Archive for July, 2012

This post first must acknowledge the gracious support of all the donor/sponsors at Lifesong Church and elsewhere that made my and Elena’s mission trip to Haiti possible. This one’s for you…

I have been back home in Duncan, SC for a week now since returning from our mission trip to Jacmel, Haiti. There has been almost a week that has gone by and yet Haiti is still with me. I came back with a stomach virus and a sinus infection! LOL Seriously, though, the lingering memories of this trip are profound. The Haiti mission trip was a mission of contrasts. There are extremes to Haiti. When in Haiti, off in the distance you can see beautiful landscapes and beautiful ocean while at the same time when you look around you there is poverty on a scale that bruises your tender American sensibilities in a brutal way. If you expect things to make you happy, Haiti is not the place for you. Happiness is in the heart and in your relationship with Jesus. If that is the standard, Haitians are the happiest people on earth. If you want an easy mission trip, Haiti is not the place for you. If you want to make a difference one cement bucket full, one wheel barrow at time, one cement block load at a time, then Haiti will bless you. In Haiti, kids don’t have much but they love the attention that you give, they are honest and they look out for each other. Haiti, the contrasts abound. Haiti, I will go back again. Haiti, simple and complex. My reaction to it all, contrasts!

PORT-AU-PRINCE VS. THE MOUNTAINS
The first impression that you get of Haiti is at the Port-au-Prince airport. When you get off the plane the blazing, humid heat begins the assault on your senses. You are then ushered into the immigration area of the airport. At best, this scene can be called loosely organized chaos. People everywhere, pressed against each trying to get passports approved and then trying to get luggage. Under normal circumstances, this would be a trying time if it was just a vacation with a few bags. However, we not only had our luggage but 11 duffle bags full of supplies that we were taking to Jacmel. The mass of humanity, the cacophony of voices and noise in the hall, and organizing our bags started the blood pressure to rise along with the sense of apprehension.

The next phase of getting out of the airport was something that I had heard about but yet was not prepared for at all. As you come out of customs and immigration with the buggy of luggage and duffle bags for which I was responsible, you have to proceed through this breezeway out to the passenger pickup parking lot. Under this breezeway there were at least 100 men vying to “help you” with your luggage. The expectation that they have for their, what I would call, escorting you to your vehicle is as much money as they think they can get out of you. This was a pretty intense experience as you keep saying “no merci” at every moment as each one of these 100 men attempt to claim you for escort. They argue with each other and seemingly are questioning each other’s ancestry, etc. There is the feel here of say in NYC where the guy runs out and cleans your windows and then demands money from you. You have to get very stern with them and tell them no repeatedly. However, one of these guys, claimed me by putting his hands on the luggage and on the handle of the buggy and refusing to let go even though I repeatedly told him no. This march through the breezeway made my blood pressure rise about 10-20 points. I was genuinely out of sorts! Finally we made it through and out into the parking lot.

The parking lot was akin to customs and immigration where I had said, “loosely organized chaos.” If you can imagine an American airport parking lot…well just throw that thought out the window…cars were double and triple parked to the point that every available inch of the parking lot was used. My thoughts were, “we’re trapped in this insanity and we will never get out of here.” We finally got out of the airport and started the long journey through Port-au-Prince before you get to the mountains. If the airport does not shock you then Port-au-Prince will. As an American, I have seen poverty in certain parts of big cities both at home and abroad. Western, and particularly American, sensibilities of poverty is bombarded and bruised by Port-au-Prince. Poverty and lack of cleanliness is an assault on your senses. Seeing the poverty and squalor in which people live in this city the size of Atlanta was previously unimaginable to my “business tripping only the best parts of world’s cities” sensibilities. I was horrified. At this moment, considering the short time I had been in Haiti, I was already wondering why I came on this trip. Mile after mile of impoverished humanity. People trying to sell you things right at your van every time you stop. People urinating in the streets. Trash everywhere. Causeways between sections of town were rivers of trash. Although the earthquake was responsible for a lot of what you see in P-a-P, you quickly realize that people lived like this before the quake. The quietness within the van (even with Candace being a three time veteran of this trip) was deafening! I was not prepared for this. Poverty pockets I have seen. Widespread poverty on a scale I previously could not imagine was there all around me. There was an oppressive spirit over Port-au-Prince that you could taste in the air along with the dust and odor of burning plastic. If ever there is a place for missionaries to make a difference, this is the place. Yet, our mission connection to Haiti is not here. It is 3 hours south of here on the other side of the mountains.

Once you clear Port-au-Prince and begin the ascent through the mountains, the first of the contrasts of Haiti strikes. The oppressive nature of Port-au-Prince breaks you down spiritually. Then, something amazing happens. You see these amazing mountains. Taller than the Rockies out west here in the US. Lush green everywhere. God’s creative powers everywhere. Unimaginable beauty that makes you praise the Creator. As you rise higher and higher in the mountain range, the views become more spectacular. It is during this moment that you realize that there is a contrast between good and evil in the world. Port-au-Prince represents man’s oppressiveness to his fellow man as man follows his sin nature. Juxtaposed against that you have the purity of the wondrous created beauty that represents the majesty of God. Satan’s work through man below. God’s pure delight above. The van becomes suddenly more chatty as we progress through these astounding hills. Your senses are assaulted here too but it is by the beauty.

The contrasts of physical landscape vs. human poverty continues throughout your trip. While in Jacmel, around you can see rural poverty to which you are unaccustomed. In the distance when you look up, you see the majesty of the mountains surrounding this seaside community. When you look around you see poverty. Not concentrated and continual like in P-a-P, but poverty nonetheless. On Friday, when we got our beach day, this contrast of looking up to see the mountains rolling into the sea and the crystal clear water surrounding you vs. looking straight ahead to shore and seeing poverty.

Just the physical landscape of Haiti is contrast. Natural beauty vs. Man-made poverty. Oppression and Praise. God’s majesty vs. Satan’s dark room. And that is all within the first couple of hours of landing in Haiti!

YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH THINGS VS. A RELATIONSHIP WITH JESUS
There is contrast within this contrast though. Jacmel, and particularly the area surrounding Restoration Ministries where we were working, there was real poverty unimaginable to Americans except maybe in the most remote parts of the Louisiana Bayou, super-rural Mississippi or the extreme backwoods of West Virginia (even these places are not truly valid comparisons but come the closest). However, there was no feeling of being in the presence of oppressive spirits, in the den of Satan as there was in P-a-P. In Jacmel, there is a sense of hope. There is happiness. It is because of the relationship that these people have with Jesus Christ. They worship him, honor him, and love him with complete dependence and abandon that Christ calls us toward. They live it each day, but is especially evident in their worship services.

Sunday’s worship service was amazing and powerful but looking back on it I think the service that has stuck with me the most was Tuesday night’s prayer service. Tuesday when we arrived at the church after having dinner at the Restoration House (where we had all our meals). Once we walked in the doorway of the church, one young man at the front of the church was praying out loud with an intensity of soul that would make even the best black Baptist preacher in the US blush with envy. On the other side of the sanctuary from him was another young man singing. Equally he was intently searching his soul for the uttermost praise of God. Later, as church members began filing in, the prayer and singing continued to build. No pastors. No music leaders. Just church members coming together to pray. As some point in the service, the members in attendance were asked, in Creole of course, to get on their knees and pray. This moment was exceptional to me.

In contrast to the cacophony of noise in the customs/immigration hall that made me feel oppressed several days earlier in the week, this was a symphony of voices. This was music to God’s ears. Hearing his people pray all at once. Praying different individual prayers all at the same time. I simply closed my eyes and allowed the only sense to be hearing. The prayers were resonating all at once in my head. It was beautiful. Like I said, a symphony of voices. All of it was in Creole so I didn’t understand a single word but still a beautiful symphony. It was amazing. It was – another contrast – shaming.

Hearing the reckless abandon of their prayers reminded me that I hold back in my praise of my Savior. I care too much about what other people think. Why is that? I have more toys of life than these people yet my praise is weak considering the blessings that I have been given that I don’t deserve. By contrast, these people have comparatively significantly less wealth than I but yet here they are just totally selling out in praise to God! Isn’t true everywhere that the more “things” that we have, the more that we are trying to hold on to, trying to preserve, the less we praise our Maker. Contrast that with those who have little and fully surrender to God for their very existence. They praise God full on!

My prayer is that I loosen up! God has blessed me in mighty ways here in the recent years (particularly since I met my wife, Elena). My belief in the care and providence of my God has led me through many trying periods of time in my life. I had hope and joy even in those times because of my basic trust in God to see me through. Then, as I sit in this season of blessing, I should be shouting from the rooftops of my praise for God and what He has done in my life. He has seen me through many dangers, toils and snares. He has taken me from the valley and placed me on top of the mountain. I should exclaim praise. I admit that this is a goal as my inhibitions about wildly praising God are going to be hard to break. I can stand in Clemson Memorial Stadium watching my beloved Tigers play games on Frank Howard Field and go stark raving nuts to the top of my lungs. Yet, the best that I can do in church is raise up my “praise hand”. I should be laying on the floor in worship for what God has seen me through and where he has me now.

Contrasts – reckless abandon of praise in Haiti, the poorest nation on the planet vs. sitting on your hands in America, the richest nation on the planet. The poorest nation must teach the richest. In the end, Christians in Haiti are probably more happy than we are. When you depend on the Lord for your very existence, it kind of frees up those inhibitions. May we, as Americans, learn to trust in God more and our toys less.

IS THIS THE MISSION TRIP YOU HAD IN MIND?
More contrasts abound when I think about my mission trip to Haiti. On the first day of work, my spirit of service was tested.

I was put with a team that was constructing the new fence around the church’s pre-school facility. When I volunteered for this particular project, my idea of fence was in contrast to the Haitian term fence. I was thinking some four or five foot high wooden post and wooden crossbeam type of fence. It was a pre-school so that is what I was visualizing. Helping build that kind of fence would be hard work in the sun and heat but it would not be back breaking work, right? Well, the Haitian concept of fence is quite in contrast to what I had in mind. Haitian “fences” are actually cinder block walls will poured concrete support columns. These walls are about 7 to 8 feet tall. These walls mark boundaries and are not intended to be decorate. They are security walls. I think these walls that are built around many properties on the island are to keep strangers out, animals out, and a voodoo holdover – keeping evil spirits out. These are not decorative. They are not intended to be aesthetic.

Monday was hot. The heat index was in the 110-115 degrees Fahrenheit range. Immediately Dan Olson (from the Tennessee team with whom I became fast friends with on this date), were put to work digging a support column hole. Back home, you can imagine doing this with posthole diggers or a backhoe. Not in Haiti. This was to be done with a spike (to break up the ground) and a shovel.

Dan (a man about 17 years my elder and probably more fit than I am) and I began digging the post hole while the Haitian guys that would have been digging the hole had we not been there just watching us work. Dan and I worked like neither one of had worked in a while. It was hot. The work was dirty and difficult. I will have to admit that, though I do outside work around the house (including cutting grass) and get real hot and sweaty at times, I was not prepared for this. Every inch of my body was sweating. You the kind of sweat where your butt is sweating! LOL After that, we caught a bit of a break while they began manually creating the cement with stone, sand and water. It was interesting to watch, but there was no break from the heat. Once the cement was completed, Dan and I began walking 10 gallon pales of cement from one side of the preschool complex to the other where they were pouring the concrete mixture into the preforms with rebar that they were working. This work was even hotter and even more exhausting. It was more than exerting yourself in one place as we had been. What began to bother Dan and I was that the purpose of us being there was to be extra hands to the construction crew. However, we were replacement hands for two of the workers. They sat while “the blancs” worked. At this point, when my back started really hurting, I began to question the whole purpose of me being on this mission trip. This was not the mission trip I had in mind. Back breaking hot manual labor was NOT what I envisioned. I had visions of playing with children all day and maybe using my intellect somehow to help people out. After all, I am a 49 year old professional man with BA in Accounting, a Masters Degree in Management, a Certified Internal Auditor, the controller of a $100 Million company, a faithful church man who is working on his second masters degree – this time in Christian Ministry. Use those talents, accounting, biblical research. Those are my mission skills!!! I was having one glorious pity party with myself!

I never said a word to the group that we were working with. I just kept working as they directed. But I was not lovin’ it! I thought that there was something wrong with me. All of my friends from Lifesong who had been on this mission spoke so glowingly of the spiritual experiences that they had while here. I was ashamed for not sprouting angelic wings as I carried pales of cement. I was angry at myself for being angry at having to do this kind of work. After the experiences in Port-au-Prince and now this, mission work was appearing not to be my kind of thang! My thoughts at this point were about as low as they could go. I had failed at this mighty mission work that others so succeeded at! It was not until later that day that things came into contrast but that is the subject of the next section.

It was the next day when my work location changed that my work attitude was changed. Instead of working at an empty school (summer break ya know), I was assigned to help at a family’s house that the church was adding onto – to create a private bedroom for the parents. It was here that my pride and arrogance was melted. Even though the work was just as hard or harder than the previous day, this day was different. The children at the house made the day. Playing with them during breaks. Being the clown that I am kept them entertained! Playing bongos on the pales that we were using was a blast and they laughed at this blanc trying to have rhythm.

At both work sites, I kept pushing myself beyond physical boundaries that I had not pushed myself in a good long while. At the house, though, the team was bigger. Dan and I were there. Also, my wife and Christy were there. Karen was there too. Nolan from the Tennessee team too. And then there were the kids. Eventually, the kids even stated helping us tote the sand and gravel down the hill to the house. The kids were fun but the thing that sticks with me is feeling of joy of teamwork. The kids helping us made the work less like work. This was contrast again. My pride and arrogance were gone. I had been broken. I was just being a worker, being a servant. On Wednesday, I worked elsewhere – painting bunk beds.

Then, on Thursday, we came back to the house with the addition. The guys that we had “replaced” the previous day at the school were here working. As I pitched in and helped them, they saw I think that I was willing (whether I had construction skills or not) to help in any way that I could. I think I earned their respect. At first, they saw me as just another mamby/pamby spoiled American. Later, that was contrasted with “hey this guy may not be a whole lot of help but he is willing and follows directions” (hand gestures LOL since we don’t speak the same language). When we finished work that final day, both the guys from the Monday work that were working at this house the rest of the week actually hugged me and thanked me. Not that I needed to be thanked at this point.

On Thursday, too, I helped with the feeding program from beginning to end instead of just for a little while or not at all like I had the previous days but from beginning to end (when the last child was fed). My view had changed. I did not care on Thursday if anyone noticed that I had worked the entire meal. It did not matter. I could see the look of unspoken appreciation in the eyes of the ladies that feed these children five days a week. That was enough. I was being a servant.

My work in Haiti was contrasts. How I felt at the beginning. How I felt at the end. In the beginning, I thought I should be doing more higher functioning type work. In the end, I was humbled by the work. I was humbled by what the work was doing for the families. In the beginning, I wanted to be recognized. In the end, I just wanted to help. Instead of stardom in some way, I was just happy to help. In the beginning, no respect was given. In the end, respect was earned. I learned the meaning of what Jesus tells us in Matthew 20:20-28. We must learn to be a servant before we can be a leader. I thought I knew that before. But, Haiti taught me that in spades. Changes. Contrasts.

IT’S ABOUT THE KIDS, STUPID
To change the world for a child is to change the world. Restoration Ministries is doing it right in Jacmel. They are starting from the ground. To change the world, you change the child. The child then changes the world from the inside. The child changes you.

On that Monday, as you recall from earlier, I was so completely frustrated with my experience after completing the morning’s work at the preschool. Monday, after lunch, I was sore, tired and frustrated. I really did not want to go up to the church to help with the feeding program. But, I went anyway. The afternoon was a contrast to the morning. I never actually made it inside the church on Monday. I was attacked by children. They were funny. They were cute. They can sense who is a big kid and who is not among adults. I just started having fun. The love of the children melted my dried sweat and dried out heart away. And, we won’t EVEN mention what happens when you make the mistake of pulling your candy bag out of your backpack instead of leaving it inside and pulling out the candy in a “controlled fashion” LOL … Think piranha attacking meat in the water! LOL

And then there was Ashley. Ashley is my little Haitian girlfriend! LOL She is the cutest 2 year-old Haitian on the entire island – both in personality and in looks! Ashley is sponsored I believe based on conversations I had about her. Ashley though found me and claimed me for the week. I miss that little girl right now as I write this! She loved my sunglasses and she looked very cool when she was wearing them. We tickled each other. We chased each other. We hugged. We kissed. We did not know each other’s language but I knew she liked me and vice versa. She was God’s wake up call to me on that Monday. God was saying through this child that “it is about the kids, stupid!” This is why we travel long distances. This is why we help do hard work. It IS about the kids. Ashley was the voice of God without words. Ashley was pushed by God into my arms, I know it, for that very reason. To wake me up from my self-centered pity. I was not here to glorify me. I was here to glorify God by making a child’s life better.

The kids tell you these things by their actions. These kids at the church have joy. That joy we have forgotten as we grew up and joined the American rat race. They know from the internet that they don’t have a lot of the material things that the rest of the world has. Yet, in contrast to their surroundings, they have joy. They run. They jump. They play until they can play no more. Don’t you and I remember growing up? No matter what circumstance we were born into. We found happiness. We found joy in the simple things – the simple things of being a kid. We found joy in skipping rocks across the water. We found joy in chasing girls with a worm in our hand threatening to put it on them! We found joy in flying a kite. We found joy in our imaginations. These kids are no different from us. They may be different from the next generation of Americans who grew up with video games as their source of entertainment. But for my generation, joy was exploring the world outside. Joy was creating the world into our kingdom with our imaginations. These children of Haiti remind me of that joy. A child can make a stick into anything with enough imagination. When you see these kids at the church, they have smiles on their faces. This is Jesus saying why do you worry? This is Jesus saying our Father will take care of our needs when the older Haitian kids make sure the tiny kids (whether related or not) get candy when the feeding frenzy is going on! Playing soccer with home-made nets is Paul telling us that he finds contentment no matter the situation.

Contrasts. Seeing the world through my eyes. Contrasts. Seeing the world through the joy of a child’s eyes. These kids taught me life is never so hard that you cant make the best of it. These are things that I know. I have lived through some hard times in my life. I have had so little money til payday that I have bought four hot dogs at the local diner before so that I could have dinner for two nights. Even when God has seen you through the valley and placed you on the mountain top, it is our nature to be self-centered. How easily we forget when you are tired, sore and hot. Our sin nature allows us to listen to the devil and forget what God has already done for us. God, though, so desperately loves us that he sends us reminders before we destroy ourselves with the devil’s lies. God sends us little Ashleys. God reminds us of the joy of living and loving no matter the circumstance.

CONCLUSION
This blog was tough to write. I wanted to be totally honest about what Haiti meant to me. My mission trip, like I said, was one of contrasts. Contrasts in the world around me. Contrasts in the world inside me. Haiti will break you down the minute she meets you at Port-au-Prince. Haiti will shock you. Haiti will change you. Haiti will teach you. I think it must break you first though. You must have your eyes opened by Haiti so that you can see. The world is not going to be changed by me. There are going to be no great ceremonies or sainthoods resulting from my trip to Haiti. Those things are reserved for people like Pastor LeFleur. What Haiti teaches you is that if you get your ego out of the way, you can make a difference – one cinder block toted down a hill at a time, one pale of wet cement hauled across a schoolyard at a time, one child hugged at a time. The world is made different by one servant being molded through a mission trip! The world is changed by willingness to get your hands dirty without anyone patting you on the back for it. The world is changed by coming back to wherever your home is with that attitude. The world is changed by us coming back to South Carolina and living with a servant’s heart. The world is changed by a decision to help the homeless man on the corner instead of cynically thinking he drives home from there in a pimped out BMW. The world is changed by working inside causes that need your help instead of just throwing money at it. The world is changed by telling anyone that you are helping about our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ contrasting your old life vs. your new.

Haiti was a mission of contrasts. Now that I am home there are contrasts. Contrasts of what was life before Haiti and what is life after Haiti. What will be your Haiti? What will change your view? What will cause you to take action instead of changing the channel? What will cause you to live more and buy less? What will cause you to be blessed with what you have rather than anxious for what you want? Contrasts. Yours. Mine. Ours.

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I Want To Be Elected!

Posted: July 1, 2012 in Uncategorized

If you are old enough or are just a fan of early 70’s heavy metal glam bands, you are probably thinking of that song by Alice Cooper right now. Cool song and I got your attention now…but I am going to talk about the Christian doctrine of Election instead of analyzing the lyrics of Alice’s song! Stay with me….

The doctrine of election is one of those doctrines that educated Christians talk about in the corner of the café down the street from the university where they teach. It is not a popular doctrine. It is often a doctrine that most Christians do not even think about. Informed Christians are troubled by it and leave it to the theologians to sort out. Less mature Christians often do not realize that such a doctrine exists. However, it is there. It is like the 800 lb. gorilla in the room – you can ignore it but that does not mean that it is not there. It has scriptural basis; therefore, it is a doctrine for which we must have understanding. Throughout the history of the church, this issue has been a divisive one. The positions developed in the history of the church fall into three camps. These are unconditional election, conditional election, and concurrent election. In this post, I will summarize the various views and then finally point toward concurrent election being the most logical and scriptural view of election.

Approaches to the Doctrine of Election
1. Unconditional (Calivinist)
i. Though God has not revealed why he chose one person and not another or how he arrived at his choices, he does have the sovereign right to make these choices.
ii. Although this presents moral problems and logical ones as well, Calivinists feel that the Scriptures allow no other conclusion.
iii. Election is an expression of his sovereign love.
iv. Critics say:
1. Unconditional election means that God ordains all things and if this is the case, he ordained sin which makes God the author of sin.
2. God does not love all humanity if a person is damned before they are even born.
3. If we are pre-destined to damnation, then Christ died only for certain people.
v. Supralapsarianism (before the fall) – High Calvinism which states that God is the ultimate cause of the choice by those who accept and those who reject Christ.
1. Advocates
a. Since God is the source of all things and he is omni – potent, nescient, present, this view fits in with the sovereignty of God.
2. Critics
a. Smacks of the fatalism of Islam.
b. Makes God’s hatred equal to his love.
c. It stifles evangelism and missions in that it leads to the gospel being presented to those who show outward evidence (works) of being regenerated.
d. Often leads to judgmentalism, humans deciding who is saved and who is not, by those that consider themselves Christian as a result.
vi. Infralapsarianism (after the fall) – argues that God ordained only one decree – the decree to elect. After the fall, he decided to save some of them. He decreed to send Christ to provide salvation only for the elect.
1. God is not the cause of damnation. We are not sentenced to damnation but our rejection of Christ results in our exclusion from glory in heaven – thus we are by result damned.
2. Election is unconditional but rejection or reprobation is conditional.
vii. Decretal theology of Unconditional Election –
1. Presents an entirely gracious salvation.
2. Strives to uphold the sovereignty of God.
3. Magnifies God’s glory
4. Criticisms
a. Highly speculative about things that have no biblical reference. Thus, it is philosophy masquerading as theology.
b. It is a logical system that ultimately fails logically. In the name of logical consistency, it has sometimes run roughshod over certain clear teachings of Scripture.
c. It leaves the moral problems of predestination unresolved.
d. It reduces Christ to a mere instrument by which God’s decrees are accomplished.
5. Correction to decretial theology (Amyrut)
a. Amyrut saw his position as more faithful to Calvin’s view than the Calvinists.
b. His argument had six points
i. We must begin with what God revealed in Christ. Otherwise, you descend into a hopeless logical quandry.
ii. We must not deny God’s revealed will by appealing to his hidden will.
iii. Election must be considered under the doctrine of salvation and not God’s sovereignty.
iv. We must pay more attention to God’s revealed will than His hidden will.
v. We must focus on God’s conditional will to save all rather than on his absolute will to redeem the elect.

2. Conditional (Arminian)
i. It is the view that before the world ever existed God conditionally predestined some specific individuals to eternal life and the rest to eternal damnation.
ii. Arminian order of decrees involves:
1. God determined to provide Christ as Savior
2. God determined to save those who believe and damn those who do not.
3. God determined to provide sufficient grace for all to believe.
4. He chooses to save and damn particular individuals according to his foreknowledge of their foreseen faith.
iii. Linchpin of Arminian thought is that election is according to foreknowledge.
iv. The conditional election view has no problem with affirming the universal salvific will of God. Arminians believe that God desies salvation for all.
v. They believe also that all persons are capable of responding to the Gospel message.
vi. Problems with Arminianism are that
1. it reduces God’s decision to ratification of what man decides for himself.
2. If God knows that one person will freely accept the gospel message and another will not, then this is a mysterious, sovereign and unconditional determination of the part of God.
3. Concurrent
i. The concurrent position contends that Bible teaches both that God sovereignly and unconditionally chooses the elect for salvation and that each individual person freely decides to accept or reject Jesus Christ as Savior. Scripture presents predestination and human freedom as twin truths in tension.
ii. This view is considered Thomism so named after its proponent, Thomas Aquinas. Views that since God is timeless and eternal and not temporal that his foreknowledge and predestination are the same thing.
iii. If all moments are equally present (in His eternal state) then God’s election of a person and a person’s free choice to accept the gospel occur at the same time in God’s timing. This means that God does not cause the choice but because of His timelessness all free choices are known by God.
iv. Molinism says that God does operate in temporal time and space and argues that God predetermines human decisions in such a way that does not violate free will using “middle knowledge.”
1. God knows everything that COULD happen – natural knowledge.
2. From the infinite set of possibilities, God knows which scenarios WOULD result in a person’s freely responding in the way that He desires – middle knowledge.
3. This brings about God’s knowing of what WILL occur – free knowledge.
4. God meticulously sets the stage so that humans freely choose what he has predetermined.
5. The dissatification with Calvinist and Arminian approaches is that they start with either divine sovereignty or human freedom and often to the exclusion of the other.

Thus, one can see that in Jesus Christ we have an example of the tension between free will and divine choice. Christ was fully divine and fully human. Similarly, God’s sovereign and our human free choice occur in a confluent manner. In the congruence theory, we see that it seems the logical choice in that salvation is the sovereign work of God from eternity (Ps. 3:8, Ps. 37:39). God desires the salvation of all humanity (Ezek. 18:23, John 3:16, 1 Tim. 2:4, 2 Peter 3:9). God purposes the salvation of the elect but permits those who do not respond to do so and thus they damn themselves. (John 15:16, 1 John 4:19). Election originates, is accomplished, and be consummated in Christ (Eph. 1:3-14, Rom. 8:26-30).

As you can see, the various “choices”, as we might call them here, for election leave little doubt in my mind that a “concurrent” view is the best one. It boils down to John 3:16 for me – “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” In this verse we see the microcosm of election.

First, “for God so loved the world.” He so loves the entire world. There is no qualification in that statement. God loves the entire world not just those who believe in Him. This statement also rightly ascribes that God is the one who initiates salvific activity. It is in his love for us (whether we recognize it or not) that God operates as He does. He is not some far removed god that toys with humanity for his own pleasure. He is love. He loves us like a parent of a teenage child. He loves us no matter how much we rebel against him. He loves us regardless of whether we love him. This is the message and the point of the Bible. Therefore, to say that God predestines individuals for damnation is entirely inconsistent with the entirety of the message of the Bible.

Second, “he gave his only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Here is the free will part. God gave us free will at a risk, but with that risk comes reward. He gave us free will because God wants us to choose Him. He did not want us to be robots blindly marching off of a cliff one by one. Similar to the teenage analogy, a parent can easily tell his teenager that this is the law and you must blindly follow it. However, a parent in his love for his child wants the child to choose the right thing because in the choosing comes ownership. When we choose God rather than being robotically programmed, we see the value of the relationship and it means mountains more to us than a blind choice. Similarly, a soldier who understands his superior’s commands and the reasons for them, he executes those commands with vigor moreso than if he does not understand.

God gives us the free will choice to accept or reject his “only begotten Son”. Scripture says that “whoever believes in Him”. Inherent in that statement is choice on the part of man. Thus, man determines his own eternal destiny. This allowance of choice is consistent with God’s nature of love. God does not by nature damn one and elect another. It is our acceptance or rejection of the gospel message that determines our eternal fate. Like a teenager’s parent gives his teenager the opportunity to make the right choice. In love, you want them to make the right choice because it is for their own good. However, when they make the wrong choice, it does not cause us the parent to love the teenager any less but we allow them to suffer the consequences of the wrong choice.

How does this all play into the sovereignty of God? That concept being that God knows from eternity who will and will not accept his message. I agree with the point that we cannot grasp time in the same way that God does. We are temporary beings whereas he is eternal. Our concept of time has to do with birth and death. Our concept of time is finite whereas God has existed for all eternity. His time is everpresent. To God, He knows what could, would, and will happen as the result of the free will choices of his creatures. To return to the teenage parent analogy, a parent (from his own experience) what could, would and will happen when his teenager makes his choices in life. He knows how that child will respond to certain situations and he knows the results of those responses. However, a teenager’s parent allows the teenager to make those choices. God sovereignly gives us the opportunity to respond to his call because he loves us so much. God, our ultimate parent, knows the results of the choice we will make. In love, he gives us that chance to make our free will choice.

This is the Bible. God loves us. God desires us to step out of our sin nature and accept His offer of salvation through His Son. God wants us to take Him up on the offer of His Son. However, in order for us to see the true value of the offer, He gave us free will to choose to accept (be a part of “whoever believes in Him”) or reject. God finds no joy in the rejection. He knows the consequences of our choice. Just as a parent who loves his rebellious teenager so much cries over seeing the consequences of the poor choices of his child, God is saddened (because of his love for us) by our poor choice – the eternal choice. Eternal damnation is a choice. Eternal damnation is the car wreck that God sees coming for us ahead by making the choice to reject the Savior.