SharperIron's Doctrinal Statement: Questions from Readers

The SharperIron Doctrinal Statement is available here.

Salvation and regeneration

This one came to us via the site contact form in July of 2011.

I would be interested in joining your group and adding to the discussion, however, you require that a person believe your Doctrines Statement and I have a problem with statement #8, which defines “Salvation” as being the result of the inner transformation of the man. This is not Salvation. Your statement is a fine example of the error of Roman Catholicism, which fails to understand the difference between, and relationship of, what Jesus has done FOR us and what the Holy Spirit is doing IN us. Salvation (which is the promise of the believers resurrection from the dead) is what Jesus has done FOR us, outside of us. The new-birth is what the Holy Spirit is doing INSIDE of us (it comes to every believer as a RESULT of trusting the the Gospel of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection). The new-birth is not the Gospel itself and it is not a biblical definition of Salvation.

Would I be allowed to join dispite my refusal to accept your false definition of Salvation?

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Society of Evangelical Arminians: What is Arminianism?

The following is by Dan Chapa of the Society of Evangelical Arminians (SEA). Since theologically serious alternatives to Calvinism seem to be in short supply these days, SharperIron contacted SEA recently about the possibility of representing classical Arminianism for the SI audience. To learn more about the SEA, see their About Us page.

Arminianism is a summary of our understanding of the Scripture’s teaching on salvation. The name comes from Jacob Arminius, who led 17th century opposition to Calvinism, but the idea stems from Scripture and has deep roots in the early church fathers. Many non-Arminians have mistaken notions about Arminianism—as do many Arminians. This post will define and defend the essential aspects of Arminianism (total depravity, resistible grace, unlimited atonement and conditional election), without critiquing Calvinism.

Total Depravity

Both Calvinists and Arminians believe in total depravity—the idea that fallen man requires God’s grace through the beginning, middle and end of the salvation process. Adam’s fall left us unable, of our own strength, to repent and believe or live a life pleasing to God. But total depravity is not utter depravity; the lost don’t commit the worst sins possible on every occasion. Still without God’s grace, sin impacts every aspect of life and we cannot seek God on our own. Rather, He seeks us and enables us to believe.

Resistible Grace

Arminians may vary on exactly how God’s grace works; but all Arminians hold to the necessity of prevenient grace (grace that comes before conversion that enables us to believe). When God’s grace starts drawing us to conversion, we can choose to say no and reject Christ. God hasn’t predetermined repentance and faith; nothing causes these such that rejection is impossible and we cannot choose otherwise. But believing does not earn or cause salvation; God chooses to have mercy on believers.

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The "Uniform Pattern" and Theological Measurement


When answering theological questions, one of the thorniest problems that we face is deciding what counts as evidence. To be sure, we affirm the absolute authority and sufficiency of the Scriptures and, in the case of questions about the church, the finality of the New Testament in all matters of faith and order. Simply believing in the Bible’s authority and sufficiency, however, does not tell us how the text ought to be brought to bear upon our questions.

One very common way of using the Bible is to look for examples of the kind of thing that we are asking about. These examples are then treated as permanently binding. Theological literature abounds with references to the examples or even the “uniform pattern” of Scripture.

The argument is a weak one. Scripture contains examples of all sorts of things, some good and some bad. The mere fact that someone did something is no indication that God wants that thing to be done by others at another time. Even when the example is viewed positively in the text, it may be an isolated instance. One would not appeal to Abraham’s treatment of Isaac in Genesis 22 as a universal pattern for relationships between fathers and sons.

An “is” never constitutes an “ought.” Sound theological method draws a sharp distinction between historical narrative and didactic requirement.

This distinction does not render the examples of Scripture irrelevant. When the Bible communicates a didactic principle, then we may legitimately observe the examples in the text to see how the principle looks in practice. By studying the examples we may also discover something about the rewards of obedience or the consequences of disobedience. By themselves, however, the examples of Scripture are not binding. Historical narrative always needs to be interpreted and applied by didactic discourse.

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Antidote: A Cure for a Common Problem of Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism


The first thing Aaron Blumer (publisher, SharperIron) said to me when we talked about our next conference was “I’m pretty skeptical of the idea of convergence.” Convergence—the idea that fundamentalism and conservative evangelicalism are heading toward, or should be working toward, convergence into one movement—has certainly been what some have perceived Standpoint Conference to be about. We would argue that’s an oversimplification of what we’re about. As our last Standpoint Conference concluded, we made a conscious choice to leave previous issues behind and move on to more critical issues.

Specifically, we believe that fundamentalism and evangelicalism face similar crises. For different reasons, fundamentalism has lurking at its most conservative end some who are less concerned with doctrine than they should be. Evangelicalism has, in the mainstream, those who are also less concerned with doctrine than they should be. On the extreme right of fundamentalism, this expresses itself with a near-obsessive attention to stylistic details that distracts from doctrinal issues. On the left of evangelicalism, church growth, political activism and social influence provide similar distractions.

The alarming result is that both are disengaged from issues that have serious doctrinal consequences. Among those on the far right of fundamentalism, the disengagement results from a feeling that the larger problems of Christianity are irrelevant to them. (“All who are to the left of us are ‘liberals’ anyway.”) Among those on the left of evangelicalism, the disengagement results from a feeling that all must be well because their churches are growing numerically.

Meanwhile, battles are being waged over ideas that represent vast theological shifts. These shifts are happening not just in institutions of higher learning, but in the pews. Rob Bell preaches a form of universalism, and thousands don’t know how to respond—or feel the need to soft-pedal their rejection. N.T. Wright’s New Perspective on Paul is only dimly understood (if at all) by the vast majority of those reading this article. The gay theologians advance their theories and they are uniformly rejected—but few realize that they are using hermeneutical models that are only slightly more radical than the ones taught in our colleges and seminaries. Ground is given, or freedom granted, on the roles of women in leadership, hermeneutics, creation models, eschatological views, all without recognizing that all of the changes are attached to theological structures that mean something and that changes in one area are harbingers of other changes to come—or changes that have already been made in theological viewpoints.

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Archived: The Simplicity of Biblical Parenting

Christian parenting experts often seem unable to see the forest for the trees. Whether it’s “grace based,” “gospel centered,” “heart focused,” or some other phrase du jour, many seem to begin with a lofty concept about what the Bible ought to teach about parenting then go to Scripture and—surprise!—find it there.

As a result, we have constantly clashing emphases—to the everlasting frustration of parents, who just want to know what God expects of them and how to perform those tasks more effectively.

My aim here is (1) to argue that all parents really need is a biblical theology of parenting, (2) to describe how we should go about building such a theology and (3) to identify several principles that must be foundational to it.

The sufficient Word

Does the whole idea of having a “theology of parenting” sound novel? It shouldn’t. Those who firmly believe that the Scriptures are sufficient for faith and practice should also believe that a matter as important as Christian parenting is sufficiently addressed in the Bible. The essentials are all there. Though human wisdom—Christian and secular—may offer some useful advice on the nuts-and-bolts level, all the major principles and purposes are in the Book. And, in the area of principles and purposes, those who do not embrace a biblical view of God and human nature can have nothing of value to say.

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"While it may appear as though theological debate today is more polarized than ever, in fact it is perhaps as civil as it's ever been."

“What few of us realize is that when we press those ‘Publish,’ ‘Post,’ ‘Comment,’ and ‘Send’ buttons, we are making the shift away from merely ‘believing’ truth and stepping into the arena of publishing that belief. In doing so we are effectively assuming a position of leadership and teaching that prior to 2004 was not available to us.” Not Many of You Should Presume to be Bloggers

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