Monday, November 17, 2008

Crux Theologorum

For centuries theologians have struggled with the question, "Why are some saved and not others?" One answer is that some people choose to accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior, and others reject Him. This contradicts the clear biblical teaching that no one can choose to become a Christian, and that we are dead in sin.

Another answer to the question is that God chooses to save some, and chooses to damn others. This is the Calvinist position, but it contradicts that clear biblical teaching that God wants all to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth, and that Jesus yearned for the unbelievers to repent and be gathered to Him.

So what do we do with this illogic? Lutherans just say simply, "Well, God chooses some to be saved. Those who are damned made their choice to reject Him."

But that doesn't make SENSE!!

Okay, right. I learned that long ago, and it's not earth-shattering news to me. But I found a quote from Scaer* that just summed it up so nicely. After saying that 1) we cannot say God doesn't desire the salvation of all, and 2) we cannot say people have any choice in their own conversion, he states that this is within the hidden will of God (the voluntas absconditus):

The hidden will of God must remain hidden and it is sheer folly to claim knowledge of it from experience and history when our conclusions are so diametrically opposed to the revealed will. It is far better to take the Bible at its word and to have unresolved rational problems than to resolve these tensions by contradicting one or another part of Scripture.

*In "The Nature and Extent of the Atonement in Lutheran Theology" by David P Scaer, published in The Bulletin of the Evangelical Theological Society in 1967.


  1. The promised Scaer quote! (and it's very, very good!)

  2. Well, actually, this wasn't the one I was thinking of. There's a whole slough of them over at Petersen's blog, from a couple of years back. Some of them are very funny and very Scaer-ian. And profound.

    But the main ones I'm thinking of are in the second volume of In Christ which I've been meaning to really read ever since last fall when I blew through it fast with my red pen prior to publication. Thing is, when I was in Fort Wayne earlier this month, I was going through some other articles for another project, and found some pieces that absolutely demand me to pay attention to them! So now I'm delayed agaaain from digging into volume-2.

  3. We were just talking about this with my mother in law (she is a Jehovah's Witness), she kept getting confused with the whole we do nothing to save ourselves but do everything to damn ourselves. She didn't like the thought that we didn't have anything to do with our salvation, that our good works or good behavior had no effect on God. I think once you start thinking of it like you mentioned then it just has to be that way, there is no other way, we can't save ourselves but God can, we certainly can damn ourselves because God won't, he only desires for us to be with him in everlasting life.
    But yeah, anyways, it was an interesting conversation, both Paul and I were like "It's so obvious" and my mother in law was torn in two and so confused and did not want to accept what was there clearly in front of her. But isn't that the way of all of us, we deny a lot of stuff that is obvious (like me being a sinner and I say "I don't sin that badly", well yes I do, sin is sin, just like 1+1=2).

  4. You might also want to study the "Crux Theologorum" (The Theologian's Cross), which is articulated here (and elsewhere, of course)...