Thursday, February 28, 2008

Problems with an Imbalanced Calvinistic View

After writing this, I want to clarify: as amazingly contradictory as these two aspects seem, I at the same time believe both are true and that they work together, and we all might acknowledge a human confusion could be understandable...but after writing this, I want to reiterate that I know that every person's every breath comes from God. Our ability to respond to Him by grace through faith comes from Him. Our ability to respond by rejecting Him comes because He gives that option. It's not by works of righteousness. We can't claim that it is from any good or wisdom in us, but it is all part of His plan. Still, He gives us the ability to choose Him or to stay in our sins. Does that make sense? If all the Bible is true, it does...if all that humans can clearly understand is all that makes sense, then it doesn't.
I can't say I'm extremely schooled in Calvinism, though our family has attended a very Calvinistic church for years, until recently; still, I'm feeling as though I understand its outworkings better the farther I am from it, sort of like I came to understand algebra better after I graduated high school and saw how it worked in life. Katie presently attends a college that is quite Calvinistic as well. As time goes on and we haven't been so close up to that teaching, more and more the effects of its teachings seem to clearly want balance.
Katie was talking to a schoolmate, who was discussing the Calvinist points of view with her, and Katie was telling her how she sees that both aspects in the Bible are true: God is sovereign, and man has choice. The two work together, mostly in ways that are beyond human comprehension. The girl was amazed. She wondered how Katie could believe that both were true; Katie said, "Well, because they're both in the Bible." The girl said she realized that was the case, but she actually stated that she only believed in the sovereignty of God, not the choice of man. I think there are many who in practice, as their faith works out in their thinking, tend toward this extreme, excluding the portions they don't understand that have to do with man making the choice of salvation. God does indicate that there is a choice; it doesn't appear to be separated entirely from man's will: "Choose you this day whom you will serve..." He exhorts men to search for Him: Prov. 8:17, Jer. 29:13, Acts 17:27 all indicate there might often be a searching process in the heart of a man toward finding God.
In a seemingly contradictory stance, many Calvinists, even while they reject the verses that support man's choice, would at the same time condemn a person for not believing the whole Bible, for example, if they believed in Jesus' work on the cross but not in the biblical creation account. How can a person say they believe the Bible if they pick and choose which part they accept? Never mind if I can understand it, if the Bible says it's true, how can I object if I claim to be a Bible-believing Christian? If I expect to understand the Bible before I can believe it, then I am in trouble when I come across every miracle in the Scriptures. If I expect to understand it before I can believe it, then I must first fully understand God--who is in fact bigger than the highest human understanding. It puts me in the position of having to minimize the infinite God to fit into my human brain's definable limits. If I, in fact, accept His sovereignty as a good thing, I should be relieved and thankful to realize that He works in many ways that are beyond my understanding.
For that matter, if God is so fully sovereign to the point that it excludes any choice on the part of man, what purpose is there in witnessing to unbelievers; what purpose is there in presenting the gospel? I am not here saying that God isn't fully sovereign, but that while He is sovereign, He also delights in allowing a person to come to Him as his own personal decision. He draws him, softens his heart, opens his eyes, but the person has to respond to the truth, to the gospel of their salvation. A person does have the capacity to reject God; that option is obviously open, or the Bible would not discuss it: James 4:4 says, for example, that anyone who chooses to become a friend of the world becomes an enemy toward God.
Another vital aspect of the reality of man having a choice is that if God is fully sovereign and man's response is only subject to God's plan and not one's own choice, how can a person be accountable for his own sin? How can God condemn a person if a person has no personal ability to respond or not? How can a person sin and feel any of the horrible guilt that should rightly result, if God is the one who orchestrated it, not the person himself? This was actually another thing Katie encountered in someone else at her college: he spoke of a time when he was deep in sin, but shrugged it off because it was "all a part of God's sovereign plan." How can he feel any personal guilt and accountability, any need to confess and repent? How can he have offended God if it was basically part of God's plan? This does not fit with the biblical view in any way.
In my Bible, a good while back, I wrote a couple of quotations that I think sum up the seemingly contradictory points that God is fully sovereign and that at the same time, man has choice, voice, and impact: Charles Spurgeon, when asked how he reconciled divine sovereignty and human responsibility: "I never try to reconcile friends." Augustine wrote, "We must pray as though it all depended on God, and work as though it all depended on us." If we believe that the Bible is true, we have to accept God's sovereignty and man's choice. We have to believe in the whole counsel of God or we are going to be stunted and imbalanced, and insensitive to the needs of the unsaved. If we think God's sovereignty fully trumps us and is blind and deaf to our will, it will surely affect how we live out our faith in regard to obedience, witness, and prayer; there will be no aspect of our life that it will not impact.

1 comment:

Shani said...

Thanks for posting your thoughts, Mrs. A.! I'm sorry I haven't commented in a while; I have been reading them for the past couple of months.

Here at New Tribes, we labor to stick to what God says in His word. Many of the studnents here look at Calvinism as contradictory to God's nature, and most if not all the teachers find its application to evangelism weird. I found some of this a little confusing coming from Calvinist teaching, especially being constantly reminded that I would not choose to submit to God in my own goodness. All that said, I have done a little research and I really appreciate you giving this some thought as well! It's wonderful that God saves sinners. Wow, what grace!

Do you think Augustine is okay to learn from even though he looked at much of the Bible as allegorical? I guess I should ask my teacher this, but I like discussing it with old chums!:)

Hope you are doing well without another lady in the house! My mom is in the same pickle!