Daily Archives: February 25, 2008

What’s up with All the Theological Treatises?

Lately, readers  have probably noticed that I’m doing less with refuting heresy and more with Christian understandings of things like Hell and predestination.  I’ve been spending more time studying historic Christianity and its creeds rather than the vitriol that drips from the mouths of the evangelistic atheist sorts.  Not that I’ve waned in my vigiliance of what the other side is saying; far from it–I’m currently working my way through the so-called Four Horsemen: Dawkins, Hitchens, Dennett, and Harris.  I’ve been reading God is Not Great, and next on my plate is Letter to a Christian Nation.  Soon, I hope to get to The God Delusion and Breaking the Spell, but I’ll probably read The End of Faith first.

Not that he’s one of the Four Horseman, but since Bart Ehrman is often cited, I’ve been reading Misquoting Jesus, too.

I feel that it is prudent for me to study more historic Christianity to strengthen my faith, especially in light of all the atheistic nonsense I read.  It would be nice to live a life unafraid of God’s judgment, but I know that said judgment will be reality, and I also know that my sins can only be covered by the blood of Christ, whom I have complete faith in.  Therefore, having been chosen by God to do the work of this apologetics ministry, I feel it wise stewardship of my time to bathe myself more in the words of those who did the work before me, and whose works will survive long after my own are forgotten.

Therefore, I’m balancing my reading list a little bit more.  This means that refutations may not come as quickly as they used to, since I’m still a full-time father and BK manager.  I’m starting school in the fall, God willing, which will slow my apologetics work down even more.  But I plan to keep up the good work of this ministry, for God’s glory alone.

Rook Hawkins

Rook Hawkins, co-founder and ancient texts expert of the Rational Response Squad, has been writing a lot of stuff lately that I wish I had the time to respond to.  Unfortunately, I have to take the time to pick and choose the projects that mean the most to me.  Rook has written two pieces, “Which Jesus: A Legend with Multiple Personality Disorder” and “On Paul and Identity” that are very long winded and I haven’t enough time on my hands to respond in full.

Fortunately, Frank Walton has responded to the second article as only Frank Walton can, complete with sarcasm and name calling, here.  I’ve said in the past that I don’t endorse the sarcasm and the name calling, and I hope that by linking to Walton’s piece that I don’t send the message that now I’m condoning such behavior.  I’m not.  But the points in Frank’s article really show that Rook has no idea what he’s talking about in regard to the apostle Paul.  I feel that it is important that these claims are answered, and Frank’s article does a good job of addressing Rook’s outrageous claims.

It’s interesting to note that Rook’s arguments in this “new” piece have been set forth already, which is why Frank’s response is from July of 2007.  Rook had created a series of four YouTube videos that allegedly “exposed” Paul as a proto-Gnostic and used the apostle’s letters to build the case that Jesus never existed.  This “new” article is a summary of those videos.

As for the “Which Jesus?”, I will respond to that later this week, hopefully by Friday.

The Most Controversial Letter In TULIP

Read the entire article here.

When I first started studying Calvinism, I thought that the most controversial element of the TULIP was the “L”–Limited Atonement.  This is summed up in the Westminster Confession of Faith III.6:

Wherefore, they who are elected, being fallen in Adam, are redeemed by Christ, are effectually called unto faith in Christ by His Spirit working in due season, are justified, adopted, sanctified, and kept by His power, through faith, unto salvation. Neither are any other redeemed by Christ, effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified, and saved, but the elect only. (emphasis added)

But I’ve found that everyone believes in the Limited Atonement, whether they think they do or not.  A Universal Atonement is not just logically impossible, but outright cruel.  Think about it like this: if Christ died in atonement for the sins of all of mankind, then why does God still send people to Hell?  To what point and purpose must some people pay for their sins twice, once vicariously through Christ and then again for all eternity in Hell?

It makes no sense.  Aside from that, only John 3:16 stands in support of a Universal Atonement.  In nearly all other cases where the Atonement is mentioned in Scripture, the word “many” rather than “all” refers to those effectually called and saved.  Looking back at the Old Testament, both Daniel and Isaiah confirm this idea of an elect people, or “the many” (cf. Dan 9:27 and Is 53:11-12)  Scripture teaches, therefore, that only those who die in Christ are effectually saved by the Atonement.  Even non-Calvinist writers agree on this point.

The most controversial element of Calvinism is the doctrine of predestination, which the Confession says “is to be handled with special prudence and care” (III.8).  I found out why last night as I attempted to explain this doctrine to a friend over an Instant Message.  He was aghast that I believed in this doctrine, since (in his opinion) it takes away free will.

First, before I delve into some of the finer points of the misunderstood doctrine of predestination, I must affirm that, to my surprise, Calvinism does teach that mankind has free will.  I say “to my surprise” because I resisted Calvinism for so long for the sinful allure of open theism because of the question of free will.  I made the mistake of checking what the critics said of Calvinism instead of looking at Calvinist authors like R.C. Sproul wrote on the subject.  The Westminster Confession devotes an entire chapter to the free will of man.

In summary, the Confession states that God has placed a free will that is neither good nor evil within man.  Pre-Fall, that will was good and pleasing to God, but mutable so that man could fall from his state of grace.  Post-Fall, the will of man is dead in sin and unable to will and do any spiritual good.  That means that man is unable to save himself apart from the drawing of the Father to Christ.  Upon salvation, God regenerates the sinner and endows him with complete freedom to will and do spiritual good–but not perfectly, so he is still able to will and do evil.

Knowing that Calvinism affirmed the free will of man made it a lot easier for me to call myself a Calvinist, rather than just a reluctant Calvinist.  While waiting in the long line for the most recent Harry Potter book, I had the incredible fortune to read portions of Chosen by God by R.C. Sproul, which helped me see that predestination is the ultimate expression of God’s love and grace, not the expression of tyranny that many critics of Calvinism make it out to be. Read the rest of this entry