Friday, January 30, 2015

Calvinism and My New Church

Before I begin this post, let me say that I am not going to discuss or debate anything in comments.  I am open to questions and discussion, but I'd rather keep it private in messages via Facebook or email.  The subject matter sometimes gets heated, and thus I'd like to keep the discussions private rather than public.

Living Word Bible Church.  That is my church home.  I am a member.  I started attending in mid-May, 2014.  I became a member on January 18, 2015.  The church is a Reformed Baptist church.  Baptist is nothing new to me.  Every church I've been a part of has really been Baptist in flavor, though not by name.  They have been churches that taught baptism is for believers, not infants, and they have been independent churches.  Reformed is what I am embracing that I have not previously.  Different people mean different things when they use the word Reformed. For purposes of this discussion, I am using it to mean Calvinism, which is always contained in the word.  Some people pack other things into the word Reformed.  It seems most of my books on my shelves do not pack more into that term, including, most importantly, many authors who claim the term for themselves.  

Wayne Grudem's glossary in his book Systematic Theology states:

Reformed: Another term for the theological tradition known as Calvinism. 
Grudem, W. A. (2004). Systematic theology: an introduction to biblical doctrine (p. 1253). Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House.
Of course, then we could ask what does Grudem mean by Calvinism?

Calvinism: A theological tradition named after the sixteenth-century French reformer John Calvin (1509–64) that emphasizes the sovereignty of God in all things, man’s inability to do spiritual good before God, and the glory of God as the highest end of all that occurs. 
Grudem, W. A. (2004). Systematic theology: an introduction to biblical doctrine (p. 1237). Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House.

Millard Erickson writes . . . 

Reformed theology  Theology that emphasizes the Calvinistic approach, especially with respect to the matter of salvation. It is often accompanied by a presbyterian type of church government. 
Erickson, M. J. (2001). In The concise dictionary of Christian theology (Rev. ed., 1st Crossway ed., p. 168). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

Others would include the idea of Covenant Theology as part of the definition.  R.C. Sproul writes , , ,

Reformed theology has been nicknamed “Covenant theology,” which distinguishes it from Dispensationalism. Dispensational theology originally believed that the key to biblical interpretation is “rightly dividing” the Bible into seven dispensations, defined in the original Scofield Reference Bible as specific testing periods in redemptive history.1 Dispensationalism sought a key that would unlock the proper structure of biblical interpretation. 
Every written document has a structure or format by which it is organized. Paragraphs have subjects and chapters have focal points. Reformed theology sees the primary structure of biblical revelation as that of covenant. This is the structure by which the entire history of redemption is worked out.

Sproul, R. C. (2000). Grace unknown: the heart of reformed theology (electronic ed., p. 99). Grand Rapids: Baker Books.

As I understand Sproul, as he uses the term, he would not include men that speak at his conferences such as John MacArthur and Steve Lawson as reformed since they are dispensationalists.  Grudem and Erickson would not seem to see that as a distinction that puts them outside of the term Reformed. I know MacArthur refers to his view as Reformed.  I haven't heard enough of Lawson, but I would not be surprised to hear the same from him.
So, yes, I am now a Calvinist.  I never would have imagined I'd be a Calvinist, but I am.  Neither am I a dispensationalist any longer though I have not espoused dispensationalism for a few years now.  I embraced Calvinism about a year ago.

Why am I a Calvinist?  Simply put, as I have continued to read through the Bible every year, and as I have continued to study the Bible, I came to the conclusion that I think that Calvinism gets it right when it comes to the Gospel and soteriology (doctrine of salvation).

As I have continued to read through the Bible, there are passages that on a surface level reading that have the appearance of aligning with Calvinism and there are others that have the appearance of aligning with Arminianism.  Isn't it possible that there is a third option in some cases?  Perhaps.  We need to keep open to that option.  However, sometimes this is not possible.

To put this into logical form, if there are options A and B, it is possible that there is an option C.  However if the options are A and non-A, then there will not be a third option.

I'm not seeking to prove one view or another here, I'm simply providing definitions and foundation for how I got to where I am at.

Calvinism is known for the acrostic T.U.L.I.P.  Let's take the "L" - limited atonement.

Jesus either died for all people or he did not die for all people.  There isn't a third option.  Under those two options, there may be other options.  For example, those who say he died for all people include universalists and those that are not universalists.

In this life, those who are justified are either eternally secure or not eternally secure.  Within those categories there are further subcategories, but there isn't a third option from eternally secure or not eternally secure.

That's enough for now and the post is getting longer than I think blog posts should be.  I will probably write a little more on my transition in another post.  

As I said at the beginning, I am not going to discuss or debate anything in comments.  I am open to questions and discussion, but I'd rather keep it private in messages via Facebook or email.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Luke's Introduction

Luke 1:1–4 (NIV)
1:1–4Ref—Ac 1:1
1 Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.  
I love Luke's gospel.  In my opinion, there isn't much to say as a commentator.  This is straight forward.  I realize that a commentary on Luke will give plenty of background information.  Looking at one of my commentaries, the author's comments on Luke 1 begin on page 81.  I won't belabor all of that kind of stuff.  I find it interesting but realize not everyone does.

The main thing I'd like to point out in looking at Luke's opening paragraph is that while I believe all of the Bible is the inerrant, inspired Word of God, those who do not follow God do not think so.  Even some of those who do follow the God of the Bible don't think this is so.

When talking to someone about reading Luke, I wouldn't try to prove that view point to them.  Just present Luke as historical narrative.  That's what Luke's opening paragraph is claiming to be.  The NIV breaks this down into two sentences, but in the Greek, these four verses are one long sentence such as the ESV and NASB present it.

Luke was one of many, according to him, who wrote about Jesus and the things that happened.  Luke points out in verse 2 that the information was handed down by eyewitnesses and servants of Jesus.  Eyewitnesses.  As I said, Luke is writing a historical narrative based on eyewitness testimony.  Leave it at that when talking with friends.  If Luke says Jesus said "X", then Jesus said "X".  If Luke says Jesus did "Y", then Jesus did "Y".

Luke tells us in verse 3 that he carefully investigated.  Many people have tried to discredit the Bible have found Luke to be reliable.  Josh McDowell, Gary Habermas, William Ramsey, Frank Morrison.  All men who set out to prove the Bible false and after careful investigation ended up following.

It is thought that Luke was perhaps a slave and that Theophilus was his owner.  Luke's gospel is a part one of a two part series.  If you read the opening verses to the book of Acts you'll see that it is Luke's second volume.

Acts 1:1–3 (NIV)
Jesus Taken Up Into Heaven
1 In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.  

Sunday, November 3, 2013

When Believers Disagree

How should we handle disagreements among believers on doctrinal issues?  This issue came to the forefront of my attention when a friend of mine shared a link to a podcast talking about a conference entitled Strange Fire which John MacArthur hosted.  It's also the title of a new book by MacArthur being released in November.  The subject is the charismatic movement in the church.  Anyone who is familiar with MacArthur knows that he is a cessationist and he has written at least two prior books dedicated to this subject that I am aware of.

cessationism Belief that the charismata—the supernatural gifts of the apostolic church—ceased with the death of John, the last apostle, by the end of the first century or with the completion of the canon of the Scripture. 
Kurian, G. T. (2001). In Nelson’s new Christian dictionary: the authoritative resource on the Christian world. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

I'd like to comment about the conference, but I'm not yet in a position where I have taken the time to hear and read all I want to from the Strange Fire conference and criticism of it and then give it some time for me to think about it.

That being said, I thought it would be good to take some time to write about ways I think we can approach issues that divide people - Christians in particular.

1. Realize one's own fallibility.  Over the years, I have changed my views on a lot of subjects.  I am a fallible being.  I also find it easy to be arrogant and think I've got it all figured out and every one else is a moron.  This is opposite of how I should be as a follower of Jesus.  I should realize my own fallibility.  I should realize that I have been wrong before many times.  I might be wrong now.

2. Realize that people aren't the enemy.  The apostle Paul tells us . . .

Ephesians 6:12 (HCSB)
12 For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens.   

Other Christians are not the enemy.  So many of these issues such as end times views, Calvinism v. Arminianism, gifts of the Spirit, the age of the universe and on and on the list goes . . . these are things I can get very emotional about.  I can get upset about them.  And sometimes I can let them divide.  That shouldn't be.  I'm not wrestling against John MacArthur.  John MacArthur is not the enemy, he is my brother.  I'm not wresting against Michael Brown (host of the podcast that was critiquing comments from the conference), Michael is my brother.  The enemy is Satan.  The enemies are demons that have sided with Satan.  Human beings are never what I wrestle with.  That's a lesson that I can apply to other areas of my life too, not just theological debate.  Human beings are not who I'm wrestling against.

3. Hear both sides and listen for the good and the bad in both.  This comes back to point number one but instead of realizing my own falliblity, I am realizing the fallibility of all the participants in a discussion.  In the Strange Fire discussion, MacArthur is a fallible human being and so is Michael Brown.  So, not only am I not wrestling either one of those guys (they're both my brothers), but they are also both fallible.  Baseball is my favorite sport and I often use the metaphor of calling a ball, a ball and calling a strike, a strike.

I think the best way to do this is to do something that runs against my grain.  I tend to find all the "balls" thrown by those I disagree with and all the "strikes" thrown by those I agree with.  I find the best way for me to approach this is to start by looking at the "balls" thrown by those I agree with. Did he make any conclusion that doesn't follow from the premises?  Did he mock those who hold a different view?  Did he misrepresent what the other view believes and then destroy that caricature?

Then it's good for me to listen to the other side for "strikes" first.  What criticisms did he make?  Even if I totally disagree with the criticism, can I find a kernel of truth in there?  I mean he isn't make this problem completely up, is he?

After I've done both of those steps, I think I'm in a better position to look at what might be "strikes" from those I agree with and "balls" from those I disagree with.  A place where you can see me attempting to do this approach is my review of Ken Ham's book, Already Gone.

A great Scripture for this is Proverbs 18:17 . . .

Proverbs 18:17 (HCSB)
17 The first to state his case seems right
until another comes and cross-examines him.  

My view always sounds great when I spend most or all of my time listening to those who agree with me.  I have grown the most in my walk when I spend more time listening to those with view that are different than mine.

4. Speak with a soft answer.  Back to Proverbs where Solomon writes . . .

Proverbs 15:1 (HCSB)
A gentle answer turns away anger,
but a harsh word stirs up wrath.  

Many times in these discussions, the words aren't always kind.  This tends to have a snowballing effect.  I might state something a little roughly or a little harshly.  This might make those who disagree with me want to top that response in similar fashion.  Or if someone says something harsh towards me, I know my nature.  I'm going open a can of double on him.  No!  I cannot do that.  I need to stick to facts.  I need to give benefit of the doubt.  I need to give a gentle answer - often even better to give a good, gentle question or even a compliment about something good they said or they manner in which they said it before giving a criticism!

Issues that divide, such as charismata v. cessationism, already have a lot of heat built into the discussion.  It's best if I don't add to it.  I don't want to add heat.  I want to add light.  The way I can do that is realize my own fallibility, realize I don't wrestle with other humans who don't agree with me, hear both sides and call "balls" and "strikes" for both sides as fairly as possible  with a bias towards the opposition if it helps me to be more kind and lastly give a gentle response.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Retiring the KJV

Every year I read a different translation than I did the year before.  This year, I have been reading the King James Version.  I don't keep a log of what I read each year, so at best I can guesstimate what I have read, how many times, and the last time I read it.  I don't think I've read the KJV for the year since sometime in the mid 90's.

Another thing I often do is listen to the Bible while I read it.  I often listen to something close but not quite identical.  I might read the NIV while listening to the TNIV or read the TNIV and listen to the NIV.  This year I listened to the NKJV while reading the KJV.  In doing this, I have concluded that I have no reason to read the KJV again.

Sometimes I wish I was more of a note taker.  It would come in handy right now.  In listening to the NKJV while reading the KJV, I found many places where I simply would have come away with a different idea if I read the KJV without listening to the NKJV.  The reasons are probably multiple.  Two primary reasons that come to mind are changes in how words are used in English and the other would be mistranslated words in the KJV.

The problem with word changes isn't so much words that are outdated so I have to look them up, the problem is how many words that are still in use today in the English language that have a different meaning today than they did hundreds of years ago.  I don't think it was ever as obvious to me as it was when listening to the NKJV.

The second problem is mistranslated words in the KJV.  Sometimes, I know of words that are mistranslated.  Other times it's possible that this option and the former might bleed together.  Maybe a word that I think has changed meaning is just mistranslated or a word that I think has been mistranslated had a different meaning.  Either way, the result is the same.  I can come away with a misunderstanding.

Now in saying all of this, I wouldn't come away with a different gospel.  I wouldn't come away thinking that Jesus hasn't risen from the dead or that Jesus isn't God or anything like that.  The essential doctrines would still be intact.  However, I don't want to settle for merely that.  When I read I want to truly understand.

If I ever do read the KJV again, it will be so I can document these differences so that if anyone were to ask me for examples I could do so in a more thorough way.

I've got two months to decide what to read next year and I have a few different ideas in mind.  No matter which I choose, I'm looking forward to going through the Word of God again.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Thank you, Chuck Smith

Today, October 3, 2013, Pastor Chuck Smith went home to be with the LORD.  I haven't posted in almost a year and I couldn't think of a more appropriate day to come back and post than to post a tribute to Chuck on this day.

Chuck was the founder of Calvary Chapel.  I spent 18 years either attending and participating in Calvary Chapel congregations or trying to start one where I lived.

Chuck has had a great influence in my life.  God has used many men of God to influence and shape my life.  From Chuck I learned a great desire to continue to go through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation and then do it over and over again.  Whether reading it, studying it, or listening to Chuck or someone else teaching it.

Chuck gave me a love for verse-by-verse, chapter by chapter, book by book plowing through the Bible.  I've been through the Bible cover to cover with Chuck in my car driving back and forth to work.

Chuck finished the course.  In a day where so many fall by the wayside, Chuck walked with the LORD till the end of his time on this earth (and that was a long, full life of 86 years).  I am thankful for Chuck's example.

Words in this blog will not do right for how God has blessed my life through His servant, Chuck.  And in the end, that is what Chuck was and still is, a servant of God, a servant of Jesus Christ.

And so in summary, I will honor Chuck's memory by doing what he taught us and that is to keep the Main Thing as the main thing.  Chuck taught me to follow the God of the Bible.  Chuck taught me to follow Jesus.  And this is how all of us can honor Chuck's memory.

It's right to spend time mourning our loss today.  It's right to spend a day, or multiple days, on radio channels like KWVE remembering Chuck.  However, Chuck was a servant.  Jesus is what Chuck wants us to focus on.  So let's celebrate Chuck, but ultimately, let's fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Chuck, I love you.  I'll see you in Heaven.  Thank you for serving our King so faithfully and fixing my eyes on Him.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Now that it's over . . .

The election is done.

This simplifies our lives in a couple ways.

The first way is we don't have to listen to campaigning for the next two years or so.

The second way is that no matter who gets elected, the expectation is the same for what we need to do:

1 Timothy 2:1–4 (NIV)
2 I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.  

It's pretty simple: for all those in authority.  So whether, Obama or Romney won, the imperative stands.  Also people are often confused about the will of God.  Well, Paul makes it clear here that praying for those in authority is good and pleases God.  Sounds like the will of God to me.

Not a long blog post, but it doesn't need to be.  Pray for the President.  Pray for our Congress.  Pray for our Supreme Court.  Pray as far down the ladder as you are willing and able.  They all need the prayer and you'll be pleasing God in doing so.  I need to please God more in this way than I tend to.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Pastoring "outside the box"

Pastor Bob Beeman is an amazing servant of Jesus Christ. He is "outside the box." Frankly, that phrase is getting old and a little over used. But he truly is "outside the box". And it's good to be outside the box if there are problems in the box. And there are. Bob looks odd. If you find it hard to listen and take him seriously because of his appearance, then close your eyes. He's truly what a pastor should be in so many ways. You don't have to agree with everything he says. You shouldn't. Bob isn't God. But he's walked with Jesus a long time. You can tell when you listen.

I'd encourage you to subscribe to him on youtube.  Or become a friend of his on Facebook so his daily videos show up on your facebook page . . . that is if you don't lose sight of him in all your "friends".  That's a topic for another day.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Save Me From Myself

Biographies / Autobiographies are very easy to read.  I like reading biographies of musicians.  Some Christians wouldn't stomach these books well.  Some legalistic types might question my salvation, or at least the quality of my walk, for reading these.  The books are filled with depravity.  But I love rock and metal music.  I'm curious about people.

The most recent one I read was Save Me From Myself by Brian "Head" Welch.  Subtitle is How I Found God, Quit Korn, Kicked Drugs, and Lived to Tell My Story.

I am not a fan of nu metal music.  I couldn't tell you a single song from Korn.  However, I've heard much about Brian's salvation over the last few years and when I saw this book at Barnes & Noble I thought I'd check out his story.

It is a wonderful narrative.  Brian's life is frankly, quite typical of rockers' lives, at least in regard to drugs.  Brian wasn't so much about sex, drugs and rock, but mostly just drugs and rock.  I am simply amazed at the punishment the human body can take and what people survive.  Please don't take that as a challenge.  I never tried a drug in my life and I'd encourage you to take that same path.

Having said that, it is good for people like Brian to tell their journeys.  People can go a long way down a dark path and yet despite how far down that path they are, God is still able to bring them back into light.

Brian's story might turn off some people because as he becomes Christian his talk sounds somewhat overly spiritual.  He seems to have become involved in a more pentecostal or charismatic circle.  He has a lot of "prophets" that talk to him in the book.  He says things like "I felt like [God] said . . . ".

He sounds like a young Christian influenced by the generalizations of how much of the Evangelical world talks.  I'm sure he sounds like that because that's probably exactly the case . . . a young Christian heavily influenced by the general ways the Evangelical world talks.

He quotes the Bible a fair amount in the second half of the book.  Mostly single verses.  Very experiential type sounding walk.  I pray that God keeps him strong and that he develops a strong walk with our triune God based on solid exegesis of the Bible.  

This book was released five years ago so I have no idea how he is doing today.

Interestingly, as I was googling about Brian, I found a video where a second Korn member, Reggie "Fieldy" Arvizo talks about himself becoming a Christian.

God is reaching rockers.  There is also Dave Mustaine and Dave Ellefson from Megadeth whose lives God has done some things with in recent years.

Sometimes the edges are a little rough.  There is some language in Brian's book.  A lot of language in Mustaine's book.  In years past I would have wondered, no, I would have judged that.  I still wonder.  However, I realize not everybody grows at the same rate.  Not everybody starts in the same place.  Some people are relatively "clean" when they come to Jesus.  At least they appear that way to us.  Others need more scrubbing.

I am simply glad that God saves rockers.  May God bless Brian Welch.  May Brian (and Reggie and Mustaine and Ellefson) continue to grow in the grace and knowledge of our God and savior, Jesus Christ and may he use them to rescue others from the destructive paths these guys were going down.