24.2.09

Soon to look at Calvinism...!

Calvinism is coming up (at St John's, the teaching of) and I really want to try to grasp some of his ideas, because they seem to cause a lot of heat. I first started to consider Calvin when I began to explore Conservative Evangelicalism. Adrian Warnock has been exploring some of the TULIP doctrine ideas over at his site. My Methodist friend, Dave,at 42, Warnock by name too, but of different theological convictions, is right to concern himself over the narcissism that can sometimes, unintentionally seem to attach itself to the 'I'm saved, you aren't ' mentality. Barth was accused of Universalism, which he denied but surely we have to think of a cosmic salvation, reconciling everything and everyone, the whole of creation to God. What do you think?

10 comments:

DaveW said...

Easy.

"cosmic salvation" = good

"narcissism" = bad

David Rudel said...

I think Calvinism is built on human philosophy and a desire for security.

The greatest irony is that Paul's writing is generally what is used to support Calvinism, yet Paul makes remarks that suggest he does not have the type of assurance of his own eternal security that a Calvinist would assume he had.

1st Corinthians 9:27 and Acts 24:15-16 are not the words of a man who holds the views of election that Calvin and the Reformed church do.

Several other of his passages, such as Galatians 4:9-11, similarly make no sense from a Calvinist perspective.

DespizdNRejectd said...

Actually, the issue with Calvinism is not so much "eternal security" since many non-Calvinists accept that. The issue is with whether or not people have the freedom to choose salvation or not. Calvinism asserts that we have no such choice, and therefore God picks who will be "elected" and who won't. They view any choice on our part as a "work".

Personally, I see a sharp contrast between faith and works, and believe that the God who reached out to us and "loved the world" gives us the choice to accept or reject him, and that this choice is not a "work".

Rachel said...

Yes, Paula, interesting. It seems to be about how much irresistible grace conflicts or not with free will. I'm looking forward to exploring this one in more detail.

Hope for a very cosmic salvation is there, isn't it, David. Acts 24:15-16 I have the same hope in God as these men, that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked.

How much a select elect called and unable to do anything about it actually impacts the gospel exhortation to proclaim the message to others and impacts mission in our churchs, is something else I'm interested in unpacking. When shaking the dust from your sandals and moving to the next door is influenced by the feeling that - 'oh, well, not elected, better move on' and how this just doesn't feel right.

Thanks for your contributions, Paula and David.

X

David Rudel said...

I still say the most clear indication that Calvinism is untenable is the eternal security aspect, and I would give two points in that direction.

1) While non-Calvinists can and often do hold to OSAS [once-saved always-saved], it is often a "add-on" to their theology that, if it were not true, would not cause everything else to come tumbling down. While they may both agree with the doctrine, one holds it as a sine qua non while the other simply affirms it.

2) Somewhat related to the first... Calvinists and non-Calvinists affirm eternal security for different reasons. For the Calvinist, eternal security comes from Christ's death being for all sins of the elect. Thus, to lose one's salvation would require Christ to "un-die." It has nothing really to do with faith. For example, the Westminster catechism claims that some people who never come to faith can still be saved if they happen to be part of God's elect. Obviously, a schema that claims we are saved by Jesus' blood regardless of our belief is rather different from a schema that simply holds that Christ preserves the faith of those who believe in Him.

In that second option, the forgiveness is not "front-loaded." The forgiveness is ultimately still based on our faith, and it happens to be the case that those who believe will be preserved in their belief. In the Calvinist option, our forgiveness is not even based on our faith and has already incontrovertibly occurred.

Rachel said...

and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

Here, in Colossians 1, Verse 20, we have 'all things' reconciled to God through Jesus' blood, we do not have selected individuals but the whole of creation reconciled to God - this is certainly cosmic. Barth has God's rejection of Jesus and resurrection of Jesus be the whole of humanity's rejection and then resurrection - perhaps this is similar to Calvinism, in that to have any unsaved makes somehow the death of Jesus insufficient, which it can't be.

What do we do with Romans 8:29 and 30?

DespizdNRejectd said...

Part of the problem, I think, is that we presume reconciliation can happen unilaterally, but reconciliation requires two parties. When scripture speaks of God reconciling something or someone to himself, it cannot mean he forced a truce without the consent or willingness of the other parties. It must mean that reconciliation was made possible, paid for by the blood of Jesus, and offered freely to whoever wishes to accept it.

It is much like the concept of gift giving we are all familiar with: one cannot force a gift, but it must be offered by one and accepted willingly by another. And since salvation is clearly shown to be a gift, then it follows that no one can be forced to take it. Now the Calvinist would respond, "But God first makes the elect *willing*". Yet I would counter that such a manufactured "willingness" is fake and not worthy of our God.

They argue the same way about salvation by faith: that God first bestows "regeneration" and then "faith" on an otherwise unwilling person, who then responds according to this "faith", making it "willing". Also, the non-elect are said to "freely" choose to reject salvation, even though God did not grant them to be elect, because they "choose" to do that which is consistent with their fallen nature. This they call "free will", but I call it doublespeak of Orwellian proportions.

I like to illustrate salvation as when a man buys a ring for a woman he wants to marry. He pays for the ring and offers it to her, but she is free to either accept it or reject it; he paid for it regardless of what she may do. And though it cost her nothing, it cost him a lot, and to call this "cheap" would be insulting. And if she accepts it, she has not earned it or worked for it; she simply received it.

In the same way, God paid the highest price for our redemption and adoption, and offers us all this gift. We can either accept it or reject it. If we do accept it, we have not done a "work", yet it isn't "cheap grace" by a long shot. God would not force this on anyone even though he certainly has the power, because true love "does not demand its own way". If we'd never accept a forced "love" or rigged "free will", then certainly neither would God.

So then, reconciliation has been bought by God and offered to the whole world, but it's up to us to choose whether to accept it. This is only scratching the surface, but there's much more at my blog.

David Rudel said...

[Sorry, Rachel, this got a little long]

I think a lot of the mystery here can be absolved if we first put aside some basic assumptions:

1) That reconciliation is the same thing [or has as its purpose] a favorable result for the individual on the Day of Judgment. Paul was certainly reconciled through Christs blood, yet even he felt the need to "maintain always a blameless conscience before God and men" [Acts 24:16] precisely because there would be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous. Note that this double resurrection is by no means an indication of a positive outcome for all [c.f. John 5:29]

ii) When Paul speaks of mass reconciliation, it is not about "groups of individuals" but rather of "groups as collective wholes."

For example, consider the statement "I hate Americans." Now, someone can say that without any particular animosity toward a particular American...it can simply refer to the collective whole --- the effects of Americans as a group.

Contrast that with "I hate all Americans" which refers to hating each individual within the group.

We have to keep in mind Paul's purpose, especially in Colossians and Ephesians...which leads me to my third point:

3) The reconciliation is not always a reconciliation between God and another party due to or allowed by the forgiveness of sins. The grammar could just as easily [in some cases more easily] suggest the forgiveness of sins was a choice made as a necessary conclusion of the reconciliation. For example, if your spouse hurts you and you want to be reconciled to them... it is certainly not always the case that you first forgive him and that allows you to reconcile...it can just as easily be that you have the reconciliation as the goal and realize that the consequence is that you must "pass over the sins previously committed" and the "violations made under the first covenant" [Romans 3:26 and Hebrews 9:15].

The Colossians verse actually illustrates this well. He speaks of angels in heaven being reconciled through Jesus blood...certainly their reconciliation cannot be through forgiveness of sins...similarly for creatures [whom we generally consider as not sinning].

The reconciliation here is based on Unity of Creation under a single Lord. The most important unity for Paul comes from removing the Wall of Partition that separated Jew from Gentile.

Look closely at Ephesians 2:15, the enmity there is not between God and man. How could The Law of commandments [speaking of the written law, the Law of Moses] possibly cause enmity between gentiles and God?? The enmity there, the wall of partition was due to the written ordinances [see again in Colossians 2:14]

Ephesians 2:11-22 gives a rather clear rundown of the whole enterprise. Before Christ, the Law [Mosaic Law] separated gentiles [2:11] from God, making them separated from Christ, excluded fromt he commonwealth of Israel [2:12], but Christ's blood abolished that distance [between gentile and God] by making the two one. And the reason for this reconciliation is so all have access to the Spirit [2:18]. This ties back in with Christ's blood, which consecrated the temple of the New Covenant upon which the souls of believers are living stones, etc.

It's very important to see Paul is referencing the ordinances that separated Jew from Gentile, both in Ephesians and Colossians. [Col. 2:16 describes these ordinances mentioned in 2:14.] These barriers had to be removed in Christ so God could reconcile all creation together [horizontally] under Christ...so God could be God of Jew and God of Gentile {Romans 3:29) just as He had to die and live again to be Lord over both the living and the dead. [Romans 14:9]

So nothing in the whole reconciliation process need be tied directly to the Judgment. After all, Jesus came as mediator of the New Covenant...and this unification of all creation under Himself and sending of the spirit so that all know God {Jeremiah 31:31-34) speaks to that role.

It's rather powerful that in one of the major passages referring to this reconciliation [2nd Corinthians 5] we see highlighted one of the most serious warnings with regard to everyone's accountability at the Judgment [2nd Corinthians 5:10]

Rachel said...

So to put it very simply, which is always my goal really and I think I need to understand it this way for myself and to have it make sense to people who will be coming to faith, in the contexts which I feel that I am called to:

We should think of predestination not in terms of God, arbitrarily picking some to be saved and some to be damned. We should think of God's aim being the reconciliation of the whole world to himself through the blood of his son. This is purchased with Christ's blood and then given as a free gift to all. God knows because he is outside time, who will and who will not accept that gift. Of course, we do not know this about other people. We have to proclaim the message of the gospel, working with the Spirit, being Jesus' hands and feet, if you like, so that people might come to understand this amazing thing that has been done for them. It is never too late to accept the gift, as the thief on the cross demonstrates and this is what makes proclaiming the message so hopeful and exciting.

I once heard someone articulate the idea that even after death, people can make the decision to accept Jesus and repent of their sins. I must look to scripture to see if this is there, before I dwell on it. What do you think of this one?

Also is the way that I have explained salvation and faith accurate to scripture, do you think, and easy to understand for those coming to faith. I'm involved in work with teenagers, at the moment.

Thank you for all your thoughts. My teachable spirit is learning and growing.

X

DespizdNRejectd said...

David, good points. Calvinism likes to redefine terms, and when they encounter verses like John 3:16 they say it means "all kinds of people in the world" instead of just "the world". The catch phrase is "all people without distinction, not all people without exception". However, I don't see the Greek supporting their redefinition.

But with reconciliation, I can't justify accepting a meaning other than that of making peace between two parties. The whole world was indeed reconciled for God's part, but since it takes two to reconcile, the "transaction" is not complete until and unless the other party accepts the offer. So there first of all had to be hostility, then payment, then an offer, and lastly and acceptance (sin, sacrifice, gospel message, and faith). So the "favorable result" is not always positive because, due to individual free will, not everyone accepts the offer. Yet this does not negate the fact that God made reconciliation. Also note the passage in 1 Cor. 5: all have been reconciled, yet we are to urge everyone to be reconciled.

So I don't see angels as being in the group of the reconciled since there was never hostility or sin; but unlike humans, sinful angels were never offered reconciliation because Jesus did not die for them. He became like us, not like them, and therefore did not represent them in his sacrifice.

Yes, there was also hostility removed between Jews and Gentiles, but again, Jesus made his sacrifice for people, not angels. And this really is a subset of the overall reconciliation. Although not tied directly to judgment, it does not follow logically that this means reconciliation must have included everything regardless of whether there was hostility.

Rachael, I agree with your definition of predestination. As for salvation after death, scripture says very little; the only references I can think of are Heb. 9:27 and 1 Peter 3:19. Yet in the second ref., only those who died in the Flood are mentioned, and it isn't at all clear what the purpose or content of that message was. So the burden of proof for a chance at salvation after death is on those who claim it to be true, and they need more than an argument from silence.

For the gospel message, I believe that we should emphasize this issue of reconciliation. We begin with proofs of Jesus' resurrection because that is what Paul emphasized, particularly with the Greeks who knew nothing of the one true God. But since even the demons believe Jesus paid for our sins and rose again, we should make it clear that one must not only accept this historical fact about Jesus, but also accept the free gift of reconciliation he offers. It is an appeal to reconcile, not just to accept a fact.

Ironically, most Calvinists would agree to this. In other words, Calvinism is a side issue that has no bearing on whether one preaches the gospel to everyone (the Calvinist rationale is that they don't know who is elect so they preach to all). Likewise with eternal security; both side of that debate strive to keep the relationship intact, whether because they fear lost salvation or only lost rewards. The end result is the same, and nobody condones a "license to sin".

But while Calvinism never really grants assurance (saying "we never know if we're elect until we reach heaven, but the truly elect are sure to reach it"), the eternal security issue does affect how we present the gospel, usually due to the idea that Jesus only paid for sins up to the point of initial salvation. Yet scripture is silent about that assertion.

Good to remain teachable. It is the beginning of a fall when we feel so confident in our own understanding that we refuse to hear disagreement. As I like to say, "Those who know all the answers haven't heard all the questions".

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