Tag Archives: Reformed

I finally understand the Truly Reformed approach to interpreting the Bible

My interpretation of the Bible is infallible because I’m Elect because my interpretation of the Bible is infallible because I’m Elect.

For all their stated emphasis on grace, some Reformed Christian folks demonstrate such certainty in their own understandings that they actually emphasize their own interpretative stances over anything else, including grace.

What does this have to do with anything? Take a look at a few rounds of this video debate between a Reformed guy and a Roman Catholic guy, as I did recently.

Watch how they both selectively avoid the consequences of the opposing proof texts. Notice how their selective engagements involve work-arounds that have nothing to do with the texts themselves.

The take-away from their exchange, in my opinion, is simply that systematizing the Bible into a complete set of firm answers and airtight conclusions is not possible. But some people can only have a Bible if they have an infallible interpretation of it, too.

Watching the debate also reminded me that the late great French Protestant Jacques Ellul once said “the Bible is not a recipe book or an answer book, but the opposite: it is a book of questions God asks us.”

A Question About Christian Theology

Why would God tell us to love our enemies if at least some of our enemies are beyond redemption¹ and God has already decided to destroy at least some of them², so by asking us to love them, God therefore is asking us to do something that would be loftier and nobler than what God is willing to do³

¹ This phrase assumes, for the sake of argument, some are predetermined to be beyond redemption (predetermined in this case because of points made in the following notes). Then again, maybe none of “our enemies,” the ones who ultimately really are enemies, are beyond redemption. Furthermore, it might not be clear right now who “our enemies” really are, which might be one reason to love those who appear to be enemies.

² By choosing to save some and to damn others. This point of view, while very present in Christian theology, is difficult because God cannot choose to save some without choosing to not-save others. When One is an all-powerful being*, not-doing must be just as volitional as doing. When all-powerful, choosing not to embrace one sentient being You have created must be just as volitional as choosing to embrace another sentient being You have created.

*or even all-powerful and outside of being

³ This phrase assumes, for the sake of argument, that God does not love those whom He created yet knows ultimately will be His enemies, and additionally, assumes that God has decided to create some to ultimately become His enemies. In other words, God creates some people He does not love or plans to stop loving. So, by calling humans to love their enemies as themselves, God has asked us to do something noble and good that He neither is willing to do nor desiring to do, which you should admit is kind of strange. Again, choosing not to embrace one sentient being You have created must be just as volitional as choosing to embrace another sentient being You have created. Oddly enough, two verses later, Jesus asks, “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?” So maybe by asking us to love our enemies, God is asking us to follow His characteristics or part of His nature.

The question seeks a coherent explanation of both the command to love our enemies and the interpretative and systematic traditions which affirm non-universalist positions on predestination and election in which some individuals are intentionally created by God for the purposes of committing sins and thereafter being held accountable for the sins without being given grace and therefore damned. Is there some achievable coherence between God’s decision to create some people to experience His wrath and God’s command to love our enemies?

When the neighborhood Anglican Church starts another Baptist Bible study

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When the neighborhood Anglican Church starts another Baptist Bible study. 

 

 
Photos from Pixabay.com

To the Manufacturers of Mark Driscoll

A friend posted this Monday article from The Daily Beast on my Facebook page. It begins:

“Just when controversial pastor Mark Driscoll was hoping to make a new start, former members of his old stomping grounds at Seattle’s Mars Hill Church have filed a lawsuit alleging Driscoll and his chief elder ran the now-shuttered megachurch like an organized crime syndicate, in which church members became unwitting participants.

“The lawsuit was filed on Monday in the Western District of Washington U.S. District Court in Seattle under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, a law originally created for prosecution of Mafia figures.

“Former members have been threatening to file such a lawsuit for months to find out just where the members’ tithes—some $30 million yearly, according to church reports—actually went.”

I don’t know whether the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act really applies in this case, and I have no idea if pursuing that particular approach is a good idea — although of course someone needs to answer for the $30 million annually and any misappropriation of funds.

My reaction to the article, posted on Facebook, was aimed at those who helped Driscoll become a celebrity and a monster:

“He said Reformed things with boldness and strong emotions. That was enough to hide a multitude of sins. And while his influence and income increased, we were told that the mainline churches were dead, but it was purer, holier Driscoll who was dead inside. Sure, people don’t want to go to those old churches with their old facades and old ways, but the rotten wood was found inside new buildings in Seattle.”

 

Now abide these three

“And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is …”?

Is it faith? Is it hope? Is it love?

Trick question! The greatest is sound doctrine! Always sound doctrine, ye reprobates!

Marilynne Robinson’s Calvinism is an alternative to The Gospel Coalition’s Calvinism

The Gospel Coalition’s bloggers frequently praise Marilynne Robinson, and that’s only right. She has won a Pulitzer Prize, and she has written acclaimed novels and essays.

Better yet, Robinson has been open about the influence of John Calvin on her thought and her work. The Gospel Coalition bloggers couldn’t be happier, and who could blame them? A Pulitzer Prize-winner apparently has soaked deeply in Calvin.

Based on Justin Taylor’s past Gospel Coalition blog posts, Marilynne Robinson is once, twice, three times a Calvinist lady (apologies to Lionel Richie).

As recently as Sept. 22, 2014, Robinson received glowing praise for  Lila: A Novel.

None of that is a problem. But there is a problem. On crucial issues, attitudes, and dispositions, The Gospel Coalition and Robinson couldn’t be farther apart.

I suspect the distance between them is ignored because in The Gospel Coalition, the “Calvinist” label covers all sins.

But never mind what I suspect. Let’s take a look at some excerpts of what Robinson says — all of which I admit I like:

Here’s an excerpt of the Religion News Service’s interview with Robinson:

Q: Gay marriage is one of the culture’s hot-button issues right now. Can people coexist in that controversy?

A: Sometimes I wonder about the authenticity of the controversies themselves. My own denomination (the United Church of Christ), has blessed same-sex relationships and married them as quickly as it became legal in my state. It has been a process that’s gone on for a long time. Nobody gives it a thought, so when you read in the newspaper that there are people calling down brimstone, it’s startling. In time it will become an old issue for the culture that simply will not bring out this kind of thing anymore.

Q: For Christians who hold the view that marriage is between a man and a woman, do you think they’ll become a smaller group over time?

A: It’s hard to know. There has never been a period in world history where same-sex relationships were more routine and normal than in Hellenistic culture at the time of Christ. Does Jesus ever mention the issue? I bet it must have been all around him. You can get in a lot of trouble eating oysters if you are a literalist about Leviticus. I’m a great admirer of the Old Testament. It’s an absolute trove of goodness and richness. But I don’t think we should stone witches. And if you choose to value one or two verses in Leviticus over the enormous, passionate calls for social justice that you find right through the Old Testament, that’s primitive. There are a thousand ways that we would all be doomed for violating the Sabbath and all kinds of other things, if we were literalists.

Search The Gospel Coalition site. Good luck finding any blogger or pastor simpatico with Robinson’s views on same-sex blessings and gay marriages and biblical interpretation.

(My golly-gosh! She sounds like an Episcopalian!)

It’s not just same-sex marriage that reveals striking differences in the mentalities of The Gospel Coalition members and the mentality of Robinson.

In her interview with The Paris Review, Robinson says several things that are far too moderate and liberal to appear in The Gospel Coalition’s posts. Here’s a sampling:

I don’t like categories like religious and not religious. As soon as religion draws a line around itself it becomes falsified. It seems to me that anything that is written compassionately and perceptively probably satisfies every definition of religious whether a writer intends it to be religious or not.

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At the same time, there has always been a basic human tendency toward a dubious notion of beauty. Think about cultures that rarify themselves into courts in which people paint themselves with lead paint and get dumber by the day, or women have ribs removed to have their waists cinched tighter. There’s no question that we have our versions of that now. The most destructive thing we can do is act as though this is some sign of cultural, spiritual decay rather than humans just acting human, which is what we’re doing most of the time.

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Religion is a framing mechanism. It is a language of orientation that presents itself as a series of questions. It talks about the arc of life and the quality of experience in ways that I’ve found fruitful to think about. Religion has been profoundly effective in enlarging human imagination and expression. It’s only very recently that you couldn’t see how the high arts are intimately connected to religion.

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Ordinary things have always seemed numinous to me. One Calvinist notion deeply implanted in me is that there are two sides to your encounter with the world. You don’t simply perceive something that is statically present, but in fact there is a visionary quality to all experience. It means something because it is addressed to you. This is the individualism that you find in Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson. You can draw from perception the same way a mystic would draw from a vision.

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The idea that you draw a line and say, The righteous people are on this side and the bad people are on the other side—this is not gracious.

That last excerpt seems the antithesis of The Gospel Coalition posts, which seem to draw all kinds of lines.

And maybe they’re right to draw lines. It’s hard to define something when it can be anything.

Funny, though, how those lines curve around a liberal who claims Calvin.

The Gospel Coalition’s lines don’t curve around liberals who merely claim Christ — search the site for critiques of Peter Enns, Rob Bell, and Brian McLaren.

Those folks will be whole and redeemed in the eyes of The Gospel Coalition — if only they claim Calvin.

That’s the underlying problem: it’s never really about Jesus and the Bible. It’s about precise angles on Jesus and the Bible, not allegiance.

Allegiance is such an internal thing, such a hard thing to pin down, the only way to prove allegiance is to espouse very specific, very precise views. Who goes there? Calvin groupie or Other?

It’s like a gang initiation — how far are you willing to go to be one of us? Claim Calvin, and you’re in.

Yes, plenty of other groups do this, too.

Jonathan Merritt sees an ideological mode among Reformed Christians

The blogger and author on Twitter:

Do you think he’s right? Why? Or, why not?

(“Xians” is short for Christians.)