Calvinist Proof-texting of 1 John 5:1: Using misleading grammatical arguments to teach that regeneration precedes faith

If there is one thing I learned from my Greek teachers, it’s that they taught me to be very careful with using the Greek language.  I wouldn’t consider myself very good in Greek at all despite finishing seminary (frankly, most seminary graduates are not, regardless of where they went), but I know enough of it and semantic analysis to know to be cautious and nuanced.  I’m sure I still mess up when I try to use the language, but while it may be tempting to pass off awesome-sounding points with simple appeals to Greek grammar or words in sermons, I try to avoid it.  Not only does it often not help support a point to the audience, most pastors who do so often oversimplify the use of the language and therefore mislead their congregation who is eager to gobble up all of this neat “scholarly” stuff.  One of the greatest errors of early seminary students is their excitement to use simplistic Greek grammar to make sweeping conclusions when it is not quite that easy.

This is why it is concerning that many Calvinists use such simple tense analysis to try to argue that 1 John 5:1 teaches that regeneration precedes faith.  One of the main points of contention between Calvinists and most non-Calvinists is on the ordo salutis, the order of salvation (that wasn’t Greek but Latin; see how smart I sounded?).  Calvinists believe that regeneration logically precedes faith, while Arminians and other non-Calvinists believe that faith precedes regeneration (some others argue that such ordering is unimportant and unduly speculative).  In other words, Calvinists believe that we have faith because God has already regenerated us while others believe that we are regenerated due to our faith.  Many Calvinists argue that 1 John 5:1 is a clear verse for their view because the tenses of the Greek verbs demand it.  However, as attractive as it sounds to end an old and ongoing debate with “objective” Greek interpretation, a more careful look at the verse shows that it at best says nothing about the order of faith and regeneration and at worst (for the Calvinist) says the opposite of what Reformed people want it to say.

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A Christian’s view on the Michael Sam announcement: If he’s good, I’d draft him

Michael Sam, the star Missouri defensive end, made big news recently by coming out publicly as gay.  This obviously drew a wide variety of responses.  Some lauded him as the next Jackie Robinson, some wanted to make him a symbol, some are even a bit mad that he doesn’t want to be an activist right now, some don’t know how to respond, and some posted vitriolic and hateful tweets.  Yay internet.  There are some people who openly questioned whether a gay man belonged in the NFL.  Others, more thoughtfully, wondered whether or not the media circus he would bring with him is worth it, similar to concerns teams have of the circus that Tim Tebow brings wherever he goes whether he wants to or not.  It definitely doesn’t help that guys like Chris Kluwe, a gay activist, accused his team of cutting him because of his activism rather than the more obvious reason that he just wasn’t that great of a punter and was a salary cap casualty.  That didn’t stop many people in the media from jumping on that narrative.

There haven’t been too many Christian responses out there, to my knowledge, so I’ll chime in.  If I were running an NFL team, would I draft a known gay player?

Why yes, yes I would.  If he was good enough, behaved professionally, and ultimately helped my team win games, why wouldn’t I?  And while I admit that I did not watch a large amount of Missouri football this year, Sam is obviously a legitimate NFL talent.

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Blogging Archives #7: Does Gen. 1 Speak About Material Origins? A Review of “The Lost World of Genesis One”

I wrote this review in February of 2011, during an ice storm that hit Dallas around the time of the Super Bowl.  This seems to fit what I’ve been writing on lately when it comes to creation, so I’ll re-post it now.  As always, I’ve edited it as necessary, primarily shortening this since it was originally about 3500 words long.

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School has now been canceled for three straight days.  It’s been great to sleep in, but I should do something constructive, like review a book.  However, since I do not wish to do actual school work, I will review one that is not for class :).

Recently, my father gave me a book titled The Lost World of Genesis One, written by Dr. John Walton, professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College.  In a ntushell: It’s a well-presented book that gives an interesting case for reading Genesis 1 with a functional ontology in mind, meaning that Genesis 1 is about God establishing his cosmic temple rather than giving a literal account of creation.  That may sound like a load to take in, so I’ll attempt to unpack the book throughout the rest of the post.

Approaching the text from within ancient culture

Walton begins with a discussion on how to approach the Old Testament.  While he affirms that the OT was written for us, he warns that we must realize that the OT was not written to us but to ancient Israel, in their language that operates in their culture (9).  One way to understand their culture is to look at other literature in the ancient Near East.  This is not to say that these texts are on equal footing as the OT; it is simply a way to see how such people thought (14).  This leads Walton to his first proposition, which is that Genesis 1 is ancient cosmology: “If we accept Genesis 1 as ancient cosmology, then we need to interpret it as ancient cosmology rather than translate it into modern cosmology… it is a dangerous thing to change the meaning of the text into something it never intended to say” (17).  For example, in ancient cosmology, the hard distinction between the natural and supernatural was simply inconsequential (20).

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Goodbye, Hercules: Our time with our crazy husky was cut too short

Our family has had at least one dog for over 20 years.  Technically, our first dog was one we had for only a little while before his owner took him back, but the first dog we actually owned was a small dog named Whitey (you can guess what color he was), followed by a toy poodle named Benjie a couple of years later.  In 2007, our family acquired a Siberian husky: Hercules, who was every bit as big and strong as his name suggests and quite a bit larger than the dogs we were used to.  But we loved him, and when our other two dogs died of old age, Hercules became the baby of the family.  He was not young but not super old and he was very healthy, which is why it was such a shocker on Saturday when I received a call that he had passed away just a few weeks before his ninth birthday.  My sister, who was like Hercules’ mother, was crying so much that it was difficult to even hear her.

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Bill Nye and Ken Ham Debate: No, it is not un-Christian to criticize the event

A couple of nights ago, Bill Nye the Science Guy and Creation Museum founder Ken Ham squared off in a highly publicized debate.  I had an Aquinas class until 9 p.m., but I’m going to be frank: Even if I did not, I probably would have watched the Texas-TCU basketball game instead.  Gasp!  Is that not arrogant?  Do I think I’m “too good” for a debate like this?  Doesn’t God use the foolish to shame the wise, so it is no big deal that Ham is not William Lane Craig or Ravi Zacharias?  Shouldn’t I be happy about this debate because, regardless of what happened, “the Gospel was preached?”  Isn’t that the whole point?  How dare some elitist punk like me criticize the event.

Or maybe I actually think that Ken Ham is a Christian brother and Bill Nye is a funny guy, but I failed to see why so much attention was given to these speakers when so many others don’t get any despite having higher academic credentials.  Maybe I genuinely think the theistic worldview could have received a better presentation.  Now, does having academic credentials mean that someone is automatically smarter and right?  No; ultimately, whether you’re listening to a professor or a dude playing laser tag, you evaluate what they say and not their degrees.  Still, academic training can give an indication about the level of skill and expertise a person brings, and while Ham gave an eloquent presentation and made several good points, I believe the debate was a missed opportunity.

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Blogging Archives #6: Review of “The Reason for God”

I wrote this review back in March of 2010, not long after I reviewed The God Delusion.  The quality between the two books (and the character of the two men) was notably different, as Keller is both humble and sharp while Dawkins is pompous and immature.

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I had heard of Timothy Keller’s best-seller The Reason for God a while ago, being one of the more popular apologetic books out there right now.  Initially, I did not have much inclination to read it because I knew it was more of introductory book.  This was a bit of vain pride on my part; often, the “simple” books remind us of basics and make us appreciate what is at the center of Christianity, such as C.S. Lewis’ classic Mere Christianity.  My father just bought The Reason for God for me, and when I got home for spring break I read it all in a couple days.

To call the book “simple,” however, is a bit of an injustice, as this may imply that Keller did shoddy work such as, oh, Richard Dawkins in The God Delusion.  It is true that the book does not purport to be some super, all-encompassing book that tackles all the issues in depth (of course, no book is like this, not even extremely fat ones).  However, Keller does an admirable job sifting through difficult questions to arrive at the heart of the matter.  Rather than talk over the layman’s head or talk in condescension, Keller engages his audience with clear language and a gentle tone.  He does a good job communicating the issues in an accessible way so that the reader can understand the central point he is trying to make.  Also, when he quotes philosophers, scientists, or other scholars (or even geeky things like Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings), they fit in smoothly with his writing and are not used to try to bombard the reader with expert opinion.

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