Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Wiersbe on Calvinism (2)

A long time ago, I posted this  on Warren Wiersbe, quoting him sounding very Calvinistic.  It has turned into far and away my most popular post ever, and it will be interesting to see if this follows suit.  (That's not why I'm doing it - honest.)

Since then, a much-respected friend* who knows Dr Wiersbe well has assured me 'Warren is not a Calvinist'.  Then, today, I came across this in his 'Be alert' little book, commenting on 2 Peter 3.

  • 'The Lord... is long-suffering to us-ward.'  Who is meant by 'us-ward'?  It would appear that God is long-suffering to His own people!
  • Perhaps Peter was using the word us in a general way, meaning 'mankind.'  But it is more likely that he was referring to his readers as the elect of God (1 Peter 1:2; 2 Peter 1:10). God is long-suffering toward lost sinners because some of them will believe and become a part of God's elect people.  We do not know who God's elect are among the unsaved people of the world, nor are we supposed to know.  Our task is to make our own 'calling and election sure' (1:10; cf. Luke 13:23-30).  The fact that God has His elect people is an encouragement to us to share the Good News and seek to win others to Christ.
  • God was even long-suffering towards the scoffers of that day!  They needed to repent and He was willing to save them.

Now, you see, apart from one phrase that could be read as if people become elect once they believe - a reading which is denied by the rest of the extract - that IS my Calvinism.  Which set me wondering.  Do we (who confess ourselves as Calvinists) present such a harsh view, such an unfriendly face, that anyone as winsome as Dr Wiersbe (one of the most winsome men I have ever met) cannot possibly be regarded as one of us?  Are we the wrong sort of Calvinists?  Or is there some other explanation?

* Here's a clue.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Blast from the past

Reminded of this, inevitably, by Olympic Opening Ceremony.  I don't know if it's true but I remember hearing that Millie only ever earned ten shillings and sixpence from this world-wide hit.  (That's 52.5 pence, folks.)

Friday, July 27, 2012

Neo-evangelicalism gone mad?

I came across this quote from a well-known preacher today, and wonder what my readers might think of it?  I'll not mention names at the moment, but he said

'Nothing can separate us [from Jesus] even if we are sexually filthy, and worse, a thousand times a day.'

Is it somewhat worrying?  Is it neo-evangelicalism gone mad?

The well-known preacher I quoted is Martin Luther; and I changed his quote only slightly to avoid giving anything away by archaic language - but you may regard it as simply a better translation of the German, if you wish.  The whole quote is found in Michael Reeves' book 'TheUnquenchable flame' (page 49) which I am thoroughly enjoying as the best entry-level book on the Reformation I've ever read.  It's clear, it's theological, it's funny.  A longer version of the quote goes like this: 

'Be a sinner and sin boldly, but rejoice in Christ even more boldly... No sin will separate us from the Lamb, even though we commit fornication and murder a thousand times a day.  Do you think that the purchase price that was paid for the redemption of our sins by so great a Lamb is too small?'

And I confess freely that, though I (by grace alone) have committed neither fornication nor murder, not even once, when I read this quote this morning it was exactly what I needed to hear and my poor heart leapt with joy that God should bring this quote to me today of all days, when the weight of sin was heavy on me.  

To quote Luther further, 'My temptation [was and] is this, that I think I don't have a gracious God.’

' Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing!’

Friday, July 20, 2012

7 Habits

I've been a fan of self-help books long before I knew what they were; the first one I ever bought (I've still got it) was called 'Teach yourself speed mathematics simplified' by Edward Stoddard.  I was about 9, and it seems to be this one.

Stephen Covey - arguably the Prince of Self-help writers - died this week in his 90th year.  His classic, 'The 7 habits of highly effective people' has sold going on for 25 million copies.  Stuart Olyott put me on to it some years ago.

Covey was a Mormon, devout and committed.  It showed in his magnum opus, since it lay great stress on character, rather than techniques.  (While I've no agreement with Mormon theology, they do lay great stress on character - at least in theory.  I don't know about the practise.)

The '7 habits' seem very obvious once they're articulated.  Have you ever noticed - the best ideas almost always do?  Here they are:

  • 1. Be proactive
  • 2. Always begin with the end in mind.
  • 3. First things first.
  • 4. Go for win/win solutions to problems - they often exist.
  • 5. First understand others, then labour to be understood.
  • 6. Synergise (work as a team, with each member doing what they're best at).
  • 7. Sharpen the saw - renew yourself physically, emotionally, spiritually and mentally.

Over the next couple of weeks I plan to look at each of these (or at least some of them) and blog about how they may be applied to pastoral ministry.  Who knows?  I may learn something!

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Switzerland and Superlatives

It's just too easy to run out of superlatives here.  Yesterday - Wednesday- we managed another of the 'runs' that wasn't open last time - the Mannlichen cable car.  It's advertised as the longest cable car ride in Europe and we can well believe it.  It's clearly visible from the balcony where we're staying, and the base station is about a twenty-minute walk.  The summit is 2222 metres high (Grindelwald is 1050 metres) and the view - as you will see when I can add pictures - is breathtaking.  It is almost as breath-taking as First...  Lunch at the top, and the clouds came down.  We're still not sure what happens if the cableway itself is 'clouded-in' - we didn't wait to see, but enjoyed the run back.  It is possible - and good - to do several significant walks from Mannlichen, but we don't believe in Purgatory.

And today - Thursday - we did the last of the 'runs' that we're hoping to do.  We'd been told that the 'Grosse Scheidegg Rundfahrt' (Roundtrip) was worth a go.  It is!
We began in Grindelwald, by bus - what we'd call 'ordinary service bus' - just after 9.30 this morning.  This took us to Grosse Scheidegg where we changed buses, waiting (by choice) half an hour for the next bus to continue the journey to Schwarzwaldalp.  There we waited again by choice - this time for a full hour, during which Elaine had her coffee and we both had apricot pie at a stunningly-situated restaurant.  Then we took the 'postbus' as far as Meiringen.

Now, Meiringen, I wasn't aware, is the location of the Reichanbach Falls, where Sherlock Holmes didn't really meet his fictional doom.  It was a surprise to see, as the bus drove down the street, the 'Hotel Sherlock Holmes'; it was a bigger surprise to see an apparently authentic London street sign - 'Baker Street'!

From Meiringen, on by train to Brienze, then by boat to Interlaken (with lunch on the boat), and then 'home' by the 'usual train' to Grindelwald.

And it all sounds so normal!  But the roads - THE ROADS - those first buses travel: 'on one side... a magnificent view of the world-famous Eiger and Grindelwald, and on the other side to the Engelhorner and the Reichenbach valley.'  But even that doesn't say it: I have never seen such narrow, steep, hair-pin and precipitous roads in my life.  The bus-drivers were, frankly, amazing.

The weather - both days - stayed really bright and sunny for the first two-thirds, then (as I've said) clouds yesterday, some rain today while we were on the boat.  But brilliant weather for the most part, and brilliant excursions.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

An awful lot of know-how

There are a lot of things that Switzerland really knows how to do well.  Make chocolate.  And clocks.  And knives.  And make their trains run on time.
AND - it knows how to rain.  After the delights of FIRST, we decided on Saturday to have a day around the chalet/flat.  Always pleasant.  In the evening, it began to rain and to thunder a little.  It rained all day Sunday (though it didn't stop us getting to Parkside Church to hear Alistair Begg), with intermittent thunder and very low clouds.   And it rained all day yesterday, Monday.  More thunder.  More low clouds.  Often the cloud is so low that the Eiger is simply invisible - a major magic trick if ever there was one. 
And when I say it rained - well, a quiet storm is the best way to describe it.  Water flooding down the roads and pavements.
We got out for meals twice - to the same place each day.  The Memory bar does a burger day on Sunday and a Burito day on Monday - 10CHFr for a really good meal.  The Buritos especially were an unexpected delight.  But that was the extent of our excursions.
Today it's Tuesday.  Surprise, eh - right after Monday again?  It isn't raining, though the forecast isn't brilliant.  The clouds are on the tops of the mountains: that is, we can see the mountains again, but we're not sure whether it's worth ascending.  It may just be a day in Interlaken, then.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Particular, and serious

Well, it's the Lord's Day - time for something a little more important than a travelog.  I've been thinking for a while of a post on particular redemption; I may still do so, but this week Dan Phillips got there before me - here and here.  Dan's a great writer; he did a better job than I would have.

The only thing of substance that I'd take issue with in Dan's posts is this:

  • The reason I usually call myself a 4.95-point Calvinist (+/-) is that, while every one of the other four points is expressly taught in Scripture, there is no single verse that expressly says, in so many words "Jesus died to atone fully for the sins of the elect and nobody else."

Now Dan's logic is better than this, almost always.  (We won't say anything about his dispensationalism for the moment...)   The truth is, though, he's wrong here.  Consider: 
  • there isn't a single verse that expressly says, in so many words, 'God chose individuals to be saved, unconditionally and before the beginning of time, and the faith those individuals have is his gift to them.'

And for that matter,
  • there isn't a single verse that expressly says, in so many words, 'There is only one God and he has always existed in three distinct persons (Father, Son and Holy Spirit), so that each person is truly and wholly God yet the Father is not the Son and the Son is not the Spirit and the Spirit is not the Father.'

No, there isn't a single verse that says either of those things.  Yet the Bible indubitably teaches both of them. 

Dan know that this isn't how theology works - one single verse that summarises a particular doctrine.  It's sad, then, that he seems to fudge (just a little bit) on particular redemption.

And here are two verses that come pretty close:
  • For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Mark 10:45)

  • Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her (Ephesians 5.25)