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“Source Material” Confidence

January 26, 2017 Leave a comment

or-gateThat Calvinism and Arminianism emanate from the same “source material” (i.e. the Bible) has always been problematic to me. Readers of this blog know that I find Calvinism to be, well, distasteful to the notion of a loving creator. Arminianism just seems, well, more pleasant and believable – at least within the context of how I understand and relate to God. But the question that comes to mind is perhaps best framed within a logical argument:

if A=true, then ~A=false

So, if Calvinism is true, then Arminianism is false.

The converse is also correct wherein if Calvinism is false, then Arminianism is true.

By definition, or at least as I see it, Calvinism and Arminianism can’t both be right.

This infers that any logical deductions we make are valid as a function of the accuracy of the “source material”. Calvinism and Arminianism, in my opinion, cannot logically coexist. But being more comfortable with Arminian doctrine and therefore gravitating towards Arminianism doesn’t make it right. What if, however, the “source material” on which both Calvinism and Arminianism depend is not sufficient to adequately support either contention? Does this imply anything with regard to the inherent contradictions (that I see) between the respective doctrines?

Is it possible that incorrect theological positions have been construed because of the wide latitude within Biblical interpretation and no obvious way to Biblically eliminate the tension between Calvinism and Arminianism? Or, might the “source material” not be sufficiently “robust” to build the respective theological bases of Calvinism or Arminianism?

If Calvinism and Arminianism are in fact contradictory (which I believe is true) and logically exclude each other (which I also believe is true), it must be concluded only one of the two theological positions can be true. Or, since Calvinistic and Arminian positions are contradictory (i.e. matters related to God’s versus man’s role in salvation), and since both are developed from the same “source material”, then maybe it must be deduced that neither Calvinism nor Arminianism are correct if only because they present two different conclusions from the same “source material”.

Hmmm. I’m getting lost in my own arguments. Here’s the bottom line: what if we conclude that the “source material” supports contradictory answers? Are we then able to have sufficient confidence in the validity of that “source material”?

Looking Ahead, Seeing Nothing

December 20, 2014 Leave a comment

IMG_2324It has felt as though the fog on this faith-journey over the last couple of years is so thick that I can’t see ahead, behind or even to either side. I’ve lost my bearings as to where I was much less understand where I’m at now, where I’m going or even if I’m moving in any direction. I was recently asked if the effort figuring out Calvinism/Arminianism is really worth it. Wouldn’t my time be better put towards developing a deeper relationship with Jesus? Sure. I could just decide – yes, I’m firmly in camp “X”. However, the doubts and the confusion would remain if only because the logical disconnect of competing doctrines essentially using the same scriptural references to justify their respective positions is, at least to me, such a dichotomy.

Still, I recently saw this question posed on an Open Theist web site: 

  • If everything has been predetermined before all of us exist, then, would prayer help at all?

That question immediately made me think of the movie Groundhog Day in which TV weatherman Phil Connors (Bill Murray) was in some sort of time-loop and had to relive the same day numerous times until, I presume, he got it right. I don’t think it was the movie creator’s intention, but it was almost as though there was a predetermined outcome that had to be gotten right before Phil was able to move on.

There were, as one might expect, numerous responses from all perspectives of which one in particular got my attention. I’ve edited it for readability: 

I spent many long years as a Calvinist. I continually shouted at God to help me change the very hard and painful circumstances of my life. However, nothing changed. I knew it was futile anyway because God had apparently decided to leave me in those circumstances. I tried all the pat answers:

  • The C. S. Lewis option – prayer changes us, not God.
  • The faith option – if I express genuine faith – and lots of it i.e. the faith of a mustard seed, then I’ll see changes happen.
  • The Job option – I must have sin somewhere that is stopping God from hearing me.
  • The passive option – God has my best interests at heart.

However, in the end I had to accept the horrible thing that had happened was the best of all possible options. It wasn’t until I really embraced Open Theism that prayer became something dynamic and a means of genuine communication. As it was, my previous prayer life was more of an information dump wherein character X (me) protested as to why the author (God) wrote the story. And, the author (God) explained to character X (me) that it was okay if I never understood why the story was written was written as it was.

Ironically, I think this poor schlep has really hit on something. The ardent Calvinists I know are confident that no matter what happens, God is in control. Perhaps to a slightly lesser degree, these same Calvinists will claim that any and everything that happens to each and every one (elect and non-elect alike) is as a direct result of God’s sovereignty in order to enable a particular outcome that brings about greater glory to God.

If that’s true – that there’s no free will and this poor schlep converts from Calvinism to Open Theism and finds that his prayer life has become dynamic, is this poor schlep wallowing in his own misunderstanding of God’s “plan” and experiencing a sort of “false comfort” based on, perhaps, self-motive? After all, God didn’t change, right? Rather, this poor schlep’s perspective of God changed. So, is this poor schlep feeling better about his faith because he decided to identify with something which apparently was more comfortable? On the other hand, if there is free will and God isn’t sovereignly controlling each and every detail, then is this poor schlep experiencing a newfound joy and sense of freedom because he now understands or otherwise relates to God from a proper perspective?

Honestly, how is one to know?

Caption picture graciously provided by LT. More of his fabulous pictures can be found here.

Merry Calvismas

December 14, 2014 2 comments

Wayne Moran PhotographyToday’s sermon was based on the familiar passage of Luke 2:8-20. Two verses in particular popped out at me (NIV) – emphasis added:

(10) But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.

(14) Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.

Certainly my faith has diminished over the last few years while trying to make sense of what I can only call the Calvinist divide. And, irrespective of my good buddy Tim, many who hold dear Calvinist doctrines have been ever gracious and patient while I try to work through myCalvinisticals”.

Yet, here’s this particular passage – and with a clear reading (at least from my perspective), there’s obviously a disconnect as to whom the Messiah came for:

– all the people (as stated in vs 10)

– those on whom [God’s] favor rests (as stated in vs 14)

Not sure why I hadn’t noticed this particular text over the past few Christmas seasons. Certainly I’ve come across these verses numerous times before. Still, in my feeble mind, it is impossible for Calvinism and Arminianism to logically coexist. Yet, here within these verses is to me a contradiction of the highest order.

And for me, the struggle continues.

I welcome your thoughts.

BTW – The captioned picture, I think, represents well the two doctrines of Calvinism and Arminianism moving down one’s faith path. To me, there is no intersection. Anyway, some fabulous pictures can be found at http://www.lettherebelightfineart.com/

Plumbing the Depths of My Faith

November 20, 2014 Leave a comment

water heaterA couple of weeks ago we noticed water leaking out the bottom of our water heater. NOT good. Trips to various plumbing and home improvement stores ensued to price out a new water heater. Yikes, these things aren’t cheap! However, we got at least twenty-one years of service out of the old unit. So, I can’t complain. Or, at least, I shouldn’t complain.

Price points for various units and installation all seem about the same. Hmmm – really? There must be some collusion going on. Still, we purchased a new unit for $430. Installation is $300. However, it’s clear that installation could cost “a little” more in order, if required, to bring something up “to code”. The installation includes delivery and the haul-away of the old unit. I remind myself to get that in writing. In addition, the city requires a $60 permit. Total price is $790. Note to self – adjust budget to add $10/mo to house maintenance for replacement of this water heater in ten years.

The store contracts out plumbers to do the installation. We set a date for the installation. Unfortunately, I have to be home all day as it’s not possible to set up a two-hour window as to when the guys will show up. Whatever.

Today’s the day. Sometime. Whenever. At some point. Maybe in the morning? That would be most convenient for me.

1:37pm – The truck just pulled into the driveway.

1:40pm – Quick introductions at the front door and we head downstairs to see where the water heater will be installed.

1:41pm – “No thanks, I’ve had enough coffee for the day.” Dang! My first attempt at bribery has failed.

1:42pm – Uh oh! Apparently the existing gas-isolation valve isn’t “code” Already it’s going to cost me an additional $90 to change out the gas isolation valve. Obviously, the PPMP (Plumber’s Profit Maximization Process) is in full working order.

1:43pm – I argue that I could buy the same valve for $15 at Home Depot to no avail. These guys have heard similar complaints before. “Mr. Martin, we don’t set the prices. We just do the installation. Would you like to call our manager?” I wimp out and agree to pay for the valve.

1:44pm – Oh dear, this is going to be interesting. The old unit was about 50” tall. The new unit is closer to 60” tall. It appears the wrong unit has been shipped. But that’s okay. There’s sufficient room and these guys can make it fit. However, I make it clear that there’s not going to be any additional installation costs.

1:45pm – “Ah, excuse me, please. I have to call my boss and check something.”

1:47pm – “The boss says we delivered the unit you purchased.”

1:48pm – I show my receipt indicating the unit I bought.

1:49pm – “Okay, no problem. We’ll deal with the warehouse people later. We can make the taller unit fit. And, we can install it for no additional cost.” I claim a small victory.

1:51pm – Uh oh. There appears to be so much sediment in the tank that it isn’t draining. Never fear, I’m told, “We have ways of dealing with this.”

2:00pm – “Ah, Mr. Martin in looking at my work-order, you haven’t paid for the haul-away of the old unit. You weren’t wanting to keep it, were you?” I’m adamant that the installation fee included haul-away. I again produce my receipt. A second phone call is made to the boss.

2:04pm – “The boss says he’ll work it out with the store.” I claim a second small victory.

2:17pm – Sawing. Torching. Banging.

2:19pm – Uh oh, just heard swearing.

2:20pm – Much louder banging now.

2:28pm – Ooh, just heard a nasty scraping sound.

2:32pm – “Hey! You sure you turned the water off? It’s still coming out!”

2:33pm – “Okay, I’ll crank harder on the main water valve.”

2:52pm – Ouch, just heard a big thump.

2:54 pm – Went downstairs. The guys had laid the old unit on its side. They were lifting the bottom end of the unit up a couple of inches and then letting it drop to the floor hoping to break up some of the sediment still inside. According to Adam, “This sucker is really heavy!” At least, it sounded like ‘sucker’ to me.

2:55pm – I asked if it might be desirable to drag the unit out the lower level back door and take it around the side of the house.

2:56pm – Still no response.

2:57pm – Three of us standing around looking at the old unit. I decide I don’t need to be here.

2:58pm – Just heard something about breaking balls. Not sure what that means.

3:00pm – They’re dragging the old unit up the flight of stairs – one grunt at a time.

3:10pm – Only had to pay for the valve. I guess they’ll figure out who’s going to “eat” the haul-away fee and deal with the wrong unit being delivered back at the office. Not me! Final instructions on getting some initial dirty water, air in the lines and being religious about draining out 2-3 gallons of water twice a year to prevent sediment build up. I promised I would.

3:14pm – They’re gone – or, as any of the Robertson clan from Duck Dynasty would say, “They gone.”

All in all, everything worked out okay. The guys were pleasant enough, efficient and did a good job on the installation. I don’t think we realized how, over the course of time, our access to hot water had been diminished. Now, there’s LOTS of hot water. We can wash clothes, run the dishwasher and take a shower simultaneously without running out of hot water. And, I didn’t have to deal with the backside of a toilet. I may be a little poorer for not having done the installation myself. But, sometimes the hassle just isn’t worth it.

I suppose in a similar way, perhaps one reason why I haven’t written for so long about my continuing struggles with reformed doctrine – and in particular the concept of election – the hassle just hasn’t been worth it. My “source of hot water” (as it relates to matters of faith) has certainly diminished. Have I really noticed? And friends, too, have tired of my faith challenges. It’s just been easier not to deal with it.

I only seem to pick it up the Bible in order to frame or otherwise buttress an argument – not as an act of worship or fellowship with God. I feel myself going through motions and I lack the desire to engage. Years ago, I thought it possible to determine whether Calvinist or Arminian doctrine was correct. How naïve I was (and am). If anything, my attempts to differentiate the arguments made by the likes of James White and Dave Hunt or John Piper and Greg Boyd, have only brought about dissolution with the Christian life. More than anything else, I’ve morphed into a deistic perspective as to the nature of God and his interaction with his creation. God is there. But, what difference does it really make? Live by the Golden Rule and use Proverbs as a guide for decision making.

It seems awkward to put those thoughts on paper. But I guess I just did.

Quantitative Analysis of Unconditional Election

May 24, 2012 1 comment

An interesting blog post asks whether conditional election or unconditional election has more Biblical basis. The author goes on to state,

One of the most persistent and often divisive issues within Christianity is the debate between the doctrine of unconditional election (often called the doctrine of predestination) and the doctrine of unconditional election (often represented as the doctrine of free will).

Provided within the post is a list of verses that each camp uses to justify their respective positions. I don’t know the origin of this list nor do I believe this list is in any way complete. Still, the author wonders whether a greater number of verses (that, at least for this list) in support of unconditional election lend credence that unconditional election is indeed what the Bible teaches? I’m a numbers guy and do some quantitative analysis on the day job so this thought got my attention. 

However, as I scrolled down the list, I noticed that some verses were listed as supporting both predestination and free will. I certainly don’t think it accurate to derive “truth” from just a verse and I don’t think that is necessarily intended here. Context is everything and as such, any given verse must be read within the context of the passage. That said, if something is “truth” in one passage, then doesn’t there have to be commonality of that “truth” throughout all of the Bible?

Jesus says the truth will set me free (John 8:32). Perhaps my struggle regarding unconditional election can only mean that I don’t know the truth. Of course, preceding vs 32 is vs 31 where Jesus says if I hold to his teachings then I am really his disciple. Perhaps therein lies the issue – I’m not his disciple. Therefore, I can’t know the truth. Hence, I struggle in my faith – and not just with unconditional election. Perhaps I’m beginning to overanalyze – time to chill-out.

Anyway, I’ve come across this before – Calvinists and Arminians using the same verses and passages to to defend (or argue against) unconditional election. Romans chapter nine is perhaps the best example I know of. That the likes of John Piper and Greg Boyd have diametrically opposed perspectives of this chapter is troubling to me. But I understand that not all Christians are bothered by, what I can only call, the “variance” of Christian thought at least with respect to unconditional election.

In any event – to the question: does a greater number of verses supporting one perspective help to sway or otherwise bring about resolution within the Calvinist-Arminian argument? Probably not. But, what do I know?

 

The Hope of Arminianism?

April 18, 2012 5 comments

ArminianApparently, and for the 2nd time, a comment I’ve made in response to a blog post hasn’t been accepted. Sorry, I don’t mean to offend. And, I guess I can take a hint. Again, given that my response wasn’t accepted, I thought it permissible to share my $0.02 and ask my questions here. It is, after all, my blog. ☺

Overall theme from what was initially blogged:

Arminianism allows that Christ died for all men. Given that some are in hell for whom Christ died, there must be a deficiency within Arminian doctrine as to the certainty and assurance of the Arminian’s salvation because of a mutable God being outwitted by Satan.

My response:

Wow! Could it be possible that there are honest Scriptural differences, interpretations or even misunderstandings that Arminians have related to the nature and character of God and the Calvinist doctrine of unconditional election?

Simply put, whether Calvinist, Arminian, Open Theist, Catholic, a retired Presbyterian minister or whatever – if one by faith accepts Christ’s sacrifice for their sins and proclaims Him as Savior, is that person saved?

Bluntly put, can one reject the Reformed doctrine of unconditional election and still be saved?

I’ve got a good sense what this particular Calvinist would say. But I’m curious as to other Calvinist’s opinions: is my salvation predicated on an acceptance of the Reformed doctrine of unconditional election?

Eph 1:4 – Does It Really Support Unconditional Election?

April 13, 2012 8 comments

For He chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.

Anyone delving into the doctrine of unconditional election has certainly come across Eph 1:4. I’ve had this verse tossed my way a number of times to “prove” that God really is the one choosing the elect. My Calvinist friends will chide me that I’m not be able to see the forest through the trees because, after all, there it is in plain “NIV” English – He chose us. What is there to not understand?

Fair enough. However, what if we were to read the verse without the prepositional phrases? After all, what is a preposition but a word that links nouns, pronouns and phrases to other words in a sentence. 

Some simple examples of prepositions: The book is ON the table. The book is BESIDE the table. He read the book BEFORE class.

In the above sentences, the highlighted prepositions locate the book in space or time and provide a logical relationship of the book to the rest of the sentence. Certainly, if prepositional phrases are removed, then the intent and meaning of a sentence can be lost – as can easily be understood in the above examples. Regarding Eph 1:4, however, it appears to me that the intent of the verse remains the same with the prepositional phrases removed:

(For) He chose us (in Him) (before the creation) (of the world) to be holy and blameless (in His sight).

Without the prepositions, then, Eph 1:4 says; He chose us to be holy and blameless. The long and short of it, then, is that Eph 1:4 appears to have nothing to do with divine selection of individuals unto salvation. This is even more readily understood when I look up the word “chose” in my Webster’s dictionary and see different meanings including: “to select freely and after consideration” and “to decide”.  For reasons beyond my language skills, the authors of the NIV Bible selected the English word “chose” when translating Eph 1:4 from Greek to English for a reason –  “chose” is the best translatable English word. I readily accept that. 

Therefore, using Webster’s common English understandings for the word “chose”, I believe a fair interpretation of this verse is that God decided that we were to be holy and blameless before He created the world

Hence, it seems to me that Eph 1:4 is not a verse that Calvinists can reasonably use to defend the doctrine of unconditional election.

 

Divergent Thought (Calvinism, Arminianism, Open Theism); It’s Everywhere – Happy New Year!

January 3, 2011 Leave a comment

A Facebook friend recently posted this comment, “We may cast the die, but the Lord determines how it falls.” I couldn’t resist a little prodding for some details and asked the question – “So, even if we ‘think’ we’re ‘doing’ something, the outcome of that something is already predetermined by God?”

I liked Tom’s response and have pasted it here:

God always knows the outcome of any event. However, he normally doesn’t control the direct consequences of any action. He can and sometimes does [control events] when asked but He’s in no way obligated to do so. Why would God create the laws of nature and [call] them good along with all creation by continually circumventing them?

[God] makes everything work together towards whatever purpose He has in mind. [For] example, all of creation was created by God to glorify Himself. Because that’s His will, it’s what will happen. The fuzzy line comes when we’re affected by God’s will.

Do we have free will? Yes. God will judge us all on what we do, whether good or bad. (2 Corinthians 5:10, also pretty much anywhere in Jeremiah, Isaiah, Ezekiel) To be just, a judge must punish the guilty party. If a robot were programmed to kill someone, who’d be punished – the robot or the programmer? The robot had no free will to choose either right or wrong, so [the robot would] be pardoned. The programmer did have the free will to choose and will be punished for his crime. In the same way, if we have no free will and God is truly just, he would [have to] condemn Himself for forcing us to do wrong. If that is the case, then God is not good. If God is not good, then we have no hope. For if the ultimate power in the universe takes pleasure in evil, nothing He says [could] be trusted. If He is [just], by his mercy we have hope through Jesus Christ. If He isn’t [just], we have no hope because the combined power of creation was created through Him and for Him, and He sustains it all. (Colossians 1:15-17)

Does God protect us from being affected by our choices in a bad way? No. If you steal something and are caught, you’ll be brought to justice. God delights in that. Because He saved you from eternal life in Hell by your faith in Jesus doesn’t mean He’s saved you from the worldly consequences of your actions. This doesn’t mean He can’t have mercy on you. [Rather], He has no obligation to [protect] you from the result of your own free will. He’s [given] you the Bible for the purpose of helping you avoid destroying yourself and to find true life.

However, [God] works all things to the good of those who love him. (Romans 8:28) If you love God and do something stupid, you will reap the consequences of your actions. God will then use that stupid action to eventually work for good in your life, not because of your wisdom, your strength, your righteousness, but BECAUSE YOU LOVE GOD.

The question [becomes]: are we living and acting from a love of God or an apathy or hatred of God? The answer has no bearing on the outcome of His plans, but they have every effect on what becomes of us.

I responded to Tom on how I liked the analogy of people employing various free-will combinations – such as the mixing of an acid and a base with the end result being that God ensures how those kinds of molecules will interact. However, something had earlier crossed my mind relating to God knowing in advance how everything will turn out. I ‘think’ Isaiah 5:1-5 infers God planting and cultivating a crop of grapes with the end result being something not anticipated – bad fruit. As such, can God be surprised at any given end result? If God is surprised at this particular end result in Isaiah, can believers claim that God fully knows each and every outcome of each and every circumstance, situation or decision one might make?

On that point, Open Theists claim that the future is at least partly open (unknown) to God except in those areas where God has determined exactly what the future will be. In any event, I would certainly agree with Tom’s earlier statements that A) we have free will, B) God doesn’t necessarily protect us from our bad decisions (or necessarily reap blessings upon us for good decisions we may make for that matter), and C) God can use all circumstances for His glory.

Perhaps unknowingly, Tom stated Calvinist thinking wherein he had previously said, “All you gotta do is let [God] take your junk.” I responded to Tom that he  might not actually have that opportunity to give his ‘junk’ to God because, according to Calvinism, God chooses whose ‘junk’ He’ll take. More to the point, God determines who’ll be forgiven for their ‘junk’ therefore determining who will and who will not be saved. So, to repeating Tom’s last statement for the comfort of my Arminian friends, “All you gotta do is give your ‘junk’ to [God] and He will forgive you.”

How about that – Calvinism, Arminianim, and Open Theism considerations are all nicely placed side by side in one fell swoop of love and togetherness. Peace be upon all my believing brethren (including you, Tim) for the coming year. Happy New Year!

Calvinism or Arminianism: Of Which Flock Are Ewe? (John 10:26-27)

January 6, 2010 16 comments

So far as I can tell – all things Calvinist have to go through election and to that end, I’m hoping to bring a little more clarity (at least to my mind) regarding my struggles with Calvinistic thought in general and unconditional election in particular.  In comments to a previous post, my good friend and ardent Calvinist Mike generalized Calvinist thoughts in asking, “Why do some believe and others reject Jesus?”  He then offered the following thoughts as a basis for argument:

  • Nobody wants to receive Jesus’ offer.  There’s a greater love where God not only offers the gift to everyone, he also removes the rebellious heart of some and replaces it with a heart that loves him above all things.
  • The reason why believers love Jesus is only because God, through the Holy Spirit, has graciously given believers a heart that wants him.  If this hadn’t happened, then no one would believe because no one would want Jesus.
  • But why do some not believe?  John 10:26 answers it explicitly.  The reason some do not believe is “because they are not part of the flock” (unconditional election).
  • John 3:16 means that God loves everyone in the world and that he wants everyone to be saved and offers salvation to everyone.  Why doesn’t God save everyone?  Because they don’t believe?
  • Why do some believe while others don’t?  The Calvinist thanks God for giving them the faith to believe, while the Arminian (logically) must give thanks to themself for believing.
  • Who ultimately gets credit for my salvation?  The Calvinist says that God offers the gift to everyone, but that he also does more and grants belief to some.  The Arminian says that God offers the gift to everyone – and that’s it.  Belief is up to us.
  • If God really wants everyone to be saved, then why did he make salvation conditional?  Why did God make belief a criteria?  Why doesn’t John 3:16 read, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, so that everyone will have eternal life regardless of what they believe”?  What’s the Arminian answer to this?  If God wants everyone to be saved, then why doesn’t he just save everyone?  Is it really because of free will?  He would rather give us free will than save us from hell?  To me, this seems to be at least as big of a problem for the Arminian as it is for the Calvinist.

With all due respect to my good friend, I’m sympathetic to the arguments that apart from free will there can be no love.  Perhaps I’ll expound on that later.  But for now I’d like to toss out my $0.02 worth regarding Jesus’ words in John 10:26-27 that we either [are] or [are not] his sheep.  As I understand Calvinist thought, one doesn’t believe because he isn’t [Jesus’] sheep.  However, what is fascinating to me about this passage in John is what follows – the unbelieving Jews (vs 24) wanted to stone Jesus for blasphemy (vs 31, 33).  Jesus continues to “engage” with the unbelieving Jews (vs 34-38) and at one point says to them (vs 38) that the unbelieving Jews should believe the miracles Jesus has previously done (and no doubt the unbelieving Jews had witnessed) so they could know that Jesus is the son of God.  What immediately comes to mind is that Jesus continued to reach out to the unbelieving Jews.  Did Jesus understand that the unbelieving Jew’s eternal destiny was forever sealed at that moment?  Perhaps not.  Again, as I’ve stated before, this would have been a great opportunity for Jesus to explain TULIP and show the dichotomy of an elect person versus one ready to heave a stone at Jesus.  But Jesus didn’t do that.

Most who know me know that I’m not one to spend much time in the Old Testament.  Still, the story of God testing Abraham (Gen 22) comes to mind.  In vs 12, as Abraham was about to sacrifice his son, an angel interferes and says to Abraham, “Now I know that that you fear God.”  Apparently old Abe had listened to (what I presume to be) the Holy Spirit and was rewarded (vs 17-18).  Is it any different in New Testament times?  Did not the Holy Spirit move within people or otherwise prepare hearts?  Looking back at John chapter 10, Jesus vacated the premises (vs 40).  And notice what happens, many people said, “Though John never performed a miraculous sign, all that John said about [Jesus] was true.”  And many then believed (vs 42).  I sense that the Holy Spirit was moving amongst people in essence preparing their hearts for the messiah.  Those who accepted by faith were rewarded with eternal life.  Those that rejected faith or would otherwise continue to live by the law were eternally lost.  That some hearts were receptive to Christ and other not leads me to conclude that we do have free will.

In conclusion and so far as I can tell, Jesus isn’t implying in John 10:26-27 that God had already determined who would be his sheep.  At least there’s no indicating that one’s eternal fate was sealed before any one had been born.  As I read it, when Jesus spoke those words, there were some who already believed and some non-believers within his immediate vicinity.

Okay, how then would this thinking work for a particular verse that I struggle with regarding Calvinistic arguments?  Acts 13:48 [And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed.]  The conclusion seems rather succinct – one’s eternal destiny is determined by God.  For whatever reason, God chooses to save some and God allows others to perish.  However, Paul and Barnabas had first approached the Jews.  It was only after the Jews rejected faith did Paul et. al. reach out to the Gentiles.  As Paul said (vs 47), “I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.”  Although I don’t see it written as such, I’m hard-pressed not to believe that the Holy Spirit was moving amongst those that Paul et. al. would preach to and [all who were going to believe] believed.

Perhaps my arguments are not as strong as I would like them to be.  But frankly, and at least for now, I find it easier to accept that God does indeed allow us free will in choosing our eternal destiny.


TULIP Logic versus a Calvinist’s Statement – Part 2

November 8, 2009 16 comments

Dear Timothy,

I wasn’t able to make the formatting work in a comment on a previous post and so I just started “part 2” of this discussion as a new post.  I’ve looked over and thought about some of the things you said in your first response related to  my TULIP Logic versus a Calvinist’s Statement post from 11/05/09.  Allow me to toss back my $0.02 worth and I’d welcome any response(s) you may have.  The brackets I placed in your statements were for my readability to better understand what you were saying.  I’ve tried to maintain the accuracy of your statements – it wasn’t my intention to alter or change anything you said.

Below is a table containing your statements and my response.  I don’t know if this is the best way to compare and contrast our respective thoughts, beliefs, and opinions – but it seems like a reasonable start.

Timothy’s Statement Bob’s Response
Why [does] everyone who opposes God as Word implicitly say that God and Lucifer have the same language? The term “will-neutral” is new to me.  God is God and He is sovereign and whatever He speaks happens.  I’m not sure exactly what you mean by “defending God’s word as something that is “will-neutral holy information”.  The Bible talks about the Word becoming flesh (John 1:1-2) – It is my understanding that John’s Gospel is showing that Jesus is both God and man in one person.  With regard to “will-neutral holy information,” I believe that the words in Bible are from God and contain everything we need to know and understand about the nature and character of God in addition to a plethora of (quite frankly) very practical things such as how we can be saved and how God wants us to live.  Still, I sense I’m missing your main point so please clarify.This may go back to my earlier thoughts where I guess I may need to better understand exactly what you mean by “God as Word”.  Doesn’t John 1, makes clear that the Word became flesh (Jesus)?

Even so, your statement intrigues me but, again, I’m not exactly sure just what you mean by “God and Lucifer have the same language”.

Why [do] all who oppose Calvinism portray themselves to be overtly siding with the damned? First of all, I don’t oppose Calvinism.  I admit to being confused by Calvinistic thoughts and my own study leads me to think that Calvinistic thought is in error with the desire of God that no one should perish (John 3:16 and 1 Pet 3:9).  I admit to not understanding the nature, character and love of God as portended by Calvinistic thought.  So far, my own study of verses used in support of Calvinism has led me to a different conclusion.I find it interesting that you believe my questioning of Calvinism is “siding with the damned”.  Perhaps from your perspective, that makes sense.  Phil 3:15 says – And if on some point [I] think differently, that too God will make clear to [me].  Well, to date, God hasn’t made it clear to me that the teachings of Calvinism are the truth.  That said, I am conflicted because, quite frankly, there do appear to be a number of scripture references in which I can draw no other conclusion than that Calvinism is the truth.  However, there are just as many, if not more, scripture references that (to me, anyway) poke a stick in the eye of Calvinism.

That begs a question; how is it, Timothy, that you can ever have complete assurance of salvation?  Perhaps you are not part of the elect.  Perhaps you came to a logical conclusion that Jesus is who he said he is.  Perhaps you desired eternal life and prayed a prayer of salvation and maybe even had “feelings” to support and justify your newfound faith.  But you have no proof of your salvation.  Where in scripture do you see your name written and confirmed that yes, Timothy, is saved?

Playing the dissembling part to supposedly heroically defend the damned and give them ‘a chance’ to be saved is not at all the same as loving a sinner who is elect and knows nothing about election or predestination and is still very much a sinner. Have you ever shared your faith with an unbeliever?  I mean, honestly, why would you?  As I see it, you have no way of offering someone the love and hope of Christ.  You can demonstrate through your life all that God has (and is) doing through your life and perhaps instill with that unbeliever a desire to learn more.  And yet, if (using my favorite phrase) that poor schlep isn’t elect then you’re just wasting your time.  And yet, aren’t we, as believers, to be the salt of the earth – the hope and light to a fallen world?
There is no actual and non-metaphorical new birth in Arminianism. So you have to fake it and claim behavioral changes as evidence of new creatureness. Your statement is confusing to me.  If I re-write it without the double negative, it says – there is a metaphorical new birth in Arminianism.  I take this to mean that if one isn’t a Calvinist, then they can’t be a Christian for it is only Calvinists that can be saved because God chooses his elect – the Calvinists, naturally.This is exactly the kind of logic and thought process that brought about a three-year period in which I had completely lost my assurance of salvation.
Free will denies that heaven and [hell] will be filled with two different creatures.[It is a free will lie to say] heaven will be filled with those who supposedly earned [their way into heaven]. To the first part, you’re saying that I believe there is no distinction between those in heaven and those in hell.Quite the contrary – I firmly believe that those in heaven will be there because they have accepted Christ’s substitution for their own sin.  Those in hell will not have been washed clean by the blood of Christ and therefore they will have to experience the consequences of their own sin.  So, by definition then, I believe heaven and hell will be populated by two different ‘creatures’; those who have new life in Christ (heaven) and the lost (hell).

To your second point, God is the giver of the gift of salvation.  Is He any less God if I choose to accept or reject his free gift?  I don’t think so.  Does the Holy Spirit not move in the souls of people and otherwise convict them of their need for a savior?  I think it does.  I do not understand the Calvinist contention that it’s a ‘works-based’ faith to accept the leadings and promptings of God and come to a point of accepting his offer of forgiveness and salvation.

You tear the Bible in shreds before you ever begin to read it.  Then [you] read it to make fun of it with philosophical lies that don’t even make sense when examined even slightly. In my own mind, I find Calvinistic thought to be illogical based upon the nature of God as expressed in and through the life of Jesus.  Jesus is, after all, God.  Nowhere in scripture do I find Jesus identifying or otherwise making distinctions as to elect versus non-elect.  Jesus does make distinctions between believers versus non-believers Please, I truly would welcome feedback sprinkled with generous amounts of scripture to show the error in my thinking.
Keep [telling] the lies of [sinners] and defend the damned as if you really thought you were one of them [which is] a thing you have no actual say over at all. To me, this comes across as a rather judgmental statement on your part.  I’m not sure if you’re saying that I’m part of the elect or part of the damned because I’m not elect.  Maybe I am elect and I just don’t know it.  Maybe I am not now part of the elect but God will make me part of the elect later?What I do know is this: I believe that Jesus is who He says he is and that I have asked Him to come into my life and I accept, through faith, that His sacrifice on the cross will atone for my sins when I stand before God on judgment day.

Am I a Christian?

Free will [people] automatically side with the damned.  In Arminian theology, the righteous are the enemy. If you mean that I side with the damned because I come alongside a hurting soul and try to give him hope in Christ – yeah, guilty as charged.  I feel an obligation to reach out to the unsaved.  I never have understood what the great commission (Matt 28: 19-20) means to a Calvinist.  Why would a Calvinist waste time, talent and treasure to reach an unbeliever?  Calvinists have no way of knowing whether someone is elect or not.  Further, as I see it, any outreach a Calvinist does is pointless.  If that person is elect, God will save him.  If that person is not elect, then the Calvinist is wasting their time because there’s nothing that can be done to change that the poor schlep isn’t elect.  Is this Christian thinking?This is the thought process that drew me into Thomas Schriener’s comment, “God’s wrath and judgment are personally directed against sinners who have failed to praise, honor and thank him.”  Sorry to be repetitive and perhaps daft, but Calvinist thought simply makes no sense to me.
Proverbs 17:15 says; He that justifieth the wicked, and he that condemneth the just, even they both are abomination to the LORD. Are you saying that Calvinists are the just ones while non-Calvinists are the wicked ones.  Further, if my understanding and studying of Calvinism leads me to a non-Calvinist conclusion, then I am an abomination to the Lord?  Is that what you believe?

I didn’t intend for this post to get as long as it did.  However, as I look back on this, we seem to be dancing around a central disagreement with regard to the concept of election.  As I said in my post, the U in TULIP appears to be the bedrock of Calvinist belief.  Right now, I’ve reached a different conclusion based on my own understanding and study.

Here’s a simple overview of what I believe election to be and how it came about:

  • In the beginning, God created Adam and Eve.  Were they “elect”?
  • After the flood, those on the Noah’s arc dispersed and various nations formed.  For His own reasons, God chose the descendants of Abraham (the Israelites) to be “the elect”.  If nothing else, this is corporate election.
  • Through Israel (God’s elect), all nations would eventually hear and respond to the salvation of God and could thereby become “elect” by following the law.
  • Prophesy was fulfilled when Jesus came and preached to the Jews (the “old” elect) and the Gentiles (the “new” elect) alike about new life in Christ.

So, what does this mean or prove?  Well, Calvinists claim that one not yet saved can be an elect person – it’s just that God hasn’t brought that person to a point of salvation.  However, what I see is that it is the believers – those who have, by faith, trusted Christ for their salvation that are the elect.  Therefore, a person doesn’t become “elect” until he is a believer. As such, being elect is not future oriented wherein a person will believe because God has elected him.  Rather, becoming elect occurs the moment a person believes.  Clearly God wants none to perish.  But it’s obvious that not all are or will be saved and so there seems to be an element wherein individuals are able to accept or reject God’s free gift of salvation.  In conclusion, an elect person is a Christian.

Sincerely,

Bob