Julian Freeman

Freed to live through the death of another.

Tag: Calvinism (page 1 of 2)

How Do You Feel About Predestination?

Abraham & Isaac

The doctrine of God’s electing individuals to salvation, apart from any good in them (either actual or foreseen) is known as unconditional election (o predestination). It is exemplified in Isaac’s twin sons: ‘…when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, though they 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—she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated”‘ (Romans 9.10-13).

Predestination is a doctrine that is often at the centre of controversy. And too often the controversy could be quelled, if not quenched, by a calm tongue and a gentle answer (Prov 15.1). But too much of the time those who believe the most strongly in predestination are (rightly or wrongly) associated with pride and arrogance and preachiness, rather than humility, gentleness, and love.

But that should never be.

That’s just one of the reasons why I loved reading this in the 1689 London Baptist Confession of faith the other day:

The doctrine of the high mystery of predestination is to be handled with special prudence and care, that men attending the will of God revealed in his Word, and yielding obedience thereunto, may, from the certainty of their effectual vocation, be assured of their eternal election; so shall this doctrine afford matter of praise, reverence, and admiration of God, and of humility, diligence, and abundant consolation to all that sincerely obey the gospel. (1 Thessalonians 1:4, 5; 2 Peter 1:10; Ephesians 1:6; Romans 11:33; Romans 11:5, 6, 20; Luke 10:20)

That’s a big mouthful, but basically it’s saying that this isn’t a doctrine to be wielded like an ax, to wound our enemies, but should be applied carefully, like a balm to give courage to wounded souls, and like a call to worship for those who embrace it and are humbled by God’s grace. For those who know the doctrines of grace and love them, this should be the very thing which calls forth our humility and our worship like nothing else. It should never be a source of pride and it is not a doctrine to be handled flippantly.

So how do you feel about predestination? Does it make you condemn those who don’t understand it? Or does it make you marvel at God’s mercy?

Five Thoughts & a White Flag: Now Time to Listen

Dr John MacArthur

Five quick wrap-up thoughts before I wave the white flag, pull up a chair, and receive the rest of the series from Dr. MacArthur on how the ‘Young, Restless, Reformed’ movement needs to ‘grow up.’

1. After observing the comments I’ve seen that MacArthur was right.

There is a real part of our movement who simply aren’t willing to move past feeling misunderstood to genuinely learn from John MacArthur, an older man. We need to do that. That was the point of my first post. Though it’s hard, we need to listen.

2. After observing the comments I’ve seen that I was more right than I thought.

John MacArthur’s sometimes harsh tone has created a movement of people, some of whom (note: definitely not all), are also characterized by a harsh tone. In their minds MacArthur has earned the right to speak the way he has and they are in agreement with him, so now they get to speak to the rest of us in harsh tones. We can never be too careful about the things we get excited about as leaders, because those will invariably be the things our followers get excited about. Some of the vitriol from the rabid MacArthur supporters has actually served to prove my point, and the arrogance of some of the commenters who say they are with MacArthur actually makes it harder to listen to the man himself.

Nevertheless, we  all—especially me—need to fight the urge to defend ourselves. We need to swallow our pride and listen to MacArthur. I want to actually hear the man, not be distracted by some of the misguided enthusiasm of some of his followers.

3. While the biblical standard is the younger receiving counsel from the older, the Scriptures are replete with examples to the contrary. Only a foolish person closes his ear completely.

I don’t know Dr. MacArthur personally, but in conversation with someone who has worked closely with MacArthur I’ve learned that he actually does receive and process criticism. Praise God! I’m greatly encouraged to hear that! I hope that he continues to hear us as we continue to hear him. We can both, then, let the ‘clean sea breeze’ of the generations clear our minds and refresh our thinking so that all in the body may be served and blessed by each other. My concern in this point, then, isn’t so much for Dr. MacArthur as for many of his followers who might be tempted to think they have nothing to learn from those outside their camp.

4. A final appeal to Dr. MacArthur (but especially to his team): Please, we want to hear you; don’t treat us like the enemy.

Mocking isn’t cool. It doesn’t help. Don’t make this an ‘us’ and ‘them’ thing. We’re on the same team. Don’t tell us ‘listen like men’ as if we’re all immature sissies. Some of us are doing really hard things for Jesus (I’m speaking of others here, not myself). Yeah, we need to be corrected, but we need to be corrected in love. And just speaking truth doesn’t make it loving. Tone, posture, and approach  all matter too.

And by the way, there are more than just men in our movement. I tend to think women are pretty adept at theological conversation as well. Don’t remove them from the equation so quickly.

5. After all is said and done, I’m more eager than ever to try to hear MacArthur.

Being misunderstood by many of the commenters in my previous post has renewed my conviction to be a careful and discerning listener, weighing what is said, and taking into account from whom I’m hearing it (2 Tim 3). Dr. MacArthur is a proven faithful preacher and exegete. I’m not. So I want to listen to him—and listen in such a way as to learn; even if it’s hard.

The ‘New’ Calvinism: Stupid, Salvation, or Save-able?

It is interesting to me that there in the last couple of weeks I have happened across several different takes on what is commonly being called ‘the New Calvinism’. The range in perspectives has been interesting to observe.

In one article, David Fitch suggests that the New Calvinism is perhaps nothing more than a new fundamentalism. It’s a place where people who think alike (and who alike think they alone know truth) can gather to feel safe as they exclude others in their arrogance. If this is true, the New Calvinism is stupid. Fitch doesn’t say that, but if that is what the movement amounts to, then it’s the obvious conclusion.

Another writer, Craig Carter, suggests that the New Calvinism is the best kind of theology, most ‘capable of sustaining a vigorous Evangelicalism’ over the long haul, preventing an evangelical slide back into liberalism. At the January Theology Pub here in Toronto, Dr Carter will lead a discussion with the heading, ‘Why the Young, Restless and Reformed will Save Evangelicalism in the Next Few Decades. From that view, the New Calvinism sounds like salvation (at least for evangelicalism).

Somewhere in the middle of those two positions, I think, lies two particularly helpful cautions. One is the video I recently posted, where John Piper warns the New Calvinists about ‘dangling, unconnected wires’ in their lives which hang between doctrine and practice, between the sovereignty being preached and the sanctification of those preaching (see the video here). Piper reminds the young Calvinists that while their ‘movement’ has the potential to do great things, if their practice doesn’t match their preaching, the whole movement will fall apart.

Just this morning I read a brilliant little article on a similar vein from Tony Reinke, called Young, Restless, Reformed, and Humbled. There we are reminded of the absolute necessity of humility (especially!) in those who claim to be Calvinists of any sort. To believe in the doctrines of grace, but not be humbled by them and your ability to live them is profoundly inconsistent. Reinke writes, ‘First, look at the depth of your theological convictions. Thank God for that–it’s a gift. Second, compare those convictions with the shallow daily decisions that are made totally uninfluenced by them.’

What I appreciate in what both Piper and Reinke are saying is this: The movement in and of itself is nothing; but it may be something, if we let the gospel do its full-orbed work of changing us from the inside out. If we are changed by what we preach and live like what we preach is really true, then maybe this movement is save-able. Maybe God really will use it to do great things for his great name in our day, in our part of this world.

That’s my hope, anyway.

Hey Calvinist, Play Nice!

A friend of mine sent me this article by Abraham Piper the other day. I found it profoundly humbling and helpful. (When is humbling ever not helpful??)

Anyway, I thought I’d pass this along because even though it’s three years old, it’s always relevant.

My wife and I were fighting—the kind where after 30 seconds you forget what you’re fighting about and you just end up being mean. It doesn’t take long in an argument like this to feel hopeless.

I wanted to call someone to come over and mediate. Actually, I didn’t want to, but I knew I needed to do something. Our close friends who live near by and our small group leaders were all out of town, so I called a pastor who lives in the neighborhood and asked him to come over right then. I think he could tell by the tone of my voice and the unusual request that we really did need help immediately. He cancelled his Saturday plans and came over.

Sitting at our kitchen table, he helped us figure each other out. Soon we were getting to the heart of the matter. Molly turned to me and said, “You never treat me like you appreciate me.”

I looked at her. I looked at our pastor. And then I listed three ways that I’d shown appreciation for her that morning. As far as I was concerned, things were taken care of. She thought I didn’t act appreciatively, but I just showed her (definitively, I might add) that I did. …

… Read the rest of the article here!

Abraham Piper: Be a Kinder Calvinist

Who’s In Your Church?

The Kerux has had quite an interesting conversation emerging on his blog lately about the issue of baptism and church membership. These are issues I’ve thought about for some time, but I confess, I have not come to a firm view.

The arguments against having paedobaptists as members are legion, but I think that most (all?) of them fall short. Here’s one of the arguments against it that drives me nuts:

Paedobaptists have aberrant theological views. We should not allow people with aberrant theological views into church membership. Therefore, paedobaptists should not be allowed to be members in baptist churches.

Some even extend this logic to the issue of who we allow to partake of the Lord’s Supper. That just doesn’t make any sense to me! Does that not seem unbiblical to anyone else?

It seems to me that when I examine the New Testament evidence, there is no theological quiz given before the Lord’s Supper. Believers were not required to jump through theological hoops to be considered ‘valid church members.’ Membership in the local church was based on identification with Christ–which, granted, included baptism.

But paedobaptists believe they have been baptised, and if they are believers, have identified themselves with Christ. So why do we exclude them? Because they believe an ‘aberrant theological view.’

But don’t you hold ‘aberrant theological views’ too? I’m certain that I do.

So whether we like it or not, we’re either (a) saying that we hold no aberrant views on any secondary issues, or else (b) what we’ve already done is drawn a line in the sand, saying that there are certain aberrant views we will accept and others that we won’t.

Why draw that line at baptism? What if someone in our church is a dispensational premillenial (gasp)? What if someone is a continuationist rather than a cessationist? What if–God forbid–one of our people should be Arminian? Do we say ‘Get out of our church!’ or, ‘There’s no bread for your types around here!’?

I think not! If someone were to start picking apart my systematics with such a fine-toothed comb, I would think it would not be long before I would be barred from the Table!

Let me pose this question to all who are concerned for the preaching of doctrinal truth from our pulpits: Who do you want in your church?

I want people who love my Lord Jesus and are committed to loving him with heart, soul, mind, and strength. I want paedobaptists in my church because they’ll hear me preach on baptism. I want Arminians in my church because they’ll hear us teach on God’s sovereign saving grace. I want egalitarians in my church because they’ll hear the truth about gender distinctions in the church and in the home. I want charismatics and cessationists in my church because these are secondary issues and we love and serve the same Lord and we all have much to teach each other!

Where else will all of us with ‘aberrant theological views’ go to hear the truth, if not to our local church?

Free Sermons for Download

As promised, the audio recordings from the messages at this year’s SGF Pastors’ Conference is now available for free download from our SermonAudio site.

Click here to view all the messages from this year’s conference.

As previously stated, the main speaker was Dr. Tom Schreiner, author and professor at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He was speaking to us this year on the topic of Perseverance and Assurance. It was good food for my soul!

If you are interested, last year’s messages are also available here. The speaker last year was Dr. Stephen Wellum, also of SBTS, and his topic was Substitutionary Atonement.

Enjoy!

Saving a People as an ‘Aside’

John MacArthur’s comments on all good Calvinists being pre-millennial has got me thinking again. But I definitely don’t agree.

Historic Dispensationalism stated outright that God’s plan to save the Gentiles now–in an age of grace–is an aside from God’s plans to save Israel and establish them as God’s people. Contemporary Dispensationalism, of course, would never use such crass terms, but to put forward the notion that God will return somehow to dealing with one nation again, after giving his gospel–which is the fulfilment of all the revelation given to Israel, and which is given in order to bring about the obedience of the nations–really is to suggest the same thing in perhaps more friendly terms.

I would suggest, however, that a simple reading of Galatians and Paul’s view of redemptive-history given there would suggest otherwise. From Adam to Abraham, God dealt with the nations. From Abraham on God dealt primarily with Abraham’s seed–a particular people group–but this seed was specifically prophesied as the one who will bring God’s blessing to all nations.

A little while later, God continues to deal with Israel alone and gives the Law, which they must obey; this Law is the standard by which they must live and be judged, it is what makes Israel distinct as God’s people. This Law, however, as Paul says, is fulfilled (as are the promises to Abraham) in Christ.

Why in the world, then, would we expect for God to go back to dealing with one nation alone? Wouldn’t that be to reverse of the working out of his plan in salvation-history?

Though I would never put it in these terms (tongue planted firmly in cheek), if we must view the saving of a particular people in salvation-history as an ‘aside’, wouldn’t it be Israel? If God’s original plan with Adam and then subsequently with Abraham (and I think it could be easily shown through Israel as well) is for ‘the whole world’, then why would he go back to dealing specifically with a covenant-people whose covenant has been rendered obsolete?

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