Thursday, October 26, 2006

Doctrines of Grace

In Honor of Reformation Day, I thought I would post the Doctirines of Grace again.
Aren't TULIPs just amazing? :-)

Grace and Peace,
Chris
_________________________
Doctrines of Grace #1
1. Total Depravity (or “Inability” – Man cannot save himself) The Scriptures clearly teach that the effects of sin have extended to all parts of our being, rendering us incapable of spiritual understanding and love towards God. Despite the heading of this first article, it does not indicate that all people are as wicked as they could possibly be in all areas of belief and practice. However, sin has so fully and deeply affected our lives that, spiritually speaking, we are in a totally hopeless condition, unable to do anything to get ourselves out of this fallen state. Our natural spiritual incapacity prevents us from being able to respond by our own strength to the call of the gospel message, yet this does not remove our guilt. We choose to follow the natural inclinations of our depraved hearts because when left to ourselves that is all we want to do.


Scripture references: Ephesians 4:18; 1 Corinthians 2:14; Romans 1:30; John 15:25; Luke 19:14; John 5:40; Isaiah 5:20; Titus 1:15; Deuteronomy 32:18; Hebrews 2:1; John 12:39; John 6:44+65; John 3:18.

Romans Revolution:God’s Wrath on UnrighteousnessRomans 1:18 - 2518 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. 24 Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, 25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen

Monday, October 23, 2006

Reformation Day

Don't Forget!!!
This Sunday October 29th is Reformation Sunday!

_______________________________

Reformation Day

On October 31,1517, Martin Luther nailed ninety-five theses to the castle church door in Wittenberg, Germany, which addressed the abuses of the sale of indulgences and provided the catalyst for the Protestant Reformation. Martin Luther is one of the more important figures in Western history, as his thought has impacted family life, politics, church-state relations, individual liberties, and a host of other societal issues. Comparable to Luther is John Calvin, another major figure of the Protestant Reformation. Calvin provided one of the most important summarizations of Christian theology in his Institutes of the Christian Religion, and his thought shaped the worldview of many of the earliest Americans. Luther and Calvin’s powerful expositions of the Gospel remain their most important legacy. In an era when the Gospel had been eclipsed by a system of human merit, Martin Luther, John Calvin, and the other reformers were able to remind the people of God that we are declared righteous in the sight of the Lord through faith alone in the person and work of Christ Jesus. The widespread acceptance of watered-down doctrine and uncritical ecumenism in our day demonstrates how we cannot take biblical teaching for granted. Luther and Calvin were willing to die if necessary for the biblical Gospel, but many today simply ignore the doctrine of justification through faith alone by grace alone because of Christ alone. This year, let us remember the work of our forefathers on Reformation day and strive, as they did, to contend for the faith once delivered to the saints (Jude 3).

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

THE EPISTLE OF THE APOSTLE PAUL TO THE ROMANS

Below is a sample of the Geneva Bible. Enjoy reading part of Romans Chapter 1 and the original study notes by Reformers. If you click this link, you can get the entire book of Romans in .pdf format.
Grace and Peace,
Chris


Geneva Bible (1599 edition)

Author: Tolle Lege Press

When the Pilgrims arrived in the New World in 1620, they brought along supplies, a consuming passion to advance the Kingdom of Christ, and the Word of God. Clearly, their most precious cargo was the Bible—specifically, the 1599 Geneva Bible.

All but forgotten in our day, this version of the Bible was the most widely read and influential English Bible of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. A superb translation, it was the product of the best Protestant scholars of the day and became the Bible of choice for many of the greatest writers and thinkers of that time. Men such as William Shakespeare, John Bunyan, and John Milton used the Geneva Bible in their writings. William Bradford also cited the Geneva Bible in his famous book Of Plymouth Plantation.

The Geneva Bible is unique among all other Bibles. It was the first Bible to use chapters and numbered verses and became the most popular version of its time because of the extensive marginal notes. These notes, written by Reformation leaders such as John Calvin, John Knox, Miles Coverdale, William Whittingham, Anthony Gilby, and others, were included to explain and interpret the scriptures for the common people.






THE EPISTLE OF THE APOSTLE
PAUL TO THE
ROMANS


1 1 He first showeth on what authority his Apostleship

standeth. 15 !en he commendeth the Gospel,
16 by which God setteth out his power to those that are
saved, 17 by faith, 21 but were guilty of wicked unthankfulness
to God: 26 For which his wrath was worthily powered on
them, 29 so that they ran headlong to all kinds of sin.


1 PAUL 1a 2,3servant of JESUS Christ called to
be an 4Apostle, a,5put apart to preach the Gospel of
God,
2 (Which he had promised afore by his Prophets
in the holy Scriptures)
3 1Concerning his 2Son Jesus Christ our Lord
(which was 3made of the seed of David 4according
to the flesh,
4 And 1declared 2mightily to be the Son of God,
touching the Spirit of sanctification by the resurrection
from the dead)
5 1By whom we have received 2grace and Apostleship
(that 3obedience might be given unto the faith)
for his name 4among all the Gentiles,
6 Among whom ye be also the 1called of Jesus
Christ:
7 To all you that be at Rome beloved of God,
called to be Saints: 1Grace be with you, and peace from
God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
8 1First I thank my God through Jesus Christ for
you all, because your faith is 2published throughout
the 3whole world.
9 For God is my witness (whom I serve in my
1spirit in the 2Gospel of his Son) that without ceasing
I make mention of you.
10 Always in my prayers, beseeching that by some
means, one time or other I might have a prosperous
journey by the will of God, to come unto you.
11 For I long to see you, that I might bestow
among you some spiritual gift, that you might be
strengthened:
12 !at is, that 1I might be comforted together with
you, through our mutual faith, both yours and mine.
13 Now my brethren, I would that ye should not
be ignorant, how that I have oftentimes purposed
to come unto you (but have been let hitherto) that
I might have some fruit also among you, as I have
among the other Gentiles.
14 I am debtor both to the Grecians, and to the Barbarians,
both to the wise men and to the unwise.


1:1 1 The first part of the Epistle containing a most profitable preface
unto verse 16.
2 He moving the Romans to give diligent ear unto him in that he
showeth that he cometh not in his own name, but as God’s messenger
unto the Gentiles, entreateth with them of the weightiest matter,
that is promised long since by God, by many fit witnesses, and now
at length performed indeed.
3 A Minister, for this word servant, is not taken in this place, as set
against this word, Freeman, but declareth his ministry and office.
4 Whereas he said before in a general term, that he was a minister,
now he cometh to a more special name, and saith that he is
an Apostle, and that he took not upon him this office of his own
lead, but being called of God, and therefore in this his writing to the
Romans, doeth nothing but his duty.
5 Appointed of God to preach the Gospel.
1:3 1 By declaring the sum of the doctrine of the Gospel, he stirreth
up the Romans to good consideration of the matter whereof
he entreateth: So then he showeth that Christ (who is the very substance
and sum of the Gospel) is the only son of God the Father, who
as touching his humanity, is made of the seed of David, but touching
his divine and spiritual nature, whereby he sanctified himself, is
begotten of the Father from everlasting, as by his mighty resurrection
manifestly appeareth.
2 This is a plain testimony of the person of Christ, that he is but one,
and of his two natures, and their properties.
3 Which took flesh of the virgin, David’s daughter.
4 As he is man: for this word Flesh, by the figure Synecdoche, is
taken for man.
1:4 1 Showed and made manifest.
2 The divine and mighty power is set against the weakness of the
flesh, for that overcame death.
1:5 1 Of whom.
2 This marvelous liberal and gracious gift, which is given me, the
least of all the Saints, to preach, etc., Eph. 3:8.
3 That men through faith might obey God.
4 For his Name’s sake.
1:6 1 Which through God’s goodness, are Christ’s.
1:7 1 God’s free good will: by peace, the Hebrews mean a prosperous
success in all things.
1:8 1 He procureth their favorable patience, in that he reckoneth up
their true commendation, and his true Apostolic good will toward
them, confirmed by taking God himself to witness.
2 Because your faith is such, that it is commended in all Churches.
3 In all Churches.
1:9 1 Very willingly and with all my heart.
2 In preaching his Son.
1:12 1 Though Paul were never so excellent, yet by teaching the
Church, he might be instructed by it.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Sermon of the Month - Ligonier Ministries

On the road to Damascus, Paul’s life was turned upside down, and we too have been turned upside down through the testimony God put into the lips and pen of Paul. This month, Dr. Sproul takes a look at this act of God’s sovereign grace in Acts 9:1–9.

Windows Media Player
All Other Players

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Boasting in Man Is Doubly Excluded

Hello,

This article by John Piper is focused on whether God gets all the Glory or whether we share some kind of glory with our final decision. This is at the heart of the church. Luther called it the (Cor ecclecia) the very heart of the church.
Grace and Peace,
Chris


Boasting in Man Is Doubly Excluded


By John Piper March 5, 2003


God loves it when man boasts in God, and God hates it when man boasts in man.

"Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord" (2 Corinthians 10:17). "Far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Galatians 6:14).

"The haughty looks of man shall be brought low, and the lofty pride of men shall be humbled, and the LORD alone will be exalted in that day. For the LORD of hosts has a day against all that is proud and lofty, against all that is lifted up" (Isaiah 2:11-12).

There are two reasons (at least) why God hates for man to boast in man.

1) Boasting in man deflects man's attention from the Fountain of his joy and so ruins his life. It tricks man into replacing Magnificence with a mirror. Man was not made to admire man. He was made to admire God. The joy of admiration is prostituted and ruined when man tries to find galaxy-size Glory in the glow of his own reflection. God does not like the damage done by boasting in man.

2) The other reason God hates for man to boast in man is this: It conveys the conviction that man is more admirable than God. Now that is, of course, untrue. But we would miss the point if we said: "God hates lying and therefore God hates boasting in man because it conveys a lie." No. That's not quite right. What God hates is the dishonoring of God. Lying happens to be one way that he is dishonored as the God of truth. So the real problem with man's boasting in man is that it belittles God.

Boasting in God, on the other hand, does the double opposite: it honors God and gives man the joy for which he was made: admiring the infinitely admirable.

Mercifully, therefore, God has doubly excluded boasting by the way he saves sinners.

First, boasting is excluded by faith. Romans 3:27, "Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith." Why does faith exclude boasting? The reason is not merely because faith is a gift of God, which it is. But so are all the fruits of the Spirit. Yet they do not all exclude boasting in the same way. Faith is unique among all the acts of the soul. It is the weakest and most helpless and most empty-handed act of the soul. It is all dependence on Another. In a sense, it is an acted non-act.

Let me explain. I mean it is an inclination of the soul to seek help with no expectation that any inclination of the soul is good enough to obtain help, not even the inclination of faith. It is unique among all the acts of the soul. Since it is empty-handed, it is not like a virtue. It looks to the virtue of another. It looks to the strength of another. It looks to the wisdom of another. It is entirely other-directed and other-dependent. Therefore, it can't boast in itself, for it can't even look at itself. It is the kind of thing that in a sense has no "self." As soon as the unique act of the soul exists it is attached to another from whom it gets all its reality.

Second, boasting is excluded by election. 1 Corinthians 1:27-29, "God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God."

God's election is designed to remove boasting. The point is that God does not choose people with a view to any feature in us that would allow us to boast. In fact, Romans 9:11 makes clear that God's election is designed to make God's saving purpose rest finally on God alone, not any act of the human soul. "Though [Jacob and Esau] were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad - in order that God's purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls [God chose Jacob not Esau]". The contrast with works here is not faith, but "him who calls." The choice of God rests finally on God alone. He decides who will believe and undeservingly be saved.

Therefore, let us look away from ourselves and all human help. Let all boasting in man and man's accomplishments cease. And let us boast in the Lord.


© Desiring God

The Disturbing Legacy of Charles Finney

Here is the article about Charles Finney, written by Mike Horton of the White Horse Inn.

Please leave a comment... Thanks, Chris



Issues, Etc.

Articles and book excerpts used in and referred to on Issues, Etc.

The Disturbing Legacy of Charles Finney

by Dr. Michael Horton

No single man is more responsible for the distortion of Christian truth in our age than Charles Grandison Finney. His "new measures" created a framework for modern decision theology and Evangelical Revivalism. In this excellent article, Dr. Mike Horton explains how Charles Finney distorted the important doctrine of salvation.


Jerry Falwell calls him "one of my heroes and a hero to many evangelicals, including Billy Graham." I recall wandering through the Billy Graham Center some years ago, observing the place of honor given to Charles Finney in the evangelical tradition, reinforced by the first class in theology I had at a Christian college, where Finney’s work was required reading. The New York revivalist was the oft-quoted and celebrated champion of the Christian singer Keith Green and the Youth With A Mission organization. He is particularly esteemed among the leaders of the Christian Right and the Christian Left, by both Jerry Falwell and Jim Wallis (Sojourners’ magazine), and his imprint can be seen in movements that appear to be diverse, but in reality are merely heirs to Finney’s legacy. From the Vineyard movement and the Church Growth Movement to the political and social crusades, televangelism, and the Promise Keepers movement, as a former Wheaton College president rather glowingly cheered, "Finney, lives on!"

That is because Finney’s moralistic impulse envisioned a church that was in large measure an agency of personal and social reform rather than the institution in which the means of grace, Word and Sacrament, are made available to believers who then take the Gospel to the world. In the nineteenth century, the evangelical movement became increasingly identified with political causes-from abolition of slavery and child labor legislation to women’s rights and the prohibition of alcohol. In a desperate effort at regaining this institutional power and the glory of "Christian America" (a vision that is always powerful in the imagination, but, after the disintegration of Puritan New England, elusive), the turn-of-the century Protestant establishment launched moral campaigns to "Americanize" immigrants, enforce moral instruction and "character education." Evangelists pitched their American gospel in terms of its practical usefulness to the individual and the nation.

That is why Finney is so popular. He is the tallest marker in the shift from Reformation orthodoxy, evident in the Great Awakening (under Edwards and Whitefield) to Arminian (indeed, even Pelagian) revivalism. evident from the Second Great Awakening to the present. To demonstrate the debt of modern evangelicalism to Finney, we must first notice his theological departures. From these departures, Finney became the father of the antecedents to some of today’s greatest challenges within evangelical churches, namely, the church growth movement, Pentecostalism and political revivalism.

Who is Finney?

Reacting against the pervasive Calvinism of the Great Awakening, the successors of that great movement of God’s Spirit turned from God to humans, from the preaching of objective content (namely, Christ and him crucified) to the emphasis on getting a person to "make a decision."

Charles Finney (1792-1875) ministered in the wake of the "Second Awakening," as it has been called. A Presbyterian layover, Finney one day experienced "a mighty baptism of the Holy Ghost" which "like a wave of electricity going through and through me ... seemed to come in waves of liquid love." The next morning, he informed his first client of the day, "I have a retainer from the Lord Jesus Christ to plead his cause and I cannot plead yours. "Refusing to attend Princeton Seminary (or any seminary, for that matter). Finney began conducting revivals in upstate New York. One of his most popular sermons was "Sinners Bound to Change Their Own Hearts."

Finney’s one question for any given teaching was, "Is it fit to convert sinners with?" One result of Finney’s revivalism was the division of Presbyterians in Philadelphia and New York into Arminian and Calvinistic factions. His "New Measures" included the "anxious bench" (precursor to today’s altar call), emotional tactics that led to fainting and weeping, and other "excitements," as Finney and his followers called them.

Finney’s Theology?

One need go no further than the table of contents of his Systematic Theology to learn that Finney’s entire theology revolved around human morality. Chapters one through five are on moral government, obligation, and the unity of moral action; chapters six and seven are "Obedience Entire," as chapters eight through fourteen discuss attributes of love, selfishness, and virtues and vice in general. Not until the twenty-first chapter does one read anything that is especially Christian in its interest, on the atonement. This is followed by a discussion of regeneration, repentance, and faith. There is one chapter on justification followed by six on sanctification. In other words, Finney did not really write a Systematic Theology, but a collection of essays on ethics.

But that is not to say that Finney’s Systematic Theology does not contain some significant statements of theology.

First, in answer to the question, "Does a Christian cease to be a Christian, whenever he commits a sin?", Finney answers:

"Whenever he sins, he must, for the time being, cease to be holy. This is self-evident. Whenever he sins, he must be condemned; he must incur the penalty of the law of God ... If it be said that the precept is still binding upon him, but that with respect to the Christian, the penalty is forever set aside, or abrogated, I reply, that to abrogate the penalty is to repeal the precept, for a precept without penalty is no law. It is only counsel or advice. The Christian, therefore, is justified no longer than he obeys, and must be condemned when he disobeys or Antinomianism is true ... In these respects, then, the sinning Christian and the unconverted sinner are upon precisely the same ground (p. 46)."

Finney believed that God demanded absolute perfection, but instead of that leading him to seek his perfect righteousness in Christ, he concluded that "... full present obedience is a condition of justification. But again, to the question, can man be justified while sin remains in him? Surely he cannot, either upon legal or gospel principles, unless the law be repealed ... But can he be pardoned and accepted, and justified, in the gospel sense, while sin, any degree of sin, remains in him? Certainly not" (p. 57).

Finney declares of the Reformation’s formula simul justus et peccator or "simultaneously justified and sinful," "This error has slain more souls, I fear, than all the Universalism that ever cursed the world." For, "Whenever a Christian sins he comes under condemnation, and must repent and do his first works, or be lost" (p.60).

Finney’s doctrine of justification rests upon a denial of the doctrine of original sin. Held by both Roman Catholics and Protestants, this biblical teaching insists that we are all born into this world inheriting Adam’s guilt and corruption. We are, therefore, in bondage to a sinful nature. As someone has said, "We sin because we’re sinners": the condition of sin determines the acts of sin, rather than vice versa. But Finney followed Pelagius, the fifth-century heretic, who was condemned by more church councils than any other person in church history, in denying this doctrine.

Finney believed that human beings were capable of choosing whether they would be corrupt by nature or redeemed, referring to original sin as an "anti-scriptural and nonsensical dogma" (p.179). In clear terms, Finney denied the notion that human beings possess a sinful nature (ibid.). Therefore, if Adam leads us into sin, not by our inheriting his guilt and corruption, but by following his poor example, this leads logically to the view of Christ, the Second Adam, as saving by example. This is precisely where Finney takes it, in his explanation of the atonement.

The first thing we must note about the atonement, Finney says, is that Christ could not have died for anyone else’s sins than his own. His obedience to the law and his perfect righteousness were sufficient to save him, but could not legally be accepted on behalf of others. That Finney’s whole theology is driven by a passion for moral improvement is seen on this very point: "If he [Christ] had obeyed the Law as our substitute, then why should our own return to personal obedience be insisted upon as a sine qua non of our salvation" (p.206)? In other words, why would God insist that we save ourselves by our own obedience if Christ’s work was sufficient? The reader should recall the words of St. Paul in this regard, "I do not nullify the grace of God’, for if justification comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing." It would seem that Finney’s reply is one of agreement. The difference is, he has no difficulty believing both of those premises.

That is not entirely fair, of course, because Finney did believe that Christ died for something—not for someone, but for something. In other words, he died for a purpose, but not for people. The purpose of that death was to reassert God’s moral government and to lead us to eternal life by example, as Adam’s example excited us to sin. Why did Christ die? God knew that "The atonement would present to creatures the highest possible motives to virtue. Example is the highest moral influence that can be exerted ... If the benevolence manifested in the atonement does not subdue the selfishness of sinners, their case is hopeless" (p.209). Therefore, we are not helpless sinners who need to,’ be redeemed, but wayward sinners who need a demonstration of selflessness so moving that we will be excited to leave off selfishness. Not only did Finney believe that the "moral influence" theory of the atonement was the chief way of understanding the cross; he explicitly denied the substitutionary atonement, which

"assumes that the atonement was a literal payment of a debt, which we have seen does not consist with the nature of the atonement ... It is true, that the atonement, of itself, does not secure the salvation of any one" (p.217).

Then there is the matter of applying redemption. Throwing off Reformation orthodoxy, Finney argued strenuously against the belief that the new birth is a divine gift, insisting that "regeneration consists in the sinner changing his ultimate choice, intention, preference; or in changing from selfishness to love or benevolence," as moved by the moral influence of Christ’s moving example (p.224). "Original sin, physical regeneration, and all their kindred and resulting dogmas, are alike subversive of the gospel, and repulsive to the human intelligence" (p.236).

Having nothing to do with original sin, a substitutionary atonement, and the supernatural character of the new birth, Finney proceeds to attack "the article by which the church stands or falls"— justification by grace alone through faith alone.

Distorting the Cardinal Doctrine of Justification

The Reformers insisted, on the basis of clear biblical texts, that justification (in the Greek, "to declare righteous," rather than "to make righteous") was a forensic (i.e., legal) verdict. In other words, whereas Rome maintained that justification was a process of making a bad person better, the Reformers argued that it was a declaration or pronouncement that had someone else’s righteousness (i.e., Christ’s) as its basis. Therefore, it was a perfect, once and-for-all verdict of right standing.

This declaration was to be pronounced at the beginning of the Christian life, not in the middle or at the end. The key words in the evangelical doctrine are "forensic" (legal) and "imputation" (crediting one’s account, as opposed to the idea of "infusion" of a righteousness within a person’s soul). Knowing all of this, Finney declares,

"But for sinners to be forensically pronounced just, is impossible and absurd... As we shall see, there are many conditions, while there is but one ground, of the justification of sinners ... As has already been said, there can be no justification in a legal or forensic sense, but upon the ground of universal, perfect, and uninterrupted obedience to law. This is of course denied by those who hold that gospel justification, or the justification of penitent sinners, is of the nature of a forensic or judicial justification. They hold to the legal maxim that what a man does by another he does by himself, and therefore the law regards Christ’s obedience as ours, on the ground that he obeyed for us."

To this, Finney replies: "The doctrine of imputed righteousness, or that Christ’s obedience to the law was accounted as our obedience, is founded on a most false and nonsensical assumption." After all, Christ’s righteousness "could do no more than justify himself. It can never be imputed to us ... it was naturally impossible, then, for him to obey in our behalf " This "representing of the atonement as the ground of the sinner’s justification has been a sad occasion of stumbling to many" (pp.320-2).

The view that faith is the sole condition of justification is "the antinomian view," Finney asserts. "We shall see that perseverance in obedience to the end of life is also a condition of justification. Some theologians have made justification a condition of sanctification, instead of making sanctification a condition of justification. But this we shall see is an erroneous view of the subject." (pp.326-7).

Finney Today

As the noted Princeton theologian B. B. Warfield pointed out so eloquently, there are throughout history only two religions: heathenism, of which Pelagianism is a religious expression, and a supernatural redemption.

With Warfield and those who so seriously warned their brothers and sisters of these errors among Finney and his successors, we too must come to terms with the wildly heterodox strain in American Protestantism. With roots in Finney’s revivalism, perhaps evangelical and liberal Protestantism are not that far apart after all. His "New Measures," like today’s Church Growth Movement, made human choices and emotions the center of the church’s ministry, ridiculed theology, and replaced the preaching of Christ with the preaching of conversion.

It is upon Finney’s naturalistic moralism that the Christian political and social crusades build their faith in humanity and its resources in self-salvation. Sounding not a little like a deist, Finney declared, "There is nothing in religion beyond the ordinary powers of nature. It consists entirely in the right exercise of the powers of nature. It is just that, and nothing else. When mankind becomes truly religious, they are not enabled to put forth exertions which they were unable before to put forth. They only exert powers which they had before, in a different way, and use them for the glory of God." As the new birth is a natural phenomenon for Finney, so too a revival: "A revival is not a miracle, nor dependent on a miracle, in any sense. It is a purely philosophical result of the right use of the constituted means—as much so as any other effect produced by the application of means."

The belief that the new birth and revival depend necessarily on divine activity is pernicious. "No doctrine," he says, "is more dangerous than this to the prosperity of the Church, and nothing more absurd" (Revivals of Religion [Revell], pp.4-5).

When the leaders of the Church Growth Movement claim that theology gets in the way of growth and insist that it does not matter what a particular church believes: growth is a matter of following the proper principles, they are displaying their debt to Finney.

When leaders of the Vineyard movement praise this sub-Christian enterprise and the barking, roaring, screaming, laughing, and other strange phenomena on the basis that "it works" and one must judge its truth by its fruit, they are following Finney as well as the father of American pragmatism, William James, who declared that truth must be judged on the basis of "its cash-value in experiential terms."

Thus, in Finney’s theology, God is not sovereign, man is not a sinner by nature, the atonement is not a true payment for sin, justification by imputation is insulting to reason and morality, the new birth is simply the effect of successful techniques, and revival is a natural result of clever campaigns. In his fresh introduction to the bicentennial edition of Finney’s Systematic Theology, Harry Conn commends Finney’s pragmatism: "Many servants of our Lord should be diligently searching for a gospel that ‘works’, and I am happy to state they can find it in this volume."

As Whitney R. Cross has carefully documented, the stretch of territory in which Finney’s revivals were most frequent was also the cradle of the perfectionistic cults that plagued that century. A gospel that "works" for zealous perfectionists one moment merely creates tomorrow’s disillusioned and spent supersaints. Needless to say, Finney’s message is radically different from the evangelical faith, as is the basic orientation of the movements we see around us today that bear his imprint such as: revivalism (or its modern label. the Church Growth Movement), or Pentecostal perfectionism and emotionalism, or political triumphalism based on the ideal of "Christian America," or the anti-intellectual, and antidoctrinal tendencies of many American evangelicals and fundamentalists.

Not only did the revivalist abandon the doctrine of justification, making him a renegade against evangelical Christianity; he repudiated doctrines, such as original sin and the substitutionary atonement, that have been embraced by Roman Catholics and Protestants alike. Therefore, Finney is not merely an Arminian’, but a Pelagian. He is not only an enemy of evangelical Protestantism, but of historic Christianity of the broadest sort.

Of one thing Finney was absolutely correct: The Gospel held by the Reformers whom he attacked directly, and indeed held by the whole company of evangelicals, is "another gospel" in distinction from the one proclaimed by Charles Finney. The question of our moment is, With which gospel will we side?

(Reprinted by permission from Modern Reformation.)

Unless otherwise specified, all quotes are from Charles G. Finney, Finney’s Systematic Theology (Bethany, 1976).

Dr. Michael S. Horton is Member of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals and cohost of the popular White Horse Inn radio program.

Tapes on: Theology of Glory Versus Theology of the Cross/ Reformation Theology vs. Evangelicalism


www.issuesetc.org

Management Techniques Incorporated has provided this article archive expressly for Issues, Etc. The articles in this archive have been formatted converted for internet use, by Management Techniques, Inc.
Contact MTI webmaster

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Pelagianism

Sadly, this low view of God's sovereignty and a low view of God's foreknowlege that is creeping its way into the church. Charles Finney was a big proponent of this heresy, even in the face of the numerous church councils that have regarded this as a Non-Christian view or a Non-Biblical view. Even the Roman Catholic Church did not accept the view of Pelagianism. But, this doctrine makes us feel better about evangelism and our coming to faith. If we can get them to like us maybe they'll like our Jesus. We give people what they want to hear, and not what they need to hear. I wonder if this is where pragmatism sneaks in. Whatever "works" and gets the quick results that we are wanting to achieve.
Grace and Peace



Pelagianism


Pelagianism derives its name from Pelagius who lived in the 5th century A.D. and was a teacher in Rome, though he was British by birth. It is a heresy dealing with the nature of man. Pelagius, whose family name was Morgan, taught that people had the ability to fulfill the commands of God by exercising the freedom of human will apart from the grace of God. In other words, a person's free will is totally capable of choosing God and/or to do good or bad without the aid of Divine intervention. Pelagianism teaches that man's nature is basically good. Thus it denies original sin, the doctrine that we have inherited a sinful nature from Adam. He said that Adam only hurt himself when he fell and all of his descendents were not affected by Adam's sin. Pelagius taught that a person is born with the same purity and moral abilities as Adam was when he was first made by God. He taught that people can choose God by the exercise of their free will and rational thought. God's grace, then, is merely an aid to help individuals come to Him.
Pelagianism fails to understand man's nature and weakness. We are by nature sinners (Eph. 2:3; Psalm 51:5). We all have sinned because sin entered the world through Adam: "Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned" (Rom. 5:12, NIV). Furthermore, Romans 3:10-12 says, “There is none righteous, not even one; 11 There is none who understands, There is none who seeks for God; 12 All have turned aside, together they have become useless; There is none who does good, There is not even one.” Therefore, we are unable to do God's will (Rom. 6:16; 7:14). We were affected by the fall of Adam, contrary to what Pelagius taught.
See also Semi-Pelagianism.

Condemned as a heresy

Pelagius has been condemned by many councils throughout church history including the following:

  • Councils of Carthage (412, 416 and 418)

  • Council of Ephesus (431)

  • The Council of Orange (529)

  • Council of Trent (1546) Roman Catholic

  • 2nd Helvetic (1561/66) 8-9. (Swiss-German Reformed)

  • Augsburg Confession (1530) Art. 9, 18 (Lutheran)

  • Gallican Confession (1559) Art. 10 (French Reformed)

  • Belgic Confession (1561) Art. 15 (Lowlands, French/Dutch/German Reformed)

  • The Anglican Articles (1571), 9. (English)

  • Canons of Dort (1618-9), 3/4.2 (Dutch/German/French Reformed)1.

_______________
1. The list of councils was taken from http://public.csusm.edu/guests/rsclark/Pelagius.htm

Monday, October 09, 2006

"Christianity Confronts Islam (Part 2)"

This topic of Islam goes hand-in-hand with the previous posting and my next posting in relation to Pelagianism and how much of an impact that this view is having on the church and how it relates to the Charles Finney movement.

No single man is more responsible for the distortion of Christian truth in our age than Charles Grandison Finney. His "new measures" created a framework for modern decision theology and Evangelical Revivalism.
This is a copy of the conversation between Mike Horton on the White Horse Inn and Sam Solomon former Muslim and professor of Shari'ah Law. Note the reference to Charles Finney.



October 8, 2006 Commentary:
"Christianity Confronts Islam (Part 2)"

We're talking about Christianity and Islam, and to do that we're continuing our discussion with Sam Solomon, one of the leading experts on Islam. Sam himself was a Muslim scholar. He was trained as a jurist in Islamic jurisprudence, otherwise known as Shari'ah Law, and he was - after conversion - forced to flee his country on pain of execution, he went to London, and has now come to us to be on the White Horse Inn. It is a real pleasure to have him on the program.

Mike: Sam, in Islam, how does a person make it to heaven and avoid hell?

Sam: Well, first of all, Mike, heaven and hell are Christian concepts in Christian/Judeo-Christian understandings. That's just biblical vocabulary. It does not carry in Islam. Islamic understanding...To them, heaven is a very foreign concept. It is a paradise, not "heaven," where they will have pleasure. In paradise, according to the Koran, there are rivers of alcohol, rivers of wine, rivers of milk -

Mike: -- making up for not having it on earth?

Sam: Yes, because on earth you need to be sober. You need to pray five times a day. But in the drink in paradise, may be not intoxicating...there will be rivers of alcohol, rivers of pure water, rivers of milk, rivers of honey, and they will be flowing. Every kind of meat a man can desire, freshly cooked, everything - fruit of every kind, and of course they will have virgins - absolutely beautiful virgins, and they will always remain virgins; they will always remain pure; and they are there to appease the faithful ones. And these are called hol, and they are specially created for the faithful ones. Added to that, the Koran says, perpetually fresh, young boys - not exceeding the age of 14 at maximum, are there for the enjoyment of the faithful ones. Allah apparently understands an alternative lifestyle. So that is as far as how to "make it," of course this is all Koranic. In fact, some people, even Muslims, would find it difficult to bear that. But a very famous author and famous preacher in Egypt - he was a graduate of Alazer, the very best and ancient Islamic seminary in the world - he wrote a book on the issue of homosexuality in particularly the boys in paradise. That book was banned by the Egyptian government. He went to the supreme Islamic court, and at the court all the scholars gathered together to examine this book, and they said everything described in that book, in terms of paradise, and how, and what way they will have their sexual relationships, it is all valid as far as they were concerned. This is the highest Islamic authority; it is indisputable, and that is the final word from them. So, there you go. As far as coming back to your question, how does one make it? Even if you repent - because it isn't covenant theology, because Allah doesn't make any covenant, he isn't going to change you. In fact, it is a Koranic verse, "Allah does not change, will not change the condition of a people until they change it themselves with their own souls." It is a self-effort. It has nothing to do with Allah; Allah doesn't change a man. He will not touch anybody. Allah hates those unbelievers; he's not the God of the Christian faith who will seek the lost.

Mike: So when Charles Finney, the great 19th century evangelist in America, preached his famous sermon, "Sinners Bound to Change their Own Hearts," and roundly challenged Calvinists for teaching that God had to convert people, once again there won't be very much Christian resistance to this side of Islam when we have to confront it, if we follow that cheery view of human nature.

Sam: Indeed, if you deny the work of the Holy Spirit, then you are going to deny that aspect of our faith and you will rely on [Christianity] as a self-help program. You see, that is denying the whole of biblical theology. It may sound that repentance and conversion are a simple issue, well why can't we overlook that and walk together in unity and worship - after all, we are all Christians? No, that is the core of the faith; that is the centrality on which all our faith is based. How? Who converts you? Faith is a gift of God, according to Ephesians. It is a gift of God; it is not of you. We were children of wrath, and therefore depravity of man cannot be ignored. The work of the Holy Spirit cannot be overlooked, must not be ignored, because otherwise there is no difference, then, between Islam and the Christian faith that people claim to have.

For the rest of this interview, tune in to this week's broadcast.

Click here for related information to the October 8 broadcast.

Monday, October 02, 2006

The Islamization of Europe

by Shane Rosenthal

© 2005, Modern Reformation Magazine, "Around the Block, Around the World" (March / April 2005 Issue, Vol. 14.2). All Rights Reserved. Subscription Rate: $29 Per Year. Click here to subscribe or call 1-800-890-7556. For other articles from this issue, head to the table of contents.


Europe is headed for a big conflict over its own identity. In the last few decades, as birthrates across the continent have plummeted, Europeans began to rely more and more on immigrants to supply manpower for various industries. Most of these immigrants have come, are coming, and will continue to come from Islamic countries.

Since World War II, most Europeans have moved away from any concept of national pride, since this was seen to be the great cause of strife in the world. David Pryce-Jones, senior editor of National Review and author of The Closed Circle, recently said in an interview that the European Union “is built on this idea that wickedness comes, not from the human animal, not from Hitler or from utopian ideas that have been perverted, but from nationalism.” But this move away from national and religious identity into the realm of radical pluralism across the European landscape has become the open door for Islam, as Pryce-Jones explains:

Into this land with no identity comes a whole bunch of people who know exactly who they are, what they want, and how to get it. They are a community of believers, and boy do they believe. And they’ve come here to show us what belief really looks like. And what do we oppose them with? Social Security and welfare and benefits, and please love us, we’re really very decent people.

Current estimates, which are not easy to calculate because many immigrants remain unregistered, place the total number of Muslims currently living and working in Europe somewhere between 15 and 20 million. France alone is home to 5 million Muslims, and there are an estimated 3 million in Germany. As TownHall.com columnist Jonah Goldberg puts it, these Muslims who are coming from all over the world, “aren’t buying into the European model of peaceful assimilation, tolerance and another round of kumbaya.”

Islam is now the fastest growing religion in England, which is home to more than 2 million Muslims, 1,500 mosques, and 100 Islamic schools. According to The London Times, on the third anniversary of Sept. 11th, the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams spoke from the pulpit of an Egyptian mosque saying that Christianity shared with Islam the common inheritance as “children of Abraham.” Plans are in the works to have Islam taught in English schools, which is also the case in Denmark where, according to the The Copenhagen Post, legislation recently passed making it compulsory for Danish high school students to read sections from the Koran, though there is no such regulation pertaining to the Bible.


In Holland, according to the Calgary Sun, the most common name for boys is currently “Mohammed,” and there are some reports that this is the case in Belgium as well. The paper also asserted that in Holland, “there are more observant Muslims than either observant Catholics or Protestants (but not yet all Christians combined),” and there are reportedly 30,000 Dutch converts to Islam. On March 11, 2004, 192 people were killed in a train bombing in Madrid, Spain, by members of Al Qaeda, and one of the demands of the terrorists was the removal of an historic statue of Santiago Matamoros at the cathedral in Compostela, because it was seen as offensive to Muslims. Spaniard officials caved in to the terrorists’s demands and removed the statue.


Italy is now home to between 700,000 and one million Muslims. As a result, Islam is the second most dominant religion in that country. The city of Bologna in recent years, according to a London Times article, experienced a controversy over a 600 year old fresco inside the town’s cathedral. Painted by Giovanni da Modena in the fifteenth century, this fresco depicts Dante’s Inferno, and part of this image includes a representation of the prophet Mohammed being tortured in the ninth circle of hell. Islamic extremists have been so offended by this that they have demanded that the fresco be either painted over or destroyed, or else they will blow up the cathedral.

Writing for the London Daily Telegraph, Charles Moore asks an interesting question: “Christians want the whole world to be Christian, so what is the difference?” The difference, he argues, is that Muslims are attempting not merely to convert the world by changing minds, but they are also prepared to take what they want by force, since religion and politics in their worldview are one and the same. “Mohammed did not only preach in Mecca,” Moore observes, “he also ruled in Medina, and he conquered. The Sharia is a code of law to be imposed, in all societies, by the public authorities.” Historian Paul Johnson noted similarly in a National Review article that it is untrue that “Islam” means “peace.” In fact, “Islam means ‘submission,’ a very different matter, and one of the functions of Islam, in its more militant aspect, is to obtain that submission from all, if necessary by force.” Johnson went on to suggest that if the flow of Islamic immigrants into Europe continues at its current pace, then it is conceivable that Catholic countries such as France, Italy, and Spain will be predominantly Muslim within a generation.


Shane Rosenthal is the executive producer of the White Horse Inn weekly radio broadcast.

© Modern Reformation

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you do not make more than 500 physical copies. For web posting, a link to this document on our website is preferred. Any exceptions to the above must be explicitly approved by Modern Reformation.


This article originally appeared in the July / Aug 2006 edition of Modern Reformation and is reprinted with permission. For more information about Modern Reformation, visit www.modernreformation.org or call (800) 890-7556. All rights reserved.

Young, Restless, Reformed -- Calvinism is making a comeback—and shaking up the church.

by Collin Hansen | posted 09/22/2006 09:30 a.m.


Related articles and links

Nothing in her evangelical upbringing prepared Laura Watkins for John Piper.

"I was used to a very conversational preaching style," said Watkins, 21. "And having someone wave his arms and talk really loudly made me a little scared."

Watkins shouldn't be embarrassed. Piper does scare some people. It's probably his unrelenting intensity, demanding discipline, and singular passion—for the glory of God. Those themes resound in Desiring God, Piper's signature book. The pastor for preaching and vision at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis has sold more than 275,000 copies of Desiring God since 1986. Piper has personally taken his message of "Christian hedonism" to audiences around the world, such as the Passion conferences for college-age students. Passion attracted 40,000 students outside Memphis in 2000 and 18,000 to Nashville earlier this year.

Not all of these youth know Piper's theological particulars. But plenty do, and Piper, more than anyone else, has contributed to a resurgence of Reformed theology among young people. You can't miss the trend at some of the leading evangelical seminaries, like Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, which reports a significant Reformed uptick among students over the past 20 years. Or the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, now the largest Southern Baptist seminary and a Reformed hotbed. Piper, 60, has tinged the movement with the God-exalting intensity of Jonathan Edwards, the 18th-century Puritan pastor-theologian. Not since the decades after his death have evangelicals heaped such attention on Edwards.

Reformed theology often goes by the name Calvinism, after the renowned 16th-century Reformation theologian John Calvin. Yet even Edwards rejected the label, saying he neither depended on Calvin nor always agreed with him. Still, it is Calvin's followers who produced the famous acrostic TULIP to describe the "doctrines of grace" that are the hallmarks of traditional Reformed theology: Total depravity, Unconditional election, Limited atonement, Irresistible grace, and Perseverance of the saints. (See "It's All About God.")

Already, this latest surge of Reformed theology has divided Southern Baptist churches and raised questions about the future of missions. Its exuberant young advocates reject generic evangelicalism and tout the benefits of in-depth biblical doctrine. They have once again brought the perennial debate about God's sovereignty and humans' free will to the forefront.

The evidence for the resurgence is partly institutional and partly anecdotal. But it's something that a variety of church leaders observe. While the Emergent "conversation" gets a lot of press for its appeal to the young, the new Reformed movement may be a larger and more pervasive phenomenon. It certainly has a much stronger institutional base. I traveled to some of the movement's leading churches and institutions and talked to theologians, pastors, and parishioners, trying to understand Calvinism's new appeal and how it is changing American churches.

God Starts the Party
A pastors' conference is the wrong place to schedule a private meeting with Joshua Harris. He didn't even speak at the conference I attended, but we still struggled to find a quiet spot to talk at his hotel. Slight and short, Harris doesn't stick out in crowds. But that doesn't stop pastors from recognizing him and introducing themselves. The unassuming 31-year-old took time to chat with each of them, even as our interview stretched late into the night.

Harris was a leader among his generation even before he published I Kissed Dating Goodbye in 1997. But the bestseller introduced him to a wider evangelical audience, earning many fans and at least as many detractors. Now he pastors Covenant Life Church, a congregation of 3,800 in Gaithersburg, Maryland.

Harris grew up as a youth leader in a seeker-sensitive church and later joined a charismatic congregation. Neither place emphasized doctrine. "Even just thinking doctrinally would have been foreign to me," he explained. He knew enough to realize he didn't like Calvinism, though. "I remember some of the first encounters I had with Calvinists," Harris told another group of pastors during Mark Driscoll's Reform and Resurge conference in Seattle in May. "I'm sorry to say that they represented the doctrines of grace with a total lack of grace. They were spiteful, cliquish, and arrogant. I didn't even stick around to understand what they were teaching. I took one look at them and knew I didn't want any part of it."

Harris's response is anything but uncommon in evangelical history. Reformed theology has periodically boomed and busted. Calvinists have always inspired foils, such as Jacob Arminius. The Dutch theologian argued that God frees up human will so people can accept or reject God's offer of salvation. That debate prompted his critics to respond with TULIP. Reformed theology waned during the Second Great Awakening. Most recently, Calvinism has played second fiddle to the charismatic and seeker-sensitive/church-growth movements, all of which downplay many theological distinctives.

For Harris, things started changing when he read Piper describe God's glory and breathtaking sovereignty. Later, C. J. Mahaney, a charismatic Calvinist and founding pastor of Covenant Life, took Harris under his wing and groomed him to take over the church. Mahaney, 51, turned Harris on to his hero, Charles Spurgeon, the great 19th-century Calvinistic Baptist preacher in London. Mahaney assigned him a number of texts, such as Iain H. Murray's Spurgeon vs. Hyper-Calvinism. "I would have been reading Christian comic books if left to myself," Harris told me, flashing the characteristic self-deprecating humor he shares with Mahaney.

The theological depth attracted Harris. "Once you're exposed to [doctrine]," he said, "you see the richness in it for your own soul, and you're ruined for anything else."

He notices the same attraction among his cohorts. "I just think there's such a hunger for the transcendent and for a God who is not just sitting around waiting for us to show up so that the party can get started."

Passion conferences also inspired Harris to trust in a God who takes the initiative. Harris first attended Passion in 1999 and sought the help of conference founder Louie Giglio to plan a similar event, from which blossomed Harris's New Attitude conferences. "Someone like Louie is saying, 'You know what, it's not about us, it's about God's glory, it's about his renown.' Now I don't think most kids realize this, but that's the first step down a pathway of Reformed theology. Because if you say that it's not about you, well then you're on that road of saying it's not about your actions, your choosings, your determination."

Passion's God-exalting focus keeps Piper coming back to speak year after year. He attributes the attraction of Reformed theology to the spirit of Passion—namely, pairing demanding obedience with God's grandeur. "They're not going to embrace your theology unless it makes their hearts sing," Piper said.

More Than a 'Crazy Guy'
During the weekend when I visited Piper's church, the college group was learning TULIP. The student teacher spent about 30 minutes explaining unconditional election. "You may never feel the weight, you will never feel the wonder of grace, until you finally relinquish your claim to have any part of your salvation," he said. "It's got to be unconditional."

Following that talk, I met with a group that included Laura Watkins, a recent graduate of the University of Minnesota. Like Harris, Watkins grew up in an evangelical church that downplayed doctrine. Calvinism certainly wasn't much of a draw for Watkins as she searched for a church in college. "The only exposure I had was high-school textbooks that teach about John Calvin as this crazy guy who burned people," she said.

Yet she stayed for the spiritual maturity and depth she noticed in the church. Now she's as articulate an advocate of Calvinism as I met. She unwittingly paraphrased Spurgeon as she explained her move toward Reformed theology. "When you first become a believer, almost everyone is an Arminian, because you feel like you made a decision," Watkins said.

Watkins didn't stop with election. An enlarged view of God's authority changed the way she viewed evangelism, worship, and relationships. Watkins articulated how complementary roles for men and women go hand in hand with this type of Calvinism. "I believe God is sovereign and has ordered things in a particular way," she explained. Just as "he's chosen those who are going to know him before the foundations of the earth," she said, "I don't want to be rebelling against the way God ordered men and women to relate to one another."

Piper no longer scares Watkins. He's more like a father in the faith, though she says they have never spoken. Privately, Piper contrasts sharply with his authoritative pulpit persona. I dare say he's even a little meek, if relentlessly serious. We mused on Reformed theology in his home in February following one of the last sermons he delivered before undergoing surgery for prostate cancer. He reflected on the rebellion he has unrepentantly fomented.

"One of the most common things I deal with in younger pastors is conflict with their senior pastors," Piper said. "They're a youth pastor, and they've gone to Trinity or read something [R. C.] Sproul or I wrote, and they say, 'We're really out of step. What should we do?'"

He tells them to be totally candid and ask permission to teach according to their newfound convictions, even if they are in Wesleyan-Arminian churches. Of course, he tells the young pastors to pray that their bosses would come to share their vision.

Baptist and Reformed
Starting in 1993, the largest Protestant denomination's flagship seminary quickly lost at least 96 percent of its faculty. SBC inerrantists had tapped 33-year-old Al Mohler to head the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, which until then had remained open to moderate and liberal professors. Mohler addressed the faculty and re-enforced the school's confession of faith, derived from the landmark Reformed document, the Westminster Confession.

"I said, in sum, if this is what you believe, then we want you to stay. If not, then you have come here under false pretenses, and you must go," Mohler, now 45, said. "As they would say, the battle was joined."

Indeed, television cameras and news helicopters made it difficult for Mohler to work for a while. He still isn't welcome in some Louisville churches. That's not surprising, since no more than 4 faculty members—from more than 100—stayed with Southern after Mohler arrived.

Now it's hard to believe that less than 15 years ago, Southern merited a reputation as a liberal seminary. Mohler has attracted a strong faculty and spurred enrollment to more than 4,300 students—which makes it the largest Southern Baptist seminary. But SBC conservatives may have gotten more than they bargained for in Mohler. The tireless public intellectual freely criticizes perceived SBC shortcomings, especially what he considers misguided doctrine. Oh, and Mohler is an unabashed Calvinist. His seminary now attracts and turns out a steady flow of young Reformed pastors.

"This generation of young Christians is more committed, more theologically intense, more theologically curious, more self-aware and self-conscious as believers because they were not raised in an environment of cultural Christianity," Mohler said. "Or if they were, as soon as they arrived on a university campus, they found themselves in a hostile environment." Mohler explained that Calvinism offers young people a countercultural alternative with deep roots.

Mohler's analysis brought to mind one Southern seminarian I met in Louisville. Bradley Cochran grew up attending a mainline church with his family in rural Kentucky. He hated Sunday mornings, and by age 15 he had racked up a police rap sheet and developed a drug problem. But Cochran's troubles softened his heart to the gospel, and he fled his hometown to enroll at Liberty University. While there, he eagerly shared the Good News and earned an award for his evangelistic enthusiasm. A classmate loaned him some Sproul books, where he learned about predestination. He grew to accept this doctrine, but he said other students criticized his Calvinism before he even understood what the term meant. They couldn't understand how he squared God's sovereign choice with evangelism. Those challenges only intensified his study of Reformed theology. He became emboldened to persuade others.

"I felt like Calvinism was more than abstract points of theology," said Cochran, 25. "I felt you would get a much bigger view of God if you accepted these things, an understanding of justice and grace that would so deepen your affections for God, that would make you so much more grateful for his grace."

Cochran bolstered his arguments by boasting that he had never even read Calvin. Indeed, the renowned reformer appears not to be a major figure among the latest generation to claim the theology he made famous. Centuries ago, George Whitefield, the Calvinistic Methodist evangelist of the First Great Awakening, similarly argued: "Alas, I never read anything that Calvin wrote; my doctrines I had from Christ and his apostles; I was taught them of God."

The relationship of theology to evangelism has become a flash point among Southern Baptists. SBC Life, the journal of the SBC's executive committee, published two articles on Calvinism in April. In one, Malcolm Yarnell, associate professor of systematic theology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, argued that Southern Baptists generally reject any notion that God "arbitrarily chooses individuals to be damned before they are born."

"[T]he greatest tragedy is when adherence to TULIP leads to division in churches and prevents them from cooperation in, and urgency for, a passion toward fulfilling the Great Commission," Yarnell wrote. He concluded, "Southern Baptists are first, last, and always followers of Jesus Christ, not John Calvin."

The most provocative comments in the SBC may belong to Steve Lemke, provost of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. In April 2005, he presented a paper on "The Future of Southern Baptists as Evangelicals." Lemke warned, "I believe that [Calvinism] is potentially the most explosive and divisive issue facing us in the near future. It has already been an issue that has split literally dozens of churches, and it holds the potential to split the entire convention."

Lemke noted that Calvinism has periodically waxed and waned among Southern Baptists. "However, the number of Calvinist faculty dramatically increased [starting in the 1980s and] over the next 20 years." Lemke and many others explained to me that Calvinists like Mohler earned leadership roles during the SBC's inerrancy battles due to their reliably conservative theology. Their academic and biblical rigor suited them for seminary positions. Now, Lemke said, their influence has made the "newest generation of Southern Baptist ministers … the most Calvinist we have had in several generations."

Lemke doubts that Calvinism has yet reached its high-water mark in the SBC. But he is no fan of this trend. Baptism and membership figures, he said, show that the Calvinist churches of the SBC's Founders Ministries lack commitment to evangelism. According to Lemke, the problem only makes sense, given their emphasis on God's sovereign election.

"For many people, if they're convinced that God has already elected those who will be elect … I don't see how humanly speaking that can't temper your passion, because you know you're not that crucial to the process," Lemke explained.

Evangelicals who adhere to Reformed theology have long chafed at such charges. They remind their critics that Whitefield, one of history's most effective evangelists, believed God elects his church. In addition, Edwards defended the First Great Awakening's revivals with Religious Affections. More recently, J. I. Packer's Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God (1961) showed persuasively that there is no contradiction between those two ideas.

"I think the criticism of Reformed theology is being silenced by the mission and justice and evangelism and worship and counseling—the whole range of pastoral life," Piper said. "We're not the kind who are off in a Grand Rapids ghetto crossing our t's and dotting our i's and telling the world to get their act together. We're in the New Orleans slums with groups like Desire Street Ministries, raising up black elders through Reformed theology from 9-year-old boys who had no chance."

Deep into Doctrine
Calvinistic Baptists often told me they have less of a problem with churches that don't teach election than with churches that downplay doctrine in general. An SBC Life piece published in April by Daniel Akin, a former Southern professor and current president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina, presented this perspective. "Let us be known for being rigorously biblical, searching the Scriptures to determine what God really says on [God's sovereignty] and other key doctrinal issues," Akin wrote. "For the most part, we are not doing this, and our theological shallowness is an indictment of our current state and an embarrassment to our history!"

The young people I talked to want churches to risk disagreement so they can benefit from the deeper challenges of doctrine. Joshua Harris said years after he graduated from high school, he bumped into his old youth pastor in the grocery store. The pastor seemed apologetic as they reminisced about the youth group's party atmosphere, focused more on music and skits than Bible teaching, Harris said. But the youth pastor told Harris his students now read through Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology.

"I think there's an expectation that teens can't handle that, or they'll be repulsed by that," Harris told me. "[My youth pastor] is saying the exact opposite. That's a dramatic change in philosophy in youth ministry."

Pastor Kent Hughes senses the same draw for students who cross the street from Wheaton College to attend College Church. "If there's an appeal to students, it's that we're not playing around," Hughes said. "We're not entertaining them. This is life and death. My sense is that's what they're interested in, even from an old man."

Perhaps an attraction to serious doctrine brought about 3,000 ministry leaders to Louisville in April for a Together for the Gospel conference. The conference's sponsors included Mohler and Mahaney, and Piper also spoke. Most of the audience were in their 20s and 30s. Each of the seven speakers holds to the five points of TULIP. Yet none of them spoke of Calvinism unless I asked about it. They did express worry about perceived evangelical accommodation to postmodernism and criticized churches for applying business models to ministry. They mostly joked about their many differences on such historically difficult issues as baptism, church government, eschatology, and the gifts of the Holy Spirit. They drew unity as Calvinist evangelicals from their concerns: with seeker churches, church-growth marketing, and manipulative revival techniques.

Roger Olson, professor of theology at Truett Seminary, Baylor University, said more than just Calvinists worry about these problems. "A lot of us evangelical Arminians agree with them in their criticisms of popular folk religion," Olson said. "I agree with their basic theological underpinnings—that doctrine is important, that grace is the decisive factor in salvation, not a decision we make."

If Olson is right, co-belligerency on these concerns could forestall further conflict, at least on the Calvinist-Arminian debate.

A Passion for Puritans
Mark Dever hasn't sold books to the degree Piper has. And he doesn't head a flagship institution like his longtime friend Mohler. He doesn't even pastor a megachurch. But oh, how strategic his church is. Hop off Washington, D.C.'s Metro on the Capitol South stop. Head north past the Library of Congress and the Capitol. Turn right and bear east before you reach the Supreme Court. A couple blocks later you'll see Capitol Hill Baptist Church, which Dever has led for 12 years, beginning when he was 33.

Yet location isn't what makes Dever's church so strategic. Maybe it's all the political maneuvering in the air, but Dever networks effectively. He conceived Together for the Gospel and otherwise works to connect conservative evangelicals who worry about the same things. Dever's church also trains six interns at a time, imprinting his beliefs about how a local church should run through a related ministry, 9 Marks.

I visited Capitol Hill Baptist in January. The church kicked off with Sunday school, which really should have been called Sunday seminary. Class options included a survey of the New Testament, spiritual disciplines, and a systematic theology lesson on theories of the Atonement.

Such rigor can be expected from a church led by Dever, who earned a Ph.D. from Cambridge studying the Puritans. He embodies the pastoral theologians who are leading young people toward Reformed theology. He has cultivated a church community in the Puritan mold—unquestionably demanding and disciplined. And the church attracts a very young crowd. Its 525 members average 29 years old. Dever mockingly rejected my suggestion that they aim to attract an under-30 crowd. "Yes, that's why we sing those hymns and have a [55-minute] sermon." Dever smiled. "We're seriously calibrated for the 18th century."

Dever and others have turned a young generation onto some old teachers. He organizes his study around a canon of renowned church leaders that includes Augustine, Luther, Calvin, John Owen, John Bunyan, B. B. Warfield, Martin Lloyd-Jones, and Carl Henry. It's mostly Puritans who have fueled this latest resurgence of Calvinism. Leaders like R. C. Sproul and J. I. Packer have for decades told evangelicals they have something to learn from this post-Reformation movement. During the late 1950s, Banner of Truth starting reprinting classic Reformed works, including many from Puritans.

Among the Puritans, Edwards is most popular. Trinity Evangelical Divinity School professor and Edwards scholar Douglas Sweeney said his seminary includes many more Calvinists than 20 years ago. Not unrelated, he said among evangelicals "there is more interest in Edwards today than there has been since the first half of the 19th century."

Garth Rosell, church history professor at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, has noticed his students' increased interest in Puritan studies, especially Edwards. He suspects young evangelicals gravitate toward the Puritans looking for deeper historic roots and models for high-commitment Christianity.

That's at least what Jordan Thomas, a 28-year-old church planter, told me about the Puritans. "I don't read them to find out what these guys say about Calvinism," Thomas told me in Piper's church. "It's their big-hearted love for Christ. They say things about their devotion to him that I'm just like, I wonder if I know the same Jesus these guys love."

Scripture Trumps Systems
Evangelicals have long disagreed on election and free will. The debate may never be settled, given the apparent tension between biblical statements and the limits of our interpretive skills. In addition, some will always see more benefit in doctrinal depth than others.

Those fearing a new pitched battle can rest easy. That's not because the debate will go away—for the foreseeable future, the spread of Calvinism will force many evangelicals to pick sides. And it's not because mission will trump doctrine—young people seem to reject this dichotomy.

It's because the young Calvinists value theological systems far less than God and his Word. Whatever the cultural factors, many Calvinist converts respond to hallmark passages like Romans 9 and Ephesians 1. "I really don't like to raise any banner of Calvinism or Reformed theology," said Eric Lonergan, a 23-year-old University of Minnesota graduate. "Those are just terms. I just like to look at the Word and let it speak for itself."

That's the essence of what Joshua Harris calls "humble orthodoxy." He reluctantly debates doctrine, but he passionately studies Scripture and seeks to apply all its truth.

"If you really understand Reformed theology, we should all just sit around shaking our heads going, 'It's unbelievable. Why would God choose any of us?'" Harris said. "You are so amazed by grace, you're not picking a fight with anyone, you're just crying tears of amazement that should lead to a heart for lost people, that God does indeed save, when he doesn't have to save anybody."

Collin Hansen is an associate editor of CT.

Copyright © 2006 Christianity Today. Click for reprint information.
September 2006, Vol. 50, No. 9, Page 32