My Ordo Salutis on the "N" Train

SubwayI was on the “N” train again today. I looked into the eyes of another Chinese man, asking myself this time, How does a sinner believe? How does one dead in trespasses and sin come to life? Does regeneration precede faith? Is it possible, as I look into the eyes of the Chinese man, that he has already been or will be made alive by the Spirit because he is one sovereignly chosen by God?

Or is it possible that his deadness means that no spiritual life is present and never can be possible because he may be one who is not part of God’s plan? Perhaps he is not one of God’s elect. Perhaps all of the prayer and preaching on his behalf can never have any influence in his coming to life.

Or does his deadness simply describe the absence of spiritual life and his alienation from God without erasing the possibility that he may live again? Is there a mystery, irresolvable to the human mind, regarding God’s knowledge and plan in relationship to human response?

Perhaps the answer to whether this Chinese man can believe or why I believed and my neighbor didn’t is not as clear-cut as “one was predestined to believe (Calvinism) or one chose on his own accord not to believe (Arminianism).”

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Calvinism on the “N” Train

TrainAs I sat on the train this morning, I looked into the face of a Chinese man. He looked old, tired, and alone. I wondered, If Calvinism is true, is this man one of the ones God loved enough to send His Son to die, or is this man excluded from any possibility of grace? Does God care about this man, or is he one who is not the object of God’s love? What a troubling thought!

I continued to look at this lonely man across the aisle and thought about the apparent contradiction between Calvinism and encountering real people on the “N” train from Brooklyn to Queens. I asked myself, Is God most glorified by the expression of His great love for all or by the expression of His sovereign power in electing and predestining a few? Why is that grace must be irresistible for a chosen few? Is the love, goodness, and grace of God in the message of cross not persuasive and compelling enough in itself that God must save men against their willingness?

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The Garden of Life

My Journey Toward Biblicism

My good friend, Dr. Steve Davis, has “outed” me again! If you didn’t catch it, Steve authored a pair of articles for SharperIron dealing with the subject of Calvinism. I was his “exhibit A” for a Calvinist who is also evangelistic.
998347_springs_coming.jpgNobody is really surprised to hear me called a “Calvinist.” I am neither offended nor embarrassed by the term, though I try to use it cautiously. Recently I was preaching at a church and a well-meaning brother asked me if I was a Calvinist. I hesitated to answer. What did he mean by the term? I know what the term means historically, but many people use it carelessly. I know what Steve means by it, though, and he and I are still friends.

Whatever label you apply to me, my understanding of God’s sovereignty in salvation has changed over the years. Since Steve has brought up this issue in public, it may interest you to know how I came to the beliefs that I now hold. Well, this is my story.

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Calvinism, Arminianism, Biblicism

In The Nick of Time
Some fundamentalist leaders have recently and publicly registered their objections to Calvinism, but they prefer not to be called Arminians. They believe that both Calvinism and Arminianism are man-made systems that predetermine one’s interpretation of Scripture. These leaders wish to start at the other end, with Scripture, and to arrive at a conclusion on the basis of the study of the text. Consequently, they prefer to be called Biblicists.

Fortunately, these recent pronouncements are irenic in tone. This is a token that fundamentalist theology is maturing. Not long ago, it was difficult to find criticism of Calvinism that did not end in a rant. If these recent publications are an example, however, we are now able to discuss Arminianism and Calvinism in a deliberate and thoughtful manner.

Nevertheless, the term Biblicist seems to have only limited usefulness in this debate. Which of us does not try to start with Scripture and to draw conclusions by studying the text? Which of us wishes to set aside any of the Bible in favor of a human system? No, we are all Biblicists here.

Since we are conversing as Biblicists, I would like to raise a question. Which problems do we Biblicists have to solve in order to be entitled to say that we have a biblical answer to the debate between Calvinism and Arminianism? I would like to suggest four specific problems for which we must find biblical solutions.

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Consider the Flowers: Tulip, Daisy, or Dandelion? Part 1

A Missio-Botanical Journey

by Dr. Stephen M. Davis
bee_on_dandelion.jpgSome time ago, while debating a certain theological issue, a brother in Christ told me that he could not believe something I had proposed because his theology would not allow it. My tongue-in-cheek riposte was that perhaps the problem was that it was indeed “his theology” and maybe he needed to rethink his theology. My point was not only that I thought I was right—which we all think to some degree, or else we should make needed corrections—but that we never arrive at a point where our theology cannot be corrected, better articulated, or become more balanced and scriptural. Of course, I realize that there may be those who identify what they believe on all points of doctrine as “the faith once delivered to the saints,” hold all truth with the same degree of certitude, and claim that from their earliest days of theological study they have not changed one jot or tittle. They may learn little from this essay and appreciate it even less. Another perspective might offer us the opportunity to achieve greater balance in our theological perspectives while remaining committed to unchanging, fundamental truths (those without which one could not be called “Christian”).

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How Many Points—Some Comments

By Robert Keith Fall

Dr. David Burggraff (PDF), vice president for spiritual formation and ministry development at Clearwater Christian College (Clearwater, FL), spoke at the November 2006 Northern California Regional meeting of the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship International. He handed out various notes and articles during his messages to the attendees. “How Many Points” by Richard A. Muller, an article from the November 1993 issue of the Calvin Theological Journal, was one of those handouts. fall_tulip.jpgDr. Muller seems to represent a stream of Reformed thought not usually found among fundamentalists in America. He comes out of Continental Calvinism rather than from Scottish Presbyterianism or English Puritanism. Dr. Muller’s definition of what constitutes Calvinist or Reformed theology stands in stark contrast to how many Anglo-American Baptists define the term.

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Spurgeon and the Battle for Gospel Preaching, Part 3

Note: Dr. Sam Horn is host of The Word for Life radio program.

See Part 1 and Part 2.

by Dr. Sam Horn

The true minister of Christ feels impelled to preach the whole truth, because it and it alone can meet the wants of man. What evils has this world seen through a distorted, mangled, man-moulded gospel. What mischiefs have kutilek_spurgeon.jpgbeen done to the souls of men by men who have preached only one part and not all the counsel of God!
—C.H. Spurgeon, Metropolitan Tabernacle, 1859

Hyper-Calvinsim is all house and no door; Arminianism is all door and no house.
—John Duncan

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