BEING HONEST WITH SCRIPTURE
When I was saved in 1975 I came with no doctrinal presuppositions at all. I had never heard of the rapture either by word or concept. I had never heard an argument over the loss of salvation. In fact I had never heard a discussion about salvation at all. So I was a blank slate. Slowly you read and learn and the Holy Spirit opens your eyes to many things. And then you begin attending a certain church, or in my case, I entered Bible college a year and a half after I was saved. And then you begin to learn doctrine, or another words, an interpretation of the Scriptures.
And usually you embrace first what you are exposed to first. And if you develop friendships and if you like the pastor you may be predisposed to receive what he and the church believe about the Scriptures. Very few people start an intense Scriptural study on their own because it is much more convenient to embrace what others say. And when a teacher has certain skills of persuasion he can present the Scriptures in such a way that his interpretation makes good sense. Let us be honest here, the Scriptures often lend themselves quite nicely to manipulation resulting in the doctrines and traditions of man rather than the unvarnished truth of Scripture.
And once you embrace a certain doctrinal stream you often come across that which is known as “problem Scriptures” which by definition mean that these verses seem to present a problem for your particular doctrinal slant. In fact all of our systematic theologies encounter problem verses. But when you are surrendered to your doctrinal brand you have to manipulate those problem verses using methods which you decry in others. What I mean is that you take those verses and force feed them into your doctrine even though they are square pegs in round holes. It happens throughout the evangelical community.
But there is another way to approach certain verses that openly confront your doctrinal way of thinking. You can admit that they do seem to clearly go against your neat little doctrine and you can admit you cannot really reconcile them. That would be honest and genuine. And it would also reveal a painful level of Scriptural integrity.
And in this post I will address what I believe is error in a doctrine which is espoused by true brethren in Christ. If you are reformed or lean Calvinistic, and if you get offended then you might skip the rest of this post. But the issue has always been whether sinful man has a free will or if God just employs His power onto a sinner and forces him to believe on Christ. It may not always be presented in those terms but that is basically what is being discussed. I do have many reformed friends and many of that doctrinal slant visit this blog. However I borrow what Paul said, “I am what I am by the grace of God.”
There has always been a discussion about eternal security and in that vein I used to manipulate Hebrews chapters 6 and 10, but I came to the place where I could not honestly hold to that view when juxtaposed with those Scriptures. But I want to deal with the subject of the free will of man. I read a comment a couple of days ago where a reformed person said we must rejoice even when people are sent to hell since that was always God’s will. And of course that brings into question the five major points of Calvinism.
Matt.23: 37 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!
This portion of Scripture is also recorded in Luke as well. It gives a looking glass into the heart of God our Savior. First Jesus says that He desired to gather the Jews unto Himself. This confirms the Scriptures which declares that God is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to salvation. That flies directly in the face of reformed theology which teaches that God only desires an extremely small number of sinners to be saved. But from the lips of Christ He also states that even though He wanted to gather them unto Himself, they would not. Now in reformed theology man has no plausible deniability when he is called by the Spirit. Calvinism teaches that when God draws you to Himself by the Spirit you have no choice in the matter. You in fact cannot say no because God’s salvation calling is irresistible.
But again, that flies in the face of this portion of Scripture. Reformed theology must take the word “world” in:
Jn.3: 16 – For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believs in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
And change it to mean that same extremely small number of sinners. In fact, Calvinism teaches that God hates all sinners that He has not hand picked for salvation. But when Jesus says He desired to gather the Jews like a hen gathers her brood, is He suggesting a hen does not love those chicks? Of course not. This is what I mean about coming to certain verses, finding them doctrinally troublesome, reading any number of teachers who espouse your doctrinal slant, and adopting one of their tortured explanations.
This does mean that Calvinists are bad people, but it does clearly reveal a doctrinal bias to which a number of Scriptures must bow even when they are incongruent with their brand of theology. That is being dishonest with the Scriptures. We all have done that. But the Scriptures were not written to the ecclesiastical elite. Just because you may have Greek and Hebrews credentials does not in any way make you a more pure follower of Christ. Sometimes those kind of credentials can stand in the way of simply embracing what the Scriptures plainly teach.
Have you found “problem verses” in the Scriptures which seem to conflict with your doctrinal settled law? All of us are confronted with this phenomenon from time to time. Are you honest enough to address it? If so, at the very least admit it without changing the Scriptures to say what you want them to say and alleviate any doctrinal tension. And at the very most submit yourself to the teaching of the Spirit, and if you have held onto your own doctrinal agenda at the expense of God’s Word then repent. Believe me it will set you free.