Friday, November 13, 2009

From the Pastor's Desk: part 2

Before I get into interacting with the message, a friend of mine told me that even though this pastor does not understand Reformed Theology or Calvinism, the sermon, as bad as it may have been in representing Reformed Theology, actually is a good thing. His reasoning was that this pastor was tackling an important subject that the people at this particular church may have never heard discussed before. This can only cause men to go deeper into the Scripture if they truly desire to know what Scripture has to say on this subject. Isn't that what Reformed people want? We, who are in the Reformed camp, must keep in mind that when we were converted to Christ, none of us had perfect Reformed Theology formed in our minds.

So with that in mind let's look at the first part of the message.
We live in a day when people become so dogmatic about a particular doctrine, that all sense and sensibility seems to be thrown out with the bath water.
There is no doubt that many who have come to Reformed Theology often go through what has been called the "Caged Stage". Quite often we become over zealous and need to be locked up for a time. Yet it has been my experience the non-Calvinist does this as well. Do we hear sermons by Calvinists calling non-Calvinist theology to be "unhealthy", "divisive and not uniting" as we do from non-Calvinists? He goes on to say,
In fact, I've seen Christians break fellowship because of it. I've even seen churches at odds because of this. In fact, I've seen churches deliberately not even want to pray with someone from another congregation because of doctrinal differences.
I have been hearing this claim for years. For some reason, it is never the non-Calvinists who are dividing churches. It is always the Calvinist's fault. It is my opinion based on anecdotal evidence that this claim (also anecdotal) is far overblown.

But this raises another point. The original Reformers were "Calvinistic". The Reformation was not fought over Indulgences or the Mass. The first written debate was between Luther and the Roman Catholic scholar Erasmus. Here is what Luther had to say,
In this, moreover, I give you (Erasmus) great praise, and proclaim it--you alone in pre-eminent distinction from all others, have entered upon the thing itself; that is, the grand turning point of the cause; and have not wearied me with those irrelavnt points about popery, purgatory, indulgences, and other like baubles, rather than causes, with which all have hitherto tried to hunt me down,--though in vain! You, and you alone saw, what was the grand hinge upon which the whole turned, and therefore you attacked the vital part at once; for which, from my heart, I thank you. [Bondage of the Will]
So according to Luther, the entire Reformation hinged on a proper view of man, which in turn relates to a proper view of grace, faith and Christ's person and work. Hence the battle cries of the Reformation, Scripture Alone, Grace Alone, Faith Alone, Christ Alone and To God's Glory Alone. So to deny Reformational theology as being unhealthy at best is to deny the basis for the Reformation itself.

I have heard Dave Hunt consider those who are not Pre-Tribulational to be lost in error and heresy. Dave Hunt has preached sermons against Calvinism as well. I have heard sermons by Norman Geisler and read his book in which he stated that Calvinism is "...theologically inconsistent, philosophically insufficient, and morally repugnant." This is language he did not even use in his book about Roman Catholicism.

So for all of the rhetoric that Reformed folks are divisive, I simply don't hear a clarion call among Reformed preachers preaching against non-Calvinists.

As for Calvinists not wishing to pray with non-Calvinists, I am not certain what is meant by this. Is there a context that this may be happening? Is this in the context that may cause a Reformed person to have to honor his conscience due to the regulative principle of worship?

I am curious though. Would Pastor Butler go evangelizing with me if I were handing out Reformed tracks? By his own words, Calvinism is unhealthy and divisive and imbalanced.

Now to be fair, Pastor Butler may be referring to Arminian theology more than Calvinism. Yet does anyone know of a church that is full blown Arminian? Or even better yet, a divisive one? To be honest, I am not certain I have ever met a person, who calls himself a Protestant, that is fully and consistently Arminian.

Consistent Arminians do not teach the doctrine of Substitutionary Atonement. That teaching belongs squarely in Reformed Theology. Those who teach this outside of the Reformed view of Christ's work do so inconsistently. As one Arminian scholar, J. Kenneth Grider has written,
A spillover from Calvinism into Arminianism has occurred in recent decades. Thus many Arminians whose theology is not very precise say that Christ paid the penalty of our sins. Yet such a view is foreign to Arminianism, which teaches instead that Christ suffered for us. Arminians teach that what Christ did He did for every person; therefore what He did could not have been to pay the penalty, since no one would then ever go into eternall perdition. Arminianism teaches that Christ suffered for everyone so that the Father could forgive the ones who repent and believe; His death is such that all will see that forgiveness is costly and will strive to cease from anarchy in the world God governs. This view is called the Governmental theory of the atonement.
His opening concludes,
While knowing & understanding Sound & Balanced Doctrine is vitally important to the health of the Christian & Church, it doesn't always have to be a fellowship issue.

I think we could all agree that we need more Balance in the Family of God today.
I agree. So again, if Pastor Butler is willing to go to the pulpit and say the things that he has, then Scripturally, he must be able to defend the claims he has made (Titus 1:9). So let us gather together publicly and discuss these things in a balanced fashion.

No comments: