Arminian Today

A Jesus-Centered Arminian Blog

The Vain Pursuit of Sinless Perfection

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Very early on in my Christian life I reasoned (along with other brothers) that since God has called us to be holy as He is holy (1 Peter 1:15-16) that this must mean that we are able to not sin (1 John 2:1).  I reasoned that if we sin, we are not truly following Christ as the Bible says that we are not to sin if we know Him (1 John 3:6-9).  I read where Paul the Apostle said to stop sinning (1 Corinthians 15:34) and where Paul said that we are to not be mastered by sin (Romans 6:11-23).

All of this lead me to conclude that we are to pursue sinless perfection.  While I had never met anyone who was sinless, I reasoned that it was possible.  I read John Wesley’s book, A Plain Account of Christian Perfection and I reasoned that one could have an experience with God that would take you to a place of absolute holiness.  I pleaded with God to give me this experience of “entire sanctification” and I earnestly wanted to be holy.

All to no avail.  I have always struggled with sin.  Alwasys will.

I reasoned that there were categories of sin and that some sins were worst than others.  For example, Jesus said that Judas had committed the greater sin (John 19:11) since he had betrayed the Lord of glory.  I reasoned from the law of Moses that since God required different sacrifices for sins of omission and sins of commission then God must view our sins as different if we commit them willfully versus by mistakes or lack.  For instance, none of us pray enough since the Bible calls us to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17) and thus while prayerlessness is a sin (1 Samuel 12:23), prayerlessness is not the same sin as sexual immorality (1 Corinthians 6:18-20) and while prayerlessness is horrible, prayerlessness is not listed among the sins that keep us from the kingdom in passages such as 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 and Galatians 5:19-21 and Revelation 21:8.

In this way, I was able to tell someone that I had not sinned that day.  I could say that while I didn’t love God perfectly or pray enough or share the gospel or give to the poor, nonetheless I hadn’t committed any willful sins.  In this way, I thought of myself as holy and pure.  I though very highly of myself.

I now see it all as nothing but vanity.  I now sit here a broken man.  I see that my pride was horrible.  I see that God opposes the proud.  Oh I would have gladly claimed the grace of God for my salvation and I would have boasted that it was the grace of God that enabled me to holiness (Titus 2:11-12) but the reality is that I was proud.  I was arrogant.  I was not holy.  I was full of flesh.

I have never ceased to need Jesus.  I never have and I never will.  My good days are still nothing before a holy God.  He is not pleased with my self-righteousness (Isaiah 64:6).  My works play no part in my salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9).  Salvation is the gracious work of God by His grace and by His Spirit through His Word.  I lay aside all boasting right now and I confess that Jesus is my salvation and He alone is my hope before a holy God (Hebrews 7:25).  My salvation is complete in Christ (1 Corinthians 1:30-31).  I am saved not by what I do but through the work of the Lord Jesus Christ (John 6:29).

While it is true that we are to pursue holiness (Hebrews 12:14) the reality is that we will always need Jesus and His grace.  Thankfully through the sacrifice of Jesus, we are holy in Him (Hebrews 10:10, 14).  Jesus and His blood makes us holy (Ephesians 1:4-7).  We are called to forsake sin and turn from sin but the promise of God is that while we are not called to sin, we have One who prays for us before the holy Father (1 John 2:1-2).  Through the Lord Jesus I am able to approach the throne of a holy God (Hebrews 4:14-16).  The entire focus of the New Testament is upon the Lord Jesus (Hebrews 12:1-2).  He is my salvation and my hope.  Not my works (Titus 3:5-7).

I don’t want to wonder into sloppy grace (Romans 6:1-4).  Having been set free by the grace of God, why would I want to go back to a life of sin?  Yet I do struggle with sin.  I hate my sins.  I really do.  I want to be holy and pure and praise God, in Christ, I am holy.  The Spirit of God is working in me to help me to hate sin and to turn from sin.  I admit that I struggle with sin and I always will but the promise of God is to complete this work He has begun in me (Philippians 1:6).

If you struggle with sin, I assure you that you are loved by God.  I need to hear that too.  God gave His Son for our sins (John 3:16) and He demonstrates His love (Romans 5:8-9).  This love from God is not mere words but actions.  The Father has sent His holy Son to die for our wicked sins.  God has reconciled us through Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:18-21).  My favorite verse in the Bible is 1 Timothy 1:15.  It reads beautifully in the KJV:

This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.

Christ Jesus came to save sinners.  Luke 19:10 says:

For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.

Jesus came to save us (Matthew 1:21).  He came as the suffering servant from Isaiah 53 who would die for our sins.  He came to bring us peace with God (Ephesians 2:14; Colossians 1:20).  Jesus shed His blood on the cross for our sins and it by His grace, through His blood that we are saved from the wrath of God against our sins.

Romans 3:23-25 (KJV) reads wonderfully:

23 for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; 24 being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: 25 whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God.

This salvation is freely given in Christ (Acts 16:30-31) and He is our propitiation through faith in His blood.  This is the goodness of our God.  Our God reaches down to us and save us by His grace.

Now in conclusion I don’t want to sound like an antinomian.  I am not advocating sinning. I hate my sins.  I want to be holy.  Yet I believe there is balance.  The balance is not to see Jesus as our means unto holiness but He is our holiness.  The focus of salvation from beginning to end is Jesus Christ.  It is not Jesus plus our works that saves us.  It is not Jesus plus our works that makes us holy.  It is Jesus and His work alone that saves us.  Our eyes must be on Jesus.  Hebrews 12:1-2 is powerful in that regard:

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, 2 looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Looking unto Jesus is the key.  Jesus has sat down at the Father’s side.  Sitting represents completion.  Jesus has sat down because He has completed  the work of atonement.  Jesus is now our faithful high priest before the Father (Hebrews 2:17-18).

No doubt I will sin.  I hate my sins even now.  Yet I know that before the Father is One who prays for me.  He is my defense.  I use to believe that when I sinned, I need to compensate God and His wrath somehow.  I would pray more.  I would read my Bible a little more.  I would go out and witness to someone.  I wanted to make up for my sins.  The reality is that God sees my wicked heart at all times.  He knows me perfectly.  The beauty of the cross is that it demonstrates God’s love toward sinners still in their sins (Romans 5:8).  God loved me while I was a sinner even under His wrath but now He loves me as His child through faith in His Son (Galatians 3:26; 4:6).  If God loved me while a wicked sinner who sinned without thinking of God, how much does He still love this sinner now?

I am tired of sinless perfection seeking.  I only want to know that I have peace with God through faith in Christ (Romans 5:1).  Jesus is my salvation both now and forevermore.

“Lord help me to not sin this day but forgive me of my sins as I forgive those who trespass against me.”

Oneness Pentecostals Exposed

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Here is a link to an excellent, long series on Oneness Pentecostals by a British brother.  I highly recommend it.  I have listened to them while working and was greatly blessed.  Not only does he quote directly from Oneness Pentecostal theologians but he dives into the Word of God for answers.

You can find these teachings here.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

03/21/2017 at 1:16 PM

Why Do Arminians Exist?

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I was listening to a podcast and the brother quoted a Calvinist as saying that the most difficult question he has about Calvinism is why do Arminians exist?  If Calvinism is true, if it is true that God must open our eyes to the truths of Calvinism and that the truths of Calvinism are something that comes by divine revelation and by the sovereign decree of God, why does God allow Arminians to exist?  Why are there any non-Calvinists?

The answer for Calvinists is that God, for His glory, allows Arminians to exist and to preach false doctrines.  This would also be true of cults, heretics, and all non-Calvinists.  The only way to understand this is to appeal to mystery or to Deuteronomy 29:29.

The answer for Arminians and non-Calvinists is to point to the fallen world that we live in and to free will.  God allows people to read the Bible and to use their minds to interpret His Word.  The gospel is clear.  Even Calvinists would acknowledge that many non-Calvinists are saved albeit by inconsistent theology.  I have heard Dr. James White refer to this view many times.  I believe that Calvinism exists because God has given the world a certain amount of freedom.

In the end, I would pray that non-Calvinists and Calvinists would love each other.  This is the command of Jesus (John 13:34-35).

Things About Seeker Churches

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I drive a truck for a living so I spend hours on the road and so I listen to podcasts to pass the time.  Most of the time I listen to sound doctrinal preaching.  However, for the fun of it, I will often download sermons from churches I either know I won’t agree with or sermons from seeker churches just to hear what they are up to.

Over the past year or so I have listened to hundreds of seeker churches.  And I’m not lying when I type hundreds.  From the mega seeker churches to seeker churches in my geographical area, I have listened to hundreds of sermons.  I’m not expert on seeker churches but I have been able to gather my thoughts on them.  So here goes.

Let me begin with the positives.  While my negatives will be longer, I do find a few positives in here.

First, the desire to see sinners saved.  While nearly all seeker churches will never call people “sinners,” the concept is still the same.  They seem to want to see people come to faith in Christ.  Again, I would question whether the people are hearing the law and the gospel to save sinners but they seem to truly want to see people saved.  Now could it be they just want a crowd?  Sure.  I don’t know their hearts.  Only God does.  Their words and actions seem to imply they want people saved but it might just be a desire for more people to come to their seeker church.

Second, somewhat preaching of a Christian worldview.  By this I mean the seeker churches at least will point to the Bible as our foundation for our worldview.  Take sex for instance.  This is a favorite topic among seeker churches and most will point to a biblical worldview on sex.  I appreciate that.  As a sinner myself, I need to hear what the Bible teaches about topic X.  Without the Bible, I am prone to follow my flesh and that always leads to sin.

Third, the desire to be real.  While this can be overdone in my estimation by seeker churches, most want people to know that they are just like you and I.  These are not “holy” men and women but regular sinners who are in the fight for faith in their own lives.  I appreciate that.  While I’ll have a little to say that is critical about this below, for the most part I acknowledge that all of us are sinners (Romans 3:23) and we all need Jesus and His grace.  No one is perfect.  None.

Fourth, in many cases I appreciate the desire to look like the community around them including interracial churches.  God loves all people (John 3:16) and He sent His Son for all.  Doesn’t matter the color of the person’s skin.  Churches often are all white or all black or all brown or all yellow.  While this is not necessarily sinful, it can be.  I know of some churches that don’t want anyone but their “kind” with them.  How sinful.  The kingdom of God is made up of sinners who have been saved by Christ Jesus and this includes all races of people (Galatians 3:26-29; Revelation 1:5-6).  Racism has no place in the kingdom. Seeker churches often seek to tear down the walls of racial divisions.  I truly appreciate that.

Lastly, the love for children.  Seeker churches seem to do a good job of building ministries focused on families and especially young children.  I get it.  Their target groups are mainly 20-30 year olds who have families.  I’m out of that range now and my children are getting older but when I was in my 30’s, I remember thinking long and hard about churches that would help me pour into my children.  Now I truly believe my job as a parent is to teach and raise my children in the fear of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4 and notice the emphasis on “fathers”).  Seeker churches seem to know this and seek to build ministries designed to attract young families to their churches.  It can be overdone here too but traditional churches can learn the value of trying to pour into the whole family.

The Critical Items

Now let’s turn to the critical items.  There are many.

First, let’s talk about the preaching.  I would rather label them “talks” after “Ted Talks” more than preaching.  The preaching of seeker churches is just bad.  All of them seem to want to be stand up comedians more than theologians and shepherds.  The stories are usually focused on the speaker and all about them.  The text of Scripture is never exegeted.  I have listened to hundreds of sermons (yes hundreds) from seeker churches and not one has ever been expository nor has one ever dealt with their text in a contextual way.  Not one.  In fact, nearly every talk is topical and if they are teaching through a book, the chapter from the Bible is either never read nor is it dealt with.  Doctrine is never preached.  Now the seeker defense will be that A) they are not preaching to Christians but to the seekers.  And B) they have community groups for doctrinal teaching.  I find both answers lacking.  2 Timothy 4:2 says that the duty of elders is to preach the Word.  The words of Paul the Apostle to the Ephesians elders (Acts 20:17) are worth reading (Acts 20:28-35).  Seeker leaders seem to avoid doctrine as much as possible as I have yet to hear a sound doctrinal sermon yet.  The talks also seem to me to always be on a beginner level.  I think of Hebrews 5:11-14.  Where is the growth?  Where is the challenging of believers to go deeper in their knowledge of God and His Word (2 Peter 3:16-17)?  Do people walk away from these talks understanding more about God, His Son, His salvation, and His Word?  I think not.

Second, let me say a word of the elders of the church.  The seeker leaders go out of their way to show how human they are.  They want to be “real” to the people and especially to seekers. Yet this has become an annoyance to me.  1 Timothy 3:1-7 is clear about elders in the church.  1 Timothy 3:1-7 is tough and few disciples meet the qualifications there.  I don’t.  But I am not an elder nor do I claim to be.  I am just a truck driver.  That said, leaders in the church should be holy men of God.  Not perfect. Not sinless.  But holy nonetheless.  The ESV uses the words “above reproach” (1 Timothy 3:2).  1 Timothy 3:7 does mention that the elder must be “well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.”  Outsiders are those who are lost, outside of the kingdom.  Even sinners see that these elders are men of God.  These are not men walking around “trying to be a real guy” but these are real Christians who love Jesus and while not perfect, they do desire to please the Lord.  This act of “being a normal guy” has become old fast in the seeker leadership.  And sadly, many of these guys along the way have fallen into sin.  Just google fallen mega pastors and you’ll see the sad reality of that world.  Ironically, in the desire to “just be a normal guy,” these guys become superstars and draw the attention of the devil.

Third, the lack of biblical discernment especially in regard to music.  All of the seeker churches I have listened to try to have a kicking praise and worship band.  Many include the smoke and lights.  These praise bands are typically led by a 20 something who has skinny jeans on and they all wear cool clothes or just wear worn out jeans and a t-shirt.  Now the dress to me is not the issue.  God sees our hearts after all.  That said, the cool praise bands often sing songs that are just poor in their doctrine if they have doctrine at all.   Heck this song would qualify as a praise song today.  The utter lack of doctrine in the seeker churches produces shallow, sappy songs that have little to do with the gospel or the glory of God.  They sound good but that’s it.  I can see why people are drawn to liturgical churches after being immersed in seeker churches.  It is very sad.

Fourth, the lack of law and gospel.  Most seeker churches either are heavy on the law (you need to do these ten things to help your marriage) or nothing at all.  The gospel is always “pray Jesus into your heart” and nothing is typically said of repentance or even using the law to expose our sins (Romans 3:19-20).  God’s law has a purpose (1 Timothy 1:8-11) and yet seeker churches avoid preaching the law to convict sinners or sanctify saints (the third use of the law).  The Bible is balanced between law and gospel.  Yet seeker churches are not balanced at all.  In fact, I chance to say that they wouldn’t even know about law and gospel.  The gospel should be preached at all times.  I would argue every time the church meets because we are prone to wander.  Martin Luther said, “Christians should preach the gospel every day to ourselves because everyday we are prone to forget it.”  Without the hope of the gospel, all these “steps to a better you” are worthless.  Without the hope of the gospel, we fall into despair and back into the flesh.  “Ten steps” talks are not what we need all the time.  We need the gospel consistently (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).  Without the gospel, we turn people into moralists which still leads them to hell.

Conclusion

I am no fan of seeker churches.  I get what draws people to them (Isaiah 30:10-11).  I remember the age-old quote, “What you win them with is what you win them to.”  The gospel is not what is drawing these sinners.

My advice would be to flee these churches.  I would much rather attend a Calvinistic church that preaches the Word of God than any seeker church.  The pragmatism is simply too much for this old boy.  I desperately need the gospel.  I am lost without Christ.  He is my only hope.  He alone is my righteousness before a holy God (Philippians 3:9).  I am undone without the grace of the Lord Jesus for this sinner.  I need to hear more of Him less of me.  I need to hear the gospel over and over and over again.  My flesh hates the things of God but I must hear the gospel to remind my flesh to die (Romans 6:11-14).  Further, I need the gospel because I am a sinner who needs God’s grace (1 Timothy 1:15).

Written by The Seeking Disciple

03/21/2017 at 12:37 PM

Pray For Caleb Fielding

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I ask you to join me in praying for brother Caleb Fielding who is going to England to be a missionary.  Pray for the Lord to use Caleb to preach the gospel and to disciple those who repent and believe the gospel (Matthew 28:19-20).  Pray for souls to hear the gospel and be saved (Romans 10:14-17).  Pray for Caleb to be a man of God, a man of holiness toward the sinners in England (2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1).  Pray for the Church of Jesus Christ in England to experience revival and see souls saved for the glory of God.

For more information on brother Caleb, please see http://www.calebfielding.com

Written by The Seeking Disciple

03/19/2017 at 1:55 PM

Law and Gospel

Having come face to face with my own sinfulness, my own lack of keeping the law of God, I have spent the last several months looking at the law and the gospel.  While this is not new to Christianity, it is fairly new to me.  I grew up in a church environment that was heavy on the law.  You keep the law and God was happy.  Break the law (which was often), God is now angry with you.  The gospel was not the end but only a step to helping me keep myself clean.  It was not Jesus period.  It was Jesus who now enables me to keep the law and when I fail, back to the beginning.

We all sin.  None of us are perfect.  We read passages such as Romans 3:23 and acknowledge the universal sinfulness of mankind.  But we miss the point that we are sinners ourselves.  I am not arguing that we wake up each day thinking “what can I do today to violate the law of God” but we do sin.  Whether we make sins into categories such as “sins of omission” and “sins of commission,” either way we do sin.  Apart from grace, none of us can stand before a holy God.  It is only through Christ that we can stand before a holy and totally pure God.  The reason Christ died for my sins is not simply to enable me to be holy on my own power but He died because I am a sinner in need of forgiveness because I do sin (1 John 2:1-2).

Consider the command of Jesus in Matthew 22:37-40:

37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.

38 This is the first and great commandment.

39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

Stop and consider how you are doing with that one?  I’m not even good at it.  I would love to say that I love God perfectly as Jesus taught.  I would love to tell you that my love for God flows into loving my neighbor as myself.  But the reality is that I fall way short of these two commands and Jesus said that law and the prophets hang on these two commandments.  Do these and you’ll be perfect!  But I don’t!

And thus the gospel comes into play.  The law condemns me as a sinner (Romans 3:19) and the law teaches me that I need a Savior (Galatians 3:24).  The law condemns me.  The gospel saves me.  The law shows me that I am a sinner (Romans 7:7).  There is nothing wrong with the law of God (Romans 7:12) but the problem is me.  I can’t keep the law.  No matter how hard I try, I fail.

The gospel preaches peace to me.  The law tells me to love God perfectly and my neighbor perfectly (Matthew 5:48).  The gospel tells me Christ died for my sins and the sins of not loving God perfectly nor my neighbor as myself.  The law tells me to love my wife as Christ loves His Church (Ephesians 5:25).  The gospel tells me that Christ died for the sin of not loving my wife as Christ loves His Church (I am far from a perfect husband).  The law tells me to pray, to worship, to evangelize, to give my money to the poor and to helping the kingdom of God, to do good to my neighbor especially of those of the household of faith, etc. but the gospel tells me that Christ died for my sins even the sins of not keeping the law perfectly.

Martin Luther taught two (and I would add a third) uses of the law.  Lutherans debate the third use of the law.  The three uses of the law are:

  • For society, to curb man’s sinfulness.
  • To condemn us a sinners and show us our need for salvation.
  • To help the Christian in sanctification.

These three uses of the law are seen not just in the Bible but in life.  Antinomians accept the first two uses of the law but not the third.  I believe in preaching all three.  Christians need to hear the law so that the Holy Spirit can help us in the process of sanctification.  So for example a believer hears that we should pray (Luke 18:1; 1 Thessalonians 5:17).  Prayer itself doesn’t justify us before God.  We are justified only through Christ Jesus alone by grace alone though faith alone.  Yet none would say that prayer is bad.  Yet prayer can become a law.  It was that way for me.  I once held that a person should pray for 2 hours a day or God was not pleased.  Prayer became a law and gospel for me.  But prayer is not the gospel.  The gospel is the death of Jesus for our sins and His resurrection for our justification (Romans 4:24-25; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4).  Thus Jesus died for my sin of prayerlessness.  Does this mean that I should not pray since Jesus died for my sin of prayerlessness?  By no means! The key is to see prayer as flowing from my forgiveness and not from the law.  I pray because Christ shed His blood for me (Hebrews 4:14-16).

This holds true of any law.  The law if holy and good (1 Timothy 1:8-11).  The law shows me how far I am far from the perfection of God.  But the gospel shouts to me that I am accepted in the Beloved.  I am holy before God because of Christ (Hebrews 10:10, 14) and not by my works.  The law tells me to pursue holiness (Hebrews 12:14; 1 Peter 1:15-16) and this is good.  The gospel tells me that I am accepted in Christ Jesus who bled and died for my sins (Romans 5:6).

This understanding of the law and the gospel has blessed me.  It has brought some joy to my soul where joy has been lacking.  For so long I have been full of pride, my own self-righteousness.  I thought God was honored by my prayer life, my evangelism, my passion for God.  Like Voddie Bauchman preaches, my works-righteousness muscle likes to flex.  I would have, in the past, gladly acknowledged Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior and would have gladly told you that I was saved by His grace alone but in reality I was full of pride, thinking more highly of myself than I ought (Philippians 2:3).  I would have preached Christ but my focus was not on pleasing Christ per se but on men seeing how much I “loved” Jesus.  Oh how much pride was in my heart!  Oh wretched sinner that I was!

But Christ died for me.  Christ bled and suffered for my sins.  Jesus gave His life for my sins and now I am forgiven not because I keep the law but because I can’t keep the law (Galatians 3:10).  Christ suffered in my place, for my sins (Galatians 3:13-14).  I am saved now not because I keep the law but because of faith in Jesus Christ who gave His life for my sins.  What a blessing!  What a Savior!

I have no problem with the law.  The law is good.  The law comes from our holy God.  Yet too many Christians try to live the law.  You will always be falling short.  Always.  You will never obtain holiness by the law.  Even if you think (as I did) that I had obtained a level of holiness by my striving, inside (like me) you’ll know that you stand condemned because you can’t keep the whole law (James 2:10).  I have no problem preaching the law and calling Christians to repent of not keeping the law.  But the balance of this is the gospel.  The answer to not keeping the law is not more law.  The answer is the gospel.  The law condemns us as sinners.  The gospel comforts us by pointing to Christ who died for our sins (2 Corinthians 5:18-21).

Perhaps I am wrong on this.  I don’t think so.  I believe it’s biblically based.  I know that this teaching has pushed me closer to Christ and not away.  I still hate sin.  I really do hate sin.  I acknowledge that I do sin but I hate my sins.  I am so grateful to God for giving me His Son for my sins (John 1:29).  I stand condemned but Christ preaches to me no condemnation (Romans 8:1).  Satan accuses me of sin and he is right to do so.  But I trust in Christ alone for my salvation (Hebrews 7:25).  Jesus has promised not only to save me from my sins (Matthew 1:21; Romans 6:1-4) but He has promised to keep me (Jude 24-25).  I trust in Christ alone and not my works-righteousness before a holy God.

Positions I Don’t Think Are Necessarily Heretical (Maybe Though)

“He is a heretic” is a common phrase thrown around by many who love theology.  I have seen people named a heretic for simple disagreements over end times views.  I myself have been called a heretic because I reject the teaching of the rapture of the Church.  I have been called a heretic for rejecting Calvinism.  I have been called a heretic once by a charismatic because I reject the “laughter movement” of the 1990’s.  The term “heretic” is thrown around too much in my opinion.

And no doubt this has been true at times in Church history.  The Anabaptists were severely persecuted by Martin Luther and the Reformers.  Luther stands before the Diet of Worms and gives his famous stand for the Word of God only to turn around four years later and condemned the Anabaptists to death for their views on baptism.  The Anabaptists were largely hated by the Reformers though the Reformers preached that we should test all things by the Word of God (1 Thessalonians 5:21).  What was the main “heresy” of the Anabaptists?  Baptism of believers by immersion.  The term “Anabaptist” was applied to them because the term means “two baptisms” because the Reformers stood with Roman Catholicism in agreeing with infant baptism and thus condemned the Anabaptists for re- baptizing adults whom the Reformers saw as already baptized because of their infant baptism.

In our day baptism is not so much the issue.  Most Reformed who hold to infant baptism (and even some Arminians as Arminius held to infant baptism) reject that we should kill those who baptize by immersion.  They also reject that those who hold to believer’s baptism would be heretics and vise versa.  There is peace there in this debate.

Yet there are positions that some hold to be heretical that I don’t consider necessarily heretical.  I might not agree but I don’t think that there are heretics nonetheless.  I once did in some cases.  Years ago I use to view myself as the orthodox believer and all others had to fall in line.  Not so now.  After dealing with my own sins, I see my need for God’s forgiveness and grace and I see that I fall terribly short in many ways.  I need reforming myself and I praise God for His grace towards me (1 Timothy 1:15).  I rejoice that perfect theology is not the standard for salvation.  Who could be saved?  The standard is you must know you’re a sinner and see your need for a Savior.  That is me (Luke 19:10).  “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:17 KJV).

So what positions do I know see as non-heretical though I might not agree with them.

Calvinism – A few hold that Calvinism is heretical.  I don’t.  I see them as my brothers and sisters in the Lord and greatly love my Calvinists friends and family.  Some of my favorite preachers and teachers and theologians are reformed.

Open Theism – Though I am not an open theist, I don’t believe that all open theists are heretics.  They are wresting with the mystery of divine omniscience and how this works in a free world.  By the way, Calvinism wrestles with the same issue though they go the opposite of the open theist.

Conditional Immortality – This is the position that rejects eternal conscience torment in hell.  I know a few brothers who condemn brothers who reject eternal conscience torment in eternal hell as heretics but this should not be the case.  Men such as Edward Fudge have wrestled with the texts and reject eternal conscience torment while maintaining salvation as a gracious gift from our eternal God.

Original Sin – I know brothers who reject the doctrine of original sin.  Most Arminians reject the Calvinist teaching on original sin yet I know some who reject the teaching altogether and believe that babies are born sinless while born into a sinful world.  While I can see how this teaching could lead to perfectionism teachings, I don’t believe these brothers are rejecting original sin because they have not searched the Scriptures.  I am somewhere in-between on this teaching and aligned more with inheriting a sinful nature from Adam while not inheriting Adam’s sin.

Infant Baptism – I hold to believer’s (or better Christian) baptism by immersion but I don’t reject those who disagree with me as heretics.  I know of godly Arminians who hold to infant baptism and love them as brothers.  We all agree that salvation is based on the finished work of Jesus Christ and not in our works (Titus 3:5-7).

KJV Only – While I completely disagree with the KJV only camp, I know some godly men who preach the gospel while holding firmly to the KJV.  By the way, I even know a Reformed brother who would qualify as a KJV only follower but he is not extreme and loves the Lord Jesus.  The truth is that Jesus saves us by His grace (Ephesians 2:1-9) and not by our Bible translations.  I was saved using the NIV.  Others have been saved using the KJV.  God saves us by the gospel (Romans 1:16-17) and not by our Bible translation though I do believe a good Bible translation is vital (for example the erroneous New World Translation of the JW’s though I read a testimony of a brother who was saved even by the NWT).

Soul Sleep – I know some brothers who hold to soul sleep.  These are not Seventh-Day Adventists but actually Reformed brothers who hold to this view.  While I am not sure on the doctrine, I don’t believe a person is a heretic for this view.

Perfectionism – I know a few brothers who hold that they don’t sin anymore.  One guy boasted on Facebook that he had not sinned in like 22 years.  While I think that this view is really stupid (yes just stupid), I praise God that He saves us from ourselves by His grace.  I once held mildly to this view.  I completely reject it now.  That said, I don’t think that a person is completely a heretic because they teach this.  I think the teaching leads to bondage and not freedom and puts too much emphasis on us and not on the work of Christ for our sins (Ephesians 1:7) but I don’t necessarily think these people are complete heretics who know nothing of God’s love.

Various End Times Views – These too many to tell.  All seem to want to label the others are heretics.  I am not there.  I am a partial preterist but I don’t reject those who disagree.  I reject dispensational theology but believe dispensationalists to be saved.  I reject premillennialism but hold them to be brethren in Christ.  Again, the standard for salvation is not our end times views but our confession of Christ as Lord (Romans 10:9-10).

Charismatics – Again, like the above, too many to label.  While I do think some charismatic teaching is very bad (see the Prosperity Gospel for example) and there are many bad teachers in this bunch, I know many godly Pentecostals and charismatics who truly love Jesus and desire to glorify Him.  Some of my heroes of the faith are Pentecostals who taught me how to pray and how to love and study the Bible.  I have such great memories of godly Pentecostals teaching me how to witness, how to pray, how to worship, how to love God, how to think of Christ in all we do, etc.  While some want to label many in this group heretics, be careful as there are many godly saints here.

Seeker Driven – I am not a seeker driven church guy.  Never have been.  Never will be.  I have attended some seeker churches in the past and I think its a joke.  That said, I don’t think that all seeker pastors are heretics and I’m sure that many of them do love souls and long to see people saved.  I praise God for that.  While I reject their model and often their tactics and will continue to preach against them, I don’t think they should just be labeled heretics.  I think many of them are probably orthodox in their theology while holding to church practices I disagree with.  I’m okay with that.  Of course, I pray that many of these leaders will come out of this movement and preach the whole gospel but that beyond the point here.  Again, Jesus saves sinners and not theology perfectionists.

Conclusion

I closing I pray that you extend me grace here.  If you hold to these people above being heretics, perhaps you’ll throw me in there too.  I pray not.  I am nothing.  I am a sinner who needs Jesus.  I confess that need.  Don’t follow me or you’ll end up in hell.  Follow Jesus (Hebrews 12:1-2).

Written by The Seeking Disciple

03/13/2017 at 3:02 PM

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