Monthly Archives: August 2008

Audio Links: SBC Today

SBC Today has several audio links dealing with the issue of Calvinism in the Southern Baptist Convention. SBC Today is a blog run by several pastors. According to the website: SBC Today exists to restore unity in the convention around biblical discipleship and our historic Baptist distinctives.

Audio Links:
1) Dr. David Allen (Dean at SWBTS) gives a convincing argument that Luke is the author of Hebrews. Calvinism completely aside, this is an interesting presentation. Relating to Calvinism, he makes a strong case for General Atonement, preaching from Hebrews 2:9 But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.” (70 minutes)

2) Dr Jerry Vines (Former SBC President) is interviewed. During the course of the conversation he speaks on how Calvinism is impacting the SBC. (23 Minutes)

3) Dr. Ergun Caner (President of LBTS) is interviewed. He gives an autobiography, and speaks on Calvinism along with other issues. (17 minutes)


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Full Video of the Saddleback Debate Interviews

A must watch for Christians. I will keep my opinions to myself. :)

Warren Interviews Obama (49 minutes)

Warren Interviews McCain (44 minutes)

Questions asked:
Who are three wise people who you would rely on in your administration?
What has been your greatest moral failure? What has been America greatest moral failure?
Give an example where you went against party interest for the good of the country.
Give an example where you went against your own interests for the good of the country.
What is a position you held 10 years ago that you do not hold today?
What’s the most gut wrenching decision you ever had to make?
What does it mean to you to be a Christian? How does your faith live out?
At what point is a baby (fetus) entitled to human rights?
Define marriage.
Do you support a constitutional amendment to define marriage?
Do you favor or oppose embryonic stem cell research?
Does evil exist? If so, what should we do about it?
Which existing supreme justice would you not have nominated?
Should faith based organizations who receive federal funds have the right to hire people of like minded belief?
Do you support merit pay for public school teachers?
Define rich. Give me a number.
What do you do when the the right to privacy and national security interests collide?
What’s worth dying for?
What is the criteria for committing American troops to war?
Would you consider a government plan to help orphans worldwide?
What should we do to end religious persecution worldwide?
What should we do to prevent human trafficking (slavery)?
Tell me in a minute why you want to be president.
What do you say to people who oppose me asking you these questions in a church?
What would you tell the American public if you knew there would be no repercussions?

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Book Review: Passion for the Heart of God

Passion for the Heart of God, by John Zumwalt

Zumwalt makes the case that the reason the church exists is to fulfill the great commission. God loves people. It breaks his heart that there are so many who have never heard his name. He yearns to be in relationship with the unreached people of the world. What grieves God ought to grieve us too.

Zumwalt argues that much of the problem with the Western church is that we have lost focus on what matters to God, and instead focus on ourselves. He argues that the Christian walk is not meant to be easy. Blessings that we receive aren’t meant for us to be used selfishly, but are given so that God’s name will be known among the nations. The same is true of the nation of Israel. Israel was chosen not just to be blessed, but instead to be used by God as part of his plan to reconcile every nation to him.

This is a challenging book. It is easy to understand, but it is not so easy to apply.

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Reformation Era Scholars who Moved Away from Limited Atonement

I thought some others might find this interesting:

The Appendix of The Life of John Goodwin (Thomas Jackson, 1872) has a list of some scholars (Reformation Era to the mid 1800s) who moved away from Limited Atonement to “enlarged views of Divine Philanthropy”. The author includes himself in the list, as well as Luther, Calvin (?!), and others. Very interestingly, a number of those listed were involved with the proceedings in Dort. (Goad, Davenport, Tilenus, Hales of Eton).

APPENDIX.

It is a fact, which is highly worthy of attention, that several of the greatest divines, who have adorned the different Protestant churches by their learning, talents, and virtue, were, in the early part of their lives, “straitened in their bowels” respecting the extent of CHRIST’S REDEMPTION, and as they advanced in years and knowledge, they entertained enlarged views of the Divine Philanthropy. The following are some of the examples of this kind which may be specified:

MELANCTHON

Luther’s friend and coadjutor, was at first Luther’s scholar, and drew from him his earliest religious opinions. But being a learned and dispassionate man, pursuing truth, he saw his errors and abandoned them; and espoused sentiments concerning the respectiveness of God’s decrees, widely different from those he had formerly held. [A circumstance which is very conveniently passed over in silence by Dr. Cox, his late English biographer.] — Pierce’s Divine Philanthropy Defended, p. 14, Edit. 1657.

LUTHER

Also went on long as he at first set out, with so little disguise, that whereas all parties had always pretended that they asserted the freedom of the will, he plainly spoke out, and said the will was not free, but enslaved. Yet, before he died, he is reported to have changed his mind on this and other kindred subjects : for though ho never owned that, yet Melancthon, who had been of the same opinions, did ; for which he was never blame by Luther. — Burnet on the Seventeenth Article.

ARMINIUS

Himself was education at Geneva, and in the early part of his life embraced those doctrines concerning predestination, which Calvin and Beza had taught in that city. Afterwards, however, when actually engaged in vindication of those doctrines, he was convinced that they were indefensible; and embraced the principles of those whose religious system extends the Divine benevolence and the merits of Jesus Christ to all mankind.— Mosheim’s Eccles. Hist. Vol. V. p. 440, Edit. 1806.

DANIEL TILENUS

Professor of Divinity at Sedan, a man not less acute in judgment, than versed in all kinds of learning, distinguished himself by decided hostility to the sentiments of Arminius. Convinced at length by the arguments of his opponents, he changed sides; and proved the genuineness of his conversion by submitting to share with the Remonstrants in those severe persecutions which were inflicted upon them by the Dutch Calvinists. — Brandt’s History of the Reformation, Vol. II. p. 137, Edit. 1721.

DR. THOMAS JACKSON

President of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, is thus characterized by the noted Prynne : “Dr. Jackson is a man of great abilities, and of a plausible, affable, courteous deportment. — Of late he hath been transported beyond himself with metaphysical contemplations. The University of Oxford grieves for his defection” [from the doctrine of absolute predestination] . — Anti-Arminianism, p. 270, Edit. 1630.

BISHOP ANDREWS

Is generally allowed to have been one of the most learned and pious men of the age in which he lived. Concerning him, Dr. Pierce observes, “That that inestimable bishop, in his most mature and ripest years, was very severe to those doctrines which are commonly called Calvinistical, is a thing so known, that I cannot think it will be denied.” — Divine Purity Defended, p. 125, Edit. 1657.

DR. CHRISTOPHER POTTER

Provost of Queen’s College, Oxford, who was esteemed by all who knew him, as a divine of an amiable disposition, and of great probity, industry, and learning, has given a pleasing account of his conversion from Calvinism to the Armiman tenets; and the piety and meekness of temper displayed in the narrative add weight to his judgment, and are honourable to the cause for which he pleads. — Collection of Tracts on Predestination, p. 225, Cambridge, 1719.

DR. THOMAS PIERCE

One of the ablest opponents of Calvinism that system has ever had, states concerning himself: “I was, in my childhood, of the opinions [concerning Election, Reprobation, &c.] Mr. Barlee doth now contend for. But, through the infinite mercy of God, I have obtained conversion: and being converted from the practice, as well as from the opinion, which I was of, I will, to my poor utmost, endeavour to confirm or convert my brethren.” — Divine Philanthropy Defended, p. 15.

THE EVER-MEMOBARLE HALES, OF ETON

Who was a Calvinist in his younger days, used frequently to say, that when he heard Episcopius argue in favour of General Redemption at the Synod of Dort, he “bade John Calvin good night.” — Hales’s Golden Remains, Preface.

MR. SAMUEL HOARD

Author of a very able work entitled, ” God’s Love to Mankind Manifested,” — a work which produced a considerable effect among the national clergy, in the early part of the seventeenth century, — says, ” I have sent you here my reasons which have moved me to change my opinion in some controversies, of late debated between the Remonstrants and their Opponents.” — See the tract itself, p. 1, Edit. 1G38. W1tiston’s Memoirs, Vol. I. p. 10, Edit. 1749.

DR. THOMAS GOAD

Was a person every way eminent, having the repute of a great and general scholar, exact critic and historian, a poet, orator, schoolman, and divine. He was a member of the Synod of Dort, and acquitted himself there with great applause, in opposition to the opinions of the Remonstrants. He at length saw cause to alter his judgment ; and, in defence of those principles ho had formerly opposed, wrote a very able work entitled, “A Disputation concerning the Necessity and Contingency of Events.”— Echard’s History of England, Vol. II. p. 122, Edit, 1718. Collection of Tracts on Predestination, Preface.

ARCHBISHOP USSHER

Who is generally acknowledged to have been one of the most learned men in Europe, in the early part of his life held the doctrines of strict Calvinism; but as he advanced in years, avowed his belief of General Redemption; and is said, before his death, to have expressed his dislike of the whole doctrine of Geneva. — Pierce’s Christian’s Rescue from the Grand Error of the Heathen, Appendix, Edit. 1G58. — Bird’s Fate and Destiny Inconsistent with Christianity, p. 74, Edit. 1726. — Parr’s Life of Ussher, Appendix, p. 61, Edit. 1G86. — Wordsworth’s Ecclesiastical Biography, Vol. V. p. 504, Edit. 1810.

DR. ROBERT SANDERSON

Professor of Divinity in the University of Oxford, and afterwards Bishop of Lincoln, has given an interesting account of the progress of his mind, from the sublapsarian scheme, to the mild sentiments of Melancthon and Arminius. — Hammond‘s Pacific Discourse concerning God’s Grace and Decrees, p. 8, 1660.

MR. RICHARD BAXTER

At the commencement of his theological career, was eager in his attachment to the peculiar doctrines of Calvin. But when his judgment was more matured, though he still maintained the absolute Election of some men to Life Eternal, he contended strenuously for General Redemption, and for Universal Grace. — Baxter’s Catholick Theologie, Preface.

BISHOP DAVENANT

Appears to have undergone a change of sentiment similar to that of Baxter. For Archbishop Ussher “freely declared himself for the doctrine of General Redemption, and owned that he was the person who brought both Bishop Davenant and Dr. Preston to acknowledge it.” — Calamy’s Abridgment of Baxter’s Life and Times, p. 405, Edit. 1713.

DR. DANIEL WHITBY

Says, “They who have known my education, may remember that I was bred up seven years in the University, under men of the Calvinistical persuasion; and had once firmly entertained all their doctrines.” The zeal with which he afterwards opposed those doctrine’s, in his Commentary on the New Testament and in his Discourse concerning the Five Points, is universally known. — Whitby on the Five Points, Preface.

CALVIN

Himself, according to Dr. Watts, is entitled to a place among those divines whose attachment to the doctrines of limited mercy and partial redemption abated as they advanced in years. After noticing the difference between his sentiments as expressed in his Institutions and in his Commentaries, the Doctor says, ” It may be proper to observe, that the most rigid and narrow limitations of grace to men are to be found chiefly in his Institutions, which were written in his youth. But his Comments on Scripture were the labour of his riper years, and maturer judgment.”— Works, Vol. III. p. 472, Edit. 1800.


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An Apealing Aspect of Calvinism

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. – Acts 1:8

In this post I want to focus on the primary aspect of Calvinism that I find appealing. By the way, this is personal reflection. My reason might be motivation for some who have become Calvinists, but I’m not implying that it necessarily is.

It boils down to this: For me Calvinism would provide a release from the guilt for the reason why others are lost. Instead of it being my fault, it is God’s plan.

You see, I have largely been a failure in preaching the good news of Jesus. It grieves me greatly that some will go to hell because I have not cared enough to share that Jesus loves them and desires a relationship with them. My brothers will spend eternity in darkness because I was too selfish to share the light of Jesus.

On the other hand, Calvinism teaches that the lost are lost because God has foreordained it. The reprobate are in fact lost because Jesus does not love them, and has not made a provision for them. The Westminster confession (Chapter III) states that:

“God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass…”

“By the decree of God, for the manifestation of His glory, some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life; and others foreordained to everlasting death.”

“These angels and men, thus predestinated, and foreordained, are particularly and unchangeably designed, and their number so certain and definite, that it cannot be either increased or diminished.”

As God has appointed the elect unto glory, so has He, by the eternal and most free purpose of His will, foreordained all the means thereunto.”

So Calvinism says people go to hell because God has ordained it, NOT because I have kept the light of Jesus under a bushel. It further states that the number of people going to hell can’t be increased or diminished. Additionally it states that God has already foreordained the means for the elect to be saved. The elect are good to go, without my obedience. The reprobate are certainly lost, without regards to my witness (or lack thereof).

Essentially Calvinism states that all my failures are designed by God’s plan. Now that would be a relief to know. But…I don’t believe this. My failures are not ordained by God. He certainly forgives them, and can account for them ahead of time, but they are not preferred by him.

An argument that I frequently hear from Calvinists is that Arminian theology comes from a rebellious desire to promote free will at the expense of God’s (deterministic) sovereignty. Personally, I find the opposite to be true. I would jump at the chance to attribute my failures to divine providence. But my conscience will not allow it.

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Sola Paul (satire)

In this post I would like to look at the extent of the atonement. By using proper exegesis of scripture it can be proven with certainty that Jesus died to effectually secure salvation for Paul of Tarsus. And for Paul alone.

First, let’s take a look at Galatians 2:20. This is the most important verse in the Bible, because it explicitly states the extent of the atonement (bold mine):

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

This verse is key. It indisputably proves that Jesus loved and gave himself only for Paul.

It’s worth noting that some theologians have used other passages in a vain attempt to apply the atonement to others for whom it was not intended. These heretics fail to make an important distinction. Ambiguous verses should always be interpreted in the light of more explicit verses. Galatians 2:20 very clearly limits the scope of the atonement to Paul, and Paul alone. Other less clear passages should be interpreted accordingly.

If Galatians 2:20 was the only verse that dealt with the extent of the atonement, the heretics might have a point. Fortunately it is not. Let’s take a look at some other clear passages:

In Matthew 18:12 we learn that the shepherd only wanted to save one sheep. In fact he abandoned 99 sheep to save the one (bold mine):

What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off?

This passage is so clear. It proves beyond the shadow of a doubt that the shepherd found and saved only one sheep (Paul). The shepherd left the 99 other sheep on the hills. By doing this the shepherd maximized his glory. Moreover, he increased the appreciation and adoration of Paul, whom was effectually retrieved. If other sheep could have been retrieved, it would have diluted the value of the shepherd’s act.

The same parable is presented in Luke 15:4-6 (bold mine):

Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’

One again, we see the shepherd saving only one sheep. He leaves the reprobate sheep in open country, puts the one sheep on his shoulders, and goes home.

Theologian James White gives additional insight on the use of the word sheep (bold mine):

“The good Shepherd lays down His life in behalf of the sheep. Are all men the sheep of Christ? Certainly not…”

Before commenting on this quote, it is necessary to exegete White’s use of the term “sheep”. To the non-educated it may appear that he is using the word “sheep” to refer to more than one person. This is not the case. In English the word “sheep” can be singular or it can be plural. Here are some examples:

Singular example: Look! there is one sheep over there!
Plural example: Look! There are a boat load of sheep over there! We must be in New Zealand!

Non-English scholars do not often note this subtle distinction in the usage of the word “sheep”. Nor do the misguided plural atonement heretics who resort to man centered thinking instead of exegesis. White’s context is plain. When he uses the phrases “the sheep” and “the sheep of Christ”, he is referring to only one sheep. Never once does White say “boat load of sheep”, nor does he refer to New Zealand. He says only “the sheep” (which of course we know is Paul).

Now let’s get back to God’s word. Another important passage to look at is Acts 9:3-7 (The Damascus Road story). In it we see with crystal clarity that Jesus chose only Paul: (bold mine)

Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”….the men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one.

This passage indicates that only Paul heard Jesus’ voice and saw a light from heaven. The men with Paul heard the voice but did not see the light. The light was not for them, it was only for Paul. This proves that Paul’s fellow travelers were reprobate. Of course they would be, they were not Paul.

Philosophical Arguments on the Atonement for Paul:
There are only three philosophical arguments to be considered.
1) The atonement was for everyone
2) The atonement was for no one.
3) The atonement was for Paul.

We know that 1 is false, that is universalism. We know that 2 is false because Paul was saved. Option 3 is all we have left. The atonement was for Paul.

Common objections to Atonement for Paul:

Q: What about the many passages that speak about “the world”? Isn’t the world more than Paul?

A: In light of the explicit context of Galatians 2:20, it is clear that the ambiguous passages that refer to “world” are more accurately translated as “the world of the one elect person whose name is Paul”. Remember, ambiguous passages should always be interpreted in the context of explicit ones.

Q: But doesn’t Romans 1:16 state salvation is for both Greek and Jew? How can this be the one person Paul?

A: Quit imposing your own biased interpretation on the word. Read scripture and let it speak for itself. Paul easily answers this objection in 1 Corinthians 9:20-21 To the Jews I became like a Jew…To those not having the law I became like one not having the law… You see, Paul is both Jew and Greek. Romans 1:16 refers only to Paul.

Q: What about Mary, Jesus mother? She wasn’t Paul and yet the Bible says she was blessed.

A: What are you, some kind of closet Catholic? Your line of thinking always leads back to Rome.

Q: This whole system is not fair. If only Paul is saved, what about everyone else who perishes? This is a bum deal for everyone except Paul.

A: Paul anticipates your objection and addresses it in Romans 9:20 “Who are you oh man to talk back to God?.” In other words this may seem unfair from your fallen human view, but it is God’s sovereign choice to individually and effectually save Paul and Paul alone. This gives God more glory, and makes Paul’s salvation more valuable. Don’t talk back to God.

Q: I’m not talking back to God, I’m saying that your system distorts the character of God.

A: You have an odd concept of fairness. Only one person usually wins the lottery too, but you don’t complain about that do you? Sometimes no one wins the lottery and this makes the jackpot even bigger. If everyone won the lottery it wouldn’t do anyone any good. For example if the jackpot was $1 million and 10 billion people won it, they would each only get 0.01 cents. What a ripoff! The same concept applies to salvation for Paul. He hit the jackpot.

Q: But wasn’t it a waste of Jesus blood to apply it only to Paul when it could have covered more?

A: Not at all, this was planned by divine decree before the creation of the world. Jesus blood was only intended for Paul, and it effectually secured Paul’s salvation. The atonement did not make salvation merely possible for Paul, it secured it.

Q: I don’t find this doctrine very motivating to preach the Gospel.

A: That is a straw man. Paul believed this and was very motivated. Besides, scripture commands us to preach the Gospel.

In conclusion, the extent of the atonement is very clear. Jesus death was for Paul, and Paul alone. We all need to throw aside our traditional biases and read scripture in the context that it was intended. Case closed.

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Romans 9 Exegesis

The Society of Evangelical Arminians is currently highlighting an Arminian Exegesis of Romans 9. This is a fantastic series. Keith Schooley gives a great contextual presentation of this frequently misunderstood passage. Be sure to check it out. The original posts are also available on Keith’s blog.

SEA: Link
Schooley Files: Link

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