Sunday, January 01, 2006

Final words on Free Will

O.k. now I will share my thoughts as to why I disagree with the Calvanistic view of predestination.

From my understanding, the following is the concept of pre-destination by many Protestant Churches:
Total Depravity - man is too sinful to ever merit salvation or choose God.
2) Unconditional Election - God saves people entirely based on His grace, not our works.
3) Limited Atonement - Christ's atonement, although satisfactory to save everyone, is only applied to the saved (i.e. elect).
4) Irrestable Grace - It is impossible to resist God when He begins tugging your soul (i.e. it is impossible to say, "no" to the internal call of salvation).
5) Perseverence of the Saints - those whom God has saved can never "unsave" themselves.

And now my two cents worth:
1) Total Depravity: The only thing about this that I agree with is the fact that man is sinful... because we are all born with original sin. However, I completely disagree with the notion that man cannot choose God. Certainly God chooses us, but to think that He only chose some, and condemns others is not a pleasing thought. If God condemns some men to hell, then he is not the benevolent, loving God as indicated in the Bible. I feel that because He gives us free will, we can certainly choose him or deny him... but it's still our choice.
2) Unconditional Election - True that we cannot save ourselves and God's grace is certainly part of our salvation, but works is also a part of it as well. If works aren't involved, then how do we become more Holy and serve Christ? We are saved because of God's grace and continue to work through our salvation with our works. Faith is indeed part of this, but it's not simply a one time profession of faith... it's ongoing... and one can certainly lose it. We must choose to accept the grace given to us by God.
3) Limited Atonement - This doesn't make sense. If Christ only died for some and not all people, what is the point in his sacrifice? I feel that God wants a relationship with ALL of His creation, even though He knows that some will not choose Him.
4) Irresistible Grace - This is where free will comes in. God certainly calls for us at certain times and He may certainly put the desire for a relationship with Him upon our hearts, but we ultimately choose to say yes to Him or not. Even in the Baptist service where they have the altar calls and people go up to give their lives over to Christ... it is still a choice that the person makes to heed the call. Consider Mary. She was called to be the mother of Christ and she accepted the task of her own free will. Sure, God knew that she'd say yes.. but she still said it on her own.
5) Perserverence of the Saints - I feel that God does call some people into service (like Mary) and they have received His unmerited Grace. But I also feel that because faith and works are involved in our salvation, one can certainly lose it and there's no guarantee that any one of us will end up in heaven. Many Christians will have a reasonable assurance because they have lived their lives in accordance to the will of God. Salvation is an ongoing process. When Catholics are asked if they are "saved" their response is I am saved, I am being saved and I hope to be saved.

One of my big problems that I had within the Baptist church with this concept of salvation was the fact that I was "saved" three times and even after all of that, I couldn't say with complete certainty that any one of those times I was assured of a place in heaven. Was my faith ever enough to earn my place in the Book of Life? And what if I wasn't one of the elect? How could I possibly know that? If the concept of pre-destination holds true, there's nothing I could do to earn everlasting life and it would happen no matter what I did. If that's the case, what would be the point of even attempting to live a Christian life? Why not simply live whatever way I chose? Because if I was going to be one of the elect, then nothing I could do would keep me from eventually being called. So I could just keep living my life of sin. When God was ready for me, He'd let me know, right? The thing is... I thought I was ready on three different occasions. Why didn't any of those "take" so to speak? What got to me the most of all in my previous church was the fact that I was questioning all of this - wondering how I could possibly know that I had true salvation etc. when one of the guys that had led me in my last salvation experience got up in front of the church and said that he really hadn't been saved. He had been bringing others to Christ, serving in a capacity as an associate pastor of the church, teaching classes and all of that and he came to the realization that he had not had a true salvation experience. How can that be? If once saved, always saved? If this guy that had been living a pretty Godly life really wasn't saved, then how could I be when I was still struggling with sin myself? So then I began to wonder if perhaps I was not one of the "elect" that was called to have a relationship with Christ. Although at times I had the desire, it was never strong enough to really devote myself to everything involved in Christian service. It was disappointing to think that no matter how much I did or didn't do, that I might not ever get to heaven.
The concept of a one-time profession of faith went out the window with the associate pastor's profession of a false salvation. If all it takes is that one moment, perhaps if I had been saved the first time when I was nine years old, nothing I could ever do would keep me out of heaven. Even if I commited the most heinous acts and sins, I would still go to heaven. The counter argument by Protestants is that if it is a "true profession of faith" then one would never commit those acts and they would be commited to Christ all of their lives. But how many people in churches all over the world stop going to church or lose faith that they thought they had? Protestants claim that works aren't necessary for salvation, but if/when one is "saved" then the works will ultimately follow. But every human act in service to God is still a choice. Even when we have the ultimate faith possible we still have to make the choice to act upon it.

It seems to me that the idea of pre-destination is really an easy way out with regard to salvation. If we are chosen, we will be called. Once we're called we can't lose it. Therefore it doesn't matter how you live. How convenient. But honestly, it takes effort every day and we still make choices to live Christian-like lives. Free will gives us that right. Hopefully we use it to choose to follow God's will for us.

What drew me into the Catholic Church and keeps me involved is that their teachings make the most sense to me. I was at first trying to figure out which of all the many denominations was at least the most right. Realizing that the Catholic Church was the original Church founded by Christ dating back to Peter made me investigate it's teachings further. As I have studied the faith (especially thanks to the questions and concerns from my Baptist friend) I have not found anything that I have questioned. I am by no means a complete expert, but I am certainly enjoying this learning experience. It has answered a lot of my questions that I've had for a very long time. So in the end, I find that as a Catholic, there is more hope with the concept of salvation. It's not an either you're in or out kind of thing... and it's not a matter of whether you're chosen or not. Because all are called by God and we must choose to follow Him.

1 comment:

Bret Capranica said...

Great post on Calvinism. You understand it to a degree, but seem to miss some of the most crucial elements. See: for some good discussions.

Regarding the associate pastor's conversion. If you listen to Kevin share his salvation experience, you will hear that he had a very Catholic - not Baptist, or biblical view of salvation. That's why it didn't "take." He was trying to work his way along in righteousness. It is a treadmill that will eventually, if you seriously pursue it, wear you out. He did not pursue an "immediate profession of faith" - he was trying to will his way to heaven. Yes, he believed in God's grace - he had a Catholic view of it - he was trying to cooperate with God rather than repent of his self-effort. He believed that he could do good works to ensure his salvation. It wrecked his life. Sin is too powerful and God is too holy for man to work his way to salvation. Martin Luther came to the same conclusion because of the Roman view of salvation. The view of salvation Kevin repented of was a very Catholic view. His life is full of joy and freedom, forgiveness and righteouness that is obviously not of himself. Ephesians 2:1-10 is one of the most clear expressions of this Gosple. Note what God does. Note what man is incapable of achieving through works because of the power of sin. Where do works come in to play? Post salvation. They are the expression of faith and grace, not the means of attaining salvation.
Titus 3:5-7: He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.