An Interesting Post On Thomas Merton

February 12th, 2015 § 0 comments § permalink

I’d never heard of Thomas Merton before my wife sent me a link to an interesting post on him:

7 Reasons Why Evangelicals Should Read Thomas Merton

There are parts of of the article I love.  One line, however, I found disconcerting:

sola scriptura ecclesiology easily leads to an iconoclastic view of history. Or to say it another way, if you skip over two thousand years and use Acts as a blueprint to recreate a pure church, your cloud of witnesses will be on the small side. That’s the tradition I grew up with, and it left many people feeling untethered.

Read more: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/fuller/2015/01/7-reasons-why-evangelicals-should-read-thomas-merton/#ixzz3RYt5EBNB

I believe some touting sola scripture ecclesiology are iconoclastic, narrow-minded pharisees.  No doubt.  But to say that sola scriptura “easily” leads to issues any more than those who don’t have the bedrock of Scripture as their base is ridiculous.

That being said, I highly recommend reading the blog post and letting the rest of what he has to share soak in.  I might just need to read a little more about and from this Thomas Merton character.

The Antidote to Anemic Worship

August 19th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

The antidote to anemic worship, if bottled, could also be the elixir for a suffering generation.  My friend Shane Vander Hart posted the following article on Facebook and I appreciated the overall message in the post.  You can click the following link.  It’s a quick read:

Expository Preaching—The Antidote to Anemic Worship

A few things about this post:

1. The author, Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr., rightly describes the problem facing evangelicals: that they have bought into the entertainment culture of the church and are so focused on music and multi-media that the teaching of the Scriptures has taken a back seat – or been kicked out the door in many cases.

2. He makes an interesting statement:

“Thanks be to God, evangelism does take place in Christian worship. Confronted by the presentation of the gospel and the preaching of the word, sinners are drawn to faith in Jesus Christ and the offer of salvation is presented to all.”

It’s hard to argue with that…except to discuss what is supposed to happen at “church.”  Are we there to evangelize or is the purpose of our church gatherings to “equip the body/saints for the work of ministry?” (Eph. 4:12)  Can you conclude from Ephesians 4 that the gathering of the saints on Sunday (or whenever the Church meets) is not for the work of the ministry itself but to equip the body of Christ for the work of the ministry?

If so, then I fully agree with Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr. that evangelism often takes place when a person attends a church service and the Holy Spirit moves them to the point of salvation or repentance.  I simply would postulate that this act of “evangelism” is incidental to the purpose of the gathering and is a wonderful thing that God often does in the midst of the equipping work of the church service.

3. I could not agree more with his final paragraph:

“The anemia of evangelical worship—all the music and energy aside—is directly attributable to the absence of genuine expository preaching. Such preaching would confront the congregation with nothing less than the living and active word of God. That confrontation will shape the congregation as the Holy Spirit accompanies the word, opens eyes, and applies that word to human hearts.”

A church fellowship without solid expositional teaching is like a person who is never weaned from spiritual milk and refuses to mature past weekly playdates.  We are created for so much more.

I hear many people who attend mega-churches, “seeker-driven churches,” “emerging churches” (does anyone still use that term?), or churches with plenty of bells and whistles and little meaningful teaching justify their choice by saying: “I feel like I’ve found a church where I finally get fed.”  They are insinuating that they are getting what they need to mature as believers.  Maybe.

I would argue that most choose such places to worship because we have fallen into the trap described in 2 Timothy 4.  Here Paul exhorts:

“Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” 2 Tim. 4:2-5

Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors, and Teachers must, by way of example, “preach the word,” “be watchful,” “endure afflictions,” and “do the work of an evangelist” before we can expect the Church as a whole to follow suit and fulfill its ministry.

Thank you to Dr. Mohler Jr. for hitting the nail right on the head.

The Big Election Day Decision

November 4th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

Vote PedroThe big election day decision everyone has to make is whether to vote for Mitt Romney or Barack Obama or write-in or vote for a candidate with zero chance of winning.  Although I sympathaze with Evangelicals who do not want to support Mitt Romney, I believe I’m called to make wise decisions and be the best steward of the influence and resources God has given me.  I don’t believe a general election vote equates to an endorsement.  I don’t believe general elections are the appropriate vehicles for protesting our failure to get an adequate candidate on the ballot.

That being said, I am prayerful that whoever wins the election has a real meeting with God.  God made good men Kings in the days of Israel.  He anointed David, Asa, Hezekiah, and others who honored their King to rule over Israel.  He put up godly Judges like Debra and others to rule over Israel.  Good leaders can make a HUGE difference.

God also, however, placed in leadership evil men.  Saul was half-hearted.  Manasseh was an evil King.  Ahab was “more evil than all kings before him.”  Read through first and second Kings, Chronicles, etc. for the sometimes nasty details.

I respect men and women who, in their own consciences and within their own understanding of the Scriptures, can’t vote for Romney or Obama.  Don’t let anyone tell you, however, who to vote for.  Pray.  Show Up.  Vote.  Trust God with a clear conscience.  He was sovereign when he anointed good and evil men.  He’s sovereign this week as we vote.  He’ll be sovereign for eternity.  The Curse we live under makes men governing themselves futile.  It’s supposed to be that way.  It’s supposed to point us to our Creator King!

The biggest threat to the Church as it relates to public policy and politics is that some believers get so emotionally caught up in the political game that it becomes an idol.  They begin to think that politics holds answers.  They begin to believe that we are responsible for the outcome of elections and the direction the culture goes.  We are called to do two things: love God and love our neighbor.  I believe it is very difficult to love our neighbor if we lead them to believe that their party affiliation, voting record, or candidate preference is more important than the pursuit of their Creator.

I am not a fatalist in that I believe God will honor our participation as we vote with Him on our hearts.  I’m not saying we shouldn’t be active and using our gifts in the public square doing public service in any number of capacities.  I’m saying we need to keep this whole election in perspective.

Vote.  Love God.  Love your neighbor.  He takes care of the rest and will show us how government is supposed to work soon enough.

Irresistible or Efficacious Grace

July 2nd, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

If you look at the “five points” of Calvinism as a timeline or storyline of how salvation works, then I believe they are easier to understand and appreciate than if you look at them in a disjointed or segregated way.  Consider that “Total Depravity” describes our disposition as sinners before regeneration, that “Unconditional election” is the Father’s choice to engage in our lives, that “Limited Atonement” honors the effective and purposeful death of Christ, and that “Irresistible Grace” is the Spirit’s sanctifying work within us to author the state of being “born again” within us.

The Scriptures paint a very clear picture of predestination, redemption, and the Spirit’s never-failing transformation of those whom He called.  David Steele said it best in the book I often quote from (The Five Points of Calvinism: Defined, Defended, Documented):

The gospel invitation extends a call to salvation to every one who hears its message.  It invites all men without distinction to drink freely of the water of life and live.  It promises salvation to all who repent and believe.  But this outward general call, extended to the elect and non-elect alike, will not bring sinners to Christ.  Why?  Because men are by nature dead in sin and are under its power.  They are of themselves unable and unwilling to forsake their evil ways and to turn to Christ for mercy.  Consequently, the unregenerate will not respond to the gospel call to repentance and faith.  No amount of external threatenings or promises will cause blind, deaf, dead, rebellious sinners to bow before Christ as Lord and to look to Him alone for salvation.  Such an act of faith and submission is contrary to the lost man’s nature.

Therefore, the Holy Spirit, in order to bring God’s elect to salvation, extends to them a special inward call in addition to the outward call con tainted in the gospel message.  Through this special call the Holy Spirit performs a work of grace within the sinner which inevitably brings him to faith in Christ.  The inward change wrought in the elect sinner enables him to understand and believe spiritual truth; in the spiritual realm he is giving the seeing eye and the hearing ear.  The Spirit creates within him a new heart or a new nature…”

So the general call of the gospel is God’s way of demonstrating to us that nothing saves outside of the power of the Spirit utilizing the tools of election and His Word and redemption to create a new heart within us!  The lack of ability of the non-elect to respond to the gospel and the irresistible nature of the Spirit’s work within the elect demonstrate the nature of Sin and the power of God!

Some of my favorite Scriptures that help paint the picture:

II Corinthians 3:17-18 – “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”

Ezekiel 36: 26-27 – “A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.  And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances.”

John 5:21 – For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will.”

Matthew 11:25-27 – At that time Jesus declared, ‘I thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes; yea, Father, for such was thy gracious will.  All things have been delivered to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.'”

Luke 8:10 – “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God; but for others they are in parables, so that seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.”

I Corinthians 2:14 – “The unspiritual man does not receive the gifts of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.”

[Interesting how Acts 5:31 and Acts 11:18 describe conversion as being given or granted repentance…]

Acts 18:27 – “And when he wished to cross to Achaia, the brethren encouraged him, and wrote to the disciples to receive him.  When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed.”

Romans 9:16 – “So then [it is] not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy.”

I Corinthians 3:6-7 – I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.  So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.”

There are countless other Scriptures that place the work and responsibility for regeneration squarely on the shoulders of God.  Why would we, when there is no evidence in Scripture for it, place any responsibility on ourselves or other men or pretend that we have the power to approach God in our depravity or resist the power of God when He has determined to redeem and regenerate us?

Total Depravity

March 6th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

I am going to try to go through the entire five points of Arminianism and Calvinism over the coming weeks.

The Arminian points came first as a response by the followers of Jacob Arminius after his death to the current teaching of all known Protestant faiths at the time.  Their “Remonstrance of 1610” challenged Church teaching about salvation and free will up to that time and the Synod of Dordt was called to address the issue.  Church leaders from all over Europe were called together to consider the five points of Arminian followers in the Remonstrance.  The teachings of the Church in the known world at the time had their roots in the Scriptures as well as in the fight against Pelagianism and other heresies by early Church fathers including Augustine and others.  Five points came out of the Synod in response to the five that were outlined in the Remonstrance.  The Synod made it very clear that the doctrines of salvation should not and could not be defined by five points but they felt that the Remonstrance needed a point-by-point rebuttal.  The term “Calvinism” was adopted over time, not because John Calvin was anything extraordinary, but because he taught extensively on the subject throughout his ministry.

The first of these five points in the Arminian Remonstrance of 1610 defined “Free Will.”  An overly elementary summary of the first point by Arminians is that humans, although seriously affected by the Fall, have not been left spiritually helpless but are left a remnant of spiritual light capable of understanding the Gospel and choosing to embrace it of one’s own Free Will.

The Synod of Dordt reaffirmed the belief that we are totally depraved.

My favorite book on the subject, The Five Points of Calvinism: Defined, Defended, and Documented, defines total depravity this way:

“Because of the Fall, man is unable of himself to savingly believe the gospel. The sinner is dead, blind, and deaf to the things of God; his heart is deceitful and desperately corrupt. His will is not free; it is in bondage to his evil nature. Therefore, he will not – indeed he cannot – choose good over evil in the spiritual realm. Consequently, it takes much more than the Spirit’s assistance to bring a sinner to Christ. It takes regeneration, by which the Spirit makes the sinner alive and gives him a new nature. Faith is not something man contributes to salvation, but is itself a part of God’s gift of salvation. It is God’s gift to the sinner, not the sinner’s gift to God.”

Frankly, when I took off the spiritual lenses I inherited as a normal American evangelical and started to read the Scriptures with purpose in my heart to be as objective as possible and let the Scriptures speak for itself, I could see where I got off track with Arminian Doctrine. Depravity and Election is so clear in Ephesians 1, throughout Romans, in the Gospels…

One hang-up some have with “total”depravity is that they don’t believe that people are incapable of doing any good. I don’t disagree. Evil and lost people do ‘good’ things. But the “total” in Total Depravity is more of a holistic totality. The totality of the individual is lost and incapable of choosing salvation. We are not, under the Curse, given the power to reach out to God in any way that affects our eternal disposition without Him choosing us first.

I also believe that man was not created depraved initially but it is solely a consequence of sin through Adam. And who are we to arrogantly tell God that the punishment for sin (depravity) is too great?

We are spiritually dead from the beginning:
Psalm 51:5 – “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.”
Psalm 58:3 – “The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray from birth, speaking lies.”

We have dark minds and corrupt/depraved hearts:
Genesis 8:21 – “The intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth.”
Romans 8:7-8 – “For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”
Job 15:14-16 – “What is man, that he can be pure? Or he who is born of a woman, that he can be righteous? Behold, God puts no trust in his holy ones, and the heavens are not pure in his sight; how much less one who is abominable and corrupt, a man who drinks injustice like water!”

We cannot change by ourselves:
Job 14:4 – “Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? There is not one.”
John 6:65 – “And he said, ‘This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.'”
1 Corinthians 4:7 – “For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?”
2 Corinthians 3:5 – “Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God.”

Note the myriad Scriptures that make it clear that God Himself gives faith, grants repentance, and creates new hearts.

Spiritual life, theology, and doctrine reside on a spectrum.  On one end is the lie that Satan himself wants us to believe (that we are unworthy or that His Word doesn’t mean what It says) and on the other end of the spectrum is human pride that leads to works-related doctrine.