Charles, with whom I spent 20 hours or so during my forced layover in Chicago and San Fran, has also been struggling on the subject of predestination. He has a great deal of respect for many Calvinist preachers, but still cannot accept the core principles of Calvinism. That's cool, of course, and made for hours of get-acquainted fun.
Charles also has a tremendous command of scripture. He has huge swathes of it memorized, and by memorized, I mean that he quotes text and reference and then text and reference of every cross-referenced verse as well. I could be more jealous, but I cannot imagine of what. What a wonderful way to spend 20 hours. :-)
I was hammered.
Charles beat my version of Calvinism senseless, and not just by using the same old verses. Charles threw out whole new arguments against irresistible grace, connections I had never heard before. If I am a regeneration-based Calvinist, I would describe him as a "believe"-based non-Calvinist. He placed the act of believing before the gift of regeneration time and time and time again.
I need a little time alone with the scripture before I decide whether I am going to step back from my ideas around regeneration, but I have never been closer to doing so. I look forward to a chance to bounce these thoughts off my mother in the Lord in a couple days. I'm sure she will have something to say. :-O
Forgive me if this is of limited interest to most of you, but I am going to go into a little more detail anyway. I hate to drive anyone to something more interesting (like weather statistics for Antartica) but I just have to record these thoughts anyway.
Between Weekend Fisher, Jonathon Edwards, and Charles I have had a lot to think about on this subject. I have expanded my understanding of regeneration a great deal in the last 3 months. I formerly believed that the Spirit just miraculously made us alive in Christ at a time of His own choosing. I have come to see how the Spirit uses the living Word of God in making us alive. The living Word is planted in a human soul, and it begins to grow.
In the parable of the sower, Jesus teaches how those seeds are planted into the human being. The sower casts living seed into 4 kinds of soil, and it sprouts up in three of them. There is a little bit of a debate about the rocky soil and the weedy soil. Some believe that because that soil did not bear fruit, those people were never saved. Some believe they were saved and fell away. As a Calvinist, of course, I would have to be in the first camp, but nagging thoughts about my ex-wife cause me to rethink even this.
There is an insight here that arrests me. Those seeds are cast into the heart of man, but cannot bear fruit until they are joined to our spirits. Furthermore, they cannot bear fruit until our spirits are joined to the Vine - Christ. The word grows in us, but until we believe it is fruitless. Belief grafts the word to our spirits. Belief is the the verb that empowers the scripture in us.
More thoughts flow from here. Maybe the seeds are the Vine. If that is true, then being joined to the seeds is being joined to the Vine. Maybe the seeds are not the Vine, but are what makes us able to be joined to him. We are washed by the word He has spoken to us. But, let me drop that for a minute. For now, I just want to dwell on how that seed is joined to our spirits.
The seed is alive in us before we do anything. Either the seed is joined to us when we believe, or we believe because the seed is joined to us. If we start out by assuming that our belief appropriates the seed, and joins it to us, then we can say that belief empowers the scripture in us.
This thought is as old as the old puritan expression, "Faith lays hold of the promises." There is nothing innovative about it, but seeing it in this context, in the light of each seed of scripture growing and waiting to be joined to our spirits was powerful to me.
I will give you an example of Charles' arguments. This was completely original to me.
1 John 5:9
If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, ...
God expects us to receive His testimony concerning His Son using the same facility of belief that we use when hear hear human testimony. If my coworker tells me my car is being stolen, I don't hem and haw; I believe him and fly out to check on my car whilst dialing 911. My belief of God's testimony should come more easily and surely than my belief in a man's testimony. More than that, though, I should believe God by the same mental workings that make me able to believe my coworker. There is nothing mysterious happening here.
I don't yet submit to that argument, but I am considering it strongly. I have long believed that faith in God is something that we cannot generate on our own precisely because it is mysterious - divine actually. This is one of the best arguments I have ever heard that faith is actually within human capability. It is a great sign that I have more questions now than I did when I started trying to answer them!
Today, I still believe that we cannot believe until God gives us a divine and eternal life. Belief flows from life, and not the other way around. Tomorrow I hope to have even more questions. :-)
So much to understand of the works of God! And so much joy in the figuring!
It was a treat to talk about these things with Charles, face-to-face. It happens so rarely that I come across a person who both cares about them, and is willing to go around about them a bit.
Thank you Lord, and thank you Charles.