What is Sin? What is God’s Plan? What does Repentance mean? What are the Commandments of Christ? These are powerful questions in the Christian Church and many Christians have different answers about this and everyone thinks their own view is right. I’m no different, but I am willing to hear others ideas and opinions, to study the Bible, and to prayerfully consider these things.
I attended a great Baptist Church last Sunday with my parents to hear an evangelist speak, and while I don’t disagree with the message he taught, I do disagree with one of this premises, but not his conclusion. In a nutshell, here is what he said, A tragedy happened in his family and “this was a test from God to prepare me to be able to minister to others about what happened.” He quoted Romans 5:3 to 5: 5: “And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” He said it was God’s plan for his brother to die so he could gain endurance, character, and hope and stated it all happened for God’s Glory. So what part of that testimony did I take exception to?
Let me try to explain. The Baptist churches come from the Reformed and Calvinistic movements of the last few centuries. These basically believe that God has a plan for everything that happens, and everything that happens does so according to his divine will. Taken to the extreme, as God is eternal, this means he already knows who will accept him, and who will not, which gets into the ideas of Predestination, that is the doctrine that all events have been willed by God. John Calvin interpreted this to mean that God has chosen “eternal damnation for some people and salvation for others.” They also teach the absolute sovereignty of God in all things. The March 12, Issue of Time Magazine had an article called “10 Ideas Changing the World Right Now.”
In this article the writer states, “Calvinism is back….[It] is Evangelicalism’s latest success story, complete with an utterly sovereign and micromanaging deity, sinful and puny humanity, and the combination’s logical consequence, predestination: the belief that before time’s dawn, God decided whom he would save (or not), unaffected by any subsequent human action or decision….; it offers a rock-steady deity who orchestrates absolutely everything, including illness (or home foreclosure!), by a logic we may not understand but don’t have to second guess. Our satisfaction-and our purpose- is fulfilled simply by “glorifying” him.”
I do not apologize for being a Wesleyan in my understanding of the Bible. We don’t believe that God is “micromanaging” the planet or our individual choices. In the age-old argument or Predestination or Free Will, I fall on the side of Free Will. My understanding is that God desires a relationship with each of us, in fact Jesus states that the greatest commandment is to love God with all our heart and all our mind, and second to his is to love all mankind. God wants us to choose Him! Yes, he is eternal, and yes he knows everything that is going to happen, and yes he can and occasionally does take a direct hand in performing miracles. But does God choose to make a child suffer from retardation, cancer, or autism? I don’t believe so.
If there is no choice, and all is set, then why give humanity a choice at all? Why not just create automatons to worship him all the time. It is the choice that matters. Humanity matters so much to God that he took human form and died on a cross to repair the broken relationship man has to God. It is not what man does, but what God does that is important in overcoming Sin. All we have to do is accept His free grace.
According to the Reformed Churches’ line of thinking all suffering comes from God. Again, I disagree. I believe we live in a fallen state, we each sin, and we will all stand before God with unrepented sins, but these sins are forgiven as Christ was the sacrifice to redeem us of all our sins. All we have to do is accept him and the gift of Grace he offers to everyone. I do believe the Holy Spirit, the comforter, can use out fallen states, our difficulties, our tragedies, and provide us with understanding, endurance, character building, and hope in any situation we face. This is why bad things happen to good people. It is the fallen world we live in, our own sinful natures, and the choices we make. It is our choice. Therefore I disagree with the preacher’s premise, but not his conclusion.
I will be posting more about Sin, Repentance, and God’s plan soon. Please do not be offended by my views. I realize I am a student in the John Wesley tradition, and I do not apologize for that. We must all seek God with “fear and trembling.” We must always seek, study, and pray for understanding. My parents go to a wonderful Baptist church full of wonderful, Christian people. I just disagree with their basic concepts of God’s Plan, though it is all for His glory.