A Crying Need for Reformed Churches in Dubai?

“We see a crying need in this part of the world for strong churches centered on the Bible,” John said. “There are precious few churches devoted to expository ministry, serious about Reformed theology, and preaching the gospel.”

It wasn’t long before UCCD started training leaders. The church invites four to five pastors a year to come for nine months, learn Wayne Grudem’s systematic theology, undergo an ecclesiology “boot camp,” attend elders’ meetings, and become part of the church.

The Gospel Coalitionhttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dubai#/media/File:United_Christian_Church_of_Dubai.jpg

United Christian Church of Dubai (UCCD)

We read with interest an article that is currently trending over at The Gospel Coalition website. It’s entitled How Reformed Churches Are Growing on the Arabian Peninsula, and it gives a glowing account of how these Calvinista churches are thriving a half a world away (from the U.S.). This piece focuses on the United Christian Church of Dubai (UCCD) and its senior pastor John Folmar, who is a devoted disciple of Mark Dever. Apparently, the prominence of the article indicates that UCCD is to be emulated.

It’s a small world after all… Around five years ago we received an email out of the blue from a member of the United Christian Church of Dubai. This individual had been asked to head up the book ministry (think bookstore) because he was well-read and no doubt qualified to take on this responsibility. One objection he had was that he could not in good conscience promote any of C.J. Mahaney’s books. This did not go over well with the church elders.

As a former member of a Sovereign Grace church, this UCCD member had been keeping up with news regarding Mahaney from afar. As the situation played out, UCCD leaders decided the congregant wasn’t a good fit for this book ministry. Soon after, he and his wife submitted their resignation letter. When the couple failed to unite with another like-minded church, they were put on UCCD’s ‘care list’. And to top it off, it took the United Christian Church of Dubai nine months to remove their names from the church roll.

If you’ve been reading here for any length of time, you might suspect that the former UCCD member is Todd Wilhelm, who used to live in Dubai. And you would be right! Dee and I had the privilege of meeting Todd several years ago when he returned to the United States for a visit. We are so pleased that he is now stateside.

This article that The Gospel Coalition (TGC) has featured about UCCD reminds us of some Facebook users who only post flattering status updates. Over five years ago Todd wrote us about what was going on at his church, and we featured his story on our blog with his approval. Because TGC is holding up UCCD as a church to be emulated, we believe this would be a good time to revisit the correspondence between Todd and UCCD leaders (at the time we took out all identifiers when we published it). No doubt you can now fill in the blanks!

Here is an excerpt from a post we published back in 2013 that describes what happened to a heroic protestor at a 9Marks church overseas. (We kept the identities of these individuals and their church a secret, but some figured it out anyway.)


Excerpt from 2013 TWW Post

Speaking of Mahaney’s books, they were the straw that broke the camel’s back for a member of a 9Marks friendly church located outside the United States.  As we discovered from some overseas correspondence, the church has a strong affinity for C.J. Mahaney.  The country where the church is located has an international flavor and a large population of Americans.  Here is the e-mail we received (detailed information identifying the church and the pastors has been omitted):

You may remember me from a brief exchange we have had in the past. I am a member of __________. The senior pastor is _________, a disciple of Mark Dever and a former colleague at Capitol Hill Baptist Church.  I am a Care Group Leader at our church.  My church loves all things put out by 9 Marks, T4G, TGC, etc. When all this stuff on SGM started breaking, I started advising my pastors via email of what was going down.  I should add that I attended a Sovereign Grace church in the United States before moving overseas. I had a run in with ___________, an assistant pastor there who headed up CLG’s. I now refer to him as the Care Group Nazi, but that is another long story. Suffice it to say I was told (screamed at) that I should find another church to attend because I was not attending Care Group regularly. My care group leader’s heart was revealed to me, and I shortly thereafter took his advice to find another church. Imagine my shock when I found out this domineering man was made the senior pastor of another SGM church!

Anyway, when CJ fled to Dever’s church I advised my pastor (in the foreign country where I now live) that he may want to advise his close friend Dever to think twice about providing cover for CJ because it could involve him in a messy situation. I believe my message was looked at skeptically. I continued to share information with my pastors via email, and I think I was pretty much ignored. I send stuff to three pastors and only one of them responds, and that rarely. I think this is by design. Well, about a month ago a pastor in my church wanted to meet me for lunch. At that lunch he proposed making me a deacon. He wanted me to take charge of the book ministry. He knows reading is my passion. I said that sounded like something I would be interested in. As we discussed the job he asked if I would have any problem with selling/promoting Mahaney’s books. It hadn’t crossed my mind until that point, but I told him I absolutely would have problems. There was no way I could, in good conscience, have anything to do with selling/promoting anything authored by Mahaney.

At that point he was somewhat put out and said that would be a problem as they consider a couple of Mahaney’s books “go to books” for newer Christians. He said he would have to talk to the elder board and see whether they wanted me to have the job and stop selling books by Mahaney or find someone else for the job. I pretty much knew what the answer would be. I told him whatever they decided was fine with me, but there was no way I would compromise on this.

I never heard back from him until after meeting with another pastor for lunch who said he heard I had turned down the offer to become a deacon. I was a bit aghast. I told him what the pastor had said about discussing it with the elders and asked if that had ever taken place. It had not. Shortly after our lunch, he called me and stated that he had discussed my situation with two or three elders, and they decided not to offer the job to me. I didn’t confront him with his dishonesty, but just said I was fine with that.

As they continue to pump Mahaney’s books, the pastor recently held up the Humility: True Greatness book from the pulpit and highly recommended it. As the RBDs and my local church leaders refuse to stand in opposition to Mahaney, I have grown more frustrated. The leaders have chosen to remain quiet, while I made the conscious decision to speak out.

Our church has a private Facebook page, so I decided to utilize that forum speak out against CJ. I simply linked to many blog articles that spoke to the facts of the scandal. I included a few from The Wartburg Watch. I figured this would attract the attention of my pastors, and I was correct. Here is an email I received after having posted links:


Dear _________,

As you may have noticed, I have removed several of your past posts from our church’s Facebook page. The posts removed deal with the crisis at Sovereign Grace. I sympathize with your concern for these important issues, however, I feel that the posts deal with the issues at play in ways that are unhelpful for our congregation and the members of the Facebook group.

Thank you for your understanding, please feel free to speak with me about any concerns you have!

Your brother in Christ,

________________


My response:

Dear _______,

I am highly disappointed in your action, but not surprised.

Kind Regards,

____________


As Providence would have it, I had scheduled a lunch with the pastor in charge of CLGs.  I informed him that I would be resigning as leader of a CLG effective at the end of this school year. After my information was removed from their FB page, I decided I had enough and informed him I would be quitting effective immediately and also withdrawing from membership of the church.

It is a sad day for me, but I choose to take a stand on this matter. To not do so is deplorable. As you can imagine, there is not an overabundance of churches in our city. I am not sure where I will go now. I suppose for a season I will not go anywhere, but then I feel I must eventually find somewhere I can go. So you see Mahaney’s actions have implications half way around the world! (emphasis mine)

God bless you,

______________

“For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Galatians 1:10

 


Finally, here is the RESIGNATION LETTER submitted by this couple to their church elders in protest against their insistence to push Mahaney’s materials.

“The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures for ever.”  Psalm 119:160

Dear Church Elders,

It is with a heavy heart that I inform you that my wife and I request that you withdraw our names from the membership roll. I have strong issues with the church endorsing and promoting any book authored by C.J. Mahaney. I have shared much information concerning Mahaney and Sovereign Grace Ministries with some of the pastors. These issues include overwhelming evidence of C.J. Mahaney blackmailing the co-founder of his ministry, covering up evidence of sexual predators in his church, and obstructing church members from reporting these incidents to law enforcement.

There is now a class action suit going forward against SGM and Mahaney, As a member of a Sovereign Grace church for a number of years, I have followed this ongoing scandal quite closely. While I am obviously not in a position to dictate church policy, I would think it prudent that, at a minimum for the congregation, you would refrain from endorsing Mahaney’s books. That this has not happened has left me disenchanted.

I received an email today from ____________, stating that he had removed some of my recent posts on the church’s FB page concerning SGM. I had already determined I would no longer serve as a CLG leader because of issues of conscience on this matter. His email was instrumental in my decision to withdraw our membership.  If you have any questions feel free to contact me.

May the Lord continue to bless your church as you seek to honor Christ in all you do.

Kind Regards,

_________________

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8 ESV)


We are in awe of our brother and sister in Christ, who willingly gave up their comfort, their fellowship with believers, and their church (in a country where evangelical churches are few and far between) for their principles.  It is truly astounding and we applaud their efforts.  This couple has taken a brave and heroic stand, and we only wish there were more Christians in the world who have their integrity.

We can only imagine how their sacrificial stand might encourage those involved in the class action lawsuit against SGM.  We hope the plaintiffs will stumble upon this post and discover that in a distant land there is a Christian couple who resigned from their church in protest because they saw a far greater cause in standing with those who have been hurt in Sovereign Grace Ministries.


Let’s take a step back and reflect on what has been revealed…  So 9Marks pastors outside of the United States are pushing Mahaney’s books on new believers?  What is wrong with this picture?

End of Excerpt from 2013 TWW Post


Perhaps you’re wondering whether the United Christian Church of Dubai continues to promote Mahaney’s books. Here are screen shots taken today from UCCD’s website.

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http://www.uccdubai.com/resources/the-uccd-herald/post/building-a-culture-of-discipleship

http://www.uccdubai.com/resources/the-uccd-herald/post/building-a-culture-of-discipleship

*********************************

After it was revealed that Todd Wilhelm was indeed the one who had this most unfortunate experience as a member of UCCD, Twitter was abuzz with reactions. Dee and Jonathan Leeman, Mark Dever’s right hand man, had quite a discussion about it, and Todd offered to fully disclose his side of the story and sign a statement that he would hold the church harmless. At that point, Leeman said that the internet was not the place to adjudicate this and he withdrew from the Twitter discussion.

In the aftermath, Todd Wilhelm launched his own blog and wrote extensively about what happened at his former church. He has become quite an advocate for victims of abuse.

Here is what Todd wrote several years ago about his former church – the United Christian Church of Dubai. It provides another angle from which to view UCCD. What glitters is not always gold…


The Magisterium of the United Christian Church of Dubai Have Spoken (link)

Todd Wilhelm

“They trust that nothing holy is free, and so their lives are paid. Money slots in the altar rails make a jukebox of the world, the mind paying its gnawed coins for the safety of ignorance.”  – Wendell Berry

“Man is tormented by no greater anxiety than to find someone quickly to whom he can hand over that great gift of freedom with which the ill-fated creature is born.” – Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Grand Inquisitor

“Orthodoxy means not thinking–not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness.” – George Orwell, 1984

“Men fear thought as they fear nothing else on earth — more than ruin, more even than death. Thought is subversive and revolutionary, destructive and terrible, thought is merciless to privilege, established institutions, and comfortable habits; thought is anarchic and lawless, indifferent to authority, careless of the well-tried wisdom of the ages. Thought looks into the pit of hell and is not afraid .” – Bertrand Russell, “Why Men Fight”

“[For people] to refuse a hearing to an opinion, because they are sure that it is false, is to assume that their certainty is the same thing as absolute certainty. All silencing of discussion is an assumption of infallibility.” – John Stuart Mill, “On Liberty”

 

Below are the images of the characters in our story.  Although John Folmar and John Welkner likely wish they had the same power as the Roman Catholic clergy of the 15th century, they do the best they can in their little fiefdom known as UCCD. Any similarities in the images of the 15th century Roman Catholic clergy and their modern day UCCD counterparts is purely coincidental!

Screen Shot 2015-07-11 at 9.41.31 PMScreen Shot 2015-07-11 at 9.43.23 PMScreen Shot 2015-07-11 at 9.45.13 PMScreen Shot 2015-07-11 at 9.46.19 PM

The Magisterium of the United Christian Church of Dubai have been up to their old tricks! Doing what they do best – protecting the members of their church by squelching free discussion of subjects which might contravene the Papal decrees of His Holiness, John Folmar.

Those of you new to this blog will not be familiar with my story, so allow me to bring you up to speed with the condensed version of my experience at the United Christian Church of Dubai (UCCD).  If you are interested in reading about the events that led to my departure from UCCD  in more detail you can do so at the Wartburg Watch blog.

I started attending UCCD in January of 2009.  Initially I really loved the church, it was the first church I visited and I was so impressed that I did not see a need to visit any other churches.  I soon became very active in the church.  I attended the morning worship service on Friday, the monthly “First Friday” meeting on Friday night, the weekly Thursday night bible study conducted by Pastor Folmar, a weekly care group on Tuesday nights and the weekly staff book study on Monday afternoons (as my work schedule allowed.)  In September of 2009 I was asked to lead a care group, which I did up until I quit the church in March of 2013.

What led to my quitting UCCD was the sexual abuse scandal in Sovereign Grace churches and the resulting cover-up by C.J. Mahaney.  Mahaney had several books which UCCD promoted, at times from the pulpit.  Mahaney is also good friends with Mark Dever.  John Folmar was an assistant pastor at Dever’s Capitol Hill Baptist Church prior to becoming senior pastor at UCCD.

C.J. Mahaney had fled discipline at his home church (Covenant Life Church, Gathersburg, MD) and started attending Mark Dever’s church.  I had been providing John Folmar key updates on the continuing scandal at Sovereign Grace Ministries and advised him that he may want to warn his friend Mark Dever that providing C.J. Mahaney cover at Capitol Hill Baptist Church could really backfire on him. (It did.)

It was obvious my sharing of information with the pastors at UCCD was basically unwanted and ignored. I had urged them to quit selling Mahaney’s books, but Folmar told me they considered Mahaney’s book on the cross centered life a “go to” book for new Christians at UCCD, so he kept giving copies away at church functions.

https://thouarttheman.org/2015/06/29/the-magisterium-of-the-united-christian-church-of-dubai-have-spoken/

I was growing increasingly frustrated with Folmar’s obvious lack of concern for victims of sexual abuse. In spite of overwhelming documentation I provided him that C.J. Mahaney covered up sexual abuse and even blackmailed the co-founder of Sovereign Grace Ministries, Folmar chose to continue promoting and selling the books authored by C.J. Mahaney.  (This man would not even meet the qualifications necessary to be an elder at UCCD!)

In light of the continued promotion of books authored by a seriously flawed man I decided the good people who attended UCCD had a right to know about this scandal.  A friend and fellow UCCD member had started a Facebook page entitled “UCCD Friends” in 2011 or 2012.  This page had no official ties to UCCD, it was merely a private page started by an individual who attended UCCD.  Anyone who uses Facebook knows that these private pages can only be accessed with the approval of the founding individual.  The “UCCD Friends” page probably had about 100 members, none of who were UCCD pastors. People were free to post whatever they wanted.  I posted many theological pieces, but others posted requests for help, for jobs, for furniture, etc.  I started posting links to stories about the Sovereign Grace sex abuse scandal.  It should be mentioned that my friend told me he never once deleted a post.  It should also be noted that no UCCD pastor or elder ever spoke to me about my posts.  Then one day in early March of 2013 my friend sent me an SMS stating that he had been removed from being administrator of the Facebook page and John Welkner was taking over the duties.  I suspected what was about to occur.  A few hours after I received the SMS I received the following email from Welkner:

Dear Todd,

As you may have noticed, I have removed several of your past posts from our church’s Facebook page. The posts removed deal with the crisis at Sovereign Grace. I sympathize with your concern for these important issues, however, I feel that the posts deal with the issues at play in ways that are unhelpful for our congregation and the members of the Facebook group.

Thank you for your understanding, please feel free to speak with me about any concerns you have!

Your brother in Christ,

John Welkner

 

Prior to receiving this email I had already experienced several things that had me questioning whether I should remain a member of UCCD.  My wife and I had determined that we would quit being leaders of the care group at the end of the school year and basically scale back all our involvement in the church.  I had already scheduled a meeting with an assistant pastor to inform him of our decision prior to receiving the email from Welkner.  Upon reading Welkner’s email I determined it was clear we could no longer continue in a church in which leadership chose to support a celebrity preacher over the victims of sexual abuse; further, I could not in good conscience continue as a member of a church which did not allow their church members to freely discuss such issues in an independent forum.

Jeri Massi, author of “Schizophrenic Christianity: How Christian Fundamentalism Attracts and Protects Sociopaths, Abusive Pastors, and Child Molesters,” wrote:

“Christian Fundamentalism is highly authoritarian. Unquestioning obedience to a single man in charge of a single church that is not accountable to anybody is a hallmark of the Independent Fundamental Baptists.”

While UCCD is not technically a fundamental Baptist church, it is basically a Baptist church modeled after Mark Dever’s Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. Massi’s statement about fundamental Baptist churches is definitely true of UCCD.  John Folmar cannot tolerate any dissenting views and he generally assigns his lieutenant, John Welkner to squelch any opposition.  While Folmar continually states that UCCD is run by a plurality of elders, in reality it is a one man show.  The assistant pastors are beholden to Folmar in order to keep their salaried jobs and non-staff elders are carefully screened to assure they will be compliant yes-men prior to being put to a congregational “rubber-stamp” of approval vote.  (It should be noted that unlike a truly congregational church where any member can nominate someone to be voted on for the position of elder, UCCD elder candidates are selected by Folmar and then put to a vote of the congregation.) Those few men who were strong-willed, independent thinkers managing to somehow get through Folmar’s screening process were driven out of their eldership jobs within one year of taking office.

Another cogent quote from Massi:

“Not every Fundamentalist church is as outrageously corrupt as the ones I have named, but Christian Fundamentalism has failed to protect naïve, innocent, and youthful Christians from the sociopathic men who are able to rise quickly in Fundamentalism, gain power, build big churches, and start their own dynasties.”

question-authority cartoon

Fast forward two years.  I have another friend who actually quit UCCD prior to my escape. He is a kind, mature believer, 70 years of age.  He has pretty much seen it all in Christianity. Up until last week he was still an active participant on the “UCCD Friends” Facebook page.  Last week he posted a link to  Baptist pastor Wade Burleson’s blog article titled “Five Reasons to say No to a Church Covenant.”  My friend touched the third rail of UCCD.  A church covenant is one of the key components of any Mark Dever/9Marks church.  It is used to bludgeon any member whom leadership doesn’t like when they attempt to quit the church.  Trust me, I speak from experience.  My friend found his comment removed and his access to the “UCCD Friends” page revoked by John Welkner, or is that John de Torquemada?  One would think in a group of “friends” one would at least receive an explanation for their expulsion.  When it comes to UCCD you would be wrong.

And so they continue to bleed members.

“On the darker side are those congregations that are simply fiefdoms for bullies or insecure leaders that take people captive to their will by manipulating them with fear and guilt. I’ve been in the wake of such groups to help deeply scarred souls find healing. These groups often use the language of radical Christianity and attract passionate people, but that passion is soon twisted into legalism as everyone is told to follow the leader’s vision exclusively, to view other groups with disdain, and to abuse others by overtly or covertly marking and shaming people who do not conform. Sadly, some people enjoy abusive congregations, either because it makes them feel superior to “less-committed” believers or because they think their personal spiritual failures merit a weekly berating from the pulpit.” -Wayne Jacobsen, “Finding Church: What If There Really Is Something More?

“Ideas are far more powerful than guns. We don’t let our people have guns. Why should we let them have ideas?” -Joseph Stalin


Comments

A Crying Need for Reformed Churches in Dubai? — 124 Comments

  1. Sadly, some people enjoy abusive congregations, either because it makes them feel superior to “less-committed” believers…

    You find the same phenomenon in X-Treme Islam.
    ISIS recruitment is based around this.

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  2. “Building a Culture of Discipleship”

    That Shepherding “Fellowship” I got mixed up with in the Seventies really liked the code words “Discipleship” and “Discipling” for their brand of Christianese brainwashing. Even Christianized the “snapping” phenomenon of forced Thought Reform as a Baptism of the Holy Spirit/Assurance of Salvation. (From that moment on, “He Loved Big Brother”.)

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  3. These blog posts about corrupt church leaders continue to remind me of I Samuel chapter 2 and the story about Hophni and Phineas using their power as priests to take offerings that didn’t belong to them and get sexual favors from women. Many of the church leaders you speak about in your blog should pay attention to how God dealt with Hophni and Phineas as well as their father Eli who was only half-hearted in his attempts to rein them in.

    From their actions, you’d almost think the only Old Testament passages that mattered to some of these leaders are Genesis chapter 1 (young earth creationism), Leviticus 18:22 (no gays) and I Chron. 16:22 (don’t touch the anointed ones).

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  4. Is it the United Church of Christ of Dubai or United Christian Church of Dubai? Or did it changed its name at some point.

    I must admit any United Church of Christ (US) walking into this church is likely to feel severe whiplash.

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  5. Re: “Ideas are far more powerful than guns. We don’t let our people have guns. Why should we let them have ideas?” -Joseph Stalin

    It would seem that what these leaders think the Bible REALLY means is

    “Thou shalt love YHWH thy God with all thy pastor’s mind”

    IMO this way of “being church” is an instance of “darkened understanding”. The evil fruits are manifest, and the long term outcomes will be disagreeable.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  6. Erp,

    I had the same question. The UCC congregations that I am familiar with in the States are very liberal mainline congregations and decidedly NOT Reformed. I too am confused.

    But regarding the Reformed angle, I am not surprised that a Reformed church would get along quite well in a Muslim country since both systems are so similar.

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  7. “There are precious few churches devoted to expository ministry, serious about Reformed theology, and preaching the gospel.”

    Why does “serious about Reformed theology” precede “preaching the gospel” in this quote? Because in the new reformation, Calvinism = Gospel. New Calvinists accept no other Christian theology as truth – they have come into the world to restore the “gospel” that the rest of Christendom has lost.

    When I read pieces like this, I am reminded that the New Calvinist movement is eerily similar to the Hitler Youth of the 1920s-30s: an army of young folks intent on change, thoroughly indoctrinated, blind allegiance to leaders, repressed critical thinking skills, insulated and educated in like-minded groups, trained in approved institutions, isolated from the mainstream, read only literature blessed by their leaders, the sole keepers of truth, arrogant, tribal, authoritarian, narcissist. And they are coming to a church near you!

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  8. On the subject of things in crying need of reform…

    Just now, I needed to work out the length of the diagonal of a shed measuring 8′ by 6′.

    I actually used a calculator for this.

    Funny how just when I think I can’t possibly get any more stupid, I suddenly do.

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  9. Erp: any United Church of Christ (US) walking into this church is likely to feel severe whiplash.

    Folmar’s 9Marksism trainer Mark Dever was a United Church of Christ minister. Here is the congregation in Massachusetts:

    https://www.topsfieldchurch.org/about-us

    “The Congregational Church of Topsfield is…United Church of Christ, and is an ‘Open and Affirming’ congregation.”

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  10. Another Dever devotee recalls:

    http://stevepiercejohnson.com/preaching

    “In Senior High Pilgrim Fellowship (the youth group at the Congregational Church of Topsfield, MA) I was discipled by Mark Dever, who was serving as our Youth Minister”

    Dever himself now rarely, if ever, mentions his time in the United Church of Christ, but his ministerial resume is forever preserved in the Congressional Record. Liberal Republican Senator Mark Hatfield, a member of Capitol Hill Baptist Church, got Dever a stint as guest chaplain in the U.S. Senate and proudly proclaimed his new pastor’s credentials:

    https://www.congress.gov/crec/1995/01/12/CREC-1995-01-12-pt1-PgS819-4.pdf

    “ACCOLADES TO GUEST CHAPLAIN
    Mr. HATFIELD addressed the Chair.
    Mr. HATFIELD. Mr. President, I thank the acting majority leader. Mr. President, I would like to take this occasion, again, to thank the Reverend Mark Edward Dever…I would ask unanimous consent at this time to place in the RECORD a resume of the very distinguished career of this young pastor of the Capitol Hill Baptist Church”

    “There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the RECORD, as follows:
    MARK EDWARD DEVER

    Pastor, Capitol Hill Baptist Church, 1994–present.
    Associate Pastor, Eden Baptist Church, Cambridge, England, 1992–94.
    Pastor, New Meadows Baptist Church, Topsfield, MA, 1985–86.
    Pastoral Assistant, Topsfield Congregational Church, Topsfield, MA, 1982–85.
    Ordained to the Ministry, First Baptist Church, Madisonville, KY, July 28, 1985”

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  11. Nick Bulbeck,

    As you age, first you forget the names of people you still recognize when you see them. Then you forget the names of the geometrical theorems you learned in school. And then you forget the content of the theorems.

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  12. Samuel Conner: As you age, first you forget the names of people you still recognize when you see them. Then you forget the names of the geometrical theorems you learned in school. And then you forget the content of the theorems.

    And finally, you forget that you forget. (I’m not quite to the last step.)

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  13. Deb: 9Marks hosts annual events at Southern Baptist seminaries to recruit and educate pastors and pastor wannabes

    They also focus on the YRR at the annual SBC Conventions. For example, at the SBC-2018 in Dallas:

    9Marks, along with Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, present “9Marks at 9: The State of the SBC” during the 2018 Annual SBC meeting in Dallas, TX.
    Speakers: Mark Dever, Danny Akin, R. Albert Mohler Jr., Matt Chandler, and H.B. Charles

    The young reformers who attend the annual SBC conferences are drawn primarily by these sidebar sessions and only go to the main convention floor to vote on candidates and issues which benefit the New Calvinist movement within SBC. And the pew ain’t got a clue.

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  14. Noevangelical: But regarding the Reformed angle, I am not surprised that a Reformed church would get along quite well in a Muslim country since both systems are so similar.

    Good point. Birds of a feather. Stones in the river bottom, that kind of thing…

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  15. Sue D. Nim: From their actions, you’d almost think the only Old Testament passages that mattered to some of these leaders are Genesis chapter 1 (young earth creationism), Leviticus 18:22 (no gays) and I Chron. 16:22 (don’t touch the anointed ones).

    During my time in-country, the entire Bible was only 3 1/2 books:
    * Revelation
    * Daniel
    * The “Nuclear War Chapter” of Ezekiel (the 1/2)
    * and (most important) Hal Lindsay’s Late Great Planet Earth

    After that, an OT of one chapter and two verses isn’t that much of a stretch.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  16. Noevangelical: But regarding the Reformed angle, I am not surprised that a Reformed church would get along quite well in a Muslim country since both systems are so similar.

    The only difference becomes which Inerrant Holy Book gets used as The Party Line.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  17. Darlene: Learning every point of Reformed theology to the nth Degree.

    Like memorizing and reciting the entire Koran and Hadiths.
    Until your brain rewires completely around it and you become unable to think, only Recite.
    “IT IS WRITTEN! IT IS WRITTEN! IT IS WRITTEN!”

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  18. Max: I am reminded that the New Calvinist movement is eerily similar to the Hitler Youth of the 1920s-30s: an army of young folks intent on change, thoroughly indoctrinated, blind allegiance to leaders, repressed critical thinking skills, insulated and educated in like-minded groups, trained in approved institutions, isolated from the mainstream, read only literature blessed by their leaders, the sole keepers of truth, arrogant, tribal, authoritarian, narcissist

    And the best and the brightest graduate directly into the Allgemiene-SS. “SIEG HEIL!”

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  19. Molly245:
    Reminds me of Steven Furtick’s “Elevation” church—“We Unite Under the vision of our Leader….” frightening stuff!

    According to Elevation’s Sunday School coloring book, the actual quote is:
    “WE ARE UNITED BEHIND THE VISIONARY!”
    i.e. Long Live Big Brother.

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  20. Sue D. Nim: These blog posts about corrupt church leaders continue to remind me of I Samuel chapter 2 and the story about Hophni and Phineas using their power as priests to take offerings that didn’t belong to them and get sexual favors from women.

    “Most cults are started so the Cult Leader can (a) Get Rich, (b) Get Laid, or (c) Both.”
    — my old Dungeonmaster, in a post-game parking lot back-and-forth

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  21. Nick Bulbeck: On the subject of things in crying need of reform…
    Just now, I needed to work out the length of the diagonal of a shed measuring 8′ by 6′.
    I actually used a calculator for this.

    No Skubalon?
    Pythagoran Theorem where the sum of BOTH squares is an obvious square itself?

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  22. Occassionally I email my former friends in the United Arab Emirates just to let them know I haven’t forgotten about them and their ongoing support of C.J. Mahaney. Below is one such email. FYI, Ben Woodward was an elder at Immanuel Baptist Church in Louisville, KY prior to taking a job at UCCD. You may recall Ryan Fullerton is the pastor at Immanuel Baptist. Immanuel Baptist was the church Rachael Denhollander used to attend. Ryan Fullerton was a vocal supporter of C.J. Mahaney and he had Mahaney preach at his church at least two times. Ryan Fullerton also spoke at Mahaney’s church.

    Not surprisingly I did not receive a reply from any of the men I sent this email to.
    ======================================================
    August 6, 2018 at 12:51 PM
    Subject: CJ Mahaney/Sovereign Grace

    Cc: John Folmar , Richard Ngwisha , John Welkner , Ben Woodward , jonathan@uccdubai.com, josh@rakchurch.com, Anand Samuel , Dave Furman , mackstiles@gmail.com

    Dear Pastors of United Christian Church of Dubai,

    Are you men still peddling CJ Mahaney’s books? I know Ben’s former church has repented of their support of Mahaney. ( http://immanuelky.org/articles/we-were-rachaels-church/ )

    As you can see below, Sovereign Grace leaders have just placed John Loftness, a pedophile and sexual sadist, on their board of Regional Leaders.
    ( http://abrentdetwiler.squarespace.com/brentdetwilercom/john-loftness-in-focus-former-chairman-of-the-sgm-board-alle.html )

    Sovereign Grace is a toxic denomination. At this point no God-fearing Christian should have anything to do with them.

    Kind Regards,
    Todd Wilhelm

    https://twitter.com/ThouArtTheMan/status/1026528535756718080

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  23. Max: Yes, they can add the Calvinist God to their other array of gods.

    Islam is about as Monotheistic as it gets.

    MONIST Monotheistic; as a colleague of Chesterton’s put it, “Who left God more alone in the sky?”

    However, Islam took the baggage of all the Old Gods and put it all into the One God.

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  24. Noevangelical: But regarding the Reformed angle, I am not surprised that a Reformed church would get along quite well in a Muslim country since both systems are so similar.

    I’m not surprised sighting along that angle and in that sense.
    But still, I’m perplexed.

    Does the ‘the crying need’ (from the title of this thread up-top), refer to a sizeable
    community of upper-strata American professionals and technical people stationed in Dubai?
    What’s the skivvy?
    Anybody?

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  25. Muff Potter: I’m not surprised sighting along that angle and in that sense.
    But still, I’m perplexed.

    Does the ‘the crying need’ (from the title of this thread up-top), refer to a sizeable
    community of upper-strata American professionals and technical people stationed in Dubai?
    What’s the skivvy?
    Anybody?

    Considering the YRR propensity for planting churches in upper-income areas, I might investigate per-capita income in Dubai for the answer to that question.

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  26. Todd Wilhelm: United Christian Church of Dubai.

    http://uccdubai.com

    Todd:

    I was in the UAE, in the late 90s, up in AlAin. At that time most of the churches were aligned with TEAM, and the general rule was a loose membership system, not asking you to give up membership in your church at home, and a theology of consensus around those things that evangelicals held in common. WHAT HAPPENED.

    Seriously, I knew the people who handled the petition to the government to get the land for what was then the “Jebal Ali church center.” I don’t think this was what they had in mind.

    J.M.

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  27. refugee: Considering the YRR propensity for planting churches in upper-income areas, I might investigate per-capita income in Dubai for the answer to that question.

    Among western expats, fairly high and tax free,

    J.M.

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  28. The constant disparaging of Calvinism and Calvinists is off putting to the otherwise serious issues often reported on here. The personal failures of leadership and the unwise shepherding of the flock is not endemic of Reformed theology.

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  29. Roberto G:
    The constant disparaging of Calvinism and Calvinists is off putting to the otherwise serious issues often reported on here. The personal failures of leadership and the unwise shepherding of the flock is not endemic of Reformed theology.

    Roberto.
    -I would say yes regarding “off putting.”
    -Regarding personal failures and unwise shepherding, I would say yes and no.

    As for Reform Theology itself, do you understand it is a court decision? (Canons of Dort) This is something most seem not to grasp, or at least not it’s implications.

    If you accept my statement, then it goes without saying, that verdicts typicaly leave at least some parties dissatisfied. I’m suggesting there exist those offended by the original pronouncement. 359 years will not defuse that offense. It is ongoing.

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  30. Roberto G,

    I love it when someone new comes in to several threads to give us all a good theological scolding.

    The word I’d like to introduce you to is ‘context’ Roberto. Many many, many many many people here are those who have been through the Reformed Mill, the Evangelical Complex, they have been there, taught the classes, learned the Hebrew & for impeccable reasons, moved beyond those things. You piping up (they will see what I did there), just remind us of us, in younger & earlier incarnations. There are good, authentic, honest reasons why Calvinism gets a hard time here, more than good.And reasons that don’t include sin, backsliding or apostasy.
    For me it just makes a nice refreshing change from ALL those Christian pages where T4G, Piper et al are presented as infallible, & there is actually constant sniping about the ‘barely’ Christianness of those who don’t adhere to their 7 point Calvinism, Complementarianism & all their other pet doctrines. It may just be that you don’t notice that, or you don’t mind it.

    But these are just the words of an exvangelical (now Anglican) who spent over 25 years in that arena.

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  31. Roberto G:
    The constant disparaging of Calvinism and Calvinists is off putting to the otherwise serious issues often reported on here. The personal failures of leadership and the unwise shepherding of the flock is not endemic of Reformed theology.

    Their Ideology is Pure and Correct.
    And This Time We WILL Achieve True Communism!

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  32. Judas Maccabeus: I was in the UAE, in the late 90s, up in AlAin. At that time most of the churches were aligned with TEAM, and the general rule was a loose membership system, not asking you to give up membership in your church at home, and a theology of consensus around those things that evangelicals held in common. WHAT HAPPENED.

    “There can be only ONE One True Way,” that’s what happened.

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  33. Roberto G: The personal failures of leadership and the unwise shepherding of the flock is not endemic of Reformed theology.

    There is a difference between reformed theology and the New-Calvinist culture. While discussion here often includes theology, the real focus is the culture. New-Calvinist are giving Calvinism a bad name. Many New-Calvinists push an abusive culture in the name of reformed theology. Because the New-Calvinists use their theology to justify their culture it makes it a bit difficult to separate the two. Perhaps this is why you interpret the comments here so negatively.

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  34. Headless Unicorn Guy:
    “WE ARE UNITED BEHIND THE VISIONARY!”

    I saw something similar in the congregation that decided to embark on a major building program just as the “Great Recession” was beginning. In the hardship that followed, I’m told that there were debates among the laity about whether it was right to question the leaders’ judgment, or to question whether they actually had “heard the voice of God.”

    Around this time, perhaps as either a preparatory or protective measure (don’t recall the timing), the “umbrella of authority” teaching was promulgated, which seemed to make people chary of asking questions lest they depart from the protected space under the “umbrella” of the pastor’s “authority.”

    Of course, there are instances in the Pauline writings of appeals to be “like-minded”, but these do not seem to mean “be like-minded with your human visionary leader.” Rather, for instance in Philippians 2, the appeal is to be likeminded with Jesus.

    Another instance might be 1 Corinthians 11, where likemindedness takes the form of imitation of those who are likeminded with Christ: “Imitate me as I imitate Christ”

    But kenotic self-giving does not seem to be high on the priorities of megachurch leaders.

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  35. Ken F (aka Tweed): New-Calvinist are giving Calvinism a bad name.

    Agreed. Classical Calvinists have to be getting pretty upset with the antics of their neo-brethren at this point. As a non-Calvinist Southern Baptist for 60+ years, I worshiped alongside many “Old” Calvinists who I found civil in their discourse and respectful of other expressions of faith … the New Calvinists would never be accused of that; they are arrogant, aggressive, and militant.

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  36. Roberto G:
    The constant disparaging of Calvinism and Calvinists is off putting to the otherwise serious issues often reported on here. The personal failures of leadership and the unwise shepherding of the flock is not endemic of Reformed theology.

    To echo and amplify

    Ken F (aka Tweed),

    if you observe closely, you’ll note that most of the problems that are cited related to “Reformed theology” are taking place in “reformed baptist” churches, whether SBC or ARBCA or independent. These kinds of abuses seem to be much less widespread in the more traditional Reformed churches that have ecclesiastical structures that provide real recourse above the level of the individual congregation. SBC RefBaps don’t have that; the congregations are autonomous and there is no recourse. ARBCA don’t have that; ditto. In a “real” Reformed denomination, there would be recourse to a church court at the level of the Presbytery and an unjust decision there could be appealed all the way to a church court convened at the General Assembly.

    SBC RefBap and ARBCA polity seems almost designed to facilitate harsh rule. That’s not the intention, I’m sure; typically independent churches mistrust supra-congregational authorities out of fear of theological drift. But without higher accountability, a lot can go wrong in an individual congregation before the peons revolt.

    And, back to topic, that would appear to be point of membership contracts — to make it harder for the peons to revolt or leave, thereby giving maximal freedom to the people in charge.

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  37. Max: Agreed.Classical Calvinists have to be getting pretty upset with the antics of their neo-brethren at this point.As a non-Calvinist Southern Baptist for 60+ years, I worshiped alongside many “Old” Calvinists who I found civil in their discourse and respectful of other expressions of faith … the New Calvinists would never be accused of that; they are arrogant, aggressive, and militant.

    I can assure you that among conservative Reformed traditionalists there are people who are very uneasy with “seeker-friendly”-ness and contemporary music in the formal worship setting. RefBaps are much more embracing of these; it’s practically a sine qua non of growth to mega-church status. They (the traditionalists) take “regulative principle” seriously (however inconsistently they may apply it — there’s a lot of detail about “how church was done” in 1 Corinthians that seems to be ignored in their practice, for example). In my experience of one such congregation, they regarded the larger, more “successful” groups with resentment, reckoning that they were pandering to the flesh. (To some extent, this may have been a self-serving inertia in that they may not have wanted to do the hard work of thinking how it might be possible to make their meeting practices less off-putting to outsiders.)

    There’s one way in which traditionalists may be pleased — they may be glad that Calvin-style predestinarian soteriology is spreading among formerly “free-will” groups. But in other respects, such as public worship practices, decorum, the gravity of the sacraments, binding of the conscience with extrabiblical bonds, I would think that many of them are distressed.

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  38. Samuel Conner: SBC RefBaps don’t have that; the congregations are autonomous and there is no recourse.

    I would add that many of the offensive SBC “reformed” churches are led by young reformers fresh out of SBC seminary indoctrination. They have been well-schooled in 9Marks discipline, elder rule, complementarity, membership contracts, etc. The autonomous nature of SBC churches presents essentially no accountability as long as they stay within the confines of the Baptist Faith & Message (2000 revision), which provides plenty of theological wiggle room for their message and method.

    Samuel Conner: SBC RefBap … polity seems almost designed to facilitate harsh rule.

    SBC’s New Calvinists are planting 1,000+ new churches per year and taking over a number of traditional (non-Calvinist) congregations through stealth and deception. When you combine a young inexperienced “pastor” in his 20s-30s with an “elder” board of same age, you have a recipe for disaster. These young reformers set up a shop which leads by control, manipulation and intimidation if need be … and the “need be” could be something as simple as not agreeing with them!

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  39. Max:
    SBC’s New Calvinists are planting 1,000+ new churches per year and taking over a number of traditional (non-Calvinist) congregations through stealth and deception.When you combine a young inexperienced “pastor” in his 20s-30s with an “elder” board of same age, you have a recipe for disaster.These young reformers set up a shop which leads by control, manipulation and intimidation if need be … and the “need be” could be something as simple as not agreeing with them!

    And yet baptisms are down and membership statistics are stagnant or declining, IIRC.

    The megas are growing in number of congregations and size of congregation, and the “meso”s are aspiring to mega status. Large numbers of new, presumably “micro,” congregations are being added, but total numbers are more or less flat.

    This would seem to imply that the new RefBap congregations are all rather small and, given that this has been going on for years, most new congregations do not grow much.

    Am I reading that right? It seems like a proliferation of little pastoral fiefdoms.

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  40. Noevangelical:
    Beakerj,

    Ditto! Once you’ve lived through a couple of takeovers, it changes one’s perspective on a lot of things.

    It so does. And I run out of patience with someone coming along with a theological scorecard he’s ticking off as he goes along, as if he has the right, & as if we couldn’t write it from his perspective ourselves.

    Even then I have to say that trying to score elastigirl on HER OWN spiritual experience on another thread was a bold move. Consider my gears ground.

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  41. Roberto G:
    The constant disparaging of Calvinism and Calvinists is off putting to the otherwise serious issues often reported on here. The personal failures of leadership and the unwise shepherding of the flock is not endemic of Reformed theology.

    Roberto

    Here’s the deal. Let’s take Todd as an example. Todd leaned towards Reformed thinking. So, bless his heart, he attended first a Sovereign Grace Church and then this UCCD church. Due to Todd’s thoughtful suport of those who have been abused, he ran into a problem since UCCD was a huuuuuge supporter of CJ Mahaney who is a devoted friend of Mark Dever’s.

    Todd made a righteous stand against UCCD’s pushing of Mahaney’s books. That stand cost him something. He was in a foreign country as an expat. Friendships were formed. Todd gave that up willingly although not without pain. He was put “under discipline* because he did not immediately join an approved™ church since he was determined not to make the same mistake again.

    Roberto, I am not a Calvinist. I lived my life in the evangelical morass and have found a home in a conservative Lutheran church in which few people, if any, have ever heard of Dever, Mohler, and Piper. For me, that is a relief. However, you would be wrong if you think that is our emphasis.

    If you carefully read our posts over the last 9 years, we have focused on abuse in churches. Take a look at our coverage of Highpoint Church/Andy Savage in Memphis. In that series we discussed their theology (or lack thereof). Look at the post a few days back in which we looked at the Assemblies of God handling of a man who had abused a woman in his congregation. In that I discussed the theology of the AOG.

    Unfortunately, for you (I noted your email address), the Calvinistas have been making waves. You know what attracts out attention? What is going on in the religious news. So, it is natural to discuss what is being discussed elsewhere.

    Recently Kevin DeYoung wrote a piece that had me laughing so hard I couldn’t drink my coffee. He claimed sermons were a bit too long in the Calvinist world. So, he suggested cutting back by 5 minutes!!! Maybe only have a sermon be 40 minutes. My experiene with one Calvinista was that he couldn’t shut up. His
    sermons droned on and on because the sermons is “the most important parr of the Christin week.”

    Thankfully, Lutherans look at that quite differently. The sermons I hear are short and to the point. I actually remember what was said during the week .

    Roberto, you have only to look at your tribe to understand why we cover these topics. If they learned to *shut up* a bit more there would be less to attract our attention.

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  42. dee: Unfortunately, for you (I noted your email address), the Calvinistas have been making waves. You know what attracts out attention? What is going on in the religious news. So, it is natural to discuss what is being discussed elsewhere

    I’ve learned much here. The Christianity I grew up with is not what I experienced in an evangelical church and hear about on this blog.

    Membership contracts, pastor worship, covering up abuse. I know that these are not endemic to all evangelical churches but I’ve certainly learned the red flags to watch for – in any church setting. I’ve seen them in the church I used to attend.

    Should I ever decide to re-engage Christianity, I now have quite a tool kit.

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  43. dee: His
    sermons droned on and on because the sermons is “the most important parr of the Christin week.”

    I find it intriguing that in the middle of his theological magnum opus, Paul offers in Romans 10 a surprisingly succinct summary of what is required to be saved: confession of Christ as Lord and genuine belief that God raised Him from the dead.

    And, to the extent that we can discern from texts such as Acts, that seems to have been much of the substance of Paul’s public evangelistic preaching, that Jesus is Lord (King/Son of God/Messiah) and that this is proved by God having raised Him from the dead (Jesus having been put to death for messianic pretensions, God’s reversal of the death sentence declared by the Roman secular and Jewish religious authorities served to authenticate Jesus’ messianic claims).

    I think that the Reformed preoccupation (and this is, in my experience, true of traditionalists) with long messages that are as much about expositing Reformed systematic theology as they are about the Biblical text must be rooted in a fear that Paul’s summary in Romans 10, “Jesus is Lord” and “God raised Jesus from the dead”, is not enough.

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  44. Samuel Conner: surprisingly succinct summary of what is required to be saved: confession of Christ as Lord and genuine belief that God raised Him from the dead.

    For the sake of clarity, that “required” should have been “sufficient”.

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  45. Samuel Conner: This would seem to imply that the new RefBap congregations are all rather small and, given that this has been going on for years, most new congregations do not grow much.

    From my vantage point of SBC-YRR church plants in my area, they initially draw a bit of crowd because they are something new on the block … but they dwindle in numbers once the flash in the pan dies down. The primary attractors to these churches are the cool band and free coffee, not expository preaching (unlike what YRR pastors think). Members usually don’t stay long enough to know whether they are Calvinist or not. Once a cooler band (and better coffee) shows up in the area, the young congregants flock there. Not to mention that the subordination of female believers gets old after a while, so the young ladies bail out at first opportunity (and take their sorry husbands and boyfriends with them).

    Samuel Conner: baptisms are down and membership statistics are stagnant or declining

    I suspect that the New Calvinist movers & shakers within SBC will make a move on this soon. In an effort to appear that they are restoring the “gospel” that the SBC lost over the years (Calvinism = gospel to them), they will have a campaign to increase baptism rates. An SBC-YRR church planter in my area periodically announces on Facebook “Baptizing next Sunday! Sign up on Facebook!” And they come to get dunked in a cattle tank on the parking lot, never having heard the message of the Cross of Christ coming from the pastor’s lips; they are just responding to cheap grace. “Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the Cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer).

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  46. Jack: I’ve learned much here … Should I ever decide to re-engage Christianity, I now have quite a tool kit.

    As I’ve said before, TWW provides a tremendous service to the Body of Christ to inform and warn. The Deebs and commenters are watchmen on the wall.

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  47. Samuel Conner: This would seem to imply that the new RefBap congregations are all rather small and, given that this has been going on for years, most new congregations do not grow much.
    Am I reading that right? It seems like a proliferation of little pastoral fiefdoms.

    Jobs handout program for YRR preacher-boyz.

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  48. Samuel Conner: I can assure you that among conservative Reformed traditionalists there are people who are very uneasy with “seeker-friendly”-ness and contemporary music in the formal worship setting.

    There has been a behind-the-curtain group of traditional Calvinists within SBC operating quietly for years to take the denomination back to its Calvinistic roots, which mainline Southern Baptists rejected 150 years ago. They call themselves the “Founders’ Ministry” … they even wrote a book called “The Quiet Revolution” to encourage a Calvinist rebellion within SBC ranks. They weren’t getting anywhere until the New Calvinist movement came along with General Mohler and his army of young reformers. While the “Old” Calvinists may not agree with the militancy and methodology of the “New” Calvinists, they are putting up with them as long as the overall mission is accomplished … Calvinization of the largest non-Calvinist Protestant denomination in America.

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  49. Max: They weren’t getting anywhere until the New Calvinist movement came along with General Mohler and his army of young reformers.While the “Old” Calvinists may not agree with the militancy and methodology of the “New” Calvinists, they are putting up with them as long as the overall mission is accomplished … Calvinization of the largest non-Calvinist Protestant denomination in America.

    That changed this week, though, with the Statement on Social Justice. One of the co-writers was Tom Ascol of Founder’s Ministries. And it appears to me the rest of them signed it. They basically just took a big shot at Mohler and Moore and separated themselves from them.

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  50. ishy: That changed this week, though, with the Statement on Social Justice. One of the co-writers was Tom Ascol of Founder’s Ministries. And it appears to me the rest of them signed it. They basically just took a big shot at Mohler and Moore and separated themselves from them.

    Yes, I saw that. The SBC Old vs. New Calvinist clash may very well destroy the movement from within. Ascol and the Founders are probably upset that Mohler has not invited them to be speakers at T4G and TGC conferences. Mohler was mentored by some of the ole boy Founders and he turned his back on them when he became a New Calvinist celebrity. In the meantime, the once-great SBC has forfeited its denominational gifting of evangelism … the lampstand has been removed and the pew ain’t got a clue.

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  51. Ken F (aka Tweed): There is a difference between reformed theology and the New-Calvinist culture. While discussion here often includes theology, the real focus is the culture. New-Calvinist are giving Calvinism a bad name. Many New-Calvinists push an abusive culture in the name of reformed theology. Because the New-Calvinists use their theology to justify their culture it makes it a bit difficult to separate the two. Perhaps this is why you interpret the comments here so negatively.

    Ken, while I would agree that New Calvinism is about a particular culture, I would posit that Reformed theology informs their thinking, and they have just taken their theology to the next logical step. This Movement seeks to dominate Christianity so that it is the only voice that can be heard. New Calvinists remind me of that funny adage,”He who dies with the most toys wins!”

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  52. Max: I worshiped alongside many “Old” Calvinists who I found civil in their discourse and respectful of other expressions of faith … the New Calvinists would never be accused of that; they are arrogant, aggressive, and militant.

    Today the entire Church. Tomorrow the WORLD!

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  53. Todd Wilhelm,

    I knew that the Reformed (historic and neo-) do not consider the Sinaitic prohibition on bearing false witness to forbid deception toward enemies in wartime. It’s surprising to discover that apparently it’s also OK to deceive fellow believers in peacetime.

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  54. Darlene: while I would agree that New Calvinism is about a particular culture, I would posit that Reformed theology informs their thinking, and they have just taken their theology to the next logical step. This Movement seeks to dominate Christianity so that it is the only voice that can be heard.

    Yes, this is my perspective as well. Al Mohler speaks of the New Calvinist mission to dominate Christendom with the only “truth” when he says:

    “Where else are they going to go? If you’re a theological minded, deeply convictional young evangelical, if you’re committed to the gospel and want to see the nations rejoice in the name of Christ, if you want to see gospel built and structured committed churches, your theology is just going end up basically being Reformed, basically something like this New Calvinism, or you’re going to have to invent some label for what is basically going to be the same thing, there just are not options out there, and that’s something that frustrates some people, but when I’m asked about the New Calvinism — where else are they going to go, who else is going to answer the questions, where else are they going to find the resources they going to need and where else are they going to connect. This is a generation that understands, they want to say the same thing that Paul said, they want to stand with the apostles, they want to stand with old dead people, and they know that they are going to have to, if they are going to preach and teach the truth.” (Al Mohler, President, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary)

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  55. Darlene,

    “….I would posit that Reformed theology informs their thinking, and they have just taken their theology to the next logical step. ”

    This is the position I came to after many years of research into not only the history but the theology. I honestly view it as a religion that works best within a state Church structure. Although I acknowledge that it changed to fit the personal liberty culture.

    But the actual system had to be dumbed down somewhat in order to do that. I think the new Calvinist were trying to be purest within a quasi SBC framework while partnering with more structured reformed systems.

    For example, they don’t subscribe to infant baptism but they reserve the right for leaders to decide who can be baptized. Believe it or not it wasn’t always like that. They don’t subscribe to sacraments as a means of Grace but they position their “sermons” and church membership/attendance as exactly that.

    I could go on and on but I think you get my drift.

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  56. ishy,

    Mohler was separated from the founders a while back. They just didn’t make a big deal about it. It was a case of the Protege’ moving far beyond the mentor. Exactly what Russell Moore is doing to Al Mohler right now. Lol.

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  57. Max: The autonomous nature of SBC churches presents essentially no accountability

    Same with non-denoms and weird self started denominations like SGM. I think that autonomy is great in some cases, but it lends itself to being taken over by a charismatic or abusive personality.

    Regular reformed denominations have some checks and balances in the form of denomination hierarchy which, while not perfect, is a mechanism for tamping down on some of those impulses.

    I also think a lot of the issues commonly associated with ‘calvinism’ on this site are really more related to authoritarian and complementarian thoughts than reformed doctrine.

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  58. dee,

    Lol! I can remember when the YRR leaders we’re teaching that the sermon should be at least an hour long expositing word by word. They often talked about Calvin taking 8 years to go through the book of Acts. They love to hear themselves talk but often it is a simply a regurgitation of a Piper sermon.

    But let’s face it, none of it works without Bottoms in the pews to give them money. So, they have to make concessions and find other things to rally the troops and recruit.

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  59. Samuel Conner:
    I think that the Reformed preoccupation (and this is, in my experience, true of traditionalists) with long messages that are as much about expositing Reformed systematic theology as they are about the Biblical text must be rooted in a fear that Paul’s summary in Romans 10, “Jesus is Lord” and “God raised Jesus from the dead”, is not enough.

    Meanwhile my presby sermons are 15-20 minutes tops.

    I think some of this has to do with style, more liturgical churches have shorter sermons perhaps.

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  60. ishy: That changed this week, though, with the Statement on Social Justice. One of the co-writers was Tom Ascol of Founder’s Ministries. And it appears to me the rest of them signed it. They basically just took a big shot at Mohler and Moore and separated themselves from them.

    So much backstabbing and drama. It’s a bit soapy, isn’t it?

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  61. Lea,

    I just don’t think that argument works at all. Most people have absolutely no clue what is going on in the hierarchy of their denomination. They take it for granted there are checks and balances. I could tell you horror stories about the pcusa headquarters in my city as I know a lot of people who work there and it’s a group think elitist mess. The Pew sitters probably have no clue and don’t care.

    Sometimes some stuff makes the news like it did with the Episcopalians and the Catholics.

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  62. Lydia: They often talked about Calvin taking 8 years to go through the book of Acts.

    Well that sounds fun.

    Of course, I understand this institutes are a bit wordy as well…Calvin may have been the GRRM of the reformation.

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  63. Lea: So much backstabbing and drama. It’s a bit soapy, isn’t it?

    Mohler has had such tight control over the SBC, and now that he’s really angered a bunch of people, I wonder if he can keep it.

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  64. Lydia:
    Most people have absolutely no clue what is going on in the hierarchy of their denomination. They take it for granted there are checks and balances.

    Yeah, I haven’t seen where anyone is doing church significantly better if there is any kind of hierarchy, and the only churches I can think of that really espouse no hierarchy are the Quakers.

    My denom doesn’t promise to keep pastors where they want to be or get the pay they want, but I see those power struggles among members. Many have the idea that they have been at the church longer than others, so they “own” it. We had significant drama in my tiny church over that just this week.

    And–the denom is not immune to those pastors, because everyone has told me about a former pastor who kept giving sermons on how the pastor is CEO, which is completely against denominational theology.

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  65. Lydia,

    Calvin preached 189 sermons on Acts. For most of his career in Geneva, Calvin preached once or twice on Sundays, and every day of the week on alternate weeks, a schedule that demanded around eighteen to twenty sermons per month, or two hundred fifty sermons per year. In all, Calvin probably delivered well over four thousand sermons in the course of his ministry in Geneva. Given that he had asthma, among other ailments, it is thought that he rarely spoke for more than 30-40mins, with breaks to enable the congregation to digest what was being said. He saw preaching as the means of bringing salvation to the people.
    To put things into context, Dr D Martyn Lloyd-Jones took 13 years to preach through Romans and he believed that the Holy Spirit would influence the time taken by the minister to deliver a sermon. In other words, it might be 30mins or it might be an hour, as the Spirit led.

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  66. Ken F (aka Tweed): There is a difference between reformed theology and the New-Calvinist culture. While discussion here often includes theology, the real focus is the culture. New-Calvinist are giving Calvinism a bad name. Many New-Calvinists push an abusive culture in the name of reformed theology. Because the New-Calvinists use their theology to justify their culture it makes it a bit difficult to separate the two. Perhaps this is why you interpret the comments here so negatively.

    Thanks for making the distinction Ken F; it is appreciated.

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  67. Lowlandseer,

    Given all of blood shed for the last 1,600 years, plus, in the “name of Christ”, and many different “flavors” of Christainity that have perpetrated this bloodshed, I think it is “proper” that one separates the behavior of “new calvanism” or the “calvanistas” from historical calvanism. The more one “flavor” claims they are the “true” christainity, the quicker I want to separate myself from them… if my gray hair signifies anything, it says that I have seen allot, and the more someone thinks the know the answers to complex questions that have been debated for centuries, or longer, the more I think they are just aragant/pompous, or “marketers”, or worse…

    The video of Al Mohler saying “but where else will they go”, referring to the YRR preacher boys are the true Christan churches, is EXACTLY what I am talking about..

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  68. I don’t see how you could have a discussion about a Reformed church without talking about their theology. If it doesn’t inform what they do, how they treat other people, how they present themselves to the community, and what they look like to God, then what exactly is the point? Might as well stay home and not have a church at all.

    From what I have seen and read, the problems these churches have, and the collateral damage that they leave in their wake, all come as a direct result of the out-workings of their theological system.

    Is it not a valid question to ask what it is about their theology that allows them to abuse people? To ask what kind of love is this? I would think that this applies to any church body or christian organization, regardless of the flavor.

    But it is often typical of Reformed people to claim that this or that is off limits to the discussion, or breathlessly sigh when people bring up inconvenient truths. You either have an answer for them or you don’t, but don’t complain because someone asks a valid question.

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  69. Noevangelical,

    As I mentioned above, go back and review the Canons of Dort, and what specifically they outline. Court decisions have consequences, and set further precedent.

    Amoung other issues, this ruling established a division in the Kingdom of God. We are a house divided against itself.

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  70. Nathan Priddis,

    That would only be true if you consider the Canons of Dort to be anything. And who is “we”? Pretty sure it ain’t me. If by “we” you mean the entirety of the Reformed church, then I guess that might mean something to those people. But to everyone else I can’t see how anyone would care. What does that have to do with loving people and not abusing them?

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  71. Lea: So much backstabbing and drama. It’s a bit soapy, isn’t it?

    SBC is more soap opera these days than gospel-preaching, that’s for sure! Membership and baptism rates have been on the decline for decades … too much infighting over this and that to be a credible witness to a lost world.

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  72. Jeffrey J Chalmers: The more one “flavor” claims they are the “true” christianity, the quicker I want to separate myself from them … The video of Al Mohler saying “but where else will they go”, referring to the YRR preacher boys are the true Christian churches, is EXACTLY what I am talking about …

    For those of you who missed Dr. Mohler’s promotion of New Calvinism as the only viable option for thinking Christians, enjoy:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T6lRMMvNCn8&t=3s

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  73. ishy: Mohler has had such tight control over the SBC, and now that he’s really angered a bunch of people, I wonder if he can keep it.

    Mohlerites now control most SBC seminaries, home and foreign mission agencies, publishing house, church planting program, and a growing number of takeover traditional churches. He won. Where else is he going to go?!

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  74. Noevangelical,

    Who is we? Well, in 1619, “we” meant Continental Reformed.
    In 2018 it would only be the leading grouping, or segment, of the Kingdom of God on Earth. Something called Neo-Evangelicalism in 1948, but since shortened to Evangelicalism.

    May I suggest attempting to tell a Neo-Calvinist they don’t actually care about doctrine, because it doesn’t matter. Even better, mention Arminius was a delightful bible expositor, and three time ballroom dance champion. 🙂

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  75. Off topic but I need an honest opinion. Has anybody heard of the “Behold Your God” study? Our church is about to start it, and I’ve wasted enough time and money on book studies at church.

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  76. Jeffrey J Chalmers,

    I think I agree with you. I’ve said before here that I didn’t know anything about Calvin when I became a Christian. I read my Bible, went to church, prayer meetings and youth groups in Presbyterian and Baptist Churches and everything was wonderful. I left home as a teenager to work hundreds of miles away. I joined the local Baptist church because there weren’t any Presbyterian ones and met an amazing group of friends. We were Presbyterian, Baptist, Methodist, Church of England, Congregational, Apostolic and Assemblies of God. We witnessed together in our town. We started a Christian music festival in the town hall, we rented an old pub for the summer and welcomed anyone and everyone who came in. Twenty years later the music festival was still going. The pub closed at the end of the summer as planned but we had made so much money from selling food we were able to sponsor a county wide crusade. Everything was done “in the name of Jesus”. We all grew in the faith and lots of people were converted who are still growing today. I heard it referred to recently as “the glory days of the church”. (Not churches, we were all one). And we all knew that this was God’s work.
    At the same time a few of us bought commentaries from the Christian Literature Crusade bookshop in a nearby town. Some of them were by Calvin. I discovered that this man had preached and written about the same things I believed and felt. Fast forward a few more years and these commentaries, which were basically his daily sermons on various books of the Bible, sustained me throughout difficult times behind the Iron Curtain.
    So I suppose that makes me a Calvinist although actually I am a Christian.

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  77. Lowlandseer: So I suppose that makes me a Calvinist although actually I am a Christian.

    Thanks Lowlandseer for sharing your testimony. Someday, we will all lay down our “ist” and just rejoice to be an “ian”. Have a good weekend.

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  78. “A Crying Need for Reformed Churches in Dubai?”

    According to Pew, the Christian population in the United Arab Emirates stands at 13 percent. Thus, there is a crying need for Gospel preachers in Dubai – ministers and ministries which preach the Cross of Christ for ALL people, whosoever will may come.

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  79. Darlene: Ken, while I would agree that New Calvinism is about a particular culture, I would posit that Reformed theology informs their thinking, and they have just taken their theology to the next logical step. This Movement seeks to dominate Christianity so that it is the only voice that can be heard. New Calvinists remind me of that funny adage,”He who dies with the most toys wins!”

    I am still trying to understand the differences between New-Calvinists and old, and the differences between Calvinist and Reformed. It appears to me that the New-Calvinist are not necessarily Reformed because they don’t adhere to all of the traditional Reformed beliefs and practices, such as infant Baptism. I do know that there is a breed of Calvinists who graciously allow for disagreement without throwing stones. I had initially thought JI Packer was one of those, but ther more I read the more I believe he was more like the New-Calvinists than the old. Here is an example JI Packer quote from the TGC site (https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/erik-raymond/calvinism-is-the-natural-reflex-of-the-new-man-in-christ-packer/):

    Calvinism is the natural theology written on the heart of the new man in Christ, whereas Arminianism is an intellectual sin of infirmity, natural only in the sense in which all such sins are natural, even to the regenerate. Calvinistic thinking is the Christian being himself on the intellectual level; Arminian thinking is the Christian failing to be himself through the weakness of the flesh.

    These are not gracious words that promote Christian unity. Of course, the New-Calvinist jump on stuff like this to denigrate non-Calvinists to further divide Christians. That TGC article also has the quote where Spurgeon said, “Calvinism is the gospel.”

    I am still trying to figure out where I should land in all of this. I know that I am neither Calvinist nor Arminian. I suppose I am closer to Eastern Orthodox than anything else, at least theologically. In any case, I am pretty disgusted by the behavior of the New-Calvinists.

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  80. Todd Wilhelm,

    ACK!!!! They have to be kidding here. Working in the UAE is a cush job. I can’t believe they are communicating “danger.” Worse thing I have ever heard happening to a christian for his faith is a visa non-renewal, and even that is rare.

    Have they no shame!

    J.M.

    3 years in UAE, 1996-99, AlAin

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  81. Ken F (aka Tweed): Calvinism is the natural theology written on the heart of the new man in Christ, whereas Arminianism is an intellectual sin of infirmity …” (J.I. Packer)

    These are not gracious words that promote Christian unity … I am pretty disgusted by the behavior of the New-Calvinists.

    The New Calvinists are out and about to disrupt Christian unity. They sincerely believe that Christendom – the 90+% which has rejected Calvinism – has lost the true gospel that they have come into the world to restore to the church. There is very little that is gracious about their grace-grace-grace message and method. They believe that the essence of Christianity can be found in doctrines ‘about’ grace, not in a direct experience ‘of’ Grace, an encounter with the Living Christ.

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  82. Ken F (aka Tweed),

    From the Packer quote:
    “Calvinistic thinking is the Christian being himself on the intellectual level; Arminian thinking is the Christian failing to be himself through the weakness of the flesh.”

    If Jesus came in the flesh, why do some variants of the Christian religion have such contempt for ‘the flesh’?

    Ken F (aka Tweed): I am still trying to figure out where I should land in all of this.

    So long as I don’t run out of good aviation petrol, I’ll just keep circling above it with maybe a brief touch down for a look-see.
    But yeah, there’s much to be commended in the EO way of thinking.

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  83. Ken F (aka Tweed),

    I would suggest that the decision tree (or “a possible decision tree”) might look something like this:

    regarding soteriology:

    a) monergist vs b) synergist

    if one chooses b), a wide range of theological options opens up, basically all of protestantism outside of the calvinist strands

    if one chooses monergism, that would appear on the surface to limit one to some flavor of Calvinism. But that appearance is deceptive.

    The Latin tradition, following Tertullian and Augustine, opted for infernalism as the dogmatic vision of personal eschatology. Naturally, the meaning of “the Gospel” was configured around this vision (you already know this from your readings in NTW). But infernalism is a rather late development, later than essentially all other dogmas that are shared by all strands of the Latin tradition.

    Monergism does not go well with infernalism; the implied understanding of “who God is” (which is to say, the Calvinist vision) is pretty grotesque. Readers offended by this statement (as I at one time was) are invited to consider the argument of DB Hart in “The Moral Implications of Creatio Ex Nihilo”

    http://journal.radicalorthodoxy.org/index.php/ROTPP/article/view/135/86

    Synergism sits a bit more comfortably with infernalism, though Hart thinks that in the end it has the same problems.

    But perhaps infernalism is not the best understanding of the Biblical texts.

    These are the big questions (or, at least, the ones that tend to trouble people the most). It seems to me that besides these, other issues that tend to divide us, such as ecclesiology, are relatively “small beer”.

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  84. Samuel Conner,

    I think it is rooted in pride…… Look how pious I am!
    All of the scadals that are now public, our knowledge of which is the result of the internet, in all of the different “flavors” of Christianity just confirms to me the fundamental premise of the Bible… we are all fallen…. and maybe are “leaders” are even more “fallen” than they even realize….. the more they try to act “pious”, ( in this case expounding on reformed theology) they are just demonstrating their own “fallen” state… “look at me, look how well I can teach you pew peons how well I can “preach” reformed theology”..
    I have lived long enough, and learned enough theology and science to realize we humans have fundamental limitations in our understanding of reality….. same with theology… when one obsesses on any branch of theology (such as Calvanism) one begins to disconect from reality….. just like when one trys to understand that an electron is both a particle and a “wave”, which is a fundamental tenant of Quantum mechanics.. and the basis of much of how we design our modern world…… electronics, atomic power weapons, etc, etc

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  85. Samuel Conner: Readers offended by this statement (as I at one time was) are invited to consider the argument of DB Hart in “The Moral Implications of Creatio Ex Nihilo”

    That was good reading. I was taught that any form of universalism is heresy. But I’ve recently ran across different ways of looking at it. The fact that a heavyweight like Gregory of Nyssa was a Universalist means that it should not be lightly dismissed.

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  86. Ken F (aka Tweed),

    Agreed. I think that from an intra-ecclesial apologetical standpoint, “universalism” might not be good term to use in describing the views of Gregory and others among the great Greek Fathers who shared this view. “Universalism” in our day is associated with theological drift. It also opens one to the charge, as I think has even happened here at TWW, that one thinks that God makes no distinction between “good” and “evil.” (Of course, the Cross definitively exhibited God’s response to sin.)

    A better term might be the Greek word “apokatastasis” — explicitly used in Acts 3:21, translated (with the modifier “pantOn”) “restoration of all things”. “Universal restorationism” would be even better, with its implication of Divine Agency in restoring what has fallen.

    A book that I would dearly like to read is Ilaria Ramelli’s “The Christian Doctrine of Apokatastasis”, an exhaustive survey of the Patristic literature. It wasn’t just the Cappadocian Fathers; this was a mainstream view prior to the 5-6th centuries. Augustine held it at one time but eventually repudiated it, but wrote that it was the majority view in his day. Ramelli’s work has been fiercely attacked by critics; I’m out of my depth to assess, but I have the impression that her scholarship is more thorough than her critics’.

    The book is just too dear to add to an individual library. If there were a local seminary that lent to the public, I would consider making a contribution. It looks to be an important work.

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  87. Samuel Conner: It wasn’t just the Cappadocian Fathers; this was a mainstream view prior to the 5-6th centuries. Augustine held it at one time but eventually repudiated it, but wrote that it was the majority view in his day.

    Thank you for this very good info. Do you you know where I can find some quotes on this from Augustine? It’s unfortunate that the reformers did not have more exposure to the early church writings (apparently Calvin did but he basically rejected them as irrelevant). If they did I think reformed theology would have taken a different path. I wonder how future historians will look back on the writings of people like MacArthur.

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  88. Samuel Conner,

    In the New International Dictionary of Theology and Exegesis, the following point is made
    “Acts 3:19–21). This statement accords with the eschat. messianic hope of OT prophecy and Jud. The ἀποκατάστασις πάντων does not mean the conversion of all human beings, but the restoration of all things and circumstances that the OT prophets proclaimed, i.e., the complete renewal of the earth. While the phrase “times of refreshing [καιροὶ ἀναψύξεως]” alludes to the subjective effects of this event, the words “times of restoration [χρόνων ἀποκαταστάσεως]” emphasize the objective side and the permanent condition of the world renewed. (This passage was used by Origen [Princ. 1.6.1–4; 2.3.1–5; 3.6.1–9] as the basis for the doctrine of the Apokatastasis, according to which God’s work of salvation has as its aim the removal of all the disorder in creation that has resulted from sin, and so the medical, political, and cosmic restoration of all created things to the harmony of one all-embracing order of being. This doctrine has been taken up by various theologians throughout church history and in some cases developed into the doctrine of universal salvation”.

    Origen’s writing is a bit ambiguous as you can see from the above references.
    “The end of the world, then, and the final consummation, will take place when every one shall be subjected to punishment for his sins; a time which God alone knows, when He will bestow on each one what he deserves. We think, indeed, that the goodness of God, through His Christ, may recall all His creatures to one end, even His enemies being conquered and subdued.”

    He then muddies the water further by suggesting that the end of this world might be the beginning of another.
    “The next subject of inquiry is, whether there was any other world before the one which now exists; and if so, whether it was such as the present, or somewhat different, or inferior; or whether there was no world at all, but something like that which we understand will be after the end of all things, when the kingdom shall be delivered up to God, even the Father; which nevertheless may have been the end of another world,—of that, namely, after which this world took its beginning; and whether the various lapses of intellectual natures provoked God to produce this diverse and varying condition of the world”

    He also expounds “Little children, we do not yet know what we shall be; but if a revelation be made to us from the Saviour, ye will say, without any doubt, we shall be like Him.” By which expression he points out with the utmost certainty, that not only was the end of all things to be hoped for, which he says was still unknown to him, but also the likeness to God, which will be conferred in proportion to the completeness of our deserts.”
    Again this is something far different from universalism.

    And this lengthy article is from the “Little Kittel”
    “apokatástasis.
    A. apokatástasis in Secular Usage. Found in the NT only in Acts 3:20–21, this word basically means “restoration,” and then has special applications 1. in medicine, 2. in law, and 3. in politics. 4. It is also used in astronomy for the return of the constellations, the shining again of the sun or moon, the restitution of the cosmic cycle, and the periods of the phoenix, with the corresponding ideas of eternal recurrence and new creation (as in Stoicism). 5. It is used, too, of individual souls, e.g., when entering again the cycle of generations, and in the Hermetic writings in connection with the release from matter.
    B. apokatástasis in Judaism. The LXX does not have the term, and it is rare in Judaism with little technical input. Josephus uses it for the return from exile, and Philo for the exodus and mystically for the soul. Surrounding cosmological speculation had hardly any influence.
    C. apokatástasis in the NT. The reference in Acts 3:20–21 is strictly to the restitution of that of which the prophets have spoken, or the establishment of what they have spoken. Grammatically the conversion of persons cannot be intended. The relations of which the prophets spoke are restored to the integrity of creation while their promise is itself fulfilled. The times of refreshing mark the beginning of the transformation through the messianic work of Jesus. The text has no bearing on the question of universalism with which it is often linked. Judaism holds out no such hope, and if Paul stresses the comprehensive work of the second Adam (Rom. 5:18; 1 Cor. 15:22; Col. 1:20) he also says that judgment will have a twofold outcome (Rom. 2:7ff.), while God’s being all in all will be through the overthrow of opposition (1 Cor. 15:25ff.).
    D. apokatástasis in the History of the Church. From Origen’s day the word has often been used for the restoration of all created beings. Irenaeus does not take this view, and Clement of Alexandria only hints at it, but Origen equates beginning and end and hence looks for the ultimate removal of all hostility to God, relying mainly on 1 Cor. 15:25ff. and Jn. 17:11 but taking his term from Acts 3:21 in the medical and political senses rather than the astronomical. His followers include many eastern theologians and such westerners as Scotus Erigena, Hans Denck, J. A. Bengel, and F. D. E. Schleiermacher. [A. Oepke, I, 387–93]”

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  89. Ken F (aka Tweed),

    The only statement I am aware of by Augustine (in his later phase when he was “anti-UR”) is referenced here:

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/unfundamentalistchristians/2017/04/indeed-many-universalism-early-church/

    There is a quote from “Enchiridion” near the beginning.

    I’m uneasy with the term “universalism”, seeing as it is often associated with a wider array of ideas, such as “unitarianism”, that were rejected quite early in the history of Church dogma. There are evangelicals, notably Robin Parry but also others, who are trying to rehabilitate the term and the concept. I tend to find their arguments (aside from the question of the bibical text itself) rather sentimental and not entirely persuasive.

    There are two basic issues that I think need to be considered (DB Hart, in “Moral Implications” does precisely this, though in the opposite order from here) — “can the view be defended from Scripture (or, better if possible, be shown to be demanded by Scripture),” and “is it internally and externally coherent?”

    Regarding the first, my present opinion is that it is not possible to definitively prove a specific view of personal eschatology (regarding those who at death are among the unrighteous; regarding those who are “in Christ”, all points of view agree with the Pauline affirmation that the “just in Christ” shall be raised to incorruptible life). As Brad Jersak has noted in “Her Gates Will Never be Shut”, the biblical data is “polyphonic”. This makes it easy for advocates to “prove” the views they favor by selecting the texts that make their preferred points. But it is hard to “pack all the evidence in” (to borrow a helpful phrase from NT Wright).

    I’m personally agnostic, though I think that of the 3 major alternatives, “conditional immortality/annihilationism” and “universal reconciliation” are more abundantly attested in the Biblical text than is the present majority view of “infernalism”. This, BTW, doesn’t mean that infernalism is not true, only that IMO it is not provable from Scripture.

    Regarding the second, I find DB Hart’s analysis, of the way infernalism destabilizes our ability to understand predications of God’s goodness (and much of the rest of Theology Proper), to be persuasive. That doesn’t mean that infernalism is not true, only that (granting Hart’s argument) if it is true, it means that we don’t understand what it means to speak of “God’s goodness”.

    ——

    This is addressed to Ken F/Tweed in response to his inquiry; other readers may be antagonized; not my intent. Some may wonder, “how can you possibly doubt infernalism”?

    I’ll try to offer a few thoughts to help explain

    * Most of what Evangelicals understand to be “the Gospel” can be discerned in Genesis 3. The one major feature that is notably absent is “post-mortem punishments” as the “bad news” to which the Gospel is the counterpoint “good news”. In OT, sin leads to death of the mortal body, not to post-mortem punishments. One can counter by pointing to “progressive revelation”, but it strikes me as a bit odd that such an important matter should be so deeply hidden for so long.

    * In the NT, the clearest teaching on “Justification” is in Romans. But, oddly, post-mortem punishments are not in view in Romans. “Wrath” is repeatedly mentioned and, where the meaning is clear, it is consistently “under the sun”, pre-mortem consequences and mortality itself.

    * The “go to” texts for infernalists are Jesus “gehenna” warnings and Revelation 20. So, in the progress of revelation, this most important information is not written down until the last of the pieces of the canon are composed. That seems very odd.

    What ought one to make of these “go to” texts?

    Jesus’ prophetic warnings are IMO to be understood in the context of the Hebrew prophetic tradition. I think that Jesus was warning of the great calamity that was to overtake Israel within the lifetime of his hearers. The “signs of the times” pointed to war with Rome (there had been revolts against pagan occupiers going back 2 centuries, to the times of the Maccabees, and we know that these continued into the 2nd century AD, when Jewish militant nationalism was finally crushed with the suppression of the Bar Kochba rebellion).

    “gehenna” in Jesus’ sayings is a warning about the judgment of the Hinnom Valley — it had previously happened in Nebuchadnezzar’s siege of Jerusalem and it would happen again in Titus’. See Brad Jerzak’s discussion for more detail. Wright in “Jesus and the Victory of God” also discusses this briefly.

    What of Revelation 20?

    I don’t know what to make of this text, but if one is going to insist on a literal interpretation of this aspect of John’s vision, I would hope that one would have the intellectual fortitude to also read the NON-visionary portions of this book literally.

    What non-visionary portions? I am thinking specifically of the preface and the conclusion. The preface indicates that the vision concerns things which must shortly take place. The conclusion claims that “the time is near”.

    It strikes me as the height of exegetical irresponsibility to insist on a literal interpretation of the apocalyptic vision of Revelation 20 and simultaneously insist that the events described therein must be remote future from the perspective of the writer, against his explicit affirmations that these things must soon take place.

    I don’t know what to make of Revelation, but if I were compelled to land somewhere, I would speculate that the Rev 20 vision concerns the AD70 destruction of Jerusalem and the judgment of its inhabitants, who went to war against Rome in violation of Jesus’ commands to pursue the way of peace. Mt 25 likewise is about the judgment of that portion of Israel that persecuted Jesus’ Jewish followers.

    “Absurd!”, you may respond. I agree that it looks that way. After all, doesn’t Rev 21-22 describe the eternal final state of the People of God?

    But there is a puzzle even there, and with that I will end:

    Why are there unrighteous people outside the gates of the Holy City (gates that are never closed, seemingly in invitation to those people to repent and enter the city)?

    I think that we (inclusive “we”; “we Evangelicals”, “we believers through time”) don’t understand Revelation 20-22.

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  90. Samuel Conner,

    And then there is always the idea that the writers of scripture did not know either and that is why we can’t figure out conclusively what they were thinking.

    And then there is always yet another idea that if it were necessary for us to know the for sure for sure answer then we would have been told in uncertain terms.

    And analogy might be that over at the cancer center where I hang out they don’t know (medially) either so they try to pursue all possibilities knowing that it all may be a waste of time. We could just do that with some theologies and make our lives a bit simpler and perhaps more reasonable, with the additional benefit that however it all turns out we could then in all honesty say ‘I told you so’.

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  91. okrapod,

    I fully agree. I’m agnostic on the subject; am inclined to regard with skepticism those who seem to be highly confident about this. I confess that I was once one of them, but sometimes with age comes a measure of humility.

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  92. Samuel Conner: The only statement I am aware of by Augustine (in his later phase when he was “anti-UR”) is referenced here:

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/unfundamentalistchristians/2017/04/indeed-many-universalism-early-church/

    Thank you for the link and for taking time to write your thoughts. I think I am about where you are on this topic. I had always thought “universalism” was heresy, but I’ve since heard very persuasive arguments that there is a viable Christian form of it that is not al all heretical.

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  93. Ken F (aka Tweed): Thank you for the link and for taking time to write your thoughts. I think I am about where you are on this topic.I had always thought “universalism” was heresy, but I’ve since heard very persuasive arguments that there is a viable Christian form of it that is not al all heretical.

    I also am happy to see a thoughtful discussion of various individuals thinking. It’s very nice.

    It think you have reached (collectively) the limit of religious doctrine, without incorporation of the nature of reality. This is where Christianity’s rejection of science has put us in an unfortunate state.

    Here are some suggested considerations.
    -Einstein gave us the concept of Relativity. This alone makes the historical consideration of Universalism obsolete. There are hitherto unconsidered factors. Specifically, time-space are neither independant or rigid.

    -An alteration in the laws of physics, results in a change of time, as we know it so far. Our current view of eternity, is that it’s a really large number of years. That appears increasingly incorrect.

    -The elements melting with a fervent heat, appears to represent our Universe’s end.

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  94. Ken F (aka Tweed): there is a viable Christian form of it that is not al all heretical.

    You are most welcome! I hope it’s at least a little helpful.

    I agree that there are viable options. This view belongs “at the table”, though I don’t expect to see that in my lifetime (thought if mainstream evangelicalism continues its decline, who knows what may follow?)

    Discerning readers will note the distinct “preterist” emphasis in my discussion of Revelation 20 and the preface and conclusion of that book. That’s another view that I think belongs “at the table”/”in the discussion”. I don’t know whether it’s true, but it seems to me to “get more of the evidence in” than any of the competing views of public eschatology. They can’t agree among themselves, and it would be highly ironic if in the end we were to find that a major theme on which they do agree, “futurism”, turns out to have been a misunderstanding.

    I sometimes wonder whether, in His contemplation of the churches, God is overcome with fits of giggles. Or should that be “Giggles?” Perhaps it is more likely “Sighs”. Jesus was often tempted to exasperation with His disciples. I suspect that He still is.

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  95. Samuel Conner: I hope it’s at least a little helpful.

    Very helpful.

    Even though theological discussions like this can seem off-topic they are not very much off topic when it comes to the theology being pushed around the world by New-Calvinists. This is because they push a very narrow viewpoint as if it is the only biblically correct viewpoint. They reduce the “gospel” to a narrow set of doctrines and distinctions, reject all deviations as heresy, and then push their theology in places like Dubai as if they alone have the truth. If they were more inclusive of other historical streams of thought I would be much less concerned about them.

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  96. Ken F (aka Tweed): the theology being pushed around the world by New-Calvinists … reduce the “gospel” to a narrow set of doctrines and distinctions, reject all deviations as heresy, and then push their theology in places like Dubai as if they alone have the truth. If they were more inclusive of other historical streams of thought I would be much less concerned about them.

    In this case the “other historical streams” are represented by 90+% of Christians worldwide who are non-Calvinist, who have rejected the tenets of reformed theology – particularly this new strain. We need to remember that though they are making the most noise in Christendom right now, New Calvinists represent only a fraction of the church’s voice in the world. This too will pass – aberrant expressions of faith always do after they have run their course, maximized their damage, and left countless souls confused and disillusioned.

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  97. Lowlandseer,

    Thanks for the link. I noticed that a Fr. Farley had left a very brief, very unfavorable review of the book at Amazon. This shows why.

    I’m not going to rush to purchase this; it’s too expensive. But I have embarked on a reading program in the Patristic literature (regrettably I am limited to English translation). I expect I will not complete it before mortality overtakes me; it’s a vast body of writing. But I do find already that the early Fathers did not think about personal eschatology the way that that contemporary Evangelicals do. They were looking for “resurrection” ; today we speak in terms of “going to heaven”. NT Wright has done a good job of pointing out this gap in present day Evangelical thinking.

    I’m agnostic about what the right answer is to the question of the ultimate fate of the unrighteous. Scripture is polyphonic on the subject. It evidently isn’t important enough to have been stated more unequivocally or earlier in the documentary record.

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  98. Samuel Conner,

    You can get The complete Ante-Nicene, Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers Collection – 65 authors, 1000 books, on Amazon Kindle for less than $5. That’s where I got most of my stuff from.

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