Archive for Soteriology

Who then can be saved?

Posted in Soteriology, The gospel with tags on July 3, 2010 by hoffnate

There is a soteriological controversy that has been present for quite some time: Do men choose God or does God choose men? This conversation, in essence, is another way of framing the classic Calvinism/Arminianism debate which is so popular in churches today. Due to the volatile nature of the topic many well-intentioned believers have abandoned the conversation all together, hoping to preserve unity in the church and refusing to allow themselves to be bogged down by the “nitty gritty” details of the faith. Unfortunately, such abandonment is itself an abuse and does not serve the Christian community well. Rather than propagating abuses it is important for Christians to learn civility when discussing theological topics because theology is worth discussion not abandonment. In fact discussing what we believe to be true about God is the most important thing we can do as what we believe determines the way we live. Conversely, the way we live is probably the best indication of what we believe, and here lies the crux of the matter. If there is a connection between what we believe and what we do then the implications of what we believe become extremely important. But how many of us spend time thinking through these implications, taking what we believe from the level of doctrine to that of practice? It is an important exercise and one that I would like to partake in today.

Yesterday I witnessed something truly remarkable. I saw the praises of God on the lips of the mentally handicapped. To see the joy, the love, and (dare I say) the faith of this young man was extraordinary. But as the evening wore on I found myself wondering, “Does this man’s inability exclude him from the Kingdom of God?” His handicap certainly does not exempt him from the need for salvation. As a member of the human race he was born condemned in Adam. As a member of the human race he was born completely depraved, having both a sin nature and his share of sinful deeds. Therefore at birth he existed as an enemy of God and in need of grace. But is he able to receive God’s grace? Having been on both sides of the Calvinism/Arminianism debate I can tell you that no one from either side would say that the man’s handicap necessarily excludes him from the Kingdom. But what are the implications of each belief system? If a component of the salvation process is an active choice on the part of the individual then one’s reception of God’s grace would rest on his ability to make this cognitive decision. Therefore a Christian holding to choice must either (1) believe that the salvation of the mentally handicapped is dependent upon the extent of the handicap, or (2) that such people fall under an “exception” clause and benefit from a “special” act of grace. If, however, the alternative view is held, that salvation is an act of God’s choice, then there are no barriers to who may enter the Kingdom, for one’s salvation rests upon God’s incomparable ability rather than on man’s limited ability.

What we believe really does matter. What we believe really does have broad implications and these implication are worth our consideration. It is my prayer that God may be glorified as His people seek to understand His ways in order that they might grow in faith and therefore in life. When I enter the Kingdom of God I think I’m going to be quite surprised at who I find. Perhaps then I’ll have a better understanding of the matchless and unending grace of God.

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