Saturday, December 30, 2006

Another Update

Hello friends

I hope that this Christmas season has been a blessed one for all of you. I am again battling a bad infection, which seems to be upper respiratory. Please keep me in your prayers, as this latest illness caps a year of many such bouts.

At present I am continuing, as much as I can, my research and thinking for the next post in the Reformed vs Arminian series. I hope to be able to complete and post the next article soon.

Please note that I'm continuing to update resource links. I have a new section called "Featured Ministries", in which I highlight Christian resources I have found to be truly excellent.

Peace and blessings to you in the name of Christ.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Reformed or Arminian- Theological Definitions

In the introductory post of this series I asked: what practical difference does one's theology make in living out Christian faith? I suggested that although theological beliefs may not be consciously held, they strongly influence the manner in which we practice our faith.

I also observed that in popular Christianity today there is heavy emphasis on the immediate benefits in this life of believing in Christ-- a tendency to make the gospel a means to the end of improving one's life in the here and now.

It is true that the benefits of being a Christian ought to be experienced immediately; after all, Scripture says Christians are those who have received the Holy Spirit and whose fundamental identity has been changed from "darkness" to "light". Yet when popular teaching emphasizes so much what being a Christian does for me now (primarily in terms of earthly benefits-- how it improves my marriage and relationships, my lifestyle, my prosperity, my health, etc.), then the message of the gospel becomes more "man-centered" than "God-centered". I think this is a serious distortion of the true gospel.

It seems to me that there may be a connection between the "man-centeredness" implicit in this popular message and a fruit of Arminian theology. But before exploring this idea further, I want to define the positions of Arminianism and Calvinism, their similarities and differences. Since excellent materials on these subjects can be found at Wikipedia and Theopedia, I have excerpted large portions from those sites here.

Arminianism (From Wikipedia)
Arminianism is a school of soteriological thought in Protestant Christian theology founded by the Dutch theologian Jacobus Arminius. Its acceptance stretches through much of mainstream Protestantism. Due to the influence of John Wesley, Arminianism is perhaps most prominent in the Methodist movement.

Arminianism holds to the following tenets:

* Humans are naturally unable to make any effort towards salvation
* Salvation is possible by grace alone
* Works of human effort can not cause or contribute to salvation
* God's election is conditional on faith in Jesus
* Jesus' atonement was potentially for all people
* God allows his grace to be resisted by those unwilling to believe
* Salvation can be lost, as continued salvation is conditional upon continued faith

(From Theopedia):
The Arminian party (followers of Arminius) suggested five anti-Calvinist corrections, articulated in the Five articles of Remonstrance of 1610, which gave rise to the historic controversy (between Arminianism and Calvinism) and are summarized as follows:

1.Universal prevenient grace
This grace purportedly restores man's free will which was impaired by the effects of original sin and enables him to choose or refuse the salvation offered by God in Jesus Christ. Some would say that freedom of will is man's natural state, not a spiritual gift — and thus free will was not lost in the Fall, but cannot be exercised toward good apart from the grace of God. In either case, God's universal prevenient grace works upon all alike to influence them for good, but only those who freely choose to cooperate with grace through faith and repentance are given new spiritual power to make effectual the good they otherwise impotently intend. As John Wesley stated more forcefully, humans were in fact totally corrupted by original sin, but God's prevenient grace allowed free will to operate. This is in contrast to the Calvinist view of total depravity which denies universal prevenient grace and moral ability to turn to Christ.

2.Conditional election
This point holds that man is the final arbiter of his election, and that God elects him on the basis of foreseen faith which is exercised by libertarian free will, thus making man ultimately decisive.

God has decreed to save through Jesus Christ, out of fallen and sinful mankind, those foreknown by Him who through the grace of the Holy Spirit believe in Christ; but God leaves in sin those foreseen, who are incorrigible and unbelieving. This is in contrast to the Calvinist doctrine of unconditional election.

3.Unlimited (or universal) atonement
Christ's death was suffered on behalf of all men and benefits all men alike. God then elects for salvation those whom he foresees will believe in Christ of their own free will. This is in contrast to the Calvinist doctrine of Limited atonement.

Arminians believe that whatever the atonement accomplished, it did so universally for all alike, not just the elect. This point rejects that the atonement has any component which is decisive or effectual in gathering of the elect. Rather, the atonement is seen as a universally effective propitiation and the basis for a universal offer of salvation. The key verse used for this position is 1 John 2:2.

4.Resistible grace
This point holds that God never overcomes the resistance of man to His saving grace. While both Calvinists and Arminians hold that men often resist God's grace, Arminianism teaches that this resistance is never conquered by God because this would be a violation of man's libertarian free will. The grace of God works for good in all men, and brings about newness of life through faith. But saving grace can be resisted, even by the regenerate. This is in contrast to the Calvinst doctrine of Irresistible grace.

5.Uncertainty of perseverance
Those who are incorporated into Christ by a true faith have power given them through the assisting grace of the Holy Spirit, sufficient to enable them to persevere in the faith. However, it may be possible for a believer to fall from grace. This is in contrast to the Calvinist's Perseverance of the saints.

Not all Arminians have historically embraced this fifth point as stated. Some have embraced a form of eternal security which does not require perseverance in the faith and an attitude of repentance for final salvation. The majority of Arminians, regardless of their position on this point, still affirm that man retains libertarian free will throughout the entirety of earthly life.

The following are also distinctive doctrines and emphases of Arminianism:

Libertarian free will
A key tenet of Arminianism is libertarian free will. This means that our choices are free from the determination or constraints of human nature and free from any predetermination by God. All "free will theists" hold that libertarian freedom is essential for moral responsibility, for if our choice is determined or caused by anything, including our own desires, they reason, it cannot properly be called a free choice.

God's love for the world
Arminianism emphasizes God's love for the whole world and denies that God has any sort of electing, particular love that secures one's redemption from the foundation of the world. It infers from this universal love that God would never predestine anyone to hell or hate anyone without reference to their wickedness.

Calvinism (From Theopedia):
Calvinism is a theological system based on the understanding that God is completely sovereign and has preordained all that comes to pass. "In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will..." (Ephesians 1:11). Because the Bible clearly teaches that all people are not saved and that God is not frustrated in his plans or desires, Calvinism maintains that God has predetermined who will be saved and sovereignly dispenses his saving grace accordingly. The theological terms most often associated with Calvinism are predestination and election which refer to the particularity of God's grace in salvation.

(From Wikipedia):
Calvinism is a system of Christian theology and an approach to Christian life and thought within the Protestant tradition articulated by John Calvin, a Protestant Reformer in the 16th century, and subsequently by successors, associates, followers and admirers of Calvin, his interpretation of Scripture, and perspective on Christian life and theology. Calvin's system of theology and Christian life forms the basis of the Reformed tradition, a term roughly equivalent to Calvinism.

The Reformed tradition was originally advanced by stalwarts such as Martin Bucer, Heinrich Bullinger and Peter Martyr Vermigli, and also influenced English reformers such as Thomas Cranmer and John Jewel. However, because of Calvin's great influence and role in the confessional and ecclesiastical debates throughout the seventeenth century, this Reformed movement generally became known as Calvinism. Today, this term also refers to the doctrines and practices of the Reformed churches, of which Calvin was an early leader, and the system is perhaps best known for its doctrines of predestination and election.

Summaries of Calvinist theology
Calvinism stresses the complete ruin of man's ethical nature against a backdrop of the sovereign grace of God in salvation. It teaches that fallen humanity is morally and spiritually unable to follow God or escape their condemnation before him and that only by divine intervention in which God must change their unwilling hearts can people be turned from rebellion to willing obedience.

In this view, all people are entirely at the mercy of God, who would be just in condemning all people for their sins but who has chosen to be merciful to some. One person is saved while another is condemned, not because of a willingness, a faith, or any other virtue in the first person, but because God sovereignly chose to have mercy on him. Although the person must believe the gospel and respond to be saved, this obedience of faith is God's gift, and thus God completely and sovereignly accomplishes the salvation of sinners. Views of predestination to damnation (the doctrine of reprobation) are less uniform than is the view of predestination to salvation (the doctrine of election) among self-described Calvinists.

In practice, Calvinists teach these doctrines of grace primarily for the encouragement of the church because they believe the doctrines demonstrate the extent of God's love in saving those who could not and would not follow him, as well as squelching pride and self-reliance and emphasizing the Christian's total dependence on the grace of God. In the same way, sanctification in the Calvinist view requires a continual reliance on God to purge the Christian's depraved heart from the power of sin and to further the Christian's joy.

The theological system and practical theories of church, family, and political life, all ambiguously called "Calvinism," are the outgrowth of a fundamental religious consciousness that centers on "the sovereignty of God." In principle, the doctrine of God has pre-eminent place in every category of theology, including the Calvinist understanding of how a person ought to live. Calvinism presupposes that the goodness and power of God have a free, unlimited range of activity, and this works out as a conviction that God is at work in all realms of existence, including the spiritual, physical, and intellectual realms, whether secular or sacred, public or private, on earth or in heaven.

According to this viewpoint, the plan of God is worked out in every event. God is seen as the creator, preserver, and governor of each and every thing. This produces an attitude of absolute dependence on God, which is not identified only with temporary acts of piety (for example, prayer); rather, it is an all-encompassing pattern of life that, in principle, applies to any mundane task just as it also applies to taking communion. For the Calvinist Christian, all of life is the Christian faith.

The five points of Calvinism
Calvinist theology is often identified in the popular mind as the so-called "five points of Calvinism," which are a summation of the judgments (or canons) rendered by the Synod of Dort and which were published as a point-by-point response to the five points of the Arminian Remonstrance. Calvin himself never used such a model, and never combated Arminianism directly. They therefore function as a summary of the differences between Calvinism and Arminianism but not as a complete summation of Calvin's writings or of the theology of the Reformed churches in general. The central assertion of these canons is that God is able to save every person upon whom he has mercy and that his efforts are not frustrated by the unrighteousness or the inability of men.

The five points of Calvinism, which can be remembered by the English acronym TULIP are:

* Total depravity (or total inability)
As a consequence of the Fall of man, every person born into the world is enslaved to the service of sin. According to the view, people are not by nature inclined to love God with their whole heart, mind, or strength, but rather all are inclined to serve their own interests over those of their neighbor and to reject the rule of God. Thus, all people by their own faculties are morally unable to choose to follow God and be saved because they are unwilling to do so out of the necessity of their own natures.

* Unconditional election
God's choice from eternity of those whom he will bring to himself is not based on foreseen virtue, merit, or faith in those people. Rather, it is unconditionally grounded in God's mercy.

* Limited atonement (or particular redemption or definite atonement)
The death of Christ actually takes away the penalty of sins of those on whom God has chosen to have mercy. It is "limited" to taking away the sins of the elect, not of all humanity, and it is "definite" and "particular" because atonement is certain for those particular persons.

* Irresistible grace (or efficacious grace)
The saving grace of God is effectually applied to those whom he has determined to save (the elect) and, in God's timing, overcomes their resistance to obeying the call of the gospel, bringing them to a saving faith in Christ.

* Perseverance of the saints (or preservation of the saints)
Any person who has once been truly saved from damnation must necessarily persevere and cannot later be condemned. The word saints is used in the sense in which it is used in the Bible to refer to all who are set apart by God, not in the technical sense of one who is exceptionally holy, canonized, or in heaven.

Calvinism is often further reduced in the popular mind to one or another of the five points of TULIP. The doctrine of unconditional election is sometimes made to stand for all Reformed doctrine, sometimes even by its adherents, as the chief article of Reformed Christianity. However, according to the doctrinal statements of these churches, it is not a balanced view to single out this doctrine to stand on its own as representative of all that is taught. The doctrine of unconditional election, and its corollary in the doctrine of predestination are never properly taught, according to Calvinists, except as an assurance to those who seek forgiveness and salvation through Christ, that their faith is not in vain, because God is able to bring to completion all whom He intends to save. Nevertheless, non-Calvinists object that these doctrines discourage the world from seeking salvation.

An additional point of disagreement with Arminianism implicit in the five points is the Calvinist understanding of the doctrine of Jesus' substitutionary atonement as a punishment for the sins of the elect, which was developed by St. Augustine and especially St. Anselm. Calvinists argue that if Christ takes the punishment in the place of a particular sinner, that person must be saved since it would be unjust for him then to be condemned for the same sins. The definitive and binding nature of this "satisfaction model" has led Arminians to subscribe instead to the governmental theory of the atonement in which no particular sins or sinners are in view.

Now that we have looked at the history and defining characteristics of these two theological systems, I want to examine the similarities and differences between them. I think doing so will help us understand them both better, and perhaps we can create for each system a brief but accurate definition. However, I leave this further pursuit to the next post, which I will try to produce in shorter order than I have this one.

Related posts: Reformed or Arminian: What Difference Does Theology Make? (Introductory Post)

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Blips on the Blogosphere 9- Christmas Edition

It has been a long time since I did a "Blips on the Blogosphere" post. But I have encountered some great articles on various blogs that I have found inspiring and challenging, just in time for this Christmas season.

Speaking of Christmas, I came across not too long ago an article titled Should a Christian Celebrate Christmas? that presents a detailed case against Christians celebrating Christmas. The main argument presented is that Christmas, being rooted in pagan origins, cannot be tweaked enough to become a fit, acceptable way to celebrate our Lord's birth. I am not quite sure how to respond to it as I did find some of the arguments presented sensible, though not all of the points are equally persuasive.

I suppose that if this season somehow presents opportunities for the Christian to more deeply reflect on the implications of Christ the Savior coming into this world, and if this reflection can lead to greater thanksgiving and appreciation in one's heart for all the Lord has accomplished for us, then Christmas would be of benefit. But if on the hand, Christmas becomes all about traditions that bear no true connection to the real Spirit of Christmas and becomes a sentimental, worldly, materialistic substitute for true celebration of our Lord, then the author of this article may have a point.

Steve Camp's recent article, What's the Answer for a Culture in Decay, Decline and Despair? Jesus, Immanuel, God with us, reminds me of what is supposed to be at the heart of the Christmas story-- the miracle of the incarnation of God as Jesus Christ, coming to be our Immanuel, "God with us". Steve goes on to reflect upon the implications of Jesus coming to be with us and giving us His gospel message. Am I faithful to the call of Jesus upon me, His absolute claim on my life, or am I deceiving myself about truly following Him? Steve rightly points us to the gospels to read, and to challenge ourselves, about these important questions.

Peace on earth? During a season when it is easy to get all caught up in endless activity, it may also be easy to look the part of a happy Christian at peace, but not really be living in that experience. Dan Edelen reveals some of his own struggles with this in Staples of Christmastime: Peace.

My friend Charlie Lehardy has been doing a wonderful series of posts: Christmas Encounters 1, 2, 3, and 4, which I only discovered today... I feel like I've been asleep.

Meanwhile my other GodblogCon 2005 friend, Mark Daniels, pastor of Friendship Church has a terrific Advent series on spiritual gifts. I especially like the advice he gives in today's post in the series, Opening Your Spiritual Gifts. I could especially relate to what he was saying about being a "closet perfectionist" who spends a wee bit too much time categorizing and labeling my gifts, when I ought to get busy using them (ouch)!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Progress Update on my "Reformed vs Arminian Theology" Series

Dear friends:

In taking on the topic of Reformed vs Arminian Theology I recognize that I have stepped into very deep waters. The points these systems talk about are complex, delving into the nature of God and man, the means by which people are saved, and the mystery of election, among other incredibly challenging topics.

Additionally, I am attempting not only to analyze the two systems and compare them scripturally, but also to come to some conclusions for practical application. The fact that the subject is one I have not extensively studied until recently (and I have yet much more studying to do) means that as I write this series I am learning, doing my homework and trying to synthesize all my learning into something coherent and helpful.

I share this as a way of saying, please keep me in your prayers and be patient as I work through this series. In the end, I hope you will find something of value in what I share. In the meantime, as you may know, the wealth of information available on the web regarding Reformed vs Arminian theology is vast. Tim Challies of has done several excellent series of articles on this subject, writing from the Reformed, Calvinistic point of view. There are also many sites and articles that challenge the conclusions of Calvinism. One I found through a search, and which looks to be well-written is by Allan Turner.

For me, the bottom line is which system more correctly interprets Scripture? It may be that both miss the mark in some ways. Or, that each system emphasizes a particular side of truths that are antinomical, that is, seemingly contradictory, but only so to our natural minds. For example, the Bible teaches that Jesus Christ is fully man and fully God. It would seem to natural reasoning that He would have to be one or the other, but the Bible teaches that He was flesh and blood just like us (Hebrews 2:14), and yet also "He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power (Hebrews 1:3)".

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Calling All Blogger Beta Hackers

Update 12-16-2006
Well, Stephen at Singpolyma has come to the rescue and fixed the bug in his "Peek a boo" link lists code, helping out me and others who were "stuck". The links now seem to be operating beautifully in both Firefox and Internet Explorer. At last!

By the way, check out Stephen's blog for some great Blogger Beta hacks. Also see my new Blogger Beta Hacks/Hackers resources section...

Finally, look for my new post on Reformed vs. Arminian Theology early next week.

Update: 12-11-06
I've heard from Stephen, who thinks his hack code has a bug in it that can be fixed. Hopefully the "+/-" links will soon work in IE just as well as in Firefox (though the glitch seems to affect both browsers at times). Please be patient!...In the meantime, I have been working on follow-up posts to my series on Reformed vs Arminian Theology and hope to have them published shortly.

Update: 12-9-06
I have implemented "+/-" style links for many more sections, since Stephen at Singpolyma updated the code, correcting the previous "float" problem with the "+/-" symbol.

However, there seems is another glitch that is giving me a headache! Sometimes the link sections just don't open correctly. I am finding that this happens particularly in Internet Explorer browsers. Firefox seems to get much fewer errors and right now seems to open/close all links perfectly. So if you're reading my blog in IE and having trouble with link lists, I would highly recommend getting the Firefox browser to view Jordan's View (also in my opinion, it's a much more user-friendly, fun browser to use in general). Please also try refreshing the page if a link section doesn't open correctly.

To deal with this problem I have been experimenting with layout, trying to place these "+/-" sections in such a way that they are not right next to each other, since this seems to help. However, this hasn't completely eliminated the issue. Also, not being able to place the link sections exactly where I want them (in terms of logical order) is frustrating. Hopefully a solution will be found, or I may need to switch back many sections to regular link lists.

Update 12-6-06:
I'm no longer using the "+/-" style links for the "Inspiration for the Mission" section. I am, however, using it for the "Best of Jordan's View" section.

Update 12-2-06:
I've used the hack I was kindly provided, but I'm not entirely satisfied with the results. For example, see the "Inspiration for the Mission" section, which I have recreated as an expandible/collapsible link list, near top of the left column. Functionally it's fine, but the fact that the "+/-" symbol is so far above the Link Title bar is not satisfactory.

I have seen examples in other blogs of great looking expandible/collapsible links that when opened appear within scrollable boxes. However, this is beyond my technical ability to create. Unless I can find someone to help me I don't want to spend too much time with trying to figure out how to make them. In any case, I am happy with the layout improvements I've been able to implement thus far. I'll get back to some thinking and writing now...

Well, I threw down the gauntlet to some of the best Blogger Beta hackers out there, sending them a private email to see if anyone could come up with a widget that I could install to make regular link lists into collapsible/expandable ones. With all the links I have here on Jordan's View and my desire to continue expanding these lists, it makes sense to try and consolidate space by using collapsible/expandable links, or some other space-saving way of presenting links, as I have seen ingeniously implemented on other blogs.

Also, I figured such a hack would be useful to many other Blogger users who are making the transition to Blogger Beta.

Stephen/Singpolyma has risen to the challenge and created an article titled Peek a Boo Link Lists, in which he describes how to add a widget that will accomplish this goal.

I have however been having a bit of trouble implementing his solution so far. First, I noticed that the results were appearing differently, depending upon whether the blog was opened in Internet Explorer or in Firefox (my preferred browser). Then also the little +/- symbol seems to be floating around rather than going where I want it to. Singpolyma has given some helpful follow-up answers to my questions, and I will continue to try to implement his solution. In the meantime, please be patient if you find some of this blog in disarray while I'm trying to make the changes.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Christian Carnival CLI (150)

Christian Carnival CLI (150) is now up at Nerd Family. My recent post "On Fulfillment" is there, my first article in the Carnival after a long absence. I haven't read through all the Carnival articles, but found a couple of posts that, interestingly, complement the themes in my article well.

Like my post, Strategic Living's Sure-Fire Guaranteed Success and Every Square Inch's Spurgeon on Choosing Your Occupation both touch on the way God is sovereignly working to bring about the purposes He has in our lives, and how that purpose emphasizes not so much the size of our accomplishments--which providentially is not in our control-- but the importance of working on our character.

Creating Categories via Labels in the New Blogger Beta (for Dummies)

A shortcoming of the old Blogger was the lack of a built-in feature to categorize your posts/articles. I overcame this by finding a solution via the Web. Indeed there were many ingenious solutions to the problem, as devised by hackers. If you're still on the old Blogger platform and would like to add categories to your blog, I would suggest my previous article for a simple method, How To Add Categories to Blogger (for Computer Illiterates).

However, before you do that, please be aware that the new Blogger Beta offers the ability to add "categories" to your blog, in the form of "labels"...

Using the labeling system is a much easier method of adding and maintaining categories on your blog, and the new Blogger Beta offers other advantages as well. However, you must be willing to migrate your template from the old Blogger platform to the new Blogger Beta platform. This will involve some work, but as I understand it, in the future all Blogger blogs will be switched to the new Blogger Beta anyway (so might as well do it now)!

Here's what you must do to switch to Blogger Beta then add Labels/Categories to your posts:

    1. Get a Google account, if you don't already have one. If you have Gmail, you will already have a Google account (Note: you must be invited by someone who has Gmail in order get Gmail, or use one of the methods describe in this article). If you need an invitation and don't have any friends in the world with Gmail, I'll invite you...just kidding, I can send you an invitation if you really need one).

    2. Once you have your Google or Gmail account, switch your blog and the template over to the new Blogger Beta, following the instructions on this page. [NOTE: It may take you a while to update the template, if your blog had many customizations and you want to keep them. I took switching over to Blogger Beta as an opportunity to give a fresh new look to my blog, as I updated to a three-column template that I find much more useful. Once on the Blogger Beta platform, layout changes are much easier, as you can drag elements where you want to put them. Also these changes are instantly updated, unlike on the old Blogger where pages must be re-published and can take a long time to do so. In any case, once your template is updated to Blogger Beta, you will be able to use the labels feature to create and easily maintain categories for all your previous posts].

    3. Decide what labels (categories) you want to give your posts.

    4. Log in to Blogger Beta, using your Google/Gmail account and go the dashboard. Click on "Posts".

    5. Click on "Published" to see all your published posts. Now you can add a label to each post, or to multiple posts at the same time.

    6. Click the "Label Actions" drop-down box, click on "new label", and type the name of your label. Then apply the label to whichever posts you want by clicking the box next to the post title(s).

    7. Once you have labeled all your posts, you must then add the Labels "widget" to your blog. This will create a Labels sidebar in your blog. Go to the Template screen. Click on "Add a Page Element". Choose "Labels". Select whether you want the labels to appear in alphabetical order or in order of frequency. Also you can give whatever title you want to the sidebar (you don't have to call it "Labels").

Now if you would like a fancier version of labels, there are ingenious Blogger Beta hacks out there, such as the one for Multi-Style Labels widget by Hackosphere that I'm currently using. Also, check out my new resources section, Blogger Beta Hack Creators, to find links to the blogs of the talented people creating these hacks.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

On Fulfillment

For a long time now I have subscribed to the notion that somehow the gifts, talents and even the deep desires God gives individuals are meant to give them direction as to the type of work they ought to be doing, clues to one's vocational purposes in life. Additionally I have thought of such gifts as a deposit that God has left with us, one we are obliged to be good stewards of (Matthew 25: 14-30).

I still believe that this is true, and when I think of God as the Master Designer of the universe, it makes sense to me that as He works all things together for his glory (Romans 8: 28), He also has made each of us in such a way that we may play our parts in His grand purpose (1 Cor 12: 11, 1 Cor 12: 18). The things I am good at and that I am motivated to do are not accidental. I believe that so long as the things I want to pursue are not sinful-- on the contrary-- if they are beneficial to the world and people I interact with, then I have liberty in Christ to pursue them (1 Cor 10: 23-24, 31-33).

Still, because I have believed so strongly in this idea of attaining to all the potential God has placed within me, I often am discontent in my current situation, feeling and thinking that if only I was doing exactly what God created me to do, then I would experience more fulfillment...

But lately, in keeping with thinking about life from a more reformed theological perspective, I have been trying to view current circumstances more in the light of the sovereignty of God. From the vantage point of eternity, it seems much more important that daily my character is becoming more Christ-like, and that I live in the moment-to-moment abiding with the Lord that He has so graciously made possible, and apart from which I "can do nothing" (John 15:5).

Of course, there is this great yearning within to fulfill all the dreams and desires in me, to achieve them, that I might be able to look back at my life and say that "I have fulfilled all my potential".

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith (Paul, in 2 Timothy 4:7)

And yet, as I ponder the drives that make me feel so frustrated with my lot and so covetous of wanting more, I find that my motivations are often tainted with envy of others (Eccl 4:4), and lack of faith in what God is doing and has already done in my life.

I have written on this theme before, and I think it is beneficial to periodically examine myself and ask: Is my desire to achieve mostly the desire to make a name for myself, or do I really want to give glory to God for what He has done in and through me?

Yes, I must be a good steward of the things God has entrusted to me, including any talents and potential within. Yet even as I pursue this potential, it is not all about me becoming "actualized", but ought to be about me becoming the kind of person who, because of good and careful stewardship, bears much fruit (Luke 8:15).

The world has a romanticized notion of the Artist as the ultimate individualist/achiever, who gives himself over completely to his art in his noble quest to be "great", achieve immortality, and transcend the ordinary. We have similar notions regarding the life quest of the great Athlete or the genius Scientist, seeing them as people who, through incredible discipline, native talent and steely determination to achieve their goals, attain to greatness.

While there is much to admire in accomplishment, the Lord values even more our faithfulness. Accomplishment is so often self-driven and self-centered, but being faithful to God requires a heart that is right with Him, and that values Him supremely.

Forgive me, Lord, for my self-focused perspective and help me to become the kind of man who desires, above all, that Your name be glorified in my life.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Reformed or Arminian- What Difference Does Theology Make?(Introductory Post)

Today I'm beginning what I think will become a series of articles regarding my own theological journey, and delving into Arminian and Reformed theology. I will admit at the outset that recently I have been finding myself drawn to classic Reformed theology. Yet I will also admit that further study on these topics will be of benefit and could lead me into different conclusions. Since I am but a beginner in this field, I will beg your indulgence.

But I am most concerned with the question of why thinking about these issues is important: does one's Christian theology (system of beliefs about the nature of God and other Bible truth)-- whether Arminian or Calvinistic-- make any practical difference in the way we live as believers? I know this topic can be controversial, however my aim is not to stir controversy but rather to analyze and explore these two main theological belief systems, Arminianism and Calvinism, with a view towards finding the good and beneficial in each, while guarding against the bad and detrimental.

I also believe the topic is important because popular teaching in the American church today seems to shy away from thinking deeply about the big questions of life, and likewise from digging into the rich truths of Scripture. Judging by much popular Christian teaching (whether from books, television ministries, or mega-churches) the American church seems mostly preoccupied with life in the "here and now", and with a Christianity that is utilitarian.

The Christian faith is immensely practical, but the practical truths it offers are not merely supposed to be Christianized version of worldly wisdom regarding such things as relationships, handling money, or success in life. I believe that it is only as we properly interpret the deeper truths in our faith, recognizing their divine source and empowerment, that we will be able apply Bible wisdom in a practical way to our marriages, our jobs, decisions, etc. Thus it is critical to develop a sound theology that properly interprets and applies bible truth, as a foundation upon which to build our lives. Wrong theology means wrong thinking about the nature of God and mistaken ideas about our faith-- these can range from minor errors on issues of relatively little consequence to complete heresy that will lead us blindly down a path of destruction...

In the New Testament Paul frequently warns and admonishes in his epistles regarding the importance of teaching of sound doctrine (1 Timothy 1: 10, 1 Timothy 6: 3, Titus 2:1).

In Titus 1: 9, Paul does not see the teaching of sound doctrine as a peripheral matter but as one of the chief qualifications and responsibilities of the "overseer" (leader in the church).

What are the theological underpinnings beneath popular Christian teaching today? Is there an Arminian flavor or foundation to them? Is current charismatic thinking influenced by Arminian beliefs? Does Calvinistic belief present a danger or something positive to those denominations that hold to it? These are the types of questions I will be raising.

My Theological Pilgrimage... so far

I have been a Christian almost a quarter of a century. Maybe I shouldn't admit to that fact, as perhaps I ought to be a lot more spiritually advanced than I am. My first church was a Baptist church in New York City, conservative theologically but moderate when it came to social prescriptions. In other words, unlike more conservative Baptist congregations, dancing, going to movies, make-up for women, drinking alcohol, kissing (or not) on a first date, etc., were seen as personal choices within the realm of Christian liberty.

My church had a few "Navigators" in it, and these "Navs" persuaded me to join a group doing The Navigators 2:7 (based on Colossians 2:7) book, a discipleship training course that took several years (with a few breaks) to complete. In the summer of 1985 I also attended a Navigator-run eight week training program in Syracuse, NY. All attendees were encouraged to trust God to help them find jobs in Syracuse so they could pay for their room and board (all were successful, by the way). The program included about 60 men and women, all living together in the same dorm (on different floors of course), and included Bible reading and study, quiet times, teaching on discipleship, and the admonition that we not date other trainees, at least for the duration of the summer. The experience in trusting God and the teaching I learned during this period was excellent and helped me grow in my understanding of God and of how to live as a Christian.

These were the start, as I now see it, of my theological formation. I was learning important truths, as well as learning and beginning to practice spiritual disciplines, but I hadn't ever really looked at all the truths I was learning as a whole package. If asked at that time, I would have had no clue whether I was "Calvinistic" or "Arminian" in my theology. I don't recall encountering much teaching about these theological systems at church, nor from the Navigator teachers; neither did the subject come up in conversation with Christian friends.

What I now realize is that the Baptist church I was attending did indeed have Calvinistic theological roots. I can recall now sermons that explained "total inability", and other Calvinistic concepts. But somehow, I never really delved into the subject very much on my own. Over the years (from 1984-2000) there wasn't much teaching in this church about such topics as healing for today, tongues, or prophecy, subjects I would later encounter regularly at the charismatic churches I began attending from 2001 forward. It hadn't troubled me that the church wasn't preaching on these topics, just as categorizing my beliefs according to a theological system didn't seem all that important to me either, at the time. However after marriage, and with my wife dealing with chronic illness, and also under the influence of certain friends and loved ones, we became interested in charismatic teaching. We were intrigued by its generally positive message, that God is for you and wants to bless you, and also the idea that gifts missing from the church for centuries-- like prophecy, miraculous healing, speaking in tongues-- were now being restored or re-discovered. We began to hear teaching about "healing in the Atonement", "positioning yourself for blessings", and about the notion that some problems may be caused by demons and that as Christians we could use our authority to cast out these demons and be delivered of the problems related to them. My wife and I found the messages new, appealing and hopeful.

Unanswered Questions

And yet, I had many unanswered questions. The phenomenon of tongues I had observed seemed like it could easily be self-induced, though for me it was a practice that did bring personal edification. My wife and I did encounter that which seemed to be demonic-- yet trying to cast out demons did not really seem to work, even when others with more experience than us were doing the "deliverance".

Healing in the Atonement?

On the issue of healing especially, I was confounded. If "healing is in the Atonement" (Christ's death on the Christ atoning for sin and its consequences, including, presumably, sickness), it would seem then that healing is guaranteed to all believers, as surely as forgiveness of sins is always granted our faith in the death of Christ on the cross. In fact teacher of this doctrine did imply that physical healing was likewise guaranteed. Yet, experience often seemed to go against the teaching. Earnest people I knew might pray for healing without receiving it. People seemed to deal with sickness and colds, no matter what their level of faith and practice of these doctrines. And of course I, like many, personally knew two sincere Christians who not only had not been healed, but had even succumbed to death at the hand of serious illness (cancer, rare brain tumor). Though apparently living Christian lives with no blatant sin and having sought the Lord diligently and passionately for healing, with others praying for them as well, these folks died. How was one to explain such cases? It seemed the answer coming from Pentecostal/Charismatic teachers was that there wasn't enough personal faith, or defective faith in the community. Or in the cases where someone had died prematurely, we were not discerning something about that person's life that the Lord could see (like hidden sin, or perhaps, future sin). I felt these answers placed a great burden of guilt and condemnation on those not healed-- after all, the implication was that their defective, small faith had led to the unfortunate results. Of course, teachers would acknowledge "mystery" in these events, but the charismatic view we were hearing still seemed to lean in the direction of explaining them as man's failure to exercise faith in such a way that God would have been prompted to act.

The Bottom Line

This seems to be the bottom line with this theology, and what troubles me about it-- the emphasis on getting God to act. Yes, such teaching states that we are only asking God to do what He has already promised He will do, or has given us authority to carry out. And yet in this way of approaching God, there seems to be this tendency-- that instead of relating to God as the all-powerful One from whom we take our marching orders; the One who sustains us in our utter dependency upon Him and who sovereignly orders our lives in keeping with His plans-- the charismatic instead seems to try to get God to act, rightly emphasizing man's responsibility to act on his faith, but in such a way that it seems an effort to manipulate God and may become a demanding, even presumptuous attitude towards Him. Now I'm not accusing all Charismatic/Pentecostals of this, I'm just observing this tendency among many popular teachers of this ilk, in the emphasis of their teaching: God wants you: prosperous and successful (spiritually, but also financially to be sure); healthy (not sick), fit (eating a God-ordained diet); to be a positive role model to the world through our "success in life" which demonstrates our obvious favor with God. On the positive side, this theology exhibits confidence in the goodness of God, and He is seen as One who desires (and has the power to) abundantly bless His people. However, on the negative side, there is the tendency to define blessing in terms of things going our way (the extreme being the so-called "health and wealth" gospel-- never getting sick and/or getting healed immediately, receiving promotions at work, getting financial blessings, having good relationships, etc.). There is little talk in this popular theology of the suffering and trials God uses to refine us, or more importantly, our obligation as "set apart" people to seek God's kingdom, holiness and righteousness in our lives. Sometimes teaching from this school does acknowledge that God disciplines us and shapes our faith through trials. However the framework is still man-centered-- you only undergo these trials because you haven't learned the particular lesson God is trying to teach you. In other words, God only lets these things happen to you because you are acting like a blockhead, but if you were doing right, you would be just sailing through life.

What's the big deal about theology?

What does all of this have to do with theology? I think, whether consciously or not, our behavior reflects our theology-- our beliefs about God's nature and about the Word and how He communicates to us. Now many if not most Christians I've known accept the Bible as the revealed Word of God and understand that we must be submit to its teaching as the standard for our lives and the final arbiter of truth. The Protestant Reformation was in large part about restoring the primacy of Scripture as the infallible, divinely-inspired authority, as opposed to the Roman Catholic Church or papal authority having such infallibility.

Yet even among those who agree that the Word is authoritative, there exists radical differences in biblical interpretation leading to widely varying conclusions about its meaning and application. Particular interpretations add up to a "theological world view", through which one reads Scripture and applies it. Ideally, we should come to the Bible with no pre-conceived theological system in our minds, instead allowing its truths to form whatever theological conclusions we may draw. Yet it seems that mankind, in its sinfulness and its weakness, is certainly fallible when in comes to interpreting the infallible Word. If even sincere Bible-believing Christians don't agree on interpretation and often draw different theological conclusions, shouldn't we just try to overlook or minimize such differences and work together where we do agree? There is some truth in this statement. Certainly Christians ought to exhibit humility, knowing that as flawed beings we will make mistakes in Scripture interpretation, and have as yet an imperfect understanding. We ought to respect our brothers and sisters in Christ as they, like us, attempt to come to a correct reading of Scripture.

The Need for Solid Theology in an Increasingly Secularized Age

Yet at the same time, we live in an era in which the necessity for a sure reading of Scripture and an un-compromised proclamation of its truth is, perhaps, the great need of the hour. As we battle an increasingly pervasive secular world view that says believing in God is outdated and unreasonable; and that only uninformed, unscientific, foolish people still believe in God, "truth" is being defined as that which can be measured or proven by science. Anything falling outside of this "provable" realm is considered opinion, and the are of religion has become relegated to personal preference, where one opinion is as good as the next-- "if it's true for you, that's great". Thus truth, if there is such a thing, say the secularists, is only to be found in observable facts that can be proven via scientific methods. All other "truth" is subjective, relative, unprovable. But scoffing at even the possibility that truth exists is not new. After all, Pilate asked Jesus "what is truth?".

Christians believe that God has revealed life-altering, critical truth about Himself, through the world He created, then deeper still through the divine revelation that is the Bible, and most fully through His Son, Jesus Christ, the One who is the embodiment of the Truth.

But even in the church there is an alarming tendency away from dependence upon the authority of Scripture as final truth. The "seeker-sensitive" approach to gaining converts makes growth in numbers, rather than preaching the unadulterated message of the gospel, its highest concern. Many who defend the truth of Scripture are relying more on statistics and surveys and polls to make their points, as if the truth of the Bible must be validated by worldly methods. As mentioned earlier, popular Christianity, from T.D. Jakes to Joel Osteen to Joyce Meyer to Benny Hinn, over-emphasizes the "now" benefits of Christianity ("Your Best Life Now"), rather than sounding the primary battle cry that we must learn to serve God in holiness, with an eye on heavenly rewards. Many charismatics and Third-wave teachers increasingly emphasize new revelation, declaring new "prophecies" that seem to threaten the primacy of the authority of Scripture in the life of the church. "Hearing God" directly through impressions and inner promptings has become a popular way of approaching God or seeking His will, but is it truly biblical? And for many, worship has become primarily about experience-- good worship being measured by how it feels emotionally, and great worship being when one feels the "presence of God" in some tangible, physical, mystical way.

This long introduction brings me at last to the themes I want to explore, whether there may be a connection between the Arminian way of thinking (which seems to have become dominant in the American church), and the developments in the church described above, some of which are alarming. Or is there a Calvinistic mindset that lies underneath some of these dangerous trends?

I must leave this further discussion to my next article.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

The Darkness Within My Own Heart: Regarding the Michael Richards Incident

By now you have heard about actor Michael Richard's ("Kramer", of Seinfeld fame) recent racist diatribe against two hecklers at a comedy club where he was doing his stand-up routine. Flustered, Richards lost his temper and began screaming and hurtling racist insults at the two African-Americans. Certainly the language Richards used in personally attacking these people cannot be condoned in a civilized society-- moreover, on the street, these kinds of words can get people killed. Yet while Richard's words were certainly horrific, it seems to me that there is a kind of self-righteous hypocrisy in the standards people use to condemn the "celebrity" (not too long ago, Mel Gibson and his anti-Semitic tirade were a target) caught making such an outburst.

Because I would venture to say that all people have both good and bad impulses in them. Who among us has not at one time or another harbored dark thoughts, or worse yet, acted upon our baser impulses? Have you ever cursed someone on the highway, been a "road rage" maniac, picked a fight with someone, cursed a telecommuter, not given up your seat on the bus for an elderly person or pregnant woman, etc, etc? I am not excusing or justifying any of these actions; I am only saying that we live in a society full of people, including ourselves, who, in thousands of incidents every day, give vent to rage or selfishness or evil in all the myriad forms that the sinful human heart produces.

Yet because we are made in the image of a holy God, I think there is something deep within us-- I call it God-given conscience-- that recognizes that acting upon the evil impulses within makes us into something less than we can or ought to be. And we desire to curb and to fight such impulses, because the Creator has told us that we must love our neighbor as ourselves. In order to do so, we must war against the selfishness and darkness we find within ourselves. In doing so we will become the noble creatures we were created to be, capable of expressing honor and love and goodness.

Would any of us want to be judged and forever defined by a single particularly bad incident or evil act in our lives? And whatever evil impulses we have actually acted upon, there are probably far worse thoughts we have secretly entertained, perhaps reasoning that thinking it is not as bad as doing it. However the standard of a holy God is not only that we refrain from the evil act, but also that we not even entertain the evil thought, the thought being the father of the deed. With such a standard, is there any among us not guilty of sin? What if our ugly, secret thoughts were publicly broadcast? Is there any among us with mind and heart so clean that they would volunteer for such an airing?

So yes, as a society that aspires to be decent and good, let us not allow reprehensible and evil deeds to go unchecked, but let us also extend grace to our neighbor, knowing that the evil within his heart that causes him to sometimes do awful things is the same evil that is within me, and could result in the same acts in my life, but for the grace of God.

And it is the grace of God to which we must turn, if we are to escape the curse of the sinful human heart. On this Thanksgiving Day, let us thank the Lord that he did not leave us in this world without a remedy to this age-old problem, but sent His Son Jesus Christ to become our sin-bearer, the One who takes away the sin of the world. Only in Him will we find the freedom we are searching for.

Monday, November 20, 2006

About the New Labels at Jordan's View

As mentioned in the previous post, Blogger Beta allows posts to be categorized using a "labels" system, similar to the way Google's Gmail allows one to apply labels to each message. I hope the system will prove to be helpful for readers looking for areas of particular interest to them as they peruse this blog.

So here's a quick rundown of each of the labels-- the label name/link, followed by what's included under each:

About Jordan's View/ Blogging

Included here are any posts referring to new developments here in Jordan's View, or on the subject of blogging in general.

Blips on the Blogosphere

This was a series of posts dealing with interesting posts I had encountered on other blogs and wanted to bring to readers' attention. I hope to be able to continue this series.

Blogging tools

This section is about tools used in the writing of blogs.

Christian Carnival

The Christian Carnival is a gathering of blog posts that each week is hosted by a different blogger. Its aim is to highlight interesting Christian blogging by bringing together in one place an assortment of writings. It can give you a good sense of the pulse of the Christian blogosphere. In this section I was basically announcing or directing readers over to the Carnival.

Christian Carnival (hosted at Jordan's View)

These were the Christian Carnivals that I hosted here at Jordan's View.


Any posts dealing with Christianity, though most of my posts will be labeled more precisely than this.

Christianity and Science

Any posts dealing with the relationship of Christianity and scientific inquiry.

Cultural Commentary

This is a broad label including posts dealing with culture (mostly American), current issues, analysis of trends and more.


Posts dealing with how to be a better disciple/follower of the Lord Jesus, growing in maturity and faith.

From Me to You

Posts of a more personal nature


Posts referring to GodBlog Con 2005, which was the first ever Christian "God bloggers" conference and was held at Biola University last fall. GodBlogCon2006 recently took place but I did not have a chance to attend.


My attempts to make you or myself laugh.


Posts on marriage-- I need to write a few more of these.

Reformed Christianity

I think I may be writing a lot more on this topic in the future.


My book and movie or any other kinds of reviews

Theological Musings

I will likely be trying to write more of these types of articles as I reflect on theological concerns.

Utilizing the Internet

Anything that helps one to better utilize the great resources on the Internet.

Why I Am a Christian

Any posts that express or defend the faith, either as personal testimony or as a broader apologetic.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Boldly Switching to Blogger Beta

Update: 11-20-06: Haloscan comments and trackback have now been restored (hurray!), thanks to the assistance of Matt Hayward, who was kind enough to assist me personally when I got stuck applying his solution. Now I just have to get rid of the Blogger comments that also appear. Also, check out the "Multi-Style Labels", which functions as my new "categories" section. Click on any of the three buttons to change the style/view of the labels. This ingenious hack to the Blogger Beta template comes from Ramani at Hackosphere... plus, in more news, I am working on a NEW post, really I am...

Update 11-18-06:
Well I'm happy to report that creating label "categories" in beta Blogger was not as daunting or time-consuming as I assumed it would be, since you don't have to individually edit every post, but can create labels and apply them to multiple posts from the dashboard. So the blog is basically updated, in terms of post categories, resource links and basic look. I will be tweaking it, of course, and again, that's the nice thing about the Beta version-- it's a lot easier to move things around.

Now the only serious issue remaining is transferring my old comments/trackbacks from Haloscan here. It seems Haloscan is working on an official solution that will be posted soon. So in the meantime I'll relax and let them do their job while I get back to writing ...

Update 11-17-06:
I have been hard at work trying to restore all my resource links and get the blog looking and functioning as I'd like it to. Personally I'm happy with the three column template and the bolder look. Blogger Beta definitely makes it easier to create link lists, and the layout can easily be changed. Also publishing is a snap, just click and it's updated.

However, I have not figured out if there is a way to carry over previous comments/trackbacks my blog had via Haloscan. Apparently there is a "hack" for this but implementing it successfully has eluded me thus far.

Also I expect the task of re-categorizing my posts will be time-consuming, since I'm pretty sure I will have to apply labels to all my old posts, in order to do so.

Let me know what you think of the new layout/look. If you care to, you can comment via email to, rather than here, since I'm not sure if I will keep the Blogger beta comments system or try to restore the Haloscan system.

Besides all this, I am busy writing a real post :)... and hope to have it up shortly.

Although you probably can't tell, I have already switched this blog over to the new Google Blogger Beta platform, which offers improved functionality to Blogger blogs. The new system is supposed to make it easier to quickly change the layout of the blog, to publish posts, and best of all, to categorize posts by using labels-- a feature not previously offered in Blogger. So far, so good.

However, I haven't yet updated my original blog template using the new Blogger Beta tools, because I'm trying to figure out if, and how, I will be able to keep the many customizations I have made. For example, even though Blogger did not previously offer a way to categorize posts, through web research I figured out a way of creating categories for each post. The task was a bit cumbersome, involving modification of my template each time I wanted to place a particular post in a category. What I'm not sure of is how the old categories I created will work within the new "labels" system of Blogger Beta. I may be forced to delete all the posts that I had created to function as "categories".

Still, I hope to come out of this with a fresh new look, and with a blog that's easier for me to use. I'm hoping too that the site will be easier to navigate, as I expand into 3 columns rather than 2 to better accommodate my many links.

Let's hope the experiment works! (I will back-up my old template, just in case)...

P.S. Also please excuse the look of the blog as I work out all the kinks with links, comments, etc.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

A Very Brief Post

Dear friends

Since announcing about 2 weeks that I would be returning to Jordan's View I have been wanting to post, but I find myself battling a strange, prolonged achiness and malaise that has been completely exhausting me.

I am perplexed as to what it is, since I don't ever recall experiencing such extreme achiness for such a long duration before. I hope it is nothing more than a bacterial infection or virus that will run its course. A visit to the doctor the other day did not clear up the mystery though. However I was prescribed and have now been taking an antibiotic.

Please do keep me in your prayers as I have become a little worried, not knowing what is behind all this.

Blessings to you,


P.S. Update 11/14/06 I have confirmed with a specialist that I do have tendinitis and I'm now wearing a splint on my left arm, under the wrist. Arm is still a painful and stiff. I'm supposed to wear the splint for a couple of weeks. Other aches seem to be better. Thanks to God and thanks for your prayers! I am at work on a new post....

Update 11/9/06: I'm continuing to battle with ailments: one which seems to be tendinitis in my left arm, which makes it difficult for me to use the computer. Then I still have some body aches that seem related to a virus. Please keep me in your prayers, as I am anxious to return to Jordan's View. Blessings.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Beyond the Jordan

Well, at long last I think it's time to return to Jordan's View. I plan on easing back into blogging though, not putting pressure on myself to post constantly. I know there's still a danger of allowing the writing and maintenance of the blog to draw me away from higher priorities.

Nevertheless after many months of not blogging (except for a few posts here and there), I feel I have gained some perspective on the place blogging may have in my life.

So I resume blogging with a vision that my blog may join together with the voices of other Christian websites in proclaiming the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ-- and therefore, function as salt and light in this world.

I have also been reflecting again on the personal benefits of blogging. Rightly pursued, blogging can be a discipline that reminds me to watch my life carefully, that I might live up to the high ideals espoused here. However, I will make this disclaimer right at the outset: I know that as a flawed being my blog will often fail to live up to the high calling of Christ. It will fall short, because of my sin. But in this I gave all the more praise to God, who can use me and this blog despite my sinful shortcomings.

While being an ambassador for Christ is a universal call for His followers, each has been sovereignly assigned certain gifts. I believe that the gifts God distributes provide divine clues about our particular roles.

Viewing my gifting in this light, I see blogging as a natural fit. My gifts and interests have led me to consider such vocations as that of musician, worship leader, writer, speaker, teacher, minister. I trust that as I seek God while working on this blog, God will sharpen my ability to follow His call and give me the wisdom and power to pursue what is best. Even more important though, is the pursuit of God Himself. Jesus says, "Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness". Walking humbly with the Lord, being obedient to the teaching of the Word as illuminated by the Spirit, depending moment-by-moment on His strength-- are all part of this seeking.

In months to come I hope that this site will be distinguished by:

  • Reflective, well-written articles

  • Well-organized, regularly updated Christian resource links

  • Podcasts of my songs and original songs available for purchase

I would like to write articles that:

  • Delve deeply into the implications of the gospel for every area of life

  • Grapple with theological questions and convictions I am currently working out in my own thinking

  • Analyze and comment upon cultural trends from a Christian viewpoint

  • Provide personal Christian reviews of movies and books

Will I get to all of these? Perhaps not. It may be that this blog should limit the topics it covers even more sharply. But I'm looking forward to blogging again, under the vision I've described. I've titled this post "Beyond the Jordan"-- because I believe this blog should go beyond just my view on things, and hopefully reflect something of the truth that I only discover, but God originates and kindly reveals.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Update From Mr. Jordan

To friends and followers of this blog:

I appreciate very much that many of you have been checking in on me. It's very encouraging to see that despite the fact that I haven't posted in a while, people have felt that there was something of value here and have come back. So I'm writing this post to update you all on what's been happening for me recently. Actually I'm a feeling quite inspired again, but still don't feel ready to jump back into blogging. This has been a season of deeper evaluation of my theological beliefs as well as seeking the Lord for future direction.

You see, for the last few years my wife and I had been attending Pentecostal/Charismatic churches (two). Especially because of my wife dealing with illness, we were drawn to the bold message of healing often proclaimed by this type of church. With the calling away of our pastors to Florida, the home church we were attending came to a sudden, unexpected close, and we began looking for another church. But it was at this time I realized that my unresolved questions about the doctrines of healing we had been hearing, coupled with other questions about charismatic practice and my consideration of reformed theology, was perhaps leading me in a different direction.

Partly this had to do with my previous year of blogging, in which I was often exposed to much Reformed thinking. I found myself in agreement with many Reformed people about various issues, and also in much of their critical analysis of the American church. So recently I have been doing further reading and investigation into reformed theology. What bothered me before is that many reformed bloggers/teachers are cessationists. And since to this point I've not been convinced by the biblical arguments of those who argue that charismatic gifts such as tongues, prophecy, healing are no longer valid today, I continue to believe that these gifts are possible today. If so, I long to see fuller expressions of such gifts in myself, and in the the body of Christ. Yet because of my unanswered questions I feel that I can only be confident in pursuing these gifts, personally and corporately, by developing a solid doctrinal understanding of how these gifts should function today.

So I have also been contemplating further theological study, perhaps formal, and considering the possible ways God might be calling me to develop/use my gifts in music, writing and teaching to serve Him more fully. I have long felt I would be happier and more productive doing something more full-time in these areas, especially in some kind of Christian context. With all this on my mind, I have also been considering how it is that a Christian should make important decisions. Should I be seeking direct revelation of God's individual will to me, via some kind of impression or vision? Or should I ask God for wisdom to make good choices, given my circumstances, opportunities, and the application of biblical priorities/principles? As a result I have been re-reading a number of books/articles regarding God's will, mostly from a more reformed viewpoint.

One thing I do concur on very strongly with Reformed thinkers is the sufficiency of Scripture for figuring out these sorts of questions. I certainly don't want to put myself in a position of not being open to God's supernatural direction through, let's say, a vision. But at the same time, I don't want to delay making important decisions in order to wait upon a more personal revelation from God--if in fact waiting for such revelation is not biblically supported or necessary.

So, as you can see, there's a lot on my mind these days, but I'm trusting that this season will bear fruit in terms of helping me to sharpen my pursuit of God's call on my life, that I may love and serve Him more productively.

Faith continues to progress slowly in her healing, with her energy levels better in these past few months. She also has not been working as she has sought to be closer to the Lord. Please continue to pray for her complete healing, for our marriage, and for the wisdom and clarification of future mission that I have been diligently seeking after.

Blessings to all of you in the name of Jesus Christ!


Thursday, May 18, 2006

I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For

The band U2 titled one of their most memorable tunes "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For". I remember wondering what they meant at the time (mid 80's), since many in the Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) world claimed U2 as one of their own. I wondered how one could be an enthusiatic, joyful follower of Christ and yet be singing those words.

Today I view their words as an honest expression of what they were experiencing at the time-- whether their words reflect upon the sincerity of their faith or commitment to Christ, I don't know.

I know that right now I feel I can say the same words-- I still haven't found what I am looking for-- about my life, particularly in terms of finding my vocation.

It has been 30 days since I last posted. My intention in abstaining from blogging during this time has been to re-think my purposes, not only for this blog, but also for my life.

I realized I was doing far too much blogging and reading of blogs in a reactionary way, and that what I had to say on Jordan's View wasn't necessarily coming from the core of who I am. But I felt that the Lord would have me be more pro-active, that I should order my priorities and my activities according to a clear sense of my particular mission, and that my blog should reflect this.

And so for about a month or so, I have not posted here, nor have I done my usual reading of many other blogs. I've felt a bit guilty about this, feeling that I was somehow letting someone down. Nevertheless I felt it was the right thing to do-- I needed to quiet my soul and seek God first.

So what I have discovered thus far?

Well, I think that the blogosphere has continued onward quite merrily and happily without my presence, and though I have missed it, I have found myself feeling peaceful and content without the "pressure" of blogging. That pressure was self-imposed, in the sense that I have the choice on any given day whether or not to participate in the blogosphere, nevertheless, viewing blogging as a ministry, I have felt a certain obligation to maintain the quality and output of this blog.

But I know that in order to not waste time, to be fruitful, and to be true to God's calling, I must define my personal mission statement. Such a statement will help me to determine what role blogging should play in my life and ministry. I am not quite there yet, and realize that it takes time and much reflection to figure these things out. Besides, I'm quite sure that even with some of the particulars defined, there will be future refining of this mission statement. Still, I feel a need to call a halt to activity as I seek God and reflect on such matters.

I continue with the faith that if I should return to blogging, it will be with a renewed, re-invigorated sense of energy and purpose borne from this time of reflection and seeking of God.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Happy Resurrection Sunday!

Dear friends:

I hope your celebration of Easter this past Sunday was both meaningful and full of joy (I know mine was)! I spent this past Easter Sunday in fellowship with the good people of Trinity Church International, the Bayside church that my wife and I call home, and was really encouraged by the entire service. I also had the opportunity to sing a song during the Communion, which was a great honor and seems to have blessed the service. Afterward, I drove my wife to the airport She has flown down to Florida to spend a week and a half long vacation/visit with her family in Florida. I remain here in New York-- my intention being to seek the Lord and also get my home office space organized (including assembly of a new desk and chair I recently purchased on-line, and which have been delivered today).

Recently, the faithful pastors of our church, Bob and Nancy, felt God calling them to a new work, one that will entail them moving down to Florida. Though God has not yet revealed to them all the specifics of His new call for them, Pastors Bob and Nancy are certain that God is telling them to leave New York.

So this past Sunday's Easter celebration had a bittersweet quality, as it included the last sermon Pastor Bob will preach to our congregation. Next Sunday, we are scheduled to have our final service as a church-- and Pastor Bob will not preach a sermon. The service will instead contain congregational testimony about what God has done in our lives during the time we have fellowshipped together. Afterward, there will be a fellowship around a "pot-luck" meal. I'm looking forward to our gathering, thought I anticipate this meeting too will be bittersweet. Unfortunately my wife will not be able to attend this last special service, as she will not yet be back from her time away in Florida (we scheduled her travel plans long before hearing the recent news that our pastors would be leaving).

I want visitors and regulars coming to Jordan's View to know that I have taken a brief sabbatical from writing, as I seek the Lord about the future, and also try to get myself very organized, as mentioned above. I am in the midst of writing a post inspired by the cross and its significance, and (God-willing) will begin regular posting again shortly.

Please keep us Faith and me in your prayers during this time of seeking the Lord.

I trust that all is well with you, my visiting friends. May the Lord continue to show His mercy, kindness and faithfulness to all who seek Him.

The Lord is good!

Yours in Christ,


Thursday, April 06, 2006

Christian Carnival: March Madness Gone Mad Edition

Suddenly, Festus shouted, "Paul, you are insane. Too much study has made you crazy!"

But Paul replied, "I am not insane, Most Excellent Festus. I am speaking the sober truth. Acts 26: 23-25, NLT

Personally I don't have "March Madness" (the kind that's related to basketball, anyway), but I am quite mad, in my own special way (aren't you?--see quote above).

Anyway, March Madness Gone Mad Christian Carnival is up (at last-- kept checking yesterday but couldn't find it) over at the outer blog. I have a post represented, in all the truthful "madness".

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

A Theological Question

Yesterday, I received by email this theological question from a woman seeking a viewpoint on the issue of whether the baptism of the Holy Spirit is something required for salvation. I was quite honored that this person, though we are unacquainted, apparently felt I could provide some enlightenment on this question, and I felt from reading her message that the issue was kind of urgent for her-- so I sent her a response by email right away. I think that the question she raised is an interesting one, and I asked her permission to post her question and my response here, which she has kindly granted.

Hello Alex...

I have done a search for an answer you likely would be able to enlighten me (about).

I am a born again, baptized believer and am part of the United Methodist church. There's been a real moving of the Spirit in our church.

Heading straight to my question, I'm asking what the thinking is on a believer who has not received the "baptism of the Holy Spirit" - and whether they go to heaven or not? I'd never heard one wouldn't until yesterday. This was in my home church and said by my pastor.

I've taken proper steps today by contacting his secretary to make an appointment to discuss this. She has not called me back yet, but she will. I'm pretty sure my pastor had a funeral to do today.

He told the congregation about the Sunday prior; many received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, evidenced by tongues, many slain in the spirit and healings. That wasn't really news to me. However, the next statement WAS. And I did find it disturbing. He said, "unless you've been baptized in the Holy Spirit, you'll be left behind". I played that sentence over in my head several times. Never had I heard that and I even thought surely he didn't mean "not going to heaven" left behind. However, I phoned my friend and asked her if she thought he meant just that. She is our pastoral care pastor and she said 'yes', that is what he means. I said, "how can he say that?"

Needless to say, I may sound off base by contacting you, but I truly would like another viewpoint. I'm open to whatever you explain. It doesn't mean I'll take it as the final word, but I honestly will appreciate your input. I know I don't know you. I have no intention to make a fuss over it in any manner except to get it straight in my own heart, mind and spirit. It does concern me to hear this as I know my husband has not received the baptism of the Holy Spirit. He was baptized as a young believer, but I'm sure my pastor speaks of a different baptism. I know he is talking [about] 'one and the same' baptism.

If you are free and can reply, I'd appreciate it. Again, if this is not what you 'do', then please excuse this intrusion. I know God will supply the answer soon enough.


Jan Partin

Dear Jan:

I thank you for the excellent question, and will try to give you a biblical answer.

First off, I would say right away that this is an area where sincere Christians disagree. Many believe that the "baptism in the Spirit" refers to the moment we are converted and we receive the Spirit:

"For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink (I Cor 12:13)"

Jesus told Nicodemus that to be born again, one must be "born of the Spirit".

"I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, 'You must be born again.' The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit (John 3: 5-8)"

So entering the kingdom of God means being born of the Spirit--- some also interpret this to mean the same thing as being "baptized in the Spirit".

However, classic Pentecostal and Charismatic belief is that there is a "baptism in the Holy Spirit" that is an experience subsequent to conversion, and often manifests speaking in tongues, although there is debate as to whether or not tongues must always be part of the experience. Those that argue for this kind of baptism in the Spirit usually look at the examples of various individuals in the book of Acts. It seems that some of these examples show people who were already believers then receiving a baptism in the Holy Spirit.

The disciples certainly had a progressive experience of receiving the Spirit. Before Pentecost, I think that they were definitely converted, as we see in Jesus' prayer for them in John 17:

"I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. 7 Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. 8 For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. 9 I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them. 11 I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name—the name you gave me—so that they may be one as we are one. 12 While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled. 13 "I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. 14 I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world."

This passage clearly shows that they the disciples had been chosen --that they belonged to God--and none of them was to be lost, except for Judas. Jesus also said that the disciples are "not of the world"-- in other words, they have been born from above-- "born of the Spirit" (John 3). Yet later on, these disciples who already belonged to God would also receive the "promise that was to come" -- a baptism "with the Holy Spirit" which Jesus Himself promised them (Acts 1:4-5).

Is the pattern by which the disciples received the Holy Spirit normative for today? That is perhaps a question for another time. For now I'd like to answer this question, which is relevant to our topic:

What is required for someone to be born of the Spirit or born from above, becoming a child of God?

John 1:12 says:
"Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God"

I John 5: 1, and also verses 11-12 tell us:
"Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well... And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life."

Paul taught the Galatians:

"Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, "Abba, Father." So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir (Galatians 5: 6-7)"

"I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? (Gal 3: 2)"

"You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ (Gal 3:26-27)"

So it is very simple, whoever believes in (puts their trust in Jesus Christ) receives His life, becomes a child of God and has received the Spirit, having been baptized into Christ.

Now as to whether this person has, as a result, already been "baptized in the Spirit", or may later receive an experience of being "baptized in the Spirit" in which they speak with tongues and receive a special infilling of the Spirit, are matters that are debated all the time, even among Pentecostals and Charismatics who do believe in a later experience of "baptism in the Holy Spirit".

From the passages above, I think that the Bible is very clear on what it takes to be saved, whereas what one believes about the doctrines of the baptism of the Holy Spirit depend upon how one interprets certain passages of Scripture-- and these interpretations have been debated for hundreds of years. Therefore I would argue that it is possible to be a true believer and yet to not have experienced what many define as the "baptism of the Holy Spirit." Indeed, most Pentecostals have traditionally argued that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is something that happens to believers-- a second experience of receiving the Spirit that follows the initial experience of receiving the Spirit at conversion.

So your pastor's pronouncement that people who have not been "baptized in the Spirit" [according to his understanding and definition of the term] are not saved, seems to go beyond the scriptural requirements for being saved, which is repenting and believing on Jesus Christ. It also seems to contradict the usual teaching in Pentecostal circles that it is believers who receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit in the first place.

After hearing Peter's great sermon on the Day of Pentecost, the people were "cut to the heart" and said to Peter and the other apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?" Peter told them:

"Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call (Acts 2:39-39)"

So for Peter, the gift of the Spirit was something to be received upon believing, repenting and being baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.

We are commanded in Ephesians 5:18: "be filled with the Spirit". Since this is a command of Scripture, it must be something we as believers can do. Some of the results of this filling include the following:

"Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ (Eph 5: 19-21)"

Right now, I am re-reading book titled Absolute Surrender by Andrew Murray (Note: the edition I'm reading, from Christian Literature Crusade- 1978, is slightly different than this web version I've linked to). He was a great preacher and teacher from the last century, whose sermons and addresses have been published in book form. Mr. Murray's argument in the book is that Jesus requires our absolute surrender, and that it is in fully surrendering our lives to Jesus that we open the way for the Holy Spirit to come and take full possession of us. This makes a lot of sense to me, and Mr. Murray makes his case on biblical grounds.

So my belief is that when we believe on Jesus Christ we receive Him, His Life, in the form of the Holy Spirit, to dwell in us. This is what it means to be born again of the Spirit. However, the potential is there to be filled with the Spirit, and indeed, this should be our goal as Christians, since it is commanded. I think that this involves not only putting away the sins that so easily entangle us (Hebrews 12:1), but also, surrendering ourselves fully to God. But what the experience of being filled will look like in different people I think varies. Some may fall down, some may speak in tongues, some may have visions, some may prophesy. But Paul, inspired by the Spirit, says that the "greatest of these is love".

"If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing (I Corinthians 13: 1-3)"

Paul is saying that spiritual experiences are not as important as loving others. A life lived in the Spirit isn't necessarily characterized by dynamic, spectacular experiences. The fruit of the Spirit should be manifest in anyone who claims to be filled with the Spirit:

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other (Gal 5: 22-26)"

Personally, I want to go deeper in the Lord and have a fuller experience of His Spirit, that I may know God better and love others more deeply, because according to Christian teaching-- as seen in Paul's letters and of course in our Lord's instructions-- that's what Spirit-filled living is really all about. Thank you for writing, your question convicts and challenges me as well.

Blessings to you in Christ's name,