Sunday, January 9, 2011

A Calvanist's Fear

There has always been scripture that scares me. I know that being afraid as a believer is not a popular doctrine these days but fear can be quite the motivator for self examination. There is the “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it" scripture. Narrow? Well just how narrow? Then there's : "Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ ".

Recently I was meditating on another text and the more I did so the more concerned I became: "For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son". Now, I take this text to mean exactly what it says realizing that doing so puts me in the Calvinist's camp. The argument is made against Calvinists however that God doesn't want us to walk around worrying about whether or not we have been "chosen" or not, which, as it turns out, the very thing I worry about. But what am I to do? Ignore these kinds of scripture that warn us that our presuppositions might be false? For you see, I know me like no one else, and I know that I am not anywhere near being conformed into the image of His son.

Still, the fear is not my major concern here. I can deal with the fear in this temporal life. What I can't deal with is the eternal consequences of being wrong.


Laura Grace Robins said...

I have always really liked the "narrow path" verse, probably because it does create that fear. It seems sometimes daily it goes through my head, especially when face to face with a difficult right/wrong situation.

"For you see, I know me like no one else, and I know that I am not anywhere near being conformed into the image of His son."

I appreciate your frankness here and elsewhere on your blog (something I try to do too). I get a little turned off at Christian blogs who seem to imply or directly say they are without faults.

I think that even having such concerns may mean indeed you are chosen. I don't know if the unchosen would meditate so deeply on His word.

BTW, I hope you and your family are doing well. Many prayers your way.

Dan said...

Wow, I was just thinking a few days ago about the fact that you haven't been by recently. It's funny I just got back from catching up on my Google reader and leaving a comment on "The National Scene" when I saw your comment. BTW. loved the videos from MWM.

Anyway, yes, that particular verse has been quite the prod for me as well.

Susan said...

AMEN Danny!!! I quite often ponder these things. Lots of "Take heed...." references in the Bible in the RED letters!! And, these other warnings about the Virgins and their lamps, etc. One thing for sure, we must keep pressing on toward that mark of His high calling and trusting in HIM to complete and do HIS work.

Anonymous said...

I listened to a great sermon series by John MacArthur on assurance and have downloaded his book on the same topic. He primarily analyzed 1 John 5. We should think carefully about whether we are really saved. It isn't good to be saved and always wondering about it, as that can distract from advancing the kingdom. But a false sense of security is much worse.

Craig and Heather said...

What I can't deal with is the eternal consequences of being wrong.

I'm intimately acquainted with the admonition to "work out [my] salvation with fear and trembling". Periodically, the terror of realizing I can deceive myself has haunted me for months at a time.

My husband has responded similarly to your first commenter with regard to the fact that unsaved, self-righteous people don't tend to be concerned with whether they are chosen.

One thing I believe is significant concerning the Matthew 7 "Lord, Lord" people is that the context includes "beware of false teachers" (those who would lead others away from faith in Pharisees/Saducees etc) v 17 and "only those who do the will of My Father will enter the Kingdom" v21.

And I started to wonder what is the will of the Father? Other passages indicate that what the Father wants is for us to love and honor His beloved Son. And the Son's instruction is for believers to love one another, even as He has loved us. John's gospel, his first epistle and the book of James have been quite illuminating in that respect. And the book of 1 John also indicates phases of spiritual growth (children, young men, fathers) that occur as we are being continually molded into the likeness of Christ.

Worth noting, I think, is that EVERY knee will eventually bow to God (Romans 14:11) When standing before Jesus (who is God), the "Lord, Lord" people are pointing at the spectacular things they supposedly did for God, and are not appealing to ever having had a relationship with Him. Jesus' response will be "I never knew you" = "we never had a relationship".

When comparing the above to the sheep and goat parable of Matthew 25, it becomes apparant to me that the "sheep", or those who are chosen to enter Christ's kingdom, are those who love and serve His family.

I'd probably fit into some form of Calvinist way of thinking, but the TULIP framework did exactly to me what you've descibed concerning whether I was "chosen". On a practical level, it really isn't that different of a reaction than Arminians can have concerning whether they can sin to the point of throwing away their salvation. IMO, the problem in both systems is that it takes my eyes off of Jesus and what He's done and puts them on myself and my own efforts. Then, when I'm doing well, I start to think more highly of myself when I should (oooh, I'm of the "elect"). When I stumble all over the place, I start to wonder whether I have been playing religious games. It all becomes about me instead of Him.

I don't think any professing Christian really can afford to take his attention off of Christ as it sets us up to be tempted or discouraged in ways that don't happen when we constantly are in fellowship with Him.

Whoo. I think I've said enough here. You probably couldn't guess your post struck a nerve :)

I pray that the Lord will direct you to a place of peace with regard to this topic.


ChrisB said...

Being wrong about Calvinism wouldn't be fatal. Even most Calvinists will say that.

If they're right, are you elect? That simply involves the same tests the scriptures apply to figuring out if you're saved -- e.g., 1 John.

I don't think election was ever meant to be a doctrine you beat people over the head with. It's another reason to worship God -- that you've been chosen -- but not intended to bludgeon people into fear.

Anonymous said...

Great thoughts.
I struggle with the conforming aspect as well. I think its another area we must walk by faith in because He sees the work He is doing in us more clearly than we do. One way to look at it is over the long haul. Are you more or less like Christ today than you were 10 years ago? I think when you put it in the perspective you can see His hand in your life.

I know most of us don't like the slow, moving hand of God. We want Christ-like perfection now! But even He was patient on the Father. Just look at the references to "his hour" in John. He waited until His hour, and wouldn't let people push Him in that direction.

Craig and Heather said...

I don't think election was ever meant to be a doctrine you beat people over the head with. It's another reason to worship God -- that you've been chosen -- but not intended to bludgeon people into fear.

This is a great statement!

Usually, when the debate about "election" arises, I like to point to:

Isaiah 42:1 Behold My Servant, whom I uphold; My Elect, in whom My soul delights. I have put My Spirit on Him; He shall bring out judgment to the nations.


Mark 9:7 And there was a cloud that overshadowed them. And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, This is My beloved Son. Hear Him.

Jesus is God's elect.
Those who are with Him, who love Him--are being transformed into His likeness--are counted as elect "with" Him...because He is generous and willing to share His inheritance with the undeserving.


Dan said...

Thank you all for your suggestions comments and encouragement.

Chris B

I'm not sure where you got the idea that I was being bludgeoned (if I interpreted your comment correctly) over the head by a doctrine. My emphasis was primarily on the scripture at hand and the impact that that scripture was having on me.

Anyway, haven't seen you around in a long time. I'm always glad to hear your thoughts.