Monday, June 30, 2008

On Getting Back What We Lost

The Biblical pattern of Receiving, then Losing, then Receiving Again the Word of God, and how this ought to inspire our prayers for Revival and Reformation.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Arminianisms and Hobbs

Saturday's post brought up one of the more troubling features of modern-day Arminianism - that it is often, especially in its more educated and influential advocates, highly philosophical rather than founded in the Bible.

J.I. Packer wrote an excellent article, originally a paper at the 1968 Puritan Conference, entitled 'Arminianisms' . In it he distinguishes between different strands of Arminian theology, principally the Wesleyan type and the more philosophical and rationalistic type taught by the Remonstrants (those expressly condemned at Dort). It sounds like Hobbs falls into the Remonstrant or rationalistic category - I note how his theology seems a massive logical and philosophical construction rather than being firmly rooted and grounded in the Scripture. It was this sort of Arminianism that led the old English General Baptists into Unitarianism in the eighteenth century, and the Wesleyan or evangelical type was the basis of the formation of the New Connexion of General Baptists by one of Mr. Wesley's converts. These two versions of Arminan theology are significantly different.

Rationalistic Arminianism was the basis of the old English General Baptists, as I have said. This body was always smaller than the Particular or Calvinistic Baptists, and its theology left it wide open to the killing influences of the 18th century enlightenment. The result was all too plain. An example of one of the old General Baptist Churches can be found here, at Chatham in Kent. Another is here, at Godalming in Surrey. Yes, they went Unitarian. A few were saved through the work of evangelical Arminians, but as a rule in Kent, Surrey and Sussex in particular, where the General Baptists were strongest, the old General Baptist churches are now Unitarian where they still exist at all. Presbyterian churches like the Octagon in Norwich had first embraced Arminianism before they abandoned the deity of Christ for Arianism, then Socinianism. It is indeed a form of liberalism and assumes that man as man is able to respond to God of his own ability.

Wesley taught a fairly robust doctrine of total depravity, as will be seen by any who care to read his answer to Dr. Taylor of Norwich on the subject of Original Sin. Taylor was a Socinian, a rationalistic unitarian who was the pastor of the Octagon Chapel, Norwich (indeed the Octagon was built for him). Thus Wesleyanism set itself against the Rationalistic Uniarianism that had captured the English General Baptists. Wesley taught substitutionary atonement (inconsistently), and his theology was in general founded on the Bible, not philosophical speculation. Unfortunately many who followed Wesley fell into the same errors that the Remonstrants had, leading to today's liberal Methodism.

Wesleyan Arminianism, as Packer noted, contained a lot of its own antidote. Hobbs' Arminianism is a long ay down the path that leads to the Octagon Chapel's doors. John Wesley noted that the Octagon was the finest chapel in England: "But who can think that the plain old Gospel should ever enter here?"

"Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?"

Now, as I have criticised Packer elsewhere for his stance on co-operation with ritualists and Romanists, I commend 'Arminianisms' to all our readers.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Musical Interlude featuring Lynyrd Skynyrd

This song is dedicated to people in church leadership who just cannot seem to tell the truth about much of anything...

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Root of the SBC's Problems

For more on that, please read:

(This might explain why there's so many liars in church leadership positions as well!)

Saturday, June 21, 2008

The Image of God in Man According to H. H. Hobbs

Only of man is it said that he was made in God's image. Since God is Spirit, this image relates to man's spiritual nature. This divine image means that God created man with a rational, emotional, and moral nature. He possesses a will with the freedom of choice. In his original creation, man was in a state of innocence with the possibility that he might choose righteousness or sinfulness, pg.51 TBFAM, c. 1971.

It cannot be mistaken that Hobbs intends in this quote to establish that God's image is being described. Hobbs states three times that it is. He then defines it. So, it is that definition that we will look at. It is actually a single thought. God is moral with will; free to choose good or evil. As I discussed before, the innocence of God in Hobbs finds its establishment in the "first choice" that God made. Hobbs defined virtue as that which must proceed from choice. Innocence is neutrality then; having done neither good nor evil. It was discovered that the first action of God was to establish laws outside himself that he could possibly violate.

It is here that we encounter a problem with Hobbs' Theology. God is transcendent, not just timeless. Time has no reference in God who is eternal. The problem then is how does it eventuate in God that an action happens. Time is bound in creation. In God time is seen as complete just as all that is in God is a simplicity. Each attribute and characteristic of Deity is at once and One, not without the others. He is not a complexity; he is undivided perfection of perfections. Time is complete in the mind of God just as a line does not proceed from point A to point B but is AB. It conjoins logical order. At the same time, however, God does not comprehend it in process moving from A to B. The result of process is time and as I said time is within creation, bound by it, and more specifically, the resultant of an object's (created matter) motion in space.

Then we can see the dilemma. If God is a moral agent in the same way that man is, then God is not Spirit, but has a body which traverses distances. That is not the case as Hobbs himself admits, "God is Spirit." God cannot change and so there never was a "time" when God was merely innocent and by action chose the good, gained virtue and became righteous. But, this is the moral agency that Hobbs has introduced in God's image in man.

I will digress a short bit to examine man again in the original creation. If in God there was no time in which he was not righteous, and he being the perfection of perfections created man in his image, then man was not innocent. Here again I remind the reader what Hobbs' definition of innocence is:
Created in a state of innocence, man was neither righteous nor sinful. Before becoming either he must exercise the right of choice, hence the temptation experience... pg. 51-52
Of God Hobbs' states:
Thus the "righteousness of God" is not an attribute of God, but an activity... pg. 59; This is God's self-affirmation...connotes what God is in his nature, pg. 37; ...God has placed certain limitations upon act as he wills in keeping with his own laws and accordance to his nature as righteousness... pg. 66.
This may seem confusing, and I agree, Hobbs was confused. As was discussed in the last post on this subject and furthered here, Hobbs proffers libertarian freewill in God and by doing so confuses the eternal righteous nature of God with action. He said:
He is active, progressive, free to choose... pg 36.
When put together, eternality becomes something quite different in Hobbs than in Scripture. His image is of a changing God, whose methods change and God is seen in reference to time, viewing the creation as an externality, progressive, because the nature of God is itself internally progressive and time bound in some unexplained way such that God has the power of contrary choice so that he might attain virtue (righteousness). Hobbs' said, "Created in a state" and we do not have to look far in Scripture to see that the "state" was the image of God and is exactly what Hobbs meant.

But, is that the way man was created? Scripture reveals that man was created good and in the image of God who is eternally blessed; the perfection of perfections, the Highest Good. Created with rationality and able to understand right from wrong, man was created without the power of contrary choice. He was created with a nature that was good (righteous) and in the creation each kind produces only after its own kind. His mind was perfect in order that he might bring glory to God. Genesis three tells us that man was deceived. How could that be?

Unlike God, who is Good and the perfection of perfections, man is a created being and all that does not apply to God, applies to man. That is, man is time bound, progressive and changeable. He is changeable by the very nature of what it means to be created. The confessions of the past say things like malleable, unstable and so forth to express the idea that man can change. Being a rational creature, Satan did not approach with contrary choice. He did not present "evil" to Eve, but good. He did contradict God and challenged the veracity of God's Goodness. That is the whole point. What first appeared as right became wrong and wrong became right. Eve chose what she saw to be good, perfectly in keeping with what God had created her to do. In opposition to what libertarian freewill would postulate, Eve's will was bound to choose the good. The natural liberty of the will inheres in the very nature of will, but not in the nature of the mind, for it was founded rationally sound, nor of the righteous nature of man's spirit into which he was created for what fellowship has unrighteousness with righteousness. The power of contrary choice does not enter in until the fall, being the very nature of Satan to contradict what is good by lies. And, again in the new creation, man's will is fixed, not by the inherent nature of the will which naturally is free, but by man's new spiritual nature and mind. And more, those have been sealed by union with Christ through the gift of the Holy Spirit and are incorruptible. It was the mind that Satan attacked proposing "good". The spiritual nature of man which was righteous and her perfect mind are what bent the will to chose to eat of that knowledge of the fruit of good and evil when she was convinced that it was good to do so.

Following what Hobbs has said, it is logical but against what Scripture says. Hobbs says on page 52:
In her innocence the woman showed her tendency toward righteousness by protesting on behalf of God's purpose.
Now this would be fine if indeed Hobbs believed that righteousness was the eternal nature of God and that man had been created after that image so that only good flows from it. But, Hobbs furthers his thesis on page 53:
It is when man through selfish ambition seeks to be God in his own life and will that he sins. It was this very thing which snared Eve, which shows that she also had a tendency toward sin. And this tendency overcame her tendency toward righteousness.

There we have it. The image of God in man according to H.H. Hobbs is man created with a nature that possessed innocence and the tendency to do either good or evil. This neutrality is necessary for the preservation of LFW of which H.H. Hobbs was a proponent, solidly; Pelagian in his creation scenario, semi-Pelagian in his post-fall view of man. And, like most Arminians, he contended of necessity that Christ died for all to restore to man that ability to choose righteousness or unrighteousness. Which in effect, through prevenient grace, balances the scales as if to make man innocent once more, the Pelagian man, needing only to choose Christ to be righteous. As before, this inverts the image, placing righteousness as the outcome of choice rather than the cause of it.

According to H.H. Hobbs, God created man in God's image, both good and evil. Such is the basis of the Arminianism among the Southern Baptists. As a SB I studied Hobbs twenty years ago and had no idea what it really meant. Where were those who did and should have taught me? That is a generation and now it has been nearly two since his book was printed. That is not all of it. For a century this theology has dominated the SBC landscape. To wit, my former pastor and his assistant both held that God was both good and evil or at least capable of it for with God all things are possible and you don't want to put God in a box... Adults who sat in Sunday School with me were convinced that Adam and Eve both were endowed with pride-filled lust as Hobbs describes. When challenged, many Southern Baptists will see this as offensive to their own knowledge. The repugnance of the concept of God being anything but Good is revolted against by the Spirit in them. Still, the scope of the influence of Hobbsism is vast. Try mentioning that a heretical view has been taught in the SBC for one hundred years, that a former President wrote the systematic Sunday School materials that indoctrinated tens of millions, and you'll be ananthematized as a heretic yourself. None one touches the icons in the SBC, be they men or myth.

In the long running debate between the Arminianism and Reformed/Calvinism, this is where the Arminian perspective leads. LFW will create the Force, but it cannot reveal the God of Creation. And, it destroys any hope of a righteousness which is revealed from heaven, and given to us in the person and work of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Whole Enchilada

Here's a link to a huge debate that went on between the Triabloggers and Victor Reppert.

There's hours and hours of Calvinism vs. Arminianism all on one page.


Saturday, June 14, 2008

Conflict Avoidance: Virtue or Vice?

Many Christians today are way too obsessed with worrying about offending sinners with the true Gospel. They'll do anything and everything to keep from "offending" sinners. In some churches, the gospel has been transformed into a fairytale that I am convinced the Apostle Paul would call "another gospel."

There are pastors out there who portray God to be some sort of cosmic tooth fairy; or perhaps a divine Santa Clause that bears little resemblance to the God of the Bible. They preach a Jesus who doesn't call men to repentance. Instead, they preach a Jesus who's out to get everyone to hold hands and sing Kumbaya.

Is the modern obsession with avoiding conflict with the world really a virtue? Or is it a vice?

R.C. Sproul has written:

Martin Luther once remarked that whenever the gospel is preached in its purity, it engenders conflict and controversy. We live in an age that abhors controversy, and we are prone to avoid conflict. How dissimilar this atmosphere is from that which marked the labor of Old Testament prophets and New Testament apostles. The prophets were immersed in conflict and controversy precisely because they would not accommodate the Word of God to the demands of a nation caught up in syncretism. The apostles were engaged in conflict continuously. As much as Paul sought to live peaceably with all men, he found rare moments of peace and little respite from controversy. (Willing to Believe, pp. 19-20)

I know it's common for us to look at the book of Acts and think "oh, if we could just be a church like that," but do we really want to be that kind of church?

Sure, we may desire to see large numbers of conversions and perhaps even a few miracles, but what about the conflict that came along with it?

What about the riots? What about the persecution? The Martyrdom?

Can we really be like the church in Acts and expect everything to be hunky-dory?

Do we honestly believe we're better -or any less expendable- than the prophets and apostles?

I believe that most of the downgrade in American society is mainly due to the fact that the church has lost it's influence. The Church Militant has decided to become a bunch of sissified pacifists. The salt has lost most of its savor. The light has been eclipsed by the bushel of compromise.

Instead of fulfilling it's mandate to preach the gospel to sinners and disciple the nations, the modern church is too busy trying to cater to them. Many churches have only one thing in mind: making the Christian faith more palatable to the sinner in order to grow larger and larger.

To answer the question I posed above: I believe the modern church's obsession with avoiding conflict at expense of the truth is a vice, and certainly not a virtue!

Please understand, I'm not advocating being obnoxious. I'm not calling for Christians to be inhospitable to the lost. Rather, I'm calling for ministers to preach repentance and faith; for Christians to declare the whole council of God in our homes, our local churches, and in the civil sphere. I'm calling for Christians to once again consider what glorifies God in a worship service, instead of what entertains sinners.

If we do these things, we'll probably see some conflict, but with the conflict, we might just see a great revival.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Top Ten Small-Church Pastor Challenges (part three)

In this edition of my personal reflection on the Top Ten Small Church Pastor Challenges, courtesy of LifeWay, I’m taking four all together at once:

3. Lack of commitment from members. Many pastors said they deal with apathy and indifference. Waggoner said it doesn't matter what the size of the church is, but small churches feel it more.

4. Too few workers. If the church's philosophy is that the pastor is a hired gun, the professional, it will wear the pastor out, Waggoner said. He also said most churches do not have a strategy to equip the laity for ministry.

7. Worldliness of the church. Waggoner said he saw in the survey something he called "cultural seepage."

9. Too few people. In the survey, pastors said they couldn't get things done because not enough help was available.

I lump all of these together because in my mind they all fall into the same broad category. In this category, we have problems a pastor faces which (without honest reflection on his own part) can automatically look like what he’s dealing with is unregeneracy and false conversion in the congregation.

The truth is, though, that there may be other, more mundane answers which actually put the problem right in the pastor’s lap.

For instance, a church I attended faithfully some years ago suddenly decided to make a big push to become, first, a Contagious Church ™ and then later, when nobody seemed to “catch” anything from us, it went all Purpose Driven ™. Or, it tried to, anyway.

This was at the urging and behest of the pastor. I found it difficult (to say the least) to get on board with either bandwagon. In fact, at a couple of meetings on the topics, I argued against it.

Eventually, both programs fell by the wayside due to there being too little commitment to them from the laity.

I’m quite certain my pastors at the time felt frustrated over the lack of commitment displayed by us in the whole ordeal (my wife and I in particular.) They thought we evinced a galling inability to “get onboard” with what the Spirit was doing. We showed an appalling lack of zeal for the kingdom, etc. We were worldly, lazy, careless.

Here is my conviction, after having pastored a small congregation for just over a year. I realize, that still makes me a rookie and a novice, so take this for what it’s worth: We occupy ourselves with a lot of extraneous crap in Christian churches. (I use that term soberly, meaning by it what it means: excrement, dung, and so forth.)

We act like our church won’t survive if we can’t muster up a Vacation Bible School in the Summer. Or, horrors, if we can’t field a Sunday School that is thoroughly age-segregated. I mean, what if (gasp) the teenagers have to join in with the Adult class’s Bible Study?

I’m saying this: pastors, let’s make the main thing the main thing, especially on Sundays. The church exists to worship, to teach and guard the Truth of God, to preach the Gospel faithfully, and to love each other.

Building programs, softball and bowling teams, conventions, special events and speakers, committee meetings, block parties, Summer Youth activity schedules…at some point we have to pull back and wonder just how needful any of that is, and maybe God is trying to tell us by the reaction of His people when we try so hard to press those things.

So, when you meet with “lack of commitment” to your ambitious schedule of “stuff,” step back and re-evaluate. Maybe read through the book of Acts again.

Now, having said all of that, I am personally convinced that a very large portion of our typical SBC churches is in fact unregenerate and genuinely worldly.

Happily, both these issues have the same “fix.”

Whether the problem is that you, pastor, have been sucked into focusing on extraneous crap; or that your congregation is largely unsaved, the only solution is that we must repent and believe the Gospel. We must believe it is the power of God, and we must believe this strongly enough to motivate our constant study, and attention and care given to making certain we communicate it in the most Biblical way possible, via careful and prayerful exposition of the Text.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Where Have All The Southern Baptists Gone

According to a Baptist Press news article from 1950 through 2007 the annual number of baptism bounced between 350 and 450,000 an average of 400,000 per year. If my math serves me right that is almost 23 million baptisms in fifty seven years. The current membership enrollment in the SBC is around 16.3 million. The average worship attendance is 6 million.

The birth rate as reflected by baptism in the SBC is approximately 2.45% if we accept current membership enrollment and baptism reports. Crudely estimating, the death rate among Southern Baptists is approximates 36% if we consider the difference between 23 and 16.3 million over fifty years. About one death for every 3 births. But if we take into account the fact that only 6 million attend and perhaps 2 million others active but not in attendance, the death rate among the Southern Baptists explodes to about 66% or 2 out of every three births. The interesting statistic is a reported decline in membership of .24%. But wait, how can that be if the baptism rate is more than ten times that? Is the SBC baptising and then throwing the baby out with the baptismal water? Is it effectively killing off more of its baptized than it is baptizing?

The difference between 23 million and 6 million is a whopping 17 million souls lost from the ranks of the SBC. Nearly as many as they claim are on membership roles. Even if the shut-in and excusable (travelers, sick, et cetera) are granted, and say the total numbers of active membership is 8 million and not 6 million, the total number of lost souls from the SBC is still nearly 2 times the annual number of its active members. You can kiss the Great Commission good-bye, unless of course all that you consider yourself responsible for is baptisms and not discipleship. And, we might mention doctrinal acuity of active membership, but that is another shame, a digression not altogether unrelated.

The current emphasis in SBC land is how to increase the annual numbers of baptisms so as to stave off declining membership. Wouldn't it be better to try to figure out how to stop the bleeding? Or, is it the case that it really does not matter; who cares if the annual number of baptisms merely maintains a membership of 16 million if the powers that be are comfortable with the income generated by a third or a half of members' active and giving? The renewed interest in regenerate membership must consider the fact that it appears that the SBC does not care about its members. Whether they lose them or not, does not matter as long as enough stay. How contrary to Scripture. Perhaps the disrespect and usury is one reason for the decline in membership. But, again, I digress.

Isn't time the SBC reconsider that new members classes' precede baptism as necessary confirmation of separation from the world and covenantal commitment to the local church? Isn't it time that the revivalist fad be put to death for the earnest Gospel, one that requires a man lay down his life and dedicate it to life-long growth in doctrinal competency? It should be the thrust of the SBC to renew its commitment to its membership by requiring doctrinal foundations be instilled before baptism is offered. And then to insure that the Great Commission if fulfilled in all its parts.

The reason is simple: The disciples were schooled by the Master before they were admitted into his fold. Contrary to the common misunderstanding that baptism is the norm immediately ensuing upon a profession of faith, (the disciples were fond of professing faith they didn't understand), the confession of the faith by the disciples did not occur and could not properly be given, until after the resurrection; after years of discipleship. To confuse John's baptism with Christ's call to discipleship and the baptism in the Spirit that He would grant them upon the completion of their training is to betray the essence of the Baptistic understanding of believers' baptism. Establishment in understanding is the norm. We after all uphold believers baptism- a believer must know what he believes. The disciples did not know what they believed until after Christ had risen, it was then they were baptized in the Spirit as true confessors.

The current practice among the SBC currently is no different than that of the paedobaptist who baptizes before the child has an understanding and thereupon can make a reasoned confession of faith. The SBC would do well if it would reinstitute catechesis as confirmation to the inquiry churches should be performing before admission to membership through baptism and, when necessary, for the admittance of petitioners to membership who have been baptized elsewhere. Or, it can continue condoning aborting two thirds of its children with callous disregard for whether or not they were ever born-again.

A Greek Hupogrammon and A Lesson in Integrity

If you've read my Rant blog for a while, you're probably already aware that the Kelley children are educated at home with a curriculum that is decidedly Christian and Reformed. Like children educated in government schools, the Kelley children generally have the Summer months off as well.

This year I decided to take on a Summer elective course with my 8 year old son. Just something to keep his mind stimulated during the off months and maybe help me learn something too. I gave him several options to choose from. He picked Greek as the subject he would like to learn about. I was pleased with this choice because some education in the Greek language couldn't hurt me either.

We decided to keep things very basic to start off with. I ordered a consumable workbook entitled A Greek Hupogrammon by Harvey Bluedorn. Because I wanted to do the workbook along with my son, I figured I could make copies of the consumable pages to save from having to purchase a second book.

This past Friday, we decided to do the first lesson and I ran off some copies of the pages. Right before I sat down with my son, I noticed something written inside the front cover that changed my plans.

Unlike some consumable workbooks we have used in the past, the author of this particular book included this notice with his copyright information:

"A Greek Hupogrammon is the private property of Harvey Bluedorn. The right to reproduce or publish any portion of this material, in any manner, by any means, or for any purpose, is reserved as the sole right of the author. This prohibits making duplicate copies of individual pages in any form -on paper, electronic, or otherwise- for home, classroom, e-mail, internet or any other use."

Right after that, the author then invoked these Scriptures:

"You shall not muzzle an ox while it is threshing grain"
"The worker deserves his just compensation."
"You shall not steal."
"You shall love your neighbor as yourself."

This stopped me dead in my tracks. I knew I had a choice to make. Either ignore it and proceed, or do the right thing...

I knew what I had to do: I gathered the photocopies and destroyed them.

My son was a bit confused at first. I knew this was a chance to give him a lesson on integrity and how copyrights work. I explained to my son that by printing off pages from this book without the author's permission, we would be stealing from him. I explained that this gentleman's income and standard of living probably depends upon the sale of this book; by not buying a second copy for myself, I would be cheating him out of his income. I further explained these principles by giving him a series of illustrations.

I've shared all that with you to say this:

I've met a few professing Christian's who see nothing wrong with illegally downloading music files or buying pirated movies and computer software. The fact is, if we do these things, we are stealing. Though this matter of copying pages from a workbook may seem like a non-issue to some people, to copy these pages without the permission of the author was stealing from him and cheating him out of income.

Even though I'm going to have to cough up about $20.00 for another workbook for myself, this gave me an great opportunity to set an ethical example for my son to follow. As Christian parents, we must be sure to teach our children integrity by our deeds and not by our words only!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

A Call to Repentance

James Galyon, affectionately rev encourages his readers to check out this message by CHS graciously provided by Phil Johnson who has some great audio teaching. Rev's recent post follows on the heels of his last one on Elmer Towns' feigned irenics.

I was a very bad boy because I dared to swing the sabre that others were only rattling.

The following is a response that I left at rev's with an extension.

“We should prepare men for the communion table, not for the padded room of Bedlam…This is a strange theory, yet many endorse it. According to them, we may preach the redemption of a chosen number of God’s people, but universal redemption must be our doctrine when we speak with the outside world. We are to tell believers that salvation is all of grace, but sinners are to be spoken with as if they were to save themselves.”

“We would labor earnestly to raise a believer in salvation by free will into a believer in salvation by grace, for we long to see all religious teaching built upon the solid rock of truth and not upon the sand of imagination. At the same time, our grand object is not the revision of opinions, but the regeneration of natures. We should bring men to Christ, not to our own peculiar views of Christianity.”

Spurgeon’s balance should be noted and stressed. For some take the second portion I have listed and make it the complete portion and neglect, as he said, the full counsel. Spurgeon did not set aside the DoG in preaching. Quite to the contrary, he made them the warp and woof of the evangel. Interestingly, he does not say that he is not about not stealing sheep, but that he is about raising confessors above false belief. His goal is regenerate membership, not necessarily local church membership, and the means by which he approaches it is by the very doctrines that some cast aside as worthless for that purpose. His means is to:
“proclaim the doctrines of grace rather more than less. Teach gospel doctrines clearly, affectionately, simply, and plainly, and especially those truths which have a present practical bearing upon man’s condition and God’s grace.”

How unfortunate that so much of what we know as evangelicalism has turned away from the DoG as the means of evangelism. For those of us who long for the revival of such in the SBC, we face the majority that has been weened upon the revivalist mentality. What it has produced is two thirds of signatories that cannot be found and those who can so weak in their knowledge of the Gospel to be as Spurgeon would say, people who “have not learned Christ” but continue to seek upon their own account their relief.

Spurgeon contrasted the DoG with the doctrine of free will saying that the second is no Gospel at all, “the sand of imagination.” For all those in the SBC that like to quote CHS in defense of their free will doctrines and the consequent denial of salvation by grace, they really need to repent and confess to having withheld what they have not told the people who they shepherd.

But then, when it is merely a matter of opinion so that both can stand under the same banner, then what we have done to Spurgeon’s teaching, is to cast it aside like yesterday’s newspapers, Good News that today no longer is valid.

Above I had said that for CHS it was not about not stealing sheep so here I must clarify that. CHS said in preface to the above:
"There are sheep-stealers abroad, concerning whom I will say nothing except that they are not "brethren", or, at least, they do not act in a brotherly fashion. To their own Master they must stand or fall. We count it utter meanness to build up our own house with the ruins of our neighbours' mansions; we infinitely prefer to quarry for ourselves."

We are not to be about making ourselves rich by the fits and failings of those church bodies who are floundering:
"There is such a thing as selfishness in our eagerness for the aggrandisement of our own party; and from this evil spirit may grace deliver us!...Our first care must be that the sheep should be gathered to the great Shepherd..."
Building our own churches or the ranks of our own party is not the reason for expounding the doctrines of grace. Our purpose is as CHS said, that those who are still in the darkness because they have been misfed would be strengthened and lifted above the doctrines of free will to the glorious freedom afforded by the finished work of Christ imputed to us, not for anything we will to be done, but by the sheer free gift of faith given. For that glorious gift to be seen we must proclaim the world under the curse due to sin, thowing men down in despair because of their sin so that they will acknowledge their utter inablility to lift themselves and depend wholly and soley upon the grace of God. Should we then be concerned that it causes division, that some are cast out or walk out of the congregations whose doctrines are opposed by the DoG? Only in as much as we are prepared to receive those who need them, and to the extent that we are prepared to defend the DoG against those who oppose them.

My only desire, so that men who accuse me of the other will know, is not to disassemble, but to unite. My aim, however, in never to unite around falsehood. That I might, as Spurgeon did in extending the hand of fellowship to our Paedo brethren, extend my hand in fellowship to those who labor under the burden of self-will, does not in any way mean that I accept, nor condone, the advancement of their doctrine. To the contrary, I oppose it for what it is, no Gospel at all.

When in the exchange media we call fellowship, some soft tongued adders speak, I will not stand to be bit. The sword was given for the behedding of the serpent and I take it up in duty to defend the truth even by that means which will bring the condemnation of brothers in the DoG.

"We are not to try and save men in the dark, but in the power of the Holy Ghost we are to seek to turn them from darkness to light."
If it be those who call themselves Christian, what does it matter? For we are all subjected to that same light of examination. "But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God."

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Calvinists and Arminians (who don't want to be called that)

I have noticed at least an apparent difference between the Calvinist and Arminians with whom I have to do. Now, as an examination of my preaching engagements will reveal, many of the churches where I preach are high Calvinists, that is to say, they are of the straitet sect of Calvinism. yet no-where have I come across anyone who would contend earnestly for the damnation of John Wesley, even in churches where suh people might be expected to exist. I have met ONE such person on the internet, and that person was a fully-paid up hypercalvinist. On the other hand, I have dealt with rather a lot of Free-willers (I use the term because they do not like to be called by the name of Jacobus Arminius, a fact that surprises me, since Arminius was undoubtedly a brilliant man, if mistaken on certain points) who seem to be anxious to find that Calvin was an evil man. Not only do they put the worst possible construction on Calvin's actions, but they readily receive all kinds of malicious slander and libel againist him. I have, for example, read one man's postings in which he drew extensively from the writings of a man who was Calvin's personal enemy! yet the same man blasted me for drawing on a wide variety of sources because many of them were Calvinists! I trust he does not use the same method for interpreting the Scriptures, putting more weight behind the writings of despisers of the Gospel than those of its friends!!!

On the other hands the majority even of high Calvinists are more than willing to grant that John Wesley was a true Christian, if misguided and prejudiced unreasonably against the doctrines commonly called Calvinistic. I have actually read, percentage-wise, more of John Wesley's writings than I ahve of John Calvin's. I consult the writings of Wesley and Adam Clarke before criticising a Free-willer interpretation of a passage. Yet I find that most free-willers have not so much as cracked the bindings on Calvin's Institutes.

Please, let us all play fair. Deal with the doctrines, don't just attack the man. And deal with the doctrines as they are, not straw men. I have recommended Adam Clarke to Calvinists. Would Dave Hunt tell his followers to read Calvin for themselves?

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Top Ten Small-Church Pastor Challenges (part two)

Continuing on challenges faced by small church pastors, here is the second installment.


"2. Resistance. Small-church pastors said their congregation doesn't want to change, which leads to stagnation. Pastors have to deal with individuals who want to usurp authority from the pastor, forgetting that it's God who controls His church."

There are really two issues listed here. One is a reluctance to pursue change; and, the other is individuals in the church who want to stake out “turf” and be in charge of stuff.

I want to focus on the first issue. (The second one is pretty easy to fix, if God shows you mercy in His Providential handling of all things. Pastors, remember well Runyan's First Axiom of Ecclesiology: There are very few local-church problems that would not be instantly and greatly improved by one or two well-placed deaths. Not wishing anything on anyone, or advocating anything evil. Only stating a fact.)

The reluctance to change things in church is the brick wall into which your pastor keeps banging his head. But seeing and meeting that resistance is much easier than diagnosing it. There are several possible causes:

A. Simple inertia. Never underestimate the power of that cosmic force known cryptically as WNDITWB. (“We’ve never done it that way before!”) It’s always been like this, and we’ve gotten along just fine.

Now, don’t go jumping to the conclusion that the blue-haired old ladies who are nervous about change must therefore be unregenerate, and uninterested in being conformed to Christ. Even regenerate folk have a hard time, sometimes, with accepting the mandate to break all their routines, and all their habits (even the good ones.)

One way to tell is this: the regenerate will generally agree to the change in question if you can demonstrate that it is Biblical. Generally. Great patience is key here. Resistance doesn’t always imply they are lost.

B. But sometimes they are…unregenerate, that is. What you’re preaching as a need for repentance and for reformation of action or practice, they see as meddling, change-for-change’s sake. If this is the case…Rejoice. You’re doing something right. Keep it up. And, make sure you keep your resume’ updated.

C. Cultural Conditioning. This is the inertia of A above, inbred through several generations. They’ve been trained to accept that a good, American church does certain things at certain times, like decorate the sanctuary for Christmas, and fly the American flag in a position of superiority in relation to the Christian flag, etc. It becomes part of what it means, in their mind, to be a good church.

Some of these are more grievous to the Biblically-minded pastor than others. You must attack those worse examples, of course, but be forewarned: others have probably already died on the hill you plan on assaulting. So pick your battles wisely.

Personally, though I detest the aforementioned Christmas decoration, I let it slide last year and didn’t oppose it. However, I did manage to keep us from having a scheduled “revival” week this Summer, in which I would’ve had to sit through the infernal preaching of some “Cowboy evangelist,” or perhaps one with a sock puppet. I call that an overall win. I’m saying that it’s going to take some time to turn this wagon-train around, barring an Acts 2 sort of outpouring. So don’t push for everything at once. Prioritize.

We all meet that resistance, in one form or another. I humbly submit that the diagnosis of the source is of grave importance in dealing with it.

Also, to the credit of the referenced article, the suggested solution to Resistance was spot on. That was, patient, consistent expository preaching. I don’t know about you, but it does my soul good to see a Lifeway rep speak in such ways.