Truth Divided Amongst Believers
There have been many attempts at this article over the years of my time studying the Word of God and studying what could be. I've written several drafts over the years, I have switched positions and back again. I spent 3 solid years defending Calvin's reformed theology and 2 before that defending Arminius' reformed theology. However, in doing so I lost my ability to truly decipher the text of God and I lost historical perspective of the Reformation itself.
I am sure that my brothers and sisters who are even willing to read this article I am putting out have grace within them. I'm just another theologian trying to swim the waters of God's wonderful and divine mystery. However, some of you may be of one camp and the others from another camp. I pray and urge you to read this article with a heart of willingness and grace.
Something a professor of mine once told me: "You never enter a debate thinking you're wrong but the wise enter the debate thinking they could be wrong." It's not about giving up your position but rather being open as we are fallible beings with our theological stances. Another note from a different professor (my professor of Logic): "Always seek to deal in absolutes, when you remain in truth you can speculate on solid ground."
We all gather our presuppositions from various places. We either grew up Baptist, Reformed or something else. We rarely, if ever, enter a conversation or place of learning with the concept of actually changing our minds. We've grown to understand what we want to understand [itching ears].
This is what I call the "Bill Nye Disposition". This is the idea that we all follow because it's been engrained in us and believe to be true because we have been told it is true. Now, most of you will not be like "I love Bill Nye!" But my point is this: The general populous will accept him as the "science guy" because he said so. He actually doesn't even hold a degree higher than a bachelors and furthermore, it's not even in science. He holds no actual training or education in the realm of science. Yet, he is our "science guy", because he said so.
Now the contrast I'll draw won't be as severe as this but we do have this same tendency when dealing with Scripture. "Have you ever even read Calvin's Institutes!?" [Yes I have. Twice] but what if someone said no? would that disqualify them from being "right" or even taken seriously?
How about the people who only read Reformed people and only have ever read Reformed people? How then can they argue against Arminian theology?
In order to be an expert you must travel to both sides of your argument. Diligence is something required of us when engaging others and we must do so by not reading only into our presuppositions but also those we may not agree with.
That is to say, if you're going to argue against Wesley or Jacobus Arminius, I sure hope that you've read them and taken the time to see that they are God fearing men who loved the Lord, used by the Lord and will be in heaven far in front of us.
The same goes for the human will holders who want to diminish Calvin and his following to a bunch of "God-is-a-monster" theologians. If you've read Calvin's institutes you'll see he actually rarely talks about predestination but talks more on preaching the cross of Christ. [ I attribute the booming of executions, poor judgement etc on the theologian that took his reigns after his death ].
Now let's dive into some scripture to gain a better and more Godly perspective on my urgency. We read in 1 Corinthians 1:
Divisions in the Church
1:10 I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to agree together, to end your divisions, and to be united by the same mind and purpose. 1:11 For members of Chloe’s household have made it clear to me, my brothers and sisters, that there are quarrels among you. 1:12 Now I mean this, that each of you is saying, “I am with Paul,” or “I am with Apollos,” or “I am with Cephas,” or “I am with Christ.” 1:13 Is Christ divided? Paul wasn’t crucified for you, was he? Or were you in fact baptized in the name of Paul? 1:14 I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, 1:15 so that no one can say that you were baptized in my name! 1:16 (I also baptized the household of Stephanus. Otherwise, I do not remember whether I baptized anyone else.) 1:17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—and not with clever speech, so that the cross of Christ would not become useless.
Now that seems pretty on point, familiar and accurate to exactly what we are dealing with today. It's truly the war of the saints and it is something that Paul urged to stop. These were APOSTLES! Jesus' name is even in there! If we are not to identify with division even to say "I am with Paul the Apostle" than HOW are we allowing ourselves to say "I am with Calvinism" or "I am with Arminius".
It quite literally is counter-factual and anti-biblical. Let's read on to the next part in 1 Corinthians Chapter 3 that will show us the essential doctrine we must aim to "have the same mind and purpose" over:
For whenever someone says, “I am with Paul,” or “I am with Apollos,” are you not merely human? 3:5 What is Apollos, really? Or what is Paul? Servants through whom you came to believe, and each of us in the ministry the Lord gave us. 3:6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God caused it to grow. 3:7 So neither the one who plants counts for anything, nor the one who waters, but God who causes the growth. 3:8 The one who plants and the one who waters work as one, but each will receive his reward according to his work. 3:9 We are coworkers belonging to God. You are God’s field, God’s building. 3:10 According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master-builder I laid a foundation, but someone else builds on it. And each one must be careful how he builds. 3:11 For no one can lay any foundation other than what is being laid, which is Jesus Christ. 3:12 If anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, or straw, 3:13 each builder’s work will be plainly seen, for the Day will make it clear, because it will be revealed by fire. And the fire will test what kind of work each has done. 3:14 If what someone has built survives, he will receive a reward. 3:15 If someone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss. He himself will be saved, but only as through fire.
What's the exegetical purpose here?: The work of the Gospel and the equipping of the Saints to further the church across all nations and kingdoms. You are God's building. You are God's field. Do you divide God's materials? Do you quarrel over things to bring about division? We all have. That's the honest answer.
Therefore, I urge you brothers to cease this quarrel against each other. For did Paul seek to execute any? No, he sought to end division in the name of Christ and build out His church in order that the Gospel may be proclaimed to the ends of the earth.
We all have our testable models for what we believe God has done with man's will and His sovereignty. Our will exist, His sovereignty exists. None of us are equipped to decide what doctrine oversees another in the case of mystery. For one may say, "God's sovereignty must reign over all others." But another may say, "Yes! He is sovereign over all, including our human will to reject Him."
No one should deny the sovereignty of God [ Calvin, Arminius, Wesley and Whitefield all agreed ]
It is however ironic that we debate over the very thing that is fallible - human will. In which, any model, God must be sovereign.
Put your models of theology [which is to say your philosophy] to the test against scripture. I have challenged myself to "desert island scripture" which is trying to rid myself of presuppositions [which were calvinist] and read scripture for what it is. No commentators, no guides, just the Spirit and the text.
If you are a CHRISTian, you are on the same team.
I have found what CS Lewis found: "Any honest reading of the Bible must acknowledge that God's sovereignty and human choice exist side by side in the same biblical books and the same sentences."
These men we follow must be seen as fallible but wise. We must treat eachother as brothers and sisters with the same mind set and purpose: The Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Therefore, I urge you to come to the same sideline and turn your focus against the true threats to our purpose: Mormonism, Atheist, and the other counter-Christ religions of the world. It is for the sake of the Gospel that I urge you.
As John Wesley said of George Whitfield: "Herein he did Stand as an iron pillar strong, And steadfast as a wall of brass." "Let us agree on the essential in which he preached to so many wandering souls"
Q to John: Will you see George in Heaven?
"To which John Wesley added, with intense earnestness, ' Do not misunderstand me, madam; George Whitefield was so bright a star in the firmament of God's glory, and will stand so near the throne, that one like me, who am less than the least, will never catch a glimpse of him.'
As George said of John Wesley: "The good Mr. John Wesley has done in America is inexpressible. His name is very precious among the people; and he has laid a foundation that I hope neither men nor devils will ever be able to shake."
He [Whitefield] wrote to Wesley in October, 1741: "May God remove all obstacles that now prevent our union; may all disputings cease, and each of us talk of nothing but Jesus and him crucified. This is my resolution, I am without dissimulation. I find I love you as much as ever, and pray God, if it be his blessed will, that we may all be united together."
May we learn from the urgency of Paul's declaration for unity. May we follow in the humble footsteps of Whitefield and Wesley. Let us not divide but unite over the Gospel of Jesus Christ whom preach as crucified and resurrected.
Below I express my theology on the matter. I may now feel ready to return to my ministry to the mormons, atheist and the unbelievers of the world. I thank each and everyone one of you for reading this. Though many may call me foolish or even heretic, I know that my urgency is not to befriend man but to preach Christ and Him crucified.