Archive | June, 2015

In Search of True Evangelicalism


I could go through and trace the common accepted academic definitions of “evangelicalism.” They are out there. There are some great contemporary historical treatise on the subject. But that would be detractive and be an adventure in missing the point. Well, shoot. . . I suppose I will go on this adventure, but only giving the cliff-notes.

David Bebbington’s Evangelicalism

David Bebbington has created what has become the most accepted definition of Evangelicalism out there today. It is often called “Bebbington’s Quadrilateral.” Here are his four main criteria of what it means to be evangelical (it’s hard to know when to capitalize this darn word):

  1. Biblicism: Don’t you love that word? This simply means that evangelicals take the Bible seriously as the authoritative word of God.
  2. Crucicentrism: Try to pronounce that! This is a focus on the centrality of the cross of Christ and its atoning value for mankind. For evangelicals, the cross is the central event of all theology.
  3. Conversionism: Evangelicals believe that people need to have some type of conversion “event” where they accept/trust Christ as their Lord/God. In other words, without a true conversion to Christianity, people are lost.
  4. Activism: Evangelicals are, well . . .  evangelical. We believe that the Gospel needs to be spread in definite encounters through the various cultural means.

Book Recommendation: The Dominance of Evangelicalism by David Bebbington


While I believe that the characteristics of Bebbington listed above are all true, I am going to hopefully extend and (if possible) simplify our understanding of Evangelicalism by breaking it up into three areas: 1) Evangelical Doctrine 2) Evangelical Actions, and 3) Evangelical Attitude. All three are necessary to understand Evangelicalism as both a twentieth-century American Christian movement and as an historic representation of Christianity. Continue Reading →

Why is God Silent? A New Look at an Old Problem


I have never seen, heard, smelt, tasted or empirically experienced God.I have groped for a sign of his presence, love, even his very existence! Angels, Jesus, a sound, or some type of miracle would be sufficient. I remember two years ago when I was going through my depression. . . . Wait. I am getting ahead of myself. . . .

Here is a question I got through an email a while back:

The Question

Mr. Patton,

I have been a believer for quite sometime – since I was eight. It’s a miracle, however, that I believe at all. I grew up in a Oneness Pentecostal home that was very legalistic and rigid. Since then I have changed a great deal in regard to my beliefs. I very much believe in the Trinity, justification by faith, etc. So you could say I’m pretty much orthodox now.

But with all that said, I have been having a bit of trouble with my faith. I’m kinda having a hard time believing in God or praying to him because I just don’t see the point in it anymore because I feel like he doesn’t answer. In fact I feel as if it pointless because he isn’t here – right here, spatially – to speak with me. I dunno I just feel like with all that I have happening in my life a face to face relationship – a person to person conversation – is what I need from him. And I can’t have that. I mean it is as if God is a distant uncle to whom I send letters (prayers), and he sends a postcard. Is it enough to just say that God has spoken through his word so he doesn’t need to speak now? I don’t feel like it. Why couldn’t Jesus have just stayed here, albeit in a ubiquitous form? That way I could talk to him. I know he is the Father’s representative to man and for man so why not stay here where he can be physically accessible?



My friend,

1. Your Problem is not Uncommon

Thanks so much for writing and for your honesty. Your thoughts, it might comfort you to know, are not uncommon. The problem you speak of is called the “hiddenness of God” in theological circles. Why is God so hidden? It is hard to know exactly why, but the fact of his hiddenness is something the Bible speaks to very clearly. In Acts 1 the angels say, “Why do you stare into heaven. . . He will come back just as you have seen him go.” In other words, you will not “see” him again until he comes back. Christ told his disciples in the upper room before his death that it is “better for you if I go because I will send the Comforter.” I often think “it is NOT better for you to go because I cannot see or hear the Holy Spirit.”

2. God is “Silent” in My Life

I believe that naked belief (i.e., without empirical experience) is what God calls on us to have right now. We do have to “limp” through this life without having seen God or Jesus, yet believe in him. I don’t have any perfectly sound theological reason why God is not more empirically evident in our lives (though I will give some thoughts below). My more charismatic friends would disagree, as you probably know. However, I have called and called to God to show himself to me. In my darkest times (and against my better theological judgement), I have groped for a sign of his presence, love, even his very existence! Angels, Jesus, a sound, or some type of miracle would be sufficient. I remember two years ago when I was going through my depression. I stayed up all night crying, sitting in my car in the garage yelling at God, asking him to just do something – anything! The silence at that time was deafening. It was painful. It hurt my feelings at a very deep level that the all-powerful God would not perform the simplest of tasks. I thought, “God, if you are so great and love me so much why are you so silent? Why now? Why when I am this depressed? Just do something!” Continue Reading →

Sanctification and Holiness (Part 2) – Theology Unplugged

Tim Kimberley: Fellas it’s great to be back with you guys. We had a lively discussion last week around sanctification, around holiness and we’re narrowing in…

Michael Patton: Tim, Tim how are you? Are you more sanctified today than you were a week ago?

Michael Patton Recording Theology Unplugged at Credo House

Michael Patton Recording Theology Unplugged at Credo House

Tim Kimberley: Alas. You know what brother. I think based on our discussion I’m not sure because I do feel like when I look at my life it doesn’t feel like it’s a trajectory going up, but JJ gave the yo-yo. So I think my yo-yo has kind of… its on its way up maybe but hopefully the Lord walked up the stairs.

Michael Patton: I think…

Tim Kimberley: Is that obscure enough?

Michael Patton: …you look better.

Tim Kimberley: Thank you. I feel like I’m just going to start crying and mumbling stuff here any moment.

Sam Storms: I think people…we left them last week crying and mumbling. I think they were pulling their hair out.

Tim Kimberley: That’s right.

Michael Patton: I think everybody needs a hug.

Tim Kimberley: Well, God though throughout church history and many of us are lovers of church history, it seems like He puts signposts along the way. That the Holy Spirit works through people who love Jesus, love the Bible, and put sign posts along the way that say don’t go this way, don’t turn here, stay the course, stay the course. It seems like he puts ditches and sometime uses scripture to build ditches to say don’t fall this way. But then if you go to the other side of the road He says don’t fall into this ditch either. And so in this issue we’re in agreement that there are ditches and their are signpost that have been laid out that say as you think about what it means to grow in Christlikeness throughout a lifetime don’t think this way.

JJ Seid: In the words of Martin Luther the church is like a drunken peasant who in order to save himself from falling off one side of his donkey promptly falls off the other.

Michael Patton: I interrupted Tim earlier and we are talking about sanctification. We are talking about growing in the Lord.

JJ Seid: What’s that word mean? That’s a $10 word.

Michael Patton: To become more Christlike.

JJ Seid: Except when it means something else.

Michael Patton: To become more set apart. To become more holy.

JJ Seid: And what’s the other way it’s used in the Bible? Two senses right?

Michael Patton: I don’t know.

JJ Seid: We used the word positional and progressive last time. So it’s good for people to know that in a sense…

Michael Patton: I wasn’t listening.

JJ Seid: …we’re drilling down into looking at progressive sanctification. Progressive sanctification is something that can only happen to somebody who’s already been, in the past, positionally sanctified. They’ve been made holy in one sense, where their status before God is holy, righteous, and blameless, and yet in another sense they’re being called to act what they are. To steal a phrase from one of my professors.

Michael Patton: That doesn’t sound like what Sam said last time. Sam really messed me up and I am less sanctified this week than I was last week because of Sam. And I’m… just been struggling with his statement…

Sam Storms: I am the Holy Spirit in your life buddy. I am there to probe and to convict and to unsettle your soul.

Sam Storms Recording Theology Unplugged at Credo House

Sam Storms Recording Theology Unplugged at Credo House

Michael Patton: Well there are certain things that we’re gonna, maybe, disagree about later but there are things that we agree about that are really, as we said, Tim or JJ said, ditches that we need to avoid. What is the primary ditch that I think everybody in the church would agree we avoid. And I’m talking Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, some Protestants, all agree, avoid this ditch.

Sam Storms: I think the one that I would immediately identify is this idea that I can exert power from within my own self by my own will independently of and without assistance from the grace of God. This kind of pull yourself up by your bootstraps, self help transformation, that one of the biggest, as well all know, one of the biggest controversies in the history on the church was between a man named (everybody known) Augustine and Pelagius. Back in the later part of the fourth early part of the fifth century. Pelagius basically said when Jesus made this statement in Matthew 5:48 You must be therefore perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” He said that necessarily implies that I can be perfect and I don’t need the internal…

Michael Patton: That’s what you sounded like.

Sam Storms: Yea… that I don’t need the internal grace of God to help me do that.

Michael Patton: So you are not Pelagius.

Sam Storms: Here’s the illustration, a guy said, what Pelagius would argue is this, we’re at a track meet and a guy is running let’s say the mile and he’s on his third or his fourth lap and God plays the role of the coach and all he can do is stand on the sidelines and cheer you on and tell you how you’re not running in good form and you need to change your stride, and you need to lift your arms, and you need to slow down your pace or increase the pace, but that’s all that God can do. He’s pretty much an external coach or cheerleader. As over against the idea that God can actually enter into the very body and soul and sprit of the athlete and energize him to finish the race and win. And so what Augustine said in sanctification God is actually in us. Grace is an internal energy and power than enables our wills to make right choice. And propels us forward in conformity with Christ. Pelagius and those who followed him in the history of the church said “No. We don’t need that. We’re not so bad off in our fundamental moral nature that we require God function within us. All we need him to do is give us his law, tell us what to do, and then it’s left up to us to figure out how to obey it.”

Tim Kimberley: That has massive ramifications in the church I would say because, in the illustration I use, I mean I think the track illustration is amazing, but I think like when I think Pelagius I think of like of like the soul aisle at Home Depot. And Jesus has built that aisle. God has stocked that aisle up. And you can go down that aisle when you need to. What Pelagius would tell you if you say “I want to look more like Jesus” he’d say well go down to that aisle and you do that stuff. And, you know, do it. Just do it. But Augustine, I think probably something that frustrated Pelagius was when Augustine wrote command what you will, will what you command. So God, whatever you ask me to do you’re going to have to do it. Whatever you want me to do there’s no chance I’m going to be able do it unless you actually do it through me.

Listen to the full episode using the player below…

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Credo Links: Interesting Stuff Out There

10 Ways to Help a Hurting Pastor’s Wife (after her husband and her leave their church)

Drunk Christians (just read it!)

The coming “transanity

How Science and Reason Created and Age of Unbelief (in science and reason) (good quick explanation of the reason people have no belief today)

Isn’t True Faith Blind Faith? (J. Warner Wallace)

Why Church Discipline Goes Awry (but none of us can really deal with the sticky question of What is worthy of church discipline)

How Not to Invoke the “Genetic Fallacy” (how much I wish someone would have taught me the basic rules of logic when I was young—though I would not have listened)

Long Distance Dating (for some reason, it still surprises me when a married couple says to me “We met online)

Apologetics Unplugged: Christians Are Anti-Science, Part 3


Wrapping up the topic of science v. faith, Michael Patton, Clint Roberts and Carrie Hunter discuss if science, instead of conflicting with Christianity actually lends itself to supporting the truth of it. Ohhh it’s good. You’ll wanna listen.

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Apologetics Unplugged: Christians Are Anti-Science, Part 2


In this episode, Michael Patton, Clint Roberts and Carrie Hunter delve further into addressing the [false] dichotomy between religion and faith. Also discussed, is the nature order an additional source of divinely inspired revelation? Ohhh… find out!

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