c) 2012' name='copyright'/>Michael DeShane Hinton

Friday, September 11, 2015


Five verses in the New Testament speak of predestination:

for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. (Acts 4:27-28 ESV)

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. (Romans 8:29)

And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. (Romans 8:30)

he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, (Ephesians 1:5)

In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, (Ephesians 1:11)

The Acts passage cited above reflects what Peter said on the Day of Pentecost:

this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. (Acts 2:23 ESV)

The dilemma presented by predestination is free will, our personal moral responsibility before God.  Peter seems to indicate that God’s sovereignty and our free will can coexist, for in the same breath he both holds the Jews responsible for killing God’s Son and says it was God’s plan that they do it!

How might those two ideas be reconciled?

The solution proposed by this study is that God ordains what happens but not who does it.

Now, that may seem strange since we have the names of people, like Herod and Pontius Pilate, and elsewhere in this regard, Abraham, Jacob and Esau, and Pharaoh, that seem to be chosen by God to accomplish the divine purpose regardless of their own willing or previous work.

But their names are a mnemonic device that reminds Jewish people of what happened in the unfolding plan of their own election.  Each persona appears at critical stages in salvation history.  References to them in the New Testament, along with Paul’s conversion narrative, indicate the next great saving events: the Advent of the Lord and the Mission to the Gentiles, who are elect in Christ.

In the case of the Lord’s crucifixion Peter had to explain it not as a defeat or a set-back but as part of a bigger plan that actually advances the cause of God.  Therefore, on the Day of Pentecost he offered a chance to repent to the very ones that God had used to offer propitiation.  As a group they did what God needed done but as individuals they can escape judgment for doing it.  As Peter said, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.”

In the case of Paul’s apostleship among the Gentiles he needed to show that God’s plan for universal redemption exists “apart from the law,” so he spoke of Abraham’s call 430 years before the law was given (Galatians 3:17).  In fact, all his examples of predestination occurred before the law was given.  It fits his polemic about justification by grace through faith for Gentiles: TO WIT, God can enter covenant with Gentiles if he wants; who are we to question his sovereignty?  Use of plural pronouns (those, us, and we) in his verses on predestination show that he is speaking of himself and his Gentile converts as a group and as a historical phenomenon that needs justification.

All these early church fathers believed in free will:

The idea of individual predestination first appeared in Augustine of Hippo (354-430) and it was not well received by his contemporaries.  Vincent of LĂ©rins called it “a most disturbing innovation, quite out of line with ‘orthodoxy,’” which Vincent defined as that body of belief which is held uniformly by the universal church.

Another contemporary, Julian, Bishop of Eclanum, expressed that Augustine was causing trouble because he “brought his Manichee ways of thinking into the church ... and was denying St. Paul's clear teaching that God wills all men to be saved” (1 Timothy 2:4). The Manichees were a cult to which Augustine originally belonged.  They taught that “the nature of man can be corrupted to the point that his will is powerless to obey God's commands.”

Friday, June 19, 2015

Christian Dualism Is Not Gnostic

Spiritual formation depends on the perspective of the New Testament, which is dualistic (carnal vs spiritual, et al).  But some worry about Gnosticism when they hear the word dualism.

First, Gnosticism is not a dualistic system.  Though there are many forms of Gnosticism, it is a pantheistic view from the Orient.  To the Gnostic the material world is the corruption of an impersonal and indiscreet god-force through multiple levels of emanations that became increasingly unworthy.

The Christian position is fundamentally dualistic in that there is a clear boundary between 1) the pure and holy God that created all things ex nihilo and 2) the things themselves that he created, seen and unseen.

Scripture is also clear about why the world is corrupt: our sin.  So, another category of dualism appears within the created world: that which is 1) morally innocent/neutral/good vs. 2) what is corrupted by sin.  There are many other dualities in the New Testament but these are sufficiently illustrative for now, speaking directly to the chief error of Gnosticism, i.e. denying that God is holy in himself with no adulteration of evil.

Second, Gnosticism is perpetually and addictively syncretistic while, according to Irenaeus in AGAINST HERESIES, the Christian faith has a line of apostolic succession that protects the integrity of the message.

Being syncretistic, Gnostics work into their system any and all religions and philosophies.  When, therefore, a Gnostic writer sounds like a dualist one might be tempted to think that dualism caused Gnosticism.  But that is both a causal and factual error, Harnack notwithstanding.

In conclusion, we should not shy away from the dualistic perspective of the New Testament leading to spiritual growth because of a false claim of heresy against it.

“Solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.” (Hebrews 5:14 ESV)

“The one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.” (Galatians 6:8 ESV)

“If you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” (Romans 8:13 ESV)

“It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.” (John 6:63 ESV)

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Moral Mechanics of Propitiation

There is an understandable objection to the idea that God punished his Son, Jesus, for the sins of humanity.  It has been called divine child abuse, despite the fact that Jesus was not a child and gave himself for us voluntarily.

Some have another, related concern about the nature of God, that he is portrayed as wrathful and not loving.  This view persists despite the obvious logic that love would provide atonement, saying that God does not want to be angry with us.  This is a simple Sunday school verse away from being universally accepted, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son …”  It is an ethos that forms a complete circle when we realize that all sin is a sin against the divine nature, which is love, love being the law of Christ.  Now, love must be freely given.  In the atonement, then, we see God taking in his own body on the tree the consequences for the condition he himself created in making humanity free to sin.  In the cross all is set right and mankind is presented with propitiation “to be received by faith.”

The more interesting question, though, is how a sacrifice for sins works.  We can assume that the animal sacrifices of the Old Testament are purely prophetic of the Lamb of God.  But since the full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice for the sins of the whole world has been made, what exactly happened that a meritorious cause of our salvation was accomplished?  How can one man’s death atone for the wickedness of another?


Scripture says that Jesus “became sin, who knew no sin, that we might become the righteousness of God in him” and that he became a curse for us, “for anything hung on a cross is accursed.”  These are ontological statements, which require that we understand the moral universe in which we live.  A moral universe is different from a magical or speculative one in which God merely declares one righteous while another abides under wrath.  When Jesus died, for instance, there were religious, cosmic, geological, and anthropological phenomenon that serve as signs that something happened that day, once for all time.  The curtain of the temple was torn in two, the sun was darkened at midday, there was an earthquake, and some were raised from the dead.


The moral law is that evil be met with evil and good rewarded with good.  But in Christ the good was subjected to unspeakable evil.  Jesus absorbed all the evil that exists in the world like a dry sponge absorbs water.  Sponges come from the water where they naturally live and grow.  Taking a sponge out of the water and making it dry prepares it for absorbing water by the will and use of man.  Jesus came from heaven, where he naturally belongs as the man of heaven.  Yet in him God was incarnate, contrary to nature by a miracle of the Virgin Birth, and he lived in perfect obedience to God.  His virtuous life and obedience made him the perfect sacrifice for sin.  He reversed the flow such that if we give up our sins to him he takes them away.  “Behold the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world.”

Saturday, March 14, 2015

The Cross and Spiritual Formation

A spiritual perspective or understanding is essential to formation.


There are two ways a person might be enlightened.  The most common is through painful life experience.  That happened to me.  I suffered a series of traumatic experiences and went looking for an explanation.  I found it in the New Testament, understood in its salvation-historical context.  It is there in plain sight but I "had no one to guide me.” (Acts 8:31)


The second way is to learn it from sound Biblical exposition.


The New Testament teaches philosophical dualism: body/soul, time/eternity, and others of equal significance.  Jesus said, for instance, "The Spirit gives life; the flesh can do nothing." (John 6:63)


Paul wrote, "The desires of the flesh are against the desires of the Spirit; and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other." (Galatians 5:17)


There are five common objections to Christian dualism.


Pagan thought.  I answer, “Do not call unclean what God has cleansed.” (Acts 10:15)  Jesus and the early Church, and theologians in every age since, adopted, adapted, mitigated, modified, used, and perfected Greek philosophical categories to explain Christ and the new covenant in his blood.


Gnosticism.  I answer, Jesus “came in the flesh” (John 1:14, I John 4:2, and II John 1:7) to show us how to overcome sin, death, and the grave.  Being “fully human,” he is our model and example of obedience to the Father.


Previous revelation.  I answer, consider the crucifixion of our Lord.  The Old Covenant was all about the plight of Jews in the world.  “If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” (John 11:48)


Creation.  I answer, God himself has given up on creation in deference to “the life of the world to come” for which we must prepare ourselves as disciples of the Lord. "This phrase, 'Yet once more,' indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain." (Hebrews 12:27)

The body.  I answer, “It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.” (1 Corinthians 15:44 ESV)

Overcoming objections to Christian dualism allows us to grow spiritually through embracing the cross by which “I am crucified to the world and the world is crucified unto me.” (Galatians 6:14)

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Brief Exposition of Romans

The most important word in the exposition of Romans is “therefore” found at 12:1.  It occurs there in the logical form of A therefore B with chapters 1-11 being A and the remainder B.

It is tempting to say that A is theoretic and theologically systematic while B is practical.  Whereas it is obvious that B is entirely pragmatic it is a mistake to say A is completely speculative.  A speaks of the power of God (1:16), for instance, then conscience (2:15), receiving by faith the propitiation that God provides in Christ (3:25), walking in faith like Abraham (4:12), peace with God (5:1), baptism (6:3), obedience (6:16), self-awareness (7:23), and walking according to the Spirit (8:4).


In A Paul is not presenting new material, per se, but, having expressed his desire to go to Rome, and having heard of their faith, he is interpreting to them how he understands the Gentile experience of Christ to date, in order to establish rapport and begin ministry before arriving (1:8-15).  The polemical nature of his remarks against “works of the Law” reflects his own painful experience of those that question his message and apostleship.  It does not serve as a blanket consideration from which to launch an antinomian protest against their common faith but expresses his moral statesmanship, which culminates in the declarations of chapters 9-11:  all Israel will be saved, if Israel is understood correctly as those that believe in Jesus and walk in his holy ways.

In resolving the soteriological differences within contemporary Christianity today, then, Romans provides no support for the pop-evangelical position.  Note, for instance, this passage:


The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. (Romans 8:16-17 ESV)


The proviso of suffering with Christ for the sake of salvation casts Paul in the light of Christ:


And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.” (Luke 9:23-26 ESV)


The Romans were practicing Christians that Paul wanted to visit as apostle and minister.  The admonitions of B are not about unnecessary and optional works that flow from faith but a pastoral admonition to continue and refine previous saving behaviors in consistently specific ways.

Friday, February 20, 2015


The Ethos of Anglican Life Curriculum

I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. –Jesus

  1. We shall represent the thread of the Holy Spirit’s work that runs through the Anglo-Catholic, Wesleyan-type Evangelical, and Charismatic history, experience, and perspective.
  2. We shall support all seven sacraments.
  3. We shall support all the gifts of the Spirit.
  4. We shall support ecumenical efforts and dialogue but especially with those in apostolic succession, that is, the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches.
  5. We shall avoid forensic language in describing salvation, for it has been done to distraction and misunderstanding it has led many into the antinomian error.
  6. We shall oppose elective abortion.
  7. We shall err on the side of gender differentiation.  The curriculum shall support traditional marriage and family values, Western culture, capitalism, and patriotism.  We believe in freedom, prosperity, and the rule of law.
  8. We shall treat God as masculine but the Spirit, though a co-equal person of the Trinity, may be spoken of as neuter, “its” gender in Greek.   The curriculum shall refer to the Church as feminine in gender.
  9. We shall support the three-fold ministries of deacon, elder/priest, and bishops.  The curriculum shall support the ministry of all baptized believers and the ministry of women that have the Spirit.
  10. We shall assume that women may be called to the Diaconate and men to the Priesthood.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Anglican Life Prototype Lesson

Anglican Life Curriculum 1C.1
First Sunday of Advent



Luke 21:25-36

 “And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

And he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. As soon as they come out in leaf, you see for yourselves and know that the summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all has taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

“But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”

This lesson has three parts: play acting, a picture project, and the demonstration of a trap. For this lesson you will need: colored construction paper, scissors, gold glitter, glue, small Bibles or Testaments, mirror(s), and a mouse trap.

The text above contains words treated two ways.  Those to be acted out are in italics and those alluding to the scene at the Lord’s return are underlined.  In one case they overlap.  That indicates the core concept of the lesson.

Read through the lesson with proper responses, according to the custom of your church.

For young children we must make an exception to this passage.  Tell them that staying awake at night is for grown-ups only and that they should go to sleep after their prayers.

Have the children stand in a line or semi-circle, facing the teacher.  The teacher demonstrates the following words and phrases, having the children imitate expressions, gestures, and actions:

Distress – make a distressed face

Perplexity – express questioning by scratching your head and saying, “What’s going on?”

Roaring – make a roaring sound and a motion to indicate crashing waves

Fainting with fear – give a frightened sound and expression then slump to the ground

Foreboding –with wide eyes ask, “What’s going to happen next?”

Shaken – shake your hands and arms, head and body

See – point upward and say, “Look!”

Straighten up and raise your heads – begin bent over then stand up and look up

Pass away – with your left hand make a sweeping motion, right to left

Not pass away – hold your Bible up high with both hands

Watch yourselves – pass a mirror around so that the children can watch themselves do something

Dissipation – this word in Greek means tipsy, one too many drinks, acting silly or goofy

Drunkenness – this word in Greek means completely drunk, staggering, even falling down

Cares – this word in Greek means distracted; have the children stare at an object while the teacher tries to break their concentration; younger children will have great difficulty with this

Praying – have the children kneel in prayer and make the sign of the cross

Strength to escape – pair off the children by size and have them take turns grasping each other’s wrist with one hand and breaking free by twisting toward the thumb; remind them not to be too rough

Stand before the Son of Man – demonstrate how to stand at a respectful but relaxed attention, chin up, eyes straight and arms to the side, and with good posture

Read the passages asking the children to play out the words and phrases that were just learned and rehearsed.  Do it a couple of times, enough that they are rewarded for being able to anticipate and act out the verses but not so many times that it becomes boring.

Demonstrate how a mouse trap works, calling attention to the passage about the Day of the Lord coming suddenly like a trap that springs.

For the picture project, arrange four pieces of construction paper in this order, taping them together from the back:

brown/light blue

The brown and light blue pieces should be ½ the height of the yellow and black.  According to the motor skills of children in the class, have ready to apply or to cut out the following: larger white sun, smaller white crescent moon, white stars of various sizes and shapes, dark blue waves, black trunk and limbs of a tree, green leaves, a fluffy gray cloud, and figure of Jesus in a purple robe.  Use glue and gold glitter to adorn the Christ figure with a crown or halo.  Read through the text slowly one more time as the children cooperatively put together the picture project with glue.  Have them arrange the stars so that the sign of the cross appears in the night sky.  When finished brag on them profusely.