Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Does Arminianism make Jesus a colossal failure?

After one of my posts titled:"Not all for one but one for all", where I argue that Jesus died for all people and that this sacrifice becomes effectual for those who believe, against a limited atonement model, one of my readers, Larry, commented:

"The only problem - and I know I throwing the cat amongst the pidgeons here - is that if you take those verses to mean that Jesus died with the intention of saving the entire world, then Jesus is surely a colossial failure."

What we need to ask here then is "What was Jesus' Mission?" Otherwise we cannot denote whether he failed or succeeded. Firstly Jesus came as a fulfillment of Scripture including various prophecies: Succeeded (as much as I'd like to spend time explaining them all now isn't suitable). Secondly He came to preach repentance and the coming of the kingdom: Succeeded (Mk 1: 14-15). Thirdly He came to be a visable witness to the Father: Succeeded (Jn 14:9). Fourthly He came not only to the Jews but also the Gentiles, inviting them into the Kingdom: Succeeded (Matt 15:26ff). Fifth He came to be beaten, to be hanged on a cross and die as our penal substitution: Succeeded (Rom 3: 23-26). Finally he came to be resurrected and defeat the power that death had over us: Succeeded.(1 Cor 15:21-22). All smells of success to me!

Larry made a specific comment about coming to save the whole world. Thats not quite true. Jesus came to defeat sin and death so the whole world can be saved. The sacrifice is made effectual in recieving it by faith in Jesus Christ (Rom 3:25) but it was made for all people that they may recieve, or for that matter reject it, when enable by the spirit(1 John 2:2). This then means that it is not God who is the failure but rather mankind.

Larry further Comments:

"Problem - and thus it begins - is that the Bible talks about Jesus having accomplished something in the past tense. Nothing left to be added to it. If Jesus died to enable our forgiveness only then the Biblical authors fail a basic grammar test, and Jesus becomes nothing more than a tool, with the real importance and saving action being my choice (yes or no) thus I am my own saviour and Jesus is just a tool.

No longer then could we affirm Jesus loved us and freed us from our sins, Jesus was the propitiation for our sins, Jesus died to bring us to God.
Rather we would have to say Jesus enabled our freedom from sin, Jesus enabled God to be propitiated for our sins, Jesus died to enable us to be brought back to God.

The Bible does indeed talk about past tense for 3 reasons 1) God has planned that Jesus would be sent i.e. Promises to Abraham and 2) Jesus has indeed died to be a propitiation and atoning sacrifice, and 3) It is nearly always directed towards believers and therefore is talking of thier salvation that has already happened. Accepting it is merely the means by which this becomes effectual towards us.

It is like a rich, kind man who has a friend in great debt. The Rich man gives his friend a cheque, signed, for the full amount and says to him "My friend here is a gift to you to pay off all your debt, please pay it into your account". The man in debt looks at his frind and replies, "Do I look like a charity case? I can do this my self. Any way this is obviously a joke cheque. I do not trust that it would work" So he ignores his friend and shuns his help. The rich man tells his friend that he has set the money aside especially for him and whenever he needs it he can come and collect it but the man never did. Eventually he was arrested until he could pay all his debts off. The price had been paid. If only he had taken the gift and make it effectual by cashing it!

In terms of Jesus only enabling salvation this is also true of Calvinism. It is the process by which God can save and still be Just.(I say this assuming that a penal substitution stance is held.) The difference comes with the calling we recieve by the spirit. Can we choose to reject the gift or are we forced to take it?

It is also a good example of how Calvinists often confuse Arminianism with a form of Pelagianism. This isn't necessarily thier fault as many people twist what we say as a form of propaganda and is often used in books written by other Calvinists. Christ is the one who fully saves us. The Sacrifice is his, the calling and the enabling, throught the spirit, is given by him also. I have nothing to give except myself. This is my and I'm sure all your offerings (albeit insufficient) to him too .

In Summary Jesus is not a colossal failure but rather a spectacular Champion. The only failure is on our part.

Special thanks to Larry from Photizo blog. Check it out here

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Mein Fuhrer, Mein Retter

I was at a Bible study the other day where my Housemate, who studied history at University and has a slightly unhealthy obsession with Nazi's, declared [Paraphrased]:

"Fuhrer is a good term to use for Jesus"

It turns out that in German this isn't mearly a Synonym for Hitler, nor does it mearly mean 'A Leader', but also means "a Guide" and is closely associated with a mountain guide who would take you safely through the dangerous region to the other side. Nice imagery I think. Jesus guides me, and those who trust in him, through the dangers of Life to the safety of eternity in the new creation with him.

Of course my friend and I burst into "Mein Fuhrer, Mein Retter" [To the tune of "My Jesus, My Saviour"]....Well, the first line at least as that all the German we could muster. Anyway, my point is that I am happy to declare "Jesus ist mein Fuhrer". The question you need to answer is: "Is he yours?"

In case you were wondering here are the real words.....with Fuhrer added of course:

"Mein Fuhrer, mein Retter,
keiner ist so wie du.
Lobpreis sei dir, jeden Tag mehr,
für deine große Liebe, Herr.
Mein Tröster, mein Helfer,
du bist mir Zuflucht und Kraft.
Alles in mir beugt sich vor dir.
Du bist hoch erhoben, Herr!

Ruft zu dem Herrn, alle Enden der Welt!
Ehre und Dank dem, der alles erhält.
Himmel und Erde erhebt ihn und singt,
wenn sein Name erklingt.
Wir preisen dich, du hast Großes getan.
Wir kommen vor dich und beten an.
Dank sei dir, Herr, du bist unvergleichlich gut."

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Church Discipline or Bad Leadership?

From an article in the New York Times:

"Nowhere is the connection between Driscoll’s hypermasculinity and his Calvinist theology clearer than in his refusal to tolerate opposition at Mars Hill. The Reformed tradition’s resistance to compromise and emphasis on the purity of the worshipping community has always contained the seeds of authoritarianism: John Calvin had heretics burned at the stake and made a man who casually criticized him at a dinner party march through the streets of Geneva, kneeling at every intersection to beg forgiveness. Mars Hill is not 16th-century Geneva, but Driscoll has little patience for dissent. In 2007, two elders protested a plan to reorganize the church that, according to critics, consolidated power in the hands of Driscoll and his closest aides. Driscoll told the congregation that he asked advice on how to handle stubborn subordinates from a “mixed martial artist and Ultimate Fighter, good guy” who attends Mars Hill. “His answer was brilliant,” Driscoll reported. “He said, ‘I break their nose.’ ” When one of the renegade elders refused to repent, the church leadership ordered members to shun him. One member complained on an online message board and instantly found his membership privileges suspended. “They are sinning through questioning,” Driscoll preached. John Calvin couldn’t have said it better himself."

First off, as per usual, I'd like to point out a couple of things: 1)I appreciate Mark and his preaching. God has used him greatly and I pray that he continues to as well. 2) That this article is the only source I have and newspapers have been known to twist the occasional thing or two. Putting aside for now his Calvinism (I don't want to sound like a broken record) what I wish to address is his "Church Discipline". This is a very important part of church life, and a vital role for the Eldership, inc. the Pastor. Without it you end up with chaos and false teaching, however withit abused what you end up with if you're not careful is a crushed church and a man-lead dictatorship. What needs to be questioned then is how Mark goes about Church Discipline and what he feels warrants it.

We'll start by looking at the main passages from the Bible in relation to this topic:

- 1 Cor. 5:1-13: Here Paul lists certain sins which the Corinthian Church was openly participating in (that is, they are justifying thier actions, rather then being a one off sin) .These are: Sexual Immorality, Greed, Idolatry, revilry, Drunkness and Swindling. He says that you should not have fellowship with any Christian who participates in these to the point of not eating with them.(N.B. This is most likely a reference to a fellowship meal (I.E. Communion), not just eating randomly). Therefore we are to stop having fellowship with this person as they aren't being a good witness to Christ.

- 1 Tim 1: 12-20 : Here Paul speaks of two people who he has "handed over to Satan" because they have "made shipwreck of their faith", in reference to what he claims about Christ in verses 12-17. They are thrown out for, most likely, false teaching but possible Apostacy (I think this unlikely as Pauls purpose was that they may return; "Learn not to blaspheme"). Here then, they are removed from thier position for teaching contrary to the Gospel (False teaching).

- 1 Tim. 5:19-20: Here, in the context of choosing Elders for a church, Paul notes that firstly, as they are trusted people, charges can't be accepted unless it is from the evidence of two or more people. Secondly, that those [Elders] who persist in sin are to be rebuked infront of the whole church as to bring about fear so they will not recommit and one would assume, to serve as an example to the congregation.

- Matthew 18:15-20: Jesus is talking here of when a Christian sins against a Christian. They are to talk to the person as to try and resolve the issue, then if necessary take one or two other Christians with you too with the aim again to reconcile, not to gang up and get your way! Then if they still won't listen they are taken to the church as a last resort. If this doesn't happen then Jesus says to cast them outof the fellowship as a non-believer and a Sinner (Gentile and Tax collector). Which sins, if it even matters aren't mentioned here, but rather what we are concerned with is the process of dicipline. It is also worth mentioning here that this is followed by the parable of the unforgiving servent where Jesus teaches that there is to be no end to forgiving our fellow believers.

From these passages then we can see that:
i)People to persist in sinning unrepentantly, which is a bad witness to Christ, are to be removed from the church so that they may repent and return.
ii) Sins which are included are: Apostacy, False teaching, Sexual Immorality, Greed, Idolatry, revilry, Drunkness and Swindling.
iii) The aim is always that they will repent and return to the church.
iv) The general rule for rebukes are: Personal, group, Church and then if necessary removal.
v) Leaders who are persistantly sinning must be rebuked in front of the Church.

So does Marks pattern follow this? No. Blunt but true. Firstly "break their nose." Now I'm sure he was joking but still! Secondly, questioning the pastor is not a sin, and in fact the idea that the pastor is above the Elders in unbiblical. From the sounds of it they were mearly questioning whether it would be suitable, I would assume, so that the church would run better and serve Christ fully and they paid the price for thier obedience. To be honest if that is how Mark deals with people then perhaps they were right, he does have too much control! No where is it ever mentioned that questioning the pastor is a sin, in fact it seems to be encouraged as were are to test everything we hear. His seemingly immediate severity is wrong as well as he seemed to skip 3 whole stage: Personal, Group and even Church! Now although it reports that the elder refused to repent one may question the validity of asking someone to repent for something which far from being a sin is in fact part of being an Elder; Ensuring the Church is lead in a Godly way.

I suppose what I'm getting at here is that we need to be careful not to get a power trip and that at all levels, from layman to pastor, we need to rebuke in a Godly manner to the ends of saving wayward believers and being better witnesses for Jesus. I'm not even going to start on Calvin but I think you all get the picture. I think I'll stop before Mark breaks my nose.
Till next time!

Friday, 16 January 2009

Not all for one but one for all

C.S. Lewis wrote:

“The business of becoming a son of God, of being turned from a created thing to a begotten thing, of passing over from the temporary biological life into timeless ‘spiritual’ life, has been done for us. Humanity is already ‘saved’ in principle. We individuals have to appropriate that salvation.”
(Mere Christianity, p. 157)

As we read in 1 John 2:2:

"[Jesus]is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world."(ESV)

and again in Hebrew 7:27:

"[Jesus] has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself." (ESV)

Christ then died once for all, even though we are not all for one [Jesus]. Let us all then, accept this most wonderous gift which was given once for ALL PEOPLE, FOR ALL TIME. Lets us not throw this gift back in his face but accept it with gladness, and then share will all people that they too may accept this gift that given for them, ALL of them.

Monday, 12 January 2009

No excuse!....or is there?

(Emphasis mine)
"From this, my present contention is brought out with greater certainty, that a sense of divinity is by nature engraven on human hearts. For necessity forces from the reprobate themselves a confession of it. In tranquil times they wittily joke about God, indeed are facetious and garrulous in belittling his power. If any occasion for despair presses upon them, it goads them to seek him and impels their perfunctory prayers. From this it is clear that they have not been utterly ignorant of God, but that what should have come forth sooner was held back by stubbornness."
(1.4.4 - Hypocrisy from The Institutes of The Christian Religion, Calvin)

"It is, accordingly, clear that there is no one to whom the Lord does not abundantly show his wisdom.."
(1.5.2 - Hypocrisy from The Institutes of The Christian Religion, Calvin)

I came across these interesting thought today from none other then John Calvin inself in his infamous work. I think its a tremendous thought and fantastically true. Now I sure even the most hardened Athiest would agree that this is what people do in times of trouble: Cry out to God. The fact that they would give an alterior reason for doing so is irrelevant here but what is key is that this is mearly what people do. Calvin suggests that because God has revealed himself in nature, particularlly in mankind, that we are without excuse for ignoring the true God. This is what Calvin is refering to in the second quote. God has revealed himself so much in his wise creation that we cannot rationally disbelieve God but only stubbornly ignore him and harden ourhearts to his calling.

Now it may just be me but either Calvin isn't actually a Calvinist (which I have heard may people say, especially in relation to 5 point), or he is inconsistent. Either God has indeed shown himself to all people and therefore grace is irresistable or people are with excuse because God has not revealed himself to them. Now that is not to say that they are innocent as they are still sinners but to those who do not respond, if Calvinism is true, can do so with a clear conscience as they are unaware of its truth. Perhaps more reading will enlighten me of his views

What about us? I would agree with Calvin in these quotes that all mankind is indeed without excuse as he has sufficiently revealed himself to all, even in our very nature and most core desire. Humans long for God, and when we have no-where else to turn, we turn to him untill that time when we feel we can cope on our own and then shrug him off again, or worse claim that it was our doing in the first place.

Let us not be deaf and resist that call, let us not be deaf but hear his voice, let us not be blind but see God in his creation that he so carefully made. We have no excuse but our own Stubbornness.

Till next time

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Confused Athiests

"So Athiests have paid for a bus advert declaring: "There's probably no God." Isn't that agnostic? Talk about hedging thier bets!"
(C Andrew, Bristol in Metro mail, Metro 08/01/09)

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Spot the difference

Whats the diffence between Richard Dawkins with his new ad compaign and a boy who declares there are no such thing as ghosts and yet whistles scared as he walks through a Graveyard?

Thought for your life

Just to prove that I'm truely thankful for Calvin as my brother, a quote:

"What wore the face of power will prove itself the most miserable weakness. That is, what in us seems perfection itself corresponds ill to the purity of God."
John Calvin (The Institutes of The Christian Religion - 1.1.2)

Please click here to read his 'Institues' online....legally

Protestant Pope?

Before you start ranting I am not having a go at Calvin....not in this post anyway. Rather I am having a go at protestants, particularly those with reformed theology. I say this being a protestant myself, although the reformed theology bit may be debated by some. I had a thought recently and wondered if anyone agrees, but John Calvin seems to be the Protestant Pope! In some cases I think people venerate him more then the Catholics do thier Pope. My Issue here isn't with Calvin. Although I disagree with him on many matters he did a great deal for the Kingdom. My problem is that you dont have to search too far to find out that within certain traditions Calvin's word is final. 'The infallibility of Calvin';The differences being that 1) Calvin would be greatly opposed to most people treatment of him and 2) Followers seem to think he's right always and not only when its declared with Espiscopal backing.

Try it yourself! Walk up to a Calvinist and say "I'm not sure if I agree with Calvin on X", then duck very quickly. I use Calvin as an example here because 1)He's the most widely venerated theologian 2)He's older and therefore the veneration has snowballed and 3) Its his 500th this year and I am expecting a lot more coverage of him this coming year because of it. However we can easily use many more example: Martin Luther, The Wesley Brothers, Terry Virgo, Rowan Williams and particularly John Piper at the moment. I'm sure you can think of a lot more.

So what am I suggesting? I believe we need to treat these people as we ought: As great men of God whom God has used, but who are also human and are capable of error. It is not wrong to look at thier writing, or listen to thier teaching but when this takes the place of proper Bible study then we are in danger, and I'm certain that Calvin would say the same. There is place for being thankful for them and thier work but we have too long been hypocrites. Slagging of the Catholics and the Pope, and doing exactly the same in practice ourselves. In fact it can be argued that this is how the Pope, as we know him, began; being venerated as the head bishop and it all snowballed from there. Let us then look at thier work, appreciate it and test in against Scripture.

Till next time remember: 'Sola Scriptura, not Sola Calvin.'

P.S. Sorry to Catholics. I know it doesn't all represent the orthodox view of the Pope but it does represent the common protestant view so I am using it to a compare.

Monday, 5 January 2009

Thought for the day

Are Charismatics trying to release thier own natual frangerance to the Lord by dancing about?

Friday, 2 January 2009

Random Acts of Christian Kindness?

There seems to be a secular movement that Christians have picked up on and claimed at thier own. Most of us will know it as "Random acts of Kindness". I first came across the movement in the book by Danny Wallace, which if you've not read it is hilarious. However, I was horrified when I heard a Christian Leader speak on it and advocate it at a well known Annual conference. The icing on the cake however was his example: Once he stopped at a toll and paid for the person behind......Won't Jesus be proud?! It seems that in these particular circles there seems to be a similar aim to the majority of men in the world: Find a big RACK. In the rest of this entry I'd like to try and summerise why I feel that "Random Acts of Kindness"Theology should not been enouraged.

Before I start I'd like to note a disclaimer. I am in no way saying that we shouldn't help those in need. As Chrstians we should have Mercy and Compassion on those in need: Friends, family and enemies, as this is emulating God and we are called to do so. A large amount of judgement God gives on people in the Bible is because of thier lack of social concern. What I am quesioning however is the motivation we have and I would like to look at the dangers of this Theology and what our motivation should be.
Well, here we go:

1)As Christians should our actions be random? I do think so. Now this is not to stop spontaneity but rather lack of commitment. Yes, when we see people in need we should try to help when ever possible but the danger here is that instead of people devoting 1 day a week, an hour, a week a year or whatever they will replace it with randomness. Those in true need rarely need random acts but consitency. The danger of lack of commitment is that people will feel like a project. Relationships are necessary for people. For some the thought of seeing you at the end of the week, or whenever, may be the only thing that gets them through, or the thought that every week food is available if they cannot afford it themselves. Further more, although spontaneity is good, it is better to have pre-meditation. This means both setting aside specific times to serve, as above, but also leaving the house each day ready to serve. In this way Spontaneity becomes Pre-meditation.

2)Should Christians be kind? In all my years of reading I have never read that a Christian is to be kind. I've heard sermons, read books and heard it at rallies but I have never read it in my Bible. What I read is that we are to emulate God: Loving, Merciful, Compassionate, gracious, generous, Long-suffering, to to name a few, but never kind. In fact I would say that doing the kind, or as it is so often synonymous in this case, nice thing can actually be sinful. I believe the best word to describe the Christian attitude to those in need is love. Love.....your neighbour, your enemy, the LORD your God, one another, does no harm, fulfills the Law, covers a multitude of sins, forgives all. Therefore we should Love each other. This then means that those who need help get it but foolish fancies like paying a toll are exculded for thier foolishness. 1 Cor 13:13 "If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing." Lets make sure that our acts gain us treasures in heaven and that we dont recieve our reward in full now.

3)What is our motivation? "To help others" is they cry of most Christians. Many others will give answers such as "To be good humans", or "To earn points with God". Jesus of course told us to. The often quoted verse of "Love your neighbour as yourself" rings in our ears and our minds spring to verses where Jesus heals people, or talks to prostitutes, or one of the other humanitarian actions he does. What we have to ask is why. The Bible is rife with good acts like this but are bracketed with stories of converts, or crouds appearing to listen to teaching. Here are two examples of a famous quote of Jesus':

Matthew 7:12"So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.": Bracketed by verses 7-8 and verses 13-14, both of which are about becoming and living as Christians. Matthew makes it quite clear here, and throughout his whole Gospel that acts are a natural outworking of faith and that our acts should lead people to Jesus.

Luke 6:31"Do to others as you would have them do to you.": becuase (V35) it emulates God and (Vs 43-45) it is the outworking of our new nature. Following these teaching Luke writes this "When Jesus has finished teaching all this in the hearing of the poepl, he entered Capernaum" (7:1). Queue the first gentile convert, the centurion, then the widows son is raised from the dead in Nain of which Luke writes this: "They [the Large crowd] were all filled with awe and praised God. "A great prophet has appeared among us," they said. "God has come to help his people." This news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country."(7:16-17)

Our motivation then should be Evangelism. Our good acts are to show God's love, to convict of sin (Prov 25: 21-23) and to open an opportunity to share the Gospel. Now this is not to say that we force feed the Gospel to people, on the contrary! We do good works to open an opportunity to share the Gospel.

Finally, St. Francis of Assisi famously commented, "Preach the Gospel at all times and if necessary use words", and although I appreciated the sentiment I believe a Christian should instead say "Preach the Gospel at all times and where possible use words"

What then should we do? I suggest PEAL: "Pre-meditated, Evangelistic acts of Love". Let us go with the intent to Love as God loves, so that we may call as we were called.
Till next time
Keep PEALing
(Like a Bell, not skin!)