Review of John MacArthur's "Slave"

slave

Title: Slave
Author: John MacArthur

In his book, “Slave”, John MacArthur explores the Greek word ‘doulos‘ (‘slave’ in English) as it occurs throughout Scripture and notes how its meaning has often been lost in modern translations of the Bible. MacArthur than masterfully presents the Gospel through the lens of this ‘slave’ metaphor as it is depicted in God’s Word. As such, the first forty or so pages of this book really blew me away and added a new layer of depth to my understanding to the Gospel.

MacArthur then takes the reader through a progression of what it means to be Christ’s slave, God’s adopted child, and a citizen of Heaven. Along the way, he presents the tenets of Calvinism wrapped in the context of a 1st Century slavery metaphor.

The book also includes a study guide for small group study and is extensively notated. I highly recommend it.

Books Read in 2013: No. 2 – Killing Calvinism

14760916Title: Killing Calvinism: How to Destroy a Perfectly Good Theology From the Inside
Date Completed:
Jan 15, 2013

This is a wonderful little book that I recommend to anyone who considers themselves a Calvinist or is interested in Calvinism. Calvinism is a wonderful theology when placed within the larger context of Scripture, however, those of us who consider ourselves Calvinists have a tendency of allowing it to play out in our lives in unappealing ways. Dutcher manages to expertly expose and examine the mistakes Calvinists often make.

Contemporary Calvinists would do well to read Dutcher’s book and to avoid the pitfalls he has revealed. Killing Calvinism works well because Dutcher is speaking as a Calvinist to Calvinists. He is transparent enough to share his own theological journey in a way that shares with (rather than preaches to) his audience.

I highly recommend this book.

Think Like a Calvinist, Live Like an Arminian

In a recent post, Pastor Jared Moore wrote of the Calvinist-Arminian debate that “both sides largely arrive at the same conclusions.” This is one of the wisest statements I’ve heard concerning the debate between Arminians and Calvinists within the SBC.  More leaders need to step up and embrace the common ground between the two sides. While their soteriological beliefs may differ in extent and process, the end result for an individual is the same. Salvation is found in the blood of Christ whether you’re Arminian or Calvinist. That’s a huge amount of common ground between the two camps.

I believe there is room for both Arminians and Calvinists under the Christian umbrella.

For myself, I’ve slowly drifted towards the Calvinist side of the debate over the last few years. My migration to Calvinism wasn’t as much a conscience decision as it was a natural outgrowth of studying the Bible. I would staunchly argue that if left to my own accord I would never have expressed faith in Christ. God had to step in and gift me with that faith. It was all Him and none of myself that led me to Christ. Thus, I am distinctly Calvinist in my attempts to express God’s saving grace in my life. I say that not to brag of my election but rather to point out how much I needed Him to save me. I wasn’t capable of choosing Christ on my own and I am humbled that He chose me.

But even as I embrace Calvinism it is important for me to remember that not everyone shares my unique perspective. More importantly, I am incapable of seeing things from God’s perspective.  As such, though I may believe in Calvinism there are moments when I must live my life like an Arminian. Let me explain:

Concerning Election: Yes I believe that God elected me for salvation and that my discovery of Christ was purely His work and His alone. But because God is fair and just I certainly don’t perceive any violation of my free will in the midst of His election. Who in his right mind would resent the embrace of a perfectly holy God? Yes, God elected me, however, I can honestly say that from my perspective it was my choice to accept His embrace. His election is such that there is nothing unfair about it.

Sharing the Gospel: Some people suggest that the Doctrine of Unconditional Election somehow renders evangelism obsolete. Quite frankly, this is an absurd assertion. Though God elected people for salvation before the beginning of time, we must remember that, from our perspective, we don’t know who’s elected and who isn’t! And while God can save whomever He desires with or without our help, the beauty is that He invites us to play a small part in the process and enlists us into the wonderful cause of His Kingdom! And we must remember that Christ commanded us to venture into the world and make disciples. No one should need more  motivation than that to share the Good News of Jesus Christ!

So while my theology is reformed I can agree with the Arminian that it is preposterous to suggest that God violates anyone’s freewill. And as I venture out to the world I can enthusiastically share the gospel knowing that God is control of the outcome.

In short, Calvinists should live their lives in ways that seem Arminian and both sides should step up and embrace their common ground.

 

 

Have You Read the Canons of Dort?

Council at Dort

I’ve been trying to watch an online discussion concerning the pros and cons of Calvinism via Ed Stetzer’s program The Exchange (video embedded below) without much success. For some reason, the video keeps freezing up on me. However, I did get far enough to hear one of the contributors, Michael Horton recommend that viewers take a look at the Canon of Dort for themselves. The Canons of Dort is the official judgement of the Dutch Reformed Church issued in 1619 in response to the five main points of contention between Arminianism and Calvinism.  Having never read them entirely, I looked them up.

I’m glad I did. The Canons expand upon the popular TULIP acronym that summarizes the positions of the traditional five-point Calvinist. Each point is illustrated point by point with Scripture references in most cases. For anyone who desires to know more about the Calvinist/Reformed position, the Canons are an excellent source. Each point of contention is divided into two segments. First, the Reformed/Calvinist position is illustrated, then the challenges offered by Arminianism are refuted. It’s good stuff. I highly recommend it.I would suggest that it is good reading whether you consider yourself an Arminian or a Calvinist. The former will understand the opposing opinions better and the latter will learn more about what it is they profess to believe.

For the record, I consider myself a Calvinist (for the most part anyway). The problems I have with the traditional five points are mainly semantic (you can read more of my thoughts here) and my judgement of Canons are no different. I agree with them for the most part and and only take issue with a couple of minor semantic phrases. However, I must admit that I do my best to look for common ground between the Arminian and Reformed/Calvinist positions. Both camps are, after all, sitting under the umbrella of Christianity. My personal motto is Christ first, Calvinism and Arminianism second – with generous loads of grace offered to each.

I’m also dispensational, so put that in your pipe and smoke it.

Below is a link to the aforementioned Canons. I have also embedded the video from the exchange show. I may write more about the Arminian-Calvinist debate in the future along with how a dispensational view effects both. It is a topic I find as interesting as it is complex.

The Canons of Dort

 

 

 

Books Read in 2012: No. 5 – A Defense of Calvinism

Title: A Defense of Calvinism
Author: Charles Spurgeon
Completed on January 20, 2012

The Calvinism verses Armenian debate is one that has been waged for quite awhile and seems to be heating up lately. For the record, I lean towards Calvinism in my theology. If you are unfamiliar with the term, the five points of Calvinism can be summed up with the acronym TULIP:

T: Total Depravity of Mankind – Sin has infected man to his very core. Our hearts, minds, and bodies are all affected by the disease of sin. Because of this, no effort of our own will can achieve salvation.

U: Unconditional Election – God elects the saved through an act of His own gracious will. Some are elected while some are not.

L: Limited Atonement – Jesus died for the elect. While His sacrifice was sufficient for all, it is not efficacious for all.

I: Irresistible Grace – Those who are elected by God are unable to resist His calling.

P: Perseverance of the Saints – Because election is an act of God, those who are so called are eternally secure in their salvation. Once saved, they are always saved.

As I mentioned earlier, I lean towards Calvinism. This isn’t to suggest that I am entirely comfortable with the manner in which it is often expressed. For instance, while the concept of Unconditional Election may be true, I don’t feel the discourse that surrounds it is always beneficial. I also have trouble with the concept of Limited Atonement as defined by Spurgeon. The Bible teaches that while it is easy to love those who love you in return, it is more rewarding to love those who are your enemies (Read Luke, Chapter 6). It is for this reason that I reject the notion that Christ only died for the elect. The notion  that Christ only died for those who would ultimately love Him seems to suggest that He acted in a particularly “un-Christ-like” fashion. I’m not suggesting that His sacrifice achieved salvation for everyone, but merely suggesting that His sacrifice affords everyone the opportunity of salvation.  That Christ died for everyone is the beauty of the Gospel. It is for this reason that I often say I believe in Unlimited Limited Atonement (a phrase borrowed from Mark Driscoll). Christ’s sacrifice was sufficient for all, but not efficacious for all.

Spurgeon vehemently disagrees with me. In this short essay, he makes an impassioned plea for Calvinism and argues that “to think [Christ] died for men who were or are in hell, seems a supposition too horrible for me to entertain.”

In my opinion, my quibble with Spurgeon seems to be one that is mostly semantic. Spurgeon, however, seems to find it a critical point of contention, “That Christ should offer an atonement and satisfaction for the sins of all men, and that afterwards some of those men should be punished for the sins for which Christ had already atoned, appears to me to be the most monstrous iniquity that could ever have been imputed to Saturn, to Janus, to the goddess of the Thugs, or to the most diabolical heathen deities.”

Certainly, Spurgeon and I would both agree there is a hell and that some will unfortunately spend eternity in it. Likewise we would agree that the elect have a responsibility to respond to that irresistible call of God. Where we deviate from one another is in my suggestion that Christ loves humanity enough to die for everyone – even those who choose to ultimately reject Him. It is because of this conviction that I can look any person in the eye and tell them that Christ died for them.

Spurgeon’s essay is beneficial for those who are struggling to define their own doctrinal beliefs. It can easily be read in one sitting and is available on the Kindle for less than a dollar.