Tim Challies published a post called “I am an Old Fashioned Christian.” In this post he defines what a Christian means. This is my push back to Tim Challies. Is Tim Challies an Old Fashioned Christian? My contention is no…he is a Neo-Calvinist redefining the word Christian in the process. This is my strong push back in my usual Eagle style. In other words….I am blunt.
“Christ does not save us by acting a parable of divine love; he acts the parable of divine love by saving us. That is the Christian faith.”
“Christian faith is…basically about love and being loved and reconciliation. Those things are so important, they’re foundational and they can transform individuals, families.”
If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. 3 If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.
1 Corinthians 13:1-3 NLT
My comments in this post will be in red. Tim’s will be in black for the rest of this post. The other day while reading I stumbled across this post by Tim Challies called “I am an old fashioned Christian.” As I read it I realized there were parts that deeply concerned me that I felt needed a response. Plus like any movement in history words have been redefined which I will get into in the very end. Any totalitarian regime in history goes for controlling communication and redefining thoughts. The Soviet Union did that, Germany has redefined its narrative at times, and North Korea has also done that as well. Many Neo-Calvinists have redefined the word Christian among other issues. And that was one of the many, many issues I had with this piece. Furthermore what troubled me was what was implied…if you didn’t believe line for line with Tim Challies well then you weren’t a Christian! When I read this piece the above clip from Pastor Deacon Fred came into my mind and that is why it led this post. I’m going to go through Tim’s article and challenge him on a number of thoughts. And there are a couple of things I agree with him on, that I will state. I don’t want to come across as always having to disagree. If Tim says something that I agree with then I will state that fact. That said, there are times that push back is warranted and today is one of those days. Having said all that let me dive into the article and start to answer Tim Challies. Tim you and I may have an exchange or two, I hope you enjoy my style as I will probably critique more of your writing in the future.
I get the books. I read the articles. I see the news. Christianity seems ready to move on. And I realize anew: I am an old-fashioned kind of Christian.
I believe in the Bible. I believe that it is clear, complete, sufficient, true, and without error. It is God’s revelation to humanity and demands my full attention and full obedience. I do not expect God to speak to me apart from it. I read, He speaks, I obey. Or I try anyways.
Okay this needs some correction. Before I continue let me state that I am pretty conservative in many ways. I can not be classified as emergent, as I just firmly disagree with that camp. I haven’t looked into it because I see no desire. I am going to say something that I bet a lot of people are thinking but are scared to say. I believe the Bible to be inspired. The Bible is amazing, necessary and needed. The Bible has some neat stories of faith and does challenge me. I do try and read from it regularly and I like reading commentary as well from time to time. My preference is the NLT as that I find to be a good translation.
Having explained all that let me state the following. I believe the Bible is inspired but I do not believe it is inerrant. I think the Bible is much more complicated than Tim Challies and many others believe. I firmly believe you can be conservative in your faith, and have a high view of scripture and believe it is fully inspired. Here’s the problem that happens when people say the Bible is inerrant..in many times you end up painting yourself into a corner that doesn’t leave you an out. And I think statements like “You have to believe in a literal 6 day creation or you can’t be a Christian at all” are so toxic. By clinging so firmly to the inerrant claim people are boxed into a situation of which they can’t move. It becomes an all or nothing scenario, and when people can’t work through one issue everything is chucked. I learned this from my faith crisis. Its not healthy or good to hinge 95% of what you believe on 5%. And by so firmly forcing inerrancy you are setting people up for faith crisis, problems with doubt, and so many other issues. You are setting people up for spiritual suicide. Plus when someone like Tim Challies forces the inerrant issue so much I think it reveals deep insecurities in his life and his faith. I do like where I am theologically, its pretty conservative, deep and much more intellectual than many others. Granted it took 5 years of sheer hell to develop this train of thought.
I believe in the God of the Bible. I believe in a God who is one, yet three. I believe in a God who is loving, holy, just, kind and good. I believe in a God who has foreordained everything that has come to pass or will come to pass.
The only part I have a problem with is in this quote right here, “I believe in a God who has foreordained everything that has come to pass or will come to pass.” Again the downfall for Reformed Theology is that it makes the problem of evil worse. Let me ask a question to Tim, and I am not trying to get personal or go below the belt. This is going to be a difficult question to ask but I feel it needs to be asked. By boldly declaring that God has foreordained everything, would that apply in all circumstances? So for example say Tim’s wife was abducted, raped and killed would Tim believe God foreordained the murder of his wife? Neo-Calvinists can’t dance around this issue and this was part of what I tried to discuss with Andrew White from Redeemer Arlington when I knew him. By painting such firm declarations and to use words like “everything” and phrases like “come to pass” you leave yourself no out. So if the problem of evil touches on Tim Challies’ family it begs the question does this line of thinking apply? Many people who state this have not danced or experienced much with suffering. Its why those who make declarations like this become unglued when they discover their favorite Sunday school teacher was molesting their child, or their spouse is hit and killed by a drunk driver. I’m not trying to be difficult or the perpetual fly in the ointment. This is how I used to think until my faith crisis happened and life intervened. By the way Tim, I read this article a couple of days back and its what led me to title my previous article “Has God Foreordained an Alleged Child Sex Abuse Cover Up in Sovereign Grace Ministries/Churches? ” Let me ask you this Tim in light of everything being foreordained. Do you believe that God foreordained CJ Mahaney’s corruption? Its just an honest question brother!
I believe that God, from nothing, made the world and everything in it in six days. Not six ages or six phases or six million years, mind you, but six days. 144 hours. That’s what he said, so that’s what he did. And it was good.
I am a firm believer in science. My father practiced medicine and graduated from some of the top medical schools of the country to include the University of Chicago and Duke. Like I said I myself am a firm believer in science to include evolution. I do believe the world was crated by God but I do not believe that a person needs to believe in a literal 6 day creation to be a Christian. Now that being said, Tim Challies I am happy you believe that about creationism. I do, while I do not I celebrate the fact that you do. You will not hear me state a party line answer by saying you can’t believe that issue at all. I have friends in my life you believe like you do and I celebrate and welcome their diversity and theological perspective. My problem Tim is when you state, or allude to this being the only way. Jesus did not die at Calvary for such a take of perspective. Christianity is much bigger that WWIII on young earth creationism. So while I appreciate you believing in a 6 day creation you are wrong to imply that is the only way to view things. To me you are implying that I am not a Christian by such action is deeply troubling. That is like me saying a Calvinist is not a Christian. You will never hear me state that at all. Tim Challies by his statement above on creation explains why evangelicalism is in trouble and why there is an intellectual deficit. By leaving the window closed for other possibilities and its rejection of science I believe is what also leads the door open to Christians supporting the likes of Mark Driscoll or CJ Mahaney. Individuals who lack the intellectualism and scientific discipline can be more prone to false teachers in that they also can struggle more with discernment.
I believe in sin. I believe that Eve conversed with a talking serpent and that her act of rebellion and the sin of her husband was as simple as taking a bite of an especially meaningful piece of fruit. This is not metaphor or fable, but just what happened. Because of that sin, I believe you and I are both objects of God’s wrath. When Adam fell, we fell. And it was not good.
Yes I believe people are sinful to Tim, not a lot to disagree on here.
I believe that in my natural human state I am sinful. I delight in evil. I hate what is good. I am thoroughly, utterly depraved. Sin pervades every area of my life and turns me against my Creator.
Before I continue let me state that I am sinful also. I believe we are all sinful. But I don’t take delight in my sin. Tim you delight in evil? You delight in evil? You take pleasure in evil? Have you listened to yourself Tim? Saying you delight in evil reminds me of CJ Mahaney saying I’m the worst sinner I know…really? Do you realize what you are saying? I don’t think Tim you truly realize how evil, evil can be. I think that’s why when we have events like Newtown everyone takes a gasp and is stunned. No one thinks that someone would go into an elementary school and kill in mass and without hesitation so many young children. So Tim since you delight in evil I have some questions for you…
- Do you delight in the fact that child pornography is being created?
- Do you delight in the fact that relief workers and journalists are being killed in Syria by ISIL?
- Do you delight by new acts of terrorism that occur? Whether it be in France, Spain or here in the United States?
- Did you delight in what Adam Lanza did in doing a mass shooting in an elementary school?
Do you delight in evil? If you delight in evil now I am beginning to wonder if you are capable of that kind of evil that I write above? If you are can I recommend you turn yourself into the Toronto police?
I believe in justice and in judgment, that the holy and just God must demand satisfaction for any and all sinful deeds. I believe in hell—a literal, tormentuous hell, a place of justice where the sinner faces the terrible wrath of God for all eternity.
Tim we’re all facing judgment and its for this reason that I believe you need to repent of your scandalous support of CJ Mahaney. Remember this piece Tim? This is me, Eagle thinking Biblically about Tim Challies. For your sinful support of Sovereign Grace when are you going to repent and say, “I was wrong…?” Wouldn’t that be the ultimate form of humility?
I believe in Jesus. Born of a virgin, the perfect, Holy Son of God, who lived a perfect and blameless life. He died, literally, was buried, literally, and rose, literally.
I agree with what you state here Tim but my question to you is why do you have to throw around the word literally? Why use the word literally so often? You can make your point without stressing it as often by just saying ” I believe God died, was buried and rose again on the third day.” Just some advice for you brother!
I believe in penal substitutionary atonement. Jesus died on the cross in place of his people. He faced God’s wrath in place of his people. Through this act, my sin was imputed to him and his righteousness was imputed to me. This was the greatest act of grace and kindness the world has ever known or ever will know.
I believe in the gospel, the message of the good news of Jesus’ perfect life, substitutionary death, and glorious resurrection. The gospel assures me that salvation comes by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. God freely offers this gospel to all who will believe and obey.
I’m puzzled by this Tim because you say that God offers this gospel freely to all who believe and obey. If God has foreordained everything as you claim above, after all this is neo-reformed theology we are talking about…than God also would have foreordained who is and who is not a Christian and saved. In that aspect people have no choice, no say, and no possible way of knowing with 100% absolute certainty. What I am trying to say, even though I may be a bit blunt is that you cannot have it both ways. Those two aspects…involve both free will and a lack of free will.
I believe there is no salvation outside of Jesus. God will not waive the requirements of righteousness at the final judgment. Not for anyone and not for everyone. Not for those who have never heard of him. Justice must be satisfied.
Tim one of these days I would like to know how and why you believe you are one of the elect? How do you know with absolute certainty that you are? No this is not me being difficult this is just me being curious and asking questions. Life has taught me that those that boast of their faith the loudest in the course of time are usually those who don’t endure for the long haul. When I was in my faith crisis I used to wonder…what about what about those who didn’t hear the Gospel in Wuhan, China in 400 BCE? Calvinism actually solves that problem though it also gives birth to other problems as well. On a quick side note I do believe you need salvation through God, so I am in agreement with you there. There will be a couple of bits here and there that I can nod and say, “Yup I agree with you…” its just that its few and far between. But I will rejoice in those moments!!
I believe that man’s chief purpose is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. My purpose is as simple and as joyful as living to bring honor and glory to God.
Quick observation if you think the Neo-Calvinist movement is giving glory to God after all the scandals, corruption and countless other issues then I honestly wonder Tim. I do agree with the claim that we are to glorify God, but that knows no boundaries of Christian faith. I would suggest that is what many Christians do believe regardless of their faith.
I believe in the indwelling of the Holy Spirit who gives the desire and the ability to put sin to death and to come alive to righteousness.
I got news for you Tim…I think its foolish for you to believe that sin can be put to death. You will always be a sinner until the day you die. Decades from now when you are in a nursing home like me and others, you will be in a bed, bed ridden and still sinning whether you like it or not. I think that’s part of the reason why you, I, your favorite blogger Dee Parsons and I need God. We’re all going to be sinners until we take our last breath of air on this earth. That is just the truth of the situation. I honestly have come to the conclusion that despite all the talk of depravity, I don’t think many of the Neo-Calvinist camp truly realize how sinful they are. Human beings are sinful, its innate to our condition, but I honestly think many Neo-Calvinists are in denial about this issue. If….IF you are embarrassed about your sin Tim I think that reveals that you do not understand how sinful you are and how much you need Jesus. But the fact of the matter is that you will always be a sinner until the day you die. What you said above smacks of so much legalism. And before someone criticizes me I am not saying that sin is okay…I’m just saying that all of us will sin until the very end.
I believe in the church, the gospel made visible in the community of the elect. The church is the total number of God’s people living when they are where they are. It is the church’s honor and responsibility to take the good news to all the world.
Tim I am not a Neo-Calvinist at all but I wouldn’t limit the church to those like me. In all likelihood you probably don’t consider me to be a Christian as I am not one of the elect. Hence I am not a Neo-Calvinist, but I would still include you in the church. The gospel is bigger than those of the elect. By declaring it to be of the elect you are putting God in a box and minimizing the power of the Gospel by being so narrow in your description. The church is all those who believe in Jesus whether it be Toronto, Pyongyang, Tokyo, Washington, D.C., Colorado Springs, Minneapolis, Milwaukee, London, or Nairobi. Wherever a follower of the Lord is the church is there also…in can be in the first world or third world country. Secondly I would also suggest to you that preaching the Gospel is a privilege and not a right. Many Neo-Calvinists act like its a right. Why do I say that? Each scandal that pours out of your movement from the Sovereign Grace child sex abuse situation to the Mars Hill implosion to Matt Chandler’s church discipline story involving Karen Hinkley taints and threatens the Gospel. It gives another warped view of things. Just recently CJ Mahnaey despite all the alleged criminal activity against him announced he is resuming preaching. If CJ Mahaney respected the Gospel and the Lord he’d stop what he is doing and correct things out of a personal love for the Gospel. He wouldn’t carry on like a run away steam roller plowing over things, craving the attention and power which demonstrates that he shouldn’t be doing what he is doing. But if Neo-Calvinists care about the Gospel and reaching the world..they would first start by cleaning up their own house and dealing with the scandals within.
I believe in families that honor God. I believe in families founded upon the marriage of one man to one woman, an institution created by God and for God. A husband is to joyfully, sacrificially lead his wife while his wife joyfully and willing submits to her husband’s leadership. Together, through this complementarity, they provide a portrait of the love of God for his people.
Tim do you realize that marriage can be defined two ways? There is the civil or government side and then there is the religious. You and other Neo-Calvinists are treating them as one and the same. I have no problem with civil gay marriage. I care about the Gospel and not the culture wars. When Paul went to Rome he didn’t focus on engaging the culture wars of his time. I honestly wonder Tim how you and others would survive and thrive in days of ancient Rome or Greece. If you can’t deal with the status quo changing now it leaves me to ponder this question. Is evangelical Christianity really the Gospel or is it a social movement in response to social changes in the 1960’s? When you look at history it always seems as if evangelicals need an enemy and always need to wage some kind of culture war. From against women’s suffrage to prohibition many evangelicals have been consumed in waging some type of cultural war. The culture wars need to stop as they are affecting the ability to communicate about the Gospel. Instead of engaging in all this talk about gay marriage I wish Neo-Calvinists would learn how to love instead. Each time you wrap yourself around the axel about gay marriage you blow an opportunity to say, “I’m sorry we treated gays the wrong ways for years…” And do you know Tim that you can be supportive of civil gay marriage but believe that gay marriage in the church is not permissible? You are shooting yourself in the foot and making gay marriage a hill to die on is a lost cause. By the way you might want to read this post here, my contention is that the single biggest threat to the Gospel is not gay marriage instead its internal corruption coming from people like your buddy CJ Mahaney. CJ Mahaney poses a bigger threat to the Gospel than gay marriage.
I believe in perseverance; that God, by his grace, will never let go of those he has saved.
I agree with this Tim.
I believe in heaven—a literal, beautiful, physical heaven that is far better than we can imagine. Heaven is the community of the redeemed together with God and is a place of no pain, no sorrow. I long for this place. I hope I see it soon.