Saturday, October 31, 2009

Monday, October 26, 2009

Perseverence of the Saints....???

William Birch (click here) and I are doing a tag-team today.

One of the main points of Calvinistic theology is their doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. This is the doctrine in which one who is elect of God cannot lose his or her salvation.1

Calvin said:
"In like manner, in the Gospel of Luke, those in whom the seed of the word is choked before it brings forth fruit, or in whom, from having no depth of earth, it soon withereth away, are said to believe for a time. Such, we doubt not, eagerly receive the word with a kind of relish, and have some feeling of its divine power, so as not only to impose upon men by a false semblance of faith, but even to impose upon themselves. They imagine that the reverence which they give to the word is genuine piety, because they have no idea of any impiety but that which consists in open and avowed contempt. But whatever that assent may be, it by no means penetrates to the heart, so as to have a fixed seat there. Although it sometimes seems to have planted its roots, these have no life in them. The human heart has so many recesses for vanity, so many lurking places for falsehood, is so shrouded by fraud and hypocrisy, that it often deceives itself."2


This being the case, I think it's important to point out the true lack off assurance any Calvinist truly has. If anyone can be fooled about their conversion, no Calvinist can say they ARE elect with certainty. They feel elect, maybe, but they have no idea if Christ died for them or not, since Christ only died for a select few. The irony is most Calvinists tout this as one of their distinctive advantages, they KNOW they are saved; but we can see there is really no grounds for this assurance because they can't be sure their Christian experience isn't the false assurance Calvin described.

R.C. Sproul writes:
"A while back I had one of those moments of acute self-awareness…and suddenly the question hit me, 'R.C., what if you are not one of the redeemed? What if your destiny is not heaven after all, but hell?' Let me tell you that I was flooded in my body with a chill that went from my head to the bottom of my spine. I was terrified… I began to take stock of my life, and I looked at my performance...”3
Am I missing something? What good would introspection do in this case? If you aren't elect, no amount of introspection is going to change that!!! The introspection does nothing in any case. If upon introspection you find you aren't elect, there's nothing you can do to change that.

As an Arminian, however, there is good grounds for assurance. We know that Christ has died for all (1 John 2:2, 2 Peter 3:9, etc.) and by faith we can have the righteousness of Christ imputed to us (Acts 16:31, Romans 3:28, Ephesians 2:8-9). We also know no believer can be separated from the Lord (Romans 8:35-39).4


1 There are some Arminians and other non-Calvinists who hold to this theological distinctive. The reasoning, however, is different in the non-Calvinist versions. While in Calvinism it is necessary when considering unconditional election and limited atonement, in non-Calvinist theology it is seen as simply a promise of God that once a person is saved they cannot lose their salvation.

2 John Calvin, Institutes Book 3 Section 2, http://www.reformed.org/master/index.html?mainframe=/books/institutes/

3 R.C. Sproul, “Assurance of Salvation,” Tabletalk, Ligonier Ministries, Inc., 1989, 20. Cited in Dave Hunt, What Love is This

4 However, I do believe one can cease believing and, therefore, is no longer in Christ.

Monday, October 19, 2009

In Memory of Jacobus Arminius


Today is the 400th anniversary of the death of one of the greatest theologians and Christian thinkers in history, Jacobus Arminius (aka Jakob Harmenszoon). He died October 19, 1609 after a fruitful ministry. Unlike other theologians of the time, he spent 2/3 of his ministry in the church as a pastor. He was unquestionably a pastor's pastor.

His early life was tragic. His father most likely died before he was born. As a young man, he enrolled in the University of Marburg under Martin Luther's successor, Philipp Melanchthon. Shortly after beginning, however, his home village was destroyed and his family was killed. "Theodore Aemilius, a clergyman, distinguished for piety and learning, then resided at Utrecht, and, becoming acquainted with the circumstances of the family, he charged himself with the education of the child."1

Later, Arminius attended the college founded by John Calvin, the University of Leiden where he was mentored by Calvin's successor, Theodore Beza. "He remained there six years, occupying the highest place in the estimation of his instructors, and of his fellow students."2 Because of his amazing mind, he was offered a doctorate very quickly, but turned it down because he did not think he was old enough for it at that time.

On August 11, 1588, Arminius was ordained to preach at the Dutch Reformed Church in Amsterdam. For more than a decade, he was the pastor of this church, and it was in this time he abandoned the Calvinistic teachings and adopted the theology which would come to bear his name.
At first, for the sake of peace, he was very guarded in his expressions, and avoided special reference to the subject, but soon, becoming satisfied that such a course was inconsistent with his duty as a professed teacher of religion, he began modestly to testify his dissent from the received errors, especially in his occasional discourses on such passages of Scripture as obviously required an interpretation in accordance with his enlarged views of the Divine economy in the salvation of sinners. This became a settled practice with him in 1590.3
In 1590, he married Elizabeth Real, the daughter of Judge Laurence Jacobson Real, who was famous for promoting Protestantism. They had twelve children, three of whom died as infants.4

Occasionally, he would clash with strongly Calvinistic preachers in the area. When he expounded Romans 7 and then Romans 9, he was met with significant backlash.

In 1602, Francis Junius, Professor of Divinity at Leiden, died. The university immediately sought out Arminius to fill his spot. This was met with considerable opposition from some of his opponents. Nonetheless, he obtained his Doctorate in July of 1603 and immediately "began to discharge the functions of Professor of Divinity."5

To his dismay, Arminius found that his students were deficient in their study of the Bible. All of their attention had been focused on the theological debates of the time instead of their study of the scripture. He immediately tried to reverse this trend and directed his students to devote more time to the study of scripture. This and his views on predestination were cause for many to try to create controversy surrounding him. He did not respond to any attacks until 1608.
[H]e vindicated himself in three different ways; first, in a letter to Hippolytus, a Collibus, Ambassador to the United Provinces from the Elector Palatine; secondly, in an "apology against thirty-one articles, etc," which, though written in 1608, was not published till the following year; and lastly, in his noble "Declaration of Sentiments," delivered on the thirtieth of October, 1608, before the States in a full assembly at the Hague.6
1609 was Arminius' final year before going home to the Lord Jesus. Because of the mounting controversies, he got sick with tuberculosis. He gave his final public disputation on "the vocation of men to salvation."
The excitement caused by some circumstances connected with that disputation, produced a violent paroxysm of his disease, from which he never recovered. He remained in acute physical pain, but with no abatement of his usual cheerfulness, and with entire acquiescence in the will of God, till the nineteenth of October, 1609. On that day, about noon, in the words of Bertius, "with his eyes lifted up to heaven, amidst the earnest prayers of those present, he calmly rendered up his spirit unto God, while each of the spectators exclaimed, ‘0 my soul, let me die the death of the righteous.’"7
1 Wesley Center Online, A Sketch of the Life of James Arminius, http://wesley.nnu.edu/arminianism/Arminius/a.htm, (October 13, 2009)

2 Ibid.

3 Ibid.

4 The Expository Times, Vol. 83, No. 2, 64 (1971)

5 http://wesley.nnu.edu/arminianism/Arminius/a.htm

6 Ibid.

7 Ibid.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Do You Believe in Magic?

Is God just a cop out? Do we worship a "magical being up in the sky?" Are we hypocrites for saying the universe just "popping" into existence would be worse than magic when we worship an unseen God? I'm sure you're aware of the rhetorical nature of these questions, and I will explain why.

Magic is logically incoherent things happening for silly reasons. Examples would be a rabbit popping into a hat out of thin air at the behest of a magician. This is a natural impossibility within our universe, which is governed by laws. Since these things are naturally impossible, people must use sleight of hand to make it appear that things are happening that really are not. These things never actually occur. They are tricks!

Another form of 'magic' would be sorcery, the more satanic kind where people call on demons to cause naturally impossible phenomenon to happen. These things don't really fit in to my definition of magic here, since there could be supernatural forces at work for whom it is not impossible to act on the real world in strange ways.

If there is a God His actions also could not be classified as 'magical.' If there is a maximally powerful being it would be completely logically coherent and physically possible for that being to anything that is logically coherent. Creating the universe out of nothing and creating living beings would not be impossible for such a being. It would be completely logically feasible for this being to be able to perform these acts.

However, being coming from non-being and life coming from non-life is logically incoherent and physically impossible based on all the physical laws of this universe, like the law of biogenesis. It would be worse than magic to imagine these things happening uncaused and without purpose. That being the case, if there is no God, not only must the universe have existed for eternity, but life also would have had to exist from eternity. But this is unproven in at least two ways:

1) Because evidence shows otherwise. Big bang cosmology shows a beginning of the universe of which prior to that there was no time or matter.

2) Because an actual infinite number of events (which an infinite universe would contain) is impossible.

The concept of an actual infinite number of past events, which an infinite universe would consist of, leads to philosophically and mathematical absurdities. It is something that cannot exist in reality.

The best way to illustrate this is with some examples. For instance if we had an actual infinite number of objects, we could take some objects from this infinite number. Say we had an infinite number of balls labeled 1, 2, 3, 4, on to infinity. Then say we take all of the even numbered balls; 2, 4, 6, and so on to infinity. So in this case:

infinity - infinity = infinity,

because there are still an infinite number of odd balls. But, if we had the same infinite number of balls and removed all the balls after 3; which would be 4, 5, 6, and so on to infinity, we would have:

infinity - infinity = 3.

This is a logical absurdity. We subtract the same values and end with a different result. Also, if there had to be an infinite amount of time before right now, how did we ever reach "now!?" (Thanks to William Lane Craig (website here) for examples such as these in debates, lectures, and literature to show the logical absurdity of actual infinites).

Hilbert's hotel (click here) further displays the logical absurdity an infinite regress of events is impossible.

The famous mathematician of whom the hotel problem is named after, David Hilbert, said, "The infinite is nowhere to be found in reality. It neither exists in nature nor provides a legitimate basis for rational thought. The role that remains for the infinite to play is solely that of an idea."

God's actions cannot be considered as magic. God Himself likewise cannot be considered magic. He can be considered a necessary being. I don't think it's possible for there not to be a God based on the logical contradictions it presents.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Reminders

It's nice to be reminded of things sometimes. As a reminder, Romans 6:23 says, "For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."

That's right. Our sins against God earn us death. Not only that, but it earns us an eternal punishment (John 3:18, Revelation 20:10). But through faith in Jesus of Nazareth, God incarnate (John 1:1-5, 14; Titus 2:13; etc), we have a substitute, a propitiation, for our sins. The sinless One took the sins of humanity on Himself so we might have eternal life (John 3:16, 1 Corinthians 1:21, etc).

It's not hard and it's available for all.

Just a reminder.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Rationing in Massachusetts

Interesting...

“You can’t reap these savings without limiting patients’ choices in some way,’’ said Paul Levy, chief executive of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. “It’s a huge issue, it’s huge.’’ Dr. James Mongan, president of Partners HealthCare, a Beth Israel Deaconess competitor, agreed that it wouldn’t “work without some restriction on choice.’’

Thursday, October 8, 2009

You Really Want the Government Controlling Your Health Care?

The democrats who are pushing the government controlled universal health care gloat about the success of Medicare. Of course they assume most people like Medicare, however there are people coming out against it lately (ie on Cavuto's show the other day).

One of the many reasons people like myself are uncomfortable with the government controlling health care is the possibility of health care rationing, where the government decides when it is "cost effective" to cover people, and when it is not. Medicare, this supposed "wonderful system," is denying claims at a faster rate than any private insurance company.

Here is a chart comparing Medicare and private insurance companies (from http://biggovernment.com/2009/10/05/ama-endorses-largest-denier-of-health-care-claims/):



Wednesday, October 7, 2009

C. Michael Patton on Textual Criticism of the Bible

C. Michael Patton of Reclaiming the Mind Ministries (click here) has posted a quick and concise guide to textual criticism on his blog (click here). I recommend reading it for a summary understanding of how the Bible has been preserved and translated.

Monday, October 5, 2009

The Absurdity of the Atheist Apologist

Atheist apologists are driven to "convert" as many as possible to their point of view I assume by some sort of desire for "truth" or "higher meaning" or pity for the "deluded people of faith." But under atheism nothing matters! This existence has no higher meaning. It is useless. We'll all die and the universe will run out of heat energy, leaving a bunch of dead galaxies that will continue to drift farther and farther apart, and that's it.

The atheist shows the practical impossibility of his worldview. They flounder pathetically for some meaning. They grasp at social responsibilities and abhor oppression. But this gives away their inconsistency. They have to appeal to a "higher meaning" when they believe there is not one. It is their view that leaves no hope for those who suffer injustice and offer no punishment for those who oppress and are never brought to justice. We just die and the litter of a dead universe expands forever.

But the Bible says:

The nations were angry, and Your wrath has come, And the time of the dead, that they should be judged, And that You should reward Your servants the prophets and the saints, And those who fear Your name, small and great, And should destroy those who destroy the earth (Revelation 11:18).

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Learn About the Life of Jacob Arminius

All month long, my friend William Birch of the Classical Arminian blog (click here) will be posting about the life and experiences of one of one of the most influential, yet undervalued theologians (and one of my favorite theologians) Jacob Arminius, in memory of the 400th year since his death (October 19, 1609). I look forward to it and encourage anyone interested to check it out.