Well, I needed a little break from all the serious thinking having to do with my schoolwork this week. Then I found this (HT: Ben Cole).
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.
Well, I needed a little break from all the serious thinking having to do with my schoolwork this week. Then I found this (HT: Ben Cole).
Yesterday, I was one click away from posting a very hard response to Nelson Price's loathsome article, "Evangelical Calvinism Is an Oxymoron." As I was getting ready to click the "post" button, I realized a couple of things: (1) I was frustrated and angry, and (2) I had not personally and privately gone to Mr. Price for clarification and a better understanding of his position. As I have learned in the past, what a person is trying to say and what actually was said could be misconstrued in the mind of the reader, so I wanted to make sure that I wasn't reading my thoughts or assumptions into his article. As a result, I saved my post as a draft and proceeded to write him an email. While the email and his response was personal correspondence, I do feel liberty to share with you the questions I asked him. These four short questions were intended to help clarify his definition and understanding of Calvinism. They are:
1. As a clarification (or qualification), could you provide your definition of Calvinism in a short answer form? 2. Do you stand by your article and presentation of Calvinism as historically and theologically accurate? 3. Do you believe Calvinism can be supported biblically? 4. Finally, do you believe that Calvinists have a rightful place in the SBC?Mr. Price was gracious enough to reply back to me but also felt that my questions amounted to "an epistle" for him to write. He did not answer questions #2 and #3 but briefly commented on #1 and #4. For those of us who are Calvinists and Baptists (and no, that is not an oxymoron), Price argues that his definition of Calvinism is from the Westminster Confession of Faith and is encapsulated in these words: "By the decree of God, for the manifestation of His glory, some men and angels are predestined to everlasting life and others are foreordained to everlasting death." Now, this definition according to Mr. Price is very telling. First, he hangs Calvinism entirely on double predestination and throws out the emotional argument that God chooses some to go to hell. On his website, he write, "This clearly teaches God in His sovereignty chose to damn some people forever." For the uncritical and adrenal Christian, this definition is sure to turn them away from Calvinism. But is this an adequate definition of Calvinism? What if I asserted that Mr. Price's definition of the salvation robs God of His glory by making man sovereign and God helpless to save? What if I said that His understanding of a synergistic salvation leads to a "works-based" justification? Just to show how poorly Mr. Price understands, consider this deplorable illustration given in his article:
A graphic understood by many Baptists regarding predestination is illustrated by this. A mass of people are gathered at a bus stop marked “Planet Earth.” Along comes the Celestial Bus marked “Destination Heaven.” It pulls up and stops. The driver, who is God, opens the door, and says, “All destined for heaven get on board.” A number do. A missionary couple who with zeal have served Christ all their lives start on and God says, “Step aside. You haven’t been chosen to ride this bus.” A couple of infants start on and God tells them to step aside. Persons who from youth have loved and ministered in Christ’s name are told to step aside. As the bus is about to depart and the door is closing God says to those not on board, “Catch the next bus.” “No,” they plead, “here comes the next bus and it is driven by Satan and marked ‘Destination Hell.’” “Sorry,” says God. “I didn’t choose to save you. Your love and commitment to Jesus doesn’t matter.” Belief in a loving God who would deliberately create some persons for the express purpose of sending them to hell is alien to Scripture. Neither can I conceive what one of the foremost Reform Theology authors of this day has said, "Sin was God’s idea.” Those not given to Calvinism are told they don’t understand evangelical Calvinism. That being an oxymoron it is hard to understand. Calvinism is a dagger in the heart of evangelism.And if that is not bad enough, consider his conclusions about Calvinism regarding human responsibility:
Calvinism makes automatons of people. An automaton is defined as a machine or control mechanism designed to follow automatically a predetermined sequence of operations or respond to encoded instructions. If man has no free will he is a puppet not a human being. . . .Calvin made the false assumption that the sovereignty of God precludes the free will of man. The counterpoint is that God in His sovereign will elected, that is, decided to give man a free will. To void man’s free will would make him a puppet not a person.Or what about his assertion about missions?
Calvinism offers no incentive to go on mission trips, witness to the lost, visit for the church, or appeal for souls to be saved. Without such churches dwindle.It is evident that Mr. Price wants to suppress church history and baptist history in particular, but all one has to do is look at some of our Baptist colleges and find the names of many Calvinists who were flame-hearted evangelists, such as William Carey, Adoniram Judson, Andrew Fuller, etc. What about other Calvinist missionaries such as David Brainerd, John G. Paton, or Henry Martyn? But note why Price comes to the conclusion about evangelism and missions. He has a faulty understanding of God's sovereignty and human responsibility and argues that a belief in the sovereignty of God in salvation nullifies a person's free response of which they are accountable. He writes elsewhere,
In some theological circles predestination has taken on a theological meaning God has predetermined every person’s fate in His sovereign will without regard for man’s free will. This concept makes null and void every Scriptural exhortation to evangelize and strikes a death blow to missions. It also makes God responsible for all of man’s acts, including sin. At no point does Scripture present election or predestination to the exclusion of or in conflict with the concept of man’s free will.I don't know what theological circle he is talking about, but I can assure you it is not Calvinism. There are several other places that deserve attention and correction which I may attempt to point out and address at a later time, but suffice it to say that if Mr. Price has attempted to prop up and refute Calvinism, he has sorely missed the mark. He hasn't even begun to pick a tulip. Finally, let me say something that bothers me the most about Mr. Price's article. He is not a moron (though saying that Evangelical Calvinism is an oxymoron is quite moronic). With the training, experience, and bible knowledge under his belt, he should know better to misrepresent Calvinism in such dimmed light. He attempts to cast light over one particular area (which that alone is misunderstood) and chooses to leave the rest in the dark. Intellectual virtue and personal integrity demands that we treat one another fairly, accurately, and truthfully. In this sense, I find Mr. Price at greatest fault. Let me be clear that this goes both ways. Were a Calvinist to misrepresent or slander their Arminian brother with caricatures, half-truths, straw men, and ad hominems, I would call them out on it as well. There is no place for this type of articles and treatment of doctrine. Furthermore, there ought not be a place in the SBC for such mistreatment of Scripture. Mr. Price has built his attack (and yes, that's what it is) without any sound exegesis or biblical theology. That said, I am taken back to a recent post about the most important theological issues of our day and the prevalence of anti-intellectualism in our churches. The articles being published by such papers as The Christian Index are appearing to amount to nothing but sound-byte bullet points piped down from an anti-intellectual bias and baptist political machinations. The fountain of recent theological propaganda streams from the bedfellows of baptist publishing and baptist politicians - and this is an unholy marriage. What is forfeited in the process is a commitment to truth, integrity, and a passionate commitment to the church, the pillar and buttress of truth. While it is easy to refute that evangelical Calvinism is not an oxymoron, the ideas of Baptists as morons may prove to be much more difficult.
This morning it was announced that the University of Alabama has fired their football head coach, Mike Shula. Now, I was hoping that they would have given him at least one more year, but the administration obviously thought differently - and forked out the $4 million to prove it by buying out the rest of the contract. I don't think getting yet another coach will answer all of Bama's football woes, but then again, I heard the buzz is that Mrs. Spurrier was doing a little house shopping around T-Town.
Most of you know I like to try to post daily here at P&P. However, I like many students at this point, am nearing the finish line for this semester at school and find myself staring at several deadlines in less than a week. At this point, I have a book review, two finals, and two papers (30-page paper on evangelical inclusivism and saving faith and a 10-page Greek exegetical paper) all due by this Thursday. Consequently, I do not know how much if at all I will have time to post this upcoming week. In the meantime, for those of you interested, James White and Tom Ascol have provided their presentation of Baptists and Calvinism on MP3 format, and I highly encourage you to download it. Also, I recently found out that Piper has responded to the "Piper is Bad" video that uses my photos of him at the T4G and DGM conferences. I am encouraged to hear that he enjoyed it and didn't find it irreverent or moxy as some have dubbed it. One more thing I thought I'd mention: Next month I will be working on a piece called "Blogging in a Pluralistic Culture" and would be interested on any feedback you could give me on the subject. My goal is to present a viable apologetic and approach to handling Christian truth in the blogosphere while dealing with the issue of religious and philosophical pluralism.
Tom Ascol has written a very important article in which he calls into question The Camel Method, a way of presenting the gospel through a high form of contextualization in which believers use the Qu'ran as a starting point for sharing the gospel. This is much I would like to say about this, but I am currently strapped with two papers and pressing deadlines. However, I would like to provide you a quote I just came across while doing some research on evangelical inclusivism. Clark Pinnock, a chief proponent of evangelical inclusivism wrote in his book, A Wideness in God's Mercy: The Finality of Jesus Christ in a World of Religions, the following quote (emphasis mine):
“When Jews or Muslims, for example, praise God as the Creator of the world, it is obvious that they are referring to the same Being. There are not two almighty creators of heaven and earth, but only one. We may assume that they are intending to worship the one Creator God that we also serve” (96-97).This should not alarm many of you who are aware of the attempts to say that the god of Muhammed is the Father of Jesus. If you are interested in the gospel mission of Christ in a Muslim context, let me encourage you to read up on this issue concerning the Camel Method, for what is at stake in such practices is not only fidelity to the gospel message and mission but also to the identity and exclusivity of our Savior Jesus Christ. For a link to Muslim contextualization approaches, go here. If you would like to download the Camel Method tract, you can find it here. The Camel Training Manual can also be found here.
Have you ever given much thought to the habits in your life? Moreover, have you thought about the development and formation of habits? We all have them, both good and bad. Our habits are patterns of behavior that are second-nature to us which develop over a period of time. Very often we are unconscious of our habits, and sometimes when they are bad we choose to minimize the severity of the habit or just ignore it altogether. It is far easier to pretend it’s not there and appease our conscience than to do the painful task of confronting it with the force of unrelenting honesty. One of the things I hate doing the most is listening to myself preach or speak. Not only do I sound goofy (God did not bless me with a deified tenor voice), but I find myself saying the same words more times than I care to admit. I would put the CD of my latest message in the car and grimace as I listen to myself in order to become a better communicator. When I would go through this process, I exposed myself to things I said that I had no idea that I was saying! Yet I think we would agree that such is the case for most of us in our conversations. How many times do we hear the words “like” from a teenage girl or “you know” from a teenage guy (they are not the only ones who say it)? Even worse, how about “um” and “uh?” Or, how about when someone prays, how many times do you hear “Lord” and “Father” almost in some sort of syncopated rhythm? The fact is, we say these things in an almost unconscious manner. They have become habits for us, and we often don’t realize them until we are forced to become conscious of the very thing we have, over a period of time, become totally unconscious. A couple of weeks ago, I was reading Jay Adams’ book, A Theology for Christian Counseling: More Than Redemption, and came across a very helpful paragraph concerning Christian sanctification. In this paragraph, Adams shows us that we need to be conscious for a change—a consciousness of our sinful patterns and behavior that need to be addressed if we are going to pursue holiness and practice godliness. In the context of Christian counseling, Adams made these remarks (emphasis mine):
Since God has made counselees with the capacity for living according to habit, counselors must reckon with habit when seeking to help counselees change. They must help them consciously to take a hard look at their life styles. They must help them to become conscious of life patterns by carefully examining their unconscious responses. Their unconsciousness must again become conscious. As they become aware of life patterns, they must evaluate them by the Word of God. What the counselee learned to do as a child he may be continuing to do as an adult. Pattern by pattern the counselor must help him to analyze and determine whether it has developed from practice in doing God’s will or whether it has developed as a sinful response. There is only one way to become a godly person, to orient one’s life toward godliness, and that means pattern by pattern. The old sinful ways, as they are discovered, must be replaced by new patterns from God’s Word. That is the meaning of disciplined living. Discipline first requires self-examination, then it means crucifixion of the old ways (saying “no” daily), and lastly, it entails practice in following Jesus Christ in new ways by the guidance and strength that the Holy Spirit provides through His Word. The biblical way to godliness is not easy or simple, but it is the solid way (243).Not only can we become unconscious of sinful habits, we are often blind to them; therefore, we need faithful Christian friends who will help us see the sinful tendencies, attitudes, and behavior that need to be confronted. In the postmodern day in which we live, the new tolerance influences Christians to think we should tolerate sin in each others’ lives. After all, who’s to judge? Yet, the biblical call to community, accountability, and stewardship of each one’s soul demands that we recover such biblical commands to rebuke, admonish, and warn one another in love—and we must learn to do this with ourselves. With our postmodern view of tolerance married to the psychological sensitivities and view of political correctness, we need to take a long look into the mirror of God’s Word and open our eyes to the things in our lives of which we have been blinded. We need to stick that CD of ourselves into the player and become conscious of what goes under the radar of our own perceived reality. If we as Christians will take seriously our call for personal holiness and exhort one another to do the same, I believe we will find ourselves a counter-cultural community of change-agents where the locus of such transformation begins with our own hearts . . . and that, my friend, is what we need, for a change.
Over the weekend, I was thinking through some of the most important theological issues and controversies in recent years. One of my goals as a Christian and minister is to be able to address the most important issues and controversies thoroughly and carefully. Here is my top 15 list below. I would love to hear what you think about this list. >> Are there any that I am leaving out? Should one or more be higher on the list? Lower? Give me your thoughts. Top 15 Theological Issues/Controversies Today 15. Anti-intellectualism 14. Biblical (Nouthetic) Counseling 13. Christianity in the Public Square (politics and civic responsibility) 12. Cessationism vs. Continuationism 11. Evangelicalism (its contours and future) 10. Calvinism vs. Arminianism 9. Inerrancy 8. Gender-Neutral Debate (Egalitarian vs. Complementarian as well as translation theories) 7. The Doctrine of Hell (its disappearance: Annihilationalism and Universalism) 6. Emerging Church Movement 5. The Doctrine of Substitutionary Atonement 4. Justification and New Perspectives of Paul (NPP) 3. Open Theism (theology proper and providence) 2. Postmodern Epistemology (nature of truth, Postfoundationalism, relativism, new tolerance, incredulity towards metanarratives, etc.) 1. Religious Pluralism (pluralism, inclusivism, syncretism, ecumenism, etc.) Honorable Mention: Biblical Theology, Hermeneutics, Law and the Gospel (mainly continuity/discontinuity argument), Jesus Seminar (and Da Vinci Code), Church Government (and regulative principle), imputation, Lordship salvation (free grace movement), Evangelicals and Catholics Together (ECT), Marriage and Family, Textual Criticism What's your list look like? Wanna critique mine? Let me know your thoughts.
In his book, Totally Saved, Tony Evans attempts to answer the question, “What about those who have never heard?” in the appendix section. Evans argues for an explanation which he calls “transdispensationalism” (rivaled only by transubstantianism in a contest for most theological syllables). What I did not know was that the appendix in which this material is found was NOT printed in the future paperback edition. Jim Sutherland, who recognized this problem, wrote the following:
Not knowing if this appendix omission was due to criticism of Moody Press for printing the appendix, or due to a change in Dr. Evans' position, I tried for over 4 months to determine from Dr. Evans if he still would continue to teach and promulgate this particular doctrine. I could get no reply, so must assume that he may continue to teach and promote "transdispensationalism." What was said of learned Greek father Origin could be said of Dr. Evans, that in his pastoral concern he has turned a hope into a doctrine.
So what exactly is transdispensationalism? It is a whacky word for a whacky idea. But instead of attempting to sum up what Evans argues, I am reproducing the section of the appendix where Evans himself explains the idea (bold faced mine):
Now there’s a third way God can deal in grace with those who can’t believe because they have never heard the gospel. He can apply another dispensation and its criteria to them. A dispensation is simply an economy or an administration of God, a way in which He deals with people based on the information he has given them. For instance, people in the Old Testament were saved without hearing the name of Jesus, because Jesus hadn’t come to earth yet. But they were saved because they believed in the revelation of God. The Bible says Abraham believed God and was accounted as righteous, or saved, for believing in God’s promise of a son and a seed (Genesis 15:6). This was long before the Mosaic sacrificial system was ever begun. Abraham believed without hearing about Jesus, but I am not saying that people can be saved apart from Jesus. Never. Nobody can get saved without Jesus, because He is the Savior of all men, as we read in 1 Timothy 4:10. Everybody is saved through Christ, even those who lived before Jesus came, because in the mind and heart of God, Jesus was already sacrificed to pay for sin before the world was ever created (see Revelation 13:8). So a person can be saved without knowing Jesus’ name, but not without Jesus’ provision for sin. In the case of a person who never hears the gospel and never knows the name of Jesus, but who responds to the light he has, God treats that person like an Old Testament saint, if you will. That is, if the person trusts in what God has revealed, God deals with that person based on the knowledge he has, not the information he never received. I call this transdispensationalism. By this I mean if a person is sincerely seeking God and desiring to know Him, and is responding to the truth he knows, if there is no missionary or direct manifestation of God, then God judges that person based on his faith in the light he has received. And as in the case of Abraham, God will retroactively count this person as righteous by applying the death of Christ from the dispensation of grace.
John MacArthur, in a question and answer session was asked about his reference to the idea of transdispensationalism in a message to which he replied:
“Obviously, there is no biblical defense for that, and none is attempted in the book—none. There isn’t even a verse to defend that. Furthermore, living up to natural human light, apart from the revelation of the true and living God, wouldn’t save anybody in any dispensation. But, it is a very—it is a very strange thing and, to this degree, to the degree that He gives salvation to those who have never heard the gospel, it’s a departure from what we believe the scripture teaches. . . . There was a radio interview that followed that book that’s available. You can get the transcript of that radio interview, in which the host was interviewing Tony Evans and said to him, “You’re saying, if a Hindu looks up and says, ‘I know you’re up there somewhere. I don’t know who you are, but I’d really like to know you,’ God will count that as sufficient as salvation?” And the answer to that was “Yes.”
Evans recognized a future objection: “Tony, if you say people can be saved by general revelation, why preach the gospel? Why bother sending missionaries around the world and translating the Bible?” Evans gives two (really bad) answers to this objection: 1. Because Christ has commanded us to go and tell the whole world the good news of His salvation. 2. Because the process I just described for those who haven’t heard of Christ is far from automatic. Whatever we may try to deduce from Scripture about those who have never heard about Christ, we know without a doubt that those who hear and believe the gospel will be saved. (emphasis mine) One answer to this question is “because I said so,” and the other is “well, it might not actually work.” After having read this piece one will easily see that there is no substantive biblical warrant for such a position. However, as I have come to find out, this is an argument being many by several inclusivists. In a follow-up post, I will provide quotes as well as the line of argument for what Millard Erickson called “chronologically displaced persons” (which is the same thing as Evans’ transdispensationalism). *************** To read some rebuttals to Evans’ transdispensationalism, check out: Jim Sutherland. “Can Faith in Christ Be Attributed?: ‘Transdispensationalization’ and Dr. Tony Evans” J.B. Hixson. “A Response to Dr. Tony Evans’ Teaching Regarding the Eternal Salvation of Those Who Can’t Believe.”
Here's the quote:
“God’s knowledge of the future doesn’t determine the future anymore than our knowledge of the past determines the past. He just knows it.”Now I know this one is a hard one to guess, so I am going to tell you where you can listen to it yourself. Go here and scroll the time toggle over to the 01:18:55 mark. Do you know who else makes statements like this (other than Dick Lincoln at the Greensboro pastor's conference)? HINT: One of them taught at NOBTS at one point in his career.
In the June 14, 1999 edition of Christianity Today, David Neff, the executive editor, wrote a piece calling for evangelical unity in which he began by saying,
No one should be an accidental evangelical—or a merely cultural one. Unfortunately, few evangelicals can actually articulate the gospel. They can lead people to Christ and help them pray the sinner’s prayer, but when it comes to setting forth just how Jesus saves, most of us flounder (49).Over the course of the past fifty years, there have been a number of rallying points and confessional statements (for instance, consider the 1974 Lausanne Covenant and the 1978 Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy). However, as Neff points out, evangelicals had yet to come together with a consensus on the gospel of Jesus Christ. Neff reflects,
Curiously, those who bear the name evangelical (a term that means “of or relating to the gospel”) have never put forth a large-scale defining document about the gospel. That is because the gospel itself has not been at the center of modern disputes” (ibid.).At this point I would have to disagree with Neff. The gospel has been the center of many modern disputes; it is just that the evangelical leadership had not up to that point owned up to the dispute and dealt with it. In any case, Neff is correct to say “it is time for us to revisit, reaffirm, and recapture the gospel” (50). The end result of this desire to define, declare, and defend the gospel was a document called The Gospel of Jesus Christ: An Evangelical Celebration. This short document concerning the gospel is an excellently drafted piece, one that I would heartedly recommend to you. The Drafting Committee stated that the document was an attempt “to state what is primary and essential in the Gospel as evangelicals understood it” (54). In other places, the writers considered the document to elucidate the “key points” (54) and “necessary” truths (56) of the gospel of Jesus Christ. However, as we shall see, this document was not well received by evangelicals who hold to the position of inclusivism. In the gospel declaration, there are six particular places where the drafting committee explained that faith in Jesus Christ is necessary for salvation. There are stated as follows (emphasis mine): 1. The faith in God and in Christ to which the Gospel calls us is a trustful outgoing of our hearts to lay hold of these promised and proffered benefits” (52). 2. Sinners receive through faith in Christ alone “the gift of righteousness” (Rom. 1:17, 5:17; Phil. 3:9) and thus become “the righteousness of God” in him who was “made sin” for them (2 Cor. 5:21) (53). 3. The moment we truly believe in Christ, the Father declares us righteous in him and begins conforming us to his likeness (53). 4. We affirm that Jesus Christ is the only way of salvation, the only mediator between God and humanity (John 14:6; 1 Tim. 2:5). We deny that anyone is saved in any other way than by Jesus Christ and his Gospel. The Bible offers no hope that sincere worshipers of other religions will be saved without personal faith in Jesus Christ (54). 5. We affirm that faith in Jesus Christ as the divine Word (or Logos, John 1:1), the second Person of the Trinity, co-eternal and co-essential with the Father and the Holy Spirit (Heb. 1:3), is foundational to faith in the Gospel (54). 6. We affirm that saving faith includes mental assent to the content of the Gospel, acknowledgment of our own sin and need, and personal trust and reliance upon Christ and his work (55). As you can see, the evangelical leaders who drafted this document were not fuzzy or flippant when it came to their understanding that only those who believe in the person of Jesus Christ will be saved. With such a unambiguous and provocative statement, the inclusivists were sure to cry foul—and so they did. Less than four months later (October 4, 1999 issue), CT received a letter to the editor signed by the following: Gerald R. McDermott, Nancey Murphy, Alan G. Padgett, Cornelius Plantinga, Jr., John G. Stackhouse, Jr., Jonathan R. Wilson, and Nicholas Wolterstorff. It was their belief that the document calling for evangelical celebration was actually a statement that “serves needlessly to marginalize or alienate fellow evangelicals” (15). Regarding the matter of saving faith being solely in the person of Jesus Christ, they said the following (emphasis mine):
Furthermore, we are disappointed that the traditional evangelical affirmation that “Jesus Christ is the only way of salvation” (which we stoutly affirm) is linked with the controversial opinion that “the Bible offers on hope that sincere worshippers of other religions will be saved without personal faith in Jesus Christ.” God’s treatment of those in other religious traditions who have not heard and rejected an authentic presentation of the gospel by the Holy Spirit in fact have been a subject of evangelical investigation and disputation for centuries. In this regard, we are surprised by the affirmation that “saving faith includes mental assent to the content of the gospel.” We wonder how God saves infants and mentally retarded people; or people who lived before the time of Christ; or anyone who doesn’t hear the actual propositions of the gospel message in his or her lifetime. Such phrasing represents only the “exclusivist” camp in these matters of evangelical dispute and leaves out “inclusivist” evangelicals. It therefore does not belong in a “uniting” document. We join with CT, therefore, in celebrating the majority of this document with which we agree. We are sorry, however, that it does not in fact represent adequately the evangelical consensus it purports to reflect.In their rebuttals, you see some of the classic arguments against the exclusivist position. I can understand their appeal to their position and “regretful” sentiments to this gospel declaration, for the overwhelming majority of leading evangelicals affirmed that indeed the gospel of Jesus Christ cannot be altered nor can its requirements be minimized. To change the gospel in order to “make it more accessible” neither does a service to the lost heathen without Christ nor the Christian community who confesses it. As Neff asked, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful . . . if evangelicals could achieve a broad consensus on the gospel and join in a common statement?” Well, for some, this gospel statement is not broad enough. On the other hand, I believe it is as broad as the gates of heaven. As evangelicals, let us unite under the gospel of Jesus Christ and celebrate what God has accomplishes for us in the death, burial, resurrection, and exaltation of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Note: To read a little background of some of the drafting committee go here. Also interesting to note, some of the supporters of this document I have come to find are inclusivists (such as Tony Evans whom I will mention in my next article on inclusivism). Also, given that this document was in some way a response to Evangelicals and Catholics Together (ECT), I find it somewhat ironic that some of the supporters of ECT also support this document which clearly rejects the Catholic understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Finally, to check out the book that was published after this gospel statement, go here.
This is the question asked by Gerald McDermott in his book Can Evangelicals Learn from World Religions? Jesus, Revelation & Religious Traditions (Downer's Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2000). Over the past couple of weeks I have been both listening and reading this book and currently about half way through. Some my initial thoughts and questions included the following: 1. What exactly do you mean by learning? 2. What can we learn (and cannot)? 3. If I am to understand that learning from world religions means another provisional revelation outside of Christ and the Scriptures, am I to think that the fullness of Christ and sufficiency of Scriptures is not enough? In other words, what can we learn that we have not been taught in the person of Christ and the Scriptures? 4. To assume that we can learn from other world religions carries a presupposition that other world religions are compatible with Christianity if not add to it (thereby denoting inadequacy). Is there biblical warrant to show that Christianity is compatible with other world religions and that God chooses to reveal himself outside of the Living (Jesus Christ) and written Word (Scriptures)? Those were my initial questions when starting this book. If do not already know, McDermott is an inclusivist, and I mention that because it is worth noting a person's presuppositions and entry point in the argument. While it would be idealist to approach the discussion as an objective observer, we know this is simply not true, and McDermott is not merely being descriptive but also implicitly prescriptive in his thesis. In his introduction, McDermott presents one of his overarching goals of his book:
This book is the beginning of an evangelical theology of the religions that addresses not the question of salvation but the problem of truth and revelation, and takes seriously the normative claims of other traditions. It explores the biblical propositions that Jesus is the light that enlightens every person (John 1:9) and that God has not left Himself without a witness among non-Christian traditions (Acts 14:17). It argues that if Saint Augustine learned from Neo-Platonism to better understand the gospel, if Thomas Aquinas learned from Aristotle to better understand the Scriptures, and if John Calvin learned from Renaissance humanism, perhaps evangelicals may be able to learn from the Buddha--and other great religious thinkers and traditions--things that can help them more clearly understand God's revelation in Christ (12). Emphasis mine.Now this is a striking statement. The proof texts McDermott uses is often given to make the case for general revelation, but as you will see in his book, McDermott is arguing for another kind, a third kind if you will, of revelation that comes not from general or special revelation but other religions. Interestingly enough, McDermott does makes the confession that although "condemnation is indeed the result of some of this revelation [general revelation], Scripture also hints that the Spirit uses this revelation, no doubt in conjunction with others, to lead some to God" (54). So here you have the argument being made that general revelation in effect is salvific as the Holy Spirit applies this revelation to people --well, okay the Scripture hints in a no doubt sort of way. In any case, McDermott is making the case that evangelicals and can and should learn from world religions, a learning which contributes to a better understanding of what it means to be Christian and a more complete revelation of what God has done for us in Christ. Your Thoughts So what do you think? Do you believe God has provided for us revelation of Himself in Islam, Hinduism, Taoism, or Sikhism? To take the question a step further, can evangelicals learn from atheists or naturalists? Should Christians today be "plundering the Egyptians" to find greater and deeper truths about God in order that we might better know Him? Or, do you believe that God has revealed Himself fully and definitively in the person of Jesus Christ and the Scriptures? Let me know what you think.
This is a prayer from The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions. In keeping with the topic, I thought this prayer would be good to see how Christians in the past have prayed with regards to the doctrine of election. Holy Trinity, All praise to thee for electing me to salvation, by foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus; I adore the wonders of thy condescending love, marvel at the true believer's high privilege within whom all heaven comes to dwell, abiding in God and God in him; I believe it, help me exercise it to the full. Continue to teach me that Christ's righteousness satisfies justice and evidences thy love; Help me to make use of it by faith as the ground of my peace and of thy favour and acceptance, so that I may live always near the cross. It is not feeling the Spirit that proves my saved state but the truth of what Christ did perfectly for me; All holiness in him by faith made mine, as if I had done it; Therefore I see the use of his righteousness, for satisfaction to divine justice and making me righteous. It is not inner sensation that makes Christ's death mine for that may be delusion, being without the Word, but his death apprehended by my faith, and so testified by Word and Spirit. I bless thee for these lively exercises of faith, for the righteousness that is mine in Jesus, for grace to resign my will to thee; I rejoice to think that all things are at thy disposal, and I love to leave them there. Then prayer turns wholly into praise, and all I can do is to adore and love thee. I want not the favour of man to lean upon, for I know that thy electing grace is infinitely better.
On November 30, 2003, Pastor John Piper preached a message called “Pastoral Thoughts on the Doctrine of Election.” During his massive expository series through the book of Romans, Piper took a Sunday (at the time of exposing Romans 11) to reflect on the practical benefits of believing and understanding the doctrine of unconditional election.
Piper and BBC state that unconditional election
is the teaching that God chose, before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4), who would believe and so be undeservingly saved in spite of their sin, and who would persist in rebellion and so deservingly perish because of their sin. In other words, the wisdom and justice and grace of God's will is always the ultimate explanation of what happens in the world—all of it. Humans are not God. We cannot originate causes out of nothing.
In his message, Piper gives five points worth considering when valuing this important doctrine. These are very helpful and pastoral, and I encourage you to consider them for your personal benefit. If you would like to read the entire sermon, you can both read and listen to it here.
One of the implications of this point is that we will not always know how some particular doctrine in the Bible is good for us. We Americans are especially pragmatic and demanding. If we don't see the payoff of a doctrine immediately, we tend to ignore it. We are like foolish children when we do that. . . . The effects on our lives of what we know are always more than we know or can explain. Sometimes we must simply learn something because God says it's true. Then later we may see how the knowledge protected us, or strengthened us, or humbled us, or purified us, or guided us, or enabled us to see other things as true. The issue boils down to trust. Do we trust that God has revealed what is good for us to know?
The doctrine of election tends to give firmness and fiber to flabby minds. It tends to produce robust, thoughtful Christians who are not swept away by trendy, man-centered ideas. It has an amazing preservative power that works to keep other doctrines from being diluted and lost. In general it tends to press onto our minds a God-centered worldview built out of real objective truth. . . . The doctrine of election an amazing effect to awaken people who are drifting in the river of inherited assumptions with no engagement of the mind. Suddenly they are jarred by the radical God-centeredness of the Bible and the frightening man-centeredness of their own hearts. They are put on a quest to build a way of thinking Biblically about the God and the world that may avoid the tragedy Colson warns about: namely, the world discovering, at last, that truth really matters, just when the church has decided in the name of cultural relevance that doctrine doesn't matter. The doctrine of election is good for us and for our grandchildren in ways we can't even yet imagine.
Paul addressed this issue most forcefully in Romans 9:6-23. As he did, he heard the ancient and modern objection, "Why does [God] still find fault? For who can resist his will?" his answer to that was, "But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, 'Why have you made me like this?'" (Romans 9:19-20). In other words, it's not fitting for you to reverse roles with God. He's the potter. Few doctrines test more clearly whether we are judging God or God is judging us. . . . It is hard for a fish to know that it is wet. Wet is all there is for a fish. A fish doesn't even think of it. So it's hard for a modern person —a person living in the last two hundred years—to know that he is arrogant toward God. Arrogance toward God is all there is in the modern world. It's the ocean we swim in—the air we breathe. It's woven into the fabric of our minds. We don't even know it's there. We can't see it, because we look through it to see everything else.
Embracing and being embraced by the doctrine of sovereign grace—beginning with unconditional election—first produces that kind of radical, risk-taking sacrificial love; and then it humbles us to rejoice in the truth that we did not produce this beauty in ourselves, God did. Then we give him the glory. . . . In Romans 8:33 Paul says, "Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies." The answer is: Nobody can make a charge stick against you if you are chosen by God. He is for you forever. It's crystal clear that Paul says this because he expects it to have a practical effect on us. He expects us to feel assurance and joy and then be courageous and fearless. As you stand before a decision today that seems right and loving, but risky, do you feel the effect of the question: "Who shall bring any charge against God's elect?" Do you feel the assurance-producing gospel force in the word "elect"?
Ephesians 1:3 says, "[God] chose us in [Christ] before the foundation of the world." In other words, when God planned in eternity to pluck us out of our bondage to sin, he had Christ in mind as the way he would do it. God planned before the foundation of the world to save us through the death and resurrection of Christ.
Therefore, what God has done to save us and call us to himself is not to tell us ahead of time if we are elect. God never reveals this except through a relationship with Jesus Christ, so that Christ is central to our election. Instead of telling us if we are elect, what God did was to send his Son and say, "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life" (John 3:36). "Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself" (1 John 5:10). He knows that he is elect.
So in the name of Christ I call you: Come, take him as your Savior and your Lord and the Treasure of your life. He never casts out any who comes in faith. He forgives sin. He clothes with righteousness. He gives the Holy Spirit. He will keep you. "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand" (John 10:27). Hear the voice of the good Shepherd and come.
********************* For additional reading, check out "What We Believe About the Five Points of Calvinism" published by the elders of Bethlehem Baptist Church (Minneapolis, MN).
Here are some brief reflections from Brad at the close of the election.
Well it has been a long day and a long few months. A few hours ago, I called to congratulate Sanford Bishop on his win and pledged to work to support him in his efforts to lead this district.
Tonight has been strange. I knew when I started that this was an uphill battle, especially since this was my first step into politics. I did not come naive. I did, however, not expect that several counties in
Hughes for Congress
Just a few moments ago, Brad called Sanford Bishop and congratulated him on his victory. With over 90% of the precincts reporting, the gap is insurmountable. Brad has been quite jovial throughout the night and does not consider this necessarily as a "loss," because from the beginning Brad had nothing really to lose. From the thousands of people we personally contacted to the personal contacts throughout the district, people have continued to speak of how impressed they have been with the way Brad has handled himself and how well he has ran his campaign. For someone who has been called a "no-name from no-where with no-money" by some people, I think Brad has done quite well. On the state level, Georgia conservatives won the governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, state school superintendent, and commissioner of insurance. Two statewide races that impacted Brad's campaign was the Comissioner of Agriculture and Commissioner of Labor, both which the Republican candidate lost. In the 2nd Congressional District, labor and agriculture are huge local issues, and to lose on a state level was indicative of the outcome of the current position of Georgians on these matters. As we begin to close out the night, I can honestly say that it has been a privilege to spend the last couple of days here in Blakely, Georgia with my good friend Brad Hughes. I look forward to seeing where and how God leads Brad in the future. In the mean time, we will be catching up on the last six months and enjoying what God has provided in our friendship and common desire to glorify God with our lives.
Just got a second while the precincts are coming in. Right now, there are 60% of the precincts reporting with Brad right at around 40% of the vote. While this does not look good, the four largest conservative counties have yet to post their results, and the early and asbentee ballots won't be added until the end of the reporting. In that case, we are told that Brad has a considerable advantage in the early/absentee polling. On another note, we are hearing that there are major problems in Peach County, the same county we were told that Brad's name was not on the ballot. Now we are told that the absentee ballots were too big to go in the slot and are having to slowly and methodically count the early votes. In Brad's own county, Early county, Brad has already received the most conservative votes in the history of the 2nd Congressional District race. Here at the election party, the atmosphere is warm, enthusiastic, and hopeful. While everyone realizes that Brad is not slated to win this election, everyone is convinced that this election will make a statement and set a precedent for future elections to come. From the beginning, Brad has always looked at this election campaign as a learning experience and an opportunity to represent the people of his disctict. Whether he wins or loses, there is no question that both Brad has gained a lot of experience and the people of his disctict have come to love and respect him for a young man full of passion and conviction who desires to represent Georgians with proven character and principled leadership. Later tonight I will post another update when all the precincts come to a close. We are expecting the media to arrive shortly, and the party is continuing. Until then, let us pray for our country and our leaders that they would govern this nation according to a worldview and value system as we are "one nation under God."
We'll see? Like much of the country, a considerable number of voters cast their ballots early due to the new rules that you can vote absentee without having a reason. From the reports we are hearing, the results from the early voting is that Republicans are taking the early/absentee votes 2 to 1. As I mentioned in my last post, according to the most recent internet polling, Brad is within the margin of error (Bishop 52%, Hughes 48%). These are encouraging signs, but as in every poll or report, being cautiously optimistic is necessary (given the potential inaccuracy of the information provided). In the 2nd Congressional District, there are 32 counties. In the history of this district, a Republican has only won six counties. If Brad wins seven, that in itself will be victory. This district is one of the last Democratic strongholds in the state. Winning this election would be monumental in the political landscape of the state of Georgia. According to some predictions, political analysts say that this race is "safely democratic," meaning that the Democratic party has no doubt that they will win this seat. If the question for which party comes down with the majority in the House of Representatives, an unexpected win could prove to be pivotable in determining whether the Republicans hold the majority or not. If you would like to keep up with the election results, here is the link to the Georgia Secretary of State election results. It should be updated throughout the day. Should I have time to write later today, I will update you on the events that take place. Please remember to exercise your right to vote. Remember it is not just a right, but a privilege. It was afforded to us and protected by men and women who daily put their lives on the line for our democratic freedoms.
Brad has been so kind as to allow me to use his laptop to post my reflections on the campaign while traveling to our next destination. Here are my initial thoughts of what is going on.
Sunday night after church, my good friends James Risner, Sean Gould, and I caught a flight from Bowman Field to
We began the morning at Brad’s campaign headquarters making phone calls to potential voters in the 2nd Congressional District. During that time, Brad had an interview with a radio station in Columbus, GA. After meeting many of Brad’s team of volunteers, we loaded up and headed out on our first destination.
Our first rally took place in
One of the places Brad made a campaign stop was the small town of
The second rally was scheduled to take place later this afternoon in
Arriving back in Blakely, we hit the phones hard again for the next three hours. It was very entertaining talking to some of the good people of
The Perfect Storm
When Brad first mentioned to me last year that he wanted to run for U.S. Congress, I told him that he should go for it and that he had nothing to lose. Many people have underestimated Brad’s passion, commitment, and influence in his own home district. His opponent, Sanford Bishop, is a 14-year incumbent and has defeated the Republicans with considerable ease in years past. As a matter of fact, there has never been a Republican to ever win this particular House seat in the history of
However, I believe the perfect storm has come. First, Mr. Bishop has nothing on Brad to sling against him. And Brad’s weakness (being young and inexperienced) has become his strength. Second, the district has been redrawn, including several countries which Brad has a good shot at carrying. Third, Brad has successfully gone under the radar for most of the campaign, allowing his groundswell of influence to increase without the tremors being felt in D.C. Fourth, when Brad came out in public through open forums, his candidate failed to attend several of them which left Brad with the concerned public to himself. Finally, what it comes down to in an off-year election, turn-out is key. If Brad is within 5 percentage points of Bishop, I believe he will turn out a greater percentage of likely voters who are more motivated, informed, and committed to their vote counting. That said, the last providential thing we wanted to happen is to have a big rain storm come through. The inclement weather could turn the tide and sweep away nominal and uniformed voters who would rather stay at home than brave the storm to vote. Well, God has answered that prayer. Go here if you want to see what I mean.
One of the disappointing this I have seen thus far is the political shenanigans which infringe on the democratic process. In one county, people have said that Brad is not even on the ballot! In other ares of the district, all of Brad's signs have been pulled and discarded. I had a little time tonight to do a little research this particular election. For instance, I found out that Brad’s opponent, Sanford Bishop, has a legislation score of 0.00 and a rank of 268 out of 435 representatives – that after 14 years of service. During that length of time, Bishop has funded over $10 million to the 2nd district which has 18.3% of families below the poverty level (compared to the national average of 9.2%). Earlier tonight I heard of one kid whose family struggles so much financially that the only meal he gets is the breakfast and lunch his school provides. Those stats we hear really take on a whole new meaning when you are looking into the eyes of a person who comprise such stats.
Tomorrow, I suppose we will find out if it is time for a change. Regardless of what happens, I am glad to say that I know Brad Hughes. His courage to undertake such a daunting challenge, his compassion to embrace all the people of Georgia, and commitment to do what it takes to see change take place has been not only inspiring but also convicting. Ultimately, it is in the hands of the Lord, so with his glory as our aim, I pray that God will be pleased to accomplish His purpose whatever that may be, in the light of Brad and for the people of state of Georgia.
Note: I forgot to put this in the post, but in case you wanted to know the David/Goliah nature of this election, just consider the funding advantage of Brad's opponent. Bishop has been bragging that he has 22 times the money raise than Brad. Unfortunately for him, Brad is within the margin of error having spent only $18,000 compared to Bishops $547,000.
As I mentioned earlier last week, I will be leaving today for Georgia with a couple of friends to help out our good friend Brad Hughes in the last days of his congressional campaign. I am not sure whether I will be able to blog in GA given that I do not have a personal computer accessible at this time, but I will inform you on how things turn out. My good friend Dan was kind enough to allow me to borrow his camera gear, so I will be able (Lord willing) to capture the whole deal. In the meantime, I thought I'd share with you how much my friends think of me. This is an email correspondence between the pilot flying us and James, one of my friends who I will try to witness to on the airplane.
I think at this point the only information that I need from you is the weight of each of the passengers. We will be approaching capacity with four of us guys on-board, so I need to encourage you to please pack as lightly as possible -- please spread the word. Also, I would like to know if anyone in the group has a particular fear of flying, or any other special considerations that I should be aware of ahead of time. I'm looking forward to the trip... it will be a great time. Pray the Lord would give us clear skies. Thanks, RobertTo which James replied thus:
Hey Robert, I was going to ask if I could bring my bowling ball collection- I've been meaning to show Brad for quite a while. But since we've a weight limit I'll wait til next time... I'm pretty sure that all three of the guys are right about 180 lbs. And I don't think any of us have a fear of flying besides Timmy. But he usually just wears a depends undergarment and he is fine. JamesNow that puts a new twist on Provocative Panties - the name given to my blog by friends at school. James will not get away with this.
One of the primary research projects I have been working on over the past semester is the role of saving faith in inclusivism. One of the major arguments inclusivism makes is that explicit knowledge of Jesus Christ is not necessary for a person to be saved. In other words, people can be saved without ever knowing of Jesus Christ, who He is or what He came to do, and can benefit from His substitutionary atonement on their behalf (i.e. Jesus is an ontological necessity but not an epistemological necessity). There are several ways in which inclusivists make their argument, and supporters of this position range from Roman Catholic theologians to Reformed theologians. The people I am critiquing for an upcoming paper include: Roman Catholic theologian Karl Rahner and his anonymous implicit faith, Open Theist Clark Pinnock and his “faith principle”, Open Theist John Sanders and his “believer”/"Christian” dichotomy, Neal Punt and his “biblical universalism,” and Reformed theologian Terrance Tiessen and his “universally sufficient grace” view. There are other theologians which I will exclude for the sake of this paper that are noteworthy including Roman Catholic theologians Hans Kuhn, Gavin D’Costa, and Jacques Dupuis, Charismatic theologian Amos Yong and his pneumatological salvation, and other proponents of “divine perseverance” or “post-mortem encounter/evangelism (PME). I will argue that changing the nature of saving faith carries with it sweeping soteriological consequences, including a misrepresentation of the nature of God, a conflation of God’s revelation, a unbiblical view of man and sin, a reformulation of the gospel, and a trivialization of Christian mission. Some of the key elements in the inclusivist position include God’s universal salvific will (along with universal access requirement), the idea of “holy pagans,” emphasis on general revelation, premessianic believers, the “radical love of God,” “chronologically displaced persons” (also called “transdispensationalism”), doctrine of inculpable unbelief, rejection of filioque, the “cosmic work of Christ,” and the “finality of Christ.” Inclusivists also argue that the early church fathers before Augustine were inclusivists (Irenaus, Clement of Alexandria, and Justin Martyr for example). However, the watershed moment for contemporary inclusivism came with Vatican II and eventually made its way into Protestantism and evangelicalism towards the end of the 20th century. Obviously, as you can tell, I am not an inclusivist. However, according to many statistics, a large number of Christians, even conservative Christians, have revealed through polling that they are inclusivists. Also, the fate of the unevangelized is one largest looming questions in evangelical theology as well as one of the greatest objections to those rejecting the gospel. Consequently, I thought that I would post some of the arguments made by inclusivists on my blog for interaction and discussion. We need to understand the arguments being made and be able to biblically engage the ideas (and refute when necessary) with a thorough and careful examination. I hope that the future posts could foster good discussion, but more importantly cause us to precisely define, defend, and declare the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Author and Finisher of our faith.
Himself a fairly young pastor, Mark Driscoll is aware of the many temptations and dangers of sexual sin. In light of the recent events involving Ted Haggard, Driscoll offers some very good suggestions for ministers, especially young men. Here is what he had to say: 1. The only way to stay away from sin is to stay close to Jesus. Colossians says that we are prone to making a lot of rules but that if we don’t deal with the issues in our heart, we are fooling ourselves; holiness cannot be obtained by the sheer force of white-knuckled will power. More than anyone, a Christian leader needs time with Jesus in repentance, for their own soul and not just to make them a better leader or teacher. Death comes to every Christian leader who goes to Jesus and Scripture for purely functional and not relational purposes. 2. Most pastors I know do not have satisfying, free, sexual conversations and liberties with their wives. At the risk of being even more widely despised than I currently am, I will lean over the plate and take one for the team on this. It is not uncommon to meet pastors’ wives who really let themselves go; they sometimes feel that because their husband is a pastor, he is therefore trapped into fidelity, which gives them cause for laziness. A wife who lets herself go and is not sexually available to her husband in the ways that the Song of Songs is so frank about is not responsible for her husband’s sin, but she may not be helping him either. 3. Every pastor needs a pastor. Too often the pastor is seen as a sort of little God and his wife as some glorified First Lady. Every pastor needs a pastor with whom he can regularly have accountability and the confession of sin. Every pastor’s wife also needs a godly woman chosen for her maturity and trustworthiness. 4. No church should tolerate sexual sin among its leaders. Christians cannot be guilty of playing plank-speck with non-Christians on matters of pornography and homosexuality and be guilty of going soft on sin in their own leadership. As Paul says, nothing can be done out of partiality or favoritism. Pastors should have their office at the church and their study at home. There is no reason a pastor should be sitting alone at the church at odd hours (e.g., early morning and late evening) to study when anyone can drop in for any reason and have access to him. Instead, a pastor should come into the office for scheduled meetings and work from home on tasks such as emails, planning, studying, sermon preparation, etc. I spend the vast majority of my time working from home. Some years ago when I did not, I found that lonely people, some of them hurting single moms wanting a strong man to speak into their life, would show up to hang out and catch time with me. It was shortly thereafter that I brought my books home and purchased a laptop and cell phone so that I was not tied to the church office. 5. Pastors have the right to protect their own home. This means that if someone keeps dropping by unannounced and is unwelcome, or a flirtatious woman shows up to a Bible study at the pastor’s home, the pastor and his family have the right to request that they never return. The pastor’s home simply cannot be viewed as yet another piece of church property that is accessible to anyone who desires it. Rather, the pastor’s home must be a safe place for the pastor and his family without the wrong people rudely calling and dropping by. 6. Churches should consider returning to heterosexual male assistants who are like Timothy and Titus to serve alongside pastors. Too often the pastor’s assistant is a woman who, if not sexually involved, becomes too emotionally involved with the pastor as a sort of emotional and practical second wife. I have been blessed with a trustworthy heterosexual male assistant who can travel with me, meet with me, etc., without the fear of any temptations or even false allegations since we have beautiful wives and eight children between us. 7. Pastors need to protect their email and have it screened for accountability. For me, this means that no email but an email from one of our pastors comes directly to me. This also means that I leave my email account open at home and my wife regularly checks it to get schedule information, etc., because I have nothing to hide. I also do not have a secondary email account from which to build a secret identity. 8. Pastors need to carefully protect their cell phone number. If that private number gets out, too many of the wrong people have access to the pastor. Not only should the cell phone number of a pastor be given out to only a few people, he should also consider eliminating his voicemail and simply have calls forwarded to his assistant. In this way people will not become too informal with the pastor and if the pastor knows someone is trouble (e.g., a flirtatious woman), he can see that on his caller ID and simply refuse to answer the call or have to deal with a voicemail. 9. Pastors must speak freely and frankly with their wives about their temptations. Without this there really can be no walking in the light and sin always grows in darkness. 10. Pastors must not travel alone; the anonymity and fatigue of the road is too great a temptation for many men. A pastor should take his wife, an older child, an assistant, or fellow leader with him. If this cannot be afforded then travel should not be undertaken. 11. Any pastor who is drifting toward serious sexual sin should have the courage, love for God, devotion to his family, and respect for his church to simply fall on his sword and resign before he goes down in flames. He must get the professional help he needs without fear of losing his position as a pastor. It is much better to be an honest Christian than a wicked pastor. 12. Lastly, the big issue is a love and fear of God. Only a man really knows his heart and whether or not he loves and fears God above all else. Without this a man will fail to live for God’s glory, and it is only a matter of time. In conclusion, I say none of this as moralism. Indeed, this is a deeply rooted gospel issue. How can we proclaim that our God is a faithful Trinitarian community if we are not faithful to our marriage covenant and family? How can we say that the same power that raised Christ from the dead lives in us if we have no holiness in our life? How can we proclaim that we are new creations in Christ if we continually return to lap up the vomit of our old way of life? How can we preach that sin is to be repented of if we fail to model that ongoing repentance? How can we say that God is our highest treasure and greatest joy when we trade Him for sin that defiles our hands and defames His name?
As I was watching the Louisville/West Virginia game last night, I happened to catch during a commercial break the news about Ted Haggard on CNN last night. I knew that this would be big news and was curious to see the shake down. I just did a little blogsearch on "Ted Haggard" and noticed than in the last day, there have been 598 blogposts on Ted Haggard, 160 just in the last hour - everyone from conservative evangelicals to the Huffington Post. I also noticed on my stat page a huge number of hits going to my response to Haggard's comments on the Babara Walter's interview about heaven last year. I think Justin Taylor sums up my thoughts on the subject, so I would encourage you to read his post first. Phil Johnson responds to say that this revelation is an indication that evangelicalism is "at least as much in need of Reformation as Medieval Roman Catholicism was before Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the castle church." David Wayne also has a few reflections as well. Aside from the allegations, accusations, and confessions, I want to ask regarding the outcome of this news. How great of an impact do you think this will have on evangelicals? Do you agree with Phil Johnson that evangelicalism needs a reformation as bad as the RCC? What are your thoughts on this?
In his book, A Pastor’s Sketches, Ichabod Smith Spencer (note to parents: please do not name your kids Ichabod!) shares how he dealt with a man inquiring about God’s election while refusing to come to Christ in repentance and faith. Spencer gives three purposes why the Bible presents the doctrine of predestination. The first purpose is to teach men the character of God; the second is to repress the audacity of the wicked; and the third is to comfort God’s people. Spencer’s words about such a comfort is quite powerful, and thought the quote is a bit lengthy, let me encourage you to read it all. It is a good word we all need to hear.
The third man purpose of this doctrine [of predestination] is, as I suppose, to comfort God’s people. The grand trial of a life of religion is a trial of the heart. We have sins, we have weaknesses and temptations, which tend to a dreadful discouragement. Sin easily besets us. We easily wander from God. Holiness is an up-hill work. Our feet often stagger in the path of our pilgrimage, and tears of bitterness gush from our eyes, lest such weak, and tempted, and erring creatures should never reach heaven. Devils tempt us. The world presents its deceitful allurements, and more deceitful and dangerous claims. What shall cheer us when our heart sinks within us? Whither shall we fly for comfort, when our hearts are bleeding, when our sins are so many, when our gain in holiness is so little, when our light goes out, and the gloom of an impenetrable midnight settles down upon our poor and helpless soul? We cannot, indeed, mount up to the inner sanctuary of God, open the seven-sealed book, and read our names recorded in it by the pen of the Eternal. But we can know that such a book is there; and that the pen of our Father has filled it with his eternal decrees, not one of which shall fail of accomplishment, as surely as his own throne shall stand. And when we find in ourselves, amid our tearful struggles, even the feeble beginnings of holiness, we know that God has commenced his work for us,--a work which he planned before the world was; and that he who has ‘begun a good in work in us, will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ,’ carrying into effect his eternal plan. Just as well as we know our likeness to God, we know our election to God. We know that our holiness is his work, a work which he purposed from the beginning. If he had purposed it but just when he began it,--if it were a work undertaken from some recent impulse, then we should have good reason to fear that some other impulse would drive him to abandon it. But when we know it from a part of his eternal counsels, and is no sidework, no episode, no interlude, or sudden interposition not before provided for—then we are assured that God is not going to forsake us; and deep as is our home-bred depravity, and many and malignant as are our foes, we are cheered with the assurance, that God will bring us off victorious, and ‘the purpose according to election shall stand.’ We love to see our salvation embraced in the eternal plan of God; and we know it is embraced there, if we are his children by faith in Christ Jesus. We cannot read his secret counsels; but we can read his spiritual workings in us. We know the counsels by the evidence of the workings; and then we are cheered and encouraged amid our trials, by the idea that God will no more abandon us than he will abandon the eternal plan which his wisdom formed before the foundation of the world. ‘Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect?’ He had their names in his book before they had shed a tear, before a devil existed to tempt them.- Ichabod Smith Spencer, A Pastor’s Sketches: Conversations with Anxious Souls Concerning the Way of Salvation vol. 1 (Vestavia Hills, AL: Solid Ground Books), 237-39.
Before I break into my post, let me mention a couple of things. It looks like the scarlet “C” t-shirt is in the works. Both Centuri0n and Stephen are making one. You know it might be a good idea to come up with a scarlet “C” t-shirt contest, with each shirt having a caption that follows. You know, “We wear it on our sleeves,” or “Christianity that is more than skin deep” or even have one with a tie painted below the collar. Anyhoo, just a few thoughts. Since my last post, Marty Duren and Tom Ascol have responded to Mr. Harrell’s comments, particularly with his grounding rule. What I didn’t know is that Mr. Harrell has been around for quite some time in the Conservative Resurgence, so it makes sense the charges people are making about “turning back the clock,” narrowing the parameters, and calling for uniformity. Let me go back to his article and provide the quote again about his “grounding rule.” He says:
Harrell further explained, “I think the problem of Calvinism in the SBC could be solved if we establish one ground rule. If a man wants to start a Calvinistic church, let him have at it. If a man wants to answer a call to a Calvinistic church he should have the freedom to do that, but that man should not answer a call to a church that is not Calvinistic, neglect to tell them his leanings, and then surreptitiously lead them to become a Calvinistic church. That is not to suggest that all of our Calvinistic friends do that, but when it is done it is divisive and hurtful. “The same thing should be true of a contemporary church,” Harrell added. “Don’t try to transform a raditional church into a contemporary mindset just because it is the popular thing to do.”
Tom Ascol, responding to this quote, asks a very good question:
I wonder what Harrell would say about a church that was established by Calvinists as a confessionally reformed church but was led away from that confession by pastors who came in and preached contrary to it? In other words, does his "one ground rule" go both ways? Should a man who is not Calvinistic go to a church that was established on Calvinistic theology? Should a man who thinks that Calvinism is wrong serve as pastor of a church that was founded by Calvinists with a clearly Calvinistic commitment?
There is a reason why Ascol asks this question, and it is precisely because the church that Harrell pastors was founded in a tradition that was clearly Calvinistic! The article indicates that Abilene Baptist Church was founded in 1774 as the Reed Creek Church whose founding pastor was Abraham Marshall (the son of Daniel Marshall, the founder of the Sandy Creek Baptist Church in NC). While Abraham founded the 3rd oldest Baptist church in Georgia (Reed Creek), his father, Daniel Marshall, founded the oldest continuing church in Georgia at Kiokee in 1772. Abraham later came to pastor Kiokee after his father from 1784-1819, a church whose founding documents says the following:
"According to God's appointment in His Word, we do hereby in His name and strength covenant and promise to keep up and defend all the articles of faith, according to God's Word, such as the great doctrine of election, effectual calling, particular redemption, justification by the imputed righteousness of Christ alone, sanctification by the spirit of God, believers' baptism by immersion, the saints' absolute final perseverance in grace, the resurrection of the dead, future rewards and punishments, etc., all according to Scripture which we take as the rule of our faith and practice, with some other doctrines herein not mentioned, as are commanded and supported by that blessed Book: denying the Arian, Socinian, and Arminian errors, and every other principle contrary to the Word of God. Now yet since we are exhorted to prove all things, orderly ministers of any denomination may when invited, preach in our meeting house" (emphasis added).
Now isn’t this an interesting historical tidbit. Mr. Harrell pastors a church whose founding pastor was a Calvinist, and while the founding documents are not available at this time, if Reed Creek’s founding pastor was a Calvinist and the founding documents verified that indeed the church was Reformed from the beginning, is Harrell not in violation of his own “grounding rule”? At least he says the congregation ‘still sings from the hymnbook.”