Monday, September 15, 2008

Chapter 1

Before I begin chapter one, I would like to say this;

God is constantly opening my eyes to new truths, understandings, and changes of heart. I have not converted over to Calvinism, yet, haha. But God has definitely softened my heart towards it in that I do not believe it is a false doctrine completely. I believe it can be taken to an extreme, as can the other side. I'm starting to believe more and more something I never really thought about.

But before I explain it, I want to confess that it is in no way Biblical, and I did not conclude this from Scriptures. So therefore I cannot and will not teach it as truth unless I can back it up Biblically. This is nothing more than ideas and thoughts going through my mind that I've concluded from observing people and arguments.

Calvinists see God in such an awesome light. They see Him so powerful, so able. They see Him most glorified in how they believe, and it gives them greater depths of understandings of the God they serve. God is most glorified when they see Him through a "reformed theology" or "doctrines of grace" or "Calvinistic" point of view. In the end, a lot that stems from Calvinism is nothing less than God getting ultimate glory. And it's beautiful.

On the other hand, there are people like me, who cannot see God lifted high or glorified through those teachings. And I am able to bring Him most glory and surrender more of myself to Him in love when I view Him through eyes that believe against points of Calvinism. I see Him greatest when I see Him as a God that loves all men and gives all men and equal opportunity to come to Him and choose to love Him. This is where I see God most glorified.

Both beliefs, though some people can take them to ridiculous extremes and absurd conclusions, ultimately bring God glory and exalt Him in such magnificent ways. I see amazing men and women of God that believe on opposite sides, both so pleasing to God and bringing Him so much glory. God is using both to bring people into His Kingdom.

Here's how I see it: God is bigger than man-made theology. God is higher than man's knowledge. We cannot fully comprehend or understand one thing that He does. We will never get it. Our human minds just can't. So what if God is not a Calvinist? What if God is no Arminian? What if God is somewhere we cannot even comprehend. What if neither beliefs are fully accurate? But that they are not fully wrong either. What if God, being as amazing and superior as He is, allows certain men to believe in either Calvinism or Arminism, or whatever in between because it will bring Him ultimate glory? What if God allows my boyfriend to grow in doctrines of grace, because my boyfriend was designed and created to be attracted to God's sovereignty, all the while allowing me to believe the opposing side, because God created me uniquely to be attracted to God's love and grace in a different way, ultimately bringing Him glory? What if it's just that we're wired differently, because God is so amazing at creating people uniquely, and He allows us to believe only what will help us bring God most glory?

I almost hate even stating these ideas, merely because they do not come straight from the Bible. And I want to even reiterate that these cannot ever be stated as factual truths because of that very reason. But I mainly even bring them up because I see both Joel and I, growing in God daily, leaning towards two complete opposite sides, and yet neither of us being convicted about what we believe. We both feel the spirit leading us to where we are believing. Yet both beliefs are basically opposite. God cannot contradict Himself. The spirit cannot lead two people in two contradictory directions. Yet I could believe that God simply allows us to believe in these two separate theologies because neither are wrong, they're just small glimpses of the true reality of God's Salvation; one we just cannot understand or explain in any amount of 'points'.

Therefore, I will no longer be writing these blogs for the purpose of refuting and denying Calvinism. Because it cannot be false doctrine if God is not convicting one of preaching it, and if He is using it to grow individuals. Instead, I will be writing these for the simple joy of reading about it and discussing it. And when I see something that could be unbiblical or wrong, I'll speak up. Not to put anything down, but to share Biblical truths.
Okay, let's get started with Chapter 1;

Chapter 1 - God's Eternal Decree by James White

Pg 36 - "Much can be determined concerning our true subjection to God by asking if, in fact, we love God as He has revealed Himself to be, the divine ruler over all things, or whether we seek to "edit" Him down to a more manageable" and "manlike" deity.
How has God revealed Himself? You would say He's revealed Himself as an all powerful, sovereign, non-free-will giving God. I would give up my life to state in truth that God has revealed Himself to me as a very non-Calvinistic God - still all powerful and sovereign, but in a completely different light of those words. He's revealed Himself in love, as love, not as some mighty being that runs us under obligation to His "grace".

Pgs 36-37 - White provides several verses from Psalms, Proverbs and Job to explain God's sovereignty. They all basically say this, 'Whatever happens, God made it happen that way'. And therefore, from what I'm gathering, Calvinists are basically saying that everything that happens on earth is pleasing to God, because He made it to happen. This would make God the most hypocritical, contradictory character, more-so than any created thing. Why? Because we know for a fact that God hates sin. He despises sin. Sin never pleases God. Yet, men sin. So, since God makes everything to happen, and since men sin, does God then make men sin? Yet turn around and rebuke and condemn men for doing so? That wouldn't make much sense. Of course, He is God and can do nearly anything. I say nearly anything because there are things that are impossible with God. For example, it is impossible for God to sin. It is also impossible for God to be cruel or for Him to contradict Himself. And in the case of everything on earth happening because God will is to happen, God would be cruel for damning people to hell for the sins He caused them to commit, and would be hypocritical for condemning them when He made them do it. You see, it makes no sense. We have to look at the Character of God that we know and are taught about in the Scriptures. The one that is not cruel, is full of grace, wisdom, knowledge, and perfection. I do not serve a cruel God. And I would hope that Mr. White does not either.

Pg 40 - Psalm 33:10-11 is provided as a refutation to free will for men. White explains that this passage states that God intervenes and overrides a free will if there is such a thing. I would submit, though I could be terribly mistaken, that the whole free-will really only applies to salvation. We have the choice to either choose or reject God. He can do whatever He wants with us, and He will. He steps in my life all of the time and takes things away, intervening for my own good and His glory. And He does the same in an unbeliever's life (minus the 'for their own good' part). But our free will, I believe, applies to salvation, and to choosing whether or not to take the free gift of grace God so willingly offers to anybody and everybody.

Pg 41 - "God could, if He chose, restrain all evil at this very moment."

Very correct, Mr. White. He very well could restrain it all. It's God's will that there be no evil in the hearts of men. That is His desire. It would please Him to see no sin. Yet it still occurs, and He does not restrain all of the evil - even though He is perfectly capable. Could this possibly be because the fact that God provides free-will for men, He does not? What other explanation would it be? If everything that pleases God happens on this earth, why is it there is so much evil and sin? It goes to imply that God actually places it in the hearts of men to sin purposefully, and then condemns them, pouring out His wrath upon them in an eternal place called hell. That does not sound anything like the God of the Bible - the one full of love, grace, and compassion. The one that is love, not just has love.

Pg 41 - White then goes to explain that there is a "common grace" for all men that keeps them from placing all of the evil in their hearts into action, because if that were the case, the entire world would basically self destruct in a "fireball of sinful violence". God restrains all of the evil that could very possibly overtake this world. He's absolutely right. Does that then, mean that God overrides our free-will? Nope. It means that God allows the prevention of many things so that we can still preach the word, His Gospel. This is honestly where I find middle ground for Calvinists, Arminians, and whatever else is in between. This is mysterious. Here's how i look at it; God created evil. Yep, He sure did. How can a perfect, Holy God create such an opposite thing from His Character? Because He is God, He is all powerful, and can create whatever He wants. It doesn't mean He has to engage in it. Why did God create evil? To show men that they have a choice. God created evil for the specific purpose of giving man free-will. Giving man a choice to follow or reject Him. In the Garden, God placed a tree in the midst of Adam and Eve, illustrating a free-will to either choose Him or reject Him. The choice was theirs. He knew what they would do. And He understood and even designed that stemming from their sin, He would come to this world and die. But here's the difference between what I would tell you, and what a Calvinist will imply; A Calvinist would basically imply that there is evil because God created it with the very purpose of men obtaining it and rejecting Him - and so that God could come die to reveal the depths of His love for us. This goes against every characteristic of God. God does not will that men perish, and it does not please God that men reject Him. Therefore, He could not have possibly created evil for the exact purpose of it being used against Him. He created evil to show that there is a choice, because true love and devotion stems from choice - not obligation. He understood and knew exactly what would stem from Him giving us a choice. And He also allowed it to happen in such a way so that there would be suffering and death, so that His death on the cross would be the ultimate expression of His love towards us, and He would receive glory. But let me submit this; In the Garden, without sin, we would probably understand and comprehend the love of God more-so than we can now. Because nothing was distorted, nothing was misrepresented. We would experience, know, and grasp God's love for us more than we ever could now - because there was nothing hindering that love. A relationship with Him would have been absolutely perfect, without hindrances, distractions, or errors. Therefore, God did not need to sacrifice His Son in order for us to understand love. Had we never of sinned, we would have experienced God's love so much deeper. Yet, God knew it was His will and pleasure to give us the choice to follow Him, therefore receiving greater glory in our choice to obey Him, and understood that it would result in the distortion of love and a need for such an extreme sacrifice to display love in the best way we could comprehend as fallen creatures. God did not design evil so that we would sin against Him, and understand the depths of His love from the cross. God designed evil so that we would see an option, and choose love that He may be glorified most.

*Note, please understand that I believe the cross is the greatest love that could be displayed. I am not, in any way, belittling the cross or pushing it down to anything less than what it is. I love the cross, I cling to the cross, the cross changed my identity in Christ and I boast in nothing but it. My point was only that the cross was the only way we could see the depths of Christ love in a fallen world, whereas in a perfect world, pre-sin, the simplicity of being in God's presence in the garden, without fault or sin, would give us greater understandings of that love than we could ever experience now, here on earth. So God did not need sin to show the depths of His love to His creation. The Garden, pre-sin, would have been quite enough.

Pg 43 - I love what White brings up here, because honestly, it sets him up for great refutation. Not that this is my purpose or intent whatsoever. But White talks about something called "compatibilism", which is basically the idea that God does not author sin, and it not responsible for it, but rather man sins in his heart and God uses it for good. He uses Genesis 50:20 (one of my favorite verses in the Scriptures), as an example of this - "As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this resent result, to preserve many people alive". White discusses that this implies that God allows the evil intention of man for His ultimate purpose. And He's absolutely right. God, giving man free will to rebel against Him, glorifies Himself in that when men sin and cause evil upon this earth, God reveals His power by using it for good. This is where He is most glorified in so many cases. Because it shows the power of God, and how much bigger He is than the sin of man. God overrules sin - not free-will. God does not create sin, but rather allows it to happen so that He can be glorified. It's man's choice to sin. To say man does not have free-will is unbiblical, because men choose sin. Yet God, being bigger than the men that cause evil, shows His own glory in conquering that sin and using it ultimately for His glory. Sin against Him is not pleasing. What is pleasing is the fact that He can still be glorified when He causes good to come out of something so wicked.

Chapter 1 - Response, by Dave Hunt

Pgs 47-48 - Dave starts off with explaining that Calvinists really look at only one attribute of God; and that is His sovereignty. All the while missing His love, the very thing that God describes Himself as. Love is not an attribute of God, it is God. Therefore, we can never ignore it or cause it to be lower than any of his attributes (ie; sovereignty). Dave states a quote by White - "true subjection to God [is] if, in fact, we love God as He has revealed Himself to be, the divine ruler over all things". Hunt makes a very good point when he provides scripture that actually states something a little bit different. 1 John 4:19 states that "We love Him, because He first loved us." We don't love God because He's revealed Himself to be sovereign. We love God because He loved us first. Love. Not sovereignty. Now, don't get me wrong, God is sovereign. But we must never state that in ignorance of who God is - which is love. And it cannot ever contradict that very nature, essence of Father.

Pg 48 - Hunt states that God commands all men to love God (Matthew 22:37-40). Therefore, we must conclude that because we can only love God because He first loved us, God must love all men. I thought this was a really cool way to look at it.

Pg 48 - Hunt brings up a fact that I never knew. The word sovereignty is not found in the Bible - not once. Hunt then concludes that because of this, it is not one of God's attributes. I cannot say that I agree with that, because I believe it is so evident that God is sovereign through how we see Him in so many Scriptures. The word trinity is not in the Bible, but it is the most accurate description we have of Father, Son, and Spirit being one. Therefore, I do not agree with Hunt on this statement. However, I really like what Hunt said directly following;
"...God created and is the supreme ruler of His universe. And the fact that He effects His will in spite of man's proud ambitions and rebellion is a precious truth often declared. Nowhere in Scripture, however, do we find Calvinism's extreme sovereignty, which allows man no freedom of choice. That man is able to rebel and disobey God's commands in spite of God's supremacy is taught repeatedly in Scripture. God's sovereignty is fully exercised despite man's free will, but never in denial of it."

Pg 49 - This grips my heart. Hunt talks about God pleading with men
to repent. We see all over Scripture God, commanding and even pleading men to repent. All the way from the Old Testament;

Ezekiel 14:6 Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord GOD: "Repent, turn away from your idols, and turn your faces away from all your abominations. "

Ezekiel 18:30 Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways," says the Lord GOD. "Repent, and turn from all your transgressions, so that iniquity will not be your ruin. "

...To the New Testament (Jesus Himself, and God through men)

Matthew 3:2 "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!"
Matthew 4:17 From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."

Acts 17:30 Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent...

And those are just a few out of many more. And the point that Hunt makes is that it would be absolute mockery for God to command all men to repent while withholding from them the grace to do so.

Pg 49 - "Man's will is no threat to God's sovereignty. Instead, it brings greater glory to God, who wins the love and praise of those who are free to choose otherwise."

"God's sovereignty is more glorious ruling over men with free will than over puppets with no choice."

Pg 50 - I think I just had a heart attack. Hunt made probably the strongest point I've read so far, and it excites me so. I want to remind all of you, however, that I in no way intend to 'refute' Calvinism. Yet, there are points I disagree with and would like to come in agreeance with both Hunt and the Bible and reveal truth. It's my job as a Christian to speak truth, and it's even better that I get excitement out of it. I'm not excited because I could potentially be proving somebody wrong. I get excited because what I'm learning is affirming what I felt the spirit was already teaching me, which means I am not being falsely led or deceived. Okay, back to what Hunt said. I want to paraphrase, but I don't think I could do a better job of stating it;

"If God, as Calvinism teaches, foreordained every thought, word, and deed of mankind, He is the instigator and perpetrator of evil, His commands and judgement are a pretense, and man is blameless. If God causes all, how can He be righteous and man guilty of the wickedness God cause him to do? In fact, God doesn't even tempt anyone to sin (James 1:13-14)"


(This was all in response to White using Scripture such as Psalm 115:3 and Proverbs 21:1 to show that whatever God pleases, happens)

Pg 51 - "Can you explain how God can foreordain, decree, and cause sin without being its author? Calvinists cannot escape the logical consequences of their teaching by simply denying it to be so."

Pg 53 - "The only reason He allows sin is to let man exercise freedom of choice, without which we could not love God or one another."

Defense, by James White

Pg 56 - White says "Every single person thusly punished chose to sin freely, without external compulsion; they chose their rebellion and loved their sin..."

Now what I'm trying to figure out is how White can say "they chose their rebellion" and at the exact same time state that man has no choice. Which is it? You cannot have both. Though I have yet to see White do this, many Calvinists will use Romans 9:21-22 to make a point;

Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor? What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much long suffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction...

They say that this is their proof that God created some men to be saved, and some men to be damned. Yet White is stating that men choose their sin. So did or did not God create men to be damned? And here's another thing; to have a choice, there must be more than one option. If I say to you, you can either choose vanilla ice cream or vanilla ice cream, there really is no choice at all. You're under obligation to have vanilla ice cream. Therefore if men choose their sin, they must also have the option to choose their God. Otherwise, no choice is involved at all, only obligation to the sin God created for them to commit.


Joelseph said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joelseph said...

Check out my blog now!


Love you, and enjoyed all of your thoughts.

Joelseph said...

Hey, in case you don't know, me and Joe are bringin' the heat over at The Ironclad Network!


Miss you.