Saturday, February 09, 2008

Christian Fatalism - Part I

“Jesus said unto him, Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God.” (Lu 9:60 AV)

For the past 2,000 years Christians have stepped into this world having been liberated from the shackles of sinful desires and preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Souls have heard the message and many have turned from the pleasures of a season to an eternal life in Christ Jesus. Many more have refused and stayed upon their path of sin and death oblivious to the consequences of their choices. Regardless of those outcomes, the faithful servant of Jesus, obedient to the commission of Christ, has engaged the Gospel, presented it, preached it, declared it, promoted it and laid it out so that the power of God through His Word will bring salvation to men.

"For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God." (1Co 1:18 AV)

How could any of us have found the peace and joy of abiding in Christ if the preacher had not preached? Is this not a matter of life and death so that if one soul called to spread His Word should sit on his hands, men would perish? In the Old Testament Prophets, The LORD charged Ezekiel with the responsibilities of His watchman, one who declares and warns His people. Should the watchman sit still and not voice his responsibilities, the scriptures tell us that the blood of the people shall be upon his hands (Ezekiel 33). That is a sobering thought with regard to our responsibilities in this world. It also clearly establishes the means by which the LORD works with men in a manner our Calvinist brethren derisively refer to as synergism. The Apostle Paul exhorts the brethren along similar lines in the following passage.

"For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? So then faith [cometh] by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." (Ro 10:12-17 AV)

I have been pursuing this line of thought on the CARM discussion boards recently with the premise being the preaching of the Gospel is essential to salvation. At the same time if this Gospel is not preached, men will perish. I do not think most rational Calvinists would oppose these notions but there is more to this inquiry. What happens if one is disobedient to the commission to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ? From the Calvinist perspective of determinism, all those whom the LORD has elected from before the foundations of the world will be saved otherwise the LORD's decree will fail, an impossibility. Assuming this Calvinist position is reasonably stated, it demands an examination. If one disobeys the commission to preach His Word yet elect souls are saved nonetheless, can this determinism be defined as anything other than theistic fatalism? Many Calvinists (hyper-Calvinist souls excluded) reject the idea that their beliefs are fatalist claiming instead that the LORD's predestination of all things does not nullify man's responsibility for what the LORD has predestined. Aside from the conflict such a statement presents with regard to predestination vs. willful choice, it does not address how souls are saved aside from the preaching of the Gospel unless theistic fatalism is embraced rather than held at distance.

Now, from the Arminian perspective, there is no conflict because it is readily accepted that souls are saved through the preaching of the Gospel and souls perish when the Gospel is silenced. This is why the commission to preach the Word of God is so solemn and essential. In the words of Jesus …

"Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly [is] plenteous, but the labourers [are] few;" (Mt 9:37 AV)