Archive | March, 2009

Theological Word of the Day: Perseverance of the Saints

Perseverance of the Saints

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The doctrine, often associated with Calvinism and first articulated by Saint Augustine, which holds that those who are truly elect of God will persevere in belief until final redemption. This doctrine is sometimes used synonymously with “Eternal Security” and “Once-saved-always-saved,” but advocates would prefer a certain nuance, believing that the emphasis is upon the perseverance of the believers faith as a means or evidence of their security which is ultimately brought about by the God’s grace. In other words, there is a type of faith that does not persevere and there is a type that does (Mark 4:3-20). This doctrine is accepted by Reformed Protestants, but rejected by Arminians, Roman Catholics, and Eastern Orthodox, all who believe that I once saved believer can lose their salvation.

Read a history of the Doctrine of Perseverance of the Saints.

People Leaving the Church: What Do We Do?

It would seem that many people are seeking to renounce their faith in a more official way. Reports out of England tell of over 100,000 people downloading a De-Baptism certificate. Yes, that is right. Read it for yourself—a certificate to make their departure from Christianity a black and white matter.

I have spilled quite a bit of ink here on the blog talking about the anatomy of those who leave their faith. I suppose, reluctantly, I will continue to do so.

I am a Calvinist. I believe very strongly in the perseverance of the saints, meaning I don’t believe that a true believer will ever walk away. Certainly there will be times of doubt, discouragement, and skepticism, but these, for the believer, are often times of significant growth. My sister, for example, died with a copy of Chuck Swindoll’s Day by Day in front of her. She was crying out to God with her last breath, but I believe that she was still hanging on (or, from God’s point of view, He was hanging on to her (Jn. 10:29)). But, when someone truly walks away from the faith, I believe that we, as a church, must assess the situation and take it very seriously. That is why I take the time I do to read stories of the deconverted, often at the brink of tears.

However, this does astonish me that people are going so far to denounce their faith. It implies not a peaceful departure, but a exodus in bitterness and resentment.

I have found that there is a particular process when people leave the faith and I think it is important to see this. Here is is: Continue Reading →

What is the Anchor of Your Faith?

I think that each one of us has a particular anchor to our faith. For some it is a rationalistic conclusion about the design of the universe. For others, it is a feeling they get when the read the Scripture. Still, for others, it is a particular experience that they have in their lives.

When we have doubt, skepticism, and moments of weakness in our faith (and we all do), we search for a place to go, for solid footing somewhere. I often lay my head down on my pillow at night and have a fleeting thought, “What if none of this is true? What if I am wasting my time? What if Jesus is not real? What if God does not exist?” This will normally come after a day of discouragement. When bills are not getting paid, when I have spent the day with my invalid mother, or when I just don’t feel too spiritually connected to God. The thought is “fleeting” not because I suppress it to the back of my mind in order to live in a state of cognitive dissonance, closing my mind and shouting at the doubt in Jesus’ name, but precisely because I intentionally place it at the front of my mind. I want to deal with it. And in dealing with it, there are many things that quickly drown out the doubt, or at least the most significant part of it. There is an anchor to my faith that won’t let me drift.

I think that each one of us needs to be balanced in regard to this, seeking to find many anchors in many places. For example, my primary anchor is the historicity of resurrection of Christ. I am not just saying this to appear academic. It truly is. My doubts quickly fade when I think to myself, “Oh yeah, Christ rose from the grave. What do I do with that?” I look at all of the evidence for the resurrection as objectively as possible and I cannot conclude anything other than that this event actually happened. To deny it, opting for some possible yet improbable alternative, would be an irresponsible use of my reason and judgment. The evidence is simply overwhelming. This anchors my faith more than anything else. Continue Reading →

Odds and Ends, 3.26.09

1. Zach is doing much better. No cancer! Thank you all so much for praying. I have not been able to process my joy (and surprise) at how many of you prayed. It is very encouraging. I really mean that.

2. The IRS says I owe them $2000 in back taxes! From 2005. What is up with that? I think I know where they got it wrong, but I don’t have the ability or time to research and get a hold of all the documents and testimonies (not to mention having a company change a 1099 that they won’t change). So I just paid it today. There went my return. :(

3. Something about me you did not know: I am the best break-dancer on the planet. I can do it all and I just keep getting better. Sure, no one has done this since 1982, but I am just waiting for it to come back! On a mission trip in Romania, while hanging out in the street, I noticed that the kids were break dancing! (They are a little behind.) I went to show these kids how it is really done. The kids were so excited that they called all their friends. Before I knew it there were almost a hundred neighborhood kids all watching “the crazy American.” Then their parents came to see what was going on. Then the news station. Next thing you knew I was giving the Gospel to a very large crowed of people! When I got back to the Baptist church where I was serving, the leadership pulled me aside and said, “We don’t dance here. It is not right.” That was all! Sigh . . .

4. Pop-Evangelicalism Gone Really Bad:

Ignatius from travis hawkins on Vimeo.

Can you believe it? Jesus on a galaxy? I about fell apart laughing when he told everyone to open their eyes. That was too funny.

5. How do I sinfully waste time sometimes? Playing Texas hold’em.

6. Update on mom: Mom has not recovered much from her stroke. She still just sits in the same chair watching the same movies over and over. She can’t talk or walk. Please keep praying for her and for my dad. Bill and Brenda Patton.

7. Blog plug. Shane Vaner Hart, Caffeinated Thoughts

8. The new Star Trek movie comes out May 8, who is with me?!!!

9. The Theological Word of the Day gets over 12,000 views a day! I did not expect it to take off so much in less than a year. Too bad I can’t spell. Luckily, I have people who correct it, but not until it has gone out through the feed.

10. If you get this blog by email feed, it does not show who the author is. Sometimes it is not me, so check. I get a lot of email responses for other people’s posts.

11. Book I am reading: Leaving the Fold. The author is a psychologist who helps people leave religion. She hold seminars with support groups. Interesting book, but basically has the same conceptions that are part of this same ilk. Her grip is with a very legalistic form of Christianity. She attacks it the whole time. It is not really fair, but, truthfully, it is the only form of Christianity that many people know. Sigh . . .

12. An actor that I really like: Vin Diesel. He is just cool for some reason. Almost as cool as your truly.

13. Exercise tip: There is not really a best cardio machine. Anything that gets your heart rate up consistently for 20 minutes a day is good. If you want to lose weight, go for more than 30 minutes consistently (no breaks). Your body does not start using fat calories until you have gone for more than 30 minutes. (Some say 20, but let’s be safe). (I was a fitness trainer for 8 years in the 90s.)

14. Glen Beck scares me. (I mean in a Christian sort of way.)

15. Mundane desire: I want a KX 250 dirt bike. I have wanted one since I was 15. Some day when I am rich. I drive by the Kawasaki store all the time and dream.

16. Going to teach a six week course on Apologetics at Crossings Community Church in Oklahoma City starting in four weeks. Wed nights at 6:30. You are welcome to come. It is free.

17. Yes, I am a an Untouchable.

18. Where I would like to live if I did not live here: Colorado Springs.

Why Even Bother Going to Church?

Why go to church? Church stinks. People are either rude, looking down their self-righteous nose at you, or they are nice and in a hurry. I hardly ever have a significant conversation at the church service, it is just “Hi,” or “Good to see you,” or “How’s the family?” or something churchy and pithy like that.

Teaching? Yes, the sermon is great. But can’t I just listen to someone on the radio or download the podcast? Really. What is the difference?

Fellowship? Do not neglect the gathering together of believers, I know. But is that talking about a gathering together at a church building? Why can’t I just hang out with some Christian friends, going to dinner and maybe having a Bible Study at the house. What is special and unique about gathering together with them at a church building? It seems so shallow in those walls.

Taking of the Lord’s table? Jesus said “Do this in remembrance of me.” He did not say where we are to do this. Are we limited to a church building? Do elders, pastors, and/or deacons have to distribute the elements? Why? Where do you get that? Why can’t I just do it at my house or at Starbucks?

Giving? Isn’t giving primarily said to support those who labor in teaching and for the poor? I cannot think of any other way it is described in the New Testament. Can’t I just do this on my own, giving to others who are laboring in teaching that I am benefiting from elsewhere?

I am tired of being judged by whether or not I go to church. I heard that the Catholics say that if you miss Mass without a valid excuse you have committed a mortal sin and, if not confessed, no matter how much you love Christ, you are still going to hell. I have been to Protestant churches that seem to believe the same thing (although they would not put it that way). I actually heard someone say that if I don’t go to church I am not a Christian. If that is true, I am not that type of Christian and want nothing to do with it.

I think that the modern idea of going to church is rather legalistic and can cause people to miss the point entirely. I love Christ. I have Christian friends that I love and hang out with. We are the church, but we don’t go to a church. Isn’t this enough? What am I missing?

These statements are not mine, but are typical of many people that I know. In fact, many of my closest friends think this way, they are just scared to admit it.

How would you respond?

Too Scrared to Pray

UPDATE 2: Zach has a condition called Idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP). It is from the virus that attacted him. The virus is gone but the ITP is still there. The condition is not too serious, we just have to make sure his blood platelets rise soon. This comes through diet (eating meats and food high in iron rather than popsicles!). Zach, like the rest of my children hate to eat (they did not get it from me!). Anyway, as long as he does not have any injuries (especially head) he should be OK. The only danger is him bleeding really bad. Thank you all so much for your prayers. I don’t think I have ever had such a discouraging and encouraging day at once like that. You all are wonderful.

UPDATE: Just got the word. Zach does NOT have leukemia! The whole doctors office thought he did. I think they were a bit surprised! He does have low blood platelets which are a cause for concern, but I will take that any day over what we were thinking. I am exhausted, drained, beat, and relieved. Thanks so much for stepping in and praying for me when I could not.

Zach, my 2 year old son, just went to the doctor. A couple of weeks ago we discovered that there were many bruises all over his legs, much more than normal. There were also some large bruises on his back. While this made my wife very nervous, I did not think much of it since Zach is so active (he climbs on everything and fall 27 times a day). My wife searched the internet and found out that these are symptoms of leukemia. This had her very worried as you might imagine. We took him to the doctor who said that he thought it was a virus and to wait and see if the bruises come back.

Last week the bruises went away (for the most part), but there were blood capillaries that were all over his back (another sign of leukemia but also of the virus).

This week the bruises came back. We took him back to the doctor and he said that he thought it was leukemia. He ordered blood work. We should know in the next few hours.

I am really scared to pray. I don’t know why. I feel as if I am back in this place of dread that I have found myself in twice over the last five years, once with my sister and once with my mother. Neither of those turned out too well. I don’t know what the Lord has planned, but I fear the worst. When I try to pray I cannot complete my request. I think it is because I am afraid of being disappointed again. I am afraid that the Lord may have the most dreadful plans that I can imagine. I am too afraid to say, “Your will be done” since I have experienced what his will is for us in these times of dread.

Can you pray for Zach?

I Don’t Believe a Snake Talked but I Do Believe Aliens Seeded Our Planet

I spend a lot of my time reading books that are very difficult to read. In my library I have dozens of books from atheistic authors, most of them former Christians who left the faith. Their leaving is tagged with a variety of reasons, but they primarily have to do with some sort of “awakening” from the “intellectual slumber” as they describe it.

I also spend much time going through atheistic websites and blogs, reading people’s thoughts. I rarely interact. I simply go there to learn.

What I see is a lot of bitterness and anger. This evidences itself in much ridicule. I find the ridicule very interesting and typical of the way people think when they get into this box. (Yes, for the most part, it is a box.) They are upset because, according to them, they spent much of their life believing a lie parallel to that of Santa Clause. Now they have been set free from irrationality and now have the freedom to think (that is why they refer to themselves as “free thinkers”). They seek to help others to become free thinkers.

The other day I read a thread on one of these atheistic/Christian recovery websites which had about sixty or seventy posts which simply poked fun at Christian beliefs. Topping the list was the creation of Eve from the rib of Adam, a snake talking, Jonah’s adventure in the belly of a whale, Balaam’s donkey speaking, and the whole story of special creation.

After continuing this mockery for quite some time one atheist made an astonishingly wise and unexpected observation which turned the conversation in a very interesting way. It is this turn that caused me to write this short blog. Continue Reading →