Calvin Miller says something in his book “The Empowered Leader” which is so simple and yet so clear that it forces me to think/meditate on it more. He says, “God can only direct the flexible.”
How often do we equate our legalistic (non-flexible) behaviors with being more spiritual – Saying to ourselves, “If I can do this or that or spend this much time serving Him, then I’ll be more spiritual.” Romans 14, it seems pretty clear that the weaker man is the one who is more legalistic. The one who lives in freedom seems to be the stronger.
This one is a really a tough argument because both sides can be argued with integrity from the Scriptures. My best guess is that this particular issue is much like Brian McLaren describes in “A New Kind of Christian.” (I don’t agree with him all the time, but I like this illustration.) In his book, one of the characters was describing how men pick differing points on a line to argue their stances/viewpoints. He then wondered if God was not on the line at all, but hovering somewhere over the line in another dimension. I think that must be the way it is with this particular argument. The truth (God) is not on our line of predestination or freewill at all, but hovering somewhere over our imaginations – beyond our understanding. As the Isaiah 55:8-9 says, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways, my ways, declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
Here are the differences:
1. Total Depravity – Before they are saved, men are completely dead in their sins and unable to even come to God without His intervention.
2. Unconditional Election – God chooses who he will save.
3. Limited Atonement – Jesus died to save the elect.
4. Irresistible Grace – God gives a special saving grace to the elect that they will not be able to reject.
5. Preservation of the Saints – Once saved, always saved.
1. Depraved – Before they are saved, men are depraved in every area of their lives, but still able to choose good/God.
2. Conditional Election – God chooses who He will save based upon his foreknowledge of their choices.
3. Unlimited Atonement – Jesus died to save everyone/the world.
4. Resistible Grace – God offers a special saving grace to all men, but he can resist.
5. No preservation – Man can lose his salvation.
I would consider myself a 4 point Moderate Calvinist: Here what I mean:
I agree with points 1, 2, 4, and 5 of Calvinism, but completely disagree with 3 (Limited atonement) and number 1 needs an explanation. Let me explain each one for me:
1. Total Depravity – If one is completely dead, he cannot even choose God. This would mean that the work of salvation is completely God’s work. This is called “monergism.” Scripture seems clear that it is a complete work of God, but it’s also pretty clear that man’s decision matters somehow. This view is called a “synergism” of God’s work with man’s decision. This is the difference in a Dutch Calvinist (hardcore) and a Moderate/Princeton Calvinist who believes that man does still have some responsibility in it all. The moderate would say that “God woos men” to Himself, but that man still chooses. Here’s the summary of the depravity issue:
Arminian – Man chooses God.
Moderate Calvinist – God woos man.
Dutch Calvinist – God rapes man. (God chooses man in spite of his decision or opinion.)
I’m a moderate.
2. Unconditional Election – It is completely God’s choice who he will save. There are no conditions or works that man must accomplish.
3. Unlimited Atonement – This is where I completely disagree with the Calvinist view. This is also the most popular point in which people disagree. Scripture seems clear that Jesus died for everyone.
4. Irresistible Grace – This is not to say that God doesn’t give grace to everyone – He clearly does – Rain falls on the crops of the saved and the unsaved. All are given breath, and life, etc. This is speaking only of the saving grace which God chooses to give to the elect. They may reject it for a while, but since God’s plan can not be frustrated, he will eventually respond properly to His offer. If God could be resisted, then he must not be sovereign, because he couldn’t accomplish His own plan.
5. Preservation of the Saints – This is the once saved, always saved idea. You cannot lose your salvation, because that would mean that salvation was not God’s work. Your works/lifestyle can not make you lose your salvation, because they had nothing to do with it in the first place. You were saved because God chose to save you, and He doesn’t change his mind. He knew what He was doing when He chose to save you.
There you go. I’m sure there are all kinds of flaws in my logic and understanding ’cause I just don’t have a really good grasp on it all, but this is just where I find myself at this point in my life.
How is my life different because of this concept? I’m not sure. It certainly affects my view of Christianity and also of the world, but in trying to live out my faith, it doesn’t change much on a daily basis. My wife and I disagree on this issue and have chosen not to speak of it, because it just causes division between us. I hope that sometime we can really work to come to a solution, but the truth is that it really doesn’t come up very often, and it hasn’t affected our relationship too much. I do believe it’s gonna be an issue as we raise Kasen. (He’s due Oct 30th). By the time he starts asking those kinds of question, it’s my prayer that we can have a united common view regarding this issue.
(Info from “Man’s Destiny:Free or Forced” by Norman Geisler, also from “The Potter’s Freedom” by James White, Also from “Arminianism or Calvinism” by Steele and Thomas)