Sunday, January 29, 2006

Shrewd as Serpents?

Please understand that I know the whole Augustinian / Pelagian (Calvinism / Arminianism) debate has been running its course for 16 centuries or so now, so I don't intend to solve it here. That being said, I'm a little frustrated this evening at the "non-logic" employed by many Christians when it comes to working through these thoughts.


Augustine (and subsequently Calvin, Luther, Edwards, et al.) taught the freedom of the will. This surprises many, but it's true. The will is free to choose whatever it should so desire. The biblical picture, however, is that the unregenerate heart will always choose evil; hence the "bondage of the will" (ie. it can only choose evil, therefore, it knows nothing of true freedom). God's grace, according to Augustine, is his active changing of our hearts, so that we delight in him above all else, so that we freely choose him over everything else (thus God is, to Augustine, his sovereign joy) and every other false pleasure.


I believe firmly that this is a concept firmly rooted in the biblical portrait of man and God's redemptive work and would be prepared to argue that at length. That's not what I'm hoping to discuss here, however.


My problem is when I get into discussions like one I had recently with a brother (whom I love dearly) who refuses to acknowledge God's sovereign grace for patently unbiblical reasons. He made no attempt to argue from Scripture, exept to cite a single verse from 1 Tim 2 without rooting his argument in context. He then based his whole theology of grace around the idea that he created from that one verse. His argument went something like this:

1. God elects some to salvation.
2. This necessarily implies that he has willfully, actively chosen to create some, make them sinful, and send them to hell.
3. This is unacceptable.
4. Therefore, God does not elect unto salvation.


The problem, of course, with this syllogism is that 2 does not follow from 1.


The problem in the grander scheme of things, however, is that he has worked himself into a tough corner when it comes to actually dealing with the biblical texts which clearly delineate God's electing in salvation. What does one do with Ephesians 1 when he has already decided in his mind that God's greatest desire is for every single person to be saved?


The simple fact of the matter is that the Bible places the blame for the damnation of sinners on sinners. Out of a fallen race of humanity, God elects a people unto salvation. God is responsible for salvation, because his grace has to change our hearts so that we can delight in him. God is not responsible for the damnation of a sinner, that sinner chose what he desired.


Some may well ask "how can God judge me when he didn't elect me?" To that we'd have to answer with Paul, "Who are you, o man, to answer back to God?" Or with Moses, "The revealed things belong to man, but the hidden things belong to God." Or with Isaiah, "His thoughts are not our thoughts, nor his ways our ways. As high as the heavens are above the earth, so are his thoughts above our thoughts and his ways above our ways."


It frustrates me to no end how Christians are willing to take certain things by faith, but then when the Bible doesn't answer every question they have, they reject what the Bible does teach for their own ideas of what it should teach.


Deal with the text and let that frame your thoughts and questions. Be willing to submit to whatever it teaches... it is the word of God. Be willing to accept "foolishness" when it presents itself. This type of humility usually leads to the greatest insights of wisdom.

2 comments:

tomgee said...

Good post, Julian!

It's a good reminder to be careful of the attitude with which we approach God and his word. We need to "tremble at his word"!

How important it is to let God be God, to let him be his own interpreter, and to recognize the limits of our own understanding and fallenness (falleness?) of our own judgment.

Someone once said, "If I had God's power, I'd change a lot of things. If I had God's wisdom, I wouldn't change a thing."

Thanks for the reminder!

Jon said...

"What does one do with Ephesians 1 when he has already decided in his mind that God's greatest desire is for every single person to be saved?"

What does one do with 1 Timothy 2:3-4 when he has already decided in his mind that God's greatest desire is for some be destined to hell?
"For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth."


The problem comes in the definition of the "doctrine of election". If someone says that election isn't true, I am not sure how they are reading their bible.

Some would say that it is election according to foreknowledge, which I think works with most of the bible, but that has not been satisfying as a consistent viewpoint all across scripture, though I can't remember the verses that I had trouble with when trying to hold that viewpoint.

What if the "doctrine of election" doesn't mean specific individuals, and has more to do with a group of people that match a set of criteria? And then combined with the foreknowledge argument above, then God can obviously know which individuals are to be saved. I have found that to be consistent so far, though I am still seeking God on this matter.


Ephesians 1: 12-13
That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise