Monthly Archives: February 2009

Interesting Links – February 28, 2009

Arminian Theologian Roger Olson chimes in on the NeoReformed. Olson states that “It’s time for evangelicalism’s leaders to stand up and say no–not to Calvinism but to those evangelical Calvinists who are causing trouble in the evangelical camp by blatantly misrepresenting other evangelicals’ beliefs and by implying, if not asserting, that their theology is the only authentic evangelical theology.”

The 2009 Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches reports that attendance is down for the majority of American denominations. While the liberal mainline churches have been declining for years, several more conservative denominations have recently joined the club, including the Southern Baptists and the Missouri Lutherans. Catholics have seen a decline, partially offset by immigration. Orthodox groups bucking the trend include: The Assemblies of God and The Church of God (Cleveland).

James Dobson resigns as chairman of Focus on the Family, however, he intends to keep a prominent role at the organization. Dobson is 72 years old.

Senator Brownback questions if Pelosi and Kennedy are real Catholics, due to their promotion of abortion.

“Lutherans adore Martin Luther. Methodist hearts are strangely warmed by John Wesley. Anglicans even have a sardonic fondness for Henry VIII. But Presbyterians are uncertain about John Calvin and his legacy,” writes Joseph D. Small, director of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s Office of Theology Worship and Education.

Shameless plug: Check out my new site ArminianBooks.com

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Audio Link: Dennis McCallum on Romans 9

Here is a link to a good mp3 presentation on Romans 9, by Dennis McCallum: Romans 9 – God’s Soveriegnty. There is also a You-Tube video of the same presentation which can be found here.

HT: Brennon Hartshorn

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Interesting Links – February 21, 2009

I’m going to start a series of posting links that interest me. The plan is to do it once a week. I’m borrowing the concept from Lee Shelton at the Contemporary Calvinist. Lee has a great knack for finding things – even if he is Reformed. :)

Scot McKnight has a two part series on the “NeoReformed” – his term for “those who are obsessed with God’s holiness and grace and have not learned that grace makes people gracious.” Part1, Part2.

The Superbowl Commercial by Catholic Vote that NBC refused to air.

Ken Schenck interviews Peter Ens about attending a Nazarene church. Enns discusses some differences that he has observed between the Reformed and Wesleyan traditions, noting that in his experience the Reformed focus on “comprehensive theological precision”, while Wesleyans are more interested in “worship and maturity in Christian character”.

Dr. Timothy Tennent is the new president of Asbury Theological Seminary.

Dan at Arminian Chronicles contiunes a dialogue with Hays and Manata of Tribalouge on the definition of free will.

Robert Schuller’s Crystal Cathedral is laying off staff and selling land.

The Christian Post notes that “Wiley-Blackwell, a major academic publisher, is recalling copies of Encyclopedia of Christian Civilization and scrapping the print run after critics said the entries were “too Christian” and “too anti-Muslim.””

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John Wesley’s Last Letter

John Wesley’s last letter was written to William Wilberforce. He wrote it on February 24, 1791. He died eight days later. For those who might be unaware, William Wilberforce was instrumental in ending the slave trade in England and its colonies.

Dear Sir:

Unless the divine power has raised you us to be as Athanasius contra mundum,(1) I see not how you can go through your glorious enterprise in opposing that execrable villainy which is the scandal of religion, of England, and of human nature. Unless God has raised you up for this very thing, you will be worn out by the opposition of men and devils. But if God be fore you, who can be against you? Are all of them together stronger than God? O be not weary of well doing! Go on, in the name of God and in the power of his might, till even American slavery (the vilest that ever saw the sun) shall vanish away before it.

Reading this morning a tract wrote by a poor African, I was particularly struck by that circumstance that a man who has a black skin, being wronged or outraged by a white man, can have no redress; it being a “law” in our colonies that the oath of a black against a white goes for nothing. What villainy is this?

That he who has guided you from youth up may continue to strengthen you in this and all things, is the prayer of, dear sir,

Your affectionate servant,
John Wesley

(1)“Athanasius contra mundum” means Athanasius against the world. Athanasius of Alexandria (c. 296-373 AD) was a early church father who fought against Arianism (an early Church heresy that taught Jesus was a subservient and created being).

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Who are the NeoReformed? -Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is doing a very interesting series on what he is calling the “NeoReformed” movement. This is his term for a particularly vocal sub-group of exclusionary Calvinists.

Part 1
Part 2

Some bombshell quotes:

“Furthermore, the NeoReformed have come to equate the meaning of “gospel” with Calvin’s “Reformed theology.” And those who aren’t Reformed are somehow or in some ways denying the gospel itself. When gospel is equated with double predestination, often said in harsh terms, we are seeing a good example of the spirit of a NeoReformed approach. This leads, inevitably, to seeing what they call the “doctrines of grace” as defining both “gospel” and “evangelical.” “

“The groups they’ve chosen to exclude witness to the new kind of Reformed. The sweeping impacts of the Finney revivals and Wesleyan gospel preaching and the charismatics are simply not, in the view of the NeoReformed, evangelicals. Anabaptists aren’t even on the map.…”

“If I had to sum it up I’d put it this way: the NeoReformed are those who are obsessed with God’s holiness and grace and have not learned that grace makes people gracious. These folks are America’s newest religious zealots and they are wounding, perhaps for a generation or two, evangelicalism.”

I completely agree.

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Adoption – The Inheritance of a Son

Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God. Galations 4:7

Adoption (huiothesia) is a term that the apostle Paul uses several times in his letters. The Greco-Roman concept of adoption is different than the English concept. In English we use adoption as an action verb. For example a father “adopts” a son. The Greco-Roman concept of adoption refers to something that sons receive. Sons are not adopted. Rather, sons receive the adoption (Gal 4:1-7). This conceptual difference of what adoption is can contribute to a misunderstanding of certain Biblical passages. In the context of the Arminian / Calvinist debate, the meaning of adoption directly relates to our interpretation of Ephesians 1.

In English we associate adoption with parents taking a baby into their family. The baby is “adopted”. He is an outsider prior to adoption, and a son after adoption. However, Huiothesia refers to the standing of someone who is ALREADY a son. Adoption is the right of a son. Adoption is the “inheritance”, “promise”, or “reward” that the son receives as an heir. A father makes promises to his children. These promises are the adoption. Huiothesia is not synonymous with salvation (entrance into the family). Rather, it is the promise of God received by those who are believers in Christ Jesus (Gal 3:22-27).

The reward of the adoption occurs now and after death. This can be seen in Romans 8 (bold mine):

For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” -Rom 8:15 (NASB)

And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. -Rom 8:23 (NASB)

Observe in Romans 8:23 that Paul speaks of believers who wait for their adoption. There is a distinction between believing and the adoption. Conversely, sonship (having the legal rights of a son) doesn’t guarantee that the son will apply and benefit from those rights. This can be seen in Romans 9:1-5 (bold mine)

I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience testifies with me in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh, who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons, and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises,whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen. (NASB)

Here Paul refers to the nation of Israel – his brothers. Israel has the rights of the adoption, but is failing to apply and benefit from those rights. Again, we see Paul treat adoption as a position rather than an action.

Now, let’s take a look at Ephesians 1:5-6. It is my contention that understanding the Greek concept of adoption takes away the Calvinistic flavor that is sometimes attributed to the passage (bold mine):

In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. (NASB)

This could be accurately translated as follows:

In love He predestined us [believers] to receive an inheritance as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.

In other words, God doesn’t arbitrarily adopt particular humans to join his family. Rather, He promises believers an inheritance as His sons in Christ Jesus.

In conclusion, adoption is a standing that believers have as sons in Christ Jesus. The Pauline concept of adoption is best understood as the position of a believer. It is not an action.

(I’m currently reading Hodwinked and Happy by Daniel Gracely. He gets credit for exposing me to this concept of adoption. Along those lines, here is a good article on adoption by T. Pierce Brown that Gracley also quotes in his book. Brown goes on some tangents about baptism and the NIV, but it is good read nonetheless.)

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Wesley Study Bible Released

The Wesley Study Bible is now available. The Wesley Report blog has a nice overview of it, and also an interview with one of the general editors.

The best price I’ve seen online is Cokesbury ($24.95 +$5.75 shipping). Mine is on the way. I hope to do a review of it at some point in the future.

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