Friday, December 28, 2007

Review of Roger Olson's Book: Arminian Theology: Myths And Realities

Review of Roger Olson's Book: Arminian Theology: Myths And Realities

The Calvinist/Arminian debate is often conducted in a way that is hurtful and lacks grace. If you are looking for a book that explains the Arminian view and at the same time treats the Calvinist view with respect, then this is for you.

This book is not a rejection of Calvinism, but instead is an explanation of why Arminians believe the way they do. Olson does not set out to disprove Calvinism.

I appreciated that Olson is not afraid to tackle those from his tradition if he believes that their theology is flawed in any way. For example he points out some of the shortcomings of the later Remonstrants (like Limborch) and he also points out some of the weaknesses of John Wesley.

The book was not an easy read. It was written at a level where I had to struggle at times to fully comprehend. The chapter on the theories of atonement was the most difficult.

Subtle bias at Yahoo

Look at this political ad from yahoo, do you see the bias?

1) Hillary is listed first, biggest smile
2) All Democrats are smiling, all Republicans are frowning.
3) Democrats are on top, Republicans on bottom
4) Where's Huck?

Thursday, November 22, 2007

God's Regrets

Ben over at Arminian Perspectives has an interesting post on struggling with regrets.

Regretting is part of the human experience. However, it's interesting to note that God also has regrets. For example in Gen 6:6 God regrets creating man, and in 1 Samuel 15:10,35 he regrets that he made Saul king.

I am curious how the Calvinist would address the issue of God's regrets? The Calvinist believes that everything that takes place is exactly how God intended it. How could God possibly regret anything under that system?

This idea of God regretting also presents an interesting dilemma for the Arminian view of God. Open Theists point to regret as evidence that God does not have exhaustive foreknowledge.

I think that God's regrets are not due to a limitation of foreknowledge, but instead are a natural result of his consistent character. For God, the ends do not justify the means. He does not turn stones into bread for his convenience. He does what is most consistent with his character, even if it's not easy, and even if he knows it that it will not work out down the road. This is particularly evident in the case of King Saul.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

New Job!

I've recently been seeking employment due to uncertainty with my current employer (details in this post). I have been offered a new position with another company - doing exactly what I do now. I'll be working for HAPO Community Credit Union, based in Richland, Washington

The drawback is that the family has to move, and in the middle of the school year. It will be hard to move away from our church and friends. It will be particularly hard for my oldest daughter Maggie.

The good news is that we'll be much closer to family! My folks and sister's family both live within a 30 minute drive. An added benefit is that this position should have more stability (I've never heard of big layoffs occurring at credit unions) :)

So...we have much to do. The most daunting task is to sell the house. It must be put on the market, and sold during a market downturn. God's providence has been very apparent to us in throughout this process. I'm confident that he will bring us the right buyers in His time. He has been opening doors, and this move is in His hands.

Calvinism Distorts God's Character

Roger Olson (Author of Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities) has written an editorial about the recent bridge collapse in MN, and how it presents problems for Calvinists. It's an excellent read, and Olson is less irenic than ususal:

The God of Calvinism scares me; I'm not sure how to distinguish him from the devil. If you've come under the influence of Calvinism, think about its ramifications for the character of God. God is great but also good. In light of all the evil and innocent suffering in the world, he must have limited himself.

[updated spelling of Olson 6-3-08, oops]
Calvinist view of bridge collapse distorts God's character

Friday, September 07, 2007

In Defense of the Invitation / Altar Call

I've read a number of Christian blogs where the tradition of the "invitation" or "altar call" has been criticized. The typical arguments are that this is a new practice, that it is not supported by scripture, and that the tradition is abused by evangelistic preachers - causing them to guilt non-believers into making a non-genuine decision for Christ.

History: Invitations to accept Christ are not new, but the specific form of invitation known as an "altar call" is a relatively new practice. It started with the evangelist Charles Finney, back in the 1830's. Other well known evangelists who have popularized the practice include D.L Moody, Billy Sunday, Corrie ten Boom, and Billy Graham.

Should we discontinue the practice of the altar call because it is new? No! Innovations in worship are often helpful, and should be welcomed if they conform to scripture. In fact Isaiah 43 says to not dwell on the past, because God is doing a new thing. To reject something simply because it is new is legalistic. Church today should not be identical to the way it was in 1829. In 1829 no church had electric lighting or indoor plumbing, but you don't hear Christians complaining about those innovations!

Altar calls are really a new type of liturgy – something instituted as a tradition in some evangelical circles. Liturgies in and of themselves are neutral. They can be used by the Spirit, or they can be empty. It depends how we use the liturgy.

Scriptural Support: Another complaint about the altar call is that the practice is not mentioned in scripture. While altar calls are not specifically mentioned, public invitations to accept Christ were frequently made by many of the disciples including Peter and Paul. That's what an altar call is, a public invitation to accept Christ. The altar call is used in a manner that strongly affirms scripture.

Altar calls are used to proclaim the good news of Jesus. In Mark 16:15 Jesus said to "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation."

Altar calls are used by preachers to exhort repentance. In Acts 17 Paul makes a public invitation to the Athenians to accept Christ. In Acts 17:30 Paul said that "...(God) commands all people everywhere to repent."

Altar calls are used by new believers to publicly acknowledge God. Jesus called for his disciples to follow him publicly. Matthew 10:32-33 states that "Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven."

Altar calls are used for confession. An altar is a place where we can confess our sins. 1 John 1:9 states that "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness."

Altars calls are used for the laying on of hands, for healing, for anointing by the elders of the church, and for the forgiveness of sins. James 5:13-16 states: "Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective."

Altars are a place where the non-believer can be overwhelmed, convicted of sin, and worship God. 1 Corinthians 14:24-25 states that: "...if an unbeliever or someone who does not understand comes in while everybody is prophesying, he will be convinced by all that he is a sinner and will be judged by all, and the secrets of his heart will be laid bare. So he will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, "God is really among you!"

Even though altar calls are not specifically mentioned in scripture, invitations are, and altar calls are a type of invitation. They are clearly used in a way that is at the heart of scripture.

Decisional Regeneration: Does God "save" someone who makes a trip to the altar? He certainly desires to, but justification is dependent first on the grace of God and then on the heart of person at the altar. In Luke 18:9-15 Jesus describes two types of people who went to the temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and one was a tax collector. The Pharisee prayed “thanks that I’m not like this tax collector.” The tax collector prayed “God have mercy on me a sinner.” Jesus said that the tax collector was the one who went home justified. So it is with going to the altar. Some will be justified, some will not be. It depends if the person has the heart of a Pharisee or a tax collector.

Abusive Practice? Can evangelists and preachers abuse the practice of altar calls? Certainly they can. Altar calls can be coercive, they can appeal to emotion instead of scripture, they can be overused. I have been to such services and revivals. But many church practices can be abused - including tithing, exorcism, baptism, confession, and others. Abuse in and of itself is not a legitimate reason to discard a practice. We should instead use altar calls only in ways that affirm scripture.

The bottom line is that there is a need for the good news of Jesus to be preached. Altar calls are used for that purpose.

Conclusion: By their fruit you will recognize them. Who can deny that God has used men such as Billy Graham to preach the gospel and call men to repentance? The altar call has definitely been used by the Spirit. It has been used by men of God in Godly ways. It has been used in ways that conform to scripture. Many of those who have gone to the altar have become believers, and lives have been changed.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Losing my job to outsourcing?

I've been working at the same company (Micron Technology) for 11 years, but that may soon be coming to an end. Management has made it clear that their goal is to reduce the workforce, and to replace it with cheaper outsourced (foreign?) labor. Over the last month my company has laid off about 1,000 people in the local area, and it's my understanding that there is more to come.

I have been involved in setting up a facility in China over the last year. As we were setting up the Chinese plant, we were told that it was an expansion of capacity, and that the USA jobs would not be going away. It looks like in reality I may have helped to work myself out of a job.

It's my goal to do the best for my employer, no matter what the circumstances. It's my prayer that I'm able to keep my job if that's within God's will for my life. But if not, that's okay too. I'm trusting that if God closes this chapter in my life, he has another more exciting one to open up.

(Terra-Cotta Warriors - Xi'an, China)

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Greek Poetry and the Emerging Church

From ZEUS let us begin.
Him do we mortals never leave unnamed:
full of Zeus are all the streets
and all the market-places of men
full is the sea and the havens thereof.
Always we all have need of Zeus
for we are also his offspring
and he in his kindness unto men
gives favorable signs
and wakens people to work.
-- Aratus (270 BC),

The goal of the Emerging Church is to reach the post modern generation. The movement has attempted to do this by making Christianity relevant to the culture - that is by preaching and teaching truth in a way that is native to the understanding of the new generation.

Some traditional Christians have criticized this movement as misguided, unscriptural, and of man. I believe, however, that the goals and methods of the movement are both legitimate and scriptural.

When Paul preached in Athens (Acts 17:22-31) he modeled how to preach to pagans. He did it by being relevant - by finding common ground and understanding with his audience. Paul presented Christ in a way that was familiar to the culture of the Greeks.

Acts 17:22
Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: "Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious."

Paul went to the Areopagus (their center of learning in Athens), and engaged the Greeks in their environment. He didn't demand that they go learn about God in the synagogue (and there was one in Athens). He didn't complain that they ignored Jewish law. He didn't insult their religion.

23: For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you.

Paul understood his audience. He took an aspect of their pagan culture (the unknown god), and used it as a way to proclaim Jesus Christ to them.

24-27: The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.

Wham! Now that the ground was laid, Paul hit them with 100% Gospel. The truth was not watered down. He explained who God is. He explained how God is real, and how God is not honored with idols made by human hands.

28:For in him we live and move and have our being. As some of your own poets have said, 'We are his offspring.'

Look at that little phrase "We are his offspring." It's easy to overlook, but it is SO important to understand the context of how Paul preached to the Athenians. This quote was NOT from the Bible. It was Greek poetry, and it in fact referred to Zeus. Paul taught the Greeks about Jesus by quoting a pagan poem about Zeus!

29-31: Therefore since we are God's offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by man's design and skill. In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead.

Now Paul shows how the nugget of truth contained in their poetry ("We are God's offspring.") differs from what they are actually practicing (worshiping man made images). After showing them their error, he tells them that they must repent. And he explains that they will be held accountable before God.

Every culture (including ours) has nuggets of God 's truth in it, just like Greek culture did. These nuggets can be surrounded by paganism but they can still point to the real God of the Bible. We must find these aspects of our culture that make God understandable. If the Church is losing ground in our culture (and it seems to be), maybe part of the reason why is that we are not making the Gospel real. We are not connecting.

It is the goal of the Emerging church to close this cultural understanding gap, and to make a connection.

Does the movement have weaknesses it must confront? Certainly it does. Its theology is weak. The movement must learn to not ever water down or compromise the truth. We dare not compromise God's truth. But we must learn present timeless truth in a way that can be understood by the culture in which we live.

It's time to break out the Greek poetry.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Somewhere Over the Rainbow II

Alex (age two) has been listening to his sister sing, and learning on his own. Here I catch him singing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow". He gives it a pretty good try. :)

Monday, July 02, 2007

Somewhere Over the Rainbow

My daughter Heidi (age six) sings "Somewhere Over the Rainbow". She will sing this in her music recital this weekend. She has EXCELLENT pitch for a six-year old. Or at least her proud papa thinks so. :-)

Friday, June 22, 2007

Seekadoo (Explained)

When our middle child Heidi was just learning to talk (age 2 or so) she kept asking for "seekadoo". We had no idea what she wanted at first. But it seemed by the way she was asking that she wanted something to drink. After a bit of trial and error we finally figured out that she was asking for a carbonated beverage (soda, pop, cola). We have no idea why she was calling pop seekadoo, as the words aren't even close to similar. But that's what she wanted.

I have liked to make up silly nonsense words since I was a child, and this new word sounded cool. So I picked up the term and began using it as well. Everyone else in the family caught on, so now seekdoo is the word we use for pop. Most of our friends and family know what we're talking about as well when referring to seekadoo. Of course we've gotten some strange looks from servers at restaurants, but for the most part it's all fun.

Spelling - the cool thing about creating nonsense words is that you can spell them however you want. I personally like the spelling 'sicadoo', but it seems like spelling it that way would more likely result in a mispronunciation by people who are unfamiliar with the word. So seekadoo it is.

I'm thirsty. Time to have a seekadoo.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Love Your Enemy

Matthew 5:43-48: You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

One outstanding story of loving your enemy was told by Corrie Ten Boom. During WWII she and her sister Betsy had been sent to a German prison camp, because of the activity of helping Jews in Holland. Betsy died in the camp. Corrie lived, and after the war began to preach of God's forgiveness for everyone. Shortly after the war God called Corrie to preach in Germany. Corrie told the people of the love, forgiveness and healing that God wanted to bring to Germany.

During one meeting a former Nazi prison officer approached Corrie. He had been one of the guards who had abused her and her sister in prison. He did not recognize her, but she recognized him. He had become a Christian, and now asked Corrie if she could forgive him. At first Corrie resisted, but then with the strength God gave her, she was able to hold her hand out to the man, and forgive him. After being obedient she felt a surge of the Holy spirit, and felt only great love for her former enemy.

What a powerful story of forgiveness, and the love only God can give!

Jesus calls us to a high standard. We are to love everyone, even our enemies. This is not something that we can do on our own. It is only something that we trust God will enable us to do. Why are we to love our enemies? Because God does, and we are his sons. Our heavenly Father is perfect in every way. His love is perfect, he gives grace to our enemies, causing the sun to shine on both the evil and good. We are to follow his example.

I've led a relatively sheltered life. I've never been through anything like the struggles of Corrie Ten Boom. But I have experienced consistently in my life that when I love others and treat them with respect, it changes my relationship with them for the better. And even if "my enemy" doesn't change, God still changes me.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Quality Time

About six months ago my wife and I decided to try and set aside some specific one-on-one time with each of our children. What we do is once a month each parent goes on an outing with one of the children. The child gets to choose what the outing is (within reason). With three kids and two parents this means that each child gets two outings in three months, one with each parent.

We decided that these outings would be a good way to spend quality time with the kids. Quality time is important for everyone, However, I believe it is particularly important in the parent-child relationship. It helps the child to know that she is loved. It gives her a chance to talk one on one, and to tell what's on her heart. And when she is grown, she will be able to look back and have specific and (hopefully) fond memories of time spent with mom and dad.

For the most part our outings are simple and inexpensive - maybe a morning hike, an afternoon drive, or an ice cream at DQ. They generally last for one or two hours. Last month (May) was my turn to do something with Heidi, our middle child. Heidi wanted to go to the Marsing pond. We've gone there several other times for family outings.

So on this Sunday afternoon we drove to the Marsing pond. We couldn't have asked for a nicer day. The weather was sunny and calm, temperature in the mid 70's. Heidi and I walked around a bit, and then sat down next to the pond, and had a little chat.

While we were there a mother and her teenage daughter stopped by. The mother asked if her daughter could take some candid pictures of us. I said, 'sure'. So Heidi and I continued our chat while the teen took our picture. Afterwards they gave us their email address, and said to email them for free copies.

I set out with the goal of giving Heidi a fond memory, but now I have a fond memory as well, and some nice pictures as well! :)

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Strawberry Mystery Solved!

The last three years my strawberries have been having problems. Every spring they would start to grow, but then the leaves would turn yellow, and the plants would begin to die. I tried varying the amount of water, and different types of all purpose fertilizer, but neither seemed to have an effect. I verified that the pH balance of the soil was acceptable. It checked in at between 6.5 and 7 which is good. I considered that it might be some sort of blight, but wasn't convinced because the nearby grapes seemed to have a similar (but less severe) condition. I doubted that a blight would impact two different plant species in the same way. In the end I found the answer on a Utah State web page. It was iron deficiency.

To fix the issue they recommended applying liquid chelated iron fertilizer. Regular iron fertilizer won't work, because the plants are unable to absorb it. Chelated fertilizer comes from organic sources, and is easier for the plants to absorb. After 3 applications of fertilizer over the last six weeks, I have seen a definite improvement in both the strawberries and grapes.

So finally I'm getting a few strawberries to eat this year. Unfortunately, the new problem is that the birds are beating me to most of them. Next year I'm going to have to set up something to keep 'em out of the patch.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Generation Gap

This picture from Lucianne gave me a chuckle.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Debt Free!

My wife and I have been following the Dave Ramsey plan now for about 2 years. We have recently completed the "debt snowball" aka baby step #2, and are now debt free except for the house! No more student loans, no more credit card payments, no more car payments!

We now have our finances in enough order that my wife can stay at home and we can still live comfortably. And we're planning a Florida vacation this fall for which we will pay CASH for. As Dave would say...very cool.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Corporal Punishment

Some people think corporal punishment is always bad. I think it can be appropriate if used sparingly and within certain guidlines.

The first thing to consider is: What is the motivation for discipline? The primary motivation for discipline should be for the betterment of the child. Discipline is NOT be used for the convenience of the parent. For example the parent shouldn't spank the kid because he/she (parent) is too lazy to use a more appropriate punishment that takes more work to put into place.

Another consideration: Never punish for an accident. Don't spank the kid for spilling his milk when he didn't mean to.

How hard to spank? Corporal punishment should never leave a bruise or mark.

How often? Corporal punishment should be rare. If the parent uses it all the time, or for trivial reasons, it loses its effectiveness.

How old? There is a certain age window when corporal punishment is most appropriate. Age 3 to 10 is what I've decided on. It doesn't do any good to spank a baby, because he/she doesn't understand what's going on. And pre-teens are getting too old. There are other punishments that can be more appropriate and effective for pre-teens (grounding, loss of privilege, etc).

Corporal punishment should never be done in a way that embarrasses the child. It should be done in private in a manner that is respectful to the personhood of the child. Fathers disciplining their daughters should take special precaution here.

Never spank when angry. The parent must take time to evaluate the situation and think through what punishment is most appropriate.

When? Punishment needs to be at the “right” time so the child associates the punishment with the bad behavior. It should be fairly close to the time of the event. For example you wouldn’t punish a three year old for something they did a week ago. Their sense of time has not developed to the point where they can still associate the punishment with the act.

Who? In most cases parents are the only ones who should spank. Teachers and relatives should not be using it. In cases of blended families it should be done by the parent, not the step-parent.

Why? It helps the child to associate pain with an inappropriate behavior. Just like skinning the knee when careless, or touching the stove when it's hot. Pain is a powerful motivator.