Why I’m a Calvinist, and Not a Jerk!

We welcome a guest blogger to Defending Contending. George Alvarado may be known to some of you as the author of the book Apocity. I hope that we can learn from the attitude he portrays on what is often a sensitive issue and one that is not always found with a great degree of humility.

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Imagine someone drowning and gasping for air as they are gargling water trying to cry for help. Just before they black out, their lungs fill with water, preventing them to give a final cry, and their body sinks to the depths. As they black out, they feel nothing but the cold water surrounding them, and hear nothing but a deafening silence that welcomes them to their watery grave. Then, they wake up and find themselves underneath the pressure of someone administering CPR. As their chest is compressed and their lungs fill with air from their rescuer, they begin to regain consciousness and the breath of life is once again restored to their own control. When they take their first, deep breath, the adjoining exhale is filled with overwhelming gratitude towards the person that resuscitated them from certain death. Now, imagine a local journalist reporting on this incident asking this person their thoughts on this event, and they say, “I am really glad I chose to come back to life. I can’t imagine what would have happened if I didn’t take my first breath.”

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Is Suicide Ever an Option?

There is a great deal of words that have been written about the suicide of a recent celebrity. This blog does not intend to readdress this sad loss for his family and friends. The fact is that depression has seen another life go out into eternity. However, before I address the question at hand, I do want to make a few preliminary comments.

1) Eternity is real and each one of us will face that reality. The Scriptures remind us that “as it is appointed unto man once to die and after this will come the judgment” (Heb. 9:27). This means that no matter when we die or how we die, we will stand before God. He alone is the Judge of man.

While we can make judgment calls against another, the truth is that the Bible does give us the answer to what will happen next after death. It is our responsibility to tell others the dangers of what will come. There are only two choices. If our salvation is placed by grace through faith alone in Christ alone, then His Holy Spirit will have brought us to the point of repentance and we become a new creation in Christ Jesus. If not, then the price that will be paid is eternal damnation apart from Christ.

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2) It is a sad day when people get angry when a subject matter like suicide is spoken about. People tend to follow their emotions rather than the dictates of a clear conscience. What is worse is when Christians become so divisive that the world cannot clearly see Jesus Christ working in and through us. He alone is our hope and our guide, and it is to His Word that we must seek to find our answers.

3) This post is not intended to denigrate the reality of suicide, nor the causes of what brings a person to suicide. Further, it is not meant to belittle the pain of what a family goes through when suicide has been committed. Death is a tragic part of life but it is because of the fall in the Garden of Eden that death is a reality.

4) Suicide is a reality in just about every culture around the world. The church should be stepping up with help instead of hiding behind rocks and pretending it does not happen. Sadly, pastors are not prepared to offer help, guidance, and counsel because many do not have a solid view of Biblical principles. 2 Peter 1:3 tells us that the Scriptures are good for all that pertains to life and godliness. Therefore, we must correctly believe that depression and suicide can be addressed from a biblical perspective.

Now, let me address suicide and it is our desire to do so from a Biblical perspective. Tragically, there is a great deal of misunderstanding among true believers about the matter of suicide. While I do not expect our readers to totally agree with me, it is my prayer that you will give my thoughts prayerful consideration. I do not want needless rants, but you are welcome to comment or share your thoughts. As always, we ask that if you do so that you follow our rules of engagement.

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1) Suicide is mentioned in the Bible. We are told of seven different people who took their own lives (Judges 9:54; 16:29-31; 1 Sam. 31:3-6; 2 Sam. 17:23; 1 Kings 16:18; and Matt. 27:5). Of course, the two most famous were King Saul in the Old Testament and then Judas Iscariot in the New Testament. The why and how is not relevant to this blog post.

2) Any time that we act in a manner that is contrary to what God desires, it is sin. Therefore, we must conclude that suicide is sin. Whatsoever is not of faith is sin, and suicide is not a step of faith.

3) Because suicide is a sin, we must address what the Bible says about sin. Sin is a reality of the Fall. We are fallen creatures and our hearts and minds are totally set in contradiction to the holiness of God, unless we have been made a new creation in Christ.

4) Sadly, in the church, we have become very adept at classifying our sin according to our own perspectives instead of how God sees sin. It has become far too fashionable in Christendom to categorize sin into certain tiers. Lying on your tax return is not as bad as adultery. Lying to your kids about Santa Claus is not as bad as the couple who got divorced and remarried. Hating somebody who writes a blog is not as bad as the person who actually took their own life.

The biblical answer to life is that we must turn to Jesus Christ. We must see sin as He does and the penalty that must be endured for that sin. If He paid it all, then it is all to Him I owe because sin had left a crimson stain, but He washed it white as snow. The sobering alternative is that those who reject Christ will pay the ultimate penalty in everlasting punishment.

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5) Thus we must address another question. Can a murderer become a true believer in Christ? Further, can a true believer who takes his or her eyes off Christ respond in anger in such a way that murder is the result? Let’s go further. Christ said that if we even have hatred in our hearts, it is the same as murder.

If we had the opportunity to speak to somebody on death row, do we share with them the truth of God’s Word and His grace and forgiveness offered freely to all who will believe, or do we ask them first what type of murder they perpetrated and how they did it? Of course, any true bearer of good news would share the reality of grace and what Christ paid so we would not have to suffer the wrath of God the Father.

So, in order to share this truth we must ask another question. Is the sin of murder one of the sins that nailed Christ to the cross? The answer is unquestionably yes it was. Although, suicide is considered by many to be self-murder, it is still sin and it was still a sin nailed to the cross of Christ for all who believe.

6) Logically, we must then ask two more questions. 1) Can a person who is a Christian commit suicide? 2) Will a person who commits suicide go to heaven when they die?

The answer to both of these lay in what Christ did and not in what we have done, nor in what we deserve. Christ died for our sins almost 2,000 years ago and that means that all of our sins were in His future. Further, from before the foundations of the world, God set His love upon all who would believe and who would be brought to repent and confess their sin. This means that if you have ever truly come to Christ, every sin you have ever committed was PAID IN FULL on the cross of Calvary.

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We have biblical injunction to assume that we can ever undo the once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus Christ. When He cried, “It is finished”, he meant that it was finished for all time. There would never be the need for another sacrifice for all who come by grace through faith alone to Him.

2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” This is important to correctly understand. A person who is TRULY a new creation in Christ cannot uncreate what God has created.

While I believe in eternal security of the believer, I do NOT believe that a person can do what they want, when they want, and remain in that sin if they are a true believer. If they are a brand new creation, they will be changed into the image of Jesus Christ. However, this does not mean that we cannot succumb to a particular sin with the exception of unbelief. I do not find any leeway in Scripture that shows a person who belongs to Christ can truly come to the point of unbelief in the saving work of Christ. This means that a person can be discouraged or in complete despair of their situation, but that never negates what Christ accomplished on Calvary.

7) The only sin that will ever take a person to hell is the sin of unbelief. God will not bring down the hammer of condemnation because a person is a drunkard, or a cheater, or a liar, or an adulterer, or even a murderer. Nobody will ever be able to say that God is unfair and He does not judge rightly, and the ultimate sin that brings that condemnation will be the rejection of Jesus Christ. Suicide is not a rejection of Jesus Christ, but a rejection of the life and circumstances that God has sovereignly placed in my path. Thus, if a person chooses to end their life, they have sinned but not a sin that I believe brings damnation to hell.

Let us consider a few more thoughts about suicide.

1) More times than not, suicide is the end result of depression. While we could address depression at length, let it be sufficient to say that one of the results of the fall is that our mind is not what God originally designed and created. DNA does not grow better, but it decreases with each person that is born.

This means there is a Biblical reason for mental illnesses no matter what kind it is. Our understanding of mental illness can often be skewed because we (the church) too often looks to worldly psychology instead of to the Word of God for appropriate answers.

2) Suicide is never to be an option. It is the ultimate act of selfishness against God and against those we love. Speak to a family who has gone through this and you will see the pain, grief, and shame that never goes away. Speak to the police officers, EMT workers, and funeral workers that grieve alone after the work of dealing with a suicide has been finished. Speak to the pastors and church members who struggle to know how to help a family pick up the pieces of the puzzle that have been irreversibly shattered.

3) The two greatest commandments given by Jesus Christ reiterate all that is found in the law and the prophets. First, we must love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, and mind. Second, we must love our neighbor as ourselves. There is not a third command that we must learn to love ourselves. It is automatically assumed and we do that very well.

By this simple understanding of the law, it is easy to follow that doing anything in our life that does not reflect these two commands must be sin and the result of sin. Therefore, because it does not reflect a love for God or for our neighbor, suicide is sin no matter why it is done.

So, what is the answer we can present to others or how do we help those who are weak in mind and body?

1) Suicidal thoughts can inhabit the mind, but Romans 12 reminds us that we are to renew our minds by being transformed. To be transformed, we cannot conform to the standards and precepts of the world. Further, in order to keep from conforming to the world, we must present our bodies a living sacrifice that is holy and acceptable to Jesus Christ.

2) The church needs to wake up to the reality that people’s mind are not being renewed. Thus, the church and pastors are failing to help provide care and love to those who are depressed or suffering from ailments that are the end result of the Fall. We must love those who are in our midst and recognize that it is not drugs that will give them freedom. It is not self-help or self-awareness classes that will bring ultimate relief. It is Jesus Christ. He is the Author and Finisher of our faith and it is to Him that we must point others who are helpless and hopeless.

3) When tragedy strikes within the ranks of true believers, the true Church must be willing to render prayer and loving support. We must follow the dictates of Galatians 6 and help to bear one another’s burdens, for in so doing, we fulfill the law of Christ.

4) It is not up to us to second-guess what the state of a person’s mind may or may not have been when they took their own life. Only God knows both their heart and their mind. While we do not condone this or any other sin, we must use this to reinforce the reality of Christ and what He has done so that we will ultimately be free from the ravages of all sin.

5) In almost 8 years in the funeral industry, I also served as a chaplain in four different funeral homes. I conducted 272 funerals. I only knew two of these individuals. It was not my responsibility to preach people into hell who did not belong there, nor did I preach anybody into heaven who had not been forgiven for their sins. That was the responsibility of the Judge of the Universe. However, in times of grief, I was able to share the truths that I did here in this post. There is room at the cross for all who will but come and plead to God for mercy.

A passage to consider is 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” On the surface, this paints a very bad picture for anybody who has practiced or indulged in such sins.

But Paul gives hope to the reader in the very next verse 11, “And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” This is worth rejoicing over. Such people who committed such sins have been washed, sanctified, and justified. The power of salvation is not based on us or our reactions to emotions, feelings, or circumstances. As Jonah stated, Salvation belongs unto God. It is of Him, through Him, and because of Him alone.

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We want to make one thing abundantly clear. This blog post, nor my beliefs, are to be construed in any way that a person is free to take their own lives when God allows them to go through turmoil and discouragement. I am NOT, nor would I ever say that. Suicide is ALWAYS wrong and is always sin. The power of life and death must be left in the hands of God alone. Despair can bring a person to make decisions that are regrettable.

While I do believe a true believer may come to the point where they despair completely of life and choose to end that life, I also believe that such an action would bring loss of reward when standing before God. Ultimately, we must see our lives as Job did when his world crashed down around him in Job 23:10, “When he has tried me, I will come forth as gold.”

Suicide happens and will continue to happen because we are fallen creatures in a fallen world. Until Satan is completely destroyed and all things are made right, sin will reign in the hearts and lives of individuals all around the world. However, we are assured that by His death, burial, and resurrection that Christ is the ultimate victor over death, hell, sin, and the grave.

May our hearts be filled with love and understanding toward those who are hurting. May we not make assumptions about what the Scriptures give us no leeway to make. May we show Christ to a world that is in utter darkness. May we be a light to that dark world so that those in the world will see God in our lives and will ultimately glorify our Father who is in heaven.

May we have compassion and grace toward what we do not, may not, or cannot comprehend. And finally, may we be ever thankful for the forgiveness that is offered by Christ to all who will come by faith and realize that if it was not for grace – many of us would find ourselves doomed and lost in hell.

I want to conclude with one final thought. If you are considering taking your life, seek out somebody who knows and loves Christ. Don’t look to somebody who has no answers or wants to fill your head with the Oprah Winfrey or Joel Osteen type of drivel that sends people to hell. Let them share with you the joy that comes from being found in Christ alone. There is life after despair. There is hope after discouragement. There is love where you may only know hate.

The answer is found in Christ alone!

The Hypocrisy of the LGBT Community

A few thoughts to consider for the thoughtful reader of DefCon –

1. Ok, for those who think to the contrary of the Bible, I would like to call your bluff in no uncertain terms. Please provide indisputable PROOF from the scientific and medical communities that people are born transgender or as homosexuals or lesbians, etc. THEORIES or PRESUPPOSITIONS based on psychology does not count. It must be based on DNA, genetics, things that can be proven in a lab or research facility.

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2. For those who think that God “MADE” a mistake when He made you, I would encourage you to read the truth of Scriptures. The same holds true to any who think that ALL or ANY sexual activity outside the bounds of marriage between one man and one woman is acceptable. John 3:36 makes it clear as to God’s perspective on those who willfully abide in their sin and abomination. “He that believes on the Son has everlasting life: and he that believes not the Son will not see life; but the wrath of God abides on him.” Those who are children of God will obey the commands of Scripture, but those who choose their own paths are clearly bent on destruction AND the wrath of God does abide on them until salvation takes place. The bottom line is that God does NOT make mistakes and He does not create that which would contradict the principles and truths found in His Word (the Holy Scriptures).

3. I share with those who read that there is no hatred for any who live in a lifestyle that is contrary to God. It is NOT up to me to bring condemnation of eternal punishment. If I am to follow the truth of Scripture, I must learn to 1) love God with all my heart, soul, and mind, and the 2) is to love my neighbor as myself. However, it is NOT loving if I fail to warn you that there is a high price to pay one day for choosing a path or lifestyle that is in contradiction to the character of the Holy God. Some who read might PRESUME upon my character and belief that I hate you and others who do not live like I do. That is unfounded and is based purely on the speculation of how you THINK others should believe and how you THINK others should allow you to practice with no lack of tolerance apart from intolerance towards “bigots” and “hate-mongers” like me. I look forward to seeing your “PROOF.”

4. So, just to clarify, a person can HATE the actions of those who choose to pray aloud to God in school or a public place but that person probably would say nothing if it was a Muslim student doing it. Further, you can hate prayer and find it an affront or grievance to you, but you would have NO problem fully endorsing that same person’s right to speak if they choose to spew filthy, vulgar language or even speak aloud of his or her ability to practice deviant lifestyles. Absolutely amazing! So, you can HATE as long as you get your way, but if I HATE that which is contrary to the Scriptures, I am condemned as a bigot and I am judging others. So, exactly, how does this logic work again???

5. The problem is that the world is trying to dictate new standards of morality based on what suits the depravity of the human heart. You cannot have morals without the God who gave and created the morals to begin with. It is the same God who created one man and one woman and instituted marriage between those two. The reality is that the LGBT agenda is an abomination before God and will always be so. Sadly, a small very vocal minority are trying to bully the world into accepting perverted lifestyles. By the way, Disney has long sought to subtly and now openly promote the homosexual agenda. The homosexual agenda will never be content with “marriage” between two of the same sex. They are after our children. We are headed the way of Rome and will be brought to our knees just as Rome was for her wickedness.

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6. By the way, if homosexuality or lesbianism is “normal” and supposedly created by God, why in each relationship do you have one that acts the part of a male and one a female? God created one man and one woman and commanded them to multiply and fill the earth. Interesting that God did not give the ability to procreate between two men or two women, and biology and science cannot change that. Notice I did not mention “gay” sex. I spoke of the irony of how in any relationship between two men, one will seek to be effeminate (or the wife), while with two lesbians, one will seek to dominate and play a masculine role.

7. God states that ALL AND ANY sex outside of marriage between one man and one woman is an abomination before Him. God also tells us that the hearts of ALL men and women are evil. Romans 3 states that there is nobody who is good, not even one. They have all gone out of the way in their depravity. There does not need to be any additional verses regarding a person who thinks they were born in the wrong type of body. To hold to this is ultimately stating that God makes mistakes. Further, the Bible is clear that it is not a particular sin that will send people to hell, but the one of unbelief. Belief in God resulting in salvation only comes when a person repents and confesses their sin to God and then places their faith in Christ alone for their salvation. That belief then is followed by a willing obedience to the commands of Christ.

8. Despite the fact that many will studiously avoid my thoughts and questions, I will share that God commands all men to repent. The need for repentance is not dependent on one’s choice of sex or lifestyle. It is based solely on the fact that man is separated by his very nature from a holy God. What would God say to a transgender person? He tells them to repent and that today is the day of salvation for all who come in faith in Jesus Christ. The transgender equality issue is one that seeks to erode what God has created. To force those choices upon the general public, particularly within the education system, is foolishness and stupidity at best, and at worst, only further undermines the differences between male and female as created by God.

Divided We Stand?

To preface my thoughts, I want to ask that each of you who read this, read all the way to the end before making a judgment call.

I would like to chime in on the valid points raised by Chris in the previous post. One of our readers, Jon Gleason commented on the issue of “working togetherism” which is one as I have seen way too often the problem that comes with everybody seeking unity at the expense of doctrinal purity just so they can “work” together. The end result ends up being things like ECT (Evangelicals and Catholics Together) or the Manhattan Declaration just to name a few. The results are not what is intended and where does the line in the sand actually get drawn. I have seen this in Europe, America, and in West Africa.

My dear friend and brother, Chris, mentioned as an example that he and another brother disagree on soteriology but still work together for the sake of the gospel. Of course, without knowing the specific points in question, this has always been a huge issue with me, because we are dealing with matters of eternity more times than not when we are talking about the doctrine of salvation. You cannot teach salvation by faith alone when or if the “brother” is teaching the addition of works, baptism, or whatever. As a small side note, I do not believe this is the case with Chris.

In my understanding of Scripture, this cannot be a joining of hands if such views take place. I understand there can be variations though on smaller points within the overall foundational truths. For instance, I would struggle to work with somebody from the Church of Christ, or Methodist, or Catholic because they all fall under the same boat – they believe and teach contrary to the Scriptures in the doctrine of Sola Fide.

The question is “How can two walk together except they are in agreement?” How can I stand in the pulpit or on a street corner giving forth a gospel appeal if the person preceding or following me is teaching a different means or way of salvation? Or, even how can this take place if the other “brother” insists that the salvation of the human soul is somehow in the remit of those who are completely and totally dead in trespasses and sins?

Is our desire to go on mission or preach each Sunday from the pulpit or share a tract or CD on a street corner so pressing that we will negotiate fundamentals of the faith or the truths for which our forefathers and the Reformers (as an example) laid down their lives because there was no compromise to be found.

However, I would ask if we remember Martin Luther? “Here I stand, I can do no other.” His reference was to the Bible alone – Sola Scriptura! Too often, we, as evangelicals and fundamentalists have a pathetic tendency to “read INTO” the Scriptures what we want it to say and these areas then become “fundamentals of the faith.” For example, type of hymns used or not used, Bible versions, rapture or no rapture, the timing of rapture if you hold to this point, Sunday school or none, etc., etc., etc.

We should well remember that where Scripture is silent, that we should remain silent. Where the Scriptures are not decisively clear, in those areas there can be room for flexibility and even working with others. Sadly in my past, I have found myself sitting in various camps on some of the above issues and refusing to get along with those who held varying (mostly only slightly different) views than my own.

What a travesty and I can certainly understand the frustration that comes when we see the bickering and arguing that takes place within our circles. In the meantime, the cults continue to take away people to their perdition because we are MORE concerned about being right than with being Biblical! Then, to our chagrin instead of finding a Biblical position, if we are not careful we will swing to the realm of ecumenicalism where all hold hands together and sing “Kumbaya” or “Michael, row the boat to shore.”

Can we proceed without “demonizing” or “anathematizing” others? Yes, we can and should if the issues are only on a secondary or tertiary level. However, I am convinced that places like DefCon and all those involved should insist that on ALL primary levels of doctrine, that there will be no compromise for any reason or for any person. There is a place for discernment and one cannot read the New Testament epistles and not realize the depths of effort that went into the writings of these men to pursue truth in all realms of early Christianity. Yes, we are even highly admonished to rebuke those who are seen departing from the faith AND from what was taught to them.

I for one will not give my support of some of those who claim to be ministers of the gospel when what they are preaching is leading people down a primrose path to destruction or is defaming the name and cause of Jesus Christ. This would most certainly include people like Mark Driscoll, John Piper, Rick Warren, Billy Graham, and Ravi Zacharias who are openly endorsing anything and everything from New Age thought to Roman Catholic mystics.

As a loving word of caution, I do not believe all these men necessarily started out with the intention of climbing in bed with everybody all for “the sake of the gospel.” It was gradual but the end result was still the same. My point here is not one of disagreement with Chris, but a clarification of my own thoughts on what is and should be important to those who claim the name of Christ.

To summarize, when we find ourselves disagreeing on tertiary or secondary issues, there is nothing wrong with debate or enjoying a coffee together. Some secondary issues may be another person’s tertiary issues though and we must have the discernment and wisdom to see that others may see things differently. We may not be able to work with somebody in realms such as swapping pulpits with another with whom we disagree on secondary or tertiary issues, but it does not mean (as Chris has rightly stated) that we must tear them to strips or “condemn” them to hell for those differences.

However, when the doctrinal truth is at stake and we are dealing with the core doctrines of the Scripture, there cannot and must not be any compromise. If at the end of the day, we have compromised just so we can share the gospel, we will find that the gospel we proclaim has also been compromised and we will be seeking to give free tickets to the celestial kingdom all because we failed to stand firm in the faith once delivered to the saints.

Divided We Fall

7100094_f496It was a post from my friend and fellow evangelist, Bobby McCreery, that got me thinking. He wrote, “I’m no expert, but it seems one reason revival tarries is the fact that there is so much division in the body of Christ. So many brothers biting and devouring each other over secondary and tertiary issues like baptism and eschatology grieves my heart. I am not saying these issues are not important. I am saying my prayer is that our love for Christ would cause us to love one another in spite of our differences.” I could not help but echo the sentiment of my friend. So often in the Christian community we are ready to go to the mats over issues that, while important, are secondary to the essential doctrines of the faith.

These essential issues – such as: the nature of God; the deity of Christ; the Trinity; salvation by grace alone, through faith, in Christ alone; the sufficiency of scripture (and that scripture is inerrant); justification; and imputation – are what all Christians should be willing to go to the grave over. They are so essential to the very nature of our faith, that to remove any one of them would do irreparable damage to Christianity. These are doctrines that we must be absolutely unified on. Yet today, the doctrines which, while important, do not cause the cause of Christ to crumble have been elevated to first order status. Christians are going to war over doctrines which have been debate by good and godly men for centuries. What is worse, where some of the learned men of the past have been willing to call each other brethren despite their differences, today, Christians are declaring each other false believers, false teachers, or even worse, heretics. And all the while, we ignore the words of our Savior, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another,” (John 13:35 ESV).

This is not to say that every discussion or disagreement over doctrinal issues is a failure to show love to each other. In fact, it is very important that we as Christians be willing to wrangle over tough doctrinal teachings so that we may come to a full and mature understanding of our faith. But in so doing, we are not to despise one another for differing beliefs. In 1 Corinthians 8, Paul teaches more mature believers in the faith that while we are free to eat meat sacrificed to idols (because it is only meat and the idol has no power at all) those who are weak, or lacking maturity in doctrine, may see this as sin. Paul calls on the more mature Christians to be willing to abstain from eating meat around them in order to keep from adversely affecting the weaker brethren’s conscience.

Inherent in this teaching we see a couple of principles. First, that of the opposing views, one is right, one is wrong. Those who are right have a greater and more mature understanding of the teachings. Second, those Christians who are more mature are taught to not lord over the weaker brethren due to their advanced wisdom. They are in fact, called to work with the less mature brethren at their own level. Incumbent in this is that the mature brethren will instruct, in love, the weaker. In other words, we are told it is less important to prove our being right in this matter than it is to love our weaker brethren and to build them up in the faith.

Now, I would agree that this matter of meat sacrificed to idols is not a debate of eschatology, soteriology or baptism. However, the principle, I believe remains. When we discuss our viewpoints of doctrine, it must always be with the mindset that we are talking with fellow believers. One of us is going to be wrong in our beliefs, but unless this is a core matter, one can still be a Christian if they are indeed wrong. Thus, the debate is not about finding a tare among the wheat, but the education and edification of our brethren. If we approach the matter purely from the standpoint that anyone who does not understand the wisdom in this view of doctrine must change their mind or else, then we have wrongly declared hosts of brethren anathema, even though they have agreement on the core essentials.

Often times, disagreements on secondary issues can turn into nasty, knock down, drag out arguments. The unfortunate result is that some Christians end up becoming unwilling to affirm other Christians as brethren when they refuse to see their “wisdom” in an area of doctrine. However, in Romans 14, Paul admonishes Christians who debate over the eating of certain foods or days on which one should worship. Remember, in this passage, Paul is talking specifically about Christians. So when he asks, “Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another?” (v. 4a) he is pointing out that those who are in disagreement on this secondary matter should not be calling into question the salvation of the other. He goes on to say, “It is before his own master that he stands or falls,” (v. 4b). Paul is saying that only God can make that final determination when it comes to a brother’s wrong understanding of a secondary doctrine. That means it is not up to us to declare them anathema!

In this same passage, when writing of the debate over days of worship, Paul writes “Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind,” (v. 5b). Did we just read that correctly? Did Paul just say that two Christians could have two separate viewpoints on a matter of secondary doctrine? Yes! Paul just taught us that we can disagree and still be brethren. Why? Because “the one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God,” (v. 6). In other words, even though we may disagree with brothers and sisters in areas of secondary doctrinal matters, we all worship the Lord and submit to our beliefs in honor of Him. It is in fact possible to rightly worship God with differing views on non-essential matters.

Paul repeatedly teaches for unity among Christians who have differing view points. In 1 Corinthians 1, Paul calls out those who evidently decided that some apostles and teachers were better than others. Believers had aligned themselves under Paul, Peter and Apollos. Some were rejecting the other three and saying, “I follow Christ,” (v. 12). Paul admonishes this manner of division saying “Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” (v. 13). Like matters of secondary doctrinal matters, we can even get into arguments over who preaches better, or which preacher has the right doctrine (because after all, that’s the doctrine I believe!). Paul calls the brethren into unity under Christ, even though there were differences between the teachers they sat under.

Again, I know some are going to say, “but (insert doctrine here) is not what Paul was writing about! So this does not apply to my situation.” The issue at hand though is the principle that Paul was teaching, which goes back to what Christ taught His disciples. There are going to be differing viewpoints among Christians on a variety of secondary doctrinal matters. We can discuss and debate the matters, but only if we are doing so with unity amongst the brethren and love for one another in mind. If we are seeking to prove ourselves right at the expense of others, if we are willing to declare brethren anathema because they do not believe as we do, if we just become downright mean and nasty to one another, then we have failed to obey the command of our Lord and Savior. And to make matters worse, as my friend said in the quote at the beginning of the article, revival tarries. Why? Because, while we are hacking and slashing at each other, the gospel is not preached to the world. And what little of the gospel message that does make it into the hands of unbelievers is now tainted by our lack of love for those within the Christian camp. So, the world marches on, blindly unaware of its headlong plunge into Hell, while we sit arrogantly smug that we proved ourselves right to someone we should have been linking arms with in the proclamation of the gospel.

Christians this must not be so. We must be above the petty bickering, back biting, and name calling. Let us discuss and debate, let us educate and edify. Let us be a blessing to one another, even when we disagree. But more importantly, let us be unified in the core essentials of the faith and let us proclaim, as one voice, the gospel of Jesus Christ, which is the power of God unto salvation.

The Mormon Moment? Religious Conviction and the 2012 Election

To vote or not to vote…that is the question. At least it has been the question at Defending. Contending. for many months now. We have all discussed whether a Christian should or can vote for a Mormon candidate…or if we should or can vote for a pro-abortion, pro-gay marriage candidate, or if we should just stay home and not vote at all. Previous articles: Mormon President?, Vote for Mormon?

I don’t have a solution for the good readers of DefCon, as this is split along many different lines of conviction. However, I do offer this interesting video of a round table discussion at Southern Seminary this week. The title tells the story:

“The Mormon Moment? Religious Conviction and the 2012 Election”

The roundtable discussion features Albert Mohler, Russell Moore, Greg Gilbert, and Mark Coppenger. This video contributes to the conversation and helps each of us think through the issue from several angles. The panel discusses what Mormonism is, where they have appeal to our society, how it is a false gospel, and what impact a Mormon President of the USA might have on the world stage.

 

(you may have to press “play” twice)

**** This video is in no way an endorsement for either candidate or an endorsement for not voting, but a contribution to the discussion.****

Southern Seminary Resources Website

Panel Discussion MP3 Download