Also, how do you deal with passages of the Bible that say things were predestined to be a certain way, such as Romans 8:29-30; Eph.1:5,11 and so on. What is the most reliable Bible translation?
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As I understand it, there is a spectrum of proposed answers to the questions regarding how God saves us. Strict Calvinism (or, hyper-Calvinism) stands at one extreme. It is very self-consistent, but it has several unpleasant tenets (for example, limited atonement) - not to mention that it contradicts the sound doctrine of God's Word. Consequently, it is not as popular as a more watered down version, often called 2-point or 3-point Calvinism. Sometimes, this more popular system is called the "grace only" or "faith only" system, because all it requires is belief - nothing more. Despite its popularity, this system is more difficult to defend from the Bible, because it has several internal inconsistencies, not to mention it contradicts the Bible. At the other extreme, works based systems emphasize meritorious works, whether for penance or salvation. The first century Jews that stood condemned by the Roman letter exemplify this extreme. They actually thought they could earn salvation through perfect keeping of the Old Law (Romans 4:1-4; 9:31-32)! Such a system rejects grace all together. Both of these extremes, and their compromised derivations, should be rejected, since they ultimately contradict Scripture.
The Bible teaching on justification is not only self-consistent, but it harmonizes both grace and works, faith and obedience. One of the keys to understanding is recognizing the distinction between the required conditional works of James 2:14-26 and the meritorious works of perfect law keeping, discussed in Romans 4. Conditional works (like believing, repenting, confessing, and being baptized), work with grace to produce our salvation, because they cannot earn salvation on their own. You can follow a discussion regarding this distinction and related questions here:
I'll be happy to discuss this more, if you like. Understanding justification, grace, works, faith, Calvinism, and baptism is a sticky point for many people, because so many human traditions have been spread, which are contrary to the Bible. Just keep in mind that baptism was supposed to be a simple, or elementary principle (Hebrews 6:1-2). For example, if you skimmed a few chapters in the book of Acts, what would you think was required for salvation (Acts 2:37-38)? The difficulty occurs when one brings the predisposed baggage of prejudiced interpretation that is produced by a complex set of human traditions and theology, which require something else. You can read more about the simple, Bible pattern here:
Regarding a specific church that teaches these things, I attend a non-denominational church that seeks to follow the New Testament pattern - nothing more. We have no human creed or inter-congregation organization. Where I attend, no human traditions are accepted that are contrary to Scripture (Matthew 15:1-9). Even the name of the church is taken from Scripture. Since Christ died for the church, and it is His church, it is only reasonable that His church bear His name as its Savior. Many names were used in Scripture, which you can read about here:
http://www.insearchoftruth.org/articles ... hurch.html
The church where I attend wears the designation, "church of Christ". It is not the only Scriptural name, but it certainly is a valid one (Romans 16:16; I Corinthians 1:11-13). Through an informal network of friends, I was blessed to find a congregation close to you, which teaches doctrine that will be very similar to what you have found on our web-site. As it turns out, a relative of one of our members preaches at this congregation ...
Lastly, regarding the Bible teaching of predestination, the key here is to ask yourself, "What is predestined?" Clearly, the Bible teaches that God foreordained that Christians would be saved. The passages that you referenced are very clear that God both predestined and foreordained the elect. However, we must be careful that we do not jump to conclusions and assume the basis for the predestination. In other words, did God foreordain the individuals that would be saved or the type of individual, apart from anything they would do? Did He elect them apart from their deeds, or did He elect them "corporately", that is through the body of Christ? The key to understanding these passage is to challenge the assumptions. What are these proof texts not saying? By identifying the ambiguous parts of these passages, we will be able to see clearly to align their interpretation with more specific verses. Several of these Calvinistic proof texts are discussed in more detail here:
http://www.insearchoftruth.org/articles ... inism.html
If a bothersome passage is not listed above, please let me know. I would be happy to add a comment on it.
Generally, I would encourage you to study the articles, especially the passages, in our series on Calvinism. The index for it is here:
http://www.insearchoftruth.org/articles ... #calvinism
For more detailed discussion, you can look over several discussions that we have had with adamant Calvinists here:
Some of these discussions are better than others, and I imagine you will be able to quickly determine after skimming a little. However, I'll be happy to recommend a few, if you like. Many of the tough Calvinist questions are answered in these forum discussions, which we have not had time to add to the main articles.
Your study will likely generate more questions. If you do not find the answers you seek in these articles or forum discussions, please let me know. I will be happy to answer any questions you have. Otherwise, please let me know if you visit the congregation or set up a study with one of its members. I'll be thrilled to hear about it.
May God bless us both to have a sincere love of the truth,