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Posts Tagged ‘George Whitefield

How Should Arminians Respond to Attacks?

It is not uncommon for me to be attacked for my Arminianism.  I have been called a liberal, to holding man-centered theology, to not loving God, to not loving God’s grace, to denying God’s sovereignty, to believing that I earn my salvation, to hating God, to denying the gospel.  Often these attacks come from Calvinists and many of them are perhaps in their “cage stage” but they honestly believe that Calvinism is the pure gospel, that Calvinism is just what Jesus and His Apostles preached (I am not kidding there).  They love all things Calvinistic and any attacks on Calvinism are viewed as attacks on God Himself.

Now to be fair, this is not the case with all Calvinists.  I know many godly Calvinists who love the Lord and know that Calvinism is not the gospel nor the major issue.  I have sat with many Calvinist brethren in great fellowship.  One only needs to think of the great friendship of John Wesley and George Whitefield to know that people can be Arminians and Calvinists while being brothers and sisters in the Lord.  Nothing in the New Testament suggests that we have to be nothing more than disciples of Jesus (John 13:34-35) to love one another.  Love is one of the greatest evidences of our salvation (1 John 4:19-20).

So how do we respond to those who attack us?  Here is my response in brief.

1.  Answer With Love and Grace.

While I have had some say that I am lost because of my Arminianism, we should answer all people with love.  While they may despise me, I don’t despise them.  Love should flow from the disciple who has been forgiven (Matthew 6:12, 14-15).  Proverbs 15:1 reads, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”  We should heed these wise words and answer with love and grace.  None of us are perfect in our knowledge and we all are seeking to know God through this glass (1 Corinthians 13:12).

2.  Answer Biblically.  

I have read many debates and they often turn to philosophy instead of Scripture.  Scripture is the final authority (and I pray that all agree on that fact).  Scripture alone speaks the truth for God (2 Timothy 3:16-17).  Scripture is what sanctifies us (John 17:17).  Scripture is our sword (Ephesians 6:17) but let us use our swords not out of hatred but love and grace.  Again, we are not perfect in our knowledge and all can learn from one another.  I would be the first to admit to a Calvinist that I don’t know all things perfectly but I love Jesus Christ and long to know Him truthfully (Philippians 3:8-11).  I pray that all of us would love the Word of God and long to know the truth of God from His holy Word.

3.  Be Godly.

It’s better to be godly than to be right (Hebrews 12:14-15).

4.  Never View Your Attacker As A Vile Enemy.

See the person as a person.  They may despise you, they may hate you, they may desire to kill you but see them as people made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27).  Recently I heard the story of a family being attacked by Muslims for their faith.  The mother told the children that if men ever came to their home to always answer them with, “God loves you and we forgive you.”  This family did face their Muslim attackers and had to endure their own beheadings but they did so with those words, “God loves you and we forgive you.”

While Calvinists are not our vile enemies, all people need to see that we are full of love. We love because of the love of God (John 3:16).  Our theology flows from the love of God (Romans 5:8-9).  We read 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 and we see the heart of God all in the text.  This same love should flow from us toward others.  We love people because they are people.  We long to see them saved because they are made in the image of God.

5.  Be Christ-centered In Your Talking.

Christ is the center of all things.  Christ is the center of the Bible.  Christ is the center of all creation (Colossians 1:15-20).  Christ should be the center of our biblical interpretation.  In other words, election doesn’t begin with man but with Christ.  Salvation doesn’t begin with man but with Christ.  Christ is the focus and He is the One that we should worship and adore (Revelation 5:9-10, 12).

The focus should not then be on our favorite preachers or Bible teachers.  The focus is not on Arminius or Calvin or Wesley or Spurgeon.  The focus should be on Christ and remain on Christ (2 Corinthians 4:5).  Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 1:23 that we preach Christ and Him crucified.  I pray I would do that.  I don’t want anyone (including me) to receive the glory that is due to Christ alone.

Conclusion

I pray that God would grant us peace among brethren.  We are baptized into Christ (Romans 6:1-4; Galatians 3:26-27) and not into men.  Arminius nor Calvin will ever save a sinner.  Only Christ saves (Acts 4:12).  The focus of our theology must not be on Arminius or Calvin but Christ.  Christ is the only one who is worthy to be praised and adored and imitated.

May the Lord help both Arminians and Calvinists be godly in our talking.  May the Lord be the One that we worship and serve.

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The Failure of George Whitefield

In reality, George Whitefield was not a failure.  Many souls were saved under his preaching of the gospel.  I don’t doubt one minute that God didn’t use Whitefield to honor His name and to make known His name among the English-speaking peoples.  God raised up George Whitefield and used him mightily for His own divine purposes.  I am not then writing that Whitefield was a failure in the sense that he was not used by God nor that souls were not saved under his preaching.  That is not what I am meaning by the use of “failure” in this post.

I’m actually borrowing from Whitefield’s own testimony at the end of his life.  Both he and John Wesley had preached all over England.  It was Whitefield who had encouraged Wesley to preach in the open air (field preaching they called it).  Whitefield was perhaps the better preacher (so I am told) and that his voice was a powerful preaching voice.  Wesley was the leader.  Wesley would preach but he was quick to organize and Wesley never left the Church of England.  Wesley was seeking to bring reformation to the Anglicans.  Wesley would preach but he would create societies and bands wherever he went.

It was here, Wesley’s societies and bands, that Whitefield looked back on his life and admitted his failure.  Whitefield stated:

“My brother Wesley acted wisely.  The souls that were awakened under his ministry he joined to societies, and thus preserved the fruit of his labor.  This I neglected, and my people are a rope of sand.”

Thousands upon thousands were no doubt awakened by the Spirit of God under both George Whitefield and John Wesley.  Wesley, however, would take the newly awakened souls and place them in societies.  In fact, Wesley did not give altar calls for salvation nor did he lead people in “the sinner’s prayer” as we know today in many evangelical churches.  Instead, souls hungry to be saved were placed under the care of a true Christian and they would pray with the sinner and read the Bible with the sinner until the sinner came to know Christ and have the assurance of their salvation.  While I would prefer baptizing such sinners into Christ (Acts 2:41), this would be the time when the Church would recognize the awakened sinner to be a saved saint of God.  The new Christian would be placed then in a society meeting where they would meet with other saints to confess sin, to be encouraged, to pray, to read the Bible, and to grow in holiness.

This act of sanctification kept the saints.  It was this that Whitefield failed at.  Whitefield preached and many souls were saved.  However, Whitefield did not organize them into societies.  He left the church to do that and few did.  Many fell away because of a lack of accountability and discipleship.  Even John Piper admits that sanctification is a work in the church and not just in the individual.  Sanctification is not just the work of the Lord in the heart of the saint but it is the work of the Church as well (Hebrews 10:23-25; James 5:16).  As we gather with other saints, we are encouraged to continue in the faith and to keep our eyes on Jesus at all times.  We are able to confess our sins to each other and find help to overcoming sin.  Sanctification then is not just my work but it is a team work, a work of the church as well (Ephesians 4:11-16).

In terms of application, let me warn my fellow saints who enjoy sharing the gospel with the lost (which should be us all), we must preach Christ to the lost but we must encourage those who are seeking salvation to be discipled after being set free from sin.  It is not enough to preach that Jesus saves from sin and then leave the new Christian alone to just wander.  Matthew 13:18-23 warns what will happen to the seed that we plant apart from being rooted in Christ.  I am aware that some Calvinists will preach that Christ saves and expect God to keep the new saints but read Whitefield’s words again and again.  Let them sink deep into your soul.  Jesus told us to go and make disciples and not just to preach the gospel (Matthew 28:19-20).  Even the Apostles in Acts 2 obeyed the words of Jesus and did just what He said in Acts 2:42.  I pray that we would as well.  Preach the gospel as Whitefield and Wesley did but place people in societies for the purpose of sanctification as Wesley did.  This will bear fruit.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

11/05/2014 at 2:42 PM

John Piper: Make Whitefield and Spurgeon Your Models For Ministry

I have been reading the excellent book, Killing Calvinism, in which the author states from John Piper that the Calvinist should make George Whitefield and Charles Spurgeon your examples for Calvinistic ministries and not John Calvin.  Piper said that the reason for this is that Whitefield and Spurgeon were known for soul winning but Calvin was not.  A great point.  I will have a review coming of this book soon.

I do agree.  I love the ministries of Whitefield and Spurgeon.  While I don’t agree fully with their Calvinism and I believe they were not consistent with their Calvinistic theology in regard to preaching the gospel to the lost, I do admire them greatly.  In fact, I named my second born son after Charles Spurgeon.  I named him Haddon Spurgeon.  I would love for my Haddon to be a man of God who also preaches with fire to the lost.  Oh that he would be a great man of prayer!  Oh that my little boy would grow to be a godly disciple of the Lord Jesus!

In my own life, it is men of God such as Whitefield, Spurgeon, Wesley, or Leonard Ravenhill who capture my heart more than any theologian.  I appreciate great theologians and their labors for the kingdom.  I have no doubt that the Church needs great theologians but I love when theology and fire mix together.  Wesley was such a man.  He would ride on his horse and would read from theology books.  Wesley could read in both Greek and Latin.  He would often spend hours reading from various Latin works.  His journals reflect a deep thinker yet they show his heart for the lost.  John Wesley was a deep man of faith, a man of intense prayer.  He and George Whitefield would pray for hours.  They would converse together about their ministries and yes they did debate theology but they loved Christ and loved His kingdom.  Later John Wesley would preach the funeral of his great friend, Whitefield, and if you read his sermon, it is a heart-moving praise of the great saint of God.

Sadly, theologians often are not know for soul winning.  Soul winners are often men of fire but sometimes they are not known for their theology.  I would love to see God raise up both in one.  We need to be soul winners who love the Word of God, who long to see the lost saved but who also love the precious doctrines of Scripture.  We need to do both, set apart Christ as Lord but also to be able to answer all those who question our faith (1 Peter 3:15).  We need to watch both our life and doctrine (1 Timothy 4:16).  Doctrine and life go hand in hand.  We need both the mind of a theologian and a heart of an evangelist.  We need the Holy Spirit to empower us to be witnesses for Christ both in our lives and in our words (Acts 1:8).

John Piper is absolutely correct: make great soul winners your model.  Make Spurgeon, Whitefield, Wesley, and even great saints such as J. Edwin Orr as models of men of God who loved the Word of God and loved souls.  We need to learn, as they did, that we should glorify God with our hearts and with our passions.  God can greatly use this for His glory and I pray that He does.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

05/05/2013 at 11:58 PM

Why the Early Methodists Grew?

John Wesley brought with him the rise of evangelical Arminianism and he helped found the Methodist Church (though Wesley never left the Anglican Church).  Wesley was a scholar but even more he was passionate to preach the gospel.  He would preach anywhere and everywhere.  Wesley was encouraged by his Calvinist friend George Whitefield to preach in the open air and so he did on April 2, 1739 for the first time.  Wesley described it this way:

Monday, 2.—At four in the afternoon, I submitted to be more vile and proclaimed in the highways the glad tidings of salvation, speaking from a little eminence in a ground adjoining to the city, to about three thousand people. The Scripture on which I spoke was this (is it possible anyone should be ignorant that it is fulfilled in every true minister of Christ?): “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord”

Wesley called it “vile” because he had been raised and trained to preach only in the church buildings and not in the open air.  From here on, Wesley would write in his journal about preaching to thousands upon thousands of people in the open air.  This led to the founding of the Methodist Church as Wesley and his companions were often kicked out of churches and even physically assaulted by the crowds for their preaching.

One Methodist historian describes the early Methodists like this:

During its early years in England and in America, Methodism was a despised sect.

Methodists were enthusiasts (too excitable); their camp meetings were out of control; their preachers were uneducated. They sang “ditties” instead of stately hymns. They offended people by talking to them about their souls. They opposed “worldliness,” which included Sabbath breaking, dancing, card playing, gambling, alcohol, and fancy dress.

For the first 75 years of their presence in America, Methodists would never have won any popularity polls. But Methodism grew. From 1784 to 1850, a period known generally as the Second Great Awakening, Methodism grew from 3 percent of America’s religious population, to 33 percent. It was in part because Methodism during this period thought it better to be despised for the gospel than to be respectable in the world.

Notice that the early Methodists loved the gospel and loved souls and desired to preach the truth of the gospel above being popular with the world.  This led to their growth.  They were “other” minded people, focused on eternity (2 Corinthians 4:16-18; Philippians 3:17-20).  They did not care about being friends with this world (James 4:4) and they lived and died with a focus on the glory of God (Philippians 1:20-21).  Amazing, faithful people!

But along with a zeal for the gospel, they had great men of God who were both solid theologians and solid evangelists at the same time.  Consider men such as Adam Clarke or Richard Watson or John Fletcher.  All three men were men of God who were known for their zeal, for their prayer lives, for their personal holiness but they also loved the Word of God and expounded the Word of God.  All three men were to be found teaching the early Methodists sound doctrine in their Bible classes but they were turn around and open air preach or lead their students back to their studies to pray.  They could on the one hand study the Greek New Testament and on the other they could spend all night in prayer.  John Wesley himself was a student of the Word.  He would often ride his horse and read a book as he traveled.  I own his Works and they are full of Greek, French, and Latin references.  Yet Wesley would rise up at 4 AM each day to pray and read his Bible.  He loved knowledge but he feared God as well.

Where is that today?  Where are the theologians who are known not just for their knowledge of the Word of God (such as Adam Clarke) but also their preaching, their zeal, their open air preaching, their hunger for souls.  Oh God give us men such as Paul the Apostle who could expound on the riches of justification in Romans 5 and pray to the Lord with much passion in Romans 10:1-2 for his own race to be saved!  We need both the scholar and the evangelist.  We need men of God who both love the Word, study theology, etc. but also love souls, love to pray, love to worship, and love to apply theology.  We often are educated beyond our level of obedience (James 2:14-26) and I fear that we have much knowledge about God but we know little of this God in a real and personal way (John 17:3; Philippians 3:8-11).  I want to know much about God but oh to have a zeal for Him where I take His Word and go out into the highways as Wesley did proclaiming the truth of His Word (Acts 5:20).

Written by The Seeking Disciple

12/16/2012 at 2:02 PM

The American Civil War as a Theological Crisis

Mark Noll has written a book by the title of my post.  I have not read his work but assume he is speaking of the same subject as my own concerning the theological nature of the American Civil War.  The roots of the Civil War lie as far back as the Declaration of Independence from Great Britain in 1776.  Even then the seeds were planted for division between the States as some of the founding fathers wanted a strong Federal Government while others wanted a Union among individual and yet equally powerful States.  The issue of slavery was not settled with the signing of the Bill of Rights and this moral issue would tear at the nation for nearly 100 years before the Civil War would erupt in 1861 after the election of abolitionist President Lincoln (who actually only favored forbidding slavery in the West and did not wish to end the practice in the South) and the session of South Carolina from the Union in December of 1860.

What goes unnoticed is the theological crisis that culminated with the Civil War.  This issue was slavery.  For the Church, States’ rights was not the issue.  It was the evil practice (according to the abolitionist) of slavery or the fact that the Bible did not forbid slavery from the pro-slavery point of view.  There were passionate evangelicals on both sides.  For instance, George Whitefield stood before the Georgia State Assembly during his trip to America in the 18th century and asked the Georgia Assembly to continue the practice of slavery.  Whitefield justified slavery for two main reasons.  First he said that this gave the slaves from Africa the opportunity to hear the gospel and be saved and then secondly, the fact that the Africans could work the harsh lands of Georgia and were use to the heat.  John Wesley opposed Whitefield over this issue and Wesley encouraged William Wilberforce in his fight to end slavery in England.  It would be the last letter Wesley would ever write.

Jonathan Edwards owned slaves.  Edwards felt that slavery was not forbidden in Scripture, like Whitefield, and he argued that God could use slavery to save souls (such as the case with Paul in the epistle to Philemon).  Edwards also felt that it was the duty of the Christian to not be harsh to slaves, to preach the gospel to them, and to be good to them.

Charles Finney opposed slavery in all forms.  He believed it went against the Word of God that says that we are all created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27).  How could another human enslave another human made in God’s image?

E.M. Bounds, the great prayer warrior from the state of Georgia, fought along side the Confederates and was their chaplain.  He was captured and put in prison in Tennessee.  Bounds would there learn to pray for as much as 9 hours a day.  Bounds opposed slavery but because he was a Southerner, he supported States’ Rights and believed his duty to serve his country during the War.  He returned to his home in Washington, Georgia where he lived out his days in peace, praying and preaching the gospel in Methodist churches.

Henry Ward Beecher was the most famous preacher during this era.  Beecher was known for his powerful speaking ability and pastored a church in New York City (one of the largest in America at that time if not the largest).  He even was invited to London, England to preach alongside of Charles Spurgeon but Surgeon declined because Beecher was known for his adultery (which he committed several times during his ministry).  Beecher was the first “seeker sensitive” preacher as he learned early on not to preach on any subjects his crowds did not enjoy.  Beecher was also very outspoken against slavery.  His sister wrote the famous book, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and it was Henry Ward Beecher who would preach at the dedication of Fort Sumter in Charleston, SC back to the Federal Government following the end of the Civil War.  Beecher was loved and adored by slaves for his passionate preaching against slavery.

Even among the military, there were men on both sides who argued from the Bible.  Robert E. Lee, the general of the Confederate military, was deeply religious.  He would spend hours reading his Bible and praying.  Lee did not favor slavery but he did own slaves whom he released after the start of the Civil War.  Lee felt the South would never win the war so long as slavery was not banned in the South.  To Lee, it was a moral issue and one that the North would win unless the South followed suit.

General Stonewall Jackson was likewise deeply religious.  Jackson was known for his encouragement to his men to pray and read their Bibles.  Jackson opposed allowing his soldiers to invite prostitutes into the camp, opposed gambling, opposed drinking.  Jackson would spend hours on his knees in his tent before going to battle praying.  Jackson, however, loved war.  He loved to fight.  He found glory in commanding an army and he was a very good commander.  Jackson also believed, like Edwards and Whitefield before him, that slavery could be used to further the kingdom of God.  How else could the Africans hear the gospel?  Who would dare venture into the dark continent of Africa to preach the gospel (that would be the great David Livingston)?

In the North, President Lincoln wrestled with the “African problem” of slavery.  Lincoln is hard to pinpoint theologically.  He never attended church very much.  Never joined a church.  He did pray and he did read the Bible.  From the time he was a boy he would memorize from the book of Psalms.  His second inaugural address is filled with Bible references.  Lincoln, at the beginning of the Civil War, did not want to end slavery in the South.  He merely wanted to contain it and not allow it in the Western states.  The South knew that if this happened, the “free” States would force their rule upon the South and end slavery.  They would rather secede then try to fight that battle in Washington.  Lincoln realized that the North needed a moral reason to fight.  During his re-election campaign in 1864 we begin to see Lincoln’s anti-slavery position begin to take root.  Lincoln knew that the North would not want to continue to fight the South unless they could see that their battle was a moral battle and not just a battle for land.  This issue, wrote Lincoln of the South’s secession, was not about the Federal Government but whether men would be allowed to be free.  Was our Bill of Rights wrong to say that all men are created equal and deserve liberty?  How can this be when 4 million African slaves were in bondage?  Lincoln believed their fight was a fight to free people from bondage.  Their mission was much like Christ’s, to free people from bondage.  I am not sure where Lincoln stood regarding salvation but he used the Bible often to back his belief that slavery was wrong.

More thoughts about this issue are coming….

Written by The Seeking Disciple

10/29/2012 at 9:49 PM

A Note From John Wesley’s Journal

I was reading through John Wesley’s journal a bit today and noticed this:

Monday, January 1, 1739.

My brother Charles and Whitefield (George Whitefield) were present at our love feast in Feterlane, with about sixty of our brethren.  About three in the morning, as we were continuing instant in prayer, the power of God came mightily upon us, inasmuch that many cried out for exceeding joy and many fell to the ground.  As soon as we were recovered a little from that awe and amazement at the presence of His Majesty, we broke out with one voice, “We praise Thee, O God: we acknowledge Thee to be the Lord.”

What a mighty prayer meeting that must have been!  John and Charles Wesley along with George Whitefield and sixty other brethren all seeking God fervently.  I would love to have seen this prayer meeting.

Colossians 4:2.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

10/15/2012 at 7:31 PM

Clarification about Augustus Toplady

I want to clarify that I was not posting my article on Augustus Toplady to establish his salvation or not.  I quoted 1 John 3:15 but a brother pointed out that it seemed that I was questioning Toplady’s salvation by referencing this verse.  I was quoting this verse to establish that I do believe no disciple of Jesus can harbor hate toward a fellow disciple.  Jesus said in John 13:34-35 that the greatest mark of us being His disciples is that we love one another.  John Wesley and George Whitefield demonstrated this with their love for each other even while being different theologically.  John Wesley and Augustus Toplady did not demonstrate this.

Toplady wrote many wonderful hymns.  None can deny this.  It was Augustus Toplady who penned these lines:

Not the labors of my hands
Can fulfill Thy law’s demands;
Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears for ever flow,
These for sin could not atone;
Thou must save, and Thou alone.
Nothing in my hand I bring;
Simply to Thy cross I cling.

Sadly, Toplady failed to see that John Wesley would agree with that 100%.  Wesley consistently preached justification by faith.  Whitefield never doubted Wesley’s salvation nor his commitment to preaching justification.  Their debate was not over the gospel of Jesus Christ but over secondary issues that would not keep a person from being saved in Jesus.  Salvation is a work of God and not men (John 1:12-13; Titus 3:5-7) and God alone saves those who repent of their sins through His grace (Ephesians 2:8-9).

My prayer is that Arminians and Calvinists would learn to demonstrate godliness in all that we say and do (Colossians 3:12-13).  A dying world is watching.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

03/12/2012 at 5:48 PM

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