Paul's Passing Thoughts

Acts 10: Reformed Theology and the Problem With Cornelius

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on October 3, 2012

I was asked recently what I thought the primary key to discernment is. I answered this way: one of the major keys is daily Bible reading. If nothing else, read through the Scriptures and get a general idea of what is going on.

When you do that, you discover that things you hear from the pulpit may need a little bit more consideration and thinking.

We know the Reformed drill. Man is totally depraved. He can’t do anything to merit salvation. You’re either chosen, or not chosen. We can’t do anything to please God—all of our works are as filthy rags before God, and so forth.

So, as you are taking my advice, drinking some morning coffee and reading through Acts 10, you’re stopped dead in your tracks and immediately realize why Luther hated reason so much.

We read the following there:

1 At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion in what was known as the Italian Regiment. 2 He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly. 3 One day at about three in the afternoon he had a vision. He distinctly saw an angel of God, who came to him and said, “Cornelius!”

4 Cornelius stared at him in fear. “What is it, Lord?” he asked.

The angel answered, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God. 5 Now send men to Joppa to bring back a man named Simon who is called Peter. 6 He is staying with Simon the tanner, whose house is by the sea.”

Um, is it just me, or does this kinda throw a monkey wrench in the whole, “all of our works are filthy rags before God” routine? Now, heretics like Paul David Tripp would quickly step forward and say, “That text needs to be seen in its gospel context.” Oooookay. So, somehow, in the “gospel context,” “memorial” really means, “filthy rags.” Right.

Furthering the complexity leading to a need for more consideration is the question of whether or not Cornelius was officially saved when the angel made this statement.

Watch out for neatly arranged theological systems. Especially Reformed ones.

And read your Bible daily.

paul

23 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. paulspassingthoughts said, on October 3, 2012 at 8:02 AM

    Reblogged this on Clearcreek Chapel Watch.

    Like

  2. Andy said, on October 3, 2012 at 9:00 AM

    Wouldn’t the Reformed/Calvinist argue that the fact the Cornelius prayed to God and gave alms be evidence that he was regenerated before he was saved? Clearly, if he was totally depraved he wouldn’t be praying to God. So God regenerated him and gave him a heart and the faith to believe the words that Peter would preach to him in a few days. Just playing devil’s advocate here. Personally, I think the context of Acts 10 is more about God teaching Peter a lesson about his attitude towards Gentiles.

    Like

    • paulspassingthoughts said, on October 3, 2012 at 9:39 AM

      Andy,
      Yes, some of the Puritans held to that pre-regeneration view. And many Calvinist like Jay Adams has refuted it in writing. So, the confusion continues. When a doctrine has an errant premise, all of your time is spent defending it. This is why New Calvinists aren’t gaining numbers via new converts–they are sheep stealing with new ideas.

      Like

  3. Andy said, on October 3, 2012 at 9:52 AM

    Put in the proper Biblical context, it would be accurate to say that Cornelius was unsaved, not because he was totally depraved, because he still did righteous works (prayed to God, gave to the poor, devout, etc). Clearly a sinful man can still do good things not indicative of a “totally depraved” human. But the point being that those righteous works don’t save. He needed to hear and believe the gospel message from Peter.

    Like

    • paulspassingthoughts said, on October 3, 2012 at 10:51 AM

      Andy,
      Right, but then on top of that, the Reformed crowd goes even further and states that the saved are still totally depraved and can only produce, “filthy rags” before God. Disgusting.

      Like

  4. Jennifer Darr said, on October 3, 2012 at 12:18 PM

    Paul,
    You have no idea how much your ministry has blessed me! You have been given by God an amazing discernment against these ungodly teachings and teachers. I loved your book Part 1 on the Truth about New Calvinism and I am eagerly waiting for Part 2!
    These New Calvinist kept me away from my Bible by making me believe that I couldn’t understand it correctly. (Even though I have a degree in Theology.) They can be very intimidating. I remember seeing one of the videos for the “Fab 4”. It showed each of their studies. We saw CJ, Ligon, Mohler, Dever, and their offices. I was wowed by the rooms of books (CJ was the only non-doctor). I see now this was played to send a message. “See? You can’t know more than us! We have rooms of books! We know what’s right and what’s not! You need us.” I am so thankful for ministers like you, Paul! Thank you for leading the sheep to the waters of God’s word. Thank you for pointing to the Good Shepherd!
    God Bless You and your wife and family!!!
    Jennifer

    Like

    • paulspassingthoughts said, on October 3, 2012 at 1:16 PM

      Jennifer,

      Thank you for your encouraging note. Really, I think your comment may very well summarize my ministry as a whole: to get Christians back to reading the Scriptures for themselves as the ultimate authority for life and godliness. That we would be slaves to Christ and not men. That men/women would only be an aid to our allegiance to the Chief Shepherd as we see them following Christ. God’s word is too precious a treasure to let others tell us what He is saying. He sent His Son to the cross so that he could speak directly to His children in these last days. We are to be honorable Bereans.

      Like

  5. Jennifer Darr said, on October 3, 2012 at 2:55 PM

    Thank you, Paul! And that is what you do exactly!!! 🙂

    Like

  6. Bri said, on October 3, 2012 at 4:16 PM

    Paul,

    In keeping with being an honorable Berean, I don’t think this is the proper proof-text we should use to take down the reformed system. Verse 2 says Cornelius was “devout and God-fearing”, which shows he had a heart already inclined towards God… this, according to reformed theology (and most theology for that matter), is impossible apart from the grace of God (salvation). So this man already walked in a measure of grace, and the story seems to show God, in His grace, continuing to direct the man’s journey in coming to the full knowledge of Christ. To make it seem as if this man was somehow unsaved (self-focused, far from God) but still served God, feared God, and pleased God with his life in his own strength, is a bit of a stretch.

    It also begs the question: Why did Cornelius receive these visions and visitations from angels, but other folks who do “good works” don’t? It would seem that God drew Cornelius to Himself in a way and through means that would make most people come to Him, yet He doesn’t give everyone this same powerful opportunity. Interesting.

    You’re an excellent teacher, Paul. You have a way of communicating that is easy to read and informative. So I share this in love my friend, that I’m concerned for you… for out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks. And in your speech, I see this consistent need to war against something. The vitrol infused in your writing becomes more and more apparent each day. It’s affecting how you read the Bible even, as evidenced by this post. You’re not reading it to know and love and appreciate Jesus, what He’s done and how He works in our lives, and then proclaim that to you readers. No, instead you’ve apparently got an agenda, against a stream of Christianity, that now clouds the lens by which you commune with God in His word. I think it’s become your idol, and having worshiped idols myself, I know this strains our walk with God and ability to serve the Body rightly. Just something to consider, my friend. I hope we can all do the painful work of checking our hearts from time to time.

    God loves you, Paul.

    Bri

    Like

    • paulspassingthoughts said, on October 3, 2012 at 5:23 PM

      Bri,
      While I appreciate your concern, I would suggest you examine the post more carefully. I did not make a definitive judgement concerning Cornelius’ salvation—my point was that the text does violence to the Reformed view that Christians remain totally depraved, and specifically that they can’t do anything to please the Lord, and that all of our works in salvation (other than the ones that Christ does for us) are filthy rags. It also casts doubt on the total depravity of the unregenerate as well because even if Cornelius was in the process of being drawn, his works were still pleasing to God. Either way, lost, drawn, or saved, it is clear that he did things that pleased God. Tullian Tchividjian, as well as Calvin, proclaimed/proclaim the true mark of a Christian as someone who believed that they had never done one good work as a saved person. This point reminds me that my posts are too restrained.

      Furthermore: “….for out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks. And in your speech, I see this consistent need to war against something.” First, “something” implies a personality defect that wants a fight for the sake of a fight. I think the subject of this blog is pretty focused, and in very short supply in our day. Actually, I avoid fights, and did for a period of 6 years at Clearcreek Chapel. Unfortunately, avoiding fights to avoid the like accusation costed me my family. So, you are not even in the ballpark on that one.

      Moreover, this movement has been in hyper-takeover mode since 1981 and has left incalculable human carnage on the Christian landscape. They don’t start their own churches, they infiltrate and takeover churches that sometimes have a legacy of over 100 years–arrogantly coming in to save said church from the supposed false gospel of synergistic sanctification. They are arrogant brute beasts, and we are commanded to earnestly contend against them while taking EVERY one of their thoughts captive in order to bring them under the obedience of Christ. Do I have a “need” to do that? Absolutely.

      “No, instead you’ve apparently got an agenda, against a stream of Christianity, that now clouds the lens by which you commune with God in His word. I think it’s become your idol,….”

      And the Reformed philosopher kings don’t have an agenda? Really? But oh, I forgot, they’re the philosopher kings. I forgot to check the caste chart to remind myself where I belong. I have an idol in my heart (which is a concept found nowhere in Scripture) because I stand up to this problem? Well, I trust that you have written this same kind of letter to at least one New Calvinist among hordes that are obsessed with visions of grandeur as modern Reformers. Matt Chandler isn’t obsessed with mocking Christians like me who think they can please God by what they do?

      Lastly, one more correction (other than your assumptions about what is going in regard to motives and my present state of mind). They aren’t a “stream of Christianity.” They are unregenerate false teachers. They are also meaner than junkyard dogs and morally depraved.

      paul

      Like

  7. lydiasellerofpurple@yahoo.com said, on October 3, 2012 at 4:25 PM

    Cornelius is another one that I could not dismiss when I was researching Calvin doctrine. Another one is the rich young ruler for the “I” of TULIP. I would have to believe that Jesus LOOKED AT HIM AND LOVED HIM, then consigned him to hell. Calvinists explain this away by describing different kinds of “love” from God.

    Like

  8. lydiasellerofpurple@yahoo.com said, on October 3, 2012 at 4:35 PM

    “Put in the proper Biblical context, it would be accurate to say that Cornelius was unsaved, not because he was totally depraved, because he still did righteous works (prayed to God, gave to the poor, devout, etc). Clearly a sinful man can still do good things not indicative of a “totally depraved” human. But the point being that those righteous works don’t save. He needed to hear and believe the gospel message from Peter.”

    Andy, Wasn’t Corneilus worshiping the God of Abraham? Does it not imply he had faith in the God of Abraham even though not being a Jew? The God of Abraham loves justice, mercy and kindness to the poor, etc, just as Jesus Christ loves it NOW. God heard his prayers and sent him the Good News of Christ through Peter. And Peter learned a new lesson from that encounter..
    . Cornelius became what we might call a completed believer since Jesus was God in the flesh. Just as Peter became a completed Jew when he believed. I see no where in the text that Cornelius did not have “faith” in the God of ABraham.

    I really do fear when folks start maligning ALL good works and assigning motives and salvic status. Corneilus was a believer. He needed someone to tell him the Gospel. Just as the followers of John the Baptist needed to hear it.

    Like

    • paulspassingthoughts said, on October 3, 2012 at 5:30 PM

      Lydia,

      The rub is when the Holy Spirit came upon them. Does the significance of that include salvation?

      Like

  9. lydiasellerofpurple@yahoo.com said, on October 3, 2012 at 4:52 PM

    Bri, I can understand why you might not see Cornelius as a passage to make the overall point concerning Calvinism. But there are few passages they do not have some linguistic gymnastics to explain away. Cornelius is not only a gentile bridge but an OT bridge to the New Covenant. What happened with those who had a real faith in the God of Abraham and “practiced” that faith in obedience.

    What does concern me is the constant rebukes for the watchman instead of the wolves. I can understand being frantic over what is happening in Christendom. People are becoming lemmings and following man. They are being spiritually abused. There are bleeding wounded everywhere. There are thousands of people in bondage to membership covenants and cults disguised as churches that teach them to obey mere man. Paul would be wasting his time talking to the idols who are charlatans. They are bullies and do not respond to love or reason. My view is they need to outed and all words they utter or write, analyzed and discussed. I personally think we are dealing with a mass of Nicolaitans. God hates what they are doing.

    I can remember long ago having serious reservations about so many things I was hearing from pulpits and reading in books or online from some of the famous teachers out there. I was blessed enough to have grown up in a home where the Word was more important than the guy interpreting it for us.where the concept of soul liberty was important. We stand alone before a Holy God. The “pastor” will not be standing there for us. I think that is the ONLY reason I had such misgivings about so many things I heard taught. But I also remember being conflicted because so many people I respected, agreed. I had that young thinking that was not nearly as independent as I would admit. I think there are millions out there like that right now. What I think the message to them needs to be is NOT “listen to me” but RUN to Christ, pray and study for yourself. KNOW CHRIST. Not the Jesus a celebrity describes for you.

    There is nothing so evil as that which masquerades as truth but isn’t. No tyranny is worse than that done in the Name of Jesus. It is a war. A war for souls.

    Like

  10. Bri said, on October 3, 2012 at 6:40 PM

    Paul,

    In love, I can only say that your vitriol and sarcasm have increased over time, and these are not a fruit of the Spirit. This attitude is more along the lines of a prideful man who’s been hurt or or offended, and now seeks to paint everyone of a certain belief with a broad brush in order to war against them and justify your anger. Please don’t react in offense to that statement, I only say it having been there myself. It’s destructive to the soul.

    You brought up issue(s) you had at your former church (Clearcreek?) that caused you to leave after 6 years, and I’m no prophet, but I’m guessing this had much to do with the trajectory you’ve taken since, and your attitude now.

    My question to you is this: did you ever forgive those people?

    And I mean truly forgive, from your heart, walking in love and grace towards them now regardless of how they act/feel towards you. Do you trust that God could even work that negative situation for your good, and your sanctification? This was once your church, brothers and sisters in Christ that you once worshiped God along side of. Have you taken responsibility for your sin, and forgiven them for theirs? If you can’t say you’ve fully done this, in your heart, then I’m convinced your anger is blinding you and holding you back from enjoying God more fully today, and seeing Him clearly. You honestly don’t seem like a man more filled with love and at peace, but instead more angry and spiteful. This attitude is not of God, nor where His grace leads us, particularly towards those who walk in error. It satisfies the flesh, but does not win a soul who is lost, it only pushes them away.

    The issue regarding total depravity and the works we do apart from the Spirit (God Himself) being able to please God is a complex conversation, requiring much patience and grace as we reason together. For me, suffice it to say that there are Jesus loving believers out there who give all glory and honor to God for their salvation, and take no credit for the fruit of the Spirit God demonstrates through them in their good works. I believe them when they say, as with Gal 2:20, that they have been crucified with Christ, and therefore it is no longer them but Christ who lives in them, in doing the things that please God. I believe Jesus and see where He was coming from when he corrected a man for being quick to toss out the term “good”, saying in response “No one is good, except God alone” in Luke 18:18-19. And I can relate to the sentiment that the only good thing in a Christian is Christ.

    You may disagree, and that’s fine. I do agree with you there are preachers out there who cross the line in their flesh, and overstep their authority, cause division, and stir up quarrels. But pride is a human condition, not just a Calvinist one. We all have this tendency, even those of us who love God and right doctrine.

    But judgement must begin at the house of God. Our first priority must be to check ourselves and make sure we have not fallen into temptation, as we seek to correct others. Because it happens… so easily, and so often.

    I hope you will consider and pray though these words I share with you, Paul, because my heart is heavy with concern for you. I’m sorry for everything that happened to you in the past, particularly at your former church and/or your interactions with other believers. I love you, and want to see your walk with God vibrant, and your love for the church (and even those in error) abound more and more everyday. I also hope that your online ministry is under the covering of a pastor and/or local church that knows you, and who you’re submitted to, because as I’m sure you’ve seen in others, without accountability even the best of men are prone to wander, and fall. But with the accountability and correction of Godly men watching out from us, we can more easily grow and bear fruit that brings glory to Jesus.

    May God richly bless you, Paul.

    Bri

    Like

    • paulspassingthoughts said, on October 3, 2012 at 8:03 PM

      Bri,

      You are completely brainwashed with Reformed thought. Your past two comments are void of Scripture and are a string of New Calvinist talking points designed for control.

      “In love, I can only say that your vitriol and sarcasm have increased over time, and these are not a fruit of the Spirit.” Sarcasm = void of the Spirit. Not. The apostle Paul used sarcasm, and often.

      “This attitude is more along the lines of a prideful man who’s been hurt or or offended, and now seeks to paint everyone of a certain belief with a broad brush in order to war against them and justify your anger.” Anger = sin. This is CJ Mahaney’s favorite line. Not. We are to be angry and not sin. Anger doesn’t = sin.

      “You brought up issue(s) you had at your former church (Clearcreek?) that caused you to leave after 6 years, and I’m no prophet, but I’m guessing this had much to do with the trajectory you’ve taken since, and your attitude now.” No, I was there 20 years and a former elder. Much to do with my trajectory? No, because of what I learned–MY DUTY!

      “My question to you is this: did you ever forgive those people?” Uh, NO, they refuse to repent of what they have done to a multitude of families and their false doctrine. Forgiveness is not granted without repentance. Carte blanche forgiveness is a New Calvinist control mechanism. I love my enemies, but until they repent, I do the loving thing and hold them accountable.

      “And I mean truly forgive, from your heart, walking in love and grace towards them now regardless of how they act/feel towards you. Do you trust that God could even work that negative situation for your good, and your sanctification?” Classic New Calvinism: It’s good to be abused because God is using it to transform us. This was SGM’s favorite when dealing with child molestation cases in their midst. No, actually, I sought criminal charges against CCC because part of what they did to me violated Ohio kidnapping laws under the “coercion” statute.

      “This was once your church, brothers and sisters in Christ that you once worshiped God along side of. Have you taken responsibility for your sin, and forgiven them for theirs? If you can’t say you’ve fully done this, in your heart, then I’m convinced your anger is blinding you and holding you back from enjoying God more fully today, and seeing Him clearly.” Classic. It’s all about the victim’s sin, not the perpetrators. Of course, the totally depraved can’t be victims because they are, well, totally depraved. 0 victims = 0 accountability. This is cult control 101. And by the way, the big “sin” I wouldn’t repent of was submitting to their warped view of the Scriptures. So, what is sin? It’s whatever New Calvinists say it is, which makes the whole “dealing with my own sin” issue totally bogus. This is all about control. And of course, note the “our truth” = “reality” dogma. “If you don’t agree with us, we know what’s going on in your heart.” It’s downright creepy.

      “The issue regarding total depravity and the works we do apart from the Spirit (God Himself) being able to please God is a complex conversation, requiring much patience and grace as we reason together. For me, suffice it to say that there are Jesus loving believers out there who give all glory and honor to God for their salvation, and take no credit for the fruit of the Spirit God demonstrates through them in their good works. I believe them when they say, as with Gal 2:20, that they have been crucified with Christ, and therefore it is no longer them but Christ who lives in them, in doing the things that please God. I believe Jesus and see where He was coming from when he corrected a man for being quick to toss out the term “good”, saying in response “No one is good, except God alone” in Luke 18:18-19. And I can relate to the sentiment that the only good thing in a Christian is Christ.” Galatians 2:20 is in context of justification, Gal. 20:21, the next verse, makes that absolutely clear. Jesus’ conversation with the rich young ruler was also a salvation context. There is nothing “complex” here. We are colaborers with God (1Cor. 3:9, 1Thess. 3:2, 2Cor. 6:1), and will be judged accordingly (2Cor. 5:10). We make it OUR goal to please Him (2Cor. 5:9) and will not be disciplined if we discipline ourselves (1Cor. 11:31,32).

      “I hope you will consider and pray though these words I share with you, Paul, because my heart is heavy with concern for you.” Look in the mirror and pray for yourself. You are a party to a doctrine that fuses justification and sanctification together and denies the new birth. I advise you to not worry about me, you are the one in grave error and a party to wickedness.

      paul

      Like


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s