OUR BASIS FOR UNITY (a personal story)

The Upward Look, by Jon Forrest
Our Basis for Unity (a personal story)

Many years ago, I was on the first leg of a flight which was to travel from Longview, Texas to Dallas and then to Lubbock. I was on my way to Clovis to interview with the elders of First Christian Church. I was talking about things with the person seated on the same row and the topic came up where I mentioned that I was a pastor.

Just before arrival in Dallas, a woman in the seat ahead of me said, “Did I hear you say you are a pastor?” I answered in the affirmative. She said, “That’s interesting. What is your theology?”

I gave her an awkward look and said in a questioning manner, “The Bible?” As if to tell her, “What else would it be?”

She said in a frustrated tone, “That’s good, but what is your theology?”

I knew what she was fishing for, but I was going to make her say it, “My theology is the Bible.”

Now, sounding quite frustrated she asked, “What I mean is, are you a Calvinist or Armenian?” Well, she finally spit it out.

Calvinism and Armenian are two diametrically opposed popular systems of theological interpretation. As I understand it the confirmed Calvinist believes in divine selection and irresistible grace. Unless God picks you, you cannot be saved. If he does pick you, you have no choice in the matter, you have to believe in Jesus. Armenian theology says that everything is up to the human being. They will believe in Jesus and be saved if they choose to do so. But it is completely up to the will of the human.

Calvinism teaches that anyone who is saved cannot ever become unsaved. Once you are saved you will always be saved. The confirmed Armenian teaches that even if you are saved by grace, you will only stay that way if your life changes and you continue to follow Jesus until death. You can leave the saved state. Some go so far as to say, that the Holy Spirit leaves us when we sin and comes back in when we confess the sin.

So, one teaches that you can’t lose or forfeit your salvation while the other teaches that you lose it easily, but can get it back just as easily. Both believe in the Sovereignty of God, but they differ on its definition and how it works.

There are many other parts of these two doctrinal positions, but these are some of the most notable teachings of each. There may be some followers of these theological positions that may disagree with my description, but it can’t be far off.

Back to our story. I told the woman, “Oh, I’m both and neither.”

“What?” she said even more frustration, “How is that?”

I told her, “I find agreement with some of each side, but weaknesses with both views.”

Then, to no surprise on my part, she took a stand on the one she espoused, “Don’t you believe that God can keep what is his?”

I told her, “Yes, I do, but I also believe that he never forces anyone to believe or to stay.”
Thankfully, the intended argument did not transpire because it was time for me to board the next plane.

I love Calvinists and I love Armenians, but my problem is with the legalistic attitude that you must buy into the entire system of one or the other all the way. I find both of them to be scriptural and unscriptural and do not believe it to be biblical to follow a manmade system of theology. While both use the Bible, each finds ways to deny Scripture that is used by the other to prove their point.
For instance, there is a lot of Scripture that talks about predestination of believers while there is also Scripture that talks about personal choice and will of the same people. There is Scripture that tells of the unlimited grace of God while there is scripture that tells about people who have left the faith. Does the Bible contradict itself or is it possible that people’s systems contradict themselves?  The truth is there is a lot of security for the believer, but there is still an ability for humans, made in the image of God with free will, to throw away their faith and resist the grace of God. We must trust God and his wisdom to work in each of our situations. When Hebrews 6 talks about the impossibility bring back to repentance to of the person who has tasted the heavenly gift, but has fallen away, it takes a little bit of study and some opinion. My belief is that the writer is saying that the person who has finally wandered away from his faith enough to lose his salvation is someone who never repents, or turns back. My view is that they are still saved until they have come to the point where they no longer want grace and are doing it on their own. They have gone too far to repent. It's not that God doesn’t want to hold them; he simply refuses to force his will on people who were given free will. Understand this, though; my understanding of Scripture is not Divine interpretation. You are perfectly within your right to disagree and I’m pretty sure it won’t keep you or me out of heaven.

I know there are people who think that others who disagree with the system of theology they have embraced do not believe the Bible and are in danger of hell or causing others to go to there. This is one reason the body of Christ is so divided; not that we have differences of opinion, but that we make agreement on our opinions a test brotherhood and fellowship. We divide over views of the Holy Spirit and his work. We divide over opinions concerning a system of biblical interpretation over the return of Christ and his 1000-year reign (millennium). Unity is based on faith in Jesus Christ alone. It’s time we joined together and get past our personal opinions and reach out to people in Jesus’ name. Jesus told us that it would be our unity that would cause people to believe in him. That means that our division will cause many to not believe in him. What do we want our legacy to be? Do we want to be the reason people believe or the reason the reject him? I think we know that answer.

I know this is kind of heady and it may even be confusing to some, so if you have questions about it, let me know. Give me a call. I’ll be happy to talk about it.

I’m looking forward to sharing with you a message this Sunday titled The Heart’s Condition Revealed through Priorities based on Haggai 1:1-12. Join us for a great Lord’s Day.

Unified with you through Jesus,

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