Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Funniest Thing I've Seen in a Long, Long Time


As reported by the NYT (and everyone else by now), someone (Cecilia Giménez,) decided to "freshen up" a dilapidated fresco of Jesus. I have yet to cease from laughing every time I look at this. Obviously the woman meant well but the ludicrousness of real life provides far more than fiction ever does.


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Decorating God’s Word/Spiritual Communication with Song


Primarily, the communication of God’s Word is accomplished by way of normal verbalization which comes through the ministry of those gifted to Teach. We read and hear the Word of God communicated and explained through the normal spoken word process. This is the broad and substantive means which God has ordained for our spiritual instruction and learning.

However, there is a secondary means of spiritual communication which can and should be edifying. And though it is not the primary means it is a Biblical means which is through music and specifically, singing.

This second category is what you may consider decorating or dressing the Word of God with music or song. What we are communicating in song are explicit quotes from God’s Word or concepts which are compatible with God’s Word, ultimately both stemming from God’s Word. And our objective is to communicate a spiritual truth. This liberty God has granted-that His Word may be dressed or decorated as such-is a magnificent one but one with great responsibility. So with this I have cardinal principle in mind as well as some accompanying thoughts.

How We Dress Things in Life

In life, we dress many things and we do so to enhance its presentation. For example, something as simple as an end table is given dressing such placing a doily on top and then accenting it with a lamp and maybe some kind of decorative side piece. Common sense tells us that shoddy materials and ugly accents will not enhance the piece we are seeking to dress; rather paltry items distress, degrade and diminish its substance, so we are careful not to use them.

Think of holiday time, particularly the Thanksgiving table. Most people who wish to enjoy the pleasantness of the Thanksgiving table do so with orchestration in mind as they prepare and dress the table. It is not uncommon for the prepared table to be photographed because of what it represents, bounty, beauty and blessing. And you can be certain that those responsible for what it communicates have harmony, abundance and blessing in mind for their guests. Their objective is to enlarge the beauty of the occasion, not confuse it with elements contrary to the event.

Simple and Elaborate vs. Base and Discordant – When we add dressing to things to embellish its beauty it can range from the simple to the elaborate but always in good taste. It is not the level of sophistication that is in question, that is to say, simple is not bad nor sophistication good, in and of themselves. Sometimes simple is called for and sometimes sophistication is called for but never is base and discordant called for in dressing things in order to amplify their superior traits.

However, in the world around us there are many who wish to pass off as simple or elaborate, that which is base and discordant and the two should not be misunderstood. It might be true that something which is base is simple, but not all simple things are base. As well, that which is discordant may be sophisticated but not all things sophisticated are discordant.

Do not confuse the two. Sadly, in the Christian world there is an increasing naivety, if not genuine sinful resistance to and resentment of this common sense, which even unregenerate men and women can be found to comprehend. Even many of them know better than to be fooled by such claims.

Dressing Spiritual Communication

Therefore, when we give heed to Ephesians 5:15-20 (NIV)

18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

And its counterpart, Colossians 3:15-17

15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

we cannot ignore the responsibility which accompanies this great liberty given to us by God; this liberty that we may decorate His Word, the communication of His principles to one another in song. And the charge given to us as we exercise this liberty to dress God’s Word in song is that it must be treated with-in the least-the kind of common sense that even the world understands which is that ugliness, baseness, and discordance is not dressing to amplify beautiful things and particularly the beauty of God’s Word. But beyond that, there are principles among principles and more, in the Word of God, which should guide us beyond this common sense to a spiritual sense in dressing spiritual communication.

Simple and elaborate both are acceptable when called for as we communicate God’s Word in song, but not that which represents debauched culture, depraved dispositions or discordant and disharmonious angst. Come, now.

Do you really need to be told not to bathe the Word of God in sensual music or are you so far gone that you can’t even bring yourself to admit there is such thing as sensual music? Do the clothes of the belly dancer belong on the body of informed saints (always understanding that the young or new saint is not necessarily informed and we must treat with grace that uniformed period of their journey) as we worship in public? So would the music of the belly dancer be appropriate dressing or decoration for spiritual communication? Do you think the belly dancer accidentally chooses the music she chooses? Should we, then, not be far more deliberate as God’s children when we decorate spiritual communication in song? 

As it is often said, this really is a no-brainer.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Calvinist Asks...

The Calvinist often asks the following question, imagining it to be so clever that it undoes the Biblical doctrine of Christ having died for all men that all men may be saved:
Q. If Jesus died for everyone then why isn't everyone saved? If he paid the price for their sin, then why do some still get sentenced to what is described as a "lake of fire" which is eternal separation from God?
I wish I had a dollar for every beginner Calvinist who asked this question because the obvious seems to escape them. But allow me to answer for the benefit of the Calvinist and the remainder of my readers.
A. When Christ died on the cross, was anyone saved only by virtue of Christ dying for their sins or did it remain that they must exercise faith? Ah yes, it remained that they must exercise faith.

So Calvinist, even you had to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ to be saved. His dying on the cross did not automatically save you. Hence, what our Lord did was satisfy God the Father which was, that this work of Christ, his payment on the cross, was sufficient to pay for the sins of mankind. However, this gift of salvation is only applied toward you if you will accept it by faith. The Bible is explicit, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved" and "By faith you are saved". So, when Christ died on the cross, it provided the sufficiency for your salvation but it did not include in it the act of faith which subsequently is required for Christ's work to be applied to you by God the Father, hence saving you from being judged on your own merits. And some do not. Some opt for their own sufficiency and will be judged on those merits and the Bible is clear about that outcome.
Class dismissed and have a wonderful Lord's day.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

A Website of Interest: Frenchman J. Cry Le Quotes

For those of you interested in the unusal, I thought you might find what appears to be a website devoted to Christian Frenchman J. Cry Le Quotes. Enjoy.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Be Careful of the Pharisees Who Wish to Punch on Jack Schaap. What They Really Want is to Draw You to Themselves





I did not intend to sustain writing on the Jack Schaap issue but I believe there is a second note to be played, loudly and clearly, for those of you who believe the sirens of warning about First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana, their college, Hyles-Anderson as well as their former Pastors, Jack Hyles, and “fallen” Pastor, Jack Schaap. I have read many interesting comments by “Christians”, particularly former Independent Fundamentalist Baptists (IFB's) and conservative Evangelicals and there is something of which you need to be aware. And let me say, once again, I am not a Fundamentalist or an Evangelical by self-identification. I am some of both but none of either whole. I am, at best, an Independent Christian of both Protestant and Baptistic doctrine. So I have no acre to defend other than Christ’s body to which Fundamentalists and Evangelicals belong and both deserve our greatest consideration.

Opportunity Knocks for the Disingenuous

The wolf comes, not clothed as an abuser but as an angel of light and right now the fall of Jack Schaap is a great time for wolves. It is strategy time. You see, the spiritual wolf hunts the vulnerable and what better time than now? Now is when people allow themselves to be outraged and shocked by a circumstance far removed from their own life, particularly for the many who insist on being very vocal about the matter. And this circumstance is one with which they can easily identify and succumb to the temptation to reopen some real or imaginary wound from their past so they can be part of the "Let’s Punch Jack Schaap and FBCH” party.

Now you might not be a wolf but right beside of you, the Word of God promises, along will come a wolf to commiserate with you. They will echo your hurt, anger, hatred and whatever other bad feelings have come up regarding Jack Schaap and his adulterous tryst with the teenager to which he has admitted, per FBCH. In fact, the wolf will come along and tell you how bad the whole church is, the Board of Deacons, Jack Schaap, Jack Hyles and the college, itself. And some of it may even be true, maybe a lot!

Any and all truth and/or rumor you speak will be amplified by the wolf. At times the wolf will sense that you and others who are vulnerable, need the way led to deeper dissatisfaction and a more thorough expression of your abhorrence of all things Hyles-Schaap, FBCH and Hyles-Anderson College. The wolf will eventually find the rhythm and you will begin to dance, faster and faster, more ecstatic as time goes by until you are raptured by the overwhelming pleasure of the communal exercise of loathing someone or something else.

But Isn’t It True, That Hyles/Schaap Taught and Practiced Error…Etc?

At this point some might ask themselves whether or not Hyles and Schaap were wolves and whether or not I should be writing about them. Well, friend, I could write about their errors, but three things stand out in consideration of that:

1. They are both gone from ministry.
2. Their errors exist on the internet in plethora for anyone with half-a-wit to discover if they will go just beyond completely lazy to somewhat lazy and do a search.
3. They aren’t the immediate threat at the moment, it’s the other wolves who now want you as their merchandise.

Indeed it is true,  Hyles and Schaap did teach and practice errors. In fact, I would say that Jack Hyles was one of the most dysfunctional personalities with regard to sound doctrine and proper hermeneutics which the Independent Fundamentalist Baptists have had identified with their movement in the last sixty years and which Jack Schaap was all too happy to continue in his ministry. But this is not to say Hyles and Schaap were forever wrong, no, no. They did commit many righteous acts and communicated the gospel of salvation in places far beyond any measure of most. And that is to be left for the Lord to count, worthy or not, at the Bema Seat. But this does not mean we cannot see and identify error when it occurs.

One of Hyles’ most popular but errant books was entitled Meet the Holy Spirit. I can only suggest you read it to discover its heretical parts. But that is the nature of heresy, it mixes orthodoxy with error and that is precisely what Hyles did in this book. In fact, heresy relies on orthodoxy to bring itself into a body of doctrine. Peter (2 Peter 2:1b) describes heresy as being "secretly" introduced. The word secret, (παρεισάγω) pareisagó means to place something along side of something else (in order to hide it). Oddly, however, you will still find this some of the proprietary doctrine of Hyles’ about God the Holy Spirit floating around in Calvinistic/Reformed Evangelical circles today. A circle, I might add, which has some of the loudest critics of Hyles, Schaap and FBCH. It is ironic to say the least.

So What Warning am I Giving?

Understand that you need to be warned about false teachers and have them pointed out. I have repeatedly warned you about *John Piper and pointed out his errors but what you will not see is me encouraging anyone engaging in personal attacks or celebrations of humiliation in his life or the lives of any errant Christian brother because frankly, the Bible forbids this. This does not mean scandalous events cannot be discussed and learn from but its discussion cannot be in a self-righteous manner, ever.

And this is the warning I am giving you. There are many out there who want to enlist you in their movement. They want to take your disaffection from your experience with some ministry and capitalize on it. The truth is you are just as much merchandise to them as you were to those who injured you before. But they happily give you a spot in their harem of disciples as a place of love, sympathy and with “No Abuse Here” signs hanging everywhere if you are willing to be a gullible victim.

Pay Attention to the Obvious – Stop for a moment, before you get all disaffected and throw the baby out with the bath water and decide to enlist in what you are convinced is some extra-enlightened, super-sensitive and spiritually elitist organization and pay attention to what they are doing with Jack Schaap! They are beating up on a dead body, so to speak, a man who has been removed from the ministry. To them, he isn’t someone to care for, to pray for, to pity and to find a way to aid in resuscitating him to spiritual life. He is merchandise that is no good to them so what are they doing to this Christian brother and the church, itself? Right, they are eating it because they are wolves! It's dinner time for these sharped toothed Canis.

And if you think that this will not happen to you, you are ripe for the taking my friend. Watch out for those who wish to commiserate with you and teach you the way of anger, hate, and perpetual victimization and so on. Once they have you in their grasp and have caused your affection to fix on them, they own you and will heap on you their own special set of rules which, slowly but surely, will be rules you are expected to observe. And if you dare move away from their doctrine, their clan, or do not follow their Philosopher-King (thank you Paul Dohse),  you will be abused in a way which will make Jack Schaap’s clumsiness look like the blessings of a fool.

Ax-Grinders and Abuse Networks Might be the Source of Your Next Abuse Experience

Abuse, real abuse, is something which must be identified and remedied. Sometimes it requires removing yourself from a job, confronting someone at a job, removing yourself from a marriage, confronting someone in a marriage, moving yourself from a church or confronting someone in a church and so on. Abuse covers the range of minor to major. Sometimes it comes in common forms and sometimes it comes in shocking forms. So it must be understood that it exists and does so in many forms.

Negative experiences, no matter what they are, but particularly abusive ones, leave us hurt. That hurt, that injury, must be dealt with. It may even leave a scar or leave us crippled in some form of fashion. But understand, it cannot define us, it cannot be our banner. We cannot and should not choose as our colors or flag,  one that has the view that we are forever victims.

There must come a point where we learn from our being a person who has been abused and apply those truths in our lives and remedy ourselves so that we are freed from its inherent capacity to makes us permanent victims in our mind. We must identify who hurt us, understand how it came about, speak truthfully about who they are and about ourselves, understand what options, if any, we may have ignored and if were completely innocent, understand that as well and mature from it.

However, today we have an industry of abuse networks and churches which do not always have this in mind. They are an industry of permanent victimization. That is to say, once a victim always a victim and you are to live life and react to life as a victim. Now such industries won’t come out and say this but this is the attitude they foster (this is not an indictment of all such groups who help victims of abuse, only those that meet this description).

And unfortunately, this doctrine of hyper-sympathy and hyper-empathy teaches us to over-identify with others so that their hurt becomes our hurt thus, our energies must be used to resolve, if only in our own mind, the issues of another which we really have never experienced. It actually forms a mental imbalance in the mind in the over-identification. This is passed off as “love”. It is, in fact, a grotesque distortion of real love and real care.

This kind of mentality, while its doctrines are formulated at the top by victim-industry leaders, has bled down into our society and ultimately into our churches. Hence, when there are ecclesiastical victims it is proselytizing time for the wolves. Time to gather up the injured and convince them that membership into the “Perpetual Victims and Ax-Grinders Society” is the safest place they can ever be because, after all, the cancer of unforgiveness and permanent bitterness is little price to pay to have people sympathetic and empathetic toward us at the highest levels.

Abuse Needs Remedied, Not Taught as a Wound to Keep Bleeding

Someone who truly loves you will help you identify what it is you have gone through, why it occurred, who the parties were that abused you, the what’s and why’s of the abuser’s choices and your choices in the matter if relevant and how you can place yourself in a position of strength so that you are far less likely to be a victim again and instead, one who lives life from a fortress of objectivity and strength.

Ex: Suppose you were reared in a home where your sister was abusive. She physically beat you. Through this you develop a sense of weakness and believe that it is okay for those related to you to physically assault you since this is what you were used to.

Bad Remedy: You go to a counselor and the counselor listens and feels very sorry for you and holds you when you cry. Does this get you anywhere? No.

Good Remedy: You go to a counselor and the counselor helps you identify where your sister violated boundaries which you were unable or unskilled at setting and enforcing. And the counselor teaches you how to understand why such boundaries are legitimate and the how and when to enforce them, as well as helping you deal with the false guilt that accompanies changing weak personal dynamics to strong personal dynamics. Your crying and feeling bad is something the counselor will care about, momentarily, when you have emotional spells as you go through this re-training, but the counselor knows that the objective isn’t sympathy but help and empowerment for self-protection and growth. The counselor isn’t there to help you better learn to hate others or learning to crusade and over-identify with other victims in the future so you can constantly relive your past abuse. Instead the counselor is there to aid the former victim in giving them the remedy they need to place themselves in a position of strength and not view themselves and live their lives as a perpetual victim, angry, hurt and reacting the the events in the lives of others with over-identification through hyper-sympathy and hyper-empathy, resulting in mental and emotional imbalance and at times all the way up to very prominent self-righteous crusading.

So understand, whether formally or informally, there are people who prey on your having negative experiences. They will draw you (this is, by the way, something cults are quite adept in doing) to themselves or their group through such pity-parties. But be aware, once in, getting out might be harder than even getting away from your bully sister because to become unlike them, to change and become independent, is to threaten their co-dependent way of life.


Let This Mind Be in You

What mind is to be in us? The mind of Christ is to be in us. God made in clear:

Philippians 2:5a
Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:

Of course the context is one of the humility of Christ in being a human but it does not dissuade us from understanding and having in us the entire mind of Christ. That is the full end of the command. We are to respond to life from a divine viewpoint, not a personal one. The personal one feels good and it can be personal, so to speak, when divine viewpoint rules our person, but when it is not ruled by divine viewpoint, for the Christian, responding to life from a personal viewpoint can have tragic consequences.

Rightly Rebuking – Our Lord rightly rebuked those who needed rebuking. What I do find very interesting is that they were those who considered themselves the most righteous and were always trying to find someone who could legally be condemned in some fashion. So these Pharisees used the technical failings and sins of others to try to force our Lord to join them in their condemnation and if he did not condemn them, they thought, in turn, they could condemn our Lord since they knew, deep in their hearts, he was a truly righteous man.

Instead, our Lord, very often, turned the tables on them and showed them their ugly self-righteous hatred which was fueling them in their crusade. So be careful Christian, there is a time and place for rebuking what is in error but don’t you be fueled by arrogance against the sins of another for your personal crusade.

Jesus rebuked Peter when he let his disposition get the better of himself in cutting off the ear of the servant of the high priest, yet, our Lord did not go on a crusade to diminish public opinion about Peter, now did he?

As well, the merchandisers at the Temple, our Lord rebuked them but did he try to use this occasion to recruit others to his cause through emphasizing the injury of their sinful methods and practices? No! Because our Lord was not a wolf. His objective was for them to correct themselves, not for others to hate them (though in their wolf-like condition our Lord warned of them unless they did correct themselves).

And so, this is not to say our Lord drew back from publicly humiliating arrogant men, he did, with his clever us of satire and other rhetorical devices. No suggestion is being made that both, issues and men in error, cannot be publicly approached. Rather, they must be bound by Biblical principles in doing so.

Conclusion

Be careful friend. While you might have many legitimate objections to Jack Schaap, Jack Hyles, or the doctrinal and practical products of FBCH and Hyles-Anderson College or some other ministry, make sure you aren’t basing the formation of your current spiritual and social interaction on your commiseration of these. But then, maybe you like being wounded and perpetually bleeding so you can use it as a bludgeon on the head of any and all that might, even in the slightest way, fit the description of your assailant. Either way, the wolves are waiting so be sure you are not ripe for the taking.

*Addendum: I do not identify John Piper as a categorical false teacher though he is heretical in some of his doctrines. That is, he does confess orthodoxy and abides by it to a significant degree within his ministry. But I do consider John Piper to teach some significant errors and to pose a threat to sound hermeneutics, hence a very strong warning is given with regard to anyone using his material. I do not recommend it and frankly discourage its use and do not believe one can effectively reach any real measure of spiritual maturity through his teaching but I cannot say with a good conscience, at this point, that he is a false teacher.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Divine Sovereignty and the Aurora Spree Murders: Absolute Control or Divine Rule/Ultimate Control? Where God Was and What Was He Doing.




From a recent interaction with a blogger at High Plains Parson on the matter of divine sovereignty and the Aurora spree murders by accused gunman James Holmes, I was motivated to provide an essay on this topic. For some, it seems, they wish to lay at the feet of God’s divine sovereignty, some kind of responsibility for the actions of Holmes and specifically as a consequence of the definition and/or understanding of divine sovereignty. That is to say, because divine sovereignty is “thus and thus” we can deduce that God is ultimately responsible for these murders as having occurred.

Now if you are satisfied with this kind of conclusion and do not wish to go any further, I cannot help you but remember Christian you, too, will have to come face to face with incidents, both personal and those outside of your own experience which will need reconciled to and with your concepts of God (if you take your theology/Bible study seriously because an honest student of God’s Word will follow the implications and consequences of that to which he or she claims to believe or else they will be a hypocrite and ignore it when it does not work so well. And let me give credit to the High Plains Parson, in this case, for at least being consistent, thought gravely wrong).Thus you will, at some point, ask the following or similar questions:

  • When you get cancer, where is God?
  • When you get another, serious illness, why did God let this happen?
  • When your child is injured, why didn’t God intervene?
  • Why are crimes, evil or even gossip permitted?
  • I am late for a critical appointment, doesn’t God love me enough as his child to at least make the stop lights go green in my favor?
  • Why is my car broken down right now? Why didn’t God warn me? Why won't he help fix it? Why did he let this happen when I desperately need my car in working order?

The Most Common Means of Deriving an Errant View of Divine Sovereignty

The very first principle for understanding divine sovereignty (the rule of God over all that is) must begin with one certainty which is that comprehending divine sovereignty cannot, either in small or large part, stem from a humanistic standpoint. That is to say, too often many Christians at some point come in to contact with the Biblical reality of divine sovereignty, either directly from Scripture or indirectly from incidents which cause them to reflect upon the issue. Unfortunately what ensues for too many is a definition which is based on what “makes sense to them”. Whatever their starting point, be it before investigating or while investigating the Scriptures, many Christians (and non-Christians but for now I am speaking expressly to Christians) come to conclusions too early on about divine sovereignty and its properties instead of comprehensively investigating the Scriptures to discover all that is presented and then forming postulates. Hence, they have a fixed idea (what is called a presupposition) based partially in Scripture and partially in what seems reasonable in their mind. 

When they come upon Scriptures which do not reflect their predetermined certainties about divine sovereignty, such portions of Holy Writ are manipulated or dismissed to insure their desired definition is discovered. And if you do not believe numerous Theologians and Teachers of God’s Words do not have “ego-investment” in their claims, think again. Many will go to great lengths to defend their blind-spots and deficiencies because, as I wrote about in another article (Never Bring Your Ego to a Theological Gun Fight), ego-investment is a significant contributor to sustained theological error, even in the face of what are obvious (prima facie) Biblical contradictions

Rationalism - The method described above is called rationalism and what ARC (Augustinian/Reformed/Calvinist) Teachers and students have as their primary method for forming their proprietary ARC tenets.  Commonly they use the “false positives” method with Scripture to discover what they have already concluded or so strongly suspect early on in their pursuit of defining divine sovereignty and other related doctrines. One need only read Calvin’s Institutes to discover the gross amounts of rationalism used by Calvin and his heavy proof-texting minus any aggressive exegesis to have your eyes widely opened to the reality that this method has been heavily and long ago established (ironically you will discover very few Calvinists along the way as having plodded through his Institutes). This is not to say ARCers cannot or do not hold to many correct doctrines, they do, but the err greatly on certain ones and unfortunately, at times, allow this rationalism to even pollute articulations of rightly held doctrines. But this broader consideration is not in view for this post.

So for this essay I am going to consider divine sovereignty in light of Romans 8:28, what the ARC definition or view of divine sovereignty is, the events of the Aurora murders and what I (and others) regard as a more appropriate theological view.

A Far Reaching Biblical Text Which Makes It Very Clear

If there ever was a point in the Scriptures where so many major doctrines intersect, Romans chapter 8 must be the Biblical terminal where they all come together yet, maintain their distinct properties and express their unique truths while interacting with and among one another. But more importantly the issue of “Where was God in Aurora and where is God in my life when tragedy strikes?” is met right here and right now with the answers you seek. At least it performs the most basic function of providing the foundation upon which you may not only build a correct view of divine sovereignty (and predestination) but the footing upon which you may build a life of confidence in your decision making, your relationship with God and understanding his work.

If there is ever a doubtful man or woman, it is the one who blames God for everything. Why? Because they cannot either understand the true God nor understand their own self. God makes no such proclamation, that he is responsible for everything, yet many foolish men who wish to use rationalism as their foundation for “figuring God out” are more than happy to attribute to God such blasphemous properties because this forces us to include evil and sin. God is responsible for neither nor its by-products such as spree murders.

So instead of droning on with warnings I want to now relieve you of a life of unnecessary misery which God never intended, as well, relieve you of your uncertainty about divine sovereignty and all of its by-products because uncertainty leaves one ignorant of God’s plan for their life and their responsibility toward it.

Romans 8:26-30
26 Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.
27 And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.
28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.
30 Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.

The Common Calvinist Misconception

In my exchange with Riley Fraas, the High Plains Parson blog administrator who is also Pastor of Hope Congregational Church in Bethune, Colorado, Pastor Fraas made this assertion concerning what he believes is a necessary understanding regarding divine sovereignty:

 "sovereignty ruling absolutely and ultimately” is not possible if he does not also control all the details. The whole plan is made up of all the details. If one doesn’t control all the details, one doesn’t control the plan.

Notice again, Riley Fraas asserts that God must "control all the details". I am convinced this represents the fundamental mistake of all those who subscribe to the proprietary ARC view of divine sovereignty which results in the necessitating that divine sovereignty be about control and not rule.

Synergism or Monergism?

Monergism - ARCers are known for throwing around two words, monergism and synergism. Reformed Calvinists love the word monergism. It is sacrosanct. Some might even say for these children of Augustine it is their calling, so to speak. It defines everything about their view of God, his work and his relationship with humanity. It means, essentially, God does all the work (mono-alone). And that is, indeed, true. God does do all the work. But how ARCers understand work and define it and how they understand predestination along with divine sovereignty, when you mix the three together, you have theological toxicity at a very high level. One example is with respect to salvation. Some of these Augustinians say it means up to God being responsible for your having exercised your volition in believing the gospel.

However, in a few quarters you will observe the lesser of Augustine’s offspring giving lip service to “human volition” (free will or human sovereignty). They will say:

Oh yes, we acknowledge human culpability but still, God chose them to be saved and they are saved because God made that choice for them, he preplanned it. Hence he, God, made it happen, not them. They chose because they had no other choice since God made the choice for them to make that choice. 

This is called duplicity my friend, double-speak. And remember, you don’t have to train your mind to ignore doublespeak but if you do you will end up holding to the same kinds of self-contradictory things and sounding as silly.

Synergism - Synergism is based upon its prefix, syn, which means together. For the Calvinist, synergism is akin to a swear word. This is because in the view of the ARCer, to attribute man having any kind of input into the goings on of history is a default robbery of God’s sovereignty. That is, man’s input equals God’s diminishment. Now, that may sound half-way reasonable but what is missing? Right, the Bible! Now you understand precisely why I prefaced this as I did. So to sum up:

Monergism - one controls
Synergism - more than one controls but acts together

Which of These Words Did God Choose?

Romans 8:26-30, with special emphasis on verse 28, was posted for a reason. You will find, rather astonishingly, in its context, God communicating to us about suffering, God working all things together and  immediately following a reference to God’s foreknowledge and predestination (that we be conformed to the image of his son and this cannot be overstated in helping people understand what predestination is and is not). Frankly, you could not find a more fitting place to consider divine sovereignty and how it works.

And so, when God revealed himself to us through Paul who wrote about divine sovereignty “working all things together” did God describe divine sovereignty as absolute control of all the details or instead, did God describe divine rule and ultimate control of all the events, hence, using them for his ends and purposes?

Syngersim is the Choice of God to Describe His Sovereign Work

The word God, through Paul, chose to represent the nature of his divine sovereignty in light of the events of the world and other free agents was not monergism at all, rather it was συνεργέω , transliterated sunergeó which is precisely the source from which the word synergism is derived! God describes, among our suffering (v 26) and God’s predestined plan for us to be confirmed to the image of Christ (v29),  his work of using all things for the good of his children.

Now, if God wished so desperately for us to understand that he is the one responsible for all of the actions of all of the agents of all time and that he is in absolute control of every single detail then word to be used here is monergism. But that is not used because that is not what divine sovereignty is about. It is not about absolute control, it is about divine rule and ultimate control.

The Rationalizing of Divine Decrees

One of the main reasons (but not the only) for this "absolutism of control" by Calvinists and most ARCers is their rationalistic view of how the Divine Decree(s) functions is how they view the Divine Decree(s). To them, if everything that was, is and will be has been decreed by God, then it is God who is responsible for controlling all events so that they come about.

What this represents is the finite mind trying to figure out how the infinite, omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent divinely sovereign God can simultaneously decree history while allowing human sovereignty to take its course and exercise its freedom without God having any measure of culpability or responsibility for its occurrence all the while God, not being denied any of his sovereign properties or their exercise. For some, the idea that God can decree to allow free agents or volitional agents to exercise their volition and God use it for his purposes without God being in control of their actions is simply so incalculable they prefer coming to a wrong conclusion rather than accept what is undeniably observed in Scripture.

Look again, Paul writes about suffering and then speaks immediately about God working this for good to God’s children. The suffering is, by way of its context, a bad thing. But God takes these bad things and works them for our good. So what the “absolutist” wants us to believe is that God inflicts bad things (again absolute control) but really does so because he wants good things? Really? But even if this were true and it was all God, again, we have synergism not monergism as the descriptor. It is not all God in absolute control, rather it is God in divinely ruling which means ultimate control by taking those things which do occur and working them for us. As Paul ends the passage:

Romans 8:31
What, then, shall we say in response to these things. If God is for us, who can be against us?

Do you see the point? Paul cannot be more clear. Things are against us. There are volitional agents who are not God, working their will against us. Does Paul resort to the Augustinian/Reformed/Calvinistic error by trying to tell us that God is in absolute control of these bad volitional agents making them do bad things for our good? No! Not at all.

Divine Rule and Ultimate Control, Not Absolute Control

God tells us, through Paul, that such realities are part of life but even though this is the case, that there be those against us, God is for us. This is describing God’s divine rule over and ultimate control of all things or "details" but not an absolute control.

That is to say, even though all these things exist,  “I, God will rule in them all and bring about my ultimate ends. They are free agents, doing as they will but I will take their evil and make it my good. I am not the one doing this, I am not controlling them but I will control and rule how it will work in your life”. This is how you must understand divine sovereignty.

Caveat

Lest someone bring about questions regarding divine discipline for the believer or divine intervention, none of these are denied but answering them does not answer the fundamental issue of the divine sovereignty. Even these matter cannot be rightly understood without a proper view of divine sovereignty. So yes, God can and does intervene but we will not understand that work, properly, if we improperly understand something regarding a vital property of the person of God, particularly with respect to divine sovereignty.

Predestination

Notice verses 29 and 30 concerning predestination. No where will you find any reference to God predestinating the wills of men, rather you will find God proclaiming a predetermined planned for his children, that they be conformed to the image of his Son.

Predestination, here, has to do with the predetermined plan of God for his children to mature, to follow the proto-type Christ. It is God’s plan for us to be conformed to the image or better yet, inner-person of Christ. The word for conformed is summorphos (σύμμορφος) – literally “to be morphed together”. It is a reflection of God’s objective for the believer as stated by Paul such as Phillipians 2:5a, “Let this mind being you that was also in Christ Jesus” as well as Rom 12:2b, “Keep on allowing yourself to be transformed by having your mind renewed”.

God’s predestination is with reference to believers. That is, all the things which occur to us, as believers, are not because God is in control making them happen through divine sovereignty, rather as they happen God is in absolute ruler-ship of how these things will be used by God to conform us to the image of his Son, hence his ultimate control.

So Where is God for the Rest of the World?

I have heard this question asked:
If God loves me so much and does not want me to go to hell nor wants bad things to happen to me, why doesn’t he stop all of it since he is able?
And I will answer that with the very obvious fault in the question which seems to be ignored:
Dear friend, don’t you have children? Don’t you have a husband or wife? Don’t you have friends? Don’t you know someone, somewhere who is doing something which you know can harm them? Why don’t you stop it?
Right, you don’t stop others because there are boundaries which would require you to interfere with their freedom and cause you to arrogantly choose to live their life for them. In some cases, yes, you do stop where you are permitted but you never go so far as to live their life for them, now do you? You don’t do the very thing you demand God do, to be arrogant and live someone's life for them to safeguard them from bad things, yet you charge him with fault?

The fact is God observes the very boundaries he has set for the existence of volitional agents. Yes, he has intervened in many a life but not to the neutralization of one's volition and this is what is being asked of God, if not demanded, by many. Never mind this is what is being taught by ARCers about how God's sovereignty works with man's volition.

To be volitional, that is to be capable of making decisions and being culpable for these decisions, requires the capacity and freedom to make such decisions. For God to act with the control of another’s volition is for God to be acting and not that person, this is a prima facie fact that even human courts understand. But lo and behold, our Augustinian brothers and sisters are far too informed for this. To them it is only an illusion and you are not exercising your volition at all. You aren't really making decisions rather, it is all God decreeing to make you do all you will ever do, think or say; he is the one in control, even in control of James Holmes the spree murderer! How dare one blaspheme God so, but let me skip the posturing.

The truth is that the world is left hopeless. That is to say, God is not working all these misfortunes, this suffering, for their good. It is true they may learn, personally, or be enlightened by experiences, both good and bad, in their lives but the lives of unbelievers do not have the promise that the choices and exercises of volitional agents or even natural occurrences due to the laws of physics, are being used by God for their good. They do not have divine sovereignty, that is divine rule and divine ultimatums as the objective for the things which occur in their lives. These things, the good, bad and ugly, are things all unto themselves, removed from God.

Yes, God wants them saved and yes he will use them to call them to salvation. But God does not go beyond this with respect to a plan for their lives and its execution as he does with Christians, those who have been born again by faith in the gospel. And that is the bad news for the world. When the world says, "it makes no sense", I am not sure what they mean but I do know they are right in one way, it makes no sense in their lives since God is not "working all things" for their good.

God Permits Freedom and its Exercise

The fact is we live in a world of sinners who express their sinfulness is innumerable ways. This is not God’s doing but fortunately, God, in his majesty, takes all of these things and makes them part of his plan for his children. And that is the key.

The children of the world are indeed hopeless. When evil strikes, it is not God, it is evil. God’s call to them is salvation and the benefits of that salvation is that such tragedies automatically become a source through which God will work to conform the believer to the image of his Son.

Now don’t make the mistake of calling evil events, blessings, in some pious fashion. The blessing is not the evil event in the life of the Christian. The blessing is God using such cases to conform us to the image of his Son. The blessing is that though these things happen, “God is for us”.

Conclusion

Why do you have cancer? Because God sovereignly zapped you with it so he could then use it to conform you to his Son? Or do you have cancer because you have a defective and imperfect body which is part of the world’s curse of sin on our bodies of sickness and death, yet in this curse God sovereignly brings blessing with his work of using it to conform us to the image of his Son?

Do you see the order of things and how they need to be understood?

So no longer must you charge God with evil because of an errant view of divine sovereignty, rather you are now freed to place evil where it belongs and God using that evil, sin, tragedy or even the most mild of inconveniences, where God belongs in such events, not as the perpetrator but the one who divinely rules in such matters for his ultimate control of such matters in bringing you to be conformed to the image of Christ.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Independent Fundamental Baptists, Jack Schaap, Jack Hyles, and Self-Righteous Evangelicals and Former Fundies – You Need to Read This



If you are a follower of Evangelical/Fundamentalist news, particularly with respect to leadership, by now you are aware that Jack Schaap, was let go as the Pastor of mega church, First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana (which also operates Hyles-Anderson College)  for what is being called “adultery” at this point. And you might imagine for a moment that I am sympathetic to Jack Schaap, which would make you right, but you should not be astonished. At least not yet until you read what I have to say.

Ed Stetzer, an Evangelical Pastor of Grace Church in Hendersonville, Indiana and administrator of the blog The Lifeway Research Blog, posted an article about this issue entitled, Call It What It Is: It’s Not Adultery, It’s Abuse.

And in the article Stetzer submits the following observations, complaints, assertions and demands:
Schaap has been caught up in what many are calling an "adultery scandal" and was fired this week. Yet, what many are missing is particularly important and requires immediate change. It is time to stop calling this "adultery" and time to call it what it is, "abuse."
Further he adds:
Several people are referring to this as "adultery" because they haven't determined exactly which state the sexual contact took place. While it obviously is sex outside of marriage, this is not just adultery. This is abuse. I don't care what state it was in. Some have tried to compare this to other moral failures-- it is not the same thing and you should not trivialize such abuse with invalid comparisons.
Additionally:
Speak up, Independent Fundamental Baptists, speak up! Jack Schaap spiritually and physically abused a teen in his pastoral care. That is what matters most now.

Do I care for Jack Schaap? Yes, I do. I prayed for him and his wife-- I pray he gets counseling for the issues that would cause him to abuse a 16-year old girl in his care. But, I am much more concerned about the girl he victimized. I hear little about her-- and too many people talking about "adultery." Stop. 

Don't say, "But it is legal for a 54-year old to have sex with a 16-year old in Illinois." Listen to those words before you say them. Consider your daughter. 

In many states, this is considered sexual abuse or molestation. Whether that is the case legally, it appears, is still to be determined, but it is the case morally. Sixteen-year-olds do not commit adultery with 54-year-old pastors. They are abused by them.
Say it:

She is a child.
This is sexual abuse. 

Stop calling it adultery and call it abuse. Act like men and speak up, Independent Fundamental Baptists.

This morning, I talked to one young leader in the movement who said, "Why is no one speaking up?" I agree. Those who justify enable more such scandals and endanger more children. 

IFB friends, your movement has had way too many scandals, and many of you have expressed concern about such-- so speak up now. (There are plenty of lists of such scandals already.) Secrecy and circling the wagons breeds this kind of behavior and is destroying children and your movement. Your young pastors are leaving and your children are in danger.
My Response to Ed Stetzer

In response to the article I submitted the following thoughts, though as I post this my comment has not been published:
I call this selective outrage by you, Mr. Stetzer. You have some valid points but your posturing is annoying in light of the way you soft-pedaled Jonathan Merritt's living a lie, getting caught, and then making excuses for his involvement in the perversion of homosexuality. Mr. Merritt is also an abuser, an abuser of people's trust. But since you feel sorry for him, apparently, he isn't to be labeled as an abuser, eh? In fact, about personal struggles you, yourself, stated:

"I am thankful that my struggles are not public discussion, but I appreciate Jonathan sharing what he has--and am praying for him in the days ahead."

Interesting, but now that Jack Schaap's struggles are part of the public discussion, well what are we to do?
Jack Schaap seems to be the convenient punching bag of the day. Anyone with half-a-wit could see some disaster coming down the tracks along with the already existing disaster that First Baptist of Hammond and HAC was, led by this kind of model for decades. (I mean in general and not all of its people, rather its leadership and those members who did prefer its theological ignorance and poor Pastoring/leadership).
Who is circling the wagons, by the way? The church, itself? It does have the right to reserve comment until all the facts are in. As well, those others who might have some reason to speak out because they are in the same circle or close proximity, possibly they are adhering to a Biblical principle on this particular matter:

Proverbs 18:13
If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.

Maybe they all do agree, Mr. Stetzer, that what is described is abuse but they wish, instead, to hear all of the facts so they may speak with temperance and fully informed.

And this claim, that the IFB movement has had way too many scandals. Really? Do you know how many IFB churches there are worldwide vs "the scandals"? The percentage, actually, is remarkably low but I will let you do your own research.

For the record, I am not a fundamentalist but I like my truth based on facts, including claims about fundamentalists.

And if you think I am soft on spiritual/power abuse, I have written a very thorough article on the subject at my blog which identifies it and rejects it plainly and which includes reference to Jack Hyles.

So, in light of helping people to be protected from abuse, whether a child, teenager, young adult, middle adult or mature one, I do appreciate that point but it seems like a very big pow-wow is being held both before we hear all the facts and if the facts are what they appear right now, it is to claim the obvious which I see no one denying at this point.

Some Final Words

I have no doubt Pastor Stetzer believes himself to be sincere but sincerity does not make one in the right and in this case he is wrong, dead wrong. No one, as I said, is refusing to speak out, they are waiting for the facts, something he ought to be doing. But who is he to order people to speak out and condemn them if they do not based on his time table? If he had couched his request with, “I hope at some point this is fully addressed”, it would be much more tolerable but he didn’t. You know why? Because Jack Schaap is a Fundamentalist, but worse, he is an Independent Fundamental Baptist, which, to many Evangelicals are default Neanderthal Christians. They don’t get the benefit of investigation and each church or fellowship judged on its own merit,  not by Ed Stetzer and not by many like him, instead they are all lumped in together.

But this amplifies what I believe exists with two types of Evangelicals:

1. The lifelong Evangelical who has an inherent arrogance-complex toward fundamentalists, hence occasions like these are seized upon (again, notice his favorable treatment of Jonathan Merritt’s deception and sexual perversion, one of his own)

2. Former fundamentalists who have an axe to grind.

Let me be clear, I long ago rejected the doctrine and practice of First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana when it was led by Jack Hyles and then by Jack Schaap after Hyles death. Obviously I did not reject everything since it held to some orthodox doctrines but substantially I rejected their theological ignorance and systematic spiritual abuse. I have criticized Jack Hyles' errors with vigor which were transferred to Jack Schaap when he simply continued on with the same doctrine and practice. At the present, I do not identify as a Fundamentalist or Evangelical. I use neither label though some (maybe many) properties of both fit me. So I have no dog in this fight, but I do have something over which to argue.

What is quite evident to me is that certain Evangelicals and former Fundies both have a chip on their shoulder with regard to Fundamentalists and particularly IFB's. What you are seeing in Pastor Stetzer is the very chest-pounding he intimates that he despises and which led to the kind of poor leadership at First Baptist Church and its problems. Stetzer would dictate to us while he eschews it in others. Jack Schaap seems to have excited some of these disaffected brothers in the Lord who wish to use Jack as a punching bag, and therein lies my sympathy for Mr. Schaap. He is still a brother in the Lord, he has come to a very difficult end with respect to his ministry at this point and who knows what else. He is in the hands of foreigners. He is being crushed, maybe at his own doing but still, he is being crushed.

So to to Ed Stetzer I say:

Stop it Ed, stop it now.

This will take its course, the people at First Baptist have a long inventory to take. Who knows what dawn may break. But I do know what won’t help, the Ed Stetzer’s of the world whose finger wagging will only get in the way.

Addendum: Be clear, victims of abuse are never not victims. They need tended to appropriately and their abuse not minimized. But chest-pounding and playing Captain Hindsight is, frankly, a similar kind of abuse.