Monday, May 10, 2021

This installment is titled “The History & Theology of Calvinism” by Curt Daniel, Chapter Twenty-Six, Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility.

Allow me to respond to an honest inquiry I received from someone who had read my comments about chapter 25 and sought clarification. I am doing my best to provide an objective review of each chapter of Curt Daniel’s book. I have never met Curt Daniel. I am attempting to avoid any advocacy in reviewing his book, in favor of reportage. My goal is to objectively report what the author comments on in each chapter. I do this because of my personal opposition, especially with regard to my colleagues, to voicing opinions and passing judgments on matters they have not personally investigated. The subject of Calvinism has been placed off-limits as a matter of discussion in most Baptist Bible colleges in the United States in the 20th and 21st centuries. This seems to me to be utterly ridiculous. I think I am correct in my understanding that for many years the teachers at Arlington Baptist college in Texas held various positions with regard to Calvinism, and were allowed to both discuss their positions and advocate their positions. I think men of God would be well-served by investigating issues in light of God's Word rather than reacting without investigating.


The chapter is divided into six subdivisions. 

“One of the greatest paradoxes in all theology is the puzzle of divine sovereignty and human responsibility. Some deny or minimize one or the other, but that does not resolve the problem. We must accept both because both are taught in the Bible.” 

Human responsibility. Six paragraphs. “Responsibility means accountability.” “Human responsibility implies morality and ethics.” “Calvinists hold to human responsibility as much as anyone else.” “Responsibility implies a choice between two options.” “The classic Reformed discussion on this is The Freedom of the Will by Jonathan Edwards. He argued that no man is neutral toward Christ.” 

God Intervenes in the Human Will. Three paragraphs. “God is legally entitled and able to intervene in the will of morally responsible humans.” “The will of man is not off-limits to God. God can go anywhere He pleases.” 

God Intervenes for Good Motives. Three paragraphs. 

God Works through Sinful Hearts. Three paragraphs. 

The Grand Paradox. Five paragraphs. “Divine sovereignty and human responsibility are both true, but we cannot fully grasp how. They are two sides of the same coin.” Spurgeon once said, “I have often been asked by persons to reconcile the two truths. My only reply is – they need no reconciliation, for they never fell out. Why should I try to reconcile two friends? Prove to me the truths do not agree. […] The two facts are parallel lines; I cannot make them unite, but you cannot make them cross either.” “Man is responsible because God is sovereign, not the other way around. The sovereign God created man to be accountable despite his sin and God’s sovereignty. We must not deny or overemphasize either truth nor attempt a hybrid of the two.” “Upsetting the grand paradox has bad practical implications. Hyper-Calvinists tend to overemphasize divine sovereignty and we can human responsibility. Arminianism errs on the other side by so stressing human responsibility that it minimizes divine sovereignty.” 

Conclusion. “Both truths must be believed and kept in balance. Preachers must preach both as part of the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27). When we cannot understand the paradox, let us bow and worship God who does.”

Thursday, May 6, 2021

This installment is titled “The History & Theology of Calvinism” by Curt Daniel, Chapter Twenty-Five, The Will of God.

Just a thought before quoting the opening paragraph from this chapter of the author’s work. The gospel minister who reflects little or none at all on the will of God is almost certainly not a Calvinist, but is more likely than not and unaware Arminian. 

“One cannot understand various theologies without grasping their dichotomies of certain doctrines. With historic Lutherans, it is the difference between law and gospel. For classic Pentecostals, it is salvation and Spirit-baptism as two separate experiences. With Reformed theology there are two. The first is divine sovereignty and human responsibility. The second is like unto it: the twofold will of God. The usual terms are the secret will and the revealed will. We often refer to Deuteronomy 29:29: ‘The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.’” 

This chapter is divided into 11 subdivisions. 

The Secret Will. Five paragraphs defining and discussing the secret will of God. 

The Revealed Will. Four paragraphs defining and discussing the revealed will of God. 

The Will of God and Salvation. Three paragraphs. The author contrasts between Arminianism and Hyper-Calvinism and his understanding of Calvinism. 

One Timothy 2:4–5 and 2 Peter 3:9. Three paragraphs discussing how Calvinists have interpreted these two passages, as well as his own view of the passages. 

Further Proofs of a Universal Saving Desire. One paragraph, citing Luke 19:41–42, Romans 10:21, Isaiah 65:2, and Proverbs 1:24 as proofs that God has a will of desire for all men’s salvation. 

The Denial of Universal Saving Desire. Two paragraphs addressing the arguments of Hyper Calvinists. Allow me to interject at this point the reminder of a previous blog post of mine, that five-point Calvinism is not Hyper Calvinism, despite John R. Rice’s half-century spent insisting that they are the same. C. H. Spurgeon spent upwards of a decade at the beginning of his ministry in London combating Hyper Calvinism among his fellow Particular Baptists, himself being a lifelong committed and knowledgeable five-point Calvinist. He was living proof, because of his amazing doctrinal consistency and commitment to evangelism, that Hyper-Calvinism and five-point Calvinism are not the same! To insist otherwise is to put on display in public one’s misunderstanding of both positions. 


The Two Words for Will. Two paragraphs discussing the Greek words used in the New Testament. 

Contrast Between the Two Wills. Three short paragraphs. 

One Will or Two? Three paragraphs refuting the Arminian position and elaborating Calvin’s resolution. 

The Providential Will. Three paragraphs. 

Conclusion. “The secret will is not entirely secret, for it is revealed in part through Scripture and Christ (Ephesians 1:9). We must not pry into it, such as seeking unrevealed prophetic details (Matthew 24:36; Acts 1:7; John 21:22). But we can study it insofar as it is explained in Scripture. Proverbs 25:2 tells us, ‘It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, but the glory of Kings is to search out a matter.’ Let us study it and be mindful to obey the revealed will.”

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Some Thoughts On Reading Books.

I have been an avid reader for more than 50 years. I am the son of a man who I remember habitually reading a book a day. My father’s reading was purely for pleasure. Most of my reading is related to my obsessive accumulation of information. I have always enjoyed learning. Had it ever crossed my mind to do so, I might have entertained the notion of becoming a professional student. I always loved going to school and would sit in on classes that I was not enrolled in while in engineering school to hear the professors teach interesting things. 

Following my conversion and called to the Gospel ministry, the direction of my reading habits significantly changed. Since 1974 I have assiduously read military history, biblical history, Bible surveys, archaeology, systematic theologies, commentaries, hermeneutics, and the like. I am not a scholar and do not pretend to be a scholar. I am a pastor who studies the Bible and who spends considerable time every day reading. 

I have learned some things about reading that I would like to share with you along the way. These are my opinions. Some of you who read this blog read more than I do and are better trained than I am. If you spot something in my comments that you disagree with, based upon your higher level of training or more extensive experience as a reader, I would greatly appreciate whatever comments you might have. 

Footnotes. Unless I am reading for pleasure, I tend to be a little suspicious of a book addressing a serious subject that provides no or almost no footnotes. An exception to this would be a book like Curt Daniel’s The History and Theology of Calvinism. This is the book I am reviewing a chapter at a time in this blog. Though the author provides some footnotes, the breadth and depth of his study and his astonishing bibliography prove that his work would likely overwhelm most readers with footnotes had he not chosen to use them sparingly. 

I become suspicious when the author produces a supposedly serious book of 400 to 500 pages without providing footnotes to establish that his propositions are not his alone but are held by credible people. I also become suspicious when the author resorts to Strong’s Concordance to establish the meaning of a word rather than a legitimate Hebrew or Greek lexicon. Strong’s is useful for a Church member looking for clarification but is not sufficient for a credible student of Scripture. 

Here is another one. When the author includes Greek words using the Greek alphabet but is unaware that the sigma at the end of the Greek word is different than the sigma anywhere else in a Greek word, you know the author has not taken an introductory course in Greek. An example would be the Greek word for sepulchre or burial place, shkV, where the initial sigma is s , and the final sigma is V. I am not suggesting the author who does this is not worth reading. I am pointing out that what he says about Greek is suspect. 

A final comment on footnotes has to do with an author whose theology is Arminian. He may embrace the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints, though he might object to the word ‘perseverance’ and favor ‘eternal security’ instead. However, in all other respects, he is at least an Arminian and very possibly a Pelagian. Yet all of his footnotes are references to works produced by Puritans! Is it not interesting that an author would publicly oppose Puritans and decry Calvinists while relying almost exclusively on their support of his position on the subject of prayer? 

Dictionaries. Should not Baptist preachers have at least a rudimentary handle on the historical-grammatical approach to interpreting God’s Word? Fundamental to this approach to studying Scripture is the task of ascertaining what the words and idioms found in the Bible meant to the human author God used to write Scripture and the audience to whom the text was initially directed. How ridiculous it is then for a pastor to resort to Webster’s 1828 Dictionary to discover a word’s definition? 

Dictionaries are not authoritative sources for the determination of what a word or phrase ought to mean. Dictionaries are sources of varying authority for the meanings of words at the time of the dictionary’s publication. Therefore, a dictionary that was published in 1828 might be good for ascertaining the range of meanings of words as they were used by English speakers living in the United States in 1828. However, such a dictionary would not necessarily be handy for English speakers living in Great Britain, Australia, or New Zealand in 1828. As well, such a dictionary might be pretty misleading to an American English speaker in 2021. 

The meanings of words are not static, until they are written down. Words contain meanings according to the contexts in which they are used, either in writing or in speech, by the population using those words. To phrase the matter another way, dictionaries do not tell us what words mean. Dictionary publishers engage in massive research to discover what the population they serve tells them the words in their dictionary mean. Then, after the dictionary is published, it is useful to individuals to use the dictionary to discover what the publisher’s opinion is according to their research. 

Meaning? Do not insult my intelligence by persuading me what a word means, based upon a dictionary published in 1828. No matter how scholarly or godly the publisher was in 1828, a dictionary published in 1828 is almost 200 years outdated. No responsible writer would use a dictionary published in 1828 to advance his argument for the meaning of a word in 2021. What that word may have meant in 1828 is no indication of what that word means in 2021. 

If you have an issue with the paragraph above, you are surrendering your position as an interpreter of Scripture using the historical-grammatical approach to hermeneutics. 

Subject Matter. We live in a free country, and an author can write on anything he chooses. However, I tend to favor an author who writes to improve the conversation. For example, my book, The Church of Jesus Christ: 28 Things Every Christian Ought To Learn, is the most comprehensive ecclesiology I have ever seen. I wrote the book to meet what I perceived to be a need. While there were many Baptist histories, there were no ecclesiologies that do justice to the New Testament doctrine of the Church, in my opinion. 

Let me turn to books dealing with prayer. I must confess that I have always been bored with the writing of E. M. Bounds. I do not doubt that he was a godly man, and he wrote many books on prayer. But I have found his works uninteresting. But that is just me. As well, I have read Prayer – Asking And Receiving by John R. Rice several times. I don’t like it very much, though John R. Rice had the reputation of being an incredible prayer warrior. Praise God for him. 

I wonder why pastors resort to a contemporary author on such an essential subject as prayer, especially when a newer prayer book does not seem to add anything to the conversation. Does Exploring Prayer With Jack Hyles contribute to the discussion? I don’t think so. The very first chapter titled God’s Mind Can Be Changed completely turns me off. Then there is chapter 21; God Needs Your Personality. Really? I am not persuaded his book on prayer adds anything to the conversation. Instead, it is unscriptural and harmful to a correct understanding of prayer in light of what we know about the nature of Almighty God. 

I like Charles Spurgeon’s Only A Prayer Meeting. I like Lockyer’s All The Prayers Of The Bible. And I find John Bunyan’s book Prayer unsurpassed. After studying the subject of prayer in God’s Word, I would personally be at a loss to add anything beyond what Spurgeon, Lockyer, or Bunyan have to say. Of course, there are always good Puritans on the topic, but you get my drift. Why write a book on a subject that is already well covered by good men of the past? 

Those are my thoughts for today arising from my half-century of book reading. Do you have a constructive comment? How about a snarky criticism? I would like to hear from you.

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Is Military Style Pastoral Leadership Scriptural?

This iteration of Ministerial Musings is the culmination of thoughts and considerations about spiritual leadership I have given attention to for more than 50 years by reading and observing. I had initially contemplated titling this blog, “The USMC As A Pastoral Leadership Model? You Have Got To Be Kidding Me!” However, after the blowback I received from a recent posting from several men whose approach to investigation suggests that they think they can learn everything they need to know about an article from its title, I decided to go with a somewhat understated title. 

A significant number of my contemporaries in the ministry employ a model of pastoral leadership that reflects principles learned and implemented from their military service or adopted from those they admire whose leadership model is along the lines used by the American military. Baptist preachers are notorious followers in this respect, owing to their pragmatism. Before I proceed, let me provide a bit of my background. 

I decided on a career as a military professional when I was seven years old. My parents took us on vacation in 1957. Along the way, we visited the United States Air Force Academy outside Colorado Springs, Colorado. That was all I needed. My course was set. I spent the next ten years checking out every book in the school library related to military history, military weaponry, military leaders’ biographies, and warfare. I wrote every politician who could help, figuring to establish my name recognition for a future appointment. Then, while the student body practiced for high school graduation in the gymnasium, I was called to the principal’s office and informed of my appointment to USAFA. I was astonished none of my classmates was as excited as I was. 



After a back injury resulted in my discharge from the Air Force Academy, I turned from my pursuit of a career in the military to engineering school and, after graduating, worked as a spacecraft design engineer for Hughes Aircraft Company, El Segundo, California. However, I never lost my interest in all things military, even after my conversion to Christ. 

Let me list a few of the books I have read over the years to illustrate my interest in all things military. Skip this list if you have no interest in such reading material: 

The Mask of Command by John Keegan

Dyess Story: The Eye Witness Account of the Death March From Bataan and the Narrative of Experiences in Japanese Prison Camps and of Eventual Escape by Lt. Col. William Dyess

Sherman, A Soldier’s Passion for Order by John F. Marszalek

Patton – The Man Behind The Legend by Martin Bloomenson

American Caesar by William Manchester

Fighter Pilot by Robin Olds

It Doesn’t Take A Hero by H. Norman Schwarzkopf

The Savior Generals by Victor Davis Hanson

The Real George Washington: The True Story of America’s Most Indispensable Man

The Last Lion, volumes one and two, by William Manchester

Churchill, A Life, two volumes, by Martin Gilbert

Stalin, volumes one and two, by Stephen Kotkin

Leaders by Richard Nixon

The Works Of Josephus by Flavius Josephus

The Persian Expedition by Xenophon

A History of Warfare by John Keegan

Battles of the Bible by Herzog and Gichon

God’s War by Christopher Tyerman

The Imperial Roman Army by Yann Le Bohec

The Face of Battle by John Keegan

Death March by Donald Knox

Guadalcanal by Richard B. Frank

Leadership In War by Andrew Roberts

Flyboys by James Bradley

Chosin by Eric Hamel

A Country Made By War by Jeffrey Perret

The Art Of War by Sun Tzu

On War by Clausewitz

The Peloponnesian War by Thucydides 

Many ministry colleagues of my generation are veterans of the Armed Forces. Those who are students of God’s Word, as well as being thoughtful and insightful, recognize something. Despite the apparent similarities between the individual Christian’s lifestyle and our involvement in spiritual warfare, such as the appeal to endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ, Second Timothy 2.3, and the Apostle Paul’s comments about spiritual armor in Ephesians 6.10-18, there is no valid comparison between spiritual leadership as it is presented in the New Testament and the approach to leadership that is practiced in the United States Armed Forces. 

Consider this matter of spiritual leadership in a Church congregation from four perspectives. 

First, from the perspective of the Lord Jesus Christ’s contrast of His leadership style to the leadership style of the Gentiles. 

Mark 10.42-45:   “Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them. But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister: And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all. For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.” 

Christlike leadership of the flock should not be like the leadership style employed in the Gentile world (Would that not include any military organizations?). 

Luke 22.26-26 echoes that sentiment:  “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors. But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve.” 

The Savior had no desire that the leadership style of His apostles would parallel that of authority figures in the Gentile world. Does that not speak to the notion of pastors conducting their ministries using the leadership philosophies employed by corporate America or the United States Marine Corps? Sadly, because of poor study habits, many pastors have no concept of leadership beyond the style they were exposed to or employed while serving in the armed forces. 

Second, from the perspective of and under the shepherd’s leadership of the flock in a biblical setting, versus a Western-style shepherd’s leadership of a flock of sheep in the Alps, in the Pyrenees, or the Scottish Highlands. Western-style shepherding makes use of a sheepdog to hound the sheep, sometimes nipping at their heels, and taking advantage of a sheep’s innate fear of sheepdogs to exert control over those timid animals. In the Bible and throughout the Middle East, shepherding was altogether different. The Savior referred to this different style when He commented that “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” Yet it is common in our day for pastoral ministries in many Baptist circles to employ associate pastors and other staff members whose conduct resembles Western-style sheepdogs who hound the flock than Middle Eastern style shepherds whose flocks follow them. 

Third, consider the personal style of ministry employed by the Savior instead of that used by so many pastors in our day, whose Church members fear displeasing the pastor. Imagine a Christian being more fearful of disappointing his pastor than disappointing God. Why so? The ferocity so many ‘pastors’ display in their ‘ministries’ often the cause. However, what do we learn from the Bible about the Savior’s ministry style? In response to the Pharisees, the Savior turned to the multitudes, with Matthew inserting this Old Testament passage to describe his Lord’s pattern of ministry in fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy (Matthew 12.17-21): 

17    That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying,

18    Behold my servant, whom I have chosen; my beloved, in whom my soul is well pleased: I will put my spirit upon him, and he shall shew judgment to the Gentiles.

19    He shall not strive, nor cry; neither shall any man hear his voice in the streets.

20    A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, till he send forth judgment unto victory.

21    And in his name shall the Gentiles trust. 

How can verse 20 be interpreted as the Savior not being gentle with the humble? Yet so many pastors are pretty harsh with their flock, with others cultivating a climate of fear among the congregation. “Be careful! The pastor won’t like that!” The Savior was not only the Master Teacher but also the consummate leader. Yet those who followed Him were never scared of Him the way so many are scared of their pastors in our era. 

Fourth, there is the Apostle Paul’s comment to the Corinthian congregation, in First Corinthians 12.4–6: 

4     Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.

5     And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord.

6     And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. 

I understand and appreciate the need for a military organization to insist upon behavioral conformity and the top-down imposition of tactics and strategies designed to win skirmishes, battles, campaigns, and wars. The concept might best be described as uniformity. However, that top-down approach necessary in military organizations and civilian corporations is the opposite of God’s plan for New Testament Church leadership, as evidenced by the three verses immediately above. Unity, so crucial to the Christian faith and congregational life, is not uniformity! Let me explain. 

Setting aside any discussion of how many spiritual gifts there are, we can agree that spiritual gifts are given at the time of one’s conversion to Christ and the simultaneous indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the believer. Thus, no Christian or Christian leader’s decision can alter what gift or gifts are possessed by the child of God since he or she has trusted Christ. As well, Paul’s comment suggests that a Church member’s place in a congregational ministry (meaning administrations) is supposed to be the Lord’s doing. Verse six refers to operations, which some take to be the magnitude of the ministry the believer is engaged in. God has decided to give some men more extensive ministries than other men. To illustrate, friends tell me Jerry Falwell’s first Junior High School Sunday School class numbered in the hundreds. 

What does this add up to? With the permutations and combinations arising from these three parameters, it is impossible to impose a top-down approach to ministry leadership while, at the same time, allowing for the discovery of individual gifts and the flourishing of individual believers in various ministries. It is not possible! Therefore, the controlling pastor forsakes the discovery of spiritual gifts and the flourishing of individual believers by replacing it with a commitment to lock-step conformity and uniformity at the expense of spiritual growth and the cultivation of genuine unity of minds and hearts. 

Granted, from time to time, problems arise that require decisions to be made by leaders, such as in Acts 6.1-7, providing for the widows, and the critical meeting in Acts 15.1-21. However, New Testament pastoral leadership is assigned the responsibility of equipping the saints for ministry, Ephesians 4.12, not micromanaging the details of every aspect of a Christian’s life. 

Allow me to illustrate: I remember being invited to preach at a Church. Following my message, the congregation settled in a large dining room to watch a movie before enjoying a meal. During the movie showing, the pastor was involved in an important meeting and instructed his staff members not to disturb him. I sat outside the pastor’s office during that time. When a deacon and the pastor’s wife entered the reception area to inform the senior staff member that the movie had ended, the congregation was setting in the dark dining room; no one knew what to do. I watched in astonishment as three adult Church members stood there with furtive expressions on their faces, not knowing what to do and afraid to act. Should they decide to turn on the lights? Should they choose to begin serving food? For upwards of 15 minutes, the entire congregation sat in a dark room before one of them dared to risk the wrath of the pastor by knocking on his door. 

This type of thing occurs to varying degrees in Churches all over America. Everything about such Church’s ministries is imposed on the congregation by pastoral leadership using a top-down philosophy of ministry. Such an approach stifles personal initiative, crushes any entrepreneurial attitude that might develop in a nurturing environment, and employs a cookie-cutter mentality, to not only demand that the lost be evangelized according to a single pattern, but also to eliminate any possibility that Christians will be allowed to discover their spiritual gifts and exhibit creativity in establishing and developing their ministries within the congregation. These are classic examples of insisting on pounding square pegs into round holes. 

In a military environment, such an approach is necessary. In corporate America, this is usually, but not always, necessary. But in the Church of Jesus Christ, not only is this not necessary, it is patently unscriptural and stifling to the spiritual growth and blossoming of Church members. Soldiers are not believer priests. Corporate employees are not believer priests. But Christians are believer priests possessing the soul liberty characteristic of Baptists (or is supposed to be). 

We have 16 distinct ministries at Calvary Road Baptist Church, each one leader by a competent and committed Church member who seeks to glorify God and reach the lost. Additionally, we have many Church members involved in both discipling others and being discipled by others. Praise God! We had a Church choir and a Christian school when I arrived 35 years ago. But it has been my absolute delight over the years for Church members to approach me, asking if they could start and lead a ministry. After discussing what they planned to do and how they planned to do it, I gave them the go-ahead. Have I been burned? Yes! But to gain all, you must risk all, and Gospel ministry is not for the faint of heart and should not be about risk aversion. 

I would never surrender our Church’s biblical approach to Christian ministry. I delight in encouraging the development of spiritual gifts and wisdom using this concept of ministry. Church members are making decisions about their ministries. It’s great! 

I do not miss a control-oriented, military-style, top-down imposed approach to ministry, which bears a resemblance to a Soviet-style command and control system. Such a commonly seen ministry style is foreign to the Christian faith. I opt for the leadership style employed by the Savior, advocated by the Apostle Paul, and described in the New Testament. 

I praise God for the beneficial impact military service has had on men serving in the Gospel ministry. Many such men became men while serving in the armed forces. But it is terrible and stifling to the Holy Spirit to make the mistake of employing a military-style leadership anywhere in a Church ministry.

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Providence

“Who is in charge? God rules and guides the entire universe by His invisible hand. We call this the providence of God. The English word providence comes from two Latin words that mean “to see over.” God is the overseer of all things. He not only sees all but guides all. He steers all things to bless His people (Romans 8:28). The sovereign God carries out all the details of His predestination through providence, and without predestination there can be no providence. He planned the work and worked the plan.”

The chapter is divided into seven subsections.

God provides for the universe. Three paragraphs.  God created, sustains, cares, provides, upholds, preserves, keeps His universe.

Care for His creation. Five paragraphs.  Numerous examples and Scripture references.

The law of creation. Four paragraphs. Many great scientists in history rightly acknowledged the Creator and Provider of all and expressly stated that God is the foundation of all science (Isaac Newton, Blaise Pascal, James Clerk Maxwell, Michael Faraday, et al).

Causality and Concurrence. Four paragraphs. God is the uncaused First Cause.

Ordinary and Extraordinary Providence. Five paragraphs. Ordinary providence is the usual way God governs creation through the laws of nature and science. Miracles are God’s special providence.

Providence with Purpose. One paragraph. God has an ultimate purpose in providence.

Conclusion. The Puritan John Flavel wrote a delightful book entitled The Mystery of Providence.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

This installment is titled “The History & Theology of Calvinism” by Curt Daniel, Chapter Twenty-Three, Foreknowledge.

“During the Watergate hearings in the 1970s, one question kept coming up: ‘What did you know, and when did you know it?’ If we ask this of God, the answer would be: ‘Everything, and from eternity.’ This leads to another question: What is the relation between foreordination and foreknowledge? This has direct bearing on the Reformed view of the absolute sovereignty of God.”

 This chapter is divided into six subsections.

 The omniscience of God. Two paragraphs. “The Bible repeatedly and expressly teaches the omniscience of God. It may be defined as the perfection of God whereby He, in an entirely unique manner, knows Himself and all things possible and actual in one eternal and most simple act.”

 Absolute foreknowledge. Three paragraphs. Prescience and the foresight are synonyms for foreknowledge. Foreknowledge can be causal or affectionate. God has eternal foreknowledge.

 Foreordination and Foreknowledge. Four paragraphs. Discussing the logical sequence of foreordination preceding foreknowledge. Mention is made of Dave Hunt’s misunderstanding of this aspect of Calvinism.

 Middle Knowledge. Five paragraphs. Middle knowledge is one of two erroneous theories that seek to evade the absolute foreknowledge and omniscience of God.

 Open Theism. Seven paragraphs. Theory says that God is in the process of growing in his being and knowledge, therefore God does not have omniscience or perfect foreknowledge. Reformed theology has been the strongest opponent of theological fad.

 Conclusion. Calvinism teaches full omniscience and foreknowledge.

Friday, April 23, 2021

Objections to Predestination

This installment of my chapter reviews is titled “The History & Theology of Calvinism” by Curt Daniel, Chapter Twenty-Two, Objections to Predestination.


“There have been many objections to the Reformed doctrine of absolute predestination. Some come from non-Christians who agree that it is taught in the Bible, but they do not believe in the Bible. Others are Christians who believe the Bible but do not believe that this doctrine is taught there. Here are a few popular objections and Reformed answers.”

 This chapter is divided into 10 subsections, with the first eight subsections addressing specific objections to the Reformed doctrine of Absolute Predestination, one subsection dealing with Miscellaneous Objections, and the Conclusion.

 “Absolute predestination is fatalism.” Four paragraphs. The author mentions Islam, Stoicism, and Augustine.

 “Things just are.” One paragraph.

 “Absolute predestination renders history meaningless.” One paragraph. Mention is made of G. C. Burkouwer, Herman Hoeksema, and the Hyper-Calvinist supralapsarianism. The paragraph ends with the author writing, “History has meaning precisely because of predestination. If there was no predestination, there would be no meaning but only chance.”

 “Predestination is linear, but the universe is cyclical.” Two paragraphs. Mention is made of Burkouwer, Arminians, Open Theists, and eternity as being both endless linear time and infinite eternal now non-time. The author observes the Bible does not present the cyclical view of time of Buddhism and Hinduism. “Meanwhile, history is His story, which He wrote in advance in predestination.”

 “God changes his mind.” Five paragraphs. Addressing the use of the word repent as anthropopathy – attributing human emotions to God in a figure of speech. Passages cited include Numbers 23.19; 1 Samuel 15.29; Psalm 110.4; Hebrews 7.21. Mention is made of Jonah. The final paragraph addresses two Greek words for repent, illustrated with the examples of Judas Iscariot and Peter.

 “The universe is a game of cosmic chess.” “This is a dangerous and unbiblical theory. It resembles the Greek gods on Mount Olympus, such as the Fates playing whimsical tricks on men. Worse, it resembles the cosmic dualism of Zoroastrianism, the religion of ancient Persia in which the white God of light and fire opposes the black God of darkness. It sounds like by theistic polytheism. But we add Satan is not a god and certainly is not the equal opposite of God Almighty. God is eternal and infinite; Satan is neither. God predestined that He will win; Satan cannot win. This is not cheating as the extreme Arminian theory suggests but reveals the absolute perfection of God.”

 “History is a battle between God and Satan.” Three paragraphs. “We reply that the Bible does indeed portray spiritual warfare between God and the Devil, but we add that the victory is settled in eternal predestination and guaranteed by the cross … God always wins.”

 “Predestination leaves no place for chance.” Six paragraphs. “How true!”

 “Miscellaneous objections.” “Predestination is not democratic.” “But my church does not believe in predestination.” “It’s not practical.” “I just don’t like it.” “It sounds too deep for me.” “It’s a great idea, but of course, men can overrule it by free will.” “Well, nobody can know the truth on these things.”

 Conclusion. “Luther wryly observed: ‘All objections to predestination proceed from the wisdom of the flesh.’”