Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The White/Caner Debate Debacle

Way back in March, I wrote that a debate was on the calendar for October 16. That debate is now cancelled. What a mess. I've been following this debate from its inception to its recent cancellation. I was planning to attend the debate with several good friends and have mixed feelings for the cancellation of the debate (glad that the threat of a "sound-bite circus" will be avoided but sad that the truths of Reformed soteriology would not be presented).

After the announcement of the debate, much has occurred:
  1. Ergun Caner preached a sermon titled "Why I Am Not Predestined to be a Hyper-Calvinist." This sermon got the attention of James White, who parsed the message here (with a Liberty student online) but mostly here. Tom Ascol commented about the sermon on his blog. You can also get to a VERY thorough (and lengthy) critique by Gene Bridges here.
  2. Caner later wrote an article with the same title for "The Liberty Journal." White answered that article here and here and here.
  3. James White and Ergun Caner began exchanging emails to set up the debate. This simple act turned out to be very difficult and the emails quickly took a slight turn toward the ungodly. White wisely kept every document, which reveals some errors on both sides in behaving like gentlemen (although Caner surely exceeds anything White did in that department - his behavior is shocking for a minister and seminary dean!).
  4. On June 13, White's blog says: The following e-mail was sent to Ergun Caner, Emir Caner, Brent O'Donnell, Tom Ascol, and Rich Pierce at 3:28pm MST, June 13, 2006.
    Greetings: Allow me to state right up front that in light of the public nature of the debate and the issues that separate us, I will be posting all attempts at communication concurrently on my website.
  5. James finally heard back from Lynchburg on June 22.
  6. You can read all the emails here, then here and finally here!
  7. More.
  8. Some crass words from Ergun Caner to White. White apologizes to Caner for misstatement.
  9. On August 3, I wrote of a breakthrough in the long and tedious discussions between White, Ascol and the Caner brothers. All seemed well and in this entry, it appears the debate IS ON!
  10. On September 19, White wrote that the debate had less than one month to go.
  11. Then, suddenly, trouble was on the horizon in the October 6 post.
  12. In Brazil on Oct 6, White's debate partner Tom Ascol writes of the rumor of some unilateral changes in the accepted debate format.
  13. Ascol announced there would be no debate (LOTS of comments after this post).
  14. White announced there would be no debate.
  15. The cancellation was deemed official.
  16. On his website, Caner writes "Calvinist Debate Cancelled by Hyper-Calvinist. White responds to Caner's blurb.
  17. Ergun Caner writes his take on the whole affiar on the Liberty University website. Without fear, without fail, without flinching!
  18. White sheds a little light on Caner's behavior, parsing Ergun Caner's own official post about the cancellation on the Liberty University website. White goes through the article line-by-line, explaining some details that Caner left out.
  19. White's fuller resonse to Caner's spin on the cancellation.
  20. James White's internet radio show (The Dividing Line) has special guest Tom Ascol.
  21. Tom Ascol writes PART ONE of "What Really Happened!"
  22. Tom Ascol writes PART TWO of "What Really Happened!"
  23. Tom Ascol writes PART THREE of "What Really Happened!"
  24. Emir Caner wrote his take of the events. Though Emir still leaves out some pertinent details, his communication is refreshingly free of bombast.
  25. James White responds to Emir Caner's article.
  26. Check out the interesting cartoon.
Over at Calvinist Gadfly, "Willliam D" said this in a comment:
Mr. Caner's father died some years ago rejecting Christ. Caner witnessed to him on his deathbed but his father would not let go of his Islam. For Mr. Caner to accept that his father was not one of the elect must be a pretty difficult thing to come to terms with. I think that his zeal and anger against Calvinism is fueled by his refusal to accept that his father could have accepted Christ, but could not because God had not chosen to give him the faith to do so.
If true, that is good insight into Caner's behavior. A good friend of mine named Brian P also noted this: Caner is a former Muslim and well acquainted with the fatalism of that false religion. Perhaps the reason why he exhibits such vitriol towards the Doctrines of Grace stems from his aversion towards anything that smacks of any sort of determinism (whether hard or soft). He wants as far away from Islam as he can get - not understanding the difference between Islam's fatalism and biblical determinism.

While not entirely sure, these two thoughts potentially shed some light on Caner's personal hatred for reformed soteriology.
  1. Some of my thoughts on Caner's constant use of the phrase: "I'm not an Arminian. I'm not a Calvinist. I'm a Baptist." To put it briefly, it's a nonsensical statement.
  2. Some other thoughts of mine on two similar issues: Does All always mean all? and the role of Christ as our Mediator in the Book of Hebrews.
  3. A very early post on "Let the Bible Speak: Being Blind."
  4. A very early post on "Let the Bible Speak: Being Deaf."
  5. A very early post on "Let the Bible Speak: Being Dead."
  6. A very early post on "Let the Bible Speak: The Final Coroner's Report."

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Who Said It?

If you get this right - you're cheating:

While I am not a five-point Calvinist, I salute the great impact that Calvin made on the world. With Calvin’s high view of the sovereignty of God, his great commitment to word-for-word inerrancy of Scripture, his understanding of the total depravity of man, and his unashamed support for the blood atonement of Jesus Christ; Calvin’s anointed scholarship produced men who went around the world teaching the Reformed view of theology that has become the foundation of Presbyterianism and traditional evangelical Christianity.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Thinking Like Paul

When you talk with someone about the doctrine of salvation (soteriology), do they accuse you of making God seem unjust? Or unrighteous? Or not fair? If they don't, then there may be a problem.

In Romans 9, Paul is laying out his understanding of how God works salvation in people's lives and knows it is a hard teaching. He even does us the great favor of anticipating his readers' objections. After verse thirteen's proclamation that ""JACOB I LOVED, BUT ESAU I HATED," Paul knew people would be puzzled and supposed the following imaginary objection: "What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be!"

He follows this up with an explanation of how he could possibly say something so shocking about God's stance towards Isaac's two sons: "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion."

Then, in verse sixteen, Paul writes "So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy." Again, the person that makes this biblical statement today will be castigated and will be charged with denying the absolute free will of man in salvation. It will be argued that if salvation is all of God, then how can God possibly punish those who never accept Christ?

Again, Paul anticipates this and provides yet another imaginary argument, writing, "You will say to me then, 'Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?'"

Now, here is the question I ask of you: when you explain your understanding of God's role in the salvation of humans, do you ever have anyone complain that your view makes God seem UNJUST or UNFAIR? If not, perhaps it is because your understanding of salvation is at odds with Paul's!

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Bush, our Theologian-In-Chief

In an interview with ABC News, President George W. Bush reveals why religion and politics make very strange bed-fellows. Bush does pretty well up until the 1:30 mark and then he turns sharply towards heresy.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Wall Street Journal Tackles Rick Warren

Suzanne Sataline, a journalist for the Wall Street Journal, wrote an article on September 5 that takes on the biggest of targets: Rick Warren and the Purpose Driven Life/Church phenomenon. Her thesis is as follows:
Mr. Warren preaches in sandals and a Hawaiian shirt, and he encourages ministers to banish church traditions such as hymns, choirs and pews. He and his followers use "praise team" singers, backed by rock bands playing contemporary Christian songs. His sermons rarely linger on self-denial and fighting sin, instead focusing on healing modern American angst, such as troubled marriages and stress. . . .

Christians have long divided over efforts to adapt and modernize their faith. Some believers worry that purpose-driven techniques are so widespread among Protestant churches that they are permanently altering the way Christians worship.
You can read more here.

The Baptist Press rebuts the article here.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Heading to London Saturday

I've been preparing to go to London for quite a time now. I leave with 23 others on Saturday night (Aug 12) for a long overnight flight to Gatwick to spend ten days distributing Arabic New Testaments to vacationing Muslims. I heard a figure the other day that said the groups before us had passed out over 30,000 copies of the Scripture.

God is truly doing a great thing within that people group and it will be a great privilege to be a part of it. American evangelism puts so much emphasis on the "soul winning" aspect of witnessing that little attention and no honor is bestowed upon the "seed sowing" part. Yet it is vital. All the glory goes to those who keep count in order to brag that "I've led xxx people to the Lord at my last revival meeting." To be sure, people are being regenerated in the power of the Holy Spirit during these past few weeks but the final tally will not be known until this age has come to a conclusion. I am satisfied with putting the only true way of salvation into people's hands and leaving the Lord to do His great work in their hearts as they read through His powerful Word. I am also hopeful that the Lord will allow me to engage in several conversations where perhaps I can be present when the blind are made to see and the deaf are made to hear.

Of course, to get to London means I have to fly - right on the heels of the recent terrorist activity in London earlier today. All seems to be well and all terrorist plots were averted before they could be set into motion. Praise the Lord for the diligence and hard work of the anti-terrorist protectors in London and America.

But now, my long arduous flight to London will begin with a long arduous ordeal in the Charlotte airport. I am not looking forward to that. In fact, I have no fear whatsoever of flying in this age. My trust and confidence is in the Lord and His perfect ability to complete the work He has begun in me. I don't know what my "expiriation date" is but He does and I can rest comfortably in that.

But I cannot shake the sick feeling in my stomach every time I think of standing in that long, snaking, slow moving line at the airport, shuffling my feet and luggage a fraction of an inch every couple minutes.

Then word came out that no carry-on luggage is allowed on the planes. No laptops. No MP3 players. No phones. I look forward to lack of electronic entanglements but no carry-on means no briefcases or backpacks with books. I can't imagine a flight of that length with no books. I'll take one or two in my hands that I don't mind losing if I have to toss it but I gotta try.

So, whoever reads this thing, say a prayer for our group that God would work mightily through our feeble attempts to spread His word and that many lives are made new through the reading of that powerful word.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

White/Caner et. al. Speak to Calvinism Debate

Copied from James White's website:

Since February 27th of this year, plans have been underway to schedule a debate on Baptists and Calvinism. Drs. James White, Ergun Caner, Emir Caner and Tom Ascol initially agreed to participate in this event which was scheduled to be held at Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Virginia on October 16, 2006.

Over the last five months, efforts to negotiate the terms of the debate at times degenerated into heated, antagonistic exchanges between the four participants. In both speech and tone too much of the communication has been perceived and/or characterized by sinful attitudes that have not honored the Lord Jesus Christ. We acknowledge our responsibility in this and deeply regret that we allowed it to happen. Each of us longs to represent Christ honorably and our intent is to conduct further negotiations in ways that will do so.

Through ongoing communication out of the public eye we have come to terms regarding the debate. It remains scheduled on October 16th and will involve all four of us. The topic will be, "Baptists and Calvinism: An Open Debate." The length will be three hours. The format will be modified Parliamentary. The place will be Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Virginia.

We are committed to engaging in a debate that will highlight the significant differences that exist between our respective views of how the Gospel of God works in bringing salvation to sinners. We believe that such debate can be conducted in a lively, vigorous exchange that need not violate the standard for Christian conduct that God has given us in His Word. Our goal is to do exactly this. The issues on which we disagree are important. It is because of our love for Christ and His truth that we believe these issues are worth debating. However, we regard this as a fraternal debate and intend to approach it not as antagonists, but as brothers with strong disagreements.

To that end we are asking those who have followed the issues surrounding this debate to join us in prayer that the Lord will guide us as final preparations are being made and that He will help us to conduct ourselves in a manner "worthy of the calling with which [we] have been called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Ephesians 4:1-3).

Sincerely in Christ,
Ergun Caner
Emir Caner
James White
Tom Ascol

I am thrilled to read this. The debate had taken a decidedly unChristian turn and was bringing dishonor to the kingdom from all sides. It is good that these men (otherwise godly) stepped out of the public spotlight and came to a compromise regarding the sticking points of the debate. From what I know, the concessions are:

1) James White gets his three hours. The Caner brothers only reluctantly extended the debate from two hours to two and a half hours. At first, the Caners said no one would be interested in a three hour debate on this topic. Obviously, they underestimated people's desire to learn more.

2) The debate topic seems to have changed. Originally, the Caners insisted on a topic centering on the omnibenevolence of God. This all started from Caner's comments on Tom Ascol's blog about Calvinism being a "virus" that needed to be stamped out. It is good to see they will be debating Calvinism in the SBC.

3) The style of the debate will be a modified parliamentary debate and I can only assume that the moderator will be the coach of Liberty's national championship debate team.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Does This Mean You Get a Day Off?

Scientology has established a list of their "holidays:"
To commemorate memorable dates in its history, the Church of Scientology observes holidays in all parts of the world through the course of the year. The most significant are celebrated with internationally telecast events to link all Scientology churches.
Here are some highlights:

  • February 8 - National Founding Day United States, to celebrate the founding of the first church in the US, the Church of Scientology Los Angeles in 1954
  • March 13 - The birthday of the Founder of Dianetics and Scientology, March 13, 1911, is commemorated each year with a major celebration honoring L. Ron Hubbard’s achievements and his continuing contributions to mankind. Outstanding churches and missions are recognized for service to their parishioners and communities during the previous year. (IS THIS LIKE CHRISTMAS??!!!??)
  • May 9 - Anniversary of Dianetics: The annual international celebration on this day salutes the publication of Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health on May 9, 1950. It is the occasion when Scientologists and community leaders from around the world acknowledge the contributions Dianetics has made to the betterment of individuals and society at large and the daily miracles that occur through its widespread application.
  • June 6 - On this date in 1988, the Sea Org Motor Vessel Freewinds began her maiden voyage, during which New OT VIII was released publicly. In memory of that day, OT VIII completions convene aboard the Freewinds for a week of special briefings and acknowledgments to new OT VIII completions for their work in disseminating and expanding Scientology. (WHAT?????)
  • Second Sunday in September - Auditors' Day - On this day auditors are acknowledged for their dedication in bringing man up the Bridge to Total Freedom. Top auditors from around the world are recognized for their efforts in helping their fellow man.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Steeler Stripes - The Reason for No Blogging

Posting on this blog has been inconsistent at best and non-existent at worst for stretches of time. However, I have a good excuse. Let me 'splain.

Our home has a full basement, running the length of our home. When we moved here in 2001, there was only a single wall running the length of the basement - effectively cutting the basement in half. About two years ago, my father-in-law helped take one-third of the back half and make a very large bedroom. However, the boys were too young then to move down there so it became a "tv-room." Now, the boys are old enough and the girls are also getting to old to share a room and MOM AND DAD WANT THEIR BATHROOM BACK! So, back on May 13, I set out to finish the front half of the basement for a new TV/Rec room so that the boys could move downstairs and one of the girls could move into the soon-to-be vacant boys' room. Below you will see our slow but steady progress on the new room.

Andy Rosenbalm, a good friend from church and fantasy football cohort, agreed to help me with the project. To prhase that more accurately, he agreed to let me help him with the project. Andy is living up to his nickname - Handy Andy. This engineer from Kewaunee knows what he's doing.

1776Andy and I started way back on May 13 by building some walls for the bathroom and closet to hide the HVAC unit. The bathroom walls went up in one Saturday morning with no problems except the need to purchase additional drill bits to drill through the hard concrete. You can also see the shower unit which was not easy to get into the basement and left both of us picking fiberglass shards out of our hands.

1776Now the drywall is up and ready for mud. Andy and I hung the drywall ourselves but left the mudding to the experts. That was $500 well spent! I don't know if you've ever lugged 16 sheets of twelve-foot drywall but it is extremely heavy and awkward and "bendy." In the upper right of the photo, you can see the main trouble-maker of the project - a pipe that goes to the septic tank. The ceiling in the basement is about nine feet high to allow for a drop ceiling. This pipe runs along the front wall, getting lower and lower all the time. At the point where it hits the bathroom wall, it is about 93 inches off the ground. So our eight-foot ceiling ended up being 92-inches high. Fortunately, I don't know any 7'8" people.

1776Besides the approximately twelve "good ideas" I have come up with (Yes, I kept count!), here is my main contribution to the project (except perhaps the shower step - more on that later). We had a hard time figuring out how run the stairwell ceiling into the suspended ceiling. Here's the solution. The suspended ceiling was to run along the bottom of those 2-by-4s. However, we did this about four weeks prior to installing the suspended ceiling and we ran into some problems there. You'll see our solution later. Try not to laugh and professional carpenters - walk away NOW!

1776You are looking at the ceiling of the shower. This also caused a little problem. Because I didn't want to bust up the concrete, we decided to go with a pump-up system to take care of our waste from the shower, sink and toilet. We are using this ingenious little system - kinda like a blender on steroids attached to a powerful yet quiet pump. The picture tells the whole story except we were able to hide all our pipes in the walls so you'll never know you are using some weird type of toilet. Anyway, because we didn't bust up the concrete, we had to elevate the shower to allow for the placement of the p-trap. This raised the top of the shower to about just an inch above the top of the shower pipe sticking out of the wall. That just would not do so we built a little wood-n-drywall box above the shower stall to address the problem. This also allowed room to install a light/exhaust fan to take care of the moisture. All in all, a nicer solution than the original plan.

1776Here is the bathroom with the tile laid down and the shower step covered. The shower will mainly be used by my two boys (12 and 5 at their next birthday) and they basically had to crawl into the shower jacked up on 2x10s. This little step solved that problem and actually looks pretty good, even if I did build it unsupervised by Andy. Needs a little protection on the edges - any suggestions?

1776The family and I drove to Tampa/St. Pete on July 6 and spent a week down on the white sands of the gulf coast and also took in a Yankees/Devil Rays game. While we were gone. some very capable men took care of the difficult and dirty job of putting the mud on the dryall. They came about three days to spread the mud and then sand it down. There's NO WAY we could have done it in that time they did it and even less possibility it would have looked as good. Plus, we'd still be sweeping up the dust about five years from now!

1776The primer is on the walls. Ambra and I put this coat on the day after we returned from Tampa. My wife has been a great help and incredibly patient. You will appreciate that even more once you see what I decided to do with this room. My wife loves me a lot. She must because I am decorating this room in a Steelers theme. I've been a fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers since the mid-70s when I was an impressionable 10-year-old. However, I am also a faithful fan and stuck with them through the horrible Bubby Brister-years of the 80s. As you can see on the wall, I had a plan to paint the Steelers logo on the wall, which would be just above my television. After tracing the logo using an overhead projector, I soon realized that I could not paint that thing and be happy with it. I am still exploring possibilities for getting it on the wall (professional painter, vinyl stickers, stencils to paint it with, etc). Any other good ideas are welcome - send them my way!

1776Here you can see that I decided to paint that "tv wall" solid black. Most of the home theaters I found online have done that. Supposedly, the darker background really makes the colors pop out and the darks even darker. I'll still put the logo up there. You can also see my idea for decorating the front wall. Part of the Steelers' uniform are the recognizable stipes on their sleeves. If I had thought about it more, I might not have done it. I had to tape the walls in a three step process. First, while painting the white upper half and gold lower half, I taped where the black stripes would be and simply painted the gold and white in the correct places. Then, I taped above and below the upper and lower stripes on each half and painted the four outer black stripes. Finally, I taped the middle stripes and painted the two remaining black stripes. My back and eyes will recover about the time I turn 45.

1776While Rick was over installing the shower and pump unit, he suggested putting in a kitchen. He said it would be easy. He didn't say it would be as expensive as it was but we're all glad we did it. This will be very nice on those Monday Night Football gatherings. We also decided to put in ceramic tile in the kitchen area and bath. Ambra and I went to Lowe's and picked out the tile on a Friday night. We even brought four individual tiles home to just see how it would look. Then I went back Saturday morning to buy the eleven boxes for the kitchen. As Andy and I began putting the tiles down, we quickly laid down one column and two rows in a 13x10 pattern. Andy then noticed that the light looked different on one of the tiles. I quickly realized what had happened. We had installed on of the tiles purchased on Friday night - which were the correct ones. The other 21 we had laid were the wrong color - barely but still wrong. So we pulled them up, washed them off, returned them and started all over again. Andy is VERY patient with me.

1776Here you see our initial progress with the suspended ceiling. This is simply an adult-size erector set. However, you have to get it EXACTLY right from the start or you will never get it right. We started with a four-foot level and realized we would not be exact enough. After much head-scratching and phone calls, Todd Ellis agreed to let us use his rotating DeWalt laser. That incredible device made things go much quicker and even fun. It gets a little complicated working around the heating ducts but so far, so good.

1776I earlier mentioned the problem with the suspended ceiling and our stairwell ceiling. It was too high for the rest of the suspended ceiling - thanks to the waste pipe. We had to lower the stairwell ceiling and it runed out to need exactly three inches, which is also exactly the width of two 2x4s. It might not look good here (we know it doesn't look good so be quiet), but once some decorative wood trim is nailed up, no one will ever know (except the three or four guys who read this long blog).

1776Well, it is now late on a Tuesday night, July 25. I've spent the night painting and you can see the handiwork. Well, you can't see the third coat in the bathroom and stairwell but it is boring plain white. Here, you can see the final version of the stripes. The black stripes are a little wider than I wanted them to be but I could only find painters tape in 3/4" width. If I didn't use that, I could have accomplished the correct perspective of stripe widths but it would have also taken multiple more steps of tape-n-paint and I just couldn't bring myself to do it on this long 42-foot wall. You can also see the glossy black baseboards that will be nailed up soon. The carpet comes Monday and the black leather furniture comes Tuesday. After that, all that remains is to put up the closet doors on the HVAC closet, cut the countertop to size for the kitchen and cut the hole for the sink and then get the plumber and electrician over to complete their expert work. I'll post pictures of the completed project once it's done sometime in late August.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Who Said it? - Part 11 (A Real Shocker)

OK, read through this theological heresy and try to determine who wrote these words. All of them came from the same person!

God is first and foremost an all loving Father, and any theology which fails to recognize this, in an attempt to maintain the sovereignty of God, is betraying everything that is best in the Christian tradition. Luther dimly recognized this, and attempted, although often unsatisfactorily, to stress the love of God. But not so with Calvin. It is justice and power that are prominent in Calvin's God. The God of the Genevan reformer was a monster of iniquity. He was so bent on justice that he possessed no conscience. He was so concerned about being respected and glorified that He found in Himself neither glory nor respect for men. When men become servants of such a God, they may be expected to set flame to the faggots piled high about the body of a Servetus or preach the sermon of Jonathan Edwards, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God."

Hence, we must affirm that Christ is a unitary personality, and this unity we find in his own ego. There is nothing in rational speculation nor New Testament thought to warrant the view that Jesus had two personal centers. We must then think of Christ as a unitary being whose divinity consists not in any second nature or in a substantial unity with God, but in a unique and potent God consciousness. His unity of {with} God was a unity of purpose rather than a unity of substance.

Concerning the work of Christ the two reformers stressed a substitutionary theory of atonement. They maintained that Christ actually took the place of sinners in the sight of God, and as a substitutee suffered the punishment that was due to men. But all of this is based on a false view of personality. Merit and guilt are not transferable from one person to another. They are inalienable from personality. Moreover, on moral grounds, a person cannot be punished in the place of another.

Another weakness in this theory of atonement is that it is based on the assumption that the chief obstacle to man's redemption is in the nature of God. But there was never any obstacle to man's redemption in God himself. The real obstacle to man's redemption has always lain in man himself. It is from this standpoint, therefore, that the death of Christ is to be interpreted. Christ's death was not a ransom, or a penal substitute, or a penal example, rather it was a revelation of the sacrificial love of God intended to awaken an answering love in the hearts of men.

We are compelled, therefore, to reject the idea of a catastrophic fall and regard man's moral condition from another point of view. Man's fall is not due to some falling away from an original righteousness, but to a failure to rise to a higher level of his present existence.

In the same vein we must reject Luther's and Calvin's view that man is incapable of performing any saving good, and that man can do nothing to save himself. Certainly we must agree that the image of God is terribly scared in man, but not to the degree that man cannot move toward God.

A final doctrine of Luther and Calvin which needs to be critized is the doctrine of predestination. Any form of mechanical determinism is far from adequate for lasting Christian doctrine. The Kantian "I ought therefore I can" should stand out as a prelude in any Christian conception of man. Any attempt to maintain a doctrine of man devoid of freedom leads us into needless paradoxes.

So, in the second paragraph, the deity of Christ is denied. In the third, the penal substitutionary atonement is denied in favor of a Grotius' governmental view. In the fourth through sixth paragraphs, original sin and total depravity are denied. Finally, the writer trains his sights on God's sovereingnty in salvation.

That's a lot of work for one person in one setting. Any guesses? You'll probably be shocked at who it is! The answer comes on Wednesday!

HT: James White

Monday, July 03, 2006

Big Thoughts for Little Thinkers

I want my children to think. In fact, I told my oldest child (almost 12 years old) that if she ever got to the point where Christianity made absolutely no sense and was proven to her to be a bunch of nonsense that she should just abandon it all right then and there. I sure do not want her using the faith of her parents and thinking all is right in her world. That faith must be her own and I am trying to help her increase in those beliefs. I am also that confident of the rationality and authenticity of the Christian faith. It has withstood the best attacks the world could muster and all are to be considered glancing blows - "merely flesh wounds," if you will!

To work on this growth in the ability to think, I have invited my children to do some summer reading. For the two oldest (12 and 10), they have been reading two different versions of Lee Strobel's "The Case for Christ." The 12 year old is reading the student's version and the ten year old is reading the kids' version. Tonight, before we leave for vacation, they will take a test I made and will earn spending money for their vacation based on how well they do on the test. You may object to this form of reward but you do with your kids what you want to do. Here is the test I am giving them:
  1. Suppose someone approached you and said, “Jesus is not God.” What would you say to defend the Christian belief that Jesus is God?
  2. Is it possible that Jesus was merely a “good moral teacher?” Why or why not?
  3. Do you have to trust in Christ alone for salvation? Is there any other way to eternal life?
  4. What are some of the prophecies that Jesus fulfilled that shows that He is the Messiah of the Old Testament?
  5. When were the gospels written? What are some evidences that show that we can trust their authority and reliability?
  6. What would you say to someone who questioned the reliability of the resurrection of Jesus Christ?

How well would you have done on that little quiz? I will post their answers later and let you know how they did.

For the two youngest children (almost 8 years, almost 5 years), I just ordered three of these little books. They are fantastic books written at that age level discussing deep subjects like the Trinity, the Bible, the Gospel and the Christian's mission. If you have small children, I encourage you to purchase these for about $6-7 each. Each of these books were endorsed by some very strong men in the evangelical community (who also wrote the foreword in the volumes), such as Al Mohler and Earl Radmacher.

Personal Note: The "Gospel" book had a little bit of synergism mixed in but still a good quality book for my "little thinkers."

Read this! Read it now!

Go here!

Saturday, July 01, 2006

ABC News Reports Noah's Ark FOUND

AOL.COM and ABC News arereporting that an expedition has found what just might be Noah's Ark. From ABC:
A team of Texas archaeologists believe they may have located the remains of Noah's Ark in Iran's Elburz mountain range.

"I can't imagine what it could be if it is not the Ark," said Arch Bonnema of the Bible Archaeology Search and Exploration (B.A.S.E) Institute, a Christian archeology organization dedicated to looking for biblical artifacts.

Bonnema and the other B.A.S.E. Institute members hiked for seven hours in the mountains northwest of Tehran, climbing 13,000 feet before making the apparent discovery.

"We got up to this object, nestled in the side of a hill," said Robert Cornuke, a member of the B.A.S.E. Institute. "We found something that has my heart skipping a beat."

Scroll down a little bit on this page for some photos.

However, even with ABC News giving this news a tad of credibility, this the same guy who earlier claimed to have found the "Real Mount Sinai. " and whose claims were found to be bogus.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Jesus: Our Perfect Mediator

Preface: I wrote this a long time ago and truly regret the fact that I failed to footnote my sources. I now have no idea where each idea and statement came. Just know up front that I do not claim credit for all of this.
The very first chapter in Hebrews demonstrates Jesus’ superiority over the old shadows of the Jewish system. Every chapter that follows expands on this theme. Chapter seven introduces Jesus as a superior priest. The NT closely connects the work of Christ as our High Priest with His death on the cross. In this passage, we are told that Jesus, since He lives forever, has an unchangeable or permanent priesthood. Because of this (and in opposition to the earthly priests who pass away), He is able to save completely. He is not the Great Assistor who makes it possible for men to save themselves.
Hebrews 7:24-26
But because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. Such a high priest meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself.
Because Christ holds His priesthood permanently, He, as opposed to the Jewish priests, is able to save COMPLETELY, FOREVER, TO THE UTTERMOST. WHY is Jesus able to save forever? Because He intercedes for them. So if Jesus intercedes for those who are lost, the passage makes no sense. The biblical truth is that if Jesus intercedes for you, you will be saved.

Also, we see that He is able to save completely a PARTICULAR PEOPLE, i.e., “those who come to God through Him.” Of this group, Jesus, “lives to intercede for them.” At first glance, this seems to refute the position. However, as we [know], man can not naturally draw near to God. Only those whom God draws approach the cross (John 6:44, 65). Furthermore, would Christ (Does Christ?) intercede for those who are NOT approaching God? Christ’s intercession is only on behalf of the people of God. Christ’s intercession is for all of those for whom He dies.

Upon what ground does Christ intercede with the Father? Does He appear before God and ask the Father to forget His holiness and justice and simply pass over the sins of men? Of course not! The Son intercedes before the Father on the BASIS of HIS DEATH. Christ’s intercession is based on the fact that He has died as a substitute and has borne believers’ sins on His body and has placated the Father’s wrath through His act of propitiation. Just as the High Priest of old could not intercede for anyone without a sacrifice, so too does our Great High Priest not make intercession without atonement.

Someone might say that just because Christ intercedes for someone does not mean they will be saved. However, in the context of the passage, the writer is arguing the superiority of Christ as priest. The old priests could indeed intercede for an individual to no effect. If Christ does likewise, how is He superior?
Hebrews 9:11-12
11 When Christ came as high priest of the good things that are already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not man-made, that is to say, not a part of this creation. 12 He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption. He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption.
Did Christ enter the Holy Place having made salvation a “possibility”? When Jesus entered the Holy of Holies, He did so “once for all.” This refers to time (once for all time) not scope (once for all individuals). He did so by “His own blood.” When He did this, we are told that He had ALREADY “obtained eternal redemption.” This is not theoretical or hypothetical but a statement of fact. Christ did not enter the sanctuary to attempt to gain redemption; He entered HAVING ALREADY OBTAINED IT. So then, what is He doing here? Christ is presenting before the Father His perfect and complete sacrifice. He is our High Priest and the sacrifice He offers is Himself. We see the following truths:

  1. The Son will intercede for everyone for whom He died. If Christ died as their Substitute, how could He not present His sacrifice in their stead before the Father? Can we believe that Christ would die or mediate for someone He did not intend to save? Can we further believe that God would accept that sacrifice - as a substitute - and then reject it later based on man's rejection?
  2. Anyone for whom Christ dies will receive Christ’s intercession. If Christ did NOT die in behalf of a certain individual, then Christ will not intercede for that individual because He will not have the grounds on which to seek the Father’s mercy.
  3. No one for whom Christ dies will be lost. Can we imagine Christ interceding for someone and pleading His perfect atonement and then the Father rejecting the intercession? The Bible tells us the Father ALWAYS hears the Son (John 11:42). Would the Father not hear the Son’s pleas in behalf of a man the Son wants to save? If so, then there is incredible disagreement and disunity in the Trinity.
Hebrews 9:24-26
24 For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence. 25 Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. 26 Then Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself.
Again, we see the finality of Christ’s work. It further says He appeared in order to “DO AWAY” with sin (other versions say “PUT AWAY”). If His self-sacrifice does indeed “put away” sin, how can man FOR WHOM CHRIST DIED be held accountable for those same sins?
Hebrews 10:8-14
8 First he said, “Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them” (although the law required them to be made). 9 Then he said, “Here I am, I have come to do your will.” He sets aside the first to establish the second. 10 And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. 11 Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God. 13 Since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool, 14 because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.
What does the ONE offering of the body of Christ ACCOMPLISH? Answer: the setting apart, or sanctification of believers. Read carefully and consider the following:

What is the effect of the one time sacrifice of the body of Christ? Verse 10 above tells us that we have been made holy or sanctified! The Greek language is perfect tense, indicating a past and completed action. The death of Christ ACTUALLY makes us holy. Do we believe this? Did the death of Christ actually set apart those for whom the death was made? Or did it simply make possible the future sanctification?

Friday, June 23, 2006

Does ALL always mean ALL?

Warning: VERY long post ahead!

You’ve probably heard the preacher say it. It goes something like this when finding a particular three-letter word in the Bible:

There’s this little word that I want you to notice. A – L – L. We know what it means in English. It means “all.” Well, I did a little study in the Greek language and discovered what it means in Greek. It means “all.” Not “some.” Not “many.” Not “most.” All means “all” and that’s all all means.

Determining whether or not this summation is accurate is very important, especially because it is often voiced after reading the following two statements:

  • I Timothy 2:3-4 - This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
  • 2 Peter 3:9 - The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.

Before we look at those two verses to see how the biblical authors used the term “all” (which is “pas” in the Greek), we need to examine a few other passages to show some potential problems with this simplistic understanding and lay a little foundation for how we interpret (if we want to be consistent) the two main passages above.

First, look at the first chapter of Philippians. In the first verse, Paul states that he is writing “to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, including the overseers and deacons.” We have just established the audience. Then, as he continues to write, Paul addresses this specific audience repeatedly using very specific pronouns.

  • In 1:3-4, Paul writes that he thanks God for “you” and that he prays with joy in his prayers for “you.”
  • In 1:6, Paul is confident that God will complete the good work that He began in “you.”
  • In 1:7, he says “you” are all partakers of grace with him.
  • In 1:29, Paul says it is for “you” that is has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer.
  • In 2:15, he then tells the readers to do all things without grumbling so that “you” may prove “yourselves” to be blameless and innocent, children of God in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom “you” appears as lights in the world.

In 2:20, the subject matter of Paul's thoughts change. Paul starts talking about “them.” He says “'they' all seek after 'their' own interests, not those of Christ Jesus.” It seems quite evident that Paul is talking about two separate groups of people here: “you” and “them.” There is no way you will confuse the two groups in this chapter. I've not proved anything here - just laying some foundation that I hope you will remember.

Now, look at Romans 11:7-13. Paul speaks of some Israelites, saying that God gave “them” a spirit of stupor. He quotes David in saying “Let ‘their’ table become a snare . . . and a retribution to ‘them.’” He continues, saying, “Let ‘their’ eyes be darkened . . . bend ‘their’ backs.” Paul says that “they” did not stumble so as to fall. Instead, Paul asserts that it is by “their” transgression that salvation has come to the Gentiles.

Then, Paul says in 11:13 “But I am speaking to ‘you’ who are Gentiles.” Do you see how the conversation has turned? Different pronouns to speak of different groups. It is again very evident and undeniable. Do you agree? Nothing more to say here - only laying more foundational layers.

Let’s look at just one more important example - 1 Peter. It is important because it comes from the pen of the man who wrote one of the main verses mentioned much earlier. Peter, in his first letter, wrote to “those who reside as aliens, scatter throughout . . . who are chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father” (That is a discussion for a later time but it will come). What does Peter say about these chosen scattered aliens?

  • In 1:3, Peter writes that God is to be blessed because He has caused “us” to be born again through the resurrection of Jesus Christ . . . to obtain an inheritance that is imperishable. Peter is lumping himself with this group.
  • In 1:6, Peter tells this same group that because of what God has done, “you” can rejoice greatly even though “you” have been distressed by various trials.
  • In 1:8, Peter says that even though “you” have not seen Him, “you” love Him.
  • In 1:14, Peter calls his readers “obedient children” who should not be conformed to the former lusts which were “yours” in “your” ignorance. Instead, “you” shall be holy because “you” were not redeemed with perishable things but with precious blood. Peter keeps this up throughout the rest of chapter one and into chapter two.

Then, in 2:12, Peter writes this: “Keep ‘your’ behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the things in which ‘they’ slander ‘you’ as evildoers, ‘they’ may on account of ‘your’ good deeds, as ‘they’ observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.”

Again, it is an elementary observation that Peter is writing now of two completely distinct groups: “you” and “them.” It is undeniable and hardly needs mentioning except for the foundational application that comes next.

The above needed mentioning because of the two verses mentioned at the beginning of this long post, namely 1 Timothy 2:3-4 and 2 Peter 3:9.

First, since we just finished reading from Peter’s pen, let’s continue on to his second letter. In the first verse, Peter says he is writing to “those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ.” The audience is set – Peter is writing to fellow Christians. Again, he includes himself in this group. He will do so often.

  • In 1:3, Peter says that God has granted to “us” His previous and magnificent promises so that “you” may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption of the world.
  • In 1:5-7, Peter writes of “your” faith and “your” moral excellence and “your” knowledge and “your” self-control and “your” perseverance and “your” godliness and brotherly kindness. This sounds like decidedly Christian characteristics.
  • In 1:10, Peter calls his readers “brethren” and encourages them to be certain about God’s calling and choosing “you.”

From all this, we can discern that Peter is addressing a particular group. Then, in 2:1, Peter starts talking about another group – false prophets. He says the following of this new group:

  • In 2:2, he writes that many will follow “their” sensuality and because of “them” the way of the truth will be maligned.
  • In 2:3, “they” will exploit “you” with false words because of greed and “their” judgment and destruction are certain.
  • In 2:10, he says that because these in this different group are “daring [and] self-willed, ‘they’ do not tremble when ‘they’ revile angelic majesties.”
  • In 2:13, “they” count it a pleasure to revel in the daytime. “They” are stains and blemishes, reveling in “their” deceptions, as “they” carouse with “you.”
  • In 2:15, Peter writes more about this group: "forsaking the right way, 'they' have gone astray, having followed the way of Balaam."
  • In 2:17, Peter writes “these” are springs without water. “They” entice by fleshly desires.

No one would think Peter is still speaking of "those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours."

Finally, in chapter three, Peter returns his attention to the original audience but does not forget about “them.”

  • In 3:2, Peter says “you” should remember the words spoken by the prophets.
  • In 3:3, Peter says that in the last days, mockers will come following after “their” own lusts. As this group mocks the return of Christ, Peter says that it escapes “their” notice that creation speaks of God.
  • In 3:8, Peter cautions the readers to not let a fact escape “your” notice – that a day is like a thousand years to the Lord.

With all this in mind, we are now ready to read and understand Peter’s words in 2 Peter 3:9. He writes “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.”

Now, you see why I went to the trouble of working through those other passages. They have nothing to do with this particular text except to force you to be consistent in how you interpret the Scriptures. We see here that the Lord is patient towards whom? God is patient toward “you.” With all the passages given earlier in mind, who is “you?”

You must be careful here. How you answer this question will determine how you interpret the often misunderstood second half of this verse.

Obviously, “you” refers to the readers of this document – the saints of God. Can anyone deny this contextually? To deny this is to ignore all the evidence to the contrary and arbitrarily assign random meanings to various antecedents. You didn’t do it in the examples given earlier from Romans and Philippians and 1 Peter. Don’t do it now.

With that settled, the meat of the discussion occurs. After this phrase, Peter says that God is not wishing for “any” to perish but for “all” to come to repentance. It is at this point that "all" is said to speak of "every single person who has ever lived or will ever live," including "them."

However, it appears to be that the “any” and “all” are limited by the inclusion of “you.” God does not wish that “any of you” perish but that “all of you” come to repentance. Does that make sense? I think you would, at the very least, agree that this interpretation is plausible. You can not simply dismiss it as Calvinistic proof-texting or philosophical bias - especially since Peter returns immediately back to “you” in 3:11, asking “What sort of people ought ‘you’ to be?”

So, it has taken us a long time to get here but it appears that ALL does not ALWAYS mean "every single person." Sometimes it means "all kinds" or "all types" or "all of this group." It's just like someone sticking his head into a room and saying, "I want everyone to come with me. I'm buying lunch." Just how big a tab will this person have if by "everyone" he means "every single person" in the building, town, county, state, etc., etc., etc. No, we know what he means - "everyone OF YOU."

Now, let’s look at the other passage: 1 Timothy 2. Paul begins the chapter by asked for prayers to be made on behalf of “all men.” Did Paul mean to pray for every single individual alive at that moment? Was he suggesting that Timothy open the phone book and pray through it from alpha to omega?

Of course not. Paul gives us his meaning of “all” in the next verse, saying “for all men, for kings and all who are in authority.” It seems that in Paul's mind, he is equating the two groups. It is important because we need to pray for our leaders. We often forget that. It is easy to pray for President Bush. How many of us truly prayed in an intercessory fashion for the well-being of President Clinton?

Paul is using “all” to refer to “all KINDS of men.” We think this because Paul gives his reason for asking for prayer for “all men” – so that “we may lead a tranquil and quiet life.” What exactly will lead to this kind of life: praying generally for “every single person” or praying specifically for our leaders? The answer is obvious.

This is an important realization because Paul repeats the phrase in verse 4. He says that praying for all kinds of men, including leaders, is good and acceptable in the sight of God, who “desires all men to be saved.” Is God forever disappointed because His desires are forever frustrated since not all men are saved? Not necessarily, if you take “all men” to once again mean “all kinds of men.”

Is this an accurate interpretation? It is - if you take seriously the verses that follow.

In verse five, Paul starts the verse with the word “for” which indicates he is going to explain his previous statement. He writes that there is one God and one mediator between this God and man – Christ. In verse 6, Paul writes that Jesus gave Himself as a “ransom for all.” Did Jesus give His life as a ransom for every single individual who has ever lived or will ever live? Or did He give His life as a ransom for many (Matt 20:28)?

Before you anwer that, there are a few more things I want you to ponder:

  • How does Jesus “mediate” between God and man? Hebrews 9:15 argues that the blood of Christ allows Him to be the “mediator of a new covenant.” In 9:24, the author says that Christ did not enter a man-made holy place but heaven itself to appear in the presence of God for us. He does not offer Himself “often” but only once and then He sat down at the right hand of the Father (Heb 7:26 - "Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself." See also 10:12). The job was complete. In 10:14, we learn that “by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.” Has Christ done this for every single person who has ever lived?

    To answer "yes" is to say that that Christ appeared in heaven before the Father, offered His precious blood as a very real substitute for the sins of every single person who ever lived and then sat down because God accepted that substitutionary sacrifice even though God would later punish those same people for whom Christ allegedly died and made atonement and propitiation?
  • What does it mean for Jesus to give Himself as a “ransom for all?” Jesus offered His blood as a substitute and God accepted that substitution. His wrath was propitiated – which means His holy anger burned no more on those for whom Christ substituted. Yet, that anger must flame once more at the final judgment. Can this be?

So, all does not necessarily always mean all. Agree? Disagree?

Monday, June 19, 2006

15 Thoughts While Watching The NHL Finals

Favorite LinksTonight, the Carolina Hurricanes won the National Hockey League's Stanley Cup. For the uninitated, that is like winning the World Series for a professional baseball team or the Super Bowl for a professional football team.

And the sound that went up from most of North Carolina - a deafening collective yawn. Oh, the crowd was loud in Raleigh. The TV crew kept referencing their refusal to sit for any part of the game. However, for the most part, North Carolinians are in that strange season between basketball and football. Hockey? Never heard of it!

But, it IS nice to be a champion! And because I live here, I am a champion. I hereby claim the Carolina Hurricanes as my favorite professional hockey team.

Thoughts I had while watching the final period:
  1. Hockey is a very fast-paced game with moments of amazing anxiety. Any action around the goal will definitely draw you in, especially action around your own goal while nursing a one goal lead.
  2. I think I can name seven or eight hockey teams off the top of my head, besides the two in play tonight. I'll give it a go: Detroit Redwings, Chicago Blackhawks, New York Rangers, New York Islanders, Boston Bruins, Dallas Stars, Anaheim Mighty Ducks, Colorado Avalanche, San Jose Sharks, Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadiens, Tampa Lightning, Atlanta Thrashers (? - a guess), Winnipeg Jets or something (?) and . . . that's about all. Hmm, better than I thought - twelve names and two guesses. Can you think of any more? How many are there - 30, 32, 100?
  3. I do not know why television went away from the "glowing puck" from a few years ago. That seems like such a common-sense idea. You only capture brief glimpses of the puck as it skits around the ice like a laser. It would be nice to be able to see the thing.
  4. I believe I heard the announcer say something to the tune of "back in April in the first round of the playoffs." Now, that is utterly ridiculous. Three months of playoffs???
  5. Why would anyone want to grow up to be a hockey goalie? That is an insane thing to do. And it is a remarkable thing that anyone can do it well. The puck comes flying in at you, which would be difficult enough to absorb the blows, or it comes flying in near you, forcing you to track it with your eyes and get your body to block it by any means necessary. Sometimes that means using the handy-dandy oversized catcher's mitt or your stick (I can't believe any goalie is able to deflect a puck with that thing) or your body. Often while stretched out in a way that would make Mary Lou Retton wince. My hat is off to you, Cam Ward!
  6. "Pulling the goalie" is a pretty exciting portion of the game. This is the strategy of the team that is losing whereby they remove their goalie from the game in order to get an additional offensive player on the ice in an attempt to get a quick goal. Of course, this leaves absolutely no defense on the other side of the . . . what is it, RED line or BLUE line. That happened tonight at around the 1:30 mark of the final period (I keep wanting to say "quarter") and sure enough, a Hurricane (that sounds silly, doesn't it) broke free and scored an easy goal to make it 3-1.
  7. What is "icing?" It happened repeatedly tonight and I'm still not sure what it is. It seems to be when a player shoots the puck towards his own end of the ice to stop the action.
  8. I am not surprised there is fighting in the NHL. With all the banging around, I can't believe there isn't MORE fighting in the NHL.
  9. There doesn't seem to be much for a coach to do during a game. How can you coach the chaos that seems to be happening out on the ice. It all appears so random. All the Carolina coach did was chew on his fingernails and look silly in a suit. As for the coach's attire, I guess it could be worse - at least he didn't wear a hockey uniform like his players (as they do in baseball).
  10. When will the politically correct pressure come against the Hurricanes and force them to change their name? We don't like mascots named after Native Americans. The Washington Bullets changed their names to Wizards. After Katrina and Andrew and Hugo and all the other disasters, someone is sure to complain about the emotional distress from hearing that name over and over and looking at the ominous Hurricane symbol all game long.
  11. How do hockey players move so quickly and stop so suddenly and spin so gracefully with all that equipment on?
  12. I was astounded by the announcers' ability to name all the players and accurately detail the action. Some entirely indecipherable action would occur, the announcers would let us know what happened. Sure enough, the soon-coming slow-motion replay would prove them right almost every time. Tonight, over on ESPN, I heard a baseball announcer start giving the end-of-inning rundown (0 runs, 2 hits, 2 left on base) when there were only two outs. Baseball is absolutely bucolic and the announcers can't stay on top of the game. Hockey is like describing the landscape looking straight out a car window travelling 100 miles per hour and the announcers can keep up with it - and keep up with all the foreign names (and not easy names like Gomez and Rodriquez but hard names like Farxzydinksiywak . . . or something like that).
  13. The NHL is not exactly the bastion for racial diversity, is it?
  14. The "beard-to-nonbeard" ratio is pretty high. Is that a playoff solidarity bonding thing or is the de rigeur among hockey players?
  15. How come more people don't like this game? Now, soccer - I can understand the apathy towards that game. Put soccer on a field the size of a hockey rink and you got some action. Play soccer out on the North-40 like they do and . . . zzzzzzzz. Huh, where was I? (Sorry, Chuck - I await your rebuttal and will take it like a man.)

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Calvinist? Arminian? Baptist?

Logic is a good thing. It helps to have a working knowledge of logic and the use/misuse/abuse of it. One of the most beneficial studies you can make is to understand "logical errors." There are certain things that people say within the argument that makes the argument invalid. Their position is defeated because of the fallacy being made. A fallacy is a "mistake," therefore a logical fallacy is a mistake made in your logic.

One such fallacy is to engage in a "category mistake." What is a category mistake? Let me give a very real and relevant example.

A certain phrase has been appearing a lot lately almost to the point of becoming a slogan. That statement is "I'm not a Calvinist. I'm not an Arminian. I'm a Baptist." I heard and read that statement from Ergun Caner. The statement was uttered quite a few times at the recent Southern Baptist Convention. Perhaps it even resonates with you. It shouldn't. It is a nonsensical statement.

It is a nonsense statement because the one who speaks it or writes it makes a "category mistake." It is the same thing as saying, "I am not a Republican. I am not a Democrat. I am a Steelers fan."

Do you see the connection? In the hypothetical statement above, Republicans and Democrats belong in one category (political parties) and Steelers fan belongs in another (sports team devotion). In fact, one can combine the two - a Republican who likes the Steelers or a Democrat who likes the Steelers. Therefore, the statement is unnecessary and does not move the debate along.

In the same way, the "Calvinist/Arminian/Baptist" triumvirate does the same thing. The terms "Calvinist" and "Arminian" belong to a single category (a certain belief about the doctrine of salvation). "Baptist" belongs to a different category, defining how one views issues like church polity/governance, baptism, deacons/elders, mission work and funding, etc.

Also, in the same way with the political football fan, one can be an Arminian Baptist or a Calvinistic Baptist. "Baptist" is not mutually exclusive of the other two terms.

Next time you hear that statement, think it through. You can be sure the one who utters it has not done so.

Logic is a wonderful thing.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Christian Liberty

There has been much discussion regarding the recent SBC resolution of "total opposition" to the consumption, distribution, purchasing or selling of alcohol. The speakers to this resolution did so with no biblical warrant. Instead, they were left with appeals to moralism.

In affirming this resolution, the convention has made the use of alcohol a sin on the same level as murder, adultery and covetousness. In effect, the Convention has now bound the conscience of its members with extrabiblical legislation - the very definition of LEGALISM.

Now, if you want to talk about a subject that the Bible classifies as sin and that Jesus denounced with a holy hatred, we will have to talk about legalism.

In a good series discussing the Christian and the liberty we enjoy in Christ, Mark Lauterbach over at "GospelDrivenLife" writes four articles that are worth reading. You can find them here:
  1. The Christian and Liberty - Part 1
  2. The Christian and Liberty - Part 2
  3. The Christian and Liberty - Part 3
  4. The Christian and Liberty - Part 4
Lauterbach is my pastor's good friend and former seminary classmate. He is always thought-provoking and gracious in his posts and shows a keen exegetical and theological mind. In short, he is well worth reading on a regular basis.

PS: I feel that after a few posts like this that I must make something clear - I do not drink alcohol and will teach my children that the best decision is to abstain from alcohol use. To discuss this issue on a biblical basis is to come across to some as "liberal" or "pro-alchohol." I am neither. I simply want my convictions to be based on the biblical text as I fully believe it is the SUFFICIENT guide to life. There is no need for me to add to what it says I must or must not do.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

More Burleson on Wine-Drinking

Over at Wade Burleson's blog (Grace and Truth to You), he writes of the alleged motives of Resolution No. 5. Towards the end, he gives this story about drinking wine and being a Christian. What do you think of it?
The following story is a beautiful narrative of reconciliation, conversion, and ultimate redemption --- all initiated because of a glass of wine.

Years ago a man came into our services and sat through the preaching time weeping. He was a wealthy, high profile business man who had just gone through a heartwrenching divorce because of his own indiscretions.

After the service he introduced himself to me and set up an appointment to see me for some counseling. This began a six month pastoral relationship with this man that eventually led him to an understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the ultimate experience of Divine forgiveness.

All that was now needed was reconciliation with his wife. He asked if I would counsel them. I said I would, but when he requested his wife to come with him to see me, she said, "No. He's a Baptist preacher. All he will do is condemn me."

The businessman was crushed. I asked him why his wife was so hostile about Baptist preachers. He told me she grew up Roman Catholic and the only time she ever attended a Baptist Church the preacher yelled and screamed about the sins of the people in the pews including drinking, going to movies, wearing short skirts and long hair, etc . . . and it turned her off from "the Baptist religion."

I suggested that rather than have her come to my office that the man might want to see if his ex-wife (a divorce had since occurred) would have my wife and I over for dinner, just to get acquainted. To his surprise, she agreed.

To our surprise she was a gourmet chef. We entered the lovely home with the smell of French bread wafting in the air, and sat at the table meticulously crafted for a true dining experience.

Unfortunately, though the introductions were cordial, I could tell the evening might be a long one because of the chill toward this "Baptist preacher."

As we sat down, I noticed the brilliant table settings, the scrumptiously prepared French gourmet meal, and the solemn expression on the woman's face.

I also noticed there was tea and water on the table.

So this Baptist pastor said, "You can't have a meal like this without wine. Where is the wine?"

I wish you could have seen her expression. She smiled and warmly said, "But I thought you were a Baptist preacher."

"I am," was my response, "And this Baptist preacher knows a great chef when he sees one, and no chef worth her salt would prepare a meal like this without wine."

She asked my wife and I to follow her as she took us down to the cellar. She was a wine collector and she proudly showed us her collection, passed down to her by her grandfather. She meticulously chose a bottle of wine for the occasion and we made our way back to the table.

I led us in prayer and we thanked God for the food and the drink and His provision for us. We ate a wonderful meal and I enjoyed a glass of wine. Nobody around the table had more than two glasses.

To make a long story short, the walls that had hindered the relationship came down. We enjoyed the evening with the couple and as a result five things happened:

  1. I was able to lead this woman to faith in Jesus Christ, showing her that Christ alone provided the righteousness she needed, and that she must forsake any trust in her own "self-righteousness." She trusted Him and was baptized shortly thereafter.
  2. It was my privilege to perform the private ceremony where wedding vows were exchanged again and this man and woman were reunited in marriage.
  3. The couple became very active in our church and have led out in our outreach of the lost in our community through Sunday School.
  4. They have personally given tens of thousands of dollars to the Lord's work through our church and Christian school, and have personally been able to lead several of their own family members to faith in Christ.
  5. They still have their wine collection, but have never been drunk since giving their lives to Christ as Lord.
Now, I ask this simple question to my Southern Baptist friends. What, if anything, is wrong with the events just described to you?

I am convinced that we Southern Baptists have for too long avoided teaching our children the principles of God's Word, and instead, substituted a system of religious morality that is often contradictory to the Bible, and therefore, when kids leave Southern Baptists homes they go off the deep end into addictions, rather than live their lives in the enjoyment of the things of God within the parameters established by God.

I have heard the argument before that "Even if one person becomes a drunk then I will abstain from alcohol because of it." The power of the gospel is absolutely lost in that kind of thinking. The drunk is a drunk because of the sin in his soul. His soul is transformed by the gospel and the power of the Holy Spirit, not by observing cultural prohibitions of a Southern Baptist. Christians around the world drink beer and wine without getting drunk. It doesn't hurt their witness. It seems the only weaker brothers I keep running into are Southern Baptist pastors who "stumble" when they see a Christian drinking wine. We Southern Baptist pastors claim to believe the Bible, but I sometimes wonder what Bible it is we are reading.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Ben Franklin's Religion

Depending on whom you read, our Founding Fathers were either Bible-toting, Scripture-quoting, God-fearing Christian men bent on establishing a government a little short of a theocracy or they were nigh-athiestic deists. Of course, you can't make such broad generalizations about "the founding fathers" since they were individual men from vastly different colonies and families. Of some of these men we know much of the religious opinions. Of others, we know little.

Now, after reading Walter Isaacson's wonderful biography of Benjamin Franklin, I know more of his ideas.

On page eight, we see that Franklin's father, Josiah, was "not zealous about his faith. He was close to his father and older brother John, both of whom remained Anglican." Isaacason quotes another source that says Josiah's spirit of independence and intellectual liveliness led him to become Puritans.

For reason of faith and finances, Josiah moved his family to America in 1683 after the fall of Cromwell's Puritan rule in England and the restoration of the monarchy in 1660. The trip took nine weeks and cost the equivalent of six month's salary. Franklin was born in American on January 17, 1706 in Boston.

Franklin was an excellent student and was set to go to Harvard, a training ground for ministers of the gospel at that time. His father decided against it, saying that Franklin was "not suited for the clergy" as he was skeptical, puckish, curious, irreverent (19).

Franklin had an interesting relationship with the famous evangelist George Whitefield and admitted to being stirred by his oratory skills. Franklin also helped print Whitefield's sermons, which made the preacher famous and the printer rich (111). Later, Franklin recalled that Whitefield "used, indeed, sometimes to pray for my conversion, but never had the satisfaction of believing that his prayers were heard" (113).

Frankin completely abandoned the Calvinistic tenets of his father's religion and leaned closer to the deism that was the "creed of choice during the Enlightenment" (26). While living in London in 1724, Franklin printed Wollaston's The Religion of Nature Delineated. This tract argued that religious truths were to be gleaned through the study of science and nature rather than through divine revelation (45). Frankling decided that Wollaston was right in general but wrong in parts (45). He set out his own ideas in A Dissertation on Liberty and Necessity, Pleasure and Pain. It was so bad that he later was embarrassed by its existence, burning as many as he could purchase.

As he wrote in his Autobiography, "The arguments of the deists which were quoted to be refuted appeared to me much stronger than the refutation" (46). However, Franklin's overriding concern over spiritual isses was its practicality and he thought that deism, "though it may be true, was not very useful" (46). The most useful was Christianity, though he admitted that the Bible "had no weight with me" (46). Because Christianity was so useful, Franklin "paid his annual subscription to support the town's Presbyterian minister, the Reverend Jedediah Andrews" (84).

Eventually, Isaacson writes that Franklin began to "embrace a morally fortified brand of deism that held God was best served by doing good works and helping other people" (46). To Franklin, the idea that people are saved by grace alone is "unintelligble" and "not beneficial" (46). Isaacson writes that Franklin believed that a faith in God was beneficial but his faith was devoid of "sectarian dogma, burning spirituality, deep soul-searching or a personal relationship to Christ" (85).

Franklin had "little interest in organized religion and even less in attending Sunday services" (84). However, he was a spiritual being. He opened his November 1728 essay Articles of Belief and Acts of Religion with the confession that "I believe there is one Supreme most perfect being" (85). As a deist of some sorts, he also stated that "I imagine it great vanity in me to suppose that the Supremely Perfect does in the least regard such an inconsiderable nothing as man" (85).

This "Supreme Being" was far above wanting our praise and worship. However, since humans want to worship something, Franklin wrote that his Supreme Being caused "there to be lesser and more personal gods for mortal men to worship" (85).

As he grew older and prepared to die, his "amorphous faith in a benevolent God seemd to become more firm" (467). He wrote after the war that "If it had not been for the justice of our cause and the consequent interposition of Providence, in which we had faith, we must have been ruined" (467). He convinced Thomas Paine to not publish an essay that ridiculed public worship (Paine withheld publishing the essay for another seven years.

Franklin's tolerance led him to contribute to the building funds of every single sect in Philadelphia, including the Jewish synagogue. At the July 4 celebration in 1788, at Franklin's direction, "the clergy of different Christian denominations, with the rabbi of the Jews, walked arm in arm" (468).

One month before he died, Franklin wrote a response to Ezra Stiles, the President of Yale University (still a religious school at the time). Franklin restated his creed: "I believe in one God, Creator of the Universe. That he governs it by his Providence. That he ought to be worshipped. That the most acceptable service we render him is doing good to his other children" (468).

Stiles had earlier asked Franklin if he believed in Jesus. Franklin said that was the first time he had ever been asked that question directly. WHAT AN INCREDIBLY TRAGIC STATEMENT!

Franklin responded by saying that "the system of morals that Jesus provided was "the best the world ever saw or is likely to see" (468-9). However, regarding the issue of Jesus' divinity, Frankling answered candidly, saying, "I have some doubts as to his divinity; though it is a question I do not dogmatize upon, having never studied it, and think it needless to busy myself with it now, when I expect soon an opportunity of knowing the truth with less trouble" (469).

He was right in this statement. Frankling died at 11:00 PM on April 17, 1790 at the age of 84. Twenty thousand mourners gathered in Philadelphia as his funeral procession travelled the route to Christ Church. In front of the casket marched the clergymen of the city - ALL OF THEM of EVERY FAITH.

Sadly, Franklin now knows the truth.