sábado, 21 de março de 2015

Calvinism - Right or Wrong?

Introduction
These few thoughts are not intended to be a Theological exposition about Calvinism, but rather, a way of bringing to 
Calvino
mind a few things about Calvinism.
My intention is not to discourage anyone from following Calvinism’s doctrines, but only to say, “Don’t go heavy in Calvinism or become a Hyper-Calvinist”.
I would say the same to other evangelicals, “Don’t go heavy in Pentecostalism, Brethrenism etc."
If “you go heavy in your creed” it is easy to become arrogant and look down on other born again Christians that don’t share exactly the same beliefs.
So, if we want to live in harmony with the body of Christ, the best way is to keep unity in the essential, diversity in the non-essential and love in all.
I respect Calvinism and I hope we can preserve many of its strengths within our Christians Churches.
However, I also believe that Calvinism like any another Evangelical/Pentecostal theology has some faulty foundations as part of its base.

But, before I speak about some of what I believe to be Calvinism’s faulty foundations, I would like to point out five of Calvinism’s strengths:

1. Calvinism takes seriously the fact that God is in complete control of everything that happens (Matthew 10:29).
2. Calvinism takes seriously the fact that we cannot earn our salvation by works and we can never have anything to boast about it before God (Romans 3:27).

3. Calvinism recognizes that in all the good we do, it is God working in us. (Philippians 2:13).

4. Calvinism preachers are the best expository preachers.

5. Calvinism Theology is a God-centered Theology and not at all a man-centered Theology. This is the big difference between Calvinism and Armenianism.

We should all agree that these five points undeniably make Calvinism a Theology based on the Bible.

However, I think that any Christian Theology, as perfect as it may appear to be, has within its base some unscriptural foundations because we can all add things to the Gospel and inadvertently embrace a number of heterodox beliefs. So, we must remain humble and not be arrogant towards others who might not share our beliefs in everything.
Below are what I consider to be some faulty or unscriptural foundations that Calvinism is based on, but I want to say this in love.
1. Calvinism and the doctrine of predestination.
2.  Calvinism and God’s love and justice.
3. Calvinism and our insight and experience of God.
1. Calvinism and the doctrine of predestination.
Is the doctrine of predestination a misunderstanding of or confusion with, the concept of God’s foreknowledge? The omnipotent God has foreknowledge of that which will occur. 

Personally, I don’t think predestination means that God foreknew those who would be saved.

God's foreknowledge is that God knows everything before it happens. He knows in advance what is going to happen to everyone, both good and evil, both Christian and non-Christian. The Bible talks about God's foreknowledge in many places (Ps. 139:1-6; Romans 8:29a). But God's foreknowledge and God's predestination are two different things.
Foreknowledge and Predestination? 
Predestination was an act of God from eternity, before time began, by which God not only foreknew but actually chose some to be saved for all eternity (See Romans 8:29-30 Eph. 1:4-6). When God predestined us, He not only knew that we would be saved, He caused it to happen by His choice of us in Christ.
The Bible reveals that nobody can be saved without been supernaturally chosen by God. I believe that the ones, who are chosen by God to believe, have been predestined according to God’s plan made before creation.
But, in saying that the doctrine of predestination is biblical, I am not saying:
First, I am not saying that God wills that thousands of people will live a sinful life, for instance, be unfaithful to their spouses and go to hell.
If we study the Bible very carefully we will see that everywhere in Scripture that man is responsible for their sins and the responsibility lies right in the very heart of the man who goes to hell.
Second, I am not saying that human responsibility is incompatible with God’s sovereignty.
The Bible reveals clear that man is responsible before God for all his ungodly behaviour.  Yes, God is Sovereign over everything that happens in our creation, but man is responsible for his immoral and ungodly behaviour.
So, I believe that Predestination is intended to be a teaching of the greatest comfort for Christians - but only for Christians.

Not predestination, but only "the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" is to be preached to the lost. 

It is most foolish to talk to non-Christians about predestination, for this teaching is not intended for them. Rather, unbelievers should be pointed to "Jesus Christ and Him crucified," to the Gospel that says that God offers reconciliation, forgiveness, and eternal life, to everyone who believes, regardless of their social status, race, sex, or past life.   John 3:16; 2 Corinthians 5:19; 1 John 2:1-2; Galatians 3:27.                     

2.  Calvinism and God’s love and justice.

Hyper-Calvinism can diminish God’s love and justice.

“May the Lord curse you and abandon you. May the Lord keep you in darkness and give you only judgement without grace. May the Lord turn his back upon you and remove his peace from you forever.
This saying, constructed by some Calvinists is called the Supreme Malediction. But, these words reveal the Calvinist’s concept of justice, which is what I wish to explore in this second point.
Most Calvinists will agree that “Reprobation exists in order that election may be realized. Reprobation is necessary to bring the chosen to the glory which God in His infinite love has appointed for them…”
So, in this case God must have two classes of people:

One group with which to demonstrate His love and mercy, and another group with which to demonstrate His wrath and hatred of sin, a group of people with whom He can be angry for all of eternity.

The problem with this conjecture is not Election or Predestination.

The problem with this conjecture is that it essentially assert that God requires a group of people with whom He can be angry for all of eternity in order for Him to be good, or at least for His goodness to be fully actualized and manifested. 

In a certain way Calvinism suggests that pain, evil, and misery of some are a necessary pre-condition for the ever-increasing enjoyment of the saints. This seems to leave us with a kind of dualism since it makes goodness eternally dependent on evil.
Evil certainly exists, so there must be some explanation for it that does not compromise the attributes of God, seeing as terms like goodness, justice, and love can have no meaning apart from God.
We know from the Bible that God permits evil in order to work good out of it, but that’s about all we know. If we try to fill in the gaps of our understanding with some of the Augustinian/Calvinist explanation, we are forced to believe that God’s love, grace, goodness, etc. are only intelligible in a world marred by evil.
We cannot provide an alternative explanation for why a God who is all-powerful and all-knowing and all-good would allow evil to exist. While we know from scripture that the Lord allows evil in order to work good out of it, we don’t ultimately know why He chooses to tarry as His people suffer persecution or why He allows the wicked to prosper.
We just don’t know how God can be all-good, all-knowing, and all-powerful, and yet evil still exists. This is not just a profound philosophical question but is also a very real existential question—especially for those Christians who have been victims of both cruelty and injustice.
In view of all this, I realized that it is better to simply say “it’s a mystery as to why God would permit evil”, instead of trying to give a problematic philosophical explanation to the point we diminish with these affirmations God’s character – His Love and His Justice.
YES, God Is in Everything. The reason why, believers should:
First, acknowledge that God is in Everything.
Second, go a step further and praise Him in all circumstances.
Third, go another step further and praise Him for all the circumstances in life.
So, with this article I am not trying to bring doubts about "Election and Predestination” or about the biblical concept “that God permits evil in order to work good out of it” and also about the biblical concept that “God Is in Everything”.
3. Calvinism and our insight and experience of God.
Calvinism can affect our insight about God and our experience of Him.
Calvinism essentially asserts that God has two sides of His character, a side that delights to show mercy and a side that delights to punish sin. 

By redeeming the elect, God’s love and mercy are demonstrated. But for the Father’s wrath to be completely pacified, He needs to have another group on which His hatred of sin can be expressed.
About all our beloved...
But some problems can emerge from these ideas and affect our insight about God and our experience of Him.
So, believers are very thankful that they are not a target of the side of God that needs to express His hatred of sin.
But, the existential problem that can confront us although we were saved by God’s goodness and love towards us, is that we can feel anything other than horror when contemplating Him, we think about all our beloved that have been created and chosen by Him to be sent to hell.

The distinction between “God’s prescriptive will” and “God’s decreed will” is central to any discussion of such matters. “God’s prescriptive will” is what God commands to be the case, while “God’s decreed will” is what He makes to be the case.
So with respect to God’s prescriptive will, He wills that no one commits adultery, but with regard to His decreed will, every day He wills that thousands of people will be unfaithful to their spouses.
Some Calvinists go further to assert that God’s prescriptive will includes those things which God wants to happen while His decreed will includes many things that God doesn't want to happen, even though He still wills them.
Other Calvinists will say that God doesn't even want His prescriptive will to happen even though He uses language in scripture which suggests otherwise.
This fundamental dichotomy between God’s two modes of willing forced Calvin to set in opposition the theology that is normative for an object with the theology which God ultimately wills for it.
This means that for everyone that isn't saved, God’s revealed will is salvation, but God’s hidden will or His desire for such people is damnation and not salvation.
This discontinuity creates a host of practical difficulties when it comes to trying to have a relationship with God, since it means that our experience of God is fundamentally * inconsonant from whom He really is.
* the meaning of inconsonant:
1. Lacking in harmony or compatibility; discordant
2. Not consonant or in accord
The problem is to try to fill in the gaps of our understanding with some confuse and inconsonant explanations that forced us to create such confuse conjecture about God’s character and God’s will.
The Bible speaks clear about two sides, respectively God’s Sovereignty in everything and human’s responsibility, but it is impossible to understand the two things together, because it creates a dichotomy in our minds .
What is a dichotomy?
A dichotomy is a partition of a whole into two parts that are:
Understandable when we look the two parts separate from each other.
Not understandable when we look the two parts together.
On one side the Bible reveals that regeneration (salvation) belongs only to God and God is the part that chooses the vessel He wants to save.
On the other side the Bible reveals a continuously appeal from God to human responsibility, pleading with men to repent from their sins and turn to Him.
How can our human minds fit the two parts together?
I believe, the secret for this dichotomy is in “God’s decreed will” sometimes referred to as “God’s ‘hidden will”.
Why we call it “God’s ‘hidden will”?
Because it involves mysteries we cannot understand with our humans minds.
So, we must be humble and not claim to know a lot about “God’s ‘hidden will". Actually, we know nothing about it.

Romans 11:33  “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!”

Deuteronomy 29:29 “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.”

Isaiah 55:9 “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

prayers would be a ‘work’...

About Hyper-Calvinism and Prayer, some Calvinist people say that if prayer made a real difference then God wouldn’t be truly sovereign and our prayers would therefore be a ‘work’.

About Hyper-Calvinism and Pastoral Ministry and Follow up, some people say we can be sure that God will built up the new believer, so he doesn't need to be followed up and for those who fall away from the faith they don’t need pastoral help because God will bring them back, but if they are not elect, then there is nothing we can do anyway.

CONCLUSION:

When I object some of the excesses of Calvinism, I am not objecting to the whole Calvinism package, as I said already that I respect Calvinism, and I hope we can preserve many of its strengths within our Christians Churches.
I have used some sites on Internet only to help me to construct this post in English, like the post below belonging to Robin Philips.
But I don’t agree totally with Robin Phillips content as I think he comes too hard on Calvinism, perhaps because he has been himself a Calvinist in the past.

 

http://blogs.ancientfaith.com/orthodoxyandheterodoxy/2014/01/09/why-i-stopped-being-a-calvinist-part-1-calvinism-presents-a-dehistoricized-bible/

 

If you want to know more about the differences between soft and hard Calvinism, please see the articles below and search on Internet more material about it:

CALVINISM AND DETERMINISM.

What is Infralapsarianism, Sublapsarianism and Supralapsarianism