Comedy Sojourn – Fighting about Religion, Big Macs and Dave Pendelton

sojourn podcast

My podcast thingy broke and the first, violence-laden, conversation about Calvinism disappeared from existence.
First, though, what is up with the Big Mac? Good grief, McDonalds…
Dave Pendleton graciously agreed to repeat the conversation and so we armed ourselves for battle and plunged into the debate. So, Calvinism…what is it? Is it right? Am I really using the word as an insult? Dave thinks I’m unfairly portraying the views so I give him a chance to set me straight.  We try to remember the TULIP for Calvinism and end up needing to Google it. Sad. David is not a ‘hard’ Calvinist. I’m not a ‘hard’ Armenian. Neither of us have had enough coffee to even have this discussion but we do it anyway. There are a lot of really great thinkers who can make a case for Calvinism and none of them are on this podcast.
Do we take some credit for salvation? David says, “yes”. I says, “no”. We break beer bottles and slash at each other with the jagged pieces.
Do we have free will? David says ‘sort of’. I say ‘yep’. We hack each other with machetes.
I give my excellent illustration for how Jesus is like Chik-fil-a.  I say it’s a great illustration but Dave still doesn’t immediately renounce Calvinism. So…that’s a little disappointing.  My friend is annoyed that people want to take “credit” for salvation. I shoot him with a spear gun.
We wonder why God bothered giving us brains if we aren’t supposed to use them. Ultimately, there is no disagreement between us. So we go at each other with ball bats because we’re still pretty worked up from before.
Maybe we can’t take credit for anything.  What is ‘motivation’ if there’s no free will?  Sort of a license to take Sunday off and quit trying to teach Christians stuff. This is good news for people who like naps!  Dave swings a pool cue at me. I lay out an explanation of what I call “Theological Determinism”. Then I push Dave into a barrel of sulfuric acid.
We mention R.C. Sproul a few times and wish he had been available to talk to us. Sent me Sproul’s cell number and I’ll give him a jingle for next time. Nobody has perfect theology so maybe we should just give up the conversation. But instead, we shock each other with cattle prods.
Maybe we should strive for a combination of intellect and intuition. Maybe not. I think there’s value in thinking. Dave agrees. Then, pistols at 20 paces.
Religion and science are not at odds. We need them both. And there are elements of truth in both. Our understanding of both is lacking. Dave quotes the book of Romans. I respond with a karate chop to his throat.
David brings up a great point about Abraham and Isaac. For the first time in the conversation, there is no bloodletting.
So we talk briefly about ‘The Shack’ and that leads to punching each other with brass knuckled fists. In the midst, we are critical of people who are critical of us.
Tim Keller’s book Reason for God enters the conversation. We finally agree that we like that book. Then we discuss David’s upcoming tour and how you, Carl, are anxiously awaiting this podcast so you’ll have all your answers about Calvinism answered.

Check out this episode!


20 thoughts on “Comedy Sojourn – Fighting about Religion, Big Macs and Dave Pendelton

  1. Gave it a listen as I drove around for work today. I’m glad you gave the blow-by-blow in the description here, because I did not pick up on any of that just by audio. It gave me a good visual story to follow in my head.

    I think the discussion on Calvinism was fine. Despite my diatribes over the past weekend, I myself don’t really identify as Calvinist anymore, since my views a little more extreme and some of the points of TULIP are, in my opinion, moot points. (T & L in particular)

    I do, however, identify as a Theological Determinist (surprise!). I am still unclear on how some people feel that decisions cannot be determined beforehand and truly be decisions.

    Additionally, the concept of Open Theism is a little boggling too. I get the line of thinking that “God knows all that is possible to know” and feel comfortable with that, but I don’t see any reason to think that anything is impossible for him to know (except maybe for what could exist outside of our universe – seems unknowable). Even the selective memory thing can’t hold much, since God would’ve known before deleting the memory what the consequences of that would be. Sure, you can appeal to “God is outside of time,” but that seems to cause more problems for Open Theism than it solves…

    I know… too many points to one post… but to be fair, it was a long podcast ^_^. Enjoyed it!

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  2. John,

    Good podcast as always.

    I did not know you were not an eternal security guy. Though that is the logical outflow of Arminianism, so it should not have been a surprise.

    One of the things I think people get hung up on is the definition of “free will”. It would help to nail down what one believes it means to better understand how each of us is using the term.

    Dave P. did a good job of laying out a number of things dealing with TULIP. Props for the repeated mention of R.C. Sproul in the conversation. If you really wanted to get in touch with him, I would do it soon. I saw a recent video of his, and he does not look well. Sadly, (for us here on earth), he seems to be headed to the Lord’s presence in the near future. Or so my non-existent medical skills tell me.

    Perhaps the next theological debate you choose can put us on the same “side” of the issue. I certainly agreed with your take on children and communion at your church.

    And I will tie that last comment in with another thing you mentioned. You spoke of our brains thinking in pictures. Absolutely. God often communicated in Scripture through visuals. They are hard to miss, easy to remember, and can be used as something to point to for believers.

    Take, for instance, the Flood. Afterwards, God used a rainbow as the symbol of His promise to not destroy the earth with a flood again. We can point to that as God keeping His promise.

    I would say most of the main Bible narratives can be identified by one or two pictures. Let’s do a short quiz. I will list the symbol, and then the story.

    Tree with fruit in a garden.
    Burning bush
    A young guy with a sling
    A bald guy and an angry she-bear
    A guy with lions around him
    A guy and a giant fish
    Angels around some shepherds
    The Cross

    Just a few off the top of my head. God likes to use pictures, it seems. Sort of like the “a picture is worth a thousand words” saying.

    Dave

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  3. I like your Chic-fil-a illustration, I think of it like this:

    There are two steps of getting a gift: The giver offering the object to a person, and the person’s acceptance of the gift. A gift isn’t a gift until it is accepted.

    During Christmas, although I have accepted the gifts given to me- I do not take credit for the gift that was given. I do not say “Look at the object that I took” I say ” Look at what he gave me” the focus is on the giver, the gift, and the act of giving- not me or my acceptance of the gift.

    I do not believe I am taking credit from God, I am ultimately giving Him the credit for the gift of salvation. All I did was fulfill the second part of getting a gift. I do not claim to have worked for it. There was nothing that I could do to save myself. There was no way I could earn salvation. I could only accept that gift. There is no way I can save anybody else- but I can tell them about how great the gift of salvation is.
    I’ve heard it said, by a person much smarter than I, that Wesleyans don’t say that they believe in “free-will” but “free-grace” for this reason; but really, it is just semantics. Although it does stop some of the criticism that you get from Calvinists.

    Therefore, I don’t think the difference between Calvinists and Arminians or Wesleyans is about who is at the center of their theology ( mankind or God) but what attribute they think is central to God’s nature. Calvin and Luther put sovereignty as God’s central attribute, while Wesley put love at the center.
    Of course, there were reasons why Calvin and Luther focused on sovereignty. They were dealing with a sovereign church- who put the focus of salvation on their people’s works. To fight the sovereignty of the church in their culture, Luther and Calvin put God back on the throne- so to speak- they just went too far, in my opinion.
    God is Love- and out of Love, comes all the other characteristics: justice, mercy, righteousness, sovereignty, truth, etc… everything flows out of love.

    There are two ways to get to be like a person- through personal relationship, or to follow a list of characteristics about the person, and copying those. I do believe that relationships- not a list of things to obey- is central to God’s expectations.
    As you had mentioned, the whole book of Genesis is before commandments were given. God had personal relationships with people. Even the chapter before the ten commandments were given to the Israelites, God wanted them to come up to the mountain to see Him. They opted to stay behind and sent Moses instead. So God gave them the commandments through Moses.

    Then, by the time Jesus came, Pharisees had followed the letter of the Law, but not necessarily the Spirit of the Law. Getting them back to the Spirit of the Law was Jesus’ message on the sermon on the Mount ( Matthew 5:17-20), and clearly stated in Matthew 22:36-40.

    David was a “man after God’s own heart”. The key difference in David’s tabernacle in comparison to the others’ was that David had no veil that separated the presence of God from His people. And throughout the prophets and epistles, David’s tabernacle is what God wanted to restore. . also the veil of the temple was torn when Jesus was crucified. Being in His presence is a theme from Genesis through Revelation. God always wants a personal relationship with us- and I do believe that it is all of us.

    Omniscience is such an abstract concept- hard to wrap my head around. But in either viewpoint, I don’t think that God’s knowledge dictates or determines our actions.
    Even if He knows what outcome we’ll choose- it’s our choice. To reject God because “He knew people would go to Hell, therefore concluding He sends people to Hell” is literally and spiritually self-defeating.

    I do agree with your points on The Shack. Haven’t read Reason for God- but I have read Mere Christianity several times and recommend that to people as well. When I catch up on my reading ( it’ll be a while) Reason for God may be the first book I’ll get.

    Anyways, great podcast, as always 🙂

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    1. I have to be very careful not to veer toward cynicism. I’m very good at finding negative things. Thus, I spend a lot of time thinking the next generation is going to crash the world. So I really appreciate when you write things, Matthew. It reminds me that not EVERY kid is a selfish, empty-headed wretch.

      You’ll like Reason for God.

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      1. Thank you for the compliment John, that really means a lot. I look up to people in your generation and the generation before you because I, too, am discouraged with my generation. I am also really worried about the generation to come. I can only hope that we realize the direction in which we are going before it is too late.

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  4. Hey There! I probably shouldn’t be commenting, but my free-will is choosing against what my head says…”Stop!” (Why do I do what I do not want to do? why do I keep on doing what I do not want to do? ha) but anyway. I enjoyed the podcast, first of all. Very interesting and now I know more about Calvinism. just had to tell you real quick, I was reading in first Corinthians 3-4 this morning, and it kinda hits the nail on the head for me about following certain sets of doctrine and theology that man prescribed. I don’t know, though. What would you say? yes… talking about an Infinite God, it is impossible to exhaust our knowledge about Him! just a funny side note: My husband leans more towards Arminian thinking in that…If I disappear for a little while, he thinks he’s been left behind. We’re still working on that.

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    1. Whenever somebody mentions ‘man prescribed’ or ‘man made’ doctrines I need some clarification. All our understanding is ‘man made’ at some point since we don’t actually have the mind of God. We do the best we can to interpret scripture but we’re always arriving at ‘man made’ conclusions. In my opinion, if we’re open to the possibility that we’re wrong, we stand a better chance of being right.

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    2. Also, Gene- what is Paul really discouraging in the beginning of chapter 3? He is discouraging the people of Corinth from pitting one minister’s teaching (and thus the ministers and each other) against one another. Here, in just this small group of people- John Branyan calls himself an Armenian, I would call myself a Wesleyan, and Dave is a Calvinist. But we all agree that we are followers of Christ- not followers of John Wesley, John Calvin, or Arminius. Because of the agreement that we are followers of Christ- we can be united. We aren’t criticizing one another for falling under a certain theological framework.
      Corinth was divided in many facets- spiritually and behaviorally. Spiritually speaking, it was full of idolatry. Corinth’s behavioral reputation would be comparable to Las Vegas today. Because of the church’s conflict among themselves, the church was letting the culture impact them, not the other way around. They were allowing the behavior and theology of the culture influence the behavior and theology that the Christians of Corinth should have had as Christians. Therefore, Paul discouraged the church from going beyond what was written (1 Corinthians 4:6) in the scriptures and the previous letter he had written them. He knew that the scriptures were God-breathed- so any theology or behavior that either takes away from or adds to God’s Word is dangerous (Deuteronomy 4:2, 12:32 and Revelation 22:18).
      But as far as Calvinists, Armenians. Wesleyans, go- we’ve already had scripture-based discussions on the matter. Now, a teacher that goes under the name of Christianity but does not adhere to the Bible (cough, John Pavlovitz, cough) is dangerously false. We need to be sure that we are letting the Word change our reasoning if we are wrong, and affirm us if we are correct, and not our reasoning nor ungodly preferences change and discredit the Word.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Yes, I’m sorry. I’m bent towards simplicity. I was thinking of the TULIP specifically. That’s true, I think the Holy Spirit gives us understanding and helps us with interpretation as well. “Can I get a Calvinist without pickles or onions, and a side of Armenian?” If Christianity were a drive thru. Haha

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    1. Gene and Matthew, and John (so he won’t feel left out),

      The only time I speak of being a Calvinist is when I discuss theology among Christians. It is a handy way to summarize my particular theological bent.

      When I am speaking to unbelievers about the Gospel, I would wager that I would sound the same in my general presentation as you (Gene), John, or Matthew.

      I would talk of how we are sinners in need of a savior. That Jesus died for sins on the Cross and rose again. Having faith that salvation is through Christ and what He has done and not through our works is how we are saved.

      Pretty straightforward. Of course, there would be more “bells and whistles” in our way of presenting it, but our theology should (and must!) not color the clear message of the Gospel.

      I would find it really weird to say to someone “Place your faith in Christ, which I know you will if you are one of the elect and won’t if you are not.” It is unnecessary and confusing to someone who is just hearing the Gospel for the first time. I would not even expect the average new Christian to know the distinctives of theology we have bandied about the past week. They have to start out with milk, and then grow into meat.

      So all of our theological differences do not create a different means of salvation. We have just been debating about the “behind the scenes” stuff that goes on in the heavenlies. We will all understand perfectly when we get to be with the Lord in eternity.

      Dave

      1 Corinthians 13:12 (ESV) – For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

      P.S. – As I was proofreading my post, I memory hit me that made me laugh.

      I used to be a teacher at a small Christian school. I was teaching summer school one year, and made it my goal to share the Gospel with the kids, many of whom were not part of the regular school and did not go to church.

      So I shared the Gospel with one of the boys while we were in the water at the beach one summer school Friday (Hawaii has it bennies). After I was done, I asked him if he understood it and let him ask questions. I answered the ones that came up. Then I asked him, “So do you believe the Gospel and want to trust Jesus?” He said he did. I was excited! Then I told him we should pray the sinner’s prayer and ask Jesus into his heart.

      He looked confused.

      After a moment, he said, “I thought you said that all I needed to do was believe?”

      My jaw dropped. I said, “You are right. Nevermind.”

      And I have never done “the sinner’s prayer” and “asking Jesus into your heart” ever since.

      Though I did pray with him afterwards, thanking God for saving him.

      It was an example to me of how our practices can muddy the clear teaching of the Gospel. Nearly every time I share the Gospel, I remember the lesson that kid taught this seminary-trained “theologian”, and am gladly humbled.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Totally agree with the dim mirror view we have now. This will make sense later on. Currently, we God provides us the fun of debating the mystery.

        The boy on the beach believed because he heard the gospel preached.
        And much as it pains you to hear this, YOU were doing ‘the work’ of obeying Christ’s great commission. For some reason, God chooses to use ‘the foolishness’ of preaching to save the souls of mankind.

        “When I am speaking to unbelievers about the Gospel, I would wager that I would sound the same in my general presentation as you (Gene), John, or Matthew.”
        This is funny to me. Almost as if you’ve got two versions of the Gospel. One that works with unbelievers and a better, truer version for believers.

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    2. John,

      I know I am doing a work that God uses to bring about salvation of others. I am but a vessel for His Word. The Word does the speaking, with the power of the Holy Spirit, not me. God has chosen the foolishness of preaching as His means of communicating the Gospel, so says 1 Cor 1:21.

      As for the other point you brought up, there is no “two Gospels”. There is just something deeper going on that God does that is not necessary to lay out when presenting the clear Gospel.

      Otherwise, we would need to lay out all of theology before we can expect a response to the Gospel, and the examples of preaching on the New Testament don’t show that.

      I am laying out the full truth of the Gospel, not the the full Majesty of Scripture. That comes later. For we are not called to make converts, but disciples.

      Dave

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      1. Disciples, converts, tomato, tomatoe…
        You’re splitting hairs my friend. The Word does the speaking with the power of the Holy Spirit but YOU are opening and closing your mouth. The Word of God doesn’t preach itself. That kid on the beach wasn’t struck by a thunderbolt from heaven. He was pricked in the heart by what YOU preached.
        You didn’t save the kid. You pointed him toward salvation.

        It occurs to me what upsets our pagan friends is the Calvinist doctrine. To a point, I think their outrage is justified. Apparently, you sympathize with their position as well, otherwise, you wouldn’t deem the ‘deeper’ meaning as unnecessary in presenting the Gospel. The gospel that says people will be punished for sins which they could not help but commit is a tough sell. Chalking it up to God’s ‘sovereignty’ doesn’t turn this into ‘justice’. In MAN’S court of law, we don’t punish people for doing things that are beyond their control. Where did our sense of justice come from? And why would our idea of justice be at odds with God’s?

        Your suggestion that New Testament preaching doesn’t give examples of laying out all of theology is fascinating. Do you mean to imply that even the New Testament held back ‘deeper meaning’? I’m thoroughly confused by the difference between the ‘full truth of the Gospel’ and the ‘full Majesty of Scripture’.

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      2. John,

        I was not trying to split hairs on convert vs disciple. I mean that a convert is one who newly believes. A disciple is one who is growing in Christ and learning, following the Master’s teachings as he learns them more and more.

        We have no disagreement on the use of people to accomplish God’s will. I do the external call, which can be resisted. The Holy Spirit does the inward, irresistible call.

        I am not saying that there is a deeper meaning in the Gospel. Just that we don’t need to get into the particulars of sanctification, justification, spiritual gifts, eschatology, ecclesiology, and the like as we share the Good News that Christ died for sinful men.

        Of course we don’t judge in human courts like God does. God knows the hearts, and He judges with a standard of perfection. One sin, no matter how “small”, is a death sentence. And we are born with a sin nature and will all sin and fall short of the glory of God.

        Our sense of justice is that sin must be punished. God does that, and He is even “unfair”, when horrible murderers genuinely believe and do not end up in Hell. King David comes to mind. We call that unfairness mercy. And not only do we get mercy, but grace when God saves us. There is still punishment for our sin, it is just Christ who suffered it on the Cross.

        I was saying that *in presenting the Gospel* kind of preaching, all of theology isn’t being laid out. I was differentiating the “this is how we are saved” with the additional greatness of the rest of what we get in Scripture. I apologise if I was unclear in that. I am no Gnostic. I am not claiming secret, hidden meanings behind the clear teaching of Scripture.

        Dave

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      3. “I do the external call, which can be resisted. The Holy Spirit does the inward, irresistible call.”
        How do you differentiate between the ‘external call’ and the ‘internal call’?

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      4. John,

        The external call is hearing the Gospel, the evidence of the Creator in nature, and the like. The inward call is that moving of the Holy Spirit that I liken to “switching on the light”.

        Many hear the Gospel, few respond. I understand that some might think the inward call is a person making the decision all on his own, but Scripture seems to indicate a positive action by the Holy Spirit as what makes the difference.

        Dave

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      5. Yes.
        I’m one of those who thinks the ‘inward call’ is a decision but it’s not ‘all on his own’. The boy on the beach wouldn’t have made that decision without first hearing the gospel.

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  6. “This little light of mine… I’m gonna let it shine. This little light of mine… I’m gonna…gonna… huh?? Wha?

    “That light isn’t mine? I can’t switch it on and off on my own? You mean… it’s not even my OWN LIGHT!???”

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