October 31, 2011

Today is Reformation Day.  The 494th anniversary of the day that Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses, or arguments against the catholic church, to the church door in Wittenburg, Germany.  October 31, 1517 was a day that was pivotal in the history of Christianity. 

I have written on the subject of Reformation Day in prior years, and if you are interested in those articles, you can find them by searching for the words “reformation day” in the search utility at the right side of this page.

C. Michael Patton from Credo House Ministries has written an excellent article underscoring the importance of the Reformation, by drawing some comparisons between Protestant and Catholic theology.  Click HERE to read about the Reformation in a Nutshell.


Introduction to Homosexuality

October 30, 2011

An hour in length, fairly academic in both its content and presentation, with a message that is nevertheless very helpful in looking at the issue of homosexuality from several different perspectives at least insofar as its causes/origins are concerned, all under the assumption of a Biblical view of human sexuality, the sinfulness of ALL mankind, and the hope of the Gospel.

Dr. Sam Williams, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary


I guess you have to admire their stubborn determination

October 28, 2011

About 15 months ago, I noticed an article in the United Methodist Reporter that was trying to diagnose the reason why young people are leaving the United Methodist Church, in favor of (according to the article) churches that adhere to a Reformed theology.  The solution, according to the author of that article was for the UMC to “include more Wesleyanism” in their youth education curriculum.  The irony, which should be obvious, is that young people are rejecting Wesleyanism in favor of the Doctrines of Grace, so the solution hardly seems to be teaching more of that which has already been rejected?  (As if young people respond well to that kind of tactic.)  Still, I conceded at that time that you can hardly expect the UMC to have any other option available other than to “teach more Wesleyanism.”  Still, I suggested that there are some non-soteriological doctrinal and discipline matters that the UMC could undertake to at least try to stem the tide of youth abandonment of their church.  You can read my thoughts as well as that original UMR article by clicking HERE.

That aside, the writers at the United Methodist Reporter are at it again.  This time one of their columnists is suggesting that Arminianism is essential for Methodist recovery.   Once again, I “get” that they really cannot advocate another theology without gutting their entire church history.  So I am neither surprised nor unsettled by that appeal.  And on a certain level, I do sympathize with what the author is trying to get at.  For example, he makes that appeal, in the context of the degree to which  theology in general has taken a back seat to other concerns of the UMC, such as “social justice” which in itself is a loaded term.  In that sense, I agree that the essentials of theology have been left behind while in pursuit of what some think are highly noble causes, but which in most cases have very little to do with justification and sanctification.  And equally these tend to label the UMC as a liberal mainline denomination.  A charge that is not without other substantial evidence to support it. 

Where the author gets way out of line is when he seems to make the argument that a clear contrast needs to be made between the UMC and the theology of John Calvin from the late 1500’s.  While most modern-day Reformed churches do in fact practice a theology that is based on many of the teachings of John Calvin, to use his writings and project them in a near absolute sense to the 21 century Reformed church is silly on its face.  In other places in the article, he quite simply mistates the doctrines of Reformed theology, to his own advantage.  This approach lacks the necessary intellectual honesty to be taken seriously.  My hope is that the author knows better, but I fear he may not.  

My fear is in part supported by the fact that he attempts to make three “simple” contrasts between what Methodists should believe (according to him) and what he asserts “Calvinists” (aka the contemporary Reformed church) do believe.  Two of these three are inaccurate, with the opposing view so misrepresented as to be laughable.  The very least that one can do in trying to argue against another person’s point of view is to make a fair and honest representation of those opposing beliefs. Perhaps in the interest of brevity, he was not able to do so.  That is about the kindest option I can think of as ignorance, or maliciousness are alternatives that come to mind, but which would be ungracious on my part to allege.

Out of the three contrasts the author makes, he did get one right.  And it serves, in part, to define the differences between Arminianism and Reformed theology.  And that difference boils down to a person’s view of the sovereignty of God and His absolute decretal power over all that is, and the degree to which creation and more specifically mankind has been corrupted by sin.  To the Arminian, God is something less than completely sovereign in the classic understanding of that expression, given that sinful man is capable of resisting God’s redemptive advances. In other words, God is “all-powerful” with the exception of his power over man with respect to his (man’s) salvation.  The all-powerful God, who otherwise is totally self-sufficient, transcendent, lacking in nothing, is dependent on man to choose to pursue and follow God.  That is quite a thing to consider.  A “needy” God would be one who comes up a bit short of complete perfection, would it not?

Reformed theology, on the other hand, teaches that man is in no way able to resist the regenerating power of an omnipotently sovereign, loving, God.  And furthermore man is not able to make a choice contrary to his thoroughly sinful nature to pursue a path of holiness, without God’s gracious assistance in regeneration.

I tremble at the thought of someone standing before the creator of the universe and insisting that he, the person, was more powerful than God in the sense that for a time, or perhaps forever, was able to resist God’s overtures to him. Or that he, the person, made some sort of ultimately determinative decision about salvation, contrary to his sinful nature, and independent of God’s regenerating and enabling power.  That sin of pride alone would be sufficient to condemn them to Hell.

In the article, the matter of “election” comes up several times.  With respect to this doctrine which is undeniably present in the pages of scripture, I think the dividing line between Arminians and those who are persuaded by Reformed theology is that Arminians are perhaps imposing their own view of “fairness” on God, wondering why He would save some and not others, whereas, the “Calvinist” wonders why God would save any.  And, there seems to be a glaring oversight on the part of the Arminian with respect to the evidence that God has provided of His character in “electing” certain people in favor of others, even to the point of utter destruction of those not chosen, starting with the book of Genesis, and flowing though to the book of Revelation.  My question to the Arminian would be, was God not being fair when he chose Noah, his wife and his three sons and their wives but destroyed everything else in the flood.  Was God not being fair when he imposed the plagues and finally struck down the first-born of Egypt in the process of liberating His CHOSEN people, Israel?  Well, was he?  The pages of scripture are filled with examples of God’s seeming unfairness if the measuring rod is man’s sensibility. And the ultimate unfairness was for Jesus to die for my sins when he committed none of them, and by all rights, what is “fair” would be for me to be punished.  Once again, I tremble at the thought of someone standing before God and shaking a fist, or wagging a finger and saying “it isn’t fair that you saved some and not others!” when this has been God’s testimony of Himself since time began. 

For by grace you have been saved through faith.  And this is not of your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.  Eph 2: 8,9

60 Minutes show on Steve Jobs

October 23, 2011

In case you missed it, here are the three segments to the piece that 60 Minutes did on Steve Jobs.  The final segment of the show discusses the iPad and its usefulness in helping people with Autism.  I am not a regular viewer of 60 Minutes, but this particular program was very well done.  I might even be persuaded to buy the biography of Steve Jobs which will hit the shelves tomorrow.  However, I’ll probably wait and read it on my Kindle (with apologies to the late Mr. Jobs). 

Part 1

Part 2

Apps for Autism

The hottest topic in the G.O.P.

October 11, 2011

One of the most predictable events in the debate among G.O.P. presidential candidates tonight will be some question, framed in some way, targeted at least at Rick Perry and likely others, about Mormonism.  The question probably will not be settled when the debate ends, and likely won’t be until a nominee is selected sometime next year.  And, if Romney is that nominee, the question will likely endure through the general election just about a year and a month from now.

There have been a number of articles written on this matter over the last couple of days, and one can surely bet that there will be many more written as time goes on.  Two of the best that I have seen so far are these.  The first was written by Al Mohler, Southern Seminary President, and the second by Denny Burke, who is a Bible professor from Boyce College which is the undergraduate arm of Southern.  If you only read one, pick Mohler’s.  It is a bit long, but it is outstanding and will help clarify the issue and may be useful to both helping you form your thoughts on the matter and helping others who are struggling with this question of how Christians should think about a Mormon candidate.

UPDATE:  Here is yet another interesting article, this time mostly from a political strategy perspective.  Written by David Murray who is a professor at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, it leans heavily in the direction of media conspiracy theory, but frankly it is so plausible that it almost demands that we give it more than just a second thought.  Well worth the few minutes to read.

The ‘Other’ Steve Jobs

October 10, 2011

Last week I followed suit with countless others who eulogized Steve Jobs with either simple “R.I.P.’s”, or article-length pieces.  Not a week has passed yet since his death.  Yet articles are now appearing that reveal another side to the genius that was heralded last week and seemed kindly and loveable, if not a bit eccentric.  As this article notes, “a great man’s reputation can withstand a full accounting.”  And so it does, portraying a darker, less warm and fuzzy genius in Steve Jobs.

With respect to a part of the article linked to above, I have to say that on one hand, I am leery of censorship in its unbridled form. An authority that has the power to censor one type of material that might be deemed offensive to some, has the power to broaden its scope to include material that IT deems to be offensive.  The linked to article decries what might be thought of as censorship exercised by Apple via its App Store and iTunes.  Yet, limits placed on what can and cannot be installed on an iPhone or iPad via an app, places NO limitation on what can be accessed via these devices internet connectivity.  So that particular complaint in this article falls a bit short of making a credible point.  Furthermore, (at least historically) a company like Disney drew lines on what material it would allow to be presented under its brand.  I am sure there are other examples, so Apple’s policy is hardly lacking precedent.

All this said, along with what the article has to offer, I hope all the more that God did a work or regeneration in Steve Jobs life near its end, as these latest revelations and reflections confirm that he seemed to lack that, in the normal course of his life.

Yeah, me too. A requiem for Steve Jobs

October 6, 2011

I admit it, I am a slow adopter of technology.  It is a genetic predisposition that has proven to have low heritability, as my daughter is pretty consistently on the front end of embracing new gadgets.  And my son, while not nearly as aggressive as his sister, is nevertheless well ahead of me. Perhaps my son has inherited my frugality.  Leigh prefers the term “cheap” when describing this trait in me.

All that said, I have to admit that my engagement with the products of the late Steve Jobs’ brainchild Apple, Inc. is limited to just an old, now antiquated iPod and an iPhone 4.  The former has been rendered not useless, but certainly less-used by virtue of the latter, and now as of this week, the latter is on the road to obsolescence, thanks to the iPhone 4S and the inevitable iPhone 5.

Much has already been written, and I suspect that much more is yet to come about Steve Jobs.  Probably safe to assume that many of those kindly expressions are being made using the very technology that bears his imprint.  And it was from that same technology that many learned for the first time that he had died yesterday.  

Much of what I have read has focused on the genius of Steve Jobs and the amazing innovations that can be traced back to his vision for technology and consumers.  Few have focused on what really ought to concern people of faith, and people of the Christian faith in particular.  Granted, the world has lost a unique genius and we are right to mourn the loss of Jobs’ life, and to some degree the absence of his creativity applied to future products.  But my hope would be that we would grieve the probable loss of this man’s soul, more so than the loss of the gadgets that he might have been a part of delivering in the future.

It is entirely possible within the context of the mysteries of God, that God and God alone worked His sovereign, saving grace into the folds of Jobs’ life in the days, hours, or even moments before his death.  I hope that is the case.  But there was certainly nothing in the visible or audible content of Jobs’ life that would offer any particular confidence that he had earlier realized and embraced a saving faith as described in scripture.  Instead, his apparent faith was much more in conformity with secularism.  Some believe he may have been a Buddhist.

The irony is certainly not lost on me that while Jobs clearly recognized the inevitableness of death, even his own (as witnessed by his often cited commencement address at Stanford University a few years ago), he also must surely have been a part of the decision-making process that settled on the iconic Apple logo.  That logo of an apple with a bite taken out of it is the very symbol of the introduction of sin and death into the world, as described in Genesis chapter 3. 

My hope for Jobs is that in some supernatural, monergistic way, God revealed the rest of His story of redemption to Mr. Jobs, in at least the last few moments before he passed from this life, into the next.