Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Issues, Issues!

I am in a pickle, let me explain. Through the course of blogging, I have become acquainted with various other bloggers, and some whom I have greatly benefited from spiritually. Unfortunately it seems that all my new found friends are not actually friends with each other. This leaves me in sort of a bind; must I now choose one over the other? I have greatly enjoyed reading the posts of Daniel and Frank, and find their material very well written and articulate. However, these fine chaps disagree fundamentally with Antonio and Matthew, two fellas that I also find to be very well spoken in their biblical discourse.

Furthermore, it has saddened me to read so many blatant attacks of a personal nature against these other brothers. It seems that we are unable to keep things on a level of mutual kindness and respect, especially when we cannot answer back anything more than "heretic". Seriously, I thought only the medieval Catholics used that word to describe their adversaries? We Christians seem to have our own "choice" words to use when wishing to put down another brother in Christ.

I think I speak for a multitude of others when I say I am seeking the truth. But my search for truth is based solely upon the truths found in God's Eternal Word. I am not interested in defending the theological works of some historic figure, regardless of how profound he was. God raises up men in every generation to do His work needed at that time. We could find blatant errors in almost every man of God through the ages, so to place any one man on a pedestal and exalt his words to that of scripture is really treading on shaky ground.

Do I value the work of other men? Most definitely, in fact I believe ignorance of church history is tantamount with utter foolishness. It is one thing to understand the struggles of the church in prior centuries, to glean from the writings of these great men their nuggets of truth, but completely another thing to raise their banner and defend against all comers. I have gained much insight and been strengthened in my faith tremendously through the lives of our forefathers in the faith. However, we must admit that most all of the Puritans, Anabaptists, Reformers, and any other early protestant branch still contained a large flavour of the Catholic dogma and teaching. To stay at their level of understanding and revelation would be fatal and deprive us the complete freedom found in Christ alone.

Ok, I've said enough for now. How do I proceed? I desire not to choose sides or cast quick labels on my fellow brothers with whom I may have disagreements. If someone espouses utter "heresy" then let that one be properly refuted from scripture, apart from any slanderous talk and put downs.

Addendum

After reading Antonio's latest response to Daniel, I thought I would link both articles so my fellow readers can decide for themelves the validity of each ones words.

Daniel's Opening Statements of the Prosecution

vs.

Antonio's Rebuttal for the Defense

22 comments:

Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

Sound thoughts, Jim.

God Bless

Daniel said...

Jim, I wouldn't be too concerned about it. Scripture teaches that contention arises in order that those approved by God might be revealed. We ought not to marvel at that, or be put off by it. I am content to let the Lord handle it. If I am wrong about repentance being the soil into which the seed of faith must fall - then won't I be better for having received instruction in the matter? Likewise, if this teaching (that the seed is sufficient by itself and needs no proper soil to grow) is exposed as false - won't the free grace camp benefit? Surely, this is not a cause for any deep concern.

I regard Antonio as an articulate and intelligent person (certainly moreso than myself) who is far more driven than I could ever hope to be. I would not hesitate to describe him as my superior in many ways - my criticism was not leveled at Antonio's strengths, but rather at what I regard to be his defining weaknesses, his ability to rationalize an errant position.

Surely, were I not zealous for the gospel that saved me, I would not have ventured to make my opinion known ( see free grace), nor to highlight (what I regard as) Antonio's misplaced zeal.

Frankly, I surprize myself sometimes - why do I bother? Surely, I am a child when it comes to such things, who am I to stand in the breach?? Surely the coward in me would like to go back and re-write my post so that my words take on a better odor - but what I have written I have written, and as Antonio has already responded to it, it would be dishonest (at best) to go back and make it sound better.

I am satisfied to let the cards fall where they may.

Jim said...

Daniel,

Thanks for dropping by, is it just me or do you look a bit peeved in your latest avatar?

You raise a couple of good points, namely debate skills. I for one would not win an argument based upon my grasp of the English language and the various nuances associated with the grammatical structure. For the novice in the faith, these posts may seem overwhelming and confusing.

Daniel, I personally do not believe the seed of faith can flourish well in any kind of soil. This is precisely what the parable of the sower reveals, that the good ground caused the seed to grow and produce much fruit.

However, I believe we have a fundamental difference of understanding regarding the soils and their role in nuturing the seed. From what I gather, you would assume that only the fourth category of soil (good ground) were indeed the saved believers. Furthermore, it would seem that this ground must be prepared before the seed can be planted and spring forth.

I would agree that this is the ideal circumstance for the seed to find root in, but does that necessarily make it the only one portraying a christian?

Or is this parable teaching us something further about the christian walk and the need for our hearts to be proper and free of incumbrances in order for our faith to grow?

Would you not agree that a loving, stable, married man and woman make the best home for children? Yet everyday children are born into this world far from having the idea circumstances to flourish. As we see in Africa, lack of nourishment causes severe growth restrictions in many children. They are developing serious diseases due to a lack of proper nutrition and hygiene.

Can you not see the parallel similarities in the christian life? The seed is sown in all types of soil, with only the hard packed one not taking root and germinating, causing any growth. However, due to the poor soil condition of the second and third grounds, they are choked off in their growth.

You cannot possibly say every christian is living a fruit filled, Holy Spirit controlled, sin conquering life. On the contrary, we see many christians fall prey to sin and its destructive influence in their life. This is due to many reasons, the simplest being a refusal to purge out the love of self from our hearts.

To simply say that these christians are not really saved or have never slid forward merely avoids the issue altogether and introduces more confusion and dismay to those struggling.

Our hearts and the soil must be carefully cultivated to remove every stone and thorn allowing the seed to mature and bear fruit. This is why we are told to guard our hearts with all diligence for out of it (the heart) flow the issues of life. This is a co-operative work between God and man. Not a salvific work in the eternal sense, but rather the practical process of our sanctification until we are conformed to the image of Christ.

We are saved simply by faith in Christ alone separate from any effort on our part. However, the process of sanctification requires us to co-operate with God through obedience to His word and dying to self by taking up our cross daily. These two things do not spontaneously happen in a christian's life. To the degree we obey, we will experience the fruit of the Spirit evident in our life. To the degree that we disobey, we will experience the chastening hand of a loving Father.

Failure to comprehend this process will lead to either pride, discouragement, anger, or any combination of the same.

I trust this makes some sense.

Daniel said...

Jim

The gospel is the "power of God unto salvation" - and it is pictured as a "seed" in the parable of the sower.

Christ, in explaining this parable, explains the six outcomes we might expect to see when the gospel is preached
1) the gospel is not understood (see on the path)
2) the gospel does not take root (see in stony ground)
3) the gospel is ignored/neglected in favor of the cares of the world.
4) the gospel is received and produces fruit thirty fold.
5) the gospel is received and produces fruit sixty fold.
6) the gospel is received and produces fruit an hundred fold.

I do agree with you in this - not everyone produces fruit an hundred fold.

But I do -not- agree that a man is saved when the gospel doesn't take root in his life; nor do I imagine he is saved who ignores or neglects the gospel.

You are suggesting that there are two varieties of Christians who produce no fruit, and one Christian variety for which three sub-varieties -do- produce fruit.

I agree that we do not see this parable in the same light.

Let me know if you change your thoughts on this one - for it is only this one parable where Christ says, "Do you not understand -this- parable? How then will you understand all the parables?"

Seeing you linked to my "Free Grace" post as though I were contending with Antonio - more than ever now - I wish I had extended greater charity so that my remarks would have been directed at his theology and not at him. C'est la vie.

Hmmm - peeved? I was going to "silly"

Jim said...

Daniel,

Silly? Ok, that works for me.

I had written a long reply and then lost it just before I went to publish it. I will try to remember what I wrote and issue a new reply.

God bless!

Daniel said...

Jim - I know how that goes.

I will likely be off the blog for a couple of days.

Talk later - God bless.

Crazililmonki09 said...

Hey its me agian,
just wanted to clear up what relgion i belong to Im LDS or Mormon

centuri0n said...

In defense of Daniel, Antonio has yet, in all his blog, to correctly frame reformed theology. After repeated correction from soem very worthy advocates, he has not offered any corrections of his own material.

There is a place at which this is not about an argument or a position but about either the willingness or the ability of the person offering the argument to see his own mistakes. Antonio is in that place.

Jim said...

Crazi,

Thanks for clearing that up. I hope you find some interesting things among these fellas. If you have any questions please don't hesitate to drop by again.

John 3:16

Jim said...

Cent,

Daniel is both a friend and good brother in Christ to me. I value his fellowship and opinions greatly. That is why I appreciate the open and frank dialogue we can have in the word.

As for the reformed position, I must confess near ignorance as to what they really believed until I began blogging. From visiting all the reformed blogs, I have begun to put together a better picture of their overall theology. I would love to find a site that spelled out clearly what exactly they believe on all the issues. From what I can see so far, you would be a moderate reformer...a position I might not have much difficulty falling into.

As for Antonio, I cannot confirm the entire FG teaching as I have not seen it all yet. I will however give credit to the guy for being aggressive, determined, and rather articulate in his views.

What really turns me off is the way many reformed blogs have degraded him with derogatory remarks. If they are so right in their theology, why can they not simply win hands down in an exegetical rebuttal? The condescension to name calling is childish and divisive. Besides, I have not found the glaring errors he has been accused of yet? Maybe I am blinded? My desire is to examine truth in the light of God's word and keep only that which is Biblical.

Therefore I am willing to listen to all my honest and sincere bloggin brothers.

Thanks again for blessing me with your visit and input. I do value it.

God bless,

Jim

Rose~ said...

Hi Jim,
Your post and comments express my heart perfeectly! I feel just as you do. (I also, like you, was pretty ignorant of what the reformed theology was, until I started reading their blogs). I am also with you in some ignorance of the Free Grace position, but I must say, what I have read so far, I embrace. I love the reformed people I have come across ... and I love Antonio and Matthew. I don't embrace the reformed theology, but that doesn't mean I have to dismiss those that teach it. They are brothers and sisters in Christ. Different people within the church can learn from one another.

I am also desmayed at the level of scorn that I see. It is very hurtful.

I appreciate your post. It is exactly how I feel. God bless you!

centuri0n said...

Two things for you, Jim:

(1) There are really two "kinds" of Reformed theology -- "presbyterian" and "baptistic". You can compare them side-by-side here. It is the best leaping-off point for this topic you can find.

(2) You're the first person in history to call me a moderate anything. However, the reason Antonio takes so much verbal abuse is his ignorance. Think about this: let's say that I walked up to you and said, "I know your marriage can't be very happy because your wife is a lousy cook. And I'm ashamed of you for cheating on her because she's a lousy cook."

Taken aback, you reply, "cent: I have never cheated on my wife! How can you say that I have?!" And I come back, "jim: don't try to hide it. Her bad cooking makes you so sad that you have cast your affections on some other woman. I don't know who it is, but there's no way with cooking that bad you can't be cheating on her."

Suddenly, it dawns on you: I have no idea what I'm talking about! SO to help me out, you pull out your lunch box.

"cent," you say, "I have some leftover lasagna that my wife made last night right here. Taste it and see: she's not a bad cook -- in fact, I rather like her cooking."

"oh please!" I scoff. "Don't change the subject -- stop cheating on your wife!"

"Look: I'm not cheating on my wife," you say with some restraint. "I love my wife; I'm married to my wife. Part of the reason I love her is how hard she works on meals like this one, and the way I show that love is by not cheating on her. Stop saying I'm cheating on my wife."

"AHA!" I exclaim. "You admit she has to 'work hard' on cooking. Obviously, a good cook wouldn't have to 'work hard'. So I implore you to stop your adultery now."

Now, by this point in the discussion, you are probably frustrated by my plain ignorance and my lack of willingness to be corrected. In response to that, you can redouble your efforts to get me to taste the food your wife cooks, or you might resort to calling in witnesses about your behavior, or you might do something else: you might come to see me as a ridiculous joke.

In fact, the longer you interact with me, I suggest to you that the more likely it is that you will see me as a joke. If my argument is based on falsehoods and reaches a non-sequitur conclusion which is, in the ways things actually are, false on its face, there's a place where you either have to laugh or take legal action.

Antonio is exactly like that: he cannot be corrected on matters of fact, and in that he cannot be guided even to the place where he understands reformed theology, let alone can actually argue against it.

I have a young fellow who works for me at my bookstore, and he's not reformed. He fancies himself a "wesleyan" (if TQ or jM are reading this, I know: it's payback), and he and I frequently talk about doctrines of the faith and what is and is not taught by scripture. In that, I have never once had to explain the reformed view to him from a foundational standpoint. He actually understands reformed theology: he simply rejects reformed theology. So when we talk about election or assurance or salvation or grace, what I don't have to worry about is this young man saying something like, "You think God is the author of evil, don'cha?" or "You think works are the cause of salvation -- you don't think grace matters" or "you think baptism is necessary for salvation -- you're no better than a Catholic".

There are no discussions with Antonio that you can identify where he correctly represents reformed theology. None on record. That, in common parlance, makes him a clown. If he can interact with Phil Johnson and Steve Hays and receive detailed explanations of why he has started in the wrong place and therefore winds up in the wrong place and then not apply that correction to him own position, he's acting irresponsibly.

That may carry a pretty fine point, but it is the explanation for the way he is treated.

Jim said...

Rose,

Much better to have you as a friend than foe. Thanks for your generous comments.

Praise the Lord.

Jim said...

Cent,

Thanks for the link. I will do my best to diligently study this document.

I apologize if I offended by calling you a moderate. Perhaps it is your reasoned approach to most issues that makes your fundamental principles more palatable.

I think I understand your analogy regarding Antonio's position. Perhaps I could ask for the following? Point form critique of the FG position and where you see the inherent errors. Yeah, I think I might just address that in the next post.

God bless,

Jim

Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

Well, I have read plenty of Reformed books, but I have yet to notice any serious mischaracterization of Reformed theology in Antonio's posts.

Even if Antonio has not mischaracterized Reformed theology, that does not justify the shabby, scornful and belittling treatment that he receives from Reformed bloggers.

I am going to quote from the Chronicles of Narnia:

"Never taunt a man, save when he is stronger than you".

If the Reformed guys are so strong in their theology, then why the need to taunt and belittle him?

More fundamentally, I have yet to see a convincing Scriptural refutation of his views. All his opponents seem to do is quote verses at him as though he is expected to say "Oh, I never read that before, you guys must be right".

The frustration that Reformed bloggers express at Antonio suggests to me that in fact this really is what they expect him to say.

Every Blessing in Christ

Matthew

Antonio said...

Centurion,

1st. Phil Johnson has had no correspondence with me except about a book by R.T. Kendall, we went over no doctrine.

And Steve Hays writes up one post about a post I give, but fails to actually respond to the elements in my post.

Cent, your idea of me refusing correction takes one thing for granted:

That I have been corrected.

Are you able to point to where I have been corrected?

I can show you where I have corrected Evan Mays a few times.

Jim,

Reformed thought is way out there. You have just got to read this thread in a reformed chat room about a quote I gave from John Piper that says something like "We have to own up to the fact that our salvation is contingent upon the works that come from faith".

Read this horrible thread where the reformed advocates are saying that without works you go to hell and happily associating themselves with this position:

Do works or burn in hell

Antonio

Jim said...

Matthew,

Again you speak with much clarity and insight. I concur with much of your assessment. I am not as much concerned with the reformers as I am in understanding the logic behind their doctrine.

Thanks again,

Jim

Jim said...

Antonio,

Thanks for dropping by again. It is becoming clear to me that not all reformers think alike. I wonder if this is due in part to the amphibological nature of their exegesis? We can sure muddy the issues by applying human logic to the wisdom of God's word. Furthermore, by intellectualizing much of theology, we take the emphasis off of revelation and place it smack dab onto reason and deduction which while having their place can never substitute for the illumination of the Holy Spirit.

It would seem to me that attaching any particular "ism" or "ology" to oneself can be detrimental to the overall fellowship of the body. We must simply be known as lovers of Jesus Christ who are sold out to following Him in complete and humble obedience.

centuri0n said...

I'll do one better, Antonio: I'd like to open a blog in which you can ask me any 5 questions you want (questions limited to theology, and word-length of 150 words), and I'll post an answer to each question of no more than 500 words in length. After that, I will then ask you 5 questions (same limits) and you can respond (same limits).

If, after the end of that exchange, you think there is anything to debate or to clear up, I'll be open to another format.

You can find the blog here:
http://q-and-a-blog.blogspot.com

Your invitation is in the mail.

Jim said...

Cent,

Excellent, I love that idea. Maybe we can clear up some misunderstandings, or at least find where the common ground is.

Jim

centuri0n said...

Monday afternoon. No response.

Antonio said...

Cent,

just sent you an email

Antonio