Monday, January 9, 2012

The Tendency of Growing in Biblical Understanding

I haven't thought of a catchy title that encapsulates my thoughts, thus the rather confusing title but perhaps by the end of the post it will make some sense.  It begins with a recent conversation I had with a couple who have become dissatisfied with the church they are attending.  The main problem was that the Bible was not being taught.  It was just a lot of religious sounding sermonettes designed to make the hearers feel good but little to no attempt to expound the Bible in a systematic fashion.

It is not the first time I have crossed paths with people who take the Bible seriously enough to start questioning what they are hearing every week.  This usually happens when they realize that the preaching doesn't seem to be concerned with teaching all of the Bible and nothing but the Bible no matter how it is received but is more concerned with making everyone happy and growing the church at all costs.  Okay, that might be a little simplistic but I bet it is more accurate than not.

But what I have found over the years is that when I run across people who are actually growing in their understanding of the Word they are always moving away from an Arminian take on things to a more Calvinistic approach.  The couple above are not at this point convinced Calvinists but they are at the point where they are willing to take a second look at it.  It seems apparent that when one starts to really read the Bible to hear what God says you are forced to admit that it teaches God's absolute sovereignty and the fact that he elects some and passes by others.

What I have noticed is that the direction is not from a Reformed position to an Arminian but the opposite.  To me this is telling.  You just don't hear of serious Bible students starting out believing strongly in the sovereignty of God in salvation who after years of study begin to move to a position of a weaker God.  Oh, every now and then you hear of someone who has gone "Arminian". I recently heard of a man who went from a Presbyterian who supposedly believed in election to a Catholic.  He now fancies himself a Catholic Apologist.  But as you begin to study his arguments you soon realize that he has no real grasp of the Reformed position.  In other words, he never really believed in a sovereign God to begin with and has no real concept of salvation by grace alone.

My point is just that there is a reason why as one's understanding of the Scriptures deepens it tends to lead one to a Reformed position rather than an Arminian one.  This by itself doesn't prove one position right above another I suppose but to me it cannot be ignored.  From my own experience the ones who hold to a more Arminian position without exception have whole areas of the Bible that they tend to ignore or deemphasize.  They almost universally use "proof texts" that they insist override any other take on scripture.  Get them away from these texts and they are unable to explain scripture and generally won't even try.  Trust me, I spent a lot of time in their churches growing up.

I trust everyone reading this has purposed in their hearts to read and study all the Bible and accept as God's Word everything in it without any presuppositions that God can't possibly elect some unto salvation or that man must have a free will that is morally neutral.  The Bible plainly teaches the opposite.  Isn't it interesting that the vast majority of what are considered the serious commentaries are written by Calvinists?  Hence the title; the tendency of growing in biblical understanding is toward a strong view of God's sovereignty not the other way around.

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