Tag Archives: Calvinism

INTRODUCTION TO REFORMATION DAY BLOG SERIES

[What follows is my inbox introduction to the preceding 15-part series, which I have been sending out as a PDF attachment, along with a one-third length abbreviated version, to friends, pastors, ministry workers, and theologians around the world since November 11th.  It explains my rationale for the project along with the circumstantial background.]

Dear Reader,

In honor of the 500th Anniversary of Reformation Day, October 31st, 1517, I have attached complete and abbreviated versions of a “premial” (the flip side of penal) or “resurrectionary” re-centering of the Atonement, Justification, Reconciliation, Peacemaking, etc.  I started posting these “theses” on October 31st, 2017, taking a fortnight to wrap up.  So I’m getting a late start distributing them electronically in a more traditional and perhaps more readable PDF format.  This is only the first of a series of milestone “anniversaries” that will commemorate Luther’s early and rapid development into the full-on Protestant Reformer.  My findings after a decades-long critical re-inspection of our Protestant foundations may not meet wide acceptance.  But the undertaking seems worthwhile and certainly long past due.  I’ll be happy to receive correction and adjust accordingly when shown the error of my ways.  But I do think I smell a New Reformation brewing.  Yet who would have guessed the extent of repairs now necessary on the very foundations of the Protestant Reformation?  Infrastructure can be such a pain to keep up, much less improve, as our nation is learning.  But if the foundations are actually destroyed….  Shucks.  And I was led to believe we had all this stuff nailed down…

I’m starting to tell folks that I’ve been suffering a chronic mental breakthrough since the early 1980’s when my attention was drawn to the doctrine of the Atonement with increasing focus.  My blog site (see below), which launched on March 11, 2012, simply unreels my backlog of Atonement notes chronologically, interspersed with occasional current projects.  However, I stopped posting in early July.  I’ll explain.

One day while biking to the Cornerstone University Library, I thought to drop by the adjacent Grand Rapids Theological Seminary.  I learned that an Assistant Professor of Systematic and Historical Theology had been newly hired and would start teaching in the fall.  Kenneth J. Reid is a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary, well known for its 4-year Th.M. degree requiring classes covering every book of the Bible in the original languages.  He then pursued a second Th.M. at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (Louisville, KY)—reputed to be the most Calvinistic seminary of the denomination—before completing a Ph.D. there in 2015.

The new GRTS catalog lists Ken’s research interests: “Atonement Theology, Trinity, Pneumatology, Hermeneutics and Biblical Theology, Racial Reconciliation, Justice Theology”–overlapping many of my own theological interests.    An African-American, Ken will play a valuable role in nurturing young and working adults, including quite diverse learners and leaders within church and society.

Since the Atonement was his first interest, I suspected he wrote his dissertation on that topic.  Sure enough:  Penal Substitutionary Atonement as the Basis for New Covenant and New Creation  http://hdl.handle.net/10392/4964

I printed off the 370-page volume and commenced plowing through it, hoping to finish by the time he arrived in town and was settled in at home and office.  I’ve been yearning for a qualified, friendly interlocutor who might give steady push-back on my rethinking of the Atonement.

Some five weeks later I wrapped up my reading and marginal notes on the worthy tome, which, as expected, faithfully defended the traditional orthodox Protestant doctrine of penal substitution.  Such stalwarts as R. Albert Mohler, Jr., Tom Schreiner, Mark Seifrid (now at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, as of 2015), Bruce Ware, and Jarvis Williams, among others, anchored that position among the vast SBTS faculty of like-minded scholars during Ken’s years there.  Ware had been a Systematic Theology professor of mine at Bethel Seminary (St. Paul) in the early 1980’s, and I have high respect for his integrity and intelligence.  He was a fresh Fuller Seminary graduate at that time and now is at the other end of his teaching career.

However, I was surprised to learn that Ware chaired Ken’s dissertation committee; the other members were Stephen J. Wellum and Shawn D. Wright.  Ten years ago, I sent Bruce a copy of my “77 Questions on the Atonement” (May 2007; still at the top of my blog site after several revisions) for comment.  He begged off at the time, explaining that his focus was more on the doctrine of the Trinity, but that I might consider passing it by his colleague, Tom Schreiner, whose focus is the Atonement.  However, I was mainly looking for those who might cast a friendly eye on an attempt to reframe the Atonement in terms of the neglected premial (non-penal) side of God’s justice, and Tom was certainly not one of those, so I demurred.

How did Ken snag Bruce for his committee?  Simple.  Ken was pursuing his dissertation in the Systematic Theology Department, whereas Schreiner was in the New Testament Department.  Not that the results would have turned out any different, however.

 Ken’s labors triggered my consolidate-and-summarize response.  As I filled the margins with seven colors of ballpoint glosses to remark, refute, revise, or repair what I was reading, I contemplated what sort of format would be appropriate and effective by way of response, without being offensive.  Moreover, Ken was indebted to Ware for a brief formulation of “a rationale for the necessity of Christ’s suffering being penal.”  I knew I needed to tackle my old mentor on this point if I hoped to persuade Ken.

I hit on the idea of asking conjectural questions about what actually might be happening historically, spiritually, and “theologically” at Christ’s Cross and Resurrection in particular, along with other key events of the Gospels/Acts narratives.  I settled on dubbing them resuppositions, in other words, replacement presuppositions.  Which is to say, I’m systematically unraveling penal presuppositions about atonement, justification, and reconciliation, while simultaneously re-knitting stitch-by-stitch the premial suppositions that better accord with my findings after decades of reexamining Scripture and the history of theology.  This process of reparatively reconstructing our all-too-hallowed traditions nearer to the apostolic original has been tricky.  As you know, retro-engineering has often been misused, and the current undertaking runs similar risks.

That novel format swelled in a couple of months from a dozen or two questions to a hundred or two!  Clearly, I had touched a nerve…my own!   In reflecting on what was happening, I saw that, for all my output of articles, papers, occasional pieces, “tracts,” etc., I had never simply sat down and listed my definitive findings from 35 years of theological and historical research, restudy of Scripture, and hard, prayerful rethinking.  Consequently, this increasingly urgent agenda (which I had expected would emerge in a book by this date) actually commandeered the initial plan to pose only a few probing questions about the relation of the Cross to the Resurrection and vice versa and etc.  Sorry for the explosion!

The result is a bit-by-bit deconstruction of the gospel of the Protestant Reformation by way of introducing the premial formulation of the Gospel that steadily emerged as more evident and authentic from long-term concordant engagement with the biblical vocabulary and phraseology.  I have expounded that alternative at length in more normal prose throughout my blog.  The papers at the top of the site encompass several genres and formats, but never anything quite this “driving.”  This may feel like a “jackhammer” or “tommy-gun” treatment.  There’s little cushion, and normal sentence structure gets stretched to the max.  I do apologize.

But consider the advantages of a rapid assault.  Any single statement may evoke the normal thoughtful comeback, “But how about…?” or “But what do you do with such-and-such a Scripture?”  Fair enough.  I’ve asked most of those questions myself.  After perusing the broad history of the subject and many individual theologians, I saw patterns of misunderstanding emerge.  The traditional orthodox evangelical Protestant arguments predictably fell into ditches.  They were compelled to swerve around the truth under the influence of intoxicating presuppositions.  Those assumptions (whether explicitly acknowledged or deliberately hidden or unconsciously suppressed) slowly became more manifest.  Finally, it simply became a matter of how to address these many interlocking assumptions in some comprehensive yet compact manner.  One-by-one?  Aggregately?  Class action?  Question/Answer?   Theses?

I had used the “What if?” sequence once before, in the one-pager for April Fools’ Day and Easter (see “What If” at the top of my blog site).  It allowed successively mounting quick strokes that challenged penal atonement theory in a reader-friendly way.  And even if my current elaboration cannot claim to be so friendly, at least it deals with most of the usual but-what-abouts.

In “A Comedy of Errors, a Tragedy of Mistaken Identities,” I have let the resuppositions proliferate wildly (240-something by last count).  I might have (probably should have) rearranged them into subtitled sections, and perhaps even numbered them for easy reference.  I may yet do that; blogs are wonderful that way!  But for now, without further ado, I request your own comments and criticisms.  I hope that slicing the subject into these small (sometimes sharp-edged) chunks makes critiquing easier.  This way you can take issue with discrete resuppositions without necessarily agreeing or disagreeing with others.  These unhewn stones could use some knocking around a bit to knock off the rough edges so they can be refitted into a harmonious mosaic.  This is a work in progress, and progress takes time.

These resuppositions or “dialectical queries” will raise many an inconvenient doubt.  I realize that.  But hopefully you’re gonna laugh before this is all over.  One friend observed that whatever humor I interjected helped keep him going through the overly compact and annoyingly obscure litany (and here I thought I was clarifying!).  Another friend said it was like drinking concentrated lemon juice straight up!  He mollified that by adding, “But suppose I’m suffering from scurvy….”  I do hope others find the treatment a healing dose for whatever ills the theory of penal substitution has ushered into history!  I hope after investigating for yourself, you too get “caught in a Truth.”

It seems to me we need to jettison false doctrines as soon as possible in order to loosen up cargo space in our brains for more truth.  The price of learning new truth is the sacrifice of the comfortable falsehoods to which we all are prey, from whatever traditions we may hail.  If my logic does not always seem iron-clad, that’s no worse than I suspected.  But I wager it beats the competition by several lengths.  Judge for yourself.

A vast debacle of Atonement doctrine is underway, and as in politics, sides are being drawn, attitudes are getting calloused, and unseemly animosity is rising.  This cannot be the divine way.  Surely God is saddened by our prickly dismissiveness toward one another.  I have gleaned an immense lore from minority voices down through the centuries who seldom get cited in new publications on the topic.  Our selective neglect may reveal an unscholarly narrowing of interest and a perilous hardening of heart even more than a scarcity of time.  Self-criticism may be grievous toil, but it bears worthy fruit.  We don’t bear that yoke in vain.

While formulating this array of resuppositions, I realized they would be perfect to start posting on October 31st, the 500th Anniversary of Reformation Day.  For years I kept this date in mind for publishing a more detailed challenge to our creaky Protestant assumptions.  I hoped it would appear as a book on the Atonement.  Yet I sensed more groundwork was needed.  Here is much of that groundwork, in primal form.  And now to start refining the raw material into a normal piece of scholarship.   Your “heated” comments would greatly assist the refining process.  As fraught as the topic may be, I hope you find this approach mostly friendly, reasonable, and agreeably Biblical.

I have also attached a 10-page “summary” of the 30-page version.  It was my failed attempt to get it all down to a two-pager I could print off as a single-sheet handout for priming discussions.  But I got too late a start on condensing it by my target date.  Perhaps this stripped-down version will serve as a handy teaser for busy folks who can’t dive into the complete document.  In any case, I’m not seeking agreement, only a fair hearing and honest objections.  There’s no human labor under the sun that can’t be improved.  No one’s perfect…and I’m a perfect example!

May your thoughtful attention be well rewarded.  I quite understand how busy you must be with personal research and academic duties.  So no worries if this does not overlap your particular expertise or interests.  But feel free to forward this missive and attachments if you know of someone else who might find them worthwhile.  This is a one-time mailing, so there will be no follow-up from my end.  Any communication from you, however, is most welcome, and I will try to respond in a timely fashion.

Respectfully yours in Christ

Ronald Roper

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A Premial Soteriology for Neo-Calvinism?

Against the relative inner consistency of Calvinism stands, like a Gibralter, the rugged, if seemingly rough-hewn, inner consistency of Scripture—to be sure, one very difficult to embrace with tiny arms and brains, but that remains our touchstone nonetheless. Let us remain in that Explanation so that we come to know the Truth, solid as a Matterhorn, for then we shall be free from all the little short-sighted “consistencies” of lesser apostles hailing from a mundane Geneva. [8/19/09]

THE PENAL CORE MOTIVE

The weighty mass of Calvin’s soteriology hangs together and coheres due to the GRAVITY OF PENAL SATISFACTION. This is the “electromagnetic” force that keeps it all together. Dispel this gravitational force and it will fly apart and disperse into out darkness. Only the nuclear power of a premial justice holds the promise of a coherent and rationally compelling soteriology. [8/19/09]

D-DAY JUBILEE

If this 500th Anniversary of Calvin’s birth and 400th Anniversary of Arminius’s death is to be the calling of a liberating Jubilee from the Babylonian bondage of Reformed Christians, then it is but a D-Day victory and the toughest battles are yet ahead. Calvinistic theology (I don’t speak here of the excellent philosophical movements that it has fostered for various curious reasons) lies near the heart of a vast ecclesiastical enterprise and a fifth column of other non-church institutions. We are not calling for revolution but for Reformation…down to the core this time! This is gonna hurt. This has gotta hurt or it’s not radical enough. But the result will be RADICAL HEALING, so it’s worth all the pain.

We can expect a whole new glory to suffuse the magnificent array of Christian organizations that Kuyperian Neo-Calvinism has spawned. Post-Calvinism holds the promise of giving them a Second Wind of the Holy Spirit—a New Wave of Power and Redemptive Vision and Fruitful Prospects. Let us press on without fear or dread, fully expecting that God is with us in this SANCTIFYING VENTURE. But unless Neo-Calvinism transitions to Post-Calvinism in soteriology, that renewal must be throttled and stall. [8/19/09]

Anyone who holds the penal satisfaction position will suffer the natural tendency to slip into conformity with several of the points of Calvinism, to varying degrees. Sound exegesis on one or more of those topics will always inveigh against full consistency and will work a moderating influence. But this moderating factor is not equally dispersed among denominations or individuals. Only a visibly more just alternative to penal satisfaction is capable of totally vanquishing all five (and more) errors of the Augustinian/Calvinian line of development.

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A “Grace” Extracted by “Penal Satisfaction” is not the True Grace of God

In Calvinism, the limited size of the Atonement is only the beginning of tangles consequent upon its teaching of penal satisfaction.  To be sure, the size limitation amounts to a power limitation, so that the Gospel as such is not conceived as having any effect (read: power) toward the so-called “reprobate” (a term never used in Scripture to label mere sinners or unbelievers, much less Gentiles or mankind at large).  Yet on the other hand it is represented as having an absolutely irresistible power or effect upon the “elect.”  This absolutism concerning its effect on the “elect” (Calvinists call it “effectual”), coupled with its ineffectuality concerning the “reprobate” are the most that can be expected from A “GRACE” EXTRACTED BY “PENAL SATISFACTION” METHODS.  THIS PRIMITIVE “EXTRACTION PROCESS” LEAVES THE VAST BULK OF THE PULP AND ESSENTIAL NUTRIENTS — THE VITAL SAP OF GRACIOUSNESS — BEHIND, LEAVING ONLY A THIN, CLOUDY “SOLUTION” THAT SOLVES FEW OF THE NEEDS OF THE HUMAN HEART OR NUTRITIONAL REQUIREMENTS OF THE SPIRIT.

In stark contrast, THE TRUE, PURE GRACIOUSNESS IN WHICH WE ARE TO STAND IS A FREE-FLOWING, PREMIUM, WHOLE EXTRACT OF CLEAN HIGH-ENERGY NUTRIMENT DERIVED ENTIRELY WITHOUT USE OF TRADITIONAL SOURCES OF HIGH HEAT FROM DIVINE WRATH, BUT BY A SPECIAL AND PREVIOUSLY SECRET PROCESS OF CALM, COOL EXTRACTION BY THE CATALYTIC USE OF PREMIAL JUSTICE ACTING UPON THE PUREST, MOST WHOLESOME MATERIAL TREATED BY THE REPEATED IMPACT OF BUFFETING, WHIPPING, AND PIERCING, FOLLOWED BY NECROSIS AND A BRIEF INTERVAL OF RECUMBENCY.  THE RESULTING REACTION YIELDS A GREATLY AUGMENTED AND ENHANCED VOLUME OF GRACIOUSNESS WITH NO BITTER AFTERTASTE OR SOUR UNDERTONES.  [8/16/09]

The logical tangles and psychological snags of the Calvinistic system of soteriology lead directly to BEHAVIORAL SNARLS of ferocious character.  Sadly, this might be documented by cartloads of historic testimony from many a nation over nearly five centuries.  Isn’t it about time we examine the whole grim imbroglio to trace how, exactly, Calvin’s teaching of a penal satisfaction could possibly have led so consistently to punitive personalities among especially its most consistent and loyal?  [8/16/09]

Whenever the Canons of Dort or the Westminster Confession of Faith (or any other Calvinistic creed, confession, or catechism) speak of God’s “justice” (“to the praise of His glorious, & etc.”), they invariable mean His penal, punitive justice, casting always a blind eye to God’s premial justice by which He rescued and rewarded and raised the Savior himself, and through which we ourselves have been saved.  Such neglect cannot but have a distorting effect on our whole conception of God’s mission and appointed ministries to the world and the saints.  [8/16/09]

It is purely (even “sovereignly”) by God’s own wonderfully gracious desire (-θελ-) and intention (-βουλ-) that when we merely believe His chosen, if “foolish,” heralding of the Explanation of Truth (James 1:18, Ephesians 1:13) about the Cross (1 Corinthians 1:17-31), namely, that Jesus Christ was justly raised from the dead because of its injustice in killing him, due to his Father’s ultimate strategy to draw the whole world back to Himself through this exalting His sinless son in a stupendous historic exhibit of love—I repeat, that when we simply have faith in this Message, we thereby are teemed forth “to be some firstfruit of His own creatures (James 1:18), are “sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise (which is an earnest of the inheritance of our share)” (Ephesians 1:14), to “become children of God” by His bestowed “right (John 1:12).  And why?  Simply because such a great salvation, entailing such a marvelous adoption of us as sons and hence heirs by mere faith, is “in accord with the delight of His desire, for the praise of the credit of His graciousness, which is gracious to us in the Loved One (Ephesians 1:5-6), in whom we thereby have “gotten chosen (Ephesians 1:4) “according to the foreknowledge of God, the Father” (1 Peter 1:1-2) Who is “the knower-of-hearts (Acts 15:8) and hence can see our faith and testify accordingly by giving the Holy Spirit to us to cleanse our hearts (Acts 15:7-9).

Yes, amazingly, it is GOD’S GRACIOUS WILL THAT WE SHOULD BE SAVED TO SUCH LARGESSE BY OUR THROWING OUR OWN FAITH INTO THE MIX SO AS TO REAP BENEFITS FROM THE WORD HE HAS FOLDED INTO THE RECIPE OF HUMAN SALVATION (Hebrews 4:1-3).  This having-gotten-saved-to-God’s-graciousness-through-faith is God’s prodigious present to us (Ephesians 2:8) simply because mere human faith accords with divine graciousness (Romans 4:16) hand in glove, bypassing our own actions, both good and evil!  This boon is purely “from God” (John 1:13, 1 Corinthians 1:30), and specifically His undeserved (on our part!) graciousness that we get to become His children in Christ, His chosen, only-born Son.  God figured out this whole gracious scheme!  To Him be all the credit!

The above phraseology, “from God” or “from Him” is to emphasize that what is being given by God “on faith(Romans 3:29, Galatians 3:22, Philippians 3:9, Romans 1:17) is a present (δωρον) and not a token of His indebtedness to us (Romans 3:4-5) owing to our work.  This is precisely why God selected faith as the means for triggering His gratuitous bestowal and donation of salvation, sonhood, and the Holy Spirit on us—it does not “obligate” Him as “owing” us those benefits, but leaves Him free to express His loving generosity in a manner that entails fairness and equity to all sinners alike in an impartial, non-discriminatory gesture.  [8/16/09]

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From “Prevenient” to “Irresistible”: Two Falls from Grace

The proper role and priority of the Gospel about God’s graciousness to Christ Jesus was displaced in both Roman Catholic theology (Council of Trent—the decree on justification, 1547) and Protestant (even as far as John Wesley), by a teaching about “prevenient grace coming unmerited in order to move and stir the will to believe, yet is resistible. But this well-meant innovation leads to confusion and to the overreaction of Calvinism into a dogma of “irresistible grace,” which then loses its very character as graciousness altogether. We already have a word for coercive graciousnessmanipulation.” [8/13/09]

If John Calvin was so radically wrong at so fundamental a point as to argue for a penal satisfaction, it seems hardly credible that he can be correct in those many other doctrines that are dependent on the view of God dictated by a penal atonement.  [8/13/09]

So lemme make sure I have this right.  The elect don’t have the power to resist the grace of God, but the reprobate do have the power to resist the grace of God.  Do I have that right?  Okay.  Then that means the reprobate have more power than the elect do.  Am I missing something?  Moreover, they have more power without the power of the Holy Spirit than the elect have even with the power of the Holy Spirit.  My head is spinning.  [8/13/09; 8/24/09; 5/05/17]

If God honestly does not “intend that any should perish, but all to make room for repentance” (2 Peter 3:9), then why doesn’t He use some of that “irresistible grace” on them, pray tell? Here is something seriously amiss in Calvinism. The bottom line is, on the grounds of penal satisfaction, there simply is not enough grace to spare! Now Arminians don’t seem to get this. But Calvinists are generally smarter here. They see that if penal substitution is correct, salvation must be limited! Yet, sadly, Calvinists are not smart enough to notice that their atonement premise is drastically wrong. And Arminius died prematurely under harassment by his bitter, vicious enemies, or he might have come to the solution himself. Indeed, Hugo Grotius, his young contemporary supporter, caught the drift of his thought and actually attempted the first basic alteration of the doctrine of the Atonement proper since Calvin originally spelled out penal satisfaction. However, Grotius was not successful in his bid because he had no adequate alternative to an atoning necessity of a penal sort. His “governmental” or “rectoral” theory more appealed to prevailing cultural metaphors. [8/13/09]

Within the system of Calvinism, the full role of the Holy Spirit has become sidelined, marginalized as more of an “add-on” than as a fully integral component of New Covenant salvation. This may not have happened (regardless of traditional Roman Catholic suppression of the Holy Spirit by cessationism, a hold-over of Augustinianism) but for the development of forensic justification, (and particularly the doctrines of forensic imputation), incipiently by Luther and Melanchthon, more full blown by Johannes Piscator and William Ames. For these doctrines cut an alternative furrow for part of salvation to affect believers apart from the Holy Spirit. [8/14/09]

For sure, the world of unbelievers and “reprobates” can and will respond positively to this mighty Gospel. The question remains, “will Calvinists”? I need not remind my Reformed sisters and brothers that the “elect” Jews of Jesus’ day largely reprobated this Gospel as “too inclusive.” A word to the wise is sufficient. [8/14/09]

Yes, I dare to entreat my Reformed sisters and brothers to change their minds regarding the Atonement and let its truth effervesce through every other received doctrine at its own pace. I have taken many years to come around, and I’m not finished yet. But I am a fellow traveler in this restoration. Can the full Reformation be far behind? [8/14/09]

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“Double Jeopardy” Dissolved.

The Calvinistic boast of the “hard, clear logic” of their system necessarily evokes its dialectical opposite—the assertion of “mystery” wherever the system violates Scripture. This is an inescapable paradox of their violence to the clarity (“perspicuity”) of the Scriptures themselves. [8/10/09; from my note at the bottom of p. 357 of Robert Shank, Life in the Son: A Study of the Doctrine of Perseverance (1961), annotated in 1985 or 1986, Pella, Iowa.]

The alleged problem of “double jeopardy” would be an authentic concern only if God “exacted judgment” at the Cross in the first place! But a premial atonement dispels that concern entirely. Since the Cross was an event of wrongful Satanic exaction of punishment on the Sinless One, God was justified in exacting a resurrection by way of REPARATION! The torrent of graciousness that ensued has the aim of winning FRIENDSHIP FROM SINNERS! But if they should reject the invitation, it’s no skin off Christ’s back, because he did not suffer from a discrete measure of divine wrath in penal judgment in economic exchange for “just so much” human sin. CHRIST WON A FAVORABLE JUDGMENT! The Judge RULED IN HIS FAVOR, so any divine punishment incurred by those who reject and resist the exuberant favor overflowing to us is certainly not a “second” exaction of “divine condemnation,” but only a first…and a tragically needless one at that. [8/11/09]

Pity the agonizing young dissenter from Calvinism who only disbelieves their harsh, errant dogmas, yet still believes them when they say “There’s nothing better out there.” Such a person is tormented by half-hearted disbelief. Their only salvation (and it must be hard won!) is in WHOLE-HEARTED DISBELIEF OF CALVINISM IN WHATEVER IT CLAIMS AS “UNIQUE” TO ITSELF IN DISTINCTION FROM HISTORIC ‘CATHOLIC’ CHRISTIANITY. [8/11/09]

Even a crucifixespecially a crucifix, with the Savior forever mounted and pinned in NON-AVENGING AGONY WHEN HE MIGHT HAVE SAVED HIMSELF THE TROUBLE BY A SPECTACULAR RESCUE is the very image of God’s love. A cross without a bleeding, thorn-crowned, stark naked Savior leaves too much to the imagination. Like, how did the cross become…“empty”? Or did his disciples steal his body? Or was he somehow resuscitated from a swoon?

So, may every crucifix-honoring Roman Catholic take heart that this piece of religious art indeed represents, against the backdrop of the worst that Satan could do, the true, non-vindictive love exhibit of our Savior enduring torture, however long, until God Himself showed up to save him with enough salvation for all his enemies too!  True grace with true grit!  [8/11/19; 8/13/09]

It is always notoriously easy for Evangelicals to fall back into one or more prickly points of Calvinism, because so long as they continue to hold on to Calvin’s invention of penal satisfaction, all the other points follow consistently—but the more consistent the less Biblical. And the tension can be paralyzing! Not even Calvin could cross the final hurdle of ultra-Calvinism—limited atonement. By the time people convince themselves, over all the objecting testimony of the apostles and early church, that strict Calvinism is correct, their conscience is seared. Can such Calvinists be ‘redeemed’? [8/11/09]

A penal atonement must be substitutionary for the simple reason that Jesus DID NOT DESERVE the treatment he received, leading to his death. By the same token, a premial atonement cannot be substitutionary, precisely because Christ DID DESERVE his resurrection and the premium/reward that followed necessarily from God’s avenging the wrong of the Cross. That resurrection was certainly not ‘substitutionary’, of course. However, it was FOR (huper) US! Yet even the Cross was not ‘substitutionary’ since each of us too must carry our own cross! [8/11/09] Both of these epicenters of the Gospel narrative are accordingly—in diametric opposition to the popular substitutionary spin—INCLUSIONARY. And it is this unifying feature of PREMIAL INCLUSION that baptism so precisely depicts. It is this act that pictures us safely IN CHRIST when we believe the Gospel. [4/27/17]

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God’s Explanation about His resurrecting grace to Jesus Christ is the power that nurtures human faith, which, in turn, invites the Holy Spirit of grace into us.

The Scriptures, contrary to John Calvin and his imitators, do not interpose “the grace of God and the Holy Spirit”—these are linked in Calvin’s system—between “election” and “faith.” It is, to be sure, a very pious-sounding compound phrase; it is as deceptive as it is pious-sounding. And it renders the power of the Explanation of the Proclamation itself feckless! It, in effect, nullifies the proper, divinely appointed and explicitly declared role and function of the Explanation of God’s graciousness both in and for Messiah Jesus! Yet this is exactly why the Message is such an electrifying Story! It recounts the objective, historic manifestation of covenantal troth and graciousness of Israel’s God in an incomparably gripping fashion as narrative! God invested a lot of wealth in getting it right before getting it published!

To be sure, we are safe only in God’s graciousness, but we cannot actually, empirically experience that graciousness until this privileged Story about how Jesus won such a prize for us comes crashing through all our carnal defenses willy nilly! So, yes, it does require God’s graciousness for us to be liberated from our sins, but it’s the graciousness revealed in an historic report by select eyewitnesses. If we duly believe that account, then and only then does God duly deliver to us our very own personal gift of the Holy Spirit of graciousness to dwell inside our own mortal, sinful flesh and get us moving toward the destined sonship and inheritance in the New Earth. [8/07/09]

Calvinists do not have to—are not predestined to—perpetuate their momentum of past evils. The errors of Calvin and Calvinism are correctible—one and all. If the truly great and worthy achievements of the Reformed stream of Christianity are to be perpetuated, indeed, taken to a whole new level of development, implementation, and exemplary prominence, then the ‘five grand errors’, along with their corollaries, fruits, and root of penal satisfaction, must be repented of and decisively overthrown, certainly individually and, where collective repentance is sufficiently widespread and the procedures can be launched peaceably, then institutionally as well. “A COMPLETE REFORMATION ACCORDING TO THE WORD OF GOD,” will have to start with official repudiation of the Canons of Dordt.

Is this possible? But that’s the wrong question. Is it right? Is it God’s will to repent of traditions that nullify the Word of God, no matter how entrenched they are or how hallowed they seem? I don’t need to answer that. The ostensive impossibility of the task will test the measure of our faith—that would our determination to act courageously out of that priceless treasure!—in order to perfect it by mighty deeds of valor and personal integrity. This is holy war, so it behooves us to be on our best behavior and pursue our cause with non-violence and sincere love, not only for our like-minded compatriots, but for all those who have suffered the generations-long imposition of character-twisting doctrines. If there’s any blood to be spilled, let it be our own, so that the Truth of God’s salvation by His premial justice to Jesus Christ may be unsullied, untarnished—the better to perform its rescuing, redeeming work unhindered by yet further sins. [8/07/09]

It’s a grievous spectacle to behold present-day Calvinists boasting not in Christ, whose graciousness can be ours by mere faith, but in their “culture” and institutions and works of their own hands. They have conveniently forgotten their wicked works of merciless persecution, their vicious verbiage concerning their noble theological opponents who had a thing or five to teach them, and their corrupt thoughts, which “only a perfectionist” [read: “heretic”] would dare to point out as correctible flaws or resistible lusts. [8/07/09]

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A Copernican shift of orbital center in the Protestant system from penal to premial?

One of the great lessons of the Proclamation of the ‘Crossurrection’ is that simply because we willingly and amenably put up with getting put down (!) by our enemies (and worse) doesn’t make their viciousness right in any sense!  Indeed, our non-resistance and non-violence invokes God’s own perfectly right avenging on our behalf, if we wait for it and continue proclaiming repentance and forgiveness to our foes.  [8/02/09]

Even as Copernicus dissolved the perplexities of medieval astronomy with a single assault on the presumed orbital center of the system, so it is possible to solve the perennial problems of Calvinist soteriology by a single move of re-centering the Atonement from the penal side to the premial face of God’s justice.  Hereby we may anticipate a Copernican revolution in the science of theology, provided the understandably deep emotional attachments to a penal paradigm of atonement can be efficaciously surmounted to allow for a switch to the premial paradigm that more adequately comprehends the Biblical facts and dissolves the distressing anomalies.

Occam’s razor should long hence have been set upon the ungainly overgrowth of assumptions necessary to provide the ‘TULIP’ with life support.  It would have collapsed like the Wizard of Oz, though perhaps not quite so affably, under an exposé by premial justice.

The economy of effort to be saved after the wilting or deflating of ‘TULIP’ compares very favorably with the ruthlessly severe economy of penal payment that has needlessly locked multitudes out of God’s Kingdom by taking away the key of knowledge at the hand of the Synod of Dordt in 1618-19.

Jacob Arminius had showed himself far the more noble of the contenders at that time, for he refused to permit a penal mentality to gain a secure foothold in his exegesis.  He would not tolerate (such intolerance!) the bulldozing of Scripture by the non-discriminating (such discrimination!) shovel of merely human confessions and catechisms.  Such sinfully tainted documents certainly could, and the Canons of Dordt certainly did, make of Scripture a wax nose to be twisted their own erroneous behest.  Then when captious ecclesiastical functionaries foist such a dead letter upon all future generations by law, Scripture must step down from pre-eminence to do yeoman service to a churlish and upstart master.  Thus once again Truth gets trampled…and in the house of her “friends” no less!  [8/02/09]

THE POT CALLING THE KETTLE BLACK

The presumed “inescapable” rationality of penal satisfaction has been wielded traditionally by Calvinists to trump every other rationale for the Atonement, with the generous imputation of “rationalist!” to many an overly thoughtful objector, yet the self-flattering ascription of “holy mysteries” to their own proliferated anomalies.  [8/02/09]

The sad career of Calvinism demonstrates how far Christianity is capable of declining under the compulsion of an unworthy idea of God’s character.  Other doctrines fall like dominoes, while the declension can last for centuries, casting a pall over worship, causing alienation to the younger generation, compromising consciences of those paid to propagate the errors, and generally hollowing out the integrity and note of authenticity needed to win worthy adherents.  Calvinism has indeed been a slippery slope.  Of course other traditions have their own slippery slopes, but the collective sins of others can hardly justify our own by way of unflattering comparison.  [8/04/09]

 

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