A few years ago, a discernment ministry I had trusted to speak truth promoted an erroneous book. Recently, I was surprised and extremely disappointed to see another ministry I trust promote this book. Needless to say, I don’t quite trust them anymore. I wanted to take today and write about this because the book’s topic is so very important.
Well, I actually don’t want to write about this because, not only is it an important topic, but it’s also an incredibly inflammatory one. But the topic keeps coming to mind since I saw that post and I believe the Lord wants me to write about this. I ask you to read this thoughtfully. I am in no way claiming to be an expert on this topic nor do I have any interest in debating with anyone about it. I simply want to share what I have learned in hopes that it may be helpful to others who are struggling through this particular thing.
Let me back up a few years to when the “book” first came out. I received an email promoting this book and I was curious. The book’s premise was that Calvinism is heretical. Why would this author (and then this ministry in its promotion of it) put a line in the sand and say such a thing? That would have to mean that they believe that anyone who believes in Calvinism is a heretic, which means they are not saved. That is a very strong (and absolutely FALSE) statement and that, alone, turned me off greatly to the book and, if I am honest, to the entire ministry.
It is one thing to say I disagree with a certain secondary doctrine. It is quite another to say that the person who doesn’t agree with me is going to hell.
As I read the intro to the book in the email, I spotted something troublesome that caused further concern. Here was how the sentence started out: “We cannot believe in a God who…”
Do you see the serious problem with that sentence?
Who are we to decide who God is? God’s Word tells us who He is. We don’t get to decide which doctrines we do or do not like and what we will or will not believe. This was a huge red flag and discounted anything further that was written regarding the book.
But let’s back up a few years before this book to when I had no idea what I believed about free will and election. I had some wrong notions about how it all worked and was okay with that. Eventually, as I started to study the Word more, I began to understand that my conclusions were flawed. And then God led me to a sermon by John MacArthur called Twin Truths: God’s Sovereignty and Man’s Responsibility. It was by far the most clarifying and scriptural resource I have ever had the pleasure of listening to regarding this divisive topic. I recommend it highly.
Here is what I learned (in a nutshell): Both are true and run like parallel tracks into eternity. We can’t figure out how they work together and that’s okay.
You see, it’s man’s pride that makes him insist on choosing one or the other. It’s man’s pride that causes these arguments and divisions. It can’t be his dedication to God’s Word because no man dedicated to God’s Word could possibly deny election. And no man dedicated to God’s Word could deny free will. They are both clearly in the Bible.
So what does that mean? It means that our finite brains can’t understand.
We think we have to understand everything and we can’t understand this. And so men come up with (unbiblical) arguments that deny clear passages of scripture. It’s so tragic, really.
The funny thing is that Satan will seem to get you one way or another. Those who believe in God’s sovereign election rarely believe in God’s prophecy regarding the future of Israel. And those who believe in a future for Israel rarely believe in God’s sovereign election. I am here to tell you that both are clearly true. If you cast your preconceived notions aside and just read scripture, both are so very obvious.
But we get caught up in man’s systems and our denominations and intellectualism and following men and we get so confused. We don’t want to be viewed as stupid or unintelligent or unintellectual and so we follow the crowd. Ridiculous and destructive pride often keeps us from backing away from our wrong argument after we have made it.
The one other thing I believe it is important to mention is that, if you believe John Calvin was an evil man set on spreading an evil doctrine, I rather doubt you really know who he was. Spend some time getting to know this man. He was not perfect (as none are) but he did some tremendous things for the Kingdom and has been so wrongly maligned. I learned this upon my own study of him many years ago now.
So what do I want to communicate today specifically regarding this topic? Why am I writing about it?
I think the answer to that is simply that we cannot understand how these things work together and we must humble ourselves and be at peace with this.
The Bible clearly teaches election (Ephesians 1 is the passage that brought this home for me when studying it so many years ago but there are many others). To deny this is to deny scripture. Yes, it’s a hard and unpleasant doctrine to wrap our brains around but we do not have the option to say “we can’t believe in a God who…”! That is just plain sinful.
But the Bible also clearly teaches free will (that man is responsible for his choices).
So the only conclusion we can draw–if we believe God is absolutely fair- is that these two things work together in a way we can’t possibly understand.
As students of the Bible, may we be willing to believe what God says about Himself within its pages. Even when we don’t like it. Even when we can’t understand it. Even if it brings the ridicule of man.
This brings to mind an old song by the Heritage Singers. Here’s the chorus–
God said it and I believe it
and that settles it for me
Though some may doubt that His word is true
I’ve chosen to believe it, now how about you?