Tuesday, May 19

Your Pastoral Preference - Multiple Choice

Most know the difficulty of finding a good church. Inevitably, we all have to play a little "give and take" when it comes finding a church home. No church will have everything that we are looking for. A church is made up of fallen and depraved people. This includes their leadership too! But if the overall scope of the church is faithfulness to Christ, obedience to Scripture, loving and edifying one another, the purity of the church, and more than anything - faithful proclamation and exposition of the Word then it would be my inclination to overlook some preferential issues that we could honestly live without.

Question for this Tuesday morning - Does it matter more to you that your pastor is a Calvinist, Dispensationalist, or....none of the above (how that would not matter to someone is beyond me).

Choose from the following:

A. It's more important to me that my pastor is a strong adherent to the doctrines of grace. I could live with the fact that he is not a strong dispensationalist.

B. It's more important to me that my pastor is a strong traditional dispensationalist. If he leans Arminian that is fine with me.

C. It simply does not matter to me.

Any takers here???

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Monday, May 18

A Brilliant Distinction Between Historic and Hysteric Fundamentalism

Just when we thought it was safe again to call ourselves "fundamentalists" yet another person trying to cling to the subculture of hysteric fundamentalism has risen from the ashes to "warn" of the "evils" of younger fundamentalists falling into the clutches of Calvinism. While it is not surprising to hear this type of rhetoric from those trying to cling to the already dying movement of the militant brand of fundamentalism of yesteryear, it was a bit surprising to hear this coming from a meeting of the Fundamentalist Baptist Fellowship International where Pastor Dan Sweatt of Berean Baptist Church in Lilburn, Georgia gave a message entitled "Young and Restless". This message has been critiqued, applauded and dissected by others within in the blogosphere so that will not be my aim here. I only know a couple of men associated with the FBFI movement. Both of whom I hold in high regard and both represent what I would call the historic brand of fundamentalism.

I will, however, focus on what I feel was a brilliant assessment by Dr. Kevin Bauder of the sermon and an unveiling of the message's weaknesses and characterizations of young fundamentalists who lean Calvinistic. You can read the essay in it's entirety here.

Allow me to post a couple of excerpts from the article that I thought were insightful:
If you are a younger person listening to Pastor Sweatt, please do not think that you have to accept his perspectives in order to be considered a fundamentalist. Furthermore, if you are a Calvinist listening to Pastor Sweatt, please do not think that fundamentalism has no room for you. On the contrary, fundamentalism has always had a strongly Calvinistic strand, and it always will.

Nevertheless, Pastor Sweatt has placed us in a very difficult situation. In a public venue, as a spokesman for fundamentalism, Pastor Sweatt has impugned the doctrinal integrity of his brethren. He has made charges without evidence and uttered recriminations that are simply false. Those of us who are leaders within fundamentalism have a stewardship, and we cannot afford simply to sweep this scandal under the rug.

You can hear Pastor Sweatt's message here. I realize that I am one of many who have blogged on this message. Blogs transcending lines from young fundamentalist, a couple with fundamentalist ties in the past here and here and even someone who is considered evangelical have all taken notice of Dr. Bauder's take on this. So I'm certain that I am not offering anything new here.

But what baffles my mind as someone who considers himself a young Calvinist fundamentalist (who some would call a "former" fundamentalist) is how this movement over the years still fails to humbly learn the lessons that needed to be learned over the past several decades that showed the isolated sects of the movement completely abandoned the principles of historic fundamentalism for a "shock and awe" and cult of personality movement that settled for aberrant theology, shallow methodology and a dictator structured ecclesiosology.

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Tuesday, May 5

Was Jesus A Real Substitute? More Reflections on Particular Redemption

Substitutes. In our world, they are viewed as inherently deficient.

Sugar substitutes may save the lives of diabetics, but they possess a rather long-lasting aftertaste, and we're told they may even contribute to additional health problems. Sugar substitutes are better than no sugar at all, but they just don't match the taste and texture of sugar. They are, in many ways, deficient.

The same could be said for substitute teachers (sorry to those of you who are substitutes!) ... although it may not always be the case. We all recall how our classmates responded to a substitute teacher. The sub rarely taught anything new. He never required the class to complete assignments. Usually, the sub's job was to keep the students from inciting a riot, or shooting one another's eyes out with spitballs and homemade paper footballs.

Substitution, though, is an essential doctrine to Christianity, and contrary to our culture's view of substitutes, Christ's death as our substitute is in no way deficient. Instead, Christians laud the biblical view of substitution--even though it's a bloody reminder of our sin. In the Old Testament, lambs died as a substitute for believing Jews. In the New Testament, Christ died as a substitute for believers past, present, and future. Romans 5:8-9 clearly teaches substitution: Christ took our place, so that we are spared the need to die there.
"But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God."
It's a precious and essential doctrine to our salvation. Christ died in the place of sinners. And in doing so, as a real substitute, Christ accomplished and secured something--actually some things--universally beneficial on behalf of those for whom He died: 
"For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21)."

"Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, 'Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree'" (Galatians 3:13).

"Who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him" (1 Thessalonians 5:10).

"Who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works" (Titus 2:14).

"By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers" (1 John 3:16).

"He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world" (1 John 2:2).
It's the Greek word "hupo" and it means "in the place of" or "on behalf of." It means an actual flesh and blood substitute ... like that substitute flesh and blood teacher came and actually stood in your classroom in your teacher's place. And because Christ really died as a flesh and blood substitute on behalf of and in the place of sinners, consider what the aforementioned Scriptures promise:
1) The wrath of God against our sins has been satisfied, absorbed, and saturated by Christ.
2) We know--experientially--God's love.
3) We've been redeemed from lawlessness, and are being purified so that we zealously pursue good works.
4) We might live with Him.
5) He took the curse for us so that we might be freed from it.
6) We possess the righteousness of God in Christ.
Those are real promises, based upon a real flesh and blood substituion--Christ dying in our place. Yet for all who purport an "unlimited or universal redemption" view, Christ cannot be a real flesh and blood substitute. Why? Because there are people for whom Christ substituted Himself who don't enjoy any of the benefits of that real flesh and blood substitution. And if that real substitution did not result in securing those benefits in the lives of all for whom Christ substituted Himself, there must be something deficient and defective about the substitute--just like the sugar and classroom substitutes. How could Christ die as a flesh and blood substitute for those who are facing in hell the same wrath He faced in their place on the cross?

What's so dangerous about purporting a "universal substitution" view? It seems to destroy (or at least confuse) the meaning of "substitute," and it may well lead to an abberrant view of Christ as being deficient as a substitute. Nothing could be more dangerous to the reality of our faith than a defective substitute who did not actually substitute Himself in the place of sinners.

We then are left to embrace one of two views: either Christ's died in the place of real people and thereby secured the benefits of a substitutionary atonement for them (real and particular redemption), or Christ's death was less than actually substitutionary in nature because it did not secure the benefits of a substitutionary atonement on behalf of all for whom He died (universal or unlimited redemption).

Real-life, flesh and blood substitution has actual benefits attached. With Sweet-N-Low or Splenda, you get the taste without the calories. With a substitute teacher, you get a real living human to facilitate the class. True substitution, then, provides real-life benefits.
"For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him" (1 Thessalonians 5:9-10).
So that. Christ died for us ... so that ... we might live with Him. There is no actual substitution without actual accompanying benefits.

If that's not the case, I'm going to get fat ... really fat. One of my neighbors loves to bring me cheesecake laced with Splenda!  

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