Thursday, September 27, 2012

SoF Update

I've put in very rough descriptions of each of the points of the OMW Statement of Faith. Am I missing any topic that you think I should cover? I know there is missing detail but are there any topics that are important to you that I haven't listed?

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

On My Walk 101: The Basic Difference

Is your theology saddled by your hermeneutic,
or is your hermeneutic saddled by your theology?
My wife and I have been looking for a new place to fellowship since Easter of this year. The search has gone from disheartening to infuriating to sicking and back again... we've been learning some very important lessons though. I've also been loosing my appetite for argument.

I've always enjoyed banter. You know, good hearted strong discussion with lots of back and forth, good points, intensity and laughter. I also very much enjoy a good "argument" that is a well made persuasive case for a position, idea, opinion or theory. I love to be challenged to think about things. I love to experience how other people think about things. I'm fascinated by the the very process of learning and that of the forming of opinions.  I've been willing to argue with people in order to pull an "argument" out of them. Or to help them see how something isn't actually true. I'm tired of it though. I'm not tired of critically examining things, or of deep discussions but the plain truth is the Bible tells us how to deal with false teachers: mark them and separate from them. I don't need to argue with anyone. If they have false theology and they are not open to discussion then my only responsibility is to protect myself and those whom I care for from their teaching. That's it.

So that's been my state of mind for the last week or so, and it is the state of mind I was in when I had the opportunity to communicate with a Reformed Calvinist Pastor of a local assembly which I was interested in based on their website. The website had a reasonable enough statement of faith, and many sermons but nothing that really stated what they believe the Gospel is or how someone comes to be saved. So I emailed the Pastor with a few questions. While I was waiting to hear back from him I kept digging for answers about his theology. Google + perseverance revealed that he was in fact a Reformed Calvinist of the Lordship Salvation flavour. I was a bit ticked off. I complained to my good friend about how it is frustrating that one has to be a private investigator to find out what Pastors preach at their pulpits. I went on complaining about how if they really believe something is true why don't they clearly say so and let everyone know about it easily on their website. My frustration was actually about how we really want to find a place to fellowship and not having one is eating away at me. My dear friend told me that he knew of this Pastor and that I could expect clear and straight forward answers to my questions from the man. And that's exactly what I got from him. I'm pleased to state he gave me exactly that. Yet he gave me much more than just that. He gave me a simple and clear explanation of why I do not agree with the Reformed Calvinist Lordship Salvation proponents; I am very, very, thankful.

I had explained that we hold to the Grammatical-Historical Hermeneutic exclusively, from cover to cover of the bible. In his email he explained his hermeneutic this way:
We are passionately committed to a Grammatical-Historical-Theological approach to interpretation. Meaning is to be derived from context and the overall unfolding of God's plan of redemption.
It may be a subtle difference: I develop my theology and my view of "God's plan of redemption" by using the Grammatical-Historical Hermeneutic. That is: grammar and the meaning(s) of the words from the period of history they were written in (not today's meanings and usage) tell me what the context is, and this determines my theology and doctrine. Whereas the Reformed Calvinist Lordship Salvation proponent uses their theology and doctrine to inform the grammar and to select which meaning the words have.

I simply cannot imagine a reasonable excuse to use my theology to control my interpretation of the Text. How could I hope to objectively find truth? How could I prove my own theology false? It sure would make studying the Bible easier though... easier but I'd never be able to tell if what I'm learning is actually true or not. What if I were a new believer and didn't have any theology? How could I study the Bible in that case?

Using the Grammatical-Historical Hermeneutic is hard work. I don't have any easy answers I can reference from a Systematic Theology book. I have to work each thing out line by line, precept by precept. You know what though? I wouldn't have it any other way.

The truth is however, that many of the most controversial topics are plainly explained in the Text. I love when I can read my theology straight out of the Bible without explanation, such as:
  • What's the true saving Gospel? 1Cor 15:1-11. 
  • What is true saving faith? Rom 4:1-25.  
  • Will all truly saved people live godly, fruitful lives and persevere until the end? 2Pet 1:5-9
  • Did Christ die for everyone or just for the Elect? 1Jn 2:2 
  • If Christ died for everyone doesn't that make Universalism true? Lev 16:1-34
  • Does God only save those who submit to the mastery of Christ over their lives? John 3:14-17
  • Does regeneration precede faith? John 1:10-13
  • Doesn't one need to first be regenerated in order to believe? John 3:3-17, Num 21:8-9
  • Do we have access to faith by grace or access to grace by faith? Rom 5:1-5 
  • Is the Believer eternally secure or can we loose our salvation? Jn 5:24, Jn 6:40, Jn 10:27-30, Phil 1:6, Eph 1:13-14
  • Does Repentance mean to "turn from sin" and have a "changed life"? Luke 17:3-4 
These are just a few of the easy answers we have directly from Scripture. No deep study required. Are these not the very same questions that the "Grammatical-Historical-Theological approach to interpretation" make very complicated to answer? Check out the list of things that the author of the book of Hebrews calls "elementary principles of Christ" or the very basics of our Faith. Paul calls these things "milk" that is all the immature can tolerate and make use of. Heb 6:1-2 Are these things elementary work using your hermeneutic? If they are not the things that a babe in Christ can study easily using your hermeneutic then I suggest that is a big sign that there's a problem with it.

This is the basic difference between myself and most of the churches we checked out over this past Summer. Not all are Reformed Calvinist or Lordship Salvation, though most are, but all that we've found so far put their theology into, or onto their hermeneutic.

So here's my question for you today: Has your hermeneutic put a saddle on your theology, or has your theology put a saddle on your hermeneutic?

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Gospel is a Message

I've just posted a short article at my blog which is dedicated to The Gospel of the Christ entitled The Demonstration.

Here's a short quote:
The Gospel of the Christ is a message. It is not merely a list of facts. It is a message that is conveyed by a particular list of facts which can be neither added to nor taken from. These facts, as important and non-negotiable as they are, are not themselves the message they convey. The Gospel is the only message that conveys how the only salvation available was provided for, and this message alone is the power of God unto that salvation.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

On My Walk #100

By my count this is the 100th post at OMW with the label/tag "On My Walk" attached to it. I hadn't been counting until today, but it's interesting in some strange way.

As I've been writing the series entitled "The Debater's Potter" I've been wondering about how hardcore Calvinists might receive it if they came across it mid series. Would they write it off as being something from a nut case? A half-wit theologian? It seems I should put a "Statement of Faith" here on the blog, and so I'm going to.

Now, statements of faith shouldn't convince readers that the source is orthodox or to be regarded as faithful and reasonable. Why not? Because very few people/organizations actually follow their statements of faith. I'm currently looking for a place to fellowship and I can tell you from vast experience this is sadly true. Statements of Faith offer readers the ability to quickly and easily disqualify sources of information. If someone puts something false in their statement of faith they may not actually be following it now, that' true. However, at the very least, it shows they have a disregard for the truth. 

So my own Statement of Faith will be a resource for readers with two purposes. One to disqualify me easily, for those who choose to believe something other than I do. The other purpose is to be a resource for understanding where I'm coming from when I write something that may be seen as inflammatory by some. I don't know if people will use the statement as I intend it to be used, but I think it's time to have one nonetheless.

That's what's in the path on my walk this week.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

The Debater's Potter - Part 12 - Chapter 7

So I've made it all the way to Chapter 7. I have to admit that during the first few articles I had it in mind that I was done with the book already. Two things kept me going. As frustrating as the book was it was not convincing and I didn't want readers to think I was ducking some hard argument. More importantly though, a good close Brother in the Lord is investigating Calvinism openly and honestly and I didn't want to let him down. So here we are in Part 12, and all the way to Chapter 7 of my reaction to and interaction with Dr. James R. White's The Potter's Freedom(TPF), which he intends as a defense of the Reformation (or his view of it anyway) and "the" rebuttal of Dr. Norman Geisler's Chosen But Free(CBF).

I've been going into great detail, but I truly hope that the readers of this series either have, or will purchase both books. I wouldn't say that TPF is a great book, but it is seen as great by those who agree with it. So for that reason I think it is important to know what it says, and not just from a blog series. Likewise, I wouldn't say that CBF is the best written rebuttal of Calvinism. It is actually not a rebuttal of Calvinism at all. Much to Dr. White's frustration Geisler doesn't interact with many of his Reformed heros. What CBF is good for, is explaining how one could be both Elected, or "chosen" and yet still be "free." Hense the title of the book is "Chosen But Free" and not a long winded description of the various possible reasons for buying or writing it.  I recommend reading both of these books because this is the only way to truly know where each of these men stand.

Please see the introduction to this series to find out what it is, and what it isn't. While you're at it, you'll also find a handy table of contents with links to each of the articles posted (so far) in this series.

Last time we looked at the 6th chapter of TPF and I gave a verse by verse reading of John 6 explained primarily from John 6 and supported by a couple of other passages from the book of John in context. This time we're going to look at how Dr. White says that "Jesus teaches extreme Calvinism" in John 6.

Here we go!

Chapter 7 - Jesus Teaches "Extreme Calvinism"
"If believing that man is "so dead" in sin that he is incapable of coming to Christ on his own is "extreme Calvinism," then the Lord Jesus beat Calvin to the punch by 1500 years with His preaching in the synagogue in Capernaum recorded in John 6." 
After this opening statement White makes the following claims about John 6:
Jesus teaches that:
  • God is sovereign and acts independently of the "free choices" of men. 
  • That man is incapable of saving faith outside of the enablement *by which White means pre-faith regeneration* of the Father.
  • Limits this drawing *by which White means pre-faith regeneration* to the same individuals given by the Father to the Son. 
  • Irresistible Grace on the Elect (not on the "willing"). 
White makes these claims, but as we saw last time John 6 says nothing of the kind. At least not without putting on your Calvinism-Hermeneutics Glasses*TM?*
"John 6:37-45 is the clearest exposition of what CBF calls "extreme Calvinism" in the Bible."
If that's the clearest exposition of White's Calvinism in the Bible, then Part 11 of this series demonstrates that not only is White's Calvinism not "profoundly biblical" as he is so fond of saying it is, it is not biblical at all. White continues:
"And yet, CBF ignores the vast majority of the passage... There is a good reason why CBF stumbles at this point: there is no meaningful non-Reformed exegesis of the passage available."
Really? I'm the very first non-Reformed person to do a "meaningful" exegesis on the passage? I bet you the reader feel overwhelmed at your privilege to find the very first ever meaningful exegesis of John 6 by a non-Reformed Believer.  Dr. White is definitely over the top at times.
"As numerous as the attempts of Arminian exegetes to find some way around the testimony of these verse has been, not even a plausible solution has been offered that does not require the complete dismantling of the text, redefinition of words, or the insertion of utterly foreign concepts." 
I think Dr. White is confused. It is he who changes what passages are about to being about Calvinism, who redefines words like "all" into "all kinds of men" and inserts utterly foreign Calvinistic concepts into passages like John 3:16. If you don't know what examples I'm citing, please read this long series from the start. Sorry.. there's no way to paraphrase. Of course I could just quote what Dr. White thinks is an excellent "exegesis" of John 3:16 and be done with it. Find a full explanation in Part 3.
"God so loved his elect throughout the world, that he gave His Son with this intention, that by him believers might be saved."
In this example we see, what I would call a "complete dismantling of the Text." The word "kosmos" or "world" has been redefined to mean "his elect throughout the world" and the concept of Calvinism, a concept "utterly foreign" to the passage, into it. Pot, meet Kettle once again.

In this chapter once again Dr. White chooses to argue against his presentation of Arminianism instead of Dr. Geisler. The only reason I can fathom for him to do this, but not necessarily the only reason possible or even the actual reason Dr. White choose this, is that he actually read some of CBF and realizes that it accurately presents the sovereignty of God, and His election of people to Salvation.

With the exception of arguing against the Arminian doctrine that a person can loose their salvation there is really nothing new here about John 6. Nothing that overturns or challenges what I have previously written about John 6. So, I will leave my previous explanation of the Text stand in Part 11 and I'm not going to interact with his treatment of this chapter. If someone finds some argument of his challenging then please let me know in the comments. I just don't want to duplicate previous work.

Now however, is a good time to discuss a presupposition that Dr. White brings to his "exegesis" of the Text. He writes:
"They are coming to Christ. This is a personal relationship, personal faith, and, given that the ones who come are described throughout the passage by the present tense participle, it is not just a coming that happens once. This is an on-going faith, an on-going looking to Christ as the source of spiritual life. The men to whom the Lord was speaking had "come" to Him for a season: they would soon walk away and follow Him no more. The true believer is coming to Christ, always.This is the nature of saving faith. 
"And the one who comes to Me I will never cast out." The true believer, the one "coming" to the Son, has this promise of the Lord: using the strongest form of denial possible.... He promises that there is no possibility whatsoever that any one who is coming to Him in true faith could ever find Him unwilling to save.... This promise is to those ho are given by the Father to the Son and to no one else... but there are surely those who, like many in that audience in Capernaum, are willing to follow for a while, willing to believe for a season. This promise is not theirs. 
Since Christ is able to save perfectly (He is not dependant upon man's will, man's cooperation), His promise means the elect cannot ever be lost... If it were, in fact, a synergistic relationship, there could never be any ground for absolute confidence and security." 
Now that is a lot to ingest. I was going to break it up and comment on each section, but I wanted to preserve his argument. Many find this argument very strong. Here read it this way:

  1. Present Tense = on going.
  2. Only those who have an on going "present tense" faith (including following apparently) have really believed in the Lord.
  3. People can be willing to follow & believe for a while, for a season, but they will eventually leave. 
  4. If there was any cooperation the part of the Believer then there could be no assurance because it wasn't secured in Christ alone. 
Convincing right?

1. Present Tense = on going. 
The players passing the ball are throwing a ball toward the person they intend to catch it. 
Are these players always and forever passing the ball? Or is it talking about something when it is happening? That's a cool example, but here's an actual definition of the Greek Present Tense:
The present tense represents a simple statement of fact or reality viewed as occurring in actual time. In most cases this corresponds directly with the English present tense.Some phrases which might be rendered as past tense in English will often occur in the present tense in Greek. 
These are termed "historical presents," and such occurrences dramatize the event described as if the reader were there watching the event occur. Some English translations render such historical presents in the English past tense, while others permit the tense to remain in the present.
This redefinition of the Present Tense in Greek is a vital component of Lordship Salvation theology.

2. Only those who have an on-going "present tense" faith (including following apparently) have really believed in the Lord.

1Jn 5:13
These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.
I guess that's all we really need to say about that isn't it.... well OK. Those who "believe" is present tense. Actually it is Present Active Participle. Which can mean "believed" or "are believing", an action which has or is actually occurring. Of note the action is "active" in that the person believing is the one who is believing - it's not a gift.  The second believe is slightly different. It is Present Active Subjunctive and what that means is it is an action which MAY OR MAY NOT happen. Thus John is writing to "true believers" (present tense faith....) that they may CONTINUE to believe. Probably a a more litteral translation than "continue to" would be that "you will" believe. The context of the passage was taken into account when "continue" was chosen. It conveys the thought that John was presenting, if not the actual words he used. Sorry Dr. White but your doctrine is not biblical.

3. People can be willing to follow & believe for a while, for a season, but they will eventually leave.

Really? I thought the unregenerate suffered from Total Inability to believe, to be willing, to follow... I thought that Jesus said they were UNABLE to do so? Isn't it amazing how fast parts of Calvinism are just dropped when they don't fit with the current theological point being made.
4. If there was any cooperation the part of the Believer then there could be no assurance because it wasn't secured in Christ alone.

OK this is too sad to laugh at. Not only does Dr. Geisler rip this appart in CBF, but other than those who think they can loose their salvation at any moment NO ONE has less assurance than the Calvinist. Did you catch what the Dr. wrote? People can follow for a while. Are you following? Are you truly saved? How do you know? Calvinists, especially of the Lordship Salvation flavour are famous for their "tests" of Salvation. Are you really saved? I haven't been able to find Dr. White's teaching on assurance but I did a series of articles called Testing the Test of John MacArthur's Lordship Salvation & Calvinism based assurance teaching. I also did an in depth examination of Pastor Millar of Harvest Bible Chapel London, Ontario's teaching about how to know if you're really saved called 'BUT' Theology. Shockingly, the Cross was not even mentioned but turning to serve "a Living God" was.

The fact is no one is more fearful about their salvation than someone who thinks that God doesn't save all who believe in His Son, but only those who "really" believe because their faith has been given to them through regeneration. Such people must constantly take tests to see if they are "really" saved.

Frankly, I'll never doubt that my salvation is secured by the payment made for me at the Cross. Why? Because God IS faithful to save all who believe. It doesn't matter that I was willing to believe. I am baptized into Christ; His death, burial and resurrection.

Dr. White would rather play word games and build straw-man arguments but the fact is the Scriptures declare security. Not because I "really" believed and continue to believe and follow and whatever else the Lordship Salvation people say "truly saved people really do"... but because Christ died for me, and it was accepted by the Father on my behalf. Done. Sealed. 'nuff said.

Dr. White closes the chapter with:
"CBF fails completely to provide an answer to this glorious passage that teaches sovereign grace with grand simplicity. And given the misuse of other passages already cited (Matt 23:37, 1Tim 2:4, Peter 3:9), it can truly be said that CBF has no exegetical basis upon which to stand."
Perhaps Dr. White should be less interested in providing "an answer to" passages in the Bible and more concerned with letting them provide the answer to him.

This is the shortest instalment in the series so far, but that is only because I chose not to interact with arguments that I have already dealt with. How does Chapter 7 of TPF read to me? More of the same.