Monday, November 17, 2014

Tiresome Theological Arguments

Jacob Arminius and John Calvin. Arminianism vs. Calvinism. In one form or another, it's debate that has raged for centuries, even going back to Luther and Augustine if you like. Really, these issues were already being argued in Bible times when the Apostles still walked the earth, as the New Testament shows.

The debate has yet to be settled, and we will not settle it here. It is little secret where my own viewpoints lie. I am on the Reformed side of the fence - a Calvinist if you will. Because of the never-ending arguing, I don't even like to use the terms "Calvinism" or "Arminianism." The reason is that as soon as you use the term, the presuppositions and barriers to communication get thrown up immediately, and discussion is fruitless. I forget who said it, but a wise person once said along the lines of "I dislike labels. All too often, labels are an excuse to avoid thinking." But we have to use language to communicate, and terms must be used to communicate ideas. So we're stuck with labels, and prayers we can make ourselves understood.

This post is brief, and not at all intended to begin a large treatise on defending Calvinism. Enough books have been written on this, and I don't need to add another. I'm writing to vent some frustration with what I think is an unfair distortion of the Calvinist point, "Perseverance of the saints." In some circles, this is called "Once Saved, Always Saved." While an accurate statement in and of itself, the caricatured interpretation given to it is irritating. Anyone who really bothers to study the position and the Scriptures that back it up ought to be able to see that it does NOT mean what its opponents often fling out there.

When perseverance of the saints is mentioned, the knee-jerk statement that gets tossed in our faces is "Well, I guess you think you can just go out and sin it up and it doesn't matter." That is ridiculous, and no one that I know in the Reformed camp believes such a thing. The point is—if someone IS truly saved and born again, having the Holy Spirit of God dwelling in them, such a person would not even WANT to live in such a fashion. That doesn't mean we will live in perfect obedience while we walk in these bodies of flesh. We can, will, and do stumble. And that did not take the Lord by surprise at all. Remember, He knows our lives from beginning to end. Nothing we do takes him by surprise. He knows every event in our lives even before we get there "under this sun." God dwells outside time. When He paid the price for the sins of His children, He paid for ALL of them. The Apostle John makes our status very plain. "Little children, I write these things that you may not sin. Yet if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Christ Jesus the righteous."

The Apostle Paul makes it plain what our attitude toward sin should be as believers. "Shall we sin that grace may abound? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?"

Let's be clear. If someone professing Jesus as their Savior blows off the Bible and insists that they can live in sin with impunity, their salvation is NOT genuine. Jesus said, "If you love Me, keep my commandments." Obedience to commands does not save. Faith in Jesus Christ is what saves. We are justified by grace through faith, AND THAT NOT OF OURSELVES. IT IS THE GIFT OF GOD, NOT OF WORKS, SO THAT NO MAN MAY BOAST. (That's in Romans if you want to read it).

We live in an age of resurgent antinomianism, a serious error fought and refuted by the Apostles. Antinomianism is unbiblical. We as the children of the King are expected to live lives pleasing to Him because we love Him, and we are ambassadors of His in a fallen world.

Once saved, always saved. Yes. Saved by His power, kept by His power, and by His promise to "complete the work He began" in me. It is His work, and He gets all the glory. And I am forever thankful. If it depended on me to keep me saved, I might as well cash in the chips and head to the Lake of Fire now. But I depend on Him. And He never fails.

And I have absolutely NO desire to live a life that is displeasing to him. A holy life is the hallmark of a true, born again, saved believer. It is the goal. We grow in faith and holiness through the process of sanctification. The desire is there. If there is no desire for holiness and godly living, then we need to "examine ourselves to see if we're in the faith." There's another one of those pesky Scriptures by the Apostle Paul to deflate the caricature.

As tiresome as this particular subject gets, I am under no illusions. It will not end until Jesus returns. But tonight, I've gotten it off my chest.

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