Sunday, June 28, 2009

5 Dumb Reasons to Reject Calvinism

As with any debate, some arguments against a position are better than others. The following are five dumb arguments against Calvinism. Please, feel free to share more if you have them. Note, I am not calling any person dumb only their arguments.

1. Calvinism is divisive.

Yes, Calvinism is divisive, but one should not reject something simply because it is divisive. Quite a few things are divisive precisely because they are true, and anyone who disagrees with the truth is by default divided against it.

The gospel’s exclusivistic claims divide persons into believers and unbelievers. Are Christians willing to embrace other faiths as alternative routes to the same God because to insist otherwise is divisive? The church is divided over the mode and meaning of baptism, church government, eschatology, etc. Is each of us willing to give up our traditions in these areas to avoid division?

Truth by its nature is divisive; however, this is not an excuse for a party or divisive spirit. Christians should realize that some theological issues are quite complex and answers do not come easily. Consequently, we should strive together with love and humility towards one another to come to an understanding of our great God and Savior.

2. If Calvinism is true, evangelism is unnecessary or meaningless.

How many examples that contradict this argument are non-Calvinists going to have to hear to finally stop suggesting this as a reason to reject Calvinism? The Southern Baptist Convention was founded primarily by Calvinists, many of the early Baptist missionaries were Calvinistic (Carey, Brainerd, and Judson), D. James Kennedy (a 5 point Calvinist) created Evangelism Explosion to teach lay people how to evangelize lost people, Calvin’s own missionary enterprises refute this, Charles Spurgeon (a 5 point Calvinist) is considered by both Calvinists and Arminians to be a great evangelist. The list could go on and on. Calvinism in no way minimizes the importance of evangelism or missions.

3. Just because the Southern Baptist Convention used to be Calvinistic does not we should be Calvinists today.

This argument makes those involved in the Founders ministry sound like a bunch of idiots. Does anybody really believe that these guys just want the SBC to be Calvinistic for tradition’s sake?

4. All this arguing hinders the church from fulfilling the great commission.

There are two problems with this argument. First, I have heard this argument used any time a serious discussion of doctrinal issues begins no matter what the theological issue is. Some use this as an excuse because they have an aversion to theology. God has gifted the church with teachers and evangelists so that we can be both theologically accurate and practice evangelism. Theological reflection does not take away from evangelism; rather, it enhances it.

Second, the great commission commands the church to make disciples by doing two things baptizing them and teaching them all things that Jesus commanded. Certainly, all things would include teaching the total depravity of man, God’s gracious election, and the meaning of the atonement.

5. You follow a man (John Calvin); I follow Christ/the Bible.

No one is a Calvinist because they treat John Calvin as a Christian celebrity. Calvinists follow Calvin because they believe that Calvin articulates the biblical view of God and salvation. It is Christ and the Scriptures which Calvin and those like minded with him follow not the man himself.

In addition, whether a person realizes it or not, he is a follower of someone else’s theology. Since there can only be a limited number of viewpoints concerning the depravity of man and God’s grace in salvation and most of those have been named after its originator or major proponents, every Christian follows James Arminius, Moses Amyraut, Luis de Molina, John Wesley, Pelagius, John Calvin, or Augustine to some degree or another. At least, Calvinists know the major proponent of their theology.

Pastor Jeremy Lee
Twining Baptist Church

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Theology Is Relevant

After reading Morris Chapman's caricature of Calvinism at the SBC annual meeting, I decided to repost this blog as a response. There is more I would like to say, and maybe, in the future, I will add more. Until then, this blog will suffice. Read Morris Chapman's speech here. In addition, read the following response.

Relevance is a popular buzzword today in Christianity. So important is relevance, we are taught that the cardinal sin in preaching today is being irrelevant. It no longer matters if a sermon is biblically or theologically accurate. Relevancy is the sole standard for measuring the quality of a sermon. Nothing is thought by our contemporary world to be more irrelevant than theology.

This is why it was no surprise to read Charles Swindoll say that debating the meaning of grace is an alternative for “[t]hose who aren’t comfortable denying it.” Moreover, he states, “Grace was meant to be received and lived out to the fullest, not dissected and analyzed by those who would rather argue than eat…It’s time for grace to be awakened and released…to be enjoyed and freely given, not debated. ”[1] He even implies that the Protestant Reformation made this same mistake debating grace and not living it out. The bottom line it seems for Swindoll and too many others is theology engenders debate, and it keeps believers from living out their faith making theology irrelevant because it is impractical.

The problem with this idea that theology is irrelevant because it is impractical is that one’s practice must be built on a solid theological foundation, or he will go astray in his practice. For example, if one has a theologically low view of sin, he will tolerate sin in his practical life. Another example, if one is a theological universalist, he will not practice evangelism. (Why go through all the trouble if every one will be saved in the end regardless of what you do?) The examples could be multiplied endlessly, but these should suffice to prove the point that practical living must be based on solid theological thinking.

Kistler understands the practical relevance of theology. He argues, “We will not live any better than our theology; we may not live as well as our theology, but we will never live any better."[2] If Kistler is correct, then theology is more relevant than the practical aspects of Christianity because in order to practice correctly we have to think correctly about God, which is in reality that with which theology is concerned. Correct theology is the foundation for correct living. Consequently, one must give every effort to make certain that his theology is correct.

Unfortunately, as fallible humans, we often fail to see the fallacies in our own thinking. One way to refine one’s thinking and uncover blind spots in thinking is debate. “Monologues seldom produce refined thought,” argues Geisler in his evaluation of atheism. He continues, “Without atheists, theists would lack significant opposition with which to dialogue and clarify their concepts of God.”[3] Debate or dialogue is an important tool for a theologian to sharpen his thinking. If believers rule out debate altogether, theological thinking will lack clarity and practically living out one’s faith will suffer as a result.

I am not suggesting that theological debate should be a Christian’s only concern, for truth must be lived out. I am suggesting, however, a balance. Believers should concern themselves with both theology and practical Christian living. Both are relevant, and these are not mutually exclusive concepts. Far from it, they are actually dependant on each other. Let us make every effort to pursue both correct thinking and correct living.

Pastor Jeremy Lee
Twining Baptist Church

[1] Swindoll, Charles R. The Grace Awakening Devotional A Thirty- Day Walk in the Freedom of Grace. (W Publishing Group 2003) pgs 1-2.
[3] Geisler, Norman L. Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics. (Baker 1999) p. 58.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Calvin's Evangelism

One of the constant charges against Calvinism is that it hinders evangelism and missions. This is not true as can be demonstrated by Calvin's own ministry as you will discover from this link.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Praying Together

Recently, during our Wednesday night Bible Study, I preached a series of messages on prayer. This series was in response to some questions about prayer that the men in our church were struggling with. One of the questions involved praying together corporately. As a result of my searching, I realized that there does not seem to be much written about corporate prayer that is practical in nature. I hope this blog will help believers to think more deeply about how to practice corporate prayer and encourage more of it.

The fact that believers should pray together can be demonstrated in many ways, but Paul’s command that men everywhere should pray seems to suggest corporate prayer (1 Tim. 2:8). The apostolic church modeled it (Acts 2:42, 4:23ff). Finally, the Lord’s Prayer uses no singular pronouns in its petitions (Matt. 6:9-13). Thus, corporate prayer is commanded and modeled by both the early church and the Lord’s Prayer.

Praying together of course means more than just being present in the same space. We should pray together with the same purpose. The phrase “in one accord” (Acts 1:14; 2:1, 46; 4:24) points to this truth. “In one accord” means literally with the same passion, with one mind, purpose, or impulse. [1] To pray together in one accord means to share the same purpose. While there may be other minor purposes that believers can unite around, the overarching purpose for which we do everything including prayer and under which all minor purposes are subsumed is God’s glory. Praying together necessitates sharing the same purpose especially the glory of God.

So how do we accomplish this in a practical way? First, we should actively think and listen while others are praying. This can be accomplished by saying, “amen”[2]or “Yes, Lord” either in one’s heart or audibly. JI Packer warns, “When another person is praying aloud, the temptation is to do no more than passively listen, but the proper task is actively to think and pray in our heart along with the leader, making the petitions our own as we hear them spoken. To form and maintain this habit takes effort, but we are not joining in according to the will of God, save as we labor to do this.” [3] Another writer comments, “[A] biblical theology of prayer teach[es] we who sit in the church pew, or folding chair, or stadium seating, or couch…to listen intently to the person leading prayer, while repeating to God, ‘Yes, yes, that person speaks for me and all those around me.’”[4]

Secondly, we can also use the same words, i.e., praying pre-written prayers (the Lord’s Prayer, other scriptural prayers, or hymns). Most Christian seem to be opposed to this thinking that only spontaneous prayers are truly spiritual; however, this cannot be proven either biblically or historically. The Bible nowhere forbids praying form prayers. In fact, Luke’s version of the Lord’s Prayer seems to using the Lord’s Prayer in this manner: “When you pray, say.”[5] In addition, the church has traditionally used the Lord’s Prayer as form prayer. Certainly, there have been abuses with repeating the Lord’s Prayer and other written prayers, but we should not allow the abuse of a healthy practice to discourage from the practice altogether.

Not only can the Lord’s Prayer be used in this manner, but there are other biblical prayers believers should make use of by making the words our own. For example, Psalm 51 can be used as prayer of confession, and Habakkuk 3:2 is an excellent prayer for revival.

The Bible directs believers to practice corporate prayer with the same purpose, the glory of God. I have suggested two ways believers can practically accomplish this by actively participating when others pray and often by using the same words in prayer. Please, visit the links cited in the notes, and feel free to offer any feedback. The above ideas are my initial thoughts on a subject upon which I would like to expand my thinking.

Pastor Jeremy Lee
Twining Baptist Church

[1] BAGD
[2] See 1 Cor. 14:16 where this is not commanded, but it is the practice of the church, which Paul is affirming.
[3] Paker, JI and Carol Nystrom. Praying Finding Our Way through Duty to Delight (IVP 2006) pg. 256 italics mine
[4] Hamilton, James M. Jr. and Jonathan Leeman. A Biblical Theology of Corporate Prayer. available @,,PTID314526%7CCHID598014%7CCIID2386892,00.html
[5] Luke 11:2 NKJV

Other links:
Dunlop, Jamie and Papu Sandhu. Corporate Prayer: God’s Power Creates Unity “Living as a Church”—Class 4 available @,,PTID314526%7CCHID598014%7CCIID2414278,00.html
Luther, Martin. Larger Catechism available @

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Can an Episcopalian be Christian?

Last Sunday while listening to the preaching of Dr. Erwin W. Lutzer, Dr Lutzer told this story. Upon my approach to the airport, I looked out the window of the air plane to see if I could see Moody Church. "Wait a minute," I said, "that building is not the church! What an awakening I had at that moment. The church is not of bricks and mortar, the church is people, the church is invisible"

Of course, we do have a visible church, yet still the church is the people. The church extends far beyond denominationalism. To quote a Nigerian bishop of the Anglican Church, "Let the bishop have the stones." Stones are not the Church!

To all the Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Pentecostals etc. Are you aware that the church is catholic? The invisible Church of God is catholic? Do you understand the church is universal?

Oh, to say the word catholic, not me say’s the Baptist, not me says the Presbyterian, not me says the Lutheran, not me says the Pentecostal or Methodist. Well, all Christians are catholic (not Roman Catholic). We are catholic relating to the historic doctrines of the church. I realize there are some Christians who want to be separated from other Christians but it just cannot happen. Who saved you? Who called you? It is by Christ we are saved, regenerated, and sanctified. Our salvation is of God not of our selves. So tell me how can you separate yourselves from others whom God has called? To quote another, “Who do you think you are, it is God who calls.”

The term “Catholic Church” was used first by St. Ignatius of Antioch (c. 100 A.D.) who in his letter to the Smyrnaens wrote: “Where Jesus Christ is, there is the catholic Church” (As a side note, too bad the stake driven in the ground on baptism, baptist etc. of this time period didn't include the catholicity of the church.) Where Jesus Christ is there is the Catholic Church, the Universal Church of God.

All this is said to introduce the article I am posting below. Can a member of an Episcopal Church be Christian? Baptists, Presbyterians, Pentecostals, and some Reformed would ask this question. Can a person be Episcopalian and be part of the invisible church? Read the article below. Let us know what you think.

Please allow me to introduce you to the Christian character of the congregation of Holy Trinity Anglican Church and help you understand the exemplary caliber of the congregation, witnessed by their love for God, for each other, and for their church. I sincerely believe that this is a body of believers that you—in particular those of the Anglican communion, will be pleased and blessed to be associated with.

Holy Trinity was officially established on Pentecost Sunday, May 27, 2007 when the rector and the entire congregation formally aligned with the Convocation of Anglican in North America (CANA). The congregation, historically known as Trinity Church Society of Bristol, Connecticut, was a pre-revolutionary war parish, established in 1747 and had a long and proud history of Anglican worship, ministry and mission in the Bristol area. Remaining associated with the Episcopal Church USA became increasingly untenable and decision to disassociate from the Episcopal Church was made. However it was the strong desire of this 253-year-old parish family to continue in the Anglican tradition, but under the leadership of orthodox (meaning not revisionist), godly, leadership. Hence alignment with CANA.

A question often asked is why was the realignment deemed so important to this congregation? The Senior Warden, in response to a similar question, offered the short and most succinct answer. He wrote: “We undertake this move in response to the Diocese of Connecticut and The Episcopal Church abandoning core teachings of the Bible and of the historic Anglican Faith regarding the gospel of Jesus Christ and the authority of Holy Scripture in the ordering of our lives together in the Worldwide Anglican Communion.”

A more detailed response is that we, as many throughout the country and, indeed, the world, have observed the continual slide of the Episcopal Church into ungodly belief and practice. Please pray for repentance and return to the historic faith handed down in the Anglican Communion for centuries were, and continue to be, ignored and even scoffed at.

One example of the depth and destructive nature of revisionist belief and teaching is this: Many in the Episcopal Church, including the Presiding Bishop, openly and publicly deny the assertion of Jesus, recorded in John 14:6, where he says “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” In the Episcopal Church, at the very top of it’s clergy leadership and in direct contradiction to Scripture, Jesus is now being presented as one of several ways to reach God. This assertion flies in the face of long-held Christian beliefs and could not be overlooked by this body of Anglican believers.

Yet that is but one of several examples of a church that has abandoned the historic, orthodox faith and was increasingly pressuring everyone to adhere to these ungodly teachings. Another example—and a particularly insidious one—is the Bible being presented and augured as a man-written book, which can be modified as the church sees fit. Again, from some in that church leadership, we read comments such as “Man wrote the Bible, man can change it.” This is a gross misunderstanding of Holy Scripture and is unacceptable teaching in the Christian belief system. This congregation, now Holy Trinity Anglican Church, continues to receive the Holy Scriptures as “God-breathed and inspired by God Himself. Not only do we, this congregation, make that assertion but our own Articles of Religion state that “Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation; so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the Faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation.”

Again, from leadership of our congregation, “These two key shifts show that the Diocese of Connecticut and The Episcopal Church have chosen to walk apart from foundational teachings of orthodox Christianity and Anglican tradition. We at (now Holy Trinity) Trinity Church believe that denying these long-held teachings strikes at the very heart of what we believe as disciples of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. To embrace such false teaching would undermine both our witness to the world as Christians and our integrity as believers of the truth of His gospel message to that world.”

Yet this chosen realignment, in order to place ourselves under godly leadership, came about only after several years of struggle and numerous attempts to identify ways we could in good Christian conscience, remain associated with The Episcopal Church USA and more specifically, in the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut. It is now a matter of history that the realignment resulted in much sacrifice by the congregation, perhaps most notably being forced to leave behind a beautiful sanctuary and historic worship space where so many of them, or their parents or grandparents, had been baptized, worshiped, married, even buried. The building, as of this writing, stands empty and will soon be put up for sale to used for what purpose only God knows. Cremains of family members and loved ones interned in the Rose Garden will be removed. The place is no longer a sanctuary because there is no congregation to worship there or to call it home.

So yes, there has been struggle and sacrifice by this congregation. But, nearly to a person they have willingly paid the price to be free from such—what we see as apostasy and religious tyranny. But don’t expect despair and gloom when you come into the presence of the people of Holy Trinity Anglican Church. In our conversations we used to hear comments like “A church is not the stones,” or “the church is the people, not the steeple,” or to quote one Nigerian bishop, “let the bishop have the stones.”

Now you will encounter people who have as their personal vision to become Galatians 2:20 Christians who can boldly proclaim “ I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” You will encounter people whose mission in life is “To Know God and Make Him Known” to a community and society—even churches—who often don’t know God or who He is. Now you hear proclamations such as “We were delivered, not evicted,” and, “The best (for this body) is yet to come.” With this attitude and devotion to having Christ be the head of our church, this is a body of believers that cannot be defeated. They are building a church, with Jesus Christ at the center—the very core, that the “gates of hell will not prevail against.”

Perhaps this will give you somewhat of a flavor for what to expect in and of Holy Trinity Church. Perhaps these are people that you would like to learn more about and a church you would like to be associated with.

We will answer any question to the best of our ability and we will assist you in any way we can. [1]

God Bless!

Ken Clouse
Lay Administrator NEMRS

Sola Scriptura, Solus Christus, Sola Gratia, Sola Fide, Soli Deo Gloria

[1]Fr. Don Helmandollar. Why We Left the Episcopal Church