Thursday, June 28, 2007

Fort McAllister Family Photos

Last month, Bobby and I visited Fort Pulaski, a Civil War era fort east of Savannah, GA. You can see photos of that excursion by clicking here.

On Tuesday, we (our three kids, the visiting Johnson family, and I) traveled south of Savannah about 40 minutes to tour another Civil War complex, Fort McAllister. Several significant differences exist between the two forts; otherwise, we would not have bothered visiting Fort McAllister. Fort Pulaski is a beautiful brick fort; however, it fell quickly to the Union army because it could not be repaired after bombardment. Fort McAllister, on the other hand, is an earthen fort. It faced Union bombing on multiple occasions over a several year period, but could be easily repaired over night because it was constructed of earth. Fort McAllister did not fall to the Union until General Sherman came upon the scene in 1864. Sherman brought 60,000 men to the Savannah area on his infamous "March to the Sea."

I hope you enjoy these pictures. Several show underground bunkers where the provisions and beds were housed. Our 13-year-old daughter, Caroline, is the tall girl in the blue shirt. Mary, our 10-year-old, is wearing a light blue shirt. Bobby, in the gray shirt and military cap, is our 8-year-old son. The other children pictured here are Johnson cousins from Indiana.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Two good questions

Can a person be both a Christian and a Muslim? Click here.
Is Paganism alive and well? Click here.

What about I John 2:2 and I John 4:14?

So far in this series, we've addressed John 3:16, Romans 10:9-10, and both I Timothy 2:3-4 and II Peter 3:9. These verses are often used to support Arminian positions. My goal is to look at each text carefully and give it a fair reading. My desire is to determine what the bible writers actually meant, and not to bring any outside influences (Arminian or Calvinistic) to the interpretation (I know this is difficult, but I'll give it a try).

Today we move on to both I John 2:2 and I John 4:14.

I John 2:2 "He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world." (ESV)

I John 4:14 "And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world." (ESV)

Both of these verses are very similar in all of the various English translations (ESV, KJV, NKJV, NIV, NASB, YLT). Also, the original language (Greek) is basically the same as the English rendering.

In this discussion, the key is the meaning of one word. It is the same word in both verses. That word is kosmos (in Greek) or world (in English). So, what did John mean when he wrote kosmos/world?

It seems that there are two possible answers to this question. The first possibility is that world refers to every individual on the earth. The second possibility is that world refers to mankind in general.

So which is the better answer? When John writes world in 2:2 and 4:14, does he mean every individual in the world, or is he referring to mankind in general?

One basic rule of good biblical interpretation is that we should use scripture to interpret scripture. That said, let's look back at all of 2:2, for this has significant bearing on the meaning of world. Earlier in 2:2, John uses the word "propitiation." That word refers to the appeasement, exhaustion, or satisfaction of God's wrath. So Christ's death satisfied God's wrath. But, God's wrath was satisfied toward what individuals?

If world in 2:2 refers to all individuals, then this means that God's wrath has been satisfied toward all individuals. However, if this is the case, then no one would be sent to hell (this is Universalism - all people everywhere being saved no matter what). But we know that some people do, in fact, go to hell; therefore, God's wrath cannot be appeased toward all people. There must be a better answer.

If world refers to mankind in general, then God's wrath has been satisfied toward some of mankind. This verse does not, therefore, suggest Universalism. This verse, also, does not indicate, specifically, who Christ's propitiation would be applied to. In other words, it does not inform the reader of the text who God's wrath is no longer aroused against.

Based on the fair reading of 2:2, then, world must refer to mankind in general. I am purposefully avoiding getting into the argument of General Atonement (Arminian position) versus Particular or Limited Atonement (Calvinistic position). I just want to let the verse speak for itself.

That said, what is John saying in I John 2:2? John seems to telling us that Christ's sacrifice has exhausted God's wrath against John's sins, the recipients of the letter's sins, and the sins of mankind in general. Therefore, Jesus' death has gained for mankind all around the world the gift of freedom from the wrath of God.

What of 4:14? What does John mean here? John is witnessing to the fact that he has seen Jesus Christ, and he knows that the Father God has sent to earth His Son (Jesus) for a purpose. What was that purpose? It was for His Son to be the Savior of mankind in general. There is one Savior available by which man can be saved. His name is Jesus.

In summary, once the decision is made about the accurate meaning of world, the overall meaning of the verses is fairly straightforward. As we have seen, world must refer to mankind in general. If it meant every individual, then this would lead to Universalism. I John 2:2, then, tells the reader that Jesus' death has satisfied the wrath of God against mankind in general. I John 4:14 informs us that God sent Christ to be Savior for mankind in general, all around the world.

What we have learned are great truths. We should cherish these as primary to the Christian faith. Let us not add more to these verses than John intended. Let us allow the verses to speak for themselves.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Atheists and agnostics taking aim

If a person simply does not believe in God, or does not care about God, then it seems like he would just ignore all of the "religious talk" that permeates our society. However, if atheism or agnosticism is his religion and/or world view (either stated or unstated), he will fight back against the very idea of God.

This is happening more and more in our country. George Barna has recently completed a study about this issue. Click here to read more.

Monday, June 18, 2007

What is the appeal of Roman Catholicism?

I have heard recently of folks converting from Protestantism to Roman Catholicism. I suppose this has been happening throughout the last 500 years, but it is probably more public now because of our instant-access media.

Anyway, the question should be asked, "For a Protestant, what is the appeal of Roman Catholicism?"

Tim Challies has addressed this issue very well. Click here to read his post. After reading the article, also take a look at the comments. It makes for good reading.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Going to the big leagues!

As most of you know, in my spare time I write religious satire at Religion Roundtable. However, that has come to an end. Why? Tominthebox News Network has asked me to come on board as one of its staff writers. So, for two days a week (Tuesday and Thursday) I get to write satire for the king of religious humor.

My name at Tominthebox is "Elder Eric." The primary reason for this is that nothing else sounded better. Other possibilities such as "Eric the Red," "Ultimate Eric," and "Carpenter Confidential" just seemed too cheesy, and thus were vetoed.

The best part about Tominthebox is that the site is an equal opportunity "poker-funner." All sides are open to the satirical skill of TBNN.

Friday, June 15, 2007

What about I Timothy 2:3-4 and II Peter 3:9?

So far in this series we have looked at John 3:16 and Romans 10:9-10. Today we will look at both I Timothy 2:3-4 and II Peter 3:9. I want to look at these passages together because they are similar in nature.

Why examine these verses in particular? The reason is because many people use these verses as evidence for saying, "God's will is that all people be saved."

However, is that what both Paul and Peter were saying? We need to closely examine the texts to see what is being said and what is not being said. Let's begin with I Timothy 2:3-4.

Let's keep in mind that Paul is writing the first of his two letters to Timothy. In 2:3, Paul refers to "God our Savior." Then, in what is critical to what we are discussing, Paul describes this "God our Savior" in 2:4. So verse 4 is telling us information about God.

What do we learn? Paul tells us that God "desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth." No one can argue with this statement because it is biblical.

The question is, "What did Paul mean by this?"

There is little argument over the phrase, "and to come to the knowledge of the truth." Therefore, we will not deal with this here. We need to focus our attention on, "desires all people to be saved." What meaning should we derive from this?

Let's work our way backward through it. First, "to be saved" must mean to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. I see no one arguing over this.

Next, what does "all people" refer to? Some say this means everyone in the world. Others say that the original language points more to all people groups, not to all individuals. When in doubt, I think we need to go with the most straightforward reading; therefore, I will assume that Paul was referring to all individuals.

Finally, and here is the crux of the matter, what does "desires" mean? Some interpret "desire" to be synonymous with "will". In other words, they say that it is the will of God that all people be saved. Two obvious problems arise from this interpretation. First, "desire" does not mean the same thing as "will". Second, we know that some people go to Hell. If it is really God's will that all people go to Heaven, then that means that there are many, many times when God's will does not occur. In fact, since the "wide road" leads to destruction, this means that the vast majority of the time, God's will does not occur related to salvation. In the bible, I just cannot find a God who is this weak.

So what else can "desire" mean? Well, it can simply mean "desire" or "want." In this interpretation, the verse simply means what it says - that God wants every person to be saved. The key to this interpretation is that God's desire is a different thing than His will. This seems to be the fairer interpretation for two reasons. First, it allows "desire" to mean "desire." Second, it explains how people can go to Hell, and God's will can still occur.

So what we see in I Timothy 2:3-4 is both a loving and omnipotent God. We read of a God whose desire is that all individual people be saved. This shows His love, mercy and compassion. However, we also see a God who retains His omnipotence. Nowhere does this verse indicate that God's will does not occur. In fact, it is quiet to this topic. We simply learn that God wants (not wills) all people to be saved.

Moving on, what about II Peter 3:9?

What is Peter talking about here? The promise that Peter is talking about is the second coming of Christ and His judgment on the wicked of the earth.

The common argument has been over the phrase, "not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance." This has mainly been interpreted in two different ways.

First, some people say that Peter means that God is not willing that any people on the earth should perish, but that all of those people should be saved. In other words, it is God's will that everyone on the earth be saved. I see two problems with this interpretation. First, the wording of the verse says "wishing." This is similar to the "desiring" we saw in I Timothy. II Peter 3:9 does not speak to the will of God. Second, like in I Timothy, if it is really God's will that all individual people reach repentance, then the vast majority of the time God's will does not occur.

A second interpretation is the following: "wishes" means "desires" or "wants." So much like in I Timothy, we get a picture of what God desires, but we do not see into His will. These are two different things. This seems to be a better interpretation because, again, it allows the wording to mean what it says, and also does not suggest that the will of God does not happen.

One other key factor in II Peter helps us to further come to a conclusion about Peter's meaning. Remember, Peter is writing to saved people! In II Peter 1:1, Peter writes in his greeting, "to those who have obtained like precious faith with us." Why is this so important? It is key because this tells us the real meaning of 3:9. We learn that God is being merciful in delaying the return of Christ so that none of the elect (those who are saved or will be saved) will perish eternally. God is giving people more time to reach salvation.

So what does all this mean? What did the two apostles teach us? Is it God's will that all individuals reach salvation? After looking at these texts, here is what we learn:

-God desires that all individuals be saved. This shows His love and compassion.
-God is delaying the coming of Christ (at least from the human perspective) in order to give the elect more time to reach salvation. This also shows us a loving and compassionate God.
-Implied in these verses is that God's will is a different thing from His desire.

Both passages seem to be quiet to the will of God; rather, the focus is His desire.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

What a year it has been!

As many of you know, the past year has been an exciting, busy, hectic, joyous, educational, and stress-producing one for our family. Here is the "run-down":

May 2006: By the grace of God, I graduated from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

June 2006: After getting rid of most of our possessions, we moved from Wake Forest, NC. We left behind many sweet friends, especially our church family at Messiah Baptist Church.

July 2006: We spent the first half of this month with my parents in Savannah, GA. Around mid-month, we drove to New York State, stopping to visit Gettysburg (PA) on the way. While in NY, we visited with Alice's parents for a few weeks.

August 2006: Our first stop this month was a one week vacation at my uncle's cabin on Seneca Lake in NY. After a relaxing week there, we drove to Richmond, VA for our orientation for overseas work.

August - October 2006: We lived at a learning center (a campus of 30 or so buildings) in VA being equipped for all sorts of activities overseas. Living there was a bit of culture shock, since we resided in a small building with three other families. I guess this helped prepare us for the real culture shock of moving overseas.

October 2006: We departed from VA, leaving many new friends behind. Some we would never see again because we were all about to scatter around the globe. We arrived back at my parents' home in Savannah to begin the mad packing process. In mid-October, we flew from Savannah to Detroit to Amsterdam to South Asia. What a change! We spent about a week in a big city, and then flew on to our smaller city. What an even bigger change!

October 2006 - February 2007: This was a time of highs and lows for our family. Living in a new place produces a lot of stress, even if you can speak the language. Where we had moved, it seemed like almost everything was different. Things that matter in the USA (efficiency, time management, cleanliness, quiet) simply aren't that important there. Things that matter less here (kind greetings, interpersonal relations, time spent with family) are of great importance there.

Because of all of these differences, we learned a lot, which was both exciting and stressful. It is certainly something we will never forget nor regret. Also, we were able to fly to Thailand for a few days around the New Year. It was very interesting to compare our new South Asian culture with a different new culture.

March 2007: In late February we noticed a lump on Bobby's neck. That led to several doctors visits in our city. That led to a trip to the capital city to see an ENT. That led to admittance to a hospital there. That led to a diagnosis of Lymphoma. For a few minutes there, it felt like our world was falling down around us.

However, God was supporting us through it all. With the help of some news friends, and with the prayers of many, we were able to fly back to our city, pack up much of our stuff, and then fly back to the USA. We were extremely tired after the 16 hour flight.

No rest for the weary! The day we arrived back in Savannah, we had our first of many visits with doctors here.

March - May 2007: Chemotherapy, hospital time, visits from friends, more chemotherapy, watching lots of TV with Bobby, reading many books, drinking lots of coffee, more chemotherapy, exhaustion, encouragement through emails, many gifts, more chemotherapy, and most of all, amazing support from the hand of the Lord.

May 30, 2007: A clear PET scan! Bobby is free of cancer! Praise the Lord!

I am constantly reminded of Isaiah 41:10, which says, "Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."

God is faithful. He has been throughout this last year, and He will continue to be.

An improvement

When I posted about Romans 10:9-10, I wanted a graphic that had just those two verses, and also avoided KJV-type language. Thanks to my friend, Shannon Settles, now we have one.

Monday, June 11, 2007

What about Romans 10:9-10?

I realize that the above passage is Romans 10:9-10 and 13, but it was the only graphic I could find. My main purpose today is to look at Romans 10:9-10. These two verses, like John 3:16, are often used to support the Arminian position of man's free-will in choosing God. Is this warranted? What did Paul mean when he wrote these verses?

Let's remember what is going on here in the book of Romans. At the end of Romans chapter 8, Paul has told us that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ (see verses 38-39). At this point in the letter, the reader could wonder, "What about Israel? Hasn't God rejected them?"

It seems that Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, anticipated this objection to 8:38-39. Therefore, in chapters 9-11 of Romans, Paul discusses God's continued relationship with Israel, and makes the point that God has not rejected them.

When reading Romans 9-11, please do not make the mistake of treating these chapters as if they have no application to Gentiles. Any fair reading of chapters 9-11 makes it clear that at least 10:9-17 pertains to many more than just Israel.

So let's see what Romans 10:9-10 means, keeping in mind the context.

Below are several versions of Romans 10:9-10.

KJV "That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation."

NKJV "that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation."

ESV "because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved."

NASB "that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved; for with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation."

NIV "That if you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved."

NLT "For if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved."

YLT "that if thou mayest confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and mayest believe in thy heart that God did raise him out of the dead, thou shalt be saved, for with the heart doth one believe to righteousness, and with the mouth is confession made to salvation."

In 10:8, Paul writes, "But what does it (righteousness based on faith) say?" The answer Paul gives is, "The word (of salvation) is near you." What is this word? It is explained in verses 9-10.

In verse 9, Paul writes a simple "if-then" statement. In other words, if one thing happens, then another thing happens. What occurs in the "then" phrase depends on what occurs in the "if" phrase.

So, if a person both A) confesses with his mouth the Lord Jesus, and B) believes in his heart that God raised him (Jesus) from the dead, then C) he will be saved.

It amounts to a simple statement of cause and effect. An individual's confession (not just acknowledgment , but acknowledgment based on a life-altering decision) and belief (more than head knowledge; this is a belief that changes a person's course of life), leads to his being saved.

Verse 10 is simply an explanation and description of how verse 9 comes about. It just gives the reader a fuller meaning of what verse 9 is telling us.

So what can we learn from verses 9-10? We learn much the same that we saw in John 3:16:
-if any person confesses Jesus as Lord
-if that same person believes in his heart that God raised Jesus from the dead
- that same person will be saved.

Much like John 3:16, this is a sweet, simple statement about the gospel. We should commit these verses to memory because they are so important to the heart of what we believe as Christians.

We must also look at what Romans 10:9-10 does not say.
-It does not tell us about God's sovereignty as it relates to salvation.
-It does not tell us whether or not man has free-will to choose God.
-It does not inform us as to whether or not God wills for everyone to be saved.

However, it does seem that the wording of Romans 10:9-10 implies that man has some sort of choice in all this. Clearly, all men are given the responsibility of confessing and believing, or refusing to do so. That appears to amount to some sort of choice. If a person does not make an active choice for the gospel, then he has made a passive, but real, choice against it.

However, we are not told anywhere in these verses that this is a free choice. Paul seems to be silent to this. Despite this, the choice does appear to be a real choice that certainly has real consequences.

Can a choice be a real one even if it is not a free one? Well, I suppose your answer to that will depend on your theology. That is not a can of worms I want to get into right now.

To summarize Romans 10:9-10, we are presented with a simple, but wonderful, "if-then" statement. If any person confesses Christ and believes in His resurrection, then he will be saved. This alone is amazing.

Let's avoid adding more to these verses than they say. Much like John 3:16, they seem to be quiet to the main issues that cause so much disagreement between Arminians and Calvinists.

The next verses in this series, I Timothy 2:3-4 and II Peter 3:9, however, are not silent to these issues. It should be fun to dive in and try to interpret them correctly and fairly.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

What about John 3:16?

What about John 3:16?

I first want to lay some groundwork, and then dive into John chapter 3. My purpose in this discussion is to take as honest a look as is possible at some of the bible verses and passages that have caused the most difficulty for Calvinism. Why do this? Because I believe in the Doctrines of Grace, and I want to be certain that my view of salvation is biblically accurate. If it is not, it is my view that needs to change, not the scriptures.

I say up front that I am a Calvinist because I do not want to mislead anyone. However, I also am not setting out to win an argument or to prove that Calvinism is correct. On the contrary, I really just want to look at certain passages and try to decipher their meaning. I hope my motives are pure; I'll do the best I can to avoid theological bias.

As we go through these verses, I will try to keep to the context, and not rip passages out of place when looking at them. Also, I will try to give the text the fairest reading possible without reading anything else into it. Of course, we also need to keep the teachings of the whole bible in mind; for example, if a passage is ambiguous, a clearer passage may shed light on it (and, don't worry, I won't use Ephesians 1:3-5 as a filter through which to read all of these passages).

Finally, I truly hope you will join in on this conversation over this series of posts. Please feel free to comment as much as you want. This will help us all learn together.

After John 3:16, I will look at the following verses and passages in this order:
1) Romans 10:9-10
2) I Timothy 2:3-4 and II Peter 3:9
3) I John 2:2 and 4:14
4) II Peter 2:1
5) II Kings 20:1-6
6) Hebrews 6:4-6 and 10:26-29

I hope my reasoning for the grouping and ordering of the above verses and passages is (or at least becomes) clear.

Now, for John 3:16. It is important to understand the verse in context. Remember that Jesus is talking to Nicodemus about being "born again." It would be best to read John 3:1-21 (click here).

I will now put several bible versions below, and then get to the discussion.

KJV "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."

NKJV "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life."

ESV "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life."

NASB "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life."

NIV "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."

NLT "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life."

"for God did so love the world, that His Son -- the only begotten -- He gave, that every one who is believing in him may not perish, but may have life age-during."

(The YLT refers to Young's Literal Translation. The YLT is very wooden in nature, but helps because it often comes the closest to the word order of the original Greek).

When looking at John 3:16 (and then the other passages), it is important that we look at the verses grammatically, and then try to determine exactly what the author was saying, and also what he was not saying. I very much want to avoid reading meaning into verses that simply was not intended by the author.

So, in John 3:16, we are told that 1) God so loved the world, so 2) God gave His only begotten son, in order that 3) everyone believing in Him may not perish but rather may have eternal life.

John informs us that God loved the "world." One question that arises is, "What does John mean by world?" Does John mean every person in the world, or every person who will be saved? After reading the passage several times, I have to say that John does not seem to make this clear, at least based on verse 16 alone.

Verse 18, which is part of the same thought, may shed some light on this. John 3:18 tells us, "He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God." NKJV

Verse 18 tells us that some (the ones believing in Jesus) will not be condemned (sent to hell), but that others (the ones not believing in Jesus) are condemned already for not believing in Jesus.

It may be that the only conclusion we can come to about the meaning of "world" in John 3:16 is this: if John is referring to everyone in the world, then some people who God loves are still going to hell. If, rather, John is talking about only those going to heaven, then the ones God loves will be the ones who believe and will go to heaven, and the ones He does not love will go to hell.

To sum up, verse 16 seems ambiguous about the meaning of "world."

Some folks get stuck here and do not want to move on. Let's not do that. Why? Because the meaning of the verse can be determined apart from the meaning of "world."

We know that God loved the world. Because of this He did something amazing. He gave His only unique son. This was so that something else amazing would happen. What was that? That the ones believing in His son would not perish (eternally), but receive eternal life.

Verse 16 is amazing and simple at the same time. I think we often read more into it than it actually says. This is what we know based upon what John wrote:
-God loved the world.
-Because of this, He gave His only son.
-Because of this, everyone believing in His son may not die spiritually, but may have eternal life.

That is wonderful, but that is all we know based on John 3:16.

What don't we know? John does not speak to the following in verse 16:
-God's sovereignty related to salvation
-Whether or not man has free-will related to salvation
-Whether or not God wants everyone to be saved
-Whether or not everyone can be saved
-Specifically what the word "world" means here

So John has told us the basics of the amazing Gospel message in John 3:16. We should still be stunned by the truth of the gospel. However, John has not told us some of what is going on in the background of the gospel.

John 3:16 tells us great truths, but let's not read into it more than it says.

So, what do you think? Please let me know if I am incorrect about something (very possible), have missed anything (very possible), and/or if you disagree with me (very possible).

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

What about these verses?

Since the theme of this blog over the last few days has been Calvinism (the Doctrines of Grace), I would like to ask myself, and I hope you, two difficult questions. First, what verses, passages, or chapters of the bible are most difficult for a Calvinist to deal with? Second, how should those verses be properly interpreted to be most fair to the whole counsel of God's word?

It would be easy for me to focus my attention on passages that most clearly support the Calvinist position. These include John chapter 6, John chapter 10, Romans chapters 8-11, Ephesians chapters 1-2, and I Peter chapter 1.

However, there are some verses and passages that Calvinists have more difficulty with. The following are often used to support the Arminian position: John 3:16, Romans 10:9-10, I Timothy 2:3-4, Hebrews 6:4-6, Hebrews 10:26-29, II Peter 3:9, and I John 4:14.

I believe that the entire bible is true, and therefore does not contradict itself. It must be, then, that all of the above passages teach truths which mesh together nicely. I want to better understand this.

I need your help. I want to deal, one by one, with the passages that cause Calvinists the most difficulty (see above). The list I have is by no means complete. Would you please add to this list by simply leaving the scripture reference as a comment?

After I get a completed list, I will be posting about each passage, starting with John 3:16.

Thanks a lot. I hope we all learn from this process.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Unfair treatment

Just yesterday I posted a link to what I thought was a fair and accurate comparison of Calvinism and Arminianism.

Unfortunately, most of what goes on these days are attacks between the two sides. Please do not misunderstand me. I am all for debate, but it should be done by A) using scripture as the authority for all belief, B) correctly interpreting scripture in light of the teachings of the entire bible, C) displaying a loving spirit, and D) striving for the goal of building one another up in Christ.

Since we are living near Savannah, GA, I like to keep up to date on what is happening in Southern Baptist churches here. Well, one of the Southern Baptist Convention's biggest opponents of Calvinism lives right here in Savannah. His name is Dr. John Connell, and he is senior pastor at the largest Baptist church in Savannah, Calvary in Savannah.

That in-and-of-itself is no problem. Dr. Connell is free to believe what he wants to regarding God's sovereignty. I am not concerned with Dr. Connell's opposition to Calvinism. However, I am perturbed about both the tone he takes in his attacks, and the negative things he says without using scripture to back these up.

What is his motivation is all this? He believes that Calvinism hurts evangelism. However, I have never seen one piece of concrete evidence to show that this is the case. As for our family, Calvinism has actually spurred us on to be more evangelistic because we know God controls the outcome, and we do not have to depend on the quality of our own witnessing skills for someone to be saved.

All I ask is that those who oppose Calvinism do so fairly. Please present scriptural reasons why the Doctrines of Grace are false. Please interpret scripture fairly. Please do so in love. Please do not follow Dr. Connell's example (by the way, we Calvinists should follow these same suggestions).

To find out more on this situation in Savannah, click here.

Monday, June 4, 2007

A good 5 point comparison

If you are one of the handful of people who look at this blog on a regular basis, you know by now that I am a Calvinist. This does not mean that I agree with all of the teachings of the great Reformer John Calvin. What it does mean is that I hold to the Doctrines of Grace, or what is commonly known as the 5 points of Calvinism.

Many of my relatives and friends are not Calvinists. In fact, many are Arminians. I even grew up in the Wesleyan-Arminian tradition. The beauty of all this, of course, is that Calvinists and Arminians are all Christians as long as they repent and believe in Jesus Christ alone as Lord and Savior.

Why bother bring all this up? Here is the reason: when Arminianism and Calvinism are compared, one side is usually disparaged and described in a manner that is not accurate. However, I recently stumbled upon what I believe is a fair comparison of the points of the two theological systems. In other words, if an Arminian and a Calvinist read these descriptions together, they would probably both agree that they are accurate.

Is there any point to all of this? Yes, there is. It is extremely important that we know not only what we believe, but also why we believe it. I hope this comparison will cause you to think about these things.

To go to the site, click here.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Rain, Rain - Don't Go Away

This past Thursday we received the joyful news that Bobby is free of cancer. To celebrate, Bobby, my brother-in-law Nate, and I decided to go camping for the weekend at nearby Magnolia Springs State Park. Bobby had wanted to go camping for a while, so this made him very happy. After buying a bunch of mostly unhealthy food and packing up camping equipment, we traveled to the park on Friday afternoon.

Note to self: Always check the weather forecast before leaving on a camping trip. Especially look out for tropical storms that may be heading straight for your tent.

Prior to this weekend, it had not rained significantly in southeast Georgia in several months. It has been so dry that about 100 miles SW of here forest fires have been burning out of control for weeks. In light of this, I did not even think of checking on the weather. My mistake. Little did I know that Tropical Storm Barry was moving out of the Gulf of Mexico and heading up through Georgia.

Why was Barry there? I have to think that this storm was a direct answer to prayer. Churches in at least Georgia and Florida have been asking God for rain for some time. God delivered in a big way this weekend. Places in the two states that had not seen much rain in a while received inches of rain with this one storm.

While we were stuck lying in our tent at the campsite with little to do, it was tempting to begin complaining. After all, we had made all of the preparations for this trip, and then we could not really enjoy it: no canoing, no hiking, no campfires, and no smores. We even ended up returning home on Saturday afternoon because the wind and rain kept increasing.

Complaining would be the typical American answer in this situation. However, we did not give in to this for several reasons. First, scripture tells us not to complain (see here). Second, the rain seemed to be a clear answer to prayer. Third, we must trust God's hand at all times knowing that His will is best, and that He can see all of the big picture in a way we cannot.

So, even though our trip was a washout, we thank the Lord for the rain, and say, "Rain, rain - don't go away!"

Thanks, but no thanks

I Corinthians 10:31 tells us, "So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God."

I'm pretty sure that was not the motivating factor when this was taking place. All I have to say in response is "yuck" and "thanks, but no thanks."

Also, if you do this, how many TUMS do you have to eat afterward? Some other questions may be better left un-asked.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Not surprising, but disappointing

The Barna Group recently performed a survey of American religious beliefs and practices. Based on what we see in our culture every day, the results are probably not surprising. However, they are disappointing. The worst news is that people who claim to be Christians are moving, year by year, further away from biblical teachings.

The quote from the article that I found most troubling was the following: David Kinnaman, who directed the study, indicated that "most Americans do not have strong and clear beliefs, largely because they do not possess a coherent biblical worldview. That is, they lack a consistent and holistic understanding of their faith. Millions of Americans say they are personally committed to Jesus Christ, but they believe he sinned while on earth. Many believers claim to trust what the Bible teaches, but they reject the notion of a real spiritual adversary or they feel that faith-sharing activities are optional. Millions feel personally committed to God, but they are renegotiating the definition of that deity."

You can view the entire survey results by clicking here.