Tuesday, September 9, 2014

All Christians believe in PREDESTINATION

All Christians believe in PREDESTINATION

January 19, 2011 at 7:17pm
At the time of the American Revolution, almost every Christian denomination in America affirmed the Reformed doctrine of predestination.  Christians believed that God alone was to be credited with their salvation—even their cooperation with God’s grace was brought about by God’s grace.  God had chosen some for eternal life and not others, and only God knew his reasons for the selection.  Baptists, Anglicans, Congregationalists, Dutch Reformed, and (of course) Presbyterians—all stood solidly upon this biblical teaching.  One thing, however, was sure—God didn’t choose us because he knew we would believe.  Rather, we believed because God chose us.  God was God, and all the glory would go to him.

After two centuries of immersion in American culture, however, American Christianity has entered the new millennium in a state of crisis.  Few Americans today believe in predestination.  They may say they do, but they then define predestination as based upon God’s foresight of our faith.  In the end, the reason I’m saved was because of my free will, not God’s sovereign choice.  I guess the reason I believed when my neighbor didn’t is because I was just better than my neighbor.  I was good enough to believe by my own free will.  I thank you, Father, that I had the good sense to cooperate with you....

I’ll say this right at the outset.  Free-will Christianity is a bastardization of biblical Christianity.  It is inconsistent Christianity.   Perhaps “heresy” is even a fair term for it.  All this “free will” thinking is just another form of legalism, making salvation depend upon us rather than upon Jehovah.   Don’t get me wrong—many who buy this thinking are genuine, sincere believers and will be with the Lord forever.  After all, a major point in this class will be that God’s grace is more powerful than our blindness.  But there has been a lack of biblical teaching here for decades.  The result of this dearth has been an even bigger problem, a problem so terrifying as to threaten the very vitality of the American church.   We have lost sight of God’s greatness.  How rare today is a sermon on God’s majesty, his sovereign power, his wrath, his judgment, his overpowering rule over history, his supremacy, his fierceness, his eternal predestination.  If we’re really, really honest with ourselves, Do we truly know God anymore?  We have tamed God.  Castrated him, perhaps.  As one theologian laments... our thoughts of God have become far too human.

This should come as no surprise in America.  For two centuries, the church has existed in an American culture whose highest values are personal liberty and individual rights.  It would be quite natural for Christians here to filter the Bible through such a lens.  The kingdom of God has to be all about me.  It has to be relevant to my life, right?  And if I am saved, it has to be because of my decisions, right?  My will has to be free, right?  God would be unfair to have it any other way.  God has to be an equal opportunity Savior.  Isn’t God a democracy?  Didn’t Jesus preach about the Republic of God?  All this is to suggest that American churches don’t teach predestination because they are more American than they are Christian.  We have come to think that our God is small.  Now it’s time for a new Reformation in the churches, a Reformation in which we honor God as God, not just as mascot.  We need a Reformation in which God is glorified as God, and not just as someone who “fills our needs.”  Enough about our needs!  It’s far past time we let God be God.  I know of no “need” more pressing than this.
Still, even with all this misunderstanding about predestination, nearly every major Christian denomination in history has felt compelled to have some doctrine of predestination.  Our generation is not the first to have to work through this biblical issue.  About the year 400, Augustine and Pelagius fought over this doctrine—and Pelagius was condemned as a heretic for his doctrine of free will.  Then at the Council of Orange in 529 AD, the Christians united to reject free will in favor of God’s sovereign grace.  And again in 855, the Council of Valence affirmed a double predestination.  During the Protestant Reformation in the sixteenth century, Martin Luther called the doctrine of predestination the cor ecclesia, the heart of the Church.  Luther wrote more about predestination than did John Calvin, even though the term “Calvinism” was unfortunately applied to the doctrine.  If one looks at the greatest theologians in the 2,000 years of Christian history—Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, Edwards—although these men disagree on other issues and are by no means infallible, all of them agree on this question of predestination.
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