Arminian Today

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Posts Tagged ‘History

What Did the Founding Fathers Believe?

I would encourage you to listen to this lecture on what the founding fathers of the United States believed about God, about the Lord Jesus Christ, about Christianity, about salvation?  Dr. Gregg Frazer is a teacher of history at The Master’s College and has written a book (that I plan on reading but have not at this point), The Religious Beliefs of America’s Founders: Reason, Revelation, Revolution.  

I have seen some have already begun to reply to Dr. Frazer.  However, I believe his case is strong that the founding fathers were not in fact biblical Christians but were, as Dr. Frazer says, theistic rationalists.  They often made statements full of Bible verses, about God, about Christianity but in their private writings, they were not disciples of Jesus at all.  They believed Christianity to be full of good morals and good for society (how different from liberals today) but they were not believers themselves.  In fact, Dr. Frazer points out that they always referred to Jesus as “Jesus of Nazareth” and never to “Jesus Christ” or any acknowledgement of His deity or His Lordship.

You can find Dr. Frazer’s lecture here.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

02/23/2014 at 10:50 AM

Strange Fire Review: Chapter Two

In chapter two of Dr. John MacArthur’s book, Strange Firehe deals with the beginnings of the modern Pentecostal movement.  He shows that the movement itself began on strange terms.  His point is to compare the modern Pentecost that Pentecostals see as happening on January 1, 1901 in a prayer meeting in Topeka, Kansas under the leadership of Charles Parham.  Parham had instructed his students at his Bible institute to search the Scriptures to see what was the evidence for the baptism with the Holy Spirit.  The students concluded that speaking in tongues was the Bible evidence for Spirit-baptism.  Parham and his students gathered to seek God for the baptism with the Spirit.

In the early morning hours of January 1, 1901, one of Parham’s students, Agnus Ozman, asked her teacher to lay hands on her and pray that she would receive the Spirit.  Parham laid hands on her and she begin to speak in Chinese.  Parham claimed she could only speak and write in Chinese for three days.

After this, the other students soon begin to speak in tongues and Parham concluded that they spoke in over 20 languages including Japanese, Russian, Bulgarian, French, Bohemian, Norwegian, Hungarian, Italian, and Spanish.

MacArthur shows the holes in the story.  He footnotes all of this to show that history itself does not bear witness to the events.  Conflicting accounts have come from both Parham and Ozman as well as other students.  One of Parham’s students even told a local paper, “I believe the whole of them are crazy.”

MacArthur points out that the students were seeking to speak in foreign languages just as the disciples did in Acts 2:8.  However, MacArthur writes that the tongues of Parham’s “revival” were not the same and they did not speak in foreign languages but gibberish.  Parham even was quoted in a Kansas City newspaper as saying, “A part of our labor will be to teach the church the uselessness of spending years of time preparing missionaries for work in foreign lands when all they have to do is ask God for power.”

However, even Jack Hayford and David Moore conclude that Parham failed in his expectations.  They write, “Sadly, the idea of xenoglossalalic tongues would later prove an embarrassing failure as Pentecostal workers went off to missions fields with their gift of tongues and found their hearers did not understand them.”

In fact, eighteen Pentecostals were sent to Japan, China, and India expecting to preach to the natives in those foreign countries in their own tongue but failed to do so and all eighteen returned to the United States having failed to preach in the tongues they believed they had the gift of.  In time, Pentecostals had to learn the languages just as other missionaries have had to do for thousands of years.  The gift of “tongues” had to be rethought and in time the Pentecostals begin to view the gift for prayer and worship and not for preaching.

MacArthur goes on to show the sad story of Charles Parham himself.  Parham would be involved in several scandals including his own arrest on July 19, 1907 in Texas for sodomy.  Parham then begin to preach to his followers that he needed money to go to the holy land to find Noah’s ark and the lost art of the covenant.  After raising the money, Parham went to New York City in December 1908 to take a steamer to Jerusalem.  The trip never happened as Parham returned home to Kansas City claiming that he was mugged and couldn’t purchase his ticket.

Parham also held to marginal doctrines.  He sounded much like a universalist, was Pelagian in his view of sin, believed sanctification guaranteed divine healing, and strongly advocated racial segregation.

So what is MacArthur’s point?  He is trying to show that the Pentecostal movement began on the shoulders of this man, Charles Parham.  Why would God, writes MacArthur, give a fresh Pentecost to this man?  This man who held to strange doctrines, who advocated racial segregation to the point that he would not allow any “colored” people in his meetings?  When the true Pentecost came in Acts 2, the disciples not only spoke in foreign languages that was clearly understood by the hearers but their lives were transformed into godly lives.  Pentecost does not bring strange manifestations and unholy lives.

MacArthur goes on to write about E.W. Kenyon who is often viewed as the original father of the modern Word-Faith movement.  In fact, in his book, A Different GospelPentecostal scholar D.R. McConnell shows how Kenneth Hagin literally plagiarized Kenyon.

MacArthur then ends chapter two by looking at the words of Jonathan Edwards regarding emotionalism.  He points out that Edwards warned against emotionalism as evidence of revival.  Instead, Edwards believed that there were genuine signs of the work of the Spirit in the life of a true believer.  MacArthur is going to spend the next few chapters looking at what Edwards called, “the distinguishing marks of a work of the Spirit of God.”  Clearly, Matthew 7:21-23 must not be overlooked in this regard.

Let me offer my own thoughts here about this chapter.  First, I was not aware of much of this regarding Parham though I had heard of him and knew of his racism.  When I was in college, my roommate was black and we talked about this issue.  My roommate went on to earn his doctorate and wrote a book on William Seymour who would be the leader of the Azusa Street mission where the Pentecostal revival would start in 1906 in Los Angeles.

Secondly, MacArthur does make a strong case that Parham and his students were not on track.  Parham’s life and theology were not something to be desired.

Third, no Pentecostal would take an exception with MacArthur’s thoughts on Parham or on Kenyon (a man who is unknown to most modern Pentecostals).  I grew up in the Assemblies of God and never heard of Parham or Kenyon until after I was in college and then only because I researched them to a degree.  I had never heard of Kenyon until I read of him in McConnell’s work.

How should one react to this chapter.  I found myself agreeing with MacArthur here.  While I still believe that we must look to the Bible for sound doctrine and truth, it does bother me that history is not on the side of Parham.  I don’t care about Kenyon as he teachings have never impacted most Pentecostals that I know of outside of the heretical Word-Faith movement.   Parham, on the other hand, should trouble Pentecostals.  He would later influence William Seymour and Seymour would influence many others.  Every Pentecostal movement today finds it roots in Azusa Street.  As a boy growing up I often heard of Azusa Street and older Pentecostals spoke of it with reverence.  I remember older Pentecostals praying, “Lord send us another Azusa Street revival.”  I doubt they knew of any of the sins of Parham nor his strange teachings.

But I will end by simply asserting here that we must a people of the Word of God.  Whether you identify with the Pentecostal movement or not, I urge you to hold firmly the Word of God.  The Bible must be our guide and we must learn and obey it.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

01/15/2014 at 3:12 PM

History is Full of Sin

One of the temptations for some today is to take historical figures and make them into saints.  We either make people into saints or events into proofs of reverence.  For instance, I have seen books that seek to make the various Presidents (such as George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, or Ronald Reagan) into Christians.  Some seek to make the founding fathers of the United States into saints.  Others take events such as the American holiday, Thanksgiving, into Christian holidays.  Christmas is taught as a Christian holiday with roots even found in the Bible.  Even some historians try to make Civil War people into saints from Robert E. Lee to Grant, from Jefferson Davis to Lincoln and to events such as the Emancipation Proclamation as Christian moments.

In reality, history is full of sinners.  Sinners sin.  In the history of the world, there has been only one perfect person, the Lord Jesus Christ.  Jesus alone never sinned (2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 2:22).  Every other person born has sinned.  We are all guilty of sin whether it be a farmer living in present day Vietnam or a soldier who fought in the Civil War, we all are guilty before God.  There are no perfect people and history testifies to this fact.  From the barbarian acts of the Germans in World War II, the treatment of the people under communist rule in the former Soviet Union with their gulags, or to the treatment of the Indians by the white settlers here in the United States.  In fact, during World War II, Japan merely copied the plan of the whites in the United States in taking lands from the people of China and other southeast Asian nations.  The Japanese responded to American criticisms by pointing out the hypocrisy of the American government in their own treatment of the Indians and the Africans.  History is full of sin.

For the child of God, history shows us that despite the sinfulness of man, we see the sovereign hand of God.  God has not abandoned the world.  He is actively in control.  In the future, time will be no more and the Lord will reign forever and ever.  The history of Germany, England, France, Sudan, or India will not matter in eternity.  The people will.  The plan of God is to save all who call upon His name (Romans 10:13).  The gospel is to be preached to all people (Mark 16:15-16).  The gospel is able to deliver sinful people whether they be sinful people living in Kansas City or sinful people living in Moscow.  Paul wrote that Jesus came to save sinners (1 Timothy 1:15).  Jesus Himself said this was His mission, to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10).  We should not view people living in the United States or South Africa different from the poor sinners living in Iran or Haiti.  All people need the gospel.  None can be saved without the gospel.  Religion does not save.  Works do not save.  Being a “good” person does not save (Romans 3:23).  Only Jesus Christ and His sacrifice on the cross saves.  There is no hope for salvation apart from the grace of God in Christ Jesus (Romans 10:1-4).  This is why we must preach to all (Matthew 28:19) and to pray for all to be saved (1 Timothy 2:1-6).

I pray that you and I would do as much as we can for the lost.  Pray.  Give.  Evangelize.  Pass out gospel tracts.  Preach the gospel.  Share Jesus one-on-one.  You only have this one time on this planet and then you are dead and will stand before God (Hebrews 9:27-28).  Now is the time to be active in preaching the gospel.  The gospel, and not our heritage, will save sinners (John 3:13-18).  Now is the time for the Church to preach the gospel and allow the Holy Spirit to draw sinners to the Savior (John 6:44; 16:8-11).

Written by The Seeking Disciple

11/13/2013 at 4:29 PM

Philemon: A Case of Christianity and Its Power Upon Lives

American slavery ended the wrong way.  It ended with bloodshed and with violence.  It ended with whites in both the North and South turning on African-Americans.  The end of the Civil War saw the rise of racist groups such as the KKK and in turn the NAACP.  The terrible end to the slavery question in the United States gave rise to the Jim Crow era laws and would keep African-Americans in “chains” for another 100 years after the end of the Civil War.  The abolitionist movement was successful in getting both Abraham Lincoln elected and in turn passing the 14th Amendment which abolished slavery (with the Emancipation Proclamation before it) but they fueled racism for another 100 years and it is still with us to this day.

Philemon, however, shows how Christianity, when it is truly preached, changes relationships completely.  Tonight we studied Philemon with our boys in Royal Rangers.  Philemon, of course, was written by Paul the Apostle to his friend Philemon who was a dear brother in the Lord (vv. 4-7).  Philemon had a church meeting in his home (v. 2).  Philemon had a slave named Onesimus who had run away from his master.  At some point Onesimus heard the gospel and was saved under Paul (v. 10).  Under Roman law a runaway slave must be returned to his master or face the possibility of getting caught and possibly killed.  Until AD 20 in the Roman Empire, slaves had no rights but the Roman Senate passed a law that gave slaves the chance to purchase their freedom.  Onesimus had bypassed this and fled to Rome where Paul was in prison (v. 9).  Paul knew the law and was sending Onesimus back to his master but Paul pointed to the fact that Onesimus was now a brother in the Lord (vv. 15-16).  Paul asked Philemon to forgive Onesimus (vv.17-20).

Surely also Philemon would have heard of Paul’s teaching from Ephesians 6:5-9 which reads:

5 Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, 6 not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, 7 rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, 8 knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free. 9 Masters, do the same to them, and stop your threatening, knowing that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with him.

Notice the transformation of the relationships between saved masters and saved slaves.  Now we must also bear in mind that slavery in the Roman Empire was not based on race as it was in Europe and the United States.  Slavery was often good for many slaves in the Roman Empire but could equally be cruel as well.  The New Testament does not seek to abolish slavery by the power of men but rather through transformed relationships.  I would think that Onesimus’ relationship with his master, Philemon, was transformed by the gospel and would have been a happy situation for him.  Often slavery provided slaves with food, water, protection, shelter, and medicine.

I do think that slavery is best gone but true Christianity can break the chains of slavery unlike anything else.  The American Civil War is a case in point.  Sadly, the Civil War saw the rise of the State becoming the factor in moral issues.  Take abortion for example.  The Church too often looks to the State to end abortion.  It should learn from the abolitionist movement of the 19th century and see that the gospel is what will end abortion.  If abortion doctors and nurses get saved or if women in our culture hear the gospel and get saved, this transforms the culture.  The gospel can transform the world!  Jesus makes all things new (2 Corinthians 5:17).  The cultural ills we see in our culture from the sin of abortion to the sin of homosexuality will only end with the gospel being preached and people repenting of their sins.  The gospel can change our world.

The gospel changed both Philemon and Onesimus.  The gospel can change our world as well.  May we be faithful to preach the gospel and see the power of sin broken over people’s lives.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

08/22/2013 at 10:30 AM

History and the Bible

I am convinced that history and the Bible go hand in hand.  I have been reading Doug Wilson’s excellent book, Black & Tan: A Collection of Essays and Excursions on Slavery, Culture War, and Scripture in America.  The book focuses on the history of race in the United States.  I enjoy Dr. Wilson’s writing style, humor, and honesty.

In the beginning of the book, Wilson states that all preachers should be amateur historians.  I agree.  His reason is that we learn from history.  He asks questions like, “What is a Wesleyan?” or “What makes us separate from Rome?” or “Why do some churches go down front to be saved while others do not?”  He believes the answers are found in history.  One can make a defense from the Bible but we learn from history where we come from and why we are what we are.  He also points to the fact that the Bible is a history book.  The main focus of the Bible is the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ which was a historical event that transformed history forever.  Our love for Jesus begins with an event that happened in time and space.  Christianity finds its power not from the teachings of Jesus primarily but from a historical event, His resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:3-11, 17).  Peter likewise states in 2 Peter 1:16-21 that his focus begins in history with the Lord Jesus and His fulfillment of prophetic Scripture.  This took place in history so history must be important.

I love history.  Always have.  Last week my family and I ventured down to Charleston, SC (which is only about a 2 hour drive for us).  We spent most of our time at Sullivan’s Island which is where Fort Moultrie is.  Fort Moultrie was not just the site of the famous firing on Fort Sumter that launched the American Civil War in April 1861.  Fort Moultrie saw action and use in every American war until it was officially closed by the US Army in 1947.  We visited the site and found not just information about the Civil War but also how the Fort was used during WWII to help defend the Charleston harbor from German U-boats.  History has a way of coming alive when you visit famous sites such as Fort Moultrie or Fort Sumter or Plymouth rock in Massachusetts.  I have also visited several Civil War sites including Gettysburg, First Bull Run, and Montgomery.  I have visited Washington DC, Boston, New York City, Atlanta, and several other historical cities.  I love to read history but I love to see history.

When it comes to theology, history is important.  As Wilson stated above, how can we understand many of our denominations without studying revivals or divisions from whence they came.  I have been also reading Frank Bartleman’s account of the Azusa Street revival.  His account helps one to understand where the Pentecostals came from and why they believe what they believe.  When one looks at the various types of church government in the evangelical church such as elder led in the Presbyterian church or congregational led in the Baptist church, one need only look at where these movements came from and you’ll see that they often reflect the culture that they came from.

History informs us not just about movements but also practices.  From the altar call to the seeker movement, these are found in history and reflect the cultures in which they came from.  Even movements such as the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) find their roots in history.  They came forth during a time in American history when modernity was gripping the church.  The IFB is a reactionary movement that finds its roots in the early 20th century when Darwinian evolution and prohibition were sweeping the nation.  Men such as Billy Sunday became the leaders of the IFB along with men such as J. Frank Norris and William Jennings Bryant.  Sunday reflected the early IFB rages against modernity.  All of this comes from history and when you study this time period, you begin to see why the IFB is like it is today.  Why does, for example, the IFB practice what they call “biblical separation“?  History helps you to know.

I encourage you read and study history.  You’ll learn where you came from in the process.  You’ll learn about your culture and about your own values.  You’ll learn much about the Church and why she is the way that she is.  You’ll learn that all of history ultimately belongs to God who rules over history.  As Wilson points out about race issues, in Christ we begin to see that blacks are helpful to whites and whites are helpful to blacks but this must begin with Christ and Christ must be our focus.  Wilson believes, and I do too, that race cannot be helped or healed by history because history is full of hypocrisy on both sides but in Christ, we can begin to redeem history and show the world that Jesus makes all things new (2 Corinthians 5:17) and that in Jesus Christ, we are all one (Galatians 3:26-29).

Written by The Seeking Disciple

05/13/2013 at 4:11 PM

Confederate States Army Memorial Inscription

The following inscription is on the Monument to the Dead of the Confederate States Army in Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.

Not for fame or reward,
Not for place or for rank,
Not lured by ambition,
Or goaded by necessity,
But in simple
Obedience to Duty
As they understood it,
These men suffered all,
Sacrificed all,
Dared all – and died.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

02/18/2013 at 10:54 AM

Posted in Lessons from History

Tagged with ,

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