But For His Grace...

The doctrine of Calvinism has been rearing its gloomy head around my own, so here's an attempt to meet its gaze and address it. I have lists, lists, lists everywhere and not a thought to think! I cannot compete with the minds of St. Augustine, John Calvin, or Charles Spurgeon...I won't write to explain it all away or even to say I have all the answers, I do not. Plenty has been said and by better souls than I. I have doubts, uncertainties, but this one thing I do know...I do not believe and I do not like Calvinism. It makes for a humanistic and limited image of God. And to think incorrectly of God is the sin of idolatry. In this doctrine, His supremacy is dimensional. Yet,nothing can make God less than what He is, "God can never become anything less than Himself." All will glorify God because that is the order of creation to God.

The doctrine of Calvinism believes there is no human will and only God's sovereign will. He chooses who will go to heaven and who will go to hell, before we are even born. In this doctrine it is presumed that by words in scripture like, "elect, chosen, elite, predestined, foreknown" it means God alone has a will and he has chosen some to be sinners and some saints, in order to be glorified. To be a Calvinist I would have to believe that there is no human will, but only Gods will. In drawing those He chooses, none can resist his drawing, and thus the "elite" receive his salvation and they will make heaven their home and will never be lost or escape from His hands.

The ultimate point of salvation and redemption is to glorify God. That is the ultimate issue of the Christian life. This is where Calvinists explain that God uses sinners who are predestined for hell to glorify himself and saints whom he predestines for heaven to also glorify himself. Who are we to protest how God glorifies Himself? Calvies say. But isn't God glorified whether we acknowledge Him or not? He cannot be anything less than what He is. His glory is not based on humanity. It is who He is. We must, by faith, obey and believe it.

We know that God alone is sovereign, apart from Him we are nothing and He alone offers salvation, redemption, reconciliation and it is only by His grace that I can call him Lord. We also know God can do whatever He wants, He can certainly create people for hell if He wanted and he can use anything to glorify Himself, because He alone is God and He alone is to be glorified. We know the scripture in Romans about God's sovereign choice. In chapter 9 He uses the example of Pharaoh being created for the very purpose that God might display His power in him and the earth...and therefore God has mercy on those He has mercy and hardens those He hardens. This is an attribute God reveals to us, about himself. He is able to harden a human heart and close people's eyes and ears from receiving the Gospel. Yet this is not all we know of God. He also reveals other attributes. He reveals these attributes and uses the same Pharaoh...only He shows us when He gave Pharaoh time and time again a chance to repent and receive His grace. In this we see that Pharaoh refuses and hardens his own heart and then we see at the very end a different hardening. It writes in Exodus from Chapters 5-10 that Pharaoh hardened his own heart but in verse 27 of Chapter 10, it is God who hardens Pharaoh's heart. This is frightening. We are given the opportunity to receive grace and salvation but if we refuse, God will make us unable to accept. Free will is a gift from God and it is so holy, so sacred and so fearful, we must never refuse Him.

So with this Free Will, God realizes that rejection will result, because He knows humanity; we are disobedient and proud. We disobey...yet we can't disobey a perfect God without consequence. This is a law...

The consequence for refusal is judgment and hell. We have knowledge of judgment because God tells us about it. Hell is eternal existence where God is not. If we want earth and desire to live apart from God, Hell is our destination. And as we all are cursed with a sin nature and under the spell of sin - Hell is our deserved home.
We also know from Ecc. 3:11 that "...God sets Eternity in the hearts of all men." and again in Titus 2:11, "For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men." It says in Lamentations 3:22, that God's compassion are new every morning. God can do whatever He wants, but He shows us Himself to be a God of mercy who triumphs over judgment.

Yes we deserve hell, and many will go there; but not because we were without the opportunity to receive Jesus Christ's grace. Jesus becomes our sin and we must respond. His conviction brings us to a decision. Always. Either serve Him in heaven or in Hell. As He never stops being God by what we choose, we will all bow our knee, for He is God of all. Some will do it now on earth...some will be forced to do it later, in hell. But as His creation, we are able to respond to His call before being judged to hell.

God is not so dimensional that he cannot both draw and harden the same heart. He is three in one; he can certainly have everything predestined and still give us free will.  He will never violate our will, yet He can certainly make any unholy man holy and still provide us the dignity of choosing the holiness.  He can violate our will without violating it.   Free will comes from Him, anyway.  Two very different truths that we know and believe because His word shows us...Demas, Judas, Pharaoh, Saul, Samson, Jerusalem...all had enough will, reason and opportunity to receive Grace and obey it. And instead they chose to disobey...

So while we know God hardens hearts, we also know he draws hearts. We also know he died for hearts. And we also know God changes his mind: Pharaoh, King Hezekiah praying for life; Moses pleading with God to spare the Israelites; The Rainbow as a promise that God will not flood the earth again; Regretting creating mankind...God has revealed to us a certain attribute of Himself: An Openness to Change His mind. This is powerful! What moves him to change? Our humble, contrite prayers...this is astounding! Blows me away...

Lastly, I have myself to observe. I know my own heart. And it is witness to my depravity and utmost need for Christ and it all hinges upon my will to receive Him. My life bears witness to the very opposite of Calvinism. If I cannot choose...why then am I given a choice? I am testimony that Jesus Christ died for me and offers me His grace.
He does not let us go once we have received salvation,  but that does not mean we cannot choose to leave.  He is unchangeable, he is the same yesterday, today and forever, but we are fickle, we are changeable and we can choose to live with carnality, our sin, rather than Gods commands and goodness.
He is married to the backslider; there are backsliders. He will never leave us or forsake us...He can never stop being our Father. Yet, we can leave him just like the Prodigal son left his Father. It is a heavy, and frightening thought to consider that Hell will be filled with people who have deposits made by Christ in their hearts; but by their will have chosen to disobey and live apart from Christ. We know this because we are capable of it and we are privy to the examples of people all around us, who came before us, walk beside us and will come after us.

What is the blood of Christ worth, to a Calvinist, I wonder? And a soul?

There is so, so much more to consider...why creation, covenant, Eden? Why Adam and Eve? Concerning the Elect, Adam and Eve are the ultimate! Created in perfection, living in perfection, in daily commune with irresistible grace and drawing..so why sin? And if there is no free will, why the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and why the command to abstain from it?
Or if Grace has nothing to do with a Human decision...if God is solely in charge of salvation and it has nothing to do with us but all up to God...why then are there imperfect Christians? Would not God "will" us to be perfect? If it's in Gods hands alone, why would He lower His standard of perfection and allow imperfect Christians to grace his presence? Would he not create holy, perfect, stainless men and women to reflect his glory best? Perhaps because Salvation does have something to do with our free will and our acceptance; it does have something to do with us, since it was for us He died. Maybe it is the revelation of a perfect God unto a sinful man and our response that is most glorifying.
God is all sovereign and will never leave; his glory will be revealed no matter what; he loses none of sovereignty but remains in full control even when giving us control.  He can never be less than who He is; He can never not have His way fully, by giving us Free will.  Our God is not as small as Calvies, fear.

There is so, so much more to think on...I wish I could absolve a thousand year doctrine of theology by this little blog. I write to bring a balance and perspective to my own mind and its extremities. And hopefully, gentle reader, I have helped you decide what you will choose to believe.

Comments

  1. That is VERY powerful. Some of the best writing I have read in a very long time. Keep it going!
    -Brent

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