Sunday, March 2, 2008

"Limiting God..."

Several years ago I was teaching an adult Bible class, on some subject that quite honestly escapes me now. But what I do remember is that we were discussing the purposes that God has in the situations and difficulties and people that He brings into our path in bringing us to the point of faith in Christ. And I recall one of the members of the class who asked many questions about this, as she was beginning to see how God had sovereignly shaped even her life before knowing Christ, to show Himself to her and to communicate His Gospel to her. And as she began to understand the sovereign grace of God in this way, she began to see the reality that the fact of her coming to faith in Christ was completely and wholly of God, and not really of her at all. This was new teaching for her, and she was readily accepting of it and glimpsed the glory of God in these truths. However, several other members of the class took issue with my teaching on these doctrines of grace, and began to question and argue against this view. Since this wasn't the main focus of our study, I simply stated my position (a Calvinist) and my reasons for my position (because my own study had convinced me of the Biblical truth of these doctrines). As I attempted to move on, one of the other members of the class leaned over to the woman who had been questioning and understanding and said, loud enough for everyone in the class to hear, "That Calvinism stuff can't be true. It limits God."

Oh, how I wanted to respond to that, but I bit my lip and moved on. Many times since I have recalled the situation and thought maybe I should have taken the time then to respond to this clear misunderstanding. I would have pointed out that it is not the Calvinist view that "limits God", but rather the man-centered free-will view of the Arminian and semi-Pelagian. The doctrines of grace put the full power and activity and cause of salvation wholly in God's hands, placing no limits on His purposes at all. While all other views place the will of man in some means as the ultimate determining cause of who will believe and be saved and who will not, thereby limiting God's role to making salvation available and making the Gospel available but then standing and waiting for men and women to decide to embrace Christ. Any time that the will of man is placed as a determinant factor in anything over against the will of God, that position by definition puts limits on God. The Calvinistic view of election and salvation is the only view that places absolutely no limits on God's sovereignty, His grace, His salvific purposes, His love and mercy, His eternal redemptive purposes, or His glory. That's why I accept it wholeheartedly as Biblically true.

Of course, I know what this person meant when they stated that Calvinism "limits God." They meant that the concept of God's elect, chosen before the foundation of the world, somehow limits those who may come to Him for eternal life. In effect, they make several wrong assumptions, about man's ability and about God's purposes. They misunderstand the truth of man's depravity and utter inability to respond to Christ in any positive way, apart from the intervention of God to enable them to. They misunderstand that this depravity places all of us under the just and righteous condemnation of God's wrath, so that if God were "fair" we would all be subject to eternal punishment. They misunderstand the "whosoever will" passages of the Gospels, reading more into them that is intended. In short, they misunderstand the power and glory and sovereignty and true grace of the God whose name they seek to protect. They limit God by subjecting Him to their wrong ideas about who He is and who we are.

The truth is that our God is the Limitless One. And the only limits placed on Him, are the limits of our own faulty understandings of Him and His Word.

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