So what are you, some kind of Calvinist or something?
Are you postmillennial?
Are you…*gasp*…a __________?!
[Note to readers: Before continuing this post, if you’re a professing Christian, please take a moment to prayerfully consider whether you actually believe that truly converted, supernaturally reborn New Creatures in Christ can (and often will as a part of the individual paths placed before them) seriously disagree on matters of significance that are beyond the core distinctives (essentials) of the Christian faith and worldview.
If you cannot approach differences of opinion on such serious but non-essential matters in a Spirit of biblical grace and love towards those with whom you may disagree, then I respectfully request that you pause here, prayerfully dive into the Word, and come back when you’re better equipped to continue.
I’m not saying that vigorous, passionate, and challenging debate is something to be avoided. Quite the contrary. We need to have thick skins and be able to push each other hard. What I mean to convey is the necessity of a biblical approach to such challenging situations if we are to reap the full benefit of such debates and best glorify God throughout the process.
Thank you for your patience with me in this request!
For those of you who are able by the grace of God to consider hard things in a biblically loving and serious manner, please continue…]
Every now and then in response to something I post somewhere, I get one version or another of a perfectly reasonable question: Are you a Calvinist? Or: Are you postmillennial? Or: Are you really an Oakland Raider fan?
Okay, so I don’t really get that last one much, but questions like the first two are recurring – and, as I mentioned, very reasonable. We should wanna know what others believe, and not just on the surface. We should want to know in detail.
That’s what true love for a brother or sister looks like, isn’t it?
Wanting to know – to really know – what others think, feel, fear and hope for in detail seems to be a basic test for sincerity where any claim to “loving others as ourselves” is concerned, doesn’t it?
In that context, it’s perfectly cool and good to ask questions like “What do you believe, exactly?” and “Are you a(n) [insert label here]?”
In this context labels can be very good and helpful. Are you a Calvinist? Are you an Arminian? Are you Dispensational or Postmillennial in your eschatology? These tags are perfectly acceptable and profitable tools when used rightly.
One thing I’m not advocating as “good” is the coddling or excusing of questions that are asked in a primarily hostile, condescending or otherwise jerky fashion born of un-Christ-like, self-serving motives. I’m talkin’ ’bout honest, sincere and often hard-hitting questions – questions that can be asked passionately and sometimes out of deep concern or in the heat of a good and proper “iron sharpening iron” debate on subjects of great consequence…like the nature of God, man, salvation, law, government, knowledge and truth, for example.
So before getting to some of my answers to those sorts of tag- or label-related questions, I want to take this moment to encourage you (and remind myself) to ask and be open to being asked these things. It’s important that we be eager to engage, share and grow together in conformity to Christ through the hard-hitting, challenging debates and discussions that He has lovingly commanded and equipped us to have.
What I’d like to do now is present some fairly brief and hopefully helpful answers to the most repeated and/or significant questions along these lines as often received in response to things I write here at Fire Breathing Christian.
I’m aiming to keep the definitions of these terms very simple. I’m not going to get into detailed explanations or detailed defenses of the positions associated with these terms, and I’m not gonna dive into detailed critiques of opposing views. Obviously, those things have happened and will continue to happen regularly elsewhere at Fire Breathing Christian.
That said, I hope here to provide readers with some clarity and at least an entry level elaboration as to what it is that I believe as a Christian in detail, particularly as related to some well-known and oft-used labels.
First off: Yes, I am a Calvinist. (This is the tag that I’m asked about most often.)
I believe that salvation is monergistic (with God doing everything by His grace to perfectly and completely save His people) rather than synergistic (where man cooperates with God in order to attain (or maintain) a salvation that has not been secured for him completely or perfectly by God’s grace alone). I believe that God has secured for Himself a particular people and that the sacrifice of Christ saved those specific, chosen people perfectly and completely, rather than making a generic, nonspecific group of people merely savable. I do not believe that Christ tries but ultimately fails to accomplish His will for any of His people. I believe that He succeeds completely in saving each and every one of His chosen people, all by His grace, all for His glory, and all to the eternal benefit of His people.
There is much more to a Calvinistic or Reformed understanding, but the centerpiece distinctive seems to be the nature of salvation (monergistic vs. synergistic), so I will pause on detailing my Reformed perspective here and leave further details for other posts.
Does any of this mean that I believe that non-Calvinists are inherently non-Christians? Of course not.
As Calvinists ought to know better than most, people are not saved by their theology; they are saved in spite of their theology. At the same time – and this is really important – those who have been truly saved have been saved unto good theology, meaning the active, ongoing pursuit of increasingly accurate understanding and application of God’s Nature as revealed in His Word.
Moreover, I’ve got tons and tons and tons of very awesome and dear Christian non-Calvinist Brothers and Sisters for whom I am most thankful.
Do I think they’re wrong about some very important things?
Do I think their errors are serious and often radically impact their worldview (and therefore their lives) in very detrimental ways?
And I love them and believe them to be true Brothers and Sisters in Christ.
See how that works?
(If not, please scroll back up and take another run through the previous section.)
Now on to the next answer to another recurring tag-related question…
I am also a Presuppositionalist. Presuppositionalism (man, I feel so drained after just typing that) is a way-too-long tag for an approach to worldview and apologetics that is built upon the foundational presupposition that the Christian faith is the only coherent, defensible basis for all rational thought and intellectual pursuit. This worldview and approach to worldviews presupposes the Nature of God as revealed in His Word as the divine, perfect, sufficient and necessary means by which all things in God’s creation are to be understood. Presuppositionalism inherently rejects and refutes the notion of neutrality in any realm of Christ’s creation and is known for employing the tactic of “pushing the antithesis” as a way of making what is known as the “transcendental argument for God”. (I’ll try to add reference links for these later. In the meantime, Google away…)
One supercool reference point for a Presup worldview in action is Sye TenBruggencate’s site, Proof That God Exists. Check it out if you have the time. It’s fun…and solid. (A rare combo these days, eh?)
Some posts that I’ve written with a focus on presuppositionalism include:
Jedi Say the Dumbest Things (comic strip; not necessarily presup-specific, but still in line.)
I’ve also written a short book, The Beginning of Knowledge: Christ as Truth in Apologetics, which I published late in 2013 as an introduction to Christ-centered apologetics.
So if I’ve gone as far as writing a book on the beauty and importance of the Presup position, then I must think that non-Presup types are inherently non-Christians, right?
The same beautiful truth that covered the Calvinism deal earlier applies here: I have mountains of awesome non-Presup Christian friends and I deeply respect scores of non-Presup Christian preachers, teachers and authors.
I love ’em all.
Do I think that they’re wrong on some very significant things in ways that seriously impact one’s worldview and life in practice?
And…I love them!
See how that works (again)?
See the trend here?
Now on to the Big Eschatology (“end times”) tag-related answer…
I am postmillennial in my eschatology.
This basically means that I believe that the Spirit of God living in His people will be used by His grace in accordance with His Gospel-fueled Great Commission to bring every enemy of Christ into subjugation and submission to Him before He physically returns to earth. This idea centers on a few key points:
- The Gospel drives everything. Everything that God’s people are called and equipped to accomplish comes by way of His grace-fueled Gospel. Everything.
- God the Spirit – the third Person of the Trinity – is actually, really and truly living within His people as they walk and live right here and now on planet earth.
- The Gospel- and Spirit-fueled Great Commission is the means by which God the Father has chosen to bring His entire creation into subjugation under God the Son.
As one exception to my earlier cited aim of avoiding much in the way of response to critics, I do feel as though it would be helpful and lovingly corrective to make plain that postmillennialism in no way advocates “men making the way possible for God”, as some claim (sometimes out of honest ignorance; sometimes not). The Christian postmillennial understanding centers on precisely the opposite notion, exalting the grace and Gospel of Jesus Christ as the essential persistent core of everything that His people do to “take dominion” in His creation. Every bit of this “dominion” is taken by His grace, for His glory, and through the very real Spirit of God that is really, actually and truly living and working through His people.
I hope that this clarification is helpful.
Here are a few examples of postmillennial-focused posts that I’ve shared recently at Fire Breathing Christian:
A Tale of Two Churches (comic strip)
The Awesome Gospel (comic strip)
Encouragement from Satan (comic strip)
I’ll try to get more reference links here later.
Now on to our fourth and final label-related answer for the day…
I am a Theonomist.
Christian Theonomy, as I am coming to understand it, centers on the Gospel-fueled application of God’s Nature as revealed in His Word in detail where the realms of law and civil government are concerned. The Theonomic concept is not necessarily constrained to law and civil government, but these areas are those most often discussed in relation to Theonomy, for fairly obvious reasons. Ultimately, Theonomy is simply the natural, choerent expression of the comprehensive rule of Christ as King in practice in every realm of His creation, which obviously and necessarily includes the realms of law and government (at every level).
This has nothing to do with trying to convert people (or culture) by political force through some top-down theocracy or any of the similar caricatures often tossed about by those who reflexively flip out at the mere suggestion that Christ is actually Lord over the political realm and must be treated as such in political practice. The Theonomic approach simply says, plainly, that Jesus is Lord over everything, politics included, and that His Word is the standard by which we are to test all things, political things included.
If the Word of God in detail is not to be the defining standard in detail for any concept, activity or pursuit anywhere in His creation, then we as Christians are right (and I think obligated) to ask and answer the question: If [insert concept/subject here] is not to be understood, defined and pursued in accordance with the Nature of God as lovingly reveled in His Word, then by what standard are we to test, measure, and define the thing in question? If the Word of God is not to be our standard in defining every area of life in detail, then by what standard are we to define them?
You get the idea.
A much simpler way of expressing my meaning when I use the term Theonomy is to simply refer to the components of the word – theos (god) and nomos (law) – as a way of saying “all true law is rooted in God”. That’s what I mean by Theonomy.
Here are some of the more overtly Theonomic posts I’ve made here at Fire Breathing Christian:
Our Suicidal Lawlessness (comic strip)
Love, Truth and Theonomy (comic strip)
So there you have it: I’m a Reformed/Calvinistic, Covenantal, Presuppositional, Postmillennial, Theonomic Christian.
I hope that’s okay with you at some basic level. Not that I’m asking your permission or anything. What I mean is that I hope that you – if you are a professing Christian – will have the grace, patience and love for me that our King requires, and will handle any differences that we might (temporarily) have accordingly. I will, by His grace, strive to show the same toward you, wherever you settle on any of the label-spectrums covered earlier.
Am I aware that even some of the people and ministries I’ve linked to in this very post may on some significant issues hold some positions with which I disagree?
No doubt about it.
As a matter of fact, not a single one of the people I’ve recommended here is, that I’m aware of, a fan of the Oakland Raiders.
Oh, there are other issues too, I’m sure, but you get the picture.
Even many of the guys and ministries I’ve mentioned here have disagreements among themselves. And…I love, revere, respect and thank God for ’em all.
The fact that we may disagree on some significant things doesn’t shake or call into question the essential unity that we share and the essential love that I have for them…and for all true Christians who may for now passionately disagree with most or even all of what I’ve shared here when it comes to Calvinism, Presuppositionalism, Postmillennialism and Theonomy.
If we love Him, we will strive to more accurately know and more diligently keep all of His commandments…and one of the biggies there is to love one another as we love ourselves.
That sometimes means sharing hard truths that people don’t want to hear and may even hate, but doing so in a manner that is loving and respectful, as God defines love and respect.
Am I the best, most knowledgeable or most consistent Calvinist, Presuppositionalist or Theonomist?
But I’m working on it.
All by His grace and for His glory.
I thank you for taking the time to wade through and consider these things. I hope that they provide helpful clarification as to what I believe and who I am in some detail.
May God grace each of us with a thirst for His Nature as revealed in His Word, a zeal for that lovingly revealed Nature to be applied in detail throughout His creation, and a matchless love for one another, all by His grace, all for His glory, and all to our eternal benefit.
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You can also help support the Fire Breathing Christian mission by checking out these books:
Stupid Elephant Tricks – The Other Progressive Party’s War on Christianity takes a painful but much needed look at how Christ-less “conservatism” has captivated Christians and co-opted them into helping march the culture ever deeper into darkness:
The Beginning of Knowledge: Christ as Truth in Apologetics is an approachable, easy to read introduction to Christ-centered apologetics:
Apathetic Christianity: The Zombie Religion of American Churchianity explores the tragic true horror story of all-American dead religion masquerading as Christianity:
On Education is a compilation of some of the most provocative and compelling Fire Breathing Christian articles on the subject of children’s education:
There Is No “God-Given Right” To Worship False Gods is a compilation of some of the most provocative Fire Breathing Christian articles on the subject of America’s embrace of a satanic approach to religious liberty:
Fire Breathing Christians – The Common Believer’s Call to Reformation, Revival, and Revolution is the book that first presented the FBC mission to apply the Gospel-fueled Great Commission in every realm of God’s creation:
An alternate white cover version of Fire Breathing Christians is available:
There is also an alternate black cover version of Fire Breathing Christians:
Finally, here are a few good intro/reminder links for those of you who are new to Fire Breathing Christian and curious about exactly what’s goin’ on ’round here:
And especially this one: Never forget that apart from God’s grace you and I are complete morons.