As I’ve said, Roland Baker reminds me of Miyagi from the movie The Karate Kid. I remember listening as people tried to debate him on theological topics in Harvest School. “Is God like this or is God like that?…” “Well…this and that.” Roland would reply. “Do we have free will?”
“Yes and no.”
Have you ever found yourself in a discussion with other believers on something as seemingly clear as salvation a.k.a Soteriology and left feeling more conflicted and confused? How could two believers read the same Bible and arrive at such different conclusions?
If you aren’t Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, or Coptic then you are Protestant. The roots of every Protestant denomination began with the Protestant Reformation. Over time, these denominations continued to split over theological disagreements. Blatant heresies like Mormonism and Jehovah’s Witnesses aside, these disagreements were almost always rooted in the views of two theologians, John Calvin, 1509-1564, and Jacobus Arminius 1560-1609. Both arguments are rooted in five opposing points as follows.
- Total depravity – Mankind is incapable of obeying the law of God. No one is righteous Romans 3:10, Romans 3:23 We are “dead in trespasses and sins”. Ephesians 2:1 We have no hope of salvation apart from divine intervention.
- Limited atonement – Jesus’ death and resurrection made salvation possible. However, it is only definite for those elected (Predestined) by God. At the end of the day we don’t choose salvation we are appointed to it. “As many as were ordained to eternal life believed.” Acts 13:48
- Unconditional election – Those who are saved are predestined to be saved. Ephesians 1:4-5 God chose them before the foundation of the world. Salvation is in no way influenced by our decisions or actions but by the sovereign will of God.
- The irresistibility of grace – No one can be saved unless God draws them. No one can resist God when they are drawn. John 6:44 “All that the Father gives me will come to me,” John 6:37 Whom God calls He will justify, sanctify and glorify. Romans 8:28-30. Those predestined to be saved can not stop God from saving them.
- Perseverance of the saints – Once saved ALWAYS SAVED John 10:28-29. We immediately obtain eternal life the moment we believe. John 5:24; 6:47 Our salvation cannot be lost John 10:27-28; Romans 8:31-39.
Denominations that lean toward Calvinism include Primitive Baptist or Reformed Baptist Churches, Presbyterian Churches, and Reformed Churches. The United Church of Christ, The Protestant Reformed Churches in America.
- Human Free Will – God does not want anyone to perish 2 Peter 3:9 but many do. If God is sovereign, then part of that sovereignty must include that he gave man free will to choose Him or reject Him.
- Conditional Election – God has foreknowledge of who will be saved because He is omniscient. He does not pre-determine who will be saved. In the end, we make the final decision whether we will be obedient to the call. 1 Peter 1:1–2
- Prevenient Grace – We absolutely CAN reject salvation via our own free will. We hear the Gospel John 6:45 are convicted John 16:8 and exercise free will to believe in Christ. Holy Spirit makes us open to the message Acts 16:14, Luke 24:45 and draws us to God. John 6:44, 12:32 Still, we must exercise our free will to believe.
- Universal Atonement – Jesus bore the sin of everyone who ever lived not just the elect. 1 John 2:2, 1 Timothy 4:10
- Persistence of salvation – A person can fall from grace and lose his salvation. Galatians 5:4, Hebrews 10:26-29, Hebrews 6:4–6 The NT is a higher standard than the OT. Mat 7:21-23, Mat 5:28 We must “endure” to be saved. Mat 24:13
Denominations that lean toward Arminianism include The Evangelical Methodist Church, the Church of the Nazarene, the Free Methodist Church, the Wesleyan Church, and the Salvation Army. The Assemblies of God, Church of God, and the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel.
Calvinists accuse Arminians of minimizing or even denying the sovereignty of God. Arminians see Calvinists as robots living in a proverbial Truman Show before Truman realized he had free will.
Most debates concerning the character, nature, and will of God are reduceable to the subject of free will or the lack thereof. Exactly how much free will a.k.a POWER do I have? Arminius says, “Some”. Calvin says, “None”. Consider this. Suppose every thought and action of yours was in fact predetermined by God.
How would you know?
Roland Baker frequently writes provocative FB posts illuminating this seemingly bottomless rabbit hole and Ecc 1:9 debate.
If Roland’s posts don’t clarify the confusion the comments certainly do.
“Who cares!” some of you say. “That’s theology or “religion”. “I’m led by Holy Spirit!” Ok. But doesn’t every believer makes that claim? Like it or not we all have a theology especially those “religiously irreligious” people who claim they do not. That said, anyone who has studied theology understands the Ecc 1:9 nature of most unresolved theological debates.
What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.
One thing is certain, our theology is at least partly shaped by the denomination or faith stream we choose. Hardly anyone reads their Bible without also consulting books and commentaries written by theologians and teachers aligned with their stream. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this unless you don’t read the Bible and only read books by theologians and teachers aligned with your stream. Think about it. How many of those aligned with Bill Johnson read books by Paul Washer or God forbid the likes of John MacArthur? If they do it is usually through the lens of Bill Johnson.
“That’s not right! Bill Johnson says…”
Of course, the opposing side is just as guilty. The point is that too many determine the truth by who said it. This is the Genetic Fallacy and always results in Christian tribalism otherwise known as denominations and streams.
So much for attaining the unity of the faith…Eph 4:13
Call me crazy but maybe we have never agreed on the answers to certain questions because we are asking the wrong questions. “Can I lose my salvation? Or in the words of Martin Luther, am I free to “love God and sin boldly?” “How righteous or unrighteous am I? “What is my true identity?” “How much power have I been granted?” “Does more faith mean more power?” “Can I choose to grow in faith or am I stuck with the measure I have been given?” It seems to me that a better question might be,
Does Jesus know me?
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ Mat 7:21-23
The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. Prov 9:10
Some of you were just triggered.
For the record, fear is never the goal. 1 John 4:18 Most fears among believers are rooted in groundless accusations from people and the accuser of the brethren. Still, sometimes fear points to things that we are reluctant to address Phil 2:12
All fear aside, What if it is only possible to understand what matters to God in the context of doing what matters to God?
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does. James 1:22-25
For example, Ephesians chapter five speaks of marriage between Christ and His Church in the context of the relationship between a husband and a wife. It follows that learning about marriage would be a good way to understand Paul’s words to the Ephesians.
Husbands love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. Eph 5:25-27
I could study about being a husband, and read opposing arguments about loving a wife. I could read books about family dynamics. I could get a degree in Marriage and Family Therapy. I could memorize all the love languages, read books on human sexuality, and neuropsychology, and become an authority on the differences between the male and female brain. I could lead marriage seminars and debate other credentialed therapists before writing my own expert opinion on marriage. I might even become a celebrated expert cited by other credentialed experts. I might have paid speaking engagements, sell millions of books and God forbid, find millions of people rebutting arguments with,
“But Brian Gray says…”
At the end of the day, the only way to know anything about being a husband and loving a wife is to be married to one. Even then most of what I know is beyond what mere words can convey. The same applies to walking with God as a part of His body and bride. For the record that is not an excuse to not study yourselves approved. 2 Tim 2:15 Faith (still) comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. Rom 10:17. God’s Word remains Truth. John 17:17. The full understanding of God’s word comes by walking it out. Eph 5:9-10 Don’t go beyond what is written. 1 Cor 4:6 And don’t extrapolate weird abstract meanings from scriptures. Focus on what is clearly stated in the text.
Then walk it out
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma. Eph 5:1-2
Roland Baker is a theologian. More importantly, he is an imitator of God. That’s not an invitation to put him on a pedestal as another celebrity idol.
You’ve missed the point entirely if you do.
If you’ve been to Mozambique and seen the suffering that surrounds him and spoken with the locals alongside whom he and Heidi suffer, then you know Roland’s knowledge of God is beyond words he can express. It is rooted in his best attempt at walking in love, just as Christ also loved him. Again I’m not suggesting that Roland is some elevated saint whose shadow heals and whose touch turns everything to gold or that he can mystically impart his knowledge and anointing through his hands. That’s Harry Potter Christian silliness. I am saying that he is an example of what it looks like to imitate God’s faithfulness the best way he knows how. God calls us to be faithful, not successful. Mat 25:23 Faith precedes knowledge. Everything else is the fruit of
knowledge applied. 2 Peter 1:5-11
Chew on that…