Monday, February 16, 2015

Pendulum Swinging on God's Sovereignty

God's sovereignty is a wonderful thing. It would be horrid if God didn't have control over His own universe. In fact, if He did not He wouldn't be God at all. As far as I know, all Christians take comfort in God's omnipotence.

That being said, Christians have managed to find various ways to argue over this doctrine again and again and again. I've been part of that argument in the past and have been all over the place on the issue. You may have as well.

I was raised in a Wesleyan church in western New York State. I recall fondly discussions of how great God is, how wonderful God is, and how we can trust Him to care for us. However, when it came to salvation it was basically all in my hands. God was waiting for me, of my own free will, to select Him. God was portrayed as a sort of cosmic cheerleader, hoping I would surrender to His Lordship. It was completely up to me.

Many years later, after moving to Georgia and joining a Southern Baptist Church, I went to seminary. While there I swung on the theological pendulum all the way over to the other side. I became firmly entrenched in the Calvinism camp. Somewhat interestingly, this did not occur because of any of my seminary classes. Rather, a few friends of mine leaned in that direction. Upon their suggestion I began reading authors like John Piper and R.C. Sproul. The rest was history. God selected some, didn't select others, and that was it.

In the years since that time I've mellowed. As for the theological pendulum, I've swung back somewhere near the middle. While I believe God is sovereign over salvation, I also believe that each individual has a real responsibility to repent and believe. This is a real choice. It matters. While we do not have complete freedom of the will (how can a sinful person have that?), we also are not robotic in nature. Upon hearing the gospel message, we have what amounts to a real, true choice between God and the world.

As for daily living, I cherish God's care over life. He is active. He is involved. However, He also allows things to happen. What we do impacts the world for better or worse. God controls from behind the scenes, but we are real participants in what occurs in our lives - and the lives of others.

This is an important issue. We should all think it through. However, we should not allow this to divide us as followers of Christ. Sadly, this has through the years been extremely divisive doctrinally. Whole denominations have formed over the issue. Sometimes the opposing sides actually call the salvation of the other into question. This must stop!

I firmly believe that God cares much more about the unity of His body than He does about whether or not any of us knows exactly how sovereign He is. I don't know where you are on the pendulum related to sovereignty/free will. However, I do want us to be united. That is of first importance.

4 comments:

Aussie John said...

Eric,

There are two kinds of people on earth, sinners saved by God's great gift of grace in Christ, or, sinners lost for eternity.

The former belong to the only Church in the whole of creation, the Church which Christ is building.

Sinful human pride, beginning in leadership and flowing through the congregations, maintains the secular concept of brand names,and their road to God, of which some are "more effective" than other inferior ones.

Eric said...

John,

Yes, we are united in Christ. It is He who saves. We have the duty to be united in Him, and it is a joy to do so.

Tim A said...

I was raised a 4. calvinist. Usually the 5. calvinists call that Arminianism. That's still where I'm at. My hang up is mainly on limited atonement. You have to doctor up so much of the NT with reading in elect when it says all. I had a dear brother question my salvation because I took John 3:16 and John 1:12 for what they say.

In my opinion one of the reasons there is so much questioning the salvation of others and the deep deep need to plant a 5.0 church around the corner from a 4.0 church is the money and ego that goes with the institutional form of church. Your brand name must include distinctive lingo that yells we are not like those others. In all their efforts to have "sound doctrine" they have erected the practice of un-sound doctrine. They will eagerly mix into the scripture traditions of men as corrupt as the papacy and genuflecting to Mary. Godly men before them did it and said it. That is the same rut the Catholic church run in. They won't examine the scriptures to see if it's true like the 'more noble" Berean Jews. Acts 17:11. They just pass on corrupt habits and attitudes.

Aussie John said...

Eric,

We are united in Him by virtue of adoption into His one Family.

Our problem is not recognizing the fact and acting accordingly,but rather allowing matters,other than our relationship to Christ to be the mark of unity, or otherwise, with those who are brothers and sisters in the same only Family.