Tension: one of the reasons I love studying theology

I recently read a well thought out post by a Calvinistic friend who’s posts I read often about Calvinism relating to unconditional election. He explained how Arminians try to solve tension. Arminians’ quest to solve tension is one of their main problems/mistakes. There are a lot of tensions in Scripture and in theology. We do not have to solve these tensions. For example the Trinity, it does not make sense, but we do not find reason to resolve the tension created. The Trinity is not Irrational but it is difficult. Yet we understand that there is a certain amount of mystery involved in theology. Somethings that we humans cannot quite understand fully. One of the main points in Micheal’s post is that Calvinists and Arminians take a different perspective. Both see that God is Sovereign, but in different ways. They both believe in predestination but the difference is in the basis of predestining.

“The Calvinist says that God’s predestination has no founding in the predestined in any sense. God did not choose people based on any merit, intrinsic or foreseen. This is called unconditional predestination because there are no conditions in man that need to be met. It does not mean that God did not have any reason for choosing some and not others, but that the reason is not found in us.

The Arminian says that God’s predestination has a founding in the faith of the predestined. In other words, God looks ahead in time and discovers who will believe and who will not and chooses people based on their prior free-will choice of him.”

Michael brought a real interesting argument to the table. It is a good read and I suggest you take a look for yourself.

Scripture teaches both of God’s Sovereignty and Man’s responsibility. The Arminians found a solution to the conflict. Calvinists are left wanting more.
“To the Calvinists, man is fully responsible for his choice, yet God’s election is unconditional. Therefore, there is a tension that is created between human responsibility and God’s election.”

Man may not know how to understand how it works. The balance and tension of man’s responsibility and God’s unconditional election…it is amazing to think about. It is amazing how God lets it all happen but yet is in control either way. It is great stuff.

This post really was great for me because of my stance on unconditional election and predestination. The more I study it the more I feel like I have no idea what I am talking about. But I do not feel satisfied with the extreme arguments of the two sides, in the false dichotomy of Calvinism and Arminianism.

It was refreshing to see others alongside of Michael in the comments section of his post reflecting on it and realizing that there is a tension and mystery to some issues like this topic. And there is a balance to the arguments. And that the truth is ultimately in God’s hands.

Well anyways, thanks Michael for getting me exciting about theology again. This is one of the main reasons I love studying it…some of these things that I cannot get my brain around are fun to think about. The tension and mystery is like an adrenaline rush and a puzzle to piece all at the same time.

theories of eschatology


This chart you may have seen before it is on Wikipedia.

A lot of my friends are baptist and they believe in the notion of pre-tribulation dispensational premillennialism. – yeah the longest, most confusing title…and it actually is one of the more complex and confusing theories too! Are you familiar with the Left Behind books by Tim LeHaye. well those books portray this theory.

I have been studying the end times or eschatology with the help of apologetics.com and some theology books. I am still not sure where exactly I stand, but I have found problems with the pre-tribulation dispensational premillennialism. And am not a follower of that theory.

I also struggle to believe the symbolic millennailism or amillennialism. Basically, it suggests that number of years in Revelation 20 is a symbolic number, not a literal description; that the millennium has already begun and is identical with the church age. And Christ could return at any moment.

Check this out:

Eze. 22: 30
NET ©

“I looked for a man from among them who would repair the wall and stand in the gap before me on behalf of the land, so that I would not destroy it, but I found no one.”

Standing in the gap, like Moses had done: “So he said he would destroy them — had not Moses, his chosen one, stood in the breach before him to keep his wrath from destroying them” (Psa 106:23)… (Jeremiah had been told no longer to pray for them: Jer 11:14.)

The Babylonians would come in and destroy Jerusalem.

Jesus was the Servant who could stand in the gap. No man was ever sufficient.

It is amazing how many prophecies are fulfilled and foreshadows of Christ in the OT. I love reading the OT just for that purpose.

We have made so little of imagination

I am reading Spiritual Life : The Foundation For Preaching and Teaching for my class on Spiritual Formation.

The book has got me thinking a lot already. One topic addressed is that Christians recently, along with American society as a whole, has forgotten about mystery and imagination, in its quest for rationality and analytical thinking during the Enlightenment.

Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately depends on how you look at it), humans are not analytical and logical but we also are creatures of intuition and imagination. There is healthy balance that needs to be in place. We “see” deeper meaning of our experiences. We can look beyond the mere surface, we are complex and mysterious creatures.

The Enlightenment left people thinking that objective truth is the only way. During this time things like the arts and other more subjective mysteries were neglected.

Faith and prayer are some of the other things that have been forgotten and left behind in the last three centuries.

Also an interesting note is that our teaching and preaching style in these years has been greatly affected by the Enlightenment. Instead of looking at Scripture from a theological angle, us looking down into Scripture to study it – we can and should from time to time change our method. We can allow the Scripture to meditate on top of us. Instead of looking to study we can be more intuitive and let the Scriptures engage our hearts. We can be flooded with the mysteries
on our hearts all day, instead of trying to control the Scriptures with our own minds.

Thomas Merton, a monk, had a dream about a Protestant theologian, in summary, the dream suggested that he [the theologian] would be saved more by the music lover in him than the theologian in him.

Predestination

My friend asked me to do a post on the topic of Predestination.
This is a big and broad topic. So we will see how far I go into this post and decide on where I am going with it next.
With that said, I think my friend was referring to the Calvinistic idea of predestination in TULIP beyond mere overall Sovereignty.

I personally believe that God is no doubt Sovereign over all things. The questions really come into play when we get into the details of how it all works out. God, being all knowing and beyond ANY boundary (such as time and physical location) that all humans are trapped by, allows ALL things to happen. Some attribute free will and others attribute it all to God and his sovereign. The discussion can go all over the place from here. It gets messy!

Free Will versus Sovereignty

Where do I stand? Well honestly, I am still studying these things and have not settled in on ONE particular theory. I do not really agree with all the points of Calvinism and I am not completely against them either. There is a lot of gray area. I could go into the TULIP discussion and my analysis on that, but not today. (At least not in this post.)

I want to stick to the original topic of predestination and not delve into TULIP.

The more I have studied this and dwell on it, the more I find myself in that gray area. I think both sides (Calvinists, Arminists) both have great points and use the Bible (sometimes out of context) to support themselves.
I have gone through periods of wrestling over these things. Take the topic of election for instance:

One day I might say, “God ‘s choice of certain individuals unto salvation before the foundation of the world was based upon His foreseeing that they would respond to His call.”
Then the next day I would wake up and be like, “no that does not make much sense, because it gives human way too much response and responsibility. It almost puts man and man’s choice ahead of God and His plan. I don’t like that.” It must be “God ‘s choice of certain individuals unto salvation before the foundation of the world rested solely in His own sovereign will.”
Then the next day I say to myself, “but what about faith, obedience what about when Moses or Jeremiah ‘changed God’s mind’ by praying for their people?”

There is a balance. There is an area that is hard to understand. There is something more than just Calvinist all out Sovereign will of God and the complete Free Will of human choice.

Btw, if you think about it, there is still Sovereignty in The Arminius approach (whether they admit it or not)…notice how both arguments start with “God ‘s choice of certain individuals unto salvation before the foundation of the world…”

You think about it long enough, (and throw the fact that God allowed us to discuss it), it is more and more amazing how God is ultimately in control. And He uses both man and things beyond man to control man. WOW.

In just the basic idea of predestination:

tells us, “For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those He predestined, He also called; those He called, He also justified; those He justified, He also glorified.” and 11 declare, “He predestined us to be adopted as His sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will.…In Him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of Him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will.” Many people have a strong hostility to the doctrine of predestination. However, predestination is a biblical doctrine. The key is understanding what predestination means, biblically. The Greek word proorizo, which carries the meaning of “to determine beforehand,” “to ordain,” “to decide upon ahead of time.”

If God is choosing who is saved, does not that undermine our free will to chose and believe in Christ? The Bible says that we have the freewill choice – all we have to do is believe in Jesus Christ and we will be saved (; ). The Bible never describes God rejecting anyone who believes in Him or turning away anyone who was seeking Him (). Somehow, in the mystery of God, predestination works hand in hand with a person being drawn by God () and believing unto salvation (). God predestines who will be saved, and we must choose Christ in order to be saved. Both facts are equally true. proclaims, “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable His judgments, and His paths beyond tracing out!”

This post, I realize is just scratching the surface of the itch.

Social justice…and politics

How does this relate to Dominion theology and what are the concerns (pros and cons?)
How does this relate to our political stance?
Should a conservative and/or liberal Christian work together for social justice?
How does fighting for social justice relate to post-modern society?

So if we are Christians fighting for social justice, does that make us extremists?
Do people have a reason for concern when they call us out for believing in Dominion theology?
Should we be followers of Dominion Theology?

I believe that we do not have to be extremists. I believe that we should not take an incredibly extreme belief in Dominion theology. Sure at one level we do have a responsibility to take care of the earth. God has in fact put man at the highest level and given us that responsibility.
But we do not have to try to rule the world through politics and we do not have to follow New World Order Conspiracies. We should not put all our eggs in one basket, especially if you are basing the own Dominion theology around one verse of the Bible. There is a healthy responsibility God has placed on man to rule over the earth and take care of it, but not necessarily force everyone into Christianity.

If we are fighting for social justice will we come across as liberal Christians? should we join the democratic party in order to get some of these social justices?

Forget politics. This should not be about politics. If you are conservative, liberal ,Democratic, or Republican – you can agree that we have a duty to fight for social justice, it is Biblical, not politial. We will not come across as ‘liberal’ Christians, if we are fighting for the right things and doing what is the right thing. For example, if we are fighting poverty, yes we give money and food to the poor, but (this is key) we also have the oppurtunity to share God’s love and the Gospel message with the people we are ministering to. If we are “making the Main thing, the main thing,” then we will not be fighting social injustice to fight social injustice, but we will be showing and telling God’s love. Iti s about sharing the Gospel and fighting injustice. Not just one or the other. And the amazing thinkg is that we can work together on this! Calvinist, Arministist, Obama, McCain, anyone who truely claims to be a Christian! It is time to stop fighting about petty in0-church doctrines and truely live it out in the real world, with people who have never heard any doctrine!

How does this relate to our post-modern world?

Agian, we have to keep the Main Thing (Jesus Christ) the main thing. In a society of relativism, it seems likely that people will want us to join their campaigns for justice. And outsiders of Christianity might want to join our campaign for justice. Both of these situations are great. We can and should work with non-Christians in our fight for justice. But we cannot loose sight of what is most important, the Gospel. We as Christians do have a doctrine that we cannot forget about, that is the message of Christ’s love for us at Calvary. We need to be clear that we believe in doing what is just but we also have to be clear about why we are doing it! That is to show God’s love, to be God’s light. Present the Gospel as well as minister for justice!

Intertestamental period: Silent Years

I want stress something that has been bothering me the past few months. It has bothered me primary because it was real to me. I essential was a part of the problem. I could say I was a victim, which is partly true, but I don’t like to complain.

The problem is this: today’s Christians are not studying the Bible in historical context enough. The root problem is probably deeper, today’s Christians aren’t studying the Word of God enough in general.

I wonder how many Christians under the age of 25 could correctly associate each book of the Bible with its general time frame in history (I’ll even be nice and say: give or take a century.)

I hope I am wrong, but I think America’s young Christians might be failing.

I say all that a I am finishing up my Intro to OT and NT classes this semester, I started them in the summer semester. No one had ever informed me about the Intertestamental period. I had been trained (and trained well) in Sunday school classes, generally about all the big names (Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Joshua, David, Solomon…I could even name some of the kings like Ahab, Hezekiah, Manasseh, Josiah, etc…and I knew about all the major prophets…In fact I even knew where all these names fit into history on a general basis.)

Then after the Babylonian exile and the return from exiles during the Persian rule….that is where the Sunday school lessons are not enough. (At least for me!) I did not really know what happened next in history. I have learned a lot in my intro to OT and NT classes!

All I knew was that the NT started and John the Baptist is preparing the Way for Jesus. Malichi was a nice bridge foreseeing John the Baptist and Jesus. But what about these silent years?

This “intertestamental period” is also known as the 400 silent years. History lessons of 8th Century till Christ’s life and death are important, but a lot of times this time period is forgotten about. I think that it is forgotten, many times becuase it is not addressed in the Bible very much. And becuase nothing wirtten from this time period is in the Biblical canon. The story goes, “if it is not in the Bible then it must not be important.”

I have a problem with this line of thinking for quite a few reasons. First it is addressed in the Bible. Second the Bible is ultimate truth, but there is truth outside of the Bible, history. The Bible lines up with history, furthermore showing God’s soverighty. Finally, just becuase something is not mentioned/addressed in the Bible directly, does not mean something is not important.

The book from the Bible that helped me the most to look into this period is Daniel. Daniel is propbaly one of the most difficult reads, but it does address the “silent years” through prophetic visions! While they are hard to read and understand we can still glean a lot about history from them. What is wonderful is that the visions line up with real history!

Anyways, I wanted to list some resources that address the “silent years:”
Timeline
Pictoral resource
Summary text of period
More in-depht readings:
Ray Stedman
George Kirkpatrick

Free will or Soverign God in relation to righteous Prophets

In the Prophets there is a point at which God says “no more! That is it! I am going to punish you…I gave you the chance!”

There are times where the faithful and righteous followers of God intervened through prayer and God listened…God gave his people another chance.

Then there are times when God refuses to listen to even the righteous when the his people have broken the “threshold” (if it where). Then it is all God, no matter what the righteous followers do or say.

Of course the argument could go for or against either side…ultimately a Sovereign God is going to punish them eventually or ultimately the people were going to choice to sin and life a lifestyle of disobedience.

But I want to look at both sides of the argument and say that in the Sovereignty of God and in the responsibility of man –there is a balance! Through-out Scripture and in real life…

Sure Calvinists and Arminists can fight all they want but I want to look deeper and see that both sides have a point. Look at Scripture and see the balance.

In Daniel

We see human responsibility to rule given in Creation where the whole created order was made subordinate to man.

It can be done properly but high status of humanity can be corrupted into the worse kind of offenses against God.

The sin of pride and Nebuchadnezzar is a great example!

This sin of pride is what we see it in Adam and it has always been a major issue and still continues today.

In Daniel

The stories of Daniel and friends are so real and exciting to read /hear! These narrative stories are some of my favorite stories in the entire Bible.

Faithfulness of God requires the faithfulness of his people.

Whether God can and will protect his people from the all too visible power of kings who do not recognize the God of Israel depends on the faithfulness and obedience of his people.

God’s faithfulness is demonstrated in his deliverance of Daniel and his friends.

Daniel and his friends were faithful to God and God delivered them on several occasions (I will highlight a few):
1. Diet test.
2. The fire
3. Den of lions
4. Visions

Theological points in relation to ‘faithfulness’:

At Creation we were created In His image. We were to be like God.

Be as I am (holy, faithful, righteous, just, loving)…there is the side of human responsibility.

we have no excuses: With the New Covenant, the law is on our hearts.