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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The Irony of Sports

Jason Collins came out as the first openly homosexual in a major sport.  He was on the verge of ending his career.  His numbers were not impressive at all.  Collins was far from superstar status.  In fact, here are his career numbers:

  • Games: 713
  • Games Started: 476
  • Points per Game: 3.6
  • Minutes per Game: 20.8

His best season was 2006-2007 with the New Jersey Nets when he played in 80 games but averaged only 2.1 points and rebounded 0.6 shots.  That is not impressive.

Yet with his coming out as a homosexual, he has locked himself into a team next season.  Who can pass on Collins?  It’s like having Tebow with the Jets.  He is guaranteed to be a “star” everywhere he goes in our nation where the issue of homosexuality has become a popular sin to defend.  Collins will not help your team win.  He will ride the bench like Tebow did with the Jets but he will sell jerseys as homosexuals will buy his gear and he will help your team be politically correct.  You can point to Collins, who will ride your bench, and say that you have an openly gay player on your team.  Other teams will envy you and NBA players like Kobe Bryant will tweet about how great it is that Collins has a job.

Meanwhile, better players will suffer.  Consider Chicago Bulls guard Nate Robinson.  Robinson is an openly Christian player who has better numbers than Collins.  Yet Robinson likely will not be praised.  The Bulls guard played in all 82 games this year for the Bulls and averaged 13.1 points.  He also shot 79% from the FT line and had 3.0 assists per game.  Yet the media will ignore a player like Robinson for the likes of a Collins.

I don’t mean this to be a bash against Collins per se as much as pointing out that the NBA should be about winning games and not about political correctness and wanting to appease less than 2% of our population.  The facts are that he was not a great NBA player.  He will continue his career simply because he is a homosexual.  I don’t see how that is fair at all.  There are many other free agents who could help an NBA team but NBA teams will jump at signing Collins simply because of the atmosphere we find ourselves in.

I will end this again by pointing out the hypocrisy of the NBA and other major sports leagues.  Where is the praise for faithful heterosexual players who love their wives and are faithful to them on the road?  Where is the praise for married men who are good husbands and good fathers to their children?  Why does it take an NBA player openly confessing sin for them to take notice and praise them?  As a sports fan, I find that Collins career is not impressive at all but because he is a homosexual, the love for him will only grow.

Refuting the ICC Position on Discipleship

In the old days of the International Churches of Christ, the ICOC taught that one had to be a disciple, to have the heart of a disciple before being baptized.  I use to say that they wanted to clean the fish before catching them.  What they taught was that one had to have a heart of a disciple as Jesus taught about discipleship in places such as Luke 14:25-35 or in Matthew 10.  They pointed to John 4:1-2, that Jesus Himself baptized disciples.  They pointed to Matthew 28:19-20 and said that we had to go and make disciples first before baptizing them.

In this way the ICOC separated itself from even the traditional (0r mainline in ICOC teaching) Church of Christ teaching on baptism.  The traditional view held by most Restoration movement teachers was that one had to be baptized to be saved or to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38).  The Restoration movement taught that water baptism was essential to salvation (Mark 16:16; Acts 10:48) and that one is baptized into Christ (Galatians 3:27).  However, the Restoration movement had always taught that one is not saved until baptized and then you become a disciple of Jesus.  The ICOC said no to this and taught that one was a disciple first before baptism and then after demonstrating a heart of a disciple, they were baptized into Christ and become a Christian (Acts 11:26).  In this way, the ICOC would tell even those in other Restoration movement churches that they were lost since they had not been baptized as a disciple of Jesus.

Now let’s discuss for a minute what the old ICOC meant by a disciple of Jesus.  First, a disciple was defined by Kip McKean as “one who has a heart to do anything and go anywhere for Jesus without question.”  In the ICC (International Christian Churches) a disciple is one who meets the standard of the ICC.  Those standards would be:

  • Attend every event at their local ICC or as much as possible.
  • Be involved in a Bible talk (an evangelistic Bible study designed to evangelize non-members).
  • Have a quiet time of prayer and Bible study each day.
  • Be active in inviting others to a Bible talk or to a church service.
  • Be submissive to a Christian (already baptized member of the ICC).
  • Confession of sins to your discipler.

All of this would be required to be a true disciple of Jesus.  You’ll notice that little is actually said about Jesus here.  It is all focused on works that the person does.  Little is said here about grace.  In fact, in the entire First Principles series, grace is mentioned only a few times and a couple of those in a negative light.  Little is said about the cross, about the saving work of Jesus, about the glorious truth of Jesus being our salvation (1 Corinthians 1:30-31).

So to be a disciple of Jesus in the ICC (and the old ICOC) was based completely upon the teachings of the ICC and not the Bible.  Yes the Bible is sometimes referenced but sound exegesis of relevant passages are not given.  The focus is not upon the work of Christ and the cross but instead the focus is on your works, your obedience, your sacrifices.  Where is the grace of God?  Where is the emphasis on justification by faith?  Where is the teaching that we are saved by God’s grace through faith and not by works?  Where is the emphasis on sound exegesis on the doctrine of salvation?

The refutation of ICC position on discipleship is very easy to do.  First, the Bible never teaches that we are to have one-over-one relationships.  2 Timothy 2:2 is the closest passage on this subject and was often used by the ICOC to justify this concept.  Yet the text doesn’t say that we are to teach this one-over-one but rather people to people.  Notice the plural forms in 2 Timothy 2:2 (NIV):

And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.

Where is one-over-one in this text?

Secondly, where in the New Testament do we have even one example of Jesus or the Apostles telling someone that they had to be a disciple first before becoming a Christian?  The term disciple is used in the four Gospels and Acts but in the epistles we find the Apostles used the word “slave” or “saints” to describe the believers.  The Bible uses many other terms for disciples in the New Testament such as: saints, slaves, brothers, believers.  We also know that there are also false disciples in John 6:60-71 including Judas Iscariot.  Simply because someone claims to be a disciple of Jesus does not make them a disciple of Jesus.  God knows their hearts.

Thirdly, if a disciple is a Christian (Acts 11:26) then we should baptize Christians according to Matthew 28:19.  From there we are to teach in Matthew 28:20 to obey all that Jesus taught us through the Apostles.  The Apostles obeyed this in Acts 2:42.

Fourth, where do we find the Apostles instructing anyone in the book of Acts or even in the Epistles to do what the ICC says about discipleship?  Where do we find that the Apostles required people to have the heart of a disciple before baptism?  The only thing I see on this issue is that the Apostles required faith in Jesus and repentance in order to be baptized (Acts 2:37-38, 41; 3:19; 4:12; 8:12, 36-38; 9:17-18; 10:44-48; 11:15; 16:14-15, 30-34; 18:8; 19:1-7; 22:16; 26:20).  They never said anything about being sanctified in order to be justified.  Justification, according to Romans 5:1, is by faith.

Lastly, Romans 8:8 says:

Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

How can someone in the flesh begin to please God?  How can someone without the Spirit honor the Lord as His disciple through faithfulness in prayer, evangelism, etc.?  The Spirit of God comes when one repents of their sins by the grace of God through the work of the Spirit.  Notice in Galatians 3:1-5 how we receive the Holy Spirit:

O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. 2 Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? 4 Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? 5 Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith.

Notice that we receive the Spirit by the hearing of faith and not by what we do.  We cannot earn the forgiveness of God.  We cannot earn the righteousness of God (Titus 3:5-7).  In fact, Isaiah 64:6 says:

We have all become like one who is unclean,
and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.
We all fade like a leaf,
and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.

Our sinfulness taints our good works (Romans 3:10-18).  Our sinfulness keeps us from pleasing God.  We are dead in our sins (Ephesians 2:1-3) apart from the work of the Spirit of God to open our eyes and to bring us to salvation (1 Peter 1:3).  We cannot, in our flesh, ever earn the perfect righteousness of God (Romans 3:23).  We cannot be saved by our own good works or obedience to the law (James 2:10).  We are only justified before God when we trust totally in the completed work of Christ alone to save us (Acts 13:38-39).  Our salvation is based on Jesus Christ and Him alone and not our church membership, our works, our prayer lives, our evangelism, our obedience to the law, etc.  Nothing saves us but Christ alone (Philippians 3:8-12).

Healing and the Atonement

Reblogged from Dividingword's Blog:

Click to visit the original post

“by whose stripes ye were healed.”

As one flips through the channels of their televisions, and as they stroll the isles of their favorite Christian bookstore, it would be uncommon to find a Christian that has not heard that God wants His people to be whole in spirit and in the flesh. Healing, it has been said, is available by faith for everyone that believes.

Read more… 6,488 more words

Good blog article debating healing. I believe we need to be careful in our preaching of healing because if we are not, we can cause many people to suffer from depression or lose faith because they are not healed. We need to be compassionate toward the sick while praying for God to intervene supernaturally in their lives.

What Unites IFB Churches?

I read this blog post and I wanted to briefly comment on it.  I agree with the author that it is true that the IFB (Independent Fundamentalist Baptist) are not a denomination.  Unlike say the Southern Baptist who are based out of Nashville or the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church (ARP) who are based out of Greenville, SC, the IFB has no central headquarters.  You’ll find no central church in the IFB that leads the group.  You’ll find no president or bishop who is the leader of the IFB.  In that regard, he is correct.

The author also notes that the IFB is diverse.  I would agree with this.  For example, the brethren at Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary would not agree with the KJV-only position of the author but they would identify themselves as IFB.  It seems in the IFB that while there is diversity, they usually unite around certain ministries that are alike.  In some cases, those in one corner would bash those in the other corner for not holding to what they hold.  In this case, many IFB evangelists and preachers would bash DBTS for “being liberal on the KJV Bible.”  IFB folks at Pensacola Christian College would claim that IFB folks at Bob Jones University and DBTS are liberals.

My point is that IFB folks typically unite around a few churches or a few evangelists that they agree with.  In the past you would have a group of IFB pastors who would all unite around Jack Hyles or around John Rice or around Bob Jones.  This is still true today.  IFB’s are not united because I believe of the spirit that they present: one of a fighting fundamentalist.  Someone said a fundamentalist is an evangelical who is mad about something.  Perhaps this is true.

From my point of view, the IFB is often divided over ridiculous issues such as whether a 17th century Bible translation is the inerrant Word of God, the length of a man’s hair, whether rock music can be used by God or not, whether you should own a TV (yes I personally heard an IFB evangelist say that no true Christian would ever own a TV).  This tendencies, to fight over pointless issues has led to the IFB’s being viewed out of suspicion and often not taken seriously.

Let me close by saying that I have met many godly IFB people.  I know of several IFB preachers who love God, love His Word, and love to see people saved.  While we would disagree over the KJV Bible, they don’t make it an issue of salvation.  Further, they are dedicated to reaching people with the gospel.  So I want to be fair here and not paint all IFB people as bizarre or divisive. They are not.  Many of them love the Lord and do want to honor Him.  DBTS is a great example.  Godly leaders, expository preaching, evangelism, a heart for prayer – all this is found at DBTS.  So please understand my heart here and don’t believe that I view all IFB preachers or churches as what I described above.

John Piper: Make Whitefield and Spurgeon Your Models For Ministry

I have been reading the excellent book, Killing Calvinism, in which the author states from John Piper that the Calvinist should make George Whitefield and Charles Spurgeon your examples for Calvinistic ministries and not John Calvin.  Piper said that the reason for this is that Whitefield and Spurgeon were known for soul winning but Calvin was not.  A great point.  I will have a review coming of this book soon.

I do agree.  I love the ministries of Whitefield and Spurgeon.  While I don’t agree fully with their Calvinism and I believe they were not consistent with their Calvinistic theology in regard to preaching the gospel to the lost, I do admire them greatly.  In fact, I named my second born son after Charles Spurgeon.  I named him Haddon Spurgeon.  I would love for my Haddon to be a man of God who also preaches with fire to the lost.  Oh that he would be a great man of prayer!  Oh that my little boy would grow to be a godly disciple of the Lord Jesus!

In my own life, it is men of God such as Whitefield, Spurgeon, Wesley, or Leonard Ravenhill who capture my heart more than any theologian.  I appreciate great theologians and their labors for the kingdom.  I have no doubt that the Church needs great theologians but I love when theology and fire mix together.  Wesley was such a man.  He would ride on his horse and would read from theology books.  Wesley could read in both Greek and Latin.  He would often spend hours reading from various Latin works.  His journals reflect a deep thinker yet they show his heart for the lost.  John Wesley was a deep man of faith, a man of intense prayer.  He and George Whitefield would pray for hours.  They would converse together about their ministries and yes they did debate theology but they loved Christ and loved His kingdom.  Later John Wesley would preach the funeral of his great friend, Whitefield, and if you read his sermon, it is a heart-moving praise of the great saint of God.

Sadly, theologians often are not know for soul winning.  Soul winners are often men of fire but sometimes they are not known for their theology.  I would love to see God raise up both in one.  We need to be soul winners who love the Word of God, who long to see the lost saved but who also love the precious doctrines of Scripture.  We need to do both, set apart Christ as Lord but also to be able to answer all those who question our faith (1 Peter 3:15).  We need to watch both our life and doctrine (1 Timothy 4:16).  Doctrine and life go hand in hand.  We need both the mind of a theologian and a heart of an evangelist.  We need the Holy Spirit to empower us to be witnesses for Christ both in our lives and in our words (Acts 1:8).

John Piper is absolutely correct: make great soul winners your model.  Make Spurgeon, Whitefield, Wesley, and even great saints such as J. Edwin Orr as models of men of God who loved the Word of God and loved souls.  We need to learn, as they did, that we should glorify God with our hearts and with our passions.  God can greatly use this for His glory and I pray that He does.

The Sanctifying Power of the Word of God

In John 17:17 we read:

Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.

The word “sanctify” means “to set apart.”  We are set apart from sin and unto God (Hebrews 10:14).  We are to set apart Christ as Lord over our lives (1 Peter 3:15).  We are to set apart our minds through the Word of God (Romans 12:1-2).  We are to be set apart unto God and from sin just as God is (1 Peter 1:15-16) and in fact, without this being set apart, we cannot see God (Hebrews 12:14).  Being set apart or sanctified then is of uttermost importance.

And one of the tools that God has given to us to help us is His holy Word.  The Bible helps us to be set apart by exposing ourselves before a holy God as we see who we truly are before Him who is holy (Romans 3:23).  James the Apostle describes the Word of God like this in James 1:21-25 (NIV):

21 Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.

22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.

James describes the Word as a mirror and he says in verse 25 that the Word is “the perfect law” and the ESV says it’s the “law of liberty.”  Amazing that people think that the Bible is restrictive or full of laws and regulations when James says that the law of God is the law of liberty.  The Bible doesn’t restrict us.  It frees us!

The Bible reveals not just ourselves but it also reveals our hearts.  Like no other knife, the Bible cuts down deep into our souls.  Hebrews 4:12-13 reads:

12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13 And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

As we read the Word of God, the Word opens our eyes to our sins, to the power of God, to the grace of God that enables us to be holy (Titus 2:11-12), to what God desires.  Psalm 1:1-3 promises the man (or woman) of God blessings from reading and meditating upon the Word of God.

Furthermore, 1 Peter 2:1-3 says that we are to hunger for the Word of God like a newborn baby hungers for milk:

So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. 2 Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— 3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.

As we long for God’s Word, God’s Word helps us to be disciples who live lives that honor and please the Lord.  The Word helps us to become more like Jesus as we study and imitate Him (1 Peter 2:21-24).

Oh that we would hunger for the Word of God!  There is nothing we should delight in more than His Word.

“We Must Preach Hell”

In my previous post I talked about the blog, Rethinking Hell.  There are some, myself included in this, who have preached hell to the lost thinking that this was the best way to evangelize.  Sort of “scare them” into the kingdom.  My thinking was that hell is such a terrible place that if we preach what hell is like then people will repent and be saved.

I now believe this type of evangelism is not effective.  Why?

First, “hell fire and brimstone” preaching doesn’t produce people who love God.  They just fear hell.  They don’t love Jesus for His work on the cross other than having a fire insurance policy that allows them to escape from eternal torment.  If anything, they still fear Satan more than they fear God.  Remember Jesus’ words in Luke 12:4-5 (NKJV):

4 “And I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. 5 But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him!

Notice Who it is who casts into hell.  It is God.  Not Satan.  In fact, Revelation 20:10 says that the devil will be himself cast into hell.

While we are called to fear God (Proverbs 1:7), fear doesn’t lead us to love God but only to tremble before Him.  We should fear God (Romans 11:20-22) but we should also love God (Mark 12:29-31).  Jesus said that if we love Him, we will obey His commandments (John 14:15) and John the Apostle says that His commandments are not burdensome (1 John 5:3).

Secondly, we find none of the Apostles preaching on hell in the book of Acts to the lost.  Even in Acts 17, Paul the Apostle does not preach on hell.  He does preach on the judgment to come (Acts 17:30-31) but he never preaches on hell.  Strange that the Apostles would not preach on hell if in fact hell fire preaching produces true disciples of Christ.  Even in Acts 2, the very first sermon preached after the resurrection focuses entirely upon Jesus and His work rather than hell.  In fact, Peter never mentions hell at all.  Hell is never talked about as a motivation for evangelism (“consider those about to go to hell as you go out sharing your faith”) nor for evangelistic preaching (“come and be saved from that awful place”).

Thirdly, such thinking undermines the sovereignty of God in preaching the gospel to the lost.  Remember that God is the One who saves sinners (John 6:44).  Through the preaching of the gospel He draws the lost to Himself (John 12:32; Romans 10:14-17).  Jonah 2:9 is clear that salvation is of the LORD.  The Lord God saves the lost by His sovereign power.  He is the One who regenerates the unbeliever by His grace (Titus 3:5-7).  Salvation is by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:1-9) and not by the will of mankind (John 1:12-13).  We don’t need to go out in our evangelism thinking that we need to get people saved by our abilities to reason or to scare them into the kingdom.  God will draw the lost as the Church is faithful to go out and make disciples (Matthew 28:19-20).  Our duty is to go and preach the gospel (Mark 16:15-16) and not to try to argue people into the kingdom or to persuade them to repent by telling them scary tales about hell.

In closing, I do believe in hell.  I believe that Matthew 25:46 is clear that the righteous will go to eternal life while the wicked will go to eternal punishment.  However, our motivation for evangelism and salvation must not be hell.  It must be the cross.  Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5:11 (NKJV):

Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are well known to God, and I also trust are well known in your consciences.

Notice that Paul feared God above hell or above Satan.  His fear of God motivated Him to want to preach the gospel to the lost.  Yet he turns around in 2 Corinthians 5:14 (NKJV) and writes:

For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died.

Paul feared God and he loved God.  This led to his desire to preach to the lost.

I pray that I would have the balance of fearing God and yet loving God.  It is not hell that should push us to preach to the lost.  It should be fearing and loving God.  Further, as we preach to the lost, let us preach the cross.  Let us show sinners their sins (1 Timothy 1:8-11) but let us preach the truth of the cross, that Jesus died for the ungodly (Romans 5:8-9).  Jesus shed His blood for the souls of men (Isaiah 53:12).  May the cross be our focus (1 Corinthians 1:23)!

Dr. Michael Brown vs. Dr. James White Concerning Predestination

The entire recent debate between these two men is available at SEA for no cost.

http://evangelicalarminians.org/dr-michael-brown-vs-dr-james-white-on-predestination-election-and-the-will-of-god/

Rethinking Hell

Here is a blog by Calvinist Chris Date on the subject of hell.  Date has adopted the view known as conditionalism.  He now hold to annihilation.  I have followed Date’s struggles with the traditional view of hell and then his ultimate adoption of the view he now holds.  I must admit that if you have never read literature on the conditionalist view, it is very appealing.  Even Arminian Dr. Roger Olson states that he finds conditionalism appealing as it reflects the love of God in that sinners are merely thrown into hell and cease to exist.

Over the years I have gone back and forth.  I read Edward Fudge’s book and his arguments are very convincing.  I have likewise read other works on hell such as Francis Chan’s book Erasing Hell.  The problem with the debate over hell is that it often turns into an issue of salvation (if you don’t believe in hell you are wrong or if you do believe in hell you are wrong) and emotions.  The thought of dear granny Smith burning in hell bothers us.  Yet we have no problem seeing Hitler burning in hell.  However, we must admit that both are guilty before God of sin and if granny Smith did not repent, she is guilty before God just as Hitler is though she might not be punished on the same level.

Arminius said little about hell.  His debate was over salvation so he rarely went beyond that.  John Wesley preached on hell and his sermons have often been sources for those who believe in the traditional view of hell.  Of course Jonathan Edwards famous sermon, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, reflects the traditional view.

I do think there is room in the church to debate hell.  I would not divide over a brother or a sister who rejects the traditional view.  I would reject someone if they completely reject hell (such as universalist).  Even conditionalist speak of hell.  They simply debate whether hell is eternal or not.  I don’t write this post to sway you either way.  I pray that we preach that all sinners must repent or they will face the judgement of God (Acts 17:30-31).  God will judge all people (Hebrew 9:27).  This I do know and this I will preach (Hebrews 12:29).

Black Sabbath on Getting Right With God

Even Black Sabbath can get it right, at least in one song anyway:

Lyrics: Have you ever thought about your soul — can it be saved?
Or perhaps you think that when you’re dead you just stay in your grave
Is God just a thought within your head or is he a part of you?
Is Christ just a name that you read in a book when you were in school?

When you think about death do you lose your breath or do you keep your cool?
Would you like to see the Pope on the end of a rope — do you think he’s a fool?
Well I have seen the truth, yes I’ve seen the light and I’ve changed my ways
And I’ll be prepared when you’re lonely and scared at the end of our days

Could it be you’re afraid of what your friends might say
If they knew you believe in God above?
They should realize before they criticize
that God is the only way to love.

Is your mind so small that you have to fall
In with the pack wherever they run
Will you still sneer when death is near
And say they may as well worship the sun.

I think it was true it was people like you that crucified Christ
I think it is sad the opinion you had was the only one voiced
Will you be so sure when your day is near say you don’t believe?
You had the chance but you turned it down now you can’t retrieve.

Perhaps you’ll think before you say that God is dead and gone
Open your eyes, just realize that he’s the one
The only one who can save you now from all this sin and hate.
Or will you still jeer at all you hear? Yes — I think it’s too late

Here is a slightly tweaked rendition by Christian Metal band “Deliverance” (one of my all time favorites)

Does Calvinism *Really* Teach That God’s Decree Is the Cause of All Things, Including Sin?

Uh….Yeah.

Calvinist Quotes on God Determining All Evil

The Good, Bad, And The Ugly From the Old ICOC

At one point the International Churches of Christ (ICOC) was the fastest growing movement in the world.  They started with 30 people in 1979 (according to Kip McKean) and grew to over 100,000 people by the year 2000.  In many ways the ICOC was unique in that they had one church per city (based on the model of Revelation 2-3 according to McKean) and named that church after the city it was in so that you had the Boston Church of Christ, the Chicago Church of Christ, the Charlotte Church of Christ, etc.  The largest churches of the ICOC at one point where the LA Church of Christ (10,000), Boston Church of Christ (6,000), New York City Church of Christ (7,000), Chicago Church of Christ (6,000), Dallas Church of Christ (4,000), Houston Church of Christ (3,000), the Atlanta Church of Christ (6,000), and many more.  The ICOC prided itself on numbers.

The Columbia (SC) Church of Christ was the only one I was familiar with.  The Columbia Church boasted a membership of around 500 or so.  I attended a few times and I would say that there were about 300 there.  According to one report, the average time a person spent in the ICOC was just under 7 years.  Why?  Because of the legalism that was often promoted.  At one point, the ICOC required all its members to have a disciple and a disciple over them.  Each week you had to meet with your discipler who would question your Bible reading, your prayer life, your evangelism, your discipling of other members under you, your use of money, your use of time, and if married, your sex life (I am not joking).  The ICOC even kept a “sin list” and required their leaders to report the various sins of the people.  The prayer lists for the ICOC were full of people confessing how they had sinned this way or that and many of them were confessions such as “Help me to be more like my discipler and not be full of pride at their rebuke.”  The ICOC took the “one another” passages and applied them to discipling relationships.  Further, they pointed to passages such as James 5:16 and applied this to one-over-one discipling relationships.  The result was nothing less than a works-righteousness system in which Jesus was acknowledged but not the focus and the desire was to imitate your discipler and not Jesus Himself.  It also resulted in people seeking to please their discipler and not Jesus Himself as their Lord.  Few knew the grace of God and even worse, they often felt nothing but guilt or condemnation from the Lord despite Romans 8:1 simply because they were not doing enough to please their discipler.  So many have fallen away now from the old ICOC as a result of their works focus and heavy emphasis on “being part of the kingdom” instead of loving Christ and His work.  Furthermore, the ICOC taught that they were the only true church and so to leave the ICOC was to abandon God.  This put great pressure on people to “be faithful” to the ICOC but not to Christ.  The focus became pleasing people instead of loving God.

Yet despite this ugly side of the ICOC, there was some good.  Let me highlight what I felt was good about the old ICOC.

1.  Emphasis on Evangelism.

One of the most quoted passages among the ICOC folks was Matthew 28:19-20.  The great commission was not a call to a few but all according to Kip McKean.  Every disciple was expected to be active in evangelism.  Each week the disciple had to report to their discipler how many people they had reached out to (this meant invite to their church).  I remember one ICOC man saying that he made a goal to talk to 100 people in one day about the ICOC and he did.  The focus for every disciple was to be on making disciples.

Now the ugly side of this was the works-righteousness factor where disciples were not evangelizing out of love for Christ and a desire to honor Him as Lord but a desire to please their discipler.  Many reports state that if you didn’t reach out, your discipler would often question your salvation (how can you say you love Jesus but not desire to reach people for Him?) or bash you for your laziness (Jesus went to Calvary for you but you can’t even tell your friends about what He has done?).  The guilt factor was what led to many people reaching out to others.  I remember a guy named Caesar at my work who was persistent in inviting people to the Columbia Church of Christ.  Everyone avoided him because that was all he was going to talk about was his church and how we needed to visit.  I don’t know what became of him.

2.  Emphasis on Discipleship.

The good side was that the old ICOC did talk lots about discipleship and the importance of having disciples around you to keep you strong (Hebrews 3:13).  At times the ICOC folks could seem so happy with one another.  I went once to play flag football near the University of South Carolina campus with some members of the ICOC.  They seemed so happy with one another and genuine.  Of course, it could have been a show.

The ugly was the harsh relationships that began at the top up.  Kip McKean was reported to have been tough on his leaders. He would often play board games with his leaders to see who would be aggressive in winning and would commend them while condemning the others.  This military style came from Kip’s family background as his father was a high up in the Navy.  Kip learned discipline from his father and carried that into the ICOC.  The results were that Kip was tough on his people and it went straight down from there in the ICOC pyramid.  Everyone ultimately wanted to be like Kip.  Many of the leaders (to this day) mimicked his preaching.  The focus was said to be on Jesus as our example (Ephesians 5:1-2) but sadly, the focus was typically on being like the person who was discipling you.

3.  Leaders Do.

The one thing you could say about Kip McKean, according to one ICOC guy I talked to after Kip resigned from being the world sector leader, was that he lived what he preached.  If Kip taught on evangelism, he would demonstrate the teaching by his example.  To this day you can hear Kip preaching on the book of Acts on the Internet and he uses real examples from his own life to show how to reach out to others.  Kip impressed this upon his leaders, to lead by example.  Every disciple in the ICOC was expected to evangelize and this began with the leaders.  Whether it was Kip or Randy McKean or Doug Arthur or Gordon Ferguson, each was expected to be lead by example by doing what they preached.  This produced men who led ICOC churches by example.

The ugly side was that their example was Kip.  I am not here to judge his standing before God but Kip talked more about the ICOC as the “kingdom of God” than about God Himself.  I have listened to hundred of Kip’s sermons from his days in Boston, LA, then Portland, and now back in LA and the focus is typically the same: himself.  Kip is presented as the ultimate example of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus.  One man said while in the ICOC that “Kip is the greatest treasure God has given His Church since the Apostles.”  Yet Kip is just a man.  I know he would admit this.  He is a fallen man (Romans 3:23).  He is a man who likewise needs a Savior like we all do.  There may be things about Kip that are good but his leadership style doesn’t reflect Matthew 20:20-28 in my opinion.  Others have agreed and this is why Kip is no longer the head of the ICOC but has started his own splinter group.

4.  Unity.

Lastly, the ICOC was unified.  Kip often preached from 1 Corinthians 1:10 (NIV of course) and talked about perfect unity.  There could be no disagreements.  They needed to all be on the same page.  They needed to agree on doctrine and practice.  The ICOC was held together by the central church which originally was the Boston Church of Christ (and thus why they became known as the Boston Movement) until Kip resigned and moved to LA to plant the LA Church of Christ.  The LA Church took prominence at this point over Boston as the LA Church grew larger than the Boston Church.  In fact, after Kip left, the Boston Church stopped growing and actually began to lose members.  The LA Church became the central church and the one church the other ICOC churches looked to for direction, leadership, money, and support.  Unlike the mainline churches of Christ, the ICOC was unified in missions and in helping others (they started HOPE International now headed by former London Church of Christ evangelist Mark Templer).

The ugly side was the controlling aspect of first Boston and then later LA.  One church tried to buck against the system.  The Indianapolis Church of Christ sought to confront errors they foresaw among the ICOC leaders and especially their own.  The ICOC hierarchy came down hard on the Indy Church.  The ICOC leadership blasted the evangelist of the Indy Church and required the people to openly repent for their rebellion against the ICOC hierarchy.  This was the first of many such tactics.  Eventually, leaders within the ICOC began to call for reform especially after Kip resigned from world sector leader.  Today the ICOC is a loosely based fellowship united around a cooperative plan and not around one person or even one church.

Conclusion

Last night I watched a video from Way of the Master on the ICOC and whether they are a cult.  I do believe the old ICOC was a cult.  I have since become friends with ICOC leaders such as Douglas Jacoby and Joey Harris.  Both are solid brothers who view me as saved despite being outside of the ICOC.  While they still hold to baptism as part of the model in salvation, they also teach that justification is through faith in Christ and not by works.  They reject baptismal regeneration.  They further reject baptism in the ICOC as required for salvation.  They also reject the idea that the ICOC is the only true church or even the church who best gets the gospel right.  Dr. Jacoby interacts with men such as Ravi Zacharias and Josh McDowell.  He even has written apologetic books for Harvest House Publishers (an evangelical publisher) and has shared platforms with evangelical apologists in defense of Christianity.

The ICOC has undergone major changes in the past 10 years.  The entire leadership structure is transformed.  The discipling aspect has been abandoned while they still encourage their people to freely meet together and to have Bible talks but not from compulsion or some discipling requirement.  The ICOC also helps other people and other churches through HOPE International and has even been recognized by the United Nations for their efforts at helping people in Haiti and many other places.

Kip McKean, however, has not changed.  His new church, the International Christian Church, based out of LA is still teaching and practicing the same methods he first learned from Chuck Lucas at Crossroads Church of Christ in the 1970′s.  Lucas himself learned them from the charismatic movement and the shepherding movement.  Melodyland Christian Center in southern California helped launch the shepherding movement in the charismatic movement that was picked up by Lucas who taught it to McKean and we are now here.  While those movements are all gone, McKean continues to beat the horse.  He firmly believes that his model is the biblical model and has called all churches to repent and become part of his one true movement.  McKean and his followers often call themselves “God’s modern day movement.”

I hope you enjoyed this brief run down of the old ICOC.  Pray for the Lord to allow former ICOC people to know Him in truth, to come to see that Jesus is not harsh as they often perceived.  Pray for them to know God’s salvation by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9) and to know that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1).  We serve the Lord out of love and not fear (John 14:15; 1 John 5:1-4).  Pray also for Kip McKean to repent.  Pray for Kip to openly repent before the people and to acknowledge that he has been wrong in his approach to evangelism and to discipleship.

Athanasius on the Fall of Mankind

I have been reading a bit from the early Church Fathers.  What is interesting to read is, apart from Augustine, the early Church Fathers were not Calvinists.  I knew this previously having heard a Calvinist theologian state once that Augustine was the first Calvinist and Calvin merely borrowed from Augustine.  Reading the Church Fathers helps one to see their theology and I find it fascinating that they nearly all held to libertarian free will, conditional salvation, and required disciples of Christ to be obedient to Christ until the end (necessary perseverance).

However, this morning I was reading from Athanasius on the fall of mankind.  There is no doubt that Athanasius would not agree with Pelagius and say that man is born innocent and perfect.  Athanasius taught that mankind is wretched because of the direct link to Adam and Eve’s lapse into sin.  While he taught that man fell in Adam and Eve, he did not hold to the Calvinist view of total depravity but instead taught that while man has lost immorality of his body, he retains that of the soul, and his will remains free.  He taught that man inherits a sinful nature from Adam but he never hints that we participate in Adam’s actual guilt.

Ironically, Athanasius even hints at the possibility of being sinless.  He even claims that Jeremiah and John the Baptist actually did this and were sinless.  This is not to say that they were born sinless as Jesus was and remained His entire life but rather they overcame sin by the act of their own free will.

All this comes from Early Christian Doctrines by J.N.D. Kelly (pages 346-348).

Strong Patristic Agreement With the Standard Arminian Approach to Rom. 7:14-25 Part 2

Read the article at The Arminian magazine on-line:

The Patristic Interpretation Of Rom. 7:14-25 Part 1, The Early Christian Witness to the Arminian Interpretation Part 2

Note:  While this represents the typical Arminian interpretation of Rom. 7 going back to Arminius, not all Arminians subscribe to this basic interpretation.   Dr. Robert Picirilli and Dr. Brian Abasciano are examples of Arminian scholars who take a different approach to the passage.

Go to Part 1

 

Are We Really Together For The Gospel?

The Gospel Coalition states in its statement of purpose to be an evangelical group committed to the gospel being the focus.  It seeks to build off the Reformation.  The statement also acknowledges that there is a broad consensus of the gospel despite disagreements within the evangelical movement over non-essential issues.  This would be the fact that TGC has, for example, members who baptize by immersion only believers and those who baptize infants.  There are also differences over church government, end times views, etc.

However, what I find odd about TGC is the fact that they have no Arminians represented.  None.  They would say that evangelical Arminians are Christians and part of the Reformation movement but the fact is that they not one Arminian on their board of directors, not one Arminian on their speakers, and not one Arminian as a blogger.  They claim that the gospel is what should unite us yet they clearly believe from their actions that TGC is a Calvinistic movement that unites Calvinists.  It seems that this movement is another movement that embraces Calvinism as the gospel.

TGC also teams up and does Together for the Gospel.  Yet once again we find no Arminians in their list of speakers.  Can Arminians not preach the gospel?  Would not godly Calvinists claim that non-Calvinists are brothers and sisters in Christ?  I have no doubt that Arminians would gladly welcome godly Calvinists to come and preach at their conferences.  An example of this is the Expect Pastors Conference.  The lineup of speakers includes Carton Conlon (who would likely claim non-Calvinist above Arminian though he is an Arminian) and yet includes Tullian Tchividjian who is clearly Reformed in his theology (whom I actually went to college with).  I firmly believe that I could sit in a conference with my fellow Calvinists (and have done so with John MacArthur and Steve Lawson) all while not fully agreeing on all issues.  The gospel is neither Arminianism nor Calvinism.  The gospel is the gospel (1 Corinthians 2:1-5).  God has used godly Arminians such as John Wesley to reach souls for His kingdom as well as godly Calvinists such as George Whitefield (1 Corinthians 3:5-9).

If the gospel is what unites us in Christ (Galatians 3:26-29) and if the gospel is what saves us in Christ (1 Corinthians 1:18) then can we not unite under the gospel?  I see no reason to make Arminianism nor Calvinism the gospel.  The gospel is the gospel as I have stated above.  Jesus saves and not Arminius or Calvin (Matthew 1:21).  Jesus alone is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6) and He alone is the one mediator between men and God (1 Timothy 2:5-6).  We can debate election as to whether it is unconditional or conditional but we must agree that God elects.  We can debate the issue of whether God’s all to salvation is resistible or not but we agree that God calls sinners to repent.  We can debate the nature of the atonement as to whether it is limited or unlimited but we agree that only those who have faith in the atonement are saved.  The gospel is not about predestination or about whether we hold to perseverance of the saints or not.  The gospel is all about Jesus Christ and His glorious work on the cross.  I love the way 1 Corinthians 15:1-3 puts it:

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.

3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures.

That is the gospel in a nutshell.  Nothing about Arminianism or Calvinism or any other ism.  Paul’s gospel focused on Christ and His saving work.  I pray that we would do the same.  I pray that TGC would embrace Arminians as brothers and sisters in Christ who love the gospel and desire to see souls saved for the glory of the King.

HT: Jesse Owens

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