Your Systematic Has No Clothes

Most of us are familiar with the old fable by Hans Christian Andersen titled, The Emperor’s New Clothes.  The story is about two tailors who pretend to make an Emperor a new suit of clothes that they convincingly argue is invisible only to incompetent fools. When the Emperor parades before his subjects in his “new suit of clothes,” no one dares to say that he is naked for fear of being deemed a fool.  Finally, a child declares what everyone else is thinking but is too scared to say, “The Emperor has no clothes!”

The story is a lesson in speaking your convictions even in the face of public ridicule. At the risk of being seen as a fool, you must tell the plain truth. Even if it goes against popular opinion or the common norms of a society one must be willing to speak out against that which seems clearly wrong. That is much easier said than done.

Back when I served on staff in a Reformed Southern Baptist Founders church and still affirmed Calvinism, I do recall several moments where I felt the TULIP systematic “had no clothes on,” so to speak. But I was not about to put myself out there as “the fool who is just too stupid to see it.” I knew all the pat answers and could quote all the right verses when any question was raised, but deep down I knew there was no rational answer against the charge of divine culpability for moral evil if Calvinism’s claims were true. Calvin himself admitted as much when he wrote:

“How it was ordained by the foreknowledge and decree of God what man’s future was without God being implicated as associate in the fault as the author or approver of transgression, is clearly a secret so much excelling the insight of the human mind, that I am not ashamed to confess ignorance…. I daily so meditate on these mysteries of his judgments that curiosity to know anything more does not attract me.” (there are quotes from Piper, MacArthur and Sproul appealing to this same mystery)

It is as if Calvin is saying, “I see the naked Emperor but I’ve grown so troubled by looking at him that I’ve chosen to advert my eyes instead of just admitting the obvious truth of what I see.” I suppose that approach works for some, as it did for me…at least for a while.  (Read more on this inconsistency in Calvinism HERE)

Others deal with “the Emperor’s nakedness” by appealing to the uniqueness of God and His ways. They might argue something like, “God’s judgement, love and goodness looks different than ours because His ways are simply higher and cannot be understood.” In response to this approach, C. S. Lewis answered:

“If God’s moral judgement differs from ours so that our “black” may be His “white”, we can mean nothing by calling Him good; for to say “God is good,” while asserting that His goodness is wholly other than ours, is really only to say “God is we know not what.” And an utterly unknown quality in God cannot give us moral grounds for loving or obeying Him. If He is not (in our sense) “good” we shall obey, if at all, only through fear – and should be equally ready to obey an omnipotent Fiend. The doctrine of Total Depravity – when the consequence is drawn that, since we are totally depraved, our idea of good is worth simply nothing – may thus turn Christianity into a form of devil-worship.The Problem of Pain, pg. 29

And the founder of Methodism, the esteemed John Wesley, wrote even more boldly:

“[Calvinism] destroys all [God’s] attributes at once: It overturns both his justice, mercy, and truth; yea, it represents the most holy God as worse than the devil, as both more false, more cruel, and more unjust. More false; because the devil, liar as he is, hath never said, “He willeth all men to be saved:” More unjust; because the devil cannot, if he would, be guilty of such injustice as you ascribe to God, when you say that God condemned millions of souls to everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels, for continuing in sin, which, for want of that grace he will not give them, they cannot avoid: And more cruel; because that unhappy spirit “seeketh rest and findeth none;” so that his own restless misery is a kind of temptation to him to tempt others. But God resteth in his high and holy place; so that to suppose him, of his own mere motion, of his pure will and pleasure, happy as he is, to doom his creatures, whether they will or no, to endless misery, is to impute such cruelty to him as we cannot impute even to the great enemy of God and man. It is to represent the high God (he that hath ears to hear let him hear!) as more cruel, false, and unjust than the devil!” http://www.umcmission.org/Find-Resources/John-Wesley-Sermons/Sermon-128-Free-Grace

These two men clearly saw a naked Emperor when they looked at Calvinism’s claims and they were not afraid to say so.  It should be noted that both Lewis and Wesley, at other times in their ministry, tempered such boldness with gentler remarks toward their Calvinistic brethren. And I am not referencing these quotes to bring a charge of “devil worship” against those who affirm the TULIP systematic.

I know full well that Calvinists see “a beautiful suit of clothes on the Emperor” and their intentions are sincere, but it does not change the fact that many believers (if not most) simply see a naked Emperor rather than a beautiful suit. (Read this great article by Austin Fischer for more on the beauty that Calvinists see in relation to others)

So, why am I writing this article?

Many of you know I debated the very seasoned apologist, Dr. James White, over the soteriological perspective represented in Romans 9 earlier this year. From the first day I engaged with Dr. White over this issue he has treated me as “the fool” who simply cannot see “the emperor’s new clothes.”  Given that I once claimed to see the suit and declared it to be beautiful only fuels the fire of ridicule.  After all, if you ever really did see the emperor’s suit then you would not be saying he is naked today.  If you were ever really smart enough to see the suit then you would know better than to question it.

In a recent exchange over social media, Dr. White wrote:

“Last night I listened to some portion of a dialogue he had on YouTube, and was once again astounded at the horrific eisegesis that marks his entire system. But in noting someone’s reply to him just now, I saw this statement: ‘are you talking about the filthy rags you determined to do or that God determined you to do? :-)’ Notice the contradiction he attempts to create that the Bible will have none of: he seems to think that one action has to be EITHER “determined” by man or by God, but it cannot be BOTH. Now, again, Flowers claims to have once been a Calvinist, but as normal, his recollection of what that means seems to have gotten pretty hazy. For he surely should know that there are a number of very, very important texts in which the Bible itself makes it plain that you have BOTH God and man acting in the very same action. That is EXACTLY what you have in Genesis 50:20 without question. The same is true in Isaiah 10, and in Acts 4 in reference to the crucifixion of Jesus in the sovereign plan of God. So, the Bible’s answer to Flower’s false quandary is, ‘both, I, to my shame and destruction, and God, to His glory and fame.’ And if Leighton’s system is so shallow and paltry as to not be able to withstand the pressure of that Biblical revelation, then he needs to dump it and get one that is actually worth professing!”

Let’s unpack this a bit:

1. He defers to the old tactic, “instead of responding to the actual arguments I’ll just say he doesn’t do proper exegesis.” This approach might work if I were not standing on the shoulders of much more seasoned exegetes of scripture than myself. It is not as if I am making up my interpretation as I go along. (See the article titled “Debate Over Exegesis” for my response to this tactic)

2. He argues for “both/and” versus “either/or” in regard to who is making “determinations.”  He writes, “[Flowers] seems to think that one action has to be EITHER ‘determined’ by man or by God, but it cannot be BOTH.”

I think if one were given the opportunity to press Dr. White on this point he would admit that God’s determination is the one that controls the man’s ‘determination,’ thus making this qualification nothing more than a semantical difference without a distinction. Also, Dr. White seems to forget that we do affirm the doctrine of  Judicial Hardening and God’s sinless use of sinful means to accomplish SOME divine purposes throughout redemptive history. We simply deny the heinous assumption that the example of God using man’s free moral choices to bring about the redemption of sin on Calvary is somehow proof that God meticulously determined all the heinous sin that Christ died for at Calvary.  It seems irrational for God to work in the same manner to redeem sin as He supposedly does to cause the sin He is redeeming.

3.  Again, he questions my claims of once being a Calvinist on the basis that I no longer interpret passages like Genesis 50:20 in the same way he does. I suppose anyone who claims to have once been an Arminian (or a Traditional Southern Baptist) cannot change their interpretations or question the positions they formerly held?  This double standard is apparently a blind spot for White because I am quite certain he does not call out the former Arminians for daring to oppose the doctrines they have now recanted.

(For those interested in going deeper than these surface level accusations, I do present our view of passages like Gen. 50 in the article referenced above. And I discuss why non-Calvinists will always be accused of misrepresenting Calvinists no matter what we say or how we say it in this article.)

4. White wrote, “So, the Bible’s answer to Flower’s false quandary is, ‘both, I, to my shame and destruction, and God, to His glory and fame.'” So, let’s apply White’s theology to the real world and see how it plays out:

Question: Why did Jeffery Dahmer determine to rape and eat a child?
Answer: Dahmer determined to do it to his shame and destruction and God determined for Dahmer to do it to His own glory and fame.”

I’m sorry, but I’m simply not willing to teach that our perfectly Righteous, Pure and Holy God determined a man to rape, torture and eat children for His own glory and fame. Instead, I must say, “The Emperor has no clothes!”

Here is a PODCAST where we discuss God’s sovereignty over evil.

98 thoughts on “Your Systematic Has No Clothes

  1. I doubt you’ll ever get treated fairly by most Calvinists. Just keep focusing on helping people out of Calvinism that may be on the fence or wiling to question their doctrine—people who underneath feel there is something wrong with it, just as you did those many years, but are intimidated intellectually to question the fancy “Reformed doctrines of grace.” I’d also focus on not responding in like kind—just get to the arguments, get to logic and Scriptures, and do what Calvinists do—say it over and over so many times it sticks in peoples’ minds. 😛 I would say that, even though it feels compromising, making concessions to try to, in their mind, represent them fairly and respectfully, rather than pull the ripcord on a more inflammatory method of exposing their errors, might in the end cause them to give your point of view more serious thought.

    I wouldn’t particularly consider Calvinism as obviously wrong, the first time I encountered it I found it confusing, and upon deeper thought of things I basically never thought about, I found it intimidating. My first reading of Romans 9 produced some interesting reactions in me, and I had absolutely no theological input previously—so I consider my “virgin” reaction if you will, in interesting case study in the intuitive reading of the text. My first thought was fear—fear that all that time I had been trying to follow God, I may after all, just be a vessel of wrath. So to me, that’s one main practical issue, and after 4 years of pretty intense study and meditation, I’m convinced that no one has to wonder if they are a vessel of wrath, and God’s promises are open to all. But I actually respect Calvinists for a lot of things, and in all this time of study and reflection feel like I’ve grown and matured a lot in my understanding of the nature of God and Scripture, all in part, thanks to Calvinism.

    bless & keep fighting the good fight

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  2. Mr. Flowers,

    I just finished listening to your debate with Dr. White, and I would like to thank you for your efforts in arguing against Calvinism. I have posted a few minor arguments of my own on my website increasinglearning.com, and I hope to add more in the near future. In regards to that hope, I wonder if you would be so kind as to share your opinion of an idea.

    It seems to me that the majority Calvin’s theological blunders can be traced to his assumption that knowledge is the same thing as causality. Calvin assumed that God could only know the future if He were the one causing the future to come about. Dr. White voiced this same error in the debate when he compared you with open theists and asked how God could know something if He had not decreed it. Would you be interested in exploring the relationship between knowledge and causality and letting us know how the nature of that relationship affects the arguments of the Calvinists?

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    1. I have a couple of ideas for blog posts:
      1. the whole Calvinism is the Gospel thing, and why even under their theology you don’t have to believe in determinism to be saved.
      2. Pascal’s wage applied to Calvinism: if determinism is true, there is no benefit to believing it, but if it is false, then autonomy is vital.

      bless

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    2. Bill,

      I believe that you have a valid point here. A common error made by theological determinists/Calvinists is to equate the fact that God knows whatever will happen with God causing or determining or bringing about whatever will happen. They are not the same. The relation of knowledge with an event is logical not causal. So we have true knowledge of an event if our knowledge corresponds with the event that occurs. But our knowing that an event is happening does not cause that event to happen.

      I have used the analogy that when O.J. Simpson was in the infamous white Ford Bronco going down the freeways of Los Angeles followed by the police cars. Millions of us saw this event on live TV as it was happening. We knew it was happening, saw it with our own eyes. And yet our knowing that it was happening did not in any way cause it to happen or bring about those events. For the causal factors you would have to look at Al Cowlings OJ’s friend pushing the gas pedal of the Bronco, the laws of physics, the way a Bronco operates, etc. It is those things that caused that car to go down the freeway not our knowing about it and viewing it live. Similarly, God can know things without causing them. The best example being sin. God sees us sin, but he does not cause the sin or bring it about, we do.

      A believer need not explain how God knows what He knows (we have brains and sense organs, God does not, we don’t even know how he knows the present): we need only accept that God knows what He knows. He says he knows the present, including our hearts and minds and plans. He also gives prophecies indicating that He knows the future as well. We are not obligated to explain or understand God fully, nor could we.

      The Calvinist goes beyond what is revealed and tries to convince us that God knows the future because he predetermined it. But the scripture does not present this, if it did then believers would all affirm that (as we all affirm the Trinity, the deity of Christ, etc. things that are clearly revealed by the Bible). The Calvinist will also chide us for not having an explanation when they claim to have one. But their explanation is not found anywhere in scripture: if it were they could simply point to it and say “see here, it says that God knows the future because he predetermined it all”. There is no such Bible verse.

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      1. Robert writes, “A common error made by theological determinists/Calvinists is to equate the fact that God knows whatever will happen with God causing or determining or bringing about whatever will happen. ”

        It is not the Calvinist who makes this error. It is the non-Calvinist who assumes that determinism requires God to cause that which He has determined. Calvinists are clear. Per Ephesians 1, “God works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will.” God does this directly (for example, destroying Sodom and impregnating Mary) and using secondary means (for example, selling Joseph into slavery and stoning Stephan).

        Then Robert writes, “The Calvinist goes beyond what is revealed and tries to convince us that God knows the future because he predetermined it.”

        However, if God does determine the future, He would then know what the future holds. Non-Calvinists don’t want to think about how God knows the future. Thus, like Robert, they will say, “A believer need not explain how God knows what He knows…we need only accept that God knows what He knows.” Ignorance is bliss to the Non-Calvinist.

        Even more encouraging – “God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined…And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?” Even though we have not yet been glorified, our future is certain because God has determined our future. Too bad for the reprobate.

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  3. Thank you for the post. For more on John Wesley, I would like to invite you to the website for the book series, The Asbury Triptych Series. The trilogy based on the life of Francis Asbury, the young protégé of John Wesley and George Whitefield, opens with the book, Black Country. The opening novel in this three-book series details the amazing movement of Wesley and Whitefield in England and Ireland as well as its life-changing effect on a Great Britain sadly in need of transformation. Black Country also details the Wesleyan movement’s effect on the future leader of Christianity in the American colonies, Francis Asbury. The website for the book series is http://www.francisasburytriptych.com. Please enjoy the numerous articles on the website. Again, thank you, for the post.

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  4. Pastor Flowers writes–

    Question: Why did Jeffery Dahmer determine to rape and eat a child?
    Answer: Dahmer determined to do it to his shame and destruction and God determined for Dahmer to do it to His own glory and fame.”

    I’m sorry, but I’m simply not willing to teach that our perfectly Righteous, Pure and Holy God determined a man to rape, torture and eat children for His own glory and fame. Instead, I must say, “The Emperor has no clothes!”
    ++++

    Let’s cut through the hubris and get to the real issue.

    When Jeffrey Dahmer is doing his evil, was there any point where God was not present and aware fully of what Dahmer was doing – even standing in the same room with Dahmer and watching every detail of his sin? Could not God have restrained Dahmer at some point and prevented every single act of evil that Dahmer did? Of course, God is always present whenever people sin and aware fully of everything taking place including the very thoughts that people think as they sin. David lies in bed with Bathsheba while God stands at the foot of the bed watching all that they do.

    We all know this to be true, but only the Calvinist wants to talk about it. Pastor Flowers would prefer not to think about such things and rails against the Calvinists for making him do so. This is not a case of the emperor having no clothes, it is about sinners being naked before God, and no sin is hidden from God. As Pastor Flowers must readily admit, God knew all of human history – with all its evil – when He created the world and He could have created a world in which Jeffrey Dahmer did not do the evil that he did. God chose to create a world in which great evil occurs. According to Ephesians, God did this according to the counsel of His will – according to His wisdom.

    People complain about the Calvinists for fear that they will have to open your eyes and consider reality as God sees it and people would rather not have to do this – they want to believe that God is as ignorant of sin as they want to be. They don’t like the Calvinists telling them that they are living in a fantasy world they have created to escape the real world that God created with all its warts.

    Sinners have no clothes and Pastor Flowers turns his head and refuses to look.

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    1. No, Roger, God could not have restrained Dahmer in that moment, according to Calvinism, because He could not be untrue to His predetermined sovereignty (according to Calvinism) which forced Him to choose before creation for Dahmer to do such sin and for Him to do nothing but to let it happen. And truly no possible sin was hidden from God in His omniscience before creation, nor any of His possible choices that would conform to His nature. But once you have God determining all His choices and mankind’s choices before creation, you end His sovereign free will to do anything freely during human history, and you make impossible the exercise of His image, which includes responsible choice, in man.

      Such a dogma of pre-determination of all things before creation not only forces a rejection of the normal reading of Scripture concerning invitations, universal commands, subjunctive possibilities, and declared statements of new divine choices, it strips off the beautiful clothes of God’s Justice, Mercy, and divine Free-will that Scripture details so clearly that God is wearing! I hope this helps.

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      1. Such a misunderstanding of Calvinism!! Even though you do not think God is omniscient, you have to accept that the Calvinists do and work with it.

        The Calvinist, per Ephesians, says that God “works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will,…” When it says “purpose of His will,” the Calvinist takes this to mean that God works everything toward some end result and the decisions He makes before the creation reflect his infinite understanding and perfect wisdom.

        Your statement that “God could not have restrained Dahmer in that moment, according to Calvinism,” is erronoeous. Calvinists allow that God can always act at any point in the course of time but because God’s original decisions reflect His perfect wisdom, there is no reason to change His plans after the creation. Thus, God certainly knows what Dahmer will do, is doing , and has done relative to time but God make a decision – He decreed – before He created the world, that Dahmer should do such things, even as He decreed that wickedness should run rampant before the flood of Noah and that the inhabitants of Sodom should engage in vile things before He would destroy it.

        So, if you are going to hold to your position – that God is not omniscient – you also must hold that God does not have either infinite understanding or perfect wisdom as you require God to make decisions with current knowledge with the understanding that those decisions may not be the best and God will have to clean up some messes based on those decisions. The Open Theists have acknowledged this, but since you do not claim to be Open Theist, you may not have gotten that far in your thinking as you ad hoc the construction of your philosophy over time.

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    2. Rhutchins Writes:

      “Even though we have not yet been glorified, our future is certain because God has determined our future. Too bad for the reprobate:

      You make this claim with the pronouns “We”, and “our” . I assume you are talking about the elect, To you, these are the ones whom God has chosen from the beginning of time.
      Question: If you have not endured to the end yet as proof of your selection by God and no man can with certainty know who the chosen reprobates are, because only God knows the future. How does anyone in the Calvanist camp have any assurance of salvation. God could have deceived you into believing you are one of the elect. My faith is built on the gospel and the words of Jesus that “any man” may come to him. I do not have to hope that he elected me. Faith is believing what God said and not a systematic theology. Faith comes by hearing. (with our ears and minds) and hearing by the word of God. The Gospel!!

      Revelation 3:20King James Version (KJV)

      20 Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if “any man” hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.

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      1. Timothy asks, “How does anyone in the Calvanist camp have any assurance of salvation.”

        The “P” in TULIP refers to “Perseverance of the saints.” It says that the saints will persevere to the end and be saved. Why – “God will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.” (1 Corinthians 1) and “God, who began a good work in you, will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1) The Calvinist has this assurance “…because Jesus lives for ever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.”

        You say, “My faith is built on the gospel and the words of Jesus that “any man” may come to him.” You have assurance because of the faith that God gave to you without which you would not have come to Christ. Your “faith” is that by which you now believe God and all the words He has spoken. Your assurance is ultimately fixed on God and that which God has said. Likewise, the Calvinist.

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  5. Because God is Holy, He is not the author or creator of sin. This fact is clearly shown in the scriptures. Mankind is totally responsible for sin and not God. The only other option is God is responsible for man’s sin which is why Calvinism is illogical.
    James 1:13-14.
    Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust.…

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    1. Timothy doesn’t want to address the real issue, so instead, he writes, “Because God is Holy, He is not the author or creator of sin. This fact is clearly shown in the scriptures. Mankind is totally responsible for sin and not God. The only other option is God is responsible for man’s sin which is why Calvinism is illogical.”

      Is it true that God is not the creator of sin? When God said, “Do not eat the fruit,” He created sin – there could be no sin before God identified/created sin.

      Is it true that God is not responsible for sin? President Truman, I think, said, “The buck stops here.” What did he mean? He meant that he was responsible for anything done by those under him. God is sovereign. No one can do anything unless God knows it and allows it because He has control over all things and has the power to stop anything. Even God says in Isaiah, “I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create evil; I, the LORD, do all these things.”

      It is true that God tempts no one. However, if God did not move out of the way so that Satan could enter the garden, Eve could never have been tempted to sin. Did not God allow Satan to toy with Job. What was Satan’s purpose – to tempt Job to sin. We are told that both Satan and God incited David to number Israel. We conclude that Satan directly affected David’s sin but that God took responsibility for it because Satan only did that which God wanted to be done.

      Besides not wanting to address the real issue, Timothy does not do very well in that which he tries to prove. Dizerner is no help either also preferring to look the other way.

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      1. One of the greatest tools Satan uses is to convince unbelievers that God is responsible for the evil and it’s consequences in this world. I have personally heard of tragedy after tragedy while witnessing to people and blame God for it all. I would be a millionaire if I had a dollar for every time someone said: How can a Loving God do ____________.
        Just because God has ability does not require him to give a response. It is the Calvanist who is usurping God’s sovereignty by taking away his ability to give man free will.

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      2. OK. Let’s hear your explanation: How can a loving God do this: “Woe to the Assyrian, the rod of my anger, in whose hand is the club of my wrath! I send him against [Israel] a godless nation, I dispatch him against a people who anger me, to seize loot and snatch plunder, and to trample them down like mud in the streets.” (Isaiah 10)

        “Just because God has ability does not require him to give a response.” A good Calvinist answer. God can decide to do nothing.

        “It is the Calvanist who is usurping God’s sovereignty by taking away his ability to give man free will.” God gives people a lot of freedom to do the sin they desire. Calvinists do not deny God this ability – they say God exercises this ability often and this is why we have so much sin.

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      3. We agree on most points, I would assume you believe that the evil that the Assyrian people had in their heart did not originate in the heart of God. This we can both agree. “God does not temp man with evil.” God sometimes restrains the evil that man already has in his heart. This is the case with the Assyrian army. This is the same argument Satan uses with Job. “Hast not thou made a hedge about him”. The reason God put the hedge around Israel is to bring about the salvation of the world through God’s election of Israel. We can both hold this view without coming to the conclusion that God is ultimately responsible for the sins if the Assyrian’s.

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      4. I think the final issue is what the term, “responsible,” means. It does not mean cause which is the way some people erroneously take it. One definition of responsible is ” answerable or accountable, as for something within one’s power, control, or management (often followed by to or for):”

        Can we conclude that God is responsible for His creation? Yes, for several reasons-

        1. God is sovereign and has absolute control over His creation and all the actions of sinful humanity.
        2. God created Adam and Eve.
        3. God removed His protection over Adam and Eve so that Satan could enter the garden and tempt Eve to sin.
        4. God has set the day of a person’s birth and his death.
        5. God can restrain men from doing the evil they desire to do.
        6. God can can harden or soften hearts.
        7. God saves people – why not save all?
        8. God regenerates depraved people – why not all?
        9. God works all things according to the counsel of His will – why not avoid all sin?
        10. God has prepared good works for His elect to do – why not all?

        Given God’s intimate involvement in His creation, He can be held responsible for whatever happens in His creation.

        Do you actually have an argument against holding God responsible for sinful actions?

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      5. Well, we can both agree that God created Adam and Eve, also that He has the power to restrain men from doing the evil they desire, and God saves people who repent and turn to him in faith. All else requires clarification, explanation and study of how God has operated in the past. Let me give you an illustration of how I view it.
        If I kicked my 18 year old son out of the home for not following the rules am I responsible for him robbing a bank to get money for shelter? No!

        Did I cause him to rob the bank?
        No!

        Would he have robbed the bank if I had not thrown him out? Maybe not, man is free to do as he pleases
        I am not responsible for his actions?
        No!

        Would I (or God in the case of Adam and Eve), have thrown him/them out if I knew his/their future?
        Maybe not, Jail might turn him around, and I will not and cannot speak for God for Adam and Eve. God sounded a bit fustrated before he brought the flood.

        The Calvanist view of God is always a yes or no answer and never allows God’s or mans free will decisions to be made in response to the actions of men or the free will of God in real time. These historical relational scenarios are found numerous times throughout the scripture. God is always working in the affairs of men because he is a relational God. To a Calvinist, God built the toy, winds it up, places it on the floor and aims it in the direction he wants it to go. How loving and relational does that seem to you? Not much
        God is most glorified when a sinner turns back to him in repentance and faith because he chooses too of his own free will and is not forced too or pre-programmed too. You cannot force Love!
        I guess the real difference between a Calvinist and a Biblicist is that a Calvinist has already made up God’s mind before he does.

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      6. Timothy writes, “…God saves people who repent and turn to him in faith.”

        Would you allow God to save some who refuse to repent and turn to Him in faith? Would you allow God to give a person the faith by which that person would then repent and turn to Him and thereby save a soul from hell?

        Then Timothy tries to build a strawman, “If I kicked my 18 year old son out of the home for not following the rules am I responsible for him robbing a bank to get money for shelter? No!”

        If you are God, then you would know the intent of your son’s heart – to rob a bank – and you would be standing next to him as he enters the bank and you have the power to stop him from robbing the bank. You purposely decide not to intervene in your son’s life to prevent him robbing the bank. Are you responsible for your son robbing the bank? I think you are. You kicked your son out of the house knowing that he would then rob the bank – didn’t you (that is, if you were God)?

        Then Timothy writes, “The Calvanist view of God is always a yes or no answer and never allows God’s or mans free will decisions to be made in response to the actions of men or the free will of God in real time…”

        Man has a will. Is it free? What do you mean by “free”? Where does the Bible tell us that people have “free” wills? How do I know you didn’t just make that up because that is what you want to believe?

        When you say that the Calvinist view does not allow God’s decisions to be made in response to man’s actions, do you mean that God should have to learn what a person does before making decisions based on what He learns – that would mean that God is not omniscient? Are you basically objecting to the Calvinist view that God is omniscient?

        Finally Timothy writes, “I guess the real difference between a Calvinist and a Biblicist is that a Calvinist has already made up God’s mind before he does.”

        Didn’t God make up His mind before He created the world? Do not the Scriptures tell us what God has already decided to do? Are not the Calvinist and Biblicist both seeking to discern the mind of God because both understand that God has made up His mind and has communicated to us what He has done and is doing through the Scriptures?

        “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son,…” and has not God been telling us all that He is doing – things He decided before he created the world?

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      7. As a person of faith I believe what the word of God clearly says. You must read it without having to explain it’s meaning with a pre-determined bias towards determinism. God already clearly told mankind that “all who repent and believe will be saved” no other explanation is needed to the lost. That message was to the lost without Calvin’s explanation for some 1500 years. To teach anything else is to bring in doubt to the sinner that he is a bad seed unable to come to Christ unless God punched his ticket. How would you work that into the Gospel. Even Dr. Kennedy (a Calvanist did not incorporate Calvanism into his EE presentation in which I was a trainer. It is a hindrance to the Good News. Belief in the doctrine of “whosoever will” does not contradict the sovereignty or omniscient of God and does not make one an open theist anymore than Billy Graham is one. You must appeal to mystery on the fact that the Gospel is open to all men or accept that the Bible is contradictory on this issue. Their are too many verses you have to explain away. Your doctrine has no clothes.

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      8. Timothy writes, “God already clearly told mankind that “all who repent and believe will be saved” no other explanation is needed to the lost.”

        That’s right. And we should expect that clear thinking, rational people would all repent and believe. The incredible thing is that all people don’t repent and believe. Don’t you find that simply astounding? Is there an explanation for this? Do the Scriptures tell us why even one person would refuse to repent and believe. Theologians in the past have thought about this – one person found that the Scriptures have much to say about the reasons people refuse to repent and believe. That person was Calvin and what he found the Scriptures to say about those who refuse to repent and believe is now called Calvinism.

        So, Timothy, have you come up with a better explanation for why people refuse to repent and believe? This issue is meat for the mature to chew on and not milk for the baby – that is why EE would not include it – EE is milk for the baby.

        It is not that Calvinism has no clothes. It is that people would like to strip Calvinism of its clothes but they have nothing to replace the clothes of Calvinism. They just don’t like Calvinism’s style (so to speak).

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      9. The educated in the scriptures came to Jesus and “refused to” accept Christ even though it was plain to see that he was the Messiah yet Jesus scolded them not for not being able to come but for refusing to come. Why would the Creator of the Universe get angry at someone who is unable to come? John 4John 6

        John 5:39-40New International Version (NIV)

        39 You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me to have life.

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      10. What makes you think Jesus is scolding the Jews? I don’t see any anger in His voice at all. I suspect He felt pity for them because of the irrationality of their actions. A person will act rationally in every area of life except when it comes to Christ – then they act irrationally. Jesus explains, “How can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God?” The Scriptures give glory to God, but even today, men refuse to give glory to God and seek to give glory to man. Don’t you find that incredible. We know how the Calvinists explained this. How do you explain it?

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      11. If you are correct and Jesus felt compassion on the unbelievers here, (which is possible), Why wouldn’t he just irresistibly save them as Calvinists believe. But in vs 34 he says he is testifying to them that they “might be saved”, not to damn them.
        Why would Jesus say “might be” instead of “could not” . He also could have said ” “could not” instead of “will not” in vs. 40 also.
        In your view, Jesus freely offered them salvation knowing they “would not” believe even though he already knew they “could not” believe”.
        Men “will not” come to Jesus not because God did not choose them, but because of “the will” of men in vs 40. Man is born with a “will”.
        People are lost because they “will not” come, not because they “could not” come.

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      12. I think you are agreeing with the Calvinist position that Total Depravity = Total Inability. This is shown in John 6, where Christ emphatically states – using an universal negative – “No man can come to me,” in v44 and then repeats it, “Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me,” in v65.

        In John 5, Christ says to the Jews, “you will not come to me, that you might have life,” and then in John 6, “you also have seen me, and believe not.” We are not surprised because they are depraved and have no ability to come to Jesus.

        So, not only can we say that depraved man is unwilling to come to Jesus, but he has no will to come to Jesus (thus is unable to come to Jesus). As Paul explains in Romans 8:8, “they that are in the flesh (the unsaved) cannot please God,” and then in Hebrews 11, “without faith it is impossible to please God:” The unsaved do not have faith and thereby are unwilling and unable to come to Christ.

        If Christ is telling us the truth in John 5/6, then why does He say in John 5, “these things I say, that ye might be saved.” Is Jesus confused? In saying, “might be saved,” Jesus identifies a necessary condition for salvation. Jesus provides another necessary condition in 6:37;44;65. We know that several things are “necessary” to bring a person to salvation, but none are “sufficient” by themselves to bring a person to salvation.

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      13. Roger, you would agree that “God can decide to do nothing” and “God already unalterably decided to do nothing” cannot both be true statements at the same time. For once something is unalterably decided, there remains no more ability for it to be decided. Calvinists can not logical hold to both divine predetermination of all divine choices and to freedom of divine choice without also declaring that Scripture’s presentation is logically inconsistent with what Calvinist’s believe truly happened before creation.

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      14. There is always the intent to explain things such that people can understand them. So, it is easier to explain events in a present tense scenario because people can relate to that. I can describe God watching David take Bathsheba to his bed and everything that unfolds and people can picture that happening in real time. Of course, God does not intervene to interrupt David’s sin when He has the power to do so. It’s easy for a person to understand this. At this point, I can explain that God actually knew everything that David would do to Bathsheba before He created the world and decreed – decided – before He created the world that He would not interfere with David’s desire to sin. I could then explain that human history is unfolding in accordance with God’s omniscience which incorporates all His decisions/decrees and not necessarily blow their minds – but people’s eyes tend to glaze over when they start thinking about this. Some people have great difficulty with this and the only way they can handle it is to declare, like you, that God just can’t be allowed to know the future.

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      15. Roger, I hope you will someday get over the belief that you need to help God by clarifying what He really did/does with His omniscience of all possible outcomes but was, according to you, either unable or unwilling to clearly reveal in Scriptures that He had predetermined all His and man’s choices because “people’s eyes tend to glaze over”.

        Sarcastically speaking, He is so lucky to have you and other philosophically oriented Calvinists to help Him out by encouraging people to trust your understanding even though they would never really feel comfortable with it based on the normal reading of most of Scripture.

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      16. It’s all in the Scriptures. God describes His omniscience and gives examples to show the things he decrees and has decreed for the future. Clarifying the Scriptures is what theology is all about – isn’t it?

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      17. No, Roger, theology is not about clarifying Scriptures! It is about organizing the clear Scriptures into theological categories. It also offers theological extrapolations and inferences for things not clearly stated in Scriptures. But only the clear Scriptures should be used for dogma related to the gospel and sound doctrine and those theological extrapolations and inferences should be relegated to doubtful things (Rom 14:1), that individuals are free to believe, but not make into a qualification for salvation or elder qualification.

        All should be tested by the rules of logic. And the tenor of Scriptures (i.e., what the Scripture discusses often in clarity) always trumps philosophically based, theological definitions based on an occasional proof text that is not clear.

        A good example would be the six literal days of creation. Just because the word “day” may mean an extended period of time in Scripture, when the word “day” is used with “evening and morning”, ordinal numbers like “first”, “second” or “third”, and in the context where God plainly says He created everything in six days when He discussed the Jewish work week, no dogmatism can be should be accepted by science, philosophy, or isolated verses against such clear sound doctrine. An individual might want to reject this sound doctrine, and I can still accept him as a believer, but he is clearly not qualified to be a pastor as long as he rejects what Scripture clearly says by its normal reading in this matter.

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      18. Oh, Brian!!! “…theology is not about clarifying Scriptures! It is about organizing the clear Scriptures into theological categories.”

        And what is the purpose for organizing various Scriptures into categories? It is not because all Scriptures are not clear so people put them with the clearer Scriptures to ferret out their true meaning. It is also by categorizing Scriptures that people conclude that God created the world in six physical days and developed the doctrines of the Trinity and salvation by faith, etc. My personal preference is to describe this as clarifying. You don’t.

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      19. I can understand your definition of “clarifying” Roger, in the sense of having more information about a certain subject causes fewer “unknown” things to be “unclear” about. But you probably understand the concept that some verses clearly state a certain truth about a given subject according to normal grammar and context, and there is no need for those verses to be overturned by someone declaring that that their philosophical definition without any clear biblical statement supporting it, clears up dogmatically the meaning of a theological subject. Or, I hope you would agree that a theological inference that goes against the tenor or normal understanding that most get from reading Scriptures should not be given dogmatic status!

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      20. Clarity of the Scriptures is often the issue, isn’t it? That is why we have the three rules of understanding clear Scriptures – context, context, context.

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  6. Thank you Leighton for beginning this important discussion. Much more needs to be said about the theological, traditional, and academic peer pressure that is put upon people to cause them to join in the deluded chorus – “The Emperor’s Clothes are so Beautiful” or in our case – “Calvinism is the most biblically sound understanding of the Gospel.” It is surprising that many centuries later we hail men like Luther who were ridiculed by those who held the power of popular theology, entrenched tradition, and academic accreditation, though now we applaud him from turning people’s eyes back to Scripture. Would we have stood with Luther when he said the “Emperor has no Clothes”, “The Gospel of Roman Catholicism is False”.

    Even Luther didn’t go far enough, and I, with others, hail men like Balthazar Hubmaier who took the plain meaning of Scripture about the sound doctrine of believer’s baptism that even Luther couldn’t accept because of his entrenched traditional loyalty to infant baptism. But there must be a continual clarion call for teachers of God’s Word to humbly and honestly test “why” they hold to their Soteriological positions.

    How much is it because they want to be popular in the chorus that is academically and theologically traditional, and are afraid to stand uncomfortably alone with a few other reformers who want a return to a normal, logical reading of Scripture? How much is the exegesis of their position borrowed from bold voices in their “camp” and how much is from their own personal word studies and context studies in Scriptures, or from their own personal logical evaluation of the studies that they are relying upon as biblically true?

    Are we bold enough even to recognize the theological choices that were made in Bible translations that make non-Calvinists feel uncomfortable, not knowing that the translation was given a Calvinistic bent by the predominantly Calvinistic translators of it? For example in the KJV the translations, “such as should be saved” (Acts 2:47) and “ordained” (Acts 13:48) have Calvinistic nuances that the original does not offer. And in the ESV the translation “before” in Rev 13:8 is just plain wrong for that preposition in Greek.

    How much should the tenor of Scripture and clear Scriptures about God’s nature be overturned by philosophical definitions about the nature of God, just because those philosophical definitions have centuries of popular and academic approval and are logically possible and supported by unclear proof texts in Scripture and theological extrapolations from other texts (cf. God predetermined many future events so therefore He must have predetermined them all)?

    I will continue to stand with you Leighton my brother! You are not alone is calling out this naked emperor of Calvinism!

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  7. Brian Wagner continues to present his idiosyncratic view of what makes for a qualified elder/pastor. According to Wagner, a person must hold “sound doctrine” in order to qualify as a pastor. And what is “sound doctrine”? Well it is what Wagner believes is sound doctrine. According to him if you disagree with his interpretation of scripture you do not hold to “sound doctrine” and so are disqualified from being a pastor. In the past, you have to hold to believer baptism or you cannot be a qualified pastor/elder (this eliminates all of those who hold to infant baptism as pastors, that includes all Presbyterians, Lutherans, many Wesleyans, etc. etc.) according to Wagner. While I personally hold to believer baptism as a Baptist, and find infant baptism to be error, this does not mean that those who hold to infant baptism cannot be pastors.

    Now Wagner adds another interpretation to his criteria of “sound doctrine” (taking the days in Genesis 1 to be literal 24 hour days):

    “A good example would be the six literal days of creation. Just because the word “day” may mean an extended period of time in Scripture, when the word “day” is used with “evening and morning”, ordinal numbers like “first”, “second” or “third”, and in the context where God plainly says He created everything in six days when He discussed the Jewish work week, no dogmatism can be should be accepted by science, philosophy, or isolated verses against such clear sound doctrine. An individual might want to reject this sound doctrine, and I can still accept him as a believer, but he is clearly not qualified to be a pastor as long as he rejects what Scripture clearly says by its normal reading in this matter.”

    So now according to Wagner anyone who does not hold to young earth creationism is “clearly not qualified to be a pastor”. So again by this standard we eliminate quite a few godly men who do not hold to young earth creationism. This is again unacceptable. The fact is that good and faithful interpreters disagree on the interpretation of the day in Genesis. You don’t have to hold to young earth creationism in order to qualify as a pastor. Wagner keeps bringing this view of his up, and basically what it amounts to, is that if you disagree with his interpretations of what “sound doctrine” is, then you are disqualified from being a pastor.

    And all of this is ironic as Wagner is an open theist, and open theist theology is rejected by nearly everyone. So he has the gall to claim that others are disqualified from being pastors because they disagree with his interpretations. What about the criteria of open theism? If it were up to most people, open theism disqualifies you as a pastor and also as a seminary professor as it is considered false doctrine and recognized as false doctrine by nearly everyone (except of course open theists themselves). So we have an open theist declaring others to be unqualified to be pastors when he himself holds a view that the vast majority reject as “sound doctrine”.

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    1. Robert, When you sit on an ordination council and have to determine what sound doctrines a man must hold fast to (Titus 1:9) to be qualified to be recognized as a pastor, I hope you will base those sound doctrines on what the Bible clearly teaches, that even a lay person with a normal education can recognize (since he is called to submit to that teaching). I hope you will include the clear teachings of believer’s baptism and six-day creation which are based on clear Scriptures that a layperson can see for themselves without needing theological inference or extrapolation to twist contexts away from their normal meaning.

      And if that man, desiring the office of overseer, believes open theism is a necessary sound doctrine for qualification to be an elder, or that Calvinism’s pre-determination of all things before creation is a necessary sound doctrine for qualification, I hope you will vote against his ordination since he is elevating to a unbiblical level of authority a doubtful thing (Rom 14:1) that has no clear Scriptural support, but only inference and extrapolation.

      I pointed out to you Robert, once before, the areas that even you find agreement with open theism, though I would not label you as such. I also pointed out to you where you also agree with Calvinism, but again, I would not label you as one. I also pointed out a major disagreement I have with being labeled as an open theist. You like, on the one hand, to label people with whom you disagree about certain specific, disputable matters in Scripture, and yet you want to recognize the ordination of many who reject clear teachings found in Scripture. This appears as a flawed approach to biblical polemics in my view.

      Recognizing someone as a brother or with a gift of teaching that has helped the body of Christ is one thing, but clarifying what is the sound doctrine that qualifies a man to be recognized as God’s chosen to pastor is very important, and should not be watered down. I hope this helps.

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      1. Brian,

        I understand that within Christianity there are differing groups with differing beliefs. I hold to Baptist beliefs myself so I expect someone who is a Baptist pastor to hold Baptist beliefs. The usual term for these differing beliefs is “distinctives”. While I expect a Baptist pastor to hold Baptist distinctives, I do not expect, nor would I put Baptist standards on say a Reformed pastor/leader. My old friend Mike Horton is a Reformed pastor and calvinist so his beliefs are not the same as my Baptist beliefs. Now according to your view, Mike Horton as he is Reformed is not qualified to be a pastor. I disagree, if he abides by Reformed distinctives and exhibits Christian character and fits the qualifications listed in the New Testament, then he could be a qualified pastor. The same goes for a Wesleyan who holds to infant baptism, etc. etc. John Wesley was a godly man but according to you he was not qualified to be a pastor.

        Brian you define “sound doctrine” to be X, Y and Z. And your X, Y and Z are doctrines in which good men disagree and hold differing interpretations. This includes baptism (you argue that those who hold to infant baptism are disqualified from being pastors). This includes the interpretation of the days of Genesis 1 (you argue that those who do not hold these days to be literal 24 hour days are disqualified from being pastors). Not surprisingly, unless someone holds the same views as you, they are disqualified from being a pastor according to you.

        And yet you played games and for the longest time were not honest and forthright about being an open theist. You played games with semantic definitions and finally admitted you were an open theist. Open theism is considered false doctrine by most of us and even as heresy by some. Yet you claim that others who do not hold your views on “sound doctrine” are disqualified from being pastors.

        “Robert, When you sit on an ordination council and have to determine what sound doctrines a man must hold fast to (Titus 1:9) to be qualified to be recognized as a pastor,”

        And those distinctives are not the same for all believers as different groups have differing distinctives. If I am sitting on an ordination council in a Baptist context it will be different from if I were sitting on an ordination council in a Presbyterian context, etc. etc.

        “I hope you will include the clear teachings of believer’s baptism and six-day creation which are based on clear Scriptures that a layperson can see for themselves without needing theological inference or extrapolation to twist contexts away from their normal meaning.”

        You say of those who hold differing interpretations than you do that they “twist contexts away from their normal meaning”. And many of them would say **exactly the same thing** about **your interpretations of scripture**. Others would say this of your open theism.

        “And if that man, desiring the office of overseer, believes open theism is a necessary sound doctrine for qualification to be an elder, or that Calvinism’s pre-determination of all things before creation is a necessary sound doctrine for qualification, I hope you will vote against his ordination since he is elevating to a unbiblical level of authority a doubtful thing (Rom 14:1) that has no clear Scriptural support, but only inference and extrapolation.”

        You are not making sense here. You are an open theist and yet you say here that if I were voting on a person that if they held to (A) Calvinism’s predetermination of all things before creation, or (B) open theism, that I should vote against them!

        You are misusing Romans 14:1 as the “doubtful things” referred to by that text are within the context of the issue of Christian liberty. Rom. 14:1 is not referring to doctrinal beliefs or particular interpretations of biblical texts. The “doubtful thing” in that context could be alcohol for example. So the stronger believer abstains from alcohol not desiring to stumble the weaker believer. This Romans 14 passage is not talking about people’s interpretations of say Genesis 1 or their views on Calvinism/non-Calvinism.
        Your example here is also skewed as if I were sitting in on the ordination of someone in say **a Reformed context**, then I would expect them to hold to Calvinism and the predetermination of all things, and they should be voted in if that is their belief as that is what those who hold to Reformed theology believe.

        “I pointed out to you Robert, once before, the areas that even you find agreement with open theism, though I would not label you as such. I also pointed out to you where you also agree with Calvinism, but again, I would not label you as one.”

        I may hold beliefs in common with an open theist or a calvinist, but it does not follow that I am open theist or calvinist. And also we can expect that among Christians there would be overlap regarding some beliefs.). We are not discussing areas of overlap here, we are discussing distinctives.

        “I also pointed out a major disagreement I have with being labeled as an open theist.”

        Yes, heard it before, but your disagreement is a moot point as supposedly you admitted you were an open theist. But if you want to play games again denying that you are an open theist, that is just dishonesty on your part. Really not interested in further game playing regarding your open theism, been there done that! 🙂

        You are missing a major contradiction in your thought, on the one hand you claim that others do not hold to “sound doctrine” as they do not hold YOUR INTERPRETATIONS of baptism and the days in Genesis: on the other hand you espouse open theism which is not recognized as “sound doctrine” by virtually all believers.

        “You like, on the one hand, to label people with whom you disagree about certain specific, disputable matters in Scripture, and yet you want to recognize the ordination of many who reject clear teachings found in Scripture. This appears as a flawed approach to biblical polemics in my view.”

        Again as I said before, labels have a place, in theological discussions. Regarding “disputable matters in Scripture” there are many of those and that is one of the reasons different Christian groups have different distinctives.

        And regarding ordination something you seem to ignore, minimize, reject, is the fact that differing orthodox Christian groups agree on some things such as the trinity, the deity of Christ, etc. and yet they also have their own distinctives. And the leaders, the ordained pastors in those groups must abide by the standards and distinctives of their groups. So Presbyterians hold to infant baptism and yet in their context, they can and do ordain pastors who hold to infant baptism. Most of us understand and acknowledge this, but you don’t because of your strange and idiosyncratic views. In your thinking unless someone holds **your** beliefs on baptism and the days of Genesis 1 they cannot be qualified pastors. You seem to think that unless people hold **your interpretations** they cannot be pastors.

        “Recognizing someone as a brother or with a gift of teaching that has helped the body of Christ is one thing, but clarifying what is the sound doctrine that qualifies a man to be recognized as God’s chosen to pastor is very important, and should not be watered down.”

        Again you seem to think that YOU are the standard that everything revolves around. Unless people hold YOUR BELIEFS they are not qualified to be pastors. Of course you will claim that it is not you that is the standard it is instead “the correct interpretations of scripture” (which according to you just happen to be the interpretations that YOU HOLD on baptism and Genesis 1). But that is just it, different Christians have come to differing conclusions in their interpretations of these Biblical texts (Genesis 1 for example involves multiple differing interpretations). So it boils down to you disqualifying others who interpret things differently than you do. It is very simple really, if someone agrees with YOUR INTERPRETATIONS of scripture then they can qualify as pastors. If not, they cannot. I know some non-Baptists who are godly people, exhibit godly character, and they are not Baptists. They are very open about their beliefs and will share why they believe what they believe, and why they interpret passages the way they do. Again Mike Horton is a perfect example of such a person. I disagree with them on some things, but that does not lead to the conclusion that they are disqualified from being a pastor within the context of their group and within the context of their distinctives.

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      2. Robert, You would not vote to ordain Mike Horton as a pastor of your Baptist congregation, but you believe he is qualified to be a pastor of a true congregation ordained by the Lord! What biblical basis do you have for such distinction in what constitutes different local churches with different lists for sound doctrine that a pastor must profess to be qualified for each congregation? It sounds like you are whitewashing man-made schism and ignoring what you believe sound doctrine is that is necessary for pastoral qualification.

        I also do not think you understand Rom 14:1. Everything is doctrine, and everything affects our practice. But if our doctrine and practice is not based on clear Scriptures, then it must be a doubtful thing that we have freedom as individuals to believe and practice, but we do not have the freedom to reject a brother based upon any of those doubtful things, nor elevate any of them to sound doctrine necessary for pastoral qualification.

        Have you ever been on an ordination council?

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      3. Brother Brian,

        You are wasting your time in trying to reason with Robert. As I stated to you much earlier, Robert’s only intent is to create discourse within the body of Christ.

        For what its worth, I understand your point about “sound doctrine”, but if Robert doesn’t hold that view, it isn’t “sound doctrine” in his hypocritical eyes.

        For instance, in an earlier discussion with Robert, you proved that Calvinism’s irresistible grace “forces” one in being a believer, given that the sinner has no say in the decision. However, over at SBC Today, Robert, himself, referred to it as a form of (and I apologize for repeating this) “spiritual rape”.

        Go figure.

        Now though Calvinists are careful in not using the term “forced”, the implication is still there, which you rightly point out.

        Also, Robert is quick to label you an “Open Theist” (obviously for him a derogatory term). Yet Robert refused to answer a question I asked him some time ago, which was if he was a member of the SEA? Initially, I asked Robert if he was an “Arminian”. He asked me to define what an Arminian is. Sound familiar? Yet when I asked him, for simplicity reasons, if he was a member of the SEA, he refused to answer because he didn’t want to be labeled.

        So hypocritical. And, yet, so Robert.

        Robert “says” its okay when people disagree with him. Yet, when they do, they are called trolls or bigots or worse.

        You have shown Robert much grace, but what has it gotten you? Just more of the same. I warned you back in April what you would be dealing with in having discussions with Robert.

        Prophecy fulfilled.

        Discern, brother!

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      4. Thank you for your encouragement Phillip. I try to discern when to be gentle and longsuffering, when to confront strongly, when to respond, and when to stay silent… I know that I do not make the most helpful choice all the time. I do hope God can use some of my words in a helpful way even when I should have stayed silent. I do pray for God’s blessing on the regular contributors on this site – including Roger, Robert, Dizerner, Leighton, and yourself.

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      5. brianwagner writes, “I do pray for God’s blessing on the regular contributors on this site – including Roger,…”

        And I ask God to honor your request – even though we (God and I) know that your theology is a little confused but God apparently has me here trying to straighten you out.

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      6. Phillip writes, “Now though Calvinists are careful in not using the term “forced,” the implication is still there, which you rightly point out.”

        Why do people find it necessary to lie about Calvinism? Is it because they cannot argue against it?

        Jesus said, “you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Does not John speak of the gospel as light that shines in darkness. If an ignorant man comes to know the truth and acts upon that truth, has he been “forced” to act according to that truth? It seems that one should believe that such is your idea of being “forced” to accept the truth of the gospel. Such is the logic that can be employed by non-Calvinists.

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      7. Brian,

        Gracious as always.

        I do enjoy reading your comments. While we might not agree on everything (and that’s fine), we do agree on what really matters, and that is the gospel of Christ.

        I do know that when we do disagree, it is in a brotherly way. I know your intent is not so much to prove me wrong, but rather to have me challenge my own way of thinking. It is your gracious intent that I appreciate. After all, I could be wrong.

        I chose long ago to ignore Robert’s comments directed towards me (I haven’t read a single one in months). First, I don’t have the time to read his long-winded sermons. Second, most of his sermons are laced with chicanery and venom (not to mention hypocrisy).

        He should be pitied. And prayed for.

        God bless, brother.

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  8. Phillip,

    I have ignored your comments for the most part in the past. You appear to be a very angry and bitter person as shown by the times when after I post you quote verses suggesting that I am a fool or a Pharisee or a hypocrite. I don’t accept your characterizations as the people who know me do not say that I am a fool, Pharisee, or hypocrite: ONLY YOU DO PHILLIP.

    I corrected you in the past when you posted as wingedfooted1” and you did not like it, ever since you have been extremely hostile and bitter. You have mistakenly tried to designate me as a “one point Calvinist” (I am not a Calvinist of any kind). You have mistakenly tried to have Arminians designated as “two point calvinists” recently. Your words reveal an intense hatred for Arminians and their theology. I don’t normally feel obligated to answer questions of people that I do not respect or consider as antagonistic as you.

    “You are wasting your time in trying to reason with Robert. As I stated to you much earlier, Robert’s only intent is to create discourse within the body of Christ.”

    That’s funny, you intended to say that my only intent is to create discord, instead you wrote “discourse”. You couldn’t even get your accusation right! 🙂

    “For what its worth, I understand your point about “sound doctrine”, but if Robert doesn’t hold that view, it isn’t “sound doctrine” in his hypocritical eyes.”

    I am no hypocrite, unlike you I don’t lie in wait and then pounce on someone to attack them. Your behavior is both hostile and cowardly. If I disagree with someone I will do so openly and without playing the game that you do. I am open about what I believe and forthright I don’t play semantic games like some do.

    ‘For instance, in an earlier discussion with Robert, you proved that Calvinism’s irresistible grace “forces” one in being a believer, given that the sinner has no say in the decision.”

    Wagner displays a common misrepresentation that many non-Calvinists make (i.e. that God forces people against their will to do or believe things, this is not true as according to them, God controls their will and directs it whichever way he wants, recall their proof text about the Kings heart redirected wherever God wants it to go, God could only be forcing them against their will if they had a genuine will but they don’t).

    “Now though Calvinists are careful in not using the term “forced”, the implication is still there, which you rightly point out.”

    So Phillip wants to make the same error as Brian Wagner. I recently documented what Calvinists believe about being forced against a person’s will (I NOTE THAT NEITHER YOU NOR BRIAN WAGNER RESPONDED TO THE FACTS AT ALL: you just continue to hold your false misrepresentation of Calvinism). I cited Calvinistic sources, you have only your claim that “the implication is still there” with no Calvinistic sources to back up your misrepresentation.

    “Also, Robert is quick to label you an “Open Theist” (obviously for him a derogatory term).”

    And Wagner is an open theist as has been well established here, after he played games for the longest time trying to pretend he is not. That is not honest, but that does not bother you Phillip at all. Open theism is false doctrine and this is agreed upon by both Calvinists and non-Calvinists (it is significant that everybody including Protestants, Catholics and Eastern Orthodox view open theism as false doctrine, as unorthodox, and some even view it as heresy). That does not seem to bother you Phillip at all.

    “Yet Robert refused to answer a question I asked him some time ago, which was if he was a member of the SEA?”

    I refused to answer your question because I don’t feel obligated to answer questions from hostile persons who are just interested in attacking me. If a person has sincere questions, I always have time for that. But Phillip your questions are not sincere and their intent is to attack. It is like when I am witnessing and a hostile skeptic asks questions, if they are not really interested in knowing the truth why am I obligated to answer THEM (though I will answer their questions at times for others who are present). On the other hand, if a sincere seeker asks questions about the Bible or Christianity, then I always have time for that and will answer their questions.

    “Initially, I asked Robert if he was an “Arminian”. He asked me to define what an Arminian is.”

    Right, I asked you define it because I have seen you twist common terms such as Arminian (cf. your accusing Arminians of being “two point calvinists” is a perfect example). If you were a nice person, a sincere person who was asking I would answer your questions without hesitation. But you are neither. You ask questions not to know but to further attack and misrepresent.

    “Sound familiar? Yet when I asked him, for simplicity reasons, if he was a member of the SEA, he refused to answer because he didn’t want to be labeled.”

    No, it was not because I didn’t want to be labelled, it was because I don’t trust you or your questions Phillip/wingedfooted1. Speaking of labels I know that you often post at SBC today and read the comments there so I will repost something I posted recently regarding labels and how I view my own beliefs:

    [[Robert 21-08-2015, 11:20
    Hello Ron,
    “Thanks for your comments — I always enjoy reading what you have to say in the blog world”

    Thanks for the kind and encouraging words.

    “I think you have described Dr. Keathley and his work fairly.”

    I hope so, I really like and respect Dr. Keathley. Again, he puts out some very good stuff.
    “I enjoy reading his work and pointed a number of people to it. I really like his chapter in the large B&H Academic edition of A Theology For The Church. His chapter is entitled The Work of God: Salvation.”
    So we are both fans of Keathley! 🙂

    “One professor called the antecedent/consequent will view “a non-Calvinist view, which includes Arminianism.” If it is clearly a historical Arminian view — then I like it while holding to the notion that I am primarily a Baptist.”

    Well, that distinction historically has been held and promoted by Arminians for centuries, so it is an Arminian belief. I wouldn’t let that be much of a problem however because the truth is Baptists hold some Arminian beliefs whether we recognize or acknowledge it or not.

    To use myself as an example. I have been a Baptist as long as I have been a believer (completely convinced that Baptist beliefs are the most biblical set of beliefs that any one denomination or group holds to). In seminary and through prior independent study I learned about the debate between Calvinism and Arminianism. It is sometimes simplified to the point that people ask what do you think of the elements of the TULIP acronym so they can pigeonhole you! 🙂

    I hold to Total depravity if it is defined carefully as meaning that sin has effected every aspect of mankind (our minds, our wills, our bodies, our cultures) **everything**, hence the “total” refers not to us being as bad as we can be but to the extent of sin (it has effected every part of us, hence “total” refers to the extent of sin). I reject the Calvinistic conception of depravity that presents us as being like a physically dead corpse incapable of responding or understanding spiritual things under any circumstance (I reject this because the Holy Spirit in His preconversion work can and does change the hardest hearts). I affirm original sin, but deny that the guilt of Adam is imputed to all of us.

    I reject unconditional election (I favor corporate election a view well known among Baptists and held by many Baptists).

    I affirm unlimited atonement (that Jesus died for the whole world). The atonement has two aspects the provisional aspect (it is provided for all because God loves all and desires the salvation of all) and the applicational aspect (it is only applied to those who have faith).

    I reject irresistible grace, the grace of God enables but does not necessitate a faith response. People can and do resist the grace of God (e.g. as believers we disobey the Spirit’s leadings at times).

    I believe that a genuine believer can never be lost and that a genuine believer will produce fruit (the fruit does not save them, but it invariably accompanies genuine salvation).

    Now I share these things with you Ron, because people hearing my beliefs in regards to TULIP will say that I must be an “Arminian”. That does not bother me as I know that historically, Arminians have held the same beliefs that I hold in regard to TULIP (except for “P”, many Arminians, though not all, believe that you can lose your salvation). I don’t mind being called an Arminian at the same time, I prefer to be called Baptist.

    If I were to describe myself, my self-description is that I am first Christian, second Baptist, and if you want to label me Arminian that is OK. Or you could say that I am a Baptist who holds some Arminian beliefs (including the antecedent/consequent distinction). It is more important that we are clear on our beliefs and that our beliefs are biblical, than what our labels are. I also consider myself “Biblicist” (i.e. if you show me that it is derived from the Bible I will believe it, which is again why I believe Baptists are closest to having proper biblical beliefs, more so than any other group).]]

    ”So hypocritical. And, yet, so Robert.”

    I am not hypocritical about what I believe at all, and quite open when dealing with those who are sincere. Phillip you are not sincere, so I respond differently to you than I do other people.

    “Robert “says” its okay when people disagree with him. Yet, when they do, they are called trolls or bigots or worse.”

    This is a misrepresentation from Phillip. I have no problem with others disagreeing with me as long as they do so in a civil way. That is why I have friends who are leaders/pastors in non-Baptist settings (e.g. Mike Horton, I disagree with his Reformed beliefs but he is a great guy and easy to dialogue with). I have friends who are Calvinists, Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, etc.

    I have said of two persons who post frequently here and in other places that they fit what many people call a “troll”. They not only disagree with me and others they are disagreeable (e.g. constantly misrepresenting non-Calvinists as denying foreknowledge when non-Calvinists affirm it, constantly misrepresenting non-Calvinists as “universalists” when we deny universalism but affirm unlimited atonement, someone who keeps saying these false things over and over despite being corrected across multiple blog sites is acting like a “troll”). Regarding the “bigot” term, if someone thinks they alone have the truth, their views alone are true and that others who disagree with them on baptism are not qualified to be pastors, that is a form of theological bigotry. Many of the non-Baptists leaders/pastors that I know personally are godly people, for someone to claim they are not qualified to be pastors is just out of touch with reality and hateful.

    Phillip ends his screed with;

    “Discern, brother!”

    Amen, we should practice discernment. If we do so we will recognize that Phillip acts like a sniper. Frequently in the past at this blog, when I posted Phillip quotes verses from Proverbs claiming that I am a fool or verses from the New Testament claiming that I am a Pharisee or hypocrite. I have been blessed in my ministry to see many come to the Lord and be saved. I have seen many changed in positive and productive ways. If that is being a fool, or a Pharisee or a hypocrite as Phillip claims I hope it just keeps increasing. And who is “Phillip” anyway? Just a bitter and hostile guy who snipes on the internet. Instead of sniping at others why don’t you cease the sniping and get involved in real ministry and do some real good.

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    1. Robert writes, “I have ignored your comments for the most part in the past. ”

      Could we shut down the egos and trash the hubris that make for boringly long posts. Substance is good, fluff wastes people’s time.

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  9. Brian,

    “Robert, You would not vote to ordain Mike Horton as a pastor of your Baptist congregation, but you believe he is qualified to be a pastor of a true congregation ordained by the Lord!”

    Yes, because I recognize that different groups have different distinctives. So Presbyterians can rightfully expect their pastors to be calvinists who hold to calvinistic theology. And Baptists can rightfully expect their pastors to hold to believer baptism.

    “What biblical basis do you have for such distinction in what constitutes different local churches with different lists for sound doctrine that a pastor must profess to be qualified for each congregation?”

    In the Bible it does not tell us that pastors/elders must believe X, Y and Z doctrine. Instead the focus is on character traits (the kind of person the prospective pastor is, how do they relate to their wife and their children). So it starts with the character of the person. It would be nice but the Bible never tells us that a prospective pastor will hold to doctrinal beliefs X, Y and Z. As I know that not all Christians agree (we do have this thing called denominations) I have observed that each denomination has its own distinctives. Do I agree with them all? Of course not. So how are we going to have leaders/pastors over these groups? We know that God wants local churches to have leaders that seems clear. So I say start with character primarily as the Bible explicitly gives lists of requirements for pastors (most of them being focused on character traits). THEN go to their theological beliefs. So my thinking is a combination of theory (what the Bible says about the character of a pastor) and practicality (if they are going to lead in a particular denomination they need to be holding and affirming the distinctives of that group). I do not want to categorically deny all of these differing groups of leadership just because they do not hold my doctrinal beliefs.

    “It sounds like you are whitewashing man-made schism and ignoring what you believe sound doctrine is that is necessary for pastoral qualification.”

    No, I don’t say that everybody has it right, that would be “whitewashing” things. No, I believe that some are mistaken in their beliefs, which is why I am not a part of their group. But what will it accomplish to attack them all as heretics or claim they are all unsaved? Nothing. Instead I look at character first. That is why in doing ministry for example prison ministry, I can work with a Catholic chaplain or Presbyterian chaplain or even a Catholic chaplain despite our differences because we are trying to get Bibles into the hands of inmates, have them attending Bible studies, being witnessed to, etc. If I said I refuse to work with so and so because they are not Baptist not much would be accomplished.

    “I also do not think you understand Rom 14:1.”

    Romans 14 is one of the two main passages dealing with christian liberty. And Christian liberty by its nature involves areas where believers disagree. Principles are given so that believers can live out their differing convictions, the chapter is not meant to be deciding whose doctrinal beliefs are right or wrong, not its purpose.

    “Everything is doctrine, and everything affects our practice. But if our doctrine and practice is not based on clear Scriptures,”

    But that is just it, different groups believe they are basing their doctrine and practice on scripture and yet they disagree. You say that if they disagree with Baptist beliefs and practices (and what you consider to be the right interpretations of texts such as Genesis 1) then they ought not to be pastors: I say this depends upon which group they are a part of. Your view leads to prejudice against all others who think and believe differently than you: my view results in tolerance of real differences among Christians.

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    1. Let me try, Robert, to simplify with an example. So you are on a Baptist ordination council and the man being tested says he believes in the pre-determination of all things, including, irresistible grace and limited atonement. Do you vote to ordain him? Previous Baptists of Calvinistic persuasion would have. Are those unsound doctrines or sound doctrines? If you are sure they are unsound doctrines that disqualify someone from being an elder (Titus 1:9) why wouldn’t they disqualify a man from being a pastor for any group of believers?

      You ignored replying to my assessment that you were ignoring “what you believe sound doctrine is that is necessary for pastoral qualification.” Are you willing to give me some idea how you would recognize what sound doctrine is necessary for pastoral qualification if you were on an ordination council? How can sound doctrine be unsound doctrine in one Christian group and still be sound doctrine in another?

      I hope you are still willing to have your reasoning tested and to jettison false reasoning when it is pointed out to you.

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      1. I make a distinction between essential doctrine and non-essential doctrine. Essential doctrine includes things such as the trinity, the deity of Christ, the incarnation (i.e. that Jesus was God in the flesh), the inspiration of scripture, etc. If a man denies essential doctrine they are disqualified from serving in Christian leadership as a pastor, elder, etc. Specifically in regard to pastors the NT is clear there are character issues that are essential (e.g. he is to be a “one woman man” meaning he is committed and faithful to his wife, if he is not that, he is disqualified).

        Then there are non-essential doctrines. You know you are dealing with non-essentials when godly men disagree, when the person holds to the essentials but there is disagreement in these areas. An example is eschatology. It is essential doctrine that you believe Jesus is coming again: deny that and you are disqualified. But then regarding the timing of the second coming (pre-wrath, pre-trib, mid-trib, post-trib) there is disagreement between godly men. I have one friend who wrote a book on the mid-trib view, another that wrote some famous books on the Post-trib view. If either of them hypothetically came up before an ordination council I know they hold to the essentials, display godly character, and though they hold differing views in eschatology, I would have no hesitation in affirming both to be ordained pastors. Another example is millennial views. I hold to the premillennial view myself, and have problems with amillennialism and “replacement theology”. Another example is the interpretation of the Genesis 1. But if I was considering two people who held the essentials, manifested godly character fitting the NT lists of a pastor and yet one was premill and the other was amill, again I would affirm both.

        Besides the essential/non-essential distinction there are also the distinctives of a particular denomination. A Baptist has to affirm believer baptism. But what about a Presbyterian in a Presbyterian context? Their distinctive is infant baptism so the pastoral candidate would have to subscribe to that. If I were sitting on a ordination council I would have the essential/nonessential distinction in mind, the NT lists of character traits for a pastor in mind and the distinctives of the group which is ordaining the pastor in mind. Now having laid the groundwork you wrote:

        “Let me try, Robert, to simplify with an example. So you are on a Baptist ordination council and the man being tested says he believes in the pre-determination of all things, including, irresistible grace and limited atonement. Do you vote to ordain him?”

        Well this is where Calvinism is tricky. Does it have to do with the man’s character? No, I know calvinists with impeccable character who definitely fit the description of the NT pastor (e.g. Vern Poythress comes to mind as an example). Can a calvinist affirm essential doctrines such as the trinity, deity of Christ, etc.? Yes as far as I have seen they all affirm these essentials. So that leaves the question is a person’s view of providence (God predetermines all events, God does not predetermine all events, God predetermines some events and not others, etc.) essential or nonessential doctrine? I think the problem is caused by the fact that in the NT the false doctrines they were dealing with were obvious things, and essential things, such as a person denying that Jesus rose or denying that Jesus was God in the flesh (you know the scripture references on these already). I believe the NT references are in regards to the essentials like these and there was uniformity on this. Christians agreed on these things, if you disagreed with the trinity you were not a believer. I also do not believe there was disagreement on providence as I do not believe they held to Calvinism (Calvinism is invented later by Augustine and systematized by the Reformers).

        To take the SBC as an example, they appear to allow for both views, Calvinism and non-Calvinism, which suggests that these differing views are treated more like differences in millennial views or differences in rapture views (i.e. godly men disagree, so neither view is condemned, both views are allowed). If that is the case, then ***in that context***, you could not and should not disqualify a person because they hold to calvinism. And again you would be looking at their views on essentials, their character and whether or not they hold to Baptist distinctives. Now if we were in a Presbyterian setting, then the person has to hold to calivinism as that is part of their distinctives (they affirm the Westminister confession which is calvinistic). A parallel situation involves open theism. I believe open theism is false theology, clearly unbiblical and to be rejected. But say a candidate comes up for ordination who espouses open theism. If that group does not consider open theism to be essential doctrine, allows for people to hold that view, the person affirms the essentials, manifests godly character, affirms the distinctives of that group, then I would affirm such a candidate as I would affirm a calvinistic candidate. It really depends upon how that particular group views that belief? If they allow room for calvinism or open theism, and the person is fine in the other areas, then I do not see a good basis for disqualifying them. Is calvinism/open theism essential or nonessential doctrine? In most places as far as I know, both are allowed, neither is considered false doctrine in regards to essentials.

        “Previous Baptists of Calvinistic persuasion would have.”

        True, but not today, today again in the SBC both are allowed, so neither should disqualify a prospective candidate for ordination.

        “Are those unsound doctrines or sound doctrines?”

        As I said before it seems that in the NT “sound doctrine ”was in regards to essentials, things like the trinity, the deity of Christ, etc. It was not in reference to millennial views, rapture views, Calvinism/non-Calvinism, open theism, etc. I just don’t think those things were on the radar of the early church. They were dealing with errors such as Arianism (denial of the deity of Christ, denial of the trinity) Gnosticism, Greek and Roman gods, etc..

        “If you are sure they are unsound doctrines that disqualify someone from being an elder (Titus 1:9) why wouldn’t they disqualify a man from being a pastor for any group of believers?”

        Because I am not convinced that differing views on the millennium, rapture, providence (calvinism, non-Calvinism), etc are essential doctrines in which there has to be uniformity. Again I see real parallels between calvinism and open theism. I see both as errors, but are they errors in which godly people disagree (i.e. non-essentials) or are they disagreements on essential doctrine? If you are going to disqualify a calvinist then you have to disqualify an open theist as well.

        “You ignored replying to my assessment that you were ignoring “what you believe sound doctrine is that is necessary for pastoral qualification.” Are you willing to give me some idea how you would recognize what sound doctrine is necessary for pastoral qualification if you were on an ordination council?”

        I think I just did throughout this post. Three main criteria, essential doctrines, character and adherence to the distinctives of the group for which they are seeking ordination.

        “How can sound doctrine be unsound doctrine in one Christian group and still be sound doctrine in another?”

        I don’t believe that “sound doctrine” is different from group to group because I believe that it is in reference to essentials. Christians agree on the essentials, things like the trinity, the deity of Christ, incarnation, physical resurrection of Jesus, inspiration of scripture, eternal destines of heaven and hell, etc. I am much more alarmed if someone is denying the trinity then I am they are advocating calvinism or open theism (if they are affirming essentials and manifest Christian character). But I could be wrong, if calvinism and open theism ought to be treated as essential doctrines then advocates of both are disqualified from being pastors.

        “I hope you are still willing to have your reasoning tested and to jettison false reasoning when it is pointed out to you.”

        Sure, hopefully you are willing to do this as well, so that someday you will jettison the false reasoning that leads you to be an open theist. And leads you to disqualify people from being pastors who ought to be pastors.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. So if none of my doctrines or Roger’s doctrines are harmful (unsound) to the body of Christ, it is a wonder to me why you spend so much time trying to refute our teaching! Roger and I would love all pastors to hold our views (that we say are based on clear Scriptures), since we believe they are helpful. And since none of those views disqualify a man from being a pastor, in your opinion, (though you are alright if denominations make them disqualifiers), why not spend your time refuting doctrines that you think are truly harmful and not sound?

        I truly wonder if you would vote to ordain Roger and I to be pastors if we met all the other qualifications, knowing what you know about our doctrine! Roger and I, I don’t think, would vote for each other, and I think we both believe the other’s views are harmful to the body of Christ. It makes sense for us to dialog about these things, but not you. Am I missing something?

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  10. “So if none of my doctrines or Roger’s doctrines are harmful (unsound) to the body of Christ, it is a wonder to me why you spend so much time trying to refute our teaching!”

    Who said they were not harmful???

    I explained that I distinguish between essential and non-essential doctrine when it comes to considering pastoral candidates, and that I believe that the NT when referring to “sound doctrine” is referring to essential doctrines (that is what the early church was battling against, denials of essentials such as the deity of Christ and the trinity). I also said that some doctrines are not essentials because they are areas where good men disagree and hold differing views.

    It does not follow from this distinction that doctrines in the non-essential category cannot be extremely harmful in the body of Christ.

    To take just one example, “replacement theology”/amillennialism involves millennial views which are non-essential doctrines where good men disagree and yet that doctrine has led to all sorts of abuses of people and abuses of scripture. Look at how believers who espoused it treated the Jews in church history (e.g. the Reformers).

    Undoubtedly had the early church encountered open theism they would have clearly opposed it and rejected it. But all theists at that time believed that God is omniscient and knows everything including all future events before they occur so there was no debate on this topic. As this was not an issue of debate for the early church they never had to talk about it or deal with it. With the coming of the Socinians later in church history and the contemporary open theists such as yourself it has now become an issue. And the church **has spoken very clearly** on it, whether it is Catholics, Protestants, Eastern Orthodox, ALL HAVE REJECTED IT.

    So a non-essential doctrine can be quite harmful in the body of Christ. Calvinism is the perfect example of this today. I am not convinced that calvinism is not an attack on essential doctrine as it presents errors in regards to salvation. But most others tell me that it ought to be treated as an area where Christians disagree, as a non-essential. If you ask whether or not Calvinism has caused harm in the body of Christ, it has and this can be seen every time it has appeared in church history. Every time it appears there has been division, hostility, confusion, false doctrines.

    And this is true today as well. If you want a modern example of the harmful effects of Calvinism, look no further than the SBC. This is why I believe that Calvinism is something that needs to be opposed, precisely because of its harmful effects in the body of Christ (this is a primary reason for Leigthton’s blog here, Leighton knows the negative effects and so is combatting it here on his blog). It functions like the perfect Trojan horse to cause problems in the church because its advocates affirm essentials like the trinity and the deity of Christ (areas that genuine believers do not disagree upon) and yet because of the errors that it does make (it causes division and confusion and hostility and false doctrine in the church). If an Arian came to the church door proclaiming that Jesus is the first creation of God, all believers would unite against this and present a united front against it. But a Calvinist appears at the church door (one who affirms the trinity and the deity of Christ, etc. etc.) and people are not united on it and opposing it. Instead it causes divisions and hostilities between genuine believers, people who do affirm the trinity and the deity of Christ, etc. This is very subtle and very divisive and harmful: it is in fact the perfect way to sow division in the church. So it needs to be opposed.

    “Roger and I would love all pastors to hold our views (that we say are based on clear Scriptures), since we believe they are helpful.”

    You are leaving out two other criteria that I talked about, character and distinctives. Someone who repeatedly lies and misrepresents others views as Roger does, does not manifest godly character. So you may have the right views but if your character is not right, that disqualifies you. The other criteria is distinctives. Most of the denominations of which I am aware affirm omniscience as one of their distinctives in their doctrinal statements (some more stronger and more clearly than others, but there is no open theist denomination, nor denomination that denies omniscience) and so reject open theism. If that is their distinctive, then you would be rejected based upon that if they were considering you.

    “And since none of those views disqualify a man from being a pastor, in your opinion, (though you are alright if denominations make them disqualifiers), why not spend your time refuting doctrines that you think are truly harmful and not sound?”

    But I do spend time refuting doctrines that are harmful, that is why I oppose your open theism and Roger’s calvinism. You stepped right into that one.

    “I truly wonder if you would vote to ordain Roger and I to be pastors if we met all the other qualifications, knowing what you know about our doctrine!”

    But you two don’t meet the other qualifications. Someone who keeps lying and misrepresenting the views of others does not have the character to be a qualified pastor. And in your case the way you played games and were not honest and upright about your open theism is also not good character. A pastor ought to be forthright in their beliefs and honest about what they believe, hiding nothing, not trying to play games with definitions in order to deceive people and hide what they actually believe (cf. this is another problem in the SBC by the way as they have had situations where calvinist candidates were not forthright or honest that they were calvinists when candidating for a pastorate until after they got into their pastorates, then division, confusion and hostility resulted when they revealed what they actually believed: which is a very good argument that people should not play games with definitions and ought to be direct and honest about what they believe).

    “Roger and I, I don’t think, would vote for each other, and I think we both believe the other’s views are harmful to the body of Christ.”

    I agree with you here, your views are both harmful to the body of Christ: that is why both of your errors need to be opposed. And I have no doubt that you know what the NT says about the role of pastors/elders in opposing error.

    “It makes sense for us to dialog about these things, but not you. Am I missing something?”

    How does it make sense for you two alone to dialog about doctrine, when you both espouse false doctrine?

    And why am I not in the place to oppose the false doctrines that you two propose?

    I find it ironic that most of the discussions on this blog are between you (who hold the false doctrine of open theism) and Roger (who holds the false doctrine of calvinism) and you are implying that a person that is neither an open theist or a calvinist is not in the place to oppose these two errors!

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    1. Robert, I hope you will consider that your choice of sound doctrine to mean “essentials”, but not relating at to doctrines that are “harmful” shows that you are misunderstanding what the word “sound” means and how it applies. You would vote for me and Roger to be pastors, if our character met your standards, even though our doctrine is “harmful” in your view, but still not “harmful” enough to disqualify us from pastoring as long as our denominations want our “harmful” doctrines as one of their distinctives. You are having a hard time seeing how your loyalty to uphold denominationalism as legitimate in God’s eyes is causing a twisting of the normal meaning and application of “sound doctrine” as it applies to pastoral qualification. I hope you’ll work on that.

      I hope that you will rather find it “ironic” that you would vote for Roger or myself as pastors if you sat on a ordination council that wanted what you just called “false doctrine” as long as we met the other qualifications of essential doctrine and character!

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      1. “Robert, I hope you will consider that your choice of sound doctrine to mean “essentials”, but not relating at to doctrines that are “harmful” shows that you are misunderstanding what the word “sound” means and how it applies.”

        No, if we were to take your approach that we decided whether or not a person is qualified to be a pastor BASED UPON THEIR AGREEING WITH OUR VIEWS, OUR INTERPRETATIONS, then very few would be qualified. In fact many who are godly people and who hold to essentials such as the trinity, divinity of Jesus, etc. would be disqualified if we went by your thinking. You said that if one does not hold that the days of Genesis 1 are literal 24 hour days that any other view is not “sound doctrine”. Hmm, William Lane Craig does not hold your view. Nor does J. P. Moreland. Nor does Greg Koukl. Nor does Vern Poythress and many others. By your criteria none of them would qualify as pastors. Yet all four are orthodox in affirming the essentials, display godly character, and by your thinking they would be rejected as church leaders/pastors/elders. This is why I have said in the past your “view” amounts to theological prejudice: unless someone believes exactly as you do, interprets exactly as you do, they are disqualified from being and elder/pastor. As I understand that godly men disagree (e.g Craig and Moreland are non-Calvinists, Koukl and Poythress are calvinists) I also recognize their godly character and that in their groups they meet the distinctives of their groups.

        “You would vote for me and Roger to be pastors, if our character met your standards, even though our doctrine is “harmful” in your view, but still not “harmful” enough to disqualify us from pastoring as long as our denominations want our “harmful” doctrines as one of their distinctives.”

        In most denominational contexts, it is character, essentials and distinctives. If in such a setting that group allows for calvinism/Roger or open theism/Brian Wagner, if the individuals meet the character requirements and adhere to the essentials, and their views are allowed in that group, then that is how it works in that group. You are intentionally misrepresenting the denominations here, you know better, the views they allow such as both calvinism and non-Calvinism they do not consider to be harmful. They don’t consider their distinctives to be harmful. For example, you consider infant baptism to be harmful and yet Presbyterians do not. So the Presbyterian distinctive of infant baptism is not seen as harmful in their eyes, in their context. And that again shows the problem with calvinism, I view it as harmful, but if a denomination does not, then they will allow for it.

        I would love to have a group that has complete uniformity on doctrinal matters, but that is just not reality. Unless you have some extremely small group that separates from everyone else, in such a setting you could conceivably pull that off. Taking you Brian, I doubt that everyone at your church holds to open theism, and yet they allow you to be involved, do they not? Or at the college where you teach, I also doubt that everyone there is an open theist, but they allow you to be there with your open theism (unless you have hid this from them). If they put their foot down and said no open theists allowed you would be out of a job and out of your church (I guess you could then move and attend Greg Boyd’s congregation). No doubt in those contexts you are quite happy that they tolerate different views including your open theism. In other places, your open theism would automatically exclude you from teaching at their college or in their local church.

        “You are having a hard time seeing how your loyalty to uphold denominationalism as legitimate in God’s eyes is causing a twisting of the normal meaning and application of “sound doctrine” as it applies to pastoral qualification. I hope you’ll work on that.”

        My goal is not to “uphold denominationalism” but to work with the reality that is out there. It is like democracy, is it perfect and without problems? No, but it is the best system available. Your view excludes everyone who does not think or believe exactly as you do. Now perhaps you are involved in some small separate group that can do that. But most of us are involved in areas where that is not the reality. So you do the best that you can under the circumstances that you find yourself. You find the place that your beliefs are recognized and accepted where you can minister without being excluded by your beliefs. I hold to believer baptism, so I won’t be trying to join a Presbyterian church or teaching in a Presbyterian setting. A better place for me is a Baptist church. But say the denomination that I am involved in allows for both Calvinism and non-Calvinism, would it be wise to not be involved in that group merely based upon this?

        “I hope that you will rather find it “ironic” that you would vote for Roger or myself as pastors if you sat on a ordination council that wanted what you just called “false doctrine” as long as we met the other qualifications of essential doctrine and character!”

        Well I don’t have control over any groups, do you? Does any of us have control over the group in which we are involved? Do we determine the standards, the distinctives, all of the acceptable beliefs of the group we are involved in? As this is true, I have to submit to the rules of the group that I am a part of. If I can’t submit to their rules then I need to find another place where I can submit. And I have to say it is much easier to submit in a place where the leaders do affirm the essentials and do manifest godly character, even if they disagree on some things and do not agree on everything. Now that may not be good enough for you, that merely demonstrates that you have an independent spirit and that you have problems with submission to godly leadership.

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      2. So let me ask for a final clarification, Robert! If you were invited to sit on a Baptist ordination council, and the man being tested felt the TULIP of Calvinism was sound doctrine, and the Baptist group ordaining him had no problems with that, one way or another, you would vote to ordain him (if he held to your list of essentials and character) even though he was holding adamantly to what you call harmful false doctrine. Do I understand you correctly?

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  11. Layton, you really get me to think. And I know that is exactly what you are wanting to do. Excellent article! Keep up the good work! By the way, I know of several families who have been damaged by Calvinism’s doctrine – one is one of my 5 grown kids, who married in to a Calvinist family and was young in the faith. Another is a ministry’s leader here in town who has 4 grown kids – 2 or 3 of them are into Calvinism, 1 married a strong Calvinist (who is a Congressman now) and because of the doctrine that it espouses, they have cut off their relationships with their parents, who are godly Christians. Because of that, I tend to sway more toward the non-gracious side of looking at it. You have helped me there.

    However, when Mr. White continues to practice ‘debate’ techniques and logical fallacies, at some point do you not have to question whether or not such people really want to arrive at the truth? Are they intentionally deceiving people? How do you determine that? I believe we have to be gracious to other brothers and sisters in Christ – there is no question Biblically about that – yes, but Jesus was very clear how He felt about the Pharisees, and He was just as clear about how He felt about them (twice condemned) when He also condemned them for ‘leading others into the ditch.’ How do we then look at ‘brothers’ who are doing the same thing?

    Can you help us with this?

    I have put about 30 of your podcasts onto an MP3 CD and put it in my CD player in my car and have listened to them about 2 times through now as I drive from appointment to appointment. Thank you so much for your work in this area sir!

    God bless!

    Tom Franseen

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    1. Tom, we all tend to grow pretty hardened into our belief structures and that is very hard to break through. I know most Calvinists are very well meaning and very sincere. Most are also very “inconsistent” in their views which allows them to affirm much of what we all value (God’s love for all and genuine desire for all to be saved, etc)

      If we are commanded to love unbelieving enemies then how much more so should we love our brethren who see a confusing point of doctrine differently?

      We must love and treat each other graciously, as you indicated. Thx for listening and for the encouragement!

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      1. The rule here should be as Paul stated in 1 Corinthians 4, “Now, brothers, I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, so that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying, “Do not go beyond what is written.” Then you will not take pride in one man over against another.” (e.g., Calvin over Arminius)

        This is subordinate to the rule that, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

        Two errors dominate incorrect doctrine drawn from the Scriptures – (1) not considering everything that the Scriptures say on an issue, and (2) adding personal beliefs that are not found in the Scripture.

        Be gracious but forceful in demanding full accountability to the Scriptures in their entirety.

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      2. It means that you can start to understand the Calvinist doctrines of the supremacy and sovereignty of God and the depravity of man. Now, you can be a good Berean and look at the Scriptures form which Calvinists get their doctrines.

        You could even go back to my first post and make an attempt to explain how the Calvinists got it wrong. No one has yet to do so (or they would have); you would be the first. That would be impressive.

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    2. Hey Tom, Leighton is correct. But it can be very frustrating when those who profess the gospel act like the world in their discussion of doctrine with other professing brothers and sisters. If I may, let me respond Christ’s example with the scribes and Pharisees, two things. One, Christ has a justification for confrontation that I am not allowed (see the command in 2Tim 2:24-26). Two, even if identifying groups in public with warnings and critiques, like Jesus did, is legitimate (“Scribes, Pharisees, Hypocrites” or in our case “Calvinists”) we need to make a clear distinction as to what we believe about their profession in the gospel, especially if we are identifying individuals from that group. We are not to count brothers as enemies (2Thess 3:15), but we can and should identify those who profess a false gospel as enemies, even though we should say it in a loving way and try to love them towards repentance.

      It should be argued that the groups in Matt 23 that Jesus was exposing were professors of a false gospel, trusting in the traditions of men for manmade righteousness instead of the mercy of God for His righteousness. Though Calvinism does not profess a false gospel, in my view, Calvinism does misrepresent the gospel. They do this when they misrepresent the extent of Christ’s payment for sin, and when they misrepresent the extent of God’s offer of mercy. But such misrepresentations, in my view, does not lead me to believe they are professing a false trust in Jesus for salvation. So, I still consider them as brothers, based on their profession, even in spite of the harmful, divisive misunderstandings of the gospel that they hold on to.

      But some, and thankfully very few, do falsely try to equate Calvinism with the gospel so much that they create a false gospel when they say that one is not saved if they reject any of the tenets of Calvinism. Such a person, if met, needs to be publicly exposed, like Paul did in Galatians 1, Rom 16:17, etc, as a person professing a false gospel, much like we Evangelicals need to be clear that Jorge Bergoglio (the new RC pope) professes a false gospel. I hope this helps.

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      1. Loved you on the podcast Brian, I think you really added a lot. I really appreciated your emphasis on the person and work of the Holy Spirit in addition to the naked verbatim quoted Bible. Your view of Romans 7 and being “alive” before the law was interesting. I’ve always taken Romans 7 to be addressed to a regenerate because it says “the good I desire to do,” which seems to me to speak of regeneration. Thus the purpose of Romans 7 is to instruct a regenerate person on the power and function of the Law which can still produce sin and death in the believer.

        Blessings!

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      2. Thank you for your kind words, Dizerner! I think the transition from past tense verbs to present tense makes it natural to see 7:7-13 as Paul’s description of his lost condition including the condemning and convicting work of divine law and 7:14-25 as his description of his sanctification struggles as a saved individual.

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      3. Alright. I only mention it because you left out that view in your talk about the commentaries. I suspect Paul’s mysterious initial journey to Arabia (the birthplace of the Law) may have been where he hammered out these incredible truths.

        bless

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  12. Brian,

    I went back and reviewed the posts on this topic and came across the following comment of yours:

    “You are having a hard time seeing how your loyalty to uphold denominationalism as legitimate in God’s eyes is causing a twisting of the normal meaning and application of “sound doctrine” as it applies to pastoral qualification.”

    It is not that I have this “loyalty to uphold denominationalism”, if I were dictator of the world there would be no denominations! 🙂 Obviously I am not in control to this extent and cannot eliminate all of the denominations, so for me it becomes an issue of dealing with “the cards that we are dealt”. And those “cards” include already existing denominations. I didn’t develop the divisions, I did not develop the differences in doctrine: and yet they are realities that we have to deal with.

    So the question then becomes: how do we deal with these realities?

    By your comment you seem to be against all denominations which makes me wonder what living out your complete rejection of denominations entails?

    You have alluded to your involvement in councils that vote upon people’s ordination: that suggests that you belong to some group, some denomination. If so, then how do you square your involvement with such an organization when you reject all denominations?

    If you are a part of a denomination then you contradict yourself by manifesting some “loyalty to uphold denominationalism”.

    If you are not part of a denomination, then it seems you must be a part of some group, and what are the standards of this group? And how does this group not function as a denomination?

    You can’t just be a “loose canon” and do your own thing, in some ways you must be part of some denominational structure (missions organization, ordination council, etc.) or some organizational structure. Or can you be a completely “loose canon”, completely doing your own thing independent of all denominations, all groups, all organizations?

    I am also wondering how your open theism beliefs square with the group(s) that you are involved in? Are they all open theists like you, if not, doesn’t this mean that they tolerate your open theism and you tolerate their rejection of open theism (which then leads me to wonder how your comments about calvinism being harmful apply to open theism and those who reject open theism in your group). The college that you teach at for example, are all of the faculty there open theists? If not, do they tolerate your open theism as you tolerate their non-open theism? Is their non-open theism also not sound doctrine according to you? Who has “sound doctrine” open theists such as yourself or those who reject open theism? Is this college part of a denomination or have any denominational affiliation?

    Brian your anti-denominationalism brings a lot of questions to mind the more I think of it.

    I have made it clear that I make a distinction between essential doctrines and non-essential doctrines. Apparently you reject this distinction which means that in your thinking all doctrine has the same level of importance, it is all essential doctrine. This would mean that a person’s view on the millennium or the days of Genesis is of the same importance as their view on the trinity or deity of Christ. You have made it clear that “sound doctrine” is everything that **you** believe (which includes open theism, 24 hr. days in Genesis, believer baptism, anti-infant baptism, anti-Calvinism, anti-denominations, anti-Catholic church anti-Eastern Orthodox church, etc.). Seems that when you vote in these ordination councils that you allude to, that you would only vote for someone who holds these same views as you do, and frankly that is not going to be many people! 🙂

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    1. Robert, let me ask my question again that you either missed above or ignored for some reason.

      >>So let me ask for a final clarification, Robert! If you were invited to sit on a Baptist ordination council, and the man being tested felt the TULIP of Calvinism was sound doctrine, and the Baptist group ordaining him had no problems with that, one way or another, would you vote to ordain him (if he held to your list of essentials and character) even though he was holding adamantly to what you just called harmful false doctrine?

      Once you answer that one, I will make an attempt at answering some of yours asked above, though I am feeling many of them were rhetorical, and that you were trying to make a point, instead of seeking an answer. But, generally speaking, since I do not see the Bible teaching or encouraging denominations, but that it warns against them, yet recognizes man-made divisions will happen (1Cor. 11:18-19), I work towards the unity of God’s people around the gospel under the leadership of men who hold to sound doctrines, all of which are clearly read in Scripture using normal grammatical and contextual understanding that one would use to understand any book.

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      1. Brian,

        In reviewing the posts it seemed to me that I was asking you questions and you were not answering my questions or interacting with my points. I was explaining why I make the essential versus non-essential distinction, why I believe different groups must abide by their own distinctives, etc. All of this seemed to be ignored by you: instead you were creating hypothetical scenarios and then asking me to answer questions in the context of those scenarios. That is why I went back and reviewed the posts to see if I had missed something important. I found that comment that you made about denominations, suggesting that you are against all denominations. That would explain why you are saying much of what you are saying and why you ignored my points and did not interact with them. That would certainly explain many of your comments, but it also got me to thinking exactly how would this anti-denominations thinking pan out. Which led me to the other questions in my previous post.

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      2. Enough said, my friend! I will return to this discussion with you Robert once you answer what you call a “hypothetical” question. Perhaps you call it that because you will never be asked to sit on a Baptist ordination council, but it certainly is not hypothetical in many ordination situations in Southern Baptist congregations today. Your refusal to answer is telling! It appears you are ok for anything to be labeled as essential as long as it has denominational approval behind it. And yes I realize you have what you believe is a core essential list that you think all Christian denomination must accept, but the words “essential doctrine” also fits what you call a distinctive because it is recognized as “essential” for ordination in each group. The scenario I gave you to address is legitimate, because it reveals whether or not your rejecting TULIP as essential doctrine is “essential” enough for your for the ordination of a man in a denomination where it does not yet matter as an essential.

        We also will let others read our previous conversations to be better judges then you or I, whether I was not adequately interacting with you. Most of the time you were reacting to something I was saying to someone else, exposing them to information you believe to be true and felt was important for them to know about me. You were not addressing me until after I pointed out some of your faulty logic. Actually, I just looked back over our conversation and found a good example of your faulty logic.

        You actually did answer my question when you said – “If that group does not consider open theism to be essential doctrine, allows for people to hold that view, the person affirms the essentials, manifests godly character, affirms the distinctives of that group, then I would affirm such a candidate as I would affirm a calvinistic candidate. It really depends upon how that particular group views that belief? If they allow room for calvinism or open theism, and the person is fine in the other areas, then I do not see a good basis for disqualifying them. Is calvinism/open theism essential or nonessential doctrine? In most places as far as I know, both are allowed, neither is considered false doctrine in regards to essentials.”

        But you also said – “your views [Calvinism and Open Theism] are both harmful to the body of Christ: that is why both of your errors need to be opposed. And I have no doubt that you know what the NT says about the role of pastors/elders in opposing error….I hope that you will rather find it “ironic” that you (who hold the false doctrine of open theism) and Roger (who holds the false doctrine of calvinism) …are implying that a person that is neither an open theist or a calvinist is not in the place to oppose these two errors!”

        I hope you can see you have just been duplicitous.

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  13. “Enough said, my friend! I will return to this discussion with you Robert once you answer what you call a “hypothetical” question. Perhaps you call it that because you will never be asked to sit on a Baptist ordination council, but it certainly is not hypothetical in many ordination situations in Southern Baptist congregations today.”

    That is just it Brian, if the denomination allows for both views, if the denomination does not view them as essentials upon which all must agree, then if you are part of that denomination you have to submit to that thinking if you are going to be part of their denomination. It would be easy if they just categorically said it is either calvinist or non-calvinist, but they don’t they allow both. That is the stance of that denomination. You cannot go into their context and then tell them they are wrong. So in that context where both are allowed you would have to affirm the candidate if they fit the other criteria.

    “Your refusal to answer is telling! It appears you are ok for anything to be labeled as essential as long as it has denominational approval behind it.”

    No, you are missing something, I believe in submission to authority, if I agree to be part of a denomination then I have to submit to their authority.

    “And yes I realize you have what you believe is a core essential list that you think all Christian denomination must accept, but the words “essential doctrine” also fits what you call a distinctive because it is recognized as “essential” for ordination in each group.”

    Right there are essentials in particular groups, eg. For Baptists believer baptism.

    “The scenario I gave you to address is legitimate, because it reveals whether or not your rejecting TULIP as essential doctrine is “essential” enough for your for the ordination of a man in a denomination where it does not yet matter as an essential.”

    What you are leaving out Brian, and it is no surprise since you are anti-denominational, is that if we agree to be part of a denomination we have to submit to their practices and beliefs. If you are not willing to abide by that or submit to that, then you should not commit to that group.

    “You actually did answer my question when you said – “If that group does not consider open theism to be essential doctrine, allows for people to hold that view, the person affirms the essentials, manifests godly character, affirms the distinctives of that group, then I would affirm such a candidate as I would affirm a calvinistic candidate. It really depends upon how that particular group views that belief? If they allow room for calvinism or open theism, and the person is fine in the other areas, then I do not see a good basis for disqualifying them. Is calvinism/open theism essential or nonessential doctrine? In most places as far as I know, both are allowed, neither is considered false doctrine in regards to essentials.”

    You are right, I did answer your question, my answer is that if that particular denomination allows for both views, then both views are acceptable in that group (whether it be calvinism/non-calvinism, open theism/non-open theism, amillennial/premillenial, etc.).

    “But you also said – “your views [Calvinism and Open Theism] are both harmful to the body of Christ: that is why both of your errors need to be opposed. And I have no doubt that you know what the NT says about the role of pastors/elders in opposing error….I hope that you will rather find it “ironic” that you (who hold the false doctrine of open theism) and Roger (who holds the false doctrine of calvinism) …are implying that a person that is neither an open theist or a calvinist is not in the place to oppose these two errors!””

    And I do believe that they are both errors that ought to be opposed. But if I were on a ordination council with a group that allowed for both views, then I would have to allow for both views as well.

    “I hope you can see you have just been duplicitous.”

    I have not been duplicitous, I have been honest and gave my reasons, reasons you ignored.

    Now it is your turn answer my questions, I answered yours.

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    1. Thank you Robert! I now see that you are not willing to stand within your denomination against false and harmful doctrines being held by men called pastors, but not truly ordained in God’s eyes since they do not hold to sound doctrine (Titus 1:9). I don’t even think you would have encouraged Luther, Zwingli or Hubmaier to take their stand against the false doctrine of Roman Catholicism.

      As for questions you feel I haven’t answered, let me start with your more recent posts, and then you can point out others you may think I have not addressed for I truly believe I have addressed them.

      I deal with the realities of denominations by pointing out that they have no biblical foundation, and so I believe it is wise to identify sound doctrine which needs clear biblical support, and must not be based upon theological or philosophical inferences with only biblical hints that seem to support those inferences. In fact, sound doctrine needs no other wording than the Scripture itself gives to it. Once sound doctrine is identified, then those men who are biblically qualified to pastor can be identified (Titus 1:9). I hope you don’t believe Jorge Bergoglio is qualified to be a pastor or pope just because his denomination says he is!

      Men can be identified as believers because of the true gospel they profess, and with a gift of teaching, which can be influential for good in many areas, but their disqualification to be pastors and their purveyance of harmful, unsound doctrine should be graciously exposed, if the testimony of truth and health of the body is to be helped. I do work with what exists as long as they know what I believe about these things and will allow me to present these biblical truths in a gracious way. I do reject denominationalism, and will never join one. Even associations that recognize the autonomy of the local church are bothersome to me, especially when they go beyond the local level. But I do prayerfully try to figure out how to interact with brothers and sisters I meet who come from a variety of connections.

      For an example of my thinking, a local Methodist congregation invited me to present a series of revival messages. It was being led by a woman, whom they identified as their “pastor”, which of course in God’s eyes she was not. I met with her and thanked her for the invitation, and mentioned that if I she wanted to continue to extend the invitation in behalf of the congregation, she should know that I would speak among other things, topics with which she might feel too uncomfortable, e.g. believer’s baptism and male leadership. I believed that the revival to be what God would want them to be was being hindered greatly because these sound doctrines were not being taught. I was still invited, thank the Lord, and they heard those messages.

      I am an instructor at Virginia Baptist College, which caters to anyone but mostly draws from independent Baptist churches. I do have to affirm their doctrinal statement which does have distinctives that I agree with, but which I believe are “doubtful things” (Rom 14:1) because they are based on inferences and not clear Scriptures. But the school knows which ones I think do not rise to the level of sound doctrine. They also know about other “doubtful things” I lean towards believing, like open theism, that many of them would not be comfortable with, but they know that I only lean that way and do not make them issues of sound doctrine. Of course I believe much of their discomfort is because of the bad press those views receive, especially by those who elevate tradition to determine what the Bible teaches instead of being willing to look at the Scriptures closely for themselves.

      But let me be clear again that I believe that there are in Scriptures three levels of importance concerning doctrine. The doctrines that must be believed as part of the gospel, necessary for forgiveness and everlasting life and clear enough in Scripture for a child to understand enough to be saved. Then there are sound doctrines which provide health and growth, and which qualify a pastor, which are clear enough for a layperson with normal education to glean from Scriptures by normal grammatical contextual reading, helping them to recognize God’s pastors. Everything else does have importance for personal edification, but are in the unclear doubtful doctrines category, because they do not have clear Scriptures proclaiming the exact principle or application that an individual might feel or infer is being taught in the passage. They can and should be shared, but not as dogmatically necessary for everlasting life, or for the foundational spiritual health and growth of all believers. I hope this helps.

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      1. This post will be on your first paragraph, later I will discuss other things you say. We completely disagree about who can be a God ordained pastor (for me the three things already mentioned;as you reject all denominations anyone who does not hold what you consider to be sound doctrine cannot be so no Presbyterian Methodist, Lutheran etc etc etc can be a pastor). I am guessing no one else here agrees with you. Regarding your false claim that I am not willing to stand against false any harmful doctrine in my group you are not in the place to know that as you do not know which group I am with. In our group we stood against the “rainbow” people who want to change the definition of marriage.

        Regarding encouraging the Reformers: if I were around in that era with the beliefs I hold I would have been blasted from all directions! They would not like believer baptism especially Zwingli. I disagree with their replacement theology, amillenialism, and their views of the Jews. I disagreed with Luther siding with the nobles against the peasants, and my views on church/state separation would not have been appreciated. Justification by faith they would agree with me on, but my other views would probably lead them to persecute me. So I don’t think I would provide much encouragement to them. Knowing the reformation era as I do it was no golden era, just ask the Anabaptists about that!

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  14. A chess master knows the outcome of the game from the opening move, so to speak. These are the possibilities, and for each of these, there are the remaining possibilities. An imperfect example, I know, but this is how I envision God knowing the future while we have free will to act. God knows the outcomes he wants, and moves the vessels of his choosing to act out his grace and mercy. Should they choose not to do so, God invites others to step in and fill the void. In fits and starts, history moves to its inevitable conclusion, the glory of God.

    And so it is said that God works all things for good for those who love him, according to his purpose.

    Even while knowing, yet not knowing what the future will be.

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    1. God might be likened to a chess master but God has a couple advantages. God has an infinite understanding of all the chess moves and God makes moves that reflect perfect wisdom. More than that God knows the other player; He knows his heart and his desires. God can even restrain those desires.

      A chess master knows the outcome of the game from the opening move, so to speak. God knows the outcome as well as every move that is taken toward that end. Your example is imperfect because you think, as a man, in possibilities. God does not think in possibilities but in certainties – the final outcome of the game is certain; every move within the game is certain. There is nothing that God does not know about the future, so all things are certain to God and God works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will.

      In your thinking, God cannot be omniscient, so you have made God into a god. All to exalt man and his free will.

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      1. God thought about and chose between the possibility of creating or not creating. Why did He have to limit His omniscience and chose never to think and choose between possibilities after that? Rethink God’s omniscience, biblically!

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      2. When God makes decisions, He does so with infinite understanding of all the impacts of those decisions. Thus, God’s decisions are final and made in perfect wisdom. For God to deal in possibilities is to say that God’s decisions are suspect and He was unable to consider everything that He should have. In your philosophy, God does not know the future so God must make decisions based on a limited knowledge and limited understanding of the impacts of His decisions – God makes decisions that may not be the best but He is able to clean up any messes later.

        You say, “Rethink God’s omniscience, biblically!” and do not understand the Scriptures and that there is no omniscience in your system.

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      3. So you deny that God chose between the possibility to create and the possibility not to create, but that creation was a necessity that His nature could not refuse!

        I do believe God is all knowing of all that has existed, and all that now exists and all that can possibly exist and all that He has planned to exist. I think I do believe in omniscience in my system! 🙂

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      4. C’mon Brian!! God has real, actual free will. God can discuss within Himself (however that works) an infinite number of things that He can do. When God considers whether to create the universe in which we now find ourselves, He does so freely and not of necessity.

        The issue concerns the degree of freedom that God enjoys in making decisions. To be “free,” one must have knowledge. Knowledge of possibilities (and possibilities speak to future events) and some possibilities are derived from the impacts of decisions. If God knows all possibilities, then He necessarily has a complete knowledge of all possibilities and the impacts of those possibilities. God has such a complete knowledge and God has an infinite understanding of all things including all possibilities.

        God heavily influences future events – the possibilities that become certainties. For example, Satan does not enter the garden unless God stands out of his way. The impact is that Adam and Eve eat the fruit. All those possibilities derived from Adam?Eve NOT eating the fruit then disappear. Cain cannot kill Abel except God stay out of the way. All those possibilities derived from Abel living then disappear. Of course, God limits possibilities by destroying the world in a flood, destroying Sodom, etc. However, God also determines the day of a person’s birth and the day of a person’s death – it is God who sustains the person’s life until death. Jesus said, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father.” So, not even a sparrow will die unless it is the will of God. God gives riches to some and poverty to others. God is also involved in the salvation of people – No one can come to Christ unless God draw him. Is there anything that occurs in the world that occurs apart from God’s will? If not, then God is omniscient with regard to all future events because God knows His will in all things. To take away God’s omniscience, you must make something to be independent of God and you choose to make man independent of God.

        You say, “I do believe God is all knowing of all that has existed, and all that now exists and all that can possibly exist and all that He has planned to exist. I think I do believe in omniscience in my system! :-)” The use of “possibly exist” negates omniscience which, of course is your intent – your philosophy does not work if God knows all that will certainly happen in the future. “omniscience in my system” is not “omniscience.”

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      5. Hi Roger – Answer me this. Before God exercised what you call His free will to create, in your definition of omniscience, did God know back then the future creation as a possibility (a non-necessity) or as a certainty (a necessity)?

        You still want to write about God’s present involvement in creation as if He still has freedom to choose between a few good things (possibilities) that would fit His character and ultimate plan. But to speak as an open theist is not your prerogative, since God, in your view, is only “free” to fulfill everything He decided to do or allow before creation began. And that is not “freewill”, but functioning in full agreement with the predeterminism of all things.

        If God “knew” true possibilities which were not necessary before creation, He is certainly able to “know” true possibilities after creation. But one has to come to grips with the logic that true possibilities, however they are completely known, does not force God to choose ahead between them, and truly makes knowing all certainties illogical.

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      6. God’s knowledge consists of His decisions/decrees. God’s decisions /decrees reflect perfect wisdom and are thereby certain from the point where He decides/decrees. When God decides/decrees to create the heaven and the earth, His perfect understanding of all impacts from that decision are made simultaneously because infinite understanding allows perfect knowledge (which consists of His decisions/decrees). When God decides/decrees to crate the universe, He then has the knowledge that He will create the universe. When God decides/decrees that Satan should enter the garden to tempt Adam/Eve, He knows that Satan will enter the garden. When God decides/decrees not to intervene to help Adam/Eve, He knows that they will eat the fruit. God decides/decrees everything from the death of a worthless sparrow to all events of greater value.

        I write of God’s present involvement because God brings about events in the course of time. For example, God brings the flood in the life of Noah and impregnates Mary at the time when she is betrothed to Joseph. God decided to do these things before He created the world. We can describe God as having the ability to intervene to prevent the death of Stephan in those days after the death of Christ because He had the ability to decide what He would do before He created the world. His decision then – made with perfect knowledge – entailed Him not intervening with the result that Stephan is stoned to death.

        If God only knows possibilities, and not certainties, then He is ever learning of events as they unfold and having to respond to those events. That God “learns” new things as history unfolds makes it impossible for Him to be omniscient.

        You write, “since God, in your view, is only “free” to fulfill everything He decided to do or allow before creation began.” So??? If God decides with perfect wisdom, no matter when He makes that decision, there is no need to reconsider the decision at any later time. God is not “more” free if He makes a decision in the course of human history than before that history was ignited. His ability to make decisions before He creates the world is totally free. What you are suggesting is that God can learn something in the course of human history that He could not know before He created the world. If God “learns,” He cannot be omniscient. That God learns something in the future to which he then reacts is critical to your philosophy. How you then say a God who learns new things is omniscient, and do so with a straight face, is incredible.

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      7. Hi Roger! I feel like you either did not understand my question or intentionally dodged it! Did God know a future act of creating as only a possibility (since it was unnecessary) and then His knowledge changed and that act of creating became known to Him as a necessity? Or was it always known as a necessity, therefore making freewill impossible in God’s nature because His knowledge can only be of necessities, and it was necessary for Him to create?

        Of course you see the dilemma. If you agree that His knowledge changed from knowing creation as a possibility to knowing it as a necessity based upon a free-will choice, then this confirms in agreement with Scripture that He is still making choices and His knowledge when He does is changing but always in agreement with His infinite understanding (Ps 147:5).

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      8. brianwagner asks, “Did God know a future act of creating as only a possibility (since it was unnecessary) and then His knowledge changed and that act of creating became known to Him as a necessity? Or was it always known as a necessity, therefore making freewill impossible in God’s nature because His knowledge can only be of necessities, and it was necessary for Him to create?”

        I think we must be careful not to deny God the ability to think new things (however that might happen with God). Thus, any act of creating anything is always a possibility with God as who knows what God might think to create or even conceive to create.

        When we speak of God’s “knowledge,” we speak of that which He has decided/decreed. We might suppose that God’s knowledge also consists of everything that He has thought and it is difficult to conceive of anything God has not thought. But that is all speculative.
        Nonetheless, when we read in Genesis 1 that God created the heavens and the earth, we know that His knowledge of His creation is perfect. He has an infinite understanding of that which He has decreed and His decision/decree to create was made in perfect wisdom. There can be no possibilities with respect to His creation after Genesis 1 – necessarily, all that happens is certain and the events of creation pass consistent with His omniscience.

        There is no dilemma as the distinction is between those things that God thinks before He decides/decrees and those things after He decides/decrees. The question is whether there is anything that God has not considered in His creation. If God is still making choices today, then that presupposes that God is gathering new information and that new information calls for decisions. What else necessitates a decision? If God is gathering new information, then He cannot be omniscient. Your philosophy necessarily denies that God is omniscient. If one entity is omniscient and another not so, then, necessarily, the former is God and the latter is god.

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      9. Hi Roger, I really appreciate your interaction and honest attempt to understand my point about God’s freewill, knowing possibilities, like the one about creating, and then making a decision/decree, at least as it relates to the initial creation choice. I wonder if you can then apply it to the future that lies ahead for God and man in relation to their interaction with each other?

        God doesn’t have to learn anything before freely making choices between possibilities that still exist, because as I agree with you, His understanding is infinite (Ps 147:5). So He fully understands all free-will choices mankind might make, and all the choices, limited by His nature, that He can choose from. So there is nothing to be learned, though the full understanding of one of those possibilities does change into a full knowledge of a certainty, just like it did when He decided to create. I hope this helps.

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      10. So in your view, when God told Adam to name the animals, he already had named them. God was deceiving Adam to believe he had a choice to name a horse a horse and not a goat. It is illogical to think that God cannot give tasks for mankind to perform without Him ultimately doing them. James White would say (I assume) both of them named the animals. The only problem with that view is the Bible says Adam named the animals. God freely gives tasks to his children as we do our children. We watch over them as they do the tasks and sometimes intervene to make sure they meet our approval. To believe that man has no part in the doing of a task, makes God the author of mankind’s imperfect responses to God’s commands and gives the accuser (Satan) an argument against God’s holy character. You cannot argue for God’s perfect decisions and then say man is responsible for his own imperfect responses.

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    2. Hello Chris,

      Peter Geech the famous open theist sometimes shared this chess player analogy as well:

      “A chess master knows the outcome of the game from the opening move, so to speak. These are the possibilities, and for each of these, there are the remaining possibilities. An imperfect example, I know, but this is how I envision God knowing the future while we have free will to act.”

      Do you play chess Chris? I do, it is one of my favorite games, just you against the other person, no referee that can mess things up, 🙂 no weather conditions to determine the outcome, 🙂 no biased judges, just you against the other person. It is a very fun and stimulating game.

      But I don’t see many parallels with God or how he exercises his providence in this analogy.

      First, chess masters do not now the outcome of the game, they know only possibilities based on the locations of the pieces and the likely moves the other person will make. God in contrast knows everything, both possibilities and actualities. Second, chess masters are limited in their knowledge (that was one of the advantages that the chess computer Deep Blue had over Kasparov, the computer had much more information and knowledge than Kasparov who at the time was the highest rated chess player). God is not limited in his knowledge like the chess master is or even the computer. Third, in a chess game, both players (and that includes Deep Blue) do not know the minds of their opponents. In contrast God knows all of our thoughts and hearts. Even if you limit this knowledge to just the present (i.e. exhaustive knowledge of the present, what people are actually thinking in the present) this knowledge is still much more than a chess master has. Chess players **anticipate** the moves of their opponent, they do not know what moves they will make until they make them. God knows what “moves” we will in fact choose to make before we make them (this is the normal and usual and majority view among Christians, only open theists deny that God has this knowledge). Fourth, chess is a competition among relative equals. In the case of God as the Creator of all things he is transcendent over space and time and every other created thing, not in time like the rest of us, and his thoughts are way beyond our thoughts and capabilities. It is not even like a chess player versus a novice, it is more like a human person against an ant! No comparison, not on the same plane, not in the same ball park! 🙂

      Fifth, God is not in a competition with us. As some theologians have put it, there is a “noncompetitive transcendence” going on. God is not fighting for his space with the rest of us in physical reality nor is he in competition with us trying to “win against us” or “defeat us”. From scripture we know that He loves us all and desires for all of us to experience the greatest good which is personal relationship with Him for eternity. God is not threatened by our freedom or our actions (in scripture entire nations are likened to a drop in a bucket, that is NATIONS not individuals!). For these reasons and others I do not think the grand master chess player is a good analogy for God or how He exercises His providence.

      “Even while knowing, yet not knowing what the future will be.”

      Sorry Chris, this statement is just false. God does know what the future will be, this is the standard and majority belief among all Christians across all theological traditions whether they be Protestants, calvinists or non-Calvinists, Catholics, Eastern Orthodox and Independents. Only Open theists deny that God knows the future and they are mistaken on this. The chess player analogy does not eliminate the clear scripture that shows that God knows the future including freely made choices by human persons in the future.

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  15. In my earlier post I dealt with your first paragraph. I did not appreciate the claims in that section of your post because you really don’t know about what denomination I am in nor what I have done to counter false doctrine in our group/you also do not know how the reformers would have reacted to my beliefs (contrary to your claim I have and do fight against false doctrine in my denomination and while I would encourage the Reformers in some of their concerns about the Catholic church of their time, nevertheless they made errors in lots of other areas, areas that I would get in trouble with them for holding contrary beliefs such as believer baptism as opposed to their infant baptism). I want to make a few points about the rest of your post here.

    “As for questions you feel I haven’t answered, let me start with your more recent posts, and then you can point out others you may think I have not addressed for I truly believe I have addressed them.”

    You did not answer questions including could you see yourself in an ordination committee where different beliefs are allowed (e.g. open theism versus non-open theism; amillennialism versus premillennialism, etc. would you automatically vote against anyone who held different beliefs than you do? For example, could you vote for someone who was amill to be ordained as a pastor? Of course many of the questions were from within the context of a denomination, and now I know you reject all denominations).

    “I deal with the realities of denominations by pointing out that they have no biblical foundation, and so I believe it is wise to identify sound doctrine which needs clear biblical support, and must not be based upon theological or philosophical inferences with only biblical hints that seem to support those inferences.”

    So with this stated view how are you going to be on an ordination committee (all ordination committees are part of some denomination or group)? It also seems that if some group claims that we are not part of any denomination, if they have beliefs and distinctives their members must hold while they can deny the label, they function just like any denomination).

    “In fact, sound doctrine needs no other wording than the Scripture itself gives to it. Once sound doctrine is identified, then those men who are biblically qualified to pastor can be identified (Titus 1:9).”

    That is a bit simplistic in my view, as in some of these areas good and godly men disagree in their interpretations of the scripture (the millennium being a perfect example, where you would probably deny an amill the ordination to be a pastor, if I saw godly character and he fit the other distinctives of his denomination/group I would vote him in). This is why I have said, with your view of what “sound doctrine” is, it amounts to those who believe just like you do! I know sound bible interpreters who hold differing views, with your reasoning most would be denied being pastors. I think that is extreme, radical, and mistaken.

    “Men can be identified as believers because of the true gospel they profess, and with a gift of teaching, which can be influential for good in many areas, but their disqualification to be pastors and their purveyance of harmful, unsound doctrine should be graciously exposed, if the testimony of truth and health of the body is to be helped.”

    Well again, in some groups while you may not like it, their group/denomination does in fact allow differing views on certain things (whether it is the days of Genesis or the millennium or Calvinism/non-Calvinism, etc.): so if you are in THAT context you have to submit to their distinctives (which includes the distinctive of allowing differing views in differing areas for their pastors. You don’t accept that, but you are not in that context, and most of us are. We have to submit to that so it is unfair for you to say for example that we are compromising when we allow differing views on a given issue (e.g. the Southern Baptists allow for Calvinism and non-calvinism, so in their context it is not wrong nor compromise to allow for beliefs among their ordained pastors).

    “I do work with what exists as long as they know what I believe about these things and will allow me to present these biblical truths in a gracious way. I do reject denominationalism, and will never join one.”

    Actually you don’t, you only work with them in one direction, if they allow you to use their pulpits. You condemn their denominations, and yet you don’t mind if they allow you to teach/preach from their pulpit. If you were consistent you would not speak from their pulpits.

    “Even associations that recognize the autonomy of the local church are bothersome to me, especially when they go beyond the local level.”

    I understand that is your view but that will lead to all sorts of problems:

    “But I do prayerfully try to figure out how to interact with brothers and sisters I meet who come from a variety of connections.
    For an example of my thinking, a local Methodist congregation invited me to present a series of revival messages. It was being led by a woman, whom they identified as their “pastor”, which of course in God’s eyes she was not. I met with her and thanked her for the invitation, and mentioned that if I she wanted to continue to extend the invitation in behalf of the congregation, she should know that I would speak among other things, topics with which she might feel too uncomfortable, e.g. believer’s baptism and male leadership. I believed that the revival to be what God would want them to be was being hindered greatly because these sound doctrines were not being taught. I was still invited, thank the Lord, and they heard those messages.”

    Well this example, shows problems from both directions. If they knew about your anti-denominationalism and rejection of their beliefs including infant baptism, women pastors, etc., then why allow you to speak from one of their pulpits? And likewise if you rejected all of these views of theirs that you mention, then what are you doing speaking from their pulpit when you reject their beliefs? If you did not recognize her as a pastor nor her denomination nor their beliefs then what are you doing teaching in their context?

    “I am an instructor at Virginia Baptist College, which caters to anyone but mostly draws from independent Baptist churches.”

    And are there differing beliefs in this group regarding things you have said were “sound doctrine”? Seems like this is yet another context where differing beliefs are allowed (in your case that would include your open theism and their non-open theism).

    “I do have to affirm their doctrinal statement which does have distinctives that I agree with, but which I believe are “doubtful things” (Rom 14:1) because they are based on inferences and not clear Scriptures.”

    Well it sounds like your concept of “doubtful things” is my concept of non-essential doctrines. So you do make this same distinction. You call essential doctrines the “sound doctrine” that a pastor must hold but then there are other beliefs, non-essentials that you place in your category of “doubtful things.”
    “But the school knows which ones I think do not rise to the level of sound doctrine.”
    I.e. what I term as “non-essentials”.

    “They also know about other “doubtful things” I lean towards believing, like open theism, that many of them would not be comfortable with, but they know that I only lean that way and do not make them issues of sound doctrine.”

    Ah, so according to you your open theism beliefs are non-essential doctrines/”doubtful things”. You do realize that in some other contexts they would view your open theism as sufficient to not allow you to teach in their schools nor preach from their pulpits? I also think your comment here that you merely “lean” towards open theism is not quite forthright. You have strongly defended open theism on multiple occasions here and it took a long time before you were open and direct about your open theist beliefs (which appears contradictory in light of your views on “sound doctrine”, you downplay open theism as merely “doubtful doctrine” so on the one hand you maintain it is the biblical view and attack and challenge what you call the traditional view on foreknowledge, but then when challenged on these beliefs back off and minimize them as merely “doubtful doctrine”).

    “Of course I believe much of their discomfort is because of the bad press those views receive, especially by those who elevate tradition to determine what the Bible teaches instead of being willing to look at the Scriptures closely for themselves.”

    See here is a good illustration of this inconsistency of yours, you view the majority view on foreknowledge to be mere tradition, and your open theism to be biblically derived, but then at the same time you lump open theism in with “doubtful things” which you say are things that are not clear like sound doctrine, things involving “inferences and not clear scriptures” (so sometimes you present open theism as biblically derived other times as “doubtful things” involving inferences and not clear scriptures).

    “But let me be clear again that I believe that there are in Scriptures three levels of importance concerning doctrine. The doctrines that must be believed as part of the gospel, necessary for forgiveness and everlasting life and clear enough in Scripture for a child to understand enough to be saved. Then there are sound doctrines which provide health and growth, and which qualify a pastor, which are clear enough for a layperson with normal education to glean from Scriptures by normal grammatical contextual reading, helping them to recognize God’s pastors. Everything else does have importance for personal edification, but are in the unclear doubtful doctrines category, because they do not have clear Scriptures proclaiming the exact principle or application that an individual might feel or infer is being taught in the passage. They can and should be shared, but not as dogmatically necessary for everlasting life, or for the foundational spiritual health and growth of all believers. I hope this helps.”

    Well where I posit a distinction between essential and non-essential doctrine, you have a three fold division: sound doctrine that is part of the gospel, sound doctrine that provides health and growth which qualify a pastor, and then the “unclear doubtful doctrines category”. So according to you open theism is within this third category. But if so, then the verses on open theism “do not have clear Scriptures proclaiming the exact principle or application that an individual might feel or infer is being taught in the passage”. You say that, but that is not at all how you have dealt with open theism or challenges to it on this blog.

    What this does show is that you do make the same distinction that I do between essential and non-essential doctrine. Where we disagree is mainly in the way you frame “sound doctrine” so that it excludes a lot of people from being pastors including all Presbyterians, Methodists, many Baptists (you view calvinism as unsound doctrine, harmful doctrine, therefore in your eyes if you are consistent with your views on “sound doctrine” then no Calvinist is qualified to be a God-ordained pastor even if they manifest godly character and submission to their own distinctives) etc. etc. etc.. We are going to have to just disagree on this.

    It is interesting that if we put aside your open theism and your anti-denominationalism, we probably agree on quite a few things including believer baptism, premillennialism/anti-Replacement theology, church/state separation, rejection of calvinism, affirmation of essentials (such as the trinity, the deity of Christ, the incarnation, the resurrection of Jesus, heaven and hell, inspiration, authority and inerrancy of scripture), importance of works in that works do not save a person but will flow from a genuinely saved person, the importance and need for Christian character especially among leaders, the need for the preconversion work of the Sprit which enables a faith response to the gospel but does not necessitate it, salvation through faith and not works, etc.

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    1. Hi Robert, I would not vote approval for any one to be recognized as a pastor who denies a clearly revealed truth in Scripture as it is normally read, without theological or philosophical twisting away from its normal contextual grammatical understanding. Six day creation and millennial reign is what the layperson normally reads. Theologians have discouraged the layperson from thinking the important truths of Scriptures can be easily understood, because they hear the words, “That’s what it normally means, and that’s what you think this passage is saying, but trust me, I know better, based on intellectual, traditional understanding.”

      Such a theologian, no matter how smart, popular, moral and traditional he may be, is not qualified to pastor!

      A corollary to that is the disqualified man or men or denominations that make unsupported harmful teachings necessary pastoral ordination, like infant baptism. Infant baptism is harmful because it causes disobedience to the clear command of believers baptism.

      I hope you will take your stand with me Robert for sound doctrine, especially in the areas of clearly taught sound doctrine necessary for divine qualification to biblical eldership.

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      1. From looking at various recent posts by Brian Wagner I can consolidate my concerns into one response.

        It is interesting that Brian in seeking to rationalize his extreme and mistaken view on biblical leadership (i.e. all who disagree with him in regards to what “sound doctrine” is are disqualified from being pastors, and that includes all Presbyterians, Methodists, most Baptists, all Calvinists, all of the Eastern Orthodox, etc. etc. etc.) writes:

        “Hi Robert, I would not vote approval for any one to be recognized as a pastor who denies a clearly revealed truth in Scripture as it is normally read, without theological or philosophical twisting away from its normal contextual grammatical understanding.”

        Everybody notice that comment about how scripture ought to be interpreted? Wagner says “as it is normally read, without theological or philosophical twisting away from its normal contextual grammatical understanding”. Wagner is extremely inconsistent, perhaps even hypocritical in that he says this is how scripture ought to be interpreted when it comes to what he views as “sound doctrine” and yet he holds to open theism.

        He says that “Six day creation and millennial reign is what the layperson normally reads.”

        Note “what the layperson normally reads” is his suggested criterion. Well all of the “laypersons” that I know, that diligently study and interpret scripture arrive at the normal understanding of omniscience and foreknowledge (i.e. that God knows everything, both all possibilities, and all actualities, he knows what will in fact occur in the future and knows this exhaustively) and reject open theism. When you bring up open theism to dedicated and faithful laypersons they quickly reject it and these words of Brian apply: “Theologians have discouraged the layperson from thinking the important truths of Scriptures can be easily understood, because they hear the words, “That’s what it normally means, and that’s what you think this passage is saying, but trust me, I know better, based on intellectual, traditional understanding.”

        Right, the layperson understands all of the numerous biblical prophecies to be revealing to us that God knows everything including the future, including events that have not yet occurred but will in fact occur and which God knows all of these events which is why He can and does prophecy about them! But then the open theist like Brian Wagner comes along and tells them “That’s what it normally means, and that’s what you think this passage is saying, but trust me, I know better . . . God can only know what exists, the future does not yet exist so there is nothing for God to know . . . if people exercise libertarian free will then God cannot know what they will do because if He did that would eliminate people’s libertarian free will . . . God really is omniscient, just not in the way that you have been taught, not in the way that everybody else around you thinks of God being omniscient.”

        If you look at contemporary open theism, they are the scholars/philosophers/theologians who have come along and are trying to tell the church/laymen that they are mistaken about what God knows, that He does not know everything, He does not know what will in fact occur.

        So on the one hand Wagner tells us that laymen get it right when they interpret the Bible, on the other hand they get it wrong when they interpret the Bible when it comes to open theism where it takes scholars or theologians or philosophers, people like Brian Wagner to help them get it right!
        Brian brings up God’s choice to create:

        “God thought about and chose between the possibility of creating or not creating. Why did He have to limit His omniscience and chose never to think and choose between possibilities after that? Rethink God’s omniscience, biblically!”

        Laymen don’t talk about God “limiting” His omniscience, only open theists like Brian Wagner who are revisionists who want to revise the normal understanding of God’s knowledge talk this way.
        Brian then exhorts us to “Rethink God’s omniscience, biblically!” Well the laymen and this includes laymen across the board through all Christian theological traditions see no need to rethink God’s omniscience. It is precisely the laymen that are Biblicists that hold the normal view of God’s knowledge and see open theism as an attempt at revisionism by people like Wagner.

        “So you deny that God chose between the possibility to create and the possibility not to create, but that creation was a necessity that His nature could not refuse!”

        No, most Christians (including Calvinists) believe that God had the choice to create or not to create, that it was not Him creating out of necessity. Wagner displays a great unawareness of what Christians have said on this, again across all theological traditions (Catholic, Protestant and Eastern Orthodox theologians and philosophers have argued that God created via a choice and that it was not out of necessity, the Eastern Orthodox for example are particularly strong on this point).

        Brian says:

        “I do believe God is all knowing of all that has existed, and all that now exists and all that can possibly exist and all that He has planned to exist. I think I do believe in omniscience in my system! :-)”

        No, Brian does not believe that God is all knowing, he reframes it so it does not include knowing future freely chosen actions (we have been through this before here so I will not repeat it again). And his statement that “I do believe in omniscience in my system” is misleading as he redefines things so that God is supposedly omniscient even though God according to him does not know all things! If Wagner held the normal understanding of omniscience then why is he calling others in the church to “rethink” it “Biblically”? I tell people to rethink something only when I believe their present view is error. Wagner wants people to rethink their views on God’s omniscience away from what they presently believe (i.e. the normal view of what God knows, the normal view of God’s omniscience) to HIS VIEW (i.e. which is not the normal view, which is a revisionist open theist view of omniscience, which is not the view which laymen hold).

        “I hope you will take your stand with me Robert for sound doctrine, especially in the areas of clearly taught sound doctrine necessary for divine qualification to biblical eldership.”

        I will continue to disagree with your radical and extreme views on what qualifies a person to be a pastor. I will continue to oppose your open theism and revisionist attempt at getting people away from the truth on omniscience to your mistaken open theism. The laymen who interpret the scripture properly end up holding the normal view of what God knows: hopefully they will have the discernment to know when folks like Brian Wagner come along trying to lead them away from the truth to their revisionist false theology.

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      2. I really feel sorry Robert that I am not much of a blessing to you and that you feel you need to address those in this forum so strongly with your feelings about my views. It is still ironic to me that if you were asked to be on an ordination counsel that wanted an open theist you would not be as vocal then as you are now!

        But please be encouraged to try to represent my position on open theism as being for me a disputable matter that I only lean towards believing since it seems more consistent Scripturally and logically than your view of omniscience or the Calvinist view of omniscience. Yet I would not vote against someone for ordination that held your view, as long as they did not make it into a sound doctrine issue, but keep it as a disputable matter.

        And please do not include numerous direct quotes from my posts and then slip in one you make up that a reader might assume as if it was from me, even though a careful reading of how you introduced it might give them pause! That is deceptive. The false quotation I am referring to is – “But then the open theist like Brian Wagner comes along and tells them, ‘That’s what it normally means, and that’s what you think this passage is saying, but trust me, I know better . . . God can only know what exists, the future does not yet exist so there is nothing for God to know . . . if people exercise libertarian free will then God cannot know what they will do because if He did that would eliminate people’s libertarian free will . . . God really is omniscient, just not in the way that you have been taught, not in the way that everybody else around you thinks of God being omniscient.’”

        You know that is not how I have presented my view of open theism. It is true the future does not exist, but it is not true that there is nothing for God to know! You have been dishonest with my view with which you are very familiar. In my view, God knows every thing already determined by Him for the future and every possibility for the things not yet planned for the future, plus an understanding of all the counter-factuals that will never happen because of the things He has planned. That’s a lot for Him to know 🙂 and a good biblical definition for omniscience.

        I am still not sure why you have been so determined to be so confrontational about something that is not that harmful doctrinally, at least not enough for you to believe it disqualifies someone from being a pastor. I hope the Lord helps you gain better discernment as to the better places where you should be so aggressive than to continue reacting so strongly against my posts. God bless.

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  16. “I really feel sorry Robert that I am not much of a blessing to you and that you feel you need to address those in this forum so strongly with your feelings about my views.”

    How is error and false doctrine a “blessing”?

    If you consider something to be false, as I (and most people) consider open theism to be false, why should we view it as a “blessing”?

    Error in doctrine should not be considered as a blessing.

    You espouse the error of open theism, and open theism is no blessing for the church. But what really bothers me personally about you is that you play games trying to hide your view. Someone who holds the truth does not need to play games and hide it. First you hide it, while attacking what other Christians believe on omniscience and foreknowledge (you attacked Catholics and Eastern Orthodox who hold to the normal view by attacking them as “false churches”). Then after repeatedly being prompted by others you finally admit you are an open theist. Then you try to minimize it claiming it is not really that important. All this evasiveness and rationalizing of an error and attacking other believers who hold the correct view on this is what is bothersome to me about your posts. Of course now that I know your radical views on leadership (virtually everyone is not qualified to be a pastor according to you) I better understand why you have to attack everyone else to defend your open theism. And I understand that, if you hold a minority view (as you do) then to demonstrate the truthfulness of your view you have to attack the majority view, I get that.

    “It is still ironic to me that if you were asked to be on an ordination counsel that wanted an open theist you would not be as vocal then as you are now!”

    Regarding being on an ordination counsel you still don’t get it and refuse to accept the reality that many of us face in those contexts. If OUR denomination or group allows two different views to be held by church leadership (whether it be Calvinism/non-Calvinism, or open theism/the normal view on God’s knowledge and foreknowledge), then you cannot not allow people with differing views to be ordained as pastors. As Leighton and this blog are coming from an SBC context, if we are in that context where Calvinism is allowed to be held by pastors, then you cannot oppose a Calvinist in the ordination process, in that context. That is a lack of submission to the denominational standards. If you are part of a group you have to abide by and submit to their standards. It is easy for you with you total anti-denominationalism to criticize the rest of us for allowing differing views in our groups, but that is our reality. And I don’t appreciate your criticism at all as it is coming from someone who is against all denominations.

    “But please be encouraged to try to represent my position on open theism as being for me a disputable matter that I only lean towards believing since it seems more consistent Scripturally and logically than your view of omniscience or the Calvinist view of omniscience.”

    I am not going to represent your open theism as being merely a “disputable matter” which is your way of conceptualizing things, not mine.

    “Yet I would not vote against someone for ordination that held your view, as long as they did not make it into a sound doctrine issue, but keep it as a disputable matter.”

    Perhaps YOU would not, but again, you are operating by your own anti-denominational beliefs. In the SBC they do not view Calvinism by your terminology as a “sound doctrine” where everyone has to hold the same view. If anything, they view it as what you call “a disputable matter” (where differing views can be held).

    “And please do not include numerous direct quotes from my posts and then slip in one you make up that a reader might assume as if it was from me, even though a careful reading of how you introduced it might give them pause! That is deceptive.”

    It was not an intent to deceive, sorry if it came across that way to you or anyone else, rather it was an attempt to present representative comments of what open theists say. I was trying to use it as an example of how open theists would respond to the laymen, telling them to as you say “rethink” their view on omniscience. YOU are the one trying to get the church to revise its views on God’s knowledge, not me or the rest of us. I am the one that is orthodox on this matter, not you. If your open theism is error it needs to be exposed and the laymen need to be protected from your false and revisionist views.

    “I am still not sure why you have been so determined to be so confrontational about something that is not that harmful doctrinally”

    I think you are wrong here, it is harmful doctrinally, like Calvinism it is error that needs to be exposed and opposed. Similar to Calvinism it is an attack on the character and nature of God (the God of open theism is a limited and finite being in time like the rest of us, in terms of knowledge just a bigger version of ourselves not a transcendent creator who inhabits eternity and knows all things). Many others have challenged the false theology of open theism, including both Calvinists and non-Calvinists (and from all Christian theological traditions). Calvinists in particular, have strongly opposed open theism.

    “at least not enough for you to believe it disqualifies someone from being a pastor.”

    Again, in a denominational context where differing views are allowed both Calvinism and open theism are allowed to be held by pastors. If it were **up to me alone**, neither of these views would be held by pastors. But again, it is not up to me alone, it is up to particular denominations and groups. And again the SBC is the perfect illustration of this, as they allow both Calvinism and non-Calvinism to be held by their pastors. If THAT is the reality then you have to deal with it, and submit to the beliefs of your denomination, if you are in that context, if that is the group you have chosen to associate with.

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    1. Robert, you might also want to rethink your biblical understanding of submission, especially when it results in your publicly defending the pastoral qualification of men that you believe hold to harmful doctrines as necessary qualifications to be pastors. And then you even accept their denominational authority as being biblical to truly recognize God’s pastors, even with this promotion of harmful doctrine as necessary!

      I appreciated your apology for using a deceptive quotation as representative of open theism and saying it was my view. I would also have liked your admission that my view was indeed different than the quotation you made. What do you think? Can you make such an admission for the few that may read our dialog? Will you admit that you misrepresented my view when you said that I believe – since “the future does not yet exist … there is nothing for God to know”? That would make me very happy and hopeful, if you would be willing to correct that misrepresentation!

      Infant baptism has been “orthodox” to most who claim “Christianity” as their religion, and has been “orthodox” for 1600 years. You reject that “orthodoxy” as unbiblical and harmful! It should not be too hard for you to be willing to test other so-called “orthodox” positions with the Scriptures, without castigating the person who is calling for the test and offering biblical evidence against the so-called “orthodox” view. You’ll wake up to this reasoning someday, Robert! I know you will. 😉

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      1. Brian you continue with your anti-denominations comments. No need to keep responding to your views on this.

        “I appreciated your apology for using a deceptive quotation as representative of open theism and saying it was my view.”

        I was attempting to present representative quotes of what open theists believe. I included quotes from you and should have been clear that I was not just presenting your view alone but other open theists as well. And the quote was not in itself deceptive as it was intended to be representative of what open theists including you think.

        “I would also have liked your admission that my view was indeed different than the quotation you made. What do you think?”

        No, the quote was intended to present what open theists (including you) think, so there is no more need for any admission. Also, you have said things in the past that sound very much like what I attributed to you.

        “Can you make such an admission for the few that may read our dialog? Will you admit that you misrepresented my view when you said that I believe – since “the future does not yet exist … there is nothing for God to know”?”

        I do not believe it is a misrepresentation of your view as your view does lead to the conclusion that God cannot know future events because they do not yet exist.

        To use one of your own statements as an example, in the past when arguing for open theism you wrote:

        [[“Let me try to put it another way, which may or may not help. God’s omniscience of which His foreknowledge is a part can only include what really exists!
        I think you would agree that God does not know any event of the past that never took place, like He does not know that I became a Calvinist yesterday, because it did not happen. 🙂 Also God does not know any event of the present that doesn’t truly exist, like I am now a true Calvinist, because that is not true. So God can only know the events of the future as they truly exist.”]]

        You were arguing that God only knows events that have actually taken place (“God does not know any event of the past that never took place”, “God does not know any event of the present that doesn’t truly exist”) to the conclusion that “God can only know the events of the future as they truly exist” (which by your reasoning means that God cannot know future events that have not taken place as they do not yet “truly exist”, you claim that God’s omniscience “can only include what really exists”, since the future does not yet exist and God’s foreknowledge “can only include what really exists” God’s foreknowledge will not include this non-existent future and so it cannot be known which sounds a lot like open theists who have claimed that “– since “the future does not yet exist … there is nothing for God to know” ).

        This is a typical open theist argument so there is no misrepresentation here (perhaps you do not personally hold this, but your words sure sound like it at times, it is difficult to see how your view differs in light of comments that you have made like those I just quoted).

        “Infant baptism has been “orthodox” to most who claim “Christianity” as their religion, and has been “orthodox” for 1600 years. You reject that “orthodoxy” as unbiblical and harmful!”

        Actually “Christian orthodoxy” on the subject of baptism does include both infant baptism and believer baptism as hard as that may be for you to stomach. That is the reality and if you examined reputable church historians you would not find them saying that infant baptism is orthodox Christianity while believer baptism is not (or vice versa).

        “It should not be too hard for you to be willing to test other so-called “orthodox” positions with the Scriptures.”

        We are to test all things with scripture, that is why hopefully I hold the views that I do and reject the views that I reject (e.g. your open theism).

        “You’ll wake up to this reasoning someday, Robert! I know you will. ;-)”

        I don’t think I need to wake up as I am not asleep. 🙂 I am quite aware of what different groups believe, what I believe, and I doubt that the comments and arguments of an open theist with radical views on denominations and church leadership are going to persuade me to change my mind on these things. 🙂 Whenever someone espouses something radical, as you do, it must be carefully examined by the rest of us, and we have to seriously wonder why others have not come to these same radical conclusions. As far as I can tell, even on this blog you are a lone voice for your radical ideas. I don’t even think your “fans” like Phillip agree with your open theism and anti-denominationalism. 🙂

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      2. Have a great evening Robert! I know how you think I do not admit what I believe by the terms you wish I would. But don’t you hold to infant baptism as unbiblical and harmful and orthodox? So aren’t you saying that you want to be known as orthodox even though that orthodoxy has unbiblical, harmful doctrines in it? Are you willing to give a simple yes to those questions so that there wouldn’t be any confusion or dodging on your part. Thanks.

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  17. Keep in mind Brian, no matter how you much you try to spin things, no matter what questions you come up with trying to attack my orthodox beliefs: I am not the one here who is unorthodox.

    It is you with your open theism and anti-denominationalism that is the unorthodox one here.

    As I have said before: I hold to believer baptism, the normal understanding of omniscience held by virtually all believers, the essentials of the faith including the trinity, deity of Christ, incarnation/that Jesus was God in the flesh, the physical resurrection of Jesus, heaven and hell, the inspiration and authority and inerrancy of scripture, etc. Others may sometimes disagree with me on some things (I hold to Premill while I have friends who hold to amill and Postmill), but I don’t have people questioning my orthodoxy.

    I also maintain a respectful attitude towards those in other denominations and Christian groups. There is no need to condemn them and attack them as “false churches”, nor would this help them or me. You will find godly people in all denominations and Christian groups, and you will find godly people in these groups who serve faithfully as qualified pastors in their groups. I count some of these faithful men who are pastors in other denominations to be my friends. We may not agree on some things, but we agree on the essentials, and we can (and have) worked together.

    I am not the one espousing unorthodox beliefs, you are, with your open theism and anti-denominationalism.

    There is no need for me to dodge things when it comes to my beliefs, with nothing to hide when it comes to what I believe. I don’t have to play your definitional games or engage in the semantics that you do to rationalize and defend your unorthodox beliefs. I am looking forward to a long and enjoyable weekend, hope you are as well.

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    1. Thanks for the dodge, Robert! Please do not ever again accuse me of dodging how I identify myself unless you are willing to admit that infant baptism is a harmful, unbiblical doctrine, as I know you believe it is, as well as admitting that you think it is a part of your understanding of orthodoxy. Enough said.

      No games! I freely admit to my views, that I do not hold as part of the gospel or sound doctrine, but truly are in agreement with open theism, that they are not a part of what is commonly called “orthodoxy.” And I clearly reject, because of unbiblical, harmful doctrines like infant baptism, that the common definition of “orthodoxy” is not a biblical one, for God does not receive the “right glory” from unbiblical, harmful doctrines that corrupt His gospel and sound doctrine as infant baptism has done.

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  18. I found this comparison with the Emperor’s New Clothes refreshing. I have often found myself comparing it to the same story feel that I may be the only one that notices something isn’t quite right about this. I’m glad God brought you out of Calvinism.

    Liked by 1 person

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