Wednesday, January 25, 2017

St. Augustine's GNOSTIC imports

St. Augustine is considered a GIANT theologically in the history of the Church, especially for Western Christians.  The Eastern Church has rightly discerned that Augustine departed from the Apostolic faith when it came to his eventual understandings of the God’s sovereignty and human freedom.  This WAS NOT the understanding of EVERY SINGLE Christian writer before him, but it was the understanding of Gnosticism and that is where Augustine’s “pollution” most certainly came from.  I think that you could add Greek philosophy to the equation, but the blame more squarely lands on his Manichaean background.  The Reformers only got us back to Augustine and yet to be FULLY REFORMED, we need to go further.  I challenge anybody to read the writings of the Early Church Fathers and you will discover that there was not an Augustinian/Calvinist amongst them.  Not a single one.  And yet, the Calvinist understanding of election and predestination were found in those early centuries – just not where a Reformed person wants to find them.  It was the Gnostic heretics that taught these concepts.  

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Fundamentalist? If the shoe fits....AND IT DOES!

Fundamentalist has such a negative connotation in the minds of so many Christians.  Fundamentalists are considered narrow-minded, intolerant, ignorant, backward, isolated, etc. - and the list goes on.

So why in the world would I embrace such a deplorable term? (I have to admit, the word “deplorable” has such a nice ring to it after the 2016 US Presidential Elections.  Note: I AM one of those “Deplorables”)

So back to the term Fundamentalist.  The bottom line is that the word “Evangelical” has lost so much of its historical meaning.  When that term came into popularity around the middle of the 20th Century, it was a term of conservatism.  It was term to differentiate Christians from a section of the Church (the Fundamentalists) who were seen (rightly or wrongly) as those who were more focused on rules and what you did NOT do (we don’t drink, we don’t dance, we don’t go to movies, we don’t…) as a Christian.  So men like C. Carl Henry and Billy Graham championed a new identity – an Evangelical.  This was a term that described a person who held to all the “Fundamentals” (doctrinally) of the Fundamentalists and yet didn’t have the same level of combativeness over and against the culture.  (I find it extremely ironic that many Christians took a massive stance against movies and entertainment at a time when 90% of the films and plays being produced were edifying, innocent, wholesome and uplifting.  And yet, today Christians have no problem whatsoever with so much of an entertainment industry from which 90% of what is produced is immoral, dishonorable, and disparaging of family values and people of faith).

So why am I turning on the term “Evangelical”?  Because it has lost so much of what it initially stood for.  Today, we have people “professing” to be Evangelicals who no longer believe in a host of historic Christian doctrines.  There are some so-called Evangelicals who  no longer believe the Bible to be the inerrant (in ANY sense of the word).  There are others who say they believe in Universalism, that Jesus is not the only way to God (i.e. everyone will be saved).  There are others who have abandoned the historic teaching of the doctrine of Hell.  There are others who believe that someone can be a practicing homosexual and that God affirms that lifestyle.  I can list other doctrines/practices too – but these will suffice to make my point.  NONE of these positions were to be found in the Evangelicalism of the middle of the last century.  So essentially the term Evangelical simply no longer means what it used to mean.  For years, I would add the term “Conservative” as an adjective to communicate the type of Evangelical I was, but due to the watering down of the term/concept, I am opting to resurrect the term Fundamentalist once again.

I admit it is provocative.  It still has so many of the negative connotations.  But the fact is, I truly am a Fundamentalist in so many senses of the term. I believe in all the historic fundamentals of the Christian faith and by and large, I stand over and against a godless, secular culture and the entertainment industry and educational institutions that have effectively perverted several generations of Christians.  This past year exposed that probably more than ever in the United States, where you had millions of professing Christians who found a way to support a Hillary Clinton and yet she stood for almost everything Christians have historically stood against.  There simply was and is no way a Christian could support her or the positions of the party she represented/represents.  Those that did had either slid into apostasy, or were deceived in the most extreme manner.  

So there we go – Fundamentalist/Fundamentalism.  I have tried on the term/concept and it fits great.  It feels good and most importantly it is a true description of who I am and what I believe.  

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Grace's Lesser Glory - The Diminished Grace of Calvinism

This blog post title is a play on words from Bruce Ware’s book, God’s Lesser Glory: The Diminished God of Open Theism.

Calvinist’s talk about Grace as if they invented the term or at least have exclusive theological rights to its use.  Sadly Calvinism's concept of Grace is truly a diminished one that ironically reflects poorly on the Glory of God they claim to uphold.

To them, grace is irresistible. Once God extends it, no one can reject it.  They can’t reject it initially, and they can’t reject it once they are born again and regenerated.  It is rather controlling.

To them, grace is exclusive.  God doesn’t extend it to everyone (that in spite of the dozens and dozens of Biblical passages that teach otherwise).  It is discriminating.

To an Arminian, this Calvinist understanding of the nature of grace is NOT Amazing Grace.  It doesn’t have a sweet sound as the hymn extols.

The Glorious God of the Scriptures has extended a far more glorious Grace.  A grace that enables but doesn’t force.  A grace that empowers but doesn’t overpower.  This is the nature of the Grace of a Loving God.  Love doesn’t force itself – because that would be a violation of the very nature of love.  God IS love. It is the center of His very essence.  And any grace that He extends by definition must be an expression of His matchless love.  His grace is also universal.  There is no one that God has created that He doesn’t extend His grace to.  There is a mystery here because there are those who never hear about the salvation God offers through His Son.  They never hear the message of His grace.  I don’t know how His grace is extended to them. I simply know that God’s love is the same for every one of His creatures.  And I know that He extends His grace universally to all.  Since not all are saved, or will be saved, this grace cannot be irresistible because if it were, then no one would be lost.

Monday, December 26, 2016

change IS possible

When God is in the equation, change is possible – by definition.  Paul writes so powerfully, “Don’t be conformed to this world, but BE TRANSFORMED….” (Rom 12:1)  - Why would he write such an audacious statement if it wasn’t true!  Theology matter when it comes to this stuff.  For those who are more “monergistically-inclined” (aka Calvinists), they love to minimize in the name of honoring God and His Sovereignty our responsibility in these matters.  They will deny this and for the most part live just as synergistically-minded (aka Arminians) people do.  The truth is God has done everything possible for us to change – He inspired prophets and apostles to give us His Inerrant Word (so we know “what to do”); He has defeated the devil and given us the possibility of being born again and filled with His Holy Spirit (so have “the power to do it”).  So why are we so often stuck?  Why are we seemingly not finding deliverance, freedom and transformation?  (and that could include anything in our lives that we want to change)

Paul goes on to give his Apostolic insight into HOW to change.  He continues - “by the renewing of your mind” (Rom 12:2).  If we are being conformed to this world, and living under the power of its demonic influence, it is because are minds are NOT BEING RENEWED.  This is NOT a one time thing.  It is a daily battle and an ongoing process.  Very little in this life comes easily.  Transformation notwithstanding.  Do you want to change today?  Are you tired of being stuck?  Take a walk with God today and ask Him to renew your mind.  To break the power of the lies.  To fill you with His truth and His light.  

It doesn’t bring honor to God to blame Him (He’ll change me when He wants to change me), when He has sovereignly provided everything you need right now to be changed.  God has done His part, but He won’t do our part.  


Saturday, December 24, 2016

Read ALL of your Bibles - a God-centered approach!

It is remarkable that Calvinists can seeming erase human responsibility from any and every passage of Scripture.  We can all agree that God is the initiator towards humans in our response to Him, but to eliminate our role, our responsibility in the name of upholding His sovereignty is ridiculous.  God has enabled His creation to respond to Him – to humble ourselves and obey or to resist His will and rebel.  It is EVERYWHERE in the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation.  Taking NT metaphors, I.e. “we were dead in our sin”, to unBiblical extremes amounts to poor exegesis.  Scripture must be balanced with the rest of Scripture.  When the Scriptures teach that “none is righteous” and yet all throughout the OT and even into the NT, men and women are called/considered “righteous” - I.e. Zachariah and Elizabeth in Luke 1:6, we must allow Scripture to interpret Scripture.  We don’t let “one is righteous” trump and negate all the instances where God calls His servants righteous.  

So the next time a Calvinist wants to confine you to John chapter 6 and use it as somehow the interpretive key for the rest of the New Testament (or Romans 9), remind them that you read ALL of the Bible and when you do, you will no longer be convinced by what amounts to Calvinist “proof texting”.  This is a “God-centered” approach the Bible, to read ALL OF GOD’s revelation!

Thursday, December 8, 2016

rooting for Millennials

There is so much being said and written about the “Millennial Generation”.  A lot of it has been quite negative.  Recently the whole issue of their need for “safe spaces” in the wake of the election results for those that couldn’t handle the outcome has been given a lot of attention.  

From Christians there has been a lot of alarmist voices – they are citing the statistics about them being unchurched and/or are leaving the church.   In 2015, CNN ran an article entitled “Millennials leaving Church in droves” (Source: Atheism is on the rise amongst Millennials.  As for those who are still identifying as Christians, there does seem to be a trend towards abandoning historic Christian doctrines and/or practices.  For example, the percentage who affirm the traditional understanding of marriage as only between a man and woman is on the decline amongst Millennials.  Other doctrines such as universalism and the rejection of the doctrine of hell are also being embraced.

All of these “trends” and the supporting statistics may in fact substantiate the truthfulness of the claims about many Millennials, but I have a different perspective.  First of all, to whatever extent Millennials are rejecting the Christian faith, is the fault of my generation for failing to bring them up in it.  I am a parent of two Millennials.  As a Christian parent, it is my responsibility to pass the faith onto my kids.  It is my responsibility to make sure my family has attended solid Churches that have been faithful to the historic Christian faith.  It has been my generation and the Church of my generation that dropped the ball.  There have been books written as to how we failed, but the fact that a generation today is as unchurched and is attending church at such a low rate is our fault.  It was our generation that invented the concept of the “seeker sensitive Church”.  I was actually saved in one of the pioneering churches in that movement and even attended Willow Creek Community Church for a while which many consider the church that was the originator of that movement.  Sadly many churches that embraced seeker sensitivity ended up watering down the Gospel, requiring less and less of their members.  A watered down Gospel however lacks the power of the true Gospel and to be honest, I think that countless Millennials who are hungry for authenticity are not interested in a powerless faith that doesn’t transform lives.

Another diabolical trend that many Christians in my generation embraced has been aspects and elements of so-called “Progressive Christianity” which amounts to a perversion of historic Christianity.  It is not “progressive” to allow the ever-changing conclusions of secular science to redefine our faith.  The number of Christians today that no longer believe in a literal Adam and Eve is astounding.  The same can be said about God being our creator due to the influence of materialistic Neo-Darwinian evolution.  Progressives have allowed other fields to redefine their faith.  Paul’s injunction to “be not conformed to this world…” has been turned on its head.  Progressives have been and continue to be be transformed by the world and are being conformed into its exact image.  I don’t blame many Millennials for wanting to abandon a Church that has continued to abandon the faith.  Again, the blame rests on my generation.  The heresies of Progressivism happened on “our shift”.  

There are some things about Millennials that I absolutely admire.  They are hungry for authenticity.  They aren’t easily fooled by slick marketing and dubious claims.  They have listened to the claims of Christians and they have looked at the lives of the claimants, they’ve seen the broken relationships/marriages in their parents’ generation.  They’ve seen the addictions, the hypocrisy.  They aren’t convinced and they are choosing to walk away.  I don’t blame them.  They are rejecting a Christianity that doesn’t work.

Another thing about Millennials that amazes me is that they have an incredible capacity for commitment.  You cannot explain the extreme sports phenomenon in any other way (rock climbing, skiing, surfing, motocross, skateboarding, and many many others).  My generation may have inaugurated extreme sports, but it is the Millennial generation that has taken it to unimaginable heights.  World records are falling all the time.  The commitment level of these extreme sports athletes in unlike anything we have ever seen.  It is Millennials that are willing to pay the price to achieve these feats.  Many have even lost their lives in their pursuit of their extreme sports.  The training, the pain, the single-minded devotion to reaching new heights, achieving things never done before.  It is inspirational!

I've also seen that Millennials are really into community.  They will go after the types of things I mentioned with extreme sports, but they want to do so "in community".  My generation idolized the individual achievements of men and women who did things all by themselves.  Millennials seem a lot wiser - they'll do the crazy stuff, but they wisely do those things with others.  

So what do Millennials want when it comes to faith?  I think they want something authentic that they can give their lives to.  I have seen this in the lives of radical Millennial Jesus followers who I know - they are traveling all over the world, often into extremely dangerous places, to bring the message of the love of Jesus and to demonstrate it practically.  I think that other Millennials, those who have yet to meet Christ, are looking for and and want to find something that they can passionately devote themselves to.  So let us forget this watered down version of Christianity that requires nothing and doesn’t work.  Let us invite Millennials to the same faith that Jesus invited His first disciples to – a faith to requires us to die to ourselves, and live completely for Jesus.  That is the ONLY Christianity anyway – all of the other versions are counterfeit.

I’m rooting for Millennials.  And I think they can and will put us all to shame as they follow Jesus in this way.  May they become "The Greatest Generation".  

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

the errors of "Hyper Grace"

I know I haven’t taken up this issue on this blog previously, but from time to time I will as this is the place I muse theologically.

Certain “Hyper Grace” teachers teach that we don’t have to heed the teachings of Christ in the Gospels because they were given before the Cross and are therefore under the Old Covenant and do not apply to us as New Covenant believers.  Of course this teaching is utterly ridiculous and was “invented” because there are many things that Jesus taught that don’t “fit” the doctrine of these so-called “Grace teachers”.  For example, Jesus instructs believers to ask for forgiveness in the Lord’s Prayer.  Hyper Grace teachers teach that no NT believer should ever ask for forgiveness as they are already forgiven.  Jesus also talks about the consequences of sin in the life of believers – if we don’t forgive, God doesn’t forgive us (Matthew 6:15).  But according to them, this can’t be true either.  So a hermeneutic (a way to interpret) was literally “invented” by Hyper Grace teachers.  The solution?  Throw out the Sermon on the Mount and all the rest of Jesus’ teaching because it was all given before His atoning work.  Never mind that His final instructions for His Apostle to obey was “Go into all the world…and teach them to OBEY ALL THAT I HAVE COMMANDED YOU”. (Matthew 28:20). I am sure the Hyper Grace teachers will say, that Jesus only was asking them to teach things He had commanded them after He rose from the dead and before He ascended!  

So why bring this issue up today?  As I was reading Paul’s letter to the Colossians today, I ran into this verse - “Let the teaching of Christ live in you richly…Everything you do or say should be done to obey the Lord Jesus" (3:16-17).  I guess Joseph Prince needed and the other Hyper Grace teachers didn’t see these verses.  It isn’t surprising as the rest of the NT is full of verses that contradict their perversion of the Biblical doctrine/understanding of Grace in dozens and dozens of places.  As for me, I will continue to endeavor to obey everything the Lord Jesus teaches us in the Gospel, I will continue to obey His commandment to His Disciples to teach others to obey His teachings in the Gospels, and I will obey the Apostle Paul, the “Apostle of Grace” who exhorts us to let Christ’s teachings dwell in us richly.  And I will do these things until Christ returns.