21 February, 2008

Warning! Serious Post - Narrow in Theology, Wide in Grace

The Tominthebox News Network has been in existence for about 13 months now. Over the course of this time, I've tremendously enjoyed sharing with you Boxers some of the crazy thoughts that come through my mind in order to, hopefully, make you laugh and think. As I've said before, we try to be purposeful here in what we do. While some of our stuff here has been "just plain silly" at times, I have strived, and I believe Eric and Carlos have also, to in a humorous way make a point. Some of our posts have been "knockouts" drawing links from all over the place with many comments. Believe me, nothing makes me happier than to know that someone spewed coffee all over their computer screen because of something written here. And there have also been "that's cute" days. If you've been a long-time reader, I'm sure you can remember some of those.

If there's one thing that's stood out during this time is that we here at TBNN are unashamedly Reformed Calvinists. We make no excuses for that, as our humor tends to reflect. It would seem that the majority of our readers are also from this "camp" or somewhere in the neighborhood. Yet, we do seem to have even a few non-Reformed readers also. But despite the scale being heavily tipped to one side in our readership, I feel want to take a moment to make a couple of comments.

Two days ago Eric posted his article "72 Bible Verses that Simply Can't Mean What They Say." Let me begin by saying I fully support the article. I'm not about to make an excuse for it. It made a point of exactly what I believe too, that God is sovereign in everything, even the salvation of mankind. But given that we "pick at" Arminianism so much here I want to take a moment to set the record straight about something, so please bear with me for a moment.

I have taken up a motto, as it were, for my life, "Narrow in Theology, Wide in Grace". I am unashamedly "narrow" in what I believe, and my beliefs and convictions are drawn from Scripture. And I believe we should all be "narrow" in our theology. Believe what you believe. Back it up with Scripture. Hold it firmly with conviction. But I was reminded by a friend many years ago that the debate between Calvinists and Arminians is a "family" debate. There are both Calvinists and Arminians that love the Lord Jesus Christ, long to serve him and long for his appearing. If we know the Lord Jesus Christ, rest in him completely and long to please him, then we are united in Christ; we are family. We will spend eternity together in the presence of Christ. Therefore, there must be "wide" grace in how we deal with one another now. This is a family disagreement.

Now, I will continue to be narrow in my theology, and I will also continue to write satire about Arminian theology. But I wanted to set the record straight here. There is no ill will in my intentions, and I will strive to be civil in how I deal with subjects. All "debates" that take place in the comments will be expected to adhere to this standard.

So, that's it. We'll be back tomorrow with something else to hopefully make you laugh. In the mean time, grace and peace.

-Tom

17 comments:

Joshua L. said...

Your blog always provides something surprising to read in the morning (whether it be funny or weird!). Thanks for this encouraging reminder!

Darrin said...

Roger Wilco. And let me know when you feel I (or others) are out of line, and I'll respect that.
Sola gratia.

Drew Pearce said...

Thanks so much for posting this. Your motto is in the spirit of how I am striving to live my faith. I hate that it has taken me this long to get to this point. Just because we disagree about certain theology doesn't mean we can't still have unity in Christ, and we should strive for that unity. Thanks again.

St.Lee said...

I have to say I think you have a good motto there. I think much of the strife has to do with each side believing that the other's theology leads to false converts. The truth is (I think) that there are plenty of false converts (as well as true brothers) on each side. The proof is in the fruit.

Peter Kirk said...

Thanks, Tom. I really appreciate this. While I will continue to differ from you on some theology, I will continue to read and enjoy your "news". I usually comment only when I can do so in a suitably humorous vein.

I took the debate on the 72 verses a bit further, in a serious direction, in this post.

Jerry Boyce said...

I agree. Never should we count each other as enemies. As a outsider when it comes to Calvinism, I thank TBNN for allowing the oppposite side to share their views. I learned long ago that whoever controls the paper, the mic, or the website is entitled to the last word.

Jeff said...

So even if we can't help but laugh or if we choose to laugh, we should stay tuned to TBNN?

BRILLIANT!

Joe Blackmon said...

While there is a certainty to the truth taught in Holy Scripture, only a total goofball would suggest that any human can completely understand everything about God and His soverignty. When we get to heaven, we will be able to understand everything fully. While I personally am a Calvinist, I am pretty sure when I get to heaven I'll see that I didn't have perfect understanding of all things theological. Praise God for His mercy to allow all Christians to become joint heirs with Jesus.

Stefan said...

Tom: Amen.

You are responsible, though, for steering me towards the doctrines of grace, since even though my church taught it, it was always in subtle way I didn't pick up on (as a new believer) until I stumbled on your blog. I was a rank semi-Pelagian universalist the first time I stumbled on your blog. "Who are these 'Calvinists,'" I wondered. "Christians with a sense of humour, and poking fun at (e.g.) televangelists? I thought Calivinists were dour, serious people from, like, the 18th century. What's up with that?"

That was on the superficial side, but on the substantive side, I started learning about this thing called "reformed theology," and it all just unfolded from there.

But just as it is imperative that we go forth and evangelize, so too is it imperative that we be gracious towards our Christian brothers and sisters with whom we may disagree on the ordo salutis. We are all sinners redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, called out to fellowship and be a witness to the world, until the full number of believers is redeemed. Come quickly, Lord! Amen.

Elder Eric said...

Tom,

You have a very wise motto. I may have to copy it myself.

The whole "72 verses" post has gotten me thinking. Here is why: I believe that the bible is true. However, I'm sure that many of my non-Calvinistic brothers (Peter K. and Jerry B., for example) also believe that the bible is true. If we disagree on doctrine, that means that we are both incorrect, or at least one of us is incorrect.

I don't want to be arrogant enough to presume that I am always correct (and that statement is not some sort of subtle jab at anyone else; I really mean it for me). Therefore, even though I am a still a Calvinist, my first desire to is please Christ. I hope I cherish the atonement more than I do "limited atonement."

Humility in doctrine, as I'm sure I can still learn, is an important thing.

To Peter and Jerry, although we disagree on some things, I'm thrilled that we serve the same Lord Jesus and will spend eternity with Him. I suppose all our disagreements will melt away when we see His face.

(Elder) Eric Carpenter

Jim said...

I just discovered your blog today. I am a pretty ardent Arminian so it was good timing to read your nice concilatory tone (that whole phrase Narrow in theolgy, wide in grace sounds pretty Wesleyan - are you sure you're not a closet Arminian.) So satire away - you are predestined to, so you can't help it and I know God will be gracious to you in your error. :)
Jim

Team Tominthebox News Network said...

Welcome Jim,

Thanks for reading. Regarding the phrase, if it's from Wesley, it's not consciously. I dearly admire Wesley. I think the friendship and mutual respect that existed between him and Whitefield (an ardent calvinist) ought to be a model for us today.

Yes, there will be more great predestined satire to come about Calvinism and Arminianism, but since you're new be it known that we satire other things too, things you'll hopefully agree with us on.

So enjoy. Whether you know it or not, you're predestined to be an Arminian =)

-Tom

Stefan said...

I dug up a comment I left on the day I found this blog, one year and three days ago. Just for kicks, here's an excerpt:

"I don't know enough about Presbyterianism, Reformed or otherwise." (emphasis added)

Ah, how little I knew.

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Of course, I should have written, "Truly Reformed or otherwise." (rimshot!)

Jim Pemberton said...

Now that there's an Arminian Jim commenting (welcome, Jim)...

Jim the Reformed here. C:

Well put, Tom!

Richard P said...

Tom, I am a guest in your house and I acknowledge that what I am doing here could be construed as discourteous. But I don't have the ability to e-mail you and I'd really like to get your take on what I am posting below. Is it possible that you could create another "serious" topic as this one is and transfer the following comments to that topic and comment on them there. I understand if you feel the need to delete my comments from this topic.

A response to the last post at the "72 verses" topic:

Team Tominthebox News Network said: "Friends if the death (debt?) is paid, none for whom Christ died can perish."

I believe the disconnect between Calvinists and others (at least me) comes from Tominthebox's claim "if the debt is paid, none for whom Christ died can perish". That statement is not supported by anything in the Bible. The Bible says that there can be no forgiveness of sin without the shedding of blood. So Christ's blood becomes that shed blood for us. But we have stopped too short. There is also no forgiveness of sin without repentance and the asking of forgiveness. "Please God, I have sinned. I'm sorry. Please forgive me". God says: "I'd like to forgive you, but I can't without the shedding of blood. Where is your sacrifice?". Man says, "I have nothing to offer on my own, but Christ says that He died so that His blood would be shed and I could point to it as the sacrifice acceptable to you, the shedding of blood which you require before my sins can be forgiven". God says, "You have spoken well. Your faith will be rewarded. Your sins are forgiven you".

The following claim is not true: "if the debt is paid, none for whom Christ died can perish". All who do not repent and ask forgiveness of their sins will perish, regardless of what Christ did on the Cross. That this is so is stated clearly in the Bible (and is why Judas is in hell, to answer the question posed above). Therefore, the three possibilities of John Owen's that you listed are actually four. Point #1 must be split into two points:

1a. Christ died for all of the sins of all men, therefore all men will be saved.

1b. Christ died for all of the sins of all men, but only those who repent and accept this gift (the shedding of blood for the remission of sins) will be saved.

Richard P said...

A response to the last post at the "72 verses" topic (continued):

On 2-20-08, Darrin said - "Unless we are universalists, we ALL believe in limited atonement in some sense. Is everyone saved? Clearly not. So then does Christ's blood procure salvation for all? No, because all are not saved. So it is at least limited in its results. So we see His atonement as limited either by scope or power. "

Wow!! I am not a universalist, yet I do not believe in a limited atonment.

Is the real question "for whom did Christ die"? Or is the real question "for what did Christ die"? Obviously, if you believe that Christ died for individual people, then the Calvinistic approach will make sense. But what if Christ did not die for people (the "for whom" part)? Rather, what if Christ died as a sacrifice (the "for what" part), a sacrifice demanded by an angry God (without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin). What if Christ died, not to save people, but to assuage an angry God - who demanded some sort of sacrifice as recompense for the sins of His creation (people as a group, not individuals)? The Bible contains scriptures that support the notion that Christ died for "what" (the sacrificial lamb to assuage God's wrath) rather than for "who" (to specifically save a certain group of people). Unfortunately, these scriptures seem to contradict the meaning attached to the scriptures cited as support for most Calvinist positions (cited at the top of the "72 Verses" topic).

If you accept the "for what did Christ die" interpretation, and you believe that Christ became the sacrifice acceptable to God that assuaged God's anger over the sins of his creation as a group - then it becomes a bit difficult to accept Darrin's proposition quoted above that the shedding of Christ's blood was "at least limited in it's results". Look at this from God's viewpoint: either Christ's sacrifice for the sins of the group was acceptable to God, or it was not. Nowhere in the Bible is there an example of sacrifice for sin that was partially acceptable to God. The sacrifice was either accepted or rejected (see Cain and Able). The question, then, becomes - since the sacrifice has been paid, will you accept this free gift from Jesus? His death becomes a stand-in for yours as payment for you sins, if you will only believe that Christ's death is the "shedding of blood" that God requires for the remission of your sins. What must I do to be saved? Believe in Jesus? Believe how - since the demons believe so much that they tremble at the mention of His name? Believe that the shedding of Christ's blood is sufficient for God and that God will accept Christ's shed blood as payment for your sins. But only in the context of you repenting and asking forgiveness for your sins. When God reminds you that there is no forgiveness of sin without the shedding of blood, you remind God that Christ's shed blood is the blood sacrifice He is looking for. The shedding of Christ's blood was a sufficient sacrifice for all. But not all will take advantage of that gift through repenting and asking forgiveness for their sins.

A legitimate question is, how does one who is dead in sin take advantage of Christ's free gift? The Bible makes it quite clear that no man comes to God except the Holy Spirit draws him and convicts him of his sin and leads him to repentance. A question of interest is does the Holy Spirit draw everyone? And a related question would be, how could anyone who is drawn by the Holy Spirit resist Him? On this point, I think the Calvinists are on to something. But I have a problem with their insistance that the question is "for whom did Christ die?", insisting that Christ died only for some people. The Bible makes it clear that Christ died as the sacrificial lamb for the whole world. He didn't die to save anyone. He died as the sacrifice required by God to assuage God's wrath against the sins commited by His creation. How and whether we make use of this gift is a different issue entirely.
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Here is a question that is related to the concepts discussed in this topic: when did Eve sin - before the fall or after the fall? And what does your answer say about the nature of man before the fall versus after the fall?

Team Tominthebox News Network said...

Richard,

If you look at the bottom of the page under 'Commenting Rules' you can see where it says "email the box" with a link to our email address. Please refer the discussion there.

-Tom