OK – for those of you who don’t know, let me first explain what universalism is. Basically, it’s the idea that everyone will be saved. There are quite a few really smart people who adhere to this position, and it’s gaining popularity in the world today because everyone simply “likes” the idea. I “like” the idea of the Bluebell (ice cream) weight loss program too – that doesn’t make it true. As a matter of fact, if I were to live my life by this idea, it would be pretty harmful. (I’d be even fatter.) Universalism is similar.
The universalists use Scriptures like:
John 3:16 – “God so loved the world . . .”
and Romans 5:18 – “. . .one act of righteousness that brings life for all men.”
But they like to skip over the verses like:
John 10:11,15 – “The good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” It doesn’t say “everyone.”
and 2 Thes 1:9 – “They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord.” If universalism was true, who is this verse talking about?
Anyway, here’s the bottom line for me. If universalism is true, then Jesus death and resurrection was pointless. Why would He have chosen that kind of suffering, if people could be saved any other way? And what kind of Father would allow His Son to endure the cross, for no reason at all? I wouldn’t want to worship the kind of God that universalism requires.
It’s important to live our lives worshiping the God of the Bible. He clearly loves all people enough to have sent His Son to provide a way for us to be saved, but if we reject Him, He is a gentleman God who allows our rejection. I once heard someone (Scott Crenshaw) say, “Sin is our way of saying to God, ‘I don’t need you.’ and hell is His way of saying,’OK, have it your way.'” If we choose universalism, we also render Jesus’ command to “Go and make disciples. . .” pointless. Therefore, I will live my life telling others about Jesus so that they can come to know Him, follow Him, and be saved.
The arguments surrounding this particular concept revolve around whether or not there are prophets in the world today or not. It seems to me that the answer to this question is pretty well decided by how you define prophecy. If you look at the bible, you can see a few things: 1.) A prophet spoke in the name of God, 2.) Signs and miracles often authenticated his message, 3.) His message harmonized with Scripture, 4.) He spoke only by revelation from God, and 5.) He had 100% fulfillment of his prophecies. This last one holds the key to my own personal convictions regarding this subject. Let me explain the differing opinions and then we’ll get back to my opinions.
Some say that prophecy still exists today, but that it just doesn’t look the same way it did back then. Their idea is that prophecy happens when God speaks to someone and gives them an instantaneous thought. If that person speaks this thought then he has become a prophet who speaks for God. This happens quite often in charismatic churches today, but I personally don’t see this in the same way. If you define a prophet the way the bible seems to, then this idea falls short. Does this person represent God and speak in His name? Maybe temporarily, but certainly not like the prophets of the bible. Does he enjoy 100% accuracy of the things he says? probably not. Does his message harmonize with Scripture? I guess that depends on what he says, but I’ve witnessed men giving me a “word” that certainly didn’t. Does this man have signs and miracles to authenticate his message? It’s doubtful, but I guess possible. Anyway, in theory, I can’t deny that this view is certainly debatable, but my own personal view follows this next theory.
Another idea is that of the cessationist. He believes that prophecy ceased with the closing of the canon of Scripture. Certainly no one who holds to the authority of Scripture could say that prophecy disappeared before that since the writers of the New Testament, were clearly able to speak for God. They lived up to every requirement which we previously listed and could be considered prophets by the biblical standards. Now, let’s be clear, I don’t believe that prophecy is completely gone. I believe that the office of prophet as it was in the bible is gone, but that the Holy Spirit can certainly give the believer special even prophetic insight into certain situations as He sees fit to do. It could be argued that when this happens one could be considered a prophet, but I personally think we should give the glory and credit to the Holy Spirit in these situations rather than giving a title to a man. He may function temporarily as a prophet, but still doesn’t live up to the Biblical standards for who a prophet is.
To be honest, I’m not completely sold on the cessationist’s view. I could probably read some more and be convinced otherwise. I want to remain a man who is teachable and it’s difficult for me to say that anything has ceased to exist. It scares me to think that I have somehow put God in a box which says that He can’t work in certain ways, because I believe He can do whatever He wants to. At this point in my life, I’d have to lean more heavily toward the cessationist view, but if God wants to raise up a prophet like the ones we read about in the Bible, I certainly believe He could do it.
How will I change my life as a result of this concept? I’m not sure.I will probably be much more critical or cautious about people who bring a “word” to me. I will try to weigh their words against Scripture and be discerning about who they are in regards to whether they are living up to the Biblical standards. I will seek God and ask the Holy Spirit more questions about their message before taking it too seriously. I guess I must also say that for me, God usually shows me things multiple times and multiple ways, so if their message is similar to other things God has been showing me, I might be more apt to just receive it. I will try to be intentional about discernment now that I have this understanding of prophecy though. I think the key in discernment has to do with Scripture. It’s interesting to note that the articles we read with differing opinions all agreed on one thing – that the authority of Scripture should be place higher than that of modern prophecy.
OK – In class, our professor described a couple of other views regarding prophecy. The Pneumatic view is like me – they are basically cessationists who say that in this dispensation, God generally operates as the cessationists describe, but that in special circumstances He might do something different. I’m not real sure how this is any different than the cessationists view – maybe just a bit more liberal in saying that God might do something different. There is also a new idea being put forward by Wayne Grudem called “Cautious Charismaticism” in which he tries to divide right down the middle. Grudem clearly thinks theres something of value in the charismatic practices, but he is also disgusted by their misuse and lack of Scriptural integrity. He encourages a cautious practice of prophecy and the other sign gifts.
Last night I took a final exam for my Theology class. The whole thing was really scary for me since it’s been 15 years or more since I was even in school. I’m a bit out of the habit of homework, studying, and test-taking. Anyway, I was also really pretty nervous about it all ’cause Dr. Loken gave us a quiz 2 weeks ago with 20 questions. Out of the 20, I think I got about 8 of them right. So I studied by typing up and reading through the questions that we had for our homework, and it paid off.
When Dr. Loken passed out the test and I started taking it, I was relieved ’cause I felt like I knew every answer. I also felt like I was kinda rushing through the whole thing with some sort of nervous energy. (It’s a bit strange that I can stand in front of hundreds of people and not be nervous, but sitting alone at a table with a test in front of me. . . . .) I literally laughed at some of the questions and even enjoyed the test as I was taking it. (One of the questions asked which of the 4 sins listed was not included in the 10 commandments, and the correct answer was “being a Dallas Cowboys fan.) We had an hour to take the test and about 20 minutes into it, I was finished. I looked around the room and no one else had finished, but I didn’t want to go back through and start second guessing myself so I just turned it in.
Later, when we graded it, I realized I had missed one question. I got 99 out of 100 right! I guess being old and going to school at my age isn’t such a bad idea. As a matter of fact, I feel like I’m really enjoying the process this time around. I still don’t like all the homework and I’m not sure how I’m gonna be able to keep up with it all and still work my more-than-full-time job. But I guess one day at a time is all I can do.
Prayer: Thank you Lord, for being with me yesterday in the midst of the test and for my beautiful bride and the patience she’s had with me in regards to these classes. Lead us as we figure out how to build our relationship with all my new school related responsibilities. Thank you for Dr. Loken who has taught me and helped me prepare for the test. Thank you for the guys who wrote the books we’ve been studying and for the way that You have moved throughout history to bring each of these men to a place that they would become your servants. As they have served You, I have been served too. Allow me Lord to take these things I have learned and serve You with them as those who have gone before me have done.
Check out this picture of me as a little kid. I couldn’t get out of that bucket without knocking it over and crawling out. I had gotten in a little too deep for my own good. (I’m not even sure how I got in there. – Probably, with a little help from my Dad. – By the way Lord, is that what You do with us? Encourage and help us get into places where we’re gonna have to learn to rely and trust in You to help us out?)
Hmm. . . That’s about how I’m feeling today about school. I guess I’m a bit overwhelmed. I feel like I’ve got lots of homework to do and not a lot of time to get it all done. If I were a full-time student, it wouldn’t be a problem, but since I have a full-time job as a youth minister and also volunteer as a worship leader. . . .there’s just not lots of extra time in my life. I especially want to protect my marriage. It’s important that I’m involved in these things, but even more important that I’m involved and connected with my beautiful bride. Last night, she watched some TV (one of her favorite shows – Studio 60) and I would normally have snuggled and watched with her, but I had to work on my homework. It’s only one night, but when you multiply this out over time, it all adds up pretty quickly. I don’t ever want my bride to feel neglected, and she’s a “quality time” girl when it comes to her love language. If it comes down to choosing between my wife and this class, there really is no choice at all – I will choose my wife. I just hope it doesn’t come to that.
Lord, help me to be diligent in my relationship with You and my wife. Show me how to balance my time so that I can accomplish everything that You’ve called me to. Anytime something changes in my schedule, I’ve had to rework all this out, and You’ve been faithful in the past with these kinds of things. I’m trusting in You to show me how it can be done this time too. Lord, You really are so very good to me – even the opportunity to be able to take part in each of these things is a testimony to Your goodness. Lord, give me a grateful heart, instead of this negative, I-can’t-do-it-all attitude that I’ve been feeling lately. The truth is that by Your Spirit, I can do everything You’ve called me to, and I should be grateful that You’ve called me to so many things – Thank You for inviting me to be a part of Your work in all these areas.
Lord, I also ask for you to guide me in my relationship with Miranda. Let me cherish every moment I have with her, and teach us how to live together with these new schedules of ours. Bless her in her ministry at SLP, and use her to build bridges between the school and the church. AMEN!
OK – so my new school (College for Biblical Studies) is requiring me to keep a journal. I haven’t been faithful at keeping one daily for a few years, but I do enjoy it when I have done it. I’m not sure how often they really want me to write or even the topic they’d like me to write about so I’m just gonna put my thoughts about class down here until they tell me otherwise. I’ll be in class tomorrow, so maybe I’ll get more details then.
My first class is Theology 3330. We’re supposed to read a book called “Major Bible Themes” by Lewis Sperry Chafer and answer a bunch of questions and also write a book review on another book – “Dispensationalism” by Charles Ryrie. I haven’t begun “Dispensationalism” yet, but my friend Hans (who is attending DTS in Dallas) says it’s a great book and that Ryrie is an incredible theologian. I’ve focused this first week on getting back into the habit of doing homework and answering the questions from the other book. So far I’ve finished the first 10 chapters and here’s what I’m thinking:
I don’t feel like I’ve really “learned” any new concepts. By reading this book, I feel like I’m learning some new language and terminology to speak about these concepts. Anyway, I must admit I’m a little disappointed. It’s probably good to know these terms, but the truth is that I don’t wanna be the guy who speaks over everyone’s head. I want to be able to explain these same concepts with regular language. I’m also disappointed because I’m really hungry to learn right now, but I’m not learning any new concepts. Of course, my prayer is that there is more to come, and I do feel confident that we’re just kind of laying a foundation for deeper things.