Les Lanphere

I found Les Lanphere’s blog through Twitter (@llanphere).

He has been doing a series showing God’s sovereignty in everything and especially in salvation in each non-Pauline epistle of the New Testament in order to show that this doctrine is not something that only Paul writes about. Interesting stuff.

I would also recommend three posts of his for those of you struggling with the sovereignty of God in salvation.

1. Why is Reformed Theology so Hard to Accept? where he explores these questions a bit:

So why? Why did I get so upset? Why is the idea of a God who chooses certain people over others so offensive, when the Bible we read every day is crammed full of situation where God does just that? How did I go 6 years, knowing this God, yet never truly understanding how the Bible clearly says He interacts with man?

2. The Basics: Does God Choose to Save Certain People? where he looks at this issue:

One thing any Bible believing Christian must agree on is that some people go to Hell when they die. God’s just wrath against some sinners is not forgiven, and they take the wrath themselves. If Jesus died so that people could be saved, and God is powerful enough to do whatever He wants, why doesn’t He make everyone go to Heaven? Do people go to Hell because they just didn’t make the right decision?

and 3. Ten Things I Didn’t Understand Before I was Reformed in which he looks at:

Not only has reformed theology opened my eyes to new things, but it’s cleared up so many thing that I believed, but I never really understood.

cooperation

Timmy Brister posted an extended discourse yesterday on cooperation between Calvinists and Arminians that is well worth your time.

This morning, Timmy’s senior pastor, Tom Ascol, followed up with a quote from Charles Simeon that is too good not to repeat. Charles Simeon is talking about himself as a young calvinist minister meeting the elderly arminian, John Wesley.

A young Minister, about three or four years after he was ordained, had an opportunity of conversing familiarly with the great and venerable leader of the Arminians in this kingdom; and, wishing to improve the occasion to the uttermost, he addressed him nearly in the following words: “Sir, I understand that you are called an Arminian; and I have been sometimes called a Calvinist; and therefore I suppose we are to draw daggers. But before I consent to begin the combat, with your permission I will ask you a few questions, not from impertinent curiosity, but for real instruction.” Permission being very readily and kindly granted, the young Minister proceeded to ask, “Pray, Sir, do you feel yourself a depraved creature, so depraved, that you would never have thought of turning unto God, if God had not first put [it] into your heart?”–“Yes,” says the veteran, “I do indeed.”–“And do you utterly despair of recommending yourself to God by any thing that you can do; and look for salvation solely through the blood and righteousness of Christ?”–“Yes, solely through Christ.”–“But, Sir, supposing you were first saved by Christ, are you not somehow or other to save yourself afterwards by your own works?”–“No; I must be saved by Christ from first to last.”–“Allowing then that you were first turned by the grace of God, are you not in some way or other to keep yourself by your own power?”–“No.”–“What then, are you to be upheld every hour and every moment by God, as much as an infant in its mother’s arms?”–“Yes; altogether.”–“And is all your hope in the grace and mercy of God to preserve you unto his heavenly kingdom?”–“Yes; I have no hope, but in him.”–“Then, Sir, with your leave, I will put up my dagger again; for this is all my Calvinism; this is my election, my justification by faith, my final perseverance: it is, in substance, all that I hold, and as I hold it: and therefore, if you please, instead of searching out terms and phrases to be a ground of contention between us, we will cordially unite in those things wherein we agree.”
The Arminian leader was so pleased with the conversation, that he made particular mention of it in his journals; notwithstanding there never afterwards was any connexion between the parties, he retained an unfeigned regard for his young inquirer to the hour of his death.
(Charles Simeon, Expository Outlines on the Whole Bible, Vol. 1: Genesis-Leviticus Preface, pp. xvii-xviii)

accountability for rejecting Christ

here is John Piper’s illustration of the difference between moral inability and legal inability and why a person can be held accountable for rejecting Christ even though they can’t choose Christ on their own accord.

Give it a listen and see what you think of the argument.

HT to Reformation Theology

Time Magazine noticed us

everybody is buzzing about number 3 on Time Magazine’s Top Ten Ideas Changing the World Right Now.

here, let them explain:

Calvinism is back, and not just musically. John Calvin’s 16th century reply to medieval Catholicism’s buy-your-way-out-of-purgatory excesses is Evangelicalism’s latest success story, complete with an utterly sovereign and micromanaging deity, sinful and puny humanity, and the combination’s logical consequence, predestination: the belief that before time’s dawn, God decided whom he would save (or not), unaffected by any subsequent human action or decision.
….
No more. Neo-Calvinist ministers and authors don’t operate quite on a Rick Warren scale. But, notes Ted Olsen, a managing editor at Christianity Today, “everyone knows where the energy and the passion are in the Evangelical world” — with the pioneering new-Calvinist John Piper of Minneapolis, Seattle’s pugnacious Mark Driscoll and Albert Mohler, head of the Southern Seminary of the huge Southern Baptist Convention. The Calvinist-flavored ESV Study Bible sold out its first printing, and Reformed blogs like Between Two Worlds are among cyber-Christendom’s hottest links.

fascinating. nice to be noticed, but with a raised profile comes increased responsibility. Jesus’ admonition to His disciples in Matthew 10:16 applies to us as well: “16 “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”

The world is watching. Again, Time Magazine:

Calvin’s 500th birthday will be this July. It will be interesting to see whether Calvin’s latest legacy will be classic Protestant backbiting or whether, during these hard times, more Christians searching for security will submit their wills to the austerely demanding God of their country’s infancy.

more fighting

I think that the leadership of the SBC is really misunderstanding the moment we are in historically, culturally, theologically.

Here is the Baptist Press article about Mark Driscoll.

Here is a response from Southeastern Seminary that just had a conference with Mark Driscoll as one of the speakers.

Here are some thoughts from Todd Burus, a young Southern Baptist.

And here is what Timmy Brister has to say.

I just want to echo Timmy’s closing remarks on this episode:

In any [] case, the fact that articles like this can be written about a brother in Christ that is so inaccurate and uncharitable in the Baptist Press does not raise the issue of Mark Driscoll but Christian virtue. I’m tired of being embarrassed as a Southern Baptist, and I would much rather partner with those who resembles Jesus than the Sanhedrin. As for Dr. Akin, he deserves our prayers and deepest respect. He, like others (e.g., John Piper, C.J. Mahaney, Tim Keller, etc.), has chosen to see what God is doing in the life of Mark Driscoll and encourage him. Undoubtedly, Akin has and will continue to (as a result of this BP article) receive grief and criticism as a result. As for Mark Driscoll, I would put him up to any Southern Baptist preacher today who preaches Christ and Him crucified (and how many SBC churches can you find Jesus preached on any given Sunday?). Baptist Press’ efforts would serve the cause of Southern Baptist life much more in the future should they highlight such preachers who are planting gospel-centered churches and reaching this younger generation whom we have all but written off. Southern Baptists can learn from Mark Driscoll, but that can only begin when we lay down the knives.

a brilliant example of contrast

on August 1, 2007, an interstate highway bridge collapsed in minneapolis, minnesota. This collapse and the internet combined to allow all of us to see an almost real time contrast between arminian and calvinist views of God’s sovereignty in the midst of a tragedy.

Many of you know that John Piper’s church is in Minneapolis. Here is what Pastor Piper wrote shortly after the horrible tragedy.

here is a snippet:

Tonight for our family devotions our appointed reading was Luke 13:1-9. It was not my choice. This is surely no coincidence. O that all of the Twin Cities, in shock at this major calamity, would hear what Jesus has to say about it from Luke 13:1-5. People came to Jesus with heart-wrenching news about the slaughter of worshipers by Pilate. Here is what he said.

There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

Jesus implies that those who brought him this news thought he would say that those who died, deserved to die, and that those who didn’t die did not deserve to die. That is not what he said. He said, everyone deserves to die. And if you and I don’t repent, we too will perish. This is a stunning response. It only makes sense from a view of reality that is radically oriented on God.

All of us have sinned against God, not just against man. This is an outrage ten thousand times worse than the collapse of the 35W bridge. That any human is breathing at this minute on this planet is sheer mercy from God. God makes the sun rise and the rain fall on those who do not treasure him above all else. He causes the heart to beat and the lungs to work for millions of people who deserve his wrath. This is a view of reality that desperately needs to be taught in our churches, so that we are prepared for the calamities of the world.

The meaning of the collapse of this bridge is that John Piper is a sinner and should repent or forfeit his life forever. That means I should turn from the silly preoccupations of my life and focus my mind’s attention and my heart’s affection on God and embrace Jesus Christ as my only hope for the forgiveness of my sins and for the hope of eternal life. That is God’s message in the collapse of this bridge. That is his most merciful message: there is still time to turn from sin and unbelief and destruction for those of us who live. If we could see the eternal calamity from which he is offering escape we would hear this as the most precious message in the world.

another former citizen of minneapolis, minnesota is Dr. Roger Olson now of Waco and the Truett Seminary at Baylor. Here is what Dr. Olson had to say about the tragedy.

here is a snippet:

What a strange calamity. A modern, seemingly well-engineered bridge in a major metropolitan area collapsed in a moment without any forewarning of danger.

Something similar could happen to any of us anytime. Similar things do happen to us or people just like us — innocent bystanders passing through life are suddenly blindsided by some weird tragedy.

So where is God when seemingly pointless calamity strikes? Some religious folks say, “It was God’s will.” Let’s just focus on Christians here.

A well-known Christian author and speaker pastors a church within a mile of the collapsed bridge. To him and his followers, God foreordained, planned and indirectly (if not directly) caused the event.

A popular Christian band sings “There is a reason” for everything. They mean God renders everything certain and has a good purpose for whatever happens. The pastor and the band are Christian determinists. Both happen to adhere to a form of Protestant theology called Calvinism.

This theology is sweeping up thousands of impressionable young Christians. It provides a seemingly simple answer to the problem of evil. Even what we call evil is planned and rendered certain by God because it is necessary for a greater good.

But wait. What about God’s character? Is God, then, the author of evil? Most Calvinists don’t want to say it. But logic seems to demand it. If God plans something and renders it certain, how is he not culpable for it? Here is where things get murky.
…..
Many conservative Christians wince at the idea that God is limited. But what if God limits himself so that much of what happens in the world is due to human finitude and fallenness? What if God is in charge but not in control? What if God wishes that things could be otherwise and someday will make all things perfect?

That seems more like the God of the Bible than the all-determining deity of Calvinism.

In this world, because of our ignorance and sinfulness, really bad things sometimes happen and people do really evil and wicked things. Not because God secretly plans and prods them, but because God has said to fallen, sinful people, “OK, not my will then, but thine be done — for now.”

And God says, “Pray because sometimes I can intervene to stop innocent suffering when people pray; that’s one of my self-limitations. I don’t want to do it all myself; I want your involvement and partnership in making this a better world.”

It’s a different picture of God than most conservative Christians grew up with, but it’s the only one (so far as I can tell) that relieves God of responsibility for sin and evil and disaster and calamity.

Now. Which view of God is more comforting? The God who works everything for his glory and for our good? or the God who would say “OK, not my will then, but thine be done — for now.”?

Notice which one of the two distinguished scholars above based their view on scripture and which one based their view on logic.

Go read both articles in their entirety. Think about them. Maybe take a look at Tom Ascol’s take on the contrast. very fascinating stuff.

here is how Tom concludes his post:

Olsen writes that the “God of Calvinism scares” him because he is “not sure how to distinguish him from the devil….In light of all the evil and innocent suffering in the world, he must have limited himself.”

Such rationalism should submit to the revelation of God in Christ. No, Dr. Olsen, Calvinism does not offer a “seemingly simple answer to the problem of evil.” Rather, it bows in humility to what God has revealed. And it gazes with faith and hope at the zenith of that revelation in the crucified Savior. When understanding fails and questions remain, we look at the Jesus of the scars and remember that our God–the only God there is–was wounded for us, and we let His wounds speak to ours.

amen.

UPDATE: Larry Thompson (clicking this link takes you to his comment page where you then have to click “show original post” to read the text.) is worth reading on this incident as well. He points out the absence of scripture in Dr. Olson’s assertions and deftly uses scripture to refute those assertions. an example:

Olson also says “What if God is in charge but not in control?” He means God could control things but chooses not to. That, my friend, is not Christianity, but Deism, the idea that God made us then sat back to see what happens. Besides, again, the Bible tells us God is in control. Daniel 4:17 says the Lord rules the kingdoms of men. Daniel 4:35 says he does according to his will. He works all things according to the counsel of his will according to Ephesians 1:11. He says not one sparrow falls to the ground apart from him (Matthew 10:29).

UPDATE II: Reformed Baptist is also very much worth reading on this topic.

Olson: The God of Calvinism scares me; I’m not sure how to distinguish him from the devil. If you’ve come under the influence of Calvinism, think about its ramifications for the character of God. God is great but also good. In light of all the evil and innocent suffering in the world, he must have limited himself.

I do not doubt that the “God of Calvinism” scares Olson, but I would assert that it is really the God of the Bible that scares Him, a God who cannot be so easily put in the “limited” box in which Olson wishes to place Him. And if Olson can’t seem to distinguish Him from the devil, it is an indictment on Olson rather than on God (or on Calvinists who are simply repeating what God has said about Himself). Many believers throughout the history of God’s dealings with mankind have had no problem at all making such a distinction, believers such as Job and Joseph… and the Calvinists who believe their word over that of men such as Olson.

To all those who would say that God has to be limited in some way because that is the only way we can fully understand what he is doing — which seems to be Olson’s point of view — I would remind you that it is idolatry to reshape God into our image, into someone who can fit into our understanding, rather than to humbly accept Him for who He says that He is.

pulpit magazine is back

Pulpit magazine took a hiatus back in November, but has returned with a bang. One of the highlights of the return has been a series on Calvinism by Phil Johnson.

so far there have been five parts, but none of them have been very long. take some time this weekend to peruse them in their entirety.

here are the pages:

part 1
part 2
part 3
part 4
part 5

and here is a bit from part 5 for a tease, but you should go read all five parts in their entirety.

At the end of the previous post, I described how even in my Arminian days, I affirmed an awful lot of truth about the sovereignty of God: I would have affirmed with no reservation whatsoever that God is God; that He does all His good pleasure; that no one can make Him do otherwise; that He is in control and in charge no matter how much noise evildoers try to make; and not only is He in charge, He is working all things out for my good and His glory. As a matter of fact, my confidence in the promise of Romans 8:28 was what motivated my prayer life.

That’s Calvinism. If you believe those things, you have affirmed the heart of Calvinism, even if you call yourself an Arminian. Those are the basic truths of Calvinism, and if you already believe those things, you are functioning with Calvinist presuppositions.

In fact, the truths of Calvinism so much permeate the heart of the gospel message, that even if you think you are a committed and consistent proponent of Arminianism, if you truly affirm the gospel you have already conceded the principle points of Calvinism anyway.