Saturday, May 11, 2013

Does OSAS contradict free will?

That is, does the doctrine of  "once saved, always saved" contradict
the doctrine of libertarian free will?

Now, of course, I won't leave the answer at that.  I'll try to give you some actual reasons here.  But first, before I attempt to prove what I am trying to prove, I will clarify what I am not trying to prove.  I am not trying to prove either that the doctrine of "once saved, always saved" is true.  I am also not trying to prove that that people have free will.  The only thing I am addressing here is the question of whether, in theory, both could be true.

What is free will? At it's core, free will means that a person is the determinant of his or her own choices. It means that a person experiences choices, and has the actual capability of picking which option to take (as opposed to the illusion that the opposite could have been picked). It does *not* imply any physical power, though.

For example, some people try to argue against free will in the following manner: "People don't have free will, because after all, they cannot do X." Well, sure. People can't heal themselves or fly like birds, but that's not an aspect of the *will,* that's an aspect of what physical *power* they have.

To summarize, humans have:
  • Limited power = can't fly like a bird.
  • Free will = can still choose to jump off the roof and try to fly.

Thus, the doctrine of free will does not imply limitless power. To give another example, those who believe in free will believe that humans do not have the power to save themselves from sin and hell; humans do not have the power to justify or to regenerate themselves. Those are things that God alone can do.

So, just like humans do not have the power to save themselves, the doctrine of OSAS teaches that humans do not have the power to un-save themselves, to take themselves out of the Father's hand, to separate themselves from the love of God, to rid themselves of the Holy Spirit that they are sealed with, or to cast themselves into hell. Those are things that only God can do.
Therefore, a doctrine that holds to both free will and also to OSAS would hold that a person is free to choose to try to get un-saved (just like they are free to try to fly), but they do not have the power to actually achieve the effects that they seek.
God is willing to save people, but if He is not willing to un-save people, then the net effect is that it's possible for a person to get into something they can't get out of.


I can think of a physical contraption that works in a similar way... It's called a roller coaster.

You see the coaster, and it looks like a blast, and so you decide to get on.  Of your own free will.  Everything is going well, you put the restraints on, and probably a worker comes by to check and make sure that you are actually buckled in.  And then you hear that ominous phrase:  "You will be locked in on the count of three. 1-2-3. (click)  You are now locked in...   Enjoy your ride."

Now at that point, you might feel just a twinge of something that I like to call "terror."  Because right as they say that, you realize that you are completely trapped throughout whatever is going to happen next, and no matter how bad it gets, there's no way out. 

Okay, I'm no longer so sure about this idea...

And then, suppose it proceeds to get scary to the level that you think you are going to die before this ride ends, and would be willing to bribe the ride operators all of your earthly possessions to let you off:


Obviously, she isn't going to be able to get off the ride until the end.  Does that point to the fact that she does not have free will?  No.  She is free to choose to try to get off the ride all she wants.  But she simply does not have the power to stop the ride immediately, unlatch the restraint, and get herself off. It's a lack of power, not a lack of free will.

This analogy is not to say that Christians are going to be desperate to leave Christ like that little girl is desperate to leave the ride, rather it's to say that according to the OSAS, it's easier to get off a roller-coaster mid-ride than it is get out of salvation.  And that in both cases, free will remains unharmed - the limitation is your amount of power, not your will/choice function.

According to OSAS, if you are born-again and indwelt with the Holy Spirit, you are now locked in. Enjoy the ride.  :D

Friday, May 10, 2013

“It's me, it's me, oh Lord, standing in the need of prayer”

How many of you are familiar with that classic hymn?  It's quite simple, a children's song even, but it's very profound because I think for most of us, our default mindset is “It's you, it's you, it's you, oh friend/spouse/neighbor, standing in the need of prayer!”  

How many arguments have we participated in, that look like this:
“You need to change this habit, it's wrong.” 
“Talk to the mirror! YOU need to change that habit you're using right now. THEN we can talk about me.” 
“No, you're just dodging the issue now. I'm not perfect, but right now we need to look at the character issue you are displaying right now, because that's the real problem right now.” 
(etc, etc, etc).

Now, obviously, it's most efficient to talk about one person at a time, and so someone's faults are going to be discussed first, even if it's the other person.  

But the problem is when we internally insist that the other person is the only person who needs to change without asking God for a reality check on our own attitude, or when we know that we are acting fleshly but internally insist that the other person needs to change first.

Jesus speaks about this in Matthew 7:

"And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye." Matthew 7:3-5

In a situation when someone wrongs us or does things in a sub-optimal way, we can either seek God in regard to our own attitude and actions first, or we can give into the feeling that we cannot possibly be happy, content or peaceful in life until the offender changes. If we take that second option, we will proceed to apply massive amounts of pressure on the other person to change and become more godly.  But this is one situation where "You first!" is not the best option.

And what is the opposite of trying to apply God's Word to other people first? I'll tell you! The opposite is this:

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field." Matthew 13:44

Okay, so this man finds the treasure, and the first thing he does with it is hide it so that no one else gets to it first.  That's right, he doesn't try to apply it to other people first, he goes and *hides it* in order to make sure that he'll be the first one to take advantage of it.

This is a beautiful analogy for the power of the gospel and God's Word in our own life. It's it the thing of ultimate value in life; it makes every part of life worthwhile; it's what gives us joy. When that idea is internalized and we recognize this treasure for what it is, then in every difficult situation we will find ourselves rushing to apply the treasure to our lives first.

And then, we will find our cup of joy overflowing (for the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace...), and will share it readily with others.  :D

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ" Ephesians 1:3

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Hope for Our Hurting World

I've heard people say, "I don't know how so-and-so can suffer through that pain without Christ." What is meant is that the person does not have a living relationship with God through Christ, yet is bearing much pain on his or her own. This admission comes from a heart that has suffered, a heart that has found comfort from God during a stint of emotional and/or psychological pain. The believer has "the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation" to rely upon during distressing times (2 Cor. 1:3 NRSV).

Sadly, often even believers neglect to rely upon the God of all comfort, feeling that God should not be bothered with their pain.

But our God encourages us to invite Him into our pain. He longs for us to look to Him for consolation "in all our affliction, so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God" (2 Cor. 1:4 NRSV). How shall we ever help others receive God's consolation if we neglect it ourselves?

We also try too hard to deflect our pain, hoping instead for immediate gratification, or a quick-fix recovery. There are no quick-fix recoveries. Recovery takes time, patience, hard work and tenacity; and no one can do the hard work for us: either we apply ourselves to the work or we degenerate. We have also lost the art of healthy and godly grieving. Henri Nouwen explains: 
The hardships we all endure require more than words, of course, even spiritual words. Eloquent phrases cannot soothe our deep pain. But we do find something to lead and guide us through. We hear an invitation to allow our mourning to become a place of healing, and our sadness a way through pain to dancing. Who is it Jesus said would be blessed? "Those who mourn" (Matt. 5:4).1 
We, as believers in and followers of Christ, may not "grieve as others do who have no hope" (1 Thess. 4:13), but we do grieve, nonetheless. The "American way" has historically been to "pull ourselves up by our bootstraps," keeping a "stiff upper lip," for "God helps those who help themselves." The Bible contradicts this false way. We are helpless and, hence, cannot pull ourselves up. We need God to pull us up. Our upper lip should not remain stiff but pliable in asking God for help. God does not help those who help themselves, but only helps those who cannot help themselves, lest we think that He is the one who needs our help. Again, Nouwen writes:    
We learn to look fully into our losses [grieving our losses], not evade them. By greeting life's pains with something other than denial we may find something unexpected. By inviting God into our difficulties we ground life -- even its sad moments -- in joy and hope. When we stop grasping our lives we can finally be given more than we could ever grab for ourselves. And we learn the way to a deeper love for others.2
Peter commanded us to cast all our anxieties and worries and cares upon God because He cares for us (1 Pet. 5:7). "Cast your burden on the LORD," writes the Psalmist, "and he will sustain you" (Ps. 55:22). When we carry what we were never meant to carry, we become an emotional danger to ourselves, as well as to those around us. This is why one often hears a believer confess to his or her perplexity of a non-believer enduring suffering apart from Christ. Pain and suffering are difficult to bear with Him, let alone without Him. Jesus is the only hope for our hurting world. Many have walked away from the faith by neglecting to rely upon the only hope for our hurting world.
1 Henri J.M. Nouwen, Turning My Mourning into Dancing: Finding Hope in Hard Times (Nashville: W Publishing Group, 2001), xv.
2 Ibid. 

Written by William Birch, reposted with permission.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

_____Loyalty and submission to God______ As illustrated by a ragtag band of pirates

The “Pirates of Penzance,” a Gilbert and Sullivan musical which is most widely known for  the Modern Major General song, has always been a favorite movie of mine. If you haven't watched the movie yet (the version with Kevin Kline), I highly recommend that you do so at once!

It's a heart-warming story about a band of pirates who make their living by attacking and looting other ships, but who, nonetheless, try to live by a simple set of morals that they all hold to and also respect the conscience of others. For example, near the beginning, Frederick quits their pirate band and lets the Pirate King know that he intends to come back with the police force and wipe them from the face of the map, because of their evil profession. Upon hearing this, the Pirate King replies,

“if you conscientiously feel that it is your duty to destroy us, we cannot blame you for acting on that conviction. Always act according to the dictates of your conscience, my boy, and CHANCE the CONSEQUENCES!!!”

And you know, that's probably a good level of respect that we all should have toward our opponents who are acting according to their convictions, whether we agree or disagree with them on the matter. But, anyway, the film progresses until we reach a final showdown between the police force and the pirates, and, well, the police lose in about 4 minutes, and end up being thrown into a great big heap together, surrounded by pirates.

But, just as we think that the pirates have won, the police chief gets up and gives a speech: “To gain a brief advantage you've contrived, but your proud triumph will not be long-lived!” Continuing, he says, (or sings, rather): “We charge you yield! In Queen Victoria's name!”

Then, it actually works. “We yield at once with humbled mien,” responds the Pirate King, “because, with all our faults, we love our queen.” And thus, the Pirate King, and all of his followers, leave their life of piracy behind.

At first thought, that seems wildly unrealistic. A whole band of pirates, BAM!, just like that, renouncing their life of crime? Because of an appeal to alliance?  Well, I think that's how it should work in the Christian life. We are loyal to God, our King and LORD, but at the same time we often choose patterns of behavior which (whether we know it or not) do not please Him at all.

To change us from a specific ungodly path, all it should take is one person showing us that God doesn't want us to go down that path, and appealing to our alliance to God in the matter. That's all it should take to persuade us to do a 180 in any particular aspect of our lives (though the actual continuation on that path might be fraught with difficulty).

It would be nice if we could instantly live a perfect life, with perfect knowledge of what's right and wrong in any given situation, and never sinned in thought, action, or word.  But, that is a goal that we will not achieve fully until we reach heaven.  The best we can do, while here on each living flawed lives, is this:  live in humility, being open to possibility that we are doing it wrong, seeking wisdom from God, listening to input from others, and at every point where we find that have been living in a way that God objects to, yielding to God at once with humble mien.  That's how I want to live my life, anyway.  Because, with all my faults, I love our King!


Friday, May 3, 2013

Your Brain's Native Language

Suppose you know a person who speaks both English and French, but French is their native and primary language. If you wanted to communicate with them, you could choose either to talk to them in English or in French – either way would get the message across to some degree. But, suppose that you want to make your message easy for them to understand, then communication in French would be considered preference in regard to this goal. Fundamentally, we understand things most easily when they are communicated in our preferred language. 

That's pretty straight-forward. But I'm going to get into something slightly deeper: Your sub-conscious mind has a native language of it's own.

Primarily, we perceive the world around us through 5 senses: visual, auditory, kinesthetic, taste, and smell. These are the primary ways that we mentally represent reality, and these representations also give meaning to the language that we use to internalize or describe our experiences. That's a lot of long words to describe something simple: There is something in reality, I see that thing, and I create a mental visual representation of that object, and maybe even attach a name to that picture.

Here's the amazing thing, though: when people think about non-physical concepts, they also use these sensory-based representational systems to conceptualize it in their head. For example, if I want agreement with someone, I could say: “Do you *see* what I mean?” or “I *hear* what you're saying” or “I just want to be *on the same page* here.”

“On the same page”? We've just taken the invisible concept of agreement and conceptualized it using three different sensory systems. Your brain (and everyone else's) does this *all* the time. What varies is which sensory representational system people prefer. The three most common are visual, auditory, and tactile(kinesthetic, spacial). One of them is your brain's native language – the language it uses to make sense of the world.

When I first learning about this concept, I was fascinated to discover that me and my husband speak different mental “native languages.” I am much more visual. Every time I come across a concept, it's “Do you see what I mean?” or “from this viewpoint, you can see that this makes sense...” or “look at it this way.” Very visual metaphors that I constantly use without consciously thinking about it. My husband, though, thinks in spacial, tactile terms. With him, it's more about “coming across,” “steam rolling,” “finding common ground,” “where the rubber meets the road,” and so on.

Of course, no one sticks to just one type of metaphor, but each person usually has one type that they primarily prefer and use. If you listen to the language that people use, (or look at what they type), then you can notice if they primarily use visual, auditory, or tactile metaphors, and then you'd know what their brain's native language is. Is this helpful information? Absolutely, if you plan to communicate with them and want your message to be easily understood. When you know what their preferred representational system is, you can use those types of phrases and metaphors when talking with them. After all, we all understand things most easily when they are communicated in our preferred language.

Visual language examples:

I see what you're saying
That looks good
That idea isn't clear
My mind just went blank
Cast some light on the subject
Get a new perspective/point of view/view point
An insightful/enlightening/colorful example
Tunnel vision
In light of
Get the picture
Eye to eye
Beyond the shadow of a doubt
See to it
In view of
Catch a glimpse
Mind's eye
Mental picture

Auditory language examples:

I hear you
That rings a bell
Sounds good to me
Everything just suddenly clicked
Listen to me
In harmony with
Something tells me not to
Harping on
That resonates with me
Word for word
Voice an opinion
Unheard of
Call on
Tuned out

Tactile language examples:

Grasp the concept
Get a handle on it
Pull yourself together
A solid understanding
I'm up against a wall
I have a feeling you're right
All comes down to this
Get in touch with
Where the rubber meets the road
Change your standpoint
Come up with
Come to grips with
On the right track
One step at a time
Pull some strings
Sharp as a tack
On your toes
A heated argument
Under my skin
Hit the nail on the head
Crossing a line

This list is obviously not a complete list, but I hope that it includes enough to help you start seeing the patterns of language that can be used.  One fun thing to do is to listen to various songs, and notice which type of metaphor is used most frequently within that song.  Very fun.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Time, I will hunt you down! And I will find you!

It's easy enough to make a time budget, but then it's difficult to audit. You get to the end of the day, half the things on your to-do list are untouched, you still feel exhausted, and then you wonder:  Where did all my time go?   Did things individually take longer than I anticipated?  Or am I just getting distracted and not doing things on my list?  If you're in a very thoughtful mood, you might even wonder - Is my life being spent on the things I want my life to be spent on?

Therefore, I have created a way to keep track of all my time, using coffee cups, poker chips, and coins!

The coffee cups list the things I might be be doing, but they all start out empty.  [By the way, the above image does *not* show all of the coffee cups. Obviously there are a great many more categories.]   Poker chips and coins are time-currency, and represent various amounts of time.  Once I spend my time on something, I put that amount of time-currency into the appropriately labeled coffee cup.

Then, if I ever need to know where all my time has gone, I can just look inside all of the cups and see how much time-currency is in each one. (And then I can question whether that's the ideal placement of time, or what I wish to change)

Bonus:  I can put time-currency into two cups for the same amount of time if I was accomplishing both at once.  For example, if I am working AND enjoying myself for an hour, I can put an hour of time-currency into both the “work” container and also the “enjoyment” container.

So, uh, now I need to go put some currency into the "blog" and "enjoyment" cups...  :D