A Perfect Encapsulation

If you read last week’s long post, you know I’ve been debating revelation and knowledge with a Roman Catholic named Tony Fernandez.

He has been mulling over how best to work through that volume I produced, and I have been mulling over my next essay.

Meanwhile, he retweeted this just now:

Isn’t that a perfect encapsulation of the issue? So let’s think about that for a second. If tradition is prior to Scripture, then it is a more authoritative form of revelation. If our knowledge and comprehension of God is more dependent on tradition than it is Scripture, what is the justification for that claim?

It’s funny how when we ask this of Roman Catholics, they appeal to Matthew 18.

It’s also revealing in that Tony had stated to me that he doesn’t believe there is anywhere we can hear Jesus’ voice today, without doubt or hindrance. Of course he is forced into that position, even while his Bible sits on the table beside his keyboard, seeing that the Roman Church has declared that the true and most immediate revelation from God is not Scripture mediated by the Holy Spirit, but rather Scripture mediated by the Church.

My first question, always, is How do I know I am hearing and interpreting the Church rightly, adequately, and without error such that I may be saved?

If only there were somewhere that God is speaking clearly and directly to His people, like a Shepherd who knows His sheep, calls them by name, leads them out, and gives them eternal life such that no one may snatch them out of His omnipotent hand.

But alas, we must hope that we are reading the right parts of tradition (there is no canon of tradition), and that our minds and hearts are sufficiently free of concupiscence so as to interpret that tradition rightly.

Good. Luck.

A Spiritual Zenith: Enter Calvinism (Spiritual Autobio 7)

Buckle up for a longer post this time. I have to mention all the events and people included here, and I don’t feel like artificially breaking this up into separate posts, mostly because I have a lot to cover, and I’m not trying to tailor this series to a popular audience. When one wishes to blog like a champion, one must observe the rule to keep posts short, so as not to lose the interest of the average reader. Since I do not have many readers, nor average readers, I am writing at length today.

See this list for all posts in this series.


Still Floating Along, Not so Alone

Upon returning home from Yellowstone National Park in 2005, I continued working toward my Bachelor degree at SUNY Brockport, leading Campus Crusade for Christ (CC4C) on campus, and practicing evangelism with my mentors Peter and Phillip.

At CC4C, I became President of the club because the other student leaders had either graduated or quit college. With no leadership or ministry experience, and at 23 years old, I stepped into a pastoral role for two dozen young college students. Only two years out of drug rehab, I was relying mostly on zeal, while my learning in the Scriptures still had a long way to go. Continue reading

Does God Work Grace in Baptism?

I’m a Baptist, but kinda barely! I believe baptism is only for those who are receiving it in faith, but the tradition of the Reformation churches persuades me to recognize the baptism of infants! (Not as the norm, but as an irregular expression of the sacrament)… So here’s my 6,700 word paper on why I think most Baptists see baptism as more of a law duty than as a gospel gift.

Check it out, thinkers! Thanks for reading,

-Adam

Baptist Identity and Sacramental Malformation

A Baptist identity is difficult to define and locate within broader church history, but in general there have always been those who practice credobaptism (believers only to be baptized).[1] It was through the Reformation and its subsequent centuries that Baptists articulated a confessional identity under the Protestant umbrella.[2] Among the branching family of Protestant denominations, church radicals (Baptists among them) are those who bore the malice of Rome from one side, and the scorn of the paedobaptist Reformation bodies from the other.[3] Through the sustained three-way tussles between Roman Catholicism (RC[C]), high-church State Protestantism, and the burgeoning free-churches (including Baptists), the sacramental theology (ST)[4] of the Baptists has never been developed and articulated apart from the conscious strain of these polemics.[5]

Perhaps in relation to this, the greater portion of Baptists have tended to exclude the sacraments as means of God’s effectual work of salvation. For the Baptist, sacramental grace is often rejected as having the whiff of Romanism; the Lutheran, Calvinist, and Anglican churches (with their varied STs) may appear to the Baptist as compromised, or otherwise stuck in a sort of incomplete reformation.[6] Because Baptists tend to view the RCC as the arch villain of accretive doctrinal excess (a la “sacred tradition”), any given Baptist doctrine may take a reactionary skew and thus miss or distort key biblical data.[7] In spite of this visceral antipathy, the Baptist is ever a Christian under the authority of Scripture, and so he may be persuaded to re-visit traditional beliefs in the light of Scripture as it has been interpreted within the greater Reformation heritage.

So as to provide the historical and theological background against which Baptists react, I will note the vital connection in RC between ecclesiology and ST, this being near the heart of the Reformation protest. Over against this medieval RC juggernaut, the Lutheran and Calvinist confessional bodies found agreement in the gospel[8] even while confessing their differing expressions of sacramental grace. In this paper I will briefly demonstrate that sacramental grace is not necessarily RC, nor does it necessitate RC ecclesiology. In addition, I will make note of the growing Baptist voices who represent an openness to an embrace of sacramental grace within the outlines of otherwise traditional Baptist theology. Continue reading

Finney goes Viral and We All Get Sick

My final paper for my seminary course ending this month (Theology in the Modern Era). Enjoy, comment, pass on with proper credit given.

Grace to y’all

-Adam

—–

Not a fan.

Not a fan.

The Passing Down of Charles Finney’s Spiritual DNA

            Charles Grandison Finney stands among the most influential Christian leaders since the Reformation. He pushed hard throughout his career against all he perceived to be stultified, spending terrific energy on social justice problems and prodding the sleepy American church culture with a ministry of Revivalism.[1] The fires of revival that he lit burned with hot emotion, as per his philosophy: “unless the religious feelings are awakened and kept excited, counter worldly feeling and excitement will prevail, and men will not obey God.”[2] Continue reading

Did Jesus Die for Every Person?

Yes He did. But how if all are not saved?

Payment for all...

Payment for all…

Commercial/Pecuniary Model

This high-Calvinist model of the atonement defines the doctrine in commercial, or pecuniary terms. The word “pecuniary” is derived from the trade of cattle, and in regard to the atonement, refers to Jesus’ blood being just so efficacious so as to purchase all of the elect, but not one more person than that. Yet the Bible does not unambiguously define the atonement in such language.

So then in what way did He die for those who will end up in hell for eternity? We see that He died to propitiate the wrath of God, “not for our sins only, but also for the whole world” (1 John 2:2), and that in His death, He effectually purchased His entire elect people (Matt. 1:21; Eph. 5:25 et al).

We see that He “tasted death for everyone” (Heb. 2:9), but the atonement, we see, results directly in the salvation of the elect (Heb. 9:23-28).

So then does the effectual redemption of the elect preclude His having made a redemptive payment for all people? Scripture does not seem to draw the line of limitation here. The limiting of the atonement, rather, is in how it was designed to be applied – “to all who believe” (Rom. 1:16). If we pay careful attention to each passage that teaches us about what happened in the atonement, we nowhere see that the effectual redemption of the elect necessarily means a payment has not been made for the sins of all individuals at all times. The Calvinistic “L” in TULIP is a logical construct, but it fails to regard the full picture of redemption Christ accomplished.

Continue reading

How I Answered 6 Arminian Questions

Our brother the Seeking Disciple posted 6 questions for Calvinists. I answered them in the best way I can, as someone not-quite Calvinist. Check it:

Rather than “Calvinist,” I qualify more so as monergist, or sovereign grace Baptist. Here’s my best attempt.

Arminian question #1. Why preach ‘repent or perish’ when the non-elect can’t repent and the elect can’t perish?

A) Because God is worthy of the repentance of every man, woman, and child on earth, and to command anything less would be to lessen His holy Law.

B) Because God uses means to accomplish His plan, and in order for His people to be saved, we must preach the gospel, and even lay down our lives to reach every tribe on earth

(2 Tim. 2:8-10 8 Remember that Jesus Christ, of the seed of David, was raised from the dead according to my gospel, 9 for which I suffer trouble as an evildoer, even to the point of chains; but the word of God is not chained. 10 Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.)

C) Because Christ commanded it, and Christ is more loving than we can imagine. The preaching of the gospel is an expression of His love to every person, and His desire that all people would come to repentance. It is an error of rationalism to conclude that because God desires all people to come to repentance that therefore He makes equal provision for all. (More on that below.) Our hearts ought to be content in trusting our Father, that since He loved the world in such a way that He gave His only Son, that therefore every living person is a potentially “elect” person, and ought to be commanded and loved and plead with to enter the kingdom through repentance and faith. That is Calvinism as I know it, and as I practice it.

Arminian question #2. How can God hold the non-elect responsible for ‘not believing’ and damn them for it, when He deliberately did not give them the faith to enable them to believe in the first place?

The foundation of this question is flawed. God holds people responsible for knowing Him and suppressing that knowledge in unrighteousness (Rom. 1:18-21). Try asking this: how could God hold the angels who rebelled responsible for their continued rebellion when He sent them no Savior or redemption? Is that fair? The Calvinist (or monergist like me) does his best to refrain from putting God on the witness stand to be judged and questioned – and we marvel that not only are a few saved, but as John sees in Revelation, a sea of people are with Christ, too numerous to count. Hallelujah!

Arminian question #3. If Christ has already made an efficacious atonement for the sins of an elect person, is that elect person actually lost during the period prior to their being saved?

Yes. Eph. 2:3 we were once the children of wrath. Calvinists who believe in eternal justification are in serious error. Also, Calvinists in general do not express the atonement in a fully biblical language, in my understanding. Christ died for everyone, and the Father applies the atonement to whom He will. (This makes me a 4.5 pointer I think).

Arminian question #4. During the period before an elect person gets saved, how are they condemned already (for not believing) when their unbelief (which is a sin) has already been paid for by Christ on the cross?

Instead of rationalism, I choose a biblical doctrine to shape my thinking. Although Jesus atoned for all (or all the elect as Calvinists say), it is not effectual for their justification until applied by the Spirit, and when they repent and trust in Christ. To force eternal justification is to do major violence to all sorts of orthodox biblical categories.

Arminian question #5. If repentance is a gift only given to the elect, what did Jesus mean when He said that some of the people in hell would have repented if they had had the same opportunity as the people to whom He preached?

God knows in His wisdom exactly what type of application is needed from person to person to regenerate them. We have to take the statement at face value. Let’s turn it a little: If God knew what it would have taken for those in hell to have repented, why didn’t He do it? A blatant proof text for monergism/Calvinism.

Arminian question #6. Why does the Spirit of God strive and convict some sinners who later prove, by dying and going to hell, that they were non-elect? What is the purpose of such movings of the Spirit?

I believe (and this is piercing into the secret counsel of God a little bit Deut 29:29) that He is demonstrating His mercies and also the guilt/depravity of His enemies, that though they are given access to all the covenant graces of Christ, yet without His decisive, effectual grace of regeneration, they will ultimately persist in unbelief and sin. In a word, demonstration.

Grace in Christ,

-Justin