Saturday, 7 June 2008

Another Shot at Explaining my Position on Calvinism.

I am a partial Calvinist. I used to call myself a consonant Calvinist, but I'm a little more than that now. My Calvinist friends might say I'm making headway, but it's only because I interpret Unconditional election and irresistible grace a little differently than they.

The main point of Calvinism I really can’t accept is the position that God, before the foundation of the world, set apart a great number of people, individually, fore-ordaining that He would allow none of these people the opportunity to come to faith in Christ and therefore be saved.
For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, (Colossians 1:13)

There are two kingdoms; the kingdom of darkness and the Kingdom of Light. Each of us are, or will be, in one or the other of them. There is no middle ground. There is a line separating them, as it were, a line in the sand. Now, it’s not up to us, as some might picture it, to step across that line from one kingdom into the other by making a decision or by saying a prayer. We can’t. God Himself, and He alone, pulls us across that line. We cannot, nor could we possibly ever, step across it on our own.

But I believe that God calls us, from His side of the line, to approach it. He calls us to come toward Him. Without His call we would not, in our depraved state, even know it was there. But I believe God has given everyone a sense of His existence and presence. I believe that Romans 1, Psalm 19 and Acts 17 indicate this. The only way we can have that sense is because He gave it to us. That is His call. And I believe that if He can make a spiritually dead person alive, He can also cause a spiritually dead person to be aware of Him and turn towards Him and seek Him.

In the OT, God commanded Moses to lift up a bronze serpent on a pole and decreed that all who looked to it would be saved. This is a direct picture of faith in Christ. Those who turn in faith to Christ will be saved. Those who don’t, won’t. That I believe is the sovereign choice referred to in Romans 9.

This snake would have been visible to all. All would have at least seen it, noticed it. But only those who followed God’s command to turn to it and look to it for healing would be saved. There would have been those who noticed it (it would have been hard not to) but turned away and perished as a result.

Yes, we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone and not by our works, but I believe there is a difference between a work and a response.

God has promised that all who seek will find. Our seeking is our approaching that line in the sand in response to His call. And God Himself, in His own time and at His sole prerogative, brings those who will be His children into His kingdom, making them brand new people, filling them with His Holy Spirit, and giving them eternal life to be with Him forever.

That is what I believe.

Take Care


Warren said...

I’m also an “almost Calvinist” (although I know there are many who say there is no middle ground). My struggle is in a different area. I can accept as a paradox that (1) God is sovereign and elects who He wills separate from anything they may do and (2) man is fully responsible for his sin and God is fully just in judging him. What I can’t seem to comprehend, however, are the biblical arguments that try to logically resolve these two realities.

John K said...

Hi Warren,
Here is what I think about your 2 points. Briefly,
1)I agree, and I believe that God sovereignly elected the body of Christ to eternal life. In other words, God decreed that all who come to faith in Christ will be saved; those who reject him, won't. I believe that those that Paul addresses as the elect, he does so as members of Christ's body.
2)The judgement of the sins of all who believe in Jesus Christ was pronounced at the cross. IOW, Christ has already borne the punishment for all who trust in him for their salvation. Believers face no further judgement for sin in regard to their salvation.
Those who don't accept Christ's atoning sacrifice will face God's wrath and judgement when they face Him at the final judgement.

Warren said...

John, thank you for the reply; I fully agree with you. When I spoke about man being responsible for his sin, I was thinking about the non-elect. I have never found the arguments concerning the non-elect being responsible for their sin, yet wholly incapable of choosing God, to be all that convincing. I choose to accept it as a paradox; true, yet not something I can fully comprehend with my mind. I’m currently reading A.W. Pink’s book The Sovereignty of God, and it’s one of the few areas where I feel he is glossing over things.

By the way, I really appreciate your blog.

John K said...

You've touched upon my whole point in this area. I don't believe anyone is totally incapable of choosing God, or at least, choosing to seek Him. I don't believe that God outright rejected a certain individuals as, "non-elect." Instead, I believe the non-elect are simply, "those-who-do-not-come-to-faith-in-Christ." God has known, of course, from eternity past who the individuals in this group would be, but I see that as different from actually ordaining exactly who they would be, IOW, actually deciding to prevent them from coming to faith. John 3:19 sums it up in my opinion. "This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil."
On the other hand, the elect He has chosen is the Body of Christ. Or, put another way, Christ is the Chosen One and all who are "in him". (Ephesians 1) The elect are elect by virtue of being, "in Christ."

Joshua Walker said...

Great post. I've also been doing a lot of research on this very issue. I would have to agree that I find it high improbable that God, before creation, simply capriciously chose some for salvation and some for damnation. I see it that those who have faith are the elect and those who don't have faith are not elect. You may also want to read about Molinism. This system of thought has become very appealing to me in the last year because of it's logical consistency. It's centered around the doctrine of Middle Knowledge, which includes the knowledge of conterfactuals.

John K said...

Hi Joshua, good to hear from you. Molinism is a new thing to me. (I wondered if it was some kind of cult or something) so I looked it up on Wikipedia. This quote struck me,
"Ever since Augustine and Pelagius there has been debate over the issue of salvation; more specifically how can God elect believers and believers still come to God freely?"

My whole point on this issue is that God does not elect believers, He elected the Body of Christ. Then He revealed Himself to all people and commanded them to seek Him. And I believe He honours His promise that all who do seek will find. Again, all we as humans can do is respond to Him and seek Him. Some will, some of course won't. Why? I don't know except for John 3:19.

I believe He will then draw those who respond to His call by seeking Him, into His elect body. Jeremiah 29:13 promises that those who seek Him with all their hearts will find Him.

In the final analysis, of course, it's all of God and nothing of us. If He did not draw us, we in our depravity could never respond. It is only by His grace and by Christ's work on the cross that we even have the opportunity.

Warren said...

I know from long experience, that Calvinist debates never end and minds are rarely changed; so I'll quitely bow out.

John K said...

You're right Warren. This is at most a secondary issue, unlike much of what seems to be happening in Christendom these days, especially here in Canada.
I am blessed to be atending a church where, as firmly as positions on these disputable matters are held, they are not held to be fellowship-breaking issues, and we can love and respect one another as brothers in Christ.

al ward said...

John, what separates this predestinationism of calvinism and muslim belief, is it a dangerous belief?

michael said...

"I would have to agree that I find it high improbable that God, before creation, simply capriciously chose some for salvation and some for damnation."

Ephesians 1:4-5
"...even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world...
In love he predestined us ...according to the purpose of his will"
Romans 9:11-15
11though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— 12she was told, "The older will serve the younger." 13As it is written, "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated."

14What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! 15For he says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion."

What will you do with these verses and all the other similar ones?

John K said...

Hi Michael, thanks for your comment.
My whole outlook on this issue is actually illustrated by the very passage you cited, Ephesians 1. Over and over again we see the phrase, "in him," or, "in Christ." I believe that the elect is (are) the Body of Christ. To take it even further, one might say that Christ is the elect, the chosen one, and we who have faith in him are elect by virtue of being "in him." In these verses Paul is talking to fellow members of the Body of Christ, so he can say that indeed they, and he (as the Body of Christ) were chosen in him before the foundation of the world.
As far as the Romans verses, they are examples of God's sovereign choices, which I do not deny. But what exactly did He choose. I admit that God has entirely the right to choose any way He wants, and has, in certain circumstances, chosen some people for destruction to accomplish His will. I think of Pharoah and Judas, for example. But should we take those and apply them across the board to say that He actively hardens the hearts of all those who don't believe, not allowing them to come to faith? I don't think it's necessary.
The examples you cite are merely testimony to God's right (and ability) to choose as He wills. I think His sovereign choice regarding election is merely this: He has chosen that all those who come to faith in Him, through Christ, would be saved. All those who don't, won't. Make sense?

I believe that any of the passages on election can be read in light of this way of thinking without contradiction, whereas 6-point Calvinism definitely has a problem with every passage where God calls all to seek Him (many verses), where He promises that all who seek will find (many verses) and where He wishes that all be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth (1 Tim 2:4)

Take Care