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Book Review: John and Jude by Vic Reasoner

Dr. Vic Reasoner is one of my favorite Arminian theologians today.  His writings are biblical and yet he has in his mind the average preacher of God’s Word as he writes.  Dr. Reasoner writes with a conviction that the Bible is the inerrant and infallible Word of God and that all doctrine must flow from the Word of God (Titus 2:1).

In this work, Dr. Reasoner goes verse by verse through the epistles of John and Jude.  Dr. Reasoner leaves no stone uncovered as he writes.  He deals with his text while also including sound Arminian theology in there as well.  I appreciate how Dr. Reasoner is willing to deal with tough texts and along the way includes everything from doctrines of salvation, sin, holiness, sanctification, and even end times.

In regard to debated texts such as 1 John 2:1-2 within the Arminian/Calvinist debate, Dr. Reasoner does two things.  First he deals with the text in regard to propitiation and then he looks at how Calvinists have understood John’s words in 1 John 2:2 in regard to an unlimited atonement.  To the average reader 1 John 2:2 seems to teach that Jesus died for the entire world.  John Wesley, for example, taught that Christ’s atonement was as extensive as the curse of sin.  In other words, sin has extended to the entire world and likewise the work of Christ is powerful enough for the sins of the entire world.  Sinners who go to hell go to hell because of their own sins and the fact that they have not repented and placed their faith in the Lord Jesus who alone can appease the wrath of a holy God by His graceful work of the cross.

The good thing about Dr. Reasoner’s commentaries are that while it is clear that Dr. Reasoner is a sound theologian and knows his content, he writes with the average preacher in mind.  As a man who loves expository preaching and practices this art himself, Dr. Reasoner is offering his commentaries to help the preacher preach the text.  He wants preachers to work through the text.  Therefore his commentaries, as any good commentary will do, works through the letters.  I read this work as a devotion.  It is that easy to read and follow.  So while Dr. Reasoner does dive into the Greek text or the history behind a debate over a text, he writes with the average preacher in mind.

Overall I once again am impressed by this commentary.  I pray that Dr. Reasoner will write more biblical commentaries.  While I praise God that we have so many good commentaries out there, we need more solid Arminian commentaries and this one fits the bill.

You can find more information about obtaining a copy of this commentary here.

Making Sense of the Bible (But Not Really)

Adam Hamilton published a book called Making Sense of the Bible: Rediscovering the Power of Scripture Today.  The book is written by Hamilton who pastors one of the largest mainline United Methodist churches in the world, The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas.  Many mainline churches look to Hamilton for leadership as they face mass losses of people leaving their churches.  Hamilton comes across, at times, much like an evangelical while holding to his mainline theology.  This has led pastors of United Methodists to flock to hear Hamilton speak because they see in him a hope for mainline churches.

I have an old friend who pastors a mainline United Methodist church.  He is liberal.  He wasn’t always that way and comes from a strong Wesleyan family who holds to conservative theology.  He himself turned apostate years ago for sin (in this case, an immoral relationship with a woman).  From there he had a “conversion” back to Christ after 9/11/2001 but decided to attend the very liberal Chandler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta, GA.  This led to his complete rejection of what he saw as “fundamentalism” and embraced mainline theology (liberalism).  Hamilton became his hero.  My friend viewed Hamilton as he viewed Rob Bell or other liberals.  He found in Hamilton though an evangelical passion that he missed but was not willing to return to.  My friend loved that Hamilton preached from the Bible and preached the Bible as if he actually believed it but my friend knew that Hamilton rejected the Bible.

Now let me state here that Hamilton probably would not say that he rejects the Bible.  He would state that he rejects the “fundamentalist” view of the Bible.  For example, in this book Hamilton builds a case for the Bible while trying to argue that the Bible is not the “inerrant and infallible Word of God.”  Hamilton holds that the Bible is only faithful as it relates to salvation.  So where the Bible disagrees with modern science (Genesis 1-2) or where the Bible disagrees with modern culture (homosexuality, genocide, slavery, women) then we reject the Bible.  God allowed the human beings who wrote the Bible to record these events as if God did them but He did not.  When it comes to Darwinian evolution for example, Hamilton holds that the Bible is wrong about creation in Genesis 1-2 and he holds that the writer of Genesis 1-2 (whoever that may be) is not writing science but allegory.  Modern science (in Hamilton’s worldview) has proven evolution and the Bible is just wrong about creation.  Hamilton goes on to write that there are countless errors in the Bible and even fundamentalist know this.  He points to the various resurrection accounts as proof of this.

Yet Hamilton wants to have his cake and eat it too.  After all, Karl Barth saw what happened in Europe when liberalism won the day.  He saw the mainline churches dying, the world turning toward evil and the rise of Nazi Germany out of the ashes of liberal theology.  Barth wanted to save the Bible while rejecting the Bible.  Hamilton wants that as well.  He wants to hold to the good stories in the Bible, the morals that it teaches (especially about peace and love) while rejecting much of the Bible.  He wants to preach the Bible as if its true while holding that it is not.  So while trying to tear up the “fundamentalist” views of the Bible, he wants his own liberal friends to still read the Bible and respect the Bible though don’t take it too serious.

There are so many holes in Hamilton’s views.  First, Hamilton fails to deal with Jesus’ view of the Bible.  What view did Jesus have?  Liberals love Jesus but they love the Jesus they have created in their own images.  They want a “hippy” Jesus who loves everyone, is all about peace and love, and wants nothing more than for people to find purpose and happiness in life.  They want to reject the Jesus who affirms the authority of the Bible.  Hamilton never points out that Jesus said His Words were true (John 17:17) and His Word cannot be broken (John 10:35).  Hamilton never points out that Jesus affirmed that God created all things including Adam and Eve (Matthew 19:4-5).  Hamilton never points out that many of the stories that Hamilton would see as made up such as Jonah and the great fish, Jesus affirmed (Matthew 12:40).  Hamilton never deals with Jesus’ affirmation of the authority of the Bible nor with His affirmation of its timelessness (Matthew 5:17-19 which would include the issues of homosexuality within the law of Moses).

Secondly, the Bible affirms its inerrancy.  Texts such as Psalm 12:6; 18:30; 19:8; 119:140; Proverbs 30:5; Isaiah 45:19 affirm this.

I highly recommend Dr. Vic Reasoner’s The Importance of Inerrancy.  He deals with the biblical arguments as well as the Wesleyan historical issue here.

Thirdly, Hamilton places himself as the judge of Scripture.  This happens over and over again not just in Hamilton’s book but with others who reject inerrancy.  How do we decide what is from God and what is from man?  Who knows?  Like others before him, Hamilton can pick and choose what he regards as “Scripture” or not.  In fact, he could reject the entire thing (and many liberals do).  Yet he holds that the Bible is true about salvation.  Why?  Because he believes that this is the bottom line issue for the Bible.  The Bible is not a science book or a history book per se.  It is all about Jesus and His work in saving us.  He applauds those evangelicals who see the inerrancy issue as separate from salvation (in other words, one can be saved while rejecting inerrancy).  He wants his own people to accept what the Bible says about salvation while ignoring what it says about creation or about homosexuality or about slavery.

Yet who is the judge here?  Why accept what John 3:16 says if Genesis 1-2 is wrong?  Why accept what God said in John 5:24-25 if the story of the Exodus is full of errors?  Why even believe in the resurrection of Jesus if in fact the four Gospels record four different views of the resurrection as Hamilton states?  Why should a person accept Hamilton’s view of salvation if the Bible is full of errors?

Hamilton could not say why.  I suppose he would argue that he has experienced salvation (sort of the Karl Barth view of salvation and Scripture) and this makes it true (pragmatism).  But if salvation is not based on a historical truth (in this case the resurrection of Jesus which Hamilton believes in while saying that the Gospels are full of errors), how can we know?

John states that we can know (1 John 5:13).  John states that the resurrection is based on the truth of God’s Word (John 20:31) as does Paul the Apostle (1 Corinthians 15:1-7).  Hamilton would affirm all this while rejecting the inerrancy of the Bible all because it doesn’t equal his worldview.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 states clearly that all Scripture is inspired by God or breathed out by God as the ESV states.  God is truthful (Titus 1:2) in all His ways (Deuteronomy 32:4; 2 Samuel 7:28; Psalm 33:4; 146:6; Isaiah 65:16; Romans 3:4; Hebrews 6:18).  If Hamilton is wiling to affirm the goodness of God, the truthfulness of God, why reject His Word which 2 Timothy 3:16 states He breathed out by His Spirit?  2 Peter 1:16-21 is clear that Peter did not regard his experience as the foundation for truth but the sure foundation of God’s Word.  I again point to Jesus who said that God’s Word is truth (John 17:17) but Hamilton would say that only some of it is true and that only with regards to salvation.  This is not logical.

In conclusion, Hamilton offers nothing for mainline churches.  Nothing.  He gives the same old answers liberals have always been giving for the Bible.  Keep reading it!  Keep studying it!  But reject it!  Because of pragmatism, Hamilton’s voice is listened to even by some who would say they believe the Bible is the inerrant and infallible Word of God.  If I could have five minutes with Adam Hamilton I would want to talk about his Bible.  Does he read it?  Does he study it?  Why?  How does he determine what is true in it or not?  How can you trust that God will save you if you can’t trust that He will preserve His Word?

My prayer is that Arminians would reject Hamilton’s views.  Let us remain faithful to the Word of God.  As John Wesley stated about the Bible,

“This is that word of God which remaineth forever: of which, though heaven and earth pass away, one jot or tittle shall not pass away.  The Scripture therefore of the Old and New Testament is a most solid and precious system of Divine truth.  Every part thereof is worthy of God; and all together are one entire body, wherein is no defect, no excess.”  (Wesley, Journal, 24 July 1776)

Dr. John MacArthur is correct when he writes:

The most important lessons we ought to learn from church history seem fairly obvious.  For example, in the two thousand year record of Christianity, no leader, movement, or idea that has questioned the authority or inspiration of Scripture has ever been good for the church.  Congregations, denominations, and evangelical academic institutions that embrace a low view of Scripture invariably liberalize, secularize, move off mission, decline spiritually, and either lose their core membership or morph into some kind of political, social or religious monstrosity.

May that not happen to true disciples of Jesus.  May we embrace the Bible as the inerrant and infallible Word of God the same as our Savior held.  May we be willing to die for its truths.

Leighton Flowers Rebuttal to Tony Miano

Tony Miano, whom some of you might remember caused a stir back in the summer of 2015 when he basically said that Arminians are not saved if they hold to Arminianism and that Arminians worship a false god.  I called Miano’s hand on this as he had written in years prior to this while he was on staff with Living Waters (Ray Comfort) that Arminians were brothers and that we should not divide over this issue.  Miano had called Mark Cahill, an evangelist whom many in the open air preaching world know of, to repent for his statements that Calvinists worship a false god and that he would not associate with Calvinists.  I urged Miano to apologize to Cahill since he did just what he accused Cahill of. Instead, Miano went on to bash Arminians and even called for Dr. Michael Brown to come to repentance and true salvation (i.e. become a Calvinist).

After this, Miano took a “brief” hiatus from social media and blogging he said to get his thoughts together on this issue.  After a brief blackout, Miano is back on social media but not as aggressive this time it seems (for now).  Yet Miano did release the following podcast in which he attacks “the helpless god of free will religion.”  I have linked the podcast for you to listen to if you desire.  I listened to and sent it to my friend Leighton Flowers who did a podcast in which he offers a rebuttal to Miano and I believe Flowers does an excellent job.  I shared in Flowers assessment of Miano’s podcast, that it was not deep nor did he develop an excellent theological presentation to rebuke those of us who hold to free will.  Miano just builds his case against his own perceptions of what we believe and not does not interact with us nor our scholars.

My point here is not to stir the pot again toward Miano.  I think most Arminians simply ignore him.  I use to appreciate much of what Miano did.  I was an avid listener to his podcast, I supported him with money,  I prayed for him often, purchased his gospel tracts and though I disagreed with Tony here and there, I would have gladly preached the gospel with him in the open air.  That has all changed.  I still regard him as a brother though I don’t listen to him anymore, I don’t watch his videos, and I don’t support him.  I pray for Tony to repent of seeing us Arminians as enemies of the gospel.  We can disagree and still love each other.  I gladly would stand with any and every Calvinist in preaching the gospel to the lost.  I would gladly stand with my Calvinist friends against the enemies of the gospel of God’s grace.  While we can disagree let it be a debate “in house” where we regard the gospel as separate from our isms.  We can disagree how we are in Christ but let us praise the Lord that we are in Christ!

Tony Miano’s podcast.

Leighton Flower’s rebuttal.

Review of the ESV Fire Bible

The Fire Bible was the first study Bible I ever owned.  It was called the Full Life Study Bible in those days (early 1990’s).  It changed its name to the Life in the Spirit Study Bible and now is the Fire Bible.

The Fire Bible was originally published by Zondervan and was found in the NIV and KJV.  I had the NIV.  However, over the years my theology changed as well as my Bible translation.  I now use the ESV for most of my Bible reading and study.  I was thrilled then to see the Fire Bible come out in the ESV.

The Fire Bible is a classical Pentecostal study Bible.  The notes are focused on four cardinal doctrines of the Pentecostal movement:

  • Jesus Saves (Salvation)
  • Jesus Baptizes in the Spirit (Subsequent to Salvation)
  • Jesus Heals (Divine Healing)
  • Jesus is Coming Again (Jesus’ Second Coming)

These four doctrines are emphasized in the Fire Bible.  The notes reflect these doctrines.

The layout of the ESV Fire Bible is impressive.  The biblical text is double columned with cross references on the side.  This Bible is easy to read without ghosting (where you can see the writing on the other page coming through to the page you are reading).  The leather is well done (mine is black genuine leather and is very nice).  The paper is not as quality as a Cambridge Bible but is good.  I don’t write in my Bibles but this Bible does not have much space for notes.

The commentary is classical Pentecostal as I mentioned above.  The view of salvation is Arminian.  The view of end times is premillennial with a pre tribulation rapture.  While this Bible emphasizes divine healing, the article on healing is clear that doctors are good and needed.  Of course, the view of the Holy Spirit is a Pentecostal view with all spiritual gifts available today.

While I am not 100% on board with every note (for example I am post millennial), the notes are solid.  What I appreciate is that the notes have a Pentecostal feel to them.  Having grown up in the Pentecostal movement and was saved in a Pentecostal church, I know that doctrine does matter but experience flows from the biblical text.  This study Bible emphasizes that aspect with a focus on sound doctrine but also upon living the biblical life.  Christianity is not merely doctrine but is a life.

I recommend this study Bible.  Even if you are not a Pentecostal (say a Wesleyan), this study Bible is useful.  The commentary is soundly conservative (for example this study Bible has only one writer of Isaiah).  As an Arminian, this is the only Arminian study Bible I am aware of on the market at this time (December 2015).  I appreciated the articles on salvation that are clearly Arminian.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

12/06/2015 at 12:34 PM

Romans 9, Predestination and Total Depravity

Here is a blog link to a great blog where the writer writes about Romans 9, predestination and total depravity.  Overall I am greatly impressed with his logic, exegesis, and his writing in general.  I highly recommend it.

This and That 10/5/15

We have had a flood here in the Columbia, SC area.  I live about 15-20 miles from Columbia.  We are safe, dry, and sound.  God has been good to us.  I am thankful for those who are praying for Columbia, SC.  The city needs revival.  I rejoice that many of the churches are reaching out to help people during this time.  The church where I was saved will be hosting the national Convoy of Hope (from the Assemblies of God) to pass out water.  I pray that the Lord will save many souls in Columbia, SC by opening their eyes to how quickly our lives can be gone.  People believe this flood is bad but they don’t know what awaits them if they don’t repent of their sins (Luke 13:1-5).

One of the best blogs on the Internet is from William Birch.  I highly recommend you read him everyday!  You can find his blog here.

John Piper’s sermon on the life of Athanasius is worth listening to.  Here Piper not only brilliantly explores the life of Athanasius but how he stood for truth when it seemed everyone was heading toward error.  It was Athanasius who defended the doctrine of the Trinity and helped save the Church from going into gross error about Christ and His deity.

Do you homeschool?  We do and I highly recommend the book A Fundamental Wesleyan Catechism by Andy Heer.  It is a good doctrinal study for children to learn about our Arminian faith.

The Society of Evangelical Arminians is a wonderful site.  You can spend hours reading about Arminianism at this site.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

10/05/2015 at 9:23 PM

Grace For All Book Review (Chapter 4)

You can find my earlier reviews of this book beginning here.

Chapter 4 of the book Grace for All is a wonderful chapter.  I appreciated it because Dr. Robert Picirilli dives right into the Scriptures to prove his point, that Christ died for all.  Picirilli is clear that Christ shed His blood for all but this salvation is only applied to those who repent and believe the gospel.  Calvinists (at least in part) acknowledge this to be true despite claiming that Christ’s work on the cross actually saves.  Arminians would agree.  The work of Christ was not a failure in that it pleased the Father and brought glory to Him (Philippians 2:5-11).  Yet none are saved simply because Christ died on the cross.  The resurrection after the cross completes the work of redemption for if Jesus is not raised, we are still dead in our sins (1 Corinthians 15:17).  Jesus shed His blood for our sins (John 19:30) and was raised for our justification (Romans 4:24-25).  One must place their faith in the risen Savior who did shed His blood for our sins.

Calvinists often assert that the Arminian view of the atonement is that Christ died to make men savable but He didn’t save anyone on the cross.  The Calvinist view is that God placed the sins of the elect upon Christ so that when Jesus shed His blood, He shed His blood for the sins of the elect.  Yet carried out to its extreme, this would imply that Calvinists hold to eternal justification (as many hyper-Calvinists do).  I ask the question: when is a person justified before God?  Is it when Christ died on the cross?  Is it before time began?  Is it when a person places their saving faith in Christ?  The obvious answer is the that a sinner is only justified before a holy God when the sinner places their faith in Christ alone to save them from the wrath of God to come (Romans 5:1).  We are saved by faith (Ephesians 2:8-9) and not by works which we do (Titus 3:5-7).  Yet none are saved until they repent and believe the gospel.  The Calvinist can argue all day that their sins were placed on Christ when He died but the reality of their salvation only comes when they repent and believe the gospel.  This would mean that the Calvinist is not born innocent of sin (this is the hyper-Calvinist view) because they actually sinned in time (Romans 3:23) but their salvation only comes when they (the sinner) repent and believe the gospel.  While the Calvinist can argue their monergistic view of regeneration, they cannot argue that the atonement saved them 2000 years ago but rather it saves them when they actually believe in the gospel (Romans 10:14-17; 1 Corinthians 1:21; 15:1-4; Galatians 3:1-5).

Picirilli examines the Arminian position by looking at key words of salvation.  He looks at the words redemption, propitiation, and reconciliation.  By looking at the words used in their biblical context, it is easy to see that Christ died for all people.  Along the way Picirilli points out how Calvinists have interpreted the texts.  For example, Picirilli shows how Calvinists have handled 1 Timothy 2:1-6 where Paul uses “all” three times.  Calvinists take the word “all” here not to mean all in all people but only all types of people (though the Bible doesn’t use the term here that way).  Calvinists go out of their way to build a case against all because the use of the word all would imply that Christ died for all and Calvinism says He died only for the elect.

Picirilli also looks at other key “universal” texts such as 1 Timothy 4:10; Titus 2:11.  I appreciated Picirilli also looking at the book of 1 John and how John uses the word “world” (kosmos in the Greek).  By looking at how John uses the Greek, we see that the word “world” is not merely “a group out of the world” as Calvinists often insist but rather the entire world.  Jesus shed His blood for the entire world but only those who appropriate their faith in Christ will be saved.

One interesting point is that Picirilli quotes from John Calvin on John 3:16:

Both points are distinctly stated to us: namely, that faith in Christ brings life to all, and that Christ brought life, because the Heavenly Father loves the human race, and wishes that they should not perish….And he has employed the universal term whosoever, both to invite all indiscriminately to partake of life, and to cut off every excuse from unbelievers. Such is also the import of the term World, which he formerly used; for though nothing will be found in the world that is worthy of the favor of God, yet he shows himself to be reconciled to the whole world, when he invites all men without exception to the faith of Christ, which is nothing else than an entrance into life.

In the conclusion, Picirilli dives into the strongest Calvinist argument for limited atonement and that is that the Bible uses word that suggest that the atonement accomplished what God meant for it to accomplish: salvation.  1 John 4:10 says that Christ’s death was for the propitiation of our sins.  2 Corinthians 5:19 says that God has reconciled the world unto Himself through Christ.  Are these meant to suggest universal salvation?  Calvinists point out that Arminians deny universalism but how can they if these Scriptures are true?  The Calvinist answers that Christ shed His blood only for the elect and He has accomplished their redemption by His own blood to the glory of God.  Universalism can be easily rejected, the Calvinist answers, because the Bible is not teaching universalism but instead that Christ died for His elect only that God chose out of the sinful world (Romans 9:22-23).

Picirilli answers this claim by first pointing out that when a doctor makes a diagnosis of a person, that diagnosis does not save the person’s life but we often use language to say that it did.  No one would say that the doctor finding a cancer in a person saved them at that moment.  It takes the work of the doctor to save the person who humbly submits to the doctor’s diagnosis and allows the doctor to cut out the cancer from their body.  At that point, the person is now saved.

Likewise, even Calvinists such as Shedd point out that only those who place their faith in the atonement are saved.  The atonement, by itself, saves no one.  Consider Romans 3:21-26:

21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

Notice that the atonement is not said to save but only those who appropriate the work of Christ are said to be saved.  Salvation is received by grace through faith.  Even Calvinists preach this.  We must humble ourselves before the diagnosis of our sinfulness (Romans 3:19-20) and confess that Jesus alone is able to save us from our sins (John 8:24; 14:6; Romans 10:9-13).  We must not only preach the universal call to salvation (which I rejoice that Calvinists do) but we must preach that all who place their saving faith in Jesus can be saved.  The call is to repent and believe the gospel (Mark 1:15).

These gives the Arminian three key points we should ponder.  First, we must pray for all to hear the gospel by praying for God to send out laborers to work His harvest (Matthew 9:37-38).  Secondly, we should pray for all to hear the gospel and be saved by grace through faith (1 Timothy 2:1-6).  Thirdly, we should pray for God to use us in evangelism of the lost (Acts 1:8).  The will of God is not for sinners to perish (Ezekiel 18:32; 2 Peter 3:9) but for sinners to repent (Acts 17:30-31).

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