Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Problem with the Church of Christ leadership

Church of Christ theology misunderstands the role grace plays in salvation, seeing grace as a kind of necessary precursor to good works. The situation may be compared to a man needing to clean out his gutters. On his own he has no chance of getting the job done, but if someone were to show him grace and hand him a ladder, he would be able to climb up and improve his situation.

For the Church of Christ salvation begins with the grace of God forgiving you of your sins and continues on in the form of you keeping your salvation through good works. But it doesn't take long until the question comes, "Which good works?" The elder board answers, "All the good works necessary for salvation. You must avoid sin and attend church. You should also believe the same things as us."

This unity is only skin deep however, for while all the elders agree you need to keep your salvation each one has their own belief of which good works matters most for doing so. Invariably the member who isn't as practiced at doing good fails to keep the list and must be brought up for discipline. Or situations arise that breed arguments (like what color will the carpets be), and since these arguments pertain directly to good works, and good works pertain directly to salvation, the arguments grow like cancer until they split the church. Or the members quietly become fed up with being targeted and leave, not being able to put their finger on what's wrong, only knowing that they're unhappy.

This doesn't mean the elders are evil, only that they're people trapped by the consequences of a graceless theology.

Indeed, the very choice of elders is plagued by gracelessness. Who should be appointed as elders to help the church keep the rules? The men best able to keep them themselves of course. Men who are adept at not showing sin take up the job of purging the congregation of their sins so that they can be saved. This sacrificial duty is a heavy burden, but it also comes with the benefit of never having to face your own graceless presuppositions since you're busy staring into your brothers eye for debris. The paid ministry staff (particularly preachers) offer no solution to the problem either. In a religion where self discipline, dedication, and abstinence are of primary importance who is more virtuous than the man who's dedicated his whole life to preaching?

From top to bottom then the leadership is touched by the fundamental problem of not knowing how salvation works, which in turn multiplies fear. There's the fear of not being good enough for heaven, fear of being judged harsher as a teacher, fear of letting others slip away. The worst thing that can happen to a father is to see their children abandon the faith and the elders have to watch it happen over and over again. The philosophy doesn't work, so neither do the churches.

But the good news is that God has made it evident that the system doesn't work so that we would abandon that erroneous premise of faith-plus-works and trust in His grace alone. He pursues us (to correct us) and is continually calling us to heed the instructions of Paul in Gal 3:3.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Why Free Choice passages?

Free moral agency is a necessary thing for us to have as God's greatest creation, because He wants us to experience the unique delight that comes only from choosing Him. He has set up a large variety of pleasures in this world, everything from eating, to dancing, to sitting quietly, to actuating our desires, and then arranges all of them so that they find their fulfillment in Him. Without a will we cannot experience the joy of sanctified choosing, but with a properly oriented will we gain access to a pleasure otherwise impossible to attain.
We give Him the use of our wills completely, without reservation, and He gives them back to us full of life. 

Monday, August 11, 2008

Calvinism and the Gospel

For the last year or so I have been full of energy to understand in Scripture those topics that I've unintentionally overlooked before, and boy, there's a lot of them. I'm starting this blog in order to sort out and think through those doctrines I once thought intolerable--doctrines like original sin, election, and the perserverace of the saints. Calvinism in so many words, as I have recently embraced a label my upbringing regards as evil. But for myself I find Calvinism to be something more like what Spurgeon said, 
"I have my own private opinion that there is no such thing as preaching Christ and Him crucified, unless we preach what nowadays is called Calvinism. It is a nickname to call it Calvinism; Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else. I do not believe we can preach the gospel, if we do not preach justification by faith, without works; nor unless we preach the sovereignty of God in His dispensation of grace; nor unless we exalt the electing, unchangeable, eternal, immutable, conquering love of Jehovah; nor do I think we can preach the gospel, unless we base it upon the special and particular redemption of His elect and chosen people which Christ wrought out upon the cross; nor can I comprehend a gospel which lets saints fall away after they are called"
Much to my great surprise I have found that Calvinism is not some empty or cold philosophy that constrains and kills, but the living grace of God. Once I became convinced God was going to ensure my salvation I then realized it didn't make sense that He would keep me unless He had always intended to keep me safe. And after that I realized that He had arranged the conditions that my heart until it had no other answer but Him, and that I was living through the outworking of a great and marvelous plan set in motion long ago. And I strongly suspect that I have much more to learn.

Monday, August 4, 2008

No free will in heaven

We must be careful how we define "free will" so that we don't fall into any obvious blunders. If we define free will as "the freedom to choose the opposite action, or select from any number of actions" then we're setting ourselves up for failure by saying there's no freedom in heaven, because after God removes our ability to sin we'll be completely unable to choose sin. And since we can no longer choose the opposite and choose sin, it must be the case that God has stripped us of our free will.
But this is clearly wrong. After glorification we will be free--truly free--and yet not mindless automatons. 

So whatever "free will" means, it cannot shelter sin, even tacitly.  

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