I Am NOT Reformed

Posted on 08. Jan, 2011 by in The Purpose of God, Uncategorized

OK, now that I’ve gotten everyone’s attention, let’s get on with the post.

First, this post is not intended to bring offense.  It is a point of discussion based on my own beliefs and observations, and is intended to be just that, a discussion.  There are two dear brothers whom I highly respect, although have never met, who openly profess “allegiance” (my word) to the tenets of the Reformed movement, Arthur at “Voice of One Crying Out…” and Eric at A Pilgrim’s Progress.  Both have been very open in discussing their observations of the shortcomings or mistakes of the Reformed movement, so by no means do I feel they are one-sided.  As such, I feel that my discussion on this topic will not be taken wrongly.  So, on to the discussion.

I have two points that I want to make, but before I do that I want to give a caveat.  I do not have the intellectual mind to discuss the finer points of Calvinism vs. Arminianism.  I can’t quote scripture in support of one or the other, and that is not really my point.  Minds much greater than mine have argued these points ad nauseum, so I can’t hope to offer anything new in that vein.  I also want to say that I don’t identify myself with either side.  I think both sides have merit, and I think, paradoxically, that both are right!  So, again, on to it.

1.  I am always amazed at the loyalty expressed by Reformed people for Reformed theology.  Although the brothers I mentioned above do not have a blind loyalty by any means, there is still a strong devotion to the “5 solas” and the 5 Points of Calvinism.  Now, I don’t condemn this loyalty.  I guess the question in my mind is one of unity.  If I identify myself as reformed, do I risk alienating my Arminian brethren?  Or, if I identify myself as Arminian do I risk alienating my Reformed brethren?  Is any one theological system anything, in light of the greater importance of Christ?  Or, put a different way, do I want to identify myself by any other identifier than a follower of Christ?  Now let me stress again, I do not write this to be offensive.  I am sure Eric, Arthur and other Reformed believers have responses to my questions, and that is why I ask these questions.  My interest lies in the fact that I’ve not come across many similar allegiances in those that are walking outside of traditional Christianity, and so I thought I’d bring it up.

2.  God, and thus the bible, is full of seeming paradoxes.  I say seeming because I am sure they are not paradoxes at all, but appear that way to me with my limited understanding of His nature, and limited understanding of eternity.  For example, on the one hand God commanded the Isrealites to kill every man, woman and child when the Isrealites crossed into and conquered Canaan.  Failure to comply had serious consequences.  On the other hand, “For God so loved the world….”.  My natural mind can not comprehend that this is one and the same God, but it is.  How can the same God be full of vengeance and full of supreme love at the same time?  Well, He just can!  Likewise, how do you make sense of the arguments for Calvinism and Arminianism?  Both can point to scriptures that support their view, and both can outline why the other side is interpreting their scriptures wrong.  Could it be that both are right?  Can it be that man has the ability to make a choice, but is only able to make that choice by the grace of God?  I know it sounds contradictory, but I believe that something akin to this is the truth.  Let me discuss why I say this (see next paragraph).

The longer I live the more I see that God has a purpose in the earth.  That purpose is more than to live together in eternal harmony, or to barely escape the end times until we get raptured.  The purpose of God is to build His city, His people, in the earth.  His purpose is to express His glory in the person of Christ, and he’s chosen to use us to accomplish that.  I also believe that He has chosen to use man to bring about the final and ultimate defeat of the enemy, or said differently, the final and ultimate reign of Christ on the earth.  ”‘My food,’ said Jesus, ‘is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.’”  I believe His work is to establish Himself as the unquestioned God of this earth (I won’t go into more detail here, so as to not get bogged down too much).  So, if God has a specific purpose in the earth, and He chooses to use man to accomplish it, the fine points of Arminianism and Calvinism come into play, regarding man’s ability to make a choice in His service to God.  If Calvinism is right, God would have His plan, He would choose the people He wanted to accomplish it, He would call those people into service and they would accomplish the task at hand.  Would such a plan take 2000 years?  On the other hand, if God calls many, but we have the choice to follow or not, then we can see why the process has taken so long, because man often doesn’t do as God directs.  Here is what I believe:  I believe God calls men (men and women) to do tasks in His kingdom.  Man can choose to do those tasks or not do those tasks.  As long as man continues to miss the boat, so to speak, there is a continuous merry-go-round-type cycle that goes on, where man goes around and around on the same track, until he finally decides to follow the directions of God, and moves onto the next step, or season.  In this process God is supremely patient.  I also believe that, in the end, the will of God is irresistible.  He WILL accomplish His work.  The timeframe in which it is accomplished, however, is partially up to man, because God has chosen us to accomplish His will.  As a specific example, if God’s grace and will were completely irresistible then why did the New Testament church degenerate into what we see today?

Well, I’m going to cut this off before it gets any longer.  I invite my Reformed friends to respond, as once again all I seek here is an open discussion.  I want to reiterate that neither Arthur nor Eric has ever made their Reformed theology a quarreling point with others, as far as I have read.  I have never seen them make it a point of dissension or division, and neither do I seek to do this.  Again I would stress that I agree with much of Reformed theology, so my goal is not to slander or malign it, or those that hold to it.

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7 Responses to “I Am NOT Reformed”

  1. akaGaGa 8 January 2011 at 5:32 pm #

    What a refreshing post! Raised Reformed but born again by
    accepting God’s call at 39, I’ve wrestled with this issue multiple
    times. My conclusions seems to be similar to yours, albeit not
    phrased as nicely. :) My simplistic view is that the Arminians took
    half the Bible and created a doctrine. The Calvinists took the
    other half of the Bible and created a conflicting doctrine. Both
    are based on scripture, but both are based on only some scripture,
    not the whole. I don’t think either doctrine is right or wrong. I
    think the problem is in creating a doctrine in the first place, and
    here’s why. The things I have come to believe have all been written
    on my heart by the Holy Spirit, one point after another. While I do
    use scripture as my reference point, simply reading a scripture
    does not make me believe it. Nor does learning a particular
    doctrine. Belief requires Spirit and truth,
    which cannot be passed on from generation to generation. It
    requires that “ah, ha” moment of revelation that only the Holy
    Spirit can provide, and then it requires obedience. Sometimes it
    takes us a while to get to the obedience. Thanks for a
    thought-provoking post.

    • Mark 9 January 2011 at 4:33 pm #

      akaGaGa,

      I fully agree with you. I find it interesting that many times in my life I have begun to believe something, without knowing why I believed it. Eventually, my understanding of scripture catches up to what I already “knew”, and those beliefs had biblical basis. It just speaks to me the fact the Jesus, not the bible, is the true Word of God, and Jesus dwells in me and is able to teach me. Obviously what He may teach me internally will always find support scripturally. I also agree that belief must be based in revelation, by the Spirit. Although truth can be passed down to subsequent generations, it can not be inherited like money. Each subsequent generation must make that truth its own.

      Thanks for reading!

  2. Arthur "All Five Points" Sido 12 January 2011 at 1:21 pm #

    Mark Actually I have made reformed theology a quarrelling
    point for years! Look at my blog archives from 2008 or earlier and
    you will see lots and lots of posts extolling the virtues of
    Reformed theology. The highlight of my year was going to a few
    Reformed theology conferences where we shook our heads in sad
    disbelief at the theological immaturity of those who didn’t embrace
    Calvinism. As you say, Reformed believers are very passionate about
    Reformed theology because we see Reformed theology as the best
    explanation fallible and sinful man can come up with to explain the
    glorious grand design and purpose of salvation found in the Bible.
    My recent leanings have not budged that one iota but now I am more
    interested in being in fellowship and community with other
    believers even when we disagree on some pretty major issues. I
    would agree with the comment from akaGaGa….to an extent. I am not
    interested in dueling prooftexts because the Bible was not inspired
    as a series of unrelated verses cut and paste together. Similarly
    the five points of Calvinism (I don’t think you would have the same
    issues with the Five Solas, those are pretty standard from an
    evangelical standpoint) are not listed out in sequential order. You
    can’t point to a verse that says “God elected a certain number of
    people and Jesus died specifically and exclusively for those elect
    people”. However, at some point you need to engage with the
    passages of Scripture that address these issues. The big theme of
    predestination and election is found throughout Scripture, from God
    choosing Abram to His election of Israel as a nation to the
    doctrine of God choosing before time began those who would be
    conformed to the image of His Son (Eph 1: 3-6). God either chose
    people in His own counsel and effectually saved them or God did not
    elect anyone and the ultimate choice is up to each person. I
    believe and Calvinism would affirm that God has a specific plan and
    that plan includes saving a remnant of people that He chose and
    predestined for salvation out of the sinful ruins of mankind and
    that He chose His elect in His own counsel and for His own glory.
    “If Calvinism is right, God would have His plan, He would choose
    the people He wanted to accomplish it, He would call those people
    into service and they would accomplish the task at hand. Would such
    a plan take 2000 years?” It would take 2000, 3000, 4000 years
    because that is precisely how long God ordains it. Just as He sent
    His son at the right time, “the fullness of time” (Gal 4:4) and He
    will culminate all things in “the fullness of time” (Eph 1:10, see
    also Hebrews 1: 1-2). In other words, the Bible doesn’t teach that
    God is waiting around for man to get it right but that He is
    patiently waiting until He has gathered all of His elect (see 2
    Peter 3: 9, please note that Peter is addressing believers, not
    unbelievers in his letter). Time as we understand it is meaningless
    to God. When the time is fulfilled and God has drawn all of His
    elect, He will end all things. God’s timing is His timing but we
    know that of all the elect sheep He has given to the Son, every one
    of them will be saved (John 10: 29) and none lost. If it were
    otherwise God would never be able to culminate the new heavens and
    the new earth because He would be forced to wait just in case
    someone else chose Him. The perceived tension or even paradox in
    the Bible regarding God’s sovereignty and man’s “free will” is not
    nearly as insurmountable as it seems. That doesn’t eliminate the
    mystery of it, especially the mystery of why God would choose me!
    Nor does it mean that we are not obligated to preach the Gospel to
    every man, woman and child. What it does mean is that we are
    completely and utterly dependent on God for everything, including
    and especially salvation.

    • Mark 22 January 2011 at 6:15 pm #

      Arthur,

      I appreciate the comment. I wanted to take the time to make a more studied answer to your response, and just haven’t had the time. What I wanted to point to was the verses in the NT that mention the works of the saints, and the importance they play. For instance, Revelation 19:8 mentions the bride of Christ, and how it was “given to her to clothe herself in fine linen”, and later states that fine linen represents the righteous acts of the saints. This, and other verses, imply to me that the body has a part to play in “getting herself ready” for the groom, and also implies a component of personal responsibility.

      I agree that the entire bible is full of example after example that support the concept of limited election. I guess to me, however, that concept is moot because, as I think you stated, I don’t know who is elect and who is not, and I am commanded to love ALL mankind, elect or not. I think the thing I disagree with most with Calvinism is the idea that man has no free will. I see in my own life where I have plenty of free will, and often times do things with it that aren’t the best for me, or His purposes in me.

      You mentioned “fulness of time”, and I would agree with that concept, although maybe in a little different vein. I agree that God is not bound by human time, but rather is more concerned with kairos time, or the seasons that he has ordained. I believe there is a specified order of seasons that must be fulfilled before the end of this age plays out, but I don’t believe that God has pre-ordained the amount of chronological time it will take to play that out. I believe that the passage through the seasons depends on man’s willingness to give his heart to God and follow Him fully. It is not that man can control God, or that man can do anything on his own. I see it more that God is waiting for man to allow himself to live out completely in our natural life the death that we’ve already died on the cross, thus becoming a vessel on the earth that he can use as His agent. Why God would decide to use man as His agent of change on the earth is beyond me, but to me it is clear that He has. And, if man did not have free will to choose to do or not do God’s will would the body have floundered around for the last 1800 years?

      I guess at the end of the day I continue to believe that there are elements to both side of the equation that are truth. You stated in your comment that “Reformed theology [is] the best
      explanation fallible and sinful man can come up with to explain the glorious grand design and purpose of salvation found in the Bible.”

      I would agree, may be the best explanation fallible man can come up with, but I believe His ways are higher than ours, and thus that both sides can be true: God is sovereign over the lives of man, but still gives free choice.

      I am probably not expressing this part of my belief system well, as I haven’t ever had time to study that out fully, and maybe some day I will.

      Anyway, I appreciate the conversation. Thanks for humoring a theological novice!

      Mark

  3. Douglas Weaver 28 January 2011 at 5:41 pm #

    I thank God He that in His sovereignty He forsaw my willingness to respond to His drawing and therefore predestined me to sonship – for apart from Him I can do nothing. Does that make me a Calvaminiest or an Armalvinist? Mmm…

    • Mark 3 February 2011 at 9:30 pm #

      Doug,
      I could not have said it better myself!

      Mark

  4. Deborah Van Norden 7 March 2011 at 4:39 pm #

    Mark – a very interesting discussion. I don’t claim to know anything about Calvanism or the other thing – Armenianism? I can’t remember. Sorry, don’t mean to offend anyone by calling it “that other thing.” :S There are so many good points, and so many of them seem right from both sides, and I think what is important to remember is that “we see through a glass darkly, then face to face.” Down here, we will never know the full truth of the matters at hand, but when we get to Heaven, whenever that moment arrives for each of us, then we will understand everything.


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