Well, perhaps not all things confusing. But definitely a few of the bigger things.
My goal here is not to provoke a debate. That is not my intent at all. If godly, good-natured discussion arises from this post that is awesome. But I am sick of the schism that often arises amongst Christians when this topic comes up.
So, what is the goal? I want to wade thru a few of the common misconceptions that are common within this discussion. You will see that I am definitely biased toward the calvinistic end. I am not going to try to be objective but i will, as much as i am able, fairly represent the other side.
One more thing. Though my convictions are strong I am not one to disassociate myself from those of varying beliefs. We are Christ’s body and called to walk in unity as we all pursue fidelity to the Word of God. This is not an issue to be taken lightly as it cuts to the core of salvation. At the same time we must walk in the clear direction of our savior to love one another. Too much division exists amongst those devoted to Christ. Lets not add to that.
First, to define terms.
It is amazing how many different definitions there are of this term. It is a biblical term so we must grapple with it. I think a fair definition is to destine or determine that something occur before it does so. Biblically speaking it is used in reference to two very different things.
And this is very critical. This word is used to mean the election of the church and in a different sense to mean that God predestines all that occurs. There is a quote from a old confession of faith that would help here.
“God from all eternity did by the most and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass; yet so as thereby neither is God the author of sin; nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures, nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.”
So in this use of predestination it means that everything that occurs is part of God’s divine plan and has been ordained to occur by Him. Not that He loves the evil things that occur but that for some reason He wills that evil exist. But that is another topic for another time.
The other use is referring to predestination to salvation. God choosing to save a person.
I think it is helpful to be careful not to jam these two ways of using this term into one.
This is tricky. Some calvinists will say there is no such thing as free will while others will affirm it exists. The problem is they are both actually saying the same thing but defining the words differently.
I would say that of course there is such a thing as free will. Thats because I mean the ability to do what you want to do. Man is free to do whatever he wants. Another dude might come along and deny free will because he is using a definition that implies contra-causal freedom. Which means the absolute freedom of choice, not even being bound by internal desires.
That is the core of the issue there. Some say that man can make a choice and is not even bound by his own desires. There is no external or internal compulsion to do anything. He is utterly free. If this is the definition of free will i think most of us would see that this is not so. Thats because when we make a choice we choose it because we want to do it. Hot dog or the hamburger? We choose to do what we want to do. In every situation of life we evaluate the issues and make a choice based on what seems best to us. So in a sense we are bound by our own desires. I will never hit my thumb with a hammer intentionally because I dont want to do that. In effect the things I dont want to do I am not free to do because I dont want to do them and choice flows from desire. This may seem semantical but it impacts a lot later on.
So is free will the freedom to do what you want? Or the freedom to do anything? Without necessary regard to what you want? Your answer affects a lot.
Calvinists and Arminians
In brief one who believes that the five points of calvin are biblical is a calvinist. And one who would align more with the five points of the remonstrants (a group of guys in the post reformation days) or be even more free-willish would be an arminian. Here is where a crucial distinction needs to be made. People will often say that they are neither a calvinist or an arminian. I think this is just a misunderstanding of the issue. The nature of the discussion is such that you must be one or the other.
For example, either you believe that one believes on christ and repents and in THEN born again OR one believes that you are born again and THEN you believe and repent. The former is arminian and the latter is calvinist. To my knowledge you must be in one or the other camp. Kind of hard to bridge that distinction.
When you read the paragraph if you are like me when I first heard that you might have responded with a raised eyebrow. Of course one believes and then is saved. But this once again cuts down to the core of the argument. I as a calvinist would point to passages like John 6:44 and others to say that without Christ doing a work in our hearts first we would never come. Do not miss this. If the passages about the wickedness of man are true ( Job 15:14-16, Psalm 51:5, Psalm 58:3, Ec. 9:3, Jer. 13:23, Jer. 17:9, Mark 7:22-23, John 3: 19-21, Rom. 3:9-18, Rom. 7:18, Rom. 8:7-8, 1 Cor. 2:14, 2 Cor. 4:3, 4, Eph. 2:1-5, Eph. 4:17-19, Col. 1:21) then one wonders why we would ever choose Christ when offered the chance. Indeed several of the verses cited above state that we would not choose Christ. But wait? I remember choosing Christ! Yes you did. The point is that without the work of God regenerating you you would never have chosen Him. You and I both would have gone on in our rebellion to our deaths. But for the grace of God in pulling off the scales, giving us eyes to see, removing the blindness of our hearts we would have died in our sins. All glory to Christ!
So there is the crux of it once again. The calvinist will say that man is in such rebellion to God and so darkened by his own rebellion that unless God changes His heart first man will never come. And they would argue from scripture that those who God regenerates (ie those that are born again read john three in the light of this) will respond in repentance and faith. They always flow together. The arminian, while believing that man is deep in sin, yet believes that man has the ability to make a choice for or against Christ. Their regeneration is AFTER their choice to repent.
Now remember the views of choice we talked about? The calvinist does not say that man has no choice to repent. We know God is commanding all men to come. But the issue is that we naturally will CHOOSE to spurn God. Out of our own free will we reject God. We are bound by the love of our sin, our own wills and desires, to paths that will end in our damnation. Not a denial a choice but a different view of it.
I am going to go further into this in future but this must do for now. My family is all about and I am hunched over a computer addressing the blogosphere. We must live out in real time what we say on the net.
Comments are appreciated as long as they are civil.
Till later, Keep diggin’ into the word!
For the King!