MN Christmas 2007 057

In no specific order, things that make life more enjoyable include strong French-pressed coffee, putzing on a guitar or mandolin, my better “7/8ths” (wife of 38 years), three great kids, 6.5 awesome grandkids, charcoal grilling in the dead of winter, digging in the garden on those hot summer days, the guys I regularly meet with on Saturday mornings, a good orthopedic surgeon and an occasional IPA.

I’m relatively conservative in my politics and lean towards an open theistic perspective in my Christian faith.

In a nutshell, this blog is an attempt to think through and understand what it is I believe about God and how I relate to him. The wide range of Christian thought frustrates me given that all Christians work from the same “source material”. How can it be that some believe a Calvinist perspective in their faith while others come to an Arminian perspective? In addition, how can one know for sure whether some action or event is the direct result of God’s will in their life – or simply something that would have happened anyway?

I’m delighted you’re here. Please poke around and feel free to drop any comments or questions. My end goal is to seek the truth and I welcome the insight and input of those willing to help me to better understand and deepen my Christian faith.

  1. January 21, 2010 at 2:54 pm

    Thought this would be best expressed here rather than in a comment on one of your posts.

    When we boil things down, the difference between the Calvinist and non-Calvinist views on the doctrine of salvation can be stated in the stand on the “T” of TULIP, whatever one wishes to call it – “Total Depravity,” Radical Corruption,” “Moral Inability,” “Total Inability,” etc. (Sproul modifies the TULIP so that it becomes RULEP by the time he’s done with it) Now, views on God’s sovereignty are a different discussion to some degree and are best placed elsewhere aside from the TULIP, although they are closely related.

    The subsequent four points are really dependent upon this one. Where does one stand on the ability of man to say “Yes” to the Gospel command – today, in 2010? One’s views on this will then fill in the links of the rest of the chain.

    At the church we attended from 1996-2008 (a confessionally Arminian church – a church, though, where the pastor allowed me to teach Calvinistic material [I kept waiting to get ‘fired’ but it didn’t happen until I told them I was leaving once our current Sunday School series ended. My class was summarily ended then.] even in opposition to things he would teach from the pulpit(!), we had something interesting happen with regard to John 3:16. Reading your post and White’s discourse on it prompted me to write here.

    We had 12 people in the class. Six Calvinists, four Arminians and two who didn’t know what they believed. The discussion was on the effects of the Fall. This church – in their denominational Statement of Faith – affirmed the Reformed view of the “T.” But they then said that the death of Christ changed this and made every person inherently able to say “yes.” I made the point – biblically – that the statement the denomination made about the “T” was correct and that the natural man was still in that state today. Get this – everybody – yes, everybody agreed. Except one couple. The husband raises his hand. He says, “Everybody can believe. It says so in John 3:16.” I said, “Oh? Let’s read John 3:16.” So we did. I had him read it out loud. He did.

    I said, “What does that verse – that verse alone, since you brought it up to make your point – say about the ability of ANYBODY to believe?”

    He responds with, “It says ‘whoever believes’.”

    “OK. Where is there a statement about anyone’s ability to believe in what you just read?”

    “Well, there….isn’t.”

    “What then DOES it say? Does it just not say that whoever DOES believe will have eternal life?”

    “Yeah, I guess so.”

    “So this verse – when we read it and it alone – says nothing either way about the ability the natural man – or any man – to say “yes.” It just says what happens when he DOES say “yes. It doesn’t prove anything one way or the other on the ability issue.”

    “I guess you’re right.”

    Then this happened. A guy in the back row – one of the “senior saints,” raises his hand. This is the one that get me – he was one of those who was in agreement five minutes prior. He says this: “I know what the Bible says, but I believe__________________.” In direct opposition to what he says he knows the Bible to say. We were all floored. It’s a little hard to respond to that sort of statement – if someone is willing to admit that they will believe in opposition to the Bible, trying to communicate what the Bible itself says can be somewhat frustrating, eh?

    Thanks and best wishes.

    P.S. I was not a Calvinist from the git-go. For 15 years I was a full-fledged Pelagian, not even an Arminian, because it was what I had been taught. My best friend (an Arminian himself), in passing one day, mentioned Romans 9:18 and I was completely flummoxed because I couldn’t believe the Bible said such a thing. He said, “Like Casey Stengel said, ‘You could look it up.’ So go and look it up for yourself.” I did. And the rest is history – history that happened in an Arminian church, listening to Arminian teaching, but doing my own studies. As Robin used to say, “Curious capers, Batman!”

  2. February 4, 2010 at 4:49 am

    To keep the other post on point, some thoughts on the Chandler issue. Perhaps they are best put by John Robbins, who ran the Trinity Foundation until his death in 2008. When diagnosed with cancer, he wrote this:

    “God’s Will and Healing

    John W. Robbins

    Since I was diagnosed with Stage IV metastatic colon cancer in September 2005, some strangers, friends, and acquaintances have given me different opinions on the topic of God’s will and healing. All of the opinions are offered by sincere people, but most sincere people are sincerely wrong. Only one opinion is Biblical. This should not be surprising, for there is an indefinite number of ways to go wrong, but only one way to go right. There is only one right answer to the question, “How much is 2 plus 2?” and an infinite number of wrong answers. That is why the Bible in general and Jesus in particular stress the importance of finding the narrow way and repeatedly warn against the broad way.

    The many opinions on healing I have received distill to three. The first is that it is not God’s will that anyone – or at least any Christian – be sick. Being sick is being “outside God’s will.” By not getting well, a Christian is showing his rebellion against God’s will that everyone be well. In this opinion, every Christian who is sick for any length of time (I suppose they make exceptions for colds), is not “submitting to God’s will that he be well.”

    The second opinion seems to be the opposite. It is that a Christian must “submit himself to God’s will,” and if he is not getting better, God’s will is that he remain sick, and perhaps die from the affliction. He also is told to “submit himself to the will of God,” but to an opposite end, not to get well, but perhaps to die.

    The third opinion does not speak of “submitting to the will of God,” but tells us to seek and pray for the desires of our hearts. It certainly sounds like the least pious of the three opinions, doesn’t it? But it is the Biblical position. The Bible is not a very religious book, as men count religion.

    Let us examine each of these three opinions.

    Take the first opinion first: Is it God’s will that no Christian be sick or afflicted? Of course not. If it were not God’s will that some people are sometimes sick, no one would ever be sick, since nothing, not even the death of a sparrow or the fall of a hair from our heads, happens apart from God’s will. God causes both sickness and health in his and in all people. This is taught so clearly in the Bible that one must deliberately ignore and disbelieve scores of passages that teach it. Here are a few:

    “And I [God] will afflict the descendants of David because of this, but not forever” (1 Kings 11:39).

    “For you, O God, have tested us; you have refined us as silver is refined. You brought us into the net; you laid affliction on our backs. You have caused men to ride over our heads” (Psalm 66:1-12).

    “…when they pray toward this place and confess your name, and turn from their sin because you [God] afflict them….” (2 Chronicles 6:26).

    “And it shall come to pass, that as I have watched over them to pluck up, to break down, to throw down, to destroy, and to afflict, so I will watch over them to build and to plant, says the Lord” (Jeremiah 31:28).

    In the New Testament, Paul tells us that “For this reason, many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep, for if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged, but when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world” (1 Corinthians 11:30-32).

    These verses clearly show that it is God’s will to afflict even his own people at times, even to the point of killing them. From many more verses, too numerous to list here, it is clearly God’s will that whatever happens happen, for there is nothing outside God’s will. He is sovereign and omnipotent, and nothing can happen apart from his plan and will. It is logically and theologically impossible to be “outside God’s will.”

    The second opinion is that sickness or affliction that does not go away in a relatively short period of time (I suppose these people also make exceptions for colds) indicates that it is God’s will that the afflicted person remain sick, and perhaps even die from his affliction. This is made especially convincing if a medical professional pronounces the condition “incurable.”

    But there are many examples of suffering people in Scripture – commendable examples – that refute this notion as well. Take, for example, the woman who hemorrhaged for twelve years, spending all her money on physicians, none of whom could cure her. Did she submit to “God’s will” and resign herself to being sick and perhaps dying of her disease? Of course not. She did not confuse the inability of physicians to help her with the will of God. She kept seeking the desire of her heart, and this desire led her to Jesus, who cured her and who did not upbraid her for refusing for twelve years to “submit to God’s will for her life.” Nor does he scold her for being “outside the will of God” for twelve years.

    There are many similar examples – even cases where parents of dying and dead children sought help rather than submitting to the “will of God.” They sought the desire of their hearts, not even accepting imminent and present death as “God’s will” for their child. Were they wrong to do so? Were they also – like the sick allegedly outside the will of God – in rebellion to the will of God? Of course not. Christ never scolds any of these people for refusing to “submit to the will of God.”

    In both these erroneous opinions – (1) God’s will is that no Christian should be sick, and one is not submitting to God’s will if one is sick; and (2) in cases of extended illness, one should submit to the will of God by recognizing it is his will that you remain sick and perhaps die of this sickness – the same serious theological mistake is being made: The mistake is an error – a presumption – of knowledge: It presumes that we can know what the will of God for the future is by reading present circumstances, and therefore know how to “submit ourselves to the will of God.”

    The second opinion assumes that one’s present affliction indicates the ultimate outcome (which is false) – and that the Christian should submit to that anticipated outcome as if it were the “will of God.” The first opinion assumes, contrary to Scripture, that the will of God is that every Christian be well, and that those who are not well are “outside God’s will” and need to submit to it. In both cases – though they reach opposite conclusions, death and health – they share the presumption that one can know from present circumstances what the will of God is for the future. That simply is not true. Apart from divine propositional revelation, we cannot know what God’s will and plan for the future is.

    The third opinion is that one should pray for the desires of one’s heart, not guessing or presuming what the will of God for the future is. That is the rule followed by the “incurable” woman, by the parents of dying and dead children in Scripture, and by many others, including Jesus himself, who prayed that this cup would pass from him, if possible. What makes Christ’s case different, of course, is that, unlike us, who do not and cannot know the future, he could and did know the future – and still he prayed for the desires of his heart.

    The notion that we should “submit to the will of God” when we do not and cannot know the will of God is not a Christian idea at all, but a Muslim idea. Islam means “submission,” and it teaches the same error of presuming that the will of God can be known before God reveals it. In Christian theology, the proper verb is “obedience,” not submission, and it is obedience to his revealed commands, not submission to an unknown (and apart from revelation, unknowable – see Deuteronomy 29:29) will of God. Psalm 37:3-6 read: “Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and feed on his faithfulness. Delight yourself also in the Lord, and he shall give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust also in him, and he shall bring it to pass. He shall bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday.”

    The Bible nowhere commands Christians to “submit to the will of God,” precisely because we do not know that will. The Bible commands us hundreds of times to obey God’s commands. We must never confuse our guesses about the future with “God’s will” and piously submit to those guesses – or more likely the guesses of clerics who think they know the future. God’s commands we know, because they are revealed to us in Scripture, but apart from revelation, we cannot know his will, and therefore we cannot “submit” to it, nor need we try to do so.”

    Paul, in Romans 10, prays for Israel’s salvation, in between telling why Jews AREN’T saved (Romans 9) and how prophetic hardening will ensure Jews won’t yet be saved (Romans 11). Were his prayers not “sincere?”

    Job gives us a good example in ch. 2 – “Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” We rejoice over God and His goodness, but we also mourn evil. Jesus wept when Lazarus died. It’s clear He already knew Lazarus was dead but wept anyway. It’s the appropriate reaction. We are not fatalists as is Islam. We are not mere victims of “fate.” We are not to be impassive in the face of tragedy, evil, etc. – the living God certainly isn’t (and this does not deny His immutability or His eternal plan for all events in time and space) and we, being His image bearers, shouldn’t be, either.


  3. January 24, 2017 at 8:08 pm

    We ask the same questions? Can I recommend a blog? http://soteriology101.com

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