According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for
this world to recreate, reclaim, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of
explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. - anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. - anon
... Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument.
There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is
irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a
power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table
to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace,
reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants
us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. - anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul

Monday, July 14, 2014

Diagramming "The Young, Restless, and Reformed"


On Naming the Calvinists, or whatever…
http://relevancy22.blogspot.com/2014/07/rethinking-hell-evangelical_14.html

Scot McKnight
Jul 14, 2014

Timothy Paul Jones has a very useful, informed article on his blog on naming the new Calvinism, and his graph of the elements at work is worth considering:

"How then should we refer to the recent resurgence of interest in Reformed soteriology?

"Before providing a tentative answer to this question, it may be worth pointing out that no one within this growing movement appears to be clamoring for a newer or narrower name. What I’ve witnessed among the so-called “young, restless, Reformed” is widespread contentment with historical designations and denominations. The discontent with existing epithets seems to spring from those that are critical of the Reformed resurgence, not from those within the movement.

"That said, it seems to me that the most accurate descriptor would be “Dortianism” or, if some prefix must be affixed to denote the distinct contours of the current movement, “neo-Dortianism” (see chart below for this taxonomy).

"Unfortunately, I don’t expect “Dortianism” to blossom into anyone’s preferred terminology anytime soon.* The events at [the Synod of] Dort are too obscure and the term itself sounds too distasteful to end up emblazoned on anyone’s book cover. (Do you really think that the "Young, Restless, Dortian" would have attracted anywhere near the number of readers that the Young, Restless, Reformed did?)

And so, of the options that are intelligible, beyond a handful of theologians and church historians, “neo-Reformed”—though not without its difficulties—probably remains the least problematic nomenclature in an ever-multiplying pool of possibilities.

And perhaps part of what the less-than-ideal “neo-” prefix could connote is the spread of Reformed soteriology not only within but also beyond the historic Presbyterian and Reformed churches."


Naming the New Calvinism, by Timothy Paul Jones




Rethinking Hell: Evangelical Conditionalism (Annihilationism), Part 3


John W. Wenham

God’s Goodness and Endless Punishment
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2014/07/14/gods-goodness-and-endless-punishment/

by Scot McKnight
Jul 14, 2014

Way back in the 1930s John W. Wenham, eventual author of one of the most influential Greek grammar texts and of a book called The Goodness of God (also called The Enigma of Evil), was a student of an eccentric English academic named Basil F.C. Atkinson, who it was known believed in conditional immortality (annihilationism). Wenham took the case on as a personal project and over the years became a firm advocate for the position. His evangelical credentials and personal piety are impeccable, which seem to matter to many in this discussion, but it is his biblical exegesis that matters even more. His case is sketched in Rethinking Hell (pp. 74-94).

Wenham makes clear that most critics of conditional immortality fail to address the fundamental issues raised by conditionalists. At times, sad to say, they badly misrepresent conditionalists and he points especially at none other than J.I. Packer, though he has his eye on W.G.T. Shedd, Paul Helm, and John Gerstner. Helm, he contends, spends his time critiquing points conditionalists don’t believe. On Gerstner he says this:

"Gerstner pitches into Hughes, Stott, and Fudge for their revolt against hell. It [Gerstner's study] is a wonderful example of circular argument. He assumes that the Bible teaches what he believes about hell and then proceeds to show that they believe otherwise. He just does not seriously address their arguments. Not sharing his beliefs about hell is equated with a rejection of hell itself, which it is absurd to attribute to such as Stott, Hughes, and Fudge." (78-79)

Packer, he says, shows no signs of having read any of Fudge’s most important study and provides “instead answers to arguments they do not use” (79). These are strong words by a very kind man. Packer calls conditionalists’ studies “avalanche-dodging” (79). Wenham proceeds then to a patient examination of the NT texts about eternal life and death and punishment (264 such references). His conclusion:

"It is a terrible catalogue, giving most solemn warning, but in all but one of the 264 references there is not a word about unending torment and very many of them in their natural sense clearly refer to destruction." (82) [The avalanche shrinks, in his view, to one passage. The disinterested observer must wonder how to one person something can be an avalanche but to another one verse in a book full of metaphor and symbol.]

---

Wenham knocks down, in typical fashion, the fascination and assumption and baseless argument that the Bible teaches the immortality of the soul. The word “eternal” can mean either qualitatively eternal (pertaining to the Age to Come) or temporally eternal (everlasting). Context determines what one sees.

He knows Revelation 14:11 is the most difficult text of all, though I would contend that — in spite of their symbolic language — Revelation 19:3 or Revelation 20:10 must be given the same consideration. Wenham admits that “on the face of it, having no rest day or not with smoke of torment going up forever and ever, sounds like everlasting torment” (86). But he says this, too: “I am nonetheless chary about basing fundamental doctrine upon its symbolism” (86).

[I agree with Wenham that the debate narrows, ultimately, to the three texts in Revelation. What I find missing in so many of these arguments is a proof of the letter "C" in ECT -- eternal conscious torment. One must prove consciousness for it to be ECT. In other words, it is more than proving "eternal" or "everlasting." The word "eternal" can mean eternal consequences as well as eternal consciousness, the former fitting quite easily into the conditionalist scheme of thinking.]

Packer is flat-out wrong on the turn to this view only in the 20th Century; Wenham shows how deep the discussion was about this in the 19th Century among evangelicals in England and the USA. One after another he goes after Packer’s logic: that this view misses out on the awesome dignity that we have been made to exist forever, that it diminishes the punishment of the wicked, that it misses out on the glory of divine justice (he finds the God of this one “sadistic”) and Wenham thinks endless punishment is neither “loving or just” (90)… that conditionalists (a la Packer) back into their view in horror of the punishment instead of Scripture is a false accusation for many, including Wenham who came to the view honestly on the basis of exegesis (and so did/do many others).

“From the days of Tertullian [ECT] has frequently been the emphasis of fanatics. It is a doctrine that makes the Inquisition look reasonable. It all seems a flight from reality and common sense.” (92)



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Transparent Moments of Scholarship when a Theologian Must Either Stay or Change, Part 9 - Michael L. Ruffin


Michael L. Ruffin

“aha” moments: biblical scholars (and pastors) tell their stories (8): Michael Ruffin
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/peterenns/2014/07/aha-moments-biblical-scholars-and-pastors-tell-their-stories-8-michael-ruffin/

by Peter Enns
July 14, 2014

Michael L. Ruffin (MDiv and PhD, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is pastor of First Baptist Church of Fitzgerald, Georgia and former professor in the School of Religion at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee. He is the author of Prayer 365, Living on the Edge: Preaching Advent in Year C, and Living Between The Advents.

This is the first post in this series by someone whose career has been primarily as a pastor (hence the slight title change).

---

I was raised in the small town of Barnesville, Georgia, where I was born in 1958. My parents were high school-educated textile mill workers who loved the Lord, who loved their only child, and who loved their church. As a result, my presence at the church was perpetual.

The church was the Midway Baptist Church, a nominally Southern Baptist Church with Independent (fundamentalist, pre-millennial, and all that) Baptist leanings that was located several miles from town on City Pond Road (although throughout my childhood I thought it was on County Maintained Road since the only sign on it said “County Maintained”).

In ninety-five percent of the families at Midway, at least one - and often both - adults worked in a mill; I can remember just a small handful of people who had any education beyond high school.

Our pastor, the now late and much missed but then beloved Rev. Herman J. “Bill” Coleman, was an energetically evangelistic preacher and caring pastor who had no college or seminary training; I don’t think he finished high school.

Preacher Bill, as everyone called him, would have been shocked and dismayed had he ever been exposed to any sort of critical approach to the Bible. Once I saw an ad in one of my comic books for a book containing “Lost Books of the Bible”; I asked Preacher Bill what he thought about that and he said, “That’s the imagination of some man’s mind!” I imagine that’s what he would have said had someone tried to describe the Documentary Hypothesis to him.

When I was fourteen I announced to my church family that I had been called to preach; a couple of years later I found myself in Macon at Mercer University, then the flagship university of Georgia Baptists (but now free of denominational entanglement).

During my first semester in the fall of 1975 I enrolled in “Introduction to the Old Testament” which was taught by Dr. Howard P. Giddens, then a sixty-something year old professor who some ten years earlier had come back to his alma mater to teach after many years of service as a pastor. The textbooks for the course were the Oxford Annotated Edition of the Revised Standard Version of the Bible and James King West’s Introduction to the Old Testament.

Within the first couple of weeks we had covered many significant introductory matters, including the Documentary Hypothesis. My head was set to spinning.

On a trip home I decided to broach with my father (who was our Baptist church's deacon, and long-time men’s Sunday School class teacher) the subject of the liberalism to which I was being subjected. I figured (and probably hoped) that he would tell me to go pack my bags, come back home, and enroll in some safe state school.

The conversation went like this:

Me: “Do you know what Dr. Giddens and my textbook say about the Pentateuch?”

Dad: “About the what?”

Me: “The Pentateuch. The Torah. The first five books of the Old Testament.”

Dad: “Oh. No, what do they say?”

Me: “That Moses didn’t write everything in those books.”

Dad: “Really?”

Me: “Yes, really.”

Dad: “Huh. Well, I always wondered how Moses managed to write about his own death.”

And that is how it took a college professor with a Th.D., an introductory Hebrew Bible textbook, and my high school-educated textile mill-working father to open my eyes to all the biblical wonders to which they are still being opened …



Index to Series -

Transparent Moments of Scholarship when a Theologian Must Either Stay or Change

Common Questions and Misunderstandings about Classical Arminianism, Part 5




Arminianism FAQ 5 (Everything You Always Wanted to Know…)

by Roger Olson
July 14, 2014

This is the final installment of this series. I realize that I will not have answered every conceivable questions about Arminianism. “FAQ” means “frequently asked questions,” but not even every frequently asked question about Arminianism can be answered in one series such as this. Readers should realize that these are my answers, not necessarily the answers every Arminian would give. However, I have been researching, speaking and writing about Arminianism for well over twenty years now. I beg my fellow Arminians’ indulgence. If you disagree with something I say about Arminianism here, please don’t over react and go on a rant. Just state your own opinion and give your reasons for it. I am sure there will never come a day, short of the eschaton, when all Arminians cross every “t” and dot every “i” of Arminian theology exactly alike.

FAQ: Where is “prevenient grace” taught in Scripture?

Answer (A): Of course there are individual passages that point to it, but the term itself is not there. It is a theological concept constructed (like “Trinity”) to express a theme found throughout Scripture and to explain what would otherwise remain seemingly contradictory.

John 12:32 is perhaps the clearest Scriptural expression of prevenient grace which is the resistible grace that convicts, calls, illumines and enables sinners so that they are able to repent and believe in Christ and be saved. There Jesus says that if he be lifted up he will draw all people to himself. The Greek translated “all” is pantas and clearly refers to all inclusively, not to “some” (e.g., “the elect”). The Greek word translated “draw” is much debated. Calvinists usually argue that it should best be translated “compel.” However, if that were its meaning here, the result would seem to be universalism.

However, belief in prevenient grace does not depend on proof texts. The concept is everywhere taught implicitly in Scripture. It is the only explanation for the following clearly Scriptural chain of ideas:

1) No one seeks after God (total depravity),
2) The initiative in salvation is God’s,
3) All the ability to exercise a good will toward God is from God,
4) salvation is God’s gift, not human accomplishment, and
5) people are able to resist God’s offer of salvation.

All of that is summed up in the phrase “prevenient grace.”

Arminians disagree among ourselves about the details such as who is affected by prevenient grace and under what specific conditions. All agree that the cross of Jesus Christ mysteriously accomplished something with regard to prevenient grace, but there is some disagreement about the necessity of evangelism (communication of the gospel) for the fullness of prevenient grace to have its impact upon sinners.

FAQ: Doesn’t classical Arminianism really say the same thing as Calvinism when it comes to the sovereignty of God?After all, if God foreknew everything that would happen and created this world anyway, wasn’t he foreordaining everything simply by virtue of creating?

A: This is a very good question but one based on a misunderstanding of divine foreknowledge.

Classical Arminianism does not imagine that God “previewed” all possible worlds and then chose to create this one. God chose to create a world and include in it creatures created in his own image and likeness with free will to either love and obey him or not.

God’s knowledge of what happens in this world “corresponds” (is the best word) to what happens; it does not cause it or even render it certain.

Admittedly we cannot fully explain God’s foreknowledge without slipping into determinism. But the mysteries of free will (power of contrary choice) and divine non-determining foreknowledge are mysteries much more easily accepted than any form of [Calvinistic] divine determinism which, given the shape of this world, would inevitably cast shadows on God’s character.

FAQ: Can an Arminian explain the few crucial ideas that distinguish Arminianism from Calvinism for non-scholars?

A: Yes. There are three of them.

First, God is absolutely, unconditionally good in a way that we can understand as good. (In other words, God’s goodness does not violate our basic divinely-given intuitions about goodness.)

Second, God’s consequent will is not God’s antecedent will except that God antecedently (pertaining to the Fall) decides to permit human rebellion and its consequences. All specific sins and evils are permitted by God according to his consequent will and are not designed or ordained or rendered certain according to God’s antecedent will.

Third, salvation of individuals is not determined by God but is provided for (atonement and prevenient grace) and accomplished by God (regeneration and justification by grace through faith).



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