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Sorry for being away for so long; been insanely busy with my experiments. So what shall we talk about today? Well, how about getting back to predestination...

In my senior year of high school, I became quite enamored of reformed theology, as a more satisfying alternative to the fundamentalist stuff that I grew up with. I also became a calvinist, since it was part of the package (but now I realize one needn't buy into calvinism in order to hold to reformed views), and because it was an intellectually seductive theology. It's a very logical, rationalistic system that appeals to intelligent Christians - those who don't properly introspect about the dangers of religious rationalism. So things like the limited atonement follow logically from the idea of limited election, as does the calvinistic view of regeneration. Let it be said that while I think the calvinistic view of regeneration isn't quite biblical, an even worse idea is the decisional regeneration of arminianism.

From high school into college, I fell increasingly into religious rationalism, as the calvinistic path led me, and for other reasons as well, and so my faith became increasingly a cold, dry, intellectual faith. But along the way, doubts about calvinism crept up. The main doubt came from taking a New Testament Greek class, in which we had to translate part of ! John. As I was doing 1 John ch.. 2, I came across the verse,: "Christ died for the sins of the whole world". I hadn't really caught the meaning of that or similar verses in the NT in English before. But somehow translating it from Greek draw my attention to what it meant. It meant the whole world, all people, and there's nothing in the context, as calvinists would argue regarding similar verses elsewhere, that restricts the context to the elect or pre-chosen ones. Nothing, zilch, nada. It means it universally - he died for everyone.

That made me start to doubt the whole system, since that was a logical piece of the whole framework. But generally in college, I had other pressing issues on my mind, and more important spiritual needs, so I lost interest in the matter, more or less, and even to this day, I find it to be at least of secondary importance at best. In fact, I remember one time in college I joined a small group at a fellowship I was attending. I had hopes that the group would be able to help me with some pressing spiritual needs. Instead, they wanted to study and discuss the Westminster Catechism, including predestination, not practical spiritual matters or spiritual support, which I needed. Frustrated and bored, I didn't go back to that small group. And later in college, the college group leader announced that he was leaving to attend a Reformed seminary in Florida, and to explain why, preached about his belief in calvinism. Those in the audience were skeptical, and I knew enough about it that I didn't buy it.

Since then, as mentioned, it's never been a big deal for me, and didn't know what to do with predestination. But something by that name is mentioned in Scripture, especially in Romans, so I had to figure out something, more or less, but do so in a way that made sense and was meaningful, not a rationalistic, complex theological construct with little practical spiritual relevance - something consistent with the rest of Scripture and Christian tradition that help make sense of things and had practical meaning.

In fact, when it comes to theological controversies, I came to realize through such experiences that one test of a particular teaching is its spiritual practicality. If it is true, then it is consistent with the whole sense of Scripture, and it has practical spiritual value. Calvinism doesn't have much practical value, except to those who wish to pursue religious rationalism and thus find it interesting as a worldview, or other such reasons that are mainly intellectual and theological. But in terms of one's relationship with God, it doesn't really bring one closer to God. Now, one might argue that it impresses one with a deeper sense of God's sovereignty, and is helpful in that sense. However, one does not need to become a Calvinist or a theological determinist in order to understand and appreciate God's sovereignty.

Well, in the past few years I think I've come to make sense of predestination, as something relatively straightforward and practical, while avoiding the excesses of Calvinism. But I'll make you wait for that. First, in my next blogs, I'll tackle several of the five points of Calvinism, where Calvinism and Arminianism both err, and why the standard mainstream evangelical views that are in between the two extremes are the better alternatives. Then I'll get to my views of predestination itself, at least as far as I've gotten.


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