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Friday, 29 April 2011

Royal Wedding, Stoicism And The Great Wedding In Heaven

How I enjoyed watching on television the wedding between Prince William and Catherine Middleton!

The sight of thousands of people lining the route from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Abbey raised my emotions, and the cheers as first the Groom, then the rest of the Royal Family, then the Bride, at that stage still considered a commoner, made their short car journey to the Abbey.
And as the Groom placed his ring on her finger, the Bride's status changed from a commoner to the Duchess of Cambridge and a Royal.
Endless commentaries were given for Catherine's dress, comments like "fantastic!" and "Spectacular!" Everyone loved it. Catherine herself grew up to be startlingly beautiful, and little wonder that she was the perfect fit for the Groom who will one day become King of England.
Equally impressive were the crowds who attended the pageantry. Estimates reckon around two million spectators gathered in Central London for the occasion, a small proportion of the two billion who watched it on television globally.
What I loved about the whole spectacle was how the crowds lining the route cheered vocally and allowed their emotions to show amidst the sea of Union Jack flags waving in the mild air.
I believe too that the prayers of many were answered when not a drop of rain fell throughout the whole occasion. During the last three of four days preceding the Wedding, the Met Office warned that a scattering of heavy showers, in places even accompanied by thunder, would attempt to put a damper on the celebrations. But even if that had been the case, I doubt that it would have spoiled much, with the exception that the journey from the Abbey to the Palace would have had the newlyweds in a closed-in coach instead of the open-top one which made the couple clearly visible to the bystanders and TV audience alike.
And how the spectators cheered as the newly married Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were driven back to the Palace!

High emotions! Does this make Britain less stoic? No, I believe it does not. Stoicism is a reaction, in contrast to panic, in the face of a crisis, whether it's an airline in distress or financial difficulties. Stoicism is about getting to grips in solving the problem instead of running away, flustering or getting tied in knots with panic. The 33 Colombian miners who were trapped for six weeks in a sealed chamber underground were a good example of stoicism. They prayed daily and waited patiently for rescue to begin. The South American disaster was also proof that stoicism is not uniquely British.
As stoicism being uniquely British is the opinion of some newspaper journalists which at times really ruffle my feathers!
Amanda Platell and Melanie Phillips, both Daily Mail columnists, have written articles about "the decline of stoicism in Britain" since the death of Princess Diana in 1997. According to Platell and Phillips, the British have become a sentimental, mawkish, weepy and emotional society, with Phillips adding of the decline of masculinity.
To them, that's bad. Is It? Does it really weaken masculinity?
If so, then the Lord Jesus Christ was a wimp. He wept in public on two separate, recorded occasions. The first was over the fate of Jerusalem, the second over the death of Lazarus.
But it would also mean that today's pageantry would have been different if Platell and Phillips had their way.
Instead of cheering crowds, the route would have been lined with an orderly crowd of stiffly dressed men and women, gently clapping without a single voice heard as the Royal procession passed by. The Queen would have looked ahead sternly instead of waving to the crowds and the newly weds would have also been concealed inside a coach, almost oblivious to the sound of clapping outside. In short, the day's event would have resembled more like Remembrance Sunday than a wedding.
As it was the crowds expressed their emotions of excitement and joy without reserve, as it should be. A wedding is a joyous occasion, a cause for celebration.
Having been to a wedding reception in the Middle East myself, I can assure that the Bible indeed sees a wedding as a joyous occasion. The wedding at Cana was attended by Jesus Christ himself, who turned water into wine, not wine into water as these columnists believe should have been done.
In the Book of Revelation, John gives us a glimpse of the unrestrained emotions of rapturous joy as the Bride is presented to the Groom.

Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they sang:
"Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and
wisdom and strength
and honour and glory and praise!"
Then I heard every creature in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing:
"To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be praise and honour and glory and power,
for ever and ever."
The four living creatures said, "Amen",
and the elders fell down and worshipped.

Revelation 5:11-14.

And also this:

Then what I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like a roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting:
For the our Lord God Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and be glad
and give him glory!
For the wedding of the Lamb has come,
and the bride has made herself ready.
Fine linen, bright and clean,
was given her to wear."
(Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.)
Then the angel said to me, "Write:
'Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!'" And he added, "These are the true words of God."

Revelation 19:6-9.

The heavenly Bride of Christ is the Church. We are the Bride of Jesus Christ if we trust in him to save us. On that wedding day in heaven emotions will run high. No British stiff upper lip then!
The wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton was a joyous occasion. Everyone there had the right to shout with joy!
After all, in heaven, it would be impossible to hold under restraint any emotion then!
Wishing the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge a happy future together.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Good Friday? I'm Confused!

The Easter Weekend. Like everyone else born in the UK and grew up in a Christian environment, we all believe that Jesus Christ was Crucified on a Friday and then rose physically from the dead early Sunday Morning. Thus we say that he was in the tomb for three days.

This has been our tradition for some 1,700 years. It was formalised by the Roman Catholic Church early in its history and it passed unchallenged into the Reformed churches who continued to worship on Good Friday. Even today, I was at Ascot Baptist, my home church, worshipping on Good Friday.
So far so good.
Except that ever since I began to read the Bible from 1973, I felt uneasy about a Friday Crucifixion. Especially when the Lord Jesus was speaking openly and was making predictions about himself. And this appears at just one verse in the whole Bible, Matthew 12:40, which reads:
For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
With a statement like this, a Friday Crucifixion doesn't seem to make sense. And again, why couldn't have Jesus simply said "Three days" and left it there? Rather, was he deliberately trying to tell us something?
A Friday crucifixion may have found its place if three days and two nights were on his mind - Friday afternoon, all day Saturday and Sunday morning before daybreak. Even on the Hebrew clock, when the new day begins at sundown, the same would still apply. Friday would end at sundown, and Saturday would have ended at sundown the next evening, making all of the second night as part of Sunday itself. It would still be two nights, not three - small hours Saturday and small hours Sunday.
Again, as with the previous two articles, I will try and keep this one as simple as I can.

In the old Testament, soon after the children of Israel were lead out of Egypt and settled near the foot of Mt. Sinai, the Ten Commandments were given. This was followed by many laws and regulations for daily living. Among these laws, the Passover was instituted. In fact the Passover was instituted while the Israelites were still in Egypt. It was to mark the anniversary of the deaths of the firstborn of their Egyptian taskmasters, allowing Israel to escape in haste. What the children of Israel had to do was to kill a lamb, sprinkle its blood on their doorposts, roast it and then eat it with bitter herbs and unleavened bread. That night, when the Angel of Death visited Egypt, he passed over every house which had blood on its doorposts, resulting with all in the house spared from death.
Then the anniversary of this event was to be celebrate every year at the specific day, week and month.
The exact details being this, at the Spring month of Nisan:
10th Nisan - Lamb selected.
14th Nisan - In the afternoon, lamb killed, roasted.
15th Nisan - early at night, Passover lamb eaten, first day of unleavened bread, which is to last a full week.
If this is compared to the Passion of Jesus Christ, the events would unfold like this:
Sunday 10th Nisan - Jesus Christ enters Jerusalem on a donkey and reveals himself as the Jewish Messiah (i.e. Christ) to the crowd waving palm leaves.
Thursday 14th Nisan - after sundown - Last Supper with his disciples, in the Garden of Gethsemane, betrayed by Judas Iscariot, arrested, brought to the Jewish hall of judgement, at daybreak, brought to Pilate. All leaven removed from every Jewish household, hence "the day of Preparation."
Thursday 14th Nisan - Midday, Christ Crucified. At, Jesus Christ dies, Passover lambs slaughtered in every Jewish household. The body of Jesus taken down from the cross and buried.
Friday 15th Nisan - First day of Unleavened Bread, or a "high day" after sundown the freshly roasted Passover lamb is eaten.
Saturday 16th Nisan - Normal weekly Sabbath.
Sunday 17th Nisan - before daybreak, Jesus is resurrected, stone covering the tomb's mouth is rolled away, Mary and her companions bring spices to further anoint the body, resurrection revealed and disciples told.
So to make it simpler:
Sunday 10th - Triumphal Entry.
Thursday 14th - Crucifixion, death, burial.
Friday 15th - A "high day".
Saturday 16th - Normal Jewish Sabbath.
Sunday 17th - before daybreak, Resurrection.

Thus the three days were:
Thursday late afternoon, about three hours of daylight left.
All day Friday.
All day Saturday.
The three nights - as we understand them:
Thursday night
Friday night
Saturday night.
As the Jews understood them:
Friday morning
Saturday morning
Sunday morning.

Therefore is the idea of a Thursday crucifixion the correct one?
That's how it looks to me.
The idea of a Friday crucifixion, I think, stemmed from the reading of the Gospels when the writers insist that the death of Jesus took place "on the day of preparation for the Sabbath." But that Sabbath was not the weekly Saturday Sabbath, but "a high day" (John 19:14 AV.) In other words, the first day of Unleavened Bread, or Passover Week, which fell on a Friday.
In John 18:28, the Jewish accusers refused to enter Pilate's hall, for fear of defilement, "because they have yet to eat the Passover". (So the Passover wasn't eaten yet.)
But what about Matthew's account of Jesus eating the Passover with his disciples?
Jesus sent two of his men to be lead to a large room to prepare it for that evening. It was still Wednesday Nisan 13th when the room was located and prepared. The meal they ate that night was the Last Supper, not the Passover, and when they all sat at table, it was after sundown and as such, it was already Thursday the 14th, the same day as the crucifixion and the death of Jesus Christ timed to coincide exactly with the killing of the Passover lambs across Israel.
A Thursday crucifixion? I would guess that most if not all Christians reading this would dismiss it as fantasy from an over-emotional manual worker lacking education.
But I would recommend reading How Close Are We? by Dave Hunt, who gives a thoroughly in-depth investigation of the passion week and presents it in easy to understand yet accurate scholarship.
A Thursday Crucifixion satisfies any doubts I might have had on the most crucial point of the Christian faith. If something does not add up, it would be much more difficult to stay firm in the faith during difficult or testing times. To know how thoroughly accurate the Bible is, and always have been, is the sharp sword that would make old Mr Doubt run away without looking back!

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Once Saved Always Saved - Part 2 - Holiness is Fun!

Holiness is fun!
This is the follow up of the last blog about the Calvinism/Arminian debate. If you wish to refresh on my last post, just click on the "Older Post" prompt at the foot of this page.
It was a typical Sunday morning at Ascot Baptist Church, my home church where I attend regularly. During the sermon, Phil Rogers, our Elder, came out with these words:-
Holiness is Fun!
I was somewhat stunned. To me, "Holiness" had always conjured up in my mind of a group of monks chanting in the monastery, way out in the countryside, separate and away from the hustle and bustle of life in the secular world.

Or I imagine a "holy person" so pious, that whenever he looks at me he could see into my soul and mentally judges me, and I turn away to avoid that look.
Holiness is nothing like that.
Jesus himself said that holiness is fun. In John 15:10-11, he says:
If you keep my commandments (that is, to love one another) ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love. These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.
Jesus also said:-
Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels in heaven over one sinner that repents. Luke 15:10.
Just imagine it. Our God is a happy God! Because somewhere in the world somebody had just got saved, and received the free gift of eternal life. And here and there someone is saved all the time. So the heavenly party never ceases. The believer is a gift from the Father to the Son for dying for his sins on the cross. So I can imagine a Heavenly Christmas morning that never ends. Gift after gift is received by Jesus Christ from God the Father, the myriad of angels shout for joy and everyone is having fun. The party is enhanced further by millions of saints (Christian believers) who have already died and entered glory. Their thunderous shouts of praise are twofold: first at a conversion of a sinner to saint on Earth, and the death of a Christian as he then enters the glories of Heaven, very much like the winner of an athletic foot race crossing the finishing line and breaks the tape.
God is a happy God. He loves us immensely. We are a gift to the Son from the Father, and there are no unwanted presents either. God does not make mistakes. That's why I firmly believe in Once Saved always Saved.
If there is such a doctrine so strongly debated, it is this one. Once Saved Always Saved seems too good to be true. In fact, all it says that there is absolutely no way a sinner can do anything to merit grace. Instead, the Good News of God's Grace is proclaimed, and the hearer believes, his faith resulting in salvation. Another name for "Good News" is the Gospel.
Once Saved Always Saved has been the cause of this Big Debate for nearly half a millennium and which shows no sign of slowing down.
In this article we shall look into further into the debate and what is it about Calvinism which Arminians and other non-Calvinists so dislike about it.
When one talks or reads about this debate, the issue is almost entirely about Once Saved Always Saved. This issue being: Are we as believers eternally secure in the hope of entry into Heaven after death? Or can we fall away, lose our salvation and end up in Hell? In other words, in this case the believer, rather than receiving a free gift from God through grace, he is on probation, to see if he is worthy enough to be saved.
But eternal security is only a part of what Calvin advocated. His whole treatise involved five points with which each initial letter spell the acronym TULIP.

To deciphering this acronym, we get this result:
T Total depravity of the sinner
U Unconditional Election
L Limited Atonement
I Irresistible Grace
P Perseverance of the Saints

It's the P in the last article which the debate really is centered on, which we get the modern terminology, Once Saved Always Saved.
But for anyone who sees Limited Atonement as something akin to blasphemy or grossly unfair, it simply means that Christ died for the Church. This means that the power of the Atonement is effective to everyone who has faith in Jesus Christ as Saviour. Each believer who has this faith becomes a member of the Church, which is the family of God, with God himself as his Heavenly Father. But the power of the atonement is for each person who believes, or trust in Jesus Christ to save him. To those who refuse to believe, the Atonement has no effect on them.
Thus Jesus himself said while at the Temple in Jerusalem:
And (Jesus) said, Therefore I say unto you, that no man can come unto me, except that it was given unto him of my Father
John 6:65.
He also said, in John 10 that the Jews did not believe because they were not of his sheep. His sheep hear his voice and follows him (because they are his sheep already, apparently not because they have just decided to follow him) and he gives them eternal life (free gift of grace) and they shall never perish (eternal security) - my Father, who gave those sheep to me (as a reward for his coming Crucifixion) is greater than all, and no one is able to pluck them from his hand (so God can't be beaten by human will).
In John 17 we see Jesus praying for first his immediate disciples, than for all believers to come. On more than one occasion Jesus emphasised that each disciple was given to him by God, indicating that they were already his from eternity past. He also says that all that are his belongs to the Father as well, indicating that very believer belonged to God from eternity past, for there is absolutely nothing that could happen without God knowing about it beforehand. In plain English, God knew every single work, thought, feeling, speech and action you would ever say, think, feel and do before you were even conceived!
Thus where TULIP is explained: Total depravity, is where it would be impossible for anyone to come to God in his own power. Yes, many people are good to others, kind, compassionate and generous to each other, but because of our fallen natures, these virtues are of no use to God.
It can be likened to a glass of clean water to a thirsty person, it is desirable. But just one tiny drop of ink, and the thirsty person would not touch it, even if there is only a very slight discolouration.
All this seems to indicate the U in Tulip for Unconditional Election, and I, for Irresistible Grace. If God foreknew the believer from eternity past and has predestined you to conform unto the likeness of his Son, then he also knew that he will not resist his grace. As Jesus himself said,
Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father. John 6:65.
And also:
No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up on the last day. John 6:44. And,
All that the Father gives to me shall come to me; and he who comes to me I will in no wise cast out. John 6:37.
Therefore the P in Perseverance can only make sense if we are to believe that God the Father has given you to his beloved Son as a gift, and God does not makes mistakes! Especially if God knew that the believer was chosen right up until the believer falls away and loses his salvation. Some "gift" for his Son!
So then, what about Free will, human choice? Does the Bible teach it? Yes, it does. Does it contradict Divine Sovereignty? Yes, apparently it does!
Look at John chapter 1. in verse 9 John wrote that the Light of Christ shines into the soul of every man born into the world, and the most famous verse in the Bible, John 3:16, says, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him, should not perish, but have eternal life."
Jesus also said, He who heareth my word, and believes on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. John 5:24.
Later, Jesus called out to the crowds, If anyone thirst, let him come to me and drink. John 7:37.
He also said, Except that you believe that I am he, you shall die in your sins. John 8:24.
Paul also said,
And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth that all men everywhere should repent. Acts 17:30.
And also Peter stated:
The Lord is not slack concerning his promise...but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that anyone should perish, but all should come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9.
Do these verses indicate free will and human choice? Yes they do.
So here is the apparent contradiction between God's Sovereignty and free will. Both are true.
So what do we do? Accept them both equally. The Bible is God's Word to mankind. How one becomes a believer through hearing the Word preached was the result of God's Sovereign choice and at the same time a choice the person himself had made, cannot be explained. But it is taught. Rather than fight it about in a debate lasting centuries, why not just accept what the Bible says?
And it says that Christ died to reconcile us to God.

So in this final part I wish to discuss why believing in Once Saved Always Saved is the key to Holiness.
It is the assurance we need when the chips are down, when feeling lonely, a loser, struggling with a problem or as in the the days the New Testament was written, under intense persecution. Back then every Roman citizen must confess by law that Caesar is Lord. They must accept that the Emperor was divine. To say Jesus Christ is Lord instead of Caesar added up to treason, and the offender was imprisoned or executed. That is why Paul writes to the church in Rome that no one can confess that Jesus Christ is Lord except by the Holy Spirit in him. In other words, confessing that Jesus Christ is Lord is of God's grace, not human merit. The same applies to perseverance. It is a grace from God, not a human strength. Many times in his letters Paul admonish his readers to "stand firm in the faith". That is to allow God's power to work unrestrained in the midst of tribulation without allowing the human weakness of fear and doubt get in the way.
It has nothing to do with loss of salvation.
To all those who trusts in Jesus Christ to save them:
God is a happy God. You are a gift to the Son for dying for your sins.
He had chosen you from eternity past, to enjoy the privilege of holiness.
Would he let you go? I can't see the sense in that.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Once Saved Always Saved - Part 1 - How did this Originate?

It was the first week of Spring Harvest, 1994. The main evening meeting was at the theatre, at the Butlins Holiday Camp at Minehead, Somerset. The Big Top, the largest meeting venue in the camp, stood empty, since still being school term, there was a considerable lack of campers during that week.
After the worship music died down, the evening speaker, David Pawson, stood up and began to admonish the audience - "You believe in Once Saved Always Saved? Then forget it! That is a false teaching..."

Then he began to preach on the text of the evening, a verse in Paul's letter to the church in Philippi, Work out your salvation with fear and trembling...
He went on about only overcomers will receive eternal life, and pointed out that he is aware that many in the audience are actually adulterers, living with a divorced partner, and therefore cannot go to Heaven after death.

The result of that sermon would have been a riot in the auditorium, if fellow pastor and a personal friend of Pawson, Roger Forset, had not stepped in to quell the uprising. After dismissal, hundreds in that audience sought counselling, which Pawson called "repenting" but more likely to have their fears calmed.

Pawson's cassette recording of the sermon was sold with a warning from Spring Harvest that the Committee does not necessarily agree with the contents of the sermon. Pawson himself was asked to leave that week, his career at Spring Harvest ended. Following this incident, Pawson wrote Once Saved Always Saved? a rebuke to R. T. Kendall's book with the same title, but without the question mark. Once Saved Always Saved? was one of many books Pawson had authored, including On the Road to Hell where he says that there are many saints (Christian believers) now suffering in Hell, and Leadership is Male with which on the cover of the 1990 copyright there was an illustration of a collar and tie.

So this was a highlight of an an ongoing debate which began in the 1500s, and there is absolutely no sign of the debate petering out. For this, just type in Calvinism or Arminianism on your browser and see how many page titles are listed on your screen. Or likewise, go to YouTube, and using the same titles, scores of videos will appear, from a 90 second musical clip to an hour long presentation.
In this blog I would like to present the history of this debate, and how it split the Christian Church right down the middle, and to see whether one or the other is a "false gospel" or not. But for the unchurched reader, I shall keep this article as simple as possible, and try to avoid jargon words which most likely be unfamiliar to them.

After Jesus Christ and his Apostles founded the churches in the early first Century, by AD 313 Roman Emperor Constantine, also then as today's Pope, known as Pontus Maximus, united the Church with the State, making it the only permitted religion in the Empire. Thus from this merger of Church and State, gave the rise of the Roman Catholic Church, headquartered at the Vatican, in Rome.

St. Peters Basilica, Vatican

During the years which followed the merger of Church and State by Constantine, new ideas and teachings began to develop within the Church. Many of these new teachings were the result of pagan customs brought in by the people. One example of this was the rise of the Virgin Mary to deification (become like a goddess) and was born without sin, the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, which became a binding doctrine all Catholics must believe to be saved, from December 1854, by Pope Pius IX. But adoration of the Virgin Mary goes right back into Roman times, when the goddess Diana was worshipped with her child son Horus.

Other changes since AD 313 include:

The doctrine of Transubstantiation, which means that the bread and the wine taken at Communion, becomes the actual body and blood of Jesus Christ, instead of just the symbols of his body and blood, as taught for centuries before. This teaching became legal during the Council of Lateran, 1215.
Then the teaching of Salvation by works, which basically mean that once one has receive grace from God, it's up to the believer to keep himself within the grace of God by a myriad of works. These works include confession to a priest, penance - which is a set of prayers and good works imposed to the penitent by the priest, and taking of the Sacraments, chief being the Eucharist, or Holy Communion, which is the taking the body and blood of Christ, in a form of a small disc known as the Host.

On top of this, if one commits a small sin, if it remains unconfessed and the believer dies, he'll go to a temporary hell known as Purgatory, where he stays to suffer intense torment until the sin is cleansed away. But a series of prayers with a Rosary (a string of beads) and good works would earn him an indulgence, a kind of free pass out of Purgatory and entry into Heaven.
A big or serious sin is known as a mortal sin, and one must carry out his penance or face eternity in Hell, having lost his grace from God completely.

Two main consequences arises here. First, there is absolutely no assurance of salvation for the Catholic believer. To get saved is purely upon the free choice of the believer, and he must work hard with the co-operation of God's grace. Which leads to the second consequence, that is the death of Jesus Christ on the cross has little or no saving power. The denial of the power of the Crucifixion is admitted by the Vatican itself, which explains the need for Mary, Infant Baptism, the Mass (Holy Eucharist), the Rosary, the need for Purgatory, Indulgences, Penance, Prayers for the Dead and regular confessions to a priest.

Then in 1517 a young Catholic monk named Martin Luther came across a verse in Paul's letter to the Romans. This verse read:

The just shall live by FAITH

which means believing alone was required for salvation, without working for it. Those few words absolutely changed him like a bright light from Heaven! Soon, Luther was approached by indulgence salesman Johann Tetzel. From his new-found revelation, he nailed to his church door the 97 Articles of Faith which launched the Protestant revolution.

Soon after, in 1536 Protestant reformer John Calvin wrote, Institutes of the Christian Religion which emphasised that salvation is a gift of God's grace, without human effort, that the Crucifixion of Christ completely cleanses the believer from all sin forever, and the believer, foreknown by God from eternity past, and predestined to be saved into the Kingdom of his Son, and therefore, if God foreknew from eternity past, it would be a silly idea had he fallen away and lose his salvation. Hence, Perseverance of the Saints, which itself is a grace of God and not a human virtue, or, as we would call it today, Once Saved Always Saved became modern Calvinist terminology.

John Calvin

Also at the time of John Calvin, a Spanish priest named Ignatus Loyola, who from 1523 received "mystic visions" one would ascribe to occultism, received a vision from the Virgin Mary to "fight the Babylonian hordes". At first Loyola thought she meant the Muslims, but it soon became clear that Mary was talking about the Protestants. Loyola hated the doctrines of God's grace with a passion. By August 1534 he founded the Jesuits or Society for Jesus, making himself a military General rather than a church abbot. By September 1540, Pope Paul III ordained the Jesuits to get out there and completely destroy (i.e. literally kill) everyone who holds the doctrines of grace, after receiving a specific command from the Virgin Mary in a vision. This included the slaughter of all men, women and children.

In 1560 A boy named James Arminius was born in Holland. Having lost both his parents at a young age, as a young man he was educated by one Calvinist, Professor Theodore Beza in Amsterdam, between the years 1575 to 1586. Beza became suspicious of Arminius apparent apathy over Divine grace, and begun to question the student on his leanings. Arminius lied and swore under oath that he was devoted to Calvinism, a move which allowed Beza to ordain him as a minister some years later.

James Arminius

But some years before his ordination, in 1586 he fled Amsterdam for a "holiday" in Rome instead of working to pay off his tuition fees. Arminius then became a private student of a Spanish monk and Jesuit - Luis de Molina.

Molina, as a devout Roman Catholic, had to swear allegiance to Thomas Aquinas and his teaching of Divine Sovereignty, but as a Jesuit, he wanted to defend the Papacy against Calvinism. Molina saw a willing student in Arminius, and he began to study Molina's solution to the problem of theological contradictions - Divine Sovereignty versus Free Will, salvation by grace against human effort. Molina came up with the halfway measure, a bit from both sides. First known as Molinism, this "Middle Knowledge" entails one being saved by divine grace, but this must be worked upon by the free will of the believer, or else the grace becomes ineffective. So therefore by Molina's reasoning, the atonement made for our forgiveness of sins by the death of Christ on the Cross loses its effect and becomes much weaker, leaving human effort to fill in the gap where the Crucifixion now falls short. Basically we have to "overcome" our own sinful nature and remain faithful in order to enter Heaven after death.

It was a major victory for the Vatican!

In 1588, James Arminius wrote his treatise: A Reconciliation of Free Choice With the Gift of Grace, Divine Foreknowledge, Providence and Reprobation, which changed Molinism to Arminianism.
This treatise became the norm for many Protestant churches, and it was embraced by John Wesley, founder of Methodism, a denomination from which David Pawson was brought up.

In 1610 the disciples of James Arminius signed a petition to the Government asking for protection of their Arminian views. This petition was known as the Remonstrance which pleased the likes of the Methodists, Pentecostals, Plymouth Bretheren, Assemblies of God and other well known groups.
So what have become of all this?

Namely it's a case of "another gospel" Paul the Apostle warns against in his letter to the churches in Galatia (Turkey today). What Paul was warning against were the teachings from the Jewish believers that circumcision was necessary for salvation for all non-Jews. In other words, human works added to faith to attain salvation was a false gospel.

There are many false gospel teaching going around today, some subtle enough to pass as Christian orthodoxy. One is, you need to be baptised to be saved, a teaching known as Baptismal Regeneration. It is taught by the Roman Catholic Church, along with Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, the Church of Christ and all groups with an Arminian leaning to Salvation.

We as Christians need to accept that we are saved by Divine grace, a free gift given by God to all true believers. God foreknew us from eternity past, he knew from before birth every work we would ever do, and therefore predestined us to be conformed to the likeness of his Son in character. Furthermore, every true believer is a gift of the Father to the Son for dying on the cross. We are his reward. Now if we can lose our salvation, as the Arminians teach, then we have to conclude that God is capable in making mistakes - God chose a "naff" gift that was of no use to the Son!

How God could make such a mistake and yet hold the Universe together is even a greater mystery than anyone can answer to.