Thinking Out Loud

March 31, 2017

The G-Word

Two quick stories by way of introduction, then the application.

Story #1

There was a time, not so long ago, when Evangelicals would do something each spring called door-to-door visitation. In other words, teams of two people would pick a neighborhood and knock on doors inviting people to come to church. Or to consider the claims of Christ. Or to come to church in order to consider the claims of Christ. Or accept the claims of Christ and then come to church.

Honestly, I’m not sure which was which because I’m pretty sure back then you had to believe to belong, but now you can belong before you believe. But now I’m a thousand miles off course.

The thing I really wanted to say here is this: Going in twos door-to-door was pretty much co-opted by the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons. They took the form or the methodology and totally dominated. They killed the category.

Today, you can’t go door-to-door without being taken for JWs or Latter Day Saints.

Story #2

A church near where I live did something a few years ago did something I would consider quite wise. They’re part of a Canadian denomination that has both the word Missionary and Evangelical in their name. So emblazoned on their building in rather large letters was the name, Evangelical Missionary Church.

Bob, do we have a picture? No but we have a picture of the church bus.

Anyway, the leadership of a few years back decided the word Evangelical was losing its respect in the broader world. (Think televangelist.) If you follow Christian authors and pastors online, you know this discussion is taking place across Evangelicalism. (Try this article on for size.)

They also felt the word Missionary was somewhat archaic. It conjured up an image of Beulah Baker with her hair in a bun heading off for seven years in the Belgian Congo. Honestly, I agree with the need for change; I accept the Missionary position on this issue. 

So today, the sign reads, Grace Church. Short and simple.

Application

So where are we going with this today? We have a story of a form being co-opted. We have a story of the meaning of words shifting, at least in perception.

The word in question: Gospel.

The Gospel is the good news, the heralding that something of vital importance has taken place. As the great theologian Linus once said, “Behold I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people.”

But now it’s a code word. Think “Together for the Gospel.” Or “The Gospel Coalition.” Now you know to whom I refer. The Neo-Reformed. The New Calvinists. (Or as I will often use as alternatives: Militant Calvinists. Internet Calvinists.)

Preparing this, I was reminded of an article I wrote back in 2011, with a screenshot of a note about an upcoming conference and the writer’s joy over how great it was that “three real friends of the gospel” were speaking. This implies that:

  • The others are not real (or true) friends of the gospel
  • Anyone individual or group not part of the YRR (Young, Restless & Reformed) crowd are simply not friends of the gospel

Where does this end?

  • The others don’t like the gospel
  • The others don’t preach the true gospel
  • The others are heretics
  • The others hate the gospel

Yikes; that last one was hard to type, but are we really that far away from a schism of that nature? That’s where this rhetoric is taking us. Words matter. What we say counts. 

Or…the rest of us, who would have been happy continually using those words, have to find new ones.  To the reformers: That wasn’t your word to steal. But now you’ve ruined it for everyone…

…What’s that, Bob? You found the picture? Well, okay:

 

 

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January 2, 2015

#the15 and Calvinist Hate Speech for Children

First of all, I promise we’ll do our best to move away from #the15 as a topic tomorrow and look at something else. I also modified yesterday’s post mid-afternoon yesterday slightly so as to not characterize the whole thing as a Reformed-based or Reformed-centered. More blurry lines. But you don’t have to follow TULIP to have that spirit, but again, as I said, the issue here was LifeWay, not who specifically was calling them out. The nuances to this story are endless…

However, from the beginning, I kept thinking I’d seen the name J.D. Hall somewhere*, and then I found this on my own blog, from Summer, 2013. The books in question indoctrinate children to fear Arminians (i.e. in this case, people who believe a different ‘religion’) so I wonder if a good lawyer here could prove that under Canadian law, they constitute hate speech, and it could actually be illegal to bring them across the border. I’m not about to find out.

Tag this “grieving the Holy Spirit…”


Help Arminians Are Giving Me Nightmares Again - Sample

Help Arminians Are Giving Me Nightmares AgainI hate it when I hear of children waking up with Arminian nightmares. Yes, seriously. Do I look like the kind of person who would make this up? From the description at Amazon:

Book Description
Publication Date: April 15, 2013

Come along on a journey with Mitchell, as he recalls his nightmare for his mother. Mitchell was in a land of darkness and gloom, when due to no cooperation of his own, a Knight in shining armor saved him and all the other captives He intended to save. “Help! Arminians are Giving Me Nightmares Again!” is a children’s allegory designed to teach your kids the Doctrines of Grace through the use of creative story-telling.

About the Author:

Hall is the pastor of Fellowship Church in Eastern Montana, where he lives with his wife, Mandy, and three children. JD is a co-founder of Reformation Montana, a network and mission society consisting of Reformed Baptist churches in Montana and the surrounding region. He is a columnist for the Intermountain Christian News, and operates the Pulpit and Pen website. JD received his B.A. in Christian Education from Williams Baptist College and M.A. in History from Arkansas State University.

Help Mom There Are Arminians Under My BedOh no! It’s part of a series of books…

We heard about this at the blog Spiritual Sounding Board which did an analysis of the doctrinal war going on in the comments section — and remember this is for a children’s book — at Amazon.

…We’ve talked about the idolatry of doctrine before. I believe the idolatry of doctrine can create an environment in which abuse is allowed to continue in churches. The obsessive focus on doctrine can become a distraction to the message of Christ and what it really means to live out the life Christ intended: loving God and loving others.

I have a problem with training children (sic) this stuff at such a young age. What is the purpose? To raise up little like-minded warriors to defend your brand of Christianity?…

…LDS carry their Bibles, too, along with the Book of Mormon when they go to their wards to worship. I have seen some combo versions that include the Pearl of Great Price and The Doctrines and Covenants. These are all part and parcel of LDS.

The way I’m seeing it, there are some Christians who behave the same way as Mormons. They have their Bible along with the Institutes of Calvin. I wonder if there is a combo Calvin Institutes/Bible in publication yet?…

Staging this doctrinal battle in the pages of a children’s book is indoctrinating kids at the earliest against anyone who is part of the Arminian tradition. It’s almost what we in Canada would call hate speech (which is illegal here) against groups such as the Wesleyan, Free Methodist, Anabaptist, Salvation Army, Church of the Nazarene, Christian and Missionary Alliance, Four Square, Pentecostals, Assemblies of God, Free Will Baptist, Charismatic, and many, many others.

Sadly, while the blog post at Spiritual Sounding Board — who is now over 450 comments since Saturday — gets a little worked up on this, we have to agree with her. The Reformed movement just sunk to a new low. This is unconscionable. This type of book is simply not of God.

The fracturing of the body of Christ continues…stay tuned.


* [Update] It turns out that was the only place I knew the name from. (Remember, I track about a hundred stories weekly.)  It gets worse: read more about him at this story.  This guy is a menace.


 

Related post: Drawing the Body Together, Tearing the Body Apart

November 18, 2013

Were Strange Fire Participants Caricatured?

First of all, I want to start a rumor that John MacArthur’s Strange Fire Conference was actually a misspelling of its original name, Strang Fire Conference, named after Stephen Strang, the publisher of Charisma Magazine. I think with all that’s gone on before, during and after the conference, this story has as much plausibility as anything else.

Second, a question: Am I the only one who found the presence of Joni Eareckson Tada at the even somewhat unsettling?  I mean, I’m sure that over a lifetime she’s been besieged with people wanting her to “claim her healing.” Who wouldn’t want to see someone of her profile get up out of that wheelchair and walk? But Joni is more than a movie and a paperback biography. Her writings on various topics have earned her the right to be heard as a serious theological author, and if she falls on the cessationist side of the dispensational equation, so be it. I still find her inclusion in the conference…unsettling.

But mostly today, I want to direct you to an article at Desiring God (well, there’s a first for this blog!) dealing with what John Piper may have been quoted as saying, or characterized as saying, and what he really believes about spiritual gifts. Here’s a sample:

John PiperAt the conference, Piper was characterized as open to the gifts but not advocating for them or encouraging others to pursue the gifts themselves. This is a misunderstanding, says Piper. “I advocate obedience to 1 Corinthians 12:31, ‘earnestly desire the higher gifts.’ And I advocate obedience to 1 Corinthians 14:1, ‘earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you might prophesy.’ And I advocate obedience to 1 Corinthians 14:39, ‘earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues.’ I want Christians today to obey those texts.”

And Piper seeks to obey those texts himself. “I pray for the gift of prophecy almost as often as I pray for anything, before I stand up to speak.” This prayer for prophecy is a desire to preach under an anointing, in order to “say things agreeable to the Scriptures, and subject to the Scripture, that are not in my manuscript or in my head as I walk into the pulpit, nor thought of ahead of time, which would come to my mind, which would pierce in an extraordinary way, so that 1 Corinthians 14:24–25 happens.”

For years John Piper’s words dominated the Christian blogosphere. I never quite got that. I think he’s still worshiped as some kind of God by various hyper-Calvinists and militant Reformers. But let’s set all that aside today, and consider the possibility that the man offers a great deal of balance on this issue.

Continue reading Piper Addresses Strange Fire and Charismatic Chaos at Desiring God.

June 11, 2013

Calvinist Doctrinal Diatribe Continues Online

In the first place, Calvinistic Christianity is nothing more and nothing less than biblical Christianity. It follows, then, that the future of Christianity itself is bound up in the fortunes of Calvinism…

from the website Founders.org

This week I got an email which contained the following:

Over the years, I have noticed on your blog that you have obviously had some less-than-edifying contact with Reformed brothers and sisters (and I should add, publishers).

In replying, I suggested a friendly amendment, namely that my in-person interactions with Reformed people — particularly those from my local CRC church — are actually most pleasant; it’s the online persona of more militant Calvinists such as the author of the quote which leads today’s article that I find somewhat objectionable.

Here’s the full quote from Founders.org with emphasis added:

In the first place, Calvinistic Christianity is nothing more and nothing less than biblical Christianity. It follows, then, that the future of Christianity itself is bound up in the fortunes of Calvinism….

…For whoever believes in God’s redemption through Christ and recognizes his own utter dependence on God, whoever recognizes that salvation is of the Lord, whoever seeks to glorify God in his worship and life, that person is already implicitly a Calvinist, no matter what he calls himself. In such circumstances, to make the person an explicit Calvinist, all we are required to do (humanly speaking) is to show the believer the natural implications of these already-held fundamental principles, which underlie all true Christianity, and trust God to do his work, that is, trust God to reveal these implications to the person.

Chris Hubbs writes:

Did you get that? Calvinism is “nothing more and nothing less than biblical Christianity”. And if anyone recognizes salvation from the Lord, and seeks to glorify God, then that person is implicitly a Calvinist! And all the Calvinists need to do is explain it in a way that the unknowing Calvinist might understand.

Just think, reader; you might be a Calvinist right now and not know it.

A year ago it was the same people wishing that Calvinism could be the default doctrine of the Southern Baptist Convention, North America’s largest Protestant denomination. Yes, that could be a Calvinist coup!

And just last week on this page it was our discovery of Calvinist kids being indoctrinated against Arminians in the form of children’s story books.

No wonder I despair.

Ironically, the post scheduled for today was a link to an article by Russell D. Moore — an obvious graduate of the Bible’s school of peacemaking — who talks about the commonality both Arminans and Calvinists have on the subject of religious liberty.

On the one hand:

Sometimes people caricature Arminians, and those who share some convictions with them. The Arminian tradition doesn’t believe that the human will is naturally free in this fallen era. They believe that God graciously empowers human beings with the freedom to choose. In fact, much of what some Christians call “Arminianism” is instead the sort of manipulative, emotional revivalism they’ve seen or heard about somewhere. Arminians are, above all people, opposed to manipulation.

They believe, after all, that the human will must make a free decision to follow Jesus or to walk away. That means a clear presentation of what the gospel entails, with all the “cost-counting” that Jesus tells us about. This must be a personal, free decision, and can’t be outsourced to or vetoed by some emperor or bishop or bureaucrat.

And on the other hand,

Well, like the Arminians, Calvinists are easy to caricature. Some assume they believe the will is like a computer program operated by God, or that the gospel isn’t freely offered to all people. Evangelical Calvinists believe in the free offer of the gospel to all people, just as they believe in the universal command of the law of God. They believe that, left to ourselves, we will all run away from the law and we will all run away from the gospel. We see the light of Christ, and we hide because, in our sin, we don’t want to meet our God.

The Calvinist doctrine of effectual calling means that the Spirit works through preaching to overturn the power of the devil, to liberate our wills so that we can see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. God doesn’t overpower our wills; he frees us from occupation by the deceiving demonic powers.

Toward the end, Dr. Moore concludes:

We will seek to search the Scriptures on everything God has told us. But we’re not that far apart. And even when we disagree, we can listen to the important emphases that each tradition brings, emphases that are grounded in God’s word and God’s gospel.

(here’s another link to Moore’s article, Why Calvinists and Arminians (and Those in Between) Can Unite for Religious Liberty)

…As someone who got to experience the tail end of the “Jesus People” era, I dream of a day when the labels won’t matter. Perhaps that day won’t happen in the present era. Still, I see a new generation moving toward a climate where the signs on the church door are a little less significant.

But I worry about the fragmentation that seems to be brewing in one particular segment of the larger Body. I worry about both how it looks and what it’s doing to us.

That’s what makes people like Russell D. Moore so vitally important. He gets both sides and also, I truly believe, dreams of a day when the sides don’t exist.

June 4, 2013

And Now, Calvinist Propaganda For Children

Help Arminians Are Giving Me Nightmares Again - Sample

Help Arminians Are Giving Me Nightmares AgainI hate it when I hear of children waking up with Arminian nightmares. Yes, seriously. Do I look like the kind of person who would make this up?  From the description at Amazon:

Book Description
Publication Date: April 15, 2013

Come along on a journey with Mitchell, as he recalls his nightmare for his mother. Mitchell was in a land of darkness and gloom, when due to no cooperation of his own, a Knight in shining armor saved him and all the other captives He intended to save. “Help! Arminians are Giving Me Nightmares Again!” is a children’s allegory designed to teach your kids the Doctrines of Grace through the use of creative story-telling.

About the Author:

Hall is the pastor of Fellowship Church in Eastern Montana, where he lives with his wife, Mandy, and three children. JD is a co-founder of Reformation Montana, a network and mission society consisting of Reformed Baptist churches in Montana and the surrounding region. He is a columnist for the Intermountain Christian News, and operates the Pulpit and Pen website. JD received his B.A. in Christian Education from Williams Baptist College and M.A. in History from Arkansas State University.

Help Mom There Are Arminians Under My BedOh no! It’s part of a series of books…

We heard about this at the blog Spiritual Sounding Board which did an analysis of the doctrinal war going on in the comments section — and remember this is for a children’s book — at Amazon.

…We’ve talked about the idolatry of doctrine before.  I believe the idolatry of doctrine can create an environment in which abuse is allowed to continue in churches.  The obsessive focus on doctrine can become a distraction to the message of Christ and what it really means to live out the life Christ intended:  loving God and loving others.

I have a problem with training children (sic) this stuff at such a young age.  What is the purpose?  To raise up little like-minded warriors to defend your brand of Christianity?…

…LDS carry their Bibles, too, along with the Book of Mormon when they go to their wards to worship.  I have seen some combo versions that include the Pearl of Great Price and The Doctrines and Covenants.   These are all part and parcel of LDS.

The way I’m seeing it, there are some Christians who behave the same way as Mormons.  They have their Bible along with the Institutes of Calvin.  I wonder if there is a combo Calvin Institutes/Bible in publication yet?…

Staging this doctrinal battle in the pages of a children’s book is indoctrinating kids at the earliest against anyone who is part of the Arminian tradition. It’s almost what we in Canada would call hate speech (which is illegal here) against groups such as the Wesleyan, Free Methodist, Anabaptist, Salvation Army, Church of the Nazarene, Christian and Missionary Alliance, Four Square, Pentecostals, Assemblies of God, Free Will Baptist, Charismatic, and many, many others.

Sadly, while the blog post at Spiritual Sounding Board — who is now over 450 comments since Saturday — gets a little worked up on this, we have to agree with her. The Reformed movement just sunk to a new low. This is unconscionable. This type of book is simply not of God.

The fracturing of the body of Christ continues…stay tuned.


Related post: Drawing the Body Together, Tearing the Body Apart

July 21, 2012

The Comment I Didn’t Leave

Filed under: theology — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:13 am

So there I was yesterday surfing the blogosphere, when I came across the writings of John Plougman, a blogger who makes no attempt to hide his Calvinist leanings.  He makes this shot across the bow in a post titled: John Calvin and Augustine of Hippo

Anthony Lane’s chapter “Calvin’s Way of Doing Theology” in Calvin: Theologian and Reformer, edited by Joel Beeke and Garry Williams, begins with this paragraph:

John Calvin is best known for his Institutes of the Christian Religion. This work went through five major editions, and Calvin continually revised it for most of his literary and pastoral life. Like Augustine, he was one of those who write as they learn and learn as they write.

That may be true, that Calvin wrote as he learned, but there is an obvious difference between Augustine and Calvin in this.  For Calvin, the fundamental substance of his theology never changed. A look at all five editions of the Institutes will reveal a development (and sometimes substantial), but never a fundamental change.  Unlike Augustine, he never had to write a book of retractions.

It was all I could do not to post this comment:

This is so sad. But there are stories abounding how Charles Darwin recanted his theories on his deathbed, and one can only speculate that perhaps Calvin did the same.

My wife counseled me to leave well enough alone. So I did. Sort of.

Doctrinally confused?  Maybe this will help.

November 22, 2011

A New Code/Buzzword from a New Calvinist

Of course, he could be an old Calvinist as well, but I’m allowed my own code and here, “New Calvinist” might be translated “militant Calvinist.” 

I’m referring to Adrian Warnock, who in a blog post based on a piece at Church Relevance, notes that the top three churches in a particular list are “real friends of the gospel.”   Yes, he actually said that.  They are real friends of the gospel which means:

  • The others are not real (or true) friends of the gospel
  • Anyone individual or group not part of the YRR (Young, Restless & Reformed) crowd are simply not friends of the gospel

Where does this end?

  • The others don’t like the gospel
  • The others don’t preach the true gospel
  • The others are heretics
  • The others hate the gospel

Yikes; that last one was hard to type, but are we really that far away from a schism of that nature? That’s where this rhetoric is taking us. Words matter. What we say counts.

Shame!

Three real friends of the gospel.  Seven that are not real friends of the gospel.  Is there any way to put some positive spin on this horrible description? I’d be open to hear it.

Footnote: The blog in question limits comments to Twitter and Facebook; and I am not, for good reason, part of either.  So Warnock was contacted directly for a response at 11:02 PM on Sunday night, and at this writing, had not replied.  It should be added that for all I know, this sort of language is employed more frequently by other New Calvinists; I don’t spend a lot of time reading their material.

August 8, 2009

Everything But the Kitchen Link

  • Do you have a people-group in your area who speak a different language?   If your church has ever considered reaching out to another ethnic group, you probably thought in terms of having a special event or series of services for “them.”   But what if there was another way?   What about the idea of your church becoming completely bilingual.     Tim Archer shares more about that idea at the Kitchen of Half-Baked Thoughts.   (Be sure to read earlier posts, too.)
  • Here’s something — posted by Lisa Thompson at the blog Free Me Now — a few women will say “Amen” to; a Code of Conduct for Men in the 21st Century.
  • If you know anyone whose lost a young child, or had a stillbirth, or had an abortion DON’T let them read this post.    Tim Challies is considered one of the top North American Christian bloggers, but he shows a complete lack of compassion advancing a doctrinal agenda that, even if it is well founded, gets lost in the process.   This represents a low point for both his blog and his brand of militant Calvinism.
  • Cliff Holmes at The Gospel Blog poses the musical question, “Is Christian Television Boring?”  Uh, yes it is Cliff, are you just noticing?   Actually, there’s one point here I really like:  “There are hundreds of Christian conferences every year. In those conferences there are thousands of panel discussions and breakout sessions. Why not record these sessions and air them on a network a couple of weeks after the conference is over. Wait, let me guess…if you air the sessions, then people won’t pay to attend the conference. You don’t have to air every session. Plus, you could do a 1hr show that recaps the entire conference.”   Read the rest here.
  • Because a certain amount of inbreeding can be unavoidable in the Amish community, people in that community can be subject to “Founder’s Syndrome;” which has no consistent symtoms, but is the term given to describe a variety of ailments with roots in genetics.   The writers at Exegeek use this concept as a metaphor for some of the problems turning up in the Amish Christian fiction book market, which, in case you missed it, is experiencing a glut of titles right now.   Read the short analysis here.   This is a fun blog you might want to bookmark.

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