Friday, November 28, 2008

This Week in Calvinism - November 28, 2008

This being a holiday week, I didn't really have time to read many blogs, but here are a few items that caught my attention:
  • Pull a few choice quotes out of context, compare them to carefully selected Bible verses, and voila! You can "prove" that Calvinism is nothing more than a man-made religion.

  • Mike Corley and Pastor Scott Reiber discuss the recent John 3:16 Conference.

  • You might be a hyper-Calvinist if...

  • Tom Ascol on the SBC and Calvinism: three events that widened the divide.
Hope everyone had a Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A Good Place to Start

    Crown Him with many crowns, the Lamb upon His throne.
    Hark! How the heavenly anthem drowns all music but its own.
    Awake, my soul, and sing of Him who died for thee,
    And hail Him as thy matchless King through all eternity.
We're all familiar with that hymn. It is one many of us have sung all our lives, and it is undoubtedly featured in thousands of churches across America on Easter Sunday -- which is one of the reasons why I believe that, to an extent, all Christians are amillennial.

Think about it. Even the most ardent dispensationalist won't deny that Christ is currently reigning. Rather, he will stand up in church and belt out praises to "the Lamb upon His throne" with every bit as much joy and enthusiasm as the amillennialist brother standing next to him.

But the most fundamental aspect of amillennialism is the recognition that Christ is (present tense) reigning. To deny that is to deny scripture. Besides, how can one be a king if one has no kingdom? As his royal title implies, Christ is reigning now.

Let's take a look at just a few passages that deal with the immediacy of Christ's kingdom. Perhaps the first thing we should note is that Jesus was worshiped as a king from the moment he was born (Matthew 2:2). From the beginning of his ministry -- even before he called his first disciples --- he preached the message, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matthew 4:17).

Jesus himself spoke of his reign as a present reality. In Matthew 12:28-29, he said, "But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you."

Jesus spoke about his death and resurrection to a crowd gathered around him, saying, "Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power" (Mark 9:1).

Even the thief on the cross recognized Christ's kingdom as a present reality: "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom" (Luke 23:42).

The Apostle Paul was confronted by a group of people in Rome, and "he expounded to them, testifying to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus both from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets" (Acts 28:23).

Paul referred to his Christian brothers as "fellow workers for the kingdom of God" (Colossians 4:11).

We read in Hebrews 12:2 that Christ "is seated at the right hand of the throne of God."

Now, to be sure, you will find disagreement all across the theological spectrum as to the extent of Christ's present reign. But I think the realization that he is reigning is a good starting point on the road to understanding amillennialism, or "inaugurated eschatology."

Monday, November 24, 2008

Intellectual Neutrality Is a Myth

Gary DeMar reminds us that "no one is neutral and facts don't speak for themselves":
    Many Christians and most secularists argue as if facts are self-interpreting, that reasonable men and women will come to the same reasonable conclusion when presented with a reasonable argument based on a fair and reasonable presentation of the facts. This rarely happens. As William Watkins writes, "Facts do not come with interpretation tags, telling us how to view them. ... Both sides haggle over the facts. Both sides search for new facts to add to their arsenals. Both sides raise accusations, yet it's a rare day indeed when both sides acknowledge that their differences stem from something much more basic than facts. Their differences are rooted in opposing worldviews, which in turn are permeated with philosophical assumptions and commitments." ...

    ... We can never assume that "facts alone" will be enough to confirm the validity of the Christian faith to someone whose interior logic begins with naturalistic presuppositions. Jesus performed many miracles before many eyewitnesses, and still they did not believe. For example, the Sadducees, "who say there is no resurrection" (Matt. 22:23), heard every reasoned claim of a resurrection but filtered the information through an anti-supernatural hearing device. Why did those in Athens "sneer" (Acts 17:32) when Paul spoke of the resurrection before they heard his account of it? The very idea of a resurrection did not fit their naturalistic worldview. All talk about the "facts" of a resurrection would be discarded because an anti-supernatural worldview cannot (will not) account or make room for any supernatural claim.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

What Government Cannot Do

All too often it seems we Christians aren't willing to get our own hands dirty. It's much easier to vote for a politician who says he will feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, and care for the sick. So, many of us simply check a box on election day and go home feeling as if we've actually accomplished something.

But there are some things governments just cannot do. My friend, Dr. Dave Black, who has spent a great deal of time ministering in Ethiopia, writes:
    There is a profound tendency to want to help these people on the purely societal level in much the same way that a U.S. president is expected to accommodate the whims of 350 million Americans who demand affordable health care, job security, secure bank accounts, and optimal retirement plans. The missionary goes to Ethiopia with a sincere commitment to build Christ's kingdom, but it is easy to read into Jesus' words our own agenda: "My kingdom is not of this world, so act as though you can achieve peace, justice, equality, liberty, and a prosperous planet without Me or My Gospel."

    That's certainly not what Jesus meant, but that’s how we act so often. If I am critical of Mr. Obama's overly-optimistic view of government, it is not because I'm attacking him. Most Americans have bought into the lie that political, societal, and economic conditions can be solved by political instruments.

    But as I point one finger elsewhere, I'm pointing three at myself. For how often do I act as if Jesus said, "Go, sell some of what you have"? Didn't He say “all of what you have"? Didn't He tell me to give to the poor? Didn't He tell me to sacrifice so that others might live?

    That's why the Gospel is so offensive; that's why it's so intolerable. It expects us to act in a completely irrational way: Trust God! Put not your confidence in anything human! Renounce everything, and then you will possess everything! "We have nothing, although we possess everything," wrote Paul, and he meant it (2 Cor. 6:10). "We're beggars, although we make others rich." "We're dying but -- as you can see -- we go on living."...

    ... The bottom line of the bottom line: I do not look to the government. It is only when the church is the church and when she travails in labor pains that she brings forth sons and daughters who have the power to change society from the inside out.

Friday, November 21, 2008

God vs. Goodness

This banner is part of a clever little ad campaign:
    "Why believe in a god? Just be good for goodness' sake," proclaims a new holiday ad from the American Humanist Association. Already appearing today in the New York Times and Washington Post, the message will soon be blazoned on the sides, taillights, and interiors of over 200 Washington DC Metro buses.

    It's the first ad campaign of its kind in the United States, and the American Humanist Association predicts it will raise public awareness of humanism as well as controversy over humanist ideas.

    "Humanists have always understood that you don't need a god to be good," said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association. "So that's the point we're making with this advertising campaign. Morality doesn't come from religion. It's a set of values embraced by individuals and society based on empathy, fairness, and experience."
Deny God, believe in goodness. Does anyone else see the irony here?

No one can define "goodness" based on a set of arbitrary principles, but that's exactly what these atheists/humanists try to do:
    We can have ethics and values that aren't set in stone. Our ideals and principles can evolve over time to reflect our ever-changing and increasingly complex world. Yet, we can be confident of the decisions that we make, not because someone told us what to do but because we relied on our own careful reasoning and emotional reflection. ...

    ... Humanists understand that compassion for fellow human beings, as well as an acknowledgement of their inherent dignity and worth, must form the basis of our interactions with each other. Humanists are free of belief in any god or afterlife. We must make the best of this one life that we have.
So, just be good for goodness' sake -- even though your definition of goodness may change depending on how you feel at that particular time.

This Week in Calvinism - November 21, 2008

Not much to report this week...
  • Lisa has some tough questions for Calvinists.

  • Calvinists are more perceptive than atheists. Who didn't know that? ;)

  • Nathaniel Wallace once "happily embraced this prickly, dour theology" of Calvinism, but has since seen the light and apologized.

  • Call yourself "Reformed" and you'll irritate Dr. James Emery White.

  • "White Man" doesn't believe Calvinism is a cult; he believes it has evolved beyond that into a religion.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Gospel-Driven Parenting

In light of yesterday's post, I decided to revisit something I posted on a couple of years ago.

Rob Wilkerson, blogging at Miscellanies on the Gospel, believes it's crucial to present the gospel to our children -- especially when disciplining them:
    Not to share the gospel when we discipline our kids is, I believe, to drive them to anxiety and exasperation (Eph. 6:4). If parents discipline without the gospel, they cause both emotional and physical pain to a child, only to offer no spiritual power or hope which can heal the guilt incurred in the emotions and cause the heart to view the pain with thanksgiving.
As for the "how," Wilkerson breaks it down into four parts:
  1. Show them their sin.
  2. Show them what God says about their sin.
  3. Show them what God has done about their sin.
  4. Show them what you are going to do about their sin.
You can read the entire post here.

I pray that Christian parents will be emboldened to train up their children in the way they should go (Proverbs 22:6), even though the world will hate and despise them for it.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Biblical Teaching or Child Abuse?

Check out this post from Jean in Lancashire, England, in which she relates something her daughter said one morning:
    As usual first thing when she woke up today she said, "I am going to be a good girl today mummy," and I nodded and said, "OK." She was quiet for a while as if in deep thought then she said, "But mummy, everyday I try and I want to be a good girl, but I can't do it. I can't be a good girl." I didn't know what to say to her at this point so I asked her why she could not do it. "Because there is only one person who can ever help me to be good," she said.

    So not knowing where this was going and a little confused by what my daughter was saying, I asked her who it is who would help her to be a good girl, thinking maybe she was going to say me, she said - Jesus. Yes my four year old daughter told me that the only person who would ever help her to be a good girl was Jesus Christ, because she could not do it on her own. I have never told her this. I would have thought this is too deep for a four year old to understand. That she was a sinner, she could not control her sinful nature. She wanted to be good but she could not, instead she did things that where wrong no matter how she tried to be good. Her theology is far deeper than that of many preachers today. I mean she gets it. It is only by the finished work of Christ on the cross that we can be delivered from sin. The righteousness of God is imputed to us when we forsake our sins and believe, 2 Corinthians 5:21. It is Christ who works in us enabling us to do good when we are saved, otherwise all our good works are like filthy rugs before God. She sounded like Paul in Romans 7, "O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?" And she understood the answer, that it is only through Christ that we can be delivered and freed from the bondage of sin. I was so amazed by God's power that I wanted to cry. I have never shared this with her, so how did she know? It can only be the work of the Holy Spirit. For a little girl to know that she can not be good on her own, that there is only one who can help her, that is Jesus is beyond my comprehension. When she said that all I said to her was that she was right. I did not say anything more as I was in shock and I did not want to ruin what the Lord was doing in her heart. I am not saying she got saved, she is only four. But one thing I know God is definitely working in my little girl's life. It encouraged me to pray for her even more. She is a wretched little girl, who knows she is a wretched sinner who needs only a good saviour to help her. Glory belongs to God!
That is exactly what every Christian parent should be praying for! But what does this sound like to unbelievers?

The world sees no need for a savior. Man is not seen as inherently evil, so any talk of original sin is foolish.

If you have the time, take a look at the hundreds of comments Jean's post generated. She is ridiculed. She is mocked. She is attacked by those who love darkness over the light (John 3:19). Here are just a few examples:
    "Jean, YOU are the wretched vile thing here. I weep for your children, you evil thing, you!!!"

    "I'll say this, and I won't be the last. This IS child abuse. I hope one day your little girl realizes she is a human being, deserving of love and respect, and overcomes your attempts to make her feel worthless. I hope someone in your area has the good sense to forward this to social services."

    "We do worship the god we create in our image. You are worshiping an evil god."

    "You are a brainwashed religious lunatic who shouldn't be allowed to look after a dog, let alone a human child. I am both outraged at you and infinitely sad for the little girl who is at the mercy of your wretched, stinking, evil religion."

    "This is the most flagrantly chilling admission of child abuse that I have ever read. A sick, twisted woman passing that concept onto an impressionable child. This is disgusting. Someone contact social services, that child needs a loving parent."

    "I hope you know that there is a discussion on Richard Dawkins' website about finding out who you are and reporting you to the child protection authorities."

    "I'm ashamed you call yourself Christian. You've completely disregarded Christ's lessons and have taken the worst out of the Bible and made it the rule of your life. You've decided you're going to hell and are going to drag your poor, innocent daughter with you. Well I can promise you that hell is where you're going unless you repent the evil you're doing, take control of your life and help fix in your daughter what you're trying so hard to destroy."

    "Child Protection Services has been notified of this blog. I am utterly horrified at your misconduct towards your daughter, and I feel nothing but contempt for you and your ilk!"
Oh, that we may all be convicted of just how wretched and vile we are. Unless we see the need for repentance, we will never see the need for a savior.

Please pray for Jean, her daughter, and the rest of her family. Pray also that the Gospel message gets through to someone because of this.

It seems representatives from the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children have paid Jean a visit. There is the possibility her daughter could be taken away. Pray it doesn't come to that.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Friday, November 14, 2008

Psalm 58:3

This Week in Calvinism - November 14, 2008

Recapping this week:
  • Leave it to Internet "philosophers" to discuss Calvinism and how it relates to the salvation of extra-terrestrials.

  • For whom did Christ die?

  • God's people may slip and slide, but we do not fall away from grace. He will cause us to return.

  • For the last time, James White is not a hyper-Calvinist.

  • TBNN reports that Calvinism has finally been defeated once and for all: "The most amazing part of the [John 3:16] conference was when one of the speakers reportedly said, 'We're right. They're wrong. Who's wrong? A few guys named Augustine, Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Knox, John Owen, John Bunyan, Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, William Carey, Adoniram Judson, James Boyce, Arthur Pink, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, J. I. Packer, R. C. Sproul, John MacArthur, and especially John Piper.'"

  • Seriously, do you really want to defeat Calvinism? Here's how.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Election Results Got You Down?

Voddie Baucham reminds us that it's not all bad. Here are just a couple of things about which he is encouraged:
  • Evangelicals will be forced to rely on the gospel instead of the government as the means of cultural transformation.

  • Perhaps "conservatives" will dust off the Constitution and start holding our leaders accountable to it again. In the past eight years George W. Bush has in many ways made a mockery of the Constitution (the Patriot Act, "No Child Left Behind," an undeclared, unconstitutional war, proposing the $700 Billion bailout, etc.). Unfortunately, many conservatives gave him a pass. I have a feeling Mr. Obama will be called to task for doing things Mr. Bush did in spades (i.e., the largest expansion of government in American history).

Reformation Polka

Yeah, I'm a little late in posting this, but it's still funny.

Friday, November 07, 2008

The Emerging Legislature

It's official. Emergent guru Doug Pagitt is running for office:
    After two years of thinking, planning and dreaming I have made a decision to add a new component to my work and service life: I am going to join the political field and run for public office.

    So, today I announce that I am running for the Minnesota State Legislature in 2010.

    While the 2008 election just ended minutes ago, I am setting my sights on November 2, 2010, only 729 days away.
This new endeavor shouldn't take any time away from his ministry. Pastors who aren't busy preaching the gospel tend to have a lot of extra time on their hands.

This Week in Calvinism - November 7, 2008

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Voting, Conscience, and Sin

Elections tend to bring out the worst in people. Even in the Reformed circles of the blogosphere accusations were being tossed around about how a vote, or failure to vote, for a particular candidate was a sin. Did we really have to sink to that level?

At the risk of offending some of my readers, let me point out the blatantly obvious fact that there is no biblical command to vote. While some have used the dominion mandate in Genesis 1 and the subjection command in Romans 13 to argue that we have a responsibility or duty to vote, I submit that voting is simply one method of exercising influence.

In this country we (at least for now) are free to vote, but we are just as free not to vote. How we vote and if we vote are matters of conscience, and the conscience is an important thing to consider. Let me illustrate.

In 1924, Eric Liddell refused to run in the Olympic Games on Sunday. He believed strongly that it would be a violation of the Fourth Commandment to keep the Sabbath holy (Exodus 20:8). We can all respect that. I consider Liddell to be a great man of faith, even though I disagree with his view of the Sabbath.

Jesus told us in Mark 2:27, "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath." We are under a new and better Covenant (Hebrews 8:6), and believers have already entered into a Sabbath rest (Hebrews 4). Christ is our Sabbath, not a particular day of the week. The Fourth Commandment was a shadow of what was to come, and the death penalty imposed for breaking that commandment was merely a glimpse of what would happen to those found outside of Christ in the coming judgment.

Yet Eric Liddell was convinced in his heart and mind that running on Sunday was breaking God's law. Therefore, it would have been a sin for him to compete, since he would have been in violation of his conscience. Likewise, it would have been a sin for other Christians to encourage him to act against his conscience.

This principle is applied in scripture to all aspects of our lives, from what we eat and drink (Romans 14:21, 1st Corinthians 8:10) to what we think and believe (2nd Corinthians 10:5, 1st Timothy 1:5, 1:19). Our conscience bears witness to the law of God written on our hearts (Romans 2:15).

So, how does all of this apply to voting? I believe that we should examine ourselves before casting a single vote. Ask yourself, "What are my intentions? What are my motivations? Are they in line with God's word?"

As with many issues in our Christian walk, we will have agreements and disagreements with our brothers and sisters. I think we can all agree, for example, that drunkenness is a sin. But what about the moderate consumption of alcoholic beverages? Try asking a Southern Baptist if it's possible to come to a general consensus.

When it comes to voting, there are countless issues that must be weighed, and because we are fallen human beings with vastly different backgrounds and experiences, we will not view each one in the same way. For me, a major concern is the slaughter of the unborn. I cannot in good conscience support a pro-choice politician who pledges to keep abortion "safe" and legal. I also cannot bring myself to support a candidate who claims to be pro-life, yet turns around and votes to confirm pro-abortion judges and send billions of taxpayer dollars to Planned Parenthood.

As you have no doubt surmised, I did not vote for the Democrat or Republican for president. I cast my vote for the Constitution Party candidate, the guy who had "no chance" of winning.

Was that a sin? In the eyes of some, it was. I have been told on more than one occasion that a vote for anyone other than (fill in name of Republican candidate) is a sin because it ends up being a vote for the Democrat opponent (i.e. a vote in favor of abortion).

But there are other issues to consider as well, such as a politician's consistent refusal to honor his or her oath to uphold the Constitution. That document is the supreme law of the land. In other words, it is the governing authority to which we are all subject (Romans 13:1), and that includes civil leaders. When our elected representatives ignore the restraints on their power, they are governing unjustly. Vows were taken seriously in scripture (Numbers 30:2). Oaths are considered "final for confirmation" (Hebrews 6:16). Should such a grave dereliction of duty be rewarded with a vote?

It isn't my intention to delve into every single controversial issue (e.g. confiscation of private property, government-run education, financial bailouts of private businesses at taxpayer expense, preemptive war, etc.). My point is to encourage each of us to examine our own motives for voting rather than lash out at those who may have voted differently. After all, we are ultimately accountable to God for our actions.

What are your thoughts? If you can keep a relatively civil tone and the expletives to a minimum, then feel free to jump right in and speak your mind.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Monday, November 03, 2008

A Brief Thought Before Voting

If you are voting for Barack Obama, John McCain, Chuck Baldwin, Bob Barr, or some other candidate for president, what are your motives for doing so? Are they in line with what scripture has to say about the proper role of government? Would a vote for a particular candidate cause you to violate your conscience?

What about local elections? Has your attention been so focused on the presidential race that you have neglected to explore the candidates and issues more directly affecting you and your family?

Are you still torn over your decision? Have you just not studied the issues enough to make an informed decision?

We are commanded to examine ourselves before partaking of the Lord's Supper (1st Corinthians 11:28). Perhaps it would be wise to do the same before stepping into that voting booth.
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