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Thursday, April 28, 2005

Minute meditation on predestination - continuing

Deep in work and life details, but I keep returning to this in prayer: We didn't choose God as our Father any more than we chose our own parents. That's a non-negotiable, permanent relationship. The heck with those kids-divorcing-their-parents stories; not possible, although the circumstances are very sad to ponder.

But Jesus Christ as the Lover of our souls, that's different. We choose Him; we accept Him, we follow Him, we dedicate ourselves to Him. He won't un-choose us, because He is Father and Son/Bridegroom of the Church. But we can sure un-choose Him, and can live our entire lives in opposition to Him.

Sometimes when reading Scripture (God is foreordaining those He forechose...) I worry about the claims of predestination-oriented Christians. Especially the idea of double predestination; where some are chosen to be saved, and some consigned to perdition. I feel better when I realize that our relationship is both permanent and deliberate at the same time. Not just for myself, but all my lost family and friends, who are on my heart right now.

Your thoughts? Best Scripture to illuminate this?

UPDATE: I pulled this post back to the top because of the very good discussion going on in the comments box. Please add to the story of God's Love for us!

15 comments:

Rosalind said...

I spent some time at a predestination-believing church. As far as I understand it, it stems from a focus on the sovereignty of God -- if our omnipotent Lord chooses to reach out with the grace to accept the salvation of Jesus, how could we choose otherwise? And since not all are saved, this must mean that He does not offer this grace to all. They might cite Romans 9:13 "[The Lord] says to Moses, 'I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.' So it depends not upon man's will or exertion, but upon God's mercy.... So then he has mercy upon whomever he wills, and he hardens the heart of whomever he wills."

Jimmy Akin has a good treatment of a Catholic view of this and other points of Reformed Calvinist theology in the essay "A Tiptoe Through TULIP." (TULIP is a common acronym of the five most important principles of Reformed theology.") I recommend it.

Gayla said...

If you're interested, I have two posts about this on my blog that go into much more detail than I could here. In the sidebar, click on February archives, then scroll down to, "Does God Have Two Wills (part I and II)"

You hit it in your first sentence - We didn't choose God; He chose us. In receiving Jesus Christ as our Savior, how do we even have the *ability* to do that if not for God calling us to Himself? In our depraved state, how would we ever choose the Light, if not for God calling us?

When we pray for someone's salvation, what exactly are we asking God to do, if we believe that the choice is simply up to that person?

God's sovereignty is something I have only been studying since November. Some of it has been difficult to wrap my brain around. But if I believe God to be sovereign, then He is sovereign over all things, including salvation. And to say that it is "unfair" for people to go to hell, is to assume that salvation IS fair. And the truth is that if we get what's "fair," then we all get hell. So for God to choose to save whomever He chooses to save, is a display of his unfathomable mercy.

Anyway, please check out those posts; they go into more detail and list Scripture.

Therese Z said...

Rosalind: You picked up one of the verses that bother me the most. I like Mr. Akin and will read his stuff. I understand that if Jesus says "Come" wouldn't we be unable to say No? But we must, because we see people do it in the Scriptures as well as all around us (I think of the rich young man especially). I need to read a little about Irresistable Grace.

Gayla: I have to dip into your Feb archives at a time when I have more time..... But for now....

"You hit it in your first sentence - We didn't choose God; He chose us. "

But it's more intimate than that. He is our FATHER. He wouldn't have told us that unless He wanted to know about that kind of love.

"In receiving Jesus Christ as our Savior, how do we even have the *ability* to do that if not for God calling us to Himself?"

But what is on my mind is that God calls *everyone* through Jesus Christ (let's set aside the pagan in the deep jungle, who can only follow the natural law in his heart, because nobody can tell him about the Lord).

"In our depraved state, how would we ever choose the Light, if not for God calling us?"

Since I believe Baptism to be regenerative, by saving us and making us adopted children in the family of God, I am not crazy about the word "depraved." I prefer "fallen," fallen with the effects of Original Sin.

We tend toward sin, but we have a "God-shaped hole" in our hearts. How could it be otherwise? Did God create garbage? (I can't believe I just used that g*dawful term, but it suits the thought!)

God needs nothing from us; we can add nothing to Him. But He made us to love us, so we are "necessary" to receive His Love. If we were "depraved," He would hate the sight of us, we would disgust Him. But no Father hates His children.

Rosalind said...

Therese, I think Catholics often run into the same sort of vocabulary misunderstandings that Protestants might when encountering (for example) unfamiliar language about our high regard for the Blessed Mother and so mistakenly infer that Catholics worship her.

In the case of the doctrine of Total Depravity, my understanding is that it doesn't mean what we might colloquially take from the word "depraved." Total Depravity means that there is nothing about us ourselves that is worthy of or can merit salvation; it is a totally free gift from God for which we can exercise no leverage at all to win from Him. As far as I know, Catholics agree with the substance of this, although I hope someone more knowledgable will weigh in and correct me if I'm wrong.

Therese Z said...

Thank you for that reminder. But I wonder about how some Christians feel about their status in the eyes of their Creator when you look at the description of man by Martin Luther: "snow-covered dungheaps." I've read elsewhere that some feel that God, at the time of our judgment, sees Christ's Blood covering us and doesn't see *us*. That we would essentially turn His Stomach except for Christ standing between us and Him.

Does the Blood of the Lamb COVER us, disguise us, or does It wash us clean? I'm voting for the second. We are spoken of too dearly in the Psalms and by Jesus Himself before His Passion, particularly.

John Sotow said...

First and above all: God is love.
And from whatever viewpoint you'll look at God, love is the measure He uses, for ALL of us: good and bad, black and white, non-believers and catholics, etc.
It is not God judging us, but we judging ourselves by our shortage of love for God and one another (because that is the same He says).
So don't talk about pre-destination, but live with all the love you have, whatever or whomever you are. And isn't that the most beautifull thing we can do!
God has written his law (of love) in our souls at the time of our creation and everyone is able to and should follow this/His voice.
Once it is judging time for us - and that could be any moment - God calls us before Him and just looks at us. Can you imagine His loving eyes looking to you?! It is worth trying! We will look in this cristal clear loving mirror and judge ourselves, rather than He is judging us.
No, there is no pre-destination, there are only our fruits of love (or not, which would be terrible).
So I pray for all of us, that we will live with as much love as we can possibly give.
Truely yours, John

Gayla said...

Rosalind, you pretty much hit it right on regarding depravity. I would add, though, that according to the Word of God, we are indeed depraved. Gen 6:5 - Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. Gen 8:21 - ...although the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth.

Mark 7:21-23 - For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts...all these evil things come from within and defile a man.

And of course, there are many more verses that talk about the wickedness of man. I believe there is plenty of Scripture to support that the sinful nature of man leaves him in a depraved state.

Romans 5:12-14 - Through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men...

Therese, I completely agree with you that our relationship with God is intimate - He is our Abba, Father, no doubt. He's the one who created this relationship in the first place! He is the initiator, though. 1 John 4:19 - We love Him because He first loved us.

Eph 1:4 - just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world...

(Lots more Scripture on my posts; I hate to take up too much space here!)


"God needs nothing from us; we can add nothing to Him. But He made us to love us, so we are "necessary" to receive His Love. If we were "depraved," He would hate the sight of us, we would disgust Him. But no Father hates His children."

I agree to an extent. God is holy and until we receive Jesus as Savior and Lord, God doesn't look upon us, as He cannot by His very nature, look upon sin. Our righteousness comes only through Jesus Christ. Our position before God comes through justification (which is salvation), and that can only come from God. John 6:44 - No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him. Again, in our darkened and state of death (which we're in b/c the wages of sin is death; we are spiritually dead), we're incapable of choosing Him on our own.

Since studying this doctrine, God has really shown me some things that have blown me away! I had to look at Him in a different light. If I'm to accept the loving, merciful, gracious character of God - which He is and certainly displays; then I have to also accept the just, holy, righteous, wrathful nature of His character as well. This is also displayed in His Word.

Fascinating stuff!

Rosalind said...

Gayla, thanks for your thoughts. Let me ask you about something that bothers me -- Therese touched on it. What about the metaphor that our sinful selves are "covered" by the snow of the the blood of Christ, but that at our core, we're still a dungheap? This seems to me to contradict the efficacy of the atonement. I agree that we retain the tendency to sin, but "if the Son sets you free, you are free indeed."

Gayla said...

Rosalind, I had to chuckle when I read that interesting metaphor. :)

Sometimes I think that people use "covered" and "washed/cleansed" by His blood sort of interchangably. I mean the FACT of the matter is that Christ became sin.

For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. 2 Cor 5:21

Here's what I understand.

Justification is our being *declared* righteous. (one time occurrence; this is salvation) This comes from Christ's work *for* us.

Sanctification is our *process* of being made righteous. This comes from Christ's work *within* us. Ongoing, life-long.

Our *position* before God is righteousness, even as we strive, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to *live* in righteousness.

As long as we're alive, we will have a sin nature and a bent towards it.

But according to what the Word says, we who are saved are saints, heirs with Christ!

Romans 8:17...and if children, then heirs - heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ

Romans 1:7 - To all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints...

The Book of Romans is Paul's letter to Believers, and there are many references to being saints. Same with Ephesians.

Eph 2:19 - Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.

2 Cor 5:17 - Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold all things have become new.

Romans 8:1 - There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit

Now to me, this sounds like we're anything but a dungheap!

Therese Z said...

Keep going, everyone, this is great! I feel bad because I put the next post on top of this one.

Gayla:

"I agree to an extent. God is holy and until we receive Jesus as Savior and Lord, God doesn't look upon us, as He cannot by His very nature, look upon sin. Our righteousness comes only through Jesus Christ. Our position before God comes through justification (which is salvation), and that can only come from God."

Agreed: we are baptized into the family of God. We are justified by Christ's death. Heaven is open to us only because of His atonement.

"John 6:44 - No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him."

I see this verse as emphasizing that Jesus is only Way/Truth/Life, that there are no other ways to God, to those who hear the Gospel (again, I set aside the pagans in the jungle....)

BUT:

"Again, in our darkened and state of death (which we're in b/c the wages of sin is death; we are spiritually dead), we're incapable of choosing Him on our own."

I differ with you here a little. By baptism, we are made alive, we are no longer spiritually dead. If we were, with what spiritual faculty could we respond to His Call? If we are bodily dead, we can't hear or move or act. If we are "spiritually dead," we can't do anything in Christ and we know that in Him we live and move and have our being.

Did you use that term in a non-theological way, or do you really believe that you are spiritually dead?

John:

Were you going all 1 John on us?

"And from whatever viewpoint you'll look at God, love is the measure He uses, for ALL of us: good and bad, black and white, non-believers and catholics, etc.
It is not God judging us, but we judging ourselves by our shortage of love for God and one another (because that is the same He says)."

1 John 4:8 - I was so startled when I was reading Scripture one day and realized that the plain sentence exists: "He who does not love does not know God; for God is love."

So it's love, yes, John, but it's also Love Himself. If we know that Jesus is Lord, and God is Love, then Jesus is Love. And we have to live in Him.

I'm pretty sure that's what you meant, given the beauty of your anticipation of looking into God's Eyes. But I'm just making sure you're not resting on love as a human emotion only.

Gayla said...

"I differ with you here a little. By baptism, we are made alive, we are no longer spiritually dead. If we were, with what spiritual faculty could we respond to His Call? If we are bodily dead, we can't hear or move or act. If we are "spiritually dead," we can't do anything in Christ and we know that in Him we live and move and have our being.

Did you use that term in a non-theological way, or do you really believe that you are spiritually dead?"

I believe that as a result of sin entering the world through Adam, we are certainly spiritually dead. B/C of Genesis 3, there would also be no escaping physical death as well. (Gen 1 & 2 were obviously the way we were *supposed* to live!)

So in essence, what (spiritually) dead people need first and foremost, is life. And we, on our own, cannot genterate life within ourselves. Only God can do that. He initiates it. And all He need do is reveal Himself, His glory to someone, and they will respond. (Take Paul/Saul for example)

We are incapable of choosing God. Romans 3:10-11 - There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God.

Eph 2:1-3 - And you wer dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked,...and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.


I'm not sure we're on the same page regarding baptism. Are you referring to emersion? I view baptism as an act of public proclaimation/obedience, but not a means of salvation. I believe regeneration occurs at salvation, and that is done by God alone.

John, if you pop back in here, I just wanted to say that there will indeed be judgment. Every Believer will stand before the judgment seat of Christ. (See 2 Cor 5:9-11) Believers will give an account of their lives. This will NOT be a determination of a Believer's eternal destiny. This determines one's faithfulness and rewards each person appropriately.

Unbelievers will appear before the great white throne. (See Rev. 20:11-15)

Therese Z said...

Gayla:

First: Baptism by sprinkling or immersion? Both ways have been acceptable from the beginning of the Church. I'd hate to see this comment thread get off-track by worrying about the method. Can we agree that "Baptism now saves you" and leave it at that?
-----------

Now,

"I believe that as a result of sin entering the world through Adam, we are certainly spiritually dead...So in essence, what (spiritually) dead people need first and foremost, is life. And we, on our own, cannot genterate life within ourselves. Only God can do that. He initiates it."

Yes, He calls us to Himself. Only if we are drawn can we respond. But "Even so in Christ shall all be made alive." I would say instead that we become spiritually ALIVE while we are still in this world. Are you saying that we are just bags of dust, dead, without will and conscience and, more importantly, a desire to repent and repent again, to forgive seventy times seven?

"And all He need do is reveal Himself, His glory to someone, and they will respond. (Take Paul/Saul for example)"

Eeew, I'm not comfortable with what you seem to be saying (I could be wrong, please): if He is irresistable, then we have no free will. And we know we have. Mary said "Yes" when the angel told her of the Holy Spirit's proposed action. All the apostles said "Yes" when Jesus told them to follow Him. Judas must have said Yes before he said No.

I again point to the rich young man, who Jesus loved (imagine the feeling THAT was). He was told to sell everything he had and come and follow Jesus. And he didn't. Jesus wouldn't be playing around with someone who couldn't, by predestination, not follow Him. He expected the rich young man to make a choice, which was a "no," which Jesus of course knew was going to happen all along. (By the way, pious tradition (not salvific dogma) says that the rich young man later on did choose to follow the Lord and was an early martyr. Cool, huh?)

"We are incapable of choosing God."

Again, I disagree respectfully. We have to choose Him over and over, every day.

It's the passivity of your position that is making me uncomfortable. The model I hear in your writing is that we are passively swept along in His wake, pulled without our consent. Dragged to the Throne, as it were. If that were the case, we would have no need of judgment, we would just be inventory, delivered on schedule.

Since we can look at every human action of love and good as a faint model of what is in store for us in Heaven, and what would have been the case in the Garden had we not fallen, I have to believe that it is our choosing to follow Him that completes our relationship with Jesus. He invites, He beckons; we answer, we fall, we try again. We join our sufferings with Him (Paul) to make up for what is lacking in His Body, the Church. We have a role to play in the Church in this world, and we can refuse to do it.

Don't forget that He likens the Church to His Bride. This is a chosen relationship of love, and is VERY different from that of God's Fatherhood. I think God is trying to help us get a clue that He is our Father and will always come through with the goods (think the Israelites in the desert) but we are to recognize our relationship with Him is also that of Love, freely chosen Love.

Gosh, I hope this makes sense. Train's a-comin'. Gotta get out of the Loop.

Therese Z said...

Whoops.

"We join our sufferings with Him (Paul) to make up for what is lacking in His Body, the Church."

I didn't mean "Him" was Paul, I meant to see Paul for the verse.

Gayla said...

Therese, I think we are in agreement more than you think. Much of what I was referring to (i.e. we are incapable of choosing Him) was relative to salvation only.

I agree that we choose Him every day - we can choose to walk in the freedom of Christ or we can choose to be disobedient. I'm not disregarding free will. However, I do believe that God is sovereign over free will, otherwise He wouldn't be God. Even in Gen 20:6, God actively intervenes to prohibit someone from sinning.


Do I completely understand how God's sovereignty works? Uh, no! I do know that there is mystery to God that won't be revealed this side of heaven. (Deut 29:29) But I certainly choose to trust in the sovereignty of an Almighty God over the fickle free will of man any day!


I'm in agreement with you that yes, we indeed become spiritually alive while we're in the world - sorry for any confusion in that regard! :)

Regarding the story of the rich young ruler. I would simply say that in the end, if he did choose to follow the Lord, then his ultimate answer was a yes and not a no. Many do not say yes right away, which is why we continue to pray for the salvation of friends and family. So, I would guess that he was still predestined to be a Believer.

I would completely agree with your 2nd to last paragraph.

I'm still chewing on your last paragraph. :)

Great discussion!

Therese Z said...

My last paragraph, again:

"Don't forget that He likens the Church to His Bride. This is a chosen relationship of love, and is VERY different from that of God's Fatherhood. I think God is trying to help us get a clue that He is our Father and will always come through with the goods (think the Israelites in the desert) but we are to recognize our relationship with Him is also that of Love, freely chosen Love."

I really look forward to your chewing process on this. It is an immeasurably exciting fact; it is an important proof of the Incarnation of God as Jesus Christ as Man. Why did He choose this model to explain His relationship
to us? Because we understand the relationship of marriage. It is a total self-giving, one to another. We are already born (predestined?) with the sexual appetite to desire it, the emotional appetite to flourish within it. Our bodies belong to each other. We are in submission to each other, in a Godly way. This is the deepest intimacy we can have in the world, and only in this relationship can NEW LIFE come, simply and sweetly from this union.

Powerful. Every bit is applicable to our relationship with Jesus Christ, both as individuals and as a church.

Just the thought of that union with Him makes me raise my hands in prayer and thanksgiving.

Chew, wouldja?

 

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