Do Calvinists Put God in a Box? Of Course We Do, But So Do You!

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If you have held Calvinistic positions on anything concerning Scripture for more than a minute, you know that the moment you voice such convictions, it will not take long for someone to make the claim that they disagree with you and “will not put God in a box.”

The irony is that the moment they say they will not put God in a box, is the moment they do. The problem with their box is that it is much worse than the box used by Calvinists because their feelings and emotions define the box they use, as opposed to the box used by Calvinists, which is scripture.

The reality is that whenever we think about God at all, we put Him in a box. We can’t help it. We are finite beings trying to think and describe that which is infinite. We are sinful and fallen trying to grasp that which is sinless, holy, perfect and blameless. Therefore it behooves us to think about Him with the guidance of Scripture. It is the only way we can think about Him properly and without error. What the Bible tells us about God is what we are to believe about Him. What our hearts tell us about Him, should be highly suspect, especially when our hearts are telling us that He is love in the sense that we want Him to be, and not love as defined in Scripture. This debate really is another form of the Calvinist/Arminian debate that started so many years ago.

Just a side note before we go on: please realize that Calvinists do not follow Calvin. What we are saying when we say we are Calvinist is that we are in agreement with what Calvin wrote about salvation, God, and man, and what Augustine wrote about salvation, God, and man, because both men held to what Paul and the New Testament wrote about salvation, God, and man. Don’t expect us to quote Calvin when we are teaching theology or (heaven forbid) debating theology. You can expect Lutherans to quote Luther, but Calvinists quote Scripture, not Calvin. This is why Calvinism won’t go away. It’s rooted in Scripture and the truth found therein. I also concede that the antithesis of Calvinism, Arminianism won’t go away either because it’s rooted in fallen human nature and the desire of man to be “like God” (Genesis 3:5). But this truth is for another blog post.

The reason I point out that we are quoting Scripture as Calvinists is because we make our case using God’s word about Him, about us, and about salvation for our understanding of how things are. We don’t rely on man’s opinion. We rely on what God’s word says about who He is, and who we are. This is really important when it comes to understanding what we believe because these issues we debate are of an eternal nature.

Let’s play Pascal’s wager on this one. If the Calvinist is wrong in his view of God and the fallen nature of man, and the Rob Bell’s of the world are right, then what difference does it make? If God, who according to Bell & Company, is just a big Teddy Bear in the sky, loving us with a gooey elixir of love, then it matters not. Why do people get so upset with Calvinists if this is the case?

However, if God is actually holy, just, righteous, and a hater of iniquity, then perhaps we should take what Scripture says about Him and us more seriously. It would be nice if we could just cover every sin of mankind in some coating of love conjured up by men if Scripture actually supported such a view. But we cannot. The word of God is the authority on God and who He is, not our fickle feelings or desires.

I think Calvinists get the most grief when we point out that God’s wrath rests upon the unbeliever. I did this in a recent post and it caught the attention of some friends who did not like that I pointed this out. Their problem wasn’t with what Scripture said which would have been a far more worthy debate, but with the fact that I pointed this out without mentioning the love of God. I didn’t mention the love of God because that was not the issue being addressed. That would be like asking me how to make a chocolate cake and then accusing me of putting the cake “in a box” because I didn’t mention how to make green beans.

I do admit that I don’t mention the love of God that much. I don’t mention it on purpose. There are so many preachers proclaiming nothing but the love of God that people are living in all manner of sin without regards to holiness because they are convinced that it doesn’t matter what they do, God loves them just the way they are. This is what happens when you start preaching that God loves unconditionally.

The reality is that God doesn’t love every fallen sinner. The idea of “unconditional” love  is a view of love that was constructed in the counseling halls of academia and is not found in Scripture. If God loves us, it is because of the sacrifice of His Son first. Yes, I know the word says: But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us… This is an absolutely wonderful passage and a reminder to us that God’s love for us is not dependent upon our ability to live perfect lives. We are still sinners, saved by grace and we still fall into sin. We need the reminder that His love was upon us long before we committed our first sin. But to say that this same love is upon those who are not in Christ by faith, and through grace, is saying too much. To say this love extends to the wicked sinner, or worse, the moralistically self-righteous, is abusing the truth. Romans is written to believers, beloved of God, called(the elect) to be saints… and says nothing encouraging for the unrepentant rejector of truth, be they those who have heard the gospel or have not heard the gospel.

To say that God’s love extends to everyone without exception is a lie and the most unloving thing we can do. The unbeliever needs to know that God is not happy with him/her in their sin. They must know that they need to repent of their ways and turn to Christ alone for salvation. I believe that pastors who are preaching the unconditional love of God, hoping to win converts, are doing more damage to the church than the haters of Christianity do because they present a false gospel. They present a God who loves us no matter what. But this is not what Scripture tells us. Just look at Psalm 5:4-5 For You are not a God who takes pleasure in the wickedness, nor shall evil dwell with You. The boastful shall not stand in Your sight; You hate all workers of iniquity. For the average Christian, because they have been taught so poorly about the God who is, this concept of God hating anything at all will throw them into vapor lock.

We may not like what Scripture says about God or us for that matter. But we must trust in the God who reveals Himself through Scripture and reject our own inclinations. To trust our feelings, desires and wants when it is contrary to Scripture is utter foolishness. By that I mean there is no greater fool than the one who rests in his own inclinations especially when Scripture contradicts those inclinations.

Those who merely preach Christ’s love, present a gospel without the cross of Christ and the gruesome nature of His death on behalf of… sinners. Those who preach the full counsel of God, as Paul did, preach of God’s wrath and His Law, so that the sinner can see where they are in relationship to the God who is. It also helps us to see how much God loved us. God’s wrath and His Law give us clarity about who we are, and what we rightfully deserve. It humbles us before Him because we know that if we are not saved by His grace alone, in Christ alone, then there is no true hope for us. There is nothing in us that is lovable and not fully deserving of God’s wrath.

Try telling that to most Christians today and they will respond (correctly): “that is not my god!” I have been told this before. I agree, the God I preach is not their god. For this, I get accused of putting God in a box.

But there is hope. There are some who are beginning to see the truth about who God is. I love that this article popped up on my Facebook account this past week. One of the Duggars, Jessa Seewald, actually came out and said what I’ve labored to say here so many times. She was confronting those who when confronted with sin, scream “don’t judge!” She writes concerning the person who appeals to an all loving god:

“The person speaking this is right — their god is not angry with them,” she said. “He can’t be, because he doesn’t exist. They are not talking about the God of the Bible. They have created a god in their own mind to suit themselves.”

I wish that more Christians would understand this. We must let the word of God define who God is, not our desires or wicked feelings. To do so is to put God in a box of their own making, and not relying on who God has told us He is. We may not like what His word says about us, or Himself. But this is all we have that we can trust. To trust anything other than God’s word is utter foolishness.

PhotoBomb: Joey!

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Heidi and I took the boys over to College Station this past weekend and we spent time walking around Texas A&M University. It is, after all, a really neat place to check out and she has never seen any university that is so big and prestigious.

We were taking pictures as we went along and we tried to get Andy to take pictures of the two of us, since we don’t have a lot of pictures of the two of us together. Well, it was a good idea. We just didn’t count on Photobomb Joey, who was in a rare mood. (A photobomb is someone who jumps into a photo unexpectedly.)

I’m giving you three shots of us with Joey. By the time Andy took the first picture, Joey had already danced in front of us and we were almost in tears laughing so hard. Andy did manage to get Joey in a couple of the shots. Here are the three best shots:

T&Heidi 001

T&Heidi 002

T&Heidi 003

You can see why Joey keeps us in stitches. He really has a great sense of humor and truly loves to enjoy the moment. More to come on that one.

Flashback Friday — Stoke’s Birthday

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(NOTE: Today is not Stoke’s birthday, that would be October 25th. But the photo was taken on Stoke’s birthday many moons ago…)

I really love this photo because it is one of the better shots I took that fall with my relatively new camera, a Canon Ftb SLR. I saved up several months pay in order to buy the camera, earning money while working at Alfred’s in Town ‘n Country Shopping Village, and The Greenery, a restaurant in what was then the Sheraton Hotel at the corner of the Beltway and I-10.

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The Quest for Big

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I’ve been pondering the latest movement to the Christian scene a lot in the last several days. Read about it here. The newest movement really bothers me, as most movements do, because movements take away from God’s prescribed means of grace towards His church.

His means of grace toward the church are the preaching and reading of His word, the sacraments of baptism and communion, prayer, discipline and the taking of religious vows and oaths under God appointed leadership, men who meet the qualifications of elders and deacons. Anything beyond those means is man-made, especially the movements that we see from time-to-time.  The sad reality is that so many people fall for the lie that the means of grace are not enough. They believe God did not see what we needed and they lack trust in the means He has given us. Therefore we must take matters into our own hands because obviously, God was not doing enough through the means He gave us. It is this false sense of urgency that feeds the fervor found in the movements.

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If:Gathering — Another Gospel… Again…

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It seems that we have “another” movement afoot in Christian circles again. This time it is the If:Gathering, which is a woman’s conference led by Jenny Allen and Jen Hatmaker. The website even has Ann Voskamp listed among the leadership. If you read my post on Voskamp you would know why I have problems with this conference before we go any further into the details. But on the front end, I will say that this movement is just another misguided movement like so many others foisted upon the church in the past 30 years.

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On Lent and the LORD’s Day

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I have not posted a quote in a long time, but I loved this one via one of my FB friends, from Carl Trueman. It really puts Lent and the LORD’s day into perspective. I’m not a fan of Lent, and I’m a huge believer in observing the LORD’s day. May the following quote give you something to ponder.

“Finally, it also puzzles me that time and energy is spent each year on extolling the virtues of Lent when comparatively little is spent on extolling the virtues of the Lord’s Day. Presbyterianism has its liturgical calendar, its way of marking time: Six days of earthly pursuits and one day of rest and gathered worship. Of course, that is rather boring. Boring, that is, unless you understand the rich theology which underlies the Lord’s Day and gathered worship, and realize that every week one meets together with fellow believers to taste a little bit of heaven on earth.”

You can read the rest of Trueman’s article, Ash Wednesday: Picking and Choosing our Piety, here.

The LORD Lives!

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“If you will return, O Israel,” says the LORD, “Return to Me; And if you will put away your abominations out of My sight, then you shall not be moved. And you shall swear, ‘The LORD lives,’ in truth, in judgment, and in righteousness; The nations shall bless themselves in Him, and in Him they shall glory.”

At first, the declaration that ‘The LORD lives’ might seem a bit out of place coming from Jeremiah 4. After all, this Old Testament passage seems so much like the gospel. It calls for repentance in a very direct way. It calls for faith in an inferred way, and it calls for a declaration that the God we are returning to… Lives!

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“Shepherds According to My Heart”

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Reading in Jeremiah 3 this morning, I came across this wonderful verse:

“Return, O backsliding children,” says the LORD; “for I am married to you. I will take you, one from a city and two from a family, and I will bring you to Zion. And I will give you shepherds according to My heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding.”

This passage is packed with spiritual truth. We see the need for repentance, the relationship of those who do so with the LORD, election of those who are called by Him, and even their destination to Zion. But what jumped out at me was the fact that He will call shepherds according to His heart and for the purpose of feeding His people with knowledge and understanding.

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The Second Commandment, Sarah Young and Ann Voskamp

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It dawned on me this past week while listening to a sermon by Alistair Begg on the Second Commandment that both Sarah Young and Ann Voskamp trample on the Second Commandment in their books, Jesus Calling and One Thousand Gifts. Both books have been widely popular among women and the men of the church have been dreadfully absent in offering any correction or critique.

Tim Challies tried to make some inroads with the issue, but was contacted by Ann Voskamp in person, and he melted like a chocolate-covered cheesecake in the Texas summer heat. I agree that we should treat both women as sisters in the LORD, but both sisters in the LORD still need correcting on their writing and the women of the church need to be warned that both books have terrible theological problems.

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