Saturday, November 16, 2013

Glorifying God: Leveling the Free Will / Election Battlefield

This is an article that was introduced by this article and provides one of two examples for it.

I also want to mention that I won’t address every single issue relating to the larger theological debate, but to demonstrate how glorifying God opens the door for understanding his purpose in the theological tension.

Many people are familiar with this old debate. The debate is an attempt to answer a very specific point of theological tension. That is, there are two truths taught in the Bible that appear to logically contradict one another. One truth is that God sovereignly elects his followers. That is to say that God chooses those who will follow him and acts to enable their faith. The other truth that is taught in scripture is that people are morally culpable for their sins. The contradiction is that if God is the one who chooses who will spend eternity with him, how can he hold the rest responsible for their sin since he didn’t give them the same opportunity? It seems to be a contradiction of fairness. It’s not fair that some people get paradise for all eternity and others have to suffer for all eternity if they have no say in where they are going.

There are a few approaches to answering this apparent contradiction:

Mitigate the doctrine of the sovereignty of God by saying that the Bible really doesn’t mean what it seems to mean when it indicates that God does the electing.
Try to explain the apparent contradiction philosophically. There are some philosophical principles implied in the Bible and some that we import unwittingly from the culture. Inasmuch as the philosophical principles align with the Bible, this isn’t a bad approach. When we import philosophy from outside the Bible, we usually end up with some error.
Acknowledge that each are true, but write off understanding them as an impossible task and miss the direction God intends for us to take.
Acknowledge that each are true and struggle to understand why God has revealed them to us. This is the option I pursue.

Fortunately, the Bible addresses this issue directly, although many in the first option camp earnestly interpret this passage differently. Paul, in his letter to the Romans (9:19ff), asks this very question. His answer, in the same way that God answered Job, is to appeal to the sovereignty of God. In other words, give God his glory.

So how does this work to level the battlefield?

The personal observation that we have is that we make decisions on our own. Whether this is entirely accurate remains to be seen. To keep this consideration simple, however, let’s make our decisions black and white: we have before us to choose to do good or to choose to do bad. If we choose to do good, by definition we choose to do God’s will. If we choose to do bad, then we choose to do our own will. If this is the case, then we have two different types of decisions we make: God’s will or our will.

Even the choosing must be categorized. If we choose to do God’s will, then our choice is according to the will of God. If we choose to do our will instead of God’s will, then the choosing is according to our will.

So if we do any good thing, we must give God the glory by not taking credit for it. If we do any bad thing, we must confess that we are sinners and assume the responsibility for our sin. Yet the confession is according to the will of God, for we are commanded to do this. And so by our confession, instead of bearing the responsibility for the sin, it is imputed to Christ who bore it on the cross.

What happens when we start with the glory of God and analyze the theological tension accordingly is that instead of a tension we find the purpose for the tension. The tension was only there in the first place because our audacious tendency to focus on ourselves. The issue isn’t whether we make one decision or another, but whether God is ultimately glorified. When we understand that this is the purpose for the tension in the first place and focus at last on the glory of God, the tension disappears and we receive the understanding of our Creator.

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