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Entries in Theology (12)


The difference is the reason why

I just finished reading the first volume in R.C. Sproul's commentary on the Westminster Confession of Faith, Truths We Confess.

The more I read the Confession, the more I see it as an amazing piece of writing. And Sproul's well thought out commentary is very helpful.

The very last section of the book, Chapter 8, Section 8 of the Confession, deals with the matter of definite (or limited) atonement. This, of course, is the doctrine that makes a lot of people squirm. 

Sproul makes helpful distinction regarding the difference between Reformed theology and Arminians:

Universalism teaches that everybody is saved. Particularism teaches that only some people are saved. The difference between Reformed theology and Arminianism, then, is the explanation of why some are not saved. Arminians say that some people are not saved because they do not co-operate with the grace of God in order to be saved. The Reformed believe that some are not saved because God has not given them the effective grace to be saved.

The problem always comes when we go to extremes. The extreme application to Arminianism is "try harder." We may feel that we have not done enough to "win" that person to Christ. The risk of the Arminian view seems to me to be an inflated importance on the human witness to others. If our child has not become redeemed, it is because we did not share the gospel enough. If our friends are not saved it is because we did not do enough. This just leads to a lot of unnecessary guilt. It also downplays the utterly lost state of the one we're witnessing to. They just don't understand; they need it explained a different way. That may be true, but it may be because they are blind and no amount of discussion will remove that blindness; only the Holy Spirit will, and we may not be the vessel God uses to effect that removal.

The extreme with the Reformed view is that of apathy and laziness. We think we have no control over salvation, so we do very little, or maybe nothing at all. We become complacent about sharing the gospel, or we give up entirely, thinking that no matter what we say, God's going to do it, anyway. We have to remember that because we don't know who is elect and who is not, preaching the gospel whenever we can is important.

Human agency in evangelism is crucial, but we must not take anything to an extreme. As those who bear the gospel, we must be dliigent to preach the gospel message, but confident enough in God to have peace that He will bring about what He has ordained.


Homeschooler theologian?

This past week, I added a book to my Westminster wish list: God in the Whirlwind, by David Wells. Seeing that book took me back to fourteen years ago this month. Then, I was coming to the end of my first month of homeschooling.

When the rest of the public school children went back after Christmas holidays, ours stayed home. It was a decision we'd been planning. They were, at the time in 5th grade, 2nd grade, and kindergarten. Eventually, they all graduated from public high school to ease the process of matriculation into university.

Those were good years. They learned a lot, and I introduced them to things they would never have been given in public school. Most adults aren't taught Church History; my kids were. It was good for me, too. In a post at Out of the Ordinary, I shared about how books were my tutors as I went through a time of examining what I believed and why. Homeschooling helped in two ways.

First, it made me much better reader. In addition to books about education in general, preparing lessons for the kids, especially in history, made me think more about what I was reading and summarizing it into a lesson format. I wanted to be as informed about what we learned, so I read up on everything we studied. When we teach something, we have to know it well, and we remember it better, too.

Later, as my oldest got into the junior high grades, I was re-introduced to sentence diagramming. I'm a firm believer in grammar instruction, and I think diagramming, while boring, is very useful. It made me think more about the words I was reading and how they related to each other and how the meaning was constructed.

Second, it introduced me to likeminded women. During that first tentative semester of homeschooling, I read Susan Wise Bauer's The Well-Trained Mind, and when September arrived, our education focus changed somewhat. I loved the histroy-driven nature of her approach to schooling, and that summer as I stocked up on supplies, I satisfied the inner desire I'd had as a teen to study Latin, and got my books to teach my kids.  

I began to hang out at The Well-Trained Mind parent forum and met women there. Staci was one of them. One of them lives locally, and we're still friends. At the forum, we did talk about schooling and parenting, but there was also conversation about religion and books. It was there where I first saw titles of books that drew my seeking mind's attention.

One of the first ones I read was David Wells' No Place for Truth. After that, Reaching Out Without Dumbing Down, by Marva Dawn. She and I would diverge in doctrinal foundations (she is Lutheran) but I learned a lot about worship from her book. After that, I read Knowing God, The Holiness of God, Grace Unknown, and The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind. Those books seem like "oldies" now in comparison to what is currently available. It seems like Christian publishing has exploded these past few years. 

When my kids began to trickle off to high school, I visited the Well-Trained Mind forum less, and eventually stopped altogether. I'm glad for those years, knowing those women, and learning what I did. I suspect it was from someone on the board that I first heard of Monergism.

Everyone is a theologian. Even if a person says she does not believe in God, that is a theological conclusion. The question is what kind of theologian are we? These are questions my fellow homeschoolers discussed even as long as fourteen years ago. While I have graduated from being a homeschooler theologian, I am now an ordinary theologian. My life is much different now as I navigate the waters of a mother with adult children. But the hunger to learn is there. I pray to God it never leaves me.

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