Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Why I'm a Freewill Presbyterian

I know only Baptists and a cute boy in a politically correct movie are supposed to be the "free willy" types. Far be it from a Presbyterian to be labelled such. But I have become utterly convinced that the Will is free and not corrupted by sin, perfectly capable of making choices that will affect all eternity. The Will makes decisions, and because of the freedom of the Will some go to heaven and some go to hell.

Oh, by the way, did I mention the particular Will that I am speaking of is the Will of God? I'm a "God's Will is Free" Presbyterian.

Please forgive me if I'm being too "in-your-face" with this pronouncement. But if churches can put their love for man's freewill on their signs and in the names of their associations, then do I not have the same right to proclaim my love for the free will of God?

Freewill teaching, the belief that fallen man has the freedom of will to believe upon Christ or not, is historically known as Arminianism. This doctrine is named after the Dutch theologian Jacob Arminius who died in the seventeenth century. Arminians believe that though man has been affected by the Fall, sin has not so altered what constitutes man's soul that he is left unable to choose Christ. They teach that free will, given to man at creation, "was not lost in the Fall," to quote a Freewill Baptist website. Often the motivations touted for this belief are that we must protect God's reputation against charges of being capricious or unjust. In other words, if man is not free to choose Christ, then God is unfair, for He chooses to favor one with eternal life and yet not another for no apparent reason.

What the proponents of freewill teaching do not see, in the words of the famous title of the book by Martin Luther, is the "bondage of the will." Man can no more choose life with Christ than he can his time of birth or nationality. Perhaps reading familiar verses with emphasis can help us see this. John 1:12-13 states, "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God." Unless God enlivens a heart to respond to the offer of Christ in the gospel, man will not come. Indeed, man cannot come, for sin has bound his will to be enslaved to its lusts. Each man is constantly choosing death over life and, except for the intervening grace of God, would continue to do so. If God be not free to choose whom He will to be in His heaven, no man would be there.

Just as the Lord of heaven and earth determines where and when a particular man will be born into this world, He also determines those who will be born into the kingdom of God. God chooses for you what natural color your hair and eyes are. The fact that you may dye your hair and wear tinted contacts may change the outer appearance but not the natural, intrinsic color you possess. So men also may go to great lengths to say they have changed the fundamental dispositions of their souls, but God's Word tells us they are incapable of such. As Jeremiah stated, "Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? Then you also can do good who are accustomed to doing evil" (Jeremiah 13:23). Only the Lord can remove the leprous, spotted covering of our sin from us. And only He can decide to do it in His sovereign time and grace.

J.I Packer, in an article entitled "Arminianism" from the fifth volume of the Puritan Papers, asks, "How can Arminiansm be cured? Only God can finally set men's heads right, just as only He can set our hearts right." May the Spirit of God set our heads right, for the wondrous truth of the gospel is that through it God Himself sets the sinner free. Heaven is the ultimate place where our minds and wills, completely freed from every lust and evil desire, will only want what God wants. We will will to give Him complete glory, and what thinking will accomplish it? Saying "Praise be to me, I chose Christ," or "Praise be to God, Christ chose me?" (See John 15:16 for the answer.)

There is some free willing worth proclaiming!

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

An Unapologetic Apologetic

Among all the threats and attacks on the gospel currently in the world, is there any more formidable than that posed by Islam? Whole nations lay under Islam's sway. Christians in lands such as Indonesia and Sudan are regularly persecuted and driven from their homes, while Muslims freely migrate and populate Western nations. Given that the birthrate among Muslim women tends to be double and triple that of those in the Western nations where Christianity has historically been strong, one wonders how these nations will look in the next few decades? Since the London bombings, Muslim clerics have become further emboldened to declare that the fault for these crimes lies not at the feet of the ones setting off the bombs or those who inspired their hatred, but the British government for supporting the war in Iraq. They are predicting more acts of this nature. If you are in the U.S. or Britain, you should feel a sense of a looming crisis coming our way.

George Grant believes the conflict of Islam is the greatest of the church's battles. The author of the book Blood of the Moon (Understanding The Historic Struggle Between Islam And Western Civilization), Grant posted this on his blog the day of the London bombings: "The reality is that the greatest human conflict of the past century has not been between Communism and Democracy. It has not been between Liberalism and Conservatism. It has not been between Socialism and Capitalism. It has not been between Rich and Poor, Proletariat and Bourgeoisie, Industrialism and Agrarianism, Nationalism and Colonialism, Management and Labor, First World and Third World, East and West, North and South, Allied and Axis, or NATO and Soviet....The most convulsive conflict of past century—and indeed, the most convulsive conflict of the past millennium—has undoubtedly been between Islam and Civilization; it has been between Islam and Freedom; it has been between Islam and Order; it has been between Islam and Progress; it has been between Islam and Hope; it has been between Islam and the Gospel. While every other conflict pitting men and nations against one another has inevitably waxed and waned, this furious struggle has remained all too constant. The tension between Islam and every aspiration and yearning of man intrudes on every issue, every discipline, every epoch, and every locale—a fact that is more evident today than perhaps ever before."

Yet perhaps what makes Islam particularly threatening to the gospel currently is the sympathy the faith of Mohammed enjoys. Even in the countries where Muslims have carried out terrorist activities, leaders such as Bush and Blair continue to maintain that Islam is a good and peaceful religion. How can one explain that while court decisions have removed Bibles from public schools and are removing the Ten Commandments from our public places, that same government can supply Korans to Islamic militants being held in Guantanamo Bay? How is that attendance at mosques is increasing in the U.S? Bottom line, why is Islam being looked more favorably upon in many quarters in our land than Christianity? It has to do with apologetics.

The science of defending the Christian faith is known as "apologetics." Apologetics comes from a Greek word that means "to speak on one's own behalf," such as the defense offered in a courtroom. Simply speaking, just as countries have failed to protect themselves from the bombs of the Muslims, all-in-all the church has failed to defend itself and promote the gospel against the Islamic insurgency. Though many others, the aforementioned George Grant being one of them, have much more to offer in way of apologetics against Islam than I, please allow me to stress here the need to practice apologetics within the Christian church. Islam is making great inroads in the West because professing believers, spending more time watching the evening news than reading their Bibles and history, do not see the true dangers of the religion of Mohammed. I offer the following apologetic point with the hope it may help some within the sleepy, evangelical church to awaken by shining some light on the darkness of the religion symbolized by a sliver of a moon. In my mind this point may be the only one that carries enough threat to awaken fellow Christians.

Remember, before, during and after the Crusades there was Jihad. If you have ever spoken to a Muslim who is trying to show you the superiority of Islam over Christianity, he will quickly bring up the Crusades as evidence of the church's hypocrisy in its abuse of Muslims. One only needs to consider the timing of the movie Kingdom of Heaven to see how the Islamic apologists have won the culture war here. Why did Hollywood produce a movie portraying the Crusades, the regrettable action of the Catholic church to take back militarily the Holy Land from the Muslim Turks in the eleventh through thirteenth centuries, during a time that Muslims through the 9/11 attacks, Madrid and London bombings, Sudanese and Indonesian wholescale persecution of Christians, etc., are clearly the ones on a "jihad" or holy war? Don't hold your breath waiting for the movies showing the beginning of Islam.

We need to remind the people sitting in the pews that Islam began with tribes devoted to Mohammed warring against and defeating the inhabitants of Mecca in 630 A.D. This was then followed by waves of fierce Arabic warriors devoted to Mohammed sweeping into power over Christianized lands in all of Northern Africa, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe over the next century. In every place they conquered, the inhabitants were forced to recant the Christian faith and swear allegiance to Allah and his prophet Mohammed or face the sword (Note: My apologies for this misrepresentation - in some areas they spared you the sword and let you practice Christianity if you paid a tribute to Allah). Only the victory by Charles Martel in the Battle of Tours in 732 A.D. prevented the complete conquest of Europe by the Muslims. So while we can acknowledge the abuses and misguided nature of the Crusades, let us remember that Islam began by jihad, and those following Mohammed 1400 years later continue it upon the "infidel" lands of our day.

Those in Western government and media who have kidded themselves into thinking that Islam is peace-loving and Muslims want democratic rule need to point to one nation where Muslims have been or are in power these past fourteen centuries and that has been the case. Think of it - in Iraq we are trying to force upon them by military might freedom of democratic rule, a political fruit that our largely Christian forefathers yearned for and bore. We may have swept out one demon in Iraq named Sadaam, but time will show that seven more wicked will go in and live there, and the last state of Iraq will be worse than the first (see Matthew 12:45). Surely many individual Muslim citizens exist that are not terrorists, but as the "nice laddies" who blew up subways in London showed, Islam as a worldview is an oppressive and violence-spawning religion. "By their fruits you shall know them," the Lord said.

The average American Christian needs to wake up, for not a movie but a war is coming to a neighborhood near you unless God intervenes. George Grant predicts in the same blog article cited above that unless something miraculous happens, what took place in London will become a common occurrence in Dallas, Atlanta or Chicago. How many more suicide bombers have to kill our troops, or will have to explode in our neighborhoods, before we recognize this truth about Islam?

In another attempt to get your attention, one glorious day we will see the Lord Jesus Christ cast the false prophet Mohammed, who dared deny the crucifixion and resurrection of the Lord, into Hell where he will burn in torment forever. If that thought does not absolutely delight you but rather offends your interfaith sensibilities, I cannot apologize but merely point out that it proves you have already been lost in the apologetics war. Go read Psalm 139:19-24 over and over again until you can truly pray and sing it sincerely. I just hope it does not take someone you love sizzling in a terrorist (i.e. Islamic) attack to get you to do it. Until the Christian church starts praying with far more earnestness for Islam's absolute demise, the crescent moon will continue to rise.