Archive for the 'Calvinism/Arminianism' Category

01
Mar
17

Luck. Blessing. Desire for truth

In a discussion with a friend about the state of the world, he said how lucky we were to have Jesus in our lives. I agree totally, also realising how difficult it can be to express that sentiment without using problematic terms like “luck”.

It could be avoided by replacing it with “blessed”, but I’ve also come to see that word overused and misapplied, to the extent that it dilutes understanding of what GENUINE blessings are.

Previously I’ve commented on the way that in affluent societies, so many of the things we designate as “blessings” may very well be thorns and weeds that choke the fruitfulness of God’s word out of our lives (see Mark 4) Our idea of blessing may differ significantly from God’s.

The idea of “luck” suggests chance or even worse, chance combined with “predestination” – as if we were fortunate to have our names pulled out of God’s salvation lottery hat, a very simplistic view that far too many people (like Calvinists) believe (though they probably wouldn’t like the way I described that belief).

It seems clear that there ARE so many seemingly “lucky”, random aspects to salvation and our response to it, including:

1) The religious culture of where we are born and raised.

2) Our parents’ attitudes to that religious culture.

3) The non-parental influences we face as we grow up

4) Personal experience and how we respond to it.

5) The availability of the gospel.

6) Our “mood” if and when we hear the gospel.

7) The quality of teaching and encouragement we receive after responding to the gospel.

It seems like some people can be more advantaged than others, to the extent that it doesn’t seem fair for those who don’t have the advantage of free access to the gospel.

In the past I’ve come across people who ask about the fate of those in other countries where Christianity is suppressed or absent in some other way; where conditions like those mentioned above are rarely favourable. That scenario is raised in a way that questions the validity of the gospel, because surely there’s no justice in someone’s eternal fate being dependant on their response to a message they never hear.

Some time ago I came to the conclusion that the key is a person’s desire for truth and that God WILL get the gospel to ANYONE who has a genuine desire for truth wherever they are, no matter what obstacles there seems to be.

And maybe there’s another perspective to consider. Should we recognise the “disadvantage” of having too much access to the gospel where the gospel seems to be freely available to all?
In that latter scenario it can be too easy for compromised messages and diluted gospels that aren’t really THE gospel to be adopted.

But again I see it is all dependent on a person’s genuine desire for the truth. It is that desire, and the integrity of an individual’s search for truth that makes the difference and ultimately protects him/her from the risk of false religions of all kinds, including secular/political alternatives such as nationalism.

30
Nov
16

All Things Work Towards God’s Agenda

The following is a slightly amended version of an email I recently sent to my American friend and brother, Steve.

* * *

 

I think one of my most important realisations came out of my reading into WWI:  that nothing happens in isolation from God’s purposes.

All of history has been working towards the future that God has planned. It’s not always clearly seen – but God works through man’s actions, even man’s evils, to bring about His purposes.

Unlike Calvinists I don’t believe God plans, causes or intends man’s evils to take place, but I believe He “deflects” or manoeuvres the outcomes of man’s evil actions into a direction that furthers His agenda and takes us towards His ultimate purpose: A new heavens and a new earth where righteousness dwells and all unrighteousness is excluded.

Nothing, whether it is history, politics, art, or any other aspect of human life has an importance or relevance separated from spirituality and God’s ultimate intention for His creation.

We can easily get caught up in the politics, the facts of history or mankind’s creativity, but if we make those things the central focus we miss the point.

And if I may make a statement that some will find controversial  – the same can be said of the bible, of prayer, and any other “spiritual” matter – if we make THEM the focus rather than God and our relationship with Him, we miss the point. Those things are just a necessary “means to an end” – and that “end” is God Himself.

___________________________________

But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

10
Feb
15

The Calvinistic Atheist’s Attitude to God

After sharing my comments about the Stephen Fry quote yesterday, I realised that the kind of God that he rails against is very much like the image of God presented by Calvinst theology.

He rails against a God he sees as controlling every aspect of creation and is therefore a God responsible for the state of the world: who has ordained it to be that way.

If I had that image of God, I’d very likely find atheism an attractive option.

But that is NOT the God revealed through scripture and it is not the God revealed through Jesus Christ.

…as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.

He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God

Don’t blame God for what man’s sin has done to the world. Be grateful for the gift of His Son. Believe in Him and the light and life He brings.

09
Feb
15

Self-Aggrandising Foolishness from Stephen Fry

Stephen FryThe quote to the left (attributed to Stephen Fry) is a clipping from yesterday’s newspaper. After reading it part of the book of Revelation came to mind where it is said that man responded to trouble and tragedy not by repenting (ie recognising and turning from his own sin) but by cursing and blaspheming God.

In other words, man blames God for what man has done.

Contrary to Fry’s accusation against God, everything God created was GOOD, even mankind. But God gave mankind freedom of choice: 1) to have an ongoing life of ease, untroubled by death where evil wasn’t even a concept to grasp: or 2) to gain an experiential knowledge of good and evil through disobedience to God. The consequence of that disobedience was the cause of all of the misery that Fry attributes to God and contrary to his accusation the misery he mentions IS our fault because of the sin that man freely chose and has continued to choose through history.

In his statement Fry demostrates wilful ignorance, as well as an incredible degree of pride and arrogance that leads him to believe he has the right or would even have the guts to address the Holy and Righteous Creator in such a manner.

Would Fry prefer it if God had created mankind as a race of pre-programmed puppets with no freedom at all? I suspect what the answer would be to that question, when so many recently have come out in support of freedom of expression after the Charlie Hebdo massacre. People like Fry want the freedom to deny God or to mock and berate Him, yet still want to blame Him for what results from the exercise of that freedom.

I agree with Fry that the world is full of injustice, pain and misery but reject his accusation that God is to blame for that state.

God is not capricious, mean-minded or stupid. While Fry blames Him for evil in the world, in reality God has created a way to end the effects of the evil that is given a place in God’s creation by man.  But that way requires man to freely trust God to turn TO Him and to turn FROM sin.

Sadly, it is a choice that most (including Fry) refuse to make.

24
Apr
14

The Evil of Mens’ Traditions

A strong title?

Maybe it seems a little extreme?

But how else can traditions that create a false image of God be described?

Traditions that misrepresent His character.

Traditions that misrepresent His ways.

Traditions that misrepresent His desires.

Effectively those traditions result in a false gospel and lead to people to follow false paths with a false hope.

There is a big difference between those traditions of men and the Truth of God.

Where do our own desires REALLY lie?

What do WE really want?

Which do we choose?

12
Feb
14

Moving the Theological Goalposts

goalpostsThe goal posts of the cessationist argument have been moved.

After choosing not to post my link to articles detailing post apostolic examples of the gifts still in use, the “Hip and Thigh” blog owner says:

Everyone is aware of post apostolic miracles. I am completely aware of what Sam Storm believes about supernatural happenings after 100 AD. But none of those examples he supplies demonstrates the continuance of gifted people, just that God acts supernaturally at certain times in response to prayer or in the working out of his providence. That is something no “cessationist” as they are called, disagrees with.

So now it seems every historical case of gifts in action is not evidence of the gifts in action, and therefore their continuing availability. Those cases are merely examples of God’s response to prayer or the working out of His providence.

Now the argument is being shifted from the continuance of Spiritual gifts, to the “continuance of gifted people”. And since those gifts allegedly ended with the last of the apostles the term “gifted people” seems to refer to the original apostles.

But the gifts in question have nothing to do with “gifted people” (apostles), and everything to do with a GIFTING God.

The issue isn’t about “gifted people”. The issue is the continuation of the gifts of the Spirit and miracles provided by the God that the apostles worshipped and promoted.
The one and only God who is just as real and no less active in the world today. Any absence of gifts and miracles is not due to a Divine recall or Divine inactivity, but due to human factors (such as lack of belief in the availability of gifts due to false teaching).

Are the Spiritual gifts HE made available to the body (not just the apostles) for the building up of the body, still needed and still available today?
Yes

Did he restrict those gifts to an elite apostleship?
No.

Was their practice limited to an elite apostleship?
No.

Did God withdraw any of those gifts after the last of the apostles?
No.

Are those gifts still valid, available and practiced today and throughout history, even from 100AD to 1900AD and to the present day?

Yes! As attested by the absence of biblical evidence that they would be withdrawn soon after Paul wrote about them, and by the presence of historical evidence that they HAVE continued (some of which can be found at the links provided in my earlier post here: https://onesimusfiles.wordpress.com/2014/02/11/cessationist-evasion/ )

05
Feb
14

Which Celebrity Soothes Your Itching Ears?

“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves their favourite celebrity teachers” (2 Tim 4 slightly paraphrased)

Spirit and TruthIn following the arguments being presented by cessationists, I’ve seen little more than duelling with celebrities – where one celebrity preacher is quoted against another. First we had John MacArthur’s Strange Fire, then we had Frank Viola’s rebuttal, Pouring Water on Strange Fire, and Michael Brown’s Authentic Fire. These then became the focus of a cessationist response*.

I am still waiting for BIBLICAL evidence that God has withdrawn any of the Spiritual gifts. I’m still waiting because there is no such evidence.

Criticism of “charismatics” is NOT scriptural evidence, no matter how much that criticism is deserved
Yes, a sizable segment of the charimsatic “movement” promotes and practices terrible things, claiming to be motivated by the Spirit, but even if ALL claimed charismatics were the same that would still not be evidence supporting cessationism.

The problem with Charismatics arises NOT because Spiritual gifts have been withdrawn and therefore everything “charismatic” must be counterfeit – but because many “charismatics” have fallen for celebrity worship, following the word of big name men and women instead of the word of God; running from conference to conference, speaker to speaker instead of taking time to search the scriptures.
But non-charismatics are no less guilty of that, following the word of their own celebs instead of HONESTLY addressing scripture themselves.

Ironically, while charismatic excess is being cited as evidence of the cessationist viewpoint, most of that excess has NOTHING to do with biblical Spiritual gifts. Most of the aberrant behaviour and manifestations at the centre of charismania is extra-biblical. It is not even a counterfeit of biblically cited gifts. But, even their claimed expression of things that do have a biblical precedent (such as prophecy) are EASILY exposed as false by holding them accountable to biblical standards.

spirit and truthjpgAs well as the example of false charismata, the remaining cessationist evidence comes from their perceived lack of genuine charismata. That includes making judgements according to their own assumptions about what genuine gifts should be like. For example, tongues is dismissed by some because they insist tongues should always be recognisable earthly languages, used only for spreading the gospel. Both parts of this claim can easily be refuted by referring to Paul’s statements that someone speaking in a tongue speaks to God not man, and also refers to praying in a tongue as the spirit praying. This doesn’t fit the above mentioned cessationist preconception.

Here we have two issues, firstly a wrong preconception of what gifts should be, and secondly the lack of experience of the gifts as defined by those wrong preconceptions. In these I see very little difference between the extreme charismatic and the cessationist. Both have abandoned scripture as their standard of truth and have turned to experience. One assumes their strange experiences are from the Spirit (even when those experiences don’t stand up to scriptural scrutiny) the other assumes THEIR lack of experience** of anything must mean the gifts are no longer valid (despite that claim not standing up to scriptural scrutiny).

What the cessationist fails to consider is that their lack of experience may come down to their lack of expectation. Their denial of the gifts kills any possibility of them having faith to exercise or experience gifts themselves. Paul said “If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith” , and yet how can someone have faith to prophesy at all if they deny the possibility? Likewise with other gifts; how can anyone expect to experience those gifts in their own life if their faith’s foundation is built on denial, if they refuse even the possibility of genuine gifts?

James wrote:

“let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”

If that is true of the double minded man, the man who doubts – what about the single minded man who does not doubt but strongly believes the wrong thing? Someone so convinced that Spiritual gifts aren’t valid that they have absolutely no expectation of experiencing them?

__________________
*examples of which can be found here: http://hipandthigh.wordpress.com/2014/01/20/reviewing-authentic-fire/?relatedposts_exclude=4838 and at this site: http://mennoknight.wordpress.com/

**in a reply to a comment from me, one cessationist blog owner admits that his belief is based on him not seeing any “practical evidence” of the gifts. http://hipandthigh.wordpress.com/2014/01/24/authentic-fire-chapter-2-review/comment-page-1/#comment-10916It has nothing to do with scriptural evidence – claiming that both (cessationist) MacArthur and (charismatic) Michael Brown both provide scriptural support for their (opposing) views, however he qualifies that by saying MacArthur makes a “strong case”. And yet… WHERE IS THAT “strong” CASE?




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