Christian Apologetic
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Theology Corner

Addressing commonly asked questions about Christianity from the perspective of a non-theologian

  
  1. Aren't all religions essentially the same?
  2. Can God's Will be Thwarted?
  3. What is the source of evil? Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?
  4. Is Christianity Compatible with Positive Tolerance?
  5. What is Holiness?
  6. Are Christians Expected "to do" or Just "to be"?
  7. What is Your Theology?
  8. What Gifts Does God Give You at the Instant of Salvation?
  9. Why is the Protestant Church Dying in the United States?
  10. Did God Elect Only a Few for Salvation While Condemning the Greater Part of Mankind to Hell?
  11. Is Satan Alive and Well?
  12. What are the Attributes of God?
  13. What are the Core Beliefs of Christianity?
  14. What is the purpose of prayer?
  

1. Aren't all religions essentially the same?

Twice or more each year, primarily during the Christmas and Easter seasons, mainstream television networks air a variety of documentaries formed around a cadre of academics who explain that all religions and all Gods are essentially the same.  This claim is based on the observation that it is difficult to identify a religion which advocates: (1) stealing from, double-crossing or murdering persons who treat you with kindness; (2) abusing children, elderly, sick or disabled; (3) admiring selfishness; or (4) some other pitiless, ruthless or merciless behavior.  Because no religion advocates these kinds of behaviors, the experts conclude all religions must be essentially the same!  This astounding product of superior 21st century human intellect might have come as a surprise to Elijah and might even have rendered his challenge to the prophets of Baal and Asherah completely unnecessary (1 Kings 18:20-40)!

But can we actually reduce the major religions to a lowest common denominator, perhaps “The universal fatherhood of God and the universal brotherhood of man?”  At their core, are all religions really teaching the same thing even though their outward trappings may differ?  Do all religious roads, though they differ in route, ultimately arrive at the same mountain top? 

The core beliefs of Christianity are listed below.  Unless you can identify another religion which shares these beliefs, the answer to these questions is “no.”

  • The Bible is the inspired, infallible and inerrant word of God.
  • The one true God exists as three distinct, transcendent, immanent, infinite, eternal, and immutable persons: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.
  • Jesus Christ is God the Son.  Jesus Christ is man.  Jesus Christ is one person whose divine and human natures cannot be changed, divided, separated or mixed.  Jesus Christ was resurrected bodily from the dead.  Jesus Christ was born of a virgin.
  • Every person since Adam and Eve, except Jesus Christ, was born with a sin nature and no person, except Jesus Christ, has lived a sinless life.
  • Salvation from the consequences of sin is offered to all persons by the grace of God and the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ.
  • The grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all persons (Titus 2:11): (a) the requirements of the law are written by God on every heart (Rom. 2:15),  (b) Jesus Christ knocks at the door of every heart (Rev. 3:20), (c) the Holy Spirit calls and convicts each person (John 16:8) and (d) God’s eternal power and divine nature are evident in the world around us (Rom 1:20).  Nevertheless, many resist the grace of God.
  • Each person who responds to God’s grace and the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ by confession of sin, remorse, repentance, faith and obedience receives the great gift of salvation.  Each person who resists God’s grace is condemned to everlasting punishment.
  • Faith precedes regeneration; faith is an act of human free will responding to the grace of God.

What about those who have never heard of Jesus Christ and know nothing about the core beliefs of Christianity?  Can such persons respond to the grace of God that brings salvation?  Consider the tax collector in Luke 18:10-14.  This man knew nothing about Jesus or the substitutionary atonement yet to come.  Nevertheless, he demonstrated confession of sin, remorse in his heart, a desire to repent, faith in God and the intention of obedience.  He responded to what God had written on his heart.  The thief on the cross had a similar experience (Luke 23:39-43).  Salvation from the consequences of sin does not require head knowledge.  It requires a contrite, penitent, humble, forgiving and merciful heart willing to confess sin, feel remorse, repent, believe in God and seek obedience.

Although classical logic represents the truth of God and sound reason is the foundation of the Christian faith, the objective is purity of heart.

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2. Can God's Will be Thwarted?

This section of Theology Corner is a systematic, definitive refutation and repudiation of Calvinism based on logic, reason and Scripture, the Achilles tendons of all false teaching.  It is aimed at Bible students who think about what they believe and why they believe it; if needed, basic principles of logic can be found in the “Logical Preliminaries” portion of Christian Handbood of Reason and Insight for Scientists and Technologists.  This section was written because the foundations of the largest Protestant denomination in America are being undermined by aggressive, relentless infiltration of Reformed Theology.  Congregations are asleep in the pews and leaders are kneeling in appeasement as they sacrifice truth at the altar of peace and unity.  Denominational split is the most likely outcome because those who reject the following items cannot comfortably commune with those who embrace them:

  • Given two propositions (event happened) and (God willed event), both are true or both are false for every conceivable event.
  • Regeneration precedes faith because God elected only certain specific persons for salvation.  These persons alone are unconditionally and irresistibly regenerated by the power of the Holy Spirit and subsequently demonstrate repentance, faith and obedience.  The souls of most men, women, children and babies are, upon death, sent to eternal damnation never having had an opportunity for salvation.  God is self glorified as He watches this plan unfold.
  • God is the first-cause of all evil.  All tragedy, suffering, disease, decay, iniquity, corruption, immorality, wickedness and depravity covering the manifold of sin in heaven and earth were decreed by God before anything existed except the Trinity.
  • In eternity past, God unchangeably ordained everything; therefore, your prayers can change the outcome of nothing.
God does not usually prevent the disintegration of a local church or even a worldwide denomination.  But he may respond to sleeping believers who awaken and purge false teaching from their midst.

If the essence of Calvinism is encapsulated in a glass polyhedron, its appearance will differ depending on which face is used as a viewing lens.  In what follows, Calvinism is viewed through the twelve lenses of Logic, Character of God, Life, Corruption of Creation, TULIP, Free Will and Salvation, Prayer and Predestination, Evangelism, Blasphemy, John Calvin, Corruption of the Southern Baptist Convention and Calvinist Playbook.  The breadth and depth of this cumulative refutation and repudiation demolish the familiar claim that Calvinism takes a high view of sound reason, Scripture and the sovereignty of God. 

LOGIC

Can God's will be thwarted?  Two diametrically opposed answers are given to this question.  Those who believe in accordance with Augustine and Calvin say no.  Those who believe in accordance with Arminius and Wesley say yes.  The bifurcation begins with the definition of God’s “will.”  For the Arminian, “will” means “want, desire or wish” whether used as a noun or verb.  For the Calvinist, “will” means “decree or command.”  If the God of Calvinism wills a certain event to happen, then it is ordained by His own decree and His desires always come to fruition.

The Calvinist subsequently argues that the conditional statement “if B then A” where A = (event happened) and B = (God willed event) can never be false because God’s command can never be overruled.  The Arminian claims this statement is false whenever B is true and A is false; this happens when God’s desire is thwarted by rebellion and corruption (Ex 17:7 cf Heb 3:7-9; Eph 4:30).  Consider, for example, A = (all men are saved) and B = (God willed all men be saved).  The Arminian believes B is true and A is false; God desired all men be saved but many do not accept the gift of salvation.  The Calvinist believes B must be false because A is false; God did not command all men be saved otherwise they would have been.  But the truth of (God willed all men be saved) is a central motif of Scripture that reflects the very character of God.  When a logical inference (B is false) contradicts an explicit, unambiguous, pervasive teaching of Scripture (B is true), we must question the premise from which the inference is made.  
This premise is the substitution of the word “command” for the word “will.” Perhaps this premise suggests more about the character of the Calvinist than the character of God.

The Calvinist takes a second bold step, justified nowhere in Scripture even using his own "puppet master" redefinition of God’s “will.”  The Calvinist insists the converse statement “if A then B” where A = (event happened) and B = (God willed event) can also never be false and therefore God did will all happenings.  This means all space, time, matter and energy are under the complete autocratic control of God.  The heart, intellect, desires and actions of each human and angel were decreed by God before anything existed except the Trinity.  The Arminian claims this statement is false whenever A is true and B is false implying God did not will all happenings.  Consider, for example, A = (babies were aborted in America) and B = (God willed babies be aborted in America).  The Arminian believes A is true and B is false.  The Calvinist believes B must be true because A is true.

The two conditional statements can be combined as “if A then B and if B then A” to yield the single biconditional expression, “A if and only if B” where A = (event happened) and B = (God willed event).  Calvinists have erected a towering theological structure on the creaking foundation of this single statement by insisting it can never be false.  In general, a biconditional statement is false when either A is true and B is false or B is true and A is false.  But the Calvinist views this particular biconditional expression as a tautology (always true) by insisting A and B must both be true or both be false for every conceivable event.  This premise defines A and B as having exactly the same meaning.  To think otherwise would be to question the sovereignty of God.  The Arminian, however, believes God continually permits this biconditional expression to be true or false without compromising His true sovereignty.  This means events happened which God did not will and events failed to happen which God did will.  One example of either sends Calvinism to the dust bin.

CHARACTER OF GOD

The Calvinist argues that not one speck of space, time, matter or energy can be outside the continual control of God or we have no guarantee that a single promise of God will be fulfilled.  It is beyond the wisdom and power of God to create something that He does not meticulously control.  The Arminian responds it is difficult to conceive of a less majestic God than One who is self limited to a deterministic mode of relating to His creation.  It is hard to conceive of a weaker God than one who would be threatened by events occurring outside of His exhaustive control.  What is praiseworthy about controlling events simply because you possess the innate power to do so?  In fact, the denial that God can limit Himself if He so chooses constitutes a denial of divine sovereignty.  For these reasons, the Arminian rejects: (a) the universal substitution of the word “decree or command” for the word “will” as applied to God and (b) the universal truth of “A if and only if B” where A = (event happened) and B = (God willed event).  

However, God does insert Himself into His creation whenever He so chooses.  Consequently, the Arminian does believe this biconditional expression is, in fact, always true for certain specific individual events and, for these events, “will” does mean “decree or command.”  Such events would be impossible without the specific command of God; examples include: (1) a universe that supports intelligent life, (2) the substitutionary atonement, (3) the bodily resurrection, (4) the prevenient grace of God and (5) miraculous healing.  But the intellect, will and heart of God are not so small that all His desires must become decrees and this biconditional must become true for every conceivable event.

Since Christians believe they are created in the image of God, could worshiping a God who gets His way by divine decree inspire the Calvinist to do likewise?  For most of us, it is moral and ethical character and not skilled intimidation that elicits praise.  What is truly praiseworthy about God’s sovereignty is not that He exercises a power He obviously has, but that, because of His character, He does not exercise all the power He could.  Perhaps the greatest testimony to God’s sovereignty is that God created beings who possess the power to say no to Him.

LIFE

Does life resemble a scripted full length movie in which you are merely an actor reciting your lines and doing precisely those things specified by the film writer/director?  Or is life more like an interactive video game in which the game designer allows you, as actor/player, to make free will decisions which change the outcome?  Consider that video game designers know the consequences of all possible choices but don’t really care what choices you make; it’s just a game.  But what if the creator of the life-game video did care?  What if He encouraged you to make the right decisions and grieved when you did not?  What if He became so concerned as He watched you on a path to destruction that He inserted Himself into the game, absorbing the consequences of your bad choices, nudging you to a different path and trying to help you avoid ultimate disaster?  Which God is more powerful, more praiseworthy, more majestic and more sovereign: (1) the scripted movie writer/director making you say your lines, hit your marks and even die forever, if that is the role of your character, or (2) the “interactive life-game” creator who wants you to win?

The Calvinist believes life is merely a scripted video with you playing the part you were predestined to play.  The Arminian believes life is an interactive video in which God allows you, as both character and player, to make free will decisions that change the outcome.  The Arminian believes your free will choices impact the fate of your soul. But how can God create something He does not meticulously control?  If God chooses to limit Himself by allowing events to occur outside of His exhaustive control, would not all of creation be on the brink of chaos?  Surely we could no longer trust any Biblical promise.  A poster boy for the “Young, Restless and Reformed,” who are the Storm Troopers of the Calvinist revolution, once said, “If there is one single molecule in this universe running around loose, then we have no guarantee that a single promise of God will ever be fulfilled…Maybe that one molecule will be the thing that prevents Christ from returning.”  Fortunately, the God of Arminianism is infinitely more powerful, praiseworthy, majestic and sovereign than the God of Calvinism.   The infinitude of this one true God permits Him to instantly track all possible histories and futures of the universe with no more difficulty than for you to count the wheels on a bicycle.  Comprehending the cumulative consequences, of all contingent first-cause, human free will decisions on subsequent events, is trivial for God.  As the “interactive life-game” designer, God knows all possible paths your life can take from birth to death.  God not only knows all contingencies but He has inserted Himself into the game as your advocate and He wants you to win.

CORRUPTION OF CREATION

 As the issue relates to human free will and salvation, the various arguments for and against Calvinism usually revolve around Total depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace and Perseverance of the saints.  However, the ramifications of this issue extend far beyond the salvation of souls.  For example, did Satan and other spiritual beings rebel against God’s will in the primordial past and do they now abuse their authority over certain aspects of creation?  Does Satan, who holds the power of death (Heb 2:14) and is the prince of this world (John 12:31; 14:30-31; 16:8-11), exercise a pervasive, structural and diabolical influence to the point that the entire creation is in bondage to decay?  Should the pain-ridden, bloodthirsty, sinister and hostile character of nature be attributed to Satan and his army, not to God?  Is God grieved by what has been done to His creation?  Is God permitting, for a time and within limits, certain consequences of rebellion and corruption caused by both fallen angels and the humans who join them?  Or, to somehow glorify Himself, did God simply “will” into being a violent, terrifying and carnivorous “mother nature” dominated by parasitic disease, suffering, decay, corruption and diabolical cruelty?

G. J. Romanes provides a good description of the animal kingdom: “teeth and talons whetted for slaughter, hooks and suckers molded for torment – everywhere a reign of terror, hunger, sickness, with oozing blood and quivering limbs, with gasping breath and eyes of innocence that dimly close in depths of cruel torture.”  W. E. Stuermann gives an equally sobering description of nature’s web of interacting events: “The web unravels as often as it is woven in order.  Frequently and brutally its threads are ripped in sudden and disconcerting manners, and the orderly tapestry of life unravels, leaving men broken by disaster and despair.  Chaos looms before them and stretches to the horizons of their lives.”

 

The intrinsic, pervasive and unmitigated cruelty of “mother nature” is an event that has happened.  Therefore, by the fundamentals of Calvinism, God willed it to happen!  Is such a conclusion consistent with your image of the Christian God?  Look around.  Did our good, omnipotent God create the inherently violent and terrifying system we see in nature, a system rife with sickness, suffering and death – a system red in tooth and claw?  Does nature itself appear to operate contrary to the character of God?  Does the world at every level appear to be at war?  Does the world appear to be permeated and corrupted at all levels by an evil influence?  Did Jesus believe that someone else had been given authority over this world and Jesus Himself must repair, reconstruct, restore and repossess?

TULIP

In the 5th century, Augustine laid the foundations of what we now call Calvinism.  Nothing resembling his contrivance existed for the first four centuries of the Christian church.  After Augustine’s death, his invention lay dormant for eleven centuries but was resurrected by Calvin and the Reformers in the 16th century.  Opponents quickly condemned this heresy by issuing the “Five Points of the Remonstrants” in 1610.  These can be paraphrased as:

  • True faith cannot proceed from the exercise of our natural faculties and powers, or from the force and operation of free will, since man, in consequence of his natural corruption, is incapable of thinking or doing any good thing.  It is therefore necessary to his conversion and salvation that he be regenerated and renewed by the operation of the Holy Spirit which is the gift of God through Jesus Christ.
  • God, from all eternity, determined to: (1) bestow salvation on those who, as He foresaw, would persevere unto the end in their free will faith in Jesus Christ and (2) inflict everlasting punishment on those who would continue in their unbelief and resist His divine grace.
  • The substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ covered the sins of all mankind in general and those of every individual in particular; however, none but those who believe in Him can be partakers of that divine benefit.
  • The Holy Spirit begins, advances and brings to perfection everything that can be called good in man; consequently, all good works are to be attributed to God alone.  Nevertheless, this grace does not force man to act against his inclination but may be resisted and rendered ineffectual.
  • Those once united to Christ by faith may, by turning away from God, lose the great gift of salvation. 

The powerful political forces of the Reformation retained the first point but negated the next four.  The five points of the TULIP thus became:

  • Total depravity
  • Unconditional Election
  • Limited Atonement
  • Irresistible Grace
  • Perseverance of the saints

The “U” indicates the elect of God were unconditionally selected for salvation before the world was formed and not because of any work in this life such as responding to God’s prevenient grace (the grace that comes before salvation) by confession of sin, remorse, repentance, faith and obedience.  The “L” means Jesus died only for the elect; the sins of the non-elect (or reprobate) are not covered by the substitutionary atonement.  The “I” suggests the elect cannot resist the grace of God even if they choose to do so.  The “P” reinforces the inevitability and permanence of salvation for the elect.

In the ensuing 400 years since the 1618 Synod of Dort, the battle between Calvinism and Arminianism has been primarily confined to inconclusive skirmishes in the TULIP field of combat.  But polemics on the TULIP have become a pedantic distraction from the primary confrontation.  The main force of Calvinism long ago repositioned itself in such documents as the 1646 Westminister Confession and the 1689 London Baptist Confession.  The latter document states, for example, “God hath decreed in himself, from all eternity, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely and unchangeably, all things, whatsoever comes to pass.”  This is just another way of saying: (a) the word “decree” is synonymous with the word “will” as applied to God and (b) the biconditional expression “A if and only if B” where A = (event happened) and B = (God willed event) can never be false.  This means A and B must both be true or both be false for every conceivable event. 

Both men and angels are incorporated into the Reformed message promulgated by the Westminister and Baptist Confessions.  By God’s decree, some men and angels were predestined to everlasting life and others foreordained to everlasting death.  These two mathematical sets were unchangeably designated before the world was formed; neither man nor angel can be moved from one set to the other.

Over the past 400 years, even the T of the TULIP has become a source of division between Calvinists and Arminians.  Both sides believe in the Total Depravity of the human soul but the two sides do not share the same definition of Total.  An analogy will serve to illustrate.  Imagine every person is swimming in a dark, bottomless, violent ocean surrounded by wind, rain and terrifying, towering waves – the perfect storm.  Jesus Christ is the captain of a magnificent, unsinkable ship.  He is supervising as the crew throws doughnut shaped flotation devices, with ropes attached, into the violent waters.  Calvinists believe that, occasionally, a flotation device will land exactly on a person’s head.  Such persons will be encircled and buoyed by this life preserver while being pulled aboard ship.  These are the elect of Calvinism.  Jesus obviously instructs that “ringers” be thrown to catch the elect without any effort whatsoever on their part.  Of course, the greater portion of mankind is so far from the nearest life preserver that rescue is impossible; they are the reprobate of Calvinism and surely deserve to drown. 

In contrast, the Arminian believes the ship’s captain never instructs the crew to throw a ringer for anyone at any time.  Instead, He dispatches His First Mate, a powerful swimmer, to dive into the water and push each person to within arm’s length of the nearest life preserver.  Then the First Mate says, “Confess your sins, repent and believe; take hold of this life preserver and you will be saved.”  The Arminian believes many will accept this gift of life made available by Prevenient Grace.  Many will reach out their hand, grasp the flotation device and be pulled aboard ship.  But the Calvinist insists that the First Mate has never been dispatched by the Captain to push anyone to a life preserver.  Even if He had been dispatched, not one person would have the ability to take hold by exercising their own free will.  All persons would be stopped by the Total Depravity of their miserable souls.  Furthermore, even if one person fortuitously floated near a life preserver and extended their hand by one centimeter to grasp hold, that act would constitute a human work and would mean, contrary to Scripture, that the person was saved by a work. 

The Calvinist teaches that you are so Totally Depraved that you cannot be saved unless Jesus instructs His crew to throw a ringer around you!  The Arminian believes you must, by an exercise of free will, extend your hand in response to the Prevenient Grace of God.

FREE WILL AND SALVATION

As the issue relates to human free will and salvation, Calvinists claim all reality is interlocked in a causal chain leading back to God as the first-cause of all things; but humans are "free," even though they are pre-determined, because their choices are executed "willingly."  The Calvinist defines man as a second-cause agent incapable of choosing a path different from that which God would have him choose.  Because man doesn't know he is being manipulated, he believes himself to be a first-cause agent making free will decisions.  This is the historic Calvinist concept of "free will."  It leads to the idea that absolute determinism by God is compatible with the exercise of free will by man; this concept is sometimes called compatibilism or soft determinism.

Arminians agree much of reality is part of a causal chain but claim God does not determine the free will decisions of men or angels.  The idea that men and angels are first-cause agents of choice, is a central concept of Arminianism and is sometimes called libertarian freedom.  The Arminian believes "free will" makes you a first-cause agent of decisions.  The compatibilist believes "free will" makes you a second-cause agent; you have simply been tricked into thinking of yourself as a first-cause agent.  These two definitions of free will are mutually exclusive.

Consider a man who beats his wife, sexually abuses both his daughters and sons, steals from and abuses his parents and subsequently dies without confession of sin, without remorse for his brutality, without repentance and without asking for the mercy of God.  The compatibilist claims each one of these events is God's will because God's sovereignty requires complete determinism of all things; God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass.  The man may think he is acting freely but he is actually executing a sinister puppet dance, with God pulling the strings from behind His transcendence.  However, the man is fully responsible for his second-cause sins since they were executed willingly.

The Arminian claims not one of these sins was God's will and God grieves deeply over each of them.  Each sin represents a free will decision by a first-cause agent and is contrary to God's will.  God permits, within limits and for a time, the consequences of rebellion but He is deeply grieved by the evil world in which we live.  The Arminian believes the Calvinist concept of compatibilism is actually incompatible with God's attributes of holiness, justice, goodness and truth and with the clear teaching of Scripture:

  • If God credits the unsaved with second-cause sins then, in conflict with Scripture (Eph 2:8-10), He would credit the saved with second-cause good works.
  • A just God would not hold a man responsible for a sin which God made him commit.
  • If salvation were simply a matter of God exercising His free-will, then a good God would save all men.
  • The idea that free will can be exercised by a second-cause agent is logical nonsense. Free will can only be exercised by a first-cause agent. Consequently, the thesis (determinism by God is free-will by man) violates the logical rule of contradictories (b is-not not-b). Such a statement is called a paradox.

The historic Calvinist responds that we must not expect the holiness, justice and goodness of God will always make sense to our limited intellect. Furthermore, true free will can be exercised by second-cause agents; this central concept of historic Calvinism may be logical nonsense to man but not to God who reasons on a higher level using a different kind of logic. As a source of confusion on this issue, some modern Calvinists seem to view man as a first-cause agent of choice thereby abandoning the historic Calvinist concept of compatibilism.  Once again, however, God is viewed as operating with some higher level of logic so the thesis (God as first-cause agent corresponds to man as first-cause agent) only seems to be a paradox but is not a paradox to God.  

Finally, the Calvinist asserts the full weight of Scripture is on his side. However, the Arminian believes the character of God, which emerges from the Bible taken in its entirety as opposed to text out of context, is inconsistent with Calvinism.  For example, the Calvinist contends regeneration precedes faith because God elected only certain specific persons for salvation.  These persons alone are unconditionally and irresistibly regenerated by the power of the Holy Spirit and subsequently demonstrate repentance, faith and obedience.  The rest of mankind is condemned to everlasting punishment.   This brutal plan somehow allows God to glorify Himself as He rejoices in its execution.  To keep this theology afloat, however, the Calvinist must twist Scripture, including the text around the following verses, like Third Reich clergy twisted the Cross into a Swastika.

  • For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)
  • He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:2)
  • Then Peter began to speak: "I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right. (Acts 10:34-35)
  • They came to him and said, "Teacher, we know you are a man of integrity. You aren't swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are; but you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. (Mark 12:14)
  • This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance (and for this we labor and strive) that we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe. (1 Tim 4:9-10)
  • This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. (1 Tim 2:3-4)
  • The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (2 Pet 3:9)
  • Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign LORD. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live? (Ezek 18:23)
  • Yet you say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’  Hear, O house of Israel: Is my way unjust?  Is it not your ways that are unjust? (Ezek 18:25)
  • Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live.  Turn!  Turn from your evil ways!  Why will you die, O house of Israel?’ (Ezek 33:11)
  • For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to the children of men. (Lam 3:33)
  • For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. (Deut 10:17)
  • Now let the fear of the LORD be upon you. Judge carefully, for with the LORD our God there is no injustice or partiality or bribery." (2 Chron 19:7)
  • Is he not the One who says to kings, ‘You are worthless,’ and to nobles, ‘You are wicked,’  who shows no partiality to princes and does not favor the rich over the poor, for they are all the work of his hands? (Job 34:18-19)
  • For God does not show favoritism.  (Rom 2:11)
  • And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him. (Eph 6:9)

PRAYER AND PREDESTINATION

Does the theology you adopt on this issue have any consequences for your daily Christian walk?  When the eyes of your heart look toward the Holy Spirit, you are looking through a lens which has been shaped by some sort of Calvinism or Arminianism.  The face of the Person you see looking back is focused by that lens. The Calvinist sees the face of a God who condemned the greater part of mankind to eternal damnation before the universe was formed.  The Arminian sees a God who desires all to receive the great gift of salvation.  However, the greatest havoc created by the “blueprint” theology of Augustine, Calvin and their theological progeny may be a distortion of the purpose of prayer.  The Calvinist believes God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass.  If, before the universe was formed, God unchangeably ordained everything, then your prayers can change the outcome of nothing.  In contrast, the Arminian believes God always responds.  Prayer always makes a difference.  But the difference is not always dramatic and obvious because prayer does not cancel or suspend the particular network of constraints which are bringing some outcome into being.  Prayer is the means through which the specific action of God works in and through that network, bringing some succession of events to what will always be a different outcome from what it would otherwise have been.  This fact alone should make you come alive with commitment to prayer.

The Calvinist argues that not one speck of space, time, matter, energy or human thought can be outside the continual control of God; otherwise God would lose control of his creation and we have no guarantee that a single one of God’s promises could be fulfilled.  For the Calvinist, control requires foreknowledge and foreknowledge requires “foreordination.”  God must be the first-cause of all things if His foreknowledge is to be preserved.  Otherwise, according to the Calvinist, God would not have been able to know, in eternity past, what your decisions would be in the future.  Embracing this position erases the free will exercise of prayer.  This is typical of how Calvinists confine God to a small enclosed space limited by their own intellect. 

The Arminian responds it is difficult to conceive of a less majestic God than One who is limited to a deterministic mode of relating to His creation.  It is hard to conceive of a weaker God than one who would be threatened by events occurring outside of His exhaustive control.  What is praiseworthy about controlling events simply because you possess the innate power to do so?  What is truly praiseworthy about God’s sovereignty is not that He exercises a power He obviously has, but that, because of His character, He does not exercise all the power He could.  Perhaps the greatest testimony to God’s sovereignty is that God created beings who possess the power to say no to Him.

Furthermore, God’s exhaustively definite foreknowledge does not require foreordination.  As John Wesley wrote centuries ago (Works, VI. 226-7): “God foreknew those in every nation who would believe,” and “In a word, God, looking on all ages, from the creation to the consummation, as a moment, and seeing at once whatever is in the hearts of all children of men, knows every one that does or does not believe, in every age or nation.”  Wesley saw no conflict between human moral freedom and divine foreknowledge.  He affirmed that although God knows the future, He does not determine it.  Wesley believed we must not think that things are because God knows them; rather, God knows them because they are.  Could this reasoning retain its validity in the 21st century?  Reconciliation of human free will with God’s foreknowledge is not possible using our finite human intelligence.  But it is possible from the perspective of an “infinite” God.

Consider the meaning of infinity.  The smallest infinity is called aleph-null; its cardinality (n) is the number of elements in the set of all positive integers.  This infinity is, by definition, "countable."  After aleph-null, each element of an infinite set is a subset of elements from its predecessor.  The cardinality (number of elements), for each successive infinity, is the number of subsets in the set of all possible subsets constructed from its predecessor.  For example, the next infinity after aleph-null is aleph-1 or the continuum; its cardinality ( n' = 2n ) is the number of subsets in the set of all possible subsets constructed from the positive integers.  This happens to be the same as the number of elements in the set of all real numbers.  Aleph-1 is not countable.  The next infinity is aleph-2; its cardinality ( n'' = 2n' ) is the number of subsets in the set of all possible subsets constructed from the real numbers.  Consider the possibility that God can easily process at least n'''''''....  bits of information where the number of  ' marks is n. 

But wouldn’t the sheer size of the known universe -- 100 billion stars in each of 100 billion galaxies -- overwhelm even the most infinite God?  To put in perspective the overwhelming sovereignty of God’s infinitude, consider the following illustration.  Imagine the universe is constructed around a deformable cubic lattice such that the smallest identifiable physical entity is a region called a “voxel” which is bounded by eight vertices, twelve edges and six flat faces.  The universe is thereby divided into an ordered (numbered) array of volumes.  The volume enclosed by a voxel is on the order of the cube of the local Planck Length (e.g. 1.6 x10-35 meter).  When a voxel is deformed by force, matter or energy, the eight vertices retain their identities but may change their positions, the twelve edges remain straight but each may change its length and each of the six flat faces either remains flat or deforms into a minimal surface with zero mean curvature (e.g. soap film).  13.7 billion years after the beginning, the deformable cubic lattice is no longer perfect but contains line and surface defects analogous to dislocations and stacking faults.
 
Assume the state of each voxel is 1 or 0.  Then the state of the entire universe is defined by a countably infinite sequence of binary digits or, in other words, a single real number.  The possible 3-D geometric arrangements of 1’s and 0’s would be more than sufficient to accommodate the complexity of any “Theory of Everything” that might be devised.

Now imagine God allows the state of each voxel to change at time intervals equal to the Planck Time (5.4 x 10-44 seconds).  At the end of each time interval, a new real number defines the state of the universe.  Nestled among the elements of aleph-3 are particular subsets of aleph-2 that track all possible histories of the universe from the big bang onward.  An immanent God would only have to comprehend infinity at a cardinality of n''' to track all possible histories and futures.  The Christian God understands infinity at least to a cardinality of  n'''''''....  where the number of  ' marks is n.  This is so overwhelming that our human intellect cannot grasp it!  The infinitude of God permits Him to instantly track all possible histories and futures of you, me and the universe with no more difficulty than it is for us to count the wheels on a bicycle.  Comprehending the cumulative consequences, of all contingent first-cause, human free will decisions on subsequent events, is infinitesimally trivial for God.  Couple this concept with the idea that God has inserted Himself into all levels of the “interactive life-game” video.  As the life-game designer, God knows all possible paths your life can take from birth to death.  God not only knows all contingencies but He has entered the game as your advocate and He wants you to win.  He has given each of us the prevenient grace that brings salvation.  He works in each heart, intellect and will.  Given His intimate involvement and the infinitude of his knowledge and intellect, what could surprise God?

EVANGELISM 

More than 150,000 people die in this world each day.  Some souls are saved from eternal damnation but most are not.  The Calvinist believes, at the end of each day, not one of the lost could have been saved even if the level of Christian evangelism had been increased by a factor of one billion for the past 1900 years.  Conversely, at the end of each day, not one of the saved could have been lost if the level of evangelism had long ago dropped to zero.  Before the world was formed, the Calvinist believes God assigned each person to one of two mathematical sets; elect and non-elect.   Nothing can move a single person from one set to the other.  When the Calvinist evangelist addresses a throng, he is not praying that all will be saved.  He merely wishes to be God’s instrument for helping the elect identify themselves prior to their unconditional regeneration.

The Arminian believes, at the end of each day, all 150,000+ human souls could have been saved and God grieves deeply for those who were lost.  The Arminian believes salvation is offered to all by the prevenient grace of God which is the grace that comes before salvation.  This Biblical concept of grace includes the following:

  • Man is totally depraved and not capable of thinking or doing any good thing – a concept embraced by both Arminians and Calvinists (Rom 3:23).
  • The prevenient grace of God that brings salvation appears to all men through the unconditional benefit of the atonement (Titus 2:11; Rom 2:15; Rom 1:20).
  • Prior to salvation, God initiates, advances and perfects everything that can be called good in man.  God leads the sinner from one step to another in proportion as He finds response in the heart and disposition to obedience (John 16:8; Rev 3:20).
  • Some men allow God to quicken, assist and nudge their free will to facilitate confession of sin, remorse, repentance, faith and obedience so they may receive the great gift of salvation (1 Pet 1:9).
  • Other men choose to resist and reject the grace of God (2 Thes 1:8-9).
Arminianism holds that salvation is all from grace; every movement of the soul toward God is initiated by divine grace.  But it recognizes also the cooperation of the human will in that the grace of God can be resisted and rejected.  During the period prior to Augustine, this interpretation of the prevenient grace of God was questioned only by the Gnostics and Manichaeans.  It was uniformly embraced by church fathers including Justin, Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria, Origen and Cyprian.  A lax interpretation of prevenient grace later led to Pelagianism.  The unguarded condemnation of Pelagianism by Augustine led to what we now call Calvinism.

BLASPHEMY

If the Triune God truly ordained all future events before forming the universe then God may be angered by Arminians who consider this particular view of sovereignty as inconsistent with the Biblical presentation of God's character. Scripture is silent on the consequences of such a theological error. Alternately, if Calvinism is a theological error, the consequences of embracing and promulgating this error are given with somewhat greater clarity.

By the 1646 Westminster Confession (God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass) and the 1689 London Baptist Confession (God hath decreed in himself, from all eternity, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely and unchangeably, all things, whatsoever comes to pass), God is the first-cause of all evil.  All tragedy, suffering, disease, decay, iniquity, corruption, immorality, wickedness and depravity covering the manifold of sin in heaven and earth were willed by God before anything existed except the Trinity. Injustice also reigned since the greater part of mankind was predestined to eternal damnation by God's decree before the universe was formed (Mat 7:13, 14).

Matthew 12:31, 32 and Mark 3:29, 30 present the "unpardonable sin" of blaspheming the Holy Spirit.  Attributing, to Satan, Christ's authenticating miracles, done in the power of the Holy Spirit, is one path to blasphemy. What about attributing Satan's evil to the Holy Spirit?  Is that less heinous than attributing the Holy Spirit's goodness to Satan?  Might that be another path to blasphemy?  Is Calvinism just one more arrogant theology concocted by a few Christian elite to create an "elect" aristocracy or is it blasphemy at its core?  How could Augustine, Calvin and their theological progeny embrace such a grievous error?  According to John Wesley's "Serious Considerations on Absolute Predestination":

"This doctrine is novel. In the first four hundred years after Christ, no mention is made of it by any writer, great or small, in any part of the Christian Church.  The foundations of it were laid in the later writings of Augustine, when unguardedly writing against Pelagius.  It was afterward taught by Dominicus, a popish friar, and the monks of his order, and at last, it was unhappily taken up by John Calvin."

Wesley goes on to say:

  • This doctrine is injurious to God because it makes Him the author of all sin and represents Him as delighting in the death of sinners, expressly contrary to His own declaration (Ezek. 33:11; I Tim. 2:4).
  • This doctrine makes the preaching of the Gospel mere mockery and delusion since many of those to whom it is preached are, by an irrevocable decree, shut out from being benefited by it.
  • This doctrine makes the coming of Christ and His sacrifice upon the cross, instead of being a fruit of God's love to the world, to be one of the severest acts of God's indignation against mankind.  God only ordained a very few for salvation while hardening and increasing the damnation of the far greater number of mankind, namely all those who do not believe. The cause of this unbelief is the counsel and decree of God.

In contrast to Calvinism, Wesley affirmed that God has willed all to be saved and sacrificed his unique Son on the cross so that the great gift of salvation would be available to all mankind.  There is hardly any other article of the Christian faith so frequently, plainly and positively asserted.  It is that which makes the preaching of the gospel 'Glad tidings to all.'  Had this offer of salvation been confined to a few, it would be 'Sad tidings of great sorrow' to most people.

JOHN CALVIN

But who was John Calvin the man?  Some pastors and scholars claim he was the most brilliant Christian theologian since Paul the apostle.  They extol his Institutes of the Christian Religion as the definitive work that most influenced their Christian formation.  Before enshrining him on the throne of theological greatness, however, should we not examine his life to see if he walked the talk?  If you were inclined to follow the leadership of Mary Baker Eddy, Charles Taze Russel, Joseph Smith, Sun Myung Moon, Charles Sherlock Fillmore, Victor Paul Wierwille or Herbert Armstrong, would you not first examine their fruit?  What about Martin Luther, Aurelius Augustinus, Jacobus Arminius and John Wesley?  Do any of these men get a free pass on behavior?  John Calvin secured a theocratic vice grip on Geneva in 1541.  Failure to join the “elect” aristocracy was hazardous to your health if you lived in Geneva.  Calvin had no love, compassion, patience or tolerance for anyone who objected to the teachings in his Institutes of the Christian Religion or who refused to submit to him personally.  Criticism of his teaching was considered heresy for which the sentence was death.  In the ensuing years, he presided over approximately 58 executions, 76 exiles and numerous commitments to prison.  Most of the hapless victims had dared to be critical of Calvin or his theology but the executions included about 34 women burned at the stake for witchcraft.  For the burning execution of Michael Servetus, Calvin suggested that his men use green wood for the fire because it burned slower.  Servetus was screaming as he was literally baked alive from the feet upward and suffered the heat of the flames for 30 minutes before finally succumbing.  John Calvin was a diabolically cruel dictator incapable of Christian kindness, mercy or love.  Do you believe God plucked a pitiless, ruthless, merciless and brutal man from the dust bin of history to resurrect and extrapolate a theology dormant for eleven centuries, a theology not found in the Christian Church for the first 400 years after Christ?  But if not God, what other powerful authorities might have been instrumental in the empowerment of John Calvin?

CORRUPTION OF THE SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION

Some independent churches and many entire denominations (i.e. Presbyterian, Anglican) are founded on Calvinism.  They view themselves as the keepers of orthodoxy for the Protestant Reformation which most Protestants view as the event in Christian history that rescued the church from the corruption of Roman Catholicism.  Curiously, key personalities of the Reformation (i.e. Calvin and Luther) were at least as sinister, diabolical and cruel as those they sought to replace.  Other churches (i.e. Nazarene, Wesleyan) completely reject Calvinism.  Still others (i.e. Calvary Chapel, Bob Jones) refuse to take a position because they believe only God comprehends the meaning of His own sovereignty.  The Southern Baptist Convention is bipolar on this issue and, like a great pendulum, is slowly swinging back toward its Calvinist roots.  Southern Baptist congregations are discouraged, by pastors, from even discussing Calvinism.  Anyone who raises the issue risks being labeled as “divisive” or “having an agenda.”   Meanwhile, Southern Baptist Seminaries and Bible Colleges are funneling a new generation of Calvinist pastors into the denomination.

Southern Baptists were predominately Arminian "hybrids" for most of the 20th century.  They embraced all but the last one of the “Five Points of the Remonstrants” which are paraphrased by:

  • True faith cannot proceed from the exercise of our natural faculties and powers, or from the force and operation of free will, since man, in consequence of his natural corruption, is incapable of thinking or doing any good thing.  It is therefore necessary to his conversion and salvation that he be regenerated and renewed by the operation of the Holy Spirit which is the gift of God through Jesus Christ.
  • God, from all eternity, determined to: (1) bestow salvation on those who, as He foresaw, would persevere unto the end in their free will faith in Jesus Christ and (2) inflict everlasting punishment on those who would continue in their unbelief and resist His divine grace.
  • The substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ covered the sins of all mankind in general and those of every individual in particular; however, none but those who believe in Him can be partakers of that divine benefit.
  • The Holy Spirit begins, advances and brings to perfection everything that can be called good in man; consequently, all good works are to be attributed to God alone.  Nevertheless, this grace does not force man to act against his inclination but may be resisted and rendered ineffectual.
  • Those once united to Christ by faith may, by turning away from God, lose the great gift of salvation. 
Rejecting this last point, the Traditional Southern Baptist believed that, once saved, no man can exercise his free will to reject God and thereby lose his salvation.  This put all Traditional Southern Baptists in the precarious position of wearing the shoes of an Arminian except that one shoe didn't quite fit!  Given a carefully defined set of axioms, Arminianism offers a logically tight, self-consistent soteriology.  The same can be said of Calvinism.  But mixing the two doesn’t quite work.  Loose ends appear.  For example, why would God squelch your free will to reject Him?  Nevertheless, the Traditional  Southern Baptist fully embraced the Arminian concepts of Total Depravity, Conditional Election, Unlimited Atonement and Resistible Grace.  He also embraced the essentials of Prevenient Grace as defined by Arminianism.  Therefore, for the purpose of discussion, it is convenient to refer to a 21st century Traditional Southern Baptist as Arminian.  This will, of course, offend the legions of Southern Baptists who puff their chests out and say, “I’m not Arminian, I’m not Calvinist, I’m just a Bible Believing Baptist.”

The upper echelon elite in the Southern Baptist hierarchy are essentially conducting a great twenty first century experiment to make Calvinism and Arminianism co-exist in a single denomination.  History does not bode well for success but failure portends denominational split.  SBC Seminaries and Bible Colleges are riddled with Calvinist faculty sending a steady stream of Calvinist pastors into predominately Arminian congregations.  If the Calvinist pastor has the courage of his convictions and tells the truth about his beliefs, he will either fail to find employment or split a church.  A new strategy has evolved based on stealth, subterfuge, deceit, guile and duplicity employed, of course, with God's approval for the "greater good."  This strategy is to suppress the issue of Calvinism/Arminianism in all local churches.  If the topic surfaces in a church in spite of the pastor's best efforts to suppress it, he may try to convince the congregation that each individual's choice is simply a matter of personal preference, like whether to wear brown shoes or black shoes to church; no one must be allowed to express the possibility that Calvinism is blasphemy at its core.  Because some local churches may see through this subterfuge, other strategies have been introduced with the hope of "tap dancing" around the core conflicts.  These strategies include: (1) undermine all discussion and teaching on this issue and thereby maintain a level of ignorance within congregations and particularly within pastor search committees, (2) subordinate the importance of this issue to church growth, music, other entertainment and family ministries, (3) argue that the seriousness of the conflict is contrived in the sense that an Arminian pastor is really no different than an evangelical Calvinist pastor who believes in unconditional election, limited atonement and irresistible grace, (4) utilize Seminaries and Bible Colleges to convert Christians to Calvinists, (5) avoid Articles of Faith that clarify the denominational position, (6) assert the simultaneous validity of both Calvinism and Arminianism using a type of logic popular among intellectual elite called “positive tolerance,” (7) claim to be above the fray by just “believing in the Bible” and (8) assert the sovereignty of God and the free will of man are like two parallel lines that meet at infinity.  The true battle lines have been drawn, however, and do not meet at infinity.  The Calvinist believes, “God did will all happenings.”  The Arminian believes, “God did not will all happenings.”  One is true, the other is false.

The SBC Articles of Faith are sufficiently vague to permit Traditional Baptists, Calvinists and even “Calvinist hybrids” to feel at home.  One hybrid, touted by some pastors in the SBC, has been alluded to by historic leaders affiliated with other denominations.  These leaders indignantly claimed to have serious reservations about both Calvinism and Arminianism.  They wanted to move beyond these tiresome 16th century theologies and embrace a new theology that does not diminish the meticulous “sovereign” control of God over all space, time, matter and energy and, similarly, does not diminish the absolute self determination of man.  “Calvinist hybrids” seem to view man as a first-cause agent of choice thereby abandoning the historic Calvinist concept of compatibilism.  God is viewed as operating with some higher level of logic so the thesis (God as first-cause agent corresponds to man as first-cause agent) only seems to be a paradox but is not a paradox to God.  They move up a notch from mere compatibilism (determinism by God corresponds to free will by man) and embrace a higher thesis (determinism by God corresponds to determinism by man).  Man is not tricked into thinking of himself as a first-cause agent of choice; he really is a first-cause agent of choice, as is God!  Modern day advocates try to intellectually prop up this invention by insisting we should not try to resolve theological tensions that the Bible itself does not resolve.  They embrace the mystery of “Biblical Tension” which they attribute to the inability of mere mortals to comprehend the truth.  Unfortunately, these intellectual sounding fixes are empty as a gun barrel.  They are nothing more than unsound reason papered over with theological hocus-pocus and propped up with buzz words like “Biblical Tension.”  In analogy with the thesis of the compatibilist (determinism by God corresponds to free-will by man), the thesis of  the Calvinist hybrid (determinism by God corresponds to determinism by man) violates the logical rule of contradictories (b is-not not-b).  Such a statement is called a paradox.

Calvinists accept while Arminians reject the following two fundamental ideas: (a) the universal substitution of the word “decree or command” for the word “will” as applied to God and (b) the universal truth of “A if and only if B” where A = (event happened) and B = (God willed event).  Calvinism and Arminianism are, therefore, mutually exclusive with no overlap and no possibility of consensus accord without violating the rules of logic and reason.  But the SBC views both Calvinist and Traditional Baptist beliefs as equally true!  This amazing sleight of hand is propped up by invoking positive tolerance, a construction of Hegelian dialectic reasoning in which we synthesize that both a theses and its antithesis are true.  In other words, (a is b) is true and (a is-not b) is true; (Jesus is God) is true and (Jesus is-not God) is true.  This means every individual's beliefs, values, lifestyle and truth claims are equally valid.  Not only does everyone have an equal right to his beliefs but all beliefs are equally true.  The concept of positive tolerance is incompatible with logic and reason.  One of God's attributes is absolute truth; positive tolerance is absolute lie.

Calvinists have been permitted to divide the SBC at a fundamental level; soteriology is a cornerstone of the Christian faith.  Without internal denominational agreement on soteriology, how can evangelism and discipleship be implemented?  What will be offered to a seeker?  What will be taught to a new believer?  By Scripture, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste and no city or house divided against itself will stand.”  Is this passage coming to pass?  For five years in a row, SBC membership has declined and the rate of decline is accelerating.  16MM members are claimed but primary worship attendance is 6MM.  The SBC currently comprises Traditional Baptist beliefs; zero to seven point Calvinism; universalism and chrislam.  God will probably not intervene to save a corrupted, disobedient church or even a worldwide denomination.

The co-existence of Calvinism and Arminianism in a single denomination is being orchestrated by SBC upper echelon elite under the guise of peace and unity.  They believe success might be possible but only if a substantial level of ignorance, on the Calvinism/Arminianism issue, is maintained within local church congregations.  They know a church will be fundamentally divided if the congregation repudiates the following items while church leaders embrace them:

  • Given two propositions (event happened) and (God willed event), both are true or both are false for every conceivable event.
  • Regeneration precedes faith because God elected only certain specific persons for salvation.  These persons alone are unconditionally and irresistibly regenerated by the power of the Holy Spirit and subsequently demonstrate repentance, faith and obedience.  The souls of most men, women, children and babies are, upon death, sent to eternal damnation never having had an opportunity for salvation.  God is self glorified as He watches this plan unfold.
  • God is the first-cause of all evil.  All tragedy, suffering, disease, decay, iniquity, corruption, immorality, wickedness and depravity covering the manifold of sin in heaven and earth were decreed by God before anything existed except the Trinity.
  • In eternity past, God unchangeably ordained everything; therefore, your prayers can change the outcome of nothing.

This is not just a cosmetic divide.  It is about diametrically opposed divine personalities.  It is about the very essence of God.  For nearly 500 years theologians have searched for a “consensus accord” and failed.  But a politically correct SBC Committee might boldly endeavor to start with a thesis of Calvinism (God’s will is not thwarted) and the corresponding antithesis of Arminianism (God’s will is thwarted) and, by some Hegelian Dialectic, produce a stunning synthesis, even more clever than positive tolerance, which both sides can embrace.  This committee might have to tweak the principles of logic and reason that have constrained the discussion for half a millennium.  In any case, Traditional Baptists are unlikely to discover a “consensus accord” much different than the one Neville Chamberlain achieved at Munich.  Takeover has been the orchestrated objective of Calvinists since the “conservative revolution” two decades ago.  When a Calvinist pastor takes charge of a Traditional Baptist church and splits it in half, the outcome is not viewed as disruptive or destructive; Calvinists view it as “purification.”

How incredibly smug and arrogant for SBC upper echelon elite to believe that the unsaved, the seekers and the new Christians around the world are too stupid to see that the SBC “emperor has no clothes.”  The emperor claims to be clothed in self consistent, Biblical truth.  But he is really wallowing naked in the quicksand of positive tolerance. One new Christian might be told, by an SBC pastor or missionary, to believe election is unconditional, the atonement is limited and grace is irresistible.  Another might be told to believe election is conditional, the atonement is unlimited and grace is resistible.  However, when push comes to shove, it really doesn’t matter because the SBC emperor says to just view both beliefs as equally true, at least for now!  Can the vast unsaved of the world be treated like fools without damage to the overall efforts of the Great Commission?  

One alternative to the plan of maintaining congregational ignorance is for the upper echelon elite to “man-up” to what they believe as individuals and have an open debate within the SBC.  The associated risk is that a protracted struggle could damage a denomination which has already reached a membership plateau and begun the inexorable decline.  A preferred alternative might be to actually educate congregations about this issue and let local churches decide for themselves.  This is a moral and ethical option which relies on the “soul competency and priesthood of believers” and confirms the autonomy of the local church.  A local church could decide, for example, to designate itself as “non-Calvinist” meaning, in that church, Calvinism is rejected by the leadership.  Another church could designate itself as “Calvinist” meaning church leaders embrace Calvinism.  Currently, neither Christian nor “seeker” can confidently determine the position of a particular Southern Baptist church on this issue without conducting an extensive investigation.  For example, a church may have a non-Calvinist pastor but several Calvinist Sunday school teachers.  Or a church may have a Calvinist pastor because his true theology was concealed from a non-Calvinist search committee.  In particularly insidious cases, Calvinist “power players” bide their time until their non-Calvinist pastor departs and then quietly sneak a Calvinist pastor through the side door.  In each of these examples, is the church Calvinist or non-Calvinist?  Would the congregation know?  Unfortunately, most Southern Baptist congregations are far too uninformed to recognize deceitful and duplicitous conduct by a few members of their own leadership.  In any case, the proponents of Calvinism, hiding in and behind Seminaries and Bible Colleges, cannot allow local churches to openly discuss and debate this issue because these proponents fear the outcome.  Similarly, most opponents of Calvinism, both pastors and laypersons, simply lack the courage to raise this issue in their local churches.

Ironically, local congregations of any non-Calvinist church, if given a choice, almost never choose the framework of Calvinism to define their theological beliefs.  Calvinism usually makes its way into the Church via the vehicle of a new pastor or small group of elders infused with Calvinism by a Bible College or Seminary.  The full face of Calvinism is never taught or preached by these infiltrators because the greater portion of the congregation would find it offensive. Nevertheless, theological threads will gradually be woven into the preaching and teaching of the church.  For example, the tragic death of a child may be framed by saying, "Although we don't understand, we must accept God's will in the death of this child."

However, no one should doubt that within each of us is a monster from the Id feeding on evil from deep within our sin nature and telling us that we are intrinsically more valuable than those around us.  If this monster breaks its chain, we might even embrace the desires of the Third Reich and become part of the master race to dominate the world.  Or we could merely elevate ourselves above others in church who lack our talents and Spiritual Gifts.  Alternately, rather than lift ourselves, we could simply diminish our brethren using the tools of malicious gossip, slander and false accusation.  But the ultimate food for the monster is framed by Reformed Theology.  The Calvinist can rejoice as he proclaims, “God chose me, before I was born, to be one of the elect, a joint heir to the Kingdom of Heaven; I am surely among the most favored of all men.”  He can look around at the vast sea of humanity and say, “I am infinitely more valuable than these reprobate scum who God selected for eternal damnation before they were born.  I rejoice that God is glorified by their eternal punishment and by having me occupy my eternal place near the throne of glory.”  With food like Calvinism, the monster from the Id can become a behemoth.

The great Southern Baptist cruise ship is steaming on a long journey somewhere in the North Atlantic.  The passengers are sleeping in deck chairs, stuffing themselves from an endless buffet, enjoying a wide variety of entertainment and wallowing in ritual and tradition.  Cheerful crew members prance through the corridors chanting peace and unity like left over flower children from the 60’s.  But behind the façade, the ship’s officers are not united.  Some would like to take over the ship in a quiet mutiny of stealth, subterfuge and deceit to make sure the “elect” aristocracy on board can occupy the special peerage they deserve.  These officers claim to have privileged information indicating the lower class passengers must never be permitted to disembark at the same port as the elect aristocracy.  The lower class passengers don’t know it yet, but they will be dumped off the ship at an unpleasant location which doesn’t appear on their itinerary.  But the mutinous officers say that’s what these sorry reprobates have deserved from the time they left port.  Many of the remaining officers are troubled by this plan particularly since some of the reprobates might be pastors, deacons and Sunday school teachers.  But these officers are afraid to speak up for fear of being “divisive.”  They have been intimidated into believing that shipboard peace and unity must be preserved.  While all this melodrama is taking place, a few of the intimidated officers have noticed that the ship is headed for an iceberg only a few nautical miles off the starboard bow.  Like the Titanic, the great ship may shear in half before sinking thousands of fathoms into the icy darkness never to be seen again.  If only the sleeping passengers would awaken and exert their authority in time to avert disaster.  Should the intimidated officers risk disunity by taking command of the ship, alerting passengers to the imminent danger and working with them to restore the ship to its proper course?  What would Jesus do?  Did Jesus and the apostles sacrifice truth on a glorified altar of peace and unity (Mat 10:34; 1 John 4:1-4; 2 Pet 2:1)?  Is the history of the Christian church one of theological appeasement (1 Thes 5:21)?  Did the church welcome the beliefs of the Gnostics, Docetists, Ebionites, Arians, Apollinarians, Nestorians, Eutychians and Sabellians in the name of peace and unity? When Marcion demanded that Polycarp recognize his teaching, did Polycarp embrace him in the name of peace and unity or did Polycarp respond, "I recognize you as the first-born of Satan?"

CALVINIST PLAYBOOK
 

What is the position of your church on Calvinism?  What is your position?  If Calvinism is making uninvited, ninja-like infiltrations into your church or denomination and you decide to stand against it, be prepared for certain tactics frequently utilized by those who believe Calvinism should, for the greater good, dominate or at least co-exist.  Once the core conflicts of Calvinism/Arminianism can no longer be suppressed by clever strategies, the proponents of Calvinism will generally maneuver from a tactical playbook that includes some of the following items:

  • Avoid admitting you are a Calvinist.
  • Avoid engaging your opponents with logic and reason.
  • Erect a few “straw-man” arguments, attribute them to your opponents and then show their weaknesses.  (A typical straw-man argument erected by Calvinists is that Arminians believe in salvation by works because the act of free will acceptance is a “work.”  But Scripture never portrays a choice to receive a gift from God as a “work.”)
  • Accuse your opponents of embracing Semipelagianism, an obscure soteriology uniformly condemned as heresy since 529 AD; for maximum effect, not only label your opponents as heretics but claim they are too ignorant to know it!
  • Never advocate the full face of Calvinism; instead, gradually weave theological threads into the preaching and teaching of the church.
  • Assert that Calvinist men and women are hard working persons of the highest integrity whose motives are beyond reproach.
  • Suggest that your opponents are divisive, narrow minded, mean spirited and instruments of discord.
  • Assert the intellectual, academic and spiritual superiority of Calvinist theologians and spokespersons.
  • Extol the magnificence of the Reformation and the Reformers.
  • Teach that peace and unity are more important than some antiquated concept of truth.

The opponents of Calvinism need only three items.

  • Calvinism is not supported by Scripture taken in its entirety.
  • Calvinism is not supported by logic and reason.
  • Calvinism is blasphemy at its core.

Claiming to uphold the intellectual magnificence and Scriptural purity of the Protestant Reformation is the most common ploy used by Calvinists as they assert their intellectual, theological and academic superiority.   But doesn’t Scriptural truth usually emanate from disciples who demonstrate love, integrity, righteousness, morality, ethics and character?  What about the personal character of the prime movers of the Reformation, Martin Luther (1483-1546) and John Calvin (1509-1564)?  While dictator of Geneva, John Calvin presided over approximately 58 executions, 76 exiles and numerous commitments to prison.  Most of the hapless victims had dared to be critical of Calvin or his theology but the executions included about 34 women burned at the stake for witchcraft.  John Calvin was a diabolically cruel dictator incapable of Christian kindness, mercy or love.  Not to be outdone, 400 years after Martin Luther died, his teaching triggered particularly diabolical consequences.  The prevailing view among historians is that Luther's anti-Jewish rhetoric contributed significantly to the development of anti-Semitism in Germany, and in the 1930s and 1940s provided an ideal foundation for the Nazi Party’s attacks on Jews.  Just about every anti-Jewish book printed in the Third Reich contained references to and quotations from Luther.

Based on history, the prime movers of the Reformation were at least as sinister, diabolical and cruel as those they sought to replace in the Roman church.  Are you inclined to follow the religious teachings of documented reprobates who clearly did not walk the talk?  If not, check out Jacobus Arminius and John Wesley.  See if they walked the talk?

EPILOGUE

Calvinism has been viewed, in this section of Theology Corner, through the twelve faces of a glass dodecahedron.  Its appearance differs depending on which face is used as a viewing lens.  The information contained herein may seem logical and compelling but it will never convince a Calvinist.  W. Shedd, a Calvinist scholar, one said: “The doctrine of predestination is too hard for new Christians.  Never teach it to babies in Christ.  Predestination is for settled, mature Christians only.”  If you attempt to refute and repudiate Calvinism to a Calvinist, he will simply view you as a misguided baby Christian or perhaps not a Christian at all.

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3. What is the source of evil? Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?

One proposed answer is suggested during Job’s debate with his friends.  It might be called the classical theodicy premise: “Every person’s suffering is indicative of the measure of his guilt in the eyes of God.”  This theodicy premise is kept alive in the Christian church by the Prosperity Gospel: “If you lack health, wealth and prosperity then you must have unconfessed sin in your life.”  This premise can be formalized as a conditional logic statement: "If a person is righteous and God is all-powerful, just and good then the person will not suffer" which is of the form "if (x and y) then not-z."   Taking the contrapositive, "if z then (not-x or not-y)," yields "if a person suffers then the person is not righteous or God is not all-powerful, just and good."   We all know persons whose godliness is genuine, whose moral character is upright and who, though not sinless, have kept themselves from great transgression, but who nonetheless suffer bitterly.  Since the Christian God is all-powerful, just and good, it follows that such persons are not righteous.  In other words, if you suffer then you truly deserve it!  The problem with this logic is the theodicy premise itself; the premise is false and all conclusions drawn from it are false!

Another popular theodicy premise is that God decrees corruption, violence, disease, injury, disability, suffering and all kinds of evil for reasons known only to Himself.  Perhaps He is self-glorified by the manifestation of evil or perhaps He is merely amused.  Who could know the mind of such a God?  Proponents of this theodicy premise reason that God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass.  This includes the brutal suffering of all mankind!  For example, a proponent of this explanation might comment on the tragic, senseless death of children killed in a careless accident by saying, "We must accept these tragedies as the will of God."  But are you inclined to worship a God who is somehow self-glorified or amused by deliberately bestowing fear, hopelessness, decay, violence, disease, suffering and death on his creation?  Does Scripture attribute unmitigated evil to the immutable will of a God so loving that He offers to purify each of us by imputing our iniquity to Himself?  Could it be that the proponents of this theodicy premise are attributing Satan’s evil to God as a slight twist on the assertion of their predecessors who attributed God’s goodness to Satan (Mat 12:22-32)?

Additional proposed explanations for suffering include:

  • We live in a random universe where things simply happen.  But can this explain intentional, sustained, sacrificial goodness?
  • Evil is simply the absence of goodness.  But does this describe a terrorist who kills thousands of persons simply because they are Christians or Jews?
  • Evil is an illusion, an aberration for the puzzlement of limited intellects; what one might call evil, another might call good.  Try telling this to someone who is dying of cancer or cystic fibrosis.
  • In Process Theology, evil is the inevitable result of the management deficiencies of a God who can barely keep up with His runaway creation.  God can only influence the world but not control it.  Order can never be exhaustive; conflict is inherent by the nature of creation.  Things do not always go as God expects.  But how is this explanation feasible given that the infinitude of the true Christian God permits Him to instantly track all possible histories and futures of you and me and the universe with no more difficulty than it is for us to count the wheels on a bicycle.  Comprehending the cumulative consequences of all contingent first-cause, human free will decisions on subsequent events is infinitesimally trivial for God.  Nothing surprises the foreknowledge of God. 

The previous explanations for evil share one common aspect.  They do not acknowledge the role of Satan as a free will, first-cause agent of choice.  Consider the following explanation which corrects that deficiency.

God created angels and humans as first-cause agents with the free will to choose or reject God in every situation.  Within limits and for a time, God is permitting the consequences of these choices; otherwise, free will is an illusion.  God is infinitely, eternally and immutably good and will immediately prevent any evil except that which results from the free will decisions of angels and humans.  Therefore, rebellious angels and humans are the first-cause agents of all existing evil.  Satan, the ruler of rebellious angels, is the prince of this world and all creation groans under his iron fist.

The world, at every level, is at war.  We are on the front lines of this Great War whether we like it or not.  Because God decided not to exercise his omnipotence to end the war in an instant, the spiritual forces of good and evil negotiate Rules of Engagement.  Without such rules, Satan would do to you and your loved ones what he did to Job and his family!  The Rules of Engagement define such items as: when and where battles are waged, how winners and losers are determined, the consequences of winning and losing, the Allowed Weapons for each side and the Constraints on Effectiveness for each weapon.  The primary allowed weapon for God’s human soldiers is prayer because, alone, we don’t stand a chance against the dark powers.  The constraints on effectiveness for this weapon are shrouded in mystery.  We know only that God always does the most He can do given: (a) prayer as our primary weapon, (b) the constraints on effectiveness for this weapon and (c) the complex and evil powers arrayed against Him.

But why is all this happening?  If God created the universe as “good,” why did it not remain good?  Remember, God created both angels and humans as first-cause agents of choice with the free will to accept or reject God’s wishes in every situation.  God designated certain angels as caretakers of his newly created universe.  Some angels began to oppose God under the leadership of Satan, the most powerful and intelligent of all rebellious angels.  Satan, who holds the power of death (Heb 2:14) and is the prince of this world (John 12:31; 14:30-31; 16:8-11), exercises a pervasive, structural and diabolical influence to the point that the entire creation is in bondage to decay.  That which God created as good began to exhibit a pain-ridden, bloodthirsty, sinister and hostile demeanor.  “Mother Nature,” became an inherently violent and terrifying system dominated by disease, suffering and death – a system red in tooth and claw.  Not wanting free will to be an illusion, God is permitting, for a time and within limits, certain consequences of rebellion and corruption caused by both fallen angels and the humans who join them.  Rebellious angels and humans, under the leadership of Satan, are the first-cause of all evil.

The substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ began a new phase of warfare.  God the Son initiated the process of taking back his creation.  The outcome of the war was decided completely by the substitutionary atonement but repair, reconstruction, restoration and repossession of creation only began.

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4. Is Christianity Compatible with Positive Tolerance?

The conclusion that "Jesus is God" is a natural consequence of classical logic based on the evidence of Scripture, tradition (history) and personal experience. Some in our time fail to be convinced by classical logic because of positive tolerance, a concept taught in many educational institutions and through the media. Positive tolerance is a construction of Hegelian dialectic reasoning in which we synthesize that both a theses and its antithesis are true. In other words, (a is b) is true and (a is-not b) is true; (Jesus is God) is true and (Jesus is-not God) is true. This means every individual's beliefs, values, lifestyle and truth claims are equally valid. Not only does everyone have an equal right to his beliefs but all beliefs are equally true. I may believe (Jesus is God) but I must also believe (Allah is God), (Buddha is God), (Brahman is God) and (God is a fictitious being). The concept of positive tolerance is incompatible with logic and reason. One of God's attributes is absolute truth; positive tolerance is absolute lie.

Classical logic is the logic of absolutes.  Each thesis (e.g. proposition, statement, sentence, etc.) is either true or false in an absolute sense.  Classical logic represents a two-valued or bivalent system.  The 66 books of the Christian Bible suggest that classical logic describes that particular attribute of God called truth.  For example, the thesis (Jesus is God) is either true or false.  The truth of this thesis is not relative in the sense that Jesus may have god-like attributes compared to humans but not compared to other gods.  The truth of this thesis is not situational in the sense that some other god may be legitimately worshiped if you reside in a country that prohibits Christianity.  The truth of this thesis is not unknowable in the sense that the grace of God that brings salvation appears to only certain persons.  The truth of this thesis is not personal in the sense that Jesus can be the legitimate God of some but not others.  Finally, this thesis and its antithesis (Jesus is-not God) cannot both be true as positive tolerance would have you believe.  Either Jesus is God or  He is not, period.

The concept of sin provides another example of the Scriptural position on truth.  Scripture ruthlessly reveals the sins of great men and women of God – Noah lay drunk and naked in his tent, Abraham claimed Sarah was his sister, Sarah attempted to hide her laughter, Isaac imitated his father’s lie, Jacob cheated his brother, Moses angrily struck the rock, Aaron made a gold idol, Joshua did not drive out the Canaanites, Gideon made an ephod, Samson lived a licentious life, David had Uriah murdered, Solomon worshipped other gods, Elijah became utterly despondent and Peter refused to eat with gentile Christians.  Scripture never exercises positive tolerance toward sin even when the sin is committed by one whom God has appointed as His earthly emissary.

Because of its stand on absolute truth and its unswerving belief in one path of salvation from the consequences of sin, Christianity is viewed as the most intolerant religion in the world today. In truth, Christianity is highly intolerant of the decay, violence, disease, suffering, death and unmitigated evil that holds all creation in a vice grip. 

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5. What is Holiness?

Holiness is the attribute of God which permeates all other attributes. It is the state of who He is and the act of what He does; it is absolute purity of will, intellect, heart and action. Certain words such as love, integrity, righteousness, sanctification, morality, ethics and character, have no meaning aside from the holiness of God. Holiness makes God perfect in being, wisdom, power, justice, goodness and truth.

Since man is created in God's image, every human possesses a soul comprising a will, intellect and heart and every human is capable of action. As with God, holiness in man is both state and act. My state is holy if my will, intellect and heart conform respectively to the will, intellect and heart of God. My acts are holy if they flow from a holy state and are the acts God would do in my place.

Sin is all things not holy. The state of my will, intellect and heart is either holy or sinful; my acts are either holy or sinful. The intersection of sin and holiness is the null or empty set. Holiness and sin are disjoint sets or mutually exclusive events in the sample space of all possible states and actions.

Although much of reality is part of a causal chain, God does not determine my free will decisions and I will not always select the path of holiness. Also, my intellect is finite, my wisdom is flawed and I am fully capable of justifying sin by logic and reason. Finally, my human heart is deceitfully wicked and cannot be trusted (Gen 6:5; Ps 14:1; Prov 12:15, 14:12, 20:9; Isa 32:6; Jer 17:9; Mat 15:19; Mark 7:21; John 5:42; Acts 28:27). Given my flawed human soul, how can I ever hope to be holy?

The key that unlocks this mystery is a recognition that I cannot hope to be holy unless the Spirit of God occupies and purifies my will, my intellect and my heart.  I cannot lift myself up by my own bootstraps and become holy in the absence of the Holy Spirit.  Prior to my salvation, the Holy Spirit relentlessly exercises His prevenient grace to call, awaken, draw near, convict, save and empower.  He leads me from one step to another as He finds response in my heart and disposition to obedience.  After salvation, the Holy Spirit wants to occupy and purify every room of my heart, make known to me the will of God, help me discern the truth, be Lord of my life and keep me on the path of repentance, faith and obedience.  But the Holy Spirit will never force Himself on me.  I can, for example, tell Him that certain rooms of my heart are “off limits” to Him and He will comply.  Of course, my progress along the path of sanctification will cease at that point and the Holy Spirit will allow me to experience the consequences of my rebellion in this life. 

My personal journey along the path of Holiness begins when God convicts me that my heart is as black as a lump of coal and when that realization causes me to feel great remorse.  I then request an audience with God and say something like: “Almighty God, I come into Your presence confessing my sin nature and behavior, having remorse in my heart, wanting to repent, asking for Your mercy, receiving from You the far greater gift of salvation and believing I am saved by faith, the grace of God and the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ.”  God responds by giving me the great gift of salvation.  Part of this gift is the regeneration or initial sanctification of my soul.  By this gift, the Holy Spirit begins to reveal the will of God and helps me discern truth from lie.  He occupies and purifies all the rooms of my heart into which He is invited.  For the first time in my life I am not a prisoner of sin.  I am free to pursue the path of righteousness.  This is the first day of my Christian life.  This new life is a daily dying to sin and living to pursue righteousness; it constitutes a life of repentance, faith and obedience continually reaffirmed and renewed.  It means allowing my will and intellect to become increasingly aligned with the will and intellect of God.  It means letting the Holy Spirit occupy and purify an increasing number of rooms in my heart.  It means works of Christian love flow increasingly from a heart that loves God and loves my neighbor.

I am now on the path to holiness.  How far can I travel along this path of sanctification during my life on earth?  Can I achieve, at least for some interval of time:

  • Holiness in being and holiness in action
  • Purity of heart, will, intellect and action
  • Perfect love, integrity, righteousness, morality, ethics, and character

Can I at least allow the Holy Spirit to occupy and purify nearly every room of my heart?  Can my human will become at least somewhat aligned with the will of God?  Can my feeble intellect discern at least many important truths?  Will the Holy Spirit give me a boost toward the top?  Will He occasionally push me up so I can hang from the edge of the precipice?  Can I be holy, for a while, until I am, once again, weighed down by my own

  • Concupiscence
  • Bad judgment
  • Inconsistent will
  • Weariness caused by the constant struggle against temptation

causing me to lose my grip and fall from the heights?  Scripture suggests the possibility of, at least, hanging from the edge of the precipice for a time.

  • God would not command the impossible.  A mature, complete, continuing response to grace is enjoined repeatedly in Scripture (Ex 19:6; John 5:14; 2 Cor 7:1, 13:1; Heb 6:1, 12:14; 1 Pet 1:15-16).  God would not require holiness in this life (Deut 6:5; Luke 10:27; Rom 6:11) if it were intrinsically impossible.
  • God would not promise complete responsiveness to grace if it were intrinsically unattainable.  A complete and mature life of loving holiness is clearly promised in scripture (Deut 30:6; Psalm 119:1-3; Isa 1:18; Jer 33:8; Ezek 36:25; Mat 5:6; 1 Thes 5:23, 24; Heb 7:25; 1 John 1:7-9).
  • The apostles repeatedly prayed for the full and complete life of holiness and perfect love (John 17:20-23; 2 Cor 13:9-11; Eph 3:14-21; Col 4:12; Heb 13:20-21; 1 Pet 5:10).  Were they deluded?
  • Scripture identifies a few entirely sanctified persons (Gen 5:18-24; Gen 6:9; Job 1:8; Acts 11:24).  A single instance establishes attainability.
  • Certain texts that appear to argue for un-attainability can be explained on different grounds (Eccles 7:20; 2 Chron 6:36; Job 25:4; 1 John 1:8-10).

Can persons be easily identified who have been boosted up to entire sanctification (Christian Perfection) or have otherwise been given special empowerment by the Holy Spirit to a peerage above the ranks of the merely saved?  Can some duly elected board of examiners certify such individuals?  Some believe the gift of “tongues” is proof of a particular kind of empowerment.  Others review Scripture covering the twenty “Gifts of the Holy Spirit”  (Rom 12:6-8; 1 Cor 12:4-11; 1 Cor 12:28; Eph 4:11) and conclude God:

  • Imparts a variety of gifts according to His divine grace (Eph 4:7,8).
  • Chooses these gifts at His own discretion and not according to our desire (1 Cor 12:11).
  • Wills every Christian exercise one or more spiritual gifts (1 Cor 12:4-7). 

Perhaps we need to look beyond denominational certifications, personal claims of holiness and personal displays of gifts to identify those who have been boosted up to entire sanctification or have otherwise been given special empowerment by the Holy Spirit to a peerage above the rank and file Christian.  Perhaps we should examine their fruit (Mat 7:16-20; Gal 5:22, 23).

JOURNEY ALONG THE PATH OF HOLINESS

Here is a vignette about one person’s journey along the path of holiness.  Perhaps you are that person.

The human soul may be thought of as a large mansion with many wings, many stories and thousands of rooms.  The intellect encompasses a large wing in the mansion where logic, reason and abstract thought take place.  The “will” is a single command and control center where moral decisions are made; information from other rooms is sent to the “will” for the decision making process.  The “heart” comprises thousands of rooms; each room represents one or more attributes given to us by God when He made us in His image.  These include patience, perseverance, discipline, prudence, discernment, courage, meekness, humility, gentleness, obedience, forbearance, commitment, love, integrity, purity, morality, ethics, forgiveness, mercy, compassion, faithfulness, peace, joy, hope, comfort, strength, honesty and a myriad of others.  Each room in the “heart” complex has the name of an attribute above the door; sometimes a room has several names since attributes can overlap.  The rooms of the heart complex are more or less grouped in wings but these wings are not independent; they intersect and wander from story to story.  The holiness wing, for example, comprises the ground floor with extensions into all other wings.

Only you and the spirits you choose to invite are present in a given room.  A white board hangs on one wall of each room with the words “Love God and love your neighbor as yourself” but the boards are not well illuminated and are easy to ignore.  The rooms are interconnected by an intercom system and a quiet but disquieting voice seems to periodically inject advice concerning how the affairs of a particular room should be conducted.  But the rooms are large and it’s easy to get far enough away from the intercom to ignore this disturbing, disquieting voice.  Also, an annoying intermittent knock can be heard coming from an outside door, perhaps the front door or maybe a side door.  But if you have a sufficient number of distractions – the burdens and bitterness of life or perhaps a loud party with some invited spirits – the writing on the white board, the voice on the intercom and the annoying knock can be ignored with relative ease.

One day you are alone in your thoughts and feel the overwhelming presence of sin.  It’s like a heavy weight on your chest that keeps you from breathing.  What is wrong?  You were always able to suppress these feelings and convince yourself that all your actions were justified.  Then you realize the voice on all the intercoms is saying some things that pierce your heart like an ice pick.  What can you do?  Is there no escape from the suffocating power of sin?  You run from one room to another to no avail.  The voice becomes louder and suddenly blurts out, “Open the door where God is knocking!”  You search for the door; it takes a while.  Finally you locate a side door that you thought was a broom closet.  As you peer through a dingy glass, you see a man knocking.  The door has no doorknob on his side so he can’t open it.  There is an intercom right next to the door.  The disquieting voice from the intercom becomes something like a wind or strange breath urging you open the door.

Your palms sweat and you fear the consequences but you open the door.  The man says, “May I come in?”  He is an ordinary looking, quiet man, not at all threatening, so you invite him in.  He then startles you by abruptly asking, “Do you confess your sins with remorse in your heart; want to repent; ask for God’s forgiveness and mercy; believe you can receive peace in your life only by faith in Jesus Christ, the grace of God and the substitutionary atonement; and promise to seek the path of obedience?”  You don’t really know what he is talking about but, somehow, his words give you a measure of peace so you abruptly answer, “Yes” having only a rudimentary understanding of what you have just accepted.  Yet, as soon as you respond, the great heavy weight of sin is lifted off your chest.  The man then says, “I have a gift for you” and hands you a box with the word salvation on the lid.  You remove the lid and find a collection of certificates inside the box; each one has your name on it.  The certificates say things like:

  • You have been redeemed from the bondage of sin.
  • You have been forgiven all sins committed from birth to this point in time.
  • You have been justified as sinless before a holy God.
  • You have been adopted into the family of God.
  • You have been regenerated from the bondage of sin to a life of pursuing righteousness.
  • You will be guided along the path of sanctification.
  • You have been reconciled with fellow believers.
  • You have been united with all believers in the church of Jesus Christ.
  • You can look forward to glorification. 

You say, “What do these certificates mean, for example the one about being regenerated?”  The man says, “I am Jesus Christ.  I have paid the price for your salvation.  I am giving you the Holy Spirit who will make known to you the will of God and help you discern the truth.  He will occupy and purify all the rooms of your heart into which he is invited.”  At that instant the disquieting voice from the intercom comes through the door like a wind.  You realize a person is the source of that voice and that person takes up residence in your will and intellect as an advisor.  He also occupies and purifies all those rooms of your heart which you permit him to enter.  He illuminates the white board in each of these rooms and says, “It is the requirement of God’s law that you love God and love your neighbor as yourself.”  If any evil spirits have been residing in those rooms, they are shown to the door.  You have been saved!  You have been reborn as a Christian and this is the first day of your new life. 

As the days turn into months and months into years, you grow closer to God and make more rooms of your heart accessible to the Holy Spirit.  Progress is not steady, however.  Sometimes you deliberately sin and sometimes you even tell the Holy Spirit to get out of a room which He had previously occupied and purified.  You stumble along the path toward Christian maturity with some rooms holy and some not.  Only those rooms in which the Holy Spirit resides are holy.  A state of sin exists in those rooms where the Holy Spirit is absent and deliberate acts of sin flow from those rooms.

Perhaps one day you open all the rooms of your heart to the Holy Spirit.  On that day, the state of your entire heart is holy and, for the first time, your relationship with the Holy Spirit is unimpaired.  Your heart is filled with Christian love.  The deliberate acts which flow from your will, intellect and heart are Holy.  You have been entirely sanctified.  However, you are still tempted to sin.  Subsequently, you will often succumb to temptation and ask the Holy Spirit to vacate one or more rooms.  He will comply and your relationship with Him will be broken.  You will not lose your salvation each time you are overwhelmed by temptation; but your entire sanctification will have to be restored by confession of sin, repentance and the forgiveness and mercy of God.  There is no such thing as sinless perfection in this life.

Given all the snares and pitfalls of life, the power of Satan and the weakness of the human soul, the best path for a Christian is one of daily confession and renewal.  Even the full reception of sanctifying grace does not imply that one needs no longer to ask forgiveness or seek the intercession of Christ.  The Christian life is precisely the daily dying to sin and living to pursue righteousness that constitutes a life of repentance, faith and obedience continually reaffirmed and renewed.  Who can say, “I have kept my heart pure; I am clean and without sin.” especially in connection with human infirmities, sins of surprise, errors of judgment and moral misperceptions?  There are no liturgies of classical Christianity that fail to offer confession of sin.  This does not place the way of holiness out of reach for believers, but puts believers constantly on the path of daily confession and renewal.

Holiness is not something imputed to you at the instant of salvation.  Imputation implies the assignment of certain attributes of Christ.  For example, justification is God’s act of removing your guilt and the penalty of sin while imputing to you the righteousness of Christ.  Justification is what God does for you through His Son; holiness is what He works in you through His Spirit.  Justification is a relative change in your standing with God and not the work by which you are made actually just and righteous.  Holiness is imparted to you gradually beginning at salvation and continuing thereafter as God senses a response in your heart and a disposition for obedience.

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.  If we claim we have not sinned, we make Him out to be a liar and His word has no place in our lives. (1 John 1:8-10)

CHRISTIAN UNTRUTHS ABOUT HOLINESS 

Many of the following untruths have been around for centuries.  Some can be gleaned from preaching and teaching on 24/7 Christian television.  All are Christian baloney!

  • Rom 7:13-25 describe Paul’s non-Christian life but not his Christian experience.
  • The substitutionary atonement is sufficient to cover a billion times more sin than I could ever commit so, after accepting the great gift of salvation, I no longer need to engage in prayers centered on personal confession, remorse, repentance, faith and obedience; all my future debts have been paid in full.
  • I can never lose my salvation so I don’t really need to be concerned about confession of sin and the requirements of a moral law (antinomianism).
  • Jesus loves me just the way I am so there is no reason to change.
  • Once I achieve a “state” of entire sanctification, I no longer commit deliberate sins and therefore I have nothing to confess.
  • Unless I can speak in tongues, I have not been empowered by the Holy Spirit and I am little more than an unskilled worker with blunt tools in the midst of God’s master craftsmen who have been lifted to a peerage above the ranks of the merely saved.
  • Christian holiness is imputed to me at the instant of my salvation; I am saved therefore I am holy.
  • I must be entirely sanctified or I am destined for hell.
  • If I inadvertently commit an unholy act but my motives are pure, I have not sinned.

 

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6. Are Christians Expected "to do" or Just "to be"?

Holiness is the state of who God is and the acts that He does. A state of holiness in humans is characterized by absolute purity of heart, intellect and will. Acts of holiness by humans are frequently called "fruit of the Spirit" (Gal 5:22); they represent acts of Christian love performed by one person and received by another. Christians are expected to reflect God's holiness since we are created in His image (Gen 1:26). In fact, we are specifically commanded to be holy because God is holy (Lev 11:44).

What about the option of just "being" in a state of holiness but not "doing" holy acts? For example, I could allocate Sundays for worship and prayer. During the week I could concentrate on avoiding sinful thoughts thereby maintaining the purity of my heart. I could also participate in the church choir and read the Bible regularly. I could even study the deep meaning of Greek and Hebrew text and become skilled at systematic theology and Biblical exegesis. Of course with all this activity, I wouldn't have time to minister to others or be a servant to anyone. Maybe my daily life could serve as a role model for the unsaved but I certainly wouldn't have time to deal with those people directly. Furthermore, my church comprises old time "saints of God" and is just the right size. There is no need to be discipled or to disciple others in my church; we are beyond that sort of thing.

The commandments in Scripture stand in sharp contrast to the option embraced in the previous paragraph. Read the following passages and judge for yourself: Mat 22:36-40; Rom 13:8-10; Gal 5:14; Luke 8:21; Jam 4:17; Eph 4:11-12; John 15:1-2, 8, 13, 16; Mat 7:12, 17-20; Mat 25:14-30.

Here is a vignette touching on the greatest responsibility of the Christian church.

Let us focus on two individuals living in the same community: Mr. Christian and Mr. Non-Christian.  Outwardly, they appear to have similar lives; both are married with children, have good jobs and provide for their families.  But inwardly they are quite different.  Their differences can be illuminated by asking each man three questions: “What do you believe about God, why do you believe it and what should you do about it?” together with a follow up question, “How have your beliefs affected your life?” 

What Mr. Christian believes about God is summarized in in Section 7 of Theology Corner under the title, “What is Your Theology?” and in Section 13 under the title, “What are the Core Beliefs of Christianity?  Why Mr. Christian has embraced these beliefs is somewhat mysterious but has its roots in feelings, intuition and emotion coupled with the influence of an authority figure, in his case, his Christian grandfather.  His decision to embrace Christianity was not based on logic, reason, or evidence.  This limits his ability to convince others that his beliefs are correct.  What Mr. Christian believes he should do in response to his beliefs is work to fulfill the Great Commission (Mat 28:18-20) and the Great Commandment (Mat 22:36-40).  Outwardly, Mr. Christian has a peaceful and fulfilling life.  But, in the past, one of his children became addicted to drugs and he and his wife contemplated divorce.  His Christian foundation helped him and his family work through those difficult times. 

In contrast to Mr. Christian, Mr. Non-Christian completely rejects Christianity.  He believes an impersonal life force may permeate the universe but the Christian God does not exist.  Why he denies Christianity is based on his deep suspicion of Christians and their motives and the complete absence of logic, reason or evidence in support of Christianity.  What Mr. Non-Christian believes he should do in response to his beliefs is ignore Christians and get on with his life.  But beneath a veneer of success and stability, Mr. Non-Christian has a life in turmoil.  By his mid-thirties, he had a good income, two cars and a large home.  He did not need God because he was in control of his life.  God was for emotionally insecure persons who needed a crutch.  He was raised in a godless family and never saw the inside of a church.  Unfortunately, by age 35, he had an alcoholic wife who wanted a divorce and three children, on alcohol and drugs, who despised their father.  His life was a disaster in spite of the fact that he thought he was in control.  He occasionally drove past a sign on a country road that said, “There is a way that seems right to a man but the end thereof leads to death.”  He thought to himself, “What a ridiculous sign.  What fool wrote that?”  Seemingly, Mr. Non-Christian could never reconcile his views about God with those of Mr. Christian. 

But just in time a third party, God, intensifies His work on the heart, intellect and will of Mr. Non-Christian:

  • The grace of God that brings salvation grips the spirit of Mr. Non-Christian (Titus 2:11).
  • The requirements of the law have long been written by God on the heart of Mr. Non-Christian (Rom. 2:15); now these words are illuminated by a searing beam of light.
  • Jesus Christ intensifies His knocking at the door of Mr. Non-Christian’s heart, intellect and will (Rev. 3:20).
  • The Holy Spirit intensifies His efforts to call, awaken, draw near and convict the heart, intellect and will of Mr. Non-Christian (John 16:8).
  • God’s eternal power and divine nature begin to reveal their essence to Mr. Non-Christian in the world around him (Rom 1:20).   

Mr. Non-Christian begins to be convicted of his own sin nature and behavior; he finally realizes his heart is black as a lump of coal.  God initiates, advances and perfects a sprouting seed of confession, remorse and repentance in Mr. Non-Christian.  God leads him from one step to another in proportion as He finds response in the heart and disposition for obedience.  In the past, Mr. Non-Christian always viewed himself as a “good” person whose behavior could always be justified.  But now, he is beginning to be convicted of his own sin.  What can he do?  Where can he go to find some relief from the great weight that is settling upon his heart?

Mr. Christian belongs to a church which Mr. Non-Christian drives by every day on the way to work.  Could this church have some answers?  Would these people know how to relieve the burden?  This church, like all churches, lies between two extremes: (1) an introverted, self-serving country club for the saints of God and (2) a light house whose beacon draws the lost into a hospital for sinners.  If Mr. Non-Christian enters the church and discovers an introverted, self-serving country club (where even the Holy Spirit is not welcome unless He sits in the balcony and behaves Himself), Mr. Non-Christian will not return more than twice and may be lost forever.  If, as he enters the church, Mr. Non-Christian is greeted by Mr. Christian who says “Welcome!  Whatever your burden or struggle, we have the answer.  Furthermore, we can justify our answer by logic, reason and evidence.  We would like you to become part of our family and hear about our solution to life’s problems.” then Mr. Non-Christian may keep returning until he realizes that the great weight on his heart can be removed by confession of sin, remorse, repentance, faith and obedience which gains him the great gift of salvation.

The wealth of Jesus Christ comprises the sum total of all saved souls.  Jesus expects Christians to increase His wealth by helping those who are being convicted of sin to make it across the finish line.  If we refuse to use our great gift of salvation to help others cross the finish line, then we are no better than the wicked and slothful servant who hid his master’s wealth in the ground (Mat 25:14-30). 

But who, in the church, does God expect to accept this great responsibility?  Is it only “big, important people” occupying “big important places” who are expected to help others cross the finish line?  Francis Schaeffer answered this question many decades ago using an analogy with the shepherd’s rod of Moses:

“Though we are limited and weak in talent, physical energy and psychological strength, we are not less than a stick of wood.  But just as the rod of Moses had to become the rod of God (Ex 4:20), so that which is “me” must become the “me” of God.  Then I can become useful in God’s hands.  The Scripture emphasizes that much can come from little if the little is truly consecrated to God.  There are no little people and no big people in the true spiritual sense, but only consecrated and unconsecrated people.  The problem for each of us is applying this truth to ourselves. 

But if a Christian is consecrated, does this mean he will be in a big place instead of a little place?  The answer, the next step, is very important.  As there are no little people in God’s sight, so there are no little places.  To be wholly committed to God in the place where God wants him – this is the creature glorified.

The people who receive praise from the Lord Jesus will not in every case be the people who hold leadership in this life.  There will be many persons who were “sticks of wood” that stayed close to God and were quiet before Him, and were used in power by Him in a place which looks small to men.  Each Christian is to be a rod of God in the place of God for him.  We must remember throughout our lives that in God’s sight there are no little people and no little places.  Only one thing is important: to be consecrated persons in God’s place for us at each moment.  Those who think of themselves as little people in little places, if committed to Christ and living under His Lordship in the whole of life, may, by God’s Grace, change the flow of our generation.” 

If you begin to think of yourself as a little, unimportant person occupying a little unimportant place, you might read this poem by Ruby Zeafla: 

I don’t know how to say it, but somehow it seems to me,
That maybe we are stationed where God wants us to be.
That the little place I’m filling is the reason for my birth,
And just to do the work I do, He sent me down to earth. 

If God had wanted otherwise, I reckon He’d have made,
Me just a little different; or a worse or better grade.
And since God knows and understands all things of land and sea,
I fancy that He placed me here just where He wanted me.

Sometimes I get to thinking, as my labor I review,
That I should like a higher place with greater things to do.
But I come to the conclusion, when envying is stilled,
That the post to which God sent me is the post He wanted filled.

 So I plod along and struggle in the hope when day is through,
That I’m really necessary to the things God wants to do.
And there isn’t any service I can give which I should scorn,
For it may be just the reason God allowed me to be born.

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7. What is Your Theology?

Many say, "I just believe in God! I don't need a theology or doctrine." If this statement encompasses your Christian beliefs then it defines your theology by default. Unfortunately, this statement doesn't put much separation between you and Satan's minions (Jam 2:19). You may say, "I just have faith; I don't need more." In Christianity, faith must be preceded by repentance and followed by obedience. Faith as an intellectual exercise or emotional experience is meaningless. From the moment you are saved by the grace of God and the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ, deeds matter (Jam 2:14-25). Your belief system, or theology, determines your deeds. If you need more detail in your belief system, try the following:

  • The Bible is the inspired, infallible and inerrant word of God.
  • The one true God exists as three distinct, transcendent, immanent, infinite, eternal, and immutable persons: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.
  • Jesus Christ is God the Son. Jesus Christ is man. Jesus Christ is one person whose divine and human natures cannot be changed, divided, separated or mixed. Jesus Christ was resurrected bodily from the dead. Jesus Christ was born of a virgin.
  • Every person since Adam and Eve, except Jesus Christ, was born with a sin nature and no person, except Jesus Christ, has lived a sinless life.
  • Salvation from the consequences of sin is offered to all persons by the grace of God and the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ.
  • The grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all persons (Titus 2:11): (a) the requirements of the law are written by God on every heart (Rom. 2:15), (b) Jesus Christ knocks at the door of every heart (Rev. 3:20), (c) the Holy Spirit calls and convicts each person (John 16:8) and (d) God's eternal power and divine nature are evident in the world around us (Rom 1:20). Nevertheless, many resist the grace of God.
  • Each person who responds to God's grace and the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ by confession of sin, remorse, repentance, faith and obedience receives the great gift of salvation. Each person who resists God's grace is condemned to everlasting punishment.
  • Faith precedes regeneration; faith is an act of human free will responding to the grace of God.

Biblical support and relevant commentary for these 8 items is given in Section 13 of Theology Corner under the title “What are the Core Beliefs of Christianity?”  These items are necessary and sufficient to explain the nature of intelligent man and his place in the universe.  Stand-alone illustrations will be listed in the remainder of this section. 

The Christian description of the beginning of the universe is consistent with the scientific description.  Science says the universe began at a definite point in time -- the Big Bang.  The Bible says the universe began by “ex nihilo” creation (bara) at a definite point in time (Gen 1:1; Heb 11:3).   

Substantial evidence supporting the Anthropic Principle suggests the universe was created as a home for man.  Copernicus, Brahe, Galileo, Kepler and others disproved that the earth is the geometric center of the universe.  But in the 1970’s, cosmologists discovered a concept even more powerful; not one of the fundamental properties of the universe could be changed significantly without eliminating the possibility of life.  Man is not at the physical center of the universe, but he is at the philosophical center!  

The Moral Law is God’s commandment to love your neighbor as yourself (Mat 22:36-40; Rom 13:8-10; Gal 5:14); He wrote His Law on everyone’s heart (Rom 1:18-20, 2:14-15).  The Moral Law cannot be explained by biological evolution (survival of the fittest) even with the utilization of game theory. Similarly, it cannot be explained as “learned social behavior” passed from adults to children. 

First life was created by God.  The spontaneous generation of first life from non-living matter (biochemical evolution) cannot be explained by any known scientific process.  For example, if life developed spontaneously in a primordial soup of nucleotides, amino acids and nutrients, then either the first complex polynucleotide or the first informed enzyme was formed without the assistance of a pre-existing complex chemical entity.  The probability of such an event is virtually zero.

The gradual evolution of complex life from primitive life cannot be explained by survival-of-the-fittest.  First, primitive life does not exist; the blueprint for any type of life is incredibly complex.  Second, the overall fitness of a creature can neither be measured nor computed since no paradigm exists for reducing the creature to a calculable whole. 

The fundamental beliefs of Christianity should be the product of classical logic based on the evidence of Scripture, tradition and personal experience; from cover to cover the Bible encourages us to think!  Religious beliefs should never be based on blind faith in some authority figure or simply on a blind leap of faith. 

Each man and woman is capable of agape (unconditional) love for others only because each person is created in the image of God and agape love is one of God’s attributes.  But how can agape love be an attribute of God when, before the creation of heaven and the universe, nothing existed except God?  Who would have been the object of God’s agape love?  The answer is simple for Christians.  Each of the distinct, uncreated, eternal and immutable persons comprising the triune God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) has always loved the other two unconditionally.  This quandary becomes unresolvable only for those who believe God exists as one person.  The “agape love” dilemma besets non-Christian religions (e.g. Islam) as well as Christian spinoffs (Oneness Pentecostalism).

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8. What Gifts Does God Give You at the Instant of Salvation?

Each person who responds to God's grace (Titus 2:11) and the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ (Rom 5:8; 1 John 2:2) by confession of sin, remorse, repentance, faith and obedience instantly receives the great gift of salvation. This gift includes but is not limited to the following:

  • Redemption (Rom 3:24; 8:23) - You are freed from the bondage of sin for the first time in your life.
  • Forgiveness (Mat 6:9-15; 1 John 1:8-10) - You are forgiven your sins by God.
  • Justification (Rom 3:21-26) - You are declared righteous by God; this legal declaration is valid because Christ died to pay the penalty for your sin and lived a life of perfect righteousness that can in turn be imputed to you.
  • Adoption (Rom 3:23; Gal 3:26; 1 John 3:2) - You are a joint heir with Jesus to the Kingdom of God.
  • Regeneration (John 3:1-21) - The Holy Spirit makes known to you the will of God and helps you discern truth from lie. He occupies and purifies all the rooms of your heart into which He is invited. For the first time in your life you are not a prisoner of sin. You are free to pursue the path of righteousness. This is the first day of your Christian life and you are a new creature in Christ. This is the mechanism of your redemption.
  • Sanctification (Heb 6:1; 1 Pet 1:13-16) - You are led by the Holy Spirit along the path toward holiness; this is a lifetime journey.
  • Reconciliation ( Eph 2:11-22) - You are reconciled with all other believers.
  • Unification (Eph 3:1-11) - You are united with all believers in the Church of Jesus Christ.
  • Glorification (Rom 8:30) - You will complete the journey along the path of sanctification when your mission in this life is done.
Commentary on Salvation

In this age, some Christians seek to curry favor with the masses by developing an eclectic religion based on the syncretism of Christianity with other world religions.  The end product of such an effort is always failure because Christian theology is completely incompatible with the theology of other religions; no common ground exists.  This is particularly apparent in the Christian doctrine of God’s work to save mankind by the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ.

One contemporary example is Chrislam, the merger of Christianity and Islam.  Can Islam be syncretized with Christianity concerning the issues of: the inborn sin nature of man, the sinlessness of the incarnate Jesus Christ and the crucifixion, death and bodily resurrection?  Consider the words of Maulana Muhammad Ali nearly 100 years ago:

“The fundamental difference between Christianity and Islam is that the former teaches that every human child is born sinful, while the latter teaches that every human child is born sinless…Thus in Islam human nature is raised to the highest dignity by a plain declaration of its purity, while in Christianity it is brought down to the depth of degradation by declaring its inherent sinfulness…This low view of human nature which forms the foundation stone of the Christian religion must, sooner or later, be abandoned by the civilized world…suggestions were made to Jesus by the Devil (Luke 4:1-13) and this is inconsistent with the theory of his absolute sinlessness.  The suggestion of the Devil is really the coming of an evil idea into a man’s heart…Christ never died on the cross and he never rose from the dead: the preaching of the Christian missionary is therefore vain and vain is also his faith.” 

Antithetical to the teachings of Ali, the salvation of man by the grace of God and the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ is the cornerstone of Christian theology.  The atonement provides the redemption of creation from the bondage of evil and the offer to redeem man from the bondage of sin; man’s redemption is accompanied by forgiveness, justification, adoption, regeneration, and many other gifts comprising salvation.  Mankind desperately needs salvation because every person since Adam and Eve, except Jesus Christ, was born with a sin nature and no person, except Jesus Christ, has lived a sinless life.  We are all born with a sin nature and embrace sinful behavior as soon as we are able to exercise free will.   

Furthermore, the one attribute of Jesus Christ which is absolutely essential for the substitutionary atonement is sinlessness.  If the incarnate Jesus did not live a sinless life, then his crucifixion, death and resurrection could not free any part of creation from the bondage of evil nor could it free one man from the bondage of sin.  Scriptures are completely unanimous in declaring the perfect sinlessness of Christ under all circumstances. 

Christians believe that one and only one punishment, the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ, was necessary and sufficient to: (1) redeem all creation from the bondage of evil and (2) redeem all mankind from the bondage of sin.  By submitting to this punishment, God redeemed the universe from the vice grip of Satan and, for mankind, offered not only redemption from the bondage of sin but also the far greater gift of salvation in all its aspects.  However, redemption from bondage does not mean redemption from influence.  For a time and within limits God is permitting the consequences of evil throughout all creation and in the souls of men.  Satan will never accept the substitutionary atonement as sufficient payment for redemption.  He believes his property was stolen from him by a phony purchase and he is battling God to retain possession.

In Islam, man is not born with a sin nature, Jesus did not live a sinless life and the substitutionary atonement did not take place because Jesus did not die on the cross.  No syncretism is possible between Christianity and Islam and those who attempt to create one are serving a different master than Jesus.

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9. Why is the Protestant Church Dying in the United States?

Available evidence suggests most denominations and individual protestant churches have either reached a plateau or are on the decline in the United States. This country may be only one or two generations behind Europe, Australia, New Zealand and other regions in experiencing the essential death of the church. Why is this happening? Is the church afflicted with some Satanic virus for which there is neither treatment nor cure? Is the reason for this spiral into the abyss some great theological mystery?

Chapters 2 and 3 of Ephesians explain that all believers are reconciled with one another and united in the Church of Jesus Christ; authorities in Heaven are observing the church hoping to see the "manifold wisdom of God" at work on earth. To the extent these rulers see a body of believers characterized by:

  • Confession of sin, remorse, repentance, faith and obedience
  • Spiritual unity in pursuit of the Great Commandment (Mat 22:36-40) and the Great Commission (Mat 28:18-20)

they see the hand of God working through His church. But what ugly characteristics are these authorities also observing in churches across the United States? The list includes but is certainly not limited to the following items. As you read these items, remember that much is expected from those to whom much has been given (Luke 12:48) and much has been given to America; for the United States, the bar has been raised.

  • Pastors lacking the courage of their convictions and no longer serving the One who called them but instead serving the ones who pay their salaries and control their careers.  Each pastor who becomes an entertainment director, chief entertainer or master of ceremonies for some introverted, self-serving, country club and each pastor intent on steering his "cruise ship" through calm waters without any rough seas, anxious moments or requirement to reason or act beyond a fourth grade level will be judged by the One who called him/her to ministry.
  • Pastors who cultivate great country club churches having magnificent architecture, accomplished musicians and a plethora of activities for all ages.  But the pervasive pall of spiritual death permeates every corner of the great edifice.  The pastor seldom talks of heaven, hell or Satan and, except for rare occasions, never talks about the desperate need of each member to confess sin with heartfelt remorse, strive for repentance, embrace faith and seek obedience to God.  The pastor doesn’t talk about salvation as it comprises: redemption from the bondage of sin, God’s forgiveness of sin, justification before a Holy God, adoption into the family of God, regeneration from the death of sin to a life of pursuing righteousness, travel along the path of sanctification, reconciliation with fellow Christians, unification in the Church of Jesus Christ and looking forward to glorification.  Instead, he concentrates on getting everyone involved in some activity akin to rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.  By design, the congregation never knows exactly what they believe, why they believe it and what they should do about it.  Church members are simply encouraged to believe that participation in country club activities will make them pleasing to God.  Meanwhile, desperate turmoil lurks in the hidden corners of their lives just below the country club façade.  Such churches can absorb sharp deviations from traditional Christian doctrine such as ordination of LGBT clergy, abortion on demand as a means of birth control and the belief that all religions lead to the same God because members are too ignorant to know the difference.
  • Pastors who are terrified by the thought that they may have to reveal and defend their own positions on contested Christian issues such as Calvinism, tongues, entire sanctification, the Holy Trinity, Biblical inspiration, the bodily resurrection, the virgin birth, sin, salvation, same sex unions and many others.  Even though studies have linked the failure of evangelism to ignorance of apologetics, pastors fear their congregations might learn too much.  Excessive knowledge invites division.  An ignorant congregation is a manageable congregation.  After all, isn’t the prime objective to keep the local church cruise ship moving along through calm waters with everyone well fed and entertained and the pastor employed?
  • Pastors who fail to stand firm against the evil sweeping over civilization like a tsunami.  Their knees shake and their legs turn to jelly as they contemplate the possible consequences, to their careers, of exposing the truth about Islamic Jihad, homosexuality, abortion for convenience, promiscuity, positive tolerance and many other personal choices.  Instead, these pastors follow the appeasement example of some European clergy who embraced Third Reich doctrine and twisted the cross into a Swastika.  If the Christian church, under the leadership of pastors, is not on the front lines where the battle rages in the Great War between good and evil, then the church has betrayed its Savior.
  • Pastors who fail to emphasize the teaching of Christian Apologetics.  Consequently, their congregations don't know what they should believe, why they should believe it and what they should do about it!
  • Pastors who have little interest in evangelizing their own communities.  They will invest enormous church resources to construct one room cinder block buildings in third world countries but completely ignore giant apartment complexes next door to their churches.
  • Pastors who teach that Christians will achieve health, healing, well being, safety, wealth and prosperity in this life if only they will "confess it and possess it" or "name it and claim it."
  • Pastors having neither leadership nor administrative skills but refusing to delegate or relinquish control to those who do.
  • Pastors who teach that Jesus not only loves you but He likes you just the way you are!  There is no need for anyone to confess their sins, have remorse in their heart and repent.  Jesus approves of those who advocate  the use of abortion for convenience as a means of birth control.  He does not condemn drug and alcohol addiction.  He does not condemn spousal abuse and neglect of family.  He does not condemn promiscuity.  To gain your support, these phony pastors tell you exactly what you want to hear, but not what you need to hear.
  • Pastors and church leaders unwilling or unable to make a paradigm shift in Great Commission strategy.  For example, the United Methodist Church has been in a death spiral for 50 years.  A short list of remedial measures has been thrust in the faces of members tens of thousands of times by two generations of church leaders.  These measures may have produced nominal success in the first half of the 20th century but, for the past 50 years, their influence has been overwhelmed by major changes in American culture.  Now they have lost their effectiveness altogether.  One example is the act of witnessing to the unchurched at work or in places of business.  This is now considered “religious workplace harassment” and may result in penalties against those engaged in proselytizing.  Another example is inviting your neighbor to church.  In a modern American subdivision, you don’t know your neighbors well enough to invite them for a doughnut let alone invite them to church.  Only superficial shifts in Great Commission strategy have been made, over the years, even though today’s culture is much more jaded, sophisticated and anti-Christian than the culture of the 1960’s.  35% of millennials don’t trust religious leaders.  Some UMC leaders want to appease the un-churched by introducing social positions, which mirror our culture, into the church as God approved behavior (same sex marriage, abortion for convenience, etc.). Nevertheless, the average age of a Methodist is about 60 years and 90% of all UMC churches over 100 years old will close in the next few years.  We re-double our efforts to implement failed programs in spite of that old adage, “If you do what you’ve always done, you get what you always got!”  Any retail business exhibiting a downward spiral like that of the UMC would, long ago, have made a fundamental paradigm shift and the blame for failure would have been assigned solely to management and not the consumer base.
  • Pastors and church leaders growing impatient with God and seeking to do His work by the power of the flesh rather than by the power of the Holy Spirit.  The central problems of Christianity are always in the midst of the people of God and not in the circumstances of the world. Satan strives to cripple the church from within.  Although Christians are useless to God without being empowered by the Holy Spirit, many pastors and church leaders ape the world's wisdom, trust its forms of publicity and imitate its ways of manipulating men.  If we put the world's wisdom at the center of our activities, we may gain the power of the world, but we will forfeit the power of the Holy Spirit. The world, at every level, is aflame with war between the forces of good and evil.  But we cannot win our portion of the engagement with earthly weapons (Eph 6:10-18).  
  • Church leaders having neither leadership nor administrative skills. With regard to that old saying -- either lead, follow or get out of the way-- these leaders choose "none of the above."
  • Church leaders who wallow in the exercise of power and authority. They have forgotten that when a Christian is extruded by God into a position of leadership, that person becomes a greater servant to all.
  • Church leaders who don't know the meaning of corporate prayer.
  • Church leaders and Bible scholars who teach non-Biblical concepts such as: (1) the reality of the trinity is false; God exists as one person with three faces or masks, (2) Jesus was not bodily resurrected from the dead, (3) Paul exhibited latent homosexual tendencies, (4) Jesus had a sexual relationship with Mary Magdalene, (5) modern psychology and sociology supercede the Bible with regard to behavioral issues, (6) most people were predestined to Hell by God’s decree before the universe was formed and (7) salvation is universal; all go to Heaven. 
  • Churches bound together by means of episcopal polity (e.g. the United Methodist Church).  A single governing body thereby establishes Biblical exegesis for every church in the denomination.  Such denominations are prime targets for those clergy and laypersons driven by single issue social activism.  A few hundred dedicated activists, if allowed to dominate a legislative body, can change fundamental doctrine governing 10 million members.  For example, LGBT activists have been infiltrating the General Conference of the UMC for more than 40 years.  They are poised to revise the Book of Discipline and change the historic doctrine of the United Methodist Church regarding homosexuality.  In spite of clear Biblical teaching to the contrary (Rom 1:26; 1 Cor 6:9-10), these activists want to declare that homosexuality is not a sin, homosexual unions should be conducted in the church and homosexuals should be ordained into the ministry.  When this happens, UMC members have two options, embrace homosexuality or leave the denomination.  The departure of many will not be viewed as disruptive or destructive; the activists will view it as “purification." To accelerate a change in the Book of Discipline, the UMC upper echelon elite are not confined to contemporary rules and prohibitions.  They will try to intimidate General Conference members by ordaining homosexual pastors and bishops and then daring the denominational leadership to take action.  In this way, the UMC will comprise a lawless denomination as well as an apostate denomination.  John Wesley and Francis Asbury may be “turning over in their graves.” 
  • Churches denying the will of God to heal in the present day even though Jesus sent forth his followers to both preach the Gospel and heal the sick (Luke 9:1-2, 10:8-9).  Physical healing was commonplace in the early Christian community.  But many Christians, in the 21st century, have become so sophisticated and jaded that they doubt the power of prayer and the will of God to heal.  Three elements of healing are mentioned in the New Testament [united corporate prayer (James 5:14), anointing with oil (James 5:14; Mark 6:13) and laying on of hands (Mark 16:18)].  The early church combined these three elements into a single activity with the objective of healing.  A church that denies healing is a sterile church where no one is healed!
  • Churches exercising non-Biblical concepts in the selection of church leaders. Most churches would be pleased to accept John Newton or the apostle Paul as a pastor, elder or deacon even though these men were frequently accessories to murder. These same churches might exclude a 60-year-old Christian, having tremendous leadership skills, because he/she was deserted by a spouse at age 19.
  • Churches substituting man made rituals (committees, boards, councils, by-laws, membership) and non-Biblical vision (massive building programs and extensive property ownership) for Biblical leadership and planning; these congregations become obsessed with property ownership and they sacrifice Great Commission work to achieve it.
  • Churches that are little more than introverted, self-serving country clubs for a few families. Service has been replaced by serve-us and "it's all about God" has been replaced by "it's all about me."
  • Churches having ritualistic, "wooden" worship services; the Holy Spirit is not invited and would not be welcomed if He showed up.
  • Churches where "loving your neighbor" is practiced but with subtle exclusivity regarding who constitutes a neighbor.
  • Churches with no burden for evangelism because of their belief that persons elected to salvation and persons condemned to hell were chosen by God before the universe was formed.
  • Churches where "enlarging the fellowship" means inviting persons just like those already present but, by treatment, excluding others from country club participation.
  • Churches where "discipleship" means re-reading the same baby-food Sunday School lessons covered for the past 30 years but never knowing exactly what Christians believe and why.  
  • Christian institutions and denominations originally created to preserve theological purity, but over time, morphing into exclusive clubs enabling Christian "insiders" to set themselves apart from the world.  The common name for this malady is legalism and the insiders consider themselves "Christian elite."  After a while, mere separation from the world is not enough.  These Christian elite invent standards of appearance and behavior to elevate themselves above the rank and file Christian.  Their self proclaimed purity lifts them to a peerage above the just barely saved.  To accentuate this separation, they include behavior before salvation in the overall measure of moral worth.  Positions of leadership are restricted to those who have not violated specific, but arbitrary, rules prior to salvation.  It seems that regeneration by the Grace of God can never quite lift the ordinary repentant sinner to the peerage occupied by those who claim pre-salvation lives of moral purity in some category of behavior.  This is a slap in the face to God’s plan of redemption and creates an obstacle for the unsaved.  The corruption that is Christian elitism is invisible to the self proclaimed elite but clear as a bell to outsiders looking in.  Christianity is a redemptive religion based on confession of sin, remorse, repentance, faith and obedience continually reaffirmed and renewed.  It is a daily dying to sin and living to pursue righteousness.  You have no grasp on holiness except that given to you by the grace of God.   God sometimes uses persons who have demonstrated a lifetime of substantial moral purity but, most often, He uses men and women who have desperately responded to the grace of God by confession of sin, remorse, repentance, faith and obedience.  The Church is a hospital for the healing of sinners, not an introverted, self-serving country club for saints.  God used Paul the Apostle and John Newton the pastor, who were each accessories to multiple murders.  God allowed Tamar, Rahab and Bathsheba to be part of the genealogy of Jesus.  Which of us, by our own merit, can be elevated above the sin of this world?  Christian elitism renders an organization or institution highly susceptible to serial sin committed by leaders and to the deliberate concealment of that sin by leadership who see themselves as beyond the need for confession, remorse, repentance, faith and obedience.

  • Churches that "turn a blind eye" to the sin of  malicious gossip, slander, false accusation and general unwarranted rebellion against church leadership.  The victims are pastors, program directors and virtually anyone else occupying a position of leadership.  The perpetrators view themselves as among the Godliest people associated with the church.  They see themselves as empowered by the Holy Spirit, blessed with many spiritual gifts and serving as Christian role models for others.  The perpetrators are not the only ones responsible for the ensuing damage; others, well aware of what is taking place, remain silent.  They share in the guilt.  The church is never quite the same after one of these incidents.  It begins with a few individuals objecting to a proposed change in some activity of great importance to them.  It could be a proposed change in format to the Sunday School program or even the temporary cancellation of a para-church meeting.  The gossip mongers and false accusers discuss the situation among themselves and then launch a ninja-like attack.  They accuse the leader of everything from trying to destroy the church to having an affair with the secretary.  Nothing is off limits. They almost never discuss the issue with the leader involved.  When the pastor resigns or the leader departs, the perpetrators believe their efforts have been vindicated by God.  Scripture is clear on this type of sin (Lev 19:16; Prov 10:18; 1 Cor 5:11, 6:10; 2 Cor 12:20; Titus 3:2) and sin always has consequences even for great servants of God (i.e. Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, Joshua, Gideon, Samson, David, Solomon, Elijah and Peter).
  • Churches embracing Biblical objectives [i.e. Great Commandment (Mat 22:36-40) and Great Commission (Mat 28:18-20)] but trying to accomplish these objectives by some secular process.  Rather than search Scripture for a Biblical process, church leaders bypass God and use human intelligence.  For worship, congregations passively listen to clever messages mixed in with musical entertainment, announcements and ritual prayer.  The messages are carefully contrived to avoid causing anyone to think excessively or become uneasy; scary words like “SATAN” and “HELL” are generally avoided.  Members minister to their neighbors by paying them short visits during which members guard against too much involvement; this assuages the conscience while avoiding unpleasant entanglements in core problems.  Members sometimes evangelize by preaching and quoting Scripture to people they barely know.  They become self-appointed martyrs if their efforts are rebuffed; they tell God they were faithful even if they weren’t fruitful.  Church leaders enlarge the fellowship by every sort of “Madison Avenue” huckstering within the limits of our imagination, of course telling God that whatever they do is for the “greater good.”  Discipleship is accomplished in Sunday School by re-reading the same baby-food lessons for decade after decade but never teaching exactly what Christians believe and why.  Leaders may also introduce social positions, which mirror our culture, into the Church as God approved behavior (i.e. abortion for convenience, homosexuality, promiscuity without consequence, etc.).  Attempts to implement these secular processes never succeed and frequently put the church into a death spiral.  Biblical processes [united corporate prayer, restoration (healing), truth, magnifying the influence of God in our lives] are occasionally discussed but never tried. 
Each of these items contributes to gradual aging of the church congregation and failure to embrace a new generation.  In at least one mainline denomination, the average age for a church member is 60 and nearly 90% of all churches over 100 years old will close in the next few years.  Each of these items can be characterized by one word: disobedience.  God usually turns his back on the disobedient until He observes repentance.  Could this be the solution to the mysterious malady afflicting the church in America?  Is it possible that the downward spiral of the church is not so much a mystery after all?

Can a typical "cruise ship" church make a course correction without the captain and his entertainment staff being fired by the passengers or without the pampered passengers abandoning ship?  Opportunities and risks abound.  Consider, for example, the typical "cruise ship" church worship service consisting of the following time breakdown in minutes:
  • 2-10 -- ritual prayer for which few expect a response from God
  • 20-30 -- musical entertainment (solo, praise team, choir and congregational)
  • 2-5 -- announcements from the entertainment staff to the passengers
  • 20-30 -- sermon crafted to avoid causing anyone to think or become uneasy
This wooden worship service may be supplemented by a 45 minute Sunday school lesson where the same baby-food Bible stories are covered for years on end.  The Holy Spirit does not usually have a role in these events; in fact His presence would cause feelings of embarrassment and consternation.

But what if the ritual prayer, musical entertainment and announcements were replaced by congregational corporate prayer from men and women yearning to be led by the Holy Spirit down a path of confession, remorse, repentance, faith, obedience, humility, forgiveness, sincerity, purity, persistence, restoration, truth and worship?  What if the sermon was intended to make everyone better able to give a reason for the hope that is in us?  What if each cruise ship church turned into a real church?

Or what if a young pastor, uncorrupted by the professional Christian establishment, decided to make a paradigm shift and insist that all church activities be filtered through the recurrence mnemonic PRTM from the Hebrew "Mem Tav Reysh Pe" meaning most noble prince?  PRTM represents a mnemonic for

Prayer (Praise, Repentance, Thanksgiving, Mercy)
Restoration (Purification, Regeneration, Transformation, Maintenance)
Truth (Precedent, Reason, Testament, Manifold)
M
agnification (Promise, Revelation, Trust, Manifestation)

This could serve as a filter for removal of frivolous activities.  

The response of pastors and other leaders to church decline is generally to continue doing everything the same way but with a doubling of effort. Unfortunately, if you do what you've always done, you get what you always got!  Pastors seem to think Jesus will say to them, "Well done my good and faithful servants; the church died but you were all faithful in your efforts.  Come to the front of the line."  Instead, He might say, "My church died in America on your watch.  I am holding you responsible.  You have failed to be fruitful."

Pastors and church leaders have great difficulty accepting the idea that ritual faithfulness is not a substitute for Great Commission fruitfulness.  If Christians huddle together in worship, study and fellowship, if they lift their voices to create magnificent music, if they recite Scripture from memory and faithfully attend all church activities but never take risks that might motivate the unsaved to accept the great gift of salvation, then they will engender the wrath of God (Mat 25:14-30; Luke 19:12-27).  In Luke 16:1-12 we read about the incompetent manager of a rich man’s estate who “cooked the books” to make the rich man think he was doing a good job.  In an attempt to diminish his punishment, the manager quickly discounted the debt of some who owed money.  This is the same tactic used by collection agencies who reason that 50 cents repayment on a dollar of debt is better than no repayment at all.  The manager’s actions generated income for the rich man’s estate.  In other words, the incompetent manager’s actions bore fruit and he was commended by the rich man.  We, who have received the great gift of salvation, must not hide that gift in the ground.  Although our efforts will expose our own incompetence and inability, we must move forward with Great Commission efforts even when it puts our reputation, wealth and safety at risk.  Ritual faithfulness is not a substitute for Great Commission fruitfulness.

The progressive death of a church is effectively described by the “Condition versus Time Curve” familiar to practitioners of asset management, risk abatement, reliability optimization and quality control.  This curve defines the health or condition of the church at any given time.  At the onset of decline, one or more of the components, resources or activities of the church begins to malfunction.  It is hardly noticeable at the time and the overall enterprise continues its activities essentially undisturbed.  A pastor retires, for example, leaving a leadership vacuum.  His successor has few leadership skills.  So a loose collection of obscure committees assumes the mantle of leadership.  Unfortunately, these committees are not structured for leadership.  They become obstacles to progress and slide into a mind-set portrayed by the slogan, “We will not lead, we will not follow and we will not get out of the way.”  The “Condition versus Time Curve” eventually reaches the “P” point.  The church continues to function but “Potential Failure” is revealed to the discerning observer by the appearance of the following types of issues:

  • Church discord becomes more frequent.
  • Great Commandment and Great Commission activities begin to fade.  Worship, ministry, evangelism, fellowship growth and discipleship are given little more than lip service.
  • Prayers start to become ritual with little expectation that God will respond.
  • The church begins to lose its collective sense of humility and move beyond a need for confession of sin, remorse, repentance, faith and obedience. 
  • The church begins to morph into an introverted, self-serving country club. 
  • The church begins to place great value on a pastor with a “master of ceremonies” or “entertainment director” skill set.
  • Staff conflicts begin to appear followed by resignations and departure of church members.
  • Financial concerns begin to appear.

A church at the “P” point can be salvaged but serious remediation is required.  A church at the “P” point would benefit greatly from a Root Cause Analysis (RCA) conducted by an Asset Management or Risk Abatement consultant.  But committee members cannot tolerate that degree of scrutiny; it would be far too painful and humiliating.  So the Condition versus Time Curve continues its downward progression.  The curve eventually reaches the “F” point.  “Functional Failure” finally occurs but is typically preceded by many red flag events such as:

  • The church experiences a “split” accompanied by the loss of 20 - 40% of the congregation.  The members who are the actual Root Cause of the decline almost never leave.  As others depart, their power is strengthened.
  • Virtually all parents under age 45 depart with their children and other family members.
  • The church has nothing to offer a young Christian family and nothing to offer “seekers” of any age.
  • Departed members are viewed as misguided and confused or perhaps just “Bible Thumping” troublemakers.
  • Well meaning “eccentrics” in the church body assume an increasingly visible role.
  • Staff turnover accelerates.  The congregation seeks a “maintenance pastor” who will keep them well fed and entertained and not burden them with talk of confession, repentance and obedience.
  •  Articles of Faith become fuzzy and unimportant.
  • The church Mission Statement is window dressing fluff.
  • Increasingly serious financial issues creep into the church.
  • Members view themselves as the long suffering, faithful remnant.  Jesus will presumably reward their faithfulness and ignore their lack of fruit.
Once a church reaches the “F” point, failure is probably inevitable even though actual death may not occur for several years depending on the financial situation.  Up to 5000 churches in America close their doors each year.  Church foreclosures are on the rise.  God does not intervene to save a disobedient church.  

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10. Did God Elect Only a Few for Salvation While Condemning the Greater Part of Mankind to Hell?

The tentacles of Reformed Theology reach out to every subatomic particle in the universe and into the deepest recesses of the human mind.  Reformed Theology teaches, for example, that, to somehow glorify Himself, God “willed” into being a violent, terrifying and carnivorous “mother nature” dominated by disaster, disease, suffering, decay, corruption and diabolical cruelty.  Many of the insidiously evil aspects of Calvinism are discussed in Section 2 of Theology Corner under the title, “Can God’s Will be Thwarted?  This Section addresses only the issues of free will and salvation.

As the issue relates to human free will and salvation, Calvinists claim all reality is interlocked in a causal chain leading back to God as the first-cause of all things; but humans are “free,” even though they are pre-determined, because their choices are executed “willingly.”  The Calvinist defines man as a second-cause agent incapable of choosing a path different from that which God would have him choose.  Because man doesn't know he is being manipulated, he believes himself to be a first-cause agent making free will decisions.  This is the historic Calvinist concept of "free will."  It leads to the idea that absolute determinism by God is compatible with the exercise of free will by man; this concept is sometimes called compatibilism or soft determinism.

Arminians agree much of reality is part of a causal chain but claim God does not determine the free will decisions of men or angels.  The idea that men and angels are first-cause agents of choice, is a central concept of Arminianism and is sometimes called libertarian freedom.  The Arminian believes "free will" makes you a first-cause agent of decisions.  The compatibilist believes "free will" makes you a second-cause agent; you have simply been tricked into thinking of yourself as a first-cause agent.  These two definitions of free will are mutually exclusive.

Consider a man who beats his wife, sexually abuses both his daughters and sons, steals from and abuses his parents and subsequently dies without confession of sin, without remorse for his brutality, without repentance and without asking for the mercy of God.   The compatibilist claims each one of these events is God's will because God's sovereignty requires complete determinism of all things; God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass.  The man may think he is acting freely but he is actually executing a sinister puppet dance, with God pulling the strings from behind His transcendence.  However, the man is fully responsible for his second-cause sins since they were executed willingly.

The Arminian claims not one of these sins was God's will and God grieves deeply over each of them.  Each sin represents a free will decision by a first-cause agent and is contrary to God's will.  God permits, within limits and for a time, the consequences of rebellion but He is deeply grieved by the evil world in which we live.  The Arminian believes the Calvinist concept of compatibilism is actually incompatible with God's attributes of holiness, justice, goodness and truth and with the clear teaching of Scripture:

  • If God credits the unsaved with second-cause sins then, in conflict with Scripture (Eph 2:8-10), He would credit the saved with second-cause good works.
  • A just God would not hold a man responsible for a sin which God made him commit.
  • If salvation were simply a matter of God exercising His free-will, then a good God would save all men. 
  • The idea that free will can be exercised by a second-cause agent is logical nonsense.  Free will can only be exercised by a first-cause agent.   Consequently, the thesis (determinism by God is free-will by man) violates the logical rule of contradictories (b is-not not-b).  Such a statement is called a paradox.

The historic Calvinist responds that we must not expect the holiness, justice and goodness of God will always make sense to our limited intellect.  Furthermore, true free will can be exercised by second-cause agents; this central concept of historic Calvinism may be logical nonsense to man but not to God who reasons on a higher level using a different kind of logic.  As a source of confusion on this issue, some modern Calvinists seem to view man as a first-cause agent of choice thereby abandoning the historic Calvinist concept of compatibilism.  Once again, however, God is viewed as operating with some higher level of logic so the thesis (God as first-cause agent corresponds to man as first-cause agent) only seems to be a paradox but is not a paradox to God.  

Finally, the Calvinist asserts the full weight of Scripture is on his side.  However, the Arminian believes the character of God, which emerges from the Bible taken in its entirety as opposed to text out of context, is inconsistent with Calvinism.  For example, the Calvinist contends regeneration precedes faith because God elected only certain specific persons for salvation.  These persons alone are unconditionally and irresistibly regenerated by the power of the Holy Spirit and subsequently demonstrate repentance, faith and obedience.  The rest of mankind is condemned to everlasting punishment.   This brutal plan somehow allows God to glorify Himself as He rejoices in its execution.  To keep this theology afloat, however, the Calvinist must twist Scripture, including the text around the following verses, like Third Reich clergy twisted the Cross into a Swastika.

  • For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)
  • He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:2)
  • Then Peter began to speak: "I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right. (Acts 10:34-35)
  • They came to him and said, "Teacher, we know you are a man of integrity. You aren't swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are; but you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. (Mark 12:14)
  • This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance (and for this we labor and strive) that we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe. (1 Tim 4:9-10)
  • This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. (1 Tim 2:3-4)
  • The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (2 Pet 3:9)
  • Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign LORD. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live? (Ezek 18:23)
  • Yet you say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’  Hear, O house of Israel: Is my way unjust?  Is it not your ways that are unjust? (Ezek 18:25)
  • Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live.  Turn!  Turn from your evil ways!  Why will you die, O house of Israel?’ (Ezek 33:11)
  • For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to the children of men. (Lam 3:33)
  • For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. (Deut 10:17)
  • Now let the fear of the LORD be upon you. Judge carefully, for with the LORD our God there is no injustice or partiality or bribery." (2 Chron 19:7)
  • Is he not the One who says to kings, ‘You are worthless,’ and to nobles, ‘You are wicked,’  who shows no partiality to princes and does not favor the rich over the poor, for they are all the work of his hands? (Job 34:18-19)
  • For God does not show favoritism. (Rom 2:11)
  • And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him. (Eph 6:9)

Scriptural support for Reformed Theology is generally limited to collections of Bible verses taken out of context.  Arminians agree that some verses seem to support the Calvinist position if read in isolation from the rest of the Bible.  But Arminians deny that the Calvinist position makes the best sense for the whole of Scripture.  Text out of context is a pretext!  For example, the words elect, predestined and chosen frequently designate those persons who God foreknew would respond to the call of the Holy Spirit (1 Pet 1:2; Rom 8:29).  But, when read in isolation, they can seem to mean foreordination and not just foreknowledge.  Here is a partial list of Scripture verses frequently used by Calvinists to support Reformed Theology.  However, the Calvinist interpretation of these isolated verses has been shown to be implausible or at least unnecessary when viewed against the backdrop of the Bible taken in its entirety.

 

Gen 45:5, 50:20; Ex 4:11, 21:12-13; Jos 11:19-20; Judg 9:23; Ruth 1:13; 1 Sam 2:25; 2 Sam 16:10, 17:14, 24:1; 1 Chron 21:1; 1 Kings 8:57-58; Job 1:21; Psalm 105:24-25, 135:6; Prov 16:4, 16:9, 21:1; Isa 6:10, 14:24-27, 45:7; Lam 3:37-38; John 6:44; Acts 4:27-28, 13:48, 17:26; Rom 9:11-13 (cf Mal 1:2-3), 9:18, 11:36; Eph 1:11; 2 Thes 2:11-12; 2 Tim 1:9.

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11. Is Satan Alive and Well?

The outcome of the great war between good and evil was decided by the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ. But few would claim Jesus has already restored and repossessed his corrupted creation. For a time and within limits, Jesus continues to permit the consequences of rebellion and the brutal corruption of all life.

Generations of books, magazines and TV documentaries have portrayed nature as a magnificent and beautiful system almost deserving of worship.  The Gaia Philosophy even views the entire biosphere as a living entity. But when we look through the veil of hype, what do we really see in nature?  G. J. Romanes provides a good description of the animal kingdom: “teeth and talons whetted for slaughter, hooks and suckers molded for torment – everywhere a reign of terror, hunger, sickness, with oozing blood and quivering limbs, with gasping breath and eyes of innocence that dimly close in depths of cruel torture.”  W. E. Stuermann gives an equally sobering description of nature’s web of interacting events: “The web unravels as often as it is woven in order.  Frequently and brutally its threads are ripped in sudden and disconcerting manners, and the orderly tapestry of life unravels, leaving men broken by disaster and despair.  Chaos looms before them and stretches to the horizons of their lives.”

Look around. Did our good, omnipotent God create the inherently violent and terrifying system we see in nature, a system rife with sickness, suffering and death - a system red in tooth and claw? Does nature itself appear to operate contrary to the character of God? Does the world at every level appear to be at war? Does the world appear to be permeated and corrupted at all levels by an evil influence? Did Jesus believe that someone else had been given authority over this world and Jesus Himself must repair, reconstruct, restore and repossess?

The Old Testament does not usually personalize the cosmic force that has seized creation.  Instead, it talks about “Leviathan” and “Rahab” encompassing the earth and waging war against God (Job 9:13, 26:12, 41:1-34; Ps 74:14, 89:9; Is 27:1).  Also, “raging waters” of chaos defy the Almighty and threaten his creation (Job 7:12, 38:6-11; Ps 74:10-17, 104:7-9; Prov 8:27-29).  Besides raging waters and cosmic monsters, Old Testament authors referenced the existence of multitudes of powerful heavenly beings.  Together they formed a heavenly council in which decisions affecting humans were made (1 Kings 22:19; Job 1:6, 2:1; Ps 82:1, 89:7).  They were supposed to carry out God’s will and fight on God’s behalf (2 Sam 5:23-24; 2 Kings 2:11, 6:16; Ps 34:7, 68:17, 82:1-8, 103:20; Dan 7:10).  Instead, some rebelled against God and fought against Him.  The problem of evil is not a problem of occasional bad things happening on the otherwise pristine stage of God’s creation.  Rather, evil permeates the structure of the stage itself, for the one given authority over the structure has become corrupt!

This message carries over into the New Testament where the leader of rebellion and corruption is more clearly identified.
  • Three times, Jesus referred to Satan as the prince of this world.
  • Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. (John 12:31)
    I will not speak with you much longer, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold on me, but the world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me. "Come now; let us leave. (John 14:30-31)
    When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned. (John 16:8-11)
  • Jesus accepted the concept that Satan had been given authority over this world.
  • The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to Him, "I will give you all their authority and splendor, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. So if you worship me, it will all be yours." Jesus answered, "It is written: Worship the Lord your God and serve him only." (Luke 4:5-8)
  • Jesus addresses the evil prince as the leader of a unified army of spirit beings.
  • "Then he will say to those on his left, Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels." (Mat 25:41)
  • Scripture confirms that Satan has been given control of this world.
  • We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one. (1 John 5:19)
    The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (2 Cor 4:4)
    As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. (Eph 2:1-2)
  • Scripture teaches that Satan's control is active not passive.
  • Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8)
    For this reason, when I could stand it no longer, I sent to find out about your faith. I was afraid that in some way the tempter might have tempted you and our efforts might have been useless. (1 Thes 3:5)
    And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. (2 Cor 11:14)
    For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Eph 6:12)
  • The entire creation has been subjected to bondage and decay.
  • For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. (Rom 8:20-22)

Jesus' earthly ministry reflected the belief that the world had been seized by a hostile, sinister lord. Jesus came to begin the process of restoration and repossession. According to Scripture the universe was originally good and the glory of God is still evident in it (Rom 1:20). But something else - something frightfully wicked - is evident in it as well. Of their own free will, Satan and other spiritual beings rebelled against God in the primordial past and now abuse their God-given authority over certain aspects of creation. Satan, who holds the power of death (Heb 2:14) exercises a pervasive, structural and diabolical influence to the point that the entire creation is in bondage to decay. The pain-ridden, bloodthirsty, sinister and hostile character of nature should be attributed to Satan and his army, not to God.  When restoration and repossession are complete, nature will be violent no more (Isa 11:6-9, 65:17-25; Rom 8:20-22; 2 Pet 3:13; Rev 21:1-4).

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12. What are the Attributes of God?

The attributes of God can be characterized by a finite list of words and phrases so long as we agree that when a word or phrase is applied to God, the true depth of meaning cannot be fathomed. Here are a few attributes arbitrarily grouped in seven categories. Feel free to add or rearrange.

  • Being: Transcendence, Immanence, Infinitude, Eternalness, Immutability
  • Wisdom: Exhaustively Definite Foreknowledge, Omniscience, Resourcefulness, Patience, Perseverance, Persistence, Discipline, Prudence, Understanding, Discernment, Stewardship, Courage
  • Power: Omnipotence, Humility, Meekness, Gentleness, Obedience/yieldedness, Endurance, Long-suffering/Forbearance, Respect, Responsibility, Dependence, Devotion, Surrender, Commitment
  • Holiness: The state of who You are and the acts that You do; Holiness in being and Holiness in action; Absolute purity of heart, will, intellect and action; Perfect love, integrity, righteousness, morality, ethics, character; Perfect being, wisdom, power, justice, goodness, truth
  • Justice: Punishment for Sinners; Substitutionary Atonement; Redemption; Forgiveness; Justification; Adoption; Regeneration; Sanctification; Reconciliation; Unification; Glorification
  • Goodness: Love, Mercy, Grace, Compassion, Kindness, Benevolence, Charity, Faithfulness, Trustworthiness, Peace, Joy, Fulfillment, Fruitfulness, Faith, Hope, Reconciliation, Healing, Encouragement, Comfort, Strength
  • Truth: Logic, Honesty

The infinitude of God is a particularly difficult concept for the human mind. What does it mean to say that God is infinite?  How can God be transcendent and immanent at the same time?  How many bits of information can be stored by God?  Would the capacity of God be strained by comprehending

  • The past, present and future status of all space, time, matter and energy in our universe?
  • The past, present and future thoughts (intellect, heart and will) of all humans and angels?
Or would these things be no more difficult for God than counting the wheels on a bicycle would be for you?

Consider the meaning of infinity.  The smallest infinity is called aleph-null; its cardinality (n) is the number of elements in the set of all positive integers.  This infinity is, by definition, "countable."  After aleph-null, each element of an infinite set is a subset of elements from its predecessor.  The cardinality (number of elements), for each successive infinity, is the number of subsets in the set of all possible subsets constructed from its predecessor.  For example, the next infinity after aleph-null is aleph-1 or the continuum; its cardinality ( n' = 2n ) is the number of subsets in the set of all possible subsets constructed from the positive integers.  This happens to be the same as the number of elements in the set of all real numbers.  Aleph-1 is not countable.  The next infinity is aleph-2; its cardinality ( n'' = 2n' ) is the number of subsets in the set of all possible subsets constructed from the real numbers.  Consider the possibility that God can easily process at least n'''''''....  bits of information where the number of  ' marks is n.  What sort of concepts might such a God view as trivial while they confound the most brilliant human minds?  Perhaps He could determine the precise array of cosmological parameters that would permit human life to exist in our universe.  We exist because:

  • For a proton pair, the ratio of electrical to gravitational forces is precisely 1036
  • The fraction of mass converted to energy by the nuclear fusion of hydrogen to helium in a star is precisely 0.007.
  • The ratio of gravitational energy to expansion energy was precisely 1.0 in the early universe.
  • The ratio of dispersion energy to rest mass energy for a galaxy of stars is precisely 10-5.
  • On a human scale, the number of spatial dimensions is precisely 3. 

Significant deviations would preclude our existence.  Other concepts which we view as mysterious would likewise be trivially non-mysterious to the mind of an infinite God. 

  • The location of the seat of consciousness in the human brain is unresolved.
  • Holiness cannot be defined separately from God.
  • The Golden Ratio and Fibonacci sequence are pervasive throughout creation.

Perhaps all these things are so trivial to God that they occupy an infinitesimally small portion of his thoughts.  More consuming issues might be the need for our confession of sin, remorse repentance, faith and obedience.

But wouldn’t the sheer size of the known universe -- 100 billion stars in each of 100 billion galaxies -- overwhelm even the most infinite God?  To put in perspective the overwhelming sovereignty of God’s infinitude, consider the following illustration.  Imagine the universe is constructed around a deformable cubic lattice such that the smallest identifiable physical entity is a region called a “voxel” which is bounded by eight vertices, twelve edges and six flat faces.  The universe is thereby divided into an ordered (numbered) array of volumes.  The volume enclosed by a voxel is on the order of the cube of the local Planck Length (e.g. 1.6 x10-35 meter).  When a voxel is deformed by force, matter or energy, the eight vertices retain their identities but may change their positions, the twelve edges remain straight but each may change its length and each of the six flat faces either remains flat or deforms into a minimal surface with zero mean curvature (e.g. soap film).  13.7 billion years after the beginning, the deformable cubic lattice is no longer perfect but contains line and surface defects analogous to dislocations and stacking faults.

Assume the state of each voxel is 1 or 0.  Then the state of the entire universe is defined by a countably infinite sequence of binary digits or, in other words, a single real number.  The possible 3-D geometric arrangements of 1’s and 0’s would be more than sufficient to accommodate the complexity of any “Theory of Everything” that might be devised including those based on Lie Group E8 symmetry.

Now imagine God allows the state of each voxel to change at time intervals equal to the Planck Time (5.4 x 10-44 seconds).  At the end of each time interval, a new real number defines the state of the universe.  Nestled among the elements of aleph-3 are particular subsets of aleph-2 that track all possible histories of the universe from the big bang onward.  An immanent God would only have to comprehend infinity at a cardinality of  n''' to avoid being overwhelmed by this universe.  The Christian God understands infinity at least to a cardinality of  n'''''''....  where the number of  ' marks is n.

As an interesting aside, if God decided to increase the velocity of light (c) by a factor of say 100, the length of the basic time interval would be smaller by a factor of 100,000.  To a transcendent observer, the universe would be changing 100,000 times faster but no entity inside the universe would sense a difference because the other Planck Units below would have changed accordingly.

 PARAMETER

EXPRESSION

VALUE (SI)

Planck Length

l=[(hG)/c3]1/2

1.61625×10-35 m

Planck Mass

m=[(hc)/G]1/2

2.17644×10-8 kg

Planck Time

t=[(hG)/c5]1/2

5.39124×10-44 s

Planck Charge

q=(4πε0hc)1/2

1.87554×10-18 C

Planck Temperature

T=[(hc5)/(GkB2)]1/2

1.41678×1032 K

God would essentially have the ability to “fast forward” and “slow motion” the universe without leaving any evidence detectible by us.

This hypothetical exercise may seem far-fetched given the equations of Quantum Mechanics and General Relativity which treat space and time as continuums.  But voxels are merely the three dimensional cellular automata defined by Stephen Wolfram in “A New Kind of Science.”  We only need a “rule of transformation” for defining what takes place at each time step.  Concepts of “state” and “rule of time transformation,” more complex than those governing the 256 elementary cellular automata, could also be considered.  Some concepts might be inspired by certain aspects of Judeo-Christian tradition.  For example, one tradition is that the 304,805 character string of concatenated words in the Torah encodes fundamental information about the beginning of the universe and its development over time as well as events in human history.  

The remainder of this section contains challenging, theologically connected speculation but no Christian doctrine.

GENETIC CODE FOR THE UNIVERSE?

Perhaps relatively short strings of Hebrew characters from the first chapter of Genesis provide a shorthand for the codons undergirding all space/time and matter/energy.  Various arrangements of these codons could provide the genetic microstructure and macro-characteristics of magnetism, electricity, normal matter, normal energy, dark matter, dark energy, electromagnetic force, gravitational force, strong force and weak force.  However, these codons do not reveal their secrets when read merely as Hebrew character sequences.  They must be viewed as mathematical entities.  Consider the representation of each Hebrew character by a base-3 triplet (column vector) according to a rule that starts with Aleph as (000) and ends with Tsadey Final as (222).  Now connect three contiguous characters, from the first chapter of Genesis, to form a string.  The three base-3 triplets create a 3 by 3 matrix having the elements 0, 1 and 2.  Such matrices could represent the fundamental codons for the structure of the universe.

 

Increasing complexity is created if groups of three contiguous characters are connected to one another.  For example, four groups of three contiguous characters could be arranged like tiles on a floor to produce a 6 by 6 matrix.  Continuing in this fashion, the individual 3 by 3 matrices from 1, 4, 9, 16, 25, 36, 49 ... groups of three contiguous characters could be arranged to form square matrices of dimension 3, 6, 9, 12, 15, 18, 21 … respectively.  Alternately, 3 groups of three characters can produce a Rubik Cube type three dimensional matrix containing 15 individual 3 by 3 matrices.

 

Any n by n square matrix (M), comprising the integral values 0, 1 and 2, contains much hidden information.  It can, for example, be expressed as the product of three, real valued, n by n matrices using the process of Singular Value Decomposition: M = U∑V* where U is a unitary matrix, ∑ is a diagonal matrix and V* is the conjugate transpose of the unitary matrix V.  The columns of U and V are eigenvectors of MM* and M*M respectively.  The non-zero values on the diagonal of ∑ are the square roots of the non-zero eigenvalues of both MM* and M*M.  Each of the matrices U, ∑, and V* can also be subjected to Singular Value Decomposition.

 

Cosmological information encoded in the Torah would probably not take the form of the fundamental equations of quantum mechanics, general relativity, thermodynamics or any other patterns observed by the human mind.  Information would most likely be revealed in a “Bible Code” format.  Such a format is so incomprehensible to the human thought process that we are able to find information only if we first know what to look for!  The following question serves to illustrate.  Can a snapshot of critical parameters, for the early universe, be found within the 28 concatenated characters comprising the first verse of Genesis?  One place to look for critical parameters is among the invariant coefficients of matrix characteristic equations.  Let the eigenvalues of MM* and M*M -- from a 3 by 3 matrix (M) characterizing a string of three characters -- be denoted by L1, L2 and L3.  Now form the 3 by 3 matrix x = {{L1, 0, 0}, {0, L2, 0}, {0, 0, L3}}.  The characteristic equation for eigenvalues (L) is L3 + I1L2 + I2L + I3 = 0 where the coefficients are given by:

 

I1 = - Trace[x]

I2 = - (1/2)(I1Trace[x] + Trace[x2])

I3 = - (1/3)(I2Trace[x] + I1Trace[x2] + Trace[x3])

 

Now do the same for y = x2 with II1, II2 and II3 defining the coefficients and z = x3 with III1, III2 and III3 defining the coefficients.

 

  • If M comprises characters 1, 2 and 3 (001,201,000) then the Golden Ratio and its Conjugate are revealed in certain eigenvectors of MM* and M*M.  This might explain the presence of that ratio and the Fibonacci sequence throughout nature.  The absolute value of III1 is 144; the reciprocal is 0.00694 which is essentially the mass fraction converted to energy when helium is formed from hydrogen in stars.  This number is an indirect measurement of the strong force.  Furthermore, the absolute value of II1 is 28 which is the number of characters in the first verse of Genesis and the fourth magic number (2, 8, 20, 28, 50, 82, 126) of nuclear physics.  I2=4 which could signify the four fundamental forces: strong, weak, electromagnetic and gravitational.  II2=16 which could be the cardinality for the set of parameters that characterize a voxel: x, y and z coordinates, the time step, the rule of transformation, a base-27 number and ten physical property values assigned by that number -- magnetic strength, electrical charge strength, normal matter, normal energy, dark matter, dark energy, electromagnetic force, gravitational force, strong force and weak force.  I3=II3=III3=0 which might denote the start time of the Big Bang.
  • If M comprises characters 4, 5 and 6 (202,100,210), then the absolute value of II1 is 138.  If that number is the Reciprocal Fine Structure constant just after the Big Bang, then the Fine Structure constant, at that time, was 0.007246 which is within estimated brackets for the early universe.  II2=36 which might connote that the structure of life would be set in place by three persons acting over six “creation days.”
  • If M comprises characters 10, 11 and 12 (000,102,011), then the absolute value of I1 is 7 and the absolute value of II1 is 37.  These are the first and eighth terms in the sequence of numbers of spheres (7, 8, 12, 14, 19, 21, 30, 37, 40) that produce solid-like shell structures with stable rings.  If M comprises characters 19, 20 and 21 (110,100,212), then the absolute value of I1 is 12 which is the third term in the sequence of numbers of spheres that produce solid-like shell structures with stable rings.

 

New patterns emerge if the first 4 groups of 3 contiguous characters are combined to form a 6 by 6 matrix.  In that case, we have six eigenvalues represented by L1, L2, L3, L4, L5 and L6 which can be combined to form the matrix x = {{L1, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0}, {0, L2, 0, 0, 0, 0}, {0, 0, L3, 0, 0, 0}, {0, 0, 0, L4, 0, 0}, {0, 0, 0, 0, L5, 0}, {0, 0, 0, 0, 0, L6}}.  The characteristic equation for L is L6 + I1L5 + I2L4 + I3L3 + I4L2 + I5L + I6 = 0 and the three new coefficients are given by:

 

I4 = - (1/4)(I3Trace[x] + I2Trace[x2] + I1Trace[x3] + Trace[x4])

I5 = - (1/5)(I4Trace[x] + I3Trace[x2] + I2Trace[x3] + I1Trace{x4] + Trace[x5])

I6 = - (1/6)(I5Trace[x] + I4Trace[x2] + I3Trace[x3] + I2Trace[x4] + I1Trace[x5] + Trace[x6])

 

with II4, II5 and II6 as well as III4, III5 and III6 denoting the corresponding coefficients for y = x2 and z = x3 respectively.  The original matrix (MM*) could be used instead of the matrix x having the eigenvalues of MM* on the diagonal.  They have the same eigenvalues and characteristic equation.  However, the use of “principle” values has a long history in mechanics.

 

  •  If M comprises the first twelve characters of the first verse of Genesis, as defined above, then the absolute value of II1 is 545 and the reciprocal is 0.00183486.  Multiplying by 106 yields 1834.86 which is within 0.07% of the current value for the proton to electron rest mass ratio.  The reciprocal of III2 is 5(10-7) which is equal to the weak force coupling constant.  The reciprocal of the absolute value of (II4)(II5)(III2)(III3)(III4)(III5) is 10-39  which equals the proton/electron gravitational to electrical force ratio.

 

Now combine the second 4 groups of 3 contiguous voxels to form a second 6 by 6 matrix.

 

  • If M comprises characters 13 through 24 then the value of II2 is 107,611 and the reciprocal is 9.3(10-6) which is essentially equal to the fraction of rest-mass-energy needed to disperse large cosmic structures such as galaxies and clusters (Q).

 

Now combine 9 groups of three contiguous voxels to form a 9 by 9 matrix.  The only unused character in this string is Tsadey Final, the last character in the first verse of Genesis.

 

  •  If M comprises characters 1 through 27 in the first verse of Genesis, then the absolute value of (III2)(III3)(III4)(III5)(III6)(II7) is 1080 which is the estimated number of elementary particles in the universe.

 

The numerical values of the dimensionless numbers associated with the strong force, weak force, electromagnetic force (Fine Structure Constant), gravitational force, proton/electron mass ratio, the value of Q and the estimated number of elementary particles are critical to the formation and development of our universe.  These numerical values are hidden in the first verse of Genesis and were extracted from the characteristic equations associated with various MM* (and M*M).  The corresponding eigenvalues appear in square root form along the diagonal of ∑ in the Singular Value Decomposition of M (i.e. M = U∑V*).  But what about the U and V; could any information be hidden in these matrices?  

 

According to the Anthropic Principle, the universe was created as a home for man.  Could any primitive information about man be concealed in U?  If U is confined to 3 by 3 real matrices with ‖U‖ = ±1 and UT = U-1 then U is a rotation matrix.  Singular Value Decomposition automatically creates such a matrix.  Furthermore, if various U are multiplied together, the products are also rotation matrices.  Every rotation matrix in three dimensions defines an axis – a direction left fixed by the rotation – and an angle – the amount of rotation about that axis.  Let us examine the angles characterizing various rotation matrices (U) generated by letting M represent the first 27 characters, in groups of three, from the first verse of Genesis and then multiplying each successive U matrix by the ones that precede it.

 

 

ROTATION MATRIX                                     ROTATION ANGLE (deg)

 

[U123]                                                                                                                85.7    

[U123][U456]                                                                                                      16.1

[U123][U456][U789]                                                                                            16.2

[U123][U456][U789][U101112]                                                                              21.6

[U123][U456][U789][U101112][U131415]                                                                77.3

[U123][U456][U789][U101112][U131415][U161718]                                                  43.3

[U123][U456][U789][U101112][U131415][U161718][U192021]                                    61.3

[U123][U456][U789][U101112][U131415][U161718][U192021][U222324]                      32.1

[U123][U456][U789][U101112][U131415][U161718][U192021][U222324][U252627]        38.4

 

These angles appear to approximate the nominal kinesiology of the human anatomy during walking.

 

 

85.7     Nominal knee angle most conducive to joint damage

16.1     Trunk range of angular motion during normal gait

16.2     Nominal value for quadriceps (Q) angle

21.6     Maximum hip angle during normal gait

77.3     Maximum ankle angle during normal gait

43.3     Maximum spinal lumbar rotation and cervical flexion and extension

61.3     Maximum angular velocity of trunk (deg/s) during normal gait; anticipates the definition of “second”

32.1     Minimum ankle angle during normal gait

38.4     Hip angle range of motion during normal gait

 

 

Many other things may also hidden in the first chapter of Genesis since this is only a cursory examination.  A plethora of mathematical operations can be conducted on n by n, real, square matrices; these include product, Kronecker product, inverse, trace, immanant, various types of decomposition and countless functions with matrix arguments.

A FUNDAMENTAL PARTICLE?

If relatively short strings of Hebrew characters from the first chapter of Genesis provide the codons for all space/time and matter/energy then the universe itself should be constructed based on these codons.  In other words, the same 27 characters of the Hebrew alphabet used to define the genetic code would ultimately define the structure of all space, time, matter and energy.

 

Consider the possibility that the assignment of one of the 27 Hebrew characters -- instead of 1 or 0 -- to a voxel can transform a mere volume of three dimensional space into the most basic building block of matter/energy.  Furthermore, the state of the entire universe is still defined by a countably infinite sequence of digits representing a single real number -- now base-27 (with Aleph as zero) instead of base-2.  As before, connect three contiguous voxels together to generate a string.  The three corresponding base-3 triplets generate a 3 by 3 matrix with the elements 0, 1 and 2.  Such matrices could represent the fundamental codons for the structure of the universe but now the string of characters has become a string of voxels.  Increasing complexity can be created by joining together groups of three contiguous voxels to create various geometric shapes.  Such geometric constructions might represent the fundamental particles of matter and energy.

 

To illustrate a possible connection with Quantum Mechanics, a large number of groups of three contiguous voxels -- e.g. (1010)2 -- could be arranged like tiles to produce a corresponding square matrix of dimension (3)(1010).  This matrix could be used to compute eigenvalues (observables) and eigenvectors (states) for the various particles of physics.  To illustrate a possible connection with General Relativity, consider the gravitational field equations Gij = Rij – (1/2)gijR and Gij + αPij = 0.  The Ricci tensor (Rij) and scalar curvature (R) are derived from the Riemann-Christoffel tensor Rhirs which is, in turn, connected to the rotation required to pass from one reference frame to another when two nearby points are joined by two different paths in a non-Euclidean space: Ωhi = Rhirsdyrδys .  If the Riemannian space was simply a three dimensional space instead of four dimensional space-time, then Ωhi could be viewed as a rotation matrix defining both axis and angle.

 

As we have seen, certain dimensionless numbers are associated with every portion of space.  Is it reasonable to surmise that some primitive particle, representing these numbers might provide a pervasive and structural influence throughout the entire universe?  How about a Rubik Cube comprising the three 3 by 3 matrices from three groups of three voxels?  The Hebrew characters assigned to the first, second and third groups of three voxels could be the first three, second three and third three characters respectively from the first verse of Genesis.  The three matrices are therefore defined as:

 

 

0 2 0                2 1 2                0 2 0

0 0 0                0 0 1                0 0 0

1 1 0                2 0 0                1 1 0

 

Notice the first and third are identical so we really have only two independent matrices with 0, 1 and 2 as elements.  Can a Rubik Cube constructed from these trivial matrices be expected to conceal such numbers as the Fine Structure Constant and the mass ratios of sub-atomic particles?  Ignoring possible 3-D matrix algebra, the number of two dimensional 3 by 3 matrices that can be extracted from the cube and arranged like tiles on a floor together with the number of possible arrangements of these tiles is too large to examine.  So we will simply make a guess.  However, a wild guess would seem unlikely to reveal anything of substance.

 

Each of fifteen slices through the cube produces up to 64 matrices by successive rotations about various axes.  In this trial, only one matrix will be selected for each slice.  The fifteen selected 3 by 3 matrices can then be permuted in 15! ways.  In this trial only one permutation will be chosen.  After these assumptions, we still find ourselves short by one 3 by 3 matrix in order to construct a single matrix of dimension 12.  So we will add a single 3 by 3 matrix, at the end, to complete the square.  That matrix is

 

 

0 1 0

0 0 1

0 2 1

  

which represents the fourth three characters from the first verse of Genesis and is also a Hebrew name for God (Elah).  But how could anything of substance be obtained from this smorgasbord of assumptions?

 

Here is the final 12 by 12 matrix, designated as M:


0 2 0 2 1 2 0 2 0 1 2 1

0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0

1 1 0 2 0 0 1 1 0 0 2 0

0 2 0 2 1 2 0 2 0 0 2 0

0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1

0 0 0 1 0 1 1 2 1 1 1 0

0 2 0 0 0 0 1 1 0 1 0 0

2 1 2 0 0 1 2 0 0 0 0 1

0 2 0 0 0 0 1 1 0 0 0 0

1 1 0 0 2 0 1 0 0 0 1 0

0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 1

0 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 1

 

Now define X = MM*, Y = X2 and Z = X3 where M* is the transpose of M.  X, Y and Z are each 12 by 12 matrices and each will have a characteristic equation with twelve coefficients.  Let the coefficients for X, Y and Z be denoted by J1…J12, JJ1…JJ12 and JJJ1…JJJ12 respectively.

 

  • (JJ6)(10-15) = 0.00704.  The fraction of mass converted to energy when helium is formed from hydrogen in stars is currently 0.0071 for a 0.8% deviation.
  • Abs{JJ3/JJ2} = 137.705 and Abs{JJ2/JJ3} = 0.007262.  The current values for the Reciprocal Fine Structure constant and the Fine Structure Constant are 137.036 and 0.007297 respectively for a 0.5% deviation.
  • Abs{(J5)(10-3)} = 3675.9.  The total mass of a proton and a neutron compared to that of an electron is 1836.2 + (1.0014)(1836.2) = 3674.9 for a 0.03% deviation.
  • 1/(JJ2) = 4.4(10-7); JJ10/JJJ10 = 7.3(10-7); J10/JJ10 = 9.8(10-7).  These are all possible values for the weak force coupling constant which is currently 10-6 to 10-7.
  • 1/[(JJJ6)(JJJ8)] = 0.47(10-39).  The current value for the proton-electron gravitational to electrical force ratio is 0.435(10-39) for an 8.0% deviation. 
  •   J11/JJ11 = 8.5(10-6).  This is essentially equal to fraction of rest mass energy needed to disperse large cosmic structures such as galaxies and clusters.
  • (JJJ7)2(JJJ9)2 = 3(1080) which is nominally the number of elementary particles in the universe.
  • (JJJ11/JJ11)(2) = 247168.  The mass of a Higgs Boson compared to that of an electron is 246037 for a 0.46% deviation.
  • 1/(JJ2) = 4.4(10-7).  The mass of a Majorana neutrino compared to that of an electron is 4.7(10-7) for a 6% deviation.
  •  (JJJ8)(JJJ9) = 3.43(1040).  The characteristic length of the universe (velocity of light divided by Hubble’s constant) divided by the classical radius of an electron is 4(1040) for a 14% deviation.

 

No more than two coefficients are used for any dimensionless number.  The coefficients are combined by simple multiplication and division with an occasional power of 10 or factor of 2.  Better estimates may be possible using different combinations of coefficients.  Are these remarkable agreements just a coincidence?

   

My conjecture is that every fundamental dimensionless constant of physics can be generated using this procedure. Assemble three groups of three contiguous voxels and assign each group a letter sequence from the first verse of Genesis.  Arrange the corresponding matrices into a Rubik Cube configuration of 27 numbers.  Then create multiple 3 by 3 matrices by slicing through the cube.  Finally, arrange these slices like tiles on a floor to produce a single 2-D matrix of dimension 12 or higher (i.e. 15 or 18).  Perhaps these Rubik Cubes, constructed from three groups of three of voxels, exercise a pervasive, structural influence throughout the universe.

 

A coincidence is a remarkable concurrence of events or circumstances without apparent causal connection.  Given sufficient evidence, however, the bridge between “remarkable concurrence of events” and “causal connection” must be crossed.


EPILOGUE

 

Could it be that all the mysterious equations of the continuum are merely approximations to the more profound mysteries of the discrete?  Could it be that maintaining the universe from one time step to the next requires intelligence?  In such a scenario, time would not be the fourth dimension.  Time would advance by discrete steps in one direction only.  The “rule of time transformation” for each step would reflect the laws of physics as administered by an immanent God.  Changes in the length of the basic time step would not be detectable by us.

 

As before, imagine God allows the state of each voxel to change at time intervals equal to the Planck Time (currently 5.4 x 10-44 seconds).  At the end of each time interval, a new real number defines the state of the universe.  Nestled among the elements of aleph-3 are particular subsets of aleph-2 that track all possible histories of the universe from the big bang onward.  An immanent God would only have to comprehend infinity at a cardinality of n''' to track all possible histories and futures.  The Christian God understands infinity at least to a cardinality of n'''''''....  where the number of  ' marks is n.  This is so overwhelming that our human intellect cannot grasp it!  The infinitude of God permits Him to instantly track all possible histories and futures of you, me and the universe with no more difficulty than it is for us to count the wheels on a bicycle.  Comprehending the cumulative consequences, of all contingent first-cause, human free will decisions on subsequent events, is infinitesimally trivial for God.  Couple this concept with the idea that God has inserted Himself into all levels of the “interactive life-game” video.  As the life-game designer, God knows all possible paths your life can take from birth to death.  God not only knows all contingencies but He has entered the game as your advocate and He wants you to win.  He has lovingly given each of us the prevenient grace that brings salvation (Titus 2:11).  The requirements of God’s law are written on every heart (Rom 2:15).  Jesus Christ knocks at the door of every heart (Rev 3:20).  The Holy Spirit calls, awakens, draws near, convicts, saves and empowers as He finds response in the heart and disposition to obedience (John 16:8).  God’s eternal power and divine nature are evident in the world around us (Rom 1:20).  He works within each heart, intellect and will.  All this and more comprises the infinitude of God!

 

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13. What are the Core Beliefs of Christianity?

Core Beliefs of Christianity Set Forth as Eight Points in Logical Succession with a Traditional  Southern Baptist, Wesleyan/Arminian Flavor

The Bible is the inspired, infallible and inerrant word of God.

  • This concept is discussed in Chapter 10 of Christian Handbook of Reason and Insight for Scientists and Technologists.

The one true God exists as three distinct, transcendent, immanent, infinite, eternal, and immutable persons: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.

  • The one true God (Deut 4:35, 6:4; Isa 43:10, 44:6-8; I Cor 8:6; 1 Tim 2:5) exists as three distinct,
  • transcendent (1 Kings 8:27),
  • immanent (Acts 17:27,28; Col 1:16-17),
  • infinite (1 Kings 8:27),
  • eternal (Isa 57:15) and
  • immutable (Mal 3:6) persons:
    • God the Father (John 5:18, 10:29, 14:28, 17:1-3; 1 Cor 8:6; Phil 2:11),
    • God the Son (Isa 7:14, 44:6; John 1:1-14, 5:18, 10:30, 20:28, 8:58 cf Ex 3:14; Rom 9:5; Phil 2:5-11; Col 1:15-18; Titus 2:13, Heb 1:8; 1 John 5:20; Rev 22:13-18) and
    • God the Holy Spirit (Ex 17:7 cf Heb 3:7-9; Mat 28:19; Acts 5:3-4, 13:2 cf Gal 1:1 and 1 Tim 1:1; 1 Cor 3:16; 2 Cor 13:14; 2 Tim 3:16 cf 2 Pet 1:21; Heb 9:14).

Some have claimed the Holy Spirit is not a person. This claim is refuted by the following Scriptures: (John 14:26, 15:26, 16:7-11, 14; Acts 5:3, 13:2, 16:7; Rom 8:16, 26; 1 Cor 12:11; Eph 1:14, 4:30).

Jesus Christ is God the Son. Jesus Christ is man. Jesus Christ is one person whose divine and human natures cannot be changed, divided, separated or mixed. Jesus Christ was resurrected bodily from the dead. Jesus Christ was born of a virgin.

  • Jesus Christ is God the Son (Isa 7:14 cf Mat 1:23, 44:6; John 1:1-14, 5:18, 10:30, 20:28, 8:58 cf Ex 3:14; Rom 9:5; Phil 2:5-11; Col 1:15-18; Titus 2:13, Heb 1:8; 1 John 5:20; Rev 22:13-18).
  • Jesus Christ is man (Mark 2:27,28; John 1:14; Rom 1:3; Phil 2:5-11; 1 Tim 2:5; 1 John 4:1-4).
  • Jesus Christ is one person whose divine and human natures cannot be changed, divided, separated or mixed (John 1:14; Rom 1:3,4, 8:3, 9:5; Gal 4:4,5; Phil 2:5-7; 1 Tim 3:16; Heb 2:11-14; 1 John 4:2,3).
  • Jesus Christ was resurrected bodily from the dead (Luke 24:36-47; John 2:19-21; Rom 8:11; 1 Cor 15:3-7; 1 John 3:2).
  • Jesus Christ was born of a virgin (Isa 7:14; Mat 1:23).

Every person since Adam and Eve, except Jesus Christ, was born with a sin nature and no person, except Jesus Christ, has lived a sinless life. (T)

  • Every person since Adam and Eve (Gen 3:6-19; Rom 7:14-25), except Jesus Christ (Luke 1:35), was born with a sin nature
  • and no person (Rom 3:23, 5:12-18, 6:23; 1 John 1:8-10), except Jesus Christ (John 8:46; 2 Cor 5:21; Heb 4:15; 1 Pet 1:18-19, 2:21-22; 1 John 2:1, 3:3), has lived a sinless life.

The spotless lamb, “without blemish,” was required for the Passover (Ex 12:5) and the words, “without blemish,” constantly recur in the descriptions of the sacrifices which pointed forward to the atonement accomplished by Christ.

The Scriptures are completely unanimous in declaring the perfect sinlessness of Christ under all circumstances. The sinlessness of Christ is not merely a personal attribute, characteristic of His human nature as well as His divine nature, but it is an attribute which is absolutely essential to the atonement.

Salvation from the consequences of sin is offered to all persons by the grace of God and the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ. (L)

  • Salvation from the consequences of sin is offered to all persons by the grace of God and the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ (John 1:29, 14:6; Acts 4:10-12; Rom 3:21-25, 5:12-18; Eph 2:8-10; 1 Tim 2:5; Heb 9:14-15)

The grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all persons: (a) the requirements of the law are written by God on every heart, (b) Jesus Christ knocks at the door of every heart, (c) the Holy Spirit calls and convicts each person and (d) God’s eternal power and divine nature are evident in the world around us. Nevertheless, many resist the grace of God. (I)

  • The grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all persons (Titus 2:11):
  • (a) the requirements of the law are written by God on every heart (Rom. 2:15),
  • (b) Jesus Christ knocks at the door of every heart (Rev. 3:20),
  • (c) the Holy Spirit calls and convicts each person (John 16:8) and
  • (d) God’s eternal power and divine nature are evident in the world around us (Rom 1:20).
  • Nevertheless, many resist the grace of God (Mat 25:46; 2 Thes 1:8-9).
The grace of God that comes before salvation is called prevenient grace.  Prior to salvation, God initiates, advances and perfects everything that can be called good in man.  God leads the sinner from one step to another in proportion as He finds response in the heart and disposition to obedience.  Some men allow God to quicken, assist and nudge their free will to facilitate confession of sin, remorse, repentance, faith and obedience so they may receive the great gift of salvation (1 Pet 1:9).  Other men choose to resist and reject the grace of God (2 Thes 1:8-9).

Each person who responds to God’s grace and the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ by confession of sin, remorse, repentance, faith and obedience receives the great gift of salvation. Each person who resists God’s grace is condemned to everlasting punishment. (U)

  • Each person who responds to God’s grace and the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ by
  • confession of sin (Ps 32:3-5; 1 John 1:8-10),
  • remorse (Ps 66:18; Luke 18:13),
  • repentance (Mat 3:8; Rom 12:2, 13:14; Eph 4:23-24; Rev 2:5, 16, 3:3, 19),
  • faith (John 6:29, 3:16-17; Acts 16:31; Eph 2:8-10) and
  • obedience (Mat 28:20; Luke 11:28; John 14:15; Rom 1:5, 6:16; Heb 5:9)
  • receives the great gift of salvation (Acts 4:12; Rom 1:16; 2 Cor 7:10; 1 Thes 5:9; Heb 5:9; 1 Pet 1:9, 18-19).
  • Each person who resists God’s grace is condemned to everlasting punishment (Mat 25:46; 2 Thes 1:8-9).

Christian belief must be preceded by repentance and followed by obedience to qualify as faith. Faith is not just an intellectual exercise (Jam 2:19) or an emotional experience (Jer 17:9).

Faith precedes regeneration; faith is an act of human free will responding to the grace of God.

Calvinists reject this doctrine. Calvinists contend regeneration precedes faith because God elected only certain persons for salvation. Those persons alone are regenerated by the power of the Holy Spirit and subsequently demonstrate repentance, faith and obedience. The rest of mankind is condemned to everlasting punishment. Calvinism represents theological error. It is inconsistent with God’s holiness, justice, goodness and truth and it is refuted by Scripture.

  • For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)
  • He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:2)
  • Then Peter began to speak: "I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right. (Acts 10:34-35)
  • They came to him and said, "Teacher, we know you are a man of integrity. You aren't swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are; but you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. (Mark 12:14)
  • This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance (and for this we labor and strive) that we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe. (1 Tim 4:9-10)
  • This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. (1 Tim 2:3-4)
  • The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (2 Pet 3:9)
  • Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign LORD. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live? (Ezek 18:23)
  • Yet you say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ Hear, O house of Israel: Is my way unjust? Is it not your ways that are unjust? (Ezek 18:25)
  • Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, O house of Israel?’ (Ezek 33:11)
  • For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to the children of men. (Lam 3:33)
  • For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. (Deut 10:17)
  • Now let the fear of the LORD be upon you. Judge carefully, for with the LORD our God there is no injustice or partiality or bribery." (2 Chron 19:7)
  • Is he not the One who says to kings, ‘You are worthless,’ and to nobles, ‘You are wicked,’ who shows no partiality to princes and does not favor the rich over the poor, for they are all the work of his hands? (Job 34:18-19)
  • For God does not show favoritism. (Rom 2:11)
  • And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him. (Eph 6:9)

The T, U, L and I symbols after core beliefs 4, 7, 5, and 6 respectively denote which points of the TULIP correspond to each of the indicated core beliefs.  These four core beliefs express the first four points of the Remonstrance.  One more core belief is generally added to a Wesleyan/Arminian list but not to a Traditional Southern Baptist list:

 

Those once united to Christ by faith may, by turning away from God, lose the great gift of salvation. (P)

 

This is the fifth point of the Remonstrance corresponding to the P of the TULIP.

 

Mainline Wesleyan/Arminian denominations (UMC, Nazarene, Wesleyan, etc.) have become so preoccupied with social activism, political correctness and the introverted pursuit of personal holiness that they no longer have the time or inclination to defend their historic beliefs.  However, Traditional Southern Baptists have been standing in the gap by affirming the essence of Prevenient Grace and embracing all five points of the Remonstrance except the last one denying eternal security. 

 

Within the SBC, Traditional Baptists are battling insurgent Calvinists to preserve the Traditional Southern Baptist Theology of the 20th century.  The following is a statement of that theology as it relates to salvation (soteriology) with T, U, L, I and P indicating the corresponding points of the TULIP.

 

 

Statements Covering the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation

 

We affirm that every person inherits a sin nature.  We deny that any sinner is saved apart from a free will response to the drawing of the Holy Spirit. (T)

 

We affirm that the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ was offered by God to save all persons from the consequences of sin.  We deny that this atonement results in salvation without a person’s free will response of repentance and faith.  We affirm that any person who responds to the Gospel message with repentance and faith is born again.  We deny that any person is regenerated prior to or apart from hearing and responding to the Gospel message.  We affirm that election speaks of god’s eternal plan to have a people who are His by repentance and faith.  We deny that election means that, from eternity past, God predestined certain people for salvation and others for condemnation.  We affirm God’s eternal foreknowledge of every person’s salvation or condemnation.  We deny that God’s sovereignty and foreknowledge require Him to cause a person’s acceptance or rejection of Christ.  We affirm that God, as an expression of His sovereignty, endows each person with free will.  We deny that a decision of faith is an act of God rather than a response of the person. (U)

 

We affirm that the Gospel message is the good news that God has made possible a way of salvation for every person through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  This is in keeping with God’s desire for every person to be saved.  We deny that only a select few are capable of responding to the Gospel message while the rest are predestined to an eternity in hell. (L)

 

We affirm that the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all persons.  We deny that: (1) grace negates the necessity of a free will response of faith, (2) grace cannot be resisted and (3) a response of faith is a meritorious work. (I)

 

We affirm the eternal security of the believer.  We deny that anyone can lose their salvation (P).

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14. What is the purpose of prayer?

If prayer has a purpose, if prayer is more than a useless anachronism, then your prayer must cause a specific action of God to work in and through the particular network of constraints which are bringing some outcome into being and bring some succession of events to a different outcome than would otherwise have been.  Your prayer must unleash the power of the Holy Spirit in space and time.  Your prayer must change the flow of history.  Your prayer is a message to God sent by a first-cause agent of choice exercising free will and assisted by God’s grace. 

Some believe prayer can change the outcome of nothing because God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass.  This insidious doctrine is more fully addressed in Section 2 of Theology Corner under the title, “Can God’s Will be Thwarted?”  The sub-section below addresses only those issues relating to control, foreknowledge and foreordination.

PRAYER AND PREDESTINATION

The “unpardonable sin” of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is defined (Mat 12:31, 32; Mark 3:29, 30) as attributing the goodness of the Holy Spirit to Satan.  Calvinists have found an additional path to blasphemy by attributing all Satan’s evil to God.  But the greatest havoc created by the “blueprint” theology of Augustine, Calvin and their theological progeny may be a distortion of the purpose of prayer.  If, before the universe was formed, God unchangeably ordained everything, then your prayers can change the outcome of nothing.

The Calvinist believes life is like a scripted full length movie with you playing the part you were ordained to play.  You are merely an actor reciting your lines and doing precisely those things specified by the film writer/director. The Arminian believes life is like an “interactive life-game” video in which the designer allows you, as actor/player, to make free will decisions that change the outcome.  Furthermore, the designer of the interactive life-game video cares about the choices you make.  He encourages you to make the right decisions and grieves when you do not.  He became so concerned watching mankind spiral down a path toward destruction that He inserted Himself into the game, absorbing the consequences of our bad choices, nudging us to a different path and trying to help us avoid ultimate disaster.

The Calvinist argues that not one speck of space, time, matter, energy or human thought can be outside the continual control of God; otherwise God would lose control of his creation and we have no guarantee that a single one of God’s promises could be fulfilled.  For the Calvinist, control requires foreknowledge and foreknowledge requires “foreordination.”  God must be the first-cause of all things if His foreknowledge is to be preserved.  Otherwise, according to the Calvinist, God would not have been able to know, in eternity past, what your decisions would be in the future.  Embracing this position erases the free will exercise of prayer.  This is typical of how Calvinists confine God to a small enclosed space limited by their own intellect. 

The Arminian responds it is difficult to conceive of a less majestic God than One who is limited to a deterministic mode of relating to His creation.  It is hard to conceive of a weaker God than one who would be threatened by events occurring outside of His exhaustive control.  What is praiseworthy about controlling events simply because you possess the innate power to do so?  What is truly praiseworthy about God’s sovereignty is not that He exercises a power He obviously has, but that, because of His character, He does not exercise all the power He could.  Perhaps the greatest testimony to God’s sovereignty is that God created beings who possess the power to say no to Him. 

Furthermore, God’s exhaustively definite foreknowledge does not require foreordination.  As John Wesley wrote centuries ago (Works, VI. 226-7): “God foreknew those in every nation who would believe,” and “In a word, God, looking on all ages, from the creation to the consummation, as a moment, and seeing at once whatever is in the hearts of all children of men, knows every one that does or does not believe, in every age or nation.”  Wesley saw no conflict between human moral freedom and divine foreknowledge.  He affirmed that although God knows the future, He does not determine it.  Wesley believed we must not think that things are because God knows them; rather, God knows them because they are.  Could this reasoning retain its validity in the 21st century?  Reconciliation of human free will with God’s foreknowledge is not possible using our finite human intelligence.  But it is possible from the perspective of an “infinite” God.

Consider the meaning of infinity.  The smallest infinity is called aleph-null; its cardinality (n) is the number of elements in the set of all positive integers.  This infinity is, by definition, "countable."  After aleph-null, each element of an infinite set is a subset of elements from its predecessor.  The cardinality (number of elements), for each successive infinity, is the number of subsets in the set of all possible subsets constructed from its predecessor.  For example, the next infinity after aleph-null is aleph-1 or the continuum; its cardinality ( n' = 2n ) is the number of subsets in the set of all possible subsets constructed from the positive integers.  This happens to be the same as the number of elements in the set of all real numbers.  Aleph-1 is not countable.  The next infinity is aleph-2; its cardinality ( n'' = 2n' ) is the number of subsets in the set of all possible subsets constructed from the real numbers.  Consider the possibility that God can easily process at least n'''''''....  bits of information where the number of  ' marks is n.

But wouldn’t the sheer size of the known universe -- 100 billion stars in each of 100 billion galaxies -- overwhelm even the most infinite God?  To put in perspective the overwhelming sovereignty of God’s infinitude, consider the following illustration.  Imagine the universe is constructed around a deformable cubic lattice such that the smallest identifiable physical entity is a region called a “voxel” which is bounded by eight vertices, twelve edges and six flat faces.  The universe is thereby divided into an ordered (numbered) array of volumes.  The volume enclosed by a voxel is on the order of the cube of the local Planck Length (e.g. 1.6 x10-35 meter).  When a voxel is deformed by force, matter or energy, the eight vertices retain their identities but may change their positions, the twelve edges remain straight but each may change its length and each of the six flat faces either remains flat or deforms into a minimal surface with zero mean curvature (e.g. soap film).  13.7 billion years after the beginning, the deformable cubic lattice is no longer perfect but contains line and surface defects analogous to dislocations and stacking faults.

Assume the state of each voxel is 1 or 0.  Then the state of the entire universe is defined by a countably infinite sequence of binary digits or, in other words, a single real number.  The possible 3-D geometric arrangements of 1’s and 0’s would be more than sufficient to accommodate the complexity of any “Theory of Everything” that might be devised.

Now imagine God allows the state of each voxel to change at time intervals equal to the Planck Time (5.4 x 10-44 seconds).  At the end of each time interval, a new real number defines the state of the universe.  Nestled among the elements of aleph-3 are particular subsets of aleph-2 that track all possible histories of the universe from the big bang onward.  An immanent God would only have to comprehend infinity at a cardinality of n''' to track all possible histories and futures.  The Christian God understands infinity at least to a cardinality of  n'''''''....  where the number of  ' marks is n.  This is so overwhelming that our human intellect cannot grasp it!  The infinitude of God permits Him to instantly track all possible histories and futures of you, me and the universe with no more difficulty than it is for us to count the wheels on a bicycle.  Comprehending the cumulative consequences, of all contingent first-cause, human free will decisions on subsequent events, is infinitesimally trivial for God.  Couple this concept with the idea that God has inserted Himself into all levels of the “interactive life-game” video.  As the life-game designer, God knows all possible paths your life can take from birth to death.  God not only knows all contingencies but He has entered the game as your advocate and He wants you to win.  He has given each of us the prevenient grace that brings salvation.  He works in each heart, intellect and will.  Given His intimate involvement and the infinitude of his knowledge and intellect, what could surprise God?

CORRUPTION OF CREATION

This sub-section draws from the teachings of 2nd century Christian leaders (e.g. Justin Martyr, Athenagoras, Origen, Tatian and Irenaeus) who, in contrast to Augustine and his theological progeny, were no more than one generation removed from those who had personal contact with the Apostles and, therefore, with the true teachings of Jesus Christ.

Consider the following as simple statements of fact with no implied chronology.  God created both angels and humans as first-cause agents of choice with the free will to accept or reject God’s wishes in every situation.  God created the universe with such precision that the slightest change in any one of its properties would preclude our existence.  God designed the earth as a home for man.  God placed certain angels in charge of his creation and instructed them to be good stewards.  Some began to oppose God under the leadership of Satan, the most powerful and intelligent of all rebellious angels.  Satan, who holds the power of death (Heb 2:14) and is the prince of this world (John 12:31; 14:30-31; 16:8-11), exercises a pervasive, structural and diabolical influence to the point that the entire creation is in bondage to evil.  That which God created as good began to exhibit a pain-ridden, bloodthirsty, sinister and hostile demeanor.  “Mother Nature,” became an inherently violent and terrifying system dominated by disease, suffering and death – a system red in tooth and claw.  Not wanting free will to be an illusion, God is permitting, for a time and within limits, certain consequences of rebellion and corruption caused by both fallen angels and the humans who join them.  Rebellious angels and humans, under the leadership of Satan, are the first-cause of all evil.

Consequence for Humans

According to G. A. Boyd, “A theme that underlies Jesus’ entire ministry is the apocalyptic assumption that creation has been seized by a cosmic force and that God is now battling this force to rescue it.  Jesus understood Himself to be the one in whom this battle was to be played out in a decisive way… His whole ministry was about overpowering the ‘fully armed’ strong man who guarded ‘his property’ (Luke 11:21) – the earth and its inhabitants who rightfully belong to God… He came to ‘destroy the works of the devil’ (1 John 3:8; Heb 2:14) and to establish God’s domain on earth.   Every exorcism and healing – the two activities that most characterize Jesus’ ministry – marked an advance toward establishing the kingdom of God over and against the kingdom of Satan.  Consequently, in contrast with any view that would suggest that disease and demonization somehow serve a divine purpose, Jesus never treated such phenomenon as anything other than the work of the enemy.  He consistently treated diseased and demonized people as casualties of war.  Furthermore, rather than accepting their circumstances as mysteriously fitting into God’s sovereign plan, Jesus revolted against them as something that God did not will and something that ought to be vanquished by God’s power... All sickness and disease was considered a form of satanic oppression, and so in freeing people from it Jesus demonstrated the presence of the kingdom of God.”

But, one particular consequence for humans is far more insidious and devastating than demon possession, decay, violence, disease, suffering and death.  Every person since Adam and Eve, except Jesus Christ, was born with a sin nature and no person, except Jesus Christ, has lived a sinless life.  Thanks to Satan, every soul is born in bondage to sin just as he corrupted our earth to form an inherently violent and terrifying system in bondage to evil.  Even if our human bodies were set free from disease and suffering, our souls would remain black as lumps of coal.

Consequence for Nature

Generations of books, magazines and TV documentaries have portrayed nature as a magnificent and beautiful system almost deserving of worship.  The Gaia Philosophy even views the entire biosphere as a living entity. But when we look through the veil of hype, what do we really see in nature?  G. J. Romanes provides a good description of the animal kingdom: “teeth and talons whetted for slaughter, hooks and suckers molded for torment – everywhere a reign of terror, hunger, sickness, with oozing blood and quivering limbs, with gasping breath and eyes of innocence that dimly close in depths of cruel torture.”  W. E. Stuermann gives an equally sobering description of nature’s web of interacting events: “The web unravels as often as it is woven in order.  Frequently and brutally its threads are ripped in sudden and disconcerting manners, and the orderly tapestry of life unravels, leaving men broken by disaster and despair.  Chaos looms before them and stretches to the horizons of their lives.”  Could Stuermann’s description apply to such events as a mega-tsunami caused by the collapse of the Cumbre Vieja volcano on La Palma, the eruption of the Yellowstone super-volcano, a gamma ray burst pointed at the earth from within our galaxy, a large asteroid impact or a worldwide biological plague? 

Look around!  Did our good, omnipotent God create the inherently violent and terrifying system we see in the world, a system rife with decay, violence, disaster, disease, suffering and death?  Does nature itself appear to operate contrary to the character of God?  Does the world at every level appear to be at war?  Does the world appear to be permeated and corrupted at all levels by an evil influence?  Did Jesus believe that someone else had been given authority over this world and Jesus Himself must repair, reconstruct, restore and repossess?

Just in time, however, the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ redeemed or bought-back all creation from the bondage of evil and offered redemption from the bondage of sin to all persons.  But Satan was not a willing seller and will never acknowledge the legitimacy of the sale.  He believes his property was stolen from him and he is battling God to retain possession.  Consequently, creation is legally free from the bondage of evil but it is not free from the influence of evil itself through Satan and his minions.  Similarly, salvation sets us free from the bondage of sin but it does not set us free from the influence of sin itself.

 WORLD AT WAR

At some point in time, God entrusted Satan and other powerful angels with the stewardship of all creation.  They betrayed God’s trust and began to turn what God created as good into an inherently violent and terrifying system dominated by decay, destruction, disease, suffering and death.  Although God could have simply repaired, reconstructed, restored and repossessed His corrupted creation, His purity of wisdom, holiness, justice and truth demanded a punishment for every crime, every evil and every sin.  Only one punishment, the substitutionary atonement, was great enough to redeem all creation from the bondage of evil and redeem all mankind from the bondage of sin.  But Satan will never acknowledge the efficacy of that punishment.  He is battling God to retain possession of that which was given to him (Luke 4:5-7).

The world, at every level, is at war.  We are on the front lines of this Great War whether we like it or not.  The substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ began a new phase of warfare.  God the Son began the process of taking back his creation.  The outcome of the great-war between good and evil was decided by the substitutionary atonement; yet few would claim Jesus has already restored and repossessed his corrupted creation.  For a time and within limits, God continues to permit certain consequences of rampant rebellion and the brutal corruption of all life.  But He expects His people to engage the enemy and be soldiers in His army.

 

God, by His omnipotence, will one day end this war.  He will repair, reconstruct, restore and repossess His entire creation (Isa 11:6-9, 65:17-25; Rom 8:20-22; 2 Pet 3:13; Rev 21:1-4).  Until that time, however, prudence would suggest that we keep an eye on Satan who, contrary to popular opinion, never expected to overpower God by force and establish a separate but equal kingdom of evil.  Satan merely seeks to discredit God and God’s relationship with man in full view of all the angels in Heaven!  He argues that God is no longer perfect.  Satan laments that God’s character has been altered as an unfortunate consequence of His love for man.  God’s wisdom and truth have become illogical, His holiness has been compromised and His once absolute justice is now relative and situational.  Satan offers to help God purge Himself of this affliction by driving an irremovable wedge between God and man and facilitating an alienation that cannot be reconciled.  Satan attempts with one crafty thrust to both assail God’s beloved humans and show up God as an altruistic fool.  Satan claims that any man who seeks the great gift of reconciliation with God does so only because it pays (Job 1:9-11; 2:4-5).  Satan says anytime God will let him break the link between seeking righteousness and receiving blessing, the so-called “born again” man will be exposed as the same old filthy sinner he was before receiving the great gift of salvation.  In other words, the overall concept of salvation by faith, the grace of God and the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ is a sham.  God cannot give it, Jesus cannot pay for it and you cannot receive it.  According to Satan, it’s all smoke and mirrors so that God can save his wretched humans without appearing to compromise His character.

 

Satan claims that: (1) so-called redemption from the bondage of sin does not really set you free, (2) God has no real basis for offering forgiveness of your sin, (3) for God to justify you as sinless is a perversion of justice, (4) you are not deserving of adoption into God’s family, (5) you can never be truly regenerated from the death of sin to a life of pursuing righteousness, (6) your walk along the path of sanctification is an exercise in self-delusion, (7) you will never be reconciled with so-called fellow believers, (8) a unified church of Jesus Christ is a myth and (9) you have no hope of glorification in heaven.  This is the adversary’s clever attempt to permanently subvert the relationship between God and man and show all the angels in Heaven that God’s plan for reconciliation is fraudulent.  If the salvation offered to every man and woman can be exposed as a perversion of wisdom, holiness, justice and truth, then a chasm of alienation stands between God and man that cannot be bridged.  Reconciliation would be unthinkable.  God’s whole enterprise in creation would be radically and irrevocably flawed; He could only sweep it away in awful judgment as He nearly did once before (Gen 6:5-7).

 

As tempter, Satan seeks to alienate man from God; as accuser he seeks to alienate God from man.  Satan’s accusations, once raised, cannot be erased even if God destroyed the accuser.  The great adversary is attempting to thwart the purposes of God by condemning as lies the beliefs of every man and woman who have accepted the great gift of salvation.  At stake in this challenge is the outcome of the struggle in heaven with the all-encompassing divine purpose in the balance.  Thus, contrary to the teachings of the Prosperity Gospel (health, wealth and prosperity for all), the suffering of the Christian soldier has a meaning and value commensurate with the titanic spiritual struggle of the ages.

HILT OF THE SWORD

By the substitutionary atonement, God redeemed or bought-back all creation from Satan who now no longer owns it (Luke 4:5-7).  But Satan was not a willing seller and will never acknowledge the legitimacy of the sale.  He believes his property was stolen from him by a phony purchase.  He is battling God to retain possession.  Consequently, creation may be legally free from the bondage of evil but it is not free from the influence of evil itself through Satan and his minions who will never relinquish possession without a fight.

God decided to engage Satan’s army with the assistance of those human soldiers who accept the great gift of salvation.  Those who accept it are redeemed or set free from the bondage of sin.  Salvation causes us to be regenerated or born again from the death grip of sin to a life of pursuing righteousness.  We can, thereby, stand beside Jesus as He battles to purge evil from His creation.  However, salvation may set us free from the bondage of sin but it does not set us free from the influence of sin itself.  Satan knows that our concupiscence, bad judgement, inconsistent will and weariness can ensnare us in the vice-grip of evil even after salvation.  But for the first time in our lives, we can, by the power of the Holy Spirit, say “no” to Satan and to our own sin nature – set free from bondage not from influence.

Because God decided not to exercise his omnipotence to end the war in an instant, He insisted that the spiritual forces of good and evil follow certain Rules of Engagement.  These rules are renegotiated from time to time and prevent Satan from completely destroying our lives.  Conversely, the Rules of Engagement may also prevent God from exercising some power that might be construed as an unfair advantage in the eyes of the “rulers and authorities” in heavenly realms who are watching this battle unfold (Eph 3:10).  The Rules of Engagement define such items as: when and where battles are waged, how winners and losers are determined, the consequences of winning and losing, the Allowed Weapons for each side and the Constraints on Effectiveness for each weapon. 

The primary Allowed Weapon for God’s human soldiers is prayer because, alone, we don’t stand a chance against the dark powers.  Remember, the battle is spiritual and must be fought in God’s strength, depending on the Word of God and on God through prayer.  The verbal Word of God is called the sword of the spirit.  That sword is one of two offensive weapons in the full armor of God (Eph 6:10-18).  The other offensive weapon is prayer.  Only by prayer are we able to firmly grasp the hilt of the sword in our human hands, remove it from its scabbard and wield it against the invisible forces of evil.  Prayer is the spiritual strength driving the sword of the spirit in our hands as we strive side by side with Jesus Christ to restore and repossess His corrupted creation.  I may not have charismatic gifts.  My relationship with Jesus may not always be as personal as I might wish.  But I can stand up as an infantryman in the army of our commander in chief.

The constraints on effectiveness for this weapon of prayer are shrouded in mystery.  We know only that God always does the most He can do given: (a) prayer as our primary weapon, (b) the constraints on effectiveness for this weapon and (c) the complex and evil powers arrayed against Him.  Where free agents are involved, God’s omnipotent will can be thwarted. What God is able to do in the world is hindered by evil powers exercising free will and using weapons beyond our comprehension.  The reason why some prayers are not answered generally has nothing to do with what God wills or the depth of your faith.  It is the result of: (a) the forces of evil exercising their freedom to wage battle and (b) a myriad of constraints on the effectiveness of prayer far beyond the depth of your faith.  There is no mystery about God’s character.  All evil proceeds from wills other than God’s.  The mystery of evil stems from the complexity of creation and the warfare that engulfs it, not from some distorted definition of God’s sovereignty.

God always responds.  Prayer always makes a difference.  But the difference is not always dramatic and obvious because prayer does not cancel or suspend the particular network of constraints which are bringing some outcome into being.  Prayer is the means through which the specific action of God works in and through that network, bringing some succession of events to what will always be a different outcome from what it would otherwise have been.  This fact alone should make you come alive with commitment to prayer.

PRAYER WARRIOR

Some soldiers can use weapons of war more effectively than others. The use of prayer for maximum effectiveness is somewhat clouded in mystery. But the effective prayer warrior is generally characterized by all or at least some of the following attributes:

  • Confessor of Sin (Ps 32:3-5; 1 John 1:8-10)
  • Remorseful (Ps 66:18; Luke 18:13)
  • Repentant (Acts 20:21; Isa 59:1-2)
  • Faithful (Mat 17:20; 21:21)
  • Obedient (I John 3:22)
  • Humble (Dan 9:3)
  • Forgiving (Mark 11:25)
  • Sincere (Acts 12:5; Heb 5:7)
  • Spirit Filled (Rom 8:26)
  • Persistent (Luke 11:5-13, 18:1-8; I Thes 5:17)
  • Desiring United Corporate Prayer (Mat 18:19)
  • Confident (Jam 1:5-7)
  • Abiding in Christ (John 15:7)
  • Fervently committed to communion with God (Acts 12:5)
  • Thankful (Phil 4:6-7)
  • Peaceful (Phil 4:6-7)
  • Truthful (Psalm 145:18)
  • Unselfish (Jam 4:3)
  • Knowing God’s will (1 John 5:14-15)
  • Seeking wisdom (Jam 1:5)
  • Rejecting idols (Ezek 14:3)

Prayer itself frequently includes:

  • Praise: worshiping and communing with God (Heb 13:15)
  • Repentance: confessing and turning away from sin (1 John 1:8-10)
  • Thanksgiving: honoring God for our blessings (Phil 4:6,7)
  • Mercy: requesting God will deliver us from evil and grant our petitions (Phil 4:6,7)

However, my prayer petitions may not be granted even if I have the attributes of a prayer warrior and my prayers are appropriate.  For example, I may be certain my faith is larger than a mustard seed but I cannot move mountains (Mat 17:20 cf 21:21, 22) nor can I place my hands on the sick and see them healed (Acts 28:8).  The Holy Spirit may want to grant my petitions in such matters but He is thwarted by forces of darkness exercising free will, using powerful weapons and utilizing a complex network of constraints (Dan 10:12-13, 20-21); but also, the Holy Spirit is thwarted by my own inadequate personal attributes as a prayer warrior.

Consider, for illustration, this simplistic hypothetical “constraint on effectiveness” for the weapon of prayer.  What if the degree to which my prayer will be answered is expressed by a number between zero and one which is equal to the probability that I am characterized, on any given day, by all twenty one  independent prayer warrior attributes listed above?  If the probability that I am characterized by each individual attribute is 0.8, then the probability that I am [a confessor of sin and remorseful and repentant and faithful and obedient and humble … and rejecting idols] is 0.821 = 0.009.  Or instead, what if the probability is virtually zero that I am characterized by one particular attribute?  The outcome would be the same: marginally effective prayer.

Consider another vantage.  Satan is accusing us 24/7 probably with the frequency of cosmic gamma burst radiation (Rev 12:10).  Jesus Christ is interceding on our behalf (Heb 7:25) for each accusation.  But unlike the characters in a Perry Mason episode, the cold facts about our shortcomings are known at the outset by both the prosecution and the defense.  This spiritual courtroom is about establishing, not the existence, but the consequences of undeniable sins.  Our guilt before God is removed by the great gift of salvation by which we are redeemed, forgiven, justified, adopted, regenerated, guided along the path of sanctification, reconciled with fellow believers, united in the church of Jesus Christ and looking forward to glorification.  But our sorry behavior, even after we have been saved, still has consequences in this life.  Satan not only wants the unsaved to join him in eternal damnation, he would also like to minimize God’s response to the prayers of the saved.  Could our sinful nature and behavior along with our inadequate prayer warrior attributes, by the Rules of Engagement, continually lower the effectiveness of our prayers?  We could ask God for the wisdom (Jam 1:5) to comprehend precisely how the Rules of Engagement are constraining the effectiveness of our prayers.  Unfortunately, the shear ferocity and frequency of Satan’s unrelenting attack and the complexity of creation make it unlikely that we could fully understand and satisfy these rules.  But remember, Jesus Christ is not just a lackadaisical defense attorney going through the motions.  He is an advocate who wants us to win!  He wants us to overcome the shackles of constraint on the power of our prayer.  Perhaps we could ask our advocate, Jesus Christ, to break the shackles on the power of our prayer by: (a) showing us how, with God’s grace, we can overcome certain constraints and (b) re-negotiating the Rules of Engagement in our favor.

POWER OF PRAYER

Prayer was utilized by Jesus, the Apostles, the Apostolic Fathers and beyond as a powerful weapon to achieve limited and localized repair, reconstruction, restoration and repossession of God’s creation and thereby thwart the prince of darkness and the forces of evil.  Physical healing was commonplace in the early Christian community.  But many Christians, in the 21st century, have become so sophisticated and jaded that they doubt the power of prayer.  They view individual prayer as a useless anachronism in our time.

What about corporate prayer by the body of Christ?  Curiously, most churches have little commitment to united corporate prayer and even less inclination toward confession of individual sin while praying.  Prayer has become a tired ritual which is performed with no real expectation.  A prayer may be offered during worship service to accommodate tradition.  Then, if nothing happens, the Health, Wealth and Prosperity advocates ask, “Whose un-confessed sin caused God to ignore this prayer?”  The Calvinists ask, “Was this prayer ignored by God because it was inconsistent with His unchangeable blueprint established before the world was formed?”  In any case, no one really expects a response from God.  Most churches preach and teach the importance of praying together as a united body of Christ but these same churches don’t really believe it and seldom do it!  In fact, it is difficult to identify a church whose foundation is corporate prayer.  But what if all the church ritual prayer, musical entertainment and baby food Sunday School lessons were replaced by congregational corporate prayer from men and women yearning to be led by the Holy Spirit down a path of confession, remorse, repentance, faith, obedience, humility, forgiveness, sincerity, purity, persistence, restoration, truth and worship?  What if the Sunday sermon, crafted for entertainment, was replaced by one intended to make us better able to give a reason for the hope that is in us?  Who knows what would happen.

What about uniting in prayer as a Christian nation?  This is probably the least likely approach to succeed in the USA because, unfortunately, it is no longer a Christian nation.  For example: 

  • If abortion for convenience is murder, then the USA is one of the most murderous nations in the history of the world.
  • If homosexuality is a sin, then half the primary protestant denominations in the USA have embraced sin.
  • If USA drug addiction is responsible for the tens of thousands of drug related deaths in Mexico and Central America, then USA citizens have blood on their hands.
God has been purged from education, entertainment, government and society at large.  The USA is currently a Godless nation.

Our spiritual opponents in this Great War are powerful beyond comprehension; they would destroy us in an instant were it not for God’s restraint.  Even God's angels seem to be reluctant to enter the fray (Dan 10:21).  Why didn’t God give us "superhero" personal power against these adversaries to make an even fight? Perhaps because the struggle is ultimately about ideas rather than brute power. Satan wants to convince all the angels in Heaven that God’s plan of salvation for mankind is flawed. He wants to expose God’s entire enterprise of creation and redemption as the product of radically flawed wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth. The accusation, once raised, could not be removed, not even by destroying the accuser. The divine purpose hung in the balance. The bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ was a fatal blow to him who holds the power of death (Heb 2:14) and sealed the ultimate outcome of the war. But Jesus wants his army to stand beside him as He reclaims and restores His creation.

A SAMPLE PRAYER

Here is a sample prayer organized around Praise, Repentance, Thanksgiving and Mercy; but, by all means, make up your own!

A Prayer to

Father, Son and Holy Spirit

I come into Your presence offering praise for Your:

  • Being: Transcendence, Immanence, Infinitude, Eternalness, Immutability
  • Wisdom: Exhaustively Definite Foreknowledge, Omniscience, Resourcefulness, Patience, Perseverance, Persistence, Discipline, Prudence, Understanding, Discernment, Stewardship, Courage
  • Power: Omnipotence, Humility, Meekness, Gentleness, Obedience/yieldedness, Endurance, Long-suffering/Forbearance, Respect, Responsibility, Dependence, Devotion, Surrender, Commitment
  • Holiness: The state of who You are and the acts that You do; Holiness in being and Holiness in action; Absolute purity of heart, will, intellect and action; Perfect love, integrity, righteousness, morality, ethics, character; Perfect being, wisdom, power, justice, goodness, truth
  • Justice: Punishment for Sinners; Substitutionary Atonement; Redemption; Forgiveness; Justification; Adoption; Regeneration; Sanctification; Reconciliation; Unification; Glorification
  • Goodness: Love, Mercy, Grace, Compassion, Kindness, Benevolence, Charity, Faithfulness, Trustworthiness, Peace, Joy, Fulfillment, Fruitfulness, Faith, Hope, Reconciliation, Healing, Encouragement, Comfort, Strength
  • Truth: Logic, Honesty

I come into Your presence offering praise because You have created space, time, matter and energy and inserted Yourselves into Your creation to accomplish:

  • The creation of the universe with such precision that the slightest change in any one of its properties would preclude our existence.
  • The design of planet earth as a home for man.
  • The creation of different kinds of life including man in Your image.
  • The Substitutionary Atonement of Jesus Christ which redeemed all creation from the bondage of evil and offered redemption from the bondage of sin to all persons.
  • The ongoing work of maintaining the universe.
  • The ongoing work of acting as man’s advocate in the spiritual courtroom.
  • The repair, reconstruction, restoration and repossession of all creation yet to come.

I come into Your presence having a repentant heart.

  • I have not loved You, loved my neighbors, been obedient, done Your will or heard the cry of the needy.
  • In Your compassion, forgive my sins, known and unknown, things done and left undone and uphold me by Your Spirit that I may serve You in newness of life.
  • Restore to wholeness whatever has been broken by my sin.
  • I come into Your presence confessing my sin, having remorse in my heart, wanting to repent, asking Your forgiveness, forgiving those who have sinned against me, asking for Your mercy, receiving from You the far greater gift of salvation, praying that my heart will become sufficiently pure, humble, forgiving, penitent and contrite that I might have unbroken communion with God and believing I am saved from eternal damnation by faith, the grace of God and the Substitutionary Atonement of Jesus Christ.
  • I can stand before You redeemed from eternal punishment, forgiven my sins, justified as sinless, adopted into the family of God, regenerated from the death of sin to a life of righteousness, guided along the path of sanctification, reconciled with fellow believers, united in the Church of Jesus Christ and looking forward to glorification only because Jesus died on the cross for my salvation.
  • I accept the undeserved gifts of reconciliation with You, reconciliation with fellow believers and unification in the church.
  • I pray that the Holy Spirit will occupy and purify my heart, help me discern the truth, make known to me the will of God, be Lord of my life and keep me on the path of repentance, faith and obedience continually reaffirmed and renewed.

I come into Your presence thanking You for:

  • Freely giving Your infinite love and a unique, eternal soul to every person who will ever live.
  • Not giving up on me when I was prideful, godless and destined for eternal damnation.
  • Health, healing, safety and well being, in the measure received, on behalf of myself, my spouse, my family, my extended family and all those in the world.
  • Salvation on behalf of all those who have received it.
  • Always responding to my prayers which always make a difference.
  • Redeeming Your creation from the bondage of evil and offering redemption from the bondage of sin to all men by the Substitutionary Atonement of Jesus Christ.
  • Offering the great gift of salvation to every person who will ever live.

I come into Your presence asking for Your mercy.  I ask that You suspend the consequences of my rebellion and corruption and grant my petitions.

  • In Your compassion, break the shackles of constraint on the potential power of my prayer by: (1) teaching me how to overcome the various Constraints on Effectiveness for the weapon of prayer and (2) acting as my advocate in the spiritual courtroom to re-negotiate the Rules of Engagement in my favor.
  • Help me acquire the attributes of an effective prayer warrior: Confessor of Sin (Ps 32:3-5; 1 John 1:8-10); Remorseful (Ps 66:18; Luke 18:13); Repentant (Acts 20:21; Isa 59:1-2); Faithful (Mat 17:20; 21:21); Obedient (I John 3:22); Humble (Dan 9:3); Forgiving (Mark 11:25); Sincere (Acts 12:5; Heb 5:7); Spirit Filled (Rom 8:26); Persistent (Luke 11:5-13, 18:1-8; I Thes 5:17); Desiring United Corporate Prayer (Mat 18:19); Confident (Jam 1:5-7); Abiding in Christ (John 15:7); Fervently committed to communion with God (Acts 12:5); Thankful (Phil 4:6-7); Peaceful (Phil 4:6-7); Truthful (Psalm 145:18); Unselfish (Jam 4:3); Knowing God’s will (1 John 5:14-15); Seeking wisdom (Jam 1:5); Rejecting idols (Ezek 14:3).
  • Let my prayers assist as You restore and repossess Your creation which is presently imprisoned in corruption by the architect of evil who administers decay, violence, disease, suffering and death.  May the vice-grip of evil be broken and may the children of God be restored to health, healing, safety, well being and wholeness.
  • JESU ESTO MIHI JESUS - DUX - LUX - REX - LEX 
  • Almighty God, who inspired Your servant Luke the Physician to set forth in the Gospel the love and healing power of Your Son: Graciously continue in Your Church the love and power to heal, to the praise and glory of Your Name, through Jesus Christ, our Lord.
  • Bestow health, healing, safety and well being, in greater measure, on behalf of myself, my spouse, my family, my extended family and all those in the world; lift every burden, throw light on every problem, wash away all guilt, forgive every sin, reconcile every strained relationship, heal every disease, restore that which is corrupted and decayed, re-energize the entire being, anoint with joy and fill with peace.
  • Mend broken relationships and restore those in emotional distress to soundness of mind and serenity of spirit; grant Your healing grace to all who are sick, injured or disabled that they may be made whole.
  • Restore to wholeness whatever is broken by human sin in our lives, in our nation and in the world.
  • Grant, to the dying, peace and a holy death and uphold, by the grace and consolation of the Holy Spirit, those who are bereaved.
  • Abundantly give Your peace, mercy and grace to all who are bereaved, lonely, neglected, rejected, unloved, afraid, suffering, hopeless, despairing, weary or burdened.
  • Grant to all who seek Your guidance and to all who are lonely, anxious or despondent a knowledge of Your will and an awareness of Your presence.
  • Exercise Your prevenient grace, in greater measure, to call, awaken, draw near, convict, save and empower those who have yet to exercise their free will to accept the great gift of salvation.
  • Use me and my work in a powerful way as You see fit.
  • Bring revival to the Church of Jesus Christ and bring repentance to every nation whose people have lost their moral compass, corrupted their ethical values, obscured their historic character, abandoned their role-model integrity and betrayed future generations.
  • Empower a Jonah type to warn the world prior to any future judgment.
  • Help me become resourceful reaching the unsaved, patient waiting before You, perseverant by Your grace, persistent in the face of failure, disciplined to stay on message, prudent in church affairs, understanding about the hard things of Scripture, discerning in separating truth from lie, stewarding of church affairs and courageous in the face of tribulation.
  • Help me become a humble, meek and gentle follower of Jesus, obedient and yielding to God, enduring in the struggle against evil, long-suffering and forbearing in the face of persecution, respectful of the church, responsible for my neighbors, dependent on the Father, devoted to Jesus Christ, surrendered to the Holy Spirit and committed to prayer.
  • Help me stay on the path to holiness of heart, will, intellect and action; help me embrace love, integrity, righteousness, morality, ethics and character.
  • Help me balance punishment for crimes against God and man with reconciliation and unification.
  • Help me to love my neighbor, show mercy to the guilty and let the grace of the Holy Spirit work through me.  Help me show compassion to the downtrodden, kindness to the unkind, benevolence to the needy, charity to the suffering, faithfulness and trustworthiness to the abused and a sense of peace and joy in the midst of  hopelessness; help me experience a sense of fulfillment and fruitfulness in ministry,  faith in God, hope in the ultimate outcome of the great struggle, reconciliation and healing of relationships, encouragement in the face of setbacks, comfort in the hand of God and the strength to carry on.
  • Help me to understand that truth is not personal, situational, relative or unknowable; it is absolute.

I pray all these things in the name of God the Son.  I pray they will be accomplished by the power of God the Holy Spirit.  I pray they are in accordance with the will of God the Father.  Amen.

What might happen if 1MM people prayed this prayer every day?

CHRISTIAN PERSPECTIVE ON HEALING

A wide spectrum of opinion exists within the Christian community on the subject of healing.  One popular opinion is that shortly after the death of the apostolic fathers, God stopped healing; Christians today are sent forth to preach the Gospel (the Great Commission) but not to heal the sick.  Another view is that God gives you sickness, injury, disability and brokenness of spirit so that you, like Jesus, will have a cross to bear.  But the most Biblically defensible perspective is expressed in these three excerpts:

All humanity is the creation of a loving God who wills for everyone wholeness, health of the total person, body, soul and spirit.  When we pray for healing, we are to pray, “Thy will be done,” not “If it be thy will.”  All sickness and all brokenness is contrary to the will of God.  At no time is sickness a part of His purpose or plan for any part of His creation.  Our primary purpose in the Healing Ministry is to see God’s will fulfilled in the restoration of wholeness. (Order of St. Luke Handbook, page 10) 

Are there times when it is not God’s will to heal and when we should pray, “Let what you want be done?”  This is one of the most misunderstood prayers in the Bible.  Our Lord’s Prayer in Gethsemane has nothing whatsoever to do with the healing of the sick.  That prayer had to do with the sin burden of the whole world.  Jesus was taking on himself the sins of the whole world… It is almost blasphemy for a person with a disease today to think that the bearing of a pathological condition is part of Gethsemane…You are not passing through Gethsemane because you are dying of cancer.  You are suffering because the law of God has been broken somewhere.  Maybe you had nothing to do with it…Disease is the enemy.  Jesus regarded disease as the work of the devil…You may say that you have learned some valuable lessons through pain…but don’t say that loathsome disease is God’s will for mankind. Yet, out of our foggy thinking and our ambiguous theology, we have sometimes gone to the sick room and tried to comfort a sick person by saying, “Well, no doubt, this is God’s will.  Just be patient under the hand of God!  (John Gayner Banks, “Healing Everywhere” p. 204 – 207) 

In the early days of my ministry I found myself saying to a bereaved family, “I don’t know why God took your husband but someday we will know.”  Later the spirit of God broke through into my life and I became shocked and embarrassed at the words of comfort that I had used…What I was saying was really this, “I don’t know why God was so unfair, so cruel and so unloving.”  The force of this erroneous theology struck me with a desire never to use it again or to agree with those who did…It is outrageous that God is condemned for every misfortune, disappointment, accident, tragedy or untimely death…Satan comes to inflict people with disease and misery.  God comes to bring healing and joy.  (Rufus J. Womble, “Wilt Thou be made Whole?” chapter 16)

What is the theological justification for such a perspective?  After all, not all persons will be healed of sickness and brokenness this side of Heaven.  Healing prayer does not usually receive an instantaneous, dramatic and obvious response from God.  Could it be that decay, disease, terror and suffering are part of God’s plan?  To this suggestion, say a resounding no!  The justification for our position on this issue can be found in the particular view of God and his creation that was commonplace in the early Christian church.  It may not be absolutely correct because we see these things dimly through dark gauze.  Think of it as directionally correct.  Here is a short summary of this justification which can be used as a Homily or Sunday School lesson.

Homily on Christian Healing

Generations of books, magazines and TV documentaries have portrayed nature as a magnificent and beautiful system almost deserving of worship.  The Gaia Philosophy even views the entire biosphere as a living entity. But when we look through the veil of hype, what do we really see in nature?  G. J. Romanes provides a good description of the animal kingdom: “teeth and talons whetted for slaughter, hooks and suckers molded for torment – everywhere a reign of terror, hunger, sickness, with oozing blood and quivering limbs, with gasping breath and eyes of innocence that dimly close in depths of cruel torture.”  W. E. Stuermann gives an equally sobering description of nature’s web of interacting events: “The web unravels as often as it is woven in order.  Frequently and brutally its threads are ripped in sudden and disconcerting manners, and the orderly tapestry of life unravels, leaving men broken by disaster and despair.  Chaos looms before them and stretches to the horizons of their lives.”

Look around.  Did our good, omnipotent God create the inherently violent and terrifying system we see in nature, a system rife with sickness, suffering and death – a system red in tooth and claw?  Does nature itself appear to operate contrary to the character of God?  Does the world at every level appear to be at war?  Does the world appear to be permeated and corrupted at all levels by an evil influence?  Did Jesus believe that someone else had been given authority over this world and Jesus Himself must repair, reconstruct, restore and repossess?  Jesus’ earthly ministry appears to reflect the belief that the world had been seized by a hostile, sinister lord.  According to Scripture the whole universe was originally good and the glory of God is still evident in it (Rom 1:20).   But something else – something frightfully wicked – is evident in it as well.   Jesus came to begin the process of restoration and repossession.  But why are we living in a world that needs healing?  If God exercises absolute sovereign control over every aspect of creation, why doesn’t He stop all this corruption, violence, disease, suffering and death?  Let me give you a scenario embraced by Christian leaders in the early church.

God created both angels and humans as first-cause agents of choice with the free will to accept or reject God’s wishes in every situation.  God created our universe as a home for us.  God placed certain angels in charge of his creation and commanded them to be good stewards.  Some began to oppose God under the leadership of Satan, the most powerful and intelligent of all rebellious angels.  Satan, who holds the power of death (Heb 2:14) and is the prince of this world (John 12:31; 14:30-31; 16:8-11), exercises a pervasive, structural and diabolical influence to the point that the entire creation is in bondage to decay.  That which God created as good began to exhibit a pain-ridden, bloodthirsty, sinister and hostile demeanor.  “Mother Nature,” became an inherently violent and terrifying system dominated by disease, suffering and death – a system red in tooth and claw.  Not wanting free will to be an illusion, God is permitting, for a time and within limits, certain consequences of rebellion and corruption caused by both fallen angels and the humans who join them.  Rebellious angels and humans, under the leadership of Satan, are the first-cause of all evil.

The world, at every level, is at war.  We are on the front lines of this Great War whether we like it or not.  The substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ began a new phase of warfare.  God the Son began the process of taking back his creation.  He not only redeemed you and I from the bondage of sin but He redeemed all of creation from the bondage of evil.  The outcome of the war was decided completely by the substitutionary atonement but the process of repossession and reconstruction of creation only began.  Jesus expects his people to engage the enemy and be soldiers in His army.

According to G. A. Boyd, “A theme that underlies Jesus’ entire ministry is the apocalyptic assumption that creation has been seized by a cosmic force and that God is now battling this force to rescue it.  Jesus understood Himself to be the one in whom this battle was to be played out in a decisive way… His whole ministry was about overpowering the ‘fully armed’ strong man who guarded ‘his property’ (Luke 11:21) – the earth and its inhabitants who rightfully belong to God… He came to ‘destroy the works of the devil’ (1 John 3:8; Heb 2:14) and to establish God’s domain on earth.   Every exorcism and healing – the two activities that most characterize Jesus’ ministry – marked an advance toward establishing the kingdom of God over and against the kingdom of Satan.  Consequently, in contrast with any view that would suggest that disease and demonization somehow serve a divine purpose, Jesus never treated such phenomenon as anything other than the work of the enemy.  He consistently treated diseased and demonized people as casualties of war.  Furthermore, rather than accepting their circumstances as mysteriously fitting into God’s sovereign plan, Jesus revolted against them as something that God did not will and something that ought to be vanquished by God’s power... All sickness and disease was considered a form of satanic oppression, and so in freeing people from it Jesus demonstrated the presence of the kingdom of God.”

Since God did not exercise his omnipotence to end the war in an instant, He expects us to engage the enemy.  The primary allowed weapon for God’s human soldiers is prayer because, alone, we don’t stand a chance against the dark powers.  God always responds.  Prayer always makes a difference.  But the difference is not always dramatic and obvious because prayer does not cancel or suspend the particular network of constraints which are bringing some outcome into being.  Prayer is the means through which the specific action of God works in and through that network, bringing some succession of events to what will always be a different outcome from what it would otherwise have been.

Our objective is not to just “go through the motions” of a healing service and faithfully reiterate prayers for which no one really expects an answer.  Our objective is to see God’s will fulfilled in the restoration of wholeness.  All sickness and brokenness is contrary to the will of God.  God wants to heal!  But where free agents are involved, God’s will can be thwarted.  Things happen which God does not will (e.g. 60 million abortions for convenience in the USA) and things fail to happen which God does will (e.g. the salvation of all persons).  All evil proceeds from wills other than God’s.  Satan and his army come to inflict people with disease and misery.  God comes to bring healing and joy.  The mystery of evil stems from the complexity of creation and the warfare that engulfs it, not from some distorted definition of God’s will. 

We can assist in the fulfillment of God’s will by using the weapon of prayer to thwart the power of evil.  We believe God always responds to prayer and prayer always makes a difference.  The difference may not be dramatic and obvious because some prayers are more powerful than others.  So it’s our job to maximize the power of our prayer.

Our spiritual opponents in this Great War are powerful beyond comprehension; they would destroy us in an instant were it not for God’s restraint.  Even God’s angels appear to be reluctant to enter the fray (Dan 10:21).  Why didn’t God give us “superhero” personal power against these adversaries to make an even fight?  Perhaps because the struggle is ultimately about ideas rather than brute power.  Satan wants to convince all the angels in Heaven that God’s plan of salvation for mankind is flawed.  He wants to expose God’s entire enterprise of creation and redemption as the product of radically flawed wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth.  The accusation, once raised, could not be removed, not even by destroying the accuser.  The divine purpose hung in the balance. The bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ was a fatal blow to him who holds the power of death (Heb 2:14) and sealed the ultimate outcome of the war.  But Jesus wants his army to stand beside him as He reclaims and restores His creation.

HEALING PRAYER

God always responds to prayer for healing and that prayer always makes a difference.  All humanity is the creation of a loving God Who wills everyone to have wholeness and health.  When you petition God for healing, don’t say, “Heal only if it be Your will.”  Instead say, “Please heal because I know it is Your will to repair and restore Your corrupted creation.”  Sickness and brokenness are contrary to the will of God.  At no time is sickness a part of His purpose or plan for any part of His creation.  The primary purpose of prayer for healing is to see God’s will fulfilled in the restoration of wholeness.  But remember, healing is not a “one-time” thing.  Healing is, in reality, a continual meeting of a continual need.  One healing usually leads to the recognition of a need for further healing, either a physical healing or a healing of the heart.  God calls each of us to see healing as a continuing pilgrimage toward wholeness.

Whenever we see hate, ill-will, division, separation, alienation, disease, decay, misery, tragedy, corruption, fear, suffering, iniquity, immorality, wickedness, depravity or unmitigated evil, we know it is the fruit of Satan and those who have joined him.  Whenever we see love, mercy, grace, forgiveness, reconciliation, restoration, joy, health, healing and well being, we know it is the fruit of God and His children.  Satan comes to destroy and kill; God comes to give life.  When a tragedy occurs, many well meaning Christians will say, “I don’t know why God did this; we don’t understand now but someday we will.”  They are really saying, “I don’t know why God was so unfair, so cruel and so unloving but someday we will understand.”  Similarly, many Christians having lifelong afflictions such as blindness or paralysis will not accept prayer for healing; they believe God wants them to be afflicted so he can use them in a more powerful way.  But remember, all humanity is the creation of a loving God Who wills everyone to have wholeness and health.  To think otherwise is to insult God.

The fact that God’s response to healing prayer is not always dramatic and obvious opens the door to familiar Calvinist and pseudo-Christian claptrap:  (1) God orchestrates the tragic death of babies because he needs more little angels in heaven; (2) God causes us to become crippled and maimed to strengthen our spirit, bring us closer to Him, teach us a lesson, give us a new perspective on life and make us stronger witnesses; (3) if God has not answered your prayer for healing, it is because you or those around you are harboring un-confessed sin; (4) if God has not healed you, it is because your faith is weak and (5) God is giving us the disease, suffering and death we deserve; He is self glorified as He watches fear, suffering and hopelessness swallow mankind.

HEALING IN THE CHURCH 

In the Great Commandment (Mat 22:36-40), Jesus said to love God and love your neighbor; this universal instruction for His church was revealed to opponents and followers alike.  The church has developed various activities in response to this instruction.  For example, we worship God to demonstrate our love for Him and we minister to our neighbors to demonstrate our love for them.  In the Great Commission (Mat 28:18-20), Jesus said to make disciples of all nations, baptize them and teach them to obey everything He commanded; this instruction was given only to the eleven but, like the Great Commandment, we view it as a universal instruction directed to each Christian and to the church as a whole.  Once again, the church has developed various activities in response to this instruction.  We evangelize the unsaved to make new disciples (e.g. community outreach, mission trips), we bring these new disciples into the church by baptism (church growth programs) and we educate them in the ways of Jesus by discipleship (e.g. Sunday School).  But what other universal instructions might be found in the New Testament?

In Luke 9:2, Jesus said: “preach the kingdom of God and heal the sick.”  This instruction was given to the twelve.  In Luke 10:9, Jesus said: “Heal the sick who are there and tell them the kingdom of God is near you.”  This instruction was given to the seventy two.  He did not even tell the seventy two to preach the kingdom of God; presumably He would do that later.  Furthermore, according to G. A. Boyd, “Every exorcism and healing – the two activities that most characterize Jesus’ ministry – marked an advance toward establishing the kingdom of God over and against the kingdom of Satan.  Consequently, in contrast with any view that would suggest that disease and demonization somehow serve a divine purpose, Jesus never treated such phenomenon as anything other than the work of the enemy.  He consistently treated diseased and demonized people as casualties of war.  Furthermore, rather than accepting their circumstances as mysteriously fitting into God’s sovereign plan, Jesus revolted against them as something that God did not will and something that ought to be vanquished by God’s power... All sickness and disease was considered a form of satanic oppression, and so in freeing people from it Jesus demonstrated the presence of the kingdom of God.”  The text in chapters 9 and 10 of Luke and the unique roll of healing in the great war between good and evil suggest that the instruction to heal the sick is just as universal, for each Christian and the church as a whole, as the Great Commandment and the Great Commission.

Furthermore, the church doesn’t need to develop a new activity in response to this instruction.  The healing activity is defined in Scripture.  Three elements of healing are mentioned in the New Testament [prayer (James 5:14; Acts 28:8), anointing with oil (James 5:14; Mark 6:13) and laying on of hands (Mark 16:18; Acts 28:8)].  The early church combined these three elements into a single activity with the objective of healing.

For a variety of reasons, many in the church today reject the belief that healing the sick is a universal instruction directed to each Christian and to the church as a whole.   

  • One popular opinion is that shortly after the death of the apostolic fathers, God stopped healing; Christians today are sent forth to preach the Gospel but not to heal the sick. 
  • Another view is that God gives you sickness, injury, disability and brokenness of spirit so that you, like Jesus, will have a cross to bear. 
  • A Calvinist compatible view is that God causes us to become sick, crippled and maimed to strengthen our spirit, bring us closer to Him, teach us a lesson, give us a new perspective on life and make us stronger witnesses. 
  • Some conservative denominations believe the Pentecostals and Charismatics hijacked Biblical healing many decades ago and inserted elements not defined in Scripture (e.g. speaking in tongues and being Slain in the Spirit); these insertions rendered all subsequent healing activities suspect.  Not only was healing rejected by many but the work of the Holy Spirit Himself became suspect.
  • Finally, Agnes Sanford and her progeny invented mystical healing elements, not found in Scripture, comprising a syncretism of psychology and occult spirituality (e.g. inner healing and healing by visualization); these elements have, in some denominations, corrupted the basic healing ministry of the Church. 

But all these objections can be neutralized by simply acknowledging the timeless legitimacy of the three basic elements of healing defined in Scripture -- anointing with oil, laying on of hands and prayer – and controlling our human desires to add additional elements. 

Will the paralyzed walk?  Will the blind see?  Maybe, maybe not; but something will transpire!  God always responds.  The healing activity always makes a difference.  But the difference is not always dramatic and obvious because prayer does not cancel or suspend the particular network of constraints which are bringing some outcome into being.  Prayer is the means through which the specific action of God works in and through that network, bringing some succession of events to what will always be a different outcome from what it would otherwise have been.  Healing is a universal instruction given by Jesus to each Christian individually and to the church as a whole.

HAVING A FORM OF GODLINESS, BUT DENYING THE POWER THEREOF

Alternate titles for this section might be, “OBJECTIVES WITHOUT PROCESS” or “FORM WITHOUT FUNCTION.”  A Chinese church leader once touched on this issue with the comment, “American Christians know how to organize but we know how to pray.” 

The point I will try to make is somewhat enigmatic so I will begin with an analogy to the optimization of Value Stream Flow, in a business enterprise, by a Lean Transformation.  All types of business – i.e. manufacturing, service and medical – can be rejuvenated by a Lean Transformation.  Enormous improvements are virtually guaranteed in all business metrics: lead time, inventory turns, productivity, defect rate, floor space, gross margins, working capital, service provider response time, accounts receivable days outstanding, inspection time, customer returns processing time and EBITDA to name a few.  The ultimate objectives of a Lean Transformation may be summarized as:

  • Removal of  Non-Value-Adding Activities from the Process Stream
  • Optimization of Value-Adding Activities  

But these objectives don’t include a process for achieving them.  They give no clue as to how they might be achieved.  What we need are process steps that will lead to fulfillment of the objectives.  The primary process steps include:

  • Make Product Cycle Time = Customer Takt Time
  • Create Continuous Flow so that every piece of work in progress (WIP) moves smoothly from one step to the next.
  • Standardize Work so that all tasks are done in identical fashion by each employee responsible.
  • Establish a “Pull System” throughout the Value Stream from supplier to customer.  

Now we have a road map which, if followed, will lead to accomplishment of the objectives.  Notice the process looks nothing like the objectives; there is a vast difference between a set of objectives and the process required to achieve those objectives.  Also, stating the objectives gives little insight into the nature of a viable process.  But in the absence of such a process, the objectives will never be achieved.  

What does this mean for the Church?  It means having Biblical objectives without Biblical process is like ringing a church bell in the vacuum of outer space; no one will hear the ring.  Furthermore, defining the objectives is the easy part, simply a matter of writing down a few sentences.  Defining and executing the process is hard.  Our first inclination is to grow impatient with God, forgo the Biblical process and seek to do his work by the power of the flesh rather than by the power of the Holy Spirit.  We ape the world’s wisdom, trust its forms of publicity and imitate its ways of manipulating men.  We say, “Stand over here on the sidelines God and we will show You how it’s done.”  The objectives of the “Purpose Driven Church” can serve as an example.

  • The Great Commandment (Mat 22:36-40 -- worship God and minister to your neighbor)
  • The Great Commission (Mat 28:18-20 – evangelize unbelievers, enlarge the fellowship and disciple believers)

As expected, there is nothing in these objectives that defines or even points to a process.  Rather than search Scripture for process, we bypass God and use our human intelligence. 

  • For worship, congregations passively listen to clever messages mixed in with musical entertainment, announcements and ritual prayer.  The messages are carefully contrived to avoid causing anyone to think excessively or become uneasy; scary words like “SATAN” and “HELL” are generally avoided. 
  • We minister to our neighbors by paying them short visits during which we guard against too much involvement; this assuages our conscience while avoiding unpleasant entanglements in core problems. 
  • We sometimes evangelize by preaching and quoting Scripture to people we barely know.  We become self appointed martyrs if our efforts are rebuffed; we tell God we were faithful even if we weren’t fruitful. 
  • We enlarge the fellowship by every sort of “Madison Avenue” huckstering within the limits of our imagination, of course telling God that whatever we do is for the “greater good.”
  • Discipleship is accomplished in Sunday School by re-reading the same baby-food lessons for decade after decade but never teaching exactly what Christians believe and why. 

What we have to show for our man made processes is the American church in death spiral.  Once the statistics of decline can no longer be ignored, we search for remedial options such as:

  • Do what we have always done, only with twice the effort, and hope we don’t get what we always got!
  • Introduce social positions, which mirror our culture, into the Church as God approved behavior (i.e. abortion for convenience, homosexuality, promiscuity without consequence, etc.).
  • Try processes identified in Scripture even when our human intellect views them as unlikely to succeed.

The first two have been tried and found wanting.  What about number three?  Here are a few of the processes identified in Scripture.

UNITED CORPORATE PRAYER

R. A. Torrey summarizes the place of prayer as a Biblical process: “Prayer is God’s appointed way for obtaining things and the great secret of all lack in our experience, in our life and in our work is neglect of prayer…Those men whom God set forth as a pattern of what He expected Christians to be – the apostles – regarded prayer as the most important business of their lives…The words pray and prayer are used at least 25 times in connection with Jesus in the brief record of his life set forth in the four Gospels and His praying is also mentioned in places where the words are not used.”

 

Church prayer has become a tired ritual which is performed with no real expectation even though Scripture teaches the unlimited power of united corporate prayer.  Where there is real agreement, where the Holy Spirit brings believers into perfect harmony concerning that which they ask of God, where the Holy Spirit lays the same burden on all hearts, in such prayer there is great power.  What if all the church ritual prayer, musical entertainment and baby food lessons were replaced by congregational united corporate prayer from men and women yearning to be led by the Holy Spirit down a path of confession, remorse, repentance, faith, obedience, humility, forgiveness, sincerity, purity, persistence, restoration, truth and worship?  Could such prayer have an impact on Kingdom work?

RESTORATION

G. A. Boyd masterfully portrays the great war of the forces of God against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness: “Jesus’ entire ministry, as we have seen, reflects the belief that the world had been seized by a hostile, sinister lord.  Jesus had come to take it back.  Contrary to any view suggesting that everything has a divine purpose behind it, Jesus’ ministry indicated that God’s purposes for the world had to be fought for and won.  Jesus taught his disciples to pray that God’s will would be done on earth as it is in heaven.  This presupposes that, to a significant extent at least, God’s will is not now being done on earth.”

The world, at every level, is at war.  We are on the front lines of this Great War whether we like it or not.  The substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ began a new phase of warfare.  God the Son began the process of taking back his creation.  The outcome of the war was decided completely by the substitutionary atonement but the process of repair, reconstruction, restoration and repossession of creation only began.  Jesus expects his people to engage the enemy and be soldiers in His army. 

We are commanded in Chapters 9 and 10 of Luke to not only preach the kingdom of God but also to heal the sick.  This limited and localized form of restoration serves as a process to thwart the prince of darkness and the forces of evil.  Mainline Christian churches have all but abandoned the healing ministry.

TRUTH

Classical logic deals with propositions that are either true or false.  Historic Christianity stands on the beliefs that classical logic represents the truth of God and sound reason is the foundation of the Christian faith.  The Christian God is a God of absolutes and one of His attributes is truth.  God cannot lie (Heb 6:18; Titus 1:2; II Tim 2:13).  God’s truth is never personal, situational, relative or unknowable; it is absolute.

On contentious issues (e.g. Calvinism vs. Arminianism, abortion for convenience, homosexuality, etc.), some churches invoke the concept of Positive Tolerance.  This means that Christians not only have the right to disagree with one another, but all the various views must be regarded as equally valid by the yardstick of God’s truth.  Other churches simply ban the study and discussion of contentious issues.  Excessive knowledge invites division; an ignorant congregation is a manageable congregation. 

But Jesus said:

  • “If you hold to My teaching, you are really My disciples.  Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32)
  • “Sanctify them by the truth; Your word is truth.” (John 17:17)
  • “You are right in saying I am a king.  In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth.  Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” (John 18:37)
Furthermore …the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ (John 1:17).  If the church would go about the process of separating truth from lie, would that not honor God?

 

MAGNIFICATION

God does not need us to worship Him.  He is secure in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth without ego reinforcement from created beings.  But He knows we need to worship Him for our own good!  He knows we are born with a sin nature and embrace sinful behavior as soon as we are able.  He knows sin is like the great black hole at the center of our galaxy, ever drawing its neighbors closer to oblivion.  If I neglect asking the Holy Spirit to: (1) occupy and purify my heart, (2) help my will become aligned with the will of God, (3) help me discern the truth and (4) be Lord of my life, then I will gradually begin to spiral toward the black hole of evil.  I will be weighed down by my own

  • Concupiscence
  • Bad judgment
  • Inconsistent will
  • Weariness caused by the constant struggle against temptation     
and, at the very least, become a soldier overwhelmed by the battle.  God initiates, advances and perfects everything that can be called good in man.  He leads the sinner from one step to another in proportion as He finds response in the heart and disposition to obedience.  We must constantly enlarge the influence of God in our lives and in our Church.  We must constantly engage in the process of magnifying the influence of God.

These four processes can be remembered by means of the recurrence mnemonic PRTM from the Hebrew “Mem Tav Reysh Pe” (Strong Number 6579) meaning most noble prince.  PRTM represents a mnemonic for:

 

 

Prayer

Restoration

Truth

Magnification

Prayer

Praise

Repentance

Thanksgiving

Mercy

Restoration

Purification

Regeneration

Transformation

Maintenance

Truth

Precedent

Reason

Testament

Manifold

Magnification

Promise

Revelation

Trust

Manifestation

 

The corresponding numerals are

P          80
R         200
T          400
M         40

which can be combined as

(PR)/(TM)  =  1 

to serve as a reminder that the two concepts, “Prayer Supporting Restoration” and “Truth Supporting Magnification” are equally important and neither should be neglected.  If the weapon of prayer does not contribute to the restoration of God’s creation from the bondage of evil then it is like using a sword to admire your own reflection rather than to vanquish the enemy.  Similarly, if the declaration of truth does not contribute to the magnification of God, then it merely supports the worship of God’s creation rather than the creator.

EPILOGUE 

Prayer has been viewed, in this section of Theology Corner, as our primary offensive weapon as we don the full armor of God.  It is the spiritual power driving the sword of the spirit in our hands as we strive side by side with Jesus Christ to restore and repossess His corrupted creation.  However, some Christians are uneasy with the characterization of prayer as a weapon. 

  • Some feel more comfortable with contemplative or centering prayer by which the mind is emptied and God is sought in a way more meaningful than consciousness itself; but practicing altered states of consciousness is not advocated in Scripture and it is not without risk. 
  • Some believe in foreordination by which all space, time, matter and energy are under the complete autocratic control of God; the heart, intellect, desires and actions of each human and angel were decreed by God before anything existed except the Trinity.  Consequently, we should pray to simply accept the will of God in all things.
  • Some utilize prayer as a happy time of pleasant communion with Jesus Christ who is viewed as a best friend and family member. 

But Scripture paints a different picture!  Consider the vivid portrayal of Scriptural prayer given centuries ago by John Ryland.  Does it not portray prayer as a powerful weapon against the forces of evil?   

“Prayer has divided seas, rolled up flowing rivers, made flinty rocks gush into fountains, quenched flames of fire, muzzled lions, disarmed vipers and poisons, marshaled the stars against the wicked, stopped the course of the moon, arrested the sun in his rapid race, burst open iron gates, recalled souls from eternity, conquered the strongest devils and commanded legions of angles down from heaven.  Prayer has bridled and chained the raging passions of man and routed and destroyed vast armies of proud, daring, blustering atheists.  Prayer has brought one man from the bottom of the sea and carried another in a chariot of fire to heaven.  What has prayer not done?”

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