Wednesday, July 01, 2009

ELECTION, SALVATION & GOD’S PURPOSES

(A brief summary in the form of some personal thoughts)


Salvation is CONDITIONAL. Those conditions are revealed in scripture. And include repentance and faith. God does not choose specific “elect” individuals to be saved. The elect are those who are IN CHRIST, those who are IN HIM.
The redeemed are the elect and all references to people being “elect” are directed towards the redeemed. Election does not occur apart from Christ – that means Christ comes before Election. Election does not precede our being In Christ. Whether we are in Christ or not determines whether we are part of the elect. It is NOT election that determines whether we will be In Christ.

God’s salvation plan was already established before He started His creation. Man’s fall was already factored into this even before Adam sinned. God KNEW what would happen and used that to His purposes. God did not ordain Adam’s sin but He knew the outcome before it happened. God’s salvation plan is NOT a compromised way of salvaging something good from His creation. God’s salvation plan has ALWAYS been directed towards the creation of a new heavens and a new earth to be populated by a people who willing serve Him.
The new heavens and new earth where only righteousness will dwell is the pinnacle of revelation that God has given. He has revealed nothing beyond that.
To be part of that new creation, mankind has been given a way to be freed from the sin that would prevent it. That way comes through faith in Jesus. Through turning from our own ways and turning to God (repentance), that results in fruit that is evidence of their repentance.

I understand this current creation to be a “testing ground” where our response to God in this life, in this creation, gives us the opportunity to become part of His new creation.

“Regeneration” and “born again” are terms that are used very little in scripture but some traditions have created major doctrines around those terms. At their very simplest, they describe the new start and new life we are given through Christ.
Many Calvinists teach that someone needs to be born again before they are able to believe and repent. To those people it is regeneration that changes man from a totally depraved creature and makes him capable of repenting. That prior to regeneration man is entirely incapable of reaching out to God in any way.
Scripture teaches that new life in Christ comes through faith and repentance – not vice versa.

God does not force salvation upon anyone and he does not prevent anyone from coming to Him in repentance. He has given mankind enough free will to allow each individual to respond according to the light they have received.
The preaching of the gospel is God’s way of approaching the human heart. It is the power of God that leads to salvation for those who believe. The Holy Spirit brings conviction to the hearer of the gospel and that hearer has the responsibility and opportunity to respond to the gospel. That response will either be to repent or to remain in rebellion. Eventually, those who continually resist the gospel will be hardened to its message and God will give them over to the decision they have made and will finish off the hardening process. Romans 1 & 2 describe God handing people over to those things they desire. Likewise 2 Thessalonians describes how God will send delusion to those who refuse to receive a love of the truth. Note it is up to the individual to RECEIVE the love of the truth. God does not force such a love onto anyone. To the contrary – those who don’t want to receive the truth will be given exactly what they have proven that they want: a lie, deception, delusion.

Jesus died for everyone. The atonement is not limited by God. Its benefits are for everyone but they are only received by those who receive them through faith in Jesus.
God chooses no one for salvation. His salvation is freely available to all who believe and act on that belief by repenting.

God has not preordained everything that happens. He has given mankind the freedom to act within certain constraints. The overall destiny of His creation is determined but the determination of man’s place within that destiny depends upon the individual and their response to God’s grace.
The presence of sin within the world and the fact that the world is under the influence of Satan also has an effect on events within the world and among those who have not turned to God.
God allows Satan’s influence to continue in the world because He is patiently given mankind the opportunity to repent. However that patience will one day come to an end and God will deal with the evil that has corrupted His creation.

14 comments:

bossmanham said...

I agree. Good thoughts.

Onesimus said...

Thanks,
I tried to address a large topic reasonably briefly.

I think most misunderstanding of salvation comes through taking too small a view.
Man's salvation needs to be see as part of God's greater purposes.

Most of the theological disagreements regarding how God saves whom is very man-centred, focussing on man's abilities (or lack of) instead of God's right to GIVE man whatever ability is required for God to obtain the kind of followers HE desires.

Steven said...

I have a question; I am curious as to how non-Calvinists will understand a text that (I think) plainly teaches a distinction between those for whom Christ died for and whom he didn't die for. You claim that Jesus died for everyone in your post, so I suppose it is relevant.

How do you interpret the text from the Gospel of John where Jesus is recorded as saying the following:

22 At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter,
23 and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon.
24 So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.”
25 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father's name bear witness about me,
26 but you do not believe because you are not part of my flock.
27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.
28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.
29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand.
30 I and the Father are one.”

And prior to this Jesus claims that he lays his life down for the sheep.

Here he clearly, it seems to me, describes two different group of persons: the sheep, for whom he lays his life down, those whom the Father had given him, who will never die (because they have eternal life); the non-sheep, who don't believe in him because they are not a part of his flock, for whom he does not lay his life.

This text seems clear to me; it may not teach exactly what I understand it as teaching however.

What sense can you make of it?

Onesimus said...

I hope you will be patient and give me time to properly look into your question. I’ll get back to you later when I’ve considered your quotation in its context.

But at this time I’d merely like to say something that I have been saying on several forums/blogs lately: that the whole of scripture needs to be taken into account and not individual quotes from scripture. It can be misleading if we try to base understanding upon individual sections of scripture.

The bible is not a collection of individual texts intended to systematically reveal individual doctrinal truths.
It is a WHOLE revelation presented to us in an account of life situations. God shows us His character and His purposes through His practical dealings with mankind. If I read a section of scripture that seems to present a message contrary to something clearly demonstrated elsewhere, then I have to factor what is demonstrated elsewhere into my understanding of the seemingly contrary text.

My Calvinist friends have repeatedly referred me to Romans 9, and in particular have quoted God’s statement “"I will have mercy on whom I have mercy”, yet none of them take me into chapter 11 and refer to the statement: “God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all”. The latter quote tells us who God wants to demonstrate His mercy towards. Which verse is correct? Both of course! – so our understanding needs to take BOTH into account. They are not contradictory but complimentary, revealing different aspects of one truth about God’s mercy.

Also there can be a tendency to see only statements referring to election and ignore (or redefine) those “all” and “whosoever” statements that indicate a wider spread provision of salvation than the narrower Calvinist understanding of election.

With regard to election I think we need to see what scripture actually says about WHO has been elected and for what reason. Is it describing election of some for salvation? Or is it describing election in some other way that allows the “ALL” and “WHOSOEVER” verses to retain their clearest and simplest meaning? I think it is important to realise that the references to “the elect” are in writings addressed to Christians – so they are addressed to “the elect”. But does that fact also mean that they were elected to be saved, or that they are the elect BECAUSE they are saved.

There has to come a point in our spiritual growth when we examine ourselves and decide whether our reading and interpretation of scripture is directed towards defending a theology, or whether we truly desire to know God and His ways.

But as I said, I’ll get back to you about your specific question regarding your scripture quote.

Steven said...

Well I suppose I have a couple things to say:

(1) You are right that Scripture is not an indexed source of doctrinally-relevant one-liners; but surely you have areas like that in scripture. Paul's letter to the Romans, or indeed almost any of Paul's letters, for example, would consist mostly of simply non-narrative (I mean by that, not a story or a retelling of events) doctrinal assertions.

(2) It seems to me that "all" and "whosoever" talk can be qualified to mean a certain group of persons rather than literally everyone. However, conversely, it does not seem to me that "elect" and other words that imply only select group of persons can be qualified to mean "everyone" or "whosoever". My argument is this: if we find "whosoever" and "all" talk in scripture, and we also find "elect" and other limited-in-quantity words used in scripture, then we cannot qualify the "elect" talk to mean all, but we must qualify the "all" talk to mean "all types", or "all kinds of", etc.

Steven said...

I have also posted what I think is a persuasive anti-Arminian argument on my own blog; if you see fit, perhaps you can come on over and dialog about it with me. :)

Onesimus said...

Steven, in answer to your comment number 1.

Romans is a letter. It is a letter written for a particular purpose and to address a particular situation. It is not a doctrinal thesis written APART from a life situation.
Consider what the situation was in Rome that Paul was addressing.

It was addresssing very personal realities (as were ALL of Paul's letters)and not merely stating a doctrinal position.

Comment 2)
The ONLY reason to take the approach you mention is BECAUSE to take the "ALL" and "whosoever" statements to mean exactly what they are saying would contradict the Calvinist doctrines you have adopted. This is a case of manipulating the meaning scripture to fit a doctrine instead of vice versa.
You therefore have to consider what is more important - protecting your theology or discovering the truth.

According to your approach, in Romans 11, which "select group of people" have been bound over to disobedience and what makes them different from the"select group of people" to whom God's mercy is directed towards? Both are described as ALL.

Steven said...

"Romans is a letter. It is a letter written for a particular purpose and to address a particular situation. It is not a doctrinal thesis written APART from a life situation.
Consider what the situation was in Rome that Paul was addressing.

It was addresssing very personal realities (as were ALL of Paul's letters)and not merely stating a doctrinal position."


I find no reason at the moment to disagree with you that Romans was written in response to a situation going on in Rome. But that seems to me irrelevant: it is a matter of fact that the majority of Romans is a systematic explanation of doctrine and theology.

"Comment 2)
The ONLY reason to take the approach you mention is BECAUSE to take the "ALL" and "whosoever" statements to mean exactly what they are saying would contradict the Calvinist doctrines you have adopted. This is a case of manipulating the meaning scripture to fit a doctrine instead of vice versa. You therefore have to consider what is more important - protecting your theology or discovering the truth."


I think you are likewise open to the same criticism: the only reason you don't hold to certain interpretations of texts that deal with God's grace or mercy or what have you being only for a select group of persons is because this contradicts your own theology and your own presupposed notions of God's nature, etc.

And your dilemma posed, while definitely a serious one, I think has not exhausted all the possible options: it is possible that my doctrine is the truth, and that I am fully persuaded of it, and in areas where my understanding is cloudy or things seem strange or not right, my qualification of texts is only to make scripture as a whole more unified and coherent in my own mind. :)

I await your response to my earlier comment, and hopefully, to the post on my own blog! :)

Onesimus said...

Steven said:
I think you are likewise open to the same criticism: the only reason you don't hold to certain interpretations of texts that deal with God's grace or mercy or what have you being only for a select group of persons is because this contradicts your own theology and your own presupposed notions of God's nature, etc.

- ---------------------

Steven,
I am not interested in formulating convoluted interpretations of scripture when the meaning of scripture is clear and simple.

The only reason to take such an “interpretive” approach is to justify a personal theology that is contradicted by that clear and simple message of scripture.

Is Romans a “systematic explanation of doctrine and theology”?

No. It is a letter addressing SPECIFIC situation in the church in Rome that arose when Jews were allowed back to that city after earlier being expelled by Claudius and they were given a hard time by the incumbent gentile church.

I don’t hold to the view that God’s grace and mercy are for a select group of persons because such a view is contrary to scripture. Only through a manipulative interpretation of scripture could such a view be supported – such as redefining ALL to mean “all of a select group”.

Steven, where did you get your Calvinist beliefs from?
Can you HONESTLY and sincerely say that they came from scripture alone PRIOR to receiving any teaching along those lines from any outside source?
That you did not turn to any Calvinist teaching to help explain any “difficult” passage of scripture you read?

I would suggest that your Calvinist interpretation came first from teaching you received and that you projected that teaching into your understanding of scripture.

While I will visit your blog I am not interested in entering an "anti-Arminianism" debate.

I've seen both sides of this never-ending conflict and have found Arminian doctrine to have a much more scripturally sound foundation than Calvinism. However I am not interested in debating alternative theologies.

Steven said...

Well, I don't remember saying much by way of debate: I simply asked that you offer an alternative "Arminian" interpretation of a text that I think clearly teaches that Jesus' death is on behalf of a select group of persons and not everyone. But you can do as you wish, I don't mind either way.

As far as your comments regarding why I believe Calvinism to be true, it is because I heard it taught directly from scripture and it makes sense to me; I've never had any difficulty in accepting it, I never went through any struggle, it ust always seemed obvious to me.

Anyway, I look forward to our discussion, if you decide to respond to the argument I posted. :)

Onesimus said...

Sorry I can't help you with an "Arminian" explanation of the reference in John 10. But I will attempt to address it from a scriptural perspective.

That is a perspective that is consistent with scripture as a whole, and also offers no contradiction to the context of that particular chapter.

I can see why such a quote could be used to support "limited atonement", but to use it in such a way requires manipulation of other sections of scripture.

After reading the chapter a few times and seeking understanding from the Holy Spirit I have reached a preliminary understanding that does NOT require adoption of a doctrine that contradict God's revealed character and purposes.

I hope to test that understanding further over the weekend and hopefully then put them into writing.

Onesimus said...

Steven, see the following link for a reply to your question:
Limited Atonement in John 10?

Onesimus said...

Steven,
I had a look at your blog and tried to leave a comment but for some reason was not able to.
The questions you raise show that you have been well and truly conditioned by human theology. They show very little understanding of some of the most basic truths revealed in scripture.
I can only suggest that you separate yourself from all theological influences and spend your time with scripture alone with the Holy Spirit as your teacher. I can only hope and pray that your primary desire is to serve God. Too many people are more in love with the theology they’ve been taught than they are in their creator; and will do anything to defend and cling to those man-made teachings.

- Tim

Steven said...

The questions you raise show that you have been well and truly conditioned by human theology. They show very little understanding of some of the most basic truths revealed in scripture.
I can only suggest that you separate yourself from all theological influences and spend your time with scripture alone with the Holy Spirit as your teacher. I can only hope and pray that your primary desire is to serve God. Too many people are more in love with the theology they’ve been taught than they are in their creator; and will do anything to defend and cling to those man-made teachings.


Well, who is to say it wasn't the Holy Spirit that led to me ask such questions and believe such things? No doubt any Calvinist would agree that it is the Holy Spirit that has led them to believe as they do :)

I'm not sure why you weren't able to comment on my blog, but I hope you will interact the argument I've posted, because as I said I think it is quite powerful.