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.”

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