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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.

Strawman Monday: Identifying an Entire Culture by its Best or Worst Aspects

15 Oct

Mark 9:50, “Salt [is] good: but if the salt have lost his saltness, wherewith will ye season it? Have salt in yourselves, and have peace one with another.”


There is a reason Jesus taught about salt being the seasoning for a culture and not about fresh chives or cilantro or a rosemary herbal mix.


For most of the centuries that this planet has been in existence, man has used salt to enhance flavors.  It was the cheapest item available in most places, and I mean to emphasize the word available.  It was not without cost.  In fact, the word “salary” arose from times when soldiers received their pay in salt.  But it was cheaper than the herbs and spices we now use.


You will recall that the exploration of the Western world originated as a contest between Spain, Portugal, and Italy (mostly) to find the cheapest route to Asia in order to purchase herbs and spices for Europe.  Asia had abundant herbs and spices available, but their preciousness put them out of reach of even the ordinary person in Asia.


The reason all of this was in my mind last night was because I ate a miniature Beef Wellington with Yorkshire pudding at a Downton Abbey party thrown by our local PBS affiliate for those people who contributed to them this year.


The Beef Wellington struck me as way too salty.  It used to be my favorite dish, but my tastes have shifted to herbs and spices these last few years, along with everyone else’s.  I suddenly realized why British cookery has been referred to as “stodgy” for centuries.  The dish was totally lacking in creative use of herbs and spices.  It featured heavy salt instead.   And it had been done by one of our great catering firms here, obviously with an old, cherished recipe.


In fact, I remarked that, had I made the Beef Wellington and Yorkshire pudding, I would have flavored it with herbs and spices and turned it into a totally different dish.  It would no longer be Beef Wellington.


Remember, Britain was not part of the great exploration of the Western world initially.  After the Spanish Armada was destroyed, yes.  And remember, too, that Britain is the country from which we took most of our customs.  And still do.  Despite our centuries of serving as the world’s melting pot, we still have a rather British default setting in the U.S.


What does that mean?  It means that we have many traditional British dishes, not just a few.  Probably most of our unembellished everyday recipes are British in origin.  We have the good, the bad, and the ugly from Britain.


By way of comparison, our dishes from other cultures are usually carefully selected to be the best that culture has to offer.  Ethnic restaurants featuring Ethiopian or Peruvian cooking do not, by definition, offer the food that the majority of the people in that country eat on an everyday basis.


See where I am going with this?  We have always judged British cookery as stodgy because we are most exposed to it, all of it.  It is easy to have familiarity breed contempt, especially for the motherland that we left behind.


And that leads to today’s strawman statement:  When we are comparing two cultures, we can do it three different ways:  1) compare all features of both cultures  2) compare the best of both cultures 3) compare the worst of both cultures.  But it will not do to take all aspects of one culture and pit them against only the best aspects of another.  It is not good logical reasoning to take a culture we know well and focus on its stodgy aspects in comparison to the best aspects of a culture we don’t know as well.


That is the essence of creating a strawman:  taking certain features of a person, culture, etc. and having them stand on their own to represent the entire being.   If we do that, we have to specify that we are doing it, and make it apply equally to every person or culture we are examining.


We constantly reduce people and cultures to only some of their traits.  We do it subconsciously.  That is why it is important to study logical reasoning.


If not, we will misrepresent more than just British cookery.  We will eventually misrepresent the gospel of Christ, by not understanding the cultures to which we take it.

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