Friday, May 30, 2008

This Week in Calvinism - May 30, 2008

  • A few problems with Arminianism.

  • Does Calvinism ruin missions? Yes and no, concludes Joel Borofsky. "In a way, Calvinism does ruin the modern understanding of evangelism and missions. At the same time, it upholds the call to go into the entire world and proclaim the Gospel."

  • Every Christian prays like a Calvinist.

  • Are Southern Baptists fighting 400-year-old battles? Some think so.

  • "How a Roman Catholic Anti-Calvinist Can Serve Today’s Poet-Calvinists": John Piper on G. K. Chesterton.

  • "Weekend Fisher" would like for "Calvinists to put Christ crucified in the place of honor rather than putting God's sovereignty above Christ." So, we're to believe that Christ stands apart from God's sovereignty? Not according to my Bible.
  • Tuesday, May 27, 2008

    Does Romans 11 Teach a Future Salvation for National Israel?

    Dispensationalists believe that Romans 11:25-27 teaches a future salvation for national Israel:
      Lest you be wise in your own sight, I want you to understand this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written,

      "The Deliverer will come from Zion,
      he will banish ungodliness from Jacob";
      "and this will be my covenant with them
      when I take away their sins."
    Once all the Gentiles are saved, God will once again turn his attention to the Jews and see to it that they come to Christ. Seems pretty straightforward, doesn't it? Perhaps -- at least until you get to verses 30-32:
      For just as you [Gentiles] were at one time disobedient to God but now have received mercy because of their disobedience, so they too have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you they also may now receive mercy. For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all.
    Contrary to what dispensationalists teach, Paul was speaking of salvation for the Jews in the present tense. How could the word "now" be interpreted any other way? Paul was, after all, a Jew who came to Christ.

    Indeed, salvation was and is a present reality for both Jew and Gentile. In fact, Paul goes so far as to erase the distinction between the two in Galatians 3:28: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus."

    So, no, Romans 11 does not teach a future salvation for national Israel. There was, is, and always will be one chosen people: the true Israel, the seed of Abraham, the elect, the bride of Christ.

    Monday, May 26, 2008

    Six Ways to Hinder Your Prayers

    As presented by Tim Challies:
    1. Selfish motives
    2. Turning away from scripture
    3. Unforgiving heart
    4. Family discord
    5. Unconfessed sin
    6. Doubt
    Read his full post here.

    Friday, May 23, 2008

    This Week in Calvinism - May 23, 2008

  • Baptism: the paedo vs. credo debate in a nutshell.

  • One Arminian finds it refreshing that his friends are developing a sense of incredulity over Calvinism.

  • Will Moredock blames Calvinism for reinforcing class and racial distinctions in the South after the Civil War War of Northern Aggression. Moredock admits he doesn't "have much use for God except as symbolism and expletive," so I guess that makes him an expert.

  • We always miss John Piper when he takes time off from preaching, but while he was gone these last few weeks he finished four new books.

  • Many of us are blessed to attend Bethlehem Baptist Church. But what do you do when your pastor isn't John Piper?

  • And while we're on the subject... Yes, the rumors are true. John Piper is starting a seminary.
  • Thursday, May 22, 2008

    Still a Tough Question for Arminians

    I posted a variation of this last year. However, in light of recent comments from an Arminian brother, I thought it was time for a slight modification.

    Imagine the following: A father allows his two-year-old son to go outside to play knowing full well that their house is next to a lake. He also knows that his son has a habit of not listening when told to stay away from the water. Still, this father doesn't want to be the kind of parent that smothers his kid. The little rascal will have to grow up sometime, so he is given great freedom to make his own choices.

    Sure enough, as soon as he sets foot outside, the boy heads straight for the water. His father sees this, but does nothing. He just stares out the window and watches. The child steps onto the dock, and still the father looks on.

    It isn't until the boy slips and falls into the water that the father rushes to the rescue. But he doesn't jump in after him. He takes a life preserver from the boat that's tied to the dock and tosses it to his son. "Grab it!" he shouts. The boy continues to splash and scream for help. "Grab the life jacket, son! It's all up to you. If you want to be saved, just reach out and take it."

    Eventually, the young boy ceases to struggle and sinks below the surface. The life jacket floats where the father threw it. "Son!" he cries. "Can't you hear me? All you have to do is hold on and I can pull you in." No response. The father turns and heads back to the house. Words cannot describe the sadness he feels, but there just wasn't anything he could do. He offered life, but his offer was rejected, and that ultimate act of disobedience resulted in his child's death.

    Now, if that really happened, there isn't a single court in the country that would let the father off the hook. At the very least, he would be found criminally negligent for his son's death. But in the minds of most people, the father would be just as guilty as if he had pushed his son into the water in the first place.

    Here's the question I have for you Arminians: If a sovereign, loving, all-powerful, all-knowing God, who neither ordains nor causes bad things to happen but allows them to happen according to his permissive will, creates mankind with the foreknowledge that every human will fall into sin, then how could such a God escape responsibility for the pain and suffering of his creatures, much less the eternal damnation of those who don't respond to his free offer of salvation?

    I submit that you cannot answer that question without abandoning 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.

    Meet John McCain's Spiritual Guide

    Even if John McCain didn't make a mockery of the Constitution and virtually every other principle of liberty upon which this nation was founded, the fact that he has cozied up to this state-worshiping, warmongering pastor would be enough to convince me not to vote for the guy:


    Rod Parsley's state-based theology is every bit as dangerous as Jeremiah Wright's race-based theology.

    Tuesday, May 20, 2008

    What Is an "Alternative Worship Experience"?

    I don't know, but it probably looks something like this:
    The Gathering is one of the ministries at Wooddale Church, where my wife and I used to attend. This particular venue wasn't featured when we were there, but Sunday evenings were always less formal and weren't supposed to be like Sunday morning services.

    And you know what? I'm fine with that. I have no problem with churches offering opportunities for people to worship in a more relaxed atmosphere, to engage in group discussions, or for the pastor to address practical day-to-day issues in a Q&A format.

    I do, however, have a problem when churches begin marketing things like this as an alternative to "normal" church. To me, it seems like an Emergent, seeker-sensitive ploy to entice the unchurched masses through the doors by supplanting expositional teaching and a strong focus on the gospel with cool music and flashy video presentations.

    Friday, May 16, 2008

    This Week in Calvinism - May 16, 2008

  • It seems you can't click on any blog without reading about the resurgence of Calvinism. This is due in large part to efforts of men like John Piper. "But problems develop," writes Any Rowell, "when Piper's fans don't realize that the Conservative Reformed Theology movement is only one slice of the church-renewing substantive theology being done today in a variety of places in a variety of theological traditions."

  • Mike Ratliff on "fruitless fig trees."

  • Kyle's God "is most glorified when He is raised up on the cross, drawing all people to Himself." What about a God who determines the eternal destiny of individuals for his own glory, who works in us, "both to will and to work for his good pleasure" (Philippians 2:13)? Well, that's just not biblical. Kyle would much rather serve a God who really, really, really wants all people to be saved but just can't pull it off, rather than a God who exercises sovereign control over his own creation.

  • How Spurgeon learned of grace.
  • Monday, May 12, 2008

    Are Christians Today Commanded to "Be Fruitful and Multiply"?

    Adam and Eve were commanded to "be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth" (Genesis 1:28). Noah and his sons were commanded to "be fruitful and multiply" (Genesis 9:1). Jacob was commanded to "be fruitful and multiply" (Genesis 35:11). And Christians today are commanded to "be fruitful and multiply."

    Or are they?

    We learn from scripture that Adam and Eve, Noah, and Jacob all obeyed God's command. They were very fruitful and multiplied greatly. But does this apply to all believers?

    The reason I bring this up is because there are those who will tell you that command is just as valid today as it was in the Old Testament. In fact, that is precisely why some Christians condemn all forms of birth control and try to have as many kids as possible.

    My wife and I have no biological children. After two failed pregnancies, we decided to grow our family through adoption and are currently in the process of adopting three kids. But if we are indeed commanded to be fruitful and multiply, can our actions be considered obedient? After all, we weren't all that fruitful, and the method by which we are adding to our family won't contribute to our other obligation to "fill the earth," which was why God gave the command in the first place.

    What do you think? Are Christians today commanded to be fruitful and multiply, or was that a specific command given to specific people at a specific time for a specific purpose?

    While you ponder that, think about this: The Apostle Paul said that it was good for some to remain single as he was (1 Corinthians 7:8). Surely he must have been aware of what God had commanded, so how then could he teach singleness as a virtue?

    In fact, we are commanded to be fruitful and multiply. Christ himself gave that command when he told his followers to "make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (Matthew 28:19). Yes, children are a tremendous blessing, "a heritage from the Lord" (Psalm 127:3), but one could argue that the Old Testament command was merely a prelude to the Great Commission, for it is through the gospel that Christians today exercise dominion, subdue the earth, and grow God's Kingdom.

    If that's the case, then I think every believer -- those with biological children, those who adopt, those without children, as well as single men and women -- can be obedient.

    Friday, May 09, 2008

    This Week in Calvinism - May 9, 2008

  • What do Calvinists and Arminians want to preserve?

  • Vince R. on humility and what some call "Calvinism".

  • Jason Stellman shares his thoughts on the doctrine of the two kingdoms, focusing on theocracy and exile.

  • Tim Challies reminds us that all men are equal down at the cross.

  • Ross Middleton asks, "Shouldn’t our theology line up with our worship of God?"

  • Does God display his glory by "seeking relation with every person in his creation"? John Mark Hicks thinks Calvinism "leaves us with a God whose ego is greater than his love." Let me respond with a question of my own: How is God glorified through his own failure? If he seeks a relationship with every single person and doesn't achieve a relationship with every single person, then that means he has failed, and failure on God's part is in no way glorifying. If, however, he is the one choosing, drawing, saving, and preserving, then he alone receives the glory. We are not equal to God, so it makes no sense to imply that God is egocentric because he holds himself in higher regard than he holds us. There is a HUGE difference between creature and Creator.
  • Thursday, May 08, 2008

    A Multi-Ethnic Body

    Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton politicize race. Jeremiah Wright offers up a race-based theology. Creflo Dollar and T.D. Jakes promote a prosperity gospel. It is sad to see African-American Christians stereotyped by these so-called "leaders" in the black community. What's even sadder is that believers end up divided along ethnic lines.

    Thankfully, there are ministries that are reaching out and bringing healing to the body of Christ:
    You can find out more about Mission to North America at PCA-MNA.org.

    Wednesday, May 07, 2008

    Our Innate Understanding of Human Nature

    When we first decided to adopt from Haiti, we were told that many people there had a fear that rich foreigners might be adopting in order to use Haitian children as organ donors. We found this hard to believe. How could anyone think such a thing? Sure, we have heard of couples getting pregnant for the sole purpose of using their new baby as an organ or tissue donor, but adoption is a long, expensive ordeal. Even if someone was willing to spend the money, it didn't make sense that someone in need of a transplant would bother going through a process that requires a huge amount of paperwork, a thorough background check, a psychological evaluation, and a full medical screening, not to mention a one-and-a-half to two-year wait before the adoption is finalized. Silly, right?

    Well, that's what I thought until I ran across MedicalAdoptions.com. Take a look at it for a moment. You can easily see how something like that could get wild rumors started in an impoverished, superstitious Third World country.

    Admit it. You were appalled at first. But if you bothered to poke around the site for a bit, you quickly discovered that it is a hoax -- a crude one, yes, but a hoax nonetheless. It does, however, draw attention to the fact that children all over the world are objectified and treated as disposable commodities all the time. (Ever hear of embryonic stem cell research?)

    Actually, it really shouldn't surprise us at all that some people would see a site like MedicalAdoptions.com and think it's legitimate. Ryan W. McMaken, blogging at LewRockwell.com, made an excellent observation: "Some people see right through the hoaxes immediately, but many are outraged and quite credulous. In the end, the fact that people are willing to believe, even momentarily, that the proposal in question is being seriously put forward, is an excellent commentary on humanity's opinion of itself."

    We have known the difference between right and wrong ever since Adam and Eve ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. It's not that we are oblivious to God, it's that we actively rebel against God. The Bible merely confirms the fact that "the intention of man's heart is evil from his youth" (Genesis 8:21).

    The truth is, most of us have an innate understanding of human nature. We know exactly how depraved we can be. Those who say that people are essentially good at heart are only lying to themselves. They know better.

    Friday, May 02, 2008

    Truly Together for the Gospel

    "The basis for human identity," said Rev. Thabiti Anyabwile at the Together for the Gospel conference a few weeks ago, "is our unity in Adam as his biological descendants and God's image-bearers." Here is a brief clip from that session:
    The entire message, "Bearing the Image: Identity, the Work of Christ, and the Church," can be downloaded here. I believe every Christian should listen to it and take it to heart.

    There are a couple of reasons why I think it is so important and timely. One is that it comes in the wake of the Jeremiah Wright fiasco. (By the way, Thabiti Anyabwile has some excellent things to say about that on his blog.) It's clear there are still a lot of misconceptions about race, and in spite all of the advances we are supposed to have made, race is still used as a weapon to divide people and stir up hatred.

    Another reason I think it's important is that my wife and I have been called to grow our family through international adoption. We are currently in the process of adopting a little girl from China and a brother and sister from Haiti. As you can imagine, we anticipate certain challenges to arise.

    But, praise God, we are blessed to be part of a much larger and diverse family, one that is founded on divine adoption and encompasses every nation, tribe, and tongue. No matter what our skin color, we all bear the image of God, and to allow discrimination and division to creep in would be an insult to the gospel.

    This Week in Calvinism - May 2, 2008

  • Two cheers for the resurgence of Calvinism.

  • The Baptist Standard presents a well-balanced article on Calvinists and non-Calvinists working together.

  • The Associated Baptist Press reports, "Among Baptist Baby Boomer theologians, at least half of the major authors are committed to Calvinism."

  • If someone is already a Christian, does it matter if he or she believes in Calvinism or not? St. Brianstine believes it does "because it matters what the bible says about God."

  • A "New Wesleyanism"?

  • Does Matthew 13:14-15 refute Calvinism? Kevin thinks so. He writes, "The Calvinistic doctrines of irresistible grace and unconditional election are certainly a crummy grid of theology on which to base the interpretation of the Bible." (That isn't what Calvinists do, but whatever.) He thinks that this passage doesn't fit into that grid because it says that people have closed their own eyes to the reality of Christ (you know, that whole "free will" thing). Of course, that same passage also says that their unbelief was in fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy, so I would contend that Matthew 13:14-15 actually supports Calvinism. Whenever we see a fulfillment of prophecy in scripture, I think it demonstrates the glorious truth of God's sovereignty.
  • Thursday, May 01, 2008

    Scripture for Busy Guys Who Don't Have Time to Read

    This is real. It is not a spoof:


      NCV [New Century Version] Align: The Complete New Testament for Men

      Product Description
      Now delving into the depths of New Testament teachings is as easy as enjoying your favorite magazine! This "Biblezine" is brimming with practical insights to apply your faith to everyday life. Easy-reading NCV text Relevant articles on health, relationships, money, family, and more.

      Customer Reviews
      ***** Reviewed by Natasha Clay (Irvine, CA), December 20, 2007
      I love this format. The modern day man can take it to work, the doctors office wherever he goes. This will allow the man that doesn't normally find himself reading the bible consistently, to give him a practical way to incorporate God's word into their daily routine.
    Click here to see a sample page from the book of Matthew, comlete with air conditioning tips. (No, I'm not kidding.) Throughout this "Biblezine" you will also find interesting random factoids that make it easy to apply what you read in scripture to real-life situations. For example, did you know that "ten times more people suffer from major depression now than in 1945"? It's true. It's right there in the Bible. Now, doesn't the passage about Jesus being tempted in the wilderness seem much more relevant?

    Listen. I'm as open to new ideas as the next guy, but I just don't see how this is of any real use to believers. Are we guys really so thick-headed that scripture has to be dumbed down this much?

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