Category Archives: Theology

Vision for Victory — Jerry Johnson

I have to say this one convicted me a great deal. Jerry Johnson asks the question of why so many young people are joining moves such as Obama’s campaign in 2008, Ron Paul’s campaign today and the empty-headedness of the Occupy Wall Street movement over the past year, but they don’t join the church?

It’s because of so many inside the church that have pessimistic, doom and gloom, cut-your wrists theologies like Dispensationalism, and pessimistic Amillellinnialist. In other words, far too many believe the world is going to hell in a handbasket and there is nothing we can do about it… even though we… the church, have the gospel of Jesus Christ, which is the power unto salvation, which is the message that turned the world on its head 2,000 years ago, and again 500 years ago, and again 250 years ago… Watch the video:

Two Kingdom Theology

I have heard and read about the Two Kingdom theology for some time now, but recently came across this interview with David VanDrunen who has written a book, Living in God’s Two Kingdoms,  about this aspect of Reformed Theology. I thought the interview was quite helpful and I do plan on reading the book as soon as it arrives.

Here is Chris Cooper’s question and VanDrunen’s answer and definition of the Two Kingdom theology:

Could you briefly define Two-Kingdoms Theology and explain how it differs from a transformationist approach to Christ and culture?

I like to describe the two kingdoms doctrine briefly as the conviction that God through his Son rules the whole world, but rules it in two distinct ways. As creator and sustainer, God rules the natural order and the ordinary institutions and structures of human society, and does so through his common grace, for purposes of preserving the ongoing life of this world. As redeemer, God also rules an eschatological kingdom that is already manifest in the life and ministry of the church, and he rules this kingdom through saving grace as he calls a special people to himself through the proclamation of the Scriptures.

As Christians, we participate in both kingdoms but should not confuse the purposes of one with those of the other. As a Reformed theologian devoted to a rich covenant theology, I think it helpful to see these two kingdoms in the light of the biblical covenants. In the covenant with Noah after the flood, God promised to preserve the natural order and human society (not to redeem them!), and this included all human beings and all living creatures.

But God also established special, redemptive covenant relationships with Abraham, with Israel through Moses, and now with the church under the new covenant. We Christians participate in both the Noahic and new covenants (remember that the covenant with Noah was put in place for as long as the earth endures), and through them in this twofold rule of God—or, God’s two kingdoms.

The “transformationist” approach to Christ and culture is embraced by so many people and used in so many different ways that I often wonder how useful a category it is. If by “transformation” we simply mean that we, as Christians, should strive for excellence in all areas of life and try to make a healthy impact on our workplace, neighborhood, etc., I am a transformationist.

But what people often mean by “transformationist” is that the structures and institutions of human society are being redeemed here and now, that is, that we should work to transform them according to the pattern of the redemptive kingdom of Christ. I believe the two kingdoms doctrine offers an approach that is clearly different from this.

Following the two kingdoms doctrine, a Christian politician, for example, would reject working for the redemption of the state (whatever that means) but recognize that God preserves the state for good purposes and strive to help the state operate the best it can for those temporary and provisional purposes.

If I’m understanding him correctly, then we do not vote for those who will turn the government back into the a theocracy. That should not be our goal. But that doesn’t mean that we do not work in politics as Christians. We are to be there living as Christians, seeking to serve as God calls us too, knowing that our service there may or may not lead to a more godly state. Go here to read the rest of the interview. I’m really looking forward to diving into this when the book arrives.

Debate: Calvinism — For or Against?

I heard about this debate from one of the men attending my church. I’m glad he mentioned it and glad I found it at Ed Stetzer’s site. It’s worth the listen, so play it in the background while you go about your work. I will post comments once I finish listening to it. Also, listen to it and see if there is something said by either side that really challenges your views.

Thoughts? After I listened to it, I saw what the man in my church told me about the debate. Michael Horton, who was defending Calvinism, kept referring to passage after passage, while Roger E. Olson just kept appealing to his logic. Not good.

One point that both Horton and Olson agreed upon were about those who try to claim to be “biblicist” as opposed to being Arminian or Calvinist. I saw this in my series in Answering an Arminian, where that writer tried to claim to be a Biblicist. I liked what both men pointed out is that the moment you open Scripture, read it and begin to interpret it, you start doing theology and that immediately puts you in one camp or the other. so this claim to be a “biblicist” is completely false. No one can just open Scripture and quote it without interpretation.

Jimmy Swaggert Gives Typical Misrepresentation of Calvinism

Jimmy Swaggert gives a fine misrepresentation of Calvinism. This is on Youtube as a “wonderful sermon,” but it’s not wonderful in the sense that it doesn’t represent the truth of what Calvin said, nor what Calvin believed.

What we believe is that Jesus death is only effectual for the elect, or those who believe. Yes, the number of elect is determined by God before the foundations of the world, based upon the immutable counsel of HIS will. Yes, the offer of salvation goes to all. This is why Jesus hung on the cross, outside the city on one of the main roads leading in and out of Jerusalem. God ordained that Jesus was there before all.

BUT, only those elected by the Father and born again by the Holy Spirit will believe in Christ and be saved (John 3). If God doesn’t move in them, they stay right where they are by their own free will, which Christ declares to us when He says that men do not come to the light because they love the darkness. They love the darkness because their deeds are evil. Therefore it takes the Holy Spirit blowing where He pleases in order to change the hearts and minds of those who would much rather sit in the darkness with the evilness of their sins than be saved.

Calvinist do agree with Swaggert that the gospel is to go to all. We would also agree that it is the responsibility of everyone, even those who have not heard, to trust in Christ for salvation. Where we disagree is on ability. The lost, even those who are of the elect, do not have the ability to believe with saving faith on their own. This is why Jesus declares that we must be born again. The Spirit must move in a person before they will believe, giving that person a new heart to believe, new ears to hear and new eyes to see. Otherwise they are dead in trespasses and sins and the beauty of the gospel means nothing to them.

Thanks be to the God and Father of Our LORD Jesus Christ that He does not leave us alone and that the Holy Spirit does blow where He pleases. Otherwise none would be saved and all would be lost. But by God’s grace, some are saved.

As for “just a few” as Swaggert declares, please note that Calvinist believe there are so many elect that they are uncountable. This is a fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham, that his descendants in the faith would be so numerous, they would be like the sand upon the sea shore. Again, another misrepresentation of Calvinism by a card-carrying Arminian.

UPDATE: If Swaggert wants to go off on people who say just a few will make it into heaven, then he really needs to look to Jesus Himself. Matthew 7:13-14 Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. 14 Because[a] narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it. This is the problem that so man Arminians have… that Bible keeps getting in the way of all their humanistic arguments.

Harold Camping Repents! Amen and Amen!

Good news! Harold Camping, the man who has predicted the return of Christ multiple times, has now repented of doing so and admits that it was wrong to make such predictions.

“We have learned the very painful lesson that all of creation is in God’s hands and He will end time in His time, not ours!” a statement on Family Radio’s website reads. “We humbly recognize that God may not tell His people the date when Christ will return, any more than He tells anyone the date they will die physically.”

Camping, 90, has made predictions about Judgment Day, Christ’s return and the end of the world for the past few decades – with the May 21, 2011, forecast receiving the most media attention. Each time the date passed, he did not admit to mistaking the timing but instead reasoned that the events happened “spiritually” rather than physically.

But once Oct. 21, 2011 – the day Camping said the world would be destroyed physically – came and went, the Christian broadcaster began to reevaluate his views about being able to calculate and know the exact date of the apocalypse.

“Even the most sincere and zealous of us can be mistaken,” Camping and Family Radio staff stated in their March letter. “We realize that many people are hoping they will know the date of Christ’s return. In fact for a time Family Radio fell into that kind of thinking.

“But we now realize that those people who were calling our attention to the Bible’s statement that ‘of that day and hour knoweth no man’ (Matthew 24:36 & Mark 13:32), were right in their understanding of those verses and Family Radio was wrong. Whether God will ever give us any indication of the date of His return is hidden in God’s divine plan.”

This is absolutely wonderful. God’s Spirit has moved in the man and he realized his sinfulness in trying to predict the return of Christ. We have been calling for him to repent for years, since he has been making such predictions since 1992.

No man knows the time and day that Christ will return, and finally, Camping has seen the light of that Scripture. We should forgive him for what he has done, and rejoice that the Spirit has moved in him to bring him to repentance. Read more here.

Answering an Arminian: Part Two on Election and Hell

I’m still working through the letter from one of the areas many Arminians. You can see part one here. In that issue, we were dealing with limited atonement, or particular redemption as the doctrine is properly called, in which Jesus died for the church (Ephesians 5:25).

Here, Arminian Bob (for lack of a better name) continues to takes on predestination. He writes:

(Augustine) taught that all others were created to go to Hell.

The best answer to his first sentence is Scripture… once again.

Romans 9:22-24 22 What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction23 and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory, 24 even us whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?

In the discussion in Romans 9, Paul is showing that God has made it clear that He will show mercy to whom He shows mercy. In other words, those whom He elects will be saved. The question then is: what about those who are not elect? Paul uses an illustration saying that God can use some of the clay to demonstrate His grace and mercy by saving some, and the rest of the clay to demonstrated the riches of His glory towards those who are saved by destroying the rest.

Many may find this truth very harsh and difficult. But it’s still God’s truth. He has a right to do with His creation as He pleases. When it comes to fallen mankind, what we all deserve is hell. God, in His infinite mercy, chooses to save some from what we all deserve.

The Arminian hates this truth because it ultimately points back to the fact that our salvation is based upon God’s choice of us, not our choice of Him. In other words, those who are saved will come to know Christ because the Father has elected us in eternity past, the Son died for us on the cross some 2,000 years ago, and the Holy Spirit moved in us, causing us to be born again, working faith in our hearts, and giving us the ability to believe in Christ for salvation, which is what we will do because we see the goodness and beauty of Christ.

The caveat to all this is that even though election be true, we do not know who the elect are and are commanded by Christ to continue to proclaim the gospel to all. Whosoever believes will be saved, as John 3:15-19 show us. We know that the “whosoever” are the elect, but we do not know who the elect are until they become the “whosoever.”

Jesus also tells us in John 3 that those who reject Christ, are condemned already, thereby showing themselves to be those who are prepared for hell. Unless they repent, they remain among those who are destine for hell and we have to trust in God’s sovereign choices.

This really is the issue. Arminians want to play God when it comes to salvation instead of letting God be God. They will charge us saying that if we are Calvinist, then why evangelize? Again, because the LORD commanded us. But we can make the same charge to them. If salvation is truly based upon the free will of mankind, then why evangelize. They will eventually make the right choice and trust in Jesus.

(Augustine) taught that all those who were chosen to go to Heaven were as good as in Heaven and all those whom God chose to go to Hell were as good as in Hell.

I would love for Arminian Bob to give some actual references for this teaching because Calvin certainly didn’t teach this. Our election is only made certain when we believe. Just because we were elected in eternity past, doesn’t mean that we were saved in eternity past. Jesus still had to die on the cross, we still had to have the Spirit move in us, and we still had to believe in our lifetime.

The responsibility to believe, which is placed on all mankind, is only obeyed by those who are the elect.

Enough for now, I will pick up the rest of Arminian Bob’s comment later.

Answering an Arminian’s Charges: Part One on Limited Atonement

I had a recent exchange with a former member of the church and his position against Calvinism. Since he was public in his point of view and a former elder, I have no problems answering him publicly and do so for the benefit of the flock entrusted to me. He shall go nameless, and will remain so unless he chooses to respond. I really wanted to leave this be, but given that the effects of those who think and teach this way are so pervasive among the flock entrusted to me and the other elders by Our LORD and Savior Jesus Christ, I feel compelled to answer.

Allow me to say upfront that when I say the word Calvinist, I do not mean by it that I get up on the morning and read from John Calvin’s work for my quiet time. I do not mean by the term that I follow John Calvin and that he is any way my LORD and Savior. He is not. He is a fallen man that I believed was simply used by God during his time to express clearly what the gospel was and is according to Scripture. This form of theology is only held to where Scripture confirms it, and where Scripture does not confirm it, we distance ourselves from such things. The Bible is our guide and God’s glory is our goal in understanding how we view the world in which we live.

The opposing view to Calvinist doctrine is Arminianism, which was started by Jacob Arminius. He was a Dutch theologian who lived in the 1600s and he opposed Calvinism with his views. If you are a protestant living today, you fall into either one or the others camp.

My antagonist here will say that he is neither Arminian nor Calvinist, but that he is a biblicist. This is nothing more than an arrogant attempt to sound pious by saying that he holds only to what the Bible says. Let me be clear, both sides hold to what the Bible says, in that we appeal to the Bible for our views. However, I must confess than when I see what the Arminians are saying… it seems they do a lot of disregarding what the Bible actually says. They also do a lot of reinterpretation. For instance, the latest that I have heard is that when it comes to the word “elect,” they are actually saying that God elects “everyone.” This view is unsupportable as I hope you will see.

To the letter:

My position was stated as clearly as possible to the congregation in writing, but those writings seem to have been suppressed as I stated in my resignation letter. Please consider this my position as delineated to the elders of First Christian regarding Calvinism:

The theory which is today commonly known by the name Calvinism was first introduced by Augustine in the fourth century.

Yes, both men agreed on a lot of things because they were drawing their beliefs from Scripture. When the Bible is the place of our beliefs, we tend to agree on a lot of points. John Calvin appealed to Augustine to help show that he (Calvin) was not out of line with Christian orthodoxy, but that it was the Roman Catholic Church that was in error. He was using Augustine, one whom the RCC claimed as a pope, to show their error.

Calvin did not agree on all points with Augustine. But on the main issues, they were in agreement, as are those in the Reformed camp today. The reason this is so, is because these truths that both Calvin, Augustine, and those who are Reformed hold to, are biblical truths (Please note that I was accused of being a Calvinist before I knew what a Calvinist was. Why? Because I was preaching and teaching what Ephesians and the Gospel of John taught us.)

He taught that Christ did not die for all men, but for a chosen few whom God had chosen and predestinated to become His children.

This really is one of those questions that separate Calvinists and Arminians. Who does Jesus truly die for? Most in evangelical circles will start screaming John 3:16!, John 3:16! But those of you who know me know that I reject using John 3:16 for the answer to every Arminian affirmation. John 3:16 says that God so loved the world, not that Jesus died for every single soul to walk the earth. As was recently pointed out by Stan in the comments section, the “so” in that verse is qualitative, not quantitative. In other worlds, God loves the world in a certain way, that He gave His Son. Not that He loved everyone without exception.

This topic is really under the heading of limited atonement, or, what many like to call as particular redemption. The atonement is not limited in its ability, but limited to those whom it is applied to. The Arminians want to say that the atonement applies to all, and it is our responsibility to make it apply to us. Calvinists are saying that it only applies to the elect. In other words, we believe that Christ’s atonement is complete and not faulty at all. He doesn’t need our help in saving us. What He did on the cross was completely sufficient for all who believe and there is nothing that needs to be done by us in order to be saved.

The Arminians, on the other hand, believe that Christ’s atoning work made it possible for all to be saved and only those who really work hard enough will actually be saved. This is basically works theology and human-centered theology. That is the crux of the difference when it comes to our view. Arminians want to say it is about us and our choices, while Calvinist declare that it is God and His Sovereign will.

But back to particular redemption. Why is it that Calvinists hold to this position? We do so because we believe that God’s sovereign and declare will is that there are a certain number of elect and Christ will save everyone completely who is elect. I know, this idea of election causes many to bluster at the thought, but is is Scriptural. We get the idea from verses like Deuteronomy 7:6-8; John 13:18; Romans 9:11-24; 11:5-6; Ephesians 1:3-14; 2 Timothy 2:19; 2 Thess. 2:13; 1 Peter 1:2, 15, 2:4, 9, 21; 2 Peter 1:10, just to name a few verses.)

The idea of particular redemption stems from this concept of election. Not only did God choose those whom He planned to save before the foundations of the world were laid, but He also guaranteed that they would be saved by Christ’s work on the cross. In other words, His atonement is certain because it doesn’t rest or reside in the one being saved, but in the One who is doing the saving.

Listen to Paul’s words in 1 Thessalonians 5:9-10 For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him. The appointment stems from His election of us. This isn’t based upon anything in us, but because of His own free, immutable and contingent-free will. Before Adam had sinned, God had already decreed whom He would save and whom He would leave to their sin. In this election, He determined that we would be free from His wrath because of the atoning work of Christ on the cross. Christ died for us, the elect. He didn’t die for those who are not the elect. To do so would mean that His death was powerless, otherwise if He died for all, all would be saved. However, we know this not to be true.

This last statement ruffles the feathers of those who seek to let their entire theological view be informed by John 3:16. Their argument is that Christ died for everyone in the world without exception. But… the text doesn’t say that. It said that God so loved the world that He gave His Son that WHOSOEVER believes in Him, should not perish but have everlasting life.

Only those who believe in Him will benefit from His death. Those who do not believe in Him will not benefit from His death, for they were not destined to believe or benefit from the cross. Who is Christ’s atoning work effectual for? Those who believe AND those who don’t believe, or just those who believe? Calvinist believe that His death is completely effectual for the elect, because this is who Jesus died for.

Ephesians 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her. Notice who Christ gave Himself for. It was not the world, but the church, those who believe in Him. His purpose is to take the elect, cleanse them and make the ready for the great marriage feast to come. In fact, the Father predestined those who believe to be blameless, holy and spotless before Him (Ephesians 1:4). His death accomplishes this decision by the Father completely. His death on the cross was the specific means for bringing His elect into this holy condition and to make those who are His elect His sons. How? By Jesus Christ Himself (Ephesians 1:5).

This act of grace is not for the world or the non-elect, but for those who are His and have been predetermined to be His. Let me state it again, Christ gave Himself for the church, not for the world.

Paul will say this again in Galatians 1:3-5 Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father,to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. Again, who did He die for? The text says that He gave Himself for our sins, so that we would be delivered from this present again, according to the will of God our Father, and not our wills (John 1:12-13).

Do you see a constant reoccurring theme here? Over and over again, I appeal to Scripture to make my case. I don’t just appeal to ONE verse, but many. I don’t just rest on twisting one verse, like John 3:16, but let Scripture support what I believe.

OK, let’s look as some more verses on this topic. Look at what Christ says about His own people and His own death. John 10:14-15 14 I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. 15 As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. Notice who Jesus say He lays His life down for… His sheep, who know His voice. He doesn’t lay His life down for the goats, but those who belong to Him.

Jesus also goes on to rebuke those who do not believe in 10:26 But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you. It is very simple, those who believe in Him for salvation are His elect. He died for His elect. He rejects those who do not believe because they are not His sheep.

One final verse. Jesus also says that those who are His sheep, not only believe, but also follow Him as well. John 10:27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. We see that intimate knowledge by Our Lord. He knows them. He doesn’t just die for us, call us, and redeem us, but He knows us. Those of us who belong to Him, listen to His words and believe as He has taught us.

This is why Calvinists believe in particular redemption. This is why we say that Jesus died for those who are His. We say it and believe it because He said it, and both Peter and Paul said it. This is not a doctrine that we have come up with on our own, but one in which our very LORD gave us. If you do not believe it, perhaps you should ask the question: “Am I really one of HIS?”

Now, let us go back to the words of my antagonist. He writes:

He taught that Christ did not die for all men, but for a chosen few whom God had chosen and predestinated to become His children.

It is true, Calvin did teach these things. He taught these things because Jesus taught these things, so did Paul, and so did Peter. Our antagonist doesn’t offer any proof against this position, he just blasts it and move on. This is the case for so many who rail against Calvinism. They just accept whatever sounds good without looking at the biblical reasons we hold to the positions we do. They think in attack us they are doing the gospel a favor. But they are not. It is better to believe in the truth given to us by God, than try to water it down and make it acceptable to men. I admit, these truths are difficult. But they are the truths of Scripture and we need to try our best to understand them and teach them.

Santorum’s Phony Theology Remark Reveals His Own Phony Theology

I do hope that Rick Santorum gets the Republican nomination for president. However, I’m glad the presidents do not have to take theology tests, because… in his endeavor to truly question Obama’s theology, Santorum reveals his own weak theology. Santorum is right about O’s theology, it is phony and quite clearly non-Christian. But his is just not much better:

“I wasn’t suggesting the president’s not a Christian. I accept the fact that the president is a Christian,” Santorum said.

“I was talking about the radical environmentalist,” he said. “I was talking about energy, this idea that man is here to serve the Earth as opposed to husband its resources and be good stewards of the Earth. And I think that is a phony ideal.

“I don’t believe that that’s what we’re here to do. That man is here to use the resources and use them wisely, to care for the Earth, to be a steward of the Earth, but we’re not here to serve the Earth. The Earth is not the objective. Man is the objective. And I think a lot of radical environmentalists have it upside down,” Santorum said.

Rick, Rick, Rick… this is why whatever denomination you are in needs to return to the catechisms of the Westminster Confession of Faith. Had Rick been catechized as a child, he would not have missed the fundamental principle of man. The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever, not man. Man is not the objective. God is the objective. Until Christians can get this straight in their theology, their theology is not Christian, but Christianized humanism. Sad.

The Truth of Christ’s Cross

For some Sunday morning meditation, the following is from J.C. Ryle:

Let us set fully before our eyes the doctrine of Christ dying in our place – His substituted death, and rest our souls on it. Let us hold on firmly to the mighty truth, that Christ on the cross:

Christ on the cross: Stood in the place of His people

Christ on the cross: Died for His people

Christ on the cross: Suffered for His people

Christ on the cross: Was counted a curse and sin for His people

Christ on the cross: Paid the debts of His People

Christ on the cross: Made restitution for His people

Christ on the cross: Became the guarantee of His people

Christ on the cross: Became the representative of His people

In this way Christ obtained His people’s freedom. Let us understand this clearly, and then we will see what a mighty privilege it is to be made free by Christ. This is freedom which, above all others is worth having.

~ J.C. Ryle

For more on Ryle, go here.