I know that initially the title of this article probably has people asking “what in the world is Drew talking about?” It’s ok, I am used to being misunderstood, especially in audible format. Which is why writing for me is a better way to get my thoughts out of my head and on paper.
One of the biggest frustrations I have when teaching doctrine is the way in which people read the Bible. Many times it’s simply based on their worldview and the teachings of those appointed over them. Many schools and seminaries do teach from their own theological lens, and that lens is adopted by those receiving the teachings. It’s no wonder that for thirteen or so years, I affirmed an Arminian theological view, because that is what was taught to me. As I have called it the “default” Christianity, the preponderance of churches and culture in mainstream Christianity teach an Arminian view.
For those who don’t know what the Arminian view is or why I am not one, you can read about that here:
Or watch a video I did on the difference in theology:
Before I digress any further, the reason this article is important is because depending on how you view scripture, you will plead your case accordingly. What I would like to present to you is an opportunity to view scripture through the same lens I view it, and if you don’t like it you can give me the glasses back and I won’t be mad.
The problem is prescriptive vs descriptive understandings of the verses on salvation. Now I don’t know if I am the first person to use these terms, I feel like I am not the smartest guy alive so it’s likely that someone has come along and used them already.
A prescriptive term or verse would be something like; in order to be “A” you must first do “B”, “C” and “D”. For example, in order to be a pilot, you would need to attend training and get a pilot’s license. A scriptural example would be in Romans 10:3 (ESV) it says, “For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” If you read this prescriptively your understanding would be that in order to be saved you must call upon the name of the Lord.
In using descriptive terminology a person who is “A” would do “B”, “C” and “D”. A description of a pilot would be one who flies an airplane. A descriptive understanding of Romans 10:3 would be that only those who are saved call upon the Lord’s name, or only those saved call upon the name of the Lord.
In our English language, we are used to our sentence structure and dynamic to be a certain way. For us it’s natural to imply an prescriptive understanding to many of the salvific verses of scripture, especially based on the background in which we’ve been taught. If I am brought up to believe that true love is never forced, and that God is love, then the natural inclination for me is to believe that God never forces love, yet scripture shows us a different picture most of the time in examples of God’s sovereign will and decree.
Now that we have defined the difference in prescriptive vs descriptive terms, take a moment to read these verse from both lenses:
Matthew 16:24 “Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life[g] will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
Romans 10:9 “because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
If you have done so objectively, you could see why the debate on salvific causality is one still ongoing. “So what can we do now?” you may ask or, “This doesn’t give me any definite answer either way.” Well, we can come to a proper conclusion when we take the totality of scripture and apply it to all of the verses. And that is something that we can tackle at a later time.
Soli Deo Gloria