Cover 2017-03-19

Ron Writes

Doctrinal Pressure

Nothing can be more challenging than theology. Truth often comes at us from different directions. Start with the most fundamental teachings about God. There is one God. He is a singular God. Monotheism. Yet, there are three distinct personalities. God says “let us make.” The Father is God. Jesus is God. The Holy Spirit is God. A plural singular is hard to explain. You can’t explain it. How do you deal with the tension? Some have tried by denying that Jesus is deity. Some try to explain away the Holy Spirit. One of the first major conflicts within Christianity was over the nature of God. The council of Nicaea in 325 was called to try to put the matter to rest and concluded with the Nicene Creed. On the other end of the spectrum is Islam’s accusation that Christianity has three Gods. There’s a built-in tension in the doctrine of the trinity. There’s nothing wrong with doctrinal pressure. We want to clarify every detail and put a bow on it, but truth is found in the middle of tension. There is one God (singular). Our God is one (unity). Take away the tension and you usually end up with error.

God is sovereign. He is in total control. He has a plan. On the other hand, He has given man free will. We have the ability to choose our own way. Which is it, is God in control of everything or does man have control of himself? Calvin leaned so far on the side of God’s sovereign power as to say we are all predestined either to heaven or hell and there’s nothing we can do about it. When tragedy strikes we often hear people say, “God must have a reason for it.” Maybe the reason for it is our own bad choices. It is not God’s will that any should perish, yet He gives man the power to choose his own eternal destiny. On the other end of the spectrum is to deny that God has any control at all in our lives. There’s a tension.

There’s a tension between grace and faith. Paul’s great rhetorical question, “what shall we say, shall we continue to sin that grace might increase?” is a direct response to those who would take grace to be license. On the other side, there are some who champion obedience to a point of becoming neurotic about their own salvation. Tension is good. Yes, we are saved totally by grace. Yes, we are saved totally by faith. Those two concepts put a strain on us. Hold on to the one without letting go of the other. Truth taken to an extreme becomes error (and causes division). On one extreme is legalism and on the other extreme is license to sin. Grace is incomplete without faith and faith is nothing without grace. Often Bible study is pursued to take away the tension. Leave it there. Find balance. Use discernment.