WWCNC: Could Theological Dishonesty Have Contributed to the Downfall at Countryside?

We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.” ― Plato link.

crossed-fingersCrossed Fingers

Just a quick statement about Dee:

I wanted to let you all know that things are a bit busy around my house. My eldest daughter is getting married at the end of January. Also, about 5 years ago, I contracted an unusual virus. This caused a rapid onset of an unusual inflammatory arthritis which has resulted in quite a bit of joint damage. I have had one total knee replacement. Unfortunately, it appears I also need another partial knee replacement ASAP. I am trying to wait until after the wedding. However, I am having some pain which causes me some concentration problems. Please forgive me if I seem a bit distracted.


When we first started to talk with Becky, she sent us some emails. The following account, in her own words, jumped out at me.

Pastor Kevin Galloway then joined us to the Acts 29 /Mark Driscoll network shortly after. We were told that we HAD to plant a church in nearby Valparaiso Indiana in order to join this new and exciting network. Things began to change, money seemed to be spent on updating our look, and we started having a coffee bar. Our classes were now being taught from books published by Acts 29. One woman friend of mine who was a charter member of our church left one class in tears when she challenged the asst. pastor over the book being taught from. She like I could not believe that God predestined whether or not her newly born grandchild would go to heaven or hell. 

It was evident to me that this church had not been distinctively Reformed when Galloway signed them up for Acts 29. It appears that Galloway did not clearly state his objective since so many people left. When the church members first heard about Acts 29, they should have asked the following question. "To what theology does Acts 29 subscribe?" The answer is clearly stated on their website.

Acts 29 : The church planter/pastor must be Reformed link and link.

To be a planter in Acts 29 you have to hold to a Reformed soteriology. 

If you really understand this gospel, this message that “God saves sinners,” and really understand Reformed soteriology, then you should be known for your humility, not your pride. You know that everything you have is a gift of grace.

Why didn't the pastor announce his intention to shift the theological direction of the church?

I cannot know what he was thinking but I can give you some thoughts by others on the matter. We wrote about this here. We were quoting from The Founders, a distinctly Reformed group link.

I would expect that most people of good will would understand the distinct upside of leveling with one another. After all, Jesus did say that He was the Truth. That is why I was concerned about one paragraph within this document. In Chapter 4, hereWalking Without Slipping: Instructions for Local Church Reformation:

Clarity. In the pulpit, don't use theological language that is not found in the Bible. Avoid terms such as Calvinism, reformed, doctrines of grace, particular redemption, etc. Most people will not know what you are talking about. Many that do will become inflamed against you. Teach your people the biblical truth of these doctrines without providing distracting labels for them.

I could be wrong but I do believe the writers appear to be implying the following:

  1. Most people are too stupid to understand what theologians and pastors mean by Calvinism.
  2. The few, who know what they are talking about, will become distinctly displeased and ruin the pastor's day.

Their solution seems to be: "Don't tell them but still teach them the truth." Or one could revert to that old game called "20 Questions." (Freak out the next candidate who will not answer your questions. Ask this. "Are you supralapsarian?")

What is WWCNC?

Such statements can be misunderstood (or understood all too well) and this is what leads to WWCNC. This stands for World War Calvinist NonCalvinist. These wars can be prevented by being honest. In the above linked TWW post, I also said

Please understand that I have no beef with any church and their selection of primary and secondary doctrine. I may disagree with the doctrinal emphasis or even the core theology of a particular church but I would vociferously defend their right to express and celebrate their beliefs. I would also "elect" not to attend a church that subscribed to the set of beliefs that are described in TULIP, etc. I would be unhappy. Also, given my propensity to verbally emote, in excruciating detail, my disagreements and affirmations, it would stand to reason that the church leaders would be dispirited by my presence as well. 

Here is an interesting "tell them…wait, maybe not" by a Calvinist.

Once again, this is from the linked TWW post.

Jason Allen's blog presents a "Tell them the truth. Wait, maybe not." approach. In Are you a Calvinist? Rethinking Theological Labels, linkhe appears to stress the need for truthfulness.

One can be accurate without being forthright, and, the truth is, if one desires to be intentionally ambiguous, it’s not too difficult to be truthful—yet unclear. While this game might assuage the conscience, in the end it will help neither the church nor the minister that seeks to serve it.

Truth in advertising is a standard we expect of the world; let’s expect even more of ourselves. When it comes to a pastor’s rapport with his congregation, trust rides out of town on horseback, but returns on foot. The best way to get off to a good start is by being relentlessly biblical and forthright about one’s beliefs.

Then he says something which could be considered, by some, to be contradictory

WHAT IS MOST WISE

When dialoguing about theological convictions, one owes it to others to be honest and forthright, but one also owes it to himself to be wise. To sign on to a label that has morphed in meaning beyond one’s own comfort zone, or has been hijacked by others altogether, may be unwise and, in its own way, misrepresentative.

To conceal one’s theological convictions is at once disingenuous and cowardly, and no self-respecting minister should be either. Rather, let’s be Bereans, studying the Scriptures and articulating our convictions in ways that are most biblical, most forthright, and most wise. 

But the example he gives at the beginning of the post is confusing to me. I think he should have answered the question. I certainly would have because I do not like playing games. It might have taken a little more time to convey the nuances but the man asking the question deserved both the time and effort.

(ed. note-Person in the church to the pastor) I am so glad you are here to preach for us today. I have looked forward to meeting you. Before you preach, though, I have one question for you. Are you a Calvinist?”

That question is not an uncommon one, but it’s a question that might be more difficult to answer than first thought. To this gentleman, I reflexively replied, “To be honest, sir, I have no idea what you mean by that question.” He smiled and responded, “I have no have idea what I meant by the question either.”

We both chuckled, then I retorted, “I’ll be happy to discuss this as much as you’d like after the service, but know that I believe in preaching the gospel to all people and that anyone who repents of their sins and embraces Christ as Lord and Savior can be saved.” Reassured, he smiled and said “that is all I wanted to hear.”

So, it appears that the member and the pastor can now join hands and skip merrily through life; that is until the member does some reading. If that occurs, there could be some negative feelings. 

Here is another Calvinist pastor expressing his hesitation in *fessing up* to his beliefs link.

I want every person that God has “put under my charge” to embrace the doctrines of grace.  But even if they do not I still hope to graciously and lovingly provide for them safe pasture.  And that “safe pasture” is found in embracing Jesus not the doctrines of grace.

This is why if asked in an interview whether I want to “change the church into Calvinist” I’d struggle with how to answer.  Not because I want to be deceptive, but because it’s partially true, but not because I want to serve Calvin.  I would want them to embrace the doctrines of grace because I believe it will provide them more joy and God more glory.

Roger Olson, a non-Calvinist, says there is no place for dishonesty link.

Finally, the real issue should be full disclosure by pastoral candidates and congregations seeking pastors.  Knowing how controversial it is, Calvinist pastoral candidates should be completely “up front” about their Calvinism with churches interviewing them.  And churches seeking a pastor should lay all their cards on the table, so to speak, and tell pastoral candidates what theologies they cannot tolerate.

I, for one, have no problem with Calvinist Baptist churches and Calvinist pastors in Baptist churches.  There have always been some.  The only time it becomes a problem is when Calvinists or Arminians sneak into pulpits hiding their theologies and then “come out of the closet” with them, surprising the congregation by attempting to enforce their distinctive view of God’s sovereignty on an unsuspecting and unprepared congregation.  This is happening a lot these days.  For the most part it is Calvinists doing it.  I have heard no reports of Arminians sneaking into pulpits hiding their Arminianism and then attempting to enforce it on a largely Calvinist (or “Calminian”) congregation.  So far as I know this never happens.

Within denominations that lack a clear confessional stance on God’s sovereignty in salvation, there should be tolerance and mutual respect combined with complete transparency.  This would solve most, if not all, of the controversies over this matter.

Dee's personal experience with dishonesty in this matter.

I have told this story a number of times but now I want to reveal that I am the person who asked the question in this story. This is from the same TWW post linked above.

I personally vouch for the truthfulness of the following story.  A pastoral candidate visited a church which was not a Calvinist church. There was a Q&A and people were asked to submit questions. All questions were answered except one, hers. That question was:

Are you a Calvinist?

When asked why her question was not answered, she was told there was not enough time. The rest of the questions centered around a People Magazine approach. "How many kids do you have?" Yes, the pastor was a Neo-Calvinist and changed the direction of the church.

So what would I have done if they had leveled with me at he very beginning? It is really quite simple. I would have gone to the elders  and asked them if the direction of the church was changing. If they had said yes, my husband and I would have left. Instead, we hung around for awhile, trying to figure out what the heck was going on. He waxed eloquent about John Piper and recommended books by CJ Mahaney, which is definitely not my cup of tea.  We eventually left, anyway. Why play this game? It is this sort of thing that breeds distrust and contributes to an unnecessary escalation of  WWCNC.

PS- I know precisely what Calvinism means, including the nuances, and I do not appreciate being blown off as if I was either stupid or unimportant.

The role of women at Countryside church appeared to change as well.

Becky also wrote the following. 

Some left because of Driscoll's attitudes about women in the church and how denigrated we women began to feel when our new leaders began adopting Marc's bigotry towards women

Once again, here is what it says on the Acts 29 website link.

4. We are deeply committed both to the fundamental spiritual and moral equality of male and female as well as the principle of male headship in the church and home.

Both men and women are together created in the divine image and are therefore equal before God as persons, possessing the same moral dignity and value, and have equal access to God through faith in Christ.

Men and women are together the recipients of spiritual gifts designed to empower them for ministry in the local church and beyond. Therefore, women are to be encouraged, equipped, and empowered to utilize their gifting in ministry, in service to the body of Christ, and through teaching in ways that are consistent with the Word of God.

Both husbands and wives are responsible to God for spiritual nurture and vitality in the home, but God has given to the man primary responsibility to lead his wife and family in accordance with the servant leadership and sacrificial love modeled by Jesus Christ.

The Elders/Pastors of each local church have been granted authority under the headship of Jesus Christ to provide oversight and to teach/preach the Word of God in corporate assembly for the building up of the body. The office of Elder/Pastor is restricted to men.

(Genesis 1:26-27; 2:18; Acts 18:24-26; 1 Corinthians 11:2-16; Galatians 3:28; Ephesians 5:22-33; Colossians 3:18-19; 1 Timothy 2:11-15; 3:1-7; Titus 2:3-5; 1 Peter 3:1-7)

Obviously, the people of the church were taken aback and had not been adequately prepared for the change. Or, better yet, had unnecessary change forced on them.

The Economic Realities of Ill-Defined Rules of the Game

Once again, there was a restructuring of how the church functioned. It appears obvious to me that the congregation in the church was not prepared, or even asked, about the change. We will discuss this in more depth next week. However, it is considered poor form to "take over"  and expect people to follow a pastor without carefully defining what is going on. In fact, it is my opinion that this is probably the real reason that Countryside failed.

Many went to the leaders and tried to warn them, stop them, or just make them see, those folks did not stay long after that. It was and is still heartbreaking. We began to lose our day to day ministries. Our missionaries we had supported for YEARS were now told sorry we have no money, meanwhile our pastor went on trips to meet with Mr. Driscoll and his ilk.

 Our elderly began to see the problems right off and got disgusted and left. MANY were forced out.

 When our older members left they took the checkbook with them. Bet that surprised Kevin…lol. Money that had been spent in the pursuit of relevance was not being replenished. And while he had built a brainwashed army of young adults they certainly did not have the money to keep our lights on. We began to hear almost weekly how broke we were, how behind we were

Our savings was gone, our credit card was up and he had ran off all the regular tithers. So we were sunk, and many of us knew it.

In the end, it appears that every misstep that could be made, was made. Yet, this pastor is one of the church planting faces of the Acts 29 website. In fact, as you will see next week, this pastor now runs a leadership institute and is a trainer for other church planters. 

This past week, Kevin De Young wrote a post titled What Do You Think of When You Think of the New Calvinism? Imagine asking this question of the people who lost Countryside Church. One of our readers, May, left the following comment at DeYoung blog. I commend him for having the guts to allow it to stand. In light of this story, can you understand how she might have arrived at this place?

I think of an incredibly divisive movement that seems to celebrate Calvin more than Christ (just look at Piper’s latest poem) and which has led many a young person I know down blind alleys of predestination and limited atonement. They spend their time more concerned about which Puritan to quote than actually reading the Bible and keeping in step with the Holy Spirit.

I think of a movement that has marginalized women and given them non-biblical prescribed roles. A movement that has removed from women opportunities to use their gifts for the church. In Piper’s church, to take an example from ‘the main man’, women cannot read from Scripture publicly. In my own denomination I have seen the influence of New Calvinism relegate women and remove them from leadership positions – after all, it’s is a movement which believes the church should have a ‘masculine feel’.

I think a movement wherein the leaders spend massive amounts of time and money promoting each other’s books, conferences, blog-posts and generally engaging in back-slapping.

I think of a movement that rallies round Christian leaders accused of heinous behaviour just because ‘they’re in the club’ or have the so-called right doctrine, even if this support undermines the most helpless and vulnerable in the Kingdom.

I think of a movement that has shaken my Christian faith to the core because as a highly educated woman I do not see that there is a place for me in it.

I think of a movement that to my mind has done irrevocable damage to the Church.

Lydia's Corner: Isaiah 22:1-24:23 Galatians 2:17-3:9 Psalm 60:1-12 Proverbs 23:15-16

Comments

WWCNC: Could Theological Dishonesty Have Contributed to the Downfall at Countryside? — 283 Comments


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    First post!! 😛


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    So, ahh, how good can a theology be if you have to sneak it in using deception?Why are they afraid to proclaim their own gospel? Why do I get a mental picture of the movie Aliens when reading about this type of dishonesty?

    P.S. Dee, Sorry to hear about your arthritis. I hope you find treatments that will make your life more comfortable. On a side note, my Mom’s had so many joints replaced we refer to her as Wolverine.


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    “PS- I know precisely what Calvinism means, including the nuances, and I do not appreciate being blown off as if I was either stupid or unimportant.”

    Different people have very different perceptions or understandings of Calvinism making this question impossible to answer in a yes or no manner. If you were asking me, I would first need to know what you mean by Calvinism. You could point to TULIP but then there are different understanding of those points as well. It may be more effective to define your own position then ask the “suspected Calvinist” if they agree and if not why? Labels are a dangerous thing.


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    Where I am, in the UK, every new pastor that has joined a church (that I’m aware of) in recent years has been a Calvinist of the New Calvinist school.

    I don’t know whether these pastors ‘concealed’ their theology from the congregations or not. I DO know that some of these pastors (mostly young men, some even trained in America or with links to the US) were upfront about their Calvinism. HOWEVER as far as I can make out, they were only upfront to the elders, who frankly did not realise what New Calvinism looks like, and who believed it to be a minor detail. In one church I can think of, the new pastor did announce his Reformed theology to the elders, but the elders brushed it off. Many of the congregation have left that church and it’s gone from having two morning services to one.


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    When I was in my faith crisis I used to pop up in a frenzy from church to church. During that time I met with Pastors or church leaders and asked a number of questions such as:

    1. Where did you go to Seminary?
    2. Are you a Hyper-Calvinist?
    3. Who are the top 5 theologians who influence you?
    4. What do you think of John Piper?
    5. What is the theological/doctrine history of the church?

    I was amazed as to how many Pastors were taken aback by the questions I was asking. It seemed as if they were not prepared nor expecting it. AND this was on top of my quest to have deep, intelectual and philosphical discussions on the problem of evil.
    The description that Dee had is what I experienced in my faith crisis. Once I showed up to McLean Presybeterian Church in McLean, VA. It was to their ministry of early career age adults. They were having the new pastor introduce himself. And he was laughing about how he met his wife, his style, favorite food, etc.. This was in a question and answer session. And people who were invovled were asking these fluff questions. I was bouncing off the ceiling, and when you could text in questions for the pastor to take I was texting in questions such as:

    1. What do you believe about women?
    2. Who are the top theologians who influence you?
    3. Do you believe that God predetermines evil?

    None of my questions were taken, and I heard all this fluff when I was interested in hard questions and knowing more about this place. The lack of quality astounded me, and it seemed to be more of a spiritual circle jerk due to how much fluff that came out. I walked away learning absolutely nothing.

    What a waste of time….


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    The theolgocial dishoensty at Countryside is on a smaller sclae of what happened in SGM. That was another theological hijacking as well.


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    To me, Calvinism or New Calvinism is simply belief in the sovereignty of God in all thing. i.e., God never says “Oops.”


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    Eagle wrote:

    First post!! 😛

    This is the worst part of “death by moderation” that dee has subjected me too. I’ll never get to be first : (


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    James MacDonald’s Harvest bunch did the same thing to the church they adopted in Hickory, NC — which was historically charismatic in what we might called a ‘slightly reformed’ way. Harvest sent a guy who was previously John McArthur’s right-hand man (wonder why he was available to move to NC to be a Harvest pastor?), a guy who is a cessationist, to pastor a continuist church. He said he wasn’t going to preach about it — but he did. Many of the long-time members of that church left, and took their checkbooks with them.

    Theological hijacking is happening all over the place. Crazy.


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    This is called a “Stealth Coup” or “Coup from Within”, a la Germany in 1933.

    With overtones of “Salami Tactics”, infiltrating and taking over one teensy-weensy concession at a time, a la Stalin in Eastern Europe in 1945-46.

    And Deception — deceiving your future Inferiors as to your goal and plan until you have your boot firmly on their necks — is key to both.


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    Dee,

    I’m very sorry to hear about your pain and suffering! With my chronic pain issues, I’m right there with you, sister. I’ll be praying for you.


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    Dishonesty from pastors, whether in an interview at a prospective church or in any other form or venue, is simply not in accordance with the integrity that Christ calls us all to have. This is Christianity 101.

    If a Calvinist pastor is asked by a church whether he is a Calvinist, dishonesty can easily be avoided by carefully, respectfully asking “What is your understanding of what that term means?” This question can then lead to a discussion that will be good for all involved– rather than to a possible instance of dishonesty that will not help anyone, including the pastor and the congregation.


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    And just like Communism is all “For the Good of the Collective (and Purity of Ideology)”, so Calvinism is all “For the Good of the Church (and Correct Theology)”. And both must be forced down the throats of the Masses for Their Own Good (and the Exaltation of the Party/Truly Elect), by force and/or deceit if necessary. Because the Righteousness of The Cause justifies any means whatsoever to bring it about.


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    Nickname wrote:

    James MacDonald’s Harvest bunch did the same thing to the church they adopted in Hickory, NC — which was historically charismatic in what we might called a ‘slightly reformed’ way. Harvest sent a guy who was previously John McArthur’s right-hand man (wonder why he was available to move to NC to be a Harvest pastor?), a guy who is a cessationist, to pastor a continuist church. He said he wasn’t going to preach about it — but he did. Many of the long-time members of that church left, and took their checkbooks with them.
    Theological hijacking is happening all over the place. Crazy.

    I remember learning about that church takeover several years ago and doing some extensive research.

    I even found John MacArthur’s recommendation letter online. That stealth takeover really upset me.


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    @ John A: Behave and I’ll let you out!


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    I remember when SGM’s doctrinal beliefs were hijacked –er, changed. There was no conversation, no hint of anything new in the wind. I guess Mahaney decided [that seems to be how it went] and pastors were apparently told about the new direction SGM churches would proceed. There were no classes, no discussion, nothing. At my church, the pastor began teaching Calvinist doctrine. I guess pastors got in line or were moved along to another vocation. What I have come to resent is the practice of churches not consulting church members and bring them along into unity. If there is disunity about the direction the church was going, the general SOP was the pastor stayed and the dissenters left. That’s one reason why elder-led churches have both front- and rear-revolving doors. It makes it easier for disheartened members to leave. Is that really what pastors want? Either agree with me or get out? How is that pastoring?


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    @ Just Watching:

    I sincerely hope that many Christians are getting a wake-up call. Five years ago Dee and I started rousing from our slumber. We don’t want any more congregations to be caught off guard, so we are sounding the alarm.


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    Just Watching wrote:

    What I have come to resent is the practice of churches not consulting church members and bring them along into unity. If there is disunity about the direction the church was going, the general SOP was the pastor stayed and the dissenters left. That’s one reason why elder-led churches have both front- and rear-revolving doors. It makes it easier for disheartened members to leave.

    I’ve never personally experienced specifically *theological* hijacking”of a church by a pastor, but I have witnessed major directional hijacking of a church by a pastor in other ways. It all but destroyed an evangelical, non-Reformed Baptist church that I used to attend.

    On the question of elder rule making it easier for members to leave, the elders of the “elder-rule” church that I was a member of in New Mexico began a process of church discipline against me when I returned to the Catholic Church. That process continued even when I moved out of New Mexico and back to the D.C. area. The elders’ last “disciplinary letter” to me stated that since I no longer lived in their geographical area, they knew that I would not likely be returning to their church, but they exhorted me to “find a Biblical church” in the area where I now live. It certainly was not easy for me to leave that elder-rule church!


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    Just Watching wrote:

    There was no conversation, no hint of anything new in the wind. I guess Mahaney decided [that seems to be how it went] and pastors were apparently told about the new direction SGM churches would proceed. There were no classes, no discussion, nothing. At my church, the pastor began teaching Calvinist doctrine.

    Pastors or Party Commissars?


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    Christopher Lake wrote:

    The elders’ last “disciplinary letter” to me stated that since I no longer lived in their geographical area, they knew that I would not likely be returning to their church, but they exhorted me to “find a Biblical church” in the area where I now live. It certainly was not easy for me to leave that elder-rule church!

    “You can check out any time you like,
    But You Can Never Leave!”
    — The Eagles, “Hotel California”


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    The bait “we are not really Calvinists”. The seeming switch “we think we are actually “New Calvinists”. But actually they seem to think they are immune from the wrath of God. I think that makes them without any true spiritual base at all. They seem to have no real connection with God at all other than the use of His Name to acquire fame, position, and goods.

    I think they kind of baited and switched themselves.

    The bait “I really know God better than you”. The switch “I really do not know God at all but I am happy to use his name for personal gain”.


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    I’m interested, as some commentators have seemed, in knowing what the exact, irreducible beliefs are being called “Calvinism.” If I were asked that question, “Are you a Calvinist?”, I would have to stop and ask for some pretty precise clarification, too. I suppose the question could be asked of a church, “Are you Arminian?” and that church not feel entirely comfortable identifying itself as such without further clarification of what I meant by the the word. There are valid distinctions and qualifications in both camps, held by some solid theologians. Since I have wonderful, godly friends who identify themselves as Calvinist, and others who identify with Arminianism–I wonder if the core issue regarding the Acts 29 network is not its Calvinistic leanings, but instead one of simple integrity and transparency in the leaders of a church. Hope you find some relief and healing, Dee!


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    Dee, I am so sorry to hear that you are going through such pain. Reactive arthritis isn’t as rare as you think it is but it is a major pain in the butt. I too am facing the possibility of major knee (and possibly ankle) surgery but hesitate to do anything while in the middle of a major arthritis flare-up. I just want to be able to walk at my own wedding next summer without a cane or bulky brace.

    In regards to the article topic, at my home church we had a similar situation about ten years ago. A young hyperactive pastor fresh out of seminary, eager to change our church. He only lasted two years before giving up – not enough adoration from the congregation and the deacons weren’t on board with his ideas. There is hope that congregations can stand up to similar pastors and come out on the other side healthy.


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    I had a church hijacked. Only it wasn’t hijacked by the dreaded neo Calvinist. It was hijacked by Relevancy and a Pragmatic message.

    The church is an established and fairly large SBC church. Not that anyone who came within the last Ten years knows of the SBC affiliation! If you think that it is bad having someone that has a different Soteriology than you, please try someone who fails to even try to explain things like atonement. That person will also fail to read just about any verse in context. And in at least one sermon not even mention the name of Jesus even one time. It may not drive away people at the speed of an Acts 29 church but I can assure you that it does drive away committed tithing Christians and families that had been there for 20+ years. Mine, a family of 6.

    Around the time the “old pastor” of 30 years retired and moved to Texas, many of the other older pastors were “downsized” while new ones were hired. As the numbers go down, the “worship experience” becomes less biblical and more “relevant” in order to attract new people. And we were told that our church is now for the “spiritually disconnected.” I guess that “lost” isn’t an okay term any more and “unrepentant sinner” is totally out of the question. It was definitely news to us. We had been under the impression that our church was for… the church body. Of course we had already always been bringing in new people, that is why we had a large church in the first place. Under new direction, we had the slogan “invest and invite” AKA please bring anyone you know to church.

    The sermon focus was off of the church body and geared toward being relevant and pragmatic for new comers. The saddest part was that they were never presented with a real gospel. Like I said, no real discussion of anything deep. No spiritual meat as the Bible calls it. It was more of a “christians live better like this” and honestly, it was a beat down. When you don’t hear about why you are in need of a savior or how He saves you or why it had to be Him, you don’t really hear anything important.

    Many of the old families are gone, the elderly are relegated to their own building where the service is broadcast to them. I was somewhat jealous of the elderly from what I heard, they actually got to sing hymns instead of 5 songs I had never heard before. About the only time that there was a traditional song sung in a a traditional manner was Christmas.

    Holidays are nothing but huge productions with no substance. The forgiveness is never explained. Everything is emotion and feeling. It is just sad. I listened to a few sermons of the old pastor preaching through Romans. I can’t imagine that being done now by the news guys. I doubt they would even be able to.

    I began listening to a podcast by a lutheran named Chris Rosebrough called Fighting For the Faith. Like him or not, I don’t care, He opened my eyes to what I had been missing… Jesus. He was no longer the focus of the church. I was not hearing about repentance and forgiveness won by Jesus. I was no longer hearing about his life, his death, his resurrection or his second coming.

    Because of the very long transition between our old and new head pastor, with the old pastor very slowly fading out, I had been hoodwinked. The church had been changed for the worse right out from under me. They had always talked about the changes up front with such a positive spin. I hadn’t even noticed how bad they were until the day I looked around wondering where everyone had gone and why I didn’t want to show up on Sunday.

    I now go to a new EV FREE Church where the pastor preaches through the Bible chapter and verse every week. We meet in a school about a mile from the gigantic campus I used to attend. And best of all is that every sermon comes back around to Jesus and what he did for me on the cross.

    I know that most of the people around here seem to really have a problem with being reformed. The funny thing is that the real lack of any doctrine for so long has really driven me to study and subsequently adopt the doctrines of grace. It is the most consistent position in my opinion. Although God dragged me kicking and screaming into the understanding. If I had to offer anyone advice. It would be this, don’t ever say, “I could never serve a God like…….” I said that many times and now look back and laugh. If someone is presenting a argument from the Bible try to look at it objectively and get your biases out of the way. I may become Egalitarian yet…. for now I am holding strong to the Complementarian view.

    I suspect my new pastor to be reformed as well. He frequently cites long dead pastors of the reformed position. But also cites others and preaches right down the middle. He is kind, loving and works a real world job during the week. You would be surprised at the range of people that call my church home.

    For those of you who have reached the end and to conclude this overly long comment,

    Beware of relevancy and pragmatism. When they come in, something has to go, and that is usually gonna be Jesus and his finished work on the cross. If I ever hear the words relevant or spiritually disconnected at my new church I may soon be headed for the door.


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    @ John A:

    This is one reason making any discussions with Calvinists frustrating and pointless.

    They each choose to define aspects of it in their own way, and also free free to change the definitions around mid-stream when and if it suits them.

    Even if you quote from universally recognized Calvinists to attempt to refute it, your average Calvinist on the web will object and say, “but that’s not what I mean by…,” or, “that’s not what all Calvinists believe…”, or, “So- and- so is not a “real” Calvinist.”

    Calvinists refuse to come up with a universally- agreed- upon understanding of Calvinism, so that when you are arguing against what you believe to be a common and accurate understanding of it, they can say things such as, “You don’t understand Calvinism” so they totally dismiss any point you have to make.

    Almost any anti-Calvinistic author you quote to disprove Calvinism gets labelled by the Calvinist as being “ignorant” of Calvinism, or of distorting it, or not being educated/ intellectual enough to get it.

    Apparently, the only people smart enough to understand Calvinism and all its 234 billion permutations are… Calvinists.

    I’m being asked to accept a belief set that they claim I cannot understand, nor ever will be, but I should just trust them that it’s totally biblical.

    Calvinists also weasel word terms, so you can never really debate them, and they get to accuse you of creating straw men arguments.

    For example, they will claim to believe in “free will,” but they truly do not.

    They define “free will” to mean, “Yeah, people are free to exercise their sinful nature, God won’t stop them!,” but that’s not how your average person understands the phrase “free will.”

    I agree with the person in a post above who said if Calvinism is so great, why do Calvinists try to hide what they really believe when attending a new church?

    Why the felt need for deception to “sneak” it into a church, if Calvinism is so wonderful?


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    Daisy

    Your free will argument comes with a huge problem for you as well. In the Arminian view, If God knows the future, you do not really have free will either and God still made you knowing exactly how you will live. The only real difference is that in a Calvinist's view, God's has a purpose for everything that happens. If you don't believe that God knows the future, that is a very different issue indeed. Can there be any totally "free will" at all unless no one knows your future?


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    Most of the recent articles I’ve seen on Christian websites have told church members to stay at their church under all circumstances except heresy or gross pastoral sin.

    This one is a bit better. At least the author acknowledges that there might be abuse:

    Circumstances that may warrant leaving your church include when: you’re being abused or threatened, the church is destroying your health or relationships with your family, you’re not allowed to think differently from your pastor,…

    But as TWW commenters often say: If you are concerned about the pastor’s direction especially heavy-handed control and secrecy, time to find a new church.

    http://www.crosswalk.com/church/pastors-or-leadership/how-to-stay-and-change-your-church-when-you-feel-like-leaving.html?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=fbpage&utm_campaign=cwupdate&p=2


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    Daisy wrote:

    They each choose to define aspects of it in their own way, and also free free to change the definitions around mid-stream when and if it suits them.

    Even if you quote from universally recognized Calvinists to attempt to refute it, your average Calvinist on the web will object and say, “but that’s not what I mean by…,” or, “that’s not what all Calvinists believe…”, or, “So- and- so is not a “real” Calvinist.”

    You are highlighting the exact reason why “Are you a Calvinist” is a bad question, and one that cannot really be answered until there is a definition of “Calvinist” on the table. For every Calvinist you quote one way, one can be quoted the other way. Remember, open-ended questions are always better than closed-ended ones. You learn a lot more.

    The better thing to do is just ask a pastor what he believes. Forget the labels. No pastor should hide his belief. Ask him, “What do you believe about election?” (and whatever else). If he doesn’t answer, ask again. Don’t ask “Are you a ________?” It isn’t a helpful question for just about anything.


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    Ken J Garrett wrote:

    I wonder if the core issue regarding the Acts 29 network is not its Calvinistic leanings, but instead one of simple integrity and transparency in the leaders of a church

    I believe the issue of election is a dividing point. As you read in the story, Becky and others do not take the Calvinist position of election. The pastor did and forced that perspective on them.

    Any Calvinist would agree with election in the sense of the person being foreordained from the beginning of time. It frankly is not all that hard to tell the difference between Calvinism and Arminianism, at least for me.

    Thank you for your well wishes.


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    That Guy wrote:

    The only real difference is that in a Calvinist’s view, God’s has a purpose for everything that happens.

    But the Arminians believe that God can bring purpose to things such as pain and suffering. He does not cause it but He works in it.


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    Both men and women are together created in the divine image and are therefore equal before God as persons

    Throwaway lines aside, my mom got weird looks from some neo-Calvinist wives once when she pointed out that husbands and wives are equal in Christ. What precipitated the comment was one of the women relating that her husband forbade her from “complaining” when he didn’t pick up his boots off the living room floor. Equality my foot.


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    As for honesty, maybe the pastoral candidate in question could serve this cookie cake to the call committee. It would make everything quite clear and he wouldn’t have to say a word. 😉


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    My first pastor was a 5 point TULIP Calvinist. (This was in a Conservative Baptist Church.) After being a Christian a few years I started going to an Assemblies of God church, solidly Armenian, and stayed there for several years. I am now back to Southern Baptist, between the two extremes, and my church holds a position between the two. With having this background I appreciate all stances on this matter. I do not, however, like the “Calvinista” “Neo-Calvinist” or whichever you name it, view on total Pastoral authority, or their view on women’s roles in the church and home. I am egalitarian. I also hate dishonesty, the way some of them take over churches, etc. is being honest too much to ask?


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    Dee

    I know many great people that believe that way and I used to as well. And I do believe that God works everything together for His purpose. However, I am really not hear to simply to argue theology just to present the side of people who have been hurt not by the over bearing neo calviinists, but by best friend hyper arminians and their relevant non gospel.

    To be fair, the more biblical and godliest people I know seem to ride the line and believe somewhere in between Calvinism and Arminianism. And I tend to agree with them the most. But I do like to be consistent and the reformed side seems the most biblically consistent to me. But I am always open to new biblical arguments and would love to be proved wrong. Like I said, it has happened before and I hope I am not growing in faith


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    LOL

    I hope I am not DONE growing in faith

    I would correct what I wrote before but I don’t see and edit button


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    Great discussion here.

    Perhaps Guy Behind The Curtain can put up a designated section of the site for us to wish Dee peace, comfort, rest and all the best until she gets her new Bionic Woman knee?

    JeffT, your Mom’s nickname made me truly LOL 🙂 :

    JeffT wrote:

    On a side note, my Mom’s had so many joints replaced we refer to her as Wolverine.

    Back to the regularly scheduled topic of deceptive Calvinistas ….


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    “However, I am having some pain which causes me some concentration problems. Please forgive me if I seem a bit distracted.”

    You have a valid excuse for concentration problems. I, on the other hand, can only claim an early onset of senility!

    Thanks to you and Deb for all your efforts with this blog. I pray God gives you the strength to carry on through this very busy time in your life. Merry Christmas!


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    @Dee, I’m sure I read in Lancet one time that if you strap a pug dog onto your knee it has a warm, anti-inflammatory action…

    To your ongoing recovery, and getting some free time in there somewhere.


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    Sorry Dee you are having painful health issues. Praying you find relief and are able to enjoy a pain free wedding celebration.

    As for deception in the church…..can only speak to my experience of a church takeover. I have to tell you the dishonesty, deceitfulness of our former pastor is perhaps what bothers me the most. That and his lack of respect for the integrity of the body of Christ. That this happened because the pastor started prescribing to the theology of Piper, the Gospel Coalition, etc.
    Reformed theology, Calvinism, hyper calvinism, neo cals , Calvinistic…….however identified, diminishes the beauty, power and grace of the priesthood of all believers. From my observation, removing the consensus of the Holy Spirit via congregational authority, allows these slick manipulators to do their harm.
    I am sick and tired of seeing the body of Christ, being treated like a children who need to be led by the nose by sheep beating pastors. Worse still, women, female children, being denied their rightful positions as daughters of the King, with full privileges to participate in His church.


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    Eternal Father, our friend Dee hurts and she has about more right now than she can do. Please give her good surgical results, endurance through rehab, pain relief, all the help she needs with all that accompanies mother-of-the-bride turmoil, and comfort from family and friends. And squeeze her hand so that she does not forget whose hand she holds. Thank you Jesus.


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    That Guy wrote:

    Can there be any totally “free will” at all unless no one knows your future?

    Time to call in THe Doctor for help:

    People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but *actually* from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint – it’s more like a big ball of wibbly wobbly… time-y wimey… stuff.

    I think that one day we will be really surprised to find out that theories about free will, about God knowing or deciding what and when, are completely of the mark, as time for God might be completely different from what we perceive. Also, as science tells us, time is not (just) the linear progression we perceive.

    The various *lapsarian theories will probably look very silly then.

     


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    @ gus:
    I must have got something wrong with my HTML. The secondary quote (after “stuff”) should not be quoted, it’s actually my comment


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    That Guy wrote:

    If God knows the future, you do not really have free will either and God still made you knowing exactly how you will live.

    The philosophical conundrum – can there be free will if someone knows the future. I would yes since, from the point of view of the individual they do have the freedom to choose their actions and the one with knowledge of the future has only that, knowledge, but does not impose actions on the individual.

    At any rate, I find myself drawn to much of what said in the Openness of God theology, where the future is open to God as well. It does raise issue regarding the traditional beliefs regarding God’s omniscience and omnipotence, but it does put the focus on the give and take between us and God and our ability to determine our actions in light of that – which is why one of my favorite parts of the Bible is the ongoing dialogue between God and Moses as they both struggle in leading the recalcitrant Israelites in Exodus.


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    @ Eagle: McLean Presbyterian Church is evangelical and Reformed. There is no secrecy about that. While their elders hold to Reformed doctrines, members are not required to hold to election, infant baptism, etc.(I know; I just went through membership class and joined). The PCA is not cessationist. A woman is the head of the Care Ministry (she has a Ph.D. in counseling). IMO you are missing out by not being there, but do not accuse them of secrecy or “hijacking”. The new pastor of the church is transparent above all.


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    gus wrote:

    @ gus: I must have got something wrong with my HTML. The secondary quote (after “stuff”) should not be quoted, it’s actually my comment

    I made the correction for you. 🙂


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    Beth D wrote:

    My first pastor was a 5 point TULIP Calvinist. (This was in a Conservative Baptist Church.) After being a Christian a few years I started going to an Assemblies of God church, solidly Armenian, and stayed there for several years. I am now back to Southern Baptist, between the two extremes, and my church holds a position between the two. With having this background I appreciate all stances on this matter. I do not, however, like the “Calvinista” “Neo-Calvinist” or whichever you name it, view on total Pastoral authority, or their view on women’s roles in the church and home. I am egalitarian. I also hate dishonesty, the way some of them take over churches, etc. is being honest too much to ask?

    Would these pastors be called if they were honest about their theological position? In all likelihood,they would not.


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    I wonder if ARC churches are any different from those of Acts 29?


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    1) I’m a Calvinist, I guess. But I agree pastoral candidates need to be up front about their theology. This is a wise article.

    2) I was an insider to the New Calvinist movement. And what I saw at the revolution was not pretty. That comment on DeYoung’s post is spot on and devastating.

    3) Dee, prayers for you and your family.


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    @ Matt B Redmond:

    Matt, first thing I do thursdays is hop on your website hoping you updated your random thoughts. Really appreciated your book as well, you’re a blessing to the blogosphere world. Hope you can make your way back to a pulpit soon….maybe you can even start your network and book/conference tour 🙂


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    Haitch wrote:

    I’m sure I read in Lancet one time that if you strap a pug dog onto your knee it has a warm, anti-inflammatory action…

    Haitch, I am pretty sure pug dogs inflame ooooohs and ahhhhhs of cuteness and happiness. Perhaps you meant they were more of an analgesic. 🙂 🙂 🙂

    @ Matt B Redmond:

    Agreed re: May’s comment.


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    Deb wrote:

    I made the correction for you

    Thank you.


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    Speaking of dishonesty…

    (this is actually more relevant to the Mark Driscoll situation, even though I doubt the author of this strip would be aware of that fiasco)

    Pearls Before Swine, December 14, 2013

    😀


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    Changes will and do and must happen all the time. Also in churches.

    What is, of course, completely dishonest, is for a pastoral candidate to arrive with a secret plan to change things fundamentally and not tell the members in advance. Discussions about necessary changes must be part of the hiring process – that way the church may find out that the prospective new pastor is not for them, or the candidate may find out that this is not the right place for him. Or the members or the candidate might even agree on what must stay the same and what should change.

    There may be times when a pastor finds that the church he already works at must take a new direction. Here’s how this could work:

    1. Tell the members. Be open about it. Explain what has led you to come to this conclusion.
    2. Tell members that there will be enough discussion to explain all the pros and cons, to answer all objections. And that there will be a vote.
    3. If you as the pastor feel very strongly about the matter, explain that you will resign from your position if the members don’t agree.
    4. Get the discussions rolling. You may find out what other options there are to deal with problems. Maybe the discussion with the church will reveal other, better solutions.
    5. Hold the vote.
    6. Do what you have to do.

    Strong leadership does NOT mean that you are always right. What it does mean is that you can convince people of your goals/vision, that you can get them to follow you in implementing these goals. (As opposed to “get them to follow YOU”)

    Getting people to follow you is easier when people know they can trust you, that you are willing to listen – to everybody, that you are willing to admit it when you are wrong, that it’s not “my way or the highway”. But that takes self-assurance, maturity and a basic trust in God that he will see things through to a good conclusion.

    Everything else is just dictatorship. But we already knew that. Wade Burleson and Deb and Dee have been warning of increased tendencies of authoritarianism in the church for years, and so have many others.


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    @ gus:

    I always thumbs up The Doctor. Except that I don’t know how to make one.
    So here’s smiley instead. 🙂

    And Dee, may your day be a pain free a possible. Do Epsom salt baths help?


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    Haitch wrote:

    I’m sure I read in Lancet one time that if you strap a pug dog onto your knee it has a warm, anti-inflammatory action…

    Fell off the chair and almost squished Petunia.


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    @ Nancy: YOu made me cry!


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    That Guy wrote:

    Beware of relevancy and pragmatism.

    Good comment. Remember we go after Ed Young Jr as well.


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    Seneca wrote:

    To me, Calvinism or New Calvinism is simply belief in the sovereignty of God in all thing. i.e., God never says “Oops.”

    God declares himself love . . . His love covers a multitude of oops.

    The “oops” belong to man . . . I’m trying to limit my oops while loving God and loving neighbor as myself.


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    @ gus:
    We are all rather binary. And there are many dimensions. I have a feeling that there are many surprises to come.


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    dee wrote:

    His love covers a multitude of oops.

    🙂


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    Godith wrote:

    There is no secrecy about that.

    Then they should answer the questions of people who show up.


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    @ Matt B Redmond:
    I have no problems with any orthodox theology.That is why Wade does our E Church. I just want honesty.


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    Dee –

    I’m praying for relief of pain, healing, strength, and a happy joyous heart in the midst of it all. Wish I were close and could be of some physical help as well 🙁

    To those who have prayed for my son, thank you. The eye is healing. It was iritis/uveitis. Quite serious, especially when misdiagnosed as conjunctivitis. There was too much pain, however, for simple conjunctivitis, which is why I sent him to ER instead of waiting a week as his doctor advised at the office visit.

    Dee – my son had reactive arthritis (long story). Doing some research we learned that the eye infection is related to the conditon that spearheaded the arthritis. There are other issues that can crop up as well. I say Poo on this brokenness!!!


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    @ Bridget: Wow-Same here. I am sorry and will pray for him.


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    @Gus

    I happen to agree quite a bit with what you are saying. I don’t believe that God drives us around like robots. I do believe that we are held responsible for our actions and that our choices are real and do matter. I believe that God is in control of everything. “Who has spoken and it came to pass unless the Lord has commanded it. Is it not from the mouth of the most high that good AND bad come? ” I also believe that God has “predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance to His pleasure and will.” And that we should not complain that God “has mercy on whom He has mercy and compassion upon whom he has compassion.” I do believe that there is not evil that God takes and molds to his purpose after the fact but that he knew of it all along and has purpose in the bad things of the world.

    How we can be held responsible and yet be predestined to “honorable or dishonorable use” I have to trust that God is just and as creator He alone is able to save or condemn. I am just happy that he has had mercy on me and I pray it for everyone I know. And those I don’t.

    But how and why it all works out is mystery to me right now.


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    @ Bridget:

    I’m grateful you got the right diagnosis and can properly treat your son’s eye. Hope he’s feeling much better soon!


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    @ That Guy:

    Yes, it is a mystery, and I don’t trust those who purport to have ALL the answers. That’s my opinion, and I’m sticking to it…


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    Bridget wrote:

    I’m praying for relief of pain, healing, strength, and a happy joyous heart in the midst of it all. Wish I were close and could be of some physical help as well
    To those who have prayed for my son, thank you. The eye is healing. It was iritis/uveitis. Quite serious, especially when misdiagnosed as conjunctivitis. There was too much pain, however, for simple conjunctivitis, which is why I sent him to ER instead of waiting a week as his doctor advised at the office visit.
    Dee – my son had reactive arthritis (long story). Doing some research we learned that the eye infection is related to the conditon that spearheaded the arthritis. There are other issues that can crop up as well. I say Poo on this brokenness!!!

    I’m so sorry for your son’s recent difficulties. I will keep praying for him, and for you too, that you both would have God’s comfort and strength and peace (that passes understanding) in the midst of everything. I have Cerebral Palsy, and chronic pain issues related to an accident, so I feel a special burden for others who are hurting. God bless you and your son. I pray that He gives you both a strong sense that He is with you through everything you endure. Without Him, I just could not make it through each day.


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    Deb wrote:

    Beth D wrote:
    My first pastor was a 5 point TULIP Calvinist. (This was in a Conservative Baptist Church.) After being a Christian a few years I started going to an Assemblies of God church, solidly Armenian, and stayed there for several years. I am now back to Southern Baptist, between the two extremes, and my church holds a position between the two. With having this background I appreciate all stances on this matter. I do not, however, like the “Calvinista” “Neo-Calvinist” or whichever you name it, view on total Pastoral authority, or their view on women’s roles in the church and home. I am egalitarian. I also hate dishonesty, the way some of them take over churches, etc. is being honest too much to ask?
    Would these pastors be called if they were honest about their theological position? In all likelihood,they would not.

    Actually, Deb, I think you’re wrong there. The pastors were always up front with their beliefs, and, as far as I know, there was very few people leaving the church when they came on. Certainly, no more leaving than what you would expect with a change in leadership.
    My point, although I expressed it poorly, is that there is room for Calvinism, Arminianism, and every thing in between. But the first and foremost thing is a pastor has to BE HONEST. From the get go. None of this evading, bait and switch, etc.


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    That Guy wrote:

    How we can be held responsible and yet be predestined to “honorable or dishonorable use” I have to trust that God is just and as creator He alone is able to save or condemn. I am just happy that he has had mercy on me and I pray it for everyone I know. And those I don’t.
    But how and why it all works out is mystery to me right now.

    That Guy,

    I am a former Reformed Baptist, and a current Catholic “revert,” but I still do think that Calvinists make some very powerful, exegetically-rooted arguments for their basic theology. I still have great respect for most Reformed theologians (I say “most,” because some of the “New Calvinists” have become very problematic, in terms of spiritual abuse, as detailed at this blog, but I digress!).

    Serious study of Romans 9 helped to convince me of the Biblical soundness of Calvinist theology. For many years, that chapter was one of my “go-to-texts” to explain to people why I believed that the Bible teaches “Calvinistic” predestination and election.

    One thing that I was completely unaware of, though, during all of those years, is the *Catholic* Biblical exegesis of Romans 9. If you’ve never heard those exegetical arguments, you might find this piece to be interesting: http://catholicdefense.blogspot.com/2012/05/how-should-catholics-understand-romans.html


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    @Deb

    I agree, anyone who says they have all the answers is dishonest to either themselves or everyone else. Or crazy I guess there is that option too. Either way it leads in a bad direction especially when someone calls them into question,

    I think people should come to the scripture with an open ear. But I want people to say what they mean up front and stick to their guns unless they are conviced of something new by “Scripture and by plain reason.”

    It has long been my opinion that every Christian has at least one crazy belief that will turn out to be wrong.

    I just wonder what mine is.


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    P.S. That Guy, I’m neither “Calvinist” nor “Arminian” anymore. The Catholic Church has a wide spectrum of teaching on the specifics of predestination and election with much room for agreement and disagreement among our members. These matters are ultimately mysterious though– I mean “how it all works”– and I’m happy to be more at home with that mystery now than I’ve ever been (even as I continue to study!) 🙂


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    I do not think the question is theology. Rather the question to ask is their position on "pastoral authority". That is, are they willing to be the pastor and have the congregation in control of budget, hiring, theology, etc. That is, the congregation deciding the direction, etc. of the church, while the pastor preaches and helps to structure the worship of the church, with guidance and approval of a committee of laity, a worship committee. I have been in churches with fairly strong Calvinist preaching and found it acceptable and inspiring — Wade is like that. But that is different that "pastor as CEO and Chairman of the Board", instead of the laity, the "People of God", being in charge of the church as an organization, with a committee structure, planning, etc., being lay rather that staff functions.


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    Oops. Wade not Wad!!!


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    Dee, just wanted to let you know, will be praying for you and you pain problem…I too have one and it lead to my early retirement….( I am not disabled retired, I had the points to retire, but my back was in so much pain, I could no longer stand for long periods in the classroom, something our evaluation system called for….that said, if I could have sat during class, on a stool, etc., I’d still be working…)


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    @ K.D.:
    K.D., In general, employers are required to make reasonable accommodations, and a stool to sit on while teaching seems a very reasonable accommodation. And to lose a teacher for want of such a simple accommodation seems a bit short-sighted and ridiculous.

    When I taught all day seminars for managers and executives, I frequently taught from a stool, and sometimes, when there were good visual aids, from the back or side of the room.


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    An Attorney wrote:

    @ K.D.:
    K.D., In general, employers are required to make reasonable accommodations, and a stool to sit on while teaching seems a very reasonable accommodation. And to lose a teacher for want of such a simple accommodation seems a bit short-sighted and ridiculous.
    When I taught all day seminars for managers and executives, I frequently taught from a stool, and sometimes, when there were good visual aids, from the back or side of the room.

    You’ve never been in a rural school in Texas have you? The guys running the place all have the same first name “coach” and generally unless you are a male in that fraternity at the high school level ( not coaching) you are lucky to even have been hired to start with….


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    @ An Attorney: Added the 'e' 😉


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    An Attorney wrote:

    I do not think the question is theology. Rather the question to ask is their position on “pastoral authority”. That is, are they willing to be the pastor and have the congregation in control of budget, hiring, theology, etc. That is, the congregation deciding the direction, etc. of the church, while the pastor preaches and helps to structure the worship of the church, with guidance and approval of a committee of laity, a worship committee. I have been in churches with fairly strong Calvinist preaching and found it acceptable and inspiring — Wad is like that. But that is different that “pastor as CEO and Chairman of the Board”, instead of the laity, the “People of God”, being in charge of the church as an organization, with a committee structure, planning, etc., being lay rather that staff functions.

    So agree.
    Maybe we need not worry as much about the TULIPs as we do the blooming idiots.


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    dee wrote:

    I believe the issue of election is a dividing point. As you read in the story, Becky and others do not take the Calvinist position of election. The pastor did and forced that perspective on them.

    I think, rather, that in this case the dividing point was the pastor’s determination to make the issue of election a dividing point. It’s also probably an extension of An Attorney’s comment, that the issue is not the pastor’s theology but the extent of his desire for power.

    I think Gene’s right, as well, in that “Are you a Calvinist?” is too broad a question. A better one might be, “How much authority do you expect to have over the church’s theology, culture and program? How did you handle the last time you had a significant theological disagreement?”. A well-educated student of theology (and I agree that there is value in this) will be well aware that theological differences exist, and that there will be no way he can avoid them himself. The question is whether he needs to be right.

    In either case, of course, 85% of the communication will be non-verbal.


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    @ K.D.:
    I have lived in Texas since the mid 1980s, except to go to law school. My wife is a teacher. She taught a year in a school where the principal had his degree from Nova (Spanish meaning, “does not go”) University, and the teachers, in order to accomplish anything, basically ignored him. In another, the principal basically slept in his office most of the school day. So I am familiar with the school situations in Texas. Btw, a lot of that is that school leadership reflects the political leadership of the state. Texas is, generally, blessed with a large supply of ignorance in public office, perhaps more than the total of the rest of the nation.


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    @ Christopher Lake:
    Christopher, I checked out the website link that you provided. It was an interesting. I can’t reconcile that theory with all of the other evidence I see for the predestination and election. (John 6, Ephesians 1/2, Acts 13) And I do have other problems with the Roman church. Like the infallible leader.


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    OPEN THEISM:
    *
    — GOD IS LESS POWERFUL
    — YOU ARE MORE POWERFUL


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    As to free will and/or free won’t I am watching the neuroscience research right now. When they get that sorted out it just might be about as big as the Copernican revolution. Or not. Interesting to see.


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    @ That Guy: Papal infallibility is very limited; restricted to certain situations in which the pope speaks “ex cathedra” (from the chair of Peter).

    Am sure Christopher will be able to provide more information, but the gist of it is that the pope really is *not* a dictator whose every word and decision is seen as divinely inspired – far from it, in fact. In medieval and Renaissance Europe, the popes often ruled like absolute monarchs. (And by “ruled,” I mean that they *were* monarchs who controlled large areas, cf. the Papal States, in Italy itself.) That’s no longer the case – not by a long chalk.

    (fwiw, I’m not Catholic, but have read/studied a lot of church history + European history…)


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    @ That Guy: btw, if you look at Lutheran and Anglican (well, higher Anglican and some “broad church” Anglican) views of the chapters and verses cited at Christopher’s link, you’ll get pretty much the same conclusions. (Although many low church Anglicans are Calvinists, to a greater or lesser degree.)

    I grew up Lutheran and *never* once heard anything about election, predestination, etc. Christ’s death being sufficient for all + the love, mercy and kindness of God were emphasized. I am a “revert” to this background after many years in a kind of evangelical wilderness, where rules and judgement were the primary thing. It was impossible to be “good enough” for God and his love.

    I am of the opinion that such a god is not the true God, and am finding a great deal of relief and healing in Lutheran, Anglican and some Catholic views of the atonement, salvation, God’s love for us, etc. (Such a huge topic, one that doesn’t easily lend itself to brief blog comments!)


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    numo wrote:

    I grew up Lutheran and *never* once heard anything about election, predestination, etc.

    I had the same experience. However, I later discovered that Martin Luther himself was a predestination guy (read Bondage of the Will) but moved away from that under Luther’s successor in influence Philipp Melanchthon. You’ll still find a doctrine of predestination among some of the more conservative Lutherans (I know I’ve heard it listening to a couple of LCMS profs)


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    Seneca wrote:

    OPEN THEISM:
    *
    – GOD IS LESS POWERFUL
    – YOU ARE MORE POWERFUL

    NO. That is not open theism. Open theism basically is the idea that God does answer prayer, which is what Jesus taught. That is, not everything is predetermined, but God, in love for his creatures, responds to their prayers, sometimes granting their desires, and sometimes making other provisions to meet the needs of his children. If you believe that God answers prayer, you are an open theist.


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    An Attorney wrote:

    @ K.D.:
    I have lived in Texas since the mid 1980s, except to go to law school. My wife is a teacher. She taught a year in a school where the principal had his degree from Nova (Spanish meaning, “does not go”) University, and the teachers, in order to accomplish anything, basically ignored him. In another, the principal basically slept in his office most of the school day. So I am familiar with the school situations in Texas. Btw, a lot of that is that school leadership reflects the political leadership of the state. Texas is, generally, blessed with a large supply of ignorance in public office, perhaps more than the total of the rest of the nation.

    I disagree….Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Mississippi give us a run for our money in the stupid politician supply….;)


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    An Attorney wrote:

    Seneca wrote:
    OPEN THEISM:
    *
    – GOD IS LESS POWERFUL
    – YOU ARE MORE POWERFUL
    NO. That is not open theism. Open theism basically is the idea that God does answer prayer, which is what Jesus taught. That is, not everything is predetermined, but God, in love for his creatures, responds to their prayers, sometimes granting their desires, and sometimes making other provisions to meet the needs of his children. If you believe that God answers prayer, you are an open theist.

    That is an interesting definition of open theism. I wouldnt mind seeing a biblical argument for it. Or is it just the position you presented because prayer is answered and we decide what to pray: God is open to different futures? Kind of a logical argument instead of scriptural.

    I would have to disagree about every person who prays being an open theist. I guess that could probably go without saying.


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    @ JeffT: true re. Luther, but – as you correctly state – he is part of an evolution in both thought and theology, per Lutheranism worldwide. No doubt that WELS emphasizes predestination (Fundy synod here in the US).


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    @ numo:
    You are very right in saying that it is not a topic that easily lends itself to brief comments.

    One question, I was a confused about what you meant when you said that a certain god was not the true God. Which was the little g god?


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    numo wrote:

    @ JeffT: No doubt that WELS emphasizes predestination (Fundy synod here in the US).

    Fundiest of the fundies


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    Nick Bulbeck wrote:

    the issue is not the pastor’s theology but the extent of his desire for power

    Exactly.

    And the dishonesty in the application process is a direct consequence of that: the authoritarian candidate knows that if he tells the congregation about his plan to change the direction of the church AND about his ideas about pastoral authority, they will never hire him.


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    @ That Guy: the one for whom we can never, ever be good enough – the celestial tyrant who seemed to be in charge of the evangelical/charismatic churches I was part of.


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    @ JeffT: indeed – the condemnation of “Scoutism” proves it.


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    That Guy wrote:

    Christopher, I checked out the website link that you provided. It was an interesting. I can’t reconcile that theory with all of the other evidence I see for the predestination and election. (John 6, Ephesians 1/2, Acts 13) And I do have other problems with the Roman church. Like the infallible leader.

    TG,

    Hmm… we may be talking past each other here.. I want to be clear– Catholics *do* believe in predestination and election, as do Lutherans, and even the most “non-Calvinist” of Christians! Romans and Ephesians clearly *do* speak about predestination and election, so every Christian must believe in them in some form.

    However, the Calvinist form of P & E is definitely not the *only* form of those doctrines that Christians have held to historically! I would argue that it’s not even the *predominant* form of those doctrines that is found found in Christian history.

    About the Pope– the Catholic Church certainly does *not* hold that every word, or even every public statement, of the Pope is infallible! (His actions are also obviously not always infallible, as can be seen from the lives of the Borgia Popes!) This section from the Catechism contains an explanation of the degree and limits of Papal infallibility, as the Church understands it, as well as the teaching role of the Magisterium: http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p123a9p4.htm


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    Sorry for the typos in my recent comments, everyone… and this is important… I may be gone from TWW for a while.

    I’m sorry if I miss and/or fail to answer any replies from anyone. I have to take a break from typing and commenting here for a while. I have commented a lot in the last few days, and my chronic pain is acting up, probably because of the sheer amount of time that I’ve spent in front of the computer. God bless each and every one of you!


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    @ Christopher Lake: will be praying for you. I have chronic pain problems myself, so…

    Hope to see you here soon, God willing!


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    @ Christopher Lake:
    I understand that there are various understandings of predestination and election. In fact as I think I stated somewhere above, I used to believe differently than I do now. I used to adhere to what I think is the mainline SBC “corridors of time” explanation. With my more recent study I find the TULIP for lack of a better term to make the most consistent biblical sense to me. It has also had a radical shift in my thought process from a me centered theology to a God centered one. I am not saying that everyone who thinks otherwise has a me centered theology, but I did.

    I am also aware of the pope speaking front the chair of Peter being the only time he is infallible. I just disagree with it.


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    numo wrote:

    will be praying for you. I have chronic pain problems myself, so…
    Hope to see you here soon, God willing!

    Thank you so much! I will be praying for you too! Hope to be back soon, or as soon as is physically healthy for me, that is! God bless!


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    That Guy wrote:

    It has long been my opinion that every Christian has at least one crazy belief that will turn out to be wrong.
    I just wonder what mine is.

    I’m pretty sure I know what mine is – it’s my belief that I’m fallible. I bet at the Last Day it’ll turn out that I really am better than everyone else after all, and that my humility was a mistake that deprived many of the benefit of my amazing giftedness and wisdom.


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    dee wrote:

    That Guy wrote:

    Beware of relevancy and pragmatism.

    Good comment. Remember we go after Ed Young Jr as well.

    I have noticed it and I do appreciate it!


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    @ Christopher Lake: same to you – and many thanks! Ikwym about timing and physical health.

    All the best,
    n.


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    @ Nick Bulbeck: heehee… 😉


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    That Guy wrote:

    I understand that there are various understandings of predestination and election. In fact as I think I stated somewhere above, I used to believe differently than I do now. I used to adhere to what I think is the mainline SBC “corridors of time” explanation. With my more recent study I find the TULIP for lack of a better term to make the most consistent biblical sense to me. It has also had a radical shift in my thought process from a me centered theology to a God centered one. I am not saying that everyone who thinks otherwise has a me centered theology, but I did.
    I am also aware of the pope speaking front the chair of Peter being the only time he is infallible. I just disagree with it.

    Understood on all counts, TG. I need to take a break for a while… but before I go, I’ll leave one last link for you… but this is for only if you are interested in reading articles from God-centered Catholics, writing about Reformed and Catholic questions! 🙂 There are a lot of Reformed people in the comboxes interacting at this site. I used to be one of them! http://www.calledtocommunion.com


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    @ That Guy: I think you have more than a little company in the RCC re. nonacceptance of papal infallibility…. In my admittedly limited understanding, only a handful of statements/documents are viewed as instances of infallibility re. dogma/authoritative doctrinal statements. That said, I don't accept it, either.


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    Ok, I’m out for a while, everyone! Love all of you! You will be in my thoughts and prayers while I’m resting and trying to hurt at least a little less! God bless!


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    Seneca wrote:

    – GOD IS LESS POWERFUL
    – YOU ARE MORE POWERFUL

    Reformed/New Calvinizt: The belief that God is NOT Sovereign over His own Soverienty. He was unable to create beings that could say no to Him. He is insecure and a narcissist so he must control everything so he is glorified in both good and evil. All He wants is his own glory. He does not really care about ALL humans. He randomly selected some future humans for salvation before Adam sinned.


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    It seems the key element in Open Theism is that the future is not fixed, and our choices are real choices with real consequences. God does know the future, and He knows it exhaustively, but He doesn’t see it as a single inescapable timeline. Rather, God sees the future as a combination of possibilities and certainties, and the possibilities are the consequences of the choices made by free moral agents. In other words, us.

    What I find interesting about this concept is that there must be gazillions of possible futures, as our choices interconnect, and God knows knows them all as if they were certainties. That sort of knowledge is so massive, so incomprehensible, that it begins to sound a lot like God.

    Lots of good books on the subject. I liked Gregory Boyd’s God of the Possible. Really heavy on scripture, not so much philosophy, IIRC.

    Lots


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    @ numo:
    As do I.


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    BTW, I have had hypnosis therapy for chronic pain (nerve damage in my case) with a post-hypnotic suggestion that allowed me to rehypnotize my self every night at bed time, with an annual visit to the hypno-therapist. Worked really well until the therapist retired and moved far away. Hoping to find another one that will be as effective. $100 a year for pain management was also cost-effective! Always slept like a baby and woke refreshed and with much reduced pain issues — no awareness unless I chose to think about it.


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    Nick Bulbeck wrote:

    I’m pretty sure I know what mine is – it’s my belief that I’m fallible. I bet at the Last Day it’ll turn out that I really am better than everyone else after all, and that my humility was a mistake that deprived many of the benefit of my amazing giftedness and wisdom.

    I was wrong once – I thought I was wrong


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    That Guy wrote:

    We had been under the impression that our church was for… the church body.

    Yes. Very much yes.


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    Anon 1 wrote:

    Seneca wrote:
    – GOD IS LESS POWERFUL

    – YOU ARE MORE POWERFUL
    Reformed/New Calvinizt: The belief that God is NOT Sovereign over His own Soverienty. He was unable to create beings that could say no to Him. He is insecure and a narcissist so he must control everything so he is glorified in both good and evil. All He wants is his own glory. He does not really care about ALL humans. He randomly selected some future humans for salvation before Adam sinned.

    God is insecure and a narcissist? Whoa –


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    Christopher, Bridget, Dee: a note from the silent majority…prayers go up from many corners as soon as the need is made known. How great is it that people seek prayer from their brothers and sisters here. You are in mine and many others’.


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    @ An Attorney: That sounds like it’s terrific. Hope you find another good practitioner ASAP!


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    @ Godith:

    I didn’t accuse them of secrecy or hijacking. On the night I popped up they introduced their new young career pastor and everyone was asking questions about how he met his wife, his time growing up in Alabama (?), family, etc…

    No one asked anything that had any meat. It was all fluff. And none of the text questions that I sent were answered. Totally disappointed. I was even introduced to another pastor who I briefly told my story. He asked if we can meet and even said that he could have me speak to a seminary professor about the Problem of Evil. It looked promising and he gave me his contact information. 5 email attempts later McLean Pres never responded and I decided to move forward. This was when I had the courage to walk through a door and ask questions. But it was one of many who never responded.

    Anyhow I’m at Fairfax Community Church now…that’s where I was baptized, and that’s my home. Church hopping is not something I want to do.


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    Beth D wrote:

    So agree.
    Maybe we need not worry as much about the TULIPs as we do the blooming idiots.

    Love the wordplay Beth! Funny! We need more humor in these kinds of discussions. To me it highlights the need to worry more about how the clergy treats the parishioners regardless of theological belief system.


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    @ Gary:

    “It seems the key element in Open Theism is that the future is not fixed, and our choices are real choices with real consequences. God does know the future, and He knows it exhaustively, but He doesn’t see it as a single inescapable timeline. Rather, God sees the future as a combination of possibilities and certainties, and the possibilities are the consequences of the choices made by free moral agents. In other words, us.”
    +++++++++++++++++

    haven’t a clue about the label “open theism”, but this is how I’ve always understood things. and some christians have a problem with this??

    what forever for?


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    numo wrote:

    Am sure Christopher will be able to provide more information, but the gist of it is that the pope really is *not* a dictator whose every word and decision is seen as divinely inspired…

    AKA the Pope is not Mark Driscoll, Cee Jay Mahaney, John Calvin, or the Penetrate/Colonize/Conquer/Plant Guy.


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    That Guy wrote:

    Can there be any totally “free will” at all unless no one knows your future?

    Open theism works wonders on these questions.


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    Nick Bulbeck wrote:

    That Guy wrote:

    It has long been my opinion that every Christian has at least one crazy belief that will turn out to be wrong.
    I just wonder what mine is.

    I’m pretty sure I know what mine is – it’s my belief that I’m fallible. I bet at the Last Day it’ll turn out that I really am better than everyone else after all, and that my humility was a mistake that deprived many of the benefit of my amazing giftedness and wisdom.

    Still laughing 🙂
    Anon 1 wrote:

    Seneca wrote:

    – GOD IS LESS POWERFUL
    – YOU ARE MORE POWERFUL

    Reformed/New Calvinizt: The belief that God is NOT Sovereign over His own Soverienty. He was unable to create beings that could say no to Him. He is insecure and a narcissist so he must control everything so he is glorified in both good and evil. All He wants is his own glory. He does not really care about ALL humans. He randomly selected some future humans for salvation before Adam sinned.

    And applauding!
    Christopher Lake wrote:

    Ok, I’m out for a while, everyone! Love all of you! You will be in my thoughts and prayers while I’m resting and trying to hurt at least a little less! God bless!

    And wincing, for you & Dee & all others with chronic issues. I send my love & hopes for better days. I’m having them with my health, & I’d love this for you all.


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    @ Gary:

    Now, to hold that potential idea and then venture into the area of natural science with Robert Lanza’s theory of a biocentric universe can get really interesting. As soon as I finish my current Malcolm Gladwell book I plan to read Lanza’s book. We do have this problem as to how we can say that God said and it was, and how word can become flesh. All just poetic? Maybe not. And how can an all-knowing god forget (remember no more)–again just slinging words around, or is it possible that the past is also not fixed, as some experiments in physics might suggest. And if that which is born of the Spirit is spirit, what in the world is “spirit” anyhow? Perhaps a different potential probability of being? And, no, I am not a heathen, don’t go there.


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    @ Eagle:
    The Calvinist god does have much in common with Allah


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    That Guy wrote:

    If God knows the future, you do not really have free will either

    Sorry.
    But this doesn’t even make sense to me.
    God sees the end from the beginning.
    Seeing and controlling are two different things.
    I’m fully confident that God sees and knows my end. Just as He is present at my birth so also He is present at my death and all points in between.
    I, being bound by time, may have a hard time understanding One who is not bound by time. But I do have faith in His sight and omni-presence, including His presence in all places in time (which may be occurring all at once for Him). I’m glad to have One that I can turn to when the future frightens me, just as I’m glad to have One I can trust in with other unkowns, like death.

    I don’t really know the true definition of open theism. But I know that men have free wills. Though God CAN override those free wills and does from time to time for the sake of the bigger purpose, ‘will override’ is not His constant and dominate modus operandi.


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    There is an old tradition which may work better than simply, subversively changing a church’s theology.

    It’s called being well-formed in the faith in the first place. Then being trained in a seminary with a certain theology. And then applying to a church with that theology for a pastor position.

    See! No secretiveness, no underhandedness!

    Could the underlying problem actually be a lack of good faith formation in the first place? I-came-to-God-and-left-my-sinful-lifestyle-and-now-i-also-have-a-cool-look-so-therefore-i-can-be-a-pastor is perhaps more prevalent now, than solid faith formation. Do non-denominational churches need to take a clear look at their theology and be honest about it’s lack of depth and rigor?

    I never heard CJ accurately exegete Scripture??? He just quoted from other books. . .

    Just a thought. .


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    In other news, a big away win for Liverpool puts us second on goal difference above Chelsea; West Ham remain a point clear of the drop zone with a draw against relegatees-elect Sunderland.

    There remains no need to discuss cricket. In fact, I don’t know why cricket keeps coming up here at all.

    I hope this is helpful.


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    That Guy wrote:

    And we were told that our church is now for the “spiritually disconnected.” I guess that “lost” isn’t an okay term any more and “unrepentant sinner” is totally out of the question.
    It was definitely news to us. We had been under the impression that our church was for… the church body.

    For Whom Do Pastors [or the church] Exist?


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    That Guy wrote:

    Daisy
    Your free will argument comes with a huge problem for you as well. In the Arminian view, If God knows the future, you do not really have free will either and God still made you knowing exactly how you will live. The only real difference is that in a Calvinist’s view, God’s has a purpose for everything that happens. If you don’t believe that God knows the future, that is a very different issue indeed. Can there be any totally “free will” at all unless no one knows your future?

    I am not an Arminian. I am not a Calvinist either.


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    @ Nick Bulbeck:
    oh, DO please keep talking about the Ashes, am expecting very good news on Tuesday!


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    @ Gene:

    I could see asking, “What do you think of Calvinism?”
    and if the candidate says, “why I find it biblical and really great,” would give me pause for alarm.
    I don’t like any stripe of it.


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    Nancy wrote:

    … is it possible that the past is also not fixed, as some experiments in physics might suggest.

    Some experiments in quantum physics would seem to suggest that even the past is not fully fixed. I’m not familiar with a biocentric universe — sounds a bit pantheistic. But what about the nature of time in a logos-centric universe? Hey, that could be fun.


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    numo wrote:

    Am sure Christopher will be able to provide more information, but the gist of it is that the pope really is *not* a dictator whose every word and decision is seen as divinely inspired – far from it, in fact.

    Yes, rank and file Roman Catholics disagree with each other on many a topic, including American ones who support abortion.
    (There even used to be a site by American Roman Catholics who support abortion. I think one such site is ‘Catholics for Choice’)

    This sort of flies in the face of the typical RC apologist comment I used to run into on other sites about how RCism brings unity to Christians, but gee whiz, look at all one thousand Protestant denominations, all in disagreement over X, Y, Z.


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    numo wrote:

    I grew up Lutheran and *never* once heard anything about election, predestination, etc. Christ’s death being sufficient for all + the love, mercy and kindness of God were emphasized. I am a “revert” to this background after many years in a kind of evangelical wilderness, where rules and judgement were the primary thing. It was impossible to be “good enough” for God and his love.

    Interesting. I listen to a podcast by a Lutheran guy, and I don’t think he’s Calvinist, but he sounds like a rules based kinda guy.

    The host will stress many times that people are saved by grace through faith, and yet, when discussing Confessing Christian John Doe’s lapse into sin on his show, this same host will go on and on about how John Doe needs to repent pronto, or else he is doomed.

    In other words, this Lutheran host makes it sound as though he believes in “conditional security,” that Jesus gets you in the door but it’s your good works (or abstaining from sin) that ultimately keeps you out of Hell.

    You have to keep yourself saved is what he seems to believe, or that is what it sounds like to me.

    I could be misunderstanding him, but he does sound like he believes you have to keep yourself out of Hell after you have accepted Christ as your Savior. I don’t know if that is typical of Lutherans or just this particular person.

    I don’t see any difference between the two views, saying
    1. you must be good to earn salvation, or,
    2, initially Christ saves you but you must keep your nose clean to “stay” saved.
    They’re both works-based, as far as I can tell.


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    An Attorney wrote:

    If you believe that God answers prayer, you are an open theist.

    My understanding is the Open Theists do not believe that God knows the future, only that God is only really good at predicting the future, at making really good guesses as to what will or may happen in the future.

    Which makes no sense to me because there are tons of passages in the Bible of God accurately telling humans of future events hundreds to thousands of years before they occur.


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    elastigirl wrote:

    haven’t a clue about the label “open theism”, but this is how I’ve always understood things. and some christians have a problem with this??
    what forever for?

    Hi elastigirl, love the name by the way. I am not really qualified to give a definitive answer on this one, but I can give my impression. It seems that the Open view of God stands in contrast to the Classical view of God, which is foundational to both Calvinism and Arminianism, and was defined by dudes like Augustine, who were highly influenced by Greek philosophy, especially Plato. The Open perspective is that this shift to the Classical view as a departure from Christianity’s Hebraic roots. And from Scripture itself. Pretty radical.

    I was taught the “attributes of God,” this list of long words, after which were a list of singular verses that were purported to prove each attribute. I could probably find one of these lists online. The Open view seems to work backwards, suggesting that we take the biblical narrative seriously, and develop our concept of God from that. And I have noticed that the books I have read on the Open View have lots of extended sections of Scripture, not just isolated verses. And when Scripture states that God changed His mind, as in Exodus 33, the Open View can take that at face value. The Classical View tends to explain that away as an anthropomorphism.

    Anyway, I have close friends who are Reformed, Arminian, and just simple believers who walk with God. And I’ve wondered, at what point should I “come out of the closet” as someone who embraces the Open View. It has really helped me make sense of the Scriptures and approach the future with hope. Which is a big deal for me.


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    elastigirl wrote:

    haven’t a clue about the label “open theism”, but this is how I’ve always understood things. and some christians have a problem with this??
    what forever for?

    The part you quoted looks okay to me.

    I don’t know if this is accurate of all Open Theists, but one example I saw:

    A guy who advocates for Open Theism told this story on his site. (I saw this many months ago. I do not have the URL, nor do I remember the author’s name. Sorry.) The story the guy told:

    A Christian woman told her preacher that she prayed to God for a spouse.

    Some point there after, she met a Christian guy and felt God told her, “this is the one I have for you. Marry him.”

    So she marries the guy.

    The husband turned out to be physically abusive (and maybe also an alcoholic and verbally abusive, I can’t remember).

    She later divorced the abusive husband. She was absolutely devastated by the whole thing, and it was causing her to doubt the faith.

    Her questions for her preacher involved things such as:
    “Why would God tell me to marry this guy, when he turned out to be abusive? Why would God permit me to walk into a marriage he knew would fall apart and cause me pain?”

    The guy who wrote the web page, (who said he is an Open Theist), said his heart broke for this woman.

    He said that if he were her preacher, he would have told that God’s reply would have been as follows:

    “I am so sorry he abused you. Had I known, I would have not told you to marry the man. I thought he was a real nice guy, too.
    I had no idea he would turn on you and hurt you as he did, after you had married. Had I known, I would have warned you to stay away.”

    Err… If that is open theism, no thank you.

    If Neo Calvinism depicts God as a micro managing, cold hearted, glory hog egotist, who randomly condemns people to Hell just for having been born (and yes, they do tend to portray God in this manner; Anon1’s comment above was IMO accurate), the God of Open Theism looks to me like a bungling, clownish, incompetent buffoon.


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    Mara wrote:

    Sorry.
    But this doesn’t even make sense to me.
    God sees the end from the beginning.
    Seeing and controlling are two different things.

    I agree with you there. I don’t understand why God fore-knowing in any way limits free will. You can change your mind 100 times today and do whatever you wish, and God will still know all 100 choices and be able to see what the outcome is.


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    Haitch wrote:

    @ Nick Bulbeck:
    oh, DO please keep talking about the Ashes, am expecting very good news on Tuesday!

    You’re waiting till Tuesday?


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    @ Daisy: is it Chris Roseborough? (Not sure if I spelled his name correctly.) He’s not exactly representative of my branch of Lutheranism, and he’s *very* conservative in general.


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    Hope you feel better soon, Dee!

    Jack Graham says he needs to repent for not preaching more about money…and he haz a sad about those mean bloggers and “watchdoggers.” No mention of needing to repent for failure to report child sex abuse.

    Watch http://t.co/PgTWklS4OP

    Apparently today he spent most of the time railing against the “haters” and “Pharisees in the church.”


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    Daisy wrote:

    I could see asking, “What do you think of Calvinism?”
    and if the candidate says, “why I find it biblical and really great,” would give me pause for alarm.
    I don’t like any stripe of it.

    But again, that assumes you and he share the same definition of Calvinism. Anyone who would answer that kind of question with that kind of answer does not have the wisdom to be a good leader. He is demonstrating a lack of knowledge of the reality of the theological landscape.

    Just to cite two examples (and many more could be multiplied), some people think Calvinism means God elects sinners to salvation, and some people think Calvinism means paedobaptism. Until you know what the person asking is actually asking, then it is very unwise to answer.


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    @ Daisy:
    I know of no one who supports abortion. The issue is who gets to make the decision. Either the state or the individual in consultation with a physician and her family if appropriate. I have been involved in two instances, and in neither did I advocate abortion. Did not know about either until after the fact, but helped with the clean up of the emotional aftermath in one case and a medical aftermath in the other, which was before Roe v. Wade.


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    Gene wrote:

    But again, that assumes you and he share the same definition of Calvinism. Anyone who would answer that kind of question with that kind of answer does not have the wisdom to be a good leader. He is demonstrating a lack of knowledge of the reality of the theological landscape.

    I think that any pastor with half a brain and a heart of love could dialogue with the individual and come up with an adequate answer. For example, he could say that he holds to the 5 solas. If the person doesn’t understand, explain it. Hand them the TGC statement of belief. That ought to do it. And if the person doesn’t believe it all, they can say I subscribe to that minus #2.

    I think there are many Calvinists who are fearful to answer the question. Ask me what I believe and I would do my darnedest to do so to the satisfaction of a possible member of my congregation.


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    elizabeth wrote:

    I never heard CJ accurately exegete Scripture??? He just quoted from other books. . .

    Did he read the books or get the Cliff Note version?


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    @ Mara: I agree with you.


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    Beakerj wrote:

    ’s my belief that I’m fallible. I bet at the Last Day it’ll turn out that I really am better than everyone else after all, and that my humility was a mistake that deprived many of the benefit of my amazing giftedness and wisdom.

    Still laughing.


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    @ dee:

    Still working on repenting for being too good.


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    dee wrote:

    I think that any pastor with half a brain and a heart of love could dialogue with the individual and come up with an adequate answer.

    I agree, but I think it has to be a dialogue, not a monologue. I suggest the dialogue involves seeking common definitions of words, as in “What do you mean by that?” Or “I am not sure what you mean by ‘Calvinist’ so I can’t answer that specifically, but I will be glad to tell you what I believe.” And then tell them. And give room for follow up. And I would say, rather than give them some document, just open the Bible and show the biblical support for what you believe.

    I think there are many Calvinists who are fearful to answer the question. Ask me what I believe and I would do my darnedest to do so to the satisfaction of a possible member of my congregation.

    I completely agree with both of these statements. No one should hide what they believe.


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    Nick Bulbeck wrote:

    Still working on repenting for being too good.

    Yeah. I’m in the same boat. I am juts too darn adorable for my own good.


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    @ Nick Bulbeck:
    My Hammers are doing everything in their power to come as close to relegation as possible without actually being relegated…


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    @ Gary:

    “Anyway, I have close friends who are Reformed, Arminian, and just simple believers who walk with God. And I’ve wondered, at what point should I “come out of the closet” as someone who embraces the Open View.”
    +++++++++++++

    I say if they’re your friends, they’ll

    “…see your true colors
    Shining through
    (they’ll) see your true colors
    And that’s why (they) love you

    So don’t be afraid to let them show
    Your true colors
    True colors
    Are beautiful like a rainbow”

    (well, it wasn’t actually me. it was really Cyndi Lauper. no plagiarizing here.)


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    Another great blog post on the poem:

    http://homebrewedchristianity.com/2013/12/13/john-pipers-wamm-calvinist/

    Besides the great analysis, there’s one hilarious comment in which the poster suggests he/she will write a poem entitled: “The progressive communal anabaptist anarchist with pseudocharismatic and relational open view postevangelical tendancies”


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    @ Daisy: Another thing to be aware of is that Lutheranism is a *really* big tent – much like the Anglican Communion in that sense. Lutherans came her from many different European countries, and for a long time, churches were somewhat “segregated” by language and ethnic group.

    My location – and many of the people whose families have been members of the church where I was raised – go back a *long* time; close to two hundred years (well, longer, really, but this particular church wasn’t founded until well after the 1st wave of German migration to the Eastern Seaboard in the 1700s). So we were among the earliest to switch from German to English for services. In the Midwest, Pacific Northwest and some other parts of the country, that’s not the case – there were still Swedish, Finnish and Norwegian-speaking churches until the mid-20th c. (And in some cases, even longer.)

    There was also a major “second wave” of German immigrants to the US in the mid-late 19th c. Most of them settled in the Midwest, and that’s where (among other things) the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod (pretty conservative) came from. I suspect you’ve been listening to a podcast or show by a very conservative LCMS guy. there are even fundy Lutherans in the upper Midwest – the Wisconsin Synod (WELS). And I *do* mean “fundy,” in pretty much every sense, but with liturgy.


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    E.G. wrote:

    … “The progressive communal anabaptist anarchist with pseudocharismatic and relational open view postevangelical tendancies”

    He was going so well until “tendancies” – but that’s just nitpicking; I think he should write it!


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    Daisy wrote:

    A Christian woman told her preacher that she prayed to God for a spouse.
    Some point there after, she met a Christian guy and felt God told her, “this is the one I have for you. Marry him.”

    The first sentence I would imagine is fine for Christians of more or less every hue.

    The flaw in the second sentence is the notion, widespread, that God will tell us whom to marry. This is a freewill decision or if you have a problem with the idea of freewill, then part of Christian liberty. The classic verse on this is 1 Cor 7 : 39 ‘A wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives. If the husband dies, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord.’

    God’s sovereignty is exercised here limiting the marriage to a fellow believer. No other constraint is imposed.

    God is so absolutely sovereign that he doesn’t need to prove it. Hence he is free to allow us genuine choices and give us real responsibility without losing control of what he wants accomplished.

    I have often wondered if when praying (for example) as to what God’s will for us as individuals is to be in the church, what we think we ought to get involved in, the answer might at least sometimes be ‘Well, what would you like to do’?!

    This freedom to have responsibility and make choices has its downside from our point of view in that God will hand us over to the consequences of our bad choices. A lot of unbelievers who rail at God for his seeming indifference to human suffering don’t get this, not that there is always a direct cause and effect relationship here, but I suspect there is more often than we think.


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    @ Eagle: You sound a little like me. I’ve struggled with the problem of evil as well. It’s not an easy thing to answer as I’m sure you. Philosophers continue to debate and struggle with it. I have been helped by: N.T. Wright http://www.spu.edu/depts/uc/response/summer2k5/features/evil.asp
    You may also want to get The Doors of the Sea by D.B.Hart http://www.amazon.com/The-Doors-Sea-Where-Tsunami/dp/0802866867
    see especially p. 82 on what is providence. Best wishes.


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    I am joining the discussion late.

    One thing I have noticed with those that claim they believe in and promote Calvinism (which is a part of the Reformed Doctrine) downplay what some call the “darker side” of Calvinism.

    If you claim to believe in Calvinism (predestination) then make sure you share and proclaim:

    – God is the one who decides who will and won’t be saved. God gives some an “irresistable” grace and those given this have no choice but become believers.
    – Those that God chooses not to give this “irresistable” grace to have no chance of becoming a believer.
    – Those not given this grace could include your children, relatives etc.

    It is sad when people downplay this “darker” side.

    I don’t think a lot of people understand what Calvinism really stands for or just want to emphasize the “election” and downplay what happens to those God doesn’t “elect.”

    For me it certainly is baffling that God says He “calls all men to repentance” but then doesn’t give some what they need to repent.

    It is also baffling that groups like Sovereign Grace Ministries claim they believe in Calvinism but then have held pastors accountable for their children not coming to Christ. If you are going to claim you believe in Calvinism and that it is God who decides who is and isn’t saved (due to election) don’t blame the pastors but consider it God’s doing.

    BTW, the term “sovereign grace” is basically another way of saying “Calvinism.” Some churches use the term “free will” to indicate they don’t believe in Calvinism.


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    @ Amy Smith:

    Amy this only proves it is having the right effect! Oh sure, they will always have their die hard followers but it is not as simple as it used to be to get them!


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    Ken wrote:

    God is so absolutely sovereign that he doesn’t need to prove it.

    Love it. Can I steal it?


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    @ Ken:
    Ken, I disagree. In my personal experience God does speak, and on this issue. 35 years ago, I was standing in the choir at church, singing the invitation hymn, eyes closed, praying as I always did. I had earlier been praying that God would let me understand fully whether I was to marry again. I “heard” “open your eyes and see your future.” It was in my head! I did, and a young woman that I had met two weeks previously was joining the church, shaking the pastor’s hand. Now I had laid a fleece before God that I would only marry again if the woman, not knowing this, proposed. In the two weeks following her joining the church, we were together on several occasions, and eventually had a date, supper at her place and a movie to follow. And after dinner and before the movie, she proposed.

    Do not tell me that God does not speak, does not provide an appropriate mate, etc. I have 35 years of sharing life with a person that is an ideal partner for me. And I heard God speak. And I saw an answer to prayer.


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    @ Anon 1:
    The issue is not whether God is sovereign, but what that means in fact and in life. Sovereignty does not mean that everything you would like happens. It means that you have the means to enforce your will with consequences. Thus his sovereignty does not mean that he directs every lightning bolt, every earthquake, every bullet flying from a gun. That he could were he to choose to do so is not in issue, he could. But whether he does or not is not determined by his sovereignty. A judge exercises sovereignty of the state over a person who has violated the law, but does not cause the crime to occur!!!!


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    @ Anon 1:
    The bad news is there is a commandment against stealing, but the good news is I am happy to donate it! 🙂


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    @ An Attorney:
    I think you have missed the point of what I was getting at. You prayed for wisdom on this issue, and I don’t doubt you received an answer to your prayer.

    I was getting at the problem many Christians have of worrying (indeed tying themselves up in knots) about marrying the ‘right’ person as though God must have selected their partner in advance but doesn’t appear to be very forthcoming about who that might be. Will the kingdom of God grind to a halt if I get this wrong.

    This is very much our choice, provided we marry within the faith. Certainly we should pray about it, and God might well give us help in making a wise decision, but I think as a norm God allows human choice within his sovereignty here.

    Mind you, I cannot conceive of anyone else I would ever rather have been married to, but that may not altogether be a totally objective opinion!


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    I would suggest that many Christians have issues with grace since much of Christianity is stuck in legalism. However, it seems as if Calvinists act and think like they are the only ones who teach grace. But then I look at the videos coming out of Mars Hill and DesiringGod. Can you do ______ and you Biblically do _____. Its nothing but do’s and don’ts, and in the end its quite legalistic.


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    elastigirl wrote:

    I say if they’re your friends, they’ll

    Thanks elastigirl, you are exactly right, and I do have some great friends, most of whom have had to “detox” from religious mindsets. We’ve been able to build relationships on better foundations than the precise theological uniformity that defines so many Protestant subcultures. Maybe I just worry about my ability to make sense when I talk — I’m better at writing than talking.


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    An Attorney wrote:

    @ K.D.:
    I have lived in Texas since the mid 1980s, except to go to law school. My wife is a teacher. She taught a year in a school where the principal had his degree from Nova (Spanish meaning, “does not go”) University, and the teachers, in order to accomplish anything, basically ignored him. In another, the principal basically slept in his office most of the school day. So I am familiar with the school situations in Texas. Btw, a lot of that is that school leadership reflects the political leadership of the state. Texas is, generally, blessed with a large supply of ignorance in public office, perhaps more than the total of the rest of the nation.

    Sigh….Yah, one principal slept in his office (allegedly), so the entire school system in the state sucks. GMAB. Try giving some data to back up your point, other than the typical BS of “I’m a liberal, so any conservative state is just filled wtih stupid people.”


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    @ Alan:

    Alan, You ever see the documentary “Waiting for Superman”? It shows what real liberal states let teachers get by with. Amazing stuff. Written and directed by Liberals who have had enough.


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    An Attorney wrote:

    The issue is not whether God is sovereign, but what that means in fact and in life. Sovereignty does not mean that everything you would like happens. It means that you have the means to enforce your will with consequences. Thus his sovereignty does not mean that he directs every lightning bolt, every earthquake, every bullet flying from a gun. That he could were he to choose to do so is not in issue, he could. But whether he does or not is not determined by his sovereignty. A judge exercises sovereignty of the state over a person who has violated the law, but does not cause the crime to occur!!!!

    I never thought Sovereignty meant that at all. I am wondering why you thought so?


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    Anon 1 wrote:

    I never thought Sovereignty meant that at all. I am wondering why you thought so?

    Because it’s it’s basic to the hardcore Calvinists:

    Don’t you realize that if there is one molecule in this universe running around loose outside the scope or the sphere of God’s divine control and authority and power, then that single maverick molecule may be the grain of sand that changes the entire course of human history, that blocks God from keeping the promises he has made to his people?

    Now, That’s a Good Question! By R. C. Sproul


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    It will completely mess up your mind if you figure Calvinism means God is consigning some to hell no matter what, but google the Primitive Baptist Universalists.

    A totally sovereign God theoretically could decide to save all–some sooner than others, but all.


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    @ Alan:
    You are wrong on my politics. I am rather conservative on most matters, libertarian on some, and progressive on a few. Currently registered R. I have worked for Rs and for Ds, R U.S. Senator, D congressman, R state legislators, D governor candidate (running against a crook!), chaired an R friend city council campaign. Also chaired the campaign for a bond issue for a local school district b/c the buildings were in atrocious shape and some were unsafe places for teaching science. But in Texas, we seem to have a requirement that a majority of our political leadership is not high on intelligence, perhaps b/c we won’t elect anyone who can see that there are two or more sides to every issue.


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    @ Anon 1:
    A huge bunch of liberals think the film offered poor analysis, and have criticized it in much the same way we do celebrity preachers, finding that Rhee (for eg) offered narrow literalistic corrections for problems that are complex and that emerge, more than anything, from broader issues of the “haves and have nots” as well as the inevitable petrification of bureaucracies that require refreshing.

    We all agree that every child needs a solid education. Educational theory is important in the same way that theologies are; legalism is found in both places. Many of the current “educational reformers” are legalistic, believing that passing certain narrow tests equates to education in much the same way that many Evangelicals believe holding to a narrow set of rules equates to Christianity. The prevailing educational theories also tend to a punitive approach, not dissimilar to the attitudes of many Calvinists towards their faith. These cannot suceed, and in fact, are showing their lack of success as time moves along.

    Additionally reflected in some Evangelicalism as well as current educational reformers is a lack of understanding about the poor, especially those living multi-generationally in poverty-stricken areas, and what’s needed to help the poor escape those confines. It is made only worse by the shabby state of our economy where, even when students get a good education, there is little place for them to go. Kids are not stupid—they are aware of these things as they go through school.

    Which leads into livable wages. I think every reliable worker should earn a living wage, which would cover health care and allow saving for a livable retirement, whichever way we might decide to arrange those components. This is also a national economic problem.

    I see no reason why a good education for our children and the needs of good teachers should be mutually exclusive. Yet they are made so far too often, much as we make “profits” exclusive of the needs of our workers (not our small businesses, only our huge ones), much as the wages for our celebrity pastors are exclusive of the needs of pew-sitters.

    “Waiting for Superman” addresses none of these problems well, and some not at all.

    We are fighting a zeitgeist on many levels. My two cents.


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    @ Gary:

    “…have had to “detox” from religious mindsets. We’ve been able to build relationships on better foundations than the precise theological uniformity that defines so many Protestant subcultures.”
    ++++++++++++++++

    I understand. I have 2 friends who I pray with every week. Our 3 background are quite different (charismatic, not charismatic, Palestinian eastern orthordox/catholic). Our views on a number of things are quite different. But we have so much in common. And we have quite the intense, rollicking prayer times together based on our commonalities. God/Jesus/Holy Spirit simply show up — I really don’t think he’s fussy.


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    @ elastigirl: Not fussy at all! Wish I could join you.


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    @ Patrice: What a can of worms. There *has* to be a better way, for students, teachers and a whole lot of other people.

    so much for lockstep “liberals”…


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    @ JeffT

    What really undermines Reformed Theology is the Problem of Evil. Reformed theology makes the Problem of Evil worse. I don’t hear people speaking about this at all. I find it quite interesting because the Problem of Evil is one of the issues that atheists discuss. Why would a loving God allow _____.

    Personally I think much of evangelcialsim and other parts of Christianity lack intellectual meat. People don’t think about some of this, and it never is discussed in many environments.


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    @ Eagle: Have you read Mark Noll’s book The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind ? If not, I’d recommend it.


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    Eagle wrote:

    @ JeffT
    What really undermines Reformed Theology is the Problem of Evil. Reformed theology makes the Problem of Evil worse. I don’t hear people speaking about this at all. I find it quite interesting because the Problem of Evil is one of the issues that atheists discuss. Why would a loving God allow _____.
    Personally I think much of evangelcialsim and other parts of Christianity lack intellectual meat. People don’t think about some of this, and it never is discussed in many environments.

    I’ve listened to DA Carson numerous times on compatiblism and still don’t buy it. Proud just can’t have a God that chooses to control every detail of every event on Earth, large and small, yet get him off the hook for evil.


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    numo wrote:

    @ Eagle: Have you read Mark Noll’s book The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind ? If not, I’d recommend it.

    I second that. Excellent book.


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    @ Patrice:

    I know nothing about Rhee and was not even thinking of that. It is almost impossible to make any serious changes though and that is waht I thought the point was in Superman. I was thinking of those teacher holding rooms in New Jersey or New York where teachers in trouble were being paid to sit all day and read the paper while being paid. The rooms were full!

    I have been working ona training contract with our local school board for 5 years and been in many schools. Not coming from that world, it was a shock. Many teachers do not support the unions but only whisper this to trusted people. it is politically incorrect to dare say it. When many opted NOT to join the union a rule was passed they stil had to pay something called “fair share” which went to the union. So you have to pay and not get representation.

    Horrible teachers are transferred from school to school. Great teachers are consigned to the exact same pay/benefits as the horrible ones. Teachers have an impossible job becausee the expectations for students are so low by the bureaucrats and discipline takes up too much of the time. Especially poor minority students. Soft discrimination thinking that they cannot learn.

    And to make it worse, the bureaucrats are convinced poor people are too stupid to make good education choices when there is plenty of evidence they would LOVE to have school choice. I cannot for the life of me understand why liberals are against school choice. And yes, that would include private Muslim schools and Christian schools. We are giong to have to come to grips with that.

    I agree our system was designed for a caste type system workforce of blue collar or white coller jobs. It is not working. A high school diploma does not even guarantee most of the graduates can read above a 6th grade level. Ask frontline employers and they will tell you that a GED means more. At least they had to be able to read and pass a test.

    We are letting down our country’s children by discriminating with very low expectations.


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    Patrice wrote:

    Which leads into livable wages.

    Indeed. There is a growing underclass of working poor here in the UK (and elsewhere, I believe). For one thing there are thousands of people who have been unable to get paid work and who are forced to work in unpaid “placements” in order to qualify for benefits, or welfare if you prefer, set at around a third of the minimum wage. For another, there are people in “paid work” but earning too little to make ends meet.

    I recall the Tony Campolo “three tragedies” anecdote I mentioned here recently. The thing that frustrates me is how few Christians are even interested in praying for a venture in which we hope to see God actually help create decent jobs. Only non-Christian governments and companies can do that, you see. And at the end of the day, God isn’t that bothered about jobs anyway, is he?


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    Those upset about livable wages: do you see any place in the economy for entry level jobs, not intended to support a family? Those jobs traditionally seen as low pay no benefits but a foot in the door for teens and others out of the work force?


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    @ Nick Bulbeck: we have more and more working poor here than I’d ever imagined would be possible post-Depression. It’s scary and disturbing and I wish there were easy answers.


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    @ Daisy:

    Wow, i take a sunday off and miss out on half the conversation. I wasn’t saying that you were either Calvinist or Arminian. I was just pointing out that both sides have issues with “free will.”.

    I was surprised to see what you said about the God of the reformed being a “glory hog”. In light of Isaiah 42:8 where it says I am the Lord, that is my name, I will not give my glory to anyone else nor share my praise with carved idols.” It seems to me that all glory is to go to God.


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    @ Anon 1:
    I agree with your analysis for poor urban schools. There is not only a now-nearly-ruined bureaucracy but because the schools are heavily financed by local taxes, the best teachers have for decades, gone to wealthier districts where the pay was better, the problems fewer, the support better. So for a long time, we’ve been giving our worst teachers to the students who’ve needed our best. It’s just awful for the students.

    Unless we are willing to send our best young teachers into these areas with lots of training on how to handle social and developmental difficulties, plus with broad community support (I mean also the wealthier communities around the poverty-stricken areas), it will remain a fiasco.

    Also sad because there are college grads who are interested but there is very little hiring going on because the school curricula becomes ever more rote while classes are made ever larger (a daughter’s friend was teaching 48 fourth graders in Detroit!), increasing entrenched problems exponentially. Ach!!

    Many charter schools pay their teachers poorly, nearly at the level of Christian school teachers who have historically worked as a ministry on behalf of their church community.

    Ah well. Just watching my daughter’s friends, some of whom wanted to go into education, and feeling sad.


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    @ Patrice: I can’t imagine watching 48 kids at one time. Let alone teaching. In my work we try to have a span of control of 3-7 people with 5 being optimal. There is no way anyone could efficiently handle those kids.


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    numo wrote:

    @ Eagle: Have you read Mark Noll’s book The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind ? If not, I’d recommend it.

    Agreed. Excellent book. It probably should be required reading for all Christians, and particularly those of us who for personal reasons prefer to identify as Evangelical.


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    @ numo:

    wish you could, too. at the end you’d go, “whoa”.


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    @ elastigirl: i’m sure! 🙂


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    Eagle wrote:

    I find it quite interesting because the Problem of Evil is one of the issues that atheists discuss. Why would a loving God allow _____.

    Given atheism as your starting point, it is next to impossible to talk in terms of good and evil and right and wrong.

    I don’t believe in giving glib answers to the very real suffering that goes on in this world, but atheists are the last people to complain about it – the very last thing on earth they want is a God who intervenes. They hate him and his morality which they reject, then complain when they reap what they sow.

    God loves righteousness more than people.


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    linda wrote:

    Those upset about livable wages: do you see any place in the economy for entry level jobs, not intended to support a family? Those jobs traditionally seen as low pay no benefits but a foot in the door for teens and others out of the work force?

    Firstly, there are several groups of people who are upset about living wages; for one thing, those who are obliged to try and live on them.

    The UK minimum wage is age-related, reflecting the assumption that those just entering the workforce have fewer responsibilities and no dependents. There is a place for entry-level jobs in an economy that also has a realistic supply of next-level jobs for young people to move up into. But there is a basic biblical principle that the worker deserves his/her wages. It’s one thing to say, here’s a job that is not meant to support a family. But if it won’t even support the individual doing it, there is a problem somewhere. Society then must answer the question over how old a working man or woman has to be before we will allow, or expect, them to be financially independent of their parents. With too great a reliance on low-paid jobs, employing companies themselves become dependent on what amount to subsidies from their workforce who are effectively donating a portion of their time for nothing.

    The other comment I’ll make here concerns the “others out of the work force”. Many of the unemployed, especially during a recession, have lost their jobs after working for some years or even decades. They have done so through economic factors beyond their control, not through misconduct or incompetence. Usually, they have mortgages to pay and children to support. A significant problem we see today in the UK is that experienced people with family responsibilities are being shunted towards jobs that cannot support them, and are then demonised as “lazy” or part of a “culture of entitlement” when they won’t take jobs they literally cannot afford to do.

    It concerns me that low-wage, no-benefit jobs are no longer a foot in the door for teenagers, but are an essential component in an economy based around spiralling pay-gaps.


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    @ Patrice:

    Patrice, Our best state of the art schools are in Urban areas with some of our best teachers. We do not have “wealthy” public schools in our school district. And it is a big one. Money has been poured into Urban schools for 30 years but the net effect is not resulting in a better educated student whether black or white. In fact, a huge problem is the constant cost of repairing defaced, stolen or broken property. We have had court ordered busing now for 35 years so we have a generation who went to school across town outside of their community. They are disconnected to any community roots without any idea of school/community spirit, extra curricular activites, etc. Most spend about 3 hours on a school bus per day.

    I do think the idea of busing was made with very good intentions. Ironically a growing segment of the African American population here (younger, not the civil rights generation) are lobbying to stop- busing. The older civil rights generation are saying “over our dead bodies”.


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    linda wrote:

    Those upset about livable wages: do you see any place in the economy for entry level jobs, not intended to support a family? Those jobs traditionally seen as low pay no benefits but a foot in the door for teens and others out of the work force?

    That or you can pay 12 bucks for a Big Mac. :o) No matter, that franchisee will be out of business before that happens, anyway.


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    Patrice, BTW: Don’t get me wrong. One of the things I have noticed is that the most dangerous HS students are the ones from wealthy families who are constantly bailed out of trouble, no responsibility but plenty of time and unearned money. Both black and white.


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    @ Anon 1:
    Yes, states differ in funding, where they put their emphases, etc. A friend works in an “alternative” school in the wealthiest community in Detroit area. His students are failing “regular” and are mostly comprised of those whose families work in service industry (trailer parks and one other cramped neighborhood) or have “poor little rich kid” syndrome. The latter are unloved by their parents while being “bought off” by massive material goods. I feel especially sorry for them because they have no moorings at all.

    We have not honestly committed ourselves to the problems of poverty for a long time (humans tend not to, anyway, but we’ve been particularly bad at it, IMO) and so it has become deeply entrenched and grown in complexity and the race aspect has pushed it over the edge. How can we not feel overwhelmed by it? And since the character of our nation is increasingly divided and defined by what we are against (due in part to pressures caused by the ever-growing shenanigans of our economic masters and a complicit gov’t), we are not likely to deal with it any time soon.

    I enjoy commenting with you, Anon 1. I suspect that we could work together even though on opposite sides of political spectrum. We need more of that kind of thing, much much more. I wish I were not ill.


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    @ That Guy: Agreed!


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    Janey wrote:

    . It probably should be required reading for all Christians, and particularly those of us who for personal reasons prefer to identify as Evangelical.

    It is in my top ten favorite books.


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    Ken wrote:

    God loves righteousness more than people.

    I deeply disagree. God is infinite in all of His qualities/attributes. God loves man as deeply as He does righteousness. In His dimension it is not an “either/or” proposition.
    Ken wrote:

    the very last thing on earth they want is a God who intervenes.

    I think that you are painting atheists with a very broad brush. It is one thing to disagree with them. It is another to say something that it is not universally true. I spent about 5 years on atheist websites, trying to understand them. I learned a lot from ExChristians.Net which helped me to see the wide variety of reasons people reject God.

    Many of them do not complain when they “reap” what they sow.There are atheists who sacrificially serve mankind in groups like Doctors Without Borders, Peace Corps, etc. I am not saying that these groups are atheist. I am saying they allow atheists to serve in them.

    In fact, I believe that there are some atheists who outperform Christians in the good works department.

    As a Christian, I do not see atheists any better or worse than Christians. It is only through the grace of Jesus that we are saved and, from what we cover on this blog, it is a darn good thing because we Christians do a darn good job hurting others and messing things up.


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    @ linda:
    Yes, I think a healthy economy would provide those kinds of jobs for teens, but these days, they have a harder time getting hired because many in their mid-20s can’t find work in the “living wage” market, and have taken them over. Thus many businesses now demand a college degree for such work, because they can.


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    Ken wrote:

    God loves righteousness more than people.

    Sadly, that sounds like something Piper would say.

    Thankfully, considering God’s long suffering and lamenting over His people for thousands of years, I don’t find it to be true.


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    Ken wrote:

    God loves righteousness more than people.

    RFQ – do you mean “God loves righteousness more than he loves people”, or “God loves righteousness more than we do”?


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    @ Nick Bulbeck:

    RFQ indeed… I meant RFC (Request For Clarification – I’ve no idea what the Q was meant to stand for).


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    ‘God loves righteousness more than people’ was rather context-less. Think of it in answer to the question ‘how could a God of love exclude anyone from his presence for all of eternity’ (i.e. the doctrine of hell). My daughter asked me this not long ago. It’s not either/or but both, but righteousness outranks love. The secret is not to over-emphasise any aspect of Christian truth, but this is easier said than done!

    I have also visited atheist sites over the last few years. It seems intellectually dishonest not to engage with the opposition, and it certainly was a learning experience! The underlying hostility was unremitting, (but I volunteered for the lion’s den!) yet I sort of got to like them after a while. You need a lot of grace and patience, good humour, a thorough knowledge of the bible and a willingness to acknowledge when you don’t have a ready let alone glib answer. In part I was testing whether Psalm 14 and Rom 1 are actually true in real life. I came to the conclusion they are both spot on, that atheists are indeed suppressing the truth about God because of their unrighteousness.

    You are of course right that there but for the grace of God go I, although there is the parallel truth that we reap the consequences of our sinful choices or our sinful responses to the sin of others. If we don’t want to be separated from our sin, i.e. our moral rebellion against God, then God will separate us from his presence.

    You are also right to beware of a John Mac broad brush approach, but I have in mind actual atheists of the kind who enjoy mocking rather than the larger, more diverse spread of agnostics or those who think theism deserves being treated seriously.

    Atheists use the appalling things they see in the institutional church (RC child abuse being a favourite) to justify their unbelief, though I think they actually are ‘without excuse’ for this to coin a phrase. (What is their basis for saying such behaviour is ‘wrong’?) However, the scandals in various churches can be a very real stumbling block for those who really do want to know the truth and see it obscured by hypocritical behaviour. This is a huge topic to deal with, and requires careful thought.

    Hope that clarifies, if only a little!


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    @ Ken:

    “. . . but righteousness outranks love.” So, that IS what you believe? Am I missing something? Yes, I did read the entire comment. Jesus, of course, is the answer to the righteousness and love issue.’


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    @ Bridget:

    Can I put it like this: what is the gospel? It is “the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe” Rom 3. It is not just that God loves mankind, but God is righteous in his dealings with us as well, and righteousness is what we need. It is not we lack the love of God; we need to be reconciled to him, he doesn’t need to be reconciled to us.

    As sinful men have broken God’s law, justice demands punishment. When God enters into judgement with men, supremely at the end of the age, it is not that God does not love them, it is he cannot simply let them off all their wrong-doing. It is in this sense God loves righteousness rather than people.

    The atonement means we can as believers experience both the love of God and have his righteousness reckoned or imputed to us.

    The issue as far as unbelievers goes is not that God doesn’t love them, it is their need of forgivenness for actual transgressions. You may well have noticed that in all the ‘gospel’ presentations in Acts, not once do the apostles tell unbelievers God loves them (I don’t think Acts mentions God’s love at all). Just saying ‘God loves you’ can be misleading if it gives the impression that this means all will be well, God would never condemn anyone.


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    @ Nick Bulbeck: autocomplete, Request for Quotation, similar to Request for Proposal, but referring only to getting a price quote, or in this instance, a citation to something quotable.


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    Nick Bulbeck wrote:

    The thing that frustrates me is how few Christians are even interested in praying for a venture in which we hope to see God actually help create decent jobs. Only non-Christian governments and companies can do that, you see. And at the end of the day, God isn’t that bothered about jobs anyway, is he?

    It’s another corollary of the Evangelicals’ Gospel of Personal Salvation and ONLY Personal Salvation (where everything else is “It’s All Gonna Burn”).

    “So what if I rack him ’til he die? I shall have Saved His Soul.”
    — “The Inquisitor”, Mark Twain’s Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court


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    Ken wrote:

    God loves righteousness more than people.

    Ayatollah Khomeini, Mullah Omar, and John Calvin would agree. They did their best to make the places they ruled as Righteous(TM) as possible. Never mind the people under their power.


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    @ Ken: Your words and tactics here seem quite harsh (for the most part), so I can well imagine that you got a lot of pushback on atheist sites.

    If I might make a suggestion… atheists are *not* “the opposition.” And God doesn’t need to be defended; he can do that quite well for himself.

    Jesus’ way is very often not what we think it is. For whom does he reserve harsh words? Corrupt and hypocritical religious authorities; people in positions of power over others. Jesus most pointedly does NOT speak in harsh words to others… His gospel is, above all else, about love, mercy, forgiveness and grace.

    If you view people as “the opposition,” you are pretty much dooming yourself to failure, because God himself does not regard these people as enemies. He died for all. (I know, I know, you don’t necessarily believe that, but still…)

    sometimes I feel your words are like loose cannons – there’s a lot of scattershot words that wound bystanders who have no part in your conflicts.

    Please… just listen to people first before going in for rebukes and more. There is very often a TON of hurt and anger (stemming for very real harm and abuse) in the words of those who are atheists and/or non churchgoers any more, or… take your pick. They do not deserve to get a verbal Gatling gun attack, imo.

    I realize you will probably disagree with what I’ve just said, but please also know that I don’t think of you as “the opposition.”

    Grace and peace to you,
    n.


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    @ Ken: I’ve got a reply to you in moderation; hope you’ll keep an eye out for it later on.


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    Headless Unicorn Guy wrote:

    Ken wrote:

    God loves righteousness more than people.

    Ayatollah Khomeini, Mullah Omar, and John Calvin would agree. They did their best to make the places they ruled as Righteous(TM) as possible. Never mind the people under their power.

    For God so (righteously) LOVED the world, he gave his only begotten son, so WHOEVER, (oops, only the chosen righteous) should not perish but have ever lasting life.


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    @ Ken: Let me ask you this: if your belief is true, why then does it say in 1 John that “God is love”? The writer could have said *many* things about God, but that was the attribute he chose.

    so did Paul in 1 Cor. ch. 13.

    jesus said that the two greatest commandments are to love God with everything we’ve got and to likewise love our neighbors, and then gave a bombshell of an example to the question “Who is my neighbor?”

    The thing is, by Jesus’ definition, the atheists you call “opposition” (maybe “enemies” would be a better term?) are *your neighbors.*

    I could keep on citing passages, but that wouldn’t do either of us any good. You already know them.

    I hope you will keep the two greatest commandments in mind when thinking of those with whom you intensely disagree. Maybe they are angry and hurt due to unbending, even abusive, religious people (very much including “authorities”).


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    @ Ken: It saddens me that you think that people who do not subscribe to your form of xtianity are, by default, without any morals or ethics.

    Maybe you need to get out a bit more?


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    Ken wrote:

    The issue as far as unbelievers goes is not that God doesn’t love them, it is their need of forgivenness for actual transgressions. You may well have noticed that in all the ‘gospel’ presentations in Acts, not once do the apostles tell unbelievers God loves them

    John 3:16


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    Ken wrote:

    (What is their basis for saying such behaviour is ‘wrong’?

    I believe that God gave man a sense of right and wrong which benefits all of us-believers and non-believers. Most people understand that certain things are wrong (murder) and certain things are good-help your fellow man.

    If you take a look at some statistics, it does appear that atheists either commit slightly less crime than Christians or, at the minimum, the same amount. if we are so good at knowing right and wrong, shouldn’t that mean we behave better?

    I am not convinced that atheists are less ethical than Christians. The only difference is that we have a Savior who forgives us.


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    Ken wrote:

    It seems intellectually dishonest not to engage with the opposition, and it certainly was a learning experience!

    Ex Christians is a blog site for those leaving Christianity. In other words, why are we interfering with their purpose? I found that if I empathized with their feelings and journey, they were quite nice. The moment I tried to push them on the faith issue, they became upset. And rightfully so. It would be rude of me to go to a Hindu temple and tell them they are wrong.

    I have seen Christians do the same thing to others who attempt to debate them or question their theology. Heck, I have particularly seen this in the Young Earth crowd. Christians are just as angry as any other group.


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    Patrice wrote:

    Additionally reflected in some Evangelicalism as well as current educational reformers is a lack of understanding about the poor, especially those living multi-generationally in poverty-stricken areas, and what’s needed to help the poor escape those confines. It is made only worse by the shabby state of our economy where, even when students get a good education, there is little place for them to go. Kids are not stupid—they are aware of these things as they go through school.

    Well put Patrice. In my opinion it is not possible to have a progressive and pluralistic democracy without a solid manufacturing base. Ours has been systematically looted, gutted, and shipped offshore (Gordon Gekko style) by a financial sector which has been allowed to run amok. It is also my opinion that in this context ‘education’ takes on the mythic proportions of Homer’s Chimera. What next? Will our young folks be required to have at least an Associate’s degree in business admin. before they can sling tortillas at Taco Belle?


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    @ Ken:
    Here is an example. Go to the exChristians..net site
    http://new.exchristian.net
    and look on the side column near the bottom. They announce, clearly, their association as an Amazon associate and state how they benefit from the program.

    Now, without going into details, we showed, in a post, that a certain well-known TGC type blogger does not clearly show his associate status. And we got ripped into for noting that, amongst other things.

    Big time Christian versus Ex Christian-guess who appears more honest?


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    numo wrote:

    I’ve got a reply to you in moderation

    Sounds good. I drink in moderation.


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    I sleep in moderation, get enough to get by, but nowhere near as much as I would like and my productivity seems to need.


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    To those that responded to the economics question, thanks!

    I live in a town of generational poverty that unfortunately has also taken a hit with its two major industries. One of the things we work very hard at is making sure there are some entry level jobs available. Another is making sure the kids are seeking career training, not some vague college degree. And we try to make it very clear also that they should not decide that since flipping burgers here requires no particular education, they will make that their career and then expect a “living wage.”

    Of course we could argue all day as to the ethics and philosophies of the economy. But just focusing on getting those three ideas across truly is helping many to succeed in an economy that is basically toast.

    Those, and of course the idea of following the job. They learn early the idea that they may have to relocate to be employed.

    But it only seems fair to tell them that if they get an education degree, are willing to move, and have a job record they can probably get a good position, not necessarily in this state. On the other hand, if they major in English or Art or History without the education hours they may wind up flipping burgers or living on the dole. Lots of jobs in healthcare, but they don’t pay a lot unless you have both experience and advanced degrees. Again, you have to move to a major city for the higher paying jobs. Petroleum engineers, chemical engineers, etc can find work as can common laborers but you have to go to ND or the Permian Basin.

    We are finding it quite an astonishing reality check for some of them. They just sort of assumed they “deserve” a living wage, shouldn’t have to move away from family, shouldn’t have to consider available jobs when choosing a major, shouldn’t be penalized economically for having their kids out of wedlock or dropping out of school.

    Seems much more fair to tell them the hard economics facts than deceive them. I was wondering if we were that out of step with the rest of the world being open about what the kids will face in the job market.


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    Ken wrote:

    I think they actually are ‘without excuse’ for this to coin a phrase. (What is their basis for saying such behaviour is ‘wrong’?)

    Their basis comes from the divine template within, the divine image all humans inherit from the Almighty other than the ‘sin nature’. If we inherit only a nature of willful rebellion against God, Romans 2:12-16 cannot also be true.


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    Nick Bulbeck wrote:

    The thing that frustrates me is how few Christians are even interested in praying for a venture in which we hope to see God actually help create decent jobs. Only non-Christian governments and companies can do that, you see. And at the end of the day, God isn’t that bothered about jobs anyway, is he?

    Curious, isn’t it? I wonder how much is due to the underlying idea that Christians should be separate from broader culture while working the misguided “culture war” meme. Perhaps also the idea that God will give people what they need, if they love Him/Her and ask, combined with the bootstrap theory of “getting on”? Or maybe it’s mostly that US Christians are rather poor at structural analysis—is your bunch any better at that?

    So I don’t know why but it’s interesting.


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    Ken – you’re making me sad. How about you stop studying atheists to make a biblical point in your own mind & step out & really get to know & love some? They are not lab rats.
    If anyone needs me I’ll be under the bed. Ken’s God is scaring me again.


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    numo wrote:

    the one for whom we can never, ever be good enough – the celestial tyrant who seemed to be in charge of the evangelical/charismatic churches I was part of.

    That idol made of stainless steel and hunting knives, etched with the complete OT law, and resting on a mirrored stand? Yeah, I’ve seen that one too w00t


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    @ Beakerj: if it’s OK with you, i’ll join you! (Although I don’t think his “god” is the real one…)


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    @ Patrice:
    Something like that, although the man held sway over That Church was over-fond of portraying him as the one who dwells in darkness on the top of Mt. Sinai… which made/still makes me want to run the other way as fast as possible.


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    linda wrote:

    Seems much more fair to tell them the hard economics facts than deceive them.

    Absolutely agree. We elders and teachers owe that to them. Things have changed for the worse and the paths their parents took are closed to them. It’s a shame and worth being angry about, but there it is.


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    @ Patrice:
    I wish someone had explained these things to me when I was their age!


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    @ numo:
    Time for a melt-down: the stainless steel idol in some Evangelical circles, the brass bull on Wall Street, the smoking black god on top of Mt Sinai and the golden calf whooping it up at the bottom. (Probably they are why hell needs to be so hot lol)


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    @ numo:
    Would you have changed your college degree, if so?


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    @ Patrice: that’s a hard question to answer. What I *might* have done is add in a minor plus electives that would have given me more options in using my research skills. I did not want to go into education, though, and think i’m not really a person who would have enjoyed daily classroom teaching.


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    @ Patrice:
    I needed practical help and direction at that age, and didn’t really get any.


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    @ Patrice:

    I think it’s because the church here in the UK is overwhelmingly middle-class. Middle-class people suffer heartache and tragedy sometimes, of course, and unless I’m missing something, God doesn’t love them any less than he loves the very rich or the poor. But on the whole, they come to church with most of their practical needs met. They have a decent educational background and get jobs just by doing the usual sort of job-hunting things. So they don’t have a theology of God’s practical help.

    There’s a truly inspirational series (2 parts out of 4 have been published) on my blog here dealing with the subject of “middle-class church”.


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    numo wrote:

    @ Patrice:
    I needed practical help and direction at that age, and didn’t really get any.

    I, too. Unfortunately, as C. Northcote Parkinson once said: if you can tell the difference between good advice and bad advice, you don’t need advice.


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    Beakerj wrote:

    If anyone needs me I’ll be under the bed.

    I’m there as well so we can have a party and rejoice in a God of Love.


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    @ Nick Bulbeck: the career counseling center at my: university was a real joke. All the offered was a simplistic multiple-choice test that confirmed my gifts but in the “interpretation,” no direction was offered. I bet things would have been very different if I’d majored in business or related subjects…


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    @ dee:with chocolate!


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    Nick Bulbeck wrote:

    The thing that frustrates me is how few Christians are even interested in praying for a venture in which we hope to see God actually help create decent jobs. Only non-Christian governments and companies can do that, you see. And at the end of the day, God isn’t that bothered about jobs anyway, is he?

    Christians are strange about that.

    In the United States, we have a lot of Word of Faith and other types who believe it’s fine for Christians to pray for almost anything, such as, receiving a new homes, a better office at work, for healing…. but not for other things.

    The only example off the top of my head at the moment is that a lot of American Christians think you’re not supposed to ask other Christians pray to ask God to deliver you a spouse.

    You’re supposed to just ‘sort of hope’ God drifts one your way, you’re not supposed to use dating sites, or pray and ask God, because that is usurping God’s sovereignty or shows a lack of faith, but it’s jim dandy oakey doakey to ask God (or ask other Christians to pray for) you to receive a new Ford, a BMW, healing from dandruff, or a raise at work.

    I have seen other matters treated the same way, where Christians say you should not pray for ‘X’, leave X up to God.

    I don’t know who comes up with these classifications, that it’s okay to pray for being healed from diabetes or ask God for a new car, but wrong to ask for ‘X.’


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    That Guy wrote:

    I was surprised to see what you said about the God of the reformed being a “glory hog”. In light of Isaiah 42:8 where it says I am the Lord, that is my name, I will not give my glory to anyone else nor share my praise with carved idols.” It seems to me that all glory is to go to God.

    The Calvinist depiction of God and God’s glory is often to make God out to be an egotist.

    I am not saying it is inherently wrong for the God of the Bible to have glory or want it, but the God of the Bible seems more balanced than the God of Calvinism, in that, he has glory but also cares about people as well.


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    @Dee, Fri 11:23: You wrote, “I believe the issue of election is a dividing point. As you read in the story, Becky and others do not take the Calvinist position of election. The pastor did and forced that perspective on them.” I see your point, but am still foggy on what exactly it means, or looks like, for a pastor to “force a perspective” on someone. Couldn’t it just be a cause of honest disagreement? Or, did the pastor invoke some sort of excommunication or something? I don’t really see either Calvinism or Arminianism as being so biblically compelling that anyone should get too uptight about either. But hey, I’m a Molinist!


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    @ Daisy: This is one area in which the RCC (in the US) has helped a *lot* in very practical ways, via social services. I can’t speak to the creation of jobs, but I know for sure that I knew people back in the 70s who were trying very hard to get better work/wages/working conditions for the working poor, as well as for those who had no jobs.

    It’s normal for someone in a religious order (nun, priest) to have a Masters in Social Work, for example. And the RCC used to run a lot of hospitals as well – there were whole orders of nuns whose work was nursing and hospital administration. The hospitals have, unfortunately, gone the way of the dodo, with a handful of exception, from the 80s on (as healthcare became privatized and thus, Big Business’s territory).


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    @ Patrice: lolz!


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    Headless Unicorn Guy wrote:

    Ayatollah Khomeini, Mullah Omar, and John Calvin would agree. They did their best to make the places they ruled as Righteous(TM) as possible. Never mind the people under their power.

    When people suffer under their rulers, such rulers are by definition not righteous, so your comment doesn’t make sense.


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    @ dee:
    The fact you quoted John 3 : 16 leads me to think you misunderstood my comment – probably due to the double negative:

    “The issue as far as unbelievers goes is not that God doesn’t love them, it is their need of forgivenness for actual transgressions… “


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    @ numo:
    I’ve never said that, and it is a common misunderstanding unbelievers make (I’ve had one take me to task for this before!).

    The argument is that without God, an atheist worldview has no BASIS for ethics and morality, not that no atheists may try to live ethical lives. Read a bit of Dawkins and he at least is consistent in following atheism where it leads – ‘ultimately there is no right and wrong’.

    I’ll get back to your other comments later, and hopefully can lay your concerns to rest.


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    @ Daisy:

    The whole topic of “what Christians expect God to do” is interesting. I think in many cases the issue is that we don’t expect him to do anything. Thus, we pray for stuff that’s fairly likely to happen anyway, and if it’s not, then it’s irresponsible to pray for it.

    I’m guessing that most of the people telling you not to pray for a spouse are people who didn’t have to go out of their way to pray for theirs. After all, if I didn’t get/need any special help from God, why should you get any?

    Behind that, as well, there is often a lack of understanding of God’s gifts to us, because not all of God’s gifts are “in” us, in the form of abilities. Sometimes God simply enables us, one way or another, to be in the right place at the right time to meet someone or something. And in still other settings, we think we’ve achieved something through “sheer hard work” without acknowledging that we couldn’t have done that work without God’s gifts to/in us.


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    dee wrote:

    You may well have noticed that in all the ‘gospel’ presentations in Acts, not once do the apostles tell unbelievers God loves them

    Ken wrote:

    leads me to think you misunderstood my comment

    I did not misunderstand. I believe that love is the basis for all of the Gospel. Without it, you get a salvation presentation that looks like this. God despises you, you little worm. And He is going to condemn you to burn in the fires of hell unless you turn from your despicable ways and serve Him. You are darn lucky He decided to save a few of you scumbags and you better jump on the band wagon and serve this vengeful God.

    I have found this to be a curious phenomenon of NeoCalvinists. They fear the word “love” and instead love words like retribution, wrath, etc.The God I serve is in the business of bringing people into the kingdom as opposed to being on a tirade to keep people out.

    His deepest desire is to commune with His created ones who He loves very, very much. Calvinists often seem to be in the business of saying God is out for his own glory. Well, I believe His glory is tied up in the love of His children. His glory is seen best in the love of Jesus who commanded his disciples to let the children come to Him. Can you imagine if the disciples told those children that jesus was full of wrath and vengeance looked at them as vile worms?


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    Ken wrote:

    The argument is that without God, an atheist worldview has no BASIS for ethics and morality,

    I disagree. They have a basis but it is not the basis with which we, as Christians, agree. For many, the basis of morality is based on the survival of the species. Once communities are formed, etc., there is no further need to conquer others to survive except on a massive scale. The time spent on hunting and gathering can now turn to more esoteric pursuits which can, and does, include philosophy, etc.

    Make sure you understand what I am saying. I believe that their drive to develop a moral code is embedded in them by God who is the basis of the moral codes that we follow.


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    Ken J Garrett wrote:

    Couldn’t it just be a cause of honest disagreement? Or, did the pastor invoke some sort of excommunication or something?

    According to Becky’s narrative, he threw a little old lady out of a Sunday school class. That, in any book, is a dividing point!


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    Ken wrote:

    @ Bridget:

    Can I put it like this: what is the gospel? It is “the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe” Rom 3. It is not just that God loves mankind, but God is righteous in his dealings with us as well, and righteousness is what we need. It is not we lack the love of God; we need to be reconciled to him, he doesn’t need to be reconciled to us.

    As sinful men have broken God’s law, justice demands punishment. When God enters into judgement with men, supremely at the end of the age, it is not that God does not love them, it is he cannot simply let them off all their wrong-doing. It is in this sense God loves righteousness rather than people.

    The atonement means we can as believers experience both the love of God and have his righteousness reckoned or imputed to us.

    The issue as far as unbelievers goes is not that God doesn’t love them, it is their need of forgivenness for actual transgressions. You may well have noticed that in all the ‘gospel’ presentations in Acts, not once do the apostles tell unbelievers God loves them (I don’t think Acts mentions God’s love at all). Just saying ‘God loves you’ can be misleading if it gives the impression that this means all will be well, God would never condemn anyone.

    There are plenty of scriptures that talk about the love of God. I don’t see any point in a back and forth on scriptures. You believe that God’s motivating characteristic is his righteousness. I believe it is his love for those he created as his image bearers.

    As for myself, I don’t think I would have believed in a God whose main interest in my being declared righteous was because he needed another notch in his righteousness belt. If I hadn’t first been convinced that God loved me, I would never have believed that he also provided a way for me to be called his own. God coming in the flesh to die for the world is an act of love that was necessary for atonement.

    Seriously, though, why would God bother with atonement if he didn’t love his creation? It seems he could have brought glory to his name much easier without his errant children in the way. But that’s not the posture God has, not even in Eden. He provided a covering right from the start, restoring relationship, albeit not without consequences.


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    @ dee:

    I think it depends on where you are approaching this from. I had to rethink the love of God as the basis of the gospel during the Willow Creek era, where the church seemed to preach only love – if only we could spread the message of just how desperately God loves all those outside the church. The issue of sin was massively downplayed to the point of becoming invisible.

    This ‘God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life’ gospel, whilst not entirely untrue, is altogether too shallow in diagnosing the human condition. You only have to think of so much suffering around you to see this – a God of just love would surely do something about it. There must be more than just love in how God deals with his erring creation. God’s love, mercy, patience, kindness and holy righteousness have to be balanced with his wrath against our sin and his judgement of it. As I said before the trick is to keep both emphases rather than preach a sentimental grandfather God or an unapproachable vengeful one. (Acts doesn’t mention hell either.)

    I think I have been filed under ‘probably Calvinist’ here, and certainly misunderstood as though I claim you have to choose between the love of God and his righteousness. (Your description of calvinists is surely a caricature, no-one really talks like that, do they?)

    The secular British disease is to presume on God (if he exists at all) because love is more or less all they know about him. This and the antidote to it is found in Romans 2: “Or do you presume upon the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience? Do you not know that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” The good things of the former need to lead to the latter. This is how a good God deals with evil people.


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    @ Ken:
    Just like an understanding of radical grace should not lead us to sin more, an understanding of the depth and breadth of the love of God does not lead us to desire to be unrighteous. His love, as it fills us up, causes us to respond to Him in ways that would please him.

    I did not need the Jonathan Edwards “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” to spur me on to follow God because of his wrath. I followed Him because I have experienced His love.

    Ken wrote:

    (Your description of calvinists is surely a caricature, no-one really talks like that, do they?)

    Some do.


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    @ Ken: PSbI do not know if you are Calvinist or not. I simply respond to your words.


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    @ Ken:

    No one has said that it is “just love” that causes God to respond. Some people were questioning your comment that “God loves righteousness more than people” and “righteousness outranks love.”

    You seemed to be ranking God’s attributes and righteousness was outranking love here
    @ Ken:

    And here
    @ Ken:

    You are correct that your experience in the church you left at some point is different than the experiences of most of the people you are interacting with on this particular blog. This could be why you are coming at observations from a different perspective. You see a need in the Church based on your observations in your physical location. Many here see a different need based on their observations and experiences where they are. Either side can swing too far in an effort correct what they see as errant.

    Jesus was very good at assessing each individual situation that he walked into, or experienced, and addressing it according to the specific needs, and to the benefit, of those people. This was something that his disciples often seemed clueless about and Jesus corrected them often . . .

    Disciples – send the people away to eat

    Jesus – no, feed them

    Disciples – don’t let the children bother him

    Jesus – let the children come

    Followers – who sinned, the man or his parents, to cause this

    Jesus – neither


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    In other news, West Ham are into the semi-finals of the League Cup (whatever it’s called these days) following a fine win at White Hart Lane.


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    Dee–I first came to faith because I did see God’s wrath towards sinners and did see myself as one. (Old time Billy Graham crusade.) And I landed in the SBC at first, in a mostly Arminian theology.

    I’m glad you came to Christ because you had experienced His love.

    But let’s be careful to leave room for God to deal with those with less tender, more hardened heart. Some of us need God to call a spade a spade when it comes to our sin, and be blunt about the consequences if we don’t repent.

    His kindness indeed leads us to repent, but His kindness can be kind of strong medicine for those that need it.


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    @ linda:

    You have a good point there. I’m not saying this of TWW, but one of the things about the UK church is that it is very much into gentle, gentle, gentle, gentle, gentle. It’s hard to escape the feeling that everybody over here is a hurting, frightened baby who needs healing and pacifying so that they can become what God intended them to be: a contented, sleeping baby. Anyone seeking adulthood need not apply; the only “courageous” thing a man can do in some churches is cry.

    Ironically, that’s exactly the kind of thing that drives some people into the claws of neo-Calvinist doctrine. They read some oafish motivational speaker dismissing the church as being full of “chickified men” and, whether I like it or not, it resonates with the part of them that is hungriest.


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    Bridget wrote:

    No one has said that it is “just love” that causes God to respond. Some people were questioning your comment that “God loves righteousness more than people” and “righteousness outranks love.”

    Thanks for your post, which I liked!

    The ‘God loves righteousness more than people’ arose in the context of the problem of suffering. You know the argument God cannot be love and all powerful at the same time because he doesn’t intervene to stop natural disasters or cure disease. We know from the bible that God is both love and almighty, so something else, some other attribute must stop him from intervening. At least part of the answer is that our wickedness removes any obligation from God to intervene. A righteous God cannot save sinful people from disaster so they can then carry on with their sinful lives unabated. Does it make more sense in that context?

    You are so right that we come at various issues in the Christian life from different perspectives. The local church we drifted out of could do with a healthy dose of calvinism, not because we should follow Calvin but the the extent calvinism reflects the teaching of the NT. The effect would be to deal with the wishy-washy Pelagianism imported form dear old Willow Creek, dealing with subjects we would rather not consider but we need to face. No unbeliever I have ever know had a ‘felt need’ to repent!

    However such a correction should not involve going down the road many on here seem to be complaining about, a graceless calvinism which ought to be a contradiction in terms, but unfortunately isn’t.

    I also firmly believe Christians should be directed to the bible on such issues, encouraged to read it and learn doctrine for themselves, certainly not to mindlessly follow what comes from the pulpit – yet still respecting the effort a pastor may put in to studying the bible as preparation.

    fwiw, my own calvinism (Dee) hits the buffers where calvinists try to convince me that ‘all’ means ‘some’ (let the reader understand!). Whatever your system of theology is, it can never tie all the loose ends up, and in the end it’s futile trying to.


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    Ken wrote:

    think it depends on where you are approaching this from. I had to rethink the love of God as the basis of the gospel during the Willow Creek era, where the church seemed to preach only love – if only we could spread the message of just how desperately God loves all those outside the church. The issue of sin was massively downplayed to the point of becoming invisible.

    Ken, I can relate to this coming out of the shallow seeker movement. That movement caused me to check out Calvinism very intensely because they actually acknowledged sin.

    But I realized after quite a few years that both movements are really more alike than different. They just approach it differently. For the seekers it is cheap grace. For the NC/REformed movement you cannot help but sin because you are totally depraved even after salvation. (How else can they explain circling the wagons over Mahaney and Driscoll?) The end result is that “practicing” sin is excused in both camps. They just redefine it differently.

    Both camps are big into the celebrity,cult of personality gigs. Bpth camps use Jesus for fame and profit.

    What is ironic is that many of the YRR in my neck of the woods which is ground zero are children of the seeker cheap grace world. They simply changed one movement for another. I wish those YRR in ministry would choose Christ over Calvin and the other dead guys. Perhaps they will someday but there will be a bloody trail behind them


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    Ken, I do not believe we can separate love and righteousness. One reason I beleive this is because of a deep word study I once did on the word “hesed” translated in the OT as God’s lovingkindness.

    I don’t for one minute believe that God “has a wonderful plan for your life”. I beleive His death on the cross defeated evil and we were given the tools to make life more wonderful here and now as we work to alleviate suffering, seek justice for those wronged and show the love of Christ to others. People have the ability to make choices. God gave the majority of us the tools to make good or evil ones. Therefore, love and righteousness are not two completely different things. They go together. Those who are righteous love truth, justice, mercy, etc. They look out for others and do not excuse evil in the camp.


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    Nick Bulbeck wrote:

    gentle, gentle, gentle, gentle, gentle. It’s hard to escape the feeling that everybody over here is a hurting, frightened baby who needs healing and pacifying so that they can become what God intended them to be: a contented, sleeping baby. Anyone seeking adulthood need not apply; the only “courageous” thing a man

    In my experience and from what I see, the situation is different in most of American Christianity.

    American Christians are expected to suffer alone, be a tough He-Man, don’t rely on anyone for help, don’t ask for help, don’t expect help, always be self sufficient, suck it up and be a man (even if you are a woman), asking for help or realizing you need it is viewed as weakness or being not spiritually mature, etc. etc. etc.

    There might be some denominations or churches in America that are the “treat members like big babies” types, but it seems like most are the direct opposite.

    After my Mom died, I think I would have loved the “treat me like a baby” approach (I needed sympathy, hand holding, hugs, encouragement and love), but all I got repeatedly from Christians was either cliches, judgment, or the “be a tough guy, stop crying about it, suck it up and move on” kind of philosophy. (Which hurt me more, and made the grief last longer than it needed to).

    I’ve seen that same “be a tough guy, don’t rely on anyone” philosophy from other American Christians towards other Christians in person and on Christian TV shows here.

    We’re told anything less than being ‘tough He- Men,’ even in the midst of tragedy, makes us wimpy, cowardly, pathetic, supposedly stuck in bitterness, not grateful for what blessings we do have, etc. We’re shamed into admitting our needs or for wanting help.


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    @ numo:

    That’s good that they actually do stuff to help people. I am baffled that so many evangelical / Baptist/ Protestant Christians act like any human effort or involvement at all about anything (or one Christian praying for another one) is disobedient or wrong.

    They seem reluctant to actually do stuff to help other people. Except for many certain, narrow groups, such as orphans and the homeless.

    Which I’m not against (people helping orphans etc), but when I was going through a very deep valley (mourning loss of my mother, for instance) the same Christians who had broken hearts for the homeless in shelters acted very cold and indifferent when I went to them needing comfort.

    Christians in America are sometimes willing to help only a narrow group of people, or to take their check books out to send money off to “feed the hungry” type groups, but they don’t seem too keen on getting off their duffs and helping ordinary people around them who have problems.


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    Nick Bulbeck wrote:

    The whole topic of “what Christians expect God to do” is interesting. I think in many cases the issue is that we don’t expect him to do anything.
    Thus, we pray for stuff that’s fairly likely to happen anyway, and if it’s not, then it’s irresponsible to pray for it.

    I’ve had the opposite problem. I was really trusting in God for several things in my life, and invested many years praying for these things, which never came to pass.

    Nick wrote,

    I’m guessing that most of the people telling you not to pray for a spouse are people who didn’t have to go out of their way to pray for theirs. After all, if I didn’t get/need any special help from God, why should you get any?

    That could be.

    In my age group, those older than me got married to their high school sweetie, or while in college.

    They don’t realize that for many people of my age (and younger), the age of first marriage is now deferred. Most do not marry in their early or mid 20s, if at all.

    It’s very grating getting dating/ how to get married advice from someone who married at age 18 – 22 to a high school sweetie, and they were teens/ young adults in the 1950s / 1960s. Things have changed quite a bit since then.


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    dee wrote:

    I believe that love is the basis for all of the Gospel. Without it, you get a salvation presentation that looks like this.
    God despises you, you little worm. And He is going to condemn you to burn in the fires of hell unless you turn from your despicable ways and serve Him.
    You are darn lucky He decided to save a few of you scumbags and you better jump on the band wagon and serve this vengeful God.

    I was just saying on another thread (or was it this one?) that some Christians – who may not even be Calvinist – subscribe to this type of thinking.

    One Lutheran guy’s radio show I listen to sounds like he thinks coming to Christ is not enough. (I don’t think this guy considers himself a Calvinist, though I’m not sure.)

    He sounds like he thinks you can “lose” your salvation if you don’t co-operate with God to keep it after you have accepted Christ as Savior.

    So if you sin after you have come to Christ, his view seems to be, you have to constantly repent, repent, repent – or spend eternity in hell.

    I don’t see how this is any different from a view that says you have to work to be saved to start with, and the Bible condemns that view.

    If you can’t do works or be good to earn salvation to start with, it makes no sense for someone to say you have to stay good/continually repent to ‘keep it.’

    The Lutheran host guy has chastised preachers who gives sermons he reviews who he feels present a law-based message with no Gospel in it, but he seems to do the same thing.

    I don’t find it very freeing to be essentially told that even after coming to Christ, I’m a wretched sinner and need to repent, repent, repent, or face Mordor in the afterlife.

    I couldn’t be perfect prior to Christ, what makes guys like this think I can perfectly keep the law, or totally avoid sin, after coming to Christ?

    The Holy Spirit indwelling the believer does not always keep a Christian sinless.

    Also, there are sins of omission, something you were supposed to do but did not, and maybe it did not cross your mind that God would consider this a sin.

    So there might be times you sin and don’t even realize it. How can you, as a Christian, repent of a sin you don’t even realize you are guilty of?


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    @ Daisy: I think that many evangelical churches in the US view themselves as being separate from “the world.” And that creates all kinds of problems, as you know.

    Historically, the RCC and many Protestant churches have done a lot for the poor, elderly, handicapped, sick, etc. (At times, that has all backfired horribly because of people who committed very real wrongs – like the Magdalen Laundry system that existed until recently in Ireland.) On the whole, though, there’s a lot more real involvement – and compassion – in many other quarters of the church than in American evangelicalism.

    have you ever read about Father Damien and the leper colony on the Hawaiian island of Molokai? There’s also at least one movie …. I think that might be encouraging to you. Although there are some very difficult things about reading/watching (given the suffering that people with Hansen’s Disease used to experience, including being exiled from society), Fr. Damien’s choices re. going there (and living the rest of his life there – he contracted Hansen’s) are, I think, much more in line with what Jesus taught about loving our neighbors and being least of all/servant of all than a LOT of what I see in many church circles. (Not just evangelical, either.)


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    @ Daisy:who is this guy – Chris Roseborough [sp?]? Understand that there are seriously fundy Lutherans (the Wisconsin Synod, aka WELS) and some Missouri Synod (LCMS) people are pretty close to that kind of thinking and belief.

    My synod (ELCA) gets slammed as being too “liberal” a lot of the time, but there’s a pretty broad spectrum of belief within it, and many people are pretty “conservative.”

    I think you can compare Lutheranism to the Anglican Communion in some ways, especially the “big tent” aspect of things – there are certain beliefs/creeds/etc. that are central, but the emphasis is not on perfectionism, as it is in much of evangelicalism. It’s mroe about grace.

    Another thing to keep in mind is that Lutherans who emigrated to the US came from *many* different European countries and didn’t necessarily have a language in common. Some of the Scandinavian-founded churches in the Upper Midwest have only switched to all-English services within the past 50-60 years. So many very diverse churches come under the “Lutheran” heading, here and in Europe and the rest of the world.


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    Daisy wrote:

    I don’t find it very freeing to be essentially told that even after coming to Christ, I’m a wretched sinner and need to repent, repent, repent, or face Mordor in the afterlife.

    Good way of putting it, and totally agreed!


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    @ numo:

    Yes, that would be him. I like his show, though I don’t always share his views on everything. He really stresses the “repent” aspect of things. He makes it sound as though even if you are already a Christian but sin, you are still in danger of going to hell.

    I always leaned towards the “once saved always saved” perspective, so these other positions where you can lose salvation by sin or some other flaw leave me baffled and I find those views hopeless not uplifting.

    You’re saying he belongs to a more funy sort of branch of Lutheranism?

    You said,

    have you ever read about Father Damien

    I don’t recall hearing of him before, no, but thank you for the info. 🙂


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    Daisy wrote:

    You’re saying he belongs to a more funy sort of branch of Lutheranism?

    Heh, typeo on my part.

    I meant “FUNDY” (fundamentalist) not “funy,” as in “funny” 😆 🙄


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    @ Daisy: I don’t know which synod he belongs to offhand (though I think he’s LCMS), but he *is* representative of some of the fundy/fundy-leaning Lutherans out in the Midwest.

    He certainly is controversial among Lutherans of most stripes except his own!


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    @ Daisy: I got it; no worries! 😉


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    @ numo:

    ‘Always be prepared to make a defence to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence; …’

    I was always very mindful of this when commenting on the atheist site I frequented for a while – also on a cycling forum I have participated in over many years, where the occasional religious thread comes up.

    I’ve always sought to use clear, rational argument, tempered with humour. This is very disarming with those who otherwise would be extremely hostile for one reason or another. A bit of self-deprecation on occasion when appropriate means people think you are talking to them rather than at them. It also helps to say if you agree with someone on something, you are not then simply determined to be contrary for the sake of it.

    It is vitally important to keep calm and not reply in kind when things which are sacred to you are dragged throught the gutter. This is a very real temptation! There is a time to be silent ….

    Even amongst the atheists, amid the hostile mockery and banter I did have some sensible discussions and exchanges of view, possibly even gained a little bit of respect. I certainly learnt a lot, not least they have blind faith in a set number of objections to Christianity and the bible, shellfish, mixed fibres etc – reinforced by the Internet. Engaging with these had the spin off of being able to answer some questions my daughters have put to me recently (they enjoy asking dad difficult things!), for example, does the bible and its God approve of slavery. You also have to be honest if you don’t have an answer, especially careful with things like suffering an natural disasters.

    Participating in public forums of this nature may be the only ‘witness’ that Christianity can indeed by reasonable those who read will ever get, they would never think of darkening the door of a church, so the last thing you want to do is to put them off by having an ‘attitude problem’. It needs wisdom.

    It bothered me when you said I seem to be harsh here. I think this might be from trying to keep posts brief and to the point, above all clear, and perhaps I have wrong assumptions about what those on an evangelical site actually believe or think, or where they are coming from. I fear I have given an impression of being more antagonistic or unsympathetic than I actually am.


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    Daisy wrote:

    He sounds like he thinks you can “lose” your salvation if you don’t co-operate with God to keep it after you have accepted Christ as Savior.

    So if you sin after you have come to Christ, his view seems to be, you have to constantly repent, repent, repent – or spend eternity in hell.

    That sounds a lot like this booklet called “The Calvary Road” from my days in-country in the Seventies. Because “GOD HATES SIN WITH SUCH A PERFECT HATRED” any sin AFTER being Saved(TM) breaks all “Fellowship” with God until such time as you “repent repent repent”. Of course ten seconds later you’ve done or though something and need to “repent repent repent” again. And again. And again.

    The resulting constant back-and-forth whipsaw is crazy-making. I know from firsthand experience some 35-40 years ago.

    Around three-four years back I was visiting my main writing partner (the burned-out preacher) and we were going through the remnant bin at the local used bookstore. And came across a vintage copy of “The Calvary Road”, original cover (figure on knees groveling before The Cross) and all. He took one look, recognized it himself, and pronounced it “Bad Theology”. Period.