Arminian Today

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Posts Tagged ‘Open Air Preaching

Should Arminianism or Calvinism Be An Issue For Unity?

I want to say from the beginning that I enjoy various Calvinist blogs, podcasts, and ministries.  My wife and I have financially supported a few Calvinist ministries now and again.  I have no trouble praying, worshiping, fellowshipping, and even evangelizing with my Calvinist brethren.  I would stand with my Calvinist friends to defend the gospel, to defend key doctrines such as the inerrancy of the Bible, and I would stand with my Calvinist brethren to preach the gospel.  I have no ill will toward my Calvinist friends.  I simply believe they are wrong in their starting point for their theology though I regard them as brothers and sisters in the Lord.

If I had a larger ministry context, I would not exclude Calvinists from my group.  I would love to have a ministry that reaches people with the gospel much like Ray Comfort’s Living Waters or Paul Washer’s Heart Cry Missionary Society.  In Ray Comfort’s ministry, it is well known that both Arminians and Calvinists have served together with one another.  There has been unity even in the midst of theological disagreements.  The reason is simple: the gospel is not about Arminianism or Calvinism.  One can be an Arminian or a Calvinist and be lost.  This is clear from our churches were people attend but are lost.  There are many people who would claim to be an Arminian or a Calvinist but are not saved.  Salvation is not an ism.  Salvation is found in the living Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 1:30-31).  Salvation is found in Jesus alone (John 1:12-13; 14:6; Acts 4:12; 1 Timothy 2:5-6).  Salvation is not agreeing with facts about Jesus (James 2:19).  Salvation is loving Jesus and worshiping Him alone for His saving work on the cross (John 14:21-24; 1 John 2:3-6).

In fact, Calvinist Tony Miano wrote this when he was part of Living Waters ministry:

Silence by Living Waters regarding various theological or philosophical issues should not be seen as a position in favor or against those various theological or philosophical issues. And all members of the Living Waters staff are free to believe, study, worship, and fellowship according to their personal convictions and preferences, without compromising their deeply held spiritual beliefs, so long as those beliefs, convictions, and preferences are consistent with the ministry’s Statement of Faith.

This was part of a blog post Miano did on Living Waters and whether they are “anti-Pentecostal.”  While Miano admitted he was not a Pentecostal, he stated his love for them and the fact that they had a few Pentecostals working at Living Waters.  He also wrote this about Arminianism:

A Christian can be a non-Calvinist without being anti-Calvinist in their doctrinal positions; just as a Christian can be a non-Arminian without being anti-Arminian.

I agree with Tony Miano here.  I agree that one can be a non-Calvinist and not be anti-Calvinist.  That would describe myself and so many other Arminians I know.  I am not against my Calvinist brethren but I am not a fan of Calvinism.  I can read Calvinist books, pray with Calvinist saints, preach with my Calvinist brothers, and yet not agree with Calvinism.  Why?  Because Calvinism is the not the gospel.  Jesus doesn’t save Calvinists nor does He save Arminians.  Jesus saves sinners (Luke 19:10; 1 Timothy 1:15).

Yet Miano recently stated in his blog talk radio program that Arminianism is the problem with the American church.  He blamed the “sinner’s prayer” and altar calls on the Arminianism of the 19th century here in the United States.  He went on to rant that Arminianism is one of the unbiblical problems in the American church (along with some other things).

I have watched this slowly developing in my brother Tony.  I am not like some who will call Tony a liar nor will I berate him as a sinner.  I love Tony Miano and love his work for the Lord.  I appreciate his heart to preach the gospel to the lost.  I appreciate his service for the King.  I don’t agree with Tony on every issue.  His Calvinism is often where we disagree.  That said, I appreciate him as a brother.  I would ask he do the same toward me and other Arminians.

What I would like to say to Tony (and other Calvinists) is this: read Arminians.  I wonder when Calvinists attack Arminians, have they read the Works of Arminius?  Have they read any Arminian theologians such as Adam Clarke, Vic Reasoner, or Roger Olson?  Do they know the Arminian Puritan John Goodwin?  Have they read the writings or sermons of John Wesley?  Do they know that Whitefield said that Wesley did evangelism better than he did for Wesley put his converts into bands or small groups?  When was the last time they had meaningful time with Arminian brothers and sisters and talked about theology with them?

The fact is that if brother Tony had read Arminius or the works of Arminians he would see that what he berates as sloppy American evangelicalism does not come from Arminius nor the Arminians of the 19th century but rather from the semi-Pelagianism of Charles Finney.  While many Calvinists try to make Finney an Arminian, he was not.  I would admit that many Arminian churches fell prey to Finney’s theology at the turn of the 20th century and sadly many Arminian churches today look more like Finney than like Wesley.  Dr. Vic Reasoner in his excellent two-volume work, Holy Livingshows that Finney’s theology does not reflect the teachings of Arminius nor Wesley regarding salvation, sin, holiness, etc.  I recommend the book.

I appreciate my open air brethren who happen to be Calvinist.  I would appreciate if they take the time to read Arminians.  I suspect many will not because they have begun with a presupposition in mind and that is that Arminianism equals man-centered theology, that Arminianism equals heresy, or that Arminianism is not God-exalting theology.  All of this is false.  I confess that Arminian books are not as easy to find as Calvinist books but they are there.  I would appreciate them reading Arminius or reading Wesley and seeing that the current state of the American church has nothing to do with Arminius or Wesley but with the teachings of Finney.

Let me end by asking my Calvinist brothers to not do one thing and that is draw a line in the sand with Calvinism being the gospel.  I heard Jeff Rose from Jeremiah Cry (a ministry I support and appreciate again in spite of their Calvinism) saying that he was going to start making a call for people to abandon all forms of theology but Calvinism to work with them.  I ask why?  If Calvinism is not the issue?  If Calvinism does not save?  If Calvin was but a man who saved no one?  Why do this?  Why make Calvinism a gospel issue?

Let us return to the gospel.  Let us return to preaching the gospel and uniting around the fact that the blood of Jesus saves us from the wrath to come (1 Thessalonians 1:10).  Let us draw near to God through the Lord Jesus Christ through His precious blood (Hebrews 9:14).

Written by The Seeking Disciple

02/16/2015 at 12:24 PM

When We Think About Open Air Preaching

There are many thoughts that may run through a person’s mind when I say, “open air preaching.”  Some contend that this is not for today, that our society is beyond wanting to hear preaching (which means “raised voice”).  Others feel that we should keep religion a private matter, that the church should be the place someone should go to hear preaching and the church should not go out to preach in the streets.  Some contend that open air preaching pushes people away from Christ instead of toward Him (a point I have blogged on before).  Others feel that we should do more “helps” instead of preaching in order to show people the love of God.

However, I think a simple way to look at open air preaching is not to imagine the crazy man screaming at folks who happen to walk by nor should we envision a man fighting the crowds as he screams about the sins of the society but we should view evangelism as the biblical mandate to simply preach Christ as Lord (2 Corinthians 4:5).  The Bible is clear that we are to be witnesses for Christ (Matthew 28:19) and contrary to some views, we are to actually open our mouths and share the gospel with the lost (Romans 10:14-17).  The gospel is communicated (Acts 1:8; 5:20; 8:4; etc.).  Paul is clear in 1 Corinthians 1:21 that God is faithful to save people though the foolishness of preaching.  This doesn’t mean that we must be foolish in our preaching but rather the gospel itself will seem foolish to our hearers apart from the work of the Spirit to open their ears to the truth (1 Corinthians 2:14)

So when we consider open air preaching let us consider two things.  First, the gospel must be communicated.  So is the gospel being communicated?  In some cases, open air preaching is not preaching the gospel but merely agitating the crowds.  The gospel is not “God hates ______” but rather the gospel is the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).  Secondly, the gospel calls people to repentance.  This is clear in the words of Jesus in Mark 1:15; Luke 13:5; 24:47.  The Apostles preached repentance in Acts 2:38; 3:19; 5:31; 17:30; 20:21.  Repentance is not merely saying “I’m sorry” for my sins but a complete change of mind and heart toward God.  True repentance requires the work of the Spirit (2 Timothy 2:25).

I have heard both the crazy open air preachers who seem to just want to make the crowds mad and then proclaim they are being persecuted when the crowds reject them.  Yet I have seen true open air preaching where the gospel is preached and yes people get angry because the gospel is offensive (1 Corinthians 1:18).  Our jobs must be to proclaim Christ.  I don’t mind if a person is not an open air preacher so long as they preach Christ.  Do you preach Christ when you feed the poor?  Do you preach Christ when you give money to someone?  Do you preach Christ when you build a person a shelter?  The gospel must be heard to be believed.  I don’t doubt good works open the door for this but preach Christ and allow the gospel to save sinners.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

11/28/2014 at 11:40 AM

What I Would Like To Hear from Calvinists in Evangelism

I recently watched a video of what evangelism would be like for Mormons if in fact they told their hearers just what Mormons believe about Jesus Christ, the plurality of gods, exaltation to godhood, etc.

Yet this got me thinking about my Calvinist friends who go out evangelizing.  Granted, we both share a passion for the lost.  I rejoice in that.  I praise God for my Calvinist brethren who are out on the streets preaching the gospel to the lost.  I rejoice in Calvinist ministries that are devoted to world missions or to church planting or to preaching to the lost.  That blesses me.

However, what if Calvinist were honest about their theology in their preaching.  I am not saying that Calvinists lie when they share the gospel.  They don’t.  They preach what I preach and other Arminians before me.  They preach the truth that Jesus shed His blood that we might be saved by grace through faith.  Yet they will avoid certain sayings such as “Jesus shed His blood for you” because they just don’t know that.  They won’t tell a person that God loves them because its possible God does not love them and in fact it is possible (and highly likely) that God created them for the very purpose of destroying them in hell for His glory (Romans 9:22-23 according to Calvin).  I have never heard a Calvinist evangelist preach to sinners passing by that they cannot hear him unless they are the elect (John 10:27-29).  I have never heard a Calvinist evangelist preach limited atonement publicly before (the teaching that Christ died only for the elect).  I have never heard a Calvinist exhorting sinners that they are totally unable to come to Christ and repent of their sins apart from God regenerating them first.  I have yet to hear a Calvinist evangelist preaching “have faith now that you have been born again” yet Calvinism teaches that regeneration precedes faith.

In fact, Calvinists preach like Arminians.  They call sinners to repent (though Calvinism teaches that one can never be free from sin).  They call sinners to faith in Christ (a gift from God given only to His elect though they don’t tell sinners that).  They call sinners to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ while leaving out that it is likely Jesus did not die for them.  They preach that sinners will go to hell for their own sins though they fail to tell them that God predestined them before time began even before they had a chance to even do anything evil and it was God’s own sovereign choice to condemn them to hell.  They fail to preach that God ordains whatsoever comes to pass including all sins so that sinners are doing what God wills for them to do by their sinning.

Don’t get me wrong, I have labored with Calvinists for souls before.  Again, I rejoice that Calvinists are often wonderfully inconsistent in their evangelism.  They will even use Arminian phrases.  For example, I heard one Calvinist street preaching and telling the crowd that Jesus loved them by shedding His blood for them.  That is not Calvinism!  That is Arminianism!  If I preach that Jesus shed His blood for sinners, I am preaching my own theology (2 Corinthians 5:14-15)!  When I exhort sinners to repent of their sins, I am preaching my theology because I believe the Holy Spirit works through the gospel to draw sinners to the Savior but He allows the sinner to respond out of their freed will (Acts 2:37-38, 41; 17:30-31; 2 Corinthians 5:18-6:2).  When I preach that Christ is sufficient for sinners to be saved, I am preaching the unlimited atonement of Christ that Scripture clearly teaches (1 Timothy 2:3-6; 4:10; Titus 2:11-12; 1 John 2:1-2).  When I preach the universal love of God for the world by the cross (John 3:16-18; Romans 5:8-9; 1 John 4:9-10, 14), I am preaching my own theology.  When I tell sinners that God will judge them for their own sins, I am preaching the truths of my own theology (Ezekiel 18:4, 31; Romans 2:6; 6:23; 2 Corinthians 5:9-10; Hebrews 9:27-28; Revelation 20:15; 21:7-8).

I don’t want to discourage Calvinists from preaching the gospel.  I do want them to preach their theology to the lost.  I want to hear the doctrine of unconditional election preached to the lost.  I want to hear divine determinism preached to the lost.  I want to hear limited atonement preached to the lost.  One Calvinist blogger wrote that Jesus did preach Calvinism in John 6 to the lost.  I have yet to hear a Calvinist evangelist end his preaching to the lost by saying, “Only those who repent are truly the elect of God” (a point I would agree with).  They simply end by pleading with the lost to come to faith in Christ and be saved when in fact they should be preaching, “Those of you who are regenerated, come to faith in Christ as proof of your divine election.”

Thank God that Arminianism preaches well.

Disarming Arguments Against Evangelism (Part 2)

This is part of a series of posts on this subject.  You can find the first post here.

Does it work?  This is the question that I often hear from pragmatic leaders in churches.  They want to know if the evangelism method I aspire works.  In other words, does it produce numbers?  Does it get people coming to my church?  Will my money increase?  Well they don’t ask this but this is the underlining motive I fear.  Numbers, sadly, are equated with success.  If your church draws large crowds, you must be doing something right.  In our day, churches do not revolve around doctrine but around methodology.  I know of Pentecostal churches that were planted and based off Reformed Calvinistic models and yet because the Reformed church has had success, doctrine is not an issue.  I know of other church leaders willing to travel to listen to T.D. Jakes or Creflo Dollar since they have large success and no one questions their faulty theology simply because of numbers.

Sadly, I also have had people bash certain forms of evangelism because, to them, “it doesn’t work.”  Take open air preaching.  I enjoy open air preaching.  I am nervous when I do it.  I fear more than anything that my words may not glorify God.  I want to honor Christ when I preach to the masses.  One brother was asked how many people had he led to Christ preaching in the open air and his response was great, “All of them.  I always lead people to Christ by exalting Him as Lord and Savior.”  Great answer.  True open air preaching should be focused on exalting Christ and lifting up the wonderful salvation that God has given to us in His Son.  In Acts 5, the angel gave instructions to the Apostles what to preach in verse 20.  This led to gospel conversations in verse 25.  Open air preaching should point people to Christ and hopefully produce one-on-one gospel conversations that could lead to someone repenting of their sins.

Yet how often do people criticize open air preaching!  Sure I have seen the “anger preachers” preaching in the open air.  They attack sinners by name and often will point out things from afar.  I know of one brother in the Lord who had longer hair.  He truly loved the Lord Jesus and was seeking Him.  While walking across a university campus he heard someone yelling, “Hey hippie, cut your hair you sinner.”  He turned to see an angry open air preacher pointing at him.  When he responded, “I love the Lord Jesus brother.”  The man replied that no true Christian man would have hair like a woman and proceeded on with his “sermon.”  This bothered my friend much that this man had judged him merely by what he saw and not by his heart.

The faithful open air preacher should preach both law and grace.  Ray Comfort teaches that we should preach “law to the proud, grace to the humble.”  The law of the Lord brings conviction of sin (Romans 7:7) and the law also humbles the proud and self-righteous (Romans 3:19-20).  Jesus used the law to humble the rich man in Luke 18:18-24.  Jesus used the law on the woman at the well in John 4:16-18.  Yet Paul used grace in Acts 16:30-34 with the Philippian jailer.  We should allow the Spirit of God to help us discern where people are when witnessing to them.  It is actually easy to see who is proud and who is humble when you begin witnessing to someone.

My point in all this is not to simply lift up open air preaching.  It is just one method.  The disciple of Christ can have various methods in evangelism but don’t make excuses for not sharing your faith.  Don’t say in your heart, “Well, I don’t like that so I won’t do that.”  Your pride may keep you from sharing your faith at all.  Certainly, there are methods I don’t like.  That doesn’t keep me from sharing my faith.  I want to obey Christ as Lord (John 14:15) and He said to go and make disciples (Matthew 28:19).  The heart of God is for the lost (John 3:16).  That should be our hearts as well (Romans 10:1).  We are called to imitate Christ (1 John 2:6) who said He came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10).  That should be our heart as well.  Whether you pass out tracts, hold up a cross at a busy intersection, preach in the open air, one-on-one witnessing, doing good works for people to preach the gospel to them, etc. we all should be preaching the gospel to the lost.  Any form of evangelism that doesn’t preach the gospel is not evangelism!  The copout for the American church seems to be either friendship evangelism (in which people never share the gospel) or the social gospel where they feed the poor, clothe people, build houses, etc. but never share the truth of the cross.  How tragic that people will die and go to hell while Christians never bothered to share the truth of the gospel with them!  How tragic that people will go to hell who we helped but didn’t really help!

My earnest prayer to God is that the Church would exalt the Lord Jesus in our evangelism.  The focus should not be numbers.  The focus should be on discipleship (Matthew 28:20; Acts 2:41-42).  Don’t make excuses for not sharing your faith.  Don’t be lazy.  Don’t be full of self-righteousness and pride.  Go out and share the gospel with a lost sinner.  Remember the words of Paul the Apostle in Romans 10:14-17.  How can your lost sinful neighbors, co-workers, family members, etc. ever know the gospel if they don’t hear the gospel?  Don’t be lazy thinking that they will hear from TV or from the radio.  Be bold and share your faith.

May the kingdom of God come (Matthew 6:10) and may we all be fishers of men (Matthew 4:19)!

Let the Gospel Upset People, Not Us

There is no denying that the gospel makes people upset.  I have watched it with my own eyes as I explained the gospel to a lost person and then they turn into this ugly, ranting, mean-spirited person who hates God and hates the gospel.  Up until I explained the law of God, they were pretty nice to me and were cordial but when I begin to explain the justice of God Almighty in pouring out His wrath on humans who violate His just laws, it was here they turned on me.  People hate the gospel and more than that, they hate the God of the Bible (Romans 1:18-19).

With this in mind, I pray that we who preach the gospel to the lost would remember that people can get upset with the gospel or with God but let it be because of the truth of the gospel and not us that make them mad.  In other words, yelling a person or simply calling them names is not befitting for the disciple.  I seek to be a 2 Timothy 2:24-26 model when it comes to evangelism.  2 Timothy 2:24-26 reads (NIV):

24 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. 25 Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.

Notice verse 25.  Opponents are to be gently instructed.  This is not yelling at them.  Pointing a finger at them.  Accusing them.  This is preaching the gospel to the them in grace and love.  1 Peter 3:15-16 (NIV) expounds:

15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.

Notice that Peter the Apostle says that we are to give our answer for the gospel with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience.  And he adds that people are to see our good behavior in Christ.  I pray that the crowds who hear us preach in the open air would see our good behavior in Christ as we deal with mockers.  I pray that those whom we give out tracts to would see our gentleness and respect.  I pray that those who are offended would be offended at the gospel and not at us.

Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 1:21 that God saves people through the folly of what we preach.  Let that be true.  May it not that people see us as the folly by our actions.  They may think the gospel foolish and they may think we are foolish for preaching, handing out tracts, standing with a cross, etc. but let it be the gospel that they find foolish and perhaps our actions for the gospel but not our own foolishness in our yelling, hurling insults, etc.

I write this because I rejoice that so many people are now rising up to preach the gospel in the open air.  There are more street preachers today than ever.  More people are going out to hand out tracts.  I rejoice that there are many people who are becoming passionate to share the gospel with the lost.  But let it be that our hearts are broken for the lost (Romans 10:1) and that our burden comes from the Lord (Matthew 9:37-38).  Let it not be our pride that drives us out to preach.  Let it not be our own self-righteousness that drives us out to preach.  Let us plead with the lost through tears.  Let us preach the gospel and leave the results to the Lord.  Let us exalt Christ and not ourselves in our preaching and pleading (2 Corinthians 4:5).  Oh may people leave our preaching angry at God or angry at the gospel but let them not take offense because of our actions toward them!  Let us preach the gospel remembering that we too once were just as lost, just as dead in our sins, just as blinded as they are now (2 Corinthians 4:4; Titus 3:1-3).  It was the mercy of God that saved us (Ephesians 2:4).  Take no pride in your salvation but humble yourself before the Lord (Romans 11:20-22).  Remember your chains that He broke off.  Don’t allow pride to rob you of exalting Christ even in the midst of harsh opposition to the gospel (1 Peter 4:12-19).

On Preaching to the Jehovah’s Witnesses

I had the honor to go with another brother to preach to the Jehovah’s Witnesses who are in town for their convention at our local arena.  This is attended by several thousand JW’s.  We set up right in front of the arena on the public sidewalk to preach to the people as they went inside.  We preached on salvation by grace through faith, justification, repentance toward God, repentance from dead works and works righteousness which can never obtain salvation, and we preached that Jesus is God.  I preached from the JW’s own New World Translation on how Isaiah 9:6 calls Jesus “the mighty God” and then in Isaiah 10:20-21 it says that the Jews will return to Jehovah who is the “mighty God.”  So the Jews would be returning to Jesus Himself who is the mighty God!

Overall I thought our open air preaching went well.  Ironically none of the JW’s would ever stop to talk to us.  Here we were on their turf yet they wanted to just run from us to get to the convention.  They will go door-to-door but when two lost souls appear at their own convention, they ignore us.  If they had the true gospel you figure they would want to correct us and show us our faults and errors and convince us that we need to be in Jehovah’s organization so we are not doomed in the battle of Armageddon.  But they didn’t.  Not one JW even tried to talk to us.  In fact, the JW leadership sent two men out to make sure that no one did stop to talk to us. They stood nearby and said to the JW’s coming in, “Just keep moving.  Don’t stop.  Keep moving.”

I cried out, “Think for yourselves JW’s!  Can you do that?  Can you think for yourselves or  do you have to depend on the Watchtower to think for you?  Read your Bible, not the Watchtower or Awake magazines!  Think for yourselves and flee this wicked organization.”  I pointed out that the Watchtower was wrong about Christ coming in 1914.  They were wrong about Him coming in 1925.  They were wrong about Him coming in 1975.  How can anyone trust such an organization that has lied and misled so many people?

We preached to several hundred JW’s.  I pray that the Lord saves them by His grace.  2 Corinthians 4:4 was true of the JW’s.  They are self-righteous and believe that their faith in Jehovah plus what they do (they call it exercising faith) is what will allow them to escape Armageddon.  They spend hours going door-to-door but they are not preaching the gospel (though they claim they alone are the only ones fulfilling Matthew 24:14).  But their gospel is not the gospel at all.  Their “good news” is that we can inherit paradise on planet earth as part of the great crowd of Revelation 7:9 if we are part of Jehovah’s “faithful and discreet slave” in the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society.  This is not the gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).  In fact, it is a false gospel (Galatians 1:6-9) that preaches salvation by works and preaches that Jesus is not in fact the Lord God but is Michael, an angel, a created being of Jehovah.

Our only conversation we had was with one God-hater who stopped to question why we were out preaching to the JW’s.  He was a college student and proceeded to try to question our faith in God whereas he had faith in science.  I spoke with Jason for a few minutes but saw that he was merely there to argue with me and wanted no dialogue whatsoever.  I told him that he knew there was a God but he simply loved his sin and refused to repent (Romans 1:18-19).  I warned him of the wrath to come and that he has no hope if he is not found in Christ.  I then moved on.

I pray that 2 Corinthians 4:5 was true of us.  I pray that the Lord will take the Word preached and open the JW’s heart to His grace.  They have no peace with God.  They know they deserve His wrath.  They know that they are still living in sin and have denied the gospel.  They know that Jesus is not an angel but He is much more and is the coming judge of all (Hebrews 9:28).  They know that they will not survive Armageddon for they can’t do enough to please Jehovah.  Pray for God to save these lost souls (Luke 19:10).

Written by The Seeking Disciple

06/22/2014 at 10:40 AM

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