Saturday, March 12, 2005

The God of Churchianity: "Decisionalism"

That is a big "part 1", for volumes have been written on the subjects above. Also, it probably seems a little harsh to say that the views which I will be commenting upon represent a different god, not the true God. Does that mean that those who hold these views worship another god, an idol? That is not my point in all of this. Suffice it to say we all have inconsistencies in our beliefs. My point is that these views are un-Biblical and do not represent the God of the Bible. Are there some who believe these things in part and are true believers? Yes. Most of us, in fact, believed such things at one time without seeing how they conflict with Scripture or the other wonderful truths of God's salvation. Are there some who believe these things and are not? Yes, unfortunately.

First, I have to take note that the source of this "interview" is a satirical one. It is not meant to be taken 100% seriously. Therefore, the fact that the author, in this article, presumes to speak for God will not be a major focus of my comments. It is true, it is a huge responsibility to bear -even in a satirical piece- to make sure we are truly speaking "for God" and not from our own traditions (as I believe this author does in many places), but it is the content of the article that is most important, I believe.

Lets take a quick look at the part pf the interview in question:

God: This life is a crucible. Do you know what a crucible is used for, Larry?
Larry: It's a book, right?
God: Ummm. Anyway, a crucible is something used to heat things up and refine them, so that their purity can be discovered. I have allowed life to be like that. Truth is Larry, I don't care about judgement, or miracles, or signs, all I care about is you, and winning your heart.
Larry (smiling bashfully): Thanks.
God: Larry, you have been married so many times that only scientific notation can express it. Did all those women enter into it of their own free will?
Larry (chuckling): You can't prove otherwise.
God: Would you have wanted any of them to be "forced" into marrying you?
Larry: No.
God: Ever wonder if any of these amazingly gorgeous, significantly younger women you were marrying were doing it just for the money?
Larry: Wives 5 - 12.
God: Bummer, huh?
Larry: Yep.
God: I don't want to wonder, Larry. I want to know that those who choose Me, choose Me in sickness and in health. In poor and in plenty. The minute I begin tinkering with the way the world is, you'd either forget Me, or love Me for the wrong reasons. Am I powerless? No, I am more powerful than you can conceive. Do you know how much will-power it takes to watch those you love make a mess of their lives, and reject Me in the process? Tsunamis, tornadoes, heart attacks, birth defects, cancer from second-hand smoke, murder, whatever, are all products of a fallen world. That's all there is to it. I don't make it happen, but I desperately want to help you pick up the pieces. I want a relationship with you. But, before I spend an eternity with you, I want to know that you want Me too. That is what this life, with all its good and bad is. It's a chance for you to give me an authentic "Yes" or "No".
Larry: Can I say, "maybe"?
God: Maybe. But remember, life is shorter than you think Larry.

There are a number of assertions made in this dialog. First, it is asserted that God doesn't care about judgment, but only cares about us and "winning our hearts". Second, the assertion is made that God cannot force anyone into choosing to be with Him, so He wants to know who really wants Him. In addition to this, it is asserted that God does not "tinker" with this world (or, implicitly, our "free will") because He doesn't want people to love Him for the wrong reasons. Lastly, it is asserted that God wants a relationship with us, but He will only have one with us if He first knows that we really want one with Him, too. We must give Him an authentic "yes" or "no".

The issue I want to comment on in this blog entry is the idea that our salvation rests upon our decision. To best explain why I see this as inherently heretical, and a gospel that does not save, I thought I would write a mock dialog between myself and an average Christian we would meet in any number of common fellowships across the United States. I'll call this person, "John", just to give him a name. The truth is there are many people who are dear to me who I will probably borrow words and sentiments from. Here goes:

Me: This whole "make a decision for God" thing is way off base.
John: How so? That is what I hear from every church I have ever been to.
Me: I know, that is probably true, but I submit that it is still terribly wrong.
John: So are you trying to say I'm not saved? What!? I need to have perfect doctrine to be a Christian?
Me: Absolutely not! First, whether you are saved or not is between you and God. Second, no man has perfect doctrine. However, there are principles taught regarding the Gospel and salvation that are clear, and to teach in contradiction to them is to teach a false gospel, which, as Paul tells us in Galatians 1, is "no gospel at all".
John: Sounds like a lot of needless theological hair-splitting if you ask me.
Me: Well, lets make it simple. What was it that drove you to Jesus?
John: Well, I saw that He died for my sins.
Me: Ok, but what is so great about that?
John: Its great because I'm a sinner and can't earn my way to heaven. So if Jesus paid for my sins, that means I can go to heaven.
Me: Right, salvation is a gift. It is not something we work for in any way. We can't obtain it by an act of our will by doing something that will please Him. So, our coming to Jesus was borne out of seeing that we have nothing at all to bring to God to gain anything from Him. When we came to Christ it was with empty hands only!
John: Right, its by grace.
Me: But what is it to teach that God will save us if we choose Him? What if we say, "God will accept you into heaven if He first knows that you honestly and sincerely choose Him."
John: Well, we do choose Him. We give our hearts to Him. No man is saved if he doesn't do that.
Me: That is true, in a sense. If a man has not been humbled and given his heart to Jesus, then yes, I would say he is not saved. But if a man says he is saved because he gave his heart to Jesus, then I would say he is not saved! Empty hands! Remember?
John: Now I'm confused.
Me: This is what I'm getting at. What does God want with anything we have to bring? Are we honestly going to bring our hearts to Him and expect something good in return? Can our commitment gain God's acceptance? We might as well try to purchase a mansion with a sack of dirty diapers -that would be more realistic to imagine!
John: I kinda see what you are saying. If we say that, then we are saying that salvation is like an exchange between us and God.
Me: Yes, and is it? No. We offer nothing. God does not give us salvation as a result of our doing something He asks of us. That is works-righteousness. We might as well say that God will give us salvation if we obey any of the 10 commandments -but we can't, and we don't. If we think we offer anything to God for our salvation, then we do not yet understand the depths of our sin and inability to save ourselves.
John: But we must receive Jesus. That is something we must do. We aren't saved without receiving Him. Look at the discourse about the "Bread of Life" in John 6. If we don't eat of the Bread, then we aren't going to have eternal life.
Me: Very true, so far as that figure goes. So, tell me then, are those who have life saved because of the act of eating, or because God gave them Bread? See, there is a huge difference between believing God gives us life if we perform an act, no matter what act we call it, and believing that God has given us what we need for our life. See, why does the sinner eat of the Bread? He eats because he already sees that God has given him what he needs. He brings nothing, has nothing, but only thankfully takes in his grubby hand what God gives.
John: I see what you are saying, but is it really that wrong to teach the first? I mean, that would seem to condemn a lot of what people teach these days.
Me: Sadly, yes. Scripture is replete with passages that teach us that salvation is wholly a gift. Check out Romans 4:4-5

"So to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a gift but as what is due. But to the man who does not work, but believes Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness"

Paul puts an impassible gulf between any idea of doing something to gain the expected result (like working for a wage) and just believing in the free goodness of He who justifies the ungodly purely by grace. Think of the first man as a man who comes to God with a list of things he has done that he believes God will return with wages for. The man is a hireling, and at the end of the day, even if what is expected of him is small, he comes to the Boss saying, "ok then, I have done this one thing which you required, so now I am ready to receive my wage." On the opposite spectrum, think of the second man as one who takes all of those lists he previously had, burns them, and comes with absolutely nothing -being assured by God's gracious promise alone.

. . . . . . . . . . . . .

So, returning to the mock interview... this is essentially what the author is saying God is saying -that God will accept us if we make the right choice, with true sincerity. Because, as "God" here points out, just as Larry King would be upset to find out if any of his many wives married him for the wrong reasons, God would likewise be upset to find out if we chose Him for the wrong reasons- and if that is the case, He won't want us to be with Him. Therefore, we have to choose Him for the "right" reasons. The implicit "right" reasons are "love" and "sincerity". How is this different from the greatest commandment?

Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' (Matt 22:37)

This is the summary of the Law, with the second being "like unto it... to love your neighbor as yourself". Can you fulfill this command -at every moment of every day with "all" your heart, sou, and mind? Do you -especially you who rest upon your decision for God for salvation- fulfill it perfectly? No. And since we do not, we become guilty of the whole Law. Folks, if we could do this, we would be righteous. Don't you see? This is, in principle, no different from saying that God will accept us based on observing the Law. This is not salvation of ungodly sinners by a God who hates sin. This is offering a simpler Law for us to follow to gain favor with a god who is not concerned with justice and judgment but only being our buddy. It is works-righteousness and a gospel that does not and cannot save.

1 comment:

Jeff said...

wish my conversations with "John" went that well.. hehe