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Cultural Doctrines and Control Issues

The Koinonia blog has run a great series of posts by Latayne C. Scott, a former Mormon, about the Mormon church. The quote below comes from the 3rd post in the series (you can read the entire post here.)



The power of its sociology – its cultures, its traditions, its people – is of such intensity and persistent power for those who love it, that doctrine can pale in significance unless truth is more important than any other thing.


What I find fascinating about this statement is that, while Ms. Scott is speaking specifically about the Mormon church and its sociology, the same truth can be articulated about American culture as a whole. The social implications of rejecting the prevailing Mormon culture and traditions are more stark and obvious than those of rejecting American culture but the truth of the statement remains valid. The power of American culture and the doctrine that has arisen around it has derailed many believers in Christ. Those who love American culture (capitalism, individualism, rights of an individual, etc.) often find themselves denying basic biblical truths because they love the cultural doctrine more than the biblical one.

I think the (ongoing and probably nigh unto eternal) debate between Arminianism and Calvinism is probably the most notable example of this. While I do believe that there are those who believe that the bible really does teach a "free will" soteriology, I also believe many Armenians have allowed their love of American cultural doctrine dictate and limit their view of biblical salvation.

The core issue is one of control. I think it is easy for most people to talke about Jesus being their Lord when it comes to things after salvation. "I just need to give Jesus control over ____." First of all, saying it and following through are two separate issues. But I think even in this idea of giving things over to God, we are in control. We determine when to give control of our money, or time, or whatever to God. We determine how much control to give over to God. We determine how long to allow Him to keep control. So even in giving control over to God concerning issues in our lives, we are still sitting in the driver's seat.

Salvation is a totally different process. In the process of God calling, regenerating, and granting faith unto repentance in thehear of the unbeliever, we have no control whatsoever. God decides when, how, and where to act. There is no aspect of the process that God is not in total control over. It is His total control and our total lack of control that makes it impossible for us to boast in our salvation. Our only option, biblically speaking, is to give praise and honor to Christ and His sufficient and effective work on the cross for our salvation.

The flesh (and the American) in us rebels and recoils at the idea of having no control over that process and so we work really hard to harmonize scripture (which we claim to believe) and our own control issues. Generally we frame it as "God only wants love that is freely given, not predestined" or "God loves us so much that He gives us free will". Of course both of those statements are contrary to scripture and logically inconsistent* but we overlook these errors becuause it makes us feel better to think these things about salvation than to admit that we just want control over our own salvation.


*I will address these two theories here:

1. "God only wants love that is freely given, not predestined" - typically by freely given we mean "given because we feel love and that feeling motivates us to act lovingly". Biblical agape love, however, is an action as opposed to a feeling. The idea is that real love (for God or others) is to act lovingly even we you don't feel like it.

2. "God loves us so much that He gives us free will" - this is completely contrary to all common sense. I have 4 children and routinely, because I love them, I impose my will over their own. When my 2 year old wants to play in the road, I tell her no. I do not allow her to have free will in this area because I know much more than she does the dangers of playing in the road. She is incapable of understanding the potential harm that could come from her choice. The same is true with us and our understanding of choosing to reject God. We cannot fully comprehend the ramifications of that choice and to argue that God is loving because He allows us to choose based on faulty information is nonsense. No one would look at my choice to forbid my daughter from playing in the road and say "He must not love his daughter because he won't allow her free will to choose to play in the road." I only argue this point with logic because this argument for free will is based on logic. More importantly than what seems to be the logic of the issue is that scripture plainly teaches that God is sovereign and chooses before the foundation of the world who He will save. (Ephesians 1:4-5, Romans 8:29)

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