Predestination, Eternal Security, Free Will and the Questions Puzzling Mankind
While,I will not say this article is the definite answer, it is a rough draft which I hope causes all to grow.
This is a new theory so it should be different. Since this can get out of control, I ask those who respond to respond in the following manner.
1. The person is willing to be open minded to seek the truth regardless of how they were brought up. If someone merely desires to justify their teachings, it doesnt impress me.
2. It has to be constructive rather than critical. For example, instead of saying, "this is no good" worded such as,"this would be be better".
3. I request a brief, organized, thought out response. For those wishing to write on numerous points, please start by taking your THREE most important concerns,address them thoughtfully and take the time to write your thoughts concisely (up to a paragraph on each point). While this article may not be brief, it is organized.
4.Make your answer self standing. Those who wish to babble about every paragraph I make with a paragraph of their own, without taking the time to come up with an organized response, I will take it from where it comes. And it will probably be responded to as unorganized babbling and ask for a response to be re submitted.
My intent is to listen to others respond, but will respond if I feel moved or if needed.....
Predestination, Eternal Security, Free Will and the Questions Puzzling Mankind.
Many christians come to a knowledge of God through the witness of another individual. Then we become "discipled" through a local church or a believer who is kind enough to share his beliefs with us. With the Bible consisting of 66 books, thousands of chapters and numerous verses, it's very easy to get our beliefs by learning through our church their doctrines. Baptists have theirs, Catholics have theirs, Reformed have theirs, Penticostals have theirs,.. and the list goes on and on. They simply rely on the teachings of their church. I am not finding fault with anyone who has learned this direction. In fact, coming from a Christian family, I too, have learned many Biblical principles based on the upbringing of my parents and the church enviorment and I would not trade the blessing for being brought up in an enviorment of holy men and women for anything. However, as one progresses in the Christian life, one learns that there are many other denominations out there who were founded by good and godly people, where people love God, and whose creed is very similar to mine except for some various minor differences.
Therefore, the easy way out would be to put my blindfold on and continue to believe as I was taught. If I did that, I would benefit by having a core group who believed exactly as I did. ..however that would not bring me to the truth. Having a desire to learn more about who God is, my thoughts were that if I truly desired to please God rather than man.. that the right thing to do is to study various issues based, not on what was easier for me, or what gave me the most pleasure, or what I was taught or what my bias was,but what was closest to the truth in the word of God. Therefore I studied doctrine books based on many godly people from our past of various demoninations. I went to them for two reasons. The first reason is that these people were very bright and God fearing people. These are people who were willing to change their belief after studying the Bible and searching out truths and knew why they believed as they did. They were people willing to change their life to please God, believe different than their peers for God and following God's truths to the best of their ability. None of us have all the answers.. none of us are God, yet at the same time, we should all seek to draw closer to Him, challenge our beliefs, not with the heart to get away with more, but rather to be convicted of more.
The second reason why I studied the christians from the past is that many in churches today merely play christianity. They have one foot in the world and one in the church. They are looking to entertain, they are influenced by the immorality of the world around us. They want to be pleased rather than please God. They are more concerned about the business aspect of the church. Growing it in size, without increasing holiness, they are setting up their 401k plans and building their empires. I am not saying everyone is like that. But I feel safer trusting the saints of the past who surrendered all to God and were willing to die for God and what they believed to be truth.
B. CHOICE OR NO CHOICE.
For this particular topic, I am addressing the topic of free will/predestination/eternal security. My understanding is free will means that all have a choice to accept Jesus as their Savior. Predestination means God has chosen certain ones to be saved and others not to be. Eternal security is believed by many to mean that once a person is saved they are always saved.
As I look at the topic it appears that everything boils down to just one topic- choice/no choice regarding salvation. Some believe predestination meaning we have NO CHOICE regarding our salvation. Some believe that we have free will or a choice regarding being saved and at the same time, we have the choice to leave our salvation. Another group might feel we have free choice to accept Jesus, yet with eternal security (once saved always saved) we do not have the choice to leave.
C. NEW THEORY NEEDED
So, the next step we have to do is do an unbiased, side by side comparision of both arguments. It appears that throughout time, there has not been an argument put forth from the scripture that appears to put the matter to rest with either side or me as the discussion and debate still exists. Therefore, this was a topic that I was willing to table and give the generic answer of, "I dont know everything and this is one area that I do not know the answer to.. Wheather we are saved from our choice or not our choice is not as important as that we are saved and have the new life in Him"
I then started to wonder, since none of these arguments were able to put the discussion to rest, if perhaps there might be an alternative solution that could. Perhaps the answer could be something similiar to the blind man and the elephant story where perhaps the answer could include characteristics of both choice and not choice. Perhaps just as there are things in heaven beyond our comprehension, perhaps this might be also. Another option is perhaps a new theory is needed.
I then came up with the following alternate theory which I believe incorporates characteristics of both. Wheather this is the answer I cannot say, however it is meant to hopefully spur non-partison open minded discussion to see if this perhaps could lead to the answer.
D. A NEW HYPOTHESIS/STUDY REGARDING CHOICE NON CHOICE -NOT SALVATION.
First, I started to think about how the human mind works from a non-salvation point of view.
So I asked the question, do we have choices in life? And of course, the answer is Yes and No. If for example, I talk to you about a piece of cake, and start describing it to you, I have put an image in your mind that was not your choice. In fact, statistically most major companies are able to sell their products by associating feelings of pleasure from buying their product and convince you that you need their product for happiness. So in some ways, one can say we have no choice. Children today are brought up in a public school system which leaves God out.. and teaches children as truth a theory of evolution, that we are decendents of apes, kill or be killed, survival of the fittest,and they teach a world that does not include God and that unfortunately is what many become. These children turn out to lack Godly parents who nurture them, a school system and media who do not give them the hope of a loving God with His standards without any churching and they turn to the pleasures of this world for happiness and gangs for their values and a place belong. Now if we take this group of people and put them in godly parents and a sheltered godly world and school system where they are taught they are created beings with the potential to be holy, statistically they will grow up differently. So in many cases one could say it was not their choice. As someone once says, all of us have no choice on who are parents are, and that as well as our society is an important influence on what we will become.
Yet at the same time, when someone desires to talk to me about a piece of cake, I can close my mind to it at focus my mind on other items. When I see an advertisement I can resist their urgings and not believe them. People also go against certain cultures, therefore, there is a choice element. Many people who were brought up in bad families seeked the things of the Lord and changed from it. Many also who were brought up in christian homes have rebelled and followed the sin nature to the world. so this indicates choice.
So.. if we look at how the human mind works.. and to almost paraphrase Newtons law of physics (an object in a state of motion tends to remain in that state of motion unless acted upon by an external unbalanced force) Unless there is a specific will to do differently, one will be formed by and follow the influences put into their life.
E. ASSOCIATION LEARNING AND ACCOMODATION LEARNING
In a previous article I discussed the two kinds of learning, assimulation and association. The assimulation learning is when we add to our world view. For example, let's say someone learns the numbers 1-10, then they learn to put them together and make bigger numbers, then they learn to do mathematical operations on those numbers. The one is building on the other and keeps advancing. The other kind of learning is the accomodation style of learning. which means we learn something that completely contradicts our knowledge of truth and our entire world view must now change to accept that style of learning. An example of this could be a child learning something negative about their parents and having a new view of them. Or a spouse learning that a spouse had a secret life and was living in sin. Once that happens their entire world view changes and their mind changes.
F. HYPOTHESIS REGARDING CHOICE- NO CHOICE REGARDING SALVATION.
Becoming a christian involves an accomodation learning. Verses in the scripture that reinforce that state that "we are born again", "All things are become new", "new birth", "new life", "old things have passed away", "new heart", etc. As children, we see the world revolving around us. However a time has to come where we realize who God is. That he is most important and not us. That aha moment comes where we truly understand that he loves us so much that he who was God, died for us. When we have that accomodation learning, then we have a new life and God changes us. What is very dangerous is that many who were brought up in christian families and christian cultures have values and cultures of the church and the bible, yet have never come to that aha moment where they really understand that God almighty and pleasing Him truly is most important.
When one starts the new life, they know very little, there is still much association learning to do, however, the accomdation learning has changed the direction of their life from living for self, to living for God.
Salvation entails recieving information about God, (who He is and the way of salvation), that one honestly believes to be true and allowing that information to become a part of them and change their life completely. This is not merely book learning or admitting that there is a god and that we need to serve him. This is a life changing knowledge. The result of this will be a complete surrender to God, confessing of sins and turning from them and an intense love for God. Now they are enlightened with the new knowledge that the ultimate joy does not come from the pleasures of the flesh but from Him. And the one they love is Him. They will not resist change but rather serach out ways of changing to be more in line with the desires of their beloved and draw closer to Him. As a new christian, many who have very little knowledge of the things of God will be starting the beginning of their christian journey, yet the new heart He has put into them, as well as the Holy Spirit within them will encourage them to learn as much as possible about the one they love.
The source of the information that leads to salvation is God through His Holy Spirt. The means He uses to fix our eyes and hearts on Him is many. It could be a dramatic event such as Paul on the road to Damascus, being witnessed to by a Spirit filled christian, or simply God speaking through His Word. It could a tragic event such as a death of a loved one which causes one to reevaluate one's life and seek the answers to questions. It could also be the working of one who is not right with God.. An example could be a perhaps one witnessing as a chore yet having not experienced who God really is. It might even be his still small voice working in our hearts to bring us to the truth.
While these are just examples of the many means He may use, and He can use any means He wishes, He likes to use the weak things of the world to confound the mighty so all will know it is not the working of man, but His Spirit. We must be careful that salvation is not viewed as our working, but rather that we are the tools which he graciously has decided to use. We learn in Corinthians that it is not Paul or Apollos but God. It is not the wisdom of men's words, but the working of the spirit. When this occurs, that the Lord opens the person's eyes, and they understand their true wretchedness, the need to put God first and live for Him wholely and allow God to change them, then all things become new and they understand their sinfulness and need for a saviour and will give all for it.
Recieving data from our surroundings we do not have a choice. The normal response when coming face to face with a true realization of God's truths is for this data to become a part of us and change us. But just as in the example of talking about cake, once someone sees God's truth, for various reasons such as pride, friends, etc., they can resist God's influence until the Spirit's influence leaves and they block it out.
G. SOME ANSWERS TO SOME QUESTIONS.
1. In this model, is salvation a work on our part?
No. Because it is a passive action of recieving data, through the mercies of the Holy Spirit that is becoming a part of us. The active work is resisting the influence and not allowing Him to change us. An example of this could be when one see's a man at a revival meeting shaking and holding onto the pew to avoid going to alter. Of course different works will follow salvation compared to the old life. Before we lived for self pleasure, now we live for His pleasure, but that is merely a result of the change that He has worked in us.
2. Can we resist God's will?
The answer is two fold. On one side, God is God. He is almighty and He can do anything He desires and we have no ability to stop what He desires. Yet at the same point, God is also a God of love. He did not desire to create a world of robots who have no ability to make choices. He wants us to love Him and therefore he allows people to resist him. Satan desires all to be slaves. God wants all to be free.
3. Is one once saved always saved? or is the change that is made through an accomodation learning experience reversable?
This is a hard part to address.. and below are merely some thoughts. No way do I wish to pass judgement on anyone who backslided and say they have not experienced the love of God and been saved. Nor do I wish to pass any kind of judgement on someone's state who does not appear to be in the will of God as representing what a Child of God is. At the same time, I realize none of us are perfect, growing in the love of God, and perhaps one is dealing with issues with God in a way which we may not understand and I do not wish to condemn such a person. Therefore, this area must be handled very lightly.
Before I answer that question, the answer will depend on what one's definition of salvation is. If one's defintion is that they joined a church, or they said a prayer and assimulated into a particular christian culture without that aha moment, then if they never had that true realization of who God is, and his place in their life, then of course they can go back to the world, becasue they never truly understood and embraced the truth.
While I believe God desires all to serve Him out of a free heart and there is nothing that states a person does not have the choice to go back to the world and resist His influences, my thoughts are that, just as a person who has learned their spouse has been disloyal will never view that same person again, and that data is a part of them, so once God has opened our eyes to His truth, and we allow Him to change us and allow His will to change us I find it hard to believe that a person would ever be the same person again or have a desire to go back to the old life.
4. What happens if a person has another accomodation learning experience after salvation that changes them for the worst?
An example of this is what happens if they perhaps had a bad experience through a person who they trusted religiously, and that has caused them in their mind to think of the hurt of this person every time they attempted to think of God? or perhaps a child dies, and through their misapplying of the data change for the worse and now disown God?
When something like this happens to someone, I cannot deny their experience as real. When this happens, I cannot believe this is the work of someone else or God, as the Bible says no one can separate us from the love of God. God still loves us regardless and wishes us to come back to Him. While not wishing to place judgement, my current thoughts are leaning to the direction that this is a result of an action on our part where our relationship to God is weakened to allow us to be vulnerable to the attacks of the devil. In many cases, it will be the result of deliberate sin, "If I hide iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me" that causes our eyes and love to leave Him and puts us in a position of attack of the enemy. It could simply be simple backsliding where we are no longer walking with our beloved. Where our heart leaves our beloved and focuses on the cares are on the things of the earth. Like Peter, we fall in the water. or perhaps something else.
When something like this happens, one must go to God to help Him explain the answers. Just as people witness to bring people to Christ, so when one has a problem, we as brothers and sisters need to be there to help the person put the pieces together, possibly with a new assimulation experience, with christian love and understanding of what they're going through, not blaming them. In all cases the results could be different, wheather there is a deliberate desire to leave God or go back to the world, or the person still deep down knows the truth and desires the blessings of former days and can, with help from their brothers, be restored again.
One thing we do know from Hebrews 6:4-6"For [it is] impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put [him] to an open shame."
There appears to be a time where someone has had so much about the things of God and know Him so intimately, if someone has reached that point, they have experienced all in accomodation learning. once that happens, what more can they learn to bring them back to the love of God? Someone has said that the most unhappy person is the one who has tried the goodness of God, tasted its blessing, yet someone has hurt them to the point where the goodness of god is associated with hurtfulness. Because once they have accepted the things of God and that knowledge is not sufficient to give them happiness, then there is nothing else left.
5. What is the advantages/disadvantages of growing up in a christian society, church, etc.
The answer to this has nothing to do with one's belief regarding predestination, free will, etc. Yet it is such an important point that very few address, that I felt it needed to be addressed. And this is important regarding which theory one believes.
We know that those who influence us while we are growing up make an impact on our lives. The society, wheather christian, secular, etc. tend to create values within us. If we talk about mere growing up, people are influnced by several groups. The church, the schools, the media, the peer group, etc. And in the average unsaved person, all of these factors are influences on what type of person they become. Unfortunately, in today's world, the church, to many, is a negligable influence, and the other areas tend to not be either neutral or a hostile influence on one to seek God.
Of those who grow up in a church and/or christian society, it is not surprising that even if someone has not had a salvation experience, that by being exposed to the things of God, it can have an impact on their life, teaching them good values and an appreciation of the values and lifestyle of christians which will make them a better person and and an asset to our society.
Yet we have to keep in mind that we cannot confuse that carnal experience with that of becoming saved. If a person grows up in a christian home and incorporates some of the values of God into their life, maybe says a prayer of salvation, goes to a christian church, reads the Bible occasionally, prays for their desires to be fulfilled by God, and mixes that in with values from our current world, that is merely growing up with some values of one's parents and the world and not an salvation experience. This is a great disadvantage and area where one must be alert to being decieved.
A great advantage of being raised in such an enviorment means we will have more knowledge of God, more potential places where they can be exposed to the things of God and a higher knowledge of the things of the things of God so that they will be more familiar with his ways and doctrines when they do become saved.
While this should not be a litmus test, it's likely that people who have a new heart and a salvation experience, will normally grow closer to God than their parents and society. Those who are merely children of christians or those who grew up in a christian culture will have a value system somewhere in between. Of course there are other factors to consider such as those who might be slow learners, those who might have shorter lives not able to reach their level of maturity etc. Unfortunately, many in the churches today are mere children of christians, those who know they should do certain things, yet have not come to a point of God truly becoming their lord and master.
The result of this in many churches unfortunately is the Spirit being quenched or replaced with doctrines and/or worldly pleasures with very little dedication to God.
Because it is so easy for many to fall into this group, I urge all to sit down and ask their self, "Is God truly Lord of my life? Is He really most important to me?" And if so, understand that data, and allow God's spirit to change you and make you a new creature in Him.
Of course the last group is those who truly rebel against the teaching of their parents and go into the world full force.
I pray this article is a blessing to all who read it. I urge those who perhaps have not allowed Jesus to be their Lord now decide to do so..