Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Observations on Paul's Letter to the Romans

For the past few weeks I've taken my Sunday school class through the early chapters of Romans. The Apostle Peter was absolutely correct when he penned, "There are some things in them [Paul's letters] that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures" (2 Peter 3:16b). Nowhere is Paul harder to understand than in Romans 9-11.

As I dug through Romans 9-11 it became clear  how easily it was for John Calvin to get confused. Calvinists use these chapters to "prove" their view of God's sovereignty. Calvinists believe these chapters reveal God's predestination and reprobation for the whole human race. Read through Calvin's eyes, the passage speaks of election to salvation and election to reprobation and God's right to do either or both. Verses such as Romans 9:18 are said to emphasize the point, "So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills." 

In all of this, the Calvinist forgets the context of the Roman letter. Paul is writing to Christians in Rome. These aren't just Christians, however. There are Gentiles who became Christian and Jews who became Christians in the same city and perhaps the same congregation. The letter was written at some point around AD 55-57. The full impact of the statements resulting from the Jerusalem Council in AD 50 may or may not be felt in Rome. Be that as it may, the Jewish Christians of the first century had a difficult time understanding how Gentiles could become Christians without keeping the Law of Moses.

The early chapters of Romans addresses the issue. Chapters 1-8 point out all humanity stands guilty before God as "lawbreakers." Whether the law derived from conscience (natural law discerned from general revelation) or the written Law (discerned from special revelation) made no difference. No one lived up to the "light" they had. It was impossible to be saved by law, for breaking one point meant breaking it all. So Paul could say, "All have sinned and are coming short of the glory of God...." (Romans 3:23). He could also write, "For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight" (Romans 3:20). Paul goes on to explain how justification comes through faith because of the sacrifice of Jesus which allowed God to be both "just and justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus" (Romans 3:26).

Paul then defines and illustrates the faith that justifies in Romans 4, describes how Jesus' sacrifice settled the consequences of Adam's sin in Romans 5, and emphasizes such forgiveness apart from law is not license in Romans 6. Chapters 7 and 8 describe the assurance believers can have because of God's grace. The intent of these chapters is to emphasize for his readers that both Jews and Gentiles are justified by grace through faith (see also Ephesians 2:8, 9). Every human being stands equally guilty before the cross of Christ and every human being--Jew and Gentile alike--can be justified through faith.

Paul uses Romans 9-11 to respond to anticipated Jewish objections that God was not fair in his treatment of the Jews. Paul says they are wrong, for God can do what he wishes. Paul's Jewish Christian objectors failed to recognize the result of Paul's argument in Romans 1-8. They assumed, because of their ages long relationship as God's chosen people, they were automatically saved. Many Christians today make the same error. It is all too often assumed the Jewish people stood, and stand, in a special relationship with God and he is beholden to them.

Paul counters by saying God chose them and gave them wonderful covenant promises...but those promises did not necessarily include salvation. The call of Abraham, found in Genesis 12, says nothing of salvation. The passage says, "And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed" (Genesis 12:2,3). Those two verses do not contain even one salvation promise! God promises Abraham his descendants will become a great nation (Israel). God promises Abraham his name will become great. God promises to bless him and he did: Abraham became wealthy and prosperous. God blessed those who favored Abraham and overcame those who dishonored Abraham. All of those promises came true. A reading of the Old Testament reveals how God blessed, watched over, and protected Israel...even when they were disobedient.

God called Abraham and his descendants for a special purpose. It was in Abraham all the families of the earth shall be blessed. Every scholar who believes the Bible understands the Messianic nature of this promise. God called Abraham and his descendants into existence as a great nation in order to bring God's Messiah into the world. Abraham and his descendants were elected for service not salvation.

Paul spends all of Romans 9 pointing out to his Jewish Christian objectors how God dealt fairly with the nation of Israel throughout history. God kept all of his promises. But...and it is a major shift in emphasis, Paul says, "For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel (Romans 9:6b). There are two Israels--a physical Israel and a spiritual Israel. The physical Israel relates to the nation of Israel--the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. All God's promises to them were unconditional, dependent solely on their natural descent, and their purpose for existence--bringing the Messiah.

God does not have to save them just because he used them to accomplish his purposes. God can use whomever he chooses to accomplish whatever he wants. Witness Pharaoh (Romans 9:17).  God can use descendants of Abraham, he can use heathens, he can even use women (Rahab for example). He is not required to save them just because he used them for his ends.

There is, however, another Israel--a spiritual Israel. God can save them by whatever means he chooses. While Israel of the flesh received unconditional promises , spiritual Israel receives promises based on one condition. That one condition is faith! Every human being--Jew and Gentile--is "born [of God] not of blood (racial descent) nor the will of the flesh nor of the will of man..." (John 1:13). Abraham was saved because he believed and trusted God (Romans 4:20). He trusted God even when he offered Isaac as a sacrifice because he trusted God, "He considered that God was able even to raise him (Isaac) from the dead" Hebrews 11:19). Abraham's experiences with God led him to inviolable trust.

God chose the nation of Israel for service and he did so without conditions. The unconditional nature of God's election to service is seen in Israel's history. Their "up and down, in and out" relationship with God and God's faithfulness in spite of their disobedience, idolatry, and sinfulness reveals God's patience. Spiritual Israel, which consists of both Jews and Gentiles who put their trust in the blood of Jesus, is entered upon the condition of faith. Faith is not some miraculous gift, it is the belief that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God who died, was buried, and rose again in payment for the penalty of death I deserved because of sin. In Romans 10 Paul tells his readers how  all can receive the gift of salvation by faith. Any Jew or Gentile can become part of spiritual Israel by believing the Gospel and Paul writes, "For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, 'Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.' For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek...." (Romans 10:10-13).

Paul then emphasizes the unbelievers will not believe unless someone present the good news to them. In Romans 10:14-17 he details the necessity of preaching and concludes with, "Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ" (Romans 10:17).

Romans 9-11 when properly understood has a profound message for the Calvinist as well as the Premillennial and the Dispensationalist. God's unconditional election was an election for service, not salvation. When Mary delivered Jesus on that Christmas night, the Jewish mission ended. God still loved them but he already fulfilled every one of his promises: every one! Only spiritual Israel continued and it included both Jews and Gentiles who acknowledged Jesus as the Messiah and trusted in his blood. Today there are only saved people and lost people. Jews have only one hope and it is found only in the Messiah. They were not replaced, their role ended with the birth of Jesus.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Have We Asked For It?

Evangelicals continue to charge us with teaching "baptismal regeneration." I was accused of teaching this false doctrine while serving at Christ's Church of the Valley in Peoria, Arizona. Peter Strubhar, who was "second in command" at the time, called me to the worship center where he let me know in Christ's Church of the Valley did not teach baptismal regeneration.

I sat patiently listening to the charge. When he completed his remarks I said, "I don't believe in or teach the doctrine of water salvation or a works righteousness salvation." He countered with what his daughter, who was attending one of my CCV classes, told him about what I taught. Frankly, his daughter either reported what I taught inaccurately or she did not understand what I taught!

There are those in the Restoration Movement who believe there is some magical power in the water of baptism which washes away sin. All too many preachers and teachers are careless or do not understand the historic teaching within the movement. Still others are simply sloppy about the terminology used to communicate the place of immersion as it relates to salvation.

Let's be honest! A man is justified by faith apart from works. The works Paul speaks of in Romans and elsewhere are the works of the Law or works which, in and of themselves, have some merit which earns justification. According to Paul and James works demonstrate the nature, quality, and depth of one's faith. So James can say, "I will show you my faith by my works" (James 2:18). Paul says one's relationship with God, once established, results in works "God prepared for us to do" (Ephesians 2:10).

Christian baptism is not a work! It is, to be sure, a result of faith because it is commanded but it is nonetheless not a work. Baptism carries in it no merit to earn anything from God. Baptism is the response of one's conscience to God's design for establishing a relationship. Baptism does carry with it remarkable promises. It is the time, for example, when the believer is promised remission of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38). It is the time when one "puts on Christ" (Galatians 3:27). It is the time when sins are washed away (Acts 22:16). According to Jesus, when baptism results in baptism salvation is assured (Mark 16:15, 16).  Christian baptism is the time when God fulfills his promises to the individual who places his/her confidence in the shed blood of Christ. It is the blood of Christ which is applied by faith which saves. Faith carries with it the promise of salvation; baptism is the formal time when God fulfills his promise!

What then about confession and repentance? Those, too, are natural responses to God derived from faith in Christ!

Altogether too many preachers and teachers in the movement do not understand the truth of salvation by faith. It is, dare I say it, salvation by faith alone! Properly understood, however, genuine faith leads to resulting action--work or response! Work and response does not save; one responds because one has faith!

I predict the movement will continue to lose churches and preachers to evangelicalism as long as these important truths are misunderstood, mistaught, or misapplied.

The Threat of the New Calvinism

Austin Fischer's book, Young, Restless, No Longer Reformed, introduced me to the "new Calvinism." Fischer recounts his early acceptance of Calvinism and traces his growing understanding of the movement's false teaching. For him it got to the point where he could no longer accept the concept of a loving God who created billions of human beings only to condemn them to hell in order to add to his glory.

New Calvinism first gained notice through Collin Hansen's article in Christianity Today concerning a resurgence of Reformed doctrine in evangelical circles. New Calvinism, for the most part, emphasizes John Calvin's five major points of doctrine which the Synod of Dordt created to counter Jacob Arminius's teaching. Most theologians and historians express these doctrines in the famous TULIP acrostic:

T - Total Hereditary Depravity (THD)
U - Unconditional Election to Salvation
L - Limited Atonement (Christ died only for the elect)
I - Irresistible Grace (The elect cannot resist the "effectual" call to salvation")
P - Perseverance or Preservation of the Saints

Several well-known authors currently contribute to revitalized Reformation theology. Dr. John Piper leads the way as Calvinism's chief spokesman. Written in a contemporary popular style his book, Desiring God, has influenced thousands of new readers. Presbyterian preacher Dr. Tim Keller adds another dimension to the new Calvinism. Keller quietly adds to Calvinism a Marxist bent in an effort to make Christianity's Reformed version socially relevant. Rounding out popular authors is Mark Driscoll, pastor of Seattle's Mars Hill Church. R.C. Sproul, Paul Heim along with Thomas Schreiner and Bruce Ware present the new Calvinism from a more academic perspective. A number of well done videos on You Tube present the thinking of these men as they wrestle with the meaning and implications of their positions.

The new Calvinism impacts a number of current evangelical denominations including the Southern Baptists. Schreiner and Ware are popular professors at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Reformed doctrine divides Southern Baptist Churches to the point the issue rose to the floor at SBC conventions. Other denominations experience similar results as these teachings begin to infiltrate evangelical churches. Although the evidence is anecdotal, I've read that Reformed teaching is even making its way into churches traditionally Wesleyan or Arminian. Younger Baptist associate ministers often find themselves at odds with their churches as their Calvinism challenges the older senior ministers or the church's traditional doctrinal positions. 

On occasion the new Calvinism creeps into a church in the guise of a "missional" philosophy of ministry. New Calvinist writers, particularly Keller and Driscoll, contrast the "missional" approach to an older supposedly "isolationist" or "attractional" approach. Less observant, historically illiterate, and younger ministers do not recognize the social gospel aspects of the "missional" approach. The "missional" approach to ministry calls for greater interaction with the world, a call for social justice, and the use of contemporary forms to communicate their brand of the gospel. While some of this is valuable and good, the relationship of the "missional" approach to Marxism is missed.

Many students of the Restoration Movement have long been concerned with the encroachment of evangelicalism. I trace some of this in my book, A History of the American Restoration Movement. John Greenlee, the minister of West Side Christian Church in Wichita, Kansas, drew attention to a growing acceptance of evangelicalism's salvation before baptism doctrine in the early 1980s. David Filbeck wrote a Christian Standard article on a coming controversy over baptism in 1981. The typical evangelical denial of baptism for the remission of sins became increasingly popular as increasingly Christian Churches and Churches of Christ became more evangelical. Some leaders praised it as the fulfillment of the concept of "sinking into union with the church at large" found in the Last Will and Testament of the Springfield Presbytery.

Evangelicalism is one concern to be sure, but I never dreamed Calvinism would become acceptable in the Restoration Movement. Granted, many well meaning Christians used Calvinistic language as a result of reading popular Christian books, listening to radio and television evangelists, or absorbing it from the popular media but they generally rejected predestination, election, the "effectual" call, and eternal security.

It is, however, a short step from evangelicalism to Calvinism. I discovered, to my surprise, how the new Reformed thinking insinuated itself into more conservative churches and schools in the Restoration Movement. Dr. David Lawrence, a semi-retired professor at David Lipscomb University, all but bragged that he and the leaders of a non-instrumental congregation in the Nashville area adopted Reformed theology. While their doctrinal position created tension within the non-instrumental churches in the area, the Reformed Church of Christ was not disfellowshiped. Lawrence, an advocate of Reformed thinking, continues teaching at Lipscomb. I have to add, however, that the tensions came to a head when the Reformed church got a new preacher and rejected Reformed thinking. A number of members left or were asked to leave the church. The Lawrence family currently attends a Presbyterian Church in the Nashville area. 

Community Christian Church in Apache Junction, Arizona, announced its intended shift to a Reformed theology in the latter quarter of 2014. In January 2015, Community Christian Church became Reformation Bible Church. All ties with the Restoration Movement were broken and the church is lost to New Testament Christianity. 

While these two incidents seem isolated, I predict more congregations and leaders will adopt Reformation thinking in the future. As Reformed thinking becomes more widespread in the Christian Churches and Churches of Christ division and tension will arise and create more tension than the typical controversy over evangelical soteriology. 

Do not make the mistake of confusing New Calvinism with evangelicalism. The New Calvinist's do not identify with  the "old evangelicals." The fact is, new Calvinism is not just evangelicalism on steroids. New Calvinists see themselves as quite distinct and far superior to old Reformation thinking. 

It is advisable for preachers, teachers, and leaders in the Christian Churches and Churches of Christ to familiarize themselves with Calvinistic false doctrine. Visit Dr. Jack Cottrell's blog and check out his 13 articles on grace. Locate and read Why I Am Not a Calvinist by Dr. Jerry Walls. Check out Young, Restless, No Longer Reformed by Austin Fischer. Make sure you know where you stand because the old adage is still true, "If you won't stand for something, you'll fall for anything!"

Monday, October 12, 2015

A Few Random Thoughts

Since the mid-1970s colleges and churches in the Restoration Movement (Christian Churches/Churches of Christ) have focused on leadership training. In my opinion, all the training on leadership skills diverted the focus from sound biblical teaching and we are paying the price. More importance is placed on leadership pragmatics that biblical principles. While there is much of value to be learned from the "scientific" study of church growth dynamics and effective leadership, sound biblical positions must never be short-circuited or devalued.

Brotherhood publications, once aimed at the growing Christian, are now, with few exceptions, focused on pragmatics. Church after church drop their subscriptions to The Christian Standard because no one reads it any more...and its not because of the Web version either. When only one article in each issue, at best, discusses a biblical issue why should the average Christian have much interest? The publication appeals to the professional clergy and few others. Whatever happened to the concept of the priesthood of all believers?

The truth is: We reap what we sow. Churches and preachers are abandoning the Restoration Plea by the truckload. Churches deny their heritage to adopt Calvinism and/or Reformation theology. Countless others espouse the Evangelical version of Calvinism (Calvinism watered down) to fit the American scene.) Others merely preach topical messages which supposedly "meet needs" but communicate spiritual pablum. I know it is nice for nice people to be nice, but I don't need a steady diet. Where is the solid expository preaching that really helps people grow in the faith?

I go to a men's Bible study hosted in one of "our" mega churches. I enjoy the fellowship and the time with Christian men. That's great! But what is the study, you ask? A video study from an Evangelical church on men's work. The study uses scripture as "proof texts" and they are often taken out of context and forced to apply in such a way as to help men become more godly in the work place. That's all well and good, but what are the biblical truths which undergird such teaching? What are the foundational principles?

Sadly, some of this is the result of failure to relate Scripture to life. I know that! But topics built on Scripture taken out of context and molded to fit conclusions aren't the answer.

I guess I'm just getting old. Oh, well!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Almost I Am Persuaded...

For the past month or so I have studied Scripture, viewed YouTube debates, and read several books on the subject of Reformed Theology. (By the way, when I use the term "Reformed Theology," I mean Calvinism in spite of the fact there were other theologians who left their mark on the Reformation. None were so impacting as John Calvin...and none so wrong headed as he.)

The upshot has been largely frustration. Those who opt for Reformed Theology read the Bible differently using different definitions and proceed from a different worldview than the rest of us. In the weeks since I have involved myself in this I have become convinced no one can read the Bible as you would read any other book and come to the conclusions Reformed thinkers propose. To adopt Reformed thinking, the Bible student must first be introduced to at least some Calvinistic interpretive principles and definitions. Since nearly every writer of popular Christian books and every American denomination demonstrates the impact of Calvinism, it is not hard to understand how Christians get introduced to Reformed Theology. Evangelical Christianity is "shot through" with Calvinism and one gets it at every turn.

Read the Bible and take it for what is says. Leave the study Bible notes, the commentaries, the small group studies, and all the other "helps" alone and just read the text. Let God's word speak to you in plain language. God is intelligent enough to "say what he means" and to say it in terms the average--even the uneducated (not illiterate)--person can understand. You need a theological degree to understand Calvinistic double-speak. And...I might add, if you don't understand things the way a Reformed Christian does it is because "you are not regenerated" and are still so depraved you can't possibly understand.

Let me give you some concrete examples of how Reformed Theologians use words and terms.

For the average reader the term "regeneration" is what God does when you become a Christian. As Paul puts it, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation" (2 Corinthians 5:17, ESV). Regeneration is part of the process of becoming a Christian. Again Paul said, "He saved us (past tense), not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit" (Titus 3:5). Calvinists propose that humanity is so thoroughly depraved that regeneration must come first so that God will give faith enabling understanding. Seen in a diagram, it looks like this:

The Reformed Theologian also redefines terms such as all, whosoever, whoever, world, and every man. The average person reading those words understands them as inclusive. For example, when the average person reads 2 Peter 3:9 it is understood God wishes all (persons) to come to repentance." Peter says God does not wish any to perish... Don't argue with me, I didn't write what Peter wrote but he was borne along by the Spirit when he wrote that! Calvinists, however, understand Peter to say, "[God] is patient toward you, not wishing that any [of the elect] should perish, but that all [of the elect/the chosen/the predestined] should perish, but that all [the elect] should reach repentance." (Now I'm confused! Why, if they are already among the elect, do the elect need to reach repentance?) Well, someone is confused!!! The Calvinist argues that terms like these must be understood in terms of exception or distinction. Did Peter (God) mean to convey the idea that he wanted all (without exception) to be saved or only all (as distinguished by the elect) to be saved? The average reader who does not possess a theological degree would ask, "What kind of question is that?"

Then there is the matter of the definition of freedom. When I read the Bible and come across the statement, "Choose you this day whom you will serve...," I understand it to mean those who heard it had a real choice between God or Baal (Joshua 24:15). The Hebrews could actually make a free will choice between A (God) or non-A (Baal). The Calvinist says, "Oh, no, you are only free to choose what you want to do...you must choose according to your nature." The Reformed view is called "compatible freedom." It means you are only free to choose what your nature requires you to choose. (There are so many holes in this, even in this Old Testament event, that it looks like Swiss Cheese.) Now here's the rub! According to the Calvinist, God so orders circumstances that you choose only what your fallen nature, which God has decreed for you. In all reality, the Calvinist believes God ordains that you choose to sin. In other words, unless you are among the elect God tells you not to sin, then creates circumstances where you can only sin, and then holds you responsible for sinning! Is that freedom? Hardly.

According to Reformed Theology, God is totally sovereign and predetermines everything--even your failure, your pain, your sin, your disease--that happens. To the Calvinist God does it all! Thomas H. McCall explains the Calvinist view of sovereignty thus:

1. God is sovereign over any event (E) if and only if God determines that E occurs.
2. God is sovereign over any agent (A) if and only if God determines all of A's actions.

Who is A? What is A? You are!

When I first started participating in The New Eclectic society and these discussions there was a young woman who was part of the discussion. Her posts revealed a young woman struggling with serious moral and spiritual problems. It soon became obvious she felt unloved and rejected by not only the page's participants, but by God himself. All my Calvinist friends could do was tell  her they "loved her" and encourage her continued participation. They could not tell her "God loved her" because they believe God "hates" the natural man/woman. No, I mean it! Calvinism communicates the belief that God hates the non-elect. (Oh, Calvinists define "love" differently, too. I digress.) She soon dropped out of the discussion and any witness to her of God's love and care had no possibility to permeate her shell.

I understand her feeling! Reformed thinking portrays a god who is a petty tyrant concerned only with his glorification. Long before the universe began, Calvinism's god determined/ordained Adam's sin and condemned the entire universe. Calvin's god devised a plan to rescue a few to demonstrate his love while condemning billions to hell and eternal punishment. Those whom he chose to rescue were chosen arbitrarily and without condition. The Calvinist's god could have rescued every human being but he refused to do so in order to "enhance his own glory."

Praise God! The God of the Bible is a Holy God. God's love and God's justice both derive from his holy nature. He demonstrated his love toward us in his Son who died to pay the penalty for our/my sin and rose again to demonstrate his power. In Christ's one act he both demonstrated God's love and satisfied God's just nature. In so doing it is clear "he first loved us." He offers the benefits of Christ's sacrifice to all (really, all) humanity and Christ's atonement avails potentially for every person. The Calvinist wants to speculate about how much of Jesus' blood would be wasted if he did not die only for the predefined/predetermined/predestined elect. Such speculation is silly and is a grasping at straws because it is clear Christ's shed blood is effective only for those who believe.

If it were not so, I would almost be persuaded to cast Christianity aside and say with the atheists, "An all-powerful "God" who causes men to sin and then condemns them for doing so is a monster."

Saturday, August 08, 2015

Creation, Man, and God's Image

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). So begins the Bible’s description of the creation events.

Science and mathematics tell us the universe is not eternal. If it were, the laws of thermodynamics tell us all the universe’s energy would be long depleted. Even unbelieving scholars insist the universe began to exist. And if it began to exist, there must be a cause, a “cause” sufficient to explain the existence of all there is.  Christians and other theists believe God—a personal, loving, all powerful, all knowing, omnipresent being—is the only sufficient cause.

When you survey the universe in which we live, you can only stand in awe of the creativity and majesty of the Creator. It is not just the myriad of galaxies and star systems which create the sense of awe, the earth itself creates a sense of wonder and amazement.

Moses’ account of God’s creative activity pushes you to come to grips with all he made. The sun, moon, stars, and seven—or is it eight—other planets in our rather insignificant solar system draw our attention to God’s interstellar handiwork. The majestic mountains, dry deserts, and fertile plains remind us our God appreciates aesthetics. Consider the flora and the fauna on the planet—huge creatures, feral cats, devoted canines, and all manner of cattle, insects, sea life, and the smallest bacteria. God created all of it from the depths of his creative mind. And man, male and female he created them—the apex of his creative activity.

Consider, too, the fact he established the universal natural laws—gravity, inertia; even the laws of logic—and put them into place. While he maintained his power to rule over nature, he set the universe in motion governed, for the most part, according to the laws he established. Could he intervene? Of course, he is the Creator and the created is never superior to the Creator.

Think of all the universes he may have considered and could have made. A universe he created did not necessarily have to operate on the physics he established for this one. Writers of science fiction have long written about life forms based not on carbon but some other element. We see their fictional imaginations displayed in Star Trek, Star Wars, and, if you’re my age, the Man from Planet X. Frank Herbert created a completely different world in Dune and all its sequels. None of these imaginings, however, could come close to imagining the variety of possible universes inhabiting the mind of God.
But he chose to Create this universe and within this universe is the Milky Way Galaxy a hidden in that vast space (to us) is a “bright blue dot”—the planet earth.

The psalmist asked, “What is man that you are mindful of him…” (Psalm 8:4). David, the author of the psalm, continues, “You have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him dominion over the works of your hands and you have put all things under his feet” (Psalm 8:5, 6, ESV). Obviously written after Adam’s sin, this passage reveals God still values much in the being he created. He did not wrest dominion from Adam and he still stands just a tad below the angelic beings. In other words, human beings during David’s reign still possessed something of the “image of God” (Genesis 1:27).

We all know the story! God placed Adam with Eve in a beautiful garden. They had meaningful work—they were to “dress and keep the garden” (Genesis 2:15). It was a lush and beautiful place in which to live. God expressed to Adam only one caveat or warning, “You may surely eat of every tree in the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you must not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:16, 17, ESV).

Why the tree of the knowledge of good and evil? Didn’t God know Adam would not obey? Wouldn’t it be better had God left that tree from the garden? Why that tree?

Those who opt for Open Theology hold God may have considered the possibility of Adam’s sin but could not know he would sin. Open theologians believe God can know only that which can be known. He may have goals for the future; goals which he can inexorably bring to pass, but he cannot know precisely how the future will unfold. This is not the place for a discussion of the philosophy of time or what omniscience means. I’m only telling you how the proponents of Open Theology see it. Open theologians believe God is giving Adam true freedom to choose, and Adam made a poor choice!

Arminians among us believe God knew beforehand Adam would choose badly but permitted him the right of truly free choice. For Arminians, Adam’s disobedience was no surprise to God because his foreknowledge informed him of Adam’s choice. Because God valued Adam’s freedom more than he valued keeping him safe, he permitted Adam to make his choice.

Reformed theologians take the view that God not only foreknew Adam’s choice, permitted Adam’s choice, but he actually ordained Adam’s choice. According to the Calvinist, God predetermined Adam’s fall long before creating Adam from the dust of the ground. The Westminster Confession of Faith, the official statement of faith/creed of most Bible- believing Calvinists, says:

God from all eternity did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely and unchangeable ordain whatsoever comes to pass: yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures, nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established. (Westminster Confession of Faith, 3.1)

Reformed thinkers try to get around this statement, but it is hardly clear in itself. If God ordains whatever comes to pass, then Adam sinned because God predetermined he would sin. (See my previous post.) The answer is compatibilism, which says each individual is free to do what they sincerely want to do, but God arranges things so that they want to do what they do. Did you follow that?
Let’s look at one other concern before I quit. The Bible says God created humans “in his image.” What does that mean? It obviously does not mean mankind has omnipotence, omniscience, or omnipresence. Adam did have sovereignty for God gave him “dominion over the earth.”
What does it mean to be in “the image of God?” At the very least, it means human beings are spirit beings. Humans don’t just “have a spirit,” they “are a spirit.” Humanity’s spiritual nature is not such because each person possesses a “bit of God entrapped in a case of flesh.” That’s Platonism! Not only is man spirit but he is able to communicate in words in the same way God communicates in words. In addition, and most importantly, being in the “image of God” means that human beings are capable of relationships. God, as he exists, is always in relationship. God, the Father, relates to God, the Son, and to God, the Holy Spirit. (I’m not even going to try to explain the Trinity. The nature of the Trinity is way above my pay grade. I believe it because the Bible teaches it.)

When I speak of God’s image in terms of relationship it is insufficient only to speak of relationships with other humans. Being in the image of God means having a “built in capacity for God relationship.” The “image of God” in man makes possible a relationship with God and conveys innate knowledge about God. Human beings have the capacity (form) for a relationship with God (content). The image of God in Adam was complete: he had full form and content prior to Adam’s disobedience in the garden.
What happened when Adam sinned? The Bible says, “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned…” (Romans 5:12). Genesis three describes the result. The relationship between God and Adam fractured and God’s judgment came upon all things. Adam’s relationship and the relationships of all things became different. Adam’s disobedience affected the entire universe. Adam’s relationship with the natural world changed. Adam’s relationship with Eve changed. Adam’s relationship with God changed.
Death (separation) came upon Adam and upon all things. Death is separation! When Adam sinned, he died spiritually—he was separated from God. At the end of his life, he died physically—his spirit separated from his body.
In all ways, Adam’s sin “marred/defaced/damaged” God’s image. Adam did not lose the capacity for relationship with God (form) but he did lose the relationship (content). The potential for relationship remained but as long as Adam remained alienated from God restoration of the relationship remained in place. To illustrate the extent of damage to the relationship, God sent Adam and Eve from the garden.
There was one other effect of Adam’s sin. The “damage to the image of God” created a weakness—or tendency—which passed down to all humanity. The Apostle Paul expressed it this way, “For while we were weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6). Adam’s sin left humanity weak and sickly and prone to sin. It left humanity depraved in a sense, but this is not total hereditary depravity. Humans are depraved creatures because they sin—because they sin—not because they are sinners. The Bible says, “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 6:27).
What does all this have to do with anything? Salvation is the full restoration of the image of God in man. This salvation is called a “new birth” and the individual “becomes a new creation.” Being “dead in trespasses and sins” does not mean the individual’s spirit is inert or without the potential to respond. It means the “spirit is separated from God” – they are not in relationship. [This truth is illustrated in Jesus’ parables of the lost boy, the lost sheep, and the lost coin. The prodigal, the sheep, and the coin are lost precisely because they were not where they were supposed to be—they were “out of relationship.”]
Reformed theologians argue that the minds of those in sin “ The statement comes from Ephesians 4:18, “They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.” In this passage in Ephesians Paul contrasts those who reject Christ with those who enjoy the new life in Christ. I will grant the fact those outside of Christ are in darkness, ignorance, and are lost. I insist, however, they are lost because they choose to be lost not because God so arranged their lives they want to be lost.
What is it that brings light into dark places? I remember being in the depths of Missouri’s Marvel Cave when the guides turned out the lights. The result was total darkness—darkness so thick you could feel it. One small match lit in the darkness expelled the overwhelming blackness. So it is with the Gospel and the Holy Spirit working through the Word of God. The truth of the Gospel can penetrate the blackest heart and Christ can draw them if they would only listen. Can you see Jesus looking over Jerusalem and hear his words: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!” (Luke 13:34, 35, ESV)
Contrary to the Augustinians or the Calvinists who read my blog, God offers the opportunity to freely (real freedom, libertarian freedom) to make a choice. He takes no pleasure in anyone who rejects him. It is not that he can’t save them in spite of themselves; he won’t save them.

Thursday, August 06, 2015

Is the God of the Bible the Originator of Evil

Let me start with a definition—a definition of “compatibilism.” Stick with me, you’ll soon see what I’m about.

Compatibilism: Compatibilism, in contrast to “Libertarian free will,” teaches human beings are free, but defines freedom as “choosing according to one’s greatest desire.”

In other words, according to compatibilism, individuals always choose what they want—and what they want is determined by (and consistent with) their moral nature. Man freely makes choices, but those choices are determined by the condition of his heart and mind (i.e. his moral nature).

Libertarian free will maintains that for any choice made, one could always equally have chosen otherwise, or not chosen at all. This view holds that a free action is one that does not have a sufficient condition or cause prior to its occurrence. In short, choices are undetermined by anything or anyone.

Compatibilism forms the basis for understanding human freedom in Reformed (Calvinism) theology. The rub comes when you begin to understand the whole Reformed system which is based in a faulty concept of God’s sovereignty. Calvinists believe God determines—predetermines or predestines—everything. If so, then even human choices are predetermined—set in stone—by God. Calvinists believe God influences your desires to the point that God has exhaustive control of all that goes on including human choice. In other words, all human choices are expressly the choices God predetermined and predestined to be made.

When you think this through, God becomes the author and cause of evil. He created the universe pristine and pure and set Adam in a beautiful garden. According to Genesis 1, 2 Adam had full access to the Garden and could care for it as he chose except for one undeniable prohibition. God specifically told him not to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. You know the story. Adam disobeyed and the result was immediate. Death passed upon all things!

The question arises: Why did Adam eat of the forbidden fruit? Did he freely—Libertarian freedom—choose to eat or did God’s predetermined will work in such a way that Adam did what he wanted to do? I don’t think there is any question about Adam doing what he wanted to do, but prior to the Fall Adam possessed the full “image of God” and surely he wanted to remain in fellowship with God. Yet he chose to disobey God indicating, according to the Calvinist, that it was in his nature—or God placed it in his nature—to want to disobey God.

I asked a proponent of Reformed theology the following question: Are you saying Adam had Libertarian freedom? In other words, did Adam truly make a free choice?

Here is the two-fold answer I received:

I am saying that Adam had free will. He was created good, and he did not have a sinful nature. Such is not only the Reformed viewpoint, but that of the Fathers and the Medieval theologians. St. Augustine said Adam was "posse non peccare" (able not to sin), but that after the fall mankind was left "non posse non peccare" (not able not to sin), and after our new birth (regeneration) was are returned to the state of being "posse non peccare," and in heaven we shall be "non posse peccare" (not able to sin). God is not the author of evil. Evil requires no author as it is the absence of good just as darkness requires no creator because it is the absence of light. God created light, and God created goodness which is found in perfect form only in Christ and is imputed to us by faith.

This response sounds as if the writer accepts the belief Adam acted as a truly free moral agent in the Garden. It sounds so scholarly and written in the language of the Reformed divines. That was not the complete answer. He followed with this:

The Westminster divines stated the matter thus: "God from all eternity did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely and unchangeable ordain whatsoever comes to pass: yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures, nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established." (Westminster Confession of Faith, 3.1)

He is saying Adam acted from (he would not admit this) Libertarian freedom but only as God had preordained it all to come to pass.

The Reformed theologian can’t have it both ways. Adam cannot act with Libertarian freedom if God ordains it to come to pass. Saying an action is preordained means God must cause it to happen either directly or indirectly. It is not a matter of foreknowledge because, according to their view, God determines it will happen. Thomas McCall rightly said:

After any appeals to 'secondary causality' might be made, for the Christian who holds to [the Calvinist account of sovereignty], the answer is clear and unavoidable: if everything is determined, and if God determines everything (even if he determines it via secondary causality), then these things too are determined by God."

The inescapable conclusion is God was directly involved, by what he ordained to occur, in bringing about evil. Whether seen as the absence of good or not, evil is part of our fallen world and it exists because God preordained it. He caused it! Reformed attempts to prove otherwise are inconsistent at best and double-talk for the most part.

I, of course, disagree with the Reformed approach. God, in my view, knew the possibility of disobedience existed when he placed Adam in the Garden with the prohibition regarding the tree in its middle. Desiring creatures who chose to love him, he gave Adam the choice and Adam "blew it." God did not predetermine Adam's choice to prove anything. (Reformed theologians believe God ordained Adam's disobedience so that God could demonstrate his wrath.)

Recognizing the possibility of Adam's sin, God did preordain the life, death, and resurrection of his only begotten son to again make possible human redemption. We do know that! (1 Peter 1:20) Jesus came and died for all who would receive him thus taking care of the problem Adam brought about by his disobedience. Evil came into the world because of the first Adam's disobedience and the obedience of the second Adam took care of the results of Adam's sin (Romans 5) and potentially the results of individual disobedience as well.

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Reformation Theology and the Origin of Evil

A satirical Youtube video appeared in Facebook earlier this summer. The video portrayed Adolf Hitler and his henchmen discussing an imagined theological shift from Calvinism to Arminianism. It would be more humorous if the video failed to challenge basic Reformation (Calvinistic) theology. 

Hitler and the Nazi regime, with its murder of 6 million Jews plus millions more, revolts Christians and any civilized person, religious or not. In spite of the fact Josef Stalin, Pol Pot, and Mao slaughtered millions, Hitler remains the epitome of evil in the 20th Century. One writer said, "the Second World War has to be one of the most apt metaphoric expression of the evil men can do to one another. 

Why does evil exist? The unbelieving world questions God's existence with that very question. Atheists supposedly prove the absence of a Supreme Being with the following syllogism:

  1. If God is omnipotent, omniscient, and good, then evil would not exist.
  2. Evil exists.
  3. Therefore, either God is not good or he does not exist.
I am not a logician, but the syllogism is valid and the conclusion follows by necessity. To disprove the syllogism one or both of Propositions one or two must be challenged. It is difficult to suggest evil does not exist in the world today. Not only does evil exist, much of it is gratuitous. It may be argued, I suppose, that evil itself is non-existent because it is merely the absence of good. The gas chambers of Buchenwald and the Killing Fields of Cambodia would question such a suggestion as would the rape of an innocent child, the senseless murder of an aged citizen, or the aborting of millions of babies. 

Reformed theologians have difficulty explaining evil. In their view, God not only created the Universe, he sustains it and because he is all powerful moves every atom, controls the movement of the planets, and controls every event which transpires on earth. Not only does he exercise his sovereignty with such control, he predestines every existing and future event and movement even to the determination of every thought and decision of man. Just as God knows every hair on your head, he knows every thought, every decision, every action because he either directly or indirectly predestines them and assures that such things come to pass.

God, then, is the author and originator of evil!  It can be no other way. Calvinists go so far as to believe God so arranges things, controls thought, and so on in such a fashion that the individual does "what he wants to do." Thus, when God placed Adam in the Garden, placed the forbidden tree in the middle of the garden, and told Adam not to eat, he didn't mean it. He had already predetermined Adam's failure even before creating the Universe. Adam made his decision because he wanted to, but he wanted to because God so arranged the circumstances and the thoughts and the actions so that Adam sinned. 

And when Adam sinned, evil entered the world. Not only that, but all future evil occurs at God's direction. Either directly or indirectly, through direct or secondary causes, God is the author of evil. And why? It is because Calvinists believe God must exhibit his wrath toward evil-doers so that he may be fully glorified. Evil exists in order for God to be glorified. 

There is, of course, far more than I've been able to plumb in this essay. I will undoubtedly write more on the subject.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

America's Devaluation of Human Life

While studying at Cincinnati Christian Seminary in the 1970s I took an ethics course. The course considered topics such as the Christian's role in government, divorce and remarriage, war and capital punishment. We dug into issues surrounding the value of human life. The Roe v Wade decision was fresh in everyone's mind and much of the discussion focused on abortion. During the study, Dr. Cottrell pointed out how abortion was an indication of the slippery slope in the national attitude concerning the value of human life. Cottrell predicted with the acceptance of abortion would lead inevitably to the acceptance of euthanasia.

Recent disclosures reveal how far down the path of barbarism America has traveled since 1969. Videos taken at Planned Parenthood allege the organization harvests body parts from aborted infants for use in scientific experimentation. Protests understandably erupted from Planned Parenthood but subsequent videos drove the nail of suspicion deeper and deeper. Surprisingly, a few ostensibly Bible believing Christians also spoke out denying the allegations against Planned Parenthood. With more than 50 percent of the American people no longer supporting abortion on demand, it is a wonder that a closer look hasn't been taken at Planned Parenthood practices. I am uncertain how anyone can ethically support such a barbaric attitude toward life. It smacks of the same attitudes expressed by Mengele in Nazi Germany.

Not far behind the abortion on demand racket is the broadening of support for euthanasia. This is particularly true in attitudes expressed toward those living with birth defects, developmental or mental issues. It is particularly troubling when considering attitudes expressed toward the aged and infirm. Oregon is just one state which has supported the right of terminally ill patients to take their own lives and to reject prosecution for those who assist them. During the Obamacare debate, what there was of it, it was suggested the plan called for the formation of death panels to determine treatment for the aged. While such panels do not yet exist, it is clear that medical plans comprising Obamacare do determine whether or not to provide treatment or life saving operations for those who are considered "too old." There are known cases where aged adults over the age of 70 or 80 are denied treatment, not because the treatment would be ineffective but merely because they are considered too old. The expense of the treatment, we're told, is not worth the quality or viability of life in those aged or infirm individuals.

As assisted suicide becomes more acceptable the possibility for positive action to end the life of an aged person becomes increasingly possible. Such actions are indicative of a growing disrespect for human life. In a day when the life of a snail darter, blue whale, or other endangered species is of greater concern than human life it must be realized that human life has been reduced to mere animal existence.

There are a few hopeful signs. The growth of opposition to abortion on demand, particularly after the few weeks it takes for the fetus to be identifiably human, is one of those signs. Opposition to abortion will mean little, however, unless the national conscience once again recognizes the intrinsic value of human life.

The value of human life matter is not a political issue. It is a moral issue of great significance. While it may not be right for the church, as congregation, to take sides in political issues such as immigration, voter identification, or the like, the issue surrounding value of life issues is another matter. Genesis 9:6 states that human life is of such great value that when unjustly taken, the only just punishment is the life of the murderer. The church must speak out on moral issues and be clear in doing so.

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Thoughts on Reformed Theology (Calvinism)

I've been interacting with heirs of the Restoration Movement who have opted for Reformed Theology (Calvinism). Most of those involved were educated in non-instrumental colleges and universities. There are a few in the Christian Churches and Churches of Christ who are adopting Reformation thinking, too. The Apache Junction Christian Church here in Arizona is a prime example. On January 1 that congregation became known as Reformation Bible Church and adopted the basics of Reformed theology. Many others in the Restoration Movement adopt Reformed thinking without realizing it. At least the Apache Junction church was honest enough to "boldly go" their own directions.

My discussion with those in the New Eclectic Society, a Facebook page open by invitation only, is forcing me to do a deeper study of Reformed and Arminian thinking. The more I read and the more I study, the more Calvinism and its concept of God repulses me. One good outcome of the discussion is the fact I finally came to understand why so many New England Puritans became Universalists. The opposite of Calvinism isn't Arminianism, the opposite of Calvinism is Universalism.

Let me try to explain why. 

As anyone who has studied Reformed theology understands, the essence of Calvinism can be summed up in the famous tulip acrostic:

T otal Hereditary Depravity 
U nconditional Election
L imited Atonement
I  rresistible Grace
P erseverance of the Saints/Preservation of the Saints (Once Saved, Always Saved)

Calvinism's fundamental principle is the belief in the absolute and unswerving sovereignty of God which requires God to absolutely control and direct every creature, event, decision made. The fundamental principle is God's sovereignty; God's fundamental value is his glory. Everything God does has repercussions regarding his glory. So much so that even those who are objects of his wrath fulfill the purpose of his glory. Bruce Ware says it this way, "The glory of God is the supreme value of God ... we his creatures must simply bow and accept what God in his infinite wisdom, holiness, goodness, and power has determined will bring to expression the greatest glory to his name."

Because of Total Hereditary Depravity mankind is now unable to respond to God in any way. So God, in his generosity and mercy, determined to choose out from the mass of humanity a people who would acknowledge his glory. Those whom he chose he regenerated and enlightened them so that they could understand what Christ did for them. To assure the elect would do so, God so ordered their circumstances and their lives to create a situation where they would want to choose to worship and adore God. The elect made their choice "freely" because they were inclined to do so and, to put it bluntly, God's eternal decree and sovereign power created a situation where that was all they could do. Those not elected were consigned to perdition, again to assure the glory of God. Their punishment would vindicate God's justice and both the elect and the lost fulfill the means to assure his glory.

Here's the rub. If a God of love could create circumstances where a person would freely choose God, and if all are invited to come to him as Calvinists claim, why did not simply create circumstances so that all men were inclined to receive him? The election of the few while consigning the rest to perdition when God determined all circumstances for both the elect and the lost does not jibe with any concept of love. If God truly loves, then all he needed to do was create the means by which all men would be inclined to acknowledge him. 

Colonial Puritans, wrestling with their own lack of certainty regarding their election, could only conclude that a good and loving God would not consign his creation to hell. Thus, ultimately all would be saved. 

Arminian thinking--and I disagree with some of the Arminian conclusions--is far more rational and expressive of God's nature. God's primary attribute is his holiness. From his holiness spring the attributes of love and justice. Adam's fall did not totally destroy him or render him totally depraved. Instead, it marred or damaged the image of God, darkened his mind, and left him depraved in all his parts. Yet although the mind is darkened it is so only until enlightened. The "lamp" is the Word of God. Each individual is free--truly free, the opposite of determined or controlled--to choose or reject God. There is no merit in the choice. There is no good work to perform, only submission to the God revealed in Scripture. 

I know this presentation is inadequate, but it is where I am at the moment. I must work on expressing my understanding more clearly and more completely...and more succinctly.

Friday, July 03, 2015

Thoughts on July 4, 2015

Our nation celebrates its birthday tomorrow, July 4. For 239 years we've celebrated our many freedoms. After recent Supreme Court decisions, which I think flouted the Constitution, I started thinking about how many of those freedoms we've lost and how many we're in the process of losing.

We once had the freedom to say what we think. We're now afraid to speak up for fear we'll look stupid, bigoted, or politically incorrect. Whatever happened to, "I disagree with what you said, but I'll defend your right to say it"? I don't want to be offensive, but we've developed such thin skin that almost anything offends someone.

We once had the freedom to do business with whomever we chose. I well remember signs in restaurants that said, "We refuse the right to serve anyone." Now I know some people posted those signs because of racial prejudice and bigotry. Like many others, I believe racial bigotry is immoral, but I still think the owner of a restaurant, or any business for that matter, should be able to refuse to do business with anyone. The owner loses the income because of his/her refusal to accept someone's business while the customer can go down the block to someone willing to take the money. Remember, "No shirt, no shoes, no service"?

We once had the freedom to hold whatever religious convictions we held dear. No longer. The Bible is being reinterpreted and recast in molds never before accepted. Moral values clearly taught in Scripture are being cast as outmoded and old fashioned to the point that all manner of sexual sin is seen as moral. Check out: http://www.christianpost.com/news/new-christian-swingers-dating-site-offers-faithful-couples-chance-to-hookup-102844/. I don't remember how I ran across that site, but you will immediately see what I mean. Want variety in your sexual life though married? Swing...fornicate to your heart's content. It's okay we're told. The same is true of the "gay" lifestyle. Matthew Vines is the new "Joshua" leading us to the "promised land" of gay and lesbian paradise. But don't bother to suggest such practices as these are sinful. Oh, no! If you do you're intolerant, prejudiced, or bigoted.

We once had the freedom to own and carry firearms. We still do, but you know as well as I do that in time the voices calling for gun control will win. Like Charleton Heston, they'll get my rifle when they can pry it out of my cold dead hand.

Piece by piece, law by law, ruling by Supreme Court ruling our freedoms are being taken away. We are no longer vigilant and we are too apt to remain silent. We turn the other cheek and do so all too often. Pray for your leaders. But for crying out loud, it is time to do more than pray. Stand up! Speak up! If you don't you'll soon be told once and for all to "shut up!"

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Secularists Just Don't Get It!

Secular conservatives and secular progressives are equally obtuse when it comes to religion. Whether conservative or liberal our national leadership and the media can't make themselves understand how religious beliefs motivate those who hold them. This was brought home this week (February 15-22) by the State Department's Marie Harf and President Obama when their talking points suggested the way to deal with the ISIS threat was to provide jobs.

Secularists can't think everything can be understood by applying Maslov's Hierarchy of Needs. ISIS beheading and burning can't possibly come from religious belief. Such violence must arise from frustration due to lack of opportunity, economic hardship, or ignorance. It couldn't possibly come from any kind of religious conviction. So, the secularists hold conferences to see what can be done to raise the standard of living and provide opportunities for the downtrodden terrorists. As the well-intentioned meet the Islamic terrorists decapitate more hostages, crucify more children, or slaughter anyone who doesn't believe what they do.

The truth is, ISIS terrorists are Muslims who believe the Qur'an and take it literally. They understand Jihad is a Holy War directed toward unbelievers--anyone who does not adopt their literalistic interpretation of the Qur'an. Therefore, they are willing to take up the sword and the AK-47 and force belief on others on the pain of death. Their goal is the imposition of fundamental Islam on the world! They will not be satisfied--in their own words--until the flag of Islam flies over every world capital. Led by fanatics who believe they are preparing the world for its appointed eschatological end, these terrorists are preparing the way for the Mahdi who will rule the world and impose their vision of peace and prosperity.

The secularist replies, "Surely no one is serious about such things!"

As another head falls to the ground make that silly statement one more time!

What's worse, and no one wants to buy this either, the extremists aren't the only Muslims looking for their dream of domination to come true. Millions of Muslims who aren't in the violent ISIS Jihad agree with their efforts and support them with money and prayers. American Muslims live by Sharia law in their enclaves and would impose it upon the rest of us if they could. Not all of the American Muslims, of course, but far more than you know.

Like others before them, those not participating in the violent Jihad plead for understanding and toleration. When they become the majority, watch out! Toleration will exist, for Muslims! Jews and Christians will be tolerated as long as they pay their tax and do not "proselyte".

One of the basic problems here in America is that we expect those of other religions to be like us--uncommitted to their beliefs beyond lip service. In a poll taken years ago George Barna said only four percent of America's evangelical Christians live out their faith with any consistency. What's more, even the four percent are so steeped in worldly thinking they can hardly be identified from others.

What will stop the Jihad? It is the role of government to protect the good and punish the evil doer. (Romans 13). Governments don't "turn the other cheek!" They are "God's avenger" and "don't bear the sword for nothing." It is time to take up the sword and stop the ISIS advance and set the example for every Muslim who would impose their beliefs on others. It took Charles Martel at the Battle of Tours to stop the Muslim advance into Europe in AD 732. Martel and an army approximately 30,000 defeated the Muslim forces numbering an estimated 80,000. ISIS and fundamentalist Islam must be confronted and soundly defeated. ISIS must become an example to discourage Muslims from such violence and radical behavior in the future.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015


I keep hoping someone publicly indicates an understanding of Islam. Tonight Fox's Monica Crowley and John Stossel demonstrated they understood the threat and the root cause of Islam. 

It is disturbing to listen to individuals differentiate between "good" and "bad" Muslims. Muslims are Muslims! Like Christianity, Islam is not monolithic. There are sects and factions--denominations--within Islam and they fight themselves. In spite of this, all Muslims believe the basic--the fundamentals--of Islam. The major difference between Muslims isn't whether they are good or bad, Shia or Sunni, or whatever. The basic difference is one of commitment. Some Muslims believe the Qu'ran and are committed to it. Others see the Qu'ran as expressing a belief system in which they do not have a vested commitment. 

Jihadist Muslims understand the Qu'ran when it says Allah's followers are to take Islam to the world by persuasion when possible; by force when necessary. The Qu'ran teaches Allah's followers are to eliminate anyone who does not comply. The only exceptions are Christians and Jews who are tolerated--sort of--because they are "people of a book." However, Christians and Jews must pay a special tax and they are forbidden to proselyte (evangelize). Allah, it seems, brooks no competitors! Muslims know when such limitations exist the opposing religions wither and die.

The so-called "good" Muslims are like all too many Christians. "Good" Muslims believe in Allah, give lip service to the pillars of Islam, do the bare minimum to maintain their identity as Muslims, and accept Islam as a "faith" which provides existential meaning. Americans have difficulty understanding one other basic Muslim characteristic--a Muslim is "what you are" not "what you believe." Fundamentalist Jews understand this characteristic. Catholics, Lutherans, or Anglicans--among others--where these religions are the state religion understand this characteristic. A person born in France is Catholic; that's who they are! 

In the United States an American is what you are; you choose to be a Christian and you can choose to be a Catholic Christian, Lutheran Christian, or Anglican Christian or whatever. Where Islam predominates the individual has no choice. This fact confuses Americans because it is so foreign to the way they think.

A few years ago George Barna's research revealed 80 percent in America believe in God. There was no explanation of what the respondents meant by "God." The response could mean Allah, Jehovah, the Mormon god, a heathen deity, or what. Barna reported nearly 60 percent were "born again." Of the "born again" only 4 percent lived out their faith.

The same is true in the Muslim world.  The bulk of the Muslim world may accept the tenets of Islam to some extent but the "born again" Muslims are Jihadists. The majority see the Jihadis as radical but when they understand their religion they know they exemplify the literal and fundamental principles Islam preaches.

Muslims and Christians clash because committed Muslims and committed Christians see their faith as the only true faith. Muslims believe "Allah is god and Mohammed is his prophet." Christians believe "there is no name given under heaven whereby we must be saved except the name of Jesus."  Christians take their message to the world by preaching the Gospel and persuading people of the truth of their claim. Muslims take their beliefs to the world and force compliance at the point of a "sword."

I saw much of this when I visited Turkey. When Kemal Ataturk took control of the Turkish government he envisioned a secular Turkey. He wanted to separate "mosque and state." His approach was not true Islam. Until recently Turks were secular in public and religious in private. When we were there we did not see anyone responding to the daily calls for prayer. We were in the Blue Mosque when one of the daily prayer times came and if anyone responded I did not see them.

Why doesn't the Muslim world rise up and quell the Jihadists? Because they know the Jihadists are living the faith and obeying the Qu'ran's teaching. Why don't they get involved in the Jihad? They do! They just don't pick up weapons for the fight. They support the Jihadists with their prayers, their fortunes, and the lives of their sons and daughters. Those who aren't willing to get involved are usually too busy or too caught up in worldly pleasures. If they were Mormons, we'd call them "Jack Mormons." They are "Jack Muslims!"

There are only two ways to handle the Muslim threat. First, the church--Christians--must be willing to take the Gospel to Muslims. Doing so may be martyrdom--it did for the original Apostles. It may mean Christians must be willing to "obey God rather than man." Second, the state must protect its citizens. Doing so may mean going to war--a real war. It may means acknowledging the truth America is involved in World War III. Because of the nature of radical Islam, it may mean massive deaths. Let it be known; there are no innocent Muslims. Their system is corrupt, the ideology false, and their religion repugnant to the true God revealed in the Bible.