• What JGIG Is:

    Joyfully Growing In Grace engages in an examination of beliefs found in the Hebrew Roots Movement, Messianic Judaism, and Netzarim streams of thought and related sects.

    The term “Messianic” is generally understood to describe Jews who have come to believe in Yeshua/Jesus as their Messiah. Jews who are believers in Jesus/Yeshua typically call themselves Jewish/Hebrew Christians or simply, Christians.

    Many Christians meet folks who say they are ‘Messianic’ and assume that those folks are Jewish Christians. Most aren’t Jewish at all, but are Gentile Christians who have chosen to pursue Torah observance and have adopted the Messianic term, calling themselves Messianic Christians, adherents to Messianic Judaism, or simply, Messianics. Some will even try to avoid that label and say that they are followers of "The Way".

    These Gentiles (and to be fair, some Messianic Jews) preach Torah observance/pursuance for Christians, persuading many believers that the Christianity of the Bible is a false religion and that we must return to the faith of the first century sect of Judaism that they say Yeshua (Jesus Christ) embraced. According to them, once you become aware that you should be 'keeping' the edicts and regulations of Mosaic Covenant Law, if you do not, you are then in willful disobedience to God.

    It has been my observation that Christians who adopt the label of Messianic identify more with the tenets of Judaism than they do with the tenets of Christianity. Many reject the label of Christian altogether and some eventually even convert to Judaism.

    1 Thessalonians 5:21-22 says, "But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil."

    Joyfully Growing in Grace examines the methods, claims, and fruits of the Hebrew Roots Movement, Messianic Judaism, and Netzarim streams of thought and related, law-keeping sects.

    To borrow from a Forrest Gump quote, “Law ‘keepers’ are like a box of chocolates - ya never know what you’re gonna get!” The goal of JGIG is to be a resource to help those affected by the Torah pursuant movements to try and sort out what they’re dealing with. Make use of the tabs with drop-down menus found at the top of this site – there’s tons of info there, and it’s very navigable.

    Be sure to click on the many embedded links within the posts here - there's lots of additional and related information for you to access that way, as well.

    Welcome, and may God grant you wisdom and discernment as you consider all of these things.

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    Do you find it frustrating when you’re directed to a link that does not exist? Me too! My apologies for any broken links you may find here.

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Calvinism/Reformed Theology (And What I Think is an Obvious Disconnect)

Discussions here  . . . here . . . and here have prompted me to write a few thoughts here on my own blog. Let’s Talk About Calvinism was the first post to start one of what I conclude are many, many debates over what Calvin taught/believed as well as what his teachings/beliefs morphed into in the hands of others over time.  I think it’s important to note that until comment #87, the parameters of the discussion asked “readers to post comments, questions, arguments, etc.”  Well, that’s what happened, and then the parameters of the discussion got edited.  Comments pretty much petered out after that, with the balance of the comments (10 at last count) consisting mostly of a Calvinist Mutual Appreciation Society =o).   That’s fine . . . the author of the post pulled the plug as is her prerogative.

The disconnect?  From what I gather so far, the Calvinist view is very concerned with God getting all of the glory, man getting none, and keeping salvation a total result of God’s Grace and Soveriengty and none of man’s doing.  I get that.  I even agree with that.  My question is this:  Is the Kingdom of God being furthered or hindered by such heated debate?  [Re-reading this I guess in the world of Calvinism’s concepts no one but God can truly affect His Kingdom anyway, so maybe the point is moot?]  Are the Fruits of the Spirit being demonstrated by either/both sides?  Are believers (those in the Body of Christ) being built up or torn down as the concepts are discussed?

I get the impression that while those who ascribe to Calvinism view the Word as the final authority, they are still viewing the Word through an external lens.  And those who react/respond with disdain or even pain toward some of the “harder” teachings of Calvinism do so with almost a hand-in-the-flame reflex.  Those who have been deeply wounded and saved by a loving and gentle God cannot fathom those “hard” teachings, for they portray a god they don’t recognize.  To which Calvinists may retort that maybe they do not know the real God after all.  Again, Fruits of the Spirit?  The furthering of the Kingdom of God?

Is all of this perhaps an exercise in futility?

Does it really matter how we “get” redeemed?

Okay, let me qualify that.  Of course it matters that we believe on Jesus Christ and the Gospel as communicated in the Bible.  What I mean by does it really matter how we “get” redeemed is this:  What difference does it make whether or not we know when we actually become “regenerated”?  If it was the moment before we submitted to the Truth of the Gospel or after?  How is it that God gets any more or any less glory or gains any more or has any less sovereignty – whichever way we find out it actually happens?

God’s glory and His sovereignty, in my opinion, are demonstrated in a most obvious and wonderful way in the changing of a person from a state of spiritual death to spiritual life.  Is at what exact instant that transformation takes place – God regenerating a person to enable them to receive the Gospel, or a person freely receiving the gift of salvation extended to all mankind (raising my shield in anticipation of what some of you Calvinists will have to say about that “all mankind” thing) – really a place we need to put great focus or have disagreements over?  Does God, in reality, lose any of who He truly is based on what view we in the Body of Christ take on the matter?

Do not we (the Body of Christ) all, in reality, believe that no one comes to the Father but by the Blood of Jesus?   I guess one of the reasons I get kind of frustrated about this kind of debate is that I don’t see much beneficial fruit that comes from it.  While one side swears up and down that the grace, sovereignty and justice of God is at stake, another side swears up and down that the love and compassion, grace and justice of God is at stake from their perspective, as well.

Me?  I see it all as a big pile of chicken wings sitting on my table, not sure that I want to put the time and effort into picking it all apart ’cause, back to my question, does it really matter for us to know the exact instant and in exactly what order our redemption “processed”, or does it matter more that we are redeemed.  Speaking for myself, I know  Who saved me.  I know  I did nothing to merit or earn what it took to redeem me.  I know  that God orchestrated my conversion circumstances.  I know  that His Holy Spirit prepared my heart and drew me to Himself.

I also know  that God put it all out there and allowed (let) me choose whom I would serve.  Did He foreknow me?  Yes.  Did He predestine me?  Yes.  That’s what the Word says.  Do I fully understand all of that?  No.  There are actually several things I need to ask God about that I’m pretty sure I won’t understand ’till I’m completely restored at the Resurrection.  Can I still trust in the God of my salvation even if  I can’t conclusively for sure have every bit of the process nailed down pat?  Yup.  Maybe I’m too simplistic, but then I see things in the word like this:

For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere men?  What, after all, is Apollos?  And what is Paul?  Only servants, through whom you came to believe – as the Lord has assigned to each his task.  I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow.  For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.  1 Corinthians 3:4-9  

Does God, in the view of Calvinism lose some of His glory because of the planters and waterers?  And this:

When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God.  For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.  I came to you in weakness and fear and with much trembling.  My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.  1 Corinthians 2:1-5

The rest of that chapter is good to keep things in perspective, too. 

Calvin, Arminius, Wesley, Knox, Augustine, Tyndale, and dozens and dozens of others have written many many many more pages on theology than the Bible itself contains!  I’m thinking we need to focus where??, exactly, with our time and effort?

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Edited to add:

Click here for a good video summary of Calvinism and Arminianism by Mark Driscoll from Mars Hill Church.  I really like what he has to say about being in different camps and still loving one another and functioning as the Body of Christ.  Mark Driscoll is in the Calvinist camp, and I like also how he distinguishes Arminianism, with its 5 points and theRemonstrants, and Calvinism, with its 5 points and the Synod of Dordt, from the men Arminius and Calvin themselves.

A brief telling of the long history of the Calvinist-Arminian debate can be found here.  Yeah, it’s just Wikipedia, but it will give anyone wanting to do further study a good jumping off point should they choose to do more research on the subject.  [Did I just say “choose”?  =o)]

This is an excellent 21 minute broadcast about predestination, election, and free will.  It lays out a scriptural foundation . . . what does the Bible really say about those things?  Listen HERE and click the play button for the audio.  Stick with it through to the end . . . the teaching does come full circle.

Check out this article in Christianity Today by Roger E. Olsen.

I came across this post at “Christ is Deeper Still”.  A really good perspective on functioning in love within the Body of Christ from a Calvinist perspective.

This reviewer of “What Love is This?  Calvinism’s Misrepresentation of God” makes some points that I really like.  See the review hereIf you take the time to read more reviews of the book, her point is well-made.

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Further edited to add (3/28/13):

I’m sorry to add here that Anne, the author of the ‘Let’s Talk About Calvinism’ post referenced above, and one who staunchly defended Calvinism, is now (again) a practicing Pagan.  My prayer for her is that she would encounter the Gospel of Grace as opposed to the Doctrines of Grace.

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The American Concept of Harvesting

With all the news stories about farmers not growing this in order to grow that in order to make the other . . . well it got me to thinking about the farm “industry” in this country vs. the small local farmers.  And that made me think of this . . .

The American concept of successful harvesting is for a farmer to climb up into the big air-conditioned cab of their combine, fire it up, crank up some tunes, and proceed to mow down the fields before them.  There is little contact with the ground, and the harvest is swift.  The crop is shuffled off to the next stage in production (cleaning, sorting, inspecting) and then arranged neatly in attractive packaging for sale at market.

Hmmm . . .  do you see any elements of the above paralleling some [mega] churches and formula-based movements out there?

Debating a Belief System (With Yourself or Another)

I’ve been reading quite a bit lately on “competing”, for lack of a better word, belief systems, or more accurately, areas of secondary doctrines within Christianity.  Some of them have been more “out there” than others. 

I won’t get into the specific issue that was being discussed on the blog I was looking at, but in the comments area, a woman was talking about how she needed to not discuss that particular issue any further (after a considerable amount of contribution explaining her viewpoint) because she was always going to interpret scripture her way and the person challenging her was always going to interpret scripture their way and, well, what was the point?  

While I would agree that in certain instances that is the appropriate course, the particular discussion in question was fascinating.  I thought the two engaged in the conversation and the view points being defended were both well stated.  It was a little disappointing to see the discussion that had developed between the two come to an end, frankly.

The woman who chose to end her part of the discussion relayed that she came from the privileged position of having a husband educated in Greek and Hebrew and that he had written many papers on the subject being discussed.  The implication, no doubt, was that his interpretation would be the correct one, because of all of his education vs. the “lay person’s” study and interpretation.  I won’t make the assumption that the view opposing hers was from either a “lay person” or from someone not as educated as her husband.   

Well, okay, let’s just for the moment assume that the challenging view did come from one not as well educated as her husband.  So what?  Funny how some think that God can only speak to/through the educated – that they are the ones to whom we must primarily look to divide the Word correctly.   A verse in the book of Acts comes to mind where the priests in the temple observed that the apostles Peter and John were not educated men . . .

When they [the priests] saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.  Acts 4:13

Peter and John, empowered and led by the Holy Spirit, were boldly proclaiming the Gospel.  And they were using the Scriptures and their witness of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus to do it.  They were not formally “schooled” in religion – they were bathed in the Word and they were led and empowered by the Holy Spirit.  Unschooled, ordinary men.  Hmmmmm . . .

I’m not knocking education and higher learning at all, but what was it that these priests (educated by definition because they were priests) “took note” of?  That these men had been with Jesus!  

Education can be a valuable element in dividing and interpreting the Word correctly and discerning the things going on around us, but it must be an element, not the primary foundation on which we choose to stand.  That which we choose as our primary foundation must always be the Word and prayer asking God for wisdom and discernment. 

We have available to us the resources to look up original Hebrew and Greek for any passage in the Bible and there are lots of resources explaining cultural and historical issues of whatever period of time you may be studying.  If you’re reading this, you have all of that information available at your fingertips. 

But sometimes, folks, we need to remember that God has been faithful to provide His Word in our language, and often it just says what it says.  Yes, we need to be confident of the overall integrity of the translation(s) we’re reading, that’s part of discernment and being responsible in what we choose to read.  Yes, there are parts of the Word that have imagery and poetry and history, etc. that require further study, but mostly it just says what it says.

I’ve read some “word studies” that have taken people to places nowhere near where the text intended them to go.  I’ve seen some go into a study trying to prove a pre-supposition or mis-conception and get themselves (and unfortunately others, if they are in leadership) so tangled up in semantics or jumping through so many hoops linguistically, that the end result is just plain false, and not at all what God intended.

Beyond that, there are even those who deny the canon’s validity and have come up with whole new “translations” of Scripture to support their views and teachings.  One example of this is in the Hebrew Roots Movement, which claims that the New Testament, for instance, was really originally written in Hebrew (a claim for which there is no credible historical or archaeological evidence, by the way),  for Hebrews, and from a Hebrew perspective, opening wide the door for questionable and outright false doctrine.  These folks will then tell you that the scriptures need to be looked at from a Jewish mindset, and not a “Hedonistic, Greek, Westernized” mindset.  (I guess they forgot about all those Gentiles to whom Paul preached and wrote.)  Then, of course, you need them to lead you in that “new way of thinking”.  Then the door opens wider still to “hidden meanings” or “forgotten truths”, or “restored translations” setting up unsuspecting hearers for great deception. 

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We need to be careful not to puposefully take scripture and make it fit what we believe instead of taking what we believe and submitting it to scripture. 

I’m getting the impression that for some, when a long-held belief or “system” of belief is challenged, some tend to do the equivalent of closing their eyes, putting their fingers in their spiritual ears and loudly singing “la la la la la la la la”!  Not to say that we should be tossed about by changing winds of questionable interpretation or doctrine at every turn.  That’s why praying for wisdom and discernment and staying grounded in the Word and the Gospel are so important.   

Of course EVERYTHING has to measured by the Word of God. That’s the conundrum, I suppose. We come back to interpretation, then, don’t we?  That’s where having “formulas” in our belief systems can really stick it to us. Learning to hear God, and letting the Holy Spirit speak to us in spite of our pre/mis-conceptions . . . that’s the challenge!  That’s our responsibility.

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