Monday, November 07, 2005

As we begin to study that last half of Romans Chapter 8, we are undoubtedly getting close to discussing the concepts of predestination and free will.  I will honestly say that I struggle with these concepts more than any other matter of doctrine.  My background is Southern Baptist, and I joined Wesley United Methodist Church nearly a year and a half ago.  I have heard many of my Methodist friends say that I must believe in predestination because that is what Baptists believe.  I will post more on this topic later, but I want to make a point that most Baptists do not believe in predestination as taught by Calvin.

Calvinism is generally taught using the acronym TULIP
T Total Depravity
U Unconditional Election
L Limited Atonement
I Irresistible Grace
P Perseverance of the Believer

I can’t speak for all Baptists, but I believe that most have great difficulty with Unconditional Election and Limited Atonement.
Unconditional Election means that God determined from the beginning of time who He would save and who He would condemn.  People become believers or remain unbelievers because that is what God decided to do.  Most Baptists believe that it is not God’s will that any should perish, but all come to repentance.
Limited Atonement means that Christ died only for His elect, not for all persons.  John 3:16 declares that God loved the world.  For a Calvinist, it means that God loved the part of the world that contained his elect.  Most Baptists believe that Christ died for everyone, not a particular group of people.

As I said earlier, I still struggle with this battle.  I know that God has done the right thing, but I want to understand it.  It is hard for me to accept the Unconditional Election and Limited Atonement, but I still have questions.  I just put them here for comments.
If we are born with a sin nature (I strongly believe that we are), is our good work that allows us to have faith and follow Christ?  This would mean we have to have some good in us in order to be able to make such a decision.
If the atonement is unlimited and for everyone, it seems to me that the actual atonement was not good enough and only limited to those who accept Christ.  Does it take away from the sacrifice of Christ that He died for everyone, but not everyone is covered?  

3 Comments:

  1. DannyG said...
    I've had a hard time with this concept, too. I guess that, from my point of view, it has to do with how God exists outside time and space as we know it. I have always held that we have free will: to choose life or not is our choice to make. But God, existing outside of time and space as we know it, is aware of the outcome in advance, although each of us has true freedom in making these decisions.
    Betty Newman said...
    Couple of thoughts -

    First, I am reminded of A.W. Tozer in his book "The Pursuit of God" when he says, "God will not hold us responsible to understand the mysteries of election, predestination and the divine sovereignty. The best and safest way to deal with these truths is to raise our eyes to God and in deepest reverence say, 'O Lord, Thou knowest.' Those things belong to the deep and mysterious Profound of God's omniscience. Prying into them may make theologians, but it will never make saints."

    And second - I have just started listening to a series by R.C. Sproul http://www.ligonier.org/radio/index.php
    in which he speaks to this. What little I've heard so far is very good.

    However, I haven't digested enough of it to really comment on it yet.

    Betty
    John Wilks said...
    Keep in mind that while we are born sinners, we are still yet a creation made in the likeness of the Creator.

    So it is possible to believe that our depravity is real and touches all areas of our lives and yet still acknowledge the potential for some corrupt, limited, mangled spark of goodness. Yes it is total depravity in so much as none are exempt. And yet within, there is a desire for purity which though twisted and warped still exists.

    If you go look at the biographies of the monsters of the 20th century- the really evil men, you will find that they treated at least someone in their lives pretty well.

    Or as Augustine pointed out, in City of God, even the most militant of souls wants peace and tranquility and hope- even if only on their terms. Both the lost and the saved yearn for the same things. The difference is that lost still think they can make their own peace and hope- but the saved realize that we cannot. The realization of helplessness, though, is not a "work." It is merely a surrender to reality which God helps us to see, and yet which we must choose to accept.

    Or in other words, sin is not the absence of goodness. No, sin is the corruption of goodness. That is why sin so easily entangles- because it still appears on the surface like a means to happiness and fulfillment. We sin because we mistakenly think sin will pay off somehow, not because we seek misery.

    So when Christ offers us forgiveness by His blood, even in our depraved state, it is not unreasonable to think that what ever tiny scrap of goodness hiding in even the most corrupt of hearts might respond to God's free gift by willfully choosing repentance.

    But again, this choice to accept grace is not a form of works-righteousness.

    Think about it- what if Jesus never died on the cross? And suppose someone decided to appeal to God and was willing to be saved. Apart from the cross, would they be saved simply because the suddenly realized their helplessness and their need? By no means! It is the grace which poured down from the cross which saves, not our openness to grace.

    So how is a free choice to be saved a work?

    On the other hand, isn't choosing repentance a recognition of our own powerlessness to save our selves?

    Yes!

    See, a free choice to accept grace is not a work. Far from it, choosing grace affirms the fact the we cannot earn salvation. Choosing grace implicitly requires ending all attempts at works righteousness.

    There is no real tension between the doctrines of salvation by faith alone and free will.

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