Please Dispense With the “False Either/Or’s”

The Bible never sets God’s total control (sovereignty) of all creation off against human responsibility and accountability. Arminianism as a system of doctrine does. Many American Christians do, but the Bible never does. The Old Testament prophets, Jesus and his apostles knew all things were in the “hands of God,” fulfilled already, not “hanging in the balance,” or dependent on human choices for their accomplishments. All the names who have salvation were written in the Lamb’s book of life before the creation of the world, according to Revelation 13:8. But this great and comforting truth never produced in any of the prophets, apostles, and great men and women of The Faith, or most of all, Jesus, a general inactivity toward, passivity in, or indifference about the advancement of God’s kingdom. It did not lead them to remain emotionally distant from the devastating effects of sin. It did not lead them to lives of spiritual slothfulness or passivity. The biblical doctrine of God’s sovereignty is not Stoic fatalism or determinism. Jesus wept. Jesus agonized in his work as the Savior, even as he demonstrated what resting in the Father’s good will looks like.

Of course, no Christian needs to “panic” over the Supreme Court of the United States and its decisions; that’s a no brainer. Of course, the spiraling downward into greater depths of sin is predictable; Romans 1:18-32 is abundantly clear. Paul kept writing! Would that some of the leaders of God’s people would dispense with some rather stark and shallow “false either/or’s.” Jesus accomplished salvation and the Spirit applies it not so that the recipients of it can either wring their hands in worry or sit around and act as if the current state of the world, that God loves, somehow does not continue to have devastating and eternally damaging consequences for many of those who inhabit it. Jesus wept, even as he knew he was going to raise Lazarus from the dead, and go to the cross himself, be resurrected and fulfill all God’s covenant promises, so that death would be forever abolished among his people. In the infamous words of one of my faithful seminary professors: “We need to learn to be as schizophrenic as the Bible is.” He was speaking figuratively. Of course, God is not schizophrenic, and neither is his word, but sometimes particular truths of Scripture seem to force us to such a mind. But they are truths that go together, and we need to work at learning how they do fit. NO, we don’t make them fit, they already DO!! We need to learn to live in their truth. This means we will be busy and perhaps one day say with the apostle Paul, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them (the other apostles), yet not I, but the grace of God with me.” (bold and italics mine) Now, if you will excuse me, I have work to do, and I am going to enjoy it, even as I agonize over it.

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