January 11, 2008

A Clean Sweep

One of my wife's guilty pleasures is to watch the TV show "Clean House" on the Style Channel. If you've not had an opportunity to see this show its one part psychology and two parts Home Improvement. The premise of the show is a crew of designers and home improvement experts come to a family who has a home that is cluttered from floor to ceiling. Now I am not just talking a little mess here. Oh no! These are people who I would say are on the borderline of being a health risk to themselves and others. For someone who has a semi case of OCD in the area of cleanliness, this show for the first 10 minutes gives me the heeby-jeeebies!

So the show basically cleans out these peoples home and sells all the useless stuff in a yard sale and then takes the proceeds from the yard sale to help pay partly for the home makeover. But the interesting part of the show is it never goes well for any of the home owners. The most noticeable problem is all these folks never want to get rid of any of their stuff. I mean they will go kicking and screaming in not wanting to let go of their useless junk! Instead they want to hold on to 5 year old calendar or 20 year old stuff animal collection and hordes of clothes that are 10 years old and will most likely never come back into style or they will be unable to fit into. So half of the show is watching these people grapple with the fact that if they get rid of all this useless junk, they are going to get a clean home, a home in which they can actually live in. But for most people on the show they can never fully seem to get past this issue.

In the end most of these folks give in (I assume the director has had to threaten some of these folks to the point of bodily harm) and they are provided with a beautiful home makeover and their home is once again a healthy place to live. As I watched one of these shows the other day with my wife, I soon realized this is much like salvation and our coming to the Lord. God is showing us that we are living in a "junk filled" home of sin and if we continue to live this way we are not only damaging ourselves, but others. God has assured us that we need to trust him complicity and in return we will have a life of peace. How often I think back that I too was like one of these home owners, how I thought I was going to loose something of value by giving my heart completely to God. For so many years I kept holding onto the sin in my life thinking that it was of some value - all the while it was killing me. It isn't until we are able to come to an understanding that we can trust God and that He knows whats best for us. Now that I look back and see how horribly foolish I was in thinking that "sin" was going to bring me real happiness is really sobering. Today I walk in devotion to God and I have the peace that surpasses all understanding. As the words of a praise and worship song remind me that "all of you is more than enough for all of me"! If you have not yet released the sin in your life and fully put your love and trust in the Savior, I would implore you to put your trust in Jesus and know that he can wipe away your sins, and give you a clean heart. Sin compared to the Love of God is no contest and it is foolish to think otherwise.

January 8, 2008

Finney's View of Total Depravity

I decided to post this graphic for my fellow friend and blogger Dean to help clarify Charles Finney's view of Total Depravity (click to enlarge). Finney believed in a concept known as Semi-Pelagian view of moral ability (which I hold to also). Hopefully this will also further clarify what it is traditional Augustinian theology (Calvinist) on this subject as well.

January 7, 2008

Ideas Have Consequences...a True to Life Example of Bad Theology at Work

In my last post I discussed the doctrine of Total Depravity. I briefly would like to share with you a post from another blog that I discovered while researching this topic on the web. The reason I want to show you this post from another site is to show you that doctrinal ideas do indeed have consequences (and many times they can be damaging). This clip below is from a Calvinist website who claims that the doctrine of Total Depravity has literally helped his marriage. Here is what "Mr. & Mrs Jolly" say about their marriage and the doctrine of Total Depravity:
These 20 years have gone by way too fast and I wouldn't trade them for anything. I won't try to wax eloquent on keys to a happy marriage except to say that sound theology is the foundation for a sound marriage. I truly believe that if a married couple can grasp total depravity and grace then they are on a sound footing—they won't need much extra advice. If we don't grasp total depravity and grace, then all the marriage books and seminars in the world won't mean a thing.

Total depravity is key because it reminds me that my wife is married to a sinnner, so I need to go easy on her—she's got a tough life being married to me. It also reminds me that she is a sinner, so I don't have to burden her with a load of expectations she can never meet. Grace reminds me that her performance is not the basis of my acceptance of her any more than my performance is the basis of God's acceptance of me.

I won't say that those two things are operative every day in our lives, as there are plenty of times when we act in un-graceful ways. But God is good and always brings us back and keeps us centered on grace.

As to how I feel about Mrs. Jolly, let me quote someone else. We have this wonderful older couple in our church named Martin and Peggy Smith who have been married for somewhere north of umpteen years. Martin says this of Peggy—"even when I'm mad at her, I'd still rather be with her than anyone else." That's how I feel about Mrs. Jolly; she is my wife, my lover, my confidant, my best friend, and there is no one I'd rather be with.
First, I would like for you to pay careful attention as to what it is this gentleman is really saying about his marriage. He is essentially saying that since he and his wife are Totally Depraved and are "sinners" (not redeemed or walking in holiness I might add) that this somehow excuses their bad and at times it would seem sinful behavior. Mr Jolly states "Grace reminds me that her performance is not the basis of my acceptance of her any more than my performance is the basis of God's acceptance of me."

Performance is NOT the basis of their marriage? Really! Again, lets see if this passes the common sense test or as I like to say the test of right reason. Lets say that Mr. Jolly goes out and commits adultery with his secretary repeatedly. Clearly this would be a grievous act to any marriage. Now, over the course of a couple of weeks Mrs. Jolly sadly uncovers her husband's adulterous affair and she goes and confronts her husband. During the confrontation Mr. Jolly proudly proclaims that he is (A.) Totally Depraved and that she should not at all be surprised as he is really nothing more than a "sinner" who can not help himself and that (B) She should show him "grace" and over look this little incident as again their marriage "performance" should not be the basis of her acceptance of him.

I'm not sure about you but in my house this type of excuse would not at all be tolerated and I would probably find myself out on the stoop with my bags packed looking for a new place to live! It would appear Mr & Mrs Jolly are using the doctrine of total depravity as license for bad behavior. Again, as I pointed out in my previous post, this theology allows people to make excuses for their sins, rather than be broken hearted over what they have done to the heart of the savior and each other. Again, ideas of consequences and this would be a good example of how bad theology can have terrible consequences.

A Convenient Lie......the so called Doctrine of Total Depravity

One of the core tenets of Calvinism is the doctrine of Total Depravity. Those unfamiliar with this doctrine can read below from two prominent Calvinist preachers of our day to understand what this doctrine all entails. First, John MacArthur states from his website what exactly Total Depravity is:
".......the doctrine of total depravity, human depravity, fallenness is not to say that everybody is as wretched as they could possibly be, but that everyone is utterly unable to do anything to change their sinful condition. Nobody is going to come and make a decision for Christ unless God draws them. That's essential. Man can't make a move toward Christ (this includes repentance my emphasis) until God moves him that direction, in line with His eternal purpose........our salvation security not on what we've decided or will decide in the future, but on what God decided long ago in the past before the world began."
Next I will site popular Calvinist, John Piper. He states on his website:
"....total depravity means that our rebellion against God is total, everything we do in this rebellion is sin, our inability to submit to God or reform ourselves is total, and we are therefore totally deserving of eternal punishment."
For me this all seems very mythical or hocus pocus! Does it not strike some folks odd as to why God would create mankind with an uncontrollable sin "nature"? Why would God "curse" man with the very thing God is trying to rid the universe of? Not to mention where is this so called curse in the scriptures? Wouldn't something as important as a curse of sin upon all of humanity be pretty important point to mention in scripture? But yet I have yet to have one Calvinist show me the exact curse whereby God declares he will make man "Totally Depraved".

First let me say sin is not something we pass along to our children or is in our DNA. If so then we would have had science work on a cure some years ago. Besides, if this were in fact true sin is then no longer a moral choice, but rather a disease, a condition. The Bible clearly states sin is a moral choice, a willful decision from benevolence to self! This type of theology does nothing more than provide sinners with an excuse not to repent and it also sadly blames God for our moral downfall as we can blame him for us not repenting! As the SNL church lady would say "How Convenient"!

The reason I bring all this up is today I came across just one chapter in the book of Psalms that seems to contradict the entire doctrine of Totally Depravity. If one person in the Bible who understood or represented what it meant to be righteous before God, clearly King David was a man after God's own heart as clearly stated in scripture:

(1Ki 15:4-5) Nevertheless for David's sake did Jehovah his God give him a lamp in Jerusalem, to set up his son after him, and to establish Jerusalem; because David did that which was right in the eyes of Jehovah, and turned not aside from anything that he commanded him all the days of his life, save only in the matter of Uriah the Hittite.

Granted, David was not without sin, but yet we see from the scripture stated above David was righteous in the eyes of God. He repented and was restored in the eyes of God. So whenever we read Psalms we should understand David is no light weight in the matters of Godly righteousness. I find it particularly noteworthy that Psalms 119 truly reflects David's love and adoration of God's word and his desire to fully keep within his heart. If total depravity is indeed true then really David is lying about his so called love for God's word - again I am not the one who says NO ONE CAN EVER MAKE A RIGHTEOUS CHOICE AS WE ARE ALL TOTALLY DEPRAVED! Psalms 119 is by no means a superficial psalm to God, but David deeply expresses his love and respect for God's wisdom and God's government.

Granted every Calvinist is quick to point out those scriptures that supposedly proclaim this so called doctrine. They will of course use verses such as:

Romans 3:23 All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

1 Kings 8:46 There is no man who does not sin.

Psalm 143:2 And do not enter into judgment with Your servant, for in Your sight no man living is righteous.

1 John 1:8 If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.

Romans 3:9-11, 18 What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; as it is written, “THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE; THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS, THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS FOR GOD . . . THERE IS NO FEAR OF GOD BEFORE THEIR EYES.”

Again, whenever we read scripture it is important to know what context the author was writing from and we need to keep those scriptures in their proper context. All of the scriptures above are being used outside of their proper context. These authors never once meant for these verses to be some universal proclamation that in all of biblical history there has never been a righteous man in the eyes of God. Clearly the scriptures show us on many accounts there were indeed Godly people! If we take what the Calvinist say as truth, then we have sinners writing the very books of the bible - books that are to be God inspired. The bible shows us many men (and women) were righteous in God's eyes. Look at what David writes in Psalm 32 where he says:

Psa 32:10-11 Many sorrows shall be to the wicked; But he that trusteth in Jehovah, lovingkindness shall compass him about. (11) Be glad in Jehovah, and rejoice, ye righteous; And shout for joy, all ye that are upright in heart. (According to the Calvinist if there was a joyful shout made by the upright it would have been a lie as there is NONE Upright in heart!)

or how about this verse from Psalm 64:

Psa 64:9-10 And all men shall fear; And they shall declare the work of God, And shall wisely consider of his doing. (10) The righteous shall be glad in Jehovah, and shall take refuge in him; And all the upright in heart shall glory. (Wait a minute according to Piper and MacArthur no one can be righteous no one!)

Furthermore lets look at a couple of verses from Psalms 119 to see what David says in about his love for God's word and God's righteousness:

(Psa 119:5-7) Oh that my ways were established To observe thy statutes! Then shall I not be put to shame, When I have respect unto all thy commandments. I will give thanks unto thee with uprightness of heart, When I learn thy righteous judgments.

According to the doctrine of Total Depravity, these verse would really seem to make King David a liar. As again they will tell you that EVERYTHING WE DO IS SIN, WE CAN NOT DO ONE THING RIGHTEOUS BEFORE GOD. But yet the Psalms tell us something completely differently.

(Psa 119:10-11) With my whole heart have I sought thee: Oh let me not wander from thy commandments. Thy word have I laid up in my heart, That I might not sin against thee.

(Psa 119:22) Take away from me reproach and contempt; For I have kept thy testimonies.

(Psa 119:30) I have chosen the way of faithfulness: Thine ordinances have I set before me. (Wait! Calvinist say I am unable to choose the way of faithfulness as we are utterly unable!)

(Psa 119:44) So shall I observe thy law continually For ever and ever.

(Psa 119:73) Thy hands have made me and fashioned me: Give me understanding, that I may learn thy commandments.

(Psa 119:80) Let my heart be perfect in thy statutes, That I be not put to shame.

(Psa 119:97-98) Oh how love I thy law! It is my meditation all the day.Thy commandments make me wiser than mine enemies; For they are ever with me.

(Psa 119:106) I have sworn, and have confirmed it, That I will observe thy righteous ordinances.

(Psa 119:121) I have done justice and righteousness: Leave me not to mine oppressors.

(Psa 119:127) Therefore I love thy commandments Above gold, yea, above fine gold.

Clearly we see from these Psalms that David not only loved God, but loved His word (his laws, statutes and ordinances). Do these verses sound like they were written by a man who was unable to love God and keep his commandments? Does God ever rebuke David for saying such things? Instead, David was esteemed by God and rightfully so - David truly loved God with all of his heart, soul and might! So when we hear the likes of John Piper and John MacArthur telling us we are totally unable to please God this is a lie of the highest order. It provides an excuse for the sinner and allows them to blame God for their inability to repent and love God! Sinners are blame worthy because they ARE ABLE to do right, but yet they willfully choose self.

One last parting shot. It has been widely known that throughout the history of Judaism the doctrines of Total Depravity and Original Sin has NEVER been a belief of the Jewish faith. As a matter of fact it has been a doctrine that has hindered many Jews from coming to the Christian faith. But yet John MacArthur openly admits this on his website and seems to think that the Jews are the one who have it all wrong? He states:

"Jewish theology does not believe in total depravity, they do not believe in original sin. They think we all come into the world with a clean slate and we have the privilege of making a decision that relates only to us." (On his website John harshly claims Jews are diluted in their theology and seems to almost boast at his intellectual knowledge of scriptures more than they do)

It seems John forgot to read Eze 18:19 whereby it says:

Eze 18:20 The soul that sinneth, it shall die: the son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son; the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.

But yet this verse contradicts the very doctrine of original sin and total depravity! Finally, last time I checked Christianity is deeply rooted in Judaism, so wouldn't one tend to think that maybe something as important as "Total Depravity" be supported throughout all of the Old Testament? Did Jesus ever instruct his disciples to discard this fundamental Jewish belief? Shouldn't we see the nation of Israel supporting a doctrine of inability throughout the Old Testament? Again, total depravity is neither biblical nor is it reasonable. This whole notion comes mostly from pagan and greek theology and is not at all biblical. So next time you hear your unable to love God, know this is indeed a lie. God will not send one person to hell because they couldn't love Him, but rather because they could and they choose not to!