Archive for March, 2010

23
Mar
10

Tamara Lowe at Christ Fellowship!

The Gospel in rap set against the the despair of American contemporary cultural ikons

04
Mar
10

How Calvinism Should Breed Insecurity

Do you remember when Uncle Ricco, Napoleon Dynamite and Kip were all sitting together on the couch watching Ricco’s lame quarterbacking videos? Annoyed, Napoleon cynically speaks up and says, “This is pretty much the worst video of all time.” To this over statement Kip responds, ‘Napoleon, like anybody could ever know that?” It was a moment of truth, wasn’t it? No one could know whether this was the worst video ever made or not. In order to know this sort of thing a person would at least have to have exhaustive knowledge in two different respects. First, they would have to have an all encompassing aesthetic sensibility. Additionally, they would have to have viewed and know, when it came to all videos ever made, what is infinitely good and bad. This is infinite information that no one has.

Perseverance of the Saints…

You may be wondering what this has to do with Calvinism, election, predestination and the fifth point of T-U-L-I-P, “Perseverance of the Saints?” 

When it comes to the infinite, there are some things just too much for a finite mind to know. In previous entries, I have written (and quoted Calvin himself) about sovereignty and election. Over and over, I have only repeated Calvin telling the reader that God in eternity past specifically and particularly chose each and every individual who would be regenerated and this is done before they have ever been born into this present world. My point being that all men are basically born hopeless from the beginning. People enter existence already condemned or saved and Christ did not die for ALL men  but only for those whom God has preselected. This concept is called “Particular Election.”  

Further, and Calvinists will agree with me here, all of those who are Elected by God will never be lost. This is called by some, “Once saved, always saved” but the real language is “Perseverance of the Saints.” 

Here’s the deal. 

It would be impossible for anyone, even the most ardent Calvinist to know for certain that they are among the Elect. They could think that they are among the Elect but they could not know for absolutely certain that they are among the chosen.

Jehovah’s Witnesses have the same problem in knowing whether or not they are in the heavenly 144,000.

Muslim’s are never sure that Allah will admit them to Paradise, unless of course, they go out and blow themselves up in the name of Islam.

Now get what I am saying here. I am not saying that no Calvinists are Elect. I am just saying that it would be presumptuous to say so. Of course, when they do say so, they say so for the same reason that a Pentecostal or a Wesleyan says so. They have the witness of the Spirit (Romans 8:9 and 16) that they are a child of God and this has nothing to do with skills in debating the finer points of Romans 9,  Ephesians 2 or T-U-L-I-P.  

It is here that I want to do what no person who wants to be taken seriously should ever do. I want to argue from the position of particularity. In other words, I intend to resort to specific, personal experience and examples. In fact, I will perhaps set myself up as some sort of judge but not having the advantage of exhaustive knowledge of the mind of God or any person I am about to refer to.

For twelve years I taught a three credit course entitled, “Sovereignty and Free-Will” at a Minneapolis area college not more than twenty minutes from John Piper’s, Bethlehem Baptist Church. Because of this, I wound up having a number of hard-shell and objectionable Calvinists (they prefer to be called Reform but a rose by any other name is still a rose) in my classroom. In all, I would suspect that, over the years, I had about ten of those students. I really can’t imagine what they thought. They thought that the class was up for grabs and anyone’s opinion was as good as anyone else’s. They perhaps supposed that anything goes but this wouldn’t be true at Bethlehem Baptist now would it? Of course not. We have, as does Bethlehem Baptist, what might be called a “School of Thought.” We thought in a certain way and objected to other ways of thinking. That was our prerogative as it is Bethlehem Baptists prerogative and my expectation that, should I attend there, I will be subjected to Reform doctrine, otherwise called Calvinism.

Now here’s where I do what I should not do. Of those ten students, all experts at Calvinism, I can only think of one that has not now left the faith, presently living an immoral life, dropped out of ministry, or was expelled for insubordination. So far, of the ten, only one has seemed to persevere. Fortunately, the last chapter may not have been written yet and these prodigals may yet be restored. Perhaps they are Elect in spite of the poor performance? Who knows? At this point a good Calvinist would have two choices. They could either say, “They probably weren’t saved in the first place” or “Performance has nothing to do with whether a person will persevere or not. The appearance of external morality or the seeming evidence of faith is no indicator of whether a person is (Elect) saved or not. There need not be any evidence of regeneration or transformation.” I take no exception to this as this, according to grace, is possible but not ideal.

 “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;” (Titus 2:11-13) 

 Here is my point.

For the longest time these students were convinced that they were among the Elect. In those same classrooms there were all sorts of denominations represented and it is true that not all of the other five hundred or more appear to have persevered. Still, none of these students were as adamant about persevering and arguing for it with as much conviction as the Calvinists in the room who overall, and almost to a person, have not done well. Knowledge of Election is no guarantee of Election, now is it?

There are others that become enamored with the tenants of Calvinism. They are busy learning axiom’s and theorems, memorizing minute details on how to defend their doctrines, staying up late at night pouring over Romans and Ephesians, reading ponderous books by Westminster PhD’s and honing their new found skills on their friends and family members. Is it possible that they engage themselves in this way, day after day, night after night, month after month and year after year and after having diligently learning all about every nuance of Calvinism, and at the precise moment they draw their last breath learn that all of this was a colossal waste of time and they were never regenerate in the first place? Well yes, and I think that this will undoubtedly be the case of some. Spiritually speaking, some have never brought up a drop of life-giving water from their own spiritual wells. Oh well, so be it, “che sara, sara.” Their heads are full but their hearts empty and their spirits are still dead in sin. “The flesh, it profiteth nothing” and “knowledge puffeth up.”

Calvinists are simply parrots all in the same cage.

Worldwide, Jehovah’s Witnesses are doing similarly each Thursday evening at their Theocratic Meetings. Are they committed to what they believe? You bet they are! Are they sincere? You bet they are! Are they Elect? Not on your life! Do they think they are! You bet they do!

Sadly, Mormon’s couldn’t possibly know if they are Elect or not (except the witness of the Spirit) and neither can a Calvinist. Do Mormon’s think they have the witness of the Spirit? Just ask them and they will tell you about their subjective, “Burning in the bosom,” as they call it.

I believe that a recipe for losing one’s assurance is to become a Calvinist and go about wondering whether you have it or not. It is much easier to take God at His word and believe what He says, for “WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED (Romans 10:13), 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 10:9-10),  Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household” (Acts 16: 30b-31), “The one who believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself; the one who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has given concerning His Son. And the testimony is this,that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life (1 John 5:10-13).” 

04
Mar
10

Calvinism is Theological Determinism (Fatalism)

How hard is this to understand?

Muslim’s, Buddhists, first year philosophy students, my twelve year-old grandson – they all get it. Still there remain some who do not take clear definitions for what they are. Fatalism means ALL is caused. There is no choice, no chance and no change in the universe. Once more, let me give you the textbook definitions of determinism and fatalism.

Determinism

“From the Latin de plus terminus, “end.”  In philosophy, the idea that all that happens is casually fixed and cannot happen any other way; the belief that all events in the universe, including human actions, are controlled by previous conditions.  Many forms of Calvinism are variations of theological determinism.”

Fatalism

“From the Latin fatim, meaning ‘that which the god’s ordain to happen.’  The belief that God, because He is all knowing and all-powerful, foresees and causes according to His divine foreknowledge every event in a person’s life and in the universe.  These events must occur; they cannot happen.  When God’s sovereignty is taken to be so wooden, the resulting fatalism is devastating to evangelism, missions, and ultimately to the nature of God and human beings created in His image.”

High Sovereignty (Calvinism) is theological determinism and theological determinism is fatalism. They all are the same thing by different names.

The raw facts of the matter… 

If you have been praying for your parents, your children or your next door neighbor you can stop right now as their eternity is pre-determined. Any and all excercise whereby you beseech God on behalf of another for any reason is a waste of one’s time. God’s pre-determined will has decided everything in advance.

Anyone who attempts to cajole you by offering some twisted explanation about God working through the means of prayer (or preaching) has not been honest. What is decided in the pre-determined will of God is decided and nothing we do by vain effort and futile works of the flesh will make one iota of difference in the ultimate outcome.

I invite the reader(s) to refer to the entry,  “An Oxymoron – Calvinist Evangelism.”

01
Mar
10

Intellectual Legalism and Calvinism

DEFINING INTELLECTUAL LEGALISM

When we think of  legalism, we most often think of moral or behavioral legalism. Churches and Christian groups that are considered to be legalistic have rules that focus on or  go beyond what is written. These rules may have to do with the length of hair, style of dress, issues concerning make-up and jewelry and more. The list is unending. It is possible for legalism to even go so far as to dictate how high one may lift their hands or if hands might be lifted at all. Some churches will allow a person to sing “hallelujah” but forbid that you can shout “Hallelujah!”

It is not necessary for these rules to have been written and posted on the wall. Usually, it is possible to discern what is and what is not permissible within one short visit. Churches with the name “Grace” something or other are sometimes the worst offenders. In fact, there may be a great deal of talk about liberty while people are in bondage, walking in the light of man rather than the light of God.

Scripture (often taken out of context or over amplified) is used as a club – as a means of making people follow the party line. Fundamentalism, while claiming to please God may in fact be doing the opposite, by turning people into the “merchandise of men” rather than the children of God.

There is another kind of almost cult like legalism that is rarely detected. This form of legalism is as dangerous and controlling as the behavioral form. Intellectual legalism prescribes what books, theologians and commentarialist are suitable to be read and which are not. Of course, no one goes through another persons library and totes out books by doctrinally unapproved authors. There is no visible mind control police that is made responsible for this sort of activity but it happens all the same.

INTELLECTUAL or THEOLOGICAL PROVINCIALISM

For a short time I lived on Vancouver Island. The shopping in Victoria, British Columbia’s capital city of less than 80,000, was somewhat restricted. If someone wanted to have unique drapes in their living room they might have to take the ferry from Sydney to Vancouver some seventy dollars and one and three-quarter hours away. Living on an island, while charming, can be restrictive and isolated. You can go anywhere you like but “anywhere you like” is rather limited. Similarly, “Reform” (a more acceptable word for Calvinism) live on an intellectual island. In time all “Reform” (Calvinists) grow to think and sound the same. 

Go take a gander at my library and you will find some pretty prominent ‘Reform” authors on the shelves. You’ll find other writers and thinkers as well. You’ll recognize authors associated with the Methodists, Pentecostals, Anglicans, Mennonites, Christian and Missionary Alliance – well you name it and you’ll probably find it there, even Roman Catholics. I consider myself to be well-rounded having embraced the full counsel of God through the mind of the collective church. Sure, I have to do my own editing. Certainly, there are ideas expressed in those books that I or other writers disagree with. So ? The Word of God declares that, the Holy Spirit is able to lead into all truth.I doubt if it is only the “Reform” (Calvinist) expression of faith that has discovered THE truth for themselves and the rest of Christendom. “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.”  2 Peter 1:20

This is not so with my “Reform” (Calvinist) friends. It does not take long before their shelves are cleared of questionable doctrine. Soon all one may see are an overwhelming number of books by “Reform” theologians. This is intellectual legalism and mind control. From this doctrinal in exposure every other control mechanism flows. Let me add one more time that this is what a cult does. Cults first intellectually isolate and then relationally isolate their adherents. While Calvinism does not meet the criteria of a cult per se, they practice adherent mind control in a similar way.

Take a look at your bookshelf and ask yourself if this isn’t so.

Detect spiritual imbalance in Christian groups by visiting and reading:

www.alargerplace.wordpress.com .