Biblical Theology and Arminian Theology

Biblical Theology

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This section has articles and information on the Biblical Theology such as: God, salvation, spiritual gifts, The Trinity, and the Bible. This section will also compare and contrast the theological differences between Calvinism and Arminianism.  If you are looking for an article on biblical theology check this section out.

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Are denominations worth it? (@9MarksOnline)

I’m grateful for the opportunity to take part in a roundtable discussion for the 9 Marks Journal on the question: are denominations worth it? The other participants are pastors from a variety of contexts and denominational backgrounds and include Tim Keller, Carl Trueman, Tom Ascol, Tim Cantrell, and Rick Phillips. You can preview the roundtable discussion here, and the full journal should be available soon.

Most of us answered the question with a generally positive view of denominations, though as you read each response you may get the sense that some find denominations to be more “worth it” than others. Several responses focused on the value of connection to foster cooperation between churches in a single denomination. Ascol suggested that denominations are useful in bringing autonomous local churches in the same denomination together as partners in mission. Cantrell praised the cooperation of the Sola5 association of churches in South Africa for their strategic partnership to plant new churches and engage in mission. Keller and Truman, both Presbyterian, find worth in the role of denominations in keeping local church leaders accountable to the larger connection, and Phillips sees value in denominations as long as they don’t begin to think that their boundaries are the same as the boundaries of Christ’s kingdom.

Taking a somewhat different approach, my own contribution focused on the value of denominations in relationship to each other. I’ve learned a lot from reading and studying those with backgrounds in other denominations. I hope that exposure to the strengths and distinctives of other traditions has and will continue to improve my own understanding and practice of ministry. I also hope that people in other denominations will learn from the strengths and emphases of our Methodist heritage. 

What do you think? Are denominations worth it? Why? Why not? Share your thoughts in a comment below. 

Polycarp’s Exhortation to Perseverance

In dark times like these may we read the words of Polycarp and be exhorted to be faithful to Christ, to continue in the faith, and to embrace Jesus as Lord over all.  May we stay pure in an evil world with our eyes fixed on the Lord Jesus for “blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8).

Polycarp wrote,

Let us then continually persevere in our hope, and the earnest of our righteousness, which is Jesus Christ, “who bore our sins in His own body on the tree,” “who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth,” but endured all things for us, that we might live in Him.  Let us then be imitators of His patience; and if we suffer for His name’s sake, let us glorify Him.  For He has set us this example in Himself, and we have believed that such is the case.

I exhort you all, therefore, to yield obedience to the word of righteousness, and to exercise all patience, such as ye have seen [set] before your eyes, not only in the case of the blessed Ignatius, and Zosimus, and Rufus, but also in others among yourselves, and in Paul himself, and the rest of the apostles.  [This do] in the assurance that all these have not run in vain, but in faith and righteousness, and that they are [now] in their due place in the presence of the Lord, with whom also they suffered.  For they loved not this present world, but Him who died for us, and for our sakes was raised again by God from the dead.

Oh let us stand firm!  Jesus was faithful to suffer for us.  Let us be faithful to suffer but for a little while for Him (2 Timothy 2:11-13).

Key United Methodist Beliefs by Abraham and Watson (#andcanitbe)

It has sometimes been suggested that “Methodist beliefs” is an oxymoron. Fortunately, an increasing number of voices are working to dispel this false notion. Aside from the simple sociological reality that a group with no common and definitive beliefs is no group at all, United Methodism falls within the broad stream of Protestant orthodoxy, as even a quick look at our Articles of Religion will easily demonstrate. Key United Methodist Beliefs is a new book from William J. Abraham and David F. Watson that clearly sets forth those doctrines that are most basic and central to our Wesleyan heritage and is a must-read for anyone interested in what it means to be a United Methodist. 
Practical Orthodoxy
Methodists have long recognized the importance of Christian experience. Sometimes, however, doctrinal integrity has been sacrificed at the altar of personal experience. Perhaps the greatest strength of this book is the way Abraham and Watson consistently hold doctrine and experience together. Each of the first nine chapters begin with a section called “A Wesleyan Faith”, in which the basic belief that is the topic of the chapter is explained with particular regard to the life and thought of John Wesley. The initial section is then followed by another called “A Lived Faith”, which discusses practical implications of the doctrine, and then there is a section on “A Deeper Faith”, which takes up some of the more challenging aspects of the belief under consideration. The authors then summarize the topic through a series of catechetical  questions and answers before concluding each chapter with a series of questions designed to aid the reader in working through the issues in their own words. This intentional movement from orthodoxy to orthopraxy – right belief to right practice – will challenge the reader to experience doctrinal contemplation as a formative spiritual discipline rather than a detached intellectual exercise. 
Distinctly Methodist
While the authors show how Methodist theology falls squarely within the the boundaries of historic Protestantism, they also do a great job of pointing us to that which distinguishes the Methodist voice from others. This is seen especially in their discussion of sanctification in chapter 6, which takes up the question: “What is Salvation?” Wesley is known for his doctrine of Christian perfection or entire sanctification, which Abraham and Watson explain with clarity:

With God’s help, however, we can reach a point whereby we do live without sinning. At least, we do not sin intentionally. Wesley called this Christian perfection or entire sanctification. Wesley did not mean that we become perfect in the sense that we are free from error, mental or physical disabilities, or temptation. Rather, he simply meant that the Holy Spirit can work within us to such an extent that we no longer willfully sin (78, italics original). 

This aspect of our Wesleyan heritage has been neglected in much recent and contemporary Methodism. Hopefully, Abraham and Watson will help us to recapture this doctrine for which Wesley himself believed God raised up the people called Methodists with the specific purpose of proclaiming. 
This little book will be useful in a variety of settings and will be suitable in a local church adult education course, a new member class, or even as a textbook in a seminary course on United Methodist doctrine. Whether you are a lifelong Methodist or new to our denomination, Key United Methodist Beliefs will illumine and sharpen your understanding of what it means to be a part of the Wesleyan tradition. It will be the first resource I turn to in order to help others gain a better understanding of the transformative power of Wesleyan doctrine. I hope others will do the same. 

Sports and Homosexuality (A Christian View)

It was bound to happen, an athlete was bound to “come out” and announce they were gay.  While this has happened in women’s sports such as the WNBA (which no one watches), it had not happened in a major men’s sport.  Now Jason Collins has “come out” as an openly gay NBA player.  Collins is a backup and so while his story will make waves a while on the major sports venues such as ESPN or Fox Sports, it will die out because Collins is not a star.  Now if Lebron James or Kobe Bryant came out as gay, that would make huge news.

My thoughts flow of course from my love for Christ and a biblical worldview so keep that in mind as you read this.

First, this was going to happen.  Homosexuality is the “social” cause of the generation right now.  It is their “civil rights” era.  It is their fight.  Liberal media groups wanted an openly gay athlete and had been asking for this for years.  I remember hearing of this “coming out” by players several years ago while listening to ESPN radio one night.  Even five years ago ESPN was pushing for a gay athlete to stand up.  They wanted to show homosexual groups (and especially those who oppose them) that there are gay people even in major sports.  Collins, while a story they will no doubt jump on, is not a star.  He never will be.  In fact, I have long said that for some of these “gay” players, it will be nothing more than a desire to either remain in the league (how do you cut Collins now?) or for money.

Secondly, when it comes to major sports, teams just want to win.  I don’t think that the Lakers or the Yankees care if you are a homosexual.  They want to win.  Their fans want to win.  Sadly this is where most people are when it comes to morality and sports.  They will tear up a Tim Tebow for his faith while defending wife beaters and drug felons simply because they win.  When Michael Vick was in trouble in Atlanta for dog fighting, I remember people in Atlanta saying that it was no big deal and that we should just drop the issue.  Vick went to prison for his crimes (while abortion doctors every day slaughter unborn babies in their own mother’s wombs) yet Vick is still attacked regularly for his sins.  Tebow as well yet Tebow has not sinned.  He just is a good man.

Thirdly, no one is allowed to say that homosexuality is a sin.  Former South Carolina Gamecock Chris Culliver, with the San Francisco 49ers, was asked during the week of the Super Bowl about homosexuality and he said that he wasn’t “down with that” and the media went crazy.  Culliver shared his own opinion after a question was posed to him yet the NFL required Culliver to take sensitivity training following the Super Bowl for his critical remarks.  Why?  Because Culliver stated his opinion?  He is now a bigot?  The NFL, MLB, NHL, and the NBA all follow the same line of reasoning: don’t speak out on cultural issues unless your views are in favor of the views of the culture.  Players cannot say that a homosexual is in sin or that he must repent or perish.  They are to stay quiet on the issue or face dire consequences.

Lastly, more and more players will start “coming out” because this will do three things for them.  First, if they are the first say in the NFL, they will get a book or a movie deal.  Then they will be harder to cut for teams.  This allows players to remain in the league a bit longer such as Jason Collins who no doubt will land with a team now that he is openly gay.  And thirdly, their “coming out” will produce money for them as they will be asked to speak here and there and will be featured on magazines, blogs, TV interviews, etc.

For the Christian, homosexuality is a sin.  Like all sins, it can be forgiven (1 Corinthians 6:9-11) and a person who struggles with homosexuality can be set free from their sin (John 8:34-36; Romans 6:1-4).  The grace of God enables the disciple of Jesus to overcome sin (Titus 2:12) and there is no sin that God cannot empower us to overcome (1 Corinthians 10:13).  We all struggle with our flesh (Galatians 5:16-17) but we can be free through Christ (1 John 1:9; 3:6; 5:18).  This doesn’t mean that we don’t still face temptation but we have the power of the Holy Spirit now to help us be free from sin’s grip.  Praise God for His liberating power and His precious gospel (Romans 1:16-17).

Top Ten Books

The top ten books in the world.  Interesting.  You can find them here.

HT: Scot McKnight

Slowing Down Again

Unfortunately, after tonight we are cancelling our internet service at home again.  Not sure how long this will last.  Unfortunately, this will result in slower response times to questions and comments and fewer opportunities for me to write new posts as I will be limited to when I can get to the Library.  I will still do my best to stay on top of things and continue to contribute new posts, but things will certainly slow down.  I appreciate your patience.

The Blood of Jesus and Modern Bible Translations

I was listening to an independent, fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) preacher this morning while driving in my truck and he made a comment in passing about how the NIV attacks the blood of Jesus.  This is an old lie that is still being fueled by the IFB’s.  The IFB’s idolatry with the King James Version has led them to try to justify why every English Bible translation is false and only the KJV is the inerrant Word of God in English.  Some IFB preachers such as Dr. Peter Ruckman claim that the KJV is the “God-breathed” word of God in that the Lord gave us a fresh revelation that corrected the corrupted Greek texts.  The standard today for many IFB pastors and Bible teachers is not the Hebrew or Greek text but the King James Version.

Interestingly, Dr. James Price, who worked on the translation committee for the New King James Version (NKJV) and wrote an excellent book called King James Onlyism: A New Sect, takes the KJV only arguments to task by looking at the various arguments used to support the false idea that the KJV is the inerrant and infallible Word of God for us today.  Take for example the issue of the blood of Jesus.  KJV only folks will tell you that the NIV denies the blood and attacks the blood since Satan gave us the NIV (and all other modern Bible translations) in order to attack the gospel and destroy the work of Christ.  Only the KJV, according to KJV only folks, truly glorifies Jesus and exalts Him and His work to its rightful place of worship.

Do the modern Bible translations really attack the blood of Jesus?  I copied this from Dr. Price’s book and you’ll see that the KJV only argument is false.  Modern Bible translations do place the blood of Jesus where it should be when they come to the term.  Notice the following: the KJV translates the blood 30 times in the NT: Matt. 26:28; Mark 14:24; Luke 22:20; Acts 20:28; Romans 3:23; 5:9; 1 Cor. 10:16; 11:25; Eph. 1:7; 2:13; Colossians 1:14, 20; Hebrews 9:12, 14, 20, 22; 10:19, 29; 12:24; 13:12, 20; 1 Peter 1:2, 19; 1 John 1:7; 5:6, 8; Revelation 1:5; 5:9; 7:14; 12:11.

Now compare how many modern Bible translations translate the same 30 texts:

NKJV – 30
ASV – 29
NASV – 28
NIV – 29
RSV – 28
ESV – 28
NRSV – 28
NLT – 30
NWT – 29

Notice that even the corrupt New World Translation (NWT) translate nearly the same as the KJV.

Dr. Price goes on to compare other important doctrines such as justification by faith, faith, forgiveness, and sanctification.  He shows that the modern Bibles do not attack these doctrines (except the NWT in several places where it attacks mainly the deity of Christ).  The KJV only argument for corrupt modern translations is simply false.  Surely if Satan wanted to corrupt the church of Christ he would do so with a corrupt text but nonetheless even the “satanic” NIV upholds the blood of Jesus.

The Discipline of Simplicity

Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. – Matt 6:33

Simplicity is to focus on the few things that are most important, and to place less emphasis on the many other competing things that are unimportant.

Simplicity is an inward focus that also results in a different outward way of living.  Both the inward and outward are important. If we claim inward simplicity but live complicated lives, we fool ourselves.  If we live outwardly simple lives without the inward reality, we become legalistic.  Inward simplicity is liberating.  Life becomes less anxious and less complicated.  It is freeing to let go of things and to be willing to share what we have with others.  It is nice to not have the need to show off.

Our culture is materialistic.  It encourages us to value ourselves based on what others think.  We are made to feel ashamed if we don’t have the latest TV, phone, car, or clothes.  Dave Ramsey rightfully observes that: “We buy things we don’t want with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like.”  A life focused on acquiring things is deadly to the Christian walk.  Jesus says you cant serve both God and money.  He says that blessed are the poor, and that where your treasure is is where your heart will also be.  The problem is that it’s not possible to see God’s kingdom first if we spend all of our time seeking more material things.

At the same time, God intends for us to have adequate material possessions, and he intends for us to have joy in life.  Extreme asceticism (forced poverty and denying all pleasure) is itself the wrong focus.  It is not simplicity.  Simplicity is to put possessions in their proper perspective.  It is to be content with what we have, to thank God for those things, and to be willing to share them with others.

Since simplicity is so visible, it is vulnerable to legalism and corruption.  “It is easy to mistake our particular expression of the teaching for the teaching itself.”  Simplicity is not comparing what we do to what others do.  Rather, it’s making Jesus our focus.  Seek God and his kingdom FIRST.  Then everything else will fall into its proper perspective.

Simplicity frees us from anxiety.  God has given us what we have, it’s his job to care for it, and he wants us to share with others.  What makes us anxious is believing that we have earned all we have, that we must hold onto it, and that it is for us, not others.

Foster gives ten examples of outward simplicity.  These are not “rules” (which lead to legalism), but general principles we can apply.  The outward is  accompanied with the inward.

1) Buy things for their usefulness rather than their status.  Utility and durability are important.  Prestige is not.
2) Reject anything that is producing an addiction in you.  An addiction is a compulsion you can’t control.  Refuse to be a slave to anything but God.
3) Develop a habit of giving things away.  De-accumulate.  Consider giving away something that you’re especially attached to.
4) Refuse to be propagandized by the custodians of modern gadgetry.  Advertisers tell us that we need the latest and greatest.  What we already have usually works just fine.
5) Learn to enjoy things without owning them.  Go to the park or the library.  Enjoy the beach without feeling like you need beach property.
6) Develop a deeper appreciation for creation.   Go for a walk.  Listen to the birds.  Smell the flowers.
7) Be skeptical of buy now pay later plans.  Use extreme caution before going into debt.
8) Obey Jesus’ instructions about plain and honest speech.  Let your yes be yes and your no be no.   Avoid flattery and speculative matters.
9) Reject anything that breeds the oppression of others.  This could mean not buying something made by slaves.  It could also mean doing something menial that you expect someone else to do.
10) Shun anything that distracts you from seeking first the kingdom of God.  It’s easy to become distracted, even by good things.  Don’t let it happen.

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[This blog post is part 5 in a series about the Christian disciplines, based on Richard Foster's book  Celebration of Discipline. All quotes in this post (other than the Bible references) are from the book.  The series introduction is here.]

Congratulations Marcus Lattimore!

Marcus Lattimore was one of the best college football players I have ever seen play.  It was not just his skills on the football field that made Lattimore great.  It was his ability to motivate players to excellence around him.  The guy was a beast in his sense of team and his goals.  He worked hard and never gave up.  He also had an ability to motivate others around him to be their best.  Before Marcus Lattimore came, South Carolina had some good players but what was missing was the man who would lead.  Coach Spurrier worked hard to recruit Lattimore to come to South Carolina.  In the end, it was Spurrier dancing with

imagesLattimore’s mother in their home that led Marcus to sign with the Gamecocks.  From the time Lattimore arrived, he was a beast.  Few players at South Carolina worked as hard as Lattimore did.  When Marcus arrived, the summer months at South Carolina were spent with family or just goofing off until camp opened in August.  That changed with Lattimore.  He became a leader who demanded that the Gamecocks give all to South Carolina even in the off-season.  Marcus knew that to be great you had to work hard.  He knew that other SEC teams like LSU or Alabama worked out all year even without coaches.  He vowed to do the same.  And the Gamecocks worked and worked and it showed.  They bd a strong faith in God.  Marcus was committed to Christ and it showed in his work ethic and in his team mates.  There was not a player on the South Carolina Gamecocks who did not look up to Marcus.

After Marcus came to South Carolina, Spurrier began to recruit top players much like Marcus and they began to develop a team spirit.  Marcus was the leader with others following behind him such as Conner Shaw or Dylan Thompson or Clowney.

Today, the San Francisco 49ers picked up a great running back.  Yes he was hurt against Tennessee and I thought he would never play again.  He proved most of us wrong.  Marcus is still training and getting ready for the NFL and while he may never been the greatest running back in terms of numbers either at South Carolina (George Rogers is that) or at San Francisco, he will no doubt motivate the 49ers to win.  I fully expect San Francisco to compete for a Super Bowl title with Marcus on their team.  While he may help them here or there, his ability to motivate the 49ers will not be underestimated.  I am proud of Marcus and the man of God that he is.  Ya’ll watch this young man and remember that he loves Jesus.



Reactionary Theology

I picked up an old book that I have on baptism written by a guy from the old International Churches of Christ (ICOC) back in when the ICOC really was cultic.  This book focuses on water baptism and makes the case that if one is not baptized in water by immersion with the heart of a disciple of Jesus (Luke 14:25-35) then they are not saved.  He builds his case from Matthew 28:19 and a host of other baptism passages mainly from the book of Acts to reach his final conclusion that baptism in water by immersion is essential to salvation.

Now anyone would know that this teaching comes from the Restoration movement and I have many friends within this movement.  One of my favorite theologians is Dr. Jack Cottrell and he identifies with the restoration movement.  I enjoy the teaching of Dr. Douglas Jacoby and he too is with the restoration movement along with other theologians such as F. Lagard Smith.  The Restoration movement finds its roots in the life and teachings of three main men: Thomas and Alexander Campbell and Barton Stone.  Sometimes the movement is called “the Stone-Campbell movement.”  I have read many of the works of Alexander Campbell and he was a deep thinker and a debater.  He once debated the famous 19th century infidel, Robert Owen.  Campbell also took on others who were willing to debate him over many issues.

I think there is much good that came out of the Restoration movement.  Their adoption of the creed “the Bible only” was a good step.  They also sought to return to the form of the New Testament Church in both practice and theology.  Yet I see in the restoration movement what I see in many other movements, an overreaction to the church around them.  For instance, I agree with the Restoration movement that the evangelical church has made too little of baptism.  Pardon the pun but the evangelical church has watered down the issue of baptism.  On the one hand is the practice of infant baptism which I believe is not taught at all in the New Testament but then the evangelical church has placed so much emphasis on “faith alone” to save that we ignore the New Testament commands to obey Jesus.  Jesus taught baptism for disciples (Matthew 28:19; Mark 16:15-16) so just obey Him and be baptized.  The New Testament knows nothing of unbaptized disciples.  All disciples of Jesus were to be baptized.  How can we declare someone saved then who would not be willing to repent and be baptized (Acts 2:38)?

Yet I think that too much stress can be given to baptism as well.  Baptism, alone, does not save.  Water does not save.  Only Jesus saves.  Even my restorationist brethren would (or should) applaud me there.  We should make much about Jesus.  We should tell people to be baptized but we should be careful to make much about Jesus and His work on the cross as the basis for our salvation and not water baptism or church membership or anything that we do.  Even faith can be stressed too much when we are not saved by faith in faith but by faith in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9).  Jesus is our salvation.  Who He is.  What He has done.  His intercession at the right hand of the Father on high (Hebrews 7:25).  All of salvation is focused on Christ and His shed blood.  We should sing, praise God, rejoice in, and celebrate our salvation in Jesus.  We are not saved in our faith, in our works, in our obedience to God, etc. but we are saved in Christ Jesus alone.  From beginning to end, Jesus is our Savior and He is the One that we look to always for our salvation (2 Peter 1:10-11).  We persevere in faith in Him and this ensures our eternal salvation (1 Corinthians 15:1-2; Colossians 1:21-23; Hebrews 6:4-20).

Baptism points to Jesus.  Baptism doesn’t point to the power of the water.  Baptism in water points directly to the work of Christ.  Baptism confesses before all the people that we are disciples of Jesus Christ and our passion is to live for Him alone. The book of Acts records no debates over baptism.  They just did it.  They just obeyed Jesus.  So should we.  Rather than debating what baptism does, let us focus on preaching Christ and then baptizing people who repent of their sins (Acts 3:19). Baptism is truly the place of celebration as we praise God that a sinner is confessing Jesus as Lord (Romans 10:9-10) but let the focus always be on Jesus above all else.

In closing, we tend to react to others teachings.  When the evangelicals of Alexander Campbell’s day rejected their movement, the movement began to teach that their view of baptism alone was the only true teaching and many of them began to teach that unless you were baptized by a restorationist, you were not saved.  This brought comfort to those in the movement and anger from those outside.  It was a reactionary theology in my opinion.  Much the same as the early Pentecostals and their emphasis on speaking in tongues as the initial, physical evidence of the baptism in the Spirit.

I pray that we are balanced in our teaching on baptism.  Make much about baptism but make more about Jesus our Lord.  We get so easily sidetracked with debates over end times, baptism, church government, etc. but we should make Jesus the focus first and from our love for Him and one another, debate these issues.

By the way, if disciple = Christian (Acts 11:26) then Jesus commanded Christians to be baptized in Matthew 28:19.  Therefore, the teaching of the old ICOC that one had to be a disciple of Jesus before baptism and thus became a Christian is false.  This teaching leads only to works-righteousness and brings guilt and shame.  Christians are disciples but not all disciples are Christians (John 6:66-71; Acts 8:9-24).

Would Calvinists Like To See the SBC Become Reformed?

I am not a Southern Baptist but I have many friends who are.  I live in an area of the United States (the South) where the joke around here is that there are more Southern Baptists than there are people.  We also joke that the home missions department of the SBC are church splits.  I know of one SBC church nearby that is splitting and have known others in the past.  While some of them split over petty issues (one church split over a gym), some split over the issue of Calvinism.  In the SBC you have two main colleges (Southern Seminary in Louisville and Southeastern in Wake Forest, NC) that are very Calvinistic while Southwestern in Fort Worth, TX is non-Calvinist.  In the middle are schools such as Charleston Southern who is in need of evangelism.

The SBC is the largest Protestant denomination in the United States.  In the South, the SBC dominates.  First Baptist is typically the largest church in many cities and towns.  The SBC dominates the church life in the South.  The SBC sometimes dominates even in politics in the South.  Yet the SBC is neither Calvinistic nor Arminian.  It is sort of a hybrid with both often found in the denomination.  I know of several SBC pastors and a few of them are reformed in their theology and follow Dr. Albert Mohler from Southern Seminary.  Others are non-Calvinists (they would avoid being labeled Arminians though they are) and follow men such as Johnny Hunt or Jerry Vines.  Dr. Vines, as I noted in a previous post, sponsors the John 3:16 Conference and features various SBC pastors who are not Calvinists.  Dr. Mohler, on the other hand, preaches at many Calvinist Bible conferences himself and is a strong defender of Calvinism.  In passing, I enjoy the ministries of all those I have listed above.  While I disagree with Dr. Mohler on some issues, I find him to be a man of God who loves the Lord and has a deep knowledge of God’s Word.  I likewise appreciate men such as Jerry Vines or Ronnie Floyd who are not Calvinists and would preach and sound very Arminian (and in fact are Arminians if they took the test at the Society of Evangelical Arminians site).

My question here is whether reformed guys would love to see the SBC become a Calvinist church or would they prefer it remain as it is.  I would think that most would want the SBC to adopt Calvinism as some hold that Calvinism is the pure gospel.  Others would point to the history of the Baptists and would say that historically speaking, the Baptists were reformed in their theology for many years before Arminianism made in-roads into the church.  Many would point to great Baptist preachers such as Charles Spurgeon and the fact that he was a Calvinist as proof that the Baptist church should be Calvinistic.

I myself would like to see the SBC remain as she is.  I believe that the debate in the SBC over Calvinism is needed.  It provides the church a place to work together despite our disagreements.  If the SBC can accomplish this, I would be proud.  However, one person said that an oxymoron is truly “Baptist fellowship.”  Can Arminians and Calvinists work together for missions, for church planting, for the gospel?  I would hope so.  As I have said before, neither is the gospel.  They may help us understand the gospel but neither system is the gospel that saves sinners.  Jesus alone saves sinners (1 Timothy 1:15).  I would love to see the SBC become a place of unity, where Christ is preached and glorified.  I pray this happens.

We Cannot Reason Together If…

We cannot reason together if we both begin our discussions with our views being the gospel.  Yet if we can begin our discussions with the Bible being our point of agreement and that we would agree to look at the Scriptures with exegesis and time and grace, we might could agree or at least see the other’s point of view.  I am convinced that this is why debates on Twitter or Facebook or other online sources are not the best places to debate.  Even on blogs, we don’t know each other, we don’t see each other, we don’t know if we are being understood or whether the other person is debating with a kindred spirit.  I am not saying that we there should be no debates but merely that it is likely that nothing will be accomplished unless we can sit and discuss these things face to face.

Is this why the early Church Fathers had councils?  I know that Arminius debated several through letters but even there we find a much calmer spirit than what I see in many Arminian-Calvinists debate online today.  What I find is much rhetoric, much personal attacks, many questions but few answers.

The best debate, in my opinion, is with a brother (or sister if you are a sister) who loves you and loves Jesus.

Were Paul’s Letters Really a Substitute for his Preaching?

It’s fairly common to hear that Paul’s letters were crafted in order to communicate what he would have said were he able to be present with the communities to which he wrote. He would rather be there to speak to them face-to-face, but since that is not possible, for whatever reason, he resorted to letters. While it’s certainly true that Paul often desired to and did visit his churches in order to minister in person, I wonder more and more to what degree he really intended the letters to function as regrettable substitutes for personal presence. Two verses in 2 Corinthians drive the question. 
First is 2 Corinthians 10:10, “I myself, Paul, appeal to you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ – I who am humble when face to face with you, but bold toward you when I am away.” Paul here recognizes that his face-to-face interaction with the Corinthians is of a different character than his letters. His presence is marked by humility; his letters by boldness. He is so aware of this difference that he seeks to mitigate the typical perception of his letters as bold by declaring the gentle nature of the present appeal. The second instance comes just a  few sentences later as Paul is describing what others say about him, “For they say, ‘His (Paul’s) letters are weighty and strong, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible” (10:10). Here again Paul acknowledges that his speech is perceived differently than his written letters. 
Two things. First, all this leads me to wonder whether Paul really saw his letters as substitutes for what he would say if present with the churches. If he knew that his verbal interaction with the Corinthians was distinctly different from his written correspondence, why should we think his letters record what he would have said were he present? Further, if there is something Paul really wants to say, but is concerned that his poorer ability to engage in person might negatively effect the success of his argument, then we might expect him to write a letter instead, especially if he thought his letters more rhetorically effective. Perhaps, knowing he had a rather difficult and important case to make, he preferred to use a letter instead of a personal visit in order to avoid coming off as weak and unpersuasive. Being more proficient at writing than oratory, he opted for the former. Not to say this is always the case, but it may sometimes be. 
Second, in the case of 2 Corinthians 10, we may actually be hearing what Paul would say were he present with the Corinthians. Indeed, he seems to indicate that in 10:11. He intentionally reminds them that he is humble in person and goes to great lengths to help them hear his meek and gentle tone. He’s propping up the argument by appealing to the character of his personal presence. So, in this instance, he may be writing what he would have said were he present. But, it seems, this could be the exception to his normal practice. Thoughts?

Summary of the 2013 John 3:16 Conference

Here is an excellent summary of the 2013 John 3:16 Conference.  The Southern Baptist event seeks to give an answer to reformed Southern Baptists among their number.  It is not specifically an Arminian conference but an Arminian would find much agreement with the views of the conference.

The John 3:16 Conference is sponsor by Dr. Jerry Vines.  You can find more info here.

Does Arminianism Deny the Providence of God?

Here is an excellent article from the Examining Calvinism blog on the Arminian view of the providence of God.  Arminius wrote the following about divine providence:

I consider Divine Providence to be “that solicitous, continued, and universally present inspection and oversight of God, according to which he exercises a general care over the whole world, but evinces a particular concern for all his [intelligent] creatures without any exception, with the design of preserving and governing them in their own essence, qualities, actions, and passions, in a manner that is at once worthy of himself and suitable to them, to the praise of his name and the salvation of believers. In this definition of Divine Providence, I by no means deprive it of any particle of those properties which agree with it or belong to it; but I declare that it preserves, regulates, governs and directs all things and that nothing in the world happens fortuitously or by chance. Beside this, I place in subjection to Divine Providence both the free-will and even the actions of a rational creature, so that nothing can be done without the will of God, not even any of those things which are done in opposition to it; only we must observe a distinction between good actions and evil ones, by saying, that “God both wills and performs good acts,” but that “He only freely permits those which are evil.” Still farther than this, I very readily grant, that even all actions whatever, concerning evil, that can possibly be devised or invented, may be attributed to Divine Providence Employing solely one caution, “not to conclude from this concession that God is the cause of sin.” This I have testified with sufficient clearness, in a certain disputation concerning the Righteousness and Efficacy of Divine Providence concerning things that are evil, which was discussed at Leyden on two different occasions, as a divinity-act, at which I presided. In that disputation, I endeavoured to ascribe to God whatever actions concerning sin I could possibly conclude from the scriptures to belong to him; and I proceeded to such a length in my attempt, that some persons thought proper on that account to charge me with having made God the author of sin. The same serious allegation has likewise been often produced against me, from the pulpit, in the city of Amsterdam, on account of those very theses; but with what show of justice such a charge was made, may be evident to any one, from the contents of my written answer to those Thirty-one Articles formerly mentioned, which have been falsely imputed to me, and of which this was one.

You can the find the post here.

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