Tug of War

(This article was written by Frank Reed and was originally posted here)

“Tug of War” – again – when will we learn?

One of my favorite pictures is a picture of two tractors. One tractor is a John Deere G and the other is a Farmall Super M. They are chained drawbar-to-drawbar and trying to out-pull each other. Beneath the chain is a line someone has scratched in the dirt. Hanging directly above the scratched line is a white handkerchief tied to the chain.

Both tractors are obviously straining at their limits. The smoke is pouring from their stacks. Their rear tires are digging into the earth. Their drivers are leaning into their loads. Much energy is being expended. Neither tractor is going anywhere (except deeper).

Each machine has a cheering section. This contest of mettle has brought them together (and is keeping them apart). Each group seems to know which tractor should win (and which should lose). These groups are obviously losing no love on one another.

While much energy is being expended – no plowing is being done. No discing. No planting. No cultivating. No harvesting. Valuable fuel is being exhausted. Expensive tires are losing tread. Powerful engines are being stressed. Delicate gears overloaded. Useful life shortened.

Intriguing but convicting. Does it matter which tractor wins? Imagine how much work could be done if these powerful machines would return to their respective fields of labor. The operators, with a vision of a goal accomplished, could wave to one another across the fence row as they passed. If one had more power than the other, what would it matter? They could work together (albeit in different fields) to feed a hungry world.

Our churches have so much to offer the community and the world. It has become apparent that tensions have weakened our ministry and limited us to a debilitating degree. There is too much at stake to continue the struggle. Both “tractors” are being damaged while their mettle yet unproven.

Why can there not be an amiable agreement so that we can work together or so that we can work in separate fields? There appears to be huge open fields where all can find places to work. Certainly some of the persons involved in the present struggle would feel quite comfortable in some other, related fields of labor. Is it not possible that we could “unhook the chain” and employ energies in gainful, meaningful, productive accomplishment? In this way, we could finish the work without the damage and disruption which will be hurtful to us all.

Can we not “rather suffer wrong” if we feel that we or someone we are supporting has been wronged? Will not the polarization and escalation of present attitudes existing at all levels prove destructive to all? What about the people we are here to serve? They are the ones to whom we owe an apology. What are we teaching them? What are we demonstrating to them? Are we not hypocritical to teach the Bible while “biting and devouring” each other as our physical and emotional energies and our very spiritual lives are being consumed? Can we show the people that we are disciples by the way we love one another?

A peaceful resolution will certainly not be nearly as exciting as all the smoke, noise, and clamor of the “tug of war.” But it strikes me that a peaceful solution would be closer to what the LORD intended when He gave talents to each of us and told us to “occupy until He comes.” Then each of us will need to give account of how we used His talents. Are we working the fields or playing “tug of war?”

Frank Reed – Written in 1997. Published in 2013. Published in 2016.

Come, Holy Spirit

Come, Holy Spirit, come,
Let thy bright beams arise,
Dispel the darkness from our minds,
And open all our eyes.

Convince of our sins,
Then lead to Jesus’ blood
And to our wondering view reveal
The secret love of God.

Show us that loving Man
That rules the courts of bliss,
The Lord of Hosts, the Mighty God,
The eternal Prince of Peace.

’Tis thine to cleanse the heart,
To sanctify the soul,
To pour fresh life in every part
And new create the whole.

Dwell, therefore, in our hearts,
Our minds from bondage free;
Then we shall know, and praise and love,
The Father, Son and thee.

(Charles Haddon Spurgeon)

Church Criteria

Many Christians seem to have difficulty settling into a church.  Here are two simple questions that can be asked to help a person evaluate the faithfulness of a church.

  1. Does it have worship?
  2. Does it have instruction?

Grace, Justice, Free Will

“That teacher obtains my highest approbation who ascribes as much as possible to divine grace, provided he so pleads the cause of grace, as not to inflict an injury on the justice of God, and not to take away the free will of that which is evil.”
(Jacob Arminius)

Jacob Arminius – Part 10

This has been a rather cursory look at a controversial theologian and his complex theological system.  I would like to conclude with a response to one of the most popular criticisms of Arminianism, which response will also reveal a key aspect of Arminius’ teaching.  That criticism is the claim that Arminianism is semi-Pelagian.  Semi-Pelagianism teaches that mankind, not God, takes the initiative in salvation, and therefore the work of God is denied.  However, Roger Olson responds to that charge thusly: “It would come as a shock to many Calvinists to know how much of salvation and the whole Christian life both Arminius and Wesley attributed to grace—all of it” (Against Calvinism, p. 169).

Recommended Reading

Galli, Mark and Ted Olsen. 131 Christians Everyone Should Know. Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000.

Muller, Richard A.  Arminius and Arminianism.  In Hart, Trevor A. The Dictionary of Historical Theology. Carlisle, Cumbria, U.K.: Paternoster Press, 2000.

Olson, Roger E. Against Calvinism. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011.

Jacob Arminius – Part 9

The second decree, according to Arminius, was God’s divine will to save specifically those who repent and believe.  Therefore, God would be understood as having divine foreknowledge of free human choices.  The third decree related to the means of salvation, which include the establishment of preaching, the sacraments, and the instrumental order of grace.  Again, those means are only sufficient for salvation in light of human choice.  God is understood as providing the conditions for salvation, while also having foreknowledge of the human response to those conditions.  The fourth decree in Arminius’ argument is that God foreknows who will respond to salvation and persevere to end.  He chooses to save those people, while choosing to damn those people whom he foreknows will not respond to his offer of grace.