Thursday, March 26, 2009


When the Israelites made the golden calf, they referred to it as the God who had brought them out of Egypt. In one sense it was the RIGHT God they were worshipping, but instead of recognising Him for who He REALLY is they created their own image of Him.
At that time most of their knowledge of God was based on the spoken word of Moses and upon a few personal experiences as interpreted by Moses. They had no written scriptures and the Holy Spirit was not given to them in the way he has been given to believers today.
When Moses departed their camp, leaving them without their primary link to God, they reverted to the ideas of divinity they’d absorbed in Egypt over the previous 400 years. And God did not take it lightly when they created the false image and worshipped it.

Today Christians have the written scriptures and the Holy Spirit has been sent to lead us into all truth. Therefore there is no excuse for any major misunderstanding of God. Yet His character, His ways, His purposes and His method of salvation are viewed differently across various “Christian” camps.

At what point does a God cease to be the God of the Bible and become a false God?

Most Christians would have no hesitation in recognising that Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons have departed from the truth, but what have those groups got wrong?
Their beliefs promote a different understanding of God’s character, God’s ways, God’s purposes and God’s method of salvation.
If we recognise the error within these groups and see them as false; why are we more tolerant of other “Christian” doctrines that like wise distort the character of God and His means of providing salvation?

Thursday, March 19, 2009


Over the last couple of weeks I have visited several “Arminian” blogs and I have been encouraged by many of the articles. This has been very welcome after months of being continually confronted and battered by Calvinists and their false teachings.

I have found that I am in agreement with most doctrine I’ve read on these websites. This agreement did not come about because I was conditioned by Arminius’ teaching, but because I studied and read the same Bible that Arminius studied and trusted the Holy Spirit’s teaching abilities.

Unfortunately, along with the good doctrine, I have also seen some evidence of a very unhealthy devotion to a man. Arminius is being given praise that is not due to him.
At times his teachings are mentioned in a way that gives the impression that they are THE means by which we understand truth and his teachings are held up as THE standard of doctrinal orthodoxy. In some cases this reliance on Arminius gives the impression that his teaching overshadows the value of scripture.

This situation is yet another example of man’s teaching being given too high a priority. Arminius was a man and the soundness in his teaching is due solely to its agreement with the scriptures. Go first to the SOURCE of scriptural truth and seek GOD alone for revelation through the Holy Spirit. Arminius (and other teachers) can later provide confirmation or otherwise of what we believe we have learned from the scriptures.

Promote the writings of Arminius as a valuable secondary resource by all means – but do not make him into a standard by which all teaching is judged. There is only ONE written standard of truth – the BIBLE.

Monday, March 16, 2009


Recently the teaching ministry of a particular woman was recommended to the members of a Christian discussion forum, so I read a transcript of one of her sermons based on “The Potter’s House”.
I was interested to see what was said about this topic because the image of the potter and the clay (from Romans 8) is a favourite proof text used by Calvinists.
While she presents some interesting ideas on potters and the use of clay – and even though she makes reference to biblical statements; it seems to me that she merely used the imagery to create her own message. It’s was the common practice of using a “text” as a springboard to present a message that the PREACHER wants to convey rather than taking the biblical text and seeing what IT has to say.To me this was made most clear by her avoidance of the interpretation GOD gives regarding Jeremiah’s observations in the potter’s house. She does make reference to Jeremiah 18 in which God has told Jeremiah to visit the potter – but then she stops after the potter/clay illustration is given. The following verses are not mentioned, and yet these give the very important context to the WHY God sent Jeremiah to observe the potter: and God’s interpretation turns the usual understanding of the story upon its head.
Usually the imagery of the potter and the clay are used to convey the idea that God is in control and that we are merely clay in His hands – subject totally to His will and His purpose for our lives. Some of us He has decided to make into vessels of honour and others He has decided to make as vessels of dishonour. The story is used to show how we have no involvement in our destiny – the potter (God) moulds the clay (us) as He desires.But when we see what God told Jeremiah we get a DIFFERENT picture.
God’s explanation of the potter and the clay shows how the clay (humanity) can change what God had decided. Those who God had determined to punish can avoid that punishment if they repent. Those who God had determined to reward could lose that reward if they turned to disobedience.The illustration shows that the clay can affect the outcome of the potter’s intention and if necessary he will make it into another pot, one different from his first intention.This sermon was a classic example of how to avoid scriptural context to mould God’s word into a form that WE choose to support our favoured theology.


Here is the PURPOSE of God’s message about the potter and the clay given in the part of the text that was not addressed in the sermon: Jeremiah 18 5 Then the word of the LORD came to me: 6 "O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter does?" declares the LORD. "Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel. 7 If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed, 8 and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned. 9 And if at another time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be built up and planted, 10 and if it does evil in my sight and does not obey me, then I will reconsider the good I had intended to do for it.

Friday, March 13, 2009


For most of my Christian life I was unaware of both Calvinism and Arminianism and the conflict between those different theologies.
My first knowledge of Calvinism came through participation on an internet forum; and I couldn’t believe that any professing Christian could believe such things about the God I’d grown to know over the previous 30 years.

Arminianism remained out of the picture until I started to be labelled as an Arminian by the Calvinists I was increasingly coming into contact with. While some used the label reasonably benignly, as if it was merely an alternative to their personal preference for Calvin; others used it as an accusation, as if an “Arminian” was something to be loathed.

From the first time I was identified as an “Arminian” I have objected to the label. Having not even heard of Arminius to that point, I knew that I was not a follower of the man or his doctrine. However, considering the number of times I was being associated with his teaching I eventually decided to find out more about him.

While I still object to be labelled as an “Arminian”, it is not because I have an objection to Arminius or his basic theology. My brief investigation into this matter has introduced me to some very worthwhile blogs associated with Arminian teachings. Through reading some of the articles I have been surprised how much I can identify and agree with their ideas and understanding. I have provided links to some of these on the sidebar.
In my previous blog entry I addressed my concerns about the use of none biblical “theological terminology”. That would perhaps be my main disagreement with the Arminian writers on the recommended blogs.
My experience with both charismanic and highly traditional churches has shown me how dangerous mans’ traditions can be, so I have a strong aversion to teachings that rely too much on sources other than the scriptures (this includes the use of non-biblical theological terminology). If these sources become too influential, then it becomes likely that we start to interpret scripture according to those sources rather than vice versa.

I was becoming increasingly discouraged by the apparently increasing influence of Calvinist thought among the Christians with whom I’ve come into contact in recent months. My first real contact with “Arminian” believers has given me a great deal of encouragement and I look forward to keeping up to date with their blog contributions.

At the moment I have the enjoyment of reading through some of their archived articles. One I found particularly interesting was “ON THEOLOGY” by Billy Birch found at the following link:

His point about valid theology bringing glory to God draws a clear distinction between the Arminian and Calvinist views.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Description or Definition? :Terminology’s Effect on Theology

I have a particular aversion to non-biblical terminology being used to describe biblical beliefs. I think inevitably that such terminology will begin to DEFINE our beliefs instead of merely describe them.
Take the phrase “Total Depravity” – to the Calvinist this means a total inability to respond to God prior to regeneration. It goes much further than describing man’s separation from God due to a sinful nature.
The Arminian understands the term in a different way, allowing the sinner to believe in God PRIOR to regeneration in response to the Holy Spirit’s conviction through the hearing of the gospel.*
As far as I’ve been able to determine – both theologies believe in man’s “total depravity”, but their definitions of the term are significantly different.

Personally I prefer to have man’s condition described as being: “bound over to disobedience” as per Romans 11. At least with the biblical definition there is a scriptural context revealing the reason for and the effect of man’s condition.

Rom 11:32 “For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.”
The context reveals that man’s condition is not intended to be a totally exclusive state for anyone – but its intention is to place ALL on a level playing field with God, so that ALL may have to opportunity to benefit from God’s mercy.

Therefore which description BEST describes man’s condition and God’s response to man’s condition? Total depravity or “bound over to disobedience”? Which (in context) leaves less room for ambiguity?

Another term I’ve come across recently is “prevenient grace”. Does this not create the error of dividing God’s grace into categories or different levels, one result being the erroneous concept of “irresistible grace”?

Maybe if we stick as closely to possible to biblical language to describe biblical concepts, we would be less likely to introduce so many of man’s assumptions into our doctrine: assumptions that arise from our choice of terminology rather than the text of scripture.

*At least this is my current understanding of the Arminian belief. I’ve had little contact with Arminian theology until very recently.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009


In recent weeks in various places I have written of the need to search the scriptures and seek the Holy Spirit’s teaching ABOVE the teachings and traditions of men.

Without exception – every time I’ve written of the need, I’ve had people saying things like:

1) I’m abandoning accountability
2) I think I have a monopoly on the truth
3) I’m expecting others to adopt my beliefs
4) I’m arrogant
5) I’m a lone ranger Christian

These are only a sample of the comments I’ve received.
I am wondering why people are so challenged by the thought of seeking God for themselves through His word and Spirit rather than turning immediately to men for their teaching.

Aren’t we taking a big risk if we put our trust primarily in men’s teaching? Wouldn’t it be much more profitable if we took more responsibility and made more of an effort to search the scriptures for ourselves BEFORE we seek the opinions of men?

Have we fallen too far into the mindset of a clergy/laity division that we always need to look for a man of “learning” to teach us? Did the Lord provide the scriptures only for the scholars? Do we need to consult an academic in order to find understanding from the Bible?

Take a look sometime at the controversies that rage throughout the “church” and see how many of them result from arguments arising from human theological reasoning. Do any of them originate from the scriptures alone (when the scriptures are taken in context)? How many of those arguments rage around selected proof texts, with one side quoting one set of verses and the other side quoting another set?

Why is it so threatening to suggest that we can seek God’s revelation PERSONALLY rather than rely on a scholarly or theological intermediary?

And before the opposing voices start building their straw men again, let me state clearly that fellowship and discussion with other SPIRIT LED believers is an essential part of our lives.
As we each search the scriptures for ourselves; as we each seek the Holy Spirit’s revelation; together we can encourage each other. The Holy Spirit’s teaching will be consistent and complimentary. There will be no contradiction. So in fellowship, as we are led more and more by the Spirit, we’ll move more and more in agreement.
Where disagreements rage – somewhere there is a failure to follow the Spirit’s leading.

Often when disagreements arise, peace is made by “agreeing to disagree” – but is that a satisfactory solution?
Why not agree to seek the Lord to reveal the truth? Do we think He’s incapable of doing so?

Monday, March 02, 2009

“THE LIMITS of GOD'S GRACE” by David Servant

The greatest tragedy today is that so many are trusting in a grace that God has never offered to anyone. We are indeed saved by grace—but it is a grace that offers us an opportunity to repent and become committed disciples who love God with all our hearts and keep His commandments. God’s grace forgives and transforms those who truly believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.

From “The Limits of God’s Grace” by David Servant


I think this article by David Servant has relevance to the questions I asked in the previous post (found immediately below)


How far away from living “TOTALLY according to God’s will” can we be before it becomes a serious issue regarding our relationship with God?

Is it ok to be living 90% “according to God’s will”, or 70%? How about 50% - is that an acceptable pass mark?
OR are we totally incapable of living “according to God’s will” at all?

Is God’s will so far beyond our capabilities that even the death and resurrection of Jesus, and the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit aren’t enough to bring us into line and to equip us to live according to His will?

Does it matter whether we live “TOTALLY according to God’s will” or not? Does God overlook our disobedience all together or does He expect something more of us after we’ve been blessed by His gracious gift of salvation?