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Harry Potter’s Sorting Hat Illustrates How Predestination (Calvinism) and Free Will (Arminianism) Can Peacefully Coexist
Tags: Christianity, Harry Potter
Hello again to TheDaddyBlitz! Wow is right! I feel like I am back in school doing DBFs (Discussion Board Forums). I always liked those.
I am afraid that I did not explain myself well in Paragraph Two of my former post when I spoke of “the space of a hair.” I was narrating a personal experience of my final capitulation to Christ, and I left out quite a bit. If you’ll bear with me, I’ll explain what I left out. First, I want to say that I did not mean that the space of a hair was my own doing. How I got even to opening the door of my heart to Christ even that small fraction was 100% the Lord’s grace. He brought me to that place. I am not reserving that space of a hair for myself. That, too, belongs to Christ.
So here’s what I meant. Recently a friend posted two photos on my FB timeline. One showed a woman gently rapping on a door. The other showed a man fully suspended horizontally in the air, just about to kick the door open with both feet. The first photo was captioned Arminian Jesus and the second one Calvinist Jesus. I mentioned in reply to my friend that my conversion was more like the second photo.
I was thinking of the Apostle Paul (Saul at that time.) He was riding out to murder Christians when he saw a blinding light. That’s having his door kicked down with both feet. In my case, the Lord had already been knocking gently enough on my door for a very long time, when my hardened, dead heart reached (in response to his calling me) the place where I opened it just a crack no wider than the breadth of a hair to ask him, “Okay, why Jesus?” That’s when he came at me with both feet flying and knocked the door wide open.
NOT saying I opened my heart the width of a hair on my own. I give full credit to the Lord for doing that–I know my own heart too well to claim otherwise. What I will say is that the beauty of the Lord’s effectual call is that it FEELS like free will. All who come, come willingly or not at all. They come because they choose to come In Response to the Lord’s calling. Even Paul, after having been blinded and knocked off his camel and having asked the Lord who he was and having been introduced–after all that, even Paul came willingly. At that point he was in agreement with the Lord and he Chose to follow him of his “own free will.” But it was 100% the Lord who quickened him, elected him before he was even born, etc., as you demonstrated so ably with many scriptures above.
Lazarus provides another example of the marvelous interplay between 100% the Lord, 0% us, and all the time it feels like “free will.” So Lazarus was dead and rotting in the sealed cave for four whole days, bound head, hand and foot in grave clothes. Not much free will there. Jesus tells the bystanders to roll away the stone that sealed the entrance to the cave. Then, standing outside the cave, he shouts to Lazarus, “Lazarus! Come out!” No free will on Lazarus’ part. He was dead. So the Lord made him alive by commanding him to come out. Once alive, you can bet Lazarus came out with all his resurrected heart, mind, and soul. He agreed 100% with the Lord (no space of a hair for Lazarus!) We would say in common English at this point, that Lazarus came out of his own free will. Presumably, since the Lord did not pull him with a rope, presumably he could have refused and remained in the cave.
This is all I mean. God is so wonderful! And so full of love.
And so in the many places of Scripture on which you so capably expounded, God reserves for himself All the glory. He is the boss. Whosoever he calls comes, and no one comes whom he has not called. All who come to him come willingly, of their own volition, (God gave that to us), AND yet, they ONLY come because God quickened them and called them and applied grace to their hearts to make them willing. Christ NEVER turns away anyone who comes to him for life.
So,…we must learn to think and worship like TULIP Calvinists and evangelize like Arminians. I am comfortable with logical contradictions, conundrums, and paradoxes. These do not bother me, so long as in whatever formulation one uses, the amazing, incomprehensible love and grace of God in Christ for all humankind remains intact.
Thanks so much for writing! I’m new to blogging, and this outshines FB by a long shot.
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Very good! I like your description. My only “tweak” so to speak is the “feels like free will.” What you are getting at is similar to why I put “free will” in quotes. We truly do have the will to choose between good and evil, which comes from God. That is never taken from us. The distinction I would make is that, apart from the Spirit, man only wills evil because of the condition of sin. We still have a will, but it is in bondage to sin–not that we are forced to sin, just that we willingly reject God without the Spirit in our hearts. When we are quickened by the Spirit, that bondage is broken and we truly are free again to choose God. So, when we exercise our will for God, it truly is a free conscious decision to do so. But this is only by the grace of God breaking that bondage. So it should be more than feeling like free will.
Yes, I can agree with all you wrote. Especially the last sentence–after we have been quickened, it “feels” like free will because it IS free will!
My reformed pastor taught us that God quickens us before we receive Christ, although in point of our subjective experience, the quickening and receiving may appear simultaneous.
Wow! We should have collaborated on an article about this.
I 100% get the desire to reserve that “space of a hair”; however, that simply does not fit in with the scripture cited above. Wherein lies that “space of a hair” in “no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them” or “The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so” or “no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him”? It’s just not there. This is why Paul cites the Old Testament as follows: ““There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” Romans 3:10-12. “Not even one” does not leave room for a hair.
This is why we see only the Jews in the OT as being saved by God to the exclusion of the rest of the world. If the rest of the world retained a “space of a hair” for God, wouldn’t God be unjust for not saving them as well? Instead, God chose and dwelled among the Jews to the exclusion of the rest of the world. But this wasn’t because the Jews were better than the rest of the world. God made it plain to Israel that it was no better (in fact even worse) than the surrounding nations: “Understand, then, that it is not because of your righteousness that the Lord your God is giving you this good land to possess, for you are a stiff-necked people.” Deuteronomy 9:6. “Therefore this is what the Sovereign LORD says: ‘You have been more unruly than the nations around you and have not followed my decrees or kept my laws. You have not even conformed to the standards of the nations around you.’” Ezekiel 5:7. This does not show God choosing Israel because of inherent goodness of Israel over other nations–in fact, to the contrary. This is what leads to the theoretical objector in Romans 9:14-24:
“What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! For he says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’ It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy. For Scripture says to Pharaoh: ‘I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.’ Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden. One of you will say to me: ‘Then why does God still blame us? For who is able to resist his will?’ But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? ‘Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, “Why did you make me like this?” ‘Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use? What if God, although choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction? What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory—even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?”
Why would there be an objection here if God chose based upon inherent goodness, or “a space of a hair”? I suggest there would be no objection because that would seem fair in the eyes of man. But that is not the explanation given.
Some cite to scripture such as John 3:16 as proof that all have the innate ability to choose Christ: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Alone this scripture seems to support that. But we have to read the whole of scripture. John 3:16 is the general invitation to all men so they have no excuse. But we are told elsewhere how men turn to Christ, such as in John 6 where we are told that no one can turn to God without being enabled/quickened/regenerated.
I also get your concern about the unbeliever and the perception of reprobation (or double predestination). Calvin did not believe in reprobation (i.e., that God created certain men bad and then punished them for being bad). No, God created man without the taint of sin. He does not create sinful man. Man is infected by sin while in the flesh as a result of Adam’s original sin. As a consequence of Adam’s sin, all men, I repeat all men, willingly rebel against God. But this is not the fault of God. So when some are regenerated and others are left in their sin, this does not mean that God is unjust for leaving them in their willing rebellion. This is the theoretical objector in Romans 9.
Now I know this is unsatisfactory because it feels unfair. Every time I think that, I go back to Romans 9.
The way I see this [AND I ADD A DISCLAIMER HERE THAT THIS IS STATED NOWHERE IN SCRIPTURE–MY IDEA ONLY] is that God knows us as His creation (as a potter knows his vessels). He gives His creation “free will” (i.e., the ability to choose between good and evil). He knows the quality of His creation apart from sin. Therefore, perhaps, His choice is based on this knowledge–but this is stated nowhere in scripture. The only analogy I have is the angels. The angels were not infected by sin but still had free will and the capacity to choose to rebel against God. This is why Satan (a former angel) and a third of the angels rebelled against God and were thrown out of Heaven. Luke 10/18; Revelations 12. Perhaps, and I emphasize perhaps, this sheds light on the basis for God choosing to regenerate some but not all. But I must confess that this is an invention of my mind for it to make sense to me. I in no way teach this as truth, because the basis of God’s choice is not revealed to us.
One last comment, you mention God basing His choice on his “foreknowledge” of the choice we make when presented with the Gospel–how we exercise our will in that “space of a hair.” I don’t see this in scripture. The only place I am aware of that talks about God’s foreknowledge and predestination is in Romans 8: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.”This is a difficult sequence. For one, it says only the predestined are called. Well, we are told by Jesus in John 6 that only those God gives to Christ does Christ call to Him. And even those that are called cannot come unless enabled by the Spirit. And those that are enabled and called do in fact come to Jesus. So, even in this sequence, I do not see the “space of a hair.” It does, as in John 6, refer to the basis of election as being God’s knowing His creation and His choice alone, but it still does not shed light on what His foreknowledge of us is. This is what leads me to the immediately preceding paragraph, but I do not see the answer in scripture.
This is a tough theological issue. It is fun to discuss with mature Christians but can certainly be a stumbling block for others.
The difficulty lies not so much with explaining how believers get to be believers. We all know that’s by grace. I only believe because God enabled me to believe.
You cited many scriptures to prove this; another one is Ephesians 2:8 “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.”
My personal experience lies with Scripture. I did not choose Christ, he chose me. Nevertheless, in terms of the view from experience, my will and the Lord’s were in sync when he finally revealed himself to me. The difference lies in the fact that I opened the door of my heart just the space of a hair, and Christ swung it open wide and entered in. After that, I came into full agreement. So in short, as a believer, I agree with you.
The real difficulty lies with explaining non-believers. Calvin places full responsibility for new life, i.e., salvation, in the hands of God. That, as I have said, is entirely true. And yet, Calvin wants to say, non-believers bear full responsibility for their own non-belief. Unavoidably that means that God chooses some but not others, knowing full well that those others will be eternally damned, according to Scripture. That’s even what the “L” says in TULIP. Even for Christians who love God and trust him implicitly, that’s hard. Even Schindler at the end of the movie bearing his name did not rejoice over the many he had saved but wept over the ones he did not save. TULIP works great for believers; it’s the unbelievers who are much harder to explain.
I think my whole point in mentioning Harry Potter and the sorting hat is to say that the hat was able to read the person’s character. We think it’s the children the hat was sorting–perhaps, but much more importantly, it sorted each child with reference to the child herself or himself. For example, Harry had the imprint of Lord Voldemort in him, as well as his own character as revealed in his preference for Gryffindor. That’s what the hat had to sort through, to read who indeed Harry was in essence. The hat never put anyone somewhere they truly did not want to be. Neither does God. He doesn’t take us kicking and screaming into his kingdom. We all come willingly, and from our own experience, from that perspective, it does indeed “feel” like free will.
I also think that God pre-designed–foreknew as it says in Romans 8:29–those whom he intends to call. Foreknowledge doesn’t mean that God is merely a fortune teller who can read the future. It means God left his imprint on us while we were still thoughts in his mind. Then he created us. And once born as babies, the Holy Spirit shapes and guides our lives so that we are in just the right position to hear God’s call–to be quickened–and to receive it when it arrives. The effectual call is a Father calling to his own children, to those who have his imprint in them.
But somehow we need to explain to those “Christians” who are quick to judge others and on the other hand to those whose hearts are currently hard and rebellious, not yet quickened, and to those who conceive of God as someone different than or other than the God of Scripture (“That God does not compute–he is completely irrelevant to me,”) that the God of the Bible loves ALL people. Calvin and TULIP fail in that. Or, don’t we really believe that God so loved the “world” and all the “whosoevers” in it?
Sorry, I just saw your reply. Still trying to work out the best notification settings. On predestination, I adhere to TULIP, which is more severe than most Christians are “willing” to go. I do believe the will is involved, but I also believe that scripture clearly says that we are blind before regeneration. In other words, the Spirit must open our eyes before we can even choose God. “The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. . . . You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you.” Romans 8:7, 9. “Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” Galatians 4:6. “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.” John 6:65. “No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” Matthew 11:27. “[N]o one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit.” 1 Corinthians 12:3. I could keep going. The catch I see here with free will is that these scriptures (and many others) clearly tell us that the believer only comes to faith by the work of the Holy Spirit. Some call this work “wooing,” but it seems more than that to me. One cannot choose Christ before Christ is in him by the Spirit, but if the Spirit is in him, then he is chosen by God and saved. The emphasis is on the inability of man and regenerative work of God. It’s similar to the The First Cause doctrine, or the chicken and the egg dilemma. What I don’t believe is that God forces us to believe. Instead, He removes our blindness so that we are enabled to willingly follow Him. But all whom He regenerates He saves, so there are none whose blindness is removed who turn away from God. This is a very challenging truth that most Christians reject.
More thoughts on predestination. You are very correct, DaddyBlitz. Predestination is much more than telling someone what to do. God’s predestination involves his design, creation, forming, calling, regeneration (as you point out), and his guiding.
Just as Harry Potter was The Chosen One, God has an ordained plan for each one of us for which we are later chosen. God’s design, creation, forming, and guiding reflects the plan and purpose he has ordained. For example, as a potter, if I throw a pitcher (with a soul), and later that pitcher chooses to pour wine or water, both predestination and free will are working in conjunction with each other. Kind of cool, huh?
Excellent point–thanks! I love the look of your blog!
Ha! Nice image. Although predestination is more than just the Sorting Hat telling Potter to go to Gryffindor. The Sorting Hat didn’t do one important thing–regenerate/quicken Potter. Instead, the Hat just read his fortune so to speak. But I dig the reference and humor.
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