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:

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

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.