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Friday, April 02, 2010
This is an interesting article by a Jewish man who watched a Passion play and wrote on his experience. The last paragraph is particularly good, and reminded me of this.
I’m not a Christian. I don’t think Christ can save me, in part because I don’t think I need to be saved. But I appreciate that a lot of people... do. They believe that I’m destined to burn in hell for all of eternity if I don’t change my beliefs. So I don’t fault them for trying to change my beliefs, even if they use guilt or fear in their attempts. I’m much more offended by those who believe I’m headed for eternal damnation but don’t do anything about it {emphasis added}.


CleverBoy said...

Thanks for the link to my story. :) So glad you enjoyed.

-Rick, the Jewish reporter guy

Chris A said...

Darius, I am interested in your take on this as a Calvinist. I'm going to ask you a few questions. I apologize in advance if any of these questions seem to imply ideas that misrepresent your brand of Calvinism, but you can clarify in your answers. I'm not trying to pigeonhole you, just pick your brain...sort of.

1. If this man is destined, nay, predestined for hell, what difference would it make whether anyone did anything about it? What could they do about it anyway? And since they cannot change it why should they care?

2. Do you agree that this man is destined for hell if HE doesn't change his beliefs? More specifically, would God even grant him the ability to believe if indeed he is predestined for hell?

3. Presuming that this man has heard an actual presentation of the Gospel, if he ends up in hell, whose fault will it be? God's? His own? The Church's? If he has rejected the message, is he punished because he rejected it, only because he is a sinner, or something else?

4. If this man is offended because of Christians who neglect to do anything about the fact that he is destined for eternal damnation, is such an offense valid? If so, on what grounds is it valid?

That's enough, I suppose.

Darius said...

Hey Chris,

I'll be glad to discuss your questions soon, but probably not until tomorrow. Just so you know I'm not ignoring it.

Darius said...

Tomorrow as in Tuesday.

Chris A said...

Cool. No rush. Peace.

Darius said...

Chris, here are my thoughts in response to your questions.

1. Wherever he is predestined to spend eternity, no man knows that location. Since we don't know what God has chosen him for, either for honorable use or dishonorable use (as Romans 9 says), we only one option before us: tell him the Good News and let God sort it out, as He commanded us.

2. Yes, I agree that he is destined for hell if he doesn't change his beliefs and start trusting in the true God. He can only change those beliefs if the Spirit of God gives him a new heart and quickens his spirit to allow him to repent. No man can repent of his own free will. So necessarily, God has to choose him if he is to choose God. If God has chosen him for "dishonorable use," then no, God won't grant him the ability to repent.

3. This is a little bit of an unintentional trick question. Ultimately, God prepared him for hell because that gave God the most glory. But at the same time, we know that the Bible says the man is utterly sinful and is responsible for rejecting God and will be punished accordingly. The default eternal destination of mankind is hell. It is only by God's incredible grace that anyone is saved. But at the same time, we know that sin entered this world by the will of God so that He might be glorified and make a mockery of Satan.

4. It's valid from his point of view because if he was about to be hit by a bus and onlookers just stood and watched, he would be rightfully offended (if he survived the bus). It's also valid from a Christian point of view because no person knows if that bus of eternal judgment is actually going to hit him. Maybe all he needs is someone to yell out and warn him about the bus. Or, unbeknownst to us, he's deaf and yelling at him won't help. We don't know if God has given him ears to hear. God's given us a message to preach, not the discernment to know who will respond. This actually should free us up in our evangelism, because we don't have to worry so much about making converts but just being the messenger. God will take care of the rest.

Feel free to ask for clarification on any points, this is obviously a tough subject because of the apparent paradox or contradiction involved.

Chris A said...

I believe you have answered my questions satisfactorily. Of course, I disagree with some of it.

But let me ask you one more question, and this is in reference to something you said when answering number 2. Do you believe that Arminianism teaches that a person can repent of his own free will? Understand that what I am looking for is your own perception of Arminianism. In other words, I want you to give me your opinion of Arminian soteriology as it has been contrasted with Calvinism. This is not a trick question.

Darius said...

You know, I'm not terribly informed of all the ins and outs of Arminianism (I'm not so much into labels except when they are helpful in generally describing and summarizing one's views), but my understanding is that it does teach that a person can repent of his own free will. I don't see that squaring with Scripture. Arminianism also says that believers can lose their salvation, which is quite unbiblical because the Bible repeatedly talks about people being God's from before time, that Jesus won't lose any he is given, that there are people who are His sheep (and not because they believe - John 10). God doesn't have a divine eraser to remove your name from the Book of Life, which He put there before He even created the world.

Chris A said...

Well, I just wanted to ask you that because I know that is the perception, that Arminianism teaches one can repent of his free will. That happens to be wrong, although there is a greater emphasis on free will in Arminian theology.

But you aren't alone. Many Calvinist theologians and professors make the same mistake. Theology that teaches a person can repent and be saved of his own free will is either Pelagian or Semi-Pelagian. Despite the fact that many Calvinists equate Arminianism with Pelagianism, it simply isn't true of classical Arminian theology. Some Pelagians may call themselves Arminians, but they are not.

Essentially Arminian theology teaches that one, by his free will, can either respond to or resist the grace of God. But it affirms that God must first convict the person of sin by the Holy Spirit. It just isn't exclusive about whom He will convict.

I've made an attempt to study both theological schools of thought, and as I have always stated, I never try to identify myself with either because there are bound to be problems with any system, and to interpret Scripture in the light of a system has its dangers. If one has trouble ascertaining the meaning of a passage, he often falls back on the system.

However, my conclusion is this: Arminianism is a much more forgiving system and allows for greater liberality in interpreting the Scriptures without blind devotion to the system. And at this point, I think there is enough variation within Arminianism that you could call me an Arminian I wouldn't be offended - assuming of course you know what Arminianism is, and most people simply do not.

In either system, there exists possibilities for variation, but in my opinion, Arminianism does a better job of assessing the character of God as is revealed in Jesus Christ; and Calvinism ends up painting God as morally ambiguous, and in such a way as to conflict with the ideas of the Church fathers.

The truth is that neither system is 100% full proof, and for every passage used to justify eternal security, as an example, there is one that seems to contradict it. I am resolved to believe that the mind of God is so unfathomable that to be very rigid with some of these doctrines is both silly and irresponsible. And in my opinion, Calvinism seems to be the most rigid, which opens it up to the most inconsistencies.

If you are interested in knowing what real classical Arminianism is, check out Arminian Theology: Myths And Realities by Roger Olson.

Chris A said...

Here's the Google books preview of that book, if anyone is interested:

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Darius' book montage

The Cross Centered Life: Keeping the Gospel The Main Thing
Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God
Overcoming Sin and Temptation
According to Plan: The Unfolding Revelation of God in the Bible
Disciplines of a Godly Man
Money, Greed, and God: Why Capitalism Is the Solution and Not the Problem
When Helping Hurts: Alleviating Poverty Without Hurting the Poor. . .and Ourselves
The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith
Respectable Sins
The Kite Runner
Life Laid Bare: The Survivors in Rwanda Speak
Machete Season: The Killers in Rwanda Speak
A Generous Orthodoxy: Why I am a missional, evangelical, post/protestant, liberal/conservative, mystical/poetic, biblical, charismatic/contemplative, fundamentalist/calvinist, ... anabaptist/anglican, metho
Show Them No Mercy
The Lord of the Rings
Life at the Bottom: The Worldview That Makes the Underclass
The Truth War: Fighting for Certainty in an Age of Deception
Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist's Guide to Global Warming
The Chronicles of Narnia
Les Misérables

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