Saturday, June 23, 2007

The city cemetary's humming...

Here goes... I warn you. I'm sure this will probably take about three posts to even be close to approaching lucid. But I wanna write about salvation. "Why?" you might ask. Well, I think there's a lot of different ideas about it. I want to express mine and hear yours. Plus I think that a lot of misconceptions exist. Then too, I think Christians tend to throw around a bunch of jargon that doesn't make sense to anyone outside of church circles. So, not only do I want to express my feelings on the subject, but I want to try and clear some air around the idea.

I follow a line of thought called "free will." Meaning that I believe that Scripture teaches us God allows us to make the decision on Jesus. Either we reject the life he offers or we choose to follow the example he set. One way or the other. But we choose it. Reformed, Calvinist, or Predestinationist thought, on the other hand, teaches that God chooses for us. He decides who spends the eternity with him or eternity away from him. We have no say in the matter.

Obviously, there is much heated discussion on the subject at hand. People get worked up really quickly over what I just boiled down into a few basic sentences. One could argue that the Bible even leaves room to support both schools of thought. Perhaps. Perhaps. But whatever one believes, I don't think its worth arguing over. I just want to express why I feel what I feel...

For instance, Reformed theology really confuses me on one point: why would God choose to accept us or reject us for eternity (our salvation or lack thereof) but allow us to make every other decision in life? I mean, does that confuse anyone else? God doesn't give us a choice on the matter of following him or not, but he allows us to choose on everything else? I don't get that. If you follow this line of thought, then you simply have to say that if God makes the decision on salvation, he makes the decision on everything. If you follow Reformed thought, then God leaves nothing up to us. We're robots. Designed to love him and serve him and follow him without question. Or designed to reject him and spend eternity separated from his presence.

Its gotta be all or nothing on it. Either he does it all or he doesn't. But the problem for me comes in when someone replies: "Yes. God chooses." If that's true, if we truly have no decisions of our own in life, then the world is the way it is because that's how God wants it to be. And if that's true, then the world is all f-ed up because God wants it to be. If predestination is true, then close to thirty thousand children starve to death everyday because God wants them to. And that's my problem.

I just can't follow it. I just can't. Sure there are certain verses in Scripture that could lead one to think there's something to it. But in light of ALL of Scripture, I just can't read with scissors and say that its certainly true. (Heck, I can't say what I believe is certainly true. But...that's another post.) I'm just saying it doesn't make sense. It doesn't line up with the character of God. I don't follow an all-merciful and loving God who makes suffering and evil exist because he chooses it to. I follow a God who formed us, breathed into us, then set us free to enjoy this life he's given us. But WE make it what it is.

I put the sovereignty of God above all else. I just don't think that shoots down free will. I can't look at the current state of our world and think that God desires for it be like it is. This is not what it should be. We are a long way from the Garden, my friends. And I don't blame God. I blame us. I blame me. I believe God gives us choice. Real, actual choices. These choices determine everything. So at the end of the day, when I look back on what we've done. On who we are. On what our earth has become. I know that we failed miserably. But I also know that the all-merciful, loving God I follow calls me to do something about it, even in the face of the inevitable. (Such as when people quote Jesus saying that "the poor will always" be with us. They try to defend our own selfish spending and lifestyle. Like its not our fault and we aren't accountable. I'd say just the opposite. Its our job to do something about poverty, even if we can't ever totally eradicate it.)

That's part one for now. Just a starting point. I'm sure I'll need to clear up some things I've said, so be gracious and patient. We'll get there. As always, holler back...


Anonymous said...

The thing that makes no sense to me deals with the state of man before salvation. I don't understand how a dead man could make any decision for christ. He's dead. Christ has to be the one to initiate salvation. And secondly I hope that christ is making every decision for me at least. Any other decision apart from him and his will is disobedience. Thanks for the blog.

jacobblair said...

Mr. Ryan,

I appreciate your candor and tenacity to address one of the toughest debates in Biblical doctrine: free will vs. God’s sovereignty.

I’m sure what I will tell you is nothing new, since you are familiar with “ALL Scriptures” but I’d like to put in my two cents, which by God’s grace, I can only pray will come out in the most loving way possible for your edification.

Romans 9 is a biggie in terms of predestination, so I will condense it for time sake:

“as it is written: "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” …What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! For he says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy,
and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’ It does not, therefore, depend on man's desire or effort, but on God's mercy. One of you will say to me: "Then why does God still blame us? For who resists his will?" But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? "Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, 'Why did you make me like this? ... What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory”

Paul clearly states it is by no good works that we choose salvation, “but on God’s mercy.”

Yet even as “elect” we must ask, why did God choose compassion for us? The same reason I believe every action is controlled by God: for His glory.

John Piper uses this catechism in every book he writes: God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him. God is always working to make a name for Himself throughout the universe and by His eternal grace we are privileged enough to take part. And because God works in all things for his glory, He will purposely work in our lives to make sure that we give Him the due praise. We are not robots. For you see Mr. Ryan, God having control of our lives is the most loving thing He can do.

Check out Isaiah 48:11, “For my own sake, for my own sake, I do this. How can I let myself be defamed? I will not yield my glory to another.”

God will not yield glory for another, which includes us if we think we have the power of choice, for if we had any power over God, He would not be all sovereign. We only like to believe in free will because we do not know what God has in store for us. Proverbs 16:9 only affirms this, “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.” And yet God working in all things knows, because in the end His will for us will bring us supreme happiness. Read Lamentations 3:19-24 for great evidence of His love, even through pain!

Now to address your second point:
“If that's true, if we truly have no decisions of our own in life, then the world is the way it is because that's how God wants it to be. And if that's true, then the world is all f-ed up because God wants it to be. If predestination is true, then close to thirty thousand children starve to death everyday because God wants them to. And that's my problem.”

Again if we dive into Scripture, in which we are privileged to have access to, this can be clearly explained.

Isaiah 45:7 – “I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the LORD, do all these things.”

This floored me when I first read it. Compare this to Lamentations 3:38.

“Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that both calamities and good things come?”

The Lord who is in control of “darkness” “disaster” and “calamities” was not the God I read about in Sunday school. And yet more Scripture gives us clarification:

2 Samuel 24:1 – Again the anger of the LORD burned against Israel, and he incited David against them, saying, "Go and take a census of Israel and Judah."

1 Chronicles 21:1 - Satan rose up against Israel and incited David to take a census of Israel.

These Scriptures say the same thing but differs in who caused it. (Does the Bible contradict itself? Gasp!) Or could it be that the world is in crisis currently in the same sense of the story of Job? Yes, Satan is at work, but ultimately who has control of even Lucifer? God.

And where we might say “It’s not fair of what’s going on in the world.” What’s not fair is that God came into the world, became man and was nailed to the cross for my sin and your sin and the sins of every human being. That is why it is called grace. We don’t deserve it. It’s not fair. Yet to come full circle He did this for His name’s sake. Therefore let us not analyze Him as a subject, rather, let us herald Him as King.

And to address the anonymous comment:

“I don't understand how a dead man could make any decision for Christ.”

I assume he is referring to the dead before Christ came to die for our sins.

Acts 17:30- “In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.”

God overlooked such ignorance namely because His blood covered the sins of the past, present and future according to His elected purpose.

Yet I must say Brother Ryan what bothers me most is not the Arminian viewpoint but rather you admit “I just can’t follow it. I just can’t.” Even though you and I will spend eternity with God in the afterlife does not mean we will figure Him out, for God existed in a past eternity before we ever came into being. And that’s why so many will make their lives a spiritual potpourri; taking some Buddhism thoughts here, sprinkling a little Christianity there and call the whole mess postmodernism. Just because our minds are unable to fathom the mystery of God does not mean that He is subject to our idea of what must be true.

So I urge you Mr. Ryan to not state your theology unless it is deeply rooted in the Scripture. You are a leader. I know some very close Christian brothers who speak of you with such admiration and it pains me to read your thoughts in such a public domain. If you would like to talk it over, I’d be more than happy to meet up with you and discuss it.

From one brother to another,