February 23, 2011

Guest Blog: Laos De

Over the next couple of days, I will be featuring a post from my friend Ben Hogan on "Free Will and Grace".  I will be breaking it into several segments, but you can read it (and Ben's other posts) in it's entirety at http://www.bzhogan.blogspot.com/.

If you enjoy God-honoring, biblically based discussion, you'll enjoy Ben's writing.  I have skipped his intro and picked up where he delves into the topic of his post. inserts between [] are mine.

"Most of us have all heard of “Calvinism” as a type of theology, mainly one that stands in stark contrast to Arminianism, a theology that came later, in response to Calvin’s five points. Unfortunately, these five points are usually all Calvin is known for, especially the points on election and other doctrines of grace. You may remember the five points with the TULIP acronym: Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, and Perseverance of the Saints.

Calvin really had a lot more to say about the Bible and God’s working from creation until now, in the lives of people, but the five points mark a specific issue that Christians need to be aware of. This issue is that which centers on soteriology, the doctrine of salvation. Soteriology has been split by these two thoughts that we know as Calvinism and Arminianism because of the issue of free will, or the efficaciousness of either the Holy Spirit, or man’s desire. Efficaciousness literally means “pertaining to the process of effecting”. Basically, does God effectually bring someone to salvation, or does man come to that point of making a decision for Christ on his own accord?

You can probably already see how this can cause hairs to be split and fists to be raised. The general complaint about Calvinism is that it upholds a robotic, almost empty personality-type of life, as if Christians are then forced to be saved because they aren’t deciding for themselves. The common complaint against Arminianism is that it lacks grace, which is the only means by which we can be saved, and upholds human merit as a part of the process of salvation. This is the basic dispute.

There are a few things that I want to bring to the surface right away before we see what the Bible says about God’s will and man’s will. First, nobody comes to salvation in Christ with a comprehensive understanding of the will of God and his divine intervention. The basic acknowledgement and calling upon the name of Christ as Lord and repentance of sins are all that the new believer knows to do.

This argument should not make people be afraid of whether or not they are saved, although we should always test and examine ourselves to see if we are in the faith, as Paul told the Corinthians [and is the point of 1 John]. Again, while we don’t want people to be afraid of their security in Christ, we do want people to be confirmed in it. If you do feel insecure, then a self examination, in light of Scripture, will be in your best interest. That’s what the Bible does: convicts us and teaches us where we are right or wrong in our walks for the Lord.

Second, know that not everything about God will be made known to us this side of Heaven. Some things will remain a mystery. For example, try explaining how God has always been uncreated. You will boggle your mind when you consider the possibility of it. I believe that the fullness of God’s wisdom in the process of salvation will make much more sense when we see him face to face; however we do have enough in the Bible to tell us exactly what we are before and after salvation and what exactly is required to be saved from our sin and how it happens.

Many of us know the obvious passages that establish God’s predestination and election of the saints. Let’s start with Ephesians. The first chapter digs right into a praise of God’s glorious grace in how he predestines and calls people to repentance, even before the creation of the world. There is no ambiguous language here. Verses 4 and 5 say:

“For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will.”

I’m not sure how else this could be said to be any more convincing, but for anyone who has doubts, there is plenty more here, as elsewhere in Scripture, that we will look at.

Continued in verses 11 and 12, it says, “In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory.”

We were actually chosen, or selected by God, to be predestined for adoption as an heir in Christ. Let’s consider Arminian thought at this point. Most Arminians will say they believe in Conditional Election, whereas Calvin taught Unconditional Election. The difference is that Arminius taught that God only chose people who he foreknew would respond to his call. So…he chose people who already decided, which really makes God’s “choosing” pointless. Some say that God elects some, but [others]not all. The rest can decide on their own."

This is a great beginning to a great article.  If you are educated in historical theology, Ben has simplified for the sake of discussion, don't get caught up in the specifics of the Arminianist heresy.  What I would like to point out is that Ben has taken an apparently two sided conflict (Calvinism and Arminianism) and thrown in a third player: God.  
I think it interesting that the discussion usually centers on the intellect of the men involved in the debate, and not on the real, actual presence and sovereignty of God within the mystery.  The fact remains that God's working is in many ways still a mystery to us.  This doesn't excuse our stewardship of our intellect engaging the tools and information He has given us; nor does it mean we are free to argue theology from a perspective absent of God's personal and immediate presence and authority.  Ben has done a nice job of presenting the discussion in it's proper light.  I hope you will stay with me for the next several days, Ben has done a great job walking through this topic.  He has a lot more to say.

With you for His glory

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