To my faithful readers, I apologize for having not blogged in a month. As you may know, the summer is the busiest time of my year. June was devoured by our 6th grade day camp and our youth choir trip to Orlando. July will be consumed by youth camp and planning for next years youth camp. August will be filled with a much-needed vacation, some day trips with the students and a big back to school event. Thanks for understanding if the posts are few and far between.
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The foundation of Calvinism is the acronym TULIP. See my last post for an overview. The hub of the TULIP wheel is Total Depravity. In this post I will present the Calvinist point of view with scriptural references used to support that view, followed by an opposing view and scriptural references. To save time and space I will only give one scripture for each point but will give several references for those who want to go further.
Total Depravity (also called total inability) states that because of the fall (original sin of Adam and Eve) humanity is spiritually dead and completely under the domain of Satan. Man is unable to comprehend good and evil, choose right over wrong,or pursue Godliness in any way.
It is important to clarify that total depravity is not simply the common held belief that because of original sin, all of humanity is infected with sin and in need of a savior. It is the belief that every human is completely depraved and wholly under the domain of Satan.
Here are the points that make up Total Depravity.
1. The fall has resulted in spiritual death to all men.
Gen.2:16-17 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat;”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.”
Also see: Romans 5:12, Ephesians 2:1-3, Colossians 2:13
2. Fallen man is now blind and deaf to spiritual truth.
Gen.6:5 Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
Also see: Genesis 8:21, Ecclesiastes 9:3, Jeremiah 17:9, Mark 7:21-23
3. Fallen man is now under the control of Satan and in bondage to sin
John.8:44 “You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.
See also: Ephesians 2:1-2, 2 Timothy 2:26, 1 John 3:10, 1 John 5:19, Romans 6:20, Titus 3:3
4. Fallen man, left in his dead state, is totally unable to repent, to believe the gospel, or to come to Christ.
John.6:44 “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.
See also: John 6:65, Romans 3:9-12, Romans 8:7-8, 1 Corinthians 2:14
As I stated in the last post I believe these ponts to be flawed. I don’t believe scripture is flawed but rather the conclusions made about scripture. The remainder of this post will be the opposing view, also backed by scripture.
The Other Side
The bible states that humanity was created in the Image of God (Genesis 1: 26-27). The image of God points to the fact that we are made with a thinking mind, will, emotions, and a moral compass. That is what separates us from the rest of creation. The differences of belief had by those who oppose each other on total depravity center around whether the image of God found in man was wiped out by original sin. Opponents of total depravity point to the fact that all cultures including pagan cultures have a moral code, a sense of good and evil, and a system for dealing with those who would choose wrong over right.
The bible also appeals to those attributes throughout scripture with a call to:
Deuteronomy 30:19 This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.
See also: Josh 24:15
James 1:21 Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.
See also: John 1:12, 2 Timothy 1:12
Deuteronomy 30:11-13 Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, “Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, “Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?”
See also: Romans 16:26
1 John 4:15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God.
See also: John 3:16, Acts 16:31, Romans 3:21-23, Romans 10: 9-10
I mentioned at the beginning of this post that Total Depravity was the hub of the TULIP wheel. If you believe that man has no capacity for good, no moral compass, and no ability to choose truth over evil, than the rest of the tulip points become much easier to swallow, and Unconditional Election and Limited Atonement are the only logical answer to the salvation question. I however believe that Total Depravity is flawed.
When I have finished laying out both sides of the TULIP debate, I will devote a post to my personal beliefs on the issue.
Check in Monday for a new post concerning Unconditional Election and Limited Atonement. I promise it will force you to ask yourself ”What do I believe?”.
Our student ministry (about half) took a 3 day retreat over spring break. We went to the Wichita Mountain Wildlife Refuge just outside of Lawton OK. We camped, hiked, rock-climbed and rappeled, and a good time was had by all. Check out the pics here! www.facebook.com/group.php?v=photos&gid=2437896926 More pics will be added, so keep coming back!
We were guided by a group called Compass Wilderness. Compass is a Christ centered organization that takes the challenges of outdoor activities and uses them to point teens to Christ. This is my third outing with Compass and they have always done a superb job. Check them out at www.compasswilderness.com !
All this weekend I am blogging from the Simply Youth Ministry Conference in Chicago. The conference actually started this evening but I enrolled in a pre-confrence option called Jesus-Centered Ministry with Rick Lawrence. If the conference ended today I would go home well pleased with my time spent here. Most of you know Rick as the editor of GROUP Magazine, but he is also an author and a fantastic teacher.
I was encouraged by so much of what I experienced today, that it would be impossible for me to share everything in a single blog post, but I will tell you about the thing that impacted me most.
Rick taught about the difference between application vs. attachment. He pointed out how we as Christian leaders and teachers tend to spend a lot of energy trying to get those in our charge to apply our teaching about Christ to their lives. He has convinced me our efforts are misplaced. Instead of focussing on application, we should focus on attachment. It is our attachment to Christ that will transform our lives.
Rick illustrated our need for attachment by showing a video depicting an actual gardener grafting two trees together. In order for the dying tree to become healthy it must become one with the life-giving tree. Each tree must be cut to the core and the dying tree is placed within the heart of the healthy tree so that life-giving sap can flow into the wounds of the dying tree. The trees are bound together until the wound heals and the two trees are one. The process is brutally painful but it results in a tree that is vibrant and capable of bearing fruit.
The parallels to how our Jesus gives us new life are amazing. He was cut to the core so that His blood might give us life.
John 15: 1“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunesso that it will be even more fruitful. 3You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. 5“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.
I am here in Chicago for the Simply Youth Ministry Conference that starts tomorrow. I don’t typically consider myself outgoing, I usually have a hard time breaking the ice with new people. Well not today, I just returned from dinner with a total stranger.
I met James while waiting for my connecting flight from Memphis to Chicago. The conversation began when we both realized the flight we were about to get on was cancelled and we had to go to another gate to catch a different flight. Soon, we realized that not only were we headed to the same city, but we were headed to the same conference. James and I sat next to each other for the 2 hour flight to Chi-town, we talked the whole time about military life (we are both ex-army), hunting, and ministry and a range of other topics. Later we met for dinner. As we gorged on Chicago deep dish pizza from Gino’s East, we discussed ministry again and James (who is about 10 years older than I am) gave me pointers from his experiences. I found myself taking mental notes, and thinking how fortunate I was to have an older wiser youthguy here pouring his knowledge into me, a guy he just met.
As I sat down to write this, I thought I was going to have a clever line about how the love of pizza binds youth ministers together, but that’s not it.
Obviously, James and I have some things in common, but we also are worlds apart in other areas. James is a 40-something Methodist minister from Florida, with a Assemblies of God background, and a charismatic tilt. I am a 30-year-old Southern Baptist minister from Texas, with a Southern Baptist background, and a Southern Baptist tilt. (In other words I can be pretty judgemental)
So how is it that two guys that are so different even in our understandings of God, can share each others company and a terrific meal. The answer is in the common denominator. James and I love our God, and His son Jesus, and we are both passionate about sharing that love with teenagers. That is more than enough!
I am looking forward to the next few days. James and I will be joined by a couple thousand more youth workers from around the country. Together we will worship Jesus and recharge our batteries, and seek to be further equiped in ministry, in an effort to fan the flames of our passion to share the love of Christ to the teens of America. Its going to be an amazing ride!
If you havent seen the movie Click with Adam Sandler you need to. The movie revolves around a man who is given a magical remote control that allows him to fast forward, mute, pause and, skip through life and only live out the things that are most important to him. The problem occurs when the remote programs itself based on his tendencies and skips large junks of his life. The parts that he chose to skip were mostly times with his family and as a result his family life spun out of control. Check out this scene from the film. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q7f5fqKUxD4 The movie ends with him realizing it is all a dream and he has a new lease on life and he vows to put his family first. It’s a great film for busy parents. Unlike the movie, life can’t be put on rewind so we can fix our mistakes, so it is vital that we identify what matters most.
This weekend, I reread the book What Matters Most, by Doug Fields. This is a small book (95 pages) that relays huge life changing principles. It is written from a youth ministry perspective but the truths are universally sound.
In the book Doug writes about the importance of saying no in life. This includes saying no to things that seem important, like request from your boss, ministry events, and other worthy causes. Doug isnt advocating an apathetic lifestyle or excusing laziness, but rather encouraging healthy boundaries so that our sanity and our families survive and thrive.
He explains that every time we say “yes” to something we are saying “no” to something else. For example, saying “yes” to coming in to work on your day off is saying “no” to time with your spouse and kids. While that may not be devastating to your family the first times it happens, habitually saying ”yes” to those types of request will lead you down a path you will regret.
Instead we need to develop the habit of saying “no”! We need to jealously protect our time with our families. We need to build time into our schedules so that there is always room for recharging to avoid burn out. We must identify what matters most!
On a related note, I will be heading to Chicago this weekend in an effort to recharge my ministry batteries. I will be attending the Simply Youth Ministry Conference,with youth workers around from every corner of the country. If you are interested in my perspective of this event, I will be blogging each night with what I have learned, or have been encouraged by at the confrence.
I can’t think about love or marriage without thinking about the marriage scene from “The Princess Bride”. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yIpPCPIuJpc
Yesterday was Valentines Day. I, like many husbands across the country, did my part to stimulate the economy by buying gifts for my sweetheart. I have been married to my wife for almost ten years. A decade is a long time for a marriage these days. We have seen many of our friends and family marry and divorce (sometimes more than once) in that time, but our marriage has soldiered on. I am not a wealthy man, not overly romantic and certainly not that good-looking, so why would any woman in her right mind stay with me for ten years.
Simply put our marriage is and has always been rooted in our relationship with Christ. We believe that our relationship is an extension of our relationship with God. That said, we don’t pretend to have it all figured out, and we have certainly had bumps along the way, but our foundation has never been rocked. I would never put myself up on a pedestal and say “look at me, model your life/marriage after me”, but I will point to my foundation, Jesus Christ, and implore everyone to build their life on that foundation as well.
Here is what the bible teaches about true love.
1 Corinthians 13:4-8
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.
Patient- bearing provocation, annoyance, misfortune, delay, hardship, pain, etc., with fortitude and calm and without complaint, anger, or the like.
Kind-indulgent, considerate, or helpful
Love is NOT:
Envious-a feeling of discontent or covetousness with regard to another’s advantages, success, possessions, etc.
Boastful-to speak with exaggeration and excessive pride, esp. about oneself.
Proud-showing a high opinion of one’s own importance, or superiority.
Rude-discourteous or impolite in a deliberate way.
Self-seeking-concern or care only for oneself.
Love doesn’t keep score! Love doesn’t entertain evil but longs for the truth! Love protects! Love is trust! Love is hopeful! Love isnt temporary!
I can’t say my marriage always resembles the love these verses describe, but our hearts are pursuing that love. We long for the fruit that comes from that kind of love. TRUE LOVE NEVER FAILS!
We have all heard it. Most of us have said it, ”judge not lest ye be judged”. Matthew 7:1 is the most beloved verse of sinful people. Even those that don’t know any other scripture pull this one out of their hat when confronted with their sin. Their battle cry is “Don’t judge me!”. And they are right, Matthew 7:1 clearly states that a Christ Follower should not judge others… right? NO! This may be the most misquoted/misunderstood verse in the New Testament. Sadly, most Christians don’t truly know their bible but rather only what others told them about the bible. Consequently, our ignorance leaves us ill equiped to dispute falsehoods.
So, what does the bible say about judging others? Let’s start with Matthew 7
1“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. 3“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
This passage is about hypocrisy more so than judgement. Notice verse 5 acknowledges the need for “speck removal”. This is a warning to Christians to be slow to judge others and quick to evaluate your own life.
But judgement does have a place among believers. Jesus often called out and made an example of the religious leaders of the day. The apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 5
9I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 10not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. 11But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat.
12What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? 13God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked man from among you.”
It is clear that judging others is a necessity within the church, but notice that Paul said we are not to be judging those outside the church.
Here are a few conclusions I have made based on these scriptures (and many others on the subject).
Be careful to examine your own life before confronting others. Don’t allow your hypocrisy to stand in the way of the truth.
Don’t expect an unbeliever to behave as a believer should. Instead be an example to the unbeliever of the “new creation” Christ has made of you.
Do not be ashamed to call sin what it is. If someone claims to be in Christ his/her life should reflect Christ.
And lastly, choose love over wrath when confronting sin. God chose to show us love and we have a mandate to do the same for others.