Monthly Archives: January 2010

How Jesus Failed to Capitalize On His First Miracle (and thats OK)

Last week during our study at Simple one of our readings was Jesus’ first miracle where he turned the water to wine. Everyone knows that one. A few things struck us.
 
First of all, it was either a pretty big party, or else an ill-planned party, since they ran out of wine (probably huge, due to the fact that Jesus made maybe 115 liters of wine– almost 150 bottles of wine!)
 
Second, as far as first miracles out of the box, it was somewhat undramatic. It seems like it was almost an inadvertent miracle– Jesus wasn’t trying to get involved. In fact, it was his mother who pulled him into the problem– telling him that “they have no more wine”. Jesus, like many young men whose mothers try to get them to do stuff they weren’t planning on doing, responds “Dear woman, why do you involve me?” so he seems to be a reluctant participant in this miracle. Its almost like it wouldn’t have happened had he not had a mother who was making others business his business.
 
Of course Mary, like most mothers, ignores his appeal to leave him out of it, and tells the servants by him to “do whatever he tells you”. So now he’s stuck, with the servants wanting to know what to do, so he tells them to fill up the washing jars nearby with water, and to take some to the master of the banquet.
The servants bring the MC the wine, and he has no clue where it came from, but commends the groom for doing things backwards, and saving the best for last.

But as miracles go, it was a semi-private miracle, apparently more or less for Jesus’ disciples who, seeing what he did, “put their trust in him”.

Hard to know what the servants thought. Would have been interesting to be one of them. So Mary gets Jesus to solve the problem at the party, the disciples see that Jesus is pretty awesome– able to make wine out of water. Who wouldn’t follow a guy who can do that? Pretty cool.

It wasn’t Jesus time, but Jesus made the most of it, and helped out the groom, who had no idea how it happened. Its almost like the anonymous miracle.

Many contemporary church movement/management theorists would proably chastise Jesus for not capitalizing on this potential seeker-attractor event. I mean, can you imagine how many people who generally are not interested in religion would listen to a guy who can make water wine? A lot, thats how many! But Jesus doesn’t capitalize, the miracle goes underutilized for evangelistic purposes, and thats OK, because what Jesus does is the right thing to do, regardless of Church growth theory.

One thing I take from this miracle is that God has timing, and you want to go with that timing, and not just do what seems to be most efficient or effective. Second, if even Jesus seems to get pulled into situations he wasn’t counting on– like when his mother gets him involved to help solve a local wine shortage at a party– which lead to good and to blessings for others (the party and his disciples) then we should sort of expect that God can work in the weird situations we find ourselves in, and expect that whether we can foresee it or not, we are here for God’s purposes, whatever they are.

This will always be one of my favorite miracles, not only because Jesus turned water to wine, but because it seems almost happenstance, although it had a purpose, and good came from it. That seems to be the way much of life seems: it appears happenstance, although it often has a purpose, and good can come from it. Especially when we are living by faith…

May God have mercy on us all, and may God bestow on one of my friends the ability to turn water into wine…

andy

Advertisements

Haiti, Pat Robertson, Real help

Its overwhelming to know what to do in the face of a disaster like Haiti. There is so much suffering, so much need, and so much chaos. There is a natural impulse to go help, to try to be there and to make a difference. There is also a natural impulse to try to figure out why such a thing happened. Especially if you believe in God, the question soon becomes, ‘where was God?’ or ‘why did God let this happen?’

Yesterday at the church I go to on Sundays the pastor talked about just this issue, in relation to Pat Robertson, the famous TV evangelist.  Our pastor criticized Robertson’s explanation.  Robertson had mused on air that it seemed like little had gone well for Haiti since their independence in the 1700’s, and he wondered if there was some connection to their ‘pact with the devil’ to become independent of France. There is a lot of vodoo practiced in Haiti, and from blog reports, in 1791 a vodoo witchdoctor named Boukman sacrificed a pig in a vodoo ceremony where hundreds of slaves drank the pigs blood and the priest made a pact with the Devil to help them rid the island of their French colonizers. I suppose this is what Pat Robertson is talking about.  But it was easy for many to take it in lots of negative ways– the majority of Haitians are Catholic, Haiti was the first country to free itself from White domination and establish a Black government, and it is the only country to gain independence due to a slave rebellion.  As one Haitian leader said in response: the devil didn’t free us, we fought for our freedom and God helped us.  No doubt blaming an earthquake which takes the lives of perhaps over 100,000 on a pig sacrifice 200 years ago seems like a stretch to most of us… 

The pastor yesterday criticized Pats approach by looking at the book of Job in the Old Testament where Job, a good guy, has everything taken from him– his family, his wealth, his health. In the book of Job his friends come and tell him he must have done something wrong to deserve this punishment. This is one of the explanations that are given for why evil happens to us– perhaps it is God’s punishment. And its not as though that isn’t sometimes the case in the Bible– the flood wiped out all the earth’s population, and there are stories of Israelites dying of plagues etc when they were out of favor with God. But in the Book of Job, when God makes an appearance at the end he specifically tells Job that his friends explanation is not accurate– his suffering was not punishment. Its easy for some, like Pat Robertson, to give the punishment explanation for suffering, and in doing so he follows in the footsteps of Job’s friends. I’m pretty sure thats not where I want to stand.

Regardless of why the damage happened in Haiti, the more pressing concern is: how will we help fix it. It seems like at this point they need help rescuing people, and taking care of all the dead bodies. A friend of mine who is a firefighter in California is going over with Samaritans purse this week with a group of firefighters and rescue people to help take care of some of that. Those kinds of experts are probably most needed now, although its likely that there is a need for people to go and help distribute water or food, or just to encourage people– both the Haitians and the aid workers.

I think the questions we always need to ask are:
1. What are unique ways I can help and give? Do I have a lot of freedom to be gone for a week or two? Do I not have time, but money? Its obviously more exciting to be there, but maybe my role is to simply give a small portion towards the relief efforts now, and to go later when more of the basic rebuilding takes place. If I’m not so good with dead bodies, but good at building stuff, I might wait a while to go. Or maybe my money is better spent not on a ticket, but in donation giving money for supplies.

2. Is my help helping? I know missionaries who have said sometimes short-termers are more hassle than help, and we want to avoid that. Make sure you will be a help if you are going, and part of that will be just making sure you are part of a gameplan with someone who knows what is going on there, and who knows how you can help specifically. Going may be the perfect opportunity for you to help in ways many might be fearful to do. If you have that courage, use it, but use it wisely, and make sure you can help.  Therapeutic missions trips are beneficial for those who go, but the real question is are you helping?

3. Not what difference can I make in haiti, but what difference can haiti make in me? Hopefully this disaster will alert us to some of the extreme poverty that we have in our world today. Hurricane Katrina showed us that in N.O. but those pictures were quickly forgotten by most of us. Hopefully what we see in haiti will not just be a momentary interest to distract us from our day to day lives, but it will make us think about what we have in relation to others– not only to make us more thankful for what we have, but more careful with it and more committed to share more of what we have.

While we may not be able to give an answer for why evil happens, we can be a part of the more important response to the problem of suffering– by trying to comfort those who are suffering, to fix what is broken, and rebuild what has fallen.  In this at least, we find our own answer to the problem of suffering.  That is probably more useful than sitting around trying to figure out an academic answer to the problem…

And regardless of Pat’s misplaced explanation of why Haiti is suffering, we can at least agree with him that it is important to keep Haiti in our prayers.

May God have mercy on us all– especially those going to Haiti to help this week, and in the months to come.    -andy

Homeless Evangelicals: Figuring It Out

The last few weeks I’ve been talking to various students from my past who are at different stages of belief or unbelief. I’ve been thinking that we need to get them together and have them each write a chapter on their own journey so far– and each chapter would have to end with something cheesy like, “to be continued…” because most of these people are in the midst of figuring it out. All of them are, actually. All of us are, actually. But there are different stages that we arrive at along the way. Some are still solidly Christian, some have become more liberal, some Catholic, some Orthodox, some Agnostic. What seems similar among most of them is that in their evangelical experience they had a sense of not feeling at home– even if they decided to stay there.

A lot of people I know who are evangelical or near-evangelical or formerly-known-as-evangelical have a similar situation: feeling like they don’t fit in on the conservative side of the spectrum (with the more fundamentalist Christians) and yet not feeling at home with a very liberal strand of Christianity. This sense that one doesn’t quitie fit seems pretty common. I’ve been thinking about this in light of the little I know about the history of the evangelical movement in the US.

Fuller Seminary was a landmark attempt to establish an evangelical institution of higher education comprised of the best and brightest evangelical scholars of the day. It was a bold attempt to maintain the fundamentals of belief, while seriously engaging the culture at large and attempting to go toe-to-toe with the liberal scholars of the day. But it was a struggle—a struggle which I believe mirrors the struggle of any evangelical. George Mardsen reports in his “Reforming Fundamentalism” that a number of faculty at Fuller Theological Seminary underwent shock therapy in the 1950’s for depression. Certainly the reasons for this varied somewhat, but I often imagine that they felt the struggle many young evangelicals feel today—Stuck between the fundamentalism with whom we agree on the basic fundamental doctrines of Christian belief (deity of Christ, resurrection, humanities need for salvation, etc) but not willing to conform to the culture and way of being Christian which the fundamentalists require—and so, feeling disattached from those with whom we share a great deal. But on the other hand, attracted in some ways to the liberals—who on the whole seem kinder, gentler, more refined, and more open in a way which seems genuinely loving and Christlike—but who ultimately ignore or reject doctrines which we continue to think essential—we find no shelter with them either. We feel some kinship with both the left and the right, but find that both are not our home. That homelessness leads to a quiet despair that one may have to make it alone, but that is depressing. Whether or not the faculty felt this exactly, they certainly found themselves often being criticized from the fundamentalists for compromising the gospel for the sake of popularity by, for example, embracing Billy Graham and his evangelism crusades. On the other hand, try as they might to gain some respect among the liberals, they were usually still just considered a slightly brighter cousin of the hopelessly backwards fundamentalists.

Among the faculty fighting this struggle was the second president Ed Carnell, a remarkable thinker and Evangelical spokesman who eventually died a tragic death from a sleeping pill overdose in 1967. Carnell wrote books on Apologetics, Television, Reinhold Niebuhr, and Soren Kierkegaard, as well as many articles and a book criticizing fundamentalism as too narrow and legalistic while maintaining his own commitment to orthodoxy. As an evangelical, Carnell wanted to help Christians who held to the fundamentals of Christian belief while progressing beyond the narrow fundamentalists, who tended to circle the wagons to protect the truth through separatism and isolation from culture. Carnell interacted with liberal and ecumenical theologians and groups, in an attempt to engage culture with the Gospel. This put him in a difficult position, as the fundamentalists felt he was selling out the gospel for the sake of cultural acceptance, and the liberals considered him to be merely a modified fundamentalist in many respects. In short, he got shot at from both sides. This, I think, is the situation many evangelicals find themselves in today—unable to find a home—feeling disattached from what they were raised in, yet not being at home in the liberalism which calls them away from their theological moorings.

But now it is 2010, and we live in a postmodern world. Ed Carnel died more than 40 years ago, and a lot has changed. “As Ignazio Ramonet has calculated, during the last thirty years more information has been produced in the world than during the previous 5,000 years, while ‘a single copy of the Sunday edition of the New York Times contains more information than a cultivated person in the eighteenth century would consume during a lifetime.” (CL, 39) The rate of information we have to sift through decipher and assess is astronomical and we feel adrift with too much information, too many options, and too little direction. Things are changing so quickly that there is little time to assess what is happening.

This postmodern world is a situation which Zygumunt Bauman has described as ‘liquid modern’. In a liquid modern world change is the norm, and little is solid and lasting. We find ourselves groping in the dark more than ever as paradigms and norms change so fast we cannot keep up. Politically the old centers and alignments of power are shifting, culturally our unity and values have come apart, socio-economically the poor and rich have wildly divergent worldviews and goals, while everyone seems to be more concerned with making it, holding on, trying to keep one’s head above water. Our financial world has collapsed and is remaking itself, our educational system is in tatters, those companies which were once foundational to the economy have either been outsourced overseas, radically transformed beyond recognition, or are gone. Being ignorant of the past or being able to quickly forget it are assets in this liquid modern world where we must perpetually adapt.

A key component to liquid modernity is a general de-centering. Bauman describes the liquid modern world as one where “The centrality of the center has been decomposed, and links between intimately connected spheres of authority have been broken, perhaps irreparably.”(EC, 11) We will never have another band with widespread appeal like the Beatles—not in a culture where independent labels proliferate, anyone with a computer and relatively inexpensive equipment can produce an album, and anyone can put their own music and video up on youtube for free. Anyone can publish their own thoughts continuously on the internet through a blog, or through their phone via twitter. No one controls this dissemination of information, and the traditional clearing houses of information and power have been bypassed.

The liquid modern situation eludes our boundaries and definitions, because it is so fluid: “As we try desperately to grasp the dynamics of planetary affairs today, old and hard-dying habit of organizing the balance of power with the help of such conceptual tools as center and periphery, hierarchy , and superiority and inferiority serves more as a handicap than, as before, an asset; more as blinders than as searchlights. (EC, 12)

Neither Ed Carnell nor Fuller were the beginning of evangelicalism, but they were at the forefront of a powerful movement by which evangelicals gained ground culturally, academically, politically, and even in the market. A brief sketch would start with the establishment of Fuller and the parallel rise to prominence of various colleges and seminaries which evolved from fundamentalism to evangelicalism including Wheaton, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Gordon Conwell, Biola, Westmont, Taylor, Bethel, and the many others evangelicals know today. Billy Graham popularized evangelicalism with mass appeal, and Christianity today helped give it a voice. On secular campuses groups like Navigators, Intervarsity, and Campus Crusade worked to help thousands of searching students to find and live out their faith. World vision and other such organizations gave it some powerful means of reaching worldwide with social justice mission. Soujourners and other more left-leaning evangelicals also appeared. Television ministers such as Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell and others gave evangelicals a strong presence into households everywhere through the television, and they built up institutions and colleges of their own. 1976 was the year of the evangelical, with all 3 presidential candidates—Ford, Reagan and Carter—all claiming to be ‘born again’. That on the heels of Chuck Colson’s remarkable and very public conversion after his jailtime for his part in Watergate set some of the groundwork for the evangelical popular appear which gave rise to the Moral Majority project under the leadership of Jerry Falwell, the goal of which was to influence political decision making and reestablish the United States as a more Christian nation. Reagan was elected with help of evangelicals, as was the senior Bush and the younger Bush, who many evangelicals lauded for claiming that his favorite philosopher was Jesus. In the 1980s Christian publishing houses flourished, and evangelicals began to appear in many institutions of higher education as professors—particularly in philosophy departments– and so evangelicals seemed to have accomplished much in their broad goal to engage culture and bring Christianity into the world in relevant and concrete ways—politically, academically, popularly and with many social justice missions programs. Evangelicalism seemed to be at a peak towards the end of the 20th century.

Like I said before, it is now 2010. In his most recent book David Wells, noted Evangelical theologian of the last 40 years, suggests that it may well be time to abandon the term evangelical altogether: “Despite its honorable pedigree, despite its many outstanding leaders both past and some in the present, and despite the many genuine and upright believers who still think of themselves as evangelical, it may now have to be abandoned.” (Wells, “Courage to Be Protestant” p.19) Well has his reasons why he wants to discard the term—particularly because he doesn’t want to be associated with emergent churches or market-church groups (willowcreek, saddleback et al)

But there is a sense among many of us that there is a real crisis of identity for evangelicalism as we go into this new century. It is of course ironic that after all the success of the last 60 years evangelicalism as a coherent movement may be breaking apart into a diaspora of somewhat akin somewhat disparate units, dissolving in some sense—not to anhilation, but to a dis-integration which will maybe bring about a variety of new transformations and inaugural projects and beginnings. The end of Evangelicalism with a capital E may lead to various multifarious offshoots. But this isn’t something that will happen. This is something that is happening. Evangelicalism is no longer what it was. It is something different—somethings different–its children are varied.

There are still plenty of evangelicals of the Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson type attending Bob Jones and Liberty University, among others. A lot of them are found in the south. There is an exploding group of adamant Calvinists who whether they follow the more asture John Piper or John McCarther, or the formerly-cussing-pastor of the hipper younger beer drinking Calvinists, Mark Driscoll, they have a cause, a mission, and a lot of blogs. There are divergent evangelicals whose orthodoxy is questioned, such as Clark Pinnock, Greg Boyd and other open theists, and then the emergent church crowd which often won’t use the term evangelical such as Brian McClaren, Rob Bell, and others. There are of course the TV evangelists who have their own culture altogether. Then there are the Anglican evangelicals, such as JI Packer and John Stott, who have their own idiosyncrasies. We can’t forget the black evangelicals, and the latino evangelicals, and then there are the Korean evangelicals—each of which have their own subcultures and particulars. As a whole evangelicals are a motley crew of variety, many of whom wouldn’t want to be in the same building much less the same room with one of the others. To see this as a unified movement is difficult.

This lack of identity of the movement makes it more challenging to identify oneself as a member of the group. What is the group? This is a question not easy or even possible to answer perhaps…

The sky is not falling. There are more interesting and motivated thoughtful young Christians honestly struggling to figure things out and to make an impact on the world than ever. Things are not as easy or as clear as they may have seemed in the past, but that provides opportunity (and danger) to revisit one’s beliefs and think things through. Often when we reevaluate our position and thoughtfully examine it we end up better off than mindlessly doing what we were doing up to that point. I am not always excited about where my friends and former students end up in their thinking, but I am most of all happy that they are thinking and I trust that honest thinking will bring them towards truth.

May God have mercy on us all. Andy Gustafson

All Christians Believe in Predestination

Each week at Simple Free we read some various passages of Scripture which we get from the Church Lectionary (see link at bottom) that many churches worldwide use. (It gives you a psalm, an Old Testament passage and two New Testament passages to read for each day– we put ours up on the site under ‘passages’). Anyway, our passage from the NT letter last night was from Ephesians 1:3-6 which mentions predestination:

3Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. 4For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.” (Eph 1:3-6)

We talked about a number of things in this passage, but no one mentioned predestination– I think people were being polite, because we have people who are more Calivinistic– believing that God selected only a few to be saved before time began– and those who believe God wants all to be saved, and that free will plays a role– i.e.– that each person has a chance to choose Christ. My goal in this blogpost is to try to explain both sides, particularly the free-will explanation of this passage. But I want it to be clear that I think that the Calvinist/Reformed position has a strong argument and a tight systematic theology as well. I just personally don’t subscribe to it.

So in our group, I said, “well its obvious that a Christian has to believe in predestination, because its written right here, right?” which got a rise out of some in the group. And its true– every Christian has to believe in predestination if they accept the Bible. But the question then is: what is predestined, and who is predestined. Is individual salvation predestined, or is a salvation option for many predestined? Are Christians predestined, or is the plan of sending Christ to earth predestined? Those are the key questions here.

I think one of the best preachers on the Calvinist/Reformed view that a select few are predestined is John Piper. Here is the sermon if you want to read it or listen to it: http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/Sermons/ByScripture/3/791_God_Has_Chosen_Us_in_Him_Before_the_Foundation_of_the_Earth/

Piper says of verse 4 (For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.):

“Your salvation did not begin with your choice to believe in Christ—a choice which was real and necessary. Your salvation began before the creation of the universe when God planned the history of redemption, ordained the death and the resurrection of his Son, and chose you to be his own through Christ.”

The focus of Piper is that God in his power chose Christians not because they are good or beautiful, but just to glorify himself by choosing weak things and transforming them into his own. This is a mystery, and there is no human basis for this chosing– it is purely God’s sovereign will. So Christians can be assured that no matter what they do they will always be chosen because it wasn’t based on what they did in the first place.

Now someone like myself who believes in a less reformed (more arminian) free will position can read this passage as follows:

God planned to send Christ to die and provide salvation even before he created Adam. Paul is here pointing out to Christians that they are part of this plan which originated before time began. Their salvation comes through Christ– that Christ would come and provide salvation was part of the plan all along. God knew what he was doing, is faithful, and provides. He is sovereign over all things. This predestined plan is now obvious, although it was not clear how God would fulfill his promise to Abraham– but now we know that was all about Christ coming, etc. (v9) So without this plan of salvation, planned from the beginning of time, we’d be in trouble. Christ is the means of our reconnecting back to God.

So what is the main difference or sticking point between the calvinist/reformed view and the free-will/arminian view? Both believe in God’s sovereign power, both believe that this plan was made before time, both believe that those who are saved are predestined to be children of God. But Piper believes that only certain people were chosen from the beginning of time, and so, while everyone ‘makes a choice’ to follow or not follow Christ, most people are chosen (at least by default) to make the choice to not follow Christ, while only a few are chosen to make the choice to follow Christ. The free-will believer says that what was predestined here was that Christ would come and offer salvation– this is not a limitation, but rather a focus on how Christ is the culmination of God’s sovereign plan to offer redemption to humanity through his Son. Does that mean everyone chooses Christ? No. Does it mean everyone is saved? I don’t think that follows necessarily. It does seem to mean that everyone gets a shot at opting into ‘the plan’.

So there are obviously some questions to deal with if you hold this free will position. Every position has its questions.

First, doesn’t the bible say God hardened Pharohs heart, and other people too? And if so, doesn’t that mean some people don’t get a chance? My answer: I don’t think it means that. A. Pharoh may have had plenty of chances before God ‘hardened his heart.’ B. Even if God does that in remarkable cases in the Bible, those might be exceptions, not the norm.

Problem 2: If people have to choose Christ, doesn’t that mean that only humble people or smart people will be saved? Doesn’t that mean salvation depends on us somehow and not just God? My answer: Well, I think our free will does play some role, and thats why we are held responsible. Later in Ephesians 1 Paul is praying that the believers will see the power they have to live redeemed lives in Christ. The power is there and available, but they still have to make a choice, and I think this resonates with us– living a Godly life does take work, and determination, and effort– and none of that can work without the Grace of God working powerfully in us. So its not an either-or. I mean, if God wanted to completely take me over and make me do all the right things He could– no doubt. But thats not how God seems to operate in the world. And Scripture calls us again and again to repent and follow God. He constantly calls on the Israelites to do that (the chosen people of God) and some do, and some don’t (and get killed). I think his plan for the Israelites is a mini-version of his plan for humanity. We are all chosen now, in Christ, but only some of us will be faithful– a small remnant (like Israel, again). That one was of the chosen people of God in the OT did not automatically mean God would make everything work out– it was still a cooperative relationship.

3. But do all people have a chance at this salvation plan really? Don’t a lot of people live and die without knowing anything about this plan? My answer: A. It sure seems like lots of people never hear of Christ, so aren’t in on the plan. How God deals with them is unclear. Here are some options: 1. They are not saved. 2. They are judged according to how they responded to what they did know (Rom 3:25 might help, but thats another topic) 3. Other options: they are anhilated (don’t exist anymore); they are reincarnated; they do get a chance after death; ‘easier’ level of punishment (think Dante’s inferno here). (I’m not a fan of these last positions)

4. Doesn’t us having free will make God less sovereign? Doesn’t that make God unable in some ways, since he isn’t in total control if some of this stuff is up to us? My answer: Being in control and causing everything are different issues. To me being sovereign means having the power to intervene, not causing everything to happen. A king is sovereign if he can at any time make happen what he wants to make happen. IF God wills that people have freedom, and deems that more important than what I might think is a more perfect plan– then what I probably need to do is trust God more. It seems obvious that God has made us free, and has provided Grace to help enable us to live redeemed sanctified lives.

5. So doesn’t this focus on freedom take away from the importance of Christ’s work on the Cross and the Grace of God? My answer: No. None of this is possible without Christ’s work on the Cross both to reconcile me to God and to empower us to live resurrected lives. Christ is the necessary condition for any of this. None of this starts or happens without Christ and the preordination of the plan of salvation.

6. Doesn’t this mean that I can thwart God’s predestined plan though? My answer: I guess I think here of the man who put on a feast and invited all his friends and no one came– he still had the party. That couldn’t be thwarted. Some missed out, but that wasn’t his doing. He chose those on the street to come– the lowly. This reminds me of Christ who generally couldn’t get much respect among the respected and powerful– he mostly got followers who were despised and rejected– prostitutes, fishermen, tax gatherers. Did he call them? Yes. Did they chose to follow? Yes. Did he call others who didn’t follow him? Yes. (Rich young man)

Does God call people to himself who don’t follow Him? Yes– the Israelites did it all the time, and I don’t think that when God goes global and makes relationship with him through Christ available to all (not just Israelites) that he has less people rejecting his call. But that doesn’t take away from his sovereignty.

I hope this attempt is fruitful to you. After we talked about the Calvinist position on this verse, one person at Simple Free last night said that while they didn’t hold that view (they hold the free will position) that it helped to talk through how the Calvinist read the passage, and he could see the beauty in that view. He wasn’t convinced– but on some of these issues its at least helpful to glimpse the reasoning and value of positions other than your own, even if at the end of the day you disagree. I hope that whether you agree with my position or not, that this helps you personally think more about this issue and come to an understanding of it.

May God have mercy on us all.
–Andy Gustafson

PS: for those of you who don’t like theological debate stuff, sorry 🙂

For more reading on this sort of debate in Christianity you might want to look at these books:

Calvinism:
The Five Dilemmas of Calvinism – Craig R. Brown
Why I Am Not an Arminian by Robert A. Peterson

Arminianism:
Arminian Theology: Myths And Realities – Roger E. Olson
Grace, Faith, Free Will – Robert E. Picirilli

Both Sides:
Debating Calvinism: 5 Points, 2 Views (White, Hunt)

Lectionary Link:
lectionary.library.vanderbilt.edu/lections.php?year=C&season=Epiphany<a