Archive | January, 2011

Theology Unplugged: An Invitation to Calvinism, Part 3

Join Michael Patton, Tim Kimberley and Sam Storms as they discuss Calvinism.

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If God Has Stopped Speaking Then Why Do I Still Hear Him?

(by Lisa Robinson)

It has been five years since my ‘conversion’ from being a somewhat radical charismatic to embrace a soft-cessationist position…I think.  The reason I say put that qualifier on there is because I have had to wrestle through not only some doctrinal dilemmas concerning the cessation of gifts, but also some more pragmatic concerns – that of experience.  That is not to say experience is the qualifier to determine what is or is not a legitimate spiritual expression, but it does challenge some cessationist positions or rather some allegations concerning cessationism.

Most notably, it is the idea that cessationism means that God has stopped speaking.  This has been a common statement I have heard, most often in the form of a question, as noted by the title of this post. The statement presumes that cessationism means God has stopped speaking, except through scripture.  This is a position that hard cessationists take, but not all.

However,  I have come to conclude that this question misses what cessationism espouses vs. how God communicates today.  Let me explain.  The premise of cessationism is that revelation is complete.  We see that God has revealed himself progressively through scripture and ultimately through his Son.

“God after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world.  And He is the radiance of His glory and exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of his power.  When He made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the majesty on high…” (Hebrews 1:1-3).

Here, God speaking and his revelation are inextricably  linked, so that his final expression is found in Christ, who reveals God.  The significance of the apostolic witness is related to the testimony of Christ as the ultimate revelation of God.  Since the testimony of Christ is transmitted through the apostolic witness, the apostles teaching provide the same authority as the word of the Lord, which would ultimately become scripture.  Thus, since God has already spoken in His Son, and Christ’s work is complete, this presumes that God has nothing further to say.  While the continuation of all spiritual gifts is not the topic of this post, I do believe that certain gifts were to authenticate the apostolic message during the apostolic age.  This is why scripture does not indicate that certain gifts have ceased because the apostles were still alive when the letters were penned. But let’s not go there. Continue Reading →


Last night I went to pick  Zach, my three-year-old, up from his class at church. When I dropped him off, the sign-in sheet asked, “Any special instructions?” I hesitated, then left it blank. I suppose that this was a mistake. When I went to get him, I lifted him up and sat him on my hip only to quickly find out that he, at some point in the night, had failed to utilize his potty training abilities. The smell was terrible and I was embarrassed.

All of my kids have gone through this stage. Right when we think the training is over, they revert back a couple of months later. When it happened with Katelynn, the doctor told us that we have to just let her do it. He told us that she will be both annoyed and embarrassed by the feeling and smell. This will be enough to make her stop. Sure enough, that is what happened. Same thing with Kylee. Same thing with Will. They would have an accident and come in crying due to the uncomfortable feeling and smell. They recognized it and wanted it to change, even though they were not sure how to take care of the problem. But I don’t know what is going on with Zach. He just does not seem to care. It has been over a month and nothing has changed. It is like he does not recognize that there is urine all over him and the smell, somehow, does not bother him. He can go all day with wet pants and not think twice.

Where am I going with this? I’m getting there.

Pop Quiz: What does one have to do to be saved?

1. Repent (i.e. turn from/give up/cease) of sins and trust in Jesus Christ.

2. Repent (i.e. feel sorry for) of sins and trust in Jesus Christ.

3. Repent (i.e. change the way you think about) of their sins and trust in Jesus Christ.

4. Repent (i.e. change your mind) of their former rejection of Christ and trust him.

Most people would be willing to say that repentance is necessary for salvation so long as it is properly qualified. There is a big debate that exists around this issue. In modern day Evangelical theology, it is called the “Lordship Salvation Debate.”


Those who hold to the Lordship position are concerned with the “easy-believism” that permeates our Christian culture today. Belief with minimal commitment. Trust without repentance. The mind without the will. Christ without a cost. In essence, they’re concerned about salvation without a life changed by the Gospel. We might term this “nominal Christianity.” Everyone believes that they are saved due to simple intellectual assent to the facts of the Gospel. But no one has Christ as the Lord of their lives. For advocates of Lordship Salvation, the Holy Spirit not only brings about trust, but commitment as well. This commitment will be evident in change in lifestyle and passion.


Those who hold to Free-Grace believe that while “nominal Christianity” is a problem, a compromise to the simplicity of the Gospel is not the solution. For Free-Grace advocates, the Lordship position adds human effort to the Gospel, thereby compromising the gift of grace not unlike the the Roman Catholics do. Repentance, for the Free Grace position, is a change of mind about who Christ is, our own self-sufficiency, and our attitude toward sin. However, this does not mean that we are required to make a commitment or “turn from” our sin. This would be a work which would make grace no longer grace. More than this, it would be a work an unsaved person does not have the ability to do.

While there is a spectrum of belief that bridges these two positions (and I am not necessarily suggesting that you make an either/or distinction here or attempt to put yourself in one “camp” or the other), the key difference exists in one’s view of repentance. What does it mean to repent?

“Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).

I believe that the Bible teaches that repentance is a part of faith. Among the many passages which speak directly to this we find Matt.9:13; Luke 3:3; Luke 5:32; Luke 24:47; Acts 11:18; Acts 20:21; Rom. 2:4; 2 Tim. 2:25; 2 Pet. 3:9.  But I also believe that repentance is difficult to define. The Greek word repentance is metanoia is taken from the Greek meta “to change” noos “mind or thinking”. As with anything, the context, both Biblical and theological, must help us determine with more accuracy the meaning of Biblical repentance. Continue Reading →

Common Errors in Bible Interpretation

I came across the following chart on page 136 in the new book A Handbook of New Testament Exegesis by Craig L. Blomberg.  Heeding caution from this chart will ruin many dramatic points in sermons across the country but will end up being more accurate, which will in turn be more honoring to the Lord.

Common Errors in the Word Study Process

Anachronistic Fallacies

  • Granting more interpretive weight to the etymology of a word than is appropriate (etymological or root fallacy)
  • Assuming that a word in the text takes on a meaning that was not yet present in the time of the author.
  • Supplying a word’s meaning with a definition that preceded the author but that had fallen out of popular usage by the time of the author (semantic obsolescence fallacy)

Definitional Fallacies

  • Making an appeal to an unknown or unlikely meaning of a word, due to either the interpreter’s theological presuppositions or reliance on out-of-date or idiosyncratic secondary literature
  • Assuming that a word carries several or all of its possible meaning in each of its appearances when in fact the most probable meaning of any word is that which contributes the least amount of new information to the overall context (illegitimate totality transfer)
  • Assuming that if a word in the New Testament means something in the majority of its appearances, it must also take on that meaning in any context in Scripture where it appears (prescriptive fallacy)

Questions I Hope No One Will Ask: Why Did God Put Satan in Eden?

“I’m trying to whip the devil; I’m trying to get sanctified.” -Johnny Cash

I was reading a book a couple of days ago that mentioned Satan in passing. It called him God’s “archenemy.” I thought that this was an interesting label to put on Satan. We all know about archenemies. They are the greatest enemy that someone faces. Superman’s archenemy is Lex Luther. Batman’s archenemy is the Joker. Green Lantern’s archenemy is Senestro (you all will soon know this since the movie is coming this summer). In each of these cases, the enemy represents the polar opposite of the hero. He is the bad guy. He is the archenemy because he represents the greatest threat the hero faces. This is either because the enemy’s power matches that of the hero or because his level of evil matches the level of goodness of the hero.

With regard to the God vs. Satan setup here, for reasons I hope to explain, I am not really comfortable calling Satan God’s archenemy, though he is definitely an enemy of God. While we don’t know that much about him (or angels and demons in general for that matter), he is presented in Scripture as a very powerful being that, simply put, does not want God to suceed. He is hell bent (pardon the pun) on wreaking havoc on the earth and causing God’s people to fail. I don’t know what his ultimate goal is (or if he even has one) or whether he really thinks he can “win” (whatever game he is playing), but I do know that he is introduced to us very early in the Scripture and is found late in the game as well. Out of the infinite things that are going on in God’s creation, out of the vast amount of information that God could have given us about so many other things, one thing is certain, God wants us to be aware of this particular creature.

While there is a lot we don’t know about him, here are some basics of Christian “satanology”:

  • Satan is a creation of God who was originally good (1 Tim. 4:4).
  • Satan desires to take the place of God (Matt. 4:8-10).
  • Satan knows who Christ is (Mark 3:11).
  • Satan is one from whom we need God’s protection (Matt. 6:13).
  • Satan makes accusations against people to God (Rev. 12:10).
  • Satan seeks to “devour” people (1 Pet. 5:8). 
  • Though I don’t know when Satan inherited the “throne”, there is some sense in which he is the ruler of this world (Jn. 14:30; John 16:11; 2 Cor 4:4; Eph. 2:2; 1; Jn 5:19).

While there is more we could expand on here, the question of the hour is this: If Satan is so evil and “anti-God” why did God put Satan in the Garden of  Eden? While there is no way to know what would have happened had he not been present, it is evident from the narrative and the ensuing curse that Satan played a big part in the fall.

Gen 3:1-6
Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden ‘?” 2 And the woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; 3 but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, lest you die.'” 4 And the serpent said to the woman, “You surely shall not die! 5 “For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate.

Gen 3:14-15
14 And the LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, Cursed are you more than all cattle, And more than every beast of the field; On your belly shall you go, And dust shall you eat All the days of your life; 15 And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel.”

Wrong Answers:

Wrong answer #1: It was not Satan in Eden.

It is popular among many biblical interpreters these days to be agnostic with regard to the identity of the snake in Eden. While I admire there faithfulness to the text of Genesis—which does not tell us the identity of the snake—we can be fairly certain that it was Satan (regardless of whether we take this as a literal account or not). When answering such questions, it is important that we look to the whole of the Scripture and employ a canonical understanding often called the “analogy of Scripture” (i.e. the Scripture interprets the Scripture). Testimony from the book of Revelation identifies the snake as Satan: Continue Reading →

Why Doesn’t God Save Everyone? (Sam Storms)

If election were solely based on what God wanted and not anything in us that might differentiate the chosen from the un-chosen and thus account for why this one and not another, why didn’t God choose all? If he could have, why didn’t he? With this question we run headlong into the theological brick wall called “the secret things of God” (Deut. 29:29), on the other wide of which are mysteries inaccessible to the human mind.

Many mistakenly assume that, if God is by nature loving, he must choose all, as if to say it would be a contradiction of the divine character were he not to love everyone equally. But this fails to note that the saving love of God is also sovereign. John Murray explains it this way:

“Truly God is love. Love is not something adventitious; it is not something that God may choose to be or choose not to be. He is love, and that necessarily, inherently, and eternally. As God is spirit, as he is light, so he is love. Yet it belongs to the very essence of electing love to recognize that it is not inherently necessary to that love which God necessarily and eternally is that he should set such love as issues in redemption and adoption upon utterly undesirable and hell-deserving objects. It was of the free and sovereign good pleasure of his will, a good pleasure that emanated from the depths of his own goodness, that he chose a people to be heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ. The reason resides wholly in himself and proceeds from determinations that are peculiarly his as the ‘I am that I am.'”[1]

Thus, to say that love is sovereign is to say it is distinguishing. It is, by definition as saving love, bestowed upon and experienced only by those who are in fact saved (i.e., the elect). Although there is surely a sense in which God loves the non-elect, he does not love them redemptively. If he did, they would certainly be redeemed. God loves them, but not savingly, else they would certainly be saved. All this is to say that God’s eternal, electing love is not universal but particular. Of this we may be certain: God was under no obligation to choose any. Were he to have chosen none, he would have remained perfectly just in doing so. That he chose some is a reflection of sovereign mercy.

“OK,” responds the inquiring soul, “I’ll concede that God doesn’t have to love everyone with the love of election, but that doesn’t tell me why he didn’t. It’s one thing to say God was under no obligation or necessity to elect all unto life. It’s another thing entirely to account for why he chose not to elect all unto life. Or again, it’s one thing to say he didn’t need to choose all. It’s something else entirely to say he didn’t want to choose all.”

But why would God not “want” to choose all? It can’t be because some are less worthy than others of being the objects of electing love, for all are equally deserving of wrath and condemnation. It can only be because there is something God “wants” more than whatever benefits might otherwise be gained by choosing all. But what could possibly be more important to God than delivering all hell-deserving sinners from their plight? The Arminian would say: the preservation of human free will. According to Arminianism, God won’t save all because to do so would require that he intrude upon and override the rebellious will of many unbelievers. God so values the purported dignity of libertarian freedom that he chooses only to save those who believe, although it would be possible to save those who don’t as well. Continue Reading →

Theology Unplugged: An Invitation to Calvinism Part 2

Join Michael Patton, Tim Kimberley and Sam Storms as they discuss Calvinism.

Other ways to get TUP:

The Patsy Called Relativism

(by Lisa Robinson)

I was listening to a radio broadcast the other day and the preacher was giving a lesson on the Decalogue.  He provided a description of God’s law that broken down into three categories – Ceremonial, Civil and Moral.  When Christ fulfilled the law (Matthew 5:17), it did not mean an abrogation but continuance of the law.  The moral law, as codified in the Decalogue, remains in effect and therefore binding upon Christians. (note this is a correction to what was initially stated)  This of course is the Reformed position in a nutshell, influenced by Calvin and disseminated throughout evangelicalism.

The alternate position, which I adhere to (no, I’m not going to use the D word), is that there is no separation of the Law and when Christ fulfilled the law, he fulfilled all of it.  The moral obligations are instituted under the teachings of Christ, otherwise known as the law of Christ and obligated through the ministry of the Holy Spirit.  Christ revealed God to humanity so there is no discontinuity in God’s law.  Since the Spirit was also involved in the apostolic witness to the testimony of Christ and that testimony enscripturated, the Word and the Spirit provide the mechanism for which God’s law is revealed and codified.  This is what is binding on the Christian.  It is of no coincidence that 9 out of the 10 commandments are mirrored in the New Testament since it all comes from the same source.

So while I do not believe that the Ten Commandments are binding on the Christian, I was willing to concede that we essentially end up at the same place – God has imposed a moral law we are to abide by, that there is an objective standard by which we live.  That was until this preacher said something that I have increasingly heard as a defense of their position – the reason the Decalogue is binding on the Christian is to prevent relativism.

This is not new.  I have heard this before.  Basically, he is denying that an alternate explanation to the implementation and adherence to God’s law and insisting that if one does not believe the Decalogue is binding on Christians, they are giving way to subjective truth.  In short, they are compromising God’s truth…and they are wrong. I have heard this same argument used with a variety of competing evangelical positions.  This is truth and must be believed or else you are sliding the slippery slope of relativism. Continue Reading →