24 April, 2006

Destined through Weakness

Nobody changes his theology when everything is going well. It is coping with trials of different types that brings a man to question himself, and to look more deeply into the Word and into his life. So, I would say that why a man changes his theology is more important than whether he does.

That I believe this is not really a surprise, though, since I am a feeler more than a thinker. I am often reminded that I use lots of big words, but they are just masking the reality that I always want to cry, laugh, shout, attack, run, mope, sing, whine, or any other of a long list of emotions. My vocabulary choices are driven by the things I am trying to say. I'm one gigantic emotion on overdrive that only knows how to express itself in words, so I struggle to find words extreme enough for my feelings.

It was emotion that drove me to into predestination's arms in 1983. I know that particular doctrine is supposed to be able to ice any heart, but it didn't feel cold, dry or dusty to me. Predestination was two of the warmest arms I had ever felt pulling me back from the edge of an awful precipice. Predestination was the Eyes of God softly taking in my shame without surprise or regret, and a gentle finger collecting tears that He always knew I would weep. Predestination was Jesus truly accepting me.

For those of you who have never been hit over the head by a Calvinist with a bible, let me explain that predestination is an overloaded word. Overloading is a computer programming term. It means that a single command can mean any number things, depending upon the context in which you invoke it. Calvinists, Arminians, and a host of others invoke predestination from the context of their particular opinions. Like armpits, we all have a couple of those and without attention they can be quite offensive.

Before go into why I embraced predestination, let me try to give brief (if unintentionally stilted) definitions of the Calvinist and Arminian position on predestination. I really want to get on with the post, but I am afraid that if I start without defining this a little bit, someone is going to get lost.

In a Calvinist context, predestination means that God planned out the most-est perfect-est world that His eternal imagination could conceive, and created it from beginning to end. God ordered every thing that ever happened to you. Not just you, but every person who will eventually be saved and every person to be damned was created by God to a certain destiny, and even the path by which they would arrive was predetermined. To be clear, Calvinists do not believe that God forces anyone to be damned against their will, only that He limits His effective mercy to His chosen people.

In an Arminian context, predestination means that God saw the end of His creation from the beginning. He knew who would be born, and He knew whether each of those people would soften their hearts to accept His Love and Grace. He offered His grace to all, but He knew that all would not accept. Those people whom He could foresee would eventually choose Him, He loved and predestined. Predestination to Arminians (and most believers are Arminians) is more about the "ends" than the "means". God predestined the end that we would be saved, but to make it happen He adjusts His plan daily to deal with obstacles thrown up by sin.

In 1982, my context was hard-corps Arminian. I had been given all the proof texts against the Calvinist heresy back in '78, and I was ready to take on any of those scoundrels who might come my way. Of course, there were not many of them, so it never happened. But that was OK! I was ready. I was armed with every doctrine necessary to the perfect life, and the world was mine for the fixing.

I don't even need to say that this did not happen.

No, instead I fell in love, but it didn't go so well. Mine is a typical tale of teen love, except in two things. 1) I know nothing of half-measures. And 2) I had a boatload of unrecognized emotional problems before the relationship problems even started. Somewhere deep down in my soul, a place that was supposed to be strong just wasn't. Only I didn't know it was broken. I thought that people just were supposed to be the way I was.

When the relationship ended in '83, I was shattered. Shattered is really a pretty weak word to describe the boy who was left. Suicide was never an option, because it would have been too happy. Like getting drunk, suicide was a cheap solution to a very important problem, and I like very important problems too much to let this one slip by so easily.

Most of all, in the midst of my shattering, I knew that I should be rejoicing in the Lord.

But I was not rejoicing in the Lord.

Oh, I was praising Him. I was thanking Him. I was worshipping and waiting. You can say words of praise by pure willpower, but week followed week, and there was no joy.

Instead, I was selfish beyond measure, and morose.

In other words, I was failing God and I could not help myself. I could not stop being so weak. I was where I was because I had failed God in the first place. And now that I was here, I was failing Him again, when He had never failed me.

I wept because of frustrated romance, and then I wept because I was weeping. Gradually, I had to admit that I was depressed, and the fact that I could not pull out of this depression began to really work at my conscience.

If there was a weakness in my soul in the area of romantic love, I was a cripple toward failing God. I was terrified of what God must be thinking of me. My sins piled before my eyes like so many bricks between God and my heart. I had been raised to believe that a man could sin unintentionally after 70 years of faithfully serving God, and still be damned. Unrepented sin was unrepented sin. At 12 or so, in '76 or so, I learned about "once saved, always saved" and that was good news, but OSAS was not enough.

I knew that He was a God Who forgives sins, so I repented. I repented especially of unbelief, unbelief in His providence, and unbelief in His patience. God was faithful and just to forgive my sin. And I repented. And He forgave. And I repented. And He forgave. This cycle gets old after a few weeks or months. As quickly as the bricks were gone I had sinned against Him again, and I was blocked from the haven of His presence again.

I knew the verses that I needed to know, and I knew the Psalms. I knew that it was OK to pour out my heart's grievances to the Lord, but the Psalmist always found peace with the Lord by the end of his prayer. I could do that, too. Given a few hours alone, I could pray the Truth back to God until my heart was at peace, and I could sleep. In the morning, though, it was like I had never heard the Truth in my life. I was back at ground zero.

My body and my mind were breaking.

The weeks became months. And the months marked an anniversary, and there was no healing in sight. I was broken with the Truth in my hands, and I did not know what to do. Every now and again some poor soul will say something to me about how suicide is an unforgivable sin. I forgive them, but I never look at them quite the same way again. That is a person who is willing to talk with authority on matters about which they know nothing.

Anyway, this disturbed youth walked into a Christian bookstore in which an old lady ministered. Turns out she was one of those Calvinist heretics I was so well trained to confront, but confrontation requires strength and I was desperately short of that. Instead, I walked out with a pile of books a good foot high. I don't believe I gave her a penny. Whether I did or not would not have mattered. I love her with all my heart to this day.

One of those books was "The Five Points of Calvinism Defined, Defended, Documented". It was fewer than 100 pages, and from page 24 to page 60 it was nothing but scripture. I still have a copy, so I could quote all sorts of great verses on predestination here, but why go off-topic. ;-)

I took that book home with me with all sorts of thoughts in my mind. I had made a friend. I had in my hand a book with which I could argue. That was going to be fun. And I had a niggling doubt.

For almost a year Ephesians 1 had been whispering for attention from the back of my mind. I actually sat in the back of the church one day with some of my Arminian church-mates as they explained away Eph 1:3&4 (Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.) I listened while they made the old arguments, and I had nothing to add. They had done a good job. Nobody was more surprised than I when I said, "Yeah, but it means something. God didn't put those words in there for nothing."

It was like I already knew what it meant for us to be chosen before the foundation of the world, but was not ready to admit it.

I was ready to dig into that little book.

I was not ready for it to dig into me.

I skipped everything and went straight to the scriptures. There were dozens, and I zoomed through them. It was like spinning the dial of a combination lock. I would read a verse, and three or four other verses would come back to mind that seemed to echo or complete the thought of that one. The further I went, the more tumblers fell into place in my mind. Long before I had read the last of those 36 pages, I was a Calvinist and was only settling details.

That was what was happening in my mind.

In my heart, something else entirely was going on.

Rom 5:6-8
6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.


Jesus was speaking to me directly in those Living Words. He was magnifying the cross to take in much, much more than I ever thought possible. The cross was no longer just the place that an infinite supply of grace was made available if I asked for it. The cross was the place that every one of my sins was known and atoned by Jesus. Remember that sin that I feared I would commit when I was 70? Jesus knew that sin. He foreknew that sin, and 2000 years before I committed it, He paid it in full. It was within His plan, and so it was within His sacrifice.

My weakest weakness was fully accounted for in His atoning work, and in His promises. Jesus knew my every betrayal, and He loved me and paid each debt in full before I was ever born. I was arrested.

In the words of a Merrill Womach song (done by many others, but I only know it by him.)
Jesus stood before me
With His arms held open wide
And I fell down on my knees
And just clung to Him and cried.

This message unravelled all my training.

When I was 7, I was taught to choose Christ in order to be saved. I had to trust Him, and give myself to Him. I did this without reservation, and with great joy. At age 12, though, at the same time that I was taught "once saved, always saved," I was taught that I had to "get serious" about my faith. I was supposed to give my life to the Lord "all the way", and to become a disciple. I was supposed to be 100% committed, and on fire for the Lord.

I lived my first dozen years with an all-seeing, all-knowing police-Lord Who expected discipline of his children. When I failed, I was allowed to confess, but Jesus wept over my failures. He had given so much for me, why could I not just overcome my faithlessness with this girl?

As I read 36 pages of scriptures, I could see that the path of false discipline had played itself out in my life. They called it discipline, but really it was just Phariseeism. I was a dry, empty husk of a child trying to be a man. You will certainly tell me that I was just "trying to do it in my own strength," but it was the only strength I was taught. If I tell you "use the electric power drill" but never tell you about power outlets, I should not be surprised when I find you using the drill as a hammer. I was converted in an Assemblies of God church so they talked all day about doing everything in the power of the Spirit, but they lived something much lower. I learned discipline and fear of God young.

At their core, they believed that God had done His part, and now He had sent His Spirit into our hearts so that we could do our part. We were, therefore, responsible now for our part. If we were not doing our part ... [insert shudder here] ... well, we were obviously not trusting the Spirit, and we were not living godly discipline, and we were at risk of hellfire.

Romans 5 amazed me. The Jesus I saw there amazed me. His grace reached much further than I had ever imagined.

... when we were still powerless ...

Sure, the unsaved were powerless, but so was I. I had been walking with the Lord for 12 years, and I had well and truly come to the end of my power. Maybe it was my fault. Maybe I should have been able to walk in the Spirit and take victory over these thoughts that ruled my mind and my life, but I was not that man. I was powerless.

... Christ died for the ungodly. ...

Maybe He died for the godly, too?

...for a good person someone might possibly dare to die...

This truly was not my case. I was not a good person, and not a person for whom anyone should die.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Yes, I thought, maybe. I thought maybe Jesus died for believers, too. I was saved, but I was still a sinner. Maybe God's love was such that even after I was saved, He still loved me. Maybe Jesus went up to that cross as much for me after I was saved as He had gone there for me before I was saved. I had believed (whether I was taught it or brewed it up on my own I don't remember) that God loved sinners, but that He expected believers to do better. He grew impatient with believers. He grew distant from believers. He left believers who would not submit to His providence.

Maybe God was going to dump me.

But Jesus died for sinners, even sinners who were still sinners.

God had predestined not only my salvation, but my life. He had set before me every struggle, and He had set before me a time of overcoming it. Maybe those two didn't have to happen in the same instant. If He had predestined these things that came into my life, and if He had known and paid for every one of my sins before I ever actually committed them, maybe He could do this amazing thing. Maybe, He could trust me with a trial that was destroying me, because He had complete faith in His ability to carry me through it.

You see, the core difference between Arminianism and Calvinism is that Arminians accidently teach that God has to hope that I have enough faith to overcome. God has no basis for such a hope in my experience. Calvinism teaches that God gives me all the faith I need to do all He has asked of me. I cannot go to God until He has first come to me and given me the faith I'm going to need.

Eph 2:8
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God

As an Arminian, I was past doubting that I might fail the test of my 19th year. I was certain. I had done failed, and was only waiting to see whether my failure would result in damnation or merely shame. I believed that God was hoping that I would have the faith to get over this girl, but I did not. Yes, I knew that God never lays anything on us beyond what we can bear, but that was scant comfort when I needed faith to bear it, and I had run out. This clearly was beyond what I was able to bear.

That little book, with it's 36 pages of verses, showed me over and over that God in Christ took upon Himself the responsibility for my success or failure. Verse piled upon verse presenting God as wholly and totally victorious. There is not one verse that shows God mourning because He failed to deliver one of His beloved children. I was His, and He would deliver me.

Rom 8:29
For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.

We were not merely predestined to make it to heaven. We were predestined to be made like Christ. We were predestined to run the entire course, and to run it well. We all don't run it the same, some 100-fold, some 60, and some 30, but we all run it to the glory of the Father.

Rom 8:30
And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

A 19 year old sat in his room, and dealt with the fact that God had accomplished everything for which he was striving. It was hard for me to lay down the pride of someday "overcoming for God", but having utterly failed made it a little easier. I could not overcome, but God already had. I saw that "those" included me, and that God had done everything that needed doing. In Paul's mind, these things were finished. The Father glorified "those" when He glorified Christ. That 19 year old boy was glorified.

Rom 8:31
What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

God was for me, and He would never repent. I did not earn His favor before I was saved, and I could not lose it afterward.

All those verses about rest really meant something, finally. If it was God in Christ reconciling the world and me to Himself, then I did not have to take on the load of maintaining that reconciliation. Jesus finished it. God was not hoping that I would live up to His standard, but He had ordained that I would, and He had put the infinite weight of His mercy to work ensuring that I did. Christ was made All in All for this.

I was safe.

---

So now you know why I am a predestinationist.

So how did the story end? Becoming a Calvinist did not get me over that girl. The trials went on for another 4 years, and were every bit as hot. I thought I had cut the Gordian Knot when I married, but I failed in that, too. The Lord mercifully walked with me through day after day, and I failed over and again. I experienced no more success as a Calvinist than I did as an Arminian, but the nights were not as black.

I finally knew that God was not walking away, and that saved my life. Suddenly it was not more than I could bear. God was no longer the One in heaven Whom I most often disappointed, and least wanted to. He was the One Who had ordered my life before me, and Who could wait patiently while I slogged through each failure. I could rest, knowing that He had guaranteed He would be glorified in what He was doing in me. I did not frustrate the grace of God.

It was almost a quarter century later, on 14 Feb 2006, that I finally gained a little insight into the root of that problem that had afflicted me since before I can remember. (I know because in my excitement I dashed off an overly hasty letter 2 days later that marks the event in my outbox.) If the Lord had told me in '83 how much longer it would take, and how many more people would be hurt, I don't know what I would have done. He knew. He had ordained it. I repent the slowness of my heart, but I nestle more fiercely in His promise, and rest.

---

I have hardly included any scripture here that defends, defines or documents Calvinism, but I am open to having that discussion. We will solve nothing, but there is value in discussing the Lord and His ways. The fact that we don't understand aright is often used to discourage discussion, but it should encourage it even more.

Don't be surprised if I am no longer a Calvinist per-se. I have never read Calvin (and probably should), but I know that I disagree with some of the conclusions of his recent champions. I am also shamed by the graceless attitudes of many of those who would defend the truths that have done so much to keep my soul.

That said, it would be a fun chat.

---

Regarding a possible requirement for a doctrine of predestination in the Familyhood Church (did such a figment exist)....

Absolutely, yes. You must believe in predestination. I mean, come on! It's a word right there in the bible! You have to believe in it. :-) Of course, we may not exactly see eye-to-eye when it comes time to define predestination...

I am currently fellowshipping with a church of Arminians (except for a couple who used to be Calvinists and who have rejected predestination) and we all love each other.

Still, I gotta be me. I cannot offer any advice to a believer in time of trouble without reference to God's sovereign plan. If a Familyhood Church existed, and if they would let me be what I have to be, that would be enough for me. I don't need anyone to agree with me, as long as I am accepted by my brothers and sisters. Predestination is one of those mysteries hidden beyond the veil. Discussing it rightly warms our hearts toward God, but requiring anyone to hold one specific theory of how it happens is unjustified. We just don't know enough.

Lord bless!

24 comments:

Milly said...

Codepoke,

as long as I am accepted by my brothers and sisters. You have this sister.

I think that some looking to blame or turn against God might easily use predestination as a way. I’ve been asked why God lets the horrible things happen I’m sure most Christians have heard something like “Where was your God when that man parked that truck in front of the day care knowing the children were in it?” (My God was preparing Heaven and about to comfort those who looked to Him.)

I didn’t comment for an argument I know that we have to arm ourselves like you have to tell them where God is. I’m not so sure about how I stand on this subject, in fact I haven’t given it much thought ‘till now. Brain food. *-* Thanks brother.

DugALug said...

Codepoke,

I love your topics Codepoke. I have to say that I think that I have equal problems with both the Calvanaist and the Aminian veiw of Predistination. What I am going to say here is strictly Doug-theology. I say this to point out that this may be a heretical statement. I don't believe it is, but it is amazing how entrenched people get on this subject: it is a true denominational polarizer and it shouldn't be.

I haven't been taught this, and I haven't come accross a teacher that expresses it in this manner.

I think there are two ideas put forth in traditional predestination thinking that are flat out wrong:

Fault #1: God is bound by time: The whole predistination idea (both the Calvanistic and the Aminian theory) hinges on this simple notion: it starts with the saying 'In the beginning'.

We, as humans base our understanding of time on what we observe. Time is linear in nature: one event occurs after the next. We look at life as a series of homonious threads that co-exist, and are automonomous, yet synchronized.

For some reason, we assume that God operates in the same fashion. I cannot accept this and here are two simple examples of why.

Firstly, I believe that God answers prayer. There are numerous examples of God having armies show up at just the right time. Gideon's steps, for example, were directed by God. Would the handful of men that He took be able to outsmart so many hardened troups without conditions that were nearly perfect? God showed him what, how and when to attack to throw the enemy's army into chaos. Unless God had foreknowledge of the 'conditions' that Gideon would see when sneaking about the enemy's camp. this daring plan would have been foiled before it even started.

Secondly, there is prophecy. The prophecies of Jesus' life were so specific that knowledge of the future would be mandatory. From Moses, to Isaiah, to Malachi, each one gave specific God-directed accounts of what to look for in the coming Messiah. Christ fullfilled these propheisies to the letter.

If God's plan were an ever-evolving event, predicitng Jesus' entry into this world would be completely impossible.

Removing time from God's equation also answers some questions about scriptures such as in Job, where Lucifer and God are talking. How could this be when he was already cast out of God court?

I mentioned in another post that Daniel shared a vision of a wheel within in a wheel. It seems like such an odd vision, but I see this as a vision of trying to explain time. We are bound to the inner wheel, where God has access to all time, all of the time: the outer wheel.

Fault #2: God knowing and accounting for our decision precludes free will. Our free-will is in no way compromised by God knowing our decision. We don't know our decision, so it matters little that God is fully aware of all that we will say or do. That doesn't mean we are puppets in a play, it means that our choices have already been weighed and taken into account.

It does allow us to understand that when we have made the decision, by our free will, to receive Christ, that we are redeemed, past, present, and future.

Taking the predestination scripture found in Ephesian 1, and removing all the clauses. We end up with a sentence like:

God chose us in Him (aka Christians), to be spotless and without blame.

In other words, He chose (predestined) Christians to be the litmus for sanctification.

So here is the core of my belief on the subject of predistination:

A) God is Ominpotent, Ominiscient, and isn't bound by time or any of the other physical laws that we, as humans are bound to.

B) The roadmap through time has been lovingly mapped out by God. He has a plan that takes into account, all prayers, all 'natural' event, and all choices that we have made by our own free will.

C) All humans are subject to His plan, and we are all also part of fullfilling it.

D) The fact that He knows the plan does not mean that he chose the fate of every human. It means that he knows the fate and has taken that into consideration.

Wow, I don't think I have ever bothered to articulate this completely before. I hope this makes sense.

I do want to say that if we are completely wrong and Calvanism is correct, or Arminian thought is more appropriate, we are still called to recieve God in His fullness. Since we do not know the final outcome of our decision, it still requires us to do as God has directed us and to have faith, so predistination, as a whole, is simply arbitray in terms of our life and purpose on this earth.

All of this pretty easy to back with scriptures too, but I figured I had taken enough of your comment space.

God Bless,
-Doug

japhy said...

I believe that, since God is outside space and time and we are bound in them, the term of predestination (which makes use of the prefix "pre" for "before", and the word "destiny" as in "destination") is a tricky term to define to satisfy both God and man. My actions are of my own free will; that God, who is outside of time, sees them does not mean He has chosen them for me, just that He does not have to "wait" for me to make them. (I pretty much agree with C. S. Lewis on the topics of free will and predestiny.)

Furthermore, predestiny becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. If I believe that God has already decided if I am to be saved or not, I can either become incredibly elated or unconsolably depressed. I don't know what God's choice about me was, all I know is that it's not up to me. As far as scripture relating to the topic -- Psalm 139, Ephesians 1 -- I believe they make sense outside of a predestination context (and therefore, they do not imply predestiny).

I believe that God calls us, each and every one of us, and that it is up to us to respond. God wants you to respond, but that is God's will and not always ours. I believe the culmination of God's will -- the salvation of those who believe in Him -- will be met, regardless of our individual decisions.

When I hear "predestiny", the first thing I think is "God willed Hitler to kill the Jews" or "God willed that church to collapse and kill everyone inside it during worship" or "God willed some woman to drown her children in the bathtub" -- that last example is even worse since some of those people say God told them to do it. The response I often hear about such events is that now they aren't in pain, they're with God, etc. I personally find it very hard to come to grips with that sort of "plan". I know God's ways are not mine, I just find it hard to believe that God's ways are those ways.

Weekend Fisher said...

Moving. Thanks for posting.

I'd dispute that "most people are Arminians" though. Statisically I'd bet most Christians are neither Calvinist nor Arminian.

God calls each and every one of us through Christ, and the encounter with Christ carries with it both the grace to respond and the power to respond, neither of which are in us, apart from Christ. Yet Christ is not irresistible.

codepoke said...

Wow. Ya'll are really fast readers!

codepoke said...

Milly,

as long as I am accepted by my brothers and sisters. You have this sister.

Praise the Lord!

I think that some looking to blame or turn against God might easily use predestination as a way.

Ah, yes. You are right, according to Rom 9:19 - One of you will say to me: "Then why does God still blame us? For who is able to resist his will?"

Paul wastes no time with such people, Rom 9:20&21 - 20 But who are you, a mere human being, to talk back to God? "Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, 'Why did you make me like this?' " 21 Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for disposal of refuse?

It is a worry. I can only answer for me. That God has done such a wonder for me has never tempted me to offend Him. I've always had plenty of other, less refined reasons to be tempted. :-(

Brain food. *-*

I feel so behind-the-times! Are horizontal smileys "in" now? You sure have some good ones. :-) Or *v*

codepoke said...

DugALug,

What I am going to say here is strictly Doug-theology.

Well, this is definitely a "share your ignorance" session if I'm the standard!

Fault #1: God is bound by time:

I agree. God is not bound by time. He sees all of time from beginning to end the way we see a picture from left to right - or from right to left, or top to bottom. We are ants on the string of time, and He is holding it.

So prophecy is easy. God doesn't "foresee"; He just sees. Prayer is a little harder, because if God already planned to take out Gideon's enemies, then why must Gideon pray? Well, that brings us to Fault 2, I think.

Fault #2: God knowing and accounting for our decision precludes free will.

I agree again. God lives out His will in union with ours. He knows us intimately enough to pull that off.

I am still going to look at this a little differently, though.

Based upon all I know of Codepoke before I was saved, and at age 19, and now, and what I know of the scripture, I don't believe that any of us can choose God. I mean that.

The classic Arminian position is that God is wooing souls, and hoping that they will come to Him. My position is that God woos every soul - some more and some less, but every single soul - knowing that none of them will answer His call. Some, though, He gives a new heart. Those with the new heart can and do come to Him. Those with the new heart cannot not come to Him, any more than a newborn baby can reject his mother.

The issue to me is not time at all. The issue is life. There was no life in me, and then there was. From the moment He put His Life into me, I cried out for Him.

Is God inside or outside of time? It's a moot point. Can a sinner have faith that God did not give him? No.

Like you said.

I do want to say that if we are completely wrong and Calvanism is correct, or Arminian thought is more appropriate, we are still called to recieve God in His fullness.

Amen. I am ridiculously convinced that I'm right, but it would not be the first time I'd felt that way and been wrong.

codepoke said...

Japhy,

A couple more people agree with Mr. Lewis, than with me. :-)

My actions are of my own free will; that God, who is outside of time, sees them does not mean He has chosen them for me, just that He does not have to "wait" for me to make them.

To repeat a little, I agree that you have a free will. I only disagree that God's wooing is sufficient for you to ever choose Him. He must make you alive before you can stretch out the hand of faith to grasp hold of Him. He must make that first, effective move, and after you have been made alive you will always chase Him.

God willed Hitler to kill the Jews" or "God willed that church to collapse and kill everyone inside it during worship" or "God willed some woman to drown her children in the bathtub"

I don't know how to answer this. On the one hand, I can quote scriptures that you already know saying that God does in fact bring calamity. On the other, God hates the calamity, the damage, and the people who bring it. Our God has a heart of compassion.

The same goes for the children Milly mentions. I don't know her story, but I assume those children in the truck suffered in some way. God suffers the death of His children, and He loves His enemies. As a Mother Hen, He would gather His children under His wings, only they will not come.

But, Jesus says,

John 10
25 Jesus answered, "I did tell you, but you do not believe. The works I do in my Father's name testify about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. 27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all [c]; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand. 30 I and the Father are one."


Those who did not come to the Son, did not come because they were not His sheep. It would seem more natural were it the other way around, wouldn't it? "Because you are not My sheep, you do not come to me." But that is not what Jesus said. He said that those who are not His sheep do not come to Him, and every one that the Father gives to Him will come to Him.

It's not a time issue to me, but a Life issue.

Does any man have Life in him such that he can have faith in God?

John 1:12,13
12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God.


These did receive Him, but they received Him not of any human decision, but of God's decision. We receive Jesus because we are born of God.

Eph 2:10
For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.


It is in Christ that we are created alive. It is in Christ that we are prepared for good works. It is before the foundation of the world that we received these blessings in Christ. Yes, God works outside of time, but whenever-wherever-however it happens, it happens before we exercised our will and our faith.

John 5:21
For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it.


The Son is pleased to give Life to all whom the Father has given Him.

Even the next verses really say that one must be alive to believe.

John 5:24
24 "Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.


The one who believes "has" eternal life, not "will have" eternal life.

None of this was an accident. It was the way God worked in Jesus.

Luke 8:10
He said, "The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables, so that,
" 'though seeing, they may not see;
though hearing, they may not understand.'


and

John 6:65
He went on to say, "This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them."


We must have faith and repent, but we don't have those two gifts unless we are given them by Jesus and by the Spirit.

Acts 5:31
God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might bring Israel to repentance and forgive their sins.


Acts 16:14
One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul's message.


---

That's an awful lot of verses for a comment, Japhy. I'm not sure you asked for all that.

When I was 18, I knew the Arminian answers to some of these verses. I was arrogant enough to think I knew the answers to all of them, but I didn't even know half of them were in the bible! Nonetheless, I know that each of these verses can be interpreted in more ways than I am seeing.

If I believe that God has already decided if I am to be saved or not, I can either become incredibly elated or unconsolably depressed.

This has been a problem for a long time. I think, like in my case, that the fault is with the person, not the doctrine. I became incredibly elated and unconsolably depressed as an Arminian. In my case, it was fear that I had not met the Lord's standards. In the case you mention, it is that I am not chosen. But it's Satan working with whatever weakness he finds in our hearts and minds to drive us to despair.

I believe that God calls us, each and every one of us, and that it is up to us to respond.

Many Calvinists almost seem to teach that coming to the Lord is redundant. I'm sure they don't mean it, but it sure sounds like they are saying that the Lord has saved His people, no matter what they do. I'm not there. We must come to the Lord. I agree.

codepoke said...

Weekend Fisher,

I hope this discussion encourages, as opposed to discouraging, you in your much more thorough work on this subject.

I'd dispute that "most people are Arminians" though. Statisically I'd bet most Christians are neither Calvinist nor Arminian.

I'm sure you are right that most people would not agree with all the points of classic Arminianism, so I stand corrected.

It seems that most Christians I meet believe that if God must move first and effectively in saving men, then free will is violated, and God would never do that. That seems to me to shade over toward Arminianism.

God calls each and every one of us through Christ, and the encounter with Christ carries with it both the grace to respond and the power to respond, neither of which are in us, apart from Christ. Yet Christ is not irresistible.

By, "us," I assume you mean God calls both those who will be saved and those who perish equally?

I don't know whether you will comment here, or on your site, but I look forward to either. Your position that election stands firm, but in Christ, is exciting.

I look forward to hear:
- How election can be in Christ, but resistible?
- How the grace and power to be saved can be given to some, and it not be effective.

I'm sure your posts will continue to be edifying, and if I disagree I hope it will only be more fun. :-)

codepoke said...

DugALug,

I figured I had taken enough of your comment space.

HAHAHAHAHAHA!

japhy said...

As far as people being chosen by God or called by God, consider God's first "chosen people", Israel. Although there were many rough spots along the way, they were God's chosen people to whom He was sending their Messiah.

And what did they do? For the most part, they rejected Jesus outright. Some were his followers, and some were interested in him for a time, but most of them thought of him as a blaspheming "prophet". And so many of the first to enter the new covenant in the blood of Jesus Christ were non-Jews!

That, I believe, is the message behind the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes. Nevermind how the miracle was carried out, focus on the impact: whereas there was only food for a handful of people, everyone there was fed, and there was enough left over for more. The loaves and fishes represent (in my interpretation) to be the message of the new covenant, symbols of the Eucharist (which was not yet instituted). I believe the miracle showed the infiniteness of God's call, that even though the "expected crowd" was so small, the harvest was abundant enough for all that came, and then some!

I agree that no one comes to the Father without the Father calling that person first, but how am I to know how God calls us? I might think I am the one making the first move by dropping to my knees one night and saying "God forgive me and lead me!", but it is probably God that has taken advantage of the certain point in my life and the Holy Spirit already working to inspire me to seek God. But I don't think God is selective in who He calls! I think it's a little selfish to believe that God wants you to be saved and not your neighbor; even worse would be if you neglected to witness to your neighbor because you felt God didn't "want" him!

It is our mission to preach the Gospel to the world; it is the world's decision to listen or to harden their hearts. We are the instruments of God's will, not the spectators.

codepoke said...

I think it's a little selfish to believe that God wants you to be saved and not your neighbor;

Well, yeah, unless God said exactly that. 1 Cor 1:27 "But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong."

If God said that, then my only claim to fame is being foolish and weak enough for God to use me to shame those who are much better than I am.

even worse would be if you neglected to witness to your neighbor because you felt God didn't "want" him!

Who said anything about not witnessing? Rom 10:14 "How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?"

It is our mission to preach the Gospel to the world; it is the world's decision to listen or to harden their hearts. We are the instruments of God's will, not the spectators.

Amen.

japhy said...

I interpret 1 Cor 1:27 to mean that it is through the shaming of the wise and the strong by the foolish and the weak that they come to see how Christ works through us: the first shall be last, the last shall be first. It is in the humble who have received the grace of God that the haughty are astonished. So I interpret that passage to mean that it is through us who have already come to Jesus that others (who think themselves above such things) are inspired to fall to their knees and ask forgiveness and to be given a new heart.

As for Rom 10:14, Paul himself was preached to by Christ! Therefore, let us not assume that Christ only comes to others through one of us; Christ himself can break through our hardened hearts.

Kansas Bob said...

This is sublime ...

"Nobody changes his theology when everything is going well. It is coping with trials of different types that brings a man to question himself, and to look more deeply into the Word and into his life. So, I would say that why a man changes his theology is more important than whether he does."

I guess the issue of theology in your story was not that important to me ... and I am pretty theologically oriented ... I guess what I focused on was a story of my brother codepoke ... I was moved by your story ... your struggle for faith and for relationship with God. In the end faith is all about the struggle of believing that God really loves us ... that message came across. Thank you for sharing ... thank you for being transparent and vulnerable. Love you codepoke.

DugALug said...

Codepoke,

This is great stuff. Thanks for letting me muttle around with my theology. I believe we are all an unfinished work in progress.

I can't agree with you more about God wooing all souls. The invitation is open to all.

I don't think I understand the rest of the statement in this paragraph.

Firstly, faith comes from my free will hense I can add {} to: {my} Faith comes by {me} hearing and {my} hearing comes through the {hearing of the} Word of the Lord. I don't see how our faith comes from God. The scriptures show that God is faithful, and thus we can have faith that He is what He says He is. But the act of faith comes from me.

Remember when Jesus went to his home town and couldn't perform miracles because of 'their lack of faith?' God's involvement in our life is limited by our faith.

When we act in faith, God is faithful and changes our heart so we are more receptive to His call. Plain and simply: it is easier for a Christian to hear and respond to God's calling.

Still, even my faith, or lack therof, has been taken into account in God's plan. Gideon still had to pray. The fact that God had already put things in place BEFORE he prayed doesn't preclude the fact that God did this in light of knowing that Gideon would pray when he did.

The peices of this puzzle fall into place because they were designed to, not because the edges are flexible enough to accomodate changes.

I wish I could pick stocks that way!

All of this to say that I think you have tripped yourself if you believe yourself to be a Calvinist. If what you have written in these posts is from your heart, then like me, you are neither.


God Bless,
-Doug

Rich said...

Finally cut out enough time to read this, codepoke, and boy was it well worth it.

I guess I'm just echoing Milly and Kansas Bob -- you can call yourself or not call yourself whatever the heck you like and I can call myself or not call myself whatever I like -- nothing's gonna change that you're my brother in Christ. Nothing.

The theology is fun sometimes and not so fun sometimes to discuss (and I believe there's a lot of benefit in it if everyone is open to listening), but when it comes down to it, we have to love each other and everything takes second place to that.

Love the Lord. Love your neighbor. Love your brothers/sisters in Christ. Love your enemies. The theology always comes after those, and if it seeps in before, then we need to refocus.

Thanks for the vulnerable and open spirit in telling these events. My heart goes out to you in the romantic pieces of your life. I can empathize, and certainly I sympathize.

You are loved.

codepoke said...

In the end faith is all about the struggle of believing that God really loves us ... that message came across

Thanks, Kansas Bob. The Lord has been utterly faithful, every day of my life. Of course with feeble knees like mine, almost any little creek is flood ;-), but He has seen me through it all. He has even almost convinced me that He really does love me. Amazing how hard that can be.

codepoke said...

Japhy,

Christ himself can break through our hardened hearts.

Praise the Lord, he broke through ours!

Thanks, Japhy.

codepoke said...

DugALug,

All of this to say that I think you have tripped yourself if you believe yourself to be a Calvinist. If what you have written in these posts is from your heart, then like me, you are neither.

LOL!

I have recently taken to calling myself a 5-point non-Calvinist, so I will take your conclusion as gospel for a little while, anyway. :-D

codepoke said...

Nothing's gonna change that you're my brother in Christ. Nothing.

That means a lot, Rich. Thanks.

Maeghan said...

Codepoke,
Looks like I am a sloooww reader :)
haha ... not really, I have this bad habit of being a scan reader, so by the time I scan midway through a long one like this one, I'd be lost and have to go back! (which I have done many times over for the last 10 minutes)

I like this post - I think there are gems in there.

Nobody changes his theology when everything is going well. It is coping with trials of different types that brings a man to question himself, and to look more deeply into the Word and into his life. So, I would say that why a man changes his theology is more important than whether he does.

Well said.
There also those who stick by their theology no matter what happens, even though at the back of their mind, they know what they believe in is not too right.
There are also those who refuse to test and try what they believe in. In blind unreasoned belief, they do not believe that theology is important, just believe; God would want everything to be simple for more people to believe and trust in him.

So, I would say that why a man changes his theology is more important than whether he does.

This crossed my mind and sorry I can't help but to include!! In the same way why a woman cut her hair is more important than that she did and how she looks now. (Correct me if I am wrong ladies, I seem to think whenever we cut our hair, there is an underlying reason and style is not one of them. Style is just the result. Men, a tip for you: take the clue and find out why. Your spouse or partner may love you even more as a result)

Anyway, back to the rightful topic :)
This debate of Calvinism and Arminianism is still hot among the younger generation in my church. My take is that I do not know enough of either of them to label myself with any. Though most of my friends insist that I am an Arminian. I do not think so, but I am sure I am not a Calvinist either because I do not believe in "once saved always saved" for example.

I like your succinct definition on the two.

On Calvinism:
He limits His effective mercy to His chosen people.

I don't agree with that. I still believe that God's grace is given to all to be received by those who believes him. He does not limit it.

On Arminianism:
God predestined the end that we would be saved, but to make it happen He adjusts His plan daily to deal with obstacles thrown up by sin.

I don't agree with that either. I don't believe that God adjusts His plans. He is an unchanging God. I take it that God is mysterious to us with his ways higher than ours. How he does is, will be beyond us.

the core difference between Arminianism and Calvinism is that Arminians accidently teach that God has to hope that I have enough faith to overcome.

Arminianism really teaches that? I don't buy it. God is the sovereign God albeit loving; therefore beholden to no one.

Calvinism teaches that God gives me all the faith I need to do all He has asked of me. I cannot go to God until He has first come to me and given me the faith I'm going to need.

Yes, I can buy that.

I have hardly included any scripture here that defends, defines or documents Calvinism, but I am open to having that discussion. We will solve nothing, but there is value in discussing the Lord and His ways. The fact that we don't understand aright is often used to discourage discussion, but it should encourage it even more.

My take is that sometimes it would be aimless in trying to do so, especially if both parties are so adamant in trying to protect their belief, not wanting to see anything else but their own. Until and unless, everyone allows his own belief to be vulnerable and take the risk, discussion will be futile. Only then, will there be value in dicussion in our strife to know the Lord better.

Absolutely, yes. You must believe in predestination. I mean, come on! It's a word right there in the bible! You have to believe in it. :-)

Yup ... I believe in it. Just what and how, I am still working it out. I wrote a whole paper on it but in Paul's perspective. The gist of my paper was that Paul's intention in mentioning predestination at least in Ephesians is quite different from all these we are concerned with.

Still, I gotta be me. I cannot offer any advice to a believer in time of trouble without reference to God's sovereign plan.

Agreed ... neither could I. God is severeign and God is sovereign. Only that it is rather difficult for us to explain it; in combination with his love and mercy, our prayers and all.

I don't need anyone to agree with me, as long as I am accepted by my brothers and sisters. Predestination is one of those mysteries hidden beyond the veil. Discussing it rightly warms our hearts toward God, but requiring anyone to hold one specific theory of how it happens is unjustified. We just don't know enough.

Well said again. You open and end well: the gift of an excellent writer :)

(And now that I have "un-quieted" myself - I only hope it is profound enough!)

Maeghan

Maeghan said...

Wow ... I don't believe I have taken so much space! Gotta go now -I have my vocal class in 1/2 an hour's time.

codepoke said...

Maeghan,

In the same way why a woman cut her hair is more important than that she did and how she looks now. (Correct me if I am wrong ladies, I seem to think whenever we cut our hair, there is an underlying reason and style is not one of them. Style is just the result.

!!!!!!!

Thank you! I have long suspected this, but everyone tells me I'm nuts.

Men, a tip for you: take the clue and find out why. Your spouse or partner may love you even more as a result),

Narrow is the gate that leads to life. :-(

I could never get through the "I just like it" barricade. Obviously, the divorce would indicate that it was not the only barricade, but still a great tidbit to throw in. Thanks!

codepoke said...

Maeghan,

(Back to the other subject. :-)

I still believe that God's grace is given to all to be received by those who believes him. He does not limit it.

I don't believe that God adjusts His plans. He is an unchanging God. I take it that God is mysterious to us with his ways higher than ours. How he does is, will be beyond us.

God is the sovereign God albeit loving; therefore beholden to no one.


You've hit the nail of the problem right on the head. How do all three of your statements work together is the question. If He does not limit His grace, then either 1) How come it fails for so many people? or 2) How come it succeeds for anyone? Profound enough for me!

Arminians accidently teach that God has to hope that I have enough faith to overcome.

Arminianism really teaches that? I don't buy it.


As Weekend Fisher point out, most people are neither Arminian nor Calvinist. FWIW, the actual 5 Articles of the Remonstrance are on Wikipedia.

The issue with them is not so much what they say, as what they don't say. They say that nobody can be saved without God's gracious intervention. They also say that even with God's gracious intervention people can fail to be saved. They can resist the calling of the Spirit. They don't say how God knows who to predestine

If God can "do His best" to give grace to all men equally, and if it is up to the man to decide whether or not He will accept that grace, then God has to hope for each man's salvation. Some men truly strive against God and win, to God's great disappointment.

In the Arminianism of *my* youth, this was an understatement. I believed that God pled with the souls of men, and that His heart was broken each time someone died outside of repentance. Furthermore, I believed that the pain God felt at the death of almost every soul that ever crossed my path would be laid by Him at my feet.

Yeah. I had a little trouble with global guilt as a child. I don't know how much better I am now. ;-)

It gave me great peace to see God the way I do now. I can't wait to see what I learn next!

Thanks for unquieting, and for the kind words.