Saturday, March 14, 2009

On Election and Doubt

"Then Jesus declared, 'I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. [...] No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.'"
-John 6:35-40 & 44

Puzzles and more. I feel I keep being drawn back to this idea of predestination and the elect. Probably because it frustrates me more than any other theological issue. Here's my mind laid out (if the words will come): So, I believe well enough that the only way we can ever recognize our need for a savior and feel a calling toward God is if He places that desire in our heart, if we are drawn to Him, as John records Jesus saying. This makes complete sense, because we are crazy, and so incredibly enraptured with our sin that we would never look for a way out of it on our own. Why would we ever need to serve others? That's not a mindset that comes naturally to us at all.

What I do not understand is, how does God make the choice? How does he decide who is drawn and who is not? Why are only some elected? If God loves us all and created us all, I cannot understand how He only calls some of us. If His nature is love and mercy, how does He not extend His calling to everyone? Does not the exclusive nature of the elect imply a sort of favoritism or partiality, a more intense love for some? Also, how can it be held against those who do not believe, since they do not know their need? Can they really be condemned to hell, while the elect skim by toward heaven, gifted with their godly wisdom?

Alright, I know we don't 'skim by.' I don't even think that's a legitimate phrase. But still...

One more question: Can someone be elect, and still not believe? I don't mean hasn't yet come to Christ, but feels the call and ignores it; never turns to the Holy Spirit; doesn't repent. Is that possible? Once God decides someone is elect, chooses to save them, can they resist? On this note, was Judas elect? Did he ever truly believe?

And then all this nonsense about free will comes in to play. And can we really know if we're elect? And what's the point of witnessing and praying for others if they aren't elect? How are we to know? How can God divide His world like this? The idea of a 'chosen people' is so archaic; I mean, I just wish all the world could be saved, that every person could be loved and led to the grace of Jesus. And the idea of the elect just shoots down that plan so royally.

I'd love to say I'm an Armenian, and leave it at that, but the Bible has so much to say on this idea that I'm not sure it can be as open-handed as I wish it was.

Here is where prayer comes. And humble acknowledgment that there is no way I can understand the nature of God and His workings. But He is good.

A continuance: "'Yet there are some of your who do not believe.' For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. He went on to say, 'This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him.'" (John 6:64-65)

Free will fits here how?

While I know that it's ok to question God and to work through these issues, I know that ultimately my mind and heart are the ones that need to change, not the nature of God. He is so great, and I should not presume to believe that my arguments could ever hold ground against His. I readily admit that I am small, and I want to be humbled further. Sometimes I'm scared at the liberal tolerance I seem to have accepted as my mindset for life.

"From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him." (verse 66)

I know that before I ever abandon my faith, I would change my mind. And I'm grateful that God didn't make me a stubborn-minded person, or else I probably would have turned away long before.

One last thing: the more I study, the more I doubt; and yet the more I hope at the same time. It's a process too complicated to explain. But I trust in His love, and continue.

"Simon Peter answered him, 'Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.'" (verses 68-69)

Thanks be to God.

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