Thursday, October 23, 2008

Theological grids and immunizations

I'm reading through Hebrews. I used to fear this book, but now I love it.

Here's why.

I used to see this book as a nuisance that threatened my theological system. I believed in eternal security (i.e. "once saved always saved"), assurance of salvation upon profession of faith (i.e. "if you just prayed that prayer, you can know for sure that you are saved", and a faith that was fear-proof of judgment (i.e. "Why be afraid? I know Jesus").

I always had to brace myself for Hebrews 6 and 10, where the author hints of people losing their salvation. I would approach those texts armed with, "I know how to interpret this- it's not saying what it seems to say..."

Working with college men, I have plenty of conversations about moral purity. One question I ask, "Would you rather deal radically with your immorality or go to hell?" It sounds like a stupid question, considering 99% of these students claim to know Jesus. Of course they're not afraid of going to hell, they believe in eternal security. The theological system says, "Stupid question." The problem is that I think it's a question Jesus compels us to ask ourselves (Matthew 5:29-30).

So here's my point, any theological system that immunizes us from threats like Matthew 5:29-30 or Hebrews 6:4-12 or 10:26-31 is jacked up.

Ironically, I more or less believe the aforementioned doctrines, but I think they were poorly stated, and therefore breed confusion.

Until I see him as he is, I still like my theological box. So here's how I've salvaged it (i.e. a way to rethink or restate what I believe to be true)...

Eternal security is a bad way to say it. "Perseverance of the saints" (the "reformed" way of saying it) is better, because it implies that the called out ones will persevere. Hebrews 6 and 10 won't happen to someone who is truly saved. An even better way to say it is "preservation by the Holy Spirit" (Eph 1:13). I'm sure there are a lot of "eternally secure" people bound for hell.

Assurance of salvation, in my opinion, comes more with time than it does in the moment. My dad doesn't sit around wondering if he's really a Christian. You become more sure over time- Hebrews 6:11-12, 2 Peter 1:10-11. Everyday I persevere is another day God reminds me that he is preserving me by the power of the Holy Spirit, who lives in me, and I in him.

Finally, a fear-proof faith might breed thoughts like, "Why would I confess my sins- I'm already forgiven." The only problem is that confession is central to any conversation and communion with God- Matthew 6:12. I promise you have that verse memorized already. Paradoxically, we need to walk confidently low to the ground. Jesus has saved us from such a great Day (eternity) of wrath, but we never presume it's a day we deserved to be saved from. On this- everyone needs to own a copy of Valley of Vision. As my friend David Churchill says, "It's like God talking to himself." A great tool for time with God. These guys were so in touch with their humanity and gripped with a knowledge of the Holy. Put these two things together and grace gets really big.
To make a long post longer...the book of Hebrews is a beautiful picture of how Jesus is the perfect fulfillment of everything we need. Therefore, we ought to run and cling to him with all we are. As long as I'm holding onto Jesus I know I'm safe.

On a lighter (and unrelated) note, Leatha asked Beck if he needed her to wipe him. He said, "No, daddy likes to do it."


Sarah Wood said...

This is crazy! I just found this book and Joel and I are going to start reading it. It's called "Stand: A call for the endurance of the saints", written by John Piper, John MacArthur, Jerry Bridges, Randy Alcorn and Helen Roseveare. Check it out!

J and J Masson said...

that was one book that made it overseas in 1 of our 10 pieces of luggage. jesse really likes it.

Lissa Catus said...

Hey Mark, thanks for this post. It reminds me of a biography that Piper gave that's on his website, talking about Calvinism, particular Calvinism and the like and there's a part in it where he talks about election, and Piper says, which I think is so true, that Christian election should not look like us waiting to be sure of our election, but to live as though we are elect and let time/fruit/etc. tell whether we are. I think this is much more freeing than the other way around; some people use/believe in the concept of election as a restricting, paralyzing doctrine, but I don't think it's supposed to be that way.

Jenny said...

As new parents, Tom and I laughed and laughed at Beck's comment. :)

Curtis said...

Yea, Hebrews 6:4-6 made me study the Bible for real for the first time early this past summer. Made me pause and search the Bible to see if the doctrines of justification, predestination, calvinism, etc. were legit...
Once I kinda got past the question, "Man, I wonder if God predestined me to sit on the couch and watch TV," and other various misconceptions; things came into focus a bit...