How is your pie divided? A great little video clip.
Monthly Archives: January 2009
According to his website, Peter Enns is now attending an Arminian church. I think this is pretty cool.
Enns is a scholar who until recently taught at Westminster Theological Seminary. Last year he was suspended and later parted ways with WTS because of controversy over a book he authored that promoted an “incarnational view” of scripture.
You can read about the controversy here: Christianity Today
Some of the most famous American paintings of Jesus were done by artist Warner Sallman (1892-1968). If you grew up in a Christian environment (Protestant or Catholic), you’ve seen these pictures in your church and maybe had them in your home. Christianity Today did a write up on Sallman a while back. His two best known paintings are: “The Head of Christ“, and “Christ at Heart’s Door“.
Some say that these the pictures have outlived their usefulness – that they are a bit of a “Velvit Elvis” (something unique to the older generation, that younger people don’t find helpful). They have also been criticized for making Jesus look too soft and too European. I appreciate the criticisms, but like the pictures anyway. My favorite is “Christ at Heart’s Door“. It is based on a passage from Revelation 3:20: Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.
When I was growing up, Dad had “Christ at Heart’s Door” hung in his study. I remember asking Dad why Jesus was knocking on the door. He explained that the door represented my heart. If I asked Jesus to come in, he would. These sorts of conversations with Dad bring back fond memories.
It’s interesting to note some of the Arminian aspects of the painting, First, Christ is knocking on the door, not kicking it in. Second, there is no handle to the door, the person inside needs to open it.
Lastly, it’s interesting how these pictures have represented a sort of “icon” for American Protestants. While icons are common to some other Christian traditions, American Protestants have generally avoided them.
This post was inspired by something John Piper wrote, which you can read here.
Can my ministry flourish in a Reformed environment even though I hold to Arminian theology?
I don’t want to encourage a pastor, whether a worship pastor or senior pastor or associate pastor, to act in a knee-jerk way about being out of sync with his church. It may have happened because he came into the church unaware of where they were. It may have happened because her theology changed after she got there.
There are different reasons why you might wind up in this situation. And once you do, what I want to say first is, Don’t assume it can’t happen. Don’t assume flourishing can’t happen. And by “flourishing” I mean that over time the people would grow with you into greater truth about the love of God. And it can happen in ways that are not dramatic.
In other words, an Arminian position mainly means, God is holy, good, just, moral, loving, and always does what is right. You can trust Him. We’re going to ask God to change lives here. We’re going to tell individuals that God loves them. There are a lot of born-again Calvinist people who like that. It’s because they don’t see the implications of their theology.
And if you get a congregation liking that over time—”God is good, and we’re going to celebrate his character and his nature and his love” (just leave it undefined for the time being. Everybody believes in the love of God, one way or the other)—what happens is that when God works on your heart, you begin to trust him and seek first his kingdom. So even if you initially have a distorted view of God, when you get to specifics in John 3, Romans 10, 1 John 4, about love and whatnot, your heart is more ready for it.
So the flourishing could be that you’re taking people where you know you want them to go, just because you know that God genuinely cares about them. And your Arminain orientation makes you keenly aware of that. Their Calvinistic orientation doesn’t naturally make them as aware of that. And you’re going to take them there. And when the whole spirit of the place changes, then the theology might grow. And that’s what I mean by flourishing.
Now that might not happen, because as you begin to go there you might encounter opposition. People might say, “I’m tired of this God shows no favoritism nonsense. We need more exclusivity. It’s not my responsibility to preach the gospel, God loves me but he hates you”—though they wouldn’t use those words necessarily. They think that God values them more than others. They’re showing pride. This is just too serious.
And so over time, your effort to simply make much of God in Christ would encounter opposition. And then, yes, you would probably have to find another place.
So the general point there is, Pray toward a process that is open and above board. If you are a worship leader, then you should be totally candid with your senior pastor or the pastoral team and say, “Here’s where I am. Do you want me here? If you don’t want me here, I should go.” If they say, “We want you here, just don’t push your peripheral distinctives,” then you may respond, “Well, we’ll make a go of it, and I’ll try to design services that I think honor God. And you’ll have to tell me in the long run whether you think I’m pushing my distinctives.”
There was a farmer who owned a pond. He did not want anyone to go swimming in it. He built a fence around the pond and posted a sign that said: NO SWIMMING ALLOWED.
One day three boys came upon the pond. They saw the sign, but decided to go swimming anyway. They climbed the fence, and jumped into the pond. After jumping in, they realized that there was no way to get out. They began to drown.
The farmer came to the pond, and saw that the three boys were drowning. He said to the boys, “Didn’t you see the sign? You have broken the rules. But I am a kind and loving farmer, so I will let one of you out.” The farmer then proceeded to throw a rope to one of the boys, and pulled him to shore. Then the farmer folded his arms and watched the other two boys drown. (The End)
If you met this farmer, would you say that he is a kind and loving man? Or would you perhaps describe him as heartless?
In the story the farmer represents God. The boys are humanity. The way the farmer behaves is exactly the way that Calvinists describe the behavior of God in regards to humanity. He has thrown a rope only to one of us (the elect). The rest of us (the reprobate) are left to drown.
One one point (God’s justice) the Calvinists are right. None of us deserve to be saved. Yet on the second point (God’s love), they are terribly wrong. They paint a distorted image of God. Like the farmer, He could save all. Yet He has capriciously and arbitrarily determined to save only a few. Calvinists say this gives God glory.
In reality, the Bible teaches that God has provided a way for all to be saved. He loves all. He is not willing for anyone perish, but wants everyone to come to repentance. Jesus is the atoning sacrifice not for only our sins, but for the sins of the whole world. Some unfortunately reject the “rope” that God has provided in the person of Jesus Christ. Those who reject Jesus will perish. However, it is a travesty to lay their rejection at the feet of God who has provided a means for all to be saved.
*Dr Gesiler does not consider himself to be an Arminian. He attempts to split the middle between Arminianism and what he calls “extreme Calvinism”. He refers to himself as “Moderate Calvinist”. Nevertheless, he makes some excellent points against classical Calvinistic doctrine.