Error, indeed, is never set forth in its naked deformity, lest, being thus exposed, it should at once be detected. But it is craftily decked out in an attractive dress, so as, by its outward form, to make it appear to the inexperienced (ridiculous as the expression may seem) more true than the truth itself. - Irenaeus

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Calvinism or Arminianism?

No system of thought can be judged
 by what extremists do in its name
by Dale Brown

The mysterious dichotomy that lies between God’s predestined plan and the free will of Satan and man has been the topic of countless debates over the centuries. Taking their stand on the verses that support their prejudice the two camps remain, to one degree or another, to this day.

Faced with the facts no one with sound judgment can deny the ample Biblical evidence that, "He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will." "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast."

On the other hand, there are those uncomfortable verses, both Old and New Testament, that appear to fly in the face of God’s plan thus giving His creation a free-will to choose or reject His program. Paul writes that God our Savior desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. Peter writes in a similar statement that God is patient toward us, not wishing for any to perish but all to come to repentance.
This would appear that God’s perfect will is that all men be saved. After all, "God so loved the world, that he gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life." It seems that man’s choice to believe has a very important part to play. It was man’s ability to make choices that put us in a position that we needed a savior to start with. Man made a choice which got him driven out of the garden of Eden. Later in Genesis man had made such a mess of things that God was sorry He had even made him. The words of Joshua echo any modern evangelist when he proclaimed to the nation of Israel to "choose this day whom you will serve." Jesus said that many are called but few are chosen.

Jesus made a revealing statement to those at Capernaum when they refused to repent. He said that if the miracles had occurred in Sodom that had occurred in Capernaum they would have repented and would remain to this day. That is amazing because it suggests two things. First it suggests that they would have been enlightened by the miracles, and secondly, their decision would have altered history. Jesus, knowing their fate, even wept over Jerusalem because of their willful rebellion against him.

So how do we reconcile stories such as the one of Joseph being sold into slavery by his brothers which later, after some time as a slave and a prisoner, ends up in a position to save his family when they come begging for food? This story of Joseph is not so much a story of the predestination of one man’s salvation but rather that of the nation of Israel. It is also important to understand that with Joseph and his father Jacob, God was dealing with men who were willing to follow God’s plan not in opposition to it.

The light of God’s word sometimes puts us in a precarious predicament. As with the photon, science claims that light can be described in terms of particles and at the same time waves. Waves are not particles and particles are not waves. Scientists do not divide into two camps and argue about the two contradicting properties. They must admit that both somehow are true.

It is clear from scripture that God has a predestined plan for man, yet man has a will that often muddies the water. Jesus illustrated the clash of the wills this way, "How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling"(Matt. 24:37). Then, thrown in the mix is Satan. It is his will to steal, kill and destroy whereas God’s will is to give us life and life more abundantly.
How one looks at salvation makes a big difference.

Picture the "House of Salvation." A sign above the door on the outside reads, "To Enter, Repent and Believe in the Lord Jesus." After entering you look back at the sign above the door which reads, "There Was Nothing You Did To Get In, For it was by Grace through Faith." Our perspective of salvation depends on where we are. God on the other hand is outside of time and space therefore speaks in terms difficult to wrap our minds around.

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