There is a difference between preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ and the gospel of “Five Point Calvinism”
There is a difference between being a follower of Jesus Christ and a “Reformer”.
There is a difference between being a lover of Scripture and a lover of “Reformed Theology”.
So what is the difference???
When the gospel of Jesus Christ is preached from the word of God, sinners hear God speaking to them, through the preacher, from Scripture. This is because God the Father draws his elect to himself by the Holy Spirit when the word is preached. We call this being born again. The person is brought forth, by the word of truth, to repentance and a new life of godliness. – John 6:44-45, 1Peter 1:22-25, James 1:18.
When “Five Point Calvinism” is preached, it produces Calvinists who identify themselves as Calvinists and enjoy the teaching and fellowship of other Calvinists. But this doesn’t mean that the hearer was born again. God has made it clear to us, through Scripture, that his elect are reborn when Scripture is proclaimed. Therefore, the danger in merely preaching Calvinism is false conversions. It is the gospel, preached from the context of Scripture, that is the power of God unto salvation, not the gospel preached through the funnel of man’s interpretation. The word of God contains the power to regenerate the sinner, not the cleverness of man’s interpretation. – Romans 1:16, 1Corinthians 2:1-5
A follower of Jesus Christ loves Jesus Christ and his church. This kind of person is not limited to the fellowship of Reformers, but loves and builds up others in the faith from all denominations. This is because of what they have in common; their faith. It links all denominations that are saved by the same gospel and therefore, worship the same Jesus. And the same Holy Spirit is living in them all. By their love for each other they are recognized as children of the one true God. Their love for true followers of Jesus Christ, regardless of their denomination, is proof that they are not merely coverts of a group, but true followers of Jesus Christ; baptized into the same Holy Spirit. A mere Reformer cannot go outside of his or her group because God’s love doesn’t compel them. – 1Corinthians 16:22, 1John 3:10-19, Ephesians 4:1-16
A lover of Scripture enjoys the study, memorization, exposition, and original context of Scripture. And it is Scripture which they meditate upon day and night. It is Scripture that they spend quality time reading. And it is Scripture that they enjoy quoting, teaching, discussing and affirming. A lover of Scripture derives his or her doctrine from Scripture. A lover of Scripture submits to its teachings as the only authority for Christian doctrine and practice. When Scripture differs from his or her group, the lover of Scripture sides with the plain reading of Scripture against the group’s interpretation of Scripture. A lover of Scripture uses Reformed Theology as a reference, but not an authority. A lover of Scripture knows who his or her shepherd is. – Psalm 1, Psalm 119, John 10:14
A lover of Reformed Theology enjoys the study, memorization and exposition of Reformed Theology. And it is Reformed Theology which they meditate upon day and night. It is Reformed Theology that they spend quality time reading. And it is Reformed Theology that they enjoy quoting, teaching, discussing and affirming. A lover of Reformed Theology derives his or her doctrine from Reformed Theology. A lover of Reformed Theology submits to its teachings as an authority for Christian doctrine and practice. When Reformed Theology differs from the plain reading of Scripture, the lover of Reformed Theology sides with Reformed Theology’s interpretation against Scripture.
I write this to remind you all of where our highest love should be. – Psalm 1, Psalm 119
I write this to remind you all of what is our only authority for doctrine and practice. – John 17:17, John 1:1-18, John 8:12-58, Matthew 4:4
I write this to remind you all to abstain from idols of any kind. – 1John 5:18-21, 1Corinthians 2:1-5, Matthew 4:10
I write this to remind you all of what it is we should be meditating upon day and night. – Psalm 1:2, 1Peter 2:1-3, Romans 12:2
Finally I write this to build you up in the faith once delivered to us all. – Ephesians 1, Ephesians 2, 1John 5
1 Peter 2: 1 Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, 2 as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, 3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious. 4 Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, 5 you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
19 Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? 20 For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.
1 And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, 2 in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience,
4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.
18 Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.
20 Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.
Christopher Hitchens, a slashing polemicist in the tradition of Thomas Paine and George Orwell who trained his sights on targets as various as Henry Kissinger, the British monarchy and Mother Teresa, wrote a best-seller attacking religious belief, and dismayed his former comrades on the left by enthusiastically supporting the American-led war in Iraq, died on Thursday in Houston.
The cause was pneumonia, a complication of esophageal cancer, Vanity Fair magazine said in announcing the death, at the M. D. Anderson Cancer Center. Mr. Hitchens, who lived in Washington, learned he had cancer while on a publicity tour in 2010 for his memoir, “Hitch-22,” and began writing and, on television, speaking about his illness frequently.
He took pains to emphasize that he had not revised his position on atheism, articulated in his best-selling 2007 book, “God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything,” although he did express amused appreciation at the hope, among some concerned Christians, that he might undergo a late-life conversion.
He also professed to have no regrets for a lifetime of heavy smoking and drinking. “Writing is what’s important to me, and anything that helps me do that — or enhances and prolongs and deepens and sometimes intensifies argument and conversation — is worth it to me,” he told Charlie Rose in a television interview in 2010, adding that it was “impossible for me to imagine having my life without going to those parties, without having those late nights, without that second bottle.”
In 2007, when the interviewer Sean Hannity tried to make the case for an all-seeing God, Mr. Hitchens dismissed the idea with contempt. “It would be like living in North Korea,” he said.
Here is a quote from Anne Rice (Author of “Interview with the Vampire” and “Christ the Lord”)
“I thought, even then, that he made excellent points which believers ought to face, that his book was worth a read for every believer.”
But what does the Bible say about this statement, as well as teachers like Mr. Hitchens?
Psalm 14 1 The fool has said in his heart, ” There is no God.” They are corrupt, They have done abominable works
Proverbs 1 7 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, But fools despise wisdom and instruction.
Proverbs 14 7 Go from the presence of a foolish man, When you do not perceive in him the lips of knowledge.
Proverbs 26 1 As snow in summer and rain in harvest, So honor is not fitting for a fool.
Christians are required to study obey Scripture.
John 17 17 Sanctify them in truth. Your word is truth.
2Timothy 3 16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
1 John 4 1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, 3 and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world.
2John 1 7 For many deceivers have gone out into the world who do not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist.
3 “…the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, 4 who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.”
There is an organized effort to take society down a slippery slope.
It starts with the portrayal of monsters as innocent.
And safe for children.
It makes the longtime villain appear warmhearted.
And even desirable.
It teaches children that witchcraft can be very helpful if they use it correctly.
It tries to make everyone sympathetic toward child molesters.
And even turn murderers into heroes.
Yes. Even psychopathic, mother rapping, serial killers, such as Nero. Who also invented creative ways of torturing and killing Christians for his personal entertainment.
It even promotes the evil that God has forbidden until it is accepted by the masses and called good.
But WHY all of this promotion of wickedness as good???
So that we will no longer consider God’s ultimate villain as evil.
And, instead, come to see him as noble.
A loving protector
And a god that is worthy of worship.
But who is behind this evil plot???
You don’t have to look far to find out.
It is the same organization that changed western civilization from a monarchy to a democracy, and has even founded our own country; the USA. Yes the vast majority of our founding fathers were Freemasons. But who do the Freemasons worship?
“Lucifer, the Light-bearer! Strange and mysterious name to give to the Spirit of Darkness! Lucifer, the Son of the Morning! Is it he who bears the Light, and with its splendors intolerable, blinds feeble, sensual, or selfish souls? Doubt it not!” [Albert Pike, Morals and Dogma of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, p. 321, 19th Degree of Grand Pontiff]
7Therefore do not be partakers with them. 8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), 10 finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. 11 And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret. 13 But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light. 14 Therefore He says: ” Awake, you who sleep, Arise from the dead, And Christ will give you light.”
18We know that whoever is born of God does not sin; but he who has been born of God keeps himself, and the wicked one does not touch him. 19 We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one. 20 And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding, that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life. 21 Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.
I’d like to share an article written by Michael Patton, the founder of “The Theology Program” and “Credo House Ministries”.
Why Do We Love C.S. Lewis and Hate Rob Bell?
Here at the Credo House in Edmond Oklahoma, Tim Kimberley (@pastortimk) and I are teaching a series on the top theologians of church history on Tuesday nights. I have insisted that C.S. Lewis be part of the mix due to his abiding theological influence on so many people today. Though he is called a “lay” theologian by many, in my mind, he is nothing less than a theological giant due to his contributions to apologetics at the academic and popular levels. (After all, apologetics is a subset of theology and C.S. Lewis, though a professor of literature, did teach philosophy for two years at Oxford!) We taught to a packed house with people sitting on the floor. Why? Because they all love C.S. Lewis. When asked how many had read C.S. Lewis, just about every hand in Credo went up. He is an evangelical hero who, theologically speaking, may not make the cut of evangelicalism today. Truthfully, I don’t think he ever liked the label himself. But he is loved by evangelicals nonetheless. In fact, he is loved across denominational and traditional lines. Christianity Todaynamed Lewis’ Mere Christianity as the most influential book of the 20th century. Another evangelical magazine, Christian History, named him among the top ten most influential Christians of the 20th century. Whether you are an emerger or an evangelical, Baptist or Presbyterian, a cessationist or continuationist, a Calvinist or an Arminian (not that all of these are mutually exclusive), C.S. Lewis is not only kosher, but staple. In fact, even Pope John Paul II said that Lewis’ The Four Loves was one of his favorite books!
However, C.S. Lewis was not without “issues” that cause many to scratch their heads. Practically, he liked to smoke a pipe and cigarettes, and frequently enjoyed a beer at his bi-weekly “Inklings” meetings (and you know how bent out of shape people can get over those things!). Theologically, there is some stuff people try to sweep under the rug as well. In fact, though I say C.S. Lewis is loved by all, I do remember walking into church one day years ago. They were giving away a bunch of the “overstock” books from the library. I saw a church elder throwing away a lot of books as well. They were all C.S. Lewis! When I inquired about his odd blasphemous actions, he said that C.S. Lewis was a heretic because he did not believe in inerrancy. While this is something of an extreme example, I think it is important to realize that not everyone likes C.S. Lewis. Almost everyone, but not all. Why? Because he had some “non-evangelical” leanings. Besides not believing in inerrancy, he also believed in the theory of evolution, denied substitutionary atonement in favor of a “ransom to Satan,” bordered on a Pelagian idea of human freedom, seemed to advocate baptismal regeneration, and regularly prayed for the dead. To top it all off, he held out hope for the destiny of the unevangelized, believing that Christ might save them outside of direct knowledge of him (inclusivism). With all of these foibles, I seriously doubt any evangelical church would take a second look at his resume were he to apply for a pastorate at their church today. In fact, this list alone would be enough for many to call him a heretic. However, we still love him. We still read him. We still defend him. We still hand out his books by the dozens to friends and family who are struggling with their faith. This man who had his Christianity affirmed by Dr. Bob Jones but questioned by Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones is beloved by just about everyone, making him off-limits for serious criticism. Why?
Consider another man: Rob Bell. From what I have read and seen, he seems to have far fewer theological problems than C.S. Lewis. In fact, on paper, he is probably more evangelical than C.S. Lewis. He might even make it through the interview process at most evangelical churches. He, like Lewis, has written many works about the Christian faith. His latest book, Love Wins, is a runaway bestseller. However, evangelicals don’t like Rob Bell. He is not beloved. His writings are not handed out like tracts, except for in niche groups. He does not have broad Christian appeal. In fact, he may be the most hated Christian author alive (at least in some circles). Why? Well, on the tip of your tongue is this: because he believes in universalism (the idea that all will be saved). Well, maybe not “believes,” but he does hold out hope for such. Rob Bell supporters often appeal to C.S. Lewis, stating that he believed similar stuff as Rob Bell (in as far as holding out hope for unbelievers relates to inclusivism). In fact, Rob Bell seems to love and be inspired by C.S. Lewis in his thoughts and ideas.
Here comes the question I got Tuesday night a the Credo House “Coffee and Theology” study: “So why do we love C.S. Lewis but hate Rob Bell?”
This is the great question I hope to answer briefly.
First of all, no one hates Rob Bell (or at least, no one should). But, speaking for myself, I am very comfortable handing out C.S. Lewis books by the dozens, while I don’t keep a stock of Bell’s books on hand. There is not a book that Lewis wrote that I don’t encourage people to read and grow from. Even A Grief Observed, where Lewis attempts to retain his faith in God while questioning everything in the middle of a crucible of doubt and pain, is one of my favorite books to give to people who are hurting. But I doubt I would ever recommend one of Bell’s works to establish someone in the faith. In fact, I might only recommend them for people to see “the other side.” Let me put it this way (and I must be very careful here): While I fully embrace and endorse the ministry of C.S. Lewis, I do not endorse or embrace the ministry of Rob Bell.
You see, while C.S. Lewis has a great deal of theological foibles, his ministry is defined by a defense of the essence of the Gospel. The essence of who Christ is and what he did are ardently upheld by Lewis, saturating every page of his books. His purpose was clear: to make a compelling case the reality of God and the Lordship of Jesus Christ. All other things set aside, this is what you leave with every time you read Lewis. The problematic areas are peripheral, not central. One has to look hard to find the departures from traditional Protestant Christianity. They are not the subjects of his works and do not form the titles of his books.
However, with Rob Bell, the essence of who Christ is and what he did seems to be secondary. One has to look for those things as they weed through his defenses of non-traditional Christianity. Whereas Lewis’ ultimate purpose is to define and defend “mere” Christianity, Bell’s “mere” Christianity is but a footnote to a redefined Christianity. Bell’s focus is to challenge, question, change, reform, and emerge from traditions that bind us. Traditional apologetics, orthodoxy, and foundations are brought into question from beginning to end. Christ’s reality, deity, exclusivity, and the hope of the Gospel proclaimed receive an occasional footnote (if at all) from Bell.
Another way to put this is to say that in the ministry of C.S. Lewis, the central truths of the Christian faith are the chorus of his songs, with the occasional problem in the stanzas. However, with Bell, the chorus of his song is filled with challenges to traditional Christianity and if you listen really closely to the stanza, you might get an occasional line of orthodoxy.
Now, let me be straight. I have no problem with challenging traditions. I have no problem with questions, doubts, and reforms. I think we all need this. It is the essence of what we call semper reformanda (at least in a modified form). However, when your ministry is characterized and defined by this type of emerging reform and unsettled skepticism of traditional Christianity, you have stepped over the line and lost yourself and your right to have godly influence. As the old saying goes, “think out loud, but don’t think out loud from a platform.” Just because you are unsettled and questioning your faith does not mean you need to unsettle others.
And it is not just Rob Bell that is at issue. There are dozens of popular writers, pastors, bloggers, and authors who are singing the same chorus. They give lip service to the essence of Christianity, but from their platform it is only peppered in here and there. I think this is the core problem with what is/was known as the “emerging church.” It is not that we are against rethinking, reimagining, reforming, or any other “re,” it is that this became the central focus of the movement. Christ, the cross, sin, righteousness, and all other elements that create the essence of who we are became the subjects of challenges – mere lines in the song. This is why I distinguish between, say, Brian Mclaren and Dan Kimball. Both men, early on, were considered part of the “emerging church.” However, though he challenges some ideas here and there, Dan Kimball (like C.S. Lewis) is committed to the essence of the historic Christian faith. Truth, doctrine, love, and righteousness are found in everything he writes and says. They are the chorus. With Mclaren, on the other hand, traditional Christian beliefs and practices form more of (what seems to be) an embarrassing afterthought that he proclaims only under duress.
This is why I don’t like comparing C.S. Lewis to Rob Bell. There is no comparison. Neither is it fair to team Rob Bell up with many of the great saints of the past, such as the Cappidocians or Origen (as is often done). Yes, they all have problems, but the question is, Do these problems define the essence of their ministry and passion? With Rob Bell (and many like him), they do. With most of the other historic figures that some try to put on Bell’s team, they don’t.
What can Bell do about this? I seriously doubt he is looking for advice from me, but here is what I would do if I were his campaign manager. I would tell him to take his cue from Lewis. Focus most of your works on defending the foundational issues of historic Christian truth. Those things that have been believed “always, everywhere, and by all.” Whether it is the existence of God, the exclusivity of Christ, the inspiration of Scripture, or the sinfulness of man, these are all good points that give street cred. If you are going to claim the legacy of Origen, the Cappidocians, or Lewis, embrace the essence of their ministry, not the periphery of their thought. And, just to be fair, if Lewis would have moved his foibles from his back pocket to his front pocket, he would not be accepted much either.
However, it raises these questions:
Does God allow a teacher to teach the heresy of Universalism after the majority of Christians accept the teacher as genuine, or does the command in Galatians 1:6-9 & Jude 1:3-4 stand for every teacher, no matter who they are and how much we have benefited from their teaching?
Does God allow us to choose our own teachers or are we permitted to learn from whomever we choose? And if we do choose our own teachers, are we in danger of being placed in this category? — 2Timothy 4:3-4.
According to the following passages, are teachings that eat into the heart of the gospel, such as Universalism, to be considered as part of the bad fruit that Jesus warned us of concerning false teachers and prophets? — Matthew 7:15-20 – Galatians 5:9, Galatians 5:19-21
Is Scripture the final authority on spiritual truth or is the authority found in the general consensus of Christians, according to what seems right to them? — John 17:17 – Psalm 119:1-11
Is it ever wise to accept some one whom God has rejected as false? — Proverbs 1:7 – Psalms 111:10
When a teacher who is known for teaching sound doctrine begins to teach Universalism, in any form, are we permitted to continue learning from them, or is God testing our faithfulness to him to see if we will either cling to or cast out the false teacher as a loyal servant should. — Deuteronomy 13:1-5 – 2John 1:7-11
Does God own us as a slave master owns his slaves and therefore has complete authority over every decision we make? — John 15:14 – 1Corinthians 6:19-20 – Romans 6:17-19
It’s clear to all of us that we are living in an age of great deception. Since this is the case, and the deception is also directed toward us, we cannot afford to take this issue lightly in any way.
According to scripture… We must practice discernment – 1John 4:1 We must contend for the faith – Jude 1:3-4 We must cast out what is unclean – 1Corinthians 5:11-13
Not just in the lives of others, but our own, first and foremost. – Matthew 7:1-5
2Corinthians 10 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, 5 casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, 6 and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled.