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Pre destination VS Evangelism
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Twopence? Was a ha'penny's worth in my day. That's inflation for you...
Joe "One, two, three, here we go..." ... follow me on Twitter @JJBHargreaves
Alex, that was a brilliant summary, and one I think I agree with completely!
www.thepointchurch.co.uk
I tend to agree with Alex. Paul wrote Romans 9-11, which tends to be our proof-text supporting the idea of predestination. But he lived like he thought everyone could be saved.
I must say that there is an awful lot of branding around the word "free-will", which needs just as much explanation as "predestination". For one, the word itself doesn't even appear in the Bible! Now this isn't to say that the concept isn't biblical (like the Trinity...). But we can't just assume free-will because our culture accepts it. During the reformation years, people wouldn't just accept the fact of free-will (Luther and Calvin most certainly didn't), because it wasn't so engrained in our culture. Erasmus seems to have won over people's minds in this debate, but the Bible still doesn't seem to be as clear-cut as we are. We should always use this word with tentativeness, because it really isn't clear-cut. Do we have responsibility for our choices and actions? Yes, absolutely. The Bible is pretty clear that God calls us to account for what we do, think and say. Are these choices free? I don't know... The Bible says that God turns the heart of the King wherever he wants, like water in his hands (Proverbs 21.1). Now if anyone was free to do whatever he wanted it was the King. So if even he can't decide which way his heart goes, then what about the rest of us?! A lot earlier in this thread (while the debate was still on the subject of: "is evangelism compatible with predestination?"), it was said that man having free-will elevates him to the level of God, or higher still, since there is a realm in which God has no say, only man does (his free-will). I do find it hard to find the tension between God's sovereignty and human responsibility, but they do seem to be the two poles that are in tension in the Bible, not God's sovereignty and free-will. But that is what I'll have to struggle with... Just to point out that classical arminians never went as far as Matt does, when he says that God does not even know in advance what choice man makes. This is a late developpment, from a theologian called Clarck Pinnock, who put forward his theory of Open God Theism, saying that God does not even know so many things about the future, because he realised that for all practical purposes, foreknowledge and predestination meant the same thing: there is a pre-set out history, which man can't change, no matter how hard he tries. He is always only doing God's bidding, whether he turns one way or another... I'm sorry, but that is not the God that I know, that is not the God of the Bible. He has been belittled into a plaything that has to adapt to the whims and pleasures of human minds. I just can't agree with that. If you want a deeper explanation of why I don't agree with the concept of free-will, here's a (really long) post on my blog. I'm trying to keep things short here... http://lambertspace.blogspot.com/2008/11/5-reasons-why-i-dont-like-concept-of.html In any case, the point is: love the Lord your God and your neighbour, make disciples of all nations, the theological debate is important but not essential, and I find it great that brothers can dissagree and still love each other.
"I hate your church gatherings, all your religious stuff displeases me. Away with the noise of your songs, I've had it up to here with your guitars. But let justice roll like a river, fairness like a never ending stream!" (Amos 5.21-24)
Thanks Nathan, I liked that post. Just tossing some thoughts around... Probably agree with you over Matt's comment - I think God does know what our choices are as He is all-powerful and outside of time. To say otherwise is to limit Him and is counter classical evangelicalism. Likewise there aren't too many holes in your comments. I suppose the only grey area - which you point out - is that people may think they have free will, but that it is really the Lord who is controlling them. Now that's one discussion which is a toughie. Using Jesus as the example of free will or not is a little loaded as Jesus was both fully God and fully man, so rather than God turning Jesus' heart, God was turning Himself. However... at the same time, fully man also. Gethsemane bears witness to this, 'Yet not my will but Yours be done.' They sound awfully like the words of a man who had a say in the matter.
Joe "One, two, three, here we go..." ... follow me on Twitter @JJBHargreaves
Nathan said: "Just to point out that classical arminians never went as far as Matt does, when he says that God does not even know in advance what choice man makes... I'm sorry, but that is not the God that I know, that is not the God of the Bible. He has been belittled into a plaything that has to adapt to the whims and pleasures of human minds. I just can't agree with that." Steady on there! It's true that I subscribe to what is commonly called 'open view theism' but (without wanting to type another endless post) you don't have your summary of that quite right, at least not for me. Let me quote from Greg Boyd, a prominent open view theist. He puts it much better than I could: --------------------- "Isn’t it true that God doesn’t know the future in the open view? This is the single most common misconception people have about the open view. Open Theists and Classical Theists disagree about the nature of the future, not about how much God knows about it. Both sides grant that God knows everything. He is omniscient. He knows everything there is to know about all of reality, including the future. The disagreement is that, whereas Classical Theists believe that the future consists entirely of settled realities — and thus hold that God knows it as entirely settled — Open Theists believe that the future is partly comprised of possibilities — and thus hold that God perfectly knows it as partly comprised of possibilities. Have you ever read one of those Choose Your Own Adventure books? The author writes out a number of possible story lines from which a reader can choose. The reader has a choice about which story line they want to read, but would anyone say the author of the book doesn’t know the future of their own book because of this? Of course not. It’s just that, in contrast to novels that include only one story line, their book includes a number of possible story lines, and the author knows all of them. So it is with God in the open view. God creates something like a “choose your own adventure” world. The Creator sets up the parameters of human freedom and pre-settles whatever he wants to pre-settle while leaving open to human free will whatever he wants to leave open. He foreknows perfectly all the possible story lines that free agents could follow. Now, would you say this Creator doesn’t know the future? How could we say this? He foreknows all the possible story lines. The difference between the classical view of the future and the open view of the future is that, in the open view, God has to know much more than in the classical view, just like the author of a Choose Your Own Adventure book must know more than a traditional novelist in knowing his book. But Open Theists are convinced God is capable of this much more extensive knowledge." --------------------- Without wanting to defer all responsibility for defending my views to a website, you'll find further open view articles about free will, predestination, responding to Calvinism and more here: http://www.gregboyd.org/qa/ You may not agree, and that's fine. As someone else said, love God, love your neighbour and proclaim Jesus. But it's an interesting debate nonetheless. As I said before, my theology and thinking on these matters was never really 'tested' until something happened in my life that didn't fit the traditional classical theism I'd grown up with: "If this happened, then did God know in advance, could He change the situation and what does that say about His character?" That's why it's good to ponder these things.
www.thepointchurch.co.uk
Good explanation, cheers Matt...
Joe "One, two, three, here we go..." ... follow me on Twitter @JJBHargreaves
That is helpful, however to me, it doesn't really make much sense of this world. This is all rather philosophical and sometimes speculative, but here's the way I see things: If man can choose to go whichever way he wants, how can prophecies come true for sure? How do we know that the Gospel will ever be preached to all nations tribes and tongues and that the full reign of Christ will come? How can God have known in advance that he would take our heart of stone and make them into hearts of flesh? Boyd says that there are various routes, but he doesn't seem to allow for the fact that these various routes, if man is totally free, can just lead man further and further away from God's purposes, and the prophecies of Christ's reign and dominion will never be fulfilled. It doesn't seem realistic to me to say that all the doors are open but that the conclusion of it all will necessarily be the fulfillment of promises and prophecies. It just doesn't work. Again, the argument that God, knowing perfectly all the possible routes, therefore has even more extensive knowledge in the Open theory than in the classical theory is fairly poor, with all due respect to Greg Boyd. Because the knowledge, if quantitatively greater is so much weaker qualitatively. He knows what might be. What kind of knowledge is that? So you're in a Church Council meeting discussing the vision for your church for the coming years, and someone pops up and speaks for half an hour about all of the various possibilities for every option. He sits down, everyone is very impressed by the breadth of his knowledge, but still isn't much further advanced concerning which plans to adopt. Then someone else stands up and says: "this is what is going to happen, econimically, demographically, spiritually in our neighbourhood for SURE over the next few months, and this vision will work". He sits down. People know. Before, they didn't know. They had a lot of information but they didn't know anything. Now they know. Same with God. God knows. He doesn't merely have the opportunity to anticipate the outcome of every one of your choices... And one more point: prayer. People usually use "our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done..." as a defense of arminianism: it isn't sure that God's plan will happen, but we ask for it to happen. Well if God has no control over people's wills, how can he even have the power to answer this prayer: "may your kingdom come". It's all down to man at the end of the day. They decide whether or not God's kingdom will come... This prayer isn't saying: it isn't sure to happen, but please let it happen. It is saying: we are for your purposes. We are longing to see your glory revealed. This is our desire, and we are spurring on the great work that you are already doing to carry out your plan and purpose in your world. I was once organising a youth camp and we desperately needed a chef. So we prayed, long and hard. A couple of hours later, we got a phone call from a mum of some of the kids who were going to be at the camp. Her boss had given her time off work which she wasn't expecting. So she offered to help at this camp. We had our chef! Now think about this: not only must God have made this mum think "I would like to help at this camp". One could say: "she was alert and open to God's call" and all that kind of stuff. What about her boss? Not a Christian, driven by business motives, gives time off work to one of his employees... It's just too intricate, too God-driven, and too dependant on God turning our hearts whichever way he wants. Yes, obviously, in the thick and fast of life it doesn't seem that way, because we think, we act, etc. But do you really believe that you can think without God giving you the power to do so? And think of certain things without God providing you with that power? Making decisions without God giving you the ability? He not only created and let the world unravel, he preserves this world in being. Last one on prayer. My grandfather is a hardcore atheist. If he has free-will, what difference will my praying for him make? If God has decided not to tamper with our free-will, what can he do to save my Grandad? Yes, things happen in life that shake us. And I do want to respect that each of us have our life stories that lead us to theological conclusions. Well my grandad, even as we speak is in hospital, probably terminally. Does this challenge my belief in God? I don't think so! Does it challenge the fact that I believe that he is good, gracious, merciful, and all-powerful, with the ability to turn my grandad's heart back to him, to cure his illness? Not at all. I'd much rather a God who has the power to change things but doesn't do it, because in his wisdom he sees further than I do, than a God who doesn't have the power to change things... He is God, not human. He is not contingent. He is not dependant on us. We've got to redeem what it means when we use the name "God".
"I hate your church gatherings, all your religious stuff displeases me. Away with the noise of your songs, I've had it up to here with your guitars. But let justice roll like a river, fairness like a never ending stream!" (Amos 5.21-24)
Nathan, I don't want to respond to your excellent post with a glib answer, but I did want to respond even though I don't have the time for a fuller answer right now! Firstly, Boyd would not say that the future is completely open, but partly open: "Open Theists believe that the future is partly comprised of possibilities" and "The Creator sets up the parameters of human freedom and pre-settles whatever he wants to pre-settle while leaving open to human free will whatever he wants to leave open." If you'll forgive me for quoting Boyd again, I think this good question may help a bit here: ------------------------- "Doesn’t the open view demean God’s sovereignty? The Open view demeans God’s sovereignty only if one assumes that “sovereignty” means “meticulous control.” But why think this is the way God wants to rule the world? The biblical narrative presents a God who gives humans (and apparently angels) free will, who is flexible and creative in running the world, and who relies at least as much on his wisdom as he does his power. (Think about it – if God controlled everything he’d never have to rely on his wisdom at all). This view of sovereignty, I would argue, is much more exalted than a meticulously controlling view. In the open view, God is free to determine some aspects of the future according to his will and to anticipate and address his creatures’ choices within the parameters he has established for them. He is free to cultivate real, meaningful and transforming relationships with them, to respond to their fervent and effectual prayers, and even to empty himself and become one of them in the person of Jesus Christ so that they could be reconciled to him. God’s sovereignty is not threatened by these things - rather, it is amplified all the more by them. A smaller god would feel threatened if he didn’t meticulously control everything. The confident God of Scripture is not." ------------------------- Lastly, you say: "I'd much rather a God who has the power to change things but doesn't do it, because in his wisdom he sees further than I do, than a God who doesn't have the power to change things." I couldn't agree more, but without wanting to open another can of theological worms, a measure of God's power (or at least the ability of Him to use it) has been negated by the measure of free will given to us in His love.
www.thepointchurch.co.uk
Any more thoughts on this one? I was enjoying the debate and the challenges to my thinking!
www.thepointchurch.co.uk