Thursday, December 30, 2010

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Moved to Wordpress

My blog is moving to: If you follow the blog, please update your links!

I have become increasingly disappointed with blogger, particularly withe the comment moderation options. Nick Norelli gets the props for the move. He often preaches of the merits of Wordpress and gets another convert. :)

The blogspot blog will stay up (to help with link backs, etc). I'm turning on comment moderation here. And of course all new posts will go wordpress. Thanks for following the blog, and God bless! -Kevin

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

How Revelation 3:20 Creates a Dilemma for Calvinism

In Revelation 1,2, and 3 John prophesies to the seven churches in Asia. The last group he addresses is the church in Laodicea. After addressing the Ladocians, he concludes with the following prophesy:

(Jesus speaking) Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. -Revelation 3:20-22

This passage can be interpreted in two ways, both of which present problems for Calvinism.

Interpretation #1: This passage is applicable to everyone. Although Jesus is addressing the Ladocians, he uses universal language ("If anyone..", "he who has an ear..."). Thus this passage has application to everyone and helps to establish the doctrine of prevenient grace. This is usually the Arminian position.

Interpretation #2: Jesus is speaking only to the church in Laodicea, or to only to the seven churches in Asia. This passage is meant to apply to the original audience, and has no application to non-believers today. This is usually the Calvinist position.

If interpretation #1 is correct, we have a clear example of prevenient grace. The passage illustrates both the universal scope of grace, and the ability to resist grace. Jesus knocks on the door of each person, and the person can choose whether or not to open the door.

If interpretation #2 is correct, the Calvinist unwittingly creates another problem for himself. He disproves the doctrine of eternal security. Immediately prior Jesus speaks of "spitting out" the Ladocians because they are neither hot nor cold. If Jesus is addressing only Ladocian believers, the passage indicates that those same believers can become apostate (bold mine):

To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God's creation. I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. -Revelation 3:14-16

So the Calvinist is left with a dilemma. If the passage applies to non-believers, it teaches prevenient grace. If the passage applies to Ladocian believers, it teaches the possibility of apostasy.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Roger Olson's New Blog

Theologian Roger Olson has started a blog. He has a couple of posts up already. You can check the blog out here: HT: John Guthrie

Olson has authored a number of books, including, The Story of Christian Theology (an overview of the history of Christianity) and Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities. I appreciate Dr Olson's work, because he writes at a level I can understand.

And as a completely irrelevant side note, I think Olson and my father-in-law look alike. See if you agree.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Wired Article on Free Will

Wired Magazine has an interesting article on libertarian freedom: My First Act of Free Will.

The author Jonah Lehrer addresses the problems of scientific determinism - or having a purely mechanical view of freedom.

He notes that:
There’s a certain frivolousness to all these eloquent arguments over free will. The fact is, we are deeply wired to believe in our freedom. We feel like willful creatures, blessed with elbow room and endowed with the capacity to pick our own breakfast cereal.
The question is, why do we feel free? Why are we "deeply wired" to believe in our freedom? Perhaps it is because as creatures created in the image of God we really do have genuine freedom.

The article also referenced a study that correlated libertarian freedom with ethics. People who don't believe in libertarian freedom are more likely to engage in unethical behavior. In the study "the amount of cheating was directly correlated with the extent to which the subjects rejected free will."

What we believe about free will actually impacts the decisions we make.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Jerry Walls on Problems With Calvinism

Here is a great video clip by Jerry Walls where he addresses some of the inconsistencies of Calvinism. The clip runs about 10 minutes, and is well worth the viewing. HT: Brennon Hartshorn.

Walls is a professor at Asbury seminary. He is also co-author of the book Why I'm not a Calvinist. If you have read the book, you will recognize some of his arguments here.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Comment by George Bryson

George Bryson left a comment on my other blog. I'm cross posting it here, where it is more likely to be read. Bryson is associated with Calvary Chapel, and is a non-Calvinist who does not consider himself Arminian. His comment deals with why he writes against Calvinism and not Arminianism.

Bryson is the author of several books that deal with the problems of Reformed Theology.(Calvinism: Weighed and Found Wanting, and The Dark Side of Calvinism: The Calvinist Caste System).

I just happened on your site (or as our Reformed friends would say, was foreordained to find you. One of the questions I hear a lot is "why don't you write a book against Arminianism" or why not explain "why it is that you are not an Arminian"?

For many years I thought about writing a book explaining why I am not an Arminian but never felt a need to write a book against Arminianism. The reason is that I am not against Arminianism the way I am against Calvinism. It never offends me and I do not see it as a threat to the health and well being of the church of Jesus Christ.

I do not see Arminianism on a agressive campain trying to win everone over to their views, even if it means misleading their potential converts. For these and many other reasons, I do not see Arminianism as a threat. So it is difficult for me to justify the kind of time it takes me to write a book that I would be happy with.

My disagreements with Arminians are real but not usually serious. When an Arminian scholar represents his views, he does not usually feel a need to hide anything or to hold anything back. They tell you what they believe and why

This is not always so for many Calvinists. I am happy to see a lot of Arminians representing themselves and I do not think they will find a need to become rude, personally attack those they disagree with, deliberately attempt to insult or offend non-Arminians. I am sure there are exceptions.

On many Calvinist websites to be rude and crude is considered cool and hip. May it never be so with Evangelical Arminians. In Christ, George

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Answers to Common Calvinist Questions

Some answers to common Calvinist questions:

Q: Why does one person believe in Jesus and not another?
Q: Man is dead. How can a dead person believe or do anything?
Q: If man is dead in sin, how can he believe outside of the grace of God?
Q: If man can make choices, doesn't that weaken God's sovereignty?
Q: If man can make choices, how can God have exhaustive knowledge of the future?
Q: Here are [insert list of scriptures] to prove that Calvinism is true.
Q: Doesn't Arminian Theology leads to boasting because man contributed to his salvation?

Q: Why does one person believe in Jesus and not another?
This question assumes a deterministic framework. Each person is a unique being who has the God given capability to make his own choices ex nihilio. One person believes and not another because one chose to believe, and the other did not.

Q: Man is dead. How can a dead person believe or do anything?
A: This is a non-scriptural definition of death. Death does not mean "unable to respond", rather, it means "separated from God". In the parable of the lost son (Luke 15), the father states "my son was dead, but now is alive. He was lost, and now is found." The son was able make decisions, including the decision to go home. Yet, he was separated from relationship with his father, and dependent on his father for reconciliation. To be dead is to be separated from Christ. To be alive is to be in relationship with Christ. Making choices does not give one the ability to be reconciled to Christ absent his consent.

Q: If man is dead in sin, how can he believe outside of the grace of God?
This is a statement that Arminians fully agree with! Arminians believe in prevenient grace, that God is in the process of drawing non-believers to himself. It is God's drawing that enables the sinner to believe. We differ with Calvinists in that 1)We believe scripture teaches that God gives a measure of genuine grace to everyone (Titus 2:11), and 2)We believe that grace is resistible (John 5:34,39-40).

Q: If man can make choices, doesn't that weaken God's sovereignty?
Sovereignty is not synonymous with determinism or meticulous control. Rather, it means that God does what he pleases (Psalms 115:3). It pleases God to endow mankind with a measure of genuine freedom. A.W. Tozer stated it like this: "God sovereignly decreed that man should be free to exercise moral choice, and man from the beginning has fulfilled that decree by making his choice between good and evil. When he chooses to do evil, he does not thereby countervail the sovereign will of God but fulfills it, inasmuch as the eternal decree decided not which choice the man should make but that he should be free to make it. If in His absolute freedom God has willed to give man limited freedom, who is there to stay His hand or say, “What doest thou?” Man’s will is free because God is sovereign. A God less than sovereign could not bestow moral freedom upon His creatures. He would be afraid to do so. "(1)

Q: If man can make choices, how can God have exhaustive knowledge of the future?
Arminians believe that God can know our choices without causing them. Some Arminians believe that God exists outside of time and sees the future as present (The Eternal Now theory). Others believe that God exists in the present but can see into the future. In this case, man's actions are the cause of God's foreknowledge, not the other way around. All man's actions are certain but not necessary.(2)

Q: Here are [insert list of scriptures] to prove that Calvinism is true!
A: This is a debate tactic. While it may result in a Calvinist winning an argument, it is not a reasonable or contextual approach to reading and understanding the Bible. For a detailed and funny description of this tactic, check out The Machine Gun Hermeneutic, by Martin Glynn.

Q: Doesn't Arminian Theology leads to boasting because man contributed to his salvation?
Arminian Theology is an entirely grace centered theology. We are saved by the work of Jesus Christ. By grace through faith. In order to be saved one must believe in Jesus and accept his sacrifice on his behalf. Since Jesus died for everyone, we have no grounds for boasting. Rather, we are motivated to share the gospel with everyone, so that they can also believe. On the other hand, Calvinism can easily lead to a haughty attitude. Calvinism teaches adherents that there are two classes of people: those who will be saved and those who cannot be saved. John Wesley correctly stated: "As directly does this doctrine [Calvinism] tend to destroy several particular branches of holiness. Such are meekness and love, -- love, I mean, of our enemies, -- of the evil and unthankful. I say not, that none who hold it have meekness and love (for as is the power of God, so is his mercy;) but that it naturally tends to inspire, or increase, a sharpness or eagerness of temper, which is quite contrary to the meekness of Christ; as then especially appears, when they are opposed on this head. And it as naturally inspires contempt or coldness towards those whom we suppose outcast from God."(3)

(1) A.W. Tozer, The Sovereignty of God
(2) See Thomas Ralston, Elements of Divinity
(3) John Wesley, Free Grace, Section II

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A Wesleyan Criticism of Theistic Evolution

The purpose of this post is to argue that Wesleyans should reject theistic evolution. To do so doesn't require defending a literal view of the Genesis creation account.

Theistic evolution functions on principles that are contrary to God's revealed character. It is absurd to argue that a good God who is involved with His creation would create a world that runs on principles that contradict His nature.

As Wesleyans we believe that everyone has great value. We have value not because of our genes, but because God created us.

As Wesleyans we believe that God cares for the weak. He hears the prayers of the widow. He protects the fatherless. He defends the poor.

As Wesleyans we believe that God heals the sick. He gives sight to the blind, and speech to the mute. God makes us whole.

All of these values contradict the principles of natural selection. Natural selection rewards the strong, the powerful, the aggressive, the fertile, the selfish, the genetically perfect. Natural selection is efficient, but it is not loving.

Jesus says that the last will be first. Jesus says that blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed are those who mourn, blessed are the meek. Jesus says that the meek will inherit the earth.

Jesus himself was not physically attractive, and he had no physical descendants (Isaiah 53). Yet he was also perfect. God's definition of perfection does not include the attributes that are required for natural selection.

Natural selection is a result of the fall. God created a perfect world, a world without death. Yet we live in a world in decay. We live in a world where the strong survive and the weak often perish. The fallen world we live in is not the way God originally created it. When we argue on behalf of theistic evolution, we are arguing for a world that has always been fallen, and we are arguing that God created a world that contrary to his intrinsic character.

For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. -Romans 8:20-21

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Trailer for Wesley the Movie

Here's a new trailer for "Wesley the Movie". It looks pretty good. The production looks to be about the caliber of Luther.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

What's wrong with this picture?

This place is near where I live. Can you find the problem? Hint: Proverbs 22:22

Monday, May 17, 2010

Audio Series on Romans 9-11


Here is a good audio series on Romans 9, 10, and 11 by historian / preacher David Pawson. Pawson argues that Paul wrote the epistle to the Romans in order to address the problem of antisemitism among the Gentile Christians in Rome.

The Roman Church was initially exclusively Jewish, then over time Gentile converts were added. At some point Emperor Claudius ordered all Jews to leave Rome (likely because they were bickering over whether or not Jesus was the Christ). After the death of Claudius, Nero permitted the Jews to again return to Rome.

These edicts impacted the demographics of the Roman church. The church was first Jewish, then because a mixture of Jewish and Gentile, then became exclusively Gentile, then finally was again a mixture of Jews and Gentiles. When the Jewish Christians returned they were not welcomed by the Gentile Christians. The Gentiles were arguing that the Jews were now rejected by God. Pawson argues that the purpose of Paul's letter was to address the exclusion of the Jews, and that Romans 9-11 in particular addresses this issue.

Romans 9
Romans 10
Romans 11

Sunday, May 2, 2010

"The Prodigal Son" and Arminian Theology

One of Jesus' best known parables is the story of "The Prodigal Son" (Luke 15:11-32). The parable is particularly relevant to Arminian theology. It shows the extent of freedom that God gives to his children. It illustrates the nature of his love. And it shows how He goes about reconciliation.

The parable presents a picture that is in harmony with the Arminian understanding of God. Restored relationship is what is important to God. It is so important that he will set aside his rights and his honor in order to be reconciled with his children. Let's take a look at the parable:

The Father gives the younger son what he requests.
"The younger one said to his father, 'Father, give me my share of the estate.' So he divided his property between them." (Luke 15:12) The younger son demanded his inheritance from the father. In effect, the son wishes that his father was dead. The father would have been well within his rights to deny this demand, but instead he gives the son what he asks for.

The Father doesn't worry about his glory.
"Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living." (Luke 15:13) In the culture of the time, the father had the ability to prevent the son from leaving. The son's freedom was more important to the father than the fact that the son's actions would shame the father. The father permitted the son's behavior out of love.

The Father did not force the son home, the son chooses to go home.
I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.' So he got up and went to his father. (Luke 15:18-20). The father did not effectually cause the son to go back home, rather the son made the decision to return on his own. The son's ability to make this decision did not make him proud. The son was instead humbled because he knew he had wronged his father. Even though the son made the decision to return, he was still at the complete mercy of the father. The son could not restore the relationship, only the father could.

The Father RUNS to the son.
"But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him." (Luke 15:20) In the culture of the time it was unthinkable for a father to run to a son, particularly in a situation where he had been wronged. It was undignified. The father would stand and wait, and the son would walk to him and beg. But we see in this parable the father runs to his son. Reconciliation was more important to the father than appearance or position.

Death means separation. Alive means reconciliation.
For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' So they began to celebrate. (Luke 15:24, also see 15:32) The father throws a party for his son who was dead. Twice in the parable we are given the scriptural definition of "dead". Dead does not mean inability. The son was able to able to make decisions, including the decision to go home to his father. What the son was not able to do was to unilaterally restore his relationship with his father. So he was dead in relationship to his father. In order to be alive again, he was dependent on the mercy of his father. Thankfully, the father valued relationship over personal glory.

The Father shows genuine love to the older son too.
"The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him." (Luke 15:28). The father shows that he desires genuine relationship with both of his sons. Again we see that the father is unconcerned with appearances. He leaves the celebration and seeks out his older son.

The older son misunderstands the Father.
"[The older son] answered his father, 'Look! All these years I've been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends.'" (Luke 15:29). The older son misunderstands two things about his relationship with his father. First, he views himself as a slave to the master rather than as a son of the father. Second, he fails to recognize the love and generosity of his father.

The older son wants exclusive treatment.
"But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!" (Luke 15:30). Perhaps the older son was a Calvinist. He was not glad for the return of his brother, or for the generosity of his father. Yet he fails to recognize that he too is in the wrong. How so? First by devaluing his relationship to his brother. "This son of yours" he calls him. And second by ignoring his father's wishes and pouting instead of celebrating. A paraphrase of Romans 9:20 is relevant here. "Who are you, oh son to talk back to your father?" The father valued both of his sons and desired relationship with both of them. It was not the place of the older son to demand exclusive treatment.

The father corrects the older brother regarding the value of the younger son.
"My son,' the father said, 'you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' " (Luke 15:31-32). The older son would not recognize the value of his brother. His father corrects him. "This brother of yours was dead and is alive again." Both sons are valuable to the father.

In conclusion, we have a father who loves us all. We have a father who desires reconciliation so much that he is willing to become vulnerable and to make himself look bad. We do not have a father who stands by and watches us suffer. We have a father who runs to us. We are made alive again by being in relationship with Him.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Wesley Study Bible on Sale

Cokesbury is running a special on the Wesley Study Bible. If you're interested in getting one, now's the time to do it. Link here. Cost is $19.95, half off the regular price. On sale through April 30, 2010.

As a bit of side trivia, Cokesbury is named after two famous Methodists. The first two American bishops in the American church were Thomas Coke and Francis Asbury. They were appointed by John Wesley after the pesky Americans decided to have a revolution.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Good-bye to the Internet Monk

Thanks for all the good reads, even if I didn't always agree. Michael Spencer 1956-2010

The Meaning of the Christian Fish - ΙΧΘΥΣ

One of the first symbols of early Christianity was the fish. The Greek word for fish is "ichthus" (ΙΧΘΥΣ). It is pronounced "ik thoos". ΙΧΘΥΣ spells an acronym in Greek. It was an early statement of faith.

The acronym means "Jesus, Christ, Son of God, Savior". The Greek letters break down as follows:

I - Iota is the first letter of Iesous (Jesus)
X - Chi is the first letter of Christos (Christ)
Θ - Theta is the first letter of Theos (God)
Y - Upsilon is the first letter of Yios (Son)
Σ - Sigma is the fist letter of Soter (Savior)

The Greek letters Alpha and Omega also both look like fish. The little alpha looks like a fish swimming right to left, and the Omega looks like a fish swimming up. Jesus is the Alpha and Omega (Rev 1:8).
The fish has Biblical significance. Jonah was swallowed by a fish (Jonah 1:17). Several of the disciples were fishermen (Peter, Andrew, James, John). Jesus told his disciples to be be "fishers of men" (Mark 1:17). Jesus did miracles involving fish - feeding the 5000 (Matt 14:18-21), and helping the disciples to catch fish (John 21:6). Jesus also proved he was physically risen by eating a fish (Luke 24:40-43).

Tradition has it that that early Christians used the fish symbol to identify each other during times of persecution. If a believer met a stranger and thought the stranger might also be a believer, he would draw the top half of the fish in the dirt.

If the stranger was a believer he would know to complete the other half of the symbol, and the two believers would be safe to acknowledge each other. If not, the non-believer would just think the other person was a little loopy for drawing in the dirt. Hopefully the early Christians were better at drawing than I am.

In early Christianity the fish and dove were common Christian symbols, more so than the cross. Clement of Alexandria was the first Christian to mention the fish in writing. The Catholic Encyclopedia notes that:
the earliest literary reference to the symbolic fish is made by Clement of Alexandria, born about 150, who recommends his readers (The Pedagogue III.11) to have their seals engraved with a dove or a fish. Clement did not consider it necessary to give any reason for this recommendation, from which it may be safely be inferred that the meaning of both symbols was unnecessary.

Today the fish is quickly recognizable as part of the Christian subculture. According to Wikipedia, the modern fish movement was started by some Australian university students. Over the last forty years the symbol has become common again. Today it is cliche. You can get your fish auto emblem, fish T-shirt, or fish jewelry.

Darwinians have their fish too. Perhaps you have seen it on a car or two. The Darwinian fish swims from left to right, whereas the Christian fish always swims from right to left. The Darwinian fish has feet, emphasizing their belief that humans evolved from sea creatures.

And of course the Christian subculture never misses a beat. Not to be outdone, you can buy a Christian fish eating a Darwin fish.

The fish has evolved a long way over the years, and that is no fish story. :)

Monday, March 29, 2010

Good Article on Open Theism

Here's a good article Open Theism written from an Arminian perspective. It has some criticisms, yet also presents the system fairly. It is by James Railey, an Assemblies of God seminary professor.

HT: Steve Noel

Open Theism, an Arminian Pentecostal Response

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The FACTS of Arminianism

The Society of Evangelical Arminians has put together a nice article that summarizes and compares the five points of Arminianism to the five points of Calvinism.

An Outline of the FACTS of Arminianism vs. The TULIP of Calvinism

The FACTS acronym is based on the original Five articles of the Remonstrants. The Remonstrants were the Dutch followers of Jacob Arminius.

Freed by Grace (to Believe)
Atonement for All
Conditional Election
Total Depravity
Security in Christ

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Addressing a Boettner Quote About Limited Atonement

If you surf the Calvinist blogoshpere, you will have probably seen the following quote by Loraine Boettner. It it is frequently used to argue for Limited Atonement:

"Let there be no misunderstanding at this point. The Arminian limits the atonement as certainly as does the Calvinist. The Calvinist limits the extent of it in that he says it does not apply to all persons (although as has already been shown, he believes that it is efficacious for the salvation of the large proportion of the human race); while the Arminian limits the power of it, for he says that in itself it does not actually save anybody. The Calvinist limits it quantitatively, but not qualitatively; the Arminian limits it qualitatively, but not quantitatively. For the Calvinist it is like a narrow bridge which goes all the way across the stream; for the Arminian it is like a great wide bridge which goes only half-way across. As a matter of fact, the Arminian places more severe limitations on the work of Christ than does the Calvinist." (1)

Boettner's representation of Arminianism is demonstrably false. Let's take a more detailed look at this quote.

"Let there be no misunderstanding at this point. The Arminian limits the atonement as certainly as does the Calvinist."

The Calvinist limits the atonement by claiming that God only intends to save a few. No way of salvation is provided for the majority of humanity. The Calvinist believes that God does not care enough about the reprobate to provide a way for them to be saved. God cares only about himself. He does not save anyone out of love, but rather saves a few as a means of demonstrating his control and power. The reprobate are left without help and without hope. They were created to be damned. There is no scriptural support for this view, and it distorts the scriptural teaching that God does not want anyone to perish, but wants all to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).

Scripture teaches that God loves the world and that Jesus died for all (John 3:16, 1 Tim 2:5-6). Jesus' sacrifice genuinely provided the means for all to be saved (1 John 2:2). Scripture teaches that God does not show favoritism (Romans 2:9-11) Jesus did not die selfishly, rather, he did so willingly and for all (Isaiah 5:6-7). Jesus' death demonstrated his unfathomable love for all of sinful humanity (Romans 5). Jesus' sacrifice was for everyone (Heb 2:9). His love is genuine for all. His sacrifice is applied to those who accept it in faith (John 1:12-13). All are provided for and those who believe are saved (Acts 16:31, John 3:16).

"The Calvinist limits the extent of it in that he says it does not apply to all persons (although as has already been shown, he believes that it is efficacious for the salvation of the large proportion of the human race);"

It is true that the Calvinist limits the extent of the atonement. However, in Calvinism salvation is not "efficacious for the salvation of the large proportion of the human race". Rather, only a few will be saved. The large proportion of the human race is deliberately left helpless by God. Most of humanity has been damned from all eternity and for all eternity(2), and Calvinists claim this demonstrates God's love. Boettner also contradicts a point from earlier in his essay where he argues that the wider the atonement, the less valuable it is. "The things we have to choose between are an atonement of high value, or an atonement of wide extension. The two cannot go together." (B.B. Warfield). Thus in Calvinism if Jesus death was for the large proportion of the human race, then it was also of less value.

Arminians see no conflict here. Scripture clearly teaches that Jesus' death was of both high value and universal extension. Who are we to talk back to God? :)

"while the Arminian limits the power of it, for he says that in itself it does not actually save anybody."

Bottner treats Jesus death as an act of power rather than an act of love. God did not send his son to show how powerful he was, rather, he sent his son because of his love for the world. By misunderstanding the nature and application of God's power, Boettner misunderstands the nature of God's love. It is false that Arminians believe that the atonement "does not actually save anybody". We believe Jesus died for all and saves everyone who believes in him. Since God has exhaustive knowledge, he also knew that his sacrifice would be effectual for those who would believe in him.

"The Calvinist limits it quantitatively, but not qualitatively; the Arminian limits it qualitatively, but not quantitatively."

The atonement is universal in scope and provisional in application. Jesus death on the cross atoned for all sin, but only those who repent will benefit(3). To be forgiven there is a requirement of repentance. Without repentance there can be no forgiveness of sins (Acts 3:19). The Calvinist divorces the atonement from the Biblical teaching that Jesus doesn't save us unless we believe.

"For the Calvinist it is like a narrow bridge which goes all the way across the stream; for the Arminian it is like a great wide bridge which goes only half-way across."

This is perhaps the silliest accusation made by Boettner. No one believes in a bridge that goes halfway across. The narrow bridge analogy much better describes the Arminian view of atonement than it does the Calvinist view. In Arminianism, Jesus Christ is the bridge. He beckons all to cross. Those who believe in him are the ones who cross the bridge and benefit. For a bridge to be of benefit one must cross it. A bridge is provisionally useful. Not everyone crosses a bridge, but anyone can. This is the Arminian understanding of the atonement. In Calvinism the reprobate are dead and have no way to cross the bridge, and yet are still commanded to do so. The "elect" do not cross the bridge either. They are somehow irresistibly dragged across. The Calvinist view of the atonement is more akin to an invisible and random wormhole that teleports a few lucky ones to the other side.

As a matter of fact, the Arminian places more severe limitations on the work of Christ than does the Calvinist.

Bottner does not explain what the "severe limitations" are that Arminians place on the atonement. Arminians believe that anyone can be saved, and that those who believe will be saved. The atonement is universal in scope, and provisional in application. This is the scriptural teaching of atonement.

1 Limited Atonement by Loraine Boettner.
2 This is a paraphrase of a quote from The Five points of Calvinism by George Bryson. "You will be saved or damned for all eternity because you were saved or damned from all eternity."
3 See the Provisional Atonement series on the Arminian Perspectives blog for a detailed treatment of this subject.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Added Word Verification

I added "word verification" for comments. This is to help reduce the amount of Chinese link spam that unfortunately comes. Anyone can still comment, it will just ask for the word verification now. If this sort of nonsense continues, I will switch to wordpress. :)

Sunday, February 21, 2010


The church has a long history of fasting, especially during Lent. Now is an appropriate time to look at the discipline of fasting. Lent is the 40 days prior to Easter (not counting Sundays). It is a time when through self denial we especially take note of the death of Jesus and his victorious resurrection.

Fasting is Biblical
Jesus fasted regularly (Luke 4:1, John 4:31-34). He spoke of fasting as something that was expected ("When you fast..." Matt 6:17).

Fasting is Combined with Prayer.
Daniel prayed and fasted (Daniel 9:3). The Israelites prayed and fasted when returning from exile (Ezra 8:21-23). The early church fasted and prayed when seeking guidance (Acts 13:2-3).

Fasting May be Corporate, Especially When Seeking God's Mercy.
The whole city of Nineveh fasted (even livestock!) after the prophet Jonah warned them of their pending destruction (Jonah 3:6-9). Judah fasted when destruction was imminent (2 Chron 20:1-4). During Esther's time the Jews fasted when Haman plotted against them (Esther 4:1-3).

No Extra Points for Fasting.
Jesus saves us by grace through faith. We can't save ourselves by fasting or by any other discipline. Some people think that by their work of self denial they can make God do something that He wouldn't do otherwise. That is self centered, and doesn't move God. Some think they can sin and then fast to cancel it out. Again, this doesn't impress God. God prefers mercy over sacrifice (Hosea 6:6), and justice over fasting (Isaiah 58:3-8).

Fasting Should be God Centered and Combined With Obedience.
Fasting can have health benefits, but the main reason we do it is to seek God's face. When we fast, we wait to hear from God. If He speaks to us, we obey and do what He says. Charles Spurgeon wrote: "Our seasons of fasting and prayer at the tabernacle have been high days indeed; ever has Heaven's gate stood wider; never have our hearts been nearer to the central glory." (quoted in Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster, p 55)

Fasting Allows God to Work in Us With Power.
Fasting is a type of special dependence on God. God can use it to work in us with power and authority. Jesus said that certain types of demons cannot be exorcised without prayer and fasting (Mark 9:29).

Fasting Will Reveal the Sin Inside of Us.
Richard Foster writes: "More than any other Discipline, fasting reveals the things that control us. This is a wonderful benefit for the true disciple who longs to be transformed into the image of Christ. We cover up what is inside of us with food and other good things, but in fasting these things surface. If pride controls us, it will be revealed almost immediately...Anger, bitterness, jealousy, strife, fear - if they are within us, they will surface during fasting. At first we will rationalize that our anger is due to our hunger; then we will realize that we are angry because the spirit of anger is within us. We can rejoice in the knowledge because we know that healing is available through the power of Christ."

Give Something Up, Add Something to Replace It.
Usually the focus on fasting is on giving something up. Thus, a person might fast food. An additional focus can be to add something new to replace what has been given up. Thus, a person might spend more time in prayer, Bible reading, or in service to others. For example, if you fast TV, you could replace the TV time with prayer.

You Can Fast Anything.
Some people can't do a food fast because of heath issues. Is there something else in your life that is too high of a priority? It may be a good candidate for fasting. TV, facebook, blogging, theology books, coffee (these are all things that could apply to me). Ask God to show you something to fast and He will. Replace the time you spent doing the activity with something else, like prayer, worship, or service.

Done in Private
Fasting should only be between the participating parties and the Lord. The only people who should know about your fast are those who must know. If you fast to try and impress others, that will be your only reward (Matt 6:16-18).

Fasting has a long History in the Church
Our society has become accustomed to ease and a "have it now" mentality. Fasting is a largely neglected discipline. But the church has fasted since the beginning, as the book of Acts records. The Didache (an early church manual written around AD 100) encouraged fasting every Wednesday and Friday.

Wesley Advocated Fasting
John Wesley fasted every Friday and sometimes on Wednesdays. He encouraged all of his Methodist pastors to do likewise. For those who don't like Wesley, you can look to Augustine, Luther, Calvin or Spurgeon - who all advocated fasting. As this is the Wesleyan Arminian blog, Wesley gets his props here. :)
Wesley was convinced that fasting, abstaining from food or drink, was a practice firmly grounded in the Bible. People in Old Testament times fasted (Ezra 8:23). So did Jesus and his followers (Matthew 4:2; Acts 13:3), and Wesley saw no reason why modern Christians should not follow the same pattern. His plan of fasting sometimes allowed for limited eating and drinking. He found that fasting advanced holiness. (John Wesley: Holiness of Heart and Life, Charles Yrigoyen)

Tips for an Extended Food Fast
(largely borrowed from Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster).
  • Don't beat yourself up if you fail on the fast. Ask for God's help, and try again.
  • Don't try to stock up with a big meal before fasting. It is better to work into it with light meals of fruits and vegetables.
  • Start with a short fast of just a meal or two " is wise to learn to walk well before we try to run."
  • Drink lots of water.
  • During a long fast, the first few days will be the most difficult. You will feel hungry. The body is like a child, and needs to be put in its place. The body will be ridding itself of toxins, you may have bad breath for a day or two. If you fast caffeine you may have withdrawal headaches.
  • As you fast, you will see a progression from the superficial aspects of fasting to the more rewarding ones. You will go from congratulating yourself to reflecting on Christ, to surrender and prayer.
  • "By the sixth or seventh day you will begin to feel stronger and more alert. Hunger pains will continue to diminish until...they are only a minor irritation."
  • "Anywhere between twenty-one and forty days or longer...hunger pains will return. This is the first stage of starvation...the fast should be broken at this time."
  • When you end an extended fast, do it gently. Your digestive system will be out of practice. End the fast with a small meal or two, and with healthy and easily digested foods.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Arminian Audio: Brown / White Discussion

Christian radio host Dr. Michael Brown recently did a debate with Dr. James White. The debate lasted two days, and took place on Brown's call in show: The Line of Fire. Brown argued from a Non-Calvinist position, and White came from the Calvinist position. The questions included: Does God love everyone? Does God give everyone a genuine opportunity to be saved? What did Christ's atonement accomplish? Are the number of elect fixed? Does God reprobate specific individuals? Does Calvinism result in pride for its adherents?

Here are the link to Brown's blog (where you can also comment), and the direct mp3 links.
January 26, 2010 (mp3) - Brown and White discuss Calvinism - part #1
January 27, 2010 (mp3) - Brown and White discuss Calvinism - part #2
January 28, 2010 (mp3) - Calvinists call into Brown's show and ask him questions.

My thoughts:
Both theologians clearly had respect for each other and accepted each other as believers. Brown went out of his way to point out that Arminians and Calvinists agree on 99%, and that we are all brothers in Christ.

James White is an excellent debater, and I was afraid that he would clobber Brown. However, Brown did quite well. It no doubt helped that he was hosting the show, chose the format, and was the one asking the questions.

White depended very heavily on the "Two wills of God" theory - This is the Calvinist theory that God has a hidden decretive will that overrides and contradicts his revealed will. Thus God says that he doesn't want us to sin, and commands us not to sin, but he has secretly decreed that we will sin, and then damns us for doing what he has decreed (so goes the theory). I think the scriptural support for this theory is non-existent, and I would have like to have seen Brown point this out in stronger terms.

I would also have liked to see Brown better develop the concept of Prevenient Grace. PG largly mitigates many of the complaints that Calvinists often have about Arminian theology (that we believe we save ourselves, etc). Brown did develop this a little more on day two.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Haiti - Why do Disasters Happen?

Why do disasters happen? What should Christians do when disasters happen? The recent earthquake in Haiti was catastrophic. Perhaps it has caused you to wonder if it was caused by God. I don't think that it was.

When a disaster occurs, sometimes Christians rush to judgment. We think that the disaster happend because the people who lived there were sinful, or perhaps their ancestors were sinful.

Something happened a long time ago in Haiti, and people might not want to talk about it, They were under the heel of the French. You know, Napoleon the third, or whatever. And they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said, ‘we will serve you if you will get us free from the French. True story. And so, the devil said, ‘OK, it's a deal.’ -Pat Robertson on the Haiti Earthquake
There are also some Christians who believe that God directly or indirectly causes all disasters. John Piper is one who holds to this view:
Jesus Christ controls the wind, including all tornados....The tornado in Minneapolis was a gentle but firm warning to the ELCA and all of us: Turn from the approval of sin. Turn from the promotion of behaviors that lead to destruction. -John Piper on the ELCA tornado.

God had a purpose for not holding up that bridge, knowing all that would happen, and he is infinitely wise in all that he wills. -John Piper on the Minnesota bridge collapse.
This type of speculation from Robertson and Piper is counterproductive because it attributes destructive events to God when God has not spoken. In reality the events can reasonably be attributed to other root causes. Earthquakes happen where there are fault lines. Tornadoes happen in tornado alley. Bridges and buildings collapse when they are not properly built or maintained.

In Haiti there were two factors that contributed to the disaster. First, there was a shallow fault line near to Port Au Prince. Second, many of the buildings were built poorly. These two factors adequately explain why the disaster occurred. There is no reason to attribute it to a curse or anything else.

Speculation like Roberson's and Piper's is also quite selective. When a disaster fits our paradigm we quickly assign blame. But when it strikes us personally, we respond differently. If Robertson's house was destroyed by hurricane, would he blame that on a curse? Probably not. If Piper's church was destroyed by a tornado, would he attribute it to sinful doctrine being taught? Probably not.

When Christians speak in such ways we damage ourselves. Rather than being salt and light to a world that needs us, we are seen as hypocritical and selectively judgmental. Pat Robertson perhaps meant well, but he damaged his Christian witness and held all believers up to ridicule. When disaster comes, Christian help. We grieve for those who are hungry and hurt. We give to those in need. We do not assign blame.

So why do disasters happen? There is not an easy answer, and perhaps it is dangerous to look for one. One thing that can be said is that we live in a fallen physical world. Creation is in decay and is awaiting liberation (Romans 8:18-21). God's will is not always done on earth, that is why we pray "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven." (Matt 6:10)

Theologian Roger Olson argues that:

...what if God limits himself so that much of what happens in the world is due to human finitude and fallenness? What if God is in charge but not in control? What if God wishes that things could be otherwise and someday will make all things perfect?


In this world, because of our ignorance and sinfulness, really bad things sometimes happen and people do really evil and wicked things. Not because God secretly plans and prods them, but because God has said to fallen, sinful people, "OK, not my will then, but thine be done -- for now." -Olson On the Minnesota bridge collapse.

Does God ever cause disaster? First and formost we should remember that Jesus came to bring life (John 10:10). When Jesus died he paid for the sins of the entire world. That includes the people of Haiti.

God can cause disaster as a form of judgment, however, he makes his intent known when he judges, he does not leave it wide open to interpretation. Greg Boyd notes that:

...the model of God bringing about disasters to punish people is rooted in the Old Testament. Here we several times find God using nature and human agents to punish people. (Though even back then this wasn’t God’s normal mode of operation). But in these contexts, God first gives ample warning about a coming judgment and he tells people exactly what he is doing. Punishment without teaching is not pedagogically effective.

Imagine a parent saying to their child, “I’m going to spank you whenever I want to but not tell you why.” It just doesn’t work!
-Boyd, Why Did the 35W Collapse?

As noted above, John Piper has stated that "Jesus Christ controls the wind, including all tornados." This explanation does not line up with the scriptural account. In fact, scripture records that Jesus rebuked a storm (Mark 4:35-41). If Jesus causes all storms, he was rebuking himself.

In a fallen and decaying world bad things happen. Even to good people. If it greives us, we can be certain that it grieves God as well. In the meantime, we help those in need and we pray for the coming of God's kingdom. Only then will God's will be fully done on earth, just as it is in heaven.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Patty Thomas - Haiti

Here is a blog with updates about what's going on in an orphanage in Haiti: Patty Thomas, News and Updates. Patty Thomas is connected to my local church, her two grown boys attend there.

Patty works in an orphanage near Port Au Prince. The orphanage takes care of about 90 children. The orphanage building was not damaged during the recent quake, however, the wall that surrounds it fell down. Given the general lawlessness going on there, it is a high priority to get the wall rebuilt.

The boys John and Todd Thomas will be leaving on Tuesday 1-19-10 to go down there and help out their mom. They will be taking at least one nurse with them. There have been some great things happening in our community related to this. One organization donated a large number of medical supplies, a credit union is raising money, and Home Depot donated building supplies and tools. They will be sending the supplies down with them.

Please keep the orphanage in your prayers! Here is a slide show of Patty and the kids.

Friday, January 8, 2010

The Meaning of "The Man Comes Around" by Johnny Cash

"The Man Comes Around" is a song about judgment day. It was released in 2002, and was the title song for Johnny Cash's last album. The song has numerous Biblical references, many of which are cryptic.

The following is an interpretation. All Bible references are King James, since that's the version Cash quotes in the song.

And I heard, as it were, the noise of thunder: One of the four beasts saying: "Come and see." And I saw. And behold, a white horse.

This is a quote from Revelation 6:1-2. It references John's vision of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse, who bring disaster at the end of the world. "1And I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals, and I heard, as it were the noise of thunder, one of the four beasts saying, Come and see. 2And I saw, and behold a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer. "

There's a man going round taking names. And he decides who to free and who to blame. Everybody won't be treated all the same. There'll be a golden ladder reaching down. When the man comes around.

The "man going round taking names" has double meaning. It is a reference to a song by folk singer Lead Belly. It is also clearly a reference to Jesus and the Book of Life where the names of believers are recorded (Revelation 20:12, 15).

God decides who to free and who to blame. Those who believe in Jesus will be saved and will escape punishment. The ladder reaching down refers to Jacob's ladder (Genesis 28:12). It could also refer to Jesus (John 1:51). He is the ladder that gives us a way of escape from judgment.

The hairs on your arm will stand up. At the terror in each sip and in each sup. For you partake of that last offered cup, Or disappear into the potter's ground. When the man comes around.

The hairs on your arm will stand up. This is a reminder of the fear that God will command on judgment day. The terror in each sip and sup refers to body and blood of Christ which we symbolically take during communion (Matt 26:26-28). To partake of the last offered cup means to be saved at your last opportunity. On judgment day believers who are covered by the blood of Jesus will be saved. Non-believers will be lost and disappear into the potter's ground. The potter's ground is a reference to the field that the chief priest bought with Judas' betrayal money (Matt 27:5-7).

Hear the trumpets, hear the pipers. One hundred million angels singing. Multitudes are marching to the big kettle drum. Voices calling, voices crying. Some are born and some are dying. It's Alpha's and Omega's Kingdom come.

Hear the trumpets. In Biblical times important news was announced with trumpets. Revelation records seven plagues which are all hailed by trumpets. Trumpets will also announce Christ's new kingdom, and the raising of the dead (1 Cor 15:52).

Angels singing - Cash's brother Jack died in a terrible accident at a young age. His brother had a vision of angels while he was dying, and Johnny remembered this throughout his life. The Bible records there will be angels singing in heaven: "And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands;" (Rev 5:11). The multitudes marching probably refers to Revelation 5, where multitudes are worshiping God.

Voices calling, voices crying. One must follow Jesus in this life. It will be too late to turn on judgment day (Matt 7:22-23 , Heb 9:27).

Alpha and Omega are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, and are a name for God. "I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last." (Rev 22:13). Kingdom come refers to when Jesus will return and establish his kingdom on earth (Rev 21). It is also part of the Lords prayer. "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done..." (Matt 6:10).

And the whirlwind is in the thorn tree. The virgins are all trimming their wicks. The whirlwind is in the thorn tree. It's hard for thee to kick against the pricks.

The whirlwind and thorn tree is a self reference. Cash had a dream where he saw Queen Elizabeth. She said to him, "Johnny, you're like a thorn tree in a whirlwind." Job 38:1 also references a whirlwind. The virgins trimming their wicks are a reference to a parable told by Jesus in Matthew 25. There are wise and foolish virgins. The wise ones have their wicks trimmed and wait for the bridegroom. The foolish ones miss out. The point of the parable is that we need to be ready for Jesus' return or we will miss out.

"It's hard for thee to kick against the pricks" may be a self reference, about how it was hard for Cash to follow God, but God kept calling him back. It is also a reference to the apostle Paul's conversion experience on the Damascus road (Acts 9:5 , 26:14). A prick (or goad) is a sharp stick used to prod livestock. The phrase in context means that it's hard for Paul to fight back against what Jesus is calling him to do. Cash identified with Paul, and wrote a book about Paul's conversion experience.

Till Armageddon, no Shalam, no Shalom. Then the father hen will call his chickens home. The wise men will bow down before the throne. And at his feet they'll cast their golden crown. When the man comes around.

Armageddon is a location in Israel, and a site of a huge battle that will take place before Christ returns to earth (Rev 16). Shalom is a Hebrew word that means peace. Shalam is a variation that probably means the same thing. There will be no peace until Jesus returns after Armageddon.

Then the father hen will call his chickens home. This echos Jesus' lament in Luke 13:34: "how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not!". Jesus wanted to gather the people of Jerusalem up to follow him, like a hen gathers her chicks, but they would not. In the end, God will call his followers home. The chickens will come home to roost. :)

The wise men bow down and cast their crowns. The wise men may represent the church. This is a reference to Rev 4:10: "The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne..."

Whoever is unjust, let him be unjust still. Whoever is righteous, let him be righteous still. Whoever is filthy, let him be filthy still. Listen to the words long written down, When the man comes around.

Whoever is unjust.... This is a quote from Revelation 22:11: "He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still." This portion of Rev 22 refers to the coming of Jesus. When he comes people will be found as they are, there will be no time for them to change at that point.

Listen to the words long written down. This means to listen and to follow what the Bible says.

Hear the trumpets, hear the pipers. One hundred million angels singing. Multitudes are marching to the big kettle drum. Voices calling, voices crying. Some are born and some are dying. It's Alpha's and Omega's Kingdom come.

And the whirlwind is in the thorn tree. The virgins are all trimming their wicks. The whirlwind is in the thorn tree. It's hard for thee to kick against the pricks.

In measured hundredweight and penny pound. When the man comes around.

In measured hundredweight... refers to Rev 6:6: "...A measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny..." There is severe famine in the last days. A person has to work all day for a loaf of bread. A penny is what a person made in a day, and a measure of wheat is how much one would need for a loaf of bread.

And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts, And I looked and behold: a pale horse. And his name, that sat on him, was Death. And Hell followed with him.

The song closes with with the last of the four horsemen recorded in Revelation 6:7-8: 7And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, Come and see. 8And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.

If you are interested in more about Cash's faith, see this article from Christianity today.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Arminian Audio - Jack Cottrell

Here is a link to some audio resources by Jack Cottrell. Cottrell is a well known theologian from the Conservative Christian Church / Restoration movement. There is one link entitled "Once in Grace" that is a refutation of eternal security.

[17 Jan 2010, made correction of denomination]

HT: Steve Noel