When has a Church Placed Unhealthy Emphasis on the Free Will Debate? How to respond?

(Renee Trudeau) #1

I recently started attending a church closer to me, a Wesleyan church. I know that there are some differences according to my Baptist background, but I didn’t realize the intensity of the differences until a discussion about losing salvation became a topic of conversation. The “passion” that the leader showed with those who differed was a bit disturbing. I enjoy the people, but I am not going to belong to a cult and with the way this was handled I felt very uncomfortable. I have learned in my over fifty years of being a Christian that there are strong verses for both pre-destination and free-will. I also know that our finite mind can not know all, and I trust that God did not intend to make things complicated. Keeping the focus on Christ and what He did on the cross rather than my ability is what saves me. Believing that He died for my sins past, present, and future is my security. I know that in my human frailty I will fail, but Jesus knows that is true for all humans. My daily goal is obedience and resisting temptation in the name of Jesus! He died for me whether I am 100% or I fall very short. That is the battle everyday. His strength and His promise of salvation will keep me holy. I can not keep my self holy on my own merit. But according to the opinions shared in the class I attended, we basically have to live in fear that on days of failure we can lose our salvation. That is not the Jesus that I know. His sacrifice is for all who trust Him. In that truth, I can know that my salvation will not be stripped by a human who concludes that they are more enlightened than other believers and anyone who disagrees is practicing heresy. Man’s arrogance is forever a battle.

(SeanO) #2

@Reneetru Thank you for sharing your concerns. Below is a response from myself on another thread regarding eternal security that should provide some good food for thought - I grew up in an area where this issue was hotly debated. Also, some thoughts from @CarsonWeitnauer on fate.

One way to think about this issue is that there are levels of doctrine - the below article from The Gospel Coalition explains this concept well. We have the following levels:

  1. absolutes define the core beliefs of the Christian faith;
  2. convictions , while not core beliefs, may have significant impact on the health and effectiveness of the church;
  3. opinions are less-clear issues that generally are not worth dividing over; and
  4. questions are currently unsettled issues.

Where an issue falls within these categories should be determined by weighing the cumulative force of at least seven considerations:

  1. biblical clarity;
  2. relevance to the character of God;
  3. relevance to the essence of the gospel;
  4. biblical frequency and significance (how often in Scripture it is taught, and what weight Scripture places upon it);
  5. effect on other doctrines;
  6. consensus among Christians (past and present); and
  7. effect on personal and church life.

The issue of free will and predestination should be a conviction or opinion. If a Church is making it an absolute, I would say that is an unhealthy Church culture and probably somewhere that should be avoided. While I would not attend such a Church, I think we should pray for them that God’s Spirit may restore them to a healthy state so that they can reach people for Christ.

I hope those thoughts are helpful. The Lord guide you in this situation and bless you as you grow in the grace and knowledge of Him! Feel free to ask additional questions.

Did Jesus Die for Everyone?
(Renee Trudeau) #3

Thank you I appreciate this!

(C Rhodes) #4

I think the question is not the heart of GOD but the fallibility of all human doctrine. Thank GOD this is not a walk of doctrine. I don’t see a conflict whether you believe once saved always saved. Or whether you believe salvation can be lost. Both doctrines agree on what is of importance.

“And John answered and said, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name; and we forbad him, because he followeth not with us.
And Jesus said unto him, Forbid him not: for he that is not against us is for us.” Luke 9:49-50.

(Megan Lykke) #5

Something Micheal Ramsden said onetime I found very helpful in relation to our choice (or free will). He said “Claiming to have absolute truth without free will is tyranny.” I think this is true and I think we see this being true in life (the inquisition, the crusades, ect , ect). When we take CHOICE out of religion, then we force people to do something truly against their free will. (THE truth of Christianity of course is that our free will leads us to death without grace!) If God respects us so much to give us that free will choice, then I can respect that all my fellow beings have that choice and I do not have to make a choice for them. I think we really don’t know how much of our life God controls or not, but I do know that each of us has a free will choice to choose God or not. That that choice leading to our destiny is ours, and ours alone. (Deut 24:16, each shall be put to death for thier own sin).
I also recommend the book “Determined to Beleive” by John Lennox which I am in the middle of reading!

(SeanO) #6

@Reneetru Sure thing - glad to be helpful :slight_smile:

(Megan Lykke) #7

Also by John Lennox in his Book “against the Flow” about Daniel in the last chapter about Daniel 12 “the ends times” he has a really good discussion about what it means to have your name in the “book of life”. I think you would find reading this helpful as he explains his thoughts scripture by scripture, but essentially what he says is that all of us have our name written in the book of life from the foundations of creation, and that later if can be blotted out by god alone based on our choices (Jesus or not). This is a fascinating train of thought in the predestination conversation.

(SeanO) #8

@meglyk That is a very interesting thought. Does Dr. Lennox say whether he thinks the book of life is a metaphor to describe our being in right relationship with God or whether he thinks there is actually a literal book of life?

(Jimmy Sellers) #9

I have maintianed for many years the book of Life is not a book that you are added to if you believe but a book that your name is blotted out of if you fail to believe. I now find myself in good company with Dr Lennox. :grinning:

(Megan Lykke) #10

he doesn’t say exactly, although the way he talks about it is in a more literal way. for myself, I am not sure if it matters to me if it is literal or metaphorical as it doesn’t change the concept.

(SeanO) #11

@meglyk That is true. Just curious about Dr. Lennox’s perspective on that issue. Thanks for clarifying!

(Jamie Hobbs) #12

Renee, I find it unhealthy when a church mandates all members believe a certain way on this issue. I’m not talking about core doctrines here, but a divisive debate that has split the church for centuries over something that ultimately doesn’t change the outcome. I have a friend of mine that leans a different way than me on this topic, but we still meet for breakfast and discuss church life as friends. It is possible to disagree and still respect each other. However, a church that would say “if you don’t believe as we do on this issue, then you clearly aren’t saved”, that’s profoundly unhealthy. I’ve been in that church before.

There can be no doubt that we have free will, at least in some measure. People don’t agree on how much that measure is, but when there is confusion, we should always go back to the Bible.

The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.
– 2 Peter 3:9

Peter also quoted Joel in Acts 2:21, saying that “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” If it is God’s will that all come to repentance and that whoever calls on His name will be saved, why isn’t everyone saved? Looking at it like an equation (which I do with fear and trembling), God’s will is the constant, unchanging. If the result isn’t as He would will, then clearly there is a variable in the equation that is not Him. Whoever calls on the Lord will be saved, so there are some who do not call on the Lord. That’s the variable and it lies with the unbelief of mankind.

Healthy discussions like this should happen and not be stifled by the church. Less religion and more relationship.