Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Visit to High Falls Gorge

Last week, when we visited Whiteface Mountain, we also stopped by High Falls Gorge. We enjoyed walking around the gorge and taking in the beauty. The gorge sits at the base of several of the Adirondack Mountains, and therefore the water has a great amount of energy behind it as it cuts a path out of the rocks. Our three children (Caroline, Mary, and Bobby) liked running around the park with their cousin Kevin (the boy without the hat).

It was a great day to be amazed by the splendor of God's creation.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Indigenous Clothes Washing in India

Click here for an interesting (and humorous) way to wash clothing in India. I must admit that we never attempted this.

Friday, July 27, 2007

On Top of the World (Well, Almost)

The best part about our current trip to New York State has been the time we have had with our extended family. Yesterday, we traveled with Peter (Alice's brother), his wife Magda, and their son Kevin to Whiteface Mountain deep in Adirondack Park. On our way there, we drove through the village of Lake Placid, which was the site of the 1932 and 1980 (remember the "Miracle on Ice"?) Winter Olympic Games. The alpine skiing events from those games took place on the slopes of Whiteface.

We obviously had no intention of skiing, but rather wanted to see the panoramic view from the top of Whiteface Mountain. It not only is one of the tallest mountains in New York, but also offers a tremendous view. After making it to the parking area near the peak, we walked 400 feet through a tunnel into the mountain (where it was only 45 degrees), and then took an elevator to the summit. From there, we both soaked in the view and tried to keep our kids from falling off the side of the mountain.

One of the reasons I love to climb mountains is that the breathtaking views give us a small peek at God's glory. God is majestic and full of splendor. His creation, which he has given us to enjoy and be stewards over, blesses us with a hint of what He is like.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

What a great gift!

What a great gift I have been given! What gift is this? The gift is examples of long marriages.

My family and I are currently in New York State on vacation. The primary reason we drove the 1,100 miles to get here was to celebrate my in-laws' 50th anniversary. The get-together was a joyous occasion for all of us. In the above picture you can see my Father-in-law (John Putney) and my Mother-in-law (Ruth Putney). Surrounding them are all six of their kids. My wife, Alice, is standing in the middle of the back row (she's the pretty one with the black hair and no beard.) It was the first time all six Putney kids have been together since our wedding back in 1991.

All the talk of marriage got me thinking about the examples I have been given. My own parents have now been married 44 years. Both of my sets of grandparents were married over 50 years. Alice's parents have now hit the 50 year mark. Both of her sets of grandparents also hit 50 years. Actually, I know that Alice's Putney grandparents went past 60 years!

In this day of rampant divorce and infidelity, how do people stay together? Th example I have been witness to is one of God's amazing grace. All of these couples have been greatly blessed by the Lord. Also, they have worked hard at sustaining their marriages even when things have not been going the best.

So, first, I thank God for these wonderful examples. I also thank those who have gone before me for staying together through the good times and bad.

Alice and I are on year 17 and going strong. Praise the Lord!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Freedom and Wisdom

Ever since the Reformation, Protestant churches have been split into numerous denominations. Much of this splintering comes from good intentions (alas, some does not). Some people are striving to be as biblical as possible, and when they have differences with others they often separate.

While the desire to be as biblical as possible is a good one, I believe that there has been far too much disunity within the Christian church as a whole ever since the 1500's. We all know, based upon His prayer in John 17, that Jesus wants His church to be united. So what do we do?

I don't think the answer is as complicated as we make it out to be. Quite simply, let's follow all of the commands of scripture regarding belief and practice within the church. After that, we have freedom to choose how we want to do things. However, the wise thing to do is to model ourselves after what we see in scripture.

Let's take an example: corporate worship. When the church gathers, the bible makes it clear that the triune God should be the object of our adoration. Also, we must focus on the edification of the body. Along with this, the sacraments/ordinances should be performed. Those things are clear. After this, we have freedom in a great many areas. How we go about the above things is often left up to us. One big issue in many churches today is what type of songs to sing. Well, we have freedom in this, so why must there be all the fighting? Let the local church decide what it wants to do. On another issue, the model we see in the bible is the house church. Must we, then, meet in houses today? No, we do not have to. However, if we do meet in houses, it may do away with many of the organizational difficulties that often cause strife within churches.

Here's another example: church leadership. We are instructed in I Timothy and Titus about what the character of a pastor/elder/overseer should be. We must follow these teachings. Also, it seems that the duties of the pastor/elder/overseer include leading, feeding, and protecting. Some issues are not so clear. For example, we have no mandate about how many pastor/elder/overseers any one church should have. The scriptural model seems to be that a church will have more than one pastor/elder/overseer. However, since there is no command to have a plurality, it seems that if a church only has one pastor/elder/overseer, this is O.K. As for the issue of how the leaders are chosen, denominations appear to be free to either leave this choice to the local body or have the leaders appointed by someone else (such as a bishop in the UMC). To follow the biblical model, we would have to allow the local body to choose its own pastor/elder/overseer(s), but this is not commanded.

So, in order to increase unity, let's follow these steps:
1) Follow the commands of scripture in all things.
2) Remember that we have freedom in those ares in which we are not commanded. We should also keep in mind that others (other local bodies) have this same freedom.
3) Following the scriptural model is always a wise decision.

Too many times, we fail at #1, and move on to #'s 2 and 3. We must follow the commands of scripture or our churches will have all sorts of problems and much disunity. For example, in John 13:34-35, Jesus says, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another" (NKJV). Within the body of Christ, if we would love one another (notice Jesus' repetition of this command to make His point), we would face far fewer difficulties.

The issue of the sacraments/ordinances is often a sticky one, and has led, sadly, to much disunity. Baptism and the Lord's Supper should be times that unite the body of Christ. So what do we do?

As for baptism, the Greek word "baptidzo" means "to immerse." Therefore, when we are commanded to be baptized, this implies that immersion under water will occur. Also, several times in the N.T. (see Acts 2:38), the command of repentance comes before or goes along with baptism. This indicates that baptism should come after salvation. Infant baptism must, therefore, be ruled out as a biblical action. That said, as long as a believer is being baptized by immersion, that is all that matters. Location of baptism, for example, does not matter (church building, pond, lake, pool, or river).

Regarding the Lord's Supper, in I Corinthians 11:24, we are told that Jesus said, "Do this in remembrance of me" (NKJV). This is a clear command. Also, we know that Jesus is alive in heaven as our Mediator. Since we know these things, it is clear that transubstantiation (the Roman Catholic idea that the elements actually turn into Jesus' literal body and blood) is not biblical. As long as we treat the Lord's Supper in a biblical manner, then we can unite around it. Matters such as location, frequency, and specific type of elements are areas where we have freedom.

Let us strive for unity in the body of Christ (both within local churches and between local churches). This must not be a back-burner issue, for it is very important to our Lord. So what do we do? Again, we must be certain to follow all of the commands in scripture. While doing that, we must remember that we have freedom in other areas. We should, however, try to follow the biblical model, for it is a wise decision.

May we unite in a manner that pleases Christ.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Southern Baptists Pushing Maximum Density

I knew there was a lot of fried food in the South, and this seems to prove it.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Wow! I went Past "R" to "NC-17"!

This all began yesterday when my blog was given a PG rating. No big deal. But then I looked at the words that were considered inappropriate. "Missionary" made the list! What?!

So today, I was shooting for "R," but went past to "NC-17." Remember, this all happened because I typed in the word "missionary" about 90 times in my last post.

What does it say about our society that the word "missionary" has now been deemed worthy of being on a "bad" list somewhere? It is difficult to even know how to respond to this.

If you want to see your "blog rating," click here.

I'm going for an "R" blog rating

Yesterday, I posted about a rating system for blogs that is much like the current movie rating system. The more I thought about it, the more it bothers me that the word "missionary" is on the "bad" list. Because of this, I am going for an "R" rating by using the word "missionary" a lot.

Here we go: missionary, missionary, missionary, missionary, missionary, missionary, missionary, missionary, missionary, missionary, missionary, missionary, missionary, missionary, missionary, missionary, missionary, missionary, missionary, missionary, missionary, missionary, missionary, missionary, missionary, missionary, missionary, missionary, missionary, missionary, missionary, missionary, missionary, missionary, missionary, missionary, missionary, missionary, missionary, missionary, missionary, missionary, missionary, missionary, missionary, missionary, missionary, missionary, missionary, missionary, missionary, missionary, missionary, missionary, missionary, missionary, missionary, missionary, missionary, missionary, missionary, missionary, missionary, missionary, missionary, missionary, missionary, missionary, missionary, missionary, missionary, missionary, missionary, missionary, missionary, missionary, missionary, missionary, missionary, missionary, missionary, missionary, missionary, missionary, missionary, missionary, missionary, missionary.

Let's see what kind of rating this gets me.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

What is Your Blog Rated?

My blog apparently warrants a PG rating. Why? Because I have written about death and hell. Hmmmm...

I wouldn't give much weight to this particular rating system. For example, one of my living heroes, Albert Mohler (president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary), has a widely read blog. Due to the fact that Dr. Mohler discusses topics such as death and pain, his blog was given a rating of NC-17. Even the word "missionary" seems to be on some sort of "bad" list. Odd.

Anyway, if you are interested in your blog's rating, click here.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Republican Party skews Christian belief and practice

Whenever church and state are wed, the state impacts the church. It rarely occurs the other way around. Because the state is a secular entity, its effect on the church is almost always a negative one.

All we have to do is look to history to find a prime example. During its first 300 years, the Christian church was vibrant, pure, and thriving despite its status as an illegal religion within the Roman Empire. At times facing severe persecution, the church was consistently salt and light within a pagan empire.

However, after Constantine made Christianity the religion of the empire in the early 300's, the church began to take on the character of the empire. Its impact on the world lessened as its morals declined and its evangelistic fervor diminished.

The state impacted the church; the church did not impact the state.

Fast-forward to today. Christian churches within our country (at least for the most part) seem to be wedded to the Republican Party. I believe this has occurred for two primary reasons. First, the Democratic Party is now controlled by its left-wing element that is outwardly anti-Christian. Second, the Republican Party has embraced the so-called "Religious Right," and wants this powerful voting block.

(Just as an aside, I write this piece as an Independent voter. However, I am far closer to a Republican than a Democrat. The Democratic Party has drifted so far to the left that it can no longer even be considered for my vote.)

So what impact has the union between the Republican Party and Christian churches in America had? Frankly, I don't think it has had much impact on the Republican Party other than to help it gain the presidency 5 of the last 7 elections.

More importantly, what impact has this close relationship had upon American churches? I believe the impact has been a negative one because we, as Christians, often act and believe more like Republicans than Christians (I realize you can be both Republican and Christian; please just keep reading).

I see at least 5 specific areas where I believe the Republican Party is at odds with Christianity. The 5 are treatment of the poor, stewardship of the environment, gun-control, immigration-reform, and financial responsibility. Let's take a look.

As for treatment of the poor, the Democratic Party has consistently tried to give money to the poor in our society in the hopes that this would cure the problem. We have seen, from F.D.R. to L.B.J. to W.J.C., that this does not work. In response, the Republican Party has, for the most part, tried to ignore the problem of the poor, in the hopes that it would go away. This hasn't worked either. Could there be another solution? Jesus made it clear on multiple occasions that His followers should care for the poor. Jesus certainly did. However, most churches hold to more of a Republican attitude toward the poor that a Christian one. The view within most churches seems to be that the poor deserve their fate. Therefore, churches set up some sort of small benevolence fund, but do little else at all to assist the poor.

As for the environment, I am not suggesting that we worship nature as some in the Democratic Party do (see Al Gore). Once again, however, we see the Republican Party reacting to a Democratic agenda by going to the opposite extreme. In fact, I have seen Republicans do little over the years except block environmental protection measures put forth by Democrats. How do churches respond? Churches mostly ignore the issue. Why? Has not God given us a beautiful earth to be stewards over? He has. Churches, however, rarely speak about this issue, and if they do, they just say the same words that the Republican Party says.

Gun-control is another issue where most churches are either silent or just repeat the Republican Party line. I'm not suggesting that guns be banned. After all, it is evil people who should be blamed for shooting other people, not the guns they use. However, there are plenty of fire-arms that can be easily purchased in our country that are not designed for hunting wild game. Their purpose is simply to be used for killing people. Shouldn't churches be calling for the banning of these sorts of high-powered weapons? Jesus was clearly a non-violent individual who had a pacifistic streak to say the least. The Republican Party, on the other hand, is strongly influenced by the National Rifle Association (NRA).

Immigration-reform is a hot issue right now. Despite the president's attempts to pass a reform bill, it was Republicans in congress who blocked the measure, saying it gives amnesty to people who should not live here. The Republican Party, for the most part, does not want more immigrants (probably because non-whites tend to vote strongly Democratic). However, when we look at the teachings of Christ, He is very open to all people. He did not speak to the importance of borders between countries, but rather spoke to the importance of people. Much as He cared for the poor, He also cared for Samaritans and Gentiles. So where are churches on this issue? I hear little because most stay within their own walls, not reaching their communities.

Finally, what about financial responsibility? Despite the fact that the Republican Party talks about lower spending and smaller government, it does not put this into practice. It was under Ronald Reagan that our country's national debt hit new heights. Today, we see huge budget deficits each year. Ironically, it was under Bill Clinton (not my favorite person) that we had budget surpluses. Where does the church stand on this issue? It is true that many churches give a great deal of money toward missions, and for this I am thankful. However, many churches are also deep in debt for buildings that they financed on credit. Is this good stewardship? Is this a good message to be sending to our church members, many of whom have a great deal of personal debt? Shouldn't our churches teach financial responsibility and also act this out?

I apologize for the negative tone of this post. I did not intend for it to turn out this way. My intent is simply to warn about the impact that the Republican Party is currently having upon our churches. Let us not turn a blind eye, and act like the Republican Party is a Christian political party. It is not. This is why the two leading candidates for the Republican nomination for president in 2008 are a nominal Christian at best (Rudi Guliani) and a Mormon (Mitt Romney).

May I suggest three recommendations for all of us?

First, let us cut ties with the Republican Party. This does not mean that we won't vote for a Republican candidate. Many times we might do so. Let us not, however, automatically vote for the GOP. Count yourself as an Independent.

Second, let's look for a third party candidate who believes more along the lines that we do. This will take some work on our part because they are often somewhat difficult to find out about; the Democrats and Republicans have made it difficult to run from outside their two parties.

Third, and most important, we must as individuals and churches look to the bible to inform how we vote and what our positions should be on political issues. Search the scriptures for they contain the words of life.

Let us not be skewed away from the bible by the Republican Party. May we vote, believe, and live in a way that pleases our Lord Jesus, not Rush Limbaugh.

Friday, July 13, 2007

So, what about it?

So, what about this group of biblical texts? What can we learn from them? What is going on here?

The purpose of this series was to take a fair (as much as is possible) look at several of the biblical texts that are often cited by Arminians to support their theological positions.

What do we find?

In John 3:16, we see a simple, beautiful statement about the gospel message. "Whoever" believes in Christ will receive eternal life. This is true. However, no where does the term "whoever" indicate that all men have free-will to choose Christ. Clearly, mankind is given responsibility to repent and believe, but this does not imply freedom of the will.

Romans 10:9-10 is much like John 3:16 in that it makes a simple, albeit wonderful, statement about the gospel. It is an "if-then" statement. This statement is true for all people. However, much like John 3:16, the author is silent in these verses about who ultimately does the choosing (God or man). It is interesting to note, however, that in Romans 9 and 11 Paul makes it clear that God does the selecting.

As for I Timothy 2:3-4 and II Peter 3:9, we learn that it is God's desire that all men be saved. However, God's desire is different from his sovereign will. For example, on a much lighter note, right now my desire is to go get an ice cream cone, but my will is not to do this because I am on a diet (or trying to be). Anyway, God's will is clearly not that all men be saved because that would lead to Universalism.

In I John 2:2 and 4:14, the real issue is what the word "world" means. Is it referring to every individual on the earth, or is it talking about mankind in general? We saw that it must refer to mankind in general; otherwise, John would be indicating that all men will be saved, and this is clearly not the case.

II Peter 2:1 is an interesting verse. Does it imply general atonement, or is Peter not even talking about this? Upon looking at the scriptural context, we can see that Peter (when writing about false teachers, and saying of them, "even denying the Master who bought them,") is not talking about the specific redemptive work of Christ on the cross.

II Kings 20:1-6 is probably the easiest of these passages to deal with. Does God change His mind? Does God know the future? A fair reading makes it obvious that God does not change His mind (He is perfect, so why would He need to?), but does respond to prayer. Also, that He knows the future is clear because He gives Hezekiah exactly 15 more years to live.

Hebrews 6:4-6 and 10:26-29 is a passage that is often cited by those who believe that a person, once saved, can lose (or at least reject) his salvation. After examination, we can see that the writer of Hebrews is not talking about saved people in these passages, but rather, is discussing those who have heard and understand the gospel at an intellectual level, but have not committed to Christ.

Well, that about sums up this summary. A key lesson to be learned here is the importance of interpretation. We must never read more into a bible verse than it actually says. Based on a fair reading of these texts, it seems that much of Arminian theology is based on a practice of deriving meaning from texts that simply is not there.

We find, then, that none of the above passages harm in any way the Doctrines of Grace. In fact, they are only supported by the bible. God's sovereignty still stands supreme.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Tominthebox has hit the big time!

This is amazing. By now you know that I write satire as "Elder Eric" at TomintheBox News Network. We mainly focus on theological issues as they relate to society. Remember, it is only satire.

Well, it looks like we upset somebody famous. Remember Ken Jennings from "Jeopardy" fame. He is the very intelligent man who was on the show for weeks and set all sorts of records. It turns out that he has a blog. It also turns out that a recent article that I wrote has gotten under his skin a bit. I'm not sure why; after all, it is satire.

Anyway, if you are interested in what he has to say about it, click here. For the TBNN article that caused this mini-firestorm, click here.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Newsflash: my friend Devin Bell has entered the world of blogdom! The picture to the left is not of Devin. Rather, it is Samuel Davies.

Devin's blog focuses on the life and ministry of Rev. Davies. While most folks have not even heard of Davies, he is worthy of note. Take a look at Devin's blog (entitled "New Light in the Old Dominion") to learn more about this 16th Century Presbyterian minister in Virginia.

Monday, July 9, 2007

What about Hebrews 6:4-6 and 10:26-29?

What about Hebrews 6:4-6 and 10:26-29? Why are these verses important?

This is the "final installment" in a series of posts that looks at several of the primary biblical texts used to support Arminian conclusions about scripture. Hebrews 6:4-6 and 10:26-29 are often quoted to give support to the conclusion that after a person is saved, he can later lose (or at least reject) his salvation.

Hebrews 6:4-6 says, "For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt." (ESV)

Hebrews 10:26-29 tells us, "For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has spurned the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace?" (ESV)

Let's quickly look at the context here. We are not certain who wrote the epistle to the Hebrews, but both Paul and Luke seem to have impacted it. My best guess is that Paul preached a series of messages, and Luke wrote them down.

More important than that, however, is who the messages (and letter) are addressed to. Based on the content, it seems that Hebrews was primarily directed at Jewish listeners, some of whom were saved and some of whom were not. This would explain both why there are so many references to Old Testament scriptures, and why it seems that at some times the discussion is directed to those who are saved and at other times to those who are not saved.

The primary thrust of this letter is, "Jesus is better than..." For example, we are told that Christ is better than the angels, better than Melchizedek, and better than Moses.

So, what do we make of 6:4-6 and 10:26-29? Let's begin with 6:4-6. Again we are told, "For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt."

The main question is this: does this text say that a person can lose his salvation? We can only answer this by taking a close look at the wording. The key to understanding these verses is that we must correctly determine who the writer is addressing at this point. So, is the writer talking about saved people? The answer is no.

The people talked about here are described as "enlightened," "tasted the heavenly gift" "shared in the Holy Spirit," and "tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come." These descriptions are obviously all positive things, but they do not indicate either way whether or not the people being described are saved. These words could refer to either saved or unsaved people.

So now what do we do? Let's look at the rest of what is going on. First of all, if this is referring to saved people, as most Arminians would say, then the text also makes it clear that if a person loses his salvation, then he cannot ever get it back. The text says, "For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened...to renew them again to repentance." However, most Arminians would say that if a person loses his salvation, then he can get it back. We have to be consistent in how we interpret scripture.

Another key point is this: in 6:9, the writer says, "But, beloved, we are confident of better things concerning you..." Why would the writer do this? He does this because he is changing audiences. In 6:4-6, he was writing about people who are interested intellectually in the gospel, but who are unsaved. In verse 9, he transitions to people who are saved. This is why he writes "but" and "beloved."

Maybe the most important point is what the writer does not say. Terms that are normally used only for Christians such as "holy," "born again," "righteous," or "saints" are not used to describe those in 6:4-6 (MacArthur Study Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers). This is an argument from silence, but it is still significant. After all, if the writer was making such an important point (that people can lose their salvation), he would certainly make it absolutely clear that he was talking about saved people. He does not do this.

So what is going on in 6:4-6? The writer of Hebrews is warning Jewish readers who are intellectually interested in Christ, but have not committed to Him. They are being warned that if they reject salvation offered by Christ, then there is no other means of salvation.

Let's move on to 10:26-29. This text says, "
For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has spurned the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace?"

This is much the same situation as in 6:4-6. The key is the word "knowledge." Again, the writer nowhere says he is talking about saved people here. Just because a person has received "knowledge of the truth," that does not mean the person is saved. Much like in 6:4-6, the writer is warning those who are not saved that if they reject the truth they have heard and keep living sinful lives, then there is no other way for them to be saved. Christ's sacrifice is the only means of salvation.

To summarize, these two passages do not refer to saved people losing their salvation. Rather, the writer of Hebrews is focusing on Jewish people who have heard about Christianity and may be interested in it, but have not committed to Christ. He is warning them that if they reject Christ, there is no other path of salvation.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

What about II Kings 20:1-6?

So far in this series, I have tried to take a fair look at several different biblical texts that are often used to support Arminian viewpoints.

Today's passage is II Kings 20:1-6. This particular text has been employed by Open Theists, in particular, to try to show that A) God changes His mind, and B) God does not know what is going to occur in the future.

In my experience, most Arminians are not Open Theists, but many Open Theists would claim to agree with many Arminian teachings.

Here is the text from II Kings:

In those days Hezekiah became sick and was at the point of death. And Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz came to him and said to him, "Thus says the Lord, ‘Set your house in order, for you shall die; you shall not recover.’” Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord, saying, “Now, O Lord, please remember how I have walked before you in faithfulness and with a whole heart, and have done what is good in your sight.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly. And before Isaiah had gone out of the middle court, the word of the Lord came to him: “Turn back, and say to Hezekiah the leader of my people, Thus says the Lord, the God of David your father: I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears. Behold, I will heal you. On the third day you shall go up to the house of the Lord, and I will add fifteen years to your life. I will deliver you and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria, and I will defend this city for my own sake and for my servant David's sake.”

Quite frankly, this is the easiest of the passages I have had to deal with so far. Let's take a look. Hezekiah is told that he will soon die. He then prays, we can assume, for healing. God responds to Hezekiah's prayer by giving him 15 more years to live.

The two claims of the Open Theists are, again, that God both changes His mind, and that He does not know what will happen in the future.

A clear reading of II Kings 20:1-6 shows that God is not changing His mind. Open Theism claims that God changes His mind toward specific situations. However, God does not do that here. So what is going on? God has decided that Hezekiah will die. The specific situation changes dramatically, however, when Hezekiah prays. Only after the prayer does God say that Hezekiah will get 15 more years of life. These are two different situations because one is before Hezekiah's prayer and one is after. Anyone saying that these are the same situation is discounting the power of prayer.

What about the second claim of Open Theism? This one says that God does not know what will happen in the future. That is clearly refuted here. Notice that God gives Hezekiah not just several more years to live, but specifically 15 more years. If God did not know the future, how could He know that it would be exactly 15 years? Please do not tell me that God is just a really good predictor of future events.

What we do see in this passage is an omnipotent God who listens to and answers prayer. God no where changes His mind. The passage is silent as to whether or not God knew that Hezekiah would pray what he did (however, based on many other biblical texts, we can assume He did). God acted one way in one situation, and another way in another situation. God acted pre- and post-prayer.

We also can clearly see here that God knows not just generalities about the future, but also specifics. More than that, He is in control of what is occurring in the future. Note the specific 15 years.

So we see that this passage does not support any of the claims of Open Theists. Instead, it supports views that uphold God's sovereignty over all things.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

The best woman I know

The woman in the picture is my wonderful wife, Alice. As of today, we have been married exactly 16 years. These have been the best years of my life because I have been cleaved to the best woman I know.

I thank the Lord for providing me with this wonderful woman. Alice, thanks for loving me despite my faults.

Widows in India

You can learn a lot about a religion based on how it treats its poor, defenseless, and helpless.

James 1:27 tells us, "Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world."

Hindu widows, on the other hand, are often treated very poorly. Click here to read more about it.

Monday, July 2, 2007

What about II Peter 2:1?

In this series of posts, I have attempted to deal in a fair manner with biblical texts that are often used to support Arminian interpretations of scripture. Since I am unashamedly a Calvinist, I thought this would be a healthy exercise. The previous posts look at John 3:16, Romans 10:9-10, I Timothy 2:3-4 & II Peter 3:9, and I John 2:2 & 4:14.

Today I will attempt to tackle II Peter 2:1. This verse says:

But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. ESV

But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. NKJV

But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. NIV

In his second epistle, Peter deals quite a bit with the issue of false teachers within the church. He spends a good deal of time describing their character and actions. This is the primary context of the letter of II Peter.

In looking at 2:1, we will be focusing on one specific phrase: “even denying the master who bought them.” Peter, here, is describing false teachers. Everyone who gives a fair reading to this epistle would agree that these false teachers are not saved. There is no disagreement about that issue between Arminians and Calvinists.

The real issue is this: if false teachers, who are not saved, have been bought by their master, does that mean that Jesus died for their sins? The bigger question is what this leads to: did Jesus die for the sins of every individual or only for the sins of the elect? This is often referred to as General Atonement vs. Particular (or Limited) Atonement.

The best explanation I have read about II Peter 2:1 comes from Wayne Grudem in his book, “Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine.” Grudem focuses on 2:1 on page 600 of his text. I have quoted him here because he deals fairly with the issue in a manner better than I could.

According to Grudem, “The Old Testament allusion is probably to Deut. 32:6, where Moses says to the rebellious people who have turned away from God, ‘Is not he your Father who has bought you?’ (author’s translation). Peter is drawing an analogy between the past false prophets who arose among the Jews and those who will be false teachers within the churches to which he writes…In line with this clear reference to false prophets in the Old Testament, Peter also alludes to the fact that the rebellious Jews turned away from God who “bought” them out of Egypt in the exodus. From the time of the exodus onward, any Jewish person would have considered himself or herself one who was “bought” by God in the exodus and therefore a person of God’s own possession. In this sense, the false teachers arising among the people were denying God their Father, to whom they rightfully belonged. So the text means not that Christ had redeemed these false prophets, but simply that they were rebellious Jewish people (or church attenders in the same position as the rebellious Jews) who were rightly owned by God because they had been brought out of the land of Egypt (or their forefathers had), but they were ungrateful to him. Christ’s specific redemptive work on the cross is not in view in this case.”

That about sums it up. The key is that in 2:1, Peter is not discussing Jesus’ specific work of redemption on the cross when he writes, “even denying the Master who bought them.”

As with most of the previous verses from this series of posts, II Peter 2:1 is often forced by some people to mean more than it actually says. It seems that many of the verses that form the bedrock of Arminian theology actually mean far less that some Arminians give them credit for. Let us all be fair to the biblical text (Calvinists, that means you, too), and try to honestly determine what the original authors meant.

Up next: II Kings 20:1-6.