Archive for September, 2009

23
Sep
09

A “from the Gut” Response to a Reader’s Question

Here is a  question from one of my readers. Read it then see my, “off of the top” response.

“…Just one quick question…if I believe in Christ and therefore “choose” to believe then is that a work since I’m having to believe. I never considered that but the more I’ve read from Calvinism’s view I’m seeing that can certainly be viewed as I’m elected because I selected Christ therefore leading to a “works” based salvation. I don’t know…it’s a little fuzzy and I could use a bit of clarification. I know salvation has nothing to do with me but then how do I reconcile that if I accept Christ I’m saved and if I reject Christ I’m not saved, which is what I do believe, but then how’s that nothing in and of me?

Thanks so much.

Your Friend In Christ,

_______________________________

My response went something like this…

In the Gospel sense, believe is the same as put confidence in.  God instructed the Israelites through Moses to look upon the serpent on the pole and be saved (Numbers 21, John 3). This is not a natural reaction when surrounded by serpents (especially a deadly serpent that can kill with a single bite). The human tendency would be to do one of three things, run, get up on something higher or go down swinging – stomping snakes (sin). You’ll remember that at least 3,000 rejected the offer and by disbelief perished. 

The unlikely, but saving action would be taking God’s instruction seriously, turning your eyes upward and away from self-dependency and, by faith (“belief in action”), trusting in Christ to do the work on your behalf (“being made sin for us… the just for the unjust that He might bring us to God”) and do what human effort (church attendance, ritual, good works) cannot do. This is how James argues for the definition of faith. We prove and demonstrate what we believe by our actions based upon that belief. This is why, as unbiblical as they are, some instituted altar calls. Jesus and the early church used public baptism  (a pretty all-or-nothing altar call) – in many cases a death sentence. See: my entry, “The Fallacy of Calvinism at First Glance.”

The thief on the cross could not offer anything to procure his salvation. He simply had to call out for mercy with confidence that Jesus, even while nailed up, dying on a cross, had the authority and power to provide it. Sometimes people can only see their own unrighteousness when compared to the glory and holiness of Jesus and this may bring about a hearty repentance – a repentance unto salvation.

It is said of the prodigal that he looked around at his situation and circumstances caused him to come to his senses, ie: “he came to himself” Luke 15:17. He thought, even if I am a slave in my father’s house, I will not be turned away and will be treated better than this. I will humble myself, admit that I have sinned by returning home. Sometimes people look at the condition of their sin, where it has taken them, have the same thought (“I’m in a pickle! I need to do something about this!”) as the thief on the cross. This may bring about what some have called an awakening followed by conviction, resulting in a hearty repentance. 

All of this is absolutely the opposite of works and self-confidence. Belief has nothing to do with works. It is a declaration of  the end of one’s self and expresses confidence in Christ alone… Christ plus nothing!

I can stuff you in a rain barrel, nail the lid on tightly over your head and everything you need to go to heaven is in that rain barrel. This doesn’t sound like works to me.  

Calvinists will make faith (belief in action) into a work.

Belief is just the opposite. Belief in the work of Christ alone is what separates Christianity from all other religious systems. This is contrary to religion (salvation by works or human effort). Religion requires that one manipulate the spirits, appease the God’s in one way or another.  

By contrast, the Bible says,

“What shall we do that we might work the works of God? … This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.”  It appears there is at least one work required.

“Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” “

Look unto Him all ye ends of the earth and be ye saved.”

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

“But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”  

Why should God seem to reward seeking? Isn’t that a work? Why should God reward any activity of man? Simply because believing and seeking is opposite to the very nature of man.

God does not reward the sun for shining. Why? Because the sun is doing what God made it to do.  But when you say all of this to a disciple of Calvin and point to scripture like these above and a hundred others, they will deny what they see and begin to extrapolate, dismantle and reconstruct to suit their speculative philosophy. They will resort to linguistic and intellectual gymnastics.  They will now say, “Yes, yes, okay, but where did faith come from in the first place? Unh? Unh?”  

To this, reply, “You know what, I don’t know and I don’t care. All I know is, once I was blind but now I see. I just did not call God a liar and took Him at his word and when I was twelve years old, I believed, trusted and called out, I was forgiven of my sin and I walked away a new creature in Christ Jesus. I have the inner witness that I am a child of God. I am in love with God through Christ and God’s love displayed for me through the cross. I don’t care a bit about the science of your soteriology.

I only can think that it would not be possible for anyone to know if they were elect or not. Aside from the subjective witness of the Spirit of God, no one could have a drop of confidence that they are among the elect. I will not allow you and your doctrine to rob me of my liberty and certainty.

Frankly, I don’t think that you are among the elect. Oh, well, that’s what I think. You may know Hebrew and Greek but I’m not certain that you know the living God. You have reduced God to a chemistry textbook while I have him in a love letter. It’s a romance – more like art than science.

Let’s say that in the end you are right and predestination and election is the truth. I doubt if it is, but say it is, who will care? Perhaps only those who thought they were elect and weren’t or those who thought they weren’t elect and are. Some will care for the better and some for the worse. For me, I simply believe what the scripture has said and took God at His offer of free grace, These things I have written to you who believe (put confidence in) in the name (authority) of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.” 1 John 5:13.

I’m sorry, but I just can’t live with the “Iffy-ness” of Calvinism. Calvinist election is not as secure as God’s whosoever and all “and “all” means “all”- the kind of “all” that everyone on the planet seems to understand.

Calvinism deals with the philosophy of salvation; the intricate what’s, how’s, who’s, when’s and why’s of soteriology. That’s nice, but it is not a biblical approach. Here’s the scriptural confidence. I was lost at sea and from somewhere came a life preserver. I didn’t care a straw on how it got there or what it was anchored to, or how well it was fastened at the other end. I just grabbed it and it held.

Perhaps you have heard the Blondin tightrope walking incident? Well, I was one who trusted Christ enough to get into the wheel barrel. You know what? He has promised to carry me across and he will. You are boring me with your articulate but cold, dispassionate chatter.”  

But the righteousness based on faith speaks as follows: “DO NOT SAY IN YOUR HEART, ‘WHO WILL ASCEND INTO HEAVEN?’ (that is, to bring Christ down),  or ‘WHO WILL DESCEND INTO THE ABYSS?’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).”  But what does it say? “THE WORD IS NEAR YOU, IN YOUR MOUTH AND IN YOUR HEART”–that is, the word of faith which we are preaching,  that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved;  for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.”  Romans 10:6-10

Though I don’t suggest that anyone deduce their theology from Christmas greeting cards or hymns, you might sing to him, “I Know in Whom I Have Believed.” from the old Broadman Hymnal.

Here’s the deal. Calvinists have made God and the Bible too small. If the Bible simply gave us nothing but predestination and foreordination verses and context then I wouldn’t even type another word and no one else would either. I think that this is enough for today. Yes?

One more thing…

It could be that prdestination is true. I don’t think that it is, but it could be. For every verse where a Calvinist might demonstrate their concept of sovereignty there might be five or ten that indicate otherwise. I am not trying to get anyone’s agreement with my view of sovereignty. I don’t have an exact model in mind. In fact, Calvinists can believe as they please on this subject, especially when believing as they do, should they be right, changes nothing anyway.

What I most hope to do is challenge their sophomorical smugness about the subject. I oppose their “cock-sureness.” Does anyone really believe that with such arrogant certainty, measly human beings, confined to a finite intellect can exhaustively figure how the infinite God does anything He does? He has not given us enough information whereby we might bring Him down to our puny level.

“Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding.”

 

 
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21
Sep
09

A Mind Control Reality Check

The Church is a river, not a reservoir.

We all know that cults control what their adherents are exposed to. For instance, a Jehovah’s Witness is not allowed to read Trinitarian literature. Just try giving a JW a tract and they will immediately reject it as “demonically inspired.” Mormonism, Scientology, Unification (Moonies), just won’t allow their adherents to believe anything they like and remain in good standing with the organization. For this reason, those who join these groups are told what they can and cannot read, see, hear and trust. When beliefs pop-up that do not fit, the cult immediately goes to work dispelling any evidence that opposes their theological propositions. Often the apologetic provided seems, to a rational mind, incomprehensible.  

Those who have worked in de-programming know that the number one challenge is ridding a cultist of his or her misplaced confidence. Their reliance on the authority of the prophet, Joseph Smith or the teacher, Charles Taze Russell and the Watchtower is superior to the Spirit and the Word of God. Everything must be interpreted through a demogog of one kind or another. Doctrinal isolation – being deprived of other points of view is key to the indoctrination process. Mind control requires the constant and steady drumbeat of a prescribed dogma. This should be no surprise. We expect this from a cult.

Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.

 John 8:36

21Therefore let no man glory in men. For all things are your’s; 22Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are your’s; 23And Christ’s; and Christ is God’s.

1 Corinthians 3:21-23

Sectarianism is the evidence of Spiritual immaturity and carnality…

I see evidences of predestination but because I do not see overwhelming evidence of it. I am, by default, a non-Calvinist.

I have read widely and enjoy authors from a wide variety of theological perspectives. I challenge almost any ordinary Christian to have read more sermons by C.H. Spurgeon than I have. Though Spurgeon didn’t always preach or write like a Calvinist should ( I intend a future blog entry on examples of this), he claimed to be one and I like him. Then I have enjoyed other Calvinists like, John Piper, R.C. Sproul, James White (some subjects more than others), John McArthur but I also like John Wesley, C. S. Lewis, John Stott, Calvin Miller, Ravi Zacharias, Chuck Colson, Howard Hendricks, Philip Yancey, Chuck Swindoll, Max Lucado, A.W. Tozer and on and on it goes. I confess to even have read, Benny Hinn’s, “Good Morning, Holy Spirit.” As they say, “Sometimes I have to just eat the chicken and spit out the bones.”

It is my opinion that this wide exposure to theological thinking helps one to have a more balanced view of the “Faith of our fathers” or, let me put it another way, “the faith once delivered to the Saints.”

Some of my email and blog comment indicates that not all of my readers feel similarly.

Those who only see things from one perspective make me just a little nervous. John Calvin finished his massive (and I must say brilliant), “Institutes of the Christian Religion” by the time he was twenty-seven and by the end of his life he said that he wouldn’t have changed a thing. Should this bother anyone?  It’s an amazing person that has it all figured out (especially something so incredible as the sovereignty of God) by the time he or she is but twenty-seven years of age. Quoting Bob Dylan from “My Back Pages,” Ahhh, but I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now.”

I thank God for Luther’s justification by faith alone and for the Menno Simons and the Mennonites in reclaiming the importance of the Word of God. When carnality was rampant in the church, there was John Wesley, “a brand plucked from the fire” who felt elect to the task of “restoring holiness in the land.” Then, just at the right time, just when the church needed someone to step up and reach out to the poor and suffering, God gave us William and Catherine Booth and the Salvation Army was born. Even though, sometimes over the top, I like the Pentecostals welcoming the Holy Spirit back into the worship services.

Perhaps you don’t appreciate all of these influences as I do? Why not? Though no theological stream is crystal clear, do you value the Christian Missionary Alliance, the Southern Baptists, the Lutheran witness in the world or is every group but your group under suspicion? Have you and your group become the sole arbiter of Christian orthodoxy? Uh, oh.   

I am suspicious, and you should be as well, when Christian groups or leaders have only one point of view. This happens you know. I have run into sects who bang the drum in a certain way and they expect their adherents to fall in line. There is no room for the non-conformists – the person who asks the honest question or questions authority. These groups generally isolate their people from others and in the name of truth or doctrinal purity exert power through a certain kind of mind control. I could name these groups but I’m pretty sure that you have your own list. One of the problems with indoctrination and mind control is most often those who are the victim of this toxicity are the least aware that it has happened to them. They have become the proverbial, “frog in the kettle.”

”…knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation…

2 Peter 1:20

Perhaps you see what I might be getting at? Let me resort to quoting the great philosopher, Oscar (it may have been Grover) of Sesame Street, “One of these things is not like the other? One of these things does not belong ”  Being able to make fine distinctions is a primary test of intelligence.

See an earlier blog entry: “Hyper-Calvinism.”

18
Sep
09

An Oxymoron – Calvinist Evangelism?

I have a young friend who has gone over to the other side and almost overnight he has become an expert at everything to do with the doctrine of Grace and the subject of soteriology. What he means by Grace and what I mean are two different things. He means “Sovereign Grace” (predestination and particular or specific election) while I mean something different. I mean what the Bible teaches…  

 11 For the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people. 12 And we are instructed to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures. We should live in this evil world with wisdom, righteousness, and devotion to God, 13 while we look forward with hope to that wonderful day when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be revealed. 14 He gave his life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us his very own people, totally committed to doing good deeds.                                                                                   Titus 2:11-14

He recently wrote me the following, At one point you seem to be arguing that being a Calvinist means that your (sic) passive and lazy whereas Arminians (*For the purpose of clarity I am not an Arminian except by default. I am a non-Calvinist.) are go-getters.  This is simply untrue and any (sic) virtually any Calvinist resource could have corrected you on this matter.  God uses means to achieve his ends and so we act.”  He wrote me much more than this but for my purpose this will do.

My objection has nothing to do with Calvinists being lazy.

I do not need the help of an agent of Calvinism to know full well that they have been and are presently engaged in evangelism. They do not persuade and in most cases shun any kind of altar call or invite a decision but they are involved in preaching the gospel. In fact, historically they were on the vanguard of the advancement of the gospel throughout the world and though now they spend an inordinate amount time on evangelizing the evangelized to Calvinism they are still active in both evangelism and missions. Here’s my problem? I just cannot figure out why. For me, on their part this activity is a redundant absurdity.

My objection is simply this – they do not have to be involved in evangelism.

When asked why they do evangelism they will give two reasons. The first reason is legitimate but based upon their soteriology and view of sovereignty, the second is not.

Reason 1. 

We are commanded to preach the gospel and in obedience, we do it.

Reason 2.  

In reaching the elect God has chosen the means of preaching. We do not know who the elect are.

This may shock my Calvinists readers but preaching is not the means of election. The sovereign, predetermined will of God IS the only means of election. Preaching is meaningless. Evangelism is absolutely immaterial and unnecessary. People can do evangelism all they like but it has nothing to do with the ultimate outcome of a single persons’ eternal whereabouts. Insist and disagree all you like, it will not change a thing as Mr. Calvin has painted himself into his own corner.

Double  Predestination is the foregone conclusion.

This isn’t particularly complicated. Now let’s look at Calvin’s own words one more time and see if I am not right. Please tell us if the elect are not the elect no matter what. Tell all of us how preaching will change what has been decided in eternity past.

People are either saved or doomed and hopeless from the beginning. There is no way around it. It should not require a Ph.D. in logic to understand this. It could not have been made more clear. The elect are the elect and the damned are the damned. I suggest that folks who fatalistically believe in preordination – who don’t believe that prayer and preaching changes things, should just stay at home.

“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.

Based on Calvin’s position statement, I am sorry to further report that God has misled us and he turns out to be a respecter of persons after all. Since missions and evangelism have nothing to do with the final outcome we are left with a problem. From what is observable to the eye and perhaps supported by statistical analysis, God appears to prefer Americans to Sri Lankans and South Carolinian’s to Vermonters. He does not really want a “multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues.” Along with God, we should be satisfied with a smidgen of well-heeled folks from Grand Rapids, Minneapolis and Louisville.

 The Bible declares, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God”  (Romans 10:17). But according to the tenants of Calvinism this is not true. Faith cometh by the predetermined will of God. Hearing is the outcome of faith and not the other way round. God must first set a man alive before the man can hear and thus have any kind of faith.

I’d like to be wrong but I don’t think I am.

4 Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance? 5 But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, 6 who “will render to each one according to his deeds”…

Romans 2:4-6

How hard is this to understand? I shouldn’t think anyone requires the twists and turns of a Calvinist interpretation to figure this out. If a simple man can’t get it, it isn’t worth having. Man is culpable from the get go. In the end, a man’s lostness is not and will not be God’s fault. (I haven’t the time to explain how Calvinists wiggle out of this knot.) He has stretched out His hand all the day long and through the hardness of men’s hearts (God resisteth the proud) God’s goodness has been rejected. For this reason men will justifyably experience the wrath of God.

Calvinists: Please do not instruct me on the finer points of how you handle culpability. I already know what they are. Your explanation is entirely too convoluted. Thanks.

18
Sep
09

Homo, homo, homophobia? Really?

THOSE WHO OPPOSE HOMOSEXUAL BEHAVIOR ARE HOMOPHOBIC!

Often accused of  being homophobic, many Christians cave in and  have never carefully thought about how they might answer to the charge of homophobia. This short essay is designed to help them get their answer straight without defensiveness or hostility.

Think with me for a minute…

Would the same individuals who are opposed to homosexual practices also be opposed to heterosexual adultery? If they are, does this objection make these people “adulterophobic”? If a person opposes pornography are they necessarily “pornophobic”? The same might be true of opposition to incest, prostitution, pedophilia, bestiality, or divorce. Those who are opposed to homosexuality are the same people who are also opposed to all of the other previously mentioned activities. Why is objection to homosexuality singled out and labeled as “homophobia”?

Do these people really suffer from a phobia in the same way that people have a fear of snakes or flying?

Homosexuals claim that homosexuality is their “natural” sexual orientation. Because of this, they claim that homosexuality should be culturally and morally accepted as their “sexual orientation.”

Suppose a group of people feel sexually excited by the prospect of an incest relationship, should incest be declared normative?  Perhaps others are inclined toward preferring children to adults. Let’s say that some enjoy sex with animals rather than people.  What then?  Should society accommodate every sexual disposition simply because a group of people insist that it is “natural”?

Natural? Um…

Is homosexuality “natural” in the vast majority of species (lesbian cows, gay roosters)? What would a gay/lesbian farmer think if he (or she) came out the door one morning and discovered that the cows were all over in a corner ignoring the bull? Would they exclaim, “Yikes! Somethun’ ain’t normal!” You bet they would. We’d have a problem worse than global warming or swine flu. 

  

Is the sexual apparatus naturally suited to heterosexual or homosexual relationships? Duh???  

Those who oppose approving of homosexuality as a “natural” expression of sexuality (alternate lifestyle) are the very same people who oppose heterosexual adultery as “natural” sexual behavior. They are the same people who oppose heterosexuals having sexual relations outside of a monogamous marriage.

Suppose a married man (or woman) feels that it is “natural” (and, believe me, it sure seems that way) to have sexual relations with any person that he or she chooses, should society simply surrender and say, “Well, if it feels good, do it? Let’s just call it ‘natural’ (normal) behavior.” The fact is that no one can prevent any person from doing whatever pops into his or her head. Individuals are never denied their “free choice.”  What society can do, however, is not commend a person’s behavior as being personally, morally or socially beneficial.

By the way, society does have rules governing marriage. One cannot marry his sister, his first cousin or girls under the age of sixteen or in some states, eighteen. So far, they are not allowed to marry two people or ten at the same time. For the apparent good of society, limits are imposed on what people are permitted to do when it comes to marriage. Homosexuals are not necessarily singled out for discrimination.

Even in democracies, there is a danger in pandering to polls. History will tell you that majorities do not always know best when it comes to law making or governance. Assume, over a period of time, a majority of citizens comes to believe that any group of people, ethnic or otherwise are less than socially beneficial? This is what happened in 1937. It would not be safe for any minority to live in this kind of world.

What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

By the way, Christians who oppose homosexuality do find adultery and fornication between heterosexuals equally as offensive as homosexual behavior. Christian churches regularly discipline their members for improper heterosexual behavior. Churches are expected to have a moral vision and without it they simply become another civic club.

Is it possible that those involved in a hedonistic “free-sex” lifestyle (by the way, sex is never free) are… “moralophobic” or “Christophobic” more than those who oppose homosexuality are “homophobic”?

Should sexual restraint be viewed as something socially harmful? One should ask himself, “Has unbridled sexual activity (The Playboy philosophy) generated a stronger social fabric or has it left behind, in its wake, broken hearts, health, and homes?”

What if there really is a “homophobia”?

Now, I know that this piece of literature does not express a politically correct, culturally acceptable position. I know that this statement may not make friends. Still, knowing the unpopularity of my position, I write this argument. If I despise homosexuals, why would I bother about this issue?

While I can’t speak for everyone, I can speak for myself and say that I am willing to take the risk of being alienated in the hope that I can gain the attention of homosexuals and those who support homosexuality as an “alternative lifestyle.”

The Temporal /  Physical Concern…

First of all, if I had a fear of homosexuality or a hatred of homosexuals, I would ignore them rather than attempt to challenge them. By ignoring them I might be demonstrating a hope that they, as a group, might succumb to AIDS. Instead, I wish the opposite, that not one person would permit a fleeting moment of sexual promiscuity to result in the death of anyone.

The Transcendent / Spiritual Concern…

Second, I write this believing that there is a final accountability. As a Christian I must come at this from a biblical perspective.

The Bible says,

“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?

Do not be deceived.

Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.

And such were some of you…”

TRANSLATION:

“You used to do these things but you don’t do them anymore.” I Corinthians 6:9-11a

It says the same thing in Greek

I don’t like these verses any better than you do. Why? Because, outside of God’s grace and help, I too, would find myself a candidate for this list along with everyone else. Notice that sexual sins are listed right alongside other kinds of sins. Heterosexual fornication and adultery are not treated any differently than homosexuality or sodomy.

For one minute put aside the fact that you don’t believe the Bible… and ask yourself the question, “What if I did believe what this passage says, what would I do?”

Well, if you cared one bit about the homosexual, the thief, and the drunkard, then you would just have to warn them that if they don’t repent, then they will not “inherit the kingdom of God.” If this is true, then caring about them as people requires taking a risk in telling them! Telling them is an act of love rather than one of condemnation.

16
Sep
09

Anointing. What is It?

 

 A follow up to “Do Calvinists Cast Out Demons?”

(Some of this is not original. I am proud to admit that I stole a few of the ideas from Mark Rutland. Of all the influences in my life, Dr. Mark Rutland ranks at the very top. No other single individual has even come close to shaping my view of who Jesus is, how to do ministry and the nature of the kingdom of God as much as he has. He is a voice that America desperately needs to hear.)

“Now it happened on a certain day, as He was teaching, that there were Pharisees and teachers of the law sitting by, who had come out of every town of Galilee, Judea, and Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was present to heal them.” Luke 5:17

We hear this word “anointing”  bandied about quite often, especially among Pentecostals and Charismatics. I wonder though if many understand it at all? Oh, certainly there are those academics who can draft a precise, twenty-five word paragraph on the theological definition. This, however, is not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about something textural.

Anointing, I know what it is until you ask me. I know when I’m anointed and when I’m not but if you ask me to explain it I am left rather speechless. I perhaps could do a better job at explaining what it isn’t.

On occasion, some will compliment me by saying, “Well, it’s about time we heard some really anointed preaching!” or “Man! Were you ever anointed!” This is nice affirmation but sometimes I just wonder if people (more precisely) Christians have any discernment whatsoever. They may be, as a group, the most bamboozled people on the planet. If a person just sweats a little or takes on an unusual, holy sounding inflection, like stretching out the word, “Tonnnnniiiightt-TTT” in some peculiar way then he or she must be anointed. If one can prance across the stage shouting content less gobbledygook and if they do it with enough gusto, wiping their brow and waving their hanky as they go, we are sold. Just pass the plate and we’ll turn our pockets inside out.

Christians are so gullible. Now, if one should try this out on the street corner the natural man (the man without the Spirit) will see through these antics like glass.

Just lately I have watched a YouTube video featuring a New Mystic by the name of John Crowder (not to be confused with David Crowder, the musician and song writer). Every so often he will close his eyes and go, “Yoh! Yoh, yoh, YOH, ah!” and this is somehow enough to give him credibility as an anointed prophet of the Most High. Or there is on the Inspiration Network, a Mike Murdoch who comes across as one having authority. He will squint his twinkling eyes like a car salesman just on the verge, tell you how God wants to bless you if you don’t withhold from Him and while he has you distracted, enamored, mesmerized, he will pick your pocket. Woody Guthrie once said, “Some men can rob you with a fountain pen.” With the starving millions of orphans, some people still don’t get it.

In saying this, I can predict what will happen. There will be some who immediately upon hearing this run into a monastic huddle  – the high walled and moat encircled enclave of Reform or cessassionist safety. They fall head long into the fortress of their books, their doctrines – and in hopes of avoiding false fire they are content to live with no fire at all. I have a word for those folks. What you have stuffed into your heads will never do what needs to be done. For proof look at the Christian landscape in America. We have grown obese with useless information.

I know what anointing is, don’t you?

It has been reported that fifty-seven percent of those claiming to be born-again have never experienced the presence of God or seen a miracle. Can you imagine?

On the other hand, there are others who have witnessed hundreds of miracles (the focus of power). Still, a majority like the Pharisee’s and teachers of the law, never once in their lifetimes have seen a miracle or been in the presence of God. They knew doctrine but did not know Him.

Though most are unadventurous and boring, I have gone to prayer meetings where God was so heavy in the midst that no one could speak, except to whisper, “God is here.”

There have been those times when we were no longer just singing songs, trying with all of our might to get excited (just bang those guitars a little harder and that should do it), but we became transported. Where? I dunno? Either we went up or something came down and there we experienced what could be only called, OTHER. The undeniable (albeit invisible) blanket of Shekinah glory enveloped the room.

I have often mechanically witnessed to folks out of obedience but there have been those times when there is a Spirit saturated unction and you knew that you were out of control and simply a conduit for the power of God. What is remarkable, they knew it too. This is when REAL, unforgettable, life transforming evangelism takes place. I wish that I could capture, bottle and sell it. I can recognize it but I can’t make it happen. This is authentically sovereign and I don’t understand how it all works.

Annointing. Does anyone else out there know of what I am talking about?

Or the time where for six months I went from prayer meeting to prayer meeting and came back home with the same ruptured disc and sciatica that caused me to only scoot from one chair to another, until that one morning in December when my friends Ann, Lauren, Aldo and Francesco prayed for me and like twice before, once with abscessed tonsils and another time with a cyst the size of quarter on the side of my face, it was gone in a heartbeat. Interestingly, in thirty-five years since being healed of tonsillitis it has never once re-occurred. I have not so much as have even had a case of scratchy throat. Now that’s Divine healing!

The “focus of power.” Does anyone out there know what I’m talking about?

This isn’t a Pentecostal thing. This is a Christian thing. This should be expected. We should have a God big enough to baffle us. This is what should separate us from the cynicism of secularism and the deadliness of theological rationalism, dispensationalism, Islam and make us at least somewhat competitive with animism and Voodoo.  

Speaking as one who has gone to seminary, you do not get this in a seminary or from reading stacks of books. It may occur as it did at Asbury in 1970. It might happen but it is not part of the curriculum. Matter of fact, a resisting and a quenching the Spirit, is a more probable expectation. It becomes one head talking to another. Someone once said, “We don’t really know if Christianity works. Only one person ever tried it and they crucified him.” One minute of  OTHER – Jesus among us (anointing) and we could shut the doors of every seminary in America. More takes place in five minutes than in one hundred years when Jesus shows up.  Oh, yes I know, “When two or more are gathered together in His name…”  but I am not talking about Him being here, I’m talking about Him being HERE – HERE  in manifest presence.

The truth about anointing…

Does anyone in their right mind REALLY want the anointing? In saying that we do, we are saying to God, “Here I am Lord, I am a blank piece of paper. Write on my life what you will.” This sounds good until God decides that, on this day or that,  He would prefer to scribble instead of paint a Correggio fresco.

The most anointed people did not drive luxury automobiles and live in ocean front mansions.  They lived on the run,  under the threat of death, in tiny, borrowed rooms, in caves, the wilderness, prisons and almost any other inconvenience that one can describe. The most anointed people in the New Testament, John the Baptist, Jesus, Peter, Paul had their heads chopped off , were crucified or met with some other horrifying death. 

Authentic anointing brings one of two things – RIOT or REVIVAL and often both at the same time.

14
Sep
09

A Kinder, Nicer Anti-Calvinism?

I’m sure there are folks, even friends, who think that I should perhaps, as they say, “be more irenic (peaceful and conciliatory).” They would prefer that I didn’t come at this issue, as it were, with my “guns a blazin'”. If so, you have obviously missed how I feel about high-Sovereignty. To arrive at a full picture of my angst, read the earlier entry entitled, “I’m Finally Out of the Closet”, June 15, 2009. If you prefer irenic anti-Calvinism, I suggest you consult Mr. Geisler.

Christian leaders get uptight about all sorts of things and even though “the kingdom is upon His shoulders,” we like to help out where and when we can.

I am disturbed about other theological issues as well. It is here in America that we can have the luxury of such public disagreement. With so many TV ministers and unemployed or underemployed Ph.D’s. trying to find suitable employment, make names and $$$$$’s for themselves, there is no end to spurious doctrines I might feel led to take on. For instance, I surely don’t like “Word Faith” and “Prosperity” teaching. I am leery of  “Open-Theism” and would like to nip it in the bud. I have just run into a scary fellow by the name of John Crowder, a proponent of The New Mystics movement and before that it was Todd Bentley, and before that Benny Hinn on and  on it goes, ad infinitum. In spite of all the compelling targets, one only has so much time and energy so we have to pick the item we most dislike and for me that has to be “high-Sovereignty.”

Oh, don’t go a “tut-tuttin me” you feel the same way but you don’t have the courage to draw fire.

If I have an axe to grind (and I do) then there must be some reason why I select this from the myriad of choices out there. Why pick on high-Sovereignty?

Masquerading as orthodoxy.

There are many reasons but for me – I believe that rather than honoring God, the doctrine does the opposite, it besmirches God’s character and nature and makes him out to be  the devil (just follow the concept to its logical conclusion to see what I mean) or perhaps the determinist god of Islam or a two-headed, dualistic god (the source of both good and evil) as in Hinduism . This is not the God I read about. To me, though nothing alike, the God of Calvinism is as extra-biblical as the god(s) of Mormonism.

Next, I earnestly believe that Calvinists mishandle the word of God ignoring or reinterpreting  large portions that appear disagreeable with their dogma. In my opinion, they often engage in eisogesis and do hermeneutical violence to the intent of the text. I have a high view of scripture and “jist don’t like folks a tamperin’ with it”. They pretend to care about theology but  in my view they are more committed to Calvin’s philosophical conclusions than to the Word of God.

Finally, and most importantly, they are proselytizers. They take “no quarter” or make no allowance for their opponents. Now, for me, I don’t care so much that a person decides, upon reading the Bible (without indoctrination), that Calvinism works. Sometimes, I am more of a Calvinists than Beza was. I can even see how someone might arrive at this notion. But, to be fair, I can also see how the “Holiness” churches land where they do as well.

Predestination is something but it is not everything.

Holiness is something but it is not everything. 

Being filled with the Holy Spirit is something but it is not everything.

Church governance is something but it is not everything. 

Is it really about  “The Glory of God” or is it about power?

Here’s the rub. Calvinists are not in the least irenic. They are divisive and destructive. With glossy-eyed, almost cult like devotion, Calvin’s progeny will allow for no other view of sovereignty than their perspective.  In fact, they have gone so far as to label any other sovereignty as heresy (Oh, yes they do). A Calvinist is un-relenting and will demand that entire churches belly-up to the bar alongside them and if they don’t, well, you’ve had it! Here it comes – the rancor and then a church split. Presto! A new, separationist Sovereign Grace or Reform Presbyterian congregation magically appears. 

I challenge any of you to invite a Calvinist to teach a Bible study to the naive. Don’t tell them what’s up and see what they do with it. If one is given complete liberty they will not, rather cannot, even in the interest of Christian charity, resist turning to Romans or Ephesians.

Like Jehovah’s Witnesses, their quivers are full of doubt producing doctrine. “What does it mean Jacob I have loved and Esau I have hated?” or “If a man is dead, what can he do for himself?” I have answers to those questions but millions are unprepared for this assault and are taken off  guard. Paul calls this kind of loyalty to men (Paul, Apollos, Luther, Calvin, Wesley) an evidence of immaturity and sinful. The truth should be that we do not belong to any of these men but they all belong to us. 

So there you have it.

Well, not all of it. Calvinism speaks through both sides of the mouth. The civilized tone is only a feigned politeness.  Calvinism’s adherents are  glib and smug elitists. (Oh, Tony, is this an ad hominem attack? Why, yes, yes, I suspect it is). So much so that John Piper was compelled to recently preach a message entitled ” Be a Kinder, Nicer Calvinist.”  Calvinism is not known for being kind and nice. They do not intend to be theological lap-dogs.” To this writer they are the rottweillers of contemporary evangelicalism.

So when it comes to Christian charity I intend to be as nice as Calvinism was and is to its antogonists and detractors. I at least want to be nicer than they were to Michael Servetus, Koornheerts, Jocobus Arminius, The Remonstrance and Hugo Grotius. Though I am not a fan of Open Theism, more recently, I would need to be  as irenic as John Piper was toward John Sanders, Clark Pinnock and Greg Boyd at the 2002 Evangelical Theological Society Conference. For a complete run down on what I mean, see these Christianity Today issues: November 2002 and January 2003.

12
Sep
09

Do Calvinists Cast Out Demons?

Allow me to answer my own question. I don’t think so. As a group, they are simply too given over to rationalism.

To be perfectly honest, I would like for someone to prove me wrong on this. Remember, I am only writing observation and opinion. This item may offend both Ph.D’s and Calvinists at the same time but I don’t appreciate feigned niceties and fawning pretention. As the reader will detect, I have not tried to keep butter from melting in my mouth.

“For the kingdom of God is not in word (intellect and philosophy) but in power (supernatural display).”

1 Corinthians 4:20

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 “But if I cast out demons with the finger of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you.”

Luke 11:20

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 “Some peoples’ God ain’t no bigger than their cranial capacity

Anonymous

A number of my friends are missionaries and serve in rather complicated parts of the world. These are dark, demonically controlled religious cultures of shamen, spells, spirits, sacrifices to idols and other things too sinister to briefly explain.

Another missionary once made the aside comment that he had never seen a Ph.D. cast out a demon. In more than thirty-five years, I have traveled, doing ministry in fifteen nations (been to Europe twenty-six times). Added to a great number of independent churches I have perhaps preached  thousands of times in churches of nineteen different denominations. I have worked on university campuses and street corners, among professional athletes, in circus tents, coffee houses, bars, campgrounds, prisons, Indian reservations, among gypsies, pagans of every description, Muslims, Roman Catholics, animists and almost every cult you can think of. I have been interpreted in at least twenty or more languages and you know what? I’m sure they have, but I have never seen a Ph.D. cast out a demon. Is this what it means, “having the form of godliness without the power?”

Now this has caused me to think. I have also been in contact with Calvinists in many ministry situations and guess what? I have never seen a *Calvinist cast out a demon. In fact, it may be worse than that! I only once saw a demon manifest in a service where Calvinists were giving leadership. Did they step down and take authority? Did the leaders even discern what was taking place?  Absolutely not, they ushered the woman out of the meeting with instructions to her family members, that perhaps, first thing in the morning, they should take her to see a psychiatrist.

I suspect there are Calvinists who are, as they used to say, “filled with the Holy Ghost and power,” but I just haven’t met any. In my experience here is what they are good at. They are good at spelling, punctuation, grammar and syntax. They are excellent at attending conferences, pumping themselves up and encouraging each other on. They are great at typing and the mastery of words. I see them as readers of books, seminarians, academics, philosophers, scholars and intellectuals (I am not being anti-intellectual, I am simply arguing what Paul argued, we should put no confidence in the flesh). I regard Calvinists as those engaged in discussion, argument, debate, exegesis, eisogesis and proselytism but I do not see them as people with power unless it is the power of persuasion which they, according to their philosophy, should not even care about.

For me, John the Baptist described them best when he said,

“…But what did you go out to see? A man clothed in soft garments? Indeed, those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses.”

Indeed, I am not trying to be diplomatic.

*To be fair, to my diappointment I have rarely seen members of other theological persuasions cast out demons either.