This is a series outlining my position in the Calvinism vs. Arminianism debate. Sparked by a perusal of Divine Foreknowledge: Four Views from InterVarsity Press, I wanted to take the opportunity to re-assess and articulate my view. More ink has been spilt on this than just about any other theological topic in my lifetime. I do not mean to muddy the waters any more than is necessary, but I think that whatever view one has on this issue belies much of what one believes about God, humanity, creation, and agency.
I have framed my position around the truth of faith. I will make my introduction to the series and my first post about what I consider to be at stake in this debate and discussion, connected to the chief virtue of those who fear God: faith. I will make a tentative list of what is at stake and add to it or modify as I work through my argument. These are paramount issues; I was going to make a rhetorical point about the orthodox doctrines of Christianity and the other positions a believer might take according to a certain theology, but really, faith is at the heart of Christianity. These are the things I consider to be most at stake in the Calvinism vs. Arminianism debate, from most broad to most specific:
- What is God’s message to humanity through the Scriptures? Why does the Bible exist?
- How are we to understand God’s commands to us, contained in the Law or given through His word? What obligation are we under? What is obedience to God’s command (particularly relevant are warnings which come through God’s prophets and apostles)? How are we to understand conditional statements made by God? Further, what are we to understand as our options in response to God’s commands? The garden of Eden situation will be my paradigm.
- Why are all not saved from death?
- Why do some believe God and live?
So you see, faith is at the heart of the discussion.
My argument will contain mainly exegetical propositions. I will appeal to the Scripture, though my proposition is my own. I submit my arguments here for correction and refinement from other readers. Full disclosure, this treatment will also serve as my entree onto what I consider to be my contribution to orthodox doctrine and theology: a theology of person, undergirded by a rhetoric of threat. My main point will be to argue how faith, life, and the relationship to and pursuit of God cannot be reduced to impersonal formulas of cause and effect (once saved, always saved) nor can these be seen in any way to dim the glory of God or steal His prerogative (God helps those who help themselves).
We are back in Korea now! We had an eventful summer and now we are getting back into the swing of things here in Seoul. Bethany has been going to school for a week already doing teacher inservice as students will start back to school this Monday. The weather is very hot and humid, with rainstorms popping up now and then. The cicadas are loud, but since I have lived both in Indiana and Texas, I am used to that!
Bethany and I are looking to the future as well – please pray with us as we think through whether we will be staying in Korea next year or returning to the States or going somewhere else as the Lord leads. There are many factors for us – finances, family, friends, and ultimately, following God’s leading.
It’s been a faith journey for both of us – I am wondering what job opportunity is next for me, and how/if I can finish my Th.M. Bethany has continued to take care of me but it is hard when we do not know what the future holds, or even what is next. There’s sort of a rollercoaster between all the potential of our future and the little situation we are in for the present. I know the Lord will take care of us as He has, and He has a role for us to fulfill!
I am in Kansas City, MO, staying at the house with Josh and Charlotte, Bethany’s good friends. I apologize for the radio silence – I have been out of my blogging rhythm with all the travel. Here’s a succinct timeline of Bethany and Nathan’s travels:
I got to meet Bethany’s friends and family and spend time in Tennessee. We had a reception dinner with friends who traveled to Memphis. The next day, we had a reception open house with family from Bethany’s dad’s side of the family. Bethany and I did other things too, checking off our to-do list of things to accomplish in the States. We even did a super-sprint triathlon!
Part of my time there was 10 days of training in order to join the Network of International Christian Schools as an accompanying spouse and missionary. Bethany works for Yongsan International School, Seoul and is hired by NICS. So, in order to join as a married couple, I was brought into the organization and went through training pertinent to living overseas and being at an international school. So, I’m officially a NICS missionary – no more visa runs!
We spent a week in Texas and Bethany got to meet my family – my dad’s side of the family got together for a rare family reunion! We also had a reception evening with friends of the family and Avi, my dad’s newly adopted daughter, was also dedicated. God continues to put my family together!
Bethany and I will end our time in the States with a vacation time in California. At the end of July, we will head back to Korea for another school year. It is my hope that we can be strong and whole in the midst of the busy-ness and all that God is doing!
On March 18, 2016, Bethany and I were wed on Namsan!
We are wed! Pictures to follow
As 2015 was ending, my pastoral internship drew to a close. Around this time, I told Bethany that I wanted to be with her and I was praying that God do something soon and unexpected for us to be together. Bethany’s best friend Charlotte visited her right at the end of 2015, and I got to spend time with them both (the dreamlike quality of this time cannot be exaggerated – I was done with my job, and I made another visa run to Japan after which I got to spend day after day with Bethany). After Charlotte had gone back to the States, Bethany proposed a plan to get married, just before her spring break. This was also unexpected, and an answer to prayer. We began to work on co-creating shared values to guide our decision-making. We also opened up to family for counsel.
You see, for this whole relationship to have worked, Bethany had to employ BOTH supernatural patience AND supernatural initiative. In the beginning, I was just a foreigner guy who had lived his whole life in the States, and would be returning there at the end of the year, knowing nothing of how diverse and unique Bethany’s upbringing and life had been. I had to wait and wait and see, biding my time to show romantic interest – our lives were so different and because of the events in my own family, I knew a marriage could not be built on unilateral action. There was too much to learn and process for a long-distance relationship. There had to be a back-and-forth for us to work.
I was just a seminary student doing a pastoral internship, talking about how I wanted to do cross-cultural work, so that by all accounts I seemed an outspoken proponent of the stereotypical Christianity of which Bethany, a missionary kid, knew better. I was just a 30-year-old guy who only had maybe one official girlfriend in his life and barely had a cent to my name. If I initiated a relationship, if I proposed marriage, where was I going to take her? What did I have to offer? I didn’t even have a residence to call my own. When Bethany initiated and showed up to the Incheon airport, it may have been a small action-step for her to take, but for me and my life, it was the giant leap I needed someone to make. Because Bethany waited for me to initiate and introduce things about our relationship and show affection, our love warmed and progressed naturally and intuitively but at a strong pace.
Around this time in the first half of January 2016, Bethany took me on a date to her old haunts in Seoul including Yonsei University. Something very important happened then. On February 14th, we returned to Yonsei University to hike Ansan. I proposed at the spot on Ansan where we had hiked to more than a year ago.
As the Lord allows, Bethany and I will hike together for the rest of our lives.