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Why Does God Keep Secrets From Me?

20 Jun

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Deuteronomy 29:29, “The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.”

In a discussion of where children go after death if they die before an age where they are conscious of God, we encountered the idea of God having secrets from us. The fate of unborn children and infants who die is one of those secrets. The Bible is silent on it.

We had to avoid arguing from silence and just say that God is absolutely good and absolutely just–that we can trust Him to do the right thing in those secret areas the Bible does not address.

Now sometimes some of us rebel against God reserving the right to keep secrets from us (even forever, if we can project forward from Deuteronomy 29:29).

Why do we rebel like that? I can think of three reasons.

1) In a crisis. If someone has just lost a baby, I totally understand her desire to know for sure her child is with God. That is not the time to have a deep theological discussion about arguing from the Bible’s silence. Just be comforting and keep the theological discussions for later.

2) Because we have control issues and resent the idea that God can fence off part of reality, including part of our own lives, and not let us have control over it. But . . . let’s face it. Even one devastating tornado in our neighborhood will prove to us that there is much in our own personal lives we do not and cannot control.

3) Because we have been hurt in the past by bad secrets and assume that secrets are inherently bad. That is where we make a huge theological error. Treating God like a monster because someone in our past has been a monster is just bad theology. God is not an exalted version of the most powerful human being we have known in the past. He is transcendent, meaning totally different from us in form and substance and everything else. The only reason we can ever hope to be like Him is because He is also immanent (become one with us) in Jesus Christ.

While I have all the compassion in the world for a child who was caught in a whirlpool of bad secrets, I cannot and will not form my theology from someone’s emotional state. This world is fallen. That will not change till later, when Christ makes all things new. But He remains God and is sovereign over this fallen world. We must trust Him to be as good as the Word says He is, and as wise and just as well!

Link

Why Does God Keep Secrets? (and can I trust Him when He does?)

20 Jun

Why Does God Keep Secrets? (and can I trust Him when He does?)

Not a perfect explanation of election (because it is a “God concept,” after all), but one that is workable . . .

Link

Book Review: “Stop Asking Jesus into Your Heart” by J.D. Greear

19 Aug

Book Review: “Stop Asking Jesus into Your Heart” by J.D. Greear

I totally believe in the perseverance of the saints. That means, in layman’s terms, that a truly saved person will still look truly saved in five years, in ten years, and at the end of her life (this is also known as “finishing well” in Biblical/theological language).

I am more than troubled by the number of people who walk the aisle for salvation on Sunday morning, then don’t return to church on Sunday night, nor Wednesday, nor the following Sunday morning . . .

I am not a legalist and I know it takes time to grow and become what Christ created us to be. But I balance with that the idea that a person totally in love with Jesus should show some signs of wanting to learn more about Him . . . (just a thought . . .).

We are not judges of other folks’ salvation, but we also should avoid the pitfall of assuring them (perhaps falsely) that because they walked the aisle once twenty years ago, they really are saved. What does their life look like since then? Any fruit of the Spirit in evidence?

Fact is, we can’t know for sure about anyone’s salvation except our own.

And that is the personal way J.D. Greear wrote his book. To help those who truly are saved but have assurance issues (like me, for years. There is a kind of OCD that can attach to the salvation issue and keep us from assurance, even as we show evidence of Christian growth). He also uses his book to help people diagnose themselves if they falsely believe they are saved due to saying the sinner’s prayer years ago, but have never subsequently shown any evidence of new life in Christ.

This is a good book. The title is a bit shocking, but the contents are theologically sound. I highly recommend it.

The Sinner’s Prayer Does Not Save Us

11 Jun

http://www.jdgreear.com/sinnersprayer

I am just finishing up J.D. Greear’s book “Stop Asking Jesus into Your Heart” and want to write a book recommendation to express how good it is.

There are two reasons:

1. He addresses people, like me, who spend years getting to a sound, Biblically-based assurance of faith because we get hung up on the Sinner’s Prayer, whether we said it right, and whether we meant it 100% at the time we said it. We are usually genuinely saved, but lack assurance of that fact.

2. He addresses people who said the Sinner’s Prayer once, like a magical incantation, then returned to their regularly scheduled life, excluding God from it. They are usually not genuinely saved, yet feel very assured that they are, from shaky, non-Biblical sources.

God promised in I John 5:13 that we can know for sure we are born again. We can count on the finished work of Christ.

Those counting on anything more, or less, than Christ’s finished work cannot claim I John 5:13 for assurance of salvation. We either accept the whole counsel of Scripture or reject it all. We don’t get to pick and choose.

Just as God does not often bless it when people open their Bible in the morning and stick a finger somewhere in it to choose a devotional passage, because God is to be approached with more reverence than a fortune teller, so it is not God’s plan that we base our eternal security in a recitation of the Sinner’s Prayer. Yes, many of us say that prayer when we get saved, but the prayer does not save us. Christ’s finished work on our behalf saves us, by grace through faith.

This book is a real treat, as it takes us through God’s Word, rightly dividing it as it teaches the doctrines of salvation and the perseverance of the saints.

Link

A Trophy of God’s Grace: Rosaria Butterfield

27 May

A Trophy of God’s Grace: Rosario Butterfield

The story of Rosaria Butterfield’s conversion, and her journey from being a radical lesbian professor to being a Reformed theologian and homeschooling wife of her church’s pastor!

Link

Why I Believe in Total Depravity!

18 Mar

Why I Believe in Total Depravity!

When we lived in Germany, we had several German friends honest enough to say, “Of course, all Germans alive at the time of World War II knew what was going on with the Jews. They were disappearing from day to day. We just knew … But we also knew we could not ask questions and expect to be there to raise our own families!”

The Germans were no different from any other race. Hitler was not an anomaly among humans. We all have sin lodged deep in our hearts and need a desperate remedy.

What, short of our total depravity, would have put the Son of God on a cross to be tortured to death? Think about it.

He brings us very good news. There is a way out of our darkness. His name is Jesus Christ.

Link

Women’s Thursday: A Majority of the Human Race is Never Born

28 Feb

A Majority of the Human Race is Never Born

 

Writing about abortion, I have been running into statistics like those expressed in this chart about the miscarriage rate.  As you can see, it is estimated that 75% of pregnancies spontaneously abort before the mother knows she is pregnant.

Beyond that, be careful with interpretation.  The next statistic means that 10% of the 25% of pregnancies that survive the first few days will then go on to spontaneously abort in the next period.  Then 5% of the pregnancies that have survived the first two periods will spontaneously abort in the next one . . . and so on.

If we read that incorrectly and assume that 10% of the original pregnancies will spontaneously abort in the next period, then 5% of the original pregnancies in the next period after that, we end up with a chart that seems to imply that almost 100% of all pregnancies spontaneously abort.  Added to our 20-25% intentional abortion rate, that would make a birth rate of, say, 0%!!!

Now, for those of us who regard a fertilized egg as possessing an eternal soul from the moment of conception, there is a staggering thought here.

Take just a moment to contemplate that far more than half of the human race never gets to the birth process.

We pretty universally agree that those who have a soul and never reach the age of accountability go to heaven automatically.

So over half the human race will be in heaven without having ever taken one breath on this planet.  Without having made a choice to follow the God of the Bible.  In fact, He chose for them.

Now, I want us to dare consider another thought.  In the matter of election that can be so controversial, is it possible that God chose for the rest of us, too?

I know some Arminian folks are aghast at this idea.  Choice is very important to them.  They call it “free will.”

But is it as important to God as it sometimes is to us?  We love our choices, but does He see them the same way we do?

Especially the choice to be saved.

We willingly acknowledge that He knows who will be saved in the end.

Could He also have chosen them, chosen for them to come to the part of their life where they get saved?

It’s just a thought . . .

God is God; I am Not

4 Jan

Romans 9:16, “So then [it is] not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.”

In studying about God’s sovereignty, not as an empty study to make myself seem edu-ma-cated, but rather so I will know and relate to my God aright, I constantly bump up against God’s sovereignty.

Definition from OED (Oxford English Dictionary, yeah, I’m Anglophile like that):  “possessing supreme or ultimate power.”

It seems simple to me:  either God knows the beginning from the end, as the Bible clearly says He does, or He does not (open theism is the new way of expressing the idea that He does not know, but that idea has been around in various forms forever.  Open theists say that even God does not know the end of the game, that even God can’t say who will be saved in the end).

Okay, so then if God knows, He has created a universe in which certain outcomes are going to happen.  So somehow, while God created us with choice, which is apparent from Genesis 3 (the story of man choosing to eat the forbidden fruit) onward, He also created a world in which He has chosen us.  

The great debate of the ages is who chooses first, God or us?  If we say He chooses first, then we are said to believe in “predestination.”  Calvin, and lots of other theologians, have taught on this topic.  Volumes have been written on it.

You have seen that I am studying the topic, slowly but surely.  I may never know, for myself, precisely what I believe about God’s choice vs. my choice.  It is a very complex topic.  It may also be one that is nearly impossible to put into human words, being something heavenly that has to do with the very attributes of God Himself.  

And, if so, I am okay with that. 

I know He has chosen me and I have responded, in my human capacities, to His choice.  I know His love and the blessedness of dwelling in Him.

And that makes for a really great life here, and the hope of life eternal!

   

 

 

 

Just a Thought!

28 Dec

Psalm 138:7, 8:  “Though I walk in the midst of trouble, thou wilt revive me: thou shalt stretch forth thine hand against the wrath of mine enemies, and thy right hand shall save me.  The LORD will perfect [that which] concerneth me: thy mercy, O LORD, [endureth] for ever: forsake not the works of thine own hands.”

How often do I (we) assume that because I have created a bad situation myself, the Lord is not there in it with me?  

As though He will only help us when we are blameless.  As though we ever could be completely blameless in any situation . . .

Look at the lack of qualifiers in those verses.  The Lord says He is with us in our struggles.  Even if we have done something offensive ourselves and made someone into an enemy who didn’t need to be an enemy . . . There are no qualifiers in that sentence.  It says God is with us, full stop.  

I need to stop inserting qualifiers myself.  I tell myself, “I got myself into this–now it is up to me to get myself out.”  That is totally unbiblical thinking.  We think that some things we do are tainted by sin and others are not.  We think that God turns away from the actions that are tainted by sin.

Fact is, and let’s be totally honest here, everything we do and will do until we go to heaven is tainted by sin in some way.  We never have a totally pure motive while we are in the flesh.  If God waited for us to be totally selfless before He would help us, He would be waiting a long, long time.  Till eternity actually. 

A former pastor of mine says “God writes straight with a crooked stick.”  This man’s email account (and every other account he has, including his ministry name) is called “The Crooked Stick.”  I love that.  It reminds us to assume our proper place as forgiven sinners before God.  Forgiven sinners who are loved beyond all comprehension and helped on a daily basis to get out of our messes.  Even the self-inflicted ones!!! 

Addendum to Controversial Tuesday: I’m Okay, You’re Okay . . .

5 Dec

Back in the 1970’s there was a popular self-help book out that used very simple language to get us all to say that we were okay and so was everybody else.  “I’m Okay, You’re Okay” was everyone’s mantra for a while.

When dealing with the topic of total depravity, this little book from the ’70’s can help me write a useful outline.  There are four responses we can make about total depravity or “not okay-ness.”

As the book writer, Thomas A. Harris, MD, put it back then, we can say:

1) I’m okay, you’re okay (for us, that would be “neither one of us is totally depraved”)

2) I’m okay, you’re not okay (that would be “I’m not totally depraved, but you are.”  That would also be the height of  arrogance!)

3) I’m not okay, you’re okay (that would be “I am totally depraved, but you are not.”  While that initially looks like a truly humble statement, it is actually a statement of inverted pride.  Humble people don’t call attention to themselves, even negative attention.  The people who are constantly telling us how they are losers compared to everyone else are still disobeying God’s command to not compare themselves with others.  And, frankly, their statements are prideful, just in a different way).

4) I’m not okay, you’re not okay (that would be “both of us are totally depraved.”  And, while the writer of the 1970’s book would be sad to hear me say it, this is where I think our default position lies.  Even after we are saved, we must be aware that all of our righteousness is imputed to us in Christ.  So there is no reason to be proud of ourselves.  We can be justifiably proud of Him!!!).

Just wanted to clarify that.  I was reading today how sometimes people will misunderstand the term “total depravity” when applied to Christians and think that it means there is no difference in behavior, values, goals, etc. between a Christian and a non-Christian.

There is a huge difference.  Even the fact that we can see ourselves as totally depraved sinners is a realization that comes from the Holy Spirit.  I can guarantee you that non-Christians don’t see that part of themselves accurately.  It is a fallen world.  So much easier to blame everything bad that happens on someone else.

And, as I said in my post on total depravity, the best news of all is that Jesus came to save sinners and that, when we realize our total need of Him, we can reach out in prayer and invite Him into our needful places!  That is far beyond being okay!  That is glory!

Controversial Tuesday: Yes, I Believe in Total Depravity

4 Dec

Isaiah 9:2, “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.”

I am a great believer in the power of light.  I also believe in the contrast of light.  Not only does light break forth and bring joy to the heart, but it brings the most joy to the heart that has dwelt in the most darkness.

Jesus said it about the sinful woman who washed His feet with her tears and her hair:  “The one who has been forgiven much, loves much.”  I believe this, too.

And I resoundingly believe in total depravity, the doctrine that says not one of us was anywhere near righteous in our own strength prior to Christ’s light coming into our lives.

I saw a blogger today who said Augustine made up the doctrine of total depravity which was unknown in the early years of the church.  Well, the early years of the church were probably more concerned with evangelism than with writing down doctrinal theses, but I can assure you that someone who wants to deny the doctrine of total depravity will have to take issue with Isaiah and Jeremiah in the Old Testament.  Maybe someone wants to argue that human nature changed between the Old and New Testaments and man became a better sort of being?  <smile>

What total depravity does not mean is that each of us has committed every possible sin.

It is possible that each of us could commit every possible sin given the right circumstances.

For example, I have often heard people say that no one can say they would not have been twice as bad as Hitler if they had been brought up as Hitler was.  Sin is a choice, but our besetting sins can be a combination of our early environment and our own bad choices.

Total depravity mostly means that there is not one part of our being that is not fallen and affected by sin.  Our bodies, our souls, our wills, our instincts, all of it is affected by the sin in this world.

Even after salvation, we will still wrestle with sin for the rest of our lives, till we are glorified in heaven.

I was thinking about how we love to flatter ourselves at times when we disagree with others by shaping their position as sinful and ours as righteous.

That, in itself,  is just another mark of our own total depravity.  We can’t even see in ourselves how self-righteous we are, nor how prone to blame others for everything that happens.  This tendency has existed since the Garden of Eden and it is usually invisible to us.

In fact, I am learning to automatically recast those moments of disagreement as altercations between two totally depraved people.

That does not mean that there are no issues of right and wrong.  In fact, the clearcut issues of right and wrong correspond pretty completely to what the Bible calls the law (in the eternal sense, not in the Old Testament ritual sense).

One example would be if we are attending a school concert and someone is carrying on a loud conversation on her cell phone in the row behind us so that two or three rows of people can’t hear the children singing.  That would eternally be regarded as selfish, in every place and time.  Although we have advanced enough technologically these last fifty years to develop smartphones, we still have not been able to eradicate in the human heart the tendency to think that the convenience of taking a phone call without leaving one’s seat is more important than the 20 or 30 people around who now can’t hear the concert.

Problem is that when we approach the person who is selfish enough to be taking the call, we approach with the right actions but usually with the wrong motivations.  We get our self-righteous on and try to inconvenience that person back, by talking loudly and angrily, or by interrupting the call.

Yes, the person should take the phone call outside and do it now.  But we are rarely able to merely represent the fact that this is one of those unwritten societal laws.  We usually make it personal to that other person and heap on the scorn, anger, and perhaps revenge.

You see, we are totally depraved, too.

A place I can almost guarantee we have all seen ourselves (and others) engaging in total depravity is when someone dies and there is a will to be settled.  We say this brings out the worst in people.  But I would say that worst part has been there all along and just comes out more easily due to the emotions of grief and anxiety centered around losing a loved one.

Have you ever seen a situation where one of the children was appointed executor of the parent’s estate that ended well?  So far, I haven’t.  There is something about giving one child power over what everyone else gets from the inheritance that just makes these things turn out badly for all concerned.

Here is a check about the self-interest that is in our own hearts.

There are several ways to divide an estate, as we all know.  And there can be reasons for each way of doing it.  One way is to divide it evenly by the number of children.  For example, I have two siblings, so my parents could choose to divide their estate three ways.  Or you can divide it evenly by the number of grandchildren.  My parents have six grandchildren:  my sister’s three, my brother’s two, and my one.  Under this system, my sister’s family would get one half of my parents’ estate, my brothers’ family would get one-third, and my family would get one-sixth.

Now I can authoritatively say that, if you give people a choice, those who have the most children will always opt to have the estate divided between the grandchildren, while those who have the least number of children (like me) will always opt to have the estate divided between the original children.  You see, as parents, we are programmed to advocate for our children.  It would be unthinkable, if given a choice, to choose a system where our own children would receive less.

We are self-interested to the point that we would rather hurt someone else than give up something we think belongs to our children.

And that self-interest, while natural, is also indicative of our total depravity because it causes  rancorous  disputes between siblings.

Disclaimer:  my parents are still in excellent health and I have only used our family as an example in order to avoid inserting actual situations where I have seen siblings fight bitterly about these issues of inheritance.

One more and I’m done.  Have you ever heard (or said), “I would never purposely hurt you, but I apologize because what I did unintentionally caused you to be hurt” ?

Do we really believe that about ourselves?  That we would never purposely hurt another person?

Honestly, I give a person credit for even apologizing at all nowadays, as that seems to be a lost art entirely, but it is totally theologically incorrect to say we would never purposely hurt another person.  We do it all the time.  And we deceive ourselves when we think we don’t.  Especially those of us who are married.  How many times do we plough on  into each other and only stop when we see that deer in the headlights look that reveals we have cut that person not just a little bit, but to the very heart???

If you have never done that, congratulations, but I am willing to say about 90% of us are cringing about now at the memory of having done just that.  The other 10% may just have short memories.

This is our guilty little secret, you see.  We can be very good at playing church with each other sometimes.  So good that we can convince others that they are the only ones who have a wicked heart that can only be helped by the gospel.

Truth is, when we come out from hiding and get real with each other and pray for each other as we should, we find out that we all have wicked hearts that can only be helped by the gospel.

That is bad news but it is also good news, the best news.

Because the gospel is there for us.  Jesus is there for us, meeting us in our need and helping us become something better in Him.

Admitting our need for Him is ultimately freeing.  Glory!

Passage on Eternal Security

25 Nov

I Timothy 1:18-20, “This charge I commit unto thee, son Timothy, according to the prophecies which went before on thee, that thou by them mightest war a good warfare;  Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck:  Of whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander; whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme.”

I rediscovered the above gem this morning in my devotions.  I was not looking for any particular proof texts from the Bible, just letting it speak to me.

I was drawn to think about Hymenaeus and Alexander.  It seems like they had pretty completely fallen away from their church.  They were described by the Holy Scriptures as having “made shipwreck” of their faith.

Some would go on to say that these men were saved and had lost their salvation.  And that Paul had delivered them unto Satan as a result.

But wait!

Why did he deliver them to Satan?  That they might learn not to blaspheme.  If they were lost and headed to hell, why would he do that?  Probably everyone in hell blasphemes.

Why would he take the time and effort to teach them not to blaspheme  if they are only going to learn to do it all over again when they depart this earth?

There is more, isn’t there?  There always is, with God.

These men are not lost at all.  They are saved people whom Paul is attempting to draw back to Christ.

He is using an extreme measure for an extreme situation.  (If you doubt that God can use Satan in His chastening process with us, search out and read my old post “Fresh, Floppy Fish).

Yes, just as God will wait for the prodigal for long periods of time, just as God will pursue some prodigals as “The Hound of Heaven” (google the Francis Thompson poem), here Paul is showing his heart is for restoration of  the sinner.

And that is very good news.  God is always for us.  God is the God of second chances, and third chances, and fourth chances . . .

He will never give up on us until that last breath is taken.  And, if we are truly in Him, we are eternally secure.

Amen and amen!

Strawman Monday: If Not Total Depravity, then What?

5 Nov

Strawman Monday: If Not Total Depravity, then What?

Romans 7:19, “For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.”

Last week I wrote about my belief in total depravity, as put forth as the “T” in the Calvinist “TULIP” acronym.

This week, I thought to see what the contrasting part of Arminianism is.  Interestingly, the five points of Arminianism (down below and in the link) don’t deny total depravity head on. As their argument against total depravity, they insert the doctrine of “free will” which says that man is not so fallen that he cannot choose God of his own volition.

In future weeks (when I get back from a two week business trip), I plan to look at Ephesians 2 in both ways, the Calvinist one and the Arminian one.  Calvinists believe that the Holy Spirit not only makes a person aware of his need for salvation (through common grace) but actually provides the special grace needed to get him across the finish line to salvation before the person plays a role in the process at all, while Arminians believe common grace, available to all, draws the person to choose Christ, at which time the Holy Spirit begins working in his life via special grace.

Since I am still studying up on the contrasts here, I am going to leave the topic for now.

But what is interesting to me about the total depravity doctrine is that it provides us (at least me) with much less despair about the fact that, as Paul said in Romans 7, “the good I would do, I do not do.”  While fully intending to serve God and man, I fall so miserably short sometimes that, if I believed that all kinds of good was inherent to human nature, I would have a hard time not giving up on myself as a lost cause.

I would also have a hard time explaining why saved people around me can be so callous to other saved people around me.

If we didn’t have a pretty strong sin nature, how would we explain the strength of our self-interest, even after salvation?

You know what I mean, don’ t you?  You have seen this as often as I have.  The way that Christians pick on other blood bought Christians, separating themselves into groups of “us vs. them” over very minor issues that often have nothing to do with the Bible.  And then defend that behavior, from a very self-defensive posture, when they would not be able to defend it from the Word at all.

What is that all about?  Why are so many of us intent on holding ourselves up as paragons of virtue to other people instead of holding up Christ and His glory over us all?

To me, it is becoming natural to think, “If something glorifies Christ, I don’t mind if it diminishes me.”  It has been a long time coming, this attitude, but by God’s grace I am getting there.  I am starting to see things more in terms of me being created to bring Him glory and less in terms of me saving face before other human beings  Praise God for that–I am sure it is entirely His work in me.

I have told you all that I believe God has given us immense freedom and many choices in this world.  This is certainly the case after salvation takes place.  Before that, I had choices, too, but I was more enslaved to sin as well.

I am just not certain at the interplay of my choice with God’s grace in the salvation process.  It is indeed a great mystery.  It is a mystery I will look at more in future days.

Five Points of Arminianism

The five points of Arminianism (from Jacobus Arminius 1559-1609) are in contrast to the five points of Calvinism.  The Arminian five points are

  • Human Free Will – This states that though man is fallen, he is not incapacitated by the sinful nature and can freely choose God.  His will is not restricted and enslaved by his sinful nature.
  • Conditional Election – God chose people for salvation based on his foreknowledge where God looks into the future to see who would respond to the gospel message.
  • Universal Atonement – The position that Jesus bore the sin of everyone who ever lived.
  • Resistable Grace – The teaching that the grace of God can be resisted and finally beaten so as to reject salvation in Christ.
  • Fall from Grace – The Teaching that a person can fall from grace and lose his salvation.

“T is for Total Depravity”

2 Nov

“”For that which I do, I allow not:  for what I would, that I do not; but what I hate, that do I.  If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good.  Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.  For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing:  for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.” (Romans 7:15-18)

 

The above passage is in one of the chapters over which Arminius and Calvin differed the most.

 

Arminius said it was written by Paul as an unregenerate man, or looking back to when he had been unregenerate.

 

Calvin said Paul wrote it after he was saved. 

 

Which way do you believe?

 

I am leaving town for a two week business trip so I will be reblogging the posts of others for most of that time. 

 

I am going to drop a bombshell here.

 

I agree with Calvin.  And that those verses frame the “total depravity” doctrine.

 

It makes no sense that God would inspire His Scripture, even part of it, through an unregenerate man.  I know of no other book in the Bible where anyone has made that claim. 

 

And the passage itself shows Paul fighting against the evil inside of himself.  I don’t think we do that before we are saved.  The total weight of Scripture shows us that.

 

Before we are saved, we just give in to sin, with no qualms about it.

 

So if the great apostle Paul realized that in his flesh, after salvation, dwelt no good thing, is it unrealistic for us to agree?

 

You see, I have spent a lifetime studying people.  I love to people watch.

 

And one thing we all do is self-justify.  We try to convince ourselves and others that our actions are coming from righteous motives while everyone else’s actions are the results of sin. 

 

What could be a more stunning mark of our total depravity than our own total lack of consciousness that it exists?

 

If I do something that hurts someone and then defend it with the idea that I am a good person and would never intentionally hurt someone, I am all about me and not at all about God’s glory.  How much better to just ask forgiveness and move on, trying to grow and learn to better glorify a Holy God by my actions.

 

My concern is that many Christians I know have the idea that they were 98% okay before they met Jesus and just needed Him to die and rise again so they could get that 2% boost into heaven. 

 

My friends, that cheapens the life and death of our Holy God, who came and dwelt among us and was tortured to death because . . . we have a sin problem. 

 

That is bad news and good news at the same time, as my reblog today also points out.  It is bad news because we can’t get ourselves to heaven.  It is the most excellent news because God has provided a way to get us there. 

 

“By grace, through faith.”  (Ephesians 2:8,9).

 

Yes, I do believe in total depravity.  I am not sure about some of the other Calvin/TULIP doctrines (and you can see that I am studying them out for myself this year), but I can’t think of one good, Biblical reason to fight against the doctrine of total depravity.

 

And I believe we fight total depravity in our flesh our entire life, not just until we are saved.

 

Life gets sweeter when we agree with God on this and let Him start showing us His more excellent way–how to work against the evil that is ever present in our own hearts.

 

Which Way the Wind Blows (or Human Choice in Salvation)

28 Oct

John 3:8, “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.”

Yesterday, I left my usual form of discourse and addressed an issue directly and sharply, probably leaving little room for argument (at least I hoped so).

Today’s post will also be different in that it involves a series of questions I can’t answer.  Some of the questions may not be answerable in this world.  I am not sure.

The discussion might be fruitful, however, as we strive to know God and discover His ways in the world He created.

In the above verse, Jesus challenged Nicodemus about not understanding earthly things.  He said if Nico couldn’t understand earthly things, he should not expect to understand heavenly things.

Sometimes I think we are in a similar bind when we try to explain how God’s election/choice interacts with our choice in the process of salvation.

I know there are two extremes in belief, the extreme Arminian belief (now usually referred to as “open theism” in which it is taught that God Himself doesn’t know the outcome of all events) and Hypercalvinism, in which man is drawn to God by irresistible grace without seemingly having any choice at all in the process.

There are many shades of belief in between the two extremes, usually clustered around five points called either the Five Points of Calvinism or the Five Points of Arminianism.

Smarter people than me have studied and debated these ideas for centuries.  Some of these debates have been, and remain, rancorous.  My aim is to take apart these ideas and present them in a way that the layperson can understand.  Sometimes important issues are at stake.  I try to identify those.

Talking with a friend of about my same age today, we remarked how much the world has changed in our lifetime.  We mentioned my career as a female naval officer and her husband’s career as a nurse.  When we were young, it was rare to have a female naval officer or a male nurse.  There were centuries when such people would have been non-existent.

The question became, “Did God change His will as the human race changed?  Was He not calling any women to be naval officers or men to be nurses in the 1800’s?  Or did He have such a calling upon people all along, but it took a while for the human race to catch up to His will?”

You see, that may seem like an exercise in semantics to some, but the question truly encapsulates God’s movement in this world.

People have wills, too, and groups of people have collective wills and, somehow, whole societies willed for centuries that there would not be female naval officers or male nurses, though both of those roles exist now and people are doing wonderfully at them.  How do we explain that?

Hmmm!  I can’t even explain God’s will in earthly things.  How can I explain it in heavenly things (in the process of salvation)?

Another thing I have noted is that almost no one says “yes” to God the first time he hears the plan of salvation.  So right there the idea of “irresistible grace” has to be modified.  If it were truly irresistible in the sense the Hypercalvinists use, no one would be able to withstand it at all, even for five minutes or a couple of weeks.

So, it can take a while for an individual to understand what salvation is, and to accept it.  Doesn’t it seem then like it might be a bit hard for we humans on earth, caught in time as we are, to see the overall view of how salvation looks from eternity?  I fear we get caught up on facets of it and argue those, in the Calvinism vs. Arminianism debates.  The entire product probably can’t be comprehended nor explained completely while we are still in earthly bodies.

And that is why I maintain a holy awe toward such things.  I know Jesus came to save me and I am a saved woman.  I also know there are many parts of my salvation which I can’t explain but just accept by faith.  And for me, right now, that is enough.

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