40 Questions About Arminianism: Revisited

I believe that there are times in all of our lives when we lash out without thought or care. Especially in the world of digital media, putting something in print quickly and never revisiting the issue can be an easy thing to fall into. But it can also be a dangerous and, sometimes, painful thing to do for those who have to read what we write. Especially if what we write is about them or their work.

When I wrote my original review of 40 Questions About Arminianism this is exactly what happened. I read the book as a Calvinist reading about Calvinism and the “enemy” on the other side of the Soteriological fence. I was not reading it as someone who truly wanted to learn more about my Arminian friends. And, with that mindset, I wrote a scathing review of the book.

It was not long after the original review was published that two individuals reached out to me questioning my review. They were not attacking me, though, admittedly, that was how I read their comments at first. They were genuinely wondering how I came to the conclusions about Dr. Pinson’s book that I had.

Shortly thereafter, I decided to reach out to Dr. Pinson. I wrote to him about my thoughts on the book and some of the concerns that I had. His response was kind and gracious and I prayed about what to do next. I decided that maybe there was something I had missed. The next day I informed Dr. Pinson I would re-read the book.

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John Calvin and The Servetus Affair

One thing that often comes up in debates about Calvinism is the execution of Michael Servetus in 1553. Those opposed to Calvinism try to make Calvin out to be a murderer of Servetus and therefore someone that should not be listened to in the realm of theology. But there are a few problems with this argument.

The first problem with this argument is that Calvinists follow Scripture, not John Calvin. Even without Calvin, the doctrines that we hold to still apply because they are found in Scripture. They were not invented by John Calvin, they were not invented by Augustine of Hippo either. They are found in every book of Scripture.

The second problem with trying to say that the Servetus affair should dismiss Calvin is that it means there are other authors this principle would apply to as well. Should we dismiss all of Paul’s writings for his persecution of the church? Should we dismiss the Psalms of David because of his sin with Bathsheba and murder of Uriah? I do not think you will find one person who uses the Servetus affair as an argument that would agree to dismissing those authors as well. This is an inconsistency in their philosophy.

The third and final problem that will be discussed about the Servetus affair is that the argument has no basis in historical accuracy. Unfortunately, for those who use this argument, facts matter. So what are the facts? Did John Calvin murder Michael Servetus? Did he order his execution? Did he light the flames? The answer to all of these questions is no, he did not. So what did happen?

Michael Servetus was a man who denied the doctrine of the Trinity. He was wanted on charges of heresy by both the Roman Catholic Church and Protestants alike. Unlike today, heresy in the 16th Century carried the penalty of death. He had been warned by John Calvin not to come to Geneva but Servetus ignored the warning and came anyway under a disguise. However, he was found out and tried as a heretic.

John Calvin did supply the evidence against Servetus in the trial. However, he was not the one that tried Servetus, nor did he sentence Servetus to death. In fact, after Servetus was sentenced to death, Calvin lobbied to have his execution be that of beheading rather than burning at the stake so that it would be quicker with less suffering.

Now, did Calvin believe Servetus should be executed? Yes. But we need to remember the time period in which Calvin lived. It was not John Calvin who held this view and to somehow make him the villain in all of this in order to discredit other beliefs that he held is absurd.

When someone uses the Servetus Affair in arguments against Calvinism, it means they have run out of arguments and are not able to focus on the actual theology and the doctrines that Calvinists hold to in the light of Scripture.

Are Theological Debates Useful To The Church?

I was recently in a conversation where it was argued that theological debates, particularly Calvinism vs. Arminianism, are not useful to the church and belong only in the realm of academia. As I pondered this statement I wondered if there is any truth to it? Do some theological conversations only belong in a classroom or academic journal? Are there areas of theology that should not be discussed or debated within the church? My answer to this question is no. No, we should not reserve certain theological topics for academia. But why?

I am sure that the sentiment of leaving things to academia is the idea that they hurt evangelism or the mission of the church. But what exactly is the mission of the church, within the church? For the purpose of this article I am talking about the church worship, service, meetings. I am no referring to the body and what our mandate from Christ is in going into all the world.

The mission of the church is to disciple the body of the church. To train, to educate, to worship God, to glorify God, to learn more about God. That is the purpose of the meeting of the church. To encourage, to lift up, to strengthen. The purpose of the meeting of the church is not evangelism. The church service is not for the unsaved. Now, do not get me wrong on this, I am not saying the unsaved should not be welcome in a church service. They should. And I pray that they are converted as well. But what I am saying is that our services should not be designed with the unsaved in mind. The purpose of the services of the church are for the believers.

So back to the question of theological debates. I not only believe that they are proper for the church, they are necessary. We should all be wrestling with Scripture. We should all be striving to know God better in all aspects. We cannot effectively do that if there are areas of theology that we shy away from because they are uncomfortable or can lead to heated opinions. So have the discussions, have the debates, but make sure that we are doing things in love, something I do not always follow.

Book Review: Theological Retrieval for Evangelicals

M56526Gavin Ortlund’s new book, Theological Retrieval for Evangelicals, seeks to give us instruction on why we need to look to church history for answers in today’s age of advancement and millennial thinking.

Ortland argues that Evangelicals have lost touch with the history of the Christian Church. Much of this is for fear of becoming too close to Roman Catholicism or Eastern Orthodoxy. And, as he explains, those are valid fears. But the fears should not keep us from exploring the rich heritage of Christianity and to explore the scenarios and events that have helped shaped the theology of the church between the first century and the church today. After all, was there nothing good that came out of the church in its first 1500 years of existence?

Ortland points out an alarming trend of people leaving Protestantism for Eastern Orthodoxy or Roman Catholicism. He highlights a prominent Christian Celebrity, Hank Hanegraaff, the Bible Answer Man, to illustrate this point explaining that Hanegraaff left Protestantism for Eastern Orthodoxy a couple of years ago. He demonstrates that this has been happening at an alarming rate. And why is this happening?

So what is causing this trend? Obviously, every person’s story is unique, and we must leave room for a wide array of different kinds of factors in each case. However, one of these recurring themes among these denominational migrations is related to how Dreher interpreted Hanegraff’s conversion: the desire for historical depth.

Gary Ortland – Theological Retrieval for Evangelicals Chapter 2

Historical depth is the problem according to Ortland as well as others. So the solution, according to Ortland, is Theological Retrieval.

Theological Retrieval is the process of studying church history. But not just the history of the church, the writings of the early church. Ortland shows a process of rediscovering the early writings of the Early Church Father’s and filtering how we ended up with the doctrines that we hold so dear today.

The second half of the book shows practical methods for engaging in theological retrieval. He explores topics such as God (Theology Proper), the atonement, and art.

In each of these cases, he takes the theological concept, puts the current thinking on the topic in light, then looks to see what the church has written about the topic historically. He admits that to be a good systematic theologian, you must respect historical theology as a discipline. In this book, he meshes those two disciplines together.

Theological Retrieval for Evangelicals is not an easy read. There were times when reading that I had to force myself to get into the text or just put it down and come back later. However, the truth contained within and the methods examined and displayed are valuable and to be encouraged.

Because of this, I give Theological Retrieval for Evangelical three out of five stars. However, I do recommend it as a read for those who are seeking to know the history of their faith and how their Evangelical Protestantism fits into the elaborate history of the Christian Church.

I was given a copy of this book free from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.

The (Sad) State of Christianity

I have been witness to things over the years that makes my skin crawl. The state of the church universal, but particularly in the United States and Europe, is appalling. 500 years ago, Martin Luther sparked a Reformation that would forever change the course of church and human history. His courage and steadfastness in his search for truth is inspiring and served the church well. God did, and continues to use Luther in a mighty way.

However, today we are in need of reformation again. The church is falling back into darkness. We see a renewal to have bonds with the Roman Catholic Church that continues in its heresy. We see the rise of LGBT sympathizers in the church defying God and His created order. We see prosperity gospel being preached through the lands. We see the gifts of tongues being abused and falsified.

While all of this is happening we see the church losing the culture. Christianity is no longer an acceptable position in the eyes of the culture. This is nobody’s fault but the church. We have lost our way. We are more worried about appeasing the lost rather than telling the truth to the lost. We cater our church services to the lost which leaves us with shallow theology in the service leading to theological illiteracy in the pew.

Scripture has also lost its place as the source of truth that we are to live by. Science, which changes frequently, has replaced the Bible. Evolution is the mantra of the day despite the fact it goes directly against logic and what the Creator has told us happened. Are we really that wise? No.

Paul tells us in Romans that because we defy God we are left to our own ways. Professing ourselves, the human race, to be wise, we are becoming fools.

Where is the church? Where are the godly leaders? Where is Scripture? Why are we not fighting back? Are we afraid? Or do we just not care?

Church it is time for a new reformation. We must bring back biblical standards and authority. We must bring back rich theology. We must rediscover that the church is to feed the believers so that we can go out and preach to the lost. Stand up church!

Does Inerrancy Matter?

This is a question that comes up over and over again. The simple answer is, yes, inerrancy matters. But why? This post will not go into the intricate details of inerrancy. This is not the proper format for such an undertaking. The purpose here is to look at some logic regarding the truth of Scripture and the issue of inerrancy.

The Bible is to be the guiding light for Christians. The Bible gives us the truth on every facet of life that you can imagine. Now, it doesn’t give us guidance on whether or not we should wear a purple shirt or a green shirt today, that is not what we mean when we say every facet of life. But what we mean is that every situation you encounter has principles in Scripture that will help you work out a right attitude and response to that situation. And this is where inerrancy comes into play.

First, we need to define inerrancy as it relates to Scripture. The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy defines inerrancy as follows:

Scripture is without error or fault in all its teaching…

The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy 1980

Scripture is without any error in everything that it teaches. That means it is without fault in its historical statements, theological statements, scientific statements, and any other statement the Bible makes. This, of course, refers to the original manuscripts and not any specific translation of Scripture.

So what? Why does this matter? Let’s think about it this way, if you can take any part of the Bible, let’s say Genesis, and says that it contains error, then you call the rest of Scripture into question. Scripture builds on itself. Yes, it is a collection of 66 different works but those works (books) give one unifying message and they stand on each other.

If you can call into question the account in Genesis, you can call into question the accounts of Jesus Christ. At that point, you call into question the exclusivity of Salvation for Christians and Christians alone. After that, you can throw out any part of the Bible that does not agree with modern thought.

It is a dangerous slope. You either take all of Scripture or you throw it all out. Inerrancy is one of the most fundamental beliefs that impact the Gospel today.

The Danger of False Teachers (And what to do about them)

False teachers abound in the church today. From “Prosperity Doctrine,” to the denial of Christ’s Deity, you do not have to search long or hard for these glaring errors. So how should we handle false teacher? Does Scripture give us any indication as to how we should proceed? The answer is an overwhelming YES! In fact, false teachers were a major problem in the New Testament as well and there is plenty of instruction on what we should do. Continue reading

Do We Make Confessions Idols?

Throughout the course of Church History creeds and confessions have been utilized to express what we believe in the faith and to clarify our understanding of written Scripture. But with creeds and confessions come a real danger of moving from preaching good doctrine to setting up an idol that is counter to everything we are instructed in Scripture.

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