I have been known to claim the title of Calvinist, but I have discovered the fatal flaw in that word. It means too many things, and everyone hears what they want to hear when the C-bomb gets dropped. Immediately people make assumptions about my theology and where I stand on certain issues. Many people have no idea what is really means, but have either positive or negative views of it. To add insult to injury, apparently there are some at the SBC who believe that all Calvinist should pack up and leave. I think we have been blamed for a decrease in Baptisms recently as well. Today I am sharing with you my new theological system. It’s not quite complete, but feel free to poke holes in it if you’d like. The Good Lord knows that I already resemble swiss cheese, so why quit now, right?
As I have seen in my ministry, read in scripture and learn from others, Salvation in an event and a process and it happens in a moment while it takes a long time. It’s confusing, and some things seem to contradict other things. What has begun to emerge in my thinking are not two truths that move in opposite direction, but rather run perpendicular to one another. These cords of truth, these strands overlap as they cross, forming a weaving which becomes a tapestry. That is why I have chosen to call my system “Woven Theology” and I will henceforth refer to myself as a Wovenist.
Here is my major theological point, and it’s found all over scripture, but I have a couple of verses that help me clearly illustrate this. In I Samuel 15:29 it says “And also the Glory of Israel will not lie or have regret, for he is not a man, that he should have regret.” After all, why would a God who sees and knows all things, who omnipresent, why would he regret since he knows what is going to happen? This is God’s eternal nature, His eternal plan is set, from the beginning of time to the end of time. He knows and orchestrates all things to be consistent with His plan. This can not be changes, thwarted or subverted. This is God’s sovereign nature at work. As we continue to read, we hit verse 35 of the same chapter. Six verses later it says “And Samuel did not see Saul again unil the day of his death, but Samuel grieved over Saul. And the LORD regretted that he had made Saul king over Israel.” Uh oh.
Being a responsible Bible reader and armchair theologian, I did some work. I wanted to know, is that the same Hebrew word or is there 2 types of regret talked about here? Nope, same word, nacham, to repent or regret. What we see here is not a contradiction, it’s an expression of God’s temporal nature. God deals with is in time and space, He speaks to us and loves us and interact with us. When He talks with Moses about not killing the nation of Israel, Moses talked Him out of it. In the King James, God repented. God works with us in time in a very human way, so we can interact with Him, and grow in love and faith.
Salvation is the perfect place to see this in action. We know from Scripture that some are predestined, elect and were chosen from the foundation of the world. The Lord chose the nation of Israel, then let them depart and gave grace to the Gentiles, and one day, He will restore Salvation to the Jews. We know that from the book of Romans. God has an eternal plan in which He calls, He justifies and He works. We can’t change it, we can’t really even interact with it. In this aspect of God’s nature, we are chosen and God does the work, He is without need, without want and lacks nothing. He is eternal and sovereign.
This intersects another aspect of God’s nature in which He works with us on earth. In this aspect of God’s nature, we are partners with Him, and we have responsibility. He has chosen to leave us on earth as the instrument by which the gospel is proclaimed. He speaks too and through us by His Holy Spirit and we share the message. The Holy Spirit uses our words to bring recognition of sin and conviction that leads to repentance. We work with God in the process of Salvation, and the individual has the responsibility to confess, repent and follow Jesus. This is where relationship is, where the love and faith grow and where we learn and grow close to the Heart of God. This aspect of God became flesh and walked among us.
As I write, I am thinking of your objections, the first one I see is “you are saying God has two natures”, which is not what I believe. I said God has aspects of His nature, just like I do. I interact with people differently, I treat my kids much different than I treat my wife. Who I am doesn’t change, but the part of my personality that is expressed is different. I express different parts of who I am in different situations. One God, 3 persons and many expressions of His nature, such as grace and justice, mercy and wrath. All different aspects of God.
I hear some of you in the back of my mind says “if the eternal aspect of God’s nature has already predestined some, then what happens temporally doesn’t matter.” I believe that idea comes from the American idea that the only thing that matters is the results. We just want the result, nothing matters but the outcome. We get there as quick as we can and however it gets done, just get it done. That nature seems contrary to how God works. Jesus didn’t come as an adult and go straight to the cross. The journey was important, 3 years of teachings were valuable. The journey was worthwhile. The journey for Israel, they had so many teaching moments, times to grow, most of them they blew. The importance was the journey, most of them didn’t even make it to the destination. The journey matters. It doesn’t matter if the person you are speaking with is predestined or not, that is not for you to know. The process saves them, and they reject Christ. It doesn’t matter if they were chosen to reject Christ, if it was predestined to happen. Some of you are gonna choke on the bone at this point. God’s is perfectly just in His sovereignty, and if someone is rejected, then they deserve rejection. We have responsibility and if we do not accept the salvation offered, then we should be punished.
Now some of you are confused. Remember, we have separate strands that are intersecting to form a weave. The aspect of God’s eternal nature are intersecting with God’s temporal nature and working together to bring salvation. It’s an aspect as cumbersome as the Trinity and the humanity/divinity of Christ, yet from scripture we see both. The only alternative is to toss out sections that we don’t like.
I want to hit just a few scriptures that show both happening at the same time. In the book of Acts, chapter 13, Paul is fed up with the Jews and decides his ministry will go to the Gentiles. In verse 48, it says “And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the LORD, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.” So what happened, the Gentiles rejoices, accepted the message and believed, but only those who were appointed to eternal life. We have a weaving of God’s divine call and the actions and responsibility of the Gentiles.
In 1 Timothy chapter 2, Paul urges prayers and intercession for all people and makes the statement that appears twice in the New Testament, that God “desires all people to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.” The weave in this verse is the fact that our prayers affect how another person makes a decision. We pray for all people to come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. If these prayers had no impact, then we wouldn’t be told to pray for those far from God. In the same way, we know that these people we pray for are responsible to respond to the call of God in their lives. The call comes from the beginning of time, the foundations of the world, yet is influenced and impacted by our prayers. Our prayers changed people through God’s plan, yet they still have the responsibility to become followers of Jesus Christ.
This is just an overview of the ideas that are driving Woven Theology. You are more than welcome to look over my thought process as I have wrestled with these ideas on my personal blog. I am not seeking to convert everyone to my way of thinking, or convince you, but I am seeking to express how I think the scriptures speak to us on this complex issue. There is a spiritual reality in both sides of the camp, and they must be brought together to form an overall theological discourse. A dynamic of God’s Sovereign Plan and the responsibility of man and his ability to make choice. They weave together to form the fabric of our salvation.