Posts Tagged ‘easy chairs hard words’

The Concept of Salvation

So I finally read the book “Easy Chairs, Hard Words” and have to say it was definitely an interesting read. Lots of real-world examples that make very compelling arguments. At the end of it, I had to sit back and think about whether or not my theological perspective had changed. I came to the conclusion that mostly it had not. However, as I started thinking about one particular position, it led me to an interesting idea, and one that I’ve tried to defend: that salvation only affects us as we cross from this life into eternity.

Here’s my thinking. If salvation is a gift from God (as is explained in Ephesians 2:8), then it seems like if we have free will we have the choice to open the gift or not. However, God has predestined some to open that gift, and others not to. This allows for the idea of unconditional election while still giving credence to unlimited atonement. I’ve been thinking that if salvation is really being “saved from our sins,” it doesn’t really take affect while we’re still on the earth, because it doesn’t really stop us from sinning. In that sense, salvation is the removal of our sins from us when we die, so we can be made perfect (the concept of glorification) and fit for heaven.

However, WIFE brought up a good point earlier this week. She said that salvation isn’t necessarily just from our sins, but from being enslaved to past sins and tied down to them. Another friend, who we’ll just call Theology Man, said something similar in a brief text discussion. I tend to think this is more in line with the concept of regeneration by the Holy Spirit, the point at which we accept Jesus as Lord in our lives and the Holy Spirit begins to work in our lives (sanctification). This is how 2 Corinthians 5:17 becomes a part of our lives, as the old is gone and the new has come.

Interestingly, I was surprised that Paul addressed this very issue of salvation vs. sanctification in 2 Thessalonians 2:13, which says, “But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren, beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth.” It seems evident from this verse that salvation and sanctification are tied together with faith. So what is the relationship between salvation and sanctification? The relationship between salvation and glorification?

In short, my theological perspective has changed slightly. I now believe (which I assume is not an uncommon position) that the 3 big Bible words (sanctification, justification, glorification) are encompassed by the overarching concept of salvation. Salvation includes these three things, which is why God is able to use the past, present and future tenses in the Bible when discussing the salvation He has given us. I still believe that salvation is an eternal decision that is extended to all men, but I think at least now I better understand why.

Is WIFE correct? Yep. Is Theology Man correct? Most definitely. Am I correct? I think so now. What once was a belief that salvation is tied to glorification has now turned into glorification as the final step to salvation. Thank you Lord, for providing a Word that gives us a glimpse into Your awesome ability to do such works in us, and what exactly that means in the course of eternity!

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Calvinism vs. Arminianism – A Response

Wow. My previous blog post generated the most response of any of the blog posts I’ve done up to this point. I’m guessing it has to do with the fact that this is an extremely hot and controversial topic. I decided to a bit more research to make sure I feel a bit better about where I fall.

One friend encouraged me to read the book “Easy Chairs, Hard Words,” and after previewing the first chapter on Amazon, looks pretty interesting and suggests that maybe I should use the term “reformed” instead of “Calvinist.” WIFE (which, in case you’re a new reader, stands for Woman I Find Exceptional) also suggested that maybe I hastily jumped too much into the argument without enough research.

I have to say, this post is probably where I draw the last line. I will probably read the above suggested book, but as far as expounding on my personal feelings, this is probably it.

That said, I went looking for some comparisons between the 5 points of Calvinism and the corresponding 5 points of Arminianism. This one was a pretty good one, in my opinion, and helped me draw the line on a couple of questionable ideas I had about some of the 5 points: http://www.fivesolas.com/cal_arm.htm.

Without getting too deep into it, the points in my previous posts that I disagreed with the explanation (Irresistible Grace, Perseverance of the Saints) are a bit more clear cut here, and in reading the “strict” Arminianist counterpoints, I have to say I fall closer to the Calvinist view of these doctrines than the Arminianist view. So I guess this pushes me to a 4-point Calvinist, which apparently is a fairly common theological position.

So my issue still lies with Limited vs. Unlimited Atonement, which again according to research is possibly the most controversial of the 5 points. When looking at both viewpoints, they both seem to have compelling arguments. So my first question to myself was, “Haven’t I heard somewhere about ‘the hope of salvation,’ which would extend to all men?”

I looked up the passage (1 Thessalonians 5:8, if anyone cares to reference it) and went to Strong’s concordance to learn the actual Greek word and meaning for “hope” in this verse. The literal definition, plus various other references using the same Greek word, liken that “hope” more to an “expectation” or “faith in,” which leans closer to the Reformed viewpoint. (http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?strongs=G1680 is the link for Strong’s concordance to this word)

But I was still interested in the point about 1 Timothy 1:15 (“Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am the foremost {of all}.”). It doesn’t say SOME sinners, it just says sinners. The last prepositional phrase isn’t in all translations of this verse, but the Greek word for “sinners” is hamartolos, which in its most literal sense means “not free from sin,” but in a more specific sense is applied to “all wicked men.” (http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?strongs=G268&t=NASB&page=2 is the reference for this one.). Other passages using the same Greek word seem to point to such an understanding of the original Greek.

This idea seems more concrete to me, so I think in the sliding scale I fall closer to the side of Unlimited Atonement, but the basis for both viewpoints is Scriptural, so who am I to decide one is solely right and one is solely wrong?

My last point goes back to my original statement in this post. This will be my last post on this subject. Why? Because I base my belief on what the Bible says. There are clearly enough mysterious passages in the Bible to make you fall on one side or another. I fell into that behavior earlier in life when determining that I was a “pre-tribulationist” believer in the Rapture. I think if God wanted us to know the answer outright, He would have just said specifically in His Word, “This is how it is.” But I guess the underlying point is that both doctrinal viewpoints believe that we need Christ in our lives to be saved, and that is the most important doctrinal position of all!