Archive for June, 2009

17
Jun
09

The Horrible Decree

I didn’t make this up…

“Predestination we call the eternal decree of God by which He hath determined in Himself what He would have to become of every individual of mankind.  For they are not all created with a similar destiny; but eternal life is foreordained for some, and eternal damnation for others…  We assert that, by an eternal and immutable counsel, God hath once for all determined whom He would admit to salvation and whom He would condemn to destruction.  We affirm that this counsel, as far as it concerns the elect, is founded on His gratuitous mercy, totally irrespective of human merit: but that to those whom He devotes to condemnation, the gate of life is closed by a just and irreprehensible, but incomprehensible judgment.

A comprehensive statement that incorporates the various elements of the Doctrine of Election into one concise paragraph.

 John Calvin                  

The Institutes of the Christian Religion II xxi. 4, and xxi. 7.

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17
Jun
09

In Tribute to Orpheus

1 Timothy 4:1  (ASV)
But the Spirit saith expressly, that in later times some shall *fall away from the faith giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of demons.

 *What might a Calvinist say to this? How could this seduction happen if it is impossible to happen? They will no     doubt have formed an answer, but it cannot be either biblical or reasonable. What is the possible purpose of large portions of Scripture devoted to apostasy?

 In Greek mythology there is the well known legend of the Sirens, creatures with the head of a beautiful woman and body of a bird. These creatures lived on the three islands of Serinum scopuli and Homer (though he only mentions two of these creatures) makes out their songs to be so enchanting as to cause the Argonauts complete ruin if it were not for Orpheus, who took out his lyre and drowned out their alluring voices. There are other tales of a similar vein, but the reader only needs to hear one of these to get the drift of what I am about to write.

 Over the years many of my Christian friends have listened to the aberrant and spurious philosophies of various doctrinal distinctions and have landed upon the rocks. Admittedly, some of these melodies are less dangerous and intoxicating than others. Frankly, some music can be downright trite. 

 Doctrines of demons are most often so far out of tune and discordant that even the youngest believers are wary and steer clear of them.  Religious systems that masquerade as Christian or quasi Christian are often seen for what they are; mind controlling and cultic. The Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, Church of Christ (Boston) are among these. There are others, however, that are more seductive than demonic but in my view are just as dangerous.

 I am always surprised when some of my friends take up with a  heterodoxy (an opinion). I inwardly think, “What if they had only heard of another before? What if, before encountering the strains of high-Calvinism, they would have met up with United Pentecostal (Oneness), King James Only, Christian Science, Unification, Word Faith or Seventh Day Adventist, or some other obscure snake handling, foot-washing or head covering group? What then?” It is said that heresy is often only a truth taken too far.

 For some there is a strange spiritual adolescence and a time of teenage muscle flexing –  a coming of age – and when this rutting season arrives people are more vulnerable. Perhaps it is kind of a spiritual hormonally driven thing where one must strike out for himself or herself. At least this is when it seems most often to occur.

 It is one thing for a person to trust Christ and then long for the melons and leeks of his or her former lives of sinful pleasure. Still there is the other, the one who discovers Christ, moves along for a time enjoying manna and the riches of His grace, but after a time this is just not enough. They must have flesh to eat and if they insist, God will give it to them until it comes out of their nostrils. They must find something to satisfy their flesh. For some this is a return to sin and for others it appears as spiritual, experiential, or intellectual advancement of one kind or another. Church history is full of these departures.

 One of my friends was just such a person. He always had an independent streak and in the words of G.K. Chesterton, he set out to discover New South Wales (See Orthodoxy, Introduction in Defense of Everything Else). More than three decades ago he failed to slip by the melodious strains of Hobart Freeman and the Glory Barn. With glossed over, be-dazzled eyes and cult like devotion he crashed. He didn’t make it and found not only himself but his family and others that he had influenced piled up on the rocks. Regrettably, most have now succumbed to the ravages of the sea.

 I wish I could tell you the number of acquaintances that have come under the spell of the nimbly posed trick questions, “What does it mean, Jacob have I loved but Esau I have hated?” or “How was it that Pharaoh’s heart was hardened?” Right there and then their ships are turned toward the shore, are broken apart, and only a few have managed to swim away or grasp a big enough piece of flotsam to barely be rescued from the sea. More acquaintances than I care to mention have drowned on the way.

 If anyone should be interested, I could give names of friends who listened to the voices, drifted toward them, imagined the beauty and the freedom, but once the make-up is removed, once the beauty wanes old and wrinkled, once the wings carry them nowhere, they have returned crying. Promised freedom and liberty, but they were instead brought into legalistic mind-control bondage. They were made the merchandise of men and brought under the spell of human doctrine. It might be high-Sovereignty or some other “deeper truth” or “experience” which promised to catapult them over their peers into some truly elite dimension.

I have mentioned Calvinism because it has caused no end of division, trepidation, and confusion in the body of Christ. Now, I am not referring to the vast numbers of believers who call themselves Calvinists but do not know the slightest thing about the subject.

I have been accused by Calvinist disciples of knowing nothing regarding the subject. I will make a claim to which they will smugly retort, “But Calvinists don’t believe that.” This is interesting, since I have taught the subject for twelve years, read more than thirty books on both sides of this philosophical system.  I not only teach on high-Sovereignty and free will but I also teach comparative religion and must be equally knowledgeable on Jehovah’s Witness, Mormon, New Age, and Roman Catholic history, doctrine and practice. I have worked in many predominately Roman Catholic regions, places like Quebec, Italy, and other regions of Europe. Those that I encounter there never say, “You don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Quite the contrary, Jehovah’s Witnesses are always interested to know if I was ever a Witness, and Mormons give up quickly, saying that I know more about the LDS than they do. My students agree that I seem to fully understand the historical and finer theological points of these movements. So when a few of the same students (many of whom are ardent fans of John Piper and vigorous members of Bethlehem Baptist in Minneapolis, Minnesota) object, I ask them if it might be that I know something of other religious systems – to which they agree. So then, I want to know, how it can be that I might be expert at four out of five subjects but ignorant of the fifth, and this just happens to be their doctrinal hobby horse?  

I grew up a Calvinist and my father, a Southern Baptist, was philosophically in this stream. He was the real thing, having come in contact with the Landmark Baptists and spending his free time reading Presbyterian books from Edinburgh. When he said Calvinist, he meant what he said. Other Southern Baptists would use the word but only meant one thing by it: they believed in “unconditional eternal security,” or as they liked to put it, “Once saved, always saved.” If they were asked about the other four points of Calvinism they would not likely have heard of them, and if these positions were enunciated one by one they would have rejected them out of hand. Now, I won’t argue that there are not some Southern Baptists who are Five Point Calvinists (they rarely practice what they claim to believe), but I will contend that generally speaking Baptists are not Calvinists though they are Calvinistic. This is how it is.

Those who call themselves Calvinists are not Calvinists at all. In fact, they are in opposition to Calvinism if it was ever explained to them what the philosophical structure entails. When they come to understand the implications of theological determinism, particular election, and minute sovereignty they are utterly astounded. When they learn that God causes (not just allows) every event, both good and bad, no matter how small, they begin to connect the dots. This would mean that God is responsible for all acts, good and bad. If man does a good thing (or a bad), this man has nothing to do with it. He has done nothing meritorious and nothing for which he is culpable. Suddenly a different God begins to emerge. He is a dualistic entity (both benevolent and malevolent), akin to the gods of Hinduism, or this God is the unpredictable god of Islam, Allah, of whom Mohammed writes in the Quran,

“We sent not a messenger except (to teach) in the language of his own people, in order to make (things) clear to them. So Allah leads astray those whom he pleases and guides whom he pleases and He is exalted in power, full of wisdom.”

                                                        Surah 14:4

Accordingly, true Calvinism makes Yahweh (the God of the Hebrew Bible) the God of both heaven and hell alike and men are condemned to one or the other before they are ever born into this world. All of the saved are intimately known (God has personal acquaintance with them) in eternity past. In a sense they are pre-existent beings (ie: which causes a thinking person to inquire, can any creature be a legitimate “being” without an authentic will?). Those who are pre-ordained will be saved and those chosen to be damned will be damned irrespective of whether they hear the gospel or not. Calvinists can say whatever they like (“We preach because we are instructed to preach or God has odained the means [They mean by this preaching when the means is the will of God and nothing more is needed.] and we do not know who are the elect.”) but there is no point to preaching or missionary activity as individual salvation and damnation is predetermined in the counsel of God before the foundation of the world. This makes the proclamation of the gospel a mute point. There is no refutation, the saved will be saved and the damned will be damned.

September 11th was the action of God for some ultimate good. As John Piper wrote in World Magazine (Title: Governor of all: God was sovereign over Sept.11, and so we have hope.” October 6, 2001). Consequently, if it is true, as Dr. Piper argues, that God caused the destruction of the World Trade Center and the loss of more than 2,970 lives then, it is also true that He (God) is equally responsible for the event of January 22, 1973 (the Roe versus Wade decision).  So we must conclude that it is ultimately God who has caused the deaths of more than 50,000,000 unborn babies (3,700 each day in America).

Calvinists cannot have it both ways. In this issue, there is nothing for anyone to protest since protesting has no effect on any outcome as everything is the result of God’s own counsel and will. There may be some lofty “purpose” for both slaughters. There might be a lofty reason, as with Job, but in any case this does not, in the minds of thinking people glorify God. Many, even those who refer to themselves as Calvinist or “Reform,” reject these philosophical conclusions and thus are not authentic Calvinists at all.

We can therefore lump large numbers of “Calvinists” in with the Wesleyans for to be non-Calvinist and non-Arminian (Catholic or liberal) is to wind up Wesleyan by default. One is perhaps two, three, or four point but almost no one in the world is a consistent five-point Calvinist (Is it possible to practice birth control and be an authentic Calvinist?).  If simply handed a Bible no new Christian would arrive at it on one’s own. In fact, Calvinism is not believed anywhere it has not been taught by other Calvinists. One must be intellectually convinced of it. The entire theological system borders on speculative philosophy.

Calvinism has been called Puritan Gnosticism.

Calvinism seems to be pervasive. We hear of it at almost every turn, and there is good reason for this because it is a primary means of proselytism and church growth when evangelism is not.

There is the present Pope of Calvinism and perhaps a few Cardinals. John Piper, author of, at last count, thirty-eight books of scholarly work, has the lion’s share of influence, followed closely by several who stand in his shadow, most notably, John MacArthur, R.C. Sproul, and James White. It seems strange that so much midnight oil has been burned and millions of pages printed in the hopes of changing people’s minds – minds which cannot be changed. One is either ordained to be a Calvinist or they are not so ordained.

Then there is Dr. Jay Adams, famous for nouthetic counseling who made this statement, “I never say to anyone that I am counseling that Christ died for them, because I don’t know if Christ died for them or not.”

Dr. Adams should consider that Christ might not have died for him either! There is simply no way of knowing whether one is elect or not elect except by subjective experience and taking God at his offer and Word. It is possible that one might live out his entire life believing that he is among the “Elect” and at the end discover that he was deluded and was actually a vessel fit for destruction. The opposite also might be true. One could live a life of perversion and unknowingly be among the elect. Some who claim to be Calvinist go so far as to say that God has unknowingly elect individuals among all the religious (Buddhist, Hindus, Muslim) and even the non-religious of the world. The doctrine of election does not foster Christian assurance. By contrast, the offer of free salvation to all who believe that He is and turn from their sin will be rewarded with eternal life provides enormous security.

Some may think that I am too harsh in putting Calvinism in with other doctrinal aberrations like the United Pentecostal and Seventh Day Adventists. But what is the clear evidence? Over the whole earth, Calvinists represent but a small percentage of all Christendom. Many adherents are those who have been proselytized subsequent to conversion and Calvinism makes no attempt at being initially attractive to any of the unregenerate. After all, who would care about a God and Christianity that sounded like Allah and Islam?

The God people want to know is the New Testament Jesus who went up against demonic forces as though these infestations were not God’s will at all. We want to believe that what we are and what we do matters. We want to matter in the same way Jesus’ disciples did when a father came to the Lord Jesus and said, “You can cast these devils out with a word but I went to your disciples and they couldn’t, why? To this Jesus replied, “These come not out but by much prayer and fasting.” Our belief in action (faith) seems to matter in God’s kingdom.

Even with this said, it matters little what we might prefer. The best question is, “What does the expanse of Scripture indicate? Predestination is something but it is not everything.

There is wood, hay, and stubble and gold, silver, and precious stones. A believer can lie to, resist, quench, grieve, and in general be disobedient to the Holy Spirit. We are commanded to separate ourselves from vessels of dishonor, to purify ourselves, and in a well documented eighty-one other New Testament scriptures there are similar admonitions.  Almost all of the promises of Scripture are conditional… “If my people… If you will confess your sins…” This simply cannot be taken at face value by the Calvinist; he must twist it to explain it away. Words like “whosoever will” and “all” must be redefined. This is eisegesis rather than exegesis. It is imposing pre-drawn conclusions upon the Scripture. First comes the philosophical system, and then everything else must fit into it.

Even among those who have historical roots in high-Sovereignty (Presbyterian and Christian Reform) fail to consistently hold, in any hard edged way, the five points, so there have arisen new brands that will, (the Reformed Presbyterian and Sovereign Grace churches).

Why does the overwhelming majority of the Lord’s body, the Church oppose Calvin’s teaching? Perhaps it is for the same reason that Christians for the most part oppose evolution. Is there some evidence of evolution? Of course, but the evidence can be misinterpreted or otherwise interpreted, and there is not a preponderance of evidence on the Darwinian side. If there was, then all argument would be silenced. The evidence in support of this notion (particular preordination) is not overwhelming either. In fact, it is the opposite position that carries the weight of evidentiary support.

Simply put, Calvinism does not pass the test of orthodoxy as put forth by Vincent of Lerins in the 5th century when the church agreed, “In the worldwide community of believers every care should be taken to hold fast to what has been believed everywhere, always, and by all.” Christians think that evolution is bad science. The same is true with regard to high-Sovereignty. Many believers think that it is bad theology and starts with a faulty priory assumption – a wrong view of sovereignty.

For almost five hundred years good-willed, thoughtful believers and esteemed scholars have disagreed with the conclusions of Augustine, Calvin, Beza, Jonathan Edwards, and John Piper. There are good reasons why. Trans-denominationally and even globally Calvinist interpretations of the nature of both God and sovereignty is universally opposed. It is possible that the millions of opponents are wrong? In humility, it is possible, but it is not likely.  

Though I have binders and files filled with mountains of well articulated reasons, I need not go on. There is no shortage of Internet and print material on the subject. There is no reason to debate on the issue since there is nothing to be added to either argument. It is all within an easy arms’ reach. The fair minded inquirer will do what this writer did – ignore indoctrination, dogmatic assertions,  impressive degrees, book endorsements, high-minded, eloquent speeches and consider the collective mind of the Church.

1 Corinthians 9:27 (KJV)
But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.

_____________

Colossians 2:8   (ASV)
Take heed lest there shall be any one that maketh spoil of you through his philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ

______________

I Corinthians 3:21-23 (NKJV)

Therefore let no one boast in men. For all things are yours: whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas, or the world or life or death, or things present or things to come—all are yours. And you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.

_______________

May I suggest to the reader that he or she go to www. thenarrowpath.com . Under Topical Lectures / God’s Sovereignty and Man’s Salvation they will find more on the subject than their minds will care to entertain. Steve Gregg has laid down the gauntlet and over the years done more than his fair share of bewildering the Calvinist in one debate after another. He knows Romans and Ephesians as well as the best they have to offer. If one prefers something in print, then among all of the books I could recommend I suggest Robert Shank’s popular classic on the subject, “Elect in the Son.”

17
Jun
09

The Calvinist Exclusive Claim of “Reformed”

On more occasions than I’d like to remember I have made new acquaintances or run upon old friends who announced to me something like this, “I’m REFORMED!” or “Oh, I’m REFORMED now!” or “I have left such and such a church to attend a REFORMED church.” They are so proud of themselves as though they have moved from the primitivism of Grandma Moses to the non-objectivity of Wilhelm de Kooning or Hans Hoffman. They are now among the enlightened and rather audacuiously so not knowing that, as they say, “been there, done that.”

I, at one time, tried to clarify the terminology but now I am just charitable, nod approvingly and  allow for this claim and misnomer of  REFORMED to go unchallenged. Getting this off of my chest and in the interest of time I would like to say it once and for all, Calvinists are among the Reformation but they did not and do not speak for the Reformation and it is dishonest for them, as a group, to pretend that they somehow exclusively own the term, REFORMED .

Here are the facts… 

More than one expression of the Reformation

Lutheran…                   German Reformation

Mennonite…                 Dutch, Swiss, German, Anabaptists Reformation

Episcopal…                   English Reformation

“The Reformation: from the Latin reformare, “to reform.” A movement that began in the early sixteenth century to reform the Catholic Church. It resulted in roughly a third of the Catholic Church being torn from the Pope’s hand. The movement can be grouped into three main parts: (1) The German Reformation, which gave birth to the Lutheran churches and centered around Martin Luther (1483-1581) and Philipp Melanchthon (1497-1560); (2) The Swiss Reformation, which gave birth to the Reformed churches and centered around Ulrich Zwingli (1484-1531) and John Calvin (1509-1564); and (3) The English Reformation, which gave birth to the Anglican Church and centered around King Henry VIII (1491-1547), Bishop Hugh Latimer (1485-1555), Bishop Nicholas Ridley (1500?-1555) and Archbishop Thomas Cranmer (1489-1556), the last three of whom were burned at the stake outside Baillol College in Broad Street, Oxford. 

The Reformers recognized the Bible as the sole rule of faith and practice and taught that justification was by faith alone. The Reformation rejected Roman Catholic teachings concerning the sacraments, grace, indulgences, purgatory and papal authority.” 

Source: Miethe, Terry L., The Compact Dictionary of Doctrinal Words. Bethany House Publishers, Minneapolis, MN., c 1988 

    

 

 

 

15
Jun
09

Hyper-Calvinism and Philosophical Considerations

The short comprehensible version.

Calvinists claim that the doctrine of “Perseverance of the Saints” (unconditional eternal security) provides eternal confidence, and those who are saved (elected) may never be lost.  Does the doctrine of “Particular Predestination” cause the believer to be more secure than the “Universal Call” of “whosoever believeth”?  In actual fact, is it possible that the doctrine of election might actually cause a lack of eternal assurance?

For 25 years I have labored in thirteen denominations represented by churches from Pentecostal to Presbyterian. In all of these churches, those professing Christ, have demonstrated “Christian assurance.” Christian security is not the sole possession of a denominational class. No person is saved by a doctrine. They are saved by a Savior. Even among Wesleyans, Nazarenes, Salvation Army, Free Methodist and United Methodist, those who claim to have embraced the gospel, as a general rule never question their eternal hope. Perhaps they should but they don’t. Christian assurance has little to do with Scriptural facts and everything to do with an internal Presence.

What assures any individual that he or she is among the elect?  Is it possible to live an entire life under the impression that you are elected, only to discover that you are not elected and doomed to hell?  If this might be true, then what prevents the opposite from being true?  Is it possible to live an entire life, confident that you are probably not one of the elect (living sinfully), and then discover that you are one of the elect and pre-ordained to heaven?  In either case, you are either doomed to heaven or to hell.

It is argued that the evidence of election is godly living. Could the unelected feign godly living in order to prove to himself or herself (and others) that they are among the elect?

When those who claim that they are among the elect are asked for the source of their confidence they often argue “the witness of the Spirit” (Romans 8:16).  This amounts to the same answer that one might get from an Arminian.  Both the Calvinist and the Arminian hang their hopes on the same thing, a subjective experience of internal evidence for their conversion, their election.

If election is determined (foreordained) by God in eternity past, what purpose is there in convincing people of this doctrine?  In believing the doctrines of Calvinism, no one who is unelected is made more elected.  Of those elect (assuming that some Wesleyan – Arminians may be among the elect) who do not believe in particular predestination, coming to believe in particular predestination in no way guarantees that they are more elect than they were before.  Except as a means of proselytizing others, why should any electionist feel compelled to convince any other person of the truth of personal election?

The argument presented by Calvinists as to why they aggressively share this doctrine of ordination among believers is that those who learn of election have their understanding of grace increased and this brings deeper appreciation for the work of Christ. Is this so? This is purely hypothetical in nature as there is no test to affirm their assertion regarding this. Jesus simply declared, “Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.” Luke 7:47. (KJV)

Further, if a person does not believe in unconditional eternal security, is he nevertheless unconditionally eternally secure according to the articles of High Calvinism?  Other than for purposes of proselytizing others, what is the point of convincing another of the doctrine of “once saved, always saved”?  If the “once saved” are “always saved”, whether they know it or not is immaterial.  Even those who do not believe in unconditional eternal security are unconditionally, eternally secure if they prove to be among the elect.  Should anyone that is genuinely convinced of unconditional eternal security feel any compulsion to convince others of this truth?

Calvinists maintain that the doctrine of “Absolute Sovereignty” exalts and honors God while issues surrounding “free will” exalt men.  Because of this, they argue that Calvinism causes humility in man whereas free will causes arrogance on the part of man.  Is this true?  Is it possible that the opposite characterization might be a more accurate description?  How might particular predestination actually cause human as well as doctrinal arrogance?

According to High-Calvinism, God has decreed a certain number of individuals to be saved.  These have been declared as intimately known individuals prior to their humanity.  He has determined this in eternity past, based upon the counsel of His own sovereign will.  This cannot be altered in any measure.  Those who were not elected may not become elected and those who were elected can never become un-elected.  This is undoubtedly “theological determinism” (See: Islam).  How then does the Scriptural idea of sowing and reaping (the law of the harvest) work itself out in practical ways?  (See: John 4:35).

Nevertheless, it appears that there are two possible conclusions based upon observation.  This, of course, is predicated on the basis that those who appear to be converted people are actually among the elect.  In nations where there has been unusual evangelistic effort, there are apparent unusual and corresponding conversion results that support the concept that abundant sowing results in abundant harvest (“The entrance of thy Word giveth light… Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God… The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul.”)  God does not appear to be predisposed to discriminate on an individual basis or cultural bias but fully intends that all men might be saved.

“The preaching of the cross is the power of God unto salvation”

“…it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching, men should be saved”

“I am made all things to all men that I might by all means save some”

One cannot be intellectually honest and in practice deny their philosophical system.  For instance, it is unreasonable to argue for world evangelism and at the same time believe in the “absolute sovereignty” of High-Calvinism.  The elect are the elect.  They are the elect with or without the exercise of human effort, which is an expression of human will. The gift of the evangelist or the giftedness of the evangelist is rendered unnecessary.

One cannot argue for the foreordination of the means.  There is no further means required. The means of “Particular Predestination” is the predetermined counsel of God plus nothing.  By sovereign decree,the elect will be the elect. The condemned will be the condemned.

15
Jun
09

Calvinism is not a common grocery clerk’s Christianity

Deuteronomy 8:2 (American Standard Version)

 2 And thou shalt remember all the way which Jehovah thy God hath led thee these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble thee, to prove thee, to know what was in thy heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or not.

When it comes to high-Calvinism, one does not necessarily have to be a university graduate of chemistry, finance or law but it helps. Why must the subject of election, predestination and free will be contentious and divisive?  In order to effectively deal with this issue, we must move outside of the Scriptures.  To a certain degree, we must rely on the human skills of reason and philosophical logic.  Those unacquainted with apologetics will lack the intellectual resources necessary to understand the implications of one position over another.  Contrary to what the Calvinist’s may assert, the Scriptures fail to give us all that we need to know in regard to resolving the conflict.

Calvinism must have its interpreters, those with special spiritual insights, intellectual skills and masteries in Hebrew and Greek. The ordinary person must rely on those who have gone before him. You must have Augustine, Calvin, Beza, Edwards and Piper. There is simply no striking out on one’s own. This is why Calvinism has been called, The Puritan Gnosticism.

If you have thrown your lot in with high-sovereignty, then you have just gone on to a very small island and burned all of the bridges.

Roman Catholicism has the same with its Magisterium (interpretors of scripture and tradition) and in one sense the Bible still remains chained to one of the columns in St. Peter’s Basilica. You can read the Bible for yourself but God forbid you trying to figure it out on your own. For this work you need the august body of discipherers. Words and syntax that you have always understood no longer have the same meaning or structures as before. I invite the reader to familiarize himself  or herself with the Roman Catholic explanation of John 6:48-58 to see what I mean.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses have a similar arrangement in Brooklyn, New York. Read the Bible (their Bible , of course) all you like but if you want to understand it correctly, you’ll need the Watchtower.

The Mormon’s will commend the Bible as long as it is, “correctly interpreted.”

Muslim’s care not a straw what the Bible says if Mohammed, the Koran or the Imam says something different.

The question ought to be asked, “Should anyone take the Bible at face value or do we really need hair-splitting specialists explaining to us that it says something more complex than what it appears to plainly say?”

No doubt there could be different understandings of some of these texts, but there is simply no reason why Calvinists, or anyone else for that matter, should assume that the “Reformed” have the only correct, orthodox rendering. Do they have special revelation? To trust commentary (interpreters) more than the text is a challenge  to inerrancy. Anyone who is familiar with the Schofield Bible should be leery of the MacArthur, Ryrie and now the ESV Study Bible. Seminary and Ph.D’s are no guarantee of doctrinal soundness. A Ph.D does not tell us how smart or spiritual a person is it only tells us how long they have been in school.

Scriptural references which indicate the universal call of God to ALL men are too numerous to itemize in detail.

Here is but a small sampling….

1 John 2:2

2 and he is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the whole world.

Isaiah 53:6

6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and Jehovah hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Matthew 26:13

13 Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, that also which this woman hath done shall be spoken of for a memorial of her.

Matthew 28:18-20

18 And Jesus came to them and spake unto them, saying, All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth.

19 Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit:

20 teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.

John 1:9

9 There was the true light, even the light which lighteth every man, coming into the world.

John 1:29

29 On the morrow he seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold, the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world!

John 3:16

16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have eternal life.

John 3:17-19

17 For God sent not the Son into the world to judge the world; but that the world should be saved through him.

18 He that believeth on him is not judged: he that believeth not hath been judged already, because he hath not believed on the name of the only begotten Son of God.

19 And this is the judgment, that the light is come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their works were evil.

Romans 10:13

13 for, Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

Acts 10:34

34 And Peter opened his mouth and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons:

Biblical statements regarding personal choice are also well represented.

Deuteronomy 11:26-28

26 Behold, I set before you this day a blessing and a curse:

27 the blessing, if ye shall hearken unto the commandments of Jehovah your God, which I command you this day;

28 and the curse, if ye shall not hearken unto the commandments of Jehovah your God, but turn aside out of the way which I command you this day, to go after other gods, which ye have not known.

Jeremiah 21:8

8 And unto this people thou shalt say, Thus saith Jehovah: Behold, I set before you the way of life and the way of death.

Deuteronomy 30:19

19 I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before thee life and death, the blessing and the curse: therefore choose life, that thou mayest live, thou and thy seed;

Isaiah 55:6

6 Seek ye Jehovah while he may be found; call ye upon him while he is near:

Proverbs 1:24-27

24 Because I have called, and ye have refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man hath regarded;

25 But ye have set at nought all my counsel, And would none of my reproof:

26 I also will laugh in the day of your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh;

27 When your fear cometh as a storm, And your calamity cometh on as a whirlwind; When distress and anguish come upon you.

Isaiah 55:7

7 let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return unto Jehovah, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.

Matthew 5:6

6 Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.

Matthew 11:28

28 Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

Matthew 23:37

37 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, that killeth the prophets, and stoneth them that are sent unto her! how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!

Jeremiah 29:13

13 And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.

Matthew 22:9-10

9 Go ye therefore unto the partings of the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage feast.

10 And those servants went out into the highways, and gathered together all as many as they found, both bad and good: and the wedding was filled with guests.

John 6:37

37 All that which the Father giveth me shall come unto me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.

James 4:8

8 Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye doubleminded.

Ephesians 2:8-9

8 for by grace have ye been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;

9 not of works, that no man should glory.

From Genesis and the call of Adam, “Where art thou?” through Revelation and the call of “the Spirit and the Bride say, Come…” the Bible can best be understood as an invitation to a wedding feast that culminates in The Marriage Supper of the Lamb. When Jesus commands us to go into the hedgeways and “COMPEL them to come in, “ he means what he says. The word COMPEL is very strong meaning, necessitate, urge, persuade.

Not enough? See “Not Enough… More Scriptures Please.”

15
Jun
09

Not Enough. More Scriptures Please.

Isaiah 45:22, Isaiah 51:4, Isaiah 55:1; Ezekiel 33:11; Matthew 11:28, Matthew 18:14; Mark 16:15-16; John 1:12, John 3:17, john 6:47,51, John 12:47; Acts 2:21, Acts 10:43, Acts 17:30; Romans 1:16, Romans 5:2, Romans 5:18, Romans 10:13, Romans 14:15; I Corinthians 1:21, I Corinthians 8:11; II Corinthians 5:14-15, 19-20; Colossians 1:28; I Timothy 2:1-6; Titus 2:11-12; Hebrews 2:9, Hebrews 10:29; II Peter 3:9; I John 2:1-2, I John 4:15, I John 5:1; Revelation 3:20, Revelation 22:17.

Regeneration, Morality and Salvation…

1.   Does it make any difference to salvation how a person lives?

2.   Does a single historical act of faith forever establish a beleiver’s standing with God?

3.   Does subsequent unbelief (a form of sin) imperil final salvation?

4.   Do men’s acts, apart from “accepting” the savior relate to the outcome of salvation?

5.   Portions of Scripture in Hebrews, I and II Corinthians, Galatians, the Thessalonian Epistles, James and Jude warn of apostasy. Do these Scriptures apply to believers or to unbelievers?

Matthew 7: 16-21, Romans 6:1, 15, Romans 8:14; I Corinthians 3:16-17; Galatians 2:17-18; James 2:17; I John 3:10.

What is the meaning of I John 5:16?

“If any man see his brother sinning a sin not unto death, he shall ask, and God shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: not concerning this do I say that he should make request.”

In his commentary, The Epistles of John, Calvinist, August Van Ryn writes…

The Apostle probably is referring to a sin in a believer’s life so serious that God cannot permit such a one to live on earth. It has been said that a beleiver is fit to go to heaven, yet may not be fit to live on earth… This may mean for such to be taken away by death, because they can no longer be permitted to remain on earth. They are redeemed by the blood of Christ and thus fit to go to heaven, but their lives are so displeasing to God that they cannot be allowed to remain on earth.”

The question remains, does it matter how a believer lives his or her life? Does it appear that people are responsible for their actions? Are there consequences?

I Corinthians 3:15; 11:29-30; Hebrews 6:4-6; Isaiah 59:1-2; Revelation 21:18-19; I John 2:4.

The Nature of Saving Faith

John 8:31, John 8:51; Colossians 1:22-23; Hebrews 3:6, Hebrews 5:9; II Peter 1:10; I Corinthians 15:1-2; II Corinthians 1:24; I Timothy 6:12; Hebrews 3:12-14; I Peter 1:5 (through faith); Romans 2:6-7.

Almost all of these Scriptures express a present tense walking with God.

The Possibility of Final Apostasy

Does Scripture indicate a possible falling away?

Matthew 18:34-35; Luke 8:13, Luke 12:42-46; Romans 11:20-22; I Corinthians 8:10-11; Galatians 5:1. 4 (Who is this spoken to, believers or unbelievers? What is the context?); I Thessalonians 3:5 (How is it possible for one to labor in vain? Does this have to do with rewards?); I Timothy 4:1 (Can one be parted from that which he has never possessed in the first place?); Hebrews 10:26-29; James 5:19-20 (Who is the text referring to?); II Peter 2:20-21 (What is the text referring to? Who is the subject?); II John 8:9

According to I Corinthians 10:12, who is in danger of falling?

The following exerpt is taken from Douglas C. Hartley’s, “The Security of the Believer,” The King’s Business, July 1952.

“The Christian who holds that he can be lost loses much, and being of “a doubtful mind” (Luke 12:29) cannot serve God as he ought? Truly, many such exceed in service some who embrace security, but having to be concerned about themselves, their service cannot rise to full capacity. Neither can they experience fully the joy of salvation; freedom from the fear of death while lost; knowledge that Christ fully satisfies; nor, because of concern for themselves, can they share fully God’s own concern for the unsaved.

How, too, can they recommend to others One whom they cannot fully trust? Their own faith is lacking because they-cannot-trust themselves completely to the love of God as expressed in the finshed work of Christ, nor to the promises and privileges of either. They must rely on their own weak strength instead of the power of the Almighty, to “walk as the children of light” (Ephesians 5:8). Beings slaves to fear because, to them, Christ’s sacrifice has not freed them from the alw, they have not “been called unto liberty” (Galatians 5:13). They will not believe “the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32).

This writer finds this statement to be a total misrepresentation of the facts as they really are. In the history of Methodism, John Wesley was expelled from St. Mary’s, Oxford for preaching on I John 5 11-14, that one may know that they have eternal life. He was accused of presumption.

Furthermore, this author (an eternal securist) has yet to meet his first “Arminian” believer who is plagued with this imaginary sense of being in peril of the loss of his soul. No doubt, this variety certainly exists but I contend that they are rare. What an Arminian will say is that, while they don’t expect to lose their soul they read in the Scriptures that it is somehow possible for others. 

In more than thirty years of working within Wesleyan-Arminian churches, colleges and camps I have not had one person inquire from from me as to whether they might have lost their salvation. Perhaps they ought to, but they don’t.

15
Jun
09

Calvinism, Ephesians 2 and Anthropology

“Anthropology .the science that deals with the origins, physical and cultural development, biological characteristics, and social customs and beliefs of humankind.2.the study of human beings’ similarity to and divergence from other animals.3.the science of humans and their works.4.Also called philosophical anthropology, the study of the nature and essence of humankind.”

In debate, one of the favorite parries a Calvinist uses is to read Ephesians 2:1-9 (or some portion of it). Of course, what they want to do is set a logic trap. After reading the textual portion, they will ask, “What does the word “dead” mean?” They are ready to say, “Dead does not mean asleep, it doesn’t mean unconscious, dead means dead and a dead man can do nothing for himself. He does not need to be awakened or resusitated, he must be resurrected and only God has the power to raise the dead.”

This is one of their primary arguments for election. A dead man cannot repent. He is insensitve to anything and everything spiritual. He is, as they put it, “totally depraved.” In order to be regenerated (Ordo Salutus – Order of Salvation) a person must first be resurrected (or regenerated) sovereignly by God, without the cooperation of the man. Once a man is regenerated, he then (and only then) has the capacity to repent. There are verses which will support this concept that men, without the aid of God and on their own volition, have absolutely no ability to turn to God in repentance.

Jeremiah 17:9 
“ The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?
Romans 3:11
There is none who understands;There is none who seeks after God.

Wesleyan’s agree with high-Calvinists that men, without the aid of God and on their own volition, have no ability to turn to God. While they agree with Calvinists on this point that will not go as far. The Wesleyan will say that God IS speaking and is continually making Himself known and drawing men in a variety of ways. God  speaks through general revelation, the creation (the cosmos and the natural world), through the law written upon the heart, he speaks through Scripture which is going out into all of the earth. More could be said and other examples given but this should suffice to explain that “the grace of God is teaching all men. His voice has gone out into the whole earth.”

Wesleyan’s see Ordo Salutis differently. They argue that a person (soul) is awakened through a number of ways. God gains attention through conscience, circumstances, the law of God, creation, the witness of others, the hearing of Scripture, etc.) to the reality of God,  they become aware of his or her accountability to a Holy God,  the Spirit convicts one of sin (separation) and need and repentance (reconciliation) may or may not take place. The grace of God is resistible. The Spirit of God does not always (or continue) to strive with man.  

Ephesians 2:1-9 (American Standard Version)

1 And you did he make alive, when ye were dead through your trespasses and sins, 2 wherein ye once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the powers of the air, of the spirit that now worketh in the sons of disobedience; 3 among whom we also all once lived in the lust of our flesh, doing the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest:– 4 but God, being rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, 5 even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace have ye been saved), 6 and raised us up with him, and made us to sit with him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus: 7 that in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus: 8 for by grace have ye been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not of works, that no man should glory.

At first this sound like game over, checkmate. That’s it, isn’t it? And the Calvinist is right. If man is no more than a spirit and a body then there is nothing more to talk about. The non-Calvinist should just shuffle his papers, put them in his briefcase, close it, hang his head and walk off of the platform.

The question however remains, is the Calvinist understanding of the nature of man correct? If a person is not a trinity (trichotomist – spirit, soul and body) and only a dichotomy (spirit and body) – if spirit and soul are the same thing – then there is no case. If spirit and body is all that God has to work with the “Electionist” is right. The man must be raised not awakened.

Though the scripture says that man is dead it also declares him to be also blind. How could it be that a man who is dead can be blind? Why would a Calvinist choose one text but ignore another? The Calvinist does not just ignore one text, if necessary, he will ignore a hundred.

Here is the verse that I have in mind.

2 Corinthians 4:4

In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.

The Bible goes on to say in various places that men are not only blind but they are also lost, decieved, led astray and more.  

 The Bible is clear that God made man in His own likeness and image. This was a special creation where God breathed into him (Adam) the breath of life and he became a living soul (a unique individual with self awareness and conscience – a person). I think that the Calvinist will agree with me on this point, when Adam sinned his spirit was made dead and his person was marred (countenance fallen). When Adam sinned he was dead but he was also conscious of his sin and hid from God’s presence. So yes, we agree, the man is dead, separated from the life of God.

However, we also argue that Adam knew that he was naked and that he had made a huge error with disasterous consequences.

Still, the Bible does make a distinction between spirit and soul. For milennia the soul has been consider the seat of the will (personhood). The will has been universally understood to be the confluence of knowledge (intellect) and emotion. Here are a couple of verses in support of this concept that a spirit and a soul are different from each other.

Hebrews 4:12 (New King James Version)

12 For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

1 Thessalonians 5:23
And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The spirit is dead but the soul is conscious and very much alive. The soul (personhood and will) responds to external stimuli. The Bible says that the law of God is written upon every heart. The law of God is perfect converting the soul.  The law was given to convince men of sin.

At the risk of being redundant, I will restate the case once more. The soul of man is aware of God’s glory and majesty displayed in the heavens. Because of this, men are without excuse. The circumstances of life (joy, birth, illness, tragedy) can speak regarding the meaning of life and the inevitablity of death. All of this, we believe, gives God an angle in the turning of a person’s heart toward him. The Bible over and over says as much when it says such things as, “The entrance of Thy word giveth light” or “Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God.” In fact, there is so much evidence that man is conscious and has the ability, in fact, even the responsibilty to turn from sin unto God that it is virtually impossible to site each one. Over and over men are warned, “Hear and your soul shall live.” A dead man is beyond hearing. 

I invite the Electionist to carefully read and consider the follow text. Nothing could be clearer and farther from hard-edged Calvinism and  “Particular Predestination.”

Romans 2:4-6 (King James Version)

4Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? 5But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; 6Who will render to every man according to his deeds:

In conclusion, this writer agrees with the Calvinist that man is dead. He agrees that man cannot regenerate himself. All men are without hope. Yet, he disagrees with the assertion that anthropology is as Calvinism describes it. Men bear the image of God and though fallen and defaced they continue to bear some resemblance to God. Because of this all men are eternally valuable.  Down deep each one has a longing for God and home and as with the Prodigal and the theif on the cross who both came to their senses so it is possible for all men to do similarly. 

John 1:9
That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.