South Interrupted

This is a quick post on recent events. I used to own a rebel flag. It was to me a heritage and a symbol of pride. To be fair, I grew up in a mostly white conservative church in the southeast. Over the years, I met other white brothers and sisters in Christ that seemed to be aware of other people who were offended and broken-hearted over this flag. Their history under that flag was very hard and oppressive. I did not get this for a long while and argued against these individuals.

Years later, while in college, my university experienced an interruption of a racial nature. Something done by white students offended a black staff member unintentionally. I got to watch this event from the white perspective. I watched friends joke about KKK outfits and showing up at places at night. It was appalling to see this happen. No matter how silly it was for the white students, it was a very real event for others.

Paul shows us in Ephesians 5:21 that we should submit to others in reverence for Christ. In Galatians 3 paints the picture that we are part of God’s family regardless of the levels of brown in our skin. John 17 shows Jesus praying that ALL Christians be united as one body.

Most of us have family members or friends that if they were hurt by anything we would bend over backwards to meet them in their hurt and not bring those things with us on the journey together. If we are one in Christ, why do we act like our brothers and sisters are not deserving of the same treatment? If your fellow Christian is devestated by the symbol you carry, and it is not essential to your faith, give it up for the sake of God’s Kingdom and your reward from God will become evident to you.


Arminianism and Pelagianism

Last week we looked at Calvinism and the potential towards bad theology. Today, however, we turn to Arminianism to study its one pitfall. Arminianism historically was part of the Reformed tradition. I tend to stand with theologians such as Stanley Grenz in thinking that it still should be considered a part of that tradition. In this tradition, there is an alternative view of God’s planning in that it is not set in utter stone from the beginning of time or directly after the fall. God is still sovereign since he gets what he wants by working more creatively with humans. God, however, chooses the grouping of people who will be saved and the other groups will be condemned (The God followers vs. the God opposers). This is a form of predestination different than Calvinism. To be saved, one must choose the group to be in, and in a sense chooses the salvation, but only since God has foreordained the route to salvation. Also, no one can choose God without God first doing a work in them.

The last point is important since it points to a weakness in Arminian circles. This weakness that you will find in Arminian groups is Pelagianism. Pelagianism teaches that all are able to choose good on their own. They have the power in themselves to choose God and choose their very salvation. Works and the individuals ability becomes the basis of salvation. This is a problem in good Christian theology, since we must believe that God initiates the salvific act. According to Genesis, we see that man chose evil, but God promised ultimate salvation. When Christ came, he came calling people to Him. In Romans 12:1, we see that God must transform us, albeit, if we let Him. We do not do this ourselves!

We want good theology. That does not mean a theology that sounds good. There are many things that are sweet to are ears, but true theology is challenging. It is not easy to hear that we had to be rescued. It might strikes us as unfair that someone had to call us from our state or we would have stayed there, but we must remember that the Scriptures repeatedly speak of God as coming into our history and starting a work in us. We still have to choose to accept and allow His transformative work, but He must begin it. John Wesley, a major influence of modern Arminian theology used a term called Prevenient Grace (that grace which cames before salvation). In this aspect of grace, Wesley taught that God is trying to reach to us and transform us before our moment of accepting Jesus as Lord. This counters the twisted view that we can approach salvation and righteousness on our own. Any good work is by hearing the Spirit of God’s guidance and taking the direction that He instructs.

What’s more, the way of righteousness, as long as the fallen order of the world is still in existence, is a difficult path. Jesus once said that this way is narrow, meaning that it is difficult and unattractive. That means that the natural inclination is to choose the well beaten path of the world. We need God’s intervention so that we are able to choose the right path, even to be saved. May God guide us in the way of righteousness.

What is your perception of God? Are you able to do what  you need to do without God? Or is God necessary to our holy living? Are you using your own effort as the way to heaven? Or allowing God to guide your steps?

Calvinism and Deism

One of the major sections of Reformed Protestant Christianity is Calvinism. Named for John Calvin, it has its roots in a theology that started soon after the Reformation and has been a major developing theology ever since.

There are five unique elements to Calvinist theology. Predestination is the one we will take a brief look at. In this theology, God has foreordained who will be saved. It is debated the exact when of the declaration (before or after the fall), but there is a plan along this line. The point of this is sovereignty. How can an all powerful God be if he has not ordered salvific history? It is a good question. Though I am part of the Arminian side of the Reformed tradition, this question does baffle me.

One thing I have noticed in Calvinism is a lean to Fatalism. Fatalism says that what fate has been given to is unaltered by the decisions you make. This is not true. Throughout the Scriptures, God interacts with decisions in an intimate way. Fatalism creates an impersonal God that cares nothing about personal decision.

A major view that says God is impersonal is Deism. Deism teaches that God place the world into motion, but made it in such a way that it would run itself. This meant for the Deist that God created the universe, but would not intervene. God made a great plan, but it is unfortunately an impersonal plan. If Calvinism heads in this direction, it will not fit with Biblical Christianity’s view that God is active in history.

Developing a good Calvinist theology means not getting Christian Theology mixed up with an alternative theology. Going to Fatalism and Deism will not help us live in Christian hope. Looking at John 3:16 and the teachings of the Gospel accounts teaches us that God incarnated to human form. God, even if he made plans like a Calvinist would teach, he still must be involved. God decided that he would hear the cries of His people and got involved. God, if he foreordained the events of History, only does it in response to the cries of his people. If God is fulfilling a plan he made before the world began, it has to be because the plans are full of His promises of salvation and rescue. Isaiah 54:10 teaches that God’s will remain faithful even in the worst chaotic event imaginable to the human mind. The point of theology is to study who God is, but that means that we must focus on God’s Love for us, even if sovereignty is a concern.

What is your view of God’s plans? Do you think he is distant and watching things run? Is he that distant and unloving? Or is he acting in love, fulfilling his promises in the here and now?