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.
RC's INCOMPLETENESS THEOREM
We all have our theories. We all have our testable models of God's many mysteries to which I will dissect my own in order to rid myself of these burdens that shadow my every thought into the night. Therefore, I flesh out the possibility of something too wonderful for man to grasp in his puny hands.
The Goal: High view of Sovereignty, Gospel, Scripture and Unity of the Church.
From the beginning of scripture we see God implementing the need for obedience to His decree. "You shall not" implies that Adam and Eve could obey. They must obey but they disobeyed disrupting the plan (not thwarting or changing) of God's perfection. However, instead of this being a surprise to God - it was rather within His high sovereign hand that they were even able to have the ability to obey.
God literally breathed life into man. His breathe is our breathe. He is sovereign over such breathe as to say "No sparrow falls to ground without [I] knowing". That is to say, you breath because He breathed into man. This disruption broke the bridge of man to God - what tragedy is this that man should fall into a sinful state and choose the opposing will of God. This put into the motion the plan of salvation which required sacrifice in order to approach God. The first Adam fell and through him we have all sinned.
The Mystery of God in OLD TESTAMENT ELECTION:
The Hebrew terms associated with the "eklogomai" word group are bāḥar and bāḥûr, and the focus of this article will be on the use of these terms in the context of God deciding on means and ways by choosing from what is possible.
In the majority of places where "bāḥar" is found, it is usually in reference to God’s action of choosing. It demonstrates God’s act of choosing what He considers to be most suitable for the fulfillment of His purposes. (Deut 16:6) (Deut 26:2)
God chose the city of Jerusalem. (1 Kings 11:13) (1 Kings 11:32) (1 Kings 14:21) (2 Chron 6:34) (2 Chron 6:38)
So King Rehoboam strengthened himself in Jerusalem and reigned. Now Rehoboam was forty-one years old when he began to reign, and he reigned seventeen years in Jerusalem, the city which the LORD had chosen (Heb: bāḥar Gr: eklegomai) from all the tribes of Israel, to put His name there. And his mother's name was Naamah the Ammonites. (2 Chron 12:13)
God chose individuals. While their choice may include salvation, the biblical text is clear that they were chosen for a purpose.
God chose Saul to be king over Israel. (1 Sam 9:15-17)
Samuel said to all the people, "Do you see him whom the LORD has chosen (Heb: bāḥar Gr: eklegomai)? Surely there is no one like him among all the people." So all the people shouted and said, "Long live the king!" (1 Sam 10:24)
God chose David to be king over Israel.
Then Jesse called Abinadab and made him pass before Samuel. And he said, "The LORD has not chosen (Heb: bāḥar Gr: eklegomai) this one either." 9) Next Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, "The LORD has not chosen (Heb: bāḥar Gr: eklegomai) this one either." 10) Thus Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel. But Samuel said to Jesse, "The LORD has not chosen (Heb: bāḥar Gr: eklegomai) these." (1 Sam 16:8-10)
It is important to note that while the Bible mentions their election, the heroes of Israel (i.e. Abraham [Neh 9:7], Moses [Ps 106:23], Zerubbabel [Hag 2:23], etc.) never had the sense of pride in being elected. In a similar fashion, the prophets of the Old Testament never felt elected or concerned with the divine process that led to their commission. Their concern was exclusively with God's command, "go prophesy" (Amos 7:15).
From individuals, God chose a group of people for his purposes.
God chose the nation of Israel because of love for the Patriarchs, commitment to His Covenant and as a designation as the people of God. In Israel, God has raised up men to proclaim His will and to summon to right and righteousness to a life in obedience to God.
"Because He loved your fathers, therefore He chose (Heb: bāḥar Gr: eklegomai) their descendants after them And He personally brought you from Egypt by His great power, (Deut 4:37)
The main use of "bāḥar" is to indicate God’s choice of Israel as His elect nation. God’s chose Israel, because of His unmerited love and His faithfulness to the promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Deut 7:6-7). And the election of Jacob and Israel is reaffirmed in the psalms and prophets (Ps 47:4; 135:4; Isa 41:8; 44:1-2; Ezek 20:5). The patriarchal history is proof of God’s love working itself out in the election of His children. God’s only concern is about righteousness and fidelity.
While "bāḥar" places an emphasis on the choosing action of God, this participle of "bāḥar" places an emphasis on the quality of the object chosen. A participle can be understood as a verbal adjective.
From the cities on that day the sons of Benjamin were numbered, 26,000 men who draw the sword, besides the inhabitants of Gibeah who were numbered, 700 choice (Heb: bāḥûr Gr: eklektos) men. (Judges 20:15)
It is significant to note that "bāḥûr" is never used of Israel as the chosen people. The emphasis of God’s choice never attaches any importance to or on the "elite" status of the nation. The use of "bāḥar", instead of "bāḥûr", emphasizes the grace of God sovereign choice and His faithfulness to His unconditional covenant.
Conclusion: God clearly chose/elected people within the Old Testament in order to fulfill the purpose of Israel and bring forth the coming prophecies of the Kingdom of Christ.
The Mystery continues in NEW TESTAMENT ELECTION AND CHOICE
This is where this becomes increasingly difficult. I find it to be extremely clear that the Lord elected people in the Old Testament in order to bring forth the coming of Christ and to execute His place of redemption.
In the New Testament we see different words added to the idea of election since the dying and resurrection of Jesus Christ which reconciled that of the First Adam. That is to say, our breath is restored to God once again.
Often we find the foreknowledge precedes the mention of election and I do think this is on purpose. If I disregard this as purpose, I do not stay true to my "Desert Island" notion. Therefore, I must inquire about this as seen in: (1 Peter 1:1-2 ) (Romans 8:28-30) This foreknowledge does in fact precede that of the predestination. These things may be to wonderful for any man to tackle but we may try in hopes of furthering our understanding of God [Note: This should not divide us ]
God's eyes go to and fro throughout the whole earth (2 Chronicles 16:9), and are every place beholding the evil and the good (Proverbs 15:3). Even Sheol is naked and open to God's sight (Proverbs 15:11; Job 26:6). The night and darkness are light to Him, and darkness and light for God are both alike (Psalms 139:12). All animals and fowls are His, and so are known by Him (Psalms 50:11), and as their Creator God knows all the hosts of the heavenly bodies (Psalms 147:4; Isaiah 40:26). He knows also the heart of man and its thoughts (1 Samuel 16:7; 1 Kings 8:39; Psalms 7:9; Psalms 94:11; 139:2; Jeremiah 11:20; 17:9,10; 20:12; Ezekiel 11:5). Furthermore, God knows man entirely in all his ways (Psalms 139:1-5; Proverbs 5:21). He looks from heaven and sees all men (Psalms 11:4; 14:2; 33:13,14,15). Evil and sin are also known to God (Genesis 3:11; 6:5,9,13; 2 Samuel 7:20; Psalms 69:5); Jeremiah 16:17; 18:23). In a word, God knows with absolute accuracy all about man (Job 11:11; 34:21; Psalms 33:15; Proverbs 5:21; Hosea 5:3; Jeremiah 11:20; 12:3; 17:9; 18:23). This perfect knowledge finds its classic expression in Psalms 139.
God foreknows it all and I think that coincides very nicely with Him being the perfectly sovereign Lord of everything. If man has unlimited choices but the result is the same, is that man expressing human will?
My answer would be: Yes.
Luke writes, “The Pharisees and experts in the law rejected God’s purpose (Greek boulē) for themselves, because they had not been baptized by John” (Lk. 7:30; c.f. Acts 7:51). This is the same word used for God’s will in Ephesians 1:11 (“predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will (Greek boulē)”. Here, Luke explains that the Pharisees were capable of resisting God’s will for them. Likewise, in 2 Peter 3:9, a derivative of boulē is used (boulomai), when Peter writes of God not “wishing for any to perish.” Since some ultimately do go to hell, this must mean that God’s will (boulē) is not fulfilled. However, this does not negate God's sovereignty or His divine foreknowledge. That is the mystery in which we step and it is a thick fog for which we may never know until glorification.
Jesus said, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted (thelō) to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling (thelō)” (Mt. 23:37). Here, Jesus (God) wanted to do something, but this was resisted by the religious leaders. Earlier in the same chapter, Jesus said, “[The King] sent out his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding feast, and they were unwilling (thelō) to come” (Mt. 22:3). Jesus claimed that we are permitted to line up our will with God’s (or choose not to). He said, “If anyone is willing (Greek thelō) to do His will (Greek thelō), he will know of the teaching, whether it is of God or whether I speak from Myself” (Jn. 7:17). These passages all imply that we are permitted to resist the will of God. However, this does not negate God's sovereignty or His divine foreknowledge. That is the mystery in which we step and it is a thick fog for which we may never know until glorification.
I would like to note [I am almost amending this section to add this]: There is scripture that allows one to ponder the possibility of who these are being written to. "Firstfruits" "continue the purpose of Election". I strongly believe (and I know this is unpopular) that the first churches, the first believers, which included the Apostles - were undoubtedly elected without choice of submission. These words "first fruits" among many brothers gives theological credence to the notion that they were according to the [Old Testament] election purpose in order to bring forth the church alongside the Apostles. That is to say, some are elected and some are not. Those who are not, still have no merit or "better choice" than those who do not believe. However, this does not negate God's sovereignty or His divine foreknowledge. That is the mystery in which we step and it is a thick fog for which we may never know until glorification.
Further reasoning for human will that is expressed in Scripture [Note: Human will not Free Will ]
God judges us (1 Cor. 3:10-15; Rev. 20:11-15). Humans are rewarded and punished according to their actions. Judgment only makes sense, if we are able to choose and culpable for our choices.
God tests his people, which implies our ability to pass or fail (Gen. 22:1; Jas. 1:12; 1 Pet. 1:6-7; 1 Cor. 10:13).
God pleads with sinners to repent, which would only make sense in light of human moral decision (Ezek. 18:23-32; 33:11).
God desires all men to believe in him (1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Pet. 3:9; Jn. 12:32). Human will (Lk. 7:30; Acts 7:51; Mt. 23:3, 37; Mt. 6:10; Jn. 7:17).
Jesus was not determined; instead, he submitted his will to the Father’s will (Lk. 22:42). [Still theological working this out]
To cap this theory of election/choice of mine up I want to indulge in this:
God calls on people to obey, choose, and believe in him (Jn. 15:10; Josh. 24:15; Jn. 3:18) How is this possible if "No man seeks God". I believe that Calvin puts it wisely by saying: [In his commentary on Galatians 5:12] "It is the will of God that we should seek the salvation of all men without exception, as Christ suffered for the sins of the whole world."
Romans 1:16 "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek."
Therefore, what is the cause of salvation by the means of God? The Gospel.
This sounds like prevenient grace but I view it as God's plan of election through His servants whom He foreknew.
Romans 10:14 "How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher?"
We cannot expect anyone to believe (either by election or other means of grace) if the Gospel and it's power is not preached.
Calvin also said:
The word "many" is often as good as equivalent to "all." And in fact our Lord Jesus was offered to all the world. For it is not speaking of three or four when it says: "God so loved the world, that he gave His only son . . ." Our Lord Jesus suffered for all and there is neither great nor small who is not inexcusable today, for we can obtain salvation in him. Unbelievers who turn away from Him and who deprive themselves of Him by their malice are today doubly culpable, for how will they excuse their ingratitude in not receiving the blessing in which they could share by faith.
This is why I can readily read Calvin, Spurgeon, Arminius, Wesley, Whitefield, MacArthur, Sproul, Thomas, William Lane Craig, John Lennox and so forth. They read scripture with the scope of finding out God's wonderful truth, that it is sometimes too wonderful. They saw the need for the essential thing: To preach Christ and Him crucified.
Some theological points, I believe:
God elected some according to a specific purpose of Christ Kingdom in both the Old Testament and the New Testament. God allows grace to some in order that His sovereignty and His love may be evident. He is completely sovereign. Man is subject to that sovereignty while their human will to resist remains intact. The power of God to salvation is in the Gospel of Jesus Christ when preached to man. God requires a response of obedience and man must give one or spend eternity in communion with His judgement. I hold to the fact that mystery remains and we may seek in humbleness the wonderful things of God if we dearly remain united for the cause of the Gospel.
I preach that man but obey.
I preach that man must repent and believe.
I preach God's sovereignty over all.
I preach in the Scriptures alone.
I preach in God alone, by Christ alone.
I also will never attest to knowing all that there is to know. There must be a willingness to love each other, learn from each other and trust in God's sovereignty that we do not need to know everything.
Maybe someday I will have learned enough from the Spirit, those the Spirit entrusted and those brothers/sisters around me that I may write on more wonderful theology that drives us closer to the Lord.
May you have grace to me brothers and sisters.
May God have mercy on me for encountering His word.