Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Pastoral Thoughts on the Doctrine of Unconditional Election

There is a discussion going on in "blogland" which is reviewing the nuances of the five points of Calvinism. (See Adrian's post...) and (David's Post here)

I like these articles ... BUT...

I want to direct these discussions toward a more practical and less abstract application of these doctrines.
In the discipleship process, I contend that Jesus and the Apostles utilized a method of "observation, imitation, and codification". The process begins with an aspect of Jesus' living that we are attempting to ourselves experience. The purpose of the codification-making process or the theology-making process is to assist people in living a particular observed aspect of the life of Christ. The doctrines of Sovereign Grace, I believe, are important to our faith and hope. In turn, hope greatly effects our joy, and joy makes us morally stronger. In other words, we are made humble, holy, and happy through the truth.

But in these discussions, the anatomy of the experience of hope is not discussed nor is the anatomy of the experience of worship that is generated by these particular doctrines.

The power of God in our lives, which comes through a heart orientation which is generated by this God-centered faith, is not being illustrated. If we disconnect doctrine from virtue and love, then such teaching departs only knowledge. I acknowledge that it is more difficult to describe the experience of the life of hope and how Sovereign Grace relates to our hope than to simply describe the ideas. The "experience describing" excercise assumes that the teacher has done the soul searching and the difficult work of finding hope through the application of these particular doctrines of Sovereign Grace to their soul.

If the discussion is not describing how to enter some new experience of God and Grace which tends toward love, then the discussion is divorced from the proper "observation, imitation, codification" DISCIPLESHIP process.

Unconditional election is not at all an abstract doctrine. My knowing intimately that Christ saw me, loved me, chased after me, threw a rope around my wayward legs, turned me around, and revealed His love to me through the gospel fills my heart with great peace.

Paul says "if while we were sinners (running away from God) Christ died for me, HOW MUCH MORE...shall I be saved". This is a very similar concept to Jesus' statement, "You did not choose Me but I chose you".

My peace rests in the fact that I did not choose Him but He choose me. I find pleasure in receiving the fact that He chose me. I find peace and joy in this rest. We pray and worship and receive strength from God through the Spirit's witness to this truth. When we have entered the experience of knowing His unconditional choice of us, then we passionately desire for others to have a similar life giving knowledge of God. We then find oursleves praing along with Paul "that your heart may be enlightened to know the hope of His calling of you".

This practical application and others like it are the only relevant reasons to teach such truth, and I ask those blogging to share their experience, strength, and hope that comes from this faith. Such application is the meat of the doctrine.

John Piper in a sermon by titled 'pastoral Thoughts on Unconditional Election" says:

The fourth pastoral thought about the doctrine of election is this: The humble embrace—not the discussion of, not even the intellectual belief in, but the humble embrace—of the precious truth of election and sovereign grace, produces radical, loving, risk—taking ministry and missions.
One example (and there could be so many more from William Carey and
Adoniram Judson and David Livingston and John Patton and George Mueller and Charles Spurgeon and Jonathan Edwards and on and on): Kristin Carlson has been in Zambia for almost a year working with street kids with Action International (Get to know them; I could have listed the director, Doug Nichols, among those radical Christians who went to Rwanda with colon cancer because he humbly embraces the truth of election). Here's what Kristin emailed to us on Thanksgiving morning:
First of all, I am thankful for God's unfathomable grace in choosing me. I have done nothing to deserve this, and I continually marvel at my Father's goodness to me. The reason I am thankful to be chosen is because I know what I have been chosen for. Chosen to proclaim the excellencies of God; chosen to be eternally satisfied in God through Jesus; chosen to live in light and not darkness; chosen to taste and see that He is good.
Don't miss this. Some of you have no idea of what Kristin is talking about because you have been taught that the doctrine of election is either untrue or unhelpful. You have always stood on the outside looking in and being suspicious or criticizing. You are now hearing in this email a story from inside—from someone who knows what is like to embrace and be embraced in the doctrine of unconditional election. The effect is not what you may have been taught. Listen to its effects. She continues:
I am thankful that God chose Vasco, a hard, ignorant, rebellious street kid, out of darkness into His marvelous light. And the fruit I already see in Vasco's life is testimony to his abiding in Jesus, the Vine.
I am thankful for God's overflowing goodness in the past year. . . . What an amazing work to be a part of—becoming friends with street kids and sharing the only lasting hope with them. And as an insert here, I'm thankful for the heart God has given me for these kids. Objectively speaking, I know it's not "normal" to LOVE treading through garbage piles and sitting on a plush couch (a small metal object with a piece of cardboard on top for a seat) with dirty, smelly kids, but, so it is, I love it.
Embracing and being embraced by the doctrine of sovereign grace—beginning with unconditional election—first produces that kind of radical, risk-taking sacrificial love; and then it humbles us to rejoice in the truth that we did not produce this beauty in ourselves, God did. Then we give him the glory.

Back to My Comments
In this light of the purpose of preaching such doctrine I have made the following comments on David Waynes and Adrian Warnock's blogs:

Jeremy, Adrian, David,
I challenge you with this question. Why did Paul write these things in the first place? Let me take Ephesians 1. Paul begins to write in Ephesians 1 about the believers adoption and that this adoption is predestined and that it precedes the believers choosing in other words this adoption and election is unconditional. As Paul continues to write, he begins to get emotional and breaks into prayer.
"Oh, I pray that the eyes of your heart may be opened to this truth that you may know the hope to which He has called you...and to know Him better..."
Paul writes these words because the worship of the Sovereign God is his experience, and the apostle knows how important this experience is to the believers hope and, therefore, moral strength.
If we are not fixated on the purpose of the doctrine and, instead, discuss them outside of the context of their life giving power, are we but clanging gongs? Furthermore, are we giving the witness that knowledge is the intention of doctrinal knowledge, when, in fact, the goal is faith and love.

At Adrian's blog:
I would like to place my 21st century perspective on this discussion a bit. I, as I am reading, am thinking, "why are we discussing this topic"? Is it to understand a mystery, like relativity? But understanding relativity doesn't make me a better person. Of course, I think this discussion is important but no one seems to be discussion why it is so. HERE is my 21st Century perspective. I see the role of leadership to be missional. To accomplish this mission, I hold to a method of "Observation, imitation, and codification". Observation is of the teacher, either Jesus or some mature person. Then, imitation is to learn to imitate this aspect of His life, and codification is to learn to put this practice into words so it becomes more repeatable. This is the method of discipleship. So the question to begin with is what aspect of the life of Jesus are we trying to imitate here.1. Has this discussion started with some codification of a system of ideas outside the context of some virtue we are learning (a bad thing).2. The discussion needs to center on the virtues and experiences that such faith generates. The goal of our instruction is love, NO? This will be the focus of any comments I make on this subject matter. How do these beliefs effect our story? That is the meat of the matter. If I cannot bring others into a blessed life through the idea I am communicating then the communication is waste. I believe these doctrines are actually closely linked to virtue, and we need to illustrate these experiences and virtues to one another.
God Bless,

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