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Monday, January 31, 2011


I know ... high-sounding but not much value, right? I mean, seriously, do we really need a "worldview"? Isn't this just all theoretical stuff? Well, truth be told, just like creeds, while many people decry them, everyone has them. In creeds, "No creed but Christ" is a creed. In doctrines, "I don't believe in God" is a doctrine. And we all have a worldview, even if it is the view that no such thing exists.

So ... what is it? Briefly, it is the way in which we view the world. ("Oh, really, Stan? I got up today to read this?") No, what I mean is that it is the way in which we interpret our world. A worldview is a comprehensive structure that determines how we explain the world -- where we came from, what we think is coming in the future, what we believe is right and wrong, how we determine what is true or false, all of it.

Easy example. Materialism is a worldview. In this view, the premise is "all is physical". Thus, we did not come from a Creator. We are not headed toward any sort of "sweet by and by". Right and wrong are pragmatic choices that make this life more comfortable. True and false are determined solely by their correlation to physical facts. Thus, since "God" is defined as supernatural, no God. Miracles cannot occur. Life has no extended purpose, so make what you can out of it now. That's one (simplified) example.

Me? Well, there is, of course, the "Christian worldview", but my personal preference is a biblical worldview. You might think the two are synonymous, but I'm finding more and more that amazingly few people who call themselves "Christian" are particularly interested in shaping their view of the world around them by what the Bible says. It's typically the other way around.

What do I mean by a "biblical worldview" that differs from a "Christian worldview"? Well, a Christian worldview is more generic. Sure, there is a God and sure we're saved by Christ and all that, but reality is determined by how I see it rather than what the Bible says it is. If the Bible says "There is none who does good, no, not one" and it can be demonstrated that this appears to be what it actually means, a biblical worldview would say, "Well, I can see that there appears to be people around me doing what I would consider 'good', so apparently I'm mistaken on that point." A Christian worldview would typically say, "I agree with the Bible", but when the Bible says, "I do not permit a woman to teach or exercise authority over men", a Christian worldview would divide from a biblical worldview because the Christian (not committed to a biblical view) would interpret that Scripture from the world's perspective rather than the text and context ... and discard it. "That was then; this is now."

I'm not suggesting I have a superior perspective. I'm suggesting that it's simply different from the typical, even among Christians. I do know this. As I examine Scripture and see what it says and attempt to understand it as it is written rather than how I'd prefer it to be, I find that it often runs up against other worldviews. I find that my own thinking has to change because I held a different view. I find that the Bible defines reality in a different way than most other views. The question I ask myself repeatedly is "Am I going to define Scripture by my worldview, or am I going to let Scripture define my worldview?" So far, I've chosen the latter. It's not winning me many friends, but "winning friends" isn't part of that worldview, is it?

Sunday, January 30, 2011

You Are Here

No, not quite there. A little bit to the left. No, just a little ... oh, never mind. The speck that is "Earth" is far too infinitesimal to actually be relevantly located on this picture. Of course, you are the tiniest of all possible specs on that infinitesimal spot that is Earth. And, then, there is the fact that this is just one of the galaxies out there. Feel small?

Let me tell you something absolutely amazing. God is listening to you. He hears your prayers. He hears your praise. He cares about you. Now that is something to be amazed at.
O LORD, what is man, that You take knowledge of him? Or the son of man, that You think of him? (Psa 144:3)

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Happy Birthday, David

Today, too many years ago (you don't need to know how many), my firstborn son came into the world. I've mentioned my second son. Well, today is the birthday of my first.

This son is the one I mentioned in my post in favor of gay marriage. (And my firstborn feels his heart skip a beat. "What???!!!") No, he's not is homosexual. He had a happy marriage, the only reasonable definition of "gay marriage" that I recognize. So my son is happily married to his lovely bride, and I'm glad to have her in the family.

My son has been a blessing to me. From the early days when my sons moved out of the house we've remained close. We would meet once a week for breakfast to discuss ... things. Theology, life, all sorts of things. He has always been teachable and eager to examine the truth. He doesn't back down from the hard questions and doesn't allow them to turn him away when the answers don't fully satisfy.

When I was turning 30 and he was just a little child I asked him, "Do you think your dad is old?" "Oh, yes, Dad," he assured me in all seriousness. "Really? How old?" "Oh," he said, "real old." "'Real old'? Just how old do you think I am?" "Oh," he answered thoughtfully, "at least 18." "I love you, son."

I remember years ago when he came home from public junior high school one day, he was excited. "Dad! I finally learned the difference between a liberal and a conservative!" "Oh, really? What's that?" "A liberal wants to help people and a conservative just wants to keep it all for himself!" You should have seen his face when I said, "You may want to revisit that definition, son. Your father is defined as a conservative." Now, to many, such a comment from a father would be a potential death knell. "There goes any credibility for you, Dad." But my son didn't see it as such. He saw it as a reason to question what he had learned. And he learned something new.

One time in high school he got a phone call from a girl at school. I gave him the phone and walked out of the room but not out of ear shot. (It wasn't my intention; it's just that he was located in the kitchen -- somewhere too hard to be out of ear shot.) I only got one side of the conversation, obviously, but it was interesting to hear. "Yeah, I know about it. No, I can't go. ... No, my dad won't let me. ... No, I haven't asked, but he doesn't let us do that. ... Well, sure I could lie to him, but he'd kill me." If you could have heard the tone of the last phrase, it wasn't fear; it was respect. His words spoke of punishment but his tone spoke of respect.

He has been a blessing as he grew up and learned important lessons in life, lessons like being honest. I remember the time he did something wrong out of my wife's presence. She found the evidence and demanded, "Who did this?!" He stunned her by responding honestly, "I did. I'm sorry." Not what one might expect. I remember the time I told him to do something and he said, "Dad, I am going to do as you asked. I just want to ask a question, and it's just for my education. Why?" He understood, you see, that obedience and respect were mandatory, but that questions from respect were perfectly okay. Important lessons in life, indeed.

He's older now and married and on his own. I'm quite proud of him. He has grown in maturity and has grown spiritually and he is a delight to this old man. We share a common bond and we share a common Lord and I am quite proud to call him my son, my firstborn. Happy Birthday, David.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Is this a good thing?

For centuries few people could read the Bible. It was not available to the masses. Only the select few could read, let alone read the Bible. In 600 AD the Latin translation of the Bible was the only permitted translation. It wasn't until the 14th century that John Wycliffe produced a translation. For this evil the Church expelled him and, 44 years after his death, they exhumed his bones and burned them. But the seeds were sown. The Reformation was at hand. In the 16th century Erasmus, Luther, and Tyndale made translations followed by Coverdale. The King James came out in 1611, and they've been turning out translations ever since. The latest English translation was the English Standard Version in 2002.

So what's next for the venerable Bible? Apparently the new plan is to combine the Kindle approach with the Facebook/Twitter approach and turn an electronic version into a social networking book. The idea is that readers could share highlights, comments, photos, and videos. A reader could, for instance, take pictures of the Holy Land and put them in their version and others could see it. You could highlight John 3:16 and share that with others. You could insert a clip of Life of Brian and include it for others to see.

Wait ... Life of Brian? Yes, indeed. You own the app and you think that a movie intended to mock Christ is a good thing to share with other Bible readers, and there you go. Want to figure out what a passage means? People will share their personal interpretations with you. Because, you see, "What does that mean to you?" is the only relevant question to ask ... right? And it will be nice to be able to find out what skeptics, Bible-haters, and Christian cynics really think about the Word of God, right?

I know. A bit cynical or skeptical myself, but I'm not sure this is a good idea at all. I mean, sure, on one hand it may work out that more people see the Bible that didn't before. But moving it to a "social network" status and making it personal (regardless of whether or not you favor the Bible) and the like ... won't that move toward a more "Christian lite" approach? And don't we already have a complete lack of gravitas, a complete loss of awe and respect and serious contemplation for God and His Word? Is this going to help that? Is this a good thing?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Practical Value of Calvinism - the Sequel

The previous post on the Practical Value of Calvinism offered you what I would lose if my understanding of Scripture on these points is false. I need to offer the reverse as well, I think. I have always held that orthodoxy is necessary for orthopraxy, that right thinking produces right living. I have always held that doctrine produces more than "orthodoxy"; it is of practical value. What, then, is gained if my interpretation is accurate?

Well, that previous post offered a lot of losses. I think you can turn those around to see some of the gains. There is, for instance, nothing quite so humbling as realizing that I am saved purely and completely by God's good grace. We all agree our works don't contribute anything, but I didn't contribute even faith or repentance. Even those were gifts. I wasn't chosen because I would make the right choice; there was nothing at all to commend me. There is, quite clearly, the satisfaction of a truly Sovereign God who actually does ordain all that comes to pass ... you know, like the Bible says. It solves the problems of "Why did this bad thing happen?" and the like. It eases the fears of "What will happen?" because I know He is in control. And since I didn't have anything that caused my salvation and God is absolutely Sovereign (with a capital "S"), the assurance is stunning. Not only do I know He cannot lose me, but I also know that my perseverance is His work, just like my salvation was His work. All of this provides a peace that I would otherwise lack, and a gratitude that wouldn't have been as deep. This much could be gleaned from yesterday's "losses".

Another that could be seen in the previous post is that I gain a vaster picture of grace, far more amazing than I ever saw before. I put this one separately from the rest because it is so, so very important. We are told that "[God] chose us in [Christ] before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace" (Eph 1:4-6). There is a pile of goodies there, of "chose us" and holiness and blamelessness and "predestined" and adoption, all magnificent gifts of God, but note the reason. Why did God do all that? "To the praise of the glory of His grace." Not just random praise. Not just praise of His glory. The specific thing He wanted praised in all of His glory was ... His grace. Thus, since this view of Scripture produces the most magnificent panorama of grace that I've ever seen, it is accomplishing this purpose. It is this view of God that engenders in me the warmest, deepest worship.

It gives me a bigger view of God. His Sovereignty is absolute. His grace is phenomenal. His perfection is unmarred. And in so doing, it gives me a smaller and, I think, a more accurate view of Man. We are not the point here. God is. All that He does He does for Himself first and foremost. Any theology or doctrinal system that starts with Man is suspect to me. This one does not.

There are two aspects that are important to me that result from these "doctrines of grace" as they are called. The first is in prayer and the second in evangelism. Some have argued, "Well, if God is as Sovereign as you say He is, why do either?" The answer is twofold. First, He said to. In truth, that should be a sufficient answer. But there is more. If God is as Sovereign as I see Him to be in the pages of Scripture, then God ordains both the ends and the means. And both prayer and evangelism are the means that God has ordained to accomplish His work. He commands us to ask. He commands us to preach the Gospel. Why? Well, I wouldn't wish to put words in His mouth, but He has commanded us to participate in His work, so He is giving us the chance to participate in the Divine. Why would we not want to do that? Beyond that, since it is His work in which we are participating and He is indeed Sovereign -- get this -- we cannot fail. No lack of skill, no disobedience, no faltering speech, no incomplete presentation, no short-sighted prayers, none of my shortcomings will stop it. That means that I can pray boldly and I can preach boldly out of sheer obedience and out of the pleasure of participating with my Lord as He does His work and He will accomplish what He intends and -- now this is classic -- I will be rewarded for it! Seriously, it doesn't get much better than that!

There is one more quite personal outcome here. It hinges on this whole "God is Sovereign in salvation" thing. I believe that Scripture teaches He is. The Arminian view teaches that He is not; Man's Free Will is the final determination of who does and who does not get saved. God offers it to all, but we finally decide if we get it. I have to tell you that this notion terrifies me. You see, the heaviest burden on my heart for the lost is not for those who have never heard. It is for those who have been thoroughly inoculated. Perhaps they are the "Yeah, I tried that 'born again' stuff; it didn't work" type. (I've known them.) Perhaps they are the "I was raised in the church and outgrew it" type. You'll find some of them commenting on my blog. Worse, perhaps they are sitting next to you at church, maybe even in the pulpit. Most disturbing (to me), they may be your child or your grandfather or your husband or your best friend. They don't know they're not saved. They've heard it all, even "accepted" it all. They are like those false teachers of Matt 7:15-23. Notice that these didn't set out to be false prophets. Notice that they thought they were doing it for God. They didn't know. They were "religious" and even fervently so, but Jesus ... never ... knew ... them. How do you reach these? They think they've arrived already. Well, as far as I can tell, it will only be through the Sovereign act of a Sovereign God who crosses that "Free Will" line and, against their personal preferences and perceptions, opens their hearts. It would require a God who is willing to take a heart of stone and replace it with a heart of flesh without first having to persuade the owner that he or she has a heart of stone. when I pray for and when I share the Gospel with these types of people, it is this God that gives me hope, because the Arminian God offers me none. Having heard all the arguments, felt all the "tugs", having even been persuaded perhaps that they've properly responded, these are beyond the reach of that God. No, I need a God who doesn't require the permission of His creation to accomplish their salvation.

These are some of the most important things to me. These are the practical benefits that I receive from the doctrines of grace, the theology some call "Calvinism" and I think of as "biblical Christianity". They are not merely theoretical, and they are not trivial. Being convinced as I am by Scripture and evident reason and then showered with these blessings, I'm not likely soon to move my beliefs from here.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Practical Value of Calvinism

Or What I lose if I lose this.

I admit it. I like theology. I like doctrine. I like digging into the Bible and finding out how to think right. I know, I know, "doctrine divides, but service unites." So they say. But I'm okay with that because I want to be divided from error. So I read my Bible and study carefully and work at finding out how to correct my thinking. "Too heavenly-minded to be any earthly good," they've told me. Especially when my studies lead me to Calvinist theology.

I believe, on the basis of what I see in Scripture, that Natural Man is depraved at his core, intent only on evil, hostile to God, dead in sin, unable to respond to Christ because of his own depraved condition. I believe that God sovereignly chooses whom He will save, not on the basis of foreseen faith or any such thing, but solely on the basis of His purposes and His glory. I believe that when Christ laid down His life, His sacrifice was capable of paying for all sin, but His intent was to pay for the sins of His sheep and to purchase faith and repentance for them, thus insuring that all of His own would surely be saved. I believe that those whom He chooses will, at some point, be unable to resist His calling and choosing of them and will surely come to Him. And I believe that, despite our own frailness, God is fully willing and able to retain those whom He has chosen to save. That, dear readers, constitutes the primary differences between "Reformed theology" and ... not Reformed theology.

"Fine and dandy," some have told me (okay, no one has actually used that phrase), "but what good is it? What difference does it make? How is that in any way applicable to living the Christian life?" And I have to tell you, it is. So, what have I got to lose if I choose to move away from this position?

I would certainly lose a large sense of humility. If, indeed, it was my faith and my choice and my repentance that actualized God's grace for me, I would see that as no small deal. If God chose me because He saw I'd make the right choice someday, then good on me! You see, right now I've nothing to hang my pride on. Right now I'm chosen for reasons I don't know and for reasons that have nothing to do with my value, talents, or abilities.

I would lose a Sovereign God. I know, those who disagree with me see God as "much more sovereign" if He can allow His creatures autonomy. It makes zero sense to me. Either He is Sovereign or my free will is sovereign, but not both. So if it is my free will, then it is not God. He's just along for the ride.

I would lose my assurance. If it is my will and my faith and my repentance that put me here, then if any of those give way, I'm out of here. And from what I read in Hebrews 6, it is dramatically not "once saved, always saved." It is, instead, "once lost, always lost." And, let me be frank (even though that's not my name), if anyone could lose it, I have. So I'd just have to settle for eternal damnation as my certain lot.

I would lose a large portion of the "amazing" that is "grace" right now. Believing that He chose me before the foundation of the world and predestined me for adoption to the praise of the glory of His grace is huge. Believing that He chose me "according to the purpose of His will" rather than due to anything in me makes His grace stupendous. Believing that it was not my faith, my choice, my repentance that I mustered up somehow, but all His doing that saved me makes His grace beyond comprehension.

I big piece of what I would lose would be peace. If it is, indeed, up to humans to choose the right thing, to muster up their faith, and to repent, then my arguments are critical and every time I share the Gospel with someone who does not respond in faith would feel like a failure ... because it would be. Any missed opportunity to share the Gospel with someone would be a disaster because mine could have been the deciding one and they could have been saved if I had only done what I was supposed to. Beyond that, any confidence I had that God would accomplish His will in hardship, trials, and the like would be gone. The tragedy of 9/11, for instance, was just an event that Human Free Will inflicted on us and on God. A loss of this set of beliefs would be the end of any real peace for me.

My losses, then, would be humility, God's Sovereignty, my assurance, and amazing grace and peace. But Jesus assured us that who is forgiven much loves much. If it turned out that it was my doing that actuated God's grace, well, my gratitude would be sorely decreased. As it is, it makes me want to share it, to tell others, to live it. But if it was, after all, my doing, then I can take it or leave it. I did God a favor by choosing Him. Maybe I'll do Him a favor by serving Him when I feel like it. Of course, I'm exaggerating, but if the basis of salvation is grace, the basis of Christian living is gratitude, and mine would be sorely depleted.

Then add in the erosion effect. Apparently I have no means of understanding plain Scripture. God isn't nearly as big as I thought He was. We aren't nearly as bad as I thought we were. God simply chooses whom will choose Him, like mean kids on the ball field who choose their friends for their team. Besides, since I lost it long ago, it's all pointless anyway now.

No, I have to be honest. I have truly come to these conclusions based on what I consider to be straightforward Scripture. I cannot seem to push it any other way but where I am. And I arrived here almost against my wishes, because it was not where I started. But I could not tolerate going back -- back to the inferior God and the superior Man and my own capabilities in all this. God's Sovereignty alone makes it all worthwhile. Yes, I came to this place by Scripture, and, yes, it's a lot of doctrine, but it's very practical doctrine, affecting how I think and live and view the world. I don't think I could afford to lose it if I wanted to.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

My Arminian Problem

No one who reads my blog should have to wonder, "So, do you suppose Stan is an Arminian or a Calvinist?" I have some 80 entries on Reformed theology ("Calvinism") and I think I've made my position quite clear. I haven't made these entries to fight with people. I've made these arguments because I think I have something really, really good and I am hoping that others might see it and get to share in it. I'm not arguing the point to be right. I don't think that "those dirty, rotten Arminians are not saved". (In fact, I'm certain that atheists are not saved, but would never tag on "dirty, rotten" to them, either.) No, I'm fairly confident Arminians are saved, so it isn't their eternal souls I'm concerned about; it's their joy to which I hope to contribute.

Still, at the back of my head, there is a nagging problem. I'm sure that Arminians are saved, but I'm not sure that their position is "okay". That is, back there in the recesses of my unexamined thought processes is a problem more serious than "I think we just disagree on this minor issue." Still, I haven't found out what it is ... until now.

One of the primary arguments between the two sides is over 1 Tim 2:3-4. "This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, Who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth." "There," they tell me, "it is explicit there that God does not choose some to be saved and some not to be saved because He desires all to be saved." So the conversation between a Calvinist (C) and an Arminian (A) might go something like this:

C: God desires all to be saved. We'll agree on that. So ... are all saved?

A: No, we're certain that not all are saved. In order to be saved, you have to place your faith in Christ.

C: So, since we both agree that God desires all to be saved and we both agree that God is sovereign, why is it that not all are saved?

A: Clearly something intervenes. Something trumps God's desire for all to be saved. God values something else higher than His desire for all to be saved.

C: Okay, I'm fine with that. So far we're in perfect agreement. God desires all to be saved. Check. God is sovereign. Check. There is a desire of God's that is countermanded because God wants something else more than He wants that desire. Check. So ... what is it that God values over the salvation of all men?

To me, the Arminian response is chilling. The thing, from their perspective, that God values more than He values His desire that all men be saved is -- human free will. (From an actual Arminian response: "It wouldn't be a free gift if it was a forced act.") I'm sure you've heard this. "God doesn't want puppets." So rather than actually save all, God subordinates His desire to do so to human self-determination.

You see, this really shakes me up. Here we have a God who we both agree is sovereign surrendering His own will to the will of the creature. His will is the salvation of all. The creature isn't willing, so in order not to disturb His creation, He lets them ... go to Hell if they choose. Now, from a parenting perspective, that would be damnable. "My son didn't want to walk across the street safely like I wanted him to, so he got hit by a car. Yes, I could have stopped him, but I value his free will over my desire for his well-being." For God to do it is astounding. Indeed, it is demeaning.

People complain about the "God of Calvinism". He's "not fair" if He actually chooses to save some and makes sure they are saved. That's "mean". That not one of those He would choose would actually be saved if He didn't act is irrelevant. That "all we, like sheep, have gone astray" is beside the point. That we are all "vessels of wrath prepared for destruction" is not worth noting. If God doesn't try to save everyone, He's bad. On the other hand, if He tries to save anyone against their will, He's equally bad. So we have a God who has bound His own hands to subordinate His will to the will of His creation. Now that is a frightening thought to me.

It's interesting Paul's use of the phrase, "the knowledge of the truth." He uses the exact same phrase in 2 Tim 2:25 when he says, "God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth." In one case God desires that all get there. In the other it clearly states that God may (and, thus, may not) "grant them repentance", and that repentance leads to "the knowledge of the truth". Now, if God desires that all are saved, but may not grant repentance, what could prevent Him from achieving that desire? While "human self-determination" is a popular answer and even a warm one (we like "human self-determination"), it isn't a biblical one. The concept of human free will, especially as perhaps one of the highest values, isn't found in the Bible. It's imported from human philosophy, not the text of Scripture. This passage says that God grants repentance, not that human self-determination decides it. Indeed, it goes on to say that this repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth will provide an escape from the snare of the devil "after being captured by Him to do His will" (2 Tim 2:26). So what is it that would prevent God from obtaining the salvation of all if it is His desire to do so and it is He who grants repentance (and faith -- Phil 1:29)? If God is to be God, the only thing that could subordinate His desires would be His desires, something within Him that has higher value than the subordinate desire -- something He wants more than the previous. If that something is something outside Himself (like "human self-determination"), then God is subordinate to something outside Himself. If it is something within Himself, then God is subordinate only to Himself.

The Arminian view that God so highly values human Free Will that He sets aside His own desires and simply allows them to damn themselves is a real problem for me. I'm not saying they're not saved. I'm just concerned that placing your faith in a God who subordinates His own will to the will of His creatures is a shaky place to stand, especially when such a claim isn't supported in Scripture.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Revisiting "Good"

At the end of December I posted on Absolutes. I spoke of three passages which expressed themselves in absolutes. The one that received the most attention (read "the most denial") was "There is none who does good, there is not even one" (Rom 3:12). You see, that's presented as an absolute. And, as I well recognize, it goes harshly against the grain. We all know "good people". Indeed, it's hard to believe that there is a single human being that doesn't do some good. So we balk at that. (I mean "we", because I see it, too.) Now, I'm one who wants my worldview to be informed by Scripture rather than attempting to interpret Scripture by my worldview, so I'm kind of stuck with it. Still, I have been revisiting it over the last few weeks. Here's what I've found.

First, the context of Paul's statement in Romans 3 is clear: "All are under sin" (Rom 3:9). I think, perhaps, that one of the objections was the idea that I was arguing that no human ever could do good. In context I think it's obvious that the "no one" in view in verse 12 is the same as the "all" in verse 9 -- Natural Man. Thus, when "justified by faith" (Rom 3:28) occurs and "set free from sin" (Rom 6:7) becomes the case, Regenerated Man via the working of the Spirit within him can indeed do genuine good. I think this is certainly in keeping with the text and context.

But we're still back at that horrible "There is none who does good, there is not even one" in reference to all non-believers. "I mean, seriously, are you sure you want to go there, Stan?" Well, maybe not, but I have to follow the text and that's what it says. So ... what does it mean? Well, as we examine the context of the text, we find a definition of "good" that should be enlightening. In verse 23 we have the very well known summary statement of Paul's epistle to Rome up to this point: "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." We all know that. We're fine with that. Except as we're nodding our agreement, we're likely missing a very key point in the statement. Paul has a definition here of "sin": "fall short of the glory of God". Indeed, Paul started this diatribe about the condition of Natural Man way back in chapter 1 with this thought:
For although they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks to Him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things (Rom 1:21-23).
Here's the basic problem with sinful Man. We fail to acknowledge God (for who He is), to honor Him, or to thank Him. Notice what it says: "They ... exchanged the glory of the immortal ..." for something less. That "glory" thing again.

You see, if it is indeed true that humans are put on this earth for the purpose of glorifying God and Natural Man has set aside God's glory in favor of the creature, then we have our answer regarding "There is none who does good." If "sin" is defined as "falling short of the glory of God", then "good" would be defined as "that which brings glory to God" and Natural Man doesn't do that. Sure, he may institute a homeless shelter and he may become a doctor to help people and he may do all sorts of things that are "good" on the horizontal plane. And I'm not saying they're not "good". I'm saying that God's version of "good" is in reference to God, and the "good" that "no one" does is that good -- glorifying God. Or, here, look at it another way. Paul writes, "For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin" (Rom 14:23). If unbelievers do not operate by faith in God, then whatever they do is ... sin.

By way of illustration, a son asks his father for $5 to go out with his friends that evening. The father tells his son that if he wants the money he'll have to mow the lawn. The son mows the lawn, gritting his teeth and bemoaning the injustice of it all. His son obeyed ... but did he "do good"? It was certainly better than a refusal to obey, but it was not, in the parameters of the father's perspective, "good" because it was out of anger, not love, and it brought no glory to the father.

We are, then, looking at a two-fold problem. One side of the problem is that we do not see things through the eyes of God. The "There is none who does good" condition is relative to God's view. God's simple demand is that He be glorified as He ought to be. Anything (1 Cor 10:31) done for any other reason, from God's perspective, is "not good" -- it is sin. The other side of this coin is that we fail miserably to recognize the deep problem of sin. We see it as "doing bad things", as "failing to do everything on the list", as "straying from time to time". God sees it as an affront to His glory, an assault on His throne, and pervasive condition that we hardly even recognize from day to day.

We have petty notions about God and His glory. We have petty notions about sin and its depths. And we are certainly closer in experience to sinners than to God. It's no wonder, really, that we'd be confused on this notion. But, confused we are, I think. I would think that Paul meant exactly what he said about none doing good when it is defined as doing it for God's glory. Thanks be to God that He can provide a change in the nature of the creature to alter that fact.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Transcendent and Immanent

The Bible describes God as both transcendent and immanent. The former references the fact that He is above all, far outside our realm, vast and powerful without regard to humans or our trivial world. The latter refers to His very presence, His "here and now", His tender mercies and compassionate care for His own, His amazing grace. Biblically, both are realities. Humanly, that just boggles the mind. Now, the fact is that most of us prefer one side or the other. Some of us are in awe of His transcendence. He is so "out there", so "huge", so "awesome". Really, really big! Others of us are much more enamored with His immanence, the closeness of God. We prefer to think of Him as holding us in the palm of His hand, His arms of safety around us, His loving heart aimed toward us. Rarely do we put them together. But Isaiah is happy to do so:
Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the LORD's hand double for all her sins (Isa 40:1-2).

Behold, the Lord GOD comes with might, and His arm rules for Him; behold, His reward is with Him, and His recompense before Him. He will tend His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs in His arms; He will carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those that are with young (Isa 40:10-11).

Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket, and are accounted as the dust on the scales; behold, He takes up the coastlands like fine dust. Lebanon would not suffice for fuel, nor are its beasts enough for a burnt offering. All the nations are as nothing before Him, they are accounted by Him as less than nothing and emptiness. To whom then will you liken God, or what likeness compare with Him? (Isa 40:15-18)

Do you not know? Do you not hear? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? It is He who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to dwell in; Who brings princes to nothing, and makes the rulers of the earth as emptiness (Isa 40:21-23).

Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; His understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to Him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint (Isa 40:28-31).
Isaiah starts out with the immanence of God. He speaks of comfort and tenderness, of iniquity pardoned. He speaks of the shepherd who gathers the lambs in His arms, gently leading the young. Such immanence. Such wonder.

But He moves quickly from there to God's transcendence. This same Shepherd views all of Man as "a drop from a bucket", "dust", "nothing before Him". He is incomparable. We are "grasshoppers" to Him, and our highest rulers are nothing. That is indeed a transcendent God.

Isaiah doesn't stop there. He speaks of "the everlasting God", the one who created "the ends of the earth", the one who is unsearchable. All this is transcendence. Yet, in this transcendence (rather than in opposition to it), we find our confidence for the immanence of God. In His transcendence we find that waiting on Him produces strength (immanence), comfort, support. Transcendent and immanent. That merging of the two is rare, but quite a joy to see and experience.

Saturday, January 22, 2011


It's actually a cute sounding word. It kind of rolls off the tongue nicely. Sounds like a nice little trill on the piccolo or something. Kind of magical. But when you consider that the federal government has projected $3.83 trillion in total spending for 2011, it kind of makes me want to ask ... "what's a trillion?"

Well, it's simple! A trillion is simply 1,000 times a billion. Easy, right? I mean, think of a billion and then add 1,000. No! Not add! Multiply. So, let's see ...

If we went back 1 billion seconds from now, we would go back about 32 years. If we went back 1 trillion seconds from now, we would go back almost 32 thousand years. One billion minutes ago was almost to the time of Christ, but one trillion minutes ago was 1.9 million years ago. Or how about this? If you traveled 1 trillion feet, it would take you just about the 98 million miles to the Sun ... and back.

How about in terms of money? The government plans to spend that $3.83 trillion this year. Estimates and averages place the cost of feeding one average African for a day at $4. There are currently about 1.25 billion people in Africa. If we took our budget for the 2011 fiscal year and bought them food with it, we could feed all of them ... for two years. Or how about our national debt? We are at $14 trillion right now. With the current 312 million Americans, each of us would need to pay $45,000 to pay it off. (The average income per person in the United States is about $33,000.) Look over at that cute little kid in the stroller. How long do you think before she is going to pay her share? So that's not reasonable. Let's do it by household. With 115 million households, we'd each need to pay $122,000 to pay it off. Since the average household income in America today is about $50,000 per year, don't count on that being paid off any time soon.

Without offering judgment or evaluation or recommendation, I have to say that, while a "trillion" may sound "cute", it is really a number beyond my common perception. And we are consuming 3 times that amount this year. Which may be a bad thing since we owe more than fourteen times that one trillion mark. That is, if we simply stopped all national spending entirely and paid everything we planned to pay toward paying off our national debt, it would take us four years to pay it off. No, not so cute now at all.

Friday, January 21, 2011

What's Next?

I find this utterly reprehensible. An unnamed couple in Australia terminated the lives of twin sons conceived using IVF because the couple already had three sons and wanted a daughter. Seriously ... utterly reprehensible.

Given today's pro-abortion stance, try to use their logic to suggest that this in any way could be construed as "wrong". If the "gold standard" is "women's choice" and this woman chose, on what possible basis can they suggest it was "immoral"?

To terminate the life of a child is horrendous. To terminate the life of two is twice as horrible. To murder them because "we wanted a girl" is beyond abominable. But to argue against it in today's judicial climate is impossible. I don't even know where to find the argument that, given the mantra of "women's choice", Dr. Kermit Gosnell (He cut the spinal cords of babies induced in late term because their mothers wanted to terminate their pregnancies and is now charged with murder) should be charged. How is "late term" somehow "murder" but earlier on it is not?

I'm appalled. I'm horrified. But I'm not surprised. It's an inexorable result when we submit to "women's choice" specifically or "what I want" in general as our measure of moral values.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Don't Tell Me You Love Me

Back in 1980 Sweet Comfort sang, "Don't Tell Me You Love Me", a song apparently sung from God's perspective. The song opens with, "Don't tell me you love me if you won't show me your love." The flavor, the idea, is in this line: "Don't sing me your love songs if your lyric and your life don't rhyme."

It seems to me that "Your lyric and your life don't rhyme" is the definition of far too many self-professed Christians. She made it late to the birthday party because she was tied up with her volunteer work at her church, but she's here now, so, don't worry; she'll catch up with the heavy drinkers in no time. He is a self-proclaimed Christian, but his status on Facebook tells how his girlfriend is moving in today. I'm not talking about slips. I'm not talking about "events", those times we all have when we all fall short. I'm talking about the set-your-face-to-openly-and-knowingly-and-continually-defy-God kind of things -- the practice of sin.

John wrote, "No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God's seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God" (1 John 3:9). But so many who call themselves "followers of Christ" (which is the intent of the word, "Christian") run headlong from Him. They boldly and continually make a practice of sin. They can be found in church on Sunday, maybe even teaching. They may be "members in good standing" and looked up to by many. They may practice apologetics and call for "biblical morality". But by their fruit they are practical atheists.

I can still hear God saying, "Don't tell Me you love Me if you won't give Me your love." What about you? Does your walk match your talk? Does your life reflect the love of God you claim it does? I'm not talking about perfection. I'm talking about the general trend. We all fail. But when you do, does it bother you, or do you defend it? Do you love God? Does your life show it? Does your lyric and your life rhyme?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


Look, let's be honest. Christianity does not present a unified front. We are not all in warm, amicable agreement on all points of doctrine. Given. Some have suggested that we should be, and I think Paul disagreed (1 Cor 11:19). Others have suggested that what we believe isn't nearly as important as how we live, and I think Jesus disagreed (Matt 5:21-22, 27-28, 7:22-23). Still others have suggested that we're human (true) and prone to error (true) and, therefore, we simply can't know the truth (ah, there's the rub!) for sure, so we shouldn't worry about it. "Can't we all just get along?" Jesus, however, told us that we would know the truth, that the Spirit was sent to lead us into all truth, and so on. Indeed, the Bible says "we know ..." over and over because apparently we can know. So the question is, "How can we know what is true?" I'd like to suggest a few possible tools, some hints, some questions to ask yourself when you think you understand something.

Is it true to the text? This is the simplest, most obvious question. And, somehow, it is often overlooked. Most believe, for instance, that any man can come to Christ despite the clear statement, "No man can come to Me unless ...". Sure, the former sounds right, even feels right, but it isn't what the text says. Or an extremely common one today is on whether or not women should be in positions of leadership over men in the church. "Of course!" loud and numerous voices assure us. But it's not what the text says. On the other hand, most of us, if we're honest, chafe at that whole "Jesus is the only way" thing. I mean, seriously, that kind of exclusivity sounds ... arrogant. But Jesus Himself said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father but by Me." So while we might think it sounds arrogant, it is indeed true to the text, so it is true.

Is it true to the context? This is where there begins to be some question about the first point. Sometimes context is needed to properly define the text. Far too often text is taken out of context to say something that it doesn't say. A non-confrontational example is one I'm sure we've all seen. Jesus said, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with Me" (Rev 3:20). An open invitation for unbelievers! But ... the context speaks of something somewhat different. This quote is in a letter "to the angel of the church in Laodicea." It's not a call to unbelievers. It's a call to lukewarm believers. Context is important. Or how about this one? "God doesn't want us to have any fear because He said, 'Perfect love casts out fear'." Well, that is what the verse says; it just doesn't work in context. The context (1 John 4:15-21) is in regards to abiding in God. The context tells us that God is the source of love. The context tells us that when we abide perfectly in God, we love perfectly. Since all sin is a failure to love (God or your neighbor), then when we love perfectly, we have no fear of punishment. Thus, when we arrive at loving perfectly (that's the "perfect love" -- not God's love for us), we have no fear of punishment because we will have arrived at perfection. In other words, the context of this quote does not contradict the repeated commands and warnings to "fear God". The context is telling us about our perfect love. Context, context, context.

Is it biblically coherent? I've hinted above at this one. "The context of this quote does not contradict the repeated commands and warnings to 'fear God'." If the Bible is indeed God-breathed, then the Bible won't contradict itself. It will not tell you, "Jesus is the only way" and "Jesus is not the only way" (as a silly example). So when you read, "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast" (Eph 2:8-9) and then you read, "You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone" (James 2:24), you should recognize that you cannot go with "Is it true to the text?" because something is not right here when it is taken at plain, face value. Now, context helps here. Paul's context in Ephesians was "How do you get saved?" and James's context in the latter epistle was "How do I know if it's living faith or dead faith?" That ought to be a clue. It also ought to be a clue that both Paul and James used Abraham as their example, but their "proof" was years apart. That is, "Abraham believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness" happened a long time before "Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar?" So you get a clue from context that the two (Paul and James) are not talking about the same sort of "justification", that they're not both talking about how you get saved, and, therefore, are not contradicting each other. They are saying what Martin Luther said in brief: "We are saved by faith alone, but not by faith that is alone." And we end up with biblical coherence rather than contradiction while remaining true to text and context.

Another very helpful tool is Church doctrine over history. What has the Church said over time? If Jesus was right -- if the Spirit was given to lead His people into all truth -- then it must be that the truth has been maintained for the past 2000 years. It is my conviction that it has. So I get wary when someone comes up with a "new" truth. "Oh," they might say, "we've finally figured this out after all these years although no one before us ever did." There are lots of these areas. Dispensationalism didn't really hit the public market until the 1800's. It has only been in the last 50 years (or less) that some figured out that it is not a sin to engage in homosexual activities. "New insight!" We've recently determined that marriage is not simply between a man and a woman ... although it has always been thus. "We've just figured this out!" I'd be cautious. Now, Church tradition is not authoritative, but I prefer to be cautious about "new" things. It seems the ultimate in arrogance to say, "We've just figured this out after 2000 years when no one else before us could!" I'd recommend not going there.

I'm going to offer one last suggestion that you may not have considered. Does it increase Man and decrease God? Paul said, "Let God be true, but every man a liar" (Rom 3:4). God said, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?" (Jer 17:9). The basic motivation for all of our sin is "I will be like the Most High." Thus, we are self-deceiving posers to the throne. As such, it is our natural (sin) tendency to want to bring God down and bring Man up. We want to lower the standard. We want to minimize the problem. We want to make us closer to god and God closer to us. So we want Him to be thoroughly understandable. If you get there, you're in the wrong place. The Infinite cannot be grasped by the finite. We want to say that Man isn't nearly that bad. David referred to himself as a worm (Psa 22:6), but we would beg to differ. We're noble, important, maybe even critical beings whom God would do well to serve. When your beliefs tend toward a diminished God and an improved position for Man, I would warn you that you might not be heading the right direction. "We're not that bad" may be true ... but I'd tend to wonder. "God is my buddy", "the Man Upstairs", "the Big Guy" -- these absolutely do not refer to the God of the Bible. Neither a diminished God nor an improved Man bode well for a biblical belief system.

These are just a few quick ideas. I think that they work pretty well. We are obviously human and we do obviously err. I'd doubt that any one of us actually has perfect doctrine or perfect understanding. On the other hand, I don't think that this should preclude us from knowing some things with sufficient certainty as to be able to "contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints". If we are commanded to "reprove, rebuke, and exhort", it is only reasonable that we have some grounds for relative certainty. On the other hand, if Scripture repeatedly tells us things we can know and we claim uncertainty out of "humility", that's pretty arrogant. (And why do you suppose it is that those who "humbly" cry out against "the arrogance of certainty" are certain they need to correct those who are certain?) (Sorry -- rhetorical question.)

Turns out that Charles Spurgeon preached a sermon about the concept of detecting heresy by how a doctrine decreases God or increases Man. I guess I'm not alone.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Evidence for the Existence of God

I wrote before that there is evidence for the existence of God. Without a great deal of examination or explanation, I thought I'd offer a quick list just for reference purposes. That way you can do your own homework.

1. The precision of the universe. There is a lot there, but see Dr. Bradley's piece as an example.

2. The human body. Think the brain, the eye, explaining how the entire venous system complete with heart, lungs, marrow producing blood, and the whole transportation system could just happen by chance.

3. Nothing comes from nothing. (The Kalām Cosmological Argument.) (Seriously, do you actually plan to argue that everything that is came from nothing at all?)

4. DNA. DNA is all about coding, information, data. It requires intelligence.

5. Jesus Christ. A historically accepted figure with historically documented events that indicate supernatural events that cannot be rationally or satisfactorily explained by natural means.

6. Universality of Religion. How does one explain that every known society as far back as can be examined has always had religion?

7. Ontological Argument. "If you can posit a being like 'God', there must be such a being." (Okay, maybe I don't find that convincing, but it is not "not evidence".)

8. Teleological Argument. Already hinted at, it's the argument from the obvious design of the universe.

9. Moral Argument. Every society has had some form of law. Everyone has a sense of right and wrong. Why?

10. The Bible. A book written over some 2000 years by more than 40 different authors while maintaining consistency and unity.

11. Prophecy. Closely related to #10, how does one explain how someone can explain hundreds of years in advance with precision and detail exactly what will happen?

12. Changed hearts mean changed lives. Don't like it? Fine. The fact remains that radical and unaccountable changes have occurred in people who have encountered the God of the Bible.

Other resources:
Astronomical Evidences, Hugh Ross
Evidence for God
Evidence from

Just a brief list and some brief resources (that, admittedly, provide links to more resources that ... well, you get the idea). This is not a "comprehensive" list. Indeed, if you look, it's not even really an argument. It's simply ... a list. Note, also, that "I don't accept that evidence" or "I don't find it compelling" does not eliminate it.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Racism in America

The good sheriff of Pima County assured us that one of the primary reasons that the crazed gunman attempted to assassinate Rep Giffords was that we are a bigoted nation. He linked it to our attempts to secure the border. Similarly, some voices are saying that the problem is that we have a black president. If Americans weren't such racists, they wouldn't be so mad about having a black president.

I find the whole suggestion disturbing. Sure, I know that there are still racist Americans. Check out the lunatic fringe "white supremacy" types, for instance. And, in all honesty, visit the deep South and talk to the lifelong residents there. Most have "moved on" from their racism ... but many haven't really. But the fringe types are few in number and those who still hold racist perceptions are quieter now, so I wonder, if America elected a black president, why is “black” still such an issue?

In my considerations over who would get my presidential vote, it never occurred to me to take Obama's race into account. I don't know. Maybe I'm the fringe type, the anomaly, the rarity. When he was elected, I was confused by the "racism is dead in America because we've elected a black president" kind of talk because if racism was dead, we wouldn't have noticed that he was black.

But ... racism is not dead in America (or, I suspect in all likelihood, anywhere else). Here, a white person uses the phrase "boy" (regardless of how it is meant) and it is unforgivably racist, but it is acceptable for "minority races" to shout overtly racial epithets against white people because that isn't racism. When a state attempts to enforce federal law, it's racism, but when those most affected by such an attempt urge the overthrow of the government and the seizing of that state for a particular racial group, that's not racism. It's like sexism. For men to belittle women is sexism, but for women to belittle men isn't sexism. So even though racism in America is in serious decline, the fact that one race is allowed, even encouraged to hate another means that such a condition cannot go away. As long as we continue the random accusations of "race-baiting" and continue to "play the race card" (even if it is only a suggestion, not a reality), racism in America is not going away.

I admire Dr. Martin Luther King's dream of judging people by their character rather than their color. Still, as long as the problem is "them", not "us", I don't see his dream coming to fruition. And, may I suggest, rewriting Huck Finn and censoring Blazing Saddles in favor of "politically correct speech" is not going to solve the problem -- any more than saying that our "harsh political climate" is what made a lunatic killer start shooting in a Tucson shopping center. (I'd say that we should "target racism", but I suppose that would be construed as being too militaristic and, since I am Caucasian, likely a racist remark of some sort.)

Dream on, Dr. King. I'm with you. I'm just not very optimistic.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Worthy Is The Lamb

1 Then I saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals. 2 And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, "Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?" 3 And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, 4 and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. 5 And one of the elders said to me, "Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals." 6 And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. 7 And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. 8 And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. 9 And they sang a new song, saying, "Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, 10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth." 11 Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, 12 saying with a loud voice, "Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!" 13 And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, "To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!" 14 And the four living creatures said, "Amen!" and the elders fell down and worshiped (Rev 5:1-14).

Now ... imagine that in heaven with "the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands". Yeah, a song worth hearing; a message worth repeating.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Against Double Predestination

Some people like to believe in predestination. Now, to be clear, what they mean by "predestination" is "election". (I only point that out because I don't see the two as synonymous.) To be quite honest, it's hard to deny the doctrine of election since it is littered throughout the Bible. So most don't. The difference of opinion is not whether or not there is such a thing, but how exactly God implements it. Some say that God does it unilaterally -- "unconditionally" is the term applied -- and others say that, "No, it is conditioned on my choice of Christ." Fine. I'm not rehashing that argument. Where most Christians agree, however, is on this idea of double predestination (recalling that "predestination" means "election"). You see, most people are fine in some degree of "God chooses whom He will save" (by whatever method you might prefer), but not too many are happy with "God chooses whom He will not save" (the "double" of "double predestination"). That one is unacceptable even to the "unconditional" folk. "It is not," they will all assure you, "taught in the Bible."

Well, of course, I could run down the path of logic. Follow ... quickly. God chooses (by whatever means) whom He will save. Thus, those who are not chosen are "predestined" for damnation. Thus, the "double" side. It seems quite obvious, in fact. If I offer my wife a bouquet of various flowers and she picks out the carnations and throws out the rest, you could say "She chose the carnations" or you could say "She threw out the rest" and be accurate.

"No, no," you will (wisely) warn me, "the heart is deceitful. That's human logic. the claim is that it is not taught in the Bible." Ah, yes. That's where we really ought to go to figure this out.

So ... I'm reading through Peter's first epistle (which is, as I'm sure you know, in the Bible) and I come across this:
They stumble because they disobey the Word, as they were destined to do (1 Peter 2:8).
Whoa! Wait a minute! Peter uses the word "destined" here in terms of people who disobey the Word. The context, in fact, is the "stone of stumbling and rock of offense" that Christ is to those who reject Him. He trips them up because "they were destined" for it. The Greek word means "placed" as in "assigned", "ordained", "appointed". The idea is precisely the same one offered in Jude 1:4 where he writes of false teachers "who long ago were designated for condemnation". (That phrase, "long ago", confounds translators. The King James says "before of old ordained". Before old. That is, in times preceding time. That is, no matter how you view it, "predestination".)

Now, again, I'm not suggesting a method, an application, a process or procedure. I'm not saying how God does it. What I am suggesting is that, just as the Bible clearly teaches that God chooses whom He will save (by whatever means you care to prefer), the Bible and logic confirm double predestination -- that God also has ordained (by whatever means you care to prefer) who will not be saved. It isn't "symmetrical" -- God doesn't do the same thing in both cases -- but neither is it questionable. The Bible does teach it. Now all we have to do is figure out how to deal with it.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Entertainment and Education

The rule of the day is entertainment. Entertainment is amusement, diversion, affording pleasure. That's how we see it. Churches are trying to inject entertainment into their services because our culture is centered on entertainment and if you don't compete with that, you won't get people in the door, right? So we have to aim to amuse (a word whose original intent is quite telling), to please.

I'm currently reading Handel's Messiah: Comfort for God's People by Calvin Stapert. Interesting book. It talks about the current events of the Messiah and about Handel himself and about the influences and about the meaning. I'm enjoying it. But one thing he pointed out I found quite interesting.

One person was reported to have told Handel after a performance of the Messiah, "You certainly entertained the people." Handel is said to have replied something to the effect that "If I only entertained them, I failed. I wish to make them better." In Handel's time, it seems, entertainment was not intended as amusement. "Amusement", you see, is based on two components. "A-" is the prefix that indicates "not", and "muse" is a word meaning "to think" or "to meditate on". From the Old French, amuser, it meant "to cause to be idle" or, in today's way of viewing it, the opportunity to not think for awhile. But not in Handel's day.

In his day the notions of "entertainment" and "education" were inextricably linked. The only valid purpose for entertainment was education. There were severe restrictions on "performances" and "entertainment" for that reason. Indeed, the primary purpose of education in that time was moral education. The intent was to teach right and wrong. Entertainment, then, was a "spoon full of sugar" that would help the medicine go down. You may, certainly, entertain, but you must do so for the purpose of teaching decent, moral values. That was the only valid purpose of entertainment.

We've come a long way, baby, eh? (You see, "progress" is not always "improvement".)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Corporate Election

In my Scofield Study Bible I find lots of helpful footnotes on lots of helpful topics. There is a footnote that pops up every time the word "sin" appears ("See Rom 3:23"). There are notes for all the major Christian doctrines. It is no surprise, then, that there are notes for Predestination and Election. But Scofield has two notes for Election. One is "Corporate Election" and the other is "Individual Election".

Quickly, "corporate election" means that God has chosen a "group" to be saved. This "group" is "the Church". This "group" is not defined in its content; it's just ... a group, a body, a corporation. This group will be saved by God's divine choice. Here's how a proponent (aptly) describes the concept:
The ship (the Church) is God's chosen vessel which is destined for heaven. The ship's captain is Jesus (who is the author and finisher of our faith and the "Captain" of our salvation. All who desire to come aboard the ship may do so by responding to the invitation by a living faith in Christ. At that point, they may then come aboard the ship. As long as one remains on the ship and remains "in Him" he is one of the elect. If he chooses to abandon the ship or it's Captain, he ceases to be one of the elect. Election is always contingent upon our being "in Him." Predestination speaks of the ship's destination and what the Lord has prepared for those who remain aboard the ship. God has invited everyone to come aboard the ship and reach the final destination (heaven). It is up to us to decide whether we will come on board and remain on the ship.
I'm sure you can figure out what "individual election" would mean, then. In this version an individual is chosen by God for salvation. Simple enough.

Now, it's interesting how the two work. If you approach "corporate" through the eyes of "individual", then, the former is a given. That is, if it is true that individuals are chosen by God for salvation, then certainly there is a group of people who are chosen by God for salvation. This group is comprised of those individuals. Easy stuff. But it doesn't work quite the same in reverse. If you view individual election through the lens of corporate election, it becomes so hazy as to be impossible to see. You see, from that perspective all you know is that there is a "group". Who is in that group? Oh, well that is an unknown. In fact, you can move in and out of that group as an individual. As long as you remain in that group, you are "elect". When you move out, you are not. Because, you see, only the group is chosen by God, not the contents of that group.

This is the argument of those who oppose individual election. They read Romans 9 and see "group". Why? Well, there are several reasons to be sure. Paul starts off talking about Israel as a group, clearly explaining that it is possible to be part of the group "Israel" without being part of the group "children of God". And, of course, there is the latter portion of the chapter where Paul speaks in terms of "us" as "vessels of mercy" and explains how those from Israel and the Gentiles are saved by faith to be "My people". That is, there is certainly a "group" aspect to Romans 9, so they read the chapter as "group" -- corporate election.

To me, however, it begs the question: Who makes up that group? Jesus uses the concept of "chosen" when He refers to His disciples. He says, "You didn't choose Me, but I chose you" (John 15:16). He chose those who made up the group to be "the twelve". In Acts 13:48 we read, "As many as were appointed to eternal life believed." If that was speaking of "corporate election", the idea would have to be "God appointed that 13 people in this meeting would believe, and 13 random people believed." That's not the idea of the passage. "Who is in the group?" becomes an unanswerable question. The group is nebulous and changing.

If "corporate election" is true and "individual election" is not (as those who read Romans 9 this way are trying to say), then it has other problems as well. Romans 8 ends with "those whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son", requiring that "those" in that idea are not individuals, but simply a "group". This group will be conformed to the image of His Son, not the individuals. Further, Paul goes on to say, "Who shall bring any charge against God's elect?" That's a very heartening statement ... unless you are arguing that "God's elect" is "a group" made up of unknown and unknowable individuals. If "corporate election" is true and "individual election" is not, how am I comforted with this amazing certainty? I cannot know if I am in the group. I can come and go from the group.

As far as I can tell the Bible teaches both corporate and individual election. As long as I hold to individual election, I must also embrace corporate election because the individuals chosen by God for salvation form the group who are saved. Thus, to see in Romans 9 where Paul speaks of the "children of God" as a group does not contradict the portion where he breaks it down to individuals -- Jacob, Esau, Moses, Pharaoh, etc. It's quite clear that individuals are chosen by God, and that, as Rom 9:23 indicates, those individuals make up the group that he calls "vessels of mercy". Individual election doesn't contradict corporate election. On the other hand, affirming corporate election while denying individual election creates too many biblical problems for me. So I affirm both.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Blame Game

Why did he shoot the congresswoman? Why did little Christina have to die? We wanna know why. We want to know why those terrorists flew those airplanes into those buildings. We want to know why McVeigh blew up the Oklahoma federal building. We want to know why Bob broke his arm on the job.

Oh, wait, that doesn't quite fit, does it? Well, yes, it does. You see, why we want to know why is telling. Take the Tucson shooting. We want to know why Jared Loughner bought a gun, walked into a friendly "meet and greet" with Rep. Giffords, and started shooting. We have our answers, of course. It's the evil conservatives spouting harsh rhetoric. No, no, it was those target symbols on Palin's map. Well, don't be silly, it's clearly the right wing whackos who are opposed to abortion! What? What kind of idiot are you?! It was the whole tea party thing! Actually, it's the gun lobby and their stupid Second Amendment. Naw! It was just that he was clinically insane.

Okay, maybe we don't have an answer. But we want one and we'll fill in the blanks as we see fit. You see, what we want are answers to the tragedies we see. They can be terrorists or mad gunmen or on-the-job injuries, but we want answers. That way, you see, we can forget about it. We can set up a system to handle whatever we decided the problem was and we can fix it because if we do that we will have a better world. So outlaw free speech because those horrid Becks and Limbaughs of this world are inciting to violence. Put the Palins of this world in jail so they can't push anyone else over the edge. Please don't tell me he was crazy, though, because that one's a little tougher. Well, okay, so we lock up the crazies and that should solve the problem.

Because what we want is "a better world". And what we seek is "an easy answer". If we can nail down a simple problem, we can solve it because we believe that we can solve all our problems eventually and utopia is just around the corner. The simple fact that the heart of man is evil is not an acceptable answer. "You're pointing fingers at me?" We want solutions that are outside of us. Tell me that those rotten conservatives are warmongering idiots. We can arrest them. Tell me that those evil liberals are subversive traitors. We can vote them out. Tell me that his brain chemistry malfunctioned. We can medicate him. But don't tell me that the heart is deceitful and desperately wicked. That's not a problem we can solve. That would simply mean that the worst of us -- the Christians -- are right and the only solution is Christ. And the suggestion would then be that we will not be able to solve the problems of our world and create a utopia!

Yes, that's right.

So ... who are we going to blame and what are we going to do about it when we do?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Wrong Answers

You'd have to have your head in a bucket to not know that Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, a democrat from Arizona, was shot in a rampage this last Saturday. It's a horrifying story. A crazed (that's how he's described by eyewitnesses and by the subsequent examination of his life) gunman walked up and started shooting. Eighteen people were shot. Six of them died. Among them was the chief U.S. District judge of Arizona, John M. Roll, and little Christina Taylor Green, age 9, born on Sept. 11, 2001. It is indeed horrifying. It is sad for those shot and sad for the families who lost loved ones and sad for Rep Giffords' husband who is likely holding his breath waiting for the outcome.

What is stunning to me is the response. Pima County (where the shooting took place) Sheriff Clarence Dupnik "denounced the nation's vitriolic political climate and noted Arizona's part in the rancor after a controversial crackdown on illegal immigration," according to the Washington Post. He is quoted as saying, "The anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this country is getting to be outrageous, and unfortunately Arizona has become sort of the capital. We have become the mecca for prejudice and bigotry." There you have it. The reason this shooting took place was because Arizona has been trying to crack down on illegal immigration. It is our racist bigotry. That's what caused it.

No, of course that's not the argument (even though that seems to be Sheriff Dupnik's point). I heard it from all over. It's the general climate in this country of political conflict. One writer at the New Yorker says, "Whatever drove Jared Lee Loughner, America's political frequencies are full of violent static." And he's not unclear on who the real culprits are. It's those darn conservatives. "For the past two years, many conservative leaders, activists, and media figures have made a habit of trying to delegitimize their political opponents," he writes and goes on to explain the horrible use of terms like "treason". Even that horrendous "reading of the Constitution" the other day was clearly an assault on the Democrats. It's coming from everywhere. It's this climate of conflict that caused it. And this climate of conflict is almost exclusively the conservatives ... especially folks like Beck, Limbaugh, and Sarah Palin. This, of course, isn't the only odd take. Some are saying that it's due to pro-lifers. You see, Giffords was strongly pro-abortion, so clearly it was the conservatives who caused this. Very clearly it is the conservatives in general and the tea party folks in particular that caused this tragedy.

There is an underlying premise for the "it's the national climate of conflict" argument that baffles me. The premise is, "If we were just nicer to each other, then no one would shoot anyone." The originating idea is that people are basically good, and if we would just encourage that "good" in people, nothing bad would ever happen. Nonsense!

The facts don't match the positions. Loughner, the gunman, is described as "an unstable left-wing activist". He hates religion, likes Mein Kampf and The Communist Manifesto, and cannot be found connected in any way to the tag "conservative". But more than that, the nonsense that "today's climate of political conflict" is the cause fails completely to take into account that political shootings have taken place for centuries, and that humans are sinful at their core, not "nice guys" just waiting to be warmed into being good. Hunting down the evil conservatives to solve this problem won't solve this problem. It won't even be a good band aid.

Side question: Do those who are blaming conservatives, the tea party, Rush Limbaugh, or those who oppose illegal immigration really think that making these outrageous accusations will help diminish the atmosphere of contention?

Monday, January 10, 2011

No Evidence!

I cannot tell you how many times I've heard this, and it gets ... tedious. "There is no scientific evidence for the existence of God, so I don't believe in God." Oddly, it seems to baffle theists. "Oh, my! Where are we going to find scientific evidence for God?" Such nonsense!

Look, science is the study of the physical or material world through observation and experimentation. Good stuff. I'm all for it. So, let's see ... what would science tell us about something like, say, love? Well, they'll do some studies on the brain to see what chemicals are involved or some such, but does that actually tell us about love? Or freedom? Or how about "free will"? We know these things exist, but they are not physical or material, so science is going to have problems with them.

I work in electronics. I know how to use a voltmeter. You put these two wires on two sides of a circuit and the meter is (usually) quite good at telling you the voltage. Fancier ones might tell you the current. So, I have this circuit and it's making noise, okay? Do I hook up the voltmeter to see how loud my circuit is? Can my voltmeter tell me where the arcing is? No, not really. You see, voltmeters are designed to measure voltage not sound or light. Trying to measure sound or light with a device not designed to measure sound or light is foolishness, and if I conclude "There is no sound" because my meter failed to measure it, it is my mistake, not a problem with reality.

So we come to the concept of God. By first definition, "God" is supernatural. Whatever else you want to say about God, that's the first thing that has to be said. He is not physical or material. He is not part of nature. So tell me, please, how you would go about measuring the existence of God with a voltmeter? How can science, the study of the physical, natural world be expected to measure a supernatural being?

Now, I know how these arguments go. "Well, you should be able to find some evidence for His existence!" they will say (ignoring completely the point just made). Fine. There is such evidence. That's the job of apologetics, and there are large quantities of evidence. When the inquirer decides to reject evidence, then it is not a case of "There is no evidence", is it? No, that would be a case of "I don't accept the evidence." And that's perfectly within their rights, I'm sure. But don't go on spouting, "There is no evidence for the existence of God!" It's not reasonable. And "reasonable" is a good thing, right?

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Is That All There Is?

Peggy Lee made the song a hit in 1969 -- Is That All There Is?. It's the cynic's song. It's about seeing various parts of life -- the family home burning down, a visit to the circus, falling in love, likely dying -- and how it was all pointless, unfulfilling, flat.
Is that all there is? is that all there is?
If that's all there is my friends, then let's keep dancing.
Let's break out the booze and have a ball
If that's all there is.
There are two statements in this song. First is the obvious -- "Is that all there is?" -- and then there's the implied -- "It's not enough."

The first requires a presupposition: "What I sense and experience defines reality." I would like to suggest that, while this is certainly the perceived starting point of most all of us, it is inaccurate. It denies the spiritual realm, an absolute must in today's materialist world and the absolute contradiction to Christianity. First, there is much more out there than what you sense. Second, the Bible assures us that "the heart is deceitful and desperately wicked" ... that what you do sense you may very well lie about to yourself.

The second concept, "It's not enough", is also a likely starting point for a lot of people. Paul didn't suggest his position was the common one when he said, "I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am." Contentment doesn't come easy to us humans. But if "I can do all things through Him who strengthens me", then it is the only reasonable place for a Christian to stand.

So, why is this a Sunday post? I am using it as a jumping off place ... for you to consider. Remember, what you sense does not necessarily define reality. So keep in mind at church, you have not come to a building with a few people, some nice singing, and a pleasant sermon. "You have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel" (Heb 12:22-24). No, you don't sense it, perhaps, but that doesn't make it any less real. So when you come away from that, don't catch yourself asking, "Is that all there is?" It's very unlikely that there could possibly be more. It's more likely that you missed all that there is. Don't.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Orthodoxy and Orthopraxy

Orthodoxy at its roots means "right thinking". Thus, orthopraxy is "right acting". There is a constant disagreement in Christendom, especially of late, as to which is more important. In America today orthodoxy is not of much importance at all to most. No, no, as long as you do what's right, that's what is important. And the argument goes that Jesus never lectured on the Trinity or explained the nuances of the Atonement or any such thing. He said things like "By their fruits you shall know them." So? What's the question? Jesus preferred orthopraxy over orthodoxy, right?

I'd like to submit an idea here. In the Sermon on the Mount we find six times when Jesus says "You have heard ... but I say ...". Each of the things we have heard are actions -- orthopraxy. But Jesus throws a wrench into the works. We know, for instance, not to commit murder (wrong action), but Jesus says that if you're angry (wrong thinking), you're doing the same thing. We know that adultery is wrong (wrong action), but Jesus says that if you lust (wrong thinking), you're already committing adultery. And so it goes. It appears, from what Jesus says in these examples, that wrong thinking produces wrong actions. Therefore, right thinking (orthodoxy) is necessary for right actions (orthopraxy).

Just an idea.

Friday, January 07, 2011

The Rapture

Have you heard? We now have it on good authority that the Rapture will take place on May 21, 2011. I am disappointed that the prediction isn't specific enough to tell me what time. I like to be punctual, you know, and, besides, it lets me plan my day. You know, like waiting for the cable repair guy all day when it would have been easier if you had a time window. But, hey, I suppose beggars can't be choosers.

Of course, I'm being a little sarcastic. I don't believe for a moment that Harold Camping is correct. I mean, everyone knows that the world will end in 2012. What's up with this "2011" stuff?

Okay, so maybe I'm not just a little sarcastic. But, seriously, I do not buy Camping's stuff. I mean, he got it wrong in 1994. Why would I think he's right today? (Remember, the biblical standard for "prophet" is 100% accuracy. That would make him a ... say it with me ... false prophet.) So he has been wrong before and it doesn't align with Scripture (like the verses that say "No man knows" this information). Sorry, Harry. I'm not going along with you.

And then, at the back of my mind, without any sense of reality or rationality, I find this longing, this hope, this "wishful thinking". "Ah, but what if he's right? I mean, no, absolutely, he's not, but ... wouldn't it be grand to be going home to the Father so soon?" Even rationalists need to have dreams sometimes.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Crying with the Saints

I heard that Billy Joel song the other day, Only the Good Die Young. His line is interesting: “I’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints.” Because, you see, being a “saint” – a “good person” – is a sad and miserable thing, right?

Well, I suppose it would be easy to make such a mistake. How many of the religious folk you know are sober, dour, doleful, and probably a host of other synonyms for the idea of unhappy? They never seem to have fun, and if they do have fun it’s either “fun” pointing righteously indignant fingers at others having fun or in secret indulgences of things they are pointing fingers at others for doing. Seriously, this idea of the unhappy saint is something that unhappy saints have brought about.

What is most startling, perhaps, is the fact that it collides with Scripture. Think, for instance, how many times you see the word “blessed”. We would use it to express that someone is fortunate, favored, or happy. It’s a good thing. Or consider the fruit of the Spirit. Number 2 on the list is “joy”. Joy is a state of delight, pleasure, gaiety, happiness. Now, of course, we can quibble over words – that perhaps “joy” and “happy” are different – but no one can say that they are not related. And joy is not merely a fruit; it is a command. In his epistle to the church at Philippi Paul writes, “My brothers, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you” (Phil 3:1). He goes on to say, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice” (Phil 4:4). You have to admit, a repeated message is an emphasized message ... and this one is repeated repeatedly. We are commanded to be joyful and commended for contentedness.

So … why is it that Billy Joel and most of the rest of the world tends to think of saints as crying? Why do believers, those of us carrying around the Good News, come across too often as unhappy folk? Why are we not marked by the joy of the Lord? That, if you recall, was what Nehemiah considered our strength!

I’d like to submit that if you are not joyful, if you are among the “crying saints”, if you are not marked by the joy of the Lord, you’re missing out. You are failing to get it. Your “good news” isn’t so good. I think it’s something I need to visit myself more often – the concept of finding my full satisfaction in the glory of God. Seriously, what more joy could there be than being a saint, a “set-apart” one, chosen by God, redeemed, in Christ, filled with the Spirit – oh, I’m sure you can fill in more – what better place can you be? And if “the pursuit of happiness” is indeed a divine right, what more happiness can there be than being in Christ? So ... what does my life reflect? I’d rather laugh with the saints.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Habakkuk on America

Dear Lord,
I look around me and I see decline. I see sin becoming rampant. I see what was abominable becoming adorable. I see destruction and violence and strife and contention. I see your law ignored and justice withheld. I see the wicked surrounding the righteous. How long, dear Lord, will you wait to send relief?


Dear Habakkuk,
Be astonished! Wonder! Because I am doing something in your time that you would not believe if I told you. I am raising up forces of evil -- fierce, impetuous evil, dreaded and feared, showing no regard to anyone but themselves. I will use them to judge your nation.


Dear Lord,
I take it back. Never mind. Let's just go on the way it is, okay?


Of course, Habakkuk wasn't writing about America; it was Israel. And the "forces of evil" that God was calling had a name -- the Chaldeans. And it did happen as He said it would. And, oh yeah, Habakkuk never said, "I take it back. Never mind." No, that would likely be our response.

Still, the parallels are really close and, when you think about it, a little bit frightening. Good thing we have a good God. (That doesn't mean we're safe from temporal judgment. It just means that if/when He does it, it will be good.)

Tuesday, January 04, 2011


Every day it seems another adult is charged with molesting children. It is, perhaps, the most disgusting, despicable crime we can conceive. But what you must not ask is ... why? Why is it so wrong?

You see, our society has always believed that children (those under the age of 21 before and now more likely 18 ... sometimes less) should be protected from sexual relationships. We've had statutory rape laws on the books for a long time. The fact that the minor agreed to do it is irrelevant in these cases. They didn't "consent". Consent, you see, is the prime factor.

We all understand the term "consenting adults". That is sacrosanct. Essentially whatever "consenting adults" want to do is okay, even moral ... you know, as long as it's just between/among consenting adults. Consent is the issue. And children cannot give consent. The legal term is "informed consent". The idea is that to give consent you must fully understand the concepts and ramifications and minors just don't have all that is required to give that level of consent.

And that's where it has gone. Why is it wrong -- immoral -- to engage in sexual relations with minors? Because they can't give consent. I've even seen this argument offered to explain why it's wrong to engage in sexual relations with animals. Seriously! They can't give consent. That's why. Any moral person knows that consent defines morality.

Of course, today's society is moving away from the idea that minors can't give consent. There is no end of those who will argue, "Why is it wrong for a 21-year-old to engage in sexual relations with a 14-year-old if they both agree to it?" Consent, you see. And the age limits are dropping. There are even voices that argue that there should be no age limit. Consent is the only issue. Consent is the gold standard for sexual morality. Consent: to give assent or approval. That is, "I agree to do what is before me. It is what I want." Or, to put it another way, "what I want" is the final definition of morality. When we have arrived at "consent" as the definition of "moral" -- and I think we have in the arena of sexual morality -- there is very little reason to consider just about any sexual behavior between or among "consenting adults" as immoral. Gender? Irrelevant. Polyamory? Who cares? And the arguments for pedophilia and bestiality won't be far behind. When "what I feel like" becomes the definition of "what is good", there are very few limits to what we will do. Unfortunately, it appears that this is the aim of some.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Faith Precedes Regeneration?

I've argued for some time that the Bible requires that for the Natural Man to come to faith he must first be regenerated. I've offered a host of Scriptures and biblical reasons for this. It is, in fact, the most basic differentiation between "Arminian" and "Calvinist". Everything else flows from there.

Arminians, of course, have always sought for proof of their position: Faith precedes regeneration. The assumption is that because it has been prevalent for so long it has always been prevalent. In truth, it's a fairly young idea in terms of prevalence, a spawn of Charles Finney's position that humans have all it takes to be saved. He is the one that popularized the "altar call" and made "decisional regeneration" the position of so many today. But I need to be fair. It is highly unlikely that the people today who argue for decisional regeneration -- the idea that faith precedes regeneration, that we are regenerated after we believe -- do so out of loyalty to Finney. So let's set that aside. If we are charitable to each other, it must be clear that we each hold our position based on Scripture, not on "Calvin" or "Arminius" or "Pelagian" or "Finney" or whatever other source you might wish to quote.

The "killer" verse, then, that has been hoisted up the flag pole most recently is from John 1:
He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God (John 1:11-13).
Follow the reasoning. Some did not receive Him. Those who did receive Him did so by means of belief. When they believed they were given the right to be children of God. Thus "believe" clearly precedes "children of God", or faith precedes regeneration. The suggestion has even been made that anyone who believes otherwise is a mutilator of Scripture.

First, let's acknowledge that this passage can suggest this sequence. That is, to believe this line of reasoning is not "mutilating" the passage. So, admitting that, why would I think otherwise? Well, there is a massive amount of Scripture that suggests that this sequence is impossible. (I'm not bringing it up again; you can find it.) So I'm faced with an apparent contradiction. Either all of the plain stuff I read elsewhere is wrong (or my understanding of it is wrong), or this doesn't say what they say it says. So I read this over again.

What do I see? I see an affirmation that regeneration must precede faith. How? Well, it goes like this:

* Who was adopted (given the right to be called the sons of God)? Those who received Christ.
* Who received Christ? Those who believed.
* How does one believe? By being born of God.
* How is one born of God? It is not of human origin in any sense at all.

The Arminian holds that we believe by our own faith, our own choice, our own effort. (I know, "effort" is not a word they'll accept. Fine.) Of course, that's with God's urging and pleading and calling and all that, but the final choice is ours. This is "decisional regeneration" -- we decide -> God regenerates. As for me, I cannot see in what possible sense I can understand John 1:13 to say with such emphasis that it's not in any way, shape, or form a human thing and still mean that, in the final analysis, it's human belief that finalizes the deal.

I have to believe, then, that regeneration precedes faith, and that John 1:12-13 agrees. I do not believe this alone. Here is a short list of those who write about regeneration, faith, and John 1:12-13:

Founders Ministries

Asahel Nettleton


Robert Reymond

Reformation Theology

J.I. Packer


Grace Valley Christian Center

Jeff Paton

Orthodox Presbyterian Church

On Southern Baptist Eisegesis

The Way of Salvation

(I'm not providing the link, but Paul Washer considers decisional regeneration "idolatry".)

Now, numbers do not make something true (as the whole global warming fiasco has shown), but it's worth considering the ideas presented in all these cases, isn't it? And, if not, perhaps one of you kind folks can help me out with the vast numbers of passages I'm having troubles with like this and this and, for good measure, all of this. I'll just be waiting over here. Thanks.

And then Pastor John Samson over at Effectual Grace posts this. Seriously, we are not in cahoots.