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The God/Man Relationship Part 3: How To Find Doctrinal 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.
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.
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.”
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.
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
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.
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 10:10 “The 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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