The myth of the myth

Leslie Fields muddles about in Calvinism and Darwinism before arriving at good advice for every Christian parent, which is to pray your child toward Heaven. I think “the perfect parent myth,” however, is itself a myth. None of us envisions he can be a perfect parent. But we ache for our children to know God, and if we are wise, we prepare the ground of our children’s hearts, as Wife says, to be fertile. If we neglect it, the weeds grow up.

Faith indeed comes from God. But parents have a profound influence on the state of the soul in which those seeds are planted. Need we be perfect parents? No, thank God. But should we throw up our hands and trust predestination or sola fide or good genes or whatever else we think might substitute for the daily work of yielding Christians?

May it never be. Pray for them. Teach them to pray. Teach them the Scriptures. Bring them into the Church. Love them, love them, love them. Love them unto death, so that they come to know this kind of love before they can name it.

Do children always grow to walk a good path? No, because they have free will. Actual free will, not the pseudo-free will Calvin dreamed up. Which is precisely why what we do matters.

How providential, if you will, that just this morning a friend sent me these words from St. John Chrysostom:

“We are directed by free will and not, as some say, subjected to the compulsion of inescapable fate. That is why God has given us the promise of his kingdom but also threatened us with punishment.  He would not have done that to people in the toils of necessity.  He would not have laid down laws, he would not have given us exhortations if we had been prisoners of destiny. . . The myth of a compelling destiny is nonsense.  Our lives are subject to no unavoidable fate.  Everything, as I have argued, points to the beauty of free will.”

Comments

  1. staffaction

    Calvin and no Reformed theologian (except for fringe, but what theology doesn’t have a fringe?) *ever* taught that because of predestination and justification by faith we should “throw up our hands” trusting those things and avoid “the daily work of yielding Christians?”.

    That is a gross misrepresentation of his theology. Those who actually read Calvin and listen to Reformed theology while suspending their assumptions about it tend to find that it isn’t as bunk as they thought.

  2. Post
    Author
    Woodlief

    Well of course not, nor did any of them teach that man doesn’t have free will. We’re talking here about the logical implications of their doctrine, not simply the face value of their claims.

  3. Dave

    Tony – I think the logical implication of your doctrine is that man is saved not because God saved him by working in his heart to see his own sin, but because HE made a decision to follow Christ, thus he gets some of the credit for his own salvation. Or that children are saved because their parents put enough of their own “work” into it. Sadly, I have to stop here and make it perfectly clear that I am not saying that we are not to train our children in the way they should go. We certainly should. But if our children do follow Christ are we to then pat ourselves on the back for our efforts? Or do we praise God and give Him the glory?

    You’ve probably seen this but I think Spurgeon blends the free will of man and his responsibility for his actions(which is clearly taught) and the sovereignty of God (which is also clearly taught) together quite nicely in his following quote:

    “The system of truth is not one straight line, but two. No man will ever get a right view of the gospel until he knows how to look at the two lines at once.

    I am taught in one book to believe that what I sow I shall reap: I am taught in another place, that ‘it is not of him that willeth nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy.’

    I see in one place, God presiding over all in providence; and yet I see, and I cannot help seeing, that man acts as he pleases, and that God has left his actions to his own will, in a great measure.

    Now, if I were to declare that man was so free to act, that there was no presidence of God over his actions, I should be driven very near to Atheism; and if, on the other hand, I declare that God so overrules all things, as that man is not free enough to be responsible, I am driven at once into Antinomianism or fatalism.

    That God predestines, and that man is responsible, are two things that few can see. They are believed to be inconsistent and contradictory; but they are not. It is just the fault of our weak judgment. Two truths cannot be contradictory to each other.

    If, then, I find taught in one place that everything is fore-ordained, that is true; and if I find in another place that man is responsible for all his actions, that is true; and it is my folly that leads me to imagine that two truths can ever contradict each other.

    These two truths, I do not believe, can ever be welded into one upon any human anvil, but one they shall be in eternity: they are two lines that are so nearly parallel, that the mind that shall pursue them farthest, will never discover that they converge; but they do converge, and they will meet somewhere in eternity, close to the throne of God, whence all truth doth spring.”

  4. Post
    Author
    Woodlief

    Dave, I think you offer in your first statement an either/or that is rightly contradicted by Spurgeon — we needn’t think the matter is either that God imparts to us faith OR that we effect our salvation, nor should we worry about man getting “credit” for his salvation in some way that diminishes the glory of God. Christ is the author and perfecter of our faith, the propitiation not just for us but for the whole world, and the Father desires that all men be saved, yet at the same time those He predestines He foreknows. All are true, and you are right that we should not let an affinity for one of those truths cause us to negate or rewrite the others.

  5. staffaction

    Fair enough, Tony. But in terms of ‘logical implications’ when I see that some of the world’s greatest missionaries, even those who started the modern missionary movement were Reformed and did what they did because of their faith in a sovereign God that tells me the logical implications aren’t as cut and dry or at least as fatalistic as you imply.

    The logical implication you refer to is indeed one- usually to those who are in reality “hyper-calvinists”. Those who take the Christian Faith and the Reformed doctrines of grace seriously do not come to this conclusion. This is probably why the sideswipe came across as unnecessary.

    Point being your overall post has a good message but maybe trying to swing at or invoke implications of controversial doctrine in the process is not needed. I suppose it all depends on the kind of audience you’re trying to reach though…

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