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Posts Tagged ‘Systematic Theology

Book Review: Exploring Christian Theology (Volume One)

Exploring Christian Theology (Volume One) by Nathan Holsteen and Michael Svigel.

This book is a solid work.  The authors are both graduates from Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS) and so I expected there to be a solid evangelical emphasis with a dispensational leaning.  This was not so (at least in the areas of theology they covered).  In this book, the authors cover the doctrines of revelation (how God has revealed Himself), Scripture (the inerrant and infallible Word of God given to us by inspiration of the Spirit), and the Triune God.  While I was going into this book thinking that the book would be written on a simple level (too simple were my thoughts going in), the book was actually very well done and the language, while not deeply theological for those who are just studying theology, was solid enough for even seminary level students to enjoy.

The authors do a good job at exploring two main ares in this book.  First the authors explore what the Bible says about a given subject.  For example, the authors first show what God has said in His Word about His own revelation.  Then the authors explore what Church history and others have to say about the subject at hand.  I appreciated the biblical background being the heart for the disciple of Christ.  The Bible is how we can speak for God (2 Timothy 3:16-17) and the Bible is faithful to reveal the truths we need for the Christian life.  One cannot begin theology or anything else in life without a solid foundation from the Word of God (Psalm 119:142).

The chapters are full of knowledge.  I appreciated the Scripture memory sections in each chapter that highlighted various passages of Scripture on the subject.  A disciple of Christ would do well to memorize these passages (John 8:31-32).  The authors also include charts throughout the book.  The charts often take complex issues and help the reader to see them clearly.  For example, the authors show the erroneous views of Christ by taking the major views of Christ throughout Church history and place them in a chart for one to read.  This makes it easy to see how various leaders have erred about Christ in the history of the Church.

Overall I am looking forward to reading the next editions to this work. While this book is not a deep systematic theology text, it is very good for the average disciple who just wants to know more about the faith.  I do recommend this book.

This review is based on a free copy of the book that was given to this reviewed from Bethany House Publishers.

The Kindle version is found here.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

11/26/2014 at 1:38 PM

The Assemblies of God and the Atonement

I read recently a Calvinist speaker who stated that the Assemblies of God held to moral government view regarding the atonement of Christ.  In reality, this is not true.  Granted, the Assemblies of God can be diverse in their views since the Sixteen Fundamental Truths of the Assemblies of God simply states that Christ is our substitute.  It does not define what is meant by that.  Yet in the official Assemblies of God theology text, Systematic Theology edited by Dr. Stanley Horton, the text clearly lays out why the Assemblies of God holds to a penal substitutionary view regarding the atonement.

In fact, the text states that the moral government view has its problems and lists them (p. 341).  To be fair, the text also states three main objections to the penal view (pp. 342-343).

I do wish the text-book spent more time on the atonement (and other theological issues) but the statement it makes regarding the atonement, no Arminian nor even Calvinists would have an issue.

The text then gives three aspects of Christ’s saving work.  They are:

  • Sacrifice for our sins.  In this is included propitiation.
  • Reconciliation (Romans 5:11).
  • Redemption (Mark 10:45; Romans 3:24).

The text then looks at the extent of the atonement.  In this, the Assemblies of God are Arminian.  The text, after examining various passages of Scripture showing the atonement to be for all people, concludes: “We conclude that the atonement is unlimited in the sense that it is available for all; it is limited in that it is effective only for those who believe.  It is available for all, but efficient only for the elect” (p. 354).

No Arminian should disagree with the above.  Clearly the Assemblies of God, from their theology text at least, are not to be associated with moral government theology.  While it might be true that some Assemblies of God pastors have taught the atonement from a moral government view, the stance of the official systematic theology text would stand for the penal substitutionary view while still recognizing that not all Christians even agree with that view.

How Should We Study Systematic Theology?

In his Systematic Theology book, Dr. Wayne Grudem offers the following points for disciples when studying systematic theology.  I believe they are worth repeating here.

1.  We Should Study Systematic Theology With Prayer (Psalm 119:18; 1 Corinthians 2:14; Ephesians 1:17-19).

2.  We Should Study Systematic Theology With Humility (1 Corinthians 8:1; James 1:19-20; 3:13, 17-18; 1 Peter 5:5).

3.  We Should Study Systematic Theology With Reason (Psalm 119:160; Mark 12:30).

4.  We Should Study Systematic Theology With Help From Others (1 Corinthians 12:28; Ephesians 4:11-16).

5.  We Should Study Systematic Theology by Collecting and Understanding All the Relevant Passages of Scripture on Any Topic (John 1:1-3).

6.  We Should Study Systematic Theology With Rejoicing and Praise (Deuteronomy 6:5; Psalm 19:14; 119:103, 111, 162; Romans 11:33-36)

Conclusion

I have met disciples who claimed that systematic theology was boring and a waste of time.  They would turn around and teach on prayer or any other subject and use the very methods they deplore by searching the Scriptures to see what God has revealed to us about prayer or the given subject.  We all do systematic theology whether we are a seasoned, educated disciple to the young disciple just baptized.  When you read your Bible and seek to know God’s ways, you are putting together various passages not at random but in order to know God and to hear His voice (Hebrews 12:25).  We should not view theology as boring but as that which sustains us when trials come our way (James 1:2-4).

Written by The Seeking Disciple

03/17/2012 at 5:00 PM

Posted in Theology

Tagged with ,

The Arminian Springboard

I have been reading Dr. Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology text and I must say that I have been enjoying what I read.  Once again I am struck by how much we classical Arminians have in common with our Calvinist brethren when it comes to theology.  We are much closer than we like to realize.  First cousins would surely apply here.  We must remember that Arminius studied under Beza, the successor of Calvin in Geneva and Calvin’s son-in-law.  Arminius was a Calvinist theologian until he was commissioned by the Calvinists in Geneva to combat the theology of the Anabaptists.  Through his own studies, Arminius became convinced of the errors of Beza.  He still had high regard for Calvin and even noted this about Calvin’s commentaries:

Next to the study of the Scriptures which I earnestly inculcate, I exhort my pupils to peruse Calvin’s Commentaries, which I extol in loftier terms than Helmich himself [a Dutch divine, 1551–1608]; for I affirm that he excels beyond comparison in the interpretation of Scripture, and that his commentaries ought to be more highly valued than all that is handed down to us by the library of the fathers; so that I acknowledge him to have possessed above most others, or rather above all other men, what may be called an eminent spirit of prophecy. His Institutes ought to be studied after the [Heidelberg] Catechism, as containing a fuller explanation, but with discrimination, like the writings of all men.

Arminius believed that the problem was that Calvinists of his day were preaching the catechism without first regarding what Scripture has to say.  In other words, the final question for doctrine was not “what does the Scriptures teach?” but instead it was, “what does the catechism teach.”  Arminius wanted the Synod of Dort to establish that Scripture was to be the final authority and that if the catechism is found in error, we should be willing to change the catechism to reflect sound doctrine.  Few in his day were able to stand against his knowledge and ability to debate the Scriptures.  His early death prevented him from being able to argue at the Synod of Dort and the rest they say is history.

I do take exception early on in my reading with Grudem however.  He notes in passing that if we begin our systematic theology study of salvation with the sovereignty of God, we will no doubt end up Calvinists.  If we begin our studies with the free will of mankind, we will end up as Arminians.  I disagree.  I believe that this is a typical view of Arminianism, they we hold first and foremost to libertarian free will and thus we end up teaching what we teach about God, Jesus, salvation, and man.  This, I believe, is a wrong view of Arminius.  Arminius noted the following in regard to predestination:

1. The first in order of the divine decrees is not that of predestination, by which God foreordained to supernatural ends, and by which he resolved to save and to condemn, to declare his mercy and his punitive justice, and to illustrate the glory of his saving grace, and of his wisdom and power which correspond with that most free grace.

2. The object of predestination to supernatural ends, to salvation and death, to the demonstration of the mercy and punitive justice, or of the saving grace, the wisdom, and the most free power of God, is not rational creatures indefinitely foreknown, and capable of salvation, of damnation, of creation, of falling, and of reparation or of being recovered.

3. Nor is the subject some particular creatures from among those who are considered in this manner.

4. The difference between the vessels to honour and those to dishonour, that is, of mercy and wrath, does not appertain to the adorning or perfection of the universe or of the house of God.

5. The entrance of sin into the world does not appertain to the beauty of the universe.

6. Creation in the upright state of original righteousness is not a means for executing the decree of predestination, or of election, or of reprobation.

7. It is horrid to affirm, that “the way of reprobation is creation in the upright state of original righteousness;” (Gomarus, in his Theses on Predestination;) and in this very assertion are propounded two contrary volitions of God concerning one and the same thing.

8. It is a horrible affirmation, that “God has predestinated whatsoever men he pleased not only to damnation, but likewise to the causes of damnation.” (Beza, vol. I, fol. 417.)

9. It is a horrible affirmation, that “men are predestinated to eternal death by the naked will or choice of God, without any demerit on their part.” (Calvin, Inst. l. I, c. 2, 3.)

10. This, also, is a horrible affirmation: “Some among men have been created unto life eternal, and others unto death eternal.”

11. It is not a felicitous expression, that “preparation unto destruction is not to be referred to any other thing, than to the secret counsel of God.”

12. Permission for the fall [of Adam] into sin, is not the means of executing the decree of predestination, or of election, or of reprobation.

13. It is an absurd assertion, that “the demerits of the reprobate are the subordinate means of bringing them onward to destined destruction.”

14. It is a false assertion, that “the efficient and sufficient cause and matter of predestination are thus found in those who are reprobated.”

15. The elect are not called “vessels of mercy” in the relation of means to the end, but because mercy is the only moving cause, by which is made the decree itself of predestination to salvation.

16. No small injury is inflicted on Christ as mediator, when he is called “the subordinate cause of destined salvation.”

17. The predestination of angels and of men differ so much from each other, that no property of God can be prefixed to both of them unless it be received in an ambiguous acceptation.

Notice that Arminius did not start this with a view of free will.  He begins with the nature of God.  In his writings, Arminius often would begin with the authority of the Scriptures and then move to the doctrine of God.  It was his view of God that led him to reject the Calvinist view of unconditional election.  I don’t doubt that free will does come into factor in Arminius’ view.  But this is after he has established his view that God is first loving toward all of His creation and from this, the love of God for the world, we find Him granting humans free will.

Arminius then begins his theology with the love of God.  In no way does Arminius reject the sovereignty of God.  He affirms it over and over again.  He states this about the creation of mankind:

God can make of his own whatsoever he wills. But he does not will, neither can he will, to make of that which is his own whatever it is possible for him to make according to his infinite and absolute power.

Concerning the free will issue and God’s sovereignty, Arminius wrote,

The infinite wisdom and power of God, by which he knows and is able out of darkness to bring light, and to produce good out of evil. (Gen. i, 2, 3; 2 Cor. iv, 6.) God therefore permits that which He does permit, not in ignorance of the powers and the inclination of rational creatures, for he knows them all, not with reluctance, for he could have refrained from producing a creature that might possess freedom of choice, not as being incapable of hindering, for we have already seen by how many methods he is able to hinder both the capability and the will of a rational creature; not as if at ease, indifferent, or negligent of that which is transacted, because before anything is done he already [“has gone through”] has looked over the various actions which concern it, and, as we shall subsequently see, [§ 15-22,] he presents arguments and occasions, determines, directs, punishes and pardons sin. But whatever God permits, He permits it designedly and willingly, His will being immediately occupied about its permission, but His permission itself is occupied about sin; and this order cannot be inverted without great peril.

So I contend that Arminius doesn’t begin his theology with a focus on the free will of man but instead the doctrine of God.  And I contend further that Arminius doesn’t begin his soteriology with a focus on the free will of man but on the infinite love of God given toward us in Christ Jesus (Romans 5:8-9).

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