29 May 2008

Contending for the faith or with the faithful

Sovereignty. Everyone believes in it but we don’t all measure it the same way. For some sovereignty means God has all the power and all the will. He isn’t just omnipotent He is dominant. Everything that is or will be, was determined (pre – before it actually happened) by Him (salvation particularly). You can accept His outcomes and go with the flow (or not – but you can only buck His plan if He decided you would, even if you didn’t want to) but you can’t change it.

In this scheme, God has pre-knowledge of all things because He planned it. He knew what would happen because He caused it. Taking this idea to its logical end, we don’t have to do anything. In fact, we can’t. Do you have a career path? Only if God wants it. Can you tell us what it is? Only when God shows it. If God’s will is such, why do we need a will at all?

This is obviously an extreme version of sovereignty and it is usually accompanied by long winded and highly academic analyses (it is easier to understand the concept than the explanation). But, it doesn’t stop there.

Another extreme version of sovereignty assigns God all the power but none of the will. Anything you can imagine (as long as it is not out of bounds), catalyzed by enough faith He is obliged to provide. God's will is helpless in the face of this kind of faith. Never mind His wisdom.

Do you need a healing, of any kind (in spite of an unhealthy life style and a lack of medication)? Do you need money for any reason or a better job (even though you can’t manage money and have no qualifications)? Do you want knowledge and understanding (without study and experience)? Claim it! Sprinkle the name of Jesus all over it! Remove all sin from your life (as if you could be clean enough to deserve it)! Make a loud announcement of your expectation publicly and it will surely be yours! If it doesn’t happen, there is something wrong with you not the expectation.

Many people would take offense at these descriptions of two very opposing definitions of sovereignty. They lean very heavily in one direction or the other and become very defensive when questioned even though both sides agree that God cannot be fully understood. Sovereignty obviously raises questions which cannot be answered completely on a human level. Being inflexible and becoming defensive, however, is not a good response.

These two opposing versions of sovereignty can be blended. God does on occasion override our will and circumstances. And on others He does give us the desires of our hearts (even though it isn’t always best for us). At no time can we deserve His blessing and sometimes the direction He allows us to take is not the smart thing to do (God uses these not-so-smart decisions to help us learn).

The biggest problem is the conflict that arises over these issues. One side takes the tone of high sophistication (smugly Bible based) and the other claims the greatest faith (uncritically experienced based) and both sides are disgusted with the other. To the one the other is the worst kind of heretic even though a brother. Is there something in between? Is there a way to agree to disagree without maligning each other? Can we (should we) believe there are really very good and very sincere Christians on both sides of the issue? Does God only work with those on one side or does He relate to both. There must be a way to moderate the difference so we can minister more effectively to those who really need it...together. You don’t have to agree with one side or the other but you do need to ThinkAboutIt.

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