Friday, February 28, 2014

This Week in Calvinism - February 28, 2014

  • Daniel Jones writes, "If you consistently and deliberately choose to believe what Calvinism teaches, you will leave Christ behind in favor of the darker, smaller, weaker, pettier God that Calvin helped invent."

  • Dr. Michael Brown interviews Austin Fischer about his book Young, Restless, No Longer Reformed. They discuss why some people are drawn to Calvinism and why some leave it behind.

  • Mike Leake reviews The New Calvinism Considered, by Jeremy Walker.

  • Calvinists call themselves Reformed. But is Arminianism Reformed? According to Dr. Roger Olson, it all depends on what you mean by "Reformed."

  • Calvinist Tim Conway (no, not that Tim Conway) preaches a sermon entitled "When Calvinism Goes Bad."

  • Download The Best of, a free e-book from Bob Kauflin. The folks at Sovereign Grace Ministries believe it "will be a valuable resource for worship leaders, musicians, and anyone desiring to grow in their understanding of Biblical worship."

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Asking Christians to Violate Their Conscience

"You conservative Christians who are complaining about being forced to provide services to same-sex couples need to grow up. If Jesus wouldn't have a problem baking a cake for a gay wedding, then neither should you."

That pretty much sums up the message of a recent article in The Daily Beast by Kirsten Powers and Jonathan Merritt. The article was written in response to legislation passed in Arizona (which has since been vetoed) allowing businesses to refuse service to same-sex couples (and, presumably, polygamists, pedophiles, etc.) on the basis that providing such services would constitute a violation of conscience.

According to Powers and Merritt:
Many on the left and right can agree that nobody should be unnecessarily forced to violate their conscience. But in order to violate a Christian's conscience, the government would have to force them to affirm something in which they don't believe. This is why the first line of analysis here has to be whether society really believes that baking a wedding cake or arranging flowers or taking pictures (or providing any other service) is an affirmation. This case simply has not been made, nor can it be, because it defies logic. If you lined up 100 married couples and asked them if their florist "affirmed" their wedding, they would be baffled by the question.
The authors are implying two things in their analysis. First, by saying "nobody should be unnecessarily forced to violate their conscience," they are suggesting there are times when it becomes necessary to force people to violate their conscience. Current laws and court cases do just that.

Second, since one's conscience can only be violated if one is forced to affirm something in which one doesn't believe, and since providing services to same-sex couples in no way affirms their lifestyle (or, if you prefer today's accepted terminology, "the way God made them"), then there is nothing about which one can complain. They seem to be saying, "You conservative Christians have already lost on this issue, so the sooner you get used to it, the better."
Strangely, conservative Christians seem to have little interest in this level of analysis and jump right to complaints about their legal and constitutional rights. It's not that these rights don't matter. Rather, they should be a secondary issue for Christians. Before considering legal rights, Christians wrestling with this issue must first resolve the primary issue of whether the Bible calls Christians to deny services to people who are engaging in behavior they believe violates the teachings of Christianity regarding marriage. The answer is, it does not.
Well, a lot of Christians would argue that it does. Romans 1 comes to mind. After all, what is a gay "wedding" if not a celebration and endorsement of sin?

Veto aside, the legislation would have been completely useless in defending religious liberty. It had a built-in loophole that allowed government to "substantially burden a person's exercise of religion" if it could be demonstrated that one's exercise of religion prohibited the "furtherance of a compelling governmental interest." What exactly is a "compelling governmental interest"? That's one of those vague terms lawmakers like to slip into pieces of legislation with the intention of having it clarified in future court cases, usually resulting in the growth of government power. Nevertheless, simply because a few conservative Christians viewed initial passage of this legislation as a win for their side, the gay rights supporters were upset.

Never mind the fact that there are plenty of other business owners who would step up to accommodate same-sex couples denied service by closed-minded Christian bigots. This is about tolerance, dang it, and we simply won't tolerate intolerance!

That anyone, especially professing Christians, would have a problem with defending private property rights is very telling. We are no longer a society seeking justice and equality; we are a society that seeks to remedy any perceived social "injustice" by granting one particular and very small group of people special rights and protections above everyone else.

It is clear that Powers and Merritt see themselves as the stronger sister and brother, and they are only trying to assure the rest of us, those of weaker faith, that it's OK to go against our conscience if our conscience is misinformed. They conclude:
Rather than protecting the conscience rights of Christians, this [legislation] looks a lot more like randomly applying religious belief in a way that discriminates against and marginalizes one group of people, while turning a blind eye to another group. It's hard to believe that Jesus was ever for that.
No, what's hard to believe is that two Christians would ignore 1 Corinthians 8 and chastise their brothers and sisters in Christ. Their problem isn't with government forcing Christians to go against their principles; the problem is that Christians aren't going along with a clear conscience.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Inhuman: Undercover in America's Late-Term Abortion Industry

"Inhuman" is a series of videos from Live Action, documenting the horrific truth inside America's culture of infanticide. Here is one example:

Check out other videos here.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Gene Simmons Defends Tim Tebow

In an interview a few months ago, rocker Gene Simmons announced that he was trying to sign Tim Tebow for his arena football team, the L.A. KISS. He voiced his opinion of those who mocked the quarterback for his faith:

Tebow has since taken a job with ESPN as a college football analyst.

Friday, February 21, 2014

This Week in Calvinism - February 21, 2014

  • Did you know that Calvinism is a cult? We know this to be true because someone who doesn't have the foggiest idea of what Calvinism is said so.

  • Sure, Calvinism is popular, but it's not sexy.

  • Is New Calvinism just a fad?

  • Eric Carpenter is "bored beyond words" with the whole Calvinisim-Arminianism debate: "The doctrine of the unity of Christ's church is far more important than the doctrines of God's sovereignty and man's responsibility."

  • Dave Miller is likewise "sick of Calvinism discussions."

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Beating the State: Third Century Christianity in the Third World Today

Most Christians in places hostile to the gospel aren't confined to buildings, and they don't rely on First World support. The churches in those areas are growing because they are mobile and hard to find, much to the chagrin of government officials.

Gary North discusses these "guerrilla" tactics:
This has received little attention in the West, because this strategy relies on invisibility. The West's intellectuals suffer from a myth of modernism: "If bureaucrats cannot count something, it cannot be important. It it cannot be computerized, it cannot be socially relevant." Call it the NSA's blind spot. Call it the IRS's nightmare.

The strategy is simple to describe: no permanent real estate. There are no permanent church buildings.

If you can't find it, you cannot tax it. If you cannot find it, you cannot regulate it. If you cannot find it, you cannot subsidize it. If you cannot tax it or regulate it or subsidize it, the state cannot suppress it. It's simple. And it is working, just as it worked from Nero to Diocletian. ...

... Consider the challenge of India. There are about 1.2 billion people in India. There is no way to generate capital sufficient to build enough churches to evangelize India in a generation. The same holds true for China. It has to be done with a house church system. There is no other way.

The tremendous advantage that the Communists gave to Protestants in China is that there was either persecution of the church under Mao or the Three-Self movement, which is a government-approved church, whose members meet in buildings that can be monitored by the Communist hierarchy.

This led to the creation of house churches. All over China, Protestants create house churches. Sometimes the government arrests the pastor, but he is replaced immediately from inside the congregation. We don't know how many Protestants there are in China today, but a common estimate is 120 million. In 1973, there were probably fewer than 3 million. We know now what happened. All of this came as a result of the fact that the Communists either tried to stamp out Protestantism, or else they tried to control it by confining it in buildings, where the government could monitor what was going on. This has led to the largest, fastest evangelism explosion in the history of the church.

In terms of percentages, 120 million is 10% of the Chinese population. But Protestant evangelists were in China from the 1860s, and there was not much growth until the serious persecutions began in the aftermath of the cultural revolution of the mid-1960s.

Mao drove all the Western missionaries and pastors out of China in the early 1950s. That was the making of the Protestant church in China. That exodus freed the Chinese church from the legacy of seminary-trained pastors, church buildings, and large congregations.

We're seeing the greatest evangelism movement in the history of the world, yet we're not seeing it. We're not seeing it, because it has no buildings, no seminary-trained pastors, and no hierarchical organizations...yet. There are only local organizations, and they multiply under persecution. They don't have any money, but they don't need any money, so they multiply.
A very interesting read. Check out the full article here.

Friday, February 14, 2014

This Week in Calvinism - February 14, 2014

  • Tim Challies reviews Jeremy Walker's book The New Calvinism Considered.

  • William Hill interviews James Anderson on the topic "Calvinism and the Origin of Sin."

  • Donal Macleod doesn't believe Scotland is or ever was a Calvinist nation:
    There have been very few periods (and these themselves very brief) when anything resembling Calvinism was the dominant influence in Scottish life and culture. Even at the Reformation the Scottish Parliament refused to endorse Knox's First Book of Discipline. The nobility had no intention of handing back the ancient ecclesiastical lands to pay the stipends for ministers, build schools, and provide relief for the poor. Knox never saw in Scotland anything remotely resembling his vision of the Godly Commonwealth.

  • Michael Horton discusses John Calvin's many ailments.

  • Desiring God shares an excerpt on pain and suffering from Horton's forthcoming book Calvin on the Christian Life: Glorifying and Enjoying God Forever.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Friday, February 07, 2014

This Week in Calvinism - February 7, 2014

  • Roger Olson's "main criticism of the new Calvinism is that it harbors a fundamentalist ethos."

  • Albert Mohler responds to the debate worldview clash between Bill Nye and Ken Ham.

  • Doug Wilson on becoming an "accidental educator."

  • John Piper explains how Christians today can lay claim to the promise of Jeremiah 29:11.

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Creationist Ken Ham Debates Evolutionist Bill Nye Tonight

Anyone familiar with Answers in Genesis CEO Ken Ham knows that he is pretty hard-line when it comes to creation, so it really wasn't surprising when he challenged Bill Nye to a debate:

The debate is scheduled for 7:00 pm EST, 6:00 pm CST. You can tune in live here.
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