Posts Tagged ‘Emergent’

A Need For a New Identity: Conversionism and Transformed Theology and A New Tulip

To read the entire post, you can click on the link at the top right, “Foundation” or simply click HERE.

Calvinism and Arminianism have been a major part of the theological landscape for centuries and the debate today is no closer to being resolved than it was in the days of Calvin and Arminius, themselves. A number of attempts have been made to strike a balance between the two. Conversionism and Transformed Theology is an attempt to begin that process. There are a number of ways that one might establish a new identity associated with a change in terminology from Calvinism to Conversionism and from Reformed Theology to Transformed Theology. One way involves modifying the framework that Reformed Theology has built itself around, namely the TULIP which is an acronym representing the five points of Calvinism. By using the same five letters, this section will focus on a new identity that will find its significance in a New Tulip. Consider the following acrostic:

An Argument for Total Lostness
An Argument for Unconditional Love
An Argument for Limiting Atonement
An Argument for Irrefutable Gospel
An Argument for Perseverance of the Savior

In evaluating this new proposed position, it is important to remember that each plank must rest on its own merit based on what the Bible has to say as opposed to interpreting each through the lens of some preconceived premise. For example it can be argued that each of the points of Calvinism have been so developed to support the underlying premise that Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross could not have been for all men because it is obvious that not all men are saved and headed for heaven. While the latter part of this statement is absolutely true, that does not validate the former part of the statement. To be fair, there is always a tendency no matter how well intended, to frame ones theology around certain preconceived theological foundations and frameworks. Just as every man is a product of his own environment, so is his theology a product of his overall evaluation of the Scripture itself. However, when questions concerning theology are presented, it behooves those on both sides of the issue to consider certain arguments on their own merit in light of a standard, which must be the Word of God. Please consider the following points with an open Bible and an objective mind.

An Argument for Total Lostness

The first step in establishing a new identity based on this new terminology being proposed, is an argument for Total Lostness as opposed to the Calvinist plank of Total Depravity. This tenet says that man by willful transgression fell from a state of righteousness and holiness in which he was first created. Man since the fall of Adam has inherited this fallen nature and exists in a state of total spiritual depravity or lostness. This is a state of death in trespasses and sins in which he is held as a slave of sin and an enemy of God. If left in this sinful state, he will face the eternal consequences of his sin in eternal punishment, which is the second death. Sinful man is lost in that he is unable to attain divine righteousness by his own efforts and he must be redeemed and delivered by the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ as it is revealed to him by the convicting work of the Holy Spirit.

Make no mistake about it; man is no doubt depraved in his humanity. The Bible is absolutely clear on this point. All men, both Jews and Greeks are under sin. “As it is written: ‘there is none righteous, no, not one; there is none who understands; there’s no one who seeks after God. They’ve all turned aside; they have together become unprofitable; there is no one who does good, no, not one. Their throat is an open tomb; with their tongues they have practiced deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips; whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood; destruction and misery are in their ways; and the way of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes.” The purpose of the Law was to establish man’s guilt before God and “by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” “If any man says he has not sinned he is a liar and the truth is not in him.” “All of our righteousness is as filthy rags before the Lord.” As the children of Israel made their way through the wilderness on their way from Egypt to the Promised Land, they repeatedly acknowledged their sin before the Lord.

Because all men have sinned against God, they are hopelessly and helplessly lost. In the 119th Psalm, David acknowledged his sin and says “I have gone astray like a lost sheep.” In Matthew 18, Jesus Himself speaks to this issue of being lost. He says, “For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost.” In verses 12 through 14, Jesus asked the question: “What you think? If a man has 100 sheep, and one of them goes astray, does he not leave the 99 and go to the mountains to see the one that is straying? And if he should find it, assuredly, I say to you, he rejoices more over that one sheep than over the 99 that did not go astray. Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.”

Luke expands Jesus’ parable and adds the following statement, “I will say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 just persons who need no repentance. Luke goes on to record two more parables dealing with lostness that Jesus gave. The second parable Luke records is the parable of the lost coin. In this parable Jesus speaks of a woman who had 10 coins and realizes that one has been lost and she searches her house until she finds that one lost coin. Jesus makes the following concluding statement, “likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” The third parable that Jesus used as He spoke on the subject of lostness, is the parable of the lost son, which is often referred to as the parable of the prodigal son. In this parable a father has two sons. The younger son comes to his father and asks him for his inheritance, which the father gives to him. The son leaves home and squanders away everything his father gave him. Jesus makes an interesting statement in verse 17; He says, ”but when he (the young son) came to himself, he said, ‘how many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough to spare, and I perish with hunger!’ I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, ’Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants’.”

The young man makes his way back home. He is greeted by his father and he asks for his father’s forgiveness. Listen to his father’s response, “bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. Bring the fatted calf here and kill it, let us eat and be merry; for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” The son fully understood his situation. He knew he was down and depraved. He knew he needed help. He knew his father could take care of his needs. He knew all the details with the exception of one: he had no idea what his father’s response would be. This lost son had a choice to make. He could keep on doing what he was doing and he would have kept on getting what he had always gotten. Or, he could get up and make the journey home where he would be able to live.” This son had a choice to make to come home or to continue on in the hog pen.

In the parable of the lost or prodigal son, Jesus adds a very important twist to this issue of being lost. This is Jesus’ third and final parable in this triage of three stories. In verse 17 Jesus intentionally mentions the young man’s “coming to himself”. Now it is clear that in coming to himself, he is still hopelessly and helplessly lost. The importance of this intentional phrase is seen in what the young man does as he turns from his present condition and goes back to his father. While this young man was no doubt depraved, he had not forgotten the provisions his father had provided for him for most of his life. The young son understood that his father represented the only hope he really had. He made a choice to walk away from his immediate past and walked toward a future that only his father could provide. Here is one of the clearest passages in the Bible that will deal with the lost condition that all men are in apart from any relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ.

Jesus understood the tragedy of man’s lostness. Jesus underscored the significance of the inability of the lost coin and the lost sheep to find themselves and no longer be lost. The shepherd went out to find the lost sheep and the woman searched until she found the lost coin. In Luke 19 Jesus spoke to a tax collector whose name was Zaccheaus; He told Zaccheaus to come down out of the tree because he wanted to go to Zaccheaus’ house for dinner. Jesus was criticized sorely as people said, “Jesus eats with sinners!” Jesus’ response was, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham; for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”

Jesus identified what it meant to be lost. In the third chapter of John, Jesus explains to Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews, what he must do as one who is lost to be found. The Bible is not clear why Nicodemus came to Jesus; it simply says he came. Because Jesus understood Nicodemus’ greatest need, He ignored his flattering tribute and He told Nicodemus, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God… Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of flesh is flesh, and that which is born of Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I say to you, you must be born again. The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the spirit.”

Here Jesus equates being found with being born again or being born from above. This is vitally important because just as was the case with the lost sheep at the lost coin, an individual who is lost cannot find himself. He cannot simply come to himself and realize and recognize that he is lost; he cannot correct that on his own. He must do as the prodigal son did as he turned from his sinful present state and the turned to his father. In looking at the prodigal’s “coming to himself” it must be understood that he was able to do this because of the promises and provisions he had experienced personally which was the result of the personal relationship he enjoyed with his father. He came to himself and turned and went to his father. It was his father who forgave him and made him part of his family once again. The son came asking to be a servant; his father restored his sonship. The actions of the young man’s father are what changed his status from “lost” to “found.” Praise the Lord God can do the same to all who come to Him!

In Nicodemus’ case, he too left the comfort of his environment and he came to Jesus looking for answers. Nicodemus no doubt had a number of questions he wanted to ask Jesus. Jesus addressed the only question that mattered. In order to go to heaven, Nicodemus was lost and needed to be found; he needed to be born from above. Nicodemus needed what only Jesus could provide. Jesus goes on to explain what He meant when He said to Nicodemus, you must be born again. Nicodemus asks a very simple question, “How can these things be?” “Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things?’ Most assuredly, I say to you, We speak what We know and testify what We have seen, and you do not receive Our witness. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?’” Basically what Jesus was saying here is that Nicodemus along with the other Jewish leaders and teachers of the Scriptures should have recognized Jesus for who He was for the Old Testament was full of passages that spoke of His coming. Instead of Nicodemus coming to Jesus with questions, he should have been coming to Jesus with answers! The gospel is the same way for men today. God has given mankind every reason to come to Christ just as Nicodemus did.

In verses 14 through 21 Jesus goes on to explain to Nicodemus what it means to be born again or born from above. “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Just as the prodigal son came to himself and made his way to his father, so was it Nicodemus’ responsibility to “come to himself” and by believing in the promises of God that are clearly laid out in the Scriptures, Nicodemus would not perish but have everlasting life. By believing in Christ, Nicodemus would be saved or born again and in that process he would pass from death to life, from being lost to being found.

In Matthew 19, another wealthy young ruler came to Jesus and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?” Jesus told him, “If you want to enter into life keep the commandments.” The young man beamed, “I have done that.” Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.” What is the difference in the results of the visits of these two men? Both came essentially asking the same thing. Nicodemus went away with Christ and the other went away sorrowful because he made the mistake of thinking what he had was more important than what Christ had for him. This was a choice the two men made themselves. Jesus did not decide that one would be saved and the other lost.

Make no mistake about it; Jesus understood man’s lost state. He understood the gravity of sin. It was for this reason that Jesus left heaven in the first place. “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” Jesus did not need to leave heaven to condemn the world. Man in his sin was already condemned. It was Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross that provided man any hope at all. That’s why Jesus said what He did in verse 18; “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” Verse 19 addresses this issue of Total Depravity or Total Lostness. Listen to what Jesus said about the extent of man’s depravity: “And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.”

Man’s depravity is pictured in Jesus statement that “Light has come and the world and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” Had Jesus stopped there, there are a number of conclusions one could draw. One might even be able to conclude that men loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil and they were so depraved that they were blind and could not see the light without God first opening their eyes so that they could even see the light in the first place. The text prohibits that interpretation. First of all Jesus chides Nicodemus for being a teacher of the Law and not understanding these things. Verse 20 explains why men love darkness and hate the light. It is not that men hate the light because they’re blind and cannot see it; they hate the light because they do see it and they do not like what it reveals; for it reveals their evil deeds. Men do not want to be told the truth. They want to do what seems right in their own eyes. But there are those who see the Light for what it is and not liking what they see, they choose to move toward the Light instead of moving away from the Light. This is the choice that Jesus offers those who are lost for whom He has come to seek and to save.

Choosing God Or Good

The English language has always fascinated me in a number of ways. There are several words that are spelled the same but have different meanings. Read can be both present, past and future. “Read the Bible” is future. “I read my Bible yesterday” is past and “I read my Bible everyday” is almost past, present and future all rolled into one. We write on a “pad”; kids sleep on a “pad”; we “pad” our pockets; we type on key “pads” and frogs rest on lillie “pads!” We put a “bolt” on a nut; a tailback bolts to the left and a lightning “bolt” lights up the sky. “Nuts” have bolts on them; “nuts” grow in trees and “nuts” walk our streets! There are hundreds of words like this.

Then there are unique words that are pronounced the same but spelled different and have different meanings. One that stands out to me is “sun” and “son”. The sun lights the daytime sky. It provides power and warmth and it is essential to life. The Son is Light and He provides life. The Son created the sun for our benefit. Consider another interesting characteristic of English words; there are a number of words that are only one letter off… Good and God stand out in my mind here. It has always amazed me that one letter separates these two words. Even more important than this is the fact that God and good have been at the center of man’s problems and troubles since the creation.

Here is a question to ponder; “Is good always good? Can good ever be bad?” At first glance, one might say, “Good is always good and good is never bad.” Let’s look at the ramifications of that statement a little closer. On one hand, good is always good and good can never be bad. If someone is out of work, a hundred dollars is always good! If someone is thirsty, a drink of water is always good. If someone is hungry, a hamburger is always good! But is it possible for these “good things” to be bad? If someone is out of work, what if receiving a hundred dollars kept that person from going to an interview that would have gotten him a job? Which is better, receiving a drink of water or getting a well? For someone who is hungry, which is better a hamburger or a garden?

These may seem like simple statements but they lie at the root of man’s problems since the creation of Adam and Eve. Look at the Genesis account of creation. In the first chapter, on the second day of creation, the Bible says that God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear; and it was so. 10 And God called the dry land Earth, and the gathering together of the waters He called Seas. And God saw that it was good. “ Each day God looked at what He had done and repeated His assessment; “It was good.” On the sixth day, God modified His statement significantly; “31 Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good.” When God says it is good, make no mistake about it is always good! When it is very good, that is the best that it can possibly be!

In chapter 2 the Bible tells us that God planted a garden and he placed man in it to live. Notice what God says to Adam concerning this garden, “15 Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to tend and keep it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, ‘Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.’” I do not believe it is an accident that this tree is called the tree of knowledge of good and evil. I maintain that this is the source and substance of the constant struggle that men and women have faced since the fall of mankind in the garden.

Look at what the serpent told Eve in chapter 3. “4 Then the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil’.” Here is a question. What did Adam and Eve already know? All they knew was good. Why is that true? The answer to that question is really very simple. All they knew was God and His provisions for them. When Adam and Eve ate of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, the serpent was correct, their “eyes were opened and they indeed became like God, knowing good and evil.” What is the real significance of this event and this statement?

Adam and Eve willingly and deliberately chose good over God. Look at verse 6: “6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate.” Here is the real irony of this story. Eve looked at the tree and saw that it was good for food. She was correct. It is also interesting that she saw that it was a tree to make one wise; for once again, wisdom or more correctly a lack of wisdom is the real root to man’s sin problem. Wisdom comes from God. (James1:5) Man’s wisdom and the wisdom of the world are no match for God’s wisdom. “18 Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you seems to be wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their own craftiness”; 20 and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.” 21 Therefore let no one boast in men. For all things are yours: 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas, or the world or life or death, or things present or things to come — all are yours. 23 And you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.” (1 Cor 3:18-23)

Adam and Eve made the mistake of settling for what seemed good to them as opposed to standing on the Word that God had given to them. When their eyes were opened, basically what they found out was this: there are two choices to make in every decision; there is the perfect choice, which comes from God (Deut 32:3-4; 2 Sam 22:31-33; Psalm 18:30; Ps 19:7) and there are ALL of the other choices out there and they always fall short of the glory of God, resulting in sin. (Romans 3:23) Anytime anyone makes a choice that is less than God’s best, it does not matter how good that choice may be, it is not the BEST choice, which is what God has planned for that individual in their specific circumstance. Eve thought in choosing good over God, she was also gaining wisdom.

Here is another though concerning Eve’s sin; she thought she was getting something she did not already have. The truth is, evil is not something in and of itself but actually it is the lack of good. So instead of gaining something, what she lost in good left only evil. Evil is actually the absence of good just like darkness is the absence of light. This is an interesting concept for the Bible tells us that sin separates man from God. (Is 59:2) If God is the ultimate good, then choosing anything less than Him separates us from Him, and that is what the Bible calls sin. So what the serpent was really saying to Eve in the garden, was this; in the day that you eat of the tree, “your eyes will be open and you will be like God; knowing good and evil.“ They already knew good; in fact; all they knew was God’s presence and His power and provisions. Now they would experience separation from God and a lack of God’s ultimate good, which is called evil and sin. Evil and sin are the absence or separation from God and that was Satan’s ploy in the beginning.

Now with this in mind, how does original sin effect mankind and what has God done in Christ Jesus to correct what sin has damaged? The Bible tells us that in Adam all have sinned. Paul says that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God and the wages of sin is death. (Romans 3:23, 6:23.) Separation from God results in death. In fact, since God is life, the absence of God is death. In Adam all have sinned and in Christ all live. When an individual comes to Christ in saving faith, the Holy Spirit takes up residency in the new born Christian’s heart. God’s presence is once again restored and life takes God becomes the source and substance of the born again child of God and God once again walks with us.

Look at the first and second Adam. The first Adam chose good over God. The first Adam found the knowledge of good and evil; Adam and Eve did what seemed right in their own eyes. Jesus, who had every right and opportunity to do what He wanted to do the way He wanted to do it; did what God sent Him to do with no exceptions. In a sense, knowledge stands in opposition to obedience. So instead of having a contrast between the sovereignty of God and the free will of man, human knowledge stands in contrast to Divine obedience.

In fact the whole Calvinist argument concerning the sovereignty of God in contrast to human free will is not even rational. The Calvinist teaches that free will stands in contrast to God’s sovereignty. The truth is, God’s sovereignty is not hampered by human free will in any way whatsoever. The statement has been made, “If God’s Word says it, that settles it I believe it.” Here is the real truth in that statement: “If God’s Word says it, that settles it, whether you believe it or not.” What man believes or does in no way has any cause or effect on the veracity of neither God’s Word nor His Divine sovereignty.

Life itself is nothing but a series of decisions, one after the other. The challenge is really very simple. It is not a matter of a totally depraved individual who needs to be regenerated in order to even respond to God but rather an ongoing process of one decision after another depending on human knowledge or surrendering to Divine obedience in saving faith and repentance so that the presence of God might once again move into one’s heart and with that presence comes His power and His provisions and the potential to once again experience fellowship with the God who created us to give Him glory.

In closing this brief article, what does it mean to give God glory? Well, Rick Warren made the following phrase popular in his book, The Purpose driven Life; “It is not about me, It is all about God.” The basic thought in Warren’s statement is that we were created for God and He deserves our all. This is a very true statement. However, I am convinced that this is only part of what it means to “give god glory.” I do not believe that God created us to worship, honor and praise Him as so many see it. All of these things are elements of why God did indeed create us. However, I believe God’s initiative goes so much deeper than that.

In Leviticus 26:12, God says, “I want to be your God and I want you to be My people.” This is what I like to call God’s purpose statement of the Bible. It is also found in variations in the following verses: Jere 7:23; 11:4; 24:7; 30:22; 31:1, 33; several times in Ezekiel and then in 2 Cor. 6:16 and He 8:10. The real focus in this statement is with God and with us. God is the initiator and man is the respondent. So when Warren writes, “it is not about me it is all about God” he is absolutely correct, where we are concerned. However, I believe God’s real purpose is not what I bring to Him but rather what He is allowed to give to me. So the real purpose of life is for Bob Hadley to say to God… “God it is not about me; it is all about You. However, when Bob Hadley is able to say it is not about me; It is all about God THEN God is able to say to me, Bob it is not really about Me at all; it is all about you. God created us to be outlets of His love. He created us so that He could do for us all the things that we cannot do for ourselves. This is what I believe God meant when He looked at all that He had created and said, “It is very good.” When I give my best to God, He is able to give His best to me and His best is always better than what we can do for ourselves.

Ain’t God good!


Who is a Calvinist?

There are two things that are interesting in the ongoing saga of who is and what is a Calvinist. In an effort to try to determine for myself an answer to this very important question, I have concluded that a Calvinist is an individual that places regeneration before saving faith and repentance. It does not matter if the 3 all are simultaneous or one follows the other; the point is faith and repentance are impossible without regeneration, which is of God’s sole doing. Man does not have the ability nor the capability in and of himself to respond to God in any way apart from and independent of this process of regeneration.

In my study I am convinced that revelation and reconciliation are God’s means of bringing about saving faith in an  individual and NOT regeneration. (See Ro. 1:16; 2 Cor. 2:18-20) In His sovereignty, God is most certainly capable of revealing Himself to those that need to be reconciled to Him. An individual’s response to His revelation is what determines that person’s eternal destiny; God’s will is set; His revelation is given. Our eternity depends on what we do with that revelation.

This is the key difference between Conversionism and Calvinism; Transformed as opposed to Reformed Theology.

Grateful to be in His Grip,