Friday, November 9, 2012

Defending the Doctrines of the Bible: Predestination, Part I

In order to defend the doctrine of predestination – God chooses us for salvation before the world was created – the doctrine of human depravity must be defended. However, instead of calling this doctrine “depravity,” I’ll call it the doctrine of “human enmity towards God” (Romans 5:8-10; 8:7). This wording emphasizes the fact that we have become the enemies of God and detest His presence (John 3:19-20). Because we are enemies, we will not come to God. If this is the case, God must first come savingly to us! This is the only hope that any of us have of being forgiven, reconciled to God, and saved.

Although this doctrine of “enmity” is highly offensive to us humans, it is a doctrine which is not lacking in Biblical attestation. The Apostle Paul cites many Old Testament (OT) verses in support of this teaching:

·        As it is written: "There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away; they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one." (Romans 3:10-12)

This is the oft-cited lament of the OT. God has His hands stretched out to His people, but nobody comes. “All have turned away.” Jeremiah cries out that even the priests don’t care enough to say, “Where is the Lord” (Jer. 2:8). Instead, they have entirely “forsaken Me” [their Lord] in favor of other gods. (Jer. 2:8-13).

What is God’s requirement for Israel to be restored to Him? Must they make restitution for all of their sins? “Only acknowledge your iniquity, that you have transgressed against the Lord your God” (Jer. 3:13) – nothing more. However, this is the very thing that humankind will not do!

Well then, if “no one seeks God,” how was it that the Patriarchs found Him? The Genesis accounts reveal a God who chose and sustained Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

The Prophets of Israel talk much about the eventual restoration of Israel. This will not come about because Israel will unilaterally decide that their God wasn’t so bad after all. Instead, God will have to initiate the process by changing their hard heart into a soft and responsive heart (Ezek. 36:25-26). Zechariah writes that God will first have to pour out His Spirit upon them:

·        "And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son.” (Zech. 12:10)

If left to ourselves, we inevitably despise God, our Judge. Paul describes the human race as God’s “enemies,” in opposition to Him:
·        The sinful mind is hostile [“at enmity”] to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so. (Romans 8:7)

Some wrongly deduce from this that we are not responsible because God had, at the Fall, deprived the human race of the freedom to even choose Him. However, Paul relates our enmity to God to our own sins:

·        Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. (Col. 1:21)

The fault is not with God but with us. We sin and intuitively know that God is judging us. However, instead of confessing, we try to justify ourselves, covering ourselves with fig leaves. However, Adam and Eve demonstrated that this strategy couldn’t work. Even with their fig leaf covering, they hid from God and could no longer tolerate His presence.

Jesus describes our hatred of God as a hatred of light or truth:

·        “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.” (John 3:19-20)

God is not to blame for our enmity towards Him; we are! Paul declares that we are “without excuse” for suppressing the truth of God (Rom. 1:18-32) We can’t blame Adam, God, and even our parents. The truth is implanted within us (Romans 2:14-15), and we have a responsibility to respond to this knowledge by confessing our sins, but we don’t. We refuse to! We have suppressed and distorted this truth so completely, that the mere mention of God and His Gospel are “foolishness” to us (1 Cor. 2:14). The mere presence of a Christian is a stench – “an aroma of death” (2 Cor. 2:16) – to one who remains an enemy of God.

James also warns us against blaming God for our sins (James 1:13-15) as if to say “God made me do it.”

Jesus also spoke about our enmity towards Him (John 15:18-20; 24-25) and our unwillingness to choose Him:

·        "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:44)

·        "This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him." (John 6:65)

The conclusion is very simple. If we are unwilling to come to God, He must come to us! If we don’t choose Him, He must choose us!

You might agree that this is the Biblical teaching, but you also might believe that this teaching fails to accord with reality – that people, at least some of them, are really much better than the Bible allows. However, your bright assessment is based upon your assumption that you know the hearts of others, and even your own, well enough to discount the Bible’s dismal assessment of humanity.

However, history is replete with examples where the “upstanding” became beasts. The landscape of history is littered with warfare, rape and genocide.

Are these mere anomalies or do they reflect us at our core? I would argue that these are closer to our core than many in the “civilized” West would admit. As has been noted, “Society is the lid on the garbage.” Once the lid is removed, the garbage spills out. Just look at what happens when the electricity goes out or the police go on strike or even when we don’t get our own way!

This dismal assessment is also reflected in many social psychological experiments in which the experimenter was easily able to turn normal participants into raving psychopaths.

Countless surveys have also established that we are seriously deluded about ourselves. Just to illustrate this point, one study surveyed husbands and their wives separately asking, “What percent of the housework do you do.” Husbands would characteristically answer between 30-50%, while their wives would answer 90-95%! Add the totals and we find that probably both parties have an inflated estimation of what they do.

Perhaps we are not the truth seekers that we’d like to think we are. I was “searching” for God for many years. However, in retrospect, I see that I was only searching for something to make me feel good about myself. I wasn’t asking God to reveal the truth about Himself. My search had been all about me and not about Him.

If this Biblical teaching of our “enmity towards God” is true, then it becomes clear that we don’t deserve anything more from God than condemnation. We have become His intractable enemies, and we refuse to admit this and to confess our sins.

Jesus had come fulfilling many prophecies and performing countless miracles – and these all demonstrated that He had come from God, as He had claimed. There was no further evidence that He could give the people. Yet they crucified Him. What then should the Master do? When we reject Him, He rejects us. However, this is not the end of the story.

(Stay tuned for Part 2!)

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