Friday, December 20, 2013

This Week in Calvinism - December 20, 2013

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Repost: In Defense of Christmas...Sort Of

The following was originally posted on December 23, 2005.

'Tis the season to be melancholy. Haven't you heard? Christmas is under attack! Christians all across America are being persecuted! You thought Nero was bad? Our most sacred of days is being secularized and no one seems to be doing anything to stop it!

Is this a foreshadowing of the coming Great Tribulation? Are we about to see the fulfillment of Revelation 13:17? Will we wake up one morning and discover that we cannot buy Christmas presents for our loved ones unless our hands or foreheads bear the mark of the Beast? Surely we must be living in the End Times!

Okay, back to reality...

Yes, I believe there are assaults on the tradition of Christmas, just as surely as the world rails against anything associated with Christ and his church. But given the state of our secular, hedonistic culture, it really isn't all that surprising when some people are offended when you wish them a "Merry Christmas."

It goes both ways, however. Many Christians are just as offended when they are greeted with the words "Happy Holidays" or "Season's Greetings." "How dare you take Christ out of Christmas!" they shout, as they claw, punch and bite their way through a gaggle of shoppers for the last Xbox on the shelf so that they and their spoiled children can properly celebrate the Savior's birth.

Don't get me wrong. Despite the fact that, after all this time, I still have not received a Red Ryder carbine-action, 200-shot, range model air rifle, I love Christmas. It is a time set aside for fellowship with friends and family. It is also the time of year during which we focus on the birth of Jesus Christ. While that does make Christmas a significant holiday, there isn't anything especially holy about it.

Debate continues even within Christian circles about the origins of Christmas. "Its roots go back to the pagan rituals of ancient Rome," some will argue. "No," others reply. "Christmas is a distinctly Christian celebration and should be embraced." Whatever your particular view may be, the fact remains that Christmas is a man-made holiday.

Romans 14:5 says, "One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind." That is not to say that traditions aren't important or that churches shouldn't have special days on their calendars. But considering that the only celebration in remembrance of Christ that is called for in scripture is the Lord's Supper, can we really justify getting worked up simply because we don't see the word "Christmas" in a store display?

My point is that many of us have a tendency to overreact when we see things we don't like. That is especially true at Christmastime. We're geared up for a fight, and when we hear the jingle bells ring we come out swinging.

Alistair Begg, pastor of Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, once noted in a sermon that the weapons of the believer are "prayer and the proclamation of the Word." Those are the weapons we should be using. "As soon as we lay down the two weapons given by our Commander," Begg continued, "we will be forced to take up the weapons that are present in our culture. And so we become just another marching special interest group…"

The result is a boycott here and a lawsuit there in the hope that an unbelieving world will relent and allow us to express our Christian beliefs. Of course, what usually happens is that we end up looking every bit as shallow and selfish as the very ones we believe are out to get us. We forget to exhibit Christ's love in a fallen world.

Is that how we want to be seen? Is that what we are called to do? Is our dedication to the defense of the gospel of Christ defined by how ferociously we defend a particular holiday? Will our petty complaints about society's disregard for the "true meaning" of Christmas help us reach lost souls?

This Christmas, may we be less offended by the "secularization" of a man-made holiday and be more focused on living as examples of the One whose birth we're celebrating. The world doesn't need Christmas; what it does need is Christ.

Friday, December 13, 2013

This Week in Calvinism - December 13, 2013

  • Frank Schaeffer sees Nelson Mandela as the destroyer of Calvinism.

  • And Brian Walsh thanks Mandela for helping to remove "a deeply devastating moment of shame in the history of Calvinist Christianity."

  • William Birch warns against "self-obsessed" Calvinists. Hmmm. Why is it Arminians seem more obsessed with Calvinism than most Calvinists?

  • Mr. Birch had previously warned against "cage-stage Calvinists," those recent converts to Calvinism who "become nasty individuals hell-bent on converting every believer of his or her newly-adopted heterodoxy." In the comments section Mr. Birch asked, "Where are the cage-stage Arminians, cage-stage progressives, cage-stage Baptists, Lutherans, atheists, etc.? No one ever discusses such a thing because generally no such thing exists." He may be right. There are no cage-stage Arminians because they are too busy running blogs that devote a great deal of space to ranting against Calvinism.

  • Finally! A pastor brave enough to expose the errors of Calvinism! I wonder: Where are all the "cage-stage Calvinist" pastors devoting entire sermon series to exposing the errors of Arminianism?

  • Former Calvinist Ronnie Rogers, pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Norman, OK, reminds us that "the gospel according to Scripture is a better gospel than the gospel according to Calvinism."

  • Kevin DeYoung sums up what he thinks about the New Calvinism in one word: gratitude.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

'The Calvinist': A Poem by John Piper

Marshall Segal of Desiring God writes:
If Calvinism isn't relevant for our life today — even the mundane details of our life — we should reject and ignore it. Sadly, I think most people make that judgment without ever really asking the question. What the Bible and the video above show so beautifully is that the sovereignty of God and his love for sinners relates to absolutely everything we do. Calvinism causes a hopeful, hard-working complete dependence on God and an undivided devotion to his glory in every area of life — marriage, parenting, school, vocation, failure, recreation, even death.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

This Rodeo (Used to Be a Cute Cathedral)

Pastor Lawrence Bishop II of Solid Rock Church has been preaching a series of sermons entitled "Conquering the Beast" -- because, you know, we all need to stand up to the giants in our lives. This past Sunday, Pastor Bishop drove home his point with quite a unique sermon illustration (jump ahead to about the 17-minute mark):

Naturally, I was reminded of this Steve Taylor classic...

(via Breitbart)

Friday, December 06, 2013

This Week in Calvinism - December 6, 2013

  • Kristen O'Neal had this thought when the subject of Calvinism came up in class: "This is when I realized that my greatest fear is not a nonexistent God; my greatest fear is that the universe is ruled by a cruel and arbitrary tyrant."

  • Roger "I'm not sure how to distinguish [the God of Calvinism] from the devil" Olson offers to explain Calvinism to those who profess it: "Many Calvinists simply do not understand Calvinism. I, as an Arminian, understand it better than they do." Thank you, Dr. Olson!

  • Robert W. Patterson sees D. G. Hart's book, Calvinism: A History, as a call to transform individuals, not society.

  • What kind of Calvinist are you?

  • According to Dr. James Ach, "Calvinism can not (sic) escape that theological implications (sic) that reprobation makes God the author of sin." I assume by "author" he means that God decreed the existence of sin. How, then, does he explain the fact that God created man knowing that sin would enter into the world? Seems to me the anti-Calvinist position is caught up in the same theological quandary.

  • The six points of Calvinism, explained briefly using the acronym C.A.L.V.I.N.

  • Typical Arminian caricature of Calvinism.

  • It's nice to know this blog has been an inspiration to others. William Birch has started his own series of weekly updates entitled "Findings in Arminianism."

Thursday, December 05, 2013

God Supports the "Affordable" Care Act?

Of course he does. Ed Schultz says so:

Besides, when Jesus told us to take care of the poor, he obviously meant that it should be done through the governmental use of force.
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