Friday, December 28, 2007

Review of Roger Olson's Book: Arminian Theology: Myths And Realities

Review of Roger Olson's Book: Arminian Theology: Myths And Realities

The Calvinist/Arminian debate is often conducted in a way that is hurtful and lacks grace. If you are looking for a book that explains the Arminian view and at the same time treats the Calvinist view with respect, then this is for you.

This book is not a rejection of Calvinism, but instead is an explanation of why Arminians believe the way they do. Olson does not set out to disprove Calvinism.

I appreciated that Olson is not afraid to tackle those from his tradition if he believes that their theology is flawed in any way. For example he points out some of the shortcomings of the later Remonstrants (like Limborch) and he also points out some of the weaknesses of John Wesley.

The book was not an easy read. It was written at a level where I had to struggle at times to fully comprehend. The chapter on the theories of atonement was the most difficult.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

God's Regrets

Ben over at Arminian Perspectives has an interesting post on struggling with regrets.

Regretting is part of the human experience. However, it's interesting to note that God also has regrets. For example in Gen 6:6 God regrets creating man, and in 1 Samuel 15:10,35 he regrets that he made Saul king.

I am curious how the Calvinist would address the issue of God's regrets? The Calvinist believes that everything that takes place is exactly how God intended it. How could God possibly regret anything under that system?

This idea of God regretting also presents an interesting dilemma for the Arminian view of God. Open Theists point to regret as evidence that God does not have exhaustive foreknowledge.

I think that God's regrets are not due to a limitation of foreknowledge, but instead are a natural result of his consistent character. For God, the ends do not justify the means. He does not turn stones into bread for his convenience. He does what is most consistent with his character, even if it's not easy, and even if he knows it that it will not work out down the road. This is particularly evident in the case of King Saul.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Calvinism Distorts God's Character

Roger Olson (Author of Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities) has written an editorial about the recent bridge collapse in MN, and how it presents problems for Calvinists. It's an excellent read, and Olson is less irenic than ususal:

The God of Calvinism scares me; I'm not sure how to distinguish him from the devil. If you've come under the influence of Calvinism, think about its ramifications for the character of God. God is great but also good. In light of all the evil and innocent suffering in the world, he must have limited himself.

[updated spelling of Olson 6-3-08, oops]
Calvinist view of bridge collapse distorts God's character

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Greek Poetry and the Emerging Church

From ZEUS let us begin.
Him do we mortals never leave unnamed:
full of Zeus are all the streets
and all the market-places of men
full is the sea and the havens thereof.
Always we all have need of Zeus
for we are also his offspring
and he in his kindness unto men
gives favorable signs
and wakens people to work.
-- Aratus (270 BC),

The goal of the Emerging Church is to reach the post modern generation. The movement has attempted to do this by making Christianity relevant to the culture - that is by preaching and teaching truth in a way that is native to the understanding of the new generation.

Some traditional Christians have criticized this movement as misguided, unscriptural, and of man. I believe, however, that the goals and methods of the movement are both legitimate and scriptural.

When Paul preached in Athens (Acts 17:22-31) he modeled how to preach to pagans. He did it by being relevant - by finding common ground and understanding with his audience. Paul presented Christ in a way that was familiar to the culture of the Greeks.

Acts 17:22
Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: "Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious."

Paul went to the Areopagus (their center of learning in Athens), and engaged the Greeks in their environment. He didn't demand that they go learn about God in the synagogue (and there was one in Athens). He didn't complain that they ignored Jewish law. He didn't insult their religion.

23: For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you.

Paul understood his audience. He took an aspect of their pagan culture (the unknown god), and used it as a way to proclaim Jesus Christ to them.

24-27: The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.

Wham! Now that the ground was laid, Paul hit them with 100% Gospel. The truth was not watered down. He explained who God is. He explained how God is real, and how God is not honored with idols made by human hands.

28:For in him we live and move and have our being. As some of your own poets have said, 'We are his offspring.'

Look at that little phrase "We are his offspring." It's easy to overlook, but it is SO important to understand the context of how Paul preached to the Athenians. This quote was NOT from the Bible. It was Greek poetry, and it in fact referred to Zeus. Paul taught the Greeks about Jesus by quoting a pagan poem about Zeus!

29-31: Therefore since we are God's offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by man's design and skill. In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead.

Now Paul shows how the nugget of truth contained in their poetry ("We are God's offspring.") differs from what they are actually practicing (worshiping man made images). After showing them their error, he tells them that they must repent. And he explains that they will be held accountable before God.

Every culture (including ours) has nuggets of God 's truth in it, just like Greek culture did. These nuggets can be surrounded by paganism but they can still point to the real God of the Bible. We must find these aspects of our culture that make God understandable. If the Church is losing ground in our culture (and it seems to be), maybe part of the reason why is that we are not making the Gospel real. We are not connecting.

It is the goal of the Emerging church to close this cultural understanding gap, and to make a connection.

Does the movement have weaknesses it must confront? Certainly it does. Its theology is weak. The movement must learn to not ever water down or compromise the truth. We dare not compromise God's truth. But we must learn present timeless truth in a way that can be understood by the culture in which we live.

It's time to break out the Greek poetry.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Love Your Enemy

Matthew 5:43-48: You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

One outstanding story of loving your enemy was told by Corrie Ten Boom. During WWII she and her sister Betsy had been sent to a German prison camp, because of the activity of helping Jews in Holland. Betsy died in the camp. Corrie lived, and after the war began to preach of God's forgiveness for everyone. Shortly after the war God called Corrie to preach in Germany. Corrie told the people of the love, forgiveness and healing that God wanted to bring to Germany.

During one meeting a former Nazi prison officer approached Corrie. He had been one of the guards who had abused her and her sister in prison. He did not recognize her, but she recognized him. He had become a Christian, and now asked Corrie if she could forgive him. At first Corrie resisted, but then with the strength God gave her, she was able to hold her hand out to the man, and forgive him. After being obedient she felt a surge of the Holy spirit, and felt only great love for her former enemy.

What a powerful story of forgiveness, and the love only God can give!

Jesus calls us to a high standard. We are to love everyone, even our enemies. This is not something that we can do on our own. It is only something that we trust God will enable us to do. Why are we to love our enemies? Because God does, and we are his sons. Our heavenly Father is perfect in every way. His love is perfect, he gives grace to our enemies, causing the sun to shine on both the evil and good. We are to follow his example.

I've led a relatively sheltered life. I've never been through anything like the struggles of Corrie Ten Boom. But I have experienced consistently in my life that when I love others and treat them with respect, it changes my relationship with them for the better. And even if "my enemy" doesn't change, God still changes me.