Perseverance: Wrapping Up

There are plenty of other proof texts for both sides that we could dig into. And I enjoy the digging. But feelings are getting a bit on edge, and I imagine we’ve tested the reader’s endurance and tolerance quite enough. Maybe we’ll come back to the topic later.

Here’s my own thinking.

* Attidues, Emotions, Etc. First, as upset as some on both sides get over these discussions, orthodox Calvinism is not a salvation issue. I know lots of Calvinists, and regardless of where a non-Calvinist may think their theology “logically” leads, most are in fact in the evangelical mainstream, live in fear of the Lord, and are every bit as active in evangelism as those Christians in Churches of Christ, if not more so. This has been true for centuries, and it’s not likely to change any time soon.

Of course, there are some kinds of Calvinists who take some embarrassingly wrong positions — such as opposing missions — but we non-Calvinists have our embarrassing elements, too — like Churches of Christ that refuse to spend a penny on missions while damning the Calvinists across the street for bad theology.

It really should be possible to talk about this stuff with getting angry. As Edward Fudge wrote yesterday,

All said, Calvinists and non-Calvinists will still have real and serious differences. Nevertheless, for the sake of the gospel and in the interest of a unified witness, surely disputants on both sides can soften their tones, lower their voices, credit with good faith those with whom they disagree, and sit down together as brothers and sisters around the table of the Lord.

Amen.

I think we sometimes have our self-worth too closely tied to our views on one side or the other. That’s a mistake. Build everything on faith in Jesus — NOT Calvin or Arminius. The goal isn’t to pound the other side into submission. It’s to share the joy of what you’ve learned about God.

I don’t mind forceful, convicted argument. I do mind being called a liar or accused of denying the inspiration of scripture or of disagreeing with Jesus because I dispute someone’s interpretation. We really need to temper our words. (“We” includes me.)

But we do need to feel free to express our feelings. I need to hear how my views affect others, and they need to hear how their views affect me. We can’t communicate until we understand each other. Just don’t get your feelings hurt when I disagree — and I won’t get mine hurt when you disagree with me.

While we shouldn’t be afraid to express our feelings — there are some things we shouldn’t feel. We shouldn’t feel contempt for those who disagree. They are good people — fellow Christians — trying hard to understand and obey God. Good. Me, too.

And we shouldn’t feel anger when people refuse to be persuaded. Sometimes the other side just doesn’t agree, and getting angry never helps. Rather, we need to get past that and realize that there’s enough common ground for us to serve God together. Yes, it’s frustrating. No, it’s not grounds for anger.

Realize that in an internet forum such as this one, the person you are trying to persuade isn’t always the person you’re talking to. You may never persuade him, but you just might persuade a few thousand who are quietly lurking and reading. So don’t decide whether you’re wasting your time by the comments you read. Few people post comments — but many are persuaded.

And, yes, I know I need to take my own advice. I’m working on it.

* Election. Even though it’s not a salvation issue, I find Unconditional election/Limited atonement/Irresistible grace a troubling doctrine because of the picture it paints of God. I know that those who believe in this doctrine find it encouraging, but I can’t shake the sense that the doctrine emphasizes the sovereignty of God at the expense of the love of God.

I just can’t reconcile the character of God as revealed in Jesus with those elements of orthodox Calvinism. I’ll have more to say about God’s character as revealed through Jesus in an upcoming series (God willing), which is not at all intended to be about Calvinism, but everything fits together. You see, I think all good hermeneutics and theology must begin with the right understanding of who God is — and God’s nature is most fully revealed in Jesus. All good theology begins in Christology.

* Total Depravity. A belief in total depravity (the T in TULIP) does not require that one accept the rest of Calvinism (ULIP). I tend toward acceptance of Total depravity in the classic Arminian sense. Edward Fudge posted an excellent article saying —

Some Calvinists, for whom Neal Punt is a leading spokesman, believe that only the elect are saved, but they define the elect to include every human being — except those who personally and persistently reject God throughout this life. Other Calvinists, represented by Terrance L. Tiessen, do not define the elect so broadly, but they believe that the non-elect also have a potentially-saving encounter with God at least once during this life, at which time God enables them to believe and be saved if they will do so.

Additionally, there are moderate Calvinists who accept four-and-one-half petals of the metaphorical TULIP‘s five, but who deny that God decreed the damnation of any. Along with Punt and Tiessen, these also can point for support to Luke’s mixed account of the reaction to Paul’s synagogue preaching at Pisidian Antioch. Those who were “appointed to eternal life” believed (Acts 13:48), but Paul told those who disbelieved that they had “judged [themselves] unworthy of eternal life” (v. 46). Ultimately, there is only a human cause for anyone being lost (see the “because” in John 3:18). Ultimately, there is only a divine cause for anyone being saved (there is no human “because” in John 3:16, only a human result).

(emphasis added).

The second quoted paragraph describes classic Arminianism, that is, the view of Jacob Arminius, who rejected ULIP but accepted Total depravity and prevenient grace — the idea that humans can come to faith only by the power of the Spirit. Arminius disagreed with Calvin by believing that the Spirit works with the word on the hearts of all who hear, but taught that only some choose to believe.

Anyway, there are many variations on the Calvinist theme, just as there are many variations on non-Calvinism. And where the line is depends on whom you ask.

* Perseverance. It should be obvious to anyone familiar with the Southern Baptists that POTS (perseverance of the saints) does not necessarily lead to a weak commitment to Jesus. And so I just can’t get that upset over POTS — although I disagree.

I just can’t buy the argument that the warnings against falling away are there to assure perseverance that is guaranteed to happen. I can understand that God wants us to exhort the saints as a means of perseverance. But I just can’t accept that God wants us to warn the saints against the impossible. It would be like warning your children against monsters to keep them in bed at night. It might work, but I wouldn’t lie to my children.

* Deciding. Both sides have their proof texts. Whatever is true has to respond to Calvin’s favorite texts and the non-Calvinist proof texts. Merely tossing texts back and forth is pointless — and really tedious, at least to me. Both sides have to interact with the texts from both sides.

But it’s really hard work reconciling what appear to be contradictory passages scattered across the pages of scriptures. Personally, I don’t think they contradict, but showing how they don’t is a tremendous amount of work. You really do have to go deeper than the commentaries generally go. You have to sort through the Greek (or Hebrew).

And you have to always keep in mind the nature of God as revealed in Jesus. Always.

Finally, it really should be possible to talk about this stuff with getting angry. I get the impression that some people have their self-worth too closely tied to their views on one side or the other. That’s a mistake. Build everything on faith in Jesus — NOT Calvin or Arminius — and certainly not me. If someone persuades me to accept POTS or Unconditional election, it won’t change my self-esteem. In fact, I’ve been forced to change my views on lots of things over the years, and yet every time I get a little closer to the truth about God has been pure joy.

I really don’t mind forceful, convicted argument. I do mind being called a liar or accused of denying the inspiration of scripture or of disagreeing with Jesus because I dispute someone’s interpretation. We really need to temper our words. (“We” includes me.)

But we do need to feel free to express our feelings. I need to hear how my views affect others, and they need to hear how their views affect me. We can’t communicate until we understand each other. Just don’t get your feelings hurt when I disagree — and I won’t get mine hurt when you disagree with me.

We shouldn’t be afraid to express our feelings — but there are some things we shouldn’t feel. We shouldn’t feel contempt for those who disagree. They are good people trying hard to understand and obey God. Good. Me, too.

And we shouldn’t feel anger when people refuse to be persuaded. I’m a lawyer, and I’ve lost my share of cases. Sometimes the other side just doesn’t agree, and getting angry never helps. Rather, we need to get past that and see if there’s enough common ground for us to serve God together — and there most certainly is. Yes, it’s frustrating. No, it’s not grounds for anger.

Realize that in an internet forum such as this one, the person you are trying to persuade isn’t always the person you’re talking to. You may never persuade him, but you just might persuade a few thousand who are quietly lurking and reading. So don’t decide whether you’re wasting your time by the comments you read. Most people never post a comment — but many are persuaded.

And, yes, I know I need to take my own advice. I’m working on it.

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28 Responses

  1. “All good theology begins in Christology.”

    Could not be said any better.

  2. I sat this series out on purpose, but I’m directed this morning to comment.

    Just recently, I heard a preacher say “God is not Greek,” in a reference to the American church trying to apply logic and reason to God. He then gave examples of God’s seemingly illogical actions (form our perspective):
    -Isaac is the promised child through which salvation will come, so let’s send Abraham off to kill him.
    -You’re about to go into battle, so let’s circumcise all the warriors.
    -How about we march around a city for seven days instead of fighting it?

    There are many things that God does that only make sense in hindsight. They are logical, but only to Him, and to us in hindsight (maybe!).

    In the same way, the CofC has this tendency to want to figure out God and then obey.

    When I was baptized, I didn’t have a twenty-five year walk with God to help me understand what I was doing. Obedience brings relationship, which brings understanding. But obedience in baptism was no less the right thing to do back then.

    When I was asking God about whether to have more kids, I had the attitude of “Show me the money, and I’ll show you the kid,” because that’s the “responsible” and “logical” thing to do. God’s answer was “Show me the kid, and I’ll show you the money.” I obeyed, and now I understand.

    The Israelites used logic at the door of the Promised Land. Giants are big. Warriors are stronger. The walls are not conquerable. And they died in the desert for applying their own logic to the situation, never getting to experience the Promised Land.

    The CofC has died in the wilderness for the same reason: too much logic, not enough obedience.

    There will be no more a solution to this series in the original Greek than there has been in the English, because the goal in getting out the Greek is to understand, and then form a belief. The goal should really be to believe, so that we can understand.

    God is asking the church to step into the land of giant people, giant walls, and giant fruit (woohoo!), by faith. Faith is the seed that grows into understanding. Understanding bears the fruit of grace, and grace is what allows us to give each other the room to experience the same God in a slightly different way. And that experience allows us to sow more faith.

    Let’s not miss out on the harvest of the Promised Land because we got stuck at the Jordan unable to figure God out. Let’s follow God first, and let Him explain Himself along the way. Scripture points to Him. Jesus pointed to Him. The Holy Spirit points to Him. None of those point to the Greek. The CofC does, of course. And we can see how well that has worked in making disciples – especially of our kids.

    Obedience, relationship, understanding. Everything else will fall into place after that.

  3. Good words Brad. One thing that has not been mentioned is that we in the west tend to understand God in light of the philosophy of Aristotle. Most of us can not even explain that philosophy to ourselves. As in all difficult doctrines (difficult as in above our head) our understanding of God will be flawed as it depends, at least in part, on human reasoning and understanding.
    Peace,
    Randall

  4. Brad

    Before we step out in faith to conquer giants we need to understand faith. You are right…show me the money or what will be the results. We want to see a program that makes sense.

    We are now and will always be in our little zone of comfort.

    I ask the question…why has your attendance stayed the same for four years. The answer…when we get in our new building it will grow. WOW.. What faith.To put millions in a building sio we can grow. Not only the COC is guilty of that mentality but all of North American Christianity.

    What is faith,,Abraham staggered not at what he had to do,

    Bob

  5. Good post Brad! Time to get real.

  6. Brad,

    I agree that we must obey the scriptures even if we don’t understand God’s purposes behind them. Are you saying I’m being disobedient?

    I mean, what have I done that you disagree with?

  7. It’s not you Jay. It’s the nature of the CofC that is wired within all of us who have been raised in it. We have all been programmed with the idea that just a little more reasoning or study will bring everybody together, enlighten us, or otherwise do the Spirit’s job.

    You said:
    “You really do have to go deeper than the commentaries generally go. You have to sort through the Greek (or Hebrew).”

    How would this be possible in cultures that barely have full translations of the Bible? When we plant a church, do we make sure to also plant a Greek expert so that this new church will not miss out on the deeper things of God? Do we make sure the new churches have the commentaries you speak of? Apparently without them they can only come to a partial knowledge of the Scriptures!

    On the contrary, the way to handle this is to teach your disciples to get with God. Paul says it this way:
    Philippians 3:15
    “All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you.”

    Notice he didn’t mention the Greek, or the commentaries, but God teaching us directly. That should get our attention.

    Yet, the CofC would likely say:
    “If you can’t come to a conclusion, then look deeper into the scriptures. Pull out the Greek, the Hebrew, some writing of someone designated as a “Church Father” of some kind. Grab a commentary or two. Anyone who studies enough can find the truth, studying to show themselves as approved.”

    But as a substitute for experience with God, all of these otherwise informative sources become idols:

    John 5:39
    “You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.”

    If God is the source of life, and the CofC is losing life, then it’s losing its connection with God. How? By making logic and study the doorway to knowing God. If the CofC was known for providing for its communities, for healing marriages, for caring for widows and orphans, and for serving each other in an amazing love circle, then there would be authority there to teach others how to interpret the scriptures.

    But instead, being a hilarious giver is reasoned away as irresponsible. Miracles are reasoned away through the scriptures. The Spirit’s work is reasoned away. Sacrificial living is reasoned away. Logic and knowledge replace the uncomfortable, difficult, radical lifestyle of the gospel with self-righteousness, and satisfaction in doing as little as possible. Not because the people are horrible people who do not want to obey God, but because they have been taught to seek knowledge about God, but not to experience Him. All of this in the name of uniformity, rather than in the name of Jesus.

    You can find this teaching in the songs that are sung (without instruments because of man’s reasoning):

    “Within the sacred page, I seek thee Lord” – Sacred Selections

    The original is:

    “Beyond the sacred page, I seek thee Lord” – Mary A. Lathbury, 1877

    My original post was an appeal to the reading audience to get beyond the sacred page, and seek God, for the full answers will be found in Him, without the need for the laborious process of interpretation you described. There is an extremely large chasm between reading that God loves you, and having Him speak that over you. The distance between reading about helping the widow and doing it is equally as large. And on and on.

    In the CofC, relationship with the text has replaced relationship with God. This is why you’re having to discuss how to stop the CofC from dying. And I’m saying emphatically, passionately, and pleadingly that logic needs to be returned to its place, or else every turn-around effort you make will be in vain.

    The only thing that more resources will provide for two men who are equally inexperienced with God’s character is more words to argue over. In the meantime, the unbelieving world shakes its head with reinforced disbelief, and leaves the two men to argue – as apparently the rest of the CofC has done over the past decade or two.

    I propose a two-step solution: 1) tear down the idols – logic and reason and 2) make it easy for the world to accuse us of being radical Jesus freaks. Then let us reconvene in a decade to see if any of these arguments over unbiblical acronyms are still attractive.

  8. brad

    Isn’t amazing that first and second century Christians were martyred over what they heard by word of mouth and not a whole lot of hard to understand logic. They understood the Gospel spoken in their language, as a simple understanding that we are saved by faith in Jesus Christ.

    Rick Warren in his book, the Purpose Driven Church, suggest strongly that any attempt to reform certain groups would be futile. If you want to conduct Church in the way you feel is according to the simple truth of the Gospel, Then form a separate group. Whenever you try to take away the rules and traditions of a church, no matter what name they bear, you takeaway all that they have and now they are miserable. It won’t work. Just leave them alone and pray for their enlightenment.

    I, like C.S. Lewis, don’t take sides in arguments over anything past the simplicity of the Gospel. POST, OSAS,TULIP and all the other stuff is beyond my ability at logic. It is a waste of time. If we spent as much time teaching the Gospel, the world would be much better off spiritually and materially.

    Keep it simple. Good luck in your quest brad.

    Bob

  9. Most of TULIP theology requires that we treat it as untrue if we are to obey God.

    After all, we are exhorted to preach to every creature of all nations – as well as to exhort believers and warn them against falling.

    These two things require that we believe every person is a potential convert and that every believer is a potential drop out who forfits what he once had. In other words, we have to treat TULIP as being untrue, whether it is or not.

    If I must treat it as untrue, isn’t it just possible that it is a false theology?

    So, to take Brad’s point, our response to it should be to just continue to preach the good news of salvation by grace through faith, emphasizing the fact that the gospel is not only God’s power to save those who believe (Romans 1:16), but also His power to shield and keep saved those who believe (1 Peter 1:5).

    In other words, let’s just obey God. “If anyone chooses to do God’s will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God, or whether I speak on my own (John 7:17).

    Jerry S.

  10. Jay: hear this with gentleness, the way I’m writing it. See? I’m typing very lightly on the keys right now. :^)

    I noticed this statement in that other thread over there:

    “I’m glad to address John 6:44, but I’m afraid it’s going to involve Greek and logic.”

    This is exactly what I’ve been addressing. I think that instead of going to the Greek and to logic, the Song of Solomon might be a better commentary to refer to.

    The passion play between the lover and his beloved is precisely the kind of drawing God does. For those who have never experienced God drawing them like this, there is room to wonder what John 6:44 means, and to also wonder why I think the Song of Songs has anything to do with it.

    But for those who have been:
    loved
    revived
    rebuilt
    repurposed
    rescued from death
    made whole
    washed clean
    dressed in His royal robes
    protected from consequences undeservingly
    anointed with overflowing jars of joy
    seated next to the right hand of Christ
    overwhelmed with just the tiniest revelation about Christ
    treated not as slaves but as sons
    caught up in the vision of the kingdom
    blessed with undeserved fruit from the Spirit’s efforts
    regarded as holy even before that holiness is made complete…

    …for these people, there isn’t a hesitation in knowing deeply, personally, and joyfully the fullness of grace and salvation and love found in that passage. That passage is not looked at as if one day they might understand it. It is reflected upon in past tense, like looking into a photograph, and immediately feeling like they are there again in that amazing moment.

    Logic leaves no room for this kind of emotion, and even reasons it away as foolishness, or at least a weakness that yields poor interpretation. But our God is not Greek. He is at the same time the most loving, compassionate, powerful, and just being ever.

    He is not interested in us guessing about what He means. He is very intent to show us precisely.

    And even as I type this, He is preparing someone to read this, so that when they do, their heart begins to pound, and they scream at the computer, “YES! That’s the God I’ve been looking for, but couldn’t find in all those different churches I’ve been to!” Because He pursues relentlessly, and will not let His bride be taken by another, even to the point that the gates of Hell will not keep Him from saving her. And He sends His Spirit out to give eyes to see and ears to hear, so that when He comes, she will not just be awake, but desperately seeking Him.

    That is the God who wrote John 6:44.

    He is awesome. Anyone that tries to come between God and His bride should be aware of the fatal consequences. For His love is an unbreakable, jealous love. He is the perfect priest, the perfect prophet, the perfect protector.

    May we all find ourselves caught up in it. For if we do, we will find that all the arguments over shadows will disappear when exposed to His incredibly warm, glorious, and perfect light.

  11. Brad–

    …I am the guy looking at my screen and screaming, “YES!!!”

    Great words, Brother.

  12. Brad,

    Tell me whether you agree with this —

    We can’t reject either Greek or logic as part of our hermeneutics. After all, God inspired the text in Greek. The writers often make arguments from logic.

    Rather, the mistake would be in limiting ourselves to logic and Greek. Sound hermeneutics must be deeper and richer than that.

    Without attempting to be comprehensive, as I said just a couple of days ago, all good theology begins in good Christology. If you don’t understand Jesus, no amount of Greek or logic will bring you understanding. And Jesus reveals God.

    The better you know the author, the better you read his writings.

    And good hermeneutics are narrative hermeneutics. We must connect the NT with the OT. Good hermeneutics see the NT as telling the same story as the OT — from different perspectives, with differing levels of revelation — but it’s all the same God working his redemptive plan.

    And good hermeneutics are sensitive to the time and culture and history in which the texts are written. We don’t read beginning with Reformation or Restoration questions, because the text may not have been written to answer those questions. Rather, we do what we can to let God not only give us the answers but also give us the questions.

    And so it’s not that logic and Greek are objectionable. They are simply insufficient.

    Make sense?

  13. Four posts to answer you, here’s the first:

    I agree to the end of this sentence:

    “The better you know the author, the better you read His writings.”

    After that, you fall back to defining “good hermeneutics”, and in light of what the Scriptures say, it’s the equivalent of saying, “God’s explanation AND my interpretation of it.”

    When will the church be satisfied with just Him? When is it that His ability to teach us directly is good enough? When will we actually obey? When will we be able to disciple someone by asking what Jesus asked: “How does it read to you?”

    Jesus was fine with someone not understanding, because misunderstanding means someone _wants_ to understand, but they just took a wrong turn. They are on the way, they just need to be shepherded/discipled.

    You’re last question is the very crux of the matter:

    “Make sense?”

    Therein lies the subtle trap. Since before Jesus arrived, God-fearing religious people have figured out God using their hermeneutics. Yours are merely “good”. Others had it perfect:

    Nothing can come from Nazareth. – Make sense?
    He’s an illegitimate child, so he is not the Messiah. – Make sense?
    He saved others, but he can not save himself. – Make sense?
    What part of our hermeneutic don’t you get?

    This laser focus on defining hermeneutics, knowledge of the original writers, and reference of commentaries caused God-fearing people to miss God when they were standing face to face with Him.

    People flock to Jesus when they see Him. If people are leaving the CofC, and our response is, “But our hermeneutic is good!” which of the Bible characters does that make us?

  14. Hermeneutics or Experience?
    —————————————–

    “And good hermeneutics are sensitive to the time and culture and history in which the texts are written.” – Jay

    Only if you are interested in how God spoke to those people and those people only, and are completely unconcerned with what He is saying now. We have been warned that there will be those who are “always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth.” (2 Timothy 3) And he’s not writing to unbelievers, but believers throughout all time.

    Don’t misunderstand me – the Bible points us to God. Study of it is highly valuable if you are seeking God. Your “good hermeneutic” will tell you much about the past, and much about how God worked in people back then. But there is not a single verse with the name “Jay Guin” or “Brad Stanford” written in it.

    Let’s say you’ve lost your job. Where would you look in the Bible for your new one?
    “Jay Guin: you will find a job at Schwartz, Schwartz, Schwartz and Schwartz on March 5th, 2010.”
    – Hezekiah 3:25

    Or you have no food. Which page would you eat?
    (I’d go for the feeding of the 5,000 page, myself)

    Your hermeneutic is not what will help you. Your knowledge of scripture might even give you encouragement. But only being with God will rescue you.

    Note how experience compares to education in the scriptures (short list, but you get the idea – I’m already taking up four comments!):

    David did ran out to Goliath – ran toward the giant, mind you! (1Sam17) – because of his experience with God, not because he had a better hermeneutic than anyone else.

    Peter walked on the water because of experience with God, not because of his understanding of the Greek.

    Paul was very educated, and his “good hermeneutics” led him to persecute the church. But it was his experience with God that delivered him through his list of unfortunate events.

  15. The Missing Context

    I believe that you will find the conflicts in the Churches of Christ exist not because we can’t agree on the technical rules of reading the Bible, but because we refuse to engage the context about who God is and what He does in our own lives before reading it. There is a greater context that makes the Greek and logic useful, and it is missing.

    “And good hermeneutics are narrative hermeneutics. We must connect the NT with the OT.” – Jay Guin

    Is that God’s definition of “good hermeneutics”? If not, where does this definition come from?

    Anyone who tells the story of God can simply focus on God’s story. All “We must…” do is simply tell the story. Our job is to sow the seed, and reap the harvest. People are needing to hear who God is, not how well the OT and NT are connected! It is this logical type of reasoning that has seen less people saved, and more people leave the church.

    In fact, if there is any connecting to be done, it’s connecting us to the pre-existing story, which is a fascinating story in itself about how were were grafted in! Which always ends with, “Did you know you could be grafted in, too?”

    But that context is completely missing in the CofC. Thanks to logic, and the parsing of the original Greek, “testimony time” has been reasoned away as not being one of the five…er…seven…er…however many acts of worship there are for an assembly to be “scriptural”. We’ve had more than enough logic to fill the hundreds of CofC buildings…that are now empty.

  16. Almost lastly, you say:
    “And so it’s not that logic and Greek are objectionable. They are simply insufficient. ”

    Indeed, they have their place. And it is not in the place the CofC has put them. God inspired the text in the Greek in such a way that knowing Greek is not required. In fact, His word is so powerful that he can draw you to a person who can teach you, even if both of you have no Bible. He also says that He teaches directly.

    In this regard, you didn’t even address my question from the previous post about whether or not you include a Greek expert in a church plant, since it’s apparently so important to our ability to understand the deep things of God.

    What is most telling to me, and should be throwing a light bulb on for some right about…now – is that after pouring my heart out in the previous posts, and trying to use these useless, paralyzed words of our language to describe the majesty of God and encourage wonder in Him again – you return the conversation to making sure we have the correct definition of a “good hermeneutic”, and making sure that we don’t throw out the Greek and logic.

    ??

    When I saw your response I was very surprised. I thought that your lawyer side beat your spirit man to the keyboard or something.

    Jesus did not say in Matthew 7: “Away from me you evildoers! Your hermeneutic was totally off!” No – He said it would be those that did not do the will of the Father. What is that will? What did Jesus do when He was on earth? Where is He moving on earth right now? Do the widows and orphans care that your hermeneutic is correct? Do the poor?

    Part of that will is that we go and make disciples. Since the CofC is actually losing disciples, can you honestly say that the CofC currently finds itself in the middle of what God is doing on the earth? By what authority, then does this focus on “good hermeneutics” come from?

    Can we spend some time talking about God instead? The battle does not belong to our interpretation(s). The battle belongs to the Lord. if there are people to win in this battle, it will be done by knowing God so intimately that we do what He does. This is what Jesus prayed for right before He died! How important is that compared to your hermeneutic?

  17. A Modernized Parable

    (OK – a fifth post. I suppose I’m pushing the annoying meter off the scale now):

    If Jesus was in physical form here today, He might say it this way:

    Two men went down to the church. One stood up and said: “Our loving heavenly Father. We thank thee that our hermeneutic is good. We thank thee for the understanding that has come forth from it. We thank thee that we are able to defend thy great name on the earth because of it. Please help us to reveal it to more people. In Jesus name, Amen.” The second man sat down in the back pew and quietly prayed: “God – I don’t know if you can hear me, but the good Book says that you do, so I’m askin’ that you fix my life. I don’t even know if that’s possible anymore, but something’s gotta give. Please help me. Amen.” Which man had a better understanding of the Word? More importantly – which one had a hermeneutic that led him to obedience?

  18. Brad,

    I wasn’t asked about a lack of food or job. I was asked about John 6:44 in the context of a discussion on Calvinism. (I write about food and jobs in the Plant with Purpose series.)

    And so, how do you respond? How do you interpret John 6:44?

    Personally, I see the majesty of God in it — because I see Jesus explaining how God is performing a second Exodus through him just as prophesied by Jeremiah. I think it’s a big and exciting verse. But that’s not exactly an obvious interpretation if you leave your hermeneutical tools in the toolbox. So I’m at something of loss. How do I answer Royce’s request for an interpretation? What is Jesus really saying in the verse?

  19. Brad, I think Paul’s analogy is useful, the church is like the body. A body has one head, and lots of fingers and toes. I suspect that’s because there is more for fingers and toes to do than the head. You seem to argue that the whole should be the fingers and toes. To get the best understanding out of God’s word is worhwhile. I doubt that the C of C is declining due to scholarship. Howerer, most of the church should be obeying, doing like fingers and toes.
    Jay’s statement that is very hard to put together scattered scriptures is true. But just because its hard does not mean its of no use. Should it be the only full time job of every Christian? No, the body doesn’t need twenty heads.
    Jesus answered divorce by mixing Dt. and Gn.
    Lastly, who said success is how many attend church? The temples with prostituion were popular in Paul’s day, but that’s not the point. Noah was a very unsucessful preacher, only persuading his own family after years of preaching but God seems content with his effort.
    Personally I’m not taking sides on is logic killing the c of C? Just arguing for balance on understanding/scholarship versus doing. I see a lot ot who cares what God says, we live by a few select verses Christians, way far on the other end of the scale. God’s church should have doing beleivers and saintly scholars.
    .

  20. Larry,

    I have to agree that the LAST thing the church needs is for everyone to do what I do, whatever that is.

  21. I see Jay’s posts more wanting to have debates with anyone who disagrees with him.

    I strongly agree with Brad.

    Time well spent to the Lord is pouring out to others loving on the needy, the sick, the lonely, the broken, and the lost, that’s where the Lord leads me, and that is more important to me than a blog that continually looks for something to argue about.

  22. Brad,

    I want to take another stab at asking you my question — having gotten a decent night’s sleep and getting a morning start here.

    I have such respect for you and your work that I can’t dismiss what you say, but I’m at a loss to understand how to follow your advice. This is, I’m sure, my fault. I’m waiting for the “ah ha” moment when I get it. It hasn’t happened yet — which, again, is my fault. It’s been a hard week and I’m sure I haven’t been at my best.

    So when I ask, “How do you interpret John 6:44?” I’m not intending to be argumentative or pugnacious. I’m just trying to understand where you’re coming from and not trying to defend myself.

    Now, perhaps we are talking past each other. I should make clear that —

    * The scholarly style of writing used in the John 10:28-29 posts is not appropriate for most contexts. I wouldn’t mention the Septuagint in my Sunday school class but once every 10 years, if that often. This is not good teaching in most contexts.

    * On the other hand, the discussion is about Calvinism, and there’s simply no point is swapping proof texts only superficially exegeted. Everyone knows what the other side thinks the text means already. It’s only even potentially helpful if we go deeper than the commentaries because the two sides have already gotten that deep. I mean, I respect those who argue for the Calvinist viewpoint. They have their texts and arguments. It would be insulting just to rattle off the usual counter-arguments. They’ve heard them, disagree, and have their reasons.

    * One can question whether it’s even worth discussing the issue — and I’ve come to only reluctantly after several months of having these verses quoted to me in the comments — but I thought it would be helpful to show how there is often great depth hiding behind the simplest statements. I personally greatly enjoy seeing how the Spirit puts these things together and discovering connections and insights flowing together just by looking very hard at a brief passage.

    * And the reality is that the conclusions I reached could have all been reached from the English. “Snatch” means to steal in English and refers to a third-person taking something. Think purse snatcher or baby snatcher. But that argument had already been made in the comments and, in my experience, as soon as someone makes an argument from an English definition, the other side appropriately asks what the original Greek means. So I skipped the English.

    So that’s where I am in my thinking this morning.

  23. Larry:
    Not arguing for uniformity, for sure. At the same time, every part must connect to the head. If the parts are disconnected from the head, the parts will function for a short time then die. That is what I see in the CofC.

    All the arguments over Greek, logic, and the boundaries of God’s commands mean nothing outside of Christ. And those in His will are those who do what He says: make disciples. The CofC has traditionally made converts to Christ, but disciples only to logic. There is an idol in our midst.

    Logic has its place – oh, yes! The Greek is wonderfully encouraging, and there are deep things there. But it will not be a refreshing and meaningful study without knowing the Author, and communing with Him Spirit-to-spirit during the study.

    We have lots of very intelligent people in the church, but very few experienced in the unity with God that Jesus prayed for in John 17. Within that unity, take out whatever study aide you want, for He will reveal all sorts of things through it. Otherwise, you might as well be reading blank pages, for they will go into the head, but not into the heart.

    It’s not difficult to make the Bible say what you want it to. Secular humanists do it all the time. They can prove a point with it just like us. The difference should be that we know the Author and can speak with His authority.

    I do not count heads to measure a church. But if you want to equate a dying membership across the boards with health, then you will be the first I’ve heard doing so. When Jesus is obvious, the hurting and the sick show up. Disciples are made. You will know them by their fruit.

  24. Jay:
    I, too, highly respect your work. While for the moment this blog may appear to others as more religious infighting, there is a powerful move of God to draw very distinct lines in His Kingdom. God is using you to make His bride clean for the coming Day. I consider it a privilege to be allowed so many words here. Thank you.

    I know from being around here long enough that you are human and have your moments of frustration like the rest of us. Amazingly, the rest of us seem to exhibit it more than you, who has to put up with us in addition to having your thoughts picked apart in public. Obviously, this is the fruit of the Spirit in your life. You are a living example of what a peacemaker looks like. God says you are blessed because of it! Peacemakers are called sons of God, according to Jesus. That should help balance the week a little! (Remember peace_maker_ assumes conflict!)

    To clarify for those who may not know: I have some Calvinistic views, but I am not a Cavlinist. I believe Calvin was one of the most thoughtful men in Christendom, but we all recognize that he is not the Christ. I really don’t care if Calvin got something wrong. I follow Christ.

    Ultimately the discussion has been over which pieces of Calvinism we believe in and why. Overall, it is a good exercise to put one’s views on the table for peer review. Since some of those views are at the core of what we think about God, it becomes dicey discussing them. (I know – preaching to the praise team here.) If the discussion forces people to sort out what they believe, then it’s worth it.

    I’ll post my points in the next post.

  25. 1. It was written to us that if everything Jesus did while here on earth was put into books, it would be – a lot! Even if I read three or four volumes of “Jay Guin: This Is Your Life” I would still not know you, I would simply know about you. The Bible is a road map of who God is, why we’re here, and what to expect. And it is supposed to lead us to God for Him to explain His word in His language – the language of the heart, created in His very image (which is why it speaks His language).

    2. The CofC is stuck on the “what to expect” part. For instance, if I sin, then based on what I read in the Bible, I can expect God to be righteously angry (amongst other things). I can expect that He will discipline those He loves. I can even see an illustration of that discipline – like Peter learning that the Gentiles were clean enough for the gospel.

    But I only know *about* those things by reading. I *understand* the stories because I have had bad theology myself, God has disciplined me, and now I “get it”. More than identifying with Peter, I have come to trust God’s leading and discipline because of that experience with Him. The Bible confirms that it’s God that I’m dealing with, because what’s happening to me is exactly what has happened before – but now it’s my story, my faith, my experience, my God.

    3. Based on that experience and direct teaching from God himself, I don’t need the original Greek for understanding. However, I _want_ the Greek to put the exclamation point on the sentence, and make God even bigger in my mind.

    For instance, We know the story of Jesus walking on water. When He speaks to the disciples in the boat, He says, in our translations, “Don’t be afraid – it’s me!” But the direct translation from the original is, “Don’t be afraid – I AM!” Either translation tells us what we need to know about God. He’s powerful. He’s God. But most of us know what it’s like to be in a storm and have God look us in the eye and remind us that He is God. That experience gives the proper emotion to the original and the translation both. (In fact, if you haven’t been to Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, or one of the coastal states to experience a storm, then you really can’t understand why the disciples were scared!)

    4. God is not going to lead each person to experience everything so that we can understand everything. We have the church for that. We’re supposed to bring our experiences to each other, and continually tell the story of God in how he’s working today, all the while comparing to what went on in the Scriptures. That multitude of experiences is the hermeneutic we’re missing, because we’re stuck on knowing about God, rather than knowing God. We can go online to get a logical exegesis of Scripture. It takes the Church to express God’s character on the earth.

    5. John 6:44
    Interestingly enough, the very passage after this speaks to what I’m saying. Verse 45 says, ” ‘It is written in the Prophets: “They will all be taught by God.” Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me.’ ” God is the one wrote it. Know Him, know His word. But it takes the faith of an uneducated, sometimes illogical child to do that.

    Interpreting the whole chapter is a better idea, of course. But the questions I have for interpreting these verse are:
    – What is God’s character when it comes to promises?
    – How deeply does He love? How do you know?
    – What value has He put on your life? How do you know?
    – Do His plans ever amount to a “maybe”, or is it always, “And it was so.”?
    – What was His plan from before the creation of the world?
    – What words has he spoken over you about your future and role in His Kingdom?
    – What does God himself say about this verse?

    Once you answer these questions (perhaps more!) and get your mind lined up with God, and you have heard from Him, then the context exists for talking with each other about the surrounding passages, the original, and so forth. But before any of us have the authority to interpret the Scripture for each other, we have to be with God. For authority is no less than speaking for God. How can you speak for Him if you don’t know Him?

    This is why discipleship is so important. A disciple is someone who has been trained to stay in this state – always lined up with God, ready to live and speak with authority. Jesus says it this way: “If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” The CofC has done a poor job if making disciples.

    Our microwave society wants an answer about that passage right now! But God may take two, seven, or twenty years to teach deeply – but clearly – what certain passages mean. Discipleship is having the patience to learn at the Master’s pace, and the humility to listen to the testimony of those who are more mature.

    The rest of us should simply be about the business of providing space for believers to incubate. God is the light, the Church is the warmth, and the result is a believer growing into maturity, no longer needing milk, able to hear God’s interpretations, and becoming a source of warmth himself. The CofC knows all *about* the Light. Warmth, not so much.

    The resulting fruit is that people are leaving. A very natural result.

  26. Someone does not just wake up one day and say I am going to lie to myself…people believe lies told to them.

    2 Corinthians 4:4 “But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.”

    The Lord Jesus said, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. I and My Father are one.”(John 10:27-30), Paul gives us assurance saying, “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”(Romans 8:38-39), “In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.” (Ephesians 1:13-14). We can be confident that God keeps us as He promises to complete what He started in us, “Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6).

    We should be encouraged by God’s faithfulness to always help us and protect us.

    Psalm 18:1-2 “I will love You, O LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; My God, my strength, in whom I will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”

    Psalm 18:28 “For You will light my lamp; The LORD my God will enlighten my darkness.”

    Psalm 32:7 “You are my hiding place; You shall preserve me from trouble; You shall surround me with songs of deliverance.”

    Psalm 36:5 “Your mercy, O LORD, is in the heavens; Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.”

    Psalm 37:39-40 “But the salvation of the righteous is from the LORD; He is their strength in the time of trouble. And the LORD shall help them and deliver them; He shall deliver them from the wicked, And save them, Because they trust in Him.”

    Psalm 48:14 “For this is God, Our God forever and ever; He will be our guide even to death.”

    Psalm 46:1 “God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble.”

    Psalm 63:7-8 “Because You have been my help, Therefore in the shadow of Your wings I will rejoice. My soul follows close behind You; Your right hand upholds me.”

    Psalm 73:26 “My flesh and my heart fail; But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

    Psalm 91:1-2 “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.”

    Psalm 94:18 “If I say, “My foot slips,” Your mercy, O LORD, will hold me up.”

    Psalm 103:12 “As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.”

    Psalm 121:2 “My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth.”

    Psalm 138:7 “Though I walk in the midst of trouble, You will revive me; You will stretch out Your hand Against the wrath of my enemies, And Your right hand will save me.”

    I trust when I put my life in His hands there couldn’t be a more secure place to be. God is my strength, my stronghold, He always revives me, God helps me and holds me up even when I am at my weakest.

    2 Timothy 1:12 “For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.”

    2 Timothy 4:18 “And the Lord will deliver me from every evil work and preserve me for His heavenly kingdom. To Him be glory forever and ever. Amen!”

    2 Corinthians 3:4-6 “And we have such trust through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God, who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”

    People need to totally embrace Christ with all of their life, not just part of it. I encourage people who are learning to trust God that they can trust Him with all of their life. I trust God with all of my life, everything about me is in His hands, my weaknesses, my fears, my doubts. Whatever Satan wants to throw at me, God is with me, He will protect me. All of me is in God’s hands and I believe I am in very secure hands.

  27. Anon – that’s good, but what we’re discussing here is the context from which to read those passages you quoted. Whenever passages are quoted, the quotee (?) is left to interpret it as they know how, or have been taught – lie or not. For us to actually discuss passages, we need the Author to be involved. My appeal is to return to involving the Author in our lives, so that there is the unity He prayed for. Only then will long lists of supportive texts be meaningful.

    I’m excited and encouraged by those passages. Thank you for posting! I agree that people need to completely embrace Christ. The questions at the moment are:
    How does that embrace effect our interpretation of scripture?
    How do I learn to embrace more?
    What has God done in us to make these passages come alive?

    What do you think?

  28. Does someone interpret scripture looking to their own logic to have conflict with others or are they looking to God’s word to empower them to live a Christian life to the fullest.

    It is God who holds me up when I am weak. When I am weak and fall down He is there to pick me up. Praise God!!

    These posts are about Jay’s issues with Calvinism, I could care less about Calvinism or about Jay’s view about Calvinism.

    I said what I believe on this post and probably will do so on other posts. But I do not intend to stick around to get into arguments, there’s too much else that needs to be done to help the needy, the sick, the lonely, the broken, and the lost, and that’s where the Lord leads me, and that is more important to me than a blog that continually looks for something to argue about.

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