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Friday, April 28, 2006

Grace Revealed: Intellectual Dishonesty

I briefly addressed the basic tenets of Arminianism HERE. Arminianism is, like its predecessors Gnosticism, Pelagianism, and semi-Pelagianism, a system which places salvation, ultimately, in the hands of man. To the Arminian, salvation occurs when a man “chooses” to “accept” the “gnosis” (which itself is true) that Jesus Christ was God in the flesh, died and rose again, and is the savior of the world. Arminians hold to synergism – that salvation requires both God and man to act – therefore, salvation cannot occur without the work of both. However, the most useful argument of the early church fathers, reduction ad absurdium (reducing a claim to its logical final conclusion) is never applied to Arminian thought.

Well, it sometimes is. I applied it, and abandoned Arminianism, as all who honestly examine their theology must. For, at its core, Arminianism is entirely intellectually dishonest. While these words are charged, allow me to explain why I believe this to be so.

Arminians insist that God is sovereign, knows the future, and allows man to choose his own salvation. As UK John put it, “God comes as close as he can”, and allows us to make the decision.

I would assert that it is entirely intellectually honest to claim that God can have full foreknowledge and allow men to freely choose. Others would assert that this cannot be so, and say that foreknowledge of the Creator amounts to predestination. That is not my tack in this voyage.

Instead, I address the sovereignty of God, without asserting it is an ultimate end or starting point. As I asked John, “Please give me an example of one of the purposes of God that cannot be thwarted by man, yet still give man the full “freedom to choose”. Obviously, a human must be involved in the purpose. The creation of the universe would be one, but the interference of a man with a will is not a consideration there. This will help me immensely to overcome my conviction that Arminians are giving lip service to sovereignty.”

No answer ever came…because it is an impossibility.

Thus, we are faced with the reduction to absurdity. If God does have purposes for man, yet man can freely choose, there must therefore be purposes of God that man can thwart.
Furthermore, if man can freely choose, then the Incarnation was nothing more than a gamble. It would, therefore, be possible for Christ to have paid the price for no one, because every man could have rejected Him.

Arminianism is paradoxical, because somehow a man freely choosing accomplishes the purposes of God. How did this occur? Did God keep making people until the right decisions came about? Or, did God change his purposes to what man chose? Or, did God decide that what man chose really was his purpose? The appeal to “free will” is clearly not one born of a logical theology. It is one born of emotion, and yet something else.

It is an utter logical contradiction that God is in charge of the universe in any meaningful way (meaning, involving the eternal souls of men) yet allows men “free will”. If Arminianism is not a logical conclusion, from whence does it come? That will be my next to last post in this series.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Will You Be Innocent or Guilty?

When God judges you according to the Ten Commandments when you face Him at judgment, will you be innocent or guilty? Even if you feel like you’ve only violated a few of the commandments, and you’re doing alright on most of them, here’s a humbling statement of Jesus: “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.”

The Bible says, “if we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. And, “If we say that we have not sinned, we make [God] a liar, and His word is not in us.” God gave each of us a conscience to convict us of our wrongdoings and it will remind us of the sins we have committed. Listen to your conscience and be honest. Justifying your sins to yourself might allow you to live without a nagging conscience for now, but it won’t work with God on judgment day.

The Ten Commandments made me realize what a hopeless sinner I was because I have transgressed every one of these commandments, and I can never live up to God’s high standard of perfection. I realized that I would one day stand before God and from His point of view I would be seen as a lying, thieving, blasphemer and adulterer at heart, and without Jesus I would be guilty and would be required to pay the penalty for my sin myself. It made it clear to me that I desperately needed a savior.

(to be continued)

Friday, April 21, 2006

Here Today, Gone Tomorrow

This has been the most difficult year of my life with the death of my father, and at the same time it has been a year of enormous spiritual growth for me as I contemplated death and the afterlife more than ever before. The sudden death of my Dad made me realize just how fleeting life is, and how quickly and unexpectedly it can end. You or I can be here today and gone tomorrow, and the question I ask you is this: do you know for sure, without a doubt, where you will go when you die? It is the most important question you can ever ask yourself.

Before I became a Christian, I used to think that I had never done or would ever do anything ‘bad’ enough to deserve an eternity in hell- that was only a place where the ‘really bad’ people went, and I was basically a ‘good person’, and therefore would make it into heaven because I had done more good than bad. I believed in God, and I thought that combination should be enough. I never realized the gravity of my sin and just how seriously God views it, regardless of how I see myself.

The Bible is clear that the moment we die, we will stand before God and “He will judge men’s secrets.” Not only will our outward acts be judged, but God will judge our every thought and the intentions of our hearts! The Bible says, “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment. For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. ..every knee shall bow and every tongue confess to God. Every one of us shall give account of himself to God.” God will hold each of us personally accountable for our actions on judgment day and He will judge us using HIS standard of goodness which is the Ten Commandments.

Are You a Good Person?

If you think that simply being a good person will get you into heaven when you die, here is a test to see if you really are a “good person”. Read carefully through this list of the Ten Commandments and then ask yourself these questions:

1. You shall have no other Gods before me. (Question: Is God #1 in your life? Is He your main priority above all else??)

2. You shall not make unto thee any graven image [idols] (Question: What do you “worship”? Money? Material possessions? A made up version of a ‘god’, other than the God of the Bible, that you are more comfortable with? )

3. You shall not take the name of the Lord God in vain. (Question: Have you ever used God’s name as a curse word? That is called blasphemy and is a very serious offense in God’s eyes.)

4. Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy. (Question: Do you set aside one day of the week to dedicate solely to the Lord to worship Him and serve in a church?)

5. Honor your Father and Mother. (Question: Have you ever disrespected your parents? Think back to your teenage years. This was a scary one for me!)

6. You shall not murder. (While most of us would feel ‘off the hook’ on this one because we haven’t physically committed the act of murdering someone, Jesus compares murder with being angry in Matthew 5: 21-22 “But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment.” Remember, God will judge the thoughts and intents of our hearts, not just our outward actions. (Question: Have you ever had hateful thoughts about someone?)

7. You shall not commit adultery. (Jesus said, “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Question: Have you ever looked at someone lustfully?)

8. You shall not steal. (Question: Have you ever taken something that does not belong to you? The value of the item does not matter. If someone steals just one dollar out of someone else’s wallet, they are still called a thief.)

9. You shall not lie. (Question: Have you ever told a lie?)

10. You shall not covet. (Question: Have you ever been jealous of something that someone else has?)

To be continued...

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Flip Flop

I wanted to depart briefly from the light and easy posting of late for something that really hits home for all of us - warm-weather fashion.

This has been in and out of my mind since last summer's photo of a group of young ladies at the White House. Their footwear caused a small stir in some circles.

Let me put it bluntly to start: Ladies, if you are interested in a man who is goal-oriented, driven, and has high standards of achievement for himself, forego the flip-flops.

Now that summer is upon us, we will be subject to the fashion whims hidden over the fall. The boots are out, the open-toes footwear is in. Flip-flops are horrible.

Why is that? First, we must recognize that we send a message with our appearance. Whether it is a dirty T-shirt, an elegant wristwatch, Birkenstocks or pajama bottoms (shudder), everything we wear tells others not who we are, but who we want them to think we are. This fact is non-negotiable. They also (obviously) impact our attractiveness.

Flip-flops are negative in both regards. First, attractiveness impact. Ladies, shoes that are flat, in a heeled world, make your legs look stumpy. Sorry, it's true. If you don't believe me, walk over to your full length mirror barefoot and stand there, looking at your lower leg. Now stand on your toes. Now go back down. See? Flip flops make you less physically attractive.

They also send a message. The message is "I am lazy." You may think the particular color and design is cute, but it's the same as plain white. "Lazy." "Not concerned enough with looking good to make an effort."

On the one hand, many ladies will claim that they "do it for comfort." This, of course, is nonsense. The time and energy spent doing their hair and makeup, as well as choosing that blouse and those capri pants make it clear that it was important enough to look good that you went through all the effort...but the failure to properly accessorize with a nice, heeled open toe sandal of some type says "too lazy to make the extra effort."

Of course, you can forego most of the above and go with the full "slob" ensemble seen on college campuses and in malls - t-shirt, rumpled pajama bottoms and flip-flops. At least then you know you look like a bum. However, to hamstring yourself by throwing on a quick pair of pink flip-flops with a little flower on the thong destroys all the work you did - at least for discerning men.

Don't get me wrong - this isn't a value judgment or a condemnation of character. What it is - a recitation of a truthful observation, that as the clothes make the man, so the shoes make the woman - at least in the eyes of the observer.

Mrs. Hammer is not high filutin', snobby, or a fashion freak. However, she would not go out in flip-flops unless it is to the mailbox or the back yard. Those ladies who want a man who doesn't care what you wear on your feet - well, you will get them. Just don't be surprised when you want to go out with them, and they wear the same grungy outfits they always do. Why? Those who don't care about what other wear start by not caring what they wear themselves.

I'm not shallow, but I recognize that character exhibits itself in many ways. As I tell my kids and young people I get to talk to, "If he is nice to you but mean to the waiter, he is not a nice person." In our relationship seeking, we have to look for clues into the character of those we observe. Discipline in one area is indicative of discipline in others, and laziness in one area is indicative of laziness in others.

So, ladies, put the flip-flops back in the closet and go grab a $9.99 set of open toed sandals with at least an inch and a half of heel. Men of high standards notice footwear, but we can't tell the difference between Prada and Buster Brown.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Grace Revealed: Particular Redemption

After recognizing that we are all Totally Depraved, that God saves us through his Unconditional Election, that said election is manifested in an Effectual Call, that the call results in the Perseverance of the Saints, it is a simple thing to arrive at the Particular Redemption - or, perhaps more precisely, “Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures.”

It must have delighted the apostle Paul to flash before his readers some of the brilliance and breathtaking magnitude of God’s purpose from eternity past to eternity future. Romans 8:29-30; Ephesians 1:1-14; 2 Thessalonians 2:11-17; and 2 Timothy 1:9-12 constitute a portion of these dazzling displays of divine activity. Common elements in these passages are several, either expressed or implied: God the Father has set his purpose of grace upon some individuals before the foundation of the world and has elected them to salvation; these individuals will be set apart by the Holy Spirit to a belief of the truth and will be sealed by him with the result that they come at last to glory; the connecting link between the purposeful and specific choosing done by the Father and the equally particularistic sanctifying work of the Spirit consists of the work of the Savior, Jesus Christ.

As represented in these passages (and please read them before you comment), Christ’s work consists of dying as a result of being delivered up by the Father (Rom. 8:32, 34) to become Redeemer (Eph 1:7) and Savior (2 Tim 1:9) and Intercessor (Rom. 8:34) and Guarantor of an incorruptible eternal life (Rom. *:30, 34; Eph. 1:10-12; 2 Thess. 2:14, 2 Tim 1:10).

These passages have no hint of tentativeness or incompleteness about them when describing the results of the work of Christ. According to these Scriptures, Christ accomplished absolutely what his appearance upon the earth was designed to accomplish. When Paul poses the rhetorical question, “Who is he that condemneth?” his answer – designed to alleviate fully any fears “God’s elect” might have (Rom 8:33) – is, “It is Christ that died.” And he continues, “…that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us” (v. 34). Christ’s heavenly intercession exactly parallels in purpose his death – both are for God’s elect.

Thus, we come to what seems to me to be the obvious conclusion. While historically this understanding of the atonement has been termed a “limited atonement”, I prefer “particular redemption” because the word “limited” implies inability instead of scope – but the content of the reality to which they refer is the same. Christ died for the same people for whom he intercedes; these are the same ones the Father has elected and the Spirit has effectually called.

It must be the logical conclusion for the proponents of Grace – for is God elected before of old, and Christ died for our sins, he would not have died for the sins of those who were not foreordained to election. In short, particular redemption affirms that Jesus Christ in dying bore the sins of his people, enduring all the punishment that was due to them by becoming for them the curse that the law demanded. It pleased the Lord God to set him forth and bruise him for this purpose, for in doing so he gained – by his meritorious death – forgiveness, righteousness, sanctification, and eternal glory for a large and definite number of people, all of whom he knew and to whom he was joined before the foundation of the world. It is for this reason that Christ is called “that great Shepherd of the sheep” in relation to the “blood of the everlasting covenant” (Hebrews 13:20).

Honestly, I have difficulty seeing how this doctrine presents the problem that it seems to. There are many “4 point Calvinists” who deny the doctrine of particular redemption. I understand the emotional reason – we want to say that God loves everyone just the same. However, that is not the issue. Even Arminians, who believe that God does not elect, but foreknows, should agree with this doctrine. After all, if God foreknew who would “choose” Christ, wouldn’t Christ still have died only for them? Only the open theist seems to have a logical leg to stand on when considering this doctrine of Grace.

Thus, the doctrines of Grace have been presented, and I appreiate everyone's comments that have sharpened my faith. I will continue with two more sections of posts on the subject – one that addresses the Biblical truth that “God our Saviour... will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim 2:3-4); the other to describe what I believe is the reason that the mass of Christians remain Arminians, and why the natural progression of Arminianism is Open Theism.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Testimony III

The most noticeable change in my life after receiving Christ was in the way I recognized and responded to sin. I was gradually convicted of sinful behaviors I used to be able to indulge in with a clear conscience. The Lord began replacing my desire to sin with new, Godly desires. Just as the Bible says, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17), I had been made new! God never took away my desire for marriage, but showed me that His love is all I needed to be whole. I knew that if I were to marry again, it would be to the man that God had chosen for me from the beginning. The Lord showed me a love far greater than I had even hoped for when I met my husband. He also showed me how to do things His way this time, and my husband and I had our first kiss on the altar on our wedding day. What a dramatic change God had done in my life from the way I did things the first time! God is a God of second chances!

I am so thankful that I don’t have to live my life feeling as though something were missing anymore. I have peace knowing that I have an eternal destiny secured in Christ, and a loving Father in this life who is guiding my every decision. God has taken me from where I was and used even my sinful past for His glory. He has allowed me to help other young girls facing crisis pregnancies and given me a passion for promoting purity. He has truly given me the desires of my heart and is an anchor I can rest assured in for the remainder of my days. We all have a hole in our hearts that only God can fill. Trying to fill that void with the fleeting pleasures of this life will never satisfy for long. There will be a part of your spirit that will always feel that something is missing in your life until you accept Jesus. The Bible says in Romans 10:9, “That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord’, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” It is a decision you will never regret!

(For more about the core of Christianity, continue here...)