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Monthly Archives: March 2011

“ROD OF THE SPIRIT” Book Review by Dr. Tommy Davis

PURPOSE

“Rod of the Spirit” is an excellent book that brings into perspective the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Dr. Danny Lovett, current president of Tennessee Temple University, steps onto pathways rarely undertaken by Baptists, and balances issues relative to the Holy Spirit taken to the extreme by charismatics. This book has encouragingly impacted my life and provided confirmation in respect to some things I already knew.  “Rod of the Spirit” provides occasion to have a powerful ministry that glorifies Christ while at the same time acknowledging other roles the Holy Spirit undertakes in the believer’s life.  I have read this book and desire to highlight some points of interest.

DISCUSSION

  • The Bible often uses the rod as an emblem or symbol of authority which included protection, correction, and direction.  Thus, we are saved from the penalty of sin.  We are being delivered from the presence of sin; and we are being saved from the presence of sin.  The rod is of very little use without the authority that exists behind it.  On page 64, Dr. Lovett asks the question about the possibility of having every institutionally required credential without the necessary spiritual component which is the anointing of God.

 

  • The believer has power because the Holy Spirit comes upon us as an equipping power to carry out the tasks we are commissioned to do (Acts 2).  In the Old Testament, the rod demonstrated authority and was the object included in the performance of miracles. “Rod of the Spirit” indicates that a striking parallel can be drawn between the use of the rod in Old Testament times and the work of the Holy Spirit today (p. 39).

 

  • The Holy Spirit exalts Christ.  Jesus said, “But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me” (John 15:26).  “Rod of the Spirit” brings into perspective one of the ministries of the Holy Spirit.  The Third Person of the Trinity does not bring attention to Himself. He simply magnifies the Christ and the full counsel of God (John 12:32).  Those who are claiming to “hear” from the Spirit and are mistaken about Christ are not hearing from the Holy Spirit.

 

  • Contemporary Christianity in America has taken on a style in worship and in ministry quite the contrast to the historical Christian tradition as reflected in the Scripture.  On page 16, Dr. Lovett wrote, “I believe that if God chose today to entirely remove the presence of the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, that ninety percent of all churches would continue to function as though nothing happened.  Most Christians would continue with business as usual.”  This presumptive observation I would have to confirm.  Many in the visible church count on the Lord to impart the Holy Spirit for salvation, but do not count on Him for power.

 

  • Dr. Lovett charged Christians to admit that they have done an injustice to the personal work of the Holy Spirit.  We have refused the Third Person of the Trinity rightful place in our ministries and our personal lives.  On page 102, “Rod of the Spirit” pinpoints that the Spirit of God does not come upon us with power to accomplish certain tasks and depart as He did in the Old Testament.  The Holy Spirit makes His abode within the believer on a permanent basis.  Either the believer has the Holy Spirit, or he doesn’t.

 

  • Our contemporary worship services have become a program without the presence of the Holy Spirit. We focus on the houses of worship more than the Person of the worship.  As Dr. Lovett wrote: “It is not where we worship that counts but how we worship” (p. 16).  On page 124, Dr. Lovett explains: “…there are services where, in the name of freedom of worship, there are eruptive and emotional outbursts that are merely carnal demonstrations of the flesh.”

 

CONCLUSION: “Rod of the Spirit” takes aim at those who deny the important work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Christian.  It is possible to live lives worthy of our calling.   It is not beyond reach to preach the Word of God in power and authority.  Just as God used the rod to symbolize His power, so He demonstrates His power through the believer as we live lives of victory over sin.  The Holy Spirit corrects us and guides us into all truth.  “Rod of the Spirit” provides a striking balance where some have resulted to the extreme regarding the work of the Spirit in matters of function; and where others delegate His function to that of salvation without emphasis relative to the work of the ministry.

Email:  tdavis76@rochester.rr.com

 
 

CALVINISM vs. ARMINIANISM

                                      

by Providence Crowder

Second generation Protestant theologians such as John Calvin and James Arminius had broadened Protestantism to boundaries their predecessors had not attained.  Calvin, in particular, was a staunch Augustinian who became critical of the Roman Catholic Church in which he had been a part of, and challenged previously held viewpoints on traditional church teachings.  He was a controversial figure whose hermeneutics greatly influenced Protestantism, firstly in Geneva, where he led the mission for reform.  Calvin, in his quest for doctrinal clarity, comprised a summary of the Christian faith called the Institutes of the Christian Religion.  The Institutes was a huge success and showed a “profound knowledge, not only of Scripture, but also of ancient Christian literature—particularly the works of Augustine—and theological controversies of the sixteenth century.”[1]  Calvin developed what was known as a systematic approach to Protestant theology, and the scholarly brilliance of his polemic and apologetic writings have gained him prominence as the greatest theologian of his era.  With his fame came many followers, making him the chief figure of the branch of Protestant theology termed Calvinist or “Reformed” Protestantism.  

Reformed theology during Calvin’s lifetime was similar to those theological views held by Calvin’s contemporaries, Luther, Bucer, Zwingli, and others; differing primarily on the manner in which Christ was present in communion.[2]  However, after Calvin’s death, various Calvinist groups and other Protestants arose, either distorting his views or disagreeing altogether with Calvin’s theology concerning divine grace, the human will, and election.  One such person, James Arminius, challenged and attempted to reform some of the tenets of Calvinism, particularly concerning the aforementioned.  Although initially Calvinistic in his leanings, Arminius’ soteriology became the foundation for Arminianism, a doctrinal system of beliefs contradictory to the teachings of Calvinism that maintained: Christ died for all not only the elect, God’s grace was not irresistible but capable of being rejected by the unbeliever, and that the believer was capable of falling from Grace.[3]  After his death, the Remonstrants, a group of Dutch Protestants, sought to keep Arminianism alive by promulgating the teachings of Arminius and particularly challenged the more extreme Calvinistic views such as supralapsarianism[4] and other high Calvinism teachings such as those promoted by Protestant leader Theodore Beza.[5]  Nonetheless, Arminianism did share a few key theological similarities to Calvinism.

Grace

            Calvinism and Arminianism agreed concerning the grace of God.  Both believed in original sin and the necessity of God’s grace as the only means for redeeming a totally depraved and fallen sinful race.  Calvin in particular preached that “Man has no means within himself, by which he can escape from guilt, and the impending curse: that, on the contrary, until he is reconciled and renewed, everything that proceeds from him is of the nature of sin.”  He further believed, “Man being thus utterly undone in himself, and incapable of working out his own cure by thinking a good thought, or doing what is acceptable to God, must seek redemption

without himself, in Christ.”[6] 

Thus, grace was an act of love initiated by God to justify those sinful persons who respond in faith to the gospel and God considered those persons completely righteous as if they had no sin; this without the individual having done any other work to receive this unmerited favor.  Although in agreement concerning the purpose and need for grace, the Calvinist and Arminian doctrines differed on whether or not God’s grace was irresistible.  Calvinism maintained that Grace was irresistible while Arminianism argued that it was not.

            The Synod of Dort, an “assembly of the Dutch Reformed Church that convened at Dort to deal with the Arminian Controversy,”[7] asserted the irresistibility of Grace.  The Canons of the Synod of Dort proclaimed that faith was offered as a gift to the elect, or those predestined for salvation; “breathed and infused into him,” and God who works in man to will and do all things “produces both the will to believe and the act of believing also.”[8]  Arminius contradictorily declared, “I by no means do injustice to grace, by attributing, as it is reported of me, too much to man’s free-will.  For the whole controversy reduces itself to the solution of this question, ‘is the grace of God a certain irresistible force?’”  He concluded that according to the Scriptures, “Many persons resist the Holy Spirit and reject the grace that is offered.”[9]  The subject of the human will also became a point of conflict between the two Protestant groups.  The Calvinists accused the Arminians of Pelagianism,[10] a claim that Arminius adamantly denied, declaring that the Arminians attributed too much to man’s free will.

The Human Will and Election

Within Reformed theology, the human will played little, if any role in soteriological matters.  According to God’s divine Providence, nothing happened, not even a drop or rain fall, without the command of God.  Even faith was initiated and directed by God, as Jesus declared in the book of John, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them” (Jn. 6:44).  Therefore, election played a greater role than human will, although every man was responsible for his own conduct.  The elect, though deserving of death for their sin, were saved according to God’s good pleasure.[11]  Calvinism declared that Christ died only for the elect, “those who were from eternity chosen to salvation, and given to him by the Father; that he should confer upon them faith” according to God’s will, and not only that but God “should purge them from all sin, both original and actual, whether committed before or after believing; and having faithfully preserved them even to the end.”[12] 

Those who were not among the elect were eternally damned because “God is under no obligation to confer this grace upon any for how can he be indebted to man, who had no previous gift to bestow . . . Who had nothing of his own but sin and falsehood.”[13]  Therefore the elect owed God eternal gratitude and thanks for satisfying his sin and giving him the gift of eternal life.   Unlike Arminius, Calvin avowed that because of God’s free mercy, the elect do not wholly fall from faith and grace, nor continue and perish in their backsliding because grace is not in consequence of their own merits.  Even when the elect commit enormous sins, God does not entirely withdraw his Holy Spirit from his people, nor does he suffer them to commit sin unto death, nor does he totally desert them, allowing them to plunge into everlasting destruction.[14] 

Calvin’s view of election, that some were predetermined for salvation and some for destruction, was not totally rejected by Arminius.  However, because Arminius believed in universal atonement, declaring that Christ, the Savior of the world, died for all men, he affirmed “Faith is not an effect of election, but is a necessary requisite foreseen by God in those who are to be elected.  The decree concerning the bestowing of faith preceded the decree of election.”[15]  The Reformed believed that election preceded faith whereas the Arminians maintained that faith preceded election; thereby giving the human will a greater role than in the Reformed’s soteriology.    

Conclusion

Calvinism and Arminianism have both greatly influenced the Protestant theologies of their era as well as the modern era.  While Arminianism found its roots in Calvinism, it soon became the antithesis of the Calvinistic faith by those who maintained a strict or high view of Calvinism.  Due to the Arminian controversy, the Reformed, at the Synod of Dort, took a harsh stance against the Remonstrance and produced Canons and creeds of Calvinism that expressly establish clear differentiations between the two Protestant Denominations.


[1] Justo L. Gonzalez, The Story of Christianity, Volume 2, (Peabody, MA: Prince Press, 2004), 64.

[2] Ibid, 68.

[3] The Creeds of Christendom, the Evangelical Protestant Creeds, Volume 3.  Edited by Philip Schaff, revised by David S. Schaff.  6th edition; (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker, 1990), 545-549.

[4] “Supralapsarianism is the form of the Calvinistic doctrine of predestination which maintains that God decreed the election and non-election of men before the Fall of Adam.  Calvin himself regarded Divine Predestination as an inscrutable mystery; he did not presume to elaborate the whole subject.  It was his followers who boldly asserted such doctrines as supralapsarianism.” Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, 3rd ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), s.v. “Supralaparianism.”

[5] “Beza Theodore was the Calvinist theologian who  succeeded Calvin as the head of the Genevan Church and leader of the Calvanist movement in Europe.  He is usually considered to have hardened Calvin’s doctrine of predestination by arguing that even the Fall was part of God’s eternal plain; it followed the election of some to salvation and others to damnation, the atoning death of Christ being offered only for the former.” Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, s.v. “Beza, Theodore.”

[6] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religions, Prefatory Address, Christian Library Heritage Edition, Version 8, (Rio, Wisconsin: AGES Software).

[7] Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, “Dort, Synod of.”

[8] The Creeds of Christendom, With a History and Critical Notes, Edited by Philip Schaff, revised by David S. Schaff.  6th edition, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker, 1990), 591.

[9] James Arminius, Sentiments of Arminius. Christian Library Heritage Edition, Version 8, (Rio, Wisconsin: AGES Software).

[10] Pelagianism is the heresy which holds that man can take the initial and fundamental steps towards salvation by his own efforts, apart from Divine grace.  Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Faith, s.v. “Pelagianism.”

[11] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book 1, Chapter 16.  Christian Library Heritage Edition, Version 8, (Rio, Wisconsin: AGES Software).

[12] Creeds of Christendom, 587.

[13] Ibid, 591.

[14] Creeds of Christendom, 593.

[15] James Arminius, Apology or Defense, Article 4.  Christian Library Heritage Edition, Version 8, (Rio, Wisconsin: AGES Software).

 
 

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Poverty and Welfare, by Providence Crowder

Understanding the Democrat and Republican Parties

Through Their Own Words

 

Political parties are comprised of individuals.  Within a particular party, the individuals may vary to some degree on how they view particular issues.  Corporately, however, political parties set platforms that generally represent the ideologies of the people that make up that party.  In closely comparing the party platforms of the two major political parties in this nation, one can better determine which party best represents his or her moral, social, and economic convictions and make an informed choice based on that persuasion. 

How the Democrat and Republican parties address the social ill of poverty is worth examining. Poverty is a reality in this nation and abroad, and neither political party diminishes that reality nor seeks to intentionally do injustice to the economically disadvantaged.  However, the parties have differing ways in which they approach the poverty issue.  I have compared two years from each party’s platform; years in which they specifically addressed Poverty, Welfare, and Welfare Reform.  There were other years in which these issues had been addressed, but for simplicity, I used just two; 1968 and 1980.   After each year’s bulleted platform summary, I recapped the conclusions of each party in my own words.   

These are the parties, in their own words:

Democrat Party Platform (Poverty, Welfare, Welfare Reform) – 1968

  • Every American family whose income is not sufficient to enable its members to live in decency should receive assistance free of the indignities and uncertainties that still too often mar our present programs.

 

  • Income payments and eligibility standards should be determined and financed on a federal basis—This would assure the eligibility in all states of needy children of unemployed parents who are now denied assistance in more than half the states as long as the father remains in the home.

 

  • Assistance payments should be kept adequate by providing for automatic adjustment to reflect increases in living costs.

 

  • Congress has temporarily suspended the restrictive amendment of 1967 that placed an arbitrary limit on the number of dependent children who can be aided in each state. We favor permanent repeal of that restriction and of the provision requiring mothers of young children to work.”

 

Republican Party Platform (Poverty, Welfare, Welfare Reform) – 1968 

  • Welfare and poverty programs will be drastically revised to liberate the poor from the debilitating dependence which erodes self-respect and discourages family unity and responsibility. We will modify the rigid welfare requirements that stifle work motivation and support locally operated children’s day care centers to free the parents to accept work.

 

  • We favor efforts to enable residents of depressed urban and rural areas to become owners and managers of businesses to exercise economic leadership in their communities.

 

  • In programs for the socially and economically disadvantaged we favor participation by representatives of those to be served.

 

  • We pledge a unified federal food distribution program, as well as active cooperation with the states and innovative private enterprise, to help provide the hungry poor sufficient food for a balanced diet. 

Summary of the political parties – 1968:

That the Democrats had a very different approach to attacking poverty than Republicans is evident by comparing the platforms.  The Democrats had enacted a variety of programs and payments to the poor in an effort to lessen the burden of the poor.  They favored no limits on the amount of children that the federal government would provide assistance for and favored removing a requirement for the mothers of young children to work.  The Democrats opposed state sponsored welfare and favored a federal plan instead.  They also favored assistance payments with automatic cost of living adjustments.

The Republicans opposed their approach, citing that the programs and payments stifled work ethic and weakened the family unit.  They favored making payments to privately run daycare centers on behalf of the mothers so that their children would be taken care of, allowing them to accept work to provide for their family.  The Republican approach also favored home ownership and entrepreneurship for the poor to promote self-determination.  Republicans suggested including representatives from the poor in decision making when it came to developing and implementing programs that would best serve them.  The Republicans favored state and community sponsored services as opposed to a federal welfare program, except for a unified federal food distribution program (as opposed to food stamps) to help provide poor with sufficient food for a balanced diet.

Democrat Platform (Poverty, Welfare, Welfare Reform) – 1980

 

  • States and cities which make an honest effort to meet the welfare crisis find themselves in deepening fiscal difficulty.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

  • Incentives continue that cause families to break apart and fathers to leave home so that children may survive. Disincentives continue for welfare families to seek work on their own.

 

  • Many of these young mothers want to work. A companion to any effective welfare reform must be provision for adequate and available child care.

 

  • Social services must continue to be developed and operated at the local level, close to the users.

 

  • A government pledged to a fairer distribution of wealth, income, and power, and to holding as a guiding concern the needs and aspirations of all, must also be a government which seeks to alleviate hunger.

 

  •  Over the years, the Food Stamp Program, expanded and made more responsive by a Democratic Congress and Administration, has become the bulwark of this nation’s efforts to relieve hunger among its citizens.

Republican Platform (Poverty, Welfare, Welfare Reform) – 1980

 

  • In every society there will be some who cannot work, often through no fault of their own.  Yet current federal government efforts to help them have become counterproductive, perpetuating and aggravating the very conditions of dependence they seek to relieve.

 

  • For two generations, the Democrats have deliberately perpetuated a status of federally subsidized poverty and manipulated dependency for millions of Americans. This is especially so for blacks and Hispanics.

 

  • For those on welfare, our nation’s tax policies provide a penalty for getting a job. In these cases, due to taxes, earned income is actually less than welfare benefits. This is the “poverty trap” which will continue to hold millions of Americans as long as they continue to be punished for working.

 

  • By fostering dependency and discouraging self-reliance, the Democratic Party has created a welfare constituency dependent on its continual subsidies.

 

  • The Carter Administration has proposed to nationalize welfare.

 

  •  The Democrats have presided over—and must take the blame for—the most monstrous expansion and abuse of the food stamp program to date.

 

  • We categorically reject the notion of a guaranteed annual income, no matter how it may be disguised, which would destroy the fiber of our economy and doom the poor to perpetual dependence.

Summary of the political parties – 1980:

Reading through both platforms for 1980, again we see significant differences in how the parties aim to attack poverty.  The Democrat party took a strikingly different tone than that of 1968 against the very policies that they fought to implement.  Realizing the need for young mothers to work, they called for payments to day care centers to provide a means for young mothers to enter into the workforce to provide for their families.  The Democrats had also realized that the federal government could not do it all.  They suggested that the local government and the community were to have an integral role in welfare reform: “Social services must continue to be developed and operated at the local level, close to the users, with knowledge of and sensitivity to both the particular problems of each case and the community’s unique infrastructure, resources, and support networks.”

Democrats also cited a fiscal crisis for taxpayers, due to inefficiencies within the welfare system.  They also deplored the incentives that “cause families to break apart and fathers to leave home so that children may survive.”  According to democrats, the dependency upon their welfare policies and programs had caused welfare families to” not seek work on their own” and rely upon welfare to provide a regular income. The Democrats continued to praise their food stamp program and its expansions under Democratic presidencies in the fight against hunger.

The Republican Party blamed the Democrats for aggravating the poverty issue instead of helping it.  They believed that Democratic programs were counterproductive and encouraged dependence instead of dissuading it.  The Republicans recalled “For two generations, especially since the mid-1960s, the Democrats have deliberately perpetuated a status of federally subsidized poverty and manipulated dependency for millions of Americans. This was especially so for blacks and Hispanics, many of whom remain pawns of the bureaucracy, trapped outside the social and economic mainstream of American life.”

The Republicans berated that the nation’s tax policy provided a penalty for getting a job, citing that most individuals earned income is actually less than welfare benefits.  Republicans called this the “poverty trap” that punished Americans for working.  The Republicans insisted that increasing welfare and food stamp payments was counterproductive and increased dependency on continual subsidies.  They adamantly opposed nationalizing welfare, stating that it would cost billions more and made millions more on welfare.  Additionally, they called for reforms to alleviate the tax burden by ending payments to illegal aliens and the voluntarily unemployed.  Republicans opposed a “guaranteed annual income” for the poor warning that it would doom the poor to perpetual dependence.  The Republicans devised various means to increase work incentive and decrease abuses within the welfare system. 

When comparing the political parties on just one issue, one may not be able to determine which political party would best wholly represent his or her ideology.  If you are unsure of where the parties stand on other issues that may be near and dear to you, I encourage you to take a look at the party platforms and compare them FOR YOURSELF.  Bypass listening to the rhetoric of the liberal and conservative medias; bypass reading the revisionist history of so many commentaries and read FOR YOURSELF the principles that your representatives who have aligned themselves with either party actually stand on. 

For more information on other issues that are near and dear to you, check out the Democrat and Republican platforms in their entirety at the American Presidency Project: http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/platforms.php

 

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“EXTREME EXPLOITS” Book Review by Dr. Tommy Davis

PURPOSE

“Extreme Exploits” is a powerful publication that challenges the believer (Christian college student) to examine personal and collective Christianity and how it affects one’s ministry.  Prepared for the Christian college student, this book has positively impacted my life.  Living on the extreme for Jesus provides opportunity to have maximum godly influence in a dark world while simultaneously maturing in one’s relationship with Christ.  I have read this book and it has challenged me in a few impactful ways.

DISCUSSION

  • The Christian life comes filled with obstacles that will shape our future one way or another. On page 40 it states: “Those who follow God cannot live lives of shame.”

 

  • We will either succumb to our giants or defeat them as David did Goliath. The Bible records: “When all the Israelite men saw Goliath, they retreated from him terrified” (1 Samuel 17:24).

 

  • Our problems must be confronted with our God rather than God confronted with our problem as Queen Esther did when she approached the King concerning her people (Esther 4, 5).

 

  • The Christian must make a commitment to follow Christ come what may as did Daniel in the lion’s den, and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace.

 

  • It is not enough just to respond to the call of God.  The Christian is required to remain faithful.  On page 100, Dr. Lovett tells of a story when a young woman became the winner of an Olympic competition after her competitors were found to have used performance enhancing drugs. By finishing the race, she became the winner by default.

 

  • By remaining faithful the believer makes a difference in his personal life and in the lives of others. Queen Esther’s courage was able to save the Jewish people from extinction and led to the promotion of her family.

 

  • The Christian must remain true to the oracles of God. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego told the king that they do not need to defend their actions by not bowing down to a false god (Dan. 3:16-17).  On page 40 we are reminded of an old bumper sticker that states: “What is popular is not always right and what is right is not always popular.”

 

  • Perseverance will show what kind of Christianity the believer has committed to.

 

  • God will be glorified as Christians carry-out the purposes of God here on earth without cowardice.

 

  • When David defeated Goliath, it confirmed that the God of Israel was mightier than the god of Goliath. “Extreme Exploits” states: “We do not need to be afraid of the giants we face in life” (p. 16).

 

  • Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego chose the fire over false worship! The king now acknowledged the Hebrew’s God as the “Most High God.”!  He also issued a decree not to blaspheme their God!

 

  • When Daniel refused to compromise, it was “Daniel’s God” who was glorified.  Daniel properly displayed the will of the God of eternity. All the way into the lion’s den, Daniel had made up his mind even if it meant a demotion and a meal for the lions.

 

CONCLUSION: “Extreme Exploits” reveals what is necessary to live a life on fire for the Lord. Going the extra mile for Jesus can never lead to shame.  God is a reliable God and will honor our obedience to His will!  The giants will present themselves and we must utilize the only offensive weapon we have—the Word of God (Eph. 6).

Email:  tdavis76@rochester.rr.com

 

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