We shifted gears on Sunday moving from the “We Believe” section of our Summer doctrinal series to the “We Agree” section.
This means our focus of discussion is changing from the essential beliefs of Christianity to those beliefs which are in ongoing healthy discussion within the true Church. Without the essential beliefs, Christianity ceases to be Christianity. Yet, the non-essential beliefs seem to have fluctuated throughout the history of the global Church without blemish to the essential doctrines.
We can passionately argue about these things, yet the faiths of many haven’t been affected.
Sunday I talked about Predestination VS. Free Will. I cited a popular scripture in regard to predestination, Romans 8:28-30. (with reference to Ephesians 1:4-5, 11-12) I also cited a popular text in regard to Free Will, Joshua 24:15. (with reference to Deuteronomy 30:19-20)
A BIT ABOUT PREDESTINATION
The first verses speaks of God’s elective power to control the destinies of people to salvation in Christ. The Romans and Ephesians passages say that God chose Christians to be conformed to the likeness of Jesus and adopted as children of God before the creation of the world.
This means God determined the destiny of Christians before He created any people. This creates problems for us. It creates questions like: If God predetermined the destinies of people, then why create everyone else? Why not create a race of people who love God and don’t have to go to hell for not loving Him? Does God pre-ordain evil and suffering?
These scriptures can give comfort because they depict God as is in control, but it also creates doubt because it makes God seem callous or myopic. The scriptures make us seem robotic.
A BIT ABOUT FREE WILL
The second verse speaks of man’s responsibility and ability to choose life or death. The Joshua and Deuteronomy passages say that humans have the responsibility and ability to choose who to serve; to choose God, therefore life.
This means humans have a freely determined will which is in play in an ongoing way. This creates problems and questions as well. If people have an independent will, then why wouldn’t we make choices that promoted the advancement of our species if not choose salvation in Christ? Why can’t we seem to choose life instead of perpetrating and being subject to death? Doesn’t this make God subject to us?
These scriptures are useful because they stress the responsibility and ability of humans beings in responding to God. In them, we are not robots who have a predetermined destiny. Yet, these verses seem to make Jesus subject to us and influenced by our will instead of being the King of Kings.
WHICH IS THE BIGGEST GOD?
Various denominations land in different ways when it comes to the doctrines of predestination and free will. If you’d like to read more about how denominations differ on this, there’s a helpful paper here.
Denominations land usually in one of three places on this issue. Some go with all free will (Arminianism); meaning people alone choose to accept or reject Christ for salvation. Some go with all predestination (or election); meaning God alone wills and draws people to salvation. Some branches of Christianity go with a mixture of the two; saying the saved are elected by God for salvation while the rest of the people use free will to reject Christ.
But wait, there’s a final way these can be viewed, right? There’s a final mixture.
What if God predetermined all who would reject Him while human free will allowed us to select Christ?¹
This is a mixture that scares us. All the other mixtures view God as powerful and good while at the same time holding humans responsible. This way of seeing predestination and free will lowers our picture of God yet elevates man above God.
If this were true, then God created human beings knowing that they’d reject Him. (i.e. those who’ve rejected God lived only to be destroyed in hell) Also, this elevates the autonomy of man above God. It says that any human that wills can control the divine hand by choice and be saved even though God’s will worked to destroy all the other people.
In this, either God is thoroughly evil or a miserable weakling. That’s an exceptionally small God!
Predestination (God’s election) and human free will is a mysterious paradox. Frustration has led many to say that neither can exist at the same time. So they reject the faith because they cannot understand this theological issue and ones like it.
At RCC, we’ve chosen a resolution that galvanizes faith while elevating God and holding man responsible.
We are human and God is huge. We are broken and God is perfect.
God is the biggest when He’s shrouded in mystery. Our smallness compared to Him is a linchpin of worship, it makes Him more worthy and settles us as followers of Him. (Deuteronomy 29:29, 1 Chronicles 29:11-13)
Our God isn’t one who simply uses His power to produce robots who choose Him, but can determine human destinies all the while entertaining human choice.
That’s miraculous! To me, that’s the biggest God.
¹The potential combinations of this issue are: Saved by Free Will/Reject by Free Will (Catholic), Saved by Election/Reject by Election (Calvinist), Saved by Election/Reject by Free Will (Lutheran), or Saved by Free Will/Reject by Election (Pagan).