The Election of Grace

by Darrel Cline

A Word of Caution

At the outset of any study that is primarily theological, a red flag of caution ought to be raised in the minds of those who are engaging in it. It is the nature of men's minds to attempt to harmonize the details of their experience into the whole of life--so that they might understand both the larger picture and the details. This inclination is both an asset and a potentially grave danger. Thus, there is a need for both engaging in theology and hoisting the red flag.

The danger in doing theology in these days is three-fold. First, no one comes to the Scriptures with a blank mind. Second, there is an inordinate confidence in logic and reason entertained by the human mind. And, third, we of the 20th century labor under a terrible burden of false systems of hermeneutics (ways of interpreting the Bible) which have been heaped upon us by unthinking men of many centuries. For these reasons we must be sharply aware that we are entering a very dangerous (though potentially very profitable) field when we begin to attempt to tie various statements of Scripture together so that they harmonize.

The first danger is that of coming to the Scriptures with preconceived notions. We all do. The danger is that some of those notions are both erroneous and tenaciously believed. It is with great difficulty that any man forsakes a belief that he has held for many years. However, it is absolutely necessary in the growth toward genuine submission to the lordship of Jesus Christ that it be done. Most often, in this situation, it is the truth of Scripture that is altered and made to fit the previously and tenaciously held dogma, rather than the proper and opposite alternative. The red flag should keep us aware of our tendency to do this wresting of the Scriptures to suit what we have long believed.

The second danger is the subtle, but erroneous, worship of logic and reason in which we engage. Our minds demand that we be logical and reasonable. The problem is that an entire system of thought can be built with very consistent logic and reason--and be entirely wrong. This problem exists because logic and reason depend entirely upon having all of the pertinent facts at hand before the edifice of a logical system can be constructed--and we are not omniscient! ONE overlooked fact can substantially alter the logic of a system. Our problem is that we are more likely than not to have overlooked many more than ONE detail that is of significance. The red flag should keep us aware that we may not be as logical as we think we are.

And, the third danger is one of hermeneutics (the method we choose to use to interpret the statements of the Bible). It is far easier in these days to appeal to a general tenor of Scripture than it is to show from a context that the text means what we are claiming that it means. We are not called to the easier route. It is our task to discover the author's meaning of his words from the context he gave us. It is an impossible task to some degree except that, in Bible study, the ultimate Author resides within us who have believed in Jesus Christ. Because He is within us, we may have His assistance in understanding the meaning. But, the red flag ought to keep us aware that we have a powerful urge within us that goads us into reading our understanding of the author's words into those words, rather than drawing out his meaning.

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