Thursday, April 19, 2012

Christian Persecution: The Top 50 Offending Countries

Christianity Today’s Liveblog reports that Christian human rights advocate Gao Zhisheng is still alive. This good news has been confirmed by relatives of Gao who were permitted to visit him in prison recently. For background information on Gao, here is a paragraph on him I wrote in 1/11:

Chinese Christian lawyer and human rights activist Gao Zhisheng has defended the rights not only of Christians but of other religious groups as well, such as the Falun Gong. For this, he has been arrested by the Chinese government and undergone torture that even he cannot completely describe. His family and associates have also undergone incredible persecution. Here is an article from Christianity Today Liveblog which quotes a letter from Gao describing what he has endured. CT Liveblog also links to a forward to a book written by Gao describing the humanly unendurable persecution he, his family and his associates have undergone. If this article doesn't motivate you to pray for persecuted everywhere, your heart must indeed be very hard.

Here is list of the 50 countries were Christian persecution is the most severe. (From World Watch List , HT: Gene Veith) China is number 21. Four “allies” of the United States, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Pakistan are in the top 10. As I was working on this post, I saw that the top Muslim leader in Saudi Arabia has stated that all Christian churches on the Arabian Peninsula must be demolished (From the Washington Free Beacon, HT: Jesus Creed).

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Arminianism v. Calvinism, Or, What James White And John Piper Could Learn From Michael Horton

Recently Arminian Roger E. Olson and Calvinist Michael Horton held a polite discussion about Calvinism which can be heard here and here at Dr. Horton’s The White Horse Inn website. Although I am a Wesleyan-Arminian, I am going to focus on Horton’s remarks concerning Calvinism. First, he acknowledges, as so few Calvinists do, that Arminianism is not pelagianism, nor is Calvinism determinism. Nor is Calvinism TULIP. According to Horton, predestination and God’s sovereignty are not the center of Calvinist theology. Justification, the Trinity, the two natures of Christ, and the sacraments are the center of historic Calvinist theology, not election and calling. Horton calls TULIP a terrible anachronism and criticizes the term “irresistible grace.” Horton denies that God coerced Adam to sin. He quotes an early Calvinist catechism: “The Reformed Churches detest with their whole soul the belief that God is as active in reprobation as He is in election.” He quotes the declaration of the Council of Orange (529 A.D.) stating that the New Birth is the result of the Holy Spirit amending our will, not forcing unbelief to be turned into belief. Covenant theology is better than TULIP, he says, and Calvinism should not lead one into believing in unconditional eternal security. Olson claimed that John Piper and R.C. Sproul misrepresent Calvinism. Horton agreed.

How different was the exchange between Calvinist James White and Wesleyans Roger and Faith Forster in 2009. This can be heard on the British radio program Unbelievable. (Click here and scroll down in the archive section to the 8/1/09 program.) When asked how he would define Calvinism, White stated that Calvinism is chiefly concerned with God’s sovereignty and His right to do what He wants with His creation. According to White, Calvinism and the TULIP are one and the same. Not to begin with God’s sovereignty is to rob God of His glory and substitute a God-centered theology with a man-centered theology. The Forsters correctly point out that correct theology begins with God’s nature, which is love. God isn’t glorified just because He is victorious over all His enemies, Faith Forster says. God is glorified because He triumphs over evil even though He allows man to make free decisions. The Forsters were firm but tactful in taking White to task for misrepresenting their theology and biblical exegesis.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Mitt Romney On Permanent Probation

In 2008, conservatives were shortchanged because they did not have a candidate that represented them in the Republican primary. In 2012, many conservatives shortchanged the one candidate that spoke for them. This is my gut reaction to the news that Rick Santorum is suspending his campaign, making it official that Mitt Romney will be the Republican nominee. It was said that Romney was the only Republican candidate that could beat President Obama in November. Yet when considering Obama's approval ratings, it seems clear that Santorum would have been able to mount a credible challenge. It would have been Santorum's race to lose. But in backing Romney, conservatives have saddled themselves with a candidate they can not trust to govern conservatively. We have no clue if Romney will campaign conservatively. If he doesn't, many conservatives may stay home. I won't be one of those, but many who believe the way I do will. If Romney wins, conservatives will have to be ready at a moments notice to exert pressure to make sure he governs conservatively. Romney may govern from the right to maintain good relations with the base of the party. But were he to win a second term, could he be trusted not to drift to the left? A second term would give Romney what Obama recently called "breathing room." In the next few years there are going to be more retirements from the Supreme Court. If Obama wins, or if President Romney fails to nominate reliable conservatives, everything conservatives have worked for over the past 40 odd years will have been for nothing. If this happens, conservatives will have no one to blame but themselves. I had looked forward to a time when I could rest easy, knowing a reliable conservative was governing the Executive branch.  If Romney wins, he will be on permanent probation with me until he leaves office.