Sunday, September 2, 2012

"Election" Vignette and a Baptism . . . or two, or three...

  I really don't mind if it is one way or the other: whether we choose God or He chooses us.  A part of me still thinks it is both . . . at the same time . . . via some great transcendental mystery we cannot really comprehend in our human minds . . . which is fine with me as well.  If I have a slight preference, it would be that the "Arminian"--Wesleyan free will option is true, because then it is very clear that there is nothing else to do in this life but spend every possible moment trying reach people with the Gospel and get them saved.  The impetus is stark and profound and compelling . . . if, in fact, everyone is a possible candidate for salvation and everyone has the complete free will choice to enter the Kingdom, or not . . . .

However, as I mentioned, it has not been my own experience that this is so, nor what I have observed in others, and though both sides can be well argued from various select verses--I am more impressed by those portraying a reality of "election" . . . "pre-destination" and of God's absolute sovereignty over ALL matters--and while we have a measure of free will, which is very real and meaningful, it can only be directed to and for God, as He provides it to be so.

I need not recite a litany of the many verses showing our inability to come to Christ unless God makes us able . . . . but Ephesians well summarizes the broad picture of it to my mind:

And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.  --Eph. 2:1-10

As far as personal experience, I can say this.  I remember from a very young age . . . simply having a surety . . . an innate conviction . . . a deep and foundational KNOWING . . . that God was real--that HE IS . . . and that I was His . . . and somehow, some day, some way . . . one way or another . . . I would eventually be brought to Him . . . . No matter how lost I got at times (which was QUITE--on a few occasions!) or in times of hard spiritual frustration and despondency . . . I never lost the sense that He was still "there" . . . and that . . . at the end of it all . . . I was His and would make it to Heaven.  Even when I questioned myself and considered seriously the possibility that I was merely deluded, or worse yet, sinfully presumptuous . . . BENEATH that, located at some baseline existential part of my being, I must admit to always taking it for granted . . . that sooner or later . . . God would find me, rescue me, resuscitate and regenerate me . . . and take me into His Kingdom.

If "election" is true . . . then I suppose that all of His Children . . . regardless of how far off the path they may sometimes wander--even in times of outright rebellion--nevertheless also have this same kind of basic, fundamental conviction and lurking faith.

Unbelievers . . . and I think even some "Arminian" proponents assume that Calvinist-election types . . . are acting from a desire to be "special"--who exult at being one of the "elect" . . . the "chosen."

I have not found this to be the case.  Not in myself or in others who believe in pre-destination.  For me, the feeling and innate sense of somehow already belonging to God, to Jesus . . . has NOT been accompanied by that kind of crass form of egotism or conception of superiority.  It's just not there.  On the contrary, I find just the opposite:  A truly humbled . . . awestruck . . . grateful . . . broken . . . submissive reaction . . . and more able to feel compassion and tolerance for the lost and those who may be lost forever . . . . Discussing this with my wife, she added that, rather than any inclination to feeling superior, there is more something almost like guilt and a burden--"why me?"

It could be turned around the other way in fact.  One could say to the "unimpaired-free-will" proponent . . . that THEY are susceptible to a similar egotism.  If one believes that it is UP TO US and our ability and power to CHOOSE God . . . then might not one begin to think oneself somewhat superior for having done so?

My experience leaves me with the understanding that there is NOTHING I have done . . . or could do . . . to deserve salvation.  Regardless of that faint speck of knowing I somehow belonged to God . . . I was dead in my sin, blind, lost . . . and it was only because HE came in to me and showed me His truth and opened my eyes and heart . . . that I was able to see and know fully.

"I'm so glad that God chose me before the foundation of the world, because he never would have chosen me after I was born!"  --Charles Spurgeon

Because we mortals do not know who is a child of the Father, or who is a child of the father of lies, the devil (as Jesus described some in John 8:44) . . . then we are led and commanded to preach to all.

. . . . I might mention here . . . pondering this a few weeks ago, if "election" is true--God chose/pre-destined some but not all . . . I wondered about the "why" of such an arrangement:  WHY . . . would God have it . . . so that we here on earth . . . are tasked with evangelism and preaching and teaching, proselytizing--missionary outreach . . . when it has already been decided by Him . . . who . . . will be saved?

And this, for what it's worth, is the answer I got:  The human creature--"mankind" . . . made in the image of God, a "little lower than the angels" . . . is made as a social creature.  A yearning for fellowship, familial relations, comradery, interaction, community . . . is a major characteristic of our nature and type.  We were made to share, to enjoy company . . . as "brothers and sisters" . . . in Christ.  So, for OUR benefit, as a blessing and a gift to magnify this Godly designed trait in us, He has provided the scenario that here on this earth, in its fallen condition, we GET to participate in the great pleasure and joy of awakening the Children of God . . . to their sacred birthright . . . as disciples of Jesus, and citizens of a Heavenly Kingdom.  God does not need us to preach and spread the Gospel and bring people to Christ.  He allows us to, so that our social and brotherly/sisterly nature and design is given a stage and a purpose to be fulfilled through, for both our and His pleasure and joy . . . . 

*  *  *

Meanwhile . . . . I referred earlier to this general topic relating to times of seeming "spiritual recession."  Contemplating this while at work the other day, I made a quick note on some scrap paper, standing there on the ladder . . . . :  "Re spirit recede--If Calv. true then it is a great help to weather through (spiritually 'dry' times) . . . . Arminian could say, yeah but lack of spirit motivates to try harder . . . for fear of losing salvation.  But I say I never could . . . of my own . . . be more 'spiritual'.  It was always false (ie., like how new agey types often goo with flowery 'love and light' talk while hiding anger, jealousies etc.)  Instead, as one wholly dependent on HIM for my spiritual growth (and NOT own ability/free will) I throw myself back into FAITH, not works, to get the spirit back"

Extrapolating a bit, what I thought was this:  If it is our free will that gets us to God, rather than ONLY HIS WILL, then . . . when the spirit seems to recede and we are in a dry walk . . . must it not be that it is likely our fault and responsibility to get the spirit back?  And if we try harder . . . to "be more spiritual" . . . are we not in danger of deluding ourselves and merely acting more "spiritual" . . . . Whereas, if I consider myself wholly dependent on God's grace and the Holy Spirit's power to sanctify me and infuse my Walk . . . I must not turn so much to my own efforts to pull me out of the doldrums . . . but, rather . . . I must simply cling to FAITH--dive into a residing faith that . . . in His good will and time . . . HE will give me the more of the spirit I am craving and needing.  It seems to me, one view (the free will view) will tend to turn to SELF for comfort and strategies, works, effort . . . while the other (reliance on grace alone) will tend to turn NOT to self, but to faith, trusting that the SPIRIT will eventually intervene and genuinely provide the desired growth and (spiritual) movement . . . .

Free will IS involved in either case.  It's just the one version looks to one's own efforts and will, whereas the other looks to God's efforts and will . . . .


Hey, it was an anointed night last night I dare say.  My wife, Isaac and me . . . went to an event that Shawn McCraney puts on each year called "Burning Heart".  [Shawn hosts the t.v. show "Heart of the Matter" and is Pastor at C.A.M.P.U.S.--Christian Anarchists Meeting Prayerfully to Understand Scripture where we go for Bible study]
"Burning Heart" the event is a gathering of various local Christian folk . . . at the city park where there are some booths, a bounce house, face painting, music, a bit of preaching and water baptism afterwards.  Wild, violent storms were whirling all around the valley and mountains the day before and yesterday . . . so there was some worry that it might be cancelled.  We were eager to go, having never been to one before . . . and Isaac wanted to get baptized by Shawn . . . . Amazingly (well, not so much maybe, considering all the prayers that were likely going on) . . . the weather swirled all around that particular park . . . . Shawn's daughters sang verses from the Bible on stage--it was great . . . . My mom and my Mormon aunt surprisingly showed up . . . . And Al, our oldest and his wife and son showed up as well.  Isaac got baptized, along with about 20 or so others .... very emotional, exciting for all ... lots of "amens" and crying and clapping and hooting for joy . . . . Then, spontaneously, the spirit moved and Al and his wife Tricia got in the water!  God baptized also!  The moment--literally THE MOMENT the last baptism was done, a crack of thunder pealed through the dark sky and it began to pour--everybody now "baptized" by the rain, running for their cars.  Driving home, with soaking Isaac in the back seat . . . there was one of the most beautiful, dramatic skies we have ever seen.  Dark, thick piled thunder clouds . . . lightning flashing here and there . . . some spots of the sky cracked open to deep blues . . . white clouds tinged with brilliant orange where the sunset was literally sending sun beams over the mountains . . . and then the mountain we live on, where we were driving . . . there was a rainbow, which we "drove under" . . . which ended up on Lone Peak in a fluff of deep orangeish-peach clouds and mist . . . with more fine, sharp slivers of lightning flashing here and there . . . . It was awesome :)

God bless you and then some!



Mark said...

On the rock in the rune set,the runeto the far left represents"GIFT".This symbol also represents"UNITY"(between humans(theX is used a sign of agreement).
The rune to its "right hand" is the accention rune.This rune also represents(littleG's god's&godesse's....created in his image).

The runeset of which there eight,are located on the rock on the "right hand" side,near the earth,(seated).

So what it say's.......any human that is unified with god recieves the gift to accend and beseated at the right hand of God in his kingdom.

The rock is a"waymarker" or" property marker" incase any freewill human should find themselves lost.

Thats why God did not these stones moved

Mark said...

Even "THE ELECT" can be deceved.

Linda L. said...

That is so wonderful about Isaac, Al and his wife's baptisms! Praise God! As far as Calvinism vs Armenism, I was raised in a Calvinistic church but was a Wesleyan with the Armenian view for several years. during the latter time, I felt like I was always walking on eggshells and that my salvation depended more on me. I was always admonished by my pastor then to "try harder" then God would help me to be obedient in the sin I was struggling with at the time. I felt like my salvation depended more on me, and I knew that was bad, because I was a weak human being in the flesh. I later returned to a Calvinistic leaning church where my God was strong enough to keep me, and I didn't have to walk on eggshells anymore. I don't understand the predestination vs election so well, but I do believe that Jesus loved me and chose me while I was yet a sinner he died for me and rose again. Predestination I look on as God is an allknowing God who wants to save everyone, but because he is an allknowing God, and knows the choices a person will make before they make that choice in the future, including those who will reject Him.

unclesol said...

At one time, I too struggled with the question of Calvinist election, where only a Sovereign God could draw us to him and that this election was pre-destined at the foundation of the Earth. Here are a few things that I have pondered in my own seeking.

1. Among Calvinists, the term "Arminian" is often used to describe those who who claim a faith in Jesus Christ as Savior, yet reject the Calvinist definition of election. This is a malapropism. Arminianism is the belief that it is through the works of the believer that one is saved. On the contrary, none of the non-Calvinist believers I know would claim that any work they have done merits salvation, but it is only by the grace of God, through faith in Jesus Christ that one will be saved. Calvinists use the Arminian term because they equate the believer having faith as having done a "work" that merits faith. On the contrary, my faith merits nothing. It is only by the grace of God that he grants salvation through faith. I know there is nothing I can do that could merit salvation. Therefore, I cannot be described as Arminian.

2. We are told throughout scripture that if we seek, we will find. It is through earnest seeking that we begin to find the Good News. I do believe that it is certainly the power of the Holy Spirit that causes us to grow in Christ and that without that Spirit we would certainly be lost to our sin. Yet, at what point does the Spirit begin his work? It seems to me that He begins His work as we begin seeking. And the more we seek, the more we learn and grow. At some point in this process, through the work of the Holy Spirit, the seeker is led to faith and by the grace of God, through that faith, salvation. Does that mean that the seeker merits salvation by his seeking? On the contrary, the seeker can only be saved by the grace of God, through faith in Jesus Christ. Can the seeker take some credit for having sought? On the contrary, I feel deeply grateful to God that someone in my life said things to me that caused me to seek out the reliability of scripture, and through finding those facts, came to have faith in Christ. Yet, it could only have been through the Spirit that that person said what caused me to seek. By this I am humbled and thankful.

3. I note your supposition that non-Calvinists must suppose that Calvinists believe the way they do because they feel some sense of elation at having been chosen or elected. I can say for certain that I do not feel that way. I simply believe that it is through a mis-understanding in God's Word that these doctrines come about. I don't believe that these people have some psychological need to believe that way. Yet I also know that we are warned against following the doctrines of men. And these doctrines were not only developed by a man, they even bear his name.

4. I greatly sympathize with your feeling that you do not know whether it is by some kind of election or through the free will of the believer coming to Christ and I greatly sympathize with the thought that perhaps it is by some congruence that our mean understanding may not be wise enough to grasp. As you can see in what I wrote in item number 2 above, my own thoughts have something of a "chicken or the egg" flavor to them.

5. In the end, I am greatly humbled by what Jesus did on Calvary and will be forever grateful to Him for having done it. I know that I am saved through His work on the cross and I know I have been born again in His Spirit. I have hope today because Christ is raised. And because of that our debt is paid. Praise be to Him!

loverboy said...

Brother Thomas!

Praise God, man! This blog is wonderful!
I especially love this post and am honored, very honored, to be a part.

Burning Heart was truly incredible, and I loved your depiction of it--your family GETS IT, man!
Praise God for His goodness! That day was His and it was so amazing to be a part of your family's baptisms.

Praising Him over and over for the love and support you and your family shows. God Bless you guys and see you soon.

loverboy said...

This is Mallory McCraney, by the way!
Love to you all

Angie said...

Wonderful news about the family baptisms. God bless you and your family!

Grant Davis said...

I have long appreciated your insight, ever since Lamb Cafe years ago.
I recently encountered a collection of early Quaker teachings, revised to a clearer english, which have been a great inspiration to me. The emphasis on hearing and following Jesus as He admonished, "My sheep hear My voice" is something I have long recognized as important, but beyond my reach. This has been a blessing to me.

Brother Thomas ©2015

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