Saturday, 28 July 2007

Choice & Free Will

Choice & Free Will
Everything in our lives is affected by choices we make; even everyday things. Do we turn right or left; take the stairs or the elevator, white bread or brown?

Some choices may have no measurable consequences at all, some may have serious but unforeseeable consequences. Suppose we are in the lobby of an office building wanting to go the top floor. Suppose two elevator doors open in front of us. We must make a choice which one to take. Normally not a big choice, but suppose we get to the top floor and find that the other one has crashed, killing all aboard. Suddenly our choice was important, as was the one made by whoever chose to get on the other elevator. The consequences of these choices may not seem fair, they were certainly unforeseeable, but nevertheless they were very real. The fact remains that in every life decision, big or small, we choose one course of action over another. If we had chosen otherwise, we will never know how different our lives would be.

Sometimes we should be fully aware of the consequences of our choices, but we still make the wrong ones. In my time in jail ministry I saw those involved in substance and alcohol abuse make decisions; some to change their lives for the better, some to return to their old ways. What makes the difference? I don’t know. Why is one person able to make the decision never to touch another drink, or shoot another needle, while others, for whatever reason, choose to take that step backward. I have seen people who know what they need to do, who know they must leave their old friends, their old haunts and their old lifestyles, who know what will be the consequences of their decisions, be drawn back like a moth to a flame back into that downward spiral toward death and destruction.

Regarding our relationship with God we are called upon to make choices. Here again, the consequences of our decisions should be clear to us. We can either choose to turn toward Him, and by His grace spend eternity with Him, or we can reject Him and spend eternity separated from Him. The choice may not seem reasonable to some, we may not like the choice, but that’s the choice. It’s the only choice there is. There is no ‘Option C’, and it’s a choice we are all called upon to make. Joshua 24:15 says, “But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Ammonites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”

This post is for those people who really are interested in finding out more about God. Who, if He even exists, want to find Him and get to know Him. It goes without saying that He wants to know you. He... “wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:4)
Jesus said, in Luke 11 verse 10, “...everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks the door will be opened.” Verse 13 tells us that He will give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him.

First, here is a prayer you can pray, even if you are not sure that God even exists:
God, I don’t know if you even exist. I’m a skeptic. I think you may only be a myth. I’m just not certain. So if you do exist, and if you really did promise to reward all seekers, you must be hearing me now. So I hereby declare myself a seeker of the truth whatever it is. I want to know the truth and live the truth. If you are the truth, please help me.

If Christianity is true, he will. This prayer is a fair test of the Christian faith, as long as you do not put unfair restrictions on God, like demanding a miracle (your way, not His) or certainty by tomorrow (your time, not His). The demand that God act like your servant is hardly a fair test of the hypothesis that there is a God who is your King.

All this King asks for at first is honesty, not faking a faith you do not have. Honesty is a choice of the will – the choice to seek the truth no matter what or where. This is the most momentous choice you will ever make. It is the choice of light over darkness, ultimately heaven over hell.

Next, I would encourage you to read the Bible with a completely open mind. Ask God to reveal His word to you. Start with the Gospel of John, then Acts, Romans, and the rest of the New Testament. Then read the Psalms, Proverbs etc., right through all the prophets. Then perhaps the first three Gospels, then from Genesis through to the Psalms. These are only suggestions, of course.

Another thing I would encourage any seeker to do is find an Alpha Course in your area. I think it is a great, non-threatening introduction to the Christian faith. They are being run all over the world, and information, even locations, can be found on the internet.

Take Care

Wednesday, 25 July 2007

Chesterton on Evolution

From, "The Everlasting Man", chapter one:

Nobody can imagine how nothing could turn into something. Nobody can get an inch nearer to it by explaining how something could turn into something else. It is really far more logical to start by saying 'In the beginning God created heaven and earth' even if you only mean 'In the beginning some unthinkable power began some unthinkable process.' For God is by its nature a name of mystery, and nobody ever supposed that man could imagine how a world was created any more than he could create one. But evolution really is mistaken for explanation. It has the fatal quality of leaving on many minds the impression that they do understand it and everything else; just as many of them live under a sort of illusion that they have read the Origin of Species.

But this notion of something smooth and slow like the ascent of a slope, (an idea Dawkins brings up in his book, "The God Delusion", addressed the better part of a century earlier by Chesterton, JK) is a great part of the illusion. It is an illogically as well as an illusion; for slowness has really nothing to do with the question. An event is not any more intrinsically intelligible or unintelligible because of the pace at which it moves. For a man who does not believe in a miracle, a slow miracle would be just as incredible as a swift one.

Take Care

Sunday, 22 July 2007

Limited Atonement

The atonement is the work of God in Christ on the cross whereby he canceled the debt of our sin, appeased his holy wrath against us, and won for us all the benefits of salvation. The death of Christ was necessary because God would not show a just regard for his glory if he swept sins under the rug with no recompense. In other words the death of Christ was necessary to vindicate the righteousness of God in justifying (declaring righteous) the ungodly by faith. It would be unrighteous to forgive sinners as though their sin were insignificant, when in fact it is an infinite insult against the value of God's glory. Therefore Jesus bears the curse, which was due to our sin, so that we can be justified and the righteousness of God can be vindicated. (Desiring God).

On this point I am fairly much in line with strict Calvinists to the extent that I agree that Jesus died solely so that the elect would be saved. In other words, he died so that all who believe in him would not perish, but have everlasting life. He did not die so that all would be saved. If that were so, his work on the cross was a failure, because not all will be saved. But in opposition to them, I believe he did die so that any could be saved.

Again, Calvinists often set up a straw man by claiming that the only alternate position to their own, based on their definition of election, must be either that of “universalism;” that somehow all must be saved, or Arminianism. They accuse those who disagree with them as somehow believing that men can then somehow achieve their own salvation. That they must be able to accomplish their own new birth and bring themselves to faith without the irresistible grace of God. Not true. They do not take into account the open decree of election, an equally Biblical view of God’s sovereign election.

I think that 5-point Calvinists must stretch things to ignore the verses that tell us that God so loved the world that he sent His only Son (John 3:16); that Jesus is the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (1:29); that God desires (not wills, but desires) all men to be saved (1 Tim 2:3); and other verses. They must redefine “the world” to mean, “some of the world”, and “all men” to mean “some men.”

The open decree of election solves, in my opinion, any difficulty and any hint of disharmony between such passages and those regarding the “elect.” Jesus died only for “his people”, “his sheep”, his “body”, the elect. Anyone in the world has the prospect of seeking God and being brought to a saving faith by Him, by His irresistible grace. But only those who do, whom God brings into the “elect” body, will benefit from what Jesus did.

Take Care

Wednesday, 18 July 2007

Irresistible Grace

The Desiring God website says,
“The doctrine of irresistible grace does not mean that every influence of the Holy Spirit cannot be resisted. It means that the Holy Spirit can overcome all resistance and make his influence irresistible. …(it) means that God is sovereign and can overcome all resistance when he wills.”
With this much I agree. In fact, I can agree with the traditional 5-point Calvinist view of Irresistible Grace to a point, or more correctly, after a point. Any differences between our respective views spring from our differing views of the basis of election.

As I have said, I believe God has given each of us a choice either to seek Him or reject Him. He forces no one either way. The Calvinist view of irresistible grace says that, not only are we unable to choose, but that this grace is given only to some and specifically withheld from certain pre-determined others. I don’t think it is scriptural at all, in light of the whole of Scripture. Jesus said that when he is lifted up he would draw all men to himself. As seen earlier, people are commanded to seek God.

The Bible says that many are called, but few are chosen (Mt 22:14), the chosen being those who are in Christ. I don't think the traditional Calvinist view of irresistible grace can answer how some who are called are not chosen, because according to that view, only the chosen will be called. But the Bible is clear. Many are indeed called but not all of them will be chosen. I believe the call is to all people, but many who are called turn away in an attempt to avoid God, whereas comparatively fewer will respond to His call and turn toward Him. To be somewhat flippant, the 5-point Calvinist version of irresistible grace might say of the ones called but not chosen, that God, as they draw near, says, “Ha! Sorry guys, just kidding!”

As I have stated before in this series of posts, I believe that God honours the obedience of those who seek Him. If one is truly seeking God, that is when Irresistible Grace “kicks in”, so to speak. God will work a supernatural work in the heart of the true seeker, give him saving faith, regenerate him and pull him into the Kingdom. People do not enter the Kingdom by their own strength, works, merit or even decision. It is God and Him alone who brings them in. And if God pulls them in, then that pull is truly irresistible. One moment they are outside, the next they are in.

And thank God for this Irresistible Grace. Even true seekers, after God has brought them to faith, look back and realize that they really didn’t have a clue about what they were looking for, and that without the illumination of the Holy Spirit, would never have had the capacity to understand the deep things of God.

Without irresistible grace we might surely ask, as did the apostles, “Who then can be saved?”

Take Care

Friday, 13 July 2007

Total Depravity

My view of “Total Depravity” does not follow strictly that of many Calvinists. I suppose it comes down not to whether we agree on the total depravity of man, but what we think of God’s power to overcome it. Calvinists, limited by their traditional understanding of election, hold that only in the elect does God overcome this depravity to bring them to faith. I wonder, if God can do that, why can’t He overcome it enough in everyone to cause people to seek Him? Then if they don't, they are without excuse (Rom 1:20)

One Calvinist author says we are totally depraved by nature, but not in our actions. “Why not?”, I ask. Why would not our actions follow our nature? He says that we are limited by social conventions, government, etc. Well, where did these conventions come from? They were instituted by men. Often, men who did not know God as we would define, “knowing God

In my discussions with atheists and non-believers, this is one of their favourite arguments when addressing the question of objective vs. subjective morality. They say that right and wrong do not depend on God or His existence but that they have been defined by civil governments and evolved by societies for their (societies’) preservation. I disagree.

The question I would ask is this: Do people do what they think is right solely and completely out of fear of punishment by the civil authorities, or do they have an inner sense of an objective right and wrong, even if they won’t admit it is truly objective?

I believe God has made Himself, or at least His existence, known to all men, throughout all history and over the whole world. (Acts 17) He has implanted an innate sense of His existence in all people. I believe mankind has an inner sense of what is right and wrong (as per C.S. Lewis‘ “natural law“)
I believe He has implanted a desire to seek Him in every person. I do not believe that mankind’s depraved nature makes it entirely impossible for him to seek God. Therefore, I believe that our societies’ laws were instituted through this innate, God-planted sense of “right and wrong”, rather than having evolved out of “practicality” for the “good of the society.”

You see, I believe God can draw people toward Himself in spite of their spiritual condition. The Calvinists may ask, “How can a dead person seek God?”

Remember that Jesus said, “…it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” (Mat 19:24) To the disciples this made no sense. Their reaction was, "Who then can be saved?"
To which Jesus replied, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."
How can a dead person seek God? Well, how can a camel go through the eye of a needle? With God all things are possible. Mind you, I am not yet at the point of the seeker finding God. That will come under irresistable grace, but just for now, let me say that I don’t believe one so much finds God as that God reveals himself to the seeker.

My view of Total Depravity would be more that there is really no innate goodness in us at all, apart from God. Although He has given us this desire to seek Him, that desire does us no good at all unless we seek Him earnestly and are prepared to submit our lives to Him. Many people are not in this category, of course. They know God exists, but faced with the requirement of accountability to Him, or because of the lifestyle they are living, they choose to reject Him and turn in the other direction. It may almost seem that certain people just can’t seem to “get it,” when it comes to the things of God, but I believe this is almost always a choice on their part, either deliberate or sub-conscious. In fact, the Bible confirms this:
This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.” (John 3:19 NIV).

Often people will try to satisfy or mollify that inner knowledge by doing “good” works, getting involved in “good” causes or “false” man-centered religions, but in fact, apart from God we can do no good thing. (Isaiah 64:6) So even false religions and secular social causes are attributable indirectly, I believe, to this inner God-implanted calling. The difference is between being aware of Him, seeking Him, and truly devoting oneself to Him.

Calvinists generally point to one or two passages of Scripture as backing for their position: Romans 3: 10-12. and Ephesians 2:1-3. Romans 3 in turn quotes Psalms 14 and 53, Psalms by David. From it they draws the conclusions that:

1. No man is righteous in his person or works,
2. No man seeks God,
3. No man understands God or spiritual matters,
4. All have gone astray and become unprofitable,
5. No man does any good.
(p 52)

The Desiring God website, in their explanation of Total Depravity says, “Men do seek God. But they do not seek him for who he is,” and I actually agree with them on this point. No one who has not been born again by the Spirit of God knows even what they are seeking. They just have a sense of something “out there. ”Even those whom Calvinists would claim were elect do not seek God for who He is before God Himself regenerates them.

In the context of 1 Timothy 2: 3-4, the Calvinist almost always raises the question of whether “all” always means “all”, and it is a reasonably question, I suppose. I believe the same question could be raised in regards to this passage. In other words, does “no man” really mean, “absolutely no man without exception”? Does “no man, without exception” seek God? What about David himself, the author of the Psalms who says,
“O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you” (Psalm 63:1, emphasis mine)?

Although Romans 3:10 declares “There is no one righteous (Greek dikaios),” (not an exact quote of the Psalms in question), the Bible itself declares that Noah was righteous (Gen 6:9), Zechariah and Elizabeth were “upright” (dikaios, Luke 1:6) and Simeon was righteous (dikaios, Luke 2:25). Are these contradictions? I don’t think so. Now, I am not arguing for or against these people’s righteousness. I’m just asking those who quote Romans 3:10 to look beyond that one reference and consider the whole of Scripture. If they insist on holding to a rigid literal interpretation in Romans, I believe they must then explain the use of the same word in other verses.

I think we can get into trouble when we base a doctrine on a single verse, taken narrowly and woodenly literally. I think it much more reasonable to look at Scripture as a whole and take into account the authors’ original context, meaning and state of mind. I think we can interpret the Psalms in question somewhat more broadly or figuratively than they are taken in the Calvinistic context. I can imagine them having been written by David in a certain time of frustration at the evil and “falling away” he saw around him at the time of writing. I can imagine David writing in the same frame of mind, perhaps, as Elijah, who said, “I am the only one left”, when, of course, he wasn’t. I’m not sure that “all” was really meant to mean, “all”, nor was “none” really meant to mean, “absolutely none”. I believe Paul was using the device of hyperbole as he quoted these passages.

Balance this, “no one seeks” view with its opposite; that is, Biblical commands to seek Him and examples of people actually doing so.

“But if from there you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul.” (Deut 4:29)

“Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice. Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always.” (1 Chron 16:10,11)

“Now devote your heart and soul to seeking the LORD your God” (22:19)

“If you seek him, he will be found by you; but if you forsake him, he will reject you forever. (28:9)

“Those from every tribe of Israel who set their hearts on seeking the LORD…” (2 Chron 11, 16a)

“…for you, LORD , have never forsaken those who seek you.”(Psalm 9:10b)

“…they who seek the LORD will praise him…” (22:26b)

“I sought the LORD , and he answered me; (34:4)

“Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always.” (105:4)

“Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near.” (Isaiah 55:6)

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jer 29:13)

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness…” (Mat 6:33a; cf Luke 12:31)

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” (Mat 7:7; cf Luke 11:9)

There are dozens more in both the Old and New Testaments. I see no clear evidence that He is speaking only to the “elect“, as defined by strict Calvinists. Nor have I heard these verses addressed satisfactorily by Calvinists whth whom I have had discussions. Indeed, they seem to be rather clumsily glossed over, almost as if they really don‘t need to be answered.

I believe it is clear that God wants His creatures to seek Him. In fact, in Acts chapter 17, His word confirms this. After telling the Athenians a number of things God has done, he tells them why.
“God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for
him and find him…” (Acts 17:27a)
Having said that, however, God also has given us free choice. We may seek or we may choose not to. (Deut 30:15-19)

Regarding Ephesians 2:1-3, all I can say is it depends upon one’s interpretation. If one takes “dead” to mean literally dead, one is bound to adopt one view. However, the “dead” obviously refers to “spiritually” dead, not physically, so already it is figurative or metaphoric. Strongs definition of the Greek “nekros allows for the following meanings:

2) metaph.
a) spiritually dead
1) destitute of a life that recognizes and is devoted to God, because given up to trespasses and sins
2) inactive as respects doing right
b) destitute of force or power, inactive, inoperative

I believe these definitions do not rule out the possibility for a person who is “dead” in this way to recognize his or her spiritual deficiency and acknowledge their need to seek God. After all, even a blind person can sense the heat of the sun. The 5-point Calvinist may see it as “impossible” for a “totally depraved” person to be drawn toward God, but they will say that the only way a spiritually dead person can be regenerated is through a supernatural act of God alone. This of course is true, but then we are speaking only of a matter of degree. If God can bring a spiritually dead person to new life, surely He can also draw a person to seek Him.

Even though, humanly speaking, it also seems impossible for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, with God all things are possible. (Mt 19:24-26)

These are my thoughts,

Take Care

Wednesday, 11 July 2007

On The Other Hand

In contrast to my last post, I was reminded of this completely inspiring performance from "Britain's Got Talent". It gives me thrills every time I see it.

Paul Potts is a rather dumpy and frumpy looking mobile phone salesman from South Wales whose life's dream it was to sing opera. Here he surprised everyone, including the initially cynical panel of judges, most notably the usually curmudgeon-like Simon Cowell

By the way, Mr Potts went on to win the entire competition.

Hope is renewed!
Take Care

America's Got Talent?

After watching last night's episode of the show, I'm beginning to have serious doubts about it.

Some people may wonder how I can tie this subject into the current controversy in the Anglican church regarding same-sex blessings, but it struck me that there is a connection. Society today seems almost to be under some kind of spell regarding gays or anything in the gay realm. As proof I offer this pathetic act by the cross-dressing, "Boy Shakira" that has, as of last night, made it through two levels of the competition.

Some of the judges seem to love it. I can only shake my head. Surely the rapture is near! :-)

Take Care

PS: I felt badly that I may have too hard on poor Boy Shakira. I meant nothing personal. I'm sure he is entirely sincere in his performance. But either the judges were sincere in promoting him through two levels of competition, in which case they, and perhaps all of us, need to be pitied, or it is done as a joke, in which we must feel sorry for the performer himself.

Take Care

Monday, 9 July 2007

More Thoughts on the Anglican Synod

Here is what is probably more or less Peter (the live blogger's) summary of the goings on at the recent Anclican Church of Canada national synod, along with my comment. I'm afraid a split in the ACC is both inevitable and necessary. Any who further compromise on the same-sex blessing issue will be entering into apostasy.

Take Care,

Sunday, 8 July 2007

Unconditional Election

I jumped the gun, so to speak, when I predicted I would begin discussing Calvinism, because I then realized what a huge and daunting task I had set myself. I found I had many more thoughts in my head than I could set down in writing in any logical and orderly fashion. But here is my attempt at a beginning. I shall start with the "U", because that is (was) the beginning of my own disillusionment with Calvinism as I was taught it.

Unconditional election in the traditional Calvinist sense, says that God, before the foundation of the world chose who He would save; those people He would bring to faith in Him. The corollary to this is what I referred to earlier as the sixth point of Calvinism; that He also chose, by default then, those who He would not save. There are some Calvinists who try to softpedal this "double predestination" by saying that although God saves those He chooses, He does not really condemn the rest, because they are condemned by their own sins. They talk in terms of God "actively" choosing those He will save, but "passively" allowing the rest to perish. I’m afraid this is just semantic tap-dancing. By not choosing these people, He is indeed condemning them. If God is sovereign (and He is), then nothing happens outside His will. If He has the power to prevent something from happening, but allows it to happen anyway, then the fact that it happens is within His will. If He has the power to bring anyone of His choosing to a saving faith, but for some chooses not to, then it is His will that they perish.

I came to faith in a PCA church and this is their teaching, based on the Westminster Confession. From the beginning this was a sticking point for me. How could God be that arbitrary, even if He was God and had every right to be? I just couldn’t figure how God could condemn, in advance, multitudes of people to eternal punishment, decreeing, also unconditionally, that they would have no chance of redemption.

But then I became aware of an alternative view of predestination to the Calvinist view of “Unconditional Election,” often not considered in the debate. It is, the “Open decree of predestination.” It is not even addressed by many 5-point Calvinists with whom I have discussed this issue. In my experience, many Calvinists tend to see things in a totally “black or white” manner. In other words, one is either all-out Calvinist or is accused of being Arminian. This, I believe, is a straw man or at least, tunnel vision. They are ignoring a perfectly viable and Biblical option. It is not an either/or situation. Every passage in the Bible on this subject can, I believe, be read and interpreted in light of the open decree without contradiction.

The open decree of predestination says simply that God decreed before the foundation of the world (also unconditionally, by the way) that all “in Christ” would be saved. The elect consist of all who are or will be “in Christ”. He did not decree arbitrarily who would finally be in Christ, but that all who are, would inherit eternal life. All those who come to faith in Him will be saved. “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.“ (Acts 2:21; Rom 10:13, quoting Joel 2:32) These are the “in Christ,” or the “in him” of Ephesians 1. Jesus calls them “my sheep” in John 10. In this context it is, then, the “flock” who are the elect, and reading and understanding predestination in this context is entirely consistent with Scripture, in my opinion.

It also takes nothing away from God’s sovereignty. True, God has known from eternity past who would be saved, but He has forced no one, nor has He specifically excluded anyone. He merely sovereignty declared that the group composed of all those who come to faith, the “in Christ,” if you like, would be saved. Again, there is that “tension” between foreknowledge and fore-ordination, but I don’t believe one necessitates the other. God can know our choices but still allow us to make them. Interestingly, this is another favourite point on which non-believers attack Christianity. They claim (as a strict interpretation of the Calvinist view must hold) that humans have no choice in the matter. They then say that God is a capricious bureaucrat who has already decided the fate of everyone, even before they were born, appointing some for salvation and specifically and arbitrarily excluding others. “How unfair!” they cry.

Admittedly, God can and could have done things in any way He wanted to, including decreeing arbitrarily who, specifically, would and who would not be saved. (Incidentally, it makes no difference to me, or anyone else who is saved. Our position is secure, no matter how the mechanism works.) Yes, He could have arbitrarily excluded some from even having a chance at salvation, but I don’t think it necessary to believe that He did. Just because He can do something, doesn’t force Him to do it. In fact, it occurs to me that unconditional election can be seen actually to detract from His sovereignty because one might say, “God could do it, so that is the way He had to do it.” Or, to put it another way, “God is all-powerful, so He must always exercise His absolute power. Yes, He could, but we limit His very omnipotence by insisting He must always exercise it in a particular way. He could very easily, in His sovereignty, have decided not to. One prerogative of God’s absolute sovereignty would be to grant mankind the freewill to seek Him, as I believe He did.

The use of Romans 8:29,30 to illustrate unconditional election doesn’t necessarily prove the point. In my opinion, the entire passage can be viewed quite consistently within the “open decree” paradigm. The only part that gives me any pause is the phrase, “…those God foreknew he also predestined…;” not because it leans toward strict Calvinism, but just the opposite; Arminians could easily claim it for their own position on election. A sovereign God, however, can in no way be bound or obligated by foreknowledge, so there must be another interpretation.

My view of God’s work vs. our part in salvation?

Luke 11:9-13:

"So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.
"Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!" (emphasis mine)

Yes, salvation comes only from God, and the real work is His. It is a free gift from Him, and He can grant it to whomever He chooses. But I believe this passage tells us to whom He will grant it: those who ask, seek and knock. Regeneration is 100% of God, completely a work of the Holy Spirit, and we have no choice or play no part in it. The final pull into the kingdom is His, in His time and at His sole prerogative, but I think He honors our seeking, asking and knocking, as He has promised.

For this reason, my focus in evangelism is not to pressure seekers into praying a “sinners’ prayer”. It is not the words of the prayer, or even the seekers “decision” that results in regeneration. Nor can I accept the logical extension of 5-point Calvinism: the hyper-Calvinist notion that God will save the elect regardless of our evangelism or lack of it. I believe the hope for a not-yet-born-again unbeliever is to keep seeking God, reading and hearing His word, and praying to Him as if He is there, even though they may not yet know whom they are seeking or to whom they are praying. God will act in His own time, but I believe He will act in response to those who seek Him.

I realize that I have skipped over many points that bear on this concept of unconditional election, many of which are raised in the first point of Calvinism, "Total Depravity", so I will address that point next, Lord willing.

Take Care

Thursday, 5 July 2007

Statement from the Anglican Network.

Here is a post-synod statement from the Anglican Network, an organization of Anglicans in Canada who hold to the biblically-based orthodox Christian faith.

Take Care

Why I Am Not (Quite) A 5 (or 6) Point Calvinist

The time has come for me to express a few of my thoughts on the theological system of thought known as Calvinism. The highlights of Calvinism are generally summed up in the acronym TULIP.

T-Total depravity of man:
U-Unconditional election
L-Limited atonement
I-Irresistible grace
P-Perseverance of the saints

A brief overview of these points can be found Here

These are the “Five Points” of Calvinism, although there is a sixth, and even a seventh that are sometimes mentioned. I will not discuss the seventh, which is, “the best of all possible worlds” because I am not familiar with it and don't particularly take a position on it. The sixth point really is a sub-point of the second, unconditional election, and follows directly and inexorably from it. I have borrowed the following definition of point six from Tim Challies
The sixth point of Calvinism ) is, “double predestination.” It is simply the other side to predestination, that just as God sovereignly chooses those whom He will save, in the same way he chooses those whom He will not save. There are some Calvinists who reject this idea, saying that God chooses His elect while everyone else makes their own choice to be condemned. A six-point Calvinist though, believes that God chooses some for salvation and some for perdition and that He does so not on the basis that some people are better or worse than others, but simply through His sovereign choice.
Just for clarification, and for economy of words, when I refer to “Calvinists”, I mean “5 (or 6)-point” Calvinists. And I don’t use the term in a disparaging way at all. I consider myself a Calvinist, even though I don’t subscribe fully to all five (or six) points as traditionally defined. I consider myself a three point Calvinist, or to be more specific, a “consonant” Calvinist. That is, I accept the “T”, the “L” and the “P” of the acrostic, (and even some of those with some qualification) but not fully the “U” or the “I”, at least not in the same way that most people who describe themselves as Calvinists would interpret them. In fact, I do believe in both ‘vowels’, but I just understand them differently. So I am, in effect, somewhat more than a “three-pointer”. I like to say I am a ‘pi’ (3.141592….) Calvinist.

Before I present my thoughts, which I will begin in another post, I must first issue a disclaimer that my views do not represent those of the church or its denomination I presently attend, or necessarily any who attend there, although I believe my pastor has a reasonable idea where I stand.

Let me also say that, although I differ from many orthodox Christians in my views on this subject, I am no “liberal.” I base my views completely and solely in what I understand the Bible to say. I might say that there will be many who don’t agree with me, but I doubt that “many” even see this blog, so I use the term entirely as a figure of speech. But in short, in all discussion, the standard must be Scripture, and any of my views, or those of others, must be held up to it and scrutinized in its light. If I can be shown to be in error, I will gladly change my views.

Just letting you know what is coming.
Take Care