Wednesday, August 23, 2006

My purpose in this mini series is to provoke thought and to cause each of us to reconsider our soteriology. There is always a danger of people simply going with whatever they were first taught when they were first saved. Regardless of the topic, this is a true pattern. Think about it, how many things do you now believe that you were taught the exact opposite when you first became a believer? I’m sure there are some views that have changed, but, by in large, most people do not wander too far from the fold in which they were first discipled. Just do a quick mental survey of the Christians you know. Those, for example, who believe that tongues is the initial physical evidence of the baptism in the Holy Spirit were probably taught that as kids or when they first got saved. Those who don’t believe that were probably taught that as kids or when they first got saved. Those who believe that you can fall from grace and lose your salvation were usually taught that when they were first discipled. Those believing “once saved-always saved” were probably raised and taught that way. My last example is our views of the end time. Most people who believe in pre-millennial, dispensational theology were probably “raised” that way, it was probably what they were taught when they were first saved.

It is extremely difficult, stressful and at times emotionally painful to deconstruct our theology and put it back together as we study and feel led by the Holy Spirit. Going through such a process once is great, doing this regularly for the rest of ones life is priceless. It is well worth the time, stress and effort. I believe that this is part of what we are called to do when Paul instructed us to “continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling”.

I believe that most evangelicals were raised with an inconsistent view of God’s sovereignty, one way or another. We say two things that, when drawn out to logical conclusions, can not both possibly be true. The first thing we say is that all men have a real choice to make. We say that the decision about accepting Christ is up to us. Then in the very next breath we say that God is in control. Now wait just a minute here! How can both these things be true? Just think about it. If the decision is made by us, truly free of manipulation by God, then how is He in control? Does that not make God simply a spectator? How is God in control if He is not…well…in control? Another good example of inconsistency in our lingo is when we teach that man is totally free to make a decision for God and then we turn around and pray for someone’s salvation! What is that all about? Why do we pray for God to “convict”, “draw” or “open the eyes” of certain individuals if we believe that ones decision for Him or against Him is truly free? Are we asking Him to in some way violate their free will? Are we asking Him to manipulate their hearts or their spiritual eyes? And what of those poor souls who have no one praying specifically for their salvation? Are they less likely to choose Christ? Are those whom we specifically pray for more likely to be saved than if we didn't pray for them? Can God be just if He makes it easier for some to accept (due to the specific prayers of others) than He does those who have no such intersession? (The accusation of promoting an "unjust" God can be tossed around, not just at "Calvinists" you see).

I believe the reality of salvation is taught in several passages of scripture. I’ve listed some in previous posts and have spent more time working through others. It is possible that the plainest teaching on salvation is found in the book of Romans. And in the book of Romans, it is possible that the clearest chapter on this topic is chapter eight. And in that chapter, possibly the most clear verse is twenty 28. So, without further impediment,

Romans 8:28-33 NIV

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies.

What do you think Paul, who was under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, meant when he wrote that “in all things God works…”? What do you think he meant when he used the word “foreknew”? What connections can be made between verses 28 and 29? Is the NIV wrong for including verse 28 in the same paragraph as 29? The quick and easy answer, the answer that makes us feel as if we’re off the hook is “oh, God just knew who would and wouldn’t accept Jesus ahead of time and on that basis He predestines”. Oh yes, I’ve tried to hang my hat on that as well. Again, how does verse 28 apply to that line thinking? Does not that line of thinking simply make God a responder to His observation of us? He can not be in full control in that view can He? In that view, we are still in control of our destiny, God simply does nothing more than react. Is that real sovereignty? Did God act or react with Abram? Saul? Jeremiah? Pharaoh? Jacob? Esau? Peter? Andrew? Peter and Andrew’s father? You?

Here’s my challenge: do a study on the words “foreknowledge” and “knowledge” in the Bible (and their related words). See if they simply refer to intellectual understanding or awareness.

Try to apply the definition of pure intellectual understanding or awareness for the word “knowledge”, “know” or “knew” to when Jesus told us what His response will be to those who pretended to be Christians on earth when they face Him on judgment day. What will He say to them? “Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” (Matthew 7:23). Is God not omniscient?

Post away!


TruthOfActs said...

If God was in 'full control' why did Adam sin?
I always had a doubt when someone would say, "If the Lord had not been with me, I would have died in that car wreck I had."
I would think, "If the Lord had been with you, you wouldn't have had a car wreck."

One night my negative thoughts took a different turn.
Can you picture a foolish boy walking at night in the middle of a highway shoulder with his back to the traffic? Two cars were approaching behind him at 60 mph...with one of them on the shoulder. Neither car could see much with car lights in their eyes. The first car was even with the boy and the other swerved violently missing the passing car by 3 feet.
My wife who was following me in another car thought I had seen the boy, but I told her no.
"Why did you swerve?"
"I thought I'd see how close I could get to the passing car like race drivers. I've never done that before."

I asked my pastor about it, and he said that sometimes God lets us go as far as we can and then SOMETIMES He will intervene. He said look at Hagar and her baby dieing from thirst. God could have provided water for them a lot sooner.
Rex Ray

roy said...

I read most of your writings. Your point here is valid. I also remain loyal
to most of the basic tenets of my early Christian teaching. I feel that I have
become more amenable to "secondary" principles I first held though.

Christopher Redman said...

Many Christians who study for the ministry will change their views. However, most lay people in churches don't. I think it best for pastors to lead their congregations to be continually learning and going deeper into the Word.

I believe that theology is best learned when taught from the pulpit week in and week out. I wish more pastors would actually do it.


Troublemaker said...

You talk about following things through to their logical conclusion. Here is a problem with your idea of sovereignty. If we have no true free will, then Adam didn't really choose to sin. If God being in control means he controls our choices then God CAUSED Adam to sin. That's a huge problem. James 1:13-16 "When tempted, no one should say, 'God is tempting me.' For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death." You've said before a sinner's nature is to sin. True, but Adam wasn't a sinner and neither was Eve. Adam had no sin nature and no evil desire to be enticed by. And if you say it was the serpent, again, what was the original nature of man. Sin wasn't even in the picture. And why even have the tree of the knowledge of good and evil if it was a temptation. Remember God does not tempt people to sin. In medieval times kings were sometimes called "sovereigns." They ran the kingdom, but didn't order the day to day lives of the individuals in it. I know, God is not a man, but does giving us the free will and ability to make choices really diminish his sovereignty? Or maybe, just maybe, in His sovereignty and by His sovereign decision He decided to let us make some choices but He still controls all of creation while sovereignly choosing not to micromanage every aspect of what He created. The fact that He is sovereign means he could if He chose to. But does He? That's the question.

irreverend fox said...


where do I say that we have no true free will or that God makes choices for us? I'm no "hyper-calvinist". Man is totally free to make real choices and he does so. Sinners choose to sin, always and can not by nature stop. Do you agree? Do you believe that a sinner can choose to stop sinning apart from God's quickening hand? How do you get around the scripture that says that "none seek after God"?

troublemaker said...

The question is does none really mean absolutely not one single person? Does that include the psalmist himself? Was there not one single person in Israel that sought after God? The fact that the writer is David "a man after [God's] own heart" would lead me to believe that the answer to that question is no. Can man do something against his nature? Well, Adam and Eve both did. Their nature was not sin but sin they did. Our fleshly nature is self centered and self is the root of all sin one way or another. Is sacrificing your life for a spouse, friend, child, or stranger a sin? I would say no. That is showing true love. Jesus says there is no greater love than to lay down your life for your friends. An act like that is against our sin nature. And what about our nature as believers. We are new creations. Sin no longer has rule over us, but we still do it anyway. So I guess I would say we can act against our nature. But it doesn't matter. One sin is enough to condemn us to hell and we've all committed more than that.

irreverend fox said...

If David was a man after God's own heart it was because God put that heart in David to begin with. Who recieves the honor for David's heart? Who is praised because of the heart of David? Can David boast of his heart? Of course not, God is praised because of David's heart. Why? Because David was what David was by the grace of God.

The nature and fall of Adam and Ever is a true mystery. I don't think that anybody has a good explaination to their fall. They couldn't have had a "neutral" nature or else they would have been immobile. Actions are driving by desire. There are only two kinds of desire...good or evil. Well, something has to move us...either good or evil. If they were not "good" or "evil"...if neither of those two things were moving them then they would have never done a single thing.

Clearly they were not good in the same way we'll be good post-glorification, right? I mean, will we be able to "choose" to fall from grace once we have been glorified? Does the Bible indicate that just like Adam was "good" and sinned that we'll be "good" and be able to choose sin in the new heaven or new earth?

Adams nature and will and fall is quite a mystery indeed. If his nature was the same as ours will be after we are glorified then that opens an ENTIRE new dimension to our escatology doesn't it? I mean, there would then be the potential of a never ending cycle of fall/redemption...if God willed.

All of that is nonsense because whatever Adam was, in his nature, it was not like ours will be when we are totally "good".

Good thoughts though, the example of Adam is a tough question for we who are reformed, my point is not that it is not a tuff point is that it is a tuff cookie for both Armenians, Calvinists and everbody inbetween.