Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Debate

This is about Predestination vs. Free will.  Calvinism vs Arminianism.  This is also the second time I've posted it.  The first time seemed argumentative.  It is difficult for me to address one without pointing out what I see to be flaws in the other. These ideas are often in direct contrast with one another.  To say you believe one on the basis of scripture is to say that you believe anyone who disagrees with you has misinterpreted the Bible.  It's going to seem like a big deal.  There isn't a way around it that I can see.  I've taken some of the most abrasive language out in an attempt to discuss my viewpoint without invoking a fight response from those who disagree.  I'm not a Bible scholar, a lot of people smarter than me have been engaged in this debate for a long time.  I'm simply trying to lay this out in what I see as a logical way and one that also is in line with scripture as a whole and is consistent with what I know and have experienced of God in my life.  I'm not trying to view scripture through the lens of my experience, I'm trying to do the the exact opposite.  However, God has moved in my life in very real ways and I would be downplaying some very obvious miracles if I didn't acknowledge them as real and powerful works of God.  Again, I'm not trying to piss anyone off or create tension or argument.  I really just need to get this out of my head a little.  However, I enjoy the discussion so feel free to comment.  Also I have made little effort to make this flow.  There are no transitions.  It's brain splatter. Disclaimer done.     

This is an issue that I have been struggling with since before I read the Rob Bell book several weeks ago.  It's come up in several conversations lately, but my current obsession with this issue goes back further than that.  Honestly, I'm exhausted from it. I'm putting my believes on the topic and their Biblical references here as a way of putting a tack in it for now.  I need to be able to think about something else.

This debate has driven me to the Bible in a way nothing else has.  I'm no Bible Scholar, but I've read  almost all of it in the last three months along with commentary and blogs and books and video from people on both sides of this isle.  It comes down to one thing for me; an overwhelming majority of scripture supports a mainly Armenian viewpoint.  I'm hesitant to use the term because of the way most people categorize it.  I think its overshot and exaggerated an awful lot.  I think the same is true of Calvinism.
I'm going to try and do this point by point.

Man can do nothing to save himself - Nothing.  There is no action or course of action by with man can secure his salvation.  I think the entire Old Testament makes this perfectly clear. The whole point of the law is to make us see that we can't succeed.  There has to be a sacrifice, one we have no power to make.  The most common verses I see quoted to make this point are Romans 3:10, Romans 7:18 and Colossians 2:13.  Here they are.

Romans 3:10-11 As it is written, “There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none that understands, there is none that seeketh after God. They have all turned aside; they are together become unprofitable; There is none that doeth good, no, not so much as one.”

This is a quote of Old Testament prophecy.  It also doesn't say that man can't, just that in this instance none did.  

Romans 7:18
18For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.

I feel this way a lot.  I believe is Jesus.  I am saved by faith.  I want to do what is good and right but I often fall short.  I'm still saved.  It's faith that saves, not works or doing good.  Paul wrote this as a converted Christian.  The flesh is weak and there is nothing good in it.  Thank God he has given us his spirit and allows it to work in and through us.  

Colossians 2:13. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses

We are separated from God by our sin. Death here refers to separation from God. Again, God has to reveal himself to man for us to be able to come to him. I believe he draws us all in some way or another. 2 Corinthians 11:29 and Romans 8:3 say that we are weak in sin.  Weak, not dead.  Any life we have is given by God.  Any draw to God is initiated by Him.  I've heard this called an initial infusion of grace.  I'm not sure if we are offered enough Grace to make the choice or not.  I'm not for limiting grace, I think grace is grace.  I think it's God's will for us to choose.  We can make the choice because we were designed to make it.
The idea of unconditional election seems to come almost entirely from Romans 7-9 along with Ephesians 1 and 2.  The issue here is the difference between foreknowledge and predestination.  Can God know what you are going to choose and not force that choice on you.  I believe he can.  Romans 8:29 (the most powerful and widely quoted scripture in defense of Predestination) begins with, "Those he foreknew he predestined."It seems pretty clear God knows what we will do, it's also pretty clear the choice has been given to us.  
Who did Jesus die for?  The overwhelming majority of scripture points to a cross that's work is perfect and complete and universal. I think Jesus died for all of us.  While we were still sinners Christ died for us.  All of us. 

 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

(John 3:14-17 ESV)

This is pretty clear.  I'm not sure how you can say that the work of the cross was any less than perfect and for the world.  I know that people say that Jesus is talking to Jews so this implies that some Gentiles will now also be saved and not that all men can.

“He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1 John 2:2)

Here John is writing to Christians.  This says to me that Christ died for the Christian and everyone else.  He saved the world.  Again, I know the argument is that John was a Jew and he was writing primarily to converted Jews, but I just think it's weak argument.  All the apostles were Jews, you can use that argument to dismiss any reference to the world.
19that is, in Christ God was reconciling[a] the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.  2 Corinthians 5:19

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people.  Titus 2:11

Same argument. I believe this makes it clear that the work of Jesus on the cross allows all men to come to Him. I'm not suggesting universal salvation by letting the world mean the world and not just gentiles.  I guess I would be if I also believe in Undeniable Grace, which I don't. 

I think the idea that once God starts to work in you, you have no choice but to believe is also a break from what the vast majority of scripture to teaches.  Romans 9:19b says, "For who can resist his will?" Here we have to look at context.  Jewish Christians see the offer of Salvation to the Gentiles as God breaking the Covenant he made to them through Abraham. Paul is explaining that it was always God's plan to use the Jews as a vehicle to bring Salvation to all.  He goes on to say that they didn't complain when God used Pharaoh as a vessel of wrath in order to secure their freedom and bring himself glory.  They then can't be upset when God uses them to crucify Jesus thus offering Salvation for all.

(This brings up the idea of Pharaoh being predestined for Hell.  I'm not sure what to do with his story, but I know that Paul also refers to Pilate, himself, and Jesus as vessels of wrath.  I think this makes it clear that there will be people in heaven who were at one point described as vessels of God's wrath).

Romans 11:17-23
17But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root[a] of the olive tree, 18do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you.19Then you will say, "Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in." 20That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear.21For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. 22Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off. 23And even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again.

Hebrews 10:29
29How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has spurned the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace?

Matthew 23:37
How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!

1 Timothy 4:1 
1Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons,

Its clear that continued salvation is contingent on continued belief.  God begins the work, God is willing and able to continue and complete his work in us, we have to be willing to let him.  God will reveal himself to and draw all men to himself.  Some will reject his offer of love and life.  It is in giving us the choice that God receives the most glory.  The plan was predestined, set in motion at the foundation of time.  God in his infinite love created a way where there was none.  He sent his son to die for all men, knowing full well that some would reject his offer.  This does not undermine God's sovereignty or deny justice and much as it highlights love.  We only have a choice because he gives it to us.  I have done and can do nothing to create salvation for myself, it is a gift of God.  However, in his grace I was saved through faith.  God's will is being done because his plan is perfectly in place.  Nothing anyone does is contrary to his plan.  He is willing that none should perish, but he has given us the choice.  There is no distinctions between God's will.  There are not separate sovereign and emotive wills.  There is just God's will.  He created a way for all men to come to him, but in sovereign love created in us the ability to choose him. Everything happens as God has willed it. He does not will sin or death or hell.  He wills choice and love and freedom.

I hope I've done a descent job laying this out. It makes sense to me.  There are obviously things involved here that I don't understand.  I do believe that scripture interprets scripture.  Were there are things I don't understand I have tried to view those things in the light of scripture that is clear and more easily understood.

I was unable to discuss all the scripture I considered in making these decisions so I'll try to list some below so you can look at it yourself.  

Ephesians:  1:9-10, 1:11, 1:13, 1:19, 2:8, 2;1, 2:10
John 3:14-17, 6:37-40
Romans 3:11, 3:21, 3:27, 5:6, 5:1, 5:18-21, 9:30, 10:13, 10:20-21, 8:29-30, 9:13-25. Just read all of Romans. ch 3-10 in particular.
Acts 7:51
2 Cor. 5:14-15
1 Tim 2:4-6, 4:10
Hebrews 2:9, 10:29
1 John 2:2, 4:14
Psalms 135:6
Isaiah and Daniel.  These books give a great framework for understanding the way God moves.  It also helps to understand the references in Romans and Ephesians.  

Matt. 10:22; 24:13; Jn. 6:27; 2 Tim. 2:3; Heb. 12:7; James 5:11. 
Jn. 8:31; 15:9; Acts. 13:43; 14:22, Rom. 2:7; 6:1; Gal. 2:5; 3:10; Col. 1:23; 1 Tim. 2:15; 4:16; 2 Tim. 3:14; 1 Jn. 2:24.Gen. 4:3-7; Lev. 26:3-28; Lev. 26:40-42; Deut. 11:26-28; 30:17; Josh. 24:20; 1 Sam. 7:3; 12:14, 15; 1 Chron. 28:6-9; 1 Kings 11:11-13; Jer. 7:5-7; Matt. 6:14; 16:24-26; Jn. 8:31-51; 15: 6, 7, 10; Rom. 8:13, 14; 11:19-24; Col. 1:21-23; Heb. 2:1-3; 3:6,14; 6:4-8; 10: 26-31; 10:38, 39; 12: 7, 8; James 1:22-27; 2:8, 9; 2 Pet. 1:4-10; 1 Jn. 1:9; 2:3; 2:24; 3:7, 8.

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