Monday, July 18, 2011

Case Study in Trying to be a Little Smarter

"...Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so..."  Acts 17:11

This month I've come across two independent truth assertions.  One I accept and assimilate into my understanding of God.  One I reject .  This post is a case study in how I come across, evaluate, and choose to believe a theological truth claim, or at least a self examination of how I appear to do it.  The next post is how I reject a claim.

A couple of weeks ago, Darling Bride sent me a link to a blog post about the doctrine of election and predestination.  So, first, an idea comes along.  I read it and begin to go thinking...

Next, I compare and contrast what I know about the subject.  I admit to myself that I'm a little fuzzy about election and predestination.  What I do know conflicts.  It is in the Bible.  Pastors tend to avoid the subject.   Does God choose?  Or does God just happen to know what's going to happen in the future?  Why would we choose to follow Jesus if the decision has already been made for us?  Why evangelize?  Who makes the decisive move, God or people?

Looks as if I'd better do some research.  Fortunately, the blog post cites Bible verses.  And I study the Bible on my own quite a bit.  I also know how to perform topical research, thanks to some graduate level study in hermeneutics.  I do know a few places in the Bible were either election, or predestination, or both, are mentioned, so I look up Romans 9-10 and 2 Peter 1.

Does any other trustworthy Bible teacher have anything to say about this?  The Desiring God website seems a good place to start.  I also like Modern Reformation.

BONUS INSIGHT:  By the way, some people say to avoid books, commentaries, devotionals, and the like and say just use your Bible.  If you just use your Bible, you are forced back to considering what Bible pastors and teachers have to say.  For example, Epeshians 4:11-12 - "And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of the ministry, for building up the body of Christ,...... "  This is also illustrated with Philip in Acts 8:26-40 when he helps the Ethiopian understand Isaiah.  So the Bible gives us permission, and example, to find out what someone has to say as part of our Bible study process.

It appears as if a good student of the Bible may not be an expert in the issue at hand, but at least know enough to critique the sermon or commentary on the subject.  So, it is still up to us to do two things:  1 - know Scripture enough to evaluate another's insight, and 2 - don't elevate teaching and tradition equal to Scripture END OF BONUS INSIGHT.

So, I'm studying Scripture, listening to sermons uploaded onto the internet, which leads me to more Scripture.  So a good Bible teacher, commentary, book, or other resource will drive the student back to the Bible.

Scripture and good teachers of Scripture lead me to conclude that I have to disagree with the original blog post (the post is not linked here because of the potential fallability of both that post and this post).  Instead, Scripture leads me to conclude:

  1. We choose to rebel against God, therefore we cannot save ourselves.
  2. God chooses to glorify Himself by revealing Himself to those He chooses to save.
  3. By revealing Himself, we respond by repentance and faith.
  4. The "I trust Jesus for my salvation, but I wonder if I'm elect" is a straw argument.  Nobody can say "Jesus is Lord," except by the Holy Spirit, according to 1 Corinthians 12:3.
  5. The "Why evangelize when God chooses?" question can be answered in Romans.  In fact, when understood, election drives us to evangelize with more zeal:  God uses the preached word as part of His electing and predestining process.  Election and predestination does not save anyone, it is simply God's effective will that He save those who are His.  The way God saves is evangelizing, we who know the good news about Jesus telling others.
  6. God gets the glory.  Election and Predestination are glorious doctrines to be celebrated, not hidden away like some "black sheep of the family" doctrine, or explained away by human wisdom.
According to Romans 10, salvation works this way:
  1. Someone is sent to preach,
  2. Another hears the message,
  3. The hearer calls on the name of the Lord,
  4. "...everyone who calls on the anem of the Lord will be saved..."  Romans 10:13.
My primary go forward from this exercise is to continue striving to be a more bold, effective, winsome, and competent witness.

Yet, not all my questions are answered fully.  How does God glorify Himself by ordaining that some will predestined to Hell?  What about professing believers who turn away?  How do I reconcile my failure to proclaim the gospel to God's will?  How do I internalize this truth better so as to explain it when asked? 

Back to Scripture...

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