Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Election and Evangelism

From Banner of Truth


Oh that they had such a heart in them that would fear me (Deuteronomy 5:29).

On October 23, 1740, after preaching the previous weekend in Northampton with Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, the great eighteenth century evangelist, made his way south along the Connecticut River to Hartford, then Wethersfield, and finally to Middletown. Nathan Cole, a farmer near Middletown, vividly records the excitement and power of Whitefield’s ministry on that occasion.[1] Cole had been an Arminian (an eighteenth century theological liberal) who believed he could save himself by his good works. He became troubled in his soul when he heard Whitefield at the meeting house in Middletown say that the gospel was offered freely to all men, even though all were totally unable to embrace Christ, that they could do nothing to save themselves, that only the electing grace of God could render them acceptable to a holy God. Cole was convinced of his lost condition and was terribly convicted of his sin, and came to believe the doctrine of election, that he was utterly lost unless God chose to save him. He later found peace with Christ, left the established church, and joined a small group of believers called New Lights in nearby Kensington.[2]

What do we mean by the doctrine of election and how does it apply in the proclamation of the gospel? First, by election we simply mean that God, according to his mere good pleasure and sovereign will, chose from all the peoples of the world, a peculiar people to be his own before he made anyone or anything. The Westminster Confession of Faith puts it this way,

Those of mankind that are predestinated unto life, God, before the foundation of the world was laid, according to His eternal and immutable purpose, and the secret counsel and good pleasure of His will, hath chosen, in Christ, unto everlasting glory, out of His mere free grace and love, without any foresight of faith, or good works, or perseverance in either of them, or any other thing in the creature, as conditions, or causes moving Him thereunto; and all to the praise of His glorious grace. Chapter III, paragraph 5.[3]

They did not choose Christ, rather he chose them, and appointed them that they should bear much fruit, and that their fruit should remain (John 15:16). Paul the Apostle repeatedly teaches this doctrine (Eph. 1:4-5, Rom. 8:29-30; 9:14-24, 2 Tim. 1:8-9) as do Peter (1 Pet. 2:9-10), and Jesus (John 6:35-39). It is not merely that God foreknew those who would choose to follow and obey him, rather it is that in spite of our rebellion and hard-heartedness, even though we would do nothing to deserve it, God, by a free act of his grace, according to the secret counsel of his most holy and wise providence, chose a people for himself from all the peoples of the world, making us into one family of God, transmuting time, space, ethnicity, and religion (Rev. 5:9-10, 7:9-12)

The benefit of God’s electing grace is to humble man and to exalt God. When believers truly understand that the entirety of their salvation, from beginning to end, is of God; and when unbelievers see that they are utterly lost, beyond hope in themselves, being stripped of their smug self-righteousness, then and only then will God smile with salvation on multitudes; for God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.

Continue reading here

29 comments:

Jonathan said...

You know, one of the reasons I can't simply acquiesce to election is that according to this view:

"chose from all the peoples of the world, a peculiar people to be his own before he made anyone or anything."

and

"They did not choose Christ, rather he chose them"

and

"being stripped of their smug self-righteousness"

God is not just responsible, but man is shirking his responsibility for his actions. Man is shoving it back in God's lap saying, "No, God. I can't be free to have this choice. This must rest with you so that if I do end up in Hell only you are to blame."

I get that God is sovereign and salvation begins with Him, but it begins with Him doing the work He's done, it begins with Him sending His spirit to draw all mankind unto Himself. Salvation begins with Him but ends with us. We must respond to the Spirit drawing us in.

A friend once said to me, asking this in response to my assertion that man can respond to God, "What makes me so special that I would [have the faculties to] respond to God where some other guy wouldn't?"

I didn't answer, but now I would say his question poses a greater problem for him as a calvinist. We are all created with the opportunity to respond to God (see Moses, Abraham, Pharaoh, etc). I ask, "What makes you so special that God would choose you over some other guy?" Does God not love that other guy and desire his redemption as well? Calvinism says that God doesn't love some of us. That God would create us and send us to hell according to his pleasure. That's much like abortion. That a couple would procreate and then abort that "lump of tissue" because it's not wanted and it's not loved. Calvinists would argue that God loves that lump of tissue and we shouldn't abort, yet then argue that God freely sends most of His creation to Hell, keeping aside an elect group for no other reason than he is God and can do whatever he desires. It's contradictory and in fact, this sounds more like Islam than Christianity. Muslims commonly use the Arabic phrase, "In sa Allah" which means "if it is God's will" or "God willing". This used to mean something to a greater crowd, but has been dumbed down to mean "hopefully" by those less religious.

If I am wrong I ask God to show me. If I am right, I ask God to help me share this truth effectively. As I go forward, I go forward choosing to err on the side of God's love. A love that allows me to freely disown my Creator, and a love that pursues me despite my sin, ignorance, and folly.

Wayne Dawg said...

Jonathan -

I understand exactly what your saying.

I know exactly where you are coming from.

I know exactly how you feel and your view of passion for freedom of will.

I know because I sat where you sit.

I ran the course of all the emotions including the displeasure of the total sovereignty of God in ALL things.

I wept over this.

The doctrine of election and mans free will are subjects that appear directly opposed to each other and yet they fit together very comfortably.

I don't have any time right now, but there are several things we can go over in the next few days.

Peace

Wayne Dawg said...

Jonathan -

If you please, I would like to start with this statement you made:

"I get that God is sovereign and salvation begins with Him, but it begins with Him doing the work He's done, it begins with Him sending His spirit to draw all mankind unto Himself."

If I understand you correctly, based on what have posted so far, you interpret John 12:32 to mean that Jesus will draw ALL men to Himself without any conditions.

Is that your interpretation of that verse?

Jonathan said...

Yes, in combination with other verses to create a complete picture. Rom 1 says God has made himself known to all and so all are without excuse, but some CHOOSE to suppress the truth revealed to them, to not honor God, to not give him thanks, etc.

God is patient, wishing none to perish ( 2 Pet 3:9). Jesus died for all (Heb 2:9) (John 3:16). God wants all to know truth (1 Tim 2:4).

Wayne Dawg said...

Jesus could not have meant that ALL men would be drawn to Him for salvation.

Jesus has already taught in John 6 that only those whom the Father draws will come to Him.

This must be taken into context to mean that men of all nations (Jews and Gentiles) would be drawn to Him. Isn’t this true?

Do we not see men from all nations being drawn to Christ?

I have also seen many people drawn to Christ who openly bash Him and ridicule the message of the gospel.

Could Christ could be drawing them to harden them?

Or, maybe, the verse means something entirely else when looked at in context of the preceeding verses.....

John 12:20-31
(20) Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks.
(21) So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, "Sir, we wish to see Jesus."
(22) Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus.
(23) And Jesus answered them, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.
(24) Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.
(25) Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.
(26) If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.
(27) "Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? 'Father, save me from this hour'? But for this purpose I have come to this hour.
(28) Father, glorify your name." Then a voice came from heaven: "I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again."
(29) The crowd that stood there and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, "An angel has spoken to him."
(30) Jesus answered, "This voice has come for your sake, not mine.
(31) Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out.

James White says this about those preceeding verses....

"John 12 narrates the final events of Jesus' public ministry. After this particular incident, the Lord will go into a period of private ministry to His disciples right before He goes to the cross. The final words of Jesus' public teachings are prompted by the arrival of Greeks who are seeking Jesus. This important turn of events prompts the teaching that follows. Jesus is now being sought by non-Jews, Gentiles. It is when Jesus is informed of this that He says, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified." This then is the context which leads us to Jesus' words in verse 32"

"I believe that in its context the "all men" refers to Jews and Gentiles, not to every individual person on earth. Through His work on the cross, Jesus will draw all kinds of men, all kinds of people to Himself, including those from outside of the covenant community of Israel. We must bear in mind that this would have been an extremely radical thought to the Jews who were hearing Him say these words."

"These considerations, along with the immediate context of the Gentiles seeking Christ, make it clear that if He is lifted up in crucifixion, He will draw all men, Jews and Gentiles, to Himself. This is exactly the same as saying that He has sheep not of this fold (John 10:16), the Gentiles, who become one body in Christ (Eph. 2:13-16)"

Wayne Dawg said...

Now, look at the verses that follow John 12:32.....

John 12:37-40
(37) Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him,
(38) so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: "Lord, who has believed what he heard from us, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?"
(39) Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said,
(40) "He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them."

God does harden and blind man for His puposes!

Jesus is simply saying that He will draw Jews and Gentiles alike to Himself; and He has done and is still doing just that.

Steve Martin said...

Good post, Wayne.

Surely...we do have 'free-will', but not when it comes to the things of God.

Our will is bound to sin.

One look at your own life (and evryone aound you) ought confirm that fact.

But the Lord is faithful, even in our faithlessness.

That's the good news! He loves sinners, of which I am first.

Jonathan said...

Haven't had a chance to give your comments thoughtful attention today, but hope to get back to you tomorrow. Thanks Wayne.

Jonathan said...

Wayne, I'll concede to your point on "drawing all men" for that passage and context, but it's not a game changer. Rom 1 is still in effect. I have always believed that God works according to a plan based upon His foreknowledge. Take the Pharaoh for instance. As in Romans 1, all men know and are without excuse, so the Pharaoh still has his option to respond to God, and he's given many chances, in line with the rest of God's Word regarding his patience and longsuffering.

Exodus shows us this:
God says at the beginning that he will harden Pharaoh's heart (Ex 4:21, 7:4-5). The hardening of Pharaoh's heart is then described in several different ways:

Pharaoh's heart became hard (Ex 7:13, 23), Pharaoh hardened his heart (Ex 8:15, 32), God hardened Pharaoh's heart (Ex 9:7, 10:20). However, when the Bible says Pharaoh hardens his heart, it also says that this happened "just as the Lord had said" (Ex 8:15).

Consider Exodus 9:34-10:2: When Pharaoh saw that the rain and hail and thunder had stopped, he sinned again: He and his officials hardened their hearts. So Pharaoh's heart was hard and he would not let the Israelites go, just as the LORD had said through Moses.

Then the LORD said to Moses, "Go to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the hearts of his officials so that I may perform these miraculous signs of mine among them that you may tell your children and grandchildren how I dealt harshly with the Egyptians and how I performed my signs among them, and that you may know that I am the LORD."


In other words, Pharaoh's hardening his heart is considered to be the same as God hardening Pharaoh's heart. I take this to mean that Pharaoh did the actual hardening, as we see it - he decided on his own to not listen to God and let the Israelites go. But God knew in advance what Pharaoh would do in any given situation, and deliberately placed Pharaoh in this situation (God decided that Pharaoh would be born at the time and place that he was and placed him in this position of power). (See Exodus 9:13-16.)

God brought about the situation, that Moses would encounter a pharaoh whose heart was hardened against God, though Pharaoh hardened his heart of his own free will.

God's masterful plan and foreknowledge allow him to introduce events so that they unfold how He wants them to without violating man's free will. I believe he did this for our benefit, so as to provide a rich history from which we draw our guidance.

So, in light of my greater argument, God allows His presence in our life and His grace to be resisted (even in those cases where he arranged circumstances according to his foreknowledge, he's not forcing his will, but simply arranging events and allowing these people to make the same choices according to their heart, mind, and conscience that they would make in any other situation, and this is seen multiple times throughout the bible and remains consistent).

God is sovereign in this regard. He remains sovereign while loving his enemies, giving them choice according to their conscience, which he can see ahead of time and work appropriately for man's ultimate benefit.

When we search out love, justice, and morality, we find that certain ideas are repugnant. We share these values because, made in God's image, they were imbued in us when created. Now, according to our conscience, isn't it more likely that true love allows choice and a forced will isn't love at all? If God determines our actions, He determines us to sin, He determined Adam to fall, and determined a majority of his creation to go to Hell. That doesn't line up with God's Word or character.

I grant that there are many verses on both sides of the debate, and that the truth likely falls somewhere in the middle, but generally speaking, I believe election is false and weakly supported by scripture.

Steve Martin said...

"Election is false and weakly supported by Scripture"?

Spoken like a man who truly does not want to let go and let God (be God).

God chooses us. It's all over Scripture.

Jesus says it himself. The Gospel of John tells us that we were born NOT of the will of man...but of God.

St. Paul goes to great lengths in Romans to explain it.

But we just can't give it up (our desire to have some role in our salvation).

Wayne Dawg said...

Jonathan, I had a gut feeling that the conversation would turn to Pharaoh.

In the end, it always comes down to the sovereignty of God versus the free will of man.

"For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, "For this very purpose I raised you up, to demonstrate My power in you, and that My name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth." 18So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires." Romans 9;17-18

Who hardened Pharaoh's heart; God or Pharaoh?

You have concluded that Pharaoh hardened his own heart in concordance with God's will.

God 'raised' up Pharaoh for the sole purpose to show Pharaoh (and everyone else for that matter)Who God was (I Am who I Am)and to demostrate His power and sovereignty over people and nations.

God has, "... has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires." Romans 9:18

You said, "Pharaoh's heart became hard (Ex 7:13, 23)"

Yes..because God caused it.

You said, "Pharaoh hardened his heart (Ex 8:15, 32)"

Yes...because caused it.

Does this make God the authur of sin? Certainly not!

What about free will you will say?

What free will I say?

We, humans, have all the free will in the world to sin.

Why does He still find fault you say?

Scripture answers that for us...

On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, “Why did you make me like this,” will it?

Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use? Romans 9:20-21

You said, "If God determines our actions, He determines us to sin, He determined Adam to fall, and determined a majority of his creation to go to Hell."

God does not determine us to sin. We do that all on our own quite nicely thank you.

Because all have sinned, all deserve Hell. God did not determine a majority of people to go there; they (we) were already headed there!

God, in His wonderful mercy, decided to save some.

He saved (is saving) you. He save
(is saving) me.

Praise God and Him alone for this wonderful work.

This is how I can answer another question in your first comment...

"What makes you so special that God would choose you over some other guy?"

NOTHING!

Nothing at all. It is by the grace of God that I am being saved.

I do not deserve this. I am a filthy wretched man who cannot keep the Law although I desire to.

I SOOOOOOO understand what Paul means when he says that the things he ought to do he does not and the things he should not do he does.

God had (has) no reason to save me except that it brings Him glory; and Him alone the glory.

I had (have)nothing to do with my salvation.

And because of that, my love for Him is beyond any words that I could ever possibly express.

"Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a gift far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all."

Soli Deo Gloria

Jonathan said...

Steve,

As usual, you sound dry and callous. I don't mean that as an insult, but an observation. You're making assumptions about me and I think you're wrong. I pray about this all the time. I seek my heart in this, praying that the truth would be revealed. Any posturing on my part is not an attempt to win people over to "my side" but to more thoroughly explain my perspective on this issue, so as to enable others to point me to truth. Please, show some grace and pray for me. I'm not smug about this at all, but anxious for peace.

Jonathan said...

Wayne,

I'll get back to you. Thanks.

Steve Martin said...

I sound dry and callous?

I am referring to Holy Scripture and also to human nature.

Our nature is to want to take this stuff into our own hands.

But God will be God, and He will not allow that.

It really doesn't have anything to do with me. It has to do with God's will to save whom He will save.

It is a hard doctrine, especially at first. But the more you see the truth in it, the more liberating and comforting it is. It shifts the onus from 'us' and puts it all back where it belongs...onto God.

Thanks.

Jonathan said...

Steve,

I'm asking you to help me. You're stoic approach is admirable, as you likely keep a clear head rather than reacting emotionally as I often do, but I don't want to feel like an idiot for not simply believing you. I need to be convinced in my heart and mind that certain elements of calvinism are truth. I could care less about labels. truth is all that matters, and that's what I'm searching. In this instance, I'm searching out a truth that Calvinists and Arminians have debated for awhile now.

Jonathan said...

Wayne,

We had a conversation awhile regarding my post "A Plain Reading." You never got back to me, but I think I pointed out clearly how many people take Rom 9 and 10 out of context, as you've done again here, for refresher, see http://god-aholic.blogspot.com/2010/02/plain-reading.html

First of all, the passage doesn't deal with eternal destiny at all:

The question remains: "Then why does God still blame us? For who resists his will?" (Rom 9:19)...This question is only valid if Paul is concerned with the matter of individuals' eternal destiny. Taking the passage in context it becomes clear that he is not speaking about salvation and eternal destiny, but about God's calling of individuals to service, and God's use of events and people to accomplish his redemptive purposes, which is the salvation of both Jews and Gentiles.

Neither in Malachi 1:2-3 nor in Rom 9:13-15 is there then any warrant for the idea that God has determined in advance the eternal destinies of either the people of Israel or the people of Edom. The historical situations of the two nations, their 'election' or 'rejection', are but temporary examples of God's sovereign freedom with which he moves history toward his redemptive purposes. "God so loved the world' (John 3:16), including Jacob and Esau, Israel and Edom, Jew and Gentile.

From looking at Rom 9-11, one point emerges clearly. Paul's focus is upon God's selection of the nation Israel in its historic role, not upon specific individuals for eternal salvation. Even the choice of individuals like Jacob was for their tasks in God's historic program with his people, not their personal salvation.

When he discusses the Egyptian pharaoh, Paul's concern is not his personal salvation....Whether or not they (for example, the pharaoh) receive salvation is a separate issue from their selection for a task.

Jonathan said...

Secondly, even if the passage was dealing with eternal destinies, the main focus of the passage is groups of people, not individuals:

Also, we shouldn’t act as if this were Paul's only word on predestination and the hardening of people. Here he’s making a point about how God has worked with broad groups of people, the Jews as a whole and the Gentiles as a whole. He is also pointing out that Jewish prophets knew about this plan of God long before it took place. Paul goes on to say in the following chapter (10) that all of this happened through human choices. God chose to make his salvation available, not on the basis of the Jewish law, but on the basis of the grace of Christ. This was proclaimed to Jew as well as Gentile, so God DID NOT coerce the Jews into hardening themselves. Yet, as God PREDICTED, this good news was largely rejected by the Jews and often accepted by the Gentiles.

Paul affirms in Rom 9:11 that God purposed to select Jacob above Esau. As God had named or counted Abraham's seed through Isaac (9:7), so now the line would run through Jacob, not Esau. This choice of Israel's lineage was a sovereign divine act, and not motivated by any specific acts or responses from the twins. This was God's sovereign choice of an individual, but the issue here is not his personal salvation. God made a corporate choice: he chose Jacob and his offspring to be his people rather than Esau and his offspring. In Rom 9-11 Paul struggles with the question, Has God rejected his people? God chose Jacob, but not as an individual in isolation, nor for his personal salvation. Rather, Jacob was used to trace the ancestry of the people of Israel.

In Rom 9:19-21, Paul uses the language of Isaiah 29:16, 45:9 and 64:8. The point is that God made people, and God can therefore do with them as he wills. In this context it means that he can choose either Jews or Gentiles, not that his predestination is arbitrary.

This verse (9:13) parallels what we have just observed...Paul quotes Malachi 1:2-3 to confirm the point he has been making in this section--God has chosen Jacob over against Esau. Is this the election of Jacob to salvation? In Malachi 1:2-3 the prophet's point is not salvation, but rather God's choice of the nation Israel over Edom.

Jonathan said...

Thirdly, even if the passage were dealing with eternal destinies, the categories/groups in the passage are not fixed and closed and inescapable:

The vessels of wrath in 9:22 are not locked into that group, for the Christians of Ephesians 2 were once children of wrath themselves.

Paul teaches us how to move from being in the group of common vessels to being in the group of noble vessels in 2 Tim 2:21--by responding to God in obedience.

The hardened and cut off Jews can be grafted back in if they accept their Messiah (Rom 11:23), and the believers can be cut off' from God's in-history service (Rom 11:21).

There is no teaching here that God has chosen specific individuals to show mercy or to harden. In the context of Rom 9 Paul's concern is the elect people of God, a corporate entity. God has willed to show mercy to his people, to provide salvation; PEOPLE CANNOT EFFECT OR PROCURE THEIR OWN SALVATION. The assumption that Paul is thinking of the ultimate destiny of the individual, of his final salvation or final ruin, is not justified by the text. We discover the criterion for obtaining mercy later in Rom 9 and 10: faith. God calls those who come to him in faith, “my people.” God hardens, or allows them to be hardened, those who choose to reject him first. He destines the first group for glory, the other for destruction.

Paul bases God's wrath (9:22) upon his will. Paul's point is not that God wills (or chooses) certain ones to suffer his wrath. Rather he confirms that God wills to display his wrath, either upon certain vessels (people) or through certain instruments. Later in this section Paul details why some experience God's wrath. To fail to believe puts one outside God's mercy. Romans 11:23 highlights the role of faith--Jews may reenter the people of God if they put away their unbelief. Paul doesn’t teach rigid predestinarianism, but presents an open door to enter the body of believers. We shouldn’t conclude that God previously chose them to be objects of his wrath; by their unbelief they chose it themselves.

Jonathan said...

Fourth, even some of the word choices and language indicates in-history action (as opposed to some pre-history-action):

The raising up of Pharaoh to power, as opposed to creating or making or predestining or designing, is clearly in-time.
Exodus 9:13 actually points out that God spared Pharaoh, so that BOTH Pharaoh AND all the earth would know of God's power. He used an already stubborn and arrogant ruler to get the word out to everyone under Egypt's domination at the time.

The in-history character of this, and its limited scope should be very obvious from the other similar, immediate-context cases. For example, a preceding generation has the election promise ONLY going through Isaac, with Ishmael NOT being chosen but God EXPLICITLY blesses Ishmael at Genesis 17:20. And the later example of Manasseh and Ephraim, in which the lesser is chosen over the first-born, still has a blessing placed squarely on Manasseh. Election to privilege/responsibility is no indication whatsoever of lack of God's blessing and/or favor (at least in the context of Romans 9 and the Promises to the Fathers). This is in the general theme of God's choosing the non-elite over the legally elite (in these cases, the younger over the older).
To be sure, God clearly over-rides us in some situations, just as we over-ride one another's freedom sometimes. In God's case, most of it seems to be associated with judgment-after-patience, but He does nonetheless have a presence in our history and governance roles in our universe. But these special cases (such as Pharaoh) are not out of line with His moral stance (as they are often judgments after much patience has been given), nor violations of a person's entire range of free choice (including the choices relative to response to God), nor an end unto themselves (they always serve the expansion of mercy and freedom).

Steve Martin said...

'The Capivation of the Will'
is another book by Forde that is probably more germane to this topic.

Steve Martin said...

5 of Forde's best books:

- The Captivation of the Will: Luther vs. Erasmus on Freedom and Bondage (Lutheran Quarterly Books, 2004)

- On Being a Theologian of the Cross: Reflections on Luther's Heidelberg Disputation, 1518 (1997)

- Theology Is for Proclamation (1990)

- Justification by Faith: A Matter of Death and Life (1982)

- Where God Meets Man (1972)

Wayne Dawg said...

Thanks Jonathan -

Let me read this over and get back with you.

And, I would just like to say, that I really enjoy being able to discuss (although I don't do it very well) these kinds of things.

Yes, this discussion has been going on for quite a few hundred years now, but I do think it's healthy for Christians to stretch out their faith and be sure of what it is they believe in.

Wayne Dawg said...

Jonathan -

I only have a second this morning...

I had one crazy busy weekend and only spent 20 minutes on the web last night posting the events from Saturday on my other blog.

Quite frankly, this whole week will be just as busy.

Through all this, Jonathan, I always come back to who did what.

The moment we say that God responds to our choice, then God is no longer the sovereign initiator of all things; He is the responder.

I want to err on the side of God having all the control for my salvation.

I would rather get to Heaven and God tell me that I gave Him way too much credit for my salvation than for me to go home and say, "I chose to follow Jesus all on my own free will."

Jonathan said...

I enjoy these too, and also agree that each person should evaluate exactly what they believe and why they believe it (partly why I'm doing this, so thanks for the assist!).

I've noticed in conversations with others that there seems to be a unique difference in vocabulary. Broadly speaking, calvinists seem to reply to me as you just did, about God responding to me or me responding to God. I don't view the process that way and I think that is where we diverge. I'm in no way advocating our initiation of salvation nor God responding to my acceptance of his gift.

What I am saying is that Jesus did the work and it's a blank check that all can choose to cash or rip up and go their merry way. Some cash it, some rip it up, but it's there for all to choose freely. God has no response accept what (according to my interpretation of all the predestination verses) that He promises to conform us to a predetermined image of His Son once we accept his gift. That is the predestination, that believers will eventually become Christ-like. It's not related to salvation except as a by-product of accepting His free gift.

I too err on the side of God having control of salvation, He did the work of salvation, he does the work of justification, by dying for our sins, the sanctification, by conforming us to the image of His son through life-trials and regular communion with Him. Neither of those preclude our free choice.

Ike said...

The following is by Phil Johnson.

have not always been a Calvinist. As a matter of fact, I was raised in the context of a liberal Methodist church, so long before I ever became a Christian, my mind was poisoned with a blend of liberalism and Wesleyan theology. And after I became a Christian, it was several years before I finally came to the point where I could affirm the biblical doctrine of election without trying to explain away clear statements of Scripture like Ephesians 1:4 (which says that God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world). Or Romans 9:15-16, where God says, "'I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.' So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy."

I resisted those ideas for years. I knew the word election is biblical, but I had a friend who explained it this way: "God voted for you the devil voted against you. You cast the deciding vote."

That made perfect sense to me.

Very early in my Christian experience, I went to a small church in the town where I attended college, and my Sunday-school teacher there was decidedly anti-Calvinistic. Almost every week, he would warn us against the dangers of putting too much stress on the sovereignty of God. Almost every week he would work into his lesson the idea that human free-will is sovereign, and the choice is ultimately left entirely up to each sinner to decide what to do with Christ. That seemed reasonable to me. It reinforced what I was inclined to believe anyway.

But at the same time, in my own study of the Scriptures and my reading of church history, I kept running into biblical statements and doctrinal issues that posed a severe challenge to that sort of free-will theology.

Then one Sunday while this guy was taking prayer requests, a girl in the class raised her hand and asked, "Should we really be praying for our lost relatives? It seems like it's a wasted effort to pray to God for their salvation if He can't do any more than he has already done to save them."

And I vividly remember the look on the face of this Sunday School teacher. This was clearly a question that had never occurred to him. So he thought about it for a moment, and you could see the wheels in his head turning while he tried to think of a good reason to pray for the salvation of the lost. And finally, he said, "Well, yeah, I guess you're right." And from that Sunday on, he never accepted any more prayer requests for people's lost loved ones.

That didn't seem quite right to me, even as a dyed-in-the-wool Arminian. I had just done a Bible study in Romans 10:1, where Paul says, "Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved." Not only that, I began to wonder why we should pray about anything in the realm of human relationships if God never intrudes on the sanctity of human free will. You know: Why should I pray for God to move my English teacher to look favorably on my work when she graded my paper if she is ultimately sovereign over her own heart? Those were questions I couldn't answer.

And the more I studied the Bible, the more it seemed to challenge my ideas about free will and the sovereignty of God. One by one over a period of more than 10 years, the doctrines of election, and God's sovereignty, and the total depravity of sinners became more and more clear to me from Scripture.

It was a sermon series by John MacArthur on the doctrine of election from Ephesians 2 that finally turned me into a full-fledged Calvinist, and that was at least 15 years after I first came to the Lord.

So I know what it is like to be baffled by these truths and to resist what seems like a dangerous tendency to go overboard with the doctrine of God's sovereignty. I've been there, and I feel your pain.

Jonathan said...

Ike,

Thank you for that. I feel a bit like the man in the story, but again, I differ in part as well. The man in the story describes God as unable or unwilling to take part in our lives saying..."Not only that, I began to wonder why we should pray about anything in the realm of human relationships if God never intrudes on the sanctity of human free will."

My understanding is that God will interfere on occasion, when he desires to do so. The reason we pray for the salvation of others is because God HAS done all the work necessary, but we need to be prepared to witness and reason with those who have questions that they might make a decision to accept that free gift. I pray for wisdom and timing, for grace and clarity when I'm witnessing and evangelizing. I want the person in front of me to clearly understand the choice they've been confronted with.

Let me ask a question in response to this story...if God elects certain people based upon his forknowledge of what they would do anyway (which isn't described anywhere in the bible, God looking into the future and making a decision now based upon what he sees), then why do people need to hear about Jesus? Jesus is the only way, that's been said here before, even though I challeneged it, but most accept that view.
If Jesus' name must be preached, if his story must be introduced and understood, then I ask why is that so if calvinists are already elected unto salvation? That makes no sense. Calvinism sounds more like Jehovah's Witness theology with the 144,000 elected.

Ike said...

Johnathan....I feel myself rooting you on and at the same time saying "amen" to Dawg.

I feel totally incapable of dealing with these great truths. End times will be mastered when it happens BUT "we" will only be scratching the surface of the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ a million years from now. All we can do is merely stand as Moses did at the burning bush with our feet unshod and our head uncovered, not fully realizing or recognizing the glory and wonder of it all.

Election is in the Word of God but so is man's resposibility. Somehow they cross path's.....and as I have just turned 60....I have now more or less let that be something only our Lord fully understands. I think when we get to glory.....both sides of the camp might be surprized how little we really understood. One thing for certain.....we are commanded to preach the Gospel to all men and bid them to come.

Wayne Dawg said...

Sorry for my absence lately; what a week!

Jonathan, you said, "If Jesus' name must be preached, if his story must be introduced and understood, then I ask why is that so if calvinists are already elected unto salvation?"

That's a great question that must be understood in light of Romans 10:14-15...."How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?

And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!"

God uses the beautiful gospel to awaken His people.

The gospel is the vehicle to bring the sleeping sinner out of his slumber so he can awake and look face to face with his mighty God.

God calls through the gospel and His own respond.

This, to me, makes perfect sense.

However, I 100% agree with Ike in this statement, "I think when we get to glory.....both sides of the camp might be surprized how little we really understood."

Amen.

And, this one, "One thing for certain.....we are commanded to preach the Gospel to all men and bid them to come."

Amen and amen!

Jonathan said...

Ike,

Amen brother! I have been humbled so much these last few years. I walked around with so much arrogance when actually I was so very ignorant, and still am. The difference now is that I'm proclaiming my ignorance and seeking discussion with those willing to help. Thank you, guys. Ike, I think you offered the best reminder, similar to what my friend often tells me when I have questions that he struggles with as well, "I trust that God is bigger than my questions and that God can use imperfect people to accomplish his perfect plan."

Wayne,
I, too, agree with Ike's statement that both sides will be surprised, actually, that all sides will be surprised, and that we need to preach the gospel, despite our understanding of its importance and place in one's salvation.