Friday, June 27, 2008

This Week in Calvinism - June 27, 2008

  • Mark G. on the perseverance of the saints.

  • Calvinist satire vs. Arminian satire. In my opinion, it's no contest!

  • An Arminian bashes former Arminians.

  • The Pilgrim examines fifteen of the most common Roman Catholic arguments in favor of the near-deification of Mary.

  • A buncha stuff from Team Pyro.

  • Kim Riddlebarger begins a series on the legacy of B. B. Warfield.
  • Tuesday, June 24, 2008

    Repentance and Personal Transformation

    If you have never dropped by the White Horse Inn, you don't know what you're missing. The latest show is entitled "Repentance and Personal Transformation." Host Michael Horton sets the tone of the broadcast:
      Those of us here on the White Horse Inn certainly believe that people not only can be transformed, but that every Christian is transformed and is in the process of being transformed. But we just think very differently about that than most Americans today. Personal transformation is just not a category for us. That's a term with a lot of baggage. Generally speaking it's the kind of transformation that I'm still in charge of and that I can manage with the right game plan.

      The new birth -- conversion and repentance -- now that's a completely different kettle of fish. God assails me from out of nowhere in judgment by His Word and Spirit; nails me, brings me to the point of agreeing with His judgment about me, and then executes me. And then through that pulls me out through the other side alive with Christ out at the other end as new creatures.

      So it's actually the devil who's in the business of keeping folks on the treadmill of makeovers, New Year's resolutions, and self-help fads in order to improve the self. It's God who's in the business of killing us and making us new creatures in His Son. It's called mortification (dying to self) and vivification (living to God in Jesus Christ). And it doesn't just happen once, but every day until we're glorified. Furthermore, it's something that God does to us through His Word of Law and Gospel. Not something that we can do for ourselves, through our own clever programs.

      (Full commentary...)
    One part of the broadcast that jumped out at me was when our attention was drawn to Romans 5:4-8:
      And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works:

        "Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven,
        and whose sins are covered;
        blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin."
    Horton notes, "Repentance isn't mentioned as the basis. Faith isn't even the basis. The only basis for God's forgiveness of any sin is that Jesus Christ paid for it."

    Friday, June 20, 2008

    This Week in Calvinism - June 20, 2008

  • A prime concern at the recent Southern Baptist Convention: church discipline.

  • Why your next pastor should be a Calvinist.

  • Sean Higgins lists some helpful resources for those wishing to study Calvinism.

  • D.J. Williams makes a simple, practical observation on God's sovereignty.

  • One examiner of Calvinism asks, "Why is the raising of Lazarus so universally invoked by major Calvinist authors as a means to illustrate spiritual regeneration?" Well, why does Paul refer to the unregenerate in Ephesians 2:1 as being dead in trespasses and sin? The point is that dead is dead, whether we're talking about a person's physical condition or spiritual condition -- and a dead man is incapable of raising himself.
  • Tuesday, June 17, 2008

    Bleeding Heart Calvinism

    This brilliant editorial is from Joost Nixon, contributing editor to Credenda/Agenda magazine and pastor of Christ Church in Spokane.



    You'll find more gems like this over at St. Anne's Public House. Check it out!

    Total Depravity and God's Judgment

    How can God judge those who are unable to choose him? As Mark Driscoll reminds us, everyone gets exactly what they want...except the Christian:

    Friday, June 13, 2008

    This Week in Calvinism - June 13, 2008

  • Arthur Sido kicks over some straw men.

  • Brian Sandifer on Calvinism and contemporary Christian counseling.

  • The folks at Triablogue have compiled all the links to their lengthy debate on Calvinism vs. Arminianism.

  • Reformed doctrine and evangelism.

  • Frank Page, outgoing president of the Southern Baptist Convention, on how he sees the rise of Calvinism shaping the future of the denomination: "I have always been a proponent of Southern Baptists going back to their roots … of the first century, not the 17th century [of the Calvinists]. It's healthy to discuss theological issues, but at the end of the day we need to come together in obedience to the Great Commission." Funny, I never thought of theology and evangelism as being mutually exclusive. Is he saying we shouldn't care whether or not evangelists espouse bad theology as long as they are trying to win souls?
  • Wednesday, June 11, 2008

    Not Capitalizing a Capital Offense?

    Many Jewish writers will drop the vowel when referring to G-d for fear of violating the Third Commandment. They believe this practice prevents someone from taking the Lord's name in vain even accidentally. It also stems from the belief that allowing God's name to appear in a medium that may at some point be erased or deleted could be considered irreverent.

    I'm sure many Christians find that strange. After all, we speak about God all the time, and there really isn't any verbal equivalent for "G-d." But when most Christians write about God, they have a tendency to show reverence by capitalizing divine pronoun references such as He, His, and Him. I used to do that, but eventually discontinued the practice. I did so for a few reasons.

    First of all, it's easier not to capitalize. Yes, that sounds like a lazy excuse, but consistency makes proof-reading less difficult.

    It also makes sense from a grammatical standpoint. Pronouns like he, his, and him aren't proper nouns, so it's only logical that they aren't capitalized.

    Historically, the original Hebrew and Greek scripture texts didn't distinguish between capital and lower case letters. Early English Bibles, including the 1611 King James and the 1557 Geneva, didn't capitalize divine pronouns, and most modern translations, such as the NIV and ESV (the one I use), follow the same style.

    Bottom line: I think it's a matter of personal preference. If you want to capitalize divine pronouns, go ahead. If not, fine. When it comes to showing reverence for God, I think our main focus should be on the context in which God's name is used.

    Tuesday, June 10, 2008

    Proof of Evolution?

    Breaking news from New Scientist:
      A major evolutionary innovation has unfurled right in front of researchers' eyes. It's the first time evolution has been caught in the act of making such a rare and complex new trait.

      And because the species in question is a bacterium, scientists have been able to replay history to show how this evolutionary novelty grew from the accumulation of unpredictable, chance events.
    OK, so some scientists observed bacteria change slightly over time. The conclusion?:
      [T]he experiment stands as proof that evolution does not always lead to the best possible outcome. Instead, a chance event can sometimes open evolutionary doors for one population that remain forever closed to other populations with different histories.

      Lenski's experiment is also yet another poke in the eye for anti-evolutionists, notes Jerry Coyne, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Chicago. "The thing I like most is it says you can get these complex traits evolving by a combination of unlikely events," he says. "That's just what creationists say can't happen."
    Hold on there, professor. You started with bacteria and ended with bacteria. I don't think there's a creationist in the world that would question your findings.

    Monday, June 09, 2008

    Tiptoeing through the TULIPs - Part 5: Perseverance of the Saints

    Perseverance of the Saints
    This is the promise and the assurance we have as Christians that we are eternally secure in Christ. It follows logically that if God is the one doing all the work to save us, then he is also the one who is able to hold us. That is why many Calvinists prefer the term "preservation of the saints." It is not so much that we persevere to the end, but that God preserves us throughout all eternity.

    Jesus Christ taught that all who are given to him by the Father will never be lost, but will be raised up on the last day (John 6:37-39). Paul writes in Philippians 1:6 "that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ." We have no choice but to conclude that one who is given eternal life will have exactly that.

    Yet many Christians continue to think it is possible for a believer to lose his salvation. They point to passages like 2nd Peter 1:10, which implores us to "make our calling and election sure." They also like to refer to Hebrews 6:4-6:
      For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.
    Once again, we see verses that at first glance seem to refute the Calvinist position. But, as usual, we are reminded of the importance of keeping verses in context and interpreting them in light of other passages.

    For example, scripture teaches that the future of God's elect has already been sealed. Paul tells us that "those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified" (Romans 8:30). Note that the glorification of those who receive the gift of salvation is presented as a present reality. While it hasn't happened yet, it's spoken of as if it already has. It is assured.

    Christ himself said, "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand" (John 10:27-28). That hardly leaves any room for debate.

    But what about those who "fall away" from the faith? 1st John 2:19-20 has the answer: "They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us. But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge." It is possible for people to be touched by the gospel, even changed in some way. However, as the parable of the sower shows us, only real faith bears fruit (Matthew 13:1-23).

    The belief that Christians can lose their salvation just doesn't make sense in light of scripture. We read in 2nd Thessalonians 2:13 that we were chosen "as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth." Why would we be chosen for salvation only to be cast aside later? In 1st Peter 1:5 we learn that believers "by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time." Why would anyone want to think that God is incapable of guarding our salvation?

    Perhaps the biggest criticism leveled at this particular doctrine is that it hands the believer a license to sin. "If there is no way for a Christian to lose his salvation, then we can sin all we want without fear of judgment." Nothing could be further from the truth.

    Yes, Christians sin. That's taught in scripture. In fact, if we claim to be without sin, "we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us" (1st John 1:8). But scripture also teaches that we are "predestined to be conformed" to the likeness of Christ (Romans 8:29), and Hebrews 10:14 says that Christ "has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified."

    Sanctification is the process by which we continue to grow as Christians. To be sanctified means to be set apart, to be made holy. This is only possible through the power of the Holy Spirit dwelling within each believer (2nd Timothy 1:14). If left to our own devices, we would surely fall away into sin and be lost forever.

    Without the doctrines of grace, one could only conclude that salvation depends ultimately on us. We convict ourselves of sin. We choose God. We decide whether or not Christ's gift of salvation applies to us. We are drawn to God only if we allow it. Therefore, we abide forever in Christ only if we decide that's what we want.

    I won't speak for anyone else, but I know for a fact that I wouldn't make it through one day apart from God's saving and sustaining grace. My hope lies in the fact that my ultimate salvation doesn't depend on my own feeble efforts. As Paul reminds me in 1st Corinthians 1:8, it is Christ alone who sustains me to the end.

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

    Friday, June 06, 2008

    Why I Don't Support "Intelligent Design"

    The reason I don't like "intelligent design" is because the term itself is actually code for "theistic evolution." ID advocates don't necessarily support the biblical account of creation. Many, if not most, of them accept evolution as scientific fact, but just can't shake the idea that someone or something is behind it, perhaps even actively guiding the process.

    But theistic evolution is not compatible with scripture. It can be refuted with one verse. In Romans 5:12, the apostle Paul tells us that "sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned."

    Therefore, since death is an inherent part of evolution, and death didn't exist until Adam sinned, I can conclude with certainty that evolution, theistic or otherwise, is false.

    This Week in Calvinism - June 6, 2008

  • One of the questions the posed to SBC presidential candidates: "Do you see any reason for non-Calvinist Southern Baptists to be concerned about a renewed emphasis on Calvinism in some Southern Baptist churches and seminaries?"

  • Only a Universalist could hope to reconcile Calvinism with Arminianism.

  • Jason Garwood is posting his thoughts on the five points of Calvinism. He's currently on part four. (Which reminds me, I still need to finish part five in my own series!)

  • Ferg doesn't understand why some people turn into Calvinists when they go off to Bible college. He asks, "What is it about knowledge that can usurp what the heart tells us?" Well, as Jeremiah 17:9 says, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?" If you are curious, I would suggest the writings of John Piper. You'd be hard-pressed to find a more loving, compassionate, and humble servant in the church, yet he's one of the most devout and articulate Calvinists you'll ever meet.

  • "It is completely wrong," thinks Gregory MacDonald, "to assert that God's essential nature of love would not be compromised if God failed to love his creatures." Aside from the fact that love is only one aspect of God's nature, scripture teaches us that genuine love must hate (Romans 12:9), otherwise it isn't love.

  • Don Boys, Ph.D., leaves no TULIP untrampled. Yeah, he even brings up Servetus.
  • Thursday, June 05, 2008

    MacArthur's Millennial Manifesto

    I'm sure you're all familiar with John MacArthur's message "Why Every Self-Respecting Calvinist Is a Premillennialist," which he delivered at the 2007 Shepherd's Conference. To say that it made quite a stir in the blogosphere would be a huge understatement. Well, someone has provided us with a cogent answer to that speech in the form of a new book entitled MacArthur's Millennial Manifesto: A Friendly Response.

    "In this book," writes Jason Robertson, "Dr. Sam Waldron addresses the assertions of MacArthur historically, exegetically and theologically. Although his arguments are rigorous, the entire tenor of the book is level-headed and irenic. This 'friendly response' grants modern day Amillennialists the opportunity to thoughtfully engage their Dispensational brethren."

    You can pre-order your copy from Reformed Baptist Academic Press.

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