Theological Balance and Maturity

[The following tolerant Calvinist conversation is adapted and edited from non-fictional correspondence.]

“Gather yourselves and come; draw near together, escaped ones of the nations; the ones who set up the wood of their carved image, and the ones who pray to a god who cannot save; they know nothing. Declare and bring near; yea, let them consult together. Who has revealed this of old; [who] has told it from then? Is it not I, Jehovah? And there [is] no God other than Me; a just God and a Savior; [there is] none except Me. Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth; for I [am] God, and there [is] no other. I have sworn by Myself, the Word has gone out of My mouth [in] righteousness, and shall not return, that to Me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear. He shall say, Only in Jehovah do I have righteousness and strength; to Him he comes; and they are ashamed, all who are angry with Him. In Jehovah all of the seed of Israel shall be justified, and shall glory” (Isaiah 45:20-25).

Tolerant Calvinist #1:  Here we see how Isaiah sets himself up as God the Holy Spirit, with the imperious demand for perfection of understanding, allowing no room for growth in grace or knowledge, and claiming the ability to peer into the hearts of those who (allegedly) “know nothing” and determine who is a lost idolater, all based upon his narrow, inconsistent, idiosyncratic, and cultic theology. There is NOTHING attractive in Isaiah’s theology. It is cold, sterile, and repulsive. And thus it remains a sordid sectarian side-show. Balance is vital in all aspects of the Christian faith, and Isaiah does NOT possess balance.

Tolerant Calvinist #2Quite. Theological balance and maturity are key concepts that might have kept Isaiah from drawing such a constricted circle of orthodoxy that he has to stand on one foot just to stay inside (a humorous spectacle indeed, if it was not so sad). The vast majority of those who “set up the wood of their carved image” have NO IDEA what Isaiah is harping about here in the first place since they ARE IN FACT trusting in Jehovah to save them, albeit inconsistently. But this inconsistency is simply due to ignorance based upon tradition (and do we not all have our traditional blind spots?)  Is it inconsistent, ultimately, for them to trust in and pray to “a god who cannot save” while blasphemously identifying this idolatrous figment as “Jehovah”?  OF COURSE. BUT THANKFULLY, inconsistency based upon ignorance is NOT a hindrance to Jehovah’s work of salvation: He will work in the hearts of His people in His own time, in His own way. It is our job to speak the truth, His to save His people. It is NOT Isaiah’s job to become the judge, jury, and executioner of those who trust in Jehovah inconsistently.

Tolerant Calvinist #3:  Balance, my friends. It is a difficult thing to maintain. It takes grace, maturity, and experience. May God be pleased to give us all spirits that — unlike Isaiah’s — are steadfast and balanced, always tempered by love and a recognition that there is NOT a single person reading this who can honestly say that he or she has a perfect and complete understanding of all there is to know of God’s grace and truth. Let us humbly pray that Isaiah would realize that God leaves room for growth. He does not birth us as full grown, mature believers with all knowledge of all truth. The newly regenerated believer may inconsistently cling to a carved image whom he calls “Christ and Christ alone.”  May we recognize what Isaiah failed to recognize — the difference between a glorious and vital truth and the inconsistent denial thereof based upon ignorance. In spite of what Isaiah said, they do NOT truly pray to “a god who cannot save.” They are inconsistent. They need to be taught. They need to be challenged. They do not need to be damned by some cold, condemning theological perfectionist like Isaiah.

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