Then Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and declared, “It was necessary that we first preach the word of God to you Jews. But since you have rejected it and judged yourselves unworthy of eternal life, we will offer it to the Gentiles. For the Lord gave us this command when he said, ‘I have made You a light to the Gentiles, to bring salvation to the farthest corners of the earth.’ ”
When the Gentiles heard this, they were very glad and thanked the Lord for his message; and all who were chosen for eternal life became believers.Acts 13:46-48
I told you in the last Gem I will look at the idea of pre-destination from a more traditional point of view and give you a new slant on that. I will share with you how I reconcile these mysteries in this Gem. Yes, now is the moment Winny and many others who have been asking me to deal with the notion of predestination for a long time will get an answer. Why have I not done this before now. Simply because we have not been dealing with a verse or portion of Scripture where predestination and free will were in focus. In the Gems I work my way through the text of a Bible book systematically, showing you how to let the words that are written teach you how to rightly interpret the Book of God. Human communication is not a matter of a series of disjointed random sentences. Each sentence has a context. To pluck a sentence out of its context and then turn it every which way, in order to interpret it is not biblical interpretation.
I had interesting reactions to the quote I included from John Calvin himself. “God preordained a part of the human race, without any merit of their own, to eternal salvation, and another part, in just punishment of their sin, to eternal damnation.” I had a number of you writing to me to ask whether I agreed with that quote or not. That is why on social media I made clear I did not agree with Calvin’s statement. In fact Calvin’s statement is diametrically opposed to the message of the Bible as a whole. As I teach people in Deeper Bible you have to use the whole Bible in order to interpret the Bible. To do that you have to have read the Bible all the way through in order to pick up the consistent way in which the message of God is conveyed. If your interpretation of a particular verse appears to deny the basic theme or teaching of the Word of God then it is likely that you are taking the verse out of context. We all know the saying that “a verse without a context is a pretext“. It’s true. Yes I simply quoted John Calvin to give you the stark truth of Calvinism in a nutshell, to which a number of you reacted, and rightly so. I am often misquoted or wrong interpreted. I hear all sorts of things people claim that Ian thinks or said about this thing or that thing. I believe most of the time their comment is made to give credence to some idea which is marginal. When I hear such claims I shake my head in amazement and say to the one who told me (if we are face to face) – if you really know me then you will know I don’t think like that. Let me now give you the real kicker – If you really know God you will know He doesn’t agree with Calvin either. True Calvinism is opposed to what the message of Bible is all about. If Calvinism is true there was no need for God to sacrifice His One and Only Son. Think about it.
My friend Tim whose opinion and biblical knowledge I highly esteem wrote “I appreciate in your current issue a more balanced view of what Acts 13.48 is talking about. I hate to hear the doctrinnaire Calvinistic response that we are foreordained (or not!) to redemption and we have absolutely nothing to do with it.” Tim pointed me in the direction of a book by a friend of his that he says is well worth getting. “Look at David Schonberg, Is Calvinism Good News? David has been a friend for fifty years. He is a Minnesota organic vegetable farmer and has some of the best wisdom on hard biblical questions I have ever read–and he has not had even a day of seminary. His secret is to look for the simple message of Scripture. It is there when we close our ears to the din of scholarly pronouncements.” The accords so much with my heart for teaching Deeper Bible. I like David Schonberg already and I don’t know him yet nor have I read his book. But on Tim’s recommendation I pass this on to you. “You can buy an online copy of his book. It is small but potent!” That is high praise coming from Tim.
Check out David Schonberg, “Is Calvinism Good News/” pages 118-119, who delightfully helps the reader understand the Simple Message of Scripture, here basically giving you a multiple choice:
- all who were divinely decreed, appointed, established, fated to eternal life from before the foundation of the world believed;
- all who were divinely arranged, ordered, prepared to eternal life believed;
- all who arranged, ordered, prepared themselves to eternal life believed.
Clearly the last choice is consistent with the overriding message of Scripture, free of any Augustinian or Calvinistic overload. The entire book is so full of wisdom and insight as it unwinds, strand by strand, the ball of string rolled up against us.Tim Friberg
Tim also wrote: