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Friday, June 27, 2008

Calvin / Arminian Viewpoints (Part II)

we're back to take another step forward in this discussion of these 2 contrasting Theological views. Now I used an important term in my 1st discourse. This term was “High” Calvinism or “5 point” Calvinism. I’d like to define now for you what it means. In Calvinistic Theology, there are those who hold to a form of Calvin’s teaching & accept them, but not to the extreme & such could be stated also about Arminian viewpoint’s, albeit they are in no way anywhere near as harsh as High Calvinism, after all they are based upon what we believe to be the truth that God gave mankind a freewill to choose, while also providing for a way for us to be “re-joined” back into fellowship & Covenant with Him, should we respond to His leading, etc. Some folks even like to be called “Calminian’s”! You’ll hear that a lot, I have a few Pastor friends who claim to be such! So let’s look at this 5 point system that created the need for a rival Theology like the Arminian viewpoint to come about in the 1st place. The acronym is “TULIP” which stands for the following:

T……….the total depravity of Man

U……….unconditional election

L……… atonement

I…………irresistible grace

P………..perseverance of the saints

Hence the term “Tulip”. In this 2nd discourse, I want to look at the first 2 points of High Calvinism, “total depravity” & “unconditional election”. So first, let’s discuss total depravity. Here is what is taught in H.C. (I’ll use this to define the term High Calvinism)

1) Total Depravity
The doctrine of total depravity (also called "total inability") asserts that, as a consequence of the fall of man, every person born into the world is enslaved to the service of sin. People are not by nature inclined to love God with their whole heart, mind, or strength, but rather all are inclined to serve their own interests over those of their neighbor and to reject the rule of God. Thus, all people by their own faculties are morally unable to choose to follow God and be saved because they are unwilling to do so out of the necessity of their own natures. (The term "total" in this context refers to sin affecting every part of a person, not that every person is as evil as possible.)

Jacob Arminius himself and some of his later followers, such as John Wesley, also affirmed total depravity. This is an area of some of that “common ground” I spoke of earlier. BOTH systems of thought agree that due to the fall of Man in Adam, all flesh has inherited a corrupted nature in bondage to sin. So we have common ground here, but I must also say that despite man’s “sin nature”, we clearly see that there are many good & wonderful people in the World at all times who live lives apart from Christ. In a recent conversation with a dear friend who shares most of the Calvinism viewpoint, he confessed to me that he was having a hard time with the concept of total depravity based on this observation that there are many good people out there who do many good & Godly type things while all the time not knowing Christ, hence I see this total depravity as more of a “overall” problem with our nature in general & it is Spiritually based, meaning that a person can indeed live a “good” life while denying Christ, but in the end as Proverb’s 14:12 so honestly put’s it “there is a road which seems right, but in the end it is the way of death”. So it would seem that the Enemy (satan) himself jumps in & convinces people that things like “Good Work’s, Philosophy & yes even Religion (not RELATIONSHIP)” are the way to happiness both here & in eternity. But certainly we see this concept based in Scripture & starting back in Genesis 3 at the fall of Man in the garden of Eden. So in this 1st point, there is common ground between the 2!

Let’s now look at the 2nd point of H.C., “Unconditional Election”. This is where things start to get much more interesting. Let’s define what H.C. means by this term:

2) Unconditional election

The Doctrine of unconditional election asserts that God's choice from eternity of those whom he will bring to himself is not based on foreseen virtue, merit, or faith in those people. Rather, it is unconditionally grounded in God's mercy alone. The doctrine of unconditional election is sometimes made to stand for all Reformed doctrine, sometimes even by its adherents, as the chief article of Reformed Christianity. However, according to the doctrinal statements of these churches, it is not a balanced view to single out this doctrine to stand on its own as representative of all that is taught. Unconditional election, and its corollary in the doctrine of predestination are never properly taught, according to Calvinists, except as an assurance to those who seek forgiveness and salvation through Christ, that their faith is not in vain, because God is able to bring to completion all whom He intends to save. Nevertheless, non-Calvinists object that these doctrines discourage the world from seeking salvation.

I think it would be wise for me to quote John Calvin on this:
By predestination we mean the eternal decree of God, by which he determined with himself whatever he wished to happen with regard to every man. All are not created on equal terms, but some are preordained to eternal life, others to eternal damnation; and, accordingly, as each has been created for one or other of these ends, we say that he has been predestinated to life or to death." (Institutes of Christian Religion, Book 3, Chapter 21, Section 5)

Yes, you heard that right, but just in case, I’ll explain. Here’s basically what he just said: The doctrine of Unconditional Election stresses that man has no choice (no free will) at all because man has no ability to seek God, (Total Depravity) therefore it is by God's sovereign choice that anyone is saved. So we must take this doctrine carefully to its “end implications” to see the outcome of such a Doctrine. Here’s what that would be friends: The bottom line, from everything I’ve read & know about this Unconditional Election, is that if true, basically in the beginning God said YES to Jane Doe, NO to John Doe, YES to Anne Doe, No to Jim Doe, etc. Get the picture friends? In other words, God Almighty in His creation, created some people who would have NO way to salvation! Now I can’t speak for anyone else, but I will speak for myself, this is totally inconsistent with scores of passages throughout the Old & New Testaments, while also being incompatible with the God I have come to know friends! As I pointed out earlier in the tree in the garden of Eden, in the Ark of Noah, in John chapters 3 & 7, it just does not line up with God creating us as "free moral agents" with choice. It also contradicted I think whom God reveals Himself to be & furthermore, His character is now being distorted in that what is being said is that He gave some NO freewill! Now there is certainly the subject of "Sovereignty" & I have NO problem acknowledging that God intervened more than a few times & we'll tlak about HIs Sovereignty in another part, but please allow me to close with this thought: “predestination is NOT pre-determination

Stay Tuned,

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

"Popular" Preachers Who Take Serious Liberty With The Scriptures

Hmmm, what a topic, huh? Maybe your asking, “why in the world would anyone want to write about that”? It is true after all, that many of us have certainly “missed” it at times when sharing God’s Word, well I know I have! So what is the difference you may ask? Well, for one thing, when I do & someone points it out to me, or when I go back & realize that maybe I slipped up, I am always willing to accept the fact that I may of taken something out of context & need to be more careful next time. However, what I find alarming today is this: It seems to me that when confronted in grace & love, many of these individuals just push their point’s even further! Plus the fact that they have a “following” & certainly we all have those personalities that minister to us & seem to speak directly to our hearts & I thank the Lord for such people! For me, I have always appreciated people like the late Dr. Lester Sumrall, Billy Graham, Dr. Leighton Ford & Dr. Joe Stowell among other’s & they all seem to be men of humility as well, albeit Dr. Sumrall could really get going at times, lol! So we all know we miss the mark & as humans are fallible. (Rom. 3:23) But it seems that some people out there have “bypassed” that verse. I remember watching Jimmy Swaggart many, many years ago & when he was speaking about a controversial subject said that “if you don’t like what I’m saying, take it up with my boss”. I remember right then & there, that something is wrong here when ANY of us speaks in such a way that OUR words are “mint”, or equal to Scripture! I for one, do NOT believe when I reside behind my, or anyone’s Pulpit on a Sunday that what I say becomes “infallible”. I am human, I am corruptible as such & only when, as the Scripture states I put on the incorruptible, will I “be like HIM”, Amen! Thus, I have NO right to make such a strong statement, UNLESS it is something that is CHRYSTAL clear friends! Today however, this trend continues of people almost “deifying” personalities & taking what they say as “Gospel”, yes there are many things I say that you can “take to the bank”, but NOT everything! Well, maybe you thought that I was going to name a few people & so let me say I am not, however I think that many of us know a few of these people out there & certainly we know those who “follow” them! I remember getting ready to pray for a women who had a hideous goiter on her neck, only to have her say, “no, please don’t pray for that as I am saving that for Oral Roberts”, I kid you not! It was no surprise that when I saw her again, she still had that ailment on her neck. I am always encouraged by the Church found in Berea in Act’s chapter 17 who when the Apostle Paul came through we’re told “searched the Scriptures to see if the things he said were true”.
Friends, NEVER take what a “Popular Preacher” says simply because he is on TV or radio, etc. Especially today when we see Scripture being stretched & many times twisted to fit one’s doctrine or teaching on a given subject. One of the great rules of Biblical interpretation is as follows: “Scripture interprets Scripture”! If you have questions, keep reading, you will find the answer soon enough! So please be aware of strong heavy handed statements like “The Lord told me, or is telling me”, etc. This is not to say that HE doesn’t speak to us, but all too often such a statement is used because there is a lack of Biblical evidence to support such a teaching or doctrine & so the person reverts to using “divine” appointment as the reason they can say something so unbiblical. Remember, whatever is said, MUST always line up with God’s Word for HE will never give someone something that is contrary to HIS Word friends! Stay Tuned!

In Christ,

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Calvin / Arminian Viewpoints (Part 1 - Opening)

Oh boy, perhaps you’re saying to yourself, who would ever want to dive into this topic? After all, it’s one of those “secondary” issues isn’t it, that some people & Churches have made primary? I guess that is a fair statement, I think at least?
This debate has been going on for a long, long time, all the way to the days of Reformation! So again, why write about the subject? Before I list a few of my reason’s, or at least my perceptions & also my undeniable experiences. Here is the MAIN reason why I am taking this on friends... And I suspect that many of my fellow Arminians would agree or perhaps feel the same way? Namely that our God, whom we have come to know through His Son Jesus Christ & through His Word, if High Calvinism is incorrect, then there can be no doubt that the Nature & Character of our God has been for a long time & continues through today to be impugned & badly mis-represented & we'll see this for sure in the 2 points of High Calvinism known as the "U & L" or Unconditional Election & Limited Atonement, thus you know exactly what drives me friends! It seems to me that we Arminian’s are all to often taken badly out of context, or are constantly being called things like “heretic’s or Pelagian’s or Semi[Pelagian's” by “High” Calvinist’s & actually even mocked very often by these High Calvinists on their websites & in print. Now I realize in order to share some good & valid information with you, I first need to define a few terms. When I say “High” Calvinist, I am referring to those who call themselves “5 Point or TULIP” Calvinist’s. These people have a much different point of view & approach to our Heavenly Father & His nature & attributes then those who simply called themselves “Reformed or just Calvinistic” in their thinking. They adhere to a system of thought that we will be looking into in depth in a bit. I seek to challenge a few of these thoughts for truly one basic & very important reason. Could it be that God’s character is being misrepresented in any or a few of these thoughts? We’ll come back to this later. Is the constant charge of Calvinist that Arminian’s are Pelegians, or Semi-Pelegians really true?
Let’s take a look at this charge first in depth to see if it hold any merit, sound okay? Now Pelagianism is a theological theory named after Pelagius. It is the belief that original sin did not taint human nature (which God called very good), and that mortal will is still capable of choosing good or evil without Divine aid. Thus, Adam's sin was "to set a bad example" for his progeny, but his actions did not have the other consequences imputed to Original Sin. Pelagianism views the role of Jesus as "setting a good example" for the rest of humanity (thus counteracting Adam's bad example). In short, humanity has full control, and thus full responsibility, for its own salvation in addition to full responsibility for every sin (the latter insisted upon by both proponents and opponents of Pelagianism). According to Pelagian doctrine, because humanity does not require God's grace for salvation (beyond the creation of will), Jesus' execution is devoid of the redemptive quality ascribed to it by orthodox Christian theology. (Thus Pelagianism is Heresy or Un-Orthodox Theology) (Calvinists also regularly have accused Arminian’s of being “Semi-Pelagians” because of their free will emphasis) Okay, so that’s the skinny on Pelegianism. So let’s look at 2 crucuial points to see if Arminian Theology is a close companion or not as many High Calvinists claim.

That original sin did not taint human nature…… and that mortal will is still capable of choosing good or evil without Divine aid. In Genesis 3, we see the recorded “Fall Of Man”. That Satan tempted Eve who partook of the forbidden fruit & then gave it to Adam, who ate also & then later blamed God for giving him Eve basically! What was the outcome?
Was it not that sin entered the World? Was this not the “original” sin that lead humankind to walk down this path & now all humans would be born with what we refer to as an “Adamic” nature? Do we not also see here in Genesis 3 that the 1st effect or emotion of sin was fear? (Ge.3:10) So if one was to deny original sin or the fall of man, we see it would be unscriptural to do so! Also we see in Gen. 3 that fear entered in & we continue to see from God’s Word that many other effects of sin began to quickly show up leading to murder. (Cain & Abel) So to say that the fall of man or original sin did not taint the human race would be a denial of Genesis 3 & thus would void God’s word! I can honestly say I have never saw anything in the writings of Jacob Arminius or ever heard anything by a person who understands classic Arminian Theology that would adhere to such Pelegian thought. Prevenient (or preceding) grace is divine grace which precedes human decision and allows a person to thus engage their God given free will to make a choice concerning Christ. It exists prior to and without reference to anything humans may have done. As humans are corrupted by the effects of sin. Ephesians 2:8-9 I believe goes hand in hand with this view, for the Scripture here states the following: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-- and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God 9 not by works, so that no one can boast”. Notice “not from yourselves”, in other Words GOD gives us this Grace & it is a gift, hence we further have the gift to choose, WE have that gift. Friends, when I think about the concept of freewill or choice, I see over & over in Scripture example after example, thus prevenient Grace I humbly submit is a view that is compatible & in harmony with Scripture.
Here’s a few examples:

The Tree in the Garden of Eden……….. What did that tree represent?
Was it not freewill? Would not Adam & Eve of been a sort of “robot”? God says jump & Adam says “how high”, etc. Freewill to me at least & many other believers is the 3rd greatest “Gift” God gave us other than His Son & His Word!

The Ark of Noah…… In Genesis 6:5-7, God made this incredible statement:
“The LORD saw how great man's wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. 6 The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain. 7 So the LORD said, "I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth-- men and animals, and creatures that move along the ground, and birds of the air-- for I am grieved that I have made them." 8 But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD”. Have you ever stopped to think that if God here would of allowed anyone else in the Ark if they were also found righteous? Do you see anything here to the contrary? God found Noah to be right before Him & thus He saved him & his family, but does this automatically mean He wouldn’t have allowed other’s in if they too were righteous? Remember the Scripture tells us that it was Noah who found God’s favor, thus NO one else had! In verse 5 God stated that with the exception of Noah, ALL men’s hearts were to do evil continually, hence only Noah & his family were saved from the flood, but the point is that God perhaps (feel free to disagree!) would have provided for others who CHOSE to place Him first in their lives as did righteous Noah. Thus I see the Ark as a provision for those who would choose to live righteous, sadly only one did!

John 7:37-38 On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him”.

John 3:16-17 “John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

I am sure by now you get what I am saying, I can certainly provide many more examples! Thus I believe the concept of choice & choosing is found all throughout the Bible, just as many Calvinists (not High Calvinists) can claim also & I get that & respect & understand that. One thing I am very happy about is that I rarely if ever have seen or read any writings of Arminian’s who mock or refer to Calvinists, especially High Calvinists as “heretic’s”, we’ll save that term for them. (only joking!) So my point is that as you can see, WE DO believe that it is God who is at work to “will” as the Scripture states, but while saying that, because we believe God made man as a “free moral agent”, mankind does hold the right or gift to choice, not only to chose Jesus, but what about the choices we make everyday? Do we not chose to attend certain functions, or go to certain places to eat, to pay our bill’s & so forth? God gave us very capable faculties, we need to use them in conjunction with His good & perfect will!

Thus I am hoping you can clearly see that Classic Arminian Theology is in NO way Pelegian, Jacob Arminias taught nothing of the kind & the truth be told, the 2 systems of thought, basic Arminian & Calvinistic thought are actually closer than you may think! Okay, that’s my 1st discourse on this most interesting topic, more to come, stay tuned & please share your thoughts if you dare, lol!

In Christ, Al