Monday, May 20, 2013

J-Chron: Standing On Who's Reason?

[This is in answer to "J"s first of his recent set of questions....which question is reiterated at the bottom of the page here.  ps, I didn't have time to proofread for typos--will check back and correct them later, God bless:)]

My story of the Designer's machine and the tinkerers is not meant to squelch questioning.  God wants us to question things and use the reasoning and logic He gave us to search and wrestle with the philosophic and spiritual truths He provides . . . such that our faith is not a blind, dumb faith but a faith born of discernment and of solid understanding so that we are "always prepared to give an answer for the hope that lies within us."  --1 Peter 3:15

But there is a difference between someone sincerely questioning in order to seek the truth versus those who have no desire to find truth and merely question out arrogant pre-supposition, with mind and heart already closed and presuming to be smarter than God as to Who He is and how He ought to have done things.  You, J, are clearly of the former type. . . .

Your question in this case refers to the very hot topic (among Christian thinkers) of the "doctrine of election" vs. the "doctrine of (libertarian) free will."  (Does God choose/elect whom He will save or is it up to man to choose God to be saved?). . . . In broad terms, this is also known as the "Calvinist" vs. "Arminian" position, and the debate between the two sides has been rather rancorous over the centuries and continues today as verses in scripture can found which suggest that both sides are correct.  We know, however, that scripture does not contradict itself, no matter how many armchair internet skeptics and self-approved "scholars" assert it does (according to their cursory readings) and many of the actual top "doctors of the faith" are resigned to accept that the conundrum of the apparent contradiction of  "man's free will" vs. "God's sovereign will" is beyond our grasp to comprehend at this point in our mortal existence, along with a few of the other divine "mysteries" such as the Trinity (God is three Persons/one Being) and Jesus being both 100% man and 100% God.

I have written a fair amount on the topic of "election" vs. "free will" as it has always fascinated me, and having a penchant for looking at the "mysteries". I fall more on the so-called "Calvinist" side of the debate as I find it hard to accept that God is somehow wanting everyone to be saved but  powerless or unwilling to decree that all ARE (saved) unless MAN himself chooses to be saved . . . as this to me puts man's will above God's . . . and I find the scriptures too numerous and forceful which show that man can do nothing but for God giving him the ability to do so (including choosing God) . . . and, from much studying of the issue and observing the arguments of those on either side I tend to find that those asserting the "Arminian" (man's free will) view do so more from an emotional an opinionated position while the "Calvinist" adheres more strictly to scripture. . . .

Now, this is big generalization, I know--what I just said--but I stand by it, having listened to scores of debates on the subject, read many books, and heard preachers propounding either cases.

The "Arminians", in fact, often sound almost exactly like the atheists and agnostics I've heard in other debates, when they decry the "pernicious doctrine of Calvinism" saying it is abominable to imagine that God would create some to go to heaven and others to go to hell.  They simply can't accept such a God--He does not fit their idea of how or what God ought to be.

. . . . . . I remember sitting in my 6th grade classroom, having been "self aware" already for several years, and looking around at the other students, the teacher and wondering why could I "see"?  How come nobody else seemed to be conscious of the heavy implications of life--of this life?  What made me so different?  I realized then it could not be something I had attained on my own.  It was simply the fact that I was, for whatever reason (that must be God's) born with the type of mind that early on looked at this existence and stood in awe that anything existed . . . and that mortal life was short so it had to be that finding the meaning and purpose of it should be the most important driving force going.  Why did others not seem to care or really even be much aware that they were alive in the first place, but just moving along in unconscious habit, upbringing, instinct?  God made it that way.  He made some people to yearn, search, crave for truth . . . whereas others . . . not so much. . . .

The "Arminian" bristles at the idea that God chooses who He will, insisting that it is freely up to each person whether or not they find Truth/God. . . . But I look at scripture and see that He had a Chosen People.  Indeed, it fits the divine template that He chooses some for a "special" purpose while others He does not.  Why does He create some who are smart, beautiful, healthy . . . while others dense, ugly, weak?  Is that "fair"? 

I look at nature and see the millions upon millions of insects, fish, animals . . . small and large who live, eat, procreate, die--most never having been seen or enjoyed by any human.  And He is aware of each and every one of them!  For not a single sparrow dies without God knowing it.

To the skeptic, disbelieving mind--the tinkerer who would "better" creation--what could be the reason for so much seemingly pointless lives, coming and going?  But I think, "how dare I second-guess God's purposes and methods!  He creates life where He wills, brings death when and how He wills . . . hardening or softening hearts . . . according to His holy intentions.  " . . . God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden."  --Rom. 9:18

Paul, in his Romans passages, where he reiterates God's sovereignty in all things, anticipates the skeptic's complaint suggesting that God appears to be unjust/unfair in His dispensing of mercy.  "God forbid!" Paul roars in answer.  We know that God is not unjust, so the dilemma must not be with God, but in the way we ourselves are handling the issue!

What do the militant atheists say?  They indignantly bellow, "How can there be a God who made a world like this with so much suffering and 'evil' . . . allowing ie., the Holocaust, earthquakes, disease!?"

The Believer starts with, "We know that God is good, just, omnipotent, all knowing, love . . . so we proceed in faith trusting that 'all things work together for the good for them that love Him.'"  And that the ultimate purpose is for His glory.

A person can either resent . . . or rejoice in this. . . .

Using their limited, mortal and fallen reasoning I hear the atheist or the skeptic say (usually with seething vitriol), "What kind of God would allow so much suffering!?  What God makes a place like Hell and sends some there to suffer eternal torment!?"

 I've heard the "Arminian" say (with near the same angry chagrin and spirit), "What kind of God would create some people just for Hell?!"

And in either case I see someone standing on their own reason, offended by God, wanting Him to be a different way according to their imagination and opinion.

We are Told, however, that all who go to Hell . . . are culpable.   The whole of Scripture teaches that those who are condemned are responsible, guilty, which includes everybody ever born (except Jesus) but that, in His mercy, God CHOOSES out for Himself an elect people, whom He will save, to live with Him in the eternal hereafter. 

The fantastic thing actually is that He saves ANY!  That He "elects", pre-destines" ANY who deserve Hell to be saved out to go to Heaven.  For, since the Fall, ALL have sinned and NONE are worthy. 

The un-regenerate sinner--the "tinkerer", the skeptic, the atheist--starts from the outside, standing on his or her own limited reason, and looks at God and creation and the way things have gone, and questions, why this way?  If I were God, I would have done it like _________!"

The surrendered Believer starts from the inside, standing on scripture, on God's Word, NOT being limited to his or her pittance of mortal knowledge and reason, and says, "This is the way God does it--has done it!  It is a blessed and holy, good and loving thing . . . whether I fully understand it now or not."

"J"s question:

 "I cannot for the life of me recall the passage in the Bible, but somewhere it’s stated, and I’m paraphrasing here, that God is going to choose those whom He wants to extend salvation to. (In fairness, it goes on to say the number of people He will extend such to is akin to the grains of sand on the beach, i.e., numbering in the billions.) However, it does make me wonder… why go to the trouble of allowing the existence of individuals He doesn’t want? If He’s sent His Son to redeem mankind, but He’ll only acknowledge certain people’s acceptance of His Son, it almost makes the Crucifixion seem like a cruel joke. (As you’ve mentioned before, context is everything. Since I can’t recall the passage in question, and when I heard it discussed the discussion was limited exclusively to a couple of verses, it’s entirely possible I’ve got hold of the wrong end of the stick regarding this matter.)"


"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."  --Rom. 8:29

“Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,”  --Eph.1:5

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: according as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:”  --Eph.1:3-4

ARMINIANISM is a teaching regarding salvation associated with the Dutch theologian Jacob Arminius (1560-1609). The fundamental principle in Arminianism is the rejection of predestination, and a corresponding affirmation of the freedom of the human will. Shortly after his death, the followers of Arminius (later called Arminians) presented a statement to the governing authorities of Holland in which they set forth five articles of doctrine. These were: (1) that the divine decree of predestination is conditional, not absolute; (2) that the Atonement is in intention universal; (3) that man cannot of himself exercise a saving faith, but requires God's help to attain this faith; (4) that though the grace of God is a necessary condition of human effort it does not act irresistibly in man; (5) that believers are able to resist sin but are not beyond the possibility of falling from grace. In essence, the Arminians maintained that God gives indispensible help in salvation, but that ultimately it is the free will of man which decides the issue. After a period of sharp theological controversy the Dutch government convened a National Synod of leading churchmen, which met in Dordrecht in the years 1618-19. At this "Synod of Dort" the members adopted five articles in direct opposition to the five articles of the Arminians. The articles of Dort have come to be known as the "five points of Calvinism."

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