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Sunday, March 13, 2005

A Response to 'Kevin' and 'puritan'

At the risk of offending either 'Kevin' or 'puritan', I am going to respond to their posts out here on the main blog, primarily because I think these are essential matters with very important consequences and should be made readily available to readers. My purpose in doing this is not to engage in any sort of debate here on these points but, rather, to simply express my thoughts on them and allow the readers to consider the various points on their own. I think they both made some good points, and I have a couple of thoughts of my own I want to add to them. Since their comments were already a matter of public record, published on the Internet for anyone to see, I don't imagine there will be too much concern.

Kevin is right to point out the inherent contradiction possessed by the Arminian perspective, because even a "nominally moral act" is nevertheless a moral act, which the Arminian would have to concur with if he or she wants to retain a biblical understanding of 'moral'. Ergo, if God chooses his elect according to his prescience of who will accept Christ and believe (and to believe in his Son is a commandment of God), then man's self-determined choice becomes the sine qua non of salvation, not God's mercy (i.e. they are not saved, their salvation is not actualized, until they have 'decided' for it on their own), and grace is no longer grace because the 'favour' was consequently 'merited'. This does, and should, leave a bad taste in the Arminian's mouth, and violates a startling number of passages from scriptures. I spent a great many years as an Arminian myself and I can personally testify to the bad taste it left in my own mouth. Because of its manifest theological and scriptural problems, I dropped my Arminian perspective and began a search for a more biblically sound view. Although I didn't know yet what view is more biblically sound, I did know which view was not; I felt it was both my theological and philosophical responsibility to let go of a view I knew was demonstrably wrong, even if that meant I had to start over.

Kevin said that, back when he held an Arminian view, his interpretation might have been "God chose me because of what happened after He started giving me grace." He is right to call this "muddle-headed" thinking because it does not escape the problem: Why did God choose you for his gift of grace? There are additional questions, such as what is the nature of "grace" in this interpretation, what means does God use to give it, and can sinful man prevent God from accomplishing what he sets out to do—all the while keeping in mind that the Bible offers answers to these questions and, therefore, our answers must reflect the testimony of scriptures. Furthermore, such an interpretation would be tantamount to an Arminian offering a Reformed response—namely, that regeneration precedes faith—which is specifically problematic and generally ironic.

Kevin expressed how, in his view, most Christians "are just happy holding logically impossible premises in their heads" and, if I understood him correctly, he felt that this is "where a lot of frustration originates in theology." I disagree with that latter statement, personally. I think a lot of frustration in theology originates from the cognitive dissonance that results from taking what we uncritically learned by rote, applying it eisegetically to scriptures, and confronting a conflict between scriptures and what we were taught. Most Christians, in my experience, are not terribly Berean about the things they are taught, if at all. I know I wasn't, for many years, and this was to my shame. We must receive the message with great eagerness, examining the scriptures daily to see whether these things are so (Acts 17:11-12).

Puritan felt that most Evangelicals would be in agreement with me, when it comes to "one-on-one witnessing" or "telling others about Christ and his atonement." But I don't think I am able to agree here, simply because, when it comes to spreading the gospel, we rarely, if ever, get into the finer points of theology like election. The message is about Christ and him crucified, whereas growing in the knowledge of Christ comes later in one's Christian walk, which is after conversion, which is after our hearing the gospel. When we spread the good news about Christ Jesus, "telling others about Christ and his atonement," we don't ever seem to get into things like the nature of God, predestination, election, the ordo salutis, etc., and I feel it is good not to—to employ a biblical analogy, the meat comes after the milk. So why do we bother with such finer points of theology at all? Because there comes a point in our learning and growing in the knowledge of Christ where we ought to leave the elementary teaching about Christ, pressing on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, etc.; and this we will do, if God permits (Heb. 6:1-3).

Puritan also reminds me, and perhaps our readers too, about the grace and gentleness extolled in 2 Tim. 2:24-26 and that perhaps most Arminians "do believe [that] salvation is by grace through faith," but that they are just "weak when it comes to understanding why that is true in relationship to all eternality and providence." For this I would thank Puritan; those are words to live by, and I certainly strive to.

Neither 'Kevin' nor 'puritan' should feel they need to respond to this (although they are welcomed to); the point of this was not to incite a debate. Again, I simply felt these are important issues and points, which I wanted to make more readily available to our readership and encourage them to consider these issues themselves.

Think about it. Question everything.