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የመለኮታዊ ምርጫ ዶክትሪን በቤተክርስቲያን ታሪክ ውስጥ (Calvinism v. Arminianism )

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This is a special post intended to address the unfortunate, unhealthy and ungodly approaches that people adapt to doctrinal differences that arises especially from Ephesians 1:4.

Introduction

As I stated before, teaching such contended secondary doctrines is not the mission statement of the blog site at this time nor is the immediate need of our time in the Ethiopian churches (what I mean by secondary is explained and clarified Here (Deserving of Full Acceptance: Essentials of Our Faith) and several places throughout the blog site). This however does not mean that such doctrines should not be taught in due course or held in high regard. What I mean is that such controversial doctrines should be handled by those who are mature, well informed about both sides and most importantly by those who are wise and godly who would not de-characterize and defame those with whom they disagree. We are dealing with the Word of the Living God! This should be handled by those who rightly divide and handle the word of truth in love, gentleness and who are able to instruct others with tender care even those whom they think are falling astray from the truth. For instance, in the video, I discussed the common misconception about the two views of elections.

Overview

1 First the doctrine of Election, the fact that God elected believers, is held and believed by all Christians across all denominations. The debate is never about whether the fact God elected us or not. The debate is about “how God elected us“; is it conditionally (a view known as Arminianism) or unconditionally (a view known as Calvinism)? Therefore, affirming the fact of election does not necessarily mean that a person is teaching a certain view of election. We can all affirm the teaching of election. For instance, during a meeting when a brother prays “Father we thank you for electing us” should be accompanied by an astounding “Amen” from everyone. Why? It is the bible that teaches us that God elected us to be before him holy and blameless. He did not say anything any one would contradict.

2  Second, uninformed Christians sometimes charge the opposing view as heretic (a word reserved only when the central teaching of scripture is denied such as the deity of Christ, or the Trinity..etc). Therefore, affirming election does not mean one is worthy of a charge of heresy.

3  Third, because God elects unconditionally meant for some that it gives Christians a free pass to live like the devil, the world, and the flesh, allegedly because they are said to be “once-saved-always-saved“. This charge is to say the least false and uninformed and those who believe such a distorted view of salvation should be rightly condemned (as far as I know and I know a lot of them do not believe like that). Those who believe in unconditional election believe that true born again Christians do not live like the devil for the Holy Spirit that is in them will not allow them to live in such unrepentant and willful disobedience. True Christians by definition are those who bow down to the authority of Christ and live for him.

On the other hand those who believe in conditional election are unfairly accused as “semi-pelegians: a belief in decisional regeneration” It means one is saved because one is decided to be saved without God’s grace enabling him or her to repent (as far as I know and I know a lot of them do not believe like that). This charge, too, is uninformed even thought there are some who hold to this and are condemned rightly so. People who believe in conditional election, believe that no one apart from the gospel is able to respond to Christ in faith. That is why they integrate a doctrine known as Prevenient grace, a belief in God’s grace that elevates the willfully sinful state of our will to respond to Christ on our own.

 

Adapting A Godly Perspective

As you can see there are several reasons why I do not focus on such controversial matters as first and foremost. This discussion is one step removed from the central meaning of the Gospel and as such requires thoughtful reflection and biblical understanding of salvation.

My view of salvation is presented here: To know Him is to have eternal Life and I recommend that salvation should be viewed as present reality and not as something you and I received only when we first believed. This is a common misconception that causes unnecessary strife. If salvation is working in our lives today, that means there is no room for discussion that people who are saved once could live like the world, the devil and the flesh today in a willful continual disobedience to Christ. How is that possible? Salvation is living for the Lordship of Christ yesterday when we first believe, today as we live our lives daily and tomorrow until Christ returns. The bible says we know that we have come to know him not because we were saved once longtime ago, but because we are in uninterrupted relationship with God through His Holy Spirit until Christ returns.

___Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us. (1 Jn 3:24)
___We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him. (1 Jn 5:18)

Even though this needs a little bit of nuancing. Again there is room for Christians who for a little while sin and return with contrite spirit to the feet of their king Jesus because they are truly his (have we not experienced this?). We have to accommodate people like the Apostle Peter who denied Christ three times but because he is truly a believer in Christ returned with sorrow, compare this with Judas Iscariot who denied and did not return. Peter who has repented also struggle throughout his life with the sin of fear of men and prejudiced. The guy who feared people and denied Christ also refused to eat with gentiles in the house of Cornelius, and we see his struggle again in Antioch. He was once again receiving correction from Paul about his hypocrisy because of his fear of those who came from Judea. In Galatians 2:11–14, Peter not only compromised, but he forsook the ministry to the Gentiles to which God had called him (see Acts 10) because he was afraid of “the circumcision party.” Paul’s critique was that Peter’s conduct “was not in step with the truth of the gospel,” so he confronted Peter. Therefore salvation is a redemptive project and it is not a mere event. You find an extensive treatment of this on the blogsite.

 

Where from Here?

In the video I do not support or give a defense of any of these positions On divine election, other than to describe and present it to you so that you would know what it is all about. In addition, I also discuss in the video at least two reasons as to why this has been contested for more than 1600 years through out the church history. The reason for this is at least because of two profound questions:

  • First, how does God, who inhabits eternity and is eternal in his essence, relates with us who are bound up in time?
  • Second, how God’s divine, transcendent and sovereign Will relates to our free will?

These are difficult questions that beg careful reading and study of holy scripture. As such therefore, I conclude with three remarks that would advance the discussion in a God honoring and church edifying manner.

First, I strongly advise believers to be courteous toward one another as brothers and sisters, especially in such complex issues. If our love is to be done with prudence in knowledge and understanding (Phil. 1), how much more our disagreements on certain views to be done even more? Thus we must strive to know and understand what the other person believes before offering our solutions or condemnations there of. Remember God distaste the seventh sin mentioned in Pr 6:16-19.

“There are six things that the LORD hates, seven that are an abomination to him…and one who sows discord among brothers.” 

Second, I also strongly advise Christians not to domesticate the Word of God and His holy doctrines by cheap shots and thoughtless words  (Job 38:2) so that in everything we may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior (Tt 2:9–10) even though we disagree on the how of election, nonetheless we all agree on doctrine of election. This should be noted. In our desire to win the argument, I am afraid we sometimes throw the baby with the bath water. Caution is in order.

Third, and above all, let us hold the Gospel in such high regard for there is so much that all Christians and churches from all walks and denominations agree than they do disagree. The gospel is the organizing principle for all doctrines thought in Christian teachings. Otherwise the prayer of unity that our Lord Jesus, the Son of God, prayed for us did not come true (John 17)! No, our high priest’s prayer have always been true. Our unity is not based on a certain view of election, but on the gospel that unites Jew and Gentiles in one body transcending: Social, Economic, Racial and yes even Doctrinal differences and barriers. The church is built upon the confession that: “[Jesus is]….the Christ, the son of the living God…. who suffered many things…and killed, and on the third day raised…” And upon this rock Christ has built his church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Our differences emerge from the fact that we are trying to make sense of God’s revelation in Christ. Therefore, the church must be built upon this foundation. There are truths in scripture all of us with out exception should believe with the same rigor. This is the non-negotiable aspect of our faith, that Presbyterians or Baptists,or Pentecostals, or Anglicans or Lutherans, young or old, black or white, man or woman, rich or poor…all must believe it and built up on it the same way.

__The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. (1 Timothy 1:15)
Christ built his church on this foundation and the gates of hell can not prevail against it. Failing to notice that is a huge oversight.
__For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. (1 Corinthians 15:3–5)

Here is a helpful quote often attributed to Augustine.

in necessariis unitas, in dubiis libertas, in omnibus caritas. Translated into English, means, “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity [forbearing Love].”

Let us be charitable to each other, even when we disagree.

© 2015 – 2016, Samson Tilahun. All rights reserved.

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