Friday, July 16, 2010

Is there anything you can do to lose your salvation?

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he foreknew, these he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brothers. Moreover, whom he predestined, these he also called, whom he called, these he also justified, and whom he justified, these he also glorified.

The way that I have been reading this, it seems like there is no human choice involved. God chose and called some people, and all things work together to make them more like Christ. I suppose the words justified and glorified could mean, "made every effort to justify and glorify" but that seems like a stretch, given the grammar and also the character of God.

I guess this is what Calvinists say, and I don't know how to deal with it. It seems like if you are called, no matter what you do you will be conformed to the image of Christ. And if you're not, no choice of yours will do any good in bringing you closer to God. Therefor, I don't quite see how the idea that "all are chosen, but not everyone responds" could be accurate. But if God is not willing that anyone should die, and has compassion on all he has made, why would he not call everyone?

I came up with a metaphor, about a stupid person who walks into a street and almost gets hit by a car, and gets really angry that there are places, public places where anyone can go, where these large machines that can kill you in a second are also allowed to go around. He finds it intolerable that he can't get straight from point A to point B without being in danger of his life, and questions either the wisdom or the good intentions of the city founders and administrators. Of course, he is motivated by selfishness and a complete lack of understanding of how the city works. That's the only answer I've been able to come up with... I don't understand yet why God doesn't call everyone he has made, or if he does why he doesn't take care to justify and glorify them all, but to get mad at God about it is to show myself a fool (I think this is actually how "fool" is defined in the Bible, as someone who doubts God) and my ignorance of how the City works. So the appropriate thing to do is not to be angry, but to use this fact to try and figure out something about the City and about God. Of course, I think it's important for any attempts to be informed first by love and trust of God rather than love of the world or myself. Otherwise I'd be like the guy who doesn't like streets, trying to figure out their purpose and thinking, maybe it's good for me somehow to almost get hit, and that's why they're there? Maybe they make it so I have to walk the long way around so I can get more exercise?

So, in interpreting the text taking the love and wisdom of God as the only givens... interestingly, I'm helped a bit by Calvin's commentary. He argues that the phrase "the called according to his purpose" doesn't refer to election, but just serves to clarify that people don't earn all things working together for their good by loving God, but rather God does the initiating. So this could support the "all are called, some respond" view... ie, all are "the called according to God's purpose", which is to love and redeem and restore people to relationship with Himself I think, but not all respond by loving God. If I understand Calvin's commentary, he thinks that this passage is not really talking about election at all, but is only directed at those who right now are loving and following God, explaining how their suffering and sin are not going to condemn them and don't mean that God is not in control. That is, the focus is, "God's people suffer, but he is still taking care of them and won't let them go" rather than "some are chosen and taken care of, but others aren't and have no hope at all."

I'm not making much progress. More next time.

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