Turbulence

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAShe spoke of when she wrestled with this in past tense. She spoke of coming to terms.But I don’t know if I can ever come to terms with a Romans 9 God who chooses, as it seems, on a whim. “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy.” Justice I can deal with– a God who lets you get what you deserve. Then, even everyone going to Hell is logical and acceptable.

But creating a solution, a hope, a way to salvation, and not offering it to all? That I am against. I love the people. God does too, better than I. God is good, God is righteous…God forces people to love Him? God hardens people’s hearts? I know that not all will be saved. I thought I knew that God desired all of His people to come to Him; I thought I knew so many things.

This I know: God is real. Why don’t these things that the Bible says line up with what I know of Him? Why don’t they feel right? Why does the church stuff those  issues in  the closet and ‘forget’ to deal with them? Are we afraid of a little controversy along the search for truth? Give me truth or go away and preach to those who want the abridged version without the pain, and the struggle, and the wrestling.

Because I want to believe the truth, but I don’t want to believe that this is truth.  God is the ultimate standard of good. Does the ultimate standard of good elect some and not others? What kind of parent would not will the best for all of His children? What kind of parent offers the good gift (the best gift) to only a few? Answer me this. Rock my faith. At least I am seeking. At least I am not stagnant.

I miss simplicity. The Bible hasn’t changed. I’ve been reading the same words all along. I’ve heard them a hundred times. “Jacob I have loved, and Esau I have hated.” Where did that come from? Why Jacob the liar, cheater, thief? He was no better than Esau.

Who am I to question God? Will I be struck dead? She says “to begin being a thinking Christian is urgent…” , but I think I understand why so many just swallow the tidbits thrown on them at Sunday mornings. It’s easier. To not think is easier than thinking, less risky. What if I find something that I don’t like? What if no one has satisfactory answers?

And yet the things I’ve learned from thinking hold me here. God is real. God is real because of so many truths: mental, historical, scientific. In this turbulence I need a solid anchor, and I have one. I will not walk away from God. But I want answers. Even the demons believe in God. I will never not believe, but this is causing some trust issues. I need to get this worked out. (No happy ending here.)

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Categories: My Life, rants | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

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17 thoughts on “Turbulence

  1. Sometimes the answers don’t appear to us the way we want. If we keep searching he shows you what he means by the things we are confuse about. By the way Pharaoh harden his heart before God did. God already knew that Pharaoh wouldnt turn from his ways. I may not understand the reasons for it all, but deep inside I do believe their is a reason for it and why God does what he does. He is a Good and Just God and I am sure that he will reveal what you so seek to know

    • That’s the truth…the answers almost never come the way I want.

      How do you know Pharaoh hardened his heart before God did? Do you have a reference?

      Thanks for commenting!

  2. When I have had times of turbulence, I have often found myself clinging to even just one verse as an anchor through it. The verse I would hold out to you right now is “Seek Me, and you will find Me.” No, you aren’t going to be struck dead: at the end of the struggle to seek, you WILL find Him more than you have before. Of that much I am One Hundred Percent confident. It maybe doesn’t make the now more pleasant, but on the other side if it, you will be closer to Him.

    • Thank you so much. I can’t say how much your comment has meant to me as I struggle with this issue.

      You are very wise in not taking sides. The verse was (and will be) a perfect encouragement as I wrestle with these things. Indeed, the wrestling is not done, though I have reached a little more balance now than before.
      So, thanks again,
      V.

  3. As you probably anticipated, this post of yours gets a long comment 🙂 Hopefully it will be worth your while. (And hopefully all my formatting came out right, and there aren’t too many spelling errors!)

    It is a bit difficult to do justice to the issues you raise in the space at hand. What you hit upon in this post touches upon major themes of the NT, so giving you a balanced and thorough answer requires studying through the books of the NT in some systematic manner and carefully thinking about what we are being told therein. The good news is that the issues you raised are addressed in the Bible, so if you seek you will find. Whether you like what you find is a different question entirely. The bad news is, I can’t put a sixty-four page letter in this comment box (haha) though I might try, so you’re going to be subjected to something of a drive-by theological shooting. In other words, I’m going to lob some partially articulated thoughts in your direction, but they are things which really will need more development and explanation to be healthily understood.

    So…make of that what you will. I do pray that it will be thought-provoking in a good way.

    Trust Issues

    In your struggle you said, “this is causing some trust issues” and I will say that such is not by accident in the plan of God. A faith, and trust, that is not tested is no faith at all. Again and again God brings us to the place where we cannot understand so that we will walk by faith, not our understanding. Of course that doesn’t make the moment of challenge feel any more comfortable–but I just want to start off by encouraging you that the times of trying and testing and examining of faith and trust are a natural and necessary part of growing in Christ.

    Implicitly in this post, and in past posts, in the depths of your struggle you have said the equivalent of, “I know nothing but God alone, and to Him I will cling” and rightly so. But I want to emphasize this because it is the only final answer to the issue of trust. We do not grow in trust by abstract things, but rather by our personal relationship with God. We don’t look at the world and at philosophical ideas and say, “Since my intellect approves I will trust.” And we don’t look at our emotions and say, “Because it feels pleasant I will trust.” No, not at all. Our trust does not find its root in ourselves, or our understanding of God, but in God Himself. God is a person (a person like no other!) and we trust God because we have met Him and have a relationship with Him. Now, as in the nature of relationships our feelings may not always line up with God, and in our mind we may not always understand God, but our trust in God is not based on those things which come from ourselves (feelings, intellect), but rather our trust in God is based upon what He has revealed to our spirit in our innermost being about who He is, and what He has given us. There can come hard times in life when that gift from God can seem contradicted by every feeling we have, and all that our intellect seems to know. But through those trials our trust is found in clinging to a personal God we have met.

    We can create all sorts of problems for ourselves when we confuse being a child of God with being “in the know” about everything God is, and is doing. The Apostle Peter is a great example. Peter was with Jesus during his entire earthly ministry. Peter was there at Pentecost when the Spirit came in fire. He was foremost in the church. And yet, for all that he was bosom buddies with God we still have Peter in Acts chapter 10 telling God that he won’t eat the unclean things God has dropped out of heaven and told him to eat. Somehow, in the moment Peter got caught up in thinking he knew what holiness was better than God did. And God rebuked him. We know that as the beginning of the inclusion of Gentiles into the church.

    But if you go back and read that account you see how perplexed Peter was. Even after he accepted what God said as being so, he still didn’t understand. It didn’t make sense to him, and it certainly didn’t make sense to the rest of the early Jewish church. Intellectually the church didn’t understand how it could be true the the gentiles were being included as-is, and it certainly upset them. Eventually people began to understand from the Bible and see how God had planned this inclusion of the gentiles from before the creation of the world, and declared it in advance all through the OT. But when the inclusion of the gentiles in the church was first unfolding, nobody understood. They had to start out by simply accepting what God had said. They had to start out with, “I don’t understand God, it doesn’t line up with everything I have been taught, and it doesn’t feel right–but since you have said it, and I know you, then I accept it.”

    That is an example for all of us. That is an example for this struggle you face. So often in our Christian walk God calls us to accept His declared word of revelation simply on the basis of our relationship with Him. And these are things which we don’t understand, things that make us feel uncomfortable.

    Another wonderful example of this is God commanding Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. Talk about being told something that goes against everything in your understanding and emotions! But on the basis of his personal relationship with God, Abraham believed and obeyed in spite of how utterly capricious God seemed in that moment of telling him to go sacrifice Isaac.

    In both the case of the early church coming to accept gentiles, and Abraham in sacrificing Isaac, the people involved came to understand better the purpose of God after they believed and accepted and obeyed God. But not before. They didn’t get a quick explanation in advance so they could approve of God’s purposes before they agreed. There was simply the call to believe God based on faith.

    I cannot recall all the details of my own struggle with the particular issue you wrestle with now so I can’t articulate the exact progression of my understanding, thoughts and feelings. But I will say that the example recorded in the Bible seems to indicate is that when God has clearly and plainly said something He expects it to perplex us, and he expects us to accept that which perplexes, confuses, and down-right contradicts our feelings and intellect. It is only after we have bowed knee in faith and accepted God as He presents Himself does God then begin to teach and explain (in some measure) the reasons why. If that is true–as it appears so to me–one would expect that whatever you come face-to-face with in this matter, you may well have to accept it as what God has said before you really understand or feel comfortable with it. (Not that we ever fully understand these things, but hopefully you see what I am getting at.)

    Are we ready, like Abraham, to sacrifice our “son,” our only son? In our lives that figuratively may be our sense of justice, of self-sufficiency, or something else that we hold most dear. For Abraham, what act could seem more contrary to the meaning of love and goodness then what God asked of him? It is not only Abraham who is called to exercise the faith and obedience of giving up his own understand of how God works and instead obeying God’s as He declares Himself.

    Trust is a confounding thing.

    Satisfactory Answers

    Justice I can deal with– a God who lets you get what you deserve. Then, even everyone going to Hell is logical and acceptable.” I agree! That is logical and acceptable. Or, in my own thinking, the reverse would also be logical and acceptable–that is, a God who in mercy saves everyone from what they deserve. That’s fair, right? But we know that both the former and the latter aren’t true.

    What we have is a mystery.

    You said, “Why does the church stuff those issues in the closet and ‘forget’ to deal with them? Are we afraid of a little controversy along the search for truth?” and “What if no one has satisfactory answers?” One could bring a lot of nuance to the issue, but I think it can be boiled down to the fact that the church does stuff these issues in the closet because to the human mind there is no satisfactory. The cross of Christ (the gospel of Christ) is foolishness, an offense, and a stumbling block to the world. And that offense encompasses more than just the fact that Jesus was nailed to a tree. In encompasses the why, the how, and the for what reason and to what effect. That is, what is grace, mercy, forgiveness, etc. Unfortunately, the church today in America rather than embracing the offense of the gospel far too often tries to stuff those difficult things in the closet and leave people with platitudes or a watered-down humanistic gospel. People don’t want to be mocked, but being true to the gospel as it is presented in the Bible is to open ourselves up to the incredulity, and mockery, of the world. Let us go with Christ and bear our “shame” before the world of being fools with him.

    On the personal level in our own lives, the struggle with the gospel pans out into what can be seen as three different aspects.

    We do not fully understand what God has actually told us through His revelation in the Bible. (For all of this present life on earth we are always coming to better understand what God has said, but we won’t ever reach the end of it.)
    Our natural fleshly, sin corrupted mind rebels against what we have been told. (And so throughout our lives we are finding things God says or does to not be fair or loving or just in our small sinful minds.)
    At the end of the day, the heart of the gospel of God is mystery. (We cannot fully understand, comprehend, know, or get our minds around it. Those who think they have, have something less than the full gospel.)

    This puts the Christian life in a place of real tension. We do not fully understand what God has chosen to reveal to us, but even if we did we would still be left with mystery because God has not chosen to fully explain. He just doesn’t! “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever” (Deut 29:29). And mixed in with all that is our rebellious sinful nature which wants to reject that which God has shown.

    Faith is not fully understanding, and yet trusting God. Faith is finding our own nature rebelling against God, and yet trusting God. Faith is being faced with mystery and yet trusting God. The thorny issues you find yourself grappling with are the issues of faith. Walking by faith is not walking by sight. Once this age ends and we can “see”–fully understand, with our frailty and sins stripped away–and the mystery of the work of God is fully unveiled, then faith will no longer be needed. But until that time, we exist in the tension illustrated in those three above points. That is the life of faith.

    In talking with you about these things, I never want to come across as if I have an “answer” which removes the tension. Because I don’t. There is no “satisfactory answer” insofar as there is no true answer which does away with the need for faith–ie, the requirement to believe and accept something (some One) that is greater than our intellect and our emotions. But I do talk with you about these things (and find it so good and valuable to talk with you about these things) because it is good for us to (1) understand better what God has told us in the Bible, to (2) recognize more clearly how the sin in us rebels against God’s revelation, and to (3) appreciate more fully the mystery of God.

    I have already taken illustrations from the life of the early church, and Abraham. Perhaps a few more at this juncture will offer some further points to ponder.

    The nature of sin, and Satan’s attack against God, haven’t changed from the beginning of time. The goal of Satan has always been to incite humankind to rebel against (or “curse”) God. It is enlightening to go back and consider how it all began with that first fatal mistake, and temptation, in the Garden of Eden.

    So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. (Gen. 3:6)

    Much could be said about the entire incident with the serpent but my focus today is on one particular element: How the serpent (Satan) used what the woman comprehended to turn her against God. Once Satan turned her attention to it, Eve understood that the fruit of the tree was desirable. Seeing that the fruit was good, she was led to question the goodness of God. If the fruit was good, why would a good God forbid it to His children? If the fruit of the tree would make one wise, how could a good God want His children to be ignorant? And so Satan led the woman to set herself up as the judge of God, to stand in judgment on God’s goodness, love, and justice. When the man and woman took the fruit of the tree and rebelled against God, they cursed God and died.

    Which is a fitting transition to the story of Job. If in the Garden of Eden Satan tempted humans into cursing God by tempting them with goodness which God had withheld, in the latter case Satan tempted Job to curse God by afflicting him with suffering. After having suffered so much which by human measure did not appear good, just, or loving, Satan tempted Job through the person of his wife to “curse God and die” (Job 2:9).

    What is highlighted so clearly in both these cases is how Satan uses the mystery of God and our personal sense of justice, fairness, love, and goodness to incite us to judged God, to find Him wanting, and to rebel against Him. It has been true throughout history, and it remains true today. It is no surprise, and is in fact natural and expected, that the gospel of God would then not seem fair, just, good or loving to our judgment. That accusation against the gospel is the ultimate assault of Satan. But the example that God gives throughout the Bible is that God does things which do not seem fair, just, good, or loving to us, and requires us to believe in faith that they are fair, just, good, and loving. That is the way of faith. It is supposed to not seem loving, fair, or good so that we might exercise faith in God by believing. We do not see, but we believe, believing Him when He says that it is in spite of what it seems to us.

    We tend to overlook the profound reality of the temptation Jesus faced because we know “it all turned out all right in the end.” But if we had lived in the moments Jesus experienced, then by our measure of love, goodness, and justice, what God required of Jesus would not seem loving, good, or just. When Jesus had gone forty days without food, wouldn’t a loving and good God be okay with Jesus turning stones into bread? Eve didn’t find God very loving or fair to deprive her of the fruit of one tree when she had a whole garden to eat from, but Jesus accepted the deprivation of all food for forty days and refused to make himself some measly bread. Does not that kind of God seem hard and unfair? Surely to the flesh of Jesus’ body the appeal and reason of Satan had a very real pull. Why should the Son of God go without bread to eat? Tell me that. And wouldn’t a loving and good God want Jesus to be famous and successful by showing his glory in jumping from the top of the temple?

    Every rational that makes sense to our fleshly frame of reference was used by Satan. Every angle that Satan took against humankind throughout history was applied to Jesus. But Jesus answered Satan by putting God first. The temptations of Jesus were real because he did feel. He was hungry. He didn’t want to suffer. But he went through those temptations by putting God first–and by that I mean he measured things by how God said they were, not how he as a man wanted them to be. He was hungry, but he said, “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” He didn’t want to suffer, but he took the path of suffering to the very end where he said, “Not my will, but your will be done.”

    My point is not that it is wrong per se that you feel that God is “wrong.” In a way, in a certain perspective, that is actually part of the point to your present testing! Being tested is when you have reason to doubt God and must act either in trust or unbelief, and most certainly God tests us! So we question, and being faithful is when we believe God and past through the testing by putting Him first. God deals with His people in this life by bringing them to the place where their own judgment says one thing (e.g., it would be good to eat the fruit of that tree) by instead we submit ourselves to God’s judgment of the matter and believe and obey what He says in spite of ourselves.

    So, your conception of love says one thing. Like Peter with a sheet full of animals in front of him, are you going to lecture God that he is confused about holiness? (I say that not as a rebuke to you, but as an acknowledgement that so often in life we all do exactly that. Even me. Especially me.) Or are you going to study and find out what God has revealed about love? Are you going to listen to Him, no matter how perplexed He makes you feel?

    The giving up in surrender of our own desires and perspective to instead declare the mystery of God is on blazing display in the book of Romans itself, in the very chapter 9 you reference. It is mind-blowing if we dwell on it.

    Consider how Romans chapter 9 begins:

    I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit— that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh. (Rom. 9:1-3)

    Here Paul begins by saying how much he loves his brothers and sisters in the flesh. He could wish himself to be cursed and cut off from God if that would mean their salvation. That is love, passionate love, for people.

    BUT

    It is so fascinating and mind-blowing because if you follow what Paul is saying in this chapter (and all the book of Romans) you come to understand that Paul is setting up a huge “BUT.” And it is very interesting, and it really makes me think. In Romans chapter 8 Paul when on at some length about the love God has for His people, and then Paul starts chapter 9 by talking about his own (Paul’s) love for the fleshly people of Israel which leads on to the Paul laying on the contrasting fact that God isn’t going to save all the fleshly people of Israel. (God loves His people, but that doesn’t exactly line up with Paul’s personal group of outward fleshly people!)

    Paul loves the group of outward people called Israel, and desires their salvation, but Paul says God isn’t going to save them all. God, he says, has deliberately chosen to have mercy on only some. So what is Paul saying–that he has a greater sense of love than God?

    No, of course not. What he is laying out in unguarded honesty is how he knows his personal feelings don’t reflect exactly what God is going to do. In effect he admits, “If I were God, I would do thus and save all my brothers and sisters, but I am not God so I don’t understand the mysteries that God has planned. I feel one thing, but I know God is doing a different thing.”

    I don’t know if you can see it, but Paul puts himself in the very place of tension you find yourself. How can Paul accept that? If you think about how Paul expresses his acceptance of that, perhaps it will be of some help to you in your own struggle. If you read through the chapter in Romans you can see that Paul doesn’t resolve the tension. When you have Paul’s own confession of the first verses of Romans 9 in mind, you can see his later statement in verses 20-24 as being not only a rebuke of others, but also an answer to his own self:

    But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?

    Remember, this is Paul who had been the Pharisee of Pharisees, the great zealot for the nation of Israel. He dearly, deeply, and passionately loved his people. (He is also painfully aware of how unworthy he is to be an Apostle of Christ!) And this Paul came to know Christ and came to understand from reading the Scriptures anew with eyes opened by the Holy Spirit that not all the people he loved so dearly would be saved–and their lack of salvation was by God’s choice. He admits in this very chapter of Romans 9 how much anguish in heart this truth caused him–and yet he still goes on in the chapter to affirm as true the very truth which causes him anguish! He will not, for the sake of his desires and wants, contradict what he sees as God plainly declaring. Paul deeply, deeply, loves and wants the salvation of this group of people, and yet in the same breath declares that God has deliberately chosen to not save them all. Paul doesn’t hide the very thing you are struggling with–he lays it out there in the open, with himself as the prime example of that struggle!

    If Paul lives in, and accepts, this tension as part of being faithful to the revelation of God, I don’t believe you will be able to escape it in your life either and still remain faithful to scripture.

    The answer (as much as there is one to us in this present life) is faith. Paul believes what God says, and so he believes that in God’s infinite person the love Paul has for his fellow fleshly Israelites is reconciled with God’s deliberate choice to only have mercy on some. But he doesn’t attempt to reconcile those things with his own logic any more than Eve should have attempted to reconcile the fact that the fruit of the tree looked good with the fact that God said she should not eat. Eve should have accepted the fact that the fruit appeared good to eat, and that God had told her not to eat it, and allowed those two seemingly contradictory things to stand simply because God had said that it was so. And so Paul does allow the bold contradiction to stand, un-hidden and unabashed.

    It needs to be forcefully pointed out that Paul did not say it was wrong for him to love and desire the salvation of his fleshly brothers and sisters. Here, implicitly, and elsewhere explicitly we are called to love all people–but doing so within the tension of recognizing that the command from God for us to to love all those people is somehow mysteriously reconciled in His infinite person with His sovereign decision to only have mercy on some. Paul lived his life within that tension–grasping one truth without letting go of the other–and so should we.

    God is so vast we cannot begin to grasp the vastness of His person. And His existence outside of time is something we have no ability to comprehend, being creatures bound in every way by time. These truths, while not explaining the apparent contradictions that God declares in the Bible, do provide some frame of context. By that I mean if we recognize that we are dealing with a Being who can speak from a frame of reference which we have no ability to comprehend it gives cause for us being less shocked when this Being says and does things which are ultimately mysterious to us. To our fleshly minds, how can it be anything but bizarre when God commissioned Moses to bring the people of Israel out of Egypt, had Moses mediate a covenant with these people, and has him lead them through the desert for forty years, only to then tell him that it all will come unraveled. All of that big long story, and Moses brings these people to the end of the book of Deuteronomy and there in the last chapters God tells Moses, “By the way, Moses old chap, these people whom I made a covenant with are utterly corrupt, they are going to completely fail to keep this covenant and I’m going to kick them out of the land I just had you bring them to. So as the last thing you do before you die I want you to teach them a song to be a witness against them in future generations.” (Explanation in Deut chapter 31, song in Deut. 32.) One can imagine Moses going to his grave shaking his head and wondering aloud, “Why did I do all of this if failure is going to be the end result?” Why all the futility, especially when God knew it in advance? Doesn’t it look bizarre to any standard of human reason? Why make a covenant when advance you declare it will be a failure? Why call many but chose only a few? (Matt. 22:14) Isn’t that nonsensical? If you’re doing the chosing, choose all! And why desire all men be saved, but only have mercy on some? If it is dependent on your mercy and not man’s effort, why not have mercy on them all! Why not, God?

    The Bible does not try to hide these confounding things about God, and they are confounding. They are a mystery. We can understand them in some part and some measure from what God has revealed of himself, but never fully. Never can we escape the sense that we live in the presence of a being whose thoughts we cannot begin to encompass.

    It is a profound disservice to God when Christians try to reason and explain God away until He fits into a nice neat box without those difficult and confounding questions and tensions. It is to the shame of the church today that it does try to cover over these confounding things. God is not a mini-me that we can fit into our pocket and understand so well. God is vast. God is beyond our comprehension. And we should shout it from the rooftops.

    The Mystery of Grace

    While God does give us things which seem contradictions in our puny minds, things that we are called to accept in faith, it is wrong for us to create more contradictions by mis-representing God. So, while on the one hand I agree that the general sense of anguish and love which you feel for the lost is quite appropriate (after all, Paul felt it: “I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart” he said,) I will take issue with how you phrase certain things because I do not see it as accurately reflecting what is said in the Bible. If we are to feel anguish and wrestle with what the Bible says, let it be what the Bible actually says.

    But creating a solution, a hope, a way to salvation, and not offering it to all?” I am not sure where you get the idea that someone is arguing that salvation is not offered to all. The Bible clearly states that salvation is offered to all, and we as God’s servants are called to offer it to all. The point of being confounded would be this: “Why create a way of salvation and not enable everyone receive it?” The Bible declares the problem to be not in the lack of the offer but the lack of being able to receive.

    And the short answer to that question is: The mystery of grace.

    God forces people to love Him?” I am familiar with this accusation, but my return question would be to ask what Scripture reads to you as “forced to love”? I would rejoinder that God equips some people to love Him. The confounding question would then be, “Why does God so equip some to love Him, and not others?”

    The short answer to that question is: The mystery of grace.

    God hardens people’s hearts?” Yes, as Romans 9 clearly states, “he hardens whomever he wills” (v. 18) and so God does. But we need to understand the right context. Since the fall in the Garden, every person from conception onward has a hard heart. (Sinful from my mother’s womb, as David says in the psalms.) God hardens already hard hearts. He never hardens a soft heart. But there are no soft hearts, naturally. So the full expression is that God hardens people’s hard hearts, and in mercy he softens other hard hearts. As sinners deserving wrath, we deserve nothing else than to have our hearts hardened. If you can agree (as you said) “Justice I can deal with– a God who lets you get what you deserve. Then, even everyone going to Hell is logical and acceptable” then your problem should not be that God hardens hearts. As sinners, we deserve to have our hearts harden down the path to hell. Anyone who understands the just due of our sin will not complain about God hardening hearts. That isn’t God being unfair–that is our rightfully due punishment, that is justice! The actual confounding question is “Why does God in mercy soften some hearts?” That softening of some and not others is where it looks like God is being unfair to our fleshly sense of justice.

    The short answer to that question is: The mystery of grace.

    Does the ultimate standard of good elect some and not others?” Again, Romans 9 clearly says yes. But it is not just Romans 9 that say this, as I have pointed out to you in other correspondence. It is also said explicitly in Ephesians, 1 Corinthians, the Gospel of John, just to name three additional books. So let’s not forget that. The more appropriate question is, “Why does the ultimate standard of good elect some and not others?”

    The short answer to that question is: The mystery of grace.

    At their heart, if you dig down deep enough, all of your above questions boil down to, “Why isn’t grace shown equally to all?” On that basic level the answer God gives to your question is, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” In other words, God refuses to explain Himself to you, or me, or to anyone else. By the merits of justice we all deserve hell. The reason for grace is a secret of God which He has not seen fit to reveal.

    Can you worship a God who keeps secrets?

    The heart of the problem is that our sin nature is galled by the idea of grace. rightly and fully understood. The rebellious heart longs of cause for its own exaltation, and so that rebellious heart seeks to modify and qualify grace so that it is not fully grace. The sin in us hungers for the opportunity to say, “God treated me differently (better) because of what I did.” Thus the reason humanity so jealously guards its own conception of free will. It is the exaltation and glorification of self. The sin in us hates the mystery of grace for we have no claim on it, and no cause to boast in it, and it leaves us–in and of ourselves–with nothing. Grace is beyond all measure and understanding because it is free of the bonds of justice. Justice is law, and in justice each is given his due according to his works. But grace is a gift, and there are no rules, or laws, for gifts. And so we cannot encompass it, comprehend it, or put any limit upon it. We say it is not fair, but we have no call to say that because fairness has to do with justice, and grace is not bound by justice. So grace is not bound by our shrill cries of fairness.

    Children

    What kind of parent would not will the best for all of His children? What kind of parent offers the good gift (the best gift) to only a few?” Yes, yes, and absolutely God does will the best for all of His children and makes sure they all receive His best gift. Somehow, you seem to have taken up the mistaken idea that all people without exception are God’s children. That idea is certainly a very popular one (so I am not surprised to see it) but not only is it without Biblical warrant, but it is directly and forcefully refuted by Jesus himself. Jesus denies outright that all people are God’s children.

    Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.” (John 8:42-47)

    I do not know how Jesus could say more plainly that not all people are God’s children (or sheep, as the term used elsewhere). It is true that God children come from among every tribe and nation, but it is not all people of every tribe an nation who are his children. So as far as rocking your faith for one day, I’ll let that be the round-house blow you didn’t see coming. If you understand that not all people are God’s children (but some are in fact in the eyes of God “children of Satan”) then the real confounding question is not “Why doesn’t God show equal love to all people” but rather, “Why does God show any love to those whom He knows are children of Satan?” In that case the question is, how can the justice of God tolerate pouring out love and grace daily on those who are the children of Satan? (And actually that is a very interesting question, but not one which I will get into this time around.)

    Risky Business

    You say, “To not think is easier than thinking, less risky” and that is true, but I am glad to see that you are thinking and you are wrestling with these things. I doubt I have provided you with any neat answers, but I don’t look to slap neat answers on your hard questions. Hard questions don’t get neat answers. Hard questions have big answers that we spend all our lives growing into, so there will be no soon end to this journey. I cannot give you the answers, but only stir up your thoughts in the direction of the One who gives all the answers from the abundance of His mysterious grace. As it is said in Acts 16:14 “One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.” So it is my trust that God who alone opens hearts in having mercy on whom He decides to have mercy, will open your heart and give you also understanding into what Paul is saying.

    Keep up the seeking, searching, and asking. I look forward to your future thoughts.

    • Ah, drat. I see my html heading tags didn’t come through. Readers, the odd one-line sentence fragments that come in the places you might expect a heading were supposed to be headings.

    • Yep, I anticipated a long comment to this one. As usual, I won’t have time to do it justice, but I’ll return a few thoughts for yours.

      Trust issues…
      You say ” …we trust God because we have met Him and have a relationship with Him. ” True. And what I know of God in my relationship with Him doesn’t feel right/line up well for me with what you are saying. That, may I say, is very frustrating. Thus this post.

      I agree that being a child of God doesn’t implicitly mean we are “…in the know with all of what God is doing.” But, in this case you think that you are “in the know.” Am I correct? Not trying to be mean, but it seems like you come at my struggles with the preconceived notion that you understand God’s view on this. Maybe you do. What do I know? It just seems a bit contradictory with what you’re saying here. God is indeed too big for any human to understand.

      You say “At the end of the day the heart of the gospel is a mystery.” I would disagree. At the end of the day the gospel is simple. God died to save sinners of whom I am the worst because He loves them and wants them to live forever with Him. That is the heart of the gospel, and it is not hard to understand.

      You say ” Satan uses the mystery of God and our personal sense of justice, fairness, love, and goodness to incite us to judged God…” Yes, and that is what I’m trying to stand against. I cannot let this separate me from God. I cannot let Satan win this battle. I refuse.

      I don’t see Romans 9 as you do. I have studied, thought, and fought. It is about the children of promise. Not all choose salvation, only a remnant. But we will get more into that at a later date.

      Also, I see offering grace vs. enabling the ability to receive grace to come out as mostly the same thing. Offering someone something that they CANNOT receive is not really offering at all because they don’t have a chance. That is why I used the phrase I did instead of “’Why create a way of salvation and not enable everyone receive it?’”

      You ask “Can you worship a God who keeps secrets?” The answer is yes, but I cannot worship a God who doesn’t love the wicked as wholly as I have been taught that He does. I cannot worship a God who didn’t fully give Himself for everyone on this planet as He says He did.

      By the children comment, maybe I would have gotten farther had I said Creator. God brings people into this world, thus He is responsible to see that we all get a chance or He is an unfair Creator. God is a God of justice.

      Thank you for never slapping neat answers on my questions,
      V.

      • I don’t see Romans 9 as you do. I have studied, thought, and fought. It is about the children of promise. Not all choose salvation, only a remnant. But we will get more into that at a later date.” Right. I will not in this comment attempt to address Romans 9 any further. That will come to you in a different medium which I hope will be more convenient to to read than a comment on a blog post. In fact, I will say at the outset that I am not aiming to provide any answers with this particular comment, just stir up your thinking.

        I will point out that in my thinking Romans 9 is not some isolated proof text for my view. When I read the NT, I see the contradiction of the gospel everywhere and I have not yet given you anywhere near an exhaustive presentation (and it is entirely possible you will tire of this topic before I ever do!). I never meant to give the impression that Romans 9 was a one stop shop for all things related to God’s decisions about salvation. Not only does Romans 9 need to be reconciled within itself, and the rest of the book, but ultimately with the rest of the NT teaching.

        But that is for another time.

        On trust issues you said, “And what I know of God in my relationship with Him doesn’t feel right/line up well for me with what you are saying. That, may I say, is very frustrating. Thus this post.” I understand that. What I was trying to get at is that what we do know of God is the foundation for accepting that which God has declared and we are unable to fully comprehend. It sounds contradictory, and from a certain perspective it is. But if you know God is greater than anything you can conceive, and you know God is good, then if God tells you something that to your reasoning does not seem good, you accept it because you know God is greater than anything you can conceive. The qualities of God are not limited by our understanding, or defined by our understanding, and thus the requirement of faith–we do not understand, but we believe.

        You said that what I am saying doesn’t feel right/line up with what you know, and I am cognizant of this fact. I am not arguing that what I have said should feel right/line up. In fact, I would go so far as to say that I am arguing that what I present shouldn’t line up with your feelings and intellect. Thus my previous reference to Abraham and the ordeal of sacrificing Isaac. The account was given to instruct us, so what instruction do you take away from it? God told Abraham that it was through Isaac that his offspring would be reckoned, and then He told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. In the moment of hearing that command, would it have been in accord with your feelings and understanding of God to do such an act? Put yourself in Abraham’s shoes (sandals). Does the promise of descendants and the command of sacrifice line up? No, they don’t! Not logically, not in any way. Do you think it felt right to Abraham to sacrifice his son? The promise of God and the command of God were contradictory. More than that, the command does not appear good, loving, just, or right. How can you reconcile the command to sacrifice Isaac with all of those good attributes of God? Isn’t the sacrifice of a son the sort of thing the demon “gods” like Molech command?

        Wouldn’t you have been “right” in telling Abraham that a God commanding him to sacrifice his son was not the kind of God you knew, and he should disbelieve and disobey that God?

        And yet Abraham obeyed because he believed God, and in believing God he accepted that God could reconcile the irreconcilable, and that in God’s supreme and supernatural person the contradiction was resolved. Abraham is held up in the NT as an example of faith. A lesson I take is that in that incident Abraham exemplified faith–that is, when God stated two contradictory things, Abraham believed. The conclusion I draw is that faith in our lives encompasses the very same thing. God faces all of us in such “Isaac” moments and demands a faith that accepts His “contradictory” statements, even when they don’t feel right/line up well with what we understand. But Abraham knew God (and thus knew that ALL things were possible with Him (Matt. 19:26) and thus believed and obey.

        If sacrificing Isaac felt right, Abraham wouldn’t have needed to exercise faith. If sacrificing Isaac seem logical, Abraham wouldn’t have needed to exercise faith. But what God said was neither, and so it required faith of Abraham–faith that God was indeed good, holy, loving, and justice, and faithful in spite of all appearances to the contrary!

        I agree that what I am saying does not line up with your perception of God, or your philosophy about God. I am not saying you should accept what I say because it has such a good philosophy or logic about it. I outright assert that to human understanding what I am saying is philosophically incoherent and illogical. What I am trying to present to you is a position of faith, a presentation that in the Bible God has plainly said something. And by that I presuppose that it cannot be accepted by the comprehension of logic and feeling–if it could, then it wouldn’t require faith. Faith comes when God says something and you believe it because He said it. Period. Full stop. If you believe God because what He says lines up with your Philosophical ideas about love, and justice, or your logic, or your emotions, then that isn’t faith because you aren’t depending on God’s word alone–you’re judging Him by your standards.

        In this larger discussion were are having there are really two issues. For some clarity, I will separate them out.

        1. (The unstated questions of) Can, and indeed does God command and do things which appear contradictory to us, and demand that we accept such things on faith alone?

        2. (The stated question of) Is God’s gospel message truly expressed in the contradiction which Rundy asserts?

        One can accept and affirm the former without accepting the latter point, but the first is certainly fundamental. I admit your apparent unwillingness to accept the first point troubles me more than your resistance to the second. I may be wrong (or a poor presenter), but if your faith in God is based upon your feelings about what is right, or your sense of what is equitable–is that the kind of faith Abraham demonstrated in going to sacrifice Isaac? If your faith is such that you only believe God when He accommodates your sensibilities and your philosophy, what kind of faith is that? What will you do on the day God calls you to sacrifice your “Isaac”?

        Mind you, I am not suggesting you don’t talk about your feelings, or even that your feelings are wrong. Far from it! Your feelings are most appropriate. Abraham was surely troubled and not happy about God’s command to sacrifice Isaac–and that was the whole point. God was calling Abraham to do something very difficult. Likewise, when Jesus went to the cross as the sacrifice he was most certainly troubled, and not happy–that is recorded for us in some detail. Both men were of utmost faith, Jesus foremost, and he cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” If anyone knows God’s will and purposes it is Jesus, and yet he could cry out “Why?” So then, most certainly you can cry out “Why” too. But faith is accepting, even though we cry out “Why?”

        So I want to be clear that I am not chiding you for the anguish of soul you feel when faced with what appears a contradiction in the ideas of God’s Love, and God’s Deliberate Particular Choice (or whatever phraseology you want to use for my position). The cross is where the love of God, the wrath of God, the justice of God, and the mercy of God come together and there all are satisfied and all proclaimed–and yet Jesus cried out “Why?” If he, God incarnate, in agony can ask “Why” at the point of the unfolding of the gospel, then it is no wonder we feel tumult and questions from our vantage. But faith is not banishing the tumult, it is believing God through the tumult.

        But I will point out that if you cannot accept, and will not believe, that faith is most clearly exercised when it goes against what we feel and think then you are in no place to consider my second point which we are explicitly discussing. If what I am saying is true, then what I am saying must be accepted on faith because God has said it, and faith requires you to accept it on the basis of God’s declaration in spite of what you feel and think. Faith is believing the impossible! Faith is believing that 5 loaves of bread can feed five thousand. It is believing in walking on water, it is believing the dead rising. It is supposed to be that way! They are all contradictions. Now some such contradictions people claim to accept readily enough because they tickle their fancy (who doesn’t like a lot of free bread!) but the contradictions of faith are not bound to those that tickle our fancy. So if your reactions to the offense caused by the contradictions of faith cause you to reject the truth I claim to assert, you will always and forever reject it no matter what evidence I present. Because I fully affirm that what I am saying is supposed to be a contradiction that we cannot resolve and must by faith accept that it is resolved in the person of God. If you can’t accept the underlying principle of faith required, you’ll never be in a right position to honestly consider the second question.

        Now, if you can in good conscience affirm that IF God has in fact declared that the gospel is the contradiction that I present then (and only then!) you will believe it in spite of the fact that it does not line up with what you feel and understand–if that is the case, then we are in a place to look into the matter of determining what God has said, and whether I am rightly representing Him. But if you refuse to contemplate such a God, then anything I you will not be able to consider from the very beginning because I fully affirm that what I am saying is meant to not line up with what you feel and understand! Faith is being obedient to sacrifice Isaac in spite of one’s thoughts and feelings. That is the faith of the gospel. So don’t be surprised when everything I say provokes that same reaction.

        Accepting that expression of faith does not thereby prove that my articulation of the gospel is accurate. And if you understand that faith is not based upon what we feel and think (and that our feelings and thinking can quite naturally be at odds with God) then it should be very clear that we ought to take the utmost care to determine that the contradictions we accept are indeed the declarations of God (in which case we can know they will be reconciled in Him) and not the contradictions of our own inventing (in which case they are just foolishness). So I by no means suggest that you accept what I say because I seem clever, or make a persuasive argument, or seem passionate. In fact, you shouldn’t accept anything I say! My purpose is to point you back to what God has said, for you to see what God has said, and for you to believe what God has said. Study Romans 9. Study a lot more of the Bible than just Romans 9! What you should be seeking is not a God who agrees with your feelings or thoughts or philosophy, but the God who has declared Himself with all the blatant contradictions He has declared about Himself that we must accept by faith.

        This leads naturally to your next statement,

        I agree that being a child of God doesn’t implicitly mean we are “…in the know with all of what God is doing.” But, in this case you think that you are “in the know.” Am I correct? Not trying to be mean, but it seems like you come at my struggles with the preconceived notion that you understand God’s view on this. Maybe you do. What do I know? It just seems a bit contradictory with what you’re saying here. God is indeed too big for any human to understand.

        The answer to whether I am “in the know” depends on what you mean by that. If, for example, by “in the know” you mean that I claim to know that God in fact told Abraham both “Through Isaac your offspring will be reckoned” and “sacrifice your son to me on Mount Moriah” then yes, I do claim to know that God told Abraham both those things. If by “in the know” you mean that I claim to know the ultimate reasons why God gave those two contradictory commands, then no I do not claim to be “in the know.” There is the distinction between claiming to know statements made by God, and knowing the mind of God. I do claim to know statements of God, but not to have plumbed the depths of His mind. Yes, I can observe things that God accomplished through various events (a demonstration of faith in the case of Abraham) but as the the ultimate “in the know” as to why God did that with Abraham instead of something else (for God could have tested Abraham in an infinite number of ways, or not at all) then I am most certainly not “in the know,” nor do I claim to be. God’s reasons are His mystery.

        To move the analogy to the case at hand, do I claim to be “in the know” about the gospel? If by that you mean that I say God has plainly and explicitly said two contradictory things–then in that case, yes. I believe I am accurately relaying two facts that God has revealed about the gospel–not esoteric and hidden facts, but plainly stated. They are facts that to me appear to contradict but which I nonetheless proclaim both as true on the basis of faith. Do I claim to be “in the know” as to all the reasons why God has saw fit for the gospel to be presented in that way? No, absolutely not. I sometimes offer feeble thoughts on some bits and pieces of the “why” but I am ultimately most definitely not “in the know,” as to God’s reasons, nor do I need to be. What I am called to declare I am called to declare on faith, not based on being “in the know.”

        As far as “preconceived notion” I think part of what you are picking up on there is that I have already previously thought about the things you are now wrestling with , and having wrestled with it in the past myself I have already come to conclusions. So in that sense my opinions are “preconceived” since I have already been through this before. That doesn’t by defacto make my opinions correct, but I do have them, and it would be disingenuous for me to address you as if I hadn’t already thought about these matters and reached a conclusion.

        Referencing my words you said, “You say ‘At the end of the day the heart of the gospel is a mystery.’ I would disagree. At the end of the day the gospel is simple.” I don’t disagree with the simple statement you made, but we need to distinguish between simple and mystery. God told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. That command was simple. It was also a mystery. And as far as the mystery of the gospel of Christ, there is some variety in how translations present different passages, but here are a few for your contemplation:

        Now to him who is able to establish you in accordance with my gospel, the message I proclaim about Jesus Christ, in keeping with the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past (Rom. 16:25, NIV)
        No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. (1 Cor. 2:7, NIV)
        he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ (Eph. 1:9, NIV)
        In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ Eph. 3:4, NIV)
        and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things (Eph. 3:9, NIV)
        Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel (Eph. 6:16, NIV)
        To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. (Col. 1:27, NIV)
        And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains (Col. 4:3, NIV)
        Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain. They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. (1 Tim. 3:8-9, ESV)

        One could throw in a few more examples, but I think that will suffice. The gospel is simple, but it is also a mystery. Perhaps contemplating why it is a mystery will yeild fruitful thought. The gospel is not difficult to understand (in regards to being too complex) but it is hard to accept. That is why it is called a stumbling stone and an offense and foolishness.

        Offering someone something that they CANNOT receive is not really offering at all because they don’t have a chance. That is why I used the phrase I did instead of ‘Why create a way of salvation and not enable everyone receive it?’” Putting issues of the NT aside for the moment, I wonder how you square this view of God with His conduct in the OT. By both the narrative of the OT, and the clear explanation of the NT, God knew from the very beginning that the Israelites were incapable of upholding the covenant made at Sinai. God made a deal with the Israelites (“You keep this covenant and you get the Promised Land forever”) a deal which He knew they couldn’t do. Ultimately, they couldn’t receive the Promised Land or keep the covenant. Israel didn’t have a chance from square one. They were doomed. How is that not fraud? How was God not unfair in His dealing with Israel based on your reasoning? We haven’t even made it to the NT and already God is not living up to your standards.

        If you were an Israelite back in the desert of Sinai wouldn’t you be arguing that either the people of Israel most certainly were able to fulfill the Law or else God didn’t really require them to do it because it wouldn be unfair of God to require something that the people couldn’t do. If so, you would be wrong because God most certainly did require complete obedience, and we most certainly know it wasn’t possible. Those who did not believe either thought they were capable of keeping all the Law or else that God was not so holy as to actually require it. But those who had faith recognized the impossibility and the contradiction in what God had set up and in faith believed that God could reconcile the impossibility and trusted God to provide the redemption and salvation that they could not accomplish themselves (Rom. 4:5).

        You say offering someone something that they CANNOT receive is not really offering at all because they don’t have a chance. But in Deut. we have it plainly said, “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live” (Deut. 30:19). That is a choice, right? But Paul plainly teaches in the NT that Israel was not able to keep the covenant set before them. They could not choose life! If God is already not living up to your standards of what a choice must be, what makes you so confident He cannot violate your standards again? Maybe He has, maybe He hasn’t. But how can you say CANNOT? “The Lord does whatever pleases him, in the heavens and on the earth” (Psalm 135:6)

        Now the terms of the New Covenant are not a repeat of the Old Covenant but you haven’t presented Biblical grounds for asserting that God can’t possibly be “unfair” by your measure. You have certainly made your philosophical opinions and personal standards known, but God has already demonstrably violated your standards once. That observation of mine is not proof regarding what the stipulation of the New Covenant are (after all, God could make the New Covenant however He pleased) but I am befuddled when you loudly declare a standard of fairness that you think God must uphold–and yet as best I know you would affirm that God did not</em? uphold your standard in His dealing with Israel. So what, Israel doesn't count?

        No answers today. Just a few things to think about.

  4. “Because I want to believe the truth, but I don’t want to believe that this is truth. God is the ultimate standard of good. Does the ultimate standard of good elect some and not others? What kind of parent would not will the best for all of His children? What kind of parent offers the good gift (the best gift) to only a few? Answer me this. Rock my faith. At least I am seeking. At least I am not stagnant.”

    Well, you already know my answer to this. After over ten years of listening to Moody radio, I still have not been convinced that the some of the key concepts of Calvinism are correct. That doesn’t mean I avoid Calvinists, it just means I agree to disagree. It might be helpful to look at the key componets of Arminianism, and compare the two, then go to the Bible and see where the weight of scripture lies. First a few verses for you:

    JOH 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him
    shall not perish but have eternal life. (NIV)

    1Timothy 2:3-4 This is good, and pleases God our Savior, (4) who wants all men to be saved and to
    come to a knowledge of the truth. (NIV)

    2PE 3:9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with
    you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (NIV)

    REV 22:17 The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” Whoever is thirsty,
    let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life. (NIV)

    (Matthew 28:19-20 NIV) Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the
    Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, (20) and teaching them to obey everything I have
    commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

    Arminianism’s Five Points

    The “five points of Arminianism,
    are based on his writings. (Marston, n.d., n.p.) “The Five Arminian Articles (Arminians were then called
    “Remonstrants” were framed in 1610 and first published in 1612. In abridged form they are: (Failing, 1978,
    pp.2-3)

    1. Conditional Election.

    God wants to save all men. Those who respond to the call of His Spirit are the elect or the predestinated.
    (Marston, n.d., n.p.) “God, by an eternal purpose, has determined to save in Christ, and for His sake, all
    who through the grace of the Holy Spirit believe on Jesus and persevere in faith and obedience to the
    end.” (Failing, 1978, pp.2-3)

    2. Unlimited Atonement.

    Christ died for all men. The atonement is adequate for the whole race generally and every man
    individually. Therefore, the atonement is universal in its scope. (Marston, n.d., n.p.) “Jesus Christ died for all
    men and obtained for all men, by His redemption on the cross, forgiveness of sins, yet only those who
    believe are saved.” (Failing, 1978, pp.2-3)

    3. Prevenient Grace.

    Mankind, it’s true, is corrupted by sin or totally depraved, but God extends to every man a grace which
    enables him to turn to Christ for forgiveness. This is called Prevenient Grace — the grace that goes
    before. (Marston, n.d., n.p.) “Since he (man) has no saving grace in himself nor even can will that which is
    good, man must be born again through the Holy Spirit so he can think, will, and do that which is good.”
    (Failing, 1978, pp.2-3)

    4. Resistible Grace.

    Because man is truly a free moral agent, he may, if he chooses, resist the grace of God. This is termed
    Resistible Grace. (Marston, n.d., n.p.) “Only by the prevenient and assisting grace of God can man be
    awakened to righteousness, so that all good deeds must be ascribed to the grace of God in Christ. Yet
    this grace is not irresistible, for men can resist the Holy Spirit.” (Failing, 1978, pp.2-3)

    5. It’s Possible To Fall Away.

    (Once saved not always saved)

    Because man does not surrender this freedom when he is saved, he is able (though less likely than many
    preachers imply) to renounce his faith and be lost. Arminius was of the firm conviction that all men are
    free moral agents both before and after they are converted. (Marston, n.d., n.p.) “Those who become
    partakers of Christ’s life-giving Spirit have full power to strive against Satan, sin, and the world, and to win
    the victory. By the continued assistance of Christ, providing only they desire His help and are not inactive,
    believers are kept from falling, so that no power of Satan can pluck them out of Christ’s hands. Whether
    they are capable of forsaking faith in Christ and becoming devoid of grace” (Failing, 1978, pp.2-3) “must be
    more particularly determined out of the Holy Scripture.” (McNeill, 1977, p.264)

    “Arminius explicitly rejects the position that God decreed or foreordained Adam’s sin and our fall. God
    foreknew man’s disobedience and knowing that, God predestined Christ to be our Savior.

    I must apologize for not fleshing out my own reasons for the way I believe at this time, but I’m not blessed with silverware thiefs apparent gift of speedy fingers on the keyboard. 😀

    I liked this quote from silverware thiefs post:
    “God is so vast we cannot begin to grasp the vastness of His person. And His existence outside of time is something we have no ability to comprehend, being creatures bound in every way by time.”

    and yet he goes on to try and explain how the sovereignty of God works in regards to our salvation.
    As I have said many times, I feel that free will and the absolute sovereignty of God are not at odds with each other. (But, to say that not all men have the free will to choose Him while at the same time stating that God offers salvation to all is like saying God is a cruel jester who dangles a carrot in front of all that some can never reach, but we won’t go there!)
    Is God outside of time? Does He know and see all? Yes and yes! But to assume from that logic that God can not offer election to all, because he foreknows everything is to limit God!
    Is He not big enough to do what is impossible to do in our puny little brains? This is the God who said He repented of making man and sent a flood to destroy humanity. How can God repent of something he foreknew? So, yes I agree that this is a great mystery. But I also believe “whosoever will” means “Whosoever will.” Anything else reduces mankind to robots pre programmed from birth.

    Well that’s all for now, it’s past the old man’s bedtime. 🙂

    • A few comments and observations sparked by Wildswanderer:

      I agree that it can be worthwhile to examine both Arminian and Calvinistic positions, and I don’t encourage anyone to blindly follow any man. However, I would add that, in my observation, there can also be pitfalls in looking at the words of human teachers. Christians can become enraptured with following some human teacher (whether Arminius, Calvin, or someone else) and end up rather preoccupied with what some human teacher thinks about Scripture, rather than with what Scripture says. Sadly, the debates can sometimes end up being about how much people are in conformity with some chosen teacher, rather than an examination of the teaching of Scripture itself.

      I think I have mentioned this to Veronica in the past, but it seems apropos for this public comment thread to mention again that while I happen to understand this particular narrow question about salvation much in the same way as Calvin, there are other areas where I vehemently disagree with Calvin. (His views on covenantal theology being just one.) Calvin, like all other teachers, was a very flawed man. Sometimes he got things right, and sometimes he really went off the rails. It is for this reason (among others) that I have avoided taking the topic from the angle of “The Five Points of Calvinism” because I think it is best when discussing Scripture to take as it was written, rather than as someone else (Calvin, Ariminius, etc) has regurgitated it.

      For this reason I strongly agree with you that at the end of the day what any searching person needs to do is search the Bible and find out where the weight (teaching) of Scripture lies. I would add (once again!) that I think the most faithful way to do this is to take Scripture as it is written–that is, not verse hunt but rather study and follow the complete argument that is being made in the individual books of the Bible. As anyone who has been through a few theological debates knows, a careful verse picker can find enough verses to seemingly support an awful lot of divergent views. There is the person picking out verses to buttress Calvinism, the next picking out verses to support Arminianism, and still another picking out verses to justify Universalism. While all such verse picking provides a fine arsenal of ammunition for debaters to fire at one another, it rarely sheds any light on unfolding the actual larger narrative that the original Bible authors penned. Our goal–as both student and teacher–should be to reconcile all that Scripture teaches, not find a few verses to support whatever our particular pet view of the day. Of course that takes much time, and cannot be done in blog comments, so we must recognize the limits of the medium in which we write. But I share that thought as an observation.

      The scriptures you have pointed out are important to consider, though (as you are probably aware) to any thoughtful Calvinist they are seen as not the least incompatible with their view and in fact are incorporated into, the Calvinistic view. I have elsewhere handled John 3:16 at some length. Perhaps the time will come to do so with the others you mention here.

      In reading over the summaries you posted for the five points of Remonstrants I was reminded of the old saying, “Defining your terms is half the argument.” The un-critical reader accepts the definition of terms in an argument without question and that is to their detriment. This is true about all areas of life and thought. As something of an aside, it is appalling how bad the people in colleges and other venues of supposed critical thinking have become in this regards. It seems like it is par for the course in college to accept unquestioned (and as if it were unquestionable!) so many presuppositions about political or economic theory, or whatever. And so it no wonder how so many people come out of college all thinking alike (or not thinking at all).

      But getting back to the Remonstrants…I find the logic that Arminius and his followers use to be very understandable. Taken in isolation, it has a semblance of cohesion. But what I find so remarkable about the Remonstrants is how the meaning of so many terms and ideas are presumed. For the student of the Bible the first question should not be whether the Remonstrants has its own internal logic, but whether it uses terms in a way that is Biblically faithful. (The same applies to any line of argument.) If any line of thought uses terms in a way that is not Biblically faithful, then the following argument collapses–Biblically speaking. And this is not only a criticism of the Remonstrants. Calvin also ran into this trouble in his teaching–in my view in particular in his conception and articulation of covenants and their NT application, and church-state relation. But in the case at hand of the Remonstrants, it is worth noting that the real question, and argument, is whether the Remonstrants uses its terms in a Biblically truthful way. Once you have accepted the Remonstrants definition of terms and ideas, the actual argument presented becomes a forgone conclusion.

      Which is my rather long-winded way of getting around to saying that my problem with the Remonstrants is not an inability to see the logic of the argument presented, but rather what I see as its use of terms and ideas in a way that flatly contradicts how the Bible uses them. The use of “predestination” is one example, though I could cite many more. I understand how the Remonstrants uses that term, but when I study how the Bible uses the term I don’t see the Biblical meaning in agreement with the Remonstrants. The logic of the Remonstrants use of the term then becomes rather beside the point. When you don’t define something as the Bible defines it your further use becomes meaningless.

      Now you, of course, did not post the abbreviated summary of the Remonstrants for my reaction. But I thought to briefly share my broad perspective on the document just so, as the odd man out here in this discussion, my larger direction of criticism might be understood by any curious party.

      I must apologize for not fleshing out my own reasons for the way I believe at this time, but I’m not blessed with silverware thiefs apparent gift of speedy fingers on the keyboard.” Haha, yes, I sometimes say that in written exchanges I have an unfair advantage. If it is any comfort, I am much less eloquent in speech. So if I look like a “wise” man now in the written word, I surely look the “fool” when I open my mouth in person 😛

      Up to this point I have simply shared some observations sparked by Wildswanderer’s comment, and up to this point it has not been meant to provoke any kind of debate. But I would like to address some things that were more directly a reaction to things I wrote. I hope Widlswanderer will bear with me, though I realize he may not desire or have time to respond.

      I said in my previous comment, “God is so vast we cannot begin to grasp the vastness of His person. And His existence outside of time is something we have no ability to comprehend, being creatures bound in every way by time.” and in response Wildswanderer said, “and yet he goes on to try and explain how the sovereignty of God works in regards to our salvation.

      I see how my statement could have been understood as an assertion that God (and by extension the Bible) is so beyond our comprehension that we might as well not study the Bible or seek to understand God. What I said might be construed as a statement of epistemological nihilism. After all, one might say, God is beyond our comprehension, so don’t bother trying to comprehend anything about God.

      That is not what I meant. What I was trying to articulate in my own words was an expression of the idea contained in Deut. 29:29 wherein it is said “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us […]” (ESV). There is a tension in this statement because were are told some things have been given to us to seek out and understand, and some things have not. In applying that to my own thoughts on the issues Veronica raised, I sought to be clear that I did not claim to have all the answers, or even that all the answers could be found. Nonetheless, there is the other half of the statement “but the things that are revealed belong to us” and the NT does say many things about the sovereignty of God in salvation. Inasmuch as we must admit that God has not given us all the answers, we should seek to understand what He has revealed. Thus, my following comments were an attempt to explain what the NT does teach about the sovereignty of God in salvation–that is the “revealed things.” Romans chapter 9, and like passages are not what God has kept secret, but what He has chosen to reveal. And so I attempt to lay hold of it.

      That said, you of course may take issue with the quality of my exposition, and I welcome anyone pointing out the errors of my exegesis.

      Another place where it seems like I was perhaps misunderstood is where Wildswanderer says, “Is God outside of time? Does He know and see all? Yes and yes! But to assume from that logic that God can not offer election to all, because he foreknows everything is to limit God! Is He not big enough to do what is impossible to do in our puny little brains?” (Emphasis mine.)

      For some reason Wildswanderer understood me to be making some kind of “can’t” statement about God, along the lines of “God can’t offer election to all.” That is not my view, nor was it the idea I was trying to convey, so I apologize for anything which was poorly and contributed to that confusion. As far as election is concerned, I have never meant to make any statement about what God could or couldn’t do. What I am trying to draw attention to is explicit statements that God Himself has made about what He has chosen to do. It’s not an issue of my logic.

      As it is said,

      when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” (Rom. 9:10-13, ESV, emphasis mine.)

      You are quite right that on the basis of our own logic we can’t say God couldn’t chose to elect all. But God tells us that He has not chosen to elect all. Aren’t we obligated to accept that? Isn’t it the plain statement of the above passage that God chose to elect Jacob and not Esau? Now we can all agree that our puny brains might not be able to grasp the reason why–but it is God who has declared limited election here.

      Does limited election seem unjust to us? Of course it does! Paul acknowledges that himself in the very next verse of Rom. 9:14 when he says, “What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means!” So let us acknowledge frankly, as Paul does, that limited election appears unjust to us. Paul states that limited election is a fact, and admits it appears unjust. Notice how marvellously confounding Paul’s further explanation in Rom. 9:15-16 “For he says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’ So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.” (ESV, emphasis mine).

      Paul makes very clear what he means by “have mercy on whom I have mercy.” We might want to say “It means mercy is shown to those who make the right choice by their free will” but Paul explicitly refutes that by saying “So then it depends not on human will or exertion.” It is Paul (not me!) who states that there is limited election, and the limited nature of election is circumscribed by God’s mercy, and that mercy is not dependent on human will. God “has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.”

      Does this seem to us as injustice? Most certainly it does! Once again, Paul address this openly:

      You will say to me then, ‘Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?’” (Rom. 9:19) Clearly, what Paul has stated seems unjust. And what is Paul’s answer to this sense of injustice? Observe:

      But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? (Rom. 9:20-24, ESV)

      Who are you, O man, to answer back to God? That’s Paul’s answer to our sense of injustice. Ouch.

      Romans chapter 9 is hard, very hard. I don’t not try to pretend that it isn’t. But I plead with you, as I do with everyone, to honestly face what Paul is plainly and explicitly saying in Romans 9. Don’t you agree that we should say “Amen and amen” to what is written there?

      Is it greater than our puny minds can understand? Absolutely. But what Paul is presenting is not an issue of logic. He isn’t leaving something for us to work out by our intellect. The statements of Romans 9 are statements of divinely revealed fact, presented for us to accept as-is, not logic out–because we can’t logic out the mystery of “I have mercy on whom I have mercy” and “so then it does not depend on human will or effort.” In ultimate full understanding it is beyond our logic. But Paul has declared that it is so.

      You are absolutely right that God says, “whosoever wills.” But God also says these statements found in Romans 9. The submission of our puny minds to God is found in accepting BOTH statements, not in accepting the statement of “whosoever wills” and then saying that since Romans 9 doesn’t agree with our puny minds understanding of “whosoever wills” that we will reject Romans 9.

      You say “But I also believe ‘whosoever will’ means ‘Whosoever will.’ Anything else reduces mankind to robots pre programmed from birth” I must gently say that you seem to be limiting God based upon what your puny mind can understand. It is most certainly true that God says “Whosoever wills” but if God also says, “Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory” are we not obligated to confess that our puny minds cannot reconcile these two seemingly contradicting statements, but they are both true.

      You say we are not robots. Well, the Bible says nothing for robots, so I can’t offer much comment on that. But God does say we are lumps of clay, and that He is forming some for honorable use, and others for dishonorable use, prepared for destruction. And that is in accord with his election of some, his mercy based not on human will. Does that seem unjust? Sure. Is that beyond our figuring out? Absolutely. But agreeing with God does not require our fully understanding–only our submission, including the submission of our puny minds.

      I fully admit the Romans 9 is too great for our puny minds to fully understand. But God had Paul write it for us because he determined that we needed to hear and know these things. So we do a disservice to God to not dwell in the profound mystery of these things and say “Amen” to them.

      Letting go of our puny minds is a hard, hard, thing. We spend all our lives doing it.

      I have written all of this in extreme haste, but I hope it has been helpful in clarifying the position I am actually coming from, since it seems you misunderstood at least some of what I was saying. Thank you for speaking up and drawing attention to how you understood my statements. I am certainly not always as clear as I could be (and that is an understatement!) so it is good that people point out my failings so that I might attempt to correct them.

      Whether I have improved the situation any with these additions, I can only hope.

  5. For me the visible creation has often been a thought aid. I think of my life in this body: how did I become alive? Did I choose it? No. So is it possible that true, eternal life also comes without my choice? I would have to concede that it is possible.

    Then I ask about death. Does everyone get an equal chance at life? Or do some die before others? Clearly some die before others. People are dying at every age, every possible age, with or without every possible experience. I have heard it said that anyone who dies before they have a chance to choose God automatically gets God, but I have never figured out where that is found in the Bible. So as best as I can tell people don’t get an equal chance to choose God, just based on the length of their lives and nothing else.

    So if God wants everybody, how does he fail to get everybody? If he can raise the dead, why not keep raising everyone, again and again, until they get it right? If he can give visions out of heaven like he did for Paul, why not for everyone? Whether by a vision, a revelation, a friend, a parent, a secret whisper in the heart, a tract, a verse, a song, everyone who came to love God came somehow. And not everyone who doesn’t love God got that particular kind of revelation. Why not? If God wants everybody, why is he so terribly bad at getting them? Because we don’t all get the same chance – whether from family, church, miracle, missionary, or happenstance. We don’t all get offered the same choices, right from the day when some of us are born to impoverished Indian parents and some of us are born to (relatively) rich American parents.

    So if God is not saving everyone, what is he saving and what is he throwing away? It is not human lives God is saving. By that I mean, we will all die, even those of us who are saved, those of us who have life. The “life” that we see now, the “human life” if you will, we will all lose. In the new life, everyone who is alive is IN Christ and is his Bride. All of us together one man’s bride. Okay, it’s figurative. But part of what that conveys is that it won’t be like life that we know now. I don’t mean we become God or angels–clearly we in some sense will always be human–but it is true that the ONLY life that appears in the age to come is the Life of Christ. The only human life there will be in Christ. So I would say that it is not “human lives” that God is interested in saving, it is THE life of Christ which God is saving, preserving, growing, and revealing.

    If he’s trying to save human lives he’s doing a bad job and needs more help.

    • Your arguments are much like some of Rundy’s that I have read before. I agree that (obviously) I didn’t choose to be alive. I also agree that some die before others. I would say, as have many others, that if a very small child or a baby dies they either go to heaven, or God looks ahead and sees what their life would have been and rewards them as such. I would lean towards the former. As to those who have not heard I would point you to the information in this link: http://www.letusreason.org/Apolo17.htm . I would say that everyone gets a chance at God. I realize that is a very broad sweeping statement, but it is what I believe.

      You ask “So if God wants everybody, how does he fail to get everybody?” My answer to that would be that God gives us free choice. Yes, God is sovereign, and yes God is fully capable of getting everybody. But if God made everyone choose Him then we would all be robots. If God wants us to truly love Him He must give us free choice. You ask why God doesn’t keep resurrecting people until they get it right? If you are going for equality, then it would follow that people only get one chance, one lifetime. Besides that would be really weird… Why doesn’t God give visions to everyone? I don’t know. Who am I to question God? But I would go so far as to say that there are those who would not change even if they got a vision. They know the truth, but would rather live for temporal pleasure than obey God.

      You ask “If God wants everybody, why is he so terribly bad at getting them?” First here, I would like to say that it is scriptural that God wants everyone to be saved (see 1 Tim. 2:3-4 and 2 Pet. 3:9). And secondly, I will repeat myself in saying that even though God wants everyone to come He wants them to come willingly, not as robots. God wants us to truly love Him.

      I would agree that it is not human lives God is interested in saving, but rather human souls. I didn’t mean to imply otherwise.

  6. Rather then trying a point by point commentary on your post, which might take me weeks, let’s cut to the chase.
    What we have here is a difference in opinion about what Roman’s 9 is about.
    Almost the entire book of Roman’s up to and beyond chapter 9 is an explanation of law vs grace. Of why the works of the Jewish Christians were not the source of their salvation.. As such, I submit to you that Roman’s 9 is saying almost the exact opposite of what you propose. Paul is explaining to Jewish Christians that they are no longer his only chosen people, but that now, all may come. How does Paul sum up the Chapter? With a statement about individual election? Nope, he says:

    30 What does all of this mean? It means that the Gentiles were not trying to be acceptable to God, but they found that he would accept them if they had faith. 31-32 It also means that the people of Israel were not acceptable to God. And why not? It was because they were trying[c] to be acceptable by obeying the Law instead of by having faith in God. The people of Israel fell over the stone that makes people stumble, 33 just as God says in the Scriptures,

    “Look! I am placing in Zion
    a stone to make people
    stumble and fall.
    But those who have faith
    in that one
    will never
    be disappointed.”

    To a devout Jew, who had struggled to keep the law by human exertion, this must have seem truly unjust. Why would God give His most precious gift to the uncouth gentiles?

    In other words, we are speaking of corporate election of a group of people, not individual election.

    I agree with a great deal of what is in your posts, I just disagree on what I consider some fairly important issues. It seems to me that in regards to Romans 9 you are in your own words: “verse hunting” rather then studying and following the complete argument that is being made in the the book of Romans.

    On the other hand, while this is an important issue, it is by no means the main issue. It’s amazing how often Christians began to imply that other Christians are heretics over this and lesser things. I have little interest and less times to engage in long debates with fellow believers, so I will leave it at this: No matter which side we take on this, it is still not “fair” in our human understanding of fairness. Why does one person only have the knowledge of God as far as the evidence of creation can take him,( and yet Paul says he is without excuse), while another has God’s Word in his possession and Bible teachers available to him from the age of understanding until death?

    And going back to Rosies post (sorry, I like that name better then Veronica 🙂 ) God can take your questions. Whatever answer you come up with, you should LIVE like grace is free to all and go spread it like a three your old with peanut butter-get it all over everything!

    • Wildswanderer said, “ I have little interest and less times to engage in long debates with fellow believers” Fair enough 🙂 I appreciate the comments that you did take time to offer.

      For the record, I agree that Law and Grace is a large part of the discussion in Romans, and see no conflict in that with what I have been trying to articulate. I also think there is a way in which we can rightly talk about both corporate and personal election, but exploring such things is probably better done in other communication forms besides a blog comment.

      And finally, I wholeheartedly agree with the statement, “Whatever answer you come up with, you should LIVE like grace is free to all and go spread it like a three your old with peanut butter-get it all over everything!” Whatever misunderstandings of my opinions, I have never meant to imply that we should express anything other than the bounty of God’s love and grace and mercy toward all.

  7. I agree with silverwarethief’s 2nd post’s thoughts on Arminianism stuff and definitions. Dear friend (I like your real name best), God is God. Having faith is believing He is who He says He is, and has the power to do what He says He will do. Yes, search diligently to know what it is He says. I may have come to terms with this election thing, and maybe you never will. We both know there are things both of us struggle coming to terms with 🙂 BUT – do not let your lack of understanding now (now we see dimly, as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now we know in part, then we shall know fully, even as we are fully known. 1Cor 13) keep you from living in faith in the Goodness and Rightness of God and ALL He does. Do not let it stifle your obedience, and do not let it stifle your ability to live with power through the Holy Spirit 🙂

    • Oh, come now. I thought my alias name was pretty! 😉

      I try not to let my struggles keep me from living fully in faith. I fail a lot. It doesn’t take much to discourage me, and these things I am wrestling with are really important to me, but I appreciate your advice. I also appreciate the time and effort you take to pour your life into mine. Even though we disagree sometimes I value your friendship. Thank you for that, and thank you for commenting.

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