Monday, October 20, 2014

Calvinism and Evangelism

A very common objection to the doctrines of Grace is "What's the point of evangelism?"
It seems like a valid argument. If God irresistibly saves sinners without the need for human effort, and if Salvation is all up to Him, then why do we need to spread the Gospel? God does all the work anyway, so what are we here for?

There are several things I want to look at in regards to this objection.

First of all, even if there was no point in evangelism, we should do it anyway, just because God tells us to. I've actually met Calvinists who believe that evangelism has no real purpose or use except as a means for believers to show obedience to God's command to spread the Gospel. I do not share this view, but if there was no point to evangelism, we should do it anyway, for the simple reason that God commands it. "And He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature." (Mark 15:16)

Secondly, I believe that God commands us to spread the Gospel because we are the tools that uses to do so. Yes, God does all the work in salvation, and He does it irresistibly, but He does it through the Gospel, which He spreads via the mouths of believers.

The only thing that galls me more than a believer taking credit for their salvation is when they take credit for the salvation of others. Paul tells us very clearly that when it comes to spreading the Gospel, "I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase." (1 Corinthians 3:6-7)

Paul and Apollos both worked hard to spread the Gospel, but in the end, it was God who brought about the increase. "Unless the Lord builds the house, They labor in vain who build it; Unless the Lord guards the city, The watchman stays awake in vain." (Psalm 127:1) In the same way, I would say that unless God is at work through evangelism, it is pointless. No amount of human wisdom and eloquence could ever convert an unbeliever. It takes the power of Christ working within their heart to make that person a "New Creation."

Thirdly, the idea that Calvinism smothers evangelism is simply absurd, and defies history. Many historians and Pastors would agree that Calvinism has done more for evangelism than any other "branch" of Christianity! But don't take my word for it, take a look at this amazing list of great missionaries and evangelists who were Calvinists. You might be surprised at how many names you know and love, but never knew were Reformed!

I want to end with a quote from Pastor David Shrock:
"For Paul, election and evangelism are not at odds. For Paul, election is the motivation that drives him to go share the gospel in all places, the hardest places, because he believes that when the gospel is shared, the voice of Christ will be spoken, the sheep [elect] will hear the voice, and they will follow after Him. He's not saying that they are saved before the foundation of the world. He's not saying that salvation will come without the preaching of the gospel. He is saying that when the gospel is preached, he has absolute confidence that it will be effective, because he knows that there are elect ones out there... in this understanding, election does not hinder evangelism. It energizes it."
 I highly recommend that you listen to the full sermon this quote is from.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Courtship VS. Dating: It's the People, Not the Model

After watching this controversy go on for quite some time, I've finally decided to put in my two cents. I've never written on it before, because it just wasn't my thing. I felt like everything to be said on the subject had already been said, and it seemed like all the other Christian bloggers I knew had this subject covered (which they do!). However, I've been reading a lot of interesting articles from both sides of the debate, and a few recent posts have moved me to speak.

I grew up thinking that dating, along with the whole boyfriend/girlfriend thing was just weird. It didn't look right, it didn't feel right, and I told myself I'd never do it. And so I haven't.

When I was about 17, I decided that I needed to start preparing for marriage. I really had no idea what I was doing. If I wasn't going to go the way of dating, what way was I going to go? So I read about courtship. I read I Kissed Dating Gooodbye, and I've since read many good articles and blog posts supporting and promoting courtship. I've also witnessed friends go through successful courtships that led to happy marriages. Courtship seemed like the best and only option.

However, I've also watched courtship fail. And I've watched dating succeed. And I've read blog posts and stories and articles saying the same thing. More and more people are saying that courtship is fundamentally flawed, much the same way that we would say dating is fundamentally flawed. And they make some really good points, some of which I agree with.

So what's my stance on the two now? Well, I don't think that courtship is the only way to go, and I don't think dating is as bad as we make it out to be. I'm a total heretic, right? But hear me out.

I agree with both sides of the dating/courtship controversy when they say that there are fundamental flaws. But those flaws are not within the models of courtship or dating. Both models have their pros and cons, both can lead to God-honoring marriages, and both can lead to heartbreak and bitterness. How is this possible?

The models aren't flawed. People are.

To prove my point, let's look at dating's "fundamental flaw," as outlined by many pro-courtship sources. The fundamental flaw with dating, as I've read and have been lead to believe, is that it puts all the focus on self. That it's all about seeing how much pleasure you can extract from the other person. It's all about you, and not the person you're dating. Indeed, this is often how it's done, and I observed this first-hand.

But what is a date? Typically, a guy asks a girl out, they go out (typically to a restaurant or movie), and the guy pays for everything (typically). I see nothing inherently self-centered with that model, do you? Why not? Because whether or not you act self-centered does not lie within the model: it lies within your character.

The main argument against dating is that a lot of the people doing it become self-focused, and the relationship ends up bitterly failing as a result. So we do away with the model.

But what if I told that the same is true of marriage? "a lot of the people doing it become self-focused, and the relationship ends up bitterly failing as a result." You're probably familiar with America's divorce rate. So should we do away with the model of marriage? Of course not! Because the problem is not with the model. It's with the people.

The reasons so many dating relationships fail, so many marriages end in divorce, and even some courtships end in bitterness, is not because the models are inherently flawed. It's because people are inherently flawed.

You can be self-centered on a date, and you can be self-centered in courtship. The fundamental flaw is not with dating, nor with courtship; it's with you. You are self-centered. I am self-centered. Humans are all, by nature, fundamentally self-centered, and that effects everything we do. That's the fundamental flaw.

The only solution to this flaw is to make Christ --not ourselves-- the center of our lives and our relationships.
"This is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, that as you have heard from the beginning, you should walk in it." -- 2 John 1:6
If you make it your goal to please God rather than yourself in your relationship, then things will go a lot better for you. That doesn't mean your relationship will work out the way you want it to-- sometimes God has other plans, and if He does, you need to bow to His will. Pleasing God might mean "breaking up" with someone who does not have Christ-like character. Pleasing God, obeying His commandments, and following Him is not easy, and often painful (Matthew 24:9). But it is worth it.

Here's the bottom line: what matters in a relationship is not the model you follow (courtship vs. dating). What matters is the character of the individuals involved, as that will dictate the outcome of the relationship. And if the goal of both people in the relationship is to please God, then as long as they meet that goal in the way they interact with each other, then the outcome of that relationship will always be for the best.

Whether you date, court, or follow some other model, I pray that you put Christ first, and make pleasing Him the focus of your relationship.

So what about me? What model will I follow? I'm really not sure yet. I may not follow either. My parents didn't court, but technically, they didn't date either. I might do the same thing. I might even stay single; as much as I dislike the idea, it might be God's Will for my life. I don't know. But here's what I do know: I will seek to please the Lord in all that I do. And I hope you'll do the same.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Satanic Sidebar?

You may not know this, but I am an aspiring webcartoonist. I used to publish a single-panel strip called Chubby Yellow Van, and I am currently doing a sci-fi webcomic called Star Bounty.

Well, I was thinking about what else I could use my cartooning skills for, and C-4 came to mind. All that to say, future posts will most likely feature comics that will help illustrate the points I am trying to make. Should be fun!

This comic was really just a random idea that came into my head... I was thinking about how scams, conspiracy theories, and even some religions try to draw us in with the promise of inside information that someone powerful doesn't want us to know. Well, I realized that's exactly what Satan did in the Garden of Eden.

We shouldn't accept beliefs simply because they make us unique or smarter than others (snob appeal), or because someone supposedly doesn't want us to know. We should accept beliefs based on the merits of evidence, logic, and most importantly: whether or not they're biblical.

Now just because someone uses the same tactics as Satan to try to get us to believe something doesn't necessarily mean that belief is false, but at the same time... when someone is using the same tactics as Satan to try to get you to believe something, well, you would probably do best to take everything they say with a grain of salt. In fact, use the whole shaker. Be a Berean, and "search the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things are so."