Arminian Today

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Posts Tagged ‘Unity Among Brethren

Why Do Arminians Exist?

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).

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John Wesley on Speaking about Calvinist

The advice that John Wesley offers at the end of his tract, What Is An Arminian?, is worth reading and following.  Wesley wrote:

One word more: Is it not the duty of every Arminian Preacher, First, never, in public or in private, to use the word Calvinist as a term of reproach; seeing it is neither better nor worse than calling names? — a practice no more consistent with good sense or good manners, than it is with Christianity. Secondly. To do all that in him lies to prevent his hearers from doing it, by showing them the sin and folly of it? And is it not equally the duty of every Calvinist Preacher, First, never in public or in private, in preaching or in conversation, to use the word Arminian as a term of reproach? Secondly. To do all that in him lies to prevent his hearers from doing it, by showing them the sin and folly thereof; and that the more earnestly and diligently, if they have been accustomed so to do? perhaps encouraged therein by his own example!

May we love our brothers and sisters who disagree with us (John 13:34-35).  Love covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8).  Loving God is the greatest commandment and loving our neighbor as ourselves is second (Matthew 22:36-39).

My prayer is that we Arminians would love our Calvinist brothers and sisters.  May they see our love for them and may it not be in word but in deed.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

08/04/2016 at 6:22 PM

We Must See People First

This will be another short post on race before I move on.  Many others are weighing in on race here in the United States and my voice is just one among many.

I want to add that if we see race first in a person before we see them as made in the image of God as a human being, we must repent.  Certainly I agree that God made us with color.  All of us.  But that does not define us as people.  If you strip away my color, I am no different from my Japanese neighbors or my black neighbors or any other color.  We are all human beings.  We are all made in the image of God.  This is the Christian truth.  Secular humanists tell us that we are nothing more than pond scum but we are not.  We are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27) and we know it.  We must see each other as people before we see race or culture.  God does not favor the Jew above the Gentile.  He loves both and sent His Son to redeem us all who are children of Adam (Romans 5:12-21; Galatians 4:1-6).

I love how Paul the Apostle was willing to lay down his race for Christ.  In Philippians 3:2-11 we read:

2 Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. 3 For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh— 4 though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. 7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

Notice that this Jewish man laid down his Jewish identity for the sake of Christ.  He was willing to trade in his culture, his religion, his everything for Christ Jesus.  That should be our call as well.

You see I am not first a white man.  I am not first an American.  I am first and foremost a disciple of Jesus Christ.  I am a Christian.  I happen to be white.  I happen to live in the United States.  I speak English.  That is not what defines me.  What defines me is the gospel.  I am a sinner redeemed by grace (Ephesians 2:8-9).  I was dead in my sins and my color would not change that.  I was dead in my sins and my nationality would not change that.  I was dead in my sins and my parents could not change that.  What changed me was the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17).  “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:26).

If we see that people are in need of Jesus because they are human beings, that is the heart of God (Matthew 28:19-20).  People need Jesus.  All people.  All colors.  All creeds.  All religions.  There is no other way to God but through Jesus Christ (John 14:6).  He alone is our mediator before a holy God (1 Timothy 2:3-6).  Jesus alone shed His blood for our salvation (Matthew 26:28; Galatians 2:15-16).

Let me close this by pointing out that Paul loved his race.  Paul prayed for his race to be saved (Romans 10:1).  There is nothing wrong with loving your people.  But don’t let that define you.  Don’t allow your race to define who you are.  Let the gospel inform you.  Notice that while Paul loved his race, he prayed for their salvation earnestly and he also preached to those outside of his race (Acts 13:44-48).  Paul even rebuked Peter for being a hypocrite with the Jews from Jerusalem (Galatians 2:11-14) because it hindered the gospel to the Gentiles.

My prayer is that the Church would rise up and lead the way of preaching the gospel of peace to a sinful, hateful world.  Jesus came to die for all sinners (John 1:29) and He alone can bring peace to this storm.  The hope for the races is not found in government or wars.  It is found in the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.  The gospel will bring true peace.  The gospel can unite sinners like nothing else.  May the Lord have mercy on the United States and send us a revival of truth.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

07/11/2016 at 1:56 AM

Where is the Discernment?

One of the things that troubles me about many Arminians is their utter lack of discernment.  This is true of course for all believers and not just Arminians but I want to speak to my camp here.  An upcoming event called “Together 2016” features many different people including Roman Catholics.  For the life of me,  I cannot understand how Protestants can join hands with Roman Catholics in any real sense until the Catholics renounce their Catholic beliefs.  The very gospel is at stake here.  This is not just about personal differences or traditions.  This is a gospel issue.

The Roman Catholic Church denies the gospel.  They deny justification by faith.  They deny the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ.  They teach a form of works righteousness.  They deny even declared righteousness imputed to the believer by God.  They deny sola scriptura.  They deny sola fide.  They deny sola gratia.  Everything that our Protestant forefathers did for the sake of the gospel, the blood shed in defense of the Bible and in defense of the gospel cannot be lost.

When you read the list of speakers for the “Together 2016” one not included (because he will not there in person) is the Pope.  Yes the Roman Catholic pontiff (whom Arminius called the antichrist) will address evangelicals.  Alongside the Pope will be men such as Lecrae (whom I have lost respect for), Dr. Tony Evans (whom I lost respect for sometime ago), and Dr. George Wood (the General Superintendent of the Assemblies of God).  Before you think that only non-Calvinists are there, Calvinists such as Trip Lee and Francis Chan (who studied at the Master’s Seminary) will speak alongside the likes of Hillsong (who has wandered far away into something), Christine Cane, Lou Engle, and Mark Batterson.

What is disappointing about this is the lack of discernment.  Can you imagine Arminius speaking where he knew the Catholic pontiff would be welcomed?  Can you imagine the likes of a John Buynan or Charles Spurgeon preaching at this event?  Would John Wesley join hands with known mystics to promote this “unity?”  Would Leonard Ravenhill promote such an event?

I think the answer is clear.

Arminius wrote about the Roman Pontiff:

Since, therefore, the Roman Pontiff either attributes these most honourable titles of Christ to himself, or willingly suffers them to be ascribed to him; and since he evinces no horror at the blasphemy contained in these titles, and gives no tokens of his displeasure at this ascription of them; it follows, that he puts himself in the place of Christ, and is supremely opposed to Him. There is no excuse in the explanation which is given, that “the head and foundation is ministerial, and that he attributes all these things to himself under Christ, as having been elevated by the grace or favour of God and Christ to that dignity.” For the protestation is directly contrary to the fact; and he is so much the more the bitter enemy of God and Christ, as he the more confidently boasts of being defended by the authority of God and Christ. Such conduct is, in fact, under the semblance of friendship to exercise the deepest enmity, and, under the disguised pretext of a minister of light and of righteousness, to promote the interests of the kingdom of darkness and of unrighteousness. On this very account, therefore, we assert that the disparaging epithets which we laid down in our first Thesis, most justly belong to him; and this we now proceed to show by descending to particulars.

Arminius called the Pope the “pimp of the harlot Church.”  He further wrote:

Although the Roman pontiff calls himself “the servant of the servants of God,” yet we further assert that he is by way of eminence, That Wicked And Perverse Servant, who, when he saw that his Lord delayed his coming, “began to smite his fellow-servants.” (Matt. 24:48.) For the Roman pontiff has usurped domination and tyranny, not only over his fellow- servants, the bishops of the church of God, but likewise over emperors and kings themselves, whose authority and dignity he had himself previously acknowledged. To acquire this domination for himself, and still further to augment and establish it, he has employed all kinds of satanic instruments — sophistical hypocrisy, lies, equivocations, perfidy, perjury, violence, poison, and armed forces — so that he may most justly be said to have succeeded that formidable beast which “was like unto a leopard, a bear and a lion,” and by which the Roman empire was prefigured — and to have “had power to give life unto the image of the beast, and to cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast, should be killed.”

I call on Arminians to follow in the footsteps of Arminius and denounce the Roman Catholic Church.  I am not calling for hatred of Catholics themselves for they need the gospel.  I am calling for a hatred of the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church.  I am calling for biblical discernment (Jude 3-4).

We need to heed 1 Timothy 4:1-2.  We need to heed 2 Timothy 4:3-4.  We need to stand agains the Roman Catholic Church and preach against her false doctrines.  We need to call Catholics to repent and believe the gospel.

I pray that men such as Dr. George Wood would not only decline speaking at the “Together 2016” event but denounce it.  I pray that men and women of God would rise up and denounce the event altogether.  In our troubled world we need the true gospel and not a mixing of errors.  Now is not the time to lay down our swords in the midst of a sinful world.  What is going to slay the evils we see of racism, sexual immorality, abortion, homosexuality, wicked killings, etc. is the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 1:16-17).  We lose the gospel.  We lose the war.

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!

My Resurrection Day Experiences

This past Resurrection Day, since my family has no church home right now, I visited a small Presbyterian church near my home.  The church is called Covenant Free Presbyterian Church.  I have always been impressed with the Free Presbyterian Church for their focus on the free offer of the gospel and for missions.  Their preachers, while Reformed, often preach with passion.  In fact, if I didn’t know otherwise, I would have thought I was in a Baptist church with their “amens” at the sermons and at the hymns.  The praying was much like what I have heard in my Pentecostal upbringing.

The pastor preached from Matthew 28:1-10 and basically had two points: 1) come and see and 2) go and tell.  He did a good job of working through the text and the gospel was clearly preached.  He did not avoid theology nor did he spend his time giving personal illustrations from his life.  He mentioned his wife and her hurt back once but otherwise he spent his time in the text.  I appreciated that.

Sadly, so few Arminian or non-Calvinistic churches are focused on the text.  I know of few Arminian expository preachers.  While I was in the Assemblies of God, I knew of only two expository preachers.  All the AG ministers I knew were topical at best.  In my area, I know the Pentecostal churches and theology is not their focus.  Methodology is.  In fact, they will unite with anyone whom they feel matches their methodology.  Most of them love the Perry Noble types.  Some of them love Andy Stanley and long to be like him.  Sadly, none of them are focused on men like John MacArthur.

What I long for is sound doctrine to be preached.  I know some would say that a Calvinist church would not preach sound doctrine but I would disagree.  I know I would not agree with all that a Calvinist preacher would preach or teach but it would not be a salvation issue.  Further, I have sat in non-Calvinist churches many days and have not agreed with hardly anything that was preached because, sadly, nothing was being preached.  Doctrine was avoided like the plague.

In the evening on the Lord’s day, I went back to the church to enjoy a fellowship meal.  I had great talks with the brethren.  I sat and talked with brothers who held onto their Calvinist study Bibles (Reformation Study Bible) and we just talked as brothers.  I never brought up Arminianism versus Calvinism.  It was not an issue.  We were just Christians enjoying fellowship and food.

My point in all this is to show that our differences should not divide us.  I know for some it does.  I have had both Arminians and Calvinists who genuinely are concerned about the other group.  For me, Jesus matters more.  I know that Jesus saves sinners (1 Timothy 1:15) because He saved me.  When Jesus saved me, I didn’t know anything about theology.  I couldn’t have told you anything about Arminianism or Calvinism.  I barely knew that there was a difference between Protestants and Catholics.  For my first two years or so of my Christianity, theological debates were rare.  I was witnessing to my friends, praying with my Christian friends, and reading from my NIV Bible.  I had theological convictions such as the person and work of Jesus Christ, His resurrection, etc. but I could fellowship with other Christians if I knew that they had truly repented of their sins (Acts 2:38; 3:19; 17:30; 2 Corinthians 7:10).

Theology does matter.  Please don’t misunderstand me.  I love reading and studying theology.  The study of God, wrote A.W. Tozer, is vital for what we believe shows in how we live (1 Timothy 4:16).  Sound doctrine is vital (Titus 2:1).  2 Corinthians 13:5 even tells us to examine ourselves to make sure we are in the faith.  “The faith” is found in the Word of God (Jude 3).

We must be careful, however, to not make theology our god and not the Lord God.  Our theological studies should point us to Jesus and loving Him and obeying Him more (John 14:15; 1 John 2:3-6).  Jesus is not merely found in a book.  He is real.  He is risen.  He is alive.  His Spirit dwells in us who have repented and believe the gospel.  Our relationship with the Lord Jesus goes much deeper than merely reading a theology book.  It goes much deeper than even just quoting Scripture.  Scripture points us to the risen Savior who is alive (John 20:31).  The Scriptures testify about the risen Jesus (John 5:39-40).

In closing, I enjoy fellowship with Christians.  There is nothing like it in the world.  I feel so comfortable around those who love the Lord Jesus, love His Word, and stand firm on the Word of God.  Whether they be Arminians or Calvinists, I long to be around the saints of God who truly love and adore Him.  My prayer is that more of this will take place.  No doubt we have our theological differences but we are first and foremost children of God through faith in the Lord Jesus (Galatians 3:26-29).  May the Spirit of God unite our hearts to fear His name.

Thus ends my ramblings.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

03/31/2016 at 10:00 AM

We Are All Fallible

The Bible is clear that there are none righteous, no not one (Romans 3:10).  We have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).  Our minds and hearts are warped with sin when we come to Christ and the work of God in sanctifying us is to make us more like Christ (Romans 8:29-30).  Yet even after we come to Christ, we bring years of sin, years of filling our minds with wordiness and compromise.  We also bring to the Lord all our culture, our thoughts, our upbringing, our traditions.  All of this must be laid before the Lord and we take up our cross and follow Him (Luke 9:23-25; 14:25-35).

Of course, not all of that is sinful.  Our culture may or may not be sinful.  Our traditions may or may not be sinful.  We must take all of them and lay them before the Word of God (1 Thessalonians 5:21-22).  The Word of God is the only infallible and inerrant guide in our lives (2 Timothy 3:16-17).  We submit to the Word of God (John 8:31-32).

Yet this doesn’t mean we don’t bring our fallible presuppositions to the Bible.  We all do.  I appreciate those who come humbly to the Bible longing for the Holy Spirit to teach us as little children (Matthew 18:2-4).  I acknowledge that I don’t understand everything about the Bible and there are parts I have yet to grasp.  I suppose I never will.  This doesn’t mean that I don’t study the Bible or don’t read difficult passages but I don’t build doctrines on passages that are not clear.  Nor should you.

Furthermore, we can read a passage and bring different presuppositions to the text.  Take the controversy of Romans 9.  When Arminius begin to preach through the book of Romans, it was at Romans 7 that Arminius first differed with the Reformed pastors of his day.  Arminius argued that Romans 7 was not a Christian.  This was (and remains) not the view of the Calvinists.  Arminius, who at the time was himself likely a Calvinist or at least was trained by Calvinists, was willing to disagree with the theologians of his day over the sake of truth.  I happen to agree with much of what he wrote about Romans 7.  That said, I know that neither myself nor Arminius are infallible.  Arminius brought his presuppositions to the text and so did the Calvinists of his day.

Another text that is hotly debated is Romans 9.  We Arminians read Romans 9 and we see the concept of corporate election all though it.  We see God showing mercy to whom He desires to show mercy and hardening whom He wants to harden (Romans 9:18) but we don’t see this in the sense of individual unconditional election of people to salvation.  Calvinists do.  And why?  Can we both be right?  Could we both be wrong?  We both read Romans 9 and we both seek to be faithful to the text but we read Romans 9 totally different ways.

We read Romans 7 or Romans 9 or Ephesians 1 or John 6 in different ways because we are fallible.  Muslims point to the divisions in the Church as proof that Allah needed to send the final prophet to unite all people.  Of course, Islam is not united.  ISIS is proof of that.  Atheists point to John 17:20-23 as a text that shows God did not answer Jesus’ prayer since the Church is not one.  Other cults such as Jehovah’s Witnesses harp on the same thing.  Where is the unity?  Where is the one true Church?  Who is correct in their doctrine?  Who is the one who is preaching the true gospel?

All this does is prove that men are sinful.  That is all.  We are fallible.  We are fallen creatures made in the image of God but sinful nonetheless.  Our thoughts are not infallible.  Only the Bible is infallible.

The answer I believe is humility.  I confess that I don’t know all things.  I confess I could be wrong about Romans 9.  That said, there are clear things taught in Scripture that I believe are essential and are vital to our salvation.  Seeing election unto salvation in Romans 9 is not one of them.  Seeing all the gifts of the Spirit in 1 Corinthians 12 as operative today or not is not essential to salvation.  Seeing the “rapture” in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 is not essential to salvation.  Seeing the book of Revelation as futurist is not essential to salvation.  The deity of Christ, His miracles, His teachings, His saving work on the cross, etc. are essential.  Faith is essential (Hebrews 11:6).  Repentance is essential (Acts 2:38).

My point here is not to be some postmodern in regards to Scripture.  I believe the Bible is the inerrant and infallible truth of God given to us to reveal His salvation (John 20:31; 1 John 5:13).  I am not claiming that humility is greatest virtue and we should not be dogmatic over theology.  I believe theology is vital to our salvation (1 Timothy 4:16; Titus 2:1).  I believe that without sound exegesis, you could be preaching or hearing about the wrong Jesus (Matthew 24:23-25).

But I am arguing to humility toward our brothers and sisters in the faith who disagree with us over non-essentials.  I am calling for love (John 13:34-35) and charity.  2 Timothy 2:24-26 is clear (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.

The Lord’s slave should reflect their Lord who is humble (Matthew 11:29; Philippians 2:5).  Our Lord Jesus gave us the perfect example for us to follow in His steps (John 13:15; 1 Peter 2:21).  Jesus Himself was not quarrelsome even with the Pharisees.  Yes He rebuked them in Matthew 23 but He also warned them, loved them, and ultimately (here is my Arminianism coming out) died for them (Luke 23:34; John 11:49-52).  Jesus was kind to all and He taught all who would hear Him.  He handled His opponents with much grace (Matthew 22:23-46).  Jesus always answered His opponents with Scripture.  He didn’t make it a personal issue.  Jesus wanted them to repent and come to the truth.  Many of them did repent after His death and resurrection including a Jew named Saul of Tarsus.

While we are often willing to grant grace toward sinners, we are not willing to grant it toward our fellow disciples.  This should not be.  We should be humble and willing to love even that brother who disagrees with our end times view or our mode of baptism.  We should be willing to preach the gospel with our Calvinists friends who disagree with us over many issues but who preach the same saving Jesus as we preach in Arminianism.  Let us unite over the essentials, defend the gospel at all costs (1 Peter 3:15-16) but love each other over non-essentials and personal preferences (Romans 14:1-4).

And those are the thoughts of a slave of Christ.  May Jesus be glorified (John 3:30).

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