Thursday, July 26, 2012

Why I'm Not a Calvinist, part five

Hi, I fully intend on completing the series on 'luring them in' (as well as every other series that I haven't completed---remind me of the ones I haven't finished), but today I interrupt completely that series by working on another series.  Why?  I usually figure out what to write while I'm jogging, and this one crossed my mind while running this morning.   You also may be wondering why "part five," when I've only written parts one and two.  Reason:  There are at least one and probably two in between this one in logical order after the first two.  I never finished what I was writing about Romans 9.  For those new to this:  part one and part two.

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I've said that I want to be a Calvinist.  It's true, if Calvinism is true.  A book I'm reading now is by a Calvinist, someone who believes that regeneration precedes faith (which not all Calvinists believe), and the book is about salvation.   The one before that had several chapters written by a Calvinist, writing about the points of Calvin.  When I read those books, I'm open to being a Calvinist.  Not just open.  I want to be one.  But it doesn't work with me.  Perhaps this occurs because I had studied my Bible a long time before I ever read about Calvinism, so what I already know the Bible says keeps getting in the way of what Calvinists write.

Since the Bible is the only authority, we should get our doctrine from the Bible.  If you were dropped a Bible on a deserted island and had to come up with your doctrine just from the Bible, you wouldn't have come up with Calvinism.  Calvinism doesn't pass the test for me.  I know they say it does for them and that's the reason they believe it, but I don't believe them. I don't want to hurt their feelings.  It's just that I think that the only way you become Calvinist is by reading Calvinists.  After having read Calvinists and beginning to exist on the inside of that Calvinist barrel, everything begins to look like the inside of the barrel.

It's ironic, but Calvinists manipulate the sovereignty of God.  God is sovereign.  He is.  But Calvinists argue and write as though they are sovereign over His sovereignty.  We can't let God be sovereign.  He just is.   But in beliefs, we should also allow Him to be sovereign.  Since He is sovereign, we should let what He says about His own sovereignty actually be His sovereignty, not fiddle with it.

As sovereign as God is, which also involves His wisdom, power, and love, He can preserve His Word and He can preserve my soul.  Many Calvinists today see God has sovereignty over their souls, but not over His Word.  They are eclectic textual critics, hoping to still find God's Words.  They're the ones who choose.  Of course, He chooses them before the foundation of the world, unconditionally and they can't resist receiving Him, but many of them believe and teach that God couldn't or just didn't fulfill what He said He would do with His Words.  That unwillingness to believe what God said He would do, but then to believe things that Scripture doesn't say, based on their own logic, is where God isn't God any more to the Calvinist.  They've claimed sovereignty over the doctrine of preservation of Scripture.  And then there are all the out-and-out Calvinists, who say that salvation is all about God, monergism and all that, but then they are the biggest proponents of many various new measures, humanly derived, for church growth, as if it really did depend on their ingenuity.   This is where I say that I'm more Calvinist than Calvinists are.  But I digress.

When Calvinists lay out their system and plug the verses in, they can make them make sense, if that were all you were left with.  But as they read in their context, they don't have to mean what a Calvinist says they mean.  They will only mean that if Calvinism itself were true.  As we've done with the rest of this series so far, let me reveal what I'm talking about with Scripture.  The verses are what keep me from being a Calvinist anyway.

In Luke 13:23, because of how things were going in Jesus' ministry, someone asked him, "Are there few that be saved?"  If the Calvinistic view of total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement, and irresistible grace were true, Jesus should say, "There are few because God chose only a few and Christ died for just a few.  Men are dead and they are unable to respond unless God first regenerates them to believe."  But Jesus didn't.  He made it sound like few were saved because men weren't striving (agonizing) to enter the narrow gate (v. 24).   If He wanted men to strive, all He needed to do was to regenerate a few more to do so.  And how much actual striving is necessary when grace is irresistible.  No resistance doesn't sound like striving.  This is just an example of how what Jesus says clashes with a Calvinistic view of salvation.

There is a lot I like about the Calvinistic system.  Parts of it are really nice, and when you read its theologians and preachers, they write some good material, but the system itself is badly flawed.  Let me give you another one.

Dead men are, well, dead.  As dead as someone in a casket, they can't respond.  Since spiritual death is total inability, then I would assume that these dead men could not suppress the truth.  The way it reads in the King James Version in Romans 1:18 is that these dead men "hold fast the truth in unrighteousness."  The understanding of "hold fast" is that they hold the truth away from themselves in their unrighteousness.  They suppress the truth.  How is God's wrath justified against these unrighteous?  Well, they have suppressed the truth.  These dead men know the truth.  There is even an inclination toward believing it, or else how could they suppress it?  And God's wrath against them is for what reason?  Because God didn't choose them?  Because God didn't regenerate them?  If God's grace was involved, then it was unsuppressable, right?  Wrong.  One would understand that God's wrath was vindicated by the fact that people who knew God, had sufficient knowledge to be saved, were thinking about the truth, suppressed it out of rebellion.

And lastly for this edition of "Why I'm Not a Calvinist" I bring you to Jesus parable of the sower in Matthew 13.  Why does Jesus give such a drawn out, intricate, detailed explanation for why it is that people don't believe, don't receive Him, if the simple answer is that He didn't choose them to be saved?  I would be fine with that answer if it were true.  I would believe God to be just in condemning whoever He wanted.  Since God defines what is true and good, how could I question Him if He simply crafted people for the sole purpose of damnation?  I wouldn't.  But Jesus doesn't give that as an explanation.  What He says is that people don't bring forth fruit, that is, they aren't saved, because of their lack of reception of the seed for various reasons different for different people.   Two of the reasons people don't receive the seed, the saving message of the gospel, is because they either approach it too superficially (rocky soil) or because they are too interested in the world or riches (thorny ground).  That's too much of an answer if the real answer was that God had predetermined some to salvation and others to damnation.

The points of Calvinism don't glorify God more than how He wants to be glorified.  God doesn't get glorified more by misrepresentations of Himself.  I contend that Calvinism has become (of course only hypothetically or in a Calvinistic thought experiment) sovereign over God's sovereignty.  I want actual sovereignty, not a made-up kind that poses as glorifying God more.  Salvation is of the Lord.  That, I have no doubt.  It can't be more "of the Lord" than the Lord Himself makes it.

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