December 16, 2017

Postcards To A Young Theologian 3

Wesley and Men Who FollowedPostcard 1
Postcard 2

3. Be honest: Does the logic of a group eventually conclude that other Christians are, in fact, not true believers at all?

The Arminian God is not “worshipable.” If you believe the doctrines of Arminius, you are idolater who hates God. If you give up your idolatry and embrace the God of the Bible, revealed in Calvinism’s true Christ, you can be saved. Among those who promote this idolatrous hatred and empty religious lie about God are: Billy Graham, Chuck Swindoll and Chuck Smith. Their only hope of being saved is to turn from the God of Arminianism to the God of the Bible. (Calvinism.)

Such are the words of one reformed blogger in his essay “The God of Arminius Is Not Worshipable.” Just in case you don’t read the essay and follow the logic, Methodists, Pentecostals, non-Calvinistic Baptists, and the majority of generic evangelicals are not saved. They can’t be. They are worshipping a God who is, in fact, a non-existent idol that the true God hates.

Most of the Calvinists I know are quick to say that Arminians are their Christian brothers. Iain Murray, Reformed historian and protege of D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, wrote a thoroughly wonderful book, Wesley and the Men Who Followed, chronicling the accomplishments of Arminian Wesleyans in the 18th and 19th century Methodist movement. I’ve never been to a Founder’s Conference that the leaders didn’t go out of their way to say non-Calvinists are saved and serve the Lord with zeal that ought to be imitated.

But this isn’t always the case. In some cases, the convictions of the group that they recovered the “true Gospel” that other churches have lost leads to the logic that the only way to know one is saved is to thoroughly affirm the group and its worldview, and to be a member of the group in good standing.

When I was growing up in Western Kentucky, I frequently made friends with Christians from the Church of Christ. These were the heirs of the Campbellite movement, a New Testament restoration movement that believed they were recovering the ancient church’s purity of doctrine and life. If you weren’t baptized by the Church of Christ, you were lost. It was that simple. Jesus started one church. They were it. They had checked the Bible and it was clear. The Church of Christ was their church. You were a Baptist. You were going to hell unless you joined them.

This never shook me up much, because it wasn’t all that far from what I was taught at my Baptist church. Catholics? Hell. Methodists? Probably Hell. Presbyterians? Hell for certain. God might snatch a few out of those false churches, but Jesus was a Baptist (I have the books to prove it) and our church was your best bet for a safe haven.

There are Catholics who believe this, despite Vatican II repudiating such exclusivism. There are Lutherans, Pentecostals and Presbyterians who believe it. There are plenty of Christian groups whose logic moves, slowly and surely, to this conclusion: They have the truth. They are the one, true church. They have the proper exegesis, the right view of the Bible and the true characteristics of the church.

There are plenty of results of moving in this direction, and few of them are good. To reference previous postcards, if you read a book or visit a church that is not of “our group,” who are under the influence of idolaters and a false Gospel. There is no good that can come of it.

If you go to a Catholic retreat center, you are participating in all the evils of Catholicism. If you read books by authors outside of your tradition, you are pouring poison into your spirit. By ignoring the importance of pure doctrine and rebelling against the teaching of the Word by the proper teachers, you are giving evidence that you are reprobate and possibly unsaved.

Watch members of the group react when you compliment, admit to reading, or say you have benefited from someone in a tradition they consider suspect. The concern for possible “influences” will be in evidence, and the direction of that concern will be plain: Christ isn’t there. Those people are not saved.

Where will we find Christ? In our group and those just like us, interpreting the Bible our way and being a compliant recipient of our doctrine.

Don’t be reluctant to admit what is going on here. Many young theologians can see this, but because it is seldom put as plainly as the essay above, it may be difficult to admit, “My church believes they are the truly saved, and everyone else is questionable.” It may never be an open affirmation, but if it is an undeniable direction, consider the best response.

Comments

  1. Excellent advice, Michael. For every theological persuasion.

    I wish someone had told me this 30 years ago. Instead, I was told why I was “right” and why our group was “right.”

    I still grieve over good people I ran off just because they didn’t see it that way I did. Of course those who went out from us, were not of us……. you know the drill.

    Bruce Gerencser

  2. I wish my friend could read this.

    I knew this girl once, and she was amazing – passionate for her God beyond belief. In minutes she set me on fire for theology and a pursuit of my Chirstian past. However, she was also very closed to any non-Calvinist, non-reformed position, believing that her interpretation of scripture and godliness was right…until the day her own sin meant that she no longer fit into her “good Christian” paradigm, and it practically shattered her faith.

    In many ways, this is what sets me at odds with my church, with my denomination – it’s what makes me sometimes ready to throw in the towel altogether.

    steve yates

  3. “Jesus was a Baptist (I have the books to prove it)”
    – Some careful exegesis shows this isn’t true:
    We know that David was a man after God’s own heart – and He danced before the Lord, so God, and therefore Jesus, condone Dancing. And if Jesus was a Baptist, He would have turned that wine into water!
    😛

    Excellent articles b.t.w. I heard of a guy who’s ministry, despite being faithful and fully (reformed) evangelical was considered a little dodgy because he admitted to liking NT Wright… i guess I’d better not admit that I really apreciate wright’s eschatology stuff!

  4. ddickens says:

    Always remember that those CofCers lived in a world formed of orthopraxis (as opposed to orthodoxy). It was not so much your beliefs they had a problem with. But that you weren’t “doing what was plainly said to do”.

    Growing up in the CofC I found a great deal of feedom when it came to theology, Christology and insert-your-ology-here. But whatever your understanding of the ways of God, you were fine until you questioned two songs, a prayer, two songs, communion, sermon, invitation and dismissal.

    The CofC took on a cultural heritage that had nothing to do with it’s founding principles. Sometimes I feel like I’m doomed to be apart of organizations that if they’d just do what they say in the slogans the world could be a much better place.

    (think “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” being written in the handwriting of slave owners)

    Oh well, I guess no one expected I’d really *believe* this stuff.

  5. dpaultaylor57 says:

    The “us” vs. “them” mentality that so many groups drift into (and I can say as a non-Calvinist that I’ve seen it in plenty of other forms) breeds a superstitious fear of “them” and anything they read, sing, study or value. As a 48-year-old man it’s embarrassing even to mention this, but it reminds me of the “cooties” everyone dreaded in elementary school. It’s that childish. It’s as if someone walked under a ladder or a black cat ran in front of you. Could we please grow up?

  6. I remember telling one of the young guys at my old PB church that I liked Michael Card, and he was shocked, since Card sang with John Michael Talbot. And if you even hang out with “obviously” unbelievers, then maybe you’re not one either. It is, after all, better to assume the worst! Needless to say, I didn’t offer him a Guinness! Whatever happened to the benefit of the doubt?

  7. telemicus says:

    IM, as one who was raised, well not so much raised but rather extruded, in the c of c, (we call it c-squared) i would just like to say that on the whole that movement has moved beyond that attitude that was very real then. the emerging church is very wide and it is affecting people from all faiths. the c-squares are moving too. and this is an exciting time for the Kingdom. The road is narrow… but the Lord and his Kingdom are not. telemicus out

  8. Isn’t it a fallacy to be forced to choose between two opposing viewpoints (Calvinism vs. Arminianism) without the possibility that both positions could be wrong?

    In his “Orthodoxy”, G.K. Chesterton wrote, “Ordinary man has always been a mystic…He has always cared more for truth than for consistency. If he saw two truths that seemed to contradict each other, he would take the two truths and the contradiction along with them. His spiritual sight is stereoscopic, like his physical sight: he sees two different pictures at once and yet sees all the better for that.”

    Denominational exclusivity and the Emergent Church’s pluralistic shmorgishborg both lack Chesterton’s view of Christian truth and mystery. Neither extreme rises above theological narcissism.

  9. billhornbeck says:

    The Bible is full of references to false prophets and teachers, so we should be on guard. Matthew 24:11
    “Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many.”

    Just because we can ridicule one particular group for claiming that they provide the only way for salvation does not logically mean that there is not only way for salvation.

    Doctrine can determine whether or not one is saved.
    “BUT IN VAIN DO THEY WORSHIP ME, TEACHING AS DOCTRINES THE PRECEPTS OF MEN.” Matthew 15: 9 and Mark 7: 7.

    Jesus said: “Not everyone who says to Me, “Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven; …Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord’ did we not prophecy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’” Matthew 7:21-23.

    The point of the foregoing is that we should not be complacent, certainly not as an Arminian, and not even as a Calvinist. We should seek the soundest doctrine and follow all of Scripture with all of our mind, heart, and soul.

    Proverbs 2: 4-5 generally exhorts us to seek for wisdom as one would seek for silver or hidden treasure. If we are to so seek for wisdom with all of our heart, how much more should we seek the true doctrine of salvation with all of our heart!!!

    Love of truth is emphasized in 2 Thessalonians 2: 10-13: “and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. And for this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they might believe what is false, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness”.

    John 16: 13 describes the work of the Holy Spirit in the saved: “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; …” If certain groups steadfastly continue to refuse or ignore the truth, then they demonstrate by their fruit that they do not have the Spirit of truth in them and that they are not saved.

    Calvin’s comments about Paul’s statements in Galatians 1:6-9:
    “ his greatest severity of language is directed, as we shall see, against the false apostles. He charges them with turning aside, not only from his gospel, but from Christ; for it was impossible for them to retain their attachment to Christ, without acknowledging that he has graciously delivered us from the bondage of the law. But such a belief cannot be reconciled with those notions respecting the obligation of ceremonial observance which the false apostles inculcated. They were removed from Christ; not that they entirely rejected Christianity, but that the corruption of their doctrines was such as to leave them nothing more than an imaginary Christ. …
    On the same principle, he calls it another gospel, that is, a gospel different from the true one. And yet the false apostles professed that they preached the gospel of Christ; but, mingling with it their own inventions, by which its principal efficacy was destroyed, they held a false, corrupt, and spurious gospel. …
    The gospel of Christ. To know what are the leading points of the gospel, is a matter of unceasing importance. When these are attacked, the gospel is destroyed. Paul enjoins them to stand steadfastly by his doctrine. He demands such unhesitating belief of his preaching, that he pronounces a curse on all who dared to contradict it. …
    But when the credit due to doctrines which God had revealed concerning the salvation of men was the subject of controversy, he did not reckon it enough to disclaim the judgment of men, without declining, at the same time, the authority of angels.”

    In conclusion, certainly the Bible does not classify either Arminians or Calvinists as saved or unsaved. However, I think we should struggle with these issues. How important is correct doctrine generally? How important is Calvinism specifically? If correct doctrine can mean the difference between being saved and unsaved, then we should struggle with these issues. Regarding the Five Points of Calvinism, what doctrine can be more important than the doctrine of salvation? If the Synod of Dort struggled with this issue and reach the Canons of Dort conclusion of labeling Arminianism as heresy, which is one of the top five Reformed creeds along with the Westminister Confession of Faith, the Belgic Confession, and the Heidelberg Catechism, then those who struggle with these issues are in good Reformed company.