Monthly Archives: May 2009

Interesting Links – 5/27/09

Wesley The Movie – coming this summer. How about July 10th as a release date? :) (HT: Wesley Wong)

Christianity Today has a nice article about Charles Wesley: And Can It Be? (HT:Brian Abasciano).

Here is an interesting post about what happened at Nicaea (HT: Nick Norelli).

Reclaiming the Mind Ministries has an audio series on Understanding Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses.

California’s Prop 8 is upheld.

San Diego orders a family to quit having Bible studies without a permit.

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Church Name Guide (Silly)

Do you ever wonder what the theology of a local church is? Use this easy to follow guide. You can determine the theology of any church without stepping through its doors. Look for the following words:

Abundant: Pentecostal
Harvest: Pentecostal
Life: Pentecostal
Sovereign: Calvinist
Grace: Calvinist
Reformed: Calvinist
Our Lady: Catholic
Saint (obscure name): Catholic
Saint (name you recognize): Episcopal
Damascus: Orthodox
Shalom: Extra Liberal
Missionary: Arminian
Free Will: Arminian
Trinity: Lutheran
Messiah: Lutheran
First: Baptist
Berean: Baptist

Certain common names are considered crossover, and can signify any theology. Here are some typical ones:

Baptist: Could be anything, don’t visit without doing your homework.
Bethel: low church, nice people, safe to visit.
Community: Very common name, tells you jack squat.
Evangelical: Protestant, beyond that your guess is as good as mine.
Church of God: Could be anything, don’t visit without doing your homework.
Church of Christ: Could be anything, be safe and leave your guitar at home.

What about odd combination names? Like Sovereign Trinity Church of God. It seems impossible and overwhelming to decrypt such a name. However, with practice you can parse even difficult names. Remember the following guidelines:

  • Combination names are often redundant. Examples: Abundant Life, First Baptist, Sovereign Grace.
  • Combination names occasionally denote a very specific theology. Example: Sovereign Harvest Church (Calvinist and Pentecostal, a rarity).
  • “Sovereign” is a trump word, and always refers to Calvinists, this is helpful to remember when you see it in combiniation with cross over words. Example: Sovereign Evangelical Baptist.
  • “Sovereign” comes first when used in a combination. This is true even if “First” is also in the name. Example: Sovereign First Baptist Church.
  • “Damascus” is also a trump word and always refers to Orthodox. Example: Saint John of Damascus (You might easily mistake this for an Episcopal Church, but you would be wrong)
  • Certain name combinations are highly improbable. Examples: Harvest Messiah, Sovereign Missionary, Saint Spong, Shalom Trinity.


Other Interesting Facts:

  • If the name is “Mars Hill”, it’s a mega church with a pastor that swears.
  • If the church has a private school, it is Lutheran or Catholic. The bigger the school, the more likely Catholic. If the private school name is “Yeshiva”, this is not a church at all. It also means that you live in a North Eastern city. If the private school name is “Madrassa”, this is not a church either.
  • There are lots of “First” churches, but very few “Second” ones.
  • The names “Berean” and “Bethel” are becoming less common, because no one knows what they mean.
  • If a church changes its name, the new name will always have the words “community” and/or “fellowship” in it. The new name will never refer to the sponsoring denomination. Example: “Bethel Assembly of God” becomes “Harvest Community Fellowship
  • If the church service starts at a strange time (like 9:07 AM), this indicates an attempt to appeal to post moderns. If you are on vacation and like lattes, this is a good church to visit. The service will be brief, it’s safe to show up in casual clothes, and you have an excuse if come at the wrong time. Warning: the pastor swears.
  • Don’t always assume that the church is Episcopal simply because you recognize the name of the saint. It could be an obscure Catholic saint. Examples: Saint John, Saint Joseph. It’s probably not the saint you think.

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Prevenient Grace

Prevenient grace is grace that God gives to begin the process of drawing a person to Himself. Its purpose is to prepare the heart of the non believer to respond to the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ. Because of the sinful nature, no person seeks after God on his own. The Holy Spirit convicts a person of sin, shows him his need for the Savior, and urges the person to repent. Prevenient grace is universal, given to all. It is resistible – a person can spurn it to his own detriment. It works in combination with the hearing of the Word. It shows the non-believer that he has a further need for salvation. It results in saving grace when a person positively responds and perseveres in faith.

Describing prevenient grace, Thomas Oden writes:

Prevening grace antecedes human responsiveness so as to prepare the soul for the effective hearing of the redeeming Word. This preceding grace draws persons closer to God, lessens their blindness to divine remedies, strengthens their will to accept revealed truth, and enables repentance. Only when sinners are assisted by prevenient grace can they begin to yield their hearts to cooperation with subsequent forms of grace.

Prevenient grace has some commonality with the Calvinistic teaching of irresistible grace. Both attempt to explain how God draws the non-believer to Himself. Thus, Arminians and Calvinists often appeal to the same passages when explaining their concepts of drawing grace (John 6:44, for example). The two primary differences between prevenient grace and and irresistable grace are scope and resistability. Arminians believe that God draws everyone to Himself, while Calvinists believe that He draws a limited number. Arminians believe that drawing grace can be rejected, while Calvinists believe that drawing grace is always effectual.

Does scripture teach the concept of prevenient grace? There is no one passage that lays out a systematic definition of it, however, the concept becomes apparent throughout the overall tenor of scripture. Here are some passages that refer to the different aspects of prevenient grace:

Prevenient Grace Draws:
John 6:44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.

John 12:32 And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.

Prevenient Grace is Universal:
Titus 2:11 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men.

John 1:9 The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.

John 16:7-8 But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment:

Romans 1:18-19 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.

Revelation 3:20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.

Prevenient Grace Convicts the Non-Believer:
Acts 16:14 One of those listening was a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message.

Acts 16:29-30 The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

Prevenient Grace Works in Combination with the Hearing of the Word:
Acts 2:37 When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”

Romans 10:17 Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.

Prevenient Grace is Given Generously:
Romans 8:32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?

Romans 2:4 Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?

Acts 17:26-27 From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.

Prevenient Grace Can be Rejected:
Matt. 23:37 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.

John 5:34,39,40 Not that I accept human testimony; but I mention it that you may be saved…You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.

Acts 7:51 You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit!

Heb 4:2 For we also have had the gospel preached to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith.

Heb 10:29 How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?

Prevenient Grace Results in Saving Grace when it is Accepted:
Ephesians 5:14 For it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said: “Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”

Ephesians 2:8-9 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.

Recommended Resources for Further Reading:
The Transforming Power of Grace (book), by Thomas Oden
A Brief Consideration of Prevenient Grace (online article), by Dennis Hartman
Prevenient Grace (online article), by Jeff Paton

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Interesting Links – 5/18/09

Ben Witherington is moving his blog. Update your bookmarks!

Peter Lumpkins gives his thoughts on two books written by Calvinists. One he highly recommends, one he does not.

A number of Catholics are upset about Obama’s speech at Notre Dame, including Notre Dame Right to Life and Notre Dame Response.

Along those lines, a new poll shows that the majority of Americans are pro-life.

C Michael Patton writes that Calvinists need to calm down. Quote: “I see less Christ-like character in many Calvinistic brethren than I do in just about any other tradition in Christianity.”

Pastor Phil writes that he became a Calvinist because Calvinism Biblically declares, “It’s all of and for God.” Moderate-Arminianism declares, “It’s partly of and for God.”

T Robbins writes that Arminians are devil possessed swine.

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Swine Flu, and the Egyptian Pig Farmers

Recently Egypt has been in the news. As part of the swine flu hysteria, Egypt has ordered the destruction of all pigs that are in the country. What many news reports neglect to mention the religious aspect of this action. Egypt is a majority Muslim nation, with a Coptic Christian minority. Since Muslims are not allowed to touch pork, the pig farmers are Coptic Christians.

Here are two articles from that addresses the religious aspect of the action:

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Worship Star

This is a pretty funny look inside the Christian music industry. Wesley even gets a kudo (no doubt because his name rhymes with “Presley”).

:)

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Some Questions About Angels and Demons

I have a few questions about angels and demons, and am wondering if any of my readers know the answers. This is not a topic that I’ve looked into much.

These are genuine questions. I believe in both angels and demons, and that they interact with humanity. If the questions sound odd, it’s because this is how my weird mind works. I don’t intend to be flippant.

1) How many angels and demons are there? Does the Bible state this anywhere?
2) Their number is now fixed, correct?
3) If a demon is sent to the pit (abyss), he can’t get out again, correct?
4) If the world population is increasing and #2 or #3 are true, does this mean the ratio of angels and demons to people is steadily decreasing?
5) Are demons bound to the earth?
6) If #5 is true, and a possessed person went to another planet (say Mars), would he be freed of the possession?

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First Clement question

Does anyone know if there is a contemporary English translation or paraphrase of First Clement?

For those who may not be aware, Clement of Rome was an early Church father. He is believed to have died around AD 100. He probably personally knew Peter. He wrote a letter (possibly two) to the Corinthians. While not considered the level of scripture, the letter is well respected, and was frequently read in the early church.

Anyway, I’ve found several translations, but none of them are real easy to read. If there’s not one available, I’m throwing around the idea of doing it myself.

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