"So," they say, "nobody's perfect!"
But the Vinedresser won't buy that.
Given the opportunity, He will trim the unproductive suckers and shape the branches so each one will bask in Sonlight.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

My Doctrinal Head-Scratching--minus the dandruff

Michael Marlowe has produced a brilliant web site called, Bible Research by Michael Marlowe. With the variety of Biblical resources he offers, this medium simply doesn't allow enough space to adequately plumb the site's depths. I strongly recommend it to any Bible student.
        In response to Bro. Marlowe's statement on that site to the effect that his doctrinal position is "conservative and reformed," I submit the following essay, adapted from an e-mail I sent to him.

        Your biographical page said your doctrinal stance is "conservative and reformed." Perhaps you could be the one to explain to me the meaning, in this context, of reformed. I know it generally means Calvinist, without promoting the partizanism that usually goes with schools of thought bearing men's names.
        At one time I struggled with the seemingly conflicting teachings of reformed theology and "holiness" theology, which latter term is as ambiguous to me as the former. Most of the discussions I've witnessed between "experts" of the two schools of thought reinforce my own conclusion on the issue: The Bible obviously(without giving book, chapter, verse) supports both teachings, with advocates of each, bending the Biblical context in their attempt to discredit the opposition, which attitude clearly reflects the "spirituality" of their approach.
        One might ask, "How can the Bible teach two such mutually exclusive doctrines as unconditional election and personal volition?" It can and does teach both, because both are true, though not necessarily in the form they are usually taught.
        Each of us tries to wrap our awfully finite mind around God's infinite, eternal truth. With that attempt, large portions of said eternal truth is squeezed out the cracks of the little boxes that are our minds. To deal with said apparent dichotomy, I've arrived at a few conclusions that seem consistent with my woefully inadequate knowledge of His word. I am open to my theories being disproven, but not by anyone consumed with dogmatic pride.
        First, both sides of the figurative aisle seem to assume their understandings of these teachings are as complete and accurate as the texts from which they allegedly derive them. That presumption is utter foolishness! While I'll defend to the death, my belief in God's inerrant truth, I deny just as forcefully that any flawed human being is capable of accurately grasping His truth in its entirety. That pretty much throws any dogmatic stand on human interpretations out the stained-glass window.
        Does that open the smoking hatch to Satan's infernal relativism? Hardly. It just closes another scorched door called pride in ones personal or sectarian understanding.
        Second, divine sovereignty seems to be Calvinism's pivotal doctrine, allowing little-or-no room for human volition. The teaching of unconditional election subjugates any human choice to God's prior selection(Please note my use of the word prior. I'll deal with God's time-line later.).
        So, how sovereign is God? Answer: God's sovereignty is both perfect(qualitatively), and absolute(quantitatively). But His perfection goes infinitely beyond any human understanding of quality, as His absoluteness goes infinitely beyond our understanding of quantity. How can we presume to limit God's options by insisting that He, in His sovereignty, precludes all human volition? Isn't that God's choice to make? Is it not possible that He could sovereignly choose to limit His own sovereignty, giving man some degree of self-determination? Oh, that's right; God's sovereignty is from eternity, while any choices we make are strictly temporal. That leads me to my next point ...
        Third, traditional head-scratching over both persuasions often overlooks one basic fact: We are temporal beings, and our sense of cause-and-effect depends on our temporal perspective, while the Creator of all truth is eternal. That gives Him a somewhat more accurate perspective on matters of eternal truth. I get all cross-eyed thinking about this, but chronological order is meaningless in eternity. To God, there is no past, present, or future. To say our choices are now, while His choices were then, constrains His activity to our concept of time. God has no such limitation! And He needn't accommodate our inability to grasp that fact by attempting to conform His eternal truth to our finite understanding.
        God's Holy Spirit "anoints" His truth to our understanding when He sees fit. Dare we presume to declare any of our understanding as anointed of God? Dare we interpret our "feelings" about the accuracy of our scholarship and the certainty of our doctrines as His agreement?
        Despite our having "crucified" our fallen prIde(that's a capital i in the center of the word) with the old man's sinful nature, its rotting corpse has yet to be completely purged from our bodies. If we refuse to admit its presence, its infectious maggots will spread throughout our attitudes, our motives, our hidden thoughts, until the infestation drags us, unawares, back into the world's sinful quagmire. Eternal security or no eternal security, that "saintly" corruption is an infernal reproach to the holiness of His name, giving the world ample excuse to ridicule our "religion" and ignore our attempts at sharing God's holy gospel.
        I wonder how many of us realize that we "saints" will be judged for throwing such an obstacle in the way of seekers. His word commands us to Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. (Col 4:5)
      Thanks to His matchless grace, God ultimately managed to soften my heart, hardened as it was by the well-meant, but foolish, behavior of a few believers in Christ. But only He knows what I could have accomplished for Him, had they wooed me, rather than wounding me. And only He knows how many seekers have been put off from Him for all eternity; lost because of our occasional thoughtlessness. Just one act of hate, rather than love, of judgment, rather than grace, of pride, rather than of humility, could become a tragedy of eternal consequence.

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