Opinions on faith and life

A Fly In The Ointment

2008-06-04

I suppose I should have expected it, but it still greatly disappoints me. In the series I mentioned a couple posts ago that is running at Herescope, today was Part 2. I was nodding in agreement as the article exposed McLaren’s promotion of Preterism and Open Theism, but then came the “equal and opposite reaction”: Calvinism. The article quoted a David F. Wells in a rebuttal of Open Theism, wherein he made it clear that to reject the TULIP’s stinkiest petals-- Total Inability, Unconditional Election, and Limited Atonement-- is to accept Open Theism, Preterism, and Universalism. But nothing could be farther from the truth.

Calvinism teaches that any degree of free will hopelessly conflicts with God’s sovereignty, such that God cannot truly be God unless he deliberately, directly, and continually causes everything that ever happens, down to the tiniest twitch of the smallest microbe. Many implications flow from this foundation; it is the root of the TULIP.

Basically, the implications are that if we are free to accept or reject the gospel, then God’s hands are tied by our puny human wills, and we therefore magically control Him in some way, especially regarding the future. And God cannot know the future unless he directs and causes every single event in history, including forcing the few people Jesus died for to be saved while consigning the rest to hell, all for his “good pleasure”, and from a “divine decree” made in eternity past before the world was even created. So the charge of Universalism is made against anyone who takes John 3:16 at face value, and God cannot make predictions of the future without causing the future.

I wholeheartedly reject “election”, and this in no way impinges on the sovereignty of God. In fact, it is “election” which maligns the very character and Name of God, in that it makes him a cruel despot whose sovereignty overrules many of his other qualities: love, justice, and mercy. And I reject “limited atonement” because it drains Jesus’ sacrifice of both its scope and its purpose, making a mockery of his blood by calling it “limited”! His sacrificial death for all humanity was what it took for God to reconcile us to himself, and his physical resurrection from the dead is what we must believe to be saved, or these scriptures make no sense at all:

Romans 5:10 For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!

2 Corinthians 5:20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.

God reconciled everyone to himself, but not everyone accepts his outstretched hand; that is why unlimited atonement is not universal salvation. Reconciliation requires both parties to accept. Because Jesus died for everyone, only those who believe in his resurrection (“shall we be saved through his life”) and accept him are saved. Notice also the italicized part: God is making an appeal to us. Calvinism would take that to mean God is weak!

Does this make us co-saviors somehow? Not at all. Jesus paid the full price and made it possible for us to come to God; we had nothing to do with that. And to accept his offer of reconciliation is no more a case of our saving ourselves than when a drowning person grabs onto a rope thrown to them. But to take this situation with individual salvation and apply it to eschatology is utter stupidity. God’s ability to predict the future of humanity does not conflict with the freedom of individuals to decide whether or not to be reconciled. It therefore follows that Open Theism does not come from rejection of Calvinism.

God is in control and knows the future, and at the same time, we are all free to decide whether or not to accept his offer of reconciliation bought with the blood of Jesus. After all, how much omniscience does it take to predict the winner of a game that you rigged? Anyone could be called omniscient by that definition!

I believe in Eternal Security, personal free will, and unlimited atonement, and believe that there will be a literal Rapture and then a literal 7-year Tribulation, followed by a literal Millennium and then eternity. So nobody can claim that the false teachings of Preterism, Universalism, and Open Theism arise from rejection of that other heresy, Calvinism.

The majority of Calvinists require everything to be black-and-white: if you reject the TULIP then you accept every false teaching out there; they recognize no middle ground. But they will be held accountable for slandering fellow believers and labeling them falsely.