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Struggling with Calvinistic Arguments

July 6, 2009 2 comments

Dear Colleen,

My struggle with Calvinism is, in part, due to scriptural references Calvinists use and subsequent arguments made which I believe to be a misapplication and misunderstanding of what scripture seems to teach.  If you’ll allow me, let’s consider the references you previously mentioned: Rom 3:10-11 and Jn 4:23

First, Rom 3:10-11, which says:

  • There is none righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God.

You used this verse as an example that we are totally degenerate beings unable to reach out to God because of our sin nature.  As such, you believe it is God who must “enable” people (the elect) to desire the beauty of God righteousness.

If that were all the verses said, I could be more inclined to accept your argument.  However, verse ten begins with, “As it is written”.  My NIV Topical Bible indicates that Rom 3:10 is a reference to Isaiah 64:6-7, which is Solomon’s prayer of dedication after the Ark was brought to the temple.  As such, Paul is using an Old Testament reference regarding the inability of God’s chosen people (in this case, the Israelites) to keep the law.  Further, in Roman 3:20, Paul says:

  • Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.

In the introduction to the book of Romans, my NIV Topical Bible states: “All human beings are in a desperate situation of sin and all stand condemned before God.  But God has provided us a way out of this horrible predicament by sending his Son Jesus to die for our sin.  By his grace, God regards those who believe in Christ to be righteous in his sight.  In faith, we must accept this gift of God and begin living the Christian life.”

With respect, Colleen, I submit that this passage in Romans chapter three identifies the futility of Paul’s intended audience (and us, too) of trying to justify themselves with the law.  In Rom 3:24, Paul states that we are “justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”  There’s no indication of election here and I do not see how you can use these verses in Romans as justification for man’s inability to seek God and therefore it is only because of God’s sovereign decree that a very few individuals – the elect – are saved.  I honestly don’t see that concept taught here.

Second, John 4:23, which says:

  • Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.

Related to this verse, you asked, who is seeking whom?  Presumably, you’re wanting to show how it is God who is seeking us and not us seeking Him.  And, I think you’re right – but probably not in the sense you think.  As I read through all of John chapter four, the overriding sense I get is that God wants people’s hearts and that God responds to people’s hearts.  This would seem to imply (but certainly doesn’t prove) that we have a choice in the matter.  It’s as though God doesn’t care about people’s “religious motions” i.e. practicing the law, performing rituals, etc.  That, to me, doesn’t indicate that God has already determined who will be saved and who will be damned.  Consider 2 Pet 3:9 which says: “[The Lord] is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”  With that thought in mind, I’m not convinced that when Jesus is speaking to the Samaritan woman, He’s teaching election and only referring to a very select few for salvation.  Instead, I believe Jesus to say that after He rises from the dead, the law will be over and we will worship in spirit and in truth.

I value your time and effort and I appreciate the opportunities you have afforded me to think through various concepts and issues that have been gnawing at me for a long time.  With that, I await your reply.

Most Sincerely,

Bob

The Peshitta and our Christian Faith

July 5, 2009 Leave a comment

Below is a note from a very dear friend I recently reconnected with via Facebook.  On her Facebook page, Trula says that she is a very blessed [and] observant Messianic Jew in love with Yeshua (the Syriac name for Jesus).  Her life, and the sufferings she has endured, is a testament to her deep and abiding faith and belief in Yeshua as written about in the Peshitta – which, as I understand, is the standard version of the second century Christian Bible from the Syriac language.  I encourage readers to read Trula’s abridged letter to me and post any questions to her.  I have every confidence that Trula would welcome the opportunity to share more about her Christian faith as a Messianic Jew.

Dear Bob,

In the west, Christians attending a “Christian or denominational” Bible college or seminary will be learning from the framework or context of that particular denomination’s dogma.  Therefore, most Christian’s have never heard of the Hebrew original Brit Chadasha, Aramaic/Syriac Peshitta, the great body of liturgy of the ancient Oriental Church, the original church of Jerusalem, the Nazarenes, the missionary journeys of St. Thomas or the colloquial language spoken for 3,000 years in and around Mesopotamia during the time of Jesus.

The main problem is that western Christianity knows only half of their own anti-Semitic history and nothing of the Oriental church, which loved and accepted the Jews.  I’m sure you know that Jesus and his disciples spoke Aramaic and Matthew surely wrote in Aramaic and Latin, as he was a tax collector for the Romans.  Western Christianity doesn’t realize that the Gospels are full of Aramaic parables and idiomatic phrases that cannot be translated into English proficiently unless you speak the language and know the customs.

One of the customs practiced by the Oriental church (and the Hebrews as well) was the sacrament of sending the older used holy scripture scrolls back to God.  When it was necessary to make a new copy, a group of scribes (following the Jewish practice) was called for the work.  They were anointed with oil and sent to their task.  As soon as the copies were finished, the Council of the Elders was called to inspect the scroll’s integrity.  If a word or dot was misplaced, the entire scroll was disqualified and burned.  After the scrolls were approved, there was a ceremony consecrating the new copy of scripture and the older copy was burned to keep it from becoming defiled.

For further information, please visit the website http://www.aramaicpeshitta.com and look for the books:

  • Was the New Testament written in Greek?
  • Idioms in the Bible Explained and a Key to the Original Gospels

You can also read the Peshitta for yourself online at: http://www.lamsabible.com/

Most Sincerely,

Trula