Monday, March 4, 2013
PREDESTINATION vs. FREE CHOICE
As Christians, we believe that, as humans, are comprised of 2 integrated components: the physical body, and the eternal soul. A good analogy to this might be a computer, with our body representing the hardware and the soul representing the software that runs it. Christians also believe that after the physical body dies and decays, the human soul lives on eternally in either Heaven (John 14:1-3), or Hell (Matthew 25:41). In this eternal existence, our souls are not bound by the physical dimension of time as we are now.
The Bible teaches that we are all sinners and that no one can be reunited with our Creator (Elohim) unless we embrace the free gift of Jesus' sin atoning redemption. He subjected Himself to a sacrificial death on the cross in substitutionary punishment for our sins. This death, and victorious resurrection three days later, opens up the path to return to our Heavenly Father for all who lay claim to it (John 14:6)
The big question is: does everyone have the free choice to choose (or reject) God's redemptive gift; or are we already predestined before birth, by God, to believe or not believe? This is the classic battle between Arminianism (Free Choice) and Calvinism (Predestination).
Both of these systematic views are extreme and have plenty of verses from the Bible to "support" most of their assertions, however, as with most seeming contradictions in the Bible, the resolution can be found by digging a bit deeper. The free choice vs. predestination problem unravels when you apply the fact that God inhabits eternity and is not subject to the dimension of time. He sees all history at once. So, In other words, Yes, from God's timeless perspective, we are pre-destined before birth one way or the other to accept or reject Jesus' work on the cross, but from the human 'time bound' perspective, He has given us the free choice to accept, reject, love or abandon Him. Only He knows which path we will take.
H.A. Ironside described all this graphically. He visualizes walking in a hallway and being confronted by a door labeled, “Whosoever will may enter.” He can go in, or not: it is his free choice. He decides to go through. When he enters he discovers a room set up with a banquet table, and he discovers among the place cards, one with his own name on it! He is expected! As he turns to review the door through which he just entered, he see it labeled from this side, the inside, “Foreordained before the foundation of the world!” He has just left the domain of our physical world—and the domain of time associated with it—to enter eternity, where the end is known from the beginning.
THE 5 POINTS OF CALVINISM:
1. Total Depravity: Man is born in a fallen state due to Adam and Eve's decision to sin, he is dead in trespasses and sin, unable to save himself (Col 2:13, Eph 2:5) or even desire a relationship with God. (Mt. 12:34, Rom. 8:7-8, 1 Cor. 2:14)
2. Unconditional Election: The belief that in eternity past, God has has chosen certain people to obtain salvation and others to go to Hell. (1 Pet 2:8) There is nothing a person can do to alter this decision. (Eph 1:4, Eph 1:11, Rom 8:21-30, Jn. 6:44, Mt. 19:25-26
3. Limited Atonement: Jesus did not die for the sins of everyone; only those He chose to go to Heaven. Rebuttal-God is willing that all should be saved and come to the knowledge of Salvation. This argument is weak and unbiblical, see Romans 10:13 & Revelation 22:17. (Calvinism support: Mat 1:21, John 6:37-40, Isaiah 53:8)
4. Irresistible Grace: The belief that God will draw all whom He chose to Himself, regardless of their rebellion against Him. (Titus 3:5)
5. Eternal Security: (or Perseverance of the Saints) The belief that a true born again Christian cannot lose or give up his salvation. The shepherding is God's work, not man's. (John 18:7-11, Heb 6:4-6, Luke 15:11-32)
THE 5 POINTS OF ARMINIANISM:
1. Election: The belief that God, based on foreknowledge, chose those who He knew would embrace the atonement of Jesus out of free choice. This also rejects the belief that God predestined anyone to go to Hell. (Mt. 11:28, Jn. 7:37, Acts 16:31, Rev. 22:17)
2. Unlimited Atonement: The belief that Jesus atoning death on the cross is made available to all people, and is sufficient to pay for the sins of all humanity who have ever lived. All mankind is 'savable'. (Isaiah 53:6, Matt 11:28-30, 2 Pet 3:9, 2 Corinthians 5:14-15, 1 Timothy 2:3-6, Rom 5:6, 1 John 2:2)
3. Natural Inability: The belief that man cannot save himself, but that the Holy Spirit must affect this new birth within him. (1 Cor. 12:3) Also that man can resist the Holy Spirit (Acts 7:51, Jeremiah 7:24)
4. Prevenient Grace: The belief that the Holy Spirit enables a person to embrace the gospel and cooperate with God in the working out of a person's salvation. (Romans 2:4, Titus 2:11)
5. Conditional Perseverance: The belief that man can choose to reject God at any point and lose his salvation, even after being born again. This rejects the "Once Saved, Always Saved" doctrine of the Calvinists.(I Peter 1:9-10, II Peter 2:20-22)
Love vs. Robotics:
If you ascribe to Calvinism's emphasis on predestination, you forget the stories of Biblical heroes who deliberately chose to deviate from God's sovereign plan and/or commandments, suffering life altering consequences for it.
God does not pre-program or impose His will on our decision making. What then is obedience in faith? Our relationship with Him is a courtship of love between a groom (Jesus) and His bride (the church) - Matt 22:1-14. He makes His will clear, and in response, we have a choice to follow His leading. He does NOT force us to love Him. This would be a contradiction of terms. Remember, "love" is a choice of commitment, not an emotion. If He forced us all to love and obey Him, we would simply be a race of mindless robots.
Here are a few examples of God's chosen people directly rebelling against God's wishes.
• In Numbers 20:8-12, Moses strikes the rock (for the 2nd time) to get water at Meribah instead of speaking to it as God commanded. This destroys the model God was building of Jesus' first and second coming. For this disobedience, God does not permit him to enter the land of Israel.
• Jesus holds the Pharisees and the entire nation of Israel accountable to know the day He would present Himself as King of the Jewish nation (His triumphal entry). Yet only a handful of citizens welcome Him as King as He rides into Jerusalem on a donkey the exact day Daniel prophesied that He would. As a consequence for this sin, Jesus pronounces the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. (Luke 19:36-44)
• Jonah is commanded to preach to Nineveh but flees in disobedience and is swallowed by the big fish.
• Paul is warned 2 times (Acts 21:3 and Acts 21:10) by prophets not to go to Jerusalem, but he chose to go and was killed.
Test and Inspect:
We are told in the Bible to test prophets by inspecting their fruit (Matthew 7:16)
Inspecting the fruit of Arminianism:
In it's most extreme form, Arminianism leads one to believe that if a Christian sins, he loses his salvation and needs to be born again over and over and over. This leads to having no assurance of salvation, living in fear and the absence of true spiritual peace (Philippians 1:6, 2 Timothy 1:7, Joshua 1:5).
Some Arminian believers believe that they can reach a state of sinless perfection, contrary to Ephesians 2:8-9 and many other verses. It leads to a prideful and judgmental attitude. We know that God opposes the proud (1 Peter 5:5).
Inspecting the fruit of Calvinism:
The overemphasis on predestination easily leads to ignoring and opposing mission work and evangelism. What's the need for it since the saved are already predestined for heaven and the lost have no hope. This contradicts Jesus great commission in Matt 28:18.
Many times in an effort to refine their belief system, Calvinists shift focus away from loving and ministering to the needy to contentious arguments about doctrine. (Matt 21:41-46, Rev 2:2-6)
Eternal Security vs. Apostasy:
Can a Christian lose, or walk away from, their salvation? Arminians say yes, and Calvinists say no. Then the question arises: are backslidden believers really ever Christians to begin with? The Bible says that our freedom and liberty in Christ is not a license to sin, and ultimately, only God knows the state of a person's soul. It is comforting to remember, however, that the prodigal son, no matter how sinful his ways became, was welcomed home as a son (with joy and celebration) after repenting of his lifestyle. Jesus also announces in John 18:9 - "Of those whom You have given Me I lost not one."
Posted by Paul Howalt