Friday, August 29, 2008

This Week in Calvinism - August 29, 2008

  • Here's another blogger who, because of his misunderstanding of the doctrines of grace, thinks that "Calvinism blasphemes the Living God."

  • No, no, silly Calvinist. John 6:37 doesn't mean what you think it means. You need to learn to read scripture like an objective, unbiased Arminian.

  • Michael Brewer is not a Calvinist (yet?), but he is studying what's at the heart of Calvinism.

  • Can you be a Calvinist and a Dispensationalist? I suppose, but as Christians we already know what it's like to live with conflicting natures. Why would you want to make things even more difficult for yourself?

  • I briefly touched on the subject in a recent post, but Michael Jones goes further and lists a few reasons why some Calvinists can't seem to evangelize like Calvinists.

  • Pyromaniac Dan Phillips reviews the book If You Could Ask God One Question, by Paul Williams and Barry Cooper.
  • Wednesday, August 27, 2008

    Matthew 5:44

    But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.

    Tuesday, August 26, 2008

    The Ground of Liberty: The Word of God

    Henry Van Til remarked that culture is the “externalization of religion,” a product of the religious presuppositions that under gird a culture. The blessings of Western culture thus are merely the outworking and externalization of the faith of Christendom.

    Constitutionalism, the rule of law and the free market are outgrowths of a Christian worldview. True liberty is found in Christ and other forms of freedom are merely derivative of that fact. The blessings of the West and the resultant freedom of men to develop property and fulfill their callings is a product of fidelity to scripture.

    Trinitarian Christianity resolves the tension between the one and the many, providing for a social structure balancing order and freedom. Humanism by definition lacks any basis for law and values and ultimately collapses upon itself. For Christians, that base or foundation is God’s written law revealed in scripture. The content and the authority of the law is ultimately grounded upon and rooted in God Himself. Therefore, neither the church nor state is above the law. Economic and political freedom are thus a product of a biblical social order which places a priority on liberty in Christ, recognizes land and freedom to use land as an aspect of salvation—a place to have dominion, and condemns theft, including theft perpetrated by the messianic state.

    Unbelief naturally creates conditions of lawlessness because it attempts to destroy the Lawgiver. As a result a culture of death and present mindedness arises which ultimately stifles economic growth and destroys political liberty. Consequently, humanistic cultures become imperial in nature as a means of survival.

    Unfortunately the zeal of the imperial crusader can often be found in the hearts of many professing believers sitting in the pews of our churches. Such zeal is usually masked or baptized. Witness this quote from Richard Land as an example:

    We believe that America has a special role to play in the world. Now we do not believe that America is God’s chosen nation, but we do believe that God’s providence has blessed this country, and that that is a belief that brings with it obligations and responsibilities and that America has a special obligation and responsibility to be the friend of freedom and the friend of democracy in the world.

    And I cannot tell you the number of Southern Baptists and other evangelicals and Catholics who told me that they were moved to tears by the president’s second inaugural address and the statement that we are going to be the friend of freedom. People of traditional religious values believe America has a special obligation and responsibility because of the blessings we have received to be the friend of the oppressed ... and to help those who want freedom for themselves.

    Francis Schaeffer, a hero to many evangelicals, understood that liberty was a product of culture, specifically Christian culture, and could not grow in the soil of alien worldviews. He wrote, "When the men of our State Department, especially after World War II, went all over the world trying to implant our form-freedom balance in government downward on cultures whose philosophy would never have produced it, it has, in almost every cases, ended in some form of totalitarianism or authoritarianism."

    Heathen cultures reject the King and ultimately devolve into statism and tyranny, the rule of godless men (I Sam. 8:7-20). The urge to dominion, a God-given impulse, is perverted by sin. Ungodly men still yearn for power and possession, but their authority no longer stems from servant-mindedness but from the exercise of raw power.

    As David Chilton says, capitalism and freedom cannot be exported to those cultures hostile to true liberty:

    To unbelieving economists, professors, and government officials, it is a mystery why capitalism cannot be exported. Considering the obvious, proven superiority of the free market in raising the standard of living for all classes of people, why don't pagan nations implement capitalism into their social structures? The reason is this: Freedom cannot be exported to a nation that has no market place for the Gospel. The blessings of the Garden cannot be obtained apart from Jesus Christ. The Golden Rule which sums up the law and the prophets (Matt. 7:12)—is the inescapable ethical foundation for the free market; and this ethic is impossible apart from the work of the Holy Spirit, who enables us to keep the righteous requirements of God's law (Rom. 8:4).

    Sunday, August 24, 2008

    Witnessing and Closing the Deal

    So much of evangelism seems to focus on "closing the deal" by giving someone the opportunity to pray the "sinner's prayer" and really, really, really mean it. If we don't do that, the perception is that we have failed, and that person may continue in a life of sin because we didn't do our part.

    If you have ever tuned in to Way of the Master Radio, you have undoubtedly heard Todd Friel and Ray Comfort witnessing to someone over the phone. This past Thursday they witnessed to Marcus, who seemed very open and receptive to what they had to say. At the end of the call, Todd implored Marcus to repent and put his trust in Christ. He closed by saying, "Take care. We'll be praying for you."

    Wait...that's it? No leading this young man in a prayer to ask Jesus into his heart? Listen to what Todd and Ray had to say:

    Isn't the gospel itself the invitation? Where does the Holy Spirit come in?

    What are your thoughts?

    Saturday, August 23, 2008

    A Harsh Lesson in Human Nature and Divine Grace

    As I left work and neared my home at about 2:45 Thursday afternoon, I noticed yellow police tape strung between the trees and townhomes across the street from our house. I pulled into the driveway, stepped out of my car, and walked to the edge of the yard to see if I could determine what was happening. With my view partially obscured by an embankment, all I could see were the tops of police cars and a few heads bobbing back and forth.

    I walked inside and flipped on the TV to see if there was any news. It was about that time helicopters began to circle overhead. Not good.

    I noticed a few people gathered in the parking lot across the street, so I hurried over to see what I could find out. I learned what everyone else learned a short time later:
      A single mother who apparently stabbed her two young daughters and herself Thursday afternoon in their well-kept Roseville townhouse may have been overwhelmed by stress and financial problems, a close friend said.

      Sylvia Sieferman, 60, and Hannah and Linnea Sieferman, both 11, were rushed to Regions Hospital in St. Paul after Sieferman repeatedly stabbed the girls and herself, police said.

      Roseville police and investigators from the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension were summoned to the Westwood Village III townhouse in the 400 block of County Road C around 2 p.m. after one of the girls, bleeding from stab wounds, ran to a neighbor's house for help.

      Sieferman and one of the girls are in critical condition, while the girl who ran for help is in stable condition, Roseville police Capt. Rick Mathwig said.
    How could a seemingly loving mother, who adopted two beautiful girls from China, suddenly snap and try to stab her daughters to death and then turn the knife on herself? Not only will these girls once again be orphaned (there's no way they will be reunited with their mother), they will be scarred for life, both physically and emotionally. Needless to say that as an adopting parent myself I was both horrified and infuriated.

    And humbled. Yes, humbled, "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23).

    Incidents like this may seem perplexing until we begin to grasp the concept of total depravity. Doctors could come up with any number of psychological or neurological explanations, but what happened two days ago was the result of sin. And if it wasn't for the restraint of God's grace, any one of us would be capable of anything. Grace is what keeps each person from exhibiting the full extent of our fallen, sinful nature.

    My hope and prayer is that God's sovereign grace will shine through for this family during this dark time. It is grace that can bring peace, comfort, and healing. More importantly, it is grace that brings us to faith in Christ, even in the midst of unimaginable pain and sorrow.

    Friday, August 22, 2008

    This Week in Calvinism - August 22, 2008

  • Steve Camp's post on the law and gospel has generated some interesting discussions.

  • Is Calvinism more God-glorifying than Arminianism?

  • John Newton on Calvinism.

  • Perhaps the Beatles were right: Maybe all you really need is love...sound doctrine be damned.

  • Arminians of the world unite!

  • Is Mariah Carey a Calvinist?
  • Wednesday, August 20, 2008

    Does God Prefer One Style of Music over Another?

    Scott Hill of Fide-O expounds on my previous thought:
      I have reasons that I choose the styles I have in our particular services, but I am not saying that what we do is more biblical or more God pleasing than anyone else's style of music. Some find a butterfly more beautiful than a cockroach. God created both! Music is part of God’s creation and he set the rules and he is the only one that can truly judge its beauty. Because in reality he is the only one that knows a man's heart.
    Check out his entire post and let us know what you think.

    Monday, August 18, 2008

    Redefining Hell (and the Gospel)

    Al Mohler on the diminishing belief in the biblical view of hell among evangelicals: "No doctrine stands alone. There is no way to modify belief in hell without modifying the Gospel itself, for hell is an essential part of the framework of the Gospel and of the preaching of Jesus. Hell cannot be remodeled without reconstructing the Gospel message."

    Calvinists Are Not Fatalists

    Calvinists are often charged with being fatalists. Here's what Charles Spurgeon had to say:
      What is fate? Fate is this -- Whatever is, must be. But there is a difference between that and Providence. Providence says, Whatever God ordains must be; but the wisdom of God never ordains any thing without a purpose. Every thing in this world is working for some one great end. Fate does not say that. Fate simply says that the thing must be; Providence says, God moves the wheels along, and there they are. If any thing would go wrong, God puts it right; and if there is any thing that would move awry, he puts his hand and alters it. It comes to the same thing; but there is a difference as to the object. There is all the difference between fate and Providence that there is between a man with good eyes and a blind man. Fate is a blind thing; it is the avalanche crushing the village down below and destroying thousands. Providence is not an avalanche; it is a rolling river, rippling at the first like a rill down the sides of the mountain, followed by minor streams, till it rolls in the broad ocean of everlasting love, working for the good of the human race. The doctrine of Providence is not, that what is, must be; but that, what is, works together for the good of our race, and especially for the good of the chosen people of God. The wheels are full of eyes; not blind wheels.

    Friday, August 15, 2008

    This Week in Calvinism - August 15, 2008

  • Rhett believes both Calvinism and Arminianism fall short, so his "quest to find an orthodox, biblical worldview for how God relates to us and the world remains ongoing."

  • Yep, God is still sovereign.

  • "The concept of Sovereign Grace," writes Michael Spotts, "is simple enough, like black coffee. It's just beans and water. Some people hate it, some cannot start a day without it. That God is the decider of fates may seem at first bitter to him that distrusts God's benevolent intentions. But the sugar and cream of resulting joy and humility make the doctrines of grace more palatable for those who are learning the taste."

  • Martin Glynn thinks people are flocking to Calvinism not because it's "more logical or biblical than Arminianism, but because it is satisfying certain cultural needs better than Arminianism does."

  • When people make wild charges against Calvinists, saying things like "John Calvin's god ... is blasphemous, capricious, and malevolent," or that we teach a "mutant works righteousness," you would at least expect some kind of half-hearted attempt to provide scriptural support for such a position -- even it means ripping verses out of context. Nope. I've found that those who make such ridiculous and ignorant statements rarely use specific references to scripture.

  • Looking for a wide selection of books on Calvin? Start here.
  • Tuesday, August 12, 2008

    The Power of the Gospel at Work

    The son of an influential Hamas leader, Mosab Hassan Yousef grew up in a strict Islamic household. Now a Christian, he is seeking asylum in the U.S. You can read the transcript of the Fox News exclusive interview here. His church's web site has a more detailed story here.

    While the politicians worry about how to fight their "war on terror," the real battle is not "against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places" (Ephesians 6:12). And the gospel has been proven time and again to be more powerful than any man-made bomb, shattering the most hardened hearts.

    Monday, August 11, 2008

    Friday, August 08, 2008

    This Week in Calvinism - August 8, 2008

  • That's Calvinism.

  • We Calvinists would like to see all people come to salvation, but we also know that God only elects some. Does that mean our desires are at odds with our theology? "The issue is not that your desires betray you," writes one open theist, "but that your theology has created a false image of the Godhead!" Well, since God knows who's elect and we don't, Calvinists present the gospel to everyone; the rest is up to the Holy Spirit. How does that create a false image of the Godhead?

  • Yet another "refutation" of Calvinism without the use of scripture. I too would reject Calvinism if the stereotypes were true.

  • The emergent church, the purpose driven paradigm, charismania, egalitarianism... The SBC has other problems to deal with besides Calvinism.

  • "Calvinism's a false doctrine," rants Pastor Steven L. Anderson of the ironically named Faithful Word Baptist Church (mp3). "And if you believe that God chooses who goes to Heaven and who goes to Hell, you're a Calvinist -- and you're a heretic. And, so, the churches that go into this -- they're non-soul winning churches -- they get mixed up in this." Hmmmm. Steven Anderson. Hey, that's the same pastor who bragged from the pulpit about his ability to pee standing up, isn't it? Yep.
  • Thursday, August 07, 2008

    "Make Me a Christian"

    "Make Me a Christian" is the title of a new series set to air on Channel 4 in the U.K. this Sunday. It's...well...just read:
      The Reverend George Hargreaves thinks Britain is in a state of moral decline and that a return to a more "Christian" way of life would stop the rot. He and his team of mentors aim to show how by convincing a group of non-Christian volunteers to live by the teachings of the Bible for three weeks.

      In this three-part series, a group of volunteers from around Leeds in West Yorkshire give up their normal lives and attempt to live like Christians for three weeks. They're not obvious candidates for such an experiment - there's:

      • a biker who's a tattooist and a militant atheist
      • a young man who was brought up Christian until he was 12, and now has a girlfriend who is 10 weeks' pregnant
      • a lap-dancing manager who can't live without continually acquiring expensive designer shoes
      • middle-class parents who are so professionally busy that they have hardly any time to spend with their children
      • a man in his 20s who, unbeknown to his girlfriend, goes out every week drinking and womanising
      • a man who found Christianity unfulfilling and has converted to Islam
      • a lesbian who sometimes sleeps with men.

      Their mentors come from different branches of Christianity but they share a number of core beliefs.

      First stop is York Minster - an awe-inspiring cathedral that's almost 1,000 years old, where they are asked to participate in a communion service. Then it's back to Leeds, where George Hargreaves gives each volunteer a Bible and asks them to read some every day.

      The mentors visit the volunteers in their own homes, to get a picture of their lives and to give them guidance. The parents are asked to spend 15 minutes each day with their children. The lesbian is ordered to get rid of her explicit pictures and books. The young man and his pregnant girlfriend are given some instruction in the basics of Christianity. The lap-dancing manager is discovered to have more than a passing interest in witchcraft and magic - her books and ceremonial paraphernalia are taken away. The womanising 20-something is persuaded to agree not to 'look lustfully at a girl'. The biker, so far, is challenging every instruction and the others are beginning to get fed up with his refusal to listen.

      All this is just the start of their three hard weeks. Can they embrace Christian ideals and learn to live in a different way or will their old lives prove just too strong to resist?
    What does the Bible have to say? "Yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified" (Galtians 2:16).

    Any chance these people will actually be presented with the gospel, or is the goal to just get them to adopt an outwardly Christian lifestyle? Unless the heart is changed, there won't be any change at all (no matter what Obama might say).

    Why Do You Believe the Bible?

    For those who enjoyed the Voddie Baucham video I posted yesterday, you will want to check out this sermon. It's a powerful defense of our belief in scripture.

    Wednesday, August 06, 2008

    Why Do Bad Things Happen?

    Voddie Baucham responds by asking the right question:

    Friday, August 01, 2008

    This Week in Calvinism - August 1, 2008

  • Banner Kidd claims that Calvinism has its roots in Augustinian heresy, and he links to a Christianity Today article that gives a very brief overview of Calvinism as proof. Huh?

  • "Reformed" vs. Reformed.

  • Here's another who believes that Arminians are the ones who truly understand God's sovereignty. You see, while God doesn't ordain things to happen, such as irresistibly drawing someone to faith, he can and does "move and manipulate so that someone can have the chance to hear the gospel." So, why then doesn't God move and manipulate so that everyone has the chance to hear the gospel and then exercise their free will and make a clear, informed choice about whether or not they believe?

  • Keith Schooley would like to see you become an Arminian, but he lists some reasons why it might be better for you to remain a Calvinist.

  • It's amazing to me that a web site called "Evangelical Outreach" would spout such heretical lies in denying the eternal security of the believer. Why would anyone rather see people condemned to lives of fear and trembling rather than pursue godly lives in a spirit of joy and assurance? The only thing I can think of is that this allows for a certain amount of control over others.

  • Jonathon is looking into Calvinism and would like your suggestions on books and other resources. I would suggest starting with "What We Believe About the Five Points of Calvinism," from the staff at Bethlehem Baptist Church.
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