Arminian Today

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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

Short Thoughts on Oneness Pentecostalism

I grew up in the Assemblies of God, a Trinitarian Pentecostal group.  I was aware even as a child of the “other” Pentecostals out there who were called “Jesus Only” Pentecostals.  My dad explained them to me once saying that they only believed in Jesus and not in the Father or the Holy Spirit.  That was not entirely true but it was the best he understood.  Over the years I have had very few encounters with Oneness folks.  I visited a Oneness church only twice in my life and both for observation.

The Oneness movement is much older than Oneness Pentecostals like to believe.  They like to believe that God restored the Oneness doctrine of God in 1913-14 with the split from Trinitarian Pentecostals.  The Assemblies of God called the new teaching “the new issue” and rejected the Oneness teachings in 1916.  Many AG pastors left the Assemblies of God over the issue.  The largest Oneness Pentecostal group is the United Pentecostal Church International based out of Hazelwood, Missouri.  The UPC is rejects the historic doctrine of the Trinity and holds to the Oneness doctrine.

The teaching is essentially the old heresy of Sabellianism from the 2nd century.  The teaching is also called Modalism.  Modalism teaches that there is only one God who reveals Himself in different “modes” such as the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit.  These three modes are not three persons but rather manifestations of the one true God.  The Oneness Pentecostals teach that Jesus is the mighty God (Isaiah 9:6) and that Jesus is the Father and Jesus is the Son and Jesus is the Holy Ghost.  Jesus is all three!  Jesus only is God.  There is no Father who is God nor a Son who is God nor the Spirit who is God but rather there is only one Person in the Godhead and His name is Jesus.  Oneness Pentecostals go to Matthew 28:19 and they see baptize in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and they point out that the Name of God is revealed to us in Acts 2:38 when Peter used the keys given to him by Jesus to preach the truth of the Godhead, that the Name of God is Jesus.  It is this Name (Acts 4:12) that saves us and only those who are baptized in the name of Jesus are truly saved (Romans 6:1-4).

In reality, the Oneness Pentecostals teach that the Father who is named Jesus is truly the eternal God.  They would agree with the Arians, that the Son has a beginning in the incarnation (Luke 1:35) and the Son will have an ending (1 Corinthians 15:24-28).  They love to use the word “begotten” in John 3:16 to prove that Jesus the Son was begotten by the Father.  While this is a poor usage of the Greek term here (see the NIV for example here), Oneness Pentecostals have argued effectively to poorly taught Trinitarians about the nature the Son.  They also love to point out that the words “Trinity” nor “God the Son” nor “the Eternal Son” are found in the New Testament and to them, this proves that Jesus as the Son was not eternally the Son of the Father but rather He had a beginning in Bethlehem.

So what do Oneness Pentecostals do with the Lord Jesus in the Gospels where He over and over again refers to “My Father” or “the Father?”  Or what about where Jesus prays to the Father such has in John 17?  Or what about Jesus’ baptism where all three persons (or manifestations in the Oneness mind) appear in Matthew 3:13-17?  They believe that the key to understanding the life of Jesus is to understand that at times He was speaking as the Son and sometimes as God who is the Father.  The Son, they teach, always refers to Jesus’ humanity and not to His divinity.  When the Son is praying or eating or sleeping, He is doing so as the Man Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 2:5).  They believe that the Father (who is Jesus as the mighty God) wrapped Himself in flesh (John 1:14, 18) but the Son was not God only He was a man, the Son of God.  So when Jesus was praying, He was praying from His human side to His divine side.  And when Jesus was baptized, God, being God, chose to reveal all three manifestations at the same time which He can do if He wants.  When we read of Jesus now in the presence of God at His right hand such as in Acts 2:34-36 or Hebrews 1:3, this is speaking of Jesus in His human manifestation before the eternal Father who is Jesus the divine side.  To me it is very confusing and doesn’t allow the texts to read freely but nonetheless Oneness Pentecostals believe this is the key to reading and studying and understanding the Bible.  It is their own unique hermeneutic if you will.

Oneness Pentecostals use three major texts to prove that Jesus is God the Father.  First, they read Isaiah 9:6 and believe that the words “eternal Father” are referring to the Father.  Secondly, they point to John 10:30 and point out that Jesus Himself here says that He and the Father are one.  Third, they point to John 14:9 where Jesus answers Philip and says that if they had seen Him, they had seen the Father.

Time doesn’t permit me to answer the entire charges here and to be fair, Oneness Pentecostal have other texts they turn to prove their doctrine.  In short, Isaiah 9:6 is not speaking of necessarily titles of the Lord Jesus.  Nowhere in the New Testament are these titles worked out though they are true of Him.  The concept of God as our Father is not fully developed in the Old Testament though spoken of a few times.  Yet here the understanding could be “Father of eternity” in that the One to be born (Isaiah 7:14) is from ancient times (Micah 5:2).  Jesus is eternal and thus He is the Father of eternity but this doesn’t mean that He is the Father.  Secondly, the Greek text of John 10:30 is clear that Jesus is not speaking of unipersonal but essence when He says that He and the Father are one.  The Greek says, “One we are.”  There are very specific Greek words John could have used to show us that Jesus is the Father but instead He uses a Greek phrase that simply makes Jesus of the same kind as the Father.  Third, even Oneness Pentecostals don’t believe that when Jesus the Man was saying to Philip that if he’d seen Him, he’d seen the Father that they were seeing at that very moment the Father.  Oneness Pentecostals hold that the Father is a spirit and invisible to us (Colossians 1:15) but instead Jesus is saying that when the Apostles saw Jesus, they were seeing God the Father in that the Son is co-equal and co-eternal with the Father.  Not once in the New Testament does Jesus ever say that He is the Father though He refers to His Father or the Father or My Father hundreds of times.

Finally, a word about the Oneness view of salvation.  This is the key for me.  Oneness Pentecostals teach that a person must believe in Jesus, repent of their sins, be baptized in water by immersion “in the name of Jesus” for the forgiveness of sins, and then must receive the infilling of the Holy Ghost by the initial, physical evidence of speaking in tongues.  A person is not justified by faith alone in the Oneness mind.  A person must do all the above to be saved.  Now sometimes in the Oneness church, a person will get the Holy Ghost and speak in tongues before being baptized in Jesus’ name but they point to Acts 10:43-48 as proof that this is okay.

Also it’s not enough to just believe in Jesus, be baptized in Jesus’ name and receive the Holy Ghost with evidence of tongues, one must also live a holy life till the end lest they “lose their salvation.”  Holiness includes the holiness codes set up by many Oneness churches including women wearing dresses, not cutting their hair, no makeup or jewelry, and men must be clean-shaven, short hair, avoid alcohol and tobacco and live a holy life.  It is amounts to works-righteousness though Oneness folks will argue that they do it with joy.

In closing, Oneness Pentecostals are nice folks but being nice is not the standard of truth.  The Word of God is the final authority and they would agree.  I have been meeting a Oneness pastor from time to time to talk theology and he is a bright, loving man.  He wants me to accept him merely because he loves Jesus.  That, he says, should unite us.  But I disagree.  I am not mean to him but the Jesus he says that he worships and loves is the not the Jesus of the Bible.  I know that hurts but its true.  The Jesus he says that he worships is not the same as the Jesus I worship.  He believes that since Oneness Pentecostals speak in tongues the same as Trinitarian Pentecostals speak in tongues, this must prove that God accepts them both despite someone being wrong about the Godhead. He also believes that since Oneness Pentecostals teach and preach that Jesus is God, what is the big deal?

There are obviously many errors.  For just one.  Consider the atonement.  In Oneness theology the saving work of Christ is not God dying in my place, standing condemned for my sins.  Instead, we have the Father wrapped in flesh but not really a man.  Instead Jesus only appears as a man but the true Jesus is still the eternal Father.  In other words, the divine payment for our sins is not payed by the Lord God but instead by a mere man albeit a perfect one because the Father was inside of the man.  The payment is not God redeeming us through the divine Son but instead it is the human Jesus paying the penalty for our sins to the Father Jesus.  How weird.  In Trinitarian theology, the second person of the holy Trinity, the Lord Jesus, bears our sins on the cross and redeems us from the holy wrath of God.  God is truly in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself (2 Corinthians 5:18-21) because the Son is offering His life for our sins to the glory of the Father who sent Him into the world (John 3:16).

Over even consider Jesus is our high priest who offers Himself before the Father to pray for us sinners (Hebrews 4:14-15).  Hebrews 7:22-28 speaks of Jesus being our high priest before the Father.  Jesus, as our faithful high priest, offered Himself to God (Hebrews 9:24-28) and He now sits at the Father’s right hand to ever live to pray for us.  In Oneness theology, Jesus as the Father hears Jesus the flesh (the Son) when we pray to Him.  In Trinitarian theology, the text is allowed to speak for itself: Jesus the Son prays for us sinner before the holy Father.  Jesus is truly our high priest in every since of the word.  A time will come when this will end at the consummation of the ages but this doesn’t mean that Jesus will cease to be the Son of God nor will He cease to reign as our Savior (1 Corinthians 15:24-28).

And I could write much more.  I have gone too long.  I close by simply pointing out that Oneness Pentecostals fall short of the truth of Scripture.  While I admire them for their zeal and for holding to monotheism and to the authority of the Bible, I find much of their theology lacking.  I pray that God will help us, as biblical Trinitarians, to know what we believe about God and why the Trinity is not an optional doctrine.  The Trinity is vital.

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.

Short Update

Having not written in a while, I just wanted to post a quick update.  The devil has been beating me up pretty good for many months.  I have been struggling in many areas of my life.  That said, I still love the Lord Jesus.  His grace toward me is amazing.  I know that I am saved by God’s grace and not by my works (Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5-7).  I know that my salvation is based on the work of the Lord Jesus and not my works (Romans 4:5).  I know that I have peace with God through the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1) and He is my peace (Ephesians 2:14).

I ask for prayer.  I ask for forgiveness from anyone I have hurt.  I do long to please the Lord despite seeing my faults on a daily basis.  Each day I pray Martin Luther’s daily prayer: “Lord help me to not sin this day” and then I pray with Luther during the evening when I go to bed, “Lord forgive me of my sins this day.”  I am thankful that God does forgive me of my sins (1 John 1:9).  I long for holiness (Hebrews 12:14) despite seeing my sins in the light of the gospel.  Thank God for the good news of His grace.

So I am okay.  I find each new day the truths of God’s grace and His mercy while finding my sins in the light of the perfection of the Lord Jesus.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

02/13/2017 at 7:52 PM

Short Thoughts on “Rhema” Words From God

Recently I visited a Pentecostal church and once again I heard the old teaching that “logos” is the written Word of God but “rhema” is the “revelation to the heart from God.” In other words, “logos” is the Bible and “rhema” is a personal revelation from God the Holy Spirit.

A few thoughts are in order.  First, the Greek usage of “logos” and “rhema” here is horrible.  Not one Greek scholar (barring perhaps someone from the Word-Faith camp) would try to build this case.  Every Greek lexicon and Greek word study book I own doesn’t offer this distinguish between the Greek words “logos” and “rhema.”

Secondly, while this Pentecostal teacher would not admit to this, the teaching undermines the authority of the Bible.  When “logos” is reduced to “the written Word” but “rhema” is a fresh revelation from God, how does this not undermine the authority of the Bible?  Instead of opening up the Bible and hearing directly from God (2 Timothy 3:16-17), the believer instead believes they have to pray and wait on the Spirit to give them a fresh, divine revelation from heaven.  So what happens is simple: people want to hear from God so they don’t open the Bible to hear from God since they are taught that while the “logos” is good, “rhema” is better.  This undermines the authority of the Bible and makes the revelation from God via direct communication through so-called “rhema” words more important.  I know that most Pentecostals would reject such a view but they don’t see that their teaching is not helping people hear from God (which they can by simply reading the Bible) but is undermining the truth of God’s Word (John 17:17).

In reality, a good Greek study tool will easily clarify the issues related to “logos” and “rhema” and one need only go to a study site online.  It would only take a few minutes to see the error of trying to make “logos” as the “written Word” and “rhema” as “a personal word from God.”  This is misleading and false.

Finally, I repeat here again that if you want to hear from God you need only to read your Bible.  That is it.  I don’t need a personal vision, revelation from God.  I have His Word and His Word is inerrant and infallible and true.  I point again to 2 Timothy 3:16-17 that the Word of God is breathed out by God (ESV) and makes us “competent, equipped for every good work” (v.17 ESV).  Peter the Apostle pointed not to his personal experience but the Word of God in 2 Peter 1:16-21.  The Word of God is our sure foundation.

To hear from God is easy and only takes seconds.  Take your Bible.  Open it.  Read it.  You’ve now heard from God.  Congratulations.

ESV Thompson Chain Reference Bible

I have pre-ordered my copy of the ESV Thompson Chain Reference Bible from CBD.  I am excited about this Bible.  The Thompson Chain Reference Bible has been a favorite of mine for many years.  I currently own two NIV copies, an NASB, and a KJV.  I have longed for the Thompson Chain Reference Bible to come out in the ESV but always feared they would not but thank God they have and it comes out September 19, 2016 according to CBD.

You can see the page here but no information has been given yet on the CBD site.  I will publish a review of the Bible when I receive mine.

Glory to the King!

Written by The Seeking Disciple

09/03/2016 at 8:56 PM

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