Today’s AMI Devotional is written by Helen Soh (in corroboration with Pastor Ryun), who serves at Symphony Church in Boston. Helen, a graduate of Cornell University, is currently pursuing the Master of Divinity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.
DEVOTIONAL THOUGHTS FOR TODAY
“What do you see? A Rabbit or a duck?”
The word “compromise” probably isn’t popular among some believers who see themselves as committed to Scripture. To them, the compromisers lack the backbone to uphold their convictions. While that may be true in some cases, it isn’t always so. Now, upon seeing this image, some will see either a duck or a rabbit, initially. But, unless a person is dogmatically committed to his/her preferred position regardless of evidence, most people will see that the image contains both animals.
While studying theology in seminary, I became aware of the longstanding feud between Arminians, who focus on freewill that enables people to choose salvation, and Calvinists, who see salvation as the outcome of God’s sovereign election/predestination to save some. But, I believe that Arminianism and Calvinism can be considered two sides of the same coin; that is, free will and sovereign election need not be considered mutually exclusive.
First, Calvin’s (1509-64) central belief was in “the absolute sovereignty of God” and God’s position as “governor of all things” (Shelley 261). Subsequently, He must be sovereign over and always initiate the work of salvation. According to Romans 8:30, God is the one who predestines, calls, and then sanctifies all believers. Second, Arminianism, originating from Jacobus Arminius (1560-1609) and popularized by John Wesley, looks at salvation through the believer’s perspective. Wesley taught that “men had enough freedom of will to choose or refuse divine grace” (Shelley 338). In Luke 1:15, consider how Jesus invites people to engage their free will and repent because the Kingdom of God is near.
This implies that we must see both the “rabbit” and the “duck” in Scripture. Is it not possible that God’s sovereign plan is playing out perfectly through the free will of believers? Although we may feel uncertain of our choices, is it not possible that God is not? I would agree with Spurgeon that we cannot understand election now, but we ought to preach so others freely accept Christ.
The orientation needed to resolve theological polemics is also applicable to our relationship conflicts. In most cases, the key is compromise based on recognizing that “now we see but a poor reflection. . . in part” (1 Cor. 13:12), meaning while I may see some things better than others, others may see what I fail to see. This recognition, I believe, is the key to maintain unity, whether theological or relational. So today, let’s try to learn some things from others.
Prayer: Father, I praise and thank You for Your eternal word encased in Scripture that has been freely given to us. How amazing that we have access to Your infinite wisdom and unfathomable thoughts in a book! Give us the insights and humility to properly understand Your word and then obey it. Amen.
Bible Reading for Today: John 4
Lunch Break Study
Read 1 Pet. 3:9: The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance; John 6:65: And [Jesus] said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father”; Acts 13:48: And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed; Jn. 6:40: For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day”.
2 Pet. 3:15-6: Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. 16 He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.
Questions to Consider
- Which of these verses appears to back Calvin’s view of salvation?
- Which of these verses appears to back Arminianism?
- What is one outlook that can really help us to have a healthy attitude toward matters like this?
- John 6:65 and Acts 13:48, respectively, seem to back Calvin’s view on salvation. While the Acts passage says that only those who were appointed to eternal life believed, the John passage asserts that only those whom the Father granted can come to Christ.
- 2 Peter 3:9 and John 6:40 back Arminianism since both use inclusive language (“any,” “all,” and “everyone”). It is hard to dispute the meaning of “all should reach repentance.”
- I think this seemingly antithetical teaching on salvation found in Scripture qualifies as “hard to understand.” The worst thing we can do to this scriptural reality is to distort it. It is better to uphold the stance of “both/and” at best, and “not sure” at worst, rather than choose a side.
How did you feel while reading something quite theological for your morning devotional? Did you have a hard time finishing it? Before you give upon anything theological or doctrinal, consider what the apostle Paul says in 1 Timothy 4:16: “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.” Most of us understand the critical nature of leading a life free from sin, but I am not sure whether we take doctrines, some of which are the foundation upon which our beliefs are anchored, all that seriously. Before you turn in tonight, pray that your approach to doctrinal matters is serious, loving, and humble. Also, consider reading some good books on basic doctrines (e.g., Christian Beliefs: Twenty Basics Every Christian Should Know by Wayne Grudem).