Archive for the ‘Theology’ Category

On March 11, 2011 Japan was hit by a 9.0 earthquake which triggered a massive tsunami that left the east coast of the country decimated. At the time of this post (almost 3 weeks later), the death toll has passed 18,000 and the Japanese government has estimated the cost could reach beyond $300 billion. Whenever something so amazingly catastrophic like this happens, it is normal to ask questions: Where was God during the Japanese earthquake? Did He cause it? If He did, was it to judge Japan?

The way I see it, within the Christian paradigm (excluding aliens and such) there are only three main logical possibilities as to the causation of the Japanese earthquake:

1) God purposely caused the earthquake as a means of communicating with, either teaching or punishing humanity.

2) Satan caused it, in keeping with his general desire of destruction, death and mayhem.

3) It was a natural occurrence due to fault lines in the earth with no spiritual message intended by any supernatural beings.

The Christian must take each of these options and weigh them against what the Bible teaches. I personally think option three is the best choice. In addition to it being the simplest answer, it also seems to be the most biblical. I realize that’s not the most popular interpretation in the Christian evangelical community right now, so let’s go through each option and compare it to what the Bible actually teaches.

OPTION ONE: God has possibly caused this tragedy to punish or communicate with the Japanese. There are two New Testament biblical texts I would reference to build my case that this is not an accurate interpretation of why the earthquake happened. First is Luke 13:1-5 where Jesus brings up two tragedies: one is the murder of people while worshiping and the other is the collapse of a building where 18 people died. Jesus volunteers the question: did these things happen because the people who died were worse sinners than others and were being punished? His answer is no. And in typical Jesus fashion, he doesn’t even answer the “why” question but instead uses the catastrophes to warn them that bad stuff happens in this life and we had better be right with God since we don’t know when we’ll die. Secondly, I’d point to the passage of Jesus calming the storm in Matthew 8:23-26. The Bible doesn’t speak to why the storm existed. It does, though, show Jesus rebuking the storm and causing it to stop. If God was the author of the storm why would Jesus stop it? As Jesus said, “a house divided against itself cannot stand.” If God had sent the storm as a message or punishment to the disciples, then Jesus should have allowed it to continue and not interfered, ensuring they got the message in its entirety. In both of these New Testament examples, the scripture shows God as the solution to, not the author of life’s problems (Acts 10:38).

Bottom line: there isn’t a single New Testament verse that would support God actively judging people for their sin by using a natural disaster. So what do most Christians who support this idea do? They hop on over to the Old Testament to justify this thinking. The problem with that is twofold: first, the Old Testament is an incomplete, point-in-time revelation of who God is. Hebrews 1:1-3 says “Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets. And now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son. God promised everything to the Son as an inheritance, and through the Son he created the universe. The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God” (NLT). Jesus is the best, most recent and fullest description of what God is like. Period. All other illustrations of what God is like are secondary to God as expressed through Jesus. God revealed through Jesus trumps God revealed though the OT. The second problem with using Old Testament text to justify God punishing with natural disasters is all such OT punishments were always accompanied by an explicit nationwide warning by one of God’s prophets. These warnings always contained an opportunity to avoid the ensuing wrath of God. Remember why Jonah got swallowed by the fish? God had sent him to warn Nineveh about their coming destruction and he chickened out. There was no prophetic warning given to Japan by God. The lovers’ quarrel between God and Israel that is recorded in the OT just doesn’t apply to this situation.

Refuting OPTION TWO is rather simple. The Bible does, in fact, teach that Satan is the author of all evil and the whole world is “under the control of the evil one” (1 John 5:19). However, we have to be careful that we not make him more powerful than he is. Satan is just a fallen angel. I don’t see any evidence in scripture where an angel can move tectonic plates at will. I’m sure he enjoyed the earthquake, tsunami and ensuing destruction but I don’t see where he has the power to cause it.

OPTION THREE is the one I choose because it makes the most sense. Look, Japan is an island that was created by tectonic activity to begin with. This may sound cold but its only logical that this type of occurrence would continue throughout the country’s history. Fault lines cause earthquakes. Oceanic earthquakes cause tsunamis. Both cause death. However, even beyond the logical nature of this answer there is biblical evidence as well. Romans 8:20-22 says “Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time” (NLT). So the Bible teaches that just as humans were made sick with sin during the fall of man in the garden, so was creation. These natural disasters we see – hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, etc. are creation’s “groaning” and the natural result of a broken world spinning towards atrophy. They aren’t “acts of God,” they are the symptoms of the sin disease our creation has contracted from fallen humanity.

Now let me say, although I don’t believe God caused the earthquake, that doesn’t mean I believe He is uninvolved. I believe He is working to redeem the situation and His heart breaks for those who have died and are in turmoil because of the disaster. He is leading His worldwide followers to be his hands and feet, to help with the recovery and demonstrate His love to those who were harmed. Also, I’d like to say that on this side of omniscience, for all we know God did intervene significantly. Perhaps the quake/tsunami would have been worse and all of Japan would have been destroyed. Maybe God prevented millions of lives being lost instead of thousands. We just don’t know.

So where was God during the Japanese earthquake? He was there. Grieving for those who died without faith, welcoming those who died that believed and mourning over the destruction. And now He is asking you: if life as you know it was suddenly snatched from you like it was from those in Japan, would you be ready?

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The Bible.

It’s 66 books, written by 40 different authors, over the course of 1500 years, in 3 different languages, and written on 3 different continents. We wrap it in leather and inscribe our names in gold on the front. But how in the world does today’s modern Western-minded Christian attempt to understand a book like this? With the help of the Holy Spirit, a deep desire for interpretive honesty and a willingness to study, I believe it can be done.

I recently came across these “ten commandments” of bible interpretation. It contains excellent guidelines to use when reading the Bible that I couldn’t have said better myself. Its by a guy named Skye Jethani and yes, his name is cooler than yours.

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My simple guidelines for engaging the Bible and avoiding unhelpful controversy.

Nov 9th, 2010 | By Skye Jethani |

I. You shall not make for yourself an idol out of Scripture.

This is a particular temptation among evangelicals who hold a very high view of Scripture. We forget that our highest calling is not to have a relationship with the Bible but with Jesus Christ of whom the Bible testifies. (John 5:39)

II. You shall honor the Scriptures as sufficient.

We have a common temptation to get “behind the text” or discover what “really happened.” While archeology and other disciplines are incredibly important, we must not forget that what God has given in the Scriptures is enough for life and faith.

III. You shall remember the meta-narrative and keep it wholly.

In my experience more Christians can recap the meta-narrative of the Star Wars saga than can recap the biblical meta-narrative. It’s not enough to know the stories and events in the Bible. We must know how they fit together to tell a single story.

IV. You shall honor the Church as the recipient and the guardian of the Scriptures.

The books and letters in the Bible, with a few exceptions, were not written to individuals but to communities of believers. We must be careful not to read everything through the lenses of Western individualism. And we are wise to listen to how Christians in ages past have understood the teachings of Scripture.

V. You shall not neglect the context.

Proof texting (finding verses to make your point), isolating (removing a text from its surrounding material), and synchronizing (taking different gospel accounts of the same event and smashing them together) are all ways of abusing the text and landing on bad interpretations.

VI. You shall not ask questions the text does not want to answer.

Almost every nasty debate about Scripture results from forcing answers from the text it never intended to answer. Debates about creation in Genesis 1 and 2 fall into this category as do most other scientific issues. Avoid a “morbid interest in controversial questions” (1 Tim 6:4).

VII. You shall embrace both the form and content of Scripture as inspired by God.

When teaching the Bible we often retain the content or message but give little attention to the genre or style of the text. We lose something when we teach narrative as didactic truth, or when we ignore the poetic structure and beauty of a Psalm. And there’s a reason God said “You shall not murder” rather than “You will love life.” Do we see that?

VIII. You shall study Scripture for wisdom and not merely knowledge, and never for pride.

I’m really impressed that you’ve memorized 400 verses and took first prize in your Bible Quiz league. Now quit being such a jerk. (1 Cor. 8:1)

IX. You shall exegete your culture and not merely the Scriptures.

The goal is not merely to understand what the Bible said to those who live centuries ago, but hear it anew today. Proper teaching requires that we bring the Word of God into our world and help people feel the gravity and beauty of it for their lives and context.

X. You shall remember that the simplest interpretation is usually, but not always, correct.

There is no Bible Code! And if you have to do all kinds of contortions with Scripture to get it to fit into your theological framework, you’re probably guilty of something bad. Paradoxes abound in Scripture. If your theology doesn’t allow for that kind of ambiguity and mystery I suggest you try Deism.

Christians believe God is good and Christians believe that God is all-powerful. But if God is good why is there so much evil in the world? If God is all-powerful and in control, why doesn’t He stop evil from happening? If God is a loving God, why is there so much pain, poverty and injustice in the world? Why would a merciful God send people to hell? Why did God create the devil? Why must we endure so much pain? Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people?

Whether in secret or in public, we’ve all asked these tough questions. Unfortunately, the church at-large sometimes does what’s easiest and ignores the frustration and hard questions of those who wonder how God could be loving, yet allow so much pain. I invite you to listen to  “The Problem of Evil” and join our home church, VFC in Thomasville, on the journey to discover 7 Biblical truths about why evil exists in our world. It’s a little long (just under an hour) but feel free to download the sermon notes underneath the audio player so you can follow along and study the scriptures we cover. Comments, questions and criticisms are welcomed!

The Problem of Evil – sermon notes

In my frequent conversations with people who have rejected God (or at least their perception of the God of the Bible) one of the many passages of scripture they point to as a stumbling block is the account of Elisha, the two bears and the 42 kids that are killed. This ain’t Goldilocks, people. This one is brutal:

“Then he went up from there to Bethel; and as he was going up the road, some youths came from the city and mocked him, and said to him, ‘Go up, you baldhead! Go up, you baldhead!’  So he turned around and looked at them, and pronounced a curse on them in the name of the LORD. And two female bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the youths.” 2 Kings 2:23-24 (NKJV).

The way most people read this is as follows: 1) some children make fun of Elisha for being bald, 2) he gets mad and commands two bears to attack and 3) the bears proceed to rip them limb from limb for their flippant teasing. Its seen as a horrific and disturbing demonstration of the power and anger of a God that doesn’t seem nearly as kind and loving as Christians try to portray Him. Here, God seems more like a serial killer.

So what the heck is going on with this passage? Well, as always, context is super important, history is vital and language study is imperative in understanding what happened.

Lets start with some word study first. Its very unfortunate that the King James version calls Elisha’s aggressors “little children.” The NKJV version I used says “youths” while others use “boys” or “small boys.” Due to this poor translation, the reader gets the idea that these were pre-pubescent children maybe in the age range of 6-10 that were playfully making fun of Elisha. However, this is not the case. The Hebrew phrase qatan na’ar is best translated “young men” and is used elsewhere in the Bible to describe Joseph as a 17-year old, young-adult soldiers and Abraham’s son Isaac when he was in his twenties. These weren’t kids – they were full grown, adult young men. Also, Elisha was not an old man here, lest we think he had some sort of unfair advantage. He was probably in his mid-twenties as well; a contemporary of these aggressors.

Next, lets look at what these young men were actually saying to Elisha. “Go up, you baldhead” doesn’t seem all that offensive to the casual reader. It seems like they are simply teasing or making fun of Elisha’s male pattern baldness – something we do all the time today to playfully rib our friends. The phrase “go up” was most likely a reference to Elisha’s predecessor, Elijah, being taken up to heaven at the end of his life (2 Kings 2:11). This was a condescending way of not only telling Elisha they wanted him gone but that they also rejected his authority as the mouthpiece of God. It was a very effective way of saying “screw you” to God’s prophet. Next, the phrase “you baldhead” has much more meaning that we might think. There is no evidence that Elisha was bald (on the contrary, he was a young man and most likely had a full head of hair or wore a head-covering). Baldness was associated with being a disgraced leper since they were made to shave their hair. They were considered the worst of the worst – the untouchable outcasts of society. Calling Elisha a “baldhead” would be on par with today’s worst racial or anti-gay slurs.

Three more historical and contextual points I want to make: 1) The repetition in Biblical text denotes yelling since there was no original punctuation used in the writing. So the phrase “go up, you baldhead” was being yelled at Elisha. This was not “Elisha and Yahweh sitting in a tree” school-yard stuff. This was hate speech being screamed at someone. 2) We don’t know how many young men were doing this but we know at least 42 were there because that’s how many the bears killed. The text implies that some got away so its conceivable that 50 or even much more people were lying in wait for Elisha. 3) The city where this took place was known for its idolatry and rejection of God’s prophets. Elisha was not on a leisurely stroll here when he overhead children making fun of him – he was entering a area full of hate-filled people who had purposely assembled against him.

That sort of changes the perspective of the story doesn’t it? Instead of frivolous name calling by children, we see that in reality Elisha was confronted by full-grown men very capable of doing physical harm, was severely outnumbered, and was being berated by a hostile crowd that despised him.

What would you do in this situation?

Well, the Bible says that Elisha cursed them in the name of the Lord. No one knows exactly what he said since its not recorded, but this passage comes to mind: “‘If you remain hostile toward me and refuse to listen to me, I will multiply your afflictions seven times over, as your sins deserve. I will send wild animals against you and they will rob you of your children…” Lev 26:21-22. (NKJV) Elijah didn’t lift a finger or yell insults back. He looked to God to defend him. So God sends two bears that come out of the woods and kill 42 of the provokers. It’s a bloody mess.

Now even after discovering the true context of this incident, some may still say “but how can a loving God still kill these 42 young men for reviling/intimidating/disrespecting Elisha?” I’d submit that there are two things that justify God’s killing of the confrontational men:

1) He was defending his son. Imagine your child is walking down the street and 42+ children crowd around him and start provoking him, screaming the worst insults and slurs they can think of. Instead of trying to fight back, your child calls out for your help. Are you just going to stand there or are you going to defend your child? What if this scenario were to happen to your spouse? Be honest. I don’t know about you but I’d kick some serious butt and worry about the theological implications later.

2) He was keeping his word and carrying out the prescribed capital punishment as outlined in the scripture. We already saw the passage in Leviticus where God promised that He would do this – albeit as a last resort. Don’t think for a second that God wanted to do this. It wasn’t about avenging Elisha’s pride or hurt feelings. It was a simple matter of God’s inability to lie and His faithfulness to keep His promise. Elisha’s attackers knew the law and it would have been clear to those who were killed what would happen if they kept rejecting God. Not saying its pretty. But it is justified.

So that’s my take on the twisted story of “Baldy-locks and the Two Bears.” Not trying to sound cavalier – its a brutal passage of scripture and one that understandably causes confusion. Hopefully this sheds some light on it and shows that it cannot be used to malign the character of God, nor used against Christians as evidence contrary to their concept of a loving God. God lovingly defends His people and keeps His promises. It should also remind us how good it is to live in the dispensation of New Testament post-Jesus grace.  Thank God we Christians are not bound by the curses of the Old Testament law anymore!

I intended to stop my series on Calvinism after three posts but after hearing some of the feedback (thanks for the dialogue!) I feel the need to summarize and speak further to my intentions behind these posts. It must be God’s will.  🙂

For the record, discussing theology doesn’t really do much for me. I am much more interested in worshiping God, encouraging a struggling believer or demonstrating God’s love to an unbeliever. I actually had one guy ask me to “repent for slandering” reformed theology during the course of our discussions! I was hoping it was a joke, but it wasn’t. Do adherents to Calvinism really want to be known as the group that holds their beliefs in such high esteem that they think questioning them is a sin? One of the original points I was going to include in these posts but later deleted was that Calvinism seemed to breed arrogance. I left it out because I want to believe the best about others – even those I disagree with. We need to look no further than the scribes and Pharisees to see that its easy to take ourselves and our “knowledge” too seriously. Check out 1 Corinthians 8:1-3. Perhaps there is some inherent egotism that comes when you believe you were chosen (elected) by God over others. Either way, defending this system is obviously really important to some and that’s cool with me. I’ll gladly leave it and go on about my merry way.

But let’s not forget the big picture. Calvinism vs. Arminianism is not the point. People are the point. We were put on this earth, not to discuss systematic theology but to love God and love others. When we lose sight of this, being right can easily become more important than our ultimate goal of love. I hope these posts were done in such a way that I kept this main purpose of love in focus. Each blog post began or ended with a paragraph stating my intentions to this point. All theological discussion must be motivated by love for God and love for others or it is worthless.

To clarify, I am not seeking to disprove Calvinism. It and any other theological system by nature cannot be proven or disproven. I don’t view Calvinism or Arminianism as being right or wrong – I see them as either working or not working. Similarly, Socialism and Capitalism are two opposing governmental models. One is not wrong and the other right – they both work and are adopted based on how those in charge perceive each system’s usefulness. They each have their pros and cons yet we find ourselves leaning towards one or the other when choosing which system of government to support. In the same way, these theological models are not truth in and of themselves – they are vehicles to help carry us to the truth of the Word. Personally, I don’t think Calvinism “works” or is useful in a practical setting. The con’s outweigh the pro’s to me and that’s why I reject it. I am not blind to the fact that Arminianism (or the Open view, which I tend towards) has its own set of problems. I’m not rejecting the Word – it stands alone. I’m rejecting the reformed framework of Biblical interpretation.

I know that some will feel I have treated Calvinism unfairly. I was told “maybe you’ll start tackling what Calvinists really believe” as if I don’t fully understand the reformed position. The problem is, I fear that it is the reformers that don’t fully understand the ramifications of their own doctrine when it comes to everyday practical use. Like a well-intentioned scientific hypothesis, it may look great on paper but it fails in fields tests. Theology is only as good as it can be applied in real life situations and in my semi-humble opinion, Calvinism fails miserably in the real world.

Lets take, for example, a woman whose child was born with a cleft palate. Calvinism’s best answer for this mother’s inevitable “why did this happen” question is “God did this so you’d draw near to Him.” I acknowledge that answer seems very rational to our theological minds. We can even dig up a scripture like John 9:1-7 to back it (although I’d argue using this passage only works when the subject is actually healed in the end!). But it doesn’t help the mother in her pain. Did Jesus come so He could help us believe what’s right? I think He came to heal our hurt and restore our relationship to Him. This system of theology seems to be more concerned with answering questions than helping people. I’m not sure if anyone reading has ever had the privilege of counseling a child whose parents beat them, a mother whose child died, or a father who lost his job and will now lose his house. I do it regularly and I’ve found the Calvinist system cheapens their pain. Sure, its gives them a quick and easy answer as to why, but it doesn’t direct them towards healing. It ignores their questions, quotes “my thoughts are higher than your thoughts” (out of context) and tends to create even more questions about the God that is “above them.”  In turn, that person learns to approach God in fear like He’s an angry stepfather instead of a loving Daddy. Furthermore, your everyday average Joe Christian doesn’t understand the nuances of secondary causes so when he applies the reformed view to practical life, he comes away thinking in platitudes like “cousin Joey died because God needed one more angel in heaven’s choir.” I know that’s not the intent of Calvinism but I’ve found it to be its practical result.

One more point and I’ll be done. I am a Charismatic. Unlike my cessationist friends, I believe that the gifts of the Spirit are still in operation today and available to help guide believers into all truth. What does this have to do with Calvinism? Theological systems aren’t nearly as important in steering us towards what to believe when God Himself can do that through His Spirit. If someone denies the Holy Spirit’s role in actively teaching His children, then they must embrace a theological system to guard against error. It’s a scary thing to remove the protection of a system because what safeguard then keeps all the crazies from preaching bad doctrine? I get that. But I believe personal communication with His creation is the heart of God. He has been longing since the fall of man to “write His word on our hearts.” Now, of course, I believe the teaching of the Holy Spirit will never contradict what’s in the Word – it is our anchor and they work in tandem. But I believe the substitution of OT law for NT scripture alone is not much of an upgrade. Jesus didn’t die on the cross so we could read a book. He died so we could be restored to right relationship with Him. Theological systems cannot bring us into closer relationship to God so they don’t have near the importance we sometimes grant them.

I hope this series had been beneficial to the reader – it certainly has been for me.  As always,  comments, dissent and questions that are free of strife are always welcome.  I also pray that there has been no offense taken by anyone who subscribes to Calvinism. None of us know everything, especially me. If we had perfect understanding we wouldn’t need a Savior and I for one am desperate for Him!

Ok, this is my final post about what I feel are the problems with the Christian doctrine of Calvinism. If you haven’t read parts one or two, please read those first. I hope this has encouraged free will advocates that your position is not only scripturally sound but rational as well. I also hope that I have challenged any Calvinists out there to reconsider the practicality and logical consequences of some of their concepts and to ask themselves how their belief reflects on God’s character.

One more point then we’ll end this thing…

5) Calvinism is ineffective for evangelism. I think its funny that Calvinists are part of the “evangelical” sect of the Christian faith. If God chooses who gets saved without any input from humans, why fight against His will by evangelizing? Do they lead unbelievers in a prayer and hope that God makes it “take” if He has already pre-determined that they should be saved?  Of course, those of us who believe in free will see that the saving work of God must be performed by Jesus, preached by Christians, and accepted by sinners. Everyone has their role. In the Calvinist system, in order to give God glory, no one but God can do anything in the salvation process. So Jesus provided the redemptive work, He calls those whom He wants, and He forces sinners to repent. So why is there so much in the Bible about sharing the Good News with the lost? Romans 10:14-17 (which oddly enough comes right after Romans 9 🙂 ) very clearly says that the Gospel must be heard and mixed with the faith of the individual to take effect. Of course the Calvinist says that our faith comes from God. Yes it does. He is the giver of our faith but He doesn’t exercise it for us. Think about it – if God exercises our faith for us, why did Jesus reprimand the disciples and say, “Oh, you of little faith” 4 times in the book of Matthew? He should’ve been scolding Himself! We must exercise our God-given faith ourselves. So here is my question – if the Calvinist construct is true and God carries out every detail of the salvation process, why are we commanded to spread the good news of redemption through Jesus? I actually saw where someone answered that question by saying that we should share the gospel out of sheer obedience because God tells us to, not because it does anything. How ridiculous! Calvinism turns evangelism from a love-based action of mercy where we get the pleasure of partnering in God’s will, into a meaningless “test” by an unreasonable god. Revelation 3:20 is so simple. He is knocking. You must hear His voice and open.

Ok, to end this thing, I want to pose two questions to Calvinists that specifically concern the doctrine of election, and see if they can answer them. No one has answered them so far but please feel free to give it a shot.

1) What is the criteria by which God chooses to save (elect) one human and not save another? Don’t give me the “mysterious ways”  or “because of who He is” stuff either. I can’t find how God chooses His people in the Bible yet I’m told this doctrine is “Biblical.” If He’s going to purposefully send millions of those He created to Hell, couldn’t He at least hint as to the mechanism by which He selects those whom He spares?

2) Why is it that God seems to “elect” Christians based on geography? Take a look at this map (click to enlarge):

There are so few Asians, North Africans, and Middle Eastern Christians. If God is the one who decides who believes, not man’s faith in response to God’s corporate election, why isn’t there a more equitable distribution of the elect worldwide? See the glaring problem? Either God is not distributing His elections randomly (randomness would yield a more even distribution of Christians worldwide) or He is using some sort of election criteria which I asked about in question #1. Has God forgotten about that part of the world? By this map, God sure does like white people and Hispanics. Doesn’t seem very fair to me – possibly even racist. Wouldn’t it make more sense that He doesn’t elect salvation but that cultural, religious, and political barriers to the Gospel in these geographies are making people unable to respond to His corporate election?

I really struggled about posting this series on Calvinism. I don’t want to be in strife and I pray that this whole endeavor was motivated by and fueled by love. I had a friend once tell me that heaven will have two entrance doors – one labeled “Chose God” and one labeled “Chosen by God” and we’ll all end up in the same place. I admit that I could be wrong about this. But of course if I am wrong then God predestined it and it shouldn’t bother you. 🙂

Peace.

I am currently discussing a few of the problems I have with the doctrine of Calvinism. Let me take this chance to say that I love my Calvinist brothers and sisters in Christ. The point of these posts are not to be combative. If I am attacking something, it is the doctrine and not the people that adhere to it. I wanna be really clear on that. I personally see this doctrine as very damaging to the Christian faith because of how it reflects on the character of God (more on that in a second) and this is why I feel justified bringing up these points in a public forum.  I have already discussed my first two points in part one – 1) the predestination of events is illogical and 2) many of the proof texts used to defend Calvinism (particularly the doctrine of election) are taken out of context.  Here are a few other problems I have:

3) Calvinism Ignores the Simplicity of the Gospel. Lets not pretend the doctrine of election is an easy, obvious and intuitive thing. I’d like to hypothesize that no new Christian in the history of Christianity has ever read their Bible and come away with the notion that God picks and chooses the individuals who get saved. That doctrine must be taught. If there are any Calvinists reading this – think back to when you first got saved. Did you believe in Calvinism or was it taught to you after the fact? I’d be willing to bet that you either heard it or read it from someone else – you didn’t discover it on your own through scripture alone. The TULIP acronym is not in the Bible – its a man-made system of interpreting the Bible. Listen folks, the gospel is not rocket science and it doesn’t require a system to explain it. The most basic verses we teach our children in Sunday school about salvation fly in the face of Calvinism. John 3:16,17“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” Now, if verse 16 read “For God so loved [the elect] that He gave…that [those Whom He decided] should believe in Him should not perish…” I would adhere to divine election. If verse 17 said “…but that [the elect] through Him [must] be saved” then I’d adopt it as my theological view. But it doesn’t. So I don’t. It’s much easier than we make it.

4) Calvinism characterizes God as a bipolar psychopath. I promise I’m not intentionally trying to stir anyone up here. But I firmly believe that if you follow the doctrine of election to is logical conclusion, you have a mean, hateful god who creates humans for the sole purpose of killing them. See, I don’t have a problem with the idea that God chooses us. It is a beautiful, scriptural picture of His mercy and grace towards us. I just think He corporately chose everyone through the cross, not just some. The problem is, if God does in fact  choose some individuals for salvation, then He –  as a logical consequence of that action – is thereby also condemning everyone He doesn’t choose. You can’t select some of a whole without deselecting the rest of that whole.  So if you believe God is choosing who gets saved then you must also believe God is choosing who does not get saved. And since God created us of His on volition (did any of you ask to be born?), then it follows that He purposefully created some (maybe even most) for the express purpose of taking pleasure in killing them. Sorry, but that’s repulsive. If a human does that we call them a psychopath and put them in prison – yet we esteem it as a characteristic of God? How dare we malign the character of God this way!

To illustrate this point I want to use an analogy: A man owns an apartment building filled with tenants. The owner decides due to the failing structure of the building, he must demolish it. He knows that all of the people inside the building will die when it’s demolished so he sends his son to place a notice on each person’s door and tells them that in the very near future their apartment building will be destroyed. They must move out quickly because they won’t know when it will happen. Once destruction begins, they will die if they haven’t moved. About half of them heed the notice and move out immediately. The owner knew they wouldn’t all move out because some of them had already determined within their heart that the owner wasn’t real. Others didn’t believe that it was the owner’s son who was putting up the notices. Still others would intend to move out but put it off because they were distracted with their own lives and hoped to beat the clock. The time comes for demolition and the apartment building is blown up and the tenants who had not moved out are killed. The tenets who moved out and the owner are all very sad because it was a tragic and pointless loss – the tenets had been warned but didn’t listen. The tenets who heeded the voice of the owner are so grateful and thank him for letting them know about the demolition. He didn’t have to tell them – it’s his building and he could’ve done what he wanted with it. But he is a merciful and loving owner and warned them all because didn’t want any of them to perish.

That was the Arminian/free will view of salvation. Obviously the owner is God, the son is Jesus, the tenets are the human race and apartment building is the world.

Here is the Calvinist view of salvation by election using the same analogy:
A man owns an apartment building full with tenants. The owner decides due to the failing structure of the building, he must demolish it. He knows that all of the people inside the building will die when it’s demolished and although he could warn them all and give them a chance to leave, he knows many of them wouldn’t heed his warning anyway. Instead, he sends his son to randomly choose some tenants and force them to move out against their will. There is no rhyme or reason to who he chooses to tell about the demolition. Don’t question this process. The owner can do whatever he wants. Next, the owner’s son not only ignores the unlucky tenants who weren’t randomly selected to be moved out, but he locks them in their apartment buildings and boards the doors so they can’t escape death even if they wanted to. This ensures their demise. The time comes for demolition and the apartment building is blown up and the tenants that the owner had locked inside are all killed. No one is sad at the loss of life. On the contrary, it is to be commended as the owner has demonstrated his absolute power. The tenants who were chosen to live thank the owner for sparing them. He didn’t have to force them out – it’s his building and he could’ve done what he wanted. But he is a powerful owner and demonstrates this by choosing who lives and who dies.

Yeah its not a perfect analogy. But I ask you, which building owner more closely mirrors the heart of God as revealed in the Bible? Which son in the analogy better describes the cross of Christ and Jesus’ provision and way of escape for you?  To me, its obvious.

I John 2:17 “And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.”