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Sunday, October 17, 2010

Opinions about truth

I remember a cartoon where two teen-agers are sprawled on the floor with an open Bible in front of them and pencils in hand. Apparently the parent just entered the room, and the kids explain, "We already know what we believe on the subject, but we are looking for proof texts." Isn't that the trouble with far too much of our Christian knowledge? It's a tad blatant in these kids. We adults have learned to be much more subtle.

I can recall a minister who was strong on man's autonomous free will, being confronted with Romans 9 simply said, "Oh that's a Presbyterian text."

And speaking of predestination, I can say I have found that doctrine relatively easy to prove from Scripture, and I have used it to beat fellow Christians over the head for the fun of proving them wrong. I know I have a gut reaction to revival hymns like "Softly and Tenderly" when it says, "Why should we tarry when Jesus is pleading, Pleading for you and for me?" Jesus is the sovereign Lord. He is the God who has predestined our coming to Himself (John 6:37).

And yet I still believe it is better to let Scripture modify my theology rather than have my theology modify Scripture. Of course there is an important place for the analogy of Scripture to help us understand any isolated text. If we are reading a text that seems to flatly contradict a well documented truth of Scripture, we need to go back and read it again, asking God to show us how we fouled up the exegesis.

I guess what I have in mind is the idea of the doctrine of predestination fostering in me the notion that Jesus does not plead with sinners to come home. When I first grasped the doctrine as biblical, my concept of God briefly shifted from a loving, caring God to something akin to a giant cosmic computer, cold and calculating. A little more reading of the Bible helped me see that our God does indeed have everything planned, and that nothing can happen outside of that plan. This is a good thing. But the Bible also shows God with a loving heart, making an emotional plea for sinners to repent. "Cast away from you all your transgressions which you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! For why will you die, O house of Israel?" (Ezekiel 18:31) And we are cast in the role of Jesus pleading when we are told, "Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were entreating through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God." (II Corinthians 5:20) Dear friend, there is emotion in that text and I for one do not want to forget it. God does care, and He does beg sinners to be reconciled to Him.

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