A Focused Question With a Sensible Answer

Crossway: What is the primary reason for the dispute between Calvinists and Arminians?

I would like to be able to say that it's nothing more than a disagreement over the interpretation of certain biblical texts, but there's more to it than that. Behind and beneath our reading of Scripture, I'm sad to say, are theological beliefs that often govern what we allow the biblical text to say. The bottom line is that Arminians are already persuaded that the Calvinist view of divine sovereignty destroys human responsibility and makes God the author of evil. Likewise, Calvinists are already persuaded that the Arminian view of human freedom renders God contingent and transfers credit for our salvation from God to us. These convictions color how we interpret the Bible and which texts are given priority over others. Now, of course, both would loudly insist that they hold their respective positions because they believe that's what the Bible teaches, but all too often our interpretation is driven by a preconceived fear of where such interpretation might lead.

In addition to this, Arminians are concerned that Calvinism will undermine evangelism and the necessity of prayer. Calvinists are likewise concerned that Arminianism compromises grace and denigrates from the glory of God.

Needless to say, these are powerful and emotionally charged concerns that often derail the conversation and prevent us from looking at the text and allowing it to form and fashion our beliefs about the role of God in salvation.

(Excerpt from a Crossway interview with Dr. Sam Storms, who is coming to teach at Sojourn in mid-July. I think this is one of the best distillations of the Calvinism-Arminianism debate I've ever heard -- finally, something that's free from angry rhetoric and that assesses the problem honestly!)


My pastor reads my blog?

And you, too, Erin Ferguson?

Lurkers! Feh!


Lord, If You Work It Out That I Can Go To This Conference... I Will Never Ask For Anything Else Again As Long As I Live

The First Conference of The Gospel Coalition

Dates: Wednesday, May 23, 1:00 P.M. until Thursday, May 24

Location: Trinity Campus, 2065 Half Day Road, Deerfield, IL

If you would like to attend, you must book your registration at the secure registration page https://www.thegospelcoalition.org. The $80 registration fee covers conference costs, including snacks and the evening meal on Wednesday. Each person attending will have to register separately. You are warmly encouraged to invite others whom you think would benefit from the Conference. You simply need to pass on the contents of this web page. Please contact Michael Thate (mthate@tiu.edu) for more details.


Wednesday Afternoon

1:00-2:45Open Corporate Worship
“What is the Gospel?” Primarily an exposition of the first part of 1 Corinthians 15 (Don Carson)
Panel Discussion
3:15-5:00Gospel-Centered Ministry (Tim Keller)
Panel Discussion
5:00-7:00Supper Break (Melton Dining Hall)

Wednesday Evening

7:00-9:00Corporate Worship and Exposition: “Passing on the Torch” (Crawford Loritts)

Thursday Morning

7:00-8:15Breakfast for those in Trinity Hall
8:30-9:00Devotions and Corporate Prayer
  1. The Doctrine of God Today (Graham Cole)
  2. Defining Evangelicalism (Ray Ortlund, Reddit Andrews)
  3. Union with Christ and Justification (Phil Ryken)
  4. The Use of the Bible in Pastoral Counseling (Mike Bullmore)
  5. Mentoring Younger Pastors (Mark Driscoll, Michael Lawrence)
  6. Mentoring Younger Lay Leaders (Harry Reeder, John Yates)
  7. The Church of the Living God: Crucial Issues in Gospel and Community (Jeff Louie)
  8. The Church of the Living God: Practical Challenges in a Mobile Society (Stephen Um)
  9. Christ and Culture Revisited (Sandy Willson)
  10. Q & A on Preaching (Crawford Loritts, Ligon Duncan)
  11. Cultivating Biblical Meditation and Prayer (Andy Davis)
  12. Evangelizing People in a Post-Christian Society (David Bisgrove)
10:45-12:00Closing Exposition: “The Triumph of the Gospel in the New Heavens and the New Earth” (John Piper)

As soon as the Conference is over, all of the materials from both the plenaries and the workshops will be made available on The Gospel Coalition website, which we expect to be fully functional by the time of the Conference.

The Gospel Coalition is a group of pastors deeply concerned to preserve and promote the gospel. Our foundation documents, including both a Confessional Statement and a Theological Vision of Ministry, will be circulated at the Conference. One of our aims is to stamp a new generation of pastors with similar gospel commitments. For this reason, we are encouraging not only senior pastors but also as many of their staff as possible to join us for this Conference.

For more information, see Driscoll's blog on www.theresurgence.com.


The Secret

So, how about that massively popular bestseller, The Secret? It's a bunch of nutty crap, isn't it? I've been reading with interest the various articles on slate.com about why it's, in the words of one author, "pernicious drivel." That, in addition to being an incredibly satisfying and evocative turn of phrase, pretty well characterizes the whole book. Emily Yoffe says:

Clearly, The Secret is drivel, but why should that stop me from sincerely throwing myself into seeing if it worked? I am already deeply susceptible to superstition and seeing signs—if I find a penny (faceup only), I pick it up knowing something good will happen to me. As self-absorbed as I already am, I loved the permission the book gave to sink deeper into a Jacuzzi of megalomania. As The Secret points out: "You are the master of the Universe. You are the heir to the kingdom. You are the perfection of Life." Just as I'd always suspected! So, I vowed to follow Byrne's simple rules for abundance and see what happened. The book encourages one to start big: "It is as easy to manifest one dollar as it is to manifest one million dollars." But I thought starting with the million-dollar manifestation was like saying, "I love you" on a first date; I didn't want to scare the universe into not taking my calls.

Furthermore, according to Karen Cerulo in her book Never Saw It Coming, we, both as individuals and as a society, are obsessed with "positive thinking" about our futures. Think about it: did you ever hear of a little girl acting out a game of "miserable, eccentric, lonely dowager" with her dollies? Our obsession, Cerulo claims, with positive thinking extends to the point that we actively shun and ignore potential danger -- consider how few of us wear sunscreen even though 1 in 5 Americans will be diagnosed with skin cancer in their lives, or the fact that only 30% of Americans have wills.

So basically, the secret of The Secret is that the author has outlined a pseudo-religious system that affirms and feeds our infantile demand for our own way as well as our fundamental terror of future pain. It's works salvation writ large -- "thoughts" salvation, if you will.

Stay far away. And warn your friends. And if you absolutely must read it, at least get it from the library.


Really Quick...

What's the good news about the rapture?
The people who believe in it disappear and we get all their stuff.

What's the bad news about the rapture?
All their stuff is from K-Mart.


Loving Ned Flanders

This blog post by Matt Chandler over at The Resurgence convicted the heck out of me -- just what do I think I've become when I criticize, judge, and secretly (or not-so-secretly) despise believers who wear suits to church, sing tearfully that "the cross is my statue of liberty," carry tapestry-and-mauve Bible holders, and frown disapprovingly at any artwork not by Thomas Kinkaid? I've become, Matt reminds me, the very thing that I despise! If I angrily denounce their efforts to make punks take out their gaged earrings and comb their hair and purge all the black from their wardrobe, shouldn't I reject with as much fervency anyone's attempt to make them start singing Matt Redman songs or dress down for Sunday services?

I'm still going to question my friends who listen only to K-LOVE or Air1. I'm still going to challenge folks who think you have to dress a certain way to go to church. I'll probably never watch TBN, nor will I stop discouraging people from doing so. I'll likely never be comfortable with the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance or the singing of patriotic songs in church. But it's high time I started re-evaluating the attitude of my heart towards believers who are different than I am.


Heavenly Father,

It was your eternal purpose to give all people life through mothers,
and to send your Son in flesh through a mother’s womb.

Bless our mothers as they follow you,
and guide them as they seek you.

Give them wisdom, that they may instruct their children faithfully.

Grant them discernment as they pray for their children;
shape their hearts that they might desire the gospel to shine forth in their children’s lives.

Lord, you know what we need even before we ask. We earnestly seek your perfect will for our mothers, so that they might raise up children whose lives declare the Gospel of your Son, by whose sinless life, perfect death, and glorious resurrection we come before you with our requests.



To Keep You Busy, Dear Reader(s)

Hey, friends. I'm working on a longish post about my brother's wedding, which was this past weekend, so don't despair. But in the meantime, check out this article on immaturity from one of my favorite websites. Here's an excerpt:

Regardless of the context, to make a decision is to intentionally limit oneself from other, potentially good options. As a single guy, it was a challenge to think of marrying the woman God had clearly given me, since I would no longer have the option to pursue the women I might meet someday. An indecisive man is recognizable by a perpetual inability to make and keep commitments — a failure to "swear to his own hurt and not change" (Ps. 15:4). A decisive person, by contrast, can choose what he loves, and later (when the going gets tough) nurture the love he previously chose.

Indecisiveness renders significant accomplishment (and the deep joy that often comes with it) out of reach. It hinders our progress in the Christian life, because God calls us to steward our gifts and talents. Non-growth is not an option.