Friday, September 30, 2011

This Week in Calvinism - September 30, 2011

  • Roger Olson claims to have been fair in his new book, Against Calvinism. Yet consider his response to the first comment on his blog post:
    Patrick says:

    I honestly think the "Calvinist view" is a pagan view of Yahweh. Their understanding is how Ba'al would have acted, not Yahweh.

    BTW, I read once where Calvin himself did not teach the "over riding sovereignty" view, his successor did that.

    rogereolson says:
    I disagree–about Calvin. He most definitely did teach divine determinism. Read my book.
    So, does that mean he agrees with Patrick's conclusion that Calvinism is pagan?

  • Calvin was committed to the doctrine of definite atonement without actually committing himself to the doctrine of definite atonement. Paul Helm explains.

  • While the application of it may change, God's law does not.

  • Puritan advice on discovering God's will.

  • Phil Johnson on playing nice with heretics.

Monday, September 26, 2011

What Would It Take to Change Someone's Mind on Abortion?

"It's OK to kill a baby in the womb when..."

How would you finish that sentence? That's one of the questions Ray Comfort asks in 180, a hard-hitting documentary that seeks to get people to look at the abortion issue from a perspective they may have never considered before. It's a relatively short film, only 33 minutes, but it definitely drives the point home.

Friday, September 23, 2011

This Week in Calvinism - September 23, 2011

  • Justin Taylor on the problem of angry Calvinists.

  • Naturally, the Society of Evangelical Arminians has the answer: "Although it seems to be a question that Calvinist leaders do not want to consider, it is worth considering whether the character of God as entailed in Calvinism contributes to anger and harshness toward others among *some* Calvinists." In other words, Calvinism makes God a "moral monster," so it's no wonder so many Calvinists are angry.

  • Try to understand. First of all, "once saved always saved" is not synonymous with "perseverance of the saints." The former implies that one does not have to bear fruit to demonstrate he is a believer. The latter teaches that the elect will bear fruit and persevere to the end. Secondly, professing Christians walking away from the faith merely proves what John said it proves: "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" (1 John 2:19).

  • Rob Bell's church, according to the Detroit Free Press, "came out of a strong Christian presence in west Michigan heavily influenced by Protestant traditions such as Calvinism." If by "came out of" they mean "abandoned," then that would make more sense.

  • Some book recommendations from Desiring God.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Couple Threatened with Fines for Holding a Home Bible Study

Given the animosity many local authorities have shown toward kids who set up lemonade stands, I can't say I was surprised when I read this story from California:
An Orange County couple has been ordered to stop holding a Bible study in their home on the grounds that the meeting violates a city ordinance as a "church" and not as a private gathering.

Homeowners Chuck and Stephanie Fromm, of San Juan Capistrano, were fined $300 earlier this month for holding what city officials called "a regular gathering of more than three people".

That type of meeting would require a conditional use permit as defined by the city, according to Pacific Justice Institute (PJI), the couple's legal representation.

The Fromms also reportedly face subsequent fines of $500 per meeting for any further "religious gatherings" in their home, according to PJI.

It reminds me of something I learned about China when my wife and I were there two years ago. Our guide explained that meeting and worshiping together as Christians is perfectly legal in that country...just as long as you first register with the government.

What do you think? Are the Fromms violating the command in Romans 13:1 to be subject to the governing authorities? Or is this a glimpse of things to come in a nation growing increasingly hostile to the gospel of Christ?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Gospel Weak

"Life is about swimming with a pack of predators." Thus began a sermon preached recently by Ed Young of Fellowship Church as part of his "Shark Weak" series.

The point of this particular series was to show us that we all lack the strength to face problems in life when we're ill-prepared. "We all swim with sharks," Young continued, circling around a 12-foot shark planted in the middle of the stage. "What are you dealing with? What is your shark?" I was immediately reminded of that old, hackneyed sermon lesson from the story of David and Goliath: "What are the giants in your life? Here are five stones you can use to defeat them…"

Young's congregation was treated to a video of his scuba diving trip in the Bahamas to swim with those feared predators of the deep. They witnessed their pastor getting a few tips from his instructor and then, once he was suited up, taking the Nestea plunge into a swarm of hungry sharks.

The rest of the sermon was peppered with random verses from the Bible that lent support to Young's message. For example, he quoted Matthew 10:16: "Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves," changing "wolves" to "Great White sharks" to tie it all together.

He wanted his sermon to prepare his congregation to go out and face their problems unafraid. It was, in Young's own words, a "pre-dive safety talk," and he compared God-breathed scripture to a diver's regulator, allowing one to breathe while swimming among life's sharks.

Young didn't go into much detail, leaving one to conclude that the sharks in life could include anything from a difficult co-worker to terminal cancer. He concluded up his pre-dive safety talk by encouraging his listeners to make sure they follow their diving checklists: "Listen intently, see clearly, breathe deeply, swim confidently, and God will take you to depths that you never dreamed possible."

A half-hour sermon, and that's the takeaway? No discussion of sin. No mention of God's sovereignty or decree giving an ultimate purpose for the evil we may encounter. A brief pep-talk about how God can make your life better seems to be a common theme for most pastors these days.

Rather than worrying about his congregation being shark weak, Pastor Young should be concerned about them being gospel weak. How were his words meant to encourage anyone facing real adversity?

Scripture tells us that believers will endure hardships in this life. We are, after all, living in a fallen world that is in rebellion against God. Christ's words to his disciples in Matthew 10 were a warning that they were going to suffer persecution and even death for the sake of the gospel. He explained that his followers "will be hated by all for my name's sake" (Matt. 10:22).

The life of the Christian is one marked by suffering and persecution (Luke 21:12, Rom. 8:16-17, 2 Cor. 1:6, Phil. 1:29, 1 Pet. 2:20, 3:14-17, 4:16-19). Indeed, it is because the very One we follow suffered and died in our place that we have any hope at all. Nothing we face in this world can overcome that. "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us" (Rom. 8:18).

It is no surprise that few pastors seem willing to truly exposit God's word for their congregations. Hebrews 4:12 reminds us that "the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart," and that can be infinitely more intimidating than any shark.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Trailer for the Ligonier Ministries 2012 National Conference

The theme for next year's conference: The Christian Mind.

You can register here.

Friday, September 16, 2011

This Week in Calvinism - September 16, 2011

  • Want a "good understanding of Calvinism"? Don't bother reading books by actual Calvinists. Instead, read those books written specifically as arguments against Calvinism. Why risk exposing yourself to the truth about what we believe?

  • Those who caricature the "God of Calvinism" as an angry, vengeful monster fail to understand that wrath is love's response to sin.

  • The six major sins straw men of Calvinism.

  • Randal Rauser says the "God hated Esau" passage in Romans 9:13 is of no use to the Calvinist. But isn't Romans 9 dealing with the subject of God's sovereign choice? No matter how one may want to interpret the word "hated," the point is that one was chosen and one was not, both to the glory of God and for his purposes.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Pat Robertson's Interpretation of "'Til Death Do Us Part"

When most couples get married they vow to remain faithful to each other until parted by death. That's entirely biblical, especially when you consider that marriage was designed to reflect the relationship of Christ and his bride, the church. Divorce is clearly discouraged in scripture (1 Corinthians 7) as its very existence demonstrates the hardness of man's heart (Matthew 19:8).

But are we really expected to be held to those wedding vows when things get burdensome? Isn't there some wiggle room when severe medical problems are involved? Pat Robertson, in a recent airing of The 700 Club, addressed that very issue. A viewer was concerned about a friend whose wife was suffering from Alzheimer's. That friend had begun dating another woman "because his wife as he knows her is gone." Robertson's Solomonic advice:

I hate Alzheimer's. It is one of the most awful things because here is a loved one — this is the woman or man that you have loved for 20, 30, 40 years. And suddenly that person is gone. They're gone. They are gone. So, what he says basically is correct. But I know it sounds cruel, but if he's going to do something he should divorce her and start all over again. But to make sure she has custodial care and somebody looking after her.
Forget all that "in sickness and in health" business. Robertson considers Alzheimer's a "kind of death," so leaving one's spouse in that situation is entirely justifiable.

Again, I'm reminded of what marriage is supposed to represent: "Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her" (Ephesians 5:25). I understand this is a tough issue, but I'm not sure ol' Pat has really thought this one through.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A Covenantal Time Travel Conundrum

Suppose I had access to a time machine. If I were to travel back in time to witness Old Testament events like the parting of the Red Sea or the fall of Jericho, would I still be under the New Covenant while visiting the past?

Yeah, I know it's silly, but random thoughts like this tend to pop into my head when I watch Doctor Who.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Trailer for John Piper's Upcoming Documentary

John Piper's new book, Bloodlines: Race, Cross, and the Christian, will be released at the end of this month. Here is the trailer for the companion 18-minute documentary:

More info here.

Friday, September 09, 2011

This Week in Calvinism - September 9, 2011

  • Sovereign Grace Ministries seeks to change.

  • Happy Calvinism.

  • Is the resurgence of Calvinism linked to 9/11?

  • Jack "ExPreacherMan" Weaver writes: "Calvinism seems to be growing by leaps and bounds which is not understandable since it has NO appeal to an honest, dispensational student of the Bible." Is the key word there "dispensational"? Maybe that's why I've fallen victim to Calvinism's lies: I'm not dispensational enough.

  • Justin Taylor responds to some tough questions about Calvinism.

  • Roger Olson explains the meaning behind the title of his forthcoming book, Against Calvinism. What's missing from his explanation: why he stole the title from Jeff Peterson, Eddie Eddings, and Jon Cardwell.

Friday, September 02, 2011

This Week in Calvinism - September 2, 2011

An Arminian View of the Raising of Lazarus

Here's one pastor who, in a sermon against Calvinism, takes a decidedly Arminian approach to John 11:

In short, dead men can respond to Christ.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

An Arminian View of John 11

If Arminianism is true, then one would have to conclude that Lazarus was not resurrected solely because Jesus commanded it. The only logical conclusion is that the dead man was first granted prevenient grace and then, when offered the choice, made the free-will decision to come out of the tomb -- much in the same way spiritually dead people are raised to new life in Christ.

Let's read that into John 11:43-44:
When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out [if you so choose]." The man who had died [heard the call, was given prevenient grace, decided to obey Jesus, and] came out [of his own free will], his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, "Unbind him, and let him go."
I suppose Jesus chose to raise Lazarus based on his foreknowledge that Lazarus would choose to obey. Or am I completely off-base here?
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