Thursday, February 2, 2012

Significant Books: Chosen by God

R.C. Sproul's Chosen by God was the first theological book I ever read, and it was one of the first books Lewie Clark recommended to me (along with Desiring God).  It is a primer (213 pages) on predestination which I found surprisingly riveting.

It is not an especially quick or easy read, but that is expected given the particularly vexing subject matter.  That said, I found Sproul to be very clear, thorough, and ultimately convincing.

I grew up being taught of, and believing in, a kind of free-will that said my decision to follow Jesus (or not) was the only decision in regards to faith that mattered.  In so many words, the door to God's Kingdom was open, and all I had to do was decide to walk through it and follow Jesus.  I could freely choose good, or I could freely choose evil.

This logic made complete sense to me, and I never really questioned it.  As a child, I was even exposed to an opposing view which said we are not equally free to choose between good and evil, but my teacher specifically told me, "We are not robots."  I considered this momentarily and thought, "She's right, I am not a robot."  So much for nuanced theological reflection.

When I read Chosen by God in college I was ripe for a fundamental shift in my world-view.  Sproul peeled back layers of my presuppositions and presented powerful reasons from scripture to believe that my will was not quite as free as I had previously believed.  Sproul was, of course, not the first writer to do this.  Centuries earlier Martin Luther did the same thing in The Bondage of the Will and later so did Jonathan Edwards in Freedom of the Will.

The essential idea is that because of sin our will is broken such that it is no longer able to choose good.  In other words, no one would ever choose to follow Jesus on their own.  Therefore, faith in Jesus is a gift from God based completely on grace and has nothing to do with anything we've done.

I read Chosen by God and Desiring God back-to-back and they were both instrumental in breaking down my self-centered world-view and rebuilding it in a profoundly Christ-centered way.

Of course, these perspectives are not without controversy. It seems to me that people who discover and embrace them later in life - especially during the often passionate college years - have a tendency to wear them on their sleeve or get a chip on their shoulder.  I was certainly tempted to do the same, but I am thankful for the men who discipled me who taught me the way of love, grace, and humility which rescued me from making foolish choices with my words and attitudes.  It is extremely rare for me to enter into debate on these matters, and when I do I try to be extremely deliberate, assume the best, and not take myself too seriously.

And I'm still not a robot.