‘I Got Off At George Street.’

Often when we Christians share our faith, we don’t always have the grace of the opportunity of seeing the fruits of our labours. But we can find hope and joy in the fact that it is not us, but that it is the Lord who gives the growth. The Lord ensures that his Word will not fall empty to the ground.

The scripture says (1 Corinthians 3:5-9):

What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.

The following video, originally entitled, ‘I Got Off At George Street’, is a beautiful story of one man’s simple, faithful Christian witness, one that bore much fruit, despite his having no knowledge of the fact. I find it superbly encouraging.

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Should Arminians Consider Open Theists Arminian?: Some Doubts

This comment below was a response to Roger Olson’s blog post, where some interesting issues were raised. I thought I’d share what I wrote in response here.

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Interesting thoughts. I feel I agree with the essential, fundamental underlying sentiment of this blog. But on the issue of Open Theism as a form of Arminianism that us classical Arminians need to embrace a legitimately Arminian… I do not feel inclined to take Open Theism as strictly falling into under Arminian banner per se. Let me explain.

I do feel the Open Theists are less in error than the Calvinists are, and I feel more “at home” with them as fellow Christians than I do with the Calvinists. I’m not saying Calvinists are not Christians. I’m just saying that, to me, given two options A and B — where A = God does not know the future contingent acts of creatures; and B = God is ultimately the cause of all wickedness everywhere (such as in causally predetermining it) — I think A is the more rational-moral-biblical option than B.

Yet there is another issue as well, and it is with this that I primarily have my intuition of disagreement that (at least some if not many, most or all) Open Theists can be said to be legitimately Arminian.

What I take to be a hallmark of Reformed orthodoxy is an individual and church-corporate attitude which believes in and lives in the light of the supremacy of Scripture, and I believe that, as an Evangelical, we ought to take a very high attitude with regard to scripture–its authoritativeness, its truthfulness, its relative perspicuity, and, in life, our serious submission to the teaching and application of that text, and so on and so forth. Now given that classical Arminianism, in my view, falls properly into the Reformed-Evangelical category, therefore it follows that it is essential on the very character of a reformed-Evangelical Arminianism theology that we take a rather high view of and attitude towards scripture in such a way as I have explained. I believe one thing we can learn from the Calvinist Reformed Christians is indeed a somewhat high attitude toward the biblical text in that way: exegesis of the text carefully, and submitting wholeheartedly to what it says, even if that might conflict with my individual intuitions. I believe that is absolutely fantastic.

What gets me about the Open Theists, then, is what in my experience seems to me to be the frankly egregious, un-Evangelical attitude often taken towards the biblical text by these proponents. It is the Open Theists’ *attitude* towards the text — such as in their providing seemingly ad hoc answers to seemingly clear texts expressing divine foreknowledge of agents’ (free) future activities under a rigorous exegesis — is what leads me to want to exclude Open Theists from under the Reformed-Evangelical Arminian banner proper.

I realise this is quite obviously a much wider point than the Calvinism/Arminianism issue per se; it is more a Reformed-Evangelical point in general than anything. I could well imagine an Open Theist holding to: Total Depravity, Corporate Election, Unlimited Atonement, Prevenient Grace and Apostasy, as I do. But what speaks to me most clearly about a person’s heart is their submission and attitude towards the Word of God. I believe a certain submission to that Word is both characteristic and essential to what it means to be a Reformed, Evangelical Arminian. I do not believe many Open Theists like Greg Boyd show the same kind of care or right attitude towards that Word, and therefore do not, in my opinion, share in the joy of being properly Evangelical or Arminian in that regard.

So the argument is: To be Evangelical, one has to have certain attitudes towards the (biblical) text; every Arminian is an Evangelical; so every Arminian has certain attitudes towards the text. Some Open Theist does not have said attitudes towards the text; are therefore not Evangelical; are therefore not, ipso facto, Arminian.

(I don’t mean to say they’re not Evangelical wholesale; maybe ‘evangelicalness’ comes in degrees of ‘more than’/’less than’. I just mean the lack of the relevant attitudes toward scripture would harm their Evangelical case significantly. By saying this I am leaving the door slightly ajar for them yet, even under abhorrent [don’t read too much into that] attitudes towards scripture.)

Now I know some Open Theists will read this and bristle at what I have just said. They will say: “But I am not like that; my pastor is not like that; and the Open Theist scholars I have read and listened to are not like that.” Granted. I don’t mean to indite all Open Theists as having an illegitimately low attitude towards the biblical text. I only mean to speak from my experience, my reading and my listening. But you should at least agree with this conditional statement: If a person is an Evangelical (or a Reformed Evangelical Arminian), then that person will exhibit some set of attitudes {A1, A2, A3 … An} towards Divine Scripture, where that set of attitudes {A1, A2, A3 … An} is some relevant, sufficient number and kind of attitudes, e.g. having a set of humble or submissive character traits and attitudes and willingness to apply the text, or whatever.

So there are my thoughts about the matter. I’m sure more could be said, but that, it seems to me, is enough for now. Thanks for the blog. Keep up the good work, Dr. Olson. Your book Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities got me started on this rich, reflective, historical, Arminian journey.

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Parable of the Rebellious Prince: The Son Refuses the Father’s Offer.

This is one path in a previous story. If you have not read the story, please start from the beginning.

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The son inclined his ear to his father’s words. He recognised that the good king’s law was good. He recognised that the good king ruled by right. He also recognised that his rebellion was unjustified and foolish. He saw he was going to die.

Yet the prince became angry, and said:

“You old fool! I do not recognise your rule, nor do I respect your law. Therefore, I will fight against you so that I can be free to rule myself. And although it has led me to this place, where I must die, know this: I will never submit to your rule.”

With great regret, and deep sadness, the good king turned his rebellious son over to the jailer, and the jailer to the judge, who handed him over to the executioner, who, with one, swift slash of an axe, ended the son’s life forever.

~ The end.

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Psalm 2:10-12:

Now therefore, O kings, be wise;
    be warned, O rulers of the earth.
 Serve the Lord with fear,
    and rejoice with trembling.
Kiss the Lord Messiah,
    lest he be angry, and you perish in your way,
    for his wrath is quickly kindled.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

John 3:36:

Whoever believes in Jesus Christ has eternal life; whoever does not obey Jesus Christ shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.

Parable of the Rebellious Prince: The Son Accepts the Father’s Offer.

This is one path in a previous story. If you have not read the story, please start from the beginning.

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The son inclined his ear to the fathers words. He recognised that the good king’s law was good. He recognised that the good king ruled by right. He also recognised that his rebellion was unjustified and foolish. He also saw he was going to die.

So the prince regretted the error of his ways and confessed to his father:

“My Lord the King, I know how you ruled most justly, and how your law prospered all people everywhere. Yet I rebelled against you and attempted to establish my own law to this day — a new law, to rival your own and to usurp your rightful rule. I attempted to establish my own rule by force, but it has only led to my own ruin, and I have been suffering and bound in this place to this very day. I confess to you that I am at fault and will pledge myself to your rule and guidance once again.”

Overjoyed, the good king ordered the prince to be released from his chains. He brought the royal decree to the prince. And in the presence of many witnesses, both prince and king marked the decree with their own signet rings. The prince was reinstated in his royal dignity with full honours and privileges of inheritance as a son.

Thus did the son give up his foolish rebellion and his wicked plots, and served the king with joy all the rest of his days.

~ The end.

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1 John 1:8-9: 

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Parable of the Rebellious Prince

knights83437429043542There was once a prince of a kingdom who lived and served in the courts of his father, the good king.

But the prince became rebellious and waged war against the good king. Yet he failed and was captured, bound, and was cast into the royal prison. Furthermore, he was sentenced by law to death in 80 days.

There, the prince’s hatred for the good king darkened. His bitterness intensified, and he grew feverish from the poor conditions inside the cold, dank prison outside the courts of the good king. He even began to plot further plans in his mind against the good king.

Yet ever since the first day of his imprisonment, the good king saw his son suffering in chains and had compassion on him. Even though he had been rebellious, the father desired the release of his son.

So the father signed a decree that if the rebellious prince should recognise the wrongness of his rebellion and pledge himself to serve the kingdom once more, he would be released, and reinstated in his royal dignity with full honours and privileges of inheritance as a son.

Every day the good king sent his servants and messengers  to the prince in the dungeon. But each day for 79 days the prince, in his pride, refused to confess his fault.

Finally came the 80th day. Even as the executioner sharpened his axe, the father himself came to his son one last time, to plead with him to repent.

“My son,” said the good king, “You know how I ruled most justly, and how my law prospered all people everywhere. Yet you rebelled against me and attempted to establish your own law to this day — a new law, to rival my own and to usurp my rightful rule. You attempted to establish your own rule by force, but it has only led to your own ruin, and you have been suffering and bound this very day. Will you not confess your fault and pledge yourself to me once again?”

The son inclined his ear to his father, and began to speak.

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The choice is now yours:

Option A: The son accepts the father’s offer.

Option B: The son refuses the father’s offer.

The Greatest of These is Love: Cessationism (Part 3B)

This post follow on from a previous post on 1 Corinthians 13:8-12.

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Now, in 1 Corinthians 13, Paul seems to be concerned that, given his teaching about the privilege of the gifts, Christians may become arrogant, impatient, rude, obnoxious or self-righteous. But even if I should have prophetic gifts of wisdom and knowledge, prophetic powers, tongues, and miraculous abilities, yet if I do not have love, I am worthless. From this it seems to follow that the gifts should lead to greater humility and love, and their use otherwise is counterproductive to their purpose.

Furthermore, love is eternal. the gifts are only for a limited amount of time. That seems clear from our passage. In verse 8, “Love never ends,” implying this consequence of the Christian life will go one forever and ever. This makes sense if we believe the end goal of creation is a wedding supper with the Lamb and communion with him forever and ever.

Yet in that same verse, it quite explicitly says that the charismatic gifts “cease” or “pass away.” I affirm that the gifts will cease at some time. But the question is: When?  The answer seems to be: “when the perfect comes,” or, when the Church “became a man,” when we shall see “face to face” and “know fully.” That must have be in the past, or some time in the future.

What on earth does this mean?

The Cessationist seems to be committed to the view that the charismatic gifts have ceased already. Therefore, he is committed to the statements that:

– the perfect has come,
– the whole Church has matured as a boy into a man,
– sees face to face, and
– knows fully.

Now from the very description, it seems this is a very difficult position to maintain. Is the church seriously perfect and complete? Not at all! And we already read in 1 Corinthians 12 that the purpose of the charismatic gifts of the Holy Spirit were for the building up of the body. Incidentally, Paul’s talk about moving from being a boy into being a man is quite appropriate. When human beings develop, their bodies and minds change until they reach a peak point of maturity. But Paul is talking about the whole church as a corporate body, individual exercising their gifts within in, and some people are more mature than others.

Other than that, what does it mean to see “face to face” or to “know fully”? This is admittedly cryptic to me. Maybe it means to see Jesus at his return and experience God in his immediate glory. Well that hasn’t happened yet. Maybe it just means to have the close canon of the scriptures. But that seems impersonal, and unlikely given that there simply was no such thing in Paul’s day, so how could he think about it? Besides, even we do not “know fully” that whole text, in that we have a perfect understanding of it all.

So I find the Cessationist inference to current cessation from this passage spurious. My intuition, which I shall go into some time later when I blog about this, is that the charismatic gifts of the Holy Spirit shall cease probably at the very end of the world, after the last rebellion following the millennial reign of Christ on the earth, when there is no more hope of repentance for the lost. But more on that later.

Next time, we shall talk about the beauty of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, including their divine purpose in 1 Corinthians 14.

The Greatest of These is Love: Cessationism (Part 3A)

Last time we talked about how perhaps one of the major reasons many Christian people who hold to Cessationism do not experience the charismatic gifts of the Holy Spirit is because they are neither open nor willing to God working through them supernaturally in this way. Today, we’re briefly going to talk about one scripture in particular which is used in favour of Cessationism.

I realise this is not the only scripture for Cessationists, nor is it the only biblical reason people give. But it is a good example.

1 Corinthians 13:8-12 says,

Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul has given a discourse on the functions and activities of the Christian church, especially on the way in which the one body of the church is built up and strengthened in various ways, each according to the gifts and callings God has given to each individual person in the church. Each part plays an essential role in the building up of the body, and therefore it is not the case that one part is unneeded, nor can it be said that one part is ‘more important’ than another.

Of the gifts and callings, these include the charismatic gifts of the Holy Spirit such as wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, discernment, tongues and interpretation of tongues. Each of these is a distinct gift, and each operates in its own proper place for the common good.

The second half of this thought will give a very brief thought on this passage as used in favour of Cessationism.