Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Questions from God

Do you trust me?  Will you bet your life on it?  Will you follow me as a result?

What God is after, why God made mankind the way he did, why things happen in historical time as they do is that God has a desire for mankind that requires the right answer to these kinds of questions from God. If one sincerely answers, "yes," God can share himself with that person. If one does not, he or she cannot be trusted with God's image, freedom, or even life itself, and will ultimately be contained and confined in a way not repulsive to God's omniscience.

The Bible demonstrates this from God's testing of Adam to Jesus' dealings with his disciples. God is looking for a response from people that demonstrates their "yes." What God is endeavoring to achieve is not the kind of thing that can avoid choices and the freedom to make them, for God's image cannot be God's image apart from freedom and choice. Within the Trinity, there is always a yes between the persons of the Godhead, there needs to be a yes between our persons and God's.

Calvinism is totally out to lunch when it comes to any understanding whatsoever about God's intents and purposes. The system doesn't begin to understand what we are here for, what God is trying to achieve or how. It is astonishing to me that it is considered intellectual in some corners when it is so fundamentally ignorant! On top of that, it assaults the character of God, making him out to be someone who cannot rise above the level of playing with toy soldiers.

God made mankind to know him, to walk with him, and to experience life along the the lines that he does. The agreement within the Trinity is a picture of what it takes for distinctive people to be able to do that. What must be understood and remembered is that as God puts the questions that matter to mankind, only faith in God can provide the answer he's always looking for.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Man Gave Names to All the Animals

"Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field."   Genesis 2:19-20 NIV

In the midst of extending his creation of man from just male to male and female, God brought Eden's menagerie before Adam, sat back so to speak, and let man take the lead in something creative. Some might find fault with my characterization of this event this way, but I don't think it's all that far off.

This occurred before God's sabbath, so his "work" week wasn't quite finished when this happened. He was, in fact, not even done with the model called man, for female he had not made them yet. He tapped his son Adam to help his Dad finish his work, much the same way my dad used to "take me to work" with him on Saturday mornings to "help" him. Day 6 was the very first Take-Your-Son-to-Work Day in history!

The work wasn't hard (neither was mine with my dad). The Father could easily have done it himself, but he didn't want to. In fact, it seems to me, the Father got a kick out of having Adam do it. I know it doesn't come right out and say that, but it does say God went on to finish his creative work (including the part Adam "helped" with), and when done, pronounced it good. A perfect God produced perfect quality work with which he was perfectly satisfied--including the component added by Adam!

One might ask, "Why?" I think it speaks profoundly about the glory of God and what brings him satisfication and joy. The news flash is that it isn't doing a puppet show with the marionettes he made out of clay. God let man name the animals, and whatever man named them, that was their name.

God wanted mankind to be creatively free. He made them to be. That is what they must be, in order for the Son to incarnate as one of them and fellowship with them, Creator with the created. God has never shown any interest in dealing with mankind as robots so far as I can tell: it is a complete misapprehension of his purposes and plans to ever think that he would.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Answering as an Arminian

I was asked by one of my Calvinist readers to respond to a couple of questions on soteriology from my Arminian perspective; however, I am an Arminian more by default than by choice. My beliefs were developed from reading the Bible rather than James Arminius or Arminian theologians, so I am not truly an effective apologist for Arminian theology. That said, I do find myself in agreement with basic theological tenets set forth by Arminians and have no problem being associated as one of their lot (although that might not be a two way street! ;-) ). There is an excellent resource on the web (at that any of you readers would probably find very helpful in understanding the tenets of Arminian theology. On to the questions...

What is man's part in salvation?
There is no human role in salvation. The plan was God’s, the execution was God’s. Man either receives or rejects what God has finished in Christ. Those that believe in that plan and receive Christ, are saved, those that reject that plan and Christ will remain rejected by God. Calvinists characterize Arminianism as making man co-redemptors with Christ by such a stand, but Arminians see that as entirely specious. Look at it this way: if you’re at a carnival where there is a guy making balloon animals and offering them to the bystanders, how does taking one from him make you the co-creator or co-artist in it’s creation?

I know of no passages in the scripture that say salvation is effected apart from faith on the part of the receiver. So, Arminians see that faith is the effective reaction a human makes to a work completed by God, and is thus saved by Christ. Calvinists believe that kind of faith is impossible, due to their view on Total Depravity, without regeneration preceding faith. Arminians, though we generally share the Calvinist’s view on Total Depravity, believe faith comes first, made possible by the visitation of God grace. To review: for every human saved the Arminian would say that the plan was God’s, the execution was God’s, and the enabling grace was God’s. Man either puts faith in Christ as a result or does not.

For me personally, the problem I have with Calvinistic conceptions of this issue is that in order to give the glory to God alone and remove any “free role” for man, Calvinists end up relying in some fashion on Determinism. Once that is adopted, God alone getting the glory for salvation may be assured, but dragged along for the ride is God inexorably getting the blame for sin as well. If things happen as they happen by the decree of God, that God’s will is the effective determiner of what happens for good or for ill, then God is not only the author of salvation but the author of sin as well. I find that a totally unscriptural characterization of God and what he’s revealed about how he does things. Calvinists appeal to “mystery” to deal with the problem, I just see an unmysterious problem.

Can one lose their salvation?
Arminians have widely varying viewpoints on this issue. Arminius, himself, was not precisely clear on the subject. I do not believe anyone can lose their salvation, but I do believe they can lose their faith. The two are related but most definitely distinct. Salvation was achieved by the finished work of Christ, not by any work of the saved. If our works do not save us, our works cannot “unsave” us. Our faith, on the other hand, is the means through which grace and salvation are effected, and a loss of such faith would result in God’s grace and salvation becoming ineffective as well.

There are instances of folks falling away from Christ in the NT, and Hebrews 6 spells out at least the possibility. Calvinists, generally, rely on the “they were never saved in the first place” argument. I see no validity in that approach at all, and practically, see it completely undermining trust in Christ in real time because one can’t trust that their faith is true at any given moment—they might just be fooling themselves and never truly believed from the start. From an Arminian perspective, if I know Christ is the risen Lord now, and trust him now, I am saved now. That is what an examination of oneself to see if he is in the faith should produce.

If any of my Arminian readers would like to chime in, I'd be blessed to hear your comments.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Zero Based Prayer

I believe we can have what we ask of God. I believe the teaching of scripture in this matter is straight forward and simple. It is in aligning a reality in which we don't always get what we pray for with that teaching that a difficulty emerges. I think that is especially true when we're convinced that our request was agreeable to God's will and we thought we asked in faith without doubting. Yet, even in those apparent conditions, some prayer goes unanswered. "Sup with that!

First, let me say that our experience here was never meant to encapsulate all that has been earned by Christ and promised to us. Immortality cannot be inherited by mortality. Oh, the blessings are our's all right, bought with the price of blood (sale complete, I might add), but they are not necessarily experienced in the here and now. The tank of God's blessings is full, but we only get the splashover here and now. That's nothing to sneeze at--no mere trifle by any stretch. The tank includes eternal, disease-free, curse-free life in which we know even as we are known. Even some fraction of that looks like a lot to me! A lot more than many folks seem to settle for.

People have asked me how I can believe I'm going to get what I ask for when there have been times when my prayers haven't been answered, or at least haven't been answered yet. When I see the awesome quality and quantity that has been established for us in Christ, I just can't get hung up on what went wrong with yesterday's unanswered prayer, I concentrate on today's problems and today's prayers. Today's promise is always, "Ask what you will..." and "with God, nothing is impossible," so why let yesterday's doubt, yesterday's weakness, or yesterday's sin rob me of God's blessing today? 

When I was studying accounting, oh, so many years ago, we were taught a concept called Zero Based Budgeting. The salient feature in that system is that there is no carry over from prior period's experience in producing the next period's budget. You start with a blank slate. I approach prayer everyday from a zero based outlook. Yesterday's failures in prayer have no effect on today's promises. So, I pray expectantly, and anticipate answers, and I get more than a few, for even though I've been known to to fail in a promise, Jesus never has!