The God/Man Relationship Part 3: How To Find Doctrinal Balance

Balance

As a child it was no fun playing on the teeter totter with my older brother because he was heavier than me. When he set down on his end, my side would rise up off the ground and I would be stuck with my feet dangling in the air. I was held captive until he felt like letting me down. Teeter Totters are only fun when they are balanced allowing you and your friend to go up and down in harmony and with rhythm.

I have noted that people are like teeter totters, when viewing and relating to God's Word, they require balance. When it comes to doctrine, and interpreting the Bible, I avoid extremes at all costs. What we believe shapes us and manifests itself in our actions. Extreme doctrines produce extreme people. I think you will agree; extreme people are no fun to play with.

Within Christianity there are two biblical and respected doctrines that can throw a person’s relationship with God off balance. When taken to their final conclusions, they create problematic beliefs and behavior. Calvinism and Arminianism can be helpful tools that aid in understanding the God/man relationship so long as we understand that they are simply viewing platforms; flawed paradigms created by bible scholars to understand our relationship with God. In every relationship there are two perspectives seen at any given moment. Calvinism attempts to understand God’s sovereignty or God's perspective. Arminians attempt to understand Man’s responsibility or man's perspective.

Looking Through A Peephole
Looking Through A Peephole
 A Better Vantage Point. A Bigger Window Provides A Better Perspective.
A Better Vantage Point. A Bigger Window Provides A Better Perspective.

We Need A Bigger Window

Romans 11: 33 Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!

It is imperative to understand that God has made known to us only a glimpse of himself through his Word the Bible. I recognize that humanity has little windows into God’s perspective. With this in mind, I am rethinking the Calvinist and Arminian approach to scripture. As small as our windows are, it seems to me that these two paradigms make them even smaller by only focusing on one side of the God/man relationship. Given that they lack each others perspectives, they polarize the body of Christ, forcing people to pick a side. As far as it is possible, I wish to find a vantage point with a bigger window, a paradigm that will unite both camps, and enable them to play well together.

Two Perspectives

Two Sides To Every Coin
Two Sides To Every Coin
Blinded To The Big Picture
Blinded To The Big Picture

John 3:36 He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”

God’s Sovereignty

This verse is a classic point of contention between Calvinists and Arminians. Calvinists teach that man’s sin nature makes it impossible for him to believe in the Son on his own. Therefore, God must enable him to believe. So it follows that those who see the truth and choose to believe do so by God’s sovereign will and are among the elect. The elect are those who were predestined to be saved. Man had no choice in the matter. They believe and are saved by His will not theirs. God chose us. We did not choose Him.

Man’s Responsibility

Arminians believe that man has a free will and has retained enough goodness in their nature to be able to choose and believe on their own, however; they teach that it takes the Holy Spirit to show us our need to do so. Once shown, God allows us to freely choose him. They teach that it is our responsibility to, deliberately and consciously, determine to believe in the Son. The fact that the Holy Spirit opened their eyes to the truth proves that God chose them first, however, to be saved; we must respond with an act of our will. We must choose to believe.

Using Both Eyes

A viewing Platform That Allows Us To Use Both Eyes.
A viewing Platform That Allows Us To Use Both Eyes.
Balancing Two Perspectives
Balancing Two Perspectives

Can we put away our Calvinist or Arminian, single lens telescope for a moment? Can we instead use binoculars that allow us to use both eyes? Are we willing to let the Bible bring balance to itself by comparing scripture with scripture, by considering both God and man’s perspective? The following is my attempt to illustrate how presenting both God and Man’s point of view brings balance to our understanding.

Man's Perspective of John 3:36

If our salvation depends on our believing in the Son, then our election has a prerequisite, our willingness to believe.

If God opens my eyes so that I can see; if upon seeing, He reveals to me the truth through His Word. Is it not my responsibility to adopt that truth as my own? Indeed, I must purpose to submit and commit my will to that truth which He has shown me.

God's Perspective, as seen by man, from God’s Word:

Yet, I can not take credit for my faith, nor can I boast in my obedience, for it did not come from me, nor did I perfect it in my own strength. For it is God who works in me both to will and to do for His good pleasure.

Philippians 1:29 For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake,

Philippians 2:13 For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure

God/Man in balance

God shows me, grants me the ability to see and to believe. I in turn, resolve to submit and commit my will. He empowers and perfects me while I deliberately walk in His good pleasure.

Focusing on Jesus is the better way to approach scripture.
Focusing on Jesus is the better way to approach scripture.

I am convinced that man’s responsibility and God’s sovereignty can be balanced if we set aside our Calvinistic and Arminian paradigms and focus instead on Jesus Christ. He is the perfect balance between God and man. By looking at the incarnation of Christ, a bridge spanning the gap between these two viewing platforms is built. In him, we see God's sovereignty through Christ's submission. We see man's responsibility through his devotion. Jesus freely and deliberately submitted his will and served God. We also see God’s desires for an intimate and personal relationship with us. He reconciled us to himself by dying for our sins and raising himself from the dead. In Christ is everything we need to have a balanced life and sound theology.

Hebrews 12:2 Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

If you’re like me and hate being stuck up in the air with your feet dangling, wishing you had both feet firmly planted on solid ground; I suggest you avoid teeter tottering with people who look only at one side of the God/Man relationship and are overloaded with doctrine. Calvinism and Arminianism, when taken to their extreme, tend to heap a great deal of extra weight onto the backs of their disciples. Folks who sincerely live by their teachings tend to be cranky, tired, and no fun to play with. If you are one of those folks remember what Jesus said in John 10:10 and Matthew 11:28-30

John 10:10The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life and that they may have it more abundantly”.

Matthew 11:28-30 “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

Perhaps we should rid ourselves of our extra doctrinal luggage. So that we too can teeter totter with harmony and rhythm. Let’s pick up a new set of binoculars and find a bigger vantage point that allows us to see the Bible from both sides. Our focus must be on Jesus not John Calvin or Jacob Arminian, He will give us, balance, stability, life, and rest for our weary souls

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Comments 8 comments

lifegate profile image

lifegate 3 years ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

"I am convinced that man’s responsibility and God’s sovereignty can be balanced if we set aside our Calvinistic and Arminian paradigms and focus instead on Jesus Christ." I think that sums it up. Another masterpiece, Aaron.


shofarcall profile image

shofarcall 3 years ago

Hi Ab,

Amen to this hub and all you have so clearly demonstrated in it. As Bill says: "A masterpiece" I consider myself to be one of the "fortunates" as I am not indoctrinated with or by doctrine. I kind of knew what Calvinism meant (having lived in the Higlands of Scotland) but even the word Arminian is new to me. I was a latecomer to the fold. Washed clean of all the previous rubbish I had learnt (Yoga, self-improvement etc) and able to keep a fresh view on my Lords teachings and test the spirits. Praise God, that I have not felt the need to follow any denomination but instead seek to have fellowship with others who come to Him in humility and love. GREAT GREAT PICTURES TOO. God Bless


christinekv profile image

christinekv 3 years ago from Washington

I agree with and appreciate this hub, as well as the comments from Lifegate and Shofarcall.

The Word tells us it is not His will that any should perish, and from creation itself, there is no excuse to not believe. Simple... and there are no contradictions , just misunderstanding.

I remember years ago an elderly woman asking someone who was present who they were more aligned with, Calvin or Arminian. I blurted out, "who cares, does it really matter?" and she was shocked. My point was as you so eloquently point out, it's not about following or aligning with a doctrine, it's about aligning and following Jesus. There would be greater unity in the corporate body if we simplified things and remembered this.

As you say,

"God shows me, grants me the ability to see and to believe. I in turn, resolve to submit and commit my will. He empowers and perfects me while I deliberately walk in His good pleasure..."

I pray this would be true for myself as well all of us, and am confident that is in correct alignment with God's heart. Always trusting, surrendering, and obeying are my greatest challenges. In addition to His unconditional love, I'm so thankful for mercy and grace but abiding is the key to victory.


Abrushing1968 profile image

Abrushing1968 3 years ago from USA- Florida Author

Lifegate: Thanks for your encouragement. As always it is a honor to have you stop by and read my stuff. I agree that sentence does sum it up, but you know how it is, I had much more to say. LOL perhaps more then needed.


Abrushing1968 profile image

Abrushing1968 3 years ago from USA- Florida Author

Shofarcall:

You said "I consider myself to be one of the "fortunates" as I am not indoctrinated with or by doctrine. I kind of knew what Calvinism meant (having lived in the Higlands of Scotland) but even the word Arminian is new to me."

I find that so amazing. I can't imagine that. My first Calvinist vs Arminian debate happened when I was 16. You are indeed fortunate. It is far better to be a student of the Holy Spirit, then either John Calvin or Jacob Arminius.

Thanks for taking a some time out from you wonderful road trip to read and comment on my stuff. I am so grateful.

God Bless

ABR


Abrushing1968 profile image

Abrushing1968 3 years ago from USA- Florida Author

Christinekv:

I like this " There are no contradictions , just misunderstanding." I also like your imagery of aligning ourselves with God's heart.

I think the trick is to realize that both positions are flawed and that they need each others perspectives for balance. For me this was a revelation that made all the difference.

I am with you in your struggle to always trust, surrender, and obey. They are my greatest challenges as well. When people are honest, I expect everyone would identify with this challenge.

Thank you for stopping by and for taking the time to comment on my stuff. I am truly honored.

God Bless

ABR


theolderbro 3 years ago from Winnemucca Nevada

When ever we read the Word of God it is best not to align ourselves with any camp but stay true to the Word itself. I am no an Armenian nor am I a Calvinist. Since both camps have valid points according to scripture I should believe that they are both right and both wrong and let God be God.

Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!

(Rom 11:33)

And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

(1Co 2:4-5)


Abrushing1968 profile image

Abrushing1968 3 years ago from USA- Florida Author

Theolderbro:

I totally agree. The problem I see is that by aligning ourselves up with either camp, we force God's Word into a predetermined paradigm. Certain conclusions will have been already made for you. It is far better to be open minded allowing the the Holy Spirit to use scripture to conform you into the image of Christ.

Also I love 1Co 2:4-5, I wish I would have thought to use it. In light of that, Paul's warning in Gal 3:3 comes to mind as well,

"Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?"

Let us be led by the Spirit not by the wisdom of man. Amen?

Peace

Theyoungerbro

ABR

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