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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/

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?

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!

Award Accepted from Christian Clarity Review: Worst Arminian in the World!

December 5, 2010 6 comments

I hereby congratulate myself on the just-created weekly award of – drumroll, please – “Worst Arminian in the World“.  I am beholden to none other than Tim Elder at Christian Clarity Review for this great honor.  This first competition was keen.  Up for consideration were ‘bdrex’, ‘Bill’ and myself for commenting on Tim’s post that Arminians Are Not Christians.

Tim said of me:

  • Another wicked soul pops in for a chat.
  • The unforgivable sin is your default piety in particular Bob.
  • You, like so many, are deceived that if you don’t make up a new ‘meaning’ from the text other than what it says as Word of God as Creating Speech/Jesus Christ, then you’re only a baby Christian.
  • You sin happily and forcefully and call it being pious.
  • That the spirit that now works in the sons of disobedience now works in you is plain.
  • You heard the same Word of God I did and the effect it had on you was to harden your heart and make you a vessel of wrath.
  • You enjoy lying against God.
  • You are all very polite as you supposedly ‘choose’ your various positions.
  • There are literally thousands of blogs on which Lucifer is welcome. This isn’t one of them.
  • You should surely be hired by any [A]rminian witch as their PR person.
  • Your lies are always disguised as sombre [sic] wishes for fair discourse while accusing those who point out your lies of being mean spirited asses who do everything they do, supposedly like you, on purpose.
  • It isn’t that I don’t understand. It’s that I do and I overtly don’t want the emotional common sense friendship or discourse of hardened sinners in addition to being blessed by God to not have to hear it.
  • You can’t choose to believe what God is Saying through me as truth. No one has that ability.

Tim, I can think of no one more qualified than you to present these weekly awards.  We’ll all be anxiously awaiting the next Worst Arminian in the World!

To be considered for this award, prospective entrants must read any post on Tim’s blog and do one of the following:

  • Make a comment
  • Ask a question
  • Challenge a premise
  • Simply not understand various things such as created speech, et al

Now don’t be shy.  Hurry and submit your comments and questions to Tim’s blog.

Oh yes, mention my name or, better yet, link to this blog and you’ll be a shoe-in for Worst Arminian in the World.  Not only that, but you’ll also receive my warmest personal regards.

Best of luck to one and all in becomming the next Worst Arminian in the World!!!


A Calvinist Spanking of Yours Truly from Christian Clarity Review?

December 4, 2010 7 comments

A rather pathetic title for a hissy-fit between a Calvinist named Timothy Elder Jr at Christian Clarity Review and one who doesn’t subscribe to the TULIP doctrines of Calvinism – me.  In the large scheme of things, this really is much ado about nothing.  Honestly, what new thoughts or arguments could possibly come forth between the centuries-old debate between Calvinists and Arminians?  From my perspective, both sides have considerable biblical “ammunition” and can lob verse after verse to effectively press either Calvinist or Arminian doctrine.  This on-going debate is somewhat distressing to me if only because there appears to be such divergence of opinion between the two camps with both sides often justifying their positions using the same Scriptures.  By and large, it’s been easier of late to not take part in the debate – at least not to the degree I used to.  Perhaps I got a little bruised and worn out and have, at least for now, decided to premise my Christian faith on the Arminian side if for no other reason that I am more comfortable with what I understand to be the nature and character of God as viewed from an Arminian perspective.

But now, back into the fray.  There was a recent post on Christian Clarity Review entitled; Arminians are not Christians.  Nice to know, I guess.  But I adamently disagree.

‘bdrex’ and ‘Bill’ initially posed some questions to CCR and things escalated quickly.  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize Tim doesn’t appreciate any challenges to his views.  I got into the fray a little later.  And too, I admit to a little venting in what I was told would be my last posting to CCR.  But ultimately, I have to ask my Calvinist friends; is Christian Clarity Review someone who accurately represents Calvinist doctrine and thought?

Anyway, for those interested, here’s my last comment to Christian Clarity Review and his subsequent response:

Dear Tim,

I regret your request for me to no longer comment on your blog.  I’ve done my best to be open, candid, honest and respectful when posing questions, responding or otherwise commenting on CCR.  I’ve tried to do likewise when you have commented on my blog.   But I will honor your request.

For my last comments on your blog,  I thought of providing a list of what I believe to be justifiable arguments against Calvinism and attempt to show where (I believe) verses you reference do not support the contentions you make.  But what’s the point?  I’ve concluded that you’re going to believe what you will irrespective of illogical thought and misapplied scriptures.  If nothing else, I’ve come to understand that that if something isn’t hyper-Calvinistic in nature, you’ll naturally be against it irrespective of the many scriptural references appearing to support Arminian thought.  If ever someone desires to see a Hyper-Calvinist in action – you are the real deal, Tim.

Your responses in this post to bdrex and Bill were fascinating.  I’m admittedly slow, but I finally realized you aren’t able to tolerate challenges to your theology.  If someone doesn’t agree with you, out pours some verbiage condemning the questioner or equating them to Lucifer followed by hate-filled speech (spoken as if you were the Holy Ghost Himself) with a taken-out-of-context verse or two.

You’ve clearly studied a lot of church history and tenants of the Christian faith.  But for what purpose?  Where, Tim, is the fruit in your life?  Where can one find in your life the love and compassion that Jesus exhibited?  Why is there such anger and contempt within you?  Where is the joy that Jesus wants all believers to experience and in which he promises to make complete?  Why is there no apparent laughter and (oh dear, should I actually use this word – yes!) the “gaiety” in your life?

Can anyone, who questions your understanding on any matter of Christian thought and faith not be labeled a heretic sent straight from Lucifer?  Apparently not and yet, as you have previously said to me, Lucifer has intentionally deceived me (at God’s command, no less).  So, applying your logic gleaned from our previous conversations – any and everything that has ever happened or ever will happen is as a direct result of God’s intentional will and command?  If your answer is ‘yes’, then would you please answer this question: if there’s no free-will, why are you not praising God for (I’m using your words, here) the world being “inundated with homosexuality, whoredoms [sic], abortion, and false religion”?  I can only surmise that as a logical extension of your hyper-Calvinistic thoughts and logic, God desired, designed and implemented all that is antithetical towards Christianity and therefore to Himself.  To God be the glory, right?  So, why do I not hear a great big ‘halleluiah’ from you?  Why are you not thankful that God has sent me to your blog?  After all, am I not (according to your logic) visiting CCR as a direct result of God’s intentional will and command?  You should be praising God that I’m conversing with you for after all, I am one of the few who’re willing to do so.  Oh, wait, that’s right, God has already determined that you’re to despise anything that is contrary to hyper-Calvinism.  Sorry, Tim, but the most elementary reading of Scripture and the simplest application of logic brings down your house of ‘faith-cards’.  Your theology doesn’t hold up on its own merits.  It’s only with a heavy dose of hate and vile do you make believe and otherwise fool yourself that you are one of God’s chosen few.  Sad.

Bill asked you for source material within Christian literature compliant with the theological concept of created speech.  Honestly, it didn’t take hardly any time at all to find sources (http://christianbookreviews.net/?p=43#more-43) that, well, have an exceedingly different perspective of The Two Babylons – one of the books you referenced and which I presume to be a foundation of your faith.  This review states:

“As is commonly the case with fundamentalists, the truth did not get in the way of a good conspiracy theory.  Weaving an absurd tale reminiscent of other types of conspiratorial drivel, Woodrow (like Hislop before him) combined incredibly bad scholarship, paranoid delusions, and pure bigotry in an unseemly concoction lacking even a rudimentary understanding of historical developments within the Church.  This is where one would expect it to end – another entry in the “antichrist of the month” sweepstakes spoon fed to those who do have neither the knowledge nor the discernment to see past the smokescreen of their insulated belief system.”

Ouch!  Sorry, but your blog posts appear to be the epitome of this review, Tim.

Before I go, can we agree that there must be consistency throughout Scripture and that doctrine can’t be built on only a given verse.  Rather, doctrine that is true is reflected uniformly throughout all of the Bible.  With regard to individual election, then, using your beloved KJV, I would welcome an explanation of how you rectify the following verses:

(John 6:44) No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day

(Titus 2:11) For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men

Do you see the apparent conflict with personal election?  No one can come to Jesus unless the Father draws him and yet God’s grace which brings salvation has appeared to all men.  I could present my $0.02 worth, but again, what’s the point?  However, if you ask nicely, I’d be pleased to answer that apparent contradiction.

Paraphrasing, you’ve stated that God has enlightened you with an understanding of non-creating speech and that you’re responsible for passing this knowledge on to the “brethren”.  You are then God’s enlightened messenger who’s the only person on earth that has received this revelation?  Perhaps you’re in good company for if a Christian has difficulty understanding the concept of created speech and can’t find biblical justification for that belief system, how can one be sure that Timothy Elder Jr. isn’t the origin of a created speech cult in much the same way that a Jehovah Witnesses will follow Charles Russell, Mormons follow Joseph Smith, Seventh-Day Adventists follow Ellen G. White, Christian Scientists follow Mary Eddy Baker or Scientologists follow Armstrong and Hubbard, etc.?  Pity, perhaps Walter Martin was died too soon to include you in his book, Kingdom of the Cults.

If you care, feel free to respond to some questions I’d hoped to delve further with you over time.  Per your request, unless you give me permission, I won’t respond.  But please, fire away:

  • Did God plan every evil act and every sin that anyone would have ever committed?
  • Did God predestine Adam and Eve to sin?
  • Did God plan and bring about the rebellion of Satan who was once the angel of light, Lucifer?
  • Did God originate sin?  With regard to this question, I don’t doubt that God planned and has “elected” (I’m guessing my definition of “elect” is different than yours) much within our human existence.  God may have allowed sin.  But I’m hard-pressed to find any Scriptural evidence that sin originated with God.  Please, show me where.
  • Has God truly chosen to make you such a wretched creature?  I don’t personally think so.  Rather, I believe you have exceeded your wildest expectations and have become all that you are of your own volition.

Congratulations!  You’re now done with me.  Perhaps you’d like to celebrate and go share your faith with someone?  I’m sorry, I forgot; outreach to a hyper-Calvinist is pointless.

Well, enjoy your life, Tim.  I know I enjoy mine.  I do wish you all the best and will welcome the opportunity to discuss anything further with you should you decide to do so.  You know where I can be reached.

Sincerely,

Bob

If you’ve read this far, you may be interested in Tim’s response to my last comment:

1. “I regret your request for me to no longer comment on your blog”.  It wasn’t a request.  Don’t change your username and go for it again. Not saying you’ve already done it.  If you post again I’ll delete it.

2. You should surely be hired by any arminian witch as their PR person.  Your lies are always disguised as sombre wishes for fair discourse while accusing those who point out your lies of being mean spirited asses who do everything they do, supposedly like you, on purpose.  I get the point.  I really do.  You love me in what you call love –but I, as the Big Meanie, won’t love you back by succumbing to your lies.  It isn’t that I don’t understand.  It’s that I do and I overtly don’t want the emotional common sense friendship or discourse of hardened sinners in addition to being blessed by God to not have to hear it.

You can’t choose to believe what God is Saying through me as truth.  No one has that ability.  I don’t speak as if you could and to pretend that is exactly why I speak is to lie to my face and to call me a liar, no matter that you think to have done so in some perfect emotional paradigm some onlookers will automatically be forced to think is politeness because they share your deceptions.

Proverbs 14: 7  Go from the presence of a foolish man, when thou perceivest not in him the lips of knowledge.

Proverbs 6: 12-15  A man of Belial, a wicked person, is he that goeth about with a perverse mouth; he winketh with his eyes, he speaketh with his feet, he teacheth with his fingers; deceits are in his heart; he deviseth mischief at all times, he soweth discords.  Therefore shall his calamity come suddenly: in a moment shall he be broken, and without remedy.

In the Name of Jesus Christ, Amen

Final thought – I truly have enjoyed the back-and-forth exchanges with many Calvinists on this blog as well as those with whom I associate personally.  Perhaps the ‘chemist’ within me needs to have a hypothesis, or in this case a premise of my belief, and then to go about determining whether or not the hypothesis is correct.  And I have truly struggled with determining where the truth lies within the  Calvinist-Arminian debate.  And that will probably continue for some time.  However, Tim may be the first person I would consider a hyper-Calvinist.  If I follow what I believe to be the natural outcome of Calvinist doctrine, it quickly leads me to someone who would espouse the views of Timothy.  I hope I’m wrong on that point.   And to that end, I would appreciate Calvinist’s comments to help identify the error – whether with me or with Tim.  (John 8:32)

Sincerely,

Bob

Why Be a Calvinist?

November 4, 2009 2 comments

A good and dear friend who writes on matters of faith and religion for the Louisville Examiner recently posted an article: Why Be a Calvinist?  I’ve known Mike for quite a while now we’ve had many really good and deep discussions related to faith-related issues that I struggle with including Calvinism, the will of God, open theism, etc.  Even though I may have profound disagreements with Mike, I have immense respect for him and I invite readers of this blog to visit his site at:

http://www.examiner.com/x-13763-Louisville-Evangelical-Examiner~y2009m11d4-Why-believe-in-Calvinism?#comments