Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Are Calvinists and Arminians both wrong?

I would suggest Calvinists and Arminians make the same mistake and are both equally wrong in a vital area.

The tension between the total sovereignty of God and mans full responsibility and accountability is a debate that has gone on since the beginning of the church and still continues. I would propose that in large part it is simply because the scripture teaches both. God is totally sovereign in every sense of the word and man is fully accountable in every sense of the word. We should not water down one to accommodate the other. Scripture certainly appears not to.

And herein lies the rub. We finite mortals do not like tension, paradox or seeming contradictions. It is not comfortable. Instead of believing what God says, and trusting what we cannot fully grasp, we would rather “figure it out.” So both sides try to make everything fit into nice, neat, logical boxes to the point they dismiss the other side of the discussion. As a result, both sides fall into the same error. They both tend to depend on logic more then scripture (plenty of verses can be quoted from both sides to support their “conclusions”). However if we stop to consider it, can the finite fully grasp the infinite? (see Rom 11:33-34... also below)

The problem with taking a hard line on the sovereignty of God *logically is it will cause us to totally miss the significance of our God given freedom to not choose God and our accountability and responsibility to make choices i.e. we will downplay that ability by over stressing God's sovereignty and miss the valuable and highly significant truth that lies in accountability.

*as opposed to simply trusting it's true and not trying to force it to make sense where it's doesn't work logically with our accountability.

On the other hand if we stress our ability, responsibility and our totally accountability for our choices, to the point we can't logically reconcile it with God's sovereignty, we will miss out on the comfort and joy we were meant to derive from the greatness of God's power, wisdom, control and his choosing love that caused him to pick us as his child.

We can not and must not dismiss one side of these seemingly opposing and contradictory realities to the point of minimizing the other, simply because we have challenges making them work logically. Neither can we try to force one side over the other out of a need to be in control of (i.e. understand) our world (and using logic to give us a false sense of control. Control is often the opposite of faith or trust in God). In doing so we will miss out on vital and key truth that each side reveals to us about God and about ourselves. 

I propose God is God and answers to no man i.e. what we cannot fully put together logically we must trust. Moreover, I believe this is exactly the point and importance of this seeming contradiction or any other paradox in scripture (it is only an apparent contradiction to our finite understanding). 

God says without faith it’s impossible to please Him. God is after our trust in Him. How does He often do that? By asking us to trust what we do not understand. It happens all the time. He often asks, “do you trust me, when it looks like I am not trustworthy, when things happen that make no sense, do you still believe I am good, I love you and am working for good, your good.”

The ability to reason is a gift of God but like all good gifts, it is part of this created order, limited and can take us only so far. We should not discard reason, but we must recognize reason is limited simply because we are limited i.e. finite. All gifts, including the ability to reason can be used to either honor God or to control our world and try to put Him in a box (a very logical one at that). Where logic comes up short, faith must begin.

God is good, He is wise, He’s running the show and working all things for His glory because He says He is, and we are fully responsible to believe Him or not, logic aside. Do we trust God and believe His word and trust there is no real contradiction (as opposed to an apparent one) or do we fall into the arrogant error that is a leftover of the “age of reason” setting our ability to understand all things over the necessity to trust God. To depend exclusively on logic can become a form of control and the opposite of faith.

Gen_50:15  When Joseph's brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, "It may be that Joseph will hate us and pay us back for all the EVIL that we did to him."
Gen_50:17  'Say to Joseph, "Please forgive the transgression of your brothers and their sin, because they DID EVIL to you."' And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father." Joseph wept when they spoke to him.
Gen_50:20  As for you, you meant EVIL against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that  many people should be kept alive, as they are today.

Does God use evil for good? Yes. Were Joseph’s brothers fully responsible for their actions? Yes

Act_2:23  this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.

Did God plan the death of His son? Yes. (see also Acts 4:27-28 and 1Pe 1:19-20)  Did He use the hands of lawless man to carry out His plan? Yes. Will those men be held accountable for their actions? Yes.

So where does this leave us? The only legitimate response to the truth that God is all powerful, all wise and all loving is as follows:

Rom 11:33  Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! 34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?" 35 “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?" 36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

For a further discussion on the value of paradox and truths in tension click here

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Grace to you
Jim Deal