September 20, 2016
We should have little patience with those who deliberately abuse the scriptures, particularly in central doctrines. At the same time, innocent statements can also be dangerous, even if they were not intended to be harmful. The Bible is about God, and His purpose in giving us the scriptures was to reveal Himself to us. His character is displayed in marvelous detail, and we are obligated to avoid statements that might mislead our listeners.
Here is an example of a careless comment, even though it might be intended to express the danger of rejecting the grace of God in eternal salvation. How often have you heard someone say that "to be lost is to be separated from God eternally?” It is true that the unsaved person will be separated from God’s love and mercy, but separated from God eternally? Really? How could that be? David observed, “If I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.” (Psalm 139:8b) I remember, as a child, hearing an evangelist shout “The worst thing about hell is that God is not there!” The truth is that the worst thing about hell is that God is there. The careless student might say that the issue is not important. The “cute” theologian may say that the place for the lost to dwell eternally is not hell, but is the Lake of Fire. That is true, but it is not the point of this discussion. After all, we are told “…and death and hell were cast into the lake of fire.” (Rev. 20:14a) To say that God is not in hell or eternity is an attack on the omnipresence of God.
Much of the doctrinal error suggested by people who only know “about” the Bible comes from an erroneous view of the doctrine of God. Whole denominations have invented ideas about the Holy Spirit that fail to recognize that He is God the Spirit. That includes, without exception, all the attributes of God that belong to Him. The Holy Spirit is eternally all-present in the first, second, and third heavens. Eternity is hard for us to conceive, but He is, has always been, and always will be totally God.
An example of the general misunderstanding of the Spirit surrounds the event of Pentecost. All that the Bible says on the subject is true. He did come at Pentecost in special presence and ministry. To hear some people tell the story, you would think that the Spirit had never been there before and was surprised at Jerusalem the first time He saw it. While that is farfetched, it is no more misguided than some of allegorical ideas that historical theology offers, or that experiential religious views press on the Bible.
The Spirit has always been omnipresent, so that is not the issue of Pentecost. The coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost has to do with the inception of His special ministry; and that ministry is clearly related to the Church, the Body of Christ, that came into existence on that day. Some aspects of His ministry had never been exercised before, and the Scripture makes it plain that they will be used from Pentecost until that moment when the Church of Jesus Christ is caught away. When the Church is removed, so will be that special ministry of the Spirit. (I Thess. 4:13-18; II Thess. 2:1-12) The Holy Spirit will still be all-present, but those special ministries He began at Pentecost will cease to function with men on earth.
COME, HOLY SPIRIT
What do people mean when they sing “Come, Holy Spirit?” He is already here, omnipresent. Why would we ask for something He already has given us, His marvelous presence?
He came once in special ministry for the age of the church, and He is not going to come like that again. If we mean that we want Him to move in our midst with power and purity, bringing obedience to the saints, then that makes sense. It isn’t healthy to confuse people, so we should say and sing only what we mean because the average Christian, who only knows “about” the Bible, may well think we mean something else.
Every true believer has the Holy Spirit indwelling his/her body. He is already there. God meant for us to utilize His indwelling, teaching, guiding, convicting, empowering, etc.; and the fullness of the Spirit is simply yielding to the indwelling Spirit. Since we have the power dwelling in us, what are you praying for? God has already given us the answer, and we are not using it. Why are people looking for something new or additional?
Our world is at the edge of disaster, on the verge of a world war, and our nation is more divided than it was even at the time of the Civil War. One international or national spark could set off a war or cause fighting to erupt in our streets. Some folks have their heads in the sand in denial; others are frightened half of their wits. Some Christians believe that revival is the answer.
If you are praying for revival, what are you praying for? Praying for others isn’t wrong, but if you don’t have revival and repentance of sin in your own heart, then don’t waste your time. The greatest hindrance to revival is the need in each individual heart, and that is what each person should be paying attention to. Many believers pray in vain for revival because they embrace doctrinal error and expect God to honor their prayer while they abuse the Scriptures and are openly disobedient to Him. To take lightly the omnipresence of God, for instance, is a serious offence to Him.
IT IS NO CHRISTMAS PRESENT
Christmas time is one of those periods when people are habitually careless with Scripture. You have already heard my diatribe on this issue, but it illustrates the problem with misleading people about the omnipresence of Christ. We are told that Jesus came down to earth at Bethlehem. While that is true, much of the description is misleading. Where did we get the stuff saying that the angels wept at His departure because they would miss Him? On the day of His birth He was still present everywhere. While He as a babe, clothed by God in flesh, lay in a manger, He was still the Creator and present everywhere in the universe. We see Him as a helpless babe, a man of little wealth, or a despised servant; He was still the all-present God.
It is no Christmas present to mislead people about the God/man even if ours are innocent comments. We don’t need “cute” explanations when we come to questions about Christ in the flesh. We don’t need to feel that we have to explain things that are not explained in the Bible. Those who are plagued by the “Lucifer Syndrome” want people to think that they know the answers to everything. Dr. Bowman repeatedly said, “We always begin with what we most assuredly know.” Then we accept the clear, plain statements of the text. The mysteries of the Scripture remain embraced in the omniscience of God. Our task is to remain confident in what we know, such as the attributes of our Eternal God.
Shepherd's Staff is prepared by Clay Nuttall, D. Min.
A communication service of Shepherd's Basic Care, for those committed to the authority and sufficiency of the Bible. Shepherd's Basic Care is a ministry of information and encouragement to pastors, missionaries, and churches. Write for information using the e-mail address firstname.lastname@example.org or at The Shepherd's Staff
September 13, 2016
In recent years there has been a great deal of attention focused on the New Calvinism. “New Calvinism” is a serious threat to the Church of Jesus Christ. Among others many of the so-called “conservative” evangelicals have been at the forefront of advocating this movement and its devastating effects.
For the most comprehensive review and analysis of, and the answer to the New Calvinism you must read the works by Dr. Rob Congdon. You can find them at his website, Congdon Ministries International in the bookstore. Previously he wrote and we featured here New Calvinism’s Upside-Down Gospel.1
For those who are genuinely saved but have fallen under the teaching of New Calvinism, there is also concern. They, along with unsaved New Calvinists, are being led down a path that quite possibly is leading to a re-unification of Protestant churches with Roman Catholicism. Eventually, this union will spawn the worldwide religion described in Revelation…. John Piper, Al Mohler, Mark Dever, Mark Driscoll, and other New Calvinist leaders influence these young adults through their speaking, writing, and Internet blogs. They also encourage their followers to read the writings of past authority figures such as Augustine, Jonathan Edwards, and John Owens, as well as other influential Reformers or Puritans. While some of these writings provide useful spiritual insight, they also contain false biblical teaching. It is these and other writings that encourage mysticism, signs and wonders, and a continual looking back to the cross. Instead of complacent Christianity, New Calvinism seems to offer a sense of passion that is experienced through meditation on the majesty of God and the cross.
Rob Congdon’s new book is titled, New Calvinism & the Millennial Generation: The Perfect Storm.2
New Calvinism is a system of theology that combines: Reformed, Covenant, Puritan, and Augustinian theologies with present day, Post-Modern culture in an attempt to make Christianity seem more relevant to today’s Christian. Recognizing that churches are declining in numbers, fewer people are being saved, and that many Christians are carnal, not leading holy lives, concerned Christian leaders are looking back to the earlier days of the church for a solution. One solution they are turning to is New Calvinism. They are re-thinking and re-invigorating their teachings in order to make it relevant to our generation of Christianity. 1) Relevant is a key goal of New Calvinism.2) Adherents to New Calvinism believe that the answer lies in reaching out and building bridges between all segments of Christianity.3) According to the teachings of New Calvinism, the spiritual gifts of signs and wonders are valid for the church today.4) New Calvinism seeks to create and redeem culture.5) New Calvinism unites with Worldliness.
Related reading from 2009 by Dr. Peter Masters, The Merger of Calvinism With Worldliness.3
The new Calvinists constantly extol the Puritans, but they do not want to worship or live as they did. One of the vaunted new conferences is called Resolved, after Jonathan Edwards’ famous youthful Resolutions (seventy searching undertakings). But the culture of this conference would unquestionably have met with the outright condemnation of that great theologian.
C J Mahaney is a preacher highly applauded in this book. Charismatic in belief and practice, he appears to be wholly accepted by the other big names who feature at the ‘new Calvinist’ conferences, such as John Piper, John MacArthur, Mark Dever, and Al Mohler. Evidently an extremely personable, friendly man, C J Mahaney is the founder of a group of churches blending Calvinism with charismatic ideas, and is reputed to have influenced many Calvinists to throw aside cessationist views.
The new Calvinism is not a resurgence but an entirely novel formula which strips the doctrine of its historic practice, and unites it with the world.
Why have the leading preachers servicing this movement compromised so readily? They have not been threatened by a Soviet regime. No one has held a gun to their heads. This is a shameful capitulation, and we must earnestly pray that what they have encouraged will not take over Calvinism and ruin a generation of reachable Christian young people.
A final sad spectacle reported with enthusiasm in the book is the Together for the Gospel conference, running from 2006. A more adult affair convened by respected Calvinists, this nevertheless brings together cessationists and non-cessationists, traditional and contemporary worship exponents, and while maintaining sound preaching, it conditions all who attend to relax on these controversial matters, and learn to accept every point of view. In other words, the ministry of warning is killed off, so that every error of the new scene may race ahead unchecked. These are tragic days for authentic spiritual faithfulness, worship and piety.
If you cannot recognize error you, your church and your family are at risk of being unwittingly swept into this anti-biblical movement. New Calvinism is introduced with great subtlety by certain star personalities in evangelicalism. The unsuspecting could easily be deceived into believing that New Calvinism is God’s plan for the New Testament church. I can think of no current resources that will better equip to you recognize, reject and refute the egregious errors of the New Calvinism than that of Dr. Rob Congdon’s works on this subject.
Originally appeared September 3, 2013.
Site Publisher Addendum:
I reject all 5 points of Calvinism and the extra-biblical theology (regeneration before faith; faith is the gift of God) that flows from it. Recognizing Dr. Masters is a Calvinist I feel his voice is much needed in this debate over the new threat from his Calvinistic brethren.