Friday, August 5, 2011

Calvinism Continued...#36

I've been on a family sabbatical (summer with the family), so I have not been able to contribute lately. But, summer is winding down, and I hope to contribute to the Blog soon.

In the interim, I read two quotes the other day which I'd like to share.

"Nobody ever converted to Christianity because they lost the argument"
 - Philip Yancey, author, Rumors of Another World 

"You can tell you've created God in your own image, when it turns out God hates all the same people you do"
Anne Lamott, author, Grace Eventually

Thursday, June 9, 2011

If Calvinism Is True... #35

This morning I received the news that one of the students who graduated with my daughter last week was killed when her car struck a pole. The student just turned 18, and her whole life was ahead of her. The girl's parents are devastated...their daughter was not saved. If Calvinism is true, it means that God caused the accident to happen, and purposely withheld His grace from this young lady to glorify Himself.  If Calvinism is true, it means that God took pleasure in all of this.

Listed below are some excerpts from a blog written by Rachel Held Evans. To read the blog in its entirety click Why Calvinism Makes Me Cry

"If Calvinism is true, it means that God creates disposable people, people without any hope. It means that God not only allows, but sovereignly ordains, every war and every abortion and every rape of a child. If Calvinism is true, it means that God does not love the world, but hates it."

"If Calvinism is true, it means that if the dying little girl that you held in your arms in India was not among the elect, then God did not love her. He never had any intention of loving her. She was nothing to Him. In fact, He would delight and find glory in her eternal torture in hell.”

“And whenever I raise these points with Calvinists, all they can say is that I should be more grateful for my own salvation! It’s like, ‘as long as my eternal destiny is secure, as long as my life is all planned out and taken care of by God, who gives a damn about anyone else!’ How can you be okay with that? How can anyone be okay with that? Why do I feel like I’m the only one who finds this morally offensive?”

"For the past four or five years, I’ve believed that such a response reflected little more than righteous indignation. I figured I was so angry because these Calvinists were just so wrong. But as I’ve prayed and studied Jesus and talked with Dan and spent some time alone, I’ve realized that I cry, not out of conviction that the Calvinists are wrong, but out of the deep, paralyzing fear that they might be right".

"The God that loves everyone (and not just a select group of people) has always been the most important theological constant in my life…and I feel like Calvinism, were it true, would take that away from me. Replacing “for God so loved the world” with “for God so hated the world” (which I believe Calvinism requires). This  is so disorienting to me, so dark and frightening and hopeless, that I fear it would lead me to despair."

Rachel is not the only one who finds this morally offensive. 

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Assurance of Salvation #34

Unfortunately, for those who claim that they are among God's elect, i.e. Calvinists, Reformed, & etc., there is no way to validate their election except by their good works. Thus, Calvinism, by default, becomes a religion where one must do good works to prove to others (and to themselves) that they are really saved. The end result is they can never be assured of their salvation until their lives are over, and, if they did "enough" good works, they are "in". But, if they failed anywhere along the way, then they will conclude that they must not have been a part of God's elect after all.

Sadly, for the Calvinist, they are trapped and bound to a life that is based on their performance rather than the power and grace of God.  Ironically, in the “P” of TULIP,  the emphasis is upon the believer’s faithfulness in persevering - not upon God’s power.  Thus, it is not much of a stretch to replace Perseverance of the Saints with Performance of the Saints.

So how does a Calvinist exhibit evidence that they are one of the elect? John Piper and his staff write: “We must also own up to the fact that our final salvation is made contingent upon the subsequent obedience which comes from faith." (see also: John Piper)

Please do not misunderstand me, there is nothing wrong with good works, but when a person starts “trusting” in their works, it can lead to a false sense of security and pride. The assurance of our salvation should never be based on the works that we have done, but instead, on what Christ has already done for us.
For any Calvinist reading this blog, my hope and desire is for you to know that Jesus loves you, and He died for you. God’s Word assures us of the following:  “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life..” 1 John 5:13.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

The "New" Calvinism #33

According to the media, "New Calvinism is sweeping the younger generation of Christians" and claims "it's movement has young believers going back to the roots - namely, to scripture and the sovereignty of God" (See New Calvinism). So just exactly what is New Calvinism, and how is it any different from Old Calvinism?  

For those who are new to my blog,  let me make it perfectly clear: there are many who call themselves Calvinists and  I believe many of them are born again believers who are saved by the grace of God. They have placed their faith in Christ, and Christ alone for their salvation. Regardless of what they call themselves, I praise God for their redemption.

Anyone who has read this blog on a consistent basis knows that I love Calvinists, and more importantly, I believe that - God loves Calvinists - because Calvinists are people. (Please read blog #26). On the other hand, I despise Calvin-ism, because Calvinism teaches that God is an arbitrary autocrat who arranged the fall of human beings and then sends many of them to eternal punishment for being and doing precisely what He predestined them to be and do, beings whose sole purpose for existence  is, as Calvin put it, "to glorify God by their destruction".  The good news is that the god of Calvinism does not exist. The bad news, or sad news, is that so many people (Calvinists) believe in and worship this god.

There are many "off shoots" or "splinter groups" within the world of Calvinism. When speaking with someone about their Calvinist beliefs, it is extremely important to find out what "version" of Calvinism they believe in. For example, there are John Calvin Calvinists and Andrew Fuller Calvinists; Arthur W. Pink Calvinists; James White Calvinists; Loraine Boetner Calvinists; R.C. Sproul Calvinists; John Piper Calvinists; Mark Driscoll Calvinists; Albert Mohler Calvinists; Vincent Cheung Calvinists; Westboro Baptist Calvinists; Presbyterian Calvinists; Baptist Calvinists;  furthermore, there are Extreme and Moderate Calvinists; Hyper and Hypo Calvinists; Hard and Soft Calvinists; Hard Determinists and Soft Determinists; 5 point Calvinists; 4 pointers; 3 pointers; 2 pointers; and so on.

And now we have "New Calvinists". After doing some research on this "new" movement, it appears to me that New Calvinism is just another Calvinist name that some call Mohlerism (named after Dr. Mohler).  Dr. Albert Mohler is the ninth president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. The appointment of Dr. Mohler to the office of president marked a significant shift to  return the seminary to conservative biblical theology, which I applaud. In fact, I respect Dr. Mohler and his work; however, Dr. Mohler is also a Calvinist, and it is his Calvinist teachings that I disagree with.

So, what is "New" Calvinism? As mentioned above, New Calvinism is  Dr. Mohler's version of Calvinism.  It is a strategic attempt to disarm critics of Calvinism into believing that this New Calvinism is not like the Calvinism of old. However, once you get past the marketing and really examine what New Calvinism teaches, you will find that there is nothing really new at all, except for the way they present (or disguise) their belief system.

My question for the "New" Calvinist, is, if Calvinism is really true, then why change?  Calvinists, like Mohler, understand the real threat to Calvinism is John Calvin and its historic Calvinist teachings; thus, by calling it "new", it gives the impression that "it's different", "it's better", and "it's improved". But this is nothing more than a marketing trick aimed at Christians (especially college students) who are constantly being targeted by Calvinists.  Calvinists, or should I say "New" Calvinists are trying to distance themselves from their founder John Calvin (a known murderer who had many erouneous beliefs) and make it more appealing by calling it new. The strategy is no different than what the Mormon Church did when they renamed their church the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and also distanced the church from it's founder Joseph Smith (See Mormon Church Name Change).

New Calvinism's marketing plan is nothing more than a  ploy to deceive unsuspecting Christians into believing that Calvinism "now" lines up with biblical Christianity. It's spin doctors are men like Dr. Albert Mohler, John Piper, Mark Driscoll, and the list goes on and on. Don't be fooled, New Calvinism is still Calvinism. It doesn't matter how you spin it - or what you call it - it's the same man-made philosophical system built on the foundations of dead men, such as, John Calvin & St. Augustine, instead of the living and infallable word of God - The Bible.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Is God The author of Sin? (Part III) #32

"Did God create all things? For someone who believes in God, the obvious answer is yes;  however, there are some who say (particularly hard line Calvinists) "if God created all things, then it follows that evil must have been created by God too" (see blog #30); however, evil is not a thing like a rock or electricity.  Evil has no existence of its own, instead, evil is defined as the absence of good.  When God created the world and everything in it, all that He created was good. And one of the good things that God created was mankind who had the freedom to choose the good that God created or the freedom to reject it. In order to have a real choice, God allowed mankind and His angels to choose good or to reject good.  After His creation was complete, the Lord saw everything that He had made, and said "behold, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31) 

Perhaps a further illustration will help: If a person is asked "does darkness exist"? The answer would likely be yes; however, technically or scientifically speaking, this is incorrect. Darkness is a void. Albert Einstein defined darkness as the absence of light. Another way to put it, is that darkness is not a property, but light is. Einstein's definition works in the realm of physics, and is an excellent illustration of how evil works in the spiritual realm; thus from a biblical perspective. Evil is the absence of good. God did not create evil, rather He allowed for the absence of good, which in turn allows for evil to happenAllowing something and creating something are two completely different things. If God had not allowed for the possibility of evil, then both mankind and His angels would be serving God out of compulsion and obligation, not out of choice. God did not want robots that simply did what He wanted them to do because of their programming (Read  Blog #6 - Divine Robotics). God allowed for the possibility of evil so that we can genuinely have a free will and choose whether or not we want to love and serve Him. As finite human beings, we can never fully understand an infinite God (Romans 11:33-34). The essence of God's love is based on choice. Having a choice does not mean that we are the authors of  our own salvation, for salvation is of God, and God alone, but God allows us the choice to freely accept His love or reject it.  For more on this topic. please read the comment section of this blog.

"If God did not make the devil do it, then who did? More simply, who made the devil. The biblical answers to these questions are: God did not make the devil and He did not make the devil do it. Rather God made a good Angel called Lucifer, who became the devil by his own free choice to sin".

Sometimes we think we understand why God is doing something, only to find out later it was for a different purpose than we originally thought. God looks at things from a holy, spiritual and eternal perspective. We look at things from a sinful, earthly and temporal perspective. Why did God put man on earth knowing that Adam and Eve would sin and therefore bring evil, death and suffering on all of mankind? Why didn't He just create us all and leave us in heaven where we would be perfect and without suffering? These questions can not be answered adequately on this side of eternity. What we can know, is that what ever God does is holy and perfect and will ultimately glorify Him.  God allowed for the possibility of evil in order to give us a true choice in regards to whether we worship and love Him. God did not create evil, but He allowed it.

Regarding the video below. I am not certain if it is a fact or fiction, but it is an excellent illustration of the simple truth that God is not the creator of evil.

Just because God can do something 
doesn't mean He will do it.

Please see the related blogs: #25,  #30  & #31

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Is God the Author of Sin? (Part II) #31

"God insists upon His sovereignty and also upon man's responsibility. Believe both and preach both, leaving the task of harmonizing with Him". (William Pettingill) 

"The sovereign will of God and freedom of man are taught in scripture, and if we cannot reconcile the two, it is because the two are so infinitely above us" (A.T. Pierson)

“How great is God – beyond our understanding.” (Job 36:26)

"There's too much tendency to attribute to God the evils that man does of his own free will "

I believe God is absolutely Sovereign, while at the same time, I believe man is absolutely responsible for his own actions. Unfortunately, neither Calvin nor many of his followers have been willing to accept both sides of this biblical teaching.   Many Calvinists seem to think if man has a free will that it would limit the sovereignty of God; however, "Free will is God’s gift to men because He desires something more than a contract relationship. He wants our relationship to be meaningful and without free will that is impossible. Free will is not a display of man’s power, it is a demonstration of the tenderness in the heart of God". The essence of God's love is giving man a choice, without the freedom to choose, then love is non-existent. Many Calvinists believe that God cannot compromise His sovereignty by giving us free will, but they fail to understand that God can do anything He chooses to do.  "It is fallacious to imagine that for God to be in control of His universe, He must therefore foreordain and initiate everything. In fact, it diminishes God to suggest that He cannot control what He doesn't foreordain and originate" (Hunt). To even suggest that the decisions of men could in anyway threaten or compromise the very nature of God, shows a disbelief in God's true sovereignty.

"Such fervor for God's sovereignty is commendable; however, Calvinists make God the effective cause of everything - including sin.  "In order for God to be sovereign, it is not necessary for Him to control everything to such an extent that He must effectively cause man to sin. The basic problem for the Calvinist is the failure to see that God could sovereignly give to man the power of genuine choice.  In their earnest zeal for God's sovereignty, Calvinists cannot see that it would not be lessened for God  to allow man this responsibility. No other reason can be found for disallowing man's free choice except the fact to allow it would destroy the very foundation of Calvinism.  Additionally, God's sovereignty as they define it becomes the Calvinistic justification for God saving only a select few and damning the rest. If one asks how a loving God could damn millions and perhaps billions whom He could have saved, the answer, according to many Calvinists is 'it pleased Him to do so'.  

"Another real problem created by the doctrine of the divine sovereignty has to do with the will of man. If God rules His universe by His sovereign decrees, how is it possible for man to exercise free choice? And if he can not exercise freedom of choice, how can he be held responsible for his conduct? Is he not a mere puppet whose actions are determined by a behind-the-scenes God who pulls the strings as it pleases Him?” (Tozier)

God sovereignly decreed that man should be free to exercise moral choice, and man from the beginning has fulfilled that decree by making his choice between good and evil. When he chooses to do evil, he does not thereby countervail the sovereign will of God but fulfills it, inasmuch as the eternal decree decided not which choice the man should make but that he should be free to make it. If in His absolute freedom God has willed to give man limited freedom, who is there to stay His hand or say, “What doest thou?” Man’s will is free because God is sovereign. A God less than sovereign could not bestow moral freedom upon His creatures. He would be afraid to do so."  (Tozier)

Giving man the power to make a genuine, independent choice need not diminish God's control over His universe. Being omnipotent and omniscient  God can so arrange the circumstances as to keep man's rebellion from frustrating His purposes. In fact, God can and even does use man's free will to help fulfill His own plans and thus be even more glorified." (Hunt)

The turning point in our lives is when we stop seeking the god we want and start seeking the God who is.