Sunday, January 22, 2012

Thoughts on Against Calvinism by Roger E. Olson

I have read the introductory pieces and first chapter of this book so far. Here are some initial thoughts.

He is largely writing this to address the young, restless, and reformed crowd. He believes some of their thoughts regarding God's absolute control and creation of all things, including evil, is problematic. Since God cannot stand to be in the presence of sin, I would happen to agree. This is why we need Christ after all.

I have been researching the Calvinist vs. Arminian perspective for a little while now. This is not the first time that I have heard that Calvinism may not be properly summed up via the TULIP acronym. I have been thinking of reading the Canons of Dordt; I believe I will need to do that to more properly understand the keys of the Reformed faith.

When the author discusses freewill, he seems to be mentioning examples like Hitler and the Holocaust. I don't for a moment think that that horrifying sequence of events is from God.

It seems like the author so far is not clearly separating justification vs. sanctification. I believe most but likely not all would agree that there is a level of freewill involved in decisions that we make that are likely to impact sanctification, rewards, or eternal treasures in Heaven. However, what about freewill in the saving act? I await reading more of the author's opinion there.

Moving on to chapter 2, we now get to the first key. With any substantial debate, there is always the question of definition. What does it mean to be reformed? Many would argue that the TULIP acronym is the key. The author points to some older confessions as the basis including the Heidelberg Catechism, the Belgic and Westminster Confessions. These in addition to the above Canons of Dordt are the basis for this branch of the Christian faith according to the author.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Why I Hate Religion Videos

There is a video going viral now on Youtube regarding religion. Some portions I agreed with, and some I didn't. Several friends pointed it out to me, the first of which is a D.Min. student and former pastor of mine. A Messianic Jewish Rabbi friend asked me what I thought, so here we go. I was also reminded of this Mark Driscoll video I saw previously. Many of these thoughts really could be a chapter in a book, hmm..

Jesus is greater than religion is more or less true, depending on how you define religion. What is religion? To me I view it as a belief system based on God's special revelation to us via the Bible. I think what both of these people are objecting to is a set of rules to live by.

Did He come to abolish religion? Once again I think there is a religion definition problem here. He and many of His followers were Jews. He came to fulfill The Law.

I do realize folks who label themselves as Conservative Christians sometimes do both groups a disservice. If we spout beliefs with hostility or angst, that is incorrect. We are called to be His ambassadors; we need to do that.

We all have planks in our eyes, sins and problems that we struggle with; we need to not be looking down our noses at others.

Religions have started wars because people have taken the task of conversion entirely too far. I would say that people who call themselves Christians that have done this are not adhering to the teachings of Christ, and might need to question their faith. That is God's job, not mine.

Why does religion build huge churches? Especially since I am an Ex-Catholic, I will confess this is a tougher question. In part I would say folks have obeyed the idea of giving greatly to God for the sake of an excellent location for a worship service. They likely missed out on what we would call a Christ centered life in today's language, being too focused on the facility and Sunday service. By now I am hearing the Organic/Missional/Frank Viola/Brian McLaren message pretty clearly in this video.

Why are the poor not being fed? They are by some community organizations, at least here in San Diego, though hunger is still a problem. There is a relevant Bible story about helping the poor or disadvantaged. We should contemplate this story and the poor.

We can't be looking down at the single Moms. I grew up in a household like that; those Moms are putting in serious work. They may or may not have have sinned to get in that situation. We don't know all the facts. I think all we should do is present God's Word to them in a kind way and let God work on them.

Regarding the way we act when we are believers, I think we would all agree there are always some things we don't want the world to know, that only our closest friends should. If we get to a point where we are taking the false facade too far, we can wind up like the Pharisees. Are our hearts circumcised as we see in Romans 2? Our lives should be visibly different as believers. I would personally hope that as we grow closer to God we would sin less, though I know perfection in a sinless sense is only attainable by God.

God has done great things with people who have sinned in very big ways. Repent and believe is the basis of the Gospel; we need to do that. Once we realize what He has done and can do for us eternally, we should be overflowing with joy.

Christ did come for the sick, we need to be sure to not exclude them from our assemblies of believers if they are moved by God to investigate and perhaps come closer to Christ.

Once we realize it is all from Him our faith is from Him and not our actions, that is a very freeing experience.
We need to be careful of disregarding rules; there are some things we are told to do or not do in The Bible. If you aren't sure, research it or ask around among your believing friends. Once again I think there is the issue of what kind of ambassador are we being. Sanctification and rewards also come into play here. Do we want treasures in heaven?

I suspect the video is right, that many of us would not let Jesus in, or we would at least look down at Him tremendously, if he showed up with 1st Century appearance and odor? He is also very right regarding Jesus not supporting self righteousness. Once again, modifying our focus off of ourselves and onto Him is what we should do, and this really should be a pretty fundamental Christian teaching.

While religion is a man-made system, assuming we have proper Biblical texts to go by, this man-made system should be based on God given ideas. Do we screw up, absolutely. Repent.

Religion is an infection if you miss out on the self righteousness lesson above, and become too much about either the system or the institution, and not enough about Him.

Slave is a word with substantial negative connotation in the USA. However, we were bought at a price. The Greek word doulos is best translated as slave; we often see servant instead because of these negative connotations.

Jesus does make us see; He is the light as John 1 so clearly states to us. Does a religious institution make us blind to Him. I would argue that may or may not be true depending on the group you assemble with.

I believe that both God searching for man AND man searching for God can occur. Ideally, as we grow in faith, we continue to search to know more and more of His truth. The last 50 seconds or so is excellent, until the very end when hatred for religion is repeated.