Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Predestination

Around the time of spring break, I went with a friend to a bible study group on my campus. This group has a very large turn out...larger than a lot of churches I've been to. The teachings of the man leading the group, Jesse, erked me more than once. Eventually, he showed me biblically where his teachings are indeed true (or...so I thought.) This threw me. Hard. Go get your bible before you read this.

This is an email I wrote shortly after in an attempt to get help, as I had fallen away.


I was reading the book "The Shack", and just LOVING it! I read it at work, while I ate, at stop lights...whenever I could find a moment. It completely changed my identity in God (which I honestly believed to be perfectly fine the way it was, little did I realize it had potential to be much greater!) I understood some of the "whys" I had and some "whys" I'd been asked by other people. My relationship with God was going great, better than ever...when suddenly something very unfortunate happened...

I went with a friend to a bible study here on my campus and found that the man leading said many things that I STRONGLY disagreed with. For instance, when Jesus was dying for us on the cross, "God's wrath was upon him." And all this time I imagined God's amazing love being upon Jesus. I realize Jesus had the sin of the world upon him, but out of context "God's wrath" comes off quite abrasively.

The Shack explains how just because God KNOWS you will do something doesn't mean He is forcing you to do it; He just simply already knows what you'll do. I used this information afterward when I met with this man Jesse about his Calvanist preachings.


I was armed and ready to go with my Shack teachings (which is why I failed; a good book is not God's sword), but unfortunately Jesse had me beat with his ability to mark scripture. We debated for possibly an hour about God electing those to believe and come to him, predestination, and God's Sovereignty over our free will...all things I previously did not accept. It seemed I was making more sense than Jesse for awhile, but then he pulled out his coupe de grace... Romans 9:10-24. The God I knew had been defeated inside of me and no longer existed...He just disappeared. The thought of God dictating who would be saved and who would not...Him choosing people to go to hell...it was too much.

All these thoughts have really destroyed me, and although it is not at all in my nature to admit or show any kind of weakness, since this I have been severely depressed.

Rom 9:10
Wow, before they were even born, God picked who He would love and created each twin knowing one would be loved and one would be hated.
I feel that's terribly unfair because Esau was created by God to be hated. But wait! I'm not even allowed to think that according to Rom 9:14,15! No matter how much I want it, I am at the mercy of God who decides who will get his compassion and who will not. "God has mercy on who He has mercy, and hardens who He hardens." He raised Pharoah up just so God could harden His heart for His glory. I understand this was to free His people, but God hardens peoples' hearts...by no control of the human. Rom 9:19-21: and yet again I cannot even ask such questions. Rom 9:22-24 and suppose I am an object of wrath whom God bore with great patience, whom he created for destruction? What if my purpse is to make His power known to His objects of mercy?

and then Acts 13:48....How are we to know if we're appointed? and what a terrible thought that those who are unbelievers were purposefully created that way! I cannot wrap my mind around how such a loving God could create damned children? He created them to never accept Him.

In a time of my life where I feel I have no one...at least I had God. And now it feels as if that's gone too and thus I have nothing.
I haven't picked up "The Shack" since the bible study...I came home after bible study and all but collapsed on the floor crying, I was in so much pain.

That Saturday I was up until 5am Sunday morning, grieving over losses and reflecting upon everything that has happened...nothing making sense in my past identity as an "object of mercy" but everything fitting being an "object of wrath and destruction."

Tuesday night is the first night of the bible study me and a few friends put together. I'm doing worship and games...it will all be behind a God-ficade as I lead without heart, being a conduit for God's glory. No one will know but me and God; I'm a good actress.


Without God, everything in my life was amplified. When something unfortunate happens and you are strong in Christ, some of the severity is blinded by faith. When you feel your faith has been ripped out from underneath you, everything becomes overwhelming. For weeks this dark state has been my norm. Then Jesse emailed me. How dare he. I replied with this:


I'm curious what your personal evangelical goal is?

Your Calvanistic teachings have separated me from God. I've never been parted from God until that night.

I just want you to realize, if your intent is to bring the lost to Christ, perhaps you should consider a different approach as your current one has squelched two Christian womens' fire already.

Nadia


Hey Nadia,

I am encouraged and discouraged by your email. Obviously, it is not my intention to drive any one away from God. However, the fact that two weeks after we had this conversation you emailed me does encourage me. It encourages me that you have the boldness and conviction to tell me what you are thinking, and it also encourages me that you are still thinking about what we talked about.

To just answer your question briefly about my evangelistic goal: my goal is to see people realize that they are sinful, and that on their own they deserve hell because of their sin. In the same way we are sinful, God is a savior though, and he has made a way for people to be saved. When Jesus, who was God in human flesh, lived a sinless life, he then died on the cross as punishment for our sins. After suffering, he rose from the grave because he paid for our sins, and defeated death. If anyone will believe that message and turn from their sins, they will be saved from hell.

I believe that everyone is born separated from God because of their sin. So when you wrote in your email (below) that you have never been separated from God, I disagree. Ephesians 2:12 says that everyone was at one time "separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world." If the article I emailed you was too long to read, I would at least encourage you to read Ephesians 1 and 2, and see what those passages say about predestination, the Gospel, and being separated from God. If you read those, and you think that what I'm saying is not taught in those chapters, that is fine--but at least read them.

My intent is to bring the lost to Christ, and by God's grace we are seeing people get saved. It seems like almost every week another CSUN student is turning from sin and trusting Christ alone (not their own works or own initiative) to save them from their sin.

I felt bad about that night after Bible study because I was not really able to talk and explain anything for more than one sentence without being interrupted by 3 or 4 different people. So it is quite understandable that you might not have gotten an accurate picture of what I was saying. After you read Ephesians 1 and 2, let me know if you have any other questions.

Thanks Nadia,


Thank you for the invitation to meet with you. I really have no questions and don't need to be further discouraged at this point. I just want you to know your approach isn't welcoming or appealing. It really has done a lot of damage.


To just answer your question briefly about my evangelistic goal: my goal is to see people realize that they are sinful, and that on their own they deserve hell because of their sin.
Do you not see how this would drive people away? It is true, but telling people they are "sinful" and "deserving of hell" is quite the turn-off.

I believe that everyone is born separated from God because of their sin. So when you wrote in your email (below) that you have never been separated from God, I disagree.
You could have taken that a little less seriously. Of course I meant since I've been a cognative being, able to make informed decisions.

Ephesians 2:12 says that everyone was at one time "separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world."
I believe you've taken this out of context. Who was Paul addressing here? "Formerly you who are Gentiles by birth" in this case meaning non-Jewish which at this time was non-believers. That's not me so this scripture doesn't pertain and is out of context being it is addressing those who were formerly unbelievers and are now believers.

If the article I emailed you was too long to read, I would at least encourage you to read Ephesians 1 and 2, and see what those passages say about predestination, the Gospel, and being separated from God. If you read those, and you think that what I'm saying is not taught in those chapters, that is fine--but at least read them.
You're assuming "predestined" to mean set in stone. It does not. Because God "predestines" us does not mean our free-will and idependence is being forfeited. If you do some etymology in ancient Greek, you will find the translation of predestination is ΠΡΟΟΡΙΣΑΣ
this word means to appoint beforehand. This word means to provide with what is necessary,equip, furnish, also to assign a position. This goes along with the idea that God has a plan for each and every one of us. Does that mean we make all the right decisions and follow His plan the way He intended? I do hope you answer "no"...otherwise there would be no sin and we would be perfect. Predestination does not mean God takes away our independency. That is an incorrect translation of the word.

Nadia

I'm feeling much better now. Instead of living in the darkness of doubt, I am rectifying the situation. It is amazing how quickly one recovers when they put their own healing into motion instead of trying to ride it out. Riding it out DOESN NOT WORK.

Other comments:

Nadia,I am so very proud of you. You really have a conviction much beyond your young years. I am happy to know that your mind is still open to hear others views... however, always use your own heart to know what is the truth. that was not simply doctrine differences... that whole ideal is a vast contridiction to fundamental Christian belief that we all are CHOSEN by God... and that it IS our very own FREE WILL that will determine whether or not we ACCEPT the Grace & Love he offers. and GOOD FOR YOU.. for standing up and telling someone like Jesse... and reminding him that INTERPRETATION can pretty much allow someone to put their own beliefs on display...as the truth. You must ALWAYS... ALWAYS... ALWAYS..... COMPARE scripture WITH scripture.... not simply pull out one or two verses out of context.once again.... KUDOS for standing up & screaming for the many who don't have the strength or knowledge to do so. So so proud my love!!!!!!!
~Tracie

Wow I am very glad you stood up for what you believe. I dont believe anyone can take your faith from you. Only one person can do that, yourself. Trust me I have met too many individuals like this Jesse. Believing fear and damnation is the best way to reach people. Putting the fear of GOD into someone is not a job for humans. I have no idea what people think when they use only one specific section of the bible to prove a point. I am very impressed with how strong you really are. I am quite blessed to know you.
~Superman

Nadia,I've been praying for you a lot these past few weeks. I've been asking God to draw you near and affirm His incredible outrageous love for you and for the whole world...not just a select few. And I've been praying that God would reveal to you how He has been with you in the pain and suffering in your life. He has never left you, never been disgusted with you and He will never stop loving you no matter what you do.Do we all sin and mess up? Absolutely! Every single one of us.But I would boldly dare to say that the Good News is that we are INCLUDED not EXCLUDED. This is not good news just for some..but for all. We must start with the Good News, that we have been adopted!! That in Jesus, we've been restored and reconciled!Ephesians 1:2 Christ is the sacrifice that takes away our sins and the sins of all the world's people. Our incredible triune God decided before time began that He/They would save and include you AND everyone else before the Foundation of the world AND literally in the life, death, burial resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ who is still divinely human. I'm not talking about universalism where no one has a choice, but in that Jesus died for the sins of everyone in the universe -- and they now have a choice whether to believe it or not.So, evangelism, in this context is not trying to convince people they are going to this everburning hell of eternal torment unless they do something to get themselves "into Christ" but rather announcing to them the simple truth that Christ has already included them and "gotten them into Himself." And now they simply need to BELIEVE this wonderful truth and stop believing lies about themselves -- that they are worthless, that God doesn't love them unless they perform...etc. Hell is the result of our refusal to believe and live in the truth about ourselves - that we are saved and adopted and loved by a gracious God.Sadly, some will continue by choice to refuse what is theirs...loving relationship with God, inclusion and identity in Christ. Our calling (in evangelism) is to participate with the Holy Spirit in making people aware of who they are - of the grace that is already theirs and to invite them to embrace it (recieve it), rejoice in it and actively live in it (eternal life) by participating in their life in and through Christ.Scripture shows Salvation in 3 tenses:- I WAS SAVED from the foundations of the earth- I AM BEING SAVED daily as I live in Christ- I WILL BE SAVED in completion when Christ returnsSo, in essence, salvation is more of an OPT OUT kind of thing, than an OPT IN.God would never force someone to live in His love for eternity...but anything outside of His love, is hell.We need to remember that there are other brilliant theologians and biblical scholars who explain things of God in ways that are different than 5 point Calvinists. Don't misunderstand me, God loves 5 point Calvinists and has included them too! They just might be a little limiting in who they think God chooses to include.Check your email, I'm sending you something else to read.I love you!
~Anne

Way to go, Nadia. I too have seen too much of this sort of approach. In fact, I believe that the earnest young man had himself not read Eph 1 and 2 very well, or he wouldn't have taken the approach he did. After all, it does say that before God created the world, he decided to adopt us into his family (and if you think adoption isn't real, ask The Amazing Joanne how she feels about being an adoptee!!). And if that phrase only applies to believers, well, even then, anytime someone does turn to face God and hear him clearly for the first time, that verse applies to them also. Were we, at one time, cut off from God? In what sense? In the sense that humanity's turn away from God, in Adam and Eve, was our turning, not his cutting us off (look what God did in the garden after they sinned, continuing to reach out to them even though they had to leave the place of paradise). Once Christ came, that whole mess was taken out of the way by what he did. Sin is no longer between us and God, it's been taken completely out of the way. Only our mistaken concept of him and of ourselves stands in the way between us. And that's what repenting is about. Good going, girl! Keep on facing Papa and hearing him.
~Mark

I'm glad you have and are experiencing this trial in your life. You'll weather it and become even stronger in Jesus than ever before. There's not much more I can say different than what your other respondents have replied. I'm returning your book," So You Don't Want to go to Church Anymore?" ASAP. This is something that you probably really should read right about now. It can really help you through some of this. It's a wonderfully enlightening book. One last thought. If you, Tasha, Chris, and I are in a room and I say "Your room is filthy. I want you to clean it immediately or you'll be punished". Who am I talking to since I didn't specify anyone in particular? Is your room tidy? Hmmmmm....prolly not talking to you then am I? *wink*. Just because God said something aloud, didn't mean he was talking directly to US or about US. You've got the right idea. Keep close to God. He'll guide you through. This trial will prove to be of value to you later sugar.I love you deeply.
~Ellie

Nadia,This blog has really struck a chord with me as I myself have been through the darkness of doubt at different stages of my life. I know how scary it is to have your faith severely challenged and how it can be devastating to the point of not seeing resolution. I prayed for you Nadia and I was so overjoyed to see you make it through this crisis. It is not unusual to face trials like this, especially in college. Many Christian youth grow up in church and youth groups, even go to a Christian camp like SEP or on a mission trip, and may find their faith weakened or even shattered by certain challenges or experiences. A good percentage (not sure what exact statistics are) of Christian youth actually lose their faith in college. It happens in seminaries too. You are a living testimony of how one can make it through and have their faith only become stronger. I think you will face challenges like this again Nadia, but you need not fear. The God who has chosen you promises that He will never leave you nor forsake you. He will always pursue you and come find you even when it seems you have lost sight of Him. Always know that any crisis of faith will only make you a stronger daughter of the King. Someday (actually even now), you will be able to encourage others who go through similiar challenges. Mark Stapleton asked me to do an apologetics class at SEP this year for senior camp. This is so needed because they need to be prepared for the challenges that come with the territory at college and beyond. Thank you so much for sharing this experience.
~Jeff

Hey Nadia, I'm glad that God is reconciling your relationship with him and hope you're doing well. You're not the first to shaken up by this subject. The truth is that Calvinists and Arminians have been debating this for a while. Unfortunately, I found that the bible definitely seems to have more evidence in support of Calvinism. Anyway, about predestination. Calvinists do not say that we have no free will, but rather that people can only chooses things that coincide with their nature. Unfortunately, we are born with a sinful nature from original sin (Romans 5:12), on our own we cannot understand spiritual things at all (1 Cor. 2:14), we have hearts full of evil (Mark 7:21-23) and cannot seek for God (Rom. 3:11). So while your translation of predestination may be as you think, not set in stone, it still does not shake the bible's firm stance that we are slaves to our own natures and can only make decisions accordingly. Without Christ we can only choose things that will lead to sin (John 8:34). We can still make choices within this nature, so in that sense we definitely do have free will despite predestination, but we are ultimately not going to make righteous decisions without his grace. Now even if Calvinism weren't true some would still be going to hell for their actions and for not believing in Christ, while believers would go to be with God. Biblically, we know the end result is the same, regardless of your world view (Arminianism or Calvinism).Now, this is definitely not a comfortable thought. Who then will be saved? Can we know? If we can't determine who's going to be saved should we even preach the gospel? The answer is still a resounding yes! Regardless, of whether Calvinism or Arminianism is true we are still commanded to preach the gospel to the unsaved (while of course explaining the law to them and how all have sinned (Rom. 3: 23)). So I don't like it, but I definitely lean towards Calvinism. I also definitely wouldn't recommend The Shack because of it's theological errors. Anyway, if you're looking for a lot of biblical Christian material that's easy to access and refutes error then I would go here:www.carm.orgIt's my favorite of all sites, it's Christian Apologetics Research Ministry.I hope you're doing well now and that God's strengthening your faith and love for him through all of this.God Bless,
~Sean



3 comments:

monkeykids said...

Nadia,

Sounds like you can handle yourself just fine!

Biblical scholars have debated the meaning of passages of scriptures for centuries, and there has never been a consensus, so don't feel like you have to agree with everyone that thinks the scriptures "clearly" support their position.

One point that the Bible is very clear on is that Christ lived and died for our sins, making salvation possible. On that basic point, there is even consensus among Christians. Extremely condensed Cliff notes on the Bible - He lived, and He died, paying the price for all of our failings.

How do we respond to that amazing gift?

Fear is used as motivation in many church's teachings. Fear of Hell, fear of being one of those "chosen for destruction", fear of not living up to the standards required. It can be a surprisingly effective motivator. Many of your "elderly" friends like me grew up in an atmosphere of obedience through fear. Those who belonged with us were God's chosen few, while those outside were not real Christians. You could never be sure of your salvation.

So, I hate to be as flip as to say, "been there, done that, got the T-shirt" but when it comes to living in fear and exclusivity, that's about how I feel.

It has been a huge blessing to be released from that fear. To instead respond to Christ's sacrifice with thankfullness and joy. Life under Grace wins every time.

You are one person who should never doubt whether God is working in your life. You are an amazing person, in spite of some of the things you've gone through. And as much as I love you, I don't think that happened without plenty of help and intervention (OK - you get a little credit too)

Karla

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