Friday, October 31, 2008

This Week in Calvinism - October 31, 2008

Happy Reformation Day!
  • How can God hold people accountable if we're unable to choose him? It isn't like we're tied to a chair against our will, unable to comply when someone asks us to stand up. No, depraved man wants nothing to do with God. We curse him. We shake our fists at him. If we receive eternal punishment, we're getting exactly what we want. That is why our hearts of stone must be replaced with hearts of flesh (Ezekiel 11:19, 36:26).

  • Want to defeat the "satanic lie" of Calvinism? Here's how!

  • If Adam and Eve passed on their sinfulness to their children, why isn't new life in Christ also hereditary? I don't have a Ph.D. like Eusebio Tanicala, so I'm unqualified to even ponder such questions. The best answer I can come up with is that it isn't taught in scripture. Original sin, however, is (Romans 5:12).

  • Jim Kang on the influences of John Calvin on today's churches.

  • Bruce abandoned Calvinism and now seeks a middle ground between exclusivism and universalism.

  • Calvinism? Reformed? "Name it what you will," writes Christina, "I love the Gospel as Calvin catalogued it. The Gospel as the Apostles taught it. The Gospel as Christ (God the Son) preached it."

  • Erik, the "Irish Calvinist," reviews The Prodigal God, by Timothy Keller.

  • And what would a Halloween post be without a link to Martin Luther's 95 Theses?

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Reformation Reminder

Jesus was not God. Mary was not a virgin. The resurrection story should not be taken literally. These are some of the claims made by Peter Dresser, an Australian Catholic priest, in a booklet entitled "God is Big. Real Big!"

On Christ's divinity he writes:
    No human being can ever be God. And Jesus was a human being. It is as simple as that! ...

    ... The people who made Jesus into a God -- or to be more theologically correct, the Incarnate Son of God -- were a breakaway group of Jews, Christians, who claimed that this person Jesus was the Messiah, the anointed One of God, the Christos. Subsequently there developed over the early church period some theological reflections regarding this man Jesus which ultimately lead to the Council of Nicaea which encoded the major beliefs of the mainstream Christian churches today, including the divinity of Jesus. I want to return to this whole matter regarding Jesus being God a little later because it is a concept that not only does violence to my own intelligence but must be a sticking point for millions of people trying to make some kind of sense of the Christian religion. The concept of Jesus being an avatar makes considerable contemporary sense. It does not detract in any way from Jesus being a human person, it explains more easily his relationship with his God, and it helps us to read and respect the lives and teachings of other avatars -- something very important for us living in the global village.
On the virgin birth:
    A human couple cannot give birth to God! But because the early Church saw Jesus as a divine person, God, the notion of virgin birth had to be introduced in order to explain this phenomenon. And what an overzealous and violent attempt it was. Mary was proclaimed to have been a virgin before, during and after* the birth of her son. This really affronts one’s intelligence because it is simply not possible! Not even the traditional God can do something that is logically impossible. And it is logically impossible to be a mother and remain a virgin.

    (*My note: Protestants do not hold to Mary's perpetual virginity.)
On the resurrection:
    It is important that we do not accept resurrection in a literal sense as being a resuscitation -- and Jesus literally coming alive and dancing on the tomb! Those who insist on interpreting Jesus' resurrection as his physical restoration have perhaps never considered the difficulties raised by such a view. ...

    ... It is not my intention to prolong discussion on the literal interpretation of resurrection except to say that once again we are confronted with religious language. Even the expression that Jesus was raised up on the third day is not to be taken literally.
In the following clip, Tim Brunero of talks to Dresser about his booklet. Note how Dresser opens the interview with a blatant lie: "I'm a little bit sort of dismayed that this has caused controversy, to tell you the truth." No, this is exactly what he set out to do.

How appropriate that this story comes out just before we Protestants celebrate Reformation Day. Let this serve as a reminder that reformation wasn't a one-time thing. We must remain constantly on guard, ready to make a defense for the hope that is in us (1 Peter 3:15).

Luke 12:15

And he said to them, "Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions."

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Double Predestination

Mark Kielar discusses the doctrine of double predestination in this excerpt from the 16-part DVD series The Sovereignty of God.

Friday, October 24, 2008

This Week in Calvinism - October 24, 2008

Some items you may have missed this week...
  • The three main beliefs that separate Wesleyans from Calvinists (as surmised from Pastor Scott's comments): 1) Universal salvation is possible, despite the biblical teaching of election; 2) nothing was really accomplished on the cross -- it was just an expression of God's love, an invitation to a relationship with Him; 3) salvation is more about experiencing change now than it is about the removal of God's wrath.

  • Eusebio Tanicala, Ph.D., accuses Calvinists of being too universalist in their application of Romans 3:10-12 ("None is righteous, no, not one..."). But in light of the universality of Romans 3:23 ("for all have sinned..."), the good doctor's argument falls flat.

  • Open theist Preston N. thinks Calvinists like John Piper, Tim Keller, and D. A. Carson are promoting lawlessness because they believe that even our future sins were paid for on the cross. Now, is it really necessary for me to point out the glaringly obvious fact that since Christ's sacrifice on the cross occurred at a fixed point in time, he was dying for past and future sins? This isn't to say that we have no need for repentance after we are saved. Repentance of sin is an integral part of sanctification. Is it Preston's point, then, that we should never be assured of our salvation? That we should live every day in fear of falling away?

  • "Solomoney" doesn't like the Calvinistic interpretation of John 3:16. Personally, I don't fret over the word "world" being interpreted as referring to the "human race." God certainly has a general love for his creation, and in saving a remnant he saves mankind from total destruction. The key to understanding this particular verse is the phrase "whoever believes in him." Who believes in Christ? The elect (Titus 1:1), the sheep (John 10:26-27), those who were predestined for adoption (Ephesians 1:5, Ephesians 1:11) and given to Christ by the Father (John 10:29).

  • It's difficult to imagine that anyone has missed J. I. Packer's quote on One-Point Calvinism, but in case you did, here it is.

  • Oh, that all of us could learn to pray like this!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Constitutional Hermeneutics

Gary DeMar, in a recent essay, discusses the importance of interpreting the Constitution correctly.

Friday, October 17, 2008

This Week in Calvinism - October 17, 2008

It's that time once again, boys and girls...
  • How well do you know your "fives"?

  • Maybe it's because it's still early, or that I haven't finished my coffee, but studying the in-depth history of Tolkien's Middle Earth seems less complicated than discussing the topic of middle knowledge. If you're interested, Travis James Campbell provides an excellent critique on the subject, concluding that "not only a consistent Calvinist, but a consistent Christian must reject the doctrine of middle knowledge." (And I assume that would include all moderate versions of it as well.)

  • Trevor Hammack responds to a sermon attacking Calvinism.

  • Drew Lewis is currently on part 5 of his 7-part response to atheist John Loftus on the problem of evil.

  • Bruce Watson, commenting on the economy, writes, "In the United States, the land where Calvinism never died, wealth is still considered a sign of rectitude and poverty a mark of weakness." Oh, so that's why every Calvinist I know is a millionaire.

  • Adam Christensen compares Calvinism to honey: "I find it sweet, refreshing when I need a little boost, and kind of sticky. Really, it gets pretty messy from time to time, too, especially when in the hands of someone that is new to it."

  • David Hall on John Calvin’s political theology.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Science in the Bible: The Hydrologic Cycle

Water is the source of all life on earth. The distribution of water, however, is quite varied; many locations have plenty of it while others have very little. Water exists on earth as a solid (ice), liquid or gas (water vapor). Oceans, rivers, clouds, and rain, all of which contain water, are in a frequent state of change (surface water evaporates, cloud water precipitates, rainfall infiltrates the ground, etc.). However, the total amount of the earth's water does not change. The circulation and conservation of earth's water is called the "hydrologic cycle."
(From the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)

Job 26:8
"He binds up the waters in his thick clouds, and the cloud is not split open under them."

Job 36:27-29
"For he draws up the drops of water; they distill his mist in rain, which the skies pour down and drop on mankind abundantly. Can anyone understand the spreading of the clouds, the thunderings of his pavilion?"

Ecclesiastes 1:6-7
"The wind blows to the south and goes around to the north; around and around goes the wind, and on its circuits the wind returns. All streams run to the sea, but the sea is not full; to the place where the streams flow, there they flow again."

Amos 9:6
"Who builds his upper chambers in the heavens and founds his vault upon the earth; who calls for the waters of the sea and pours them out upon the surface of the earth -- the Lord is his name."

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Childhood Conversion

As one who is in the process of adopting three kids, I have been thinking long and hard about presenting the gospel to my children -- especially since learning that Philippe, at age 7, professed his belief in Christ. Now, I know that he and his sister are in a Christian-run orphanage in Haiti and are taught from scripture on a daily basis, but I wasn't there when this happened, so I really don't know what was said to him before or after that profession.

As you can imagine, all sorts of questions have been running through my mind: How can Christian parents know that they are getting through to their kids? What do they do when their young children make a decision to follow Christ? How can they be joyful about such a decision while remaining cautious that they don't foster deception?

Jim Elliff has written an excellent article on the subject. What follows are some of the highlights. On the topic of conviction, he writes:
    Conviction is the work of the Spirit in bringing sin and the necessity of Christ home to the child's conscience. Jesus said that the Holy Spirit convicts of sin, righteousness (that is, that there is only one righteousness and it is found in Christ), and judgment (see Jn. 16:8-11). In looking for conviction, we should avoid any preconceived ideas about how many tears or how much agony is appropriate and keep in mind that conviction is God's tool to bring your child to a hatred of sin. God alone knows what it takes. That there must be conviction in the preparation for salvation is, however, a bedrock truth. It is in the development of conviction that the parent can play a most significant part. By carefully laying out the law (the demands of God on the conscience), by explaining the consequences of breaking that law, and by continually emphasizing the exclusivity of Christ in delivering the child from those consequences, the parent cooperates with the Spirit in this special preparation of the heart.
On revelation:
    Young Samuel ministered before the Lord (1 Sam. 3:1), but did not yet know the Lord (vs.7) before the Lord "called" him. The reason is that the Word of the Lord was not yet revealed to him (vs. 7). Eli in this case did help Samuel to know that it was the Lord who was calling the boy, and gave him the proper response, which might indicate a place for the parent's intervention in interpreting events. When Paul preached Christ's cross in Corinth he said that to some it was foolishness and to others it was a stumblingblock, but it was the power of God unto salvation to the called (see 1 Cor. 1: 22-24). Here he is speaking of the effectual call of the Holy Spirit rather than the broader call of the preacher (i.e. "Many are called, but few chosen" Mt. 20: 16). This is another way to discuss this issue of revelation. One convert said, "Christ became as irresistible to me as my sin had been before." Observation and counsel are important here, but you cannot play God's part. Your child is not just signing a contract because he wants to close a good deal, but is meeting a person who has the power to reveal or not reveal. "Seek the Lord while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near..." (Isa. 55:6)
On regeneration:
    We have put a paradigm of exact dating on most conversions so that we tend to force whatever is happening in the child into a moment in time which he or she can remember, but the reality may be far more difficult to ascertain. For instance, my child has often prayed at night about his soul. I encourage this and often remind him and the other children, "Don't forget to talk to God about your soul before going to sleep." What I am looking for is not whether or not he has said some words in the right way that supposedly "bind" God to give him salvation. No, what I am looking for, and what he is looking for, is a changed life. He is looking for the signs of being made a "new creature" in Christ.

    When we speak of assurance, we are speaking of that which we know because the evidence is clear. This is the heart of First John and the other passages dealing with this subject. The way to tell if you are a Christian is not to look at the sincerity of a decision, but to look at the change in the life. As far as I can tell, there is no teaching in the Word which says that you can be sure that you are a Christian by looking back at an historical conversion experience. "These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life..." (1 Jn. 5:13, emphasis mine). What things? Those tests which make up the content of the epistle. In other words, one's assurance should be based on discernible factors which can be tested.
On correcting our mistakes:
    Leaders and parents must consider the benefits of returning to a better method of dealing with the souls of our children. To give assurance on the basis of praying a prayer or some other outward, immediate sign is sealing many in deception and makes them harder to reach in their adult years. Any casual look at the disparity between the rolls of our churches plus the numbers of supposed converts who do not even find their way on to our rolls against the actual changed lives being produced, should cause us to do some very serious thinking. In the manner of our great grandfathers who often exhibited such reasonableness and biblical wisdom, we should return to a method that both allows our active and vigorous pursuit of our children's salvation, while at the same time protects against large scale deception.
Every Christian parent will want to check out the entire article.

Feel free to share your thoughts on this weighty issue. Training up a child in the way he should go (Proverbs 22:6) is a frightfully important task, one that should not be taken lightly.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The World As Seen Through an Atheist's (Irreducibly Complex) Eyes

"The architect is a true visionary!"

"What a remarkable feat of engineering!"

"An awesome achievement of brilliant scientific minds!"

"Such intricate design is obviously the work of a very talented artist!"

"There is no God!"

Monday, October 13, 2008

Friday, October 10, 2008

This Week in Calvinism - October 10, 2008

This week in Calvinism...
  • Calvin on government.

  • "Inks75" stops to smell the TULIPs.

  • Mike Ratliff cautions, "What each of us should do who are Calvinists is examine ourselves to see if we are leaning too far towards the hyper side of Reformed theology. We must never forget that God created a system of salvation based on His Sovereignty while Man is still responsible to repent and believe. We are under orders to make disciples from all nations. We elect no one. That is God's purview not ours. Just as we deny that people are saved through 'decisional regeneration' we also deny that people are saved through 'doctrinal regeneration.'"

  • Rick Long is Reformed, but not a Calvinist.

  • What Aaron O'Harra learned at the Desiring God National Conference: "In the end, God will not be impressed that I talked with Bob Kauflin, or shook the hand of Mark Driscoll, or saved a seat for Paul Tripp, or that I know John Piper. The only thing God will care about is 'Did you talk with the poor? Did you shake the hand of the leper? Did you save a seat for the lame? And most of all, did you know my son?'"

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Repackaging Scripture

How do you make the most offensive book in history more palatable for non-believers? Why, change the packaging, of course:
More on "Bible Illuminated: The Book" here:
    "In general, Bible publishers have always been creative, but now they are scrambling to meet a culture where people are moving away from print reading," said Paul Gutjahr, an associate professor of English and adjunct associate professor in religious studies at Indiana University. ...

    ... "In a visually literate, advertising-skeptical age, how do you grab people's attention?" Gutjahr asked. "Mixing the biblical text with Angelina Jolie doesn't surprise me."

    First published in Sweden last year, "Bible Illuminated: The Book" is the glossy fashion magazine-style publication that features Jolie. It looks more at home on a coffee table or a nightstand in the latest hipster hotel than in a church.
God help us.

Friday, October 03, 2008

This Week in Calvinistm - October 3, 2008

Here's a glimpse at what's happening this week in Calvinism:
  • From Desiring God Ministries: "For those who use Accordance Bible Software already, The John Piper Sermon Manuscript Library integrates seamlessly into your existing library and functions as a roughly 5,000 page commentary."

  • Grace is resistible...until it's not.

  • Tim Challies on Calvinism and evangelism.

  • Calvinists often make the worst Calvinists.

  • Martin Downes on podcast spirituality: "What is this doing to local churches? Will this lead to an audio hierarchy where the best internet preachers are really the most influential figures in local churches? Is that healthy? Are we already there?"

  • Calvinism in the 21st century.

  • While this doesn't have anything to do with Calvinism, I found Tuesday's featured Wikipedia article on Tulip Mania interesting.
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