Sometimes, 140 characters need more explanation…
Tweet: I tire of debates about Calvinism and Arminianism; then I tire of growing tired of them. Truth, in love, does matter.
One chapter of the new book I’m writing deals with the sovereignty of God, so I’ve been searching the Scriptures and reading others’ thoughts on how God’s sovereignty works, specifically in the salvation of His people. I tend to read Reformed authors with a high view of God’s sovereignty, but I know that if I am to answer my own question, I need to read the Bible for myself and read other people’s thoughts on a different side of the issue.
So one of the things I read through was a long line of testimonials of people who have “left” Calvinism to see why they feel the way they feel. And while I noticed some trends across these testimonies, many of which would be well known to folks who have engaged on these matters for some time, the comments ended with a man who posed this question:
“I have repeatedly asked [Calvinists]…to give me just one scripture, get this, only ONE scripture that implicitly states that God died ONLY for a particular group and said to hell with all the rest. Just one. Needless to say, I haven’t received that verse yet. Wonder of wonders, don’t you think!!!”
With a desire to be helpful, I wrote him this response, which I’ve reprinted, with some edits for clarity, for your consideration and encouragement.
I haven’t taken the time [here] to share my experience with growing up Arminian, later tending towards Calvinism, and continuing to wrestle with Scripture and questions along the way. But as a brief response, here are a few verses you might consider as an answer to your question—whether Christ died only for a particular group and said to hell with the rest.
I know few followers of Jesus, Calvinistic or otherwise, who would say it in this way, and you of course reject it as well on good grounds! If it’s acceptable [to you], I’d ask your question this way: Did Jesus’ death accomplish something specific or general; if specific, did it accomplish something for some or for everyone; and if for some, is the attitude of God towards the rest “to hell with them,” or a grieving over the sin of man?
Here are a few verses for you to consider, with an eye towards Jesus’ death accomplishing something particular for some.
- Christ’s blood ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation (Revelation 5:9). This shows that only some here are ransomed, though this verse in isolation does not yet say that individuals are in view.
- The promise to Mary was that her son would save his people from their sins (Mt 1:21). The life, and death of Christ, promised here to Mary, had a particular outcome, and that was the salvation of some (his people).
- Jesus laid down his life for His sheep, sheep not only of the fold of Israel, but sheep from the rest of the world as well (John 10:15-16). Jesus laid down his life for His sheep, not all, and they are particular, for they hear his voice and He knows them (v. 27).
- Jesus made many to be accounted righteous in his death (it was the will of the Lord to crush him), and he bore their iniquities…and the sin of many (Isaiah 53:11-12).
- For our sake (Paul to the church), God made Christ to be sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (1 Corinthians 5:21).
- Christ died (decisively) for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God (1 Peter 3:18).
- We were reconciled to God through the death of His Son while enemies (Rom 5:10), such that being justified by faith (v. 1) is the result of our being reconciled by His death (the for in v. 6 explains the reason why we have been justified and now have peace with God and why God’s love has been poured out to us through the Holy Spirit (vs. 1, 5).
There are others, but perhaps these will suffice for the one verse you were looking for.
Bind these together with the glorious truths, that “God desires all men to be saved,” that Jesus is the Lamb who “takes away the sin of the world,” that “whosoever believes in Him will have eternal life,” and I come up short in being able to explain in full how God works in the hearts of men, choosing to express with Paul: “Oh the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable are his ways! For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever.”
If there be any encouragement to you, let it be this: This stuff does matter. Theology matters. Right thinking about God leads to right relating to God which leads to right living for God. But unity matters as well, and Jesus as the head of the body matters too, and living at peace with one another, in the bonds of love, matters. And perhaps most of all, abiding in Jesus matters.
So if you are intimidated by what you consider to be harder theology, there is grace for you to grow in understanding.
If you are contentious over matters of truth, there is grace for you to learn how to speak the truth in love.
If you are self-righteous in your wisdom and understanding, there is grace for you in which to grow humble.
If you are frustrated by seemingly endless divisions in God’s church, there is grace for you to grow in unity.
Let’s embrace the hardness of Scripture with a life-long view towards God’s unveiling of His truth to our eyes, in the time He chooses, as we seek Him above all other things, but let’s also embrace the beautiful person of Jesus, who is head of one body, and who loves us and tells us to love others with His kind of love.
Question: Have you gotten deep into theology before, only to become frustrated? What have you found to be helpful in response?
Sometimes, 140 characters need more explanation…
Tweet: It seems the more willing we are to admit what we don’t know, the more people will actually listen to what we do know.
We want our preachers and writers and teachers to be real these days. If you are vulnerable, you are respected. If you are transparent, you are admired. In fact, the surest way to encounter closed ears and closed hearts today is to always talk rather than listen; specifically to always talk about someone else.
Donald Miller has experienced a lot of success in writing in the past few years, and it’s well deserved because he is a gifted story-teller and writes with urban elegance. And I hope for every continued success for him. But I think he’s striking a chord with so many today because he opens himself up on every page. People respond to this kind of writing, because they feel welcomed to the conversation instead of stuck in front of a lectern.
I don’t know exactly why things are the way they are, but I suppose it is in part the ever-cyclical reaction of one generation against its predecessors. We’ve probably seen too many hypocrites or too many self-assured preachers sharing three-point, alliterative, topical sermons that seem to touch on others more than themselves. And I don’t want to go too far here: preaching shouldn’t be about the preacher anyway; it should be about Jesus. But it’s nice to hear a guy who wrestles like we do in living out our faith.
But before we trumpet transparency as the new king of characteristics, it’s useful to probe into why there is so much power in identifying with someone. I’m sure there are many reasons, but one of them must be because it makes us feel normal. If you’re like me at all, you spend much of your day thinking about yourself. And you’re probably self-critical, understanding to some degree how selfish and judgmental your thoughts can be. So it’s nice to know someone we respect and admire has similar thoughts and feelings.
Ultimately, I think we’re responding to humility in a person. When people are humble, they imply that the distance between them and us is quite small in relation to the distance between man and God. And there’s good reason to be humble: we get more grace (James 4:6). And grace rightly received deepens true humility.
So it’s good to be humble, because it gives us an audience for people who want to hear what we do know. But this audience is best served when our normalcy points to Christ’s superiority.
Original Tweet: http://twitter.com/christomlinson_/status/5132513071
Sometimes, 140 characters needs more explanation…
Tweet: 3 types of people: 1) scenery (pass us by), 2) machine (serve us like ATMs), 3) people. I want to see, really see, more people people.
It’s always fun to categorize the world into types of people, like “there are two kinds of people in the world: men and women;” or “there are two kinds of people in the world: Christians and non-Christians;” or “there are two kinds of people in the world: Elvis fans or Beatles fans.” I’m not sure why this is fun, but it is, so I’m going with it for now.
I have borrowed this current type of people paradigm from Jamie Winship, an evangelist and missionary to the Middle East for more than 20 years. He said there are three kinds of people in the world: scenery, machines, and people. The paradigm goes like this:
Scenery people are the hundreds of people that pass us peripherally throughout our day. These may be our neighbors we don’t notice as we get into our cars, or most of the people in line at Starbucks, or the co-workers along our walk to our office or cube. Scenery people are like trees; we are aware of their presence, and if they all suddenly disappeared, we might suspect an invasion of locusts had occurred, or a firestorm had ravaged through the area (I guess more so for the trees than the people). But we don’t normally notice them.
Machine people are the tens of people that we interact with on a daily basis without really interacting. These are the cashiers at our morning coffee shop, or the rental car return guy, or the toll booth employee. Machine people are like ATMs; we simply make transactions with them. We might even engage in pleasantries with them, asking how they are and saying we are fine. But we don’t really interact with them.
People people are the rare people we truly engage throughout our days. These are the friends we are interested in, or the co-worker we’ve been praying for who shares part of their story with us, or the person who asks how our day is going and gets an honest answer. We interact meaningfully with people people, but we do so infrequently.
Jamie told us a story about a machine person he knew for a year. She was the clerk at 7-11 where, when he was a DC-area cop, he stopped each morning. One night he responded to a call, where he found this girl with a stab wound in her stomach. Her blood was all over her shirt and the ground, and Jamie started treating her while he waited for the paramedics to come. When they finally showed up to take her away in the ambulance, Jamie asked them if she would make it. “Probably not,” was their reply. He began thinking of all the chances to share the gospel with her that had slipped by. As the paramedics put her on the stretcher, one of them looked back at Jamie and said, “Hey, be careful—her blood is on your hands.”
That was a sobering statement for Jamie to hear. Even though it wasn’t meant in the way it was received, it puts people into perspective. All people are people people, if only we had God’s eyes to see them in this way. So my prayer has been to see more people people, to see them through God’s eyes, because more is at stake here than getting through the line faster or getting the correct change.
Original Tweet: http://twitter.com/christomlinson_/status/4145304099