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Letter about those pesky Calvinists

posted by xscot mcknight

A letter to which I’d like to hear your reasonable answer and I ask for your pastoral sensitivity.
Dear Scot,
We met a few years ago when I was youth pastor. Now I am at a church plant in Minnesota. I know that you are up to speed with the post modern church. That???s really good.
The main reason I am writing is to see if you know anything a person can do in response to hyper-calvinism. Around these parts, we are getting killed by very vocal, self-righteous hyper-calvinists, especially those who are connected with Piper???s church. He has a very strong following around here. They always use the same language and have the same condescending attitude toward everyone else. This stripe also seems to revere Bob Dewaay, Kirk Cameron, and Lighthouse trails research. They turn up their nose at Rick Warren and Bill Hybels.
The problem is that they just are relentless. Absolutely no discussion or compromise. I have had the life kicked out of me at my church this past year by some of these people. For them, it just isn???t good enough to be a solid evangelical who really loves Jesus and wants to serve him. It has to be all about reformed theology.
With regards to these dear folks at my church ??? the proud Calvinists ??? my approach has always been exactly what you were suggesting. I went out of my way time and again to be friends with them ??? the number of hours spent over coffee and lunch (funny thing, it was always on my dime!) was incalculable. The tool that I had leaned on for so many years in youth ministry, namely loving relationships, failed me. They were just too stuck in their theology to see anything else. We couldn???t ever just agree to disagree and leave it at that.
Which is why it is such a stretch for these people to find a home in our church. We deliberately say that we will not divide over theological issues like this. We are centered on the cross, on walking with Jesus. They just seemed like they were always picking a fight.
So, any thoughts, ideas, or suggestions?
In Christ,



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art

posted November 26, 2007 at 12:52 am


Scot,
Do you know if this person is using the term “hyper-Calvinists” in the theologically correct way, or if he is using it to simply mean “hyper-excited-about-Calvinism-Calvinists”?
I ask this because I am very familiar with Piper’s writing and preaching, and he isn’t a “hyper-Calvinist.” Of course, the people the writer is talking about could possibly be, since they also seem to revere Dewaay, Cameron (!!), and Lighthouse Trails. It seems that this writer is dealing with an odd lot.
To the response to the letter:
As a Calvinist who used to be one of those “super-excited-Calvinists-who-wants-everyone-to-love-Jesus-and-also-have-all-Five-Points-tattooed-on-their-arms,” I can relate to these people who seem to always want to talk about Calvinism and argue about Reformed theology. That was part of my journey, even if it was a part that I am not proud of. As time passed and I slowly spiritually matured (although I still have a long way to go!), I realized that part of what was driving my desire to always talk about Calvinism was pride. I was proud because I felt that I could argue with anyone and everyone and win. I also seemed to have replaced “the Gospel” with Calvinism. Because of this, I truly believed that Calvinism wasn’t just an explanation of the Gospel, but the Gospel itself.
What took me from an over-zealous Calvinist to a more mellow, easy going person was not any amount of argumentation or any advice that was given to me. Rather, it was the result of studying who God is and how the Gospel transforms the world. This resulted not in pride of my theological heritage, but humility in my both my relationship with God and my understanding with him, which resulted in a much more mellow discourse with those I had disagreements with.
What I would encourage this writer to do is two-fold:
(1) Pray fervently for these brothers and sisters in Christ. Pray for a deep humility to come to both these people and yourself. The Holy Spirit is the one who is going to change people’s heart, even though most times we want to be the one who does it.
(2) Focus on the Gospel. Not theological systems which explain the soteriological effects of the Gospel, but the Gospel itself. Focus on the humility of Christ and the humility demanded of his followers. Focus on this not only in discourse, but also in preaching. The Gospel breathes humility and demands such as a response of those who claim the name of Christ. By focusing on the Gospel, the shift turns from systematic understandings of soteriology, to the beauty of the cross.



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Nick

posted November 26, 2007 at 12:53 am


I wonder how many people there are out there that
1) really like John Piper
2) are hyper-Calvinist
3) really like Way of the Master / Kirk Cameron



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Gregory Pittman

posted November 26, 2007 at 1:04 am


I agree with Nick, and wondered the same thing on my first reading of the letter. A combination of all three of these characteristics can’t rationally exist. That said, the perception that all Calvinists are hyper-Calvinists is a real concern, so I would recommend the letter’s author fervently pray to make sure he’s willing to make the same concessions he expects of others.
I’ve seen my fair share of over-zealous Calvinists (for the record, I hold to Reformed theology, so I’m not bashing Calvinists here) and just as is the case with any other ideology, it is possible to take one’s beliefs to the extreme. The result is damaging to the very belief system one holds dear. The author of the letter can only pray for a softening of hearts.



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Peggy

posted November 26, 2007 at 1:20 am


Sigh…it is a source of great sadness to me to consider the large number of issues that brothers and sisters in Christ are willing to fight over. I appreciate this writer’s stance that their church just will not engage in this behavior and I encourage him to stay that course. If they will not agree to disagree with you…you must find a way to disagree agreeably with them. The problem comes because they will just not give it a rest :(
When I wrote an alternative to Warren’s book for our church to use with the 40 Days of Purpose campaign, it was the last straw for a number of Calvinist “lurkers”…and even though they had been very involved in leadership, it was the last straw because they just could not teach the lessons prepared. One friend invited me to coffee to explain why she and her family were leaving our church and to tell me how grateful she had been for my ministry to her personally. I understood her position and she understood mine. It was a wonderful example of agreeing to disagree.
I pray that this precious brother will be encouraged to keep loving these people and speaking the truth in love: that we are followers of Jesus Christ, not John Calvin. But I guess this must be done carefully so as not to get so wrapped up in it that one get’s “the life kicked out of” one. Is this essentially a case of knowing when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em, so to speak? Or more of knowing who whom you can even deal the cards?
I look forward to the wisdom you have to share with him.



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TDMiekley

posted November 26, 2007 at 1:38 am


It is funny that this letter has come up. It seems wherever I end up going in Christian circles, someone ends up bring up this debate. Here is the short and sweet answer I would give to this individual.
The debate or ???conversation??? is pointless. It is not a relative issue. It really is pointless though. No matter how much one represents either end, it will both end up in the same manner. Each side has their verses and each side believes their side is more correct and on and on it goes. It is pointless because I believe Satan uses these issues in order that we would consume ourselves with it. It seems as though these debates divide the body of Christ more than bring the body together. I am sure that is what Satan would love for us to do.
To me, I think we need to be asking other questions. How about a question like: ???Are you living like you are saved or are you living as though you aren???t???? Seriously. I am tired of hearing about who choose salvation; let???s live like we are saved. I would ask other questions: Do people see Jesus in you? Are you a blessing to God? Do you bless others and the world? Do you love the poor?
I guess I am just tired of hearing the arguments about how people got saved. Let???s just live as the body of Christ and show people that we are saved. If we live in that manner, we will not have to worry if we can lose our salvation and we can continue to strengthen our relationship with God.



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Jay Kelly

posted November 26, 2007 at 1:39 am


Tony Jones said something in a sermon I listened to last week. He encouraged a group of Anabaptists to ‘bless the world’ with their theology. Not beat the world over the head with it or use it as an excuse for condescension but bless people.
There is much about Calvinism that can bless those who are not from the Reformed camp. Encouraging blessing over arguing might be a direction to head.



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Brad Cooper

posted November 26, 2007 at 1:48 am


I think it is unfortunate that the names of some great evangelical Christian leader’s (such as Piper and Cameron and Calvin) have been dragged into this as if they somehow were the source of these individuals pride and uncontrolled zeal. Calvinists (and I’m definitely not one of them) can be very zealous about what they believe, but so can people of any persuasion–even emergents…though their tactics may or may not be different.
The author of this letter is obviously frustrated….and understandably so. May Jesus grant him and the Calvinists there wisdom and grace.



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Joel

posted November 26, 2007 at 1:58 am


I believe that by “hyper-calvinist” he means “very zealous, very militant and at times vicious Calvinist” (I haven’t met any in real life, but there are a lot out there on the internet), not the strict theological sense.
The fact that Christians disagree on things so much, often anathemizing and viciously attacking each other over relatively minor things and with dozens of church schisms throughout history, is the thing I wrestle with most as a Christian…



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James Petticrew

posted November 26, 2007 at 2:43 am


It is sad to say but I think there is some thing in the staunch 5 point Calvinist agenda which makes it argumentative. As a wesleyan at theological college in Calvinist scotland many of my 5 point fellow students seemed to make it there personal goal to try and destroy my faith . Few were able to debate theology without becoming angry or abusive.
My response was to try and live out my theology as consistently as I could. I wish I could say this made an impact but the truth is it didn’t. The whole period just reminded me that orthodoxy divorced from an orthopraxy of love seems far from creed Jesus called us to.
I wish I could be more positive but my experience here in Scotland is that sadly the extreme 5 pointers will never have anything but contempt for those who don’t hold to their system.



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Eddie

posted November 26, 2007 at 3:45 am


I come from a strong reformed background here in England (he led me into his publishing house and his Banner over me was Truth) and theologically, I’m still pretty much a Calvinist. However, my observation is that to be ‘Reformed’ is as much about a culture as it is about a theological position. To be ‘Reformed’ involves making strong judgements about the soundness or otherwise of everything from books, to Bible translations and on to people. Changing individual and corporate culture from the outside is nigh on impossible. If these brothers and sisters don’t get themselves into a situation where the Spirit can work on their lives, and transform their minds then there is, sadly, little that can be done – apart from the obvious answer of earnest prayer.
For me it took years working in cross-cultural missions in Africa to finally get me to step back and see that what I thought were theological issues were cultural ones, in the same way that my African brothers and sisters were wrestling with cultural issues.



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mariam

posted November 26, 2007 at 4:41 am


Calvinists, or at least “hyper-Calvinists, aren’t so common here in Canada, so people often get them confused with Jehovah’s Witnesses. I know I have offended a number of them by asking them if they were J.W’s. when I’ve got myself in the unfortunate position of discussing theology with them. (no offense to the Calvinists here, but to the untrained eye you do seem a bit similar). It wasn’t until I started coming here that I realized there was a name for that peculiar theology I had run into, that it wasn’t actually a cult (at least not in the US), and that some Calvinists could be loving and kind, even though I still think their theology is peculiar (a nudge and wink at Brad here). I have found that arguing with hyper-calvinists is a dead-end and they don’t usually discuss in a give-and-take sort of way; while you may be interested in why they believe what they believe and willing to accept it, they will not do you the same favour. It is best not to engage – you will just end up looking bad and the arguments generated look very ugly to outsiders. Stick to being loving in word and deed. Think of it as a test to build character.



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Tim Gombis

posted November 26, 2007 at 5:18 am


It’s true that Piper and these others aren’t really “hyper-Calvinists,” but the more recent strand of Calvinists are quite fundamentalist in that they don’t allow for any disagreement with their theological vision. Further, there is in these more recent Fundamentalist/Calvinist leaders an arrogant and dismissive manner, so that their rhetorical strategy is to paint their “opponents” (NOT conversation partners) as somehow betraying the gospel in this or that way and then to dismiss them with easy rhetorical blasts.
Their followers, therefore, don’t know any other way to converse with other Christians. If they sense that you do not buy into everything that Piper or MacArthur or Mohler have to say, then they will do to you what they hear their leaders do to others. They’re not going to converse with you but they will try to rhetorically manipulate you into the position of a heretic so that they can dismiss you with a rhetorical blast. So, if you ever feel frustrated or manipulated in a conversation, it’s because you’re not really in a conversation, you’re the unwitting victim of a rhetorical triumph of the new strand of Fundamentalist Calvinism.
Frankly, if you’re a church leader, this is NOT one of those theological issues that you don’t want to divide over. This is an attitude that needs to be confronted. It is a failure of love and a threat to your community. I would confront it and ask questions like, “why don’t you display the wisdom that is from above?” “Why won’t you embody genuine Christian love by serving in simple ways rather than starting rhetorical disputes?”
Sadly, you may not get far, but just realize that this is NOT a theological issue, but one of arrogance and pride, and I speak from experience just as Art (#1).



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Pierre Benz

posted November 26, 2007 at 6:44 am


For me it’s quite the opposite. I’m the only “Reformed” guy living in a AoG church. I would love to go out for coffee and chat to anyone willing to discuss this, but I just get told that my theology is dodgy. I live and breath in an area where people, either knowingly or unknowingly, put way to much emphasis on spiritual gifts instead of knowing and savoring Christ. This is where I have found the reformed tradition (granted, I have found Lutheran writings to be even more so) to be very Christ exalting. I see that there is a lot of confusion, in my church and even other churches, between the distinctions of the Old and New Testament and how they relate to one another (aka, how does things change now that Christ has come). Now, there are numerous things that I don’t agree with and there are things that I really love (like their missional focus and the seriousness of their faith with respect to how it impacts every inch of your life).
While I have struggled with the church and have wanted to leave on numerous occations, I just can’t. I just love the people here too much. They are sinners just like me and in need of Christ and his love.
If anyone would to ask me what theological position I hold, I would not delay in answering him that I am firstly christian and then reformed.



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Scot McKnight

posted November 26, 2007 at 7:31 am


On the word “hyper-Calvinists” I suspect he only means zealous and relentless. On whether it is possible to hold such names in common … my experience at the lay level demonstrates that people can hold all kinds of things in common. The fact is that he reports they read and are influenced by these very names. The issue is not the rationality of the views but how to relate to and deal with these sorts.



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Don

posted November 26, 2007 at 7:55 am


To be honest I don’t know what the answer is. I can immediately relate with the above letter. Like James Petticrew I am in Calvinist Scotland and also a Theology student. I am constantly surprised at the venom and distain I, and other non-Calvinists, are greeted with. It seems to be THE litmus test of orthodoxy. Like speaking to fundamentalists of any creed you quickly realize you aren’t engaged in a dialogue but a passionate attack against anyone who doesn’t ascribe to T.U.L.I.P.
It is particularly worrying given that my denomination (Open Plymouth Brethren) was traditionally opposed to Calvinism. Yet now throughout the country proud Calvinism has spread through Piper, Sproul, MacArthur. Where are the non-Calvinist preachers explaining why they don’t believe in Calvinsim? Calvinists seem to have a exclusive hold on the area of popular preaching, and use their appeal primarily to spread Calvinism. For many growing Christians it is only their views they are exposed to.
I know of churches that refuse to do outreach with other churches which are not Calvinist. The elders at my own church are passionate proselytes of Calvinism, all the youth are given a DVD about Calvinism, get Piper and MacArthur books to read on the subject. Its THE topic, not evangelism, not Christian living, not struggles with sin but rather “What???s your view of election?”.
We had intended to use the Purpose Driven Life at Church in the youth group- but it wasn’t Calvinist so it was out. We used Rob Bell DVDs but he said “God doesn’t force himself on you” so he was out. Indeed the whole emergent movement is seen as the greatest threat to the Church because it doesn’t mandate adherence to Calvinism.
I just don’t understand why this theological schema produces such passionately devoted, almost militant, abrasive adherents. Especially since I see it as so devoid of genuine Biblical exegesis and historical awareness, especially since scholars have become increasingly aware that Paul’s views of election match with contemporary Jewish ideas, which are far from Calvinistic [See for example the international conference that was held here at Aberdeen on the issue, now published as a book called "Divine and Human Agency in Paul and His Cultural Environment"].
Its a growing problem, I find it a relief (but also of course worrying) to find there are other people in the same position as myself. Nice to know I’m not alone.
I don’t know what to do other than show by our lives we too are genuine living Christians, that Calvinism is not the most important issue. Hopefully if one keeps engaging the issue in an irenic their proudness will dissipate.



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RJS

posted November 26, 2007 at 8:22 am


This is “hyper” somethingism – Calvinistic neofundamentalism.
And make no mistake, it is hyper, and founded in people who are educated by Piper, and a real problem. This is my denomination (among many other connections, my father-in-law and brother-in-law are both pastors in the BGC) and – in the MN/WI regions at least – there is a very divisive rift developing.
One relates with these sorts with love, as brothers and sisters, but don’t expect support, conversation, or understanding (meeting of the minds). There is no room for compromise in this Christian view, so don’t expect it. Pray and carry on – but there are those around who will be supportive.



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Mike

posted November 26, 2007 at 8:34 am


From a pastoral perspective, I’d simply want to:
1. Help this young man (or lady) understand the differences between what he’s all lumping together. As already stated, Way of the Master and the teachings of John Piper are mutually exclusive at many points.
2. Help him to understand that condescension is a real problem for all Christians and you’ll be able to find them and experience this heart breaking reality in more circles than just calvinistic ones and certainly quite apart from religious circles all together. Just read Christopher Hitchens.
3. I would want to address his bitterness about buying some folks a meal that were angry calvinists.
4. I would encourage him to spend more time with people who don’t know Christ rather than trying to heal those who “aren’t sick.”
This all, of course, really needs to be conducted in an authentic relationship with this guy and not so sterile as is easy for me to present in a comment.
It’s funny (side note) that in the comments above people begin to divide lines and hurl generalities toward other theological camps (people educated by piper are a real problem, for example).



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Julie

posted November 26, 2007 at 8:39 am


My experience with all sorts of Calvinists (and it is extensive) is that right theology (anything from three to five points) is the cornerstone of what constitutes pure/true faith, exhorting Christians to hold “correct” doctrine is the important work of the committed believer, and conflict/debate over doctrine is the most energizing, enlivening source of relationship.
In short, I have been hurt and criticized and personally attacked by Calvinists than any other theological category of believer. I remember discussing this very issue with Brian McLaren about six years ago. His comment to me was that he found reformed Christians the most difficult group with which to ever find common ground. They are relentless.
My advice to the pastor would be to invite these Calvinists to leave his community.
Julie



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kent

posted November 26, 2007 at 8:57 am


To be honest, being reasonable with them isn’t going to work. They will see that as a sign that they are able to win the day. Trying to create a good relationship isn’t their goal, it is changing your mind to their path. And this is not unique to calvinists of any strip.
One question, is the chairperson or the primary lay leader of your congregation one of these people. If not is he or she a strong person? Because it may be and probably is necessary to lay down some strong boundaries together and tell them that their attitude and behavior not going to be tolerated. Their departure cannot be more damaging than their remaining and continuing their actions. Somes in situations like this, less is more.



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Ochuk

posted November 26, 2007 at 9:02 am


Being someone who lives in the Twin Cities and has delt with this phenomenon from the inside and outside, my word of advice is this: don’t waste your time trying to dialogue. People who follow John Piper have planted their flag in the ground, not on a stance on soteriology, but an ideology that is more or less a fundametnalist mindset. They see themselves as the bearers and the carrierers of the true faith laid down by Paul and Jesus and see it their duty to combat those that they deem deviant from this understanding. Thus, evangelical feminists, Arminians, Open Theists, TNIV readers, Democrat voting Christians, NT Wright supporters (this just means you like what you’ve heard by him!), Emergents, postmodern church practitioners, seeker-sensitive church planters, and people who don’t believe in Young-Earth Creationism have targets on their backs.
For those ministers that see dialoguing with others, particularly other faith communities, this is a problem. My belief is that you need to state your disagreement with them clearly, show that you are not open to reasoning with them on their terms, and stick to boundaries that foster the kind of dialogue you want to have. Put them in a place where they have to decide to talk to you, rather than you talking to them! Also, study up on what they believe and make reasoned arguments to respond to them.
Hang in there!



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Ochuk

posted November 26, 2007 at 9:03 am


Sorry I meant to say
“For those ministers that see dialoguing with others, particularly other faith communities, as a fruitful practice, this is a problem.”



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Jeff Hyatt

posted November 26, 2007 at 9:06 am


Like several who have shared comments, I too am a pastor who have had my share of difficulties with people who seem to be on a mission to convert the rest of the church to their particular system of theology – not just Calvinism. I live in MN as well, and am very familiar with the impact of our brother John Piper’s writing and preaching on the church. His passion and zeal for the glory of God is quite commendable. May we love him as we love ourselves.
I agree with those who recommend resisting the need to convert those who are trying to convert us to their system. Unless they are genuinely open to an exchange of ideas, our attempts to argue them into ‘maturity’ will fail.
However, there is the issue of how we live together in community and the role of leadership in that process. If one of the people in your community is divisive (for whatever reason), then they need to be lovingly confronted about their attitude/behavior in relating to others. Fighting, quarreling, divisive behavior is sinful; and if one takes the qualifications for a leader from Paul’s writings to Timothy and Titus, this kind of attitude would disqualify a person from leadership. The point isn’t to carry a ‘big stick’ in this regard, but it is necessary out of love for the divisive person and for the rest of the community to call this person on “to love and good deeds.”
Blessings…Jeff



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Doug Peters

posted November 26, 2007 at 9:13 am


In the autumn that my son was five, he came outside with his plastic rake to “help” me rake the leaves. I was extremely proud of him as he kept at it for almost two hours. Toward the end of that time, his elder sister came to the door to remonstrate with Nathanael.
“You’re doing it wrong!” she shouted.
And, indeed, he was: he was holding the rake “incorrectly”; he was often raking the leaves at cross-purposes to his father; he wasn’t particularly efficient in his coverage. In fact, it is quite possible that I could have completed the task more quickly without his help.
But that wasn’t the point. A father and his child were working together. Love was being developed. Great enjoyment was being had on both sides. And this father was particularly pleased with his son, “doing it wrong” and all.
“Oh!” squealed Nathanael’s sister, “It is cold out here.” And she slammed the door, and went back to watching television.
Folks who would rather call out those “doing it wrong” than actually do the work deserve to be warned, and deserve to be challenged (as Jay Kelly suggests above) to “bless the world”.
When we came in, Nathanael happily announced to his mother that “we” had raked the leaves. Indeed. I gave him all the credit he deserved. And perhaps a bit more than that…



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Erlend

posted November 26, 2007 at 9:19 am


I am from a Church that is becoming increasingly Calvinist, mainly I feel because they only read the works of Piper and his ilk (and the lack of prominent non-Calvinist preachers). They do not realize there are other views, they hear it so passionately expressed it becomes the Gospel to them.
So does anyone know of any good works that present an alternative to Calvinism?
Surely getting those into their hands to supplement their Calvinism exposure will help them see their are genuine alternatives that you can hold to- and you still are a orthodox Christian. I have tried to find some, I found Olson’s recent book on Arminianism, which is excellent, but I can’t find much more. Certainly in terms of systematic theology introductions Calvinists dominate the field. I know this is how it has come into Churches I know of, Church house groups want to get a grip of theology and so purchase Grudem, Piper, Culver’s new systematic theology and now I hear Schreiner has a new one coming at as well.
Don’t non-Calvinist scholars have a duty to level the field? If all people ever hear is the enemy’s side, and the strawmen they put- for example a lot of Calvinists think your either Calvinist or Pegalian!
Surely this is the root of the problem.



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Tim Gombis

posted November 26, 2007 at 9:42 am


I’m not so sure, Erlend (#23) that this would help at all. The problem is that there isn’t a dialogue going on at all–it’s like talking to a friend who you know isn’t listening to you but is only waiting for you to stop talking so that they can unload on you their opinions.
So, in addition to a certainty that they are right there is the practice of an intense hermeneutic of suspicion–the conviction that if you talk about “unity” and “love” and “understanding” you’re only doing that to shape a climate into which you can introduce your heresies (i.e., areas where you disagree with them).
I’ve tried to approach such folks in a patient and gracious way but they only get frustrated that I don’t actually fit their straw-man scenario.
It’s actually a matter of discipleship. Such folks need a gracious but strong influence in their lives to help them see that there is a fruitful way of blessing a community and being blessed by a community, and that this does not involve strutting around like a peacock showing your theological feathers.
The most profound theology is one that drives humility and faith-working-through-love.



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Miguel Mesa

posted November 26, 2007 at 9:48 am


I have not read the entire thread of comments so forgive me if what I say is redundant.
My concern is that many people have a grossly generalized caricature and distorted sweeping notion to what a christian with “calvinistic” persuasions handles ones theology in mind and communicative practice with others in the chrisitan community and outside of it. Surely ones experience with any specific culture can draw such conclusions but as it was alluded to earlier in this thread….we hope that all sides of the christian community would posture themselves with a hermeneutical humility.
It has been my experience that there is in the christian community (coming from all spectrums) an overly obsessive emphasis or preoccupation with theological precision. There is a scholarly value to want to “arrive” at truth…propositionally speaking, however, it seems to me more often than not this bent is the pursuit of a theological mastery that simply was and is not required of the followers of Christ.
My personal theological distinctives lean in the classic reformed/calvinist/augustinian tradition. However, I hold it loosely and in a relaxed fashion. By no means am I, and others I know in the same camp as I, those who seek to “convert” others theological-soteriological distinctives toward a calvinistic one! That is an aspect of the church that exhibits its immaturity and lack of scholarly virtue.



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Dave

posted November 26, 2007 at 9:48 am


Scot,
I’m not convinced that Calvinists are any more guilty of being “pesky” than other groups. I have heard plenty of vitriolic language and seen displays of arrogance from all kinds of Christians.
Dave



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Alan

posted November 26, 2007 at 9:48 am


I grew up in the Reformed faith, among Dutch Reformers in SouthWestern Michigan. I even attended Calvin College. As a kid and young adult, that was a great culture to be around. There were the “hyper-Calvinists” among us, but for the most part the type of Calvinism I found (especially at Calvin College, at the time) was exciting and open to conversation.
I then moved away from Michigan towards the Mid-Atlantic U.S. For several years, I was part of some non-Reformed churches, and really yearned to get involved in a good Reformed community, as I remembered “Reformed” being as a kid and young adult. A couple years ago my wife and I started attending a Sovereign Grace church (they don’t call themselves a denomination, but they essentially are) — the group of churches headed-up by CJ Mahaney. We were excited about them, because they billed themselves as “essentially Reformed” and yet seemed to have a vivacious worship style. Well, we quickly came to realize that the we weren’t among the same type of Reformed community that I had remembered as a kid. Instead, we were among the “Fundamentalist Reformed.” IT was at that point that I was made aware of the Pipers, Grudems, Mohlers, etc. of the Reformed world — and a somewhat new brand of Reformed theologians. All things “Emergent” were treated as heretical, along with any other Christian movement that didn’t adhere strictly to the above “approved” theologians. The focus was intensly “us vs. them.” All in all, we became increasingly disappointed and troubled throughout the year that we remained within the Sovereign Grace church.
We’ve since left the Sovereign Grace church, and returned to a more non-denominational church. The church we’re a part of is a bit more conservative (and perhaps, even Fundamentalist) than we’d like, but at least we no longer feel like we’re part of a Pharasitical community, as we unfortunately felt like we were at Sovereign Grace.
I’m really saddened to see what the new face of Reformed Christianity looks like today in the U.S.



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T

posted November 26, 2007 at 9:57 am


I think it’s appropriate, certainly when someone wants to continue to debate disputable matters in the faith, that you kindly and firmly say that you don’t think discussing these things with them further is doing them or you any good. I think it’s interesting that Paul gives this kind of advice to both Timothy and Titus. There must be a predictable dynamic here. Maybe soak in those letters a bit, written to young church leaders of new churches.
You could even apologize if you gave the idea that you were interested in debating these things; when in fact you’ve been interested in them as people and on the “bigger matters” of the scriptures. If they press it, be frank that regardless of their view, you view this as a disputable matter (as opposed to an issue of heresy; i.e., there are Christians who disagree on these points), and that you’re not going to have anything to say to them on these issues. Then I would still be completely friendly to them and hopeful for them, and talk about anything but those issues.
God’s best to you.



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scott

posted November 26, 2007 at 10:03 am


Calvin’s genious was ecclessiological and not soteriological. And it has served the body well. The ferventness of neo-tulip stances is in reaction to a new ecclesiology. Their intuition tells them we’re going over the edge institutionally. However, a few of us can’t keep going to church when we know we are the church. To Papists and Calvinists alike this is blasphemy.



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Miguel Mesa

posted November 26, 2007 at 10:04 am


Mr. Doug Peters that was a very beautiful and illustrative story. Thank you.



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Miguel Mesa

posted November 26, 2007 at 10:05 am


I was referring to (#22) by the way.



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jamie

posted November 26, 2007 at 10:15 am


My father-in-law and I were just talking about hyper-Calvinism the other day. He was upset that a friend of his teaches a class that gives an alternative to Calvinism. I myself am grateful for the class because it brought me out of a spiritual depression–I had been Calvinist but grew weary of the determinism. I told my father-in-law that there are many churches here in Arizona that teach Calvinism as gospel, but no one else was willing to give an alternative except for this one man. Praise God for him for he gets a lot of criticism for being “divisive”.



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Howard Walters

posted November 26, 2007 at 10:20 am


This issue was discussed by Paul in I Corinthians chapter 1 (from the Message):
I have a seriouis concern to bring up with you, my friends, using the authority of Jesus, our Master. I’ll put it as urgently as I can: You must get along with each other. You must learn to be considerate of one another, cultivating a life in common. I bring this up because some from Chloe’s family brought a most disturbing report to my attention–that you’re fighting among yourselves! I tell you exactly what I was told: You’re all picking sides, going around saying, “I’m on Paul’s side, or “I’m for Apollos” or “Peter is my man” or “I’m in the Messian group.” I ask you, “Has the Messiah been chopped up in little pieces so we can each have a relic all our own?”….God didn’t send me out to collect a following for myself, but to preach the Message of what he has done, collecting a following for him. And he didn’t send me to do it with a lot of fancy rhetoric of my own, lest the powerful action at the center–Christ on the cross–be trivialized into mere words. (vs. 10-17).
I see in this scripture both the problem (the trivialization of the power of the work of Christ) and the solution (loving confrontation (my friends) in the authority of Jesus.) Paul would not even have his own “position” considered as it led to schism in the body (I am glad I didn’t baptize many of you). It is a shame that the words that were originally Calvin’s devotional thoughts on scripture have become extra-biblical proof-texts for orthodoxy.



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Anonymous

posted November 26, 2007 at 10:32 am


Denny Burk » McKnight vs. ???Hyper-Calvinism???

Pesky Calvinists?
Scot McKnight asks how you would respond to this letter: The main reason I am writing is to see if you know anything a person can do in response to hyper-calvinism. Around these parts, we are getting killed by very…—–
[...] Scot McKnight has posted a letter from one of his readers who is having a problem with “hyper-Calvinists.” I put “hyper-Calvinist” in quotes because the term never really gets used in a way that is consistent with its ordinary definition. Hyper-Calvinism is marked by at least two characteristics: (1) it minimizes human responsibility to believe the gospel, and (2) it will not allow the free offer of the gospel to sinners. Hyper-Calvinists believe that only the elect should have the gospel preached to them (Peter Toon, “Hyper-Calvinism”in The New Dictionary of Theology). [...]



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Darryl

posted November 26, 2007 at 10:37 am


I’m really grateful for the type of Calvinism modeled by Tim Keller and Redeemer in NYC. Although strongly Reformed, they plant churches with non-Reformed evangelicals all over. They hold to their beliefs but aren’t condescending to non-Calvinists.
Keller said earlier this year, “We can’t avoid drawing boundaries. Everyone does it, and if they say you’re not doing it, then you’re drawing a boundary by saying you’re not doing it. But what matters is how we treat the people on the other side of the boundary. We’re going to win the younger leaders if we are the most gracious and the most kind and the least self-righteous in controversy toward people on the other side of the boundary.”
All this to say: I fear the charges of inflexibility and lack of grace may be true a lot of times, but thank God for exceptions. I know a few.



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Tom Hein

posted November 26, 2007 at 10:41 am


John Piper is not a a hyper-Calvinist in the theological sense. Hyper-Calvinists do not believe in evangelism, and John is very evangelism and missions minded. That said, I am a Calvinist, I read John Piper, have attended his pastor’s conferences, and appreciate his ministry. I believe John’s zeal to be very authentic, but there are times when I find his style irritating to the point of being obnoxious. So, when that happens I read or listen to a message by Jack Hayford or come over here to see what’s up.
So, my encouragement is to read Piper, learn from him, and encourage the people in your church to do the same. Then, gradually expand their theological universe in other directions. We can learn from all sorts of traditions and theologies and still think for ourselves. My suspicion is that the people who seem irritating in this congregation are driven by a desire to see this young pastor dig into Scripture and theology. And, they are Calvinists because they believe it to be biblical. As they mature they may eventually accept that you can hold a soteriological position that is not Calvinist if you are so led, but you will have to demonstrate that you are a beaver for the Bible or they will just think you are a nice, but naive young pastor.



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Bob

posted November 26, 2007 at 10:54 am


I’m so theologically “young” and am deeply convicted by the thoughts in this thread. The current stage of my journey is deeply enamored and excited about the Christocentricity of Reformed theology. For me, the Scriptures have a more unified and beautiful message than they’ve ever had. So much so, that I am amazed when others do not “see it”.
Unfortunately, the perception that one has discovered a secret of infinite wealth and majesty removes the humility and patience that characterizes a servant of Christ. But that doesn’t diminish the beauty I’ve found, rather it is a signpost towards the next leg of the road.
Discussions like this help.



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Elaine

posted November 26, 2007 at 10:57 am


Can you explain to this Catholic how a fixation on a particular theologian’s interpretation of Scripture, whether that be Calvin or Piper or Spurgeon, fits into the “plain sense of Scripture” that you folks talk about and how it doesn’t set up some kind of Magisterium? In fact…a whole lot of them?
I truly don’t understand, at all.



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mike kerns

posted November 26, 2007 at 11:00 am


New converts -vs- churched folks…
I have a special place in my heart for those who are called to lead and participate in the grand adventure of churchplanting.
What if when a new churchplant was sent they were equipped to build intentional relationships with not-yet-christians? Which in turn would lead to a church that grew primarily through new converts. Wouldn’t this kind of churchplant eliminate most of the frustrating conflicts of theological differences simply because now the burden of discipleship in to the ways of Jesus lay on the shoulders of the leaders of the churchplant?
Any thoughts?



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Bill Crawford

posted November 26, 2007 at 11:03 am


I’ve been a Calvinist within Calvinist circles for over 30 years. I’d like to think I have not been “hyper” (in either sense of the word in this context) about it. But if I haven’t, it’s because of certain Reformed models I’ve had. Direct your hyper-Calvinist friends to John Frame, Vern Poythress, Richard Gaffin, the late C. John (“Jack”) Miller as current examples. Historically, suggest they read Warfield, Hodge, Alexander (founder of Princeton Theological Seminary) and many of the Puritan devotional books. I doubt you’ll get much mileage suggesting they read non-Calvinists, but there are Calvinists of the “better sort” that might affect their attitudes and promote godly humility.



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Tim Gombis

posted November 26, 2007 at 11:22 am


Well said, Bill (#40), along with others. There are many strands of Reformed communities and traditions, along with many Calvinist ones. The particular brand of narrowness afflicts many folks, not only the Calvinist/Reformed. The only point here is that there is a resurgence of intense and ugly fundamentalism among some evangelicals who have embraced a certain strand of Calvinism.



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Howard Walters

posted November 26, 2007 at 11:33 am


Elaine (#38)…you wryly poke your finger right in the dirty secret of protestants. In rejecting papal authority as “unbiblical,” many protestants substituted a pantheon of “father-figures” who have been placed into positions of authority–Calvin et al. Hence, we continue to parce the words of men instead of the scriptures themselves.
Scot…didn’t you write to the issue of biblical authority and systematic theology in an essay that floated around on Emergent a while back–the 4 streams or something? There were sections there that, if that is your paper I’m remembering, seem to fit this thread of conversation tangentially. At least the notion of allowing the bible to speak. Don’t know why this came to mind.



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Julie Clawson

posted November 26, 2007 at 11:35 am


I find it interesting that a number of comments here ignore the struggle in the letter by questioning the validity of the experience or at least the vocab used to describe it. So what if it is called hyper-calvinism or radical reformed or whatever. And so what if names are named. This is a very real phenomenon that has caused a lot of pain in certain areas of the church.
I spent time in the BGC and experienced the reformed witch hunts first hand. I and a good number of others (mostly women) have left places like The Ooze because of the reformed mafia intent on dominating others with their opinions. The most consistently condemning voice I hear is from reformed circles. This is a problem.
I know there has been much good from Calvinism and that not all reformed people are like this. I don’t think anyone here is saying that. But those of us who have had our Christianity questioned because we don’t follow one guy’s theological ideas or who have been ridiculed by the reformed thought police wish there was a better way forward.



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Scott M

posted November 26, 2007 at 11:42 am


Bob, if you enjoy Christocentric, I would commend Orthodox writings to you. They are actually more Triune, but since the fullness of the Godhead has been made known to us in Christ, Jesus is the lens through which all scripture is viewed. I’m not sure you can get more Christocentric.



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kent

posted November 26, 2007 at 11:44 am


The issue for this youing man is behavior more than theology. It is not Piper, it is not any one person they read or follow, it is how they are functioning as followers of Christ. Yes theology does shape behavior. But I am unaware of any theological position that says you can behave in a bullying manner and it is okay. What theology advocates being a jerk? This is behavioral more than theological.
This young man has gone the extra mile with these people, even paid their lunch (BTW, the Dutch are notoriously frugal and love it when you pay for lunch:)) In being kind he has not received kindness in return. Whoever these people are they needto understand that this behavior is not accpetable and will not be tolerated.
To whoever you are, now is the time invite the conference and denomination staff ibnto the situation,. This is a church plant this kind of behavior can kill a plant quicker than anything. They have a vested interest in this plant and they will help. Don’t go it alone with these people. You will tire out before they do. get some support in dealing with these people.



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Eric

posted November 26, 2007 at 11:59 am


I had a Church history professor while in seminary who used to remind us that what the leader does or believes in moderation, the follower usually does or believes in excess. Put another way, some people try to out Calvin Calvin, or out Piper Piper. As I recall, Calvin didn’t invent TULIP, his followers did. On the flip side, my wife grew up in an extremely legalistic Arminian Holiness group. Prairie dresses were the norm. These people love Wesley, but one always gets the feeling that they’re trying to out Wesley Wesley. They’re trying to take Weslyan teaching places that Wesley never intended for it to go.
Sinful human beings like control. The extreme Calvinist likes the control of being rigorously logical, and showing that he understands God better than others. After all, to understand something is to have mastery over it. The legalist (Calvinist or otherwise) likes the control that comes from the facade that he’s arrived at sinless perfection. The extreme Arminian likes the control of knowing that he alone is the master of his destiny.
Our pastor friend is dealing with sinful people. He will probably never please them unless the Holy Spirit changes their hearts. As a pastor, I know what this feels like. Recently, a couple in our church labeled me as an ???antinomian??? (it???s not a good sign when someone calls you a name and you don???t know the definition). No matter what I do, the label is stuck. The funny thing is that I don???t disagree with any point that they???ve made, but they???re convinced that they???ve got me figured out. So what do you do? You pray through it, stay humble, rely on the fact that God is doing something in your life, and don???t throw out the positives of Calvinism (I believe there are many) because of sinful people.



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John Frye

posted November 26, 2007 at 12:02 pm


I think Eddie (#10) hit on a key point–”However, my observation is that to be ???Reformed??? is as much about a culture as it is about a theological position. To be ???Reformed??? involves making strong judgements about the soundness or otherwise of everything from books, to Bible translations and on to people.”
There can be conversational, relational Calvinists who respect human dignity and the right to disagree. They are rare. Why? Because, as Eddie pointed out, there is a *culture*–an arrogant, “we’re right; you’re wrong” spirit in many Calvinists. Tight, logic-driven systems do not tolerate any wiggle room. A lot of Calvinists are not Christocentric, but Calvocentric, and relentlessly so.



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josenmiami

posted November 26, 2007 at 12:15 pm


Mike, #39 … I would say an emphatic “yes”. We really need to figure out how to plant “church-goer hostile” churches that really do reach truly unchurched people. they really don’t care about the fine points of theology …they want to figure out how to survive in life, especially the 20-somethings. If you can gather unchurched young people and get their attention, I say “keep it simple” and just teach them the essential imperatives of Christ ….things like Love God, Love your neighbor, love your enemy and “do not judge.”



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Friend of Pascal

posted November 26, 2007 at 12:20 pm


Scott M, you recommended to Bob Orthodox writings. Any specific suggestions? I am embarrassingly ignorant of Orthodox material.



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JACK

posted November 26, 2007 at 12:21 pm


Honestly, I don’t have much to add as I truthfully couldn’t define what Calvinism is if I tried. But it strikes me that the honest answer to this pastor, taking what he has said at face value, is that there’s not much he can do.
The most powerful thing to me is to engage people at the level of experience. Don’t let it be what passes for theology for most – i.e., abstract head-knowledge. If someone is willing to engage you at the level of their real experiences — talk about their lives in a very concrete way — then there’s a chance for dialogue. It sounds like the pastor may have tried this. He speaks of trying to build a relationship with these people. Good for him for trying. Of course, going out for coffee with folks, but then engaging them in discussion in the same way about theology as happened prior to the coffee seems like the ultimate waste in time. So I hope he didn’t do that.
In the end, it’s not completely up to us. They are frustrated that they can’t force us to accept their “logic”. We can’t be frustrated that we can’t force them to see the error of their ways.
Of course this leaves one with the mess that the situation hasn’t changed. But then, that’s life.



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Scott M

posted November 26, 2007 at 12:34 pm


Pascal, I’m not Orthodox myself, so I hesitate to make specific recommendations. Nevertheless, I think it’s safe to recommend St. John Chrysostom and any decent collection of the Desert Fathers. For a more modern take, I’ve personally enjoyed everything I’ve ever read by Frederica Mathewes-Green. Or for present-day, but much deeper writings, perhaps one of the books written by Father Seraphim Rose. Part of the problem in recommending Orthodox writings is that Orthodoxy seems to be much more organic than intellectual. That is not to say it has not and does not contain many great intellectuals. It has and does. But the particular writing or author who will be most helpful to you seems to have as much to do with where you are in the life in Christ as anything else.
If that makes any sense.



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JT

posted November 26, 2007 at 12:40 pm


I’ll confess I haven’t been on this site before and came here because of the link off of Denny Burk’s blog. I read the opening letter with interest–especially the following quote,
“The problem is that they just are relentless. Absolutely no discussion or compromise. I have had the life kicked out of me at my church this past year by some of these people. For them, it just isn???t good enough to be a solid evangelical who really loves Jesus and wants to serve him. It has to be all about reformed theology.”
I know what the writer feels because I have been through it and could write the same words–with one exception–instead of “It has to be all about reformed theology…” I would have to put, “It has to be about non-reformed theology.”
The truth of the matter is you are dealing with people who are simply not living in a Christlike manner and you can hang almost any title on them, but it isn’t a title issue–it is a heart issue.
I hold to all of the doctrines of grace and base that from my study of Scripture. Piper and others have helped me, but the doctrines of grace are clearly taught in the Bible. I have many friends who do not share my beliefs and my goal isn’t to change them–my goal is to help them see the beauty of God.
For me it all comes down to this question–Who is the author of your salvation? The more I study it and the more I meditate upon it I can not get away from this fact–God is the Author.
I have always been happy to discuss theology with anyone, but I am not going to argue with them. Our goal must be to take the Bible and open it and see what God says about it and let that settle the issue!



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Friend of Pascal

posted November 26, 2007 at 12:45 pm


Scott, your comments make perfect sense and were most helpful. Thanks a lot.



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Julie

posted November 26, 2007 at 1:00 pm


#45 (Kent) The issue for this young man is behavior more than theology. It is not Piper, it is not any one person they read or follow, it is how they are functioning as followers of Christ. Yes theology does shape behavior. But I am unaware of any theological position that says you can behave in a bullying manner and it is okay. What theology advocates being a jerk? This is behavioral more than theological.
No, I disagree. It’s cultural more than behavioral. The culture of the reformed crowd takes great pleasure and pride in having precisely thought out theological positions that give them deep satisfaction as to their status before God and the power of the Bible in their lives. They wish to “share” this perspective, but they do so from the point of view of being right-er than the rest.
The “hyper” in Calvinism can be translated as “argumentative.” The culture encourages intellectualism and apologetics of the systematic theological kind. Intellectualism is most satisfied by argument and persuasion.
Think about the books by those in this camp: RC Sproul, Piper, Schaeffer, Wilson, MacArthur… Heavy on doctrine, argument and, oh why not? Let’s throw in patriarchy too.
I remember after coming home from spending time at L’Abri while Francis Schaeffer was there that I was troubled by predestination and never felt persuaded by all the effort put into convincing me otherwise. I went to my Campus Crusade director at the time (an elder at John MacArthur’s church, no less).
I was belittled, told that I was listening to the enemy, that as a woman, I was not to make these judgments and that I was not submitting to pastoral leadership, that I was on the verge of heresy.
So began my uneasy relationship to reformed theology and Christians. I spent the next 25 years with them online, in my family, on our missionary team and in my homeschooling world. The universal shared trait? Condescending argumentativeness bordering on brutality.



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josenmiami

posted November 26, 2007 at 1:07 pm


hey Julie #53, I agree with you. There are a lot of cultural issues with Christians, the church and with the Reformed crowd. I would have extend that to other groups in addition to the reformed folks … I think there is a whole cultural mindset with the religious right that comes off as angry and judgmental and causes secular people to back away.
There seems to be a lot of social or cultural pressure right now on people of faith to go one of two directions: to either harden their positions and become defensive and argumentative with anyone who disagrees, or 2) to become very disillusioned with the church, Christianity and religion in general and to drop out and follow a private faith. I find myself leaning heavily in the second group. These are troubled time we find ourselves in.



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Winn Griffin

posted November 26, 2007 at 1:08 pm


Two things that a mentor of mine shared with me have served me well over the years. They are:
“Your brother is not your enemy, your enemy is your enemy.”
“You can’t get there from here.”
There is hyper-everything in theology. When we make it about who is right and who is wrong, who is in and who is out, our brother/sister becomes our enemy.
Sometimes one has to just move on.



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Bob

posted November 26, 2007 at 1:15 pm


Pascal (in #49) thanks for asking my question. Scott M (in #51) thanks for answering it.



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Alan

posted November 26, 2007 at 1:30 pm


In the final analysis, I guess what I’ve found amongst my acquantences who are “neo-Calvinists” (or fundamental, hyper, or whatever other word you want to use to describe this current phenomenon of Calvinism), is the lack of safety I feel around them in being able to openly dialogue about or explore questions about God. Why don’t I feel safe around them? Because of the very real threat of being perceived by them as if I’m not “really” a Christian. Too many times in the past when I’ve wanted to openly talk about questions, or if I’ve stated positions that aren’t perfectly in line with their theological understanding, I’ve suddenly found myself on the receiving end of being witnessed to. The first time it happened was a shock.
I can stand theological disagreement. That’s fine. I don’t believe two thinking people are ever going to be 100% in perfect agreement with each other over every fine point of theology. But when you disagree with some one (i.e., a neo-Calvinist) who then questions your fundamental saving relationship with Christ, that’s when it gets scary and where honest conversation stops. In some ways, this is the style of a cultish environment, is is not? A cult wants to force-feed you its established doctrine, wants to hear you resite it vermatim, and doesn’t want you to think it through like a mature adult.



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Stephan

posted November 26, 2007 at 1:30 pm


I take “hyper-Calvinist” to mean that one cannot be a Christian unless they are also a Calvinist. If you are not a Calvinist, you cannot be a Christian, or at least not a good Christian. The only way to deal with someone who questions whether or not you are a Christian is to demonstrate, through words and deeds, that you are. Hopefully from this they will learn that their definition is too narrow, but if they don’t learn there is really nothing you can do.
If others judge you on standards that you don’t believe are valid, your only choice is to live up to your own standards and try to help others to see that they are valid.
It also would not hurt to remind them that, regardless of theology, we are all called to live the same way – to live a life of grace and love.



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Brian M.

posted November 26, 2007 at 1:35 pm


I don’t have any specific advice for the original letter, but I am a little concerned about many of the subsequent comments. I read a lot of labeling from the comments on this post: “them,” “enemy’s side,” “people who follow Piper,” etc., etc. Many here are doing exactly that which they accuse Calvinists and “people who follow Piper” of doing.
I understand there have been bad experiences. But, for the record, a pastor friend of mine wrote one comment on this blog (somehow the conversation was about perseverance in Hebrews) and he was immediately shot back stating that his conservative/evangelical (my words) view was not contributing anything to the conversation. He doesn’t read this blog any more.
I confess that I am BGC, Reformed and love Piper’s stuff. But I am also currently reading (and loving) Peterson, Hirsch, Bonhoeffer, Olson, Wright, and all things emergent. So I confess, too, that I feel somewhat attacked here. The Calvinists in this letter and some of the writers of these comments need to live out the Jesus Creed a little better.



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Elaine

posted November 26, 2007 at 1:39 pm


Hey Howard (42), I didn’t mean to be snide or anything. I just honestly don’t understand. If its meaning is plain and self-evident, why do you need interpreters? And who decides who’s right? It just confuses me, especially when, as a Catholic, I’m sneered at for having a faith that isn’t about a direct relationship with Christ, when in fact, I feel it is very direct, without having to filter it through the opinions of Calvin or make sure that it would meet the standards of interpretation set by Luther, or worrying what this John Piper fellow would say about it.



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Alan

posted November 26, 2007 at 1:47 pm


Brian (#59). I don’t think most of the posters here today are attempting to blast Reformed theology per-se. Instead, I think they’re (me too) are calling attention to what has been for many of us the “elephant in the room” that’s getting increasingly more difficult to ignore. That elephant would be this societal phenomenon many of us are noticing when attempting to interact with some of our Calvinist brothers/sisters. It’s worrisome and can be personally scary. I think we’re perhaps trying to understand why the reason behind this phenomenon that we’re perceiving.



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[rhymes with kerouac]

posted November 26, 2007 at 1:47 pm


Why doesn’t he just ask them to leave? Maybe I’m wrong, but aren’t we really talking about sheep in wolf’s clothing here?
You can’t oust everybody (or even anybody) who has a minor disagreemet with the pastor, but this is just waaaaay beyond that. Say good-bye and be done with it. Your ulcers will thank you.



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Ben Wheaton

posted November 26, 2007 at 1:51 pm


Perhaps the movement described in the above comments (mostly negatively) does tend to be somewhat strident in its attitudes; most new movements tend in this direction. However, I think the reason why the new Reformed group likes to talk about specifics in theology and debate it is because for too long Evangelicalism has been too shallow in its theology. A ubiquitous “mere christianity” ruled (and in many places, continues to rule) the church. Now, there is a place for “mere christianity” but in excess it is harmful and fails to nourish Christians. The new Reformed movement is concerned with deep theology, mostly in the propositional and expositional sense. This is diametrically opposed to the Emerging Church tendency, so perhaps it also explains why there is hostility between the two trends. Interesting that this should be so, when both groups came out of the same source and were reacting to the same thing in Evangelicalism.
Julie,
Um, yes…it is proper to believe that you are right in holding your positions, otherwise there is no use in holding them. Saying that Calvinists are “brutal” in their argumentation merely shows that they believe themselves to be right–and I am sure that you believe the same about most of your beliefs (e.g. patriarchy is wrong).



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kent

posted November 26, 2007 at 1:53 pm


I remember after coming home from spending time at L???Abri while Francis Schaeffer was there that I was troubled by predestination and never felt persuaded by all the effort put into convincing me otherwise. I went to my Campus Crusade director at the time (an elder at John MacArthur???s church, no less). I was belittled, told that I was listening to the enemy, that as a woman, I was not to make these judgments and that I was not submitting to pastoral leadership, that I was on the verge of heresy.
Julie # 53 I am sorry you encountered that mentality. It is frustrating no matter what label is applied to it to have those who claim to serve the Jesus treat as someone is a lesser person. I agree there is a cultural component to this behavior, that the culture of a branch of the reformed movement gives rise to this attitude. But it is the behavior of those who are coming into a church to change it to their liking that cannot be allowed. They are acting a like virus and they may need to be treated in the same way. Tolerating their behavior will only encourage them and give this culture a foothold in a church that is not from a reformed tradition.



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Josh Rockett

posted November 26, 2007 at 2:04 pm


I grew up in a hotbed of Reformed Theology–West Michigan. I went to a CRC church while growing up. I went to a Christian School where I was taught Reformed Theology in every Bible class, and was expected to go to CAlvin College after I graduated. So I know exactly what you’re talking about when you speak of the “my way or the highway” reformed person-I have been around them most of my life. After I graduated from High School I was “extremely rebellious” and chose to go to a state university instead of Calvin College. I think this was because I was just so sick of the people that you are describing. But after two years at that state university I acquired a yearning to do ministry and transfered to (of all places) REFORMED Bible College (now Kuyper College). While there I was still in the middle of the Reformed Theology brick wall, but I learned a lot-especially about dealing with “hyper-calvinists” as you call them. (So finally, after my brief autobiography, I am going to try to help you with your questions about dealing with these people as much as i can)
- Reformed theology’s backbone is of course TULIP ( a constant reminder i had of this growing up in Holland, Michigan was the Tulip Time festival every March when there were thousands of tulips everywhere…..ANYWAY..) Most of the focus is on the soteriological aspect that TULIP presents….. i.e. election. The Reformed position/person believes in election as the “ends” (by “ends” i pretty much mean salvation in its traditional-getting-to-heaven definition) Now whether you believe in election/predestination or not–one thing that i have found that helps with speaking with people of the reformed tradition is to remind them that God doesnt just provide the “ends” but the “means” as well. We are his “means”– we are to live the Jesus Creed everyday hoping to be the “means” to the “ends.” (I hope this makes sense…)
-Also-calvinists also hold on tightly to the creation/fall/redemption worldview. Once again-whether you believe it or not-you can lean heavily on the redemption aspect of this and what we can do to in our everyday lives (calling on the Jesus Creed again) to bring about redemption in various arenas. (some good resources on this idea are “Andrew Wolters book, Creation Regained, and Cornelius Plantinga’s book, Engaging God’s World.
Doing these things has reversed the scorn I had for reformed people growing up-and has brought me to embrace the beauty that the Reformed perspective can offer.



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josenmiami

posted November 26, 2007 at 2:09 pm


#63 – “ubiquitous ‘mere christianity’ ruled the church…”? hmmm…. I don’t remember that ever being the case … I think that might actually be a good thing. I tend to remember a much less charitable form of evangelicalism ruling the church…perhaps because it was more vocal.
The basic thing here is that boils down to do we love? or not? 1 Cor. 13 is pretty clear about the prioty between correct doctrine and agape, as is 1 John. In the midst of current uncertainty and globalization, people are making choices….some feel more secure in choosing theological correctness over love … others may choose a different path. The question is which way is Jesus going?



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Michael Krahn

posted November 26, 2007 at 2:26 pm


Here is a timely bit of audio from Piper himself… just delivered today by way of one of the Desiring God podcast feeds. It deals with boldness, but adds a caution against behavior like Scot describes in his post.
Maybe the best way to deal with them is to have one of their heroes rebuke them.
Listen to the audio here:
http://tinyurl.com/2drx4n



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Scott W

posted November 26, 2007 at 2:34 pm


Hmmm, I took the time to read all the comments on this thread, because it this seems very relevant to the circles I run in. Since I would call myself a Calvinist, and I do really enjoy reading Piper, Mohler, and other popular Calvinist preachers, I figured I’d put my 2 cents in. It pains me to see that there are brothers/sisters in the Lord out there who have been hurt by hyper(enthusiastic)-Calvinists, that instead of constructive dialog, these Calvinists would rather put down and put their nose up at others. I admit, regrettably, that I’ve been one of those Calvinists, and I’ll bet I’ll do it again before I die. Winn Griffin (#55) said it best “There is hyper-everything in theology.” I hear from other Calvinists how they are silently shunned in Arminian churches, or I hear from people who are labeled “un-spiritual” because voices in their head don’t tell them what kind of toilet paper to buy.
Let us remember that Jesus prayed for us to be one. It seems He knew how hard it would be for us to do it.



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Stephan

posted November 26, 2007 at 2:39 pm


Ben Wheaton, of course, Calvinists think they are right, Julie thinks she is right and I think I am right.
The different I see with the strident Calvinists (and I think the problem the original author of this post is having) is that they cannot entertain the thought that they might be wrong. Personally, I think Calvinists might be right in how they interpret scripture. I might be very wrong. The little I know of Julie, I think she accepts that she might be wrong.
But dialog is very difficult when one side demands that their way is the only way. This conversation stopper is certainly not limited to Calvinists, but in this post, I think that is the problem. I have no issue with someone holding an opinion and arguing in favor of it, but I have a problem when someone says I cannot be a Christian unless I agree with their rather limited view of God and Scripture. I will not, however, demand they agree with me.
When give and take becomes take and take, dialog breaks down and you may have to part ways. I would not ask them to leave because they are Calvinists, but I would consider asking them to leave if they think only Calvinists can be Christians.



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Taylor George

posted November 26, 2007 at 2:46 pm


Kent at #45 is on to something. This is not 100% an issue of Calvinism vs. Armenianism. It is more about fundamentalism vs. non fundamentalism. Rick Warren vs. John MacArthur.
Let me provide an example: I grew up Plymouth Brethren. We believed in free will here in the Midwest. That group has a lot in common with the MacAthur, Piper crowd. Why, because they’re both separatists, meaning they both think culture should be held at a very responsible distance. They both loathe drinking, smoking, dancing, and movies, and think that you shouldn???t make friends with non-Christians (unless you???re going to proselytize). Everyone is Non-Christian who isn???t in their group, most especially Roman Catholics.
The problem with the fundamental crowd isn???t proper head knowledge. They???ve got that down. It???s having the proper motivation for dealing with others. They suffer from a lack of love. To which they might respond to me, ???telling the truth is love, and you are soft on hell and that???s not love either.??? And maybe they would have a point I will learn from, but I doubt I???d ever get a point in on them. So my advice is never converse with a fundamentalist because by virtue of who they are, they aren???t listening.



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MatthewS

posted November 26, 2007 at 3:15 pm


I have expressed this before and don’t want to sound like a broken record, but I think that one mistake that Christians make, especially those of the conservative stripe, is to overemphasize the soldier metaphor. The NT contains many metaphors, including soldier, farmer, nursing mother, family, body, building, fruit, vine and branches, the list goes on. I believe that Piper says some good things. But I think he makes “soldier” the dominant metaphor to which all others submit. Of course, Piper is by no means the only teacher who does this.
I think that such teachers tend to attract people who operate more from anger than from gentleness – who are more interested in being right than in being kind. It is possible for such people to be characterized more by fruit of the flesh (Gal 5, Col 3, others) than by fruit of the Spirit.



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Julie

posted November 26, 2007 at 3:20 pm


#63 Julie,
Um, yes???it is proper to believe that you are right in holding your positions, otherwise there is no use in holding them. Saying that Calvinists are ???brutal??? in their argumentation merely shows that they believe themselves to be right???and I am sure that you believe the same about most of your beliefs (e.g. patriarchy is wrong).

Ben, let me agree with you first. I agree that the popularity of the reformed movement is due to the sometimes pathetically shallow theology of many non-denom evangelical churches. One of the reasons I enjoyed my time at L’Abri, attended their conferences in the states, went to John MacArthur’s church every Sunday night in college and so on is that I *love* intellectual discussion, line by line study of Scripture, the sharp insights into culture (and the generous approach to the arts) evidenced in reformed communities. I would be a perfect recruit based on those qualities alone.
What turned me off and soured me so completely (beyond the terrifying idea of predestination) was the attitudes of the reformed themselves when they were around me when I expressed my own point of view. I would describe the experience as a “one-way valve.” My pov was discredited while theirs was to be attended to with utmost detail.
I’ve been sent tape series, given books and articles, debated on forums, challenged on my own blog, in my own personal relationships… not because I seek it out, but because I express my different point of view.
I don’t think brutality can ever be reduced to merely believing you are right and the other person is wrong. Name-calling, tireless debating even when asked to leave a topic alone, haranguing, giving books to correct thinking, threatening to remove you from leadership… these go beyond “I believe I’m right.”
I used the word “brutal” because I’ve experienced the unrelenting cruelty of some who hold the reformed point of view. Seems I’m not alone in that experience. To me, when there is an experience described by a group that goes beyond one or two isolated accounts, it seems important to at least consider the possibility that it contains seeds of accuracy.
Julie
Do I think my views are “right”? I hardly even think in those categories any more. Patriarchy I threw in because it adds leverage to males who use it as a trump to prevent discussion with me. This happened much more when I was in my 20s than it does now that I’m in my forties.
Someone else asserted that the religious right is filled with those who are obnoxious in their claims of “righteous” belief and theology. I certainly know that there are liberals and atheists and others who are also brutal in their delivery of their viewpoints.
This discussion, however, is about the culture of those in the reformed camp. The incidence of feeling dismissed, judged, attacked, tirelessly debated, challenged, found to be heretical and so on is high. It does seem to go with the territory. Unfortunately.
Stephan



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Julie

posted November 26, 2007 at 3:27 pm


I goofed on the signing of my post. The Julie should go where the Stephan is. All of it is written by me.



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Julie

posted November 26, 2007 at 3:28 pm


To Benjamin A. Question:
What???s wrong with ???having precisely thought out theological positions???? Is one considered more humble/loving/evangelical/etc. if they have theological positions that require no scholarship?

Nope.
Scholarship alone doesn’t make you more of less loving. Or shouldn’t.



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Bob Brague

posted November 26, 2007 at 3:45 pm


I really can’t contribute anything to this thread as I am a convinced Jewish-Metho-Bapti-costal except at those times when I fear that I might actually be a closet Jewish-Metho-Bapti-costal-palian. But I do have a burning question. Three or four of you have used the term “BGC” and I haven’t a clue as to what you’re talking about. Could someone please explain? Apparently it is very important to some correspondents here and I would like to understand.
The whole infra-Calvinist-to-ultra-Armenian spectrum has a name: the body of Christ. The foot is not the hand, and the ear is not the eye. Just because the ear says, “Because I am not the eye, I am not in the body,” (and where would he get that idea except from some pushy, unloving eye?) doesn’t mean the ear is not part of the body. Or does it? Paul Somebody wrote something along these lines once.
A dear pastor we used to have said that as we entered Heaven, we would see “Whosoever will may come” chiseled over the entrance. And once inside, if we looked back over our shoulders, we would see “Chosen in Him from the foundation of the world” chiseled over the entrance. Of course, that was at a non-denominational church.
Love your enemies; it will drive them crazy.



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Taylor George

posted November 26, 2007 at 3:48 pm


My brother in law told me this summer that you must be a Calvinist to be a Christian. Who are his favorite pastors? John Piper, John MacArthur, Al Mohler, and RC Sproul.



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RJS

posted November 26, 2007 at 3:55 pm


Bob,
BGC = Baptist General Conference (once known as Swedish Baptist Conference). Piper’s Church, Bethlehem Baptist in Minneapolis, is part of the BGC (was originally First Swedish Baptist I believe). Piper is active in the conference, but the conference is much, much more diverse than this.



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joseph holbrook

posted November 26, 2007 at 4:07 pm


wow… I am a little amazed that this Calvinist-Armenian thing is still such a big deal… I guess I have been sheltered … I have been part of an association of churches that is much more focused on loving committed relationships, and has allowed a large amount of theological diversity. I guess I should appreciate what I have had …



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Bob Brague

posted November 26, 2007 at 4:13 pm


RJS (#78)
Thank you! Did I mention that for a while I was super-funda-menta-listic-expi-ali-docious? That was when I was GARBC. (I don’t mean to treat this discussion lightly; I just don’t seem to be able to help myself.)
We had another dear pastor (not the “chiseled in stone” one) who said the Apostle John got it right when he said the Lord is “full of grace and truth.” He also said most people are either grace people or truth people, and that the grace people need to get hold of more truth, and the truth people need to get hold of more grace.



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joseph holbrook

posted November 26, 2007 at 4:39 pm


yes, Juan-the-beloved is my hero … started out as as a righteous “son of thunder” and by the end was saying, “little children, love one another” … or as the inmortal Beatles said once, “All we need is love, love, love is all we need.” I hope I can do as well.



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Brian

posted November 26, 2007 at 4:43 pm


Or as Larry Norman put it, “The Beatles said ‘all we need is love,’ and then they broke up.”



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kent

posted November 26, 2007 at 4:45 pm


RJS – the BGC are our cousins spiritual speaking – to the Evangelical Covenant Church. When did Swedes get so cantankerous, we like to hang out and drink coffee, the non-foo-foo variety.:)



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josenmiami

posted November 26, 2007 at 4:53 pm


good point Brian… it is much easier to sing about than it is to walk it out. If I remember right, Larry had his own difficulties as well… glad none of us are qualified to cast the first stone.



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RJS

posted November 26, 2007 at 5:00 pm


kent,
All the lutefisk, lefse, and lingenberries (and strong coffee but that doesn’t fit my alliteration).
Yup – ECC arose from swedish dissidents as well I hear.



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Rod Pickett

posted November 26, 2007 at 5:24 pm


There are several different issues at play here.
* In a church plant there is a tendency to be so desperate for people that a pastor will try to accommodate every individual’s wishes.
* It is not possible to accommodate all theological positions or ministry philosophies.
* A congregation must have a default position. This doesn’t mean that no deviation is tolerated. But some things cannot constantly be debated.
* There are obnoxious Christians of every variety. But there is something inherent in Calvinism that causes people always to be drawing lines. I know some gracious Calvinists. But, honestly, they live above their theology.
* There are different ways to be convinced that what you believe is true. I am confident that all my positions are better than their alternatives, or I wouldn’t believe them. But I also am open to the possibility (near certainty) that some of them will have to be adjusted or even radically changed. I also am prepared to accept other Christians would hold different views as thoughtful, dedicated, genuine followers of Christ.
My suggestion would be for the pastor to communicate the following:
“Can you be happy in a congregation where you are the only Calvinists? If not, you should look for a new church. You are welcome to stay here and be a part of what God does through these people in this community. But if you stay, you will be agreeing not to allow your theological views to become divisive. In fact, this particular dispute will not be an issue for debate or discussion within this congregation.”
If they cannot agree to such terms, it will be better for everyone if they find a place where others share their views.
Rod



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ron

posted November 26, 2007 at 5:35 pm


RJS,
“Latte” might alliterate, but would be not so Nordic.



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kent

posted November 26, 2007 at 5:46 pm


According to Garrison Keillor little bit if lefse goes a long way.



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Doug Peters

posted November 26, 2007 at 5:47 pm


On occasion, I’ve responded to those waving the “CalvInvincible” badge in my face with a smile and a line something like “I pray that you will never have to experience anything that will make you have to rethink that position.” (said with genuine sincerity)
They usually pause, reflect, smile, and say “thanks” :-)



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M Burke

posted November 26, 2007 at 6:15 pm


A more complete response here: radongas.blogspot.com. TTFN and don’t forget your hat!



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Jacob

posted November 26, 2007 at 6:32 pm


I am not a 5 point Calvinist and have butted heads with many of them in the past as our church got more and more reformed Baptist. I eventually had to leave the church (or maybe pushed out because I wasn’t one of them).
However, I must say that although I didn’t come to same conslusions as those Cavinists, I really, really appreciated their love for and dedication to the Bible. They believe what they do because they believe the Bible teaches it – that is refreshing in anything goes Christedom we have today.
The other important distinction to make is being a Calvinist or Non-Calvinist a secondary or fundamental issue? There are some issues worth fighting over but not secondary issues….



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Dan Brennan

posted November 26, 2007 at 7:01 pm


I’m coming in this a little bit late, but I used to be one of those “pesky Calvinists.” I guess it was God’s will I’m not in that culture anymore. Old habits, hard to break. :-)
It is a particular kind of culture, but its not too different from other within various species of Christianity in America (particular chronology in eschatological schemes, etc.).
I’m still friends with some of the Calvinists from my past. Our patience doesn’t get much exercise with those who are not “pesky.” The capacity to bless them and honor their beliefs as much as possible is the way to go with an understanding that many of them will continue to be “pesky” and “stuck” in their theology. It’s not just theology, but a hermenuetic imbued with a life-and-death importance on many “unessetional” issues to those outside the culture.



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Dan Brennan

posted November 26, 2007 at 7:04 pm


Whoops… I emphasize a word in quotation marks and can’t even see that I am spelling it wrong…sorry “unessential”.
That’s what happens when I o have to look at the keys to type and I hit send too fast. :-)



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Steve

posted November 26, 2007 at 7:14 pm


I think that the radicalism and ungracious attitude depicted is somewhat of a “conversion syndrome” of any religious group (including Charismatics, various wings of the pentecostal movement, new christians, Old Brethrenism, Wesleyan perfectionism, Small group churches, renewal, SDAism and hinduism and islam!) I don’t think it has anything to do with the truth or non truthfulness of the positions espoused. It has to do with the way that conversion to new creeds (or old creeds) has of re-aligning our world views in life-changing ways. This results in an emotional bonding to the system, whatever the system may be. I don’t believe it has anything to do with real convevrsion that the Lord Jesus spoke of in Matthew’s gospel. (Matthew 18:33 And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. ) which has to do with conversion to HIM.
I would take a 5 point calvinistic position, but find myself avoiding many fellow 5 pointers who are more enthusiastic about the new system they have converted to, than the Saviour that John Calvin preached!
I think the appropriate method of handling these problems is to preach up the Lord Jesus Christ, and the believer’s responsibility to have communion and fellowship with Him, and NOT directly attack the opposing world view. Be on the attack with the gospel. If we attack the opposing world view DIRECTLY and CONFRONTATIONALLY, thre is the tendency for the advocates of that world view to dig in, and draw out alliances. 2 timothy 2:24 24 And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, 25 In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; 26 And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.
I pastored a charismatic church for 6 years, and saw many charismatics converted to following Christ, rather than a charismatic ideology. It was preaching Christ and Him crucified that became the priority as it always must be!
Steve



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B-W

posted November 26, 2007 at 7:26 pm


Having just come back from Thanksgiving vacation where I had to deal with pretty much ALL of my extended family (ALL of my aunts and uncles, from BOTH sides of my family, and all four Grandparents!), this is a timely question for me. Not so much in regard to Calvinism, per se (hyper or otherwise), but definitely in the realm of “how do we continue to live peaceably with each other while having considerable theological differences?”.
Both my wife and I are seminary graduates, and my wife is currently seeking her PhD while also pursuing ordination in the ECUSA (I’m Presbyterian, myself). Many of my family members (but by no means all) are of the most conservative right-wing description possible. We feel that we have to walk on eggshells in our discussions. Women’s ordination, gay rights, immigration reform, racism, etc. All are potential explosions waiting to happen.
It really hurts to see so many people say that there’s no point in trying to be reasonable with such people. I’m forced to agree, but it still hurts. These are people that I HAVE to be able to coexist with. Total isolation from them is simply not an option (even if judicious withdrawal from the occasional heated debate is). Trying to be “reasonable” goes to the very core of who I am as a person, and therefore as a Christian.
On one hand, I know such to be a hopeless endeavor. But how else am I to survive?



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John Nicely

posted November 26, 2007 at 7:49 pm


This is addressed to your friend, Scot.
First, a word from John Newton that helped me to understand this problem in myself, and to serve as a great caution against it:
“And I am afraid there are Calvinists, who, while they account it a proof of their humility that they are willing in words to debase the creature, and to give all the glory of salvation to the Lord, yet know not what manner of spirit they are of. Whatever it be that makes us trust in ourselves that we are comparatively wise or good, so as to treat those with contempt who do not subscribe to our doctrines, or follow our party, is a proof and fruit of a self-righteous spirit. Self-righteousness can feed upon doctrines, as well as upon works; and a man may have the heart of a Pharisee, while his head is stored with orthodox notions of the unworthiness of the creature and the riches of free grace.” – John Newton
Second, part of the solution, I believe, is to confront this as an issue of church discipline. Do you have good steps in place in your church to encourage and enact (corrective) discipline in the church that you serve? Encouraging this actively and preaching on it could be one thing that will help.
Another thing would be to walk your church through different sins, how to deal with them, etc. I believe Mark Driscoll told some interesting stories about how he handled sin in the church that he serves a while back at an Acts 29 meeting. I believe it is this one (http://www.acts29network.org/sermon/church-discipline-biblical-responses-to-various-sins–errors) but I could be wrong. If it isn’t, it might be the one that starts with “The 0x – Qualifications of a Church Planter” or something like that. In any case, listen to every single one of them and then you won’t have to worry about missing it :-p.
Finally, if you want to understand another (related) source of the issue, I would encourage you to read A Little Exercise For Young Theologians by Helmut Thielicke.



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Anonymous

posted November 26, 2007 at 8:02 pm


the P.Pole v.2.1 » From “Desiring God”: Be a Kinder Calvinist

[...] This lovely little read popped up on my GR just now and it nailed me. Here’s an excerpt with emphasis from me (click here for the full post by Abraham Piper): The second way to understand the letter is to see it (along with the numerous comments that follow) as abundant evidence that, to many, Calvinists come across as self-righteous, condescending, arrogant, unfriendly, argumentative, and even stingy. The fact that we’re not all that way is irrelevant in the same way that it didn’t matter to Molly that I had done three things to show I appreciate her???she still felt unappreciated. Her frustration was true because, whether or not I was grateful to my wife, I was perceived as an ingrate. Similarly, the frustration in the letter is true because, whether or not the Calvinists in the letter-writer’s church are good folks, they come off as proud and divisive jerks. Those Calvinists, as church members, and I, as a husband, should change based on this information, regardless of how “inaccurately” the frustration may be worded. [...]



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tom

posted November 26, 2007 at 8:55 pm


Bob (#78) wrote:
“A dear pastor we used to have said that as we entered Heaven, we would see ???Whosoever will may come??? chiseled over the entrance. And once inside, if we looked back over our shoulders, we would see ???Chosen in Him from the foundation of the world??? chiseled over the entrance.”
Ahhhh….now we’re throwing in a little semi-pelagianism into the mix… :)



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Ochuk

posted November 26, 2007 at 9:30 pm


I do want to qualify something I said earlier (#20). I said “people who follow John Piper…” and made some sweeping generalizations. These are based on a few experiences. Many people “follow” Piper are not like this. I think I am speaking more to “Internet Calvinism” that is “quick and dirty” more than anything else (Arminians and Emergents can be that way too). Calvinist ministers and church members under the Desiring God umbrella often seek true unity in the gospel.



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Ruth Tucker

posted November 26, 2007 at 9:51 pm


Many of you have referred to John Piper and to 5-point Calvinism. Here is what someone on his staff writes in answer to the question: “What does Piper mean when he says he’s a seven-point Calvinist?”
When John Piper says he is a “seven point Calvinist,” he does so half jokingly and half seriously. Historically, there are five points of Calvinism, not seven. Piper isn’t seeking to add two more points, but is simply calling attention to his belief in the traditional five points (total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace, and perseverance of the saints) in a way that also points toward two additional “Calvinistic” truths that follow from them: double predestination and the best-of-all-possible worlds.
We all know what double predestination is, but I was stumped on “the best of all possible worlds.” Here’s what that’s supposed to mean:
The “seventh” point, the best-of-all-possible worlds, means that God governs the course of history so that, in the long run, His glory will be more fully displayed and His people more fully satisfied than would have been the case in any other world.
As I contemplated Piper’s 7-point Calvinism, I was reminded of book reviews I was reading this evening on Barbara King’s recent book, “Evolving God.” It made me wonder if Piper has some sort of evolving God who might get an 8th point in 2008. O my, the dear Lord must think we’re a bunch of fools.
Check Piper out here: http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/AskPastorJohn/ByTitle/1418_What_does_John_Piper_mean_when_he_says_that_he_is_a_sevenpoint_Calvinist/



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Bry McClellan

posted November 26, 2007 at 9:53 pm


I have gained much from these comments. As one who has leaned toward Reformed/Calvinist theology I had no idea it could be so narrow. I still like to read and listen to Sproul and John MacArthur but have for several years spent most of my time with the Orthodox, Anglican and Catholic. I am much happier with these more moderate theological positions. I have been a life long southern Baptist and find that most people in my church see me as a bit odd but are not condescending toward me. I believe the sign of a mature church body is one that can tolerate many diverse ideas. I think we all should and need to pull our theology from many traditions. Thanks for the answer to the question, what is the BGC. I wanted to ask that myself.



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Anonymous

posted November 26, 2007 at 11:01 pm


The Boar’s Head Tavern » A BHT Must Read

[...] Read the original letter to Scot McKnight as well. Posted by: Michael Spencer @ 10:47 pm | Trackback | Permalink [...]



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Brad Cooper

posted November 26, 2007 at 11:02 pm


I find it disconcerting that so many above are quick to color all reformed/calvinist brothers and sisters as pesky, trouble-making, arrogant, unloving fools. Certainly there are some that fit that camp–just as there are liberals, wesleyan evangelicals, catholics, lutherans, emergents, etc. that fit that camp….but I don’t believe it is not true of all or most of them by a long shot.
I am not one of them but I have had all kinds of conversations with different stripes of them over the years…but none that fit the brutal description given above.
Sign me,
A Pesky Wesleyan, Anabaptist, Non-denominational, Emergent, Evangelcial Charismatic (Who Has Strong Affiliations with All of These and Yet Really Doesn’t Fit Comfortably into any of Them!…except maybe the Pesky group) ;)



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Bob Brague

posted November 26, 2007 at 11:25 pm


Tom (#100) — Really? I thought his statement celebrated the exact opposite of pelagianism.
Ruth (#102) — It is my opinion that the dear Lord KNOWS we are all a bunch of fools.



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rod

posted November 26, 2007 at 11:35 pm


John Piper strikes me as a loving Calvinist. Unfortunately, most of the other Calvinists I’ve known or read just strike me. My last five years as an Evangelical was spent in a town and college full of Calvinists. Their hatred, slander and judgmentalism contrasted drastically with the loving treatment I had received my previous years in a Catholic town and college. It was enough to motivate me to look outside of Protestantism. Unfortunately, I soon learned that there were unkind Catholics and unkind Orthodox (former Protestants–coincidence?). I was reminded of the parable of the wheat and the tares. Churches are full of both.
I’m very grateful for the unloving Calvinists. They motivated me to take a very hard look at the Christian faith. I began reading the documents created by the earliest church to see what the disciples of the Apostles believed and practiced. Thankfully, it wasn’t Calvinism.
I’m now a happy participant in the most loving church I have ever attended. It’s Orthodox. Finally, a church with people who have the fruit of the Holy Spirit and a faith & practice consistent with the earliest Christians.



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Jake

posted November 27, 2007 at 1:41 am


All we need do is examine who is most often trying to get those of differing theological perspecives kicked out of the Evangelical Theological Society, trying to take over institutions of higher learning, and publications. This problem won’t end, because those in the lead can say “peace, peace” without changing their behavior. You can go back 200 years and find the same problems with the same people, and it’s celebrated today. Nothing new under the sun.



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Nicole

posted November 27, 2007 at 8:06 am


My Dad, who raised us in a Calvanistic home, said that he would take a warm Arminian over a cold Calvinist any day. Why is that those who stand so firm on truth often come across as unmovable, unloving, know-it-alls?
And if it has not been said yet… I was thinking of the verse where Paul reminds his followers not to say that they are “of Paul” – we need to be so careful that we are following God and His word, and not man.



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Anthony Hedrick

posted November 27, 2007 at 8:34 am


It seems to me that to be philosophically consistent, the last people on earth that should want to convert anyone to anything should be a Calvinist.
Yet, this appears to be their full time work in discussions, books and sermons.
If God is sovereign over all (does not simply allow but actually minutely controls every action and event of history,re: “after the counsel of His own will”) then it is pointless to argue for anything.
God not only caused 9/11 but He also caused the “Roe verse Wade” decision. We can’t have it any way that suits us. This doctrine paints God into a corner and, as john Wesley said, “Makes Him both the father of heaven and hell alike.”
In my view, Calvinism is more about philosophy than theology. Any thoughtful Calvinist is wasting their time and energy in arguing for their position. Still, they have done it to the hurt of Christian work and workers all over the world.
Rev. Anthony Hedrick,
Evangelist and Missionary to Italy and Europe.



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Ed Brenegar

posted November 27, 2007 at 8:35 am


Three decades ago when I was in seminary, there was a group of “hyper”-Calvinists who were proud of their Calvinism. They called their group The Geneva Assembly. Now, all are Roman Catholics. I think what lies behind some of this stridency is the need for certainty. And the TULIP is the most absolutely complete and certain system of Christianity that exists.
Many of us Reformed/Presbyterian/Calvinists back then were not enamored with the 5 Points, but instead were passionate about the spirituality of the English Puritans. We read and discuss all those Banner of Truth authors. What we found in these books was a humble, passionate love for God. Puritanism is now sort of antiquarian. At the core of this hyper-orderly system of hyper-Calvinism lies a heart for God that may have been lost in the complexity and uncertainties of postmodern life. Affirm this love of God that comes from Soli deo gloria, and those who have not become totally hardened will respond.



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Ann

posted November 27, 2007 at 9:04 am


I think the problem is not so much Reformed theology per se as it is how the proliferation of Reformed theology has caused more radical groups to add it onto their already divisive attitudes and theology. I saw this among some of the independent fundamental Baptist churches in Minnesota. They were already legalistic…and then they added Reformed theology to their mix. It didn’t change them or their primary focus on separation, but to outsiders who met them, suddenly these are “Calvinists”. The problem is, these groups are just as divisive and legalistic when they are Arminian, but now they give Reformed theology in general a bad name by adding it to their mix. The same is true of other people, and probably true of the people in the original letter’s church – they would be divisive no matter what they followed–whether it’s Way of the Master, homeschooling, headcoverings for women, legalism in general, or Calvinism. These kinds of people love legalism and division–and happen to have chosen Calvinism as apart of what they will fight for.



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josenmiami

posted November 27, 2007 at 9:25 am


I agree with you Ann… it is not just “reformed theology” … it is a fundamentalist craving for certainty and the desire to be “right.”
Although I am an Armenian, I have had many friends who are reformed without the problems that are being reported here. My Reformed friends and myself, hold our theology loosely, with an awareness that we all “see in part, and know in part” and that love always trumps doctrine.
I am curious however, about the readers of this blog. Now that we have thoroughly bashed “Hyper-Calvinists” … how many of you “warm” Arminians could sit with a Buddhist, Wiccan, Gay or Lesbian Christian, or New Ager and have an open and friendly, non-adversial conversation?
Is it my imagination or is this problem actually much bigger than just the pesky hyper-Calvinists?



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Ron Fay

posted November 27, 2007 at 10:36 am


For the record, it is spelled Arminianism, not Armenian(ism). The former is a theological stance, the latter is a country/ethnicity. I do know that spell check often changes the “i” to an “e”, so I am not pointing fingers.
In response to the OP, I think the pastor needs to talk about what the gospel actually entails. What is necessary for salvation? While most people will have a slightly different list, typically one’s stance on determinism does not make the cut, nor do any of the Calvinist doctrines (I refuse to let Calvinists claim the term “Reformed” since Arminians are from the Reformation as well). The gospel is what matters. I would also point to Craig Blomberg’s article in JETS about 3 years ago entitled something like “Heresy in the New Testament or What Makes the Apostles Really Really Really Really Really Mad.” Blomberg noted that the one issue the NT abhors above everything except false views of Christ is excluding other believers from within the circle of brotherhood (in that all men and women count as firstborn sons of God, cf. Rom 8 and Gal 4). Once the gospel is found as common ground, then build from there. As my denomination claims (and occasionally holds to), major in the majors and minor in the minors. Calvinism and Arminianism, while important as a grid through which one interacts with the world, they are minor compared to saving souls.
As to those who have experienced harsh run-ins with Calvinists, I have two things to say:
1) A friend of mine who is a staunch Calvinist often states that he would rather hang out with an Arminian than a Calvinist since in his experience Arminians tend (note the word tend) to be nicer. He also says that more people would be Calvinists if it weren’t for the people who already were Calvinists.
2) If you were the only person on earth, not only would Jesus come to die just for you, you would be the one that killed him. My point is that we are all sinful and broken before God, no matter our theological stance. While some may think that being a Calvinist inherently makes one more proud (or more whatever), reality is that being human makes us all inherently sinful, so we are all in the same boat.
Whether or not I had any choice in making this post is up to you.
- Ron (committed Arminian, by the way, who went to Calvin College)
PS Yes, being Calvinist is often a form of culturalism rather than a theological stance, but that tends to emanate from certain groups like the CRC and is not a Calvinist phenomena in general.



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Ann

posted November 27, 2007 at 10:37 am


And for the record…I am Reformed (and also charismatic!), but see no reason to have an attitude about it. :)



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Matt F

posted November 27, 2007 at 11:01 am


Loveless orthodoxy is a sin just like any other, and should be pastored as such, with much prayer and preaching of the word.
Calvinists on a crusade are no different in many respects to those (often new) Christians who only want to talk about the end times, conservative politics, evolution, cults, satanic activity… take your pick. They tend to be men, because we always want to be right. Wehen we do feel that our position is accurate and correct, our sinful heart is compelled to preach it from the rooftops out of sinful desire to be recognized and puffed up. If we really were motivated by love of our brothers and sisters in Christ and desired that they know the freedom in Christ and the unity of the scriptures that we feel is ours in Reformed theology, we would not be vicious or self-adulating.
I highly recommend looking up Arturo Azurdia’s sermon, “The Indespensible Prerequisite,” which he preached as a preface to his series on the Book of Revelation. Basically it outlines and underscores the absolute necessity of true Christian love as laid forth in 1 Corinthians 13 when tackling issues of doctrine, particularly difficult or divisive ones.
It is a work of the Spirit of God sanctify us to the point where we are freed from our sinful desire to “one-up” our brothers and sisters in Christ. Anyone who’s been married for more than three minutes ought to know that sometimes love means knowing when to shut up. As a married, Calvinist Presbyterian (by creed) who is currently a member of a Southern Baptist church, I can vouch for this.
Fellow Calvinists, learn to shut up in love. Proselytize the unsaved, not the redeemed with whom you disagree about matters of soteriology. Submit yourselves to the leadership of the local church. And pray fervently that you may not enter into temptation.
-Matt Field



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JT

posted November 27, 2007 at 11:08 am


I have found that most people in the church today are Arminians in their theology and hyper-calvinist in their practice. That is they think anyone can be saved, but they never bother to tell anyone; thus, they live as if God will save them without thier help.
I remember reading about a missionary who said when they left for the mission field, “If I beleived in the 5 points of Calvinism, I never would have gone.” but at the end of their life they said, “If I didn’t beleive in the 5 points I never would have stayed.”
I find it interesting that the great missionaries of our past, Carey and Judson and the great preachers of our past all tended to hold to the five points.
Ultimately the question is what is greater–God’s glory or man’s will. Calvinism says the glory of God is supreme and simply tries to live for that glory. Do they ever make mistakes–absolutely. Just look at some of the stuff John Calvin did in Geneva, but I will always side with a person who seeks God’s glory as the highest glory over man’s free will.



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ED

posted November 27, 2007 at 11:19 am


Here’s a bit of advice to the pastor who wrote the letter, as I assume he tends towards the emergent side of things–introduce his people to Mark Driscoll, who is Reformed and Emergent.



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Tim

posted November 27, 2007 at 1:05 pm


Reading all these responses raises a general question in my mind. Regardless of what a person believes, he/she may be critisized for being arrogant, proud, unloving, a poor listener in a discussion – this I am in agreement with. However, would all agree with me if I said that there is precisely one truth, and that Jesus preached a distinct truth? If so, wouldn’t disagreements and even arguments between people of different views be expected, healthy, and Christ-like?



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Jeremy

posted November 27, 2007 at 1:07 pm


I have been reading most of the comments on this post and they are very good and very different.
I just have one thing that I always ponder and would like to ask when a certain person or group points to another and says that they like to argue and always think they are right.
Don’t you? Don’t you think you???re always right? Or do you argue knowing that sometimes you are wrong but yet you still argue? No, I think that it’s safe
to say that you argue thinking you are always right.
I mean who argues thinking that they are wrong? I think the thing that frustrates all peoples alike is when one person is persistent in their argument and will not budge and the other is not. The one that is not persistent gets frustrated with the one that is because of their persistency. So as the bible says, “at whatever point you judge, you do the same thing.”
As for the persistence and bold stand that “Calvinists” take let me say something about that too. The first 3 years of my Christian walk were very tough. I was discipled under “works-righteousness” and “self justifying” theology even though it was “pointing to Jesus” there were still the your not reading enough, you???re not praying enough, you???re not doing enough. I became very fearful of losing my salvation, so I walked around on edge analyzing every decision and thought that I had to make sure that I was walking in obedience and that I was being Holy because “without holiness no one will see the Lord.” I had a very wrong image of God, Jesus’ work on the Cross,Christianity, the Bible and the Church. I didn’t even like that I was saved, and this to me was not “good news”. Paul addresses the same issue in Galatians when he says “that he is astonished that they are deserting the
true gospel for one that is no gospel at all” and he says that, “anyone preaching the false gospel of works righteousness be eternally condemned.” Now that is pretty bold, judgmental and critical. Paul found the “works
righteousness” gospel so foul that he condemned the person who was preaching it and also found it necessary to write numerous books in the New Testament to combat this heresy. I know the reason why I personally discuss and sometimes argue Calvinism is because I used to live according to the “works righteousness” gospel which was no good news. Now that I understand how my salvation came about and what it means there is peace, and joy, and fruit and
obedience in my life like never before. I don’t know about other people but I know personally that I can’t stand to hear people preach that because I know of the fear, anxiety, discouragement, and wrong views that it can produce inside of believers and so when I hear it I do feel the urge to “correct, rebuke, and encourage”. Now, that being said, I don’t think we need to walk around condemning everyone and pointing fingers otherwise we
will all be pointing fingers while at the same time having fingers pointed at us because we all “prophesy in part and know in part.” I think we need to have a keen ear to what the gospel really teaches and point people to Christ.
I understand that Calvinism can breed “a license to sin” because of grace, but at the same time Armianism can breed “legalism” which as Paul says, “alienates you from Christ” which is just as bad.
I think the answer is this, and it is clear because almost every other person regardless whether they are Calvinist or other have said the same thing. So, could it be possible that God is speaking through a mix of different
opinions. Seek him dear Pastor, look not to yourself for the answer but to Jesus Christ the Hope of Glory, he is our hope for a united church when there are different souls involved.
P.S. Sorry about any grammatical errors.



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Julie

posted November 27, 2007 at 1:21 pm


I mean who argues thinking that they are wrong? I think the thing that frustrates all peoples alike is when one person is persistent in their argument and will not budge and the other is not. The one that is not persistent gets frustrated with the one that is because of their persistency.
Cracks me up.
Uh, why argue?
Is it possible to hear a perspective, restate it in your own words to be sure you heard it correctly, find things to affirm about it even when it isn’t your own perspective and then to still disagree fundamentally? This is how I’ve interacted with fundamentalists and Calvinists. I’m not interested in an argument or being right. I’m interested in how a person’s perspective or theology functions in his or her life. I can say: “I get it that the sovereignty of God leads to a place of yieldedness, gratitude and peace insofar as you are not feeling the burden of making all that is wrong with the world right. I get that salvation by election as a free gift feels like a mind-blowing, deeply satisfying, cleansing experience that goes beyond working for salvation. I get that you see the glory of God manifested in your midst when people discover the gap that exists between themselves and the holiness of God and then celebrate that holiness through creeds, through sacraments, through covenantal community, through the recitation of God’s greatness as contrasted with human frailty. I can see that this theological system makes sense of a chaotic world, puts God at the center and relieves human beings of their sinfulness.”
I can see all of that and yet I still do not experience Calvinism that way. It does not do that for me.
Why is it at this point, then, I am unable to find a reformed person who can then feed back to me what they hear me say – how my point of view about theology functions in my life, how my views cohere and have internal congruence, even when they don’t believe them?
That’s what listening is, that’s what learning is, that’s what sharing (NOT arguing) is. Arguing presumes that the end of the discussion is a single right view, not greater understanding and appreciation for difference.
It’s the fact that so many feel comfortable asserting “We all think we’re right” as the defense of not listening to others that shows up the very cultural blindness this thread points to. Hold your viewpoint, share it boldly, and then give space to others to hold different views and honor the possibility that some strand of truth exists outside your own system. That’s what I do regularly, imperfectly, but hopefully not obnoxiously.



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Rick

posted November 27, 2007 at 1:39 pm


Stephen Shields has shared some good thoughts on dealing w/ conflict:
http://faithmaps.wordpress.com/2007/11/02/dealing-with-those-with-whom-you-disagree/



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M Burke

posted November 27, 2007 at 1:43 pm


Rev. Anthony Hedrick,
It strikes me as interesting that while you argue that Calvinism is “more about philosophy than theology” all the arguments you used were philosophical ones rather than theological ones. Calvinism is first and foremost about God and His glory in Christ Jesus. You do harm to your own position by misrepresenting ours.



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Anonymous

posted November 27, 2007 at 1:43 pm


Piper on Kinder Calvinists « Provocations & Pantings

[...] No, not that Piper. I am talking about Abraham Piper, John’s son. He has written an excellent article in response to a recent post by Scot McKnight regarding advice on handling ungracious and intemperate Calvinists. Piper concludes with these poignant words: In my marriage, it doesn’t matter whether I’m thankful if I don’t seem like it. And in the church, it doesn’t matter whether we have the fruits of the Spirit if no one can tell. [...]



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M Burke

posted November 27, 2007 at 1:59 pm


Julie writes: “Hold your viewpoint, share it boldly, and then give space to others to hold different views and honor the possibility that some strand of truth exists outside your own system…”
Aren’t you the same one who castigated all Calvinists in saying “In short, I have been hurt and criticized and personally attacked by Calvinists than any other theological category of believer…”? And again “The universal shared trait? Condescending argumentativeness bordering on brutality”… do you accept that some “strand of truth” exists in Calvinism, no matter how hard you argue against it by poisoning the well? Be consistent, Julie, if you don’t believe Calvinism to be true, than deal with what Calvinists actually believe, don’t argue against the tertiary issues that some Calvinists hold to such as homeschooling and the like.
You talk about a “terrifying view of predestination” but don’t really get into what the Bible means when it speaks of election, predestination, foreordination and the like. It seems that you want to remain antagonistic against Calvinism without really dealing with what we believe, or how we believe our beliefs express what Scripture teaches.
Meanwhile, after you’ve been corrected on the improper use of a strictly defined term “hyper-Calvinism” you continue to attempt to use it with a broad brush regardless of what it actually means.
Maybe you should take a spoonful of your own medicine?



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RJS

posted November 27, 2007 at 2:08 pm


Julie,
I like your description of a conversation. And such a conversation does not require agreement – but it does require listening and respect. Even if there is a unique right answer (and sometimes there is, sometimes there isn’t) such a conversational and respectful approach if a far better way to proceed than argument and strife.
RJS



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Anthony Hedrick

posted November 27, 2007 at 2:15 pm


Response to M. Burke from Anthony Hedrick,
Ahh, Mr. Burke, there is a difference.
My argument is not weakened as I made no claim that my arguments against Calvinism are not philosophical. My opposition to high-Calvinism are philosophical, practical and scriptural in nature.
I seem to notice that even my Calvinist friends limit the number of children they choose to have. On a philosophical and practical level this sort of thing has always bothered me. Should it?



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Julie

posted November 27, 2007 at 2:20 pm


Aren???t you the same one who castigated all Calvinists in saying ???In short, I have been hurt and criticized and personally attacked by Calvinists than any other theological category of believer???????
Castigated all? I thought I said that more Calvinists have attacked me than other Christians. How is that “all”?
and again ???The universal shared trait? Condescending argumentativeness bordering on brutality??????
Of those who’ve attacked me. Correct.
do you accept that some ???strand of truth??? exists in Calvinism, no matter how hard you argue against it by poisoning the well?
Don’t know what “poisoning the well” means in this context, however, I do accept quite easily that “some strand of truth” exists in Calvinism and have defended the whole system in many contexts where I’ve had the opportunity.
Just last year, in fact, at my graduate school class at a Catholic university, I helped the incredulous Catholics understand the reasoning behind, the fidelity to Scripture, the relief of utter forgiveness (GRACE!) apart from works, the joy in salvation rather than earning your way to heaven that reformed theology captured for the church. I waxed eloquent, without judgment. I even defended election and predestination from within a reformed system.
But what’s that got to do with how people treat each other?
M Burke, you and I aren’t here to discuss the merits of Calvinist theology. I was sharing specific personal experiences with Calvinists (quite apart from the contents of their theology) as were others in this thread. I do accept that “some strand of truth” exists in Calvinism. I gave a strong description of my experiences because they have indeed been forceful, bitterly at times. Certainly not every reformed person I know is harsh in their delivery of theological arguments. But the experience this young pastor describes resonates with my 25 years of experiences generally with reformed Christians.
Perhaps you’ve not had these experiences.
Additionally, I’ve studied reformed theology, have lived under it, have written papers on it, have friends and family in the reformed camp.
In this thread of messages, I merely wanted to bear witness to the fact that on the whole, reformed theology breeds a culture that has led to accusations against their style of communication with other Christians… and that experience is borne out by the entire thread.



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Anonymous

posted November 27, 2007 at 2:27 pm


Perception vs. Reality « Grow(th) from Within

[...] November 27, 2007 by Tato One of the things I have learned from being part of a church staff/culture is that “reality” doesn’t really matter too much, and what matters a whole lot more is “perception”.? ? It often takes only one misunderstanding/misstep to change one’s perception.? I have had a few moments where I have been insensitive, misinformed, acted unwisely… etc.? I do not do that all the time, but often enough that perception about me or how I view others changes.? Often when we get caught up in discussing stuff, we don’t really discuss the reality of a situation, but how others are perceived.? To boil it down there was an interesting post here and here by Scot McKnight about a letter he received from a church planter who was dealing with issues in his church and a follow up from Abraham Piper here… which is fantastic in the way it illustrates tackling perception vs. reality. [...]



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josenmiami

posted November 27, 2007 at 2:33 pm


ahhhhh… now we are finally getting around to all that luuv and kindness I have been asking about …
#126 RJS and Julie, I also agree with your description of conversation. I have starting to have a lot of conversations on the U. campus with all kinds of people, Muslims, Toaist, fornicators who are searching for God, and even recently a medium (who talks to Jesus alot and loves God) and a wiccan. I have been frequently shocked, but consistently I have felt the restraining hand of the H.S. keeping me from trying to “fix” them, but rather to love them and listen respectfully… some are starting to ask questions for which I can offer answers. It has been an education.
As far as the Calvinist vs. Ariminian “arugment” heating up in here… I don’t give a nickle … you guys argue away and have fun….



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Jeremy

posted November 27, 2007 at 2:36 pm


Julie [121]
I agree with you totally. I believe that you are correct in your assertion that a majority of people (calvinist, arminists, and whatever) go into a discussion not to hear but to argue and because of that that people are not able to restate what you believe….and might I had that you do have good listening abilities to be able to rephrase my beliefs in the way you did. Discussion is a very hard thing for alot of people and though I have not mastered it I do attempt it. My mentor is a Charismatic, who is halway between Arminianism and Calvinism if possible, yet we are able to discuss our different views in a manner where we both walk away from there contemplating what the other has said. I used to disagree with females in leadership roles in the church because of what I read in the bible. After talking with her, even though I thought I was right, I walked away and thought over what she said and believed and asked the Holy Spirit to guide me. Now I see the error of my ways and I support her view. But we both went into the discussion thinking we were right. We must accompany that thinking with the notion that I could also be wrong. Being corrected in teaching is hard, but useful. I pray that God may use you greatly to teach intellectual minds to listen and contemplate and “test the spirits.” Thanks for your input. Maybe we should start a new posts so that you can state what you believe and I can test my listening abilities. :-)



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Nicholas Hill

posted November 27, 2007 at 2:45 pm


I just returned from a Conference called Gospel Growth vs. Church Growth put on by 9 Marks Ministries and Matthias Media (from Australia). I was telling my wife that I was amazed at the love, humility, care, generosity, love for God’s word, and love for God of these brothers in Christ. Two times I was treated to lunch (even though they had never met me before) and two pastors bought me a hardcover set worth $59 just because they wanted to!
I returned angry because I have been told so many lies about Calvinists, that they are angry, mean, prideful, etc.
I felt so loved by these people at the Conference.
Even outside of this Conference, some of the most godly and loving people I know are Calvinists.
I think that people mistake love for the truth and passion for the truth as mean spirited. (They are some of the smartest Christians I have ever met and know the Scriptures better than most non-Calvinists I know).
I think that Calvinists are some of the most misunderstood and persecuted Christians in our world today (more often by the church itself).
I have been reading Calvin lately, and I am blown away at his humility, his reverence, and his deep love for God.
May God grant us all more humility, more love, and more deep reverence for God.
Your brother in Christ,
Nick



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Jeremy

posted November 27, 2007 at 3:08 pm


A good book to study what we believe is, The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination by: Loraine Boettner.



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josenmiami

posted November 27, 2007 at 3:17 pm


Calvin had some good stuff (and made a few mistakes) and Wesley had some good stuff and also made some mistakes. It is not about adhering to a logically consistent set of doctrinal propositions folks … it is truly about love. What does it say in Corinthians? If I have knowledge and faith but do not have love?
My guess is that the best systematic theology in the world will only capture 70 to 80 percent of God’s truth. When we try to cram things to make the other 20 to 30 percent fit, we end up in the procrustean bed falacy…and we make light of the mysteries of the faith.
The only way I am going to lay hold of more of that 20 to 30 percent that I don’t know (and don’t know that I don’t know) is if I become more personally congruent in my heart with the one person who is TRUTH. That means acting toward people the way he did.
I think Calvin and Wesley are in heaven praying for us to move beyond their theologies into more of His Divine love and truth.



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Lori Horn

posted November 27, 2007 at 3:36 pm


I, for one, have found Pastor Piper’s teaching and demeanor to be Christ-like and very humble. His messages have been life-changing for me.
I would be utterly shocked if Dr. Piper, after preaching the excellent, God-exalting messages that he regularly does, were to turn around and speak hurtfully to a believer who had disagreements with him.
I pray that I can live out the truths taught at desiringgod.org.



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Charl

posted November 27, 2007 at 3:52 pm


Just a pesky South African.
This is a thought provoking discussion and my story is the other way round.
From pentecostalism to calvinism, my previous church (CAOG)called us “of the devil”, “seeking to cause division”, “we would rather become muslim than to serve a God that is in such control”, etc etc.
Quoting Acts 13:48 to my previous pastor he said : “even if the Bible says that, I cannot believe it”.
I can only agree with Nick, a great truth God has led us to. I have only found the reformed leaders to be sound, honorable and truth loving/seeking. Never have I seen such a commitment to loving Christ and to “rightly divide the Word of truth”
KJV 2 Timothy 2:15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
I would also love to hear from the “hyper-calvinists” who are mentioned in this letter.
Sure, there will always be bad examples,but when I look at the overall impact of proper reformed churches i.e McArthur and the influence even in South Africa, I can only thank the Lord for christians like these.
We have lived in a theological wasteland for too long and proper exegesis and expository preaching with a emphasis on God’s glory and Christ’s sacrifice is long due.
To God be the Glory!



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Peggy

posted November 27, 2007 at 3:57 pm


Nick and all,
I wonder whether we are talking about people’s postures before God or people’s postures with each other?
Certainly we all agree with more humility, love and deep reverence for God…the challenge, as I see it, is that God calls us to be humble, mutually submitted and loving of each other as we love ourselves–having reverence for each other out of reverence for Christ.
I have had my share of fairly brutal bashings from just about every faith stance…and it’s a toss up for me between the Calvinists (whose 5-pointed-TULIPs I just cannot embrace for myself) and their zealous (over?) defense of God’s nature against human’s nature (I’ll lump them over-generalizingly as orthodoxy focused) and those ultra-fundamentalists who don’t seem to understand how to hate sin yet love sinners because their focus tends to be on outward appearances (I’ll lump them over-generalizingly as orthopraxis focused) rather than inward reality.
I’ve been pondering the “orthos” quite a bit over at my blog, in connection with some threads at Alan Hirsch’s blog, and have begun to realize that there are really four that have to all hang together to get the proper perspective lined up: we have to have right thinking and right actions (so -doxy and -praxy), but we must also have right perception (my take on -pathy) as well as right inspiration (don’t have a good word for it yet…-pneumaxy isn’t flying currently 8) ).
Thinking well and acting poorly just doesn’t cut it. Acting well and thinking poorly isn’t much better, but sometimes does less damage in the short term. Thinking and acting well but with poor perception of the context is ineffective and very damaging in the long term. Thinking and acting well with good contextualization but improper inspiration leads to doing our own thing rather than joining God’s mission.
So, I’m all for asking God to help me start with proper inspiration (the Holy Spirit’s than than humanity’s), perceive people and situations through God’s eyes, engage in as wide and deep and diverse studying/ thinking/ discussion as possible, and then act as much like Christ as I possibly can.
For me, anything short of all four is, well, short of that to which Christians are called.



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Ed

posted November 27, 2007 at 5:38 pm


I did not grow up in a Christian home, and when I first became a Christian, I was “arminian” by nature. I’m not sure why, particularly, because I can’t say my church emphasized it. But after about 10 years, someone showed me the “5 points” and it made me literally sick to my stomach. I felt it was an affront to God and his character. But something compelled me to look into it, and I have become convinced that the “5 points” are a summary of what the Bible teaches. And when I became convinced of that, I had a strange reaction. I felt deceived and not told the whole truth – and since it gave me a peace concerning life and the fate of my loved ones (i.e. I didn’t have to try to be perfect in order to not “mess up” my witness and therefore be the cause of them not accepting Christ), I became convinced that everyone would be better off going through the struggle I went through. Thus, for a while, I was so excited at the new perspective God’s absolute sovereignty gave me that I wanted everyone to “get it.” And, knowing how hard it was for me to “switch” – it took 2 full years of thinking it through – I was angry at those who dismissed the arguments so tritely. It was not until my understanding grew to the point where I realized that we are not saved by the doctrinal purity of our beliefs, but by Christ alone, that I was able to truly say to someone in a gentle voice, “I believe you are wrong, and that you would understand life better if you understood these truths, but we can agree to disagree as long as we agree on Christ.” And that has been very freeing.
Unfortunately, I find that arminians who vocalize their resentment towards Calvinists’ “pride” would be very happy if the subject was never brought up. But that’s not any more biblical than being so argumentative and angry – for we are called to be iron sharpening iron in each other’s lives. If your theology can’t stand up to a “loving” rebuttal, then how deep is it, really?
We need to converse on these matters, because truth matters. But we need to stand together on Christ, and lovingly discuss back and forth why we believe the things we believe. Though I do wonder how much our sin enters into our resistance to truth? When I was an Arminian, I hated the arguments put forth by Calvinists not so much because they were arrogant, but because I saw the “cracks” in my foundation. My cent-and-a-half …



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Anonymous

posted November 27, 2007 at 7:34 pm


The Evening Read™ » Blog Archive » Jesus Creed: Letter To Calvinists

[...] It is well worth your time to sit down somewhere comfortable a read through this letter concerning Calvinists (not Calvinism, Calvinists) and all of it’s following comments (at 134 and counting) and weigh in your mind your personal creeds and the actions that flow out of those convictions. As an emissary of Christ, do I represent Him well, or do I slander His name in my actions? [...]



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IBIJ

posted November 27, 2007 at 10:35 pm


Wow, very interesting statements from everyone. I think the main point that I got out of the original blog/post was about being kind and Christlike to one another rather than beating each other up with sarcasim and nastyness and the “attitude” that exudes from many people of different theological beliefs.
I will admit that I lean towards Calvinism or would it be better to say Augustinianism (if that is a word) since Calvin didn’t come up with the theological idea but rather the acronym of TULIP. But I have been Baptist, Episcopalian, Pentecostal, Non-denominational, 4Square, AG, and Quaker. What I have discovered is that all of these different denominations all have one thing in common, Jesus.
Let us move on and preach Jesus…



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Brad Cooper

posted November 28, 2007 at 12:12 am


Mariam #11,
Missed your comment earlier somehow. Have to agree with you about their beliefs being peculiar….and typically even more bull-headed than I am (and that’s saying something! Ha!)…but they are nonetheless our brothers and sisters and part of the big dysfunctional family known as the 21st Century Church! ;) So–in agreement with you and many others here–let’s love them, not hate them.



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Scott M

posted November 28, 2007 at 12:32 am


Jeremy, I think that anyone who is at all intellectually honest must live within the certainty that we are always wrong in some significant fraction of the beliefs we hold. We just don’t know which ones. But then I’m also shaped in such a way that acquiring or “trying on” a belief is easy. Finding beliefs that anchor deeply and are sustainable is a bit more difficult.



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mariam

posted November 28, 2007 at 2:10 am


Brad #141
You mean you’re not a Calvinist? I ws thinking of you as being one of the kind, loving ones. Now I’ll have to look father afield. Boy I just can’t seem to get this theology thing straight. (LOL)
#134 joesenmiami
My guess is that the best systematic theology in the world will only capture 70 to 80 percent of God???s truth. When we try to cram things to make the other 20 to 30 percent fit, we end up in the procrustean bed falacy???and we make light of the mysteries of the faith.
My guess is that the best systematic theology in the world will only capture a infinitesimal percent of God’s truth, since He is infinite and eternal and we are tiny, mortal, finite creatures. When we consider that relationship it should make us humble and realize that the little bit of the truth that we can perceive is not worthy to beat anyone else over the head with.



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Andrew

posted November 28, 2007 at 3:00 am


Hmmm….this is a very interesting artilce that has been posted. I will just say a few things as I have read through a lot of these posts. I grew up being introduced to the Gospel by learning the 5 points of Calvinists and attended a Dutch Reformed Church for 6 years. I am a 5 point Calvinist and respect Reformed theology. However, the Reformed churches that I attended at least, tend to focus their concern on being right on “doctrine”, then showing love and compassion to others who are not Reformed, Calvinist or even saved yet. I think the question comes down to: Should we defend what we believe to be true or show love to others who are in error with their theology? Obviously, because we are still sin, we have a hard time balancing the two and sometimes don’t show much love to others, but would rather take pride in being right (especially to our theology). Yet, Paul says in Romans 2:4 that it is God’s love that leads up to repentance. I would say that Calvinists can more easily be pesky like people in Reformed circles and need to show more love. Yet, at the same time we cannot ignore truth and waterdown the Gospel. Perhaps part of the reason why Calvinists tend to be unloving (which is true at times) can also be because people don’t want to deal with the issue of their sin and think that they might actually be unsaved (like Calvinists MacArthur and Piper) tend to re-examine yourself. Let’s just focus on Christ in truth and love!



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mariam

posted November 28, 2007 at 4:56 am


This has been an interesting discussion and personally enlightening to me.
It has helped solve a bit of the puzzle that was my father. My father grew up with a ???Hard??? Presbyterian background, which I suppose means Calvinist, although maybe not. I’m still fuzzy on what these terms mean. Although he turned his back on the church, largely I think because of the hypocrisy and judgmentalism he viewed in the most religious of his relatives, some of it was ingrained in him ??? the work ethic, the rigid moralism, the unwillingness to consider other viewpoints, and, unhappily for us, a ???spare the rod, spoil the child??? view of parenting. He had a negative view of education, which he thought would lead us astray, and ???soft??? living and thinking. If I wanted to read a book, I wouldn???t do it under his eye or I would end up in the yard picking rocks. We never talked about God much, except for the brief time as a teenager I was a religious ???kook??? of the evangelical variety. I could tell he wasn???t impressed with my notion of God either. To his way of thinking God was not our buddy; God, if He existed, was distant and, if He was any good for anything, One to be feared. He never shook the notion that there was a mighty judgment coming.
I always respected and admired my father. I don???t believe he did a single dishonest thing in his life and he was also generous with his labour and the little money that he had to those in need. He was dependable and faithful. As I grew older I realized that, in spite of appearances, my father really did love us and that his anger came out of a fearfulness that we would fall in with the wrong sort and choose the wrong path, that his hardness was the way that he loved us. He softened with age. Indeed, for some reason, my father loved his grandchildren with the lightness of heart, mischievousness and abandon that he had been unable to demonstrate with us. My father died 20 years ago and I remember holding his hand, and at his request saying the Lord???s Prayer and 23rd Psalm, even though I wasn???t a Christian at the time, and I had never known him to be. My father was very afraid of dying ??? I think the vision of eternal damnation loomed large. It broke my heart to see him so terrified at his death. It is one of the things that kept me away from the church for such a long time.
Part of my point in telling this story is that people do not all express or understand love in the same way. A Calvinist (or Arminian or Catholic or Muslim or even Anglican:) may think the most loving thing he or she can do is warn you in as strong terms as possible that you are on the wrong road. There may be a sense of urgency that cause them to appear rude. If you think you are on the right road, or if you perceive being loving as being kind and gentle and forgiving, you are not going to perceive their action as particularly loving, even if that is the way it is meant.



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Krl

posted November 28, 2007 at 6:51 am


The following two quotes seem to have revelance to this discussion.
Talk about what you believe and you have disunity. Talk about Who you believe in and you have unity.
– E. Stanly Jones,
We cannot expect the world to believe that the Father sent the Son, that Jesus??? claims are true, and that Christianity is true, unless the world sees some reality of oneness of true Christians. Now that is frightening. Should we not feel some emotion at this point?
???Francis Schaeffer
Krl



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Anonymous

posted November 28, 2007 at 7:06 am


Be a Kinder …

[...] Recently Scot McKnight posted a letter from a reader and asked how others might respond by doing so in the comment thread. For a variety of reasons I moved beyond the debates over Calvinism, Reformed Theology and who is “Truly Reformed.” It is not that I do not think we Southern Baptists have not been influenced by the Doctrines of Grace, it is simply that many inter-nicene squabbles do very little for the sake of the Gospel. This is especially so when it spills over into a wider culture who is not asking the question, “Are you TR?” (TR is blogospheric shorthand for Truly Reformed. It is generally a pejorative reference to those unwilling to have conversation outside the sphere of Reformed Theology. I guess it may be used from time to time in derision as if to say, “You are not Truly Reformed therefore we need not listen to you.”) [...]



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Charl

posted November 28, 2007 at 7:13 am


Restoring health to an unhealthy church: What is the goal?
The goal of reformation in a local church should not be to make all the members Calvinists. Obviously (or at least it ought to be obvious to anyone who knows me!), I would not think that a bad thing if it happened, but I would never recommend that as the goal of restoring health to a church. It is simply not big enough. In fact, if that is all that were to happen in a church then there still would be cause for concern and need to press energetically for even deeper reformation.
Anyone interested in seeing a church become spiritually healthy must aim at seeing that body increasingly become everything that God’s Word calls a church to be. Mark Dever has helpfully defined a healthy church as one that “increasingly reflects God’s character as his character has been revealed in his Word.” The most important thing a local church can do is to fulfill its calling to be the church.
As the bride of Christ, the body of Christ and the house of God the church is to live in such a way that puts the goodness and greatness of the living God on display. Paul makes this point in Ephesians 3 when he describes the purpose of Gospel preaching as enabling the “manifold wisdom of God” to be put on display “by the church” (10). The way that Christ’s people live together in covenanted devotion to their Lord and each other makes a statement to the watching world about the character of our God and Savior.
When a church is filled with unconverted or spiritually apathetic members, it lies about Jesus Christ. When it is marked by dissension and open immorality it misrepresents the God who is three in one and holy, holy, holy. When it is self-consumed and unconcerned about the unconverted it projects a perverted picture of the God who sent His Son into the world to seek and to save that which was lost. When it is happily ignorant of Bible doctrine it sends false messages about the God of truth.
The pursuit of spiritual health will not allow such misrepresentations of the Lord to go unaddressed. The goal is to see Christ honored among His people as they become increasingly motivated and empowered by His gospel to live out His will on earth.
What does all this mean practically? Several things, chief among them being:
To see the Word of God become preeminent and foundational to the life of the church. We should desire that our collective attitude in the church should be, “wherever the Scripture leads, we will go; whatever it teaches, we will believe…whatever the costs or the consequences.”
To see the membership reflect reality. It is tragically commonplace today for churches to have far more paper members than real ones. Our statistics lie. Here is a simple formula to use to help gauge the spiritual health of your church: If your membership exceeds your attendance then you have a problem. The more that it exceeds it, the greater the problem is. In Baptist life we have historically stated it like this: We believe in a regenerate church membership. A local church ought to reflect that belief.
To see the worship gatherings of the church marked by God-centered, Gospel-saturated, passionate intensity where Jesus Christ is recognized as supremely glorious.
To see the lives of the members marked by evangelistic compassion that results in intentional efforts to make disciples for Jesus Christ.
To see a humble, servant-hearted commitment to minister after the pattern of Christ characterize the culture of the church.
The list is not exhaustive, but it does contain elements that are essential to a healthy church. A. W. Tozer once said that every pastor ought to have two churches in his mind at all times. The first when he reads the New Testament instructions on what a church ought to be. The other is the church he sees on Sunday mornings when they are gathered for worship. The goal is to so live and work and minister and pray that the church that is becomes increasingly like the church that ought to be.
-Tom Ascol



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Paul Johnston

posted November 28, 2007 at 7:59 am


Calvin’s okay, but geez, What a temper!
I’ll take the suave, urbane, whimsy of Hobbes anyday.



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Bob Brague

posted November 28, 2007 at 8:42 am


Re #147
I am so far removed from TR (Truly Reformed) circles that I have never heard the term before. Our goal should not be to be Truly Reformed; our goal should be to be Truly Scrumptious, in the sense that others would taste and see that the Lord is good. Shouldn’t it?
I made that up, but I think it has merit nonetheless. (Scot, who doesn’t read fiction, will not understand unless we share with him that Truly Scrumptious is a character in Chitty-Chitty Bang Bang.) :)
I don’t mean to trivialize this discussion. It has been fascinating.



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Brad Cooper

posted November 28, 2007 at 9:55 am


Krl #146,
Thanks for the great quotes….printed ‘em to file.
Mariam #145,
Sorry to disappoint you. ;) Nope. Definitely not a Calvinist. The only similarity is the “peculiar” part. Not an extreme Arminian either. I do believe that it is possible for a person to lose their salvation, but I think it is nearly impossible because God’s love is so much greater than our foolish sinfulness….Nevertheless, we are given many warnings in Scripture that it is possible because God does not want to lose even one soul.
Theologically, I’m more of a mutt. As I stated in a post above, I’m “A Pesky Wesleyan, Anabaptist, Non-denominational, Emergent, Evangelcial Charismatic (Who Has Strong Affiliations with All of These and Yet Really Doesn???t Fit Comfortably into any of Them!???except maybe the Pesky group).”
I’m strongly influenced by the Wesleyan holiness movement but I’m certain that the Bible does not teach abstinence from alcohol but rather moderation. I’m influenced by the Wesleyan Arminian tradition but strongly believe in believer’s baptism (which kept me from being ordained in the United Methodist Church…though I myself have baptized infants without dispute or qualms of conscience). I am anabaptist (influenced strongly by the Mennonite strain) but do not believe in the modern idea of pacifism (the Bible clearly teaches that God does use governmental armies to bring justice…Watch “Hotel Rwanda” and tell me that it was the love of Christ that deserted the Tutsi people and sat by and watched the Hutu massacre 800,000 in 100 days…not a chance. But I do believe in pacifism in the types of circumstances that Christ describes in the Sermon on the Mount…and have practiced it.) I am just recently finding out that I am emergent (couldn’t put a label on my dissatisfaction with the evangelical church before)…but there are certain tendencies within the movement that bother me as well (such as a tendency that I see to downplay the wrath of God and a tendency to have a more liberal view of Scripture). I’m an evangelical but I have come to understand that the modern teaching about tithing is so far from Biblical that it is ridiculous (which makes me very uncomfortable in every evangelical church that I have encountered here in northern Indiana….and I myself practiced and taught tithing for more than a dozen years….so I am not being judgemental but I am often judged). I am charismatic but I have never spoken in tongues. However, I definitely can be pesky… period. ;)
Well that was a long post…Maybe no one will even read it, but it feels good to have vented all that……aaaaahhhh.
May the grace and peace of Jesus our Lord fill your day.



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Scott M

posted November 28, 2007 at 9:59 am


Charl,

Another basic factor leading to the decline of discernment is a widespread failure to interpret Scripture properly.

I think that sentence captures the essence of the issue. Who gets to determine the “proper” interpretation? That has been the battle in the West for the past five hundred years and frankly I find it tired and tiring. If anything, it has utterly proven Nietchsze’s point. Scripture doesn’t interpret itself. It can’t. And the lens you choose to use to interpret it largely determines what you will discover.



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Brad Cooper

posted November 28, 2007 at 10:46 am


Scott #152,
Are you saying that Scripture has no particular meaning? Did the Holy Spirit give us the Scripture and preserve it for no particular purpose? Can you make it say whatever you want and any interpretation is just as good as another….so you might as well not even look at Scripture too carefully just give us your best gut reaction????



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Scott M

posted November 28, 2007 at 11:13 am


Actually Brad, I’m saying this entire exercise for the past 500 years in the West looks to me like little more than another, often bloody, exercise of the will to power. In this instance, the power here is the power of interpretation. And, though less bloody and violent today than in the days of Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, and the rest, the struggle of the individual and group will to power continues in the rampant sectarianism and division of the West.
Now, have I come to believe there is truth contained in the Christian story and thus also in its sacred text? Yes. Ultimately that’s the only reason I’m Christian. I find hope in the story of the God revealed and made known to us in Jesus of Nazareth. And I do believe that the scriptures can be interpreted, but not in some individual or personal fashion. Our story is rooted in history, in actual events, and in the life of the Church. The Holy Spirit did not give us the NT or preserve it save through the action and activity of the Church. The way your statement was worded (and the way I often hear it) is frankly more appropriate to other religions than ours.
But that also means scripture can only be understood and interpreted through the life of the Church in a manner consistent with the Church through all of the past two thousand years. It is always a communal activity and it is a community that spans not just space, but time.
Nobody actually believes “sola scriptura”. It’s just a battle cry for the will to power to assert your own (or more often someone else’s) interpretation of scripture.



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Charl

posted November 28, 2007 at 11:17 am


Scott M,
Agreed, a huge problem.
I hated “calvinism” when I was confronted with Spurgeons writings on a visit to Australia in 2000.
For six years I battled as if to destroy such a terrible, “peculiar” set of doctrines. Yet the Lord was so gracious to me.
Finally, in August 2006 after many a debate and argument things changed.Now the real battle is on.Never have we as a family felt so much hatred and rejection, both from our old church and from family members.
Spurgeon wrote about the term “calvinism” being a nickname, and really that is what it is. People attack because we hold to Calvin, but not so.It was there long before Bro Calvin! And I am not into defending Calvin as such.
Spurgeon also said that in his day it was the Arminians that were the minority and that their doctrine was peculiar.Now it is popularized and accepted as the norm. Where I come from at least.
We have only heard one side of the story and we cannot tell what the real issue was with those “pesky calvinists”.We were certainly called more than pesky and most of the leaders from my previous church climbed on the anathema bandwagon without knowing our side at all.
Yes people do get over-zealous when they see the old truth(according to Spurgeon), but that does not mean they should be called heretics and/or peculiar.
Those glasses are hard to remove, because often we are born into a family where they are standard issue.
Trust people will debate and not hate, until they see.



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Ed

posted November 28, 2007 at 11:38 am


Scott #152
If you ave no external standard to hold onto, then a discussion will devolve into opinions and ultimately, a pure power play. That’s not to say that there aren’t power plays happening by those who claim the Bible as their standard – but how do you stand up to an influential teacher unless you have something beyond your own influence to appeal to? The beauty of having the Bible is that the lowliest of peasants can be “more right” than the most learned of scholars, the weakest in a society can be “more right” than a king. When truth is acknowledged as a standard outside ourselves, something to be appealed to beyond ourself, we have a basis for debate. Without suchan external standard, we have a battle of opinions, which will eventually be “decided” by “popular vote” or force.
There are certainly some hard things said in scripture, and there are issues that have been debated for hundreds of years. But, in the end, Christianity is not so unclear and amorphous that we cannot tell whether someone is “near the camp” or “on another team.” Not that we always have a clear line drawn, but there is some difference. I don’t think Buddhists have any problem recognizing that our beliefs and theirs are very dissimilar, even if they somehow acknowledge “our path” as a valid one. Much of the debates for us are “internal.” But to say that the Bible can say “anything” is just not true. Language and words do have meaning, and the authors who wrote tham intended meaning to be transmitted.
It is difficult to look at the many interpretations out there and wonder how we determine who is right. But God did not leave us to our gut feelings or intuitions, but gave us a book that can be studied. Do we all come with a point of view? Of course. Is it possible to move beyond your own preconceptions? Yes. Do we always do it well? Of course not. Sometimes we have a vested interest in one interpretation or another, and we fail to realize how that clouds our judgement. But that does not change the fact that we are still debating about the meaning of a text outside of ourselves. And because there are more Christians with the Holy Spirit than just me, we have the ability to arrive at a conclusion as a family. Not by popular vote, not by force.
Ultimately, I trust more in a sovereign God to work through an external standard with fallible human beings, than in fallible human beings deciding for themselves as individuals what is true, apart from any reasoning or working with an external standard. Of course, a sovereign God could work in individuals – I just don’t think he has chosen to do so. And without an external standard to appeal to, you have no basis upon which to try to change my mind.
As to “multiple lenses,” may I suggest reading “Symphonic Theology” by Vern Poythress. There may be multiple valid approaches to Scripture as there are facets to a diamond, but they are only helpful to the degree in which they show the radiance of “true truth” in the original. The Bible is not so malleable that it can say “whatever we want” – unless you are willing to throw out all meaning from language …



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RE Owen

posted November 28, 2007 at 12:07 pm


ALL Christians — of any and every stripe — should be compassionate, forbearing and kind — especially Calvinistic folk who feel they have been given so much insight into mercy and grace.
Our church is studying Ephesians. As we’ve been going through chapter one — very predestinarian, among other things — we’ve been reminded of how Paul is reciting “the gospel of your salvation” (1:13) throughout chapter one. All Christians would do well to review the previous verses of this chapter (vv.1-12) and ask themselves (1) what constitutes this good news in which Paul delights? and (2) why is Paul proclaiming these things?
First, we might realize that Paul is not praising believers for what they know. He is praising God for what HE has done. Can we be content with this? Can we truly focus on praising God for what HE has done, as Paul does in verses 1-12? Paul’s additional praise for the saints has more to do with their practice of faith and love (1:15), not their intellectual apprehension of even the grandest of truths about God. Can we be content with this, too?
Second, surely Paul is seeking to instruct and enlarge the minds of his readers (vv.17ff), but he begins by praying for them, asking GOD to enlighten them. How many times do we skip this step, using instead our “powers of persuasion” by arguing. Presumeably, they do not already understand all these things, hence Paul’s teaching. Yet, in the meantime, Paul can still speak graciously and enthusiastically about these (perhaps in many ways) still uninformed believers. Shouldn’t we do the same toward our brethren?
I think Piper’s church (from whence this discussion arose) is seeking to take to heart what can be learned from this discussion. This is a good thing. Let’s encourage them for this. (See their blog at http://www.desiringgod.org/Blog/934_be_a_kinder_calvinist/.) We all — ALL Christians — still have so much to learn. Especially me.
Grace and peace to you from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.



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Brad Cooper

posted November 28, 2007 at 12:16 pm


Scott #154,
Well, Scott, actually some of us do believe “sola scriptura.” But for me, it is not a battle cry to assert my own will but rather to know and obey God’s will.
I do have no argument with you about the abuses of Scripture over the last 2000 years…even among those who cry “sola scriptura”….and among those at the opposite end of the spectrum who hold to a liberal handling of Scripture…and everyone in between. But that does not negate the meaning of Scripture. If I tell my kids that I want them to do such and such, they may very well twist those words around or misunderstand them or use them to manipulate. But that does not negate my meaning and intent.
And my description of the giving and preservation of Scripture by the Holy Spirit does not come from another religion. It comes straight from the Scripture itself:
“Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” (2 Peter 1:20-21)
I could stop there….I think this passage by itself makes it clear that this conception of verbal inspiration is not from some other religion but is clearly the message of Scripture. Let me add a few more:
“Jesus answered, ‘It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (Matthew 4:4)
“All your words are true; all your righteous laws are eternal.Rulers persecute me without cause, but my heart trembles at your word.” (Psalm 119:160-161)
“Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar.” (Proverbs 30:5-6) Add to God’s words? Which words? Scripture.
“Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down.” (Mark 7:13….Jesus makes a clear distinction between the words of men and the words of God in this passage).
“…the Scripture cannot be broken….” (John 10:35)
“…the very words of God…” (Romans 3:2)
“….all Scripture is God-breathed…” (2 Timothy 3:16….straight from God’s mouth.)
Well that’s just a few passages to consider just off the top of my head (and with a little help from an online Bible search engine). I could go on and on (done it before) but that’s more than enough for now.
Do I believe that the Scriptures show a human side? Absolutely. And yet at the same time remains flawlessly God’s Word. Ridiculous? No, miraculous. For nothing is impossible with God.



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Scott M

posted November 28, 2007 at 12:21 pm


Ed, I think you missed what I was actually saying, but that’s OK. I probably don’t know how to communicate the thought or perception very well to those who wear different lenses than me. But let’s go with this “external standard” idea of yours. If you actually view Scripture as some sort of external standard or active arbiter, then I must say it’s not a very good one. Every confirmed heretic from Arius onward has appealed extensively to Scripture, while those who refuted them appealed to Scripture and, as much if not more, to what the Church had always believed the text to mean. Further, every sect and schism in the West, those generally accepted as “orthodox” and those which aren’t, appeal to Scripture to support their own “correct” and separate view.
In what way is this not a power game? Either I convince others my interpretation is correct and thus increase the size and relative power of my team, or I suffer as others attempt to impose their interpretation by various means on me. In the best case scenario, you reach a degenerative stalemate in which every person holds their own individual interpretation and thus their own private version of something they may or may not still call Christianity. There is no positive endgame to this power struggle.
And we see that played out these past centuries in the West. The personal and private endgame is not achievable and what you end up with instead is fatigue, rejection, and a collapse back into paganism. We only need look “across the pond” to see where that end game lands.
And actually, Ed, history has amply demonstrated and we continue to demonstrate that absent any authoritative interpreter the text is certainly malleable enough to say virtually anything anyone wants. Not anything, true. But quite the array.
Charl, I certainly don’t “hate” Calvinism. I’m not even sure how one goes about hating an idea. I find it odd and unappealing and a perspective which I think is tightly bound to a certain perspective of reality and probably won’t last through the current cultural shift over the next couple of centuries. But who knows really? I’m pretty lousy as a prognosticator.



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Scott M

posted November 28, 2007 at 12:29 pm


Brad, interesting. Of course, I could rattle off an opposing array of prooftexts, but that’s a nihilistic exercise. I’ll pass. As a rule I only prefer to discuss scripture in large segments placing the texts somewhere in the story of our God than as isolated little bits. However, I will point out that you approached the prooftexts you quoted already with a clear idea about what Peter means by prophecy, what Jesus had in mind when he talked about “every Word which proceeds from the mouth of God”, what “God-breathed” means in 2 Timothy, etc. And by largely ignoring and excluding texts such as 1 Timothy 3:15 you buttress the interpretation and perspective with which you came to scripture.
In other words, you may say you intellectually believe in some idea of “sola scriptura”, your post demonstrates otherwise. You don’t simply find meaning in scripture. Instead, you approach it with an idea and use it like a subordinate tool to support your idea.



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Scott M

posted November 28, 2007 at 12:33 pm


Sigh. My primary point is now completely lost in the shuffle. It’s why normally it’s my better judgment to avoid such discussions. I get sidetracked far too easily and mostly just end up frustrated. I probably shouldn’t have said anything in the first place. I’m not sure my thought really contributed to the question Scot was asking anyway.



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Fred Harrell

posted November 28, 2007 at 12:54 pm


I encourage the reading of Richard Mouw’s “Calvinism in a Las Vegas Airport”… for a generous Calvinism.



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Brad Cooper

posted November 28, 2007 at 1:04 pm


Scott,
No problem from my perspective. Discussions are meant for rabbit trails.
It’s easy to accuse me of prooftexting, but you have not shown in even one instance that that is the case (and prooftexting can always be shown). I have only highlighted the specific verses or phrases simply for space and time. I truly wish I had time to do a full exegesis from the original languages showing the import of the contexts (and with many of these verses the context makes the meaning much stronger and clearer).
At any rate, these verses say what they say. Their meaning is clear as they stand. For you to give these verses a meaning other than the straightforward and obvious meanging that they have is rather an indication that you have come to them desiring not to find that they mean what they mean….rather than that I have taken them out of context.
It’s quite interesting that you seem to think that you can read my mind and know how I have approached these verses….hmmmm.
Peter makes it very clear what he means by prophecy. Jesus/Deuteronomy may be less clear about the meaning of “every word that comes from the mouth of God” but I think that the context bears it out (as Jesus responds every time with a Biblical “prooftext”), other Scriptures (such as Psalm 119) bear it out, and the phrase itself bears it out as is it begs interpretation in order to be obeyed. In 2 Timothy, the Greek and the context both bear out the meaning.
I’m not prooftexting as you say. I have contemplated this whole issue very seriously over the last few decades and tested it time and time again in numerous ways. I don’t stand by an idea just because I like it. I only want to know what the truth is. I don’t want to live a deception. I want most of all to know God and God’s will for my life.



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Brad Cooper

posted November 28, 2007 at 1:06 pm


Scott, BTW, feel free to give me your list of prooftexts…could be interesting. I have to go to work soon, but I’ll take a look at 1 Timothy 3:15 and any other passages that you have in mind.
Peace.



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fjs

posted November 28, 2007 at 1:07 pm


I think it is helpful to read a variety of theology and the critical cases made by various writers be they Calvin, his followers, Piper or other contemporary theologians. In seminary, I found it helpful to examine a variety of biblical perspectives. This helped me realize that while I might choose a particular good, logical, biblical case or system of theology, there are other valid views. I am not speaking about relativism… so don’t get me wrong. I choose the best Biblical theology but can be generous to others who believe differently.
In fact studying theology from a variety of viewpoints has helped me grow, intellectually and in other ways. Learning to think critically is vital, that involves thinking through a variety of theological arguments and how they are derived biblically. We were taught how to measure arguments and validity not what to think specifically. It was uncomfortable and challenging to have to really think such things through for myself. Often the study produced much emotional anxiety because going in to seminary I really thought there was only one right way and I had to find it or find the “right” authority or knower to follow. The outcome is a kind of mature, generous authority, less self-centered and insecure. I hold onto truth but with an open spirit and gentleness.
And I am so grateful that we are long past the days when we burned one another at the stake for disagreements.



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Oloryn

posted November 28, 2007 at 1:38 pm


If God is sovereign over all (does not simply allow but actually minutely controls every action and event of history,re: ???after the counsel of His own will???) then it is pointless to argue for anything.
I suppose, theoretically, they could argue that God is minutely controlling them to be as argumentative as they are. :)
I have to agree with Julie on the importance of listening, as her viewpoint just about pretty well parallels my own take on it. Too few of us are willing to really understand where someone who disagrees with us is coming from. It’s pretty easy to take the position that once you’ve convicted someone of being wrong, where they’re coming from is irrelevant, and you can dismiss their exact position while you proceed to correct them. But even if you are actually right, and they’re actually wrong, you may be unlikely to convince them if you’re not willing to pay attention to where they’re coming from. There will be aspects of their viewpoint you simply won’t address, because you didn’t pay enough attention to see what they are, and those aspects will loom large in their eyes. They’ll likely walk away thinking “He simply didn’t understand”. At this point, you have failed to communicate effectively, because you have failed to listen. You might as well have gone off somewhere, stood like a statue, and pontificated into thin air, as you’ll be just about as effective.
There’s also the issue of terminology. More than once I’ve seen someone criticized in this thread for using the term “Hypercalvinism” incorrectly, with at least one implying that he wouldn’t listen to the other person unless they used it “correctly”. Now, there is definitely a place in discussion for encouraging more precision in concepts and terminology, but there’s also a place for recognizing that someone else uses a term (or terms) in a different way than you do and being willing to listen anyway. If you’re not willing to listen to someone until they conform their terminology to your own, then you’re not listening (at this point, see the previous paragraph). Part of good communication is both learning to be precise in concept and terminology and learning that other people may use the exact same terminology to mean something precisely different than you do. For more on this, I’d suggest digging up a copy of the C. S. Lewis collection “God in the Dock” and reading the article “Before we can communicate”.
Learning to listen in this way has benefits. In learning it, one of the things you learn is to pick up the subtle hints that tell you that what you’re hearing and what the other person is trying to communicate aren’t the same thing. Being practiced in this ability is quite valuable when approaching scripture. We’re trying to listen to a God who says “Your thoughts are not My thoughts”. If you have little ability to spot when what you’re hearing and what God’s communicating aren’t the same, you’re in trouble.
Lewis maintained that there should be a ordination exam on translating theology into ordinary, everyday words. At the other end, I’d suggest that one of the first classes in seminary ought to be on how to genuinely listen to people who are different than you are and understand where they’re coming from, even if (or particularly when) you don’t agree with them. Not only is it a good preparation for things like counseling, it’s a good preparation for having a hearing ear when doing theology.



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Scott M

posted November 28, 2007 at 1:52 pm


Brad, I don’t actually have a list of prooftexts I want to share since I’m not particularly interested in rebutting your point and my point was not about scripture and more about an observation of the manner in which people interact with scripture even as they say they are doing something different than what they are actually doing.
However, since you played the “straightforward and obvious meaning” card, I will respond a little to that. First, I was surprised to see you include Jesus’ response to the temptation to turn stones into bread in a discussion about Scripture. I’ve never considered that a statement having anything to do with Scripture. On the surface level, the first “straightforward and obvious meaning” I found in that temptation was a rejection of the materialism of the powers of this world and refusal to be ruled by the physical passions. That is clearly the focus of the temptation and what Jesus was doing when he rejected it.
On a deeper level, as I have immersed myself in the story, the scripture he quotes, having to do with the manna and the greater manna and the 40 years, connects his passage through the waters at his baptism and into the desert for 40 days to that Exodus story. We see that Jesus is retelling the story of Israel. But where Israel failed in the desert, he succeeds. Looking forward, I find that reference most naturally connects then to John 6, where Jesus, the Word which has proceeded from the mouth of God, reveals himself as the true bread of life, the true manna which has now come down from heaven.
Obviously there is a lot more there and the discussion could continue for hours. But I hardly see the “straightforward and obvious meaning” having much of anything to do with Scripture.
Also, since the 2 Peter prooftext in is a larger context of first comfirming the apostolic word or interpretation and then moving into a discussion of the false private interpretations of teachers who teach an interpretation different from that of the apostles, it is talking about prophesying, speaking about, or interpreting Scripture. In essence, to my ears the “straightforward and obvious meaning” of that passage rebuts the idea you were using the text to propound. Scripture by itself can be used properly or improperly. Instead, holy men acting through the power of the Holy Spirit not only wrote, but must interpret Scripture properly. Heretics and less stable Christians will interpret it improperly. The words of the text don’t change in either instance. Rather it is the prophecy or the interpretation which changes.
1 Timothy 3:15 is the Scripture which answers the question, “What is the pillar and support (or ground or foundation) of the truth?”



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josenmiami

posted November 28, 2007 at 2:27 pm


well…this was a popular thread!
Can’t we all just love one another and get along? Pray for world peace or something?



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Julie

posted November 28, 2007 at 2:47 pm


I’ve got other things to do today and I feel I’ve failed in communicating in this thread. I am not critical of Calvinism because of Calvinists. I have also spent a LOT of time studying reformed theology (went to two Presbyterian churches, MacArthur’s church and worked under PCA missionaries for years, not to mention time at L’Abri with Dr. Schaeffer). I Also have an MA in theology. So yeah, I think I can make my own judgment about whether or not I believe in the tenets of reformed theology. That is quite apart from the Calvinists themselves. My studies demonstrated to me that predestination is not a terrifying doctrine to Calvinists while it remained so for me. That is entirely possible.
My point in this thread was to validate the experiences of this pastor and to lend my own experiences to the table. I didn’t join this conversation to discuss Calvinism itself. BTDT.
Julie



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Julie

posted November 28, 2007 at 3:06 pm


Oops. The last part of my comment got left out. Then I’ve got to run. There is historical precedent calling Calvin’s doctrine of double predestination “the terrible decree.” I didn’t feel that I was too far afield in using the terminology I did on that basis, but seeing as it offended you, I will retract it.
Peace.



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fjs

posted November 28, 2007 at 3:47 pm


Oloryn, not sure if you were addressing me but will respond…
God is sovereign but he is also dealing with imperfect human beings. Calvin was a human being, Calvin was imperfect. Not everything he wrote is perfect because he is human. God works with humans to accomplish his purposes,,, he choses to use imperfect human beings to accomplish his plans in a given time in history. God continues to work through imperfect humans who are indeed fallible. I think anyone who claims to have a perfect handle on God’s sovereign wisdom might be claiming equality with God.
We must always remember we are human and imperfect vessels through whom an amazing God works. That is the mircle of his sovereignty.



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Oloryn

posted November 28, 2007 at 4:14 pm


fjs:
I’m not sure what I said you’re responding to, unless it’s my mostly-joking comment to the effect that a Calvinist might respond to Andrew Hedrick’s point by saying they were predestined to argue.



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fjs

posted November 28, 2007 at 4:29 pm


Your post followed mine so thought that perhaps you were responding to my point about reading a variety of theological views and examining theology and scripture with reason and thoughtfulness.
If you weren’t, OK.. sorry..
Sometimes the dialogue is kind of scary because those who take the strong Calvinist/fundatmentalist position assert their position as if there is no truth outside of it and that this particular view is somehow infallible. It’s not because humans are involved.
I think this is when Sovereignty goes too far… like we or Calvin in particular, are puppets or something who receive some kind of Divine Download of insight and do not have to think at all–just receive.
Reflecting on the Bible requires thought and study and I think that is what Calvin did… he was Spirit led, taught but is not in himself infallible. Nor are his teachings infallible.
I was trying to insert into the wider discussion that all knowers, even godly knowers are human and examine the scripture with assumptions and lenses. Just as they carefully discern truth from scripture, we also must discern from their writings and discern using scripture. We cannot just assume because our favorite knower said so,… it is so. Just because Calvin wrote some really great theology that has considerable validity, even for today can we assume that his writings are THE totality of theology as some seem to asert.



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Mike

posted November 28, 2007 at 4:47 pm


I couldn’t be bothered reading the whole thread, so apologies if this repeats stuff. I grew up in a Calvinist household, and I mean Cal-vin-ist! My dad would read us a passage of the institutes each night. Looking back on the way it has shaped my faith and life, it was great. But even better was the fact that we went to a Baptist church, which, some of the time was very Reformed, then every few years when the local pentecostal church split, would be flooded with penties and lose some of it’s reformed flavour. The best part for a kid though, was watching how people learnt to get along anyway. Sure, sometimes Dad would open the Bible after church and get us to critique the preacher, but never with disrespect, because leaders are to be respected. Sure, people would disagree, often, about many things, but they remained brothers and sisters. So Calvinists, hold on to your Calvinism (at least for four points), hey, spread it around, but don’t feel as though you are the guardians of the church, and that you have to wipe out all opposition



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josenmiami

posted November 28, 2007 at 5:05 pm


I agree with the idea of broadening our understanding of theology through variety. I have benefited from a study of Catholic theology (Karl Rahner) and more recently, liberation theology. It helps one not take oneself too seriously.



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Richard

posted November 28, 2007 at 9:33 pm


Hello to all,
I have read all of this lengthy thread, it’s interesting. The original question which began this thread if I’ve read it correctly, is the “proud Calvinists”, and how to handle the trial that they present in the writer’s church. Mention was made of the “post modern church.” It is unclear whether this describes the writer’s church, or is a separate topic. But it does present an interesting perspective. Who can deny that we live in a post-modern culture, where truth is malleable and can be selected or rejected at personal tastes like jelly beans in a bowl.
The historic sense has normally been that there is real, unalterable truth out there which is ignored at our peril, and whose discovery is diamonds; hard, unmalleable, and unchewable. And because we have a gut feeling that this life is not all there is (God given as standard equipment) which gives apprehension regarding the dread unknown, we really need to know “what’s all of this all about.” The truth is of utmost importance, especially in these post-modern times.
Doctrine is very important. Paul began his writings with exposition of doctrine, to be understood as the basis for living live as a Christian. Those who eschew an understanding of doctrine in favor of mere love will come to grief. There is no “love alone” in the Bible. Love stands on a rock foundation, or it collapses into ungoverned sentimentality. The human heart simply is not stable enough to fuel it.
And, the human heart will, left to itself, corrupt anything. Doctrine too, or especially, since its claims on our very souls makes us uneasy, rebellious even. We are adept at twisting and spinning doctrine as with any other truth, like a punched pillow to make it more comfortable.
It is my belief that the “Doctrines of grace”, properly understood, should leave the believer flat on the floor, on his face before the majesty and condescension of God. The spirit revels at His glories. But when doctrine is baptized in the flesh, it becomes odorous like over ripe manna. And those who have “discovered” the doctrines of grace, in their purity (they were not formulated by Calvin/Luther/Augustine, but are merely Bible), are naturally wanting to share them, propagate them as blessed gospel. And here we have to deal with a double problem, the flesh of the presenter, and the flesh of the hoped for recipient. I find it ironic that those things that are held out in scripture “that none should boast” may manifest themselves as triumphal boasting. This has been sinfully true of the visible church to a more or less extent for centuries.
I rest my hope in this, that Christ is Lord of the Church, that He does build His Church, He has triumphed over Satan and the flesh, that He will come for His own, and that redeemed from every tribe and tongue and people and nation will stand before Him in glory, that He will be vindicated and satisfied in His inheritance in the saints whom He has bought, and then we will see clearly. And be surprised that those pesky Calvinists, Arminians, even Catholics made it there at all. Such is His grace. Until then . . . . , we persevere in faith, and love. Right?



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Brad Cooper

posted November 28, 2007 at 10:22 pm


Richard, nicely said.



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Ed

posted November 28, 2007 at 11:56 pm


Scott #159
Ed, I think you missed what I was actually saying, but that???s OK. I probably don???t know how to communicate the thought or perception very well to those who wear different lenses than me. But let???s go with this ???external standard??? idea of yours. If you actually view Scripture as some sort of external standard or active arbiter, then I must say it???s not a very good one. Every confirmed heretic from Arius onward has appealed extensively to Scripture, while those who refuted them appealed to Scripture and, as much if not more, to what the Church had always believed the text to mean. Further, every sect and schism in the West, those generally accepted as ???orthodox??? and those which aren???t, appeal to Scripture to support their own ???correct??? and separate view.
First, the fact that heretics have appealed to Scripture doesn’t bother me. If I quote your first sentance, “I think you missed what I was actually saying” and say that see, missed can mean a ballplayer who swung at a pitch and did not connect, and “saying” something is an activity within which a “sales pitch” is found – so therefore you were talking not about me missing your point, but about a poetic way of saying that you deceived me (the batter) with a pitch of yours that for whatever reason you call “sales” … well, that’s just nonsense. Just because I can think of a “possible” way to interpret the words does not mean that I have grasped the author’s intent. But especially when you isolate a phrase or a verse by itself and allow yourself to be creative with language, does not mean you have arrived at the author’s meaning, or even at a sensible meaning. Language doesn’t work that way.
So, while it might be hard to determine the meaning of a particular word removed from its context, the more context you have, the fewer the “real” possibilities there are. A sentance is better than a word, a paragraph better than a sentance, a story better than a paragraph, a complete letter or narrative better than a story, a complete book better than a letter, and a complete book with better understanding of the environment within which it is written, best yet. Just because one group of people cling to a particular interpretation of a section does not make it true. The only thing, however, which will keep you refining your understanding is to recognize that we are fallible, we have a worldview that influences us, and that there is a true meaning of a text. So, if you do not agree with one another on a meaning, agree to disagree, put your arguments forth, and seek to persuade one another in humility. And maybe, just maybe, we can get past all our prejudices and preconceived ideas and get to the meaning of the text. But without a text – an external standard – debate itself has little meaning. If I say God is a big pink bunny with a purple tail, you have no way of even entering a debate with me unless we agree on something beyond our opinions that will bind us to change.
In what way is this not a power game? Either I convince others my interpretation is correct and thus increase the size and relative power of my team, or I suffer as others attempt to impose their interpretation by various means on me.
It is not a power game because in the end, a crowd does not indicate rightness – it only indicates a crowd. “Athanasius against the world!” – because truth does not need to be believed by everyone to be true – it does not even need to be believed by one. So numbers or positions or wiping out your opponent do not determine truth. But in humility, we can agree to disagree in our pursuit of truth, but without some external standard, there is no context for debate – and I believe the Bible is that standard for Christians.
I don’t care if you believe in Calvinism or not. I don’t think your eternal destiny hinges on getting that particular doctrine right. I don’t have any stake in whether or not you believe it – except that I think truth matters, and that it gives your worldview a proper orientation of reality. But hey, if you want to believe otherwise – and I don’t care if there’s one of you or 10,000,000 – that’s OK. If I love my fellow man who comes to me and says 2+2 is 5, I might do what I can to help him see the error of his way. If he is a beloved friend or child, I might do everything in my power to convince them – and I might even get some emotions mixed in, because I know how such an error will distort their life. But eventually, you must leave the person to their own devices if they insist that 2+2 is 5. There’s only so much one can do. But to say the question of 2+2 doesn’t matter is to misunderstand the foundation of truth we all depend on to have any meaningful existence.
Besides, since when is saying anything “imposing” a belief on someone else? You have every right to be offended by what I say – but I still have a right to say it. Words – even vile ones – have a right to offend others. Theological differences, too.
In the best case scenario, you reach a degenerative stalemate in which every person holds their own individual interpretation and thus their own private version of something they may or may not still call Christianity. There is no positive endgame to this power struggle.
Unless of course you work towards being open to the fact that you might be wrong, and that you are working towards something outside yourself – a standard called Truth. Your “best case” scenario assumes that no one will ever be convinced by another’s reason, that no one will ever set aside their pride and consider another’s position, and that no one will ever submit to any truth outside themselves. That may be true of individuals, but I don’t think it is true across the board …
And we see that played out these past centuries in the West. The personal and private endgame is not achievable and what you end up with instead is fatigue, rejection, and a collapse back into paganism. We only need look ???across the pond??? to see where that end game lands.
Actually, from what I understand of history, the more the search for Truth became unfettered from an outside standard, the more your results appeared. I do not think that a commitment to really try to get at the meaning of the text devolves into Europe … I think it is the lack of seeing anything outside of oneself as a judge over one’s ideas …
And actually, Ed, history has amply demonstrated and we continue to demonstrate that absent any authoritative interpreter the text is certainly malleable enough to say virtually anything anyone wants. Not anything, true. But quite the array.
I would disagree. Even as splintered as American Christianity is, there is still a core that makes it Christian. The authority is not in the interpreter, but in the text. There is hope for fallable men working together to seek the text – there is much less hope for an authoritative interpreter arising from within sinful men as “the source” for all Truth.
Scripture is not as unclear as you say. There may be some secondary issues that people disagree on, but if humanity is on the earth another 1,000 years, I believe that through the standard of the ewritten word (and the Spirit given to us) that the people of that day will understand the text far better than we do. Perhaps they will have settled some of the controversies that perplex us today. But even saying that, I don’t think Scripture is as unclear as you claim – There are very few passages that cannot be understood when one takes into account all the context surrounding it. But as sinful human beings, it is not in our nature to do the humble, hard work necessary to arrive there …



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Ed

posted November 29, 2007 at 12:05 am


Sorry, the marks (without the spaces) I put around the text in my last post aren’t visible … makes it hard to read …



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Ed

posted November 29, 2007 at 12:06 am


once agian the (open bracket) quote (closed bracket) didn’t come through … aaaghh.



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Brad Cooper

posted November 29, 2007 at 2:02 am


Scott #167,
OK brother, let’s take a closer look at the straightforward meaning of these passages.
FIRST of all 2 Peter 1:20-21: “Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”
You want to claim that the meaning here is obscure and that maybe it has something to do with someone giving a prophetic word in a worship service. To me, it seems obvious that you are simply looking for another meaning other than the straightforward meaning. Here’s why I say that: (1) The passage clearly says that the prophecy being referred to is “prophecy of SCRIPTURE” (emphasis mine, but the wordd are Peter’s/the Holy Spirit’s: propheteia graphes). That by itself makes it very clear. That’s straightforward. There’s no room at all for the kind of interpretation you tried to give it. (2) The context also makes this very clear as verse 19 states that “the word of the prophets” concerning the Messiah is confirmed by the things that Peter and the other apostles witnessed (particularly the transfiguration). (Peter gives similar teaching concerning Messianic prophecy in his first epistle in 1:10-11: “Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow.”) (3) The clear point of this passage is that no prophecy in Scripture was ever the result of mere human effort/will. This idea is repeated in these verses for emphasis and then contrasted with: “men spoke FROM GOD as they were CARRIED ALONG BY THE HOLY SPIRIT” (again the same idea said in two different ways). So if you’re keeping score, that’s four different ways that Peter makes his point that Scripture is from God and not of human origin. That’s what I call straightforward. (4) NOTE that Peter says that “ABOVE ALL, you must understand [this]….” Obviously Peter doesn’t want us to miss his point. He clearly states that this teaching is of utmost importance. And so he states it in a very straightforward manner…so that all can understand.
This is very similar to Jesus’ words in Mark 7 where he draws a very distinct line between the words of man and the words of Scripture. ???Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down.??? (Mark 7:13) If we have nothing but the traditions of men in the New Testament and not the words of God, then we are under the same condemnation as the Pharisees and teachers of the law. That includes any tradition that tries to bring an interpretation to the Scripture that is not born out by the Scripture itself (which is the kinds of tradition that Pharisees and other Jewish leaders tended to traffic in).
SECONDLY, Matthew 4:4: “Jesus answered, ???It is written: ???Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.??????
Your suggestion that Jesus is being paralleled with Israel has merit. I have tended to believe that Matthew is drawing an analogy between Moses and Jesus and is showing that Jesus is the prophet like Moses that the people of Israel were to listen to (Deut. 18:15). It’s not really essential to draw a distinction here. Both are true and it may very well be that both are intended. I also understand your connecting this passage to John 6. There are some serious problems with that idea, however: (1) “Every word” indicates plural words, but Christ is one….the Word. (2) Christ would have to be eating himself. (3) Although Christ is the Logos of God, he is never described as coming “from the mouth of God.” (4) Scripture, on the other hand, is often spoken of as God’s words (cf. Psalm 119, etc.). (5) The words that Jesus quotes in Mt. 4:4 are from Deuteronomy 8:3. If we look at the context of this quote in Deut. 8, we find that it most certainly confirms that the words from the mouth of God are the words of the Torah: “Be careful to follow every command….keep his commands….Observe the commands of the LORD your God”….etc. The meaning, then, is that we are not to be governed by our passions but by the words of the Holy Spirit given to us in Scripture.
THIRD, 1 Timothy 3:15: “…if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth” (NIV).
I assume that you are referring to this verse as a way of saying that the only way to know the truth is through the Church. That’s obviously one interpretation, but it is in no way clearly stated as such. Neither the wording or the context mandate or even indicate that this is the proper interpretation. And frankly, I think it is a rather strained interpretation. I take it to mean simply that the Church upholds and supports the truth. Eugene Peterson interprets it similarly in The Message: “the bastion of truth” (“bastion,” of course, meaning “stronghold”). Craig S. Keener puts it this way in his Bible Background Commentary: “‘Pillars’ were used to uphold structures, and support for the truth was needed given its challenge by false teachers.” A.T. Robertson (Word Pictures in the NT) says that the word that the NIV translates “foundation” is a rare word, that it comes from a word that means “to make stable,” and that it “probably means stay or support rather than foundation or ground.” The New American Standard translates it: “pillar and support of the truth.” The Amplified Bible: “the pillar and stay (the prop and support) of the Truth.” John Wycliffe interprets it similarly: “a pillar and firmness of truth.” At any rate, you can’t really say that the Church is the source of the truth. God alone is the source of the truth.
FINALLY, Scott, you stated: “But that also means scripture can only be understood and interpreted through the life of the Church in a manner consistent with the Church through all of the past two thousand years. It is always a communal activity and it is a community that spans not just space, but time.” But in your interpretations of Scripture above, you made no references to Athanasius or Augustine or the Creeds or Luther or Wesley or Eusebius or Mother Teresa or Carson or McKnight or…..or anyone but yourself…..hmmmm. (I don’t mean to be rude here, but I’m drawing attention to what I think is a clear gap between how you say we should all interpret Scripture and what you yourself actually do. Read what you wrote in #167 and you’ll see frequent mention of yourself as the source and no one else.)
Frankly, although we can learn a lot from brothers and sisters like these and we should, they don’t always agree. We can find all kinds of interpretations of Scripture if we simply use that route. Besides, it is impossible for anyone to make a survey of what every one has ever said about every verse (even if we just count what has been written down and passed down). So while these counselors may be of great help, we are still left to rely on the Holy Spirit to teach us his Word–to help us to understand the meaning of the Scripture as we are ready–and in his timing for us–a little bit more at a time. And that he will do faithfully. After all, there is really only one teacher, the Messiah (Matthew 23: 10).
May Jesus himself increase our understanding of his Word. Peace.



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Brad Cooper

posted November 29, 2007 at 2:23 am


By the way, Scott, this is not a power game for me. I gain nothing from it. I’m not selling a book, representing a school, or trying to get people to come to my church–never even mentioned which church it is….if anything I would probably just be scaring them away anyways! ;)
I’m here on this blog site having this conversation because: (1) I enjoy the conversation with other brothers and sisters like you. I like reading what other’s say, both things that I agree with and things I don’t agree with. (2) I frequently gain new insights from what Scot and others post. (3) I like having my ideas tested by others. It makes me stronger and hopefully wiser…. (4) I believe that God has given me insight that I can share with others and build them up, also. (5) Blogging helps me to process my own thinking. I’m putting all these words down for myself as much as for anyone else.
I’m not interested in power. Frankly, I generally avoid opportunities of power. I only want that kind of responsibility if I’m sure that God wants me to take it.
And it doesn’t really matter to me whether you agree with me or not. I’d really be surprised if you did. But maybe we can have a part in each other’s journey and encourage each other to take a closer look at what we believe. That’s enough for me. I don’t want responsibility for what you believe. I’ll leave that responsibility to God.
May the peace of Jesus be with you.



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Brad Cooper

posted November 29, 2007 at 2:25 am


Ed #178,
Great thoughts, brother. Thanks.



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Bob Brague

posted November 29, 2007 at 8:58 am


Re “The Ed and Brad Chronicles”: I remember hearing Billy Graham say one time (and even though it sounded trite, there was truth in it), “No one has ever been debated into the kingdom of God, but many have been loved into the kingdom of God.”
BTW, I think both of you are in the kingdom of God.



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Bob Brague

posted November 29, 2007 at 9:32 am


I hesitate to quote Edwin Markham’s little poem titled “Outwitted” because it seems to be a favorite of the Unitarian-Universalist crowd, but here it is anyway:
Outwitted
by Edwin Markham
He drew a circle that shut me out –
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout
But love and I had the wit to win
We made a circle and drew him in.
I suppose some of the more strident here might call me wishy-washy, but love isn’t wishy-washy, love is patient, kind,….



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Brad Cooper

posted November 29, 2007 at 10:38 am


Bob,
Perhaps you missed my comments at #182. I’m not trying to argue anyone into the kingdom. I have no doubt that Scott is my brother (as I call him a couple of times) and already a part of the kingdom. This is simply a theological discussion about the nature of the Word of God. As I end my part of the conversation in #182, I really doubt that I will convince him of my position…but I still find value in discussing it. Peace.



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Bob Brague

posted November 29, 2007 at 11:11 am


Brad, my bad, I should have said “The Scott and Brad Chronicles”…
I didn’t think for a minute you were trying to argue Scott into the kingdom. Your self-description up on an earlier post (sorry, can’t find the number) could have been me, almost. And I apologize for singling you and Scott out; your exchanges were just the latest in this very long thread.
Yes, peace.



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Aretse

posted November 29, 2007 at 11:38 am


Kind request for Mr. Cooper…could you direct me to any sound material about tithing; or misuse/misinterpretation in modern times? ( you had mentioned something in # 151)Thank you!



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Brad Cooper

posted November 29, 2007 at 11:52 am


Bob #187,
No problem. Grace and peace.



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Scott M

posted November 29, 2007 at 12:05 pm


I’m going to limit my comments because I know Scot doesn’t appreciate overly long comments on his posts. I err sometimes, but I do try to be a good guest despite my weakness toward verbosity.
Ed, I find it very strange that you quote “Athanasius against the world!” in an appeal to uninterpreted external truth of Scripture. It was actually Arius who was making a very popular appeal to an understanding based on scripture alone while Athanasius primarily stood not on scripture alone but on what the Church had always believed to be true about Jesus. In other words, Athanasius clung to the Tradition of the Church interpreting Scripture against the ‘sola scriptura’ approach of Arius. I do agree that it’s a critically important moment in Church history, but I don’t think it teaches the lesson you appear to believe it does. Nobody who is a Christian should dispute the authority of the Holy Spirit operating through Scripture.
But our text is not like the Qu’ran and when we begin to treat it in a similar way, I believe we have stepped in the wrong direction. I was shocked when I discovered a year or two ago that many within my particular denomination, Southern Baptists, refer to themselves as “People of the Book”. I had only known that designation as one used within Islam. I have since become increasingly aware that much of what we do looks in many ways more like the practice one would find in a mosque than anything traditionally Christian. That bothers me.
I’m also something of a math geek, so I will note that your example of 2+2=5 as a certain falsehood should more precisely define the mathematical system within which it is to be interpreted. People tend to assume that the mathematics which most closely correlates to our experiential world are the only possibilities. ;-) (In other words, the experience that you have two apples and I have two apples, so together we have four apples is only one possibility that can be mathematically described.)
I do find your discussion of a “right” to say something odd. I don’t particular dispute it, and I’m glad for our freedom to say almost anything we desire with little official consequence (though anything we say does tend to carry some consequence anyway). However, I don’t find any such idea of a “right” in scripture. That idea seems more tightly wed to the Enlightenment than anything in Christianity. I find your idea about the self-enlightened adoption of an idea shared by another similarly influenced. Sure, that happens. But that usually means one has “convinced” the other and thus won the power game or that upon consideration a party has “freely” decided to alter their intellectual beliefs on the topic.
Doesn’t our text say more about holding to that which has been given to us orally and in writing from the apostles? (e.g. Matthew 28:18-20, 2 Timothy 2:2, 2 Thessalonians 2:15) In other words, submitting to it whether we yet “agree” with it or not? That is what is utterly missing in Protestantism and why it degenerates the way it has. In fact, though everyone tries (and thus ensue the power games), I don’t think it’s possible within Protestantism to approach doctrine and faith in any way that does not ultimately devolve into an individual acceptance or rejection of a particular truth.
Frankly, it’s a postmodern’s dream situation. If I hadn’t already been there and done that with other spiritualities before my identity began to be reshaped by Jesus of Nazareth, I would probably love it. That is, if I could ever find a place relatively free of the rampant power games which permeate Protestantism in lieu of any real authority.
Christianity is a religion completely orbiting the one off event of a God who became part of his creation in the person of Jesus of Nazareth at a particular place and a particular time. This Jesus taught and did particular things for particular reasons. Most especially he rose from the dead, breaking the final power of death and establishing his reign in fact and sent the Holy Spirit so God would no longer be external, but actually tabernacle — be present — with all who give their believing allegiance to Jesus the King. And he sent out apostles to call a remnant that grows both from Israel and the nations and to teach them particular things. This remnant which grows, this people of God rooted in the Messiah of Israel, seems to be called the Church in the rest of Scripture. (I think Jesus only uses the term ‘ecclesia’ twice.) Either all of that is real and actually happened or there is no reason to be Christian. But if it is real, it does limit our ability to privately decide what it means to follow Jesus.
My observation is that Protestants have attempted to make a book and individual, private interpretation their only authority and the results have been demonstrably worse than every other approach within Christianity. The “Church” has become either invisible or hidden. Fragmentation and disintegration continues at an ever accelerating pace. And the command of Scripture that we be one is taken to be something that will only occur in some eschatalogical future and it’s a waste of time to think it might actually happen here.
Now, I know as well as I know anything that I will never be Roman Catholic. I have family members who are devout Roman Catholics. I know a great deal about their Tradition. And I honor much within it. But their largely medieval, Aristotlian framework is no less difficult for me than the essentially Modern framework which permeates Protestantism. It’s unlikely I will ever be Orthodox, though who really knows what life will look like in a decade. (If anyone a decade and a half ago had proposed I would be ‘Christian” today, I would have thought them mad.) I’ve yet to encounter anything in the thought and life of Orthodoxy which bothers me in any significant way, but it’s unlikely my family could or would make such a dramatic leap. So, since I’m Protestant and likely to remain such, I would like to know if there’s any possible way we can fix this “god-awful” mess we’ve created.
Somehow, I doubt that continuing to appeal to varying interpretations of our Scripture divorced from any other context or authority will ever do it. I’m reminded of the saying that insanity is to continue to do the same thing and expecting a different result. The result of what we have been doing is on open display for all to see. Is that actually the result we believe the one we call Lord, Jesus of Nazareth, desires? Are we obeying the Spirit or are we grieving the Spirit? This is a fundamental question of faith, not some secondary issue. If we proclaim someone as Lord and refuse to obey his commands, we are liars. It’s as simple as that. Further, when we are not one as Jesus and the Father are one, the world has no reason to believe our proclamation. And every reason to reject it.
And so Ed, what is that “core” that makes American Christianity “Christian”? We are so syncretic we except even ancient heresies like modalism under our big tent. Heck, I’m not even sure we have sufficient foundation to reject even Arius today. “American Christianity” is already permeated with a soft gnosticism which we know John would have rejected. And statistically we’re on a path very similar to what has happened in much of Western Europe. It won’t look exactly the same here if it continues. My gut and experience tells me we will lapse more directly into paganism than through an interim period of “secularism”, especially in the south — which is where my experience mostly lies.
I also don’t believe I said Scripture was unclear. Rather I said it says nothing without interpretation. Now how do we judge interpretations? The Protestant idea that a text that does and says nothing absent interpretation can somehow then judge interpretations by itself is speaking, as far as I can discern, nonsense. The crazy pyramids required to buttress such ideas look pretty flimsy to me as one shaped more by the whirlwind of postmodern cultural experience. It never ceases to amaze me how many elaborate and interlocking beliefs people can maintain over time.
Brad, I never said the 2 Peter text was obscure. To me it is obvious that it is speaking about prophecies of Scripture, that is proclaimed interpretations of Holy Scripture. True ones come only from the Holy Spirit. False ones abound. As a parallel to support this defense Peter is mounting against false interpreters, Peter also notes this has always been true. All the prophecies recorded at different places in the Septuagint came from God and were not the invention of the prophet. The fact that I find the “clear and obvious” meaning of the text to be different than you find it to be does not mean that I find it to be obscure. You can assert, as you did, that there is no room at all my interpretation, but you are simply privileging your own interpretation over mind. In other words, you are asserting a will to power. So where do we go from here? Who is right and who is wrong? Or are we both right? Or is it not possible to know who is right? (BTW, I pulled my interpretation more or less directly from the Orthodox Study Bible. I don’t know if I actually precisely understand or agree with everything they would say, but their interpretation of the passage does seem more resonant with the text than your own.)
I was considering Jesus’ response more as a parallel to the story of Israel as the second level of interpretation. The “obvious” meaning would still be the first level I proposed. This is Jesus’ rejection of domination by the material passions. And the quote falls right in the middle of the reference to the story of the Exodus. Carrying it on into the discussion of the mitzvots and what keeping them or failing to keep them meant is an interesting direction I hadn’t actually considered. It possibly has some merits, though I doubt I would come to the same conclusions. Nevertheless, that connection is not “obvious” and still does not connect us back to interpreting Jesus’ words as somehow extolling the authority of Scripture. I still find that a highly contrived interpretation of the Matthew text.
I do notice how often you feel compelled to say “clear” or “clearly”. My experience is that if something is truly “clear” the clarity does not need to be so often explicitly emphasized. In fact, it shouldn’t need to be emphasized at all. That reads more like someone attempting to assert an interpretation that is not actually clearly present in the text at all.
You also make a mistake when you attribute everything I have said publicly to my own thought. In fact, I suspect my own interpretations more than I do that of others. I know very well how accomplished I am at self-deception. I often have ideas, but rarely share them publicly unless I have heard similar thoughts in other places. Every idea or thought I have shared here is one I have encountered in some shape or form somewhere within the bounds of orthodox faith. It might by McKnight, Wright, the patristics, Newbigin, or Orthodox teaching. But nothing I’ve shared in this discussion is purely my own interpretation.
One example would be my thoughts on God’s knowledge of the future. Years ago I developed an idea on that which seemed to make more sense to me than the ones I had heard elsewhere. However, I shared it nowhere in public because I did not trust it. You have to have some understanding from which to work and I could accept that one more than I could accept others. So I used it privately, but held it very loosely. Then a year or so ago, Scot described a perspective called, I believe, the middle knowledge. As I read and considered his description, I realized it was very close to the understanding I had developed. Since then, I have felt more freedom to reference it in public discussion.
BTW, “my” interpretation of 1 Timothy 3:15 is the interpretation of that verse by the overwhelming majority of Christians in the world, though Roman Catholics and Orthodox would interpret it with different nuance. It’s nice that you believe it means something different and can cite some others who agree with your interpretation, but it merely proves my point. Absent interpretation, the text says nothing at all.
Well, I utterly failed at my originally stated goal. I can either delete all I’ve written or throw myself on Scot’s mercy. Since you’re reading this, I clearly chose the latter. ;-)



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Brad Cooper

posted November 29, 2007 at 12:06 pm


Aretse #188,
I wish I could help you here. This has been a long process for me. I’ve been working on a book to present the truth in this matter, but it is not anywhere near ready for publication.
If you look on Amazon and search using the keyword “tithing,” you will find several books. I have not consulted any of these so I cannot recommend any to you. I have been doing all of my thinking and research straight from the Bible.
None of the authors of the books that I found against tithing are familiar to me. I will say that many of the books seem to spew a lot of bitterness and judgementalism….I would definitely stay away from those.
I’ll try to find time later tonight to share some of the basic things that I have learned related to the issue of tithing. I have to go for now, though. Sorry.
Peace.



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Peggy

posted November 29, 2007 at 2:32 pm


Aretse #188,
I would recommend that you have a wander over to Michael Kruse’s blog…Scot has the link in his sidebar…for some wonderful stuff on tithing.



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Ed

posted November 29, 2007 at 4:53 pm


Re: Scott #190
Verbosity is obviously a weakness of mine as well …
The reason I quoted Athanasius was not to necessarily agree with his cause, but to agree with his sentiment that it does not matter how many people are for truth or against truth – i.e. truth is not determined by popularity or poll – that even if only one person was on the side of truth, that’s a battle worth fighting.
I don’t know about treating “our text” as the Qu’ran, but if you treat it any way other than a book of assembled stories, letters, and histories which have a real setting and a real meaning behind them, you have in fact turned it into something other than it is. God invented language, and he uses language to reveal himself to us. Left to our own devices, we would never get beyond a vague concept of “God” – and we certainly wouldn’t get the gospel. So, if God chooses to reveal himself through language – through the normal process of people putting thought to paper, then surely we should use “normal” skills in understanding the text as we would with any important document. Personally, I wouldn’t mind being known as “People of the Book” for that would be shorthand for “People of the God who has revealed himself in the Book.” It is a silly thing when people use the term “bibliolaters” – if we value God, we will value his communication to us. Just the same as a love who writes from a long distance is revealed through her words on the page – and the page is treasured. Not because of “intrinsic value” but because the letter represents the thoughts and heart of the one loved.
I don’t care if what we do looks like what happens in a mosque (although I’m not yielding that assesment). The question is, does what we do resemble what God tells us to do in worshipping Him. It would not surprise me to find out that a counterfeit resembles the real thing in many ways – in fact, the more clever the counterfeiter, the more it will resemble the real thing. And Christianity’s roots are in the middle east …
And yes, as an engineer, I understand what you are saying regarding the mathematical system … but I’m talking about the every day world that most people live in. If you have two dollars and I have two dollars, and I give you my two dollars, within the universe we actually live in, you will have four dollars. While there are strange things that happen in quantum physics and theoretical worlds and other dimensions, within this dimension – where the Bible is made up of words on a page – 2 + 2 is 4, and sentances, paragraphs, etc. have meaning.
It is no doubt that some use persuasion and certainly manipulation as a way to gain or hold power. Words are powerful, and they do influence. But that does not mean that a search for truth necessarily implies a quest for power. The reason that I said you have a right to say what you want was not based on some enlightenment idea (a right which I do think is basic to humanity and a part of scripture), but to say that no, not all disagreements or debates are a quest for power. To claim that I seek power over you by “winning the argument” is just not true. I don’t know you, I don’t think we have any contact in life, I’m not over you or under you. What you believe has little effect on my life directly. But, because I do think there is such a thing as Truth, and that it matters, and that it will affect your life, I think there is reason enough with the command to “love your neighbor” and to “worship God with all your … mind.” But it’s not a quest for power.
About the text saying holding to oral and written canon, I think this is a prime example of understanding the words in context. When those words were penned, the “Bible” was not “complete” and there were apostles around. I think that God preserved and completed the Bible as a course of history, and therefore that verse is one that needs a broader understanding than just the few words in the phrase. The concept is there, that we hold to the “traditions” and words – but now, the traditions are completely contained within the words. Besides, didn’t Jesus himself scold the Pharisees for holding onto their traditions over the word of God? So, given the choice between oral tradition and scripture, between “the best thinking of man” and the written Word of God, he said go with the written word of God.
And of course we should submit to something in Scripture whether we agree with it or not. But understanding and agreeing are not identically the same. Something that is “difficult” to understand (like when Peter said that some of Paul’s writings are difficult) needs further research and explanation. But when something is “understood” correctly, then of course it should be submitted to. But to use the reformation phrase “semper reformata” – always reforming. There is nothing wrong with questioning a historical interpretation, as long as your goal is understanding the text – and not imposing your beliefs upon it in a search for power. There is a huge difference between saying that interpreters in the past were bound to their worldview and therefore saw this verse though their own eyes, rather than the eyes of the original writer and audience, and saying that words are so elastic as to have no meaning and thus the Bible is indecipherable. But the text must be the “ruling force” – if any individual or group claims “authoritative interpretations,” well, then, they are perhaps groping for power. But that is not to say that people cannot have conviction about their beliefs and “oppose” other beliefs in loving debate. But we must submit to the meaning intended by the authors, but we know that this meaning is not always easily determined.
I actually like postmodernism in that it asks the hard questions challenging “traditional” interpretations and recognizing that we are all biased, and we all have a particular worldview that influences our thoughts. I like that they resist “power struggles,” though I think that the end result of their “unanchored” reasoning will be nothing but a power struggle. But I don’t like that they relativize everything except their own foundational beliefs. Modernism may have its issues, but of anything, postmodernism should be the first to recognize its own.
I like what you say about the “religion of Christianity” orbiting Jesus as a historical person. But arguing that individual protestants have all interpreted for themselves seems to go precisely where you said you don’t want to go – to a power struggle. Either there is a person (or group of people) with power to determine authoritative interpretations, or everyone interprets for themselves to some degree. If it is off a standard – just pure speculation or opinion – then I agree that this is no good. But if we believe in the priesthood of every believer, and if every believer humbly acknowledges that God has given us all different gifts for the good of the body, then this does not have to degrade into the anarchy you (rightly) loathe.
As for being one, I think that we already are one. It is a fact of being in the family. We may not act like it, but we are – everybody who belongs to Jesus belongs to everybody who belongs to Jesus. But being one is not being carbon copies. If we are to reflect the majesty of our God, there must be diversity – we are too finite to fully reflect him in an individual sense. Diversity does not mean anarchy, nor does it necesaarily mean division. We can reflect the diversity within unity in the “same way” that the diversity within unity is expressed in the Trinity. And, as the church continues on its path, I think we will reflect this unity more and more – even if the theological differences we have remain.
As far as fixing the mess “we’ve created” – I think that might be too narrow a focus on ourselves again. Christ is the one that builds his church, and by looking at some of the things going on in the Corinthian church, for example, I would be hard pressed to say that we are worse off than they are. I’m confident in the sovereignty and providential care of God for His church. We sinners are the problem – the solution has to be supernatural. Fortnately, we have the same power within us that raised Christ from the dead, and now we struggle with all HIS energy. God will prevail. His church will not go down any path he has not ordained.
And as far as insanity, I think that there has been much progress when the standard of Scripture has been upheld – on its own authority and not tied to any human or group. To think of the changes that have taken place in the Christian world over the last 2000 years, it would be hard not to see it as a triumph of the gospel through the Word. You must be “postmodern enough” to view things beyond your own perspective, beyond your own culture, beyond the USA, and beyond this time in history.
Trying to keep this short, I think you did a good job of defining the core of Christianity before. Jesus. I might even say the truth’s in the Apostle’s creed. But just because there are heretics and apostates and deceivers does not change the fact that there is a core to Christianity. Doesn’t Paul say that “if you confess with your mouth that Christ is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you shall be saved.” I think I’m comfortable trying to understand this text correctly – I think it is speaking to the core. Now, that standard “lets in” people that frankly, I am uncomfortable with, but hey, it’s His kingdom, not mine. But I won’t give up dialoguing about truth with the hope that someday, if it is God’s will, we can agree on much more than we do today.
About saying scripture is unclear – your objection seems to interpret my words as having you mouth the words “scripture (is) unclear” – but the author’s (me) original intent was not that you said those words, but that the effect was the same with the words you said. If it is truly that difficult to interpret Scripture rightly because of the defectiveness of the words (as opposed to us and our thinking), then how can we hold onto the notion that it was inspired by God to communicate with us? If it is not possible to have the majority of passages “clear” when understood properly, can I have a refund please? Such an idea strikes at the character of God in the same way the serpent did in the garden: “Has God really said …” Of all the characters in the Bible, it seems that the most “post-modern” of the post-moderns (and the most liberal of the liberals) may have more in common with the serpent than anyone. Satan quotes scripture, but interprets (applies) it wrongly to Jesus. Satan questions God’s words and his trustworthiness to Adam. Not somewhere I want to be, thank you.
Without the Bible, we are lost to the ability of man to determine truth for himself. To me, that smacks right at the heart of God’s character as a loving, forgiving God who stepped into time and space to communicate with us and to save us …
The fact that there are hard things for us to understand is not surprising, given that God’s ways are higher than our ways, that we are tainted in every way by sin (including our minds), and that God is too large for any one (or even the whole human race) to grasp fully. But that doesn’t change his character, or the character of the words he sent to communicate with us.
But to claim it’s not about clarity, it’s about interpretation is just silly. If something is clear, then it is easy to interpret. If something is unclear, then it is hard to interpret. Just because some sinful human beings (aren’t we all …) twist and misunderstand scripture does not mean that there is necessarily a flaw with the text. If I write a calculus problem on a piece of paper, my 7 year old daughter will claim that it is a “pretty picture.” If I tell her there is meaning there, she will say it is unclear. But it’s not. The issue is not with the calculus problem – it’s with her. She has not yet progressed to be able to understand it. When a sinner sees the commandment “Thou shalt love thy neighbor” – he says it is unclear – “who is my neighbor?” But the problem is not with the text – it is with the “sinner.”
Scripture is the only objective standard that we have outside ourselves, and it should be the highest authority we appeal to, as the very words of the God who loves us enough to die for us, but that doesn’t mean it is always easy to determine the correct meaning. But the problem isn’t the text – it’s our seperation from the time and culture of the authors, our own undeveloped abilities in interpretation, and our sinfulness that get in the way. But without scripture to constantly appeal to, and humility to search for truth rather than our agendas, all discussions will devolve into power struggles …



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Michael T.

posted November 29, 2007 at 5:29 pm


Hello, everybody.
It’s disappointing and also sad to see the dislike for Calvinism and Calvinist theology.
I believe that much if not all of this dislike for Calvinist theology is the product of bigotry and ignorance of (a) Calvinist theology and (b( the Scriptures.
I say this because after an extensive examination over sevreal years of Calvin’s writings and Calvinist theology, together with a detailed comparison of these with the Scriptures, it’s very evident that Calvinist theology and Calvin’s writings are accurate and remarkably faithful expositions of the Scriptures and the teachings of Christ and His Apostles set out in the Scriptures.
Thus a rejection of the principles and t’ruths expressed in Calvinist theology and Calvin’s writings is also a rejection of the Biblical truths of the sovereignty of GOD and of salvation by grace alone entirely apart from works.
Michael T.



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Peggy

posted November 29, 2007 at 7:22 pm


Hmmm…it is equally disappointing and sad when the intended purpose of this post has run so amuck…as if simplistically rehashing the whole thing here will resolve hundreds of years of sincerely held and diligently studied interpretations.
Please….
What we’re talking about is the lost art of speaking the truth in love…about agreeing to disagree agreeably… about, well I’m not going to say it again when it’s already been said any number of times in-between the passionate recitations of “plain and simple truth” that too often is totally obscured by the tone and attitude that accompanies the passion.
What is that current saying: “the medium is the message”?
God help us all….the message is love, isn’t it?



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Scot McKnight

posted November 29, 2007 at 8:03 pm


Michael T,
I appreciate that you are can be disappointed in how some talk about Calvinism.
However, how we talk about these matters is enormously significant, and I’m sure you did not intend this but I’ll tell you how I hear what you have said:
1. Your comment asserts that those who don’t affirm Calvinism are bigots and ignorant. Do you think that everyone who disagrees with Calvin does so out of bigotry and ignorance? I have myself read Calvin plenty, and I don’t agree with him. I hope I’m neither bigoted about him and I know I’m not ignorant of him.
2. To reject your views, Calvinism, means I reject the Bible. Isn’t that a bit presumptuous — namely to equate your view with the Bible and to assume that anyone who doesn’t read the Bible as you do must be wrong?
Plenty have weighed these issues in the balance and have concluded, as I have myself, that Calvinism is not accurate to the Bible — I for one think Calvinism explains away the clear and plain teachings of Hebrews (see my posts on Post-Calvinism) — and that Calvinism has plenty of challenges both exegetically and theologically/philosophically.
We can do better than this. We can respect the integrity of one another while clearly affirming our views and even critiquing our brothers and sisters in Christ.
But it is not appropriate to accuse everyone else of bigotry and ignorance.



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Michael T.

posted November 29, 2007 at 8:17 pm


Peggy,
The need to speak the truth in love is often demanded in an effort to evade the cutting edge of the Truth, and what’s worse, this demand often aims at altogether suppressing the truth and the necessity to boldly declre it. [Letter of Jude 3].
When Jesus referred to the Scribes and Pharisees [Gospel of Matthew chpter 23] as “blind guides” and “hypocrites,” was He speaking the trth in love?
I suggest to to you that Jesus was indeed speaking the truth in love to those people, except that Jesus practices * Tough-Love * and *Tough-Love* never compromises the Truth, whereas many people in these laid-back, liberal and post-modernistic days who advocate “speaking the truth in love” are promoting * soft-love * which mistakenly assumes that people’s feelings are more important than the truths for which Jesus and His Apostles lived and died for.
Michael T.



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Scot McKnight

posted November 29, 2007 at 9:11 pm


Ed,
That’s too long of a comment … others will stop conversing if the comment gets too long.



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Well Woman

posted November 29, 2007 at 9:28 pm


Dear Pastor X~
Be encouraged. Your love radiates from your letter.Keep loving. Keep the faith. Discern them by their fruits and above all- remeber the “Only thing that really matters”.* It’s the oldest trick in the book: divide and conquesr and it’s been used for millennia. Paul, wa sos frustrated by such trivial arguments that he was provoked to suggest that those who were pushing the theological button of his day go and surgically emasculate themselves (Gal. 5:12)- really! I imagine his frustration was exceedingly keen, as is the case with anyone who wants to worship and serve and minister, but who keeps getting sidetracked by people who are touting the “doctrine-du-jour”. Be loving, be patient. Pray hard for these people and against the spirit of dissent which is causing them to behave this way. and remember…*Answer: Galatians 5:6; “the only thing that really matters is faith expressing itself through love.”



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Michael T.

posted November 29, 2007 at 9:35 pm


Peggy,
Your comment asserts that those who don???t affirm Calvinism are bigots and ignorant. Do you think that everyone who disagrees with Calvin does so out of bigotry and ignorance? I have myself read Calvin plenty, and I don???t agree with him.
In which particular matters do you disagree with Calvinist theology?
And have you thoroughly examined each of your areas of disagreement with all of the Scriptures before concluding that Calvin or Calvinist theology was/is at fault?
For my part, I???ve very carefully studied Calvin???s writings and Calvinist theology with all the Scriptures and it???s eminently evident, for example, that each of the five points of Calvinism; total natural depravity, unconditional sovereign election, particular [limited] atonement, irresistible sovereign grace, and preservation of GOD’s elect people, are each and all thoroughly Biblical, and entirely consistent with the testimony and teaching of Christ and His Apostles.
And it is * this * that is the crux; i.e. that our theology must always be thoroughly Biblical ??? or it is worthless.
And by this Divinely-established standard; i.e. the standard of GOD???s Scriptures, whereas Calvinist theology is conclusively vindicated, by contrast, the theories and ideology of humanistic Arminianism are shown to be misrepresentations and subversive of GOD???s Truths as set out in the Scriptures.
Michael T.



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Oloryn

posted November 29, 2007 at 9:55 pm


Jesus practices * Tough-Love *
No, Jesus practices what might be termed *Appropriate Love* – he used the approach appropriate to the person he’s dealing with. The self-righteous, upstanding-citizen-of-the-community Scribes and Pharisees *needed* the shock of being regarded as something less than (or opposite to) upstanding and righteous men to be able to recognize their own sinfulness and need of the Saviour. You don’t see Jesus practicing “Tough Love” with those in a position to see themselves as sinners (e.g. the woman caught in adultery). In a sense, one of the problems the Pharisees had with Jesus is that he *didn’t* practice “Tough Love” with the “sinners and tax-collectors”, but actually hung around with them and was friendly with them.
“Tough Love” isn’t always the answer, even when the problem is a failure to recognize truth. Real, godly love will lean on the Holy Spirit to discern what response is actually needed, rather than assuming that we need to beat people over the head with the truth if they don’t recognize it to our satisfaction.



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Scott M

posted November 29, 2007 at 10:48 pm


Ed, I think a central point of our divergent perspectives. I do not believe God primarily reveals himself to us in Scripture and through language. I believe the ultimate and complete revelation of God to all humanity is in the Incarnation of Jesus of Nazareth and we know God only to the extent that we know Jesus. Now, Holy Scripture is one of the ways we encounter Jesus and are shaped and transformed by that encounter. I find that Jesus is strangely and particularly present in the Gospels, especially when they are read in corporate worship, but all Scripture speaks of him or points to him in some way. But Scripture is absolutely not the only way we encounter Jesus and is certainly not the ultimate revelation of God.
BTW, while I was leery of the label for a long time after I first encountered it, I’ve finally accepted that the label ‘postmodern’ describes my cultural formation better than any other label. Just so you know that I don’t speak of or about “postmoderns”. I speak as one, though that shouldn’t be taken to imply that any others would necessarily agree with my thoughts.
Michael T, thanks for illustrating my point about the culture of highly individualistic and self-focused interpretation which dominates Protestantism. It’s nice that you’ve carefully studied the system to which you hold and decided it’s true. So what? How does what you have studied and personally determined possibly matter to anyone but yourself?
There. I managed to keep this one to a decent length. Sorry, Scot. I really will try to behave.



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Doug Allen

posted November 29, 2007 at 10:51 pm


What a terrible shame. I return to the Jesus creed blog after several weeks of doing/reading other things and start with “…those pesky Calvinists.” I love a good argument, and usually appreciate the expertise, the nuance, the bond of love that exists here. Reading the above makes me want to crawl back in my hole, ignorant of hyper Calvinists, skeptical of all theology, and merely attempt, imperfect as it is, to follow Jesus’ two important teachings.
Doug Allen



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Brad Cooper

posted November 29, 2007 at 11:29 pm


Scott #190,
Hey brother, I won’t attempt any further rebuttals of your positions on 2 Peter and Matthew 4 (unless you desire to continue that part of the conversation, which I doubt). I feel I’ve staetd my position well enough. I think it’s clear, you think it is not. We’ll leave it at that…..and we can still love each other anyway, right!? ;)
I will, however, add a further note about the whole idea of interpretation by church tradition/consensus: Generally, what we mean by consensus is that we know a lot of people whom we respect that think like we do. No one actually takes a poll of the approximately 2 billion Christians living in the world and then goes by the results. The consensus that any individual is aware of is very slanted by the traditions that influence them.
This is actually not a bad way to approach Scripture, though. In fact, I think it is wise to surround yourself with pastors, teachers, friends, commentators, etc. that demonstrate Spirit-filled wisdom and integrity and love for God and people–that is people you can trust to have a sound understanding of the Scriptures. When you find that your interpretation varies from theirs, red flags should warn you that you are on thin ice and you must proceed with extreme caution. This approach will generally serve a person well, but not perfectly. There are times when the consensus is simply wrong–when existing worldviews or traditions or paradigms about a certain issue blind those we’ve surrounded ourselves with.
Personally, I like John Wesley’s quadrilateral: Scripture, tradition, reason, experience. Scripture is the primary revelation of God’s truth. When we read it we need to consider how all of the Scripture comes to bear on the passage we are reading. Church tradition, reason and personal experience are three different means by which we can test our understanding of Scripture.
I also like the example of the Bereans in Acts 17:11: “Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” When the Bereans wanted to test what Paul said, they did not go to the Jerusalem apostles or to the Pharisees or any tradition; they went to the Scriptures. And they were considered more noble for it.
Bottom Line: I believe that our interpretation of Scripture needs to be tradition-informed but not tradition-bound.
Well, thanks for the conversation. I’ve enjoyed it. It has stretched me. Helped me to understand a different point of view and to examine my own more closely. I do appreciate you taking the time to seriously engage me in this. And I’ll look forward to future conversations with you. One thing does bother me, though, if I may: You assume that you know me, my motives (you say it’s power), my presuppositions and approach to Scripture (you say I’m predisposed to a certain position), and my journey. I think that there is a lot that you do not know. I have felt at times that you were wearing your presuppositions on your sleeve, but I allowed for the fact that there is much about you that I do not know. I could assume that you have the same motive for trying to convince me of your position that you say that I have for stating mine: power. But I don’t think that that would be fair. Do you?
May the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus fill your life.



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Scott M

posted November 30, 2007 at 12:05 am


Yeah, we can love each other. Still, I never said I didn’t think those passages were clear. Rather, I said I interpreted them to clearly say something different from what you interpreted them to say. I’m not sure what I’m saying that leads people to think I’m saying that scripture is unclear. You’re not the only one to “hear” me saying that, so it must be something in the way I’m phrasing things. Perhaps it’s because I more naturally shy away from the language of certainty?
The Berean Jews were open to the Word Paul proclaimed whereas the Jews of Thessalonica largely weren’t. However, while the story of his acceptance/rejection by the Jewish communities in both cities is important, let’s not forget Paul’s word to the Church in Thessalonica, especially in 2 Thessalonians 2:13-17.
I don’t actually believe that the more modern idea of consensus is ultimately the way the Church should interpret Scripture. I believe the Church preserves the true interpretation of scripture in the face of attempts to alter it through the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the faithful. But history also illustrates it can sometimes take centuries for some of these things to work out. Individually, or as smaller groups of any sort, we will inevitably err in preserving the truth once given to us. That has been demonstrated time and again from the first century onward. If the truth delivered to the saints is preserved anywhere — and that it is an if — the only thing that could possibly preserve it is the organic life of the Church in our triune God. Otherwise the only thing we can actually “know” about all these interpretations is that each and every one of them is flawed and mistaken somewhere. We just don’t and can’t know where.
I also think my comments about power games and the will to power have been misunderstood. I actually hope that Nietzsche was wrong. And I find that hope in Christ. But the will to power need not be deliberate or conscious, at least not in the sense I was using the term. Rather, it describes the human activity of finding means and mechanisms to privilege themselves in some way over others. One of those means would certainly be to assert a superior interpretation of a sacred text. Now I find that, if his words can be trusted, Jesus inverts and deconstructs all power games and utterly flips the equation in the kingdom. Mark 10:35-45 is the perfect text to collapse Nietzsche — if it is actually lived.
I am sensitive to power games. And I find that much of human daily life seems to devolve into a power game of one sort or another. But I think I was using the terms differently than others heard them and was insensitive to the other ways my words could be heard. I didn’t mean to give offense and I wasn’t really trying to say or imply anything about conscious individual intent. Sorry about that.



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Peggy

posted November 30, 2007 at 12:33 am


Michael T. #200,
I think you have mistakenly attributed to me a comment (#196) which was made by Dr. McKnight (which I would take as a complement if I didn’t know it was just a simple error 8) ). I will leave it to Dr. McKnight to respond, if he is so inclined, to your challenge. I am certainly not going to go further off-topic in that direction!
In #197, however, you are responding to my comment #195 with the kind of sweeping generalization and judgment that this very post is calling into question. To suggest that listening fully and respectfully to a brother or sister in Christ, in order to truly understand their perspective, is either evasive or suppressive of the truth seems to be reaching a bit far. To be sure, there are some of whom this would be true. But it is not true of me, personally, nor it is true of many I know…nor, I might suggest, our subject pastor. Tough love is challenging in real life; few successfully accomplish it in a blog setting with those they do not know.
Oloryn, #201, thank you for your comment. Well said.
Doug Allen, #203, I am sorry you had such a bumpy re-entry! I guess is it useful to have to experience this every once in a while in order to appreciate the “normal” tone of this wonderful blog…and you can’t go wrong loving God and loving others ;) Perhaps you might join me in savoring the good examples here, for there are many, and set aside the poor ones?



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Brad Cooper

posted November 30, 2007 at 12:49 am


Scott #205,
I understand. Thanks for explaining. And don’t worry about the uncertainty thing. You’re a postmodern. You’re supposed to be certain about not being able to be certain. ;) (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)
I do understand where I initially went wrong and accused you of saying that Scripture is unclear. Sorry about that. In my last post, however, what I was trying to say is: I am convinced that the interpretation of 2 Peter 1 and Matthew 4 that I give is clearly drawn from those passages. You say that it is not so clearly drawn. I’m content to leave it at that. No further discussion needed. We agree to disagree…..Apparently, when I said it last time it was not so CLEAR and I’m not sure that the way I said it this time is very CLEAR either….Is that clear? ;)
May the peace of our ever-loving Messiah be with you, brother.



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Ed

posted November 30, 2007 at 1:23 am


Re: Scott #190: Athanasius
Verbosity is obviously a weakness of mine as well …
And my current post was long enough as to be rejected … so I will try to cut it down and address one point at a time, though it will lose a bit of the coherency …
The reason I quoted Athanasius was not to necessarily agree with his cause, but to agree with his sentiment that it does not matter how many people are for truth or against truth – i.e. truth is not determined by popularity or poll – that even if only one person was on the side of truth, that’s a battle worth fighting.



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Ed

posted November 30, 2007 at 1:24 am


Re: Scott #190: Qu’ran and mosque comment
I don’t know about treating “our text” as the Qu’ran, but if you treat it any way other than a book of assembled stories, letters, and histories which have a real setting and a real meaning behind them, you have in fact turned it into something other than it is. God invented language, and he uses language to reveal himself to us. Left to our own devices, we would never get beyond a vague concept of “God” – and we certainly wouldn’t get the gospel. So, if God chooses to reveal himself through language – through the normal process of people putting thought to paper, then surely we should use “normal” skills in understanding the text as we would with any important document. Personally, I wouldn’t mind being known as “People of the Book” for that would be shorthand for “People of the God who has revealed himself in the Book.” It is a silly thing when people use the term “bibliolaters” – if we value God, we will value his communication to us. Just the same as a love who writes from a long distance is revealed through her words on the page – and the page is treasured. Not because of “intrinsic value” but because the letter represents the thoughts and heart of the one loved.
I don’t care if what we do looks like what happens in a mosque (although I’m not yielding that assesment). The question is, does what we do resemble what God tells us to do in worshipping Him. It would not surprise me to find out that a counterfeit resembles the real thing in many ways – in fact, the more clever the counterfeiter, the more it will resemble the real thing. And Christianity’s roots are in the middle east …



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Ed

posted November 30, 2007 at 1:26 am


Re: Scott #190 Math and “quest for power”
And yes, as an engineer, I understand what you are saying regarding the mathematical system … but I’m talking about the every day world that most people live in. If you have two dollars and I have two dollars, and I give you my two dollars, within the universe we actually live in, you will have four dollars. While there are strange things that happen in quantum physics and theoretical worlds and other dimensions, within this dimension – where the Bible is made up of words on a page – 2 + 2 is 4, and sentances, paragraphs, etc. have meaning.
It is no doubt that some use persuasion and certainly manipulation as a way to gain or hold power. Words are powerful, and they do influence. But that does not mean that a search for truth necessarily implies a quest for power. The reason that I said you have a right to say what you want was not based on some enlightenment idea (a right which I do think is basic to humanity and a part of scripture), but to say that no, not all disagreements or debates are a quest for power. To claim that I seek power over you by “winning the argument” is just not true. I don’t know you, I don’t think we have any contact in life, I’m not over you or under you. What you believe has little effect on my life directly. But, because I do think there is such a thing as Truth, and that it matters, and that it will affect your life, I think there is reason enough with the command to “love your neighbor” and to “worship God with all your … mind.” But it’s not a quest for power.



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Ed

posted November 30, 2007 at 1:29 am


Re: Scott #190 Oral tradition and written word, submitting and postmodernism
About the text saying holding to oral and written canon, I think this is a prime example of understanding the words in context. When those words were penned, the “Bible” was not “complete” and there were apostles around. I think that God preserved and completed the Bible as a course of history, and therefore that verse is one that needs a broader understanding than just the few words in the phrase. The concept is there, that we hold to the “traditions” and words – but now, the traditions are completely contained within the words. Besides, didn’t Jesus himself scold the Pharisees for holding onto their traditions over the word of God? So, given the choice between oral tradition and scripture, between “the best thinking of man” and the written Word of God, he said go with the written word of God.
And of course we should submit to something in Scripture whether we agree with it or not. But understanding and agreeing are not identically the same. Something that is “difficult” to understand (like when Peter said that some of Paul’s writings are difficult) needs further research and explanation. But when something is “understood” correctly, then of course it should be submitted to. But to use the reformation phrase “semper reformata” – always reforming. There is nothing wrong with questioning a historical interpretation, as long as your goal is understanding the text – and not imposing your beliefs upon it in a search for power. There is a huge difference between saying that interpreters in the past were bound to their worldview and therefore saw this verse though their own eyes, rather than the eyes of the original writer and audience, and saying that words are so elastic as to have no meaning and thus the Bible is indecipherable. But the text must be the “ruling force” – if any individual or group claims “authoritative interpretations,” well, then, they are perhaps groping for power. But that is not to say that people cannot have conviction about their beliefs and “oppose” other beliefs in loving debate. But we must submit to the meaning intended by the authors, but we know that this meaning is not always easily determined.
I actually like postmodernism in that it asks the hard questions challenging “traditional” interpretations and recognizing that we are all biased, and we all have a particular worldview that influences our thoughts. I like that they resist “power struggles,” though I think that the end result of their “unanchored” reasoning will be nothing but a power struggle. But I don’t like that they relativize everything except their own foundational beliefs. Modernism may have its issues, but of anything, postmodernism should be the first to recognize its own.



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Ed

posted November 30, 2007 at 1:32 am


Re: Scott #190 Jesus, being one and fixing the mess …
I like what you say about the “religion of Christianity” orbiting Jesus as a historical person. But arguing that individual protestants have all interpreted for themselves seems to go precisely where you said you don’t want to go – to a power struggle. Either there is a person (or group of people) with power to determine authoritative interpretations, or everyone interprets for themselves to some degree. If it is off a standard – just pure speculation or opinion – then I agree that this is no good. But if we believe in the priesthood of every believer, and if every believer humbly acknowledges that God has given us all different gifts for the good of the body, then this does not have to degrade into the anarchy you (rightly) loathe.
As for being one, I think that we already are one. It is a fact of being in the family. We may not act like it, but we are – everybody who belongs to Jesus belongs to everybody who belongs to Jesus. But being one is not being carbon copies. If we are to reflect the majesty of our God, there must be diversity – we are too finite to fully reflect him in an individual sense. Diversity does not mean anarchy, nor does it necesaarily mean division. We can reflect the diversity within unity in the “same way” that the diversity within unity is expressed in the Trinity. And, as the church continues on its path, I think we will reflect this unity more and more – even if the theological differences we have remain.
As far as fixing the mess “we’ve created” – I think that might be too narrow a focus on ourselves again. Christ is the one that builds his church, and by looking at some of the things going on in the Corinthian church, for example, I would be hard pressed to say that we are worse off than they are. I’m confident in the sovereignty and providential care of God for His church. We sinners are the problem – the solution has to be supernatural. Fortnately, we have the same power within us that raised Christ from the dead, and now we struggle with all HIS energy. God will prevail. His church will not go down any path he has not ordained.



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Edward

posted November 30, 2007 at 1:44 am


My theological beliefs are very Calvinist, but this comes after years of being an Arminian. I don’t believe that Calvinism is the “most right” of the different Christian doctrines, I just believe that it is probably the “least wrong” because it is willing to be the most literal in its hermeneutics.



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Ed

posted November 30, 2007 at 1:45 am


RE: Scott #190 – an analogy
This will be my last post tonight. I apologize for the length of my posts, but I don’t see how to have a substantial conversation and be understood without giving significant context ;)
To me, two analogies come to mind about the process I have tried to describe. One is the search for “truth” in science, the other, the quest to know someone intimately.
A scientist refines a theory and develops tests because he knows reality, and so he refines his understanding until his theory matches, describes, and predicts reality. If there was not the standard of reality, he would never know when he succeeded or failed in his quest.
If you want to get to know someone better – a close friend or a spouse – then you observe, ask questions, provide new scenarios to interact in, etc. You check your conclusions against the data, against the reality, against the person to see how accurate you are. Without the “reality” of the person, you would never know whether you were accurate in your conclusions.
Now, these examples have flaws, but the point is that without something to measure your thoughts by, you never get anywhere because you never know how to correct yourself.
Likewise, the standard of Scripture provides us with something to go back to, something to measure against, something to cross reference and look for similar truths in other places and see if your belief is consistent with it. Just because we have a hard time understanding some parts does not change the standard that is out there and does not morph into our new theories. Truth can be cold, harsh, and direct when error stands next to it. Fortunately, we do not just have a book, but a book from a loving Father which tells us of His son whom he sent to die for us. This truth has a steel spine, but is surrounded by a body of warm, soft flesh. It is both unbending and gracious, both eternal and with you in this moment of your life.



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Brad Cooper

posted November 30, 2007 at 2:12 am


Aretse #188,
I do not really have time to do justice to the subject of tithing–too many important issues to deal with. Let me give you some directions to consider.
First: Is tithing part of the old covenant that has been done away with, as with circumcision? My answer is yes. But this is a difficult issue–to be taken seriously. But no time or space here.
Many will say that I’m wrong anyways. So for the sake of argument, I say: OK, go ahead and follow the Old Testament tithe. Take 10% of all the food you produce and bring it to the temple at Jerusalem.
You see, there is a more basic problem than whether Old Testament tithing is binding on New Testament believers. The problem is that the tithe taught today does not correspond to the Old Testament tithe. The modern teaching states that we’re to give 10% of our monetary income. The Old Testament never says that. It simply asks for a tenth of any food that’s harvested.
Some will protest: “But it was an agricultural economy.” Perhaps, but did it affect how much they ate? That’s what the OT tithe is all about. Most Israelites inherited land to grow crops and raise clean animals. The Levites and priests did not. The tithe was brought to supply food for those who did not own land: the Levites, the priests, the poor, and the aliens.
Furthermore, saying it was an agricultural economy implies that all that was produced was food. The fact is that there was no tithe on the wages of the potter, the weaver, the carpenter, the metal worker, the hired hand, the fisherman, etc., etc. The OT temple income included much more than just the tithe and is far too complex to reduce to a simple percentage taxed to each person. I wish I could elaborate here, but for space….
Let it suffice for now to say that the OT tithe amounts to less than 10% of a person’s grocery bill (i.e., only the part that includes the raising of food–not soaps, etc.). For my family of five, that’s easily less than $10 a week. But the tithe is not paid by those buying groceries. It’s paid by those who grow the groceries….
Perhaps the biggest problem with the modern teaching about tithing is the purpose. The OT tithing was designed to help the poor–to bring relief and mercy. The modern teaching puts a difficult burden on the poor.
There is much more that needs to be said about this–especially about what New Testament giving should look like, but this will have to do for now.
Scot, Sorry about the length. I worked to pare it down… And this is way off subject, but I felt obligated to respond. I hope I’m not wrong about that. Peace.



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Anonymous

posted November 30, 2007 at 4:25 am


In the Blogosphere « Kingdom People

[...] Scot McKnight posted a letter regarding some hard-to-live-with Calvinists – a post that stirred up a hornet’s nest of controversy and hundreds of comments. Despite the fact that the reaction of many of the Calvinists proved the letter’s point, Abraham Piper offers some good reflection on being “kind Calvinists.” [...]



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mariam

posted November 30, 2007 at 5:13 am


I’ve enjoyed the Scott, Brad and Ed chronicles. For people coming from very different theological positions (way farther apart than Calvinists and Arminians) I thought the debate was very civilized, with an underlying current of fellowship. It’s given me a lot of food for thought about scripture and its relative importance as part of the foundation of my faith and I thank you for that. Debate can be enlightening without being divisive. Good work, boys.



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Brad Cooper

posted November 30, 2007 at 9:06 am


Mariam #217,
Thanks for the affirmation. It’s always difficult to know how others are perceiving you–especially on a blog.
Peace.



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aretse

posted November 30, 2007 at 10:00 am


Thank you for # 215. Wish I could read more about that…but it’s intriguing enough to study it more…Sadly there has been division in our church on this matter and after the storm, the confusion dust hasn’t settled



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Brad Cooper

posted November 30, 2007 at 10:08 am


Aretse #219,
I understand. This issue can definitely be a very divisive one. It’s buried deep in tradition and affects a very important aspect of the life of the churhc.
It’s for this very reason that I have been very quiet about this issue in my own church. I wrote a private letter to a previous pastor and spoke about it to a couple of very close friends (when the subject was broached) that I knew I could trust to keep the issue quiet.
Do your best to encourage patience, humility and grace. And pray. Peace.



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Anonymous

posted December 1, 2007 at 9:52 am


Rest Stop « Merging Lanes

[...] – Letter about those pesky Calvinists (Jesus Creed) …The problem is that they just are relentless. Absolutely no discussion or compromise. I have had the life kicked out of me at my church this past year by some of these people. For them, it just isn???t good enough to be a solid evangelical who really loves Jesus and wants to serve him. It has to be all about reformed theology… [...]



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Chris

posted December 1, 2007 at 11:30 pm


Just to paraphrase A.W. Pink, that you argue about the Sovereignty of God, You in fact deny with your actions what you profess to believe. God draws men, and gives them light.



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Ed

posted December 2, 2007 at 12:14 am


RE: ED #93 and following posts
I apologize for having a quick “trigger finger.” I got the message (#198) about the post of #193 being too long, and it (#193) did not come up when I refreshed the browser page, so I assumed it was rejected. So, I started chopping it up into more manageable pieces (which I should have done from the first), and by the time I got a good way through, I realized the original post was there. So please forgive my “double posting” and if the moderator would like to remove (#’s208-212), or have me finish the atom posts and remove the “molecular post” of #193, that’s fine. I do apologize for messing up the readability of this thread. Thanks.



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Ed

posted December 2, 2007 at 12:41 am


RE: Scott #202
I agree that the ultimate Revelation of God is Jesus Christ. But, I see Scripture as the only way we get “objective” knowledge about Him and in fact the only way we get a foundational knowledge of him. I certainly agree that we must have a relationship with the Lord that is personal and to some degree unique to us – in the same way that my relationship to my wife is unique (though similar) to the relationships other husbands have to their wives. But, if we think we have the capacity to “reason” or “experience” the true Christ apart from His self-revelation, then I don’t think we have understood the extent of the fall in man. Our reasoning has become futile when left to “purely natural” human nature. Man does not and will not arrive at the assesment of the problem as originating in his own heart, and that ultimately, it is an issue of idolatry and deadness. Therefore, unless God takes it upon himself to reveal himself, we are left to our futilities … And I believe he has revealed himself through the development of a book chronicaling his plan to work through a people, culminating in His Son. Now that Christ is not on the earth, the way we come to know Him is through the Book, which was completed in his sovereignty after he left. It is all about Christ, to be sure, but no one has personal knowledge of him that is trustworthy unless it aligns with and is built upon the foundation already laid. Or, to put it another way, if someone claims to have a revelation from God – i.e. someone who had a near-death experience – upon what basis can we judge the truthfulness. For sake of argument, let’s assume the person to be sincere. Unless what they say aligns with some external standard that I can use outside myself, I can render no judgment on the trustworthiness of the message – even if I trust the person. The “uniqueness” of the claim requires a higher level of “verification” than a normal statement of experience. IF I can render no reliable judgment of the trustworthiness of such a message, of what use is it?
And, just for argument sake, if the Bible is sufficient for all the knowledge needed for life and godliness, what could some extra-biblical message, revelation, intuition or reasoning add to the message of the Bible?
So, while I agree that the focal point is Christ, and that the purpose of the Bible is to make Christ known, the Bible cannot be seperated from the trustworthiness of the divine author, who wills a self-revelation to those who could know him no other way. We know who Christ is because of what the words on the pages in the Bible tell us. The medium is the message, and the message is the medium. Christ is the Word, not the picture. The Word reveals Christ. Christ is “more” than the Word, but the Word is the window to which we look to in order to get the correct glimpse of reality.
As far as being postmodern, I don’t like labels either. I don’t know what to label myself yet. But I just can’t get away from the facts that there is Truth, it does matter, and words have meanings. I also can’t get away from the facts that we do live in a culture and time which dominates our thinking, that we are highly self-oriented, and that not everything old is worth holding on to. Fresh ideas are good, but ideas have consequences.
Ed



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Ed

posted December 2, 2007 at 12:51 am


Re: Scott #205
Quote: “the will to power need not be deliberate or conscious, at least not in the sense I was using the term. Rather, it describes the human activity of finding means and mechanisms to privilege themselves in some way over others. One of those means would certainly be to assert a superior interpretation of a sacred text.”
I will still assert that not everyone is trying to do this, even with your definition here …
Because we value our relationship with Christ, we value his communication with us. Because we value his communication, we want to understand it properly. Because we want to understand it properly, we use all the available tools and skills God has given us to seek the meaning. Because we seek the meaning does not indicate that we are necessarily trying, whether consciously or unconsciously, to privilege ourselves. Obviously, some are. But just because the abuse occurs, does not necessarily impugn everyone’s motives. Just because some people speed does not mean everyone does. Just because some take a gun and kill with it does not mean every gun owner wants to use it for that purpose. Just because some postmoderns reject all absolutes because they want to excuse their own sinful behavior does not mean all postmoderns do.
Ed



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Scott M

posted December 2, 2007 at 11:16 am


Ed and Brad,
I was reading the transcript of an interview with Bishop Wright this morning and ran across this on Sola Scriptura. I point it out here because what he says here is something with which I can agree. (I’ve also read the book he references.) I started to chase a rabbit here on the historical reality that all ancient cultures were oral cultures, not text-based literate cultures, and what the written scripture itself says about that in the NT, but I caught myself in time. ;-) Suffice it to say that the NT explicitly says that not everything was written down and exhorts those hearing its words to hold both to what was given them orally and in writing. In other words, our Scripture itself does not teach Scripture alone.
I also believe you misunderstood me, Ed, when I emphasized that Scripture is not the only place or necessarily even the primary place we encounter the risen Christ. You seem to have a view of Christianity that revolves almost entirely around the mind, the thoughts and feelings we have about God. I perceive and experience Christianity as life. We are enfolded in the overflowing and interpenetrating life of the Triune God through Jesus of Nazareth and are made alive once again.
And we certainly encounter Jesus in Scripture, though I would tend to reject the idea that this encounter is essentially the acquisition of knowledge or facts about Jesus. As important as that is, it is secondary to the encounter itself. We also encounter Jesus in the bread and wine. We encounter Jesus by reordering our lives through the discipline of prayer and fasting. The mystery of the Incarnation is such an overwhelming truth within which we live. Our Lord is not another just another historical figure, though he is certainly that. He is also the living and ever-present Lord of all things in God’s space and in ours. And that presence is constantly breaking through.
So by encounters with Jesus in places other than Scripture, I don’t have some sort of additional revelation or knowledge about Jesus in mind. Rather, I’m talking about actual encounters with the Risen Lord.
I recently heard someone use a nonsense statement. They said that only the Bible can interpret the Bible. I’m not even sure what they meant, but a text can’t interpret itself. The person reading a text is always the one who interprets. From my perspective, the question becomes a little different. Has the Church managed to hold to and preserve both the Scripture and the rest of the framework for interpretation which Scripture itself exhorts it to uphold and continue in? If it hasn’t, then the Church has failed in its task. Simple as that. And if that is the case then one interpretation truly is as good as any other.



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josenmiami

posted December 2, 2007 at 12:38 pm


Scot M: well said, I agree with you! The scripture can lead us to him, but cannot “contain” him. He is Lord of Heaven AND Earth. What does it say in John about the world not containing everything if it was written that Christ has done?



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Ed

posted December 2, 2007 at 1:06 pm


Re: Scott M #226
I’ll try to keep it short – lunch is on the way …
Though I want to respond to other comments you made, let me focus on two points. First, I did not say that encountering Jesus is essentially the acquisition of facts, and if it seemed implied, then I was not as clear as I would have liked to be. Let me use an analogy. When I first met my wife, I had to “gather data” so to speak. Obviously, I could look at her appearance and see the color of her hair, the color of her eyes, the shape of her body, the fact that she is Chinese. And there was what I will call a “minimal level” of appeal that caused me to want to get to know her more (minimal not because of my wife, but minimal in that these were the very first pieces of information to begin drawing a conclusion from to answer the question, is this who God wants me to spend the rest of my life with?).
As I got to know her, I asked questions, spent time with her and (rather unconsciously) collected data. Now, believe me, I understand that those facts do not make up our relationship – far from it. But there could have been no relationship if I did not start there. Establishing a relationship means establishing it based on the “true identity” of the people involved, which involves data gathering, assimilation, conclusions, emotional reactions, etc. A relationship is surely much more than these things, but it is not less. To encounter the real Jesus is to encounter Truth, and if he has revealed himself in the Word, then it makes sense that the foundation of the relationship is based on the “facts” presented – not in a cold list, but in stories and letters and doctrine that reveals the heart of God and reveals Christ.
Now, surely we encounter Jesus in Communion. I’m not disputing that. But that is a “secondary” encounter in that if that is all there is – i.e. someone totally clueless coming and partaking of the Lord’s supper with no explanation – then it will have little value to the person. But, as it is explained what Christ has done, as someone understands what the elements represent, then the richness of the experience is increased – because the understand why they do what they do.
If you want to talk of Jesus “breaking through,” that’s OK – but how do you know it is He breaking through if you do not have an understanding of who He is? Jesus certainly is living and active, and no one is placing him in a box. But if he has revealed that he is a certain way or that he operates a certain way, who are we to question it? Since God transcends this universe, he cannot be known unless he makes himself known. Even though nature points to God’s power and majesty, it is a “less clear” revelation (though it is one) than a verbal one, culminating in the story of the Incarnate One.
The second thing I want to comment on is “I recently heard someone use a nonsense statement. They said that only the Bible can interpret the Bible.” I hope that the phrase they used is “Scripture is its own best interpreter.” But even if they didn’t I would assume what they mean (if they mean what I mean by the phrase) is that where Scripture is difficult to understand, look for other passages on related (or the same) subject and see if it sheds light on the “obscure” passage. Which goes back to my point that you cannot just isolate one verse from its context. It means what it means within the paragraph setting, within the letter/narrative, and within the Bible as a whole. There are verses that Jesus (and Paul) quotes from the OT and applies to Jesus that when I read them in isolation, I say there is no way I would interpret it that way. But, that shows me that I have not yet viewed the Bible in its context as Jesus does. If scripture is all about Him, then it puts our interpretive context in a different place than most of us would put it. But where the Bible speaks, it gives us exactly what God wants us to have (understanding that it is a translation, though), and so where there are hard things, we need to be spurred on to further growth and understanding. God didn’t design the Bible just for newborn Christians, and He didn’t design it for only “Oxford Scholars” – he designed it for both. So it should be no surprise that the foundation elements of the faith are clear, while some issues have been studied for a long time. God inspired hard texts to let us worship him with our mind, to challenge us, to make us grow. But when we have a hard text, the first thing we should do is look elsewhere in God’s revelation for any additional light he chose to give us.
Short is relative … compared to War and Peace, I did well :)



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Brad Cooper

posted December 2, 2007 at 2:45 pm


Scott #226,
Some good thoughts here. I agree with much of what you say.
However…(You knew that was coming, didn’t you!) ;) ….It should be kept in mind that the oral tradition that is referred to in the New Testament is the testimony of the eyewitnesses to Jesus’ resurrection.
It’s really hard to imagine anything more exciting or important than to hear these things from the lips of the very ones who were there….who walked, talked, listened, and ate with God incarnate….watched him heal, show compassion to the poor, hold children on his lap…and then experienced the turmoil of his passion (not understanding what it was all about)…only to see him alive again 3 days later….walking, and talking, listening, and eating with him for 40 more days….WOW!
But this thought by no means negates the issue of sola scriptura for us today. Those Scriptures preserve what was spoken.
And I agree with you about encounters with Jesus apart from the written words of Scripture. In fact, apart from those encounters the Scriptures mean nothing to us. Furthermore, one can read the Scriptures and never see Jesus because their eyes are blinded (cf. 2 Cor. 4:4). More than that, every time we do read Scripture we should check ourselves to see if it is more than an intellectual exercise or if we are seeking an encounter with the risen Lord. He will teach us the meaning of the Scriptures he has given us. What I’m saying here is that apart from a living relationship with Jesus, the Scriptures are of no value to us.
A flip side of the same issue: The Scriptures serve as a safeguard for us to guide us and assure us that the Jesus we encounter is the Jesus who is Lord of the universe and not a different Jesus (2 Cor. 11:3-4).
One final thought: You state, “Has the Church managed to hold to and preserve both the Scripture and the rest of the framework for interpretation which Scripture itself exhorts it to uphold and continue in? If it hasn???t, then the Church has failed in its task. Simple as that. And if that is the case then one interpretation truly is as good as any other.”
The preservation of Scripture does not depend on the Church’s ability or faithfulness. It depends on Jesus. And I’m sure that you will agree, that he is more than able to accomplish such a small task.
May our lives be filled with those precious encounters of our Lord Jesus this week.



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Scott M

posted December 2, 2007 at 4:27 pm


Brad, this is an interesting assertion:

It should be kept in mind that the oral tradition that is referred to in the New Testament is the testimony of the eyewitnesses to Jesus??? resurrection.

Really? Where do you get that idea? Paul seems to have more than that in mind when he exhorts the Corinthian Christians to “keep the traditions just as I delivered them to you.” (1 Corinthians 11:2). And the same is true, for example, when he references what he told the Thessalonian Christians when he was with them (2 Thessalonians 2:5). 2 Thessalonians explicitly exhorts them to hold to the traditions received both orally and in writing, as does 2 Thessalonians 3:6. In 1 Thessalonians 2, it’s pretty clear that Paul considers the word he delivered in person (and thus orally) to the church to be the word of God and on a par with Scripture (OT).
In fact, we know from Acts and from church history that the Churches of the apostles were established by the apostles in person and were taught orally (for it was an oral culture remember) how to be the people of God. The “letters” (actually a misnomer since they look nothing like actual ancient letters) then were essentially corrective oral discourses or lectures designed to correct an issue or issues which had arisen in a church and which the writer could not be present in person to deliver. Instead, it was dictated, sometimes wrapped in a epistolary greeting and closing, and entrusted to a person who would then deliver it orally as the author had intended. In every case, the corrective letter was speaking into a framework of teaching which had already been delivered and established orally in person by an apostolic witness.
Now, where in scripture is the assertion that the only thing delivered orally was the witness to the Resurrection or that everything which had been delivered orally was somewhere written down in a “letter” supported? I’ve shown some of the places in scripture where it the opposite is in fact stated. No place in Scripture is the idea of ‘sola scriptura’ actually supported as far as I can tell. Instead, it is part of an interpretive framework superimposed on scripture with the bits that don’t then fit conveniently screened out.
Luther and Calvin I can understand. They were pretty clear that, by sola scriptura they were asserting their right to interpret scripture over against the Roman magisterium. Neither actually extended or intended to extend that “right” to everyone and were both quite strong in their rejection of such a “right”. But I get what they were saying and doing. I cannot say the same for much of what I hear today.
Ed, the quote I gave was as I heard it. But even what you said involves the imposition of an interpretive grid as you decide which verses you would choose to use to interpret other verses. Scripture does not tell you which to use and which not to use. I like Wright’s challenge. Instead of building a grid from Romans and Galatians and then fitting bits and pieces of Ephesians and Colossians into that grid, try building your grid from Ephesians and Colossians and then understanding Romans and Galatians in light of those discourses.
Brad, I’m also interested where in Scripture, Scripture is called the “primary” encounter of Jesus and all other encounters “secondary”. That’s quite an assertion and one for which I find no warrant. And from all I’ve read and heard, I believe the experience of missionaries would tend to contradict it. Often the good news that Jesus is Lord is proclaimed for the first time in a place and some few respond, yes, that’s the God I’ve encountered, that I knew was there. I just had no name for him. And if Jesus is present in the mystery of the bread and wine, then he is present whether it is explained or not. We encounter him to our sustenance or judgment. Now, I think it is very, very important that the explanation be given. But I’ve never experienced any communion, in any of the myriad variations present today in Christianity, where at least some explanation is provided. I think my own tradition gets it completely wrong when we proclaim essentially the Zwinglian memorial model or remembrance. Nevertheless, Jesus is proclaimed in word as well. Still, I would say the primary encounter would be the mystical, life-giving and life-sustaining connections to the life of the Triune God over our intellectual understanding. Both are important. But I would place them in a different order.



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Anonymous

posted December 2, 2007 at 7:36 pm


Sivin Kit’s Garden » Random Links 201

[...] Letter about those pesky Calvinists [...]



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Brad Cooper

posted December 2, 2007 at 10:56 pm


Scott #230,
You ask some tough questions. I like that. We all need to have our presuppositions tested. Thank you for doing that for me. I have some rudimentary answers in mind, but I’m very tired tonight and need some rest. I will answer you tomorrow. Blessings, brother.



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Brad Cooper

posted December 4, 2007 at 1:35 am


Scott #230,
This morning I had a conversation with my wife that made me realize that many people reading this string of posts might see them as a meaningless theological exercise–a vain intellectual pursuit. On the contrary, I think that this is probably the single most important question of our day.
It makes a huge difference whether we understand Scripture to be God’s own words to us–taught to us by the Holy Spirit–or whether we see it as just part of a series of traditions of peoople’s opinions about God and the meaning of the incarnation. If we truly believe the former we will treat each word with reverence, seeking to understand what the Holy Spirit is trying to tell us–and patiently waiting for the Spirit to unveil those things that presently make no sense to us. If we believe the latter, we will not be so careful; we will simply treat the Bible as a smorgasboard–picking and choosing according to our personal tastes. In the final analysis, this approach removes Christ from his proper place as Lord and leaves us making the decisions of what we will and will not do. And instead of the precious promises of God that Scripture frequently speaks of–given to strengthen us and give us hope, we are left wondering what really is true. We cannot be absolutely sure of anything.
You are absolutely right about the oral teaching of the apostles being about more than the resurrection. There were certainly many directives about how to live in light of that resurrection, etc. I actually meant to get to that idea but got sidetracked. I do think, however, that the main emphasis of those early testimonies was on Jesus’ death and resurrection. I get that from something I read while working my way through Eusebius this past year–I believe it was something that he recorded Papias or Polycarp saying about preferring to hear the testimony given by the apostles themselves over the written gospels–and who wouldn’t?!
So, true enough, the apostles had authority to give oral teaching that was on a par with Scripture. I would add 1 Thess. 4:1-8 to your list to prove this point.
But (1) that kind of authority did not live on past the apostles, and (2) even the apostles’ teaching was tested against Scripture (as we showed with the Bereans in Acts 17:11).
BTW, the whole oral culture thing is an old liberal dogma that I am not convinced stands up to the facts. I think there is plenty of evidence that the culture of the 1st Century was not substantially different than our own in this regard. (But it’s not really important enough to debate it.)
As far as Scripture being primary, I find it interesting that you switch gears here. You profess that you want tradition to be on a par with Scripture, but you won’t accept two major eras of Christian tradition: the tradtion of the protestant reformation and the Wesleyan tradition.
The only place that I used the word “primary” was in relation to the Wesleyan tradition. Wesleyan scholars seem to be at a clear consensus that this was indeed John Wesley’s teaching (based on my seminary studies…did a paper on this very subject). And of course, you concede the origin of the term sola scriptura itself: the protestant reformers–though you want to make them an exception.
Nonetheless, from my perspective, it is indeed necessary to show where Scripture itself says that Scripture is primary. I’ve already shown this, though. In Acts 17:11, the Scripture takes precedence over Paul’s teaching. The implication is that if Paul’s teaching did not agree with Scripture, it would not be accepted as true (“…examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true”). And in Mark 7, Jesus makes it clear that Scripture takes precedence over the traditions of the Jewish people. (Jesus calls the Scriptures God’s words and the the traditions of the Jews nothing more than the words of men.)
I also have read some of those missionary stories–and they are indeed awesome testimonies of God’s grace and power. (One of my Bible college profs had a whole collection of these accounts. And I read at least one account where even the name Jesus was supernaturally reavealed along with the message that someone would soon come to tell them who Jesus is.) But in each case the missionaries must share who this Jesus is, what he has done for us and what he wants for our lives. And where do the missionaries go to, the Bible. The people know that there is a God, but they do not know the gospel.
And apart from the Scripture, you would have no way of knowing what the bread and wine are about. Even if someone told you what they meant, you would not have any way of knowing it were true–apart from the Scriptures. There would be no way of discerning mystical experiences of the risen Lord from warm fuzzy feelings. There would be no way of discerning the Jesus who is Lord of all from a different Jesus, a different spirit (2 Cor. 11:3-4).
The Scripture is primary. It is the final test. Just like the Bereans, we must examine the Scriptures to see if the traditions we have received and our understanding of the experiences we have are true.
May the peace of our precious Savior be with you.



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Anthony Hedrick

posted December 4, 2007 at 12:37 pm


If this issue were so clear cut as Calvinists claim, there would not have been two hundred and thirty-three comments on this subject.
I have no problem with anyone believing such notions. I only have a problem when they are convinced of his or her certainty on the matter.
Frankly, we are not given enough scriptural clarity on this matter, otherwise far more than perhaps 3% of the world’s believers would have adopted the doctrine of “particular election”. It seems to me that high-Calvinism has not been believed where it has not been taught.
Anthony Hedrick



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Peggy

posted December 4, 2007 at 2:34 pm


Anthony…exactly my point–made somewhere in the stack! 8)



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Ed

posted December 4, 2007 at 3:08 pm


Re: Anthony #234
The number of comments and amount of “confusion” on the issue has little to do with the “clarity of scripture.” Instead, it has more to do with the fact that sin taints everything about us – not just our reason, but our willingness to believe even when shown the truth. The doctrine of predestination smacks right at the heart of man’s desire to be autonomous. One question bugged me more than any other: “What is the difference between me and my brother or my sister or my friends?” Why did I believe and they didn’t (my brother has since come to Christ, praise God)?
How you answer that question will reveal the issue. If you say that it is because you (or I) have been given more opportunity or more information, then you have tacitly affirmed that God does not give the same grace to everyone. If you say it is because you were able to realize the truth more than they were, you have made the difference a difference in you – and one you could boast about. So, just what is it that makes the difference between people who grow up in the same household, or in the same church, or with the same information? Why do some “choose” and others don’t?
My struggle with Calvinism was intellectual (and emotional) at the beginning. But, when I saw how it made sense out of so many scriptures tha puzzled me before, “I” realized that this did indeed make sense. Then it came down to a question of will. I did not want to believe it – I searched for reasons not to believe it. I did not like the implications of such a belief – I thought it made God “unloving” in some way and “arbitrary” and “unfair.” But, ultimately I saw that “Calvinism” did no such thing unless I brought presuppositions about the world into the debate. Later, I understood that the only difference between me and someone who didn’t believe Calvinism, or me and someone who did not believe the gospel, rested in the sovereign love of God. There was nothing good in me, no potential, no goodness that compelled God to give sight to me, a blind man. And, just as Lazarus had no choice but to obey the command of Christ to live again, I had no part in my coming to life, in my understanding, or even in my growth.
Just because people believe something to be unclear does not mean it is so – no one is neutral in examining evidence, and we all bring our prejudices, our presuppositions, and our dislikes to the table. God’s command to Adam and Eve was clear, but Satan twisted God’s words and they chose to listen to him rather than God. It’s not just about the clarity of the message, but about the receptiveness of the sinful heart, which only God can accomplish.
At one time, the “Deity of Christ” might have been said to be an “unclear doctrine” … and some say it still today. But whether we believe it or not has no bearing on the truthfulness of God’s testimony …
And, as been said before, truth is not determined by a poll …



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Peggy

posted December 4, 2007 at 3:46 pm


Ed #236,
Have you followed Scot’s suggestion (I don’t remember to whom he made it) to read his series of 18 posts on Post-Calvinism? (See the category in his sidebar.) If not, then I suggest that you really need to step back and do so.
This conversation, as it has been drawn out and essentially gone off-topic, may not ever be able to do anything other than go round and round, but at least consider understanding the perspective of our host so that the point he has been trying to make can be processed.
Your elaborate and eloquent explanations of what you believe and why you believe may be helful to your own processing, and to others who tend to see things similarly. And Lord knows Scot and the Jesus Creed community have been more than patient and gracious as I have processed my stuff at this virtual table.
But you will just not be successful in making all of us accept your perspective. So, please do not berate me or belittle my 40 years of journeying with Christ or the depth of my scholarship or discipleship or try to imtimidate me in some other way–you just will not succeed, brother. There are many examples of agreeing to disagree agreeably on this post…and I’m praying you just might be encouraged to become one of them.
Shalom, truly.



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Ed

posted December 4, 2007 at 4:14 pm


Re: Peggy #237
I have not followed Scott’s suggestion as of yet, but will certainly do so when I get a chance. I welcome any new information anyone can give me, and I am certainly not threatened by it … I want to know Christ and to think his thoughts as much as I can, and that certainly has caused me to revise my thinking from time-to-time.
I don’t see how you can say this has gone off topic when in the original article, it states that some Calvinists are relentless (as surely as some non-Calvinists) and that they are not open to discussion or compromise. Now, I hope it is clear that we have had a discussion on this board, and while I don’t like the word compromise, I certainly know that I have been “course corrected” by brothers and sisters from time to time. But if you don’t put out there what you believe and why you believe it, what good is the conversation? I want someone to interact with my ideas – not the ones they think I hold, but the ones I actually do – and if they can show me a better way, so be it. But too often, caricatures are held up on both sides and no real discussion takes place. Discussion involves a level of disagreement – if you agree on everything, why talk?
As far as “my processing” helping others who tend to see things similarly, well that’s nice, but what I’m really after is engaging those who don’t see things similarly. But that’s going to involve putting down what you actually believe and interacting with ideas. It’s nice to state an opinion, and if that’s all someone wants to do, that’s great for them. But then we just become another voice in the crowd noise. What I want is for someone to engage me and challenge my beliefs at the level of understanding. Not everyone wants that, I know …
I am not interested in making you accept my position in the sense that what you believe has very little impact on me and my life. I do think it impacts yours, and so I choose to engage. But if you go on believing whatever you believe, that’s between you and God. This is not a power struggle. Truth, by its very nature is exclusive. But I am not the bearer of all truth – He is. And as we engage one another, we can help each other arrive at a better understanding of who He is within relationship to Him.
Quote: “So, please do not berate me or belittle my 40 years of journeying with Christ or the depth of my scholarship or discipleship or try to imtimidate me in some other way.”
I am in no way berating you or belittling you. What made you think that? I am not trying to intimiidate you – all I want is an engaging conversation that has depth to it – so we can both walk away with a better understanding of each other, and a better understanding of Christ, who lives in all his children.
I have said from the beginning that I don’t care if I succeed in persuading you to my side. Truth cares that we see it, but that’s not my responsibility. I have no problem agreeing to disagree – i do it all the time – especially in my own church. We’re a family, not a monlithic think-tank.
It does surprise me, however, that some of those who engage on discussion boards are more interested in just putting their particular opinion out there and not engaging in a conversation about it. I don’t mind being wrong. But of what use is the time I spend typing these posts if no one engages in a conversation – I talk to myself far too much as it is :) If you don’t particularly care for my posts, you’re welcome to ignore them – others have. So why do you seem to want to engage negatively in reaction to something I post that doesn’t matter to you?
If you are not interested in serious discussion, that’s fine. No skin off my back. Have a great life, love Jesus and I’ll see you on the other side! But as for me, I want to seek to love God with all my mind – in addition to my strength, body, and heart.
I’m not good, but I’m His …
Ed



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Peggy

posted December 4, 2007 at 5:28 pm


Ed #238,
Scot began the post with this:
“A letter to which I???d like to hear your reasonable answer and I ask for your pastoral sensitivity.”
The question was how to help this pastor deal with “hyper-Calvinists” whose divisiveness resulted in him feeling as if he has “had the life kicked out of me at my church this past year…”
It was not intended to be a rehash of doctrine, but a bit of encouragement as to how he might move ahead without killing his new church plant.
This is why I have seen this post as having gone wildly off-topic. In the follow up post, Scot himself was surprised at where it went.
I can understand wanting to engage with folks who differ from you; I was merely suggesting that this was not the right post for it. And those of us who have gently suggested this, on and off through the hundreds of comments, seem to keep getting prodded to engage further rather than respond to the original request.
I love a good conversation as well, but I find that I don’t currently have the time or energy to rehash this particular one…but you will note that there are some who do!
Anyway, brother, I was just trying to reflect back to you how you were coming across to me…and am gratified to find that this was not your intent! We all are journeying according to the light we have…and I’m sure we will all be surprised one way or another when that Great Day arrives!
Be blessed.



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Anthony Hedrick

posted December 5, 2007 at 8:04 am


With all due respect, I was raised a “five point Calvinist” and exposed to almost nothing but that which came from Geneva or Edinborough. I am quite able to argue every fine distinction if it were necessary.
For me, this has never been a matter of sovereignty (all believers accept the sovereignty of God) but rather a question of how one views sovereignty.
Is sovereignty to be viewed as a scale with man on the one side and God on the other or as a circle (man has authentic freedom of choice within that circle) from which no one will, in any way, escape? I have come to see sovereignty as a circle.
Sorry to say, I view high-Calvinism as aberrant and spurious in the same way as I view Word Faith, Seventh-Day (ism) and United Pentecostals. I haven’t the space, energy or time to adequately respond to their conjectures and suppositions.
Further, Calvinism offers no real hope as one may never know, except by the rather subjective witness of the Spirit (something both Arminians and Calvinists agree), whether one is a child of God or not.
Philosophically speaking, it would be possible for one to spend his or her entire life thinking that they were elected (and vice versa) only to find out in the end they were not. This is an Islamic kind of hope (Surah 14:4).
Though Calvinist want to redefine the language to suit their presupposition, I prefer to let “all” mean “all” and “whosoever” mean “whosoever” just as the Calvinist insists that others accept “predestined” to mean just what it says, “predestined.”
There is not the clarity that one would like and even the weight of scripture does not overwhelmingly support Calvinism, otherwise everyone (well meaning and competent people everywhere) would have been silenced long ago. God has simply not given us enough information.



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Harvey

posted December 5, 2007 at 1:09 pm


According to a pamphlet published by the Christian Reformed Church, there are three emphases or “minds” in the Reformed tradition: The doctrinalist (cf. Apostles’/Nicene and other creeds), the pietist (looking at one’s personal relationship with God), and the transformationalist(one’ discipleship in every area of life). Each of us might have a propensity to gravitate toward one of these emphases, but surely a healthy balance and integration of all three is necessary in order to live a life worthy of our Lord.



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Michael T.

posted December 5, 2007 at 8:30 pm


To Anthony Hedrick,
Anthony,
Since you consider that Calvinist theology doesn’t meet your expectations and/or requirements, may I recommend that instead, you begin to us exclusively up the Scriptures; that you be totally and unconditionally committed to all the Scriptures as the Word of God written; and that you do so to the extent that you categorically reject and abandon any and all views and opinions, including also your own views and opinions, that are in any degree contrary to and/or opposed to the truths of the Scriptures in their entirety.
Michael T.



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James

posted July 2, 2009 at 2:09 pm


Scot wrote “They turn up their nose at Rick Warren and Bill Hybels”
If we don’t call these men out as wolfs, then we are no sheppards.
A day of darkness is desending. A day of confusion. Why must you all persist in your “inclusive morality” at the expense of the sheep?



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Stephen

posted July 6, 2009 at 6:10 am


I am wondering as one who has recently embraced reformed theology-why the Calvinistic people are in a new church plant that does not represent that theology? As a pioneer pastor in the past I could feel this gentleman’s pain, because there are always factions that have some issue that can be distracting from the work God has called you.
If these folks are really Calvinistic they shoudl manifest the work ethic that Calvinists are supposed to have and roll up their sleeves and be a good testimony to the man they call pastor or get out and start their own work.



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Shirley

posted July 13, 2009 at 1:28 pm


I hesistate to add anything to this discussion but some of what I say might help.
When I first became a Christian and read the Bible, I didn’t see anything in it that the Calvinist declare. I am grateful that I didn’t have anyone telling me what to believe but read God’s Word as presented to every believer in the Bible. I had no preconceived ideas or doctrine except that the Bible is the Word of God, Jesus is Lord and Savior. I didn’t see and still don’t the doctrines Calvinist believe plainly in the Bible. I’ve listened to their arguments, searched their passages, etc., but still consider their interpretations a huge stretch.
I don’t believe “mans’ doctrines” enhance the Bible. I believe their doctrines totally misdirect the Bible’s meaning into prideful man’s own thinking.
Take Mormonism, they believe they are very special…..gods in fact…. that will populate other planets with spirit children! I believe there might be some Mormons that aren’t sure about this doctrine and could possibly accept the Gospel if presented to them, but many Mormons are so caught up in the pride of this Mormon doctrine. To discover they will not act as gods in populating other planets is a huge let down, don’t you think? To discover they are a sinner and can be saved by the grace takes God’s Hand moving in their lives to change the lie they believe.
One might search Calvinism for prideful doctrines as well. Prideful doctrines make prideful people.



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Arthur Klassen

posted July 14, 2009 at 12:31 am


One of my hobbies is misquotation and verbal mash-ups. Some Calvinists, including some of the responders to this letter, remind me of one of my best ones. It’s a crossover between Lord Acton (“Power corrupts”) and I Cor. 8:1b.
“Knowledge puffs up. Absolute knowledge puffs up absolutely.”



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Don Sukkau

posted July 14, 2009 at 11:51 am


It would seem to me that many of those in the Calvinist camp are Calvinists first and Christians second. Though I agree with much of what the Calvinist have to say doctrinally I just do not understand, other than pride, why anyone would refer themselves as a Calvinist. It just seems unnecessary and invites contention.



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Dan

posted July 14, 2009 at 1:41 pm


I went to a Reformed college in the 70s. Met many many fine people, but the attitude of some of them had me turned off to Calvinism for years. They actually talked of “converting” people to Calvin, people who were already Christians but were of other faith traditions. Gradually, I moved to a more liturgical and Lutheran church , but I’ve found that I do agree with many of Calvin’s points. I wouldn’t call myself a “Calvinist” however, because of the type of persons mentioned in the above letter. I knew some of them well. So, if people want a label, I’ll tell them I’m a conservative Christian, or confessional, or liturgical, but not a Calvinist….that carries too much baggage for me. I’m sure John Calvin himself would be embarrassed by it all.



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Raif

posted July 14, 2009 at 11:33 pm


If I’m not a Calvinist, did God predestine me to be this way? From a Calvinist’s perspective, is it possible that I could be a non-Calvinist without God’s having predestined me to be this way? If, having been predestined to be a non-Calvinist, I am now free to embrace Calvinism, does that not disprove Calvinism?



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Joyce

posted July 15, 2009 at 6:54 am


The details noted in the letter above have been my exact experience and I live in Texas. My first experience with this was on a Christian discussion group online. At that time I thought it was just one individual. Since then, it has happened too frequently in different venues for it to be attributable to an individual. It appears to come about in the manner of instruction used to teach seminary students. Something must be utterly wrong with the teachings to bear fruit of such pompous, arrogant, unrelenting stubbornness and lifelessness.



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Allan Nelson

posted July 16, 2009 at 10:38 am


I’m a Calvinist because I believe the 5 points that are traditionally associated with Calvinism are biblical and sound. I don’t know that I’m self righteous. I see the sin in my thoughts and actions and find myself regularly asking forgiveness from both God and man. I don’t see any reason to be proud about my salvation either. God did not choose me because I’m good. The fact is judged against the standards of Scripture I fall very short and am not good. Those things that are good in my life are the products of the Lords working in me and again not something I can brag about, it is the Lord’s work.
Now not using the label Calvinism will not do anything to solve the problem with self righteousness. The problem is in the heart not the label. As far as converting anyone, Christian or unbeliever to Calvinism that seems a little silly to me. The Holy Spirit is the one who opens our eyes to the meaning of Scripture, not argument or debate. If you choose not to believe Calvinism, that does not mean you are not my brother or sister. God knows who are His own.
Allan



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Harii

posted July 20, 2009 at 8:34 am


Wow!! That is so so sad to hear. :0(
I don’t often argue theology with people, as I just don’t like to argue. It’s sad that the people at your Church would rather win an argument on things that are secondary than loving accept that you disagree on the matter.
There are so many other, more important things to be strong willed about, like Salvation through faith in Christ alone; the Virgin birth; the resurrection; the truth of the Word etc…
I pray that the Lord would work on and soften their hearts and remind them that whether predestined or not, salvation is still a gift of God!



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Nancy

posted July 20, 2009 at 9:41 am


I am not a “_Name religion here____” by membership…..in fact I go to different churches over time seeking the Word of G-d always. I mostly like to read the Word so the Lord can show me first hand Himself the truth. I’d like to put a different spin on these “Calvinist” people you mention. When I believe something strongly, I like to discuss it. I will debate it full heartedly because I believe it. Along with this posture however, I am somewhat stimulated by the returned debate. Many times I have walked away from such and reconsidered my take on things because light was cast on the Word from a new direction. I always thought that was what “iron sharpening iron” was. Instead of being threatened by a good debate, be challenged to search the Word for the truth of it in it’s full context. And give them the grace you are looking for yourself, by forgiving those who come on too strong.



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R

posted July 20, 2009 at 9:43 am


I love Calvinism, but the attitude with which it is presented turns me off. I grew up in a fundamentalist church where many of the members had the same attitude, and have seen that same attitude reflected in evangelical churches. All of us are guilty of thinking our way is superior, but the focus on legalism and “my way is right” makes us forget the grace and love of God that covers everyone, even the people we don’t agree with.



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Joshua Taylor

posted July 20, 2009 at 10:23 am


There are several issues why they cannot find a home in “your church” as you put it.
First, you say it is “our church” who is self righteous? Second, how is man saved? Does he have to ask Jesus into his heart before God will act? Because in making such a statement you are subjecting the will of God to the desire/will or man, and subordinating God’s power to your own ability to choose.
You see reformed theology presupposes the Sovereign God before all things, as the foundation and creator of all things. And as Bahnsen has said there can be no other connection between this, and a view that presupposes a would be sovereign man other than strait on collision.
Teaching someone they must accept Jesus into their hearts and God will save them is no different, than teaching them that they must be circumcised for God to save them.
What if Paul would have compromised with Peter on circumcision? What if the could have “agreed to disagree” and not address the heresy?



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Merlot

posted July 20, 2009 at 11:07 am


Interesting thread. The dates from 11.07 to 07.09 are telling in themselves. I apologize if this has been covered in previous correspondence as I have read many, but not all 244 entries. I arrived via Crosswalk as it appears perhaps other more recent posters have too? My approach currently as a member of the church for nearly 40 years is as a participant of the teachings of Jesus and have found myself at various times in my life as both the younger and older brother in the parable of the prodigal. Most recently I?ve applied the story to Austrian and Keynsian economic theory, but it most accurately describes our family of saints and the difficulties we face in accepting our Father?s grace as the obedient child or repentant sibling we all at times have oscillated between. Who will save me? Thanks be to God!



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Adrian

posted July 21, 2009 at 1:59 pm


Thanks to Joshua Taylor who has supported Biblically the importance of why we do not agree to disagree concerning Those Pesky Calvinists. The Truth of Scripture must be upheld, protected, guarded diligently. That is commanded. God has ‘called’ men of God who have devoted their lives 100% to the study of Scripture, Calvin being one such persons.
Paul writing to Timothy about such matters while suffering in prison for the Gospel ” For this reason, I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, (here is that word again) so that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory. It is a trustoworthy statement: For if we died with Him we will also live with Him; If we endure, we will also reign with Him; If we deny Him, He also will deny us; If we are faithless, He remains faithful for He cannot deny Himself. Remind them of these things, and solemnly charge them in the presence of God not to wrangle about words, which is useless and leads to the ruin of the hearers. Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to a be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. 1Tim. 2: 9-15
Oh yes, remember 2 Tim. 4:2, 3 , Paul instructing Timothy: “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season, reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. ”
May we never forget the greatest and foremost commandment :
‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’ The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ Mat. 22:338-
It is a good thing to discern heresy from Truth. Love covers a multitude of sins. Your neighbor may not be saved, just like the guy sitting next to you in your church for the last 10 years. God knows His own, we may not. The Church belongs to the Lord Jesus Christ, we are ‘called’ to serve and we are to bless those who persecute us. Its better to give than receive! So, pick up the tab, enjoy the joy of
giving.



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Annie

posted August 4, 2009 at 7:01 pm


My husband and I (both born again, charismatic, Calvinist believers) have tried to have meaningful conversations with my Calvinist sister and her husband about the Lord and what He’s done in our lives over the years, but it feels like we aren’t even brothers and sisters in the Lord. It’s like hitting a brick wall. I feel like I’d have to believe everything exactly as they do down to the smallest jot and tittle for us to share Life. It’s been a big disappointment to us, but what can we do? Unless they are matters of essential doctrine (and maybe that’s every matter to a 5-point Calvinst) disagreements should take a backseat to our shared Life in Jesus. Disclaimer: I know all Calvinists are not like that.



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Pastor Ellery

posted September 3, 2009 at 3:47 pm


Many assume being a Calvinist is the same as being one of the elect. This is not the case. Many are called who are not now nor ever will be Calvinists. Calvinism is not a condition for election. Grace is. We are saved by grace through faith in CHRIST…not John Calvin or the the pillars represented in TULIP.



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Alice Faye

posted October 2, 2009 at 3:46 am


Last night a ghetto Latino teenager was asking me about God and time. I replied that God can see the past and future at will just like I can look at objects to my left and right on a sidewalk. The boy responded, “That doesn’t make sense!” Well, to him it doesn’t make sense because he defines God in human terms…we can’t travel in time. His God is too unGodly.
I think the same applies to people who believe other spiritual truths can only be humanly “logical” Their god is too unGodly to be able to operate above human logic, i.e. predestination and choosing to receive Christ are both true. Now we see through a glass darkly and the ultimate details of spiritual truth are not yet understandable to our finite minds…just as the disciples on the Emmaus road had not yet understood Messianic prophecy despite their familiarity with both the Old Testament and the Messiah. I’ve learned to enjoy the misty mystery of spiritual truth and love the fact that somehow God chose me before the foundation of the world and as a six-year-old I choose to receive Him as my Lord and Savior. I compare myself to a dog who can’t fathom how “bark” can mean the covering of a tree AND a sound he makes. The intellectual distance between a dog and the real me is infinitely less than the distance between me and the real God.



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Your Name

posted November 4, 2009 at 10:34 am


I am Calvinist myself and I hope I am a Humble Calvinist. I belong to a Southern Baptist Church and I can safely say that 85% of the church is Arminian. I am also leading a class by RC Sproul “Chosen by God”. Boy oh boy! Did I stir up the chicken?! :). I was very clear at the beginning of class to reassure the students are in for a discussion. I also made it clear that it is not a divisive issue or a salvation issue even though I hold the Calvinistic view with much passion. I struggled with this view at the beginning of my walk with God. As I begin to grow in my maturity I begin see how dead I was in my sin. Now I understand why God gets all the glory! I think Calvinist gets a really bad name because of a few Prideful Calvinist. I dont remembered who said this but here it is: “Whether you reject the Calvinist-view or you are a anti-Calvinist or you are indifferent to this view, it is worth looking into the marrow of the Calvinist view. Apologize for my bad english :)



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Brother D

posted December 17, 2009 at 12:11 am


HOW TO IDENTIFY SIGNS OF CALVINISM
Codewords for Calvinism:
1. Sovereign Grace
2. Reformed
3. Desiring God
4. The true gospel
5. The pure gospel
6. Correct exegesis
7. The true church
8. Orthodox
9. The true defenders of the faith
Signs of Calvinism:
1. Any exaltation of man
2. Any overt signs of narcissism
3. Any overt signs of legalism
4. Any overt signs of elitism
5. Any overt signs of religious boasting
6. Any overt signs of condescending behavior
7. Promises to make the Christian holier or more advanced or more biblical
8. Making excuses for those who have murdered Christians claiming to be doing God?s service.
9. Church members who exhibit a cult-like dependency upon a pastor or who exhibit signs of pastor-worship may be a sign of a pastor surreptitiously promoting Calvinism without his flock being aware of his strategy to turn them into a ?reformed? church.
10. Ministries who keep their members ?boxed in tightly? and use fear to keep their members from looking outside the box.
NOTE:
Calvinist promoters exhibit the highest form of air-brushing-themselves known to any Christian group.
This is one of the first signs to look for. Signs of body posture are characteristically chest puffed out, nose up.
Typical Calvinist groups:
1. Calvinists are working overtime to Jehad Baptist churches
2. Presbyterian
3. Dutch reformed
4. Any group which contains in its label the words “reformed” or “sovereign”
5. Be wary also of groups which use the word “grace” in their label
NOTE:
Calvinist churches intent upon expansion may keep their Calvinism as “insider information” in order to gain converts.
The Calvinist’s primary preoccupation:
1. Keeping the outside of the cup clean
2. Riding the high horse
3. Adding cubits to ones stature
4. Advancing Calvinism
NOTE:
Evangelism, for the Calvinist, is 99% the recruiting of non-Calvinist Christians into their flocks



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Sean

posted December 29, 2009 at 7:34 pm


I really like what Alice Faye said, and it is just so true.
My problem with Calvinism is exactly that. They think they know, but they really have no idea. I don’t know how many times I have sat with a Calvinist and talked about God, and their beliefs. It feels like we don’t even serve the same God. I don’t know whats up with these guys, because they proclaim their interpretation of scripture as divine truth. ‘You will know them by the fruits of the spirit; love, peace, patience, kindness, self-control…’ ect. if that is what I know a christian by then is it possible many of the Calvinists I have seen probably couldn’t be Christians?
I worry about these people but they tell me I am the one in danger, and I don’t know the true God. Yet some of them don’t even believe that the Holy Spirit is at work today, and they don’t believe in healing and raising the dead!
With that being said, I know a few Calvinists who DO show the fruits of the spirit, and I am so deeply encouraged when I spend time with them over coffee or just having a chat. It is so fulfilling talking with them. I don’t think it is because of their Calvinism though, although we do talk about it and different perspectives, but I think it is because they are TRULY Christians, showing the fruits of the spirit.
Anyways my 2 cents. :)
God Bless



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Larry

posted January 17, 2010 at 3:04 pm


Brother D wrote:
HOW TO IDENTIFY SIGNS OF CALVINISM
Codewords for Calvinism:
1. Sovereign Grace
2. Reformed
3. Desiring God
4. The true gospel
5. The pure gospel
6. Correct exegesis
7. The true church
8. Orthodox
9. The true defenders of the faith
Wow, praise God for:
1. God’s sovereign grace – He is all powerful and sovereign
2. The reformation. I’m assuming you think that Bunyan, Owen, Spurgeon, Whitefield, Edwards, etc were all solid Christians? And all believed in Election? How awful……
3. Desiring God? How terrible is that?
4. The true gospel? Do you want a false one?
5. The pure gospel? Better than one that is tainted correct?
6. Correct exegesis? You’re kidding right? You want incorrect?
7. The true church? Where you got this from I don’t know. There’s only one true church made up of all true Christians in the world.
8. Orthodox? Meaning holding to the truth of scripture? And…..
9. The true defenders of the faith? All christians should be defenders of the faith..
I think you should call yourself a hyper “Calvinist critic”……..



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Jack

posted February 8, 2010 at 7:18 am


Hi,
Regarding comment #253…
I am questioning your characterization of what I THINK you mean as “Calvinists” being “HYPER-Calvinists”.
It seems in my experience, that when one is taking issue with the Calvinistic point of view, the term “hyper” is usually used. While I do believe there ARE “hypers” out there, the ones you are referring to (from Piper’s Church…having read much of his writings) do not fit that label whatsoever.
A Hyper Calvinist takes good and proper theology (for the most part) then draws the conclusion that mission and evangelism efforts need not be. THAT is what I understand to be “Hyper-Calvinism”. Again, I did not see anything in comment #253 that lead me to think these undesirables had that mindset, and certainly I cannot believe Piper or his Church people in the main hold such error. “I’m just saying…” :)
Blessings to you all
Jack



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James

posted February 8, 2010 at 10:09 am


Brother D, I feel that your comments are unbelivebly biased and bigoted, you in fact appear to be exhibiting many of the signs that you unjustifiedly attributed to Calvinists. We are all sinners and we all have places we can improve. Stop trying to cause arguments and persecution within the Church there is enough of that coming from elsewhere!
Regards,
James



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Dan Register

posted February 12, 2010 at 1:21 pm


Based on my blog you will put me in the Calvinist camp, but I agree that many who adhere to the Doctrines of Grace – whether they are called Calvinists, Reformed Baptists, PCA, Orthodox Pres – have earned the nickname “Frozen Chosen.” For the sake of argument, let’s say that their “theology” concerning the Sovereignty of God is correct. One can be right in one area and terribly wrong in another. This side of heaven we struggle with a sin nature that is at war with our new natures. The 13th chap of Corinthians speaks directly to that. I know that I have often been a clanging symbol, both in my marriage and in the church, but now that I have been walking with the Lord over 30 years, His compassion is starting to rub off on me (thanks be to the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit). Jesus did not count His equality with the Father as a thing easily grasped, but dealt compassionately with all those whom He called. He still does.



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Joe Ayala

posted May 28, 2010 at 12:13 pm


Wow, how ignorant.



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Anon

posted June 8, 2010 at 9:49 am


Meanwhile there are people out there who are perishing…
Some of them sit down the hall from you in your offices as you spend time reading ALL of these comments and not sharing the gospel with your co-workers.
I feel so convicted.



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Aaron

posted June 12, 2010 at 1:15 pm


Yikes!
I consider myself a Calvinist (maybe just a 2 point Calvinist), but who cares. Jesus took my sin and gave me His righteousness, and it happened not because of anything that I did. If someone’s theology is getting in the way of that simple truth then it is worth having a robust dialouge with them.
I had no idea that there were such hard feelings out there among Christians but I am fairly new to this. I am sure that I have contributed to them in my own right.



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Lee Pretorius

posted June 14, 2010 at 5:52 am


Should we be surprised that our theological doctrine of soteriology (i.e. Calvinist vs. Arminian) has immediate bearing on our practical treatment of others?



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Evan DeVries

posted June 17, 2010 at 11:23 pm


And the fruits of the Spirit are Love, Joy, Peace, Patients,Kindness, Self-Control.
Both Human and Spiritual reasoning would think that at least one of these fruits, if not all, would be the image of the Reformed Church here on earth.
Hebrews 12:1-3 says, ?? let us also lay aside every weight and the sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfector of our faith? consider Him who endured such hostility against Himself so that you will not grow weary or fainthearted.? Go and Be ambassadors of His Grace and Mercy.
How we go from the Promises of God to arrogance in ourselves is something crazy scary and sinful. For if we truly comprehend the Grace God has given, We are first Humble.. then Bold for His Glory. Because God is most Gloried in Us, when we are Joyful and satisfied in HIm.
I will seek repentance if I have anything to do with this arrogance of the day.
Apparently, this is a major issue(261 comments worth). Much larger than I expected. I just thought it was much more local than global. As I wrote to some earlier this week, I believe reformed doctrines are the most in-tune and orthodox(straight) teachings on this side of Glory. So without a doubt in my mind, I know the evil one is doing everything in his limited power to detour the church to something other than Christ’s mission upon this earth of saving broken men.
I praise the Lord for Grace and calling me to Himself, for all have sinned and have fallen short of the Glory Of God! Even our Best works are still dirty rags before our HOLY, HOLY, HOLY God.
Praise The Lord For a Savior! I think it is time for a James1 sermon.- Do not merely listen to the Word, do what it says. Lest we deceive ourselves.



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doug del bosco

posted July 12, 2010 at 12:07 pm


As someone whose natural personality bent is towards: precision-detail- accuracy…and whose salvation theology is calvinistic ( after lots of study and reading of scripture) I can easily fall into this trap (probably a scheme of the devil mind you):
I’D RATHER BE RIGHT THAN RIGHTEOUS…..ouch….”hyper-calvinist” or extremist may often have a similar problem….



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Claire Z

posted July 14, 2010 at 12:42 pm


I suspect after 242 comments that I am not adding anything new. I would be curious to know what issues the Calvinists are challenging you on. Maybe they have valid concerns and the ears that are closed are yours. I attended the same church for over 50 years. Over that time it went from a Christ centred worship with excellent teaching to seeker sensitive. It was subtle change and I didn?t notice the change so that I could put a finger on what was wrong. But something was very wrong. It wasn?t until I stumbled across the White Horse Inn radio show that all become clear. They were talking about Christless Christianity. It was as if they were in my church?s congregation. One of the things I have noticed in many congregations is how they minimize the seriousness of sin. Sure it is an ugly subject but without fully grasping how serious it is we cannot grasp why Christ needed to die and how central His death is to the gospel. It is good news but at the same time an offense because there is nothing we can do to save ourselves. It concerns me that you have not spelled out the concerns brought to you and instead have categorized this group as hyper Calvinists and written off what may be valid issues. My pastor did the same thing. In the interests of Christian unity he was willing to accept mild heresy and a denigration of Christ?s sacrifice. A lot of people who have moved to the Calvinist fold have been treated likewise. They have been burdened with the do?s of pastors afraid to preach grace and have come away confused and angry. Perhaps that is what you are dealing with.



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Matt

posted January 30, 2011 at 8:34 am


You’re both right.
Since we’re painting with a broad brush, Calvinists almost always lack the passion and joy that comes from understanding that although your works can do nothing to add to or earn your salvation, it _can_ please, bless and minister to God and knowing that sets the heart of a redeemed Man alive!
We are constantly exhorted to _work_ to show the results of our salvation all through the NT. “New Calvinists” are so busy railing against some imaginary preachers who are preaching works and scaring the flock (who are they? by the way? since the 1950s here in Australia there’s _nobody_ outside the Catholic church preaching works, to the extent that most have even forgotten about holy discipline and the fear of the Lord) that every single sermon is a re-packaged version of the “milk” Paul refers to, ie. constantly going over the atonement from sin and repentance from dead works.
Grace is THE most important and central concept in the gospel, I don’t really hear anyone denying it, but it’s not all people need to hear about to become mature Christians, otherwise Paul, Luke and James wouldn’t have bothered with the 90% of the NT that tells us how we should respond, right?
Armenians, on the other hand, well I don’t think I know any. I guess some slap that label on Paul Washer but they really need to read more of what he writes. In theory I guess they lack a clear understanding of Pre-destination and Grace.
Here’s a great piece of advice I once received:
“Have faith like a Calvinist, live like an Armenian”
The more I think about this issue, the more I just decide to read the bible and take it exactly as it says it. The great men of God through history that I would love to emulate, seem to all have this approach mixed with a healthy understanding of the power of the Holy Spirit.
Lord Jesus, show us your true nature and your Glory so that as a Church we may shed everything that holds us back and charge the gates of Hell.



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Tom Hardy

posted March 17, 2011 at 12:09 am


As a Christian who is a Calvinist (an unfortunate nickname), I believe that the doctrines of Calvinism when properly understood should lead someone to the understanding that God is in control and therefore they of all people should be most loving and fruitful of all Christians.
This however is not always the case, all too often we forget part of the doctrine we most want to uphold and as a result take things personal and do things in our own flesh.
One wise Reformed theologian once said (tongue in cheek) that when someone first embraces Calvinism, they ought to be locked up in room for a year, so their overzealousness without wisdom doesn?t run rampant over everyone.
In the last few years I have learned (or am learning) that although I want to point people to truth, I am a lot more patient than before. Last year I was forced to leave a Church mainly because it was starting to embrace Emergent philosophy. Before I left however, I went to the pastor with my concerns and as lovingly and as respectful as I could, I told him what my concerns were. Unfortunately, what I believed to be of great concern he believed to be actually good. It became clear that neither of us was going to change their minds, so rather than me potentially causing a problem in the Church, I decided I needed to find another Church that embraced the doctrines I hold dear. Fortunately God provided that Church and my wife and I are now attending there.
It is always good to point people to the truth of the Word of God, but it takes wisdom not to do it in a manner that seems self serving. If we fall prey to giving the impression that we are self serving, regardless of whether or not it is true, what we are trying to communicate will not be heard.
I also want to say that when it comes to our justification we are passive (faith in Christ alone is a gift that is irresistible), but when it comes to our sanctification we need to be aggressive in learning God?s Word and putting it into practice. We cannot do this by sitting back and being coach potatoes.
No Calvinist has an excuse for not being a doer, in fact if they are not it is a fairly good sign that they haven?t as yet understood what they claim to believe; or perhaps something even worse.



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Don

posted July 12, 2011 at 3:11 pm


“I am writing is to see if you know anything a person can do in response to hyper-calvinism. Around these parts, we are getting killed by very vocal, self-righteous hyper-calvinists, especially those who are connected with Piper???”

In this paragraph I see a lot of name calling, and a total lack of understanding. Is this guy really trying to seek to get to know Calvinists and understand what they think?

“They just seemed like they were always picking a fight.”
Could it be that these Calvinists preferred not to be misrepresented, called names, etc?



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Deb Moret

posted August 21, 2011 at 11:39 pm


I have had the same experience. I’ve been laughed at, talked about and even shunned for being honest and saying I’m not sure how God works. I wrestled with it many years, with an answer from God when He reminded me I AM and I want that to be good enough for you right now. It is for me, but I’ve found I need to just keep it to myself for the sake of peace. Is that OK?



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Everything That math games Gurus Can Teach You

posted June 5, 2012 at 4:46 pm


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Bob Di Giorgio

posted July 9, 2012 at 12:05 pm


I’m a Calvinist, but I know nothing about the “hyper-Calvinists” you describe. Being Christian is more important than being Calvinist, but they seem to have it backwards.
Paul put it like this- “To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.”
(1 Corinthians 9:22-23 ESV)



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Billy

posted July 9, 2012 at 2:31 pm


Theology if not according to the gospel of JESUS Christ Is Incorrect the word says.
2Pe 1:20 Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.
Where.
Where confusion started when men put their interpetation on the word of, The word was spirtual written and must be spiritual descerned. what is wrong with getting back to the prophets and disciples doctrine, of which they are the foundation we should be building on.
Eph 4:5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism,



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Patricia

posted July 22, 2012 at 7:39 am


Every Christian is on a unique spot in God’s timeline; therefore, according to Scripture in I Corinthians 8:13, Psalm 133 and Ephesians 4:3 we are commanded as Christians to have unity in the body of Christ. One of the devil’s instruments is confusion. God is the author of peace. This gentleman certainly has implemented verses 11 through 13 in Ephesians 4 by endeavoring to meet with the hyper-calvinists in the right spirit in casual fellowship. Later on, though in the same chapter, we “see” how verse 14 talks about “children, tossed to and fro . . .” which clearly describes the spiritual condition of these hyper-calvinists. The response to anything like that is found in verse 15 “But speaking the truth in love” because there is power in God’s love, supernatural power, and no law against it. It helps to stand back a little and look at the situation and see how the devil and his demons in today’s churches are seemingly working overtime in these last of the last days before the end of our world as we know it and they will split churches and the whole nine yards if they have no resistance. Another thing too, speaking from the Calvinistic side (NOT hyper-Calvinistic!) God is the controller of everything and I Thessalonians 5:18 instructs us to be thankful for everything because this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. So what I am trying to say is that The Lord himself has allowed this situation even as He allowed satan to attack Job, and He will get the glory in the end. Just stay focused on Christ and hold up His banner each and every time. Truth prevails.



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