Archive | December, 2010

The Parable of the Boat: Illustrating Differences Between Pelagianism, Semi-Pelalgianism, Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Arminianism, and Calvinism

Here is a quick illustration that I hope you find helpful to distinguish between the various traditions with regard to divine sovereignty, free-will, and salvation. It is certainly not perfect, but I think it works sufficiently.

Pelagianism

All the people are on the boat with the God. At this point, in their natural condition, they don’t need to be saved as they are not in danger. However, most (if not all) people will eventually jump in the water (sin) and find themselves in need of God’s grace. The reason why they jump in the water is because they are following numerous example of those who jumped before them. This example goes all the way back to the first two who jumped into the water, setting the first bad example. God them offers them a life preserver when they call on him for help. If they respond they will be saved (synergism).

Semi-Pelagianism

All people are in the water drowning. They are born drowning. This is the natural habitation of all humanity since the first man and woman jumped into the water. Their legs are cramping and they cannot swim to safety on their own. However, they may desire salvation on their own. Though they cannot attain it, they can call, with a wave of their arm, to God who is eagerly waiting on the edge of the boat. At the first sign of their initiative, God will then throw out the life preserver (grace). If they respond, they will be saved (synergism). Continue Reading →

How Seminary Has Revolutionized My Life

by Lisa Robinson

I was reading this blog post the other day entitled New Year’s Revolution.  Instead of new year’s resolutions, Sharifa Stevens (DTS grad and former admissions officer) writes that perhaps the greater goal should be  new years revolutions.  She identifies the meaning as “a sudden, radical and complete change”.  When you think about what a revolution means, it is to upset a controlling regime in order to implement a new one.  Revolutions are not pleasant.  They upset the order of things and often bring chaos in preparation for the new paradigm.   The idea of revolution is that God transforms the lives of his children, most often through unpleasant circumstances.  As Sharifa indicates, it is a way in which our identity is enforced and our man-made plans reorganized.

But this is not something that is typically associated with seminary.  It sure wasn’t for me.  In fact, it was the wee hours of News Years Day 2008 that I received the electronic copy of my acceptance to DTS.  And on that New Years Day, as I beamed with excitement at the prospects of the pending new chapter in my life,  a revolution was the farthest thing from my mind.  I thought about, what I believe most people think about when entering seminary, the advancement in my biblical and theological studies, the opportunities to hone and sharpen thinking, the acquisition of tools for effective ministry.  Yes, this would be a time of great learning in preparation for ministry in order to impact many lives for the sake of Christ.  Little did I know that the life most impacted would be my own.

I started the journey innocently enough, eager to begin my studies.  The learning process was even more than I expected.  Not only have I generally enjoyed the classroom interaction, but was impressed with the pastoral tenor of instruction and genuine concern for students well being and spiritual growth.  This was the part of seminary that I think is a common perception.  I certainly have relished it and it continues to be a bright spot in the journey.  I have also met some of the most amazing people, students and faculty alike.  This too, I anticipated and treasure.  Additionally, the process has provoked continual examination of my own theology and scriptural interpretation.  I have had to confront some inconsistencies.  The more time transpires,  the more classes I take, the more chapel messages I hear, is the more I have realized how much I really don’t know.  But this too, has been enjoyable in an unnerving sort of way.  Continue Reading →

On Leaving My First Love

The best I can tell, it started about six years ago Jan. 4th. This is when I began to leave my first love. You know the reference.

“Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first.” (Rev. 2:4)

Chilling. Even more chilling when you come to the realization that Christ is talking to you.

I used to have more of an innocence to my faith. Belief was easy and simple. The Lord said it, I believe it, that settles it. Well, that is not the best way to put it since that has come to be known as an expression of dogmatic faith more than simple faith. However, the best way I can put it is that there were certain things that I did for the Lord with more willingness and more purity than I do now. I feel as if I have replaced one aspect of my spirituality for another. I keep the gas in the car, but am less concerned about the oil.

I got a phone call from someone the other day. I knew who it was. Keeping things confidential, let’s just say that he was someone who is in great emotional need. He calls all the time. The world would call him a “basketcase.” His condition, as many would see it, is perpetual and it probably will not change. He is worried, riddled with anxiety, most of the time without hope, and always on the pseudo-verge of suicide. When the phone rang, I paused for a moment, thought about answering, and then pushed “reject.” I was too busy with nothing at all.  What would have been an exciting God appointed phone call for me many years ago is now a guilt producing annoyance.

See ya Jesus. I’m out of here.

That is just one illustration. But there are a lot more. How do you leave your first love? What is the process? Where was the fork in the road? When did I let the phone call from Christ ring to long?

Bitterness? Maybe. When Angie, my sister, died on Jan. 4th six years ago, I had a bastion of faith. Unshaken and, between you and me, proud of it. Oh, maybe not proud of it in a sinful way, but proud that my faith was still as strong as ever. I did not question God. Even considering the terrible events that led to her suicide and my involvement in them, I said to myself, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.” And I really did mean it. However, at the time, I did not realize the very small oil leak that it produced. Maybe it was the yeast of bitterness that was born. Either way, what I should have said was this: “Though he slay me, yet will I follow him.” Trust was replaced by a bitter follow. Yes, I was looking for his footprints, but my steps of joy were being replaced with steps of bitterness.

Goodbye Jesus. I believe but not like I used to. Continue Reading →

My Top Ten Books for 2010

by Sam Storms

The release of my top ten books for the year has now become an annual ritual. The decisions this year were especially difficult, given the number of high quality volumes that were published. A couple of things are different this year in that I’m including a book that was actually published late in 2009 but that I didn’t read until midway through 2010. It’s simply too good not to include. Also, I have four books that didn’t make the list but were so good that I decided to create an “Honorable Mention” list. Finally, there is one more book that will be published in early 2011 that I’m so confident will be among the best next year that I had to include it as “a preview of coming attractions”! So enjoy. Then go purchase. But be sure that you read! I’ll start at 10 and work down to number 1.

(10) Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God, by John Piper (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2010), 222 pp.

It is a rare year indeed that a Piper book doesn’t make my list. Here is the endorsement that I wrote for Think:

“Those who are skittish when it comes to rigorous study, deep thinking, and theological precision have wanted us to believe that our problem is the mind, when in fact it’s the flesh. The problem isn’t knowledge, it’s pride. John Piper reminds us in this excellent book that what we need isn’t less thinking but clearer, biblical, and more God-centered thinking. Reading and thinking about Think will set you on your way to the renewal of the mind that the Scriptures insist is the catalyst for heartfelt joy and growth in godliness. I highly recommend it.”

(9) Hipster Christianity: When Church and Cool Collide, by Brett McCracken (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2010), 255 pp.

I was at first a bit skeptical about what I’d find in this book, but was more than pleasantly surprised after reading it. In fact, I was profoundly impressed. If you are as sick of “cool” Christianity as I am, you can’t pass up on this one. Here is one statement from the author (a Wheaton grad, no less!) that should whet your appetite for more:

“If we are making the case that cool Christianity can be a good thing, we have to be clear that the ‘cool’ part of Christianity must exude out of the ‘Christ’ aspect of it, not from the stylish package or trendiness it might otherwise be associated with. In other words, an authentic Christian hipster community looks attractive and hip and cool, not because it tries to fashion itself in the world’s image, but because it does exactly the opposite – it fashions itself after Christ’s strange kingdom and his transforming gospel for a world that desperately needs it” (209).

(8)  Is God a Moral Monster? Making Sense of the Old Testament God, by Paul Copan (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2010), 252 pp.

Perhaps the best way to explain what Copan’s book is about is to quote for you something written by Richard Dawkins, perhaps the most blasphemous among the new atheists who burst on the scene a few years ago. In his book, The God Delusion, he writes: “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving, control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capricious malevolent bully” (31).

Don’t worry if you’ve never heard several of those adjectives Dawkins uses to blaspheme God; I’m sure you get his point. Copan’s excellent book is a response to these accusations as he addresses such topics as the nature of Old Testament ethics, divine jealousy, kosher laws, the Old Testament’s attitude toward women and slavery, polygamy, and the killing of the Canaanites, just to mention a few. You don’t need to agree with everything Copan says to learn greatly from his insights into such matters.

(7) God’s Battalions: the Case for the Crusades, by Rodney Stark (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2009), 276 pp.

OK, here’s the book that actually came out in 2009. To be brief, Stark dismantles the long-held myth that “during the Crusades, an expansionist, imperialistic Christendom brutalized, looted, and colonized a tolerant and peaceful Islam” (8). Nothing, notes Stark, could be further from the truth. There’s no other way to say it: this superb historical treatment will challenge and, dare I say, change virtually everything you ever read or heard about the Crusades. It is beautifully written, meticulously researched, and persuasive.

Stark concludes his book with this brief summation: “The Crusades were not unprovoked. They were not the first round of European colonialism. They were not conducted for land, loot, or converts. The crusaders were not barbarians who victimized the cultivated Muslims. They sincerely believed that they served in God’s battalions” (248).

(6) 40 Questions About Christians and Biblical Law, by Thomas R. Schreiner (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2010), 256 pp., and 40 Questions About Interpreting the Bible, by Robert L. Plummer (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2010), 347 pp.

These two volumes tied for number 6! They are part of what promises to be an excellent series of “40 Question” books.

(5) To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, & Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World, by James Davison Hunter (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), 358 pp.

Hunter’s book was surely one of the more controversial volumes published this year and also one of the more demanding. It’s not an easy read, but is well worth the investment of your time and energy. He challenges long-held views on how Christians should engage culture and what we might expect in terms of bringing about lasting change. Just to whet your appetite, consider this one statement:

“Yet the deepest and most enduring forms of cultural change nearly always occurs from the ‘top down.’ In other words, the work of world-making and world-changing are, by and large, the work of elites: gatekeepers who provide creative direction and management within spheres of social life. Even where the impetus for change draws from popular agitation, it does not gain traction until it is embraced and propagated by elites” (41). Continue Reading →

Support Our Ministry this Year-End

Please allow me to reach out to our blog audience as we finish this year.

Donate now

Still reading? You must need more information. :)

As you may or may not know, Credo House/Reclaiming the Mind Ministries (CHM) is the ministry under which the Parchment and Pen blog functions. However, what you see going on here at the blog is only a very small fraction of our ministry. CHM is a ministry of theological development for laypeople. Our goal is to provide Christ-centered resources, in-depth theological curriculum, and intellectual community for people all over the world. Among other things, here is what we do:

1. The Theology Program: A six course program of systematic theology for everyone being used in churches all over the world.

2. The Discipleship Program: A ten-week program of Christian discipleship covering both orthodoxy and orthopraxy.

3. Theology Boot Camps: Six four hour sessions of the most important theological issues including How to Study the Bible and Church History (three have been developed, two produced).

You can see all of this material in our store.

Still reading, eh? Good.

We also offer a regular program called Theology Unplugged which features myself, Sam Storms, and Tim Kimberley.

Ever heard of the Credo House of Theology? The first and only theological coffee house and book store.

We also host Theologica, a community site for online theological discourse, run other blogs, write books, and and host special events at the Credo House. We run a school of theology that meets every semester online though live interaction.

Deep breath….

This just gives you an idea of everything that goes on at CHM. Our ministry is active and our dreams large. We have a very strong board of six men who believe in and love our ministry very much.  They are available at any time.

The majority of our funding comes from people who believe in what we are doing. We are praying for a great deal of support as the year draws to a close. Please consider how you might partner with us both as the year closes and into the new year. No gift is too small or too large. If you believe in what we are doing, please support us financially.

Donate now

Need to find out more? Please email Tim Kimberley, our executive director, at timk at reclaimingthemind.org

Thank you for your support and allowing me to breifly use the blog in such a way.

Where Do You Stand on God’s Sovereignty?

Where do you stand on God’s sovereignty?

1. Meticulous sovereignty: God is the instrumental cause behind every action and reaction there has ever been. For this view, in order for God to be truly sovereign, he must be the ultimate and instrumental cause for everything, including sin.

2. Providential sovereignty: God is bringing about his will in everything (Eph 1:11). However,  his will is not the instrumental cause of all that happens. God’s will plays a providential role in “causing” all things, using secondary causes as instruments. What God wills is not always what he would want in a perfect world, but all he has is sin to work with. Therefore, in this sense, even evil is the will of God.

3. Providential oversight: Here God’s sovereignty is expressed in active oversight. He has a general plan, but is not married to the details. God can and often does intervene in the affairs of humanity to bring about his purpose. In this case he never “wills” evil; he only uses it.

4. Influential oversight: Here God limits his own sovereignty. God could control things, but to preserve human freedom, he will not intervene in the affairs of men to the degree that human freedom is effected. He is hopeful that his influence will be persuasive to change a person’s heart or to guide them to his will. Here God never wills evil, but only allows it.

Where do you stand?

Top Ten Movie Scenes Ever

1. “Battle of Wits”: Princess Bride

 

2. “No its not, where is the snow?”: Elf

Could not embed this so here is the link.

The best is his face after he says “Where is the snow.” It is that look like, “I got ya!”

3. Its too late to apologize: “Gone with the Wind”

Again, no embedding available for this, but here it is.

4. “Don’t rob me of my hate; its all I have”: Count of Monte Cristo

What a great scene illustrating the letting go of bitterness. “Don’t rob me of my hate. Its all I have.” For some of us, our hate is all we have. What a terrible life to live.

5. “Now let’s grab a bite to eat”: Naked Gun

The whole first 3min here is great, but the mains scene comes at 2:55 when Franks says, “now let’s get a bite to eat.”

6. “I don’t want to get married”: Its a Wonderful Life

7. “A Red Day” Theoden’s speech: Lord of the Rings: Return of the King

No embedding here either. Here is the link. It comes at 2:15 into this clip. What a great call for death. Inspirational. “Ride for ruin and the worlds end! Death! Death! Death!”

8. “You Like me because I’m a scoundrel”: Empire Strikes Back

9. “They may take our lives, but they will never take our freedom”: Braveheart

10. “I’m a miracle man”: Signs

NOTE: This comes just after Mel Gibson asks whether his brother (Joaquin Phoenix) believes that the worlds events are representative of miracles of God or random meaningless consequences.

Great philosophical scene with a classic illustration.

What do you think? Did I get it right? What did I leave out?

Now Shipping: How to Study the Bible DVD Study

Boot CampWe’re so proud to be offering the next installment (volume 2) in our brand new Bible Boot Camp series: How to Study the Bible

So many people believe the Bible is accurate, yet so few actually study it regularly.  Many times this is because the reader has never been given solid tools to study the Bible. In this 4-session small-group DVD study (each session is 45 minutes) we give time-tested principles to help you better understand God’s great Word.

Session #1The Interpretive Process : lays the ground work to approach any verse.
Session #2Bridging the Historical Gap : so many are sidetracked in their Bible reading because they’ve never learned how to bridge more than 2000 years of history between us and the text.
Session #3Bridging the Literary Gap : many give up on the Bible because they’re trying to interpret every book the same, we show how appreciating the different genres of Scripture is so important for personal Bible study
Session #4Bridging the Contextual Gap : context is so important when studying the Bible, this Boot Camp wraps up with strong training in keeping the context clear as we interpret the Bible

Each session is 45 minutes long with discussion questions at the end. Perfect for your small group, Sunday school, friends, and family.

Price:
$29.99 for the 4-Disc DVD (order DVD)
$7.99 for each workbook (order workbook)

Click Here to Order Today

Blessed to serve you,
Reclaiming the Mind/ Credo House Ministries Staff