God’s Sovereignty: “means” to an “end”

November 3, 2008 | By | 40 Comments

As citizens of the United States of America, we have the opportunity to vote for the person(s) we believe to be best to lead our nation in the office of President (and vice-President and other offices). I’m convinced that the majority of Christians may underestimate the gravity of this God given privilege. Yet, I rest in the fact that the person who becomes the President of our nation will be the person selected by God (cf. Rom. 13:1).

I believe that we need to strongly defend and uphold the sovereignty of God, especially in light of how often it is attacked and undermined. Along with Justin Taylor,

“I am a passionate proponent of God’s absolute sovereignty over all things. And surely politics is included in “all things.” God removes kings; God sets up kings (Dan. 2:21). God does all that he pleases (Ps. 115:3), and he “works all things according to the counsel of his will” (Eph. 1:11). Even though a king (or a president) appears to be the most powerful person in the land, “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will” (Prov. 21:1). Amen and amen.”

Plain and simple: God is sovereign over all things - period. And yet, as a Pastor, I recognize that many people have difficulty balancing the sovereignty of God along with human responsibility, specifically what we are supposed to do. It appears that many other pastors have been sensing the same “problem” and have been addressing it on various blogs across the web (there are just too many to name!).

So, I’d like to make a few simple observations regarding these issues. Perhaps they will help balance our contention for God’s sovereignty along with our responsibility as followers of Jesus who are called to impact the world and stand for righteousness for the sake of the Gospel.

In order to uphold, defend, and essentially believe in God’s sovereignty does not equate to ignoring the reality that God’s sovereignty uses and works through human means. If God has decreed for something to occur, we can rest assured that it will happen but not apart from the mans of human responsibility. This is the beauty of redemptive history – God does whatever brings Him glory and He uses human beings in the process. He doesn’t have to. We don’t deserve it. We certainly can’t earn it. But He extends to us this opportunity. This is why evangelism is essential to God’s work in bringing about salvation. God raises up and uses men and women to share the Gospel of the Kingdom with people who He Himself is drawing to the Son. Yet that process includes the activity and obedience of people sharing the Gospel. In fact, it is essential to the process! Taylor makes two points that will help us understand my point:

(1) The fact that God ordains all things (i.e., his secret will) has a limited effect on our decision making. It can’t prescribe how we act, but it can prevent us from having the wrong perspective (e.g., anxiety, fear, despair, misplaced trust, etc.). But in terms of interpreting events, the main way to read providence is backwards (as John Flavel wrote: “Some providences, like Hebrew letters, must be read backward”).

(2) The fact that God ordains means ensures that our actions have significance. The ordained outcome can never be seen as an excuse for complacency or fatalism.

For those interested in studying this out more, I highly recommend J.I. Packer’s Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God. Packer’s work is a classic on the subject and addresses every objection to be imagined and is written by a respected Evangelical scholar with a pastor’s heart.

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About the Author (Author Profile)

Luke Geraty is a young budding pastor/theologian who serves at Trinity Christian Fellowship. Husband of one, father of five, and deeply committed to proclaiming Jesus and the kingdom, Luke contributes regularly to ThinkTheology.orgVineyardScholars.org, and Multiply Vineyard. You can follow Luke on Twitter or Facebook. Interested in having Luke speak at your church, conference, or small group? Send him an email!
  • Erin

    Luke, thank you for this. This helps immensely and answers two questions that I’ve had about how God works things together.

    Thanks!

  • HebrewScholar

    My understanding of the relationship between the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man is that it is like a Choose Your Own Adventure Book. For those who aren’t familiar with these, a Choose Your Own Adventure Book is a book that the reader starts out reading the first few pages as any other book. At certain points in the book, however, the book offers the reader choices, with directions about which page to go to next depending on the choice they make. The reader can end up jumping to pages all over the book. The length and content of the story is determined by the choices that the reader makes.
    As for the relationship between the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man, the Choose Your Own Adventure Book represents a person’s life. God, the author of the book, is ultimately in charge of what happens in the book. At certain points, however, He lets the person make choices, which help determine which way their life takes. No matter which choice the person makes, the outcome has been already predetermined by God, who wrote the book prior to the person making the choice about which direction they choose to go in life. It gets more complex though. Everyone in the world has their own book, and the choices that they make in their Choose Your Own Adventure Book impacts the choices that another person has to make in their book. For instance, if someone decides to drink alcohol, it affects the choices that their children have to make in their lives. If someone decides to neglect the ministry that God has given them, which may be as an electrician, a hair stylist, or an accountant, in order to be a pastor, worship leader, or missionary –jobs that are put into the category of being In the Ministry versus Not in the ministry—it affects the choices that other people have to make as well.
    While I agree that God puts rulers in place—even evil rulers, I don’t believe that this means that we are to follow them blindly, or that it excuses leaders from being held accountable for their actions. For example, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego aren’t recorded as trying to overthrow the Babylonian Empire when they were captives in the land of Babylon, but when the king of Babylon made a law requiring that everyone worship a golden statue of himself, they went against the King’s law to the point that they were put in the fiery furnace for it (which they survived). Daniel is another example. He served in the king’s court during the same time as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. When they made a law that would have required him to violate his faith, he didn’t obey the Babylonian law, and was willing to go to the lion’s den for it. Esther petitioned the king when a law threatened the Jewish people while they were captives in Media-Persia. We also find that God held the rulers accountable for their actions: God sent the plagues on Egypt for oppressing the Israelites, and Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, went insane and ate grass like an animal for seven years for taking credit for the success of his kingdom. The lesson we can learn from these examples is that God holds rulers accountable for their actions, using the Bible as a guidebook. We also learn that we, as Christians, are to live out the Scriptures regardless of who’s in charge, and that we are not to follow rulers blindly, and that we can test laws according to how they adhere to Scripture. I close with the following Scripture: Exodus 23:1-5
    “You shall not bear a false report; do not join hands with a wicked man to be a malicious witness. You shall not follow the masses in doing evil, nor shall you testify in a dispute so as to turn aside after a multitude in order to pervert justice; nor shall you be partial to a poor man in his dispute. If you meet your enemy’s ox or his donkey wandering away, you shall surely return it to him. If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying helplessly under its load, you shall refrain from leaving it to him, you shall surely release it with him.”

  • http://www.thinktheology.org luke g.

    David,
    While I agree with the second half of your post regarding how Christians are called to interact with law and shouldn’t follow human authorities if it contradicts following the Lord, I must say that I strongly disagree with your belief that life is like a “choose your own adventure” book!

    I always liked those books, but find the Scriptures to teach an entirely different worldview. Yes, we make real choices but I’m afraid that a “choose your own adventure” analogy sounds more like Open Theism than it does biblical.

    Quite frankly, it sounds inconsistent to agree that God predetermines things… but not really :) I guess I just find that the ‘nail in the coffin’ for anything remotely close to Open Theism is:

      “… for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’” – Isaiah 46:9-10

    I guess my biggest concern is that having a “choose your own adventure” worldview tends to minimize the sovereignty of God and places too much emphasis on man. I would suggest that there are probably much better ways of explaining it, specifically by sticking with what the Scriptures clearly indicate:

      1) God is sovereign over everything and decrees what will and will not be;
      2) Man makes real choices and is responsible for his actions.

    Blessings

  • Jholmes

    I agree with Luke’s statement. The idea that we are in a ‘choose your own adventure’ sounds like a simple version of Open Theism. I may not have understood the analogy though.

  • iamlegend

    doesn’t God’s decisions hinge on what he foreknows we will do? So, he makes things happen because we’ve chosen for them to happen. that’s how I’ve always understood it.

  • Tony

    IAMLEGEND, that’s what i believe. god knows what we’ll do so we do it.

  • HebrewScholar

    While the words “Choose Your Own Adventure” may set off alarms in some people’s minds who like to emphasize the sovereignty of God, I still think that it’s a pretty good analogy. Perhaps a further explanation would help clarify my analogy, as well as clear up any inconsistency.

    As for the relationship between the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man, the Choose Your Own Adventure Book represents a person’s life. God, the author of the book, is ultimately in charge of what happens in the book. At certain points, however, He lets the person make choices, which help determine which way their life takes. No matter which choice the person makes, the outcome has been already predetermined by God, who wrote the book prior to the person making the choice about which direction they choose to go in life. Like a Choose Your Own Adventure Book, no matter what choice the person makes, there is a there is a corresponding sequence of events that has been predetermined by God, who is the author. These predetermined sequences are very complex. If someone decides to drink alcohol, for example, it affects the choices that their children have to make in their lives. These predetermined sequences include how the choices of other people—such as the alcoholic’s children—will be affected by the decision that the person makes. Someone who chose to neglect the ministry that God has given them, which could be something such as a school teacher, a farmer, electrician, or hair stylist in order to pursue jobs that are more commonly recognized as being ministries, such as being a pastor, worship leader, or missionary would be making a poor choice, which would affect others like other negative decisions would in this analogy.

  • http://www.thinktheology.org luke g.

    Yeah… I still disagree :) ha ha.

    But, I still like you.

  • http://www.myspace.com/atter_girl mrsdoemrx

    I like you, too, Mr. Scholar! :-) And, I too tried to bring up that analogy with Luke and he pretty much ridiculed me. ;-) But in a very pastor-ly “you are SO wrong” lovingly sort of way. Y’know, like Luke usually does!!

    I do know that when Luke describes Calvinism to me I SO get it, but by the time I get home, my head hurts trying to remember how he put the stuff he told me. I wish he would come up with a great simple analogy that we could deal with mentally to make it easier to describe to other people.

    Well, at least for those of us who AREN’T scholars, anyway!

  • http://www.thinktheology.org luke g.

    We’re talking about Calvinism!?!?!?!?!

    ;)

  • timbreldancer

    Aahhh, what would a discussion of God’s sovereignty be without me adding my two cents? :D Luke and I have gone a few rounds on this one, too.

    Luke, you may think Scholar’s analogy is inconsistent, but I think it is at least as inconsistent as your comment that

    1) God is sovereign over everything and decrees what will and will not be;
    2) Man makes real choices and is responsible for his actions.

    After all, if God decrees what will or will not be, then where are the choices left to man? How can he be held responsible for his actions, if his actions are actually already predetermined by God?

    On the other hand, Legend’s comment:

    doesn’t God’s decisions hinge on what he foreknows we will do? So, he makes things happen because we’ve chosen for them to happen. that’s how I’ve always understood it.

    makes it sound like we make all the choices, and God just follows behind us adjusting his plan to fit our choices.

    Tony, on the other hand, said:

    god knows what we’ll do so we do it.

    brings in something of a “fatalist” attitude, where our future has already been written for us, so all we need to do is “lolly-loo” our way through life, assuming whatever we do is what God had planned, because he knew we were going to do that.

    I don’t mean to come across as harsh, but this is one of those huge topics that seem to confound the wise (and the simple, too!). I think it is yet another circumstance where wee little man is trying to make a great big God fit into “our” logic.

    Isaiah 55:8,9 tells us straight out that God’s ways are higher than our ways and his thoughts are higher than our thoughts. That would seem to imply that we can’t necessarily fit God into our logical little boxes.

    I understand Scholar’s analogy to cover the bases as well as any other theory:
    1. God is still in control and has the overall plan well in hand.
    2. Man gets to make some choices, and ultimately bear some or all of the consequences of those choices.

    In Scholar’s analogy, God controls the choices we get to make and is able to turn the results of those choices in whatever direction He chooses, since He is the author of the book (our lives).

    It is somewhat similar to parenting. When my child is small, I give them few and simple choices: “Would you like to wear the red shirt or the blue shirt today?” As they get older, I give them bigger or more complicated choices: “If you choose not to do your schoolwork, you will not be allowed to leave the house and play with friends until it is done.” As the parent, I decide where we will live and what we will eat for meals. I choose their clothing (up to a certain age), but allow them the choice of which of the clothes I have provided that they will wear today. When they choose unwisely, I allow them to suffer at least some of the consequences of their poor choice, to teach them to choose more wisely next time. At all times, however, I am the one in control.

    Of course, this analogy does fall apart, just as all analogies do, at some point. After all, I am not really God and I don’t know everything (although I like to let my kids think I do!). Also, at some point, children are expected to outgrow their need for direction from their parents, but we never outgrow our need for direction from God.

    Ultimately, however, it is not so much about choices as it is about our heart attitude. After all, King David, a man after God’s own heart, made some atrocious choices. God’s first and foremost desire is that we KNOW Him in an intimate, relational way. All of the choices he allows us are with the goal of developing that relationship and drawing us nearer to him, into deeper intimacy. He also wants the best for us, because he loves us, so he allows negative consequences for poor choices, to teach us to make wise ones in the future.

    So, who do I agree with? I do my best to agree with God, but I can’t really say which of the above theological bents is most “accurate” in God’s eyes. As long as God is still sovereign and man is still making choices for which he is held accountable, I figure folks are on the right track. More importantly, if each of us is seeking to hear God’s voice speaking His will for our individual lives, we are even more on the right track.

    As Scholar pointed out, becoming a pastor when God called you to be an electrician is just as wrong as becoming an electrician when God called you to be a pastor. Either way, those wrong choices will mean negative consequences for you and those around you, including your children, until you repent and get back on track with God’s will for your life.

  • http://www.thinktheology.org luke g.

    Well folks, this will be long :)

    “Aahhh, what would a discussion of God’s sovereignty be without me adding my two cents? Luke and I have gone a few rounds on this one, too.”

    Well, we always love to hear what the resident Arminian thinks, so… :) Althought, I’m not sure we’ve actually ever gone a few rounds about this subject… that’s kind of “news” to me. But, cool.

    “Luke, you may think Scholar’s analogy is inconsistent, but I think it is at least as inconsistent as your comment…”

    Here’s where our ideas depart :) Although you just actually kind of proved my point, ha ha.

    My point has been that analogies that damage God’s sovereignty or human responsibility are to be avoided. This is why I did not offer an analogy. I simply provided two teachings that are so thoroughly biblical that I’d challenge anyone who disagrees to provided exegetical evidence. Sure, those two statements may seem like mutually exclusive statements but, in my opinion, they are not. Apparent paradoxes, yes. Inconsistent truths, no. So, I take issue with an inconsistent analogy and you take issue with what you think is inconsistent in the Bible :) I feel more comfortable with my statement than I do yours :)

    I think it would be helpful to distinguish between a decree and a desire. God desires things that will not happen. God’s decrees always happen. Christians have historically recognized these two distinctions. The earth was created because God decreed it. Adam and Eve and all of the animals and plants were created because God decreed it. There was no discussion or debate. It happened because it was God’s will. Yet we know that God desires things that do not happen. For instance, God desires that people live holy, yet they do not. God desires that all men would know Him, yet they do not. But, as we study the Scriptures we find that behind our decisions are decrees by God. Peter states that people “stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do” (1 Pet. 2:8). This sounds far more “deterministic” than I think you would allow! At least, more than a “choose your own adventure” analogy would allow. Where do the various choices fit in with 1 Pet. 2:8? How about Pharoah? It sure seems like he had one specific choice that was predetermined by God. And yet, the Scriptures assert that he made a real choice, is to be held responsible for that choice, and that God is not the author of sin. I don’t need to build upon these truths. They stand for themselves. This is why, as you seem to agree, any analogy or metaphor that is not biblical does not do justice. Which is why I avoid them. This is not to say that these truths are easy to understand or even easy to accept. For many, they are not. So they are to be presented as humbly and lovingly as possible. But they still need to be presented.

    What we also find is that the Scriptures reveal God in what I call His “Sovereign apperance” in which He clearly has it all worked out and also in His “human interaction” in which He reveals His emotions as His sovereignty is played out. God does grieve, even though what He grieves for He predetermined (e.g. the crucifixion!). More could be said about this… but I do not have the time right now.

    “I understand Scholar’s analogy to cover the bases as well as any other theory:
    1. God is still in control and has the overall plan well in hand.
    2. Man gets to make some choices, and ultimately bear some or all of the consequences of those choices.”

    Well, I would say that this is partly correct. It’s not that these statements are false, they are just incomplete. God is not just involved in the “overall” plan. He is involved in the small minute details. Even to the point of foreordaining man’s choices through His decrees. Again, it may be helpful to spend some time studying the topic of the decrees.

    Analogies and theories that depart from clear biblical revelation are what I consider to be somewhat misleading and ultimately dangerous (in some circumstances). Also, Open Theism is a problem, not a solution (IMO).

    “In Scholar’s analogy, God controls the choices we get to make and is able to turn the results of those choices in whatever direction He chooses, since He is the author of the book (our lives).”

    Forgive me, but now it sounds like your Reformed (somewhat)! Yet, in the analogy of a “choose your own adventure,” God controls the general direction of these choices. According to this position, man doesn’t really have the ability to make choices outside of a selected group that God predetermines. Why not just go all the way and be Reformed? It’s much more consistent :)

    We must remember, “the heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps” (Prov. 16:9)

    “So, who do I agree with? I do my best to agree with God, but I can’t really say which of the above theological bents is most “accurate” in God’s eyes. As long as God is still sovereign and man is still making choices for which he is held accountable, I figure folks are on the right track.”

    Ha ha, okay, so then you do agree with me, especially since I stated in comment #3:

      1) God is sovereign over everything and decrees what will and will not be;
      2) Man makes real choices and is responsible for his actions.

    My point is that I would strongly urge people to stick with the Scriptures and avoid any analogies that are somewhat ambiguous or misleading.

    It’s far more helpful, IMO. And more than likely, poor analogies and humanistic explanations are why the majority of Christians do not hold to a biblical worldview.

    my .02 cents…

    luke g.

    P.S. Mrsdoemrx – you SO get it and then you FOR get it. :)

  • Jholmes

    Excellent response, Luke. I couldn’t have said it better.

    The problem with many examples and analogies, if not most, is that they generally fail to balance the issues. One walks away from various analogies with a rather poor understanding of the truth. There is no better example than with the many examples and explanations that I have heard about the doctrine of the Trinity! People continue to explain the Trinity in terms that would have been considered heresy at Chalcedon or by the Fathers.

    This is more or less why scholars have generally provided the two statements that you have. Boettner offered full chapters on those two issues, along with the issue of evil. Calvin wrote extensively on the subject of God’s sovereignty and still implored his readers about their own responsibility and the great theologians of the past rarely used stories or analogies to explain these truths. I’m led to believe it was due to an analogies insufficient ability to communicate these truths.

  • Erin

    But girls like stories, boys! :)

    Luke, I read J.I. Packer’s book you recommended because we had it in our church library. I think I have a better understanding now. I beseech everyone to read this book if you haven’t already. Now I just need to read the other ten thousand books that you’ve recommended, Luke!

  • Jholmes

    TIMBRELDANCER, I just reread my post and it sounds like an arrogant response to yours. I apologize. I did not intend to come across so harshly, so forgive me.

    I reread your comment and then read Luke’s and realized that Luke did a much bettter job of coming across gentle than I did. I did not intend to sound like everything you wrote was foolish. I don’t. I just wanted to emphasize the same concerns that Luke brought up.

    Luke, I apologize for coming across this way on your site. I enjoy our little community here and hope I don’t damage it!

  • http://www.myspace.com/atter_girl mrsdoemrx

    “P.S. Mrsdoemrx – you SO get it and then you FOR get it. ”

    …. Yeah, that’s what I said, right??? ;-)

    Please leave your answer to this question posted FOREVER so that I can read it like every day for a year until I get it stuck in my brain…

  • Searchin

    Wow! I hope you don’t mind if I join this fascinating discussion. It truly is the classic Calvinist vs. Arminian debate concerning freewill and election that I have long struggled with. I’ve always found both sides to have compelling arguments which are supported by scriptures but can’t both be true. I think this issue has divided many good Christians for centuries and since both sides are sincere and love the Lord we should spend less time trying to prove the other guy wrong and look for some common ground and start from there. I have some thoughts and questions that might be of interest and if I’m wrong I’m sure you’ll let me know. First, I would like to address Luke’s comment where he distinguishes between a desire and a decree. While I agree with what you’re saying, where does the Bible state that election is a decree? Couldn’t you say God desires all to be elect, and behind that is His decree that some will accept His offer of salvation by choosing to believe the gospel? I realize that this might at first seem to be at odds with verses like Ephesians 1:4-11, but if we remember that God is a timeless being, that He knew us before the foundation of the world just as he knows us now, then why couldn’t election be His choice for those He foreknew would choose to seek Him? In 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14 it says “God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit AND faith in the truth. And it was for this He called you through our gospel…” indicating a choice made by free will. The sanctification by the spirit comes before the CHOICE to believe the truth. Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God. If God decrees that some would be saved, doesn’t this necessarily say He also decrees that some would be lost (limited atonement), and wouldn’t that make Him unjust? When Paul talks about God’s purpose concerning election in Romans 9 he asks this same question and answers it emphatically (Romans 9:14). There are too many scriptures like 2 Peter 3:9, 1 Timothy 2:4, 1 John 2:2, and so many more that don’t allow for limited atonement. As far as you’re reference to 1 Peter 2:8, I don’t think the fact that we were “destined to disobey the word” proves that there’s no room for us to make a choice. It just seems to make it unlikely that we would make the right choice without a little help. If we are slaves to sin (John 8:34) and we are influenced by the prince of the power of the air, couldn’t we also be persuaded by the gospel or a series of bad choices that we are lost and in need of salvation? The same with Pharoah. If we apply God’s foreknowledge to this situation, why couldn’t God still achieve his purpose had Pharoah made a different choice? Am I missing something? I think there’s too many verses throughout the whole Bible that imply free will without jeopardizing God’s purpose. Didn’t the Israelites constantly make the wrong choices, bringing on themselves God’s judgement, through which His purpose for salvation for the whole world was accomplished? Where am I wrong? Just asking.

  • http://www.thinktheology.org luke g.

    Yikes! I have a feeling I’ll be typing a lot… :)

    “Wow! I hope you don’t mind if I join this fascinating discussion. It truly is the classic Calvinist vs. Arminian debate concerning freewill and election that I have long struggled with. I’ve always found both sides to have compelling arguments which are supported by scriptures but can’t both be true. I think this issue has divided many good Christians for centuries and since both sides are sincere and love the Lord we should spend less time trying to prove the other guy wrong and look for some common ground and start from there.”

    Hey, opinions and thoughts are always welcome, as long as they reflect a somewhat irenic attitude! I also agree that it is unfortunate that division occurs. We need to seek to remedy this by having discussions without excommunicating each other or making judgments that are of the flesh. That being said, we can still stand for truth, as I’m sure you’d agree, in a Christ like manner.

    “I would like to address Luke’s comment where he distinguishes between a desire and a decree. While I agree with what you’re saying, where does the Bible state that election is a decree? Couldn’t you say God desires all to be elect, and behind that is His decree that some will accept His offer of salvation by choosing to believe the gospel?”

    Good question! As you note, we hopefully distinguish between theological terms based off of biblical revelation from that which is not. For example, the term “Trinity” does not appear in the Scriptures yet is, in my opinion, clearly presented.

    Ultimately, the burden of proof needs to be provided by those who state that God elects everyone, because I am unaware of any Scripture that states this. So, until an Arminian or a Universalist provides a Scripture with exegetical insight proving this to be the case… we have the discussion we’re in :)

    Grudem defines the Decrees of God as “the eternal plan of God whereby, before the creation of the world, he determined to bring about everything that happens” (Systematic Theology, 1239). Grudem’s Reformed, so that may not help. The decrees have generally been understood to be the things that God determined to take place before the creation of the world. This is, in the Reformed mind, seen as different from God’s providence. From my understanding, it is viewed similiar within the Armininan framework. It just plays out differently and they each interact differently with each other.

    Yet, the concept you are suggesting is the classic Arminian position. Of the five decrees that Arminians generally take, the fifth and last is the decree to elect those whom God “foreknows” will believe in Jesus (this is connected by the decree to all others to pay for their sins).

    Not only is it at odds with Ephesians 1:3-11, as you note, it seems to be at odds with many other passages of Scripture, at least in my estimation. When we look at the pages of Scripture, we recognize that God foreknows actual people and not facts about them (cf. Rom. 8:29). An excellent appendix is found in The Five Points of Calvinism: Defined, Defended, and Documented, which concludes by stating:

      “As was stated at the outset, Calvinists reject the Arminian interpretation of Rom. 8:29 on two grounds: (1) because it is not in keeping with the meaning of Paul’s language, and (2) because it is out of harmony with… the rest of the Scriptures.” (168)

    I’m inclined to agree because there is no Scripture that states that God elects people because he “foresees” (not “foreknows”) their faith. Rather, election occurs “in order that God’s purpose of election might continue” (Rom. 9:11) and as a demonstration of God’s grace (“chosen by grace,” Rom. 11:5). In fact, Paul states that God “saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began” (2 Tim. 1:9).

    Again, it seems to me that the Arminian is required to give some explicit Scriptures that would clarify these issues. From my perspective, it seems that a clear reading of Ephesians 1 and Romans 9 are convincing. And I have yet to find other Scriptures that indicate otherwise. 2 Thess. 2:13-14 states that we are saved through the means of faith and the sanctification of the Spirit (cf. 1 Pet. 1:2). No one is “saved” apart from God’s grace through faith in Christ and we, as “Calvinists” stand firmly upon the concept that it is the Holy Spirit who regenerates hearts and enables depraved man to turn to God in repentance and faith (cf. 1 Cor. 12:3).

    “If God decrees that some would be saved, doesn’t this necessarily say He also decrees that some would be lost (limited atonement), and wouldn’t that make Him unjust? When Paul talks about God’s purpose concerning election in Romans 9 he asks this same question and answers it emphatically (Romans 9:14).”

    Well, this is where the “rubber” hits the road. Most Reformed folks tend to use the term “Particular Redemption” regarding the Atonement because the term “limited” does not do justice to Christ’s work on the cross.

    The two major “streams” of the Protestant Reformation have disagreed on this. Lutherans (one “stream”) simply suggest that God elects unconditionally and then ‘passes over’ the rest of mankind in which they end up, obviously, going to hell. Calvinists (the other “stream”) take the logical steps from unconditional election and arrive at the doctrine of Reprobation. Calvinists obviously do not simply rest on logic, as that would defeat Sola Scriptura. We find indication of Reprobation in texts such as 1 Pet. 2:7-8; Rom. 9:13-22; John 10:26; 12:37-40; etc.

    The fact that God seeminly chooses some for salvation and others to die in their sins does not do God injustice, IMO. God would be perfectly just in sending everyone to hell and it is only because of His mercy and grace that we are any different! Perhaps the most convincing treatment of Romans 9 is found in Piper’s The Justification of God. I seriously recommend that you read it. The exegesis is so convincing it is… staggering. It will and does produce worship of God, IMO.

    So, I guess I’m unclear as to your point here, though I have a feeling it is connected with what I’m about to respond to…

    “There are too many scriptures like 2 Peter 3:9, 1 Timothy 2:4, 1 John 2:2, and so many more that don’t allow for limited atonement.”

    Well, I’d be careful in stating that they don’t allow for Particular Redemption. The overwhelming majority of Protestant Reformers would disagree with you, which doesn’t make you wrong per say, but certainly should be cause to use statements that dismiss a doctrine.

    Have you read the Reformed perspectives on these verses? Have you noted the various ways “world” (Gk. kosmos) are used in the Greek NT? Have you wrestled with the philosophical problems within an Unlimited Atonement framework? What about the passages of Scripture, such as John 10:15-16; 11:51-52; 17:6, 9, 19; Rev. 5:9, which seem to indicate Particular Redemption?

    A really good resouce on Particular Redemption is the explanation that Piper’s congregation has put forth (found here). I find it to be very easy to read and more or less communicates my understanding of the Atonement and its scope (the whole article is actually good).

    “As far as you’re reference to 1 Peter 2:8, I don’t think the fact that we were “destined to disobey the word” proves that there’s no room for us to make a choice. It just seems to make it unlikely that we would make the right choice without a little help.”

    How do you reach this conclusion based off of this text? The Arminian generally doesn’t deny that this passage teaches a clear “cause and effect,” they just go back to the Foreknowledge of God argument. I’d like to see you exegete this passage to come to your conclusion though! It sounds pretty interesting…

    I especially agree with your last statement, only I’d reword it :) We don’t need a little help – we need all the help we can get! In my opinion, the Scriptures makes it clear that we cannot make the right choice (cf. Eph. 2:1-3; Col. 2:13; John 3:19; 1 Cor. 2:14; Eph. 4:17-19; John 8:34, 44; Rom. 3:9-12; etc.). We are not spiritually sick, we are spiritually dead before the Holy Spirit regenerates our hearts! That is the beauty of the Gospel! God takes our heart of stone and gives us a heart of flesh! Praise His Holy name!

    “If we apply God’s foreknowledge to this situation, why couldn’t God still achieve his purpose had Pharoah made a different choice? Am I missing something? I think there’s too many verses throughout the whole Bible that imply free will without jeopardizing God’s purpose.”

    Well, I think you and I would disagree on the topic of “free will” because I do not believe that man is a morally free agent. I believe that he is by nature enslaved to sin. He cannot make the right spirituall choices because of it. I guess I’m not convinced of Prevenient Grace because I find no Scriptural support for it, just a lot of assumptions :) I, of course, could be wrong. I’d be open to your explanation of those verses that imply it, especially in light of the Scriptures that seem to teach Total Depravity.

    Wouldn’t you agree that the way God chooses to receive glory is probably the best way? Therefore, it appears to me that God hardening the heart of an Egyptian king was His own choice because it was the ultimate way in which He would receive the glory that is due His name. Paul seems to indicate that the “vessels of wrath” are actually tools that God uses to “make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy” (Rom. 9:23). This is not to say that your question is stupid. I think it is a natural question that most people ask. I’m just suggesting that we need to distinguish between our own human logical and the will of God as revealed through the Scriptures. As Paul says, “the foolishness of God is wiser than men” (1 Cor. 1:25). Maybe you can explain yourself a bit more here…

    “Didn’t the Israelites constantly make the wrong choices, bringing on themselves God’s judgement, through which His purpose for salvation for the whole world was accomplished? Where am I wrong? Just asking.”

    Amen, amen, and amen! Yes, that’s the beauty of God’s wisdom! He truly does work “all things according the counsel of his will” (Eph. 1:11). He will receive the glory that is due His name! And He uses broken sinful people to accomplish it.

    On a side note, I’d like to point out that you said, “through which His purpose for salvation for the whole world,” which is a perfect example in how the term “whole world” can be used to mean different things, determined by the context. I’m assuming that you do not believe that the “whole world” is saved. I find the same to be true within the Scriptures. Context and overall perspective are required in order to understand the Bible, wouldn’t you agree?

    Anyway, wow, this is probably a long, long response. I hope I explained myself correctly and I certainly pray that it was done humbly. I’m just like you… trying to spend time with God and trying to know Him better. I also want to present the truth correctly and that is why I welcome these type of discussions.

    I am, thankfully, living proof that one can be a “Calvinist” and still pray, evangelize, and speak in tongues :) I also can really relate to how many people think Calvinism is or Calvinists are, because I did not have a real good “taste in my mouth” a few years back. Thankfully God spoke to me through the Scriptures and I met people who weren’t arrogant jerks!

    Anyway… let’s continue our discussion. I hope we can take it a bit slower, as these long responses are difficult to respond to. Perhaps you have a couple questions or verses you’d like to address?

    Thanks so much for your involvement. I hope everyone understands that I’m open to God and I love me some Arminians :)

    Blessings,
    luke g.

  • Erin

    I’m going to have to ponder these questions and reread this thread some more before I can throw my opinion in the mix. Thanks for everyone’s opinions though!

  • http://www.myspace.com/atter_girl mrsdoemrx

    Luke, you are tho thmart! I think you are the smartest ex-rapper I know. ;-)

    Seriously, I wish I could make my points as well as you can because you know your stuff. Half of the stuff I believe in I just do. I don’t know why — probably because someone somewhere along the line told me to and it sounded good so I did.

    Anyway, the verse that sticks with me from an earlier discussion is:

    “If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.” Matthew 18:10-14

    This is the verse I was trying to quote in an earlier blog reply about Calvinism. Is Jesus looking at a specific group of children when he makes that last statement and directs it at an actual group that was “pre-chosen” or does it mean that the will of the Father is that NO ONE should perish?

    Please exegete for me!

  • timbreldancer

    Just for the record…I’m not Arminian. I’m sure I’ll have more to say after I’ve read this book of comments since my last post! :D

  • timbreldancer

    Sure, those two statements may seem like mutually exclusive statements but, in my opinion, they are not. Apparent paradoxes, yes. Inconsistent truths, no. So, I take issue with an inconsistent analogy and you take issue with what you think is inconsistent in the Bible

    I wasn’t disagreeing with you…although it may have seemed like it. I was just saying it seemed just as inconsistent as what you were saying about Scholar’s post. I guess I wasn’t bothered by the analogy, because I know all analogies eventually fall apart. I was looking at it, within the limitations of analogies in general.

    I think it would be helpful to distinguish between a decree and a desire. God desires things that will not happen. God’s decrees always happen.

    I like this. It’s a great way to describe what I’ve always understood, but couldn’t put into words.

    God is not just involved in the “overall” plan. He is involved in the small minute details. Even to the point of foreordaining man’s choices through His decrees.

    I agree God is also intimately concerned with the minute details. I’m not sure what you mean by his “foreordaining” our choices through his decrees.

    now it sounds like your Reformed (somewhat)!

    I like the “somewhat” on there, lol.

    The problem with many examples and analogies, if not most, is that they generally fail to balance the issues. One walks away from various analogies with a rather poor understanding of the truth.

    Maybe I’m mistaken, but isn’t a parable just another form of analogy? It seems to me that Jesus spent much more time using stories to teach than he did just expounding ad infinitum on scripture verses.

    TIMBRELDANCER, I just reread my post and it sounds like an arrogant response to yours. I apologize. I did not intend to come across so harshly, so forgive me.

    Apology accepted, although not needed. I also would like to apologize if any of my posts come across as arrogant. I know I tend to sound that way sometimes, even though I try not to. I like discussions like this where all sides can be openly discussed, hopefully with the truth shining through all the fluff. :-)

    It truly is the classic Calvinist vs. Arminian debate concerning freewill and election that I have long struggled with. I’ve always found both sides to have compelling arguments which are supported by scriptures but can’t both be true.

    Yes. This is where I am, too. I would like someone to clearly explain to me why God has to be either a Calvinist, Arminianist, Open Theist or whatever that other one was that Luke mentioned. Why can’t God be something that isn’t one of these categories?

    The other thing I struggle with is just how far the Calvinist/Arminianist view of things extends. Is it only pertaining to who gets saved? Or does it extend to our lives as Christians as well? Or do all the rules change, as soon as we get saved? Perhaps Luke (and others?) could expound on that a bit?

  • HebrewScholar

    I used to be an Arminian, then I changed into a Calvinist, and now I consider myself to be an Eclectic (Cal-minian).

    As for analogies, an analogy can be very helpful when trying to figure out how to apply something to one’s life, as it can serve as a model, using an example of how a Biblical principle can be applied to real-life situations, although they usually tend to fall apart somewhere.

  • http://www.thinktheology.org luke g.

    “This is the verse I was trying to quote in an earlier blog reply about Calvinism. Is Jesus looking at a specific group of children when he makes that last statement and directs it at an actual group that was “pre-chosen” or does it mean that the will of the Father is that NO ONE should perish?”

    Karen, I believe that those whom are chosen by God are the sheep that Jesus continually spoke of and it seems to me that this reveals that God is not willing that any of His chosen people should perish, which is related to what Jesus said in John 6:37, 44 regarding not allowing them to perish and raising them up on the last day.

    “Just for the record…I’m not Arminian. I’m sure I’ll have more to say after I’ve read this book of comments since my last post!”

    Teresa… sure you aren’t ;)

    “Maybe I’m mistaken, but isn’t a parable just another form of analogy? It seems to me that Jesus spent much more time using stories to teach than he did just expounding ad infinitum on scripture verses.”

    Jesus certainly used parables more than he provided commentary on the Hebrew Scriptures. Yet, Jesus’ parables were coming from God and were without flaw whereas our analogies are not :) This is why I recommend people grasp biblical truth apart from man made analogies. Analogies aren’t evil by any means, but as everyone is noting… they break down; some are also better than others, for obvious reasons.

    Also, the parables built upon Scriptural truths and Jesus did a wonderful job of using perfect “stories” to convey the principles of the Kingdom. I still maintain that a “choose your own adventure” analogy grossly misrepresents how the Scriptures teach the Sovereignty of God and how human responsibility plays into it.

    “I would like someone to clearly explain to me why God has to be either a Calvinist, Arminianist, Open Theist or whatever that other one was that Luke mentioned. Why can’t God be something that isn’t one of these categories?”

    I was unaware that God had to be any of these, actually. I was more under the impression that people held convictions (based on the Scriptures) that fell into one of these camps. God isn’t a Calvinist, Arminian, or Open Theist! He’s obviously beyond adjective descriptions that limit the scope of His glory. Yet, the flip side is that these terms are used to define certain systems of theology that I would strongly urge every Christian to take seriously. They greatly impact every sphere of life and play out in practical ways. In relation to the Pentecostal/Charismatic/Third Wave movement… I believe Reformed Theology (Calvinism) brings a great balance to the extremes that have so easily become “standard” beliefs in many people’s hearts and minds.

    I would also suggest that Jesus Himself and the apostle Paul taught the very same things that are considered “Calvinism.” John 6, Romans 9-11, and Ephesians 1 convince me of this… but that’s just my opinion.

    “The other thing I struggle with is just how far the Calvinist/Arminianist view of things extends. Is it only pertaining to who gets saved? Or does it extend to our lives as Christians as well? Or do all the rules change, as soon as we get saved? Perhaps Luke (and others?) could expound on that a bit?”

    Well, I’m a bit unclear as to what exactly is our question… but I would state that these doctrines impact every sphere of our lives. It pertains to the saved, the unsaved, the new Christian, and the old alike. What “rules” are you referring to? What do you mean when you aks how far these views extend? I’d love to share my opinion but I’m unclear on what exactly you mean… perhaps you could give me some examples?!?!

    “I used to be an Arminian, then I changed into a Calvinist, and now I consider myself to be an Eclectic (Cal-minian).”

    You do realize that we (Calvinists) just call you “Inconsistent,” right :) Ha ha ha.

    “As for analogies, an analogy can be very helpful when trying to figure out how to apply something to one’s life, as it can serve as a model, using an example of how a Biblical principle can be applied to real-life situations, although they usually tend to fall apart somewhere.”

    Yep. I agree. Just don’t try and sell your “choose your own adventure” analogies around these parts, David! Or else :) JK.

    On a side note, I have a new book that I bet you would absolutely love… it discusses the NT’s use of the OT Scriptures and how the authors of the NT used the OT. It’s pretty interesting… lots of Hebrew and LXX interaction. It’s good times.

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  • Searchin

    Luke, Thanks for taking the time to respond to all my questions. I agree that it’s difficult to address so much at one time so I’ll try to be more brief.

    I feel a bit out of my league here. You’ve provided much insight but I’m not yet convinced I’m looking at this wrong, and I feel like I haven’t been able to express my thoughts very well. I know that you’re a lot smarter than I am because when I read your comments I have to keep getting out my dictionary (just trying to be irenic).

    As I mentioned earlier I’ve spent a lot of time on this subject in the past, and I haven’t been able to totally accept either of these two views without coming across some scriptures that seem to disagree with the theology behind each view. I know the problem isn’t with the scriptures so it leads me to look closer at the theology. I expect you’ll suggest the problem lies in my exegesis but I believe the deeper issue is how we view and understand certain doctrines like election and atonement. While I agree with you on so many points, and you provide great explanations, I still have a few differences. I can see how I may have come across as taking the Arminian viewpoint but I also reject Prevenient Grace for lack of support and agree that the Bible teaches Total Depravity, but concerning limited atonement, or Particular Redemption, I can’t get past the idea that God would create man having predestined (or decreed) that most of His creatures would spend eternity in the lake of fire (Reprobation). He certainly had foreknowledge of it, but to say He decreed it, in my view, goes against the Bible’s clear teaching about God’s nature (holy, righteous, just, loving, merciful). I agree with your statement that “God would be perfectly just in sending everyone to hell and it is only because of His mercy and grace that we are any different!” as far as it applies to our condition as sinners (Total Depravity), but not in the sense that He predestined it. I find it especially interesting that Romans 9 is used to support this view because when read in context with chapters 10 & 11, it seems clear (to me) that Paul is talking about the unique election of Israel as a nation, then it’s rejection, and ultimately it’s acceptance. I think if anyone reads chapter 11 without any strict theological presuppositions concerning the “decree” of election, especially vs. 1-2, it sheds some light on God’s purpose and foreknowledge, but how does it support the doctrine of Reprobation? Did God change His mind? Twice? The fact that Paul spends so much time and goes to such great lengths to teach on this, “lest you should be wise in your own opinion” (Romans 11:25), and concludes with “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!” (Romans 11:33), seems to indicate that it might be hard (if even possible) for us to understand God’s reasons, and perhaps we should be careful in trying to fit all of God’s wisdom and knowledge into some category of human wisdom when Paul clearly says we can’t.

    When I asked where does the Bible state that election is a decree, and you replied that, ” we hopefully distinguish between theological terms based off of biblical revelation from that which is not.”, to which I agree, you supported it with a definition from a reformed theologian with whom you agree (You’re right, it didn’t help much. Guess I’m not reformed yet.). I agree that the Trinity is clearly presented, and I never meant to suggest that I believe God elects everyone because again I agree with you that this is not scriptural. But I still question the “decrees” as they are laid out by theologians.

    I’m only saying all this because I can find no evidence of God’s “divine decrees” being defined or recorded prior to possibly Augustine in the fourth century, and given the amount of division this has caused within the Body of Christ, I have to wonder if we aren’t trying a little too hard to understand some things that might be beyond our human capacity. I realize how deep this goes and how much it affects so many other areas of our understanding. If we limit ourselves to one of these two views (Calvinist / Arminian), it seems to me that the choice we make will ultimately be affected by our understanding of things like the atonement, sanctification, regeneration, free will, etc.

    If I understand correctly, Particular Redemption argues that if Christ died for the redemption of ALL men, then in justice, He must save all men. But I think this can be answered by distinguishing between the provision and the application of salvation. If the Passover was an Old Testament type of Christ’s death (1 Corinthians 5:7), the sacrifice of the lamb was the provision of salvation for the firstborn, but it didn’t do any good unless the blood was applied to the lintel and posts of the door. The lamb had to be slain, but an act of obedience was needed for it to apply. Isn’t this what Peter referred to in 1Peter 1:2 ? I guess this is where we get into our differences on the topic of free will. It’s my opinion that every command, and every moral decision the Bible puts before us requires real choice, making man a free moral agent. This may not fit our particular understanding of things like predestination or foreknowledge, but “My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways”, says the Lord (Isaiah 55:8).

    So much for trying to be brief, huh? I could go on and on. I would like to address many more of the issues you mentioned in your comment specifically, but I just realized how long this is getting.

    My point is that it seems to me when we understand all these terms only within the context of a particular theological viewpoint, it always causes disagreement and division. Please don’t get me wrong, I love theology and I certainly don’t want to come across as attacking anyones beliefs, and my beliefs don’t necessarily fit into any one “theological framework”. I probably tend to offend everyone but that’s not my intention. Maybe I’m just not smart enough to understand any of them well enough. I just can’t help thinking, what would Paul think of the church in the 21st century? When I see so much division between so many Christians, it grieves me and I pray that God can somehow use me to bring glory to Himself. I feel that the Holy Spirit has impressed upon me that theology, like everything else we get our hands on, can also have a dark side. I can’t emphasize enough that I think theology is great (it’s by far my favorite subject!) and has brought us much good, as long as it doesn’t lead to the same kind of religious pride that the Jewish scribes, pharisees, and sadducees of Jesus’ day had. I also can’t help thinking that Satan probably loves theology as much as some of us do. Should I have said that here? I’m not expressing my feelings here, just thoughts in general.

    Peace!

  • http://www.thinktheology.org luke g.

    Searchin,

    Thanks so much for your response to my response which was a response to your response (whoa!) :)

    It’s totally and absolutely cool that you view things differently than some of us do. I like the eclectic and diverse nature of this blog. I will defend my beliefs along with everyone else but I don’t need to be right in order to function (despite what my wife says!!!). Plus, I didn’t just go from being an Arminian to becoming Reformed over night. It was certainly a process and took a lot of study and discussion and more study and prayer and study and discussion and disagreement and debate and discussion and prayer and study. So, yeah… totally cool!

    Stick around and hang out with us and tell us your thoughts and disagree with us and raise questions and seek God! In fact, grab a cup of coffee and tell us your thoughts whenever you feel so inclined.

    I’ll try and respond to a few more of your thoughts when I get a chance, but just know that this is a place for discussion and obviously discussions are two sided and have two views and do not always agree.

    Again, your comments are very much appreciated! I’d write more, but I need to get going to do some wood cutting for an outreach this morning… and I think I’ll be late if I start typing more :)

    Blessings!

  • Searchin

    Thanks Luke, you’re an inspiration!

  • timbreldancer

    Searchin, you have eloquently put into words my own thoughts on the subject. As Luke said, God is not a Calvinist or Arminianist or Open Theist, etc. Therefore, my thought is that, if God isn’t, then why should I be? I think God is more than able to be something other than the “boxes” that we humans have come up with to define Him.

  • http://www.thinktheology.org luke g.

    Searchin – Ha! I’m an inspiration? Yikes! I’m not sure what to think about that… depressing or encouraging?!?!?! :) By the way, how’d you find this blog? Are you in WI?

    Teresa – Is God a Christian? How about an Evangelical? What about a Charismatic? These are all terms that Christians use. Should they not use them because God doesn’t? I thought you considered yourself a Charismatic?!?!?!

  • Jholmes

    Luke, when are you going to give the reasons for your theological convictions? I would love to read why you are a charismatic and why you are not outright opposed to the emergent church. When you going to give me some good reading material?

  • http://www.myspace.com/atter_girl mrsdoemrx

    keyboard music plays… (80s song- cue Chicago…) “You’re the meaning in my life, You’re the Inspiration….”

    Luke, you are so funny sometimes. You ARE encouraging to most people, except for maybe Marvin (poor guy… he is just trying to stand up for himself.)

    Wow, this discussion is getting really deep. You are really losing us non-theologians now…. Please use normal everyday words when possible, please!

  • http://www.thinktheology.org luke g.

    Ha! Marvin can dish it but can’t take it :)

    Did you folks not see the new theological word of the day? This is supposed to help! Key word: “supposed.”

    For the record, I’ll need you all to define normal because it seems highly relative and entirely based upon perspective – doh! :)

  • kbo

    What is surveyed is “common.”

    What’s common is “average.”

    What’s average is “normal.”

    What’s normal is “good.”

    Right?

  • http://www.thinktheology.org luke g.

    Yeah… that’s… the… problem?!?!?!

    :)

  • Searchin

    I haven’t had much opportunity to get on here lately. I see I’m only about 5 posts and 50 comments behind. I don’t think I can keep up!

    Timbreldancer, I never knew I could say anything eloquently. Thanks! It took a long time.

    Luke, why would my being inspired by you be a depressing thought? I’m impressed by your knowledge and your commitment, but what inspires me the most is your attitude. When you disagree with someone your responses always seem to be patient, thoughtful, and encouraging all at the same time, and with a sense of humor. There are a lot of Christians that could benefit from a consistent combination of these qualities (including me).

    I also think that we share a similar desire to know and understand everything we can about God, but we read the same verses and have a different understanding. This is troubling to me, so I’d like to try to explain where I’m at.

    In the past I’ve read some really convincing arguments for certain theological beliefs, filled with scriptures to back them up, only to find (sometimes years later) an equally convincing argument for an opposing viewpoint, and changed my mind. I think earlier you jokingly called someone inconsistent for that, but I prefer to think of it as growing. Now, if I’m uncertain about anything specific, I’ll look for every possible argument I can find for and against it and then look for every reference in the Bible that might be relevant, pray, study, then hopefully make a decision. I know this doesn’t mean I’ll always be right, but I sure see how many people use verses out of context to make their case. For me, knowing that God is the author of the bible and there can be no contradictions is the key. If there are some verses that seem to support a particular doctrine, and others that support a conflicting idea, both ideas must be lacking in some aspect. There has to be a way to understand them in harmony. This is always my goal, and it’s inspiring to me to discuss some of my conclusions with people with opposing points of view without being told “you’re wrong, end of conversation.” I enjoy being challenged to defend my beliefs by someone willing to listen to my reasons. It gets me prayerfully into the Word.

    Oh, by the way, I’m pretty sure I found this blog because God predestined it, and yes I’m in WI.

  • http://www.thinktheology.org luke g.

    “I also think that we share a similar desire to know and understand everything we can about God, but we read the same verses and have a different understanding. This is troubling to me, so I’d like to try to explain where I’m at.”

    Hey, as long as you’re willing to admit that the Bible doesn’t have two meanings in those verses, I’m okay :) I’ve actually sat in Bible studies or had discussions with people that actually believe that ambiguous verses have several meanings. I then have the desire to pick up pieces of random furniture and throw it out windows! Authorial intent, authorial intent, authorial intent!

    “I think earlier you jokingly called someone inconsistent for that, but I prefer to think of it as growing.”

    Actually, for the record, I either didn’t explain this fully or you misunderstood my point (I’ll assume I didn’t explain this very well).

    Changing views as one comes to study Scripture is to be encouraged (assuming the changes are good). If you had come to me five years ago and told me I was going to be Reformed you would have been given a nice cup of coffee, a slice of pie, and two black eyes! I mean, I’d spent my entire life being a happy Arminian who thought Calvinism was unbiblical and that being a Calvinist automatically meant you had to hate prayer, evangelism, and the gifts of the Holy Spirit! Then I read my Bible a lot… and could not jump through exegetical hoops of fire or explain certain passages away anymore. It was simply impossible to do, for me.

    So, over a period of time I came to embrace what is referred to as “Calvinism” or better yet, the Doctrines of Grace. It wasn’t an immediate change over night. It was in stages… two point Calvinist… three point Calvinist… four point Calvinist… and then… what? yikes… it was happening… five point Calvinist?!?!?!

    We are supposed to grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord (2 Pet. 3:18). This can’t be encouraged enough.

    But what of “consistency”? My point in regards to consistency has to do with exegesis and hermeneutics. I don’t want to be a jerk here, but in my experience, it is hard to find consistency in the way that folks exegete Scriptures and interpret them (application through hermeneutics) apart from either Reformed Theology or Pelagianism. Since Pelagianism is a heresy and entirely unscriptural, my option comes down to Reformed Theology.

    All this is to say that I believe if one exegetes, for example, Romans 9-11, Ephesians 1, and John 6 they will be forced to take a “Reformed” perspective. Not only is this evidenced within the text, note any of the commentaries on these passages and the overwhelming view is Reformed because it is the most consistent and exegetically sound position to hold.

    Furthermore, as has been evidenced within this discussion, most folks do not really understand Reformed Theology unless they have either (1) studied Reformed Theology from the writings of actual Reformed people and not guys like Dave Hunt, (2) been taught the Doctrines of Grace by someone who was patient and willing to answer questions and go through passages slowly.

    Again, I am a “testimony” of this being true of “Arminians” (and those who don’t consider themselves Arminians). I grew up in the Vineyard movement (which had a mildly Reformed background but you wouldn’t have known it unless someone told you that it was there). I then attended an AOG for all of high school and ended up doing 3.5 years of my undergrad in the AOG/Pentecostal system. I can’t even begin to tell you the ad hominem and straw man statements that I’d been told. Everything that was mentioned about Reformed Theology and John Calvin was very, very, very bad. Nothing positive.

    I must also state that every “Calvinist” I met was what I refer to as a (*$#)*)(*#$ (that’s French for “jerk face”). They were arrogant, prideful, impatient, and simply unwilling to engage in the type of conversation that you are describing.

    This, of course, was convinced me that my exegesis must be correct :) After all, mean people can’t exegete properly (ha ha). Well, to be honest, I would go home and study the Scriptures and have these big nagging questions in the back of my mind. I knew that I was missing something.

    So I made a decision. I decided to study Reformed Theology from a different perspective. I decided to take the Scriptures at face value in the good old fashioned Protestant Historical-grammatico method of interpretation which I had been told was right but constantly demonstrated was not right if it led to positions not supported by the establishment (AOG).

    After one month, I was a Calvinist and no one could believe it. In fact, I think most of my friends, family, and many others simply don’t understand how I could be a Calvinist or even why! But, alas, I am. I was then fortunate enough to finish my masters within a context that was more Reformed than not… and got a better understanding of the overall picture and even perhaps why it matters, especially within American Evangelicalism.

    That’s my story. I’m a little off track. I apologize.

    My point is that consistency is important in both the area of exegesis and hermenetucs. It obviously isn’t that important if one is consistently inconsistent or consistently wrong, but it is important for those who desire to correctly interpret the Bible (2 Tim. 2:15) and be able to provide an answer for the beliefs that they have (1 Pet. 3:15). This is where I see the biggest problem. Folks will allow the text to speak for itself in the areas that they like but will explain it away or philosophically “adjust” it in order to make it fit better. All schools of theology are guilt of this. I just see it happen more outside of the Reformed camp.

    That being said, several people that I care for dearly who are part of the Northwoods YWAM base hold to what is often referred to as Paradoxical Theology, which sounds like something that would be interested in! One of them was trained at TEDS and had folks like Grudem and Moo as professors. He’s an inspiration to me… and he is awesome and he also isn’t Reformed.

    I would jokingly call him inconsistent and he would continue to offer Hebrews as a reason for not embracing the full aspects of Reformed Theology.

    And in order to be fair, I will certainly state that there are “problem passages” for Reformed Theology. Hebrews offers us several very difficult passages to interpret (for both the Reformed and the Arminian). But, at the end of the day, I believe Calvinism offers the best rational explanations based on solid exegesis and consistent hermeneutics. Others don’t, and that is okay… I just don’t like them (just kidding!).

    I just really, really, really enjoy this discussion and I like to learn too, so I’m with you.

    I’m glad you were predestined to come here. I’m also equally glad to hear that you are in WI because WI people are… uh… yeah.

    On a side note: I wonder if I could have Tom (YWAM Northwoods guy) come and speak on Paradoxical Theology some day… that would be a great conversation to be a part of during one of our worship gatherings!

    Blessings! Sorry for writing a short story!

  • Jholmes

    Luke, have you read Grudem’s commentary on the warning passages of Hebrews? It was a part of the grace series.

  • http://www.thinktheology.org luke g.

    Jholmes, sorry for missing your question.

    Yes, I have read Grudem’s paper. I can’t remember if I agreed or not, but I do remember finding it intriguing. I was actually not a Calvinist when I read it, so that was probably why I was reading it.

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