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Saved By Grace Alone

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008


I plan on coming back to "The Reason For God" posts. But I want to spend some time dealing with what is called Calvinism. I am a Calvinist and I think it would be profitable for everyone to understand what that is and what it is not. One thing I see many times, and I was once guilty of it myself, is that most people build a straw man argument when they argue against Calvinism. I don't mind if someone disagrees with me, but I think it is rude to misrepresent someone. Sometimes I am accidentally "rude" in this way, but never mean to be. When I am I try to admit it. I hope as some read this, if they thought Calvinism was something it is not, that they will at the very least admit they misunderstood it.

I want to simply introduce some points tonight and over the next few weeks/months I will tackle the more in depth version. First of all Calvinism has nothing to do with following John Calvin. I will take you through the history of this debate as best I can in short increments. I want to keep it simple so I will not be exhaustive by any means. This will be a skeletal study. But for now, John Calvin really had nothing to do with the construction of what is known as the 5 points of Calvinism.

Actaully, it may surprise you that the other side were more direct followers of a man than were those who adhered to these 5 points. The other side is best known as Arminians. They were followers of Arminius, literally, although they carried things a little further than he.

The 5 points of Calvinism are 5 doctrines. They are easily remembered by the acrostic TULIP

T=Toatal Depravity
U=Unconditional Election
L=Limited Atonement
I=Irresistible Grace
P=Perseverance of the Saints

These 5 points are essential to the gospel of Jesus Christ. And they are all dependent on each other. I hope to get to this soon. I will try to do the historical side and the Scriptural support.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Does Fundametalism Lead To Violence?

Many say fundamentalism leads to violence. In some instances this is true. If you took a system of teaching that had violence at its core or some form of elitism inherent within the system, this is often the result. But true, orthodox Christianity should not. The answer to that question is, "It depends on the fundamental".

Christianity, understood properly will not lead one to violence but humility. It is the nature of the faith. It is a fact that "in the name of Christianity" there has been violence and injustice. But that is all it was..."in the name of Christianity"...not true Christianity. At its core is the humbling reality of our need for forgiveness and our undeservedness of it. But by the grace of God, not by our deserving it, Christ came to suffer for our sins in our place. He then tells us to go and make disciples of all nations. But He never teaches this to be done by force because it cannot be. True conversion can only come when God regenerates a heart. Christians should understand that and that fact alone makes us realize our goals can only be attatined by preaching the word...not by force or violence or injustice.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Christianity is Exclusively Different

So what sets Christianity apart in this battle of worldviews? There are many doctrines that make Christianity distinct from all other religions. But I am thinking of the one that makes our claim to exclusivity different from all others.

True Christianity has a profound effect upon its people. Listen to these words of Jesus:

Matthew 5:16
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

And then the words of Peter:

1 Peter 2:12
having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation.

Jesus and Peter can say what they say about nonbelievers recognizing good behavior because they understand that the concept of goodness is embedded in all men as created in the image of God. All men have a sense of rightness and wrongness. All men are capable of doing outwardly "good" things (None of these good things are perfectly good, which is another topic). Jesus and Peter knew that nonbelievers will often be better than their mistaken beliefs could make them. For example, those who believe in evolution, if they take their arguments to their logical conclusions, they would realize there really is no moral standard outside of ourselves and survival of the fittest would kick in and we would all be dying. But there is still that something in even their hearts that keeps them from acting completely on their worldview.

On the other hand Christians also understand the universal sinfulness of mankind, including ourselves. This makes true Christians to understand that we will actually be worse than our beliefs should make us. In other words, we understand we will never be as good as we should be. You see, we are saved by grace, not by because we are good.

Jesus is the only man who ever lived who kept the law of God perfectly. He lived a perfectly sinless life. He then chose to lay down His life on behalf of those who would believe in Him (that is, put their trust and faith in His work). This is how it works: God the Father treated God the Son AS IF He had committed every sin of every person who would ever believe. The sins of those people were punished, Christ was punished for them. Jesus never became a sinner, but was treated as if He had been. The believers' sins and punishment were transferred to Him. But that is only half the transaction.

God, takes the perfect life of Jesus Christ and credits it to the account of the believer. God treats the believer AS IF he/she had never sinned and AS IF he/she had lived the life Christ lived. Christ's life is actually credited, imputed, transferred to the account of those who believe and God declares them Not Guilty. Just as Christ really did not sin but was treated as if He had, taking the punishment of our sins upon Himself...We are not really righteous in ourselves but treated as if we were, taking the life of Chirst and His reward upon ourselves.

Romans 4:17
(as it is written, "I have made you a father of many nations") in the presence of Him whom he believed--God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did.

He calls us righteous who are not righteous in and of ourselves. We are righteous only in the sense that the righteousness of Christ has been credited to our account. When God sees us, He now sees us clothed and that clothing is the righteousness of Christ that covers our sins. Now, then, this sets Christianity apart in several ways.

But lets look at one here. One result of this truth is that there will actually be nonbelievers who are living morally superior lives than a Christian! But those morally superior lives are not enought to save them from the morally perfect demands of God's holiness. So believers cannot boast of moral superiority. On the contrary, we of all people should understand we have no merit in ourselves at all.

Jesus did not come to tell us how to live so we can merit salvation. He came to save us from our inability to do so. God saves those who recognize this need and the need for Jesus as their Substitute and Savior.

So what does all this mean in the discussion of Religious dialogue? Most religions, most worldviews, assume that one's spiritual condition depends on what you attain, what you do, what you work for, what you merit, what you achieve. This inevitably leads to a religion's followers to have a sense of moral superiority to those who don't believe as they do. The true Christian should not feel this at all.

That is what makes a Christian's experience different and should cause us to be humble in our approach to others. Now, if someone calls themselves Christian, but they add works to the gospel, then they will certaily fall into the category of those who will feel this moral superiority. That is not the true gospel. Salvation is by Grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone to the glory of God alone. And God initiates and finishes it in His own...He is the Author and Finisher of our faith. I have nothing on anyone in and of myself. But I am forgiven by the One who does.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Religion and Policy Part Two

Everyone reading this has a set of faith assumptions about the nature of things, and we call these assumptions a "worldview" (see previous post). And by implication every worldview is a religion in itself. You have core beliefs that informs your life. Maybe you did not even know it, but you do. As soon as you start arguing about something you betray it.

So how then can we possibly leave our deeper worldviews behind and find consensus about "what works" when our view of what works is determined by what we think people exist for? The purpose of human life is defined differently by each belief, by each worldview. So who gets to be the ONE worldview that does not have to leave their religion at the door of politics and the public square?

What if in one of these "religion free" discussions, the idea to starve all the poor is proposed in the name of "survival of the fittest"? On what ground will anyone argue against it? If anyone argues against it, it will be because of a worldview that values poor people as much as the rich and "fittest". But ooops that would have to be left at the door. No religion!

There is no neutral and universally accessible arguments that would convince everyone that we must not starve the poor to death. Can we prove scientifically that people are more valuable than rocks? Then on what basis can we say this proposal is "wrong".

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Religion and Policy

Recently a large number of scientists and philosophers signed, "A Declaration in Defense of Science and Secularism." This document called on leaders of our government "not to permit legislation or executive action to be influenced by religious beliefs." In this view religious faith must never be brought into discussions of public policy.

Many of the men who signed this are not against religion in itself. They believe, however that religion in the public square is divisive and time consuming. In their view religion-based views are sectarian and controversial and secular reasoning for moral positions are seen as universal and available to all.

I have some pretty simple objections to this way of thinking. But I am going to appeal to some much better words than my own on this one. Stephen L. Carter of Yale wrote, "Efforts to craft a public square from which religious conversation is absent, no matter how thoughtfully worked out, will always in the end say to those of organized religion that they alone, unlike everybody else, must enter public dialogue only after leaving behind that part of themselves that they may consider the most vital." The Dissent of the Governed (Harvard University Press, 1999), pg. 90

Religion is not just "a belief in a god or God". There are religions that do not believe in a god at all. It is not a belief in the supernatural. There are religions who do not believe in the supernatural. A religion is really a worldview. It is the set of beliefs a person has that explains what life is all about, who we are, and what is most important for a person to be doing. EVERYONE has a worldview (religion) and EVERY worldview is a set of faith-assumptions about the nature of existence.

More later...

Monday, March 17, 2008

Before You Get Mad At The Weatherman

I am posting a little on the lighter side tonight...We were supposed to get this torrential downpour of rain today in Oklahoma. It barely rained. We were told flooding was likely. It barely rained. Our weathermen have gotten a lot wrong over the past several months. We were told we would get up to 10 inches of snow...we got 1/2 inch or less. It goes on and on. I was thinking about it today as clouds without water hung over my head most of the day...I was tempted to complain about our weather men and how they go overboard and get everyone overly excited too often. But then it hit me...Do I believe God hears prayer?

I actually pray that these things won't happen from time to time. I prayed God would spare our community from flooding. I prayed God would keep our roads safe for us from ice and snow. Is it possible that all the signs were pointing to flooding and blizzard conditions and God chose to answer the prayers of some of His people who were asking for mercy from these storms?

Our weathermen here in Oklahoma are dramatic, but they have saved many lives by being on top of things. I live in tornado alley and I have seen how they have covered storms in such a way as to make us aware of what we need to do. So I think I am going to thank God for "changing the weather" rather than blaming the weathermen who are only trying to help people. After all, they do not control the weather. Thank you Lord God of the heavens and the earth and the weather, for giving rain and holding it back. And thank you for weathermen who give their best efforts to inform us on the conditions and the possibilities due to those conditions so that we can know how to pray. Amen.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Is It Arrogant to Insist My Religion Is Right And to Convert Others To It?

"It is arrogant to insist your religion is right and to convert others to it." --Quoted from: the worldview of a pluralist.

This is the next claim we are likely to encounter "out there" in the public. This statement ASSUMES there is no true religion. This is very dangerous because...what if there is. Just for the sake of argument...what if one of the religions are right...then is it "arrogant" or does it then become seriously important?

As a Christian, I believe Christianity is not only true, but THE ONLY TRUTH when it comes to the meaning and purpose of life, who we are and who God is and how we can know God. So this statement above is aimed at me, among others. But you know that old saying, "when you point your fingers at someone you have three of your fingers pointing back at yourself"? This is an example where that saying fits. For a person to say to me that I am arrogant to insist my religion is right and to try to convert others to it, is arrogant. After all, is this person not insisting his view is the right worldview and is he not trying to convert me to it?

John Hick wrote that once you become aware that there are many other equally intelligent and good people around this world who hold different views from you and that you will not be able to convince them otherwise, then it is arrogant for you to continue to try to convert them or to hold your view to be the superior truth. John Hick believes that. That is John Hick's view. How arrogant then, of John Hick, to hold this view as superior to my view. How arrogant of John Hick to try to convince us otherwise!! Do you see how these arguments are self-refuting, and quite frankly, far more arrogant than many religious views.

That is a Western-view Mr Hick writes from. Non-Western cultures have no problem saying their culture and religion is the best. Non-Western cultures do not hold Hick's view. So basically Hick is saying, "My culture's approach to other cultures is superior to yours." He makes himself guilty of what he himself condemns...the "sin" of ethnocentrism (belief that your culture is superior). He is a walking self-contradiction. I do believe the Christian culture and faith is superior to all others. Mr Hick feels this is arrogant. But if I am arrogant for holding this view, he is too, for holding his view that his way is superior to mine.

"It is no more narrow to claim that one religion is right than to claim that one way to think about all religions (namely that all are equal) is right. We are all exclusive in our beliefs about religion, but in different ways" --Timothy Keller, The Reason For God, Pg 13.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Is Religion Invalidated Because of Cultural Conditioning?

Obviously I have decided to continue commenting on some of the more popular "arguments" against religion, taking my cue from Timothy Keller's book, The Reason For God. You would profit much more from reading it yourself if you are able to do so. But I enjoy passing along things I read so hopefully these little entries will be helpful in some way.

I put quotations around the word "arguments" because I want to begin with a point about arguing. When a person "argues" he is giving a reason for or against something. Either way he is arguing for something. If he is arguing against something, he is consequently arguing for an alternative. That alternative is "truth" for him. This is important to me because when I hear people arguing against absolute truth, I also hear them arguing for their own absolute truth. So in the end, what they condemn me for...they are gulity of themselves.

The next popular claim against the validity of there being a right religion is, "Religious belief is too culturally and historically conditioned to be 'truth'." This simply means that we are what we are because of our environment and our connections. I was born in America so it was highly likely I would be a Christian. Had I been born in Iraq I may have well been a Muslim. Because these factors exist, it is argued that there cannot be real truth. The thrust of the argument is that we really can't make a fair judgment on truth because we have not walked in others' shoes who live in environments that believe in a wholly other truth.

So lets put this claim up against itself. The claim is that religious claims to the truth are too culturally conditioned to be a true truth. This claim being made is a claim to truth. It is a claim to an alternative to religions...but it is a religion itself. It is a truth claim. And more than that, it is VERY culturally conditioned. Here is an example:

"If you were born in Iraq you would probably be a Muslim and not a Christian" Suppose for the sake of argument that I was born in Iraq to Muslim parents. It is certainly true I would have been heavily influenced with claims that would have instilled different beliefs. Because of this, it is asserted Christianity is therefore not reliable, it is just what I was taught to believe. But here is the problem for the one arguing this with me. If he would have been born in Iraq, he too would probably be a Muslim. So according to his own argument, his truth claim is not reliable. think hard about what I just wrote. I know it is confusing, but in a nutshell, these claims are self-refuting. They refute themselves. They cannot stand up to their own standards.

Just because it is true that some places influence us with different worldviews, it does not therefore necessitate that there can be no real truth.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Does Every Religion Only Have Some Truth But Not All?

Continuing with some statements we hear often in our often that people begin to believe it is true...I am now moving to the statement, "Each religion sees part of spiritual truth, but none can see the whole truth." This is the second argument Timothy Keller deals briefly with in his book, The Reason For God.

Keller explains how the story of the blind men and the elephant is often used to promote this vewpoint. Several blind men come upon an elephant. Each blind man began to touch the elephant but in different places. One blind man touched the trunk and said an elephant is like a snake. A second blind man touched the elephant's leg and said, "No, an elephant is like a tree trunk." A third blind mand touched the elephant's side and said, "No, an elephant is large and flat." And a fourth blind man, holding the tail, said, "No, an elephant is like a rope."

The question we now have to ask is, who is seeing this happen? Because the one who is seeing this happen can see the whole elephant, that is...the whole truth! So now we have someone telling us they can see we religious folk touching only "parts" of the "whole truth". For this to be true, this someone is laying claim to being able to see the whole truth himself!

"How could you possibly know that no religion can see the whole truth unless you yourself have the superior, comprehensive knowledge of spiritual reality you just claimed that none of the religions have?" (Timothy Keller, The Reason For God, pg 9)

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Are All Religions Equally Valid?

In his book, The Reason For God, Timothy Keller lists several axioms of our day used against religion. As I am reading these, I find it ironic that we even call these statements "axioms"...after all, axioms are statements that are accepted as "True". And these statements are pretty much designed to protest the idea that truth can be known. The person making these statements certainly should not call them "axioms" or "truths".

One of the popular arguments against religion, and by consequence, against Christianity, is that all religions are equally valid. And, as is also popular today, those with views that differ from pluralistic views are tagged with words such as "hate" and "extremist" and the like. By doing this, the public begins to hear it so much that they begin to believe it is "normal" or (dare I say) "True".

Are all religions equally valid? To answer this, we need to take into consideration what the differences of each religion are. Of course that would take up volumes. But what I see are different teachings. Those different teachings are "doctrines" that each religion holds. Doctrines are a body of teachings believed as true by a group or religion. Doctrines are what make each religion distinct. So the cry then becomes, "away with doctrine, it is divisive!" So the one who makes this claim is calling for us to abandon all doctrine EXCEPT his doctrine to "do away with all doctrine in order to come together." What I see is the forbidden "truth claim" in the very claim that no one can claim to have a claim on the truth. Sounds a little hypocritical to me.

When someone tells me that it is wrong for someone to have a view of God that they believe to be superior to every other religions' view of God, that person is doing the very thing he condemns religion for. He believes HIS VIEW of God is superior to the Christian view or any other religous view. He actaully believes himself to be more enlightened and superior to all the religions of the world.

My problem with this is that such a person has no standard whatsoever but his own, to stand on. And I am not much of a follower of man and I am 100% convinced that he is not impressive enough to woo me to follow his teachings. I mean his own teachings are self-refuting and that sort of puts an end to the validity of that argument for me.

Jesus proved Himself. Jesus validated Himself. The God of the Bible consistently answers the questions of life. The problem is not inconsistency in the Christian worldview, but the refusal of man to accept that it is so. That is all I have for now. Have a great night. And pick up a copy of Timothy Keller's "The Reason For God".

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

New Stuff For Me

So I am new to this in a way. I do an e-study with about 43 people on my list and now I have decided to venture out into cyberspace/the unknown. I intend for this to be encouraging and yet I know some who disagree with me will find there way to this page and go on the attack. I welcome that. I wish we all agreed on everything in life but we all know that is impossible. What we probably disagree on is why it is impossible.

"But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned" (1 Corinthians 2:14).

Many problems will be due to this truth. Many people will attack Christ's teaching and Christian truth because they are lost...i.e. they are unsaved, unconverted and unregenerate. This is why there will never be agreement between everyone. Some people are of the world and some of the Spirit. This will remain true as long as Christ tarries.

On a smaller scale there may be disagreements amongst believers. This will not be due to 1 Corinthians 2:14. These will be on more gray issues of the faith, but certainly not on essentials.
So here we go...hopefully I will get to this often but I have no idea.