Skip to main content

Predestination

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.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Gossip, accusation and spiritual warfare

Paul once wrote to the Corinthians, “For I am afraid that when I come I may not find you as I want you to be, and you may not find me as you want me to be. I fear that there may be quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, factions, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder” [1 Cor. 12:20]. Gossip is diagnosed as a serious spiritual problem, not a harmless form of conversation and social entertainment, as many in the secular world would view it.God views it differently. Gossip is the opposite of the love and grace that God wants to display in our lives.
Gossip is often exaggerated (and thus, untrue), or outright fabricated. Even church people engage in gossip in a seemingly sanctimonious guise (“We really ought to pray for X – you wouldn’t believe what he told me yesterday!...”). Whether secular or “christianized,” gossip betrays trust. “A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret” [Prov. 11:13]; “A perverse person stirs up dissension, and a gossip separates clo…

Book review: Green Eggs and Ham (Dr. Seuss)

Green eggs and ham, as a recolorized staple breakfast food, captures the reader's attention by turning this diurnal sustenance into an unexpected and apparently unappetizing foodstuff. It thus symbolizes the existential angst of modern life, wherein we are unfulfilled by modern life, and are repelled by something that might impart nourishment. The "protagonist" to be convinced of its desirability remains anonymous, while the other actor refers to himself with an emphatic identifier "Sam I am", formed with a pronominal subject and copular verb of existence. This character thus seeks to emphasize his existence and existential wholeness, and even establish a sense of self-existence, with an apparent Old Testament allusion to Elohim speaking to Moses as the "I Am". This emphatic personal identifier thus introduces a prominent theme of religious existentialism to the narrative, probably more in line with original Kierkegaardian religious existentialism, ra…

Portraits of Christ: John’s Gospel, part 2

In John’s Gospel we have an emphasis on Jesus that is unique compared to the other gospels. John not only emphasizes his deity, but his mysteriousness. The reader is left with an impression of Jesus as a mystical teacher, in the sense that his words and actions are not only those of a profound religious teacher, but of one who is other-worldly. So often in this gospel we read of Jesus making statements that the crowds, the religious teachers, and even his own disciples sometimes could not fathom.

For starters, there are the “I am” statements (e.g., I am the bread of life; I am the living water; I am the good shepherd; I am the way, the truth, and the life), which were clearly claims to divinity, for these statements in the Jewish context referred to God’s title “I am,” given when Moses inquired of his name at the burning bush. Jesus makes much use of mystical metaphors like these and others, like all the ‘day’ and ‘night’ references in this book, which portrays him as mystical or mys…