Evangelize like an Arminian

Discussion in 'Evangelism, Missions and the Persecuted Church' started by steadfast7, Dec 2, 2009.

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  1. steadfast7

    steadfast7 Puritan Board Junior

    Straw man. I never made the claim that saving souls is the "focus" of the missionary.
    Speaking of doing a search for "for the sake of". Watch and learn:

    Romans 9:3
    For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race

    1 Corinthians 9:23
    I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.

    Ephesians 3:1
    For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles—

    Colossians 1:24
    Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ's afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.

    2 Timothy 2:10
    Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.

    Paul has many "sakes" for which he labours. God's glory is certainly ultimate and permeates everything, but the means by which God is glorified are multifacated. You are mistaking the ultimate goal (glory of God) with the immediate tasks (missions).

    This is precisely what the hyper Calvinists told William Carey when he implored them to evangelize India. "Sit down young man!" they said, "If God wants those heathen saved, he will do it without your help or mine." He then went on to write the Calvinist-missions classic:
    An Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians to Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens. Maybe you should give it a read. Your position was put to rest over 200 years ago and the true Calvinists won. God ordains the elect, and he also ordains the means.

    I'll leave you with some quotes from a Calvinist you might have heard of ...

    - Charles Spurgeon
  2. steadfast7

    steadfast7 Puritan Board Junior

    From the fact that many of this thread reject or down play the use and value of the socio-sciences like linguistics, cultural anthropology, study of religions (which are vital in the task of contextualization), this demonstrates the very attitude.

    I've seen KJV-only Calvies insist that the words be translated to the host language word for word from the KJV to protect the perfection. never mind that this is linguistically impossible, but yeah...

    Somewhat related, (but more so, Reformed ecclesiology), I spent 8 months in Thailand without ever taking the Lord's Supper, because we needed to wait for an ordained pastor administer it.

    There was a time when (hyper)Calvinists did not believe the gospel should not be preached to all. this happens in some churches to this day. I've heard of churches who are not engaged in evangelism or missions in any way shape or form. It's the leave-it-to-God attitude.
  3. au5t1n

    au5t1n Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Well, we don't have a 50/50 split between Arminians and Calvinists, so a 50/50 split between Arminian and Calvinist missionaries would be something incredible. It would prove Calvinists to be way more missional than Arminians, since our numbers are definitely fewer by far.
  4. Thomas2007

    Thomas2007 Puritan Board Sophomore

    Maybe the latter part of your statement is true, but the question should be is this evangelism? Your first statement that one should evangelize like an Arminian doesn't make any sense, as Arminianism is not evangelical. The only reason you see Arminians attempting to evangelize is because they are standing on the borrowed ground of Calvinism but deny Predestination to God by transfering it to man.

    Yeah, well, I think you are misinterpreting the situation. The reality is that the Arminian despite his best attempts to transfer Predestination to man in a variety of ways, Christ is still preached and the Holy Spirit still regenerates His elect. In essence, then, the Gospel is so powerful that these miscreants can't screw it up totally, even when given their best effort.
  5. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    For examples of calvinistic evangelism, study intensely the work of William Carey.

    Here is the just the opening of the Serampore Covenant of 1805, which is profoundly moving. I can email you the rest if desired:

    -----Added 12/2/2009 at 11:50:03 EST-----

    I don't have the statistics to back it up, but from what I have seen the number of baptist missionaries on the field who are calvinistic are disproportionately made up of calvinists compared to the average baptist church-goer in the US.

    -----Added 12/2/2009 at 11:53:37 EST-----


    Two notes on your comments above in particular.

    (1) There are many, many, more KJV-Only arminians than there are KJV- Only Calvies.

    So, this deficient practice is not to be linked to any Calvinism-Arminian difference, but this is a problem of poor linguistical knowledge,


    (2) The lack of the administration of the Lord's Supper for extended periods of time is, again, not a matter of soteriology but ecclesiology.

    Again, this problem that you pointed out is not a Calvy vs Arminian problem but a problem of questionably over-restrictive ecclesiological practices.
  6. Amazing Grace

    Amazing Grace Puritan Board Junior

    Dennis, you obviously heard what i did not say. I did not say anything of the sort of the supposed comment made to Carey. I said that God is not dependent on us at all. We proclaim Him, and that is the highest motivation one can have.
  7. Mushroom

    Mushroom Puritan Board Doctor

    And it's obvious that there are at least two errors wrapped up in that statement.

    One - That they assume missions or evangelism is 'helping' God rather than obedience to His command, and;

    Two - That God does not use means in the proclamation of the Gospel, and that one of those means is His people going forth to faithfully carry it to those who haven't heard it.

    Nobody here has suggested any such thing.

    One thing I've noticed in myself is that when I've gotten on the extreme end of an issue, I tend to hear anything that is not in exact agreement with my position to be exageratedly on the far other end of the spectrum. Could that be happening in this case, Dennis?
  8. steadfast7

    steadfast7 Puritan Board Junior

    Agreed. No contention there. I was responding to ...

    Here, you are echoing Piper and other Calvinistic missions advocates, who place the glory of God as the highest motivation. I thoroughly agree. I hope I did not come across as suggesting that the church's ultimate purpose is church planting or some such thing. Our ultimate end is worship.

    I am seeking to explore specifically the ways that Calvinistis and Arminians approach the use of means and it has been my general observation that Arm'ins are more prone to accommdate to the human condition, to understand the sociological, psychological, and cultural factors and employ this knowledge in their evangelism. Calvies, because of a stronger emphasis on God's sovereignty, are more reluctant to accommodate to people, their felt needs, their culture. They tend to resist contextualization and humanistic methods. The negative reactions to this thread are evidence enough of this tendency.

    I think that both approaches are good, and we need not choose one at the expense of the other, but we should strive to excel in both - a strong theology of God's sovereignty AND a strategic use of "humanistic" tools. God's sovereignty is not undermined when we use means for the propagation of the gospel, rather, God is glorified when we do our best and employ every measure at our disposal to accomplish the unfinished task.
  9. Prufrock

    Prufrock Arbitrary Moderation

    Dennis, would you be willing or able to present to us an example of a gospel contextualized to the sociological, psychological and cultural factors of another people, and demonstrate how it differs from "our gospel." Obviously, one must take the time to first explain various concepts to a people who might not have them (such as sin, judgment, etc.); but with all this talk about contextualization, I am wondering what you think it actually entails.

    I am far removed from "the missionary scene," and have never had to trek through the jungle to explain the gospel to a tribe: so this is all probably ignorance and my part, and, strictly speaking, the topic is purely academic to me at this point. Nevertheless, I simply don't understand what such contextualization which I hear people speak of all the time actually looks like in practice, nor can I imagine such a thing which does not change the very fabric of the law and gospel. Please educate me.
  10. LeeJUk

    LeeJUk Puritan Board Junior

    Mars Hill Church
  11. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Here is a historical example of contextualization by a Calvinistic Baptist, Adoniram Judson:

    Also, see here: http://www.thetravelingteam.org/node/112

    Postures, dress, foods, and use of the vernacular are all ways in which we can contextualize without syncretism.

    The Dutch Reformed in parts of Indonesia did not adapt to the culture, and forced the Javanese to become Dutch in order to become Christian, but this was not due to calvinistic soteriology so much as due (possibly, wno knows their motives) to the colonial mindset of cultural superiority and possibly an over-restrictive ecclesiology.

    Calvinists and Arminians alike both contextualize. This is not a Calvy vs Arminian thing.

    Also, William Carey compiled vast amounts of data on people-groups of the world. The modern Operation World and Joshua Projects continue in this grand tradition, which was started by a Calvinistic Baptist. The social sciences can be very useful, as also linguistics and anthropology.

    Again, this is not a Calvy-Arminian thing. It MIGHT be an issue of ecclesiology. Over-restrictive interpretations of the regulative principle of worship might freeze worship style and not account for cultural differences, or rigid views on music might disallow hymns to be adapted to local musical forms, but I do not see any reason why calvinism would disallow us from the use of the social sciences.
  12. steadfast7

    steadfast7 Puritan Board Junior

    In some Reformed circles, the gospel is very tightly wrapped and strictly defined around the concept of penal substitution theory. With our centuries of theology that has been baking in a guilt-based culture very familiar with law terminology, we take penal substitution for granted as the only "true" way to conceive of the gospel.

    I had a Calvinist friend in Thailand look up the word "substitution" in the Thai dictionary, and was going to use it straightway in his evangelism. Although he may "luckily" get his audience to have some fuzzy idea what he's saying, this is not generally advisable. it is important to understand the idioms and thought forms of the language and culture and craft the gospel in such that makes sense to them.

    Such was the case with Don Richardson, missionary to Indonesia, who came upon a cannibalistic tribe that was at war with one another. Long story short, he discovered a cultural key whereby the tribe will exchange a "peace child" with a warring tribe and the fighting will cease. When the gospel was shaped using the peace child analogy, the tribe understood and responded to the gospel.

    The bible itself is contextualized communication. God's pre-yahwistic name is "El", which is the name of Baal's father, the high god of Canaanite paganism. God borrowed this title from the surrounding culture. Likewise, God's command to Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, Deuteronomy modelled after Hittite Suzerain-Vassal treaties, the NT term "Logos", etc. these are elements that made sense to the people, and were borrowed from the culture and re-packaged, so that certain concepts would be retained. God is not afraid of contextualization, rather he is the chief contextualizer.

    Now, don't misunderstand, in the final analysis, there probaby is not a huge difference between a contextualized gospel and a "pure"/Calvinistic gospel. So it may be a splitting of hairs. But I have come across Calvinists who reject the importance of shaping the gospel according to the culture that's receiving it. They assume that the gospel is fixed in terms of penal substitution, not realizing (ironically) that this is itself a contextualized gospel that speaks to modern day western culture. If a Calvinist missionary enters into a tribal situation and insists upon teaching penal substitution, he may encounter problems being understood by the people. Calvinism is true, don't get me wrong. But the reason it makes sense to us is because it is a theology that is indigenous to our culture, and it speaks to our issues. People in other parts of the globe do not think in the same way, or have the same concerns. As one Asian theologian noted, "Western theology has excellent answers to questions we are not asking."
  13. a mere housewife

    a mere housewife Not your cup of tea

    And yet ironically it spoke to ancient culture, too :)
  14. steadfast7

    steadfast7 Puritan Board Junior

    Remember that that ancient world was one also very familiar with law and justice. Paul borrowed dikaiosune from the language of the law courts, and he himself was a Pharisee, well versed in law.

    In God's providence, western culture has had a profound influence on the rest of the world, so it is easier now than ever to communicate in the western mode of thinking and be sufficiently understood. But in a hill tribe somewhere, law court imagery is quite a foreign concept.
  15. au5t1n

    au5t1n Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Wow, penal substitution is a modern-day Western concept? Someone forgot to tell Paul he was ahead of his time. And the high priest in the temple didn't get the memo either. ;)
  16. steadfast7

    steadfast7 Puritan Board Junior

    While penal substitution is the best way for us to conceive of the gospel, we need to allow that the Bible provides many metaphors for what Christ has done such as :

    Redemption, ransom, triumphing over darkness, freedom from slavery, temple sacrifice, making peace, reconciliation, etc ...

    these are all biblical metaphors. Any single one image does not fully exhaust the understanding of the atonement, hence the multiple metaphor.
  17. au5t1n

    au5t1n Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    All of these are BECAUSE of the penal substitution. Without that, the others wouldn't be possible.

    Off the top of my head, I can't think of any Eastern cultures that have not historically offered blood sacrifice to their god(s) for atonement of their sins.
  18. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)


    It is true that Westerners think more in legal terms concerning our salvation, whereas in SE Asia, I have often noticed that people seem more moved by the relational terms of the Gospel, i.e, we are adopted into the family of God and we have our identity in Christ and God is our Father and Christians are all our brothers and sisters.

    This does not deny that legal terms are appropriate, but it also shows that we read theology through cultural lenses to some degree such that the Protestant Reformation was led by many lawyers who spoke in legal terms and in SE Asia, the faith impacts many due to its relational terms. But God ordained it so in order to purify and reform the Church.

    Also, I have noticed that we speak of guilt more, whereas locals where I am at speak of the shame of the Cross. We are more legal-forensic midned, whereas in SE Asia many are more "saving face" and "shame" minded, and thus, the fact that Jesus was stripped naked and his beard plucked REALLY moves some people in my local context ("he did THAT for us?") whereas I have never had these small details sink into my emotions before.

    However, this does not deny that legal and forensic terms are appropriate. And a new appreciation of this lens helped shape the Protestant Reformation and helped the Church return to the biblical doctrine of justification by faith alone.

    Your other point is that the NT writers often adopted terminology that was in use by non-Christians. This is true. John's logos is one example. However, this does not make any of these doctrinsless true, it only shows that our God is a communicative God who is willing to utilize human language in all of its frailties to transmit divine truth.
  19. TeachingTulip

    TeachingTulip Puritan Board Sophomore

    Abraham seemed to understand the concept quite well.

    Genesis 22:1-14

    "And Abraham called the name of the place, 'The Lord Will Provide;' as it is said to this day, 'In the Mount of the Lord it shall be provided.'" vs 14

    What was provided to Abraham, but a substitute offered to suffer the penalty of death, in place of Isaac?

    A gospel message that does not proclaim the penal substitution of Jesus Christ, is no gospel at all, in my book. :down:
  20. steadfast7

    steadfast7 Puritan Board Junior

    I agree, there is a underlying narrative of penal substitution, but I believe it can be shaped in various ways, not just law imagery. But yeah, this is a touchy subject and I'm more on the Reformation side, rather than new perspectives and such.

    Buddhism doesn't, I don't think. They have a very different concept of deity, sin and salvation. But who knows, they are so syncretistic there's probably some brand out there who does ...
  21. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Yes, it is true that every culture seems to have had a history of rituals to appease spirit forces. These, however, were not so much penal or legal transactions, but appeasement of spirits.

    -----Added 12/3/2009 at 12:21:22 EST-----

    Buddhists have a doctrine of the Bodhisattva I think, an enlightened person who chooses, rather than go to Nirvana, to delay this in order to help others. Sort of a Christ-like figure of self-sacrifice.
  22. steadfast7

    steadfast7 Puritan Board Junior

    Thanks Pergy. Certainly, nothing is denied by the existence of the other metaphors, that's for sure. I suppose at some point we need to choose and emphasize one particular metaphor that is most meaningful for us.
  23. TeachingTulip

    TeachingTulip Puritan Board Sophomore

    Christ's Mediatorship, Federal Headship, and High Priesthood are divine, spiritual realities . . . not metaphors.
  24. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)


    I think we need to pay full attention to all the metaphors.

    I also think that as God blesses the work of the Gospel to all the world, we - as a Global Body of Christ - will be enabled to more see the fullness of Jesus as some from every, tongue, tribe and nation all gather and interact and force others to see the full sepctrum of divine truth. Thus, if the West or the East over-emphasizes one meaphor to the exclusion of all others, as the Great Commission succeeds, our brothers across the seas will be able to force us to see more fully all the metaphors and, thus, we all will help one another to mature to the full man in Christ (Ephesians 4).

    Having said all of this, we should not try to minimize the legal and forensic themes. Penal substitution is biblical and not mereley a product of Western culture, though - in God's providence - He has uniquely blessed Western culture with an ability to develop these legal-forensic themes and see them with unusual clarity.
  25. carlgobelman

    carlgobelman Puritan Board Freshman

    Coming late to the party, but to say "evangelize like an Arminian" seems to imply a mentality that we, somehow, are crucial in the process of 'saving souls.' By 'crucial' I mean that we must somehow figure out ways and methods for persuading and convincing people into the kingdom. This places the methods of man over against the means God ordained. The bible is quite clear, we plant the seed and God provides the growth. Arminian evangelism wants to do both.

    White Horse Inn had a brilliant broadcast a month or so ago with Greg Koukl about his book Tactics. His 'method' is to take an ambassadorial approach to apologetics/evangelism. Our sovereign King has a message to proclaim and we are his diplomats. We must know our material, use wisdom in our approach to witnessing (no one method is 'one size fits all'), and have a godly character (grace seasoned with salt). His approach is masterful and employs a Q&A method that engages with those whom we wish to win and places the burden of proof (if you will) on them. "What is it you believe?" "Why do you believe what you believe?" Etc. The goal is not to 'win souls' (since we CAN'T do that anyway), but to plant seeds (or as Koukl puts it, "place a stone in their shoe"). Get them questioning their own worldview. As Koukl put it, if we believe our position and worldview is right (which we do), then we need to listen and be attentive to the worldviews of others so we can find the 'fatal flaw' of their position (which has to be there if Christianity is true).
  26. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    If, by this, you mean to imply that an understanding of original language is immaterial I would ask you to reconsider how you seem to despise this idea.

    I was reading Tremper Longman on the Proverbs yesterday and he made a very profound point. In a nutshell he noted that a translation of the Scripture is an extended commentary with no notes. All translation is interpretation. You're either aware of that point or you simply carry over theological concepts that may or may not be contained in the Scriptures themselves.

    To the OP, I've had more than a little experience in bearing Gospel Truth to other cultures. I have seen, firsthand, how decisional theologies leave many impoverished in a form of Christianity that leaves it nearly bare of the Gospel. I've also seen the relative impoverishment of men and women who were never discipled to the point that they can carry on the teaching ministry of the Word organically to their own culture.

    I have a number of dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ in Asia. I worshipped with them and didn't consider them objects of "mission" per se but simply taught what the Scriptures taught of God's power to save. I never believed I needed to add extraordinary measures but proclaimed the Truth in a way that they understood. I spoke more slowly for those whose English wasn't the best and even summarized some things so the Japanese secretaries could type up notes in the native language.

    I couldn't see the fruit firsthand but have been humbled by the Pastor who came in after I left who told me that there were several people who had been Christians for years that told him that they believed they were converted to Christ during that period. I don't want to speak as a fool and pat myself on the back because hearing that only brought tears to my eyes that God could use a weak vessel like me for His holy ends but it does give me every confidence that God is, indeed, strong to save.

    One thing I do remember thinking while there was that it is much more satisfying to see a handful of people have their eyes grow wide at the grace and mercy of God than seeing a Church full of people transplanting their American theology to a native soil so they can feel at home while at Church. Many were driven away to larger Churches. I wept to see them go but they wanted the programs and other features of large Churches we could not provide. People asked me what our Church offered in terms of programs and all I could say is "not much but we preach Christ and Him crucified." It was enough to see the handful that really wanted that.

    More than anything, though, what gladdens my heart is to see men who have been Christians for 30 years who never understood the Word enough to teach others who now devote themselves to the Word and are teaching others. The Great Commission is baptize, teach so the roots grow deep, and others will rise up in God's Providence to teach others. A personal emphasis on raw numbers with shallow watering simply doesn't get it done.
  27. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    Dennis, don't you think it might be ultimately more submissive to Scripture to say that we need to learn to appreciate the significance of each aspect of the work of Christ as it is presented in Scripture? Instead of me choosing what I like best, I need to accept all that God says. And the same thing is true for other cultures: of course you start where you are able to explain things to people most simply, but you also have to go on to introduce them to new ideas. You can't translate the Bible or teach theology by "transposing" everything into immediately relatable terms: on the contrary, you have to introduce people to a new world of ideas. You start with what is simplest for them, but leaving them there is simply refusing to carry on discipleship.
    I would also be very leery of the terminology of "metaphor" and the assumption that God took over things from pagan culture. What archaeology tells you, like everything science tells you, is partial, provisional, subject to change and reinterpretation. Hittites have gone from being a mocking proof of the falsity of Scripture to the hermeneutical key to the OT, but tomorrow a new discovery or a scientific revolution might render them largely irrelevant. The language of metaphor is problematic because in one sense (see Owen Barfield) all communication is metaphorical; in another sense, Christ is not a sacrifice or a priest merely in metaphor, but in reality. (Just as, for instance, God is not called a Father metaphorically as though human fatherhood were the pattern on which God modeled his relations to His elect, but in fact human fatherhood is a dim shadow of the reality of God's relation.)
  28. au5t1n

    au5t1n Puritan Board Post-Graduate


    Buddhism is a religion. I said culture. :) Buddha taught in India, and his culture did offer sacrifices.
  29. steadfast7

    steadfast7 Puritan Board Junior

    Learning the original languages is good and necessary, I was despising the idea that this should be done instead of translating the bible into the vernacular.

    -----Added 12/3/2009 at 03:36:19 EST-----

    Every theological tradition is basically a grid or structure made of certain emphases and acts as pegs on which we hang our interpretations or a lens through which we interpret the bible. We Calvinists emphasize the sovereignty and glory of God as highest values in theology. Arminians emphasize the free will of man, Romanists emphasize the eucharist and the authority of the church, etc. because our finite minds cannot take in the whole of scripture at once, we need this grid structure to give us a basic framework for theology.

    Ruben, I find it interesting that your position on metaphor on this topic leans toward a "leeriness" toward transposing everything into immediately relatable terms. In our discussions on the attributes of God in another thread, you are more than enthusiastic to affirm that we should read God's emotions anthropopathically. Why should emotions be regarded non-literally, but Christ's priesthood literally?

    -----Added 12/3/2009 at 03:41:17 EST-----

    The culture didn't offer sacrifices because it was fun and there was nothing else to do. They sacrificed because their religion dictated it. There is a complex interplay between culture and religion that cannot easily be separated.

    Of all the religions, Buddhism is perhaps most prone to syncretism with the surrounding culture, thereby creating a culture that possesses strands of Buddhist thinking. Many do not consider Buddhism a religion at all, but a highly flexible philosophy.
  30. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    Dennis, please look again at what you said. Are the differences between Arminians, Calvinists, and Romanists merely differences of emphasis? If you affirmed that I assume you wouldn't have been interested in the board. But do you not see how that is the implication of the form in which you stated your point? That, of course, makes it a really bad example, because in general Calvinists are right in the things that distinguish them from Arminians and Papists. I don't mean to sound condescending at all, but it seems to me that you really ought to spend some time familiarizing yourself with theology from a time when people were not afraid to be dogmatic and when it was asserted that what God had said could be apprehended, inasmuch as he said it to us. While in actual practice no doubt it is often the case that we superimpose a grid on Scripture, the goal is for Scripture itself to give us the hints about the organizing categories.

    Without desiring to rehash the other thread over here, let me point that there is a big difference in God illustrating aspects of His proceedings or character from things familiar to us, and God creating or instituting certain things as types of His superlative reality. With fatherhood, for instance, we have Ephesians 3:15, but there is no comparable verse asserting that God is the archetype of drunken warriors waking up. Christ's priesthood is literal because it is after a definite order, it contains all the essential elements of priesthood, it is grounded on the Father's oath, and it deals with the real problem of sin: also the paraphernalia of the Aaronic priesthood was made after a heavenly model: as the Tabernacle represented heaven, the priests represented Christ. Anthropopathic descriptions of God are figures, among other reasons, because God is "blessed for ever" and in Him there is no variableness nor even a shadow of turning, and consequently He does not pass through varying emotional states: He is unchangeable in His blessedness. But that topic takes us off the point of this thread, so I'm going to leave it there.
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