February 19, 2009

A New Website

Hey Everyone! I realize its been a couple of months since I last posted an update here, but I have been busy with family, church and other projects i have been working on. As a matter of fact the purpose for this post is to announce a new website that I have been working on with a friend of mine. The new website is called http://www.thegodtheyneverknew.com/. The site is essentially an on-line digital book of a book that was originally published in 1978 and then a revised version in 1982. The book is titled: "The God They Never Knew: Tragedy of Religion without Relationship" by George Otis Jr. With permission from the author we are now able to provide this book on-line to share with the rest of the world.

This book is probably one of the most influential books in my life, as well as many others who have had the courage to read it and take its words to heart. It is simply one of the most compelling books both theologically and biblically. I hope you take an opportunity to go and read the book in its entirety and I am sure you will be blessed by its contents.

December 14, 2008

A Calvinist Christmas Carol??

An Excerpt from "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens

The Ghost, on hearing this, set up another cry, and clanked its chain so hideously in the dead silence of the night, that the Ward would have been justified in indicting it for a nuisance.

"Oh! captive, bound, and double-ironed," cried the phantom, "not to know, that ages of incessant labour, by immortal creatures, for this earth must pass into eternity before the good of which it is susceptible is all developed. Not to know that any Christian spirit working kindly in its little sphere, whatever it may be, will find its mortal life too short for its vast means of usefulness. Not to know that no space of regret can make amends for one life's opportunity misused! Yet such was I! Oh! such was I!"

"But you were always a good man of business, Jacob," faltered Scrooge, who now began to apply this to himself.

"Business!" cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. "Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!"

It held up its chain at arm's length, as if that were the cause of all its unavailing grief, and flung it heavily upon the ground again.

"At this time of the rolling year," the spectre said "I suffer most. Why did I walk through crowds of fellow-beings with my eyes turned down, and never raise them to that blessed Star which led the Wise Men to a poor abode! Were there no poor homes to which its light would have conducted me!"

Scrooge was very much dismayed to hear the spectre going on at this rate, and began to quake exceedingly.

As I read this I can't help but wonder how the words of Dickens resonate through all of us. This is what makes the tale of Scrooge so compelling and heartfelt is the truth that all men are expected, as Marley puts forth is "Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business". Is this not the very expectation God has and expects from all of mankind? Is not benevolence, charity and mercy the moral expectation and responsibility of every person? Furthermore, if man is expected to love and care for his fellow man, is he then not expected to love and submit to that which is not the very definition of love and that is God himself? When we read this story of Scrooge, do we not see how the past moral choices of a man has led to his demise?

Or should we interpret this story as the Calvinist see it, a man whose choices were not of his own freewill, but predetermined and foreordained by God? That mankind by his very nature is unable to choose "Mercy, charity and Benevolence", due to that pesky and constant lurking of "Original Sin" or "Total Depravity"? That by our very constitution we are unable to do "any good"? If this is so, then why is it we don't pity poor Scrooge rather feel as if he should not be the way he is? Why is it we don't sympathize with him as a result of his foreordained plight or his unalterable constitution of depravity?? As his story unfolds, should we not pity poor Scrooge, for surely he could not change his moral condition and choose to do right at any moment, any more than a "leopard should change its spots"?

For me the beauty of this moral tale is that it is a reflection of repentance. Is this story not one of a man reflecting upon his past and present moral actions and coming to grips that he is indeed a vile sinner? That Scrooge comes to the realization that he made selfish (if not sinful?) choices and as a result his heart had become hardened and darkened as a result of his own doing? That it was not until he was shown what his future holds, that death was inevitable

"Spirit!" he cried, tight clutching at its robe, "hear me. I am not the man I was. I will not be the man I must have been but for this intercourse. Why show me this, if I am past all hope?"

For the first time the hand appeared to shake.

"Good Spirit," he pursued, as down upon the ground he fell before it: "Your nature intercedes for me, and pities me. Assure me that I yet may change these shadows you have shown me, by an altered life."

The kind hand trembled.

"I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach. Oh, tell me I may sponge away the writing on this stone!"

In his agony, he caught the spectral hand. It sought to free itself, but he was strong in his entreaty, and detained it. The Spirit, stronger yet, repulsed him...........

Yes! and the bedpost was his own. The bed was his own, the room was his own. Best and happiest of all, the Time before him was his own, to make amends in!

"I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future!" Scrooge repeated, as he scrambled out of bed. "The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. Oh Jacob Marley! Heaven, and the Christmas Time be praised for this. I say it on my knees, old Jacob, on my knees!"

He was so fluttered and so glowing with his good intentions, that his broken voice would scarcely answer to his call. He had been sobbing violently in his conflict with the Spirit, and his face was wet with tears."

Is this not what happens when we come into direct contact with our Lord and Savior? That as he brings forth before our minds our own past and present sinfulness, and seeing the overwhelming flood of love and mercy our Lord and Savior has shown us brings us to the same condition as Scrooge? That we are brought to such a point of conviction over our sins that repentance is not only expected, but is the right and good choice for us to make? Instead, we see the Calvinist that says "Repentance is a work" and that our turning of sin is not a synergistic effort, but one that is all of God and nothing of man. But yet is this the very picture presented to us in the Bible? Of course not! Instead we see God and his Holy Spirit working jointly with man bringing him knowledge and revelation before his mind, just as the Spirits of Christmas did with Scrooge. Repentance is not only what man ought to do, but it is well within his ability and responsibility - as a result of his own conscience and God's calling of his heart! Just as Jacob Marley stated: ".....common welfare of mankind is my business", and I would add that not only mankind, but better yet it is God's benevolence that also should be of our business. Let us not give excuse to sinners that it is not within their ability to do that which is right (ie. Original Sin), but show them that they are most capable of doing what is morally expected and able. Scrooge did not say he was unable to change his cold and callous heart, nor did we as the observers of this tale expect anything different from him, but yet many would deny this in their own theology - a strange contradiction between "true to life" experiences and yet one's own theology?

November 23, 2008

Noah and the Problem of Original Sin/Total Depravity

I have recently been reading what I think is one of the most challenging books in the past couple of years that openly challenge the orthodox teachings of Calvinism and Original Sin/Total Depravity. Its entitled "Troubling Questions for a Calvinist and the Rest of Us, Taking a Closer Look at the Problem of Sin" by Lagard Smith. Smith does a tremendous job both logically and hermeneutically of dissecting the problems that the 5 points of Calvinism. Although I am only half way through the book, the majority of the book is addressing the two main underlying problems with Calvinism and that is Original Sin/Total Depravity and God's Sovereignty (as defined by Calvinist).

One of the best arguments that Smith brings up is against the problem of Original Sin and Predestination/Election (Absolute Foreknowledge) is in regards to Genesis 6:5. This verse brings to light many issues, especially concerning the demonstrated character of God throughout the bible. I emphasize "demonstrated" as this is typically an area that Calvinist either refuse to address or neglect altogether. When debating most Calvinist regarding how their theology painfully puts God's character into question, most will respond by saying "Who are you to question God" or "God is God and he has the right to do what ever he wants" or that man's sense of what is right or wrong is skewed by the fall of man. But is this true? Especially when the Bible says that God is love or that God is just and does what is right. If God is trying to relate to mankind who he is and what he is all about, doesn't anyone find it strange that God would somehow be offended if we even ask what "right" or "good" means? Doesn't anyone find it strange that if God is in the process of wanting man to turn from wrong to right that he would at least give us a benchmark by which to understand?

For example, Smith points out one of the scriptural dilemmas Calvinist face when trying to logically and rationally explain Genesis 6. These verses present some real difficulties for Calvinist when they try to harmonize, God's Character, Moral Ability and Accountability, Foreknowledge, and Sin. Smith says the following when discussing this issue:

"Wholly apart from God's obvious sovereign power to do as he pleases, are you not at all bothered by the thought if a God who would thrust damnable sin upon otherwise innocent infants as they come into the world? Would that be consistent with the loving, just, and righteous character of God as revealed in Scripture? (For the moment, we're not talking about ultimate salvation or damnation, only the starting point for each newborn soul). Then again, if you ever wanted to put God's character and justice to the test, it would have to be in the Flood. In light of the anguish we felt at the death of scores of thousands in a tsunami, what are we to think of a God who not only permits wholesale death by drowning, but specifically decrees it for the entire then known world of men, women and children?

Some would say that Noah's generation would have deserved it, not only because of their exceeding wickedness, but also (in the case of infants) because of their innate depravity. In that regard, is there a case to be made for man's depravity from the fact that "the Lord saw how great man's wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only on evil all the time"?

Central to that sentence, of course are those two key worlds "had become" - which would hardly suggest either imputed sin or inborn depravity. We see those same words again in Genesis 6:11, followed by the observation that "all people on earth had corrupted their ways".

Doesn't sound exactly like the result of a divinely-imposed penalty of universal condemnation, does it? If it were, how could Noah have escaped the penalty and turned out righteous? It must not be overlooked that God said to Noah: "Go into the ark.....because I have found you righteous in this generation (Gen 7:1) - not "I have specifically foreordained you to be righteous."

What's more, if the foreordaining sovereign God himself had imposed the twin penalties if original sin and total depravity int eh wake of Adam's sin. it would be strange indeed for him to lament mankind's universal wickedness, saying: "I am grieved that I have made them" (Gen 6:8). Why should God grieve about the state of human existence over which he had, not just foreknowledge, but total predestining control from before the dawn of Creation?

Of one thing we can be sure: The notion that God arbitrarily assigns condemnation for sin is not even remotely harmonious with the theme-line running throughout the entire Bible, in which God demands, pleads, begs, and implores man not to sin!"

Indeed this is a perplexing issue for Calvinist as their theology seems to run counter to that of what the Bible clearly demands regarding sin and God's rightful demands that we turn and repent from sin. But again, this is just one of the many problems Calvinism creates or causes.

More to come regarding this latest read!

November 13, 2008

Preach Love Only or Preach Law/Grace?

"Before I preach love, mercy and grace, I must preach sin, Law and judgment." John Wesley

After recent reactions of the Homosexuals in California regarding the outcome of Proposition 8, I have to wonder if churches here in the United States are getting it all wrong. In the recent years I see more and more tolerance for sin within the body of Christ. I have even heard of churches I thought once to be fundamental evangelicals are now considering to allow gays and lesbians to come and worship among the devout and faithful. After watching the following video I can't help but think that what the church really needs to do is to return to its roots and start preaching the Law/Grace gospel. By preaching only that "God Loves You" does nothing to bring men under repentance and condemnation and getting them to realize they are in need of God's grace and atoning sacrifice.

Indeed God loves these rebels and it is his desire they turn from their rebellion and repent from their sins and love God. But it is only through the use of the Law that these people will come to realize just how wicked they truly are.

1Ti 1:8-11 But we know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully; (9) Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, (10) For whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine; (11) According to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust.

November 4, 2008

The U.S. Presidential Election: Is God really in control?

This morning I received a spam email from the Christian Business Daily (not sure how I got on their mailing list in the first place) but nonetheless this piece of spam was telling me that regardless of how today’s election turns out it’s all a part of God’s providential plan for the United States. Really? I felt like saying “Gee whiz I’ll just sit at home then and not waste an hour and half of my time standing in line to vote”. I find we as Christians can be such people of double speak. On one hand my email In-box over the past year and half has been bombarded by Conservative Christian Groups, begging me to not vote for Obama and then this morning I get an email that essentially tells me it all really doesn’t matter because regardless of the outcome – it’s all part of God’s providential plan.

Personally, I have a real hard time thinking God is going to be overly pleased to see Barack Obama elected into one of the most powerful positions on the face of the planet. Given Obama’s unbiblical stance on taking from the haves and giving it to the lazy and apathetic or better yet his position on murdering both the unborn and the born whom are considered unwanted or meaningless.

If this world is nothing more than some divine plan that God has preordained from the beginning of time then I have a hard time reconciling how an all holy God would be that thrilled when Hitler was elected into power in 1933 and subsequently murdered 6 million Jews? Was God sitting from his throne thinking how well his plan had come together when Lenin or Stalin took power in Russia, whereby millions would be enslaved or murdered all for the sake of their idol motherland? It is quite evident that God’s will is not being accomplished on our tiny planet. Since the fall, man has been subverting God’s will and therefore this is the very reason need a Savior. Anyone who can fog a mirror should be able to tell this world is not how God expected his crowning creation to behave and act. The state of our world is not natural, but highly unnatural. I always like to ask people “Is God’s will being done here on earth”? Of course there are those who adhere to fatalism or determinism who will gladly be the first to raise their hands like Horseshack and cry “Ooo, Ooo, Ooo”. However, their response is neither biblical or rational for that matter. For me the clearest example of how God truly feels about his creation is in Gen 6:5-7:

And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. (6) And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. (7) And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them.

Personally, I take these words literally and not some abstract anthropomorphic expression of God’s heart. If indeed our wickedness is some providential plan, then I am not sure why and how a Holy and Perfect God would first want to convey to his creation His personal heartbreak, when it never really existed in the first place. I am sorry, when it says God was heartbroken over what he saw occurring on the face of the earth, I have a real hard time reconciling how this is somehow is his providential plan? Again, if God is Holy and Perfect in EVERY WAY, then God can not be the author of his own unhappiness and yet blame man for the very unhappiness he is experiencing. It would be unjust and unloving.

As for these elections, I truly believe God has given us freewill to choose either good or evil. It is God’s great expectation that we choose to do what is right before the eyes of the Lord. Therefore, this is why it is so important that we do what God rightfully expects of us. Regardless of what happens God is still in control and can still bring about his sovereign plan, but it his desire that we obey from the heart and do what is good and just.

October 27, 2008

If Original Sin is True Then*:

1. God originated SIN

2. God will punish those who have been punished for Adam's sin, because they have been punished for Adam's sin.

3. Jesus could have married a virgin and produced a holy race by natural generation.

4. Man is more benevolent and just than GOD
(i.e. man's idea of justice is injustice, and that of injustice is just)

5. All human governments are inherently evil, for inability is never punished, and natural attributes are not considered evil.

6. The physical change that happened at the fall removed the sinner from the obligation to obey the moral law, for the moral law addresses only those able to obey it.

7. A physical change is necessary in regeneration.

8. If a physical change occurs, then a loss of identity occurs, however, Paul was always Paul.

9. God saving man from sin would be a matter of justice and not grace

10. God would be obligated, by justice, to relieve the unfortunate, rather than be gracious to the rebel.

11. Jesus did not become Man, with a sinful nature:
Therefore, he was not tempted in all points like as we are, nor touched with the feelings of our infirmities.

12. The will is not free.

13. How could Adam and Eve Sin?

14. How could angels sin?

15. Children go to hell.

16. All aborted babies go to hell.

17. Abortion would actually be a good thing as it actually decreases the amount of moral depravity occurring in the world. Few sinners born = a better world!

18. Sin is a calamity, not a crime

19. Repentance is impossible, because the conscience will never condemn the sinner of his inability.

20. Immediate repentance and submission cannot be urged immediately upon the sinner. Because He CAN"T.

21. Man is unable to repent.

22. Physical regeneration is necessary
This leads to universalism: FOR-
If Power changes one's nature in regeneration
If God is all powerful
If God is benevolent,
HE must therefore, in justice, regenerate all sinners

23. It regards the atonement of Christ as unnecessary. he did not have to die for the misfortune of men.

* I changed the Title for our Friend Anonymous Calvinist as I think he was a little confused as to the content of this peice.

October 18, 2008

Promoting Lawlessness?

The following video clip is from three renowned Calvinists John Piper, Tim Keller, and D.A. Carson. This video is from their Gospel Coalition website.

I want to share this as another example of what's wrong with Calvinism. Keller and company are essentially discussing what they have coined as "Christ-centered" theology. Now on the outset this sounds really good. But the deception here is what they are truly promoting is "Lawlessness"!

Pay particular attention to what Tim Keller says at about 2:00 min. into the video. This statement is just unbelievable. Keller is explaining that he can continue to sin, that "no matter what he does" this will of course have no impact on his eternal security. He coins this as "costly grace". What exactly is "costly grace"? According to Keller, this is the grace that God supposedly has given the elect or Christ paid for on behalf of the elect, whereby God no longer see's or takes into account all of their future sins because they have been already paid for - so therefore how can God already punish them for those sins that Jesus had supposedly already been punished for on the cross. The deception here is there is NO WHERE in the bible that says all our future sins have been paid for - No where! Look it up! This is purely a product of Calvinism. It is only the past sins we have committed that have been covered on the cross - not your future sins! God still requires that if a Christians stumbles and sins they must repent over those sins and if they don't then they will find themselves once again in rebellion towards God.

Notice at about 2:30 into the video you will hear Tim Keller explain that Calvinism is neither "cheap grace" or "moralism" or "relativism" or "legalism", but someone in the "middle" - in other words Calvisnism it is at neither end of the doctrinal spectrum but somewhere in the middle. This all sounds really good, but what these gents are really promoting is "lawlessness" disguised as "grace". The underlining deception is that they are promoting a belief that the moral laws of God are either too difficult to keep or that man lacks the capacity or the ability in keeping God's Moral Law. This of course is a result of their adherence to Original Sin/Total Depravity.

John Piper goes onto to say what this "Gospel Coalition" is really about promoting a form of "Gospel-centered" living. Sounds good. But the deception is they have labeled their terms to sound good, but one has to dig a little beyond the surface into how they truly define these terms.

So what does this "Gospel-centered" living really entail. Well at about 4:19 of the video Piper makes an astonishing and unbelievable statement - He says:

"Jesus said your to gouge out your eye or your going to hell and and that's one kind of motivation and not a bad one, and it raises the stakes to eternity. But were saying success in that part this life better have been fought significantly with a centering on you being justified".

Jesus is clear in this teaching that if something is a source of sin, it is better that you stop or cut off your own hand or gouge out you own eye than go to hell for all eternity (Matt 5:29) . Jesus is saying that it is up to man stop his or her sinful behavior - even if it means entering into eternity lame or blind. Notice Jesus didn't say anything about a persons inability not to sin, but clearly and plainly tells us turning from sin is well within our means.

But yet pay close attention how Piper denies the very words of Christ by essentially saying all that really doesn't matter, he sidelines Christ teaching by subtly replacing it with one of his own. According to Piper all you really need to do is not stop sinning, but simply force your mind on the fact that you have been "justified". As a result, your sinful actions no longer matter to God, nor should it matter to you. But how do they come to this conclusion? The theology of Justification. Justification in the Calvinist sense really boils down to a theology that all your past present and future sins have already been paid for and as a result - no matter what you do your still saved or "eternally secured".

Another interesting claim Keller makes here is that he claims that most teens and young people have been "turned" off by churches that preach so called "legalism". I would venture to say that Keller once again has this all wrong. Most churches I see today aren't preaching legalism (Keller also openly admits this on the video), but I would venture to say that most churches preach an easy-believism or "greasy-grace" type theology. Young people are not being repulsed by a non-existent doctrine of legalism, but what they truly lack is conviction and repentance! Teens and young adults see no need for church because of the hypocrisy they see. It's all those people like Tim Keller, who say they can continue to sin and still be called a child of God! What young people can't stomach is the hypocrisy they see out of most churches today - not legalism! Most churches lacks substance, lacks the power to change peoples hearts. So why would they ever want to waste their time in such a theological system?

(A side note: Isn't funny that Keller speaks of these young people as if it is what they "hear" that helps influence or determine whether they will choose Christianity??? Again, this one of the inconsistencies we see with Calvinism. On one hand we see Keller speaking about doctrine and religion as if these terms are meaningful in drawing people to Christ, but yet on the other they will deny the very same statement they just made and lay the claim of mongerism)

I would be interested in hearing your thoughts about this video as I find it very interesting insights into the contradictions within Calvinism and the Gospel.