There isn’t any doubt as to the human spirit. It is depraved. There are none righteous. All have sinned. All have fallen short of the glory of God. But are Calvinist’s correct in their belief that of no free will and that no one can accept God’s grace and offer of salvation of one’s own volition? Which makes me ask, if there’s no free will, then why is the Bible replete with so many verses exhorting people to “believe on the Lord Jesus”? I’m sensing an apparent disconnect. Something isn’t adding up. I chuckle when recalling a scene from Fiddler on the Roof:
Mordcha: Why should I break my head about the outside world. Let the outside world break its own head!
Tevye: He’s right. As the good book says, If you spit in the air it lands in your face.
Perchik: Nonsense! You can’t close your eyes wo what’s happ;ening in the world.
Tevye: He’s right.
Avram: He’s right? And he’s right? They can’t both be right.
Tevye: You know, you are also right.
Calvinists claim that good can only come from people who have been anointed with God’s grace and mercy. However, are there not a number of verses in which God honors or otherwise bestows his blessing and salvation unto the humble? God found favor in Mary, Noah, the rich young ruler and the Centurion – who was referred to as a righteous man. So far as I can tell, these folks were doing ‘good deeds’ on their own. And God took notice. It looks to me as though God used them ‘as they were.’ I see no indications that God infused people with his grace and mercy prior to their being used by God.
Paul explains the new covenant wherein Jews and Gentiles alike can receive salvation through faith in Christ. Rom 10:13 states that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. To me, it is self-evident; everyone means everyone. Period. There’s no indication that those who ‘call on the Lord’ had received any special ‘ability’ to receive salvation. Rather, decisions to accept God’s grace appear to have been freely made. Regarding Acts 17:30, this only seems the logical inference where God commands all people everywhere to repent. Again, all people means all people. And, a command infers a requirement for the recipient to follow through in order for the command to have been effected. If this is not Paul’s clear intention, then why doesn’t Paul single out and encourage (or command) only the “elect” to get their act together and repent. Did Paul understand TULIP? If so, then why are the elements of TULIP so mysteriously shrouded and only ‘visible’ through awkward and non-linear logic and exegesis?
I agree that we can’t fit God into our own ‘little box’. We aren’t able to see the ‘big picture’ and we are not omniscient. And because of that, I’ve always been told that theology isn’t formulaic, mathematical or logical. Or is it? Are there not “standard formulas” such as simple [if : then] conditional statements such as, [if you] believe on the Lord Jesus [then] you will be saved. Wasn’t this exactly what happened to the thief on the cross when he said, “Remember me, Jesus, when you enter into your kingdom.” It’s sad and unfortunately that there are so many “variations of thought” from those working from the same “source material”. And because of these ‘variations of thought’, it’s not unreasonable to question a given answer to a theological question. Living in the Twin Cities, the divergent opinions of John Piper and Greg Boyd immediately come to mind and it’s nothing short of ironic that both of these men use many of the same verses to argue their respective position. This, then, only reinforces a contention that many people of faith have beliefs which may be little more than opinion.
I’m paraphrasing a note sent to me by Greg Schumacher from a Facebook debate forum called Examining Calvinism. He says:
Truth isn’t some magical or mystical secret. Rather, truth is an equation of thought and reason. Truth adds up. Truth reconciles. Truth resolves itself. Theological words have established meanings and when people don’t use these meanings, and are instead creating variations of their own beliefs, ignorance or dishonesty.
People are confused about what reality is. Reality isn’t what you think and feel is real to you. That’s just wishful thinking. Rather, reality is the record of what has happened. Consider that a stock chart shows the record of what has happened and is not a prediction of what might happen. Reality is our present state of life. We see it because it has already happened. Our memory is a record of the preceding events. What has already happened is the reconciled reality of all the inputs that contributed to the state or condition.
Any theology which denies reality is little more than nonsense, imagination and fantasy. Reality is the most profound gift of God for us in life. It tells us everything. All factors of all truth are reconciled in the reality of the record. Truth is consistent. The principles of truth, the precepts, the rules are logical and even mathematical. 1+2=3 is the same across all platforms. Theological contradictions are therefore indications of error, lies and confusion. If there are theological contradictions then truth is not present.
The obvious inference – when explanations don’t add up and don’t reconcile then there are potential contradictions and indications of error. It’s unfortunate how many will create long dissertations in an attempt to justify incongruent beliefs only to end up with silly statements and no logical resolution. The Bible’s teaching, to me, is that reason leads to truth. And truth can be logically deduced. Reason provides the understanding of truth. To which, definitions matter. And definitions should hold up to the scrutiny of a given challenge.
In my opinion, then, Calvinism’s adherence to TULIP, and especially the element of Total Depravity and Unconditional Election, provide significantly more confusion than resolution. This confusion unfortunately leads to the impression (at least for me) that God is not the author of life, love and mercy but is instead a callous and heartless being incapable of being known.