"I went to Jerusalem to become acquainted (Gk. istoria) with Cephas" - Paul's words from Galatians 1:18.

The Doctrine of Election and Concern for Our Kids

A few years ago, I received a letter from a delightful believer in our church who is originally from Italy. She worked as an executive with a manufacturing firm that sells goods to the Far East, including Hong Kong and China, but she had given up her career when she married and began raising her children.

This church member is a graduate of the University in Venice, Italy, and she and her United States Air Force officer are stationed in Enid, Oklahoma with their two small boys. This young lady became a believer as an adult and she credits the writings of C.S. Lewis for leading her to an understanding of what it means to be a Christian. She is a vociferous reader, multi-lingual, and quite intelligent.

She emailed me a question about the salvation of her boys, one that I thought worthy of a detailed response. I published this letter and my response a few years ago, but I think it's worthy of republishing, particularly for those of you who have questions about the salvation of your children.

Pastor Wade,

I've been meaning to ask you a question for a long time - it concerns one of the books you gave me, "Chosen for Life" by Sam Storms. I understand what it says, and it makes sense to me; I absolutely believe I was chosen by God vs. choosing God myself, because nothing in my (non-religious) nature and of the circumstances of my life and upbringing justify my search for Him. However: the thought that those whom God has not chosen to be saved won't be saved is frightening; for as long as it's up to a human being to change their mind, that can happen, even in the last moments of their lives; but God's will does not change; and if my own child or my parents have not been chosen, nothing, not prayers, not offering information about Jesus and salvation, will make a difference. This seems very sad, that someone can't choose God because God has not chosen them.

Granted, we don't know who the un-chosen are (save for a few notable ecceptions, I imagine: Hitler, Ted Bundy), for God may call someone the split second before their car crashes under a truck. But the fact remains that it's perfectly possible someone we love may not be chosen, and that's irrevocable.

How do you come to terms with this?

Thank you for your thoughts.


_____________________________________________

Dear M---,


You write, "This seems very sad, that someone can't choose God because God has not chosen them."

It would seem very, very sad to me too – if it were true as you describe it in your letter. You write as if people will one day decide to trust Christ, but they will be unable to be saved because God did not "elect" them. That scenario just can't happen. It is impossible both biblically and logically. Let me explain.

“Choosing God” is a matter of the heart. Human beings are "free moral agents," which means we humans are always free to choose whatever it is we desire. Nobody, nothing, not one thing, even God, impinges on that freedom. This "freedom" to choose between moral good and evil is chiefly what it means to be created in "God's image." So, it is simply not true that a human being "cannot" choose Christ or become a follower of Christ if he desires it - if he desires Christ, he can choose Christ.

This freedom to choose what you desire is self-evident. For instance, if you were on a diet and you walked by the ice cream store, you would be faced with a choice. “Do I continue my diet or do I turn into the store and buy ice cream?” I can tell you what you will choose - and for that matter what every single other human being will choose when he or she is faced with the same decision - every single time. I'll do it right now. I will tell you what you will choose the next time you are on a diet and you walk by the ice cream store and this question comes to you: "Do I turn in and eat ice cream, or do I keep on walking and pass it up?" You will choose to do that which is the strongest desire in in your heart.

Human beings always choose what they desire the most. The chooser always follows the heart. If the thought of eating rich, creamy ice cream (and the enjoyment of it) is greater than the desire to lose weight, you will turn in and eat the ice cream every time. Nobody forces you to choose what you choose. This is what it means to be "created in the image of God." You are a free moral agent and you choose what is your greatest desire. That’s true even when a robber holds a gun to your head and says, “Your wallet or your life!” The robber cannot FORCE you to choose to give your wallet without him shooting you. If you have a great desire to live, you will give up your wallet, but frankly, if your desire to die is greater, you may very well choose to hang on to your wallet. The robber is NOT in control of your choice. You are.

So it is with God. He tells all men everywhere to repent. He commands sinners to “embrace His Son.” And whosoever calls upon the name of the Lord, repents of his sin, and embraces Jesus Christ will be saved. That is a promise!

Yet, the Bible says that all of us like sheep have gone astray. There is nobody who desires the things of God. God's things are “foolishness” (tasteless) to our natural minds because of selfish, sinful hearts. Therefore, no man naturally chooses God (Romans 3:11) – but that is not God’s fault, it is man’s fault. We made ourselves rebels. We desire our sin. We desire our independence from God. We desire to hang on to the things of this life. We do not desire God. We love our sinful, selfish, idolatrous ways because the desires of our hearts are always sinful, selfish and idolatrous. We see no beauty in Christ, and we will not naturally choose Christ.

Election teaches us that unless God were to choose to give us His grace – to open our eyes of understanding – cause us to see the beauty and glory of Christ – then none of us would ever choose Him. But when His grace truly descends on our hearts and we see Christ's beauty, then we freely and willingly choose to come to Christ. Nobody forces us - we desire Christ because of God's active grace in us. We choose Christ because of God's work in softening our heart (or, in biblical language "turning the heart of stone into a heart of flesh," or "changing the leper's spots"). The Bible calls this gracious act of God in changing a sinner’s heart “regeneration,” or “the new birth,” or “the gift of the Spirit.” The work of the Spirit in the heart of a sinner precedes the free choice of that sinner to embrace Christ, for without a change of heart, we would never desire Christ. Therefore, if a sinner chooses Christ, he must give God the credit; but if a sinner rejects Christ, he must take all the blame because of his own sinful heart. A man's heart is hard by his own choice. God did not initially create man sinful. Man chose that path. We hardened our own hearts. It began with Adam, but every human being since then has loved his sinful state, believing nothing to be wrong. A sinner will only desire Christ when his hardened, blind heart is softened by God's amazing grace.

A lost man might read what I wrote above and say, “But that is circular reasoning. I don’t know Christ. I don’t desire Him. I don’t want God – but you are saying that I can’t desire Him, I can’t choose Him, I can’t love Him because of my natural sinful heart that loves my sin and hates God - and unless God takes care of that in me, I will be forever in my sin.”

That’s right - in so far as it goes. You, a lost man, can't choose God because you don't desire Him, and your lack of desire is your fault. You refusal to choose Christ is simply the natural consequence of your chooser following your sinful desires. But you COULD choose to follow after Christ if you desired to!. You have a mind, a mouth, an intellect, a chooser, a feeler - you are a human being; you are a free moral agent. The problem is simply that the sinful desires of your heart cause you to love your sin and hate the God who created you.

Again, the problem is your sinful desires, and that is YOUR problem. Human beings are the cause of that sin, not God. Adam was the originator of it, and you are willing participant in it. You are freely, willingly and continually choosing to embrace your sin and reject Christ.

Now for the million dollar question for you, the person: “Do you - as a person separated from Christ – do you desire God to give you the Holy Spirit, to cause you to see the beauty of Christ, to enable you to hate your sins and love Christ, to empower you to be the kind of man God created you to be? Do you want God in your life and Christ to be the Lord of your life?”

If you, the lost person, say, “Yes!! I do!! That is precisely what I desire” then we respond to you, “Then ask Christ into your life and He never turns a deaf ear to the sinner who calls to Him.”

But if that lost man says, “NO!! I don’t want Christ. I don't desire Him in my life.” Then we respond, “Then why in the world are you upset with God. He is leaving you alone. He is doing precisely what you want. He is not giving to you a love for Christ.”

The lost man may respond, "But if I believed what you are saying, then I can't desire Christ until my sinful, wicked heart is changed so that I can desire Him." Yes. That's right. So tell me, do you wish for God to remove the wickedness and sin from your heart, turn it soft toward the things of God, and implan within you the desire for Christ to enable you to choose Him?

Silence.

If you, a lost person, don't even desire for God to do the work of removing the wickedness in your life that prevents your from desiring Christ, then why are you blaming God for not giving to you the very thing you REFUSE TO ASK FOR?

But the good news is this. If a lost man, whose heart is hard, and whose mind comprehends his totally inability to see the beauty of Christ, gets on his knees and asks God to remove the wickedness that blinds him, to soften the heart that deceives him about Christ, and to create in him a DESIRE FOR CHRIST - that sinner will be transformed by the power of God, even without voicing 'the sinner's prayer.' There is no formula to this. The Spirit of God moves in power, without constraint and in a variety of ways among His people.

I'd like to give you a final word about your loved ones who do not yet know Christ, and seek to speak to your fears that God may not ever soften their hearts. This is where “the effectual, fervent prayers of a righteous person avails much.” There are some people, particularly loved ones and friends that are blind to Christ. But I believe the Bible teaches that when a child of God prays fervently (which speaks of a burdened heart) for that loved one or family member who is lost, then that lost loved one will effectually and ultimately be saved. The very fact that our Heavenly Father has put the soul of that person as a burden upon our hearts, and the fact that we are praying for that person’s salvation, is all evidence God intends to save. He burdened us to pray for it so we could get in on the rich blessing of seeing a loved one saved, and the reason He doesn’t save that loved one until we fervently and effectually pray is because if He were to save a loved one WITHOUT us praying for it to happen, we might actually think our smooth words, or our great intellect, or our ability to persuade convinced our loved one to choose Christ. Only the Spirit of God has the power to soften a heart and regenerate the sinner.

So, therefore, when sinners are saved – God gets the glory. When sinners die and are condemned – the blame for that condemnation falls on man, not God.

If you say, "But God could regenerate the hearts of every single person that ever lived if He wanted to!"

Yes, He could. And the universalist says he will. But the Bible says He won't. If you ask me why He doesn't regenerate the heart of every single fallen human being, I respond like Spurgeon, "What baffles me is not that God has chosen not to redeem every single sinner, but that He has actually chosen to redeem even one."

Thankfully, He has chosen to redeem "an innumerable company," a "sea of people," a vast "kingdom" - including those for whom you pray. I'm not referring to those old Wednesday night prayers that God would save the world (with no particular names of real individuals), but prayers that He would save that person or those people for whom you petition, by name, for God to save. You are His child. You are given the great treasure of pleading with the King to regenerate the hearts of your loved ones. Your heavenly Father will not turn a deaf ear to your petitions.

And, if you are a Christian who has no burden for the lost (but of course I know you do, but now I write for others), then I would urge you to begin praying that God would give you a burden for the lost. Since God is in the business of saving sinners, and since you, His child, are not in the practice of praying for the salvation of specific sinners, then it would seem evident to me that you are not that much involved in your Father's business.

Thankfully though, I know you are involved in your Father's business. And those prayers you have been offering up for your kids and family members qualify as having an interest in God's business of saving sinners. This is why I know your prayers will be answered. God is the one who burdened you with His business in the first place. He always answers the prayers that are prayed that begin in Heaven.

So, when your kids come to the time when they choose Christ, just remember I told you they would, and that the reason they would is because of God - and the evidence I have that He is choosing to save them is the burden their mom has for them.

Hope that helps.


Wade

56 comments:

Christiane said...

Some years back, I was drawn to an interchange, this:

"Wade Burleson said...
Kristen,

"As an Arminian I believe that God must put the desire to be rescued in the human heart. The difference is that I don't believe God makes the desire so overwhelmingly strong that humans have no power to refuse."

I think you are misunderstanding what I believe. I never have believed, never have taught, and never have written that any human being does not have the power to refuse.

I have always believed, taught, and written that God's love is so captivating, so alluring, so charming, so dazzling, so enthralling, so mesmerizing, so spellbinding (gospel comes from "good spell"), so magnetizing, so enrapturing, so gripping, so compelling, so hypnotizing, and so absolutely "sweep me off my feet" enamoring that I could not, would not, and must not refuse (though I have the power).

Ever been loved like that?

I have. :)

Mon Jun 10, 02:19:00 PM 2013



And then I looked at some very old quotes from my own tradition, this:

"
“” In spite of the all-powerful strength of God’s merciful hand,
which touches, enfolds and bends the souls with so many inspirations, calls and attractions,
the human will remains perfectly FREE, unfettered, and exempt from every form of constraint and necessity.

Grace is so gracious, and so graciously does it seize our hearts in order to draw them on, that it in no wise impairs the liberty of our will…
grace has a holy violence, not to violate our liberty but to make it full of love…it presses us but does not oppress our freedom…”
(Francis DeSales)


And Wade, I was very moved by the contrasts and the comparison between your statement and that of Francis DeSales.

'Differences' are important when they are meaningful to us. And 'comparisons' help us to realize that sometimes we are not so much in disagreement with others but instead, we EMPHASIZE different things. I very much enjoyed looking at the quotes in that light.

Rex Ray said...

Wade,

Welcome back! Good topic.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unconditional_election

“Unconditional election (also known as unconditional grace) is a Lutheran and Reformed doctrine relating to Predestination that describes the actions and motives of God in eternity past, before He created the world, where he predestinated some people to receive salvation, the elect, and the rest he left to continue in their sins and receive the just punishment, eternal damnation, for their transgressions of God's law as outlined in the old and new Testaments of the Bible. God made these choices according to his own purposes apart from any conditions or qualities related to those persons. The counter-view to unconditional election is conditional election, the belief that God chooses for eternal salvation those whom he foreknows will exercise their free will to respond to God's prevenient grace with faith in Christ.”

I think on this topic should be the Scripture:

“But the fact of the matter is that it is best for you that I go away, for if I don’t the Comforter won’t come. If I do, he will; for I will send him to you. And when he has come he will convince the world of its sin, and of the availability of God’s goodness, and of deliverance from judgment. The world’s sin is unbelief in me…When the Holy Spirit, who is truth, comes, he shall guide you into all truth…(John 16:7-13 Living)

Christiane said...

Very Sad news:
Rachel Held Evans has passed away.

Please remember her family in your prayers.

Austin Al said...

Hi Wade,

I think I hear you have saying that if a parent is steadfast in prayer for a child or children, that this is a sign that the child will be regenerated since it is God who is behind the parent’s steadfastness in the first place.

What I do not understand is where God’s decree is in all of this. It seems to me that God’s decree is previous in reference to individual salvation and not conditioned by anyone’s prayers since it was pronounced in eternity past.

Wouldn’t God be more glorified if His people just plainly acknowledged that God has chosen some and passed over most and we do not know why He has chosen as He has but we believe it is for His glory and we are content with that even to the point of rejoicing in His soverign choices?

It is very hard to imagine born again parents NOT praying steadfastly for their children. To make this a harbinger of the child being among the elect doesn’t seem to comport with reality.

Thanks,

Al House

Anonymous said...

Rex--there is a third choice: corporate election. Not God knew who would believe in Him and so predestined them, but rather that all who put their faith in Him, thus who are in Christ, are chosen. The group, not the individuals, are the elect. Common in many reformed Arminian churches.

Given one line the Lord's Prayer, would it not be wonderful if God does indeed honor all those "save the whole world" prayers?

linda

Anonymous said...

What is a "reformed Arminian" church?

Anonymous said...

"Wouldn’t God be more glorified if His people just plainly acknowledged that God has chosen some and passed over most and we do not know why He has chosen as He has but we believe it is for His glory and we are content with that even to the point of rejoicing in His soverign choices?"

no, God would NOT be 'more glorified'

He'd be a monster

Austin Al said...

So you reject the idea of God's decree? Are you Reformed in your doctrine?

Ken F said...

"Rex--there is a third choice"

Hi Linda,
There might also be a fourth choice: perhaps election is not about the who, but the what. For all those who freely choose, the election means adoption as a son or daughter (per Eph 1:5) rather than some kind of other relationship. An analogy could be a dinner party: the invitation truly is available for all, but the menu is set (predestined). I got this idea from a combination of sources, but this might be one of the best summaries: https://www.perichoresis.org/why-i-left-calvinism/.

The point I am hoping to make is there might be more than one valid way to view election and predestination. I hope this helps.

Ken F said...

Hi Austin,
I have a question about the divine decree that I have not yet heard anyone from a Reformed perspective address. If our choices, works, and prayers cannot override God's divine decree, it would seem that our beliefs likewise cannot. It seems to me that what we believe is irrelevant since the decree is all that really matters. Or if they matter, it could only be because God changes our beliefs to align with his decree. But that seems to imply that we don't have to work at it any any way because no amount of slack on our part can undo the decree, because in the end God will cause us to believe whatever is essential. So my question is: in light of the divine decree, does it make a difference what we choose believe?

Anonymous said...

"Austin Al said...
So you reject the idea of God's decree?"

you think HUBRIS and PRIDE describe God ?

Rex Ray said...

All these theories of this and that gets too complicated for me, especially when I’m told, “I hope this helps”.

God didn’t mean to make it hard for man to understand. John 3:16 is all you have to know.

RB Kuter said...

"How can God know what decision a person is going to make and there still be the concept of free will at play?"

"If the universe was created by a Creator, where did the Creator come from?"

"How can God hate sin and demand justice and at the same time grant grace and forgiveness?"

So many questions proposed by "the created" seeking to do the impossible, understand all about "the Creator".

Where did God come from? I think it is like the ring, without beginning and without end.

God is and functions without parameters and He exists in an infinite dimension in which we carnal creatures can never comprehend until perhaps, we are glorified.

Still, I love the endeavor and learn more aspects about God and grow closer to Him as we struggle to grasp as much as possible through the asking of the questions and dialogue and search through His Word. Anyone who suggests they have defined the absolute truth is not very humble.

Rex Ray said...

RB,

In quoting Paul’s satire, I’m referring to someone. I think you know who rubs me the wrong way. :)

“Everyone keeps telling me about…divisions among you…you feel this is necessary so you who are always right will become known and recognized.” (1 Corinthians 11:19 Living)

“But, of course, there must be divisions among you so that you who have God’s approval will be recognized.” (1 Corinthians 11:19 NLT)

Austin Al said...

Hi Ken F,
God's decree is seen by Calvinists as His final word on anything and everything. Nothing goes astray from His decree. Ever. Even in the smallest degree. Your present understanding of what the Bible teaches is determined by His decree. BTW, I am not an apologist for Calvinistic doctrine; but I have a good understanding of it.
Al

Austin Al said...

Hi RB,
Calvinists have some exceptional ways of describing what "free will" means, especially as it relates to God's decree. Just about the whole world, excepting Calvinists, believes that "free will" is possessing the power to say "yes" or "no" to any choice that presents itself. Calvinists believe that God's decree covers all of life's choices for the elect and for the non-elect.
Al

Christiane said...

'Si comprehendis, non est Deus'
(Augustine)


Ken F said...

Hi Al,
Thanks for your reply. I am not Reformed, but I have many friends who are. Last year I quit the SBC church I had been a member of for 10 years because of the direcrion it was going. Part of that decision was its turn toward New Calvinism and frequent quoting of New Calvinist leaders like John Piper. Here is an article he published last week: https://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/does-god-direct-all-the-details-of-my-life - "God’s sovereign control is complete, not partial. It governs every aspect of nature, every aspect of history, national life, personal life — nothing, absolutely nothing, is outside God’s sovereign governance."

Piper's view seems extreme, but it is consistent with what I have learned about Reformed theology. Interestingly that type of complete control over every aspect of everything is 100% consistent with Islam. For me it results in fatalistic hopelessness. But others appear to find great hope in it.

If our life here is just a breath, as the Bible teaches, then the only thing that really matters is where we will spend eternity. Anything else is just an insignificant detail in light of eternity. If none of us have any choice in the matter of where we will spend eternity because it has already been decreed, it follows that none of our beliefs, acts of service, or even our evangelistic efforts make any difference at all. It's all temporary vanity and chasing after wind.

If, on the other hand, election is not about which individuals will or will not be saved, then our choices, beliefs, acts of service, vocations, and evangelist efforts truly matter.

I suspect that God's sovereignty cannot be diminished by humans having true free will. And humans having true free will in no way allows us to claim credit for our salvation.

Rex Ray said...

Ken F,

You’ve NAILED IT!

Austin Al said...

Ken, Piper's view is extreme. But it is the default position of all the neo-calvinists. Mohler, Sproul, Gruene, Duncan, etc. Although, many things they write seem to ignore the fact of the decree. Al



Austin Al said...

Make that Grudem.

Anonymous said...

"There might also be a fourth choice: perhaps election is not about the who, but the what. For all those who freely choose, the election means adoption as a son or daughter (per Eph 1:5) rather than some kind of other relationship."

Ken F - That option seems to ignore the fact that the language and context in most of the verses that mention the subject of God's election/predestination/choosing specifically mention certain individuals/people will experience God's favor in this life and the next, while others will not. In other words, the particular privilege (adoption/glorification etc) is not the subject matter, nor the object of God's affection, but the person is.

"Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?" Ja 2:5

Interestingly, not everyone can become rich, but anyone can become poor.

Would like to hear your thoughts. Ken

Austin Al said...

Ken, I think election is "in Christ". Not even the Calvinists themselves believe in absolute unqualified election. Just one qualifier, and UNqualified is out the door! Al

Ken F said...

Hi Anonymous (or is it Ken?),
Election/predestination is a topic for which I believe we should hold our conclusions somewhat loosely since so many Christians throughout the ages have come to different conclusions. I personally think it's ok for us to have different opinions about it. What I don't like is when I am told that there is one and only one "biblical" way to view this topic (you did not do that here).

Nearly every argument I've seen for the "Reformed" view (in quotes because there is not just one reformed view) use verses out of context to prove the point. For example, the verse you cite in James 2 is in the context of partiality. That verse says nothing about where people will spend eternity. But if it does, then it means the vast majority of Americans are going to a bad place because by world standards we are a very rich country. When verses have to be pulled out of context to support a position it tells me that that position is questionable.

Did you have a chance to read the link I posted to the article by Baxter Kruger?

Anonymous said...

Ken F - yes, me'ze Ken too. :) We've conversed before many times over on the Wart, but due to perpetual moderation status for the past 6 months my posts don't appear till many hours later. Which makes for very difficult conversation.

Agreed on holding our views on this loosely - which is why I inquired about your thoughts.

Yes, I've read Kruger's article a couple times after you posted it a while back.

Must be missing something, but the context in the verse I quoted **is** referring to eternity (inheriting the kingdom), and yes, partiality is the context as you mentioned. Evidently, the rich were coming in to meetings and were given special privileges that the poor weren't (seating, etc.). James reminded them that God favors the poor, not the rich/wise/noble, so they ought to as well.

Yes, Americans live like Kings compared to the boat load of humanity from the beginning of time, and too often are looking up the ladder when sizing ourselves up in the rich or poor category. Ken

Anonymous said...

over at Wart?

?

Ken F said...

Hi Ken,
Thanks for the feedback. While I don't think I've ever been technically Reformed, I was heavily influenced by the theology, probably just like many other Protestants. Verses that one time seemed clear to me I now see in other ways, mostly because of the historical digging I've been doing. Now it's almost like looking at an optical illusion that has more than just the one picture I originally saw. In the case of a verse like James 2, I can see how it could be interpreted to support election, but it seems much more likely to me that James is using a bit of hyperbole to emphasize the importance of impartiality. If we take that verse literally, and combine it with other related verses about the poor, one can make a strong case that only dirt-poor people will inherit the kingdom. I don't think that is what that verse is teaching. But if it is, we also need to tune out every pastor who is earning above the poverty level, because why would we want to get taught by the reprobate?

Ken F said...

http://thewartburgwatch.com

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Ken F.

I think I can take that verse literally and still take away that God favors the poor vs. the rich, and know he saves a couple of the rich folks because of what's written elsewhere. No absolutes due to a few exceptions. :)

"Looking at his disciples, he said: Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God." Luke 6:20

Jesus never said "Blessed are you who are rich....", but distinctly warned them that it was much easier to thread a needle with a camel than it was for a rich person to inherit the kingdom (Mt 19:24). Folks try very hard to ignore or explain that verse away.

Paul wrote to Tim and said "Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. I Tim 6:17

He also wrote: "26 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him." I Cor 1:26-29.

The Master was born into poverty (on purpose), moved among the rich and poor, but remained pretty much in poverty (no where to lay his head like mr. fox).

It seems that not many wise/powerful/strong/rich people will inherit the kingdom (because they trust their riches more than God, and are told to tear down their barns in order to see the kingdom more clearly), but many of the poor will. Why? Because God favors the poor more than he does the rich.

At least that's my take for the time being, but I always appreciate your optical-illusion perspective. :)

Ken

RB Kuter said...

Austin Al said, "Calvinists have some exceptional ways of describing what "free will" means, especially as it relates to God's decree." and "Calvinists believe that God's decree covers all of life's choices for the elect and for the non-elect."

No doubt we all have our own interpretation of what we mean in reference to "free will", but as to what "decree" you refer to God having is unclear. Perhaps an attempt at brevity is what makes your statement unclear.

Also, I suspect that Austin Al is not qualified to say what "Calvinists" believe. Perhaps you have been within Calvinist circles as to discern what most, or some, or those you know, believe and you can represent that segment, but probably not all, or even in general terms on this issue.

Rex Ray said...

Ken F,

I took the liberty to give this comment of yours to our SS classes yesterday. Note: It’s not the exact words you used everywhere, but I tried to convey your thoughts.

Our SS material for yesterday had a picture of two shaking hands and asked, “When have you seen an enemy become a friend?”

I thought, ‘I don’t have an enemy; then I thought of you and realized I had given your comment to our church and in a way that was you becoming a friend.


Ken F said… (On Burleson’s blog)

Hi All,

Last year I quit the SBC church I had been a member of for 10 years because of the direction it was going. Part of that decision was its turn toward New Calvinism and frequent quoting of New Calvinist leaders like John Piper. Here is an article he published last week:

https://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/does-god-direct-all-the-details-of-my-life -

"God’s sovereign control is complete, not partial. It governs every aspect of nature, every aspect of history, national life, personal life — nothing, absolutely nothing, is outside God’s sovereign governance."

Piper's view of complete control over every aspect of everything is 100% consistent with Islam. For me it results in fatalistic hopelessness.

If our life here is just a breath, as the Bible teaches, then the only thing that really matters is where we will spend eternity. Anything else is just an insignificant detail in light of eternity. If none of us have any choice in the matter of where we will spend eternity because it has already been decreed, it follows that none of our beliefs, acts of service, or even our evangelistic efforts make any difference at all. It's all temporary vanity and chasing after wind.

I believe Piper is wrong and our choices, beliefs, acts of service, vocations, and evangelist efforts truly matter. Sunday May 5, 2019

Austin Al said...

RB, God's decree to elect His people.

Ken F said...

Thanks Rex,

I never viewed you as an enemy. I attributed our conversation in the previous blog thread to misunderstandings and me not communicating well as a new commenter on this site.

Was there any notable feedback from your class on what I wrote? For some reason I cannot understand, the New Calvinists seem to hang on every word of Piper. Try showing this short video by Piper in your Sunday school class: https://youtu.be/3OkUPc2NLrM. Pay attention to the chuckles and silly looks he makes. Thw comments section under the video is also interesting.

Thanks for your friendship.

Ken

Dee said...

Rex
I think you need to be careful about placing Lutheran theology and Reformed theology in the same basket. I am now a member of a Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod. Over Lent I read Called to Believe, Teach and Confess-An Introduction to Doctrinal Theology edited by Steven Mueller. This text is used and recommended by Concordia University. I highly recommend it as it was recommended to me by my pastors and also by Rich Shields, the former head of AALC.

In the book you will see that Lutherans dod not hold to irresistible grace or the preservation of the saints. Freedom implies the ability to change ones mind and the ability to resist. In fact Lutherans do not believe that they are Reformed as defined by today's Reformed crowd and get a bit touchy when others claim that they are pretty darn close.

I am trying to wrap my thoughts around what I am reading. I have had the opportunity to have in-depth discussion with Rich Shields on the matter. I hope to write a post one day to demonstrate that the difference between Lutheranism and traditional Reformed mandates go much further than their views of baptism and communion.

Anonymous said...

Those who want to know what a reformed arminian is can look it up for in depth explanation. Basically they are Arminian but not Wesleyan Arminian. The differences can be large. RA may or may not accept loss of salvation. And may or may not accept possibility of deliberate apostasy. They would say there is no repentance and redemption for apostates. WA says as long as there is life a person can repent and return.

RA accept some Calvinist petals of the tulip while rejecting most of them. But they still follow the reformers, were part of the reformation, and are still alive and kicking despite what the Calvinists say.

Rex Ray said...

Dee,

Sorry, but I don’t know what you’re talking about. Do you have me mixed-up with someone else?

It’s customary to quote and maybe even give the date when they said it when accusing them of what they said.

Example:

“Dee said...Rex, I think you need to be careful about placing Lutheran theology and Reformed theology in the same basket.” (Mon May 06, 03:55:00 PM 2019)

Rex Ray said...

Ken F,

You’re right that I said I thought of you as an enemy. I was really thinking of you as I expressed it to RB in this statement on May 04, 09:58:00 PM 2019:

“In quoting Paul’s satire, I’m referring to someone. I think you know who rubs me the wrong way. :)”

But our SS material had the word “enemy”, and I stretched the truth from being rubbed the wrong way to enemy. (My bad)

Sometimes people and countries change their attitude toward one another when they are confronted by the same enemy.


You asked: “Was there any notable feedback from your class on what I wrote?

Before classes started, I passed what you wrote to all our church classes. In the class I attend, I passed it out at the end of the class. (I do the same with Wade’s post sometimes.)

I don’t know why, but our Sunday night service is more like ‘prayer meeting’, and our Wednesday night service is like ‘Bible study’. I’ll see what they think on Wednesday.

Rex Ray said...

Wade,

On the subject of “Concern for Our Kids”, I’ve just learned of a horrible situation in a small town. (I wonder if it could be a new ‘craze’ in our nation.)

Young teenage girls sent nude pictures of themselves to boys in their school.

The school confiscated all cellphones and disciplined the students.

But since two of the boys were 17 and 18, the police have charged them as sex offenders.

https://criminal.findlaw.com/criminal-charges/child-pornography.html

“Federal and state laws make it a crime…possess pornographic materials that portray a minor.”

“If you've been convicted of a child pornography-related crime, either federal or state, your sentence will likely include mandatory sex offender registration. This means that your photo, address, and other information will appear in a database for monitoring and tracking sex offenders.”

RB Kuter said...

Austin Al answered my request for clarification on what "God's Decree" by saying, "RB, God's decree to elect His people."

How about this, AA, "God's Decree is to give all people the free will to decide if they accept or reject Him."? Of course, God is sovereign and in control of all things, including the systems of creation, morality, judgment, the redemption of mankind, gravity, death, resurrection, seasons, and all things.

I believe the Calvinists who insist that God determines who will and will not be saved limit God and perhaps this is an attempt to understand Him at their level. I don't mean to be offensive in saying that, AA, just my take on things. If God decreed that all people will make the decision on acceptance or rejection in the midst of His pursuit of them with the voice of His Spirit in their hearts and then leaves the consequences of their decision to them, He can do that. That's the way I see it, anyway.

Dee Parsons said...

Rex Ray

I Wass referring to the comment here. Fri May 03, 03:48:00 PM 2019

Rex Ray said...

Dee,

OK, I apologize; halfway anyway. I know very little about Lutherans. I asked Google what “unconditional election” meant and I chose Wikipedia because I find them to pretty accurate, and I quoted what they wrote in the link below. (I’d forgotten what they said about Lutherans.)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unconditional_election

Rex Ray said...

Dee,

Correction again on my part. I didn’t ask Google what “unconditional election” meant, I asked the title of Wade’s post; “Doctrine of Election”.

Rex Ray said...

Dee,

Wrong again on my part. I didn’t ask Google what “unconditional election” meant, I asked the title of Wade’s post; “Doctrine of Election”.

P.S.
I’m surprised it seems no one is concerned if young girls are sending nude pictures of themselves on their cellphones. The devil has a way of taking something that's good and using it for evil.

Ken F said...

Hi Rex,

Thanks for the feedback. I attribute any misunderstanding between us to me being a new commentor on this site and not explaining myself well. I am trying to get better in forums like this, but still have a long way to go. I think if we could chat face-to-face we would find we are pretty much in agreement on the big pieces, but probably not so much in agreement in various details. I value exchanges with people who think differently from me because it helps me with my biases and blind spots.

It's only been in the last few years, after a New-Calvinist college ministry destroyed the faith of one of my sons, that I began to more closely examine what I believe and why. My son became convinced that he was not among the elect, which devastated me. He asked me lots of questions about TULIP and convincing arguments he was hearing from the New-Calvinist leaders. I did not have the right answers for him until it was too late. I regret that.

Along the way I discovered how little I knew about Reformed doctrine, but also how much influence it had over me through osmosis. I began to dive into church history in search of the golden age of the Church. I found that the Church has always been messed up in one way or another, starting from the very beginning (e.g. letters to the Corinthians). I also found lots of bright spots through Church history. But overall, I found that many beliefs considered essential by evangelicals today are only a few hundred years old. And I found that there was much more room in the early Church for disagreement on details. They drew very hard lines around things like the nature of the Godhead and the humanity/divinity of Jesus. But they left lots of other things open to discussion. They did not appear to value the "doctrinal precision" that New-Calvinists push today.

When I come into conversations here challenging some of the new "essential" beliefs I can see how people could assume I am an enemy of the faith. But it's really the opposite. Unfortunately, I did not communicate this well.

Ken F said...

"I’m surprised it seems no one is concerned if young girls are sending nude pictures of themselves on their cellphones."

Hi Rex,
People not commenting does not mean they don't care.
Ken

Austin Al said...

We are very far afield from the topic of the original post.

Bob Cleveland said...

If you take a poor section of town, pick one family, and give them a million dollars,. they will then be rich.

So:they will be wealthy because you gave them a gift. But, you cannot say that their neighbors are poor because you did not give them a million dollars. They are poor for whatever reason they were already poor.

Similarly. if God reaches into a crowd and saves someone (insert the actions required for that to happen), they will then be saved because of what God did. Their lost friends will still be lost ... not because God didn't save them, but for whatever reason they were already lost.

Ken F said...

Hi Bob,
That's an interesting analogy, but I cannot think of any narrative in the Bible that supports it. Instead, we find narratives about desperate searches for lost things, leaving the 99 sheep to find the lost one, banquet invitations going out to all, a father running to embrace a returning prodigal, etc.

Unconditional Election (and the other points of TULIP) can certainly be proven by the Bible if one interprets various verses in certain ways. But there is no definitive, slam dunk case for it. Many passages used to support it can also be used to undermine it. Historically, Augustine was the only notable defender of it until the Reformation. This, of course, does not make it right or wrong, but it should cause us to wonder why it never got any traction until a few hundred years ago, and then only among a small minority of the people who call themselves Christians.

Austin Al said...

Bob, in monergism, they would be lost exactly and precisely because God did not save them. Think about it!

Austin Al said...

Ken, nicely put.

Rex Ray said...

Ken F,

I was not happy with our ’Wednesday’s discussion about your paper that I’d given them.

Your paper referenced this link:

https://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/does-god-direct-all-the-details-of-my-life

You quoted one PARAGRAPHY from that link. One man summarized the groups thinking by saying, “Ah, you can read anything on the internet.”

I’ve made copies of all six pages of that link and plan to give it to them again.

Piper goes overboard on Proverbs; then says, “If you’re bothered by all these text coming from the Old Testament…here’s Jesus’s way of saying the same thing…Matthew 10:29.”

(Ken, this Scripture tells how more important man is to God than a bird is to him.)

But Piper twist this Scripture to say, “This is like a bird dying in a forest somewhere that only God knows about. That’s really random and insignificant. Jesus says, “Well, you think it’s random, and it may be insignificant, but it is controlled by your Father.”

Piper gives no Bible reference for what he has Jesus saying because its not in the Bible but only in the lie he tells.

Rex Ray said...

Ken F,

By the way, I just asked Google: Did Jesus say, “Well, you think it’s random, and it may be insignificant, but it is controlled by your Father.”

This was their answer:

No results found for did Jesus say, “well, you think it’s random, and it may be insignificant, but it is controlled by your father.”.


But under their answer was this:

Does God Direct All the Details of My Life? | Desiring God
https://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/does-god-direct-all-the-details-of-my-life

I clicked on it, and guess what? It was Piper’s paper. :)

Ken F said...

Hi Rex,
I too found it odd that Piper quoted so heavily from Proverbs. The problem with Piper is that he is so enormously famous among the New-Calvinists. It's almost is if "Piper said it, I believe it, that settles it." Google "john piper new calvinism" and you will see what I mean.

Rex Ray said...

Ken F,

Your link shows what their main Scripture is:

“Your priest have violated my instructions and defiled my holy things. They make no distinction between what is holy and what is not. And they do not teach my people the difference between what is ceremonially clean and unclean. They disregard my Sabbath days so that I am dishonored among them.” (Ezekiel 22:26 NLT)

I think one of Piper’s problems is, he was born thousands of years too late.

Ken F said...

Rex,
People outside of New Calvinism normally don't know who Piper is, which is a good thing. But those within his camp are a different story. This link from his site will give you a bit of an idea: https://www.desiringgod.org/books/the-collected-works-of-john-piper. Note that the articles has himself as the author.

Here is another side of him: https://matthewepierce.com/john-pipers-best-tweets/. The one about watching teenagers is disturbing because if he is telling the truth he ia a peeping tom, but if is not telling the truth he is a liar.

Rex Ray said...

Ken F,

Your links about Piper make me believe I could understand him more if he was only half crazy.