Wednesday, March 31

The Lego I Don't Want For Christmas

Here's one of those weird things you may not have known about me: My Christmas list always starts and ends with Lego. Every year someone in my family makes sure I have some sort of Technic Lego to put together Christmas afternoon. They know better than to get something too difficult, especially if they want an unburned turkey and the rest of the trimmings traditionally served with it.

Well, here's a Lego set I don't want, although it certainly gave me my laugh for the day.

via Ian

More on the Missionaries Killed in Uganda

There is updated information in the Africa Inland Missions article about the two missionaries killed in Uganda. The reason for their murder, however, remains unclear.

Tuesday, March 30

Shoveling Time

Yes, you read that right. I am going out now to move a couple of inches of sloppy white stuff out of my driveway.

Part 5 of the Unnamed Atonement Theory Series

In the previous post in this series, we were considering the proof texts used to support this theory. We looked at the universal texts used and showed how they cannot be interpreted the way proponents of this theory interpret them if they are to be consistent with the whole of scripture. We did not make it completely through the examination of the proof texts before my typing fingers went on strike, so let's finish up today by examining the last proof text--John 3:18.

If you remember, this text is used as proof that those who don't believe are condemned for unbelief only--that there is no other reason that anyone suffers eternal judgment. Here is what the verse says:

He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

The text quite obviously gives unbelief as a cause of damnation, and there is no need to argue with that. The question is: Does the text necessarily make unbelief the only cause of damnation? I don't think it does. The context of this verse is pointing to the need for people to believe in the Son who has now been revealed, and this particular verse is pointing to rejection of the Son (or unbelief) as the sin that seals a fate that already exists, since someone who refuses to believe has refused the only way out of their already existing condemned state. Unbelief is the culminating sin of the one whose deeds are evil (verse 20).

That this verse says that unbelief is the only cause of condemnation might be a legitimate interpretation if scripture had nothing else to say about the reasons people are condemned, but there are several other statements in scripture that point to things other than unbelief as a cause of damnation. We'll only look at a couple of them here.

But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part {will be} in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death. (Revelation 21:8 NASB)

Here we see persistent unbelief listed among many other sins for which people receive the eternal judgment of God. It is one of the things men are finally condemned for, but it's not the only thing.

But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who WILL RENDER TO EACH PERSON ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS...(Romans 2:5,6 NASB)

Those who continue in unbelief--those who remain unrepentant--store up wrath against themselves. The word store up carries with it the idea of accumulation. Those who persist in unbelief continue to add to the righteous wrath of God against them because they continue to add to the disobedient deeds for which they are finally judged by God. The larder that holds the preserved wrath of God against unrighteousness continues to grow more and more full for those who continue in their unrepentant state.

It is impossible, then, to interpret John 3:18 the way adherents to this theory do, because that interpretation makes John 3:18 contradictory to many other statements of scripture. However, if we interpret John 3:18 to be pointing to unbelief as not the only cause of condemnation, but rather the crowning cause of it, we can see that it harmonizes completely with these other texts, particularly with Romans 2: 5 and 6, which also points to unbelief (or unrepentance) as the key cause of the cumulation of wrath--righteous judgment that continues to add up against those who persist in unbelief because they continue to add to their sinful deeds.

The proof texts used to support this atonement theory, then, do not support it when they are interpreted in conformity with the rest of scripture. The whole of scripture tells us that the removal of God's wrath does not extend to the whole of the human race, but only to those who believe.

In the next installment of this series, and what I hope will be the final one, I plan to look at the logical problem raised by this theory and also explain why I care enough about the error of this atonement theory to use this much time and space refuting it.

(Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4 of this series.)

Sunday, March 28

Sunday Morning Hymn

Day by Day
Day by day, and with each passing moment,
Strength I find, to meet my trials here;
Trusting in my Father's wise bestowment,
I've no cause for worry or for fear.
He Whose heart is kind beyond all measure
Gives unto each day what He deems best—
Lovingly, its part of pain and pleasure,
Mingling toil with peace and rest.

Every day, the Lord Himself is near me
With a special mercy for each hour;
All my cares He fain would bear, and cheer me,
He Whose Name is Counselor and Power;
The protection of His child and treasure
Is a charge that on Himself He laid;
"As thy days, thy strength shall be in measure,"
This the pledge to me He made.

Help me then in every tribulation
So to trust Thy promises, O Lord,
That I lose not faith's sweet consolation
Offered me within Thy holy Word.
Help me, Lord, when toil and trouble meeting,
Ever to take, as from a father's hand,
One by one, the days, the moments fleeting,
Till I reach the promised land.

Words by Karolina Wilhelmina Sandell-Berg , tranlated from the Swedish by Andrew L. Skoog.

Music by Oscar Ahnfelt

Lina Sandell's hymns were made popular here in North America by Swedish singer Jenny Lind. Lina was the daughter of a Swedish Lutheran pastor, and when she was 26, she saw her father fall overboard and drown during a boat trip. That tragedy was the catalyst for her prolific hymn writing. In all, she wrote more than 650 of them, and it's because she wrote so many that she was known as the Fanny Crosby of Sweden.

Sunday Sermon

In keeping with our Scandanavian theme, this morning's featured sermon is from The Lutheran Hour, a radio program sponsored by the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. I remember listening to the Lutheran Hour as a child, and if I have my radio turned to the right station, even now I can wake on Sunday morning to the Lutheran Hour. This sermon is entitled Thou Shalt Not Murder , and the speaker is Dr. Wallace Shultz.

Dr Shultz reminds us that anyone in need is our neighbor:
Now, if this is true, you and I have some really big things to do for the Lord and for our neighbor! We have a great responsibility. You see, secular newspapers and secular studies now tell us that over 113,000 unborn children are murdered in the United States through abortion every month. These unborn children are all our neighbors just like all our other neighbors are. If we are not concerned about the murder of the unborn, we are sinning against the Fifth Commandment. We are not defending the life of our neighbor. You see, it is often not so much what we do, but what we do not do that causes us to break and sin against God's commandments.....

God's law speaks to all of us, including those of us who have actively participated in this sinful act. But, it also includes those of us who have sinned passively, by knowing about the holocaust of the killing of the unborn, but have neither spoken up against it or have not prayed that God would intervene and save as many of the innocent unborn as possible....

But there is hope, for that is not the end of the story:
God's Gospel not only assures us of forgiveness of our active or passive sins, but God's holy Gospel enables us to turn from our sin unto life and an attitude that protects our helpless neighbor and pleases God....

So, as we have said before and as we will continue to say many more times on this program, when you are troubled by what you have done or troubled by what you have not done, then turn again and again to the Scriptures. Yes, read regularly Psalm 51. With a repentant heart and expecting God's grace and mercy in Jesus Christ, say with the psalmist:

"Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Thy loving kindness; according unto the multitude of Thy tender mercies, blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. I acknowledge my transgressions; and my sin is ever before me. Against Thee, O Lord, Thee only have I sinned and done this evil in Thy sight. Wash me and I shall be whiter than snow. Hide Thy face from my sins and blot out all mine iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from Thy presence, and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me. Restore unto me, O Lord, the joy of Thy salvation; and uphold me with Thy free spirit."

The Other Scandinavian Denominations

Of course, when we think of denominations in North America that have a Scandinavian history, we think first of all the Lutheran denominations. But did you know that the both the Evangelical Free and the Evangelical Covenant denominations have Scandinavian roots?

There is a Swedish Baptist denomination here in North America as well. You can read the Swedish Baptist Confession of Faith here.

Saturday, March 27

We Interrupt The Regularly Scheduled Scandinavian Programming bring you this late-breaking news.

There was a discussion of the right-now-being-discussed-here-on-this-blog atonement theory started just this morning on the Baptist Board. It's called Why do people go to Hell? and it's already on page 2 of the discussion.

Now back to our regularly scheduled programming....

Scandinavian Weekend

In honor of the part of my children's heritage that is Norwegian, I'm declaring this Scandinavian weekend here. So, for Saturday's fun day, a Norwegian joke and a recipe for lefse, all from Cousin Dave's Home page.
Ole took a trip to Fargo, North Dakota. He was thirsty and stopped in one of the neighborhood bars. A Dane on the next stool spoke to Ole in a friendly manner. "Look," he said, "let's play a little game. I'll ask you a riddle. If you can answer it, I'll buy you a drink. If you can't answer it then you buy me a drink. Is it a deal?"

"Ya," says Ole, "dat sounds purty fair to me".

The Dane proceeded to ask Ole, "My father and mother had one child. It wasn't my brother and it wasn't my sister. Who was it?" Ole scratched his head and finally said, "I give up. Who vas it?"

"It was me," laughed the Dane. So Ole paid for the Dane's drink.

When Ole got back home to Minnesota he ran into Sven in a bar. "Sven," he says, "I got a game for you to play. If you can answer the question, I'll buy you a drink. If you can't, you have to buy me vun. Okay?" Sven agreed.

"Ok", says Ole, "My fadder and mudder had vun kid. It vasn't my brudder and it vasn't my sister. Who vas it?"

"Beats me," said Sven, "I give up, who vas it?"

Right away, Ole says, "It vas some Dane up der in Fargo, Nort Dakota."

More jokes here.

And now, how to make lefse, which Dave says you can do without a lefse maker:

6 cups riced or mashed russet potatoes
1 tsp. salt
3 T. margarine or butter
1 T. sugar
2 T. heavy cream or evaporated milk
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Combine all ingredients except flour; refrigerate until thoroughly chilled. Add flour; mix well. Heat lefse or other griddle to 400 degrees. Form dough into long roll and cut into 12 sections. Form each section into a small ball. Roll out very thin with cloth-covered lefse or regular rolling pin on cloth-covered lefse board or other surface. Dust board with flour when turning lefse dough. Bake on ungreased griddle until brown spots appear. Turn and bake other side. Stack lefse between 2 towels to cool. Store in refrigerator in plastic bags. Can be frozen. Makes 12 lefse.

Uffda! That sounds good! My favorite way to have my lefse is spread with butter, sprinkled with white sugar, and rolled up like a crepe, but you can also spread them with jam or jelly or sour cream.

Friday, March 26

It's the Divine Blood Thing Again

Shades of the divine blood idea have come up in a discussion in the forums at It is so difficult for some to just say that there is no special power in the substance of Christ's blood itself. They really feel that they cannot say this without taking something away from who Christ is. Who he is, though, is fully God and fully human, and if you deny that the material element of His blood is just like ours, then you are not protecting the fullness of who He is, but denying it.

Interesting sidenote added later: The discussion on Crosswalk started in response to seeing the movie I'm not allowed to discuss....

Thursday, March 25

Less-Than-Orthodox Atonement Model, Part 4

(Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 of this series.)

Previously we looked at the scripture used to support this model of the atonement--two universal verses used as representatives of all the other universal verses, and John 3:18--and saw how these verses were interpreted by those who believe this theory. Today I want to look more closely at these interpretations to see whether they can be legitimate interpretations of these scriptures.

Let's go first to the interpretations of the representative universal verses. Both of these verses (1 John 2:2 and 2 Corinthians 5:19) are interpreted taking the fullest possible meaning of the words referring to what was accomplished in Christ's death, and also the fullest possible meaning of the words referring to the scope of the atonement. So the word propitiation in 1 John 2:2 is full and final propitiation of all of God's wrath toward human beings, and the reconciliation in 2 Corinthians 5:19 is full and final reconciliation on God's part toward human beings. Our sins...and those of the whole world in 1 John 2:2 means the sins of every human being, and world in 2 Corinthians 5:19 likewise refers to every human being. On the basis of these interpretations of these verses, it is then concluded that God's wrath is completely gone toward any human being, all of their sins are forgiven, and He is completely reconciled to them.

Of course, if you take these verses alone, these are legitimate interpretations of the words written in these verses. Propitiation and reconciliation certainly can mean fully and finally doing away with God's wrath, and world can refer to every human being. The question is not "Can these verses mean this?", but "Do these verses mean this?" Or more precisely, "Can these verses mean this when taken together with the whole of what scripture says to us?"

Are there any scriptures that argue against the idea that God no longer has wrath toward any person, or that God is completely reconciled toward all people because all people have their sins forgiven? The truth is that there are so many that it is hard to narrow it down to just a few to look at. Ephesians 2:3 is one:

Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. (NASV)

All of us were formerly--before we were made alive together with Christ--objects of God's wrath. The rest--all those who have not been made alive together with Christ--remain objects of His wrath. God;s wrath, according to this verse, is still directed toward those who have not yet been brought from spiritual death to spiritual life, and will be directed forever toward those who are never brought from this state of death into life. It is at the point of this life-changing event that God's wrath is removed.

Another scripture to examine is Romans 3:25a:

whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. (NASV)

Christ's death is a propitiation through faith. Faith is the means through which we receive that propitiation--that taking away of God's wrath toward us. Those who are outside of faith are not propitiated and remain under the wrath of God.

Consider Colossians 1:13, 14:

For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

In these verses, being redeemed is not only associated with forgiveness of sins, but with being transferred out of Satan's dominion and into Christ's kingdom. Those who have their sins forgiven are not left in a neutral position before God; they are not left simply standing with no wrath directed toward them. They are brought into His kingdom; they become one of His.

We see from these verses that full propitiation, reconciliation, redemption, forgiveness of sins come only to those of faith. They are associated with being made alive in Christ, and being brought into His kingdom. In order for these universal verses used to support this atonement theory to harmonize with the whole of scripture, they cannot be interpreted the way proponents of this theory interpret them. Full and final propitiation, or full and final reconciliation on God's part, cannot come to every single person unless every single person is brought to faith, every single person is made alive in Christ, and every single person is transferred into the kingdom. In order to make these verses consistant with the rest of scripture, one must either interpret the words that refer to what was accomplished through Christ (like propitiation, reconciliation) as temporary or potential, or the word world as "people throughout the world."

You know....that's probably enough for today. I'll save the examination of John 3:18 for the next part of the series.

Tuesday, March 23

Less-Than-Orthodox Atonement Model, Part 3: The Evidence

(Part 1 and Part 2 of this series.)

In our last installment of this series on this particular less-than-orthodox atonement model, we saw that those who hold to this model regard Christ's atonement as being both accomplished for and applied to every single person. Every person in the world has a sort of right standing before God, with no sin remaining on their account, and damnation comes to people on the basis of their unbelief only.

The evidence used to support this theory comes, for the most part, from all of what might be called the universal texts referring to the atonement, coupled with John 3:18. By the universal texts, I mean those like 1 John 2:2 and 2 Corinthians 5:19 that tie the Christ's death to the world or all men. For the purposes of this study, we will only look at these two specific universal texts, because what we learn about how these two verses are interpreted in support of this theory can be easily applied to all universal texts. Let's take a look at 1 John 2:2:

and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for {those of} the whole world. (NAS)

Advocates of this model, then, would interpret this verse to mean that Christ, through His death, has fully and finally turned away God's wrath on behalf of every person living, dead, or still to be be born. Their interpretation of 2 Corinthians 5:19 would be similar:

namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. (NAS)

This is interpreted to mean that God is reconciled to every person through Christ's death. They are not all necessarily reconciled to Him, but He is reconciled to them, for the record of every person's sin is permanently removed in the death of Christ, and they are forgiven for their sins. People, through their own foolishness, may still hold things against God, but God no longer holds anything against any human being.

All of the universal texts are interpreted similarly. The words referring to what is accomplished by Christ's death--like redemption, reconciliation, propitiation, removal of sin--are taken in their most complete sense. They are not words of potential, but of something done in a thoroughly finished way. So too, with the words referring to the extent or scope of the atonement--they are defined in their fullest understanding. All and world mean every person worldwide across all time.

The really crucial supporting verse, however, is John 3:18:

He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. (NAS)

Everything turns on the last clause of this verse, for it gives us a statement of cause. Judgment (or condemnation) comes as a result of unbelief. This is understood to mean that not believing is the only cause of condemnation, and thus the only grounds for it. If not believing in the Son of God is the only reason for damnation, then there can be no other grounds included in the indictment of the unbeliever. The list of charges brought against us can contain no other charges but the charge "has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God."

The essence of the defense of this model of the atonement, then, is these particular interpretations of the universal texts and this statement from John 3 saying that unbelief is a key cause of condemnation. In the next part of this series we will consider whether these interpretations of these verses can be correct.

Monday, March 22

Searching for the Missionaries?

It seems that if you search on Yahoo for info on the missionaries killed in Uganda, this site comes up on the first page. So for all you wanderers from Yahoo, here is the link to the story. You'll find a link there to the official Africa Inland Mission site.

Sunday, March 21

Sunday Morning Sermon

Here's another one from Pastor Fred Martin of the Evangelical Free Church of Bemidji, MN, chosen because of it's timely subject matter--standing up for what's right in a hostile world. It's a look at the Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego story from Daniel.

Even if God Does Not...

These three young men are confident in God's ability to save them, but they also know that there is something far more important than their personal comfort and safety. God's honor supersedes everything! They are going to live for him no matter what. "Even if God does not save us, we will serve him!"

That is the attitude and approach that you and I have to adopt. Let's make a firm decision that we are going to honor God and live for him and stand up for what he says is true no matter what the cost. God may in his grace turn our country around once again, but if he does not, we will remain true to him.

Sunday Morning Hymn

I Know Whom I Have Believed

I know not why God's wondrous grace
To me He hath made known,
Nor why, unworthy, Christ in love
Redeemed me for His own.

But "I know Whom I have believed
And am persuaded that He is able
To keep that which I've committed
Unto Him against that day."

I know not how this saving faith
To me He did impart,
Nor how believing in His word
Wrought peace within my heart.

I know not how the Spirit moves,
Convincing men of sin,
Revealing Jesus through the Word,
Creating faith in Him.

I know not what of good or ill
May be reserved for me,
Of weary ways or golden days,
Before His face I see.

I know not when my Lord may come,
At night or noon-day fair,
Nor if I'll walk the vale with Him,
Or "meet Him in the air."

Author: Daniel Webster Whittle (1840-1901 )
Composer: James McGranahan (1840-1907 )

I chose this hymn because it was my late husband's very favorite one. Here is an account of Daniel W. Whittle's (he's the author) conversion:

During the [Civil] war, Whittle lost his right arm, and ended up in a prisoner of war camp. Recovering from his wounds in the hospital, he looked for something to read, and found a New Testament. Though its words resonated with him, he was still not ready to accept Christ. Shortly after, a hospital orderly woke him and said a dying prisoner wanted someone to pray with him. Whittle demurred, but the orderly said, "But I thought you were a Christian; I have seen you reading your Bible." Whittle then agreed to go. He recorded what took place at the dying youth's bed side:

I dropped on my knees and held the boy's hand in mine. In a few broken words I confessed my sins and asked Christ to forgive me. I believed right there that He did forgive me. I then prayed earnestly for the boy. He became quiet and pressed my hand as I prayed and pleaded God's promises. When I arose from my knees, he was dead. A look of peace had come over his troubled face, and I cannot but believe that God who used him to bring me to the Savior, used me to lead him to trust Christ's precious blood and find pardon. I hope to meet him in heaven.

From The Cyber Hymnal

Saturday, March 20

Fun Day for Saturday

We will be gone most of the day for my son's basketball tournament, but maybe somewhere in my schedule I'll find time for a couple games of Boggle. Playing Boggle is one of my favorite things in real life, and this online version can be fun, too.

Friday, March 19

Not Again!

More missionaries give their lives....

From Africa Inland Missions:
The Africa Inland Mission family is deeply saddened by news of the shooting deaths of two of our missionaries, Warren and Donna Pett, who served in Uganda.

On the evening of March 18th, 2004, Warren and Donna, American missionaries, serving with the Africa Inland Mission as technical school teachers, and members of the Elmbrook Church in Brookfield, Wisconsin, were shot and killed. One student from the technical school where Warren and Donna served was also killed and another injured.

via World Magazine Blog.

I Thought It Might Be Spring

Last week we were living in April. Today we have been transported back into January. This morning I am starting a fire in the fireplace, and this afternoon I will drag out the snow shovel.

We Are Soldiers

From Herman Ridderbos:
[Paul] describes the life of believers time and again from the double viewpoint of battling on the basis of victory and of gaining the victory on the basis of the battle.

The first viewpoint proceeds from the victory of Christ. Because Christ has died to sin, they are to live out of the consideration of faith that they too are dead to sin (as ruler), but live for God in Christ Jesus (Rom. 6:11). This living for God in Christ Jesus is now repeatedly described, however, in the terminology of a battle, which not only starts from the victory that lies behind (in Christ), but also extends toward the victory that lies before (in the life of believers).

---Paul: An Outline of His Theology, page 267.

Wednesday, March 17

Less-Than-Orthodox Atonement Model, Part 2

When we left this subject, we had drawn little diagrams in our minds of the two orthodox atonement theories. The general atonement theory, if you remember, was represented by two circles: a larger circle representing those for whom atonement was made, and a smaller circle included within the larger circle representing those to whom the atonement is applied. The larger circle, representing those for whom atonement was made, includes everyone in the whole world. The smaller circle within the larger one, representing those to whom the atonement is applied, includes all those out of the world who become believers.

The definite atonement theory, on the other hand, was represented by two circles, both precisely the same size as the smaller circle in the diagram of the general atonement theory. One circle sits exactly on top of the other, the two circles forming one circle that represents both those for whom atonement is made and those to whom the atonement is applied. Both circles include only those who become believers--it is only those who come to faith for whom atonement is made, and only those whom come to faith to whom the atonement is applied. The two theories, though, agree on the parameters of the circle that surrounds those to whom the atonement is applied: The atonement is applied to all those who come to faith.

So what would a Venn diagram of this less-than-orthodox theory we are examining look like? Take the diagram of the general atonement theory that you have in your mind, and expand that inner circle representing all those to whom the atonement is applied outward until it exactly matches the perimeter of the larger circle, the one representing all those for whom atonement is made. And there you have it. This model says that Christ's death accomplished atonement for every single person, and that atonement is also applied to every single person.

Even from here I can see the light bulb that just switched on above your head--the light bulb in the little balloon that also holds the words "Aha! Universalism!". I suggest you reach up there and switch that light bulb off---and while you're there, you can take a straight pin and pop that little balloon, too---because you're wrong.

Of course, I understand why you would come to that conclusion. You assumed that atonement applied means certain salvation, but the proponents of this atonement model don't tie an applied atonement to certain salvation. Having the atonement applied, while a necessary component of salvation, doesn't ensure it.

They will argue that the applied atonement means these things: all record of all sins are removed from one's rap sheet, God's wrath on one's behalf is removed along with the record of sins, and all sins past, present, and future are forgiven. All sin has been fully and finally propitiated, and there is no barrier between God and any human being. Every person has been redeemed by God through the application of Christ's redemption. The obvious question, then, is why isn't everyone saved?

Defenders of this theory will answer this question by saying that eternal condemnation results from unbelief and from unbelief only. Some will even say that the reason unbelievers receive judgment is not because God has wrath against unbelief in itself, for all wrath is propitiated, but because God gives people what they want, and unbelievers prefer damnation to an eternity spent in the presence of a God they don't want. If we think of each person as being born into this world with a slate for recording their sin, and that each person starts out with one mark for original sin, and as they commit actual sins a written record of each sin is added, this theory would say that the atonement applied means that each person's slate is erased completely except for one word--the word unbelief. Then, when a person turns to God in faith, that last thing on the slate, the mark for unbelief, is erased as well, and the slate becomes empty. Those who do not come to faith remain forever condemned by a slate that says, "Unbelief!"

Now that you have a description of this atonement theory, please let me know if you've heard of it and know of a proper name for it. I've never been able to find it described in any sort of systematized way, and perhaps it hasn't actually been formally systematized, but it comes up often enough that it must be taught someplace. A few years ago it was mentioned in an article in Sound of Grace, but I don't remember if a name was used for it. The article did say that the theory is a relatively recent one, starting probably only 30 or 40 years ago. Since I can no longer find the article, I can't check back into any of this.

In the next installment, I hope to look into the evidence given in support of this theory, examining the scripture used as proof.

Tuesday, March 16

Second Less-Than-Orthodox Atonement Model

Before I started my series on the divine blood idea of the atonement, I mentioned that there were two less than orthodox models of the atonement that I regularly run into in discussions on the Baptist Board. The divine blood theory was the first, and this week I’d like to start examining the second one.

I’ve been putting this particular study off because this theory is not as straightforward and simple as the divine blood one, and thus not so easily refuted. It is also more common than the divine blood theory, and seems to be growing in popularity in fundamentalist and evangelical circles, and that means that when I argue against it, I am stepping on more toes than I was in the divine blood discussion. In addition, I haven’t come up with a good name for this theory, which makes discussing it a bit awkward. I have seen it called hypothetical universalism, but through research of that term on the internet, I’ve concluded that this theory would not fall under that umbrella. If after I’ve explained it, you have a name for it, please let me know.

Let’s start, then, with a bit of background. The majority of evangelical and fundamentalist Christians would hold to either one of two views of the atonement, and I accept both of those views as orthodox. Of course, they can’t both be right, and I acknowledge one as correct and the other as incorrect, but what they agree on puts them both within the bounds of orthodoxy. These two models are each known by several names, but I’m going to call them general atonement and definite atonement. I’ll give simplified explanations of each one of them, although you must remember that because each is a nuanced position, a simple explanation is not going to do either theory complete justice.

General Atonement. Christ’s death provided provisional atonement for everyone who has ever existed and who ever will exist. The benefits of the atonement, however, are appropriated by faith. Christ died for all, but it is only for believers that the atonement is effective.

Definite Atonement. Christ’s death was particularly focused toward those God would bring to faith. God’s saving intention was toward them, and Christ’s death secured everything necessary for their salvation. Christ died with a particular group of people in mind, and it is for them that the atonement is effective.

As you can see, the two theories are different. In the first one, the group for whom provision is made and the group for whom benefits are applied are different, while in the second, the two groups are exactly equivalent. If you drew a Venn diagram of General Atonement, you would have a small circle containing all believers inside a larger circle containing all people, the larger circle being those for whom provision is made, and the smaller one being those to whom that provision is applied. Under this theory, the provision-made group is more extensive than the provision-applied group. The Venn diagram of Definite Atonement, on the other hand, would only have one circle containing all those who are brought to faith. That one circle draws the exact boundary of the group of all those for whom provision is made, and it is also the exact boundary of the group of all those to whom that provision is applied. One circle encompasses both the provision-made group and the provision-applied group precisely, because those two groups are coextensive.

However--and here is the important point--both theories agree on the parameters of the group to whom the saving benefits of the atonement are applied: These benefits go to believers only. It is this agreement on the boundaries of the group to whom the atonement is actually applied that keeps both models within the pale of orthodoxy. It is also on this point that the less-than-orthodox theory I want to discuss differs from these two orthodox models. With that bit of background established, I hope to explain more of this theory in my next post on this subject.

Missionaries Killed

Here are a couple of links to stories about the 4 Baptist missionaries killed in Iraq:

Three Killed

Fourth Dead

Let's remember to pray for their families, co-workers and friends, and also to remember to pray for the one woman who remains in critical condition. You can keep up on the latest news on this story on the International Mission Board main page.

Hat tip to Imago Veritas.

Sunday, March 14

....And a Sermon, Too.

John Piper on The Place of Preaching in Worship
....the Word of God is to come teaching the mind and reaching the heart; showing the truth of Christ and savoring the glory of Christ; expositing the Word of God and exulting in the God of the Word.

That is what preaching is. And that is why it is so prominent in worship. It is not a mere work of man. It is a gift and work of the Holy Spirit.

A Hymn for Sunday Morning....

Come Thou Fount

Come, Thou Fount of every blessing,
  Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
  Call for songs of loudest praise.
Jesus sought me when a stranger,
  Wand'ring from the face of God;
He, to save my soul from danger,
  Interposed His precious blood.

O to grace how great a debtor
  Daily I'm constrained to be!
Let that grace, Lord, like a fetter,
  Bind my wand'ring heart to Thee.
Teach me, Lord, some rapturous measure,
  Meet for me Thy grace to prove,
While I sing the countless treasure
  Of my God's unchanging love.

Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it;
  Prone to leave the God I love:
Take my heart, oh, take and seal it
  With Thy Spirit from above.
Rescued thus from sin and danger,
  Purchased by the Savior's blood,
May I walk on earth a stranger,
  As a son and heir of God.

Author: Robert Robinson (1735-1790 )

Composer:  John Wyeth (1813 )

Courtesy of Hymnal.Net: Christian Hymns and Spiritual Songs. Hear the hymn by clicking on Classic Hymns and finding the first line in the alphabetical list. For Sheet music.

Saturday, March 13

Fun Day

I've decided to make Saturdays fun days here--light stuff, hobby stuff, family stuff, games, etc. So, with that in mind, here are a couple of things that are fun interests of the members of this family.

Landcruisers. Right now we have an FJ-40 being restored piece by piece in the garage. FJ-40’s are the older jeep-like cruisers. (Okay, this description is for the uninitiated only. Cruiser lovers all know that jeeps are really cruiser knock-offs.) Anyway, you haven't really lived until you been 4 X 4-ing in the bush in your cruiser. Right now we're waiting on Harold the painter, who is slower than molasses, but perhaps soon the cruiser will be out of the garage and back on the road better than ever.

The Raptors. Yes, we really are fans of the Toronto Raptors. Actually, we are fans of everything basketball--NBA, NCAA, high school, elementary school, wheel chair, shooting hoops in the driveway.

Pushing Half A Century

Thursday was my birthday. I got a really nice email from my aunt, who wrote a few of her memories of the time I was born. My dad and my aunt (and an uncle, too) were all attending the same school--my aunt living in the dorm and my parents in the married student quarters, attractively called "Trailerville". Part of what she wrote:

Thinking back to day you were born in Dayton, TN. I had been checking quite often to see if your folks had put the hanging moon in the window of the door of their trailer as a notice that your dad had taken your mom to the hospital. How exciting when it finally appeared.

I had never really heard about the "moon signal" before. Remember, this is way back in the fifties and none of the students had phones. None of those in Trailerville had bathrooms either, and everyone used the communal showerhouse.

So, thank you, Aunt Bertha, for the note and the interesting little details in it.

5 Things I Don't Understand

Even with nearly half a century's experience, there are still a few things I don't understand.

1. Fondue. I've never, ever understood the appeal. I suppose it's just anorexic city folk's lame substitute for hot dogs and marshmallows roasted over a campfire. Here's my advice: Get a campfire! The food will cook a lot faster and a whole lot more of it will cook at once. The conversations will be better and you can even sing without looking stupid.

2. Why some older houses were built with only one bathroom and that one bathroom is way up on the second floor. Ours was like this until we added a second bathroom. One bathroom up a steep flight of stairs doesn't work for old folks. Doesn't work for young folks either. Or sick folks. I suppose that ours was a military house when it was built might be a partial explanation. But even military people need quick and easy access to the bathroom sometimes.....don't they?

3. Dogs. Why is it that the more nasty something is, the more dogs love to eat it? It probably isn't wise to go into this in any more detail.

4. Cats. Not saying I don't like them, but does anyone ever really understand them?

5. Why every praise and worship chorus must be sung twice. Or more than twice. Is it because the lyrics are so full of depth that we have to sing them twice to get the message, or because the melodies are so difficult that we have to sing them twice to get them right? Unless something changes the second time through, there's no reason to sing it again. Except for when you're fonduing. Then, I suggest you sing them as many times as you want while you wait for your morsel of food to cook. In that case, repetitive songs can only spice things up.

Friday, March 12

The One Who Sorts It Out

Do you ever have days when you can't really pray? When you are too tired, too confused, too empty, too distraught, or too anything-at-all to even form a request in your mind? I know I do. It happens to me more often than I like to admit. Sometimes all I can muster is, "Here is my life. Do what you will." When that happens, I rest in this:

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness, for we do not know how we should pray, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with inexpressible groanings. (Romans 8:26 NET)

The Spirit that indwells us is forever advocating on our behalf. We are prayed for even when words are beyond us.

And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes on behalf of the saints according to God's will. (Romans 8:27 NET)

The groanings of the Spirit on our behalf are immediately known by the Father, and those prayers are always answered with a "yes" because the Spirit's intention for us is God's intention. What the Spirit requests is always exactly right.

So ....we know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.... (Romans 8:28)

The right requests are being made, even when we are too weak to make them, and the right answers are coming because the God who called us and the Spirit who intercedes for us agree on what's right for us.

This is my peace. When I can only muster, "Here is my life!", that is enough. I can simply trust that as confusing as things are to me, it is all and forever sorted rightly in the mind of the Spirit and the mind of my Heavenly Father, who are together accomplishing God's perfect and good purpose for me.

Thursday, March 11

Dying Birds and Other Important Things

Bene Diction Blogs On has written a touching piece about a dying friend and a robin. So this story was what I was thinking over as I drove this morning. I've learned a lot about dying in the past few years, and here are two thing I've learned that this story brought to mind:

1. Knowing that you have a terminal illness can be a real blessing from God. Bene speaks of the nesting robin:
She gave my friend hope and a way to look through terrible pain. They became friends of sorts and there is no way to explain that.

Knowing you are dying allows you to toss aside many of the unnecessary distractions of this life and focus on the beauty in our everyday gifts from God. World events, government affairs, acquiring material things all fade into the background, and the simple things become "realer" than real. It's hard to describe how much joy can be found in a good cup of coffee, a meal with loved ones, a puppy, or a fishing trip when you understand with certainty that you will not be here to enjoy them forever.

Of course, we cannot chose our manner of death. We will all go in the way determined for us. The next time you think about how you would like to go, remember that while a sudden death may spare you pain, it does not allow you this precious time of saying good-bye to the things of this world as you prepare yourself for your journey to the next one.

2. Just as the sparrow does not fall "apart from the Father’s will", so it is with us. God has consented to the timing and means of each sparrow’s death, and in the same way, He has chosen the timing and means of the death of each one of us. So we should not be afraid, for our good heavenly Father, who does all things right, carries us through to the next life in His perfect way:

Aren’t two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will.... So do not be afraid; you are more valuable than many sparrows. (Matthew 10:29,31 NET)

Tuesday, March 9

The Return of the Swans

The first returning trumpeter swans of the year have been sighted, and now we know that spring is really just around the corner. Before long, many swans will gather together in the open water of McClintock Bay, waiting there for the smaller lakes of their nesting grounds to open up. At the peak there may be 2 thousand swans or more in the water there. Listen to what a few swans sound like. Now imagine that multiplied by a hundred or so, and you've experienced the sounds of McClintock Bay when the swans are gathering. Like a massive horn section in a giant orchestra tuning up. The word cacophony was invented for just this sort of racket.

Monday, March 8

On Biblical Literacy

I have to admit that sometimes I am surprised by how many believers there are who lack a basic knowledge of the Bible. What I forget, I guess, is that I have an advantage that many don’t have. I was steeped in the things of the word from the day I was born. I learned the Bible basics in the same way children learn to talk and walk and read--not by working at it, but just by living.

Yesterday I discovered that one of my favorite writers on the web J. Mark Bertrand has a weblog. (I don’t know how I had missed it!) He grew up in the same sort of atmosphere I did, but has written a little piece on gaining biblical literacy for those who grew up without that foundation. He suggests this system: Ten Steps to Biblical Literacy by Michael D. Marlowe. Of course, it is always easier to pick things up by osmosis as a child, but this method is one way to make up for what may have been missed.

While you're at it, you may want to check out the rest of J. Mark Bertrand’s writings.

Saturday, March 6

Dining on Rudolph

Last night we had caribou sausage for supper. I'd never tasted them before, although I had eaten caribou burgers and enjoyed them. The sausages are good, too--bratwurst-like, but less fatty and rich, with a slightly wild taste. Delicious on a toasted bun with horseradish mustard.

Friday, March 5

....And What We Are Becoming

In our last episode, we left our protagonist (me) in a sorry state--trailing off in a zombie-like state, urged on by an inner compulsion to follow my master even though the path my master takes is drawing me to certain destruction. There is no hope for me--or so it seems.

Ahhh, but things are not as hopeless as they seem, for there is a Character in our story not yet introduced, Someone waiting in the wings who now springs into action:

But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly {places} in Christ Jesus..... (Ephesians 2:4-6)

There I am, doing my terrible zombie dance, when God, because of the depth of His love for me, enters my story. He puts life into my zombie heart, life that arises from my being identified with Christ and and included in His risen life. The pipe music I am dancing to fades away, and I am drawn to a new life, a new dance, a new way of being, a new Piper through God's great love.

And what is God's reason for doing this for me? Why did he stoop down to rescue someone deserving only destruction, someone disobediently thumbing her nose at His music? that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:7)

He is showcasing His grace through His kindness to me. We can see how deep His grace really is, how surpassing its riches are, because of God has done for us. He focuses His love on hopeless sinners in order to show how great that love is. He is merciful to me in order to show how rich He is in mercy. He is kind to me in order to show the exceedingly wealth of His grace.

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10)

The God who creates out of nothing gave life to a zombie and called into being that which did not exist. The One who said said, "Light shall shine out of darkness," is the One who has shone in [my heart] to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:6)

The new life I have been called into ex nihilo is a completely different sort of life than the life of the walking dead. It is not a life of disobedience, but of obedience. My new path and my new Piper call me away from the self-indulgent dance of my old zombie state into the new path and new music of good works prepared by Him for me to do. We are called to "no longer live for [ourselves], but for Him who died and rose again on [our] behalf." (2 Corinthians 5:15) We were "joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God." (Romans 7:4) The old dance has passed away, and the new dance has come.

So our story resolves....well sort of. God has worked His new creation, and so I need to do the works of a new creation. There is a new Piper, and so I must dance the new dance. It is a story of victory that calls me to be faithful in battle.

Wednesday, March 3

The Way We Were

Sometimes it's good for us to think a little bit about what we were before God's recreative work began in our lives. So here you go, my favorite description of my former self:

And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. (Ephesians 2:1-3 NASB)

Not a particularly pretty picture, is it? Let's examine the ugliness a bit, starting at the tail end of it. (I know, I know...I'm going backwards, but it's such a nice little summary statement):

We were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.

There you go. My problem was not just what I was doing, but my very makeup, my nature. My constitutional problem makes me a "child of wrath"--an idiom meaning I was destined for wrath. God's wrath was where I was headed, not only because of my nasty deeds, but also because of the sort of person I was underneath those deeds.

And this is a universal problem. It's a condition Paul and his believing Romans readers had been in beforehand, and by extension it's a condition all believer have been in. It's also the condition "all the rest"--those who haven't believed--remain in. There is no one who is left out of this picture, even the very young ones; for it is a human nature problem, not only a human action problem. We were all--you, me, old, young, Jew, Gentile, men, women, criminal and not-so-criminal--headed for deep doo-doo.

Now, let's go back to the beginning of verse 1 and look at this description a little closer: were dead in trespasses and sins...

We might not be able to agree on what exactly being "dead in sins" means, but I think we ought to be able to agree on the basis of the "by nature children of wrath" statement that our deadness is our natural condition. I didn"t become dead; deadness was my disposition.

So now we can look at how that deadness works its way out in the life I lived. I was walking in my sins, "according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience." There I was, living my life out in my sins, following the world's path, following the lead of my nasty ruler, being energized by him. This particular description always makes me think of the Pied Piper and the children of Hamlin. I am one of the children, dancing off after the entrancing lilt of the pipe so masterfully played by the prince of the dark side. I don't much care where it is the dance is taking me, I only know I cannot leave the music that captivates me.

That is how I was as a "son [or in my case, daughter] of disobedience"--I danced to the music that moved me, living "in the lusts of [my] flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind." I was a captive of the music, and yet I danced as I desired. I was a prisoner of the piper whose music called to me so irresistibly, for it was the music I longed to hear--the melody that called out to those self-indulgent desires within me. So there I was, dancing along after the sinister music, not caring that the path the piper is taking is leading me to certain destruction, because I was "by nature a child of wrath."

There it is, the whole hopeless picture! And I think I will leave the story there for now. The picture will change and the story moves on, but sometimes its good for us to think about the way we were.

Tuesday, March 2

Are You A Christian Blogger....

....and would you be willing to help a student out? You can help Michelle by volunteering to complete a short survey:

As you may or may not know, I am currently working on my MRRP (Ministry Related Research Project) to complete my Master of Arts in Christian Ministry with and emphasis in Youth and Family Ministry here, which is somewhat similar to a thesis....

....I am looking for Christian bloggers to fill out this survey. It will be in two parts, one to be answered first and then the other one to be answered not too long later, but neither should take you too terribly much time.

I filled out the first half of the survey last night and it didn't take much time.