Monday, December 30, 2013

An observation on cartoons

An observation:  The parents of "Dora the Explorer" are some of the most irresponsible adults in all of cartoon history.

Here their daughter is, talking to animals, including a monkey, a bull, and a squirrel, and they don't even blink an eye.  Daily, it seems, she is getting into dangerous situations, such as jumping over sharks in a boat, climbing a mountain, running from a dragon, and riding on a train with missing parts in the tracks.  In all of these situations she has nothing more than a backpack and a map along with some various friends to help her get through them.  Her parents are apparently too busy having tea and biscuits to be aware of the danger their daughter is engaged in.

At the same time, the cause of much of these problems happens to be a fox who steals her belongings and then endangers her life by placing the things he steals in hard to reach places.  The police are apparently unheard of in this world and theft is so common that children are left to their own devices in getting their belongings back.  Child endangerment and reckless behavior are the flavor of the day.

In such a world, any sane parent would never let their child go unmonitored outside for a minute.  Ever.  Yet Dora's parents not only allow it, but in one episode seem to encourage it by asking her tell the "funny" story of the time they had to chase after babies who were helplessly caught in run-away strollers and ended up right next to a volcano.  Of course the volcano erupted with a harmless result, but that is hardly reassuring when you consider that the whole family was unable to catch up to their run away strollers, and on more than one occasion the babies went through situations that would normally be considered life threatening.  Once again this illustrates the gross irresponsibility of Dora's parents, along with their callousness in that they thought it was a "funny" story.

Of course no child looks at cartoons in this way, but upon consideration I have to say that Dora's parents are horribly scary people.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Arminianism and Calvinism: Part 3

It's been three weeks since I've been able to get back to this.  I was hoping to do a post a week, but it's been a crazy three weeks.  So I', going to try and wrap things up this week with one last post.  It may be longer than normal, but I'd like to really finish addressing these two systems, at least in their classical positions, and sum up where I stand on the issue.

I already noted that there are only a few areas where these two positions differ.  First of all they disagree as to whether or not one can resist the Holy Spirit.  The second area they disagree is what the term "election" means.  The Calvinist says that the elect are those whom God has chosen in his will from eternity past.  That means that "before" creation (I put "before" in quotations because there was no time before "in the beginning") God had already determined whom he would save based on his sovereign determination to call them to himself.  The Arminian argues that the elect are those who have responded in faith to the call of God.  Thus for the Arminian the elect are only "elect" once they have believed and responded, for the Calvinist the elect are always the "elect" and always have been, so that if a man is going to accept Christ at 40 he is one of the elect at 20.

What we can say with confidence is that the term "elect" in Scripture clearly refers to those who have been saved and are found clean in God's sight through the blood of Christ.  An example we could look to would be Mark 13:20 wherein we read, "But for the sake of his elect, whom he chose, he shortened the days." (ESV)  Also in Matthew 24:31 where we read that Christ will send his angels and gather "his elect" from all the earth.  So the term "elect" is biblical and is in reference to those who are saved by the gracious work of Christ.

But, what is the basis for election?  According to Romans 9:10-12 we see the following, "And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, though they were not born yet and had done nothing either good or bad-- in order that God's purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls-- she was told, 'The older will serve the younger.'" (ESV)  Here we see the argument laid out that God's election is not based on works but based only upon him who calls.  Likewise in 2 Peter 1:3-4 we see Peter declare, "His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire." (ESV)

The Arminian position is that God is only acknowledging those as elect whom he knew would respond by looking through time and seeing who would respond to the call of Christ.  Thus, because men may resist the call of the Spirit, God could not elect men based on some irresistable call, but rather had to see which men would respond to the call and then acknowledge those men as the elect of his promises.  The problem with this position seems to be the fact that Paul refutes it entirely in Romans 9.  Paul says that the election of Jacob and rejection of Esau was not based on works, which would mean it was not based on what they would do, but rather it was based on him who calls.  Thus Paul is arguing that election is based on the prerogative of God to determine whom he will save, not based on the works and will of man.

This comports equally with what we find the rest of Scripture. For instance God said to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy," and John says that we became the sons of God not based on human birth or the will of man, but of God.  However, bringing in John allows us to examine the counter argument that election is based on the response of men.

John says that "as many as did believe" were given the right to become sons of God.  Thus the right was given in response to the belief.  On this I would give a hearty agreement, faith precedes regeneration.  However, at the same time it says that they were given the right to become children of God based on the will of God.  Thus it is still the will of God that is primary in men coming to God.  Also, we have already looked at Jesus discussing the question of those whom God called in the post on this subject.

So, how do we get out of the situation of trying to say that men really must choose, but that God has already chosen who will choose?  How do we reconcile what appear to be contradictory statements as to how men come to be elect?

Here the Calvinist has a long philosophical tradition that actually addresses many of the complaints that Arminians bring against Calvinism.  The tradition and position is known as Monergism.  Monergism, in brief, argues that the will of man and the sovereignty of God work hand-in-hand.  That is man is totally responsible for what he chooses, and God is totally sovereign over all of creation.  Thus men must choose God, but God is sovereign in his call to those whom he chooses.  Here we may say that the Calvinist position is that we choose him because he has chosen us, just as we love him because he has first loved us.  This is not to say that we did not actually choose, but rather that his election of us was not based on our choosing, but our choosing was part of his sovereign creation.

For the Arminian this would be an absurd argument, saying men are actually acting of freewill but God is actually sovereign over all the decisions of man.  But the Calvinist says this is the most accurate reading of Scripture, and so while we may not be able to explain everything and answer all the difficulties, still we must accept this teaching as accurate to what Scripture says.

The second problem the Calvinist would point out with the Arminian position is that their argument that God looks through time to determine whom he will elect is no where found in Scripture.  Thus the Calvinist would argue that they are attempting to hold more closely to what Scripture teaches without bringing in additional human constructions.

The question of election brings us rather easily to the question of perseverance.  The reason is simple: what does it mean to say a man is elect, and there by saved?  The historical Arminian position is that one can lose their salvation.  Thus the only one who can know he is saved, eternally, is the one who has died and reached heaven.  Everyone else must be sure to stay in the faith and must always be cautious lest one walk away from the faith and lose their salvation.

The problem with this position is that it ignores the previous philosophical arguments made by Arminians, and that it radically changes the concept of salvation.  For the first part, if God has looked through time to see who would be saved and thus elected them, why would he not equally be sure to look through time and only call the elect those who would really persevere until the end?  That is, why would anyone be called "saved" who is actually not going to persevere to the end, even if God does not have control over who will persevere and can only know based on his knowledge of the future?

The far more damaging issue this brings up though is the issue of works.  According to Scripture, salvation is a gift of God, not based on works so that no one may boast.  So, if salvation is not based on works, then how can one who did not earn lose what was given as a gift?  This would require God to remove salvation.  But if God was to take salvation away from someone that would assume that the person did something meriting the loss of salvation.  But, if one can do works to lose salvation, then one must do works to maintain salvation (the not doing of the works that would cause them to lose salvation would be doing something).  Thus salvation would become a matter of works.

Thus here the only biblical argument and philosophical argument that stands the test of logic seems to be that salvation cannot be lost, or else it would mean that one was not "saved" in the first place.  The idea that one is "potentially saved" is foolishness, because God knows whether a man will or will not be in heaven for eternity.  Or else God is ignorant of the future and thus cannot make any assurance of salvation at all.

This is to say that one can accept Christ and then reject discipleship and simply embrace whatever life he wants.  According to James works are a necessary part of salvation, but they are the results of salvation, not what saves one or keeps one saved.  That is to say that the saved man will work, but not that every man who does work will be saved, nor that the works keep a man in salvation.

I myself come down in the Calvinist camp, holding that God's gracious sovereignty is totally responsible for my salvation and my only reliance for the salvation of others.  However, I also recognize that there are great men of God who hold contradictory views to my own.  This is an in house discussion, but one which does have serious ramifications for what and how we teach.  We should take such discussions seriously, but we should also not make this a litmus for true Christianity.

I'm sorry for the brevity of this post, and I hope I have some time to flesh these arguments out more in the future, but I wanted to complete this series of posts for my friends who had asked my opinion on this matter.