Thursday, September 06, 2007

Follow-up to a Previous Post

Back in May, I posted on this blog regarding the importance of understanding our place in the world as American Calvinists:

Yesterday, Richard Land penned a succinct article outlining the titanic demographic and geographic shift in Christ's Church that is happening right before our eyes. It warrants a read:'Global_South'.htm

A few things of note:

1) It has become commonplace in the cultural discourse to hear the refrain that Islam is the world's fastest growing religion. Not true. It MAY have been true 20-30 years ago, but no longer. Christianity has reassumed its place as the fastest growing religion in the world. Moreover, along with pentecostal leanings leading the Protestant charge, Reformed leanings are also enjoying something of a comeback. As mentioned previously, South Korea is a phenomenal Reformed success story, but as Land points out, places like Ghana have also become very receptive to Reformed theology and presbyterianism in particular, while much of orthodox African Anglicanism is also fairly Reformed.

2) There is no longer any serious doubt that the power base of the global church is no longer in the West, but in the Global South. It is in the Global South that Christianity is literally spreading like wildfire and where revival is literally happening right now. It is the Global South that is evangelizing the West rather than the other way around. It is the Global South that is providing safe harbor for conservative congregations in the West who feel exiled by the liberal drift of the Western mainline. While Western mainline and even evangelical traditions are busy trying to accommodate Christianity to an increasingly secular culture, missionaries from the Global South are transforming culture as Scripture commands. Land's comments about the state of the church in Denmark are very revealing about the difference between us and our brothers in the Global South.

3) The vitality, conviction, passion, and loyalty to God and to the purity of his bride that are the hallmarks of the Global South are cause for great hope. While no movement is perfect, I for one am glad that the forseeable future of the church will be led by them, not us.

I think Land's article, without directly saying it, supports the notion that American Christians need to seriously start getting used to being in the bullpen rather than being the starting pitcher. The Global South is in charge. The big money might still be in the West, but money doesn't last, and it won't stop the church from sinking. The American church needs two things more than anything else at the moment: A spirit of repentance, and non-Western missionaries who prophetically call us back to the passionate childlike faith we long ago sacrificed on the altar of cultural and academic sophistication.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Hospitality Article Published by ThirdMill

While continuing to labour away on a hospitality article I hope to submit to the Westminster Theological Journal for publication, I decided back in June to submit a somewhat less technical article to ThirdMill for publication in their online magazine. Unlike the article I'm preparing for the WTJ which focuses on the seemingly diverging hospitality instructions given by the Elder in 2 and 3 John, the ThirdMill article discusses hospitality from a somewhat different vantage point. Here, I attempt to compare the Johannine corpus as a whole to the very provocative hospitality views of Jacques Derrida. This article has now been published by ThirdMill's Reformed Perspectives Magazine and is now available on their site ( for perusal. I invite all interested parties to take a look. Anyone who wants to access the article directly can either go to my own blog ( and follow the 'My Published Papers So Far' link, or they can go here:

Even though many people are not aware of it, the subject of hospitality is a very live issue in the current cultural, political, and ecclesiastical petri dishes. As one example, Derrida in particular has been extremely influential at the intersection of hospitality and immigration.


Monday, July 16, 2007

The Passing of Joe Brown

As an RTS alum, I am saddened at the news of Dr Harold O.J. Brown's passing. Joe Brown was a pivotal figure in the resurrection of the respectability of evangelical thought and influence in our culture and even in the Academy. His multiple degrees from Harvard gave him a unique platform to speak as an evangelical to non-evangelical circles and be taken seriously.

Joe Brown taught for many many years at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. His passion for the dignity of all human life led not only to him founding the Christian Action Council (currently Care Net), which advocated on behalf of the unborn and eventually was critical in the mainstreaming of the crisis pregnancy care movement. Brown's interest in bioethics went beyond the abortion question, and touched on a wide array of issues where human dignity, science, and ethics intersected. It was largely through Brown's prominent influence that Trinity today offers a Masters in Bioethics as part of their suite of graduate-level degrees.

In his later years, Brown also taught at RTS, mainly at the Charlotte campus. Every summer, Joe Brown would take a group of interested students to Wittenberg to study church history for academic credit, another passion of his.

Joe Brown's compassionate advocacy for the cause of the unborn was very heavy lifting that was rarely easy. Yet, when I knew him in his late years stricken with cancer, he was a man who always had a smile on his face and was proactive in talking with people like me. Another seminary professor of mine once said that the Academy, even the evangelical Academy, was full of cynics. He told me that I would be wise to seek out those increasingly few professors who have truly seen it all in the church - the good, the bad, the ugly, and the very ugly - and yet, still walk around with smiles on their faces and authentic joy in their hearts. Harold Joe Brown was one of those people. When told that his cancer was terminal and that he only had weeks to live, it is reported that Joe said, "My short-term prognosis is unknown, but my long-term prognosis is good!"

Here's hoping my generation will learn from Joe Brown's advocacy for justice and compassion, combined with an abiding love for Christ and the certainty of the eternal life he promises for those who are his. May we be like Joe Brown in not merely shaking our heads at injustice and whining about how we don't have a voice in the culture, but proactively stepping out in tangible faith, seeking to change the culture even when things seem dark, trusting that God will multiply our meager loaves and fishes.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Perfect Timing

On the very day I post my recent discussion on original sin (see previous post), Gene Bridges of Triablogue posted a link to an article discussing evidence of an infant's ability to lie. Folks who take the time to read my previous entry will notice that my exchange on original sin touched on the specific subject matter of Gene's post and the article he links to. Tip 'o the hat to Gene for the link!

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Recent Discussion On Original Sin

The following is taken from a recent exchange I had on this blog with an Eastern Orthodox adherent which touched on several different topics. For the full unedited discussion, see here.

----------'s foundational problem is not guilt, but death.

I disagree. Death is the result of sin and guilt. This means that sin and guilt are more foundational than death itself.

You, however, inherited not guilt, but death, and because of that you sin (precisely opposite of Adam).

Again, I disagree. If we were all counted as sinners from Adam onward as Romans 5:19 explicitly states, then the problem for us is the same as Adam and not the opposite. If we were counted as sinners, then we were indeed counted guilty.

Your view of the atonement only addresses the symptoms (sin and guilt) and not the problem (death).

But since we do in fact inherit sin and guilt then these are indeed the problems and death is the symptom.

Go up 7 verses to 5:12. I sin because I have death in me, separation from God, which makes me fill the emptiness in my imago Dei with the emptiness of sin and can then be labelled a sinner.

I did. I find no support for your contentions there because of how Romans 5:12 reads. The latter half of the verse explicitly states that "death spread to all men, because all sinned". Death due to sin. Thus, as I have stated previously, death is the result of sin and guilt and not vice-versa.

Human nature is good, because God created it so,...

It was "good" only when God first created it. But as far as all men go, I have seen no scriptural warrant to suppose that human nature is good especially when explicit statements within holy writ state otherwise (Romans 3:10-12).

What sin has a dead baby committed?

Don, your question does not address the actual wording of Romans 5:12. Thus, a better question would be, "how is eastern orthodoxy's view of man's nature compatible with the actual wording of Romans 5:12?" Indeed, how is your contention that sin and guilt are not passed to all men thru Adam compatible with Psalm 51:5 where David says that he was a sinner from birth? How about Psalm 58:3 where it states that the wicked go astray from birth and that they speak lies from the womb?

Human nature is GOOD because Christ assumed it in the incarnation.

Again, there is no reason to accept this line of reasoning especially when verses that have been brought forward here testify against your notion of human nature being basically good.

...otherwise He could not destroy death for us, which is the root of sin.

Again, there is no reason to believe that death is the root of sin when you have not dealt with the actual wording of certain texts of scripture that contradict your assertions.

You start with the conception that we have something, some substance called sin and guilt that we are born with.

No Don, I am merely taking Romans 5:12 for what it explicitly states. The only presupposition I am bringing to the text is that the scriptures are the highest authority for determining tradition and doctrine.

I contend that in Romans 5:12 it is expressed that we lack something, an emptiness of something that should be there (death), and that is what causes us to sin and thereby become guilty.

But again Don, your contention is just a restatement of what you think the text means. But there is an obvious disconnect between the wording of the text and what you keep insisting it means. And until you overcome this disconnect, you will not be successful in your stated goal of showing me the fallacy of sola scriptura.

I'll repeat: Is a dead baby guilty? A dead fetus?

You already know the answer to this question Don. Yes, infants are guilty by way of Adam's sin. There is nothing in the texts that we have looked at thus far that suggests otherwise.

Hyperbole. Even you'll admit that a fetus doesn't speak lies in the womb. Do you think David committed sin as a newborn infant?

Let's grant for the sake of argument that you are right. Psalm 51:5 and 58:3 are hyperbole. Now, a hyperbole is a "A figure of speech in which exaggeration is used for emphasis or effect, as in I could sleep for a year or This book weighs a ton" (per the American Heritage Dictionary). Given the examples in the provided definition the statements made by David still support my position. David's point in saying that he is a sinner from birth is communicating the fact that he is counted guilty as a sinner because of Adam. This is more clearly expressed in David's statement about telling lies in the womb. A baby isn't literally speaking lies inside the womb but is in fact a liar because of his sin nature. It is it's nature to speak lies. Indeed, I had always heard it said that children are not taught to lie. They simply do it as soon as they learn to speak. Since becoming a parent myself I have personally found this to be true. Hyperbole only exagerates a point being made and that point being, namely, we are counted as sinners from Adam onward and are thus guilty as Adam was guilty. Nowhere do these verses even hint at your stated views here. So in light of all this, I conclude that positing hyperbole for these verses is no help to you.

The problem comes from variant translations of Romans 5:12...and so death passed upon all men, because of which all have sinned. The West has always translated "eph'ho pantes hemarton" as "in whom all sinned". The East has always seen the preceeding word thanatos (death) as modifying "eph 'ho, so the East translates the phrase as "because of which (death) all have sinned." The West and the East both have legitimate translations, but with drastically different outcomes soteriologically. So when the East reads this verse they read:

"...and so death passed upon all men, because of which all have sinned."

Which varient translations are you referring to? I personally own about six different translations and they all read the same. I also checked several other translations online and found more of the same. Also, your statement about the east and west having legitimate tranlations is a bit odd. That is, both cannot be right since they lend to two opposing viewpoints. Either one translation is right or, neither is right. And it seems to me that the only reason that you would raise a translational issue here is so that you can ease the tension between your view and the actual wording of the text. Also, the "western translation" of Romans 5:12 agrees in wording with Romans 5:19. I find this to be highly significant in determining which interpretation to apply to v.12

"and so death passed upon all men,"

Notice, death passed to all men.

Yes, death passed to all men. It was never my argument that it didn't. Death is a necessary consequence of sin per God's decree. So I do not see how this particuliar clause in 5:12 can be a problem for my view.

"for that all have sinned:"

Which comes after you have recieved death from Adam. You recieved death, THEN you sinned as a consequence of death, just like the passage says.

Well, since you didn't state which translation you are referencing here, I'll go ahead and assume that this is the KJV since the wording is identical. Now, this clause is the focal point of our dispute in regards to Romans 5:12 and I can see why you would reference the KJV here. The wording can lend itself to your view. The problem I see with the KJV's rendering however is that the clause could go both ways. That is, the KJV is ambiguous. Indeed, you seem to have alluded to this when you stated that the east and west have legitimate translations. At any rate, I have in front of me several other translations that are not ambiguous in how they read at v.12 For instance:

"...because all sinned..." -NASB

"...because all sinned..." -NIV

"...because all sinned..." -ESV

"...because all sinned..." -NKJV

"...because all have sinned... -NRSV

These examples provide clear, unambiguous attestation to my viewpoint, namely, that death spread to all men *because* all sinned in Adam. This is further strengthened by 5:19 that states the many were made sinners by the one man's disobedience. And at this point, I would also submit Romans 6:23 where it is stated that "...the wages of sin is death...". A clear causal relationship is presented by Paul in 6:23 just as he did in the previous verses we just looked at. Thus, when all these scriptures are considered (including those from the Psalms), I am forced to conclude that my viewpoint is, by far, the strongest viewpoint scripturally speaking.

Where is the mention of guilt in the entire chapter of Romans 5?

Guilt does not need to be specifically referenced in Romans 5. It is implicit in Paul's statements about sin. That is, if I am a sinner, then I am guilty. Likewise, if I am guilty, then I am a sinner. There is no such thing as a guiltless sinner.

Materializing sin into sperm is nowhere to be found in scripture.

And it isn't necessarily my argument that sin is materialized in this way. You seem to be asking me to substantiate a naturalistic mechanism for the transference of sin but I don't even see this as a reasonable request. What if I asked you to substantiate the infusion of the soul to the human body by way of naturalistic mechanism? Would you consider that a reasonable request? Can you explain the incarnation itself by way of a naturalistic mechanism? How about the resurrection? As it is, I have no problem with appealing to mystery here. I simply do not know how sin and guilt is transfered.

You assume there is a thing, a substance, an "object" that is sin that makes it into humans and makes them bad.

What sin is or isn't, is a secondary issue to the primary point of dispute, namely, the correct interpretation of Romans 5:12. In other words, if Romans 5 is in fact teaching that all men are counted as sinners through Adam, then this is what we should believe. Only then do we try to discern just what sin is and how it is transferred.

You should embrace the idea of God fully venting His unquenchable wrath on a deceased infant if you are to be consistent.

Why should I? There is no consensus in Reformed theology that I'm aware of on the question of what happens to those who die in infancy nor do I personally take a dogmatic stance on this issue. I simply trust in my God that He will work all things for the benefit of His people.


Monday, June 25, 2007

An Object Lesson in Human Merit and Arrogance

Early yesterday morning, I was conducting final preparations for facilitating an adult Sunday school lesson leading a college-aged group through Piper's Don't Waste your Life. I was substituting for the regular teacher that day, who was off at General Assembly. In the particular lesson I was facilitating yesterday, Piper focused on Philippians 3.7-8, which is a segment out of one of my favorite passages in Scripture. So yesterday morning before the class, I put something together that I thought was pretty cool. I discovered, however, that while my analysis of the passage may have been educational, my own attitudes were quite an object lesson. Stay tuned.

In order to get a better appreciation for Php 3.7-8, one really has to look at the larger context which arguably starts at v4 and goes through v9. Here, we find an incredible statement by Paul in building a doctrine of human merit based on his own experience. For the class, I attempted to show the flow of the passage visually. In verses 4-6, Paul is giving us his resume and qualifications for boasting in the flesh. Paul is describing his pre-conversion state here, and there is a clear intensification of his credentials in these 3 verses. Paul was circumcised on the 8th day, but that's not all. He is among the people of Israel, but that's not all. He is from the tribe of Benjamin, but that's not all. He was a Hebrew of Hebrews, but that's not all. In regards to the law, he was a Pharisee, but it gets even better than that. By the time we get to v6, Paul proclaims that in regards to legalistic righteousness, he was faultless. This is the pinnacle of human merit; it doesn't get any better than this. Paul is presenting his case to his audience that if anyone has a right to boast in the flesh, it is him. If that's the game we're playing, everyone else is playing minor league ball.

But then something incredible happens. Beginning in v7, Paul takes this unparalleled resume of human righteousness and systematically treats it with greater and greater contempt. In his post-conversion understanding that begins in v7, he tells us that he now considers all of the stuff of vv4-6 as loss for the sake of Christ. But that's not all. In v8, he tells that he considers everything as loss compared to knowing Christ. And then he tells us that he's not just treating his once magnificent credentials as loss, he actually considers them to be sewage (most modern translations translate the Greek word skubala as 'rubbish' or 'garbage', but that is a VERY sanitized translation. In Paul's day, skubala was often used to describe excrement. This is one of those cases where the King James actually gets it right in translating skubala as 'dung'.). You can just feel the amplification of abhorrence in the flow of Paul's thought. Finally in v9, Paul makes his ultimate point in this passage - it's not about his righteousness, it's about Christ's righteousness, and thank God this is so.

The way I presented this visually to the class was to draw a mountain, with vv4-6 showing the uphill progression of pre-conversion human merit on the left side of the mountain, and then vv7-9s downward progression of post-conversion human merit on the right side of the mountain.

When I had finished drawing this out in my prep work before the class, I looked at it and thought, "Ya know, this is pretty good stuff." I hadn't copied this out of any commentary; it was something I came up with totally on my own. I was feeling pretty good about myself.

And then it hit me. Here I was, in the basement of my house two hours before the class, boasting in myself and in my efforts in analyzing the very passage that condemns boasting in myself and in my efforts! Immediately, Calvin's words about this passage became front and center - where pride and arrogance are, there, we can be assured, Christ is not known.

Philippians 3 teaches us many things. One thing it teaches us is that boasting in human merit and ability comes with the extremely likely danger that we will puff ourselves up, become prideful, and be known by our arrogance. I am living proof that Reformed folks are just as susceptible to this as anyone. What makes us unique as Reformed people is that we are doctrinally unapologetic in confessing without caveat that if it's all ultimately about human merit, there is no one who stands a chance of being right with God. It is utter folly to think otherwise, unless someone really thinks their resume of human merit is far superior to Paul's in Philippians 3, in which case, they've just demonstrated their own arrogance rather than any righteousness.

Our daily challenge as Reformed folks is to live out our own theology with care, and to be constantly aware of how our sinful tendencies pervert our own walk. As I learned yesterday, it's not enough to understand the Scriptures and be able to communicate its truths well. We have to be on guard for how we ourselves are often first in line to fail our own litmus tests. This requires a degree of honesty and self-examination that few are willing to engage in. But it's what we're called to, and we'll be better off for it, even if it means going in front of a classroom full of people as I did yesterday, and holding myself up as an object lesson for how not to be.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The Man In The Mirror

The Reformation's gospel of salvation by grace through faith in Christ alone has been betrayed and wed to Roman Catholic works and rituals by Lutherans, Calvinists, and others who practice infant baptism for salvation and boast of the "real presence" of Christ in the bread and wine of remembrance.

So says Dave Hunt in his June 2007 newsletter.

I must say that I find the above accusation to be very ironic in view of the fact that Dave Hunt agrees with Rome over and against the Reformers on the issue that Martin Luther himself called "the hinge upon which the whole turned". The hinge that Luther is refering to of course is the bondage of man's will. So right off the bat, we see that Hunt is making a hypocritical claim at best.

And yet, what of the claim itself? Have Calvinists indeed betrayed the reformational principles of sola gratia and sola fide by wedding their views of infant baptism to Rome's? According to Hunt, we have. But is this actually the case? Not in the least. See folks, what ol' Dave fails to mention here is that many Calvinsts such as John Piper, Wayne Grudem, and James White are Baptists who do not practice infant baptism at all. Furthermore, those Calvinsts who do practice infant baptism do not believe that regeneration occurs during the baptismal ceremony. It is simply a dedication that is meant to express the child's entrance into the visible church. Yet, these distinctions are not so much as even alluded to by Hunt thus giving his readers the impression that Calvinists in general believe in some form of baptismal regeneration.

So if many Calvinists do not even practice infant baptism, and those who do practice it do not believe in baptismal regeneration, what then of Hunt's claim? I submit that it is nothing more than the usual rank misrepresntation that we are used to seeing from the pen of Dave Hunt. Thus, if Hunt wants to point a finger at someone for betraying the Reformation, he need only look for the nearest mirror.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Blast From The Past

I just recently found this comment which was posted to this blog way back in October. For whatever reason, I didn't get the usual email notification for newly posted comments which is why I'm just now responding.

Bryan Brammer said:

I must say that for this debate on Calvinism it is oging to be interesting. If James White is representing the Calvinistic side of things, then you are in trouble.

What Bryan is referring to here is the now defunct planned debate between James White and Tom Ascol versus Ergun and Emir Caner. Apparantly, Bryan thinks that James White would have been unable to provide an adequate case for Calvinism. Speaking for myself however, I firmly believe that James would have wiped the floor with both Caner brothers with or without Tom Ascol's help. I also believe that the Caners themselves believed the same thing which is why they made it so difficult to set up the debate to begin with and is also the reason why the Caners (along with their moderator) torpedoed the debate in the end.

I have read his books and the reasoning and Biblical application is so false I wonder what Bible he is reading.

Of course, Bryan doesn't provide us with James' supposed false reasoning and application so there is no reason to accept his pronouncements on James White's work.

Second, It is unfair to mention that just because someone is not a Calvinist does not automatically make him an Arminian. Take about jumping the gun.

But I did not state, nor is it my opinion that all non-Calvinists are Arminians. However, Jerry Falwell's soteriology was more in line with Arminianism than anything else thus, Falwell can be referred to as an Arminian in light of soteriological considerations. Also, consider the words of Arminian scholar Jack Cottrell:

Arminianism as such, in its broadest sense, is simply non-Augustinianism or non-Calvinism. It has many variations, "from the evangelical views of Arminius himself to left-wing liberalism." What holds them all together is the rejection of the Augustinian concept of true total depravity (bondage of the will), and a belief in significant free will, at least in relation to the ability to accept or reject the gospel offer of salvation. Perspectives On Election Five Views, pg. 70

So much for the charge that I was being unfair to Falwell.

The entire theme of the Bible is Christ's redemptive work for mankind not particular individuals. Take that context and apply the verses.

What Bryan is basically saying here is that I should adopt the Arminian presupposition of general atonement and undiscriminate love and interpret the text of scripture thru that grid. But why should I (or anyone for that matter) do any such thing? To adopt someone else's presuppositions is to abandon your own. Is Bryan himself willing to do this? Is he for instance willing to presuppose God's limited but actual atonement and discriminating love for mankind and thereby interpret holy writ accordingly? If not, why not?

If a calvinist were to live consistenly with his philosophy then there would be no need for witnessing. (since we can niether add or take away from God those he has taken by our works)

But a Calvinist does in fact live consistently with his doctrines whenever he witnesses to the lost seeing as how God has ordained the ends along with the means to those ends. In other words, evangelism is God's ordained means by which He brings His people unto Himself. Bryan's statement about consistency is based either on a misunderstanding of the Reformed view or an intentional misrepresentation.

How can those that believe in this system of thought (which is unbibilical) ever be assured of their own salvation. You may have security but no assurrance for you will not know if you are truly elect until you are judged at the end of your life.

Given libertarian free-will, how can Bryan ever have assurance of his salvation? If libertarianism is true, then Bryan can choose at anytime before his death to reject Christ and be lost forever no matter how strong his inclination to saving faith is. Indeed, how can anyone ever have assurance when they could just wake up one day and decide that they want nothing else to do with Christ?

What a futile system to put your faith in. All Calvinists (as well as srtong Arminians) need to get off their intellectual soap boxes and see the hurting needs of the people. Love the sinner as Christ did, not the mind.

I know of no Calvinist who professes love for the mind. Rather, we profess our love for truth. And it is this love for truth that we thereby show our love to the sinner. The system that has no love for truth is the system that has no love for the sinner.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Calvin on Hospitality

I have presented an 11 week course outline proposal to my local church regarding the radical nature of Christian hospitality. I don't yet know whether the Discipleship Committee will approve the course (though the early indications seem positive), but in the course of my research, I have discovered that Calvin had quite a bit to say about hospitality, much of which is very relevant to us today. A sampling of Calvin's thoughts:

"No duty can be more pleasing or acceptable to God" than hospitality to religious refugees. Such a practice is a "sacred" form of hospitality. Commentary on the Prophet Isaiah, Vol. 1, 484.

Calvin laments the deterioration of authentic Christian hospitality even in his day:

[Hospitality] has nearly ceased to be properly observed among men; for the ancient hospitality celebrated in histories, is unknown to us, and inns now supply the place of accommodation for strangers. Commentaries on the Epistle to the Hebrews, 340.

Calvin saw hospitality within a solidly moral and theological prism:

Therefore, whatever man you meet who needs your aid, you have no reason to refuse to help him. Say, "He is a stranger"; but the Lord has given him a mark that ought to be familiar to you, by virtue of the fact that he forbids you to despise your own flesh (Is. 58.7). Say, "He is contemptible and worthless"; but the Lord shows him to be one to whom he has deigned to give the beauty of his image. Say that you owe nothing for any service of his; but God, as it were, has put him in his own place in order that you may recognize toward him the many and great benefits with which God has bound you to himself. Say that he does not deserve even the least effort for his sake; but the image of God, which recommends him to you, is worthy of your giving yourself and all your possessions. Institutes, 3.7.6

[God] has impressed his image in us and has given us a common nature, which should incite us to providing one for the other. The man who wishes to exempt himself from providing for his neighbors should deface himself and declare that he no longer wishes to be a man, for as long as we are human creatures we must contemplate as in a mirror our face in those who are poor, despised, exhausted, who groan under their burdens...If there come some Moor or barbarian, since he is a man, he brings a mirror in which we are able to contemplate that he is our neighbor. Corpus Reformatorum: Joannis Calvini Opera Quae Supersunt Omnia, vol. 51, col. 105

Regarding the poor person, Calvin said that in viewing such a man,

we should think "now I have been in that condition and certainly wanted to be helped; indeed it seemed to me that people ought to have pitied me in order to help me"; But what [is the the usual case]? When we are comfortable, it is not a matter of our remembering our human poverty, rather we imagine that we are exempt from that and that we are no longer part of the common class. And that is the reason why we forget, and no longer have any compassion for our neighbors or for all that they endure. Calvin's Sermons on the 10 Commandments, 127.

Calvin is clearly developing a doctrine of hospitality not only from the Scriptures, but from the theology of shared human experience and the Imago Dei. In particular, Calvin is quite distinct from other theologians in emphasizing social disconnections in his appeals for hospitality, believing that great harm comes to humanity from the absence of relationships. As in our day, social crises of suffering, isolation, loneliness and hopelessness were prominent in Calvin's day as well. By advancing Christian hospitality as a major remedy to these maladies, Calvin was well ahead of his time in establishing a broad basis for mutual human respect and care that provide a strong precursor foundation for modern recognition of human rights.

But Calvin goes on. In answering the perennial question 'Who is my neighbor?', Calvin says:

Christ has shown us in the parable of the Samaritan that the term 'neighbor' includes even the most remote person (Luke 10.36), [and therefore] we are not expected to limit the precept of love to those in close relationships. Institutes, 2.8.54

Getting to the heart of the matter, Calvin offers this penetrating and challenging statement:

Let us beware that we seek not cover for our stinginess under the shadow of prudence. Sermons from Job, 202

Calvin offers this statement in a discussion about appropriate levels of scrutiny and inquiry regarding our generosity to strangers. While Calvin was concerned about hospitable people being taken advantage of, he insisted that inquiry should never be "too exacting". Instead, inquiry should be conducted with a "humane heart, inclined to pity and compassion."

In all of the above quotes, we get a glimpse of Calvin the theologian, and especially Calvin the pastor. The image of Calvin as a stodgy, cold-blooded, harsh theologian is a caricature that is terribly uninformed and unresearched. Calvin offers a very relevant word to us today regarding the moral and theological dimensions of hospitality, and urges us to reclaim our own heritage radically and comprehensively.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Chuck Hill on the Resurrection

I know that Easter 2007 is behind us, along with the fairly brief tempest surrounding James Camerson's 'documentary' about the alleged Jesus family tomb. But a month or so ago, Chuck Hill wrote an article assessing these matters that's simply too good not to disseminate. The first 8 pages (out of 11) of the article are a concise rehash of the issues involved, along with snippets from a wide swath of scholarship regarding the Jesus family tomb. Given that Cameron's 'documentary' was almost universally panned by biblical and archaelogical scholars of every stripe, Hill's treatment simply puts the controversy to bed (since in much of the academic world, there is no controversy - from the standpoint of scholarship, Cameron's efforts clearly come from the low-rent district). However, because several million people watched the documentary, the myths contained therein are still circulating to some degree in the cultural petri dish, so this article will be valuable in the inoculation process.

Perhaps more importantly, the last 2-3 pages of Hill's article hit on themes that have perennial value. While related to the tomb stuff, Hill's focus switches more to the resurrection. And here, Hill's observations are extremely helpful and worth cataloguing in our apologetic encyclopedia:

For those who don't know, Chuck Hill is a first rate NT scholar who was the closest thing to a professorial mentor I had during my time at RTS. He has provided assistance to me on multiple occasions, including giving me some good thoughts on an article I am submitting to the Westminster Theological Journal in the hopes that they might publish it (though they probably won't). He has done very little in the way of popular-level writing and publishing, opting instead to produce academic articles in biblical and theological journals, as well as producing some outstanding academic books that have been very well received in the Academy. I commend this article to you wholeheartedly.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Brief Response To Roy Ingle's Comments on Calvinism

Roy Ingle said:

From the Calvinist viewpoint, God chose His elect before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:3-14). God elected to save people by His grace alone and by His sovereign choice in His Son (John 1:12-13). Therefore, we did not chose to become disciples of Christ but He chose us (John 15:16)

These comments are taken from Roy Ingle's recent blog article on the question of who chooses who in salvation. Roy's article is basically concerned with contrasting his views as an Arminian with those of the Calvinist in order to demonstrate that the Arminian position is preferable in regards to the question being addressed. My drawing attention to his comments here will not be an attempt to counter Roy's arguments but rather to point out some problems with the way in which Roy represents the Calvinist position. For instance, the last sentence from the above excerpt is not an accurate statement of the Calvinist position. Roy's statement would give the uninformed the impression that Calvinsts do not believe that men choose to become disciples of Christ. This common error in representing the Calvinist position on the reality of choice is regrettably repeated in Roy's post as we are about to see.

Calvinist strongly oppose free will in man...

Here again, Roy makes a mistake in how he represents the Calvinist position on the reality of choice. Calvinists are not opposed to free-will per se. It is the libertarian notion of free-will that a Calvinist strongly opposes. In other words, the issue is not over whether there is such a thing as free-will, rather, the issue is over how free-will is to be defined.

...because of their teaching that God directly controls all things including the very decisions of men.

The accuracy of this statement depends upon what Roy means by the phrase "God directly controls". That is, Calvinists believe and teach a distinction in how God causes things to come about. This distinction is usually stated as primary causation versus secondary causation. An example of primary causation would be the incarnation of Christ. God the Holy Spirit directly acted upon Mary's person and caused her to conceive a child. An example of secondary causation would be Adam and Eve's first child. The child came about by way of natural procreation without divine intervention and yet, the text of holy writ nontheless attributes to God a role in bringing about this event (see also Gen. 4:25). Such distinctions in Reformed theology should be acknowledged by anyone performing even a cursory critique of Calvinism. Otherwise, the danger of misrepresentation becomes unavoidable.

Arminianism, however, believes that God does not directly determine man's decisions but He does directly control man's decisions. In other words, God is in control but He does not violate man's free will.

Here, Roy states that in Arminianism God does not violate man's will which is all well and good. However, a problem arises when one remembers that Roy is contrasting Arminianism with Calvinism. Thus, the implication is that in Calvinism God does in fact violate man's will. But the Calvinist is left wondering how such an assertion can be made in light of the fact that the Calvinist position on man's will has not been shown to lead to such a conclusion. Indeed, the Calvinist position has yet to be mentioned!

So the Arminian understanding of the question of who chose whom would be that God did in fact chose us by His grace alone but He did not force us to chose Him.

And it is also the Calvinist understanding of the question at hand that God does not force men to choose the things that he does. No Calvinist with whom I am familiar believes or teaches that men are forced to do anything. Now, Roy may well believe that this is what the Calvinist position boils down to but he does not present an argument for consideration thus, there is no reason why anybody reading Roy's article should accept his charicature of the Calvinist position.

He does draw us unto Himself through His Son (John 3:16-17) but He allows the human being the freedom to chose to love Him and obey Him (John 3:36; 14:15; 1 John 2:3-6).

Again, Roy's statements carry with them the necessary implication that it is the Calvinist position that men do not have the freedom to choose to love and obey God. But this is patently false. Calvinists do in fact believe and teach that men have the freedom to choose whatever they want. If a man chooses to love and obey God, he will. If a man chooses to hate and reject God, he will. Thus, if a man can choose according to what he desires, how is this not freedom?

At any rate, while I found Roy's article to be interesting, I don't think he properly represented the issues surrounding this ancient debate. There was very little if anything that a Calvinist could have agreed with in regards to how their view was presented and this in itself should be enough to give the cautious reader pause.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

An Unpopular Opinion

In the wake of Jerry Falwell's death, I happened to catch an interview on MSNBC with a Jewish rabbi (can't remember his name unfortunately) who had interacted with and debated Falwell on a number of occasions. In contrasting himself with Falwell, he said something very interesting, and, no doubt, very popular - "I believe religion should bring us all together, rather than divide us." It's a common sentiment that is used in secular discourse about the preferred role of religion in society, not to mention what religion's highest goal should be. But as much as I'd like to agree wholeheartedly with this sentiment, I'm not really sure I can in the end, and I have no doubt that this conclusion is a very unpopular one.

In thinking about the rabbi's statement, the first thing that pops into my mind is one major historical message behind all 3 major monotheistic religions and even Hinduism. That message being that we as human beings are under the authority of a higher being and/or a higher law. Discarding for the moment the significant differences between each religion regarding the nature of this higher being(s) and the tenets of the higher law(s), the idea that we are accountable to some higher authority is hardly the basis for human unity and togetherness, especially in America. Americans have a proud tradition of embracing self-determination, rebelling against authority, paving our own road, making our own luck, and refusing to be boxed in by rules or authorities. Put simply, we like to make our own rules, and consider this to be a basic right and a basic litmus test of 'authentic' freedom. In America, the idea that we are beholden to a higher authority is immediately construed as a move to limit individual freedom, liberty, and autonomy. Put simply, it is not a belief that conjures up joyous unity in its truth, but angry disunity in its implications.

And let's be clear - this isn't just a dynamic that exists between theists and nontheists. While not every difference between religions can be explained by this, the fact is that many differences between religions, and within religions, are greatly impacted by how people come down on the question of (to put it crudely) what degree we are our own kingmakers. This greatly impacts our understanding of God's sovereignty, and perhaps more relevantly, his providence.

In America, where the cultural tide clearly embraces self-determination and autonomy, it is foolish to think that this doesn't have a significant impact on the theological orientation we bring to the Scriptures, or that it isn't a severely complicating factor in the ability of religion to 'bring us all together'. I agree that religion has the ability to move us closer to unity. But it also has the ability to move us toward division. Scripture speaks very frankly about both dynamics and that both unity and disunity can be both righteous and sinful under different circumstances.

If the Genesis account of the Fall describes the human race plunging into sin as a result of wanting to be like God, the America I know is very consistent in indulging this urge today. A well respected Jewish author (who's name I again cannot remember) once remarked that it's no accident that Mormonism is America's unique contribution to world spirituality. Why? Because Mormonism in its pure form promises that we will be 'little Gods' reigning over our own worlds. This author rightly remarked that there is nothing more American than that. In order for 'religion to bring us all together', this mentality, a mentality that has existed since the Fall of man, will have to be undone, since it is radically autonomous, individualistic, and therefore resistant to a higher unifying law and Being to which we are wholly accountable. To say that the totality of our being is completely and absolutely beholden to the lordship of Christ is anathema to the mentality of self-determination, and stands opposed to it. In this respect, 'religion' will not bring people together, because it proposes an outlook and vantage point that is deeply offensive to most reigning notions of human autonomy that have a spurning of authority as their default setting.

The solution to this impasse is usually to accommodate religion to the culture and make it more palatable on this question. But as unpopular as it is, I just don't think that's the answer. That doesn't mean we become harshly divisive separatists who are uniformly derisive of those who don't see the world the way we do. But it does mean that there are times when we must charitably but unapologetically part company with the wisdom of the world on a number of very basic things, realizing that Kingdom eschatology is not just a neat theological prism, but a street-level reality.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Shout-Out To An Arminian Brother

I would like to give a shout-out to Roy Ingle for the kind email he sent my way:

Hey brother! I just wanted to say that I enjoy your blog. Despite the fact that I am not a Calvinist, I enjoy your site and have pointed others to it.

Your Brother in Christ,

Roy Ingle
The Seeking Disciple

I cannot overstate my appreciation for Roy's comments. It's very edifying to know that someone sitting on the other side of the soteriological fence would enjoy this blog. I think that it says much about the fact that while we disagree, we can do so with the knowledge that we are brothers in the faith after all is said and done. And because Roy was kind enough to recommend this blog to others, I'll link to his blog under the heading of "Arminian blogs of interest".

The Diversity of the Reformed Tradition

While exhibiting considerable consistency in doctrinal belief, many might be surprised that the Reformed tradition, almost from the get-go, has exhibited stimulating diversity in how it thinks about theology. By understanding the methodological diversity of our own tradition, we as Reformed people can gain a fresh appreciation for the depth of our tradition and be better able to adopt a stance of semper reformanda in our own appropriation of theology.

Reformed Theology has a reputation for taking an 'above to below' approach to theology. By this, we mean that Reformed Theology stresses the sovereignty and majesty of God and the centrality of the divinely inspired Scriptures as a starting point for theology. Put simply, we have a long tradition of emphasizing the celestial in theology as a basis for grappling with the terrestial or the 'mundane' in theology.

When one looks at how Calvin's Institutes are organized, one can clearly see the 'from above' approach to theological systematics. It is no accident that Book 1 stresses knowledge of God as Creator, which includes Calvin's treatment of Scriptural revelation (chs. 6-13), and that Book 2 stresses the knowledge of God as Redeemer. It isn't until Book 4 that Calvin focuses on the earthly matters of the Church, the sacraments, and the civil government. The organizational whole of the Institutes clearly exhibits a 'from above' orientation to doing theology. This strategy is also clear when one looks at both the Belgic and Westminster Confessions. Again, it is no accident that both Confessions start with God and Scripture, and end with ecclesiology, the sacraments, and the last judgment.

So I think it's fair to say that the 'from above' theological strategy has been the dominant way in which the Reformed tradition has done theology. But it is essential to realize that this approach hasn't been the only strategy employed. The Reformed tradition has also exhibited a more latent yet clearly visible strategy of doing theology 'from below' as well.

On the first two pages of the Institutes, Calvin provides us with his epistemology in succinct terms, and in it, he reveals a twofold strategic concern. It is here where Calvin presents knowledge as a spiral in which knowledge of God is thoroughly linked with knowledge of self. That's right. Calvin, as his lead-off volley, is not bashful in saying that we can't understand God without understanding ourselves, and that we can't understand ourselves without understanding God. What's more, Calvin was non-committal on where someone ought to start on this loop. In discussing this relationship, Calvin allows room for mystery, "But, while joined by many bonds, which one precedes [and] brings forth the other is not easy to discern..." Calvin is saying that there is a reciprocal relationship when it comes to understanding God and ourselves. This is not a 'from above' approach, but links the 'above' to the 'below' inextricably.

In addition, the Reformed catechisms also present a more 'from below' approach to theology. Question 1 of the Westminster Shorter Catechism famously asks, "What is the chief end of man?" The answer reveals a twofold concern - the glory of God, and the enjoyment of humanity through God. Again, this is not really a strict 'from above' approach to theology, but links the above and below together from the very beginning. Lastly, the Heidelberg Catechism, contra the Westminster and Belgic Confessions, is a far more personal and arguably comforting statement of Reformed belief. The Heidelberg Catechism is the clearest example of a 'from below' approach to theology. It's starting point? The hope and comfort of the believer. (As an aside, it's very interesting to compare the Heidelberg Catechism and the Westminster Confession in their treatment of the Law. WCF addresses the 10 Commandments under the rubric of duty, while Heidelberg addresses them under the rubric of thankfulness).

Why is this significant? Reformed people can be susceptible to doing theology purely from a 'from above' perspective. While the 'from above' approach is clearly prominent in the Reformed tradition, it is not the exclusive strategy for doing theology. Our tradition is more diverse than that. But in solely relying on a 'from above' approach, we become vulnerable to neglecting portions of our own tradition, as well as developing an imbalanced theology. Calvin's view on knowledge makes it clear that theocentrism without anthropocentrism is no theocentrism at all, but blasphemy since the denigration of man in theology is really a denigration of the image of God and hopelessly impairs our ability to have a right understanding of God. In our rightful desire to curb man-centered approaches to theology by rightly arguing against the inviolability of human self-determination through a 'from above' approach to theology, we can fall prey to scuttling the Imago Dei emphasis in Reformed Theology that provides an important basis for according to human life the dignity that follows from it. Our tradition allows considerable flexibility in how we apply Reformed thought to daily living and how we present our system of beliefs to a skeptical yet curious world. Our 'founding fathers' understood this, and so should we.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

It's Helpful to Understand our Place in the World

A few years ago, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association held one of its super-big missions conferences in Europe. Normally, these big missions events were populated primarily with Western luminaries possessing high profiles and the stature to back it up. But this particular time, BGEA did something different. They decided to invite global leaders who proportionately represented the global church. A fairly prominent American presbyterian I know was one of the people invited, and what he saw at this conference hit him like a ton of bricks. When everyone was assembled, the speaker encouraged everyone in the auditorium to get up and look around at each other, because 'this is the global Body of Christ today'. When my presbyterian friend joined everyone in gazing around the auditorium, he discovered that he and those similar to him were a very small minority.

Many white American Christians don't realize just how small their numbers are when compared to the makeup of the global church. What this conference demonstrated is that the global Body of Christ is mostly non-Caucasian, poor, and increasingly charismatic. The explosive growth of the Christian church worldwide is mostly unknown in the pews here. Whereas in America, we have arguably too many preachers and teachers and not enough converts, the problem in the global south and China is exactly the opposite - nowhere near enough preachers and teachers to keep up with all the conversions. One might say (and it has indeed been said more than once in the last few years) that in many ways, the future of the Christian church is not in the West. As increasing numbers of Africans and Asians view America as a missions field and coming here with the express purpose of evangelizing us, the global shift in power becomes more real at street level. I would be shocked if this century passes without having an African as the Roman Catholic pope, and when this happens, the shift that many of us have seen for some time will become obvious to everyone else too.

The presbyterian and Reformed community has much to be proud of here. The incredible phenomenon of the Korean presbyterian movement is one of the great success stories of all time. In far east Asia, the Koreans have been by far the most receptive to the gospel and comprise a very bright light in a region that for whatever reason has been acutely resistant to the gospel until very recently. It is the Koreans who come to America to pursue divinity studies who comprise most of the evangelical voice at liberal seminaries. They are the missionaries, and we are the mission field. Similarly, the increasing prevalence of African Anglicans providing refuge for evangelicals in America is a movement that is gaining strength and would have been unheard of just 20 years ago. What's more, much of the bishopric leadership in African Anglicanism today is Reformed in much of its theology. At RTS-Orlando, presbyterians comprised the majority of the student body, but Anglicans were not too far behind, including many African Anglicans who came to America to study.

But with all that said, the Reformed community still has work to do. Coming to grips with our place in the global church can help us realize how quickly we can become irrelevant if we do not aggressively partner with and be players in the global church. Reformed people need a strong evangelical theology of poverty in order to effectively understand and partner with the global church's most vital growth centers. Reformed people must be willing to charitably engage the global charismatic movement in dialogue, because that's where the global church is headed in many ways. Reformed folks of recent times have not been particularly strong on either front, and we continue this trend to our peril. I'm not talking about giving up our theology for the sake of relevance, or 'going liberal'. Instead, I'm talking about a willingness to thoughtfully and charitably dialogue with our global brothers and sisters (who are often more evangelical than we are) as equal partners whom we must learn from if we desire to be more faithful to Christ. Such humility will carry us a very long way.


My name is Jason Foster, and I'm very pleased to be a 'contributor' to this blog (I put 'contributor' in quotes because the degree to which I contribute anything useful might prove debatable). As you'll discover, I can be aggravatingly long-winded at times because I try to exercise care in what I say and how I say it. But I'm gonna try and be relatively succinct in introducing myself to you and giving you a working knowledge of the perspective I bring to this blog:

1) I received an MDiv degree from RTS-Orlando in May 2006. I say this not to brag, but in fact, to do the opposite. My years at seminary really impressed upon me the truth that the more I know, the more I come to realize how much I don't know. This is both the joy and frustration of being a finite and sinful human being pursuing greater understanding of our infinite and sinless God. This means that I don't believe my seminary degree makes me anything special, nor do I think my seminary degree should be used as a weapon of smug superiority. My practical adherence to this concept is imperfect, but it is an idea I try to operate with at all times.

2) I have been married for over 10 years now, and my wife and I are currently pursuing an international adoption. For those who have been through this process, you know how torturous it can be to try and adopt internationally. Right or wrong, now is not a good time to be adopting internationally as an American. We are learning this the hard way, and the pain it creates never really goes away. So any and all prayers would be appreciated.

The above are some things I am. Let me also briefly tell what I am not (this is where I start getting unpopular):

1) I'm not a hack for Calvinism. RTS-Orlando prides itself on being 'Reformed, but not angry', and I share this view. This means I don't want my posts to be angry rants, nor do I want to engage in the kind of visceral back-and-forth that too often accompanies theological discussions. This doesn't mean there isn't a place for heated debate on theological matters. It just means that there's more to theology than argumentation. I subscribe fully to Reformed Theology, which is way more than TULIP and election. If John Frame is right that theology is nothing more than the application of Scripture to life, all of us (Reformed and otherwise) need to be mindful of how we engage the topic of theology and what this engagement says about our own application of Scripture to life. Reformed people, above all people, should be very aware of the human element in theology and be prepared to constantly look in the mirror and reform our engagement with theology as necessary. This is what I try to do, and I think I've seen real growth in my walk with Christ as a result. I came into seminary as a harsh debater and a partisan. I left seminary with a much better awareness of the sinful tendencies I bring to my study of theology and the need to be constantly open to the idea that theology should be shaping me, rather than the other way around.

2) Because of the above, I do not exempt other Reformed writers/scholars from (hopefully) respectful critique. It's not just non-Reformed folks who sometimes misunderstand Reformed Theology. Self-described Reformed people do as well, and I don't exempt myself from this. So while I adore people like Calvin, Machen, Murray, Van Til, Vos, Ridderbos, Kline, Carson, Piper and Frame, I don't worship any of them and don't consider them above critique. Because of the Reformed bent I operate with, the places where I part company with these folks are infrequent and often on the margins. But nonetheless, Semper Reformanda applies to them too.

3) Lastly, I don't hate Arminians or their theology. Obviously, I dissent from Arminian theology and believe a Reformed understanding of theology is more Biblically sound. However, I have joined hands with Arminians in ministry, have prayed with them, and have been edified by the perspective they bring to the faith, even when I disagree. My 34 year old brother just recently became a Christian after years of not only being distant from God but self-consciously spurning God. If his theology can be classified as anything, it is more Arminian than anything else. Do I wish it was different? Yes. But I can tell you that compared to the way things were, I'm thrilled he's where he's at. Having a friendly conversation with my Arminian brother about the freedom of the human will is a great problem to have compared with where things were 2 years ago. It puts things in perspective.

So there you have it. I adhere to Reformed Theology but try not to be overbearing about it. I am grateful for the Reformed tradition and rely on it heavily, but I'm not a strictly party-line guy. I am seminary educated, but know that there's tons I don't know. I leave it to interested readers here whether my addition to this blog is a good thing or not, and whether anything I might say here will provide value. I'm glad to be here.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

C.I.C. Is Going Group!

I am very pleased and excited to announce that C.I.C. will no longer be a personal, one-man blog but will, from this day forward, be a group blog with multiple contributors. My primary reason for making this switch is that I have been blessed with a steady stream of visitors and commenters here (for which I am exceedingly thankful) and I have felt for some time now that my meager 1-3 posts a month were not enough to accomodate the readers of this blog. So to help remedy this problem I have asked Jason Foster of Reformed Musings to contribute here at C.I.C. Jason is, in my opinion, a very talented Reformed blogger and his contributions should be very edifying to the readers here. Along with blogging, Jason has written a number of book reviews at that I personally have found very useful. Jason will be posting an introduction for himself within the next day or so and I would encourage all those who read and enjoy this blog to welcome him.

Friday, April 27, 2007

All Too Typical Exchange

The following is an exchange I had several months ago with a long-time poster over at Zola Levitt's message boards. This exchange began due to some rather interesting statements made by an individual who calls herself "Littlesooz" (the very same Littlesooz that made this insightful statement). The exchange starts out well enough but as the reader will notice, Littlesooz becomes more and more defensive until she finally just shuts down. To me, this exchange highlights the problem that far too many professing Christians are not willing to honestly and accurately interact with opposing viewpoints and when called on it, will resort to personal attack. This brief exchange begins here and can be viewed by simply scrolling down thru the various posts.



I wish to address some of the things that you have stated in this thread and in another over in the debates section. You are a long-time member here and people seem to like and respect you. This means that things you say could carry weight with others here and some of the things you are saying in regards to Calvinism are simply not accurate. So, my interest here is to curtail any misconceptions of what I believe from spreading. For instance, this statement...

I totally reject the Calvinistic view of Limited Atonement and so cannot go along with Mog's view that certain babies are chosen to die in their sin and go to Hell.

...does not represent Calvinism en toto, nor does it represent moG's views or mine. The doctrine of Limited Atonement does not necessitate that all babies automatically go to hell. Many Calvinists hold the view that those who die in infancy have Christ's atonement applied to them. Moreover, this issue has more to do with the doctrine of Original Sin than it does with the purpose and extent of the atonement. Thus, you are attacking the wrong doctrine.

And this statement:

Tron, it speaks of nonsense to me. Any teaching where one needs a degree in theology to understand is a nonsense also.

I personally have no degree in theology but I understand Calvinism just fine. All one has to do in order to understand Calvinism is to read what Calvinists say about what they believe. One does not do what you have done here, namely, getting their definitions of what Calvinists believe from people who are strongly opposed to Calvinism such as D.A. Waite. For example, if someone were to criticize your belief in the Trinity, and used a non-trinitarian's arguments and definitions to prove their points, you would vigorously object, would you not? But this is precisely what you have done. Waite gives two mischaracterized definitions of Limited Atonement and proceeds to criticize the doctrine. The problem is that the one that's labeled "mixed-up", is the view that most Calvinists with whom I am familiar believe in, including myself. Calvinists believe that since Christ is deity, His sacrifice has unlimited value. If God had so chosen, He could have redeemed the whole of mankind 100 times over. The issue is over the *intent* and *purpose* of Christ's atonement. Waite is merely muddying the waters with his presentation. Also, this goes into your statements in the debates section that were indirctly pointed to me. That is, you seem to be basing your knowledge and opinions of Calvinism on the writings of men such as Dave Hunt and D.A. Waite. This is fundamentally no different than a juror rendering a guilty verdict based solely on the prosecutor's presentation. Surely, you see the inconsistency in this.

Also, in regards to your request for a definition of double predestination, when non-Calvinists go to critique "double predestination", they are actually referring to a notion called "active reprobation". Active reprobation is the belief that God *actively* reprobates men, meaning that God is directly causing men to sin for the purpose of damning them. This view is held by some *hyper-Calvinists*, but not main-line Calvinists.

Having said all this, I sincerely hope that you will follow Jan's example and try your best to understand what Calvinists believe and why, so that, if you continue to disagree with them, you can at least accurately represent their views. Moreover, I wish to apologize here and now if my post seems a bit pointed. It is not my intention to disparage you personally. And I would be more than happy to answer any questions you might have in regards to Calvinistic doctrine.

I think it is unwise to compare me to Jan.

It wasn't a comparison really, rather, a recommendation. Jan knows what Calvinists believe and she does her best to accurately represent those beliefs when discussing them. She has went as far as to defend those beliefs (that she doesn't agree with) from misrepresentation which is comendable and, I think, the Christian thing to do.

If you read the short testimony I gave then you might (if you try) to see my heart on the subject of Calvinism.

If you are referring to your loss, then yes, I have read it and I offer my condolences. But I must point out that scriptural truth cannot be judged in this way. I say this because your testimony suggests that you are rejecting Calvinistic theology because of this episode in your life. Moreover, you were proceeding on the false assumption that Calvinists all taught and believed the same thing in regards to infants. As moG and myself have pointed out, we do not. And as you yourself said, there is not much to go by in scripture to say dogmatically what happens to those who die in infancy. One can only speculate on the available data.

I am not totally ignorant on the subject...

Nor did I mean to imply that you were. You obviously have read something on the subject. My concern is that you may have not read enough or, you may have been reading the wrong stuff. If all you have read is Hunt's book and articles by D.A. Waite, then my example of a juror hearing only one side of the case is accurate.

The fact that I had to ask Tron for a definition of "double predestination" shows that Calvinism itself is a multiplicity of beliefs within the system.

All theological systems have a "multiplicity of beliefs". No theological subject is as simple as it first seems. Take Christ's deity for example. If you examine the controversy at Nicea, you will find that the discussions got long and deep into many questions and these questions have not been completely resovled to this day. To criticize Calvinism on the basis that it can be "deep", is overly simplistic and inconsistent when the whole of Christian theology is considered.

I have often quoted something that Calvinists believe, "Limited Atonement" for example and someone will say "oh but we don't hold to that view" we believe something else. You have just done it.

If you have always used D.A. Waite's presentation, I can see why. But this does not accurately represent my objection to your use of Waite's material. You seem to be suggesting that Calvinists are "shifty" on their views. Is this what you are suggesting? If so, I would of course object on the basis of your choice of sources for what we believe. If you are getting bad information of what we believe, then you will certainly get the response you have mentioned.

My walk with Jesus is simple and I believe that it is my duty to point out to others that they needn't feel pushed into a belief system that has no relevance to their faith.

I see no one here pushing anyone into believing the doctrines of grace. In fact, I have never seen a Calvinist "pushing" their doctrine on anyone. Further, if Calvinism is true, then it does indeed have relevance to one's faith.

I see it as an elitist doctrine.

And did you get this opinion from Dave Hunt?

I respect the way you guys debate it and I admire your understanding of it and your knowledge of church history.

If so, then did you accept my explanations in my previous post? Your comments above in regards to Limited Atonement along with your post to Stronghold would seem to suggest that you didn't.

For myself, I believe I am qualified to speak into it.

I suppose that would depend on what you mean by "qualified". Everyone has a right to their own private opinion of course. But if you are claiming this based on reading Dave Hunt, then I respectfully disagree.

Not because I understand the letter of it but because I have studied it enough to know I reject it as part of my life in Christ.

Okay, so who have you studied? Piper, Sproul, White? I ask because to claim to be studied on Calvinism requires that you read those who espouse it. For instance, one does not become studied in history by reading books on physics.

I have quoted two men on the subject whose knowledge you have rejected.

And I have stated just *why* I reject those two men's explanations of my beliefs.

I have read other books on the subject and I'm sure you didn't come to your own views through reading the Scriptures alone.

And were these books pro or con? I can't emphasize enough that one must listen to both sides of a debate in order to make an informed decision on the truthfulness of any given topic.

My post stands as it is. It speaks for me and my beliefs.

As does mine.

That is all that is required and I do not have to answer to you.

Forgive me, but, this is a cop-out. I do not believe that you must "answer to me". What I do believe is that folks should accurately represent my beliefs before they critique and/or rake them over the coals as you have done here on this thread. This statement to Stronghold...

Watch this! They will deny it is like I am saying and come up with something that says, "oh it is not like that, only some Calvinists believe that or the hypers or the partials or the Lutherans or the others believe something else. a canard. What you are doing is intimating that Calvinists are deceptive in their beliefs and when called on it, you fall back to saying that you don't have to answer for the things you put in print.

Your reply concerning my testimony reveals to me that you do not have the faintest idea of what I am talking about.

If I am as off as you claim here, then by all means demonstrate it. As it is, I do not know what it is like to lose a sibling, true. But I do know that you do not use this to brow-beat other's viewpoints, especially without the benefit of accurate supporting argumentation.

We might as well come from different planets.

In regards to how we go about critiquing the viewpoints of others, then yes, we do.

You would recommend that I become like Jan. I would recommend that you receive the heart from the Lord that is in Dave Hunt.

If Dave Hunt were a better man than I, then I would welcome it. But you don't know him or me, so you have no real basis to make such a statement. Sure, you've met him, but does that mean you know him personally? Do you visit him often? Perhaps have dinner with him and his family on occasion? Moreover, my differences with Hunt are not about Hunt's personality; they are about his argumentation.

I am not intimating that Calvinists are deceptive. I am saying that there are aberrations to the Calvinistic doctrine.

Of course there are aberrations in Calvinism. But this is true of any and every Christian doctrine. Thus, for you to argue successfully against Calvinism, you would need to demonstrate that I, or moG, or whoever, is engaged in aberration by using source material from Calvinistic writers. This would take us back to my points in regards to your sources for what you believe about Calvinism.

I can only argue from the points of Calvinism of which I have read.

Okay, so again, who have you read besides Dave Hunt and articles by D.A. Waite?

If you choose to distort the meaning of Calvinism itself, then there is no discussion.

In order to suggest this, you would have to have knowledge of Calvinism from Calvinistic sources so that you could distinguish between what I say, and what Calvinism says. Thus far, I see only your suggestion that I'm distorting Calvinism based on your reading of Dave Hunt and D.A. Waite. I will continue to belabor the point that what you are doing is no different than, say, an atheist attacking christianity based on nothing more than the writings of other atheists.

You tell me to demonstrate where you are "off".

Yes I do. It is easy to make an assertion. It's altogether a different story when one has to substantiate that assertion when challenged.

All I can say is that you debate from the letter, I discuss from my heart.

And this is a fine example of an assertion that you will not, and cannot, substantiate. You have no idea if I discuss these issues "from my heart" or, if I'm here to debate for the thrill of it. As it is, I am here to defend the truth of the doctrines of grace against those who would attack and misrepresent them.

I discuss this because I believe Calvinism as it is generally understood to be an erroneous teaching not for one upmanship as a debater. I would lose in that field every time.

Generally understood by whom? Dave Hunt? Again, where does your knowledge of Calvinism come from? You have been challenged on your statements in regards to Calvinism by four different people on this thread and two of them are not even Calvinists themselves. Yet you continue to suggest, without benefit of argument or documentation from Calvinistic sources, that we are wrong and you are right in our understanding of the issues. Further, you continue to suggest that I'm not sincere about the truth but are only interested in winning an argument. But again, you cannot substantiate this since you don't know me from Adam's house-cat.

Your post demonstrates nothing that warrants a reply from me.


Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Fare Thee Well Manuel Culwell

Readers of this blog are no doubt aware by now that I have decided to ban Manuel Culwell from posting to my blog. My reasons for this are many and I cannot think of a single reason why I shouldn't have. Manuel's first post here was exceedingly bad and each successive one had steadily gotten worse. It appeared that this spiral of spam would not stop unless I stopped it. In fact, Manuel himself stated that he would not leave unless I made him. That statement was the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back since I had already come to suspect that Manuel was the type to keep going after somebody with an almost stalker-like fervor. This suspicion first came about when Manuel stated that Eddie Dalcour would not have anything else to do with him. Here is what Manuel said regarding Dalcour:

I tried very hard to get him to have a discussion but he kept insisting I made no attempt at exegesis so that he would not debate me,...

Now, this sounds to me like Eddie Dalcour was having the same problem with Manuel that I've been having. That is, Manuel doesn't do exegesis. Rather, he prooftexts, makes a statement that doesn't contradict the opposing viewpoint, and concludes that the opposing view is wrong. This flawed methodology is what Manuel consistently employs. For instance:

Every man that hears and learns of the father (Through the preaching of the word Romans 10:14-15) that is the drawing and the way mankind comes to God. The Calvinist view is completely unwarranted. I don’t care if you go back even further it still does not prove your point.

This statement comes on the heels of Manuel quoting John 6:35-45. Notice that the statement only alludes to v.44 and 45 only. This is prooftexting. Next, Manuel states every man who hears and learns from the Father is drawn to the Son by the preaching of the word. This is what I meant by Manuel making statements that don't conflict with the opposing viewpoint. That is, Reformed theology teaches that those who come to Christ were drawn to Him by the Father. This drawing is ordinarily done by way of the preached word. So where is the contradiction between what Calvinists believe and what Manuel has stated? There is none. Lastly, Manuel leaps to the conclusion that the Calvinist view is unwarranted. But in point of fact, it is Manuel's own conclusion that is not warranted. One cannot draw conclusions based on absentee argumentation. I believe that this faulty methodology is what Eddie Dalcour was referring to and that this is why he chose not to go any further with Manuel.

Now, after reading what Manuel had to say about Eddie Dalcour not having anything else to do with him I wondered if there were others who have had similiar experiences in dealing with Manuel. So I googled the name "Manuel Culwell" and a thread from none other than Alan Kurschner's Calvinist Gadfly popped up. This particuliar thread had devolved into a discussion on man's will and had a virtual who's who of Reformed bloggers commenting on it. So what insights did Manuel bring to the insuing discussion? See for yourself...


Readers of this blog who have kept up with my exchange with Manuel will immediatly recognize that this is the same kind of near incoherent tripe that he opened with here. Same screed, different day. And it only took about six more of these before Kurschner gave Manuel the boot. And in so doing, Kurschner was on target when he said:

You cannot be reasoned with. And the “your doctrine is trash!” comment is the last straw. Cease commenting here.

Manuel cannot be reasoned with. He is, himself, unreasonable. Kurschner knew it, ditto with Dalcour. If anyone thinks this assessment is too harsh, I simply invite them to read thru the entirety of what Manuel has written here (and at the Gadfly) and simply ask themselves how they would deal with him. As for myself, I will give one last response to what Manuel has written in the comments section of my previous entry concerning him. After that, I'll wash my hands of him.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Go Figure

Earlier this week, James White blogged about his surreal experience with some KJV-only fundamentalists in Mesa, Arizona. And when I say surreal, I mean it. Reading James' entries (he has added a couple more entries about this episode including a video) could cause a person to experience a wide range of emotions such as laughter, anger, sadness, and even being flat-out sick to their stomach, all in one reading. Through all the documented stupidity however, James did make mention of something that, for me at least, really stood out. While witnessing to some Mormons, one of the KJV-only folks shouted this out to James:

Don't give that one a tract, James, he's not elect!

Now, for the Calvinists out there, doesn't this just make you want to bang your head against a wall? I mean, Calvinists get criticized for (supposedly) not believing, and not engaging in, evangelistic efforts. But when we prove them wrong by going out and doing evangelism, we get mocked for it! Go figure.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

One Year Anniversary!

Today is C.I.C's one year anniversary and I would like to thank everyone who has taken the time to stop by my blog to read what I post here! I'd especially like to thank Bob Ladwig, David McCrory, and Thomas W. S. for making frequent visits and encouragements. I've enjoyed defending the doctrines of grace this past year and, God willing, hope to continue on for several more!

Sunday, March 25, 2007

General Response To Manuel Culwell

Manuel Culwell said:

I think you know exactly what was being said Mr. Cleary in the way of “vacuum isolation”

Since I have never seen nor heard this expression used, then no, I don't know what it means. Nor do I care to speculate on it's meaning since it is unwise to assume definitions of unfamiliar terminology especially when it appears to be made up.

This is the consistent way Calvinists interpret the scriptures, they take one sometimes two passages to showcase a ceratin hard passage in isolation and then psychoanalyze words and phrases of said passages excluding many others that deal with the same doctrine, allow me to give an example of another Calvinist. Edward Dalcour writes...

Here, Manuel proceeds to make an assertion regarding the Calvinist methodology of interpreting scripture. He then cites a snippet from Eddie Dalcour to prove his point. The problem with Manuel's quoting of Dalcour is that Manuel provides no citation or link to Dalcour's full argument which makes it impossible to assess what Dalcour's methodology was. All we see is Dalcour performing a word study on a particuliar greek term. Thus, in order for Manuel to substantiate his assertion, he will need to provide specific citations that can be cross checked. Otherwise, there is no reason to accept Manuel's charicature of Calvinistic methodology. Furthermore, Manuel's complaint about "psychoanalyzing" is quite interesting. I can only assume that Manuel is complaining that Calvinists perform word studies in order to derive meaning from a given text which, by the way, is what Dalcour was doing in the quotation that Manuel provided (the reader should notice that Manuel does not bother to interact with Dalcour's argument). If this is the case, how else is exegesis to be performed? I mean, if one is to draw out the meaning of any given text, are we not to be sure that the words within that text mean what we think they mean?

There is a little more that Manuel says about Dalcour's word study but I'll hold commenting on it for the time being. I will be posting a second response to Manuel in the near future that deals more with exegetical issues surrounding certain verses that Manuel constantly refers to.

...I posted my response to you for a reason and that was to get you to deal with certain arguments so I could deal with your own arguments.

Manuel here states that the reason he posted on my blog was so that he could deal with my arguments on certain issues. The problem is that Manuel did not present specific arguments or issues. He merely posted a very generalized and broad ranging screed against Calvinism to which I responded appropriately. If Manuel wants to deal with specific points of dispute, then he needs to submit specific arguments.

Mr. Cleary I already explained that these good folks on this your blog responded to your “vacuum trap”(I did not.) It could be seen from a mile away. You only submitted two passages to isolate your “sugar stick” that being John 6:44 you set up your trap to the exclusion of other passages yes you submitted (John 12:32) But I saw what you were trying to do, all I needed was one or more passages that you not so much even eluded to that being (James 4:8, and John 6:45)

So besides "vacuum isolation", we now have something called a "vacuum trap". Again, I have never seen this phrase used before so I won't speculate on what Manuel means by it. However, he does appear to be referring to the previous post I did on John 12:32. But yet again, Manuel fails to actually deal with what was written there. Instead, he chooses to dismiss my arguments by throwing out made up terminology along with some nonsense about sugar sticks. Furthermore, if my posts on this blog are as obviously defective as Manuel asserts, then it should be an easy matter for him to refute them. But, it appears that no such refutation is forthcoming.

Yep! No problem…God predestined the salvation of an elect group (the church) to which all maybe added conditioned upon their faith in obedience to the Gospel.

Here, Manuel is responding to my mention of Ephesians 1:5. But the reader should note that nowhere in Ephesians chapter 1 does it state anything about predestination being conditioned on faith. Moreover, what Manuel is alluding to here is the concept of "class election". Yet, the mere mention of this concept is not an argument and arguments are what we are here to consider. Thus, if Manuel wants to argue for the concept of class election, then he is free to do so if and when he responds.

Mr. Cleary thinks individuals are p-r-e-d-e-s-t-I-n-e-d. Find me the passage please that says so?

Well, that would be the aforementioned Ephesians 1:5. Y'know, the verse that states "He predestined us..."?

Now, it's at about this point in Manuel's post that he attempts to answer my mention of Acts 13:48. Sadly however, Manuel's response doesn't interact with the actual wording of that text. In fact, it's not even mentioned at all! Instead, Manuel chooses to go off to the book of Romans where he makes a number of assertions. Needless to say, this leaves Acts 13:48 untouched and the Calvinistic interpretation unrefuted. On top of this, Manuel's assertions in regards to Romans are not really argued. He seems content to sprinkle those assertions with citations and leaving it at that.

the elect are not simply individuals chosen by God while other are simply rejected but the elect refers to those individuals colectively that make the Body of Christ while we are in him which took place through the preaching of the gospel, the drawing of God. We are chosen in him from the foundation of the world as the elect body, the church .

This is Manuel's response to my mention of 2Thessolonians 2:13. Let the reader again notice that Manuel does not interact with the actual wording of that text. He is again content with making an unsupported assertion in lieu of an argument. As it is, I can just as easily assert that the elect are indeed individuals chosen by God unto salvation as stated in 2Thessolonians. Consequently, the rest of mankind is passed over and left to the sin that they love since it is a fact that not all will be saved. Further, the idea that the church as a corporate entity is what is predestined to salvation instead of the individual is fallacious on the grounds that groups consist of individuals and that there is no exegetical reason that can be gleaned from any given text to support the notion of corporate election.

You completely ignored my post and simply added your snide comments and remarks while ignoring the passages I submitted.

To say that I "completely ignored" Manuel's post is beyond inaccurate; it's dishonest. Further, if Manuel wants to complain about the tone of my responses, then perhaps he should not have set that tone to begin with. That is, since I believe in answering folks on their own grounds, then Manuel should be focusing on the tone of his own posts.

Also, I am not obligated to respond to prooftexting. It is enough to point it out for what it is and leave it at that. When Manuel provides exegetical demonstrations for his submitted passages and why they contradict Calvinism, he'll then get a response.

Here in is the problem. You care to much what Calvin had to say, I am not talking to Calvin, I am talking to you,...

Here, Manuel completely dodges a previous challenge to one of his comments. If the reader will remember, Manuel stated that men were robots according to Calvin. I then challenged Manuel to direct us to where Calvin ever said such a thing. Instead of backing up his claim, Manuel chooses to employ a smoke and mirrors tactic of redirecting the reader's attention to me supposedly caring too much about what Calvin had to say. So let the reader be aware that Manuel cannot show where Calvin ever said what Manuel claims. Furthermore, I will now challenge Manuel to substantiate his assertion that I care too much about what Calvin had say. If Manuel's accusation has an ounce of merit, then it should be an easy matter for him to expose my reliance on the words of Calvin. However, I have a sneaking suspicion that Manuel will dodge this challenge as well. This is because a brief scan thru the entries on this blog would reveal that Manuel's accusation is completely baseless. Off the top of my head, I know of only one blog entry in which I even mentioned Calvin. Furthermore, I own only one of Calvin's works (and it isn't his Institutes.) These are odd facts indeed for someone who supposedly cares too much about what Calvin had to say!

...I neither care what Calvin, Arminus, Tertullian, the pope, Arius, or anyone else had to say in so called church history or otherwise unless it was the Lord Jesus Christ or the Apostles and brethren from scripture...I really don’t care what Arminius or Calvin had to say about anything, they have no hold or claim on scripture what so ever.

Well, if it's true that Manuel doesn't care about what anybody says other than what's written in God's word, then how can he possibly care about what I say? What's he doing here arguing against my beliefs if he does not in fact care about what I say or write? Further, no Calvinist or Arminian with whom I am familiar has ever made the claim that John Calvin or Jacob Arminius had some sort of "hold or claim on scripture" so I have no idea what Manuel is going on about.

Do you , or do you not believe you are made a believer beyond your will?

That depends on what Manuel means by "beyond your will". If he means that God forces men to believe against their sinful and fallen natures, then no. If he means that God changes the very nature of man by granting him spritual rebirth so that he can now choose according to his new nature, then yes.

Please be a little more forth coming with what you believe so that everyone can distinguish the two doctrines?

This is the first in a series of accusations that I'm trying to hide what I believe as a Calvinist. I'll address most of these accusations below but there are a few points I would like to make here and now:

1) I am not obligated to list and elaborate on the five points of Calvinism in each and every blog entry I write.

2) Just who is it that I'm supposedly hiding my doctrine from? For the non-Calvinist, it should be quite easy to deduce what my doctrine is from the very title of my blog. But, most of the folks who comment on this blog are, themselves, Calvinsts. Is Manuel suggesting that I'm hiding my doctrine from them?

3) If Manuel is asserting that I'm hiding my doctrine from himself, then I will again point out that Manuel's first post here was not an attempt to discern definitional standards. There were no questions asked in regards to what I believe. Rather, it was an all-out attack on my faith.

4) And just for the sake of putting this nonsense to rest, I will briefly lay out my cards for all to see. I am a five point Calvinist with Supralapsarian leanings. My Eschatological preference is Amillinialism with historic pre-mil sympathies. I reject Dispensationalism in favor of Covenant theology. And last (but certainly not least), I am a Trinitarian. Now, if anyone out there doesn't know what any of these positions are then I would be happy to direct them to the appropriate resources or I'll do my best to answer any honest and direct questions.

There is nothing stated in scripture anywhere of “compatibilistic free will.”

The fact that the word 'compatiblism' is not found in scripture is not evidence against it. If it were, then such evidence would prove too much. That is, the term 'libertarianism' is likewise not found in the bible. Thus, Manuel's argument, if true, would disprove his own position on man's will. Indeed, since 'oneness pentacostal' is not found in the bible, Manuel's entire belief system would likewise be falsified if this horribly flawed reasoning were accepted.

Not even one example, it is based on bad interpretation of scripture...

On the contrary, there are many examples of compatiblism within holy writ. For instance, Genesis 50:20 states that both God and Joseph's brothers sent Joseph into slavery. Then there is Ezra 1:1 where God causes Cyrus to issue the proclamation. And who can forget Acts 4:27,28 where God predestined the actions of all those who participated in Christ's crucifixion? Others could be cited but these should suffice. The reader should note that in each instance, both man and God willed the exact same thing but with differing purpose. Man does what he wants to do but simultaneously fulfills God's will. This is the essence of compatiblism. do believe in “inherited sin.”

Actually, I believe in the doctrine of 'original sin'. I make this distinction because there is no way to know what Manuel means when he uses the term "inherited sin" since he does not elaborate on it.

...all five points rest upon each other...

True. seem to be hiding what it is you believe.

Since I affirm the doctrine of original sin along with the fact that the five points of Calvinism flow logically from one point to the next, what can I possibly hiding?

You believe mankind is born dead from Adam onward and so some are chosen to salvation while others are doomed to hell not because of being drawn of God by the gospel being preached .

Yes, I believe that man is dead in sin. This belief is based on Paul's teachings in Romans 5 and Ephesians 2. It is also based on Jesus' own teaching about spiritual rebirth in John 3. Further, if men are in fact "doomed to hell", then they are doomed because of their love for sin.

It can be seen from Mr. Cleary’s response that he is trying very hard to hide what it is he actually believes...Is it,or is it not your belief God supernaturally turns “individuals” He has predestined to salvation?

Manuel makes this statement in response to my comments on Matthew 13. Yet, nowhere does Manuel demonstrate a contradiction between my comments and the text itself. Neither does he elaborate on how Calvinism in general contradicts the aforementioned text. Manuel is simply content to continue with his accusations that I'm hiding something. And as for the "God supernatually turns individuals" comment, it depends on what he means. If Manuel is asserting that God forces men against their will to come to Christ, then no, this is not what I believe. To elaborate on what I have stated previously, I believe God grants spiritual life to whom He will. This results in an acceptance of Christ as savior whereas before, there was no spiritual life in the individual making it impossible to accept the things of God.

Only because Mr. Cleary is hiding what it is he actually believes, he is trying to make it as simplistic as possible without revealing his true colors which will be exposed soon enough.

So Manuel is going to expose me, eh? And just what is it that he's going to reveal I wonder? Is he going to reveal the carefully guarded secret that I'm a Calvinist who has a blog that defends Calvinism!? Really folks, if ever there was a time for one of those "LOLS" that Manuel uses to mock the beliefs of others, this would be it.

Why not, if in fact you believe these things, come out and just tell us what they are?

Why didn't Manuel just ask in the first place? Why did he not inquire as to what my particuliar views as a Calvinist were before attacking them?

all you have to do is just tell us

And all Manuel had to do was ask.

The elect were once sinners (Ephesians 2:3), but God regenerates themIn response to the gospel being preached(1 Peter 1:18-25), which is for all people everywhere. It is not how the Calvinist at all explains.

Yes, it is true that the elect were once sinners and that God regenerates them when they hear the gospel being preached. Also, I would agree that the gospel is indeed for all people. But where I differ with Manuel is that the gospel serves a dual purpose. That is, it brings in God's elect while simultaneously confirms and hardens the reprobate.

Not much said here by Mr. Cleary because he is not being very forth coming with what he really believes.

This was because Manuel did not elaborate on why the phrase, "the gospel is for all mankind" contradicts my beliefs. As I pointed out above, I can agree with that statement as written. Thus, Manuel's continued charges of me hiding my doctrine continue to have no merit whatsoever.

Is it because God predestinates individuals to be saved?

Yes, God predestines individuals to salvation.

That is what he really believes.

Yep, ol' Manuel is right on top of things!

God to the Calvinist is a partial unloving God dooming some to hell and some to eternal life...

If, by this Manuel means that Calvinists reject the notion of 'omnibenevolence' as defined by such men as Ergun Caner, then this is true. A Calvinist cannot accept the idea that God loves all men equally and without exception when scripture explicitly states that God does indeed hate men. The Calvinist finds support from such scriptures as Psalm 5:5, 11:5, and Romans 9:13. In each of these, it is stated that God hates either particuliar individuals or sinners in general. is of men’s choices that doom them,...

As written, I can agree with this. Calvinism teaches that men choose to sin and that this is why they are damned.

salvation however is available to all men, it is not God’s will that any should perish(2nd. Peter 3:8)

Manuel is here proceeding on an assumed meaning of 2Peter 3:9 (not 3:8). And since there is no exegetical demonstration (again) of Manuel's assertions in regards to this verse, there is nothing for me to respond to.

Do you believe he is the Lord over all without exception?

Yes, I believe that Jesus is Lord over all. God does not need the consent of His creatures for the establishment of His authority. Calvinists believe in the sovereignty of God, and not the presidency of God.

Mr. Cleary also assumes there is such thing as the “compatible will” of Calvinism.

On the contrary, it has been Manuel that has done all the assuming in regards to man's will. That is, Manuel believes that his view of libertarianism is the only possible explanation of man's will. But this is patently false. Anyone who has familiarized themselves with the discussions on man's will knows that there are differing views on how a man comes to make a choice. Thus, if Manuel wishes to continue acting as if his is the only viable viewpoint, he will be engaging in gross intellectual dishonesty.

Now, he finally reveals his Calvinism , God does” will it,”...

This is how Manuel chooses to dodge the point I made about him not establishing his view of libertarianism. He just continues right along with his accusations that I'm hiding something.

That is exactly what I am pointing out, is God the Lord over all without exception?

Yes, God is Lord over all without exception. As I stated above, God's sovereignty is not hinged on man's consent.

There is no fact that all or any refers to the Calvinist idea that all kinds of men are individuals somehow dragged against their wills supernaturally when others are not, this is the real issue I feel Mr. Cleary is not being so forthcoming.

Here, Manuel lights up a straw-man that he's been setting up all throughout his post. He states that it is the Calvinist's idea that men are "dragged againsts their wills" to salvation. But, again, this is patently false. This is not a Calvinist idea at all. We do not believe nor teach it. See folks, this is what happens when someone is unable to deal honestly and accurately with what Calvinists actually believe. They set up straw-men and gross charicatures and proceed to attack them. When challenged with the facts, they resort to saying that we aren't being forthcoming with our beliefs. Needless to say, this tactic is most disingenious.

What Mr. Cleary means by:” the willing cannot be forced.” Is that God supernaturally makes you willing and others he does not. This is completely diametric to the teaching of the NT.

Is it really? Then where are Manuel's exegetical refutations to the verses that Calvinists use to support their doctrine? As I look thru Manuel's posts on my blog I cannot find a single exegetical refutation of a single verse used by Calvinists to support the doctrine of man's inability and deadness in sin.

Again, faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God. Where does this passage say what the Calvinist is saying? He is purposely avoiding these areas of his doctrine.

Yes, faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. Calvinists affirm this. Thus, a better question to ask is, how does this verse specifically contradict what Calvinists believe and teach? Or perhaps the question should be, where has any Calvinist ever stated that men are regenerated apart from the preaching of the gospel? If Manuel fails to address such questions, then it is he who is avoiding things.

...when does God remove the heart of stone and replace it with a heart of flesh?

At some point after the man first hears the gospel. The precise moment of regeneration is unknown.

The gospel is the supernatural power of God(Romans 1:16) to save through our own faith from the heart...

Romans 1:16 says nothing about man being saved through his own (libertarian) faith. It merely states that the gospel is "the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes...". The verse, as written, does not contradict anything in Reformed theology.

what I failed to do is break down all the intricacies and nuances of your doctrine that you are so trying to hide for the sake of being exposed for what you really believe...

In other words, Manuel is indeed failing to accurately represent the Calvinistic position on all the issues that have been brought up.

I do indeed believe the Calvinist preacher is a “false prophet” and has been led astray by a false tradition doctrine of the Reformed passed down through the years by philosophical ideas based on difficulties from the scriptures...

Yet another dodge. Manuel was asked if he specifically believes that Calvinists are not Christians. He stops just short of saying so in his response to the question. But it can be deduced from what he has stated thus far that Manuel does not believe that Calvinists are Christians. But to be sure, I will pose the question again; does Manuel believe that Calvinists are not Christians? Yes or no? If he dodges again, what then of his constant whining that I'm hiding what I believe?

It is the Calvinist that is not consistent, they will back up and say All means all when God is Lord over all but the scripture cannot mean all men but only the elect or all kinds of men, is God the Lord of only all kinds of men, Which would causes the scriptures to contradict itself?

Here, Manuel appears to be complaining that Calvinists will sometimes use the term "all" universally while sometimes they do not. This is quite true but not for the reason that Manuel would have folks believe. Calvinists do not take the meaning of one word and then assume that that same word means the exact same thing in every single instance it appears in scripture. Rather, we allow context to determine meaning. No more, no less. One fine example of this is how the Apostle John uses the term 'world' in his gospel. It is acknowledged by folks on both sides of the Calvinism debate that 'world' is used in several different ways by the Apostle. Thus, when Manuel complains about this, he is again complaining against cold hard facts.

Now, this ends my general response to Manuel. As I'm sure Manuel will point out, there are parts of his post that were not addressed. This was due in part to an upcoming exegetical response to what he has written here so far. The response will deal with several verses that Manuel refers to most often when he argues against Calvinism.