Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Reformation Study Bible

Post Tenebras, Lux!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Calvinism and Evangelism

Somebody just left a comment on this blog, but now I can't find it, asking for articles about Calvinism and whether or not it supports evangelism.

First, I recommend reading this article by Mafia don, Rhett Kelley. I would not dare to speak for Calvinists everywhere, but none that I know of would support this sort of "evangelism." So, really, first you must define what you're talking about. Another great piece about whether or not Calvinism kills evangelism is found here.

Next, I'd recommend reading anything written about the Gospel by any Calvinist. (Now, I'll grant you that there are Hyper-Calvinists who don't believe in evangelizing the lost, but that is not the run-of-the-mill, 5-point position at all.)

Next, short biographical sketches of great evangelists like Charles Spurgeon and George Whitefield would show you how Calvinism works out practically in our preaching. Also, any fair history of the Southern Baptists would show you that many of its founders, fervent evangelists all, were Calvinists.

Last, I just Googled "Calvinism and Evangelism" and was greeted with a plethora of articles. You might try that.

Catholic Church Admits to Centuries of Fraud and Deception (Sort of)

This link is to a story that ran a while back as a news item at

The story is that there's this young girl, who partook of her first Mass as a good Catholic youth. Only, she's got this digestive problem which makes it impossible for her to digest wheat. Apparently, the local priest accomodated her by using a barley wafer, rather than the normal wheat-based version; and now higher-ups in the Catholic Church have "invalidated" her communion. You see, the wafer must be made in a precise, traditional way, or the whole deal is off.

This item garnered about five dozen comments. As always at SermonAudio, the comments were mostly juvenile, or else just outrageously stupid. This point was completely missed:

The story represents an admission by all parties that the Catholic Church is a big lie.

Hold on. Don't freak out: I'll explain how.

Even Catholic defenders and apologists have pointed out the truth that the Roman Catholic Church stands or falls with the Mass. If the Mass is what they say it is, then this necessarily validates Rome as the one, true Church on earth. If the Mass is not what they say it is, then everything else about her is also indefensible and false.

And let's be clear: what they say it is, is this. They say that during the Mass, the elements of bread and wine actually, physically, are transformed into the literal, physical flesh and blood of the man Jesus Christ. As documented in Foxe's Book of Martyrs, multitudes of Christians lost their lives in the Reformation period for refusing to confess that the bread actually becomes the Body. They said the bread remains bread, and this condemned them to death.

Now, in the news story in question, both parties (the girl's family and the Roman Church officials) have unwittingly admitted that there is no transformation of the substance of the bread. All sides have tacitly agreed that the bread remains merely bread.

If the wafer becomes flesh, then why worry what the wafer was baked out of?

During the Mass, the tiny cake of wheat ceases to be wheat and becomes human flesh, right?

So why would the family worry that the Mass would harm their daughter due to her inability to digest wheat?

Why would the first priest agree with that and have a wafer made of barley?

Why would the Church that has invalidated her First Communion not say, "Hey, just have faith and go ahead and partake. By the time she eats it, it's not wheat anymore anyway?"

(Which they are not saying, by the way. If she does eat, and then die, well then you can add that Wrongful Death lawsuit to the hundreds of sexual misconduct suits. Got to CYA.)

By admitting that the Mass would harm the girl's systems, they've all admitted that the bread remains bread. Thus, they've inadvertently admitted what we've all known all along: the Mass is a fiction. And thus, so is the Church that administers it.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Is Your Evangelism God Centered?

Postmillenialists may disagree with the last sentence in this video clip, but I believe the main thrust of what the gentleman says is on target.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Making Myself Irrelevant

I'm sick to death of the use of the word "relevant" in relation to Christian preaching. Either a church uses it to advertise ("Look how relevant we are!"), or a pastor is castigated with it ("His sermons aren't very relevant.")

In these usages, I surmise that "relevant" means something like: You can begin to use this stuff and put it in practice immediately. It's not all airy-fairy, pie-in-the-sky preaching.

Well, I'm sick of it. I'm especially sick of the fact that the preachers who are loudest about their relevance seem to be the ones of the Emergent stripe, who have almost totally left off the systematic preaching of the Scriptures, in favor of topical sermonettes on how-to instructions that would fit perfectly well on an episode of Oprah.

When greater "relevance" is sought in preaching, one or more of the following may really be going on:

1. The preacher is so boring that it becomes impossible to grasp the fulness of his message, leaving the hearer with disjointed bits and pieces that cease to function together as a consistent truth. The boring preacher is another thing I'm sick of, but that's fodder for another post. It's tough to retain anything when you're nodding off.

2. The preacher has abandoned the Word in favor of trying to be relevant. (It's amazing how this works, but the one who chases "relevance" in his preaching is the one who has left behind the very thing that makes his preaching useful at all.) He has lots of good jokes and interesting stories, and he has developed his personal preaching style to an art form. He's interesting, but delivers nothing real.

3. The preacher has done a poor job of showing how the truths of the Word of God ought to effect his flock. Yes, pastor, this is part of your job description. You err if you simply exposit the Word, even faithfully, and fail to help your people see the application. Even doctrines like the Trinity and the Incarnation (and maybe especially ones like that) need to be presented in a way that elicits a change in your hearers. That's right: I said the Incarnation ought to have an observable effect on people who believe it. Shame on you if you leave the weighty doctrines of the Word under a glass case, behind a velvet rope. Encourage the people to reach out and touch it and grapple with it. It won't break.

4. Either the pastor or his congregation, or both, have lost sight of the power of the Word of God to effect immediate change with respect to our deepest need. What could be more relevant than eternal life? Than deliverance from hell? Than being transformed into the image of Christ? Than conquering the remaining motions of defeated sin? Pity the Christian who believes he's so advanced that the hearing of these things is no longer relevant in his mind.

5. The congregation is lazy. It can't maintain a train of thought for longer than a commercial break. It can't be bothered to really think anymore.

6. The congregation equates the presence of the Holy Spirit with their breaking out in goose-bumps. It's become so experience-oriented that it can no longer believe that the central act of Christian worship is the attentive, faith-filled hearing of the Word of God.

7. The congregation has to be entertained. This is just as much a tragedy as the boring pastor in #1 above. Both are evils to be despised in the churches. As a preacher, I refuse to try and compete with your satellite television, your Ipod, or your X-box. Stay at home if you're addicted to those things, and call upon them in the day of Judgment.

8. The congregation wants to attach Christ to their old lives; they don't want Christ to put their old lives to complete, utter, irretrievable death. Give me some tips about how to raise my kids. Help me be a better business man. Give my family some moral guidance. But don't talk to me about dying with Jesus, about what real repentance is, or why I might need to do it.

9. The congregation has developed itching ears, and can't stomach the preaching of doctrines which challenge the traditional teaching they've always received. All this talk about fallen man's depravity and moral inability to turn to God in faith...well, Preacher, that ain't they way I always heard it. God loves us enough to let us choose to go to hell if we want, didn't you know, Preacher?

I could mention more if I really sat and thought about it. I'm sure you could too. Give me Revival, not Relevance.

Calvin on Suppressing Predestination

"For Scripture is the school of the Holy Spirit, in which, as nothing is omitted that is both necessary and useful to know, so nothing is taught but what is expedient to know. Therefore we must guard against depriving believers of anything disclosed about predestination in Scripture, lest we seem either wickedly to defraud them of the blessing of their God or to accuse and scoff at the Holy Spirit for having published what is in any way profitable to suppress." - John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion 3.21.3

Monday, April 16, 2007

Calvinism maintains True Evangelism

As I was browsing the book, By His Grace and For His Glory, I came across a quote that I really like and thought it was worthy to be quoted. Many men want to say that Calvinism kills Evangelism or that Evangelical Calvinism is an oxymoron. This quote speaks the opposite:

Why is Calvinism the only system that can maintain true evangelism without surrendering theological, biblical, and philosophical consistency? Two reasons suffice for an answer. One, the glory of God is the goal of Calvinism, and they system refuses to surrender to any truth that heightens awe and and reverence for His holiness. Two, for the Calvinist, the message of the gospel is the only method of evangelism. ~Tom Nettles, By His Grace and For His Glory
As I have been studying evangelism this semester to write my senior paper, I have come to the conclusion that the system known as calvinism, is the only system that truly maintains biblical evangelism. For these doctrines of grace do not cater to man's felt needs, but to man's greatest need. These doctrines do not enploy wordly principles to present its message, but are grounded in biblical theology. That is why I believe as Nettles does, that Calvinism maintains true evangelism.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Reformed Mafia: Subversive Chess Club?

In the comments section on another blog a guy suggested that we here at the Mafia are more fittingly called a "subversive chess club." I know he meant that as a slight, however good-natured. To his credit, though, it is a slight that is quite funny.

His reason for saying this: we have decided not to turn the Mafia blog into an endless argument with him individually. I believe he'd be perfectly happy to argue all day long. So, the Mafia is a group of wimps, really, because we won't "wrangle with the rival gangs." Rival gangs apparently defined as anyone with a chip on his shoulder.

So, I raise my hand and say, "Guilty as charged. I probably really do belong in a chess tournament as opposed to a gang turf war. Ya got me there."

This is simply my own clarification of what I personally see as the purpose for this blog's existence: as it now says above in our motto, we are "joyfully preaching."

It'd be wrong, and I admit it openly, to assume that because we've taken the Mafia moniker, that means we're committed to endless debates over speculative philosophy with any individual who wants to walk up and sock us in the nose.

What it means is that in an environment in which very prominent Baptist leaders can stand up and accuse Calvinists of believing "heresy," or of being "worse than Muslims," or even of being like the actual Mafia, we're willing to keep fomenting revolution in the ranks. We're willing to continue "joyfully preaching" while they apply those labels to us, and accuse us of splitting churches and killing evangelism. If we have to go "underground" we will, and we intend to keep "joyfully preaching" until they pry our Bibles from our cold, dead fingers. Call us subversive. Call us heretics. Sling all the mud you can and burn all the straw men in the world. But you cannot steal our joy in the Gospel of Jesus Christ; nor can you make us believe it is anything less than the power of God unto salvation. We won't be silenced.

But we also won't be goaded into useless debate. So there.

Friday, April 13, 2007

The Perils of Pentecostalism

Well, the controversy here at Brewton Parker of my harsh comment regarding pentecostalism has reached it's maximum. I even have some people who will not even look me in the eye and speak to me. Though that hurts, I am not through. Although, I will not go on a raid in public at this point, lest I be stoned, I am taking this a step further by going to speak to our church relations director. The official church of God website says:

Realizing the futility of reforming their own churches, they established a new church whose objective would be to restore sound scriptural doctrines of the Bible, encourage deeper consecration and promote evangelism and Christian service.

Basically, they are admitting that sound doctrine had been lost for centuries. It is interesting that groups who have broken off of them openly admit that they believe themself to be the "true" church, and that their group is the fulfillment of prohesy in Isaiah. Thanks to my friend Rhett, I have done some research and I believe I have enough grounds to have this organization removed from our campus. When someone claims to have "restored" sound doctrine, as if the reformation didn't do anything, then we have serious problems. When people claim to be the only "true" church, excluding any other group, then we might have a cult. Here are some of the radical "denominations" I have found:

Church of God of North Carolina
Church of God of Charleston, TN
Church of God in Divine Order

These three, and perhaps more, claim to be the "true" church. Please visit these websites and check out their history. You will be surprised.

A Quick Word on Comments

Alright. Probably some folks are wondering why their comments aren't getting posted in the speak-easy.

Its' really simple, so let me explain...

Apart from the other Enforcers who write for the Mafia, if your comments are going to be allowed in the Speak-Easy, you gotta go through me!

This is not a total "prohibition" on dissension; I will allow some of that in the Speak-Easy, especially among our orthodox Christian siblings that have an honest gripe with Reformed Theology and want to speak to those issues from the Scripture.

Remember: This is a Mafia! Do you really think that every Tom, Dick, or Harry was allowed to run up in Al Capone's place and talk smack about his ways? I bet if a guy tried, he'd end up wearing cement shoes or something. So just be glad all I'm doing is deleting your comments pal!

*** For a better idea of what gets approved and what doesn't, please see the comment moderation guidelines of my personal blog.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

The Reformed Mafia Jihad

Free Love vs. Free Will

How many times have you heard something like this from a modern pulpit?

"God loves you enough to let you go to hell if that is your choice."

You certainly don't have to hang around Evangelicals long before you will. The thought is, that allowing you do the choosing when it comes to your eternal destiny is the ultimate expression of free love (agape) from a loving God.

My question is: What Love is This?

I mean, as soon as I hear that, I wonder if the one who said it was ever a child with a loving parent, or if they themselves are parents. Because the axiomatic truth is, when you're a parent, it is quite often the case that the most loving thing you can do for your child is over-ride their stupid, idiotic, free-will decisions, in favor of making them to do something that is more conducive to their long-term health and well-being.

An illustration: two sets of parents of two small children are both walking with their child on the sidewalk. Both toddlers decide they want to run into the street. One set of parents sees the traffic and says, "No you may not do this thing that you have chosen to do." Their child persists and tries to run from them. The Dad catches the kid and picks it up and carries it back to the sidewalk. The child kicks and screams and doesn't understand and is obviously not happy. The child of the other parents says he wants to run in the street. They say, "We really wish that you would not do this thing that you have chosen, for we can see that you will certainly be squashed in the grill of an oncoming car." The child persists and runs into the street. His loving parents stand there and wave to him, tears beginning to fall down their cheeks. As he goes, they call out after him, "We love you enough to let you go, if this is what you choose."

Now, pretty clearly, one set of parents above needs to be locked up and have their child taken from them and given into the hands of someone who will love him enough to keep him from destroying himself.

And yet, this illustrates the Arminian version of the roll of God's love in the salvation of man. They can't stand the thought that maybe they're not playing in the street because God loved them enough to pick them up and move them, contrary to their desires. God must stand back and weep as those He loves choose hell. He loves them that much.

Are you kidding me? You really think this is the loving thing to do? Well, then, I just pray you don't have children.

(P.S. I don't want to be guilty of the Calvinist version of Nelson Price's infamous "bus illustration." If you're an Arminian and you think my illustration is unfair, I wish you'd point out to me where I've erred, which would, by the way, be the loving thing to do.)

Martin Luther at The Diet of Worms

This is probably the most inspiring movie in my collection. Would to God we had a few more Luther's in our day! If you don't own this movie, buy it ASAP!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Contend for the Faith

It is a pleasure to have Gordon Runyan as a Mafia Member! I look forward to working with him here in the Mafia as we continue this ministry. With that being said, I invite you to read these verses and my post:

Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. ~Jude 3-4

Jude in these verses writes to the believers to contend for the faith because false teachers have crept into the church teaching heresy. It is interesting to note that it says they "were designated for this condemnation" and all that entails, but we will not address that in this post. I will let that soak in the readers mind. We are not to shut up when false doctrines are being taught in the church, we are to speak up. Recently, I have done what I believe is right and have spoken up and out against certain pentacostals on our campus. They have told me that they don't need to study original languages or anything like that because, "the Holy Spirit interprets the Bible for them." I made a bold statement that by saying that, you take a position that is somewhat cultic. I do not believe what I said was incorrect. So what happens when people contend for the faith? Well, in history they get killed. But for me, I was seriously misrepresented. I have been represented as claiming Pentacostalism IS a cult (which I didn't say), that I believe all pentacostals share the same view, and that all of them are going to hell. I was seriously misrepresented by students on campus.

I write this to say when you contend for the faith, people will be upset. When you fight for truth, people will be offended. When you speak out against false doctrines, the relativistic minded Christians who think we should all sit around a campfire singing Kum Ba Yah, will get radically upset. When the persecution comes, keep preaching! When the trials come, keep standing for truth! When the attacks come keep advancing the gospel! Be Blessed!

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Maligning the Theologian

"I am also duly clear in my own conscience, and have God and the angels as my witness, that since I undertook the office of a teacher in the church, I have had no other purpose than to benefit the church by maintaining the pure doctrine of godliness. Yet I think that there is no one who is assailed, bitten, and wounded by more false accusations than I." - John Calvin

John Calvin is a controversial figure to say the least. It is common to hear opponents of Calvinism take the route of attacking John Calvin's character in order to discredit the Doctrines of Grace. The myths that are often perpetuated seem to sway many into thinking that Calvin was some sort of monster who "ruled Geneva with an iron fist." One will quite often hear the execution of the arch-heretic Michael Servetus being brought up as a proof that Calvin was an evil monster.

When people bring up the "murder" of Michael Servetus in order to slander Calvin (and Calvinism), I have to shake my head and roll my eyes... They make the story sound as if Calvin walked up and torched the man personally -with malice in his heart. Such is far from the truth. If these people would take the time to read some objective history of the event, they might understand that Servetus was not murdered at all! He was executed by the civil magistrate for the crime of heresy.

Calvin's involvement in the affair was not much different than if a Christian helped catch and testify against a serial killer today. Ultimately the state -and not the Christian involved in the trial- is the authority putting the criminal to death. Back in Calvin's era, heresy was a capital crime. I realize that doesn't sit well with the pluralistic minds of our modern age, but that was the reality of their day. It also bears mentioning that Calvin himself might have been tried, convicted, and burned at the stake had the Catholics ever gotten their hands on him! Before his arrest in Geneva, Servetus had already been arrested, tried, and convicted by the Catholics, but he managed to escaped before the Papists could execute him.

After his conviction in Geneva, Servetus requested a meeting with Calvin prior to his execution. Servetus is reported to have apologized to Calvin for any personal harm he may have caused, but sadly, Servetus maintained his heretical opinions and would not be persuaded by Calvin. Calvin requested his sentence be reduced to beheading, but the request was denied by the authorities. One author adds that Calvin refused to take part in the execution! In light of all these things, I must say that if John Calvin really murdered Michael Servetus, he sure picked an interesting way of doing it!

I think the reason we see so many slanderous attacks on John Calvin is because people believe that if they can discredit Calvin, then they might be able to overthrow "Calvinism." Well, that simply won't work. Someone once said that if Calvin thought he was inventing some new teaching, he would have never written it down in the first place. Many of the things Calvin wrote about concerning the sovereignty of God in salvation can also be found in the writings of Luther, Augustine, and others. I am certain that even if John Calvin would have never been born, the "Doctrines of Grace" would still be taught today!

If I were a betting man, I would wager that many of the talking heads who love to malign Calvin probably have never read any of his works. What they have read was probably in a book written by another person who also hated Calvin and his teachings. I believe it would do these people some good to get some of Calvin's works and see for themselves what he actually taught.

Most detractors probably believe the only thing Calvin taught about was Predestination, but that isn't true. I happen to have a copy of Calvin's Institutes. I have not read it all from cover to cover, but if anyone just opens it up and scans the table to contents, they will see that Calvin devotes much more space to the errors of the Papacy than to the doctrines of Election and Predestination. Glenn S. Sunshine, in his book The Reformation for Armchair Theologians has written:

"Calvin... thought that the Scripture taught double predestination. At the same time, he did not think it was an issue most people needed to deal with. Calvin was more interested in preaching the fundamentals of the faith and applying Scripture to life than in teaching predestination, particularly because the discussion would likely distract from more important issues. So Calvin taught predestination in his theological works and commentaries, but not from the pulpit."

Ultimately, I think people's problem isn't really with John Calvin or "Calvinism." Their problem is with the Bible! The eternal Word of God is the ultimate source of the doctrines we now call Calvinism. No writer more plainly declares the sovereign grace of Almighty God over the destinies of men than does the inspired Apostle Paul in Romans 8 and 9!

Malign Calvin as much as you will, but you cannot overthrow the Word of God; which plainly teaches us that "[God] has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens (Romans8:18 ESV).

Soli Deo Gloria!

Please see the article "Calvin's Christ" by Mafia member Fred Pifer.