Friday, July 20, 2007

Don’t worry about being “chosen”

There is some discussion in the comments about "worrying if one is chosen." That's understandable, but as usual if one compares a problem in Calvinism to Arminianism, the "problem" is just as bad or worse in Arminianism.

The classic example is the fairness question. People say: it is not fair, in the Calvinist view, that God chose Jacob and not Esau. That's true of course, if fairness means treating everyone the same. If fairness means that nobody receives injustice, then it is fair: Esau received justice, Jacob mercy, and nobody was unfairly punished. Arminians argue that in their scheme, everyone has an equal chance. But they generally refuse to acknowledge that if person A, in an unregenerated state, chooses God while person B doesn't, A must have some unfair advantage: better education, better parents, or life experiences that made him more amenable to the gospel. Or He was simply born with a better ability to take advantage of prevenient grace (that little bit of grace, in the Arminian view, that is available to assist the unregenerate in choosing God—the wooing factor.) Perhaps if there were just an iota more prevenient grace, B too would accept. Oh, perhaps A was born poor and B born rich—we know what the bible says about needles and camels—if B was born rich, he was not presented with a level playing field.

No, the Arminian view does not solve the fairness problem.

What about the worrying problem? No—Calvinism wins that hands down.

First of all, unbelievers generally don't worry about Calvinism vs. Arminianism. What sets anyone, normatively speaking, on the path toward salvation?

Feeling sick and disgusted. Unless one see's oneself as a sinner, there is no good news, in anyone's view. Jesus tells us he came for a subset of all people: the sick and the unrighteous. He tells us, explicitly, that he did not come for the healthy or the [self]righteous.

So unless you feel sick and disgusted (with yourself) there is no good news. However, both Arminians and Calvinists agree on this starting point. So the worry, which is the same in both cases, is whether or not you feel this need for repentance, and your own inadequacy in light of that acceptance. Here we have, in the first round a tie.

What happens next?

Well, the bottom line in Calvinism is: anyone who feels they are a sinner, is repulsed by their own sin, accepts that they cannot save themselves, and wants to learn how it is possible that Jesus provides that salvation can immediately stop worrying about whether or not they are chosen and begin enjoying their salvation. They can be totally confident that they are—because they are at a point where, scripture tells us, no unregenerate man dwells: they are seeking God. You are, at this point regenerated. That is very good news. That is the gospel.

The Arminian approach, from the same stating position, is to use that healthy self-loathing to reach a point where you, still as unregenerate person, can will yourself to make a personal commitment to Christ, and then you are regenerated. Of course between these two steps the process can be derailed. On Monday you may acknowledge yourself as a sinner, and on Thursday, before your personal commitment, you might change your mind. That's worrisome.

But it gets worse, in the Arminian view, because the personal commitment to Christ, coming from an unregenerate person still dead in original sin, comes with a very worrisome nonnegotiable condition: it must be sincere. How sincere? Totally apparently—but without question to some high though unspecified degree. Now that's something to worry about.

I know I love God. I know I'm a sinner. I don't worry about whether or not I am chosen, though I do worry about whether I am walking by faith. However—if I believed that I had to do anything sincerely enough in order to secure my salvation—well that would keep me awake at nights with worry.

So don't worry about being chosen. Worry only if you don't feel the need for salvation. But then—you wouldn't be worrying about it, would you?

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