This post was the ‘intro’ of the preceding post on evangelism. For the sake of clarity, I felt that what I had to say was better served by letting the aforementioned intro and my thoughts on contemporary American evangelism stand on their on.
I have been progressively led into what may be considered a Calvinist view of soteriology, a theological term used in biblically defining how God reconciles humanity to Himself. For those unfamiliar with Calvinism, it is, in a nutshell, the biblical assertion that God is solely responsible for salvation. It is not a cooperative venture between man and God. Rather, it is God who sovereignly draws to Him those whom He sovereignly chooses. That being said, biblical Calvinism does not relieve man of the responsibility of repentance and faith and trust, itself a grace from God, in the in the redeeming work of our risen Messiah.
A common objection to Calvinism, to predestination, refers to our responsibility, or inferred lack thereof, in regards to the Great Commission, the going out into the world and making disciples. The argument goes that if God has already chosen those who will spend eternity with Him, where is the need for evangelism? What we do with and how we feel about the doctrine of election predestination is, in the final analysis, irrelevant in regards to what I perceive to be the biblical veracity of predestination. The fact remains that Christ chose His church to be the primary means, the vector, for bringing the Gospel to the chosen brothers and sisters who are in the world, spread across the centuries and across the continents. He tells his church to go to the nations and make disciples, and we, out of love, obey. It is ultimately the work of the Father to bring fruit from our evangelical efforts that the praise should be directed to Him and the power of His Word, not our methods.
I have tried to think of an analogy that would be helpfully illustrative. Perhaps this is it: the church can be thought of as the tool that holds the magnet that attracts and separates the ferrous from the non-ferrous. God uses the church to sweep over the world the message of redemption through the resurrected Christ. Those that respond are the misshapen and broken bits of iron and steel that will be, over time in the cauldron of discipleship, molded to the image of Christ. Iron has no choice in how it reacts to the magnet. The world has no hold on it.
All that being said, the disagreements and debates between Calvinism and its theological counter-point, contemporary Arminianism are intramural in nature and should be approached from both perspectives with Christ-like grace, love, meekness, patience, and understanding. Both camps are inhabited by many men and women who love and serve the Messiah.
I understand the doctrine of predestination is a controversial stance in the milieu of contemporary American evangelism. What is there, though, about the Gospel message that is not controversial? Such is a subject for another essay, perhaps.