Cross Points 6.11.21

You Might be a Calvinist if...

If you’re not “into” theology, you may ask: what is a Calvinist?  John Calvin was a principle figure in the Reformation Movement of the 1500’s.  Located in Geneva, Switzerland, he was a biblical scholar who taught on many topics of scripture.  Most Bible believing people would agree with him on many issues.  But the term “Calvinist” usually refers to believing, as he did, that God predestined everything to happen just as it does.  This includes predestining some people to heaven, and all others to hell.  According to many who hold to this teaching, we have no real say in the process.  All our decisions and actions fall into this predetermined “plan” of God and the best we can do is seek to figure out what his plan is and get in line with it.  That statement itself is contradictory (if we have no say, how can we figure it out and make changes?), but that’s the general line of thought. In the words of the Calvinistic Westminster Confession, God “freely and unchangeably ordained whatsoever comes to pass.”

You’ve possibly heard our Pastor Jeff Hinson mention in sermons that we of Christian Church thinking tend to be Arminian, in that Arminius taught that salvation was conditioned on faith, not God’s pre-choosing us.  He taught that God has foreknowledge, so he knows things ahead, but he doesn’t force them on people.  We have free-will and must choose whether to follow Christ.  I agree with that and would suspect that you do too.  On the surface, at least.  But let’s dig below the surface.

Very often I’ve heard people say, maybe you’ve said such things yourself, “That happened for a reason, we just need to get in line with God’s plan.”  Or, “Everything happens for a reason.”  Or, “I just need to figure out what God’s plan for my life is.”  Have you heard such words?  Have you said them?

What do they, what do you mean by that?  What is this “plan” that we need to figure out, to get in line with, to align our lives with?  Does God have such a plan?  Well, in one sense, yes, he does.  His plan is that we discover who Jesus is, respond in faith to him, then follow him as disciples.  His plan for the church is that we worship him together, that we shepherd his flock of people, and that we preach the gospel of Jesus to our community.  But we choose initially, and once those things are in place, the specifics are usually left up to us.  God depends on us to use the brain he’s given us to learn and make good decisions, constantly examining his Word seeking to be in line with his teaching (who will be on staff, how will we teach, when will Sunday services be held, etc.).  Where he provides specific instructions in scripture, we comply, and where he does not, we make God-honoring decisions.  He depends on individuals to do the same, making choices about spouse and jobs and daily lifestyle based on the values and morals we find in scripture as we expose ourselves to it regularly.  That’s the plan.

What about people like Abraham, or like Paul in the New Testament, didn’t God call them to a special purpose?  Yes, he did.  But as you read the Bible you find that is not routine, such calling is rare.  Many people who lived when they did, received no such call.  There can be some few called to special ministry today, and all of us are called to ministry in some way as we live our lives (to live morally, to serve, to share our faith), but most do not receive a special call that falls into some unique plan God has for each individual.

To say, “God has a specific person he wants to be our minister, we just need to pray and be patient until he reveals who it is,” borders on Calvinism.  Realistically, we may have a variety of ministerial choices, and I think God simply asks that we honor him in the choice we make.  If we make a bad choice, we’ll face the consequences.  When we make a bad choice, was that God’s plan?  Certainly not.  To say, “God has a job he wants for me, or a spouse he wants for me,” borders on Calvinism.  We have choices to make on such things, and again I think God simply asks that we honor him in the choice we make.  Once more, when we don’t, we face the consequences.

God has not predetermined everything and taken away our ability to choose.  He has predetermined a path to salvation and righteous living through Jesus.  We need to determine if we’ll get on board.
Cross Point: “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps” (Prov. 16:9).  It is a combination of our choices while determining if we will seek God’s path, which will establish our steps.
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