Arminian Today

A Jesus-Centered Arminian Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Sovereignty of God

Then The Gospel Came…

Imagine a world where few are Christians.  Most of the culture is full of idolatry.  The love of money.  The love of sports.  The love of sex.  The political leaders are corrupt.  Politicians in general are corrupt and not trustworthy.  The leaders of the nation are pagans and they despise the gospel.  At every turn the nation is against the gospel it seems.  They despise biblical authority, despise its truth, attack the truth of the gospel, attack those who follow Christ.  They seek to cast Christians off as strange, aliens, and out of touch with reality.  In fact, they believe Christians just want to destroy their fun!

Sounds just like the wicked nation I live in.  But this nation is the Roman Empire at the time of the book of Acts.  A wicked depraved time.  One biblical commentary stated that the Roman empire was much worse in terms of Christian persecution, rejection of biblical authority, etc. than any time in history.  We might could point to the communists nations that openly hated God but few compare to the Roman Empire.  It heavily persecuted Christians and killed many of them including most of the Apostles for their faith in the Lord Jesus.  While the Romans were busy worshiping idols and the emperor, the Christians were calling for them to repent and turn to Christ (Acts 17:30-31).

What gives me hope is that the gospel transformed the empire.  From its humble beginnings in Acts 2, by the time we finish with the book of Acts we find Paul the Apostle in Rome preaching the kingdom of God (Acts 28:30-31).  The very next book in our Bibles is the book of Romans with a church alive and well in Rome (Romans 1:7).  The book of Revelation (which I know some will take exception with me here because of my preterism) was written to encourage persecuted saints of God (Revelation 1:9) in the Roman Empire.  The book of Revelation promised them victory (Revelation 2:1-7 for example).  They are told that Jesus is “Lord of lords and King of kings” (Revelation 17:14).  Our victory is sure for Jesus is our King!  This was the hope for the saints of God!  It is our hope as well!

We look around at our wicked world.  Here in the United States we see violence, hatred, lack of respect for authority, pride, all types of wicked sins including idolatry and sexual immorality.  We see the wicked sin of abortion where millions of people are being slaughtered all in the name of conveyance and sexual sins.  We see lying politicians and corrupt leaders now openly attacking the gospel and questioning God’s absolute authority in all things.  We see Christians bowing their knees to the false gods of money, power, sex, sports, and all types of wickedness.  We no doubt live in an evil age.

Yet I have hope in the gospel.  The gospel promises the sure victory of Jesus (Psalm 110:1).  Jesus will win (1 Corinthians 15:24-26).  The gospel will go forth and we have victory through Christ alone (Matthew 28:18-20).  The nations belong to our King (Psalm 2:8).  While the United States and other nations may be wicked, they will not last forever.  Only the kingdom of our Lord and His Christ will reign forever (Daniel 7:13-14).  I have hope that the gospel will win.  The nations will bow to the Lordship of the King.  Every knee in fact will bow to the glory of the Lord Jesus (Philippians 2:5-11).

I write this  because it is easy to be discouraged.  Islam is growing.  The cults are thriving.  The false gospels are being preached.  Jesus is being attacked at every turn.  The national media hates the gospel.  The President of the United States is a pagan.  The nations reject the Word of God.

Yet Jesus is still Lord and He will reign forever!  I pray that the nations repent.  I pray that our nations turn to faith in Christ.  I pray for the gospel to go forth and sinners turn from their sins and turn in saving faith to the Lord Jesus.  I pray that God Almighty would have mercy and send a revival to the nations.  He can turn the tide.  The Lord turned the tide in ancient Rome and He can turn the tide in our wicked nations.  I pray He does for His glory and for His name.

Advertisements

Short Thoughts on the Islamic View of the Bible

I was listening to Dr. James White teaching on Islam and their view of the Bible and his talk got me thinking about the nature of the Islamic view of the Bible and how that plays into their view of Allah’s determinism of all things.  The Muslim view of Allah is that Allah is so sovereign that everything that happens whether good or bad happens because Allah wills it so and Allah renders all things certain.  Some have tried to place the Calvinist view of God’s sovereignty on the same level as the Muslim view but there are major differences between the two and I will not go there.  Just a cursory reading of the Calvinist view of God’s sovereignty reveals that despite their holding to divine determinism, there is a large element of God’s goodness and His love toward His creation including the reprobate (Romans 9:22).

The Muslim view of Allah is that Allah is not entirely loving and good.  His nature is not loving.  While Muslims believe that Allah is merciful and compassionate, they hold that Allah is to be known not in a loving sense but in submission (thus Muslims are those who submit to Allah).  The nature of God in Christianity is that God is love (1 John 4:7-8).  God is both holy and loving.  God hates our sins and He will judge our sins but He has also sent His Son to bear our sins on the cross (John 3:16).  This is the hope of the gospel, that Jesus has bore our sins (Galatians 1:4; Ephesians 1:7) and we will be raised to eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23).  No doubt sin separates us from our holy God and Creator (Isaiah 59:2; Ephesians 2:1-3) but God has sent His Son for our sins because of His great love for us (Ephesians 2:4-9).

The Muslim view of Allah is that Allah is completely other from his creation.  Allah often remains angry with humanity because we fail to obey his laws as he gave to Mohammad in the Quran and mostly in the Hadith.  Allah will judge all of humanity and will judge the Christians harshly for their worship of Jesus Christ (Surah 19:88-98).  Muslims fear the day of judgment .  They fear that Allah will not be merciful toward them even if they have kept his laws and sought to obey the pillars of Islam.  Some Muslims even believe that no person is safe on the day of judgment for Allah may choose to ignore the works of the Muslim and simply choose to send them to hell because of his own sovereign choice.

Now back to my original thought.  Islam holds that Allah not only controls all things but he renders certain all things.  Nothing happens that Allah has not willed so.  Allah is the supreme cause of all things.  The view of God in Islam amounts to fatalism.

Yet Muslims hold that Allah gave the Old Testament (the Torah) to the Jews.  Allah gave the New Testament to the Christians (the Gospels).  Yet they hold that the Jews and Christians corrupted the Scriptures given to them by Allah.  Therefore, Allah in his mercy sent Mohammad 600 years after the New Testament to correct true religion and to bring people back to submission to Allah.  The Quran is seen to be given by Gabriel to Mohammad as the final revelation from Allah (notice that it had to come through the angel because Allah does not deal with mankind).  Muslims then reason backwards that the newer revelation is superior to the older revelation.

Muslims hold that the Bible has been corrupted though they can’t truly point out the corruptions.  They often point to variants in the Greek text such as Mark 16:9-20 or John 8:1-10.  However, Christian scholars acknowledge these variants.  We also acknowledge the textual differences among the Greek family of manuscripts.  By the way, Muslim scholars know that there are variants in the Quran texts as well.  Bear in mind that the Quran was written years after Mohammad had even died.  The key differences here is that the Bible has thousands of manuscripts for it.  The New Testament alone has thousands of Greek texts.  Muslim scholars also now that the variants do not effect any major doctrines in Christianity.

Yet all of this, the variants, the so called corruptions in the Bible, etc. all happened because Allah willed it.  Yet Allah states in the Quran that he will guide and protect his word.  How can this be if Allah allowed the Old and New Testaments to be corrupted?  How can Allah be trusted if he allows this?  And if Allah allows the Bible to be corrupted, how can the Muslim argue that Allah has protected the Quran from error?

On my desk here as I write is a copy of the Quran along with my New American Standard Bible.  The two are not even close when you read them.  As Dr. White pointed out in his talk, just take the book of Acts and read it and notice how Luke emphasizes places, historical people, emperors, etc. while the Quran does little to none of this.  One cannot read say Surah 2 and know for sure when this is or what is happening.  The Quran is not even fun reading.  Meanwhile, the Bible is full of history, poetry, prophecy, etc. that places the Bible and its events in human history with humans interacting with God as the will of God is accomplished mainly the salvation of mankind through the cross (John 1:29).  The Bible has been given to us to reveal God’s final and ultimate revelation of Himself in His Son for His glory and for our salvation (Hebrews 1:1-3).  John 20:31 records that these were written so that we might believe in Jesus and be saved.

The Quran, on the other hand, is not that way at all.  The beauty is not there.  The historical interactions are not there and what few are there are borrowed from the Bible in some form.  Even what is known about Jesus has to come from the Bible (such as His virgin birth which the Quran has to borrow from).  The Quran has to borrow from the Christian worldview (mainly the Scriptures themselves) to establish itself.  The Book of Mormon is similar in this vein where Smith has to borrow from the Bible and then attack the Bible to establish his book above the Bible.

The bottom line is that if Allah is all-powerful and he causes all things then he caused the corruption of the Bible yet he said in the Quran that he gave the Bible and protects his words.  Which is it?  Did Allah protect the Bible or did he fail?  Obviously, if the Bible is true then we have no need for the Quran and Mohammad is a false prophet and false teacher.  This is my view.

The Purpose of Signs and Wonders By the Apostles

The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with utmost patience, with signs and wonders and mighty works.
– 2 Corinthians 12:12

While God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.
– Hebrews 2:4

In the previous post, I pointed out that Jesus did signs to point to Him being the Messiah sent from God.  Certainly one could also agree that Jesus healed people because He was God and He loves people (Matthew 4:24).  This is true of God hearing our prayers and answering them even for healing.  If God heals, He heals because He loves us and desires to glorify His name through our healing.  I also pointed out that Jesus’ signs and wonders provoked people to faith (John 2:11, 23) and the Jews to anger (John 12:37-38).  My question was, if divine determinism is true, why would Jesus need signs and wonders at all?  If the elect are chosen by God before time, why does the elect need a sign?  Will the elect not believe simply because God has chosen them beforehand?  Signs and wonders point to the reality of free choice among humans.  God is giving people signs and wonders in the ministry of Jesus to cause them to question and either come to Jesus for life or reject Him.  Whenever a person reads the Gospels now, the same is still true regarding signs and wonders.  They point to Jesus as Lord and Christ (Acts 10:38) but they cause people to either accept Jesus as the Messiah of God or reject Him but one cannot be neutral about Jesus.

In this post, I want to examine the purpose of signs and wonders done by the Apostles.  I am not debating whether signs and wonders continue today.  That is not my point here.  My point is simply to point to signs and wonders done by the Apostles and why God allowed them.

We must remember that the Apostles were chosen by Jesus Himself (John 15:16).  Matthew 10:1 tells us that Jesus gave His Apostles the authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction.  This power came from God and was given by the Lord to those whom He had chosen.  Even Judas (Matthew 10:4).  Signs and wonders then do not prove one is elected to salvation despite the choosing here by Jesus.  Signs and wonders do not prove one is a true disciple (Matthew 7:21-23).

The Apostles continued this display of unique power after the Lord’s resurrection and ascension to the Father’s right hand.  The Book of Acts is filled with healings and signs and wonders.  Acts 14:3 tells us:

So they remained for a long time, speaking boldly for the Lord, who bore witness to the word of his grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands.

The Lord was bearing witness to His Word by allowing the Apostles to do signs and wonders.  Acts 19:11-12 reads:

11 And God was doing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, 12 so that even handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched his skin were carried away to the sick, and their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them.

The signs and wonders were true signs to point to two truths.  First, the Apostles were preaching without a New Testament.  The signs validated their gospel message as we read in Acts 14:3 or Hebrews 2:4.  The signs pointed to the Apostles being chosen by Jesus Himself (2 Corinthians 12:12).

Secondly, the signs pointed to the risen Messiah.  Peter the Apostle is clear in Acts 3:12-16 after the healing of the lame beggar:

12 And when Peter saw it he addressed the people: “Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we have made him walk? 13 The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him. 14 But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, 15 and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. 16 And his name—by faith in his name—has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all.

The signs continued to point to Jesus.  The Apostles did not make money off the signs nor did they advertise their signs.  They simply obeyed the Lord, He granted them power to perform miracles, and the signs pointed to the greatest sign of all: Jesus Christ, the mighty Son of God.

But again, why?  If divine determinism is true then why did God allow for signs and wonders?  Could not God have merely granted faith and repentance to His elect without signs?  If men are born totally dead in their sins without any ability whatsoever to come to faith in Christ, why does God need signs and wonders?  Who are the signs for?  The elect need none.  The elect in Calvinism will come no matter what.  One need not even preach for the elect to come.  Calvinists, to be fair, are not consistent here and preach the gospel to all and even call all to repent while believing that only the elect will come and be saved.  They hold that God has sovereignly chosen both the elect and the means to their election.  However, in the end, God, in His arbitrary choice, chooses whom He will save and whom He will damn (or pass over and leave in their sins).  The means, while sovereignly chosen by God, is not what saves the elect.  What saves the elect is the election of God before time.  I believe that consistent Calvinism should hold to eternal justification since God foreknows His elect and counted them as justified in Christ (the Lamb chosen by God’s sovereign choice even before time).

Yet why signs and wonders?  Would could argue that God has merely chosen in His sovereignty to allow for signs and wonders among the Apostles but this ignores the question of why.  It simply takes Deuteronomy 29:29 and applies it here too.  The elect will be saved.  This not debatable among Calvinists.  The elect will come to faith in Christ when God sovereignly decrees it so.  Whether the elect comes by hearing a gospel sermon or seeing a sign is not the point.  The point is that God chose the sinner for salvation by His own sovereign decree and placed the elect’s sins on Christ even from the foundation of the world.

The Arminian answer is easy and simple.  Signs and wonders are given by God to point to the Lord Jesus Christ as the Messiah of God sent to die for our sins.  The gospel is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16-17) and the gospel saves sinners who repent and believe (John 3:16).  Signs and wonders in Acts are pointing to the reality of the gospel and God is bearing witness to the message of His grace (Acts 14:3).  Signs then validate the Apostles as from God.

Preaching the Gospel at Auschwitz

1.1 million people died at Auschwitz.  It was pure evil.  Did God ordain this?  Did God cause this?

The Calvinist answer is that God did not cause the horrors of Auschwitz.  He did ordain it to come to pass and He used secondary causes to ensure that the deaths at Auschwitz did in fact take place.  John Calvin wrote, “The will of God is the supreme and first cause of all things, because nothing happens but by his command or permission.  God then, according to Calvin, does not give permission for sinners to commit sin but He is the cause of all things including sin.  Calvin continues:

The hand of God no less rules the internal affections than it precedes the external acts, and that God does not perform by the hand of men those things which he has decreed without first working in their hearts the very will which precedes their acts.

Did you read that?  Calvin is stating that everything that comes to pass does so because God both decrees it and He works in the heart of man to make sure their acts come to pass as He ordains.

The mystery in Calvinism is how God can bring things to pass including evil and yet hold mankind responsible (or punishable would be a better term) for their sinful actions.  Calvin likewise stated that this responsibility is a mystery to him.  Calvin wrote,

“But how it was that God, by his foreknowledge and decree, ordained what should take place respecting man, and yet so ordained it without his being himself in the least a participator of the fault, or being at all the author (autor) or the approver of the transgression; how this was, I repeat, is a secret manifestly far too deep to be penetrated by the human mind, nor am I ashamed to confess our ignorance. And far be it from any of the faithful to be ashamed to confess his ignorance of that which the Lord envelopes in the blaze of his own inaccessible light.”

Other Calvinists affirm this as well.  How can God hold wicked sinners responsible for the sins that He ordained for them to commit in the first place?  The answer: mystery with an appeal to Deuteronomy 29:29.

Most Calvinists are comfortable with that mystery.  I am not.

Someone has said that if you cannot preach the gospel at the gates of Auschwitz, it is not the gospel.  How can we look at 1.1 million people dead at Auschwitz and agree with Calvin?  That this happened by the will of God.  And for what?  I know that Calvinists like to preach that such a view would mean that evil is without purpose.  Yet can there be purposeless evil in a world with free creatures?

John Piper appeals to a greater evil and that would be the cross.  1.1 million sinners dying at Auschwitz is nothing compared to the perfect and holy one dying on the cross (Acts 2:22-23).  Piper points out that this evil, the murder of Jesus Christ, is worst than any other wicked acts and yet it was planned by God.

The problem is that we Arminians affirm the sovereignty of God.  While Piper holds that sovereignty must equal divine determinism of all things, I would disagree with his definition of sovereignty.  The Calvinist reads sovereignty and sees omnipotence.  I disagree.  God can be sovereign while allowing mankind to be free to make free choices.  The cross demonstrates this.  Further, God, because He is God, can step into His creation for His purposes.  God did this in the cross.  God will do this at the second coming of the Lord Jesus.  God can use evil for His glory such as in the cross.  Yet God did not make the Jews kill Jesus nor did He make the Romans crucify Jesus.  This was allowed.  Such language would be opposed by Calvin.  Calvin would argue that God not only ordained the cross but He would make sure that the people would do the very sinful acts that He purposed for them to do.  Piper seems to agree.

Dr. James White also holds that there is no such thing as purposeless evil.  Since White holds to divine determinism (even hard determinism), he holds that everything happens as Calvin states, because God wills for it to happen and He makes sure it comes to pass.  Every rape, murder, abortion (which is murder), theft, war, etc. happens because God wills it so.  God is perfectly holy so He cannot be accused of sinning but He uses secondary causes to bring about His decreed will.

Let us return then to Auschwitz.  I have never heard a Calvinist preach this at Auschwitz.  It would not preach well.  Imagine going back to 1944 and preaching to the souls at Auschwitz that all this is happening  because God wills it so.  Imagine preaching that God will hold the Nazis responsible for their sins of killing but He first ordained this to come to pass.  Imagine further preaching that the same God who ordained this evil to come to pass is now calling you to repent and come to faith in Christ.  How is this consistent with the God who gave His Son?

The Arminian gospel would be this: this evil is happening because of the sinful choices of mankind.  People are wicked and unless they repent, they will see the wrath of God in His judgment upon them (Hebrews 9:27-28).  The Bible is clear, however, that God wills not for anyone here at Auschwitz to perish but to come to repentance including you Nazis.  He does not delight in the death of the wicked (Ezekiel 18:32) but He wants all of you to repent and be saved from your sins (Acts 17:30-31; 2 Peter 3:9).  This wicked place is here because we live in a fallen world with fallen sinners who love evil and hate God.  May you repent and believe the gospel for eternal life (Romans 6:23).

The cross shows us God.  In the cross we have a humble Savior who left the glory of heaven to abide on earth (Philippians 2:5-11).  We have a Savior who prays even for sinners while He is dying (Luke 23:34).  In the cross we see a God who would rather die than mankind go to hell (2 Corinthians 5:18-6:2).  The cross shows us the love of God (Romans 5:8-9) and this love is not confined merely to those of who have believed but to the whole world (John 1:29; 3:16; 1 John 2:1-2; 4:14).  This is our God.  He is glorious.  He is loving.  He is good (Psalm 145:8-9).

John Wesley wrote:

“While a sovereign monarch might technically be free to dispose of subjects as he or she sees fit, a loving parent would not even consider withholding potential saving aid from any child (i.e., unconditional reprobation or limited atonement). On the other hand, truly loving parents also respect the integrity of their children. Ultimately, they would not impose their assistance against the (mature) child’s will.”

But Wesley also preached that all that we have from God, His love, His salvation, etc. are gifts of His love:

All the blessings which God hath bestowed upon man are of his mere grace, bounty, or favour; his free, undeserved favour; favour altogether undeserved; man having no claim to the least of his mercies. It was free grace that “formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into him a living soul,” and stamped on that soul the image of God, and “put all things under his feet.” The same free grace continues to us, at this day, life, and breath, and all things. For there is nothing we are, or have, or do, which can deserve the least thing at God’s hand. “All our works, Thou, O God, hast wrought in us.” These, therefore, are so many more instances of free mercy: and whatever righteousness may be found in man, this is also the gift of God.

This is our God.  This is the God of the Bible.  The glorious God whom I love and adore.  He rescues sinners by His grace and I am a testimony of His love and grace.  What evil may befall me I will not cast at His feet but know that He is able to work even through evil for His glory and good (Romans 8:28).  The mystery in Arminianism is how God’s will is done despite allowing mankind free will.  I would rather have that as my mystery while preaching at the gates of Auschwitz.

The Mysterious Tensions in Theology

We live in a wicked world.  It seems we look around us and see wickedness each and every day.  Some look at wickedness and they simply ignore it and hope it will go away.  For the disciple, we pray Matthew 6:10, for the kingdom of God to come and the gospel can remove the wickedness that we see.  This nation, the United States, as with most of the “Christian” West, needs revival.  We need the gospel to break the chains of sin and to bring true salvation to the nations (2 Corinthians 5:17).  Only the gospel can usher in the kingdom of Christ.

But my purpose here is not to write about the kingdom of God.  Both Arminians and Calvinists agree that the kingdom of Christ is what we long for.  Whether you identify with a certain end-times view it not the issue here.  We want the kingdom to come.  We want the Lord Jesus to be exalted and for His gospel to be preached so that God may be glorified through it all.  We stand in the face of evil and declare that there is hope, there is forgiveness, there is reconciliation with God through the Lord Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:18-21).  We know that our God is working to bring about this truth.  The gospel is going forth even as I type this.

What then are we to do with evil?  It is the tension that has caused much friction.  Liberals think the answer for evil is education, less poverty, more jobs, equal money.  Atheists point to evil as “proof” that God does not exist (yet there would be no concept of evil with a holy and good God as the standard).  Agnostics wonder if there is a God then why doesn’t He end all evil with just a wave of His all-powerful hand.  Even among us true Christians there is tension.  Calvinists believe that all that comes to pass happens because of the sovereign will of God and His decree.  A murder is the will of God.  A rape is the will of God.  An abortion is the will of God.  Anything and everything happens because God wills it so.

The Arminian cannot escape this tension either.  We too have our mysteries.  Calvinists wrestle with how God avoids being guilty of sin while He ordains whatsoever comes to pass.  In Calvinism, compatibilism (or “soft determinism”) is the idea that mankind does not possess free will but rather they act according to their nature.  In other words, a sinner sins because God does not give them to them the grace necessary to avoid that sin and in essence God knows the sinner is going to sin, wills the sinner to sin, the sinner makes a choice to sin based on their own sinful nature, and thus while God knew, planned, and ordained the sinner to sin, the sinner is still held responsible for their actions that they freely chose to do.  The mystery is how God is not guilty of the sin when the sinner really could not choose otherwise since there is no true free will in mankind in Calvinism.

Compatibilism is defined by Monergism.com as:

Compatibilism (also known as soft determinism), is the belief that God’s predetermination and meticulous providence is “compatible” with voluntary choice. In light of Scripture, human choices are believed to be exercised voluntarily but the desires and circumstances that bring about these choices about occur through divine determinism (see Acts 2:23 & 4:27-28). It should be noted that this position is no less deterministic than hard determinism – be clear that neither soft nor hard determinism believes man has a free will. Our choices are only our choices because they are voluntary, not coerced. We do not make choices contrary to our desires or natures. Compatibilism is directly contrary to libertarian free will. Therefore voluntary choice is not the freedom to choose otherwise, that is, without any influence, prior prejudice, inclination, or disposition. Voluntary does mean, however, the ability to choose what we want or desire most. The former view is known as contrary choice, the latter free agency. (Note: compatibilism denies that the will is free to choose otherwise, that is, free from the bondage of the corruption nature,for the unregenerate, and denies that the will is free from God’s eternal decree.)

Notice the article is clear that mankind does not have free will.  A person, when confronted with a choice to murder another person, is not able to choose to do the sin or not.  They are simply doing what God has determined for them to do.  The mystery is that God is not guilty of causing the person to sin nor is He wrong to hold the person to be punished for their sins that they could not chose to do otherwise.

The tension in Arminianism is much more biblical and to me is a biblical tension.  The tension in Arminianism is the mystery of how God is sovereign and does His will despite giving His creatures made in His image the freedom to choose.  God does have the right (since He is the creator) to step into our world and do as He pleases.  He foreknows all things and is not limited in His knowledge.  He foreknew, for example, the fall of Man (Genesis 3) yet does this mean that He caused the fall?  No!  He is perfectly holy and the Bible is clear that He leads no one into sinning (James 1:12-15).  God foreknew that wicked sinners would crucify His Son (Acts 2:23).  Did God cause them to kill His Son?  No!  They did so by their own sinfulness and free will.  The mystery here is free will and how God allowed these creatures of His to do as they please yet His will was done.

The Calvinist replies to this are that God is sovereign and by definition in Calvinism, sovereignty must mean that God alone determines all things.  But I ask why?  Why must we settle for the Calvinist answer?  After all, in the Bible people did things that grieved God yet if Calvinism and compatibilism are true, then why was God grieved?

Glenn Shellrude points out from Ezekiel 24:13-14 that in a Calvinist reading, God simultaneously tried to cleanse Israel and prevented them from being cleansed because He wanted to judge them (Grace for All, p.35).  Does this make sense?  In Jeremiah 7:31 the Lord rebukes the sons of Judah for doing what He had not commanded nor came to His mind.  The Calvinist understanding is that this is merely God coming down on our level so that we can understand His ways.  Yet this does not fit the text.  Is God merely saying something not true about Himself because of our ignorance?  That doesn’t make sense.

Shellrude goes on to point out the many sins in the New Testament we are said to avoid and even the entire book of 1 Corinthians where Paul rebukes the Corinthians for sinning.  If Paul understood compatibilism (and remember that Calvinists will claim that Paul was a true Calvinist) then surely he would understand that the sins of the people were done by the will of God.  The sins could not be avoided if God willed them so.

I accept that there are mysteries in theology.  This is one of them.  I believe in limited free will (because only God has true free will to do whatever He wills) because I see this truth played out in Scripture and in humanity.  Yet I believe in the sovereignty of God but not in the compatibilism use of the word.  I believe that God knows all things and yet the mystery for me is that God is not guilty of sin, that He doesn’t cause people to sin and He would that they not sin yet He allows for free sinful decisions yet He still gets His will done.  That is a mystery I accept because I see it taught in Scripture.  The Bible does not answer all our questions about God and I believe it never could.  God is simply too exhaustive to know.

Despite Calvinism holding to soft determinism, most Calvinists are not consistent in this so that they preach, pray, and live their lives as if free will were true.  No doubt when backed into a corner they will hold to determinism but they don’t live that way.  I know of only one man in all my years who lived as if compatibilism were true.  He would indulge looking at porn and he never felt guilty for it because he reasoned that if God didn’t will for him to look at porn, God would supply the grace for him to not look at it.  He eventually moved on to prostitutes and then to leaving his wife for another woman. Why?  Because God never stopped him.  He reasoned that God could have but God willed for him to do all these sexual sins.

Now to be fair, nearly every Calvinist I know would rebuke this man for his sinning.  They would even call him an apostate and call him to repentance and they should.  Yet did this man not do what God willed him to do?  If compatibilism is true then he has no free will and acted by his nature that God had not changed by His sovereign grace.  As an Arminian, I would (and did) call this man to repent.  I warned him of his sinning but he ignored me because of my Arminianism.  I pointed him to Scripture but he ignored that.  Again, he reasoned that if God wanted him to stop his sinning, God would grant him the grace to do so but God never did and so he continued in his sinfulness.

Now I know that was a hard case.  That is not typical at all and I thank God for that.  Most Calvinists I know are truly godly men and women who love the Lord Jesus.  Yet they live their lives as if free will were true.  They might would deny free will if asked but they wake up each day and seemingly do what they like.  When faced with temptation, they, like myself, are faced with a choice to make and many of them avoid sinning.  I praise God for that.  Yet if I asked them if they could freely choose A or B when faced with temptation, they would say yes yet Calvinism denies such a view.

I am happy to hold to my mysteries.  I have not figured God out and never will.  The Jehovah’s Witnesses who knocked on my door this morning have their god figured out.  That is why the JW’s god is not the true and living God.  God is a mystery.  He is beyond my understanding and His ways are a mystery to me.  I am comfortable with my mysteries in my theology.

Do Arminians Hate the Sovereignty of God?

Here is a link to an excellent post over at the Society of Evangelical Arminians by my good brother William Birch on the issue of Arminianism and the sovereignty of God.  This issue rises up every few years as Calvinists will claim yet again that we Arminians deny the sovereignty of God.  I would agree that we don’t hold to the same view of sovereignty as the Calvinists do but we do believe in the sovereignty of God.

You can find the post here.

Short Thoughts on Unconditional Election

I found the following illustration from a blog (Randal Rauser).  I found it interesting.  Here it is:

Imagine that there is a camp for troubled youth. The camp director has a rather unorthodox method of dealing with the campers. Some of them are beaten severely with whips in a wholly punitive or retributive (i.e. not restorative) manner while others are chosen by the director to receive care, love and nurture in a way that restores them.

You are contemplating sending your child to the camp but you want your child to be lovingly restored, not viciously beaten, even if the beatings are just. So you enquire: what is it that makes the director decide to beat the children rather than nurture them? Is it the nature of their crimes? Their race? Gender? What?

The answer comes back. There is absolutely nothing that differentiates the two groups. The bottom line is that for some inexplicable reason the director arbitrarily selects some children to be beaten and others to be nurtured.

Now imagine that somebody came up to you with a positive testimonial. “The director loved our child! He nurtured her. She’s much better now. He is very loving to those he chooses.” Wouldn’t you want to scream back “But what about the children he opts to beat? How can you call that loving? How can you focus only on those he nurtures and completely ignore those he beats? Doesn’t it bother you that his choice to nurture your child was wholly arbitrary?”

Rauser is writing about the doctrine of unconditional election where the Calvinists teach that God, by His sovereign will, chooses some to be saved and most to be damned.  God does this by His own accord without anything from mankind.  His sovereign choice is based on His redeeming and electing love and why He chooses some to be saved but most to not be saved is His own divine decree that we cannot know (Deuteronomy 29:29).  Rauser is pointing out that this view of God does not make Him appear as loving and good as we find in the Bible.

I know many of my Calvinist friends find comfort in unconditional election but John Wesley replied that it made his blood boil.  Wesley believed that this teaching maligned the character of God.  Many other Arminians have replied the same.  I am share I have as times felt that way as well when I have been listening to Calvinists preach on unconditional election.

I too believe that election is biblical but I choose to replace the word “unconditional” with “conditional” because I believe that God has given humanity the gift of free will and He does not force people to believe but rather He gives them enabling grace to believe the gospel and be saved.  This comes through the preaching of the gospel and God’s foreknowledge of those who will believe the gospel.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

05/20/2014 at 8:00 PM

%d bloggers like this: