The Journey

February 20, 2007

     Wow!  What a journey this has been for me.   I think that is the greatest thing about getting into God’s word and talking with fellow believers.  You start out at a run going full-steam ahead down the path of righteousness.  You don’t look left.  You don’t look right.  You don’t look back.  You plunge full ahead into the greatness of salvation.  Then, as you start to learn more about God and his grace, you start to ask questions.  All of a sudden, there are side roads that you missed before and you feel the need to explore those roads in order to better understand what it means to be a Christian.    The danger of that, is getting side-tracked from the main path which leads straight to God.  The possitive side of those paths is that they give you a greater understanding of who God is and His plan for you.  

 I wish that I could take you on that path that I have taken and show you all the things I have learned, but that is not possible.  First of all, most of this journey has been done on another site,(The Irish Calvinist, www.irishcalvinist.com)  and it would be quite a task to show you all the conversation that has happened.  Second, well, just keep reading for the second reason.

     When Moses came down from the mountain, he carried ten commandments with him.   The second one of those is, “Thou shalt have no other Gods beside me.”  This, I believe, includes theology.  Whether we like it or not, theology can become an idol for us.  When we become so intent on figuring this and that out and looking through the Bible to find what might support us in pride and need to be right, we run the risk of being caught up in things that really have nothing to do with God’s grace and salvation.  It has only to do with our pride and need to be right.  I am not saying that discussion and debate are wrong.  That is how I got to where I am now.  I just think that we need to always remain focused on what is important and remember that God loves his children regardless of how they came to know Him.  The moment we go to the scriptures to hunt for ways to prove that we are right instead of looking to them to find the truth, theology becomes an idol to us.  It is something that distracts us from the message of God and his plan for his children. 

     So, if you read any of my previous entries, I would like you to realize the following things.  First and foremost – I still hold all of the beliefs conveyed by them.

          Second – I have found myself guilty of the sin of needing to be right.

          Third – I have new insight and a new perspective of what I believe to be God-Truth.

It is this third issue which needs most attention at this point.  However, since this post is already long enough, I will just touch on it and beg for your patience once more as I plan to write more as soon as possible.

     Truth !  Who can define it?  Who can create it?  Who can hold it to it’s highest standard?  The answer can only be God.   I have talked with many Calvinists and had some good and sometimes heated discussions with them.  Are they saved?  I am not the one to say, but I do believe that I will meet many people who held to the Calvinistic view up in Heaven.  Will there be any Arminians up in Heaven.  I certainly think so.  So here is the issue:  if there is but one truth, then there is only one right way to salvation.  Any other way would be false and decptive.    Consequently, if I believe that there will be Calvinists in Heaven, then I must believe that Calvinism is right, right?  But wait, I also believe that there will be Arminians in heaven.  If there is but one truth, then how can this be?  Human comprehension will never figure this one out.  Yet I still hold that maybe God is above all this debate and that He saves people regardless of if they are Arminian or Reformed.  Unfortunately, there are pitfalls to both views of the Bible and I don’t think this debate will ever be over.

  My take on it is one of simple acceptance.  Acceptance of God Grace and mercy.  Acceptance of other people’s views.  Acceptance of not neccessarily being right and acceptance of God always being right.    So, if you read more of my stuff, please take this into account and know that I am doing my best to humbly bow before Gods’ superior wisdom and knowledge.



  1. I’ve been on the same journey as you in terms of the election issue. I appreciate how you handled yourself on the Irish Calvinist site. I have opened myself up to the possibility of their view being correct, but I have come to the conclusion – after much reading and angst – that I will hold to Arminianism until God shows me otherwise. Incidentally, I don’t know if you’ve ever read any of Arminian’s debates with Junius, but their back-and-forth debates, tempered with brotherly kindness, reminded me of your debate with the gentlemen on the Irish Calvinist site. I had to chuckle though when I Arminian chastised Junius for failing to address some of the very good points he was making. That seemed to happen to you, too! (http://wesley.nnu.edu/arminianism/arminius/index.htm) The Christian walk is hard enough without these mind-bending side trips, and I just pray that God would speak his truth to me and correct my error when necessary, but otherwise give me peace on these matters. May He do the same for all of us. God Bless!

  2. Having made my previous statement, I wanted to also add that I absolutely agree that the doctrine of election is clearly in the Bible, as is the doctrine of free will. I believe that the tension from this seeming dichotomy is there to keep us in awe of God. We are to bow before His majesty and always be mindful that His thoughts are far above our thoughts. For any particular group to believe they have solved a Biblical mystery is pure arrogance. As you said, theology can become an idol, and it’s been hard for me to let go of wanting complete clarity on this issue, most likely because I had to severe a friendship with someone because they would not agree to disagree or leave it as a divine mystery. This is truly sad and I’ve been struggling with why it had to be that way. So I must leave this debate behind (for the fourth or fifth time!).

  3. Stephanie,

    It is such an encouragement to me to find that I am not alone in my quest. Hearing from you and Jennifer and others really makes the trip that much easier and easier to accept my ignorance of Godly things. I liked what you said about the dichotamy of election and free will. If we understood everything about God, we would not be in awe of Him. I think this hits the heart of things. We need to come to a place where we recognize our ignorance and stand in open awe before him, but never become complacent in our efforts to understand his purpose. Sometimes I wonder at how he gives me new insite into certain passages of scripture or gives me a revelation that helps me better understand Him. I think he does this partly so that we continue to grow and increase in faith, but also to keep us from being satisfied with our ignorance. I hope this is not all babble. Thank you for your voice of encouragement and wisdom.

  4. Javaguy,
    No, you are not babbling. It’s funny, I almost didn’t get a chance to read your post because I have come to the end of myself on this issue and have forbidden myself to do anymore online reading! Satan has sifted me in the last year on this issue, resulting in this past week of my life being one of the darkest in recent memory. I don’t have to explain to you the reading that I’ve done online, the opinions I’ve read, the tones and terms in which things are written: from humble to haughty, from highly educated to laymen. From quoting Scripture to quoting Greek and Hebrew. From people agreeing to disagree to people calling us heretics in danger of hell fire.

    I don’t have time right now to give you the exact references to the Scriptures I’m going to quote (I’m at work), but they aren’t obscure ones. And this post is for you, Javaguy, because I’m not engaging in debate anymore; the whole problem with this debate is that one side feels that if they can find one flaw in the argument, one incorrectly stated Scripture, that they can then throw the whole person’s theory out — and I ‘m tired of all of that. I just felt that I should encourage you the way I’ve been encouraged, because I’ve been very, very discouraged over this issue.

    God is not the author of confusion, and in His word Paul says that if any of us is in error that God is able to correct that person because to his own master a servant will stand or fall. God said that the Holy Spirit was sent to teach us. So read your Bible, pray for the Holy Spirit to teach you. Yes, go to church, listen to teaching, but always keep in the forefront of your mind that the Spirit of God is your teacher. We need to quit being so afraid of being led astray when we are honestly seeking God. His word says is able to keep us standing!! A friend of mine said, “Stop reading. Ask the Holy Spirit to minister to you and lead you out of confusion.” So I spent most of last night awake, Bible closed, but receiving in my spirit various verses that spoke words of comfort and balance. Isn’t it good to know that the Word of God is living and active, and that He sends His Holy Spirit to guide us into truth?

    Javaguy: We are NEVER going to solve a centuries-old debate — and I caution you to avoid getting caught up in word games, especially ones that involve going back to the original Greek or Hebrew in order to solve, with absolute certainty, this issue. In my quest to understand this issue, I contacted a former professor of mine: a brilliant non-Christian linguist who admits he is still seeking spiritually. He’s not an atheist who thinks the Bible is a bunch of hooey, but when I asked him, about a year ago, to tell me how he felt about Jesus, he got angry and told me it was “between him and JC.” I only give you all this background info on the guy to let you know that here is a man who spends great portions of his life reading and studying the Bible from a scholarly perspective and is neither saying it is all a fable – which some highly educated people do – nor is he “completely” Christian. (Don’t even go there!!)

    You could say I was pretty desperate to go to a non-believing intellectual to get Biblical help, but I was longing to hear about word etymology from someone who wasn’t already decided on this issue. I don’t know if you’ve ever entered into the realm of election debate that pits one supposed scholar with another who try to one-up each other with their Greek and Hebrew exegesis, but believe me, it’s going on out there. How does that fit with “faith like a child”? And how does that fit with the thousands of early Christians who were brought to a saving grace by word of mouth, not studying written texts!

    I digress.

    Without telling the professor what I was thinking about, I asked him to define “pas ho pisteuwn.” That’s all I said in the e-mail. “Pas ho pisteuwm” is Greek for “whosoever,” which Calvinists say doesn’t mean “whosoever” as in “whoever chooses to believe” but really means “all of the believing ones,” as in “only those chosen to believe.”

    Well, that’s all he had to read to know that I was embroiled in the election debate. He said it was “a trick question” that’s been debated for centuries and to which there can never be a satisfactory answer given because, as most people do NOT know, there is NO word-for-word correspondence when transliterating one language to another. There will ALWAYS be a certain ambiguity to certain words/phrases. It amounts to reading the phrase:

    “He killed the king with a knife.”

    This could be taken as either the guy killed a king by using a knife, or there were a whole bunch of kings, but the guy killed the king who was holding the knife. Aside from asking the author which one he meant, one can never know for sure. He said that whenever someone starts quoting Greek and Hebrew to prove a doctrine, it’s “usually just an empty rhetorical gesture that disguises religious authoritarianism as linguistic history.”

    So then I asked him how anyone could be sure of absolute truth if there’s no way to nail down particulars. A strange question to pose to a non-Christian college professor you might say! His answer was that while he did NOT believe everything was subjective, that I should consider that absolute truth didn’t lie in the particulars but in the general meaning of the gospel. That if nailing down the particulars was what was needed to believe something, that there was no point to faith. That many men and women have traveled down this path before and it doesn’t lead to the “peace that passeth understanding.”

    All this from a man I’d been trying to convert! It certainly is a lesson in humility and God’s gentle way of dealing with us. Note the word “gentle.” There is no condemnation is Christ, javaguy. I didn’t say “no conviction.” Since I’ve been a Christian, whenever I’ve been in unrepentant sin God has made me miserable. Note the difference: When I walk into sin, I am miserable; when I walk away from sin, I am peaceful. I have been miserable in this search for absolute truth on election. So then is the doctrine of election the sin? No! Is the doctrine of prevenient grace (the term I use for the opposite of election) a sin? No! Is assuming that we can figure out the mind of God a sin? Yes, I do believe it is! And whenever someone uses the term “sound doctrine” to describe their belief system they are very much saying that they have figured out God’s mind.

    Are we, Javaguy, by having a hard time accepting Calvinism, living in unrepentant sin? On the contrary, we are asking God with humble hearts to help us into His truth. Am I saying that Calvinists are living in unrepentant sin? No! Anyone who seeks to lift up the name of Christ and the awesome nature of God is to be commended. Anyone who stands against the darkness of sin and the slippery pathway of destruction is to be commended. Anyone who preaches Christ and Him crucified is a child of God and our brother. It’s the Calvinist who questions our salvation, not the other way around. And I am quite sure that when we get to heaven we will have both been right AND wrong, but no one is even going to care at that point.

    The point is this: We are to preach Christ and Him crucified. That’s what saves a soul; doctrine does not.

    I think I’ve come to the other side of this now, and I don’t want to go back there again. To my friends and family who dismiss election out-of-hand I’ve given the advice that they shouldn’t be so quick to do so until they’ve evaluated the verses that indicate otherwise. This might seem to contradict everything I’ve said thus far, but it isn’t. My family and friends initially didn’t even want to entertain this idea or debate it because they said it was ludicrous. I told them that they really, really needed to be informed on this because it is not going away. The reformed theology movement is growing in direct relation to the growth of watered-down, seeker-sensitive churches that want to put a plastic Jesus in a Happy Meal and sell Him to the masses. We will be labeled as being of that group if we dismiss election with the “I don’t believe it although I don’t know why” approach that has been our incorrect response for so long. There’s absolutely nothing “wrong” or “weak,” for a lack of a better term, with nodding to the Calvinist camp and acknowledging the validity of their viewpoint, insomuch as it seeks to lift the name of God and the mind of God above all earthly and man-made wisdom.

    My friends who have been praying for me during this time have not failed to note that in a few weeks I’m to stand in front of 80 women at a Christian retreat and give my personal testimony as it relates to the body of Christ. Instead of writing the talk, I’ve been spending hours on the Internet reading about election and becoming increasingly despondent. And we think we know how Satan will attack us!!

    I’ve been asking God to humble me in general and in preparation for this retreat. I’ve been asking God for three years to take away my critical spirit. That is what has happened as a result of this dark hour. I am humbled. My wisdom is futile. I revere God more, me less. I don’t want to judge my neighbor anymore because I know how icky it feels to have it done to me. I don’t want someone else to have to be wrong in order that I can be right. I want some things to remain mysteries. Isn’t that what got Eve in so much trouble to begin with? She wanted to eat from the knowledge of good and evil so that she could know everything! I don’t want to know everything!

    I know I should end this right now, with no comments that could lead to debate, but my friend reminded me this morning of how Satan is the great deceiver, the Father of lies, a lion who seeks to kill, steal and destroy. That one day he will work through the anti-Christ to deceive people. Why? What people? If unregenerate man is already doomed and the elect already saved, then Satan’s work is done. After he decieved Adam and Eve, he could have sat down poolside with a margarita and been the one to say, “It is finished!” Because from there on out, man’s fate was sealed. So no more spiritual warfare, on our part, is in order. No more lying and deceiving, on Satan’s part, is needed. In fact, one could even argue that Satan is a superfluous character in this cosmic story. Man had free will and man exercised it in the garden. Temptation by a third being was not needed. And if, since the fall, man has no ability to choose to do right, then it stands to reason that there is no need then for an opposing force to encourage man to do wrong. And Satan really isn’t trying to keep us from doing good and from proclaiming the gospel, because there’s no battle to be fought over souls. It’s done already. But Scripture is clear that there is an unseen cosmic battle going on—and I, for one, don’t need to know and understand all the details in order to believe it is so. Just like I don’t need to know who made God in order to believe in Him!

    I’m sorry to digress again. That last paragraph was just a passing thought and NOT the central theme of this post. The central theme is that I’m quite ok with leaving election alone, and in the words of the Calvinists, going back to the central message of Christ crucified and Christ resurrected.

    A most perfect time of the year to be thinking such thoughts.

    Javaguy, please, please, please, don’t burden yourself with proving one theory or another. It will end up taking precious time away from things He’d rather us be doing. Remember that (in James, I think) it says that true religion is helping the widows and orphans and keeping oneself from being polluted by the world. Somewhere else it says that all that matters is faith expressing itself through love. And Jesus said all of the law could be summed up by loving God with all your strength, heart and mind and loving your neighbor as yourself. He didn’t say, “Use your strength, heart, and mind to figure out God and make your neighbor agree with you about it.”

    As it says in Ecclesiastes, too much studying wearies the bones and that it is not good to be over-foolish or over-wise: avoid extremes, he said. Enjoy your lot in life and worship the God who made you – and, in my words – don’t step out of your place by trying on God’s shoes. They will not fit, and even if they did you would not be able to walk in them!!

    Sorry for the long post. God bless you, Javaguy. Now that the fog is clearing, I will be very glad if all of this suffering has enabled me, in some small way, to contribute to your spiritual edification.

    Looking forward to the day when He rends the heavens and our faith will be sight!

  5. I realize that my unfortunate use of a commonly used phrase for witnessing — “trying to convert” — will be jumped on as proof that I think salvation is a man-initiated effort, but that was not how I meant the statment, and I’m not interesting in getting into the ring with anyone not willing to see the spirit in which I used that phrase.

  6. Stephanie,
    Wow! And I thought my journey was incredible. In one breath, I can say that I envy your experience and the spiritual wisdom God has given you and at the same time I am thankful that I have not struggled as deeply as you have. I am also thankful that God led you to my site to share your story with me because it has had an effect on me. You have humbled me, yet encouraged me. You have shared your wisdom so that I may learn from it. You show concern for one who is on his way to the mental, spiritual, and emotional struggles that you have experienced. Thank you, Stephanie, for your story. It has done me good.

    The phrase, “ignorance is bliss” is not entirely appropriate here, for we should never strive for ignorance, or remain content in ignorance, in an effort to find bliss. However, there is something to be said about accepting the things which we will always be ignorant of and find peace in that ignorance. We can either let it eat at us until we are consumed or we can accept it and have peace about it. I think you have finally stumbled upon the right course. It’s ironic that we have to get “down to earth” to make it to Heaven.

    I hope all goes well a the women’s conference. It sounds like you might have some good things to share. I’ll be praying for you.

  7. Javaguy,
    Thanks for your prayers, and I will remember you in mine. May God give you peace on all matters, because the fear of being deceived is from Satan. The Word makes it clear that the Holy Spirit can correct us when we are in error. Don’t run after man’s opinions to find clarity.

    I’m glad I stumbled onto you blog because it was good for me to see that there are other *sincere* Christians having issues with this. However, I have learned the hard way that blogs can be hazardous to your spiritual health — so beware!! Ha-ha!

    Grace and peace to you,

  8. Javaguy,
    I hope that you read my last post on irishcalvinist about what you said. I appreciate your search. I too became frustrated with the debate (Arm vs Cal) in my early twenties. I simply put it on the shelf and basically decided to obey whatever I believed God was telling me and pray for help in my unbelief. It sounds like you and Stephanie get that as well. Obedience.

    I would like to gently encourage you to read Splendor of Truth by John Paul II. Here’s a link:

    I wish I had read it twenty years ago. Keep seeking the Truth, because Jesus is the Truth.

  9. David,
    I did read your response on the Irish Calvinist. Thanks for the link. I haven’t had time to read it all yet, but I will definitely do that. I don’t know if you saw my “letter of resignation” on the Irish Calvinist blog, but I essentially told them that I was no longer going to debate the Arminian/Calvinist thing on that site anymore. I left it on this post http://www.irishcalvinist.com/?p=674
    While I am firm in my conviction to not debate that there, I find that it is very difficult to ignore when people misrepresent the Arminian view and say things like, we don’t believe God is sovereign and that we think we can somehow, stay the hand of God when it comes to salvation, etc. Those things almost scream to be answered. At the same time, I have found that everytime I try to correct those mistakes and misbeliefs, it does no good. They don’t take the time to actually think about things the way I do and continue to think those misconceptions. So, do I remain silent because it is futile, or do I keep defending my belief to no avail? Am I pounding my hammer against an unbreakable stone, or am I actually slowly chipping away at it? I don’t want to consider my “resignation” giving up, just an acceptance of the fact that God is the only one who will ever get through to these people or accept them into Heaven because I no too little to judge their salvation. Anyway, I ramble. Thanks for the response and encouragement. See ya on the web.

    God bless.

  10. Javaguy,
    Your patient perseverance is sanctification. I have a shirt that says “Get holy or die trying” and then on the back lists martyrs through the centuries. I ask myself often why I am so attracted to Calvinists. I literally, viscerally hate the implications of their view of determinism. To actually believe that God made some for damnation is so different than Paul’s “what if” question in Romans. Yet, I love their solid faithfulness to what they believe the scripture teaches. Since their devotion is so true, when they are right they are very very right. But when they are wrong they are very very wrong. I guess I admire their passion and long to help them in the way of Christ not just Calvin’s Christ.

    I like your perspective on the irishcalvinist. I like that Erik posts your comments. Mine don’t get posted often. I want you to know that I would be glad to submit questions to your blog and faithfully read it. I have always liked the one on one conversation better. If others listened or joined in that wouldn’t bother me. For me the bigger the group that I think I need to communicate to the more difficult it is for me to narrow down how I should best say it. I always want to fit every nuance of understanding present.

    Have you had a chance to read some of the comments about Frank Beckwith’s conversion to the Catholic Church? He was the president of the Evangelical Theological Society. You can spot every Calvinist comment. As I tell people, a good Calvinist has to say someone like Beckwith or even Blessed Mother Teresa are damned. Their take would be “if they were among us they would have never left us” in regard to Beckwith and “the road to hell is paved with good intentions for Bl. Mother Teresa.” A good Calvinist is a great “compartmentalist” ( to coin a word) as is every relativist. They would never look at Mother Teresa in light of a Gospel verse that says something about those who love me keep my commandments. It is always the narrow view.

    Oh well, I have spent too much time away from my own Bible study already. You keep seeking Christ.

    In Him,

  11. How can I get an email whenever you post?

  12. Thanks David,

    I already answered your question on “The Challenge” post, but I will definitely use it sometime as a post to see what kind of response we get. It is a thought-provoking question and deserves more than what I gave it.

    I’m not sure how to notify you when I post. I think the rss feeds does something like that, but I’m not sure. I’m pretty new to blogging and all I know is how to write and respond. Thanks for your encouragement.

    I tend to feel the same way as you when it comes to Calvinist. I have tried over and over to explain how my view of God’s sovereignty is no less sovereign than theirs, but they just can’t seem to grasp the whole concept. They look at my views seperately and don’t take them in as a whole and that will never give anyone a grasp of how I believe what I do. At the same time, like you, I respect and admire their fervor and knowledge of scripture and their knowledge of why they believe what they do. It just makes me wonder how much of it is because they are passionate about God or because they are so used to having to back up their opinion.

  13. They will not hear this for some reason. God is sovereign. He chose to allow us a choice in our salvation. It is so simple but they will not hear it. Without Christ we are nothing. They don’t even recognize they make a choice to accept the teaching of sovereign grace. It reminds me of the one crying sola scriptura except for what exactly is “scriptura”……….Do you see the connection?

  14. Mmm. . . thinking. I’ll get it eventually.

  15. here’s another example: the relativist says absolutely there are no absolutes.

    the Calvinist makes a choice to believe we have no choice.

    It says nowhere in the “scriptura”, “sola scriptura”. It doesn’t even say (ie. Hebrews) “scriptura”.

    get it?

  16. Or you could say the Calvinist freely chooses to deny free choice. Calvinism makes itself irrelevant

    If the choice has been made or we have no free will, then what I choose means nothing or I am incapable of choosing.

    Once one understands what is upside down about Calvinism, then they begin to understand what is right side up about Catholicism

    Without a free will there is no dignity to humanity, without a free choice there is no love.

    It is fundamental to humanity. Take a drive out in the rural KY, OH, IN, etc. and you’ll see “Free Will Baptist Church”. It is the common sense of the common man that rebels against the grating contradictions of the learned.

  17. Wow! I followed JavaGuy’s link from the Irish Calvinist and fell into this fascinating conversation. I wish I could pull up a chair at Starbucks with JavaGuy, Stephanie and David Ulmer.

    I am humbled by much of what is written above. A sincere seeking after God, a willingness to accept the tension that exists in Scripture and to admit “I don’t know.” How refreshing!

    I hold to the Doctrines of Grace (aka the five points of Calvinism, a term I dislike)and to God’s sovereignty. Does that mean my eyes are blinded to passages in Scripture that imply man has free will? No, and I struggled with them and oftentimes still do. There’s that tension, that “on the one hand, but on the other…” There’s mystery there (something I suspect David can appreciate). I sometimes think it is our Western competitive culture that drives us to choose a side and swear unwavering dogmatic allegiance to it and to give no quarter to the opposition.

    I will join David in committing to visit here regularly and to read where you’re at, Javaguy. And I hope Stephanie returns to share her insights from her journey too. I’ve been inspired and edified by my half-hour here eavesdropping on this conversation. Blessings to each of you!

  18. Gary,

    Thank you for your comments. It is refreshing to see that we truly can be unified in Christ, if not in theology. I also appreciate yours and Davids promises to check back and comment on my site. I fear that I may disappoint you, though. I am horrible about adding new stuff to my own blog, but your promise to check in does give me a little more motivation. . .

    Thanks again.

  19. I really enjoyed this post.
    Very honest and poignant.

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