Friday, November 10, 2006

In Which Jay Throws His Hands In The Air... Again

Hello all. As you can see, I'm back and (hopefully) in top form. I had the down time I needed, and though it was brief, it was pretty good. Introspection is sometimes a very difficult thing to pull through, and I've been going through a lot of it lately.

First let me thank everyone who commented on the "Calvinist vs. Wesleyan" post. Yes, some of the comments did overwhelm me a bit, but that's mainly because I've been overwhelmed lately anyway, and with a variety of things. As far as whethor or not I'm a Calvinist or a Wesleyan...well, right now I'm still a Wesleyan, and I don't see that changing anytime soon. However, I do realize that I (along with Calvin, Wesley, and the rest of us) am just a small, insignificant human being. When we're talking about a God who created the very fabric of reality, then we have to have the humility to admit that our human doctrines and systems of belief can end up being infinitely fallible when compared to His infinite perfection.

The one thing I knew after that post was that I know very little. But I do know what I think matters most. I know God exists, I know Christ died for my sins, I know His Word, and I intend to keep it. Both Calvinists and Arminians (and many, many others) know these things, and so really, what's all the arguing about? Do not both Calvinists and Arminians preach the Gospel to the nations? Do they not both help the poor, sick, and needy? Do they not both aspire to love Christ and God with all their hearts and all their souls? Do they not both rejoice when sinners come running to the grace of the Cross? Do they not both weep for the lost souls in this world? As you can see, I could go on. My point is that it doesn't really matter whether or not we think God predestined all of this or merely foreknew it. Either way, in all things we seek to glorify Him, so I don't think He'll mind.

That post did lead me to learn some things about myself. I realized that all of my objections to Calvinism stem from something within me that I believe is ultimately good: the belief that, deep down, all men are good; no one is rotten to the core. Even in the darkest of hearts, there is the glimmer of the perfect Creation that we were all intended to be, and that many of us will be again. I do not want to see anyone that I've known in this life sent to Hell (whatever its nature may be). Truly, I'd like to see all of mankind resolved to God (even though I know that isn't going to happen), and I believe in a God who would like to see the same thing, who does not wish that any should perish but that all should be brought to Him.

I know this confidence in the goodness of humanity is something that a lot of Christians (and even many secularists) warn against. Not necessarily because they think it's totally wrong but because it often sets an individual up to be hurt when a person doesn't turn out to be as good as they hoped. But that's the kind of pain I'll gladly live with.

I hope those above two paragraphs didn't sound too proud. They're merely things I've come to notice about myself. Trust me, I notice a lot of things that I don't like so much, so it's nice to find something within you that you can know is good. One thing that I know is bad is my habit to start rambling, like I've done now. :-) Let me get back on track...

Like I said, I'll still hold to Arminianism, but I'm open to Calvinism and I don't believe that either are perfectly right or perfectly wrong. Whichever path you take shouldn't affect your path as a Christian, and that's the most important thing in my eyes. I'm grateful for the debate. It really did help me grow, even though I didn't really change my mind about anything. I didn't throw my hands in the air and give up like usual. I did, though, throw my hands in the air and praise God, for being a Creator that I know created me with a care that made the worlds.

12 comments:

Amanda said...

What a wonderful post! I think all of your conclusions are right and good. Praise God that we are all still in the Family of God despite some doctrinal differences!

grace said...

Jay,
If you ever get the chance to hear Rob Bell....DO IT!

He makes the debate between Calivinism and Arminianism seem so completely irrelevant. Much like what you are expressing in your 3rd paragragh. Yet, he doesn't mention either or any specific theology for that matter.

Hopefully he'll be in your area at some point.

I love the way you are not afraid to grapple with your faith. This is exactly what you are supposed to do. I'm proud of you!

love ya!
pam/grace

Peterson Toscano said...

zzzzzzzzzzzz, sorry, even back at Bible school in the midst of heated debate, I have found the discussion of Calvinism and Arminianism to be uttlerly boring and soul numbing.

Glad you had the patience for the debate, and like you I agree that at the end of the day, the path doesn't matter in our Christian walk (although I am sure proponents on both side may fiercely disagree with that statement).

I love Jesus and how he keeps it simple. "You will know them by their fruits. Love God. Love your neighbor. Love your enemy. Abide in me. "

jerubaal said...

"the belief that, deep down, all men are good; no one is rotten to the core."

That's definitely why you're an Arminian/Wesleyan.

I disagree. Whereas I don't believe that there is goodness in every human being, or necessarily any of us, I do think we all have a measure of reason. So there is a kernel of truth, in my view, to your notion that all men are good. That kernel may be this: we are all made in the image of God; it's been corrupted, but perhaps some fossil remains of it.

I think there's something to that that makes people think there is goodness inherent in humanity. But, respectfully, the Word must rule us on this point.

Matthew 19: 16-17

"16 Behold, one came to him and said, "Good teacher, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?"

17 He said to him, " Why do you call me good? No one is good but one, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments."

Jesus plainly said that no one is good but God. In context, He was showing to the man who asked Him this question: that He is God, and the conclusive evidence that Jesus is God is that He is good.

If you know anyone who is good of themselves, it is equally proof that they are God.

I agree, though, with one general theme of yours, which is that since theology is such a huge topic that none of us could ever know it all, therefore knowing everything perfectly is not required to be a Christian.

We each have only that which we've been given from above. God gives to each of us differently and for His own reasons, but to His people, we know He gives out of His unimaginable love for Himself and for us.

May we all know God - our Father and our Husband.

P.S.

I like the romance of finding good in people too. But if I have truly found even a fleeting ray of goodness beaming out of a person, it is not in fact their goodness shining at me, but Jesus Christ Himself staring back at me through their face. It should be haunting.

Jay said...

Amanda & Grace: Thanks girls! I've never heard of Ron Bell, but if I ever hear he's in my area I'll go check him out. I'm proud of you too!

Peterson: "You will know them by their fruits" is one of the most important concepts when it comes to this debate. If both Calvinism and Arminianism produce the same fruits, then chances are they both come from the same tree, right?

Jerubaal: I believe that God is in charge of everything. If anything is good in a person, it comes from Him, because he initially created us all to be good, yet we have been corrupted by sin. Just like all the good of nature comes from God, so does all the good of human nature.

I never said that anyone is completely good, and even if they were, their goodness here could not compare in the slightest to God's perfection. Nor do I think that goodness is the only requirement for salvation. But I do think that God appeals to us through that which is the best within us.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it, as the saying goes. We may be on different sides of the theological coin, but hopefully that won't stop you coming back.

Peace out,
Jay

Tin Man said...

Amen, Brother! Did you get my email?

Jay said...

I sure did. Thanks for that. :-D

jerubaal said...

Hey Jay,

Sorry for the late comment, but I just read this and wanted to post it.

Matthew 22:14

"For many are called, but few chosen."

If Arminianism is true, this should rather read, "For many are called, but none chosen" or "For many are called, but few choose."

Jay said...

Actually, I thought Calvinism held to the belief that the only ones called are those that were chosen. If that's the case, then that verse should read:

"For few are called, and those same few are chosen."

I believe that all human beings are called to worship Christ, some choose to do so, and then God chooses them for salvation. The verse makes sense to me.

Oh crap, and here I was saying I was done with this. I guess old habits die hard :-)

jerubaal said...

Jay,

I have alot of respect for two positions on this subject, and I tolerate a third. I most respect Calvinism, because I think it has more theoretical value, yielding more understanding of the Bible than does Arminianism, and consequently it is more academic and biblically rigorous. The best sermons I've heard and read in my life are also Calvinist sermons.

Pure Arminianism I also respect. I buy alot into the view that Calvinism and Arminianism are unavoidable and contradictory positions each of which have biblical support, and one of which is necessary. You can only really be one or the other and at the same time be a thoughtful, biblical Christian. Pretty much any deviation from pure Calvinism or Arminianism results in heresy, such as hypercalvinism, pelagianism, and open theism.

The third position, the one I tolerate, is one where people don't have the time or other personal resources to resolve the question and thus accept a simpler, more mysterious faith than that provided by the bible. I tolerate it, but I don't find anything praiseworthy in such a position.

I find it very praisworthy and endearing, though, for people who keep an open mind and heart to these issues, who wrestle and struggle with them, because whichever position they end up taking, they will end up stronger because of it. When I see such people, I'm like Zarathustra gazing upon by ubermensch.

What I don't like is people claiming to have found a transcendent middle path that they occupy. This middle ground does not exist; there is simply no whole number between one and two, God's choice or God and man's choice.

And practically speaking, there is very little difference between Arminianism and Calvinism as to major points. Both believe in the causes and effects that the other believe in, but we label them backwards of each other.

Some people on both sides think that believing in their soteriology is essential to being saved. I don't know that, so I don't teach it. But I don't take the risk either by failing to represent the side I very strongly believe.

Much Love Yo,

and Merry Christmas.

Jake

jerubaal said...

For example, what I mean by theoretical value:

I find Calvinists usually understand the economy of salvation in much greater depth and detail than Arminians. This doesn't mean that my sample is representative though, and it doesn't mean that Arminianism itself lacks this understanding. (But as an Arminian for almost twenty years, I think I've had some exposure to mainstream Arminian thought and preaching).

Jesus Christ's death on the cross, when He said "tetlestai" - "paid in full", actually accomplished a payment to God that appeased His wrath for those who will end up in heaven forever. At that point, how could His rage justly continue against those who will be saved? They could not now be in jeopardy, could they, or else God is unjust for demanding two satisfactory payments for one sinner.

This payment was twofold. First of all, God demands of every human soul that it live a perfect life on earth. No one has. But Jesus, being God, had no duty to live a perfect life as a human on earth - this was not owed to God by Him, because He was not created by Him, and so His doing so constituted a payment from God to God as a substitute. And because the Son is infinite by His very nature, His substition was good for an unlimited number of sinners. It was Jesus's humanity, His entrance into the human race as a member of it, that allowed Him to be a substitute for humans.

The second requirement God demands, in this case of sinful human souls, is that they die a spiritual and physical death. This Christ also satisfied by suffering the same on the cross.

The earnest He made of this was that He resurrected Himself from the dead and into heaven in the sight of many.

Not only this, but through Him we have new life. Not just that He has paid a price that satisfies justice, either. No, He also relives His perfect life through the Holy Spirit living in each of us, re-enacting His perfect way through those whom He loves with a superlative, saving love. We are the branches, and He is the vine, meaning that His life is literally flowing in each Christian. Each Christian goes on a path that re-enacts the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ because of the Holy Spirit who lives in each of us.

It's a reason to want more of that life, to live as He did, loving the lost, loving His people, and to die a martyr of God.

TRiG said...

jerubaal: If I have truly found even a fleeting ray of goodness beaming out of a person, it is not in fact their goodness shining at me, but Jesus Christ Himself staring back at me through their face.

Erm. I'm probably reading this wrong, but it strikes me as arrogant. I think it is wrong of you to diminish other people because their goodness doesn't fit in with your theology. Admittedly, you're diminishing yourself too, so perhaps arrogance isn't the best description of what you're doing.

***

Back to the opening blog post:

Have you heard of Darwin Fish? Not a pleasant guy. He maintains that God hates Fred Phelps. God doesn't hate Fred Phelps for all the reasonable reasons we might imagine. Oh no. God hates Fred Phelps because Fred Phelps is a Calvinist.

In a video, a member of Mr Fish's church says as much to a young woman from Mr Phelp's chuch. She smiles sweetly and replies, "Well, at least you admit that God hates people."

Hmm.

As Jonathan Bennett wrote of the thoroughly unpleasant theologian Jonathan Edwards, when God is painted as misanthropic as that, one suspects misanthropy in the theologian.

TRiG.