins? Are you sure about that, Rev. Lehmann?: "Paul tells us that 'All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.' But he adds a wonderful word, one word in Greek, two in English… 'being justified.' Who is being justified? All, the very same all who have sinned. You, me, and every person who has been born or ever will be born." Oh, now I get it. Rev. Lehmann must be a universalist. So, logically, if God has forgiven everyone of every sin, then surely he will forgive my Calvinist beliefs. It seems this whole debate over Calvinism is much ado about nothing.

  • On Nov. 7, the Arbuckle Baptist Association in Oklahoma approved a measure encouraging members to "take a stand against the presentation of reformed theology -- often called 'Calvinism' -- as a legitimate topic that we need to debate; and instead of recommending that we should debate reformed theology, take a public stand against reformed theology." But even some non-Calvinists think that's being a bit too divisive.

  • Justin on Calvinism and homosexuality. An encouragement to those struggling with sin.

  • Sadly, even decent, God-fearing Calvinists are willing to defend the use of torture in our so-called "war on terror."
  • Tuesday, November 13, 2007

    Dr. Black's Prescription for an Ailing, Politicized Church

    My friend, Dr. David Alan Black, has some sobering words for American churches in his latest essay:
      Things have in fact become so serious right now to give too much importance to the effects of what one says on the sensitivities of one's peers and colleagues. A writer like Orwell could hardly have imagined the kind of animal farm American society has become. Again, it is here that I think Christianity offers us a perspective that politics can't – that the purpose of life is to love God and love our neighbor, that Christ is the only answer to the wickedness and abysmal horror of our warmongering, and that a man lives only to the extent that he dies to himself. ...

      ... I believe the evangelical church is scared -- scared to face the truth about its statism, scared to face its this-world-centeredness and, therefore, scared to face its own corruptibility. Our present mood of crisis comes from the unrelenting feeling that we have failed to master ourselves or to deal with our neuroses or to acknowledge our political-economic lies. All of this stems from a much larger failing, namely the inability to recognize that the pursuit of happiness is the ultimate American scandal.

      So I come back to where I began, to that piece of wood to which our dark egos must be nailed if we are ever to make progress in this life. Genuine Christianity (and not that detestable form of evangelicalism we have become so accustomed to) has much indeed to offer us, if we would only give it a fair shake.

    Monday, November 12, 2007

    Faith and Hearing

    The Bible describes a vital link between hearing and faith. When Jesus taught through parables he said, "If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear" (Mark 4:23). When asked if he was the Christ, Jesus responded, "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me." (John 10:27).

    When Paul wrote to the church in Rome he reminded them that "faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ" (Romans 10:7). And he asked the believers in Galatia, "Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith?" (Galatians 3:2).

    So, what about the deaf? How do we communicate the gospel to them?

    The above passages, of course, refer to ears and hearing in the spiritual sense. People "hear" in different ways. The important thing, as Paul points out, is that they hear "through the word of Christ."

    Thankfully, there are people like Toby Welch who are ministering to the deaf and hearing impaired. Welch is pastor of the Deaf Presbyterian Church in Houston, Texas, and teaches American Sign Language (ASL) to homeschool students in the Houston area. He also has a blog that seeks to communicate the truth of God's word and the principles of the Reformed faith through sign language as well as the written word. Check it out here.

    Friday, November 09, 2007

    Tiptoeing through the TULIPs - Part 3: Limited Atonement

    Limited Atonement
    This seems to be the biggest stumbling block to those who resist the teachings of Calvinism. Many people think that in order for God to be "fair" -- naturally, they are looking at fairness from a human perspective -- Christ must have died for every single person. After all, John 3:16 says, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." And, of course, there's 1st John 2:2: "He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world."

    When it comes to limited (or, more accurately, particular or definite) atonement, God's word is quite clear on the subject. In Matthew 20:28 and Mark 10:45 we read that Christ gave his life as a "ransom for many." In John 10:11-15 Jesus talks about laying down his life "for the sheep." Contrast that with Matthew 25:32-33, where we see the shepherd separating "the sheep from the goats."

    Jesus continues with this analogy in John 10:24-27:
      So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, "How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly." Jesus answered them, "I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father's name bear witness about me, but you do not believe because you are not part of my flock. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me."
    Still, we cannot get around the fact that the Bible does teach that Jesus did, in a sense, lay down his life for the world. The answer, as usual, lies in the context.

    Paul writes in 1st Timothy 4:10 that Christ is "the savior of all people, especially of those who believe." Now, we know that he isn't the "savior of all people" in the same sense that he is the savior of the elect. If that were the case, then all people would be saved, and given the context of what scripture has to say about the eternal judgment of the wicked, we know that can't be what Paul meant. Rather, Christ is the savior of all people in that by saving some, humanity itself has been saved from complete destruction.

    Another way to look at limited atonement is to consider what the term "propitiation" means in 1st John 2:2. It means to satisfy God's demands. God demands perfection, something sinful man can never hope to achieve. Jesus Christ, however, lived a perfect life and suffered our punishment on the cross, thereby satisfying God's holy justice. Our debt has been paid. To assume that Christ also paid the debt of those who ultimately end up in hell is to make God out to be unjust as one who punishes the same sins twice.

    If we are to be honest, we will agree that both Calvinists and Arminians limit Christ's atonement in some way. Did Jesus die for Satan and his demons? Certainly not. The atonement is at least limited to human beings. Do all people eventually end up in heaven? Again, no. There is no disputing the fact that the effects of the atonement do not extend to all people in the same way.

    Here is where we differ: Arminians limit the effectiveness of the atonement in that they believe it merely made salvation possible for sinners. Since they deny the Calvinist view of total depravity, unconditional election, and irresistible grace, they are forced to admit that there is the theoretical possibility that not one person would ever "accept Christ as savior." After all, if they wish to remain consistent in holding to the concept of "free will," then they must deny that God would give certain people the extra grace needed that would enable us to do what scripture says we cannot do on our own (Romans 7:18).

    Calvinists, on the other hand, limit the scope of Christ's atonement rather than its effectiveness. We would agree with Arminians that his death on the cross was sufficient to cover the sins of all. There certainly would not have been a need to have his suffering increased accordingly in order to cover the sins of each and every person. But that isn't how the atonement was designed. We believe that the atonement accomplished exactly what it was supposed to do by actually securing the salvation of all those for whom it was intended (i.e., the elect). "For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified" (Hebrews 10:14).

    To say that God intended to save everyone, but, despite his best intentions, was unable to accomplish that goal, is to make God into something less than the sovereign, all-powerful Creator that he is. How much more God-glorifying it is to say, without hesitation or qualification, that he did exactly what he set out to do!

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

    This Week in Calvinism - November 9, 2007

  • Tom Ascol lists five marks of a healthy church.

  • Stan puts the Walking Fish through the wringer.

  • Bob Hayton invites non-Calvinists to not just write Calvinism off as a "man-made philosophy," but to take a serious look at the evidence and "try to understand how we arrive at our conclusions."

  • Tim Challies gives a very positive review of The Five Dilemmas of Calvinism, by Craig Brown.

  • B.C. McWhite may not be viciously dogmatic on all five points of Calvinism, but you're in for a fight if you attack the doctrine of perseverance/preservation of the saints.

  • Trevin Wax "will not confuse second-order doctrinal distinctives with first-order doctrines. Once we journey down that road, we'll eventually start confusing third-order doctrinal distinctives with first order doctrines, and we'll wind up as isolated, irrelevant, and shrill as our independent friends."

  • Tom Conoboy enjoys living "life for life's sake, learning through experience, through joy, through discovery." He sees that as an antidote to the "cold, harsh, granite hatred of life that Calvinism instilled in generations of people like me." I guess I'm not sure where he got that idea. Knowing that there is a sovereign Creator in control of all things, who chose me before the foundation of the world, came to earth in the flesh, lived a perfect life, shed his blood for my sin, rose from the dead, drew me by his Spirit to a saving faith in Christ, and has secured for me a place with him for all eternity has instilled in me a warm, comforting, passionate love of life.
  • Wednesday, November 07, 2007

    Four Things to Tell an Atheist

    Pastor Gene Cook Jr. gave the following presentation in Seattle on October 13, 2007:
      Part 1

      Part 2

      Part 3

    Friday, November 02, 2007

    This Week in Calvinism - November 2, 2007

  • The Walking Fish thinks Calvinism has some serious implications: pushing people into cults, teaching that aborted babies go to hell, stalling evangelism, and making people unsure of their salvation. Frankly, I don't see what the problem is. Those are the things that drew me to Calvinism in the first place!

  • As you can see, there are numerous myths floating around out there about Calvinism. Pete deals with eight of them.

  • Mack Tomlinson points out some of the problems with hyper-Calvinism.

  • The Watchman paints a false caricature of Calvinism, saying we believe that God, "blind to any right or wrongs in our actions," chooses people for salvation. The truth is that while we do hold that salvation by grace through faith "is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9), we also recognize the fact that God "knows the secrets of the heart" (Psalm 44:21). We simply believe that our salvation isn't based on any right or wrong actions on our part. So, Mr. Watchman, if you're "uncomfortable with a judge too blinded by his own transcendent glory to judge between the immanent good or evil," you first need to realize that God is not blind; he knows everything (John 21:17). Next, you need to know that scripture teaches quite clearly that there is no immanent (or indwelling) good in man (Romans 3:10-12). However, from the depths of his infinite mercy, "God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8).

  • Some Arminians hate Calvinism so much that they'd "rather be called a Pelagian than a Calvinist." I'm sorry, but I can't see how any Christian, with even a cursory understanding of what either one stood for, could say that. To be fair, this blogger later admits he overreacted, but then says, "Yes, my disdain for Calvinism does tend to sway me toward more Pelagian/Semi-Pelagian thinking...and I do not think Arminius would agree with me."

  • John Pipes talks about the comforts of Calvinism.

  • Act now to get a special deal on the DVD Amazing Grace: The History and Theology of Calvinism.
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