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Posts Tagged ‘Theological Issues

Why Do Arminians Exist?

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I was listening to a podcast and the brother quoted a Calvinist as saying that the most difficult question he has about Calvinism is why do Arminians exist?  If Calvinism is true, if it is true that God must open our eyes to the truths of Calvinism and that the truths of Calvinism are something that comes by divine revelation and by the sovereign decree of God, why does God allow Arminians to exist?  Why are there any non-Calvinists?

The answer for Calvinists is that God, for His glory, allows Arminians to exist and to preach false doctrines.  This would also be true of cults, heretics, and all non-Calvinists.  The only way to understand this is to appeal to mystery or to Deuteronomy 29:29.

The answer for Arminians and non-Calvinists is to point to the fallen world that we live in and to free will.  God allows people to read the Bible and to use their minds to interpret His Word.  The gospel is clear.  Even Calvinists would acknowledge that many non-Calvinists are saved albeit by inconsistent theology.  I have heard Dr. James White refer to this view many times.  I believe that Calvinism exists because God has given the world a certain amount of freedom.

In the end, I would pray that non-Calvinists and Calvinists would love each other.  This is the command of Jesus (John 13:34-35).

Positions I Don’t Think Are Necessarily Heretical (Maybe Though)

“He is a heretic” is a common phrase thrown around by many who love theology.  I have seen people named a heretic for simple disagreements over end times views.  I myself have been called a heretic because I reject the teaching of the rapture of the Church.  I have been called a heretic for rejecting Calvinism.  I have been called a heretic once by a charismatic because I reject the “laughter movement” of the 1990’s.  The term “heretic” is thrown around too much in my opinion.

And no doubt this has been true at times in Church history.  The Anabaptists were severely persecuted by Martin Luther and the Reformers.  Luther stands before the Diet of Worms and gives his famous stand for the Word of God only to turn around four years later and condemned the Anabaptists to death for their views on baptism.  The Anabaptists were largely hated by the Reformers though the Reformers preached that we should test all things by the Word of God (1 Thessalonians 5:21).  What was the main “heresy” of the Anabaptists?  Baptism of believers by immersion.  The term “Anabaptist” was applied to them because the term means “two baptisms” because the Reformers stood with Roman Catholicism in agreeing with infant baptism and thus condemned the Anabaptists for re- baptizing adults whom the Reformers saw as already baptized because of their infant baptism.

In our day baptism is not so much the issue.  Most Reformed who hold to infant baptism (and even some Arminians as Arminius held to infant baptism) reject that we should kill those who baptize by immersion.  They also reject that those who hold to believer’s baptism would be heretics and vise versa.  There is peace there in this debate.

Yet there are positions that some hold to be heretical that I don’t consider necessarily heretical.  I might not agree but I don’t think that there are heretics nonetheless.  I once did in some cases.  Years ago I use to view myself as the orthodox believer and all others had to fall in line.  Not so now.  After dealing with my own sins, I see my need for God’s forgiveness and grace and I see that I fall terribly short in many ways.  I need reforming myself and I praise God for His grace towards me (1 Timothy 1:15).  I rejoice that perfect theology is not the standard for salvation.  Who could be saved?  The standard is you must know you’re a sinner and see your need for a Savior.  That is me (Luke 19:10).  “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:17 KJV).

So what positions do I know see as non-heretical though I might not agree with them.

Calvinism – A few hold that Calvinism is heretical.  I don’t.  I see them as my brothers and sisters in the Lord and greatly love my Calvinists friends and family.  Some of my favorite preachers and teachers and theologians are reformed.

Open Theism – Though I am not an open theist, I don’t believe that all open theists are heretics.  They are wresting with the mystery of divine omniscience and how this works in a free world.  By the way, Calvinism wrestles with the same issue though they go the opposite of the open theist.

Conditional Immortality – This is the position that rejects eternal conscience torment in hell.  I know a few brothers who condemn brothers who reject eternal conscience torment in eternal hell as heretics but this should not be the case.  Men such as Edward Fudge have wrestled with the texts and reject eternal conscience torment while maintaining salvation as a gracious gift from our eternal God.

Original Sin – I know brothers who reject the doctrine of original sin.  Most Arminians reject the Calvinist teaching on original sin yet I know some who reject the teaching altogether and believe that babies are born sinless while born into a sinful world.  While I can see how this teaching could lead to perfectionism teachings, I don’t believe these brothers are rejecting original sin because they have not searched the Scriptures.  I am somewhere in-between on this teaching and aligned more with inheriting a sinful nature from Adam while not inheriting Adam’s sin.

Infant Baptism – I hold to believer’s (or better Christian) baptism by immersion but I don’t reject those who disagree with me as heretics.  I know of godly Arminians who hold to infant baptism and love them as brothers.  We all agree that salvation is based on the finished work of Jesus Christ and not in our works (Titus 3:5-7).

KJV Only – While I completely disagree with the KJV only camp, I know some godly men who preach the gospel while holding firmly to the KJV.  By the way, I even know a Reformed brother who would qualify as a KJV only follower but he is not extreme and loves the Lord Jesus.  The truth is that Jesus saves us by His grace (Ephesians 2:1-9) and not by our Bible translations.  I was saved using the NIV.  Others have been saved using the KJV.  God saves us by the gospel (Romans 1:16-17) and not by our Bible translation though I do believe a good Bible translation is vital (for example the erroneous New World Translation of the JW’s though I read a testimony of a brother who was saved even by the NWT).

Soul Sleep – I know some brothers who hold to soul sleep.  These are not Seventh-Day Adventists but actually Reformed brothers who hold to this view.  While I am not sure on the doctrine, I don’t believe a person is a heretic for this view.

Perfectionism – I know a few brothers who hold that they don’t sin anymore.  One guy boasted on Facebook that he had not sinned in like 22 years.  While I think that this view is really stupid (yes just stupid), I praise God that He saves us from ourselves by His grace.  I once held mildly to this view.  I completely reject it now.  That said, I don’t think that a person is completely a heretic because they teach this.  I think the teaching leads to bondage and not freedom and puts too much emphasis on us and not on the work of Christ for our sins (Ephesians 1:7) but I don’t necessarily think these people are complete heretics who know nothing of God’s love.

Various End Times Views – These too many to tell.  All seem to want to label the others are heretics.  I am not there.  I am a partial preterist but I don’t reject those who disagree.  I reject dispensational theology but believe dispensationalists to be saved.  I reject premillennialism but hold them to be brethren in Christ.  Again, the standard for salvation is not our end times views but our confession of Christ as Lord (Romans 10:9-10).

Charismatics – Again, like the above, too many to label.  While I do think some charismatic teaching is very bad (see the Prosperity Gospel for example) and there are many bad teachers in this bunch, I know many godly Pentecostals and charismatics who truly love Jesus and desire to glorify Him.  Some of my heroes of the faith are Pentecostals who taught me how to pray and how to love and study the Bible.  I have such great memories of godly Pentecostals teaching me how to witness, how to pray, how to worship, how to love God, how to think of Christ in all we do, etc.  While some want to label many in this group heretics, be careful as there are many godly saints here.

Seeker Driven – I am not a seeker driven church guy.  Never have been.  Never will be.  I have attended some seeker churches in the past and I think its a joke.  That said, I don’t think that all seeker pastors are heretics and I’m sure that many of them do love souls and long to see people saved.  I praise God for that.  While I reject their model and often their tactics and will continue to preach against them, I don’t think they should just be labeled heretics.  I think many of them are probably orthodox in their theology while holding to church practices I disagree with.  I’m okay with that.  Of course, I pray that many of these leaders will come out of this movement and preach the whole gospel but that beyond the point here.  Again, Jesus saves sinners and not theology perfectionists.

Conclusion

I closing I pray that you extend me grace here.  If you hold to these people above being heretics, perhaps you’ll throw me in there too.  I pray not.  I am nothing.  I am a sinner who needs Jesus.  I confess that need.  Don’t follow me or you’ll end up in hell.  Follow Jesus (Hebrews 12:1-2).

Written by The Seeking Disciple

03/13/2017 at 3:02 PM

Theological Matters & Unity

When I was a boy, I was raised in the Assemblies of God.  My family attended an AG church that was miles from us and we would wake up on Sunday mornings and drive over an hour to church.  We did it twice on Sunday and then again on Wednesday evening.  Eventually they planted an AG church on our side of town and we ceased driving that far.

In those days, our AG churches were clearly AG.  Every AG church had the name “Assembly of God” somewhere in their name.  Whether it was Airport Assembly of God, Trinity Assembly of God, Calvary Assembly of God, Northeast Christian Assembly of God, etc., the name “Assembly of God” was incorporated into the church.  I remember the first AG church to not use “AG” in their name (Christian Outreach Center) and it was controversial to say the least.  I remember hearing people say that COC was compromising and they were moving away from being Pentecostal.

Fast forward to today.  In my city there are about 10 AG churches.  Only two have the AG name.  COC is gone but after COC, other churches begin to drop the AG name.  This moved started in the late 1990’s when Rick Warren’s book The Purpose Driven Church was making its rounds among AG pastors.  Soon they too were dropping the AG name in favor of “community church” names or just “Trinity Church.”

Now in fairness, I don’t think they all did this to be popular.  Some would still gladly claim to be AG while not using AG in their names.  Some were pragmatic and did see the “community church” movement and jumped in.  I see it a different way and I’ll explain in this post.

First, in the late 1990’s there were two “moves” among the AG churches I was familiar with.  There was the revival movement coming out from Brownsville Assembly in Pensacola, FL.  Many thought Brownsville would drop the AG name or even leave the Assemblies of God altogether but they never did and still remain to this day in the AG with the name “Brownsville Assembly of God.”  The Brownsville revival died out around 2002 and the other stream took over.  This was the Rick Warren stream.  Warren had even been invited to the General Council of the Assemblies of God, the first non-Pentecostal speaker ever to the Assemblies of God.  Warren did not know it but he became the chief of church growth to many in the AG churches.  I still remember pastors at AG ministers meetings I would attend in those days all boasting about reading and implementing Warren’s purpose driven styles.  Some AG pastors I knew were even following Warren’s preaching style to the point of wearing Hawaiian shirts like Warren did.  They dropped preaching out of the King James Version in favor of the New Living Translation because of Warren.

Secondly, this led to churches uniting around methodology and not theology.  When I was a boy, the Assemblies of God were clearly Pentecostal churches.  Our church was very Pentecostal in the worship and in the preaching.  I remember talking to my father about the Baptist or Presbyterian churches and he would tell me they were indeed Christians but they didn’t know much about the Holy Ghost.  Pentecostal theology was vital.  I still remember hearing a Pentecostal pastor preach, “I fear the day when we will be Pentecostal in theology but not experience.”  At every turn, Pentecostal theology was taught and emphasized.  When a person got saved at our church, they were baptized in water and they told to seek God for the Holy Ghost.  The wording might be wrong but they clearly knew their theology even if you don’t agree.

Fast forward to today.  Most AG churches I am familiar with no longer emphasize doctrine at all.  In fact, doctrine is often avoided at all costs.  I personally have had an AG pastor tell me that theology does not matter.  He felt doctrine was not livable and so he wanted to preach “life application sermons” rather than theology to his church.  Where does this come from?  Rick Warren!

I had another AG pastor friend who was going to plant an AG church.  What did he do?  In the old days, the AG’s would set up a tent and have the preacher hold tent meetings.  This would usually draw small crowds at first and the preacher would preach on the need of the people to be saved and baptized in the Holy Ghost.  Those who came and got saved or baptized in the Spirit were then included in the new church plant.  The preacher would work until the church could support him (most stayed bi-vocational their entire lives).  Now AG church planters usually get some money from the District and plant the church.  They will attend numerous church growth conferences to learn the latest gimmicks to church growth.  Gone are the days of fasting and prayer (though they say they still pray).  In my friends case, he traveled to all sorts of churches many of them non-AG to learn their gimmicks.  At one point I asked him (after he traveled to a large seeker church in the West) why he would want to learn from them since they are theological different than the AG’s?  He replied, “Because they are growing and we can learn from them.”  The bottom line is this: growth is desire and whoever is growing is who we look to.  Theology is not the issue.  Prayer and preaching is not the issue.  Pragmatism is.

Now my point here is not to boaster the Assemblies of God.  I have no dog in the fight.  I am simply observing the church world from the bleachers.  I understand the desire of pastors to be full-time.  I was there.  I am thankful I am not now.  The pressure to grow your church (and yes its viewed as “your” church) is immense.  Rather than learning how to preach, how to pray, how to fast, how to evangelize, etc. the emphasis is on the latest gimmicks to get people in the door.  My friend above who planted an AG church uses every gimmick you can imagine from dropping Easter eggs from helicopters (thanks to Steven Furtick for that gimmick) to offering free movie tickets to attendees to giving away a new car.  All gimmicks designed to get people in the door.  Once they are there, he preaches goofy sermon series’ designed to “get them hooked to church.”  Sin, repentance, holiness, even AG doctrines such as the baptism in the Spirit are not emphasized.  Their “worship”service is am emotional rollercoaster full of sappy love songs to Jesus and make you feel like your a 14 year old at a junior high school dance rather than church.  And my friend has one goal: numbers.  It’s all about the growth.  His mentors are all seeker sensitive pastors and he idolizes men such as Perry Noble and Andy Stanley.

Go back 50 years and not one AG pastor would have listened to a Perry Noble or Andy Stanley.  Why?  Because they were not Pentecostals!  Pentecostals only listened to Pentecostals in those days.  The attitude was that Pentecostals have the baptism in the Holy Ghost and Baptists do not.

Some see all of this “unity” as good.  I don’t.  Again, I’m not arguing for Pentecostal theology.  In many ways, my theology is more Wesleyan now than Pentecostal.   I still love Pentecostal people and while I do see theological errors among them (mainly among those who claim Pentecostal such as those in the Word-Faith camp), I would not classify myself as Pentecostal.  What I see taking place is not unity around the gospel.  I see unity around methods.  John MacArthur warned that churches today are uniting around methodology and not theology.  I agree.  The lines are not blurred between the distinctives of the Pentecostal movement and those in the Baptist churches.  Yet it is not theological unity that is taking place.  It is emotional experiences that are unifying them.

There is no doubt that Jesus prayed for unity of His body in John 17:22-23.  In 1 Corinthians 1:10 Paul the Apostle emphasized unity in theology.  The people of God are unified who have been saved by the grace of God (Ephesians 2:14-21).  Jesus is Head over His Church (Colossians 1:15-20).  Jesus also knows those who are His own (John 10:27; 2 Timothy 2:19).  Unity in the local church must be around theology.  We must know what we believe and speak the same beliefs.  Obviously, as sinful humans, we are not perfect in our understanding and we all need correction.  This is why we need the church.  The church helps us to know what we believe and maintain that belief through faithfulness and good works (Hebrews 10:23-25).  The elders of the church help us to obtain this unity by teaching us the Word of God (Ephesians 4:11-16).  Doctrine does matter (1 Timothy 4:16).

The balance of all this is to have both sound doctrine (Titus 2:1) and sound experiences.  I don’t want to go to church to hear a theological lecture every time.  We need a balance of sound doctrine with practical living.  Notice this is how Paul taught in his epistles.  He would teach theology and how to put it into practice.  For example, Ephesians is six chapters.  The first three chapters of Ephesians are theological in nature.  The last three are application in nature.  Our theology transforms our lives for better or for worst.  This is why Paul would issue such a condemnation as in Galatians 1:6-9 over the issue of the gospel.  Without sound doctrine, the gospel is lost.  Salvation is gone.  The Lordship of Jesus is robbed.  Life is hopeless.

My friends, I urge you to pray for the Church of Jesus Christ.  Pray for God to show us the need for sound doctrine.  Pray for the Lord to us godly elders who are not leading for gain but for the love of Christ (1 Peter 5:1-5).  Peter the Apostle wrote in 1 Peter 4:8, “Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.”  I want all this for myself and the church of God.

May the Lord be glorified in and among His Church!

Short Thoughts on the Inclusive/Exclusive Debate

I have been enjoying the lively debate over at the Society of Evangelical Arminians site on the issue of inclusive and exclusive positions of the gospel.  Kevin Jackson from Wesleyan Arminian wrote a good piece defending the inclusive position and the response by Brendan Burnett.  You can find the first post here and the response here.

While I will not rehash the arguments Kevin gives nor the response that Brendan gives, I will add my own two cents worth.

First, I take serious the words of Christ in all four Gospels to take the gospel to all the nations (Matthew 28:19; Mark 16:15; Luke 24:47-48; John 20:21).  Acts 1:8 likewise commands the disciples to take the gospel to all nations.  This is a serious command of our Lord and not to be taken lightly.  The fact is that the Church is to take the gospel out.  Sadly, in our day, many want to have the world come to us.  The reality is that the gospel is to be preached to all nations.  This command of Jesus is vital if in fact Jesus is the only way to the Father and the gospel must be heard and believed for people to saved.

Secondly, 1 Timothy 4:10 implies that Christ is the Savior of all men but especially of those who believe.  Adam Clarke writes, “[God] has provided salvation for the whole human race, and has freely offered it to them in His Word and by His Spirit.  What God intends for all He actually gives to them that believe in Christ.”  Christ shed His blood for all men but only those who appropriate His blood through faith are saved (Romans 3:24-25).

Thirdly, Romans 10:14-17 implies the necessity of the preaching of the gospel for people to be saved.  Romans 10:17 specifically calls for saving faith to be acted through the preaching of Christ.  As Clarke again writes, “Preaching the gospel is the ordinary means of salvation; faith in Christ is the result of hearing the word, the doctrine of God preached.”

Fourthly, 1 Timothy 2:4 implies that the will of God is for the salvation of all but 1 Timothy 2:5-6 is clear that Christ alone is our mediator before God.  Paul the Apostle goes on in verse 7 to say that this is why he was appointed to preach the gospel to the Gentiles thus implying that their only hope was Christ.

And lastly, I believe the Bible is serious about the issue of sin.  It is not merely ignorance about God that keeps people from Him.  It is our sins.  In fact, Romans 1:18 says that our sins bring the wrath of God and Romans 1:20 says that people are without excuse.  The fact is that we love our sins and we love our depravity.  Apart from the work of the Spirit, none of us would or could be saved.  We are simply too sinful to seek a holy God.  Instead, humanity seeks false gods of their own creations.  The gospel alone is able to break the power of our sins and bring peace with God (John 6:44).

I know these are short thoughts.  I hope I am not demeaning Kevin in this post.  He is a good brother.  I was pondering this issue this morning and just wanted to jot these downs.  Two books to read on this issue are: Faith Comes by Hearing and Eternity In Their Hearts.

Three Issues Facing the Assemblies of God (And Others As Well)

I had the opportunity to speak with a theology professor from Southeastern University (Lakeland, FL).  I asked him what major issues did he see facing the Assemblies of God over the next few years.  I had previously asked him if he felt that the issue of inerrancy or the rise of Calvinism were already issues facing the Assemblies of God.  He acknowledged that inerrancy would be an issue perhaps in the next ten years but that was not the major issues facing the Assemblies of God theologically.

The three theology issues facing the Assemblies of God (in his mind) currently are:

  • The initial, physical evidence teaching.
  • Same-sex “marriage.”
  • Abstinence from alcohol.

In brief, the Assemblies of God has taught, since its founding in 1914, that the initial, physical evidence of the baptism in the Holy Spirit is speaking in tongues according to Acts 2:4.  Having grown up in the AG’s, I know firsthand that speaking in tongues was preached as the first sign that one was truly baptized in the Spirit.  One could be saved apart from this experience (Romans 8:9) but one could not claim to be baptized in the Spirit apart from speaking in tongues.  While speaking in tongues was not the end all of the Spirit-filled life, it was the doorway to the Spirit-filled life.  This doctrine, I feel, was a reactionary doctrine rather than a biblically based doctrine.  In other words, the early Pentecostals were reacting mainly to the Holiness Movement over whether they were baptized in the Spirit.  The early Pentecostals contended that only they were truly Spirit-filled since they spoke in tongues like the Apostles in Acts 2.  Many younger Assemblies of God ministers now reject such a position though the AG’s maintain the doctrine as essential.

The second issue is facing all of biblical Christianity and that is over same-sex “marriage.”  For me, the issue is not an issue other than going against the culture on this one.  It will be unpopular to oppose same-sex “marriage” but we must stand firm and if we hold to the authority of the Word of God, we will stand firm.  I predict the seeker churches, the pragmatic churches, those who are soft on the issue of biblical authority, topical preachers, etc. will cave in most cases to the culture and will allow (or tolerate) same-sex “marriage.”  However, those who hold to inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible and who preach expository sermons will face persecution.  We must stand firm for the truth of God no matter what it costs us.

The last issue about abstinence from alcohol is because the new cultural norm in the United States is following Europe on this one.  The AG’s has preached abstinence for many years and requires all their ministers to abstain from all alcohol.  With alcohol now being a normal part of American life, the AG pastors are beginning to question whether the abstinence doctrine is a cultural doctrine and not found in the Bible.  Personally, I have long preached against drunkenness (Ephesians 5:18) and I do believe that alcohol is dangerous but I also don’t believe that an air-tight case can be made for abstinence.

I fear that the AG’s must deal with the issue of inerrancy.  The Assemblies of God has, in their Sixteen Fundamental Truths, affirmed the Bible as the Word of God but nothing is said about inerrancy.  I fear that as the Church of the Nazarene has now gone astray in many ways and has adapted to postmodernism in their churches and seminaries, the Assemblies of God will face this if they don’t preach and proclaim the Bible as the inerrant and infallible Word (John 17:17).  When a church is facing a culture that no longer regards Christianity and has no concept of absolute truth, the loss of biblical authority will spell their doom.  A movement that does not preach the absolute authority of the Bible will fail and will become nothing more than a social movement that deals with social issues but will not preach the gospel and will see no lasting results because God will not be in it.

Just my thoughts on these issues.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

05/21/2014 at 10:10 AM

Does Unconditional Election Bother You?

Having just read Greg Dutcher’s book, Killing Calvinism, Dutcher tells the story of his being asked by a non-Calvinist friend if the doctrine of unconditional election bothers him.  Dutcher was honest to his friend and said, “It does.”  Nonetheless, Dutcher feels that he must surrender to the authority of Scripture and affirm the doctrine despite his acknowledgement that the doctrine does bother him.  He writes that Calvinists should be honest about their feelings toward their doctrinal views without fear.  He said his friend believed that Calvinists had no feelings toward people and just viewed them as robots or pawns in a divine chess game.  Dutcher writes that his honesty was a good starting point to discuss Calvinism with his friend.

I appreciate that about Dutcher.  Like R.C. Sproul before him, he is willing to admit that he doesn’t like everything about Calvinism while accepting it as true.

I would add another approach to this though and that would be to just admit that the doctrine is wrong.  The doctrine of unconditional election is not based on the clear reading of the Bible but upon taking the TULIP and forcing it upon the text.  That is my approach to this issue.  I agree with Dutcher that it bothers me that God has not chosen to save many, many, many people and in fact He has chosen to damn them for eternity all while holding them responsible for a gospel that they could never have accepted in the first place.  That bothers me too.  It bothers me that someone could read the “all” passages such as John 3:16 or Romans 11:32 or 1 Timothy 2:3-6  or 1 Timothy 4:10 or Revelation 22:17 and says that the “all” there is simply the unconditional elect that God has chosen before time began.  It bothers me that God would grant Adam and Eve free will to fall into sin but then He, in His sovereignty, chooses to save only a few for His glory when He could save all for His glory and make the foundation of that election faith in His Son.  That does bother me.

So I choose, from my free will, to reject the teaching of unconditional election.  I don’t do so blindly.  I do so because I don’t see it in Scripture.  I see God choosing people for His own purposes such as Abraham or Moses or Jeremiah or Paul.  I see God choosing nations such as Israel or Egypt.  I see Jesus choosing His disciples (John 15:16).  But I don’t see these as guaranteeing salvation (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).  Romans 9 is clear about this with regard to Israel.  Only those who place their faith in Jesus become His elect that He foreknew (Romans 9:30-33; 10:9-17; 11:2).  Through God’s foreknowledge (Romans 8:29; 1 Peter 1:2), God knows those who will freely believe the gospel and be saved.

I choose instead to affirm a conditional election.  I believe in the sovereignty of God.  I believe that God, in His sovereignty, has chosen to send His Son to be the elected one who will die for our sins.  Jesus shed His blood for all men but only those who appropriate His sacrifice are those accepted in the beloved (1 Timothy 4:10).  Romans 3:21-26 are powerful verses on this point.  It reads:

21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

We are justified before God through faith (Romans 5:1) and not unto faith.  At what point are we then saved?  In Calvinism, God’s election of the person means that Jesus shed His blood for that elected person.  When Jesus died on the cross (in Calvinism), He died to save the elect that God had ordained before the world began.  Thus Jesus died to secure the elect’s salvation.  Now when were the elect justified?  Where they justified before time began when God ordained that Jesus would be the Lamb of God for the elect (Ephesians 1:4; Revelation 13:8)?  If this is the case, are the elect eternally justified?  Most Calvinists will answer no to these questions.  Calvinists, like Arminians, will acknowledge that the elect are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9).  But if Jesus died to secure the elect’s salvation, are what point are they saved?  When Jesus died or when they place their faith in Him?  Further, are the elect born regenerated since regeneration must occur before faith because dead men cannot place their faith in the living Christ?

I believe that we are saved when we place our faith in Christ.  Most of my Calvinist brethren do too.  While some of them will say that we are regenerated before faith in Christ, they all acknowledge that they are saved by grace through faith.  I am thankful for that.  We agree on that.  But I wonder, are they, the elect, born without sin?  If Christ died for their sins on the cross (and none of His blood was spilled in vain according to this view), then the sins of the elect were atoned for when Jesus died.  Thus the elect are born sinless?  Correct?  So how can an elect person then need to be justified through faith if in fact Jesus already shed His blood for their sins even before time began?

Perhaps I am wondering here a bit but my point is that the unconditional election view leads to other issues.  I am not asking for them to be resolved here.  I don’t mind that we all appeal to a bit of uncertainty when it comes to some theological issues (the Trinity is a tough one to grasp and though I try,  I have not been able to but I don’t reject the doctrine because I do see it in Scripture).  But when it comes to unconditional election, I do reject it and not just because of where it logical leads (to reprobation of sinners by God’s sovereign choice and makes God guilty of sin and favoritism which He is not in any way) but also because I see the best alternative in Scripture, conditional election based on God’s foreknowledge.  This view, to me, not only is based on the sacrifice of the Messiah but also the doctrine of God Himself wherein He has revealed Himself as loving, good, and just.  The focus of election, in the works of Arminius, is based on the Lord Jesus Christ.  Jesus is the focus of election.  He is the elected One and not only that but He is the foundation for our election.  I was just reading from Ephesians 1:3-14 and it is amazing to me how much “He” and “Him” appear in the text (I was reading it from the NASB).  “He” and not “me” is the focus of election.

I pray that I have not misunderstood Calvinism as this point.  I know many godly Calvinists who are active in evangelism despite their agreement with unconditional election and I am grateful for that.  I don’t mean to cast Calvinists as being ignorant of God’s Word in the least bit.  Many of them are far greater thinkers than I am but I do acknowledge that I am not comfortable, as Dutcher has above, with the doctrine of unconditional election and my rejection of it is, in my mind, based on both Scripture and logic.

 

Being Careful With Who Defines A Movement

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by The Seeking Disciple

08/26/2013 at 1:07 PM

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