Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Moving to Facebook

A Facebook Group for the ExaminingCalvinism.com website will now replace this Blog.  This Blog was originally created out of a desire by a reader to discuss a particular article on the website, and I now deem it best to move all such future discussions to the more user-friendly format at Facebook.


The purpose of the Facebook Group for ExaminingCalvinism.com is the following:

(1) Discuss the specific material on the website.

(2) Share testimonials.

(3) Advise of broken links and identify any typos to correct.

(4) Requests for specific verses to provide commentary and/or related subjects to address.

As for requests to engage in debate, such requests should be directed to the Facebook Group for "TULIP DEBATE" in which I participate as an Admin. For Arminians who wish to connect with fellow Arminians, please visit the Facebook Group for the "Society of Evangelical Arminians."

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Young, restless....no longer reformed? Austin Fischer debates James White.



Austin Fischer comes across as genuine and conscientious, having wrestled with his conscience, concerning the matter of the High Calvinist doctrine of Unconditional Reprobation, in lieu of the love, goodness and justice of God. Conversely, James White comes across as a theological bully, trying to pigeon-hole Fischer into the classifications of an Open Theist, even though Fischer is not, and White also mentioned Universalism, also knowing full well that Fischer is not a Universalist either, and finally White explains that he is concerned that Fischer is not even a Bible believer. White became noticeably testy when Fischer objected at White's attempt to supply a relevant analogy of how Unconditional Reprobation would be consistent with God's love. However, I should point out that whereas White's attempt was indeed a "swing and a miss," Bruce Ware did advance a particular analogy of "Winston Churchill," in his debate with Jerry Walls, although in fairness, that analogy had core problems, rather than mere tangential flaws. Perhaps White couldn't either recall that particular analogy, or he was unwilling to advance it. The answer is anyone's guess.

Here is the issue: We can talk all we want about how "dead rebel sinners" deserve God's wrath, but the real issue (in reference to Calvinism), is exactly how they became a "damned class" in the first place, and John Calvin's Calvinism taught something about a "Dreadful Decree," and on this point, the debate became interesting. On the one hand, White was trying to juggle the matter of how God would be loving toward a given unconditionally reprobated soul, by virtue of God delaying their future judgment or restraining further evil, which is absolutely absurd considering a fixed, immutable, exhaustive decree, determining whatsoever comes to pass. (The problem is that Calvinists can't get their own story straight.) On the other hand, White admits that God *needed* the poor unconditionally reprobated soul, in order to possess an object upon which to demonstrate God's various attributes of wrath and justice. (Perhaps White didn't recall at the time, but in a previous debate with Dave Hunt, White had suggested that God had various types, levels and forms of love, which may encompass the type of love that God had for the poor unconditionally reprobated soul, and Hunt replied that there is no known type, level or form of love which would adequately fit those who are [allegedly] created from eternity to comprise a "damned class.") So in essence, White wants to talk about the fact of their state of being as a dead rebel sinner, being undeserving of God's mercy, but he was very uncomfortable in talking about how they became part of an eternal "damned class" in the first place, and how that relates to the love, goodness and justice of God. For White to say that God needed them, in order to have object lessons of justice and wrath, only reinforced Fischer's point that the Calvinistic concept of divine self glorification was a "black hole" which consumed all of God's other attributes. This issue is not new to Calvinists, and Calvinists wrestle with it in different ways, by some affiliating themselves with a Moderate Calvinism in the Infralapsarian mold, while other Calvinists simply bite the bullet as High Calvinists, in the Supralapsarian mold.

My conclusion is this: Austin Fischer is no longer a Calvinist because he ceased the self-deception and honestly dealt with the difficult issue, whereas James White is in complete denial, and demonstrated that, completely.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Recanting Calvinism

This youtube clip is by former Calvinist, Steven L. Hitchcock, and author of "Recanting Calvinism" and I thought that he did a nice presentation on Romans chapter 9. In fact, he has several youtube clips, offering his explanation on why he recanted from Calvinism:

http://www.examiningcalvinism.com/Audio3.html

I have offered my own thoughts on the book of Romans here:

http://www.examiningcalvinism.com/Pauline_Epistles.html

My next post will be a book review of "Calvinism: A Road to Nowhere", which is the author's explanation of why he felt that Calvinist arguments seemed to have a logical disfunction. Part of that disfunction brings to mind something that Calvinists sometimes will say: "Live like an Arminian, but think like a Calvinist." Having heard it espoused by my own Calvinist brother in Law, I wondered, "Why should an 'alleged' truth function, or misfunction, like that? So that will be something that I keep an eye on, as I review that book in my next Blog post.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Since this is the greatest commandment, and since this represents God's value system, I think that we should consider this, in light of our theology. There's just no point in being right theologically, while being wrong on either of these two verses. In other words, if becoming a Calvinist brings you closer to the Lord (which is great), but simultaneously makes you into an egomaniacal idolater, and hateful towards non-Calvinist Christians (including consigning them to Hell, for merely forsaking your theological persuasion), and even bitter towards fellow Calvinists, simply because they don't think exactly like you do (i.e. "not Reformed enough"), then what have you really gained, after all? Were you not better off in the simplicity of the Gospel? Of course, that argument cuts both ways, in that if Arminians also develop an "us vs. them" attitude, or become haughty and arrogant in our thinking, then what have we gained? Sometimes I think that I need to just take heed to Peter's words at 1st Peter 3:15 (always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverenceand trespass no further. Instead of engaging in a "Battle of the Bible," why not just give a defense, in gentleness and reverence, and let that be that, instead of engaging in dissension and debating? I can't seem to find a precedent in Scripture where Christians are called, charged and encouraged to engage in Councils & Synods. (I think that Acts 15 was something that the elders were reluctantly dragged into, desiring to resolve quickly and move on.) I'm not opposed to "standing up for the truth." Far from it. I'm simply not sure whether "debates" have surpassed what Peter had intended. I know that my biggest weakness is when someone (Calvinist or Arminian), mocks and ridicules the "Sinner's Prayer" or "Gospel Invitation" or "Alter Call," I can, and have, become self-righteous, indignant and outright hostile. Just about anything else I can deal with, but when it comes to those things, I have, at times, criticized such people as being of the anti-Christ. It happens. I know my limits. I also know what is edifying, and what is not. At some point, I think that I just need to rein it in, and try to remember what God values most in us "being a Christian," and focus on that. (Honestly, I don't want to debate, and my prior post was not an encouragement to have a theological chess match, but rather an illustration to expose what I had elsewhere perceived as a "heads I win; tails you lose" type discussion.) I suppose that I've engaged in one contentious discussion too many, and realized that I need to reevaluate my own behavior, and determine whether or not theological "debates" are really from the Lord or merely from the flesh. Sharing the truth is one thing, but the sheer ugliness of some theological confrontations is another. Everyone will have their own perspective, but for me, I am going to try a different approach. 

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Playing Theological Chess with a Calvinist


There is only one GROUND RULE for this chess match with a Calvinist. The Calvinist must accept all of my Arminian assumptions. Fair enough?

So if I assume that "the world" at John 3:16 literally means the whole world (of the living, of course, because that's the context, since John 3:16 is not talking about those in Hell being able to believe and have eternal life), in which "the world" is understood to be indiscriminate and distributive throughout living humanity.
Moreover, all references to "all" and "all men" must be understood in the same manner, unless the context explicitly indicates that "all" or "all men" incontrovertibly means something less, such as a present audience.
Moreover, the prospective contestant Calvinist must agree not to infer any "Secret Wills" in order to suggest that there is an unstated, hidden meaning to any given text.
Moreover, the prospective contestant Calvinist must agree to assume that God is so sovereign and so powerful that the "Total Depravity" of mankind is of little obstacle for God to overcome, without being "stuck" with having to resort to only using an Irresistible Grace, in order that a totally depraved person may be brought to the point of being divinely enabled to either accept or reject His free hand of grace. It is implicit in this assumption that where God leads, God liberates. So if man cannot do anything pleasing to Him, and is completely fallen, it is nonetheless of no difficulty whatsoever for God to be able to liberate such a person, so that they can freely receive or reject Him.
Additionally, the prospective contestant Calvinist must be willing to accept the Arminian assumption that both John chapter 6 and Romans chapter 9 each involve a very specific dialogue, which dialogue, is not allowed to be ignored, and that the dialogue which the Calvinist must agree to assume, is that the dialogue is focused squarely upon unbelieving Israel in the spirit of evangelistic conversion.
Additionally, the prospective contestant Calvinist must accept the assumption that if a New Testament writer makes reference to a passage from the Old Testament, that it be assumed that the writer fully intends that the Old Testament text serve as the contextual foundation and guiding principle for interpreting the New Testament revelation, such as Jeremiah 18:1-13 being referenced with respect to God being "the Potter" at Romans chapter 9.
Additionally, the prospective contestant Calvinist must agree not to manufacture text where it is not otherwise explicitly stated, such as by (1) illegitimately inferring an "eternal decree" where it is not otherwise explicitly stated, such as at Acts 13:48, and (2) illegitimately inferring a Calvinistic "elect" class into a text where it is not otherwise explicitly stated, such as at Ephesians 1:4.
Additionally, the prospective contestant Calvinist must agree to use only proper biblical usage of terms and words, such that terms like "from the foundation of the world" must not be shifted to mean "from [BEFORE] the foundation of the world," such as with reference to Revelation's "Lamb's Book of Life", such that the phrase, "from the foundation of the world" must be understood solely as defined by Scripture itself. (Cross reference Luke 11:49-51.)
Additionally, the prospective contestant Calvinist must agree to the principle that just because a biblical text positively affirms that Jesus died for "A", does not automatically mean that He must have died ONLY for "A", such that a positive affirmation of one group, does not automatically carry a contrasting negative implication for any other another group, which I will denote as "B", unless there is an absolutely explicit reference to "B" being excluded.
I understand that some Calvinists may feel that my "ground rule" is completely unfair, that is, to have the prospective contestant Calvinist accept all Arminian assumptions as the ground rule of any discussion. However, isn't it equally unfair for a Calvinist to insist upon me (as a "ground rule" to any discussion on Calvinism), that a person who is totally depraved cannot do anything good or pleasing to God, which thereby absolutely necessitates an effectual, monergistic, unilateral Irresistible Grace? Don't you think that such an assumption automatically sets Calvinism up to win? After all, why can't I assume that God is bigger than Total Depravity? Why can't I assume that where God leads, God liberates, so that a totally depraved person can be divinely enabled to either accept or reject God's hand of grace? After all, isn't divine intervention a Game-Changer? Moreover, compare with Jeremiah 18:1-13, in which Israel, believe it or not, threw Total Depravity in God's face, and God turned to the heathens and asked: "Who ever heard the like of this? The virgin of Israel Has done a most appalling thing." (Jeremiah 18:13) The purpose of this post is to show Calvinists that they are being totally unfair by insisting upon a "ground rule" (their words) which automatically sets up an assumption that makes Calvinism the victor by default. So I've created a post to give some "ground rules" to a Calvinist, to see how they like it. (Really, I'm trying to expose hypocrisy, although I loathe using such a strong word, but that's what it seems to be, in my opinion).

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Is the SBC an Arminian denomination?

SBC stands for "Southern Baptist Convention," and you could make the argument that the SBC is: 1) Arminian, 2) Calvinist, 3) Neither and 4) Both.

I make the argument that the SBC is functionally an "OSAS Arminian" denomination, in which OSAS stands for "Once Saved Always Saved." Realize that the terms "Arminian" and "Calvinist" are very broad. For instance, there are Classical Arminians, Reformed Arminians, OSAS Arminians, Molinist Arminians and Open Theist Arminians. Calvinists have their distinctions as well, such as 4-Point Calvinists, 5-Point Calvinists, Hyper Calvinists, Supralapsarians, Infralapsarians, ect., and that's not even counting the likes of Harold Camping and the infamous Westboro Baptist Calvinists. The labels are so broad that even Calvinists will sometimes refer to other Calvinists as "Arminians" if they feel that other Calvinists are simply not Calvinistic enough. Some in the SBC will privately acknowledge being functionally OSAS Arminian, but avoid the label due to the perceived stigma associated with the Arminian doctrine of Conditional Security. To argue that the SBC is functionally an OSAS Arminian denomination, one could point to the "John 3:16 Conference." One could also point to recent activity within the SBC regarding the traditional Southern Baptist understanding of the doctrine of salvation. One could also point out a few popular apologetics books written by SBC members, such as "Whosoever Will," "Salvation and Sovereignty" and "Calvinism: A Southern Baptist Dialogue." The late three time SBC president, Adrian Rogers, was very outspoken in his criticism of Calvinism. Consider his sermon, "Let the Earth Hear His Voice: 2 Corinthians 5:13-20." The late founder of Liberty University referred to the Calvinist doctrine of a Limited Atonement as "heresy."
On the other hand, one could make the argument that the SBC is closer to being Calvinistic, by citing published statements concerning Unconditional Election, Total Depravity and Eternal Security. However, while some in the SBC may espouse such views that are similar to TULIP, often when explaining those beliefs, the caveats diverge from the traditional Calvinist understanding. For instance, while some in the SBC may espouse a belief in Election, they will be just as quick to denounce the Calvinist doctrines of Irresistible Grace and Limited Atonement. With this understanding, sometimes it is difficult to determine whether the SBC has a hybrid position, making it neither Calvinist nor Arminian, and yet also in some respects, both Calvinist and Arminian. However, this is not to say that there are no outspoken 5-Point Calvinists within the SBC, such as Al Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and David Platt, author of the book, "Radical." So there is certainly a diversity of views within the SBC.

In my estimation, when considering the John 3:16 Conference, apologetics books, recent activity within the SBC and the general consensus of SBC Presidents, it appears that a fair case can be made that the SBC leans most closely towards being functionally an "OSAS Arminian" denomination, even though the label itself is officially rejected. I tend not to get into the history of the Southern Baptist movement, because that is not really relevant to the question of whether the SBC is presently a Calvinist or Arminian denomination. The SBC Church that I presently attend is First Baptist Church Downtown Jacksonville, pastored by Mac Brunson, who espouses a theological perspective very closely resembling that of Jerry Vines, who sponsored the John 3:16 Conference. As a member of the Society of Evangelical Arminians, I may be biased in my outlook, but this is my perspective, for what it's worth.

Refer to Roger Olson's article as well.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Is God narcissistic?


Calvinist, John Piper, explains:The chief end of God is to glorify God and enjoy displaying and magnifying His glory forever.”

Piper adds:God’s eternal, radical, ultimate commitment to His own self-exaltation permeates Scripture. His aim is to be exalted, glorified, admired, magnified, praised and reverenced is seen to be the ultimate goal of all creation, all providence, and all saving acts.

According to the video, non-Calvinist Christians are “megalomaniacs” if we think that God has done anything for us, or given us the gift of Christ, when in reality, everything that God has done, He has done for Himself, and for His own glory, and we just happen to be the beneficiaries of what God has done for Himself. As an illustration, Calvary is summed up this way: “Even Jesus’ death on the cross was for Him, for His glory, for His name sake. We just happened to be the beneficiaries of it.” Of course, the Calvinist forgot to add: “...if you are one of the secret elect.” That’s raw Calvinism, and the question is whether Calvinistic values align with God’s values.

To investigate, consider 1st Corinthians chapters 1 & 2, which are the values chapters, in which God’s values are contrasted with the world’s values. The Jews valued strength, and any Messiah who would not take on the Romans and rebuild a Jewish empire, was not a Messiah worth having. The Greeks valued the things of the world, and to just live it up, because this is the only world that is, and for anyone to deny himself in this life in favor of an imaginary world to come is just foolish (not knowing that the world was made by hands that are not seen). So the world despises what God values, and the book of Corinthians illustrates Gods usage of what *He* values in order to shame what the world values, that is, by using the weak, poor and humble in order to shame the strong, rich and noble.

Now ask yourself this question: What is the underlying value system of Calvinism and what is the underlying value system of Arminianism?

The Calvinist value-system values sovereignty, power, omnipotence, control, glory, and Calvinists say of the Arminian God that He is “weak,” that He “fails,” that He is “feeble” and “waits in quiet impotence at the door of man’s heart.” In contrast, the Arminian value-system values God’s love, God’s character, God’s mercy and God’s patience. Perhaps Calvinism values those things as well, but only to the extent to effectuate divine self-glorification, in order to flaunt attributes. So it stands to reason that if God despises what the world values, and if Calvinism values some of the very same things (power, control and glory), then it stands to reason that God despises Calvinism. That’s just simple deduction, and the numbers add up to Calvinism being an affront to God.




Footnote: Despite my differences of opinion with Todd Friel's Calvinistic beliefs, I'm thrilled that he is a Christian, and there are many issues in which Calvinists and Arminians enjoy fellowship and agreement. The Calvinist/Arminian controversy does not represent the totality of Christian theology, as there are many things that we can agree on, and stand together in.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Rapture and how it could be explained away

In a post-Rapture world, the devil will have to explain how the Rapture wasn’t really a Rapture. I’ve often wondered how the devil could possibly pull this off, given the obvious circumstances involving what would be a Rapture, but I now think that this could rather easily be accomplished, if you are dealing with people who are willing to be fooled, and people who will accept anything but the truth. We actually saw this play itself out with the Jehovah's Witness when the Watchtower Society made their famous false prophecies for 1914 and 1975. For instance, 1914 went from being the heralded date for Armageddon, to merely being the date of an "invisible" return, and ultimately, the cult survived both false prophesies and is still going strong to this day. So what follows is one possible blueprint for how the devil could dismiss a Rapture, and get people to confidently fall in behind it. However, this explanation presumes that an anti-Christ is already well established and firmly set in place, when any such Rapture actually does take place, in order to immediately squash any and all refutations of the disinformation campaign.

The thrust of the disinformation could go something along the lines of: This could not have been a Rapture because of A, B and C, and then the devil would simply have to fill in the blanks. What follows is one potential scenario. The first part “A” would have to be a straw man argument, that is, some kind of easy softball that immediately wins the rational mind into agreement. The second part “B” will have to be a genuine appeal to the core values of a liberal. The third part “C” will have to be a bald-faced lie that is designed to get the deceived to emotionally root against any Rapture explanation.

So the disinformation could go something along the lines of: We know that this could not have been “The Rapture” because, A) [here comes a strawman argument] there were no cataclysmic catastrophes involving rolling earthquakes around the globe, starting with New Zealand. (Chuckle chuckle.) So we can safely rule out any wild Rapture theories. [People like Harold Camping have helped to make such strawman arguments very easy to construct.] Secondly, we know that this could not have been a Rapture because, B) [and here comes the emotional appeal] good people of all faiths are still here, and God would not leave behind indisputably good people who, in some cases, have spent an entire lifetime devoting themselves to the noble causes of social justice, in order to make this world a better place for all of humanity. Thirdly, we know that this could not have been a Rapture because, C) [here comes the bald-faced lie to get people to root against a Rapture explanation] if a Rapture did take place, it would mean that we are all damned, and are we going to give in to fear and doubt, or are we going get back on our feet, and rise to meet these new challenges? I can tell you that we will not give in to wild conspiracy theories, but instead, deal with the realities that face us, which in the end, will only serve to make us a better and strong society because of it.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

My take on the book of Romans

The theme of Romans leading up to chapter 9 is that Paul had written a letter with the Jews in mind, evidenced by the many Jewish themes throughout, including pointed questions aimed directly at the Jew. From the start, Paul identifies with the Jew by pointing out the depraved state of the Gentiles, and their condemnation under the Law. But then Paul challenges the Jew with a charge of hypocrisy, when they do some of the very same things as the Gentiles. Paul then points out the hopelessness of achieving righteousness through the Law, while simultaneously pointing out that not all was lost, since there were well known historical Jews such as Abraham, Moses and David who did, in fact, achieve a state of righteousness with God, and this is where Paul points out that it was not through the Law at all, but by faith. This becomes the perfect segue into Christ being the ultimate end of faith. Paul extols the riches of Christ and all that God has eternally stored up for those who believe in Him. That’s when we reach Romans 9. The standing question is that if Christ is the Messiah of the Jews, then why don’t the Jews believe in Him? There’s actually a long history there. God reached out to the Jews with many offers of grace, until God finally had enough, which resulted in their hardening, as recorded at Isaiah 6:9-10, in which God states that He will harden Israel so that they could not receive His Son, or at least, they would not receive His Son without first reconciliation with God. God was not going to have people reject Him, while instead embracing a conquering Messiah to deliver Israel from the Romans. So God sent Christ in the same image of the prophets whom the Jews persecuted before Him. Now Paul’s objective at this stage of Romans 9 was to develop the backdrop for the illustration of the Olive Tree described at Romans 11, in terms of the natural and wild branches, in which the natural branches were being cut off, for a time, so that the wild branches could be grafted in. What Paul was doing in Romans 9 was expressing his sincere passion for the Jew, which was also God’s passion, while highlighting the fact that God was now, as a result of Jewish unbelief, turning to the Gentiles in order to graft them in. Jesus warned the Jews with illustrations that this was going to happen. So Paul sets up God’s sovereign right to first choose the Jewish nation (by using examples like with Isaac, the one chosen to receive the inheritance, including his son Jacob), as the basis to suggest that God also has the right to choose the Gentiles, which validates Paul’s ministry of the Gospel to the Gentiles. In other words, if God has the sovereign right to choose the Jews, then it stands to reason that He has the same right to graft in the Gentiles. Additionally, He has the same right to harden the Jews, which is what He warned at Jeremiah 18:1-13 and what He did at Isaiah 6:9-10, and ultimately quoted as its fulfillment at John 12:36-43. When Paul asks the question of what right does the pot have in responding back to the Potter, this is a question aimed at the unbelieving Jews (or at least, unbelieving in the Messiah, Christ), in anticipation of their protest against God's hardening, in terms of the Jews, the natural branches, having been removed from the Olive Tree. But even despite the hardening, Paul points out that it is a "partial hardening" until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. So this is what I see going on in the book of Romans, and it has nothing to do with either Calvinism or Arminianism.