Why I'm Not a Calvinist . . . or an Arminian, Part 3

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The Remonstrance of 1610, by followers of Jacobus Arminius, counters five points of doctrine that were understood to be Calvinistic teachings. The Remonstrance first denies the five Calvinistic tenets, and then positively asserts five articles of doctrine that present a completely different idea of God’s character.

The Remonstrance on Conditional Predestination

God has immutably decreed, from eternity, to save those men who, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, believe in Jesus Christ, and by the same grace persevere in the obedience of faith to the end; and, on the other hand, to condemn the unbelievers and unconverted (John iii. 36).

Election and condemnation are thus conditioned by foreknowledge, and made dependent on the foreseen faith or unbelief of men. (Remonstrance, Article I)

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You Can Become Competent to Counsel

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From Voice, Sep/Oct 2014. Used by permission.

I am thrilled to be a witness of the rediscovery of biblical counseling! “Now in order to rediscover something, it must have been lost,”1 says David Powlison. Unfortunately, that is true. Powlison explains:

In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, American Christians basically lost the use of truths and skills they formerly possessed. That is, practical wisdom in the cure of souls waned…. The Church lost that crucial component of pastoral skill that can be called case-wisdom—wisdom that knows people, knows how people change, and knows how to help people change.2

As a result, Christians sprinkled man-centered psychology with a few Bible verses and called it “Christian psychology.” The outcome has been confusion, hopelessness, and the abandonment of biblical faith. John MacArthur is right when he says Christian psychology “has diminished the Church’s confidence in Scripture, prayer, fellowship, and preaching as means through which the Spirit of God works to change lives.”3 It is sad to think that God’s Church could lose something so basic and essential as the skill and conviction to use Scripture to help people work through their problems. Yet that is where the American church is. Those who embrace psychology as the answer are in the majority by far. There is no reason to pretend they are not. But to know that God is, in our lifetime, calling His people back to His Word as a working manual for life is exciting to say the least. This is what is referred to as biblical counseling. Read more about You Can Become Competent to Counsel

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Myths of Faith #1 - You Have to Have Much

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Mustard seeds
(Mustard seeds)

Sometimes the most basic topics in Christian teaching are home to the most abundant confusion. Perhaps faith is one of those topics. Several misunderstandings are commonly heard in preaching and teaching on the subject. A short list would include the following:

  • You have to have much faith to experience the power of God.
  • Exercising faith means seeing God’s hand in the dramatic and unexplainable.
  • Healthy faith is believing that God is going to act in a particular way.
  • In prayer, faith is believing that God will certainly grant the request.

Some of these notions have the benefit of superficial biblical support. But if we strip away what “everybody knows” about faith, table our fond sentiments, and look at what Scripture actually says about these ideas, what do we find? Read more about Myths of Faith #1 - You Have to Have Much

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Home, Sweet Home

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Two weeks ago, my kids headed off to school. One week later they were back home, sick with the first round of school-bourne illnesses. I got the call from the school nurse around 11:30. My eight-year-old son had a fever—slight—but just enough to send him home. By bedtime, the rest of us were beginning to show signs too. Unfortunately, it was the kind of sickness that was just bad enough to make you miserable but not bad enough to knock you out completely. The kind where you can’t muster enough energy to go about your normal routine but you’ve still got enough energy to bicker and fight. The kind that brings out the worst in you—irritability, whining, helplessness.

And that was just me.

As difficult as last week was, I found that it reminded me of the importance of home. Stripped of the externals—the housekeeping, the pinterest projects, the car pools—the purpose of home became clearer:

The fundamental purpose of the home is to teach us how to live in relationship with God and with each other.

Every day, as we interact with our spouses, parents, children, aunts, and cousins, we are learning the basics of how to interact with other human beings. So when my family is at our worst, when we are not loving or kind or patient, when we have “one of those” weeks, I remember exactly what I am fighting for. Read more about Home, Sweet Home

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The Incoherence of Evolutionary Origins (Part 2)

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The fusion of confusion

Evolutionists, except the rather small coterie of theistic ones, believe every complex and meticulously ordered thing got here through mechanisms which we neither see now nor can see in the evidence left in the past. Even our cognitive faculties and the immaterial laws of logic and number “evolved.” The Big Bang is the most popular notion of the origin of the universe at the present time, although there is a significant lobby of dissidents. The Big Bang is an explosion. All explosions are chaotic, disorderly things. (The Big Bang exploded flat—not in all directions). In other ways it would have been like every other explosion: confused and irrational.

But from this chaos the vast complexity of the first life sprang: not, it is true, overnight, but over billions of years. From this incoherence the coherent came. Do we ever see coherence, in the form of sequenced “specified” complexity, arise out of chaos and disorder? No we do not. Nothing self-orders in complex and specific ways without a code. And a code needs someone to write it. But evolutionary naturalism requires just the opposite.

Furthermore, as we, the observers, recognize and analyze the coherence in the world, our standing (or existence) as observers must be accounted for. This was one of the questions asked by Richards and Gonzalez in their book The Privileged Planet. It is a good question. Why is the world comprehensible? Why can we do science? Read more about The Incoherence of Evolutionary Origins (Part 2)

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The Synagogue and the Church: A Study of Their Common Backgrounds and Practices (Part 5)

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Reprinted with permission from As I See It, which is available free by writing to the editor at dkutilek@juno.com. Read the series so far.

Chapter Five: The Public Service in the Synagogue and the Church

An interesting Greek inscription discovered in Jerusalem is reported by Meyers:

Theodotus, son of Vettenos, the priest and archisynagogos, son of a[n] archisynagogos and grandson of a[n] archisynagogos, who built the synagogue for purposes of reciting the Law and studying the commandments, and as a hotel with chambers and water installations to provide for the needs of itinerants from abroad, which his fathers, the leaders and Simonides founded.1

This inscription, besides mentioning three successive generations of “rulers of the synagogue” in one family (on which title, see below), it also addresses two of the three major purposes for the synagogue’s existence: reading the Law and studying the commandments. Only prayer of major synagogal public activities is not mentioned. Hospitality shown to travelers was considered worthy of note as well (following Abraham’s example in Genesis 18?).2 Read more about The Synagogue and the Church: A Study of Their Common Backgrounds and Practices (Part 5)

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Why I'm Not a Calvinist . . . or an Arminian, Part 2

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Read the series so far.)

Canons of Dort on Limited Atonement

The death of the Son of God is the only and most perfect sacrifice and satisfaction for sin, and is of infinite worth and value, abundantly sufficient to expiate the sins of the whole world (Second Head, Article 3).

For this was the sovereign counsel and most gracious will and purpose of God the Father that the quickening and saving efficacy of the most precious death of His Son should extend to all the elect, for bestowing upon them alone the gift of justifying faith, thereby to bring them infallibly to salvation; that is, it was the will of God that Christ by the blood of the cross, whereby He confirmed the new covenant, should effectually redeem out of every people, tribe, nation, and language, all those, and those only, who were from eternity chosen to salvation and given to Him by the Father; that He should confer upon them faith, which, together with all the other saving gifts of the Holy Spirit, He purchased for them by His death; should purge them from all sin, both original and actual, whether committed before or after believing; and having faithfully preserved them even to the end, should at last bring them, free from every spot and blemish, to the enjoyment of glory in His own presence forever (Second Head, Article 8).

That God the Father has ordained His Son to the death of the cross without a certain and definite decree to save any, so that the necessity, profitableness, and worth of what Christ merited by His death might have existed, and might remain in all its parts complete, perfect, and intact, even if the merited redemption had never in fact been applied to any person (Rejection of Errors 2:1).

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Why I'm Not a Calvinist . . . or an Arminian, Part 1

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I am often asked whether I am a Calvinist or an Arminian. Honestly, it is not a simple question because these are not simply-defined theological categories that can be chosen as one would choose from a menu at a restaurant. I certainly understand the importance of the question, as our answer reveals much about our understanding of God’s character and how He works with humanity. But neither label—Calvinism nor Arminianism—is adequate in explaining the biblical position. In fact, the labels aren’t even adequate in explaining the positions of the men they supposedly represent.

For example, Calvin himself had nothing to do with the formal five points of Calvinism, and in reading Calvin over the years, I am convinced he would not have been a good Calvinist. The five points were really developed through the Synod of Dort (1618-1619) in response to the teachings of followers of Jacobus Arminius. These followers were called Remonstrants, after the document published in 1610 called the Remonstrance, which challenged the Belgic Confession (1562-1566) and some of John Calvin’s and Theodore Beza’s teaching. So when we engage this question, we need to understand that we are dealing with decades (and now centuries) of intense theological controversy over theological perspectives and statements. Read more about Why I'm Not a Calvinist . . . or an Arminian, Part 1

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