By Judson Casjens
For many believers, the doctrines of foreknowledge, predestination, adoption, and election paint a completely distorted picture of God, at least from how God has revealed Himself within His Word. Misunderstood biblical teaching always results in a misunderstanding of the person of God and His purposes, even His relationship to you and me. In the case of these doctrines in particular, there are three basic viewpoints by which they are perceived, each claiming to be Scriptural.
Oddly enough, the true biblical teaching has no name; however, in general terms, the two other viewpoints are Calvinism and Arminianism. While these last two groups view each other more often than not with disdain, when studied honestly they actually share common ground in one particular area—that of what is termed eternal security. Honest and understanding adherents of each teaching don’t, and in fact cannot, know they are in truth “saved” until their last and final gasp of breath. For while the Arminian teaches and believes one can lose and then regain one’s salvation, the Calvinist under the teaching on the Perseverance of the Saints (the “P” in TULIP) cannot know he has, in fact, persevered until he has completed his earthly sojourn, an understanding of which teaching not many have seriously considered.
To be quite clear, in each and all of these groupings, there are to be found true and very upstanding believers and scholars; it’s just that when it comes to these teachings, which are all intertwined and interdependent by the way, the understanding is skewed and there is a genuine tendency to “read into” biblical passages their respective beliefs. Put another way, while they may be excellent scholars, in most passages, as portions of Scripture touch on their beloved doctrines, they quite frankly have a tendency to manipulate, twist, redefine, and in other ways conform and interpret them into their own preconceived mold.
As we read many of these well-respected men’s writings, this is something of which one needs to be acutely aware. This raises the question we all should be asking anyway—do you know the beliefs and teachings of those you listen to and whose books you read? Have you discovered the root from which their teachings stem? Even evolution can be made to sound plausible if one ignores all the assumptions upon which it is based. We’re in a time when this discovery is much easier to make with the advent of the Internet. The utter failure to practice this is one of the major reasons so much error has entered the church; to be clear, I have seen this failure in many pastors (who need to be questioned as well). Are you of the opinion that when John wrote the following, he was writing to someone else?
Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.– 1 John 4:1
This is found within a context in which Jesus’ commandments and false prophets are being discussed. As noted earlier, large numbers of believers are living their lives with a total uncertainty and lack of honesty to what they’ve been taught, not possessing the knowledge of being presently secure “in Christ.” It is His power that guarantees us eternal life and salvation—and it is utterly tragic if we do not lay hold of the truth of the Gospel. It really doesn’t become any clearer than this verse if we let it say simply what it says:
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. – John 3:16