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prov·o·ca·tion - something that provokes, arouses, or stimulates. pant - to long eagerly; yearn. a collection of thoughts intended to provoke and inspire. these posts are hoping to encourage people to think, especially Christians, and pant even harder for the waterbrooks of the Lord. If you are not a believer in Christ Jesus, I welcome your perspective and encourage your investigation on these matters.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

A Rejoiner of Residual Reflections

I have obviously thinking quite a bit about the latest attack on the doctrines of grace in Southern Baptist life, and instead of providing a response/rebuttal on Steve Lemke's research, Johnny Hunt's comments, and Bobby Welch's article (which all by the way have been well written on in the blogosphere by others), I would simply like to throw in some random reflections residuating in my mind. First, I have looked back at what I have written and regretted some of the strong tonality of what I said. While I wholeheartedly believe everything I wrote, my provocations have the tendency of coming across too strong, and for that I apologize. Second, I have been in ministerial life for only a short time - five years. In these five years, I have been to many Bailey Smith Real Evangelism Conferences, State Evangelism Conferences, Woodstock Conferences, and other Bible conferences throughout the southeast. Almost inevitably somewhere in the conference, there will be at least one preacher who will be the attack man on Calvinism in his sermon, and the crowd will resound will cheers and applauses (I speculate that most themselves could not rightly explain Reformed theology). I have listened to these rants for so long, and to hear what is continuing on to me is a great frustration. Why I am frustrated has nothing to do with their disagreeing with Calvinism, but rather in the way they disagree with it. Usually, you will find preachers making oversimplifications, generalizations, unscholarly pontifications disconnected with historical theology or biblical warrant, and inflammatory comments intended to produce fear and fight in folks. All the while the truths are never addressed, at least not with any precision, logic, or reasonable hermeneutic - but that's not important. What's important is emphatically and dogmatically telling the common folk that Calvinism is of the devil (Mamma Boucher complex). Third, I have heard messages where preachers have used texts such as the church in Ephesus (Revelation 3) losing its first love as showing how Calvinism is a form of liberalism. Where is this in the text? How is Calvinism liberalism? I have heard from Colossians 3:12 that election is not biblical put "from the pit of hell". I have heard statements that subject God's sovereignty to the almighty free will of man. Churches that have been plagued with man-centered gospels of easy-believism have produced Christians who have failed to every truly understand the gospel of grace. Fourth, there is this notion out there that anyone who believes in the five points of Calvinism (TULIP), also known as the doctrines of grace, is a hyper-Calvinist. This, possibly, is the chief scare tactic of preachers today and could not be farther from the truth. Of all the people I know who are Reformed (most of my friends and ministry partners), I have yet to meet someone who is a hyper-Calvinist. There are some good definitions of hyper-Calvinism, and one I would direct you to is a small book by Iain Murray called Spurgeon vs. Hyper-Calvinism: The Battle for Gospel Preaching (Banner of Truth). Basically, if you are Reformed and do not believe in evangelism, personal responsibility to reach out to the lost, to "do all for the sake of the gospel", then to me you are a hyper-Calvinist. And I tell you truly, if there be a one who is like this, disregard them, for a one who disregards the Great Commission and doesn't take seriously the call to evangelize the lost has little if any savor to their salt. But in the same vane, let me add that you can find poor soul-winners in Arminian camps as well. It is ironic that the very thing Calvinists are accused of not doing, you can find an equal if not greater number of people not doing it in other camps, yes, even in Southern Baptist churches. It was Paul who spoke of God's unconditional election in Romans 9 who also in the preceding verses passionately pleaded, "I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh" (Romans 9:3). And right after that meaty section in Romans 9 there is Romans 10:1 which says, "Brothers, my heart's desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved." Remember, the Bible was not written with chapter divisions, so this is one continual thought process for Paul. Here is a man who was passionate about the lost but also ravished by God's sovereign choice in election. They are not in contradiction, but rather complement one another. For why would Jesus say to Paul in Acts, " . . . for I have many in this city who are my people" (Acts 18:10)? Paul went because Jesus had chosen individual people before time for salvation, so he endured suffering, beatings, and imprisonment to bring them the gospel. For one to speak only of Romans 9:11-23 and does not speak of Romans 9:3, Romans 10:1, 10:9,10,13 is not speaking the gospel, and vice-versa. The Jesus who spoke John 3:16 also spoke John 6:44. A belief in election does not exclude someone from evangelizing, but rather commands it. And unbelief in unconditional election by God in salvation is to attempt to rob the Author's glory for bringing salvation to pass. I had a few other things, but I forgot them. I guess they didn't reside long enough to write down. Anyways. That's some thoughts that I have had. Honestly, I am just tired of pathetic caricatures of Calvinism that is nothing short of shoddy attempts to repackage the gospel message for "better results". I really would like to see less of Jerry Falwell, Johnny Hunt, Bobby Welch, and other big name preachers taking advantage of their "star power" to make divisive comments and just preach the Bible. And if there are differences, let's talk about them rather than looking for another spiritual grandstanding at conventions or conferences to theologically one-up someone. If anyone is interested in really studying the doctrines of grace, I have some great resources that will really help in this study. I have put together a working bibliography of sources, and if you would like it or simply some book recommendations, please let me know, and I would be glad to send the information your way. Until then, may God, the Author and Perfector of our faith, will and work in us for His good pleasure all that He desires and brings Him greatest glory. Soli Deo Gloria.


Blogger Eduardo said...

I don't traffic much in arguments between Christians. I am a Christian, but don't identify myself as either Calvinist or Arminian. Those are, afterall, mere names we've given to each other in order to divide the body of Christ. It seems to me that the names themselves are the institutionalized antithesis of Jesus' prayer that we all be one, as he and the Father are one.

8/03/2005 05:55:00 AM

Blogger Timmy said...

I think we all would like to avoid labels and stigmatizing, especially given that these mean so many different things to so many people. Usually when people call something as Calvinism or Arminianism, or conservative or liberal, I ask them to define that and explain it to me. Usually, these titular expressions turn out to be simply buzz words to demonize one group over another. I don't like to call myself a Calvinist or Arminian either, especially given that these terms are so loaded and so misunderstood and misinterpreted. I do, however, believe in the doctrines of grace, of which beforehand I had wrestled with for a number of years.
As far as unity goes, there will always be theological differences, and it is important to determine what is essential and what is not essential. I think a Christian should be precise and clear in their theology because he/she speaks of the most important matter in life - God. The more nuanced one gets in discussion, I am sure the more differences there will be. I believe Christians who believe in Jesus and in His prayer (I am assuming you are talking about John 17) can all agree and be unified in a general sense. And the common ground emphasis I placed earlier underlines that key point of unity. However, this has been a debate going back to Augustine and Pelagius in 300 AD and will probably be with us till Jesus comes back.
In one sense, we should all strive for unity, but it begs the question what we are being unified after? Jesus according to Muslims? Jesus according to Mormons? Jesus according to Christians? Jesus according to what? How you answer that question is a theological one, and if you answer contra either of these (Mormons, Muslims, Jehovah's Witnesses, etc.), then you can be charged with being antithetical to Jesus' prayer by others. It boils down to truth and love. You cannot have one without the other.
Thank you for your comment, and I am glad you checked in at P&P!

8/03/2005 06:22:00 AM


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