In my first post I addressed part of this misunderstanding, that “there is absolutely no correlation between faithful (or reasonably faithful) work in this with the outcome of personal faith.” The “work” is a reference to raising our children in the faith. The concern of my critic, and I think this is true for others who agree with him, is that I believe, “If you do X, then Y should result.” And I replied, You’re darn right I do! I want to be perfectly clear in this post as to why I think having a reasonable expectation of results is the biblical position, that whenever you do X, no matter what X is, it is reasonable to expect certain results. It could be raising children in the faith, it could be tending a garden, building a house, practicing to hone your art or craft, building a business, getting a degree, anything X human beings do. Can we be absolutely certain of or Guarantee results, or that we are in control of the results? Of course not! But to say that because of this it follows that we can’t then have a reasonable expectation of the results, or be confident that we can produce results is, well, unreasonable. And unbiblical.
The reason I am right, and my critics are wrong, is because we live in a cause and effect universe, the way God made it. Recently as I was going through the book of Hebrews, I was struck by the warnings the author kept giving his audience by using the word if. For instance from Hebrews 3:
6 But Christ is faithful as the Son over God’s house. And we are his house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory.
I wrote in response to this:
If is a big little word. As much as I am convinced that God is sovereign over the salvation of his people, we live in a cause and effect universe. In philosophical terms, God is the primary cause of all things, while human beings are the secondary cause. Both causes are required because that’s the way reality works. Man gets this backward when he thinks that secondary causes, us, don’t require a primary cause, God. It’s the same in the “natural” world, where people think trees, for example, grow because of dirt and air and water and sun. They do, of course, but without God as the primary cause of trees, there would be no trees! In the same way, without God as the primary cause of our salvation, we would not be saved! Yet the trees must be watered, even as our souls must be watered, and it is human decision and agency that is required for each. So I am inclined to believe that if we do in fact hold firmly to our confidence and hope, it is all of God’s doing, but it is something we must do! Hold!
You see the point. Human agency and responsibility are never in Scripture played off God’s sovereignty, or taught as somehow mutually exclusive. One Psalm specifically related to this and the family is one of only two penned by Solomon (the other is Psalm 72). The first verse of Psalm 127 is well known:
Unless the Lord builds the house,
the builders labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
the guards stand watch in vain.
The house the Lord builds must be built by the builders, and the builders must build the house the Lord builds. If the house is not built well, who is to blame? If the house is built well, who gets the credit? God is of course sovereign over either house, but that doesn’t get the builder off the hook, does it? We can build the greatest house known to man, and a hurricane can destroy it. We can build a terrible house, and a mild spring zephyr can blow it down. Should we blame God? The point is simple, yet profound. We are responsible to build, and to build to the best of our ability, knowing all the while that the house is ultimately God’s to do with as he wills in his infinite perspective that directs all things for our good, and his glory (Romans 8:28). The correlation between input X, and output Y is real, as is God’s providence over every letter in the alphabet, but to say X can have no bearing on Y because we don’t have ultimate control over Y is to say reality as God created is an illusion. This we should not say. Yet it seems that is what my critics are saying.
I will take one more post to have my say, and expand a bit more on the mystery of God’s sovereignty and human agency and responsibility. It’s been fascinating to see in these encounters Calvinists and Arminians completely agree with one another, that I over emphasize the latter while discounting the former. I do no such thing, and will continue to try to make the case that my critics should actually read my book before they discount what they think I’m trying to say.