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Evangelizing dead people

I’m either posting this cartoon because I think it could be used as a good discussion starter on predestination, total depravity, and evangelism, or because I just want to rile up the Calvinists. I’m not sure. Either way, here you go.

HT Fallen from Grace


Flotsam and jetsam (1/26)

Do you see it? We have an immense propensity to take the gospel and turn it into law. We love to take good and turn it into chains. Why do we do that?

If election were solely based on what God wanted and not anything in us that might differentiate the chosen from the un-chosen and thus account for why this one and not another, why didn’t God choose all? If he could have, why didn’t he?

While there is more we could expand on here, the question of the hour is this: If Satan is so evil and “anti-God” why did God put Satan in the Eden? While there is no way to know what would have happened had he not been present, it is evident from the narrative and the ensuing curse that Satan played a big part in the fall.

According to Leithart, water baptism has “virtually unbelievable powers” that makes someone a member of Christ instead of Adam, turns someone into a member of Christ’s body, and brings someone into acceptance with God.

Flotsam and jetsam (12/13)

  • Roger Olson argues that Arminianism and Calvinism are “incommensurable” systems that should not be viewed as occupying different places on the same spectrum:

On the crucial issues of the nature of God’s election to salvation, the extent of the atonement and whether grace is resistible or irresistible  (the three main ideas that divide Calvinism and Arminianism) the divide between any and every version of Calvinism and any and every version of Arminianism is deep and wide.  So much so that it is really not possible to put them on the same spectrum.

  • Cynthia Nielsen reflects on Foucault’s understanding of “biopower” and its significance for understanding (post)modern society and the (post)modern self.

With the transition from the ancient and medieval monarchical model of absolute power to the modern model of biopower, power is no longer centralized around the person of the king but is distributed in a net-like fashion operating, invading, and permeating the social body far more efficiently and effectively than the previous model.

Okay, maybe Calvinism doesn’t lead to universalism inexorably–as if every Calvinist must become a universalist.  However, many leading universalist theologians are/were Reformed and believed that their Calvinist concepts of God’s sovereignty eventually compelled them to embrace universalism.

Flotsam and jetsam (11/1)

  • Mark Galli’s article, “Insignificant Is Beautiful,” has gotten a lot of attention and is a timely warning about the dangers of aspiring for significance.

We should honor any generation that strives for significance, especially if it is a longing to make a difference in the world. Better this than striving to make money and live a comfortable life! But the human heart is desperately wicked and the human soul subject to self-deception, and this colors even our highest aspirations. Even the best of intentions mask the mysterious darkness within, which is why we need to be healed also of our best intentions.

The fact that God wishes to give grace and glory is due simply to His generosity. The reason for His willing these things that arise simply from His generosity is the overflowing love of His will for His end-object, in which the perfection of His goodness is found. The cause of predestination, therefore, is nothing other than God’s goodness. (Providence and Predestination, 116)

  • And, the October 2010 biblioblog rankings are out. We’re down a bit since classes started in September, but still doing quite well. Thanks everyone for taking the time to read and comment here.

Flotsam and jetsam (10/26)

Is Buddha really any worse than Aristotle? Why shouldn’t a theologian from Korea or Taiwan seek to use Buddha or Confucius where the language is suitable and doesn’t contradict the gospel?  In this case Moore’s criticism may be spot on. I don’t know. But I do know that we need to realize our own hybridity is as much a concern as someone else’s.

And, much if not most of the New Testament, develops its theology of Jesus within a framework of low Christology. Low versus high Christology is one of the points of genuine theological diversity in the New Testament, with the Synoptic Gospels in particular (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) telling stories of Jesus as a specially empowered man whom they do not simultaneously depict as God incarnate.

The monsters of the undead embody our fears of death. In agrarian eras we confronted death more directly. Nowadays we have to wait for the dead to come to our door once a year at Halloween. Or we can go to zombie movies. Either way, we feel a need to use monsters to confront our bodies, their gooshy vulnerabilities, and their ultimate demise. Monsters are existential.

  • On a similar note, John Byron points out an important new scholarly work for understanding the Matthean tradition – a webcomic called Zombie Jesus. How is it that no one has written on this vital subject before?

The comic will tell the story of the 48 hours following the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, in which a horde of zombies attack Jerusalem in search of the messiah’s body.

Predestination, as normally taught by all the venerable reformed divines, both past and present, is unstable and unhelpful. In the past, I and everybody else that I have read got around this by employing the very useful term ‘mystery’ to cover the internal contradictions that rip the doctrine apart.

The church, or I should say, church people, must quit adding the word “but” to the end of our sentences about grace. Grace plus is no longer grace. Grace minus is no longer grace. We are afraid people will abuse grace if presented in its purest form. We need not fear that, we should assume that. Religious people crucified grace personified. Of course grace will be abused. But grace is a powerful dynamic. Grace wins out in the end. It is not our responsibility to qualify it. It is our responsibility to proclaim it and model it.

Flotsam and jetsam (10/18)

Romans 9:18 – Reflections on God’s mercy, His hardening, and the so-called doctrine of double predestination

By Ben Brumund

The strict parallelism between mercy and hardening suggests that mercy and hardening function the same way – that just as God shows mercy to whom He wishes, He hardens whom He wishes.  Some deny this, arguing that God’s hardening functions like the ‘handing over’ of sinners to their sin which they themselves had already chosen (see Romans 1).  Yet, this is a problematic approach, as it takes the ultimate initiative away from God and places it with man.  Against this, first, Exodus 4-14 does not clearly indicate that Pharaoh’s hardening of himself was God’s basis for hardening him.  In fact, a good case can be made for the opposite.  God predicts twice (4:21 and 7:3) that He would harden Pharaoh’s heart, and there are five passive references (with God being the implied subject) to Pharaoh’s heart having been hardened (7:13, 14, 22; 8:11, 15).  Second, Paul clearly states that God hardens ‘whom He desires.’  There is no qualification of this.  God does as He pleases.  Third, the most natural response in the world to the question of Romans 9:19, ‘why does God still blame us?’ would have been to say, ‘because you deserved it due to your actions.’  Yet, Paul does not use this line of argument.  It is not the point Paul is making.  God is just in bestowing mercy and hardening as He will because He is free to do so and His will requires no justification by any standards of human logic or morality.  Hardening which leads to damnation then (9:22-24, 11:7) is a sovereign act of God not caused by anything in those individuals who are hardened.

This text, then, appears to provide support for the doctrine of ‘double predestination’:  God decides, on the basis of nothing but His own sovereign pleasure, to bestow His grace and so save some individuals, and to pass over and so damn others.  As it is so contrary to our common perceptions of human freedom and divine justice, it is inevitable that this doctrine is destined to be the object of more negative reaction and consternation than any other.  Yet, we must recognize that God’s hardening is an act directed against human beings who are already in rebellion against God’s righteous rule.  God’s hardening, then, does not cause spiritual insensitivity to the things of God; it maintains people in the state of sin that already characterizes them.  This does not mean that God’s decision about whom to harden is based on a particular degree of sinfulness with certain human beings; He hardens whomever He desires.  But, it is still simultaneously true that God hardens whomever He desires and human beings, through sin, are still responsible for their own condemnation. Mercy and hardening are different in this respect:  hardening is always deserved; mercy is always undeserved.