God Calls, We Choose, God chooses
Christianity is about relationship. We rejoice over our intimacy with Abba Father, the Creator, the Living God. He rejoices over us, too (Zeph 3:17). He didn’t make us because he lacked something in His character, or he felt lonely, or he needed us to make up for some deficiency in His plans and purposes (Acts 17:25). He created us with a free will to choose or not to choose relationship with Him.He created us because He is good and He saw us as good. He doesn't need us. He wants us.
Calvinism, a huge theological camp of the Christian church (Conservative Evangelicals), focuses on the sovereignty of God and the depravity of man. God is totally in control of everything and we are so messed up that we couldn’t even save ourselves from a paper bag (Romans 3:10-18).The image of God in us has been totally marred, disfigured, and rotted to the core. Ultimately, we have no choice in the matter. God chooses some to go to heaven and he chooses some to go to hell. The word to the human race is this, “Get over it.” God chooses and that’s final (Romans 11:29).
Arminianism, another large grouping in the body of Christ (the Charismatic, Pentecostal, Methodist), crystallizes everything on this one point: man’s responsibility to choose. Once man chooses, God then has the freedom to choose us. The focus is on man and God’s foreknowledge about our future decisions. He looks out over the great expanse of time and sees us choosing Him. He then through foreknowledge chooses us (1 Peter 1:1-2). Man is at the center of this theological system.
Both carry a level of truth. They both carry a slice of error, too. Calvism has such an extreme view of God’s sovereignty that it snuffs out all credibility when it comes to a real relationship with God. A true relationship is based on two parties choosing to be friends. If one person has no freedom to choose, then how could we call it an authentic friendship? There is no reward in this. There is no honor. How could God feel any joy with a friendship that he forced out from us Hebrews 10:38)? He couldn’t.
On the other side, Arminianism places so much emphasis on man’s ability to choose that we take center stage in the whole salvation process, not God. We even lose our salvation in this system if we mess up. In my opinion, this emphasis on man has spawned the whole seeker friendly movement we see today. Yes, it does promote responsibility by placing the power to choose squarely on our soldiers, but it also promotes irresponsibility by making God easier to choose. These type of churches don’t talk about hell, sin, and give no reason for repentance (you don’t lose your salvation, either).They turn God into a modern day parent, the type that panders to every whim of the child. Man is at the center and God needs to cater to man. Again, how could God find any value in this type of friendship?
To further complicate or alleviate the issue (it’s how you look at it), we have a God who loves the world (Jn 3:16) and seeks to save the lost (Luke 19:10). God desires no one to perish (2 Peter 3:9). He doesn’t take delight in the death of the wicked (Ezekiel 18:23).Based on these verses, how could God choose some to go to hell and some to go to heaven? He desires all to be saved.
On the other side, God is sovereign and man is utterly sinful. God does choose. He predestined us to be his sons (Eph 1:5). He chose us before the foundation of the world (Eph 1:4). Jacob he loved and Esau he hated before they were even born (Romans 9:13). Only those appointed to eternal life believed (Acts 13:48). Man is wicked to the core (Romans 3:10-18).
I could see why Calvinism holds such sway over the minds of protestant Christianity.“Hey, one of the fathers of the Protestant Reformation put his stamp on this teaching.”However, could this be the theological solution? 2 Tim 3:16 states“All Scripture is God breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness.”We need to look at all Scripture. I’m not saying that Calvin did not look under every nook and cranny of the Bible for his views. He did. He was a sincere student of the Bible. Many of his views are sound. Actually, most of them are.
Could it be that the church culture of his day swayed his views? The Catholic Church, the church he spawned from, painted God as a wrathful, distant, and holy God. Man was just a worm dangling over the pit of hell. With this as the backdrop, the Calvinist view of God’s sovereignty and man’s depravity found fertile soil. The best teachers all have errors in their teaching (Calvin executed a teacher, Servetus, for false teaching). Why do they have error? They are weak and sinful like the rest of humanity. That’s why every teaching has to be tested (Acts 17:11). We all have Bibles and the Holy Spirit. There should be no excuse for our lack of vigilance.
This is my solution to this problem.I believe God is sovereign and man is sinful. I also believe God is loving and man is created in the image of God. He does have nobility. Though marred, the visage of God is still visible. God expects him to choose wisely in this life. It’s his God given responsibility.
Joel 2:28 states that God in the last days will pour out his Spirit on all mankind. All means all. Yes, one of the proofs of this is that they will prophesy and only the 120 did this on the Day of Pentecost. The rest didn’t. Does this mean that the Spirit only chose to influence a few; thus, supporting the Calvinist position? I don’t think so.
Man can only come to know God by the Spirit’s influence (1 Cor 2:12). It’s the spirit that convicts (John 16:8). Many who listened to Peter’s testimony believed and were saved on that day. They believed because the Spirit of God was poured out on them. They were pierced and convicted (Acts 2:37). Eloquence doesn’t save; the Spirit saves (1 Cor 2:4).
The Bible states, “Many are called, but few are chosen (Matt 22:14). Could it be that the Spirit being poured out on all flesh was God’s way of calling all humanity to himself (Joel 2:28-29)?Then God in his ability to look at all of time in one glance, chose (Eph 1:4-5) those who responded to His call (1 Peter 1:1-2). God is still sovereign because His Spirit calls, but man has the responsibility to choose. Man can resist the Holy Spirit (Acts 7:51, 26:14). He also has the responsibility to heed the leading of the Holy Spirit and choose life (John 5:24). He has the responsibility to choose relationship with God.
I believe this position honors the sovereignty of God, his desire to save all, his desire for true relationship, the sinfulness of man, and even the nobility of man. It’s Biblical. It’s just. It’s loving. It works.