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A Response to an Anti-Obama Email I Received

Wow. Apparently being written from a self-professed Christian, I honestly don’t know what else I can say about this.


“JACK WHEELER is a brilliant man who was the author of Reagan’s strategy to break the back of the Soviet Union with the star wars race and expose their inner weakness. For years he wrote a weekly intelligence update that was extremely interesting and well structured and informed. He consults(ed) with several mega corporations on global trends and the future, etc. I think he is in semi-retirement now. He is a true patriot with a no-nonsense approach to everything. He is also a somewhat well known mountain climber and adventurer. Written by Dr. Jack Wheeler the O-man, Barack Hussein Obama, is an eloquently tailored empty suit. No resume, no accomplishments, no experience, no original ideas, no understanding of how the economy works, no understanding of how the world works, nothing but abstract empty rhetoric devoid of real substance. He has no real identity. He is half-white, which he rejects. The rest of him is mostly Arab, which he hides but is disclosed by his non-African Arabic surname and his Arabic first and middle names as a way to triply proclaim his Arabic parentage to people in Kenya . Only a small part of him is African Black from his Luo grandmother, which he pretends he is exclusively. What he isn’t, not a genetic drop of, is ‘African-American,’ the descendant of enslaved Africans brought to America chained in slave ships. He hasn’t a single ancestor who was a slave. Instead, his Arab ancestors were slave owners. Slave-trading was the main Arab business in East Africa for centuries until the British ended it. Let that sink in: Obama is not the descendant of slaves; he is the descendant of slave owners. Thus he makes the perfect Liberal Messiah. It’s something Hillary doesn’t understand – how some complete neophyte came out of the blue and stole the Democratic nomination from her. Obamamania is beyond politics and reason. It is true religious cults, whose adherents rejects Christianity yet still believe in Original Sin, transferring it from the evil of being human to the evil of being white. Thus Obama has become the white liberals’ Christ, offering absolution from the Sin of Being White.

There is no reason or logic behind it, no faults or flaws of his can diminish it, no arguments Hillary could make of any kind can be effective against it. The absurdity of Hypocrisy Clothed in Human Flesh being their Savior is all the more cause for liberals to worship him: Credo quia absurdum, I believe it because it is absurd. Thank heavens that the voting majority of Americans remain Christian and are in no desperate need of a phony savior. His candidacy is ridiculous and should not be taken seriously by any thinking American.”


Ah, what a forceful and convincing argument. If I were hypothetically voting for Obama, I surely wouldn’t now [wink]. And now my fed up response to those conservatives who send out such nonsense.


“I don’t agree with Obama on a whole host of issues (not to mention his whole worldview perspective) and will obviously not be voting for him … But I could come up with a list of things in that article that are blatantly anti-Christian to even say. Just the way things are phrased reeks of blinding self-righteousness. Unfortunately, it’s that kind of rhetoric that makes conservative Christians look like a bunch of insensitive idiots to the rest of the unbelieving world.

My response to the assertions made such as “he’s half white,” and “The rest of him is mostly Arab” (even if true, which my question is, SO WHAT?): they reek of racism and a feeling of cultural superiority against all others, which is totally rejected and commanded against in the New Testament on many many occasions as an attitude not in line with a life lived out of the Gospel that has saved us poor desperate sinners who deserve only wrath. And Obama “has no real identity?” That’s just a blatant flaming ad hominem against Obama as a person. Yes, he’s a person, a human being, believe it or not. Of course he has an identity. Absurd.

Seriously, before speaking, Christian’s really need to read over basic proper argumentation logic and avoid falling into giant debating pitfalls such as the following http://www.carm.org/apologetics/fallacies.htm . “Obama is not the descendant of slaves; he is the descendant of slave owners.” Again, so what if he was or wasn’t, as an argument for or against him, on either side of the aisle? What relevance does any of this have to him as a valid Presidential candidate or not? Not once have any major political issues been mentioned, or ideological problems one might have against his own. The very fact of the matter is, whether white’s like it or not, race relations in this country have finally reached a point in our society where African Americans can now hold the highest office in the nation. And though I won’t be voting for Obama based on ideological, philosophical, and theological reasons, I for one am glad about that as a believer in the Gospel, in the fact that Christ is redeeming people from every, “tribe, tongue, people and nation,” (Revelation) not just from white “Christian” America.

Is anyone on the opposite side of the fence of us conservatives really going to listen to such non-arguments of hatred toward the guy? There is no place for that in a believers life. I’m convinced that for every conservative argument against liberals, there’s an equally condemning argument that could made against us as well. Articles like this prove that fact. Just the attitude with which many conservatives come at liberals just implicitly and explicitly asserts that we are somehow inherently better than them. But we’re not. We’re just as messed up as they are … sinners in desperate need of a Savior. However, we’re the “Pharisees” in this cultural picture, the one’s who are all cleaned up on the outside and dead on the inside, we just do a better job of hiding it (maybe) so we don’t look bad to our peers. And really? “Thank heavens that the voting majority of Americans remain Christian” … um, yeah, not with attitudes like this so much. We’ve become almost as non-Christian and adoctrinal as Europe was ten years ago, and yes, since they’ve gotten worse since then, it is likely we will as well, save by the grace of Christ. Again, we more resemble the Pharisees in Jesus’ time who hated other people, like the woman at the well, all Gentiles, and those begging at the temple gate … yet those were the people Jesus displayed His power and authority to, opening their eyes, healing their wounds and disabilities, and usually saving them with a mighty hand, something he needs to do for us as a group as well, apparently.

I hope Obama is not President, but certainly NOT for the reasons given in this article. I have disagreements with his policies on healthcare, economics, morality issues, defense issues, etc., but not him as a person. Why don’t you send this back up the chain to how ever many people were on the list …”


Updated @ 11:32 pm

John Hendryx has some excellent answers on evangelicals and politics in this online interview, which I am excerpting. I figured this commentary would be good to add to the issue above as well.


“10. What is your opinion of the evangelical interest in politics and the identification of many Christians with the Republican party?

While I believe we should be engaged in our civic duty to vote and be engaged, it appears to me that many evangelicals have gone beyond the call of duty and have bought into dominion theology. Some of us seem to hold the false belief that if we just changed the laws and made the US political system based on the Bible then all would be well while not considering the changing of hearts. My response to this is that the problem is not just OUT THERE, it is with us. If we lived like we believed the gospel ourselves, then God would use us to change the culture. While I can agree that civil law can be used to restrain evil, we often bludgeon our secular opponents with it as if they could somehow be saved through obedience to it. I believe the first table of the law cannot be legislated. Persons must be persuaded into the Kingdom by human instruments casting seed with the Spirit germinating it, so to speak, but not by the sword or by coercive legal measures. Contrary to my evangelical and Theonomist brethren, I do not believe that the civil magistrate has the authority to judge heresy. A little known historical fact is that the Presbyterian Church wisely invoked semper reformanda and removed chapter 23(?) on the Civil Magistrate from the Westminster Confession in the early 1700s. A move for which I am thankful. Instead, we are to take up our cross and persuade as Jesus did, through meekness, suffering, joy, helping the poor and loving others above ourselves.

I have no problem with Christians personally identifying themselves with a party, but I will emphasize that politics is not the solution to our problems by any stretch of the imagination. There is entirely too much emphasis placed on it, as if God’s plan could somehow be thwarted. We should vote and do what we can to eradicate injustice, poverty and to actively find ways to be involved in mercy ministries. This might mean entering politics on a local level or just merely spending time with hurting people. But if the Republicans don’t get elected next term it isn’t the end of the world. Maybe a little discomfort will begin to burn off the dross in our churches. We must remember that God ordains whatsoever comes to pass. If God wills that we should live in Babylon, we must serve the it with excellence, influencing it by being good stewards of the calling God has given each one of us. Though some may be tempted when things get real bad, we should never take up arms to further our political agenda.

I have lived in a communist country for 10 years and, I can tell you with certainty, that the gospel is not chained because of a political system. On the contrary, communism has been a key factor in raising interest in Christianity in that country on a massive scale for the first time in their 5000-year history. It seems that Christians have become so addicted to comfort here that there is very little awareness of how people are living in the rest of the world. But we Americans are of very little account in the big scheme of things.”

Taken from http://www.westerfunk.net/archives/theo … 20Hendryx/

Using the Gospel Message as a Means for Political Activism

“I make these requests in the name of your son, Jesus, who gave his own life against the forces of injustice. Let Him be our example.” – Donald Miller, Opening Prayer at the DNC Last Night

More than anything I am saddened by Donald Miller’s recent statements both in an interview with ChristianityToday and his prayer last night at the DNC. I realize many I know are fans (some big fans) of Donald Miller and to say anything against the ideas or theology of someone who may have been instrumental in opening them up toward Christianity makes me somewhat of an outcast, which is hard. I pray by God’s grace you may see what I’m saying as well as my concerns. I want to affirm that I am indeed glad for the work Miller has done in bringing a new generation a different angle on things that has been used by God in order to bring them to the obedience of faith in Christ, for the salvation of their souls. I know personally of a few former high school students where this was indeed the case. And for that I praise God!

But for the sake of the purity of the Gospel we preach to the world, I cannot help but point out where we really need to watch ourselves and our theology. Most of the time, false doctrine historically has started out small, in things that are questionable, yet maybe not worth splitting over at the moment. But over time, that small error begins to snowball, and gets bigger and bigger, until what you are left with is exactly what Satan wants: a gutted, Christ-less, cross-less, dead Christianity that has nothing to say to the world by which people may be saved. Just look at the state of a majority of mainline denominations in both the United States and Europe. That is the fallout of gutting the Gospel in the 19th and 20th centuries of its essential message. We would do well to pay attention to this.

I am not questioning the intentions of Donald Miller in praying at the DNC, though I would question doing it in the first place from a true Christian worldview perspective (that goes for the RNC as well I might add). Regardless, I have no doubt that he means well, honestly. But more than the abortion statements he’s made recently (which alone are just blatantly inaccurate), more than the liberal political activism he’s engaged in (which is hypocritically doing the same thing he accuses conservatives of doing in the Republican party), this statement alone during his prayer at the DNC last night really gets under my skin, mainly for the sake of the purity of the Gospel. This is a case in point of why theology matters greatly. You don’t have to be a seminary student or prof to know at the very least the essentials of your own faith and the great tradition passed down to us over the course of church history. In fact, this is a necessity with the winds of doctrine whipping back and forth at hurricane force speed.

Now to the main point of my issue with Miller’s statement. Was the life, death, and resurrection of the Son of God mainly “against the forces of injustice,” as an unbelieving world sees it? Or was it, in Jesus’ own words, “… to give [my] life a ransom for many?” Does Miller’s statement do justice to what was intended by the prophecy of Isaiah 53 as it pertains to the suffering Messiah, as well as the interpretation of the whole Old Testament in relation to the work of Christ in the book of Hebrews? What kind of message does this convey to 1) the DNC, and 2) the rest of the world about the main point, the heart of the matter of the work of Christ on behalf of sinners? It conveys the “Jesus died as our example” theory of the atonement, which is what the world naturally thinks when they look at the message of the Gospel without any investigation into what it’s actually saying. Yet the main point was not so much to give us an example to imitate (which is just law upon law, though of course He still is our example), but rather the main intention was to 1) show the righteousness of God in passing over former sins, and 2) to satisfy the wrath of God through His blood in the place of sinners in great unearned, undeserved love and mercy (Romans 3:21-26).

When a outspoken member of the evangelical community proclaims loud and clear, “I make these requests in the name of your son, Jesus, who gave his own life against the forces of injustice. Let Him be our example,” this falls right in line with what the world already naturally thinks about Christianity and thus confirms their false presuppositions concerning it. Therefore, Miller’s short statement of the intention of the cross is actually counter to the Gospel and does injury to it. This is the old-time [theologically] liberal action of attempting to make Christianity more palatable to an unbelieving world by lopping off the very heart of the message which is an offense or foolishness to the world.

If we are going to believe 1 Corinthians 1 about the foolishness of what we preach (foolishness in man’s eyes, not God’s), we must understand that the Gospel was never meant to be made palatable to the natural man, but that in the foolishness of what we preach (with all of its hard doctrinal edges, namely sin, wrath, death, hell, justice, election, love, mercy, sacrificial atonement, bodily resurrection, regeneration, faith, etc.), the power of God is displayed in Him converting souls to faith in Christ to a message that is counter to the world’s message. The very fact of the matter is the world cannot accept the Gospel as the truth until the Holy Spirit lifts the veil on people’s hearts, removes hearts of stone, gives people eyes to see it, ears to hear it (which is why we witness to unbelievers and pray for this operation of God, knowing only He can convert people). And in this way, God grants faith to those He wishes in order to display His glory in all the steps of salvation and the power of His might in bringing people to life from death who never would have or could have converted themselves.

But making the Gospel a message of “fighting injustice” and Christ merely as our “example”? Though I would hope, of course, that Miller would personally go on to say there was way, way more intended by the death of Christ on behalf of sinners than just becoming our example, the very fact of the matter is that the world does not implicitly get that from a “Christ our example” presentation of the Gospel. Even unbelievers can affirm that message, as they do every day in one form or another in our modern day of relativistic thinking.

Related Reading:

The Limits and Necessity of Theological Terms – John Calvin

Calvin argues in this section of the Institutes for the necessity of employing theological terminology as it relates particularly to the doctrine of the Trinity in the context of this section (as that was the larger subject he was addressing), so as to establish the orthodox doctrine against heretical views of the Trinity (Sabellianism, Modalism, i.e. modern day example: Oneness Pentecostals such as T.D. Jakes’ ministry). And yet at the same time he gives warning to those who would go too far in minutely looking for a heretic under every rock where a mere word wasn’t used, employed by men, but press people for what they mean and see if it is orthodox. I believe people will find this to be a very balanced perspective on the subject of the employment of theological terminology.

The terms Calvin uses as examples, in our day at least, are probably not the best examples for the average person. You don’t have to know what they mean right now to understand what he’s trying to communicate, just go with it. But he still makes his point, arguing from church history that terms are important in one sense (for distinguishing meaning and beliefs), and yet in another sense they are not important (and even explains at the very beginning of this section how he wishes we didn’t have to use them at all), that so long as people are believing orthodox truth, the term itself is unimportant. It’s the content of the teaching/belief/doctrine that matters. Unfortunately though, because of heresy and the number of errors that abound in opposition to Biblcal truth, put forward by Satan, terminology for stated beliefs is one of those “necessary evils,” so to speak, that we must make use of to combat the errors.

Many would do well to listen and apply what Calvin has to say concerning this, namely, if someone doesn’t like a label or particular title, you can defend it’s use in order to distinguish the belief from other doctrines that are unbiblical. But don’t bludgeon people over the head with a mere label as if they don’t believe it if they don’t take the label itself. Just ask people to explain what they mean and what they believe concerning a particular doctrine. I believe this could adequately apply to the use of the term Calvinism: I believe that it should be used to distinguish against the Arminian understanding of how we are saved, and should itself be studied to see how rich are the blessings that are ours through the work of Christ. Yet at the same time, if someone doesn’t want the label, that’s fine, so long as they adhere to it’s doctrinal content and study it’s truth intently in the Scriptures.


Where names have not been invented rashly, we must beware lest we become chargeable with arrogance and rashness in rejecting them. I wish, indeed, that such names were buried, provided all would concur in the belief that the Father, Son, and Spirit, are one God, and yet that the Son is not the Father, nor the Spirit the Son, but that each has his peculiar subsistence.

I am not so minutely precise as to fight furiously for mere words. For I observe, that the writers of the ancient Church, while they uniformly spoke with great reverence on these matters, neither agreed with each other, nor were always consistent with themselves. How strange the formula used by Councils, and defended by Hilary! How extravagant the view which Augustine sometimes takes! How unlike the Greeks are to the Latins!

But let one example of variance suffice. The Latins, in translating “homo-ousios” used “consubstantialis” (consubstantial,) intimating that there was one substance of the Father and the Son, and thus using the word Substance for Essence. Hence Jerome, in his Letter to Damasus, says it is profane to affirm that there are three substances in God. But in Hilary you will find it said more than a hundred times that there are three substances in God. Then how greatly is Jerome perplexed with the word Hypostasis! He [Jerome] suspects some lurking poison, when it is said that there are three Hypostases in God. And he does not disguise his belief that the expression, though used in a pious sense, is improper; if, indeed, he was sincere in saying this, and did not rather designedly endeavour, by an unfounded calumny, to throw odium on the Eastern bishops whom he hated. He certainly shows little candour in asserting, that in all heathen schools “ousia” is equivalent to Hypostasis – an assertion completely refuted by trite and common use.

More courtesy and moderation is shown by Augustine, (DeTrinity. lib. 5 c. 8 and 9,) who, although he says that Hypostasis in this sense is new to Latin ears, is still so far from objecting to the ordinary use of the term by the Greeks, that he is even tolerant of the Latins, who had imitated the Greek phraseology. The purport of what Socrates says of the term, in the Sixth Book of the Tripartite History, is, that it had been improperly applied to this purpose by the unskillful.

Hilary (De Trinitat. lib. 2) charges it upon the heretics as a great crime, that their misconduct had rendered it necessary to subject to the peril of human utterance things which ought to have been reverently confined within the mind, not disguising his opinion that those who do so, do what is unlawful, speak what is ineffable, and pry into what is forbidden. Shortly after, he apologises at great length for presuming to introduce new terms. For, after putting down the natural names of Father, Son, and Spirit, he adds, that all further inquiry transcends the significance of words, the discernment of sense, and the apprehension of intellect. And in another place, (De Conciliis,) he congratulates the Bishops of France in not having framed any other confession, but received, without alteration, the ancient and most simple confession received by all Churches from the days of the Apostles. Not unlike this is the apology of Augustine, that the term had been wrung from him by necessity from the poverty of human language in so high a matter: not that the reality could be thereby expressed, but that he might not pass on in silence without attempting to show how the Father, Son, and Spirit, are three.

The modesty of these holy men should be an admonition to us not instantly to dip our pen in gall, and sternly denounce those who maybe unwilling to swear to the terms which we have devised, provided they do not in this betray pride, or petulance, or unbecoming heat, but are willing to ponder the necessity which compels us so to speak, and may thus become gradually accustomed to a useful form of expression.

Let men also studiously beware, that in opposing the Arians on the one hand, and the Sabellians on the other, and eagerly endeavouring to deprive both of any handle for cavil, they do not bring themselves under some suspicion of being the disciples of either Arius or Sabellius. Arius says that Christ is God, and then mutters that he was made and had a beginning. He says, that he is one with the Father; but secretly whispers in the ears of his party, made one, like other believers, though with special privilege. Say, he is consubstantial, and you immediately pluck the mask from this chameleon, though you add nothing to Scripture. Sabellius says that the Father, Son, and Spirit, indicate some distinction in God. Say, they are three, and he will bawl out that you are making three Gods. Say, that there is a Trinity of Persons in one Divine essence, you will only express in one word what the Scriptures say, and stop his empty prattle.

Should any be so superstitiously precise as not to tolerate these terms, still do their worst, they will not be able to deny that when one is spoken of, a unity of substance must be understood , and when three in one essence, the persons in this Trinity are denoted. When this is confessed without equivocations we dwell not on words. But I was long ago made aware, and, indeed, on more than one occasion, that those who contend pertinaciously about words [I assume he means both those who rigidly adhere to terms and those on the other end of the spectrum who rigidly oppose them] are tainted with some hidden poison; and, therefore, that it is more expedient to provoke them purposely, than to court their favour by speaking obscurely.

The Blurring of Evangelical and Catholic Distinctions

Modern-day evangelicals are increasingly viewing Catholicism simply as another denomination within the totality of the Christian faith, much in the same way we have historically viewed Methodist, Baptist, and Presbyterian denominations as evangelical, for example. This lowering of theological arms is a clear indication that we are continuing to stray away from the Gospel path that has historically viewed Catholicism as a heretical eclipsing of the very Gospel itself, in the same way they view us as having heretically strayed from the authority of Rome over us. Much of that Scripturally informed conviction seems to be disappearing now, though.

Within the evangelical church, walls are coming down where more and more churches are participating with Catholic ministries on all kinds of fronts. In the theological realm, evangelical leaders are coming together with Catholic leaders in some form of unity (not sure exactly what kind to be honest). This has been happening for a while and is really nothing new, (based upon the Evangelicals and Catholics Together statement, signed by ministers from both camps) in the 1990’s, but it seems to be getting out of control. Confusion abounds.

In the world’s eyes though, this is a good thing: moving forward past the highly divisive Reformation issues; getting over “pesky,” “outdated,” “hair-splitting theological” issues that keep us from the amorphous worldly “unity” that is exalted as a god in our culture. To stand in opposition to such unity, as I am doing, to the world at least, is foolishness. But the Gospel, that is the Biblical Gospel, is foolishness to those who are perishing and makes no sense to the world. To stand against a popular ideology for the sake of the Gospel is highly unpopular, even within the church now unfortunately.

Much of this has come about from a total disregard of theological (Biblical) understanding and education in both the evangelical and Catholic realms (though I will admit more in the evangelical world than the Catholic world, seeing as how Catholics actually require you to go through a confirmation class in which you must learn the faith). This also has to do with evangelicals folding to cultural demands for religious relativism. But this great confusion is also massively propagated by those in leadership within the evangelical community who are either openly in ministry cooperation with Catholic organizations (for a “good cause,” forget the Gospel distinctions) or who have left evangelicalism altogether for Rome.

This blurring of distinctions is highlighted the most in the departure of Francis Beckwith from his position as President of the Evangelical Theological Society in return to Rome. Interesting to note though is the title of his new book coming out in the next few months speaking to all of this: Return to Rome: Confessions of an Evangelical Catholic. Evangelical Catholic? This type of language sends all kinds of mixed signals to a whole lot of lay people who are deeply confused as to how evangelicals relate to Catholics, both historically and in our modern day. This is just one more reason why theological education and training are vastly important, not just because it helps us grow in our knowledge of the Scriptures for the preparing of our minds for God’s glory, but also because it keeps us from error and grants us a great level of discernment when it comes to competing “gospels” out in the world.

The differences between evangelicals and Catholics are not minute: they relate to how we understand the very Gospel itself. They are not unimportant distinctions. We both believe each other, on matters of Biblical teaching concerning how we are saved in particular, to be teaching heresy and literally leading people astray to their eternal damnation (though even the Pope has made clear modern Catholics believe there are many outside of Rome’s authority who are saved but acting in disobedience to God by resisting the “infallible authority of The Church” over them … like me). Sounds like more folding to Western ideologies if you ask me, but nevertheless, it is so.

James White points out something important though on a recent blog entry concerning all of this, and in particular Beckwith’s statements, statements he also made on an entry I wrote a while back concerning N.T. Wright, here, that there is nothing new under the sun. I was slow to see this at the time when Beckwith responded to me. In calling himself an Evangelical Catholic, Beckwith, it seems at least on the surface, seeks to bridge a divide that has existed for centuries.

So to bridge this gap, he is attempting to show us “confused evangelicals” that the problem really isn’t as big of a problem as we make it out to be, that the issue at the heart of our debate is how we evangelicals view our justification through the lens of the Reformation imputation model (Christ’s righteousness is counted ours through faith alone) versus the infusion model (Christ’s righteousness is infused into our spirit whereby we are literally, in this life, made holy unto God, unto justification). Interestingly, N.T. Wright says basically the same thing, but I digress.

But as White points out, this itself, though Beckwith would seem to posit it as a new refining of the argument that we evangelicals haven’t already dealt with before, goes right to the heart of the very issue that has been debated between us for 500 something years now, doctrines that people died by torture for during the Reformation, doctrines that explain the very Gospel through which we may be saved.

So, yes, the divide between Catholics and evangelicals is not something to take in a light-hearted manner. Just as an example, evangelical ministry service work must be kept separate from Catholic ministries of service. Why, you say? The Gospel is at stake. How? Well, if we begin to compromise on the idea that there are strong enough Scriptural boundaries setup between us on how we are saved theologically (i.e. the Gospel, to put it bluntly); and compromising in this way in order that we may perform service work alongside Catholics whom we have historically considered outside of the grace of the Gospel … then it is only a matter of time before we too will slide back to Rome, just as Beckwith has.

Beckwith is a striking example of what happens when we compromise on the great eternal Scriptural truths of the Gospel, recovered from Rome in the Reformation. For Beckwith though, as he has said, this was just “confusion” of what Catholicism was teaching concerning justification … or rather, he never understood the point of contention to begin with and was always a Catholic maybe?

As far as the evangelical church is concerned, could it be, at least in this area, we are folding under a presupposed cultural norm of relativistic thinking that is now translating into how we view service work between evangelicals and Catholics, that we can come together as “one people” regardless of creeds (Creeds and Deeds – Michael Horton) for the sake of others, nevermind the Gospel by which people are either saved through faith alone or lost forever by unbelief? Should we not instead, with our own resources and talents, form organizations of our own to meet the needs of the poor and helpless, in order to bring them the greatest Aid of all, the Gospel of Jesus Christ that supernaturally changes us from the inside out by His work alone?

This seems to me to be the highest priority of the evangelical church: ministering the Gospel to a dying world. And we should do this through the means of service to others, but service as a means, not an end. Replacing the priority of the Gospel with service as an end is eternally dangerous. Using service as an instrument to further God’s Kingdom (which in reality is making disciples through the preaching of the Gospel) is ideal for it is what we see Jesus and the Apostles do over and over in the Scriptures.

We must, for the sake of the Gospel and the glory of God, be very careful, for we are treading on thin ice in regard to the evangelical/Catholic compromise that is taking place. May God, by His mercy in the cross toward us through the justifying work of Christ, continue to preserve us in the truth: that we are saved by grace alone (sola gratia) through faith alone (sola fide) in Christ alone (solus Christus). There is no other hope, for this is what the Scriptures have always taught, for they are the immutable Word of God. This Gospel hope is that God alone saves sinners. Catholics disagree. There can be no consensus on these things between us, for these are things we both believe will separate us for eternity.

Excerpt from J.I. Packer’s Intro Essay to Owen’s Death of Death

(Original): http://www.all-of-grace.org/pub/others/ … death.html
(Archived): http://www.westerfunk.net/archives/theo … %20Packer/

“But wait a minute,” says someone, “it’s all very well to talk like this about the gospel; but surely what Owen is doing is defending limited atonement—one of the five points of Calvinism? When you speak of recovering the gospel, don’t you mean that you just want us all to become Calvinists?”

These questions are worth considering, for they will no doubt occur to many. At the same time, however, they are questions that reflect a great deal of prejudice and ignorance. “Defending limited atonement”—as if this was all that a Reformed theologian expounding the heart of the gospel could ever really want to do! “You just want us all to become Calvinists”—as if Reformed theologians had no interest beyond recruiting for their party, and as if becoming a Calvinist was the last stage of theological depravity, and had nothing to do with the gospel at all. Before we answer these questions directly, we must try to remove the prejudices which underlie them by making clear what Calvinism really is; and therefore we would ask the reader to take note of the following facts, historical and theological, about Calvinism in general and the “five points” in particular.

First, it should be observed that the “five points of Calvinism,” so-called, are simply the Calvinistic answer to a five-point manifesto (the Remonstrance) put out by certain “Belgic semi-Pelagians” in the early seventeenth century. The theology which it contained (known to history as Arminianism) stemmed from two philosophical principles: first, that divine sovereignty is not compatible with human freedom, nor therefore with human responsibility; second, that ability limits obligation. (The charge of semi-Pelagianism was thus fully justified.) From these principles, the Arminians drew two deductions: first that since the Bible regards faith as a free and responsible human act, it cannot be caused by God, but is exercised independently of Him; second, that since the Bible regards faith as obligatory on the part of all who hear the gospel, ability to believe must be universal. Hence, they maintained, Scripture must be interpreted as teaching the following positions: (1.) Man is never so completely corrupted by sin that he cannot savingly believe the gospel when it is put before him, nor (2.) is he ever so completely controlled by God that he cannot reject it. (3.) God’s election of those who shall be saved is prompted by His foreseeing that they will of their own accord believe. (4.) Christ’s death did not ensure the salvation of anyone, for it did not secure the gift of faith to anyone (there is no such gift); what it did was rather to create a possibility of salvation for everyone if they believe. (5.) It rests with believers to keep themselves in a state of grace by keeping up their faith; those who fail here fall away and are lost. Thus, Arminianism made man’s salvation depend ultimately on man himself, saving faith being viewed throughout as man’s own work and, because his own, not God’s in him.

The Synod of Dort was convened in 1618 to pronounce on this theology, and the “five points of Calvinism” represent its counter-affirmations. They stem from a very different principle—the biblical principle that “salvation is of the Lord”; and they may be summarized thus: (1.) Fallen man in his natural state lacks all power to believe the gospel, just as he lacks all power to believe the law, despite all external inducements that may be extended to him. (2.) God’s election is a free, sovereign, unconditional choice of sinners, as sinners, to be redeemed by Christ, given faith and brought to glory. (3.) The redeeming work of Christ had as its end and goal the salvation of the elect. (4.) The work of the Holy Spirit in bringing men to faith never fails to achieve its object. (5.) Believers are kept in faith and grace by the unconquerable power of God till they come to glory. These five points are conveniently denoted by the mnemonic TULIP: Total depravity, Unconditional election, Limited atonement, Irresistible grace, Preservation of the saints.

Now, here are two coherent interpretations of the biblical gospel, which stand in evident opposition to each other. The difference between them is not primarily one of emphasis, but of content. One proclaims a God who saves; the other speaks of a God Who enables man to save himself. One view presents the three great acts of the Holy Trinity for the recovering of lost mankind—election by the Father, redemption by the Son, calling by the Spirit—as directed towards the same persons, and as securing their salvation infallibly. The other view gives each act a different reference (the objects of redemption being all mankind, of calling, those who hear the gospel, and of election, those hearers who respond), and denies that any man’s salvation is secured by any of them. The two theologies thus conceive the plan of salvation in quite different terms. One makes salvation depend on the work of God, the other on a work of man; one regards faith as part of God’s gift of salvation, the other as man’s own contribution to salvation; one gives all the glory of saving believers to God, the other divides the praise between God, Who, so to speak, built the machinery of salvation, and man, who by believing operated it. Plainly, these differences are important, and the permanent value of the “five points,” as a summary of Calvinism, is that they make clear the points at which, and the extent to which, these two conceptions are at variance.

Pierced For Our Transgressions – A Review

A recent, thorough study of the American religious landscape conducted by the Pew Forum indicates that around 57% of self-labeled evangelicals now believe Jesus is not the only way to eternal life. This and other studies are showing the exact same thing: evangelicalism as a whole has lost, or is in the process of losing the Gospel as what makes it distinguishable from other “Christian” groups. This is saddening.

But it is no wonder when you have leaders, pastors and theologians in evangelicalism itself outright denying something that lies at the heart of the Gospel: the penal substitutionary atonement of Christ on the cross in behalf of sinners. Yes, evangelicals are beginning to deny this now! This excellent book, written by Steve Jeffery, Mike Ovey, and Andrew Sach is a very welcomed, thoughtful, timely and Biblically engaging response to those very people in showing them they are defying the Scriptures as well as historically what the church, its fathers and its doctors, have believed concerning this.

Just to give a short synopsis of the book, the first three chapters give a good thorough definition of what the doctrine is saying, the Biblical background of it from both the Old and New Testaments with a plethora of citations and explanations of the texts, and finally bringing all of this together into a theological framework in defense of the doctrine, respectively. All of this helps us understand the depths of how far God had to go in Christ in taking our sin upon Himself, taking the wrath in Himself that was due to us for that sin, and how we gain His righteousness through that work, by faith. Essentially, through faith and trust in Him, Christ takes our eternal punishment, in our place, and in return we get His reward for His work and toil! Unfathomable!

The fourth chapter then deals with the pastoral implications which I won’t go into as much here. In helping gain a better grasp of what Christians have believed historically concerning penal substitution, the fifth chapter outlines from church history, chronologically, what those who have gone before us said pertaining to this wonderful truth.

And that’s all just Part I.

All of Part 2 deals with answering the modern day critics who state that penal substitution is unbiblical, defies good modern-day common sense, and defies logic/reason. Many critics are making the old theologically liberal argument that penal substitution makes God the Father out to be a child abuser of His Son if He willingly sent Him to the cross to bear the wrath that was due to us. Unbelievable. How do we answer these people and the many other awful accusations of this wonderful truth? This book is a great place to start to know exactly how to do that.

This is was a wonderful read and a great resource to keep going back to in the future. The clear thinking, counter-arguments and Scriptural citations on the matter are so plentiful that it is really hard to negate the reality of this truth. In addition, though I initially thought this was going to be a high-level argumentation for penal substitution, I found it to be quite an easy read and not that difficult to keep up with at all. It’s one of those books that the authors are so smart, they can not only comprehend the most difficult theology, but can then take that theology and make it easily understandable for the average lay person.

In the future, unless God in His mercy and intervenes, turning evangelicals hearts’ back to Him again, this doctrine will continue to be lambasted as outdated, primitive, and downright offensive. We must be ready for the attacks on the heart of the Gospel, unfortunately, within many of our churches now. Believe me, it is coming. If theologians, pastors, and teachers are beginning to say these things now, it is only a matter of time before their cunning and deceitful arguments filter down into the thinking of the average person.

We must stand up for the Gospel now, in all of its difficult and soul-cutting truths, for the sake of the glory of God. Penal substitution is just one of these truths. In fact, it is a linchpin doctrine upon which our salvation rests, because how is it we can be saved unless God’s justice against our wrong-doing was satisfied by Christ bearing our burden in Himself on the tree?

This book is a great place to start really understanding this timeless, Biblical truth and re-examining your own personal understanding of it even. In addition, if you really want to understand the apologetic defense against many of these arguments, this book is a must read. Regardless of where you are coming from, it will be well worth your time and help focus and concentrate you on the center-piece of our faith: Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

Contentions with the Reformed, Not Reformed Theology

This was a recent interaction I had with a great friend of mine who is Reformed in his theology, but sees some flaws within the Reformed movement and is concerned with claiming that as a belief system. I agree with the assessments of the flaws within many who claim the “Reformed” title (not all of the Reformed, but some of them), but I do not necessarily agree with the conclusions.

The main thing I want to emphasize before starting this interaction is that those who claim Reformed theology are not without their faults, big faults; I mean, they are sinners after all, saved by grace, myself included. Many are arrogant, filled with head-knowledge just for the sake of head-knowledge, all the while not applying it to their own souls, but just so they can “defeat” their opponents. Theology for the sake of pride? That sounds anti-Gospel to me. You can just see the vitriol that drips on some of the Reformed forums. Sometimes I just can’t read them because they are so frustrating, because ultimately, they are maligning Christ and the Gospel itself through their Pharisaical arrogance. But unfortunately, those are the people many see as the “face” of the Reformed, while in reality, they are in the minority of those who are actually historically Reformed.

Theology, that is, knowledge about God from the Scriptures, that does not result in the humility of the sinner before Christ and His work on our behalf, is of no use. As Paul said, “knowledge puffs up,” if it is not coupled with an active, humble pursuit of Christ as a sinner saved by grace. The attitude of the arrogantly Reformed that results of not putting theology into practice is a big turn-off to a lot of people on the outside looking in. Theology is meant for doxology (Biblical truth is meant for the glory of God). Orthodoxy should result in orthopraxy (right believing and thinking should result in right practice and living).

But, as I say in this response to my friend, you cannot look at a system of theology and conclude the system itself is wrong based upon the stupid, arrogant decisions of a loud minority who claim it. You must look at what the system itself is saying about the Gospel, look at it’s heroes themselves, and check what it is saying against the Scriptures, with all diligence. So without further ado, I’ll give his initial comments to me, and then my reply.


“John Owen, John Calvin and John Piper aren’t the final authorities on scripture though. I would be very careful following Christianity even from a reformed theological preacher such as the ones i mentioned. Even Paul pointed to the gospel, not to reformed theology. All Paul was doing was helping churches get back on the path to the truth in Christ. I don’t think he was meaning for this reformation to take such a huge stance in Christianity. Why not just say the gospel instead of reformed? It’s important to see these teachers as sinful human ‘equals’ meaning sinners such as ourselves. Seeing them as the tellers of perfect truth can make their weaknesses become our own. For that matter, why let any person who wasn’t apart of the original Bible such a huge stance such as Calvin. I think he has a bigger place in the Bible than say Timothy and Calvin wasn’t even in the Bible.”

Understand that as I go through some of your contentions with Reformed theology (or rather the modern Reformed movement) in this email (which I’m a little confused about where this came from), I’m not coming at you with theological “guns ablazin'” (with a mean spirit or something 🙂 I’m simply engaging some of your arguments honestly with responses to them. I agree with many of your assessments and others not so much. So in no way does this have to be a “heated” (i.e. emotional) engagement. So don’t take it as such.

We’re both men who can debate ideas and still love each other as brothers in Christ, praise God! People can debate ideas without it becoming personal, that’s where things have gone bad with others in debating, they malign the person, instead of engaging the ideas (i.e. “You’re so stupid so as to believe that”). That helps no one.

Just understand that I respond with these things because I love you and care about you and desire to see you pursue Christ on the straight and narrow path, not the twisted, crooked, wide one of the world that many are going down. I believe you are on the correct path spiritually more than ever, but we must always be on guard against deceptive ideas that can come in and slowly take us off track. That is how Satan works to keep our eyes off Christ, by giving us ideas that seem plausible, but in reality, take us down a road slowly but surely that moves us off the center-piece of our faith, that is Christ. With all that said …

“John Owen, John Calvin and John Piper aren’t the final authorities on scripture though.”

I agree, they are definitely not final authorities, I never said they were, nor have any of the historically Reformed. But they are nevertheless authorities, articulating what we believe to be the Biblical positions of Scripture. Will you ignore their teaching simply because they are not the final authority? As a great friend of mine has said before (paraphrasing), “You can go and stare at a great painting for hours and glean a lot of depth into what was being conveyed in the image. And you definitely should do that on a regular basis so that you can be changed by it! Yet there are people who have devoted their entire lives to understanding the painting; the lighting, the shadows, the depth perception, the colors, the mood, things I would never have really paid attention to unless someone explained it to me. So it is with the Scriptures, theology and church history. There is a great wealth of knowledge given to us by people both today and that are now gone, who loved Scripture and wanted others to see its truth, because in it is the beauty and power of Christ in the Gospel.”

Sola Scriptura states that Scripture Alone is the final infallible authority for the life, faith and practice of the church. You owe that statement to the Reformation. It wasn’t even an idea in the history of the church until the 16th century because of the Roman Catholics snuffing out the witness of Scripture. That is a Reformed idea itself and is the basis for all other debating on theological topics. But the doctrine as stated above does not negate the fact that there are church authorities, both individual and corporate, who speak on matters of theology throughout church history. This is actually a classic modern day Arminian argument against Calvinism and Reformation theology oddly enough and it is still null, void and baseless, because we have never said they were final; Jesus is final. That is actually the one thing that attracted me to Reformed theology to begin with: that it pointed to the truth of Christ, the Gospel, just like you said before that we should be doing. Reformation theology, in its summed up essence, is the recovery of the Biblical Gospel, as opposed to all the others that are out there that are blatantly heretical and soul-damning.

“I would be very careful following Christianity even from a reformed theological preacher such as the ones I mentioned.”

Really? Why? Where did this come from? So who will you learn from and follow as a mentor? The Lord uses teachers (people that are more spiritually mature and have studied the Scriptures and are more spiritually knowledgeable than us) to bring things to light you (and I) otherwise would not have seen on your (my) own. To ignore the teaching of those who have gone before you, who put in a lifetime worth of work to faithfully understand what the Scriptures have said to us, is just foolish in all honesty. This goes for anyone who would ignore great teachers of the faith. This is the very thing some people in our society say and we can see how much good it is doing them in their faith. The result is a soul-less evangelicalism that is bright and flashy on the outside and dying on the inside. They are stagnate in their pursuit because they will not listen to anyone who is smarter and wiser than they are, like mules being forced to drink from a clear bubbling brook.

So you don’t believe Reformed preachers are articulating the correct, Biblical position of theology and would not learn from them over against other camps of theology? Reformed theology as a system is not infallible (no one ever said it was, and if they have can you cite it?). But I do believe it is the closest Biblical articulation of what the Scriptures have said. I’m going to be honest: this sounds like you are defending some position or system of theology, yet not stating what that position or system is. And believe me: everyone has a system of theology, even if they deny it, because that in itself is a system of theology. In fact, that is much of the church’s framework/system: anti-intellectualism. They approach the Scriptures as if it’s just plain and simple. And it is in one sense, and then absolutely difficult and complex in another. The Gospel is so simple a child can understand and yet so deep that it takes a life-time to unfold it’s glories. It is both unbelievably simple and unbelievably complex at the same time.

Regardless, many in our culture will say, “All you need is Jesus.” Yet when you ask them, “Who is Jesus? Why did He come?” The answers you will receive back are an articulation of a particular theological position, particularly evangelical and protestant. “Well, He’s the Son of God, God become man, who died on the cross for our sins and rose from the dead that we might be saved.” My response: “Well, others say Jesus is just a historical figure who should just be modeled and looked up to, who is now dead and gone.” Their response? “Well, I disagree with them about that.” My response: “That’s a theological position.” This is why theology matters: it is unavoidable. The question then is not do you have theology or not, because everyone does. The question is do you have good theology or bad theology? I believe that Reformed theology is the most correct out of all other systems, because all other systems are not nearly as Christ-centered as it is.

“Even Paul pointed to the gospel, not to reformed theology.”

Yes, that is true. Reformed theology though is itself the recovery of … the Gospel. This is a null argument purported mostly by Arminians to try and refute Calvinism and Reformed theology (not at all saying you are an Arminian, but they use that same argument). An honest Reformed position never says that Paul was “Reformed.” That’s absurd, because the chronological order of history itself does not allow for this (i.e. Paul lived in the first century, the Reformation began in the 16th century).

Spurgeon said in his Defense of Calvinism http://www.spurgeon.org/calvinis.htm, “The old truth that Calvin preached, that Augustine preached, that Paul preached, is the truth that I must preach to-day, or else be false to my conscience and my God.” That truth is that God saves sinners through Christ. That is a summed up articulation of Reformed theology, over-simplifid, but still at the heart of it. Yes it’s just Biblical, but many who say they believe the Bible deny this very statement by adding things to or taking away from it, which in turn makes it a false gospel. That statement, that God saves sinners through Christ, is absolutely a Pauline understanding, yet Augustine (in the 3rd and 4th centuries) and Calvin (during the Reformation) both reiterated that very truth and expounded upon it later in history because of errors that kept progressing and needed to be dealt with, and it was spoken under different labels over time, but it is still the same truth. The Gospel. Only by God’s doing through Christ can man be saved.

Do you believe that Paul spoke about election? Predestination? Effectual calling? Grace alone? (Rhetorical, because I know you do) These are terms used (some of which are in Scripture, others are not) to articulate giant, great, divine ideas about salvation. The term “Trinity” is not in the Scriptures either, yet the idea is clearly there. So will you throw that out as a received orthodox doctrine (necessary to be believed by the church) that heroes of the faith in the early church died for? So also it is with Reformed theology. The term contains within it a whole understanding of what the Scriptures have said to us, namely that the whole point of the Scriptures is the exaltation of Christ (that itself is a Reformed position that I know you personally hold concerning the Scriptures). By no means is it ultimate, but it is definitely authoritative and I believe very Biblical, as I would think you would agree with as well.

“Why not just say the gospel instead of reformed?”

Here is why: Because every “Christian” group, even heretical one’s who are unbelievers in fact, say they have the one Gospel-truth as well. Who do we believe? Which gospel is true? To answer your question, we don’t have that luxury basically, because there are so many false gospels out there, it’s frightening. The Catholic church says the same thing, “no, we have the true Gospel, anyone outside of us stands condemned.” Unfortunately, you have to distinguish what Gospel you are talking about now, and in order to do that you must use labels, faith-definitions. Paul himself said to be very leery of “gospels” other than the one you first received. Take the Galatians for example. That whole book is a refutation of a false gospel being spoken there that was deceiving its church body.

Our culture denies faith labels and definitions, yet they have historically been utilized since the history of the church to distinguish different ideas. The Reformed gospel, as opposed to the Catholic “gospel,” says something totally different. Same as the Arminian gospel, the Mormon “gospel,” the Jehovah’s Witness’ “gospel,” and so on. We need to be very careful about the Gospel truth we have received, that we protect it and hold onto it with everything we have. Yes, I agree with you that I would prefer to just say the Gospel without using any kind of labels to distinguish what we’re saying, but we live in a super-confused culture who doesn’t know its right from its left and so you need distinctions from other faiths, even within Christianity. I wrote about faith labels and distinctions in this blog entry http://www.davidwesterfield.net/index.p … 530-005706 recently, and it may help clarify some of these points. We live in one unbelievably confused culture who are putting forth just absurd ideas, even within the church.

“It’s important to see these teachers as sinful human ‘equals’ meaning sinners such as ourselves.”

Yes it is. And never should we say they are final, sinless individuals. That’s absurd, and never have I said they weren’t sinners. That would be anti-Scriptural (Romans 3?). Some people who claim the “Reformed” name do say that (implicitly), and honestly, people like that do not have the true Reformed spirit of honest humility and Christ-following about them. Regardless, I do esteem pastors and theologians of the Reformed tradition as better truth-sayers than other teachers and listen to them over others any day. But at the same time, that also doesn’t mean that some things cannot be gleaned from other Gospel-rooted faith traditions. We just have to take what they say with a (sometimes giant) grain of salt.

“Seeing them as the tellers of perfect truth can make their weaknesses become our own.”

I absolutely agree! In addition, I would also go on to say that those who view other fallible men as the final authority (who I will call the Arrogantly Reformed) are not consistent with Historic Reformed theology itself. John Calvin (if you’ll allow me to quote him on this 🙂 said that the life of the Christian should be marked by three things: humility, humility and humility. I agree. That’s what the life of someone following Christ should look like. Humble. Yet many of the so-called Reformed lack this to a great degree and it is sad, because this is supposed to be the mark of the Reformed to begin with: humble pursuit of Christ. If we believe in unconditional election (that God chose us for salvation based on the freedom of His grace, that His loving choice wasn’t rooted in us to begin with) how in the world can we boast, even in our correct theology? Is correct understanding and truth not itself a gift of of the cross of Christ? All boasting is evil. The Reformed would do well to take James’ advice on this, maybe apply it to their lives.

The Need for Faith-Definitions and Labels

There is a received dogma within our culture that says using labels to define who you are either politically, religiously, or any other way, is divisive and arrogant. Instead we should just amorphously state our opinions on various subjects instead of using these labels that cause divisions and splits within groups or communities. My generation (and younger) seems to have accepted this as the way things are. You just don’t use labels as much as possible. It is impolite at best and instigating hate at the worst.

Unfortunately, that thinking has seeped into the church to large degree to where we just don’t use labels to define what we believe anymore. We’re all just generally “Christians,” without walls, without denominational barriers, all one in Christ. Now there is some truth to that (and hope for unification somewhere down the road), for some of the denominations out there. Yet for other denominations, there have historically been splits from these groups over truth itself, over the Gospel, not just over church floor color and various subjective arrangements.

On MySpace it seems popular to put “Christian – Other,” that way others have to decide what you are, but you surely won’t be pidgin-holed by a label! You can also see this come out on the site GodTube.com as well. You have a whole range of people from various denominations, some groups of which aren’t even considered historic Christians to begin with (you know, those denying the Trinity, the full deity and full humanity of Christ, etc), coming together as one group of people under the label “Christian,” all assuming they together adhere to the same faith, when the reality is there couldn’t be more of a contrast between different groups. But the waters get muddy when there are no labels or definitions of where people are coming from in their faith.

There is something to be said about unity within the church. We need it, and within the Protestant world in particular, there is far too little unity. This is something I actually commend the Roman Catholic Church for: their unity, despite its falsehood. I desire for the day when Protestants can once again stand in unity on the Gospel and the truths of Scripture. Splits over subjective things is dead wrong. Yet splits over truth and what the Scriptures have asserted as the Gospel should be commended instead of chastised. Unfortunately, within the Protestant realm, there is a ton of poisonous theology being put forward as truth which is so far from the truth of the Scriptures.

Our culture says doctrinal truth claims are not important and we need to come together in the name of unity. In fact, our culture says any truth claims are arrogant and divisive, breaking up our humanity. How is it the church of Jesus Christ seems to think this is okay and should be propagated even? I hear this frequently from people at church as well as your average run-of-the-mill Christian out in the world.

Jesus prayed on our behalf in His High Priestly prayer in John 17:17, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” He also said in John 14:6, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Jesus is very clear and makes straight forward truth-claims. Maybe we should as well, coming from Scripture of course, instead of giving people no understanding of what it is we believe specifically? Paul made clear in several letters that his readers adhere to correct and truthful doctrine and teaching, and that there be no divisions on these things. That is the kind of division he wanted to keep from happening.

So why do I use labels to define what I believe? Well, for one, because within a label (or word, really) consists a definition, an article of belief, a statement about what the truth is from the Scriptures. Secondly, I use labels because they distinguish my beliefs against other beliefs. Don’t take this as me saying, “I’m better than those who don’t use labels,” or that I in any way look down my nose at those who choose not to use a label. Using labels in no way adds to or takes away from any righteousness we have, because in ourselves, we have none to begin with (total depravity?). Rather our righteousness comes from that which was obtained on our behalf by Christ. Regardless, I am making a recommendation that we do start using labels again to define where it is we are coming from.

Using labels refines what it is you are saying to people about what it is you believe. In all reality though, on a Facebook profile, it doesn’t matter all that much really to use specific labels for your religious beliefs. I just prefer to so maybe someone might investigate further as to what I mean and hopefully I can share the Gospel. However, I do think how we define ourselves in general can be indicative of underlying assumptions about how we personally perceive labels and belief terms themselves. I do feel it is important to be as specific and accurate as possible with your stated beliefs (in any forum or social environment) instead of leaving people with a fuzzy, amorphous understanding of where you are coming from. But that’s just an opinion as it pertains to Myspace or Facebook or any other online social forum.

So why do I use the labels “Christian – Protestant – Evangelical – Reformed” on my Facebook profile? Because each says something about my beliefs against other beliefs. Each says something that further and further distinguishes what I believe concerning “the faith once for all delivered.” I’m going to go through and explain each label and give short, personal definitions within each of the terms:

I’m a Christian as opposed to a Muslim, Hindu or Buddhist:

To just say I’m a “Christian” (while that is obviously true) is way too broad nowadays in our culture. Many will say, “I follow Christ.” Well, a lot of people say that who don’t according to the Scriptures. Many people call themselves “Christian” who according to the Scriptures, have rejected Christ as Savior. Not everyone assumes that when you say, “I believe in Jesus,” that you actually mean you believe in Him alone, that He died for your sins and rose from the dead on your behalf and that you contributed nothing to your salvation.

You must be specific in our culture about your beliefs. You cannot just assume people know where you are coming from as it pertains to the Gospel and Christianity in general. Over in Iran, it may not be as broad to say I’m a Christian. That is a different culture though. But in the thinking of the West, the term Christian encompasses a whole range of beliefs, some of which are fundamentally contradictory to others even. People who are Mormon consider themselves Christians too, yet their beliefs go against the very ecumenical doctrines established in the early history of the Christian church as those which makeup orthodox Christianity.

Nowadays (though historically this has not always been the case), the label Christian encompasses a couple billion people all around the world, from groups ranging from Baptists, Catholics, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Episcopals, and many other “Christian” groups. All of these groups, sects, and denominations have fundamental disagreements over the very nature of God, man, and salvation, amongst a host other beliefs that are vitally important. So I must go further than just saying I’m a “Christian” (though, as I said, that is absolutely true).

I’m Protestant as opposed to Catholic:

This is another distinction of my beliefs that I must make over against the Roman Catholic Church in particular. I am not a Roman Catholic Christian. I am a Protestant Christian. I reject their mass, their Eucharist, their belief in faith plus works for eternal justification before God, their belief in the infallibility of Rome’s authority over the life and faith of the church (even over sacred Scripture), amongst a host of other beliefs, because I believe they directly contradict the passages of Scripture, which I believe to be the only infallible authority for the faith and practice of the church.

Unfortunately though, the term “Protestant” has been hijacked and ruined in many ways by theologically liberal groups who are more open to worldly, cultural interpretations of the characteristics of God, Scripture, Christ, salvation, and man. So I must distinguish even further than this. Yet, I still consider myself a Protestant. I guess more of a Historic Protestant, to be accurate. Protestantism used to be way more theologically conservative than it has become.

I’m Evangelical as opposed to theologically liberal or Pelagian:

I reject that there can be other ways to God besides faith alone in Christ alone, whereas theological liberals will say that Jesus is not the only way, just one of many. The Scriptures are the only infallibly authoritative rule over the life and faith of the church. Salvation is through faith alone in Christ alone. Jesus is fully God, fully man. Jesus, the Son of God, came from heaven to live as a frail human (like us) and lived a perfect life in the eyes of God, in my place, died the death I should have died, taking the wrath of God in Himself, rose from the grave three days later, that if you believe in Him, you will be saved.

This message, the Gospel, is at the heart of evangelicalism. And it totally differs from the liberals version of what the Gospel is, which is “love like Jesus loved,” which is not good news, because He loved perfectly, and I don’t. However, it now seems even many within evangelical circles now are folding on some of these core Gospel-truths by saying that, “we personally believe all of these things, but it isn’t necessary to believe absolutely all of this to be saved.” Still others will say that it isn’t important to preach on hell, sin, wrath, justice, predestination, because they might make people upset. Is that not our culture talking? That right there is the difference between orthodoxy and heterodoxy. And once again, unfortunately, I must refine my beliefs even further than just evangelical, though I am that as well.

I’m Reformed as opposed to Arminian, Semi-Pelagian, partial-Calvinist, or Dispensational:

I hold to the Five Solas of the Reformation: Sola Gratia, Sola Fide, Solus Christus, Sola Scriptura, Soli Deo Gloria. Usually upon reflection, a lot of evangelicals will affirm the Five Solas without hesitation, with the exception of maybe grace alone (differing of course on election sadly, inconsistently). Yet grace alone is at the heart of the Gospel itself. God saved me, a rebel, when I wanted nothing of Him. The only reason I’m different and saved is God’s “grace alone” making me to differ, that He would grant me a living faith, to turn from my sin by His power and trust in Christ. That was His work in me, not my work in raising myself from the dead, like Lazarus.

I’m a five point Calvinist. I hold to all five points without reservation. Why?

Well, being the fact that I was dead in sin prior to my conversion, actively in rebellion against Him, I would never have come to Him. I was hell-bound, fully deserving of wrath and punishment (Total Depravity).

Therefore, in eternity past, God chose me to inherit salvation, out of His pure love and affection, not because of anything within me or anything I would do in the future, but just simply because He sovereignly chose to save me (Unconditional Election).

In due time, He sent His Son to accomplish this plan of the Father’s, who willingly lived the life I could never live, die the eternal death that should have been mine, pay for my sins effectively and fully at the cross, justifying me by His blood, confirmed and sealed in His resurrection (Definite/Limited Atonement, He actually bought my redemption at the cross).

He brought me forth into this world by my chosen parents, and on His schedule and plan, despite unbelievable Satanic forces attempting to keep me from salvation, God made sure I was saved and brought to faith (i.e. He did not leave it up to me to decide whether I was in or out because I never would have come to start with). He did this by sending His Holy Spirit to give me new birth, that is to regenerate my dead will enslaved to sin, convict me of my wickedness against Him, give me eyes to see and ears to hear Him, and show me Christ, which inevitably gave rise to my faith in Him (Irresistible Grace).

And I know that because of Jesus’ promises and that He never lies, He will never let me go or allow me to turn away from Him because He will preserve me and cause to me to persevere by His power working so mightily within me (Perseverance/Preservation of the Saints).

That is Calvinism in a nutshell. As Spurgeon once said (paraphrase), Calvinism is really just another label for the Gospel and nothing more. God saves sinners. Man can achieve nothing, nor can we coerce God or force His hand to be merciful to us. Yet how merciful He is, full of grace and kindness to bring sinners into His family! We are at His mercy to turn us and miraculously regenerate us that we may believe in Him with a living faith and so be saved.

I hold to covanentalism (minus the statements on covenant children and infant baptism) as opposed to Dispensationalism even though I’ve grown up within Dispensational churches my whole life, and still attend one. My conviction on this has come from studying many resources on both systems of theology and comparing them with how the Scriptures unfold over the whole plot-line of the Bible.

I have personally found the coventantal understanding more Scripturally grounded, yet I do not claim to have some advantage over Dispensationalists, because I know and love many Dispensationalists who would be classified as Reformed Calvinists and I gladly confess with them in every thing else. I just believe that in terms of the Gospel, God works in covenants, as clearly articulated in Hebrews, doing away with the old and establishing the new in Christ. Covenant theology views the entire Bible as God’s progressive, unfolding outworking of the Gospel, where God creates for Himself a people for His own possession, purchased by the blood of His Son.

So I guess when you get down to it, that makes me a Reformed Evangelical Protestant Christian. Or to shorten that, I’m a Reformed Baptist. So really, you could sum up what I believe in the London Baptist Confession of Faith from 1689. An excellent read!

What Convinced You of Reformed Theology?

I have asked a few people this now, and the overwhelming majority of those I asked said that what did it for them was the section on limited atonement in the position paper entitled What We Believe About the Five Points of Calvinism written by John Piper and Bethlehem Baptist Church. I was actually kind of surprised to hear this because for most people, this point is by far the most controversial. But upon thinking about it, I can also see now why it makes sense that this would be the one thing convincing people of Reformed theology’s truthfulness.

When you start distinguishing Christ’s sacrificial work, not as something that He just lobbed out there for us to grab a hold of by our own supposed moral power, but rather paint the Scriptural picture that Christ’s death is what effected even your faith in Him, you begin to see a stark contrast. It is the difference between an atonement that did not go the extra mile to raise you from the dead and get you in its benefits, and an atonement that grabbed a hold of you when you were running headlong into hell, dead in trespasses and sins, regenerating your will that was in bondage to sin, giving you eyes to see when you were blind, ears to hear when you were deaf, and a new heart made anew in the likeness of Jesus’ heart, that will inevitably be fully conformed to His one day. It is the difference between an atonement presented where Christ made it available to all and saves no one in particular effectively, and an atonement of power presented in the Scriptures that grabbed a hold of the sinners’ soul and will, raising them from the dead, breathing life into them when there was none there to start with.

I don’t know about others, but the latter descriptions above, in each instance, is how I was saved. I did not get myself “in” His benefits, but rather He got me “in” at the cross, from beginning to end. He united me to Himself and nothing could stop Him. I take no credit for my love for God, my faith, and my affirmation of the reality and truthfulness of the Gospel. That was God’s work, specifically effected in the cross of Christ, His atonement. What child of God in heaven is going to ever take credit for their coming to Christ? Was this itself not the work of God?

John Owen has a rather long quote in The Death of Death that Jon Dansby summarized a while back that I think is really helpful in distinguishing the difference between the common, American, traditional, “churchy” perception of the atonement and the atonement presented in the Scriptures: “If Christ died for all in the same way and faith itself is not a gift of the cross, then those who are in heaven have no more to thank Christ for than those who are in hell.” Why? Because they got themselves in. How does that honor God? That’s just wrong on so many levels.

The term limited atonement is very misleading because it makes it sound as if we are saying the power of Christ’s atonement is limited. But that is not what is intended, which is why I like the terms definite atonement or particular redemption more, but it messes up the TULIP acrostic. But oh well, who needs a silly acrostic anyway? The power of Christ’s atonement is infinite, able to save an infinite number of lost souls. I confess with John Calvin that the atonement is “sufficient for the whole world, but efficient for the elect,” that is Christ bought for His people more than just the possibility and opportunity of salvation, He actually and really bought their souls at the cross, making sure they would get in, which includes the purchasing and granting of the gifts of faith, repentance, the desire and the very will to come to Christ.

This section of Piper’s article apparently seems to be the most convincing argument for many people when it pertains to Reformed theology, because it is riddled with Scripture that shows these truths to be self-evident. But I know many others have been convinced of the truthfulness of them in other ways. Regardless, it may be helpful for some of you who are just not quite sure about the whole thing or those who are opposed to them, to go through this rather short section.

There are many people out there, including the Reformed, who have done a terrible job of presenting these truths in a way that is loving, Biblical frankly, and God-honoring. For that I am sorry. But what camp or movement does not have those within its circles who do a terrible job of presenting their positions, who are also the most vocal, yet also the minority of those confessing the position? To discount Reformed theology because a few loud, vocal wing nuts who were arrogant, emotionally heated, and unloving in their desire to prove these truths to you, does not negate the truthfulness of the teachings themselves. So just give it a chance and check it out.

How about me, you ask? What convinced me? Well, I was simply presented with the five points and Reformed theology in high school, and because of how God had previously worked in my life to save me, they just made sense. Of course God chose me first! I was running away from Him when He invaded my life. Of course He had me in mind when He purchased me with His blood before I came into existence. He set His affection on me in eternity. This just made sense and squared with the picture of God’s love in the Scriptures. Basically, by God’s grace alone, I needed no convincing, because the Scriptural salvation truths echoed within Calvinism exactly matched up with my salvation experience. God saved me, I did nothing, faith was just the inevitable response of a heart supernaturally changed by grace alone.

More Christian Mysticism Stuff

This was a question posed that has been going around:

“Do you see anything in these lyrics that’s not scripturally correct?

‘I believe there are angels among us
Sent down to us from somewhere up above
They come to you and me in our darkest hours
To show us how to live, to teach us how to give,
To guide us with the light of love.

They wear so many faces, show up in the strangest places.
Grace us with their mercy in our time of need.'”

My response:

“Sounds like Catholic superstition to me … or just good old ‘Protestant’ Christian mysticism. People don’t want to take the Bible for what it actually says, so they take a reality in the Scriptures (angels) and build a whole theology on it and make it into a religion of their own liking … ya know, the whole paganism thing 🙂 all the while ignoring clear passages that speak against this very thing. The very fact of the matter is that outside of Christ, only wrath remains, that’s what Jesus said at least. ‘Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him’ (John 3:36). So are there angels ministering to unbelievers? Apparently not based on the verse in Hebrews that says, ‘Are they [angels] not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?’ Seems like they have a particular job assigned. And on top of that, the whole first chapter is meant to show the preeminence of Christ above angels in particular, because the people the author was writing to were worshiping them as ministers of ‘grace,’ kind of like the song says. Interesting. Basically, that’s just blatant idolatry.”

“People never consider that for the unbeliever, their ‘ministering’ angels (demons) are ministering blindness and spiritual darkness under the wrath of God, that is until God decides to remove all hindrances (including their own hardened, sinful heart and will) and save them (Irresistible Grace).”

“And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world [Satan] has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Corinthians 4:3-4).

In essence, what is applied to angels in these lyrics can only be, and should only be, applied to Christ alone. Anything else is idolatry.

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