Authenticity is Impossible Without Trust (thoughts on salvation, providence, fatalism, and free will)

“Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live! You can make this choice by loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and committing yourself firmly to him. This is the key to your life.” – Deuteronomy 30:19-20

– author Derek Maul lives, thinks, talks, and writes (and sometimes gets things right) in North Carolina

The reason the small groups I’m involved with work so well is, more than anything else, the authenticity and the trust that so clearly define the ethos. Authenticity, of course, is pretty much impossible without trust.

This is crucial if we want to facilitate an atmosphere where personal growth is valued and encouraged. Participants must be free to be honest, and to explore difficult and challenging conversations without fear that they will be corrected or cut off when they stray too far from “orthodoxy” and pre-approved points of doctrine.

  • The definition of orthodoxy is “adherence to correct or accepted creeds and doctrines, especially in religion.”
  • The problem with orthodoxy is that – too often – it tends to be presented as fully formed, absolutely correct, and unquestionable.

It is this resistance to reimagining that makes me appreciate “Reformed Theology” so much as such a useful vehicle for advancing understanding. The guardians of orthodoxy too often preempt or disallow scrutiny, even though good questions typically strengthen great ideas.

Inquiring Minds…

Anyway, the guys in my Wednesday group are brilliant, inquisitive, thoughtful, honest, open-spirited, and secure enough in their faith in God to question some of the most basic assumptions about God.

Our conversation this week moved around the statement that, “Everything happens for a reason.” It’s a half truth that suggests a kind of fatalism where human beings are subject to the whims of a God who micro-manages every aspect of life.

We talked about our understanding of God’s sovereignty, and how that understanding informs our views on free will, determinism, choice, providence, and our responsibility as humans.

This would be a good time for me to restate my understanding of salvation:

  • Salvation is, essentially, our positive response to Christ’s invitation to be reconciled with God and join in with God’s work.
  • Salvation is our participation in God’s initiatives of grace, mercy, love, justice, healing, light, encouragement, and hope.

In other words, we are neither puppets (fatalism) nor completely left by God to our own devices (deism); we are – ideally – voluntary agents of God’s purposes. Providence is the coming together of God’s plans and our response.

Please, no tidy answers:

I do not intend for my words to offer a tidy solution to the loose ends of our conversation; but I do want these words to be examined, discussed, challenged, tested, and lived out.

Again, this is where meeting with this great group of guys gets me! We are all serious theologians inasmuch as we think about God. We have been given the gift of the scriptures; the life of Jesus; two thousand years of creeds, confessions, catechisms, and more; our personal experiences of prayer and spiritual insight, and the opportunity to engage in honest study and dialog with other believers…

With all that in play, we had better be reformed – and always reforming – theologians.

Peace, and blessings in your continued journey into insight and understanding – DEREK

One comment

  1. Yeah I love our small (four guys at Panera) men’s bible study on Monday morning. I also participate in a far larger group later in the week but the conversations that happen on Monday morning really matter in all our lives far more because just as you said, we can ask, challenge and discuss without fear all kinds of things. Blessings


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