Thursday, August 18, 2005

Reason Over Scripture?

When I was a teenaged Christian, I had a lot of animosity for so-called Calvinists. I chimed in with my friends who suggested that Calvinism was just the result of esteeming logic over the Bible.
The fact is, I had not read much of the Bible at that time and what I had read was more in the realm of "favorite texts" as opposed to the "whole counsel of God." It wasn't until I was forced to really study through passage after passage as a teaching pastor that I began to see that "Calvinism" was really just short-form for what the Bible says - especially in the realm of how people are saved. (I understand you can take the term "Calvinism" and attach all kinds of meanings and agendas to it - I am not in love with the term for that reason - but I do love the Truth that the term represents. By that I mean what are commonly called, "the doctrines of grace" or "reformed soteriology." If you don't like the term "Calvinism" that is fine with me! I just want to be clear as to what I am referring to when I use it.)
I am curious though - and this is a totally honest question - how many open theists, emergents, post-moderns and liberals really read their Bibles regularly?
In my naivete, it just seems impossible that anyone who faithfully reads the text of the Word in order to commune with the God of the Word could end up, say, denying the absolute sovereignty of God.
I realize that might sound very offensive if you identify yourself by one of those labels. I am not sure how else to genuinely ask the question though. I am quite prepared to be wrong in my assumption, but I would really like some honest blogger to answer honestly. What place does the Bible take in your actual life? Do you read it systematically, regularly and with a view to meeting your God? Because it appears to me from what I read that most of those writing in defense of the "emerging church" (for example) place far more value on their intuition ("I can't concieve of a god like that") and reason ("I can't say who goes to heaven or not since I cannot perfectly know any person's heart") than they do to the simple revealed Truth of God in His Word.
I know I spent a long time in my life thinking this way - and in my experience it led to confusion, contradiction and no real answers for life's most important questions.
I am also interested to know of others whose story is similar to mine - in love with the Lord but not grasping much of His Word... then a big change in your spritual life when you started to regularly and thoughtfully read the Scripture.


  1. I don't care if you're emergent, open, liberal, post-modern, post-post-modern, or wack; "Those who are in the flesh cannot please God." (That was all for free Paul.) I really relate you the story. It just reminds me of how hopelessly lost I would be in the pages of scripture if it were not for the powerful work of the Spirit revealing God's truth. To me, Calvinism means that no matter where you open your Bible, you see God's sovereign plan for the redemption of his chosen people.
    ps. your blogs rock man.

  2. I was predestined not to read the bible reguarly and to be an open theist for God's glory!?!?! agghhhh . . . I can't "resist" typing this comment, God is causing everything I type for his glory. agghhhh

  3. I have found great joy and delight in reading and meditating on Gods Word! Oh, to know God better and to delight in Him more!

    Psalm 19:7-14 "The law of the Lord is perfect,
    reviving the soul;
    the testimony of the Lord is sure,
    making wise tthe simple;
    the precepts of the Lord are right,
    rejoicing the heart;
    the commandment of the Lord is pure,enlightening the eyes;the fear of the Lord is clean,
    enduring forever;the rules of the Lord are true,and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold,even much fine gold;sweeter also than honey
    and drippings of the honeycomb.
    Moreover, by them is your servant warned;in keeping them there is great reward.Who can discern his errors? Declare me innocent from hidden faults.Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins;let them not have dominion over me!Then I shall be blameless,
    and innocent of great transgression.Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight,
    O Lord, my rock and my redeemer."

    Im not exactly sure what anonymous(in the above comment) was saying(perhaps they could elucidate further if they wish). But I shall leave the following response:

    Romans 8:28-30 "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified."

    A couple of quotes from one who can say it far better than I, C.H. Spurgeon, may be of some interest:

    "We are no believers in fate, seeing that fate is a different doctrine altogether from predestination. Fate says the thing is and so it must be, so it is decreed. But the true doctrine is-God has appointed this and that, not because it must be, but because it is best that is should be. Fate is blind, but the destiny of Scripture is full of eyes. Fate is stern and adamantine, and has no tears for human sorrow. But the arangements of providence are kind and good."


    Opposition to divine sovereignty is essentially atheism. Men have no objection to a god who is really no God, a god who shall be the subject of caprise, who shall be a servile follower of their will, who shall be under their control. But a God who speaks and it is done, who commands and it stands fast, a God who does as he will among the armies of heaven and among the inhabitants of this lower world, such a God as this they cannot endure. And yet, is it not essential to the very being of God that he should be absolute and supreme? Certainly to the scriptural conception of God, sovereignty is an absolute necessity."

    Thanks Paul, keep preaching the truth!! Im enjoying your blog very much :-) Any comments....

  4. TwinTwo:
    Those Spurgeon quotes are stunning. Do you know where they are from?

  5. Hi Pastor Paul, They are fantastic arent they.. God is so good!! I got the quotes from a book of quotations. Ill send you an e-mail with the detailed info. For those who are interested the book is titled "2200 Quotations from the Writings of Charles H. Spurgeon" Compiled by Tom Carter. God Bless..

  6. I grew up in a Brethren church (Open Brethren, Bible Chapel) which was distinctly Arminian, at least when it came to "backsliding." They definitely believed that you could lose your salvation. I never accepted that, but more for philosophical than strictly Biblical reasons. The way to be saved was spelled out so clearly, but the way to be lost again seemed so vague and unclear. How bad did you have to be to lose your salvation? Blaspheme God? Or simply have a beer (the church was quite against drinking, too)?

    But my path to a solid, committed "Calvinism" (I'm not a fan of that word, either) was through John Piper's influence and through the teaching I was doing on evangelism. Both at work and at my church I taught several courses (adult Sunday School, Bible study) on ways to approach reaching people at work, in the neighbourhood, etc. In the process of teaching these and trying to reach the people around me, I was doing a lot of thinking on what it means to ask people to believe something. I mean, when presented with a set of facts, you either believe them or you don't. You don't choose to believe or not. (You choose how you act in response to a belief but belief itself is not a choice.)

    So this was a real quandry for me. How can I teach others to call their friends to "choose" to believe, when belief is not a choice? That drove me to the Scripture for months and months.

    The result was that I became deeply committed to the doctrines of grace, the TULIP. As a result, I taught a course at the church based on my answers to the belief/choice question, calling it "The Theology of Evangelism." Basically a primer on Calvinism. It was a tiny class (in my old church, putting "theology" in a course title was sure to reduce the number of attendees greatly, I'm afraid) but it was interesting to see peoples' responses. Of the 5 folks there, two were long-time Christians (> 20 yrs) and three were brand-new Christians (< 8 months). The new Christians had no problems at all accepting that it was God's sovereign choice which had drawn them to Himself. This was neither offensive, nor surprising to them. Perhaps their experience of coming to God for the first time was still so fresh in their minds that they realized it was not of them. Of the older Christians, one struggled occasionally with the material, but the other simply delighted in these truths. In fact, at one point while we were discussing God's electing, this 60 year old man began to weep in the class. Ah, to weep with joy over the deep truths of God!!

    My former pastor (a very experienced man) once noted that those who come to this issue from a philosophical direction tend to end up Arminian, while those who come from a strictly Biblical position end up Calvinist.

    I have a good quote to end with. David Brainerd, on his path to becoming a follower of Christ, struggled greatly with the sovereignty of God. He concluded that this struggle was simply a manifestation of the hardness and corruption of his own heart in sin:

    Another thing to which I found a great inward opposition, was the sovereignty of God. I could not bear that it should be wholly at God's pleasure to save or damn me, just as he would. That passage, Rom. ix. 11-23, was a constant vexation to me, especially ver. 21. Reading or meditating on this, always destroyed my seeming good frames: for when I thought I was almost humbled, and almost resigned, this passage would make my enmity against the sovereignty of God appear. When I came to reflect on my inward enmity and blasphemy, which arose on this occasion, I was the more afraid of God, and driven further from any hopes of reconciliation with him. It gave me such a dreadful view of myself, that I dreaded more than ever to see myself in God's hands, at his sovereign disposal, and it made me more opposite than ever to submit to his sovereignty; for I thought God designed my damnation.
    (Diary of David Brainerd, ~1750)

  7. tomgee,
    Thanks for this post - I love to hear how the Lord works in other people's lives. It is always fascinating to see how he can take such diverse creatures with such diverse backgrounds and through such diverse means bring them to essentially the same place.
    Especially liked your Brainerd quote...