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The Doctrinal Divide

The Doctrinal Divide
By Jack Kinsella

When I posted yesterday’s Omega Letter, I had no idea the controversy it would create. The column was intended to clarify the differences between two competing schools of theological thought.

Since it is obvious that things that are different are not the same, the only way to figure out which is right is to examine both views. In so doing, it appears that I have ignited a fire.

I listed the five points of Arminius and the five points of Calvinism for comparison purposes — it seemed like a straightforward way of examining the question. From my mail and some of the forum comments, it appears some of you think I wrote them.

I was fascinated to see the anger levels rise. I was called ‘divisive’ for merely bringing it up. Rather than clearing the waters, I fear I’ve muddied them further.

The two major sticking points are the doctrines of eternal security and predestination. At the risk of trying to extinguish a fire by throwing gasoline on it, I am going to tackle those two topics again.

The purpose is not to try and get you to believe what I believe. But if I am incorrect in my conclusions, then retracing my logic should expose the error.

First, predestination. The major objection to the concept of predestination is that it seems to negate free will and takes away our choice. That seems to make sense at first glance.

Does anybody know this morning what choices they will make this afternoon? What choices they will make tonight? Since God is omniscient (all-knowing), it is a foregone conclusion that God does.

If God knows what choices we will make today, does that mean those choices are not made by us freely?

Is there anybody who doubts that God already knows the time and manner of our death? Or that He knew that information before we were finished exiting the womb?

But I don’t. So I make choices intended to keep me from meeting death prematurely, but no matter how carefully I choose, my death will still come at the time and in the manner of God’s choosing, not mine.

“But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?” (Luke 12:20)

The only question is, did God FOREKNOW, or did God PREDESTINATE my death?

No matter how I examine the question, the answer keeps coming up as a distinction without a difference.

Jesus taught that the very hairs of my head are numbered. So He clearly foreknew. In eternity, time is not an element. Outside of space and time, everything would be in a constant state of ‘now’.

Bear with me. This is a bit like a blind man trying to explain the color red to another blind man.

God’s foreknowledge is certain. Since there is no time, His foreknowledge is eternal. He knew, with certainty, before the world began, every move I would ever make.

Since His foreknowledge is certain, I cannot do something to surprise God. He isn’t bound by time. I do what I will do, since, in God’s economy, I’ve already done it, so to speak, since before the foundation of the world.

But in no way is my own free will hampered. I am making choices right now with every keystroke.

It is not hard for me to accept that God already knows what the finished column will say, letter by letter. It doesn’t take a stretch to assume He knew what it would be about before I got out of bed.

Stay with me on this. If He knew it last night, (which is not difficult for me to accept), then it follows logically that He knew what keys I would strike, and in what order I would strike them, before the foundation of the world.

But I am not a robot. Every single keystroke comes as the result of my own free will.

Are you following? I know it’s a difficult concept, since none of us has the mind of God. Arguing that predestination negates free will is logical until you eliminate the concepts of space and time.

“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:9)

That is more than just a colossal understatement. It presents us with a logical paradox: God knows with certain knowledge what we will do — since, if He didn’t, He wouldn’t be omniscient.

Continuing that logic, since we can’t surprise Him, what we will do is, by definition, preordained — from God’s perspective.

“For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate…” — a distinction without a difference.

The doctrine of eternal security raised as many hackles as did predestination. Once again, we run into the space-time paradox. Scripture says that when we are saved, we are positionally speaking, already in heaven.

“And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:” (Ephesians 2:6)

This is positional truth. Yes, we are down here, but we are seated in the heavenlies with Christ Jesus. It s finished. It s done. It s over as far as God sees it. From God’s perspective, once a sinner repents and gets saved, he becomes a new creature; not a Jew, not a Gentile, but a Christian.

“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (2nd Corinthians 5:17)

“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.” (Galatians 6:15)

Logically, that rebirth as a new creature takes place when a person repents and is saved. All things become new, old things are passed away. And the promise isn’t that he will ‘become’ a new creature. The Scripture says, “if any man be in Christ, he IS a new creature.”

Where logic breaks down is where I try and understand how one becomes the old creature again. It gets more muddled when I try and understand the mechanics of reconverting back to the new creature again later.

Logic breaks down for me when trying to understand the mechanics of losing one’s salvation. The Scripture is clear when it says that all sin is equal in God’s eyes. All sin is equally sinful.

Logic dictates that Christians still sin after being saved. History and experience say the same thing. So does the Scripture.

“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (1st John 1:8)

If one can sin one’s way out of being a new creature, then by what measure? The severity of the sin? (They are all the same to God.) The preponderance of sin? How many sins are too many? (God says, “one.”)

The most common objection to the doctrine of eternal security is that it is a ‘license’ to sin. It is more accurate to call it a recognition of the sin nature the Scriptures say remains ‘the law of the flesh’ even AFTER salvation.

“I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.” (Romans 7:25)

Recognizing a reality is not the same thing as approving of it.

The most common objection to predestination is that it denies free will. Because God knows what you will do doesn’t mean that YOU do. Your choices are still your own.

At the heart of both objections is the fact that it leaves us with no role to play in our own salvation.

It isn’t because we are good people, or because we work extra hard at being good, or because we are better than other people who reject Christ but are otherwise decent enough folks, or because we were smart enough and attentive enough to hear the call.

We are saved by grace through faith, and THAT, the Scriptures tell us, is not of ourselves, but a gift from God. (Ephesians 2:8)

Logic, history, experience and the Scriptures all reveal the same truth. If salvation were based on merit, there would be no salvation for anybody.

I have never fully understood why this is such a divisive topic. But it is. If I have given offense, it is not my intention to do so.

I teach what I believe is true — I couldn’t do otherwise — but I have no axe to grind with those who don’t agree with me. God gives us each understanding according to His purpose.

I am grateful to Lou for posting a link to a position paper on this topic from Calvary Chapel in the discussion forum.

In the paper, Chuck Smith writes; To say what God says in the Bible – no more and no less – is not always easy, comfortable, or completely understandable. But Scripture tells us that the wisdom from above will be loving and kind toward all, seeking the unity of the believers, not trying to find ways to divide and separate from one another. “

Amen to that.

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