In a Predestined Universe

In a predestined universe, what happened with Saul?

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54 thoughts on “In a Predestined Universe

  1. Well, if I were Reformed I might say this is a good example of God’s irresistible attraction. He calls and Saul has no choice but to come.

    But why would Saul need such pyrotechnical persuasion when for most of us don’t? (if we are fortunate enough to be part of the elect) Hmm.

    Good question.

  2. Here’s the rub I have with this sort of thing. First of all the manner in which you use the word “Predestined” in the title of the post implies that it is folly on the part of a “Calvinist” (for lack of a better term) to believe in the notion of predestination. Is it folly to believe in a concept that is clearly espoused in Holy Scripture? Or are my Arminian brothers and sisters in Christ guilty of the same sort of theological Twister that we are accused of. I’ve seen all the arguments against how we “get around” the words “all” and “world”, etc. but what are you doing when you ignore a concept like predstination? It’s right there in black and white.

    But to return the volley – In a non-predestined, non-covenantal, one must give assent to god (the small “g” is intentional) to be saved because he would never impinge on the (free)will of man, believers baptism, Kind of universe, what happens to the infant or mentally handicapped individual that is unable to give the prerequisite consent to be saved?

    It seems that the Arminian must make consessions in their understanding of how salvation works, or in other words, ignore your own presuppositions about God’s inabilty to save whom He pleases in order to allow for the salvation of the individuals in question. Whereas the notion of predestination/election (aka God’s sovereignty) accounts for this as well as a host of other dilemmas with no “Twistering” of Scripture needed.

  3. Part of the problem might be that both Calvinists and Arminians are basing their theologies on scripture that has been ‘twistered’ over and over long before Jacobus and John were born. Scripture is rarely ‘black and white’, not in the way a modern instruction manual or college text is black and white. This desire to have clear cut theological formulas for something that we cannot comprehend is like watching Ben Hur on a small black and white TV. Our perspective is too narrow and much of the beauty is lost.

  4. Before I go any further I would like to state that I am not a (hyper)Calvinist that insist that it is my way or the Highway (to Hell). However, I do feel very strongly that the different understandings between the two camps – and I mean camps as in the different tribes of Israel encamped around the tabernacle; different camps but (brothers and sisters) under the same covenant/God – have a markedly different effect on how one lives out their pilgrimage to the City of God. Having said that I think we must agree that there is no gray area within the five points/articles of Calvinism/the Remonstrants. We must confess that:

    Man is either totally depraved or he isn’t.
    Elect ion is either conditional or it isn’t.
    Atonement is either limited or it isn’t.
    God’s grace is either resistible or it isn’t.
    Either the saints will perseveres of (some) won’t.

    On these points there is no in between. It’s one or the other. Also note that one point logically flows from the previous. My favorite theological word it “therefore”.

    Calvinism:
    Man is Totally depraved, therefore election is Unconditional, therefore the atonement is Limited (in its scope, not its power), therefore God’s grace is Irresistible, therefore the saints will Persevere.

    Arminianism:
    Man is not totally depraved, therefore election is conditional, therefore the atonement is not limited (in its scope, or its power), therefore God’s grace is resistible, therefore the saints will not necessarily persevere*.

    *Unless your the have your cake and eat it two kind of Christian that thinks God won’t infringe on your freewill before regeneration but He will after.

    If we can agree on the above notion about there being “no gray area” in these regards then we must also agree that one has a markedly different understanding of who God is and who man is than the other. This difference is where I believe the problem (with modern Christianity) rest.

    The following will contain sweeping generalizations that will infuriate a lot of people and I realize that there are exceptions to the rule on either side but for the most part I see one camp containing a large percentage of its “campers” biding their time waiting for the rapture now that they have their “fire insurance”, saying prayers to gain prosperity, being laughingstocks of our nation, being oblivious to covenant duties, etc. While I see a large percentage of the other camp striving for (covenant) obedience.

    As a sidenote; personally, I feel the “there are just some things we cannot comprehend” tack a cop out. While it is indeed impossible to (fully) comprehend God, He has chosen to reveal Himself and His ways to us in His Word and to not seek to fully understand that which is revealed is falling short of the mark and must be repented of. Going back to the notion of “no gray area” is it your position that our God intends to confuse us or is it indeed one way or the other?

    By the way, you never really answered the “volley” 🙂

  5. Brother Ken, I thank and commend you for your civility and depth in your response. When I posted this thought I was spending devotional time in 1 Samuel and also rereading Boettner’s “Reformed Doctrine of Predestination”. What we see occurring in 1 Samuel is that the man God selected to lead his people who goes wrong over the course of his kingship. Now, given a view of predestination in which God has ordained each and every action we must question why God intentionally leads His chosen people awry through the leader that He gives them. Given Saul’s proclivity towards sin, it does not seem unreasonable that his subjects will also lead lives contrary to the Law. While we are mulling this over, we also need to confront the idea of election as it pertains to this case. Similar to what we read in Romans 9, if we consider 1 Sam 9:15—, it could be reasonably interpreted that Saul was ‘elected’ to vocation so our entire notion of what election means must also be considered.

    In your second post you emphasized the black and white nature of the Calvinist and Arminian theological camps ( and I loved your association with the ‘camps’ of Israel all moving toward Jerusalem together despite their internal differences [which I am going to proceed to steal :)] ) which is correct but I agree with Christian on the scope of the entire pictures of God, His Character, and His World; we see a very narrow spectrum which significantly narrows further when we view all of theology through the Cal/Arm prism. In your statement of the Remonstrants thread, you mentioned that the Arminian sees man as not totally depraved but this is incorrect; the Arminian clearly sees mankind as totally depraved and having no ability apart from the grace of God to gain their salvation. What you proposed is the Pelagian or semi-Pelagian view. Given the same view of man shared by the two camps and their similar views that salvation is by grace alone, the difference we see is whether or not that grace is resistable (ie. relying on the belief of the human receiver) or irresistible.

    So, does God predestine the evil we saw in Saul as he ruthlessly pursues David or was he exercising his own will contrary to God’s desired course, perhaps solely to give rise to the annointing of David? Was the exercise of his will simply a reflection of God’s larger plan? If Saul’s evil was predestined as many interpret it, who is the author of this evil?

    Peace

  6. I agree with your summary statement Christian – too often ‘theology’ is narrowed to the bullet list of Dort when God is so much broader, deeper, greater, and more loving than any human constraints that we try to use to box the Lord in.

  7. I would say this argument goes much further back than Dort. It was Augustine and not Pelagious that the Church sided with, correct?

  8. Well Andy…that would depend on how you define “the Church.” The Church is made of many people with differing theological perspectives, some Augustinian and some certainly Pelagian. Is there a clarification that you can add to your post?

  9. Saul is a good example. And then there was Moses; when God decided to harden his heart – was that information only for our benefit? Surely, in a predestined universe, Moses heart was hardened from the beginning of time.

  10. I also wonder what “Saul” this thread is referring to. Saul of Tarsus or Saul the king of Israel?

    Christian’s response seems to be referring to Saul of Tarsus. I would answer to that that there is one important element that he is forgetting. Saul’s calling was not just to the Christian life but also to Apostleship. It was required for such an office that Saul be an eye witness to the ressurected Christ (or else he could not qualify for an Apostle). It’s a calling that NONE of us will ever recieve (despite claims by many modern Charismatics that they are modern day Apostles).

    If it’s Saul of the OT, one must understand our views on what we believe an apostate is. Of course, that would take REALLY long to explain and there are many people who could do it better (do a net search on “reformed views on falling from grace” or something like that.).

    Doulos, in the early years of the Church (which I would consider the Pelagian debates part of), the Church was certainly more centralized and in many respects, more unified on doctrine (though I can admit there were many differences as well). However, when a counsel was held to “rule” on a teaching, many representatives came from all areas of the Christian world (Eastern and Western) to study and rule on teachings. So one can hardly brush off an early Church counsel so lightly (the opposite can be true…one can hardly take them as infallable either, as a Roman Catholic would). However, I believe the counsel was correct in pronouncing the Pelagian views “anathema”. Certainly most Arminians would too and would reject the claim of being “Pelagian” in their views. However, they can not deny that SOME of their views fall in line w/ the Pelagian heresies. I didn’t mean to take a cheap shot in calling Armenians “Pelagian”, I was simply trying to show that this debate is older than Dort.
    peace
    andy

  11. “So, does God predestine the evil we saw in Saul as he ruthlessly pursues David or was he exercising his own will contrary to God’s desired course, perhaps solely to give rise to the annointing of David? Was the exercise of his will simply a reflection of God’s larger plan? If Saul’s evil was predestined as many interpret it, who is the author of this evil? ”

    How does an Arminian deal with this? I fail to see how this is a Calvinist/Arminian debate particularly because the doctrine of Election is generally specific to matters of Salvation. Any Calvinist, unless they are a hyper Calvinist, would say that man’s “free will” goes against the desires of God all the time (“free will” is in quotes because even free will is in bondage to sin.)

    That doesn’t mean that we are capable of operating outside of the ultimate perfect will of God does it? Or do you think God is working constantly off of plan B? As if He’s saying “Okay I really wanted it to be this way but now I have to work w/ what mankind is giving me to work with” An Arminian would have to be EXTREMELY careful in making such claims, were they to admit this. The logical conclusion of their theology, if they would make such statements, would be to assume they believe God does not forsee the future in perfect clarity.

    Does this make God the author of sin? No. Does it mean that sin is still inside of His perfect plan? It must be some how. We must ALL rely on a certain mystery when dealing w/ the issue of sin. Arminians and Calvinists who view God as completely sovereign must be careful to not credit God w/ the authorship of sin.

    “God judged it better to bring good out of evil than to suffer no evil to exist.”-St Augustine

  12. “Seeing the future in perfect clarity” – what do we mean by the future? Something that has not occurred, so in reality does not ‘exist’? The future (I think) is a wholly human imaginative construction, something to help us organize our thoughts and our lives. It is just as ‘real’ as a fictional character in a novel (or the scribblings on a blackboard).

    God may know everything but he certainly doesn’t know Huck Finn’s shoe size (especially since Huck didn’t wear any 😉 ). He most certainly can determine the the future consequence of every occurrence – if we did not have ‘free will’ – if there was no potential to change our circumstances.

    I cannot see my way around the conclusion that the doctrine of election, in taking away our ability to choose, eliminates any possibility for authentic love.

  13. I don’t mean to sound like an arse, but what you are talking about is open theism. It’s considered by many from both sides of this debate as heresy and most definitely unorthodox.

    Your views on free will are leading you to the conclusion that God has to work and plan around the human will. God is not man’s puppet, having to change His plans and how it’s carried out with the whims of a fallen creature.

  14. “n taking away our ability to choose, eliminates any possibility for authentic love.”

    Hmm. I see the other side of this debate as taking away from the Sovereignty of God, putting salvation back into a works based mindset (I earn salvation by choosing Christ on my own accord), and doesn’t grasp just how damaging sin was to mankind (we are dead to sin, but our will is still capable of doing something that can earn merrit with God, “choosing” Him).

    What is authentic love? Do you think that an unregenerated person is capable of loving God authentically anyway? I fail to see what that has to do with election. The regenerated person, regardless of their view on election, loves God as authentically as sactification allows because we know what Christ did for us at the Cross. I say that the Calvinist view on elect makes us more capable for authentic love because we believe that man’s default destination is damnation. Because we believe that God interfered in that, reached down from Heaven and lifed us up from innevitable damnation, it brings us to a great realization of just what the Cross saved us from.

    Either way, both sides (or maybe I should say all sides) believe that we love Him because He first loved us.

  15. Also, I apologize for thinking you were talking about Saul of Tarsus. This line made me think of the Damascus road:
    “But why would Saul need such pyrotechnical persuasion when for most of us don’t? (if we are fortunate enough to be part of the elect) Hmm.”

  16. Let me share my view of the doctrine of election and authentic love. Since becoming a Christian about 15 years ago I have struggled with what most red-blooded men struggle with. So much so that early in my walk I found myself frequenting establishments with shiny poles in them and I’m not talking about fire stations. I was “throwing my life away” and was not far from losing everything. I eventually came to my senses and got out of harms way and got my life back on track. Since then I’ve come to understand God’s sovereignty in ALL (as in the Arminian “all”, not the Calvinist “all”). Was God holding a gun to my head or pulling my strings causing me to do the things I was doing? No. Was He sovereignly orchestrating events in such a way that I would end up where I am today? Yes. It was part of God sovereign decree that I would fall into the sin that I did and though “I meant it for evil”, He meant it to get me to a Reformed church in a town that didn’t porn shops and strip clubs on every corner.

    Luke 22:22 For the Son of Man goes as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed!”

    That my friends is Calvinsim is a nutshell or more accurately God’s sovereignty, man’s responsibility. I was doing what God had determined but yet I was held responsible. Here’s what I think is going on. Is it not our thoughts that condemn us? When we lust we are guilty of adultery. How many Pharisees followed the letter of the law yet their souls were whitewashed tombs? Does God sovereignly decree all that shall come to pass (in regards to me individually)? Yes. But He does not control what I think about these things. My mind is free give thanks, to grow bitter, to meditate on what God is doing in my life. It is with my mind that I fellowship with God. It is with my mind that I meditate on His word and what its washing is doing in me.

    If we are serious about our faith we come to realize that we sin in even the littlest things, all the time. We also realize that our righteous actions are as filthy rags to God. But would it be a good thing to fall into debilitating self-abasement? No. We must balance the understanding of how sinful we are with how Gracious God is and move on. In a sense our actions whether good or bad (or controlled by the puppeteer) are not the issue. It is what is in our hearts/minds. Does my heart desire complete obedience/allegiance to my Lord and Savior? Of course it does. But I fall miserable short. Yet when I contemplate my sin and God’s mercy I am prompted to action. You will be hard pressed to convince me that the stuff I mentioned earlier was not sovereignly decreed by the will of God. I just realize now that it was part of His plan and purpose for my greater good.

    The Westminster Confession of Faith’s section on Gods Eternal Decrees states “God, from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass: yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.” I believe it. My love for Him is authentic in that I see Him working in my life to complete the work He has begun. I see Him shaping me into the image of Christ though the Blacksmith’s blows and the refiner’s fire can be quite painful sometimes but I rejoice that in the end I will be a vessel created for honor. How can I not love Him?

  17. Sorry Andy – I forgot that remark. That was about Saul of Tarsus. The second comment concerning Paul was about King Saul ( I think that was who Doulous was referencing).

    Open theism? Perhaps partly. Heresy? So you would agree with the heretic Arminian that this is heresy? How effective is that as an argument?

    That being said, certainly God could orchestrate all events so that they would produce his desired result. The bible says that it is his will that all be saved. Certainly that isn’t the case ( I am not a universalist). Can God not effect his own will or does he allow a certain amount of latitude here? Of course, if so, that would be his will as well.

    Ken, is your mind also free to refuse God ? And if so, does that mean then that you were never of the elect?

    Here’s what I think is going on. Is it not our thoughts that condemn us? When we lust we are guilty of adultery.

    Was that Jesus’ point here? I know that this scripture has been commonly used to encourage ‘thought control’; that we need to control our thoughts as well as our actions. It is also used to point out that we are all naturally depraved (which makes sense) but because of this Jesus is telling us that no one should be ‘throwing any stones”. We must not judge.

    Certainly God is sovereign. This does not mean that he ‘must’ determine everything. Why is it unheard of to think that God might require some sort of effort on our part to gain salvation? Perhaps it has more to do with how we have come to see our salvation; a personal reward that comes after we die – a reprieve from a place called Hell. But rewarded for what? Some (many of them Arminians) say the reward comes from turning over our lives to Christ, a definite action. But what of those who are not Christian? Are they doomed? I agree with the Calvinists on this point.

    I said I am not a universalist. I don’t believe that all are saved – certainly some can and will refuse God out of pride( (what other reason could there be?) but that does not mean that I believe there is a hell. If created man is destined for eternal punishment, and he is born with the guilt, what is he being punished for? This is not the God we find in the Gospels (an image that Jesus has come to dispel) and the scriptural support is subject to dispute (we’ll save that for a later thread, huh?)

  18. Christian,
    “So you would agree with the heretic Arminian that this is heresy? How effective is that as an argument?”

    This assumes that I and most other Calvinists believe Arminians are heretics. I believe Arminians are in error but I do not believe they are heretics. I think the hyper Calvinist may be ready to burn Arminians at the stake, but most of us aren’t quite ready to do that yet 😉
    peace
    Andy

  19. “Why is it unheard of to think that God might require some sort of effort on our part to gain salvation? ”

    Because Paul tells us otherwise I believe.

  20. Yes, Paul tells us that we cannot do it on our own. That we cannot earn salvation, that it is a gift. This does not preclude the possibility that God may consider salvation to be a cooperative venture. Not that salvation requires our effort but that God, in his wisdom, requires our effort. Something James suggests. I may have a gift for you, but it is nothing it all if you do not accept it.

    Nor would this preclude the concept of grace, because God could just as easily withhold ‘salvation’ by not reaching down and pull us out of the muck. But our hands must be held out for him to grab.

  21. “Lazarus, come out!”

    Do you think Lazarus was “made alive” and then answered the call?

    Or

    He answered the call and then was “made alive”?

    It seems that if the call comes before being “made alive” it would “fall on dead ears” to coin a phrase.

  22. Interesting point Ken. Why is it we view a physical resurrection of the dead as being different than a spiritual resurrection of the dead?

  23. Andy, doesn’t it make sense to separate physical resurrection from the spiritual since one state is not reflective of the other? In other words, it is entirely possible to live an exemplary physical existence and still not be among the redeemed. This would be the plain reading of the passage (ie. no reflection on Lazarus’ future state.) Do you read it typologically?

  24. Andy, you wrote “Why is it unheard of to think that God might require some sort of effort on our part to gain salvation? ” Because Paul tells us otherwise I believe.

    Isn’t there more to the gospel than Paul? Numerous other authors voice the requirement that we repent and believe – both exertions on our part.

  25. I’m saying that if a physically dead man, and physical death is only a temporary condition, is uncapable of doing anything to raise himsel from the dead, then why would someone who is spiritually dead, a condition which is eternal and much farther reaching in it’s results, be any more capable of doing something to raise themselves?

    Good point about Paul and other authors of Scripture. The more I discuss this topic, I feel like it’s a chicken and egg debate between the camps. If the egg is confession of reliance in Christ for our redemption and the chicken is salvation, I believe that as a Calvinist I’m putting the chicken first. In other words, I repent and confess in Christ because the Holy Spirit has already woke up this dead man. I’m doing it as a result of God’s election. The other side says that salvation is the result of confession and reliance on Christ. So I do believe in repenting and believing, but I believe it’s the result of God’s election. I was only able to do believe and confess and repent because God already resurrected me and cured me of my spiritual condition. See what I mean? Chicken and egg argument!

    Anyway, sorry if these thoughts were jumbled. I am at work and am trying to take care of what I have to do here while writing this post!
    peace
    Andy

  26. Ken, in your declaration of election you posed an interesting mixture of free will (on your part) and sure election to salvation (on the part of the Lord.) Given your (and my and our) sinful behavior, what leads you to believe yourself counted among the elect? Is it because of your love for the Lord? What then of a believer with an equally deep love for God who does not apply your theological framework to his or her understanding of Scripture? Are they self deceived and headed to perdition?

    Why is God’s sovereignty always to be understood in terms Calvinist theology? God sovereignly created His universe and this world the way that he wanted it, but it could not be that He sovereignly created humanity with the will to choose? Is there a scripture that points out the moment following the Fall where humanity was stripped of their will and the freedom to follow it?

  27. Let me ask this. If after the fall man became dead to sin, is there a scripture that would lead us to believe that the will (part of the essence of mankind) is also not in bondage to that spiritual death? For a Calvinist, the result of sin it total and complete in it’s effect on mankind.

    Doulos, it’s so important to know that as Calvinists (and I think I can speak for Ken on this one too), we do NOT believe these are essencial doctrines for salvation. What I mean is, if we’re right and you’re wrong (as the Lord will show you one day hehehe!), it doesn’t mean that you or anyone else is excluded from the flock because of it. Yes these are important issues that we should give thought to and discuss, however man is ALWAYS going to botch up doctrine. It’s only natural that sinful creatures approaching the Divine will have divisions in interpretation and disagreements on these “secondary doctrines”. I think most Calvinists would say (unless they’re hyper calvinists) that if you profess w/ your mouth and believe in your hearts, regardless of your doctrines on election, we can look forward to fellowshiping with you in eternity.

    During the first Great Awakening, there was a story of a “hyper calvinist” approaching George Whitfield and he asked him, “Do you really expect to see John Wesley in Heaven?” Whitfield answered, “No. John will be so much closer to the thrown of God than I could ever hope to get”

  28. Andy, I agree that, from the perspective of personal eternal salvation, in the long run these doctrines will prove to be irrelevant.. But promotion of the idea that God has chosen billions of people for eternal suffering, as a form of punishment for something they had no control over – couldn’t that encourage a mind set that runs counter to the Gospel? As well as generate a very negative picture of God, much less Christianity?

    Why can’t we see the ‘fall’ (is that even a biblical concept?) as a metaphor for the human condition? Does it really boil down to a curse inherited from Adam? I see this ‘curse’ as just another way of describing the struggles that come with free will, when we can discern the difference between sacrifice (right) from selfishness (wrong). To choose the right path we must be capable of this intangible called love. God, especially through Jesus, demonstrates for us what love is.

  29. Even if we were to view the fall this way, all have sinned. Regardless of how we view original sin or “the curse”, everyone who ever lived (except for Christ) has sinned and has done so on their own free will. Is that God choosing someone for damnation or is that ultimately man choosing his own destiny? That’s what we mean when we talk about the “bondage of the will”. It’s in bondage to sin too. It’s not just Adam’s sin, it’s our own. God doesn’t damn anyone. We damn ourselves. The true Calvinist says it’s God who interferes in that self damnation and saves countless people. I don’t think that makes God look bad or unloving, it makes Him look incredibly gracious and merciful. If God were to only save one soul throughout history, that one act of saving one person is more gracious and merciful and loving than anyone could ever image. The fact that God has chosen to save countless souls says so much more about the love of God.

  30. If God were to only save one soul throughout history, that one act of saving one person is more gracious and merciful and loving than anyone could ever image.

    With all due respect, (and I have heard lines like this countless times before) that’s a bit hard to swallow. Why do so many seem to accept this so readily? Well, I doubt if anyone really does. Andy, if you knew that this one saved person just happened to be someone other than your child or your spouse and that your loved ones were doomed to eternal torture, I have my doubts that you would sincerely believe it.

    This idea comes from the supposition that somehow God is beholden to his own legal system of justice, reward and retribution and that God views all offenses equally (another unfortunate byproduct of misreading Matthew 5). The God that has numbered the hairs on our head or notices the falling of every sparrow is so far removed from us and is so holy that he sees no difference between stealing a candy bar and herding people into the gas chambers is a very limiting perspective of God.

    So in his infinite mercy and love he chooses to save a very finite and limited number of his beloved creations? No, he chooses to save all yet not all will be saved because some may choose to refuse his offer. Such a free ability must be intrinsic to the nature he has imbued us, otherwise we would be incapable of selfless love. The idea that God’s offer, coming from the omnipotent, must in some way be impervious to our refusal limits the potential of his own creations.

  31. “Ken, in your declaration of election you posed an interesting mixture of free will (on your part) and sure election to salvation (on the part of the Lord.) Given your (and my and our) sinful behavior, what leads you to believe yourself counted among the elect? Is it because of your love for the Lord? What then of a believer with an equally deep love for God who does not apply your theological framework to his or her understanding of Scripture? Are they self deceived and headed to perdition?”

    I would say that that believer just has a different understanding (albeit, wrong imho) of the mechanics of salvation. If you had to ask the question then you are guilty of one of two things. Not reading my posts or purposely distorting the view of (most) Calvinists. If you understood what (non hyper)Calvinists believed you would also understand that we believe that faith IS the gift that leads to salvation. It is not something that one chooses to exercise or not. It is the means by which God redeems us. If God give you (one of his elect) faith you’ll be saved regardless of which understanding, Arminian or a Calvinist, of what is going on. So why does God give one a measure of faith that buys into Calvinism and one Arminianism? I don’t know. That’s His business. But maybe it’s for this purpose that we are presently engages in. To sharpen each other, to make us delve deeper into our beliefs and not just confess “Jesus died for my sins and that’s all I need to know.”

    1Tim 4:16 Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.

    Having a cavalier attitude toward the necessity/responsibility to seek diligently more than just “the elementary doctrine of Christ” is why the church is in trouble. Why over 70% of “Christians” believe (according to a recent Pew Forum Poll) that many other religions lead to salvation. If the Cal/Arm debate stimulates discussion and forces us to test our beliefs against Scripture over and over again, so be it.

    What leads me to believe that I am counted among the elect? Because when I stand in a blacklight I can see the word “Elect” across my forehead. But seriously folks, because I can see the “new creation”, because I believe the Holy Spirit is testifying to such in my life.

    The other thing that you need to understand it that Calvinists believe that we choose and choose freely. It’s just that we choose according to our ability. A word picture would be, um, let’s say that picking up one thing at a time and setting it on the table is damnation and picking two things at a time and setting them on the table is salvation. Before being born again you only have one hand. After being born again you now have two. When you are one handed you are only able to do the former, when you have two hands you can now do the latter.

    Another thing to understand is that the Calvinists response to the bulk of the prooftexts our Arminian brothers and sisters bring to the table is “I believe that too” and don’t give us grief because we don’t deny what they are saying. On the other hand verse after verse systematically builds a case against the Arminian in regards to man’s ability to grow the second hand.

    The difference between Cal/Arm can be summed up thusly.

    Cal: God regenerates, (make one born again, transfers from light to dark, life to death, circumcises the heart, removes the heart of stone and gives a heart of flesh, what ever you want to call it), man answers the call of the Gospel

    Arm: Man answers the call of the Gospel, God regenerates.

    So the Calvinist does not believe that his Arminian brothers and sisters are condemned. He just believes that they don’t understand the depths to which they have fallen and therefore don’t really understand the magnitude of the price paid for their redemption and the grace God has (irresistibly) extended (maybe imparted would be a better word) to them.

    Another reason I am so adamant about the need to fully understand the doctrine of grace is that I believe that the drift in doctrinal understanding has caused serious woes in the modern church. I am not being patronizing when I say the modern church is messed up and the majority of the modern church is Arminian. It’s just the way I see it. When you see the church youth groups that are full of kids that can’t wait to mack on each other are they Calvinists or Arminians? When you see Christians divorcing at a rate that is equal to the world are they Calvinists or Arminians? When you see Christians involve in sexual immorality are they Calvinists or Arminians? When you see someone abandoning the faith are they Calvinists or Arminians?

    Sorry, I’m just calling ’em like I see ’em.

  32. Ken, you make some excellent points. And as you suggest, the two points of view have more in common than not.

    But when you suggest that an Arminian point of view has led to a collapse in Christian morals I think you are being unconsciously specific in what morals you are holding as important. True, divorce rates are higher, promiscuity is higher (or may just be more in the open) and many people have left the traditional church (if that is what you mean by “abandoning faith”).

    But there is no longer a Christian institution called slavery, there no longer is an American system of government that refuses certain religious people their full rights and there is no longer a credible church denomination that would endorse racism or religious persecution. Prior to the second Great Awakening in the early 1800’s only 7% of Americans claimed any religious affiliation. The majority of our nation’s leaders at the time were at least nominal Christians but those most noticeably at the helm were hardly orthodox..

    I agree that the majority of the church, both Arminian and Calvinist, are messed up. What we have all over the world are individualized cultural bastardizations of the Gospel, and Americanized Christianity is no exception.

  33. Ken, I’m not sure how to read your last missive. It seems simultaneously accusatory and genuinly interested in continuing the conversation. You wrote

    If you had to ask the question then you are guilty of one of two things. Not reading my posts or purposely distorting the view of (most) Calvinists. If you understood what (non hyper)Calvinists believed you would also understand that we believe that faith IS the gift that leads to salvation.

    Certainly, given the breadth of my writing on this site you cannot say either that I do not understand Calvinism nor am I guilty of distorting the theological system. Perhaps some evidence of my caricature would be in order? Otherwise we’ll move forward.

    You also wrote

    (Faith) It is not something that one chooses to exercise or not. It is the means by which God redeems us.

    The sacrificial cross of Christ was the means by which God redeems you. Election (in the Calvinist system) is the list of those upon whom this sacrifice will be effectual. It is here in which the two systems are actually the same in that grace precedes faith (contrary to the garish portrayal that Calvinists attempt to foist upon Arminians as being “man centered.”) Although I appreciate the thought that you have given your position as to why the Lord allows some to believe one way and some the other, I must respectfully disagree. You wrote

    If God give you (one of his elect) faith you’ll be saved regardless of which understanding, Arminian or a Calvinist, of what is going on.

    The reason I disagree is that the Bible clearly spells out over and over that this gift of salvation must be received via repentance and belief. The Calvinist notion of election (irresistible and forced upon the “believer”) does not lead one to this move. The double-predestination of the Calvinist system says that you are elect and saved regardless of your own response while others who may also believe are secretly condemned. This Augustinian belief and those that logically derive from it ( the other four petals of the TULIP) have caused more division in the church and therefore damage than nearly anything else. This is contrary to the commands of Christ for unity among his followers.

    Brother, you also point to a misunderstanding of Arminian belief when you wrote

    On the other hand verse after verse systematically builds a case against the Arminian in regards to man’s ability to grow the second hand.

    Arminius and his followers never, never give humankind abilities that are contrary to salvation by the sovereign grace of God. The ability to receive the gift of salvation is through the grace of God – not through man’s effort as you attempt to portray in your hand-growing picture. Perhaps you could footnote this theological belief so I can study further.

    Finally, you write

    Another reason I am so adamant about the need to fully understand the doctrine of grace is that I believe that the drift in doctrinal understanding has caused serious woes in the modern church.

    To equate the problems in the church with Arminian beliefs is going a bit too far. Most modern churchgoers could no more enunciate the tenets of Arminius than they could name the petals of the TULIP. The problems in the church stem from the cultural infiltration into the Church rather than the church infiltrating culture. Nominal and carnal Christians are the result of weak doctrine of the type that teaches Christ as an insurance policy. I won’t engage in the same list of accusations that you put forth identifying Arminians because I take seriously the words of my Lord:

    “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. (John 17:20-23)

    Be blessed today brother. By the way, have I written anything anywhere that says I am Arminian or is that an assumption based on the questions and challenges I raised?

  34. About my accusatory tone; while I railed against Arminians it is really against modern western Christianity in general but since the bulk of the church is Arminian… Oh well. In reality it goes much deeper than the Cal/Arm issue and would force me to make a post about five or six pages long but in a nut shell I believe “church growth”, prosperity doctrine, youth groups, social gospel, Left Behind, Arminianism, etc. all stem from a defective view of who God is and who man is so it all incurs my wrath. 🙂

    BTW, it seems you view being “accusatory and being genuinely interested in continuing the conversation” as being mutually exclusive. Can’t a guy get a little passionate about his beliefs? In light of the church’s ills doesn’t someone need to be called onto the carpet? When it’s all said and done they’re just words. We can still go have a beer (if one’s conscience/convictions allows for such a thing) afterward.

    “To equate the problems in the church with Arminian beliefs is going a bit too far. Most modern churchgoers could no more enunciate the tenets of Arminius than they could name the petals of the TULIP. The problems in the church stem from the cultural infiltration into the Church rather than the church infiltrating culture. Nominal and carnal Christians are the result of weak doctrine of the type that teaches Christ as an insurance policy. I won’t engage in the same list of accusations that you put forth identifying Arminians because I take seriously the words of my Lord:”

    I agree wholeheartedly with this statement but as I said above I believe it is all interrelated. My view is that at the heart of freewill/Arminianism is “the Fall”. Now keep in mind that I view myself as full of sin and I have my own issues to deal with doctrinal or otherwise so don’t assume that since I’m picking on you/this issue I feel I am above you, more pious, more righteous, etc. Trust me, I (and my wife) know what a wretch I am. Anyway, the flesh reviles the notion that man is not autonomous, not the master of its own destiny. What did the flesh do as soon as it was confronted with the notion that God was in control and had put “limits” on it? Ate the apple. Since then the flesh has kicked and screamed against the notion that it is not autonomous. In debates between (presuppositional) Christians and atheist the underlying current that is running through the debate is whether or not man is autonomous. The Calvinist feels it is this same autonomy/capt of one’s own soul impulse of the flesh that is rearing its ugly head that is behind the notion of (a truly) freewill that the Arminian, well actually the flesh, so tenaciously clings to.

    So let me throw some philosophical thoughts at you. In general, shouldn’t the fact that the world buys into a system wholeheartedly be cause for caution? The Gospel/God’s plan of redemption is a perfect example of God always doing things exactly the opposite of how the world would do it. So when I see the world being so death and taxes about freewill the red flag goes up. Another thing to consider is if freewill is such a given, then why are we continually bombarded by music/media with it? Rush-Freewill, Yes-“Give your freewill a chance” Song after song jams freewill down our throats. Why? Everybody know we have freewill right? How many movies slip it in there? In The Matrix Neo says something to the effect of “not liking being in control” I can’t remember the exact phrase he uses you get the point. The main theme of Minority Report is the notion that one is in control of their destiny. This list of movies/songs that have the vein of freewill/destiny running through them is endless. Why? Just something to think about.

    “The sacrificial cross of Christ was the means by which God redeems you. ”

    God redeems us through the blood of Christ, I know, but (the gift of) faith is the means by which He imparts this redemption to us.

    “The reason I disagree is that the Bible clearly spells out over and over that this gift of salvation must be received…”

    I must have torn those pages out of my Bible because I don’t recall every reading that.

    “The Calvinist notion of election (irresistible and forced upon the “believer” 😉 does not lead one to this move. The double-predestination of the Calvinist system says that you are elect and saved regardless of your own response while others who may also believe are secretly condemned.”

    Come on, we all know that no non-elect would ever “believe”. They are (spiritually) incapable, they only have one hand, remember. But since we’re on the subject of forcing the Gospel on someone did you know that the greek word translated “draws” in the verse “no one can come to the Son unless the Fathers draws them.” is helkyo? In all other instances helkyo is translated dragged like when Paul is getting dragged out of town to get stoned. So if Scripture is to be believed God does indeed drag us kicking and screaming into His Kingdom.

    He can do that, He God you know. 🙂

  35. Sure, but we can still fight back. I’d guess all of us do to some degree. Why is it hat some seem to fight harder while others surrender more graciously. And if we can resist to certain degrees couldn’t it be possible for some to completely resist?

  36. That, my friend is why I believe in Calvinism. We all fight Him, we all hate Him. I’m just glad my salvation is up to Him, His grace, His strength, His love, and not me or else I would be screwed

  37. Thankfully, He God, We not.

    [BTW, Buchanan is playing now on the other computer – how have I missed this guy for all these years? “The Story of Isaac” – too much]

    You left off the “repent and believe” from my statement by accident. Those pages you are missing could be in the first chapter of Mark. I think that in order to better understand the ills of the church we should turn from whether or not one theological framework is right or wrong and turn instead to the Holiness of the church. That is the element of our life in Christ that is missing and it starts with the leadership of the Church. We quite simply do not hold our flocks accountable for their holiness or lack thereof. And when we do, we are punished by the congregation for this emphasis.

    Churches want numerical growth and activities rather than holiness and prayer. The seeker sensitive focus of which Hybel recently rethought has changed the culture of the church to make it largely impotent in affecting the culture around it. Churches want so badly to integrate into the culture around them that they whitewash the difficult parts of being a Christ follower in order to ‘attract’ more people to the gospel. I find it interesting that I have experienced more holiness in churches in the slums of Korea and rural villages in Mexico than I have in many churches in America.

    [So who stole from who – some of this Buchanan is very Blackmore/Purplish]

    Election is understood in a number of different ways, each obviously having an effect on theology. Check out my posts on the differnet perspectives. I understand that you will default to the traditional Calvinist point of view but I’d like to hear your comments on the Scriptural support for the others. Can the non-elect believe? The answer to that is rooted in how you view election, whether it be in Christ or in yourself.

    [BTW, what’s up with Blackmore and his Greensleeves, elf costume thing these days? The original Rainbow at the Berkeley community theater.]

  38. Pingback: Poor, poor Uzzah and The New Cart « Love Acceptance Forgiveness
  39. “With all due respect, (and I have heard lines like this countless times before) that’s a bit hard to swallow. Why do so many seem to accept this so readily? Well, I doubt if anyone really does. Andy, if you knew that this one saved person just happened to be someone other than your child or your spouse and that your loved ones were doomed to eternal torture, I have my doubts that you would sincerely believe it. ”

    I do believe it and I have loved ones who reject the Gospel of Christ venomously. My ONLY hope is in the election of God! It gives me comfort that on the drop of a dime, the Holy Spirit could change their hearts and they would be able to accept Christ.

    I feel like people are thinking the Calvinist believes people aren’t saved because of God electing them to not be saved. The reality for a Calvinist is that man has damned himself because of his sin. It’s not God’s passing over of them in election that damns them.

    I heard this story once. A man is walking through an orchard. Apples were laying all over the ground. As one of the apples fell from a tree, he reached out and grabbed it before it hit the ground. Now, if another man came up and saw this, he surely wouldn’t say, “Why did you throw all these apples on the ground?”

    Kind of a really simple analogy and just like any analogy it has its flaws, but it shows the point. Why, concerning election, do we think the Calvinist view is anything different?

  40. Like you said; no analogy is perfect ( and I am the king of flawed analogies 😉 ) but…

    The man walking through the orchard could not grab all the apples if he tried – God could.

    The man did not make the orchard, nor the apples, nor the law of gravity – God did.

    Did God make the orchard just so apples would fall? Or did God make the orchard to enjoy apples, the nature of which is that they will eventually fall. But just because they’ve fallen does not mean they have no value to him. There’s always apple sauce. (Sorry, I warned you. 😦 )

  41. Mmm. God COULD grab all the apples if He wants to.

    So why doesn’t He? (Is this still on target or are we getting into something else now? ha! I mean we could go into “God doesn’t save everyone because He doesn’t want to violate Man’s free will” to which I could say, “But if we would look at Romans 9 for example when Paul writes that so that grace would be better known to those He does save, He must show His wrath to others” but I’m sure if you’re engaging in this thread now, you’ve engaged in this thread before and probably there is no new argument under the sun for either one of us!)

    At least you didn’t say, “There’s always apple pie.”

  42. Andy, Romans 9 is Paul explaining the tragedy that was Israel and how some within her still remained lost despite repeated calls to repentance and restoration to the covenant. Election in that context is election to vocation, not salvation while his (Paul’s) references to scripture point to the fact that a new group was going to be grafted onto the remnant of the old group – to those who had remained faithful.

    I would agree with Christian’s picture. The apples have done what their design and nature destine them to do; fall from the tree. They still have value to the one who created them.

    Pie requires cooking at high heat right? Let’s avoid that at all costs.

    Peace brothers.

  43. Dang it I ALMOST included in my thread, “Then you will say I’m not taking Romans 9 in its proper context”!

  44. My first choice would have been apple schnapps. Ditto on Doulous and Romans. I am sure you are right about having to agree to disagree. But in the act of (cordially) disagreeing there is almost always something for me to learn. That certainly has been the case here.

  45. BTW Doulos, how do you get your avatar to show up w/ every post on my site and others? I assume you just have to be logged into wordpress all the time?

  46. Yeah I mean, I didn’t mean to reduce the argument to “let’s agree to disagree” because I think it’s clique. I just mean that at some point we have to realize that we aren’t saying anything new to each other.

  47. Thanks for all of your contributions Andy. The avatar of my precious little freak dog is embedded through the WordPress profile. When I go over to blogspot, etc. it doesn’t show up. I’m pretty sure if I came to your blog from outside of my login, it wouldn’t show up either.

    So when do I get to hear some MP3s of TheSuburbanSound? And buy a T Shirt too!

  48. How’d you know about The Suburban Sound?

    We’re working on new demos right now that smoke what we have up on our website (www.thesuburbansound.com there’s a media player on the bottom right hand corner)

    We haven’t had money to make t-shirts in YEARS!

  49. Your email address looked interesting when the comment copied to my email. Having been in the music business at one time, I got nosy and backtracked to your website. I’ll go back and check out the tunes and CafePress brother!

    I’ve got two horns down in the basement right now that I haven’t played in ages, a Cleveland and a Yamaha. I’ve gotten more into the guitar and bass in my later years.

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