Arminian Today

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Posts Tagged ‘Church History

How Did Famous Arminians Celebrate Christmas?

Christmas brings up different emotions for me.  On the one hand, I have fond memories of Christmas as both a boy and an adult.  I have appreciated Christmas over the years.  Yet on the negative side is watching my own boys grow up in a culture where Christmas means one thing: presents.  Lost is the focus of the incarnation of God.

As a history buff, I am also torn on Christmas itself.  The practice of Christmas, as we know it now, is really the product of 19th and 18th century practices coming from Germany and England to the United States and because of the economic power of the United States, the practice of Christmas as focused on gifts and stuff is by in large an American edition to the holiday.  While both Germans and Brits did give gifts to each other in the late 19th century, the excessive nature of gift giving is a largely American focus.  Santa Claus, as we know him today, is the product of advertisement from 1931.  The really St. Nicholas was a bishop who was at the council of Nicaea and tradition tells us that he punched Arias for his blasphemy toward the deity of Jesus Christ.  Not the picture of Santa Claus we think of today!

When it comes to Church History, how did early Arminians celebrate Christmas?  I am only speculating based off information from that era and not off direct statements from Arminians themselves.

Let us begin with Arminius and the early Remonstrants.  No doubt they would have followed the Calvinist tradition of rejecting Christmas.  John Calvin had made Christmas illegal to celebrate in Geneva and Calvin viewed the day as more pagan than divine.  Calvin, like all the Reformers, viewed the Catholic Church as corrupt and vile. Calvin viewed the popery as the antichrist.  Calvin viewed the various Catholic holidays as having nothing to do with the gospel.  Calvin then rejected the Catholic celebration of Christ’s Mass (or Christmas).  Arminius, who studied under Calvin’s son-in-law and successor, Theodore Beza, would have likely rejected Christmas for the same reasons.  Arminius wrote much like Calvin on the popery and he too viewed the Catholic church as corrupt and he called her “the great whore of Babylon” (Revelation 17:5-6).  I suspect that Arminius would not have celebrated any Catholic holidays and neither would the Remonstrants.

By the time of John Wesley, England was a mixed bag when it came to Christmas.  The Puritans had sought to end the day called Christmas and even sought to officially change the name to Christtide.  The name didn’t stick.  The Puritans, like the Reformers, viewed themselves as Protestants and not Catholic and wanted nothing to do with the Catholic holidays.  The Puritan in 18th century America made it illegal to celebrate Christmas in many of their towns in New England.  They allowed “the strangers” (non-Puritan immigrants) to practice Christmas but only in their own homes.  The Puritans made sure to work on Christmas as to show they were not resting or celebrating with the Catholics.  In this environment, John Wesley came.  Wesley likely would have been in-between having strong love for the Church of England and his love for the Puritans.  Wesley never condemns the holiday but we find no record of him practicing it either.  Yet his brother Charles wrote Hark! The Herald Angels Sing which would become a theologically accurate hymn for Christmas that is sung even today by Catholics.

I suppose that we could bring up other Arminians in the past and show their views on the day.  What would Adam Clarke say?  Clarke opposed Charles Wesley’s organ playing in church so I suppose he would oppose Christmas in the church.  In his Bible Commentary Clarke notes in passing that Jesus was not born on December 25th and reasons that He was born possibly around late September since the shepherds were in the fields with their flocks (Luke 2:8).  Clarke makes no mention of Christmas.

Richard Watson likewise makes no mention of Christmas in his Theological Dictionary.  Watson does mention that Catholicism is heretical and unbiblical so it is safe to say that he would not have regarded Christmas with fondness.  Watson also takes aim at the heretical Catholic mass.

Today all Arminians that I know of have no trouble with Christmas.  The day has become a day to remember and ponder the birth of the Son of God.  I agree with Arminius and with others before me that the day is likely the day that Jesus was born on nor is a Christian less a Christian if they don’t celebrate Christmas.  In our day the birth of the Lord Jesus has largely become a day of giving of gifts, commercialism, Santa Claus and his flying reindeer.  The glory of the incarnation of the Lord Jesus has been either completely ignored by the secular or watered down by the Church.  I have often joked with my wife that it is the one time of the year that secular radio plays Christian songs and Christian radio plays secular Christmas songs.  It is the one time of the year that Christian radio will play Bing Crosby singing “White Christmas” and secular radio will play a secular artist singing “Silent Night.”

The reality is that Christmas does cause us, no matter who we are, to atlases acknowledge Jesus.  Militant atheists want to deny that Jesus even existed yet Christmas points to the biblical reality that Jesus did in fact live and the world continues to acknowledge this.  Secularist want to remove Jesus from Christmas and, like Easter before it, make it about children and about more stuff (greed).  Yet the incarnation of God (John 1:14) is still there.  While December 25th was probably not His birthdate, the reality of the birth of the Son of God drives unbelievers and sinners mad.

In my estimation, Christmas is neither good nor evil.  It is not biblical but it does point to a biblical reality: that Jesus Christ was born of the virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:34-35).  Jesus was born to die (Matthew 1:21).  He came to shed His blood for our salvation.  This is the miracle of Christmas.  The incarnation of Jesus should cause us to worship and adore Him for what He did for our salvation (Philippians 2:5-11).

The world has no problem with the Baby in the manger.  They have a problem with their sins and with the Judge of all the earth (Romans 1:18-21).  While the unbelieving world will celebrate the birth of the Messiah this December 25th, we disciples are looking to Hebrews 9:27-28 and we declare the Jesus is Lord!

Written by The Seeking Disciple

12/23/2014 at 4:30 PM

When We Deny Inerrancy, We Become the Judge of Scripture

Does the Bible judge you or do you judge the Bible?  This is fundamental to the authority of the believer.  How can we speak for God?  How can we preach that Jesus rose from the dead?  How can we speak that God will forgive sinners of their sins?  How can we bring comfort to the dying?  How can we offer help in marriage?  How can we address cultural issues?  How can we know what God deems as necessary for salvation, what God calls sinful or not?  How can we know God?

All of these begin with a worldview, a fundamental position by which we judge all things.  Every human being has been created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27) and thus we are able to reason, to think.  We have a worldview and we judge things based on that presupposition.  That we are able to reason assumes that there is a God.  That we judge assumes that there is truth or error.

For the disciple of Christ, the Bible is the presupposition that we always begin with.  If a truthful God wrote the Bible (Numbers 23:19; Titus 1:2) then what He wrote is truthful (John 17:17) and cannot lie (John 10:35).  God wrote the Bible using people but He guided them by His Spirit so that they wrote using their own thoughts but guided by the Spirit of God (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:21).  All that they said was truthful in that it was given to them by the Spirit of God so that all that is recorded in the original autographs comes from God and His will.  The Bible records truth even if he truth goes against the character of God for example the sins of the people in the Bible or the killing of the Lord Jesus Christ.  By God’s providence, He guarded His Word and protected it from error because it reveals Him who cannot lie.

Yet when people reject the Bible as the inerrant and infallible Word of God, they do so because they want to be a god.  They want to judge even God Himself.  They despise the authority of God.  They want to set themselves up before a holy and pure God so that they can live their lives of sin and rebellion against God (Romans 1:18-32).  Even people who claim to be Christians often will reject many parts of the Bible because they simply don’t like them.  They want to feel comfortable in their sins.

The reality is that the Bible judges us (Hebrews 4:12-13).  The Bible cuts us deeply and exposes our sinful hearts and minds.  The Bible destroys our fleshly world views.  The Bible shatters our utter depravity and shows we are guilty before God (Romans 3:19-20).  The Bible faithfully reveals the salvation of the Lord that we reject.  The true disciple of Jesus should spend time daily in the Word of God (John 8:31-32).  The disciple should faithfully preach the Bible to the lost exposing their faulty world views in light of God’s truth (1 Peter 3:15-16).  The Bible should be our focus in evangelism (2 Timothy 4:1-5).  The Bible should be our focus in apologetics (Psalm 19:7-11).  The Bible should be our focus in conversion of sinners (1 Peter 1:18-25).  The Bible should be our focus in our teaching (James 1:21).  The Bible glorifies the work of Christ Jesus (1 John 5:13).

I believe the consistent response from the Church should be: the Bible says.  No matter what the question, the answer is the Bible says.  Creation: the Bible says.  Marriage: the Bible says.  Child raising: the Bible says.  Money:  the Bible says.  Salvation:  the Bible says.  Cults: the Bible says.  The end of the world: the Bible says.  Doctrine: the Bible says.  Holiness: the Bible says.  Prayer: the Bible says.

The Bible is the inerrant and infallible Word of God.  It has never failed and never will fail (Isaiah 40:8).  Every movement that rejected the Bible as the inerrant and infallible Word of God has failed.  We would do well to learn from history and not reject the Word of God.  To do so will only bring the judgment of God.  Let us stand firmly upon the foundation of Church History and know that God is faithful to glorify His name when His people preach His Word.

Lord give us more men like William Tyndale or John Knox who will defend Your Word even unto death.

The Cycle of Calvinism From A Biased Arminian

I enjoy Church history.  I enjoy reading the story of how the gospel flowed from the book of Acts to the nations.  I love reading how people have taken great steps of faith to take the gospel to the nations.  It blesses me to see Psalm 110:1 being taken to the nations.

That said, I will confess that this post is very biased.  I am not writing from a position of having studied many hours over Church history books.  I did listen to a podcast by Dr. Curt Daniel on hyper-Calvinism.  If his views hold, we will see cycles of Calvinism in the church.  This seems to be the view of Dr. Daniel and my own as well though I have not lived through them.

Dr. Daniel views the cycles of Calvinism as follows.  These points are my own:

1.  Initial Revival of Calvinism

2.  Cage Staged Calvinism

3.  Apologetical Calvinism

4.  Hyper-Calvinism

The first is the embracing of Calvinism followed by the cage stage where the young Calvinist is zealous for all things Calvinistic.  I have noticed that in this stage the Calvinist often will not necessarily read the works of Calvin or Spurgeon or Edwards or MacArthur or Sproul but will write and talk as if they have.  In this stage, Calvinism is the gospel and the point of agreement.  If a person is not a Calvinist, they are viewed as wrong, perhaps heretical, and even unsaved.  I have been declared as all three!

From the cage stage the Calvinist turns to apologetics to defend Calvinism.  This often leads to men such as James White or R.C. Sproul.  I have found the younger Calvinists to prefer to download White than to read Sproul.  The apologetics stage is where the young Calvinist goes on a witch-hunt for anything and anyone that is against Calvinism.

The final stage is hyper-Calvinism.  I praise God that not many have found their way here yet.  Even R.C. Sproul, despite agreeing that Romans 9:22-23 does teach double predestination, admits he cannot go on to being a hyper-Calvinist.  Most stop at point #3 and many turn back either to being biblical Arminians or some reject the faith altogether.

If Church history can teach us anything then according to Dr. Daniel, we will see a rise in hyper-Calvinism over the years to come after we have watched Calvinism explode onto the scene the past 15 years.  I pray that godly Calvinists will fight against hyper-Calvinism as hyper-Calvinism always leads to loss in missions, loss in unity even among disagreeing brethren, and leads to dead faith.

This is just the views of a very biased Arminian.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

09/10/2014 at 11:05 AM

Church History and Beards

This is an interesting piece from Christianity Today on Church History and beards.  I have often wondered by the fundamentalist movement in the United States opposed beards and was researching this view when I came upon this article.

I once read, “We have a word for men without beards: women.”

Written by The Seeking Disciple

11/08/2013 at 5:43 PM

Posted in church, Various Links

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Being Careful With Who Defines A Movement

Some men have been leaders of movements.  Few would doubt that Martin Luther was a leader of the Reformation.  John Calvin was the leader of Geneva.  Men such as William Carey were leaders.  Charles Finney was a leader of the “new methods” of revival movement.  John Wesley and George Whitefield were leaders of the early Methodists.  William Seymour was the leader of the Azusa Street Mission which launched the modern-day Pentecostal movement.  Even today we have men such as Mark Driscoll, Matt Chandler or John Piper who are recognized leaders of the “young, restless, and reformed movement.”  Men lead movements.

But we must be careful with whom we label the “leader” of a movement.  For instance, it would be unfair to say that Martin Luther was the only leader of the Reformation.  Others were involved but history seems to only remember Luther.  Luther, however, is not the end all to the Reformation.  While his writings and sermons have value and their place in the Reformation, the Reformation is not Luther and Luther is not the Reformation.  Many others would follow who would not agree with Luther fully such as John Calvin (who would disagree with Luther over the atonement and perseverance of the saints).  Arminius would differ with Luther over unconditional election and the man of Romans 7.  John Wesley would disagree with Luther over sanctification and the nature of cleansing from sin.  Alexander Campbell would have disagreed with Luther over baptism by immersion and whether we should baptize adults only.  The debates are many with many leaders behind the debates.

In our day we are hearing much about the charismatic movement once again.  When I was saved back in 1992, the debate was raging among evangelicals and Pentecostals over spiritual gifts, the baptism with the Spirit, etc.  Shorty after I was saved, I went to visit a local bookstore and was struck by the section “charismatic” (as I was attending an Assemblies of God church).  I had heard the term at our church and so I looked through the books with authors such as T.L. Osborne, Kenneth Hagin, and Kenneth Copeland.  I had not heard of any of them.  I picked up a book by Hagin on faith and took it home to read.  I carried the book with me to church and wise brother asked to see what I was reading.  I showed him the book and he wisely showed me the flaws of Hagin’s thinking.  He told me to avoid the “charismatic” books as they were often plagued with false teachings and poor exegesis of Scripture.

Now I could have, at this point, thought that Copeland, Hagin, Dollar, Hinn, etc. all defined the charismatic movement. They did not and do not now.

I believe we should debate the issue of the gifts of the Spirit.  I have no problem with conferences devoted to studying the person and work of the Holy Spirit and correcting views that may or may not line up with Scripture.  I believe that theological debates are good and needed.  After all, the great doctrines of our faith have often come from debates such as the Trinity, justification by faith, the mode of baptism and its purpose, etc.  Theological debates often were settled in Church history through great councils.  We read even in Acts 15 of the council in Jerusalem where they debated the salvation of the Gentiles and the keeping of the Law of Moses.  Councils and conferences are welcomed for the purpose of sorting out doctrinal teachings.

However, we must not allow a few people to define a movement.  I listened to a cessationist brother teaching on the charismatic movement recently and he had numerous quotes from the likes of Benny Hinn, Copeland, Hagin, Todd Bentley, and Jack Hayford.  Do these men alone define the charismatic movement?  I don’t think so.  In fact, I assure you that the teachers at the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary (AGTS) or the Church of God Theological Seminary would denounce the teachings of nearly all of those men (with the exception of Hayford who is respected among Pentecostals to this day).  I believe a person should not use Kenneth Copeland or Joel Osteen to define the Pentecostal movement.  One would build a better hearing among Pentecostals by debating the writings of a Stanley Horton or a Donald Gee or a E.S. Williams than Hagin or Fred Price.

Would Calvinists want Mark Driscoll or even worse, Fred Phelps, to represent modern Calvinism?  Would Arminians want Roger Olson to speak for us all?  I don’t think we would.  We must be careful to seek to not allow one or two people to define a movement.  We must examine the theologians of the movement before we try to isolate the nuts in the movement and say that the nuts speak for the movement when they do not.

That is, of course, my own opinion.  You are allowed to disagree but you would be wrong.  🙂

Written by The Seeking Disciple

08/26/2013 at 1:07 PM

Common Traits Among Soul Winners

Across the Church of Jesus Christ are men and women of God who have labored for souls.  God powerfully has used common folks to often reach others with the gospel.  While no one “led” me to Jesus, I was influenced by a fellow classmate in high school who had repented.  His godliness led me to look to Christ for salvation a year later or so after he first witnessed to me.  I think of the young Charles Spurgeon wandering into a small Methodist church on a cold January morning when the young 16-year-old Spurgeon could not get to another church that he planned to visit.  That morning the Lord saved Spurgeon as Spurgeon listened to a lay preacher from the Methodist preach the simple gospel.  That man did not know the spiritual impact Spurgeon would have and only heaven knows his name (though historians have speculated).

I think of Randy Stonehill inviting a young searching man named Keith Green to a Bible study at a home in southern California.  Little did Stonehill know that this same Keith Green would get saved and impact millions with his music.

The truth is that soul winners often go unnoticed.  The judgment seat of Christ will reveal great soul winners who labored for King Jesus with all their might.  The world did not know their names.  Blogs did not record their names.  History itself buried them with both dirt and time.  Yet heaven doesn’t forget the labors of the saints.  All of heaven will applaud these great soul winners who have labored for Christ our Lord.  Their eyes were not on fame or fortune.  They only had Jesus and His glory in mind.  Oh I long to be such a saint!

Yet there are common traits I have noticed among great soul winners from great men such as David Brainerd or Charles Spurgeon or Charles Finney or D.L. Moody or David Wilkerson or Ray Comfort.  Some of them were mighty theologians even such as the great Jonathan Edwards whom God used to touch a generation here in the United States with the gospel.  Some of them were great prayer warriors such as David Livingstone or John Hyde.  Some of them were simply burdened for souls such as William Carey or Andrew Fuller.  Some were great preachers of the gospel such as Wilkerson or Spurgeon.  I think most will simply be those Christians who faithfully labored for the gospel without the applause of those here and now.

What are some common traits among great soul winners?

1.  Prayer.

David Brainerd labored in prayer.  Martin Luther labored in prayer.  Rees Howell labored in prayer.  E.M. Bounds labored in prayer.  John Wesley labored in prayer.  Great soul winners pray.  They don’t talk about prayer.  They don’t use prayer to bless their labors.  They are first and foremost people of prayer.  William and Catherine Booth, founds of the Salvation Army, were great prayer warriors.  They had read the words of Christ in Matthew 9:37-38 or Paul in Romans 10:1 or 1 Timothy 2:1-6 and they labored in prayer for the lost.  God blessed their works.  Prayer doesn’t prepare us for the work of God.  Prayer is the work of God.  Prayer fills us with faith in God who can move the wicked mountains in our paths for souls (Mark 11:22-24).

2.  Gospel-Centered Focus and Preaching.

The great soul winners such as Charles Spurgeon, John Bunyan, Paris Reidhead, and many others were focused on preaching the Lord Jesus and exalting Him.  Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 that our focus should be Christ and Him crucified.  Paul further wrote in Philippians 3:8 that his passion was to know Christ.  Great soul winners hunger for Jesus and to exalt Him.  Great soul winners labor their lives away for the kingdom of Christ and their focus is eternity (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).

3.  Their Hearts Break for the Lost.  

Soul winners such as William Carey heard the cries of the heathen and longed to see them saved.  Great soul winners such as Peter Cartwright longed to see men and women free from the chains of sin.  They recognized that only Jesus can save sinners by His grace.  They read Matthew 9:37-38 and like their Savior, their hearts were broken for the lost.  Like Jesus their Master in John 4, they longed to see the harvest come to pass.  They wept over the lost and longed to see souls come to know Christ as Lord.

4.  They Feared Only God. 

Jesus tells us in Luke 12:4-7 that we are to fear God alone.  Proverbs 1:7 says that the fear of God is beginning of wisdom.  The fear of the Lord leads us to hate wickedness (Proverbs 8:13).  The fear of the Lord drove great soul winners to fear only God and to not fear flesh (Psalm 27:1; Romans 8:31).  They longed to preach the Word of God without fear of flesh.  Many great soul winners gave their lives for the gospel including the Apostles and including many others such as William Tyndale or Jim Elliott.

5.  They Preached Against Sin.

The great soul winner were not compromisers when it came to the gospel.  They preached hard against sin.  Read the sermons of Jonathan Edwards or the sermons of Robert Murray Mc’Cheyne and you’ll see their hatred for sin.  These were not men and women of God who came preaching a “seeker message” but like the Apostles, they thundered against sin.  They called people to repent and turn from their wickedness (Acts 17:30-31).  They preached the holiness of God alongside the sinfulness of humanity.

6.  They Were Often Despised By the Church and World.

I read about men such as John Bunyan and how hated they were by the world and the established church.  I read about men such as William Carey and how the established church despised his vision for the lost.  I read about the prayer life of E.M. Bounds and his focus was on eternity and not the fame or praise of men.  I read about men such as John Wesley who died without a penny to his name but left behind the Methodist Church.  Like those of Hebrews 11:38, the world was not worthy of them.  They preached hard and lived hard lives often for the gospel but they will forever be rewarded with the praises of their King going forth into all eternity.

7.  Their Preaching Often Ran Contrary to the Culture Around Them.

They preached against sins in their culture and often were attacked for that.  We have John Newton and William Wilberforce preaching against racism and slave trading.  We have Martin Luther preaching justification by faith alone as opposed to the apostate Catholics preaching works-righteousness.  We have the Apostles preaching against sin in their culture as well and being opposed for it (Acts 14:19).  Their lives were marked by holiness (1 Peter 1:15-16) and their preaching was holy preaching against sin.  They did not buy into the culture around them but preached against the world by the power of the Holy Spirit (1 Peter 4:12-19).

8.  They Loved Theology.

These were not theology-lite preachers.  These were not Joel Osteen types who ignored sound doctrine or acted the fool when confronted with theological questions.  Read the works of Richard Watson, Adam Clarke, or John Wesley and see them thinking deeply about Jesus and His Word.  The great soul winners of the Church have loved God with all their hearts and minds and souls and strength (Mark 12:29-31).  The gospel they often preached was simple enough for a child to hear and be saved but they deeply loved the Lord and knew His Word.  I read the sermons of the Puritans and I am ashamed of how weak our preaching is today in comparison.  Oh for servants of God who love Him and preach His deep truths in the power of the Spirit.

9.  They Were Holy Vessels.

These great soul winners of Church History loved the Lord and hated sin.  These were not men and women marked by sin. They were not marked by adultery and wickedness.  They were holy.  I think about the holiness preaching of men such as George Whitefield or John Wesley or Evans Roberts.  I think about the holy lives of men such as Francis Asbury or women such as Amy Carmichael.  I think about great servants of God who loved holiness such as Myer Pearlman.  Great soul winners are not full of the world (James 4:4).  Like their Lord, they despised the things of this world and sought to please and honor God.  They were not perfect and thus needed their Savior but they loved their Savior enough to hate sin (1 John 2:1-2; 3:4-10).  These were folks marked by 2 Corinthians 7:1.

Ending Prayer

Oh God give us soul winners again!  We need them in Your Church as we live in an evil age that needs the gospel.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

07/05/2013 at 10:42 AM

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