First, I’m not writing as an apologist of the opposition trying to convince you my position is more tenable. I’m simply writing to express my position. This is what makes sense to me. This is my best attempt to embrace the beauty of the character of God and the meaning of being created in the image of the Creator.
Like I said last Friday, I certainly believe in the total depravity of humans, although I never really use those words, because they have been co-opted by Calvinism and a more far-reaching definition is usually implied. I don’t believe total depravity implies or necessitates total evil or the total inability to respond to God’s love and mercy by faith.
In spite of being “spiritually dead and helpless”, all humans are special, loved, possessors of dignity and worth, and most importantly, redeemable.
This is critical. Because of this belief, these are my necessary and inevitable responses to the other four core tenets of Calvinism (TULIP):
T – Total Depravity (but not total inability to respond to God).
U – Unconditional Election. I reject this belief completely. God loves everyone equally and desires that all people live the life He designed for us to live. I don’t believe that God arbitrarily assigned “a few” to eternity in heaven and “the masses” to eternal, unending torment. I do not believe that God destined some to live for his honor and created all the others to live for evil, with no hope of redemption. For me, this is not consistent with character of God revealed in the Bible (in spite of the apparent need for continual justice and violence in the OT).
L – Limited Atonement. I believe his atonement, just like his love and mercy, is universal and not limited. Christ died equally for all people, and paid the ultimate price that made salvation possible for all, but guaranteed it to none. I believe when God’s word says, “…whosoever believes in Me will have eternal life”, I actually think He meant that.
I – Irresistible Grace. Because of my belief in the God-given freedom of the human will…and because I do not accept the premise of arbitrary and unconditional election, I most surely believe that God’s overtures of love and mercy to his children can be resisted (rejected). The potential to receive or reject His grace is always present. I do not see God as the Cosmic Puppet Master who pulls strings to make us love Him…any more than I believe He pulls the strings to make evil and disaster happen. I believe that is the work of Satan and the presence of evil in a broken, but redeemable, world.
P – Perseverance of the Saints. This is most certainly the logical and understandable conclusion to Calvinist theology. If God wants you saved, you are saved. Period. You may not know it, you may not act like it, you may never experience the life Jesus died to give you, but you will make it to heaven. No matter what. But I do not hold to this belief. I believe that God’s grace and human faith work in tandem together. They are the two sides of the same coin. I believe that is the reality we see on every page of Scripture.
This is my logical and understandable conclusion: I live every day with confidence, boldness and assurance that my salvation is secure, because I trust God at his word and by faith, I believe that Jesus rose from the dead. I experience the reality and presence of a life in the Spirit, as the Apostle Paul writes in Romans 5-8. I hold on to his promises and the evidence of the fruit of the Spirit is in, and around, every part of my life. But I can never be tethered to this life of faith against my will.
As freely as I have received the gift of grace and tasted the fruit of a new life, I can just as freely turn my back. That’s how love is.
In my next post, I’ll give Scripture references that reflect my position, if you wish to do some further study and comparison.