Sunday, July 02, 2006

Calvinism, Free Will, Narnia and Christian Unity

At the risk of exposing my ignorance, especially with those who like to delve into the nuances of technical theological questions, I would like to forward my take on the whole Calvinism-Free Will thing. Obviously, there are passages of Scripture, which, when taken in isolation, seem to favor both sides of the debate. That is, some, one side, and others, the other. Due to this, Christians who claim an equal allegiance to the authority of the Word of God often come down on opposing sides of this issue.

Al Mohler, in the recent debate at the SBC Pastors Conference, said, if I remember correctly, that we as evangelicals accept the principle of "non-contradiction." That is, we believe the Bible, being the authoritative Word of God, does not contradict itself.

To this, I would like to posit the possibility of apparent contradiction, which, in reality is not contradiction. I believe there are two different perspectives from which to look at the questions of predestination and free will (and the various other doctrinal conclusions that stem from your view of these questions). One is the eternal, omniscient perspective of God. The other is the time-bound, limited perspective of man. I believe these two points of view are co-existent, much like England and Narnia in the Chronicles of Narnia. They are two apparently contradictory and co-existing realities, which are each perceived according to the perspective one takes.

Considered from this framework, divine sovereignty is the divine perspective, and human free will, the human perspective. They are both simultaneously true, all depending on the angle from which they are considered. There are many aspects of the divine perspective that are beyond our comprehension as humans. While it is possible for me as a human to theorize about a realm of existence not bound by the limitations of time, it is, at the same time, impossible for me to really comprehend it. In the day-to-day, practical side of life, we normally see things and operate from the human perspective. When we try to see from the divine perspective more than what God has chosen to clearly reveal to us in His Word, we tend to trip ourselves up, and get out of kilter. Yet, by faith, we accept the divine perspective as true.

Because of this understanding of these issues, I find it relatively easy to fellowship with those from either side of the Calvinism-Free Will debate. I just think that those on each side choose to emphasize one perspective over another. They are not necessarily in error. Perhaps a bit unbalanced, in the case of some. But not necessarily in error.

I also don’t spend a whole lot of time sifting through the technical implications of divine sovereignty, accepting that many of them are beyond my limited human capacity to understand. While I accept by faith what the Bible teaches about predestination, I live my life, in the day-to-day, more from the human perspective.

I imagine some of you who have spent more time and effort perusing all the "ins and outs" of this question will be able to completely debunk my thinking on this. And if, biblically, my thinking needs to be debunked, I welcome your input. In any case, I thought I would throw this out as "food for thought."


Tim Sweatman said...


This is one of the best statements on this subject that I have come across. Your description of "apparent contradiction" sums up my understanding of this issue. I've just never been able to articulate my position so clearly.

David Rogers said...


Thanks for the company. I was beginning to think I was out on a limb all by myself on this one.

Then I realized all of the theo-blog-ians are probably over at Wes Kenney's blog talking about baptism and church membership. :=)

Publius said...


You have spoken well. Here's the thing about non-contradiction. The belief that the Bible cannot contradict itself is, in my view, limiting. Not that anything in the Bible is false, but that it leads to us distorting passages we don't understand in order to make them fit pasages we do understand. The greater truth is that the Author of our faith has ways that we do not understand. Has He chosen us? His Word says so plainly. Do we choose Him? Yes, and gladly! So which is it? As finite, stupid humans we try to cram both Scriptural statements into a single system that makes non-contradictory sense to us, but God doesn't work that way.

Much better, in my view, to have enough humility to say, "I don't understand," and worship the God who is higher that I.

sembrador said...

I agree with you. We often get bogged down with the doctorinal issues that we forget the command to make disciples. It's more comfortable to argue and dispute among ourselves. I consider myself a 4 point calvinist. Jesus died for everybody! Yet there are two motivating factors for making disciples as far as I am concerned. The first is that I was commanded to by my owner Jesus Christ. The second is that it's a blast!! I love it!!

Outoftheshaker! said...

I'm with Tim on this one.
Thanks David.

James Hunt said...

God chose us before we chose Him.
We choose Him because He's chosen us and chased after us and quickened us.
Thus made alive to Him we see clearly enough to believe and receive His salvation.

The 2 tracks (2 perspectives idea) reminds me of Spurgeon's purported idea on the matter that there are indeed two parallel tracks never converging on earth but perfectly blended as one in heaven (the gist of it...certainly not a quote).

Tom Bryant said...

Thanks for talking about this. If we could figure it all out and put it all into a neat systematic theological journal, he wouldn't be God.

It's much like the discussion about eschatology. The Scriptures about final times that God meant to make us secure in the knowledge that he knows and controls the future has become a boxing match for opposing viewpoints.

Johnathan Newman said...

Thanks for your honest, candid remarks on this. I like reading your stuff...and loved serving as a workshipper under your dad at Bellevue!

On free will I like what Luther said in "Bondage of the Will". We SBCers use the term "free will" when in reality we would do well to name the things our will is not free to do, which Luther does. For example, our will isn't free to act without the effects of the sinful nature on it. Our "free will" requires a free-er will to act upon it in order for us to come to Christ.

This makes me think of a really cool word I learned from those smarter than I - antinomy. This word is what your post is about. Antinomy means "a contradiction or inconsistency between two apparently reasonable principles (Webster)". In the human mind it is a conflict without resolution but finds easy resolution in the mind of God. Whoever it was that taught me this word, Packer, Hoksema...?, applied it to the complaint in Romans 9:17-23. God created some men whom He "hardens" and then punishes them for their hardness of heart. And our mind says, "how can this be?" Then the Scripture says, "who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, 'Why did you make me like this,' will it"

...mind boggling! May be more answers in the mind of God but the best I can come up with is - the infinitely mighty God is putting His glory on display for us to see, stand in awe and worship. I'll stop babbling about what I don't comprehend, cover my mouth and tremble before His majesty!