North by Northwest

April 23, 2010

Hi Everyone,

I just got back into town after a short trip up to British Columbia for the Canadian pastors and leaders conference. It was a great couple of days: seeing old friends, meeting new ones, and hearing wonderful reports of what the Lord is doing in the churches.

A few highlights were traveling with my good friend Scott Cunningham; hooking up with one of my best buddies Ken Sutton and sharing the word at Calvary Everett; ministering with my dear friend Jean-Luc Lajoie; sharing the teaching at the conference with two men I greatly respect: Bil Gallatin and Gayle Erwin; hanging with all those great guys up in Canada who are going for it with the Lord; dropping in to see my friends Wayne and Jordan Taylor at Calvary Fellowship, Seattle; and finally, attending the Sunday morning service at Mars Hill Church in Seattle and having a brief but pleasant chat with Mark Driscoll. The Lord is good and there’s nothing like good fellowship to remind us of that.

This weekend we have the Pure Worship Conference back at home, and I’m so looking forward to Friday evening, as Brenton Brown leads the conference in worship.

If you can’t make it out to the church, you can catch it on the web at

One last thing, we’ve been in the process of creating the new Back to Basics Radio website, and it looks like we are going to be launching it in the next week or so. I think you’ll like it and find it quite helpful in providing you with resources and materials to strengthen and encourage you in your relationship with the Lord.

Grace and Peace,


Looking for a Good Book?

April 12, 2010

One of the things I really enjoy doing is reading biographies of men and women of faith. One of my favorite biographers is Roger Steer, whose biography on J. Hudson Taylor was superb. When I heard a few weeks ago that Roger Steer had recently written a biography on John Stott, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it! So having secured a copy I sat down over the past few days and read through it. What a blessing! I’ve been reading books by John Stott ever since I began training for the ministry 30 years ago and have always enjoyed his writings.

I remember the first time I taught through Paul’s epistle to the Galatians, Stott’s commentary on Galatians was so helpful. To this day I think it’s the best commentary on Galatians I’ve read. His commentaries on the Acts of the Apostles and the Sermon on the Mount are brilliant as well. His book, Between Two Worlds: The Art of Preaching in the Twentieth Century, is a classic and a must-read for preachers. I don’t think there’s anything John Stott has written that I wouldn’t recommend, especially to those who preach and teach the Word. But I must say that reading Roger Steer’s, Basic Christian: The Inside Story of John Stott, gave me a whole new appreciation for this great man of God. From his early life as the son of a prominent physician; to his conversion as a teenager; to his call into the ministry and the disapproval of his father; to his being appointed by the king as rector of All Souls, London, at the ripe old age of 29; to his rise to worldwide notoriety as a Bible expositor and Christian statesman; to his love and concern for the poor and underprivileged and his unceasing efforts to do all he could to help in the training of preachers and teachers of the Word of God, especially in Africa, Asia, and South America, it is an inspiring story and one that I would recommend to every minister of the gospel. Basic Christian is probably more of a book for pastors and preachers, but there are many other books by Stott that will be a blessing to anyone and everyone: Basic Christianity and The Cross of Christ being at the top of the list.



A Living Hope

April 3, 2010

Today people all around the world are remembering and celebrating the greatest event in human history- the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead! All human discovery and achievement, all scientific breakthrough and advance pale in comparison to this most glorious event- which was essentially, the abolition of death! Death is, of course, man’s greatest foe. All men in all places and at all times have and do live in fear and dread of death.

“The current death-rate is awesome. Three people die every second, 180 every minute, nearly 11,000 every hour, about 260,000 everyday, 95,000,000 every year. Death comes to young and old, rich and poor, good and bad, educated and ignorant, king and commoner… The dynamic young businessman, the glamorous actress, the great athlete, the brilliant scientist, the television personality, the powerful politician – none can resist the moment when death will lay it’s hand upon them and bring all their fame and achievements to nothing… Death is no respecter of time or place; it has neither season nor parish. It can strike at any moment of day or night, on land, on the sea or in the air. It comes to the hospital bed, the busy road, the comfortable armchair, the sports field and the office; there is not a single spot of the face of the planet where it is not able to strike”. Epicurus said, “It is possible to provide security against other ills, but as far as death is concerned, we men live in a city without walls”.

Death came as the consequence of sin. (By one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin). God’s great and glorious task was the destruction of death.

“The Lord will destroy on this mountain the covering that is cast over all people, and the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death forever”.

I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death. O Death, I will be your plagues! O Grave, I will be your destruction!

This task was accomplished by the death and resurrection of the Lord, Jesus Christ. Who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.

Hallelujah, He Is Risen!

Should We Care?

March 22, 2010

Like most other Americans, I’ve been watching with interest this ongoing health care debate. With the bill having passed through the House and on its way back to the Senate, it seems that it’s only a matter of time before socialized medicine becomes a reality in America.

What are we to make of all this as Christians? Well, I think we have two issues here: one is something we should be thankful for, and the other is something we should be deeply concerned about.

Universal health care is a good thing, and I think that we as Christians should be thankful that those who haven’t had health insurance are going to have it. Sometimes we can get so caught up in our political views that we lose sight of the most basic elements of our faith, things like loving our neighbor as ourselves or doing good to all men. We of all people shouldn’t be criticizing efforts to ensure that all Americans have health care.

But the other issue here is socialism, which is of course Marxism. We should be deeply concerned about the socialist agenda of many of our political leaders. Not only has history proven Marx wrong on all counts and socialism an utter failure in every instance, but history also tells us that Marxism and Christianity cannot coexist. Wherever the Marxists have gained power, the church has been oppressed and persecuted. There are no exceptions anywhere to this rule, i.e., the Soviet Union, China, Cuba, etc.

What can we do? Three things come to mind. First, we can pray. Ask God to have mercy on us, ask Him to push back the tide of evil, ask Him to raise up righteous men and women to lead this nation. Second, we must preach the gospel. As someone has said, “You can’t destroy an ideology; you must replace it with a better one.” All of our problems, be they personal or social, are rooted in the sinful heart of every human being. The gospel is the power of God that changes our hearts and fills them with righteousness, joy, love, and peace. Third, we need to demonstrate our faith through love and good works. Never underestimate the power of a Christlike life. Many former Marxists are Christians today because they saw the reality of Christ in the lives of His followers.

Grace and Peace,


Showing His True Colors

March 13, 2010

In the past few years, I’ve made reference in my teachings to the dangerous ideas being promoted by the “Emergent Movement.” The movement’s most well-known spokesman (although they deny being a movement or having a spokesman) is Brian McLaren. His recent publication, A New Kind of Christianity, once and for all shows that our suspicions we’re absolutely correct: McLaren is a radical liberal who has been masquerading as an evangelical; and now in A New Kind of Christianity, he has finally shown his true colors.

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary sponsored a panel discussion on the book and having watched the video, agreeing 100 percent with their perspective, I wanted to make that available to you. It’s about an hour long, but it’s well worth watching, especially if you’ve had questions about the “Emergent Movement.”…panel-discussion-on-brian-mclarens-a-new-kind-of-christianity/

Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth

March 5, 2010

A few weeks back Cheryl and I received a call on the Pastor’s Perspective broadcast from a guy who wanted to inform us, and our audience that, the Calvinistic doctrine of Total Depravity, meaning, among other things, that in order for a person to believe in Christ and be saved, he or she must first be born again by a sovereign act of God, is clearly taught in 1 John 5:1. Now I have heard many Calvinists’ argue for “regeneration before faith”, but I have to confess I had never heard it argued from that particular text. Since then, I’ve received a number of emails and calls where this issue has come up over and over again. The other day, on another edition of the broadcast, Joe Holden and I had the opportunity to address this issue once again when a young lady called and was confused over the meaning of the text after a conversation with a friend who was pushing Calvinism. Joe explained the text from the Greek, as well as looking at the statement in its context, and gave, what I believe was, an excellent answer to the question. After the program I asked Joe if he could take a few minutes and write that answer out so I could post it, so that others could read it and benefit from it. He was more that happy to do that and also suggested that we address the Calvinistic interpretation of Ezekiel 36:26-27 “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you…”

So here’s Joe Holden on 1John 5:1 and Ezekiel 36:26-27:

1 John 5:1 (“Everyone who believes [pisteuon] that Jesus is the Christ has been born [gegennetai] of God…”) has been offered as support for the reformed belief that faith/belief follows upon being “born of God” instead of the traditional view of faith being logically prior to being “born of God.”  It is argued that since “believes” here in verse 1 is a present tense participle which means present continuous belief, and “born” of God is a perfect tense verb indicating that the new birth is a past completed action with abiding results in the present, it verifies that the new birth actually caused (and is the ground of) the belief. How else could we explain why “belief” is mentioned to take place after being born of God? However, there is no basis for understanding this verse in the reformed manner for a number of reasons.

First, the verse does not explicitly say that the new birth was not caused by belief; the text is silent concerning this. To assume this verse eliminates faith as the cause of the new birth is an argument from silence, which is a fallacy. Just because the text is silent on this issue doesn’t mean it didn’t occur. It simply says that those who have been completely born of God in the past presently and continually believe. Since present and continual belief in 5:1 is consistent with the idea that faith is logically prior to being born of God, all orthodox Christians can believe this including Arminians, Moderates, and Calvinists. No one denies that belief is present after one is born of God. This means that belief is a present condition and characteristic common to all who have been born of God – nothing more and nothing less. So, to eliminate “belief” as the cause of being born of God simply because those born of God presently and continually believe unnecessarily adds to the text what is not there. And to assume from this passage that “belief” can only follow upon being born of God takes license with the passage and is not based on sound reasoning. In order for the reformed argument to succeed, the text must claim that belief “only follows” from one being born of God, or that faith “is not prior” to the new birth.

Second, the theological purpose of 1 John and the immediate context of 5:1 does not fit the reformed interpretation. The main theological purpose of the book is clear in that John seeks to aid his readers in “knowing” and distinguishing those who are truly born of God from those who are not (2:3-6, 19, 22, 23, 26; 3:6-9, 10, 16-17, 19, 24; 4:1-8, 12-13, 16, 20; 5:1, 4, 12-13, 18-19). Therefore, John repeatedly contrasts the two types of individuals (using the present and perfect tense formula, 2:29; 4:7; 5:1). He highlights the practices which are present and continual in genuine Christians such as righteousness (2:29; 3:10), love (4:7), and belief (5:1), etc., and by contrast highlights the negative characteristics of those who merely say they are Christians and are not (1:6-7; 2:9-11, 22-23; 3:10; 4:5, 8). Therefore, John offers to us in 5:1 a present and continual characteristic (i.e. belief) as evidence of those who have truly been born of God, as he does in 2:29 (i.e. righteousness) and 4:7 (i.e. love). That is to say, the belief, righteousness, and love, described in 5:1, 2:29, and 4:7, are demonstrations that follow those born of God and not causations. In other words, the passages do not reveal how one is born of God, but rather how we know who is born of God.

Third, the immediate context of 5:1 supports the fact that John here is distinguishing between false and true Christians in that 4:29 says “If someone says ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar;” Truly, belief and love mentioned in 5:1 are the ultimate manifestations and key distinguishing factors in aiding us to discover those who are genuinely born of God from those who are liars.

Ezekiel 36:26-27 [I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk.…] has been used by reformed scholars to demonstrate that man is depraved in a manner that requires God to give them a new heart in order to believe. In other words, a “heart of stone” cannot believe or respond to God, therefore, a new heart of flesh and a new spirit is necessary before belief is possible. However, there are several reasons why this interpretation is not necessary.

First, the text says the Lord will “give” the house of Israel this new heart, implying that it must be received by another to be effectual. All gifts must be received. The giver here is the Lord and the unmeritorious receiver is the house of Israel.

Second, the text does not explicitly say the house of Israel cannot receive this new heart. It simply says the Lord will “give” it, since He is the only one who can change a stony heart – something all orthodox Christians believe regardless of their theological persuasion. Therefore, verse 26 is best understood as indicating God’s work in giving the new heart, and not man’s role in receiving the new heart (the text is silent concerning this).  That is, the verse speaks of the ends which God will inevitably bring about and does not speak of the means of receiving the new heart. To argue that it is not possible for Israel to receive based on the fact that the Lord is the source of the new heart is an argument from silence since the text does not say Israel cannot freely receive it. In addition, the text does not say that the “heart of stone” cannot receive the Lords gift. The reformed position has overemphasized the ends (i.e. what will inevitably occur as a work of God) and has suppressed the means to achieve those ends (i.e. house of Israel role in receiving). In fact, verse 31 implies that repentance and the loathing of their sin was crucial to the time when Israel would be given their new heart. This is confirmed from an earlier passage in Ezekiel (18:30-31) that describes the Lord commanding Israel to “get themselves a new heart.” It clearly describes the house of Israel’s role in “repenting…from all their transgressions” and to “get themselves a new heart and a new spirit.”  Thus, 36:26 gives us a picture of the Lord’s role in giving the new heart and 18:30-31 describes Israel’s role in receiving the new heart (cf. Jer 32:33-34 for Israel’s failure to respond). The reformed interpretation shows little awareness of the difference between primary and secondary causes. God is the primary cause (the source) of the new heart, the people of Israel are the secondary cause (means through which – freely received by faith) of the new heart (see Westminster Confession of Faith 1646, V.ii).

Third, the reformed interpretation has overemphasized the “heart of stone” in a sense not supported by the Scriptures and has rendered an unrealistic view of human nature. Though man’s condition of depravity is certainly described in Scripture as being “Dead” in trespasses and sins (Eph 2:8-9) – the heart and will are not dead in the sense of being annihilated or inoperative to spiritual things. “Dead” in Scripture always carries the idea of “separation,” not as spiritually inoperative (or annihilated). Physical death is the separation of the body from the spirit (Js 2:26); spiritual death is separation of the individual from God (Isa 59:2); eternal death is a permanent separation from the heavenly bliss of God. This separation from God in all instances entails man has been separated with (and in accordance to) his will and not from his will. This is supported by the fact that the image of God (which includes the will) is still present and operative in man after the fall (Gen 9:6), which includes God consciousness and the awareness of one’s moral condition (Gen 3:9-13). Therefore, the depravity of man should be seen as extensive (extending to the whole person) rather than intensive (rendering inoperative a part of human nature). This means that the man’s sin nature inclines, bends, and offers a propensity to sin, but does not force one to sin in a hard deterministic sense. The overemphasis on the “Dead” model of human nature to the exclusion of other scriptural models (all of which imply fallen man is less than totally inoperative) such as blind, sick, poor, and in need of a physician, unnecessarily portrays fallen man as without ability to freely receive from God, since dead people can do nothing for themselves. Therefore, “the heart of stone” should not be viewed as literal stone without faculties, but rather a metaphorical picture of a heart that is willfully disobedient and hardened to spiritual things (Jer 24:7 cf. 32:40).

Sola Dei Gloria,


The Heart of Jesus

February 21, 2010

A few months ago on our radio broadcast, “Pastor’s Perspective,” I made the comment that Calvinism seems to me to be Christianity without Jesus. That comment led to all kinds of speculation about my knowledge and acceptance of Scripture. It was suggested that I must be one of those who reject Paul’s writings and only believe the “red letters” to be inspired.

I clarified my statement the other day, saying that Calvinism (pure Calvinism, or what some would call hard Calvinism or hyper-Calvinism) lacks the heart of Jesus in as much as it seems to miss the love, grace, mercy, longsuffering, and compassion that Jesus demonstrated toward all sinners while He was here on earth.

In response to that clarification, a “Reformed” apologist accused me of not understanding what the Bible says about the heart of Jesus and insisting that I have invented a sentimental Jesus who wants to save everybody but can’t. He also accused me of being a syncretist (one who seeks to blend different religions or philosophies); of being entangled in tradition; of refusing to allow all of Scripture to speak; of misquoting and misinterpreting Scripture; and essentially of being unbiblical because, according to him, only Calvinism has the true biblical understanding of who Jesus is, what He did, and what His purposes are.

Now, according to this apologist, Jesus does not want to save everybody. He never intended to save everybody, and I am greatly misrepresenting Him by suggesting He does. He only ever intended to save the elect. Therefore, He only died for the elect, and at the end of the day those who are in heaven are there because they were predestined to be there, and those who are in hell are there because they were predestined to be there. End of discussion!!! He’s a rather dogmatic fellow.

He went on to propose a series of questions to me that I would like to respond to, not because I think that my answers will have any effect on him, but because I believe it’s important to show that the Calvinists are guilty of the very things they accuse others of doing i.e. imposing their unbiblical theological views on Scripture, and conveniently ignoring or spinning biblical texts that don’t fit their theology.

The first question posed had to do with how I could reconcile my view of the heart of Jesus (a heart of love, grace, mercy, longsuffering and compassion toward all sinners) with Matthew 11:25-27 that says,  “At that time Jesus answered and said, “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight. All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.”

In Luke’s account we are told that Jesus rejoiced in his spirit and said, I thank you, Father…

The emphasis of this apologist was on Jesus rejoicing that God had hidden these thing from the wise and the prudent, implying that Jesus took special delight that God had Himself prevented these men from receiving His message and being saved.

Thus proving, at least from his point of view, that Jesus not only doesn’t want to save everybody, He delights in damning certain people.

I find that interpretation difficult to accept in light of verses like Ezekiel 33:11, where the Lord declares that He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, or Hosea 11:8, where the Lord cries, “How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel? My heart churns with in Me; My sympathy is stirred. That hardly sounds to me like one rejoicing over judgment.

It seems to me that Jesus is simply thanking God that in His wisdom He has resisted the proud and given grace to the humble.

I don’t deny that what is being described here is a judicial blindness upon the “wise and prudent” but the bigger question is why were they blinded? Was it the result of the decree of God in eternity past or was it the result of their refusal to receive the one who came to save them? I believe it to be the latter.

Who were the wise and prudent that Jesus described in this text? Undoubtedly, they were the religious leaders who opposed Jesus throughout His ministry. These are the ones who would prove not to be His sheep and therefore not drawn to Jesus by the Father. But again, the question arises, why were they not His sheep? Was it because they were decreed by God not to be His sheep or was it because they were unwilling to believe and thus not be counted among His sheep? Again I believe it to be the latter.

My apologist friend referred to several verses from John’s Gospel, particularly verses from chapters 6, 8, and 10, to support his view that Jesus did not want to save these men who were rejecting Him; but statements in chapters 5, 7, 9, and 10, which were made to the very same group, state that He did want to save them.

“You sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth. Yet I do not receive testimony from man, but I say these things that you might be saved. He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing for a time to rejoice in his light. But I have a greater witness than John’s for the works which the Father has given Me to finish—the very works I do—bear witness of Me, that the Father has sent Me. And the Father Himself, who sent Me, has testified of Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His form. But you do not have His word abiding in you, because whom He sent, Him you do not believe. You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life” (John 5:33-40).

Here in verses 34 and 40, we see that Jesus wanted to save these men and that it was their unwillingness to come to Him that kept them from salvation, not an eternal decree by God that they should be damned.

We have a similar reference to the will being the determining factor in a man’s salvation in John 7:17: “And the Jews marveled, saying, “How does this Man know letters, having never studied?” And Jesus answered them and said, “My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me. If anyone wills to do his will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority” (John 7:15-17).

Again in chapter 9 Jesus put the blame for the Pharisees spiritual blindness back on their own shoulders. “And Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may be made blind.” Then some of the Pharisees who were with Him heard these words, and said to Him, “Are we blind also?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you say, ‘We see.’ Therefore your sin remains” (John 9:39-41).

Again, their inability to “see” and thus be saved was due to their unwillingness to humble themselves, not to God having eternally decreed their spiritual blindness.

One last passage from John 10, that great chapter on the Shepherd giving eternal life to His sheep: “If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; but if I do, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and believe that the Father is in Me, and I in Him” (John 10:37-38).

Contrary to the view of my apologist friend, Jesus was clearly seeking to persuade men to believe in Him, which leads to the logical and obvious conclusion that He wanted to save people who, in the end, would not be saved because they were not willing.

After having supposedly proved his point from verses 25 and 26 he went on to give his take on verse 27 where Jesus says, “no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him.” His argument suggests that there are some sinners to whom Jesus does not reveal the Father, rather, Jesus chooses to reveal Him only to the elect. This is not what the passage is saying or teaching. In fact, the passage never says that Jesus only wants to reveal the Father to some sinners. Rather than Jesus taking delight in hiding the Father from sinners, a better approach sees Jesus seeking their salvific good when in this very context he invites His listeners to “come unto Me” and “take My yoke upon you” (vv. 28-29). That is to say, a balanced perspective of Scripture understands the passage in the sense that Jesus only reveals himself personally to the willing among sinners. This is what Jesus meant in John 7:17 when he says “If anyone wills (chooses) to do God’s will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God. This in no way removes God’s choice to reveal Himself to sinners since man is dependent upon the sovereign act of God to initiate a revelation of Himself. That is, we would have no revelation of the Father unless Christ first chooses to reveal Him. Therefore, verse 27 would be more appropriately speaking of the sovereign act of God to reveal Himself and not a statement about hiding himself from sinners apart from the sinners’ own willful disobedience and refusal to receive Christ’s revelation.

I have no doubt that this apologist will have some spin on all the verses to which I’ve just referred. And in seeking to spin them in favor of his position, he will only prove to be guilty of the very thing he is accusing me and all those others who disagree with his theological views of, namely, refusing to allow all of Scriptures to speak.

His next question was basically this: did Jesus want to save the poor Amorites but found Himself in conflict with His Father who ordered Joshua to destroy them?

Obviously, this is a ridiculous question but the point that this apologist was driving at is that God didn’t want to save the Canaanites; He wanted to eternally damn them, and that Jesus was, of course, in harmony with God and thus the heart of Jesus was actually to damn not to save.

The problem in this view lies in a false assumption and the confused notion that the Canaanites all went off into an eternal state of punishment. God ordered Joshua to destroy them but the Scriptures say nothing about the state of their souls eternally. To assume God’s destruction of persons equates eternal perdition is shortsighted (cf. Lev 10:1-3 Nadab and Abihu, Acts 5:1-10 Ananias and Sapphira) and places words in God’s mouth that are simply not there. Therefore, to assume that they all, children included, perished eternally is to see God in a light that I don’t think He revealed himself in, in the Scriptures. This is a misrepresentation of God that is so often presented by Calvinism. Didn’t God express concern for the inhabitants of Nineveh (surely as wicked as the Amorites) who did not know their right hand from their left? Actually, Jonah acted a lot like some of our Calvinist friends who are seemingly upset that we would suggest God’s heart toward all sinners is one of mercy and compassion, and His desire is that they would turn from sin and receive His salvation.

The next challenge was to explain, in light of my claim that the heart of Jesus is to save all people, why in John 17, when Jesus was praying, did He specifically say that He wasn’t praying for the world? “I pray for them [His followers]. I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me …” (John 17:9). How anyone could draw from that statement that Jesus did not want to save the whole world is a mystery to me. He was simply stating that His focus in prayer was for those who had believed in Him. He didn’t say, I’m not praying for the world because I don’t want to save the world, or, I’m not praying for the world because they are not part of the elect, and My Father and I have decreed from eternity past their condemnation for good and wise reasons known only to ourselves. He simply noted that His prayer was specifically for those who had received Him. Besides, Jesus didn’t come to pray for the world but to die for the world! Yet in fact, Christ did pray for sinners on other occasions (Lk 23:34, “Father, forgive them [his crucifiers] for they know not what they do”). In addition, Jesus wanted his followers to pray the Lord send more laborers into the harvest (Lk 10:2) though He knew not all would be saved. Even if it could be proven that Scripture does not record Christ praying for the non-elect, it does not mean He did not love sinners nor die for them. A limited view of Christ’s love and atonement for all sinners does not fit well with Paul’s statements as well. Paul’s mission and passion and prayer was for God to save Israel (Rom 10:1) yet he knew only the “remnant” would be saved (Rom 11:1-5).

Finally, I was accused of misquoting and misinterpreting Matthew 23:37:

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!”

I will admit that I might have paraphrased it and so perhaps that is why I’m being accused of misquoting it.

As far as misinterpreting it, I didn’t do that. It says what it says no matter how hard some Calvinists try to spin it. What does it say? It says the reason the inhabitants of Jerusalem were not saved is because they were unwilling to come to Christ, since the text plainly states that Jesus “wanted” and “longed” for Jerusalem to be gathered together. It says nothing more or nothing less than that. Any interpretation that denies that the passage teaches (albeit indirectly) that man’s will plays a role in his unmerited receiving of salvation is misinterpreting the passage.

One other thought comes to mind in regard to the heart of Jesus in relation to Jerusalem. Luke 19:41 tells us that Jesus “wept” over the city. Now I would interpret the weeping to be a sign of the heart brokenness of Jesus over the coming destruction of Jerusalem and I think most people would understand it that way. But if you follow the logic of the hard Calvinistic view, rather than Jesus weeping over Jerusalem he should have been rejoicing over its coming destruction. After all, wasn’t the sinful lost state, and eternal damnation of the majority of the population of Israel decreed by God from all eternity for good and wise purposes known only to himself?  Why is Jesus weeping if he in the counsels of eternity along with the Father and the Spirit had already determined the eternal destiny of the non-elect? Did Jesus get a little sentimental and momentarily break ranks with his Father? Is he only pretending to be sorrowful? According to the hard Calvinism espoused by this apologist, there can be no room in the heart of Jesus for weeping over lost damned sinners, because they are damned by his eternal decree for his eternal glory and not loved in a salvific way by God. This is a confused, distorted and unbiblical view of God. It is not the person who believes that “God desires all men to be saved” that is unbiblical, but the person who rejects that “God desires all men to be saved” that is unbiblical! If God does not desire all sinners to be saved, He cannot be all-loving, at least in a salvific way, since He does not love all sinners enough to save them even though He could if He wanted to. It seems the hard Calvinist must now choose whether they want to maintain God’s all-loving nature, or their current position on God’s relationship to sinners and limited atonement. The Calvinist position on God’s love to some sinners appears to be contrary to Christ’s clear teaching that we should follow God’s example of perfect love as entailing the love of sinners (Mt 5:43-45). Besides, if Christ loves some sinners, why is it not possible to love all sinners equally? To reply that God does love all sinners equally but does not save all sinners implies God does not love all sinners in an equally salvific way, which is not really “equal” divine love. The best explanation of why only some are saved while God loves all equally in a salvific way is to understand that sinners are not willing to receive the free gift of salvation. In this sense then God can remain all-loving, and sinners are responsible for their own responses to the conviction of the Holy Spirit in their lives.

Unfortunately, the phrase “for good and wise purposes known only to himself” that I’ve employed on a couple of occasions is the Calvinistic panacea, the magic formula that takes every extreme Calvinistic absurdity and makes it one of the glorious mysteries of God’s sovereignty.

If anyone is guilty of syncretism I would have to say that it is the Calvinists who seek to force the Scriptures into their 5-point system and in the process ignore, disregard or alter the plain and obvious meaning of the text.

Now, I do want to retract something I originally said, because I generalized and I don’t want to do that. I said something like, Calvinists miss or don’t really understand the heart of Jesus. I should have said, some Calvinists.

Having said all I’ve said, I am not an anti-Calvinist per se if we are talking about Calvinists’ like Henry, Whitefield, Spurgeon, Machen, Lloyd-Jones, Packer, Carson, Keller, Grudem, and others like them who, I believe, held or hold a more balanced position, and haven’t let their theological views divide and polarize the body of Christ. The problem to me is the extreme position taken by some Calvinist, my accuser being one of them. I think Lloyd-Jones understood this issue and therefore made it a point to refer to himself as a Biblical Calvinist. He let the Bible interpret Calvinism rather than Calvinism interpret the Bible. May I suggest my reformed friend seek to be more like Lloyd-Jones and less like John Gerstner.


P.S. To the Heart of Jesus

It was brought to my attention by someone who read the previous post that I had said that my accuser referred to me as being a “syncretist,” when in fact he accused me of being a “synergist,” which I think was actually the case. So, what is a “synergist”? In this context, it would be a person who believes that salvation is a cooperative effort between God and man, i.e., God provides salvation, but man must exercise his will in order to receive that salvation. The opposite of a synergist would be a monergist, or one who believes that salvation is dependent on God alone, i.e., God decrees, God elects, God regenerates, God imparts faith, man is saved. Well, given those two positions, I would have to say that I hold to the former rather than the latter position. But I would disagree with the Calvinists’ accusation that in holding to that view, I am denying that salvation is entirely of the Lord.

I don’t deny that at all. I thoroughly believe that the decision to save men from sin and subsequent damnation originated in God Himself without any consideration of any other factor, meaning, God did not base His decision to save because He knew that there would be some who would respond to His offer of salvation. This position would have man being the impetus behind salvation, and we know from Paul’s statement in Romans 9:16 that the impetus of salvation is not man but God alone. “It is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy.” So when it comes to the possibility of salvation, the fact that there is an alternative to damnation, God alone is responsible for that possibility. But when it comes to whether or not I benefit from that offer of salvation or perish eternally, I make the choice.

Pastors Perspective

January 27, 2010

Hey everyone, I recently did a radio interview with Dr. Ergun Caner and thought you might enjoy hearing it. I think you’ll find it especially insightful regarding Islam.



The file is rather large, I recommend just clicking the link and listening to it through your web browser, but you can also right click it and download the file and listen to it that way as well.

Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow

January 18, 2010

The LORD bless you and keep you;

The LORD make His face to shine upon you,

and be gracious to you;

The LORD lift up His countenance upon you,

and give you peace.

The LORD gave to Aaron and his sons, the priests, these very words with which they were to bless the children of Israel.

I love that this blessing originated with God. It was He who said that the priest was to put His name upon the children of Israel and He would bless them.

Remember God wants to bless us more than we can imagine.

For He is a Blessing God; a Keeping God; a Smiling God; a Gracious God; an Attentive God; and a Peace-Giving God.

Be Blessed,


Thoughts on the New Year

January 3, 2010

As we enter a new year I have a few things that I’m personally thinking about that I thought I’d share with you.

One: I’m thinking about the need to be more focused in my devotional life. I want my time in the Word to be richer in the year to come. I want to give more time to meditating in the Scriptures and experiencing the presence of the Lord.

Two: I’m thinking about the need to be more deliberate in my service to God. I find that sometimes there’s a bit of a haphazard approach to ministry that ends up wasting lots of time and energy. Being more deliberate means seizing every opportunity that comes and doing it with all my heart.

Three: I’m thinking that there are some great things in store for us as we love and serve Jesus in 2010 and I’m excited to see how it’s all going to unfold.

Grace and Peace,


P.S. I’m hoping to be a more prolific blogger in 2010 :)


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