Wednesday, September 28, 2011


A number of years ago I oversaw a discipleship class for the seniors of a local Christian school. The academic success of the school was very impressive and I was honored to contribute to the educational process. I began the discipleship process by explaining that the Biblical term “heart” referred to that to which an individual is committed supremely. I then emphasized that it resolves to one of two ultimate options; Self (in some manifestation) or God. This was followed by an explanation of the nature of genuine repentance. Repentance involves abandoning Self-supremacy (living to serve and please Self supremely) and resolving to live for the purpose of loving, pleasing, honoring, worshipping and serving God supremely. I then challenged the students to reflect personally and individually upon the supreme purpose of their own hearts. At this point, one of the students raised his hand and declared that we have no ability to repent and that God and God alone was in charge of who would and would not be saved. This single comment was the result of seventeen years of poor theological influence. This comment also ignited very significant, ongoing discussion about the nature of the relationship between God and man. In short, I explained that Scripture clearly commands us (sinner and saint) to respond to God the way we should with whatever measure of understanding and ability we possess. This is the reasonable requirement of God and He would not command us to do that which we could not do. This implied the presence of, either, natural or gracious ability. I went on to emphasize that, together with God (or in some cases in rebellion to God) we are actually involved in deciding the nature of the future we enter into in some significant measure. This involves genuine freedom and voluntary interaction on our part.

Three students demonstrated real interest in discussing these ideas though they were not necessarily receptive to them. I purchased and gave them copies of The God Who Risks by John Sanders and The God of the Possible by Greg Boyd. In response to possessing such books, the father of one of the students contacted the school and complained that they had hired someone who taught what I was teaching. Through a series of emails to me and the school, he emphasized that he was disturbed that I did not believe that God is sovereign (I do believe He is but define the idea differently than this father) and that God was in absolute control of everything that happens (his concept of sovereignty). He wanted the school to dismiss me.

Here is the dilemma. According to the view I was suggesting, human beings can actually choose to resist God or cooperate with God. According to his view, everything (including the behavior of man) happens just the way God ordained or actively causes it to happen. Therefore, in an email response to this concerned father I stated, “In order to be upset with the school for hiring me and in order to be upset with me for my beliefs and the teaching of such beliefs, you must borrow from my belief system. According to your view, why did the school hire me? According to your view, why do I believe what I believe? You see, according to your view, the school hired me and I believe what I believe because God has ordained it as such. So, my conclusion is, you do not have a problem with the school or with me, you have a problem with God. According to your view, the school could do nothing other than what it did and I can believe nothing other than what I believe. You need to borrow from my view to assume otherwise."

I never heard from him again. I finished the school year and graciously resigned. What do you believe?

1 comment:

Jesse Morrell said...

Great response to the father! The fact that all men have at times been upset over the behavior of themselves or others shows that all men presupposes the existence of freedom. John Calvin himself was upset with the teachings of certain people. Even he couldn't escape the necessary presupposition of human freedom.