Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Problem with the Church of Christ leadership

I was warned as a child not to delve too deeply into the Bible. Much later, a CoC teacher summarized the attitude thusly: do not search after wisdom too diligently, lest you become blinded by too much light. Take as an example Solomon who pursued wisdom and ended up destitute in his age, like Icarus, he got too close to the sun. Yes, they are actually teaching not to read the Bible too much, or seek after the things of God too much. Strangely enough they have a very good point, keeping away from too much Bible IS good for everyone's protection. How could that possibly be good you ask? Not long ago a former Church of Christ minister and elder, a great scholar and gentile, dedicated man said with grave concerns: "I hope I have done enough for heaven. I hope God forgives my sins." This is what happens to people who are too serious about the Church of Christ.
I refute the notion that we should abstain from pursuing God with our whole heart, mind, soul and strength, entirely and passionately with everything ounce of energy I have. If I come off as hating the CoC or being too radical that's not too hard a price. There is no life apart from Christ, and there is no boundary to how much we should seek after Him. We must know Christ, we are called to know Christ. Only recently have I been able to see the way out of this problem.

If salvation depends on being baptized correctly and staying saved by good works then salvation is ultimatly a works based theology. And if you tell someone that they have to stay saved then of course people will ask 'how'? Well, the answer comes, avoid sin. How again? An elder board is appointed to answer that. What kind of sin? The minister preaches on that. There is no definitive answer to this because that's not how you are saved or stay saved, so the fighting starts. Elders spend meetings arguing on how harshly they should censure their members sin. Churches split, members become upset at being singled out and leave. From top to bottom the problem with the Churches of Christ boils down to the problem that man cannot keep his salvation and everyone knows it somewhere in their heart. As a result all the offices in the church are perverted. Not every person fits this perfectly, and it doesn't mean they are in any way bad people- it just means they are trapped people. Trapped by the necessity of their own vigil.

The problem with Elders
Who should watch over a church living by the rules? The men best able to keep the rules of course. Men who are really really good at not sinning are the chief cornerstones of leadership, they sin like any human, but their sins are small and less frequent than others. Their job is to purge the congregation of sins. This is an act of kindness and necessity from their point of view, if you have to keep your salvation continual rebuking is the safest course of action, so as not to condone sin. Fear sets in as being the purgers of sin. Fear of not being good enough for heaven, fear of being judged harsher as a teacher, fear of letting others slip away. They are the father in the family they set the tone for how the church will think and feel.

The problem with Ministers
In a group where self discipline, dedication, and abstinence from sin is king who better to show the world and the congregation the virtues than the man who dedicated his vocation to preaching. Who is his boss? A group of law keepers dedicated to purging the church who couldn't even be bothered to take up the holy vocation of ministry themselves. The main problem here? Isn't it obvious?

The problem with Members
They are conditioned the moment they set foot in the door not to follow after God, but to please Him by following the rules. Alas, too often they succeed at getting rid of the worst sins and a pride sets in.

Why churches can't teach repentance

Do you wonder what happened to the doctrine of hell? Why nobody preaches damnation of the reprobate? Why churches can't bring themselves to mention or teach on repentence?
I will tell you.
It is because Ariminians think they have to woo people into the building. Give them the good news, comfort them, placate them, never demand they get serious about sins. The reason is that if we take away the stumbling blocks, make the roads straight, more people will join us. Yet Jesus talked about hell 3x more than heaven, showing us how really dreadful it is we do not have the moral courage to preach bad news before good news.
Once we adopt the concept that God saves we are free to warn them honestly again, trusting that God will use the warning to awaken their hearts, and that they will normally reject us anyway. Jesus is the rock of offense, and we are not in the business of flattering men with notions of how good they are. We are in the business of praising soverign God. To God be the glory.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Why Free Choice passages?

In the bible there is an abundance of passages that talk about how man needs to choose God. Why?
Because God wants us to experience the pleasure of choosing him. Of inviting Him into our lives, and acccepting his rule. God wants you to use your freed will for His sake. He has given you yet another good thing to have, to use to glorify Him with. He wants you to taste the fruit and enjoy it.
Satan on the other hand convinces you that you must make a go of it alone, and suddenly this good gift God has given you becomes a crushing burden that works better to suck the life out of your life than any other weapon he has. Nothing is better for Satan than to turn a true joy into a dreadful specter.
Thats why God has given us passages assuring us He is the author and perfecter of our faith, so we can have the joy return to us. So we can freely and clearly see what justification and sanctification are all about.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Punishment that fits the crime

Why did God punish Adam so severely in the garden for such a small thing? That is the wrong way to think about it, God demands perfect obedience, and any deviation from this should be punished. When you tell your children not to stab each other with a knife you expect them to obey you. When you tell them to refill the dogs water bowl and they defy you its the same principle at work, they are guilty of selfishness and wanting to do their own thing. They are exposing their inner thoughts and heart to you, and at that moment you get a clear insight into how they feel about you. Their deed is almost irrelevant at that point because with that attitude they will just find other ways to express their feelings. God is therefore just in punishing disobedience no matter how small.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Personal Note- Calvinism and the Gospel

For perhaps the first time I am going to mention myself in my blog as something other than the authoritative voice.

For a year or so I have been turbo charged to study the word of God, to open it and believe it and plunge into it with an energy I have not before seen, it is a zeal that comes from God in Christ. Theology, systematic, biblical exegesis, you name it. This blog attests to my burning desire to study, original sin, the particular calling of the elect, the perserverace of the saints. Calvinism in so many words. I am admittadly obsessed with Calvinism. But it doesn't feel like some guys thoughts.
Today I found this, and it makes perfect sense. This is that lense that brings it all into focus:

"I have my own private opinion that there is no such thing as preaching Christ and Him crucified, unless we preach what nowadays is called Calvinism. It is a nickname to call it Calvinism; Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else. I do not believe we can preach the gospel, if we do not preach justification by faith, without works; nor unless we preach the sovereignty of God in His dispensation of grace; nor unless we exalt the electing, unchangeable, eternal, immutable, conquering love of Jehovah; nor do I think we can preach the gospel, unless we base it upon the special and particular redemption of His elect and chosen people which Christ wrought out upon the cross; nor can I comprehend a gospel which lets saints fall away after they are called, and suffers the children of God to be burned in the fires of damnation after having once believed in Jesus. Such a gospel I abhor." from http://www.spurgeon.org/calvinis.htm

It is not some philosophy, it is the good news, the great news! The news of eternal undying preexistant love. Have you ever felt this gospel? Has it ever taken hold of you? Has God stooped down and tore you from the earth, hacked away the roots of sin while you kicked at Him to stop? Come to Him, ask Him, offer yourself as an offering. Give your mind to this doctrine which Satan tries so hard to keep from you.
For me it started at Romans. Once I became convinced God was going to ensure my salvation I realized it didn't make sense that He would keep me unless He had always intended to keep me safe. And not only that, but by bring me to a place that I would be saved.
God brought me inevitably to a place that I would be saved. He arranged the conditions that my heart had no other answer but Him. He does the same for all of His children whom He is pleased to call.
Hand over your fears like I did. Embrace "calvinism" to find there is no greater joy than the gospel. Don't even take my word for it. Take God's.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

John 3:16-21

16"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. 17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son. 19This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will will be exposed.
What does God say? The verdict is that men are dark, they love the darkness and they hate the light. He says that while they could come into the light, they won't, they will not, for they do not want their deeds to be exposed. But the good news is back in verse 16, God loves the sinners anyway inspite of that, God has given a way for them to have eternal life, by believing in Jesus. God has not allowed all men to perish, but has guarenteed and assured that His elect have a way to come into his presence. Jesus blood.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Hell's Revulsion from Genesis 3

"You will not surely die," the serpent said to the woman. "For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."

The concept of hell is so disgusting to us, the idea that for a mere finite amount of time on the earth we would be faced with eternal agony on account of a handful of sins is so wretched we never talk about it. You don't hear it in church. But look for a moment at the origin of this disgust for hell, it is plainly obvious in here, God tells us the consequence of eating the fruit would be thus: we would be like God.
We think ourselves good. We think we are holy. We wonder how anyone would dare go over our heads and punish us with hell when we would never punish ourselves. 'God, that is clearly not what I would do. And since I am the most important thing in creation, you need to obey. I go where I want, when I want.'
Is not absolute will the way God thinks of Himself? We certinally did acquire a knack for being like God in thought when Adam sinned in the garden, but all it has really amounted to is unbounded and infinite hubris.

Once we threw away the nature God gave us, once we rejected Him, we ejected Him from ourselves. Since He is all goodness, all love, all kindness, the source of all life, what kind of life do we have when we reject that? Worse, what if we are left with his secondary attributes (ie how God thinks of Himself) after kicking out his primary ones? Is it not a wonder that all we do are as filthy rags? Isaiah 64. Is it then not a wonder we warrant hell if the only thing good in us is what God forces into us? Ezra 7:27. Should hell surprise us when we try to destroy God as fast as possible? If it does it shouldn't. Perhaps a better approach is to ask who is man (and we know how greedy evil and sinful we can be) that you are mindful of me?

Monday, August 4, 2008

No free will in heaven

Now thats not what most people initially think of when they think heaven, yet it is what Arminians have to think, quite oddly enough. And since most people reject the notion that we become robots in heaven, they reveal themselves to be closet Calvinists.

The proof is such: are you going to lose your free will in heaven? Are you going to lose the ability to make meaningful choices? Will we all become mindless drones because we are no longer able to sin? Will God take away our humanity and instead make us like rocks or sticks that are passive instruments unable to resist anything? The answer is of course "no" - in heaven our choices still have meaning, praising God is infinitely more meaningful when we have a will of our own. Yes, even if we only make one choice all the time to love God. Just because we want to praise Him and never want to sin, doesn't mean our we are wind up dolls, or there is no point to loving God. Being in the very presence of God and enjoying His company continually will be all we want to do, and since we are in heaven we will be free do what we want all the time. Which is to praise God and love Him. In The Great Divorce C.S. Lewis said it like this: we are free to drink as we are drinking.

There is an important concept that might add some clarity here: the will to do something, and the ability to do it are different things, and they don't overlap. Distinguishing between them can add a new level of insight that can resolve the roadblock here.
Our will dictates our action, and our ability to do a thing. Here's an example: if given the choice to eat bacon and eggs for breakfast or nutritious dirt, I will pick the first one. Because I want to. In fact I will always pick the bacon and eggs and I will never pick the dirt, no matter how many times you offer the choice to me. There is nothing stopping me, I can physically grab handfuls of chunky dirt and eat it, I have the ability, but I have no desire to do it. So you see how I have freely chosen, but really, I am incapable of doing otherwise. See? It only looks like there is a conflict of choice, when we look closer we find ourselves always choosing what we want. I always do what I want, I never do what I don't want. In fact I am incapable of doing otherwise, that doesn't mean I don't have free will. Take Jesus and God for example, He always does exactly what He wants, but that doesn't mean He has no free will either. To assert that because He is Holy he is a robot is blasphemous. Jesus was sinless, and he willingly went to the cross to die for us.
Heaven is just so.

Now here is the punchline: if you accept this concept and you believe in traditional Arminism then you have a problem.

If the Bible is not lying when it promises us eternal security, and not lying when it says we must choose Christ and believe in Him to be saved, we are left with the only conclusion: Christians will never disbelieve in Jesus their whole lives, and indeed are incapable of doing so. Once you say that you have just made the statement that a person must and will believe their whole life, because if someone is destined for heaven then they cannot be destined for anywhere else. We cannot reject Christ because we don't want to reject Him once He touches our hearts. You might say we are not free to disbelieve, but it would be better to say that we are free from the tyranny of disbelief.
So in heaven our wills are swallowed up, which like a domino knocks our freedom to choose into line. Our freedom is still there, but it always point in the direction of our will, and our will points in whatever direction God wants. If you disagree, then you must contend with either sin in heaven, or a meaningless existence totally unlike everything we see to be true on earth for all eternity. You are arguing for total free will on earth, and none in heaven.
If instead, you agree that heaven will be meaningful even though the compass of our hearts will be drawn irresistibly to God, then why not Earth? Has Christ not assured your salvation already?