Monday, August 4, 2008

Brokenness

I'm at a point in my faith where I am completely lost. No, this isn't a valley of heartbreak. It's not a dry spell of no spirituality. It isn't a mountain of sin and shame, separation from God. It's a place I've never been before, and would have never imagined I would come to. Within the past few days, I've been introduced to 'The doctrines of grace' or, in a title, Calvinism. I've never in my life been so distraught and confused in my faith. I've found myself weeping for long periods of time, in a complete state of confusion as to what my salvation ever actually meant. Did I choose it? Or did it choose me? My entire life, and especially since the moment I received grace and became eternally secure, I've been taught "For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son...". And now, here I've been, having my thoughts altered and messed up on what God actually meant when He said "the world". I've been torn and confused, and my view on faith and my relationship with Christ has been tossed and turned, back and forth, up and down. And it hasn't been fun. I spent over an hour on the phone with Joel last night, crying my eyes out trying to understand what I really believe about the God I've loved for so many years. Because when looking at Christ through a Calvinist perspective, everything I've ever believed and known about Him changes; and not for the good. This almost tells me that this stuff just isn't right. But I could be wrong.

There are things I am sure of. I am sure I am saved. I am sure God created the earth in six literal days. I am sure that you aren't supposed to have sex before marriage. There are tons of things in scripture that I am 100% sure of, and have no doubts in how I believe. Yet with this, I am still leaving a lot of room for me to be completely wrong and not of God in my beliefs. I am not saying I'm right. I'm not saying I have the answers. Because honestly, I'm lost. But what I am saying is that I don't believe something that causes so much hurt, confusion, separation from God, distortion of God, and lostness could be of God. Maybe I'm looking at it the wrong way, though. I'm just not sure.

I don't know how I'm going to organize this. I'll just go with it. I'm only going to be looking at two of the five points of Calvinism, and why I'm not so sure they are biblically accurate. I disagree with at least one other, but if you disagree with the first two, then you have to disagree with the third (which is limited atonement; the believe that Jesus died only for the 'elect' and not for every person in the world.) I might end up sounding harsh through how I word all of this, I'm not sure. But that's not the case. I'm just so lost and confused, that passion explodes and I become so anxious and excited (not positively) in my mind and through my fingers on the keyboard. I don't know how all of this is going to come out. I'm typing this all prayerfully and openly.




Total Depravity

According to Wikipedia;

The doctrine of total depravity (also called "total inability") asserts that, as a consequence of the fall of humanity into sin, every person born into the world is enslaved to the service of sin. People are not by nature inclined to love God with their whole heart, mind, or strength, but rather all are inclined to serve their own interests over those of their neighbor and to reject the rule of God. Thus, all people by their own faculties are morally unable to choose to follow God and be saved because they are unwilling to do so out of the necessity of their own natures. (The term "total" in this context refers to sin affecting every part of a person, not that every person is as evil as possible.)

Bolded is the part I am uneasy with. I'm perfectly okay with the fact that we are all sinners. That's biblical. I was born with a sin nature, and engulfed in sin before I met savior and He pulled me out. That's perfectly and biblically acceptable. But was I really incapable of choosing Christ on my own? Did Father really draw me in and make the decision to accept Christ for me? You see, all my of my 'new life' in Christ I've believed that it was I who came to Christ and accepted His offer of eternal life. You'll always hear in church at invitation "accept God's gift of eternal life." But according to this first doctrine of Calvinism, that's simply not correct...we cannot choose God's gift, if it's really even a gift at all - more of something that was forced upon us.

In the garden of Eden, God created Adam and Eve in innocence and without sin. He looked at them and was well pleased, calling them 'good'. He gave Adam and Even one rule, and that was to not eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. I've known this to symbolize free will. God created us because He desired to have us. He wanted us. But He wanted us to want Him too. He didn't want robots. He didn't want anybody to feel obligated to follow Him. So He gave Adam and Eve the one rule to show them that they had a choice. They could either choose to follow Him or choose to go their own way. If this is incorrect, as it would to be any Calvinist believer, then we have to love God. We don't choose Him, we are forced towards Him. That's not love. We can only love if we choose to love. Love is a choice, an action, not a feeling. Therefore, if we are incapable of choosing God, then we are incapable of truly loving God. God chooses us, and chooses to love us. He is the epitome of love. So we must love as God loves. If that is the case, then our love must stem from a choice. Unfortunately, according to Calvinists, it is impossible for us to choose God.
That's where I get lost.



A few side notes;

- If, in the curse, we lost free will (which it is apparent in scripture that Adam and Eve had free will...as God created them, desiring a relationship with them, and then they left Him, showing free will), why did not God tell us that we lost free will? He gave His spill on how man and woman were to be cursed on the earth because of their sin, so why was not our inability to choose not mentioned in there also? This is a big thing; the biggest. It's way bigger than childbirth or toiling the ground. So why is it that God doesn't even mention it? Where is it at?

- Acts 17:30 states "Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent". According to Calvinism, all men everywhere cannot repent and come to God unless God draws them to Him. And, also according to Calvinism, God does not draw everyone to Him, only His elect. Yet the words here are clear when they say "all men everywhere". This is obviously, undoubtedly referring to every man on the earth. Why would God give a command to men that was impossible for them to obey? Is not God just? God commands all people to believe, yet created them to turn Him away, and then punishes them for not obeying a command He gave that was impossible for them to follow. Though God is powerful and can do as He pleases, and to be fair would send us all to hell...He is also love, and mercy, and grace. And a God that is the very epitome of those good things, I believe, would never intentionally create people to turn Him away, command them to come to Him even though it were impossible, and then send them to hell for not coming to Him. That sounds complete opposite of loving and caring. God does not contradict Himself - ever.



- Joshua 24:15 - "And if it seems evil to you to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”

Sounds like a choice to me.

- Acts 2:40 - And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, "Save yourselves from this untoward generation."

Peter pleaded with them to do something they were completely incapable of doing?



- Mark 6:6 - Why did Jesus so often "marvel" that people would disbelieve? He knew it. He was with God in the beginning and chose who was going to believe and disbelieve. So why did it come as such a shock to Him? He's the one that made them to disbelieve in the first place, according to this Calvinist doctrine, correct?







Unconditional Election

According to Wikipedia;

The doctrine of unconditional election asserts that God's choice from eternity of those whom he will bring to himself is not based on foreseen virtue, merit, or faith in those people. Rather, it is unconditionally grounded in God's mercy alone.
The doctrine of unconditional election is sometimes made to stand for all Reformed doctrine, sometimes even by its adherents, as the chief article of Reformed Christianity. However, according to the doctrinal statements of these churches, it is not a balanced view to single out this doctrine to stand on its own as representative of all that is taught. Unconditional election, and its corollary in the doctrine of
predestination are never properly taught, according to Calvinists, except as an assurance to those who seek forgiveness and salvation through Christ, that their faith is not in vain, because God is able to bring to completion all whom He intends to save. Nevertheless, non-Calvinists object that these doctrines discourage the world from seeking salvation.

I had to read this over and over and over again to find something I disagreed with. I couldn't really find anything. I mean, God's grace and his salvation of people is not based upon faith in people or anything of that sort. But what I do disagree with is the belief that God chose people that would come to Him, and chose people that would go to hell. Calvinists will often tell you (from what I've read on the Internet) that it is the pleasure and will of God that His 'elect' whom He chose from before the earth was created will come to Him and the others will not. So, according to this doctrine, it is pleasing to God that people stay in their sin, love their sin, never turn to God, and burn in hell for eternity.

Pleasing? That people burn? That the very people He created to love on and love Him will be eternally separated from Him for forever? This seems as though it almost, if not does, contradict the very character of God and His desires to not see that any man perishes;

2 Peter 3:9 - [God is] not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.


God. Not willing that any should perish. But willing that all should come to Him in repentance. This doesn't sounds like a God that desires some to go to hell.



Matthew 23:37 - "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing."

Again, God desires for us to come, yet we have the choice to either be willing or not be willing to come to His grace and take it when He extends it towards us.



Ezekiel 18:23 - Do I have any pleasure at all that the wicked should die?” says the Lord GOD, “and not that he should turn from his ways and live?

God is powerful enough to do whatever He wants and wills. He is above all things, all men, all decisions, all choices. He was powerful enough, from the beginning of the world, to choose that all men would go to Heaven and never encounter separation from Him. It would contradict His very character and power for Him to desire that all men live with Him, for Him to decide that some would not. However, the only way He could not play out this power to save all men and not have His desires succeed were if He gave man the ability to choose Him. If that were the case, which I'm pretty sure I believe it is, then God's desire would not be lived out in all men because they would turn from Him and choose their own ways. Like I said, God was powerful enough to decide that all men would be saved and come to Him, and this was obviously His desire according to the scriptures...yet that would require that He force us into a relationship with Himself, which would not be a love relationship at all (because as stated earlier, love is a choice). Instead, He gave us the free-will to choose to love Him and accept His grace, and therefore His desire for all men to repent and come to Him would not be played out.





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Two other things I would like to discuss are the words 'elect' and 'predestination'.

Elect: According to Calvinists, the elect are the chosen ones that God decided beforehand were to be saved. These were the ones that were guaranteed salvation from the beginning of the world. I, on the other hand, could say that I believe the elect simply refers to the people that chose to receive salvation. Maybe when the Bible talks about the 'elect of God' it is simply referring to the people that come to salvation. Why does it have to mean that God decided beforehand that they would be saved? Where is this supported in scripture? Okay, it's supported many places. Yet so much scripture can be misinterpreted and misunderstood.

Predestination: This is a tough one. Here's what I have to say about it; The Bible uses the word predestination a very little amount of times. Like, three or four times. I was shocked when looking through my concordance to only find a few references in scripture. I don't believe that predestination fully means what either extreme will define it as. I don't believe that it's defined perfectly by the Calvinist side, and I don't believe it's defined perfectly by the Armenian side. I believe that it's one of those "God mystery" things that we should even try to touch. That might be considered an easy way out. And maybe it is. You know what, it probably is. But it's my answer. I don't have an answer. Ha. I lean more towards predestination meaning that God simply knew who was going to come to salvation rather than God choosing those who would. Yet I don't think it's fully one extreme or the other. It's a God mystery that I'd really rather never even try to touch again.





For the past few days I've been broken, torn, upset, confused, angry, frustrated and bothered. These are not things from God.
After the study, research, prayer, and seeking, I think I've finally come to my conclusion.
It was probably one of those things that should have taken me weeks or months to figure out and come to a conclusion about. I could have studied more, talked to more people, prayed more. But a few days without the relationship with God that I had before broke me completely and set me on a quest to figure this stuff out and restore my view of my wonderful Father before anymore time passed. I wanted my relationship with Him restored and back to what it was when I viewed Him as a Savior of the world with a broken heart for the lost. Not a powerful being that picks favorites. God doesn't show partiality, from what I've always believed about Him. He is just and righteous, amazing and wonderful. These things do not go hand in hand with Calvinism. Prove me wrong, if you will.

This took me hours. I've been studying and writing since this morning. It's now 1:44 PM and I'm just now finishing.

And I feel like an entire load has been taken off.

Wow. I feel so much better.






God, you are God. And no matter how you saved me, you saved me. I see you clearly again. Mainly because I'm back to my old beliefs. I like it that way, and though that's not a reason to believe something, simply because you like it, there's more than that. I feel restored with you. I feel like Satan is gone. I feel like you're back in your entirety of the way I knew you days ago. I never ever ever want to see you as anything different or less than amazing, wonderful, beautiful, perfect, loving, gently, kind, and outstanding. Please always give me discernment. Please always give me understanding. Please always help me to see you clearly and correctly, through spiritually sound eyes. And if what I've been writing all morning was wrong, show me and correct me. But always give me the spirit to help, and never let me take from man anything I believe about you. You are bigger and better than that, and have promised to give me wisdom in any area that I lack. I love you my Father. I'm so in awe of you, once again. Thank you for your blood, and thank you that in some way, some how, by whatever choice or predestination or whatever else you or I did, I was saved and secured in eternity.

14 comments:

Joelseph said...

Very good!

In this dilemma, you have basically two choices. You can either...

A. Choose the side in which you have 5 verses to explain

or

B. Choose the side in which you have 100+ verses to explain

Which is which?

:)

Joseph said...

Hello Kristi,

This is Joseph, Joel's friend. I'm unaware if this blog is private or not, so I apologize if I've intruded. :)

Seeing as how I am related to this in some form, I do feel somewhat responsible, so I want to address some things if you don't mind.

Please understand that I don't wear "Calvinist" t-shirts, bumper stickers or headbands, the only people that know I'm a Calvinist are those that ask me questions that lead to the subject somehow.

I don't advertise it. But with those that talk to me a lot, it might seem like it. Also, I was where you are. It took several months for me to become a firm believer in the "Doctrines of Grace."

And I didn't do it with open arms and a willing heart. The reality of scripture had to sit on my brain, then wrestle it's way into my heart. After that I fell in love with them, with God more. Quite simply b/c they are so very very amazing and wonderful.

I'm not trying to convince you or anything, that's not my job. Just going to clear some things up and show in scripture where these truths are.

A quick tip before we actually start. Write down all questions that arise and then forget them immediately, and just let what you're reading soak in. I can assure you that there are answers to all of the questions you're going to ask, Biblical answers. I don't say that out of pride, but b/c there have been very smart/wise men before me that have already done most if not all of thinking.

Hi Joel, hope you don't mind me butting in. :)

As far are Radical/Total Depravity is concerned, there are many verses that attest to the wretchedness of man, and my own experiences attest to scripture. Sadly.

Man only has evil continually in his heart (Gen 6:5), he drinks iniquity like water (meaning it's simple for him to sin, it's nothing, like breathing Job 15:14-16). Just 3 verses after John 3:16 it says that the Light came into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, b/c their deeds were evil. They chose evil over the Christ. Paul quotes the Psalmist in Rom. 3, stating that is none righteous, none who seek after God, there is none that does good, no not one.

Jeremiah states that the heart is desperately sick, and deceitful above all things. What man can know it?

Man is so depraved, he doesn't even know that he is depraved, and if he did know, he wouldn't care. Romans 14:23 states that anything not done in faith is sin. Unregenerate men have no faith, it is a gift of God...(lest any man should boast Eph. 2:8). It follows that all actions of men are sin.

Also, sin is defined as non-conformity to the will/law of God. God commands that whatsoever we do, including the simple things such as eating, sleeping, or drinking, we do unto His glory.

All that man does is for his glory, not God's. Therefore it is sin. And again, w/o faith, it is impossible to please Him.

Now, depraved is how God sees man. And that is the condition in which man is in from the get-go. There is not an ounce of good in him, no where. None whatsoever. Romans 8:5-8 show that the flesh cannot please God, is hostile towards God, and doesn't subject itself to the law of God. What's important to note is that it CANNOT. It's impossible for the flesh too.

This follows also that an unregenerate heart cannot obey the command to repent, to come to God. But understand, not only can they not do it. They don't want to do it. No one seeks after God. Romans 1 describes us as haters of God, and if we could, we (mankind) would do all we could to kill God. To remove Him from His throne and slaughter Him.

James says that all good and perfect things come from God. Repentance is a good thing. The ability to repent, the desire to repent, comes from God. Rom. 2:4 states that is the kindness/goodness of God that leads us to repentance. 2 Timothy 2:25 in instructing us on how to witness and share truth shows that it is God who grants repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth.

Joseph said...

Part 2. I just re-read that first post it seems to be going very fast. I've heard entire sermons preached on a lot of those text by themselves. I'm not doing justice to scripture in my quick treatment of this doctrine. But let's continue.

John 6:verse 40 somewhere Jesus talks about how no man can come to Him unless the Father draws Him first. That the Father has given His some certain peoples, and those that He has given WILL come to Him. And Christ WILL keep them until the last day. Christ in fact states that it is the desire(will) of God that it should be so. And this seemingly contradicting 1 Tim. 2:4, the one in II Peter is taken out of context, he's talking specifically to the elect of God.

A little later in the book of John, we find Jesus talking about His sheep in ch. 10. He states that those who are not His sheep, do not believe in Him. Those that do believe in Him do so b/c they are His sheep. We need to pay very close attention to the logic here.

Not sheep = no belief.

Not

No belief...therefore not sheep.

They do not believe b/c they are not His sheep. It is not...because they don't believe, they're not His sheep.

Some other things to consider, we are dead in trespasses and sins. Dead men can't respond to any call. Jesus commanded Lazarus to rise up, but Lazarus had to be made alive before He could respond. So we must be made spiritually alive before we can respond. I'll think I'll stop there for now. There is more, but that covers the gist of it.

Now, I want you to know something, you did in fact come to Christ. You did in fact repent of your sins, and you did in fact believe. I know this cause if you are truly saved then scripture says you did these things. Ezekiel 36, starting at verse 24 describes regeneration. Heart surgery, among other things. What God does to a person, the change in nature, the new-man, the new-creation, etc.

He gives them a new heart, a new spirit, He puts the fear of Him inside them (Jeremiah 31), He cleanses them of their idols, of their uncleanness, and He puts His Spirit within them. Then...they repent, then they see their vileness, and loathe themselves. After all of that has been done. Then they call upon God to save them from their sins. Repentance must precede salvation (2 Cor. 7:10), and the regeneration of the heart by God precedes repentance.

So, prior to regeneration, you hated God, wanted nothing to with God, and couldn't come to God. All you knew was sin, you loved sin, and wanted to stay in sin. You resisted His calling and drawing, His love, His patience, His kindness, His mercy, and Grace (which is what allowed you to do good things- as the world sees good- in the first place, though it was still reckoned unto you as sin.)

So, he regenerated your heart (at some point in time prior to repentance, I don't know when), then He showed you a glimpse of His Holiness, and in the light of that you saw your sin. Because of the new fear in you, you realized that the only thing awaiting you was judgment from the wrath of God, His justice cried out against you, and your sins condemned you.

But then, the glory of God was revealed in the face of Jesus Christ. He had already died for your sins, payed for them, appeased the wrath of God. In exchange for your sins, He gave His righteousness, you became the very righteousness of God.

So yes, you did come to Him. But after He changed your heart.

Joseph said...

Concerning the will of man, he does have a will. Free-will is defined as- the ability to choose. I.e., walk left or right. It is not defined as, the ability to do whatever I want. I want to make money appear sometimes, but I can't, but we both know this does not infringe on my free-will at all.

Man cannot come to God, it's impossible, but man still very willingly choose sin. Man does not sin with a heavy heart, he doesn't sin against his will. You would admit that every time you sin (even as a believer) while you are in it, you are enjoying it. And there is not a thought in your head or heart that disagrees with what you're doing. Not until after or prior are you convicted.

Even if man could choose God, we must remember that he would not. He would much rather stay in his sin that come to God.

You choose whatever your nature determines you to choose. If the tree is bad, it cannot bear good fruit. That's all there is to it.

Hope I've helped with radical depravity.

Joseph said...

Concerning the will of man, he does have a will. Free-will is defined as- the ability to choose. I.e., walk left or right. It is not defined as, the ability to do whatever I want. I want to make money appear sometimes, but I can't, but we both know this does not infringe on my free-will at all.

Man cannot come to God, it's impossible, but man still very willingly choose sin. Man does not sin with a heavy heart, he doesn't sin against his will. You would admit that every time you sin (even as a believer) while you are in it, you are enjoying it. And there is not a thought in your head or heart that disagrees with what you're doing. Not until after or prior are you convicted.

Even if man could choose God, we must remember that he would not. He would much rather stay in his sin that come to God.

You choose whatever your nature determines you to choose. If the tree is bad, it cannot bear good fruit. That's all there is to it.

Hope I've helped with radical depravity.

Joseph said...

Sorry about re-posting that one comment twice.

Now, given this truth, this greatly exalts the love of God. The reason being, our evil is limitless, or depravity w/o end, and though we hate God with all that is us, and though with every breath he gives us we exhale in contempt, and though every grace he bestows upon us for every second we exist we twist and spit upon, revile and despise with our mistreatment and sin, He still loves us.

Though each ONE of our sins is an offense against a infinitely Holy, righteous, perfect, and wonderful God, that requires an eternity in hell in order to "answer for", and we do not commit but one, but millions. Every breath, thought, word, or deed. Though we do all this, He still loves us. Though we would do all within our power to hurt and murder Him, He still loves us.

He overcomes our hatred with love. He loves His enemies, and reconciles them to Himself, by Himself, for Himself. He does it b/c He is love. And our sin and evil not only magnify His justice, His righteousness, and Holiness, but His mercy, grace, and love.

Total Depravity glorifies God in the utmost. That's why it is so wonderful.

Joseph said...

Also, if you want, I can answer your other objections that you listed. I didn't read that far before I decided to respond. I just read them and realized you brought up some good points.

Joseph said...

I was going to stop for the night cause I'm tired and I got another nifty day of work tomorrow. I work for Ms. Janice btw :) She's the bomb diggity. She really is. And she's a Beth Moore fan, and if I was a woman, I would totally dig Beth Moore, but seeing as how her stuff is geared toward the ladies, it's kinda difficult. :) Rabbit trail.

I want to continue cause I loved your prayer, it warmed my heart, and showed me of my own callousness that I can conjure up at times.

Instead of trying to handle this myself, I want to direct you to an article written by Piper that is quite amazing. It answers your questions concerning the verses like 2 Timothy. It's a read, but well worth it.

If I tried to do anything I'd only confuse you more.

Are there two wills in God?

Joseph said...

The link doesn't work.

Joseph said...

If it's ok with you, I'd like to address election tomorrow. Or in the future sometime.

If not, then I understand that too.

Take care,

-Joseph

Joseph said...

I've completely hi-jacked your blog....:D heh, I find that funny, sort-of...ok, I'm done...for real :)

Kristi said...

So I read all your comments, Joe. And I did enjoy your responses, though I am still not convinced, and in fact, even more-so convinced of the opposing side. I have a lot to say back, but I'll save it for another time. I've got some notes that I'll share with you soon.

Thank you for actually taking your time though.

Joseph said...

Sounds good.

Joseph said...

Unconditional Election:

Man cannot come to God on his own.

God must save him.

God is sovereign.

He does things by way of decrees. I.e...."Christ would die for our sins."

God is the only one that can save.

Not all are saved.

Therefore God does not save all.

God knew He would not save all.

God decreed not to save all.

God essentially chose whom would be saved.

Omitting the plethora of verses cited yesterday, and others that I left out, good exegesis of the verses from John ch 6 and 10 are enough to establish my premises, and lead to the conclusion.