Systematic Theology

Trends in Theology evident in Evangelical Churches PDF Print E-mail
Written by Calvin Fox   
Tuesday, 19 April 2011 18:08

Many conservative Reformed Christians have serious problems with Contemporary Christian Music and Worship. Their main objection is that such music and worship is characterized by "neo-gnosticism" or what is more commonly known as "Pietism (a relationship with God or "piety" that is individualized, private, subjective and romanticized)  There is good reason for this concern, but I believe a more important concern is the influence on contemporary Worship is the influence of Open Theism.  It is evident in Messages and books like The Shack, as well as in song lyrics.

Open Theism is characterized in several ways, all of which give human beings pre-eminence over God.  I am more important than God.  God exists for me,  Even the Cross was all about me.  The following 8 Concepts (printed in bold type) are a short outline of the tenets of Open Theism.


We must recognize the Concepts and reject sermons, books or song lyrics that promote them.  In this Essay, the comments before and after each Concept are my responses and rebuttal to them.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 20 April 2011 08:29
Comparing the deaths of Oscar Romero and Jesus PDF Print E-mail
Written by Calvin Fox   
Wednesday, 07 April 2010 10:12

Contrary to popular belief, no one is saved by the Blood of Jesus or by his Death.  If we were, all Jesus had to do was cut himself and let the blood flow or just live to be an old man and pass away like most everyone else does.  No. the Blood that washes sin away and the Death that atones had to be a particular kind. 

Jesus had to shed blood and die as a substitutionary Sacrifice in order to secure Salvation.  Both the "Moral Influence Theory" and the "Ransom Theory" of the Cross [see the article below] are very appealing and are combined and dramatically illustrated by the case of Oscar Romaro.  Was his death the same as Jesus?

Last month was the 30th anniversary of the assassination of El Salvador's Archbishop Oscar Romero, a pivotal moment in the modern history of Central America.  Gunned down while saying Mass on March 24, 1980, Romero died because of his outspoken condemnation of militarism and injustice. Romero watched the Salvadoran security forces resort to torture, extra-judicial killings and disappearances to silence and intimidate the liberation movement, including young clergy assigned to Romero's archdiocese. Each night, mutilated bodies were dumped along the streets.

In the face of this cruelty, Romero ... began a courageous three-year ministry openly opposing the Salvadoran military, the wealthy elites and his compromised Catholic Church hierarchy, which had long sided with the rich and powerful. His path to martyrdom was set, and he knew it.

Theology of the Cross: Three "Theories" PDF Print E-mail
Written by Calvin Fox   
Saturday, 03 April 2010 18:51

"The Moral or Good Example Theory"

Many think of Jesus as they do of Mother Teresa.   The life of Jesus, interpreted as a life demonstrating love for the poor, the marginalized and oppressed, has captured the hearts and imagination of many.  His death is interpreted in that context and is understood as the natural culmination of the life they believed he lived.  These Christians see the death of Jesus as the ultimate demonstration of altruistic, servant love for others- a Model to emulate. It is a “sacrifice” only in the sense that it demonstrated total commitment.  He gave everything for others.  This inspires and encourages us, these Christians and others say, to live and die as Jesus did.  On Good Friday, such Christians remember the life they believe Jesus lived and especially mourn the terrible death he died and bemoan the sorry state of the world that would lead to that treatment of an innocent person who did no harm, but practiced unconditional love. Generally speaking, this view comes under the heading of what has been called the “Moral Influence Theory” which has appeals to self-styled liberal or “progressive” Christians, many claiming to be Evangelicals.  It is a adverse reaction and response to the historic evangelical “Satisfaction Theory” [below], which it turns on its head, saying that the cross was not directed toward God, but toward people.

"The Ransom Theory" and its modern Variation

A similar, but more sophisticated view or understanding of the Cross is that Jesus identified himself with all the woes and troubles of the world, took them upon himself, carrying all the suffering of those who grieve to the point of dying for them.  By doing this, his death liberated or ransomed Humanity from Death, Satan and the Powers of Darkness that had held them captive.  This is a modern version of what is what is called the “Ransom Theory” according to which Jesus’ death is considered to be a ransom paid to Satan to secure the release of Humanity from his control over them (allegedly given to Satan by Adam). Thus Satan unwittingly lost his control over the world (not knowing that Jesus would be resurrected and ultimately defeat Satan and Jesus would become Christus Victor. (Sounds like the story of Aslan).

“St. Anselm, the 11th century Archbishop of Canterbury argued against the ransom view, saying that Satan, being himself a rebel and outlaw, could never have a just claim against humans.  The Catholic Encyclopedia calls the idea that God must pay the Devil a ransom "certainly startling, if not revolting." [Many] have pointed out that, under the ransom view, not only was God a debtor but a deceiver as well, since God only pretended to pay the debt.”

“The theory was based in part on Mark 10:45 ("For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many") and 1 Timothy 2:5-6 ("For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men—the testimony given in its proper time"). The ransom theory was the main view of atonement through the first thousand years of Christian history.”
- Wikipedia.  This interpretation of the Cross has been the official view in the Eastern Orthodox Church to this day.

"The Penal Substitution or Satisfaction Theory"

The Penal Substitution or “Satisfaction Theory” prevailed in the Roman Catholic Church and among the 16th Century Reformers, who found it well grounded in the New Testament (and therefore at least as old as the Ransom Theory).  The idea of a Ransom paid to Satan was rejected as unscriptural.  Jesus did say his death was a “ransom“, but that word is interpreted to mean the act that was necessary to set sinners from their bondage to sin and redeem them from Hell and/or to reconcile sinners to God.)  I believe Jesus did enter into conflict with Satan during his earthly ministry (his incarnation was the advent of the dynamic Kingdom of God into the world to do exactly that) That cosmic war is primarily what those 3 years were about, especially the miracles and exorcisms. I believe Jesus’ is Christus Victor, but his  victory over Satan it is more properly ascribed to the Resurrection, than the Cross (although Friday and Sunday are inseparable) and we celebrate that Victory on “Easter” (and every Sunday)- Col 1:19-20, 2:13-15; Eph 1:19-22, 2:14-17; 1 Cor 15:53-57; Rom 4:25

The Satisfaction or Penal-Substitutionary Interpretation of the Cross is clearly taught by the Apostles, e.g.-Rom 3:25 and has been a common and core Doctrine for most Conservative and Reformed Evangelicals. This is what most of us commemorate with gratitude and tears on Good Friday.  My concern here is that this Doctrine is being neglected by younger Evangelicals and, worse yet, it is being replaced by the “Moral Influence Theory” discussed in the first paragraph above.  For them, Good Friday is no longer very meaningful.  It seems that to many people the Cross is primarily a symbol of God’s love for us or, simply, of Love.

Last Updated on Monday, 05 April 2010 17:05
Basics of Reformation Theology PDF Print E-mail
Written by Calvin Fox   
Tuesday, 03 November 2009 10:29

It is Based on Orthodox Christian Doctrine

The Protestant Reformers had all been Roman Catholics and accepted the Creeds of the Church, particularly the "Apostles" and Nicene Creeds.  They shared the orthodox catholic faith in God, the Trinity and the Incarnation.  The Reformers were orthodox Christians.  We shall see that many younger Evangelicals are throwing out Reformed Doctrines that have at least a 1600 year history and heritage.  But the most fundamental of Christian Doctrines are also being challenged and found lacking.  The most serious example is classic understanding of God (Theo-logy Proper).  It is being replaced with an entirely new understanding of God that is known as “Open Theism“.  Instead of God knowing all things, including the future, and having fixed purposes and plans for us, the new thinking is that God does not know the future and will grow and change as it happens along with us.  God, it is now said, does not know our choices until we make them and will change His own plans accordingly.  He is "open" to doing this.  This is not Reformed Theology!


Last Updated on Tuesday, 16 February 2010 11:22
The Stages of Salvation PDF Print E-mail
Written by Calvin Fox   
Wednesday, 01 July 2009 10:56

Statements made by Intervarsity Christian Fellowship Staff in person and on the IVCF website:

"Our mission in New England is to advance the Kingdom  through whole life conversion to Jesus Christ;

"[we want to help] students to move from cynic to seeker  to Christ-follower to leader to world-changer."

"students who have made decisions to leave their "cynic" status and become seekers after God, through experiencing the love of Jesus first-hand in their Christian friends who have been exploring the faith with those friends and have made decisions to believe in Christ"

My comments:

cynic n.- misanthrope, misogynist, misogamist, mocker, satirist, scoffer, pessimist, sarcastic person, caviler, sneerer, flouter, carper, critic, unbeliever, egoist, manhater, skeptic, doubter, questioner, detractor, negativist, nihilist, doubting Thomas

Not all students are cynics vis-a-vis Christianity (those who are, often come from Christian homes or churches and/or have been impacted by cynical college professors or friends)  Many may be simply agnostic or indifferent.  Some may be very committed to another Faith, World View or Ideology.  Evangelism must also connect with these students as well as the "cynics".  The following explains their greatest need and the Scriptural steps necessary to meet it.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 03 March 2010 15:58
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