Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Some comments on Calvinism

As you all saw, I posted something in my last post about Charles H. Spurgeon and the idea of Calvinism - or as it's also known as, the doctrine of grace. In it's most basic thought, Calvinism believes that man cannot come to God on his own because he's by nature sinful and does not desire the things of God so in order to be saved, he must be called by God - or chosen by Him. The other side of the theological coin from Calvinism is Arminianism which believes that God cannot or does not override man's free will and while He calls all men to be saved, some choose not to and some chose to follow Him. It's an interesting dilemma because I've seen Biblical support for both sides in Scripture - but the vast majority of people choose one side and refute the other side as "unbiblical". But what if they're BOTH Biblical, as we see C.H. Spurgeon promoting? It's an interesting thought.

Michelle at My Life and Ponderings posted an entry against Calvinism and posted some links and this post will be a response to some of those - since this is really my only way to respond publicly to those arguments. :) So just bear with me. OK - I just started this post and realize that I think this may take a couple of posts to deal with - it's just going to be easier for me to do and easier for you to read the information. Just an FYI. LOL

In the first link, he states the following:

Therefore, when we say that someone is predestinated to heaven, it seems that their salvation has nothing to do with their choice. However, that is not the case at all. God chose or elected us to receive all the benefits of salvation, but He did so based on our faith in Jesus Christ--faith that was exercised according to our own free will. Let me try to explain.

1. In time, I accepted Jesus Christ as my Saviour by believing in Him. "But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name" (John 1:12).
2. Before time and in eternity, God foresaw that I would in time receive Jesus as Saviour. This is called the foreknowledge of God.
3. Based on this foreknowledge, God foreordained that I would be His and would receive all the benefits and privileges of salvation. "For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren" (Romans 8:29). Therefore we are, "Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father" (1 Peter 1:2).

However, it is most important to understand that the reason for our predestination or election is the fact that God foresaw our faith. Therefore, in the end, it is our faith that causes us to be elected. Also, He did not predetermine that we must believe. Rather, He predetermined the blessings and benefits of salvation.

I seem to confuse people when I teach this. However, it is important to understand that I am not removing our ability to refuse God's salvation. God's choice of us is based on our faith in Him. He clearly states that He is "not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9). Jesus said to the people of Jerusalem, "how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!" (Matthew 23:37).

It is true that we cannot come to the Lord unless the Father draws us. John 6:44 states, "No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day." However, Jesus clearly stated, "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me" (John 12:32). The error of many is to think that man cannot resist God's call to salvation. The verse most often used to teach this (Romans 9:19) is not dealing with personal salvation. The examples in Romans 9 (Pharaoh and Jacob and Esau) are not dealing with salvation, but with other issues. It is true that when God determines something absolutely, it will happen that way. But He often has a desired will which He will not force on man. This is the case with salvation.

1 Timothy 4:10 states, "For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe." Here, in one verse, we have the distinction. Jesus is the Saviour of all men. That is, He died potentionally to save all. However, He is specially (by true application) the Saviour of those who believe in Him. We accept Him by believing in Him. He chose us based on His knowledge of that acceptance. But we freely decided to receive His free gift of salvation. I know this is difficult, but it is also a great blessing to those who accept God's teaching on this subject by faith.

Since God predestinated those He foreknew and since He foreknows all things, I think it is safe to say that all who are saved were predestinated by Him.

The very large issue with this argument is that it is saying that God only predestines someone to salvation based on the knowledge that they saved in the future. That's kind of like standing at the airport seeing on the screen that flight 776 will be landing at gate 11B then deciding that the passengers of flight 776 will get off at gate 11B. What kind of predestination is that? It's not. Romans 8:29 says "For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son". Do you see that it says that God foreknew PEOPLE and it's not speaking of their actions? The text actually says nothing about God foreseeing people believing and then choosing to predestine them. Additionally, not once in Scripture does it say that God chooses us because of our faith. In Romans 9, we see that God chose Jacob over Esau - not because of anything that was done by them (vs. 11). What is the reason stated? "in order that God's purpose of election might continue". We see additionally in other verses that speak of God's election (Ephesians 1:5-6, 2 Timothy 1:9), it is God's sovereignty that is the ultimate goal whereas if election is wrong and it's man's choice only, then man's will is more important that God's sovereignty.

Now, does this mean that man has no say whatsoever about his salvation? No. Our choice in salvation is absolutely true - we choose Christ or we do not choose Him. I heard an interesting comparison to explain more fully the idea of man's free will in election and I think it makes a lot of sense. Let's take the example of a lion. A lion has a nature that is inherent to that lion. He hunts instinctively, he mates instinctively, he does all that he does instinctively. Can the lion go climb a tree and eat fruit? Certainly he can. He has the full ability to do that and nothing is stopping him from doing so. Nothing except his nature. A lion will not do that because it's not what he desires nor what his nature tells him to do. Does that mean he has no choice? Certainly not. A lion will only do what his nature tells him to do even though he has the freedom to do whatever he wishes. In the same way, man acts fully within his nature - and as a sinful man, that means that he will not choose Christ. In Ephesians 2:3, Paul says that before we were saved, "we were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind." We were children of wrath by nature. That is our nature - not to do good and not to be good - not to seek good. Romans 8:8 tells us that "those who are in the flesh cannot please God" and Hebrews 11:6 says "without faith, it is impossible to please Him". The things of God are folly to the unbeliever (1 Corinthians 2:14) and we cannot understand them. We also know that we cannot come to God on our own power because Jesus says in John 6:44 that "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him."

So, can one come to Christ without God? No. Does God look into the future and see "Oh, they're going to believe so I'll foreordain them to salvation!"? No. That makes no sense in the common sense or the Biblical sense. It is a way for those who cannot comprehend God's sovereignty to come up with a way to explain Romans 8:29. God foreknows us - no question. But He doesn't foreknow what we're going to do then make a decision to "predestinate" us to salvation if there is nothing to predestinate us to. Predestinate means to "determine beforehand". So does God just declare what is going to happen (when it's US that would be predestinating if it's only based on God's forekowledge of what we're doing) rather than deciding ahead of time what's going to happen? I think there is enough in Scripture to show us that God DOES predestinate events and people (think of even Esther) and the idea of predestination to salvation is fully supported by Scripture.

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