Wednesday, May 21, 2014

I Don't Think That Word Means What You Think That Word Means.

Every issue has a root cause, and often that root cause boils down to communication, or lack there of.  If you are active in the Southern Baptist Convention, you know there is a big gobildy goo over Calvinism vs Traditionalism.  As I have been involved in the issue and seen it played out, I have come to this conclusion.  As Southern Baptist, we have tried to be inclusive to both sides.  In order to do so, we have been vague in defining terms.  There are a few terms that if we defined definitively as Southern Baptists, it may cause us to be in one camp or another.  If Southern Baptist took an official position on what the definition of several terms, it would include or exclude individuals.  Here are some of the things I think we often define how our theological system allows.

Work.  What is a work?  We know that man is saved by grace, but not by works.  A Calvinist would say that if salvation is dependent upon any of man's effort, that's a work.  A traditionalist would agree, but would say accepting Christ, having faith and seeking God are not works.  If we defined if choosing Christ and accepting forgiveness is a work or not a work, it would draw a sharp divide.

Predestined.  The Bible says in several places that we are predestined, it calls us elect.  What do those words mean?  Does the Bible mean that we are elect, that we are chosen by God to be saved before we make a choice, or does it mean that once we are saved, we are chosen to become like Christ because of the decision we made?  If we set down what the Bible means when it says we are predestined, it would draw a line in the sand.

The world.  There are verses that say Christ died for the sins of the world.  The two places I can think of both say that Christ is the propitiation for the sins of the whole world.  Does that mean every person on the earth, or every nation on the earth?  When we talk about the whole world, what are we talking about?  We disagree on: is the whole world describing nations or individuals ?  When the Bible talks about Jacob and Esau, it that individuals or nations?  If we defined those two items, it would decide if the SBC was moving Calvinist or Traditionalist.

There are other passages that each side claim as "deal makers/breakers" that are defined by the other side differently.  If the SBC defined what they believe on these few passages, it would set up a stone pillar in favor of one side or the other.  So, the question is, what do we do?  We could bring together a task force to study, exegete and pray over these passages, but would it every come to a conclusion?  Not as long as either group is unwilling to admit the possibility they could be wrong.  If we let scripture be our guide, have scripture interpret scripture and then look to help from commentaries, lexicons and experts, where do we end up on these things?  Is accepting Christ a work of man?  What defines a work?  What does the Bible mean when it says we are predestined, or that Christ died for the sins of the whole world?  Did God love Jacob and hate Esau, or is that a metaphor that God chose Israel over Moab?  Is man being a slave to sin a metaphor, or literal?

All these things need to be defined to have a theological base, but I am not sure we as a group can ever come to an understanding to what these words really mean.  They will always be vague and mysterious if we wish to be a convention that has both Calvinists and Traditionalists.

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