Object Lesson in Why Some Hate Calvinism, part I
Mike of the Finding Bliss blog demonstrates why some people hate Calvinism. They hate a strawman caricature of it, and they don’t understand what the five points really teach. This is why I plan to make my musings on the topics of the five points of Calvinism available as an e-book.
Let’s look at what Mike got right, and what he got wrong. Mike writes, “I’ve attempted to present the 5 points as a Calvinist might present them which is not easy to do, I don’t agree with it and what’s worse I find it spiritually abusive.” It’s important to note that Mike is attempting to present these points accurately. He failed in a few places. Read the rest of this entry
This is just . . . WOW! (part II)
In a previous post, I criticized Mark of Proud Atheists for this post. Mark listed 14 things that he simply does not adhere to, given his naturalistic worldview. In all cases, I’ve been finding that Mark misunderstands or mischaracterizes Christianity. Today, we continue exposing his errors on points eight through 14, and offer some concluding thoughts. Read the rest of this entry
This is Just . . . WOW! (part I)
Mark from Proud Atheists does it again! He manages to prove his general and willful ignorance of religion even while attempting to mock it. His latest diatribe is a thoughtful post titled “Dear Christians, ‘I Simply Do Not . . . .‘” It’s a fascinating line of crap from start to finish. Let’s see what we can make of it: Read the rest of this entry
The Christian Quest for Relevancy
I’ve often heard that Christianity just isn’t relevant anymore. We’re part of an outdated, archaic institution that has no place in a modern, enlightened society.
I don’t believe that. I believe that the message of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ is every bit as relevant today as it was when Jesus first preached the message in the first century. We are all sinners in need of being saved, therefore we need to hear the message that we can be saved and we can attain righteousness before God.
Once upon a time, people believed that if we preached the Word faithfully, that God would work a miracle in the hearts and minds of the listeners and call his elect forward. The apostles believed it, and that’s why they preached the way they did:
Now when they heard this [Peter’s sermon in Acts 2:14-36] they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. (Acts 2:37-41)
And when the Gentiles heard this [Paul’s sermon], they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed. And the word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region. (Acts 13:48-49)
There are numerous other examples throughout the book of Acts, but those two will suffice for the time being. The apostles didn’t strive to be relevant to the times. In fact, if you look closer at the context of Acts 13, you’ll see that Paul was anything but relevant. “The next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began to contradict what was spoken by Paul, reviling him” (Acts 13:44-45).
So, the apostles strived to teach the Word of God. They didn’t try to make friends, and even a cursory reading of Acts is sufficient to prove that they didn’t. And, if you don’t trust the Bible as historical, look at Tacitus:
But not all the relief that could come from man, not all the bounties that the prince could bestow, nor all the atonements which could be presented to the gods, availed to relieve Nero from the infamy of being believed to have ordered the conflagration, the fire of Rome. Hence to suppress the rumor, he falsely charged with the guilt, and punished Christians, who were hated for their enormities. Christus, the founder of the name, was put to death by Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea in the reign of Tiberius: but the pernicious superstition, repressed for a time broke out again, not only through Judea, where the mischief originated, but through the city of Rome also, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their center and become popular. Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind. (Annals 15.44, emphasis added)
Eternal security, also called “perseverence of the saints” and better known as “once saved, always saved (OSAS)” has drawn the attention of Ben, who goes by kangaroodort on the blog Arminian Perspectives. Ben has noted an item from Jeff Paton on the August of 2009 George Sodini debacle. Ben and Paton both believe that the Sodini is the textbook problem with eternal security.
Sodini, prior to his killing spree, wrote the following on his blog (December 31, 2008):
“Be Ye Holy, even as I have been Ye holy! Thus saith the lord thy God!”, as pastor R— K—- [redacted by raincoaster] would proclaim. Holy shit, religion is a waste. But this guy teaches (and convinced me) you can commit mass murder then still go to heaven. Ask him. Call him at [redacted by raincoaster]. If no answer there, he should still live at [redacted by raincoaster]. In any case, guilt and fear kept me there 13 long years until Nov 2006. I think his crap did the most damage. (cited here)
Note that Sodini states “you can commit mass murder then still go to heaven.” The pastor convinced him of this. A quick scan of his church’s website (the doctrinal statement wasn’t available when I went there, but they did have a table of contents) appears to confirm that it teaches OSAS. So, it is very possible that Sodini believes that his ticket is punched and he will go to heaven regardless of his beliefs and practices leading up to his death.
Paton appears to be blaming the mass murder itself on Sodini’s complete misunderstanding of the OSAS doctrine. Witness: Read the rest of this entry
Is Masturbation a Sin? A Disagreement with Steve Hays
Steve Hays of Triablogue defends masturbation as a good thing here. Matthew Bellisario responds to that here. I weigh in, siding (for once) with Bellisario here. Hays responds to all three of us in one fell swoop here. I’ll let Dave Armstrong and Matthew Bellisario deal with his retorts to them on their own. I’ll consider Hay’s response to me.
[A] guy named Cory also raised some objections. Unfortunately, he doesn’t offer any arguments to respond to. Just assertions.
So, Hays isn’t going to respond to me at all. Darn.
I already dealt with the “lust” objection, both practically and exegetically. Of course, I could always be wrong, but no counterargument is forthcoming from his end.
Oh, whoops! He is responding to me. I’d better start paying attention. Let’s see. He’s already dealt with the lust objection. Unless I’m missing something, he did not deal with the issue at length. This is what he said:
Traditionally, the church has frowned upon masturbation. One reason is the relation between masturbation and lust. This cannot be denied. On the other hand, lust is also aggravated by the absence of a sexual outlet. That is, indeed, in the nature of sexual tension, of a tension between sexual desire and sexual release. Unrelieved sexual tension only builds.
Interesting. So masturbation is fine as an outlet for sexual tensions because otherwise the tensions would simply build and build. This is interesting because the atheist tends to justify things like pre-marital sex, pornography, and other things I would hope that Hays categorizes as sinful by appealing to the same sort of logic. It relies on the false assumption that you can’t deny yourself sexual pleasure. Read the rest of this entry
Statement of Faith IV: The Holy Spirit
Perhaps the most misunderstood member of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit is not some blind force. The Holy Spirit represents God’s active principal in the world, his guiding hand that works wonders. Not recognizing the work of the Spirit is blasphemy against the Spirit–the Unforgivable Sin.
Three elements must be recognized about the Holy Spirit. The first is his personality. The second, his deity. And the third, his work in each believer.
Personality (Jn 16:7-15)
The Holy Spirit’s ministry is to convict the world of its sin. The Spirit also reveals truth to the people of God. Since Christ is gone to the Father, and the world can see him no more, the Spirit takes Christ’s place here on earth.
Deity (Acts 5:3-4)
Acts 5:3-4 equates the Holy Spirit with God. Since God is one (Deut 6:4), the Holy Spirit must be a separate person of the Trinity. He is distinct from the Father and the Son, and has his own ministry on earth, but is one in essence with Father and Son.
Work in Each Believer
The Holy Spirit has three specific ways he works in each believer. The first is indwelling the person, enabling the new creation to do good works pleasing to God. The second, related to the first, is filling. The third is to empower the believer for Christian life and service.
Baptism and Indwelling (1 Cor 12:13; Rom 8:9)
Baptism represents a death to the things of the world. When we come out of the baptismal pool, we are now awakened to a new life, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, filled with his power, to live a holy life worthy of God.
Filling (Eph 5:18)
The Holy Spirit then fills the believer, and makes him or her able to live the Christian life.
Empower for Christian Life and Service (Eph 3:16; Acts 1:8; Gal 5:22-23)
After indwelling and filling the believer, the Spirit then empowers the believer to live the Christian life. Note that the person’s residual nature is still fallen, and therefore he is not able to live the perfect Christian life. But the Spirit enables him to walk in a like-manner to Christ, and therefore the believer is now free of condemnation from sin.
It boggles the mind how many people remain in their sin even after being baptized with the Spirit. This I believe is the failure of the modern church to convict people of their sin, not a failure of the Holy Spirit.
Statement of Faith II: The One True God
In The Jewish Approach to God, Rabbi Neil Gillman cited that Jews believe that God is echad, which means “one.” He spent an entire chapter discussing that concept at great length, and I will touch on a few brief points in this post.
First, there is the shema. Jewish men recite the shema daily. It is Deuteronomy 6:4: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.” The word for “one” in that passage is the Hebrew word echad, which implies more than just a number. It means more than, “God is a single unit,” although it means that, too. Echad means that God is uniquely God. God is unique because he is God.
So, now my atheist readers are raising an eyebrow and saying, “Ha! You worship three Gods: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit! How does that jive with ‘God is one.’ Christianity loses, atheism wins!” Well, dear atheist reader, I’m going to try to explain it to you. Wipe the drool from your lower lip and continue reading.
I have outlined in this post that there is a fundamental difference between the polytheism of Indian religions like Hinduism and the monotheism of Christianity. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are each echad–uniquely God–while retaining their individual identities. Some atheists assert that we are worshiping three Gods in One. We are not: we are worshiping three Persons in one God.
Nothing about “personhood” suggests that it must be unique to an individual essence or soul. One could easily make the argument that an essence or soul could have multiple persons attached to it. That is not the case with humans, God’s image-bearers. Our essence contains only one person attached to it. Not the case with God; his essence carries three Persons attached to it: Father, Son, and Spirit.
Why, if we are God’s image-bearers, then do we only have one person attached to our souls while God has three? Would it not make sense that we should have three persons attached to our soul? Well, that is actually a very good question, and tough to answer. Scripture is silent in this regard, so we must be careful when attempting to draw inferences from it. The best, and most reasonable, explanation is that God chose to attach only one person to a human soul instead of three. That is our ontology, the way that God made us, and why he didn’t make us another way is simply a mystery.
One last point bears touching on before I close the discussion of the Trinity. As Richard Dawkins put it in The God Delusion, rivers of ink (and blood) have been wasted trying to explain the Trinity and Dawkins complains that much of it remains a mystery. So I ask, “Why the double standard?” Science accepts abiogenesis as a potential theory about the origins of life, despite failing in every way to substantiate it. The origin of life remains a mystery. Yet many hold out that one day, we will substantiate abiogenesis and solve the mystery of life. Why, I ask again, are you allowed to have mysteries of science, but I am not allowed to have mysteries of faith? I am doing the same thing as you are doing with abiogenesis, but for that you label me a “fundie” or “deluded.”
In The God Delusion, Dawkins explains that a certain agnosticism is warranted when the evidence is scant. Just like atheists can remain agnostic about the origin of life and still be called reasonable, we can call the Trinity a mystery and still be reasonable.
God, though three, is really one (echad). This is one of the great mysteries of faith, and instead of filling us with skepticism it should fill us with wonder. The wonder of echad is that God is the only God (see Is 44:6).
What’s the REAL Message Here?
Vjack from Atheist Revolution reveals his position as a pro-life atheist. While I commend his pro-life stance, I don’t admire his reasoning. It goes like this:
Personally, I favor reducing the number of abortions performed through reality-based sex education and widespread availability of affordable and effective contraception. By reducing the number of unwanted pregnancy, we can reduce the number of abortions without having to infringe upon anyone’s reproductive rights. (source)
First of all, every “fetus” or “embryo” is a potential human life and should be afforded the same care as any child. You wouldn’t kill a child just because he or she became inconvenient. So it bothers me that Vjack refers to abortion as a “reproductive right.”
That point aside, what is Vjack really saying here? He favors “widespread availability of affordable and effective contraception.” What that means, translated, is that he is all for having sex with whomever whenever desired.
Abstinence is all about self-control. This is yet another example of the atheist community not being big on practicing self-control. But can we expect them to? After all, self-control is a fruit of the Spirit, and the atheist is not indwelled by the Holy Spirit. Therefore, we should not expect that an atheist would have any appreciation of the fine art of self-control. Atheism is nothing less than creating an intellectual excuse to disobey God.
Now let me add a caveat. I’m not for abstinence-only sex education. I think that it is important to teach the benefits and drawbacks of all of the contraceptives, as well as allowing kids to weigh the pros and cons of abstinence. Let each decide what is right for him or her.
For the Christian, the only correct choice is abstinence. That is the only choice pleasing to God. But this choice is more open to Christians than to atheists because a Christian indwelled by the Holy Spirit and charged with a desire to please God will be able to muster the self-control to remain chaste until marriage.
I should add that the task isn’t impossible for the atheist. My wife knows non-Christians that have remained chaste until marrige. A feat of self-control like this, however, is far more likely to be found in someone with a desire to please God.
Unfortunately, many Christians do not choose abstinence. All that proves is that Christians aren’t perfect, it doesn’t mean that abstinence is not a valid choice.
Handle a Poisonous Snake, Get Bit, Die. Big Surprise.
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My good friend Jeff Haws, as well as Rev. Dan from OutChurched and VJack from Atheist Revolution have posted on this little news item about Christians handling snakes. With this seemingly insignificant news item gathering a firestorm of attention from atheists, I thought it would be a good idea to address the issue from a Biblical perspective.
I consider myself a reasonable man of faith. I believe in God’s Word as it espoused in the Bible. I ascribe inerrancy only to the autographs–that is, the original manuscripts. I believe that the Bible is written in clear, everyday language and doesn’t require a Master’s degree from seminary to interpret the myriad of passages within it. This clear, everyday language must be considered for the use of literary devices–such as similes, metaphors, hyperbole, and others–as well as for context.
Part of context would be understanding that “you” in a direct quotation would apply in a general sense only to those people present when the quotation was uttered.
As a reasonable man of faith, I believe that if I were to handle a poisonous snake, that it would bite me, and without proper medical attention, I would die. No big surprise there. I believe that despite this promise in the Bible:
Go everywhere in the world, and tell the Good News to everyone. Anyone who believes and is baptized will be saved, but anyone who does not believe will be punished. And those who believe will be able to do these things as proof: They will use my name to force out demons. They will speak in new languages. They will pick up snakes and drink poison without being hurt. They will touch the sick, and the sick will be healed. (Mk 16:15-18, emphasis added)
Earlier I spoke of context. In context, Jesus said this to the eleven apostles (v. 14). He did not give this statement as a general instruction to all of His followers. That means that these are signs and wonders that accompany apostles.
Elsewhere, I’ve defended this passage by saying that promises made to the apostles are fulfilled by the church. The church is guided by the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit disseminates spiritual gifts to people as He sees fit (1 Cor 12:11). This means that gifts such as those are given to the church, not to individuals. Among the gifts mentioned by the Apostle Paul in the the entire passage from Corinthians 12 (vv. 7-11), snake charming and poison drinking are conspicuous by absence.
I’m not going back on that stance. But, I am going back on one thing: Mark 16:9-20 is not found in the early Greek MSS. That means that this promise was likely not part of the autograph–which means that I cannot wholeheartedly ascribe inerrancy to it.
All said, I too can marvel with my atheist friends at the sheer stupidity of someone who would handle a poisonous snake as part of a worship service. Even if I believed that the signs and wonders that accompanied apostles would be apportioned by the Holy Spirit to every Christian and was able to ascribe inerrancy to Mark 16:9-20, I still wouldn’t be surprised if this happened. Ultimately, we should follow Jesus’ example and not test God (Mat 4:1-11; cf. Deut 6:16).